Episode Nine: Shocking! Simply Shocking!
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
This episode is either the least accurately titled in the history of the show or a sardonic comment from the producers of the show. Other than some extraordinarily poor play from the participants in the immunity challenge, nothing much happens.
Morning dawns after Balboa’s first tribal council and once-dead Lillian, the bug-eyed betrayer, is up at daybreak explaining how she is going to spend her 30 pieces of silver. While avoiding the composite evil eye from the remnants of the Morgan tribe, she blathers to the camera about how happy she is to have gone all Judas Iscariot on poor, emaciated Andrew. Ever earnest Rupert assuages any lingering guilt about her decision. As a statement of gratitude for her choice, he straightforwardly states that Lill will outlast all of the members of the group that once executed her. Lill, we don’t want to cause you any undue concern, but treachery is generally met with further treachery.
For his part, Cute Ryan has looked around, done some math, and come to realize he’s the most physically fit person in boxers right now. That means he’s the Thanksgiving Day turkey unless he can convince people that beef is what’s for dinner, and he points out that there is no beefier person on the island than Rupert. Ryan fails to notice that there is also beefcake in the form of Burton, whose animal magnetism apparently threatens Sandra and Christa.
Ryan goes to Burton and points out the validity of his arithmetical equation. After counting on his fingers and then verifying it on his toes "this little piggy" style, he has come to realize that Ryan’s three Morgans plus Burton’s two Outcasts is more than Rupert’s four Drakes. The innate simplicity of this strategy guarantees that it will be dismissed out of hand.
As is the rule in episodes of mainly strategic content, a couple of filler subplots are employed. Isn’t it flattering what Mark Burnett thinks of his American audience? Today’s first throwaway bit involves spear master Burton (hey, didn’t Rupert say “No touchy!”) and his encounter with a previously unnamed species of electro-manta ray (soon to be seen in Spider Man 2). Burton shows Rupert how much electricity the creature is emitting, and we begin to wonder if they can get free HBO on it. Suddenly, we realize how misleading this episode's title is. Up yours, Burnett!
What do the Jacques Cousteau Explorers do with their new discovery? Why, they fry it, throw some tartar sauce on it and serve it with chips! It kind of makes you wonder what kind of evolutionary leaps we might have made as a race had we not been so damned hungry. Sidenote to Rupert: if you ever make a pun as bad as “shockingly good” again, we swear to God we’ll root for Jon over you at the final.
Yaaar, Probst! The first individual reward challenge involves a slingshot, plates, marbles, and a flaming bucket. We don’t have a punchline here, but we enjoy that mental image a lot. It’s a carnival-esque game of skill where sharpshooters have to break three plates in order to move on. Cute Ryan does himself no favors by dominating the first heat and thereby reminding people how good he is at challenges. That boy needs to start stroking a machete fast in order to assure people he’s crazy and not a threat. To the surprise of no one who has watched any episode this year, Rupert excels at this challenge to the point that he could teach Bart Simpson and Dennis the Menace a thing or two about slingshots. One moment of note does occur during this heat as Jon’s inaccuracy causes him to break the rules and shoot the plates out of order. A gleeful Probst notes that “it’s one more challenge Jon can’t finish.” You get the feeling that between Osten and Jon, Probst is about ready to tag in and name himself the newest contestant. It’s easy when the bar is set this low, too.
The comedy relief heat involves Tijuana, Lillian and Christa. This is yet another skill at which Lillian will never win a merit badge, but she does manage to eventually (by which we mean V-E-R-Y slowly) best Tijuana.
In the meantime, Christa is unable to write a C++ executable that will allow her to hold a slingshot that in any way resembles a coordinated or graceful attempt. While rolling on the ground laughing at her indescribably inept attempts, we discovered a fun TiVo game: pause on Christa’s face during any physical exertion or key revelation during tribal council. Then try to come up with an adequate description of how hideous she looks at that moment. It’s an auspicious way to become famous as a Survivor, rivaled only by the up-the-nose camera shot of Heather Donahue during The Blair Witch Project. We’re half ready for Probst to come over and just take the slingshot out of her hands.
