It's the storyline that keeps limping along: "Lisa is secretly a former teen actor!" and "JEFF KENT! is secretly a former baseball player!" Intros, other players (Artis, most of original Kalabaw) and merged tribe naming debates are trimmed from the show to make room for it. And the most hilarious part about it is: No one cares.
Say all you want about "They're too young," Penner. Maybe it's just not that important. The only people who appear to give a crap about Lisa and Kent's secret identities are the editors, CBS itself ("Hey everyone! We have celebrities on Survivor this season! Please start watching it again! Pretty please?"), and whoever titled the episode. Do we really need to keep showing them fretting about this? So far, its cumulative impact on the game has been in giving Jeff Kent! an excuse to vote out poor Dawson.
Okay, yeah, in the context of there only being time to show things that have to do with either the episode or the overall arc of the series, we expect both of these secret identity things will eventually come into play. If Lisa reaches the final three, as Penner confidently predicted here, a double-crossed Skupin or Penner could easily expose her sordid Hollywood past, to the horror of the jury. Same for Jeff Kent, although honestly, after his strategic decision-making in this episode, final three seems firmly out of reach for him. So please, to avoid even more future Trollys, Survivor, dial back the breathless TMZing a bit, okay?
Do you remember Denise? Smart, determined, aware, strong, running social circles around her Matsing tribemates, solid strategically? Seemingly one of the best all-around female Survivor players ever? Despite her being an important part of the majority voting alliances in the past two episodes, we haven't heard her opinion on any vote since she left Matsing.
In fact, pretty much all we saw of her this episode was her confessional in which she talked about wanting to (re-) align with Malcolm. Who doesn't? Form a line, lady! (Mainly we're disappointed because completely editing her out of the merge episode, despite her winning immunity, is like renting an airplane to fly around the island towing a banner that screams in all caps "DENISE DOES NOT WIN!!!!")
Also missing this episode? RC, which is almost as much of a disappointment as the absence of Denise. Especially since it was RC's boot episode. Apart from the tribal council rehash of Abi-Maria's nonsensical feud with her, all we saw of RC was her (cruelly ironic) chipper take on her and Mike's post-merge safety, seeing as they hit the merge in the tribe with superior numbers.
Seriously, it's great that Survivor went out and found Denise and RC. Both are longtime fans, and both are among the best smart, physically adept female contestants they've had in many, many seasons. But why even bother any more, if they're not going to be shown?
We would like to congratulate Jonathan Penner for playing his idol exactly when he needed to. Now he's pretty much out of options and dead in the water, though, unless production "hides" another idol (unlikely, with two still in play), or he wins immunity (also unlikely, at least for the remaining string of 7-8 immunity challenges). Penner won this round, for sure. But in doing so, the stripes on his shirt might as well be concentric circles.
Bonus rant: We should also point out that the editors completely fumbled the drama at tribal council. Despite three people getting votes, all the voting suspense evaporated the second Penner played his idol. Penner was safe, and it was clear RC was getting voted out. Why? Because they'd shown Tandang discussing exactly the RC-versus-a-possibly-idol-playing-Penner strategy, and they hadn't bothered to show anyone talking about voting against Pete. If you'd actually wanted to blindside the viewers, guys, you wouldn't have shown Penner and RC casting their votes for Pete.
Come on, we're not that dumb.
Surprisingly, and shoving aside years of precedent to the contrary (with Gary Hogeboom the sole exception), Jeff Kent, former professional athlete, has turned out to be a decent Survivor player. He's playing the game hard, playing through an injury, no less, and is making bold moves in an attempt to better his position in the game. Unfortunately, the move he made in this episode was exactly the wrong one, and he's now completely screwed.
In jumping on to the tail end of the Tandang alliance (against the explicit tribal council warnings of Lisa, who, as a celebrity, is clearly the voice of reason), Kent and Carter took themselves from a possible position of power to one of incredible weakness. Tandang already has a powerful core trio in Pete, Abi-Maria, and Artis. And if you add in peripheral members like Malcolm and Lisa, that puts Carter and Kent at sixth and seventh spots, at best. And since Malcolm is likely to pull in Denise ahead of them, seventh and eighth.
In contrast, Kent and Carter had a core four-person alliance with Penner and Denise in the Kalabaw tribe. There were obvious, gaping, chasms within the Tandang tribe. The people on the outs in that tribe, Skupin and RC, offered their support, AND Skupin promised to vote against Penner when the time came. Kent is the nominal leader, or at least co-leader with Penner, of this alliance. At worst, they pull in Malcolm or Lisa before voting out Penner. Why on Earth would he pass up this opportunity, and in the process permanently burn his bridges with Penner?
As far as we can figure, the only thing that makes sense is that Jeff Kent had a temporary panic attack. Within his core Kalabaw four, two of his cohorts (Carter and Denise) had immunity necklaces, and the other (Penner) had a hidden idol. Kent was the only one unprotected. Secondly, he'd just delivered a Beasty-worthy performance in the immunity challenge, essentially dropping out voluntarily, to finish second to Carter. Kent could well have been worried that this would trigger an alarm in a united Tandang, and generate a Coors Field-size target upon himself as a physical challenge threat.
Even with all this pressure, it really makes no sense to vote the way Carter and Kent did. Even if they don't entirely trust Penner, nor relatively recent newcomer Denise, how is it an improvement to abandon Penner, and attach your hopes instead to an even larger group of people you've known for all of three days? That's like swinging at a curveball in the dirt on a 3-0 count. Temporarily, you're still okay, not much worse off than before, but you're now just a foul ball and another curveball (which the pitcher now knows you'll swing at) away from striking out, whereas if you'd just laid off of it, you'd be standing on first.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - RC Saint-Amour