Survivor: Redemption Island
The Game Respects Big Moves
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
April 9, 2011

Are her eyes red? Like a demon's? Matt won't like that.

Hello, good people! Put on your pink tighty whities, shave your pits and get your Red Sox cap, because it's another episode of Survivor: Redemption Island. Previously on Survivor: Phillip annoyed EVERYone, Grant owned another challenge, Rob littered into a volcano and Zapatera FINALLY decided to go for strength over loyalty and sent Sarita to become Matt's next RI victim. Funny that the Zaps would finally figure out that they needed a stronger team last week as it appears to be the last time they'll compete for Tribal Immunity as the merge is looming.

Previews suggest that Matt has an injury that could affect his duel performance. They also flat out tell us that the winner of this duel will come back into the game, the merge will happen this week and Redemption Island will continue. Of course, this makes me wonder if Matt gets back into the game and is then voted off to RI and THEN wins all the duels again, he could be the first person to be voted out of Survivor twice and still win the million. Cool, huh? No matter what, this is when I usually start to get real excited. Merge-time is when the game stops being polite and starts getting real (I've heard that before). Let's roll some power rankings and then get right to it.

Rob - 3-1 This episode is going to go a long way to determining how far Rob can go. He's the odds on favorite right now, but this could all change tonight. Either Matt or Sarita will come back into the game. Phillip's a crazy wild card and we still don't exactly know where Andrea's loyalties lie. But Rob does have an idol, so he's pretty much guaranteed to make it through this first Tribal and if things go his way, he could start making plans for his final plea to the jury.

Grant - 6-1 Grant is in a pretty decent spot regardless of what happens to Rob. Rob wins, Grant goes with him. If everyone targets Rob, he loses his stiffest competition. However, it won't take long before he's seen as a threat to win every challenge. So, he'd better be prepared to keep winning!

Ralph - 10-1 I'm leaving Ralph up here for two reasons. He has an idol and he's not going to be seen as the biggest threat. I think Rob will want to dump Mike and David...strength and brains, as he'll see them as bigger threats than Ralph. Here is where Ralph's simple approach will help him out. However, I would expect to see Rob try to flush that idol asap.

Natalie/Ashley/Andrea - 12-1 I'm putting these three back together again, mainly because I don't know where they are on the pecking order. I'm leaning toward putting Andrea a bit higher because Matt re-entering the game could bode well for her in a side alliance. But that remains to be seen, so I'll leave them together for now.

Matt - 20-1 That's right. You're seeing correctly. I'm so sure that Matt wins tonight, I'm bumping him all the way up here. If he comes back, he has the pick of his alliance. He can join up with Rob, or he can help to take Rob out. Even if he gets voted out, he just goes back to Matt's Island to keep defending his crown. I think this kid has a good chance to win this thing.

Julie/Steve - 30-1 I think Julie and Steve are a little safer than Mike and David. I expect them to be on the wrong end of the numbers, but neither of them will be seen as a major threat. Steve is a former NFL-er, that's for sure. But he's done nothing to show that he can win a challenge. Julie, while quite buff, is the same. I think the powers that be will be looking elsewhere and these two will skate by for a bit.

David - 50-1 The next three are hard and could go in any order, really. David is smarter than anyone else out there. I think that will buy him a few more days. So I'll list him ahead of Mike and Phillip based solely on his brain. I do think David is a bad spot, though, as he's not part of his own Tribal alliance and why would he be welcomed into the other tribe?

Phillip - 100-1 Phillip is a chucklenut. There's no two ways about it. However, after the reward last week, he felt more like a member of a tribe. If they can keep that feeling alive for him, he will not flip right off the bat. He's an outside shot to get the boot, but I think the Ometepes will want to keep him on board as long as possible, especially with the potential arrival of Matt.

Mike - 250-1 In a week that's a complete crapshoot, I'm going with Mike as the boot this week. Despite being completely dismantled by Grant two weeks ago, he's seen as the strongest member of this tribe and he comes off as a leader. Unless he wins immunity, I expect Mike to be the first person sent to the second coming of Redemption Island.

Sarita - 1 million-1 The sixth victim of Matt's dominance will burn her buff tonight. I don't care what the previews hint at, Matt ain't losing this last duel. He's been there too long, worked too hard to let it go now. Also, there's Sarita. There's nothing that tells me she has anywhere near the strength (mental or physical) or the wherewithal to compete with Matt. Thanks for playing Sarita, say hi to Russell for me.

We join the episode with the Zapatera tribe coming back to camp after dumping Sarita. David lets Ralph know that he's not offended that Ralph wrote his name down. Julie and Steve tell us how they really need to even this thing up.

We then see Sarita arriving to Redemption Island. Matt is glad to see her as he doesn't consider her too much of a threat. Sarita spills her guts to Matt about all of the inner workings of the Zapatera tribe. She suggests he hook up with Mike, if given the chance. Matt tells us that he had been planning to come back to hang with Ometepe...but it might not be a bad idea to hook up with Zapatera and take out his old tribe.

We come back from the credits to check in with Ometepe. Rob shows up with Tree Mail. This mail tells the entire tribe to come to Redemption Island for the duel. Everyone is expecting the merge. Rob says they should bring all their stuff to RI as he bets they don't come back to this camp. Phillip, of course, doesn't want to pack everything up. Rob insists and Phillip tells us that despite his feeling like a stepchild, he has learned quite a bit from Rob. Over at Zapatera, they're excited about a merge as well and Mike is ready to go toe to toe with Rob. Yeah? Good luck with that, Mike.

At Redemption Island, Matt has a serious looking cut on the outside of his foot. He's a little concerned about a potential endurance challenge on this cut. Sarita feels pretty confident that she can take him down.

Right off the bat, Jeff lets them know that the winner of this duel will go back into the game. And whaddaya know? It's an endurance challenge. They will stand on an inch wide foothold, while propping themselves up with their arms. We've seen this challenge before. I believe this was the challenge that almost killed Coach. Speaking of Coach, as both players last 15 minutes and move down to a piece of wood that's about a quarter inch, Jeff asks Phillip what it takes to get through this challenge. Phillip goes on some sort of diatribe about the "bushudo code". Who knows how long he actually speaks, but it's darn near the full 15 minutes until Matt and Sarita move to the smallest foothold of the challenge. Now it's "we go until one of you drops."

Meanwhile, Rob is concerned about Matt coming back into the game. He worries that Matt will flip on him and go to the other tribe, because that's what he would do. After several more minutes, Sarita starts to cramp up and drops out of the challenge. Six in a row, and Matt gets to come back into the game. But that's not all...

Drop your buffs, we are merged. They have a map to their NEW campsite. Oh yeah, and one more thing, beginning with the next Tribal Council, Redemption Island starts again. Which means Matt could conceivably be voted out of this game twice and still win. Huh?? As we go to break, he tells us that he has several options now and he's not sure what to do, because one slip up and he can be sent right back out of the game.

As the Survivors arrive at their new beach, they find a whole bunch of food waiting for them. Zapatera hasn't eaten in a while, so they are giddy at the food. There's no sign of an idol clue at this time. They now need to decide what to name the tribe. Rob suggests "murlonio", which he says means "from the sea, united." Everyone loves the idea. Rob tells us, that name is a private joke between him and Amber and references one of her stuffed animals. With that out of the way, it's time to build a new shelter. Mike is keeping tabs on Matt. He feels like if he can get Matt to join him, he might get Andrea as well. Mike goes to Matt and makes an offer to take Matt and Andrea with him and Ralph to the final four. He says he's fine to whittle down his tribe to make this deal with Matt and Andrea. I have to say, that's a fantastic strategic move. Instead of doing what most people do at the merge and offering Matt spot six in an alliance. Mike gives him final four. Nice work, Mike.

