Survivor Guatemala Recap
Episode 3: The Brave May Not Live Long, but the Cautious Don't Live at All
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
September 30, 2005
When we last left Survivor, the women were kicking the men's asses. You'd think this was the Amazon instead of the land of the Mayans. So dominant were the women that their triumphs weren't even limited to the challenges. Danni is observant enough to recognize former NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom despite the fact that his glory days are 15 years in the past. Meanwhile, Margaret spent her valuable time nursing the super sick Blake. Oh, and Bobby Jon finally won an Immunity Challenge. Coincidentally (?), he had nothing to do with it. Also, we're still trying to figure out the difference between Aztecs and Mayans. Does it have something to do with whether they eat Kosher?
Seven seconds into tonight's episode, we already know what the theme is going to be. Lydia, who was the silver medalist in last week's elimination vote, is shown working her ass off. Simultaneously, three of her younger tribemates - ones who questioned her value - have hit the snooze alarm all morning.
"I'm a hard worker. You know, I don't deserve to go. The person that I would have chose would have been Brianna, because she's kind of on the weak side. We need a strong tribe. We have to start winning." - Lydia
Clearly, Lydia should have been voted off. Not because she's weak, as the less savvy players intimated, but because she's much, much smarter. Her early stage game theory is light years ahead of Paul Walker wannabe Jamie and Jessica Alba wannabe Brianna. (P.S. Do us a favor. Don't see Into the Blue this weekend.)
A priceless moment ensues. Archenemies Lydia and Brianna are sitting alone together, forced to make conversation. It goes about as well as you would expect. Lydia mumbles something about the weather, but the conversation is less than enthusiastic. As Brianna says, "I'm cordial with her, but she's just not my cup of tea."
Rob Cesternino wannabe Brian gloats to the camera that it was his string-pulling manipulations that led to Morgan's ouster. We're pleased with the result, but hearing him gloat about being so empowered on the first vote out is kind of ridiculous. Seven people noticed that one of them was utterly inept. Way to go, Brian. You've really pulled a coup here. For your next trick, convince people to go see Serenity tomorrow. If you can accomplish that, we'll completely turn around where you're concerned.
Day seven at Nakum sees the group discover why they're called howler monkeys instead of just plain monkeys. These piercing little primates are apparently trying to usurp the title of "most strident" from the banshees. Judd spends a couple of minutes whining about them, but for once, we think he has cause.
It's Probst time! After the host tells Nakum who had been voted off of Yaxha, no one looks surprised. That's right, Brian. You're a total super genius.
The reward challenge is one of those that they do every season where all of the tribe members are blindfolded with the exception of one who will call out instructions. This time around, the groups are to use various building materials to create what Probst calls an "archaeological excavation site." It's actually a tent - and a cheap one, to boot. Nonetheless, the fact that numerous large wooden poles are being swung around by people who can't see makes for high comedy value indeed. It takes all of 30 seconds for the first person to get clunked in the head. Next year, the producers will have this challenge include machetes, and the end result is going to be appendages everywhere - just like that Showdown at House of Blue Leaves scene in Kill Bill.
The first part of the challenge (i.e. the funny part) is the search and retrieval of a series of gigantic Lincoln Logs. After all nine are returned to home base, the team can remove their blindfolds and begin their Monster House: Guatemala. It's the getting there that gets them Troy Aikman-level concussed, though.
"Guys go to your left!" Crash! "Err, right." - Brooke, leading the Nakum lambs to the concussion-inducing slaughter.
After this little stumble, though, Nakum's Brooke figures things out. After enough early pratfalls to do a series of Keystone Cops capers, she restores order and nearly helps her team to catch up to Yaxha. Despite this comeback, Gary Hogeboom's team gets their final building block to home base first. Stephenie immediately barks out that they need the girls to tie the base while the boys play with the Tinkertoys. The tent assemblage proves more nefarious than presumed at first blush. The ropes are of different lengths, meaning that they all have specific purposes and cannot be used just anywhere. The Survivors have had a puzzle sprung on them, and this proves to be Yaxha's undoing. As Yaxha bumbles and stumbles their way through the tent's construction, Nakum makes steady progress, eating up the lead. Bobby Jon and Co. seem to know a thing or two about pitching a tent. The intricacies of differing rope lengths do not stymie them the way they do the opposing quarterback. Nakum wins by a surprisingly comfortable margin. Bobby Jon does not walk into the end zone like he's been there before because, well, he hasn't.
Back at Camp Yaxha, Stephenie, who hates to lose, is in full rant mode. Her Gruden face would startle even John Gruden himself. Meanwhile, Bobby Jon is doing his best Nuke LaLoosh. "I love winning, man. It's like, better than losing." His series of challenge wins is the most novel experience since the 40 Year-Old Virgin got lucky.
Crikey! It seems that the spirit of Steve Irwin has infused some of the members of Nakum, or as we call them, Team Dumbass. Disappointed that they weren't given the opportunity to use machetes in the earlier challenge, they try to figure out a way to donate their limbs to reality television. Oy! Zookeeper Cindy sits on the beach and says, "Thanks, but I'm familiar with the way alligators work. I like The Fugitive, but I don't want to be the one-armed man."
Over at Yaxha, it's time to kick it up a notch. Bam! Brianna, trying to prove that there's something of a difference between her and the bump on the log she's been sitting on, serves a hearty meal of corn mush. "It's similar to oatmeal, but not as good. It's sort of crunchy, like a crunchy-sauce-dish-stuck-in-your-teeth kind of meal," says Steph. If the Jolly Green Giant showed up at camp right now, the Yaxha folks would kick his ebullient, verdant ass. Dissatisfied with the current cuisine, Rafe confirms some rumors that he'll put anything in his mouth. He dines on some termites, and former NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom decides to join him. For the rest of this episode, we shall call them the Orkin Army.
