The last episode of Survivor sucked. We aren't just talking about episode quality, either. Our boy, Austin, that clever, athletic hunk of a man, was victimized by the horrific strategy of his ally, Terry. In hindsight, the only real mistake Austin made in the entire game was in choosing teammates. No, that was more luck of the draw than anything involving skill. He was pretty much stuck with La Mina. Maybe his mistake was in not flipping against the former La Mina members at first opportunity. Hmm, that can't be right. The power alliance would have had no reason to negotiate since they already had more than enough people to advance. Pretty much the only thing Austin could have done to go further in the game would have been to win more immunity challenges before the merge, and that wasn't exactly up to him. Austin's execution is a perfect example of the fact that a player can do everything right and still wind up going home early due to the incompetence of others. In such a scenario, "others" means "Terry".
Survivor: Panama - Exile Island Recap
Fight for Your Life Or Eat
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
April 21, 2006
At this point, we might hate Terry more than Shane. Up is down, day is night and black is white.
Day 22 must be a biggie at Gitanos. We know this because a heavy percussive instrumental drives the soundtrack as a monkey mama and her cub look on in confusion. We immediately understand her look of horror. Terry is talking about himself again. This time, it's fighter pilot stories. That's right. Terry's Number One fan, Terry, has decided to come out of the closet about his vocation. He gleefully recounts war stories while the others debate pretending like they care versus wholly ignoring him and walking off.
Not sure he has been a big enough jerk yet, Terry then begins to talk smack about how he is going to "take you to the bank the whole time". His intention is not subtle. He is letting Shane and Aras know that he fully expects to win all of the immunity challenges from now until the end of the game. Walk into the end zone like you have been there before, big guy.
As is normally the case with Terry, though, there is a flaw with this strategy. Even if he does wind up accomplishing such a feat, the final vote in order to obtain victory on Survivor is a popularity contest. Telling everyone else how much they suck and how bad he is going to beat them might work for Chad Johnson, but the NFL doesn't allow recently burned cornerbacks to immediately vote to determine his contract status. In short, this is a bush league play from Terry, the latest in a long line. To their credit, Shane and Aras handle it well enough. Both of them swear that if he does it, they will tip their cap. What they are really thinking is, "I can't wait to vote this schmuck off the island. Simon Cowell isn't this much of a prick."
The other interesting aspect of the opening segment is an exploration of Danielle's distrustful nature. Apparently, the main reason she never seriously considered switching allegiance in the prior episode was because she did not believe Terry had the immunity idol. This is the case despite the fact that he showed it to her. Danielle apparently decided that it could be any old idol lying around the campgrounds or perhaps even a troll doll Terry had brought to the game as his personal item. "You have to be careful in who you assume has it," she deduces. Call us crazy, Danielle, but it's probably the guy who told you he had it, showed it to you and told you where he found it.
The Reward Challenge is an annual favorite. The Survivors are shown a snippet of video messages from loved ones. The winning contestants get to eat a meal while watching the entirety of the video. The poignancy of the moment doesn't take long to capture. Terry's young daughter offers a tearful request for Daddy to come home soon. We almost regret how hard we have been on the guy. Almost. Bruce's wife of 28 years old shows off the gorgeous family dog. Courtney's mother, a dead ringer for Meryl Streep, is her polar opposite, a professional in a smart business suit.
Cirie also has a tearful moment as her husband proves to be a soft touch with some genuinely romantic words for her. Her spirits are immediately lifted as she is reminded why she is competing in this game. Aras' father shows off a teepee they have in the back yard for campfire discussions, a rather charming revelation about the quirky man's close familial relationship with papa. Sally's sister chooses this odd moment to reveal she has bought a new place. You gotta love a sister who figures out a way to steal the spotlight in front of a national viewing audience.
Danielle's family proves to be even thicker accented than she is, no small feat. The most powerful moment of the segment, though, is Shane's emotional collapse at the sight of his son. Say what you will about Shane, he has been upfront from day one about how important this boy is to him and when the video airs, this fact is readily apparent.
"We grew up together. You know, I was 21 when I had him. He is my other half. He is my brother. He is my best friend. He is my son. He is my life." - Shane, showing the nicest side of his personality.
The challenge is for two teams of four to reproduce the Sandy Duncan wire works scene from Peter Pan. One player is strapped to a flying harness while the other three try to swing that person toward various flags. Once they are retrieved, the flags must be planted in holes along the base of the construct. There are 15 flags to retrieve and in the process of capturing them, the previously planted flags may not be dislodged. If this occurs, the swinger must again grab that flag and re-plant it. So, speed is of the utmost importance but there is a need for caution as well.
Danielle is the designated swinger with her teammates being Aras, Cirie and Shane. Courtney is the swinger for the team also consisting of Bruce, Terry and Sally. The visuals on this challenge are hysterical, and it proves to be a tight race until the halfway point. After Danielle's team has planted its eighth flag, an accident occurs when Aras knocks over flag number one with his extra rope. They fall three flags behind and in the process of desperately trying to make up ground, Cirie knocks down another flag. The lead from that moment on is insurmountable. Bruce, Terry, Sally and Courtney win the prize of sandwiches, milk and the full video from their loved ones.
Aras gets further punished when he is chosen to go to Exile island. Terry makes the selection, indicating that he still does not understand Shane is the power player, not Aras. To Terry's caveman brain, the alpha male must be the strongest. Based on the powers of deduction demonstrated thus far, Terry won't be getting his own murder mystery show any time soon.
