Recap: ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’ – ‘The Buddy System’

Pre-credit sequence. Matt returns to Redemption Island. I might be amused. You might be amused. Matt is not amused. “First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate myself on being the most naive person ever to play the game of ‘Survivor,'” Matt grumbles. “I can’t believe I got blindsided twice by the same people,” the clearly irate King of Redemption whines. Matt doesn’t understand why God wanted him back on Redemption Island. “I trust you that this is your will, you using my stupidity for your glory,” Matt tells God. I suspect God’s all, “Sorry. Earthquakes. Chilean miners. Double rainbows. Baseball season. Then I’ll catch up with ‘Survivor’ on my DVR…” God, however, does not get a “Survivor” talking head.
Full recap of Wednesday’s (April 13) “Survivor: Redemption Island” after the break…]
Rob is Don Corleone. Ralph is Don Knotts. The sun rises on Day 22 at Murlonio, where David is still impressed by how well Rob orchestrated Matt’s whacking at the previous Tribal Council, comparing it to “a hit straight out of a mob movie.” Marine Mike joins the gang kissing up to Boston Rob. But Julie isn’t pleased. She calls it cold-blooded. “I know it’s a game, but do you not have any feeling at all for a human being,” Julie laments. No. Rob does not. He’s sitting under the shelter with Natalie to his left, Adorable Andrea to his right and they’re literally comparing him to Superman. Julie suspects there’s no breaking up Rob’s alliance and Ralph has also moved to a new stage of grief: Bargaining. He approaches Natalie and Ashley and after getting them to understand that he was asking about being on the chopping block, he vows that he’d vote for either of them over Rob. “It’s very aggravating,” Ralph says, before adding, “How can we play a game if we don’t even know where to start?” Well, Ralphie, you start by playing the game on Day One, I suppose. Rob assures his alliance that they won’t make a decision until the last minute and they agree that if they stick to the buddy system, they’re guaranteed the Top 6. Rob is determined to keep an Us vs. Them mentality and he’s imposed separate shelters and separate eating times. “It’s Us vs. Them and we’re better than them. And we’re gonna be arrogant about it and we’re gonna show it. I’m not. But I want them to. Because I want their votes at the end of the day,” Rob explains.
The only greater betrayal would have been eating his Crispy. Natalie pulls Rob aside and tells him about the offer Ralph made to Ashley. If we’re being honest, the deal appeared to have also been offered to both of them. But she’s smart, that Natalie. And Rob is getting a little drunk on power. With a Kurtz-y manic glint in his eye, Rob reshuffles the Top 6 in his mind. “It’s your fault. Ashley, you could have made it to the end. But you decided not to tell me everything. You have to tell me everything. It’s my game. I’m in charge,” Rob says, grinning like an utter lunatic.
Stuck a feather in his cap and called himself a Former Federal Agent. It’s challenge time and Phillip arrives wearing a headband and a feather, a feather that he says arrived out of thin air. Jeff Probst? Amused. Once again, Immunity is up for grabs. It’s a multi-tier challenge that starts with digging and dish smashing, progresses to water spitting and culminates with the solving of a block puzzle. Grant, Rob, Ralph, Mike, David and Julie advance through the first round, making it a good tier for the former Zapatera. In the spitting challenge, it’s Grant, Mike and David advancing. We haven’t needed to see Grant use his brains. Does he have a chance against self-professed puzzlemaster David? He does! Grant wins Immunity, beating Mike. Dave was barely in the hunt at all. 
He’s a poet warrior in the classic sense. Mike knows that he was so close and now his alliance needs a Hail Mary to survive the next elimination. “He’s like the prison guard,” Mike says of Rob and the lockdown his alliance is under. Indeed, the Zapateras randomly start digging around their tribe banner and when Rob sees them, he leads his entire gaggle over to join the digging, just in case. A military march plays in the background, just in case we didn’t get it. It’s almost pure mockery as Rob and Phillip grab shovels and start digging. David has started referring to The Mariano Crime Syndicate. “Here’s the thing. I still can’t shake this Idol paranoia. Idols were what killed me last time around,” Rob admits, wondering if another Idol was introduced after Ralph played his. Facing a big vote, Rob pulls his gang aside and polls the electorate on the biggest threats in the game and also which player might have the best shot at knocking off Matt in a Duel. They’re going to probably choose blind between Matt or Dave and they buddy up to leave. Yes. They actually hold hands. Yes, Rob and Grant are buddies. This is so cute! Also buddies? Ashley and Natalie, who take a bathroom break together and everything.
Tribal Council No. 1. It’s only 22 minutes into the episode, but here’s a Tribal Council. Phillip’s great-great grandfather was a full-blood Cherokee and foretold Grant’s Immunity win. Everybody nods politely, as you do. Attempting to stir things up, the Zapateras agree that Phillip is at the bottom of his alliance, a thought that doesn’t bother him either. Phillip has a new family, he declares. “Matt thought you guys were his family too,” Jill says slyly. Boom? Roasted? Ralph vows to keep fighting and hopes that he may also acquire a magical feather. “I think it’s an insecurity thing,” Mike says of Phillip’s feather. How is this all about Phillip? Dave acknowledges one of the five Zapateras looks to be out, but he doesn’t know who.
Vote No. 1. “Phil, you are one odd duck, brother,” says Steve, writing down The Former Federal Agent’s name. Probst tallies the votes: Phillip. Phillip. Phillip. Phillip. Phillip. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Off to Redemption Island for Mike.
