It's been three weeks since we had a fresh episode of Survivor: Tocantins, so even though last week's rehash was basically just an hour-long version of "Previously on Survivor," nonetheless, this week's opening recap was essential to remind me who the hell these people are. What it failed to do was remind me why I should care. And then I remembered; I hate Taj and Ex-Coach.
Picking contestants to hate or love is essential to the Survivor viewing experience, as without rooting interest, it can get boring and old fast. The reason I never watch baseball, basketball, football, or any other game involving teams and balls, is because I just can not give a rat's posterior who wins or loses. For me, March Madness is March Snoozefest. Gee, some guys run around a room for a few hours in their underwear, bouncing a ball, and periodically throwing it through a hoop. What could possibly be more boring? At least while watching paint dry you can wonder how the hue will change.
From early on, I've been rooting for Joe Adonis, as the only hairy-chested guy on the show this time around, but the bloom is coming off of that rose fast. For one thing, he's formed an alliance with Sydney Vacuous Model, based on the fact that he thinks she's hot. That's so shallow. Whereas my rooting for him just because he is hot is because I need hot guys to stay awake while I am stuck, committed to watching the whole season just for you, my loyal HuffPo readers, so you don't have to, a typically unselfish act on my part. And do I ask for your thanks? I do not, not that it would kill you to say "Thank you, Tallulah, for sparing us having to watch Survivor ourselves." Ingrates!
But when Joe said to us in the first two minutes of this episode: "I've got a little thing for Syd, plus she's gorgeous, so she's safe," it was like he was shoving me away, into the arms of Brendan Hot Pecs, the smooth-skinned hunk over on Timbirra. I don't know which was worse: Joe's blanket assumption that Sydney being attractive in a common sort of way guarantees her safety (Which, as we shall see, merely showed how dumb Joe is), or his revelation that he has "a little thing." A disappointment either way; in combination, a huge let down. Hairy pecs are no compensation if you are lacking where it counts.
(Speaking of which: I'm not supposed to comment on LOST here, as my colleague, Jay Glatfelter, handles that recap for The Huffington Post, but in this week's LOST episode there was a vital, and not-unrelated, issue of extreme importance that Jay ignored entirely in his piece. Jack Shepherd had a scene where he stepped out of the shower and was berated by Juliette and, even though it's been three years since she operated on his appendix, Jack's chest hair still hasn't grown back. Why is Jack still waxing his chest? Does he just hate the world? Does he just hate me? This better be explained satisfactorily in the final season, or there will be blood! Did he land in 1977, and his body hair land in 2007? Also, most people dry off after a shower before they redress, unless I'm drunk. Not Jack, whom we saw putting his clothes back on while still soaking wet. Jack, dry off, and lose the chest wax! And now we return you to your regularly-scheduled Survivor recap.)
Over at Timbirra, Ex-Coach was interfering in the cooking, pissing people off by insisting on overcooking their beans and then, when a storm hit, leaving them to burn onto the pot. Frankly, as TV viewing, a brouhaha about beans scorched onto a pot, involving people scraping burnt beans off said pot, is both figuratively and literally scraping the bottom. There's a reason I never watch The Food Channel. As a spectator sport, cooking is a bore. Now if they had a Drinking Channel...
Anyway, Ex-Coach let the beans burn, and then seemed to think it was funny. It was not funny, sadly, as I was desperate for a laugh, but at least it had the positive effect of annoying his entire tribe. Now if they can only lose the immunity challenge, maybe we can be rid of Ex-Coach this week, which would cheer me up considerably.
Ex-Coach seemed to be set on getting himself kicked off with his statement "No need to blame anybody," something he only says when it's his fault. He's still pissed at Erinn for speaking pleasantly to Candy five episodes back. And he hates Sierra because, well, she's a woman, and Ex-Coach hates women.
On the other hand, Brendan Hot Pecs is losing weight, which is making it difficult for him to keep his pants up. That's entertainment.
Speaking of beans, over at Jalapeno, Taj wants to spill the beans about the hidden immunity idol to JT. Stephen understands that Hidden Immunity Idol Information should be kept on a need-to-know basis. The more people who know you have one, the less effective it is. Stephen essentially said to her, shut up, you stupid woman.
Reward Challenge: This was a silly one. Each tribe had to build a barricade of bamboo poles, giving a distinct advantage to anyone who has ever been in a production of Les Miserables. Then they had to toss ceramic pigs through the opposing team's barricade without breaking or dropping them. Why use ceramic pigs? If they must be pigs, why not just toss Ex-Coach?
