Since its debut a decade back, Survivor has been known for its gross-out moments: eating rats, gory wounds, contests built around eating the most revolting foods imaginable: slug guts, raw octopi embryos, yogurt, but last night's episode reached a new gross-out level even for Survivor: watching teenaged Brett massaging The Shambling One. (She has a longer title, but I seem surrounded by ADD-afflicted malcontents who want to rewrite for me.)
Brett Two-Spears: "I'm the Last True Galuan." So what is The Shambling One: a False Galuan? A Galuan Manque? (And Brett darling, the proper term is "Galuvian." What do they teach these kids nowadays?) But yes, back at the merge Galu outnumbered Zsa Zsa two-to-one, now the reverse applies, and not one Zsa Zsasian has fallen since the merge, although Natalie isn't always very steady on her feet.
Said Russell of Brett, The Threat, Two-Spears: "If he don't go, we're gonna be in a whirlwind of crap." First off, I'd love to see that. A Crap Whirlwind is always good TV.
Secondly, Brett the Threat? He of no allies left, who never did anything in the whole damn game except once he won two spears? That Brett? The one who was last seen running his fingernails over whatever life-forms dwell on The Shambling One's scalp? He's going to summon "a whirlwind of crap" for the secure bully men who are running this show? Not without a couple wind machines and a ton of manure he won't.
Russell explained, "He'll keep winning and keep winning, all the way to the top." Brett? The guy who has won two spears and one immunity? A single, fluke win doesn't constitute a winning streak. Accidentally being the first guy to get all his bags catapulted into his basket via sheer luck doesn't make him a "Threat."
I see Russell at age 13, on a playground, explaining to his goons that if they let even a single second grader escape with a nickel still in his pocket for snack time, that that single, terrified second grader, probably hiding in the crawl space under the classroom, would then constitute a level of threat that The Talaban can only dream of achieving. "If they have enough energy left to say 'Please stop kicking me, sir,' then they haven't been stomped enough. They're still a threat!"
Religious Mania is sweeping Samoa. We have had a Nameless Prophet whose visions came a Council too early, we met the Lord Frickin', who provides everything except immunity, and we endured The Viper Queen, a "Ladies Only" pastor working for God, The Republicans, and Sarah Palin, and not necessarily in that order.
But that wasn't enough. Even more stomach-churning than watching Brett Two-Spears running his fingers through the Shambling One's abundant head fur, was watching Brett hit on Natalie by quoting the Bible at her at length. Could he quote Shakespeare as well? Well now we know why Brett has gotten so little screentime this season; they didn't want to turn it into The 300 Club.
In a sane world, when a guy starts rattling off Bible quotes to a girl, the normal response of a properly-brought-up young lady is: "Could you stuff a sock in it, Elmer Gantry? If I need the Bible preached at me, I have a crazy old aunt with 17 cats who will be only too glad to reassume that chore." But Natalie, it turns out, is insane. Her response was: "Brett is an absolute sweetheart. I mean, Brett and I have had, um, several discussions about the Bible, and about some Christian books ..." [About which ones burn best, I hope? No? Drat!] "... I've really enjoyed that. It's nice to have that in common."
No million dollars would be worth being trapped for a month on an island with these two geniuses. I realize that they've been doing the show for a decade, but they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for players these days. Last season we had "Coach," this season we have a collection of Christian cuckoos. Next season, why not go whole hog, and do Survivor: Jonestown? My skin crawled so badly, I had to chase off after it.
The elephant on The Shambling One's head was finally discussed. Someone needed to say it. Russell finally did: "[The Shambling One] said she needed a haircut. She should shave that ho head. Mullet went out in the 70s. It looks terrible. Her hair is funky. You see [The Shambling One], that's the way she sneaks food. She puts it in her hair. Nobody knows. Nobody can see it. She puts bananas in there ..." [I highly doubt The Shambling One has ever inserted a banana into any part of her, no matter how densely forested.] "... and pieces of cocoanut. It's nasty. Peanuts! All kinds a different stuff. It's kinda disgusting. 'Cause I didn't need [The Shambling One], I would definitely get rid of her. " Well at least now we know what the Reverend Brett Two-IQ-Points was actually doing letting his fingers do the walking through The Shambling One's locks and tresses: he was foraging.
