Survivor opened this week watching Matt, aka Dr. Jesus, arriving on Zombie Island, a newly-made member of The Squawking Dead, like all Christians, seeking Redemption and Resurrection, whereas what he needs is what all zombies seek: brains.
First episode zombie Francheeseburger, woken from a deep coma, was surprised it wasn't Phillip, aka Agent Dry Mouth, who was waking her. Franquestforbrains forgot that Survivor can turn on a dime, and predicting who will go next is a fool's game. (And it also apparently didn't cross her mind that Russell's tribe, Viva Zapata, might be the ones evicting someone.) Dr. Jesus had no answer for her, still stunned from a blindside that had truly shocked him. He's not Doctor Who, He's Doctor Wha..? He had that dazed look Christians tend to get each time the Universe reminds them that Faith is another fool's game.
Dr. Jesus felt he was defeated for trusting Rob "too soon." ("Too soon?" The mistake was trusting Rob ever; Rob's not there to play for anyone but himself.) But Doc Savior's real boo-boo was openly showmancing Andrea or Ashley. (I can not tell them apart.) He embraced the opportunity to come back later in the game. However, his Zombie Resurrection will take until more than just the third day.
Rob to Phillip, aka Special Agent Dry Mouth, for his "performance" as Clueless Fool at Tribal Council (He has me convinced): "First of all, do you get the Academy Award or The Emmy?" Rob, both Oscars and Emmys are "Academy Awards," the Oscar from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, and The Emmy from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. In any event, Agent Dry Mouth got the answer wrong: "I get the academy eh? Wow." No, your performance was on TV; you'd get an Emmy, if there was a category for Biggest Self-Deluding Fool on a Reality Show, and even if there was, that would be a hotly-contested award. He'd never get it over Big Brother's Boobiac from last summer.
Fransanfrisco and Dr. Jesus retrieved Tree Mail directing them to the "Arena" for their duel. Dr. Jesus wasn't sure if he should trust a message from above that wasn't inscribed on stone tablets, nor in Ancient Hebrew. Maybe, instead of The 700 Club, he should have been watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It's not like he'd notice how extremely badly-written all its dialogue is.
Steve, an over-50 year old ex-footballer, and David, the defense lawyer, won by lottery for Viva Zapata the chance to go witness the duel, thus giving them an advance look at what you need to do to survive undeath. Over at Ete Poem (It's an anagram of Ometepe which has the advantage of at least meaning something. It's what Edgar Allen Poe said when asked what he did with The Return of the Raven.), the players selected to witness the duel were Andrea or Ashley, and Ashley or Andrea. Andrea or Ashley was hoping to turn Zombie Island into a date with Dr. Jesus.
What was amusing was that Viva Zapata just drew their stones, revealing each draw as it was made, whereas Agent Dry Mouth made Ete Poem make a ceremony out of it, with each concealing what stone they'd drawn until a simultaneous reveal, which was utterly pointless, and typical of the governmental tendency to make any simple act into something pointlessly over-complicated. Maybe Agent Dry mouth is a former Fed.
Duel for Redemption: Andrea or Ashley announced how she hadn't voted for either player, apparently afraid that the winner would go for her next. Please. Zombies eat brains. Andrea or Ashley hasn't enough brains to feed a Zombie Flea, although Ashley or Andrea might. In any event, she was there to watch, not chatter.
Disappointingly, the duel didn't involve broadswords, maces, jousting lances, 18th Century dueling pistols, nor even blunderbusses. They had to bind small sticks into a long stick and use it to retrieve key rings to unlock makeshift prison doors, so it had a prisoner's escape theme.
Wow. Nothing more thrilling than watching two people tying sticks together. Franchowmein made her stick long quite quickly and was retrieving keys like mad. Pressured, Dr. Jesus did a hurried stick, which immediately fell limp and flaccid, unable to maintain its stiffness. He's a real Christian all right. Andrea or Ashley was frustrated by Dr. Jesus's inability to keep his stick straight. Doc, this is not the way to attract women. Just ask Mary Magdelene. Not that Andrea or Ashley ever intended to use that bright, bottle-blond hair of hers to wash his feet.
