Survivor: Palau Episode Four
Sumo at Sea
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
March 11, 2005

Oops. Our mistake. Kim has already mastered looking pretty in a swimsuit.

When last we left Survivor, Kim had been determined to be a lazy, no-good busybody. But her fella Jeff was voted off anyway. Had he not twisted his ankle, there is no doubt who the ridiculously named Bobby Jon (this guy must be the lost cousin from the Dukes of Hazzard) wanted gone. We expect bitterness and lots of it as the latest episode begins.

Night eight at Ulong finds Bobby Jon working the fire while Stephenie and Angie bemoan their fate. With the rest of the tribe vanishing faster than frisky teens at Jason’s campground, the mood is best described as bleak. “I can’t believe the other tribe hasn’t lost anybody,” says our favorite Suicide Girl. Gee, Angie, for that to happen, you would have to win an immunity challenge.

Meanwhile, Kim is feeling miserable and alone. Her snuggle buddy isn’t there to console her, either. He was like voted out and stuff, and now she is totally missing him. When he was there, she was all “Losing sucks!” and he was all “You know it.” Now, she’s like “Losing sucks!” and there’s nobody there to point out she loses so much because she’s a loser. That girl needs to find another friend with benefits pronto!

Ironic comment of the night:

James: “Koror is using strategy at the challenges.”
Kim: “Yeah, because they’re a weak-assed team.”

That same Kim is a member of the Ulong team who has lost every immunity challenge thus far to Koror. Kim’s in luck. The world is made for those who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.

White trash icon James is not through venting about the team’s problems. In fact, he’s feeling more than a little bit militant about the situation. “We’re not going to Tribal Council, you understand me? I’m going to kick anybody’s ass who lags.” James would be discouraged to hear that Kim said the first sentence last week, and we all know how well that turned out. As for the second sentence, James must not realize he’s 130 pounds dripping wet. Others would feel more threatened if it was Stephenie offering said statement of portent.

PS: 85 pounds of that is his nose. If there is ever a Roxanne sequel, casting directors need look no further.

Bobby Jon sits quietly as the others rant. He has entered stage four, acceptance. As the waiter monologues, his comments focus upon the team lacking anything resembling teamwork. We disagree with this gallows mentality. After all, it was the group’s (and particularly Angela’s) willingness to sacrifice for the team which caused them to win the most recent reward challenge. Ulong’s problem has been carrying such momentum over to the more important immunity challenges. Plus, they have Kim on their team. Who would have thought on first impression that tattooed Angela would be a team leader and Kim a bust?

Day nine begins with a rat sighting. No, Richard Hatch hasn’t returned. He’s not allowed to leave the country until he pays his taxes anyway. Instead, it’s our first sighting this week of team Koror. Since they aren’t doing anything interesting, all they offer is a basic reading of unexpected treemail. It’s like giving your nephew a job in the mail room. You figure they will be innocuous and unable to mess up anything important. It’s the producers’ way of saying that this group is deadly dull. The mail itself backs this up. It’s a request to select a “representative” from the tribe to meet with a counterpart from the other tribe. Read: we’re bored with the lack of conflict here, so we’re ready to stir stuff up.

The treemail achieves this goal. It also uncovers the growing divide between the perceived haves and have nots of Koror. When the list is compiled of potential emissaries, Ian nominates his counterpart Gregg. Tom steps up and suggests Ian, the avowed leader of the group. Meanwhile, Coby and Janu react by volunteering for duty. As Coby rants in an aside, he repeatedly requested the opportunity to represent the group in negotiations only to be completely ignored. Gee, Coby, go figure why you aren’t winning such popularity contests. Coby does offer an informative comment (a first for him!). He states that Katie, Jenni, Greg, Ian and Tom are the majority alliance in the tribe while Caryn, Janu, Willard and himself are the outnumbered minority alliance. He doesn’t even act as if those four are that tight, simply forced together by circumstance. Since there has been no vote thus far for Koror, this is the most telling evaluation of the tribe’s divide thus far. Of course, it’s coming from Coby, so there is every chance in the world he’s wrong.

At Ulong, the news is greeted in equally cool fashion. Everyone knows by now that sending a representative means that you might be sending an ally away and they might never return. The recognition of this puts everyone’s shields up to maximum. James immediately nominates Stephenie. Presumably, this is a showing of confidence in her abilities, but she takes it a different way. She can’t say “HELL NO!” fast enough. Instead, she advises that the group draw straws to determine their representative. This idea is about as popular as a meeting of the communist party held at the New York Stock Exchange. Refusing to accept defeat, Stephenie then decides to turn the group’s concern to a mutual advantage. She targets Kim for selection in hopes that they will be trading away their weakest link to the other tribe. Surprisingly, nobody likes this idea either. Eventually, they decide not to pick anyone until they know what’s at stake.

