Episode Nine: Mad Scramble and Broken Hearts
By Reagen Sulewski
David and Kim are busy attending a Hellboy screening (lucky bastards) so in the interest of keeping you addicts fed, I'll be filling in for them this week with the Survivor recap. When last we left the show two weeks ago, Lex had just decided it best to be a big fish in a little pond and evicted Ethan for the crime of having once won this game, leaving him in tactical charge of his tribe but putting Mogo Mogo at a severe physical disadvantage and a pretty hefty imbalance in the tribes.
We open on a bit of a visual pun as Tom and Rupert saw down a tree while the rest of Chapera saws logs in bed. After rudely interrupting Boston Rob's beauty sleep, both of the self-described "worker bees" head out to fish with the usual complaining of those who get suckered into doing the work on Survivor, with Tom even complaining that he isn't allowed to work enough. Boldly daring Ahab to find him, Tom wrests the spear from Rupert and goes out fishing, catching a Nemo sized meal. Over the years of Survivor, it's been pretty much proven that just about anyone can catch fish if they're given a spear, so I continue to find it amusing how much of a power play the "food provider" angle becomes every time.
Over in Mogo Mogo, Jerri expresses shock that life in a rain forest gets rather wet. The whole camp seems to be feeling the effects of losing all the time and with the tribe makeup the way it is, this could threaten to become a streak. Tree Mail comes with a rather vague and unrevealing message, perhaps promising poison, pizza, or poisoned pizza. It also comes with a can of green paint for Mogo Mogo and a can of red paint for Chapera. The current attitudes of the tribes are perfectly represented here, as Mogo Mogo, still reeling, acts paranoid about its intended purpose and regards it as if they were just handed a jar of cat pee, holding it at arm's length. Chapera, on the other hand, heads back to Kindergarten class and start to finger-paint on each other, leading to far too long of a close-up on Tom's chest. I suppose this is what passes for male eye candy on the show now. With total numbers down to ten, both tribes expect a merge, but as we've learned on Survivor in the past, Mark Burnett is an evil slave master and will change the rules just for spite.
As both the tribes arrive at the "challenge," Chapera comes in stridefully, all decked out in their war paint. Mogo Mogo appears gingerly out from behind some trees, their dismal numbers looking like they're expecting a beachfront assault at any moment. Jeff questions the two tribes about their motivations for using/not using the paint, which Chapera claims in their case was to bolster team spirit. Kathy weakly offers that Mogo Mogo was just saving theirs up, presumably for arts & crafts night.
He has the two tribes line up in a preferential order and then commands them to pick a member from the other tribe to have a "private conversation" with. Lex is up first and picks his alpha male equivalent from Chapera, Boston Rob. Tom is next and goes the horndog route, picking Jerri. Shii Ann starts a new strategy of sucking up to the strongest guy around by picking Rupert, which means that Alicia is left with Kathy. Amber and Jenna were stuck on the end of Chapera's list and hug in a very satisfying manner. All six groups head off to their corner of the beach for crackers, cheese and really uneventful conversation.
Everyone gets to talk strategy but all of it is regarding what the castaways feel is an imminent merge, leaving most of it moot with what is about to happen. Probst calls them all back and tells them to drop their buffs. Instantly we find out that it's another switch, as Lex pulls a red buff out of the jar that Jeff offers him. Yet again, the castaways have fallen victim to the crime of assuming too much. Boston Rob and Tom grab the green of Mogo Mogo, while Jerri and Shii Ann get red. Rupert and Kathy alternate green and red, with Alicia taking green. If you're following closely, this means that at this point, everyone so far has picked exactly the opposite tribe that they were in before. The fix is in. The 1919 White Sox were more subtle about this.
The last drama is to whether they will leave the tribe numbers as before or whether they will even them up. Jenna draws green, sticking with her old Chapera, now Mogo Mogo tribemates (and thanks for making this ever so confusing, Burnett) and kicking Amber over to the new Chapera, separating her from her old tribe members and also her island honey, Boston Rob. As the new Chapera celebrates their good fortune, getting the better campsite and all the pilfered goods from last week, Amber prepares to renounce being a Capulet in protest. A quick scratchpad calculation pegs this order of drawing at 243:1 against, or roughly the chance that Rob will be able to get some the rest of the show. In true Survivor fashion, this switch has managed to change everything while changing almost nothing at all. A final tearful hug among the former ladies of Chapera (she's just across the bay, people) and they head back to their new camps.
Amber reveals her total lack of strategy when we find out that she was simply hoping to pull the same buff as
her husb, er, Boston Rob, opining that she "got screwed." Rob probably feels the same way, but in reverse. New Chapera remarks about the jungle gym nature of the camp, then settle down to a provided brunch, complete with wine. Really, this must be the most well-fed bunch of Survivors in the history of the show -- we're 20 days in and no one's starving yet. Not that watching people skeletonize before our eyes is my idea of great TV, but aren't we supposed to be making it a little hard on them?
