Survivor: Guatemala Recap
Episode Two: Man Down
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
September 23, 2005
When last we left Survivor, Bobby Jon and Stephenie returned, a bunch of people were thrown into the middle of a brutal jungle setting, a lot of guys got sick, and Steph finally won a group Immunity Challenge. Also, the old guy was voted off. No one was surprised. With the start of episode two, no one from his tribe is missing him, either. Honestly, they probably don't remember his name any more than we do.
Continuing the theme that this is going to be the "beat the hell out of the contestants season", we skip straight to the reward challenge after we show the after-effects that are lingering from the last one. Considering the difficulty level of the challenges, it appears that the success of each tribe (and eventually, each Survivor) will be determined by whoever can recuperate the fastest from their previous trials and tribulations. This season should have been titled Survivor: Punishment, Perseverance and Pain. Hey, if the players are gluttons for punishment, we'll watch.
Driving home this philosophy, we skip pretty much straight to our first Probst sighting. This time, the challenge is Charlotte's Web...in HELL! It looks sort of like Rope Thunderdome, but with this contest, they have to navigate the exterior. The goal is to retrieve one of eight bags that are tied to various spots in the construct. The catch is that the thing is built over a small body of water, and you aren't allowed to take a swim until you've obtained a bag. Any contestant who does fall in will lose a turn, thereby costing their team a lot of time. The degree of difficulty on this one looks to be a seven out of ten, with the possible fallout being rope burns, exhaustion, and vertigo. Wusses need not apply.
The opening leg is Bobby Jon versus Jamie, and it emphasizes the fact that the Yaxha men came out of the initial challenge in better shape than the Nakum boys. Bobby Jon gets left in the dust. To be fair, we immediately question the equality of the apparatus setup. Jamie is able to mount the rope easily, whereas Bobby Jon is forced to jump, forcing him to ascend the web as if he were a child hanging from the monkey bars. While he does get beaten, it's an impressive show of physical strength and balance. Say what you will about Bobby Jon, he always manages to lose in a way that makes you think "wow".
Cindy and Brian go up against each other in the second leg, and our thought from last week that the challenges seem to favor the women more in the early going is reiterated. The difference in the challenge is in the leg where Johnny Fairplay wannabe Rafe goes up against Margaret of Nakum. At this point, Rafe proves to be the weakest non-70-year-old. Not only does he fail to retrieve his bag, he's not even able to lift his own body weight when trying to get out of the water. His multiple attempts to climb THREE RUNGS (!) is one of the saddest physical challenge performances since Lill. Rafe's suckitude earns him a long lecture from drill sergeant Steph. Although his Yaxha teammates do manage to make it close, they're never able to fully recover. Nakum takes home the gear that will allow them to fish for food, including worms and a filleting knife.
It should be noted that Blake is the hero on the anchor leg. Earlier in the episode, he was shown to be, well, near death. Unable to breathe and still suffering from the ill-effects of the porcupine branches from last episode, his teammates seem genuinely concerned for his well-being. Nonetheless, he navigates two legs of the course in the reward challenge at breakneck speed, carrying his team to victory. It's truly an impressive performance.
Nakum wastes no time in breaking out their victory equipment. Five members of the tribe row out at the "butt crack of dawn" (Vile, party of one) to fish. Their bait only attracts the tiniest of speciments, though, so the end result is the nice start for a new aquarium rather than dinner.
We ridicule Nakum, but contrast them to what Yaxha is considering. Loser Rafe has discovered a giant, dead-seeming grasshopper. It's not even like he caught a lively one. Nope, he's just returned with the moldy, dead bug. And he wants to eat it!
Meanwhile, it appears that football great Gary Hogeboom is assessing the worthiness of his various teammates. He notes that his cursory examination reveals that Morgan is doing a lot less around the camp than everyone else. "I love Morgan," he says, "but you gotta work around the camp if you want tribemates to be on your side." All we can say to this is, LIAR! You don't even know Morgan. You've been there three days, for God's sakes. If you already love her, you and the missus need to attend some marriage counseling.
Rafe is truly center stage as far as looking silly this week. He and Gary decide that ants are a terrific source of protein, and despite the fact that they gross Stephenie out as they do so, they go ahead and munch away. "Mine almost has like a nice little zing to 'em," Rafe says. Dude, that's probably because they're biting your mouth. When you say you went to Brown, does that mean that you graduated from UPS training school? Because we were assuming it meant Ivy League. (Note: We love our UPS man and want him to know it.)
Meanwhile, back at Nakum, not everything is hunky-dory. Sure, they're not (happily) eating bugs, but their team chemistry is bad enough that you expect to see Terrell Owens doing crunches in front of the cameras. Judd, who fell flat on his face during the award challenge, is jealous of Blake, the hero. He has stewed over this long enough to create a reality in which it happened because he does all the work at camp, and Blake doesn't do anything. Hey, Judd, it could just be because you're a giant clumsy lump. His insecurities probably aren't appeased any by realizing that Blake could be modeling for Calvin Klein, while Judd shops at the big and tall store - and not because he's tall.
Before the Immunity Challenge starts, sports radio host Danni evaluates her tribe's strength versus Yaxha. Normally, this sort of discussion wouldn't be worthy of mention, but Danni surprises us. She outs Gary Hogeboom as a former NFL quarterback and even goes so far as to insult his athleticism. Given that Gary was hoping to keep his past a secret and is 15 years out of the limelight in a sport where faces are rarely seen anyway, this revelation is frankly stunning. Words can't quite do it justice. On a related note, this means that Gary doesn't know it, but he's really rooting against Danni making it to the merge. Otherwise, the cat is out of the proverbial bag.
