Pre-credit sequence. Storms seem to be building as No Collar returns to camp. “Nina got what was coming to her,” Hali cackles, malevolently, as if Nina had done her any harm at all. Hali explains to Will that his name only came up twice as a safety net. Will says that No Collar has the unit they want, but he also knows that he's doomed unless he can get Joe to turn on the girls this early.
He eats things that would make a billy-goat puke. Yikes. There's a big snake over at Blue Collar. Mike successfully machetes the snake and he skins it for dinner. Actually, it's not that big at all, but Mike is willing to eat anything, as he proved with the scorpion situation. Rodney is hesitant, but he wants protein. It seems that the hatchet has been buried between Rodney and Mike. That's nice!
Major cluck-up. Perhaps because of the double-episode tonight, we're getting three segments before opening credits. The three tribes arrive for Reward Challenge. It's a call-and-blindfold challenge, exactly the challenge Joe was terrified Nina's deafness might mess up. Wanna know what they're playing for? First tribe to finish gets three hens and a rooster. “This is nutrition and companionship,” Probst explains. Second place gets 10 eggs. Tyler sits for White Collar, while Rodney and Mike take a break for Blue Collar. Joe, Sierra and Carolyn are the respective callers. Basically, the blindfolded players have to get steered to collect a trio of items and get them hoisted up to the callers. Shirin keeps bumping into things. No Collar gets out to a pretty big lead. And Shirin keeps bumping into things. Probst keeps telling people to be careful with the platform, which whacks Will a couple time. This is what we call foreshadowing. “That was on YOU,” Probst tells him. He also mocks Blue Collar for finding a way to avoid one obstacle. Kelly gets nailed in the head by either a platform or by a run-in with a fellow competitor. I'm not sure which. Either way, her blindfold is covered with blood. Probst calls for medical. We go to commercial. And I go off to see if I can figure out who Kelly is.
Like Roger Goodell, Probst encourages playing through head injuries. “Man, she took it right in the head,” Probst says as medical comes out. She has a 3-to-4 cm cut on her scalp. Kelly hasn't removed her blindfold and she has no interest at all in quitting. Probst reminds her about the nature of her head injury tells her that they'll stop if she's feeling at all light-headed. And, with that, we return. Sierra and Carolyn sound similar enough that their tribes are confused. No Collar dominates and wins Reward. Probst's pity for Blue Collar and Kelly's injury is limited as he yells at them to move. Nobody's liking Sierra's calling. And White Collar finishes second. Kelly removes her bloody blindfold in disgust. She'll have to get stitches on the way back.
Fair or Fowl. No Collar returns in triumph to greet their chickens. Joe is eager to slaughter one of the chickens to celebrate Will's 42nd birthday. This makes him cry, but also makes him realize that he's spending his birthday away from family. Jenn, though, is bonding with the chicken and calls Joe “Satan” for his desire to kill and eat a chicken. She's a vegetarian and she goes off to the beach as Hali and Joe improvise a little murder. Jenn's collecting firewood, but also poking around for an Idol. She references where Idols have historically been hidden and when somebody does that, that's a sign that they're about to find something without a clue. While the other No Collars chow down, Jenn finds an Idol in a distinctive tree. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. “I can screw up the game so easily with this thing,” she says enthusiastically. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” she adds.
I think I can beat Female Mike Tyson. Kelly got six stitches and returns to Blue Collar camp. Mike is impressed and pleased that Kelly is fulfilling Blue Collar stereotypes that he wants to see. Monkey! Rodney is being sexist and stupid, talking about how women need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Lindsey and Sierra aren't pleased. Lindsey is especially disgusted and tries explaining feminism to Rodney. “Lindsey, she looks like the Female Mike Tyson,” Rodney says, pointing to Lindsey's facial tattoos. Rodney tries to return to his Three C's — Cool, Calm and Collective [sic]. I really want Lindsey to vow to vote Rodney out so that she's vowed to vote out three different men in three different weeks.
Cut off the pixelated bottom of the snake. Dude. Is that an armadillo or something at White Collar? They're making hard-boiled eggs and mixing them with crabs. Shirin figures this was better than having animals they'd have to kill, though she tells us that she trained in killing before “Survivor.” she admits to killing a bunny pre-“Survivor.” Joaquin has decided that she's a psychopath. As Shirin goes to do chores, the other White Collars — Max, really — discuss plans to try not to sit Shirin to avoid alienating her. Carolyn wants no part of this and sees this as proof of Max's attempts to be a cult leader for the game. “You guys are bromanced,” Carolyn tells Tyler and Joaquin, making the usual references to cutting off the head of a snake.