Enter Jeff Probst sailing in on a Home Depot-sponsored boat. We know this because it says so at approximately 18 different places on the side of it. The ever-so-subtle corporate tie-in here is that the Survivors are asked to build something for a Reward Challenge. The decision for representation that had everyone so paranoid turned out to have been for nothing more than to determine who would select six tools to use for the build (and permanent usage thereafter). Ian, who grew up on a farm and has construction experience, is serendipitously the choice for Koror. When Probst gets to Ulong, he is stunned to discover that they have yet to determine their representative. The genuinely annoyed host explains what is going on in general terms, causing Bobby Jon to quickly announce James as their nominee. The redneck steps up and declares that while he had no intention of running, since he’s elected, he will proudly serve. Nobody ever believes politicians who say that, James.

The good news for the group is that James happens to be a professional builder. The challenge is right up his alley. The competition is to use the chosen tools in order to build a functional bathroom. The tribe that performs this task to the satisfaction of the judges will be given one of the best rewards in the show’s history. The people who construct the challenges will come to their beachhead and build the most hospitable shelter yet devised. In short, the winner will be the envy of the trailer park for the rest of the season.

Koror’s attempt at Monster House is a surlier experience than expected. Again, the cracks show between the popular kids and the A/V nerds. Willard politely states that he is uncomfortable with the way Tom and Ian are always complimentary of their tribemates. He isn’t bitchy about it, but we find the complaint odd. It proves that Survivor is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t game. Last year, Queen Ami got annihilated for her haughty behavior once she had power. Now, Ian and Willard are getting targeted because they are too humble and thoughtful in their positions of power. The most absurd criticism comes from Caryn, who has another one of her flipouts while describing Tom’s respect within the tribe. Apparently, others have the audacity to ask for his opinion because they think he knows what he is talking about, and that pisses Caryn off to no end. She even throws in a feminist streak to the rant in order to show that he is somehow mistreating the fairer sex in the way that he lets them ask him for assistance. No, it doesn’t make any sense to us either. In the immortal words of Aaron Sorkin, Caryn is just a nutty nut girl who is nuts.

Ulong’s attempt is going less smoothly. Stephenie resents the fact that James “can be very fatherly” at times. Angie is annoyed that James asks, “Oh, do you need some help with that nail?” The strangest aspect of Survivor this year is that people seem to resent it when they aren’t thrown to the wolves. You never hear Tom Brady complaining that his defense was too good or that Bill Belichick was too smart, forcing the team to win a Super Bowl.

Kim, apparently concerned that she isn’t being given enough face time, takes yet another opportunity to prove herself unworthy of being cast this season. She states that both minutes of physical exertion have drained her. Kim needs a break, as she can’t keep up such a hectic pace indefinitely. You know, she is such a weakling that we are starting to regret that Crazy Singing Lady was eliminated in the first 15 minutes instead of her. What she is doing here is the Survivor equivalent of suicide. We haven’t seen such a lack of desire in a contestant since Osten. Kim just wants to get her Playboy spread shot and get out of there.

“It sucks to be on a team so completely gung ho, ‘I’ll work until I die and bleed to death’ type of people. You want the honest truth? I think that I’m the smart one sitting in the center with a bunch of people running around with their heads chopped off.” -- Kim

“If Ulong loses immunity tonight, Kim is a goner.” –- Kim and David

Jeff Probst shows up with someone from the staff named Jesse, and the two set out to compare the latrines. A warning of “Watch Yo Step” greets them at Koror. Tom proudly declares all the efforts involved in setting up the commode and shower. Jesse seems genuinely impressed by their achievement. The only enemy the group seems to have at this point is overconfidence. All of them seem convinced they are going to win in a landslide. Ulong, on the other hand, isn’t even completely finished when Jesse arrives. Their commode seat does have a clever inscription: “For a good time, call Jeff Probst.” Julie from last season is way ahead of you guys. The Ulong output is respectable, but Jesse does not smile any during the presentation. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, Koror is rewarded with a boatload of construction crew types. The rich get richer. I wonder if this makes Caryn that much more resentful of Tom’s prowess as a renaissance man.

Posted without comment: “I don’t brush my teeth here, because I’m a redneck.” -- James

The Survivor set design crew performs as advertised. They design living quarters that would make Robinson Crusoe green with envy. As a going away present, they also leave a couple of bottles of champagne to be enjoyed by the contestants. Suffice it to say that tipsy Caryn is even more annoying than stone cold sober Caryn.

