Previously on Survivor, Shambo was elected leader of her tribe in the most rigged vote that didn't involve an Columbian drug warlord. For the younger women who hate Shambo (Laura, Monica and Kelly), this act of subversive aggression from the mail members of Galu is a slight they plan to rectify. Meanwhile, Foa Foa voted off Liz, with their tribe now down to four extremely demoralized players. They need two things: a merge and a miracle. The former is much more likely. Their other hope is that New Best Friend Laura will be willing to betray the other members of Galu. We had thought the odds of that to be remote up until Shambo's coronation. Now we think the odds are 70/30 she flips.
All Hell Breaks Loose
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
November 8, 2009
Day 19 at Galu finds the aforementioned Laura upset over anything she can think of that might possibly bother her. The best she can come up with is that after the last challenge, she was shipped to Foa Foa, while Dave gave Laura's canteen to Shambo. This is apparently the greatest persecution in the history of mankind. Beyonce and Jay-Z are hosting a benefit concert over canteen theft one day next week. For her part, Shambo basically looks at Laura and says, "Shut up, whiny b*tch." We really don't know which one to root for here.
The producers of Survivor kindly interrupt this nonsense by throwing in a merge, which is the only way they can prevent Galu from swallowing Foa Foa whole. Outnumbered 8-4, Foa Foa's only real hope is that they get the three younger women of Galu to flip in an anti-Shambo alliance, and then keep that group strong while they eliminate the rest of the men. If that doesn't happen, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Foa Foa doesn't comprise more than 20% of the jury.
When the 12 remaining contestants unite, a feast is shared and spirits are lifted. Almost immediately afterward, the game is afoot. Jaison tries to befriend John, while Natalie flirts with Dave. Dr. Mick flashes his dimples at Monica, while Evil Russell tries to cut a deal with anyone within three feet of him. We're not kidding. He's seen talking to Shambo, Monica and Dave, on top of already having made friends with Laura while she visited their tribe. As he desperately scrambles, Erik takes this opportunity to declare himself King of Survivor. He brags about the strength of his alliance and the fact that he has the hidden Immunity Idol and mentions that his group has dominated challenges. The whole thing reminds us a bit of former contestant Ami Cusack in the way he's getting overly cocky and forgetting that when the merge happens, the game becomes one of extreme self-interest. People don't necessarily just line up to vote the "team" line just because you've been together for 19 days.
Now is the time when Evil Loser Russell reveals himself as an exhibitionist. He starts showing his secret Immunity Idol to anyone who will look. He might as well be wearing a trench coat when he exposes it. In fact, it's exactly this kind of behavior that got Peewee Herman in so much trouble. He shows it to Laura and tries to cut a deal with her. He shows it to Monica, who touches and rubs it. He shows it to John and offers to experiment a little. No one will ever know off the island, right? And let's be honest, it does seem to fit ELR's profile better. It's hard to be straight and hate women this much.
Evil Loser Russell does have a setback with this strategy, though. His best option for an ally - Laura - basically shows him the scoreboard. She lets him know that she is in control of the game, not him. Decisions will go through her. ELR, as you might expect, is less than receptive to this suggestion. In fact, he is so agitated by her behavior, that Evil Loser Russell decides that Laura will be the next to go. Don't worry, Laura. The last three times he's said this, the person hasn't gone home. In fact, the safest place to be seems to be his crosshairs.
ELR finally stumbles across the one player who is gullible enough to be manipulated. Yes, we're talking about Shambo. When pressed to offer the name of someone she would like to see go home, she blurts out "Laura" before he has even finished his sentence. Before you think that the stars are aligning for ELR, however, keep in mind that with 25 minutes left, the producers have done everything possible to edit the episode to make it appear that Laura is the impending victim. Twenty seasons of Survivor have taught us that this just isn't how things work on the show.
Probst sighting! The Immunity Challenge this week has a slight twist. A woman and a man will get individual immunity, which is a slight advantage to the female players since there are five of them remaining compared to seven men. The competition itself is like tee-ball meets horseshoes. The goal is to knock your ball into one of several targeted areas, with a possible point score from 1 to 5. It's not the easiest task in the world, as too much power will knock the ball completely out of play, disqualifying the contestant from the challenge. There's also a net up high that is worth ten, but it seems all but impossible to target.
