Are you a fan of digitally obscured nudity? Then man, Survivor is the show for you. During this week's reward challenge, the already mud-spattered femmes from our two tribes dove into a mud pit–in the rain–to play a game that involved either pushing a giant ball over a line or ripping each other's clothes off. (About halfway through the challenge, I turned to my wife and said, "This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.") But even back at camp, there was plenty of exposed flesh, especially from grating pro wrestler Ashley, who wrapped her faux-boobs in a bandanna and her crony in underpants so skimpy that she was basically a walking blur. I was starting to worry that I'd developed astigmatism.
And let me ask you this: Are you a fan of committee meetings? Well, can I interest you in a little show called Survivor? This week's episode began with the weakened Zhan Hu tribe engaging in a lengthy debate over where to dig their fire pit, with the two self-appointed tribal leaders Dave and Peih-Gee hashing out the details while their wet, hungry mates looked on, seething. At one point Jaime, Zhan Hu's waif-in-residence, piped up and asked if they could just build a little fire and cook some rice before the first challenge, and Dave looked at her like she was asking for peace in the middle east. "You're wishing really hard right now," Dave grunted, while the rain fell harder.
(Personal aside: I've had it with wetness this week. A leaky pipe behind my kitchen sink dampened my living room carpet, my 3-year-old can't stop wetting her pants, and I can't open the windows and enjoy the relatively mild temperatures outside because it's too damn humid. Staring at the constant rain and sloppy turf on Survivor makes me wonder if this show really qualifies as escapism.)
For the most part, this week was still about moving the game pieces into place, and introducing two new wrinkles to the big contest. After the reward challenge, the winning Fei Long tribe was allowed to kidnap one member from Zhan Hu and keep her–it was Jaime, in this case–away from Zhan Hu until the immunity challenge. As for the kidnapee, she got a clue to the location of her rival camp's immunity idol, which she was required to pass on secretly to one of the Fei Long faithful, presumably to help build alliances for the eventual merge.
As always, alliances are key to winning Survivor, and despite the fact that Fei Long hasn't lost a challenge yet, they're already splitting into factions. Or at least our tiny gay Mormon schemer Todd is. This week he pulled Amanda aside and suggested they deploy the time-tested Survivor "winger" strategy, wherein they make themselves invaluable workers and confidants to their tribe's strongest member, Aaron, intending to ride his coattails all the way to the finals. (One problem with the "winger" strategy: Those who use it survive a long time, but they rarely win.) Meanwhile, Todd had a boon fall into his lap when dim Christian radio host Leslie took the immunity idol clue from Jaime and shared it with Todd, saying, "I think I can trust him." (She should be careful what she gives away, because never has their been a Survivor contestant as badly in need of a clue as Leslie.)
With the strategizing and gimmick-deployment out of the way, it was time for the immunity challenge, which involved ramming a log through ornamental Oriental doors–complete with an awesome point-of-view shot taken by a camera mounted on the log–then solving a maze. Survivor challenges often remind me of that old Norm MacDonald description of weird televised sports hybrids. ("Run a 100-yard-dash then, fish.") Brute strength and speed can carry one team to a seemingly insurmountable lead on Survivor, but then the other team will invariably catch up during the puzzle.
This week though, Fei Long dominated during the feats of strength, and after falling behind on the puzzle, eventually blew past Zhan Hu in that as well, sending the hapless Zhan Hus to tribal council, and setting up a confrontation between the obnoxiously officious Dave and his nattering foil, Ashley. The latter violated the unspoken etiquette of tribal council, responding to Jeff Probst's leading-but-intentionally-nonspecific query, "What's your criteria for voting?" with the blunt, "I'm voting for Dave." But while Ashley later skewered former male-model Dave by calling him "Zoolander" while casting her vote, she ended up being a lone voice in a chorus of Ashley-haters.
So goodbye Ashley's implants. I feel like we just barely got to know you both, peeking out from behind the CBS censor fog.
-Both Dave and Jean-Robert conducted their confessional interviews while standing neck-deep in water, for some inexplicable reason.
-Jean-Robert also unveiled a strange strategy this week, insisting to the cameras that his sleeping (and snoring) while everyone else worked was a kind of sandbagging plan, by which he'd make himself look weak and then come on strong down the stretch, impressing his tribemates with his sudden improvement. But he didn't help his cause by walking up to his fellow Fei Longs and saying, nonsensically, "I know I'm not working as much as I would like to work." Better fold that hand Jean-Robert. I don't think you're going to catch a piece of the flop with those off-suit rags you're holding.