Survivor San Juan Del Sur Recap
Episode 7
Million Dollar Decision
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
November 5, 2014

We all know she's thinking about trail mix.

Previously on Survivor, a man somehow accomplished the feat of getting his daughter voted out one week and then strategized himself out of the competition the next week. In fairness to Dale, he did formulate a clever plan to pass off a fake idol to a different competitor after last week’s vote. He simply had the misfortune of the future sucker being persuaded out of that tactic by his girlfriend, the former Miss Michigan. Jon, your girl Jaclyn has beauty and brains. She just saved you from being made quite the fool on national television. You'd better marry that girl.

The other issue that burned Dale was entirely beyond his control. The game of Survivor involves players attempting to vote one another out of the competition. Early on, Baylor tried to orchestrate Dale’s removal, and so he reciprocated in kind against her. Baylor’s none-too-bright mother, Missy, took this as an unforgivable transgression against her family.

While the mother/daughter tandem did not technically vote against Dale last week, there is no refuting the fact that they orchestrated his demise. And they did it for truly moronic reasons. Look, Survivor has had its fair share of less than intelligent players over the years (we’re looking at you, Shambo and Scoutmaster Lill). Still, if Missy were playing a game of checkers against a chicken at the county fair, we would put our money on the bird. We do give her credit for being a ferocious mother, though.

Due to their decision to join with Missy and Baylor, Jon and Jaclyn seem well positioned to go far in Survivor, but with such fickle, gullible allies, they could face a brutal reversal of fortune. The fact that this week will see a tribal merge creates further intrigue, as we learned last week that there is a women’s alliance across Coyopa and Hunahpu. Similarly, Keith has been hanging on until he is reunited with his son, Wes.

By our count, there are seven men and five women, and the women are more tightly aligned. If the men are not unified heading into the vote this week, one of them will get blindsided. We don’t expect that to happen, but an irritating player such as Jeremy or Alec or a perceived threat such as Josh or Jon could lose a numbers game that they think they control. Hopefully, the remaining twin, Natalie, is the pick this week. Then again, we’ve been saying that for several episodes now. Annoyingly, she has a fairly tight core guarding her back.

The episode begins with Missy once again demonstrating how not to play Survivor. We are not joking when we say that she starts the following morning with a confession to Keith that mother and daughter voted against him. In the immortal words of Lionel Hutz, “there's the truth, and there's THE TRUTH.” There is simply no rational explanation for telling an opponent that you voted for them. It’s the entire reason why the voting is done blind rather than in front of the tribe.

Missy does claim that she simply wanted to flush the idol in order to protect her daughter. She adds that had Keith been in the same position, he would have chosen the same option. Keith looks at her the same way that people look at lobster right before they have it removed from the fish tank and served to them with butter and lemon. If there is a merge and Wes can provide his dad with numbers, Keith will hunt Missy for sport. Maybe literally.

Keith states that his opponents do not have to lie. He is absolutely correct, and the visual backs him up on the point. There are five members of the tribe. Four of them are standing or sitting in the same six-foot radius. He is across the way, distant and alone. We suspect that if they had told Keith the plan in advance, he would have a lot more respect for everybody. This issue could be a sticking point for Jon later if he tries to navigate a bro-lliance.

Day 16 Tree Mail reinforces what the ads have already indicated. There is a merger this week. With a dozen players remaining, we are probably looking at a three-player final vote with nine jury members. The seven players of this tribe should be discussing ways that they can orchestrate the elimination of an opposing player.

Instead, Jeremy celebrates his liberation from being under the thumb of Josh and Reed. Simultaneously, Alec mentions that he should still be able to get Jeremy eliminated at the next vote. Alec sounds clueless as he states, “Time to run the game.” That’s almost exactly what his idiot brother said in the hours leading up to his (emphatic) elimination.

The merge numbers are interesting. Out of the original 18 players, four competitors have lost their blood allies. That leaves four remaining duos, including a pair of couples as well as mother/daughter and father/son tandems. Wes and Keith are the only tandem that may not line up on every vote. Jon seems to do whatever Jaclyn says while the same is true of Reed with Josh, the savviest player thus far this season. And Missy and Baylor share the same brain, with Baylor apparently getting the larger portion.

The Survivors are especially thrilled by the presence of a feast. After all, over half of them just had to beg for rice a couple of days ago. While Jeremy had the wrong logic about that situation, hindsight proved his side of the argument to be the right one. Hunahpu only needed to win one reward challenge and go hungry for a day prior to the merger.

