Pre-credit sequence. Murlonio arrives back at camp after last week’s Tribal Council, which was so eventful that I only remember the lectures on race relations and I’d completely forgotten that Julie was sent to Redemption Island. Steve approaches Phillip and extends a really insincere olive branch. Steve doesn’t apologize, but he also says Phillip doesn’t need to apologize either. That, by the way, is almost identical to the way Segregation ended in the South. “I felt it was a little self-serving,” Phillip says, figuring that Steve will be targeted next. For his part, Steve is disappointed that he had to reach out to Phillip and not the other way around. “I’m just gonna keep plugging away,” Steve says, hoping that Boston Rob may decide to cut Phillip loose next. Yeah. No. “Phillip’s not going anywhere. Phillip’s under my protection. As long as he keeps up his stupid antics, he’ll be coming with me all the way to the Finals,” Rob says.
Full recap of Wednesday’s (April 27) episode after the break…
Did you order the Code Fuchsia? We’re up to Day 28. Steve and Ralph are the Last of the Zapateras. Steve, so faux-consiliatory the night before is wondering where, exactly, “numbnuts” is. He’s referring to Phillip, who has gone on a quest for his shorts, hidden by Julie before her departure. He’s had a vision, courtesy of his great-great grandfather, a full-blood Cherokee — You might remember him from such visions as “The Feather” — and he’s in search of shorts. Eureka! Under the second rock, Phillip finds his shorts! Oh come on. That’s impressive. You know you’re impressed. Phillip is giddy, rambling, “Here’s to you, Julie. Don’t mess with the undercover specialist, because he makes his living uncovering truth. And most people, like you, can’t stand the truth. What did Jack Nicholson say to Tom Cruise? Son, you can’t stand the truth! You can’t take the truth!” Well, that’s 0-2. But still, he did find the shorts. “Phillip, he’s a different breed,” Steve says. Now, see, again… I’m not saying Steve’s racist. But maybe you don’t call the black guy a different breed, Steve? Just to protect yourself? Phillip can’t wait to see the look on Julie’s face at the Duel when he comes in with his crotch wholly swathed.
You can’t spell “Redemption Island” without “Redemption.” Over on Redemption Island, Julie is celebrating her best night’s sleep since entering the game. Matt? Not-so-well-rested. Mike has noticed that Matt’s spirits are in a downward spiral. “You can tell he’s kinda at his breaking point,” Mike says, hoping that that might impact Matt’s challenge performance. “I’m out here wasting away. I’m missing my family. I can only feel them when I really really try,” Matt says, sniffling. “God has me here for a reason,” Matt continues to insist. Matt doesn’t quite see God’s purpose yet, but he’s got faith still. “God’s literally been carrying me for the past four days,” says Matt, who describes himself as “so over this game.”
God enjoys “Survivor Shuffleboard.” Matt has spent 21 days on Redemption Island, a fact that Jeff Probst points out to him before the Duel. This morning, Matt is at peace. “It sounds to me like you’re ready to go home,” Probst observes and Matt agrees. The Duel task is “Survivor” Shuffleboard. The goal is to land all three pucks in the end zone, with Mike drawing first blood, scoring on his first two pucks. Adorable Andrea tries making encouraging faces in Matt’s direction, but just as she forsake him, Matt has forsaken her. Soon, Matt and Mike both have two pucks in their end zones. And Matt becomes the first player saved. “God is not done talking to Matt,” gushes an oddly evangelical Probst. Matt grins. Boston Rob glowers. Matt is joined by Mike, who survives his second straight duel. Julie is heading home. Probst compares Matt to Jesus, who fasted for 40 days. Jesus did not, if memory serves, win a million dollar prize. Julie goes into a teary speech about her house in foreclosure and how she came into “Survivor” for the money, but now her life has been changed. She vows to go home, find a church and become involved. “Peanut butter and oatmeal,” Julie yells as she departs. Adorable Andrea knows that what with all the God, there’s no room in Matt’s heart for her.
It’s not you, it’s him. But maybe it’s you. Andrea returns to camp needing girl-talk. She’s just gone through one of the strangest breakups imaginable and she needs to be told it wasn’t her fault. “We all put him there, you know…” says Marriage Counselor Rob. Andrea doesn’t feel guilty on a game level, but she has human-level qualms. Eventually people will learn not to express your pesky mortal foibles around Boston Rob. The Robfather and Grant go out for a walk and they agree that Andrea is too good at challenges and has too many friends and may need to be voted out soon. Grant is actually the ringleader in this brutal twist, even suggesting that Andrea should maybe go out before Steve and Ralph. Grant says the Immunity Challenge could make the decision for him.
