Survivor Vanuatu: Episode Four
Now That's a Reward
By David Mumpower
October 8, 2004

With Brady's departure, Kim no longer has any reason to care about the show.

With Kim’s beloved St. Louis Cardinals playing at 8 p.m. on a competing network, CBS will be disappointed to know that they should not count on her Nielsen vote this week. Instead, this will be a solo outing for me and with the Cardinals looking like a juggernaut, this might be a trend for the month of October.

Quick quiz, class. How does Survivor always start after an immunity challenge? That’s right! They always show various remaining contestants bickering over the surprise (?) results of the evening. Today is no exception, with the happy benefit being that there are two such discussions available.

We start with night seven at Yasur (and the usual subtle visual metaphor of an exploding volcano). In a real shocker, Eliza is bitching about something. The fact that she has causality for a change doesn’t stop me from disliking her any less. Little Miss Breast Implant 2004 offers this striking sentence, “I’m sorry I ever apologized.” This verbal paradox is so extreme that I fear it could rip a hole in the space/time continuum.

Eliza’s point of contention is comically hypocritical. Eliza, who just last week went back on her professed voting behavior, is out of sorts over Lisa’s voting for someone other than who she had promised to vote against. How dare she do exactly what Eliza had done three days ago?! That’s so passé! And it won’t even qualify as retro until the next time Eliza does it.

Lisa handles the situation deftly. She tears into Chesty McBoobs in her defense of the vote. “You know what, the honest truth? I didn’t trust you, so there you go. Really, it all comes down to you, Eliza. It all comes down to you.” Hippy Chick Scout has a 1960s flashback at this moment (her environment somehow got polluted, whatever the hell that means), preventing things from escalating. I get the feeling that Scout played a lot of bongos and read a lot of poetry during her day. The only relevant part of this entire flare-up is that Lisa looks into the camera and says that an older women’s alliance is more her style. Assuming no interference from Team Burnett, that means she is going to win the battle and the war with Eliza in quick fashion.

The men’s conversation the following morning is significantly more understated. Rory, not realizing how close he came to receiving the Stonewall Jackson treatment, expresses a lack of concern. The three votes he received do not bother him due to his airtight verbal contract with the other members of the Ugmo Alliance. Sure, Rory, whatever helps you sleep at night.

Meanwhile, the remaining pretty boys, Brady and John, wince at the thought of the numbers game they face. There are five unattractive people left and the rules of the game stubbornly preclude the best-looking contestants from voting multiple times. Both men face the reality that a loss at the immunity challenge would guarantee one of them going home. Survivor is always hardest on the prom kings.

Sensing that there isn’t much going on this week, we skip straight to the immunity challenge. The prize is 24 hours of quality time with an island native named Da. While he’s no Dolly the Sheep Farmer, Da is notable for being experienced with hunting the land and building livable foundations. The idea behind this indentured servitude is for one of the tribes to advance their quality of life dramatically while under the influence of Lord Da.

The game is Memory and the women state confidence. They feel that they can uncover jungle items and match them much better than the men-folk. The Yasurs back up their smack talk with a dominant effort, winning 4-1. The men’s strategy of voting off anyone competent continues to cost them at challenges. Da looks notably excited to hang out for the day as the only man in a tribe of eight women. You can clearly see visions of Baby Da’s dancing in his eyes.

As we return from commercial, I wince at the missed opportunity of marketing synergy. That Volkswagen commercial with the Da Da Da song would have been perfect for this commercial break.

Da is Vanuatu’s answer to the Green Berets. The moment he arrives at Camp Yasur, he finds various edible plants the women can cook. Da further endears himself into their hearts through the discovery of sugar cane. After a couple of minutes of this impressive display of survival skills, it’s reasonable to expect Da to discover the Microwave Oven Plant and the Burrito Tree.

“Bubba getting tired of plantain.” The redneck is the first one to snap, referring to himself in the third person (and butchering the Queen’s English). He bemoans the fact that they are not winning any challenges, making the food selection limited. Gee, if only that scenario had been avoidable. He then starts crying into the camera about his homesickness and inability to find a good meal. The moral of the story? Bubba is a terrible self-imposed nickname.

