Pre-credit sequence. Coyopa returns to camp sans Val. Baylor has begun to realize that she isn't as safe as she thought she was. You have thought Baylor might have realized that earlier, but Baylor's not so good at following the flow of the game. She's still open to playing with anybody, but she isn't going to trust anybody. John Rocker figures that by giving Val insider information, he did everything he could. Josh, by the way, admits that he was the person who flipped his vote in the first round. Josh suspects Val and John Rocker of having colluded — which they did — though he isn't ready to bail on the All-Guy Alliance, putting Jaclyn and then Baylor in jeopardy.
Drew Roker or Drew Van Winkle. Over at Hunahpu, their shelter doesn't have a real roof, which concerns Drew, who warns his colleagues about the potential for a tropical storm. They're making a new thatched roof of woven palm fronds, with everybody chipping in other than the perpetually napping Drew. What? He predicted rain! Gracious. You don't see Willard Scott standing out on street corners handing out umbrellas. No! He offers a forecast and the rest is up to you. “Drew's a big sleeper,” Keith says, suggesting that if Drew were his son, he'd give him a whooping. Wooping? Way to put your mark on the national parental discipline conversation, “Survivor.” “What have you done today, Drew? Tell me one thing you've done,” Natalie charges Drew when he briefly wakes up. Natalie wants more effort, but Jeremy likes the idea of sticking with Drew, because he [Drew] is a moron who won't win the million.
Can Keith paddle his son? At the Reward Challenge, Jeremy sees that Val is absent. He looks at John Rocker, glowers and says “Whatever.” Jeremy warns the Coyopa ladies that the men are taking them out and they need to fight back. “I feel really bad and want to apologize to Jeremy,” John Rocker says, insisting he tried to sway his alliance and failed. Josh is flabbergasted by this admission. Wanna know what they're playing for? Comfort (or Fishing Gear). Coyopa wins Rock-Paper-Scissors and Wes elects to go up against Keith in a challenge that involves a lot of balancing of trays on paddles while walking across a teetering beam. While Wes' decision was based on skepticism about his father's balance skills, things are very close with Keith making several big saves. Wes is ultimately vindicated and wins Coyopa's first challenge of the season. “Tight fight. I like to see it,” says an emotional Keith. Wes says he's never seen this kind of emotion from his dad before and they share a tearful hug, which makes several other castaways cry. It'll be Keith's second stint on Exile and Wes sends Josh to hang out with his father. Coyopa enthusiastically selects the fishing gear and, as they leave, John Rocker tries to tell Jeremy again that he did everything he could. Jeremy is not buying it. “No you didn't. Because if you did, she'd still be here,” Jeremy says.
And in 2002, his ERA was 6.66. Coincidence? I think not. Monkey! Hunahpu returns to camp after tasting defeat for the first time. Julie goes off crying, while Jeremy stirs up animosity against John Rocker, recounting John Rocker's bigotry and telling his chums that John Rocker is running things at Coyopa. This turns Natalie against both John Rocker and Julie. “I feel really alone by what happened,” Julie says. She's ticked off that John Rocker put her in a situation where his negativity is impacting her negatively.
Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral? Josh and Keith arrive at Exile, which Josh describes as “full of rocks.” With experience, Keith insists ahead of time that urned information be shared. They have a very complete clue and they agree that John Rocker or Jeremy might have already found the Idols from their camps. Together, Keith and Josh bond over noshing on snails. They're fast friends, even though they agree that they're very different. “He seems like a good ol' boy, just not my good ol' boy,” Keith says, setting up sleeping positions on opposite sides of the fire to prevent spooning. Yes, really.
Baylor bears down. Thanks to fishing gear, John Rocker is able to land a fairly big fish for Coyopa. John Rocker hopes people will be grateful and, indeed, Wes is grateful for the protein. Late at night, Baylor begins trying to break up the five men. She warns the younger guys that John Rocker's anger and negativity could drag them down. Baylor accuses the younger guys of not thinking enough, but Alec still wants to boot the women.
Rocker's Gonna Rock. Immunity time! Josh and Keith return from a night spent DEFINITELY not spooning. The challenge tethers the players in pairs. Each pair has to go through an obstacle course and collect balls. The balls then have to be shot into a basket. Up first, Jon-Natalie and Josh-Baylor. Jon scores the first basket. Missy-Julie and Wes-Alec face off next, with Wes scoring to tie things up. That basket comes only after Julie gets shoved to the side and gets a face full of dirt. John makes things personal in the next match-up, both hip-checking the competition and then taunting them after he scores and gives his tribe a 2-1 lead. Jeremy ties things up again, ignoring John Rocker's trash talk. It's 2-2 and the next tribe to score wins Immunity. Again, it's Wes-Alec against Natalie-Jon. There's a lot of bumping going on. Jon scores and Coyopa is back in the losing column. Even in defeat, John Rocker is yapping away and Natalie isn't in the mood to win gracefully. “Following a racist,” Natalie chides Coyopa. John Rocker's tribe accuses Natalie of being classless. Natalie tells John Rocker to say something homophobic or racist like he did in the past. But Dale is standing by his teammate and Natalie isn't backing down either. For a moment it looks like Jeff Probst is going to give John Rocker the chance to blame the SI writer for quoting him being racist and homophobic, but instead he escalates in a different way. “If you were a man, I'd knock your teeth out,” John Rocker says. Julie is begging her boyfriend to shut up. Alec is begging his tribe to go back to camp. “I think John is playing haphazardly,” Josh says, suggesting it could hurt the team.