Jeff Probst, speaking of Dr. Jesus: "Is the pole long enough?" I think Andrea or Ashley will be the judge of that. "Just short. Using every part of his body, still short. An inch, half an inch short maybe." Jeff, how would you like Mrs. Probst yelling stuff like that about you on National TV? We all knew it was small when he announced he was deeply religious. Faith is the traditional refuge for the underhung. That, or membership in the NRA.
But sadly, even though she's a black woman, and therefore, one would think, used to manipulating extra-long poles, Franquiltingbee fell behind on the last key, and Dr. Jesus caught up from two-keys behind to win. Drat! Now the midnight Franchoochoo will leave for Alabam. She'll be right there. She's got her fare. (The Midnight Choo Choo song referenced here is even more appropriate at this moment of a Christian's Resurrection since it comes from the movie Easter Parade.)
Francesquack to Dr. Jesus: "Give 'em hell." Talk about sending the wrong message! Jeff made her burn her buff as she exited. Jeff, have you forgotten eBay?
Dr. Jesus on Zombie Island: "Being by yourself, it's definitely hard." Well Doc, at least there, you won't have to lock the bathroom door, although you do still have a camera crew following you about.
Steve thought it would be a good strategy to tell Russell that it was Dr. Jesus who lost, although whatever this would accomplish is lost on me. But why not tell him something he'd find really scary, like telling Russell it was a Truth Challenge, and whoever was the most-truthful won it. Then Russell would think that his getting sent there would spell his certain doom.
Andrea or Ashley returned to camp delighted that Dr. Jesus had survived. What she didn't calculate was that this set off alarms in Rob's head. He had to try to charm her into his harem, or eliminate her. The latter would be sweet, since then the chaste, not-till-God-sanctions-us, would-be lovers would be pitted against each other, and Andrea or Ashley would see if Doc Savior was a True Christian who would sacrifice himself to save her, or if he's just the usual religious hypocrite who, when the buffs are down, sacrifices her to save himself.
So Rob fed Andrea or Ashley a load of bull about how it was Kristina and Agent Dry Mouth who had gone after Dr. Jesus and were now coming for her. If her falling for the Anointed Doctor didn't reveal her as an idiot before, her believing that Kristina and Agent Dry Mouth would still be allied about anything would really nail her as a bigger boob than either of her boobs.
She didn't buy into all of it, but what she did believe I couldn't make out through her weepy crying. Oh please. You got separated from a guy you've known less than a week. Boo-hoo. Grow up. Who could even notice that little blond Jesus Freak with massively magnificent Grant around? (Although Grant claims to be "happily married." Honestly, as the survivor of more marriages than I can remember, I know that the concept of a "Happy Marriage" is a bigger myth than that Easter story that the Doc believes.)
Sure enough, Steve and David told Russell that "the black chick" won and "the blonde dude" lost. I guess they were afraid of trying to pronounce "Franqueequeg." Maybe they both suffer from dry mouth. I hope they get treatment.
But the instant Russell wandered off to go lie to plants, they told the truth to everyone else. Oops. Tell people a secret, and it's no longer a secret. All it takes is one of Russell's two female slaves to blab to Russell. There's little to no advantage to Russell thinking the wrong person won, but there is a large disadvantage for Russell to learn you are telling him pointless lies, i.e. "pulling a Russell" on him.
Russell, knowing he is outnumbered on his tribe, has a solid strategy that's worked for him before: finding the idol. He was applying all his brain power, plus the brain power of his two witless allies, Stephanie and the wonderfully named Krista Klumpp (which subtracts from the total brain power, rather than adds to it), towards deciphering the clue and finding the idol. Sadly for Russell but hilariously for us, the only way the clue could help them would be if it said:
"If you want to lock it,
Check Ralph's pocket.
You only can get her,
In the pants of Mansweater."
Russell: " The beach is definitely alive. Everything out here is alive: the trees, the running water." Russell, neither the beach nor water is "alive." Do you know what "alive" means? It's what your terrified family wishes you weren't.
Mansweater lurked in the bushes to observe the fruitless search, immensely enjoying watching them waste their time seeking the idol which was at that moment disguised as an unwanted bulge in his shorts. Given his appearance, this may be the very first time ever that anyone, let alone two somewhat attractive young women, have ever gone in search of what resides in Mansweater's pants. I'm starting to like Mansweater, in a very non-sexual way of course. Any man who can make Russell look like a bumbling fool is aces with me.
Stephanie had a great idea. Oh, she didn't come up with a great idea. She had a great idea in her memory, a great idea that actually the beloved player Yau-Man Chan came up with back on Survivor: Fiji: make a fake idol. Except that this is unlikely to fool Mansweater, with his unfaked idol being now the 8-ball in his private game of Pocket Pool. (Come to think of it, Pocket Pool is pretty much always a private game, even when played in public.)
Steve fell for it, even though Stephanie was playing "I don't have an idol in this big bag with its idol-shaped bulge that I'm carrying around like it had my life in it" so broadly, she'd only just stopped short of painting a message on the side of the bag, saying: "Not the Idol. Don't look in here." Not even their live beach and sentient running water could be fooled by such an obvious performance, though the trees might fall for it.
Why was my column posted so late this week? Because at 28 minutes into the episode, they gave us an extreme close-up of Russell's armpits, one at a time, in high-def, so we could savor a rash which looked to me like bug bites, and I was overcome with nausea, and took to my bed. It was several hours before I was well enough to continue work. They should have shown us the two piles of dead bugs, all poisoned by Russell's fetid ichor.
Impossibly over-handsome Mike was disgusted by Russell's pits, which are certainly the pits. In describing him, Mike used the words "pus-filled," a mental image I don't need while gazing at this mostly-naked Adonis.
Mike, Steve, and Mansweater confabbed about getting rid of Russell. I'm with them all the way (Hear that Mike? Drop by my mansion, and I promise you, I'll go all the way.), but they seemed oddly obsessed with Russell's sex life on the island. Mike described him as sitting about with his "concubines," Steve pointed out that "he's not lifting any logs," while Mansweater complained that "He ain't carryin' no wood." Frankly, I don't want to see Russell "carrying wood."
So Steve, who used to play on the Dallas Cowboys, which is a professional football team according to Google, proposed the dreaded Intentionally-Throwing-the-Immunity Challenge ploy, a highly risky, and morally-dubious, strategy that could work. Great, now the NFL will have to launch an investigation into every game the Cowboys lost while Steve was playing with them. Has he made a habit of taking dives? No wonder I've never heard of him. He went for the short money. He could-a had class, he could-a been a contender, instead of a bum. He was your brudda, Charley. You should-a looked out for him. He... I'm sorry. For a moment I was in the back of a car with the young, hot Brando. Now I'm back here, with Russell. Ick.
When floating this idea, Steve hit hesitation from Julie, a 50 year old fireman who has not spoken a word on the series until halfway through episode 3. She's a champion herself, having won the World Championship Outrigger Canoe Race twice! This is a 41 mile race, rowing from Molokai to Oahu, and to win it you need to row like the smoke monster is pursuing you. I assume that's why they start at Molokai. It's a leper colony, and getting away from the lepers motivates the entrants to row like heck, even if it means leaving Ben-Hur's mother behind.
Consequently, throwing a competition runs against Julie's deepest nature. On the other hand though, on her CBS online bio, she listed her pet peeves as: "Laziness and bullies." That's the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language's definition of "Russell Hantz."
A decision was put off to the challenge itself, with "Thumb's Up" being the signal to tank it. But what if Jeff asks them what they thought of the latest Harry Potter movie, and one of them liked it, gives thumbs up, and accidentally sets off an intentional loss? Think things through, guys.
Immunity & Reward Challenge: The reward was sweet: camp luxury items, by which I do not mean signed first editions of Auntie Mame. No, they would win camp chairs, pillows, a tarp, blankets, and a lantern.
The challenge was apparently adapted from an old device used by Matthew Hopkins to find witches in England in the 18th Century. It used a dunking/drowning wheel, onto which victims are strapped, and rotated into a deep pool, to suck in their weird living water, and then expel it into a bucket which fills a pipe. When the pipe is full enough, it falls over and rolls a ball down to a puzzle maze, which is a slide puzzle that, when correctly solved, makes a path for the ball to roll through to a hole for the win. How much more exciting it would be if they just rotated the victims underwater, and then didn't bring them up again for air until their tribemates solved their puzzle. Now that would have some suspense.
The big, unspoken catch is, if the players on the wheel don't drown, then they must have been protected by His Satanic Majesty (Russell), and therefore - witches! Then they'll have to be burned. I'm sorry. I don't make the rules. That rule was made by God-fearing (in a very literal sense) Christians.
Viva Zapata had to sit out two people. Mansweater and Sarita sat out. The others must have approved of this decision (or just hate tarps), because some of them gave this the thumbs up.
Julie was one of the women put on the drowning wheel, with the instructions "miss the bucket." Julie however, is not at all comfortable with the idea, not only because she's a competitor programmed always to win, but also because, as a fireman, she's trained to hit the target when spewing water. Of course, if it becomes obvious that she is deliberately hitting the bucket, they can just leave her underwater.
So now we got to watch Stephanie, Natalie, Julie, and Klumpp repeatedly dunked and coming up spitting streams of water. This is the sort of thing I watch Survivor for.
Ete Poem did get a significant lead for Rob to do his specialty, puzzle assembling, but Viva Zapata's ball did get released, and David was assigned to do the puzzle. Good Grief. They made Julie drown and throw her part of the competition, contrary to her nature, when all they really needed to tank it was for dry, warm, undrowned David to play hopeless at puzzles.
But tank it David did. He basically jumbled his pieces up more, and then stood there, floating his hands over them, as though trying to feel the pieces' auras, while Russell watched hopelessly from above. It looks like Russell better hope that fake idol fools Jeff Probst.
Ete Poem went nuts, celebrating their first-ever challenge win, all unaware that they had simply been handed the win by a tribe that wanted rid of Russell. They should thank their opponents for the gifts of the chairs, blankets, tarp, pillows, and lantern. It was, in fact, a big sacrifice giving up those prizes. Viva Zapata pretended to be devastated at their loss.
Russell: "If I didn't know any better, I'd think they threw the challenge." Russell, apparently you don't know any better. He knows most of the tribe doesn't trust him, and he saw how broadly they tanked it, yet he doesn't actually believe they threw it. Heh, heh, heh.
"I'm dealing with a bunch of bitches," Russell added. I'll repeat my observation: Russell is such a notorious woman-hater that "bitches" is the worst thing he can think of to call people. To Russell, humanity is divided into two types: Bitches and Russell.
Agent Dry Mouth Has No Clue: Since Kristina had to play her idol last Tribal Council, a new idol is probably at play in the Ete Poem camp, so the entire tribe was pawing through the prizes searching for that clue, particularly Rob, who has been burned by idols before and now knows to factor them in.
So Rob notices Agent Dry Mouth energetically searching for clues by taking a nap in one of the canvas camp chairs, and the chair is lopsided. Rob gets Dry Mouth to move to the other chair while Rob "fixes" this one. Rob then finds the clue in a pouch of the chair canvas. Agent Dry Mouth had literally been sitting on the clue without the slightest idea he that was. He's clueless even with a clue. And Rob found the clue while directly in front of Agent Dry Mouth, who was eagle-eyed, except that his eagle eyes were closed, as he resumed his nap!
Rob happily wandered off with the chair to extract the clue in private, while Agent Dry Mouth slept on, oblivious to his own massive stupidity. He's playing the game hard!
Well now we know why he was kicked out of the FBI: some "investigator"; he literally (and I mean "literally" in its actual, dictionary meaning) can't notice a clue even when it's shoved up his ass!
I laughed and laughed and laughed. I'd have LOL'd, but I was busy laughing.
David said the plan was to split the vote: three for Russell, three for Stephanie, and thus Russell and his two concubines would cast three votes for one of them, and that way, if he doesn't have the idol, he'd get voted out in the tie-breaker. Of course, Mansweater has the idol. He should be counseling six votes for Russell, which would definitely send him to Zombie Island.
Russell is starting to smell that thrown challenge. It makes no sense to him, although in his earlier Survivor seasons, his being on teams that lost consistently ended up working for him. He's underestimated how much everyone wants to get rid of him. If Stephanie and Klumpp were smart, they'd abandon ship and join up with the others fast. But smart is absolutely what these two bimbos are not, which is why Russell chose them, and how he was able to snow them.
Russell figured out the split-vote strategy, and began seeking the one person he needs to flip. If they all five voted Russell, they'd be safe from that ploy. It's up to Mansweater to convince his tribe all to vote Russell, if he can somehow do so without admitting to having the idol himself.
Russell sicced Stephanie on "The Old Lady," that is, Julie. Man, can he sense weakness. If Julie is still upset about throwing the challenge, she might turn. On the other hand, her violating her own deep code to help evict Russell may show a commitment to getting him out that is strong as iron.
Julie was sipping at the poison, tasting it. She was being fed the "Russell will take us to the end" bull, and she wasn't just dismissing it as the obvious lie that it is. Julie, look back at his earlier shows. What did he do in his first-ever episode? He kicked out an "Old Lady," i.e., a woman past 40. Stephanie told Julie they had the idol. Julie, it's a flat-out lie! Demand to see it with your own eyes before you commit. Better yet, get away from them; they're evil.
Julie shook hands with Russell (I hope she sterilized her hand afterwords), promising to blindside Mansweater, who needs to scent the blindside to save himself with the idol. If Julie keeps her promise to Russell, she will become a pariah, at least in this column.
Tribal Council: The Tribal Divide, six against three, was immediately announced. Steve said his six were "rock solid". A shot of Julie was like a cutaway to the neighboring volcanoes, to remind us that in this land, rocks sometimes melt and go with the lava flow. Smug assuredness at Tribal Council is often a sign of trouble ahead.
Russell called them on throwing the challenge. Steve flat-out lied that they hadn't, and then Mike referred to Russell as "fat on this tribe that we need to trim off." Sweet.
Julie: "Personally, I would like to merge with as many people as possible." Julie, you slut! She's spent years as a fireman sliding down those fire house poles and it's habit-forming. I know. I hear you, sister. Me too. (Julie, if only you hadn't included he word "personally;" you really were asking for it.)
Jeff: "Stephanie, what do you believe?" I was so expecting her to reply: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows. I believe in fairies, Tink. I do believe in spooks. I do, I do I do believe in spooks!" But no. Instead she went on about how she believes in Russell. That's worse than believing in spooks.
David tried to speak, but once rolling, Stephanie was not to be stopped, and she talked right on through him, blathering about backstabbers that should have alerted Mansweater that there might be a flaw in their plan, though, if Mansweater plays the idol, It can still work.
Stephanie: "Throwing today's challenge is not strategy; it's plain stupidity." It was a strategy, whether a good or bad one remains to be seen. However, I may have to concede her other point, as she is clearly an expert on "plain stupidity."
David, who is unquestionably smart, was simply not going to take being called stupid by a waitress so brain-dead she believes in Russell.
Sarita called Russell a "sickness," but when she pointed out that Russell is lazy, and does nothing at camp, Stephanie, High Priestess of the Cult of Russell Hanz, wasn't having it. She leapt to Russell's defense with this hilarious statement: "He gets firewood. We catch crabs." So he "gets wood," and all fiery hot too, and then, together, they catch crabs. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Thank you, Stephanie.
Mansweater, on his ballot spelled his vote "Ressell," which is also how he spells "wrestle". (Which he probably pronounces as "wrassle.") What he did not do was play his idol.
Julie, I take it all back. You are a true fireperson heroine. You voted "Stephanie," and left Russell defenseless, and wiped the smug looks off of his and Stephanie's faces. Bless you. (I assume Klumpp was disappointed also, but her face remained blank. She doesn't do "facial expressions." They give you wrinkles.) Julie has gone into my short list of folks to root for, along with Mansweater, who, coincidentally enough, is not above rooting around in the furrows himself.
Tie. Revote. Russell is sent to Zombie Island! Remember the interplanetary fireworks of joy at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi? That was peanuts compared to the galaxy-wide explosions of joy that swept over the Milky Way as Russell's torch was extinguished. And the look of horror and defeat on obnoxious little Stephanie's face was icing on the cake. Yes, theoretically he could come back, but to do that, he will have to win a series of one-on-one challenges, and challenges are not his strength. Controlling weak minds is his forte, and there's no one there for him to control.
And there's a sweet cream-filling in this confection as well. Dr. Jesus is going to find himself trapped alone on Zombie Island with Russell. Welcome to Hell, Doc!
In light of how lame the last season of Survivor was, I am hesitant to say this but we have had three really good episodes in a row. This season is shaping up to be a great one. Who knows? If Dr. Jesus can send Russell all the way home next week, he might even convert me. Tune next week to see Jesus take on Satan on Zombie Island!
To read more of Tallulah Morehead, go to The Morehead, the Merrier, or buy her book, My Lush Life. Also, you can read Little Dougie's contributions to the newly published book Creatures of the Night That We Loved So Well: The TV Horror Hosts of Southern California by James Fetters.