So the Ometepe alliance is Rob/Natalie/Ashley/Grant, with Phillip being strung along as a fifth? That’s a pretty convenient set-up, I guess. If they’re smart, they’ll figure out a way to cut Rob loose before the merge.
First thing to happen was the Redemption Island duel. Two members from each tribe (Andrea and Ashley from Ometepe, David and Steve from Zapatera… which is good, because this is the first I’ve heard of David or Steve) were invited to the arena, where Matt and Francesca faced off in the classic “build a long stick to reach three rings” challenge. This challenge is always fun to watch because the best approach is not immediately obvious. You have several sticks and a length of twine. Do you cobble something together quickly, hoping to stay together long enough to get your rings back? Or do you take the time and effort to make a good, solid stick even though the person next to you is already reaching out for their rings? In this particular face-off each competitor ended up using a combination of these things, with Matt finally dragging a victory home on a pretty wretched looking Frankenstick.
Francesca left the game, and Matt went back to Redemption Island.
The duel was not just crammed into the episode. It got a significant amount of air time, and both Matt and Francesca were given their due coverage. This wins a lot of points with me, because it means everyone voted out this season is going to get a redemption challenge. One of my big complaints in Nicaragua, Samoa and Tocantins was the large amount of non-entities, even late into the game. This season, everyone gets a storyline. I’m not going to fire up the reunion show and be like, “Francesca? Matt? Who the crap were they?”
Steve and David went back to their camp and told Russell that Matt had lost the challenge. I’m not really clear on why they would lie about that. Steve says it’s so Russell will be blindsided by Matt’s existence when he gets to Redemption Island himself, but I really don’t see the effect that’s supposed to have. I think Steve probably just wanted to be a dick to Russell. So, uh, mission accomplished? I guess?
Cut back to Ometepe; Rob pats himself on the back for the payoff he received at the previous tribal council, but once he’s notified Matt’s still in the game he knows he has his work to do. He gives Andrea a deep, heartfelt apology, assuring her that she’s still safe, that he hated to vote Matt out. Big, Boston-style crocodile tears. I hereby dub this scene “Shades of Lex”. If you get that reference, you’re as big a Survivor nut as I am.
To Andrea’s credit, I don’t think she bought it. I don’t think she’s going to do much about it, but I figure she knew Rob was lying. Hey, at least that’s something.
Russell and his lady friends spent a long time searching for idols over at Zapatera. Nobody thought to check inside Ralph’s overalls, though, so the search was doomed to failure. Instead, they decided to craft a fake idol and hide it in Stephanie’s bag. In the past, fake idols have been placed as decoys by folks who had real ones to throw other players off. This strategy has sort of fallen out of favor ever since Russell took the idol game to the next level in Samoa, so this is a new way of using one.
Actually no, I take that back. Rupert tried to pull this stunt by shoving a rock in his britches during Heroes vs. Villains. Sort of a crude, caveman-esque version of the same basic idea, as is befitting of Rupert.
The fake idol play convinced the other Zapaterans that they would have to split their vote to get rid of Russell. Nine players, six in the anti-Russell alliance… that means splitting the vote 3/3/3, with Russell heading out the door on the re-vote. A fair enough idea, except for that pesky winning streak Zapatera is on.
So they decide to throw the challenge. Oy vey.
I hate it when tribes throw challenges, especially this early in the game. Momentum is a huge part of the tribal game, and winning those early rewards can really make or break a team. Zapatera is the stronger of the two tribes, but Ometepe is far more cohesive — and let’s not forget Rob. Rob is a great leader, and once his team gets a taste of victory it’s going to be hard to wrench it free again.
Julie, the old firefighter lady on Zapatera, didn’t feel right throwing the challenge. Nonetheless, she played her part and did as she was told. Her distaste for shenanigans must have been apparent to Russell, because as soon as they were back on the beach he sent Stephanie over to flip her.
Julie was in the power position, at that point; she could stay with the six, where her place in the pecking order was uncertain… or she could flip to Russell and ride his scheming, back-stabbing coat-tails all the way to the end.
The way Stephanie was lipping off at tribal council, and the smug look on Russell’s face as Probst read the votes… you know? I bet they really thought she’d flipped. She hadn’t. It was a three-way tie between Ralph, Russell and Stephanie… with Russell very predictably being excised on the re-vote.
He promised to be back, but I don’t think he has it in him. My understanding of the Redemption Island mechanics is that only one player will re-enter the game: the player who wins the final duel. If Russell wants to stay in, he’s going to have to win every single duel between now and then. We’re getting to the tribal mid-game, now, where tribes are going to start taking a look at their tough competitors and future immunity risks. Russell is, himself, a tough competitor… but I don’t know if he could beat the likes of Phillip or Rob in a straight-up fight. I think we’ve seen the last of the little troll this season.
Who’s gonna win? I don’t see a compelling reason to switch my prediction. Boston Rob all the way. Not only did Rob smuggle away the hidden immunity clue, he also gave a little speech about how he made a mistake ignoring the idol last time he played. The boy really did learn some new tricks!