After dark, James blithely states, “I guess we lost.” Gee, James, maybe if you had brushed your damn teeth once in the past ten days…

Probst sighting! It’s time for the bi-weekly Ulong ass whomping. This week’s challenge is grrrrrreat! As hinted at by the episode’s title, it’s sumo warfare at sea. Two contestants at a time are put on a small floating octagon. Using handle-gripped padded bags, the players attempt to knock their opponents off the platform into the water. Strategy is involved at the start as men must duel against men and women against women. This factors into Koror’s decision as to which of their three (!) players must sit out the competition. Whether they like it or not, two men must be selected along with a woman. That puts team captain Ian as well as Willard and Katie on the bench.

The first face-off is a rematch of last week’s clash of the titans. Bobby Jon overwhelmed Tom in the water challenge, but history does not repeat itself in the octagon. Tom counteracts his opponent’s advantage in strength by using the perfect strategy. First, he starts low to avoid the initial burst of energy from Bobby Jon. After the rope-a-dope strategy has worn down Bobby Jon, Tom switches to an offensive position, attacking the now vulnerable younger man. Seconds later, Tom pushes Bobby Jon off the pad. Punctuating the physicality of the battle, Tom celebrates his victory by wiping off his own blood from his forehead. These two are quietly having the best mano a mano duels since Rupert and Burton.

Round two is a huge step down after the prior classic confrontation. Jenn faces off against Stephenie, with the result a foregone conclusion to anyone who has watched Steph thus far. She easily manhandles her overwhelmed opponent in a matter of seconds. The next match-up pits alpha male Gregg against his much more understated counterpart, Ibrehem, who is apparently still on the show despite having zero face time the last two weeks. Gregg follows his teammate Tom’s tactic of staying low while Ibrehem is much more upright. This proves to be the difference as Gregg swipes from below, knocking the pad out of Ibrehem’s hands and thereby eliminating him from the competition. The fourth competition is another catfight with Angie squaring off against Caryn. You do the math on this one. It’s a gritty, determined fighter with heart against a whiner who has done little thus far to help her team. And, sure enough, Angie wins in a blowout. The score is 2-2 after the first quartet of heats.

Rounds five and six dramatically alter the landscape, though. James faces off against the much larger Coby. He tries to go around his opponent, but in such tight quarters, this is a dramatic miscalculation. All it does is make it easier for Coby to quickly steamroll him right off the platform. And round six is even worse as the heartless Kim faces off against Vegas showgirl Janu. While Kim has a size advantage, her utter lack of effort sees her splashed into the water in short order. Kim walks right into her opponent, turns her back and all but walks the plank herself. Kim didn’t realize there would be actual surviving required on Survivor. She’s just there to look pretty in a bathing suit and get a quick 15 minutes of semi-fame (and a suntan).

Stephenie and Angie exchange a priceless look after the tide turns. Easily the two most dominant women there, they are stuck with the weaker men and the utterly useless Kim. If the duo were allowed to form a third tribe of their own, they would have a better chance of succeeding in challenges than they currently experience while stuck with the scrubs. To their credit, they bust their asses doing the work. Both women deserve a better fate.

The rematch of Bobby Jon vs. Tom again exemplifies quality competition. Having learned from his prior miscalculation, Bobby Jon starts from a lower position, almost completely down on all fours. Tom braces for another initial onslaught which at first appears likely to succeed. At this point, however, the tide unexpectedly turns and Tom finds himself back in the middle of the ring but with better position and leverage than his opponent. Soon after, he dunks his younger counterpart into the ocean for the second straight time. Koror is only one win away from victory. But it ain’t over yet.

Stephenie finds her opponent, Jenn, reinvigorated by the ability to win the immunity idol for her team. Jenn wages a much more successful attack using upper body strength and positioning. Steph looks confused for a moment, especially after she knocks down her opponent only to have the woman jump right back up into her face. Steph repeats the process but Jenn pops back up again. When Jenn hits the deck for a third time, Steph develops a mean streak. She leverages her pad to flip Jenn end over end, knocking the woman into a precarious (and yes, dangerous) position as Jenn awkwardly leaves the platform and splashes down. Ulong is only down 5-3 now and would be likely to make it back to 5-5 with Angie on deck. All they need is a win from Ibrehem. And boy, does he ever deliver.

The forgotten man of Ulong takes this opportunity to unleash a savage haymaker on his opponent, Gregg. In less than a second, their match is over. Punctuating his macho performance, Ibrehem slams his pad to the ground and shouts, “Get your ass up off here.” It’s so dramatically out of character for him so far that CBS close captions it to make sure everyone knows what has been said. The two tribes are, as Frankie Goes to Hollywood once predicted, going to war. And if Angie knocks Caryn off the dais, the score will be tied going into the final match. Needless to say, that is what happens. While we have largely given her a pass thus far, the reality is that Caryn’s performances in the challenges (and otherwise) have been on par with Kim’s. After getting her butt kicked twice today, her position is precarious should Ulong win one more challenge.