Hey, Phillip, what are your thoughts on packing up your stuff now? As it pours down rain tonight, Ometepe is sound asleep under the tarp they brought, while Zapatera is soaking wet under the leaky roof of the new shelter. We join Matt and Andrea talking and she is explaining to him that she had no idea he was getting voted out. Matt tells her that he has a plan to get rid of the Ometepe tribe. He wants to vote out Steve and maybe Phillip, to make it look like everything's cool. Then he wants to blindside Rob. Andrea is not 100% on board with this plan, but she is willing to keep her options open.

The next day, Matt and Mike are discussing bible verses. Ashley tries to be part of the conversation. Rob, Grant and Natalie look on but feel they have nothing to offer to the conversation. Meanwhile, Matt has a feeling "in his heart" that the right move is to stick with Ometepe. Rob tells us that he doesn't like to see a group of people bonding over something like that. He doesn't care what it is, but if three people are bonding that much, it needs to be broken up. He decides that if Mike doesn't win immunity, the Iraq war veteran needs to go first.

Probst sighting! Today's challenge is another endurance/balance challenge. Each person will stand on the rounded side of half a log. They will be holding a flat wooden disc in one hand and on that disc will be a ball. At regular intervals, more balls will be added. Last person standing wins individual immunity.

Everyone takes their places and Julie drops out shortly after the challenge begins. Everyone else makes it to the point to add a second ball to the disc. After a couple seconds, pageant queen Ashley drops out, followed by David. Once they get to three balls, people start to drop more quickly. Andrea and Grant bow out. Matt, Rob and Phillip are next to go. Ralph drops out in fourth place and Steve takes third. This leaves Mike and Natalie to fight it out. This challenge does offer some fantastic Probst quotes, "Everyone grab your balls, you are safe." "It's like those balls are glued to his disc." I feel like Beavis watching this challenge. "Huh huh huh...he said 'balls.'" Oh yeah, Mike drops his balls first, giving the first individual immunity to Natalie. On the way to break, Mike tells us that if Matt doesn't join him tonight, he could be the one going to RI.

When the tribe gets back to camp, I'm not sure who's going home. Mike tells the tribe he thinks either he or Ralph will get the vote. Ralph says that he will use the idol for Mike if they need him to. Mike then tells them that even though Rob is the obvious vote here, maybe they should take out his "right hand man" Grant.

We then see Matt and Rob having a "moment." Matt tells us that he is not going to flip on Ometepe, he's with them 100%. He tells Rob that Mike has approached him and let him know that he has an idol and could use it for him. He admits to Rob that he actually thought about voting him out, but he changed his mind and that he's totally with Ometepe. And it's no surprise that Rob is NOT happy to hear that information. He doesn't tell Matt, but he does tell us that you NEVER tell someone you thought about voting them off. He says that it just means he can't be trusted and needs a one way ticket back to Redemption Island.

Andrea joins the conversation and Matt tells her that he spilled the beans to Rob. She's not too happy that Matt threw her under the bus. The three of them decide that Steve is the best option of the Zaps to be voted out. As soon as this little pow wow breaks up, Rob starts spreading the word: Matt's the vote. He tells Natalie and then Grant. Grant sorta hedges on it, but goes along. Ashley is next and agrees that he has to go. Mike goes on the hard sell with Matt telling him that he's last in the pecking order. Last up, Rob tells Phillip that it's Matt.

In another weird move, Mike decides to write a note to Matt, since Rob isn't letting him out of his sight. As they're working on the shelter, he slips Matt the piece of paper. Now, he tells the rest of the Zaps that he's writing this note, but none of them know what it says. When Matt reads it, it says, "Vote for Grant and I'll take you to the Final Three." Okay, now that's pretty damn smart. Now he promised Final Three. And the beauty of it is that the rest of his tribe knows he wrote a note, but not that it totally sold them all out. Right before Tribal, Rob goes to Andrea with the Matt vote. She is not feeling too good about it, but at the same time, Matt is flighty and she doesn't really trust him anymore.