There was a distinct learning curve. At first, Sydney was all butterfingers, letting the pigs slip through her hands and shatter. How can she ever expect to have a successful modeling career if she can't handle pigs coming at her fast? Then Tyson the Nude Mormon began smashing just as many as he tossed successfully, almost as though he was imitating his church's effect on gay Californians' civil rights. It was neck and neck, or snout and snout, for a while, but Timbirra ended up winning the reward by a single pig. Or did they? Were the judges perhaps including Ex-Coach in the tally? Is a swine the same as a pig?
Joe got sent to Exile Dune, and he took Erinn from Timbirra, in hopes of "charming" her, which I guess is what they call it nowadays.
The reward was a BBQ at a waterfall, so it was like a picnic at a private water-park. Raging Ratbags. This is not good for Timbirra. If Brendan gets larger meals, his pants might stay up. Tyson, always classy, announced: "I'm going to eat enough to puke; then I'll have room for hamburgers after that." No wonder he's so hideously bony. He's anorexic, the latest in a long line of character traits he shares with shallow teenage girls. To sound even more like a dysfunctional 16 year old prom queen, Tyson added, "I can't fit enough in my mouth." Maybe if he shut up long enough to eat.
Exile Dune: Erinn, whose skirt is now so short that her butt is mostly covered by a pixilated blur, got the idol clue, which at this point, has so many clues, it basically tells you exactly where the idols are. Knowing she's on the outs with everyone back at Timbirra, and desperate for an ally, she comes up with the bright idea of sharing the clues with Joe, and creating a cross-tribe alliance, which is the same strategy that the Awesome Foursome came up with weeks ago.
So she shared the clue with Joe - and what else? I mean shagging eminently shaggable Joe is pretty much all they had to do out there. Joe said he intended to use his charm on her, and I doubt he meant spooning. What else could he have meant but his "small thing"? I did enjoy Joe's refreshing honesty when he said to us, "I took the empty urn, and I have no clue." He will become even more clueless before this episode ends. He also said, "If Erinn and I both get the immunity idol, that's a humongous alliance." Yes, except that Stephen has one of them, and Brendan has the other. It never crosses Joe's mind that the idols are already gone, and his "humongous alliance" is really smaller than his thing.
Having seen the last two editions of Survivor, in which contestants made fake immunity idols to screw with their opponents' minds, Stephen and Taj, realizing that Joe will arrive back with enough clues to find the idol they found with fewer, and that he might even be semi-smart enough to realize that, if the idol is gone, Taj or Stephen must have it, came up with the idea of making a fake idol, and hiding it up the Tree Mail statue's buttocks to fool Joe. Much as I hate to praise either of them, this is a brilliant idea! And I did enjoy watching Taj stuff her fake idol up the carving's posterior exit. She didn't even use any lube. Ow!
In the meantime, JT finds the real idol in one of their bags while innocently snooping. Oops. Now Taj and Stephen have no choice but to take him into their alliance, although they omit any mention of Brendan's and Sierra's participation on the other tribe. So Taj, blowing a load of smoke up JT's butt, tells him, "If you need it, you can have it." Yeah, and she has a bridge in Arizona she can sell him cheap. JT told us, "She was honest, and Stephen's been very honest with me, and I feel like I can trust Stephen all the way." JT, all they've told you about is the Gruesome Twosome, now a Gleesome Threesome. He has no inkling of the existence of the Awesome Foursome. They shake on their fake pact, as Taj says, "We're going to the merge."
"The merge?" asks Stephen, then reminding her of their actual goal, "We're going to the end." Apparently Taj hadn't intended on committing that far. Drat! Now Taj seems very unlikely to get eliminated this week.
Immunity Challenge: When Joe rejoined Jalapeno for the challenge, Stephen whispered in Joe's ear: "Missed you," leaving out the sneaky idol trap he'd help lay for him. This guy has all the bald-faced insincerity of Louis B. Mayer at his peak.
This challenge involved breaking tiles with a slingshot, causing sand to pour out of columns, releasing puzzle pieces and the next target tile, much the same way that pouring sand trapped Joan Collins in the collapsing pyramid in Howard Hawks's Ancient Egyptian cheesefest The Land of the Pharaohs. Dennis the Menace would have a distinct advantage in this challenge.
JT, who looks a little like a grown Dennis the Menace, showed early skill with the slingshot, fracturing the first tile, and then shattering the second when only a sliver of it was revealed. But he screwed himself. He shattered the second one too soon, so it only let out a trickle of sand rather than a deluge, thus jamming up the third tile, so that only a teensy bit of his last target ever appeared. Thus he was stuck shooting at a minuscule target for shot after shot, while Tyson the Nude Mormon was able to easily take out all three of his targets with the same skill his church uses to target gay rights laws for shattering all around the country.
