Survivor San Juan Del Sur Recap
Episode 9
Gettin' to Crunch Time
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
November 20, 2014

Previously on Survivor, the only especially interesting player this season was voted out of the competition. After many seasons of casting to clichés, the show finally got its act together and casted a regular gay couple. Yes, they work on Broadway so it may have been unintentional by the producers, who may have presumed a stereotype.

No matter the explanation, Josh played brilliantly, demonstrating as much natural skill at the game as any player since Kim Spradlin. He was the unfortunate victim of a lot of circumstances beyond his control last week. He was aligned with especially immature boys who created a hostile work environment for Jaclyn, whose swing vote they desperately needed. When she convinced her man to vote with Jeremy’s alliance, the right player was eliminated for the wrong reason.

Still, we feel compelled to note that the true causation for Josh’s loss occurred during his first vote. For no reason, he put down Baylor’s name. The following morning, he confessed to the crime. After watching Baylor for the entire season, it’s readily apparent that the most important thing in Baylor’s life is Baylor. Josh’s betrayal was never forgotten nor forgiven. When he tried to manipulate her into voting for someone else, a reasonable request based on the fact that he carried her like a carry-on bag for every vote after that, she declined. She even gloated to the camera about it. The end result is that this season’s final few players are likely to be a lot of Baylors, with no Joshes.

The lone potential fly in that ointment is Reed, Josh’s boyfriend. We really don’t have a great read on Reed at the moment, because the editing indicated that he left all of the strategizing to Josh. Is Reed an oblivious yes man or did he readily agree with everything that Josh did because the two think so similarly? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining whether Reed is a viable threat to win Survivor or is eliminated in about 2,000 words. We are hoping for the former, because the other remaining contestants are Jeremy and…oh ye Gods. Go Jeremy and Reed!

Night 21 at Huyopa is a grim affair. The men suddenly realize that after holding all of the cards and a virtually insurmountable lead, their oafish behavior has all but guaranteed their elimination. Jon hugs Missy, which firmly establishes whose side he is on moving forward. The useless trio of Natalie, Missy and Baylor enjoy a celebratory embrace afterward. Jon should pay careful attention to this behavior, as they are the true power trio at the moment. It’s a quartet if we include Jeremy. No matter what move Jon and Jaclyn make, they seem to wind up being on the bottom two rungs of their current alliance.

Reed is asked how he is doing. His situation is a bit unique in that he was on the island with his boyfriend, and they had an alliance with numbers. Now, he is without his beloved, and his days in the game appear numbered. Last night was terrible for Josh, but at least he is eating real food again. Reed has to suffer for at least three more days. To his credit, he immediately starts calculating revenge plans.

Jon is feeling guilty about his behavior. He recognizes that all of the dudes have every reason to hate him. He explains that his instincts led him to believe that going with the men was a mistake. We call his instincts Jaclyn. Or thinking with his penis.

Keith is dialed up about the situation. He describes how many people have lied to him since the game began. He actually does this to other people while sitting at camp and looking them in the eye rather than in a camera monologue. That’s equal parts crazy/stupid and admirable. Our favorite moment is when he attacks Missy for her betrayal, reminding her that they had a couples alliance. Missy, who has the IQ of a bowl of cereal, blithely states that everything changed when he allied with his son. Keith quickly shoots back, “My son is my couple.” Point to Keith.

The worst part about how much we hate Missy is that since she is so stupid and useless, there is no reason ever to vote her out of the game. Nobody would ever vote for her. We’re stuck with her for the rest of the season. How much does she bug us? If the choices were her and John Rocker, we’d pick…nah, that’s not true.

Probst Sighting! The reward challenge today is a team competition designed to create rifts between allies. Presumably, some people who win will be forced to break bread with people soon to be voted out of the game (hi Reed!). And the editing will do everything possible to convince us that someone will flip on their alliance. Then, it won’t happen but another reward challenge will attempt to do the same thing in an episode or two. Survivor is like the Washington Generals with this nonsense. It never works yet they keep trying.

The teams are Wes, Jon, Jaclyn, Missy and Keith against Jeremy, Natalie, Baylor, Alec and Reed. The challenge pits two opposing players on a balance beam above a mud pit. The contestants have a single goal: knock the other player off the beam. The person who touches the ground first loses.

The first round matches Reed up against Wes. The Louisianan employs a clever strategy of trying to bounce on the wobbly beam to shake his opponent off. After that fails, he attacks aggressively, and Reed easily counters by using Wes’s momentum against him. Reed wins. Boys will be boys, as both of them love getting a face full of mud.

Jaclyn matches up against Natalie in a fight of balance and size against…let’s say a powerful core. We expect Jaclyn to win, but he she tries to finish off Natalie too early, misjudges her opponent’s balance and effectively beats herself. Score that round for the Alpha Twin.

