Survivor: Redemption Island
You Mangled My Nets
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
May 5, 2011

Can someone get me off of Phillip Showcase Island?

Hello, good people, and welcome back to Survivor: Finally Things Should Get Interesting. After last week's mercy boot episode, we seem to find ourselves without any Zapatera members in the main game. Ralph and Steve were sent packing to Elrod Island, where they will take on Matt and Mike in the next RI Duel. Previews for this week have been all over the place: The Ometepes will now have to turn on each other...duh. Phillip has been faking his craziness all along...or has he? And we'll get the "love from home/loved one visit" challenge this time around. No matter what the previews suggest, they won't pull us away from the fact that Andrea seems to be on her last leg with the Ometepes and now that all the Zaps are gone, she is the obvious first boot from the Ometepe 6 - enough so that as I type this (at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon), I think it's already time to start playing "It's Anyone But Andrea."

We begin tonight's episode as Ralph lands in Redemption Island. As he's being greeted and discussing Steve's weight loss, who shows up? Steve! And there is much rejoicing. Mike tells us they have no idea what's going on with RI and it just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Mike starts talking about how the jury will be all Zapatera. Ralph is feeling pretty good about it, actually. The way he sees it, if any of the Zaps make it into the Final 3, they're guaranteed to win. And he wants to be that guy.

And now it's time to check in with the celebrating Ometepes. Andrea is so excited to finally be rid of those awful Zapateras and she's ready to get back in game mode. Yeah? If I'm right, I expect that excitement to last about another 39 minutes (plus commercials). In the midst of the celebration, Natalie has a "moment" and begins crying. You can only assume it's a mixture of knowing you have to cut the throat of one of your friends, homesickness and happiness at being this close to the million AND being done in general. Rob tells us that she has shown amazing maturity and that he needs to make sure she's ok as she's his main alliance. As everyone comforts Natalie, Rob tells us that as long as no one starts talking to each other and figures out that he's the one who has to go, he's all set. Cue the theme...

We come back from break to an overhead shot of the Murlonio Beach. Was it me, or did that shot make the beach look like a big butt? (And THIS is the kind of expert analysis you're not going to find ANYwhere else.) Anyway, Tree Mail brings a box full of product placement. It's the Love From Home challenge!!! The note suggests a Redemption Island duel as well as a phone with videos for all of the players, with a little love from home. While the Ometepes watch their videos, the Redemption Island guys also get a phone with videos from home. Okay...this is weird. Will there be two challenges? We have a duel coming, but what does that mean for the people still in the game? Not surprisingly, Matt has the biggest reaction to the video from home. He's now bound and determined to not only stay in the game, but to win this challenge to spend some time with his brother.

Probst sighting! Today's duel is a simple one. Each player has a board with four tiles on it. They will stand on a platform and toss balls at the tiles. First one to break all four tiles wins love from home. Last one to have a tile remaining is out of this game. In the first round, Mike is the only one to break a tile. In Round 2, everyone breaks a tile. In Round 3, Matt, Mike and Ralph all break tiles, Steve misses the mark. In Round 4, Mike makes it four for four and wins the challenge, winning love from home. All three of the other guys miss. Round 5: Matt and Ralph each break their third tile while Steve misses again. Round 6 sees Matt stay alive in this game and so does Ralph. That means it is time to say goodbye to Steve. He tosses his buff in the fire and heads off to Ponderosa.

Now it's time for love from home. Mike, here's your mom. But wait!! You have a decision to make. You can either spend time with your mom, give the love visit to your RI buddies, Matt and Ralph, OR you can give the love to the entire Ometepe tribe still in the game. In a complete upset, Mike chooses to give love to the Ometepes. He says he felt like he should give as much love to the largest number of people. Honestly, had it been me, I'd have bartered. "C'mon Probst, if I'm giving up love from my mom...everyone else out here should get their love." Put Jeff on the KNOW he'd have gone for it and Mike could have been a hero to everyone left in this game. As it is, however, only Rob and Co. get to take their relatives back to camp.

We come back from break and Ralph is pissed about the family visit. He would have understood if Mike took the visit for himself, but he was pissed to see him give love to the people who treated them like crap. Mike tells him there was no thought of the game in his decision. Matt joins in and says he couldn't have given them anything either. Mike tells us that he felt it was the right thing to do and if he gets deeper in the game because of it, then that's a bonus. He feels bad for Matt and Ralph and he has apologized to them. And in fairness, it's not like he's spending any time with his mom, either.

Back at Murlonio, it's a mix of talking and showing the camp. All of the players seem energized by the visit. Natalie and her mom share tears, Andrea and her dad discuss her hair and not surprisingly, Rob and Phillip and their sisters are talking game. Phil tells us that this visit has renewed him and he will be able to continue to dominate. Rob tells his sister that Phillip is the perfect guy to take to the end. He lays out the game for her, and then tells us that he feels like he's playing his best game. But he's still got a ways to go and he is completely focused to win the game he's been trying to win for 10 years. I almost have to think, it's this focus that very well could lead to his victory. He's not resting on his laurels feeling like he's in control. He's constantly thinking and adapting as the situation changes. At some point, you'd think the tribe would wisen up, but they're certainly not showing any signs of it.

