Survivor: Redemption Island
The Buddy System
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
April 13, 2011

Never turn down the cheeseburger, son

Hello, good people and welcome to an all-new edition of the BOP Survivor recap! Tonight's episode promises to be a doozy, so let's not waste any time. When last we hung out, Matt earned his way back into the game, the tribes merged and Matt earned his way back out of the game. Somewhere in there, Rob took full control of the game, David developed a crush and Ralph wasted his immunity idol.

Previews and promos for this week suggest that there may be a crack in the Boston Rob alliance and that crack may just be his right hand man, Grant. One can only assume that the close call (Grant came within a vote of going home) last week has opened Grant's eyes a little bit. Promos have also told us to look for two Tribal Councils and two people getting voted out. What does that mean for Redemption Island? I guess we'll have to watch and find out.

Before we get to this week's episode, it's time for the weekly power rankings. I'd like to mention that I don't think my rankings could have been any worse last week as I totally didn't see Matt leaving again. With the removal of Ralph's idol and the way last week went down, I'm feeling a shake up in the rankings.

Rob - 5-1. I'm leaving Rob at the top, for now. He's still in control of the power alliance in the game. Survivor's previews are almost always misleading AND he's still holding an immunity idol that no one else knows about. However, the Grant talk and the fact that there will be two Tribals makes me knock his odds back a bit.

Andrea - 10-1. I'm moving Andrea up this week. She showed some spunk last week in voting out her boyfriend. She totally earned her place with Rob by doing that. And I really don't think ANYone is paying attention to the fact that she's playing a very low-key, but savvy game. When the time comes, she'll be the one to organize Rob's ouster...not Grant.

Julie - 15-1. This will be my surprise mover of the week, I'm sure. But one thing came clear last week. Steve and Mike are seen as the threats from the former Zapatera tribe. Ralph puts himself out there and David is an ass. That pretty well leaves Julie as completely under the radar from the Zapatera tribe. Because the focus is shifting to the stronger guys from that tribe, I think Julie has a good little run left in this game.

Natalie - 20-1. Natalie has an outstanding shot of being one of the last people standing. She showed last week that she's not a slouch in a challenge and she is still at the top of the Ometepe pecking order with Rob and Grant.

Phillip - 25-1. Also jumping up this week is Phillip. He feels like he fits in with his alliance right now. He obviously doesn't care for the other tribe. And Rob is going to need Phillip's vote if he's to make it to the end. Phil's also got his side thing going with Andrea and it would not shock me at all to see them mix it up and some point and take over this game.

Ralph - 30-1. Ralph drops this week, because he played his idol. He doesn't drop too far, though, because he'll be underestimated. Assuming that Rob is in control, like I think he is, he'll see Ralph as a stupid hick and won't really ever consider him a threat. Mike is strong and smart. Steve is the leader. David is whip smart and strategic. I would think Rob would see all three of them as threats before Ralph. That could be a mistake.

Grant - 40-1. Grant drops a lot this week. The Zaps see him as a better target than Rob, as shown by their votes last week. He's been a stud in the challenges, which makes him an even bigger target. And he doesn't seem to be playing a very smart game. He's on board with Rob and he's been real good about letting Rob do all the heavy mental lifting. It'll be interesting to see how he fares when he has to make the decisions and the plays on his own. I don't think it'll work out so good for him.

Ashley - 50-1. Since I still think the Ometepe alliance will come out on top this week, I have to put Ashley ahead of the Zapatera guys. I really don't think she has much of a chance, but she could last just by being on the right alliance. She's become the nastiest of the Ometepes, rarely having anything nice to say. When it comes time for the alliance to eat its own, I could definitely see her being the first to go.

Steve - 75-1. With an idol floating out there last week, the Ometepes targeted Steve over Mike. With the idol out of play now, I would expect Steve to fall behind Mike on the list now. Either way, he's seen as one of the Zaps leaders and I would fully expect him to pay the price here soon, if Ometepe manages to hold itself together.

David - 100-1. The Ometepes haven't really seen much of David yet. We have. He's a smart guy and he knows he's a smart guy. He was very impressed with Rob's move to boot Matt last week. I'm sure he'll have something to say about that. And the second he tells Rob he thinks it was a genius move...that's the second that Rob will know there's someone out there that thinks like him and he'll be a target. I don't expect David to make it through this episode without heading to Redemption Island.

