Survivor must have its groove back. And by groove, we mean, of course, the well-worn ruts of previous seasons: recycled challenges, recycled drama, recycled backstabbing, and recycled misdirection about who's getting booted off. But still, even though much of this stuff has been shown over and over again, on one of America's most popular TV shows, you still get a contestant or two who doesn't seem to have watched the show before. Which is surprising. Then again, since it's happened before, maybe it's not.
On the plus side, watching people continuing to be unclear of the concept can be fairly entertaining. And speaking of thick heads, we start this episode with Rob. He's beginning to sense that his master strategy may not be paying off, now that Sean is practicing his lines for an upcoming part as "Comatose Mime #2," in full view of Rotu, and Vee is busy making smoochy smoochy sounds (apparently).
Which is actually not all that far from reality, especially compared to the Love Tribe Guru, Gabe, who seems upset that his peaceful commune has been invaded by the Maraamu. Apparently, they're playing some game called "Survivor," and he doesn't want any part of it. "My agent told me this was a quality show, and that I'd get a bigger speaking part than I did on Six Feet Under," he explains. "When Sean and I were hanging out at Belly, he said to go for it, too. What's all this immunity and challenges stuff? And which way is the commissary?"
Seeing Gabe staring blankly at the ocean, John and Tammy check to make sure he's still planning to vote off the lazy Maraamu at the first opportunity. "Huh? What's this voting stuff?" Gabe asks. "Wait a minute, are you trying to tell me this isn't Blue Lagoon 4? Get out!" Tammy leaps in and tries a group hug, which had always seemed to cure Rotu problems in the past.
Sensing something is still amiss, she and John exchange worried glances, and start backing away slowly. Innocence is dead! The spell is broken! As they try to make a break for it, Gabe yells out after them, "Oh well, at least I've got six weeks away from Mike Boogie, right? Right? And hey, while you're up, can you bring me my teddy bear?"
Back at Maraamu, the Tribe That Can't Win has resorted to the last refuge of the damned for challenge help: prayer. "Dear Lord, we know the other tribe has Bibles and stuff, and that you obviously like them more, but can't we win, just this once? What if we cut you in on the prize money?" Neleh asks, plaintively. "*Sigh* All right, just this episode, though," comes a booming voice from off the set, possibly from Mark Burnett's megaphone. "Jeff Probst is busy rigging the challenge as we speak," he assures them. This perks Gina up, and she expresses her delight at being on a winning team for once: "We were too stupid to think of bribery before," she chirps. Then all four rush off to slaughter the local crustacean population.
That's right: Kathy's got crabs! (See, in the spirit of the episode, we're recycling jokes here). In fact, they all do, and after killing a bagful of crabs by boiling them alive, much pounding, dismembering, and rending of flesh ensues. Not as much as on Iron Chef's King Crab Battle (the price of which probably exceeded this entire series' prize money), but just enough to whet Paschal's appetite for meat. Collectively, they agree to bring back a slow-moving Rotu for dinner, if they can just win the upcoming Reward Challenge.
Luckily, that's what comes next, and the prize indeed is to plunder the opposing tribe's campsite, and only survival items and personal stuff is off limits. The contestants are fair game! Describing the challenge, Probst gives a knowing wink to Maraamu, who flash back a sign language "L," indicating Lindsey has prior votes. Or that they're losers. Or maybe we're thinking of the recap episode of Survivor: Africa, or the Colby-dousing-Jerri episode of The Australian Outback, both of which featured this exact same thing: both tribes ordering blindfolded teammates around, collecting stuff. Anyway, the important thing is, this type of challenge keeps coming up because it's just great television. In the sense that, it features two people yelling at the top of their lungs, and as every programmer worth his or her parking spot knows, people yelling equals quality drama. Therefore two people yelling must equal Emmy nomination. Plus, there's people stumbling around in blindfolds, hitting themselves and each other with large blocks of wood.
Paschal the kissing bandit, shortly before being escorted off the field by stadium security for his latest hijinks.
Probst repeats the overriding rule of challenges with mismatched team sizes: nobody can sit out back-to-back challenge. So Sean and Rob promptly respond by grabbing some deck chairs, cracking open some brews, and sitting out their second consecutive challenge. "What are ya gonna do, twist us back to the otha tribe? Ya bastid!" Rob gloats. After consulting with Burnett, Probst rules that, since Rotu's last block is skillfully hidden behind a bush they can't possibly win. Therefore, there won't be any lawsuits or extra payments this time around, so he let's Rob's play stand. "Yeah, whatever, good luck Rotu, *cough cough*...."
Shockingly, after much Keith Famie-esque stumbling, a short groping session between Paschal and John, and another golden opportunity for Kathy to screech again, Maraamu actually wins one! How about that! Probst starts to hand over the immunity idol, then stops himself, saying "Oh, right, you guys don't win that until the next challenge! Silly me! Okay, Rotu, prepare to get your butts pirated."
After motorboating over to Rotu's camp, which Probst swears does not happen after every challenge, Maraamu spend two gleeful minutes snatching up one-of-a-kind items critical to survival, such as the coconuts quite similar to the ones lying on the ground back at camp, and knives, also like the ones they have back at camp. Shaking his head in amazement, Probst stops the clock and huddles with the misguided Yellow Tribe. "Look, the next challenge is the same tired SOS challenge we've used almost every time. These guys have colorful, attention-grabbing blankets, which, you may note, double as something you can sleep under!" Eventually, after a few more tries, Maraamu get the hint, and take the blankets. Kathy, mentioning that her bladder is feeling pretty full, makes sure someone gets the mask and fins. "All right! Let's go look for some sea urchins."
As they get back to camp, they discover to their horror that Robert has used his strange voodoo powers to curse the stolen Rotu supplies. No sooner do the Maraamus get it set up, but they are inexplicably drawn into group hug after group hug. Her face snapping into a bug-eyed stare, Neleh's head starts spinning, and an otherworldly voice bellows out, "You are now the Love Tribe! Get back to the hugging, or possibly a group massage!" Paschal tries bravely to make the sign of the cross with his arms, but he finds them tugged, by unseen forces, to the vicinity of... Kathy. Their lips meet.
If things are going poorly at Maraamu, the bottom has fallen out at Rotu. Gabe has taken it upon himself to prove that Fred Durst is not, in fact, the lamest rapper alive. He falls short, of course, and technically, the aforementioned Mike Boogie deserves some consideration here, but the sheer volume of Durst's atrocities have to count for something. Still, the cringing Rotu are counting the days until they can lose an IC, and rid themselves of this terror. John quickly recruits the remaining Rotu, saying "I'll do anything, I swear. For the sake of my mother, for humanity's sake, please, just make it stop!"
Soon, they get their wish. As threatened, the Distress Signal immunity challenge is virtually identical to the one they saw Boran win with underwear, paints and brightly-colored flags right before they left. And in a shocking coincidence, the paints, blankets and brightly colored flags are all over at Maraamu now. Worse yet, Rotu's fate is in the capable hands and minds of Rob and Sean. "Nothing attracts attention like something that doesn't move, is dark, and blends in with the trees behind us," they surmise. Unfortunately, that's a lot of work, so they resort to covering Gabe's bright bamboo raft with the original black rubber one. In between multiple lengthy breaks, Rob comes up with the brilliant idea of blowing a whistle, which can almost be heard over the whispers of the disgruntled tribesmates who can't participate in the planning.
Maraamu pools their life jackets to make one big brightly-colored spot, so that it can be seen at a distance as they race around with it (Rotu, fearing detection, used the controversial "divide and conquer" technique with their life jackets). True, the distance of the judging boat is about 50% closer when it looks at Maraamu, leading the French-accented Captain to exclaim, "Sacre bleu! You haff taken me to zee island of zee giants! I surrender!" As the captain dives over the side of the boat in terror, Probst looks up, sees the good old American flag, thinks back to when Sarah was lying on it seductively, and gives a big, uh, "thumbs up" to Maraamu. They win a shocking, amazing, completely unscripted immunity! Just the way hapless Boran did in S3! What an amazing, completely spontaneous coincidence! Needless to say, the continuing diabolical power of the Rotu booty shoves the Maraamus together into another claustrophobia-inducing hug.
With so much action, there's barely time for Mark Burnett to slip in his usual half-truths and abject lies about who's getting the boot. And by barely, we of course mean plenty. Seems the ex-Maraamu are hatching a plan to team up with Gabe and get rid of John. John, who offers to cut a deal with the Maraamu by giving half of his beard to Rob, in exchange for votes against Gabe, admits that he might be getting booted after all. Then to drive home the point, at tribal council Probst taunts John, saying "You know they're going to boot you, right? Why don't we just dispense with the voting, and bring me you torch now?"
But, bowing to tradition, they go through with the balloting, in which not a single person votes for John, and everyone boots Gabriel. Even Zoe, although, commensurate with her participation in the witness protection program, her vote was not actually shown on the air. At least, we think she was on the show this week, although it could have been a stand-in. But fear not, at least Gabe finally gets to have his broken teeth fixed.