Survivor: China
High School Friend Contest
By Jim Van Nest
November 10, 2007

Jean-Robert thought he had aces in the hole. He was wrong.

Hello, good people, and welcome to the midway point of Survivor: China. When tonight's show is over, we will have eight people gone and eight people remaining. Last time on Survivor: James doubled up on his immunity idols, Erik found a cast-off idol, the tribes merged, PG and Jaime schemed, Frosti won immunity, Jaime played a fake idol and then walked off into her immediate future of trying to convince everyone that she "really knew the idol was fake." Uh...yeah. We were teased this week with the unthinkable. Todd is targeting James. What will happen if the massive gravedigger finds out? Let' get right to it and find out!

We begin as the tribes return from Tribal Council. Jean-Robert is freaking out over the fact that he thought he was gone. Something that seems to have been forgotten is that JR has not been let in on the immunity idol secret. Jaime pulling that "idol" out was the first he heard of it. So he was a little freaked out by something coming out of nowhere like that. James tells us that they can't tell him about the idols but they do need him for his vote. They're stuck with him now and they have to make do. Let the credits roll...

We come back and James is laying out the net to catch some fish. He tells us how no matter the difference in the personalities in the tribe; they pull together while the other tribe wasn't able to come together. They seem to think they're in the middle of a "high school friend contest." As James pulls in some fish, Amanda tells us that James is in an awfully good position with his two idols. She's a little afraid he could win it all.

Probst sighting! Wow, this seems early. We have a reward challenge. The tribes will be divided into two teams of four. One person will be put in a boat while three people from the other team will use buckets to dump water into the boat. The person will bail out the water to stay afloat. The first team to sink the other team's boat two times wins reward. Wanna know what they're playing for? The winning team will be sent to a 1,000-year-old village for a little culture and a sweet Chinese feast. That tribe will also get a scroll to check out once they're there. They randomly draw captains and it's Jean-Robert and PG. JR gets to choose first and he chooses James. PG takes Frosti. James selects Todd. Frosti selects Erik. Todd selects Amanda, leaving Erik to choose either Courtney or Denise. Because she's light, he chooses Courtney. Which means Denise is not picked and will not be eligible for reward.

This annoys me. Not because Denise wasn't picked. I mean the people picked who they thought would help them win. Whatever, that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that they would create a challenge like this that forces one person to not even have a chance to win it. That's some bullshit. They could have saved this challenge for next week when there are eight people and had something else this week. It's not fair after all this time that one person, no matter what happens, doesn't have a shot at enjoying this reward. If I'm Denise, I start rooting for someone to accidentally hit Probst in the head with a water bucket. Oh yeah...there's a challenge coming.

Courtney and Todd start off in the boats. Todd does a real nice job of getting himself in them middle of the square so that the other team has no real good angle at his boat. Courtney gets trapped over by James and Amanda and they're just drenching her. As the challenge continues, Todd is bailing faster than his boat can be filled and Courtney is sinking like the Titanic. Courtney finally goes under and the JR team scores the first point. For Round 2, Amanda and Frosti are in the boats. I like Courtney, but she really is useless in these challenges. She's throwing water and can't even get it all the way to Amanda's boat. With basically two buckets to three, the PG team really doesn't have much of a shot and despite a strong effort from Frosti, his boat fills up in no time and Amanda outlasts and wins the second point for the JR team. Just a thought, Denise would have done a helluva lot better job tossing water. Just sayin'.

We come back from the 102nd promo for the CSI/Without a Trace crossover episodes to see the winners entering the old village. James tells us that he's not the type to enjoy that sort of thing, but he was pretty amazed and touched as he walked through the village. As they eat, JR opens the tube to find that there IS a hidden immunity idol. He's completely blown away to learn that one even exists. You can see the wheels start turning right away. He is truly a good strategist and could have succeeded in this game...but the fact that he's coming into the Idol game 10-15 days late means there's not a lot for JR to do. He's at the mercy of his tribe. They can keep him or dump him at their discretion and he doesn't even know it. Had he not been such a tool, I might feel a little bad for him. He asks James what to do with the clue. James says it has to disappear, because he isn't bringing it back. Amanda got a kick out of JR trying to guess where the idol is. I can't believe JR can't notice that he's the only one with a huge sense of urgency on the idol thing. For those of who know, you can tell that the others aren't surprised by this and that they aren't too concerned.