Mike - 200-1. With the idol gone and nothing to protect him, it's time to start playing "It's Anyone But Mike". He was the Ometepes first choice last week, I don't expect that to change. Further, he stands a chance of beating Matt at RI, which is now something that Rob HAS to be thinking about. I would say that without the necklace, Mike doesn't make it out of the first Tribal tonight.

Matt - 250-1. Wow, did Matt totally blow a good thing last week. Rob was ready to bring him right back into the fold, but Matt made the mistake of actually telling Rob he thought about turning on him. Um, really? "Ya know, Mr. Corleone, I thought about taking you out, but then I changed my mind." Yeah, that was pretty much the Survivor version.

We begin this week's episode with Matt's arrival at Redemption Island. He congratulates himself for being the most naive person to ever play Survivor. He's blown away that he was dumb enough to get blindsided by the same people, twice. He ends with a prayer thanking the Lord for using his stupidity for His glory.

We come back from the break to the next day at Murlonio. Mike and David are discussing how brilliant Rob's play was. David compares it to a mob hit. Dude, why do you think people call him the Robfather? Mike congratulates Rob for the great move. Julie was blown away that they could be so cold blooded. She feels like there's no way to break that barrier now.

Next, Ralph comes up to Ashley to ask if he's next to go. She refuses to tell him anything. He even tells her that if she makes the Final 3, he'll vote for her over Rob. Still, she tells him nothing. Ralph is thoroughly frustrated that they won't give him anything. Cut to Rob talking to the tribe and they decide not to ever talk to one of the other tribe folks without a buddy. They also agree not to decide who goes home until right before Tribal. Rob tells us that voting out Matt accomplished the main goal of bringing his tribe back together. He very much wants an "us vs. them" attitude. He says they're gonna be arrogant about it...well, the rest of his tribe will, but he won't. Apparently, Ashley didn't think Ralph's offer was important enough to tell Rob about. Natalie, however, did. So now that Rob knows Ralph tried to make a deal and Ashley didn't tell him, she's on the list and won't be seeing the Final Three.

Probst sighting! The first immunity challenge tonight starts with Phillip's feather. Apparently, while meditating, he asked for a sign and the feather appeared out of mid air. And that's a good sign for the alliance of the "" tribe. Francesqua! Okay, let's get to it. Today's challenge is an obstacle course of sorts. The first leg has them digging for a club that they will use to break a tile. First six to break their tile move on. The next round has them sucking in water, crawling under the trough and spitting into a tube. First three to get their water level to the line, move on to the last stage. The last stage is one of those block pyramid puzzle things. Survivors ready...

Very quickly, Grant and Rob are through to the next round. Next up are Ralph and Mike. Rounding out the top six are David and Julie. As we saw the first round, Grant takes off like a mad man, with Rob right behind. As the challenge continues, Grant pulls away and dominates this leg finishing first. Surprisingly, Mike is next to finish and it comes down to a race between David and Rob. And David, the puzzle master, moves on the final. The puzzle is a small version of the puzzle they had in the first challenge. I love hearing who the others root for. Obviously, the Ometepes are rooting for Grant. Ralph chooses a Zapatera horse and it's Mike. I find that kinda dumb. If Mike wins immunity, who does Ralph think Ometepe will target? Duh. And while I'm shaking my head at Ralph, Grant finishes up the puzzle right before Mike. Puzzle Master David wasn't a factor. Hmmm...

As they return to camp, the "It's Anyone But Mike" game really heats up and Mike knows it. As they talk, Mike notices that the flagpole has been moved. So they start digging for a hidden idol. As Rob and Co. celebrate, they see the others digging in the they all rush back and start digging also. As he's done all game, Rob just takes over the dig. What happens next is just a very uncomfortable scene where Phillip and Rob are using shovels to dig under the flag, while Mike, David and others look on. Mike jokes that the Zapatera tribe could use an idol...but it's just very odd. After the dig, Rob tells us that he just can't shake this "idol paranoia." He says that idols killed him last time and he's still struggling with it. Since Ralph played an idol last night, he feels there's another one hidden.

