At the start of the season, we made the bold prediction that the strongest players would be the first to go. Our rationale was that the core flaw with the game of Survivor is its structure. The strongest players are considered the ultimate threats, so they are targeted quickly and mercilessly. In the case of the All-Stars edition of the show, that meant at first the prior winners and later on the physical and mental threats (note that we don’t mean mental like Jenna Lewis but instead cerebral). To our frustration and chagrin, the season has played out exactly as prophesied with clever players like Rob Cesternino and Lex van den Berghe getting axed as soon as possible. What does this leave us with? Let’s go through the checklist:
Episode Thirteen: A Chapera Surprise
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
April 30, 2004
Shii Ann Huang: a desperate, lonely girl with delusions of grandeur and the type of military strategy last seen as Napoleon shouted, “We’ll get them at Waterloo!” She is an awful player who had her one shining moment at the immunity challenge last week but has never gotten reasonable odds in Vegas at winning this season.
Jenna Lewis: Last seen working the afternoon shift at the Pussyfoot Club out by the airport, she is exactly what you would think she is…an attractive woman eaten alive by her own neurotic insecurities to the point that she struggles to function as an adult. The most chilling moment of the season was witnessing her criticize her daughters during their “Hi, Mom!” videotape. It’s too late for the elder Lewis, but here’s hoping the girls get their fair share of therapy before this virus spreads to another generation. Jenna has roughly the same chance of winning this season of Survivor as Anna Nicole Smith does. They also have the same taste in Sugar Daddies.
Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life according to Dean Wormer, but Big Tom Buchanan is trying to prove him wrong. For the second time, Tom finds himself poised to be an impact player at endgame. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how sad that is. The irony here is that Tom has been harboring a grudge since he was eliminated last time because he failed to outlast a woman. Since the son of the soil doesn’t have much use for lady folk who don’t know their place, it’s not going to be pretty when he looks up and realizes Rob is more into Amber than he is into spending another afternoon putting singles in Jenna’s g-string.
The X-factor at this point is our beloved Rupert Boneham, whose fishing is the only real proof he’s currently a contestant on the show. Each week, there are roughly two minutes spent reminding the audience that he’s still the adorable pirate who won our hearts last fall. It must be driving the producers crazy how much of a non-factor he’s been this season, but they keep trying to enhance his presence down the stretch. We half expect an immunity challenge involving the stealing of shoes with phase two being the bartering of them for a fishing pole. The question, then, is whether Rupert can overcome his mediocre performance to date and upset the order. If he doesn’t, we’re stuck with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the final.
What can we say about Rob and Amber? Well, at least Rob deserves to win.
Anyhoo, this episode starts off pretty much where the last one did. Shii Ann is still as popular as Eli Manning and Jenna is still the human equivalent of a wind chime – lots of useless noise. But hey, at least the weather’s nice for a change.
As Shii Ann refers to Jenna as a bitch, we take a moment to contemplate what a cat fight between them would look like. In this corner stands the 120 lb. flyweight Jenna, aka Big Bad Momma. Her fighting technique is the Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope, where she prattles on about nothing until her opponent grows so demoralized that submission is the only escape. Standing in the other corner is the 116 lb. Shii Ann, aka Chopped Liver. Her fighting technique is to get pummeled repeatedly, then claim victory because her opponent broke a fingernail during the match. Xander and Harmony would make for a better prize fight than these two gimps.
The “dramatic event” that divides the tribe is Rupert’s eating of a fish that he had caught and cleaned himself. In case you’re ever wondering when exactly the madness sets in, it’s apparently on Day 31. Jenna proceeds to whine incessantly to Rupert about the way his actions might upset the delicate balance between their own alliance and the one they have with Rob and Amber. Jenna, who obviously has never won at anything in her life, has somehow grown convinced that if Rupert fails to play the monkey butler to the show’s golden couple, they’ll never be able to make it to the final four. For his part, Rupert just wants Jenna to SHUT THE HELL UP!
Innately sensing America’s dispassion with the whole cast, Burnett quickly cuts to the reward challenge, where he introduces relatives of the cast, who won’t be nearly as dislikable. Five minutes are spent on hugs, as Amber’s mom, Rob’s (low-key) brother, Shii Ann’s adorable mother, Big Tom’s chip off the fat, dumb, white trash block, Jenna’s much quieter brother and Rupert’s wife arrive on the scene. An awkward moment occurs as Rupie and Mrs. Rupie try to put on a show for the other Survivors in an exchange of saliva so intense even Pavlov would be impressed.