As Angie exits the platform, her adrenaline rush has her spouting gibberish. It’s something along the lines of, “We’re not going back to immunity. Err, Tribal Council!” Then, after she returns to shore, she continues with “Let them see how it feels!” Make that girl give a urine sample. Rage like that is generally accompanied by The Clear.

With the score 5-5, Ulong has made a near impossible comeback. They are now only a win away from their first immunity challenge victory. The tribes have readily apparent reactions to this. Koror doesn’t seem too concerned if they do finally have to go. Meanwhile, Ulong’s emotional high has them on tilt. If James can overcome the size mismatch against the larger Coby, victory is theirs. But it’s not to be. The men duel for an extended period of time with several close calls from each man. James secures his footing better than last time, and he goes down a couple of times rather than risk getting knocked off. In the end, James and Coby are both precariously positioned by the edge of the platform. At this point, the feisty Coby (who demonstrates a ton of fight in this challenge) drops his shoulder and bumps James off the octagon. It is such an obvious cheat that even after James has splashed into the water, Gregg looks over at Probst to see if the elimination might be disallowed. When Probst declares them the winner, celebration ensues. This is one of the hardest fought challenges in the history of the show, and it’s clear that the two tribes have an innate dislike of one another. In point of fact, it’s hard to imagine any of them aligning with the enemy after the merge. The mood appears that foul.

So, do we even need to bother playing It’s Anyone But Kim?

Ladies and gentlemen, we now present the red states voter: “I feel terrible getting my butt whupped by a homosexual. But a lot of gay folks are strong, man. They all working out at the gym and all. Dayam.” Yeah, there are few men as sculpted as Coby, James. Underneath all that body fat is a six pack the likes of which we are likely to never see. And we really mean that. James plans to get back at Coby by voting against gay marriage in each of the next 17 elections. That’ll learn him.

For their parts, Angie and Stephenie are at wit’s end over the losses. Steph, who we like and respect, annoys us by playing the blame game. “I’m so sick of losing that I don’t know what to do. I’ve never lost this bad in my entire life. Like, I’m about to flip out.” Then, later, she offers, “When we got back from the challenge, I was so mad and upset and embarrassed and just pissed, because James lost it for all of us.” Then, there is “I’m freakin’ embarrassed. I’m mortified.” Finally, she offers, “Thank God for the women, because the guys….they’re getting their butts handed to them.” Sore losing isn’t sexy, Steph. And all the women aren’t worth thanking God about. There is still Kim, after all.

Here are words we didn’t expect to ever type. Angie is the voice of reason. “Well, at least we know that we’re doing our part. We didn’t fall off.” Seriously, the Stephangie tribe would kick all kinds of ass.

Five minutes of attempted swerve take place as CBS swears to us that someone other than Kim could be eliminated. We buy it about as much as we believe there will be peace announced in the Middle East in the next 24 hours that will last hundreds of years. Seriously, don’t insult your audience’s intelligence, Burnett.

“I saved your seats for you from last time.” Jeff Probst is not above kicking somebody when they’re down.

It’s our opinion that there are times when the producers of the show grow so annoyed with the effort of a contestant that they instruct Probst to target said player during Tribal Council. Kim is not only the latest example of this but also the most glaring. It’s obvious that the people involved with the show are embarrassed by not just her lack of effort but also her unapologetic behavior about it. Due to this, Probst is in full-on attack mode during Tribal Council.

Probst: “Tonight, we’re gonna talk about accountability. It is time to get to the bottom of what is wrong with this tribe starting with camp life. Kim, is there one person who goes fishing. Two people? Does everybody do it?”
Kim: “We all go out but it seems that Bobby Jon and James take the sling the most.”
Probst: “When is the last time you went fishing?”
Kim: “We all go out together, we don’t go into the water and fish.”
Probst: “So, what are you doing?”
Kim: “We sit on the boat.”
Probst: “Well, how useful is that?”

The honest evaluation here is that Jeff Probst saw the flagging spirits of the rest of the tribe and tried to boost their morale. The way he chose to do it was to go after the person who had been an albatross to the rest of them. Kim caught a bad break this year in that Survivor generally has lazy people who don’t help their group. Her problem was that she wasn’t cast with someone like Caryn. It would have allowed the two of them to form a slacker’s alliance where they bitched together about everyone else. Since each one was isolated and Kim’s only ally was eliminated the prior week, there was no way to survive such an embarrassing lack of effort. Say what you will about Lillian (and God knows we did), at least she tried during the challenges.

Kim is voted off 5-1. Maybe the recently one-legged Jeff would have kicked more butt than Kim. He couldn’t have possibly done worse.