The tribe gets together to decide who to vote for. Rob asks everyone who they think. Some say Mike and Phillip suggests Ralph. Grant mentions Mike and David as the biggest threats. Rob agrees that David is strategic, but the question here is, "Who can beat Matt at Redemption Island?" They're still torn between David and Mike. And Rob is still worried about the idol. The pow wow breaks up and it's off to Tribal Council #1.

First off, Jeff asks Phillip about his feather again. Phillip says that his great-great-grandfather, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian appeared to him and told him Ometepe would win that challenge. He also told him that an Ometepe will live LONG in Survivor lore. He asks Mike the obvious. Zapatera's in trouble. Mike admits that he doesn't have much he can do about this. Julie and David suggest that Phillip is on the bottom of the Ometepe alliance. Phillip says that if that's the case, he's happy to be on the bottom and as a member of a 12 person family, he's used to it. Julie gets out one last zinger, "Matt thought you were his family too." And Jeff moves on to Ralph. Are they blocking everything? Ralph says that if he's still there tomorrow he's gonna keep on pushing and who knows...he may get his own feather tomorrow. And then came the line of the series so far, "It takes courage and determination and knowing when to hold your tongue to get a feather." My God, Phillip is money. Jeff asks what Mike thinks of Phillip's feather. He says that he thinks Phillip doesn't really know who he is. Phillip lists his resume, including the fact that he was a special agent. David tells him to give it up...that he sounds like a lunatic. Phillip says that David sounds like a guy at the bottom of a cesspool that can't get out. Phillip can never go home. Do you hear me??? Phillip can NEVER go home.

And with that, it's time to vote. We see Steve's vote for Phillip saying that he's "one odd duck." We see no other votes. And now, Jeff will tally the votes. And here they come. Phillip, Phillip, Phillip, Phillip, Phillip. Now, who's going to Redemption Island? Looks like Mike. As Jeff reads the sixth vote, I wonder if Mike realizes that he's actually acting as an assassin for the Mariano Crime Syndicate, as David called it. If he goes to RI and takes out Matt, Rob's plan will have worked to perfection.

We come back from break to camp right after Tribal. Rob pulls Phillip aside and congratulates him for being a great performer. He tells him that he's not at the bottom, he's at the top with Rob. Rob tells us that Phillip has become a very loyal soldier and he's pretty impressed. "I'm glad Phillip's obeying and doing as he's told. And he'll be rewarded for it." Okay, I love the Robfather personality...but he's starting to go a little over the top now. Get over yourself, dude, it's this cockiness that's gonna get your ass blindsided. Phillip asks why they voted for him and Rob tells him it's because he got the best of them. He then tells us that he's decided that Natalie and Phillip will be with him in the Final Three.

The next morning, Phillip tells us that everyone thinks he's crazy. He says that everyone is gonna want him sitting next to them at the final tribal. He says that he's not crazy and he's actually pretty smart. He knows that he has to make something happen, but now isn't the time. Ralph wakes up determined to make a move. David tells him not to try to talk to all of them. He gets one shot to talk to one of them. Going over to all of them now ruins the opportunity. Ralph makes a move on Phillip and Phil shoots him down on game talk. He'll be happy to talk about his farm and all that stuff, but not the game. David and Ralph are getting completely frustrated with the fact that the Ometepes aren't even willing to play the game with them. David tells us that he's not sure, he may be the next one to go.

Probst sighting #2. Today's challenge is a test of strength and will. They will hang from a bar over water. After 20 minutes, they'll hang only by their legs. Last one hanging wins immunity. However, there are some hamburgers involved. Each player is given a black and a white rock. When Jeff asks, they will choose a rock and if they show a white rock, they won't do the challenge, they'll eat burgers. If they hold out the black rock, they'll participate in the challenge and not eat anything. When everyone holds out their rocks, only Steve and Phillip choose to eat. Everyone else will do the challenge. While it may be stupid to skip a chance for immunity, I think it's pretty obvious that neither Steve nor Phillip would win this challenge. You can tell how Steve walks that his knees are shot. There's no way he hangs longer than the girls or Grant. And Phillip is old and out of shape, he's not hanging for long either. I see nothing wrong with opting out of a challenge you know you can't win.

