We open with the island gods sending one of this season’s many instant messages to the castaways of Survivor island. This one comes in the night, in the form of Jay’s dream that he will be shot. Remember when Kat dreamed that Alicia killed her at the mall? How are these people even having dreams, sleeping on rocks in the wet, cold, damp nights? And why aren’t they dreaming about sandwiches?
The ‘zans get together to wonder about, and then justify, getting rid of Mike. Troyzan is still convinced that Mike had it out for him from the beginning, because Kim and the friendly island monkeys told him so. Kim is a powerful liar, by the way. She laughs and stares off into the sea and acts really bohemian (don’t worry, seriously, no worries, ha ha ha ha ha, chestnut mane cascade), using a kinder approach to manipulation than Colton did, which luckily for her is no less powerful (but with fewer side effects — if she remains loyal to the women for long enough and continues to lie low, she might still be able to win over a jury).
The whole gang schleps into the forest to retrieve tree mail, which winds up being an Ikea-like setup for the second DIY challenge. The DIY challenges galumph along in a way that strikes me as kind of low-budget: In this one, the survivors grab rocks from a bag to determine teams, then throw nunchucks with a pair of balls on each end at a coat rack with a different number of points on every branch, while Troyzan plays Jeff Probst. Troyzan is not Jeff Probst, so there’s no zestiness in the play-by-play, and I think everyone’s performance suffers as a result. The prize is an island barbecue, on some neighboring strip of land that’s totally indistinguishable from the one they’re on. Troyzan, Tarzan, Alicia, Kat, and Jay win handily by five points, and are whisked away to drink rum out of coconuts on a boat and then eat unappetizingly colorful tropical fish toasted on coals. Tarzan appreciates the “architecture” of the shellfish, probably because even Tarzan doesn’t want to watch as Nemo and all of Nemo’s friends turn black on briquettes. Crabs don’t have the same kind of personality.
Jay, reasonably paranoid, approaches Kat as she’s nursing a booze-impregnated coconut and airs his uneasiness at the men’s dwindling numbers. Kat is uncharacteristically clever and manages to be friendly but evasive, or else she’s just got a buzz on. Meanwhile, on the sober losing side, Chelsea is struggling with the deep moral issues of having promised everybody she wouldn’t send them home. She doesn’t want to get rid of Troyzan or Jay, but Kim reminds her that this is the nature of the game, after all, though she admits that the process does “suck ass.” Jay and Troyzan are too threatening to keep around, Troyzan most of all because he wants to win so badly. Doesn’t everyone? Yes, but not as much as Troyzan — some people are just moments away from flushing possible immunity down the toilet for cupcakes and chicken wings. Alicia and Sabrina each bitch to the camera about the possible fluctuation in plans, which they’re right to do, but we’re reaching the final stretch and they should also consider how much more fun it is to watch Survivor when things get stirred up and people start having Nightmare on Elm Street dreams. Jay goes on a mission to vote Alicia off and trusts that it’ll stick, but Kim relates his plan to Alicia while they’re washing their primitive bowls in the ocean, telling Alicia that she’s safe but that her name will be used as a decoy. Either way, winning immunity would be pretty cool for Jay or Troy (though Troy has a secret hidden idol from his early-morning tree snooping), who are clearly physical threats and fall outside of the women’s alliance … at least, you’d think so, right?
The immunity challenge — finally! — has nothing to do with puzzles. It’s an old Survivor standby: Perch on a platform, hand chained to a bucket of milky Technicolor water above your head, until you fall or are coaxed off by one of many plates of goodies. As soon as the challenge starts, Tarzan flies off the balance beam and wanders off to the benches muttering about failure before the snacks even appear. Christina is the next to die, also before the cloche is lifted on the cookies and milk, for which Sabrina eliminates herself. Cupcakes take out Kim and Kat, and Alicia goes next, before Jeff can even show her what she’s risking the mil for (candy, some of it chocolate). How cavalier! This challenge is rough, though, because toward the end you can see the veins throbbing in the forearms of the people who’re still in the running — it’s probably very physically demanding after 45 minutes, all that blood trying to climb uphill. Troy stumbles off, looking like he’s going to pass out, without holding on long enough to receive a consolation treat. Jay, Chelsea, and Leif hang on until Jay can’t pass up a tray of chicken wings and beer. (“He doesn’t even drink beer,” complains Chelsea with her hand in the air — perhaps she’ll feel less guilty voting for him now?) Chelsea gives Leif her word that she won’t vote him out so that he can step off his beam and plow directly into three cheeseburgers, chips, and — why not? — a beer for him as well. I love how sauced they’re trying to get the cast this year. It’s like they want this show to become The Bachelor. Leif shares his food with immunity winner Chelsea — take this man to the end with you, women! I love him!
