Survivor: The Mariano Crime Syndicate

Well, I can see why Survivor producers decided to throw us a double elimination this week. Boston Rob is maintaining tight control of his group and has continued to pick off former Zapatera members like pieces of lint off one of Amber’s stuffed animals. Had CBS not bundled these Tribal Councils together, we would have been stuck with two very predictable vote-offs in a row.

I know it’s a drag when one dominating tribe just comes into the merge and picks off the minority tribe, but you’ve got to hand it to Rob – there have been plenty of seasons when the minority tribe managed to flip enough people to gain the upper hand, or the majority tribe had too many inner power struggles and self-destructed before taking out the opposition. Survivor Samoa was a perfect example of that. But so far, no one has flipped. Rob’s alliance is looking pretty tight, he still has used his idol or even shown it to anyone, and they now overpower the former Zapatera players 6-3. At this point, I’d say that Ralph, Julie and Steve’s best shots at making it any further than the next three Tribal Councils lay in winning immunity challenges. And there Boston Rob has been smart too, taking out the two strongest dudes (Mike, then Dave) from the opposing side.

We didn’t get to see any duels this week, so I’m not sure what we’ll see go on at Redemption Island next week. We’ll Matt, Mike and Dave all face off together? Can you even call it a duel when there are three people? No matter what, this looks like it will be Matt’s toughest competition yet so I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play out. That said, I stand by my opinion that Redemption Island should not have continued past the merge. If Matt, Mike or Dave ended up in the finals I’d feel that they didn’t deserve the million bucks. They wouldn’t have played a hand in voting the jury out, and they wouldn’t have had to slip and slide to avoid getting voted out themselves. At this point, I want to start watching Ponderosa videos, I want to see people come witness Tribal Council looking squeaky clean and happily fed, and I want to see all of Zapatera sitting over there so Ometepe can start picking one another off.

The Robfather and the Moron

First off, Matt was being pretty hard on himself over at Redemption Island. And you know what? As he should have been! Matt said “First and foremost I’d like to congratulate myself for being the most naive person to ever play the game of Survivor,” and then he called himself a moron. You won’t hear any arguments there, buddy! Oh, but wait. Matt isn’t back on Redemption Island just because he’s an idiot who spilled his guts to a cutthroat player and threw his girlfriend under the bus. He’s also there because God wants him there! Right. How could I forget?

Over at Murlonio (I still chuckle every time I see that name), Rob’s cult of personality was gaining admirers he wasn’t even recruiting. David compared Rob’s play to something out of The Godfather II, and Mike actually congratulated the guy to his face. Seriously, y’all? Why not just hand him the million bucks now? That’s like congratulating the other basketball team as they’re kicking your ass mid-way through the third quarter. You don’t come up to them during intermission (OK, this is where my sports analogy gets weak…I know basketball games don’t have intermissions) and say “Wow, dude! Bangin’ three-pointer out there just now! You’re a pro!” and then go back and join your team. You talk to your team and plot how to make a comeback.

Ralph was at least trying to play the game, albeit poorly. He came up to Natalie and Ashley and asked if he was on the “chop block”. The girls tried to play dumb and said they had no idea, and Ralph muttered something about how he’d vote for Ashley in the finals. Um, what? How is that supposed to get you anywhere other than the jury? Then sweet little Natalie ran over to Rob and screwed up my chances at winning the office Survivor pool (I have Ashley, in case you haven’t been following the details of my life) by telling him that Ralph told Ashley he’d vote for her in the end, but Ashley didn’t want Rob to know. Well, there goes your shot to sit next to Rob at the end, blondie! It was truly unbelievable. Rob has Natalie trained like a dog, or a very obedient child.

Light as a Feather

Brains and brawn?

We got to the immunity challenge quickly because, well, there wasn’t much else going on. I always love challenges that work in sections, narrowing down the field bit by bit. First, all the players had to dig up a club, untie some knots on it and smash a tile. Only dudes made it through that one. Oh sorry – all dudes and Julie. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, since she is one tough chick. For the next challenge, the remaining players had to dunk there head in a tank and get a mouthful of water, crawl under a barrier, and then spit the water out into a tube. The first three to fill their tubes moved on, and it was pretty close. Mike, Dave and Grant were the first ones through.

The last challenge was a puzzle, and oh how I’d hoped to see David go head-to-head with Boston Rob. The guy was SO arrogant about his puzzle-solving abilities earlier in the season, so I really wanted to see him get schooled by Survivor‘s all-time puzzle master. But you know what? Seeing the jerk get schooled by an ex-NFL player was even better! Oh look, Mr. High IQ! Boston Rob’s muscle beat you!

Feathers for Brains

What was even better than Grant winning the challenge, though, was Phillip showing up with a feather tied to his head. Honestly, did this guy just watch DVDs of Coach’s seasons and decide he was going to be even crazier? He told some crazy story about his grandfather, about how the feather appeared out of thin air, and referred to his old tribe as “uptempo” or something. Damn, I guess his dry mouth meds didn’t do the trick.

The former Zapatera players briefly searched for a new Hidden Immunity Idol back at camp, but mostly all they did was mess with the minds of Ometepe. If anything, the idol insanity worked in Rob’s favor. If he’s leading the charge to dig under the flagpole in hopes of finding an idol, people are less likely to suspect him of possessing one.

