We were a bit disappointed that Phillip officially tossed aside his Trolly mask this episode, leaving the weekly necklace once again back up for grabs. We had considered tossing an award God's way here, what with His continuing insistence on quoted Scripture, and shout-outs from multiple players on Redemption Island. But then something happened. No, it wasn't the realization that Kurt Vile's "Jesus Fever" would make an excellent theme song for any scene on Redemption Island, especially during the loved ones visit (it would, really). Instead, it was our old friend, Jeff Probst, racing to the top of the stairs to declare his love for camera time. Not to mention his love for Boston Rob.
It started off innocently enough, with Probst's usual bellowing of "Second place buys you nothing in this challenge," and similar fare. But somewhere along the way, he slipped into full Mariano Worship Mode, in which an iron-on image of Amber and Rob's daughter magically transformed into a vision of Boston Rob's actual, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood family literally being carried on his back. Maybe it was the heat. You could feel Probst's words beseechingly attempting to carry Rob up that last set of steps, terrified that he might trip on those untied laces, or collapse as he had in Heroes vs. Villains, or not remember Probst's name as he reached the flag at the top, mistakenly celebrating with "I won, Ryan Seacrest, give me my necklace!"
Probst: My job is the pits.
And then, after he won, Probst had the opportunity to further cement his hold on Rob's heart, or at least his armpits. Which, in this season of Survivor, are clearly the windows to the soul. As Rob panted and wheezed from something resembling overheated drama exhaustion, beckoning his lackeys to bring him aqueous sustenance, and perhaps some grapes and a fan, Jeff was there, offering health tips, comfort, guidance. And a strong, manly set of hands to help Rob stand. It had to be done. He has come so far. He's climbed that mountain. We can't allow him to collapse. No, no we can't. He must go on. Like our hearts. Excuse us, while we wipe some sweat away. They are not tears, not on this episode. No.
Apparently ten people left/ six still active is the magic number for editing egalitarianism, because as far as we could tell, everyone had at least one confessional this episode. Even Grant, although we forgot what he said shortly after his scene cut to something else. It was probably about the NFL, or something dull like that. Who the hell knows?
Still, we're not sure what it takes for Rob's alleged right-hand man to get more of a speaking part. You'd think missing immunity by only a few seconds might have merited a peep. But no, Grant instead got to: mimic a breaching whale, make a face by the fire, and call Phillip "Felipe" while off-camera and subtitled. Look, Survivor editors, we're sure Grant's very, very sorry about whatever it was he did to piss off you all off. If you'd just explain what it was... you hate people who played one game for the Chargers? You didn't like his album? You find the combination of yoga and dreadlocks vaguely threatening? We're fairly sure it's impossible for an ex-football player to be boring and not have much to say, otherwise they'd stop casting them, obviously. Duh.
The Ometepe six has (technically, "had," since they're now five [technically, "then" since this happened seven months ago]) quickly devolved into a two-tier challenge society: there were the beasts (Rob, Grant, Andrea, all of whom had a shot at winning this one), and then there were the ones whose primary role was delivering water to the beasts after challenges were over (Natalie... we're not sure what Phillip and Ashley's roles are, frankly). Now you might well argue that being a beast at this point cost Andrea her spot in the game, just as it did to Ralph in the last episode. And you'd be right.
But what we would rather recognize, as Jeff Probst attempted to do at tribal council, is the herculean efforts at last place the second group has been making (to be fair, Ashley didn't do particularly well at this either - despite Probst's declaration that she was out of the challenge, she was actually a whopping ONE step behind Andrea). Now, Phillip may have had a point here: this particular challenge was actually fairly hard, physically, although he seemed to be walking up and down the stairs fairly lackadaisically. It should be pointed out, however, that if he's actually been trying (to win, we mean), he really does suck at puzzles. No matter how great his upper-body strength may be, had Phillip ever watched a (non-Coach) season of Survivor, he might know that there are approximately zero challenges that require it. (Case in point: Dan Lembo.) It's pretty much puzzles, occasional running, puzzles, and then standing around, sometimes while throwing things. And then puzzles.
Maybe Natalie's butt-slapping abilities or Ashley's beard-trimming skills do not translate to puzzle solving. But still, we'd like to think that, apart from being 19 and crying a lot, Natalie's actually been making an effort to not appear too much of a challenge threat. So perhaps it's wishful thinking, but Natalie is the proud winner of this week's Sitty. Don't bother standing.
There's really no point for this award anymore. The only person showing even a glimmer of strategy is of Boston Rob. He's doing a fine job, it's just that he could essentially be running on autopilot here, he has it so easy. Andrea was the obvious person to blindside (except maybe Grant, but Andrea's a much better pick). So instead, we're forced to dust off Ye Olde Ultimate Strategy Utilization Crown of Kings (kinda long, probably should come up with an abbreviation for that), for one of the also-rans who either attempted strategy and failed, or should have done so and also failed.
There was Mike, pledging to further honor and obey Boston Rob (from beyond the grave), by giving up his own and Matt and Ralph's loved ones visits, so that all his lovable Ometepe neighbors could benefit. Which would be a fairly decent jury vote-currying strategy, except Mike later admitted that some little chef named God had been pulling on clumps of Mike's hair the whole time.
Then there was Phillip, who admitted in a confessional that he's been acting up this whole time as part of a strategy to get to the final three. (Really? We never. Would. Have. Guessed.) Which will probably work, except that's as far as he'll get. It's as if he watched Russell Hantz in Samoa and said: "His social game is brilliant! Oh look, Jeff Probst is about to read the votes at the finale. I'll turn it off here, I'm pretty sure I know how it'll turn out."
So instead, we turn to Andrea, who at one point in the game, seemed to be the only person left on Ometepe who could put something together to crack Rob's stranglehold on Ometepe, presumably in concert with a returning Matt and the Zapateras. Andrea's editing hinted at it. Boston Rob fretted about it.
But as soon as that option became available at the merge (Zapateras! Matt! A plan she didn't come up with that was already set in motion!), she ran screaming from it, and blithely voted out anyone and everyone who could possibly assist in such a mission. She then somehow viewed her position within the Ometepe Six as slightly above Phillip, which begs the question of how she was planning to leverage a 1-4 minority status at the F5 vote, but maybe she was counting on a final five season this time around. Okay, maybe we're still bitter about that fake-and-bake early preview that claimed "Hell hath no fury like Andrea scorned," and maybe we should have learned our lesson there. Instead of a strategic player, we got the David Murphy of Ometepe, happily voting out all the people who could have helped her to a better position (although David at least eventually realized this might have been a good thing to do). So for doing so little despite seemingly having so much potential, Andrea wins this week's sarcastic Slitty. Well done?
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