Survivor: One World Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
February 23, 2012

She has got the crazy eyes and is making a finger gun. Run, Kat, Run!

Previously on Survivor, a new cast was introduced to the world for the first time. We instantly found approximately 80% of them to be insufferable. The worst offenders are Alicia, a prima donna who quickly formed a strong alliance on one tribe, and Matt, an unbearably arrogant jerk who quickly formed a strong alliance on the other tribe. In combination, this means that we are going to be stuck with both of them for an indefinite period, barring something unforeseen. Alicia seems more likely to implode. Technically, she’s already done so once at Tribal Council.

The more engaging aspect of last week’s episode is that tribes were divided in a battle of the sexes, yet they were asked to live in one location. This is the basis of the One World theme for the season. What became readily apparent is that the men’s tribe was much, much stronger than the women’s tribe, at least at first blush. The men had fire within moments of their arrival at camp. Conversely, the women spent the body of three days begging the men to gift them with fire.

The only man who acquiesced was Jeff Probst, who did so after the women were informed that Kourtney, one of their most interesting players, required wrist surgery. Already a person down, the women need to discover some semblance of cohesion, else the producers of the show may have to do a reformation of the tribes after only a few rounds as happened with the failed old versus young ploy during Survivor: Nicaragua. Casting missteps like this are what leads to mind-boggling scenarios such as “Survivor Winner Fabio.”

We could have predicted the start of tonight’s episode immediately after last week’s aired. There is this strange aspect of human nature that weak people exhibit wherein any time they lose an argument, they go into heavy denial. Alicia demonstrates an extreme example of this by gloating to the camera that Tribal Council “couldn’t have gone any better”. She has deluded herself into believing that it was Christina who looked crazy by shouting Alicia down and totally humiliating her.

What those of us who do not reside in Crazy Town see is Christina recognizing that she has to work with Alicia since they are in the same tribe. So, she pulls aside the woman she recently dominated and tries to make amends. They lie to one another about the situation and then fake-hug at the end. What their body language says is “Watch your back. There are lots of knives around camp.” These people have known each other for three days. They probably spent years trying to get on Survivor and yet here they stand ready to throw away the opportunity in exchange for victory in a nebulous feud. This is probably who Alicia is as a person but Christina has to be smarter than to take the bait.

The other aspect of the return from Tribal Council that is new is that the conquering tribe is nurturing the fire when the losers arrive. Never before has a group this size been forced to make awkward small talk moments after eating one of their young. Michael the Axe Thief is needy about the women acknowledging his efforts in keeping the fire alive. This is twice in two episodes that he has craved positive reinforcement from others. Michael is a strong, smart player from what we have witnessed thus far, but this sort of behavior generally is not conducive to victory in the game. Michael, you’re good enough, you’re strong enough and doggone it, people like you.

How much of a mess are the women? Sabrina is asked to take on the role of leader of the Salani tribe during a team meeting the following morning. Before she finishes uttering the words “Everyone has a right to be heard”, she is interrupted. Sabrina is trite in shouting down the usurper, but this reinforces the chaotic nature of their tribe. The leader is not heard by one of the tribe members and the tribe member is not heard by the leader during a conversation about everyone listening to everyone else.

Sabrina divides the primary roles into three categories: water, food and shelter. Monica volunteers for water. Alicia nominates Kat and herself for food searches. This tribe is about to diet whether they want it or not. We also want to note that Alicia is someone who needs allies in order to feel more powerful. We are not talking about Survivor tribes and alliances here. She is someone who does not like to be alone. She and Michael could form a Lacking Self-Esteem alliance down the line if they both make it to the “merge." To a larger point, Alicia is going to do whatever it takes to keep Kat around as long as Kat performs the requisite sycophant duties.

Sabrina offers instructions about the best way to attain food. Alicia bristles at this as she views herself as the Queen of the tribe and Sabrina as a puppet. With others naming Sabrina the leader, the two of them are going to butt heads repeatedly. This is the first instance and the subject matter is almost irrelevant.

In this case, it is Sabrina’s term of “survey the land” and “make markers to know exactly where you went”. Kat, aggravated that she is currently sucking up to the wrong player, says that she does not want to “observe the land.” No, this isn’t what Sabrina said but that’s not the point. What matters is that as long as Alicia and Kat are not calling the shots, they are going to be poisonous to the chemistry of the tribe. This is the danger of making an alliance before you know any of the players. Sabrina has an agreement in place with Kat and Alicia, yet the three of them are as friendly as Batman and The Joker. Kat is Robin in this scenario. If it’s not clear, we don’t like Kat any more than we like Alicia.