They all get in position and this challenge is on. And right off the bat, Rob loses his hat. He's also having trouble getting comfortable. After a couple minutes, he drops out first. As he eats, Phillip cheers on Ashley and Andrea and shows concern for David as his head is "starting to turn blue." I love me some Phillip. Now he's trash talking, too. At the five burger mark (20 minutes), they all switch to just their legs. Ralph and David take an odd one-legged approach. Meanwhile, Julie drops out. Next out is Ralph and then, by surprise, Grant drops out. All that is left are David, Ashley, Andrea and Natalie. At the 45 minute mark, Jeff starts talking about will power. David is having a hard time at this point and so is Natalie. With everyone showing signs of fatigue, David finally drops down. With all the Zapateras out of the challenge, Natalie and Ashley agree to drop out, giving immunity to Andrea. As we head to break, Jeff says that whoever is voted out will go to Redemption Island to take on Matt and Mike.

As the tribe comes back to camp, we get a lot of close-ups of a snake. Not sure what that foreshadows, but it usually foreshadows something. As they arrive, Rob tells us that while he hates losing a challenge, as long as an Ometepe wins, he's okay. Ralph goes down to check the fishing net to see if they have any fish. When he gets there, there's like 50 fish in the net. He's jumping up and down about it, but Rob is concerned about the fact that the fish have been dead for a while and you can't eat them. An interesting tidbit I picked up from Rob Cesternino podcast with Tyson Apostle...apparently the Robfather has a very picky appetite. So hearing him refuse to eat those fish isn't all that surprising. He gets his tribe to join him in not eating any of those fish. As the Zapateras eat, Grant finally gets up and decides to try some of the fish. The Zaps are amazed that the Ometepes will not eat because Rob told them not to. Grant isn't too worried about his act of defiance. He's hungry and he'll eat if he wants to.

Rob tells us that he can't decide who to vote for, David or Steve. He says David is his biggest strategic threat, but Steve seems to want to go. And maybe sending him off will help him on the jury. He says that he has been known to have a mercy killing in him. Right?

And this tribal starts like the last one. Talk of Phillip's feather. Honestly, I wish I could just put Phillip's speech here as a video. He tells Jeff about Stealth R Us. Specialist, Mentalist and the Assassin. But they're joined by the Three Degrees. "Who are highly effective, vulnerable, agile and have supreme abilities to focus their mind like they did today." Seriously...I couldn't make this shit up. I'm not that creative. Ralph agrees that it's tough to beat Stealth R Us. Ralph calls into question Phillip eating instead of playing. He says that his team knows where his heart's at. Steve says that he knows he wouldn't have lasted long in this challenge, so he chose not to play. Phillip says that some people have tried to crack the alliance but their Buddy System is working perfectly. Rob asks David if the plan now is "as long as it isn't me". David says that the numbers are insurmountable at this point and you have to start thinking if Redemption Island might not be the best way to go now.

Andrea is keeping the necklace and it's now time to vote. We only see David's vote. He votes for Rob Rob Rob Rob and hopes that is counts four times. You gotta love a guy that can be getting his ass kicked like this, still showing some humor. First four votes are Rob. Who will it be next? David. He gets the next five votes and David will take on Mike and Matt at Redemption Island. I really thought it would be Mike and Steve tonight. But seeing as Steve is no threat to do anything and David is at least a strategic thinker, I think this was a good move. Further, Mike will be able to hang with Matt in a physical challenge, while David should be able to hang with Matt in a mental or puzzle challenge.

Let me just say...the way this season is unfolding is nothing short of amazing. No one should EVER have this much power in the game of Survivor. Rob controls how they vote. He controls who they talk to and what they talk about. For crying out loud, tonight he controlled when these starving people eat!!! This is frickin' sick! I've been watching this show since Season 1. I've recapped most of the seasons, which means I've watched the majority of the episodes twice. I've NEVER seen anything like this. I hate to sound like such a Rob fanboy, but what he's doing this season is nothing short of incredible. Anyway, next time on Survivor: Phillip gets into it with Steve. We see some sort of confrontation with Phillip getting good and pissed and going about how the white man likes to make the black man crazy. Yeah, I don't get it either. I guess we'll just have to tune in next week to see, eh? Until then, take care!