Survivor: Island of the Idols
Episode 6: Suck It Up Buttercup
By Jim Van Nest
October 30, 2019
Hello good people and welcome back to the BOP Survivor recap for the 39th season of the CBS reality giant. Fresh off the news that Survivor has once again become the highest rated show on CBS this season - David and Kim are celebrating with a much needed vacation! That means you're stuck with me this week.
So, last week saw the inevitable tribe swap and while the purple tribe was even-Steven, the orange tribe had a 5-3 split. Considering that orange is a cursed color in Survivor and is always destined to be decimated, there was no doubt that they would lose the immunity challenge and that either Dean, Tom or Karishma would be the first sacrifice. The smart money was on Karishma, so of course, that's not what happened. Inexplicably, they jettisoned Tom. The ONLY thing I can assume is that they plan to lose 3 challenges in a row leading up to the merge to get rid of Dean and the Karishma and take an unbeatable 9-4 advantage into the second half of this game. It really made no sense to take out Tom. He is easily the most predictable player in the game and if you can surround yourself with people that you know what they'll do, you're in a better place. But, we certainly seem to be on the path where Karishma ends up a zero vote finalist taking the place of someone who's much better at the game.
It should also be noted that we got no Island of the Idols last week as we had a swap and a reward challenge. I think that's the smart play. There's simply no time for both. Personally, I say scrap the reward challenges unless something important happens and focus on the Island of the Idols. I haven't been super impressed with the lessons on IoI or the tests - but more Rob and Sandra screen time makes the episode better.
Previews for tonight's episode seem to spotlight the purple tribe, but trust me on this, unless they throw the challenge, orange is going to Tribal tonight and Dean will likely go home. Unless he can manage to find the newly hidden orange idol that Chelsea took to Ponderosa with her. Enough from me, let's get to the action.
We start at new Lairo the morning after the vote. Noura breaks down the numbers and how it's so simple to just wipe out the rest of the old Lairo. But Noura is Noura and naturally, she wants to completely destroy that and get rid of either Jamal or Jack. I mean, that ALWAYS works, right? Yeah, notsomuch. And to further strengthen that opinion, Dean goes right to Jamal to tell him all about her plan and now Jamal wants to get rid of Noura. Yep, works like gangbusters.
Over at new Vokai, Jason's trying to get the perfect alignment of his buff on his head and Elizabeth is freaking out over a tarantula. Meanwhile, Elaine and Tommy (like the audience) just sit around shaking their heads at the rest of this nonsense. Elaine breaks down the numbers on this tribe, where we're looking at a 4-4 split down the middle. Elaine and the rest of Vokai are ready to draw rocks. Elizabeth, Missy and Aaron refuse to draw rocks. Uh oh, Elaine. Shit's getting ready to get real for you. Hopefully something will happen to shake things up or Elaine could be in trouble.
Wait, what? A Probst sighting? Oooh today is the Stephen Fishbach Memorial slingshot challenge. There's an obstacle course and knots and keys and stuff, but it will all come down to which team can knock down 3 targets with a slingshot first. Winner gets chickens. Whoa - it's also the Annual Sia challenge. Talk about multi-tasking. Vokai has to choose someone to sit out. They choose Elaine. But she will not be sitting on the sit out bench; she'll be going to the Island of the Idols. And I just asked for something to help her out. Woo hoo!
The challenge plays out exactly how you would expect it to with the tribes sticking together til the target portion. This features a 1 on 1 between Jack for Lairo and Aaron for Vokai. Jack draws first blood but Aaron catches right up. And as you would expect, Aaron wins, Jack loses, purple wins and orange needs to be effing retired. But, to their credit, neither of them hit one of the other team's targets, so there's that. Also, along with retiring the orange buffs, they need to retire the phrase "beast mode" from the English language. Like, seriously. As the tribes head back to camp, Dan tells about his concerns over Elaine going to IoI and what it could mean in a 4-4 tribe.
