“I hate to say it, but I’m looking forward to Tribal Council. We’re finally going to get this tribe to play the game. This is real, and it starts now.”
You might even have been able to tell from the episode’s title — “Glitter in Their Eyes” — that last night’s third installment of Survivor: Nicaragua was going to be about Marty’s attempt to take down Jimmy Johnson.
Marty’s anti-JJ agenda has been clear for some time now, and he wanted to establish himself as the leader of Espada, the older tribe. It started while they were out searching for fruit, with Jimmy playfully making monkey noises and several of the tribemates practically swooning over him. “His soul is inspiring,” said Yve. Marty was having none of it, saying he couldn’t risk taking Jimmy to the merge, when his celebrity and leadership could win over a whole new tribe of converts.*
*It’s interesting and telling that Marty seems to have never considered the potential advantages of this. For instance, if the two tribes merge at roughly equal numbers, and Jimmy’s charisma is able to win over someone from La Flor, it can tilt the balance in Espada’s favor post-merge. Marty, it seems, is thinking even longer-term than that.
Marty won himself some dap by revealing to the tribe that he had found the Hidden Immunity Idol, doing so almost begrudgingly on Jill’s counsel. It was a calculated but, from his perspective, low-risk move: Keeping the idol secret only benefits him if he’s on the chopping block, and Marty doesn’t plan on being on the chopping block until after the merge.* It’s also clear that he doesn’t plan on letting anyone else use it anytime soon, but Marty had won at least one fan in his tribe. “That move just strengthened this tribe about five times,” Jimmy T. said. “I was like, ‘What a guy! Way to go, Marty!’ I wouldn’t have done that.”** In the process, Jimmy T. firmly reminded us that Espada is a tribe of the elderly by using “What a guy” and “Way to go” as his primary means of exclamation.
* Of course, if someone from Espada turns and lets La Flor know about the HII post-merge, well, it can come back to bite Marty.
**He also didn’t mention, at least in the footage we saw, Jill’s role in finding the idol at all. Hmm.
The only news back at La Flor this whole time, by the way, was everyone coming back from Tribal preaching unity, and NaOnka dispelling that myth quickly: “Coming back to camp after Tribal was so fake — faker than faux fur.”*
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*It’s really a shame that I can’t express how NaOnka said this in text. Just realize that there were large, planned pauses between all of the last four words.
The Immunity Challenge consisted of collecting ten barrels, rolling them over to an area, and arranging them on platforms in the reverse shape of a bowling-pin (or 10-cup beer pong) setup.* Once the barrels were arranged, the first team to toss a sandbag on each one claimed Immunity. La Flor declined the opportunity to use the Medallion of Power, which would have given them a two-barrel head start.
*That’s four in front, then three, then two, then one.
It was actually pretty fun to watch, with the sharp editing meaning we didn’t have to see miss after miss from Tyrone and Benry, who had the majority of sandbag tosses for their respective tribes (a rematch of last week’s Immunity, in essence). Tyrone got off to a hot start and a 6-2 lead before Benry ran off a 7-0 run. Jimmy T. got upset when Tyrone kept missing, yelling at Jimmy Johnson that his skills were being wasted. JJ subbed in JT late in the game for Tyrone, with Jimmy T. making his first shot. It was all for naught, though, as Benry finished the deal soon thereafter for a La Flor win.
La Flor also won reward, which included herbs and fruit. While picking up the fruit basket, both Kelly B. and NaOnka spotted a clue for a Hidden Immunity Idol. Once they returned to camp and dropped the basket, they went after it. Na predictably won, knocking Kelly B. down — mostly to the chagrin of Fabio: “There was a note?… And she smashed the bananas?” NaOnka was remorseless: “I’ll push you again, and I’ll push you so hard that leg will fly off.” She also properly distinguished between being “hood” and “ghetto” (and in an online clip, went into detail defining “swag”). This entire sequence means she may be my favorite player this season, at least until I get tired of her in another two weeks.
At Espada, Jimmy T. told the entire tribe he felt his skills were being wasted — again. Tyrone rightfully said that this wasn’t Little League, which would have been much more powerful had he not sucked in the challenge. Marty continued his push to get Jimmy Johnson off, finding allies in a very deferential Jill, an excited Jimmy T., and the seemingly feeble Dan, who despite being unable to get up from any kind of sitting position or to do much at the challenge claimed he was in “much, much, much, much better physical shape” than JJ. When the “better” is in question, can we even consider the FOUR muches?
JJ had a feeling what was going on, telling his closer allies — Holly, Jane, and Yve* — that he’d probably be going home tonight while they were fishing. The scene was kind of cut short, and I wondered if the Coach was pulling any late-game strings, trying to get the group together to vote Dan off.
*What does it say about male insecurity and gender politics that Jimmy Johnson’s biggest supporters were all female?
At Tribal, Jimmy Johnson was the only castaway willing to admit that he was one of the weaker players; I would have liked to see at least one of the other eight people qualify their “No” with an “Although I may be perceived to be…”. The vote was as unanimous as Survivor gets, with eight tallies for JJ and his one for Dan.
And so the most intriguing reason to watch Survivor: Nicaragua has been voted out three episodes in. Johnson’s celebrity was clearly too threatening to Marty, and to a lesser extent Jimmy T., who weirdly claimed that his own leadership — hitherto unseen — may have been a threat to JJ’s. And while I understand Marty’s point-of-view to an extent, I’m frustrated that he failed to see Jimmy’s charisma as a potential asset after the merge. There is no doubt that, when Espada marches in to the Immunity Challenge next week and La Flor realizes who has been voted out, that multiple members of the younger tribe will be disappointed. They would have wanted the chance to play this game with a famous football coach, and they may have switched allegiances to do so, especially with JJ saying he doesn’t need and doesn’t want the money.
So I think Marty’s move may have been shortsighted. He now definitively assumes the role of leader in Espada, which places the target on his back. Really, it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy T. (and possibly even Tyrone) gets sick of Marty’s command and tries to make his own move. Because in Survivor, the person who makes the first move rarely sticks around for many more (see: Joel in Micronesia or Tom on “Heroes vs. Villains”). We’ll see if Marty can do any better.