New Mogo Mogo complains about the dump they find themselves in and start to mope, Rob in particular. As they eat their provided brunch (careful: those grapes might be sour), Alicia offers up the weak comment that at least the other tribe will be impressed with what they've done with that camp and that they'll realize they suck. They've just stolen your girlfriend and you're taking solace in the fact that at least she was hot.
Cut to: way too extreme close-up of Jerri brushing her teeth. In a pale mockery of other bathing scenes in past years, Shii Ann and Kathy head to the water to wash up. Sadly neither of these can compete with the Heidi/Jenna coupling of past years and all we get is a lathered up Kathy who looks like Sparky the Fire Safety Bug. Over in Mogo Mogo, Rob is holding a pity party for himself and everyone's invited. Deftly hiding his behavior behind concern for Amber (they're likely to kill and eat her, see), he does his best to keep tribe spirits low. This game is rough and turns on a dime. Get over it people.
The next morning's Tree Mail reveals the Immunity Challenge in a much more straightforward manner; as befitting an All-Star show, the usual trivia challenge will be about all seven previous editions of Survivor. Both tribes immediately start boning up on their history, with Jerri taking the opportunity to slander Kel once again over the beef jerky. So much for changing your image. Rob reveals that his sole strategy for the rest of the game is to take Amber "all the way." I'm not sure if that means in the game or something else. In actual fact, it sounds as if he's willing to throw a challenge to make sure Amber isn't eliminated. Random hookups have made this show so much more exciting.
The first question is about Sarah's triumphant arrival in the Marquesas, and her brief reign as the flotation device of choice for that year. Both tribes score. Second question is about the tres awkward drive-in movie for Brandon and Frank in Africa. Again both tribes get it right. The next question is devious in its simplicity, asking what country Survivor: Africa took place in. Lex remembers he was in Kenya while Tom is down on his geography, mistaking the capital Nairobi for the country. Chapera up 3-2. Mogo Mogo ties it up by being more specific on the subject of the first ever food challenge (and giving us a flashback to "bug eating hero" Stacey). Sean's alphabet strategy from season one makes a return as he is the subject of the next question. Both teams again get it right.
Mike Skupin's and Paschal English's infamous exits from the game are the topic of the next two questions, with no deadlock broken in the scores. One of the funniest moments of Survivor history gets brought up with Robb's attempted throttle of Clay in a challenge. Suddenly it hits me what this challenge really is; it's a sneaky way of getting us to watch a clip show. Damn you, Burnett! The score is now 7-7. Survivor's sexiest (and least intelligible) mortician is remembered with the next question as we are treated with a nice view of a topless Darrah washing herself -- sadly from behind. It's all Janet Jackson's fault. Lex makes sure he's going to spend some time in the doghouse when he gets home by wolf whistling at her memory. 8-8 tie.
The next question commemorates Osten's attempt to drown in the Pearl Islands last season, which is about as easy a question you could get for Rupert. However, both tribes get it right. The earlier mention of Kel and the beef jerky comes into play next and both teams are now tied at ten, leading to a tiebreaker. The lightning round is to name all the biggest losers of each season. Mogo Mogo gets all seven with Chapera missing just Nicole from Pearl Islands (Rupert's the MVP of this round again) and wins immunity. Chapera formerly Mogo Mogo's losing streak continues.
In a slight breach of etiquette, Rob makes Lex an offer he can't refuse to "take care of her, and I'll take care of you." And people say chivalry is dead. Now, hoping Amber will stick around is one thing, but if he was really thinking straight, he'd ask her to be voted off and then quit himself, giving himself more time for island nooky. Or perhaps that's just wishful thinking. Probst looks slightly peeved at this turn and asks Lex to move it along lest the process become more tainted. Quite frankly, if I was a member of Rob's tribe, I'd be pissed, as he's basically thrown away his alliance to them in favor of the other tribe for the sake of Amber. The real Godfather cut Fay loose, Rob.
It's getting mighty dusty in the air for Rob as the rest of Mogo Mogo takes this "fallen comrade" thing just a wee bit too seriously (again, just across the bay -- if this was Porky's we'd just arrange a camp counselor's night exchange) and do everything except pour a 40 over her grave. Rob then reveals he's either painted or carved an A on his arm for good luck -- what is he, a 15-year-old girl? No one seems to realize that if Amber does stick around, they've just been screwed by Rob.
Amber is the obvious first choice to vote out, but to her credit makes an excellent case as to why she should stay, although she makes it to Kathy, when Lex is the only one that holds any power here. Lex recognizes the trump card that has been simply handed to him by Rob and immediately makes plans to get rid of Jerri. She in turn makes the salient point that Rob is not inherently the kind of guy that can be held to his word, but the blubbering pile of goo that we've seen on the other side makes me lean toward the idea that he's now owned by Lex. The lesson as always: women ruin everything.
When it comes to the vote, the idea of controlling a member of the other side was simply too much to resist and Jerri gets the boot. Jeff Probst seems to get just a little too much enjoyment out of extinguishing her torch.
While I'm sure that they had been hoping for a more dramatic shakeup of things with their tribe switch, Survivor managed to make things change very substantially for the end game by just a subtle shift and managed to put a focus on every alliance in the game and test its strength. It should be an interesting run to the finish.