Evil Loser Russell has the best score until the final male player, with four points. Rocket scientist John has a beautiful swing that earns him five points and the immunity necklace. Then, Kelly leads for the women with three points, and Laura is the final contestant to have a chance to beat her. Just as was the case with the men, she comes through with a clutch RBI in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring four points to win immunity. This moment offers the ancillary benefit of crushing all of ELR's hopes and dreams, as his most realistic hope of a Galu member being voted off has just been dashed.
Back from the commercial break, it's time to play It's Anyone But a Member of Foa Foa. We see Jaison and Mick as the primary targets, since the two of them are both physically fit and well-respected by their competitors. Evil Loser Russell would like you to think he falls into this category, but we doubt a straw poll of Galu members would show him as such. Stating the obvious, Foa Foa needs something unexpected to happen...
Now is the time on Survivor when Erik snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Seriously. We've watched this segment several times now, and we still can't believe just how idiotic he is. Let's start from the beginning. We'll let Erik describe his own thought process here: "Those guys can't win ______. They can't win anything, so as long as we keep them from winning immunity, it makes things pretty easy, I think." Well, as long as you keep them from winning immunity...and don't act like a tremendous douche.
Laura informs Erik that Evil Loser Russell has the immunity idol. Erik's diplomatic solution to this is to go berate the other members of Foa Foa while asking for their help. We're not overstating this, either. He goes over to where Natalie, Mick and Jaison are sitting and says, "I think there's a way for the three of you to stay in the game tonight. If the three of you guys vote Monica, then definitely the three of you will stay and I'm pretty sure Russell will stay. So your best interest would be the three of you to vote the same way and not tell Russell. We want him to think he's going home tonight. That way he plays the idol. We all know he's got it. People have seen it."
Okay, that last portion is stupid, because the way people have seen it is through Russell showing it to them. Even so, we think if Erik had stopped there, he *may* have been okay. He does *not* stop there.
He punctuates his abrasive speech with, "So, what you need to know you know." Mick's jaw clinches so tightly at this comment that we wonder if he chipped a tooth. Jaison stares at Erik with a degree of undisguised loathing that hasn't been seen since Denzel Washington was whipped in Glory. The reason for this is simple. If we are honestly evaluating Erik's behavior in this entire sequence, he is behaving like the most loathsome form of humanity of slaver. He sees himself as having total power, and these three minions as being totally under his control. He believes they're in no position to question his word, and he expects them to follow his every whim. Erik doesn't realize it at this moment, but his Survivor fate is sealed.
Jaison says, "Here's how I feel right now. I feel like Erik is talking to me like a f*cking child. We screwed anyway. And I think what we should do is, we should tell them...yeah, sure, we'll vote the way you want us to vote and flush out the idol. And then we go get Erik."
The thought process there is simple. The former Foa Foa members have accepted their fate in the game. But they will not accept such abhorrent behavior from a competitor. This seems like an unlikely negotiation, but Natalie leverages her friendship with the pretty girls to forge an alliance that might actually last. It's possible that a foursome of Laura, Monica, Kelly and Natalie could strategize their way to the final.
But back to Natalie's machinations. She reveals Erik's treachery toward Monica (and oh, by the way, it is later revealed that he was lying to the Foa Foa trio, because Jaison was his real target). Word soon spreads amongst the Galu tribe members that Erik has gone rogue and he is the person to target at Tribal Council. Guys from the alliance, like Dan and John, initially fight this notion, but they soon realize that this tribe mate has become a problem and he does need to be eliminated.
Natalie tells Mick and Jaison that she's managed to turn the Galu group to their way of thinking, and she even goes so far as to tell Evil Loser Russell that she has cut a deal. He doesn't believe her for two reasons. First of all, she's just a dumb blonde girl. How could she strategize and work a deal with the other tribe? Secondly, he's so in love with his own game play that he finds it impossible to believe that someone else might be able to negotiate with the Galu group. In fact, while Erik has played the game about as badly as possible during this segment, Evil Loser Russell is only marginally better. Not only has he revealed to opponents that he has the hidden immunity idol, but he also fails to engage any of them in any real alliance. When another member of his Foa Foa group does manage to forge a deal, he doesn't even see it as a possibility. And then, when he sees former Galu negotiating Erik's ouster *right in front of him*, he fails to see it as a realistic possibility. Other than acting like a dick, ELR hasn't honestly accomplished much in this game at all.
