After the sadness and melodrama of last week's episode, it was great to return to the "fun" Survivor of old.
The immunity challenge was actually entertaining for the first time in a long time. The frequent physical confrontations between the players brought back fond memories of Season 5: Robb choking Clay in Thailand. I'm not suggesting that the show turn into "American Gladiators," but it would be nice to see some contestants go at it once in a while. Big Tom getting treated like a piñata was priceless as was Colby's wide smile at bringing the big man down.
Richard continues to be an amazing provider, much to the consternation of Lex. I am unable to discern why Lex hates Richard this much, but it's something to watch over the next few episodes.
We were blessed with the first bold-face lie of the season as Rob M. completely played Rob C. like a fiddle. You knew it was over for funny boy as soon as the producers cut away to snake visual. That's a death knell for any Survivor. If I ever played the game, the first thing I would do is murder every single snake on the island, if only to prevent the producers from foreshadowing my exit ironically.
Someone needs to get Big Tom a sitcom. Stat.
Why Rob Cesternino is gone:
- The game simply won't tolerate two contestants with the same first name to coexist. Just kidding. (Maybe not though, if you are to believe Rob M. in the insider clips.)
- He was too smart and known as a tactician. In my season prediction column, I saw Rob taking an early exit because his mind made him a constant threat to other contestants who both revered and feared his alliance building and rebuilding skills. This came to fruition in episode four. Players like Boston Rob and Amber are not that sharp, but to their credit, they realize that weakness and shrewdly moved on the one person who could capitalize on it.
- His brand of frat boy humor proved ineffective this time. A large part of his season six success was Rob's ability to disarm people by making them laugh hard and often. This also made people take him less seriously and not view him as a threat even when he was controlling the entire game. Rob M. saw right through his act and attempted to make him feel small and unfunny at every opportunity, which set the mindset for the entire group. It's not a good position to be known as the funny one when the tribe loses its first challenge and things start getting serious.
- He didn't listen to his own paranoia. In season six, Rob constantly backstabbed people before they could even think of backstabbing him. It was a very effective, if not intentional, defense mechanism. So, there should have been bells and whistles going off in his head when Boston Rob told him that he would be part of their three with Amber. It was obvious that Tom was actually the third member of the alliance.
- Even if he stayed, he was in a no-win position. If Alicia had gone, that would have still cemented the godfather's power and left Rob C. vulnerable and at the whims of the Survivor's first couple. Hindsight is 20/20, but a Rob C./Alicia/Susan alliance could have been attempted and could have succeeded if they had won the tiebreaker. Instead, Rob C. played uncharacteristically conservative and he paid the ultimate price.
The previews hinted at the game's first shakeup and it appears that it will occur before the immunity challenge.
While it is possible that the tribes will be forced to trade members, I think it is much more likely there will be a mini-merge into two tribes or even into one gigantic tribe, although that is far less likely. I just can't see the game continuing when there are only four or five members in each tribe because conflict would be less likely and strategy would give way to inevitability. Splitting them up now would create two groups of seven and bring new dynamics into the game.
The big question is how this will occur. Will everyone be jumbled up and just spit out randomly into tribes? Or will there be a draft of sorts where team captains get to pick new members? I don't see the random selection process occurring because that would completely destroy the interesting relationships that have already developed, especially Survivor's first romance which I am sure Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett would hate to lose this early on.
Either way, analyzing the tribe makeup is completely pointless because everything could easily change next week. However, logic hasn't stopped me before and it won't stop me now.
TRIBE ANALYSIS: SABOGA
Rupert: He has stabilized his position by once again embracing his role as provider and apologizing profusely to the group. His major screw-up as a player has lit a fire under him and it appears that he gets a chance for redemption next week and I can't imagine he wouldn't take advantage of it.
Jerri: I really can't believe these people. I know it's bad, but you have only been out there 12 friggin' days. If she came this close to breaking down mentally so soon, it is only going to get worse as the game progresses. She was also a complete jerk to Rupert who admitted he failed and tried to make amends. The b**** might be back and we all know how far that got her last time.
Jenna L: Was she even in this episode? I have to assume that she is still aligned with Jerri, which is becoming a dicier proposition by the day.
Ethan: He was also quiet this week. If they indeed merge, the target on his back because of his winner status is only going to grow bigger because Chapera no doubt wants to start taking revenge on winners, particularly Rob M. who hates "pretty boy" Zohn.
TRIBE ANALYSIS: MOGO MOGO
Richard: His ability to bring back tons of meat and his winner status could allow him to survive for a long time if there is indeed a merge. Still, he should pray that he isn't on Lex's tribe after the merge because it appears that Mr. Paranoid has it out for my favorite survivor.
Colby: Besides that smile at the immunity challenge, he was almost non-existent in this episode. I keep repeating it, but the editors don't shower attention and screen time on those who aren't long for the game. He will probably be gone before Richard.
Lex: Lex still has Shii Ann and Kathy to rely on, but his bouts of paranoia and hatred could be making a comeback if he continues to obsess about Hatch. He needs to stay close to Kathy.
Kathy: She didn't really play a big role in this episode, but the Jenna episode further established her as a mother figure, which is a useful asset up to a point.
Shii Ann: Will she once again get screwed by a merge scenario? Probably not, but one can dream…
TRIBE ANALYSIS: CHAPERA
Rob M. & Amber: They have tasted their first blood and it was apparently refreshing as they overthrew a big threat and kept Alicia and Susan at bay. They have the most to lose in a merge because if they are separated, others might see a chance to send the love birds home, if only for laughs.
Tom: He is likeable and strong and that is an awesome combination. Plus, the others can't understand a word he says.
Alicia: Apparently, the others want her to go before Susan, which is mildly surprising. She saved herself for the time being, but that victory could be short-lived because Sue and her are now in the minority. A tribal switch would be great for her.
Susan: Remember my theory about editing as she still hasn't gotten that much screen time. Her only hope might be to realign with one Richard Hatch, which just proves how desperate her situation is.
Predictions for Next Week: The preview at CBS.com site makes it seem like the merge is tied to the reward challenge, so maybe the third-place finisher will go bye-bye. This puts everything up for grabs and any prediction would only be a guess. Still, I think Susan and Ethan are particularly vulnerable, especially if a merge comes.
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By GREG FELTES