Survivor: Palau Episode Fourteen, Part One
The Ultimate Shock
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis-Mumpower
May 16, 2005
We started the new season with 20 contestants. Oddly, one of them sang Survivor ditties. Two of the contestants were eliminated within the first ten minutes on the island. Not coincidentally, one of them sang Survivor ditties.
Over the course of the season, several unexpected events have occurred. The most noteworthy is that an entire tribe was exterminated in record time. This bunch, the Colorado Rockies of the show, never won an immunity challenge. They were the most unprecedented failure since New Coke.
Only one of the Ulong members even managed to make the jury and that woman, Stephenie, has been gone for a while now. The rest of the group who will determine the winner of this season is comprised of the eliminated contestants from the Koror tribe. By the time we get to the final vote, six of them will have been added to the jury. This means that for the first time since the show’s inception, all of the jurors will have known the final two candidates since day one.
There will be no speculation on who did what, either. Thanks to Caryn’s meltdown during the most recent tribal council, everyone has a general idea of what happened. At least, they know the version of events that Caryn described, circumstances which vaguely fit what happened in actuality. Crazy Lady has accidentally made herself a key figure in the final tribal council, because she is the new Sue Hawke. Her hatred of three fourths of the remaining players will be key to the proceedings, especially if other jurors eliminated prior to her are somehow gullible enough to believe her duplicitous description of the events.
With 80% of the contenders eliminated, it’s time to evaluate who’s left and what they have going for them. Up first is Tom the firefighter. He’s been the most impressive physical performer out of either tribe. To this end, many of Ulong’s near losses would have been swung to victories had it not been for the heroic efforts of the silver-haired power player. Tom has also played a solid mental game, making solid alliances for the most part and demonstrating some of the noblest game-play the show has seen since Ethan. The only knocks against Tom involve the jury. He has shown a red states attitude toward hair stylist Coby, he backstabbed Gregg (albeit in a respectable manner) and he somehow alienated Caryn. This last item is the most shocking as there is no disputing the fact that Tom dragged Caryn’s sorry ass at least a dozen spots further than her physical and mental acumen merited. The fact that he cannot fully count upon her vote is an unexpected turn of events. Even so, Tom has to be considered the favorite entering tonight’s show. He has been the power player all along, so it would be a mistake to expect anything less of him tonight.
Tom’s ally from the start has been Ian the dolphin trainer. The wild-haired pseudo-intellectual has proven to be a maddening player to evaluate. At times, his in-game strategy has rivaled the finest players to ever participate on the show. Particularly noteworthy was his ability to put the wheels in motion to assassinate Gregg, the biggest threat in the game. But each time we are ready to praise Ian for his performance, he does something so inept that it’s hard to imagine him lasting this far into the game.
Ian has developed a crush on one of his allies (opponents?), Katie, and that blind spot has caused him to bungle badly on multiple occasions. The last episode was a testament to this fact. The footage saw Ian pick the wrong person to accompany him on a reward getaway, risk advancement in the game in order to curry a woman’s favor and misspoke to an ally, causing Tom to bluntly tell the dolphin trainer that he just lost someone’s vote. As BOP’s Calvin Trager accurately summarized, Ian offered arguably the worst single episode performance of a contestant in the show’s history. Can he recover from that dramatic misstep and work his way into the final vote? He’s got a 50/50 chance, but we have concerns.
As for Katie, she’s loathsome. Absolutely loathsome. This Jenna Lewis look-alike has somehow developed a dumbed down copycat version of the season one behind the scenes semi-romance of Jenna and Greg Buis. The relationship came out of nowhere a couple of episodes ago and ever since then, Ian has been off his game. Coincidence? Is it possible that she has figured out a brilliant angle to split up the Tom/Ian alliance by playing the young man’s hormones? We don’t have Katie pegged as that sort of thinker, but anything is possible. What we do know about Katie is that she is lackadaisical, petty, mean-spirited, bratty and vile. If Katie wins, we’re probably going to find somebody else to do re-caps next season. It would be too demoralizing to continue.
The core flaw with the game is that each season sees the weakest players strung along in order that the better players cannibalize each other. For some reason, no one ever figures this out, so each season sees a Katie (or a Lill or a Clay or a Vecepia or a Keith or a…well, you get the idea) get carried to the finish line. At that point, they are just as able to do the heavy lifting as anybody else, so they are no longer that inept. In addition, these types of players are, as a rule, selfish to a point of fault, so they are not reliable about holding to prior agreements. Simply put, allowing their survival is tantamount to giving them the keys to the kingdom. Lill almost bumbled into winning her season and Vecepia did just that. Katie is poised to replicate their successes despite the fact that she has done nothing of note thus far in the game.
