The episode opens with Francesca rooting through her supplies on Redemption Island. She talks big about how she’s glad she’s all alone instead of back with her tribe, and how she’s going to use the time to relax, blah blah blah… but she’s not fooling anyone. Nobody wants to go to Redemption Island, ever, for any reason. That’s as close to “out of the game” as you can get without literally being packed on a plane and pointed home.
She does have a lot of supplies, though, including flint, a daily ration of rice, and plenty of drinking water. It looks like both tribes are being treated kinder than usual in terms of starting gear. I wonder if this is designed as a safeguard against people leaving the game for medical reasons, as has happened far too often in recent seasons.
On Ometepe, Russell conspires with Stephanie and Kristen (Skiny White Chick #1 and Skinny White Chick #2) to find the hidden idol without any clues. He speaks quite disparagingly of Ralph, the bearded hillbilly man, as he does so. Meanwhile, Ralph is across the way collecting rocks and practically trips over the hidden idol, tucked away inside a dead log. That’s two idols found this season without any clues yet being doled out.
Have I mentioned I would love to see Russell voted out early this season? Because that would be sweet. It would be all the sweeter if that vote came at the hands of Hillbilly Frankenstein and his magic idol.
Meanwhile, on Zapatera, Matt and Andrea are having a heart-to-heart about feelings and/or Jesus. Matt says he has prayed to God to put him in a good alliance because, yeah, that’s what God’s concerned about. Rob manages to watch the conversation without throwing up, and immediately turns on the pair. He gathers the rest of his alliance together and points out, very clearly, that the Matt/Andrea game is precisely how he and Amber played back in the day. He wants one of them gone, preferably Andrea, because she’s the schemier of the two.
The challenge was for immunity and fishing gear, which left every player with their eyes bugging out of their heads. It started out innocently enough, with Zapatera lagging behind in the physical part of the challenge but regaining a lot of ground in the puzzle-y part. It came down to throwing a weighted ball at some ceramic tiles, and that’s the exact moment Phillip decided to make the time-honored classic blunder so many alpha males have made before him.
“Hand me the ball,” he said.
He then proceeded to throw the ball dozens of times without breaking any tiles. Ralph, meanwhile, was smashing tiles left and right, and won the challenge handily. Ometepe is immune once again.
Fortunately, this episode the cameras actually went back to spend some quality time with Ometepe. Russell finds the hidden idol clue in with the fishing gear and, while reading it with his skinny white girls, is approached by Ralph and another large, hairy man I was unable to identify. Russell stood his ground, insisting that he didn’t have the clue and pointing out that even if he did, he wouldn’t say anything because that’s not how the game is played.
Afterwards, he mused about how stupid Ralph was to have gotten angry about the situation, and how presumptuous Ralph was to try and lecture goddamn Russell Hantz on how to play Survivor. Any other episode, I’d be inclined to agree; Ralph probably did could have handled that situation better, and he is not likely to last the entire game as long as he thinks he can go around bludgeoning the truth out of people.
Still, he’s the one with the idol in his pocket. So who knows?
The cameras then cut back to Redemption Island for about ten seconds, for no reason at all. Waste of time.
The scrambling over on Zapatera was done in a very controlled fashion. Kristina knows she’s in trouble, and plans to play the idol. Rob’s alliance is going to split their votes, and with Kristina immune that means Phillip will leave.
That’s what Matt and Andrea think, anyway. Rob wants them broken up, so he and three others conspire to vote Matt off instead. Nobody is to tell Phillip or Kristina anything. Rob then takes Phillip aside and tells him straight up: “You have a big mouth. I’m not telling you anything except that you’re safe tonight. I’m going to touch the shoulder of the person I want you to vote for when we’re at tribal council. Don’t go off on a rant and don’t write down anyone else’s name, and you’re good.”
This is a triple victory for Rob:
- he gets to flush Kristina’s idol, since it’s clear she’ll never give it up,
- he gets to break up the Matt/Andrea alliance before it becomes a problem, and
- he gets a surefire way to keep Phillip reigned in.
At tribal council, things play out precisely how Rob orchestrated them. Matt looked absolutely dumbfounded when his name started coming up, and Andrea looked completely terrified.
Who’s gonna win? Rob is the man. I was very skeptical about seeing him come back to play a fourth time, because I didn’t think his game would be any different from his third time (which wasn’t any different from his second). But I was wrong; he is still the Robfather, and he is still a joy to watch. This season is better for him being in it. I’m most convinced of that for mainly this reason: Matt’s utter blindside would not have occurred this early in a season with all newbie players. If Rob can keep his alliance loyal and starstruck up until the merge, and if he can deal with Russell in a swift, direct manner, he will go all the way.
Then again, I gotta keep my eye on Ralph. I wonder if he’s much smarter than he lets on. I really think a lot of players are underestimating him, Russell included. Hard work, good down-home charm and pure dumb luck are a very potent mix of attributes in this game.