Survivor San Juan Del Sur Recap
Episode 2
Method to This Madness
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
October 2, 2014

She isn't quite sure about the bandana.

Previously on Survivor, those vile Anderson twins from The Amazing Race appeared and immediately started using the word “Twinnie.” We cannot be the only people in America who are not supervillains who wanted to throw them in a vat of acid. Alas, the next best thing occurred when one of them, we are vague on which, was voted out of the competition. As soon as the second one is treated similarly and John Rocker is shot out of a cannon, we can begin to take this season of Survivor seriously.

Unfortunately, the season preview indicated that Rocker is going to be around for a while, at least long enough to betray his girlfriend. Yes, this is a second season of blood versus water. And yes, Rocker’s impending betrayal is the most predictable thing on Survivor this season. He has the loyalty of Benedict Arnold but without the kicky American Revolution uniform.

Like the rest of the free world, we don’t like John Rocker. Until he is gone, the entire season of Survivor will be about Rocker, right up until the point during the live finale review where Jeff Probst makes some phantom claim that the former Atlanta Braves closer has redeemed himself in a way that only makes sense to Probst. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the same thing was attempted with Brandon Hantz, Colton the Racist, Tyson the moron and Coach the egomaniacal moron. Survivor casting is killing Survivor.

The good news for CBS is that the ratings do not yet reflect the damaging of the brand this season. There were 9.75 million viewers for the season premiere, which represents a slight uptick from last season’s 9.4 million debut. It is also an improvement from the finale’s 9.58 million, although perhaps we should not read so much into that. Last season, a horrific disaster from a gameplay and personality perspective, represents the first time in the history of Survivor than no single episode garnered at least 10 million viewers. Overall television viewing is in decline, of course, but Survivor’s consistent willingness to cast loathsome people for ratings continues to backfire dramatically. Why they stay the course on this issue is a mystery.

In terms of what we watched in the season premiere, this cast contains the usual group of hardbodies with personal issues, older people with something to prove and manipulators who are sporting permanent wood at the thought of playing Machiavelli on national television. Out of the 17 contestants, the one who seemed to understand game mechanics the most was Josh, who seemed to form alliances with everyone already. They went to him for advice on how to vote, a good sign for his long term candidacy.

Then, Josh did something quite strange by voting for Baylor when everyone else on his tribe chose between Dale and one of the evil twins. We are curious whether there is gameplay involved in that strategy or if he is already holding a grudge against someone. The latter scenario would be disappointing. Survivor players who feud with others rarely do well. Beyond Josh, there were not a lot of standouts thus far, but we did enjoy Wes the firefighter’s spelling attempts.

As the show begins, Josh explains his reasoning for having voted for Baylor at Tribal Council. Apparently, in some weird game move, he thought that voting for her would solidify their alliance even more. When he tells her this, she is justifiably skeptical. She figures that sure, it’s good for their alliance, but it’s easy for him to talk about this great strategy when it isn’t his ass on the line. She would be completely within her rights to ask him if she could write his name down a couple of times for similar reasons. Poor Baylor. It’s never easy learning that you’re the patsy.

Over at Hunahpu, a bunch of the guys are doing stuff like pushups and muscle exhibition and stretching a leg up to an ear like the most flexible Rockette. Jon was apparently second in the world in Tae Kwon Do four years in a row or something. We googled this claim, and apparently he has had a black belt since at least 2007. We just assumed he was making stuff up like Dirty Cop last year.

Anyway, Jeremy notes that all this testosterone is alienating the women. Then, we see the remaining Anderson twin, who we presume is alienating everyone else just by breathing. We also think that once the season’s over, Jon and Drew should fight crime as The Model and The Black Belt.

Bad news, everyone at Hunahpu! Your flint is missing! Is the flint covered in butter this year or something? Jon admits that he set it down somewhere close to the fire, so it might be his fault that it’s gone. He figures that when you make a mistake, you admit it. His teammates don’t react particularly positively to this revelation, and Jon seems shocked by this turn of events for some reason. He blithely asks, “Do you need flint to start a fire?” Keith’s terse and extremely Southern reply: “It heeeeelps.”

It’s already Probst time (Survivor wants us to tweet him @JeffProbst, but we’re probably not going to do that). As the Survivors walk in, Natalie realizes that her sister is gone. For once, she’s speechless. She breaks down in tears and says that it’s the first time she’s cried in more than a decade. Jeff continues to rub salt in the wound by questioning her about it, but she doesn’t have much to say. We appreciate the good people over at Coyopa tribe even more.

The Reward Challenge will reward the winning team with fishing equipment, and Probst calls for a couple of people from each team to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. John Rocker plays the most competitive, intense game of roshambo ever, and he’s so thrilled to win that he doesn’t even care that his opponent will be his girlfriend. Never mind that he’s totally screwing her over. As long as he’s a winner! We wonder which episode will be the one where they break up.

