Pre-credit sequence. I really want an explanation for Josh and Baylor's Tribal Council votes. Will we get one as we return to Coyopa? Yup! Kinda! “There's a method to my madness. I put your name down,” Josh tells Baylor, claiming his goal was “to further advance their alliance.” He begs her not to be mad. “That was a smart move in a way, but it was also sketchy and scary that he didn't tell me before,” Baylor says. Yeah. I still don't get what anybody was thinking.
Out like Flint. Hunahpu. That's the name of the other tribe? If you say so. Reed is showing off his bendiness. Jon is lifting logs and boasting about his partial arts prowess. Drew is doing push-ups. Natalie is not impressed by the shows of masculinity. But amidst the challenge prep, everybody has a new confusion: Where's their flint? “Losing that is not good,” Kelley observes, accurately. Apparently at fault, Jon learned somewhere to admit to his misdeeds and admit emphatically, comparing himself to rice-dumping J'Tia and making repeated jokes about his clumsiness.
Let's Make a Deal with Jeff Probst. We have a challenge already, but first it's time for Hunahpu to see New Coyopa. “Oh my God,” Natalie says as she sees that her Twinnie was voted out. She smiles, but she also looks sad and alone and wipes away tears. Well now I'm getting sniffly. “Alright, the game moves on,” Probst says, tired of female emotions. One player from each team will be competing for Reward. They're competing for fishing gear. John Rocker wins rock-paper-scissors and decides to select himself to compete, going against Julie. The task involves balancing a ball on a plate. This isn't in John Rocker's wheelhouse and you can see his frustration early. The task is much harder for John Rocker, because he has to keep ducking under poles that are much less challenging for Julie, who collects all three of her balls in first. You have to get the three balls in designated holes and Julie gets all three before John Rocker can do much of anything. “I just got beat by a girl,” John Rocker grumbles, lovable as ever. And no, he's not joking at all. Julie selects Jeremy to go hang with John Rocker on Exile, which is strategically smart and a bit hilarious. Ha. Hunahpu wants to make a deal to get flint back. Probst is perplexed and incredulous by the offer of beans for flint. Probst hates their negotiating tactic and offers them flint for all of their fishing gear. Probst mocks and taunts and promises that the price will be higher next time. While some of the guys are willing to eat raw fish, the girls insist on having flint. Jon, one of the people willing to only eat sushi, acknowledges this was his fault. My takeaway? Never buy a used car from Jeff Probst.
Twinnie! Twinnie! Twinnie! Hunahpu returns to camp able to make fire, but unable to eat fish. Poor Nadiya is miserable and still crying, which makes Missy like Natalie even more. Natalie vows to use this as motivation. Alec has also recognized John Rocker and Dale remembers John Rocker's interview rather vividly. Josh thinks this makes John Rocker more of an asset. “Yes, I want him on my team,” Josh declares, while Baylor wonders how things will go for John Rocker and Jeremy on Redemption.
The Devil Who Played Baseball Down in Georgia. “Now I'm stuck out here with John Rocker,” says Jeremy, who also remembers John Rocker's interview fairly well. Jeremy got the Immunity clue, while John Rocker got nothing, but Jeremy correctly recognizes that if he's nice to John Rocker, John Rocker might take care of Val. “If she's voted out, Julie's gone right after,” Jeremy vows awesomely.
Sumo cum laude. We're swiftly on to Immunity, with the return of Jeremy and John Rocker. Pairs will wrestle sumo-style on platforms in the water. This was the Aras/Vytas challenge from the last Blood/Water season. Up first, Kelley and Jaclyn go head-to-head in a match of blondes I can't tell apart. Jaclyn is Miss Michigan and she wins for Coyopa. Alec and Drew are brothers and they're the first blood matchup, with Drew beating up on his little bro. Jeff Probst appreciates their manly efforts. Jeremy and Wes brawl and Wes scores a somewhat surprising win, putting Coyopa up 2-1. Natalie comes out strong, but Val weathers the storm and pushes Natalie to the brink. But Natalie turns the tide and wins the best battle thus far. “Damn. Jeremy's got a tough-ass wife,” Natalie observes. John Rocker and former Spartan Jon have the most physical battle so far, with Jon scoring an upset over a bloodied and unhappy John Rocker. Missy and Baylor both picture one of Missy's ex-husbands, which is a bit disturbing. Baylor quickly takes a pad to the face and the challenge stops for crying and pain. Baylor comes back and slams her suddenly tentative mother in the water. Reed and Josh battle, though either Alec or Drew doesn't know which one is on his tribe. Reed wins. Hunahpu leads and it's Keith versus Dale in “The Clash of the Old Guys.” They're both plucky, but Dale is pluckier and it's tied. That makes Kelley versus Jaclyn the tie-breaker? Why? It's Kelley's birthday, but Dale admits he has to root for Jaclyn. Awww. So much emotion this episode. Kelley guts out a struggle and claims Immunity as a birthday present. Coyopa loses everything. Dale is conflicted. And Val is prepared to make big moves.
