Survivor: Samoa
Two Brains Are Better Than One
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
December 17, 2009

She's still trying to figure out who Derek is.

Previously on Survivor, there were two Immunity Challenges and two Tribal Councils, yet the episode managed to be one of the dullest and predictable in the history of the show. Dave and Monica are gone, leaving only Brett and Shambo from the original Galu tribe in the final six - though Shambo was never a *real* member of Galu. Tonight's episode supposedly promises a SHOCKING! BETRAYAL!, but we're gonna remain skeptical about it until something really interesting happens.

Night 33 at the tribe called Aiga (but really known as Foa Foa) begins with Brett giving Shambo a scalp massage, which sends her into such throes of pleasure that we think he might have just bought her alliance right then and there. Brett, who has barely had a moment of screen time up to now, talks about how he's at camp with a completely different group of people than he'd expected at this point in the game. You think that maybe, just maybe, if any single member of Galu had employed the slightest bit of game strategy, that things might have been different? Ah, what might have been.

For his part, Evil Russell expounds on the fact that he's pleased with how Tribal Council went and states that Brett has to be the next one to go. And you know, for all of our criticism of Evil Russell, he's actually stayed quite true to his alliance, which is generally not the hallmark of the evil sons of bitches in the game of Survivor. That could all change tonight if he sniffs even a slight odor of betrayal from his Foa Foa friends, but the solid alliance between Russell, Jaison, Mick and Natalie has gotten them where they are in the game. They should be proud of themselves for that, at least.

When we next see Brett, he is praying. This is probably the best thing he can do right now, because at the moment, he's taken over the title of Dead Meat from Monica, who was voted out at the previous Tribal Council. The only tiny glimmer of hope for Brett is that Natalie feels a connection to him over their discussions of the Bible and other Christian books. She genuinely likes Brett, who does seem to be more her type of guy than anyone else at the camp currently or previously. Also, Brett's a lot cuter than Evil Russell. And he doesn't have an Evil in front of his name.

Now that the prayers are complete, Shambo is telling everyone she needs to go wash her hair and that she needs a haircut. In a confessional, Evil Russell tells the audience something we already knew - that Shambo's hair is horrible. He does comment that if he didn't need her, he would have voted her out a long time ago because of her weirdness. Evil or not, we can't disagree with this assessment of his competitor. He's right to keep her around, too, because anyone who goes up against her in a vote is going to win.

Yay, it's Probst time! We actually have a Reward Challenge today. The six contestants will be split into two teams of three. The game involves a big stack of coconuts held up by a maze of ropes. One by one, the survivors will pull ropes in turn, with the object to not knock coconuts down. The first team to have 100 coconuts fall loses the challenge. Reward is a visit to a local village, where the winners will receive a feast and a good night of sleep with a mattress, blanket, pillow and shelter.

The Survivors draw stones to determine who will be team captains. Evil Russell and Natalie get to choose teams. Natalie chooses Brett (which elicits a raised eyebrow from Evil Russell) and Mick, while Evil Russell selects Jaison and gets stuck with Shambo.

Shambo goes out to pick her rope first, and Probst, in all his mighty awesomeness, quizzes her about her hair. He asks her how long she's had that particular style, and she tells him it's been like that since 1986. "Twenty-three years. That's commitment to a hairstyle," Probst says. God love him. His wry distraction technique isn't all that effective, though, because she only drops four coconuts.

After Mick drops only two coconuts on his turn, Natalie turns to Brett and asks him, "You're a prayer warrior, aren't you?" As the two of them join hands, Evil Russell's disgust and annoyance are palpable. It's clear that he's beginning to question Natalie's loyalties in the game, which could prove to be bad news for either Natalie or for Russ himself. Evil Russell tells Shambo that they're going to have to "break that up."

Jaison causes his team to have seven coconuts fall, which means that they're up to 11. Natalie counters by dropping only one coconut. Russ then messes up his team by taking them to 19, while Brett drops just two. The score is 19 for Evil Russell's team to just four coconuts for Natalie's team.

