Survivor Survival Guide: Loose Lips Sink Ships

“Are you with me or are you against me?”

“I’m against you, Russell.”

–Sandra

“Who invited Boston Rob to the party: Are you with me or are you against me?”

–Parvati

For the second time in this season of Survivor, we were coming off an explosive, landscape-shaking Tribal Council. Just as Russell’s earlier victory over Boston Rob, his decision to ax Danielle last week reshaped the final days of this season. And just like earlier, the episode after the big move couldn’t possibly live up to its predecessor.

Even with reduced expectations, “Loose Lips Sink Ships” was disappointing. You can even make a case it was the worst episode of the season; it was easily the least dramatic since at least the merger. It almost felt like an early-season episode. There was a long “Previously on Survivor” (if a justifiably long one; even I had forgotten there were two Tribals last week), they showed the entire theme song (you know it’s an action-packed episode when they skip the intro song), and they spent a lot of time on mundane camp stuff like treemail (I don’t know if you realized, but it was sponsored by Sprint) and Rupert’s inconsiderate late-night wood-chopping.

“Loose Lips Sink Ships” began with Rupert ecstatic about staving off a double-elimination last week and about the prospect of exploiting the newly exposed holes in the Villains’ alliance. Parvati, meanwhile, called Russell “the biggest villain this game has ever seen,” but recognized she couldn’t vote him off because she needed to eliminate Colby and Rupert before the Final Three.

Parvati and crew then found the high-tech treemail, delivered on a stylish Sprint Palm Pre about which the survivors—and later Jeff—carefully choreographed their praise (for the second time this season).* The phone revealed brief messages from the final six’s family members, which of course always prompts extra emotion (and interesting insights into each player’s personal background). At the Reward Challenge, everyone got to meet one family member: Parvati’s dad, Jerri’s sister, Russell’s wife, Colby’s brother, Rupert’s wife, and Sandra’s uncle.** It certainly wasn’t as exciting as Eddie George coming out from around the corner. The challenge involved fetching water in a pail and tossing the water into the air toward your family member, who would try to catch as much as possible in his/her bucket before transferring it to a third bucket. Whoever filled the third bucket first won extra time with the “loved one” (as Jeff so affectionately calls them) at The Blowholes—a series of, you guessed it, blowholes (I suppose they’re geysers)—with burgers and other normal food. Jerri, Russell, and Rupert worked best with their loved ones, and Colby very clearly had the worst camaraderie with his older brother, Reed. In fact, I would say no player has ever had worse chemistry with anyone they were playing with—let alone a family member—than Colby had with Reed. The way Colby yelled at Reed, you would have thought Reed was knocking the pail out of Colby’s hand and helping all the other players win. I mean, it was ridiculous. I have to think creative editing had a part to play because otherwise, that crap is indefensible, Colby.

*I’ve always had questions about “treemail.” Do they realize the name isn’t clever anymore? Who writes those insipid little rhymes? What happens if nobody finds the treemail? Is it delivered in the same place at the same time? It doesn’t appear on the show “regularly” anymore.

**Sandra later pointed out how special it was for her uncle to be there because her mom had died and her husband was in Afghanistan. I felt cold for not caring.

Oh yeah, Jerri won, edging out Russell. Of course, Jerri then got the unenviable opportunity to choose two additional players (with loved ones) to come with her, and she decided on Parvati and Sandra, in that order. Russell was clearly pissed, mouthing that she had “screwed up” and “made a big mistake” (but not a huge one). At the camp, Russell seethed: “She shoulda taken a guy ‘cuz it woulda made more sense strategically.” That idea doesn’t make sense generally, or until you substitute “a guy” with “Russell” specifically. “That was a million dollar decision.” So, Russell made a pact with Rupert and Colby to take them to the Final Three and to vote off Parvati. Russell figured he could get Jerri back on his side for a 4 to 2 vote.*

*I’m pretty sure I came really close to calling this last week (for the first time ever). Check it out:

“The scenes from next week show Russell teaming up with Rupert and Colby; does he really think he can beat them in a final? Does he bring Jerri along with him? Do Parvati and Sandra become a close alliance with the hidden idol on their side?”