We come back from break to check in on Island of the Idols. We get a quick glimpse into how Rob and Sandra are living on the island. Quite well, it would seem. Rob is spending all his time building a 3 level shelter, complete with homemade ladders and personal spaces. Elaine, the self-described "busted can of biscuits" is quite excited about her trip to IoI and is even more excited to see Rob and Sandra. They bring her into the snug and her lesson is about making quick decisions. So, they start a timer and as Rob tries to explain about making split second decisions and before he can finish, she accepts the task. With no info about anything. Um...what exactly is the lesson here? I don't get it. I like the concept of IoI and the coaches, but these "lessons" don't seem to well thought out. But, what do I know. Rob and Sandra have $4mil that says they're better than me (and yes, I credited Rob with Amber's money).
The task Elaine just agreed to is to grab the Block a Vote advantage that will be stashed at the immunity challenge. If she gets it, she gets to block a vote. If she does not, she loses her vote. And in a 4-4 situation, no one can afford to lose a vote. Which tells me; no matter if she has to announce it to everyone, she HAS to get that advantage. I should also mention that the Block a Vote advantage might be one of the absolute worst advantages ever given out. It only has use in one specific circumstance - in a tribe that has an even vote split on the horizon. What???
Back at the losing Lairo camp, it was only a reward, so spirits are still high. Jamal is showing off some dance moves to Kellee and the tribe. Apparently, one of his subjects is African dance, so he's teaching Kellee some authentic African tribal dances. It's actually a pretty cool segment watching some folks be exposed to culture they may not otherwise get to see. However, the fun and games is short-lived as a little bit later, while cooking, Jack suggests that Jamal use his buff to grab the handle of the pot, but he doesn't call it a buff (for some weird reason) he calls it a "durag." Speaking of learning things, right now, I just learned that the term "durag" is a racially charged term that can offend black men. Obviously, your mileage may vary as everyone has their own threshold for offense, but for Jamal, the comment is like a smack in the face and he is not happy.
While I don't know what's in Jack's heart, obviously, I don't think he meant anything by it. Hell, I haven't even heard the term used in a decade, so who knew it would cause offense? At any rate, what comes next is really a beautiful segment, the likes of which isn't seen on any scripted show. Rather than have a blow out, the educator in Jamal decides to inform Jack of how and why that's inappropriate. He doesn't just blow up about being offended, but he uses this moment as a chance to educate Jack into why that term pulled such a response out of him. Jack, to his credit, is very open to listening. He doesn't try to excuse what he said; he just sits back and listens to Jamal's explanation. In his confessional, he's clearly upset at what he did and very apologetic about it. And he expresses that to Jamal. In turn, this really touches Jamal. He tells us in confessional that he's not used to having someone sincerely apologize to him like that. He says he'll remember it for the rest of his life.
At the end of the day, this will have no impact on the game. These two were already an alliance. They're still an alliance. They're better friends now, but impact on the game - this won't have any. But, it was an amazing sequence that showed in a very real situation how 2 people can come from 2 different places in life and turn a potential toxic situation into a really genuine and beautiful moment. Kudos to Survivor producers for taking a few minutes out of the game play and just letting this moment play out in its entirety.
From the seriousness of the Jamal and Jack conversation, we come back from break to Dan and Jason not being sure which is a chicken and which is a rooster. Also, we FINALLY get an on-air discussion about Island of the Idols between 2 people who've been there. Elizabeth approaches Elaine and asks her who she met over there. Once they confirm that they both met Rob and Sandra, Elaine spills the beans about her advantage. Elizabeth, who was totally ready to flip to Vokai a moment earlier, is now 100% back on board with Elaine. She says she'll help cover for her during the challenge. And speaking of the challenge:
Probst sighting!! Today's immunity challenge will have the tribes carrying a large cage through an obstacle course. They'll have to stop at a couple points and untie a couple bags of balls. At the first of these bags, Elaine will have to grab her advantage. Once they get all 5 balls, they'll have to shoot the balls from inside the cage into 5 targets quite a good distance away. As with all challenges in this new wave of Survivor season, this one will come down to the basket shooting. But first - Elaine DOES grab the advantage and as she tucks it into the back of her shorts, it drops to the ground. For a really long second, it doesn't look like she notices, but she does and she secures the advantage and we move on.