Reward Challenge: The were playing for the usual Local Community Feast, with an added kicker: a night in beds, with pillows, blankets, and no Russell-snuggling.
Jeff: "Worth playing for?"
MickMoron: "Worth dying for." Either MickMoron sets the value of his life rather low, or he's never eaten native Samoan cuisine, or both. MickMoron is an anaesthesiologist. I don't know about you, but I prefer all the doctors on my surgical team to place a high value on human life, particularly on mine. But then, I haven't just spent a month trying to avoid snuggling with Russell. Maybe Mick has a point.
The game was a form of Jenga with cocoanuts. You had to remove ropes from a net holding cocoanuts without dropping the cocoanuts. First team to drop 100 cocoanuts loses. As far as I'm concerned, drop all the cocoanuts you like, just leave Animal Crackers alone; it's in most ways the better film.
Russell and Natalie, alleged allies, were the two team captains. Russell noted that Reverend Brett was her first choice. You could see it register in Russell's eyes. "Are they secret allies? Has all that boring Bible talk just been to drive people away so they could plot in private? Are they assembling crap for that whirlwind? They are gone! How do I make the Shambling One hate them?"
While The Shambling One pretended to be picking out just the precisely-correct rope to avoid a rain of cocoanuts, before just actually grabbing one at random, Jeff also brought up the elephant on her head.
Jeff: "What do you call that hair?" (Why waste that set-up line on The Shambling One, Jeff, the only person you can be certain won't get a good punchline out of it?)
The Shambling One: "Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh." This was The Shambling One laughing in advance at her forthcoming joke, as it would get no laughs after she said it. "Shambolicious, baby."
Jeff: "How long you had it?"
The Shambling One: "Since 1986." Coincidentally, also the answer to the question "How long since you had it in you?" Or maybe it's not a coincidence.
Jeff: "Twenty-three years. That's commitment to a hairstyle." Ironically, it's a voluntary commitment that ought to have led to an involuntary commitment.
The Shambling One: "You don't mess with perfection, baby." No, you don't. But what has that to do with your hairstyle?
Oh. I see. It is "perfectly" horrible. Gotcha.
Anyway, she was not to be distracted from her quest to find the perfect knot to pull. Jeff had been yanking her chain as she was picking a rope to yank. She dropped four cocoanuts, and then chanted in triumph, as though she had dropped none, "Feels good. Looks good. Ah-ha, hoo-rah. Love it. Love it. Love it." And they say Lorenz Hart is dead.
Somewhere, it was decided to increase my nausea quotient. They could have just left the following revolting bit of inside-the-team dialogue un-enhanced and un-captioned, or even cut it altogether, and I might never have had to see my luncheon crab cakes a second time. But no. They went and included this exchange between thistle-brained Natalie, and the Reverend Brett Two-IQ-Points. I've been looking for a nickname for Natalie all season, and finally, on the penultimate broadcast, she gets one, in honor of Sister Aimee, we get Sister Nat.
Sister Nat: "Brett, you're a prayer warrior, aren't you?"
Okay Christers, about your peaceful religion's endless love affair with warfare. The message preached by the men collectively called "Jesus" was all about PEACE, not warfare. Turning the other cheek. There can be no such thing as a Christian "Prayer Warrior." They should be opposites. You can pray, or you can make war. You don't get to do both. And we know which of these activities Christians actually cherish. What do you call a Christian who's never killed anyone? Answer: a Buddhist.
Sister Nat: "I'm one too. Let me have your hand."
She took his hand, and began praying for divine intervention into whom would win the Samoan Native Feast and bed for the night. "Let God guide your hand on the next one. Let God's hand guide Brett." Why shouldn't God guide Jaison? Why would God take sides? Didn't It create all the players?
I suppose that if you're stupid enough to believe in a god, you're stupid enough to believe she can take time away from running the entire cosmos, to ensure you win a meaningless competition for a meal. Sister Nat has no brain, no sense of proportion or priorities, and no realization that Russell is watching her like a hawk, ignoring the religious blather he can't hear; only seeing the hand-holding and whispering between his supposed closest ally and his supposed greatest threat. A whirlwind of crap was brewing all right.
