So this is it, the big Survivor: Thailand episode Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst have been hyping for weeks! Sex! Violence! Talking back to Probst! In short, it's all downhill from here! So without further ado, here it is!
And there it went. On the plus side, it didn't have far to go. As with Rob Schneider movies, if you loved everything you saw in the trailers, you'll love it even more when those, the best parts of the show, are padded with an hour or so of filler. The big fight at the reward challenge? Pfft. Your average baseball game has more shoving, referee-baiting and cursing. Hell, even tennis does on occasion. Maybe even golf. And the big confrontation between Ted and Ghandia? Well, it sort of hung there, like a dark cloud, and never dissipated. It was there, it happened, and not much came of it.
The bleep machine operator was working harder than the average Osbournes censor (mostly), but beyond that, not much compelling drama. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode was the shocking revelation that the National Enquirer, which ran a story on Ghandia-vs.-Ted, got the details of what happened almost exactly right. Who knew this was possible?
Anyway, on with the show. Being Survivor, we start with the requisite misleading "foreshadowing." Clay declares Chuay-Gahn are a happy bunch of losers. Half-right, at least. Ghandia, in an interview from way back in Episode 1, gushes about how Ted is "good to hug." Tastefully done, Burnett!
Next, it's over to grumpy, grumpy Sook-Jai. In a touching scene, Jake peels the skin from his feet, in an effort to distract himself from another one of Robb's diatribes. Someone named Penny gets to speak on camera, or at least, that's who we conclude it is, based on the captions. Yeah, we've seen her in the credits and all, but is she on the show or something? She chirps away cheerfully, but we are distracted by something painted on her shoulder: "I (Heart) U." Clearly, some sort of coded message. It appears she may be in some sort of distress. Has she been kidnapped and forced to not appear on a reality TV show? Somebody'd better get Ashcroft on the phone.
From what we gather from this mystery woman's story, Sook-Jai is hungry, in part because none of them can seem to operate the fishing net they were ecstatic to have won the week before. And like clockwork, there's Robb, giggling about his inability to figure out the mechanics of a fishing net. And how all the fish in Arizona is apparently imported from Thailand. Dude!
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: Ghandia confronts Ted. He issues an apology, and it's over. Phew! Good thing we got that out of the way!
Say, uh... while we're getting everything out in the open here, is this is a good time to bring up my porn career?
This allows us to get to the most-hyped challenge in Survivor history, the big brawl at the reward challenge. As we recall, Mark Burnett pitched this as: "We allowed physical contact in a challenge, and it got a little out of hand. Jeff started feeling like he was refereeing the NFL."
Which of course sounded a lot better than it actually was. In reality, the challenge involved running across bamboo bridges to "steal" exciting baskets from the opposing tribe's boat. The course crisscrosses in the middle, forcing the tribes into contact, which is legal as long as they do so on a special, black cloth-wrapped section. And therein lies the entirety of Probst's NFL delusions. Not in the least due to hard-hitting blocks or smack-downs, but rather dreary clock-stopping penalties for offsides. The dullest of all flags. Robb expresses his appreciation with a (blurred out) double middle-fingered salute. We hear ya, Robb. Yawn.
On the other hand, there was some humor in watching Sook-Jai throw the challenge. Due to their superior scampering and flitting skills, Sook-Jai quickly filled up on baskets, then as victory seemed imminent, they decided to start flouting the rules, resulting in the rapid-fire expulsion of player after player from their team, thereby handing the lead directly over to Chuay-Gahn. Maybe, having already experienced Robb's expertise on how to build shelters, the tribe had second thoughts about the "reward" of having Red Berets boss them around for a day. In any event, Chuay-Gahn, uh, "wins"! Beaten, as Robb wails uncontrollably, by a bunch of rules.
Still, this doesn't mean Robb can't fume about Clay's "backwoods hick" choking sounds, and how lame the opposing tribe is. Ironic bemused smirks spring up around camp, as he continues down this path. Go with your feelings, Robb! We're pretty sure they're laughing "with" you, just like the rest of us!
Eventually, we're led back to Chuay-Gahn camp, where the two Thai Red Berets show up. They're there to teach the old folks advanced Survival skills, such as how patching the hole in your boat helps keep the water out, and how knives can be used to cut wood and bamboo. The backwoods hick tribe watches in slack-jawed amazement. The Red Berets, for their part, slap their foreheads repeatedly, groaning, "Didn't we just teach these bozos these same things all of seven days ago? Have they forgotten already? Stupid Americans!"