The dark horse candidate is Jenn. This title has been passed along to the nanny from her fella, hunky Gregg. This was the term given to him by Ian, further demonstration that the dolphin trainer never had a handle on who the biggest threats were. Like Gregg, Jenn has proven to be a strong physical player and a far superior strategist. Jenn is someone with whom we would gladly discuss Survivor analysis any day of the week, a complement we are sadly unable to offer to the overwhelming majority of players. She is currently a woman without a country in that she lost her strongest ally with Gregg’s elimination. There has been talk of an under-the-table agreement with Katie, but there has been little evidence of that thus far. In order for Jenn to advance further in the contest, she will need to either win immunity challenges or convince someone else to flip. That should prove to be tricky, but considering the name of the episode, anything is possible.
And about that episode title, The Ultimate Shock…
Fox reality shows are notorious for promising unbelievable twists that are later revealed to be nonsense, like the big, fat, obnoxious boss being a chimpanzee. CBS has largely avoided that with their franchise reality show. For the most part, episode titles have accurately revealed the hour’s content. A solid recent example was “We’ll Make You Pay”, a seemingly incidental comment made by Ian and Tom which later proved prescient. So, we are left to speculate on what the big shock will be. Has Katie had a secret alliance with Tom all along? Jenn and Ian? In a Crying Game moment, does Jenn undress and reveal herself to be a man, baby? Does Tom celebrate the release of Star Wars Episode III by revealing that he is Ian’s father? Is it a Veronica Mars situation where friends with benefits Ian and Katie turn out to be brother and sister? Does Probst bring Rupert back out and offer America a chance to give him another million dollars? Did Katie shoot JR? Has this entire season of Survivor been a dream? There are a lot of possibilities here.
It’s Day 37 at Koror and the contestants are playing nice with each other…for the moment. The over/under on how long this lasts is 30 seconds of camera time. Ian remarks on the very bad turn taken at the previous night’s tribal council, and notes that he thinks this is probably a good thing, because as far as the jury is concerned, he’s not looking so great. Instead, Tom is looking like the front runner. We haven’t seen someone’s stock plummet this quickly since Enron. Nonetheless, Ian believes that he is now somehow under the radar. Is he rationalizing or is he making a good point? With jury members as insane as Caryn, Coby and Janu, it’s hard to say.
Free breakfast and some wine are delivered, which leads to an awkward group hug and something called “Koror Claws”. Apparently, Day 37 is when the madness officially sets in. Caryn was just a *bit* ahead of the curve. While Tom enjoys the rest of his delicious beverage, little does he know that he’s being backstabbed a few yards away. In his continuing attempt to curry favor with the girls, Ian has promised that as long as Tom can be prevented from winning immunity, he’s a goner. Don’t worry, Ian. There’s no possible way this can blow up in your face.
The immunity challenge itself is a three-way competition (plus Katie) where the Survivors must run through a grueling gauntlet. At first, they must un-tether themselves from a rope by using keys that they acquire along the obstacle course. Once they reach the end, they must unlock three ladder rungs in order to proceed to the next level. Once there, they have further Boy Scout knot work, which leads to fun with a grappling hook. In grand Old West fashion, the Survivors must hook additional ladder rungs to assemble their final ladder to the top. The first two competitors who make it will move on to the next round. Since only two people make it to the final, we know that it will either be Ian or Jenn who is left below (along with Katie, whose main contribution is to annoy Probst with her total lack of effort). Jenn makes it close, but Ian advances (a couple of minutes after Tom finished).
The gentlemen’s duel comes down to retrieving a bag of numbers, which they must then take to shore and arrange into potential lock combinations. Effectively, this is a contest of luck that requires grace under pressure. Since Ian gets flabbergasted by any sort of conflict, the result here is almost a foregone conclusion. Even with a head start on entering his numbers, Ian still panics enough to open the door for the always calm and collected fireman. The look on Jenn’s face says it all as Probst announces Tom has won immunity.
It’s time to play “It’s Anyone But Jenn!” All that needs to happen is for Ian not to choke! Does anyone hear a gagging sound off in the distance?
The segment begins with Tom again winning our admiration for his honest and upfront play. He tells Jenn in front of everyone about his agreement with Ian and Katie to go to the final three. Tom eloquently states, “It has been a pleasure and an honor to play this far into this with you.” Would that all Survivor conversations were this open. A tearful Jenn is deeply moved by the sentiment.
