Survivor: Nicaragua Recap
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
November 1, 2010

I'm so under the radar people didn't know how under the radar I was.

Previously on Survivor, the Old vs. Young experiment was deemed a complete failure (which it was) and the show rebooted. The end result is that Tyrone was eliminated immediately for following rules and stuff. Last week, both "new" tribes went to Tribal Council with Espada voting out Yve and La Flor targeting Marty. Oh wait, that's not quite what happened.

After Marty found himself in a run-off vote with Kelly B., the very people who were counting down the moments until his elimination all decided as a group to remove the one-legged woman from the equation instead. The baffling decision is yet another crippling mistake in a very poorly played season to date. The logic offered to justify the move is that Kelly B. would be difficult to beat at the final Tribal Council due to the sympathy evoked by her handicap.

This is an argument that makes sense when there are but a handful of players, all of whom like Kelly B. and are inclined to vote for her. The situation at La Flor was much different in that the only person who liked her was forced to switch tribes, leaving the poor girl without any allies at her camp. Also, there were still 14 (!) players remaining when the decision was made to prevent Kelly B. from winning the game.

Presumably, one of the other contestants, probably Brenda, is capable of time travel and after she got back from killing Hitler, she skipped to the next month to see who won Survivor. Once she saw who it was, she headed to the past, killed the present day Brenda and took her place. We think that's how it happened anyway. The movie Primer confuses us. The only other explanation that makes sense to us is that Marty is a master hypnotist. Either way, previews indicate he's going to be on the warpath this week as he attempts to shake up the power alliance at La Flor. We expect to be dealing with Marty for another 55 minutes or so, unless the hidden immunity idol is played. If so, he's got 7 days and 55 minutes. People hate Marty.

After the vote, Dan is celebrating his invincibility. He references John Gotti, a mafioso nicknamed Teflon Don. He was described in those terms because criminal charges never stuck against him. Dan feels a kindred spirit since there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for him to be in this game yet here he stands...gingerly. We made the tortoise and the hare reference last week, but Dan's situation is more akin to C. Montgomery Burns. In The Mansion Family, an episode that probably aired long after you stopped watching, Burns is revealed to be suffering from every disease possible, including the unlikely combination of juvenile diabetes and hysterical pregnancy. The doctors indicate that even a stiff breeze could prove to be his undoing, but Burns receives this news as an indication that he is immortal, impossible to kill. Dan is just like that. There are seven people voted off thus far, a couple of them not even bad players, and yet the only man in the world with worse knees than Mark Schlereth (he's had 29 knee surgeries) inexplicably remains in the game.

He might continue his crazy streak for another several days, too. Chase, Holly and NaOnka all discuss the next potential evictee, which they plan to be Alina. NaOnka notes that Alina is a strong, savvy player who poses a significant threat if she can make it to the merge. Meanwhile, Dan is a crappy competitor and the ideal candidate to take to a merge situation. We suppose we're getting to the point where it's acceptable to start having these discussions.

Meanwhile, the other camp is having a heated discussion as Marty and Jill state that they would have been all too happy to vote off Kelly B. if they had been informed of the plan. When Sash is pressed as to why four votes were place against Marty, he stammers and stutters, trying but failing to answer. As he is prone to do, Marty takes this opportunity to pull the camera man aside and explain how this is all part of his plan. He is apparently a genius for not playing the immunity and thereby surviving a run-off vote. This is akin to a Tokyo scientist claiming credit for only being partially crushed by a stampeding Godzilla. Congratulations? Marty is also surprised that Jane turned against him, indicating that she had never given him any sign that they weren't allies. We're guessing it was probably when she said, "I don't like Marty and Jill." We could be wrong.

The next day, Marty confronts Jane and indicates that he's fairly sure he voted for him the previous night. She just laughs, and laughs, and laughs. We like Jane. This is the extent of the conversation. It clearly irks Marty the rest of the day. He recounts the discussion to Jill, who is nonchalant and doesn't seem that surprised. We think that when Jane said, "I don't like Marty and Jill," Jill might have put two and two together.

