Survivor Palau Episode Eight

Neanderthal Man

Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

April 8, 2005

Let's see Tom beat me at a wet t-shirt competition!

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Welcome back to Survivor where Koror’s theme is “All your Ulong are belong to us.” The dominant octet continues to demonstrate genocidal tendencies as they attempt to exterminate the remaining two Ulongs. Simultaneously, their counterparts continue to show so little fight that even the French are lining up to start a war against them. You know, if Ulong and France got in a battle where one side had to win, the very fabric of existence might collapse upon itself.

Tonight’s episode begins in Loserville. Stephenie stands by the campfire and thanks Bobby Jon for eliminating Ibrehem instead of her. Her Alabaman ally states that since he gave his word to her, she never should have doubted his decision. The problem with this remark is that we know from Tribal Council that he was debating the choice right until he wrote down a name. Thus, his comments may be interpreted as, “I mean everything I say on the occasions when I do the things I say I am going to do.” Or something like that.

The real news at Ulong has nothing to do with the conversation, though. It’s the situation itself. Bobby Jon and Stephenie have effectively become island roommates. Never has a tribe been reduced to two contestants except when the final vote was in the offing. This aspect alone exemplifies the stupefying failure of the tribe as a whole. Statistically, there is less than a one percent chance that a tribe would lose eight straight challenges (assuming equal odds). Ulong goes down in history as the reality show equivalent of Custer at Little Big Horn and/or Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

Trying to show that these are not just sunny days for Koror, day 19 is edited to be Jaws’ Revenge. Last week, Tom chopped a shark in half and mounted the head for posterity’s sake. This week exhibits the value of the taxidermy profession. In the absence of treating and stuffing the shark head, it becomes attractive to various bottom feeders. No, I’m not talking about James. I mean bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. The shark’s noggin is so infested with creepy crawlers that any Orkin men watching the program probably got sexually aroused.

At this point, we find out who can’t stand bugs. It’s our man, Coby. Perhaps seeking to undo any positives from prior episodes that earned him our goodwill and favoritism, Coby returns to primo bitch mode here. He complains about (in no particular order) the bug infestation, the way he is treated by Koror’s power players, and the laziness of the women at the tribe. At this point, Coby reveals himself to be a “feminist”, saying that it makes him embarrassed for womankind that the ladies just sit around and let their alpha males take care of them. It’s like Lynn and Alex from The Amazing Race started projecting all their hatred and bitterness using Coby’s mouth. If his next words are a slanderous assault on Rob and Amber, we’re performing an exorcism.

Reward challenge! That’s right, it’s time for the first of Ulong’s two inevitable beatings on the evening. This one is a food challenge, and it is the most disgusting such contest in the show’s storied history. The tribe members are required to eat something called a balute. This is a fertilized egg that has a 20-day-old developing hatchling duck inside of it. That’s right, Survivor is forcing its contestants to feast on cute baby ducklings. That’s the express elevator to Hell right there.

Since there are only two members of Ulong left, Koror picks their two heartiest eaters. Tom is one of the choices alongside Ian, a man we suspect has had the bong-related munchies at many points in his life. Ulong is only as strong as their weakest member, so you already know how this turns out. That’s right, Stephenie dominates while Bobby Jon loses to Tom at the end. The final leg is a race to eat five baby duck eggs fastest. To Bobby Jon’s credit, he does a mean Kobayashi impression at the start as the southerner tries to wolf down the tasty treats (?) in record time. In the end, he winds up gagging on the last one, a fitting metaphor for the entire competition with Tom thus far. The younger man is competitive, but he always seems to fade at the end. “Man, I almost had him.” Same as every other challenge thus far, dude.

The return from commercial break is a bit confusing since it’s little more than product placement. The reward challenge earned prizes including Pantene, Crest and Scope. The cheap advertising ploy blows up in the show’s face, though, when Ian demonstrates that he will never be a commercial spokesperson. “I’m a big fan of Scope mouthwash. I particularly like citrus flash because it tastes like oranges.” Citrus tastes like oranges. How insightful.

Normally, we would shun the tribe for a few minutes as punishment for Ian’s inanity, but something happens at Koror for a change. A power play unfolds as cantankerous tribe elder Tom displays his dark side for a moment. The second half of the reward is 55 gallons of water, a prize Probst himself had indicated would be perfect to use in filling up the shower the tribe has. Tom is having none of this. He sees the water as better served for drinking, cooking and cleaning. His territorial behavior toward the water is eerily reminiscent of Rupert’s love of his fishing implements.

This startles the women, particularly Jenn. She had been working under the assumption that she might, you know, bathe. Having Tom tell her that she’s unable to knock the stink off rankles her as well as the other women and Coby. Tom does not allow the issue to be put to a vote, though, making it the first significant display of how authoritative his position is within the tribe. All of those who disagree with him bicker about the ruling, but none of them dares to openly challenge him. We suspect Tom has made his first significant mistake in the game so far. While it’s good to be the king, Tom has neither a crown nor a throne, so acting regal is only going to piss people off.