Russell was instantly drawing The Shambling One's attention to these heretics, praying not to the goddess of The Prophet Shambles (Blessings and pea - ha! Made you look!), but rather praying for The Shambling One and her acolyte to lose, so they could indulge their own selfish pleasures. Holy war is a-comin'.
No sooner had Russell said to The Shambling One: "We're gonna have to break that up over there," then Sister Nat said, "Thank you Jesus," although what someone dead for 2000 years had actually done for her I missed. Jaison hadn't dropped his seven cocoanuts yet.
Russell was referring to Sister Nat, Rev. Brett, and MickMoron all holding hands. Mick had gotten roped into this religious idiocy out of team loyalty, all unaware that he was, at that moment, cutting his own throat with Russell. As a man of science, he has no excuse for not realizing that even a moment's compromise with religion can destroy you.
It must have been a slow day in Creation though, because Jesus had time free in his busy schedule to keep making the yellow team of The Shambling One, Russell, and Jaison, look like dorks, as they could not touch a rope without unleashing torrential rains of cocoanuts, while nothing the blue team of Prayer Warriors could do would ever free up more than a single cocoanut. Even if they climbed up on top of the whole challenge structure and leapt about like Tom Cruise in love on Oprah, the Prayer Warriors could not make cocoanuts fall.
I must be wrong. God exists. This challenge proved it.
Oh wait. No it didn't. MickMoron, the one apostate Prayer Warrior, pulled a rope and dropped nineteen cocoanuts, returning us to a universe of blind chance once again, although not taking The Shambling One along, as she pointed skyward and said something that sounded like "You rock, God." Or maybe it was "You, Rockgod," to be followed by "Me, nincompoop."
Sister Nat "comforted" MickMoron after his big drop, with "It's okay, you got two Prayer Warriors on your team, so..." So? So, we're bound to win, as God will cause the forces of Creation to interfere with the laws of chance to ensure our having a nice dinner and a bed tonight? So, why not meet out tonight in the back woods, baby? So, who's your favorite Transformer? So, like did Adam Lambert get a raw deal from ABC, or what? So what? Finish your excruciatingly stupid sentences, woman. This isn't "comfort." This is counter-comfort.
But then Jaison gave a tiny tug on a rope, and dropped 48 cocoanuts. They would fall. Stop falling. A bunch more would fall. Stop. A few more. Stop. One last cocoanut. Jaison just watched, stone faced. It was like Captain Kirk in the rain of the Tribbles.
As Sister Nat walked out, Jeff announced, "Natalie has had good luck in this challenge so far." Sister Nat couldn't let that lie. We got her under-her-breath saying, "God has taken care of me, for sure." Sister Nat, the only thing that is "for sure," is that you're an idiot.
The Shambling Prophet, aka the Oracle of Samoa, spake thus verily: "My prediction is 58."
Sometimes, the Lord Frickin provides. Sister Nat pulled a rope, and 58 cocoanuts fell, exactly as was foretold. Whose god is running this show anyway?
And then Russell managed to pull a rope through without dislodging a single nut. At that point, I no longer thought that was even possible. I see the Divine Hand of The Lord Frickin in this. Then Prayer Warrior Reverend Brett pulled a rope through and sent the blue team to defeat, as a million, billion cocoanuts fell. Somehow, Sister Nat got through this demonstration of the hollowness of her beliefs without having a Crisis of Faith. What does Frickin have to Frickin' do to get through to someone as dumb as her?
But at least her prayers weren't wasted. By the end of the challenge, Sister Nat's Prayer Warriors For a Nice Meal had aroused the suspicions of Jaison as well as Russell and The Shambling One.
Jaison made this weird remark to us: "When we won the reward, ah, you know, 'reward' didn't mean much to me because I didn't know what a 'reward' was." Oxford has graduated someone who doesn't know what a "reward" is? They don't attend to their undergraduates' basic vocabulary very well.
Watching The Shambling One rip open a dead hog, saying with terrifying enthusiasm: "This is the best part of the pig, right there, baby," I was scared.
Jaison made a discovery. He discovered that it was nice to have a day off and eat his fill and relax. It was, ah, rewarding. Well, I think it may have actually been the first reward he's ever won on this show, but I'm sure that, at some point in his life, he must have gotten a day off before.
The Samoan women were puzzled by The Shambling One, clearly wondering to themselves, but too polite to ask, "Why does the very homely man wear his hair like that?"
Back at Camp Igag, Reverend Brett put forth to MickMoron and Sister Nat that they just have a day off also, no game. Russell would have snickered at him. Russell is always playing the game, which is why he's a much likelier winner than the Rev. Brett. Even eating that food and resting is Russell playing the game, getting stronger for the next challenge.
But Brett suggests all of them hunting snails and then having a picnic on the beach. A snail picnic? Escrapgot? This would even make French people ill. Well, maybe not.
"I don't play this game overly-aggressively," Reverend Brett understated. Okay, but every once in a while, you should at least play it a little.
Sister Nat: "Hopefully my mind is thinking clear enough to look at the end, to be able to win the game." She's relying on her brain? Oh dear.
Well Brett may be too busy gorging on snails to play the game, and Sister Nat is counting on her brain to get her through, but over at Camp Luxury, Russell is playing his brains out, cementing Jaison and The Shambling One against Rev. Brett and MickMoron.
But Russell still thinks he has a solid alliance with Sister Nat. He's planning on taking her with him to the end! He hasn't done the jury math that it will have to be a Final Three, not a Final Two, and he's planning to hang onto The Prayer Warrior. Well, at least it means he will find The Shambling One dispensable eventually, but it's too late. My dreams of episodes of Survivor: Samoa that would be free of The Shambling One have all been dashed. Even if she went tonight, their next show is the finale and reunion. No Shamblesless episodes. How can anyone believe in a god when Shambles was in every episode?
I told Galu, right here in these columns, get rid of Shambles. She has ties to Zsa Zsa, and will help sandbag you all. They ignored me, and she has come through as I said she would. Fools!
Sister Nat on her and Russell's alliance: "Two brains are better than one." Yes, but whose is the second brain going to be?
However hubris, as always, raises its ugly head, this time in an actual head that's not too attractive either. Russell: "They say don't get confident in this game; you know what? I'm confident as ha-ell." Oh Russell, they say that with good reason.
Sister Nat: "Since you are, then I am." So no chance of my even being rid of Sister Nat and her Prayer Warriors.
Immunity Challenge: It was pouring rain during the challenge, which meant no hope of Jaison doing it shirtless. They would be counting stuff, remembering figures, and using it to solve a combination lock. Oh goody, counting and puzzle-solving in the rain. Well, at least there was a table full of dead octopi, so it wasn't a total bore. Oh wait. We watched a player stand at the table of dead octopi, silently counting them. Oh yes. That's riveting viewing.
Sister Nat took the table full of fish to count first. As she was counting, Russell and Jaison were back and forth from the tables to the counters, tabulating their minds out. What was taking Sister Nat so long to count the fish? Then I realized; someone (JC, is that you? Scamp.) must have been multiplying the fishes each time she counted them. Good thing there were no loaves.
Rev. Brett the Threat was also a slow counter, but it wasn't really his fault. There were more things to count than he had fingers.
The Shambling One was also having trouble with the counting, probably because the stuff she was counting didn't shout their numbers back at her. Plus the rhyming takes time:
"One, two, three, four,
I've counted three fish and I need to count more.
Five, six, seven, eight,
I don't understand why I'm counting up bait.
At which point the items being counted are supposed to count themselves out loud. Is it her fault they are uncooperative? Bunch of 90210 dead fish, if you ask me.
But The Lord Frickin stayed home, due to the inclement weather, Jesus showed up, and the Reverend Brett the Threat won. He may have counted slowly, but he got his numbers right. According to Russell's plan, this meant MickMoron became the fall-back target, but Jaison, noting that The Shambling One was no help at all in challenges, decided for himself that it was time for her to shamble off this mortal coil, which is a horribly mixed metaphor, but The Shambling One would never notice. Oh Jaison, I was already in love with you, and now you turn on The Shambling One for me. Darling!
But The Shambling One did notice that, as soon as she shambled up to where Jaison and Russell were plotting against her, Jaison shut up and left, while Russell ever-so-habitually lied to her. I would think that she's encountered people who stop talking and leave the moment she walks up all her life, starting with her parents. You'd think she'd be used to it by now.
So now The Shambling One is getting nervous. Russell tells her the plan to vote out MickMoron is still on. Well what's he going to do? Tell her: "Change of plan. We're voting you out tonight."
Then we have Russell telling MickMoron that the plan is to vote out The Shambling One. Again, what's he going to do. Tell him: "You were holding hands with the Prayer Warriors, You're out tonight." So the question here is, who is Russell actually supporting eliminating?
So then MickMoron finds Russell's turning so suddenly on his ally to be suspect. (Russell not suddenly turning on an ally would be suspect.) The Shambling One is freaked that no one is discussing their votes with her.
Russell was facing his choice, what Sophie's Choice would have been like if Sophie had hated children.
Russell: "I can keep [The Shambling One] around 'cause she's not ever going to put my name down, she's horrible at the challenges, and she ain't going to get any votes for the million dollars. That's three good reasons, three extremely good reasons." You gotta love Survivor.
Oh, and it's also the last time Russell can use his immunity idol. Mind you, it wouldn't surprise me if he found another tomorrow, for the finale. He found two without clues. He ought to be able to find one without it even existing.
Tribal Challenge: The Shambling One, doing her best to make all Americans proud of their Marines: "I'm a traitor."
Jeff: "That's a fair statement, right?"
The Shambling One: "Absolutely." Shambles: The Few, The Proud, The Traitor.
Jeff helpfully points out that everyone on the jury hates The Shambling One, and that there's not a chance in hell of her ever winning the big money. Apparently this was news to The Shambling One, who had never made the mental connection to "if I betray everyone on the entire jury, none of them are going to vote to give me the money. Drat!"
But even as the Shambling One was watching her dreams of a solid gold Harley, just like the one Goldfinger would ride if he were a biker dyke instead of a German-Swiss supervillain, ride off into the sunset, Jeff was pointing out that this meant keeping her around was a smart choice. Jeff, shush! If you blow this for me now, I will brain you.
Russell's reassurance he would never vote out The Shambling One included this add-on to keep you awake at night: "I trust [The Shambling One] as much as I trust [Zsa Zsa] members." Oops. It sounds like he expects imminent betrayal from her.
Why not? It's what she's been dishing out. Apparently "semper fi" didn't apply to her Galu oath.
Jeff asked the question I've been asking (like it's his job or something), although he asked The Shambling One, not someone I would ask anything, even for the correct time: why is Brett such a threat?
The Shambling One: "He's incredibly physical ..." You mean he's incredibly good at physical challenges, which he's not really, or that he's incredibly physical as opposed to being primarily ethereal? You can touch him. He has mass. He actually exists, unlike your other friends.
The Shambling One continued her itemization of Brett's threats: "... He's good at puzzles ..." Is he? No wonder he gets so little screentime. Boring are the puzzle-solvers. "... and he stayed loyal to a fault to Galu, and the jury is Galu." Shambles, to most people, staying loyal isn't actually considered a "fault."
Brett explained that his strategy was to win the next three or four immunity challenges. (Math is not his strong suit.) And your fall-back strategy, should you somehow fail to win the next one? We're waiting.
Jeff: "If you have the hidden immunity idol around your neck, and you want to play it, tonight is the last time you can do so."
Hubris Strikes. Russell: "I think I'm a keep it for a souvenir." On the jury we saw Erik freak at this overconfident potential blunder.
But it turned out that "Semper Fi" is the motto of Tribe Zsa Zsa. Their voting stayed true, and for the seventh straight Tribal Council, a member of Galu was voted out, The Shambling One shambled off into the night, and into the warm welcome with which I am sure the jury embraced her.
Dimwit Dave just rolled his eyes. His Lord Frickin had provided, just a bit too late for him.
The two-hour finale followed by the one-hour reunion show will air on Sunday evening. Look for my final recap on Monday, then I'm putting my feet up, turning the computer off, and you shan't hear from me again until 2010.