Woohoo! I hope you fastened your seat belts, because the fun part of the roller coaster ride that has been Survivor: HHH apparently has started. There have been ups and downs, for sure, and as recently as last week I had finally came to terms with myself and declared this season a bust…well, a bust by Survivor standards, in which the worst season of Survivor is still better than any other reality competition show out there. I had written that the potential for a great season had been there, but at almost every turn, the game has swerved away from its best path forward.
But tonight’s double episode though! Just when I thought the ride was slowing down and easing me towards the exit, the show went and threw me for a loop de loop. Let’s get into it, shall we? Please remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s double Episodes 10 and 11 of Survivor: HHH, so if you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add too that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap, and is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.
CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR MORE, AND THIS IS YOUR LAST *SPOILER* WARNING!
Wow, so much to get to this week! First off, thanks to those of you who waited until this past Monday for last week’s exit interview and Podcast. If you missed that interview and would like to hear from Cole Medders, click here. Of course, that episode last week ended with a head-scratcher of a Tribal Council, with Dr. Mike inexplicably playing his Idol and then having Joe follow his lead to vote out fellow Healer, Cole, much to the bewilderment of the rest of the players and the audience. This week we got to witness the reaction back at camp – which mainly consisted of Joe laughing at how terrible a move it was – and we did get some sort of explanation from Mike…as he describes it, he wanted to ensure that he kept Joe in the game, because he wanted to have a voting block of two, as opposed to if Cole stayed in the game, those two did not see eye to eye. But as we’re learning, just because it makes sense in Dr. Mike’s head, it doesn’t mean it makes sense…getting people to hate you and then wasting a hidden Idol may not have been worth just keeping Joe in the game.
But the real fireworks began after this. The double-ep began with nine players still in the game, and by the end we were down to seven. What came in-between was, without a doubt, two GREAT episodes of Survivor, back-to-back. This was some expert-level Survivor stuff people, and for the first time all season, the game actually went in the direction of the most exciting outcome.
Let’s face it: I don’t think anybody is crying over the fact that JP was voted out. He seems like a nice, likable guy for sure, and was well-placed on a tribe full of “heroes.” But the dude obviously didn’t have much strategy, because we had barely seen or heard from him the entire season. When he did talk, he didn’t seem to have much personality, at least not in the way that we’re used to watching these real-life characters on TV. Due to time limitations on his end, CBS has only allowed us to email him three questions to answer…which is fitting, because I’m not sure how I would have filled a 15-minute interview with him. Again, nice guy, but there just isn’t much to talk about there.
On the other end of the spectrum, we lost Joe Mena tonight, who definitely supplied tons of spunk and personality into this season (his face is one that should absolutely grace the DVD release of Survivor: HHH). For me, he was sort of the likable scoundrel, a villain that I found myself rooting for from the get-go. The game just got away from him, and can pretty much be traced back to one distinct moment: When he incorrectly played his second hidden Idol on himself, and Jessica was sent home. It would have been a God-like move to have sniffed out the Jessica vote and played the Idol on her, but it was at that moment where Joe’s footing really was lost. He kept sliding on through these past few votes, but in the end it really was the best move to vote him out tonight. Why you ask?
Ashley‘s last-minute plan to possibly blindside Ben would have been soul-crushingly epic, after everything he had just done for his newfound alliance (becoming a secret agent and putting on an Oscar-caliber performance, and whatnot). But I don’t think it was in that alliance’s best interest to do this to Ben at this time. In doing so, they would have first-and-foremost created a bitter jury member who would not only NOT vote for any of them if given a choice, but that sort of dirty blindside might have even tainted the rest of the jury pool. That would have also left Joe in the game along with his fellow #Coconut, Dr. Mike…a voting bloc of two. Chrissy and Ryan are another voting bloc of two, and if these two pairs would have decided to team up, they’d hold a 4-3 advantage all of a sudden. Yes, Lauren has her extra vote advantage, but even then it would create a scary 4-4 tie-vote in this scenario. I do think that if any of them would have known that Ben now has a hidden Idol, I feel like that might have been the tipping point that might have made them turn on Ben and vote him out with his Idol, so kudos to Ben for keeping this close to his chest. Yes, by voting out Joe, that alliance now has a solid 4-3 majority, and they now have the option to use Lauren’s advantage to get out a bigger target, like Ben should they so choose, down the road.
The formation of the powerful four-person alliance of Ashley, Devon, Ben and Lauren really was the big strategic development of the evening, but as we saw by episode’s end, there is no such thing as a full-proof, rock-solid alliance. Devon showed that he is an absolute beast in coming up with the whole Ben “double agent” thing (what a great idea), and Ashley too, is seizing this opportunity. None of this mentions Lauren, who is playing one hell of a game and can reasonably be named as the creator of this new alliance.
This leads me to the most exciting point about the rest of this season: I still love this cast…I’ve said that from the beginning. I think there are several great players remaining, all of whom are just savvy enough to win it all. At this point in the game, I usually find myself examining a player and asking, “Would he/she be considered a great or even a good winner should he/she go on to win the game?” “Can I see this person winning Survivor?” Now with JP gone, is there really anybody left that you would answer “no” to these questions? I think Ashley still has some proving to do, and I think it’s clear that if Ryan were to somehow win, you’d have to admit that it wasn’t a dominant, “complete” game. But ANY of the others, including Dr. Mike? I think we’ve got a lot of great things ahead of us (and yes, it’s obvious that this season has gotten its hooks back into me)…and there is still much more game-play to come.
Episode Take-Away: A pair of strong eps has me suddenly leaning forward into what the rest of this season has to offer. Did you know that Finale night is on December 20th? That means only two (gasp!) episodes left leading up to that two-hour Finale. It’s crunch-time, and I like the way the game and these players are setting up for it.
Strategic Move of the Week: This, hands down, goes to Devon, for his great plan to keep Ben “on the inside” of the enemy alliance. It worked good – almost too good as it almost led to Ben’s exit! – and really shows us how dangerous Devon is in this game…will any of the others realize it before it’s too late?
Voted out this week: JP and Joe
Won Immunity: Ashley and Chrissy
Vote #1: No Idols or advantages played. 5 – JP (Lauren, Devon, Joe, Mike, Ashley), 3 – Mike (Ryan, Chrissy, Ben), 1 – Joe (JP)
Vote #2: Ryan played Idol on himself. 4 – Joe (Lauren, Devon, Ashley, Ben), 2 – Ashley (Ryan, Chrissy), 2 – Ryan, negated by Idol (Joe, Mike)
Next Week’s Episode: It’s the loved ones episode everybody! Bring your tissues! And the game looks to get even more interesting when it appears that Ben is catching on to the idea that maybe he is at the bottom of his new four-person alliance. Is it time for Ben to jump back on-board with Chrissy? His hidden Idol sure is looking important right about now.
Quick Note! Remember to return right here to Reality Tea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with Joe, and hopefully read my transcribed “three questions” with JP (if his responses don’t arrive in time, I’ll include them next week). Last but not least, I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews. And as always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE DOUBLE-EPISODE? IS BEN IN TROUBLE OR WILL HE REGAIN CONTROL? AND PREDICTION TIME: WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN SURVIVOR: HHH?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira