It was rebound time for Survivor: Redemption Island after last week's lackluster effort, so they gave us a slingshot meets lacrosse challenge, which involved balls and nets, so it's close enough. But we'll get to that later.
Let's start where we usually start, with Phillip and the Ometepe tribe. But, for perhaps the first time, it wasn't Phillip acting like a clown, but rather Ashley and Natalie, who declared that particular afternoon another "beach day," still failing to realize that Boston Rob's previous organization of a "beach day" was just a ploy to get them away from camp so he could look for, and successfully find, the Immunity Idol. The girls decided that Phillip and his baggy red Hanes had held the title of "Grossest Tribe Member" for too long, so to win the award this week so they gave each other armpit manicures (where were they when Russell's pits were afflicted with a nasty, infected rash?), turning Ometepe camp into a Nicaraguan jungle day spa. But, hey, before you get on their case for lounging around while Phillip does all the work, you should know that Ashley deserves the royal treatment, letting us know that "I worked hard all my life. I was a basketball player. I was in pageants. It's not like I was lazy." So TAKE THAT, naysayers! And, Phillip, LAY OFF about the firewood. We'd like to see you braid Andrea's hair better than Ashley.
Steve, meanwhile, is horribly offended that Stephanie and Krista wrote his name down at the last tribal council, because, apparently, Stephanie and Krista were supposed to vote for each other. For an ex-NFL player ("ex-NFL Player?"), he's kind of a wuss. Come to think of it, we can see why they voted for him. Paranoia mixed with insecurity mixed with hypersensitivity, they need to get rid of that guy.
The prior night Krista (after casting her vote for Steve. SO MEAN!) arrived on Redemption Island, guns blazing, ready to declare war on Matt. "You're going down, blondie!" No, you're going down, blondie!" "No, you're going down, blondie!" (It was totally weird when Dagwood Bumstead showed up. But there was one thing Krista didn't count on: Matt also loves Jesus! And what did Jesus say about encountering a competitor that you'll soon face in an elimination challenge? Hop immediately into bed with them, of course. Seriously, Krista shows up and within a matter of minutes Matt basically gets to second base. If that's Redemption Island, sign us up.
Of course, nothing really happened between the two blondies, and they further cemented their mutual religious devotion the next morning when Krista retrieves her luxury item: a bible, duh! (And a pink one to boot! Must the King James). After a quick prayer it was time for their duel, which now felt less like a duel to the death and more a duel to the no hard feelings hug and encouraging goodbye. As we pointed out last week, each Redemption Island challenge involves some kind of children's game or puzzle, and this one was no different, incorporating a table maze (which was just an oversized Labyrinth game (something we'd often sneak into our older brother's room to play)). We feel pretty confident predicting that one of the next few battles will feature some variation on Jenga (and we encourage everyone to play along at home).
Just like last week, this was a rather underwhelming challenge, even though Krista jumped out to a significant lead (much like Francesca did in the first Redemption Island showdown). On the whole we're pretty happy with this season, even without Russell, and we don't mind the idea that players get a second chance, but these Redemption Island challenges just aren't doing it for us. Perhaps it's because they occur in the middle of the episode; or because at this point we doubt either contender will last long enough on the island to get back in the game, or even if they do manage to reenter, they won't last long. Whatever it is, even with Matt staging another come from behind victory, it's lacking excitement.
(Another note in regards to these challenges, as remarked on by one of our viewing companions: Geico Redemption Island Arena is rather tiny, enclosed on two sides by faux-Roman Coliseum bleacher seats, so it doesn't really allow for challenges other than the small, contained puzzle and simple game challenges we've seen so far. The confined space doesn't permit something like an elaborate obstacle course. Let alone medieval jousting, which we thought was the whole idea of Redemption Island.)
