Survivor: Samoa
The Day of Reckoning
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
November 22, 2009

Why does Shambo hate me? I only spat in her food those 17 times.

Previously on Survivor, the show turned into an Easter Egg hunt, as Evil Russell found his second "hidden" immunity idol. This created a huge opportunity for the remaining members of Foa Foa and they capitalized at Tribal Council. Evil Russell played the idol after the vote. This saved him from elimination, as he received all seven votes from the former members of Galu. At the same time, the girl with the best hair was victimized. Kelly received all four votes from Foa Foa and was sent home. At the end of the episode, Jeff Probst gleefully announced that the immunity idol would be re-hidden at a random location in the camp that we are presuming to be Evil Russell's bedding area. Dear Survivor Producers: it's okay to meddle some, but when you do too much, you wind up with Scoutmaster Lil in the finals.

The start of tonight's episode reveals the generally unacknowledged schism between the remaining men and women. Dave, who was seemingly heartbroken at Kelly's departure, approaches the dudes from Foa Foa and congratulates them for a brilliant blindside. Evil Russell claims that the good feeling he had at Tribal Council was only exceeded by the birth of his children. That's nice.

Meanwhile, Laura is ticked off that the "snake" Evil Russell changed the game in such a way. In front of Natalie - one of the four tightly aligned Foa Foa individuals - she talks with other members of her Galu alliance about how they should have known he'd have an idol and should have done things differently. You know, Laura, maybe when Monica brought up the possibility that Evil Russell might have the idol before the vote, you should have listened. Laura is as guilty as Russell is of discounting the possibility that someone else might be smart.

Shambo, on the other hand, is as giddy as 1987 Sylvester Stallone after popping his latest steroid. She comments that she and Evil Russell had a brilliant plan, and no one was in on it but the two of them. Clearly, in addition to being giddy, she is also oblivious. Considering that she voted for Evil Russell during Tribal Council, we also wonder about her short-term memory. The current thinking is that she intentionally voted that way in order to hide the fact that she had betrayed the men of Galu, who once voted her tribe leader. We're sure this is part of Russell', her and Russell's cunning plan.

Early on in the episode, we see Shambo's hatred of Laura has led her to behave irrationally, as is occasionally the case on Survivor (and other reality shows). A dim-witted contestant magnifies the importance of a perceived slight until it becomes all-encompassing. The end result is almost always that both players engaged in the feud lose and then spend years afterward swearing it was the other person's fault. She approaches her Galu teammate John and tells him that she's flipped her alliance to Foa Foa, and that she plans to keep it that way. That means things are even between the two alliances at 5-5, but if he would join their group, it would be 6-4. Yes, she's dumb enough to reveal her plans to a Galu compatriot even though she took great pains to hide it by voting for Evil Russell at Tribal Council. John says he'll think about it, and so Shambo asks him not to reveal to everyone else that she's terrible at espionage. We don't remember Jason Bourne ever looking at anyone and saying, "Shhh. Don't tell anyone I'm a spy."

It's shameless product placement time as we have our first Probst sighting of the evening. They're hyping a cell phone, which is kind of like shilling bread and water to prison inmates at this point. The reward challenge splits the Survivors into two teams of five. One member of each team will climb into a a flying stretcher. The other members of the team use ropes to guide the stretcher around so that the stretcher person can grab a series of 15 flags. First team to finish gets the use of the phone as well as a plane ride to a beautiful island, where they get to eat hot dogs, pies, and other assorted picnic items. It's not really very close. The team of Dave, Natalie, Evil Russell, Laura and Brett takes the prize. Much joy is shared and they take photos with the phone.

Back at camp, challenge losers Mick and Jaison approach Monica about joining their alliance. With Kelly gone, Monica has lost a vital alliance member and she might be a bit untethered, particularly since Laura's behavior makes her oppressive to be around. When she comments that she would be their fifth, they disabuse her of that notion. They tell Monica that she would actually be their sixth, which takes her aback, but it doesn't take her a Sherlock Holmes-type of deduction to figure out that they're talking about Shambo (though Mick and Jaison might be giving Shambo an awful lot of credit). Monica tells the boys that she'll consider their offer, and informs them that John is her target, a surprising development in and of itself.

A funny segment ensues wherein the reward challenge winners see a short video clip and picture clues to help them ascertain the location of the idol. The producers effectively take this opportunity to yell at Evil Russell, "The immunity idol is not here! We swear it's not here! Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge."

When they arrive back at camp, the Easter Egg hunt/race is on. The former members of Galu form a prevent defense, but Evil Russell breaks a tackle by Laura and blows past Dave into the open field. Moments later, Laura screams at Dave as he offers the panicked statement, "I lost him!" Evil Russell backtracks to the spot where the producers would never ever ever give away the location of the hidden immunity idol, and he retrieves his third one. Wrestlemania isn't this fixed.

