Survivor Palau Episode Ten
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
April 22, 2005
Day 25 at Koror stars with an extended sequence involving the skeletal remains of Janu. The showgirl’s emaciated corpse is upset about the fact that Coby was eliminated, preventing what once was Janu from resting in peace. We’re not beating a dead horse here, either. If we don’t factor in her enormous head, the rest of Janu’s body can’t possibly weigh more than 50 pounds at this point. Her too-visible ribs look like they are ready to be spun on a spit and basted with barbecue sauce. Survivor’s attempt to appeal to the cannibal demographic is really starting to pay off.
At the same time, Katie continues to demonstrate that she is wholly incapable of keeping her mouth shut. The Mean Girl-in-training spends a few moments making catty remarks about Janu to Jenn. The problem with this involves the fact that she does this within easy listening distance of Skeletor. The crazy woman on an unforced hunger strike leaps into action, deriding Katie for her schoolgirl behavior. Like all busted gossips, Katie immediately apologizes for her big mouth and general bitchiness. Janu has clearly had some experience dealing with such diva behavior on the showgirl circuit, and she is having none of the apology. It’s a neck-bobbing, finger-wagging, oh-no-you-di’int good time.
The best part of the sequence has nothing to do with the ladies, though. Mastermind Gregg finds himself in the middle of the carnage but rather than react as most men do and try to duck for the safety of the ocean (there are only sharks out in the water), he stands right in the thick of combat. In fact, he even strokes his developing beard introspectively. You can almost see the wheels turning in his head about how he will be able to utilize this new outburst to maximum advantage. What do you think Gregg is going to do tonight, Pinky? The same thing he does every night. Try to take over the world…err, island.
During a monologue confessional, this season’s smartest player unveils his master plan for survival. He unapologetically states that the next few batches of votes will have nothing to do with who deserves to be there. He unequivocally states that if the worst people there (read: Katie and Janu) make it further than more competitive players, that is fine by him. All of the people remaining are but pieces on a chessboard, and Gregg is looking for the perfect mate…and no, we don’t mean Jenn. Punctuating this point, Gregg describes Stephenie as a woman who threatens his positioning. Demonstrating what a strong, cerebral player the man is, he has not only determined multiple courses of action but he has correctly targeted his strongest competition and it’s not Tom or Ian. Say what you will about this season of Survivor. There are more frontline strategists than in any other season in the show’s history.
We’re only a few minutes into the show, but we’ve already got a Probst sighting. There must not be much of interest happening around the camp this week. The reward challenge is a physically grueling segment that splits the tribe into two teams. One of them will win a big feast with some Palau chieftains. The challenge involves building a tower out of five pieces of scaffolding, then climbing to the top to capture the flag. The trick is that each piece of heavy metal must be dragged out through the water and then matched up with some pre-existing grooves.
One team is composed of Ian, Steph, Jenn and Katie, while the other group is Tom, Gregg, Caryn and Janu. Instantly, we give the edge to the people without Janu and Caryn, seeing as how both women look famished and have already proven to be weak in challenges. As the two groups set out with the first scaffolding, Probst even comments that Janu and Caryn are contributing little to their team’s effort.
All of a sudden, Janu realizes she is hungry. From this point on, she plays a major-- if not critical -- role in her team’s effort. Despite the fact that she is obviously exhausted, she carries on, and eventually is the person to climb to the top of the scaffolding to grab the flag. To win, the entire team must return to shore, and she is the first one to arrive. The showgirl deserves a lot of credit here. To all appearances, it seemed as though Janu had simply given up. The fact that she was able to find a new spark is really commendable. The moral of the story is that if you wave a cheeseburger under the nose of a starving person, that individual will be capable of doing great things.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Katie, the person Janu had argued with earlier. Throughout the race, Probst comments about how little effort Katie is expending, and he’s right. She’s basically just swimming around while everyone else does the work. Making matters worse, she brings up the rear with each return trip to shore. Had the human answer to the slug shown even half the fight of Janu, her team might be headed off for an incredible meal. Instead, she’s just largely contributed to Steph’s umpteenth consecutive loss. No matter where that poor girl goes, she finds herself surrounded by lousy teammates. She’s the LeBron James of Survivor.