This is reinforced a few moments later. Several of the women are hungry. They are wondering why the two people who chose to handle the food search are, you know, not searching for food. Kat delivers an immature rant about how her partner isn’t ready and that everyone will be sorry when they come back with all kinds of bananas. Somewhere in the world, Amanda Kimmel feels a tingle as she realizes that banana etiquette is once again violated. Later, the women enjoy a swim in the ocean rather than hunt for food. In professional sports, what these two women are doing gets players suspended for what is called “conduct detrimental to the team."

Both tribes discover giant trunks that alert them of an impending reward challenge. They meet at a clearing in a neutral location and embark upon an attempt to win a tarp. Apparently, rain season is in the offing and the losing tribe will be miserable without a tarp. We believe this is a devious way for the producers of Survivor to have a wet t-shirt competition among the women. The odds of them winning a challenge are roughly the same as the odds of a meteor striking your winning lottery ticket.

The goal is to untie a series of ropes and thereby liberate a ring. Michael sits out this challenge while Colton – oh God, we’d forgotten how much we dislike Colton – does his best Natalie Wood in Rebel without a Cause to signify the start of the competition. We all know that the men are going to win and the men do in fact win. The women believe that they were seconds away from victory but that seems like a flowery description of their situation.

*We interrupt this recap to make a horrifying announcement***

Greg “Tarzan” Smith is wearing a banana hammock. Repeat: Tarzan is wearing underwear that makes the world his prostate physician. This atrocity will not go unnoticed, Probst. As an aside, Probst never makes an appearance at this challenge. We cannot prove that the banana hammock has anything to do with his absence but we strongly suspect it.

The next segment is even worse than the Tarzan Junktrocity. The men are hard at work to create a wonderful camp environment. Meanwhile, Colton has discovered a swing at camp. After using it for a time and querying others about who made it, he fails to receive the requisite amount of attention. What does he do? You guessed it. He heads over to the women’s portion of camp.

The Salani players are having a team meeting at the time as they desperately attempt to do whatever is necessary to turn the tide of battle. Colton’s presence is unwelcome and they let him know it. Sabrina strongly encourages him to bond with the guys. As he continues to distract the women from the work they need to do, Sabrina enforces her leadership role by sending him away. Colton melts down. He starts tearing up and claims that he needs to start The Colton Tribe. If such a tribe exists, we are all for the local cannibals overrunning this territory.

Desperate for attention, Colton returns to the women’s camp. He now claims that he has something important to say that he cannot say unless all of the women are listening. If we were not doing a recap, we would be fast forwarding through this segment, because his desperate need for attention is disturbing to watch. The “big announcement” is that he needs to be allowed to stay with them. He says this through tears. A woman named Kim concisely states, “It’s not an option for us to have you over here all the time.” Unwelcome in his own tribe, Colton has been banished from the women’s tribe as well.

We are not exaggerating when we say that this makes Colton the most dangerous player in the game. We saw it last year when John Cochran’s selfishness single-handedly altered the nature of the entire season. One of his betrayed allies aptly summarized that she had wasted a month of her life because of his treachery. Colton now has the opportunity to behave in the same manner, because like Cochran he only cares about himself.

Like clockwork, Colton makes his move. At night while the alpha males are off doing triathlons, he reaches into his bag and reveals the idol to Troyzan (we are never going to like calling him that) and Jonas. The sushi chef proceeds to describe Colton as “ridiculously smart” which makes us sad for him. Anyway, all three gentlemen embark upon a plan to eliminate Matt and Michael, the presumed ringleaders in the Manono alliance. Leif and Tarzan are presumed to join them.

With five players onboard, they very well could take control of the game at the first Tribal Council if Colton receives the votes from the alpha males. His votes would be discarded, meaning that the Weaker Five’s target would be eliminated and they would have a 5-3 advantage from this point forward. As long as none of them flips, they would be in control of the clearly superior tribe. We taste bile as we realize that Colton may be around for a while. Is it too late to get Jim Van Nest to recap this season?

Probst sighting!

The immunity challenge today is sublime in its simplicity. Each team stands on an elongated balance beam in the ocean. One tribe member at a time must attempt to negotiate the narrow walkway by maneuvering through their teammates. The catch is that only one person may come in contact with the player at any point. If a person comes into contact with two other players, they must jump into the water. Last week’s challenge was a dangerous, far reaching course with many elements. This week’s exercise in minimalism is easy to set up but devilishly fiendish to complete.

Kat discovers this the hard way. The women are clearly favored in this challenge since they have a lower center of gravity, but the men have an advantage in the first heat. Leif is the shortest player in the history of the game, which allows him to weave through his teammates in impressive fashion. Kat, on the other hand…well, it’s a disaster. This is legitimately one of the worst performances in an elimination challenge in the history of the show.

