Survivor: Redemption Island
Rice Wars
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
April 21, 2011

I'm really good at puzzles. I swear.

Hello, good people! I hope all of you got Rob's permission before you clicked on this recap. Okay, so last week the Robfather completely owned that role - from separate sleeping quarters, to the Buddy System, to flat out not allowing his tribe to eat with the former Zapateras. The most amazing thing is that it's working, as the Ometepe Six knocked out the two strongest competitors left in the game, Mike and David. They head to Redemption Island for a showdown with RI king, Matt.

This week we're promised a blow up at camp between Steve and Phillip...and Jeff Probst has promised us one of "most explosive Tribal Councils ever." But before we get to that, let's set up this week's Power Rankings.

Rob - 3-1. Last week was up in the air for Rob. A lot of things could have happened to jeopardize his place in the game. None of those things came to fruition, so Rob remains on top. Last week he sent Zapatera's best two players to try to unseat his nemesis at Redemption Island. Will his plan pay off for him? Or will he eventually have to face Matt? Either way, I don't think he'll have to worry until the finals.

Natalie - 5-1. Natalie leapfrogged everyone last week with her report back to Rob of Ashley's treachery (she spoke to Ralph, remember). At this point, Natalie is Rob's right hand girl and will gladly sit next to him at the end. In fact, I won't be shocked to see her steal the title from him a la Natalie White in Samoa.

Andrea - 10-1. I think Andrea is still in a good position in this game. She is with the alliance, but has kept her options open. Of all of the Ometepe Six, I think she is the only one not blindly following Rob. She's following, but I think her eyes are wide open and IF Rob goes down with a knife in his back, Andrea's prints will be on the handle.

Phillip - 15-1. At this point, Phillip is almost a lock to make the finale. He has annoyed everyone on the island and that makes him a pretty attractive option to sit next to at the end. He showed some signs last week that all of his "crazy" may not be legit and could potentially be an act. Either way, Phil has shown that he can roll with the tide pretty well and he may just piggy back Rob all the way to the end.

Ashley - 20-1. I really don't care for Ashley, but I think she has overtaken Grant in the pecking order now. Despite talking to Ralph, she is WAY less of a threat than Grant and Grant did eat some fish last week. With the Ometepes firmly in control, I fully expect Ashley to be in that final six, but she's not long for the game after that, unless she finds a couple people to join her in a revolt.

Grant - 25-1. Grant showed a smidge of independence last week and he's a beast in challenges. That has got to make him target #1 once the Zapateras are gone. I wouldn't be shocked to see Grant dumped before one of the Zaps such as Julie, because he's a much bigger threat. As it is now though, the Ometepes are in complete control, so they have to be my top six.

Julie - 30-1. Julie is the quietest of the Zaps and is probably the least concerning. I definitely expect her to be last in the pecking order for them. What will be interesting is when she is the only one left; there could be a couple Ometepes who could get the boot before her - which could be a bad idea for anyone wanting to make the end game. You have to finish an opponent when you have them down. Leaving Julie alive in this game could be a bad move.

Ralph - 50-1. I have no love for Ralph and he really should be the vote tonight. But with the blowup between Phillip and Steve, I think that's the way they'll have to vote - which means Ralph gets a three-day reprieve to maybe stumble onto another idol or at least grow some more hair. If Ralph's still alive after next week, I'll be shocked.

Steve - 75-1. Steve will be the target tonight. Apparently, he really gets to Phillip tonight and that will be enough to punch his ticket. Not that Phillip is a strong player, but because if a rift is that big and you have a 6-3 advantage, you can juggle the order to make one of your alliance mates happy. The question is who will be left at RI to face Steve.

Mike - 100-1. I'm putting it all on the line and picking Mike to walk away from the RI duel tonight. Matt's been an incredible story, but I think it's come to an end. He had no real challenger the first time through on RI. This time, he has two very strong competitors coming in to take their shot at him. Judging by performances in challenges this season, I have to give the edge to Mike on this one.

Matt - 250-1. I'll give Matt the edge over David, though. Matt has the experience and he's used to RI, so he is definitely a threat to win his way back into the game again. I think he has enough to beat David in most any challenge, but I still think his time is up.

David - 500-1 As much as I like David as a personality and a player, he just ended up with the wrong group of people and he's hitting an RI duel against the wrong dudes. Maybe this will be the day that David shows us why everyone thinks he's so great at puzzles - but I'm not betting on it.

We begin tonight's episode on Redemption Island. Matt is talking to God. This is nothing new really, except this time, he's basically saying that he's done with this game, but he'll stay in it if it's God's will. During his prior stint on RI, he was hell bent on getting back and having his revenge. This time, he seems like he's just done. You hate to see it, but you can't really blame him. He's surprised by David's arrival. And now with three people at RI, he has no idea what will happen with the next duel. They discuss it with Mike and they all agree that they don't have a clue what's to come.

