Survivor: Pearl Islands

Episode Eleven: The Great Lie

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

She's still smiling!

Night 27 at Camp Balboa begins the post-Rupert era. Surprise, surprise! Christa is shocked and dismayed by the result of the previous tribal council. She has quickly gone from expecting Burton to be her monkey butler to realizing that the already-written acceptance speech for the final show might have been *just* a bit premature. Sandra takes this opportunity to point out that Jon’s pants are once again on fire. No one at camp even arches an eyebrow, presumably because they realize calling Jon deceitful is like stating that Darrah has a Southern accent. Or that Lill is stupid, gullible, ugly and hideous. (In case you’ve forgotten, we still hate you, Mark Burnett.)

Jon gleefully takes a moment alone with the camera to continue his Vince McMahon audition tape. For the first time, well, ever, something has gone right for this Rob wanna-be (and how sad is it to worship that pathetic dork?). It is at this point that Jon wishes he were one of those eight-armed Ray Harryhausen movie monsters from the old-timey Sinbad movies so that he will have enough hands to pat himself on the back. Jon is the type of guy who thinks that winning the lottery would indicate he had some of special number picking system.

A quick edit interrupts us in mid-guffaw at this buffoon as faux-tribal leader/hunter Burton proclaims that some fish that Rupert had caught have gone missing. We desperately root for zombie fish to assault the camp, starting with Scout Uniform Freak. Burton, no fool, immediately fingers Sandra as the culprit but she quickly offers up her best Michael Jackson-style “Gee, I don’t know where these allegations are coming from” denial. To her chagrin, Christa becomes the target of Jon and Beefcake Boy’s “j’accuse.” A better judge of character would notice that Christa is genuinely hurt and upset by the accusations, while Sandra might as well have gone ahead and painted “I did it!” on her bandana a la Nerd Ryan’s “Die Jerks!”

The following morning, the camp reeks of fish, so any hopes Christa had that this crisis might die down are lost in olfactory oblivion. She remains under the crucible most of the morning, while clever editing shows Sandra confessing on camera. Sandra, the one player here who clearly has her eye on the prize, accurately summarizes the fallout that would occur if she were to confess to Christa. It would ruin her relationship with her lone remaining ally and quickly lead to her elimination from the tribe. At this point in the show it seems like a calculating, selfish maneuver, but it’s early yet and this bunch can certainly top that.

Probst ho! (No, not Jerri Manthey.) Before we get to the reward challenge, we’d like to make note that as the camera lingers on the contestants who have been worn down by 27 days of survival living, Jon looks thinner than ever. He is a walking exoskeleton and we sincerely believe that if you put him in the ring with any fifth grader, you could get even odds in Vegas. Jon might fancy himself the world’s smallest pro-wrestler, but we envision a lot of celebrity boxing in his future. We’d pay big money to see Webster kick his ass.

Probst informs the survivors that the reward challenge will involve the pirate tradition of walking the plank. Jon, the kid who clearly never got invited to any Sadie Hawkins dances, continues his He Man Woman Hater behavior as he comments to Probst that he would love to see Christa and Sandra take a dive. Alas, the 98-pound weakling will not get his wish, as family members and friends of the survivors are revealed as their assistants in this game.

The big moment here is not Lill crying for a record 28th straight day, but instead the arrival of Jon’s equally socially awkward friend, Dan, who shows up waving his fingers in a way that we can only assume means he’s Danny Fairplay. What follows is the long-rumored “big lie” of the season, though the reality is that the American public hasn’t been this disappointed since The Matrix Revolutions hit theaters. Jon, desperate to pull off the best fraternity prank since Animal House, far too gleefully asks his pal, “How’s Grandma?” This comes immediately after gloating about his position in the final seven and looking like the happiest man on earth. His Andy Richter-looking friend slyly replies, “Huh?” before being reminded of his line. “Oh, uh, yeah. Your grandmother’s, like, dead and stuff,” says Butthead to Beavis. Jon’s first attempt at method acting makes us long for the simple pleasure of Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Lill continues her candidacy for “Most Gullible and Stupid Survivor Ever” as she bawls even harder and consoles her little buddy. We guarantee you the BOP vote, lady.