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. And with that? Immunity Challenge! It’s an old fashioned one-on-one Log Roll. They’re also playing for Reward, specifically a gigantic chocolate cake and some milk. In an intriguing First Round match, Grant knocks Boston Rob out. “I love you, Rob,” Grant says. But when will Rob realize Grant is a threat? In a war of cuteness, Ashley knocks Andrea out. In a Zapatera battle, Ralph tops Steve. And in the last First Rounder, Phillip beats Natalie. In the Second Round, Grant outlasts Ashley, while Ralph beats Phillip. Will a Zapatera actually win Immunity? No. Ralph dictates the tempo, but Grant is victorious. Rob smiles, but should he be smiling? Temporarily? Yes. Grant chooses Rob to share his cake with him. Probst lets Grant pick a second cake-eating buddy and he selects Andrea, which is interesting and probably smart strategy, though Natalie gets very pouty. Probst tosses a mystery bundle to the rest of the Tribe and tells the winners that they have two minutes to stuff their faces with cake. “Just eat it like a pig,” yells Phillip. It’s a little gross, but also very funny, especially the closing shot of Andrea with her face smeared with frosting. Alas, there’s no place for the phrase “chocolate cake bukkake” in a family recap. No place at all.
It’s not paranoia if there’s a twist coming. We return to camp and I’m examining Andrea’s belly to see if you can see the outline of a hunk of chocolate cake, like a python after it gulps down a mouse. Everybody else is wondering about their mystery package, which can’t be opened until Tribal Council. They surmise that the package feels like it may be a deck of cards. The Zapateras have some hope, but not much. Ralph is becoming more unintelligible with every passing day and he thinks he’s doomed. Steve isn’t ready to quit, but he’s getting weaker and weaker. Because Steve has nothing left, Rob wants to keep him around and decides that Ralph is out. But if there’s anything Rob hates, it’s twists. Rob decides that it’s important to have other contingencies in place, just in case wackiness ensues, which causes him to approach Ashley and Natalie. He tells them that if two people have to be voted out, Andrea is Target No. 2. And, what, you expect disagreement? “Rob’s very smart,” Ashley says. As a last-ditch, Steve goes to Ashley and Natalie and says that they could join the Zapateras in voting Rob out, turn the game upside down. They promise to consider it. “That would work, if we actually wanted Andrea in on it. But we don’t,” Ashley explains and then rushes off to tell Rob about Steve’s plot. Uh-oh. Rob doesn’t like signs of spirit.
Tribal Council. The Jury enters. David has been eating well. Boston Rob agrees with Probst that either Steve or Ralph is out next, barring a twist. Probst tries to complicate things by asking Andrea about the inevitable erosion of her alliance, but Andrea says they’re all rock-steady. Ralph predicts he’s going out and Steve agrees. But Grant and Phillip don’t think Steve is as feeble as he’s playing. With his last speech, Steve reminds everybody that Boston Rob’s broken promises in seasons past, specifically to Lex. “It’s now or never to do something large,” Steve says. Probst, ever Boston Rob’s best press agent, reminds everybody that Rob didn’t betray Amber that season and, “he hasn’t betrayed her since.” Rob agrees that he’s still got that alliance to this day.
The Vote. Steve loudly whispers “Let’s do it!” Ralph is so determined to vote Rob out that he even spells his name correctly. Nobody — that meaning Rob — plays an Immunity Idol. Probst reads the votes: Rob. Rob. Ralph. Ralph. Ralph. Ralph. Ralph. So that’s it for Ralph. He starts to walk off, but Prost stops him. TWIST? No. Ralph just forgot his torch. Bye. TWIST! Steve unwraps a deck of cards. The top one says they’re about to compete for Immunity immediately before immediately voting out another player. Interesting.
It’s in the cards. Each player is handed a deck of cards. It’s a memory challenge. Probst will show them a group of symbols. They have to remember the order and flash them back to Probst. Through three cards, everybody is even, but Natalie and Phillip go out on Card 4. Grant and Andrea go out on Card 5. On the sixth card, Rob wins Immunity and the ability to steer the next vote. They all nod at each other, but what does the nodding mean?
The Vote II. Adorable Andrea writes Steve’s name and adorably cheers “Ometepe!” But is she about to look really, really foolish? Probst tallies the votes: Grant (Steve’s vote). Steve (Andrea’s vote). Steve (It’s over). Steve. Steve. “Nowhere left to hide,” Probst warns the six remaining castaways.
Bottom Line. Boston Rob’s Zapatera Genocide is complete. And as boring as it sometimes was to watch — and as boring as it has made my exit interviews — it was “Survivor” domination in its purest form. But what he did was almost the easy part. He retained totalitarian control over a numbers alliance and cleared out the opposing tribe. The way he did it may have been unprecedented, but the bottom line was fairly common. It’s what comes next that’s the complicated part. Theoretically, turning on Andrea next is easy. But what comes next? The big questions that remain unanswered involve when the Redemption Island winner returns to the game and how that impacts how late Rob can play his Idol, because he has at least one game-altering reversal in his back pocket if he needs it. As for the rest of the episode? Steve issued his own death warrant and didn’t even know that through complacency, he could have lived to fight another day. Oh well. Matt’s ongoing Redemption Island domination? Eerie. And disturbing. By the end of this season, he could definitely charter a plane to Guyana and start his own cult. It’s time to make the challenges a bit harder, I think. Shuffleboard was a weak task practically designed to coddle Matt.
Thoughts on Wednesday’s episode?