So Matt takes the victory, but, of course, Krista is content with her elimination, comforted by the fact that her loss is God's will. Of course, we're not so sure that God is concerning himself (or herself) with the outcome of a reality show challenge. You know the old saying: man plays Survivor, God laughs. But Krista is happy to walk off into oblivion, and Matt lives on yet another day. Meanwhile, Andrea is like "Damn, Matt's a player! He already shacked up with another girl. And he took her bible! Maybe he's not the man I thought I knew after spending three days with him."
Back at Ometepe, the tension hasn't dissipated, and a storm's a'coming. Not so much your standard dark clouds, lightning, thunder and rain storm (although, that does appear to be on its way), but a Phillip temper tantrum storm. He's had just enough of the girls not pulling their weight around camp ("but not you, An-drea"), and tells them that they need to start gathering firewood. But Ashley will not tolerate that. That is not how you talk to a former basketball player. You don't just tell a former basketball player to pick up wood and tend to a fire. No, you politely ask a former basketball player. But this only riles Phillip up further, who's fed up being treated like the "red stepchild" and a "dog that is petted by people who don't like dogs" (or something like that) by the pageant queens. So he proceeds to pretty much stalk Ashley across camp, explaining, "Walk away and I will follow you." Which is a) not the way to gain someone's good graces and b) borderline harassment. Luckily, Boston Rob steps in and defuses the situation, noting that he "had to play Arafat," because we all remember when the late Palestinian leader brokered those peace talks between the US and Israel. But, to be fair, Boston Rob was never renown for his vast knowledge of foreign affairs (although it is curious that he didn't take the easy way out there and employ some sort of Red Sox or Patriots analogy. "I had to play Terry Francona," "I had to play Tom Brady," either would have been much more accurate).
We head into the Reward/Immunity Challenge with Zapatera already experiencing a divide in the tribe, with some of the members (including sensitive Steve, apparently), indicating a willingness to break their alliance with Sarita and vote her out next instead of Stephanie, especially since Sarita has been complaining about an injury to her "backteeth" caused by brushing her teeth with a "dirty stick" (as described by Ralph). Stephanie has taken note of this weakness, and can't wait to prove her value to the tribe, saying "I would love to go into a challenge where I could show off everything I have and then Sarita's lagging and I pick up her slack and we win the challenge and everyone's really happy with me and it's so great and we high five and then Steve and Mike pour Gatorade on me and then we spray champagne all over each other and then later in a quiet, reflective moment Julie comes by and tells me I did a 'great job,' and then there's some kind of parade in my honor."
Well, Stephanie gets her wish, sorta, when Sarita immediately volunteers to sit out the challenge, the aforementioned slingshot meets lacrosse competition, and Stephanie lands the plum, critical role of slingshot launcher. While Phillip warns Probst that he's going to use the gorilla AND the lion (and Probst is floored), it's really Grant who channels some kind of inner beast, catching nearly every ball launched in his direction and absolutely destroying Mike, and pretty much single-handedly winning the challenge for Ometepe (hey, Mike, little tip: Natalie is going to try a short pass to Grant. Instead off ripping Grant's shirt, maybe try a little thing called "defense"). We've been waiting for Grant to demonstrate what a phenomenal physical talent he is, and this was his coming out party. We just have to wonder if he put a bit of a target on his back. His significant athletic prowess is a significant threat, and we imagine that fact is not lost on Boston Rob. Meanwhile, Ometepe was thoroughly embarrassed, like just flat out humiliated. Really, one of the most one-sided losses in Survivor history. And now they have to return to Tribal Council. Do they stick to their original plan and vote out Stephanie, who admittedly, has some considerable spunk. Or do they shift to plan B, exiling Sarita, who Steve notes is an "Uptown Girl," who might not be able to handle the "Pressure," and while they are "Keeping the Faith" they just might not love her "Just the Way You Are," and even though Stephanie is a "Stranger" and a "Big Shot" who will "Go To Extremes" to win the game, Sarita might be "Movin out." Although they can count on her "Honesty," it just might be "Goodnight Saigon" for Sarita. Don't ask me why.
