If you missed last week’s episode of Survivor: Redemption Island, make sure you check out my recap here.
This week’s episode begins on Redemption Island on Night 5. Matt arrives to find a sleeping, and shocked, Francesca. Why is Matt there instead of Phillip, Francesca wonders. She thought a member of Rob’s alliance arriving at RI would be impossible. Matt was so shocked himself that he didn’t bring any of his stuff to Tribal Council. He says he trusted Rob too soon, and now he feels like an idiot. Matt confesses that it is hard to pick himself up after being blindsided, but he has a real opportunity now. Over at Ometepe, Rob admits that Tribal Council couldn’t have gone any better. He was able to get rid of Matt and Kristina played her Hidden Immunity Idol. Rob thanks Phillip for voting with him, by telling him that he is ranked fifth in the alliance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Phillip is fine with this. Rob then confesses that he needs to get Andrea feeling OK about everything that went down at Tribal Council because she’s smart enough to know he double-crossed her.
Day 6 on RI. Matt and Francesca receive Tree Mail that tells them to follow the path to the RI Arena for the first Duel. At Zapatera, their Tree Mail tells them to blindly pick a stone. The two that have stones matching their tribe color will go to RI to watch the Duel (though that fact is “hidden” by the standard Tree Mail poetry). David and Steve are chosen to represent the tribe. David tells the camera that he’s not sure of what he’s going to see at RI. Ometepe chooses Andrea and Ashley to go to RI for the Duel. Andrea is excited to see Matt, who she believes will be an asset for her should he return to the game. Rob is already hip to this possibility as he is worried Andrea is going to talk to Matt, her island boyfriend.
The RI Arena is set amongst some ruins. The observers take their place in the stands, and Jeff brings in the competitors. He tells Francesca and Matt that the Duel is their first step in a journey to get even with those that voted them out of the game. Andrea notes that she didn’t vote for either of them. For the Challenge, each player, locked behind a cage wall and door, has to use sticks and rope to make a pole to reach three keys of varied distances. Once the keys are retrieved, they need to be used to open three locks securing the cage door. The first through the door wins and remains on the RI. The loser goes home. In a very subdued voice, Jeff simply says, “Go.” Francesca completes her pole first, and quickly secure her first key. Matt’s pole falls apart on his first attempt. Francesca reaches her second key, too. Jeff tells Matt that he has to pick up the pace, but his pole falls apart again. Francesca hooks her third key, but the pole breaks. This gives Matt an opportunity to grab his first key. Developing a rhythm now, Matt snags his second key. Francesca goes for her third, as does Matt, but his pole is a bit short. Francesca starts to pick up her third key but drops it on its post. Matt finally secures his third key and brings it back. He swiftly opens all three locks and swings open the door. “Matt stays alive!” shouts Jeff. Matt and Francesca share a hug. Jeff tells her that she is finally out of the game, and that she must toss her buff in the fire on her way out. Jeff tells Matt to head back to RI, and he laughs in response. Why is he laughing? Well, it’s nothing like his old camp at RI. He has to seize the moment. “Well, that’s on you,” Jeff explains before sending Matt out of the Arena. Jeff dismisses the observing players that it is up to them to decide what to share with their tribemates. Steve confesses that maybe he should tell Russell that Francesca won so he won’t be prepared to face Matt when he is voted out.
Ashely and Andrea return to Ometepe. Ashely says Matt is pissed about the blindside, though they didn’t get to talk to him. Ashley says Matt wants to get revenge. This worries Rob because there is a good possibility Matt can run the RI gamut. Rob apologizes to Andrea for ousting Matt, noting that it wasn’t just him who pulled off the blindside. Four people agreed, yet nobody really wanted to do it. He tells her that she is still in the alliance. Andrea confides that Rob assured her she’s still in the five person alliance. It’s a good strategy to stick with them, but she’s very wary of Rob; she really needs to mix things up.
Zapatera, Day 7. Steve tells Russell that the “black chick” won the Duel. He then tells the rest of the tribe that he lied to Russell, and really the blonde surfer won. Russell confesses that he knows the tribe is split 6-3. He needs to find the HII to even the score, but the clue is very vague. Ralph watches Russell look for HII, and laughs because this is his game. Stephanie tells Russell and Krista that they need a fake idol. She continues to the camera, saying Russell has a great resume when it comes to idols, so people will believe him if they have a fake idol. Steve notices that Stephanie is protecting her bag. He jokes that there’s gold in there! Steve knows that she doesn’t have an HII; yet, Russell is always plotting and scheming, so they need to stay on their toes until that cancer is cut out.