Kat fails mentally, she fails physically and she lacks accountability. There is no sugarcoating it. She inexplicably positions herself in front of teammate Monica on the first attempt. Women have boobs on the front of their bodies, so simply by choosing this side of Monica’s body, she makes the task harder. Then, she panics a bit at the second hurdle (i.e. teammate) when Probst announces that Leif has finished his leg. By the time Kat reaches Kim, she is panicking and all but pushes Kim into the water herself. Then, she has to jump in since she touched two people at once while trying to maintain balance.

At the same moment on the other side, boastful Matt impresses us when he aids Colton in his heat. Colton places too much weight on his teammate in a manner eerily reminiscent of what Kat just did to Kim. Matt braces his back and locks his feet in place, thereby securing both men at once. Hilariously, Colton exclaims “I’ve got you” at exactly the moment Matt defies gravity and the laws of physics. Matt may have an ego, but he also has some game. Colton finishes his round without further incident.

The men’s lead is already almost insurmountable, but Kat’s collapse under pressure is no less noteworthy because of it. During her next attempt, she gives Christina an unrequested breast exam. To her credit, she has deduced that coming in behind the other women is the easier maneuver. Bending them backwards in the process is less good. Christina is forced to brace herself and in the process grabs another teammate while still being groped by Kat. Probst dictates that Kat jump in the water. Again.

On her third attempt, Kat sexually assaults Monica, approaches Christina from the wrong side and once again forces the woman into the water. As if this were not enough mistakes, Kat jumps into the water herself….something she didn’t have to do. All of her progress is lost. Kat has melted down completely and sensing this, Christina positions herself in first so that she can make the next attempt. Moments after the men make their first (and only) mistake as Bill and Jay simultaneously fall, Christina receives a strange lack of support from Kim and collapses into the water.

At this point, something noteworthy occurs. Monica, whose husband competed in the NFL for nine years, demonstrates leadership and desire when she too jumps into the water. She takes control, tired of watching the younger women fail repeatedly. Monica is barely into her first attempt to pass Christina when – you guessed – Kat grabs the women to secure them. This forces Christina and Monica to dive into the water and start over again. For the Hell of it, Kat dives into the water as well. Probst is taken aback by the way that Kat has jumped into the water not once but twice when there was no cause to do so.

Before the men win the challenge, Monica navigates her heat in remarkable fashion. She develops a strategy wherein the women are instructed to “push me around” because “I’m strong in the core”. This works extraordinarily well with Monica completing her heat faster than anyone else thus far save for maybe Leif. This demonstration of grace under pressure when the rest of the team was in total panic mode is significant. It leads us to evaluate Monica as the first woman this season capable of winning Survivor. Unfortunately, she is not in the power alliance of her group, but she is in the weaker tribe. Monica will need a great deal of luck in order to prove us right. Right now, the imbalance between the two tribes is as large a chasm as there has ever been in the history of Survivor.

In a perfect world, it would be time to play It’s Anyone But Kat. Alas, we know that this is unlikely for the reasons enumerated above. Kat has a powerful ally in Alicia and she is in the five player alliance in a nine player tribe. Unless her allies acknowledge her failings and flip allegiance, something they should do, she is safe at Tribal Council. 51-year-old Nina is a full decade older than her counterparts and almost 30 years older than Kat. The young and pretty girls are unlikely to react rationally to their failures thus far.

A couple of the Salani women, Kim and Chelsea, express dissatisfaction over the way events have unfolded thus far. We hold out hope that maybe they will work together to eliminate Kat. Unfortunately, Kat acknowledges her failings in the challenge and apologizes to the group. Had she not done this, there was a chance they would have warmed to the idea that she should go home.

We know by the first response of Tribal Council that this will not be the case, though. Kim is queried by Jeff about what she could do to help the team. She explicitly states “I don’t feel like there’s a place for my vote yet.” In other words, she knows what the decision will be and she strongly disagrees with it. Moments from now, Nina will be eliminated.

Nina is clearly bitter about the situation. She points out that the tribe is currently in a “five against three” situation. Chelsea, Kim, Alicia, Sabrina and Kat outnumber Christina, Monica and her. She cannot believe that the utilitarian value that she brings to the tribe will be discarded in favor of Kat, who bombed the challenge and took a swim rather than provided food for the tribe as promised.

Nina is justified to feel this way, but this is the aspect of Survivor politics that is beyond the control of the players. Once people align, they generally stick with their situation until the bitter end or at least until much later in the game when treachery is more advantageous. People rarely break alliances on day six. While Kat cannot even explain anything tangible she brings to the tribe when pressed by Jeff, she is still propped along for at least another three days and probably much more. This is a perfect summary of the current state of the women’s tribe. Thus far, men do in fact rule while women drool.

“Outlast, outwit...but you can’t when you’re witless.” – Nina, speaking the truth about Kat