Survivor: Of Rice and Men

My Letter to Phillip

Dear Phillip,

I’m writing you today to let you know something very, very important. Something you need to learn about yourself. 

You’re crazy. That’s right, you are a 100% wackadoodle, insane, bring in the men with the white coats and the giant butterfly nets, grade A lunatic. 

And you know what? It’s not because you’re black. At all. It’s because you ramble on about communicating with your dead great-grandfather. It’s because you wear a feather around your head. It’s because you prance around an island wearing baggy pink Underoos. It’s because you talk about your gorilla and lion tattoos so much that people start to wonder if you know you’re not actually a gorilla or a lion. It’s because you claim to be a federal agent, but have yet to show one ounce of the intelligence or insight required for that sort of position. It’s because you freak out at the drop of a hat. It’s because you fail to correctly pronounce the simplest of words and then blame it on your dry mouth. The list could go on, but I have other things to write about. 

Might I remind you of Fransesca? You met her at the beginning of this season; she was on your tribe. I think you called her Franquicksqua. I’d like to point out that her skin color was of a similar tone to yours, yet she also thought you were insufferably CRAZY. Chew on that for a while. 


Sorry guys, I just thought I’d do a little public service there. We will now return to the regularly scheduled Survivor review.

How about that episode? Phillip went crazy! (Just to be clear, there are NO racial connotations associated with my use of the word “crazy”. I have also used it on occasion to describe such pasty, ghostly people as Lady Gaga, Gary Busey, and myself on a really bad day.) Now, our boy Phillip has been crazy all along. This we all know, and I thought Phillip knew, too. Hasn’t Ashley called him crazy, or something along those lines, before? Hasn’t Phillip called himself crazy? Isn’t that his strategy for getting to the finals? Well, Steve called Phillip crazy too, but apparently when he said it, it did not mean insane or out of the ordinary, it meant n—–. Let’s take it from the top.

Rice Wars

Since the merge, Zapatera and Ometepe have been eating from their own “former” tribe’s food supplies. To the best of my knowledge, I thought this was something that Boston Rob had set up. You know, keeping the tribes separate. Sleeping apart, eating apart, using the buddy system. This is how life at Murlonio had been set up – and us and them mentality.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy until Ometepe’s rice goes moldy. A crack in the bottom of their container led to mold and maggots, which is all kinds of gross. So a few of the Ometepe peeps dumped the rice out onto a blanket to methodically pick out all the bad rice and maggots, saving what little good food supply they had left. I believe this was Phillip’s idea, and it was a good one. What wasn’t a good idea was doing this before they knew where they would put their rice. It couldn’t go back in their container, obviously. So they’d have to ask permission to mix it in with Zapatera’s.

Obviously, Zapatera said no. Ralph wasn’t around at the time, but Steve and Julie said no thanks. They vaguely agreed to talk to Ralph about it, but it was pretty clear that the group consensus would be a negative. And of course it would! If you were Zapatera, would you do anything for them? They’ve been treated miserably this whole time! Rob is ruling with such an iron fist that it seems no one from Ometepe has made an effort to form bonds with people from Zapatera. I’m not talking alliances here, I’m talking personal connections that help you win votes in the end. We haven’t been seeing that. Those kinds of friendships also help you out in this kind of situation, when you need a favor from the enemy.

Well, Phillip lost it. The man who had been stealing rice out of their cannister earlier in the episode could not understand for the life of him why Zapatera wouldn’t want to help them out. His comments escalated (he threatened Steve with kung fu, of all things) and escalated, Steve called him crazy, and then all of a sudden Phillip was throwing around the race card like a game of 52 Pick-up and dropping the N-bomb. It was so bizarre and uncalled for. There was NO NEED for the argument to go there. Of course, Phillip is crazy and there’s no explaining a crazy person. Clearly, no one understood Phillip. The look on Grant’s face when he said “He just brought in the race card!” was hilarious, and later Grant and Rob talked about how uncomfortable it had made them. But what can you do? Phillip is a part of a really solid alliance, and it’s not in their best interest to cut him loose. The worse Phillip acts, the better he is to bring to the end.

The most bizarre, crazy thing about Phillip was that he was the only one saying racist things. He’s the one who brought the “N word” into the situation. He’s the one who said “I’m like a lot of black men. We’re prepared to self-destruct at any moment. Cause that’s what happens to a lot of black men. They do self- destruct.” I think he even went “bam bam bam bam bam”, so as to imitate gun violence. Really, Phillip? Sweeping generalizations about a particular race of people? And negative ones, at that? And how is Steve the racist in this situation?

The whole thing was just completely ludicrous, but no one could tell Phillip that lest they be labeled a racist as well. Steve put things best when he said “It’s not a chip, it’s a log on his shoulder.”

The Truel

OK, there’s a lot more to talk about from this episode than just Phillip’s crazy (and again, when I say “crazy” I do not actually mean “African-American”) outburst. First of all, there is Matt’s bizarre spiral into depression.

I’m not sure what the deal is with Matt. Maybe he’s spent too much time alone on Redemption Island. Maybe a second blindside from Boston God Rob has made him question his faith in Rob God. (Damn, Matt’s got me all confused now about the difference between those two words.) Whatever the reasons, Matt has officially checked out of this game. He just sits around all day, talking to God about how he doesn’t want to play Survivor anymore. Then leave, buddy! Stop with the “I want out of this game” and “I want nothing to do with it” crap. God doesn’t care if you quit your reality TV show! Argh! Doesn’t he know that if God watched Survivor Sandra never would have beat Parvati in Heroes vs. Villains, Amber wouldn’t have beaten Rob in All-Stars and Pascal never would have drawn that purple rock? Come on!