So Jeff begins Tribal Council with Ralph and asks him what it's like to have so many people at camp. Ralph says it's rough, but they're also still two teams, just living together. Rob chimes in that the two tribes aren't talking to each other at all and he's never seen anything like it. He asks David if that's what he expected. He tells about the split under the tarp, which gets Ashley to chime in that they won the tarp. David counters by saying that he didn't exactly try too hard in that challenge. And bam, right off the bat, the thrown challenge comes up again. And with that mention, ladies and gentlemen, I give you...Phillip.

"That's the distinction between the 2 tribes...we would never not try...there are some in that tribe like the sea. Which can be beautiful and glorious, but as you know, when it recedes outward, it sometimes leaves a stench so great that you know it's probably carrying something parasitic and therefore you don't want to approach it." Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up. I'm not that clever.

Anyway, after everyone has a good chuckle, Ashley does mention that she likes the Zapatera tribe, but the tribal loyalties are very strong. He asks Matt about what it was like to come back from RI into this. He said that it was easier on Redemption Island. He lays out the odds to Mike and Mike agrees that Matt is the man in the middle. Ralph says that they had to be nice to Matt, promise him he'll get farther in the game with them. He also said they had to remind him that the other folks were the ones to send him to RI in the first place. Jeff asks Matt if that's a fair point. He says that it's tough and they've been able to bond for two weeks and that he's been struggling with his decision even today. And with that, it's time to vote.

This is one of the rare episodes where they show NO votes prior to Jeff tallying them. Matt takes a while to cast his vote. When he sits down, Mike gives him an approving nod. Of course, Rob sees this (dude sees all). Jeff asks for anyone that wants to play a hidden immunity idol, and Ralph steps up. He wants to play the idol for Mike. Jeff reads the votes and the first five are for Grant. Next vote is for Steve, and the look of "Oh shit" on Steve's face is priceless. He never even considered the fact that Ometepe may target him. When the first Matt vote comes up, there's even more shock on the faces.

Through this whole thing, I have to note they keep flashing to David. As it's been mentioned before, he scored higher on the per-show IQ test than any player ever, so he's an incredibly smart guy. And you can actually see that he's impressed by what he's witnessing. As the rest of the votes come up Matt, he goes from shocked to pissed with every vote. Steve is heard to say, "Let the fireworks begin." David, in awe, says "Genius is what that was." As Matt heads back to Redemption Island, Jeff remind them that one of them will be heading over there to face Matt and forgiveness is not likely to be on his mind.

Now, when this first happened, I wasn't down with the decision. Matt had committed himself to Ometepe. He was a guaranteed vote for Rob and Co. It seemed like they'd have been better off dumping Steve and decreasing the Zapatera numbers a little bit more. Then it hit me, only we (the audience) know that Matt struggled with this decision and that he made one. We know that he was willing to follow this road all the way to its conclusion, whatever that may be. We know that he wasn't going to turn on the Ometepe alliance. Problem is, we have the advantage of seeing everything. The rest of his tribe didn't. All they saw was a dude who couldn't seem to make up his mind and who, oh by the way, had a reason to want revenge.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized, David was right. That WAS a genius move and it had to be made. The only real wild cards out there were Phillip, Andrea and Matt. Phillip has been brought back into the fold and is solidly with them and Andrea turned on her boy. The Ometepe alliance is strong and now the Pagonging can begin. The Zapatera idol is gone (I'm sure it'll be back in play, but it's not in anyone's possession currently) and their entire tribe is vulnerable. Well played, Rob, well played.

Next time on Survivor: Rob cements the bond within the Ometepe tribe...or does he? We get a confessional of Grant saying that he's his own man. And Phillip gets a makeover...well, a headband with a feather in it. "I asked for a sign and out of thin air appeared this feather." I don't care what anyone says, this dude is money. I love me some Phillip. Will Grant make a move this early in the individual game? Will Ometepe continue their dominance? Will David pledge his loyalty to Boston Rob after being smitten in this week's Tribal Council? I guess we'll just have to come back next week to find out! By the way...a quick programming note before I sign out. According to one of Jeff Probst's tweets, there will be no mid-season recap episode this year. So, I think we can all drink to that. Until next week, kids, take care!