This is one of those challenges that ends with solving a puzzle. As I've noted before, watching puzzle-solving is terrifically dull TV viewing. Timbirra, with that huge lead Tyson gave them (or more accurately, that JT gave them) won. Damn! Damn! Damn! Now there's no chance of Ex-Coach going home today. Smooth move, cattle boy. Frankly, Timbirra should have just thrown the challenge anyway, so they could lose Ex-Coach.
As if all that pouring sand wasn't enough, Jeff Probst felt it necessary to pour salt in my viewing wounds by asking, "What's it feel like right now [Ex-] Coach, knowing no chance I'm going home tonight?" Screw you, Probst. Do I ask you how it feels showing your spindly little stick legs to all of America in those ugly shorts? (Okay, I'm bitter. I was really hoping to be rid of Ex-Coach this evening. In the words of John Belushi, "But nooooooo!")
So now it's Plotting and Betrayal Time at Jalapeno, which is already down to just five people, and about to become four, placing it at a large disadvantage come the merging of the tribes. No one blames JT, even though it is his fault. But between Stephen's mancrush and the Gleesome Threesome, JT isn't going home tonight.
Joe, whose leg has a nasty infection, lies to everyone, claiming he didn't get the clues to the idol, fooling absolutely no one, except possibly Sydney Clueless. Joe says, "I tried to juice [Erinn] for info. Nada." Juice her? Does he mean that he tried to squeeze her like a passion fruit? Does he mean he injected his manjuice into her? Or does he mean he tried to stab her and an innocent waiter, then engaged in a slow-speed chase on TV, and finally vowed to find the real killers? If he's a nitwit, you must acquit.
Joe then falls for the fake idol ploy, hook, line, and wooden bumhole. Taj and Stephen can barely resist laughing in his face, since he thinks he's being so sly as he falls into their Cunning Trap. He could so be toast. (I admit, I did enjoy watching him root around in the Tree Mail statue's behind. Joe darling, I might have an immunity idol, or something immune-related, up my behind. Why not have a root around? I'm free. You could juice me all night.)
Sydney thinks the guys are voting for Taj. Taj thinks the guys are voting for Sydney. If they have any sense they'll vote for Joe, and that goes for Joe too.
At Jalapeno, an alliance is something you have with whomever you're talking to at that moment, and lasts only as long as the conversation does. So, while Taj is off waddling down to the creek, Sydney and Joe try to get JT and Stephen to vote for Taj. I'm down with that.
Then, while Sydney is off throwing up, or whatever it is models do in the jungle, TJ, Stephen, and Taj agree to vote Sydney off. Then, while Stephen, JT, and Joe are taking an all-male bath together (Spartacus again), JT and Stephen try to talk Joe into turning on Sydney, and voting her out! Frankly, while watching Joe bathe, it was all I could do to concentrate on what was being said.
"Dude," says Stephen to Joe, trying, I guess, to sound like Hurley on LOST, although he's not half the man Hurley is, in fact, by volume, barely a third, "I know you and Sydney are super-tight." Has he - ah - had both of them? How else would he know how "tight" they are? And if he has, why didn't they show that to us? It would certainly be more entertaining than watching them solve puzzles.
Joe isn't buying the, to him, crazy idea of keeping the fat girl and voting out the hot girl. I like Joe's values. They remind me of mine. Joe tells us he might give his phoney-baloney idol to Sydney to "make a point." I wish he had. That would have made for a funny finale this evening, which it could have used.
(The show editor tossed in here a B-roll shot of a mass of ugly striped spiders crawling all over each other in a big wad. It was the most revolting, disturbing thing I've seen on TV since election night, 2004. It made my skin crawl so bad that I had to send the Headless Indian Brave, my longtime spectral companion, off to retrieve my epidermis for me, which was making a run for the bus stop at the corner.)
Next Stephen and JT, noting that Stephen actually has the real idol (And JT doesn't know about the fake one), discuss turning on their Gleesome Threesome ally Taj, and voting her out. To praphrase Yip Harburg, if I'm not facing the face I'm allied with, I ally with the face I face. I'm surprised that Taj and Sydney didn't get together to discuss which of the men to vote out. JT, in a burst of honesty, told us: "I have no idea what I'm doing," as per usual, "It's terrible. I'm going to hell." It's 120 degrees in Tocantins. Where does he think he is? Tocantin residents have time shares in Hell for vacation getaways. Meanwhile, I'm chanting at my TV, "Please, please, please, vote for Taj."
Tribal Council: Uneventful. Sydney and Joe voted for Taj. Taj, Stephen, and JT voted for Sydney. Damn You, JT! Now Taj and Ex-Coach are still both there!
Next week, the merge. Maybe then Ex-Coach will fall. Till then, Cheers darlings.
To read more of Tallulah Morehead, go to
The Morehead the Merrier.