Back at camp, Denise is pretty bummed about not getting picked. She says it's always been that way for her. She's a little worried that she might end up being the first one out of her alliance. As the five eat, they start talking about James and JR being a threat. PG picks up on the vibe and does suggest, "Uh...there's five of us here." There ya go, PG. You have a majority sitting right around that fire. And Courtney is definitely an outsider and Denise sure didn't get picked, did she? PG tells us that she's on the block so she feels like she has nothing to lose. She tells Denise and Courtney that if they get rid of JR before her and either one of them makes the final two, she'll give them her vote. Denise tells us that it is a very good plan. They could take out all the strength and go on. She hasn't decided what to do yet and she tells PG that. She says that she's going to weigh her options and do whatever she thinks is the best thing for her. Frankly, she'd be a fool to jump on this deal, and here's why: as it is, she is in a tight alliance of five with Todd, Amanda, James and Courtney. She is real tight with James. She's in a good place with Fei Long. If she jumps ship right now and goes with Courtney to the Zhan Hus, when it gets down to five, she'll find herself on the wrong side of the numbers with Courtney. The object is not "get to the final four and happily bow out", the object is to "get to the final two and win a million dollars."

Later that night the Feasting Four return to camp after everyone else is asleep. As they all climb into "bed", JR can't sleep. He's got the idol on his brain. So he gets up and starts searching all over camp for the idol. He grabs down all of the other plaques and decides to stash them, just in case one of them is the idol. What surprises me is that he's feeling quite confident with the potential idols. I just get blown away that there are four plaques hanging. One of them is gone. Could he really think that one of the other three is really the idol? I mean, come on. For me, I'd see that empty space and just know the idol is gone. He is, however, a poker player. Maybe he's collecting them as a bluff.

We come back to camp and the discussion turns to how James eats more than twice as much as everyone else. JR and Todd are a little annoyed. Todd tells us that he's tired of hearing JR's voice and that he's a little pissed off at James. He gave him one idol and told him where the other one was and at no time has James even offered to give one back. So he's thinking it might be nice to see some craziness happen at camp. I have to say, I'm surprised it's taken this long to hear Todd talk about this. I've been thinking all along that when the tribes merged, James giving Todd one of the idols back was just a given. I can't believe he's actually kept both.

This in mind, we join Todd and Amanda at the watering hole. Todd tells Amanda that he's almost guaranteed final four. She says she wants to stick with the plan and dump PG and then look to boot James at eight. Todd is concerned about an immunity challenge run by James and thinks he might have to go now. She's worried about the idols and Todd suggests that if James is 100% guaranteed that PG is going home, he won't play one. It'll have to be a complete blindsided vote. I'll jump in right here to say this is brilliant strategy. Aside from being the biggest physical threat, James is a likable guy that people will want to give a million dollars to. Oh yeah...and he has two immunity idols. If they can blindside him right now, they can dump the biggest threat and the two immunity idols all in one shot. What could be sweeter than that?

Todd's next stop is Frosti. He gives Frosti his idea and Frosti, just looking to make it another three days, is good to go with it. He tells us that he's happy to be the swing vote right now and that the plan is to not let James win immunity and to blindside him at Tribal. Also, PG is not to know about the plan, because she would make a beeline to James with the info.

Probst sighting!! The survivors enter the challenge area through very thick muddy water. In the area is a huge Chinese dragon. Each person will balance on part of the dragon. It is actually a decorated barrel filled with water. The barrel will begin to drain water, which will make the barrel that much more unstable. When you fall off, you're out. Last one still on their barrel wins immunity. Survivors ready? First up, the push a lever that starts the water draining. Then they push the lever that unlocks the barrel. The only rule is that the hands and feet may only touch the barrel. Right off the bat, James and Denise are having trouble, while Courtney hasn't moved. As the challenge goes on, JR starts talking about having an itch. "None of you guys are itching?" He goes on about mosquito bites, but it's not getting anyone. A few seconds later, JR loses his balance and becomes the first one out. Shortly after JR, Denise loses it and takes a tumble. 20 minutes in, Erik and PG are showing signs of trouble. Courtney is still strong. Then it happens, James loses it and falls in. Todd and Amanda share a grin. As they steady themselves, Erik loses it. Seconds later, PG falls in and Amanda is in trouble. To steady herself, she moves her hands off the barrel to part of the structure and is disqualified. After 30 minutes, Todd loses it leaving Frosti and Courtney to duke it out. Jeff points out that Courtney hasn't moved in 32 minutes, to which she replies, "I am lazy." Finally Frosti loses his balance and after a great struggle drops into the water. Courtney wins individual immunity. Who ever saw THAT coming?

We come back to camp and there's really no game to play because no one is really standing out as the sure thing vote. James, JR and PG are all on the block and I'd say they all have a strong shot at going home. Courtney tells us she can't believe that she won and that she doesn't really care who gets voted out tonight. PG tells us that she's really bummed as she's next on the chopping block. She's hoping that Denise will join her. We then join JR and Erik hanging out in the water. JR tells Erik that he has the hidden immunity idol. He tells Erik that he's guaranteed final five now. Erik tells us that he heard that and realized that there was his chance. He tells us he's 99% sure that James has both idols and that JR's is a fake. Erik tells JR that he doesn't have the right idol. JR doesn't believe him. Erik then goes on to tell JR that James has two idols, one from each camp. JR is stunned to learn this. He tells Erik to keep it quiet and that they might pull a fast one on James.

