Survivor Vanuatu: Episode Twelve
Surprise! ...And... Surprise Again!
By David Mumpower
December 2, 2004
Last time on Survivor, a man was voted off the island. No, this was not a repeat. It only felt that way.
With only Chris remaining, odds seem good that something is going to happen by next week at the latest. At some point, the women are going to have to turn on each other. Wake me when that happens.
You know what bugs me the most? Six of the final seven competitors are women, yet not one of them is named Dolly the Sheep Farmer. Burnett, are you seriously telling me you could not rig this so that the pretty girl with the built-in G.L.O.W. pro-wrestling gimmick could get this far, yet Scout and Eliza survive? Don't expect a Christmas card this year, buddy.
The most annoying aspect of any of this, though, is not the lacksadaisical pacing of the season thus far. It's not the blah nature of the remaining contestants, either. No, what has irked me the most is that this dull show could not be bothered to behave as in previous seasons by moving the show from Thursday to Wednesday for holidays. Nope, it had to remain on Thanksgiving. Why? Because the tryptophan would not be narcoleptic enough on its own, I guess. Classy, CBS.
Tonight's episode starts with Chris feeling like the lone hot dog on a table full of tacos. With the elimination of Chad, he has become the proverbial last man on the island (Probst excluded). If he can't get a date now, it's time to get incarcerated in a Turkish prison.
The person who is in the most precarious emotional state is not him, though. Eliza had convinced herself that her tribemates would choose to focus on trivial stuff such as, you know, disloyalty and personality and all that junk. She is relieved to discover that her anti-Miss Congeniality positioning did not get her axed, but she has definitely read the writing on the walls. It says, "I hate that vapid brat, Eliza."
Sensing division in the ranks. Chris makes his move. He sells out Twila and Scout to the other women. His plan is not to gain an alliance, nor does he even have a specific goal for saving himself. Instead, his sole purpose is to instigate. He figures the best case scenario is that the ladies turn on one another. Worst case is that Chris gets to take the offensive during his last three days rather than play out the string as the helpless lamb waiting to be led out to slaughter. All kidding aside, Chris. You did not make a great first impression on me, but I was wrong about you. I dig the way you have competed this season.
Today's reward challenge is that rare competition that offers value to all the players. The survivors are given a minute of Internet communication with their various loved ones. My rambling thoughts from this segment are as follows:
First, Ami could do better than the desperately-in-need-of-rhinoplasty Crissy. That girl's schnozz is a close proximity solar eclipse.
Next, I am amused to discover hardass Twila falls to pieces at the sight of her son. She reminds me of Edna on Everwood. Big Bad Mama has a soft spot.
Julie appears to be the only straight chick on the island. Her boyfriend Justin's appearance must be bittersweet to Sarge. It's heartbreaking that she is spoken for, but at least he picked a woman he had a chance with.
Eliza's mother tells the other contestants to be nice to her. More amusingly, the girl seems to think the others might bow to the awesome power of Soccer Mom. God help her, Eliza is in so far over her head with this bunch of jackals. Some of them don't even do everything their mommies say!
Scout's girlfriend Annie is the shocker of the group. Aparently, the women's relationship has evolved so far that they no longer need to use words to communicate. To support this assertion, I will transcribe their encounter:
Annie: Ayyyyeeeehhhiiiiiihuuuuuuuneeeeeeee. Oooohaaaaahluuuuuuuuvuuuuuusooomuuuuuuuuch.
For those of you who don't speak hippy, I will translate:
Annie: It appears that the nature of our relationship eliminates our ability to live in eleven red states. Why is Ralph Reed so threatened by strong, independent women?
Scout: You of all people realize that communal relationships are predicated upon interaction involving a male/female dynamic. Those of us who demonstrate the free will to pursue happiness independent of societal norms scare the insecure who lack real faith.
Annie: Word. When you get home, I will make peach cobbler.
Scout: I think I would enjoy that.
Annie: Now quit being such a stoned-out hippy. Get out there, shrivel their flesh, and crush their souls.
The other unexpectedly revelation is that He Man Woman Hater Chris has a fiancee. Do you think he writes her sonnets involving her beauty? Cause I would pay good money to win an eBay auction for those papers.
The challenge itself is one of those "How much has the starvation affected your memory?" games. Survivors are quizzed on prior events from this season. Julie and Eliza, two of the women who are presumably used to starving their bodies, make it to the final. To the shock and horror of everyone else, Eliza wins the competition, meaning that her mother will get to stay with the group overnight. As if living in close quarters with one generation of this family isn't troublesome enough. Imagine the horror of hanging out with two Chatty Eliza dolls.
There is a nice reveal after the challenge. It turns out that the high tech satellite transmission that allows the family and friends to converse is in reality a closed circuit broadcast. All the people are on the island, and they are given the opportunity to come over to the contestants, say hi, and hug them goodbye. A nice touch.
Eliza's mother, Susan, is a bit overprotective by nature. She names a laundry list of fears she has for her daughter while on the island. In order, they are bed bugs, parasites, lack of flossing and ebola virus. That's right, folks. Getting a disease would be terrible, but to Mama Eliza, poor dental hygiene is an order of precedence higher on the Very Bad Things food chain.
In between all the sideshow antics, the game is still being played. Leann and Ami, who are 100% certain they are the final two, smugly work Scout over. The two women eviscerate her for plotting to eliminate Eliza behind her back. So certain are they of their victory that the duo even tells Scout to her face that she is not going to be in the final three.