The next morning, with relatives gone, Tree Mail is received and announces an immunity challenge. Rob tells us and the tribe that Andrea is the vote tonight and she's the last one they want to win the challenge. He feels that Andrea has the most knowledge of the game (other than himself and Grant) of anyone still out there. He promises to do everything he can to be sure she doesn't win immunity.

Today's challenge has been promised as one of the most grueling ever. What we see is a staircase with about 40 stairs (yep, I paused and actually counted them). Each person has three groups of puzzle steps to add to their staircase. They will need to untie a bundle and then put them in order. First one to the top wins immunity. Since this is a longer challenge, I'll throw in an opinion here. Think about running up stairs several times, when you feel good, when you're rested and well fed. Now imagine doing it with no sleep or food. I can't even imagine how tough this one must be.

As the competitors get to their second set of step pieces, Rob, Grant and Andrea have pulled away from the rest of the pack. They can only take one board up the steps at a time, so if they climb 20 steps and are wrong, they have to go back down and do it again. Grant and Rob are the first ones working on the third set of steps with Andrea right behind. After two mistakes in a row for Grant, Andrea and Rob have taken control of this challenge. However, Rob is slowing down considerably, using the puzzle piece as a crutch to get up the steps. As we get down to it, they all have two steps left. Rob is still a bit in the lead as they get to the last step. After a walk that seems to take forever, Rob finally places the last step and struggles to the top to win immunity. There's very little celebration as Rob collapses from exhaustion at the top of the steps.

Natalie brings Rob some water as his legs cramp up. While I'm sure he's hurting real bad, anyone would be, I can't help but be reminded of Coach when they had the endurance challenge and he and JT battled it out. When he finally gave in, he collapsed to the ground like he'd been shot. was kinda like that. Finally able to walk again, Rob and the tribe head back to camp to finally oust one of their own.

With the game of "It's Anyone But Andrea" in full swing, it's also time for the producers to try to throw in a curve ball. It starts with Rob telling us that he loves having immunity because it leaves all his option on the table. Natalie tells us Andrea is going home, while Andrea confirms that Phillip is the vote. Rob and Grant confirm that the "lovers" will be reunited on Redemption Island. Just as everything is all set up, Phillip decides to up his annoyance game. He starts by taking part of the roof off the old Zapatera shelter and burns it. He tells Andrea how to avoid a wasp. And he's found himself back on Rob and Grant's nerves. He tells us in confessional that he feels very safe tonight. He tells us that he set himself up to be the villain so that everyone in his tribe would consider him the best option to take to the finals. He says that every now and then, he needs to remind them of that. So the next scene we see if him complaining that the fishing nets are all tangled up and not out in the water like they always were when Zapatera was there. He tells us that he knows that Rob feels that he will win if he goes up against Phillip. But he has a speech all planned out that no one else has thought of. He is sure that he can go up against Rob at the final tribal and beat him.

Of course, he's walking a fine line here. There's being an annoyance and being carried to the end and then there's being SO annoying, they cut you loose for their own sanity. So we see Grant and Rob talking about the obvious vote, Andrea. Rob is now having second thoughts. There's something about Phillip that has Rob thinking he's being played. But, Andrea is a tough competitor. Either way, as he sees it, he has to make the right choice here or it could be "...32 days of hard work could be gone just like that."

We start at Tribal Council and Jeff recaps the obvious: this six person alliance has to finally send someone out of the game. Andrea states that she feels confident that she's still in the game. She feels her trust is in the right place. Jeff asks Natalie whether or not this Tribal is exciting or scary. She says it's definitely scary and not any fun at all. Next we hearken back to the time when Phillip looked at the Zapatera tribe and told them he's rather be sixth man on the Ometepe totem pole than to align with them. Jeff asks Phillip if there's any part of him that might be lying down to not look like a threat and he cites Phillip's poor performance in the challenge as an example. Phillip tells Jeff that in this weather and that challenge, he was completely out of his league. He says that he keeps hoping for a challenge that features upper body strength and then begins to list his resume again. Jeff notes that while he was trying to suggest that Phillip isn't a threat, he's essentially saying, "No way, I'm a huge threat."

And then we move back to Andrea. Have we gotten to the point where being strong in challenges is a reason to vote someone out? She says that while it's an individual game, they do need to stay strong as someone will come back from Redemption and they'll need to beat them. Jeff then asks Phillip whether or not someone can get to the end by being truthful. Of course you can, look at him...he's been truthful all the way through and he could win. Jeff then asks if anyone feels uncomfortable tonight and no one raises their hand. And with that, it's time to vote.

They show us no votes as they are cast tonight, so it's all a mystery. As Jeff reads the votes, the first is for Andrea, the second is for Phillip and the rest come up Andrea...which we already knew, right? She, however, is completely blindsided by this vote and doesn't seem too happy about it.

Next time on Survivor: Grant and Rob see the girls as a threat that needs to be split up. Ashley appears to be the target. Looks like we get some more Phillip craziness and Rob tells us that exactly what you don't want to happen, just happened. I can only assume that he means something like the one person they want to send home wins immunity or something like that. Either way, we'll find out next week, which is officially Survivor Week and we have Wednesday's episode at its regular time, then the finale and live reunion on Sunday, May 15th. Until then, don't forget to check in Wednesday morning for the Power Rankings. Take care!