The next day at Zapatera, Russell has insect bites or some sort of rash under his arms after shaving. Mike notes that Russell just sits in the shelter with his concubines, sucking in light like a black hole. Steve, Mike, and Ralph agree they should get rid of Russell soon. Maybe they should throw the Challenge? Steve brings that idea to Julie, David and Sarita. David doesn’t want to throw it, but Russell is weak right now, so perhaps it is time to lay down the final blow. Julie is skeptical of the plan because Ometepe could go on a run and turn momentum in their favor. She will have to make a decision soon because it is time for…
…the Immunity Challenge. This is the same challenge as was featured in last season in Survivor: Nicaragua. It’s the spit wheel. Three players are strapped to a wheel. Three other tribe members spin the wheel, dunking those strapped to it in a pool of water to grab a mouthful of water. As they spit the water into a funnel, a sufficient amount will release a ball. When the ball is released, the final tribe member will arrange a sliding-tile puzzle, into which the ball will be placed. The puzzle solver will then manipulate the puzzle to guide the ball through the maze. The first team to get the ball through the maze will win Immunity and a Reward consisting of chairs, pillows, tarp, three blankets, and a lantern. Zapatera sits Sarita and Ralph. David confides that they are going to throw the Challenge. Steve tells Julie to miss the bucket, but she’s not comfortable with it.
The Challenge begins and both tribes are spitting well. Julie misses the funnel, and the other Zapatera members follow suit. Ometepe does well, and releases their ball, starting Rob on the puzzle. Zapatera begins slowing down, but eventually, Zapatera releases their ball. David finally gets to work on the puzzle. Rob makes progress, but David is barely working. Rob thinks he has solved it, so he drops his ball into the puzzle. He deftly guides the ball through the maze. Ometepe wins its first Challenge! Jeff asks Rob how it feels to win? “Overdue.” On the way back to their beach, Russell confides that he thinks his tribe threw the Challenge.
Back at the victorious Ometepe beach, Rob begins putting up the tarp. Normally, a win would make him happy, but now that they have HIIs, he has to constantly play the game. He figures there is probably an HII clue in the Reward stuff. Rob admits to previously ignoring HII clues, but that didn’t turn out too well for him last time. So, now he’s looking for it. Rob sees that Phillip is about to break one of their new chairs. It appears a screw is loose, but when he inspects it closer, he notices that there is something sewn into the chair’s fabric. With Phillip none the wiser, Rob brings the chair to a secluded spot and removes the HII clue from the seat. Unfortunately for him, the clue is super vague. He decides to not tell anyone about the clue because he wants the HII for himself.
Over at Zapatera, Ralph confesses to the camera that they threw the Challenge because they need to get Russell out. Mike suggests they split their votes into three votes for Russell and three for Stephanie, just in case Russell’s alliance has an HII. Russell says to Krista it is stupid to throw a Challenge when the tribe is only two up in player numbers. Further, one can’t give Rob momentum in this game. Russell knows that the vote will be a three-three-three split, so he, Stephanie and Krista need to flip someone to their side. Maybe Julie? Russell sends Stephanie to actually do his dirty work.
Stephanie asks Julie where she stands in regard to the six people in her alliance. Stephanie tells Julie that her alliance is strong and that they have an HII. They are looking for a fourth alliance member and want Julie to be it. She admits that she’s been looking for someone strong with whom to play. Stephanie suggests that Russell will take them to the end. Stephanie concludes by saying that with them together, they can pull off the biggest blindside ever. Russell then approaches Julie and tells her that he will have her back if this plan is successful. Rob offers that they all vote for Ralph. If somehow he survives this ordeal, Russell says, it is Game On! “This will be his biggest move ever!” exclaims a self-satisfied Stephanie. It’s going to be a shocker!
Tribal Council. Zapatera enters and gets their torches and fire, which, as we all know, represents their life in the game. Jeff asks Ralph his thoughts on his first time at Tribal Council. Ralph says that it is actually good coming to Tribal Council because there is a division in their tribe. Steve says six of them are rock solid, and then there are three led by Russell. Jeff asks Sarita about the division, who says Russell’s history playing Survivor created the division. Russell says where he looked for ways to hurt his tribe in the past to advance himself (burning socks, pouring out canteens) he’s there to win Challenges now, not lose them. Jeff, sniffing a good storyline, asks Russell if he thinks his tribe wasn’t trying to win the Immunity Challenge. Russell felt people gave up in the Challenge, that they threw it. Mike says that is a big accusation. Of course they all wanted to win, but perhaps they didn’t try 100%. “It’s time to trim the fat,” retorts Mike.