And while Phillip is no doubt still sore at Ashley and Natalie because they "Didn't Start (or tend to) the Fire," they put aside their differences to enjoy a picnic lunch in the shadow of the four-toed statue from Lost. And what a picnic it is! As Ashley tells us, the spread includes "fish...guacamole...everything we wanted to eat." EVERYTHING. But for Boston Rob the reward takes a back seat. No, this guy is still playing the game every second, even if the picnic table is overwhelmed with such bounty as fish AND guacamole. And he quickly spots another Immunity Idol clue (enough already, guys!). This time, however, he lets Grant find it, and the two quickly scurry away to "check out the view." But do you know who won't fall for that old routine? That's right, Former Federal Agent (?) Phillip. Guess what, guys. BUSTED. And not only is your little two-man secret club busted, but so is Phillip's trust in you, as is perhaps his heart. Phillip believed in the unity of the three of them, dubbing them "Stealth R Us," but now, using the advanced lie detection skills he learned in 4 years, 11 months and 13 days working for the government, he realizes he's a lone lion-gorilla (wait, that's all the time he spent as a Federal Agent (?)??? Not even half a decade? Is Phillip confusing working for the government with needing five years to graduate high school?). And "Hell hath no fury...like a lion AND a gorilla...when he think he's been provoked" (as usual, Phillip didn't really know what he was saying and just kind of made it up midway through). So, watch out Rob and Grant, you've insulted Phillip and his country. Here comes Phillip. Here comes America. What are you going to do when Phillip's tattered red undies run wild on you?
After admitting that they were thoroughly smoked, just absolutely slaughtered by Ometepe, Zapatera begins deliberating on whom to vote out; Sarita, who has a toothache, and may or may not be a liability in challenges, or Stephanie, who, as far as we know, has no maladies in the jaw region and is marginally better than Sarita in challenges. However, David the lawyer makes clear what verdict he's pushing for: "Objection! Sarita is the weakest and should be sent home!" Or something to that effect (side note: it's shocking that they didn't for one second consider that Julie might be the weakest female).
Before Probst can get out his first question at Tribal Council Stephanie immediately cuts off Sarita to point out how terrible she is, how Sarita was all too willing to sit out the challenge. Sarita, to her credit, admits that it was painful to stand on the side and watch Mike get smoked over and over (and over) again, but she seems unable to convince the tribe that she's as willing to mix it up as Stephanie, even though Stephanie didn't do anything physical in the challenge (unless you count falling in the sand after launching a small ball from a giant slingshot as intense physical competition). Last week Sarita claimed that her alliance was playing fast and furious, but right now it appears that Stephanie is playing 2 Fast 2 Furious, building her case against Sarita (speaking of building cases, David's idea of lawyering seems to be making his position completely obvious, unnecessarily putting all his cards on the table. Good lawyering!). Or, perhaps, Stephanie is playing Too Fast, Too Furious, her cogent argument showing why she is, in fact, the more dangerous player.
Well, it turns out to be the latter, as the tribe decides to stick with the "Uptown Girl" and vote out Stephanie. She might not have started her fire, but Probst finishes it. And, we think it's the right decision. Stephanie IS stronger than Sarita, but only slightly so, and she's already proved that she can't be trusted. So, once again, it was the lesser of two evils. The ache in the mouth is preferable to the snake in the grass.
REMEMBER, STEPHANIE, LOOSE SLINGSHOTS SINK SHIPS.
Seth Keim: Weaned on Growing Pains, the Muppets and Mister Salty Pretzels, Seth developed his affinity for pop culture at a young age, lulling himself to sleep with Welcome Back Kotter reruns. At 13, he cut his chops playing Six Degrees of Bacon at Kutshers Sports Academy. He then majored in English and minored in Film Studies at Tufts University, where he was the campus' foremost TGIF scholar. After spending several years producing corporate videos in NYC he moved to LA, played an extra on one episode of The Big Bang Theory, and promptly moved back. Seth resides in Brooklyn and recently purchased a beta fish. Follow him at Jumped The Snark and on Twitter.