It's time for Probst, and the challenge is a strange one. You've seen parents who keep their children on leashes. Now imagine that kid just out of reach of a candy store, desperately trying to tug his way to the promised land. Finally, picture that the whole scene takes place in the mud. It's a lot like Woodstock, really. All the contestants are caked in mud, semi-coherent, and they're having wardrobe malfunctions up the wazoo. Literally. What's particularly odd about this challenge is that the various contestants are allowed to interfere with opposing contestants. Brian just walks over and grabs the leash of one of the girls on the other team. Danni takes issue with this action and slings mud at him. Again, literally. The two wind up settling their sexual tension with some good, old-fashioned Greco-Roman wrestling. And that's just round one!
Nakum lines up with a slight lead at the end of the round, but is unable to grab their flag. So, all of that fighting was for nothing. A stalemate is declared. At least Danni and Brian got something out of it. The tie is settled by individual tugs. The first match-up involves large-and-in-charge Judd vs. semi-athletic Gary. Were Gary a linebacker, this duel would be much more interesting, but he is simply no match for Judd's *ahem* girth. Gary does get in a tackle, but he fails to realize the winner of the round is the person who is closest to the flag.
Round two sees farmer Brandon vs. Jamie the pretty boy. Jamie gets off to a strong start, but he makes a crucial mistake when he stands up to gain leverage. He could not have timed this move any worse, allowing his opponent to gain 15 feet and access to a rope that provides leverage. The farmer grabs the flag and slams it down in macho fashion.
Since the tribes are allowed to pick their contestants, Jamie and Judd are both chosen to go again. As was the case in his last battle, Jamie gets off to a fast start. Judd gets to be the hero just as he had hoped, though, as his strategy of waiting until the end and then bursting forward with a massive show of strength wins the round. He owes it all to a high-carb diet. Screw you, Atkins!
And now, it's time to play It's Anyone But Rafe. As was the case with Nakum last week, Yaxha has a readily apparent weak link. We'll learn a lot about the team's ability to make fundamentally sound decisions with this vote. As grueling as the challenges have been so far, it would be Survivor suicide to vote off a strong player instead of a Rafe player. He's weaker than three-day-old coffee.
Pretty Jamie quickly demonstrates that he is little more than a Ken doll, as his idea is to vote off Stephenie because she is strong. This makes us consider starting our own $4.95 a minute hotline for in-game advice for people with the intelligence of, well, Jamie. See above re: stupidity, big guy. Gary Hogeboom, on the other hand, does not need to call us. He states to the camera that they need to keep their strongest players as long as possible due to the difficulty of the challenges. It's a good thing for Yaxha that he's emerged as a team leader instead of Jamie. And oh, by the way, didn't Jamie just lose two out of three heats?
"Clearly, I'm the strongest girl on the team. Why would they want to vote me off first? It's retarded. I refuse to go early this time. I refuse." --Stephenie
Don't worry Steph, it's got to be a swerve.
Remember earlier when we were talking about Danni recognizing Gary Hogeboom and noting that he would want her gone at the earliest opportunity? Too late! It seems that while she and Brian were wrestling, she imparted her tasty morsel of knowledge to him. As a result, Brian asks Gary if he had been an NFL quarterback in a past life. To his credit, Gary's response is pretty good. He doesn't deny too much, and he stays more or less quiet. He has a couple of tells, like scratching his face, but they don't seem particularly out of place given their buggy locale. As the discussion proceeds, Stephenie watches and listens intently. It's this sort of keen perception that makes her so dangerous in the game.
The editing is against us with regards to Rafe, though. From the discussions going on in camp, it looks like the Yaxha folks have deemed Lydia and Morgan the weak links. Morgan is somehow credited as being the tougher player in challenges, whereas Lydia is a better worker. We think this is crap, as Lydia has outperformed Morgan in everything we've seen so far and done so with a smile on her face to boot. Would-be manipulator Brian agrees with us, and tells not-NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom (and wherever did you get that idea?) as well as Lydia herself.
When Lydia offers her fealty to Gary, you can see the wheels spinning in his head. He needs to form an early alliance that can make a deep run, but doesn't have any players who would threaten him at the end. Lydia fits the profile, but if he's done his homework, she could remind him of a Sondra to his Rupert. She uses him as a human shield for most of the game. The same could be said of potential alliance members Brian and Rafe, neither of whom appear likely to go far in the game without some combination of diplomacy and treachery. He'll have to either go with players like these or align with Steph, and we're not sure Gary is ready to make that move yet. For now, the strongest man and woman at Yaxha are satisfied to work together to avoid any abominable short-term decisions. This game is evolving exactly as last season would have if Steph and Tom had been on the same tribe.
"She knows the game really well, she's always going to be a threat, and she's tough. She's not like a girl, she's more like a boy." --Mr. Misogyny 2005 Jamie, describing Steph at Tribal Council
At Tribal Council, Probst throws Lydia a lifejacket when he asks her why the Survivors should think she's stronger than she looks. Lydia's response is that she has a fiery determination that vastly exceeds her athleticism. This leads to a passionate shaking of the head from Brian. The ironic answer comes from Morgan, who confidently states that the tribe has been honest with each other with regards to tonight's vote. Any time a potential victim makes this reply, the undertaker can go ahead and measure them. Eight votes later, seven people have cordially invited Morgan to get the hell out of Guatemala. Like a good little magician's assistant, she vanishes without a trace.