Fate proves to be unkind to Janu. When presented with a feast fit for a queen, the emaciated woman finds herself unable to keep it down. As the other members of the winning quartet look on, Janu excuses herself to vomit. A friendly Palau native female rubs the showgirl’s back as she hurls. Meanwhile, Gregg finds a way to resent her for being physically unable to hold down her corn on the cob. To his mind, her bulimia is so extreme that even when starving and in need of sustenance, Janu still must return her food to the ground from whence it came. Gregg, maybe you should re-think that “worthiness” strategy you were espousing earlier. If not, this won’t be the last vomit you see.
When the eight remaining Survivors are re-united, an unexpected turn of events occurs. Tom reveals to the losing foursome that they have managed to return with a decent amount of food. All of the losers, particularly Steph, are ecstatic to hear that they will get to eat well for a change. At this point, amazingly enough, Janu grabs a piece of chicken and starts eating it. The people who were not allowed to partake in the earlier feast view this act as nothing short of a declaration of war. Katie, who by the way could have earned herself a meal if she had tried using at least half her ass during the challenge, rages madly at this transgression. We’ve seen WWE blood feuds develop over less heated words. Caryn, never one to have a firm grip on the political situation herself, also noshes on some dessert. These people had hours to eat themselves…well, literally sick. Why in God’s name did they bring other people food only to try to eat it in front of them? We may have to take back the early comment about strong strategists this season.
If you’re scoring at home, Janu started the night bitter about not being voted off. She then picked a fight with Katie over the constant backbiting. Afterward, she regained a lot of respect within the tribe by performing masterfully during the reward challenge. Then, she threw it all away by regurgitating herself out of the in-crowd. Finally, she offered to give food to starving teammates only to take back some of it and devour it in front of them. And this is only in the first half hour of the show.
The second Probst sighting of the evening signifies the start of a merciless immunity challenge. Before the description of the event is even given, it’s announced that the first person to quit will be exiled to a different part of the island. The producers must have been so excited by the footage they got from Stephenie’s night at Crystalmir Lake that they have decided to repeat the psychological experiment with a new victim…err, subject.
The contest is a vicious usage of metal bars, tight quarters and the fear of drowning. The players are submerged underwater in such a manner that only their faces are above water. The way for them to survive is to stick their faces through metal bars. As a long as a player is able to do this, he or she can be a mouth breather for a little while longer. As soon as they are forced to fully submerge their faces underwater, though, they can only stay alive for as long as they are able to hold their breath. In short, this particular event is hardest on weak swimmers and players with phobic personalities. The fact that the water is apparently cold won’t help much, either. Vegas odds makers immediately install Katie, Janu and Caryn as the co-favorites for an evening of quiet introspection.
As the event begins, Probst immediately gets to the task of tormenting the players. He asks several of them about the various aspects of sticking one’s face through metal bars while being slowly drowned. Probst then turns to Janu and innocently (?) asks if she’s afraid she might panic in the close quarters. The Jedi mind trick pays off in spades, as she instantly freaks out and quits the competition. This causes the more pathetic members of the tribe (read: Katie) to laugh derisively at Janu’s misfortune. On a seemingly unrelated note, doesn’t it seem as though beauty pageants that have a Miss Congeniality prize should also award one to Miss Schadenfreude (read: Katie)?
Probably feeling a little bit guilty about how unexpectedly well his baiting went, Probst switches gears and lays into the Survivors (and Katie wasn’t alone in this) who continue to laugh at Janu. He’s right to do so because there’s a palpable amount of malice that goes on for a shameful amount of time. None of the other seven is above reproach in this instance. This makes us significantly less interested in declaring a winner here. They all come off like feckless thugs, though Tom winds up with the immunity necklace. Again.