The tension of the moment is momentarily alleviated when Dave tries to explain game play to Shambo. "Kelly said the plan has changed. Tonight, Erik goes," he says.
"Who's Derek?" asks Shambo.
"Erik," says an exasperated Dave.
She then hilariously swivels her head around to make sure Erik is who she thinks he is. "Our Erik?" she asks incredulously. In case you are still wondering, Shambo is not a power player this season.
"What concerns me is that it almost seems too easy right now, and that makes me uncomfortable." --Erik
The problem with most reality television is that drama is frequently contrived. People are forced into circumstances and manipulated into behavior to create conflict that is largely artificial in nature. The genius of reality television involves those rare moments when circumstances evolve organically in a manner that puts the best and worst of human nature on display. The blueprint example for this is Erik's behavior at Tribal Council. To his mind, Galu is rock solid to a person. They will vote off the four remaining members of Foa Foa, and then one of the eight Galu members will become the Survivor champion. He has failed to take the proper head count of the composition of his tribe against theirs and he has not adapted to the changing circumstances created by the merge. The applicable sports metaphor would be that Erik is highstepping his way to the end zone, never noticing the defender directly behind him, ready to force a fumble. He is celebrating far too early in the game.
Erik states that Foa Foa has nothing to offer Galu. He also indicates that he would be surprised if they managed even one swing vote from Galu, much less two or three. Suffice it to say that the members of Foa Foa take exception to his words. What Erik fails to note is that he's not getting many attaboys from his teammates. In fact, they're all sitting perfectly still and not making eye contact with him. This is the time when Erik should realize that he *might* want to play his hidden immunity idol. He has horrified his teammates with his actions, and they have turned on him. This is made obvious when the vote comes, and everyone except Shambo writes his name down.
But Erik isn't the only one doing something stupid at Tribal Council. Evil Loser Russell simply can't live in a world where he isn't the biggest threat at Foa Foa. He refuses to believe that the whole thing isn't an elaborate ruse to get him voted off. There is no way that Natalie, a *girl*, could broker a deal. So he does the only reasonable thing. He plays his hidden immunity idol. How good a move is this? Out of the 12 votes cast, Erik gets ten and Jaison gets two. We've always stressed that if you think there's a chance you'll be voted off, you have to play your hidden immunity idol. The problem here is that ELR had no reason to think he was going to be voted off outside of his own ego. In point of fact, his own alliance member told him what would happen if he would only have believed her.
Evil Loser Russell's epic mistake is only the second funniest thing that happens at Tribal Council. The funniest, of course, belongs to Erik. Watching his face change in expression with each vote revealed makes for hilarious television. He starts with a "ha ha, you guys shouldn't have done that" face. Around three votes, it changes to a hangdog "I can't believe that many of you did it." At vote number four, he looks genuinely hurt, as if he'd hoped the Foa Foa folks would spread the vote out among the other Galu members. The reveal of the fifth vote scares the living daylights out of him, and amusingly, gives Shambo the same reaction. We think she just figured out who Erik is. The sixth vote sees him enter the acceptance phase. He looks over at Jaison, who is smiling the sort of smile reserved for dudes who have just deflowered the homecoming queen. Before the seventh vote is cast, we half expect Erik to jump up and say, "Wait! I want to play the idol!" And Erik receives a final dose of abject humiliation when he goes in for the bro-hug from Brett, who wants absolutely no part of it. Way to leave him hanging, Brett. That alone might win you Jaison's vote.
We're not sure if this means the game is afoot for all members of Galu, or if Erik's behavior was simply deemed too radical to be tolerated. Either way, this is as satisfying a resolution as the show has ever witnessed. We know there have been better blind sides and better tribal councils, but this is the best comeuppance we've seen yet.