As far as stupid Survivor strategies go, this is a Hall of Famer in its arrogance. If they just lie to Scout (or even avoid answering), she has no reason to question their behavior. Once they tell her she is soon to go, Scout has no choice but to explore other options if she is serious about trying to advance in this game. This is exactly the sort of premature almost-to-the-end-zone celebration that made Leon Lett a staple of blooper reels a few Thanksgivings ago. There are five eliminations to go, ladies. You only count for two votes (three counting Julie). Not smart.
Day 29 at Alinta (I love their quarterback, Michael Vick) sees the contestants making knick knacks for their loved ones. Eliza's mom (who does not got it going on) promises to deliver them to the various companions. The hope is that such a move will strengthen Eliza's ties to the remaining contestants. If only her personality could be similarly affecting.
Achieving only limited success with Scout, Leann and Ami move on to Twila. The crotchety old woman does not mince words. She resents the attempt at tag teaming her into swearing fealty to Queen Ami and her princesses Julie and Leann.
To alleviate their concerns, Twila swears on her son that she is loyal to the throne. Ami snidely turns to Leann and asks if her companion feels good about such a comment. Leeann snidely answers that she is "guarded" about it. The two women might not recognize it at this moment, but it's obvious to viewers that they have burned a bridge with Twila. A proud woman, she bristles at their superior behavior in recent days...and rightly so. With their newfound arrogance on full display in all dealings, the power trio of Ami, Leann and Julie are showing all the signs of a New York Yankees level choke.
The announcement of the immunity challenge triggers the testosterone in Chris. Despite recent events, the sole remaining dude feels confident that he must win immunity in order to survive three more days. He boldly guarantees victory to the camera, but his eyes lack conviction. He has the air of a deathrow inmate eating his last meal while desperately hoping the governor calls.
The challenge itself offers another surprise. The companions of the contestants remain on the island. In fact, they will do the grunt work on this challenge. Blindfolded, they will receive instructions from the survivors that will help them retrieve a series of items. Chris and Ami have much better communication with their significant others than the others. In fact, Leann's best friend and her are such a comically inept tandem that Leeann finally tells her to quit. The two of them choose to laugh about their incompetence rather than continue the charade. It's hard to describe the moment, but I find it rather winning.
As Chris and his fiancee fight on, Ami and Crissy finish their dominant performance, earning Ami immunity. Chris informs his ladyfriend that he will be eliminated at tribal council that evening. Hey Chris, you have a call from the Governor on line one...
It's pretty simple, really. There are three women who have done nothing to hide their alliance to the end. There are four other remaining contestants. Every season, we see a form of this situation but with certain inevitable results. The band of misfits prey on each other, making them easy targets for the strong, allowing them to survive until the end. Until this year.
Eliza hates Scout. The hippy chick hates Eliza (maybe the only person in the world she could say this about). Chris is a man, and all of the women have been emphatic about holding their alliance. Twila just hates those snotty bitches, Leann and Ami. If you are scoring at home (nerd!), that is four remaining contestants who all have an agenda. Two of them are warring against one another. The one man is deemed the enemy of the three women. What if they looked past all of that, though? What if they did something novel and ignored interpersonal issues long enough to maximize game performance? Why, the four of them would be a majority. Of course, it would never happen because Eliza thinks she is the fourth blue blood. The only way that would fall apart is if...
The final segment begins with Ami informing Chris that he is no longer on the chopping block for that night's vote. Instead, a decision is being made between the annoying Eliza and the free-thinking traitor Scout. For her part, Ami disagrees with this decision, showing that at least somebody there is still paying attention. Leann does not think it feels right to eliminate Chris ahead of women who do not deserve to be there.
Chris gleefully monologues to the camera about his great fortune. "It's like being in a tornado. It is crazy. I don't even HAVE to do something to change the tide of the game. There's six women living with me. They'll change it themselves. It can be set in stone who's going home. Five minutes later, I'm not going home, and I ain't done a damn thing to change it. I'm just sitting by the fire." Boy, Chris's mother really did a number on him. Did Faye Dunaway play her in that wire hanger movie?
When Twila and Chris talk, she points out to him the numbers crunch the Holy Triumvirate has not noticed they face. Once the light goes off in his head, he flies on wings of joy to Eliza. The girl who has staved off elimination several times before is naturally reticent to trust the two women she knows just tried to execute her at the last vote. Chris, nearly in tears, begs her to trust him on this. He rightly points out it is in everyone's best interest to attempt this Coup d'etat.
At the tribal challenge, Leann offers this ominous statement. "I didn't tell (my friend) it was life or death. I didn't feel like it was." Two minutes later, the vote is revealed and a very stunned-looking Leann has received four votes to Eliza's three. Her surpise is exceeded only by the out-and-out shock in the face of Ami, who deduces that had she not won immunity, it would be her making the walk of shame. They got cocky and it might cost all of them the game.
The quartet who have nothing in common have accomplished the seemingly impossible. They have overthrown the regime in power. From here on out, Survivor is legitimately anybody's game.
As the remaining contestants walk off, previous eliminations Chad and Sarge all but chest bump in celebration over this turn of events. And if Chris wanted to dump his fiancee for Eliza at this moment, I am pretty sure she would gladly elope with him.
Okay, Burnett, I am awake now.