Survivor — Season 29, Episode 3 — Live Blog and Discussion

Why did Val lie about having immunity, when it was such an impossible fiction to maintain? Just like the questions of who actually assassinated JFK and why your back always itches in that one place you can’t reach, people will be asking this for generations to come. But lie Val did, claiming to have acquired not one, but two idols, when no one had been on San Juan del Sur long enough to have gotten freckled. As a result, sneering doubters on Coyopa tossed her lying tuchus off the show on episode 2. If you care enough to learn her answer, she did a podcast about it. And yes, EW, we all resent the clickbait headline.

If you’re some kind of emotional vampire who enjoys revisiting clips of people “choking back tears, dealing with disappointment and facing the harsh reality” of the competition, even as they deposit large paychecks for appearing on a television show, you can also go to CBS’s site and read the blog that describes last week’s show as “an explosion of emotions, fracturing the facade of even the toughest castaways.” Fortunately, those intimate, deeply felt moments didn’t overshadow all the deceit, back-biting, and inanity.

Tonight, after the inevitable, film-and-crew-salary-saving recap, I am moved to wonder if anyone tries to identify the handwriting on the vote cards as they’re held up so they can figure out who may have betrayed them. Then again, that would be canny and require creative thinking, and this show only really demands biceps and knowledge of how to properly tie a bandanna around one’s head.

Around the fire, the Cowpies grumble and complain about the last Tribal Council. Josh feels John’s credibility has diminished. Considering it was already lower than Theresa Guidice’s hairline, that’s saying something.

The Hortonhearsawho team are concerning themselves withtropical storms instead of emotional ones. They have redesigned their shelter roof, based on a Frank Lloyd Wright blueprint, and rewoven the palm fronds in a chic chevron pattern. Then Jeremy and Natalie stumble on a sleeping Drew, and bitch at him for not pulling his weight.  Natalie sure pulls hers, meow meow.

At the challenge site, Jeremy shakes his head sadly when he sees that Val is no longer on the Orange team. John apologizes to him, dismayed that he gave his word “as a man” to protect her and failed. The other Craypas are shocked and appalled at this admission of an alliance with Val. I’m shocked that he considers himself honorable.

Now for the challenge. The Orange team wins rock, paper, scissors –couldn’t they least make some kind of spinner out of a painted rock and some wooden dowels?–and put Wes up against his dad, Keith. They must balance as they walk across a swinging, suspended board to grab a flat wooden piece with a rod that they then must carry back across the wobbly board to deposit in a stack. The production budget for these challenges is lower than mine was when I redecorated my powder room. Wes is collecting his sixth wooden piece while Keith hasn’t even brought back his fifth. Finally, Coyoteugly has a win.

Keith is emotional afterwards. “You’re proud of him,” Jeff says, gazing meaningfully at him. A father is always proud when his son  successfully carries his first bunch of flat wooden pieces across a wobbly board. Sobbing, Keith invokes the memory of a dead grandpa, possibly one who also dealt with wooden pieces and wobbly surfaces, although those were more likely a horse cart and a covered bridge spanning a raging river in the Dust Bowl. Josh is selected to join Keith on Exile Island. The team selects fishing gear as their prize, possibly hoping to strangle John with some line.

Jeremy is angry at John for failing to protect Val. “I’m out to get him now,” he declares. How can he do that when they’re on different teams? Maybe have his PR guy issue a press release? He explains to his team exactly who John Rocker is, and, more importantly for a later drama-filled scene timed for the denouement of the show coming in from a commercial for Cialis, what he said in that now-storied interview. This revelation compels Julie to walk away, crying. She explains to Missy that they will tie her to John, who is her “counterpart”–is that what the kids are calling it these days?–possibly affecting her standing among the group at Council time. She fails to address the fact that she’s dating a hateful jerk, possibly affecting her standing among the audience at all times.

Over on Exile Island, Josh and Keith approach their urns and unroll the notes within. They conclude who might have the idols on their teams, then  convivially crack open and eat come slimy things. Josh remarks on how well they’re getting along despite their unlikely pairing of Crotchety Old Yokel and Big City Gay Boy. Survivor would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, except that it also cast John Rocker.

Cowboybebop enjoys their freshly caught fish and lies down under the stars. The true survival skill is not brushing your teeth for all those weeks while being in close quarters with half a dozen people. Baylor is trying to push the younger guys to come around to the girls’ side. She’s more desperate to stay on TV than Juan Pablo.

Next morning, the teams carry their banners to the challenge site and greet a returning Keith and Josh. They will be tethered together in pairs and race through an obstacle course to retrieve a ball and shoot it into a basket. Much like gym class in junior high, but with several takes and no having to remember your locker combination. Dale and Keith are sitting it out. First pair are Jon and Natalie taking on Josh and Baylor, who get the ball first–but the first basket is made by Jon. Wes and Alec vs. Julie and Missy; Wes gets the basket. Then it’s Drew and Reed vs. John and Jaclyn. The course is very confusing when viewed through Obstacle Course Cam. John makes the basket. Next come Josh and Baylor vs. Jeremy and Kelley. The dust is so irritating to the sinuses. Baylor misses the basket. She really is useless. Jeremy gets the ball in. They’re tied! The exclamation point is sarcastic.

Wes and Alec are back vs. Jon and Natalie again. They both miss their baskets. Jon wins it for Honeybooboo. Reacting to John’s unsportsmanlike reaction to losing, Natalie starts screaming at him that he’s a racist, soon joined in her vitriol by her team members. Jeff asks why they’re all upset at John. Someone mentions his documented record as a cretin. “What article are you referring to?” Jeff asks innocently. John dismisses them all with talky fingers, further underscoring his douchebagginess. But like every internet forum fight, nothing is resolved even after many impassioned expressions of  indignation and the brandishing of the word “homophobic.”

Josh is concerned that John loses his patience and his temper “haphazardly,” and it’s not good for the team. It wasn’t good for that interview, either. Baylor sees her fate being sealed after her pathetic performance in the challenge. John points out that Josh is his ally, a variation on the “but some of my best friends are gay” defense.  The men plot to ditch Baylor, although John asserts preemptively that he has an idol. Josh then meets privately in the water with Wes and Baylor, and plots to vote out John. “We’re taking over this game,” he tells them. She likes the idea–unless they’re lying to her. No wonder Val called this team a “womb of paranoia.” It appears to have given birth.

Josh explains that he has no idea if this is the right decision, since John is their best athlete. It’s landed him more camera time than anyone else in this episode, though, so he’s gained an advantage for his reel. At the Council, Jeff asks about Jeremy’s response to Val being tossed out. It wasn’t his fault, John explains helpfully. How does Alec feel about the other team’s rage against John? He blabbers something that suggests he misunderstood. Jeff directs the question at John. He doesn’t consider himself the leader, and therefore not to blame. I bet when he pitched badly, it was the ball’s fault. This game is ultimately about relationships, Jeff intones. Yes, but not healthy ones.

“The important thing is to get rid of the dark cloud that’s covering us,” says Baylor poetically. Jaclyn thinks the guys should show some balls and kick one of the guys out. Or kick him in the balls.

The voting begins. Someone picks a scab on their knee. Given the opportunity, John does not play his immunity idol. What a smug bastard. The votes go between John and Baylor, and then he is out. Baylor closes her eyes in sweet relief.

“I had a damn idol right in my pocket,” John mutters as he walks off. How many of us have said that very thing just a little too late as well.





About E.M. Rosenberg 240 Articles
Favorite 40-volume series issued by Time-Life Music: Sounds of the Seventies. Favorite backsplash material: Subway tile. Favorite screen legend I pretend wasn’t gay: Cary Grant. Favorite issue you should not even get me started about: Venal, bloodsucking insurance industry. Favorite character from the comic strip “Nancy”: Sluggo, or maybe Rollo. Favorite Little Debbie snack: Nutty Bars. Favorite Monkee: Mike.