Cut to Laura and Monica, one of whom currently seems likely to go home tonight. Laura probably could have survived a feud with just Shambo or just Evil Russell, but fighting with both of them has served to spell her eventual doom. For the second consecutive episode, Monica astutely evaluates the overall tribe's status. She has not only sussed out Shambo's treachery (which probably isn't that hard, since she's sitting outside a tent with Natalie and Evil Russell, chatting and laughing), but she has also deduced that John's loyalties are always up for grabs. Laura recognizes that she has a target on her back, and comments that she must win the immunity challenge. As it has been for the last two episodes, this is very true.

Probst Returns: The Probstening! The immunity challenge has the players throwing a rock at some tiles to try to break up to three of them. They get only one throw to break their tiles, and will be awarded spears based on the number of their tiles they break. Shambo's latest secret super spy move is to point and laugh at Laura when she fails to win immunity. We've seen more intrigue in an episode of Beverly Hillbillies.

In the second portion of the challenge, Brett has two spears to aim at the target, versus one apiece for Jaison, Monica (who gets hers because Dave broke her tile accidentally) and Mick. Brett goes first and hits the target, meaning that the others must get closer to the bullseye to win. Mick manages to do just that, and Brett's second shot falls short, meaning that Foa Foa has a couple of immunities in play for tonight's Tribal.

During some gameplay discussion, John is kind enough to recount the decision-making process of his Galu cohorts. "It's continually impressive and bordering on annoying how pathetic the analytical skills of the Galu tribe are. Let's telegraph a move to Russell. You're an idiot. Let's sit back, and let's piss off Shambo. You're an idiot. Let's sit back and vote off Erik over a 30-second decision. You're an idiot." Thanks for taking over for us, buddy.

Monica is having similar results with Dave. She aptly evaluates the situation once again, deducing that Laura is going home tonight unless something is done. Dave and Brett (two of John's idiots) reply, "No, it would be a tie." Then, Monica tells them that if they can tell the Foa Foa tribe to vote for John, maybe they can manage to get Natalie voted out and the tide can shift back in their direction. In this scenario, the vote would be five for Natalie, four for John, and Shambo for Laura. This sounds like a great plan in Galu for everyone whose name is not John.

Naturally, the Foa Foa folks are dubious of what Monica says, and plan to tell John about his allies' semi-betrayal. But Brett gets to him first, telling him that it's a swerve to eliminate Natalie. We've been debating whether the best player this season is John or Brett, and we get the vibe that they have as well. They have a contentious conversation about the plan, wherein John states that if Brett wanted to volunteer somebody, it should have been himself. Brett nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders, as if the deal is done. John then tracks Evil Russell down in the woods, and Russ states the obvious: it's a transparent ploy that Foa Foa will not fall for. At this point, John offers a monologue where he tells us that Survivor rules this season are again using the same process that saw Rodger Bingham eliminated without receiving a single vote in Season Two (Australian Outback). If there is a tie after two rounds of voting, the contestants who are not deadlocked must each draw a rock from a bag to determine the loser. In effect, if Laura and Natalie are tied after two rounds, there is a 12.5% chance that John goes home. He is dissatisfied with those percentages and wisely so. We're a little confused by much of this, because Monica and Brett (and Dave if he ever gets a clue) should have the same concerns as John but seem blissfully ignorant.

What these scenes reveal is that the bond between Galu tribe members is practically nonexistent. Yes, Laura and Monica have a connection, but Dave is just flaky (who knows what he's doing?), Brett seems content to think he's some kind of puppet master, and John realizes that his own self-interest is key at this point, but he's really a man without a country given the seeming rift between himself and his former tribemates. Perhaps it's personality conflict or maybe it's because they didn't have to do any strategy prior to the merge, but they just don't have the connections to each other to make any sort of alliance work.

As we arrive at tribal council, it is clear that lines have been drawn in the sand. Everyone wants to get to it and see what happens next, and there seems to be a strange energy surrounding the notion that a lot of tonight's events will be up to luck and chance, which we suppose is why Las Vegas is a billion dollar industry. Probst does make clear the rules of the tie-breaker and point blank asks Dave if he's okay with luck deciding whether he stays in the game. Our jaws hit the ground as Dave effectively says, "Yes, it's great that there is a 12.5% chance I'm going home tonight!" Dave needs to watch more poker on ESPN to understand why relying on such odds is a very bad idea, especially when YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK IN THIS SITUATION.

Shambo is the dumbest player in this game, but if you want to beat someone at checkers, we like your chances against Dave.

So, we get to the vote, and Dave is ready to risk it all! But before he can, Natalie has to get four votes in the second round (neither Natalie nor Laura vote), and she does not. Dave, Monica and Brett all stick to the plan, but the person who wasn't asked about it, John, has yet to warm to the idea that he could be eliminated instead of Laura. He correctly decides to flip his vote to her, who becomes the third consecutive member of Galu to be eliminated since Erik stated that Galu was going to systematically knock off the members of Foa Foa.

During the next non-clip episode, there are going to be three very angry Galu tribemates. Monica, Dave and Brett will be pissed that John voted for Laura, making the rocket scientist a wolfpack of one. The Foa Foa trio of Mick, Natalie and Jaison remains the power group of the season, though they're making their moves behind the scenes. Evil Russell still has a hidden immunity idol in play, and Shambo's starting to have a Bellatrix Lestrange thing happening.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!