Doubling down on long odds, Jeremy reveals the underlying mechanics of his post-merge strategy. His game is predicated upon the loyalty of Natalie and Julie plus the manipulation of a pair of couples to his alliance. He targets Jon and Jaclyn and Missy and Baylor, pulling the football player aside to discuss the matter. He notes that Josh is running everything, which is correct, and adds that with Reed and Alec following him, their numbers are powerful. Throw in Wes and Keith, and that is a five-person alliance in a 12-player game.

All they would need is to gain the influence of one other duo for the next two votes to control Survivor completely. While such an elimination would impair our enjoyment of the rest of the season, Josh really should be the target tonight. Jon concurs, noting that they should have seven for the night’s vote. Of course, the plan requires them to count on Missy, who Jeremy believes has been with him since day one. Remember this conversation the moment that Jeremy’s torch is extinguished.

As Josh notes that Jeremy is the opponent he has to prevent from getting the numbers, several tribe members debate the name for the merged dozen. Putting absolutely no thought into it, they do it relationship style, taking Coyopa and Hunahpa and turning it into Huyopa. At least it’s not a fake word like a couple of seasons ago. Then again, why were we expecting creativity from this group of players? It would have been the first time this season for most of them.

Like Jeremy, Josh quickly embarks on a plan to acquire the requisite seven votes. The difference is that Jeremy is only starting with three, and we are not as sure about Natalie as he is. Conversely, the LEAST number of members in Josh’s alliance is three and, realistically, it’s five players. They are Josh, Reed, Alec, Keith and Wes. All they need to do is persuade one couple in order to manipulate tonight’s vote. Josh zeroes in on Baylor, who he notes does owe him from earlier in the game.

This is the moment when Baylor finally begins to think about the game of Survivor. She notes that while her mother has several allies, Baylor technically only has one. And Josh carried her through the early stages when she was the odds-on favorite for elimination each vote. As expected, Baylor is mercurial, flippant and rather ungrateful in discussing her sentiments toward Josh. We think she wants to sound sympathetic about the matter, but the tone and phrasing isn’t within her skillset. Josh is blunt about the fact that her nonchalance hurts him. Gratitude is not a valued commodity in the game of Survivor.

The next segment involves Missy talking about Baylor. During this segment, we learn a lot about how screwed up Baylor should be. Her mother is major league crazy and selfish enough that she should consider running for Congress. We feel the need to note that Baylor actually comes out of the conversation seeming like a much better person than she should be after that upbringing.

After instinctually recognizing that Baylor is not all-in on an alliance, Josh moves along to the next couple on his list, Jaclyn and Jon. Two of the best three players this season are involved in this conversation. Also, Jon is there.

For the first time this season, Josh really blows it. We will quote him exactly. “Just, in a perspective thing, who do you think they’re going to give a million dollars to, two Broadway guys who are very successful or a fireman who has two kids.” What Josh is trying to argue is that Jon and Jaclyn would be favored over the former but not the latter. His wording, however, is indicative of someone who is looking for patsies along the way to his personal glory.

Jaclyn’s face speaks volumes. She is shocked by how blatantly Josh has just disregarded them as potential threats. Gullible Jon is all, “Yeah, Josh is great.” Seriously, dude. Put a ring on it.

Now is the moment on Survivor when the possible future Mrs. John Rocker implodes John Rocker style. Food has been a huge issue this season, particularly for the people who had to beg Probst for food. Well, when the tribes merged, a giant bowl of trail mix was pilfered. Julie, who has been especially irritated by the hearty appetites of some of her opponents, snuck off with the food, which she is now keeping hidden in her belongings.

Ordinarily on Survivor, stealing shoes is a hilarious event that turns a mediocre, tie-dye clad player into a fan favorite or a bald troll into a villain. The other players are none the wiser when the action unfolds, though. Julie is not that fortunate. Moments after she gloats about sharing her ill-gotten gains with her allies, the other players grow obsessed with the missing food stash, and they decide to investigate her bag.

Jon, doing his best Special Agent Johnny Utah impersonation, finds the stolen goods. Wes relays that other players are pissed and planned to take the food from her bag then eat it. Julie will be extremely lucky if that is all that happens. On day one of the merge, she has exposed herself as an untrustworthy player.