Then comes Shambo, who really unleashes a torrent of coconuts. Their new total is 29. But things go poorly for Mick on his next turn, and he has 19 coconuts fall to take their total to 23.

Up next is Jaison, who releases a full 48 coconuts, which puts the ELR team total at 77. Natalie approaches the ropes, commenting about how God has taken care of her. Shambo guesses that Natalie will loosen 58 coconuts. And guess what? She nails the number exactly. The contest is a dead heat, with Russell's team at 77 and Natalie's team at 81.

Evil Russell approaches the ropes and scrutinizes his options. And his selection is perfect, too, as not a single coconut falls. It's looking grim for Team Prayer Warrior. Brett chooses a rope that lets loose 23 coconuts, which means that Brett might be wanting to either pray harder or be less of a sinner. Evil Russell, Jaison and Shambo are going out for the reward. Jaison comments that he's concerned about Natalie's selection of Brett for the challenge, and she's sure to be the big topic of conversation between the winners as they enjoy their feast.

Over at the reward, Jaison reminds us that he's never won a reward challenge until today. That's...huge. He and Russell also discuss going to the final three together, while Shambo makes friends with the tribesmen of the village. They all get up and have a dance to celebrate their good fortune, and Evil Russell correctly points out that he's going to be revitalized for the Immunity Challenge, while Brett and Mick will be hungry and dehydrated. He's definitely done what he can to give himself every advantage in the game - though of course he also has the hidden immunity idol that he can play as needed.

Back in Loserville, Brett suggests to Natalie and Mick that they make their own reward. Even though they didn't win, they can still take a day to relax and enjoy each other's company. They go hunting for snails to cook on the beach, and do in fact seem to be having a rather nice time together. Natalie once again remarks on how much she likes Brett, but also notes that she has been in an alliance with Evil Russell from the first day (you might remember her as the person ELR called the "even dumber long-haired blonde" that day). It's pretty obvious that she's becoming mentally fatigued and is having some trouble deciding whether to side with the forces of horribleness or the forces of boring (aka Brett). She's already raised suspicions, so careful treading is going to be necessary here.

Indeed, while Evil Russell, Shambo and Jaison lounge on their mattresses, the conversation turns to Natalie choosing Brett first in the Reward Challenge. While Shambo claims that the selection indicates that Natalie's loyalties may have shifted, Evil Russell is quite confident that Even Dumber Long-Haired Blonde is still with him. He does take the opportunity to plant the seed of an idea that either Brett or Mick should be the next to be voted out, depending on if Brett wins immunity. ELR perceives the two of them to be the most likable people still in the game, as well as the biggest threats to win remaining challenges. He's absolutely correct that Brett must go, particularly given the fact that almost the entire jury is comprised of people from his alliance. As far as Mick goes, he's probably right about that, too. While it's still our contention that Evil Russell has oopsied into a lot of good luck into the game rather than played strategically, he does seem to be putting it all together for a potential trip to the final three.

Once they're all back together again, Evil Russell has a conversation with Natalie where they pretty much reiterate that Brett is Dead Meat. Their plan along has been ELR, Natalie and Jaison in the final three, which leaves Mick as the odd man out from the Foa Foa alliance. What's interesting about this discussion is that it seems to be taking place in earshot of both Brett and Mick, which seems a little foolhardy. Evil Russell notes that people have said one should never be confident in the game of Survivor, but he is feeling completely confident. Natalie agrees.

It's time for another Probst appearance, and today's Immunity Challenge has the contestants running out into a field to count the number of objects (such as pigs and crabs) at six different stations. They must remember all of those numbers to solve and open a combination lock. They are given tiles to help them with their remembering. This challenge will reward those who are both quick and have solid memories. It seems like the guys all have the advantage here, including Brett, since we saw last week that both women are struggling physically.

And lo and behold, all four guys are back and working on their combination locks. It's a race to the finish, and Jaison and Mick both get their combinations wrong on the first try. Brett and Evil Russell get to their final number and in the end, Brett finishes first. Once again, Brett has captured immunity.