Julie is wary of that strategy as she wants to go into The Merge with numbers. Stephanie pipes up and says that they forgot they’re playing Survivor. Russell knows how to play the game, so they should all follow his lead. There is going to be backstabbing, Stephanie notes; this is not the time for being best friends. David tries to get a word in edgewise, but Stephanie continues her filibuster. They need to go into The Merge with numbers, Stephanie insists. Steve says they didn’t throw the Challenge. When Jeff asks about Rob’s romp of David in the puzzle portion of the Challenge, David says Rob simply beat him. Stephanie rolls her eyes so fiercely they almost were lodged in the back of her head. She tries to voice her skepticism, but David says she shouldn’t speak for him. Jeff asks Sarita if it is scary that they don’t know what Russell is going to do. Sarita replies that Russell doesn’t do anything around camp. At this, Stephanie freaks out. “Russell does so much!” she shouts before madly listing off the couple of tasks he performs in his defense. Ralph counters saying that he really doesn’t do much of anything at all. Jeff is astonished that they are so divided so early in game. Russell says he is always playing the game, and they need to remember that the game is not always what it seems.
With that, it’s time to vote. Sarita says Russell is misguided and rude. Ralph votes for Russell. Russel says “This is my game, sucka,” while voting for Ralph. Jeff collects the votes. No one plays an HII, so he reads them off. The first three votes are for Russell, Ralph, and Stephanie. The next two are for Russell. Vote Six is for Stephanie, and Vote Seven is for Ralph. Vote Eight is for Ralph. With one vote remaining, the tally is three for Russell, three for Ralph and two for Stephanie. Vote Nine is for Stephanie. It’s a tie! This means Julie did not turn on her alliance and side with Russell. It’s time for a re-vote.
The three players with ballots do not vote. After the remaining six players cast their ballots, Jeff gathers them. Vote One is for Ralph, and Votes Two and Three are for Russell. The fourth vote is for Russell, as well. “The third person voted out of Survivor: Redemption Island…Russell!” Russell brings Jeff his torch for the first time in eighty-six days of playing Survivor. He tells his tribe that he will be back, “so be ready.” “I’ll be ready,” Ralph replies. Stephanie looks at Julie and tells her, “Storm’s a-comin,” which are awful strong words for someone who just mouthed off at Tribal Council and now sits in a two-person minority alliance. Jeff tells Zapatera that they just voted off one of the strongest players ever to play the game. “Will that decision come back to haunt you?” he asks before sending them back to camp.
Next Time On…Survivor!
Phillip is on the hot seat with his tribe. Rob says that with an HII in play who knows what will happen. On RI, it’s time for Russell to put up or shut up.
Well, it finally happened. After all this time, and all these time playing the game, it finally happened. No, I’m not talking about Russell being voted out. I’m talking about a tribe actually successfully pulling off the “split the vote to possible flush out an HII, and then all vote for the person you really want out” strategy. This is the exact strategy Rob tried to pull off in Heroes vs. Villains, but then Tyson went stupid and got himself voted out. This voting scheme rarely works as someone is usually lured by the voting target to switch his or her vote, or when the revote happens, someone switches to make a power play. This was the rare occurrence when the strategy actually worked, and it was a thing of beauty. Kudos to the production team and editors for splicing a particular reaction from Julie to make it look like she was siding with Russell, because I thought he was going to escape again. That was not the case, however, as he will now have to fight his way for a long time on RI if he wants to seek revenge.
Odds to Win
Well, Russell was always toward the bottom of the Odds board, so it’s not entirely shocking that he was voted out. What was shocking to me is that the Steve-Mike-Ralph alliance was actually able to herd all of those cats so early in the game. Usually, someone strays as they are woode by promises of the Final Three, or what have you. Not here though. It appears Steve is in total control of Zapatera, so how does that effect the Odds to Win? What are Russell’s chances of running the table at RI? Let’s take a look:
Mike: 3-1. I have to keep Mike here because he is in the Zapatera majority alliance, successfully ousted his main threat, and is not sticking his neck out too far like Steve is. I, personally, am never comfortable with a tribe throwing a Challenge (it’s always easier to get to the end when you can crush the other tribe at The Merge), but all in all, Mike is playing a flawless game so far.
Steve: 5-1. Steve’s odds improve because he manufactured the ouster of Russell, and as I said above, is clearly leading his tribe. The “let’s throw the Challenge to vote out Russell” strategy was his creation, and they pulled it of perfectly. A concern I will need to watch going forward is whether Steve is too unabashedly running Zapatera. Leaders are great at the beginning of the game, but that leadership role always comes with a huge target placed squarely on one’s back.
Grant: 9-1. So far, Grant is the silent assassin. He is Rob’s right-hand man, and hasn’t had much screen time because of it. Grant is, however, a physical specimen who cannot be counted out once Individual Immunity Challenges arrive. With Zapatera letting Ometepe back in the door by making the numbers a bit more even, his chances can only improve.
Ashley: 11-1. I am jumping Ashley up because she is seeming more and more like an ideal “young woman” winner of Survivor, in the mold of Parvati and Jenna. She’s smart, knows what information to give and to whom, has aligned herself with a strong player who can take the heat for backstabbing people, and performs well in Challenges. Plus, she seems more clinical and non-emotional than a certain other A-named woman on her tribe, which can only help her game.