Back from commercial break, it’s time for The Janu Show. Left alone on a different part of the island, the woman is forced for the first time to make fire. With only a couple of hours before dark, this could prove to be an emotionally crippling moment for her. If Janu fails to ignite the flame for the campfire, she will be alone in the dark. The only way it could be worse for her would be if she were in the Uwe Boll movie of the same name. Shudder. After dusk, it appears this is destined to happen but after nightfall, the showgirl shocks the viewing audience by getting her fire started. At this point, her vacation at Exile Island turns from a disaster into an enjoyable night away from that heinous bitch, Katie. Burnett must be grimacing in frustration at this turn of events.
Speaking of Katie, Kid Useless and the rest of the Koror tribe spend the morning plotting for the next vote. With Tom having immunity, Gregg pushes to eliminate his stated biggest threat, Stephenie. Since Tom and Ian have an alliance with her and Katie, they are reticent to do so. At this point, Gregg demonstrates once more what a marvelous player he is. In an understated fashion, he eloquently points out that Steph has already survived a historically unprecedented number of immunity challenges. He describes her situation as an unfolding story. Tom and Ian, her cohorts, are forced to re-evaluate the woman's ability to persevere. Even a cat only has nine lives, yet here Steph is about to enter her 11th tribal council aka life number 11. Is it to be her last one? The odds suddenly flip from doubtful to likely as everyone agrees that the final member of Ulong’s fate should be sealed.
At Tribal Council, Mark Burnett signals Probst that the fix is in. Recognizing that one of the most engaging players in recent memory is in jeopardy, Probst is given the task of propping Steph up in order to survive the upcoming vote. It’s like that moment in Clash of the Titans where Zeus stands up the Perseus figurine in order to give his son a fighting chance. Probst is also the released Kraken in this scenario. He wreaks carnage upon the best laid plans of Hera..err, Gregg, and also pillages and plunders the self-esteem of Katie. It is without question one of the three most interesting Tribal Challenges in the show’s history.
Probst starts by tearing into Janu about her experience as an exile. It’s more and more apparent in retrospect that the producers’ expectation all along had been for Janu to be first one out of the water, then quit when placed alone sans fire. Now that this ploy has failed, it’s up to Probst to alienate her from the tribe in a manner that will either force the woman to quit or get her to say something that will burn bridges with her tribe-mates, forcing their hand at the vote. The most cogent argument the host makes is when it’s pointed out that those who laughed at her misfortune in being outcast warmly welcomed Janu back once they saw she had not quit. His comments lead her to an epiphany, causing what may only be described as a lightning strike of realization that Janu would be happier elsewhere.
Unwilling to stop until he has reached his unstated but readily apparent goal, Probst presses on. “Katie, why keep you?” We only wish there we could upload an audio file of the outburst of laughter this question gave us. Suffice it to say there were multiple viewings and multiple guffaws. Meekly, the suddenly insecure scrub replies with “Well, I don’t pose any threat…especially as far as challenges go.” You don't say.
Finally, our host strikes paydirt. “Janu, why keep you?” This question earns a shocking reply of “No reason. They can get rid of me.” It’s as close to a statement of submission as the show has seen since Osten took his ball and went home several seasons ago. Simultaneously, Jeff coaxes Stephenie into a tearful confession that she “would kill” to survive this vote. Clearly, Steph has done the math and come to recognize that she is going to be eliminated in mere moments. Frustrated beyond description, our heroine points out all the obstacles she has overcome to reach this egress. Seeing Janu so casually mention her lack of desire to continue is nothing short of a slap in the face to any contestant. This is doubly true for Stephenie, a woman who has fought for survival to a degree never before seen on the show.
As Gregg gnashes his teeth in frustration, the tide turns to the point where car salesman Probst convinces Janu that justice would be served if she were to lay down her torch and allow Stephenie to continue. When Janu offers to do this, Steph weakly declares that Janu should not do that for her sake. Recognizing that this is her only way out, Janu re-phrases the comment such that she would be quitting for herself rather than for the benefit of a competing player. Probst hides his Cheshire grin of satisfaction long enough to accept this resolution. Janu lays down her torch and quits the game, allowing Stephenie to survive yet again. That girl is like a post-nuclear holocaust cockroach. You just can’t kill her.