How does Mark Burnett treat guests? He makes them eat various insects, stinky fish and larvae. The moral of the story? If he invites you to an Oscar party, just say no. The first one eliminated is Amber’s mom, which is notable because of Amber’s quip: “This way you don’t have to eat anything else!” If you’ve got five in six odds of losing, we believe this is good advice. As the other contestants are whittled down, Jenna’s brother manages to get disqualified while demonstrating the playground behavior we’ve come to expect from the Lewis family. Midway through a tarantula (Probst, you magnificent bastard!), he takes a gulp of water, which is in clear violation of the stated rules. When notified of his disqualification, he eloquently states, “Nuh-uh!”
The final sees Tom’s kid Bucky Bo (you can’t make this stuff up) more willing to choke down a live grub than Rob’s brother. As two generations of former General Lee supporters do the Achy Breaky, Probst offers the surprise announcement that they get to bring another Survivor/family member to enjoy dinner and some beer at the old Chapera camp. Tom repays Rupert’s previous slight by also selecting Rob as his number one best buddy. Is it really a reward to be trapped in close quarters with Big Tom and Little Big Tom, even if pizza and liquor are involved?
The next five minutes involve a display of generation gap, as Tom watches three kids (whose combined age might not equal his own) drink a lot and play on the swing together. No that’s not a euphemism. How does Tom sum up this once-in-a-lifetime experience? “I wish it had been his mother or my neighbor’s sister,” he says. Note to Big Tom’s neighbor: MOVE!
He goes on to say, “I could have took ol’ Rupert, but I couldn’t gonna stand to see him. I never seen a man slobber over a woman like he did his wife. They was slobbers hangin’ down his beard. (sic)” While we’re not quite sure what a slobber is, we completely agree with this line of thinking. I mean, c’mon, Rupert! She’s not even your neighbor’s sister!
There is a later moment of awkwardness when Bucky Bo (doesn’t that sound like a SpongeBob SquarePants character?) commits an egregious faux pas by breaking off the tip of one of the two fishing spears. Robfather summarizes what the world is thinking: “Bo was a bigger dumbass than his dad. I mean, Big Tom’s pretty dumb, but Bo is just…he’s out there, too.”
You’ve Got Tree Mail!
Today’s immunity challenge is a repeat of an old standard involving fire and water. The goal is to light the Olympic torch. In order to do so, the contestant must first start a small brush fire, then fill the bucket on the other side of the see-saw with water. The resulting Mousetrap effect lights the torch. To the chagrin of all the challengers, it’s a windy day and they only get three matches apiece. A war of attrition ensues as clubhouse leader Rob gains a big lead only to see his fire peter out (bummer, Amber). The closest to victory, he is the first out of matches, and thereby eliminated.
The other Survivors suffer similar fates until we are left with only Tom and Shii Ann. There is a distinct mood of “Oh God, not again!” as Shii Ann threatens to win, but at the last second, she remembers to suck, freeing up Big Tom to wear the necklace. His disturbing victory comment as he puts on the gaudy beads is, “Reminds me of my first trip to the city.” We apologize for all of the disturbing mental images that comment conjures. What happens at Mardi Gras is supposed to stay at Mardi Gras, big guy.
It’s theoretically time to play It’s Anyone But Shii Ann, but come on. We all know it’s Shii Ann. It’s amazing to us that arguably the least popular Survivor ever has made it this far, but the clock has struck midnight for the last remaining Cinderella. At Tribal Council, an amusing moment occurs as the Neck Eater pegs Jenna as the instigator in the Fishgate fiasco. She (accurately) points out that Jenna is an anal busybody and control freak who forces others to follow her strict dietary guidelines. The most priceless aspect of this segment is that Jenna actually has the gall to be shocked by the discussion. The world truly was made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.
Shii Ann then goes into one of those strange denial speeches that sometimes overcome such losers, and boldly professes that her vote is going to send a message of some sort. The rest of the Survivors look at their watches as if to say, “Hey, can we just move this thing along? And can we vote for Shii Ann twice?”