Kim orchestrates a split vote for Troyzan and Jay in case one of them has the idol (and one of them does — Troyzan knows he has to play it, so he doesn’t bother to conceal it too well in his cargo shorts). Chelsea has resolved her earlier moral struggle with voting for Troyzan or Jay because, she says, “I love money.” While this is true of most people, it always sounds so sinister when someone says it aloud. Troyzan tries to flip things on Kim by campaigning to vote her home, which naive Jay tells Kim all about (plus the fact that Troyzan’s got the idol) in an effort to … you know what? I don’t know what he was doing. I can’t get into Jay-the-model’s head. I think he just really wants to believe that he’s going to get carried through by Kim and Chelsea so much that he has selectively erased the DREAM OF HIS OWN DEMISE from his mind. Blindsiding Jay, it becomes clear, will be like blindsiding a mole with no eyes, no ears, and no arms or legs. Jay is just this little trusting lump of fur who rolled out of his burrow to forage for chicken wings, and meanwhile charismatic sushi prince Jonas has to sit on the jury next to Mike, who, after showering, now looks like he founded Myspace. How unfair.
At tribal, Jeff repeats last week’s question: “Who here thinks he or she is at risk of going home?” Unlike last week, some hands go up: Kim, Troyzan, and Jay. Tarzan rants a little, predictably, but really there’s little to say tonight — just a brief and broad discussion about the nature of paranoia. The game, still afoot according to old man poop pants, has entered into the critical phase where two people who each have an idol must decide whether to play it or not before the votes are read. Troyzan whips the idol out of his cargo shorts, trumpeting about not being the kind of dummy who goes home with a skull-and-feather necklace in his pocket, but Kim rolls the dice and keeps her idol to herself. The votes are cast, and Jay gets axed with five, with two being thrown in Alicia’s direction by Leif and Jay and two no-counters for Troyzan from Kat and Chelsea. Jay is a pretty good sport about leaving, delivering a little, “Aw, shucks, man, I got blindsided” kind of exit line and then speeding away for his dramatic jury makeover.
Next time: Troyzan kicks it into gear, desperate and without his idol. “You cannot mess with Troyzan,” he says, even though Kim has already successfully messed with Troyzan by manipulating him into believing that Mike was his nemesis and securing the numbers for the women. I’d really like to see Troyzan drive a wedge between Alicia and Christina (because Alicia was so nasty to her back when Colton was still riding his broomstick between the campfire and the beach) and use Christina as a mole to thwart the lady alliance, even though at this point I’m rooting for Kim, because it would be a nice way to shake things up. Jeff tweeted a reminder that he’s hosting a new talk show, set to start in September. This development was announced last summer, terrifying fans with their own horrible nightmares of a season of Survivor with, like, Brian Dunkleman or somebody
Presumably he’ll still shoot the old warhorse during hiatuses from his daytime gig, but just in case he doesn’t, let me float an idea: Ryan Seacrest moderating the island Olympics. Don’t say anything right now. Just sleep on it. I’m only saying if Jeff had to go, if he became too busy with his new sofa-chatting career or was just emotionally exhausted by all the cumulative seasons of his life spent sweating in front of a fire while rain poured down his collar, couldn’t you kind of picture Ryan and Kieran the Idol lights guy stepping in? Just in case, like an understudy. Maybe someone should send him a buff, just so he can test it out if the universe requires his skills somewhere down the line.