When last we left Survivor, the show started at 8 p.m. EDT instead of 9 o’clock. Ah, the good ol’ days.
Survivor Palau Episode Eleven
I’ll Show You How Threatening I Am
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 29, 2005
The past week has seen the show inundated with pointed criticisms about the way Janu was talked into quitting. Some people have been living under the naïve assumption that the show isn’t artificially manufactured for mass consumption just like the moon landing and the Boston Red Sox World Series victory in 2004. Folks, if you think there isn’t a puppet master pulling the strings, explain how Rupert has a million bucks in his bank account right now.
Stephenie’s monologue explaining her latest tribal council triumph includes the shocking revelation that Janu was kept around “just because she’s easy.” This is one of those unfortunate misquotes that paints an entirely different picture than was intended, but it makes us really want to take in a Vegas show.
We make it almost a full minute into the show before the lies begin. Tom goes out of his way to assure Stephenie that the vote would have gone *exactly* the same way had Janu not quit. The president was more believable in his press conference, for God’s sake. To her credit, Steph receives this news about the same way the press corps does. “Anything you say, boss.”
Tom then takes things even further over the top by giving Stephenie his immunity necklace, saying that she deserves it. This is the political equivalent of when Russian and American heads of state used to exchange exotic gifts as an ostensible sign of friendship. Meanwhile, they were secretly twiddling their fingers Monty Burns style as they figured out which of the slave girls they would favor after overthrowing their enemy nation. Effectively, Tom betrayed an alliance and sold his tribemate down the river, and all Steph got for the hours and hours of tribal council heartbreak was a lousy necklace.
A telling conversation ensues between Stephenie and Katie. Our would-be Nancy Drew is determined to get to the bottom of her betrayal the night before. Alas, asking Katie is not the way to go to mine information about the tribe. Katie has noticed that there appears to be some sort of game going on around her, but she can’t be bothered to figure out the details. Upon being reminded of the fact that she had an alliance with Steph, a dim light bulb goes on over her head. She blithely states that it appears that agreement is no longer in place, but doesn’t exactly know why or what changed about it. Katie’s sure that there was probably some sort of discussion somewhere down the line, but when it occurred, she was not willing to stop thinking about herself long enough to note the details. Appropriately, Steph is waving a knife around during the whole conversation and if she did choose to draw first blood at this moment, no court in the world could blame her.
We reiterate that the core flaw with the current rules of Survivor is that useless people such as Katie are dragged along, guaranteeing lousy television at the end. A game where the strong are encouraged to survive and compete against other quality competitors should not be difficult to produce. Why, then, are we facing yet another Lill situation with both Caryn and Katie? Probst can only talk so many contestants into the suicide route each season, and we expect Janu was the only one for this year. Dull as she might be, Katie seems to at least have a core understanding of the value of a million dollars.
Finally realizing that repeatedly beating her head against the wall by engaging Katie in conversation was flawed strategy, Steph has a chat with Tom. The power players of the game thus far openly discuss what has happened during their tenure on the island. He states that he does not see their agreement as an alliance but rather an offer to protect one another when possible. The fireman feels he has held true to this promise. Giving a girl a pearl necklace is not as mutually beneficial as he seems to think. Steph realizes at this moment that Tom has (correctly) deduced that his position is plenty precarious enough. So, he can’t afford to be aligning himself with another power player.
Punctuating this theory, Tom takes an unexpected opportunity to plead his case to the entire tribe. He notes that no strong player has ever won Survivor (*cough* Ethan *cough*), so he requests that the other members of the party not punish him for prior successes. As he accurately points out, none of them would be in this position were it not for his strength in immunity challenges. It’s a bold strategy that is equal parts proactive and desperate.
Amusingly enough, Katie is the one who paints him as a would-be hanger-on. She notes that he was quick to point out that the game has become one for individuals, so what happened before is irrelevant. All that matters now is that Katie’s favorite Survivor, Katie, goes as far as humanly possible so that Katie can be able to buy all the nice things she deserves as a reward. After all, Katie has done absolutely nothing on the island for an entire month now. That’s a ton of time Katie could have spent doing absolutely nothing in the friendly confines of her own home. Katie should receive significant financial recompense for this discomfort. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss think that Katie is too much of an egomaniac.
With the game afoot, Stephenie creates a new scheme to advance her goals. With four women and three men remaining, a Y chromosome alliance would ensure a final quartet where she would be the strongest player. Katie readily agrees to any strategy that would drag her sorry ass further along sans any requirement of anything smacking of effort. The key is to swing Jenn to the offer. This is a tricky proposition for two reasons. First, Jenn would have to betray her alliance with Gregg, that hunky boy she is thinking about asking to the Sadie Hawkins dance. The non-sexual downside is that Jenn already knows she can’t beat Steph in a fair fight. Is she better off eliminating all of the men and isolating herself against Steph in the round of three, a spot where she would be an underdog? Or would she be better served positioning herself in the same role against Gregg? If he beat her, Jenn would still have a decent shot of making Gregg feel fuzzy enough to pick her to go to the final with him anyway. That would mean a solid chance at making Amber money. Decisions, decisions.