Hooray! An early Probst sighting! Today's reward challenge has two "goalkeepers" standing guard over a net while perched on a square of wood in the middle of the water. Members of the opposite tribes will try to toss balls into the goal, with the first tribe to five points winning the challenge. Chase stands guard for Espada, while Fabio takes the goalkeeping duties for La Flor. There are some good plays on both sides (NaOnka exhibits particularly impressive form), but there are some embarrassments as well. Chase scoffs at Marty when his throw misses, and Dan can't even jump off the platform to make the toss (this causes some murmuring amongst his tribemates, including NaOnka, who asks, "He can't jump, either?). Chase even gets a ball thrown directly into his...sensitive spot. Ultimately, some solid play from the likes of NaOnka, Benry and Purple Kelly wins Espada the reward, which will take them to a Nicaraguan village where they will get breakfast and go horseback riding.

Perhaps most surprising of all is the fact that Purple Kelly actually gets to talk after the challenge, though she doesn't really say anything important. We think these are the first words she has spoken this season. This either means that she is getting voted off tonight or she is making the final vote.

Back at La Flor, Jane is trying to do a lot of work around camp to keep her new youthful friends happy, but the vibe we get from her is that she'd be working this hard anyway. The more noteworthy aspect of her travails is that Sash is showing signs of letting his current tribe status go to his head. We see this all the time, and while Sash has done nothing to alienate us thus far, he also hasn't done anything impressively noteworthy. There's a difference between being good at Survivor and being on the opposite side of the old people this season.

Over at Espada, they're milking cows by hand. Dan seems happy just to be able to sit down for a moment, while NaOnka gamely gives it a go despite being a bit squeamish over the whole thing. Honestly, ever since she's been separated from Kelly S., NaOnka has been significantly less vile. She's still mildly unpleasant, but her demeanor has improved and her tribemates seem to like her. We're sure her wagging finger will come back out at some point, though.

Meanwhile, Jane has caught a pretty good-sized fish, and decides that she wants to eat the whole thing all by herself. She goes off into the woods and starts her own fire (once again), cooking the fish even as she wonders if she'll get busted by the rest of La Flor. If Jane had been on Oceanic Flight 815, first of all, it would never have crashed. Her force of will would have kept it from separating. Had she chosen to allow the plane to crash, she would have built a ham radio and gotten them off the island before Kate even had time to stitch Jack.

Remember what we were saying about NaOnka? Yeah, we spoke too soon. Na takes an opportunity to slam Alina for getting emotional about having a good meal and missing home. In a confessional, she accuses Alina of putting on a show to curry sympathy from others. We take it as an admission that this is what NaOnka was doing earlier in the game when she was crying about wanting to go home.

It's time for the Immunity Challenge, which has two people from each tribe standing at the top of a platform with a bunch of balls (huh huh). Their teammates will guide a chute so that the "cannonball throwers" can aim their balls at a series of tiles. First tribe to break all five tiles wins. It's a pretty simple situation, really. Espada works really well together, with Benry and Alina discussing their moves before they make them and collaborating well with their teammates. Over at La Flor, however, there are two people guiding the chute (Marty and Jill) who thoroughly dislike at least one of the people throwing the balls (Brenda). They can't agree on anything, and as a result, it's pretty easy for Espada to dominate the challenge, proving that communication and collaboration will win out.

Now is the time on Survivor when we play It's Anyone But Jill. Well, Marty's neck is on the line as well, but he does have an immunity idol to save him. What he does not have is forgiveness from Jane. Our favorite character this season sits on the beach and talks about how dismissive the previous elder tribe power duo had been to her. Then, she all but cackles with glee as she describes their current plight, which is best described as them being the virgins at a virgin sacrifice.

Meanwhile, Brenda, Sash and the rest of the people in the power tribe at La Flor plot their next course of action. Even Fabio tries to participate in the strategy session, which is a bit like a two-year-old trying to tell you which Chess piece you should move. Then again, we are starting to suspect that maybe just maybe Fabio is Verbal Kint-ing his compatriots, at least a little bit. Hmmm, maybe Dan is faking his limp as well.

Brenda and Sash settle upon the bold strategy of demanding Marty to relinquish his hidden immunity idol in exchange for a guarantee that he will not go home this vote. To his credit, Marty correctly deduces that they will vote him out at the next Tribal Council and he also refuses to vote for Jill as well. Sash counters that if they lose the next immunity challenge, he gives his word that Marty's idol will be returned to him. We believe this as much as we believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Sidenote: WTF, Dwayne Johnson?