Ralph: 12-1. I know Ralph is a farmer and not a cowboy, but he should know the expression, “If you mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns.” To a certain extent, I love Ralph’s bravado, and his clear desire to take Russell head on has made for some great TV. That bravado, however, could come back to bite him if he’s not careful. He has the HII, which should not be overlooked, but one also must remember that he seems pretty likeable, and really likeable people who know how to play the game are not brought to the Final Three.
Julie: 15-1. First, let me say that Julie is a beast. In a completely good way. She is maybe the fittest woman to every play Survivor and that is a huge asset. As well, she was appropriately wary of Steve’s strategy to throw the Challenge, which shows me that she knows how to play the game and is aware of her surroundings, two more great qualities. Julie did, in the end, stay with her alliance, which I think was a perfect choice. There is no need to abandon a strong team in favor of a very weak alliance that would put you in the minority of your tribe at this stage of the game. Julie is one to watch, closely.
Andrea: 17-1. Andrea, Andrea, Andrea. I don’t know what to do with you. You are clearly aware of how Rob is trying to play you, which is great. But then you get all weepy because a competitor you knew for six days appeared in an RI Duel? I think she’s cried three times in three episodes. Weepy players never win Survivor. She better stiffen that lip or she’s going to find herself on RI quickly.
Rob: 19-1. Another episode, another episode of Rob dominating. Seriously, he is 100% in control of Ometepe with no real threat to challenge him. Even if Kristina, Andrea and Phillip were to take him on, Rob still has the numbers amongst his loyal followers. Besides, he has put Phillip at ease, and Kristina and Andrea seem to scared now to take him on. If Ometepe can win a couple more Challenges and go into The Merge on even footing, Rob is going to make it very far into the game.
David: 30-1. Every week that David doesn’t show off the annoying tendencies he displayed in his pregame interviews, the higher he has to move up the board. He is in a strong alliance, and actually pretty well-positioned to lead a coup against Steve or Mike, depending on whom he sees as a bigger threat. This episode was the first extended look at Zapatera, so I am interested to see more of David in the coming episodes.
Natalie: 45-1. Ometepe won the Challenge, so I guess that means I have to improve Natalie’s odds. I don’t think she spoke on camera this week, so I don’t really have much more to say other than she’s still fully aligned with Rob, so she’s in good shape.
Krista: 50-1. Krista’s only chance is to now swiftly dump Stephanie and beg and plead to be let into the majority alliance. Her saving grace (at least for one more Zapatera Tribal Council) is that Stephanie ran her freaking mouth before the vote. Krista, wisely, didn’t say anything of note in Russell’s defense.
Kristina: 55-1. Did Kristina even make it into a shot this week besides the Challenge? Phillip has more of a spotlight on him, so she should be safe through at least the next Ometepe Tribal Council, but I can’t see her getting very far after that.
Russell: 75-1. Well, he was finally voted out, but I have to believe he has a great chance of running the RI Duel table. He will use psychological warfare on whomever he is paired with, and barring a really hard puzzle, I think he can win whatever they throw at him. If he makes it back into the game, it will still be tough for him, but getting back into the game would be a triumph in its own right.
Matt: 82-1. What an amazing comeback at the RI Duel, huh? I thought he was dead in the water, but the long-hair came back and won. That’s really impressive, but he’s already complaining about the lack of provisions on RI, and he had only been there for a day. How will he feel after three more days alone? I bet not that well. Plus, Russell is coming for him. I fear Matt will likely be gone next week, though he still has a better chance of winning than at least a few people.
Sarita: 90-1. Well, well. Sarita seems to have a bit off game, doesn’t she? She was all in on Steve’s strategy, and appears to be someone whose opinion counts in the Zapatera majority alliance. I still think her oddity will appear at some point, but kudos to her for making me start to change my mind.
Stephanie: 123-1. Just. Shut. Up. Why defend the guy who’s clearly going down in flames? Have you ever seen this show before?
Phillip: 174-1. We didn’t see much of Phillip this week, but what we did see was someone who was so unaware of the game, that he didn’t feel he was sitting on an HII clue! I mean, come on! Dude, wake up. Next week it appears he angers his tribe again, so it might finally be time for Phillip to take his walk through the Blue Light of Death. Can you imagine Russell and Phillip hanging out together on RI? Actually, I can’t wait to see this!
Alright, that’s Survivor: Redemption Island for this week. What did you think of the episode? Do you approve of the “let’s lose an Immunity Challenge so we can vote someone out” strategy? Is it smart to pull when you only have a two-person advantage? Can you see anyone on Ometepe challenging rob? Please leave your questions, comments and theories below. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to deal with a bunch of mean. What? I volunteer at a dog shelter!