“At home, okay, you take trail mix, okay, no big deal. It’s trail mix. Who cares? Here, we don’t have anything to eat. She’s selfish and she’s awful, and I can’t trust somebody in my alliance who is stealing people’s food. It’s ridiculous.” – Jon, presumably speaking for 11 starving people

As ridiculous as the statement sounds, the entire season of Survivor may have just had its outcome altered by the theft of trail mix. Jon and Jaclyn are the big swing votes tonight. If Julie has alienated them, Team Jeremy will wither and die due to no fault of its leader. He’s not the one who committed a misdemeanor simply for the vicarious thrill of shoplifting.

Moments later, Julie returns to camp. She quickly realizes that her position in the game has changed. She takes note of the open bag, and she comments to the camera that her tribe mates are unhappy with her. “I feel like I’ve got a fire under my butt,” is her quote. For what it’s worth, that would be a great way to punish thieves on Survivor.

Probst sighting! The longstanding host of the game does not appear until the 31 minute mark of the episode, which may be a record. If we’re signing his paychecks, we are only paying him for a half-day. Anyway, the game is now about individual rather than team immunity. The immunity challenge involves the balancing of a ball on a disc by using two extended pieces of rope.

Probst notes that even a moment of lost focus will lead to elimination. Jeremy quickly reinforces this by losing his ball almost immediately. At the nine minute mark, a minute prior to a break, Missy and Julie lose balance. In round two, Reed is eliminated quickly and then a gust of wind wipes out Reed, Baylor, Alec and Jaclyn. At this point, the wind really picks up, and Natalie is caught in the breeze.

The final four players are all men, which lends credence to the idea that holding the ropes requires more power than balance. Keith, Wes, Jon and Drew reach the next stage, which includes the brutal addition of a second ball. All of them weather the full 25 minutes to reach this point, which is extremely impressive. Within moments of the two-ball round, Josh and Jon are eliminated.

The final two players are the father/son tandem of Keith and Wes. Another strong breeze causes Wes to lose, which means that Keith defeats his son for individual immunity. This is a good time to mention that today is Wes’ birthday. His father really should have let him win.

Say what you will about Missy – and we have in this column – she is a much more loyal parent than Dale and Keith. Anyway, Keith is savoring his immunity as he starts to fantasize about smiting Baylor and Missy for their recent tribal council transgressions.

Back at camp after the challenge, everyone is still being snarky about trail mix. Julie stays quiet, which is the smart play. She makes note of the fact that Alec is being the primary instigator. If she survives tonight, he will be Public Enemy #1 for her.

Of course, Julie doesn’t seem to be interested in planning beyond tonight. In fact, she talks to Missy about quitting. Missy, of course, tries to persuade her otherwise, recognizing that losing Julie’s vote would be a potentially crippling loss. This behavior annoys Julie, who was looking for some enabling. We are placing even money on Julie asking for people to vote for her at Tribal Council.

As Julie tries to quit without quitting, Jeremy counts heads. He has deduced that the elimination of Josh would effectively wipe out the competition in the game, as Josh is surrounded by yes men. Conversely, Josh tips his cap about the effort Jeremy is giving as a worthy opponent.

Jon is stuck in the middle. He desperately wants to remain loyal to Jeremy, but he isn’t sure it’s the right play. In addition, that damn trail mix is upsetting him. He wants no part of being in an alliance with a food thief. At this moment, there are three viable names for tonight’s elimination: Jeremy, Josh and Julie. Our money is on Julie since she is campaigning for it. The editing wants us to believe it’s Jeremy.

And we never find out if the editing is correct. Moments after Missy confidently states that Julie will not quit, Not Yet Mrs. John Rocker asks to speak with Jeff Probst. She apparently wants to quit before she gets fired. She acknowledges to Probst that she knows she is about to be voted out anyway. She also rationalizes how she has been victimized and misses her boyfriend, who has only been apart from her for a few days over the past several years.

Our serious question is how professional athlete John Rocker will feel when he learns that his long-term girlfriend is a quitter. That is what happens, and Julie does not even tell the other tribe members, not even her primary ally, Jeremy. Probst walks over to inform them. That’s lame. A quitter should have to look people in the eye and acknowledge they are weak.

From a gameplay perspective, the math of the game just grew alarming for Jeremy. His face says everything. He knows he is screwed. The quitting is great news for Jon and Jaclyn, who jumped to the power alliance at the perfect moment. Whether they are still welcomed next week remains to be seen. And Julie’s elimination technically helps everyone, as there is no Tribal Council or voting out of a player tonight. The battle between Jeremy and Josh will continue for another week.

To a larger point, the producers of Survivor got exactly what they deserved for casting Team John Rocker. One played like an idiot and threatened to beat a woman. The other quit a game that has worked hard in recent seasons to weed out potential quitters. That’s karma.