NICE GUYS FINISH LAST: Good Sportsmanship Lands Matt On Redemption Island
“You Own My Vote” Phillip continues to display erratic behavior and tries to get in good with Rob, but his poor performance in the Reward/Immunity Challenge is a large factor in Ometepe’s second consecutive loss. However, it’s Matt’s performance that irks Rob more, as Matt runs over to congratulate Zapatera on their win. At Zapatera’s camp, Ralph trumps Russell and stumbles upon the Hidden Immunity Idol with no hints, even as Russell stealthily swipes the clue from the Reward basket and lies to Ralph and Mike about having it.
The episode starts off in the aftermath of that first Looney Tunes Tribal Council. After being voted out, Francesca arrives at Redemption Island and says being there could be for the best. “I could still win Survivor,” she tells the cameraman, who impressively does not immediately burst into laughter. Dude, sign that guy up as a Buckingham Palace guard. He’s made of stone! Back at Ometepe, Phillip asks to talk to Boston Rob, it being somewhat a miracle that he can talk, what with his dry mouth condition and all. Phillip is worried that everyone must think he’s a loose cannon — now why would they think that? — so he pledges to Rob that “until I go to Redemption, you own my vote.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is music to Rob’s ears. Not that Rob doesn’t recognize the risks of counting on someone so loopy. “I don’t know if he’s delusional,” says Rob. “I think he’s a good-hearted guy. I do. Just might not all be there. Let it be a lesson to you. Government jobs — stressful.”
The next day Phillip goes crab hunting, which, as far as I can tell, amounts to chucking various objects (spears, rocks) at the poor little critters. For some reason killing the innocent crabs reminds him of how much he loves his country. (Personally, it reminds me of the time back in Micronesia where I joked that such an occurrence “most likely wasn’t the first time Parvati caught crabs,” thereby enraging both Parvati’s mom and —randomly — Peter Berg. I kid cause I love, Parv!) Then, out of nowhere, Phillip does something rather remarkable, morphing before our very eyes into Stuart Smalley. “I still love Phillip Sheppard,” he says. “He’s a good guy. And that’s okay.” Hey, remember that movie Stuart Saves His Family? Of course he saved them. THANKS TO THE LION!!!
When I first heard Ralph crowing like a rooster, I thought he’d be headed back to the farm as fast as Steve “Chicken” Morris, Survivor: China’s first castoff. Finding the Hidden Immunity Idol wasn’t something to brag about—he discovered it while gathering rocks, after all—and he didn’t. Unlike Kristina (and Russell himself in previous seasons), Ralph kept mum about his finding, proving he is a shrewd player. Was confronting Russell about snatching the clue the best move? He made a sure enemy of the wily villain—but at the same time, Mr. Man Sweater drew a line in the sand between Russell and his “dumb two girls” alliance and the rest of the resentful tribe, which will play out next week. If he can avoid ruffling anyone else’s feathers, my money’s on Ralph to outlast Russell and go far in the game.
The return of Rob and Russell, however, was front and center throughout the hour, and the two veterans could not be having a more different experience with their respective tribes. Although we got hints of it in the premiere, Rob has emerged as the undisputed leader of Ometepe, while Russell only continues to breed animosity between himself and some of his Zapatera tribemates. The idea of their big rivalry being the story of the season won’t get a chance to play out unless they both make the merge, but for now, their different game styles and personalities are certainly making for two completely different tribes, which is always entertaining to watch.
Last week, I mentioned that Rob’s ease in playing the game makes for a less interesting narrative, but after tonight’s episode, I am doubtful of my own (obviously under-baked) theory. This was especially apparent when Rob’s power led him to orchestrate an elimination that was much more about emotions than strategy and orchestrate it with ease. At the beginning of the episode it seemed clear that if Ometepe went to tribal, either crazy Phillip or idol-holding Kristina would be the target of the vote. Rob, however, took exception to Matt’s congratulatory handshakes to Zapatera after they won the immunity challenge. This, coupled with Matt’s newfound friendship and possible alliance with Andrea, made Matt’s presence on the tribe too much for Rob to bear. Easily (almost too easily) Rob orchestrated a blindside vote for Matt, while still flushing out Kristina’s immunity idol and keeping tight rein on the Tribal powder keg that is Phillip.
It was a masterful performance, truly dominating, but was it the right move for Rob in the long run? Ever since the brutal jury questioning on Rob’s first All-Star run, he has been a much more emotional player and abandoned some of the long-term scheming that helped him and Amber make the final two together. It is probably too early to discern if getting rid of Matt was the right thing to do, but it certainly seemed capricious and indicative of the way Rob less successfully played the game in Heroes vs. Villains. (Although I can’t be too hard on Rob for his exit there, since Tyson’s epic stupidity was what ultimately failed him.)
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