Behold the creative process. Nakum wants to give themselves an Extreme Home Makeover, but before any of the heavy lifting gets done, a debate ensues about how to build the canopy. Real man of action Bobby Jon doesn't want to do any of that planning crap, but gets caught up in the group's red tape. Bobby Jon has the same passion for discussion and planning that conservatives have for the artwork of Robert Maplethorpe. Aside: it's a bad sign for the assembled new contestants when a ponderous canopy discussion warrants 10% of the screen time for this episode.
Bobby Jon and Judd are not whistling while they work, though. Instead, they spend the body of the time bitching about how bossy Margaret is and that they suspect she is a member of the no fun police. We're not sure what happens more, Judd complaining or rain in the city of Seattle, but we think his issue this time might be that Margaret reminds him of his mother. We suspect that he doesn't get along with his mother. Or anyone else in civilization.
Along with tree mail comes the startling revelation that Danni is a face painter. We were complimenting her last week, but that was before we knew she was creepy. Though maybe we should have figured that out from her stalking of one Gary Hogeboom. Look out, Priest Holmes! It's not safe for you there in Kansas City!
It's Immunity Challenge time, and the two tribes will compete against each other in the oldest Mayan sport, which is something called Court Ball. Probst describes it as a "catch and pass game", thereby eliminating Kobe Bryant. In the olden days, a tribe that lost this game would have to sacrifice a team member (to death). The Yankees/Sox series would have considerably more intrigue if they had to do this - imagine having to fight to save either Jason Giambi or Trot Nixon. The Yankees would still try to save Giambi, wouldn't they?
The challenge is actually quite exciting. It seems like the genesis of James Naismith's idea for basketball, in fact. Players tussle for the ball at the start. Once one team has acquired possession, the person with the ball can either pass or shoot. They cannot, however, move, so it's much like the NBA in the days when traveling was still being called. The netting on the court turns it into a functional trampoline, and the footing is treacherous. Attempts to take possession of the ball are straight out of a rugby scrum. Adding in the fact that the temperature is 114 degrees, Trampoline Streetball has a degree of difficulty of 7.5. Potential fallout from it includes elbows to the face and groin, heat stroke, and a torn ACL here or there.
The first team to score five points wins. Yaxha draws first blood when Rafe dishes the ball to Brian, whose awkward set shot tickles the twine. This elicits a primal scream from Jamie, and a proud note of satisfaction from Probst. "Now we're doing it like the Maya did!" he hollers. Round two is the key to the battle, as the contestants are arbitrarily picked rather than the result of good strategy. Police officer Amy takes a spill right at the start and twists her knee, possibly suffering the ACL injury we joked about previously. Three on two battles occur in all three of her heats, which are easy wins for Nakum. Another problem occurs for Yaxha when Lydia fails to understand the rules. She travels as a result, which is one of the biggest bonehead plays since Leon Lett's Thanksgiving Day fumble. Also, when Steph asks her if she knows what a "pick" is, Lydia has to say no, which doesn't go particularly far in putting her in Steph's good graces. The other noteworthy player is Danni, who matches up as alpha female against Steph, scoring three of her team's five points as they go on to victory. That's five victories in six attempts for Nakum.
Back from the challenge, we learn that Amy twisted her ankle. It's swelled to a degree that would make Ron Jeremy proud. She feels the need to point out to her cohorts that her ankle is healthy, because she realizes that if they think she's weak, her name is Dead Meat tonight at Tribal Council. Punctuating this fact, Gary and Steph are having a conversation about the blights on their tribe. Lydia's lack of athleticism and Brianna's questionable stamina put them in jeopardy as well, but Amy's injury could turn out to be the deciding factor. Historically, injured players have either sacrificed themselves or been sacrificed by others. Pretty boy Jamie's mind is made up about who should go. He says that he likes his women "pretty and crazy", and Brianna disappoints him because she is neither one. No, we don't understand what he's saying, either, but we're sure it makes sense in Jamieland.
Like we said seven seconds into the show, it was readily apparent what tonight's episode was going to focus on - Lydia's hard work versus Brianna's popularity with her young peers. There are two themes to Tribal Council tonight. The first is that Stephenie's worst fears are being realized and it's causing her to behave erratically. It's clear that she worried about history repeating itself in her second attempt at Survivor. Now that she is about to be down a tribe member while still having to keep two of Brianna, Lydia and injured Amy, Steph fears she is once again on the weaker tribe. Going forward, she will need to be much more polite than she has been around camp and at Tribal Council, because her bad attitude is Terrell Owens-esque. So far, she is not the Stephenie we knew and loved last season.
As for the second theme, it's that a woman without friends is a poor Survivor contestant indeed. Amy's natural toughness and athletic ability have earned her the respect of her peers. Lydia's tremendous work ethic is impossible to ignore. Brianna does little around camp other than making some form of corn-flavored gruel, she is not good in challenges and many of her teammates don't find her that pleasant to be around. The discussion about the vote reveals that Brianna lacks any advocate. Her looks have not swayed the hot-blooded younger males, her personality has not endeared her to the women of the tribe, and her work ethic has soured Gary on her worth. When the vote rolls around, this theme is brought to light. Brianna votes for Lydia, but everyone else votes for her.
Despite the fact that Yaxha is losing the battles thus far, their intelligence during Tribal Council might wind up winning them the war. They have not demonstrated enough team unity during the challenges, but the voting unanimity is indicative of a close-knit group who keeps their eye on the prize.