So, as long as Ian shuts up, this vote is a slam dunk.
Right before the tribe leaves for Tribal Council, Ian inexplicably tells Tom, “If I would have won immunity today, it would have been a really difficult decision for me.” Yes, we’re serious. For no apparent reason, he proclaims that he was seriously considering breaking the pact with his invulnerable, loyal ally. There is a delicious pregnant pause as everyone grasps the implications of what has just happened.
Tom takes a moment to consider what Ian has just confessed, and Jenn takes this opportunity to bury the dolphin trainer even deeper in his no longer shallow grave. “He said if you would have lost today, you would have gone.” Tom’s body language shows that he thinks Jenn may just be playing the game. His solution is to grab Jenn and go discuss it with Ian. So, all Ian has to do is NOT CHOKE. It’s the 2004 ALCS all over again, with Ian playing the part of the Yankees.
Tom approaches his (former?) ally and pointedly asks for an explanation. All Ian has to do at this point is deny the allegation, and it’s obvious that Tom would be inclined to believe him. When Jenn asks Ian to confirm what he had said, the dolphin trainer continues to demonstrate stupidity the likes of which has not been seen since Ishtar got a greenlight. Rather than deny that he had made the promise to eliminate Tom, Ian blithely states that he was “playing the game”. To our infinite satisfaction, someone finally calls bullshit on this ridiculous comment. Whereas in the past, “playing the game” was an accepted explanation for any sort of deceit and/or betrayal, Tom is not having it. He wants to know why Ian felt it was okay to betray him. Ian does not have an answer. Maybe we should have said it’s time to play “It’s Anyone But Ian, the World’s Stupidest Dolphin Trainer.”
At tribal council, a still-reeling Ian continues to be on the defensive. Maybe it’s Caryn’s Crazy Eyes that disconcert him. They certainly creep us out. As the discussion begins about why the tribe-mates are so late in arriving, Tom is again straightforward in how this predicament has unfolded. He bluntly states that he now feels an honor might have been shown to Ian that would not have been reciprocated had their roles been reversed. Ian’s attempt to smooth over his recent bungles proves to be another failure. Probst asks the dolphin trainer if he had told Tom that the game might unfold this way at the end. Ian answers, “Absolutely.” Tom’s curt reply is, “That’s the third strike against him.” At this point, Ian’s facial composition is starting to eerily resemble that “agony of defeat” guy. The implication in all of this is clear. Tom is hurt and betrayed. To his Yoda-like mind, there was no try. He assumed that Ian’s promise was a rock-solid bond, and the revelation that this was not the case deeply wounded him.
Not to be outdone, Katie takes this opportunity to throw a tantrum. Her lock has been raped, and she can’t wait to complain to the world about it. To her mind, Ian is sucking up to father figure Tom too much and not enough to her, the only woman in the world whose opinion matters about any subject. It’s the type of petulant behavior that even Dennis the Menace would frown upon. The absurdity of it notwithstanding, the game play aspect of this is crucial. Ian now needs to worry about both Tom and Katie flipping on him. If either of them does, a potential tie occurs. If both of them do, he has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The first batch of voting is a tie. Tom turns on Ian during this round, but Katie remains loyal. This sets up an uncomfortable possibility that we could see another tie and Tom could wind up receiving the Paschal treatment. There is also the strange possibility that both Tom and Katie could flip their voting in round two, which would also lead to a tie. In the end, none of this happens. Katie again votes against Jenn while Tom continues to punish Ian for his treachery. To our relief, the show’s producers have corrected the previous flaw with the system. With Tom possessing immunity, there is no attempt to draw rocks out of a bag. Thank God.
Ian and Jenn are asked to duplicate the playoff challenge Steph had previously won against Bobby Jon. The first of them to make fire and trip a flag wins survival while the other is voted off. The thought of Ian getting voted off is tantalizing, but we don’t hold out much hope here. Whereas Steph showed the initiative to attempt to learn all camp tasks, things were a bit different at Koror. The women-folk were left to do chick stuff, while the manly men were handling all of the caveman duties. Tom would never hear of a woman starting a fire! He’s a fireman, for goodness sake. This proves to trip him up in the end as Jenn proves woefully ineffective in starting a fire. Ian finally stops choking long enough to do something right, winning survival. It was touch and go there for a while, but Jenn winds up not making the final three, just as we had anticipated all along.
There are going to be some big-time fireworks at camp, though. “Gee, sorry about that whole putting the knife in your back and twisting thing, Tom. No hard feelings, right?”
This ends part one of our finale re-cap. Part two should be up in a day or so.