Pre-credit sequence. The Fans return to camp. Laura is gone and Shamar is gone and Matt thinks this will be a turning point. “The game got simplified,” Reynold says. Sherri is emotional at losing Laura, who reminded her of her daughter. “It was a point of division,” says Reynold, claiming that he’s glad he doesn’t have his Idol anymore. “I hope you don’t think I was taking jabs at you guys and your alliance,” Reynold tells the rest of the tribe, but Matt and Mike know that there’s another Idol out there and Reynold could find it again and be a threat again. Or something. As we know from CBS’ relentlessly spoiler-y promotion, all of this stuff with the Fans is going to be totally irrelevant.
Oh, a storm is threatening/ My very life today. Thunder. Lightning. Around the camp, Brandon is starting to get creepy. “I have such a passion for my family. I’d give my life a thousand times in the most horrific way just to see my wife and my kids,” Brandon says. [We would have settled for, “I like my family a lot.”] He’s missing his family and he’s decided that he’s been completely selfish to his family to leave them to play a game. “I can’t do that again. Enough’s enough,” Brandon says, telling his tribe that he’s volunteering to be voted out next Tribal Council. “This has implications that go beyond the Hantz family,” Malcolm tells us, worried that Brandon could just bail before a Tribal Council. “I was about to light the whole thing on fire,” Brandon confesses to a small group. “I’m glad you didn’t do that,” says a chipper Corinne. “I want him off my camp immediately. He’s loco,” Corinne tells us. She isn’t sure what’s coming next from Brandon. What comes next is morning. And — try not to be too shocked — Brandon’s had a change of “heart” and by “heart” I mean “He’s bipolar and everybody on the “Survivor” production staff has put these other castaways in danger by plunking him down in a stressful situation among them.” Brandon calls everybody together and tells the tribe that he’s no longer leaving, because he wants to play. “You’re going to see the most intense Brandon you’ve seen thus far. I’m excited. I’m freaking myself out. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he warns us.
From going nuts to coconuts. There are coconuts and nets and Reward is up for grabs. Two people have to hold up the net, while people from the other tribe try tossing coconuts into the net, making it heavier and heavier. Last person holding a rope wins Reward for the tribe. Want to know what they’re playing for? The winning tribe gets a BBQ, including sausages, steaks, veggies, condiments and wine. Phillip and Brandon and Michael and Matt are holding the nets. Phillip discovers he can psyche Sherri out by shouting things like “Kunta Kinte!” at her, prompting Probst to observe, “Sherri is worthless in this challenge.” Reynold is not worthless and he knocks Brandon out. It’s down to Phillip and Michael. Phillip talks the talk and holds on, as Michael drops his rope. “Phillip once again the hero for the Favorites tribe!” Probst crows. That will have ramifications. The Fans look crestfallen as the Favorites collect their picnic.
The most monkey-filled segment in “Survivor” history. For some reason, we’re wasting time back with the defeated Fans. Eddie thought that this was going to be a turnaround day for them and they blew it. “We need to try something new,” Michael declares. “I went with your plan and got rid of Laura and we still lost today,” Sherri tells us, hoping that this validates the importance of keeping her alliance strategically strong. TARSIER! Anyway, Sherri heads into the jungle in search of the Idol. TARSIER! And Michael is also looking. TARSIER. And REynold is looking. Everybody’s sticking their hands into holes in trees. MONKEYS! Matt is on the prowl as well. All that matters is that Reynold doesn’t find it. TARSIER. And… Guess what? Reynold finds another Idol. He’s giddy. TARSIER. “I might as well just keep playing them if I can keep finding them,” he says, determined to keep this Idol secret. In the shelter, Reynold tells Eddie he has the Idol. They smirk and bump fists. “You can’t get any luckier than that,” Eddie says, laughing at Sherri, who’s still out looking for the Idol. “Luck” is not the word.
If I don’t get some shelter/ I’m gonna fade away.The Favorites are cooking huge piles of food and they’re happy. Well, they’re not all happy. Brandon is nervous and pensive and sullen. “I don’t even know if he won the million dollars if he would ever get right in his head,” Adorable Andrea says. This is simultaneously astute and sad. Phillip is boasting about helping in the challenge with his basketball skills. Leaving aside that the Favorites *did* win the challenge at least in part because of Phillip, this is enough to break Brandon. “It’s really, really, really pissing me off. I don’t want to hear that crap, so right now I’m a little bit aggravated and I feel like venting a little bit,” Brandon says. And so, in the shelter, Brandon attacks Phillip for stating his opinion about something involving the tarp. “I think we can all agree that Brandon is definitely unstable and unpredictable,” Corinne says. Malcolm is already sensing a moment will come when Brandon is more trouble than he’s worth. Of course, it’s not like Phillip is especially well-in-the-head, so he’s fuming. “You don’t slap the gift horse,” Phillip confusingly instructs Brandon, who has swung back into his version of “pleasant.” “As long as I can keep myself under control, I’ll be good,” Brandon tells us. But Phillip is vowing to get rid of Brandon first chance he gets. This episode is getting painful.