The next morning at Murlonio, Ralph, Julie and Steve are enjoying quite a bit of food. Steve tells us that he can't figure out Phillip. He wonders why Phillip is so odd and how the Ometepe can stand him. As he's telling us this, we see Phillip sewing a new feather on his head band and humming in some made-up language. Steve just hopes that maybe some of the Ometepes are getting sick of Phillip. Cue the theme...

When we come back, we join Phillip is deep meditation. He tells us everything he's learned since getting into Buddhism. He tells us more about his grandfather and his vision about his relationship with Rob and how it's come full circle. Honestly, I don't know what he's talking about...I'm just reporting.

We cut to Julie, Steve and Ralph eating a bunch of rice. Apparently, the tribes have kept their rations separate. Naturally, since there are fewer Zaps, they have more to eat. They are making the same amount as always, but now just splitting it between three people. Phillip seems to be upset by that. He feels that Julie is purposely trying to eat all the rice before Ometepe can get any of it. Personally, I say, "That's what you get." You're all for separation when it comes to having the nice bed...but the rice...THAT should be shared. And since the Zaps aren't sharing, Phillip starts to steal the rice and put it in their bucket. While Phil's sneaking rice, Steve and Julie grab Tree Mail, which is an invitation to Redemption Island for the duel.

Probst sighting! Today's duel is an old Survivor favorite, the house of cards. Each person has to make a house of cards out of tiles and the first two to get their house of cards to stand eight feet tall will remain on RI. The loser will become the first member of the jury.

And...go! Mike jumps out to a quick lead and is very quickly up around the seven foot mark. Matt is in second place with David close behind. As it turns out, Mike gets up to about 7'10", needing only to stack one more tile to cross the eight foot mark. But as he tries to let it go, the entire tower leans so he removes the top. After several attempts and some readjustments, Mike finally gets that top layer to stand on its own and Mike will remain at Redemption Island. David and Matt are neck and neck around the seven foot mark. At the last minute, Matt pulls away from David and he stays in the game as well. That means our good buddy, and supreme puzzle ruler, becomes the first member of our jury.

When we get back to camp, Rob and Grant are getting ready to eat and making up a "Rice Wars" song, just for Phillip. Speaking of rice...Andrea digs in to get tonight's dinner and realizes that the rice is moving. Apparently some moisture got into it and it's now infested with maggots. Phillip has the bright idea to pour all the rice out, get rid of the bad stuff and keep the good. The first part of this goes smoothly as they clean out the rice, dump the bad stuff into the ocean, leaving the good rice spread out on a blanket. Rob suggests that they just put the rice in the Zapatera container. Andrea goes to ask Steve and Julie if they can combine rice. Steve tells her that he doesn't think he can allow that. And this pisses Phillip off. The Rice Wars have begun.

Phillip decides to ask Steve again and Steve refuses again, saying that he has to talk to Ralph, who is...yeah, we don't know where Ralph is. He's just gone. Anyway, this really irritates Phillip and he starts going on about how everything is for the whole tribe now and he can't believe Steve won't let them combine the rice. What ensues is...I'm not even sure how to describe it. Phillip completely goes off the deep end, telling Steve that whereever he goes, he'd better carry the container of rice with him, otherwise Phil will combine the rice and take the container, forcing them to have to ask him for every meal.

Right off the top, I'll say that I don't like Steve. Haven't liked him since the beginning. He's playing a terribly stupid game and he has a way of talking to people that makes you want to punch him in the face. He's been a horrible leader for this tribe and he seems to have the personality of a wet mop. That being said, he handles this next exchange about as well as someone could, given the circumstance. After listening to Phillip tell him how it's going to be, he throws a seemingly off-hand comment out there about Phil being a lunatic. And who hasn't said THAT during the 11 weeks of this show?

For some reason, this time around, it pisses Phillip off. He goes off on a ridiculous tirade about how any time a black man gets in a white man's face, the white man calls him crazy. He tells us that he feels that Steve thinks he's better than him and that it has racial undertones. Steve is blown away that it became a racial issue. And as Phillip keeps going on about it, he only gets more and more ridiculous. Like I said, I don't care for Steve and I think he is 100% being a tool about the rice simply because he can. He's pissed off at his situation and this is way of getting the Ometepes back just a little bit for the position he's in. But I don't, for one second, think this has anything to do with Phillip being black. It's about the clear division between the tribes and he's staying on his side.

As Phillip goes on, he gets himself more and more pissed off. He says he's tired that every time he makes an argument about something, they call him crazy. He drops a few n-bombs as examples and just goes on and on and on. And as he's raging on, it hits me. Hey Phil, maybe if you stopped acting bat-shit crazy, everyone would stop calling you bat-shit crazy. I'm a Phillip fan, but tonight...I'm actually kind of embarrassed to say so.

