As a first-time watcher of Survivor, I had no idea that last’s week rice trade was controversial. In fact, EW featured a profound and considered thinkpiece about whether it was ethical for Jeff to demand that the tribe give up almost resource they had, short of their branded bandannas and favorite tarantula, in exchange for more Uncle Ben’s, because with the team reassignments, not all the tribe members were the original gluttons who no longer had enough rice to make a California roll.
“How much should the new Hunahpuians pay for the sins of the others?” agonizes the author, simultaneously coining the unpronounceable term “Hunahpuians” while taking his rightful place beside Hannah Arendt in studying the philosophy of the human condition.
Because Graingate requires massive coverage, Jeff is further probed in another EW piece addressing this thorny moral conundrum. The host cybernetically rubs his hands in evil glee as he recalls, “Once I heard they were low on rice and we were still very early in the game, there really wasn’t any other consideration than to take every single thing at camp.” And Americans wonder how bankers could be responsible for the foreclosure crisis.
Not satisfied with just the one cruelly unbalanced exchange, Jeff fervently hopes a future tribe will be at risk for malnutrition or hypothermia so that the producers can consider a more draconian punishment. “Say, for instance, a tribe that had won no rewards, had only the barest of shelter, but like Hunahpu, also ate all their rice,” he conjectures, drooling onto his chamois shirt. “What is the appropriate invoice at that point?” Perhaps a kidney or a first-born child.
This week’s event, however, is merely “merge time,” which I hope is like Amok Time on Star Trek. Jeff promises that a move by one of the cast members will “really annoy most of our audience,” as if that doesn’t happen every 12 minutes during your average episode.
Naturally, the recap footage begins with the Rice Trade, which produced the atrocity of Julie crying at getting wet because they had no tarp in the rain. It’s Day 16, and Coyopa is looking listless. Missy wants to talk to Keith about the vote wherein he nearly was the one sent home. She was protecting Baylor, she explains, and Baylor was protecting herself, when they voted to throw him off. Keith ain’t buying. “Nuh mah lon,” he says passionately. But without deception and mendacity, the show is just Naked and Afraid with party games.
At the Hunahpu camp, the tribe receives the message that the teams are now merged. Josh and Reed want Jeremy out, so they’re pleased. Jeremy, on the other hand, wants to crush the two of them. This should end well. Coyopa gets the same message and rejoices as well. Jaclyn is excited to make the merge with Jon. Why? They’ve probably merged lots of times.
Everyone who still has ’em hugs their loved ones as the teams meet at the designated site. There’s a picnic lunch of cheese, trail mix, seafood, and fruit. Trail mix? Everyone stuffs their gullets, imbibing beverages from bamboo cups like they have on Gilligan’s Island. Julie whines about missing her boyfriend, while Keith declares how glad he is to be back with Wes. He asserts that he could care less about Missy and Baylor, then spits both to emphasize his point and add regionalism to the show.
Jeremy believes that this is where the game really starts. Building his alliance, he complains to Jon that Josh is running things and they need to seize control. Then he consults with Missy and gets her on his side, although I’m sure the abs did a lot of the talking. He rapidly forms a team of seven allies. Josh thinks that’s crazy. I’ll tell you what’s crazy: They couldn’t even bother to come up with a third made-up, vaguely Aztec-sounding name. The merged team is called Huyopa, which sounds like a reasonably priced Japanese car.
Reed, Alec, Wes, and Keith have formed an alliance with Josh, who feels he can add Baylor, since he saved her earlier. That would mean she’d bring along Missy, like you get a free lens case when you buy saline solution. This puts Baylor in a spot: If she turns Josh down, she seems ungrateful, but she prefers to remain allied with Jeremy and his shoulders. She consults Missy, who recommends being phony to Josh. Her daughter must help vote Reed or Josh out, according to Jeremy’s plan; gratitude and kindness can wait until she’s on The Voice. Missy is pleased that Baylor is heeding her advice to betray people who have helped her. At least she’s not asking her mother for fashion tips.
Josh asks Jon and Jaclyn to side with his group. Flattered at all the attention, Jon sees himself and Jaclyn as a power couple. They’re the Bill and Hillary of San Juan del Sur. Which way do they go, though–Josh or Jeremy? If only they had James Carville to advise them.
By now, the team has eaten all the leftovers they brought back from the picnic. Julie, however, has some trail mix she helped herself to, which she keeps a secret–until Jon discovers the stash hidden in her bag. Everyone is enraged at this duplicity, although apparently they see nothing wrong with searching other people’s property without their permission. Jon is outraged, outraged, I tell you. Please. Now, if she were hoarding a box of Little Debbie cakes, I’d say string her up. Returning to camp, Julie is feeling the tension from the others, although it may just be her bikini straps cutting into her.
Time for the game that has understandable rules. The prize for this challenge is a necklace that the winner wears to indicate his or her immunity, and which is probably also sold as official Survivor merchandise. Everyone has to grasp two ropes suspended from Y-shaped logs stuck in the sand, which support circular boards with balls resting on them. The challenge is to keep the ball from rolling off the board, balancing it for many minutes as their arms tire and a fierce wind blows. It’s not unlike waiting in line at the DMV, only without the ball, the boards, or the half-naked people, at least usually. Jeremy’s ball falls off first, then Missy’s and Julie’s. A full nine minutes must pass, but everyone else makes it to the next round.
This time they must hold the ropes further along their length, which makes it more difficult. Setting the ropes on fire would have been even harder, but the show coddles people. Reed is out first, then Baylor, Alec, and Jaclyn. The wind batters them and Jeff’s inane narration annoys them. Natalie goes out, then there’s 10 minutes left for the last four to stand there, concentrating on a ball on a round board and questioning the meaning of their lives. Keith, Josh, Jon, and Wes make it to the next round.
Now they have two balls to cope with. Josh is out immediately, then Jon, and it’s Keith against Wes. Keith wins. He goes to accept his Clair’s necklace. “Wayall naow whar everboddy stains ayaftah tahnaht’s vut,” he predicts sagely. Indeed, the recent mid-term elections have confirmed that we can only know where candidates stand after people vote.
The team troops back to camp. Jeremy is bitter at his immediate failure at the challenge. “I was out before Julie,” he notes with disgust, although it’s not really surprising since she has a lot of experience with wobbly round objects. Meanwhile, Julie’s feeling “lost and abused” because everyone is angry at her over the trail mix incident, and also because she’s overdue for her Restylane injections. Missy encourages her not to give up, but only because they need her vote at the Council. Missy really ought to get out of the advice business.
Jeremy reaffirms that Josh is the one to take out, claiming he’s the only one really playing the game. In fact, Josh is determined to win Jaclyn and Jon over to his side. He wants the remaining pairs of loved ones uniting as a group. Either that, or he just thinks Alec is a complete moron. A vulture appears on screen to herald Jon’s decision to join Josh and company with the intent to vote out Jeremy.”This will suck because I really like Jeremy,” he tells Jaclyn. “This sucks,” she agrees. Isn’t it cute when couples start to talk alike?
Julie wanders off, upset over her loneliness for John, the resentment of her teammates, and how desperately her eyebrows need shaping. She meets with Jeff, which is just like when people meet with Chris on The Bachelor/ette, so it means she either wants to quit the show, or report that someone’s not there for the right reasons. She tells him she hates that John is no longer there with her. They’ve been together for three years without spending more than four days apart. Jeff scoffs, telling her that kids go alone to summer camp for longer than they’re shooting the show. Yeah, but those kids have tarps. Julie is also upset at being judged by her teammates. “They’re talking about my boobs and making jokes,” she complains. It’s not just them, Julie.
Jeff is concerned about the people she is in alliance with. She feels bad about leaving them in the lurch, but her decision is about her own needs. Eighteen days of bikini-wearing, tarpless, largely boyfriend-free trail-mix stealing, and Julie is returning home to her bigot.
Jeff goes to inform the team that she is quitting the game. Missy wishes she could try again to talk Julie out of it, perhaps with finger puppets this time. Josh is triumphant. Jeff asks Jeremy what he thinks of people who quit. I think Miss Jean asked that on Romper Room. Alec sneers that Julie did the least around the camp, and everyone had to take care of her, especially when Alec was napping. Jaclyn reminds everyone that Julie stole the trail mix. It’s now the lead statement on her Wikipedia page.
The good news is there is no Tribal Council this episode. Good news for us, that is, because that is always such a boring, predictable segment. Watch for Julie to become a spokesmodel for a swimsuit line for people with oversized implants.