Probst, trapped by the Burnett decree of non-interference, is forced to bite his tongue. Still, we don’t think his condolences would be sincere even if he believed this fabrication since grandma is at least partially responsible for unleashing this hated deviant on the world. For her part, Sandra shoots Jon a look that exemplifies what viewers across the country are feeling.

The game itself is a combination of The Newlywed Game and hangman. Sandra immediately gets into trouble by targeting Fairplay’s friend for elimination. Lill, still trying to convince herself that she is a good person after consecutive Rupert and Andrew betrayals, becomes overly defensive of Jon while America laughs. She’s Screech for a new generation of TV.

We draw a few conclusions during the challenge. First, Tijuana’s ex-boyfriend must have only been in it for the booty, because he knows absolutely nothing about her. Second, Burton reminds us even more of Colby since his mother is the one who shows up for the “loved one” challenge. And finally, we note that Lill’s husband is every bit as disturbing to look at as she is. We hope they didn’t breed.

In the end, it comes down to sympathy recipient Jon versus Lill, with Burton choosing who gets the prize. He picks blood-pact partner Fairplay, leaving millions of Survivor viewers stuck with a few minutes of TV involving two guys who shouldn’t even be allowed on their local public access channel. Still, the People’s Choice from the challenge goes to Sandra for saying, “It’s not about you all the time, Jon.” We imagine that all of the survivors who were dogging her at the time felt very differently about that comment as they watched the episode.

Back from the commercial break, some brutal editing occurs as several contestants are shown lamenting their inability to speak to their family members while applauding themselves for the humanitarian decision to let Jon take the reward. Meanwhile, on a different part of the island, the Enola Gay Summit occurs as Fat Man and Little Boy celebrate the grift they just pulled. The parallel of self-congratulatory indulgence in both conversations reminds us just how much we miss Rupert. The most frustrating aspect is that despite the fact that there is no honor among thieves and that Jon is accepted as a notorious liar, his opponents seem to randomly consider him to have boundaries about when and when not to tell tales. Normally, we’d be sympathetic to them for having been tricked, but frankly, if they’re this stupid, he deserves to have the meal.

The “Big Lie” has been the topic of water cooler discussion for a week now, but when you break it down, the entire thing is nothing more than ego stroking. Jon Punk’d a few other Survivors on national TV. Had they found out about it, he would have been eliminated immediately, so there was no upside to his endeavor other than a little extra face time. We find all the talk of what a “master player” he is to be comical. All it does is further illustrate how much better Sandra is at playing the game than her competitors.

Supporting our assertion, Sandra is then immediately shown manipulating Darrah and Tijuana into an all-girl alliance. She even manages to get Tijuana to overhear a conversation where Burton and Jon boast that they will be the final two players. Sandra has played the trump card by showing Tijuana that if she fails to act now, the game is effectively over.

The immunity challenge, which was created by a grade school student (seriously), is a lot like Boggle, requiring players to make as many words as possible out of the words “Survivor Pearl Islands.” The one catch here is that contestants who claim they are finished with the game must have all their words spelled correctly or they are eliminated from the competition. Tijuana, Christa and Jon are eliminated because of this rule before Burton finally wins.

But wait a minute – as the survivors are walking off, a polite assistant tactfully tells Probst that he has failed to properly ascertain the spelling of “liaison,” which Burton thinks is spelled “liason.” They do a quick run-off to determine a proper winner, and Darrah emerges as the spelling bee champion.

The first ever repossession of the immunity idol is not the only shock in store for the members of Balboa. With Sandra and Christa tucking Tijuana and Darrah’s votes into their back pockets, Burton’s fate would seem to be sealed (again). Jon, realizing Burton is his meal ticket, performs his best “Nixon goes to China” ambassadorship as he takes a stab in the dark by negotiating with Sandra. To the surprise of virtually everyone watching the show, she takes the deal. Moments later at tribal council, it is revealed that Tijuana, not Burton, is the third member of the jury. Looks like everybody took their Stupid Pills this week.