Survivor Episode Thirteen

It Could All Backfire

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

May 13, 2005

Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here.

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The last episode of Survivor might have been the pinnacle of the show's storied history. Thanks, CBS! After countless seasons of wishing and hoping that all the players would demonstrate wisdom in their decision-making, we finally got our wish. All six remaining contestants made reasonable, studious choices about their status in the game with the eventual result being a shocker. Two of the best players managed to work with two of the weakest players in order to submarine the finest player this season if not ever, Gregg.

We hardly ever sound like schoolgirls with crushes when we discuss Survivors, but Gregg was just that good. Even while being voted out last week, he demonstrated on two different occasions that he was thinking all the way. First, there was Ian almost messing up the attempted Pearl Harbor job by mentioning that Tribal Council should be interesting. Gregg all but rotated his head 360 degrees in order to interrogate his presumed ally regarding intent. Had Tom not been there to save the situation, the plan might have fallen apart right then and there. Later on, when Tom used the malicious language of "slit their throats", Gregg again instantly picked up on the unusual behavior of his peer. That guy can never be accused of taking plays off. His head was always in the game. Had Jenn's fella been given just a bit more time after those comments, we suspect circumstances might have been different.

As the situation stands, we may only tip our hats in admiration toward a marvelous physical competitor who also demonstrated tremendous game play acumen. Of course, that means we must also offer huge props to Ian, Caryn and Tom for implementing and executing a cerebral plan that sandbagged the presumed power player at endgame. We haven't seen a situation where everyone behaved so cleverly since The Usual Suspects.

Moving along...

With only five remaining contestants, a final three of Caryn, Ian and Tom appears likely. There are, however, still permutations that could see either of the strong male players eliminated by the three remaining women. If nothing else, it should be fun watching Jenn rail against the people who just voted off her dreamy hunk of a man. She has cause for such a claim, also. She and Gregg theoretically had alliances with everyone who voted against him last week except Caryn. Particularly noteworthy will be the conversation she has with Katie, a woman who they treated to a yacht visit from a family member the prior week. So why, then, do the promos for the episode show Ian reduced to tears by Katie while Jenn cheers her on? This should be another fun outing.

Confirming the genius of the sandbag, Jenn’s first confessional after Gregg’s elimination indicates she never saw it coming. The nanny fights back tears as she laments the fact that no one is around now to keep her warm at night. That’s what keeps the fine people at Adam and Eve in business, Jenn. To the woman’s credit, the poker face she presents to the others is impressive. Ian marvels at how well she hides her intense displeasure over the shocking turn of events.

Jenn’s only statement about the vote, “Game on,” might lack originality, but it exemplifies the theme of the opening segment. Machinations unfold on the beach and in the hut. By the ocean, Caryn and Tom discuss who the next victim should be. Tom fears that the women will work together to vote off the men. Caryn angles to get her enemy since day one, Katie, eliminated. In the process, the two come to agree that the order is irrelevant as long as Jenn and Katie are next to be sent packing. In a clever bit of editing, those women are shown to be twisting Ian’s arm about eliminating Tom. Their hope is to trick Ian into voting off the perceived strongest threat, making Ian easy pickings at the next vote. Ian professes to be unwilling to turn against his ally. This is unquestionably the correct play for him, but we can’t shake the feeling that his attachment to Katie might yet cloud his judgment.

“Let’s put it this way: I’m guardedly optimistic about my chance to make it to the final three.” – Caryn

We hate to read too much into this statement, but it’s exactly the same style of comment that Gregg made last week before finding himself voted out in a stunner. Is this clever editing to mislead the more attentive viewers, or is Caryn the one running around with a giant target on her chest this week?

The constant throughout this episode is paranoia. Both Tom and Ian are convinced that a misplay is the difference between making the final versus not making it past the next tribal council. The reward challenge message is interpreted as possibly repeating last episode’s player separation. The two remaining men wisely debate whom to take if one of them wins. This is exactly the forethought Gregg lacked last week, and that’s what proved fatal to his candidacy in the end. Tom firmly recommends Caryn, a woman he believes is trustworthy. Smitten Ian causes us to shout out in disgust at the screen as he says he thinks it should be Katie. Tom offers the penetrating rebuttal: “She flipped on us once, why would you trust her?” Ian would redeem himself if he at least answered honestly – “I want to see her naked” – and seriously, dude, why?