The Good Soldier. Murlonio returns under cover of darkness. I love that they appear to have decorated their sign with goldfish crackers. Rob is impressed with how well Phillip held up at Tribal Council. “You were a soldier tonight,” Rob tells Phillip, before whispering that The Former Federal Agent is actually at the top with him. “Phillip is slowly becoming a very loyal soldier, which is good for me,” Rob tells us, vowing that Phillip will be rewarded. Rob is thinking of his end-game and his plan is to take Natalie and Phillip with him to the Final Three. But Phillip knows that everybody wants to be in the Bottom Three with him, including Rob. Phillip knows he’ll have to make a move eventually, but not today.
I ain’t gonna talk ’bout Ralphie’s farm no more. For Dave and Ralph, though, today may be their last day. They agree that Rob is going to be unbeatable if they don’t break his alliance up fast. Dave doesn’t want to make a hasty play against Rob, but Ralph’s middle name is “Hasty.” Or possibly “Wiggum.” Ralph rushes to talk strategy with Phillip and Adorable Andrea, but the Alliance Buddies aren’t interested. They pretend they’d totally be happy to hear about social things, like Ralph’s farm, but they’re not going to talk strategy. Dave is sad nobody will play “Survivor” with him. 
Bad challenge for Black Rock. We’ve got another challenge coming. We don’t know what kind of challenge it is, but there are cheeseburgers on the horizon. The challenge asks the players to hang from a bar over a pool of water. After 20 minutes, they can no longer use their arms and they’ll be dangling by their legs. They’re playing for Immunity. But what of the cheeseburgers? Each player takes a white rock and a black rock. In private they have to choose between Black (“I want Immunity”) and White (“I’m Eating”). Only Phillip and Steve opt to eat cheeseburgers. This, by the way, is just another reason to love Boston Rob. How many other players, controlling a numbers alliance and holding an Immunity Idol and facing a challenge which very obviously will favor female competitors would just have a burger? But Rob competes. Wow. Phillip and Steve get to eat all of the burgers themselves? That’s a lot of burgers. Rob can’t get comfortable and he goes out almost immediately. Trash-talking ensues between Phillip and David. They’re gonna get it on cuz they don’t get along. They shift to legs-only and Julie drops. Grant goes out. Ralph goes out. David, taking a one-leg strategy, is the only remaining Zapatera. “This is all about willpower, desire,” Probst says helpfully. David bails, leaving Ashley, Adorable Andrea and Natalie free to decide Immunity for themselves. They agree that Andrea wins. But truly, whoever wins the necklace, we all know it’s a victory for cuteness.
Something’s rotten. Rob’s alliance has another choice to make. You think I’m talking about the next elimination, but no. They have a bigger choice: To eat dead fish or not to eat dead fish. Ralph’s net has caught piles of fish. Unfortunately, they’re deceased. The fish have expired. They’ve ceased to be. And Rob wants nothing to do with eating already-dead fish. Pish-posh say Ralph and Julie! The Zapatera’s devour the fish corpses and declare the meat delicious, attempting to lure Rob’s people. “I’m my own man. I make my own decisions,” Grant says, having a bite, but only a bite before returning to his increasingly hungry allies. “It’s cult-like,” Dave diagnoses. Fish aside, Rob’s choice: Get rid of strategic threat Dave or give Steve his wish and send him home.  “I’ve been known to have a mercy killing in me, from time to time, haven’t I?” Rob says, suggesting Steve might be a potential jury vote.
Tribal Council No. 2. Would I like some Phillip Crazy? Don’t mind if I do! “There’s also, for the first time in 22 seasons, a highly effective and beauteous and glorious operation in effect right now… It’s called Stealth.” Then Rob chimes in, “R.” And Grant adds, “Us.” WOW. “Stealth R Us?” Probst asks. “And I am known as The Specialist,” Phillip says, showing his affinity for Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone erotic thrillers. Boston Rob is The Mentalist, showing Phillip’s affinity for Simon Baker procedurals. Grant is The Destroyer of Aspirations, b.k.a. The Assassin, showing that Phillip is basically off his rocker. And what about the girls? They’re The Three Degrees. “Wow,” Probst replies. Phillip has a big, “Yes, I’m screwing with you” smile. It’s a bit reassuring. There’s a lot of blather before Dave throws in the first interesting wrinkle in some time. Dave throws out the idea that if being voted out is inevitable, it’s possible that you’re better off turning your attentions to Redemption Island to advance that way. If you say so, Dave.
Vote No. 2. I like Dave’s vote, which is “Rob. Rob. Rob. Rob. Please count as 4 votes.” He folds his ballot, smiles and cracks, “Hopefully this works.” Probst tallies the votes: Rob. Rob. Rob. Rob. David. David. David. David. David. David. Off to Redemption Island for David. 
Bottom Line: Hmmm… So, um… Do you think they noticed there are now three people on Redemption Island? I wonder what the next step is for Mike, Dave and Matt. Double Elimination Duel? Everybody waits out on Redemption Island and eventually four or five of them compete for one spot back in the game? Whatever it means, it’s going to make my exit interview schedule extra confusing in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, what’s to say? Just another week of Phillip craziness and increased paranoia and control from Boston Rob. Is he pushing too hard? I’d love for either Andrea or Natalie to tell the camera that they suspect that Rob is making himself seem too psychotic to win with a Jury and they’re looking forward to coasting to a win next to the resident lunatic. I was pleased to see a little strategy from Natalie this week, probably pushing aside her biggest rival for Rob’s affections. Otherwise, this was very much a business-as-usual episode. It’s like the Zapatera gang’s powers of strategy atrophied and now none of them have a clue how to play, if they ever did. I know nobody was receptive, but surely Dave should have had some game of some sort? Rob’s just a powerful dude.
What’d you think of this week’s episode? Would you have eaten the fish?