Two minutes on wet feet. It’s raining on the Fans. Michael is trying to get work done around camp, but Matt’s got horribly waterlogged and prune-y feet and he can’t help. “We’re failing on all levels of ‘Survivor,’ but we have to do something,” Michael says. More rain. More misery. “I have a definitely head-cold,” Eddie laments. Matt just wishes something good would happen to their tribe.
War, children. It’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away. The Favorites are also getting rained on, but thanks to Brandon, they have fire. And that’s a source for crazy as well. “I don’t need no old 54-year-old punk bitch telling me, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ He doesn’t feed me. I’m a Hantz. I feed me,” he tells at the camera. Tree-mail warns that the tribes will be boxing. Brandon is literally sitting in the shelter squashing ants and Phillip seems to imply that he’s considering throwing a challenge to get rid of Brandon. “It is a degree of compassion for him as well as it is potentially a game-saver for us,” Phillip says. He tells Adorable Andrea that he’s planning on throwing the challenge. “I was a bigger man about it,” Brandon insists to Andrea and he senses that Phillip might be prepared to throw the challenge. Uh-oh. Brandon stretches, slaps his hip and tells us that he’s starting to boil a bit. Brandon and Phillip go to the side and Phillip tries telling his little antagonist that he broke the rules of Stealth R Us. Uh-oh. “Can you drop the Stealth R Us? It’s like playing with a child. It’s demeaning, man,” Brandon says. “Actually, it’s a lot of fun for us,” Phillip says. “It’s not. Nobody likes the names,” Brandon says, telling Phillip that nobody likes him. Phillip says that if that’s true he’ll get voted out and… Brandon boils over. He walks into the camp and dumps their rice. Erik tries to stop him. Brandon walks in Phillip’s direction taunting him and knocking off the furniture. “Now vote me out, bitch!” he yells. Dawn tells him to breath. The music gets really ominous. “I’m the author of my fate, buddy. I’m the author of my fate. Now vote me out, bitch,” Brandon yells. Everybody is scared and they’re contemplating just forfeiting the challenge and giving Immunity away.
Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away. It’s just a shot away. Immunity Challenge time. Reynold puts on a smile and talks about how easy the Favorites have it. “What it boils down to is this game is extremely hard even if you win every single challenge,” Reynold acknowledges. “I’m not doing too well, Jeff. I had a little outburst this morning,” Brandon says, asking permission to talk to the other Tribe. He tells the Fans that he’s their second chance and then urges the Fans not to let Phillip go far in the game. Corinne, speaking on the behalf of the Favorites, tells Jeff that they’re planning to forfeit, as Fan jaws drop. “We respect this game and we hope that both you and the Fans can respect our decision to go to Tribal,” Corinne says. But… Yeah. Brandon’s just not in control right now. “They don’t respect anything about the Fans. That’s bulls***, Corinne…” he rants. “You’re the underdog. I love the underdog. I was an underdog too and I still am,” Brandon rails before Jeff calls him over to “a neutral spot.” Probst lets Brandon go off on a ramble about Phillip and Stealth R Us and Boston Rob taking him to the end of the game and… stuff. “You ain’t gonna tell me you’re running the game. I took myself out of this game,” Brandon yells. “How are you feeling right now,” Probst says in cool, measured tones. Somebody prepped Probst for this moment. “I had a rough time after the show,” Brandon says of his first time playing. “I would never be the guy to get walked over episode by episode by episode crying. I can stand here proudly today and say that I’ve never cried a [bleeping] tear on this season. I’ve calloused myself to people who really don’t give a s****,” Brandon says. This is absolutely horrible to watch. Phillip professes innocence. Adorable Andrea cries. “It just really hurts. It’s sad to see. I’ve grown close to Brandon out here and I can’t relate to what you’re going through and it’s hard, because we’re all out to play a game and we’re doing so well,” Andrea says. But Phillip doesn’t want to take any blame and another shouting match ensues with Brandon taking steps in Phillip’s direction. Probst puts his arm around Brandon to calm him, because that’s what the book told him to do. Dawn is hyperventilating. “I want to be the author of my fate in this game,” Brandon says, telling the Fans about the rice-and-bean-dumping. For some reason, Probst brings up Russell and asks, “Is it in the blood?” “I’m starting to come to the conclusion that us Hantzes, we speak our mind,” Brandon says. Phillip just goads him on and goads him on. And Phillip isn’t just lightly picking at scabs. He’s mentioning Brandon’s kids, his uncle and a bunch of stuff. At this point, I’m hating Phillip every bit as much as Brandon, because Brandon is damaged and not well, but Phillip’s button-pushing here is entirely calculating and gratuitous. Erik relinquishes the Idol — “Easiest Immunity ever won,” Probst tells the Fans.
Impromptu Tribal Council. Probst declares that they’re having Tribal Council right there. At the Challenge site. In front of the Fans. Out loud. Brandon votes for Phillip. Corinne, Phillip, Brenda, Malcolm, Dawn, Erik, Andrea and Cochran all vote for Brandon. “You good with this?” Probst asks. “I’m good with it,” Brandon agrees. He points Brandon to an area behind the Challenge spot to “cool down.” “Kick their ass,” Brandon tells the Fans. “Phillip, you’re a bitch,” he yells. “Well, the game just got a little bit more interesting,” Probst says. Dawn says that things are better off for Brandon and therefore for the tribe. “A win’s a win,” says some idiot on the Fans. And at 8:54, the episode is over.
Brandon’s exit speech: “My exit was nice. It was glorious. I showed them that, ‘Hey, this guy’s not just gonna keel over and die.’ If I’m going down in a battle, I’m gonna throw rocks. In my army, I’m gonna go out Braveheart-style. I don’t regret none of it, because I proved my point. I was the author of my elimination.”
Bottom Line. It’s hard to know what to do with this episode. Was it tense and full of high drama? Yes. I can’t dispute that. Did it leave me feeling unclean and a bit disgusted at CBS and the show’s producers? Yes. I just don’t understand why it’s OK to knowingly cast somebody with unquestionable emotional problems for a show like this. Don’t they have psychological screenings in the first place? Yes, somebody you miss the line between somebody who’s “fun-eccentric” and somebody who’s “dangerous-eccentric,” but if you think back over the many years of “Survivor” and “Survivor” clones, how many times have you felt like the producers knowingly put the contestants in danger for the sake of drama? Only a few and several times the bee in the television bonnet was named “Hantz.” In this instance, I don’t blame Brandon at all. Yes, he scares me a bit and I don’t much like the way he treats anybody, but he should have been allowed to live his life as he chose to live it, away from the TV cameras. I don’t understand bringing him back to “Survivor.” I don’t know what kind of assurances Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst thought they had about his stability, or if they thought they had assurances at all. I assume that if Brandon had attacked another player physically, as opposed to just leaving them without food, somebody on the production team would have stepped in quickly. But isn’t it just a bit strange that they had to have those boundary lines at all? Shouldn’t that be an indication that whatever excitement he brought to the show would come with the risk of souring the entire show? Because that’s what Brandon Hantz did for me tonight. I couldn’t take any pleasure in his departure and all I did was feel awful for everybody he came in contact with, because it’s ridiculous they had to deal with that at all. Who were the winners and losers of this episode of “Survivor”? Should Jeff Probst get credit for how he handled what happened out there? Sure. There’s a reason he had a [unsuccessful] talk show with people talking about their feelings. He’s a calming presence. Imagine if Brandon Hantz had been on “Celebrity Apprentice” and Donald Trump had been the person entrusted with wrangling him. We might never see another unscripted TV show ever again. There are circumstances in which you can’t predict the way people will behave and nobody’s going to tell reality producers to stop casting “quirky” or “wacky” people just because one or two take things too far. But maybe you just don’t cast people who have already gone too far previously on the show you’re putting them back into. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. This is some straight-up frog-and-scorpion stuff, in my opinion. That’s Brandon Hantz’s nature and I guess that’s what Mark Burnett wanted. I got no enjoyment from watching it, unfortunately. Geez. I know this sounds self-righteous, doesn’t it? I’m sorry. This was just bad.
On a side note: Maybe some sort of mental health PSA at the end was called for? Possibly? I want Brandon Hantz to be well. Who wouldn’t? He’s got kids and a family.
Bottom Line, Part II. Phillip Shepard went from being a worrisome flake to being a sadistic bully tonight, to no purpose at all. Blech. Brandon was already going home. There was nothing to be gained from any of what Phillip did at Tribal.
Bottom Line, Part III. Another Idol for Reynold. That would be the same Reynold who laughed and cackled through every second of the Brandon-Phillip kerfuffle. Blech. There are just too many people who need to go home before I can recover my “Survivor” equilibrium this season.
Did you love tonight’s lunacy?