Survivor Palau Episode Six
Jellyfish ‘N Chips
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
March 24, 2005
Last week saw the governor call Ibrehem moments before his execution. Although he has been granted a stay, it does not mean that the kind people at the Ulong State Correctional Facility are happy about his survival. Methinks the evil warden, Stephenie, will be looking for any way possible to make Ibrehem feel unwelcome. Sure enough, approximately 12 seconds into the episode, Steph has decided that Ibrehem’s most tragic personal failing is an inability to follow instructions. What we got here is a failure to communicate.
Within seconds of her disciplinary measures, her favored prison guard, James, takes up the battle on her behalf. Last week’s vote exposed a previously hidden alliance between them. Steph ignored all empirical evidence and chose not to vote against the weakest link on her tribe after Ibrehem received immunity. Bobby Jon received her original vote, while Angie was her target during the later run-off. Neither selection makes any sense unless orchestrated by ulterior motives. We suspected the aligning of the duo then and now have it confirmed as their comments to Ibrehem demonstrate the type of collective thinking that is the likely by-product of an earlier private conversation between them.
As James takes over for Steph, Bobby Jon grows uncomfortable while Ibrehem becomes - if possible - more passive than normal. James, who has been repeatedly whipped during the challenges, describes his disgust for Ibrehem’s inattentiveness during a single challenge. Of course, the actual causality for the browbeating has nothing to do with that but is instead their venting about losing Angie, a potential long-term ally. As James goes on and on, his words say something else but his underlying context is simple. “What sucks about you is how much you suck, even compared to sucky suckers who suck.” Anybody got a mirror for James? Ah, never mind, the nose would just obscure the view.
When the morning comes, the pious Ibrehem calms himself by reverently praying and performing the ceremonies of his Muslim religion. While it’s not shown on camera, we suspect James spends the same period of time spitting tobacco juice on trees, scratching himself in the places where the STDs are most troublesome and wincing over the fact that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no Dale Earnhardt. Also, he misses Hee-Haw.
Koror is suffering through the trauma of losing their first tribe mate. Okay, suffering might be overstating things a bit. Well, a lot. Oh, let’s just say it. Willard is missed at Koror about as much as Willard the movie is missed by theater exhibitors.
Since there is little in the way of new conflict at the moment, the show goes back to the familiar staple. People dislike Katie. In particular, Caryn wants to kick her in the spleen. But she is not alone. A lot of people are picking up on the fact that Caryn sees work days as the time when she can stand around and enjoy how easy life is at her camp.
How dull is life at Koror? They put on a sock puppet show as a diversionary tactic. Highlights include quoting Angie’s stew comment from the prior tribal council (Angie is the green sock) and implying that Bobby Jon is too nice and has the audacity to look like Jim Caviezel. Jesus apparently looks like a white sock in Katie’s world. How lousy are the production values here? Ed Wood would frown in disapproval. The only real humor comes from the satisfaction that at some point in the coming days, a lot of people are going to vote against Katie. Oh, what a glorious day that will be.
Treemail! Actually, it’s more accurately described as boxmail this season, but it’s our problem and we will deal with it. Fortunately, we are not the only ones with a problem. Katie, who begins to look a little bit more like a frumpy Jenna Lewis with each passing moment, excitedly returns to camp with the missive. Heady from the opening night success of her off-Broadway hit, Socko Looks Like Jesus!, she tries to create a new audience participation game. The pop quiz question is, “What starts with a P and ends with an ull?” A priceless moment occurs where the other islanders, tired of pretending to like her, all look at one another and share a moment of utter befuddlement. None of them thinks to answer the obvious choice, “pull”, but that would have been wrong anyway. But the correct response is, most unexpectedly, “Pringles”. Hey, don’t look at us. It’s not our game.
Probst Sighting! Today’s reward challenge is like that game you find in arcades where you aim a gun at a fuzzy head and try to knock it down. The winning team gets a strange prize we are having trouble visualizing at the moment, so we will explain it later. We are pretty sure that it involves P-rin-gulls, though. The competition itself is dull with most of the challengers missing repeatedly. Tom is the first Survivor to strike a direct hit, but he is hardly the most dominant one. Stephenie shows such talent manning the turret that we expect her to be drafted by the Bush Administration any day now.