The one option upon which all three women emphatically agree is who their first victim would be: Tom.
It’s Probst time! Tonight’s reward challenge is one of those auction things they’ve done a few times in the past. Each contestant is given 500 American dollars to either spend or keep in their own pockets. There is one slight difference this time around in that almost everything is covered Monty Hall style. The Survivors are forced to decide whether what’s behind Door Number Three is worth the expenditure. Jenn is the first guinea pig, bidding $120 for what turns out to be a delicious-looking caramel sundae. Her initial success causes Caryn and Steph to aggressively bid a joint total of $260 to win the next prize. At this point, Monty Probst offers them the option to trade in for an even bigger tray. After putting both to the smell test, they select the new one, revealing that they get a cheeseburger combo rather than simple cheese and crackers. Much celebration ensues.
Next, Ian recklessly bids $300 (with $20 from Gregg for a bite) to win a tray. Probst again offers a trade-in, but Ian sticks with the original. It’s a good thing, too, because the new item was a big jar of Ron Mexico sized-crabs. The tray contains spaghetti with parmesan cheese. Ian follows that win up by quickly grabbing a bottle of beer when it’s offered for $40.
The final auction is a letter from home for each of the Survivors. The bidding goes all the way up to $220, with Tom taking home the prize. He opens it to reveal an adorable tracing of a child’s hand that is enough to melt the heart. Probst opens it up so that all contestants can buy their care packets for the same price, and everyone except Ian and Jenn quickly agree. Ian can’t afford it, of course, and Jenn must not be particularly homesick. These segments are always among the most entertaining of the season, and this one had the added humor of Jeff telling Ian how much he stinks. Literally. He's saying that the dolphin trainer is rank.
Wounded by the inference, Ian returns from the reward challenge boldly determined to embrace a path of cleanliness. The dolphin trainer utilizes some amazing new product called “shampoo” that is purported to remove grit from hair, leaving it smelling lemony fresh. Always willing to try new things, Ian slathers it up and puts it in the rat’s nest that is on top of his melon. Seriously, this guy is going to need a de-lousing the moment he gets eliminated from competition. We saw a dozen different types of larvae on his scalp. While still in experimental phase, Ian asks Gregg to “wash his back”. What unfolds is this season’s answer to the prior Bath of the Bi-Curious Nymphs, though we guess these are technically fauns. We feel no need to further play up the homoerotic nature of the encounter other than to use Ian’s own words. “It was kind of a Grecian bath. I’m comfortable with my sexuality. It’s not a big deal.” Coby missed his true alliance by roughly six days.
There is very little time between the two challenges this week. After Ian alienates the red states and Tom and Caryn talk strategy, we skip straight to the immunity challenge. The concept is not unlike Toss Across meets Horseshoes. Survivors loft giant melons into the air. The idea is to hit their own squares and break the tiles. Five such successful attempts will win immunity. The trick is that a bad toss could break the tile of a competitor, scoring a point for them. At first, Ian is the only Survivor who has any success in aiming at his own targets. The other contestants all rack up points for one another while he quickly converts four opportunities. This places him only one successful toss from victory while all of the others are in the two/three range save Steph, who has finally found an immunity challenge that she can’t handle. Ian misses his first attempt to end the contest, but before he can come up again, Tom accidentally helps him out by breaking that fifth tile. For the first time since the merge (or extermination of Koror if you prefer), Tom does not have immunity. Instead, Ian will be wearing the necklace for the next three days.
Back from the challenge, it’s time to play It’s Anyone But Steph. Yes, we realize that Tom has been painted as the most likely victim of assassination. We’re not buying it, though. Last tribal council’s tearful events should have only crystallized the thought that allowing Steph to survive any longer than is absolutely requisite is terrible strategy. The producers waste no time in trying to swerve the audience. Katie immediately goes to Caryn and indicates it’s time to throw Tom under the bus. Caryn takes this opportunity to tell Tom, a strategy that is so poor in nature that he expresses confusion at it. “You’re telling me this why?” Yes, Caryn, exactly why are you telling the strongest player that he is potentially about to be voted off? Her stuttered reply is best summarized as “Uhh…well, I said I would.” As far as rationales go, this one is, well, lacking.
While Katie, Caryn and Ian bungle the process of lining up votes, Gregg and Jenn continue to demonstrate they are in complete control. Gregg calmly monologues that Steph has to go because “There has already been too much of the Stephenie Show.” Statements like this are why all our off-shore betting money is placed on Gregg.
Tribal council is a stark contrast to last week’s intense affair. Token discussion is given about issues such as Tom’s strength, Steph’s good fortune in surviving a dozen tribal councils and Caryn and Katie’s vain attempts at fitting in. The unmistakable air to the proceedings is that this vote is a foregone conclusion. That feeling is confirmed moments later as Steph is quickly voted off the island. All it took was four votes, some garlic, a wooden stake, a silver bullet, and copious amounts of holy water. Steph’s absence will be felt during the show’s final month as she is unquestionably the breakout star of this season.