Once both sides are shooting, it is Aaron and Tommy shooting for Vokai. For Lairo, it's Dean and Jamal shooting. Vokai gets out to a 4-2 lead as Aaron goes in and out like 3-4 shots in a row, Jamal and then Dean get hot and for only the 2nd time this season - Lairo wins immunity!! As we head to break, Elaine is so stoked about having the Block a Vote. She's all about saving the day. Little does she know that Aaron and Missy have pretty well flipped. Sounds like this is a "pride goeth before the fall" confessional.
That being said, we're back from break and I'll declare it time to play, "It's Anyone But Elaine." The tribe decides to have a chicken dinner prior to Tribal and Jason compares this chicken's place to Elaine's in the tribe. Time for Elaine to make her pitch to Aaron and Missy. To her credit, Missy is on board immediately, she is ready to go back to Lairo and take control of new Vokai. Aaron also is on board...to Elaine and Elizabeth. To us, he's not sure if this is what he wants to do or not. He has a new bond with Tommy and isn't sure if he wants to stick with his old tribe or make the move. Aaron continues to play the game with Vokai. He doesn't tell them about the Block a Vote, but he really throws his lot in with them.
The original Vokai all get together and lock in their votes for Elaine. The next montage of scenes is very well edited. We hear Elizabeth make the case for Lauren to go. Dan is searching everyone's bags and Missy says he'd be perfect to get rid of. Elaine thinks Tommy is a real threat to win the game, so he should go. But Jason is very strategic and could be real dangerous as the game continues. Aaron, however, lets us know that even though Elaine thinks she's in control, he's really in control. And honestly, he's right. Whichever side he votes on will win. He just has to decide which side works best for him.
As the commercials play, I'll say it. If Aaron flips, he's making a huge mistake. Why go from a top spot in an alliance with your ride or die, Missy to being #5 in the new Vokai alliance? That makes absolutely no sense to me. If he flips, he should absolutely be the next target of the original Vokais as they won't need him anymore. Let's see if Aaron is an actual player or just a poser in a nice Survivor costume.
All the talk at Tribal is about the 4-4 split and the potential of a rock draw. Tommy lays out why it makes no sense for the Vokai 4 to flip. Jason adds to this by saying that his group is more prepared to draw rocks than the Lairo. As they finish the rock discussion, Elaine pulls out her advantage and reads it out loud to the group. When she says "block a vote" all of the air leaves the lungs of the Vokais. She decides to block Jason's vote and the reality of the situation starts to set in with the Vokais. This being said, we still don't know what Aaron's going to do. And now, as is tradition in new Survivor, people start getting up and whispering. We don't really know what anyone is saying. Before we get to the vote, Jeff starts gauging and asking about the emotions of the former Vokai. Lauren is crying and Dan and Tommy are just totally down. And ya know, screw all of them. Literally 3 minutes ago, they were all smiles and kittens about drawing rocks because they were so clearly on top. And now, I'm supposed to feel bad for Lauren cause the tables got turned on her? Yeah, I don't think so. Aaron HAS to stick with Lairo, he just has to. These people don't deserve to all survive this after the display we just saw.
As Jeff tallies the votes, Aaron tells Tommy they're good, while refusing to fist bump Jason. Uh oh!! Jeff reads the votes; the first 3 are for Elaine. Then Jason, Jason, Jason. One vote left - what did Aaron do? Sixth person voted out of Survivor: Island of the Idols - Jason. BOOM! Aaron and Missy just look like stone-cold killers on their stumps right now. And just like that, the most useless advantage given out on this show turned out to be show up at just the right time, to just the right person and was played masterfully. I'll let you decide if that was organic or producer-aided. I'll just sit here and bask in the glow of Elaine staying in the game for at least three more days.
Hey kids - thanks for letting me hang out with you this week. David and Kim will be back next week and I guarantee they won't have a better episode to recap. Sorry, kids! Til next time, everyone, take care!