So the duel was not actually a duel, because it was between all three guys – Matt, Mike and David. What biblical names! Gah! Matt has religion on my mind now. Great. The challenge was actually one of my favorites – build an eight foot tall house of cards using 150 imperfect tiles – but it ended up being really boring. No one sucked. They all built solid structures that didn’t fall over, so the suspense and drama was gone.

Mike finished first, after successfully managing to balance one tile on its side to hit his mark. I would have preferred if Mike had just won then and there. I don’t like how all duels are truels now, and people have company on Redemption Island. I want to see them suffer alone until the next competitor shows up. Anyway, Matt finished second so he stayed in the game and David was made the first official member of the jury.

Puzzle Master

Following the truel was The Incident, which we’ve already discussed, so let’s skip on through to the immunity challenge. The challenge was a series of two puzzles, with the six people to complete the first one moving onto the second to compete for immunity. They also had to unscrew a piece of the puzzle by spinning round and round as fast as they could, which resulted in some hilarious dizziness.

The six people to move on, in order, were Rob, Julie, Ralph (that one was a surprise), Andrea, Steve and Grant. On the second puzzle Steve came closest to beating out Rob, but no one could take down the puzzle king. The most hilarious part of the whole challenge came in the first round, though. As Probst was yelling out “Rob’s got it!” and “Andrea’s got it!” Phillip took it upon himself to yell out “Phillip’s got it!” Um, no. He didn’t.

Back at camp, Julie decided to channel her former tribemate Russell Hantz and bury Phillip’s swim trunks in the forest. Usually I’d be against something as petty as that, but considering what a lunatic (and by lunatic I mean “behaves like someone who should be committed”, not “a person with skin of a dark pigmentation”) Phillip is, I found it hilarious.

Racial Tensions

Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that someone from Zapatera would be going home. Maybe we just didn’t see it on TV, but I really think Julie, Steve and Ralph should have tried to convince some of the girls to vote for Phillip. I mean, it looked like all they did was announce who they’d be voting for. Why didn’t they try to corner Ashley and Natalie (who, after all, are buddies) and convince them that they could get rid of Phillip and still be in the majority?

Since the vote was relatively obvious, the only thing to discuss at Tribal Council was the uncomfortable racially charged argument that had taken place. I know that Probst wouldn’t want to come across looking like a racist himself, but I felt like he gave way too much merit to Phillip’s argument. Had Phillip had a leg to stand on in his accusation that Steve was racist, I would have been much more sensitive. But he didn’t. And guess what, Phillip? Since you’re not Caucasian, you will never know what it feels like to be accused of being racist when you’re not. I get that it’s important to take history and past personal experiences into account when discussing race relations, but “crazy” is such a common term used to describe anyone or anything that it’s really not fair to claim there are racial undertones associated with it.

Again, had Phillip’s accusation made any sense whatsoever, I’d be more sensitive. Back in Heroes vs. Villains, I got a sense of racial undertones from some of the things Tom said to James, and I wrote about it. Here, though? Steve was completely wrongfully accused and I wish people from Ometepe had stuck up for him a little bit more. I get why they didn’t – Phillip is part of their alliance, and they don’t want to ruffle his head feather. But it was annoying to watch everyone pander to Phillip when his accusations were so unfounded.

All that said, I know it was probably an immensely awkward situation that could have gotten ugly very quickly, and I respect Probst for diffusing the situation rather than exploiting the opportunity to make good TV.

Since Julie admitted during Tribal Council that she’d been the one to steal Phillip’s shorts, I thought it was possible that Phillip had strayed from the pack in voting for her. I didn’t think Steve would be going home, but I thought Rob might view Ralph as a bigger threat that Julie. In the end, though, it was two votes for Phillip, one vote for “Phile” (will Ralph EVER spell a name right?) and five votes for Julie. Julie’s parting shot at Phillip – “Guess you’re not ever going to find your shorts” – was pretty great, as was her attempt to scare Matt and Mike when she arrived at Redemption Island. Oh, Julie. Nothing can startle an Iraq war vet, and Matt is too embroiled in his depressing conversations with God to jump when you sneak up behind him and yell “Aaaaarrrrgghhh!” But nice try.

I guess I’m kind of rooting for Julie to win at Redemption Island at this point, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t really think Matt or anyone from Zapatera deserves to reenter the game. Matt had a second chance and blew it, and nothing we’ve seen from him suggests that he is capable of doing anything in Survivor other than win challenges. I know Fabio won challenges, but he made a lot of strong relationships too. He had a strategy, albeit it a subtle one. Matt threw his one relationship, the one with Andrea, away in favor of coming clean with Rob. I don’t think he’s a good Survivor player and I don’t want to see him get a third chance to play. As for Zapatera, nothing I’ve seen so far this season suggests that they tried hard enough to woo anyone from the other side. I think there are players who might have had the finesse to get Natalie and Andrea to vote for Phillip. I think there are players that might have been able to convince Grant that Rob will never take him to the finals. Mike, Julie, Ralph and Steve are not these players. There’s no one I can root for and say “Oh, I hope _______ reenters the game, he/she could really do some damage!”

What did you think of the episode? Could you empathize with Phillip or do you think he’s all kinds of cuckoo? (And by cuckoo, I mean…ugh, you know what I mean.) Do you think Ralph or Steve stand a chance? Who are you rooting for on Redemption Island?




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