The most humorous moment of foreshadowing comes from James. At the start, Probst asks him if he has shot a lot of guns, and the response is a wide smile. We think Cletus has been shooting up some possums down by the cement pond. But the practice has not made him perfect. He misses all of his shots until the end. At this point, Probst puts everything on the redneck’s shoulders. If he makes it, Ulong wins. Otherwise, Koror remains alive. Needless to say, James chokes. This opens the door for Coby to tie with a well-aimed shot. The fey man with zero skill in the field of gunplay proceeds to beat James. Again. It must be all that body-building Coby has been doing, right James?
All of the choking in the world from James cannot cancel out the greatness of Stephenie, though. Having already scored three of her team’s seven points, the woman is given the opportunity to win the game with a fourth conversion. We don’t even have to look as she is so automatic that it goes without saying that she succeeds in the clutch. Caryn has a chance to tie after that but come on, it’s Caryn. In the words of the immortal Harry Caray, Ulong wins! Ulong win! Ulong wins!
Okay, let’s figure out what this reward is. First of all, spirits are obviously soaring. They have that same look of joy and surprise that Hurley on Lost had immediately following his lottery number being selected. Of course, we all know how well that turned out for him. So, maybe the tribe should keep their guard up for the rest of the episode. Stephenie, who clearly is not a woman known to tolerate any form of failure in her life, states her disbelief to the camera. Then, we cut to the members of Ulong arriving at the ship where they will be served P-ring-ulls (now available at your local grocery store!). Mai Tais are offered along with the salty snack treats, and we are so confused by what this would taste like that we resolve to buy a can (MSRP of a low, low $2.39 for a double pack!) and take them down to the bar. Pringles (bet you can’t pop just one!) owner Procter and Gamble has cleverly included Survivor trivia questions on the individual chips, creating an instant conversation starter for the exhausted tribe mates. As obnoxious as these forced product placements are, we do think it’s cool that Pringles (look for the red tennis ball can!) went the extra mile here.
After their delicious yet surprisingly economical snack treat is finished, the group sets out for the second half of their reward. Burnett, apparently tired of all of Ulong’s failures, has sent them out to snorkel in a sea of jellyfish. How’s that for tough love? Okay, it’s not quite like that. The jellyfish are incapable of stinging, so they are harmless. At least, that is what Burnett wants the contestants to believe. The colorful sequences where the members submerge are so gorgeous that you would expect Pixar to be involved with creating the scenery. As far as rewards go, this one is memorable. Of course, being able to give immunity to the weakest competitor on the other team, thereby screwing your opponent, still has it beat. Have we mentioned how much we miss Angie? If we ever see her on the street, we hereby resolve to buy her a can of Pringles.
At Koror, showgirl Janu shows that she does not follow the teachings of Eddie Rabbit. The rainy night demoralizes her to the point that the next morning, she talks to Tom about quitting. If you had Janu in the pool for saying, “I don’t have the strength!”, you win! Humorously, Katie is self-aware enough to say that “I thought *I* was the drama queen”. You are, lady. Don’t you worry about that. Janu is just a little depressed, not obnoxious and whiny to a point of fault. It’s cute that you are territorial about your personal failings, though.
Tree Mail! Uh-oh, it comes with rope, and guess who is claiming to be a rope expert. Yup, it’s James. Due to some undisclosed Naval training (very hush, hush stuff, his military assignments), he has discovered that material such as this might be twisted in such a way that it will be impossible to unravel. Presumably, this technology is so advanced that we probably should blur it out during the challenge to keep the Nazis from discovering its secret. I can tell you that it’s called a knot, but please don’t pass along this information to anyone who does not have code word clearance.
You have heard of Murphy’s Law? Well, we would like to introduce you to James Law. This is precept by which any time James claims to be great at something, you know that he is going to find a way to screw it up completely.
You know what would be a great snack during this immunity challenge? P-ring-ulls. Go ahead and run to the store if need be. We’ll wait.