Soon the tribe tires of all this larnin', and wanders off to explore their favorite pasttime: bickering. Ghandia, having accepted Ted's apology, decides that, with visitors over, it's the perfect time to initiate a family dispute, and tells the womenfolk about Ted's dry-humping nocturnal activities. Deeply shocked that Ted picked Ghandia over them, Jan and Helen are aghast. Then, in the highlight of the episode, Ghandia says "fucking" in the middle of the family hour on national TV, immediately catapulting the show into Emmy contention.
Eager to stoke fires in both camps, Burnett sends a crew out to Sook-Jai, where in a remarkable coincidence, their fishing net "disappears" while the tribe is taking their six-hour midday nap. Robb, being in charge of the net at the time, finds this amusing, possibly because he and Jed had spent the time doing dental-grade nitrous hits from the tank Jed snuck in. "If we can just find the net, it must be full of fish now!" he concludes. Sadly, those sneaky "fish" don't seem to be leaping back onto shore with the net. Hmmm. Okay, we'll let you in on a little secret here: Robb is the mole.
Almost satisfied, the cameramen return to Chuay-Gahn, and helpfully suggest to Helen that, in getting everyone agitated about Ghandia's dispute with Ted, Helen might be able to save herself from being the next person booted. "Wait a second, I'm on Survivor?" Helen asks, quizzically. "I thought you said this was Combat Missions! What are these guys in camo doing here, then?" After a little more discussion, Helen informs Brian that simulated sex acts are not to be tolerated in the tribe, and Ted is toast. Brian, eyes darting nervously, clears his throat, and mumbles, "Okay! Uhh, thanks... Helen."
Morning comes, and the sun rises softly over the bamboo cage where the Red Berets had been "housed" overnight to discourage them from escaping. Burnett looks on in horror to see the cage empty, then dispatches his former Army buddies on the crew to round them up. "They still have to teach us how to build a Buddhist temple!" he screeches.
Oblivious, the toothless-gum tribe returns to the favorite topic of all backwoods families: inter-familial sexual relations. Brian, hearing from Ted that it was indeed simulated sex, promptly decides that it's time for everyone to move on, and, uh, *cough* let's not think about such things again. Helen, meanwhile, chooses the appropriate wording of Brian's comments to ensure Ghandia raises a Big Fuss about it.
So the big showdown comes. Ghandia screams and throws rocks. Clay dispenses some downhome wisdom, prescribing whoop-ass and sending people back to bed as the best cure for incest. Ted attempts to soothe Ghandia's tattered feelings by telling her she's just not that attractive. Meanwhile, the recently recaptured Red Berets quietly try to sneak away again. "Please, take me with you!" Brian begs. But no such luck. As the Red Berets depart, Ted confides to the camera, "I think I dealt with that pretty well."
Mercifully, the immunity challenge eventually comes, in the form of a simple logic puzzle well-known to computer programmers. Sook-Jai, with absolutely no external prompting from the producers that letting Chuay-Gahn win might make that tribal selection system look like it worked out after all, decides to throw the challenge. Jed, apparently not apprised of this development, is told he will receive the honor of being the Silas Gaither Memorial Puzzle-Solving Director. "Sweet!" crows Jed. "His dad was a dentist, too! And he has my charm and good looks! I'm on the fast-track to Hollywood stardom now!"
And so it goes. Chuay-Gahn, despite entrusting their fate to Jan and Clay, still manage to get their temple moved in a reasonable amount of time. Meanwhile, Jed, backed by the collective brainpower of Robb and Stephanie, frantically bobs his head around, plotting the moving of his pieces, as Jake, Erin and Shii Ann stand back and let the Beachhouse denizens do some work for a change. Chuay-Gahn wins handily, and commence hugging and kissing each other, despite having agreed before the challenge not to do so anymore.
Perhaps the most telling knock against Jed's chances now is that Ken, whose only appearances on the show seem to have been to speak about Jed's laziness, suddenly appears to inform us that some guy named Jebb seems to lay around all day. At tribal council, we see more of the same. Stephanie offers helpfully that she's grumpy, because the other weak little sissies have been eating all her food. Robb tells everyone that he bounces off the walls a lot, which comes as a shock to his tribemates. But the best moment comes as the non-sequitur king tells Shii Ann, as he casts a vote against her, that she gets on his nerves, but is a sweetheart. Thanks!