Jeremy squares off against Jon in a battle of Zero Body Fat. Seriously, these dudes are ripped. They should do a line of exercise videos together after the season ends. Jeremy makes the same mistake as the last two people, attacking prematurely. Football player Jon counters easily and forcefully shoves Jeremy in the air into the awaiting mud. Jon claims the most empathic win thus far.

The fourth round is Baylor versus her mom. Say what you will about Baylor. She knows all of her mother’s weaknesses. Missy never has a chance. Missy is worse than Baylor. That shouldn’t even be possible.

Next, Keith matches up against Alec in a battle of lithe men with great balance. Keith delivers the best performance thus far by watching Alec’s midsection, the area that identifies when he is vulnerable. He strikes at the perfect moment, thereby becoming the first attacker to succeed. This matchup is hilarious because Alec, who is a total clown, tries to bait Keith to attack. Alec gets exactly what he deserves for taunting.

Wes versus Reed the rematch takes a turn when Reed literally bitch-slaps Wes. It’s a psychological ploy that backfires when Wes tries to reciprocate. Reed is prepared for this and counters. Wes accidentally knocks mud into Reed’s eye, and the temporarily blinded man is distracted. Wes knocks him off to tie their personal battle at 1-1 and the overall game at 3-3.

Survivor’s ratings spike during the Jaclyn/Natalie rematch when a muddy Miss Michigan employs the bouncing beam strategy. ALL THE GIFS! Once again, Jaclyn gets impatient and attacks prematurely. History repeats itself in the next round when Jon wards off Jeremy’s attack and counters by knocking him off the plank. That leaves Baylor versus Missy as the determinant in which group wins. We don’t even to recap this. Missy is terrible at everything, even in comparison to lowly Baylor. Baylor’s tribe wins the reward.

An unexpected moment occurs next. Natalie quizzes Probst on whether she can give up her reward to a specific member of the losing group. He confirms that she can. She quickly cedes her meal to Jon. Almost immediately, Jeremy adds that he wants to do the same for Jaclyn. We would also note that the boxer-clad Jeremy is…excited to do this. He needs a textbook to hide his current level of arousal.

Note to Val: if there are any mudwrestling events in the greater Boston area, you need to take your man. North America is now confident he will enjoy it. This series of events makes us realize that the editors must try to avoid any shots of dudes sporting wood. Something important has to be happening if they are willing to pornalize Jeremy like that.

Jon and Jaclyn are absolutely thrilled by this turn of events. During the challenge, Jaclyn had encouraged Jon by pointing out how much he wanted that sandwich. Missy, their other ally, has terrible body language as they events transpire. She seems jealous that Natalie, her ally, chose one of the hangers on rather than someone higher up.

During the chaos of this sequence, Jeremy winds up sent to Exile Island, which is presumably done to give him the chance at an idol. Probst notes, “Two minutes ago, he was on a yacht.” Meanwhile, Natalie plays up her sainthood. That’s a dangerous move in this game. Giving up a car got Yau-Man voted out the following day at Tribal Council.

The losers (and Saint Natalie) return to camp. Keith correctly notes that Jon has sworn complete allegiance to Natalie after this turn of events. Moments later in a camera monologue, Jon confirms the veracity of this statement. Wes is confident that one of Reed, his father or himself is next to go. He calmly requests that Natalie let him know if he is the one to go that night. This is deftly done, as Keith knows that he can play his idol to mess up the opposition if they are honest (but foolish) as requested.

“I just don’t want to get hashtag-blindsided.” – Wes with the Survivor quote of the season

As expected, a funny edit occurs where mud-clad Jeremy doggedly searches for an idol. Meanwhile, everyone on the yacht looks straight out of a wine commercial. Jon and Jaclyn sip champagne and exchange I Love Yous while Alec and Reed watch on in horror. They had wanted to talk strategy with people who may be willing to cut a deal. Instead, they’re stuck with another couple’s romantic memory of a lifetime. At least they aren’t caked in mud like poor Jeremy, who has no idea that two players who are not him have idols.

Probst sighting part deux! The first thing that happens is that Probst quizzes Jeremy on the difficulty of Exile Island. The firefighter plays up the difficulty of it in a similar way to what we mentioned about Natalie earlier. They both need to be careful not to play this card too emphatically. It’s dangerous on Survivor to point out that a couple of people owe you if you are around for the final vote.

The challenge today is clever. It’s the usual assembling of a puzzle using your hands and feet that we have seen several times before. The trick this time is that people cannot use their hands. It’s all feet. Poor Jon has giant football player feet. He struggles the entire time. He simply does not have the grace required to achieve this task. Big feet are a huge disadvantage.

The players who do the best are Reed, Baylor and Natalie. Reed looks like he is going to win. Unfortunately, he accidentally knocks down two puzzle pieces while trying to finish the last one. That opens the door for Baylor to get the win while her mother cheers her on loudly in the background. They may annoy the crap out of us, but Baylor will never tell a therapist that her mother never supported her.