John Rocker has a gay friend. Coyopa slinks back to camp. Baylor is worried and she's expecting votes. Baylor thinks Josh was “seriously harsh and mean and scary” to Natalie. “My closest ally and closest friend in this game is a gay guy,” John Rocker says of Josh. Wow. He actually says he regretted his previous comments. Kinda. Or he regrets running his mouth, which isn't quite the same thing. John Rocker has a strategy. He's going to turn attention to Dale, who sat out the Immunity Challenge due to oldness, even though the old guy stood by John Rocker in the post-challenge battle. Monkey! However, with Wes and Josh as the steering forces, attention now turns to John Rocker. Alec doesn't love the idea quite so much because he doesn't want to lose John Rocker's strength. Wes knows about John Rocker's Idol and he's a bit worried. John Rocker takes the Idol with him, just in case. Josh says he'll be voting with his gut. “I have no idea if I'm making the right decision tonight,” Josh admits.
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst begins by talking about a John Rocker-related conflict, starting with the tensions with Jeremy. Probst asks Alec about the animosity from the other tribe, which confuses Alec until Jeff gives him more context clues. Alec says that Natalie can talk trash as long as Coyopa keeps losing. John Rocker insists he isn't the leader. Jaclyn wonders if she's going to have a target on her because of what happened post-Immunity. Jaclyn says that alliances are forming differently and the guys are maybe seeing things differently. John Rocker has cause for pause. Wes is unconcerned. Josh is unconcerned but admits that they may have some discord. Baylor says something about getting rid of “the dark cloud.” Does she not know about John Rocker's Idol? Why should she poke the beast? “They just need to stick with the plan, grow some balls and vote one of the guys out,” Jaclyn says. Ugh.
The vote. John Rocker votes for Baylor. Baylor votes for John Rocker and announces, “You are a negative.” Probst goes to tally. Will John Rocker play his Idol? Nope. Jaclyn lets out a deep sigh. Probst tallies: Baylor. John Rocker. Baylor. John Rocker. John Rocker. JOHN ROCKER. “Thank God,” Baylor says. “It was well played,” John Rocker says, walking down the steps with the Idol in his pocket. “I enjoyed myself and was happy to have the opportunity,” John says.
Bottom Line, Part I. This was a pure emotional vote, nothing more. Coyopa's playing for a Shuffle, right? Or praying for a Merge? John Rocker scored half of his tribe's points tonight and was the only reason they were in the first Immunity Challenge at all. Yes, he lost his sumo duel in the second Immunity, but in doing so, he at least occupied the attentions of the other side's leading athlete. Without John Rocker, a weak tribe becomes clearly weaker and is clearly set up for more potential defeats, leaving them to cannibalize themselves some more. Yes, John Rocker will always be a force surrounded by a cloud of negativity, but how was that negatively REALLY hurting Coyopa at this point in the game? I just can't see voting John Rocker out at this stage in the season, other than to avoid awkward moments at mixed tribe social events. If you go along with John, he's always a bigger target than you are, no matter who you happen to be. He's always the person who will be viewed as the bigger threat or the bigger cancer. And maybe in the short-term he catches you a few fish and keeps you close in a couple challenges. But in the long-term, he's a guy who couldn't win a Jury vote if he went to 100 different “Survivor” Juries composed of 100 different Juries of his peers. He wouldn't even win a “Survivor” Jury composed of nine Braves fans who only watched the 1999 season. Nobody would ever give John Rocker a million bucks and if he's competing hard in challenges and helping at camp and your tribe sucks anyway? There's no way they get stronger by voting John Rocker out.
Bottom Line, Part II. That was my passionate defense of John Rocker in this situation. And I mostly believe it! You know what I also believe? That Sports Illustrated article came out in 1999. If, in 15 years, John Rocker hasn't found a way to not fight back when people come after him about it? He can't expect to play a game like “Survivor.” And if, 15 years later, he hasn't realized that there's a target on his back everything he does and he has to be thrice as polite and pacified as those around him? There's nothing to be said. From the sexist grumbling after losing to his girlfriend to the inability to recognize the line between competitiveness and hostility, John Rocker couldn't possibly have made it easier for everybody to take the assumptions they already had about him and transfer those assumptions to game strategy against him. He basically said, “You heard I was a monster… Well… I'll be a jerk and that'll confirm for you that I'm a monster.” That's all under his control. Or it has to be under control if he was going to have any chance on “Survivor.” Jeff Kent was frequently reported to be one of the worst teammates in baseball, but he was mostly able to be an understated, mediocre “Survivor” player. John Rocker didn't see any point in trying to be understated and so he became who the other players thought he was.
Bottom Line, Part III. Julie's the real beneficiary here. In many ways this is similar to whatever minor benefit the late Caleb Bankston got — RIP… Man… Still sad about this one — when Colton quit in the first “Blood vs. Water” season. As long as Colton stayed in the game, Caleb was only going to be Awful Racist Colton's Fiance. With Colton out, Caleb got to show the other players the decent guy he was. He still didn't win. Julie doesn't seem like she has much potential to win either.
Bottom Line, Part IV. The John Rocker stuff made this episode ugly in exactly the ways casting John Rocker on your reality show could be expected to make the game ugly. John Rocker didn't come into this wanting redemption, which was his prerogative. But this is what happens. Because of the haze of John Rocker, even Keith's quaint-but-inoffensive homophobia — “homophobia” in the most literal sense of the word — felt worse. So maybe Baylor et al were right. Without John Rocker, a cloud can be lifted from the game. I still don't think voting him out was great “Survivor” strategy.