I wanted to make a REALLY dirty joke here. I resisted. You're welcome. Immunity time. The tribes are attached to a rope and have to, one at a time, maneuver through a course and collect a bag of balls. Then you have to manipulate balls through holes. This is, as always, just a reason for Probst to say “balls” and “holes” over and over. Lindsey and Dan sit out for Blue Collar, while Shirin ends up sitting for White Collar. Will struggles a bit for No Collar. Rodney has some troubles for No Collar. Was it Carolyn having issues for White Collar? I missed it. No Collar gets out to a solid lead on ball manipulation, followed by No Collar. It's down to Tyler, Kelly and Hali on the last ball, but Tyler struggles and quits, calling Max in. Hali finishes and No Collar wins Immunity. Kelly stumbles just short of finishing for Blue Collar and Rodney takes over. Max is anxious and keeps pushing the balls toward the hole. Or something. When Rodney drops a ball, Max finishes and White Collar is safe. Blue Collar is off to Tribal for the first time. “My horses are much smarter than Rodney,” Sierra says, targeting the meathead.
Think like a man. Lindsey announces that no matter what happens next, she's proud to be Blue Collar. But Mike thinks this will be good for the tribe, because alliance bonds will be exposed. Indeed, Lindsey goes to Dan and announces she wants Rodney out. Dan says there are two ways of listening: When you listen like a guy, who try to solve the problem. When you listen like a girl, who try to empathize and just smile and nod. With Lindsey, Dan is listening like a girl. “I am so much smarter than I look,” he tells us. Meanwhile, Rodney announces that he's the Tom Brady and he's going to lead an alliance with Dan, Kelly and Mike. Rodney says that if they were home and Lindsey were this lippy, “I'd grab her by the hair and spank her like a bad baby.” He wants her gone. Well, now Kelly and Mike don't trust Rodney, but they're also annoyed by Lindsey. But who will Kelly and Mike side with? “Tonight is going to be huge,” Kelly says. I'm not sure we have any sense of who's actually going home. So I guess that's interesting?
Tribal Council, Part I. Jeff Probst gets to explain again that fire represents life. Dan outs Lindsey and Sierra for their quick bonding. Rodney agrees that he and Lindsey have meshed like chicken parm and tuna fish. Lindsey says Rodney has no morals and Sierra agrees, criticizing Rodney's vulgar and demeaning vocabulary. Kelly doesn't disagree. Rodney says his mother will say nice things about him and then he rants again about how women don't respect themselves and need to be held to a higher standard. Probst asks if Rodney understands that he just offended millions of women. Rodney does not, in fact, understand. Probst didn't say he disagreed, of course, just that Rodney had offended people. For all of that, Lindsey says that this is a tribe that gets along well in a number of stereotypical Blue Collar ways. She says the winner is coming from Blue Collar. Probst is inspired! Mike calls Lindsey a unifier and says he'd have slit his throat if he was on No Collar.
The Vote. Probst tallies: Rodney. Lindsey. Rodney. Lindsey. Sierra. Sierra. What?!? We have a three-way tie. We got no indication at all of where that came from.
Re-Vote. Probst goes to tally again. Lindsey. LINDSEY. And that's that. So I guess there was a decision made to pointlessly split the votes the first time around? Rodney is might smug. Lindsey says that she's leaving because she hurt Rodney's ego. “I would stand by every choice that I made and I would do it again.
Sierra miffed. Blue Collar returns to camp unhappily. Sierra is confused and Mike has to explain why the split occurred. “I'm 100 percent happy with the decision we made,” Mike says, though he regrets hurting Sierra's feelings. Dan proposes airing grievances and he proceeds to air his grievances with Sierra. “At this point, I can't trust these people,” Sierra says. Rodney has no pity for Sierra because of how he grew up. “Only the strong survive, brother,” Rodney says, after accusing people of trying to blindside him. That's asinine. Mike wants to coddle Sierra in case there's a Merge and Blue Collar could have numbers. YAY! Farewell, stupid theme. “We are switching things up,” Probst announced. Sierra is psyched to find new alliances. “My tribe is absolutely dead to me. Dead,” she says. And Collars are dead to me!
Competitive imbalance. Let's get to shuffling. Two tribes. Blue (Escameca) and Red (Nagarote). Everybody takes a wrapped buff. Blue is Dan, Sierra, Mike, Rodney, Tyler, Joaquin and Joe. Red is Will, Hali, Jenn, Max, Carolyn, Shirin and Kelly. Wow. That is an absurd division, at least physically. I feel like this happens a disproportionate amount of the time when we shuffle. Kelly is scared to death. Players have to launch balls out onto the beach, while other players have to try to catch them. They're playing for kitchen supplies, including a plate of sausages. And the winner also gets to take whatever rewards White Collar had previously. This challenge would seem to be physical and I can't imagine Blue losing. Joe and Max score first and we're tied at one. Joe and Tyler score next and it's 3-1 for Escameca. Joaquin scores to make it 4-1. Will scores to make it 4-2, but Mike makes it 5-2 and Escameca wins Reward. Carolyn is better to be stuck with Max and Shirin, but she should be bitter about the whole darned thing. So Escameca is weighted toward the Blue Collars and Nagarote is a White/No Collar split. Either Sierra moves to work with Joe, Joaquin and Tyler in a hurry or Lindsey could end up correct about an eventual Blue Collar winner, just on numbers alone.