Once Phil walks away, Steve tells Rob and Grant that his three will be voting for Phillip. The hope is that someone will join them. Rob is talking to Andrea, saying that you can see that once the Zaps are gone, old Phillip is coming back. Rob is blown away that Phillip was able to make the rice argument about race. Ashley is MORE than ready to see Phillip go home. And there we have it, the beginnings of a crack in the alliance.

We come back from break to a Probst Sighting! Today's immunity challenge is pretty much all puzzle related. It's a shame David couldn't be there to suck at this puzzle, too. Anyway, the first part of the challenge is to spin a wheel out of a post and then solve a round puzzle inside that wheel. The first six to complete that puzzle will move on to the second part. The second part is taking the round puzzle and building a ring puzzle around the center. First person finished wins immunity and will be safe from the vote tonight. Andrea jumps out to a quick lead. But it's Rob who finishes Part One first, moving on to the final. The next ones through are Julie, Ralph, Andrea and Steve. With only one spot left, several are close, but Grant comes through and takes the last spot in the final.

Once again, Andrea jumps out to a quick lead and Steve is right behind. As Ralph and Julie struggle, Rob begins to get something together and he and Andrea are easily in the lead. Steve and Grant quickly catch up and it's basically a race of four. And just like that, Rob finishes his puzzle literally two seconds before Steve finishes his. So, Rob is guaranteed to stay in the game and all of the Zaps are now vulnerable.

With all the Zaps in the running for votes, it's time to play, "It's anyone but Steve." Julie tells us that the Zaps are all voting for Phillip and if they get just two votes, Phillip can go home. However, before that happens, she takes his swimming trunks off the clothes line and buries them in the sand, forcing us to watch him in his pink tighty whities for the rest of the series. I can't help but that think that someone that was so disgusted by Russell and the way he played the game has now turned into Russell by stealing someone's clothes and burying them. I think we can all guess what happens next. That's right, Phillip loses his mind. Again.

He comes over and questions Steve, Julie and Ralph about his trunks. They all deny messing with them, so he tells them that it's okay, he can play that game too. Ashley tells us how much she hates Phillip and how she can't wait for him to be gone. He tells the Zaps that if his shorts don't show up by tonight, it's gonna get real interesting around there. Steve says that he feels threatened by that statement. Steve tells us that Phillip really owes them an apology, but he hasn't said a word. Steve has talked to several of the Ometepes and they're getting pretty tired of Phil as well. Rob tells us that it really doesn't matter who goes home tonight. It's gonna be one of the Zaps. He suggests Phillip, but quickly dismisses it and tells us that one man should not have as much power in this game as he does.

Tribal Council begins with Jeff asking Phillip about the feather and whether or not he had another meditation. He says that someone stole his shorts and he's pretty sure it's Steve. I've got to be honest with you; I've spent WAY too much time in this column on Phillip. Until tonight, he was amusing and made the episodes fun. But after the argument today and the fact that the majority of this Tribal Council centers on it, I'm getting over Phillip. In a nutshell, Phillip is rational, Steve is a racist and Probst is a glutton who eggs this on for way longer than he should.

In the end, Jeff breaks it down that Phillip was offended by Steve and that Steve didn't mean it the way Phillip took they're both telling the truth or something. Once that nonsense is all done, Jeff finally asks for the air to be cleared, who took the shorts? Julie raises her hands and says that they are buried with a rock on top of them and they won't be found. Jeff claims that this has been a fascinating Tribal. I don't know about anyone else, but I found it to be one of the more ridiculous Tribals and it really just annoyed me. Let's frickin' vote.

Steve votes for Phillip, Julie votes for Phil, Ralph votes for "Phile." And in a twist, we see Phillip vote for Julie. I kinda had a feeling when she said that she took his shorts, his vote might swing to her. This is definitely set up like an 8-1 Phillip ouster. Let's go tally the votes. First three votes go to Phillip. The remainder of the votes are for Julie. Whoa! One of the few surprise votes this season. As you saw, I really thought Julie was the safest of the Zaps. What I wonder is this: Was this planned before Tribal? Or did the vote change when she admitted to taking Phillip's shorts? As in, as soon as she admitted it, it was obvious she would get Phillip's vote, so the rest just piggybacked. Either way...a really annoying episode did turn out to have a surprising result, so I guess it wasn't so bad.

Next time on Survivor: the Phillip Show continues. Phillip has his best day yet, while Andrea may be sinking to the bottom of her alliance. On Redemption Island, Matt seems to have broken down. They show a couple teary eyed confessionals of Matt. I would guess that that much time alone would finally break you down. As the show ends, we see Julie arrive at RI. She was surprised to see her name. She expected Steve or Ralph. She slams Phillip a little and then tries to scare Mike and Matt. And that's all I got, kids. Hope you come back next week, where I promise to have at least 40% less Phillip. Until then, take care!