The challenge is simple. Teams have twenty minutes to retrieve flotsam and jetsam from the sea. Once they have recovered the items, the teams attempt to secure a lockbox using their rope and the driftwood. At the start, a full half of Koror’s team is forced to sit out. That alone tells a casual observer anything they need to know about either past results or predicted future behavior. Katie, Ian, Janu and Jenn are selected to win…err, participate. At the start, strong swimmers Steph and Bobby Jon head out to the waters. Meanwhile, rope expert James decides that his best course of action would be to adjust his skirt. Yes, you read that right. While his more competitive companions are out at sea fighting for victory, naval expert James tries to perfect the toga. Sure, this fashion has existed for thousands of years but maybe if James were to spend these twenty minutes on it, he could finally get it right! Twenty-five minutes later, Ulong loses and hey, guess who is responsible? That’s right, fashion maven James has failed to properly secure the knots on his rope. We don’t claim to understand James Law, but we respect its power.
We should also note at this point that we grow more and more impressed with Coby during the challenges. It was his clutch shot during the reward challenge that tied the game and it was his butt-whuppin’ of James that won a prior immunity challenge. During this event that does not involve him, Coby strategizes along with the competitors every step of the way. Some of his intensity could be attributed to a fear of being a potential victim should Koror lose (ha!), but it’s more than that. This is a guy who seems to enjoy competing. Probst even notes it from time to time. Coby might have behaved in an inappropriate fashion a couple of times in the premiere episode but since then, he has calmed down nicely. We are starting to dig him.
After they have returned to camp, Ulong pretends to be surprised at losing an immunity challenge for the sixth straight time. Then, they get down to the business of figuring out how to break the obvious two/two deadlock. At this point, James makes the most tasteless statement of the year to date, indicating that Ibrehem’s Allah saved him last time but now James will have his God take care of business. Does this mean James has stolen the white sock puppet from Koror? A couple of minutes later, Stephenie negotiates with Bobby Jon about whom they should target. He states that since she did not vote for him at tribal council, James did; ergo, Bobby Jon demands vengeance. At this point, Steph awkwardly touches her face and swears to God that she had not voted for Bobby Jon, which of course is exactly what she did. This is not the strongest Survivor segment for religion.
The good news for Steph is that since she is a pretty girl, Bobby Jon naively assumes that there is simply no way in the world that she could possibly lie to him. Hey, we have all made that mistake at one time or another. To her infinite frustration, he refuses to sell out Ibrehem, so she agrees to vote against her ally, James. Is it possible that the only reason Stephenie aligned with James is because nobody else was doing any sort of planning for future votes? Are the players at Ulong this passive about strategy? Looking back on the lot of Kim, Jeff, Angie and Ashlee, it’s entirely possible that this is exactly what occurred. Sad scrub that Cletus is, Steph had to throw her lot in with him simply because there were no other options. Now, she is forced to choose whether to honor her standing agreement with James or follow through with her promise to go forward with Bobby Jon.
At Tribal Council, Probst attacks James for the skirt fetish. All James answers in reply is, “That’s not what held us up.” No further explanation of why is offered, but we all know the real reason: James Law. As the votes are made, Stephenie is shown weighing her options as she holds the pen of doom. Eventually, she makes a decision and it proves to be Ibrehem. Since James is showing a deeper and deeper fear of the black man, he also votes against his Muslim brother. Bobby Jon and Ibrehem vote for James, leaving the vote deadlocked at two a piece. This leaves Bobby Jon and Steph as the only two voters in the tiebreaker. At this point, the only remaining woman in Ulong sells out James, making him the latest Survivor contestant to be eliminated from competition. And boy is he ever surprised. Steph offers an apology, to which he gives a curt reply of, “I understand, y’all.” Then, he’s off to his hotel room where he can further explore the windy freedom of a skirt.
Some will question the woman’s duplicity here, and there is certainly causality there. Swearing to God to reinforce a lie is always ethically tasteless. We do, however, think there is a logical explanation for the behavior. By voting with James once then flipping to Bobby Jon, she showed loyalty to her old agreement before honoring her new promise. Stephenie is upwardly mobile. It would be wise of the members of Koror to target her as quickly as possible. She is the only member of Ulong who could throw a monkey wrench in their plans for a clean sweep of the opposing tribe. Bobby Jon and Ibrehem, on the other hand, might as well have X marks painted across their bodies. They are dead men walking.