For his part, Jaison is frustrated. He's worried now that since Brett has been able to take two Immunity Challenges in a row, that he could run the table up to the end and foil all their plans. He also notes that even though the plan had been to get rid of Mick, it makes a lot more sense to vote out Shambo. As he says, she's not doing anything in the challenges to help them beat Brett (this is very true) and she simply has no value to them anymore. We're wondering if this might mean a situation where Jaison, Brett, Natalie and Mick vote against Russell's wishes.

And as we return from the commercial break, the music is quite ominous. Jaison immediately walks up to Evil Russell and says that the vote must go to Shambo. She approaches shortly thereafter, and Jaison quickly shuts up and walks away. Shambo quizzes Russell about his conversation with Jaison, and ELR claims that Jaison was just confirming that the vote at Tribal Council will be for Mick. Even with Evil Russell's assurances, Shambo's suspicions are raised (probably because ELR has done nothing whatsoever to prove himself trustworthy up to this point). For his part, Russell recognizes that the choice at Tribal is either Mick or Shambo.

And yet, Jaison seems to have put some ideas into Evil Russell's head. Earlier, he had been talking about how gross Shambo's hair was and how annoying she is to have around camp. Now, he carries on a similar conversation with Mick, where he comments that Shambo's breath stinks (no, really) and that they really should vote her out tonight.

Mick is smart even if his presence in the game is at risk. He recognizes that Evil Russell has to have been cultivating his relationship with Shambo for a reason, and it's a little surprising that he might be scheming to vote her out. He's headed into the evening's proceedings with a healthy dose of skepticism, fully realizing that if ever he was ripe to be betrayed, the time is now.

Even though Shambo is...not bright, she is still asking Evil Russell some challenging questions. She wonders why Mick isn't talking to anyone about the vote. Russ tells her that it's because they told him they were all voting for her. Shambo says she's not comfortable with having her name thrown out without agreeing to it (shades of John a few episodes ago). She's got to realize, though, that she's not high on the Foa Foa totem pole - particularly since Natalie, Mick, Jaison and Evil Russell have been together from day one.

Evil Russell is weighing his options. There are three reasons to keep Shambo: 1) She will never write his name down. 2) She sucks at immunity challenges. 3) She is not going to get any votes from the jury. There is one reason to keep Mick: to keep a solid contingent of athletes together to make sure that Brett doesn't win any more Immunity Challenges. Does Shambo's usefulness outweigh the need to get rid of the one guy who can win a vote over any of them? I think it depends on secret reason #2 to keep Mick instead of Shambo: Mick is male. Will Russ's misogyny take control? We're actually with Jaison here - you have to optimize your chances to beat Brett. Shambo is the correct play. Let's see how it all plays out.

We know there's no blind side of Russell in the offing, because tonight is his last night to play the hidden immunity idol. This means that the only options are Jaison, Natalie, Mick and ELR. Probst explores these options at Tribal Council. Brett is alluded to as a huge threat, and Russell notes that at this point in the game, you have to vote out people that you like. This causes Mick some consternation, but in theory, the comment could apply equally to the doctor or to Shambo. fact, the choice is Shambo. She gives Brett a big hug before she leaves, which has to be worrisome to Foa Foa. We know that ELR, Jaison and Mick will be doing their damndest to make sure Brett doesn't win another challenge. We're down to one final episode. Will Evil Russell prove us to have misjudged him all along? Will Natalie sneak a win? Will Mick pull the upset? Will Jaison organize some sort of surprise uprising against Evil Loser Russell? Join us late Sunday as we find out the answer to those questions and also the intriguing result of the fan favorite vote. It's not like a lot of the contestants this season have been hugely endearing. Is this a case where Evil Loser Russell has had so much screen time that he could take such a vote? We'll see.

On a final note, we'd like to point out that no SHOCKING! BETRAYALS! happened tonight. This vote went exactly as it should have given that Brett won immunity. CBS is getting a little fast and loose with their promo descriptions.