Bottoms Up


Zapatera made one last desperate attempt to crack Rob’s alliance by publicly declaring that Phillip is at the bottom of the totem pole. On a less ridiculous person perhaps their arguments could have worked. But Rob has Phillip convinced that he’s going to the end, and that might not be such a crazy idea. In a rare moment of self-awareness, Phillip acknowledged that Rob would want to bring him to the end since he rubs people the wrong way. So Phillip told Zapatera that he likes the view from the bottom and the tight alliance voted Mike out.

Instead of seeing Mike and Matt face off in a duel, we pretty much headed straight into the next Immunity Challenge. It was an endurance challenge or, as I like to call them, a Parvati Shallow Special. This time, the players had to hang on a pole over a pool of water. After the 20 minute mark, they’d only be allowed to hang off the pole with their legs. As an added twist, everyone was faced with the choice to participate in the challenge or gorge on cheeseburgers.

I was impressed with how few people chose to eat, especially from Rob’s alliance. Rob has gotten cocky (how could you not, in his position) but he wasn’t outwardly cocky enough to act like he didn’t want immunity. Same with Rob’s harem. I thought maybe Ashley or Natalie would feel comfortable enough to eat, but they played. Kudos to all of them.

Instead, the two people who chose to eat were Phillip and Steve. I was surprised, but not shocked. I know Phillip thinks he’s at the top of his alliance and honestly, he was not really in danger of going home. But I thought with all his spouting off of being a warrior and other Coach-isms that he would have too much self-respect to eat rather than play. And Steve. I get that he chose to eat because he knew he’d only last about 12 seconds in the challenge. But come on, man. You’ve got to try. The only way Steve’s choice makes any real sense is if he’s pretending to be even weaker than he is in order to convince Rob that he should be picked off last. That would be a strategy I could vaguely respect.

Rob was out after about a minute, but at least he tried. Everyone else lasted until at least the twenty minute mark, shifted to only hang from their legs, and then Julie, Grant and Ralph fell. That left Dave vs. Rob’s harem.

I would have positioned myself just like most of the girls did – hanging by both legs with my hands holding my ankles. David’s choices was a mystery. He hung by one leg, with the other leg wrapped around it. Maybe that was a solid position in the short term, but with one leg holding up the weight of your body it would get even more tired, and it didn’t really allow any adjustments. After shifting a little to scratch his ass (seriously, that was weird) David fell, leaving Ashley, Natalie and Andrea hanging. All girls looked like they could go a while, and so Andrea made a plea with the others that “I really want this one”. Andrea is savvy, and with Ashley now on Rob’s hit list I think she has a decent shot at making it to the end – either with Rob, or by orchestrating his blindside.

Something Smells Fishy

Rob isn’t just running a tight ship when it comes to strategy – he’s maintaining full control at camp, too. His people sleep and eat separately from Zapatera. They use a “buddy system” so that no one is ever alone, left vulnerable to persuasive arguments from the outside. And they’re also not allowed to eat perfectly good fish.

This, I think, was a bad call. Ralph caught a bunch of fish in a net over on some rocks, but Rob wouldn’t eat them because they were already dead. Not only would Rob not eat the fish, though, but he forbade his starving alliance mates from chowing down as well. Why? Keeping control is one thing, but handing people a reason to resent you is another. Grant tried a little bit of the (perfectly edible) fish and then came creeping back to the group like a naughty child. It was so, so weird and I don’t think it did Rob any favors. You want control in Survivor, yes. But do you want such obvious control? This seems like the sort of thing that could spark a rebellion. Now has a deleted scene where Rob explains he didn’t want to take a chance and eat something that had been sitting in the sun for two hours, and I guess that’s a valid point. But I’m not sure if I’m convinced that that’s all there is to it.

Why is this man so weak?

With Zapatera now in a position where they’d have to flip two members of Rob’s alliance, and with that looking all but impossible, they knew one of them was going. The question was whether it would be David or Steve. David is a threat, physically and strategically. Steve has given up, saying out loud “I’m living on a cup of rice and it’s getting really old. I’m not gonna last much more longer to be honest with you.” So…weakness hasn’t been a strategy for him, then? I mean, come on Steve. If Dan from last season can last as long as he did, then so can you. Pathetic.

Even though Rob claimed that “Getting rid of Steve may give me a jury vote,” and “I mean, I’ve been known to have a mercy killing in me from time to time. Haven’t I?” I knew that he’d vote out David. Rob is too savvy a player to keep around a threat over a weak player, even if it would mean a potential jury vote. He can do Steve a favor and cut him loose next time, rather than Julie – who I do think is a much stronger player than Steve.

image If it weren’t for Phillip, Tribal Council would have been incredibly dull. He talked about “inception” with a maniacal smile and then took “Stealth ‘R’ Us” public, even going so far as to reveal everyone’s role and nickname. How lovely of him to bother including the three girls this time. Phillip even brought up their buddy system! I don’t really think Zapatera has much of a chance at this point, but less is always better when it comes to revealing details of your alliance at Tribal Council.

Despite David’s attempt to make his “Rob Rob Rob Rob” vote count four times, he was sent to Redemption Island. What do you think will be in store for him there? A three-way “duel”? Two duels in one episode? Are you just counting the episodes until Rob’s alliance has to start eating itself, or do you find Phillip’s antics and Rob’s kingpin-like control entertaining enough?

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no brainer

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