It’s time to play It’s Anyone but a Boy. We presume that Reed is the likeliest target, but there is a solid reason to eliminate any of the dudes in the outnumbered alliance. Wes is a physical threat who has annoyed the women. Alec has been offensive more often than not. Keith has been condescending to Missy and Baylor, behavior we fully support since they totally deserve it. And Reed may be the smartest player remaining in that group. The more interesting targets would be Natalie and Jeremy, both of whom just traded comfort in order to curry favor with other members of the power alliance.

Reed isn’t going to get eliminated without a fight. He plays a hunch by shamelessly searching Keith’s bag. He acknowledges that he hates it when other people do this, but then he adds, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” He runs to tell Jaclyn and Missy, showing them a clue. Watching Missy try to process this information is like watching a cat try to catch a laser dot, only without the cuteness. Baylor at least understands that Keith is a bigger threat than they have appreciated thus far. For his part, Keith knows what has happened and is annoyed. “Different people got different values, I guess.”

The idol discussions are fascinating. Jaclyn worries about Jon being discovered. He notes that he burned his clues to avoid such a scenario. Our opinion of Jon’s gameplay exponentially increases. Meanwhile, Jeremy confides to Natalie that he is confident Jon has an idol. He also adds that he doesn’t trust anyone else in his alliance except for Natalie. He then approaches Jon with the clue, trying to get his younger opponent to confess that he possesses an idol. Jon refuses to play along.

Hilariously, Jeremy tries to guilt Jon into confessing by claiming that if they send someone back to Exile Island, They. Could. Die. Jeremy, there is a little thing called nuance you should research. Jon is annoyed by his ally, so he promptly heads over to Missy, tells her that he has an idol and asks to vote Jeremy out of the game over one of the next two votes. Missy immediately decides that she wants Jeremy AND Jon voted out, which in a backwards way reinforces Jeremy’s opinion that his “allies” are unreliable.

Tribal Council is a game of subterfuge as innuendo is including in most statements. Jaclyn complains that while Alec and Reed talk to them, Keith and Wes choose not to do so. She processes this information as one of the father/son tandem having an idol. We would be a lot more impressed if Reed hadn’t shown her a clue from Keith’s bag, but it’s still not bad detective work about human behavior.

Wes points out that Jaclyn hasn’t come to him to discuss strategy ever, noting that they share equal blame. Then he adds that Jon swore allegiance to him before voting out a mutual ally. Wes and Keith are a lot smarter than they get credit for being. Both of them have solid Survivor instincts, even if Wes did throw the game away last week due to his love of beer and tacos.

Jon grows defensive at this. Any perceived attack on Jaclyn switches his phaser from stun to kill. Several of the woman note that Keith doesn’t even speak to them. Keith notes to Baylor that he talks to her mother all the time. What goes without saying is that any time he has asked her to do anything, she has blown him off, which discourages further interactions.

The voting process is a huge shock. Moments after Natalie indicates that the only thing that needs to happen is for allies to stay strong, the vote is revealed. The first five votes are split between Keith and Reed, with the latter gentleman having three of them. Then, Jeremy gets a vote. And another vote. Jon cannot hide his smile. Another vote is revealed for Jeremy. Reed licks his lips in anticipation of potential chaos.

The next vote also is shown to be Jeremy. The fireman smiles, knowing that he has been blindsided. Sure enough, the final vote also goes to Jeremy, who is eliminated days after besting his primary opponent, Josh. The first two members of the jury are the two people who have played the hardest and the best thus far.

Natalie furiously asks, “What the ____, Missy?” CBS may edit out the word, but lip readers know the deal. In that moment, Natalie and Jeremy learn what they should have known by now. Missy and Baylor don’t give a damn about anyone but Missy and Baylor. There are now nine players remaining in Survivor, six of whom are part of duos. Natalie, Reed and Alec are outnumbered and their presumed allies are demonstrating no loyalty. At this point, it is difficult to envision any of them winning Survivor.

We rarely end these recaps with a strategic note, but if we were Natalie, Reed and Alec, the path would be clear. They should disregard previous allegiances and work together, picking one couple they believe that they can trust until the final five. And that duo should be Wes and Keith, the ones who have demonstrated loyalty to their allies so far. Jon and Jaclyn have gone back on their word multiple times in order to find their way through some tough situations. And Baylor and Missy cannot be trusted to vote as promised.

From a gameplay perspective, something fascinating has happened this season. All of the weak players who have historically been propped along to the end have learned a new tactic. If they eliminate all of the power players at the merge, they can manipulate the game such that all of the remaining players are weak. That may not be the best way to lead to a worthy Survivor champion. It is, the best way for useless people like Missy and Baylor to dramatically increase their odds of winning the game, though.