With the men suffering, there is but one choice for the editing crew. That’s right, back to Superhuman Da! After finding enough food for the Yasur tribe, the production crew and the entire cast of Lost, Da moves on to the living conditions. He somehow manages to turn a group of bamboo poles into a Sealy Posturepedic mattress with 600 thread count sheets.

Twila describes Da’s successes as only she can. “The man took bamboo and kept chopping and chopping and chopping. Then, he split it open and flattened it out and all of those (sic) humpity bumpity bumps we had in that bed? They’re gone.” I wish Twila were moderating tomorrow’s Presidential Debate. There’s an outside chance she would slap one of the candidates if she didn’t like his answers.

Scout offers a Peace, Dope, Love message of some sort about cross-cultural communications, positive feelings, and emotional healing. I will bet all the money in my pockets vs. all the money in your pockets that Scout has seen a lot of Grateful Dead concerts in her day.

When the 24 hours ends and Da sails away, the women sing him off with I Am Blessed. The only comment needed from any of them is “That was a great reward, huh?” Burnett needs to figure out a way to get Da the million dollars. Don’t laugh; he did it for Rupert.

Rory commits another party foul. He steals the tribe’s fishing spear, rankling Brady. The federal agent sees himself as the fish-bringer of the tribe, as he caught a couple of guppies earlier in the day. When Rory hogs the spear but does no fishing, Brady is quick to complain to Sarge. His argument is an eloquent one.

Brady: “Who do you think is going to consider Rory a threat?”

Sarge: “Nobody.”

Brady: “Exactly! So, who’s going to vote against Rory? Nobody. He’s not going to have anybody to vote against him, so who do you think is going to be there in the end?”

This conversation drills the core flaw with the starting gameplay of most Survivors. They are so quick to eliminate any physical threats that they create their own headaches. Seemingly innocent players are allowed to survive the harsh early stages. The resulting difficulties are twofold. The first obvious one is that they are much less likely to win immunity challenges. The other is that the people who have never really done anything have not irked opposing players the way that decision makers (i.e. instigators) have. All the people who are doing nothing now are the ones who will be a factor at endgame. It must be incredibly frustrating to Brady that he has such a strong grasp on the intricacies of the game yet no ability to transcend his situation. He strikes me as one of the brightest players in recent memory but his fate is already sealed.

The second Probst sighting for the immunity challenges brings a borderline impossible event for the men. They must solve a puzzle by working together. Judging from the way they have done eliminations thus far, warning sirens are going off. Sure enough, it takes about 20 seconds of footage for captain Rory to lose any semblance of control. The other dudes begin to bark at each other in largely random fashion. The effect is that of cavemen trying to crack a safe. The men’s refusal to cooperate dramatically contrasts with the women, led by Captain Eliza (!), and all of whom blend seamlessly. The spirit of Da carries them to easy victory. You know, the Lopevi tribe blends together about as well as prints and plaids.

It’s time to play Which One of the “Pretty Boys Goes Home?”. Before that take on The Lottery begins, a dose of humor is injected into the proceedings. Several of the men sit around and bitch about the fact that they quietly waited on instructions from Rory during the challenge. Rory doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at these assertions.

The gameplay element involves John and Bubba discussing who controls the tribe. John is the perfect sycophant, saying that Mr. Redneck is in control. The redhead redneck quickly shakes his head and says, “No. It’s Sarge.” At this point, some clever editing cuts to Chris, who pretends that this is the case with Rory. A clash between the alpha-male ugmos is clearly in the offing at some point around the merge. But not today.

No, today’s tribal council is a chance to remove yet another asset from the Lopevi side. This time, it’s Brady, a man whose only crimes appear to be intelligence and athleticism. I look forward to next week’s episode when the men are again clocked in the challenges and bitterly complain about it. Cause and effect are not concepts these blokes seem to grasp.