In the end, Lill puts up a surprisingly tough fight, but Rupert takes home the breakfast buffet prize. Given the option of keeping the Bob’s Big Boy-style reward or giving it away, he returns the favor to Burton from the last tribal council. Burton chooses fellow Outcast Lill as his guest, and it’s obvious that the meal will be spent strategizing. It’s a generous move by Chewbacca, but we have a feeling it might backfire at some point in the future.
Before heading to his romantic oceanfront breakfast with Lill (and don’t you hate us for putting the image of Lill getting her freak on in your head? Think she leaves the hat on?), Burton breaks out the hoe and goes over to the garden snake. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Jon is receptive to betraying anyone he can in order to further his career. Apparently the wrestler he models himself after is Triple H.
With Jon squarely in his pocket, Burton spends the breakfast telling Lill what to do for the next few days. That, and drinking champagne. We’d go into more detail, but that would involve us paying attention to what Lill says. Our biggest concern about the way this Survivor is shaping up is that all the people we can’t stand are looking to go a long way, while the only person remaining that we really like has a billboard-sized bulls-eye on his furry chest.
The clever editing in the next scene drives this point home as Christa and Sandra are shown doing their riff on last season’s Bath of the Bi-Curious Nymphs. They are strategizing the pros and cons of grrrl power. The biggest pro is that they would be able to eliminate Rupert. We then cut to Burton and Lill, who are simultaneously reaching the same conclusion. Everyone realizes who the biggest threat is. The question is when the serfs will try to stand up and overthrow their liege lord.
We cut to the immunity challenge, where this "eliminate Rupert" strategy could have been set into motion. It’s a game of pirate trivia, and as is the case at this point in the season, the rules of the game allow for individual players to be targeted so that they have no chance of winning immunity. Each person is given a “coconut holder” with five slots. Competing players who answer questions correctly are able to fill up the coconut stand and thereby gradually eliminate a strong player. In seasons past, it has been a foregone conclusion that the strongest players are the first to go.
Fear of Rupert must run strong after the great Jon threat a few days ago. Cute Ryan finds himself eliminated in record time, followed by Burton and the remaining Morganites. After that, a scrum breaks out between Jon and Sandra -- assumedly over which one is the bigger bitch – and they eliminate each other. This leaves Christa -- whose knowledge of the local culture makes us wonder if they’re filming this on a Hollywood sound stage -- against Rupert, who apparently did his doctoral dissertation on the stylistic differences between Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. To wit, Rupert wins.
It’s not hyperbole to say that we were screaming at the TV screen as we watched in amazement at the stupidity of the other eight players. Even if they had not planned for Rupert’s elimination, not allowing themselves the opportunity to consider him as a potential target after the challenge was inexcusable.
With Rupert untouchable yet again, the strategic options are limited for the warring factions. Christa and Sandra are obviously perceived as disciples rather than leaders, and everyone recognizes that Cute Ryan really does look good in those boxers. Burnett all but acknowledges this fact as we don’t even get a few minutes of “It’s Anyone But Ryan.” Instead, we are treated to a quick rendition of “Hey, That Darrah Has Some Accent.” Seriously, we’re sitting here in the deep south ourselves so we can’t throw that many stones, but the way she says “firewood” – at least we think that’s the word she was trying to say – comes across unbelievably similar to the Tom Cruise movie Far and Away, or at least Jodie Foster’s Nell trying to say “far and away.” That girl needs her own personal Henry Higgins.
At tribal council, Lill confirms her heel turn (poor Jonny Fairplay must be so jealous) by describing how happy she is to be on the Rupert side of the fence. The only noteworthy event is that Christa continues to demonstrate remarkable tactlessness as she berates members of the Morgan tribe for their laziness. Her comments are so biting that for the first time ever, the smile is wiped off Tijuana’s face. Christa apparently expects that the outnumbered alliance should perform all of the thankless tasks of the tribe. We’re not exactly sure where she got the idea that Cute Ryan would become her monkey butler, but we find it hysterical that she can’t hide her disappointment that it never happened. Since Ryan is immediately voted out 8-1, we can’t help but wonder that if maybe she had suggested it to him, a deal could have been brokered.
Stay tuned next week for more idle threats against Rupert followed by more eliminations of remaining Morgan members. Stupid really is as stupid does.