Whichever of John and Julie wins the challenge takes the reward for their tribe. Loser goes to Exile Island. It’s a challenge that requires some dexterity and balance, and Rocker is immediately struggling with the balance portion. He is assuredly regretting jumping up and taking the lead for his team, because he is simply too tall for most of the obstacles. He’s still working the first part of the challenge when Julie gets through and is to the Skeeball portion of the game. She breezes through pretty easily and oh, happy day. Rocker has lost the challenge.

As we’re jokingly chanting in our head, “Rocker just lost to a girl!” he is angrily saying, “I just got beat by a girl". He’s legitimately angry. We’re thinking it won’t be long before he says something that makes the rounds on the social networks.

When Julie is asked to choose one person from her team to accompany John to Exile Island, she hems and haws about how Jeremy has already suffered so much, so… she’s sending him. Uh, okay. This must be something like Josh’s reasoning that if he votes for you, it solidifies your alliance. Anyway, sending her racist boyfriend to be alone with a black man seems like a super idea. Maybe she secretly hates Rocker.

When Probst calls the Hunahpu tribe up to claim their reward, Reed asks if they can trade the beans from their reward for the flint. Probst sneeringly tells them that the deal they offered is pathetic, particularly because they waited to see if they won the Reward Challenge before even making it. He also works in the snide comment, “My life is fine,” which makes us realize that at some point, Probst stopped hero worshipping Russell Hantz and instead became Russell Hantz. He eventually bullies them into giving up all their fishing gear – the entire reward – for a new flint. Jon is not going to be popular at camp.

Back at camp, Natalie is lamenting the absence of her sister. It would probably be really sad if we listened to anything they had to say.

With John Rocker away from camp, his male teammates are all figuring out who he is. Dale notes that he was essentially run out of baseball for being an asshole, and Josh comments in confessional that he doesn’t care so much what Rocker’s offensive views are as long as they can work together. This is actually the right approach to take, because A) Rocker is a physical asset for Immunity Challenges and B) he’s not a bad guy to drag along with you as an ally because he’s bound to piss other people off.

Over at Exile Island, Jeremy’s quote pretty much covers exactly how we feel about this season of Survivor. “The icing on top is now I’m stuck out here with John Rocker. I know who he is. He used to pitch for the Braves and everything.” We do think it’s fascinating that we live in an era where John Rocker can’t be placed on an island with 17 strangers without them knowing who he is and reviling him for things he’s said and done in the past. Karma should get frequent flyer mileage for this.

The guys are instructed to choose an urn just as the last visitors to Exile Island were, and Karma strikes again. Rocker gets the blank note, while Jeremy gets the clue to the Immunity Idol. He and his wife both are in possession of clues.

Let’s just say that Jeremy is very, very aware of Rocker’s racist history. But at the same time, he knows how critical Rocker is to his wife’s ability to remain on Survivor and not be voted out. So he figures (with a heavy sigh) that he’ll suck it up and buddy up to the guy. Between Josh and Jeremy, we’re seeing solid game play in that both men realize that emotion can be counter-productive in the game of Survivor. They’re instantly 100% better than last season’s contestants.

And just like that, Probst returns. You’ve got to pack a lot of stuff in a little time, and it does seem to help the pacing of the show. Today’s challenge will pit the contestants against each other in individual Sumo matches. The person to get pushed off the platform loses the point for their team. First team to five wins.

Kelley and Jaclyn are first to do battle. It’s a pretty quick match. Jaclyn takes advantage of her height and size to knock Kelley off and score a point for Coyopa. Next up are brothers Alec and Drew as Survivor attempts to remind us of the Vytas/Aras feud. They’re a little more competitive, but Drew beats up on his little brother and the tribes are tied at 1-1.

It’s a vicious beginning for Jeremy, who goes hard after Wes, but the Louisiana fireman is able to hold on for Coyopa and get the point. Natalie, who is probably mad about the whole Nadiya thing, comes out strong and knocks Val to the ground, but Val fights back hard. It’s a really close match and it looks like Natalie might give up, but she eventually pushes Val into the water. Still, Val’s toughness is duly noted.

Now we have Jon versus John or Football versus Baseball. Surprisingly, Football is smaller than Baseball, though. It’s similar to a football drill, so Jon(ny Football) theoretically should have the advantage. Jon goes straight at him with his head and it looks as violent as anything you might see in the NFL. The football player uses Rocker’s weight against him and is eventually able to slowly push the deposed closer over the side of the platform. Jon. Scores. For. Hunahpu! The score is now 3-2 and we think we’ve identified Probst’s new dude crush. Rocker comes away with blood on his nose.

