Episode Two: Panicked, Desperate, Thirsty as Hell
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
Tonight’s episode starts out in Losertown as is the custom. Local Saboga Sports Talk Radio has been up in arms over management’s recent decision making, and there are even rumblings that head coach Rupert Boneham might be getting the dreaded “vote of confidence” from Isaiah Thomas. The most recent run of mistakes includes the surprise release of former Survivor MVP Tina Wesson rather than expected salary cap cuts Jerri Manthey or Jenna Lewis.
The fatal blow to the Rupert administration, though, might be the “great contaminated pot incident.” In anticipation of the torches we mentioned yesterday, it seems that the Saboga Togas decided that their best strategy was to poison their sole cooking receptacle by filling it with deathwater. When the team returns home without the aforementioned torches, they were left with the dual concerns of no captured rain water to drink and no clean, untainted pot for cooking. Why do the Iron Chefs never face such adversity? As you might imagine, morale is low with the Togas.
Next up is a little Rudy time. Everyone’s favorite soldier continues to stubbornly drink the water while the others look on in jealous disgust. He decides to boost team spirits by telling the happy story of the six-corpse-filled Vietnam water. It’s pretty much self-explanatory. It goes a long way toward convincing us that when he says he’s drank much, much worse, he’s telling the truth.
It’s not just the agony of defeat causing such low morale, though, as we discover happily-named Mogo Mogo tribe also suffering the ill effects of dehydration. Their prayers are answered when the skies show more mercy than Burnett. Usually rain is greeted with the kind of enthusiasm generally reserved for cold and flu season, but today it is hailed as the Survivor equivalent of a Clampett finding Texas tea. Depressing footage is shown of Lex and Shii Ann sucking water from tree branches in order to satiate their thirst.
Freaky Richard continues to campaign for Mogo Mogo to be a nudist colony. Colby notes, “We have an overweight, gay, naked guy walking around, and no one seems to let it bother them.” Colby does not speak for all of North America at this point.
We finally cut to Chapera, whose members are doing a celebratory rain dance. And we have to say that as disturbing as Richard’s nudity is, Big Tom shakin’ his thang is much, much worse. Survivor All-Stars is turning into a gross-out competition (and we don’t mean in a Fear Factor kind of way).
A trunk is delivered to each tribe, with the ominous message “Do not open” and an explanation that getting the contents wet would be bad. Jenna Morasca continues to make it very difficult for us to like her, as she blithely states that the box lacking any air holes whatsoever “could contain an animal.” We can’t help but feel that PETA would disagree.
Meanwhile, Boston Rob wins the honor of being first Survivor to panic with his “Grog smash box open!” routine. Apparently, the “do not open” note wasn’t specific for him, though his comment “We wouldn’t want to upset Pretty Boy Probst” gives us a belly laugh.
As if summoned, our host arrives. The most humorous aspect of the first reward challenge is the moment when Tina’s elimination is announced. Richard Hatch can hardly hide his glee, while poor Jenna Morasca acts as if her worst nightmares about the way winners would be treated in this game have been confirmed.
The challenge itself is vicious to the point it makes us wonder exactly what these people did to piss Burnett off while on the talk show circuits. There are five swimming legs required in order to get the pieces required to build a set of stairs to the finish line. Those contestants who handle the final leg have to swim the nautical equivalent of five ladder suicides while fighting the physical struggles with hunger pangs and dehydration. Just brutal.
The obvious team led by Ethan and Rupert pulls ahead despite Jenna’s incessant whining (we understand what Greg Buis meant now when he said that his ear infection cleared up). The final leg sees Ethan easily outdistancing Richard and Boston Rob to win the reward – blankets. That’s right, this was all for a lousy set of blankets. But wait! Ever generous Probst makes them an offer they can’t refuse. Remember those three locked boxes? In exchange for finding one-third of a map to one of the keys (whee!!!!), they can give up their blankets. And if they act now, while operators are standing by, Probst will also throw in the conquering of fire. The catch is that if Saboga takes this deal, the other tribes receive the same gift, making the five remaining members of Saboga the most popular Survivors ever. Needless to say, a resounding chorus of “Hell yes!” is shouted.
Back from commercial break, and there are three main topics of conversation. The first is how they all felt like crash test dummies after the extraordinarily grueling challenge. The second is the joy over receiving fire, making them cavemen in blue jeans (excuse me, that’s not politically correct; that’s cave “persons” in blue jeans). The third is the shock and/or celebration of Tina Wesson’s elimination. Even the worst returning players are savvy enough to recognize that the revolution has begun. And it will be televised.