The gambit does crystallize what the younger tribe has been attempting to do in this episode. It's not enough for them to eliminate Marty and Jill from the competition. They also want to take possession of that immunity idol, just in case the other younger players currently at Espada are not loyal once the two tribes merge. This baffles us that much more, because flushing out the idol at the previous Tribal Council would have led to its replacement on the island. If that was their end goal, it's that much stranger that they voted out an ally rather than Marty. Nonetheless, this a situation where it's better to be lucky than good as their opponent has grown more desperate and willing to negotiate after his near elimination in the prior round of voting.

Marty surprises us by agreeing to cede his idol. As he succinctly states, he'll either be giving it to Probst or to a teammate. He figures this is the best opportunity to curry favor and for the first time during his run on the show, Marty acknowledges that his fate is out of his hands. Do you know why that is, dude? The causality here is when you kept voting off strong members of your own tribe in order to strengthen your leadership position. You employed the Evil Loser Russell tactic and you earned the Evil Loser Russell result of being disliked by others while not controlling your own fate in the game. Maybe you'll get as lucky as he did and stumble your way deep into the game, but we don't believe that will prove to be your fate. You're not vile enough to get carried along like that, just gullible and selfish enough to find yourself in this position.

Returning to Sash for a moment, his ego is unquestionably becoming an issue. This is his statement prior to Tribal Council: "Well, it turns out I don't even have to dig for idols. All I have to do is ask for them. People will literally hand me an idol just because I may or may not keep them in the game a little longer." Uh oh. People who say things like this usually do something stupid soon afterward.

The biggest punch at Tribal Council comes from Marty, who calls out Jane as a flip-flopper. Little does he know - learn how to be a better judge of body language, dude - that Jane has never been with him from the start. He then goes on to state that he no longer has possession of the immunity idol. When Probst queries him on its current owner, Sash raises his hand and indicates that the item is safely nestled in his pocket. At this point, Sash spits the bit. Big time.

Probst asks Sash whether the team owns it and he would gladly give it to Brenda right now or if he does not in fact see it as a group possession. This comes right on the heels of Brenda and Fabio saying that they have no problem with his holding on to it, because they trust him that much. How does Sash reward that trust? He makes this unfortunate slip of the tongue:

"If that's what we decide as a group, then maybe back at camp, I might do that. At this moment, I don't think it serves a purpose. But if there is a time when I lose trust in them or, I'm sorry, if there is a time when they lose trust in me, then I'll have to turn it over or I'll have the biggest target on my back of this entire tribe."

Survivor is a fascinating demonstration of human behavior and one of the things that makes us marvel about it is how consistently the same mistakes are repeated. This has become an annual rite of passage, that moment when someone is in a position of power and they let it go to their head. At this point, they inevitably make mistakes due to their lazy arrogance. Sash was sitting pretty with the complete confidence of his tribemates in a power alliance that has little chance of losing authority for several more votes. Now, he's a guy who will almost certainly be pressed to give away his immunity idol since he can no longer be trusted with it. And he has showed he has a disloyal streak either a week or a day before the tribes merge once more. That's a crippling miscalculation that happened only because he got too damned cocky.

The vote itself is no real surprise although there is one humorous moment prior to it. Fabio is pressed to display his knowledge of the concept of the Freudian slip. His statement is, "Yes, I'm actually a little bit familiar with Freudian psychology. It might have been the whole 90% of the subconscious coming up above and coming out." We're now like 70% certain that he has three different doctorates and that the whole dumb pretty boy thing is just a facade.

Anyway, the vote is not a swerve. Marty and Jill express their bitterness by voting against Jane. The other five votes are exactly as described. Marty gets two while Jill gets the other three and is eliminated from Survivor. We think that she seems like a relatively bright player, but she tried to be too fine with some of her maneuvering. If, for instance, she had taken possession of the immunity idol herself rather than doing everything but squarely place it in Marty's hand after she solved the clue, she would be the one surviving to play another day. Possession is even more than 9/10 of the law on Survivor, a point that Brenda and Co. should be spinning over in their heads as they consider Sash's slip of the tongue.