Kelly in the Middle. Nagarote trudges to the Former No Collar camp, where Kelly is an easy swing voter. They share cooking strategies and everybody eyes Kelly. For undercover cop Kelly, this is a natural moment and she agrees to join Shirin and the White Collars. Or did she? We'll find out later.
Sierra in the Middle. BABY MONKEY! Blue Collar plays host back at their camp. “The numbers couldn't have worked out better in our favor,” Mike says, but he has some concerns about Sierra. Mike's determined to keep Sierra in the fold. Rodney bonds with the other guys by telling them how hot his mother is and by telling the story, again, of finding his sister dead. Joquin thinks he was working people in White Collar and he's working them now. Sierra reaches out desperately to the new guys. Tyler compares himself to The Statue of Liberty and Sierra to a broken puppy. Tyler wants to make his own Island of Misfit Toys, while Mike just wants to keep his numbers.
It's a shame about ray. From Tyler as Statue of Liberty, we got to Nagarote, where Shirin is singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and whispering and announcing her intention to poop. Jenn's already nervous and annoyed. Ruh-roh. Max was stung twice by sting-rayed and he has blood pouring out of his feet. Jenn, a former lifeguard, knows what to do and puts Max's feet in warm water. Ouch. Well, the boiling water is only slightly better. Somehow this becomes a gross discussion of Max's plantar's wart, which is now seeping in their eating and drinking pot. Hali thinks this reflects ill on Max as a team player. Carolyn's ready to defect and she wants to blindside the two super fans.
#SorryNotSorry. Dan and Mike are worried about Sierra, with Mike placing the blame on Dan and Rodney. Mike wants Dan to apologize. Mike tells him that women don't want explanations, they just want apologies, but Dan insists that he's older and wiser and knows what to do. Dan goes to Sierra and tries to reason with her and, in fact, tries to put the blame on Sierra, saying that he was equally wronged. Is this going to work? Yeah, no. Sierra, in her fringed boots, calls it “the crappiest apology I've received in my life.” She's still planning to bail. So much for Woman Whisperer Dan.
All I wanted was to break your walls/All you ever did was wreck me. Immunity is back up for grabs. It involves transporting a series of pots through an obstacle course sleds, placing the pots on platforms and then bashing the pots with a wrecking ball. Probst explains why this challenge is, at least on the surface, comically in favor of Escameca. It plays out exactly as you would expect it to. Nagarote is weak. Escameca is strong. This is a challenge that rewards strength. Ergo… Even Probst sounds frustrated by the uneven tribes. Dan smashes all the pots for Escameca and it's a rout. That was just awful. I'm not sure what the producers can do to prevent this from being a total decimation until we Merge. Max, however, is happy to go to Tribal Council. We'll see how happy he is in 20 minutes.
Who's most annoying? Nagarote returns. They're all self-defeated. Max loves the blindsides and double-crossing and that's what he signed on for. Max bores Jenn with stories about the Zodiac signs of “Survivor” winners. She's actually annoyed by his knowledge and she's unsure who she likes less between Max and Shirin. Examining the “classic 'Survivor' split,” Max thinks that they have Kelly secured as a vote to blindside Will. Shirin, a bit deluded, thinks that they'll be a strong tribe once they get rid of Will. Shirin's feeling cocky, but Carolyn thinks that she could be a swing-vote herself, plotting a “fabulous blindside.” Yikes. Freaky lizard covered with centipedes. Carolyn states her free agent status to Jenn, who is giddy. Max and Shirin are plotting together, while everybody else wonders why Max and Shirin have talked so proudly about their “Survivor” wisdom. Max isn't worried and Kelly is jumping ship. Will isn't sure why Max and Shirin are spending so much time strategizing. “It's exactly like a horse race,” Jenn says of the Max/Shirin “Who's more annoying?” competition.