"Yo. The tape thing doesn't matter." - Shane, badly lying
What follows next is a "medical emergency". Shane asks the professional nurse, Cirie, to look at his injury. We'll let her describe it. "Shane has this funky thing going on with his...testicles, to put it nicely. Lucky me being the only nurse out here, he wanted me to take a look at them. Yay!" He proceeds to drop trou and show her the injury. After receiving medical advice that he has a chafing issue, Shane takes off his shirt and wears it as a skirt. In the interim, Cirie is forced to look at Little Shane more than any human being should ever have to do. Cirie could win the million dollars now and it wouldn't be worth the horrors she has faced in this game.
Cut to Exile Island. Aras makes fire, eats fruit and mumbles to the camera. Exile Island is the most boring thing we've seen since The English Patient.
Nothing else is shown from the video exhibitions, but the four winners do return with their personal items. The eclectic choices all aptly demonstrate the personalities of the individuals. Bruce brings a sketchbook and proceeds to draw a damn fine picture of the island's jungle trees. Sally has a journal she may use to internalize her thoughts from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. These two have the useful personal items. Courtney returns with her fire dancing gear. Nothing good can come from that, but Terry's is even sillier. He has a patriotic flag he promptly displays on top of the tent. George Carlin was on to something when he stated that symbols are for the symbol-minded.
Now we come to the part of the show where Terry swears he has a strategy. He promises to make sure that he and Sally sway other members into joining the former La Mina group. Not coincidentally, this was the last thing he told Austin and Nick in the previous two episodes. Sally, we miss you already.
Probst sighting! Today's immunity challenge is for the nervous only. Survivors are given the option of competing in the race or staying on the beach. The latter choice includes eating as many cheeseburgers as the player may devour before the contest's conclusion. Everyone in the Casaya alliance except for Aras chooses the buffet. Terry grins a Cheshire grin, while Aras looks on in disgust at his tribe-mates as they sit down to gorge. Sally has made the same connection we have, so she too chooses to compete. Like us, she has lost faith in Terry's ability to sway people to their team.
The challenge itself is simple. The contestants swim underwater, study a row of eight objects, then return to the beach. There, they attempt to recreate the row in a puzzle box. Terry is the first one to swim out and return to shore, prompting Courtney to express her displeasure with the turn of events. Don't worry, Ms. Firedancer, it's not as if you could have competed in the event, thereby creating further competition for Terry. Oh, wait.
To Aras' credit, he is right on Terry's heels, and actually assembles his puzzle quicker. Unfortunately for him, he does it incorrectly, thereby forcing a return to the ocean for a second glance. While he does so, Terry completes the challenge, winning immunity for the third straight time. Several members of the Casaya Cheeseburger Core express displeasure at this event, partially because they didn't want Terry to win and partially because it means an abrupt end to their meal. If Terry does run the table to the final, they should all look back to this moment as the grotesque miscalculation that cost them dearly. Ceding immunity to a strong competitor is always a mistake.
It's time to play It's Anyone But Sally. We're sure this will end completely differently from It's Anyone But Nick and It's Anyone But Austin. Hey, it could happen. We cut over to Terry, who is currently pulling out his hidden immunity idol. He mumbles something along the lines of "must protect the Precioooous" before showing it to Bruce. The hope is that he can talk Bruce into switching (third time is a charm, right Terry?) while Sally talks to Danielle and Courtney about that possibility. We know that she is going through the motions, but we would think less of her if she didn't at least try it.
"I would like to align with Terry because I reaaaaally want to go up against him in the final two." - Courtney, finally saying something smart
"This is our fire, our life, our journey together. We're so blessed." - Courtney, returning back to her normal insane self while fire-dancing
Tribal Council arrives with little by way of possibility that someone other than Sally will be going home. Jeff Probst immediately focuses upon the perceived arrogance of the group's decision to eat cheeseburgers rather than compete in an immunity challenge. He quizzes Aras on the frustration of being entirely abandoned by his comrades, first on Exile Island and then in the immunity challenge. Aras concurs, acknowledging that he is more driven than his teammates due to the fact that his neck is on the chopping block.
Shane takes the opportunity to offer a few compliments to his opponent, Terry, stating that he is "a 47-year-old beast". Not one to accept praise with anything resembling grace, Terry opines upon his situation. "But regardless, I'm going to continue winning immunities whether they like it or not, and my target isn't going to get any bigger." We'll let Danielle speak for us here. "He always talks about how he's so competitive and he's so great at everything. It's all about Terry, Terry, Terry." Probst busts her for it since she was cocky enough to sit out the challenge. He pointedly asks her if her problem with Terry is that she can't beat him and it frustrates her. She quickly answers yes, perhaps the first real acknowledgement that there is a developing sense of foreboding among the tribe-mates that the fighter pilot might just run the table.
The vote is of course a formality. Aras gets two votes, but the rest of them go to Sally. She at least offers us a laugh when she reveals her vote, saying that she is sick of all six of them. You and America, Sally. Had you gotten lucky and been on that tribe while Courtney or Danielle had been on yours, you would have a solid chance at winning a million dollars. Unfortunately, you will have to settle for our respect and a spot on the jury as the eighth place finisher this season.
Have we mentioned that this is all Terry's fault? Well, it is.