Mom Missy is taking on daughter Baylor, and they both say that they’re envisioning one of Missy’s exes as inspiration for the fight. Missy probably goes too hard at Baylor and splits her lip right in half. We wonder if she is spitting out a tooth, but it’s “only” a busted lip. Obviously, Missy feels awful and doesn’t even put forth an effort from this point forward. Baylor knocks her mom in and scores the point for Coyopa.

Yet another Blood battle takes place when Reed and Josh take the stage. Drew yells, “Go, Josh!” and Jon tells him, “It’s Reed that’s on our team.” Reed pushes his boyfriend in, setting up a match between old guys Keith and Dale. The latter guy knocks the firefighter in the water and there is a final tiebreaker match between Kelley and Jaclyn. The larger woman dominated in their first match, so this seems a little unfair.

Dale isn’t even able to watch his daughter Kelley, and reveals that it’s her birthday, but he’s still rooting for teammate Jaclyn. That’s… uncool. We suppose she stews on that a little bit and completely knocks Jaclyn off the platform. Hunahpu. Wins. Immunity! Again!

Val says something about how she knows she’s a target and since she doesn’t have an idol yet, she’ll have to make a big move and blah blah blah. She’s still on the outside looking in with regards to relationships and alliances, so this is going to be a tough afternoon for her.

She tells Rocker that she has two idols, which he wonders about since Jeremy showed him the clue at Exile Island. He guesses she must have them, but figures he’ll look around a bit himself. He remembers the instructions from Jeremy’s clue, so he goes off to search for and finds an actual Immunity Idol in short order. We groan. Survivor, we hate you. We’re in hate with you.

With the protection of the idol in his back pocket, Rocker decides to try to find a way to protect Val, which we admittedly were not expecting. He suggests to the Bros that Val has two idols and that she’s planning to use one for herself and one for Jaclyn. Rocker suggests that they split the vote at three for Val and three for Baylor. Wait, what? If you were really trying to protect Val, wouldn’t you do three for Jaclyn and three for Baylor? Oh, we’re sure he has some sort of cunning plan, or perhaps he doesn’t really care about Val’s welfare at all.

For his part, Josh is suspicious of this plan, not least because he is pretty solidly aligned with Baylor. He suggests that Rocker’s plan can work as long as they don’t discuss any details with the girls at all. But you can tell he’s lying. We suspect Josh will apprise Baylor of the situation at first opportunity.

Rocker meets up with Val and tells her that he had promised Jeremy that he’d try to help her out so that Jeremy would watch after Julie over at the other tribe. He tells her that she has to play her idol. Hoisted by her own petard! Even so, she figures that she can rally Jaclyn to vote for Baylor and that will keep her safe.

Things don’t appear to be that cut and dried, though, because even though the show doesn’t show him talking to Baylor, Josh tells us he’s suspicious because Rocker and Val just wandered off together… for the first time ever. He figures that they weren’t hanging out together for fun, so shenanigans are at play. He’s deciding on his best move, and we’re guessing that move is “Vote for Val, the person not in his alliance.”

There’s a lot of discussion about how the tribe can come together, and it’s pretty uninteresting. Then, Val accuses Baylor of double-dealing, saying that the younger girl had originally said she would align with the women, but then shifted to work with the Bros instead. There’s some yelling back and forth but the end result is that basically the people who know Baylor is with them still know it and the women who are pissed about it know she’s with them, too.

Naturally, Val’s “two idols” come up, and Wes says that the best way to flush them out is to toss votes her way. That was a really, really bad move on her part, especially if she’s going to get in a massive fight with a person in the opposing alliance. Worst of all is that it was utterly unnecessary. Rocker really was trying to work with her here, as his vote for Baylor proves.

Probst brings the urn up so that he can reveal the votes, and asks if anyone wants to play an idol. When Val doesn’t play one, Rocker is pretty much blown away and knows that his entire strategy for this vote is dead in the water. Probst reads out the votes and here’s how it goes. Val. Baylor. Val. Baylor. Val. Baylor. Baylor. Val. It’s a tie, so everyone except Val and Baylor will vote again.

Needless to say, Rocker flips his vote out of frustration, saying, “Now I’m gonna look like a liar to your husband.” Val takes all of the votes except for Jaclyn’s, so she’s going over to Ponderosa for the duration of the show. She’s happy with her gameplay because she made big moves and Jeremy will work harder to win. Oooookay.

Next time on Survivor, Jeremy tells everyone about Rocker’s checkered past, and Hunahpu looks like they’ll successfully use that information to rile him up. Meanwhile, Rocker’s girlfriend Julie re-thinks all of her life decisions so far.