Tribal Council, Part II. Shirin announces that her new tribe gelled quickly and she senses that Jeff Probst is making a face. He doesn't seem to be. Hali, certainly is. “You just look really intense,” Shirin finally admits. “Well that's just me,” Probst says. Max compares it to the Swap from “Survivor: One World,” saying that they may be trying to trick themselves into believing they still have a chance. Jenn is, again, agog at Max's knowledge. “Guilty as charged. I love 'Survivor,'” Max says, admitting he doesn't know his mom's cell phone number. Shirin also protests that her superfandom is a badge of honor, not a stigma. Hali says that they may vote based on strategy, loyalty or “quality of life.” Will thinks it'll be a blindside and Shirin agrees, “Could be me and then it's definitely a blindside.”
The Vote, Part II. Shirin votes for Will. Jenn holds up her vote and says, “Please stop talking.” Probst goes to tally. “Jeff. Hold up bro,” Max says, reaching behind him. “I just always wanted to say that,” he says. Nobody laughs. At all. Probst tallies: Will. Will. Max. Max. Max. MAX. Shirin is shocked. Max has no departing words at all. Huh. You'd think he would either appreciate the blindside or he'd have prepared words of some sort. “Pre-Merge Boot,” Max laments, but says that his time in the game deepened his appreciation for how hard “Survivor” is.
Bottom Line, Part I. Max is buddies with a lot of my writing and academic colleagues, so I really wanted to see him play a super-genius game befitting his academically verified love of “Survivor.” I wanted him to have all of Cochran's intellectual strengths, none of his social confusion and perhaps the challenge success of Cochran's second time in the game. Instead, he had a complete social obliviousness that Cochran didn't even have his first time around. How could Max have thought that reciting Zodiac signs for “Survivor” winners would be the path to success? How could he have thought that Shirin was a good person to be aligned with? And how could he have thought that constantly going off and talking strategy with Shirin was a viable social game? When you force your tribe to vote you out on a “quality of life” move because of how annoying you are at camp, you've done something absurdly wrong. And here's the most concerning thing: I'd had Max pegged as a talking head juggernaut, the sort of castaway that the editors would cut away to for analysis of ever “Survivor” moment, of every potential contingency. Instead, Max was a talking head non-factor. He was so uninterestingly oblivious that they barely could even give him the Hubris Edit. Max's understanding of the final vote seemed to be “Shirin told me that Kelly was with us, so Kelly is with us and White Collar will stick together out of default.” That's a complacent and uninteresting hubris. Max did nothing to reinforce his position and he was blindsided because he didn't have any awareness at all of how he was being responded to by the majority of his tribe. Not only was Max socially and strategically clueless, but his foot wart got a disturbing amount of screentime. Other than proving to himself how hard “Survivor” is, there's just no way that was a satisfying experience for Max. And that makes me sad. For what it's worth, I can't believe he was more annoying that Shirin. How is that even possible?
Bottom Line, Part II. Lindsey had a tough draw. It's a pity that the “Survivor” alignment ended up reenforcing stereotypes about Blue Collar men and their treatment of strong women, but Lindsey had the strongest personality of the women on her tribe and, as a result, she butted heads with a different guy in which episode. From the outside, do I see why Lindsey wanted Dan out in Week 1, Mike out in Week 2 and Rodney out in Week 3? Absolutely. And in each case, I empathize and sympathize with her completely. However, you either know how to read the game or you don't and if you're in a tribe of six and you've alienated all three of the men in your tribe within 10 days, you have to know you're doing something wrong or, at the very least, that you're doing something that's going to get you voted out of the game. I kinda liked Lindsey. Of the Blue Collar women, she's the one I was able to remember consistently, but that's because she was picking fights when Kelly and Sierra were laying low. Kelly and Sierra are still in the game and they're both in positions of power. Lindsey's gone.
Bottom Line, Part III. Another season, another poorly balanced Shuffle. And that's just what the game is, I guess. You can't ask them to do it any other way. But when you look at Escameca versus Nagarote, I can't foresee any specific type of challenge that's going to benefit the tribe that still has Will and Shirin. So if Escameca loses before the Merge, I think it'll be bad luck and nothing else. You've gotta figure that if we're at 13 now, we've probably gotta have a couple/few more votes before a Merge. Nagrote's going to go down a couple more times and they'd be wise to recognize the chances that Former Blue Collar is going to have a daunting advantage. I'd get Kelly out next, personally. Don't leave a stray Blue Collar to abandon you immediately.
Bottom Line, Part IV. Stop splitting votes for no reason, “Survivor” players. There was ZERO reason why Blue Collar had to split votes between Lindsey and Sierra. All they accomplished was hurting Sierra's feelings and alienating her going forward. It's a worthless strategy that accomplishes negative things more often than it accomplishes positive things. Stop it.
Bottom Line, Part V. Two hours of “Survivor” is a lot, but after last week's awful hour, this was an improvement. But with Max out of the game, I'm looking at the players and I don't know who I'm rooting for. At all. And that worries me going forward.