Survivor Survival Guide: “It’s Getting the Best of Me”

“She’s obviously the problem here. There’s no other source of kryptonite…. Something just ain’t right, and it’s got to be her.”

—James on Stephenie

I mentioned last week that it would be interesting to see how much stock the players put into each other’s past appearances on the show. After the second episode, the answer is clearly a lot. Not only have alliances been forged on the basis of prior relationships (Tom and Steph; James, Amanda, and Cirie), but James specifically brought up Steph’s ignominious membership in the Ulong tribe—the only one to never win an immunity challenge.

The episode started with the focus on the Villains and specifically Boston Rob, who was growing frustrated with the inactivity of his tribe. It’s hard to blame him: Coach, Russell, and Randy are particularly useless men, and none of the female Villains seem prepared for the long-haul (we could already see Courtney’s rib cage on Day 4; that does not bode well). Contrast that with the Heroes, who have Colby, JT, James, and Tom as ready and eager workers and Steph as one of the most physically gifted women the show has ever seen. Irritated by problems with the tribe’s shelter, Rob went out for a walk in the woods, where he proceeded to collapse and lose consciousness.

“The funny thing about being unconscious is you don’t remember anything,” Rob said afterward.

He was diagnosed with possible flu symptoms but nothing serious, and he even got to bond with Jeff Probst for a little bit: “I’m gonna win this game, dude. Watch this.” I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I call Boston Rob one of Probst’s five favorite survivors of all-time.

The title of the episode—“It’s Getting the Best of Me”—is a direct quote from Rob, but it really applies more to the Heroes, who lost a big lead for the second straight immunity challenge. Having to roll six large crates back to their mat was easy for the Heroes; having to line up the crates into a staircase that spelled out Heroes (i.e. a PUZZLE) gave the Villains a chance to come back and seize the win. Miscommunication during the solving of the puzzle—as we know, the great equalizer—was the issue again for the Heroes, this time with James calling out Steph for not listening to JT (who had done this challenge on his season of Survivor and was thus designated the Heroes’ leader).

The remainder of the episode focused on the battle between James and Steph, two very likable cast members both in their third go-round on the island. James continued to slam Steph’s performance in the challenge, calling her out for her past tribe’s infamous putridity. It was odd to see so much fire out of James, who on Fans vs. Favorites bided his time as one of the quieter members of his alliance before unfortunately bowing out early with an injury. That intensity rubbed some of the older players the wrong way, specifically Colby and Tom, who deservedly scoffed at the notion that back-to-back immunity challenge losses constituted the most James has lost in his life.

The dichotomy of the tribe emerged early, with Tom, Colby, and Steph in one alliance and James, Amanda, and Rupert—another good guy who has not been portrayed as such thus far this season—in another. JT, Cirie, and Candice were set up in the middle with the chance to swing power.

In the end, those three threw in their hats with James, Amanda, and Rupert, making Steph the second person voted out by a 6-3 count (Amanda received the other three votes). The battle lines have now been drawn with Tom and Colby on the outs, although the two are enough of a beneficial physical presence that they may stick around for a little while; the main alliance just can’t let them last until the merger when they become a threat to team up with the Villains and win individual immunity.

It’s mildly sad to see Steph (Jersey Girl!) go home. She was probably the best-looking contestant this season and one of my favorites during her initial season. But she had grown kind of tiresome already, and being the best-looking contestant this season isn’t saying a whole lot. Did I mention Courtney’s skeleton already?

With that in mind, here’s the Heroes tribe order, broken down into our old friend from the French Revolution, the Estates General:

THIRD ESTATE: Tom and Colby

SECOND ESTATE: Cirie and Candice

FIRST ESTATE: James, Amanda, and Rupert

THE KING: JT

Right now, JT appears to have the most power in the tribe. He will almost certainly survive until the merger where he can win individual immunity (he’s probably the favorite in any physical challenge), and he’s not a leading member of any alliance and thus probably won’t have to alienate anyone to get there. While James’ alliance won this round, Rupert is dead weight, and it’s easy to see James being outsmarted by JT, or more likely, Cirie. Tom and Colby’s best play right now is to prey on the physical liabilities of Rupert and Amanda and try to swing JT, Cirie, and Candice back to their side. Or hope James blows up, which is portended by the preview of next week’s episode.

Sounds like goooooooood watchin’.

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