It’s safe to say that Survivor: HHH is starting to hit its stride, and just in time. Just one week removed from a powerful double-episode, tonight we were given what was simply the best episode this season…OK, it contained two of the lamest challenges you may ever see, but man was there great drama and good strategy throughout…there was also a shockingly awful move that will go down, unfortunately, as one of the worst blunders in Survivor history. And as we trimmed the field down to just six players left, a chaotic and exciting Tribal Council guaranteed that there will be an even playing field moving forward.
But first, please remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Episode 12 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.
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I told everyone to stick with this season! How did everyone else like tonight’s ep? Survivor sure is a crazy game, and just when you think you’re safe, things can flip on its head. Tonight we witnessed the epic blindside of Lauren…a blindside not in game terms but in terms of audience expectations. I did NOT think Lauren was in trouble heading into this week, and I am definitely sorry to see her go. Lauren was one of the most surprising players this season and she became a fan-favorite only after a few episodes. Her blunt yet subtle style made her feel like a “real” person, on a show that too often seems filled with models and wanna-bes. She proved to be a great strategic player and she had positioned herself well in the game. But a few slip ups later, and Lauren quickly became the fifth member of the jury.
Ben sure has been in the middle of nearly everything this season. This episode began by showing us that Chrissy was clearly not happy with him after how he handled things back at camp following Joe getting the boot. Chrissy and Ben had once been aligned, but Ben had been acting as a secret agent over the past two votes, infiltrating Chrissy’s alliance and destroying her game from within. I think Chrissy had a point in saying that Ben could have definitely handled things a bit…nicer…and even Lauren commented on how she didn’t appreciate how personal Ben makes things. Ben even had concocted a plan to plant a fake idol for Chrissy to find, just to try to humiliate her at Tribal Council if she were to play it and have Jeff toss it into the fire. It blows my mind that 35 seasons in, players still don’t seem to realize that the people that get voted out of the game are the ones that you have to earn votes from in order to win in the end. Ben – once considered King of his court and well-liked by everyone – has now burned every bridge and has all but destroyed his chances of winning the million.
Someone else who could have “worked the jury” a bit more effectively tonight was Dr. Mike. He dramatically threw the half-Idol that Lauren had given to him in good faith, and while this might have been entertaining to his allies and members of the jury, and was certainly exciting for those of us watching at home, I ask the question: Why, Mike? If Lauren was indeed going to get sent to jury, why would you want to piss her off in such an unnecessary way? And had she stayed in the game, he surely had to understand that he just ruined his relationship with her? It was a great strategic move by Dr. Mike to stir the pot earlier in the episode by letting Ashley and Devon know about Ben‘s plan to blindside Lauren, because when you’re on the bottom (like Dr. Mike), chaos at the top is always a good thing. But what he did with that half-Idol was just not a smart, well-thought-out game move. He could have just kept that thing in his pocket and accomplished the same goal, with the added benefit of still having Lauren think he’s a good, loyal guy…especially when you consider Dr. Mike ultimately voted with Lauren for Ben!
As great of a player as Lauren has been all season, we do need to address her terrible blunder. How does a player gain a second-vote advantage and never use it, let alone we find out that she had ripped up her extra ballot? How can someone – with just seven players and nine days left in the game – hand off a hidden Immunity Idol? This does subjectively go down as one of the – I hate to say – dumbest moves ever. Imagine if Lauren had an Idol AND her second vote with her tonight? She could have played her Idol on herself AND could have cast her second ballot for anyone other than Ben…just on the off-chance Ben played an Idol or her alliance flipped on her. In that scenario she could have chose who went home, other than Ben, and would still be sitting pretty in the game. Yes, I get that Dr. Mike is the one that told her about Ben’s plan to blindside her and that Lauren and Mike had been playing the game together, but Lauren did just vote out Dr. Mike’s ally, Joe, at the last vote. To have such faith as to give Dr. Mike half of her Idol…just wow.
With all of the madness, it was easy to forget that this episode also featured the famous love-it-or-hate-it “loved ones” challenge. I happen to usually be in the “love it” category when it comes to this emotional episode, but does this “marble match-up” challenge take the cake as the worst Survivor challenge of all-time or is it just me? Were there budget cut-backs at CBS? Was it really Ryan‘s dad’s life-long dream to go all the way out to Fiji and get that close to Jeff Probst, just to pull a frickin’ marble out of a bag?
Lame challenges aside, Ben has been a major player this season and he just showed why. So far, if you come up against Ben, you go home. What is sad about Lauren being the latest casualty, is that Lauren and Ben really seemed to be strong allies just a few episodes ago. What a difference a few days in the game makes. Now being down to just six players left – and just one more episode before the Finale on Dec 20 – Ben might be the easy target, but he’s one Immunity Challenge win away from making things mighty interesting.
Episode Take-Away: Another strong episode, that seemed to continue and improve upon the momentum created from last week’s double-episode. This is a great group of players, and despite Lauren‘s big blunder, there is some serious strategy going on out there. Chrissy has been on top of the game and at the bottom, but she’s still there, as is Ryan. Devon and Ashley could become targets, and soon, especially after publicly announcing their tight alliance during the Immunity Challenge…but with just six left, a move against them better happen soon or they could find themselves sitting at the end together. And never count out Ben…he has a tough road to the end and an even tougher time to win the jury over, but if anybody can do it it’s him. Who does that leave us with? Good ole Dr. Mike. The unlikeliest of players to make it this far, Dr. Mike continues to throw his game at the wall each and every week just to see what sticks. It’s got him this far, and for some reason, I don’t think anybody views him as a major threat or someone that needs to be targeted right away. Dr. Mike might just find himself sitting at the end when all is said and done.
The other thing to consider from this episode, is that with Lauren out of the game and Ben‘s Idol having been played, there are no more advantages currently in the game. It’s also unlikely that any more Idols will be introduced with just six players left. That means that it’s player vs. player at this point, with all six on equal footing. We know Ryan and Chrissy are tight, as are Devon and Ashley, so the two sides will surely be gunning for one another. With Ben and Dr. Mike somewhere in there as well, me thinks that we’re in for a great final two episodes!
Voted out this week: Lauren
Won Immunity: Ashley
Vote: Ben plays Idol on himself. 1 – Lauren (Ben), 6 – Ben, all negated by Idol (Lauren, Chrissy, Devon, Ashley, Mike, Ryan)
Next Week’s Episode: It’s the last regular episode of the season leading up to the two-hour Finale and Live Reunion Show on December 20th. Everyone is a target.
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 Lauren. 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 THIS WEEK’S EPISODE? WHERE DOES LAUREN’S MOVE RANK AMONG THE ALL-TIME BIGGEST BLUNDERS? AND WHO DO YOU THINK IS BEST POSITIONED TO WIN SURVIVOR?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira