Recap: ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’ – ‘Too Close For Comfort’

Pre-credit sequence. Murlonio returns to camp having dispatched Adorable Andrea. Ashley is still giddy at the blindside and at joining Natalie as one of the Last Girls Standing. Filled with girl-power pride, she pulls Natalie aside and they vow to protect and defend each other. But Natalie is less giddy about this alliance-by-gender. “I’m leaning toward sticking with Rob,” Natalie tells us. And in no time, The Robfather calls Natalie over and asks about the substance of their conversation, information which Natalie doesn’t even attempt to conceal. Rob tells her to stick with Ashley and pretend to be her bestest chum. And with that, Rob is figuring Ashley may need to be voted out next. He tells us, “Things have to go just right. I’ve had control in this game. I just need to keep control.”
[Full recap of Wednesday’s (May 11) “Survivor: Redemption Island” after the break…]
Cutting off your cuddling to spite your face. Adorable Andrea arrives on Redemption Island. Matt, who has taken it upon himself to redub this “The Island of Redemption,” is neither amused, nor surprised to see her. He’s viewing Andrea as his Judas and can barely look her in the eye. Trying to clear the air, Andrea says she knows that Matt hates her, but doesn’t understand why he’s giving her dirty looks at the Duels. “I don’t give you dirty looks. I just don’t know why you’re giving me big puppy-dog eyes,” Matt shoots back. Touche. Andrea rips into Matt for his idiotic decision to make Rob into his confessor. Matt’s sarcastic in response. This is a little awesome. Making things better, Ralph then refuses to make room for Adorable Andrea in their shelter. He figures he was persecuted after the Merge and now it’s her turn. He forces her to sleep on the ground and then taunts her. “Rob was using you like toilet paper. He wiped his ass and now he’s through with you,” Ralph chides. Everybody laughs. Dang. That’s cold.
Get a handle on it. Time for our second four-way Duel. Andrea stares at the Murlonio Five and comes close to tears when she calls it “shocking” and “humbling” that they looked in her eyes and lied. The Duel involves steering a handle through a maze, collecting puzzle pieces and making a puzzle. In the maze, Andrea starts off well, but when she hits a dead-end, she begins to freak out, while Ralph completes the maze first. Mike is through second. Then Matt, followed by Andrea. Everybody’s onto the puzzle. First to complete the puzzle? Mike. Second? Cold-eyed assassin Matt. And then Andrea finishes right behind. So much for the lead, there Ralphie. I don’t wanna say it’s karma, but if you refuse to let Andrea cuddle with you, you deserve all of the wrath the Game Gods can bestow. Ralph broils his buff and heads off to join the Jury. “I want Redemption Island to be over and done with so it’s not a factor anymore,” says Boston Rob, who has obviously begun to realize that his overall strategy failed to factor in this new wrinkle.
Phillip causes more rice-based complications. They’re hungry at Murlonio. Ashley has determined that they’re going to run out of rice in two days, though Phillip accurately points out not everybody will still be there in two days. Rob blames Zapatera for eating too much, which is also probably accurate. That dwindling tribe realized there wasn’t any point in conservation, so they lived well. The Murlonio Five, though, is sitting around conserving energy and starving. Ashley’s food neuroses has made Grant ready to vote her out next, seeing it as an added benefit that Natalie would be scared straight from there. Phillip, perhaps in one of those allegedly cultivated moments of pseudo-villainy, comes and basically instructs the girls that their sustenance is less important than Grant’s, because they’re going to need Grant’s strength to take out whoever comes back from Redemption Island. The ladies are displeased. It becomes a shouting match over how many calories Natalie needs to survive versus Grant, with Phillip yelling, “Don’t you lie on me!” It then becomes about why Natalie and Ashley argue with Phillip, but they never argue with Rob and Grant. “Maybe because they’re *normal*” Ashley tries to explain, but Phillip levels accusations of a snuggling conspiracy. Geez. Everybody in this episode is being so mean to everybody. I know it’s “Survivor,” but why can’t we all just get along? “He’s pathetic and he’s crazy. Not the n-word crazy. He’s just crazy,” Rob smirks. Phillip keeps yapping at the girls. Ashley keeps yelling, “Psycho!” It’s drama, but there’s a problem for Rob: Phillip is picking on both of the women, which brings them together, rather than driving them apart. Rob has to do damage control with Natalie, promising her that he’ll take her to the end. And Rob is right to be worried, because Ashley is ready to make a big move.
Grant me the strength. Here’s comes Ashley’s big move, so I’m shifting it to a new paragraph. Because it’s a big move. At night, Ashley and Natalie come to Rob and propose voting Grant out, but they don’t put it that way. They suggest sending Grant to Redemption Island. “It’s definitely something to consider,” Rob tells her. To us, he says, “I’ve already run the numbers on this scenario weeks ago. It doesn’t make sense. All it does is give Ashley another way closer to squeezing herself into the finals.” And Rob quickly goes and tattles to Grant. The two Alpha Males agree that one of them has to win, even if that requires them to win every Immunity from here on out. “Ashley is a dark individual and she’s ridden on coattails far enough,” Grant says.