James and JR head out to do some fishing and JR makes his play. He asks James what he thinks about the idol. James says he needs to start looking and asks JR what he's come up with. "What I came up with is the realization that you're holding out on me. That's what I came up with." Despite James' protests, JR has him pretty much dead to rights. He finally comes back with, "Now, I'm not even gonna ask you anymore. I'm telling you that I already know and I'm leaving it up to you to decide. Are you gonna work with me or are we gonna go on our own." He's playing it as well as he can, in my opinion. He already knows James is lying and he's laid the groundwork for a deal. Where he overplays his hand is that the next thing he does is threaten James that if he chooses to work against him, he could get himself into some trouble. James tells us that he's not an idiot and that to align himself with Jean-Robert will be "...worst move of Survivor history". JR tells us that James just kept playing dumb, so now he's looking at dumping him.

JR runs to Todd to give him the olds (as opposed to the news) that James is sitting on two idols. He says that now is the time to dump James because he will not play one of them. Todd quickly says that he knows and that he loves the idea and that they can't let James see them talking. Todd then tells us that he had that same idea a couple days ago and that JR is always coming up with these ideas a couple days after Todd does. The next conversation is Todd and James and Todd's spilling the beans to James about JR trying to take James out. He tells him that JR has Erik and PG, maybe Frosti and that he thinks he has Todd. Todd suggests now is the time to get rid of JR. They agree not to tell Denise and Amanda jumps in saying that she doesn't think they should stray from the plan and boot PG. She tells us that she's worried that Todd is changing his strategies too much. They pull Courtney into the discussion and ask her what she wants to do. She sticks with her "I don't give a crap" attitude and says that she'll be happy to vote him out. James tells us that he doesn't think he'll have to play an idol tonight and that if he makes it through tonight, he should be all right.

We get to Tribal Council and the first question is for Courtney about immunity. She says that she never expected to win a challenge, but if she were to win one, it would most likely be one that involved not falling in the swamp. He asks James if he gets concerned about not having immunity since he is such a physical threat. He tells Jeff that he definitely does. But he says that the biggest physical threat isn't necessarily the biggest threat. He thinks the talkers are bigger. The people that can form alliances and will trade off and switch around. He asks PG about the poor numbers. She points out that she and Erik were the only ones to bring their stuff to Tribal and that she was really upset to have not won immunity. Jeff moves on to JR and asks him how frustrated he would be on the wrong side of the numbers. He says that they had really bad cards thrown at them and that they're fighting against the inevitable at this point. Jeff asks if Erik agrees. Erik mentions that they should be thinking at this point about who is in the fifth and sixth slot of the six person alliance and that making some changes would be a good thing at this point. He mentions a couple times that he's not lobbying to stay, that he's just stating how it is. Of course, in reality, he's lobbying to stay. James is getting a kick out of it. He says that Erik is so cute with how he's trying to act like he's not working it. Jeff asks JR about Jaime playing the idol last time and did it make him nervous. He says that since his job is being the town jerk, he fully expects to get votes at every Tribal Council and that the existence of an immunity idol could cost him the game anytime. Last question is for Amanda and Jeff asks her if she really feels like she could be leaving at any Tribal Council. She says that every time you come there, you expect to go, because you never know what's going on behind your back. And with that, it's time to vote.

We see three votes this time around. Courtney hopes this is the last time she'll have to vote for Jean-Robert. Denise tells PG that she just happened to get on the wrong tribe. JR votes for James telling him that he's played an incredible game and that's why he has to go. Jeff tallies the votes and asks if anyone would like to play an immunity idol. Several tense seconds go by and no one plays an idol. The votes go like this: JR, JR, PG, James, James, James. At this point, it has hit James that not playing the idol may well be the dumbest thing he's never done. Seventh vote, JR. Tied 3-3. The eighth and ninth vote both come up Jean-Robert and JR becomes the second member of the jury. I feel kinda bad for Denise here. Because we all knew that the vote is between James and JR and since she voted PG, you can tell she was completely left out of the loop on this. Not telling Denise the plan could backfire in a major way. She was already worried about being last in line, and by not including her on this; they may have inadvertently confirmed that she's right. At this poin, though, there just may not be enough numbers for her to turn the tables.

Next time on Survivor: Todd tells us that he's stuck in the jungle with people he hates. PG and James seem to be having some sort of tiff. Hopefully, James is harkening back to the thrown immunity challenge. And a surprise at Tribal Council as Jeff says, "Tonight you will not be heading back to camp, we have more business to attend to here." Uh oh...are we gonna have a double boot next time? And if so, could James lose both idols in one episode? After the last two episodes of the show, the only thing I'm sure of is that whatever happens, it should be pretty entertaining. Until then, take care.