Ah “Survivor” Idols. As well-hidden as ever. So, Coyopa sucks again. “It was one of the toughest things I ever had to watch,” Dale says, expressing his great pride for Kelley. Monkey! Not enough monkey cut-aways this episode. “It was a pleasure hanging out with Jeremy,” John Rocker tells Val, insinuating his deal with her hubby. Since she has nothing else, Val bluffs to John Rocker, claiming to have two Idols. I guess you've gotta bluff big? John Rocker goes out searching for his own Idol, initially without luck. And then? John Rocker finds an Immunity Idol. Sigh. “I found at least an extra three days in the game,” John says, wearing the Idol around his neck, at least temporarily. True to his word, though, Rocker wants to protect Val. John Rocker gets his alliance's strategy and comes back to Val and tells her that the votes will be split 3-3 between her and Baylor, telling her to play his Idol and she'll be safe. Val knows that if the votes actually go that way, if she and Jaclyn vote Baylor, that's it for Baylor. The reality is that Val and John Rocker are the most suspicious alliance in history and Josh is wondering what's up.
Tribal Council. Alec is way too pleased with his loss to Drew. Or is that Drew pleased with his loss to Alec? I'm not invested in learning the difference between them. John Rocker says they just need one win to get back on track. Josh compares it to a show in pre-Broadway previews, noting that changes need to be made. Coyopa is, indeed, a lot like “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” in that respect. But I like the new tribal motto: Coyopa: We're in Tech. Val blames Baylor for playing both sides and sparring ensues. Val and Baylor bicker over who said what about what, with Baylor calling Val's accusations “crazy talk,” but admitting she isn't so sure about her position anymore.
The vote. Baylor votes for Val. John Rocker votes for Baylor. Wes votes for Val and challenges her to play her Idol. Val votes for Baylor. Probst goes to tally. Val doesn't play the Idol she doesn't have and John Rocker's head explodes. The votes: Val. Baylor. Val. Baylor. Val. Baylor. [Baylor's look of confusion is awesome.] Baylor. Val. [Uh-oh. That vote shouldn't have happened.] It's a tie.
REVOTE! This time, John Rocker votes for Val. Ruh-roh. Probst tallies: Baylor. Val. Val. Val. VAL. Ugh. Farewell, Val. You were in a weak position, but you didn't make it any better.. Probst chides Coyopa for suckitude.
Bottom Line, Part I. So Alec, John Rocker, Dale, Wes, Baylor and Josh voted for Val in the second vote, right? I'm still confused on the first vote. Jaclyn and Val were off on their own. And the other six were splitting the vote? And Jaclyn and Val were supposed to vote Baylor? Did I do the math wrong? Did somebody else do the math wrong and vote for Val by accident? I had some work stuff pop up toward the end. What's the easy explanation for how that first vote went?
Bottom Line, Part II. I'm not sure that Val could have played things successfully, given the circumstances, but how did she find herself having to bluff by pretending she already had two Idols? How did she think that was going to work? And was there anything John Rocker could have done to protect her better? He let her know the vote in a situation in which, based on the information he chose to believe was at his disposal, she would be able to escape. If he had known she didn't have an Idol, would he have been able to strategize in any different way so as to help her? Did Val screw herself up by lying to John and not trusting him at his word? I'm inclined to feel absolutely no warmth toward John Rocker, but he made a promise and he betrayed the confidence of his alliance in order to help Val, which is probably all he could have done with the variables such as he knew them. So… Credit to John Rocker. And he has an Idol still.
Bottom Line, Part III. I love, however, that not only is John Rocker's secret not even vaguely a secret at this point, but that everybody has such a clear memory of what John Rocker said and nobody has even been misrepresenting it all that much. And then I love that John Rocker, after proving valuable and level-headed last week, basically just lived down to expectations with his sexist temper tantrum after losing the Reward Challenge and then his flustered reaction to getting housed by a smaller man in the Immunity Challenge. Again, the dude lived up to his word to Jeremy, but it's also fun that absolutely nobody is going to ever believe his side of things. And I'm amused that John Rocker and Val never though anybody would find it sketchy that they were wandering off and strategizing.
Bottom Line, Part IV. That was another good season-starting episode of “Survivor.” The “Blood vs. Water” twist yielded emotion with Natalie and with several of the sumo showdowns and also with Jeremy's approach to John Rocker at Exile. On the negative side, I don't feel like this episode made me like anybody all that much more, with the possible exception of Dale. But there was drama and emotion and John Rocker comedy. So… A decent episode.
What'd you think? How should Val and John Rocker have played things?