The brownie recipe. The next morning, as the women giggle in the shelter, the men scheme in the forest. They collect Tree-Mail, which includes chopsticks. “Ashley’s had a free ride for 35 days and her fairy tale is about to come to an end abruptly,” Rob tells us. The clue gives strong indication of an eating challenge. Ashley knows this is big for her, but she also believes that Rob is taking her proposal seriously. Rob keeps vowing loyalty to Natalie. “I can’t stand what she’s doing to you,” Rob tells Natalie, abruptly shifting into a complicated peanut butter brownie recipe as soon as Ashley wanders over. It’s kinda funny. “Natalie may not be the brightest play to ever play this game. We all know that. But Natalie is a sweetheart. She’s innocent and she’s pure. And Ashley’s trying to corrupt that,” Rob tells us. He compares Ashley to a pain in the ass that he’s had for 35 days. Really? That’s giving a lot of credit to a player we’ve barely noticed half the time.
Go fishhooks. Immunity is up for grabs. It’s not an eating challenge at all. Boo. We’re using fishhooks to assemble a puzzle shaped like a fish. Pretty boring, right? Well, they have to do it with one arm tied behind their back. Still sound boring? Tough. That’s all you get. They’re also playing for reward, specifically a three-course meal delivered to them at camp. Everybody is competitive except for poor Natalie, with Ashley and Grant taking a big lead. “Natalie is out of this challenge. You might as wall sit down and watch,” Probst mocks her. See? Everybody’s mean! Ashley wins Immunity, making a mess of Rob’s best laid plans. Ashley gets a room service menu and she gets to choose one person to join her, so she picks Natalie. Seriously? Did nobody listen to Phillip’s lecture on calories? Grant needs more fuel!

Food porn and strategy. Ashley is happy. Rob is not. “Days like today, man, I wish I stayed home,” Rob grumbles. “All of a sudden, Ashley’s a friggin’ genius. This was all her plan all along. Grant, when you watch this, you’re gonna realize I never wanted to do it this way, bud. And although I like to think of you as a friend, I didn’t come to this game to make friends. I came to win,” Rob tells us, vowing to vote his ass out tonight. This was an “ass”-heavy episode of “Survivor,” wasn’t it? Ashley, Rob and Natalie agree that Grant is out. “It seems like no matter what the situation on ‘Survivor,’ I have to do the dirty work, because everybody else is too stupid to do it,” Rob says, before pulling Phillip aside and explaining that they now need to put on an act for Grant and then reaffirming the plan with the girls and then turning to Grant to make his fake plan. “It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting,” Rob sighs. Grant’s instinct is to vote Natalie out, with Phillip’s help. “Splitting them up is going to be the best route,” Grant says. They shake as bros. “Blindside,” Grant says. Dinner, accompanied by several waiters, arrive for Ashley and Natalie. They have pizza and nachos and chocolate brownies. They moan and groan and wipe morsels from each other’s lips in very poorly disguised food porn. Instead of afterglow, though, they’re suffering from gorger’s remorse. Now they’re moaning and groaning for different reasons, complete with Natalie presenting herself to… something. Rob fears this couple, because he compares them to his own relationship with Amber. For the first time taking Redemption Island into account, Rob notes that anybody coming back could possibly sway Ashley/Natalie as a package deal. “One man should not have so much power in this came,” Rob repeats himself. “Luckily, I’m not an ordinary man.” Did he do a different version of that same speech for the cameras every single day?
Tribal Council. Ashley’s feeling really good with her Immunity necklace. Grant wishes he’d won and knows he’s a target. “I definitely feel vulnerable,” Rob says, even though nobody has suggested voting him out for weeks. As Ashley talks about her closeness with Natalie, Probst implies that she probably shouldn’t be talking about her closeness with Natalie. With no provocation, Natalie admits that maybe she should be a target. Grant says you have to have faith that people’s word will be their bond. Rob complains about the never-ending Redemption Island twist, but praises Amber for letting him this chase this dream of his. Grant gets emotional talking about his soon-to-be-wife at home. Rob says he’s on-edge and calls this the biggest vote yet.
The Vote. Grant writes Natalie’s name. Ashley writes Grant’s name. Probst tallies the votes: Natalie. Grant. Grant. Grant. That’s it for Grant. Rob looks miserable. “See you guys shortly,” Grant says. 
Bottom Line. Anybody else feeling this marvelously played season spinning out of Rob’s control? He didn’t expect Andrea’s hostility. He didn’t expect Matt to be unbeatable at Redemption Island. And he didn’t expect for the Redemption Island twist to go this deep into the game. Heck, who did? We’ve got a finale on Sunday and there are still eight players in the game. That’s a little extreme. And of those eight players, there’s now an ever-growing number who I’m pretty sure Rob wouldn’t be able to beat with a Jury. I think he beats Andrea, Natalie, Ashley and Phillip. I think he loses to Grant, Mike or Matt. Does anybody see things differently? His best prayer is some sort of endurance Duel at the start of next episode with Ashley pulling off the upset and returning to the game. But if Andrea returns to the game, what are the chances that Rob is able to prevent her from teaming with the other two girls and taking over? Rob’s got that Idol and he hasn’t even contemplated using it, but when does the Idol leave the game and how will that coincide with the returning player from Redemption Island? Rob’s just putting a lot of faith in Natalie’s docile nature, because otherwise, knocking out your strongest ally and keeping an increasingly powerful duo together can’t possibly have been the right play, could it have?
Bottom Line, Part II. It was a pretty entertaining episode. Lots of confrontations coming to a head. And watching Rob attempt to keep his cockiness and composure even as he’s also rethinking every decision he made and wondering if he blew the whole thing weeks ago? That’s pretty entertaining. 
Bottom Line, Part III. Finale Sunday! That means that this was my last Wednesday of recapping “Idol” on East Coast time, having a few minutes to eat and then turning around and rushing through “Survivor.” I’m not gonna be sad to have my Wednesdays become a bit clearer.
So what are you thoughts going into Sunday’s finale?