Meanwhile, Jerri, Parvati, Sandra, and their respective loved ones were living it up at The Blowholes, recording everything on their sleek, “easy-to-use,” so convenient Sprint Palm Pre. Parvati made sure to point out that “one of the best parts” of the excursion was the ability to record it with photos on the Palm Pre, as if she will one day be hanging pictures of her 36-days-on-a-beach-without-a-shower-and-with-underarm-hair self (along with Jerri, Sandra, and their family members) on her mantle one day. The true best part of the trip seemed to be throwing coconuts in the blowholes right before they exploded, which is already far too explicit to be a successful euphemism. I could go in a lot of directions here (well, one mainly), but this is a family blog (at least when I write for it).

The Immunity Challenge was again  a simple one: With arms outstretched and palms facing down, each player had to hold up two poles against a board well over their head. It’s another challenge of concentration and dedication, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that, within 15 seconds, Colby was knocked out. I know I should be used to Colby’s lack of effort this season 13 episodes in, but come on! That was even a more shameful performance than the Cavaliers the last two games! Sandra predictably followed within a minute, with Russell (my pick to win the challenge) and Jerri following. That left it to Parvati and Rupert for the second time in three challenges, and it appeared at the time that both might be fighting for their life in the game; after all, Russell was trying to decide between the two of them. Once again, Parvati outlasted Rupert and claimed the necklace, leaving the newly formed alliance among Russell, Rupert, and Colby without a clear target.

Russell is thinking he should just go back to his old alliance and vote Rupert out when the latter tells him that Sandra still wants his head (which was true; Sandra had approached Rupert about voting off Russell, which still doesn’t make much sense to me. There was no way Sandra was going to vote Russell out last night. It wouldn’t make any sense. Why rile him up?). Russell point-blank asks Sandra if she’s with him or against him, and she says she’s against him.

So this whole time, we’re supposed to think it’s a tight vote. We know Parvati and Sandra are voting for Rupert while Rupert and Colby are voting for Sandra. Which way will Russell (and in turn, Jerri) go to decide it all? Of course, the undercard in all this is Sandra’s hidden immunity idol, which everyone—and by that, I mean EVERYONE—forgot about once they realized Rupert didn’t have it last week. Sandra went so far as to say she might not use the idol—even though she can’t use it after this week. It was pretty obvious at that point that the editors just wanted us to think someone as wily as Sandra might not play the idol, thus sustaining the drama through Tribal.

In the end, Sandra played the idol, meaning Rupert had no chance to survive regardless of who Russell and Jerri voted for (it was Rupert anyway). Indeed, the most memorable part of Tribal was Parvati telling Danielle she looked “hot,” which appeared, for the second we saw her, to be true. She did look hot (as she and Candice discussed toward the end of one of last week’s “Ponderosas”). It all sets up a final five heading into Sunday’s finale that, unbelievably, still contains Colby Donaldson. I don’t think anyone is particularly sad to see Rupert go; by now, his shtick has gotten a little tiresome, and I’ve only seen him on two of his three seasons. As he left, Rupert stared defiantly at someone still in the game, but who? Russell for not sticking with him? Could be a hint toward his jury vote…

We’re going to save the whole Aristocracy for a Finale Preview post on Sunday, where I’ll look back on the season as a whole and ahead to the last three Tribal Councils and who should—and who will—walk away with a million dollars.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] going topless to win a challenge, enough time for a Colby-sucks-but-then-he-redeems-himself-but-now-he-sucks-even-more storyline, JT giving an immunity idol to Russell, a catfight–albeit a disappointing […]

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  2. […] might remember Outback Steakhouse and Sprint from last […]

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  3. […] The challenge itself consisted of two parts: The castaway would run up a ramp and jump in water to retrieve two bags of puzzle pieces (letters), and the loved one would try to solve the puzzle (which spelled out “Family Comes First”). I don’t like it when the family member is actually involved in the challenge; it doesn’t seem entirely fair, and it can get a little awkward. […]

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