Instead, he offers a monologue indicating that each of them is trying to take his own ally into the final three. To Ian’s mind, he is not thinking hormonally, but is instead manipulating the board such that if he loses the final immunity challenge, he still has a shot of being picked to go to the end. What is unmistakable here is that Ian has a giant blind spot for Katie. Even Jenn would make more sense in the final three than she would.

The reward challenge essentially comes down to who can raft the fastest, then display some knowledge of geography. Each contestant must row out five separate times to pick up pieces that contain mile markers, then drive them individually back to the dock. Once they are all collected, each marker must be assigned to the city that is the same distance away. The race is close until the end of the fourth leg, when Tom takes a calculated risk to try to toss his marker into the box, but misses. All hope is not lost, as Ian has to correctly complete his geography assignment, but Professor Probst gives him an A and he gets to take home a Chevrolet Corvette. Along with the awesome car (seriously, that thing is gorgeous), he also gets to spend the evening in a sweet mansion, where he’ll dine on a luxurious feast.

Probst tells Ian that he is allowed to choose one other contestant to take along with him. Katie grins gleefully in anticipation of finally being picked by a boy, but Ian hasn’t forgotten her slight at the last reward challenge. He mumbles something about having made a deal with Tom if there was a car involved. No one is more surprised by this revelation than Tom. For her part, Katie has the same sort of shell-shocked look that George Steinbrenner had after the Kentucky Derby. As they drive away, Tom shoots Ian a look that says, “Way to screw us both, dumbass.”

After arriving at the mansion and surveying the spread, Tom and Ian eventually settle on Katie as their choice to join them in the final three. That’s pretty much all that is shown of them for the moment. Meanwhile, we’re sent back to camp where Katie is fuming. Ian’s decision to select someone else for the barbecue get-together has her on tilt. She attempts to take some of her aggression out on Caryn, but this move backfires. Katie and Jenn quiz Caryn on her alliance with Tom. At this point, Caryn’s measured reply is along the lines of, “Well, gee, Katie. You have a pact with them, too. What’s the difference?” All of this is a stunning revelation to Jenn, who has no such deal with anyone.

Having spent several hours of deep thought, Katie realizes that there are two other women with her, and that two plus one equals three. Conversely, there are only two men, and three is a number she is pretty sure is larger than two. That means the women can form an alliance to vote out the men. Jenn, finally being offered some way to survive, jumps at this opportunity. Meanwhile, Caryn is putting the pieces together about how the boys seem to have agreements in place with her and Katie. Knowing that Ian feels all schmoopy about Katie, Caryn is right to be concerned.

Returning from the commercial break, Caryn proceeds to investigate. She corners the men as they return from their reward to ask if there is a deal with Katie. Ian’s response is going to go in the all-time Survivor Hall of Shame. “It’s gonna be you, me and Ka—ahhhhh, you, me and Tom.” Another couple of moments are spent trying to reassure her, but it’s a lost cause. Tom summarizes the situation by saying, “You just gave away her vote tonight.” It’s like all of a sudden he realizes he’s allied with an idiot.

And when the guys arrive back at camp, the battle of the sexes is on. Ian tries to talk to Katie first thing in the morning, allowing the scorned woman to unleash her hellacious fury. “Actually, that’s the last thing I’d like to do,” she says. Katie even gleefully recounts this to the other women as they bathe. Bold prediction: Ian isn’t getting lucky tonight.

When the women return, pride is out the window for Ian. He begs for five minutes of Katie’s time. We really don’t know how to recount this segment, and honestly, it feels a little strange trying. Imagine, if you will, the dumbest argument you have ever had with a significant other. Now throw under that by about 30 percent. Katie swears it’s not about the fact that she wasn’t picked yesterday. We don’t believe her. Ian swears he’ll quit the game if that’s what she wants. We don’t believe him. Both of them maintain that the other person is a lyin’, cheatin’ idjit. Okay, we buy that. And also, we totally agree with Ian’s statement, “I’m off my rocker in so many different ways.” The main example that leaps off the page is his crush on Katie. The worst part is that it ends with a group hug. Blech.