Two of the three tribes (Saboga and Chapera) are immediately able to quickly use their flint to spark a fire, which leads to an adorable moment when Rupert jumps up and down with joy, and an equally entertaining moment when we think that Alicia might shove the flint up Masshole Rob’s nose. The most fascinating discussion involves the Mogo Mogos. Storm clouds off in the distance create a discussion about whether it might not be better to wait until after the rain to start the fire. At exactly the same moment, Shii Ann nods affirmatively, while Kathy violently shakes her head. Some malevolent editing shows a quick cut to later that night, when the fireless tribe huddles together for warmth and bitterly denounces the earlier decision to wait.
The following morning, the tribe is able to finally conquer fire, leading Kathy to offer the insightful comment that on the island, fire represents life. There’s something vaguely familiar about that.
With everything coming up Milhouse, the tribe decides to hit the daily double by going in search of the key. This process involves a bit of spelunking before Richard Hatch (of all people) bags himself a key. Richard proceeds to make sure the camera documents his total apathy in his accomplishment. Creature comforts exist outside the realm of Survivor in his mind.
The lingering remnants of the reward challenge take their toll on the oldest Survivor ever. Rudy has developed a persistent foot injury. An impacting visual is given of the limping elder struggling to move as the four much younger contestants look on. With so much concern being given to eliminating previously successful participants, it is only at this moment that the viewer is reminded just how old this man is. We must credit Burnett for subversive programming of the All-Star reward and immunity challenges. With so many master strategists looking to eliminate threats, the easiest and most straightforward way to add entropy into the mix. By making the challenges so grueling, any strategy involving eliminating a strong player such as Ethan over a frail one such as Rudy must be reconsidered.
Driving this point home is the immunity challenge that follows immediately. The challenge itself is Burnett’s sick, twisted Titanic fantasy come to life. In this analogy, we’ll let Richard Hatch’s ego substitute for James Cameron’s. Our contestants must remove 14 two hundred pound weights from a boat at the bottom of the water, get the boat up to the top of the water, turn it over, bail it out, and row it to shore. Ethan and Rupert do a lot of the legwork for the Sabogas, so their boat is the first one to the surface.
It’s all downhill from there, though, as a comedy of errors sees them losing their bailing bucket and forgetting the main paddle, then slowly sinking as the other two tribes pass them by. The highlight is power-mad Jenna, who had already given Ethan the lay of the land earlier in the episode by “allowing” him to stay another few days, yelling at the poor, injured old man. The move is so repugnant that in a priceless moment, stone-cold bitch Jerri does a double take as if to say, “Wow, I’m not even the most obnoxious woman in my tribe.” Note to Jenna: If Jerri thinks you’ve gone too far, you’ve gone too far.
Once again, Saboga is headed to tribal council.
As the tribe makes the return to camp, Jenna completes her heel turn by blaming Ethan, the man who won yesterday’s reward challenge and put them way ahead today, for the team’s loss. The cosmic hilarity of Jenna, whose main accomplishment in the challenge was sitting on the dock for an extended period of time and yelling at Rudy, ranting about Ethan only doing -most- of the work is indescribable. Coming on the heels of Jerri’s “We’re all blaming ourselves” commentary, Jerri looks to be the team player of the two (and we’re as shocked to be typing that as you are to be reading it).
The pre-tribal council discussions are exactly what you would expect them to be. There are two obvious candidates for elimination in the physically limited Rudy and the too physically gifted Ethan. If this choice were based solely on the biggest threat, Ethan would follow Tina right out the door. Since the challenges have proven so all-consuming, more thought must be given to what the tribe would be like if it were Rupert, an old man, and two women with poor challenge track records. We had speculated last night that a three-man alliance would make a lot of sense, but with the physical conditions so detrimental to Rudy’s well-being, that circumstance has changed. The tribe recognizes this fact, as the swing vote outside the two factions, Ethan, is emphatic that Rudy has to go. The women agree with this assessment, though we’re proud to say that Rupert holds true to his word. It isn’t a smart strategic play at all, but since he knows the votes are already there to eliminate Rudy, it’s the right thing to do. The former Navy Seal is eliminated in a 3-2 vote, leaving two strong-willed men and two even more strong-willed women to battle it out for the supremacy of the Saboga tribe.