At Ulong, Steph is summarizing the season in a similar fashion to our prior comments. “It’s always like that. It’s like we’re there but we miss it by like an inch.” For whatever reason, this most recent loss is the straw that has broken Bobby Jon’s back. The constant inability to close the deal against Tom has left him demoralized. He is beginning to become a victim of self-fulfilling prophecy. During today’s challenge, everything in his eyes indicated he was waiting for Tom to come back and win at the end. Steph states that she is pleased to see Bobby Jon start acting in a capacity that hasn’t been seen on the show since Matt stroked his machete, but we don’t think she’s right. Bobby Jon seems to have accepted his fate and thereby lost all hope.

Koror is already looking ahead to what happens after the inevitable extinction of Bobby Jon later tonight (Come on, you know Ulong is losing tonight and the producers are not going to let their best female player ever get eliminated in favor of the southerner who can’t beat Tom at anything). At this point, Ian states to Tom the quartet he sees as the final four. One of the names is a shocker. In addition to the two men, Katie and Stephenie (!) are listed. The fact that they have so much respect for the woman from the other team that they want to bring her to the end speaks volumes about her performance. Tom is a man who wants people to be rewarded for their effort. When he agrees that she deserves to be there, it’s like getting the Survivor equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

What is the news at Koror? “Bobby Jon has turned into a caveman.” Along with Joss Whedon, we wonder if he could beat up an astronaut in a fight, but otherwise, these segments are not good television. Hearing someone’s burping and various odors described in detail makes us run for the fast forward button. Bobby Jon catches a fish at some point during this, but we presume the poor sea creature gets a whiff of his odor and dies from his stink.

Probst sighting! Before the inevitable elimination of Bobby Jon tonight (he’s like “Dead Meat” Thompson in Hot Shots), we have an immunity challenge. Spoiling it in advance, Koror wins. And we say that before we even watch the thing. It appears to be a combination swimming and puzzle challenge of some sort. Before Koror wins, they have to swim out to retrieve a wet bag of clues. This bag will be somewhat heavy, delaying their inevitable victory by a few more minutes. As they pull ahead of Ulong at the end, they will deduce clues and decipher a clever catchphrase. Once they state that out loud, we can go about the business of getting Bobby Jon eliminated.

Seven minutes later, all of this happens.

We swear we didn’t cheat.

There is one semi-surprising announcement at the end of Ulong’s predetermined defeat. Rather than have a vote that would automatically end in a tie, the two remaining Ulong members will have another challenge to determine how Bobby Jon…err, someone gets kicked off the island. We like Stephenie’s chances. No, really.

The filler segment after the challenge displays a side of Coby that’s not surprising but still engaging. As was demonstrated in the premiere episode, it’s clear that he has an issue with the beautiful people in life. His instant dislike of another player got Jonathan voted off in record time. Since then, Coby has exhibited a most impressive competitive spirit that has seen him rise to the top in challenges. He’s on the next level right under Tom and Steph with regards to his efforts. During a tearful monologue, however, he reveals that this was not always the case. The overly sensitive man explains that he dropped out of school because he struggled so much with the constant teasing about his effeminate nature. He promised himself that once on Survivor, he would not make this mistake again. Needless to say, he has held true to himself in this regard and we salute him for the effort. Yes, he is petty and mean at times with the ad hominem attacks, but Coby is a fighter and a competitor. Like his already forgotten buddy, Angela, his physical appearance belies an impressive strength of spirit.

Prior to tribal council, Bobby Jon and Stephenie do themselves proud by acknowledging their faults and refusing to play the blame game. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to turn on one another, but both of these players (as well as the previously eliminated Ibrehem) are too classy for such potential pitfalls.

The show now turns to Wrestlemania build-up as both Ulong players indicate that they are supremely confident they will win. The fact that only Stephenie is right is irrelevant here.

At Tribal Council, Probst lays a trap for the contestants. He asks what the most important element of survival is. Both of them answer instantly with a single syllable, “FIRE!” Bobby Jon has become a caveman, so of course he would be fascinated by this newfound discovery. Stephenie lets it be known that she isn’t as good at handling the campfire as him, and while he agrees, he points out all the tribal tasks she does brilliantly. Both of them continue to carry themselves with class and dignity in the face of unprecedented adversity.

At this point, Probst delivers the bombshell that gives us pause. The elimination challenge is a simple attempt to light a torch. Uh-oh, did we say the producers would rig this challenge for Steph? Yikes, did we ever guess wrong. This contest is only an inch away from being, “For immunity, name the members of Bobby Jon’s immediate family.” This task seems utterly hopeless for Stephenie, but the one thing she has going for her is a burning desire that would make Rocky Balboa proud. Bobby Jon starts off quickly, but then proceeds to fall into exactly the same pattern that has troubled him throughout the season. He fades at the end, leaving the same opening for Stephenie that he has consistently left for Tom. Steph mirrors the performance of her Koror counterpart by making a seemingly unlikely comeback at the end, lighting her torch moments before her caveman competitor achieves his quest for fire. With his defeat, Bobby Jon is eliminated.

A full three weeks into her stay on the island, Stephenie LaGrossa, the best female contestant in the show’s history with regards to competitive spirit, finally wins her first immunity challenge.



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