No longer trusting Ian’s diplomacy skills, Tom breaks out the sledgehammer. His target? Katie. Mercy is for the weak, Tom. Mercy is for the weak! He works her over regarding the fact that she’s obviously playing Ian. A confessional follows where she whines about what a meanie Tom is. “It’s like he’s trying to win a million dollars or something. And at my expense!” Malaria never strikes the right people.

It’s time for Probst, and the Immunity Challenge is a combination of an obstacle course and a concentration game. Survivors must cross a course full of tough challenges before they get to a board full of pieces. They must memorize the position of these pieces, then make their way back to where they started. At that spot, there is a blank board that they will be required to duplicate from the one they memorized. They must get it 100 percent correct in order to win.

The Survivors have varying successes during this event. Ian dominates, demonstrating no difficulty navigating the bridges. Tom takes three or four spills, which is the only reason he doesn’t wipe out the competition. Even with the falls, he’s only marginally behind Ian. As has been the case throughout, Jenn finds herself behind the lead pack but well ahead of the stragglers. Caryn shows a lot of fight, but is badly whipped by the motion bridge. By the end, she is reduced to crawling across them like an infant. Katie is, well, Katie. She almost breaks her ankle right at the start, and is never a factor after that. In the end, Ian calls Probst over twice to check his work, but is incorrect each time. This opens a door for Tom to win immunity for what feels like the 70th time. He earned it, too, as he took a serious beating on the obstacle course portion of the challenge.

In the moments before tribal council, the sides seem entrenched. It comes down to – and we hate to say this – Katie. She is the power player in tonight’s vote. If she sells out Ian, Tom correctly surmises that it’s him against everyone else in the finale. If Katie stays the course of last week’s vote and allows Jenn to be eliminated, the Caryn/Katie negotiations will continue for another three days. There also exists the possibility that her ongoing feud with Caryn finally resolves itself if Katie convinces all the remaining players to make this compromise vote. Realistically, outside of Tom, Katie is the only player whose position seems safe at tribal council tonight.

Tribal council is a little contentious – in the same way that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand led to a couple of military skirmishes. Caryn has lost it. Caryn has gone crazy. Caryn has gone over to the bad place. Caryn makes Katie look normal. We know that last one sounds hard to believe, but we swear it’s true. There is no causality offered for her meltdown, but presumably, there was some sort of…unpleasantness at camp before they left for the night’s “festivities”. Our best speculation is that either she and Ian had a fight when Caryn was informed she was next to be voted out, or something he said early in tribal council that was unaired caused her to flip out.

Whatever the cause, Caryn goes off on a rant. She starts calling everyone else sitting there a liar. The particular targets of her venomous verbal assault are Ian and Tom. She reports a detailed account of the events that led to Gregg’s elimination at the previous vote, only her version is not the one that was televised. She makes broad claims about how Ian and Tom were plotting this all along and she was just the loyal foot soldier who obeyed their commands. Tom and Ian take this opportunity to accurately recount what went down. When Tom notes that he and Ian decided to take out Gregg after Caryn informed him that his own head was on the chopping block, Caryn completely overreacts (and overacts) and calls him a liar. This, of course, is a lie of epic proportions. Tom doesn’t even know how to react to it. “I’m sorry. What happened in Caryn Land?” We can’t wait to see the producers of the show confront her with this fact on Sunday at the after-party. She seems to have forgotten that there were cameras there.

In the end, her lunacy appears to at least have had a modicum of provocation. While Caryn casts a vote for Ian, the rest of the group votes to reduce the crazy from their tribe, eliminating the insane attorney. We only wish that the producers of the show had shown us more of her dark side while she was still on the island. We feel like we really missed out on something spectacular there. Seriously. With Ian saying his vote is “the best three seconds of his day” and that he “can’t wait for Caryn to go home”, there had to be something pretty serious going on. It’s like they secretly replaced Caryn with Johnny Fairplay. Where did the hate come from, exactly?



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