Photo: Monty Brinton / CBS

Blind Faith

A tribe swap shakes things up for the Survivors in this double episode, making collars a thing of the past.

Blue Collar Bleeds Red

No Collar trudges back to camp in the rain, having just voted out Nina. Nobody is particularly sad to see her go. Hali tells Will they threw a couple of votes his way just in case Nina had an idol. Will's totally cool with that, outwardly, but realizes he's next on the chopping block.

It's a new day at Blue Collar, so there's a new creature for Mike to pursue and consume: a snake. Protein is protein, says Mike as he skins it (in thrilling hi-def!) and roasts it up. Rodney is hungry enough to give it a shot, and Mike proclaims him an honorary country boy. Apparently any hard feelings the men of Blue Collar had early on have evaporated entirely.

Jeff welcomes the Survivors to the season's first reward challenge, in which blindfolded pairs of competitors must take direction from an appointed caller -- a collar caller, if you will. They'll collect an assortment of items on an obstacle course and deliver them to the collar caller via a platform and a series of pulleys. The winning tribe gets three chickens and a rooster. "Nutrition and companionship," Jeff says, although obviously this doesn't impress Mike, who's been perfectly happy to take his nutrition/companionship wherever he can get it.

The challenge is entertaining enough from the outset: like every good Survivor challenge involving blindfolds, there are plenty of obstacles at crotch level for optimum slapstick.

But things take a turn. When the Survivors lower the platform back down after delivering an item, simply letting go of the rope sends it flying every which way, and occasionally it clips one of them on its way down. Every time the Survivors let it drop, Jeff admonishes them like they are misbehaving children who can't be trusted with nice things. He seems excessively bossy about this at first until Blue Collar drops their platform squarely on Kelly's head. When blood begins to seep through her blindfold, Jeff calls a halt to the challenge, though it's not readily apparent whether he's going to immediately call in a medic or if he's going to take a second for an "I told you so" first.

Ben from Survivor Medical reports: Kelly's wound is not life-threatening, and if they can staunch the bleeding, she should even be fine to complete the challenge. He winds a couple of rolls of gauze around her head and they're off to the races.

The challenge resumes. No Collar wins easily. As Carolyn screams "To the left! To the left!" over Sierra's "To the right! To the right!", White Collar sneaks in a second-place finish, winning a basket of eggs as a consolation prize.

Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens

Back at camp, No Collar celebrates their win. They decide to kill one of the chickens in honor of Will's birthday. Because she's already gotten attached to the chickens and can't handle watching one of them get killed, Jenn decides to go hunting for the idol. Without a clue she's kind of flying blind, but she knows enough to look for weird-looking trees. Naturally, there it is. "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," she says over a shot of the ACTUAL chicken dinner being enjoyed by the rest of her tribe.

On Blue Collar, we get an update on Kelly, who's been downgraded from "gauze headdress" to "large Band-Aid." In the shelter, Rodney and Lindsey are deep in conversation over Rodney's assertion that women need to hold themselves to a higher standard than men. (Anytime someone's observations on gender politics begin with "when I go to the club," you know you're in for some cogent, progressive insights into the human condition.) Lindsey says she's having a hard time living with someone with such toxic views.

At White Collar's camp, Shirin's being weird again, and over her rambling monologue about killing rabbits, Joaquin expresses concern that she may be a sociopath. But Carolyn reports that Max is equally weird, and what's worse, he's weird with leadership potential. If they go to Tribal Council, she says, she wants him gone.

Balls To The Wall

In the episode's first immunity challenge, Survivors are carabinered to a rope and have to navigate through an obstacle course, after which they'll navigate some balls through a vertical maze. Jeff is relieved to finally have another challenge in which he can say "balls" a lot. (Actually, Jeff saying "balls" a lot is pretty much the highlight of this challenge, so unless you're really, really into that, you can go ahead and fast-forward.)

Jeff talks a lot of smack at Blue Collar for getting tangled up in their rope, but it's White Collar who's the last to reach the maze. They make up a lot of time on the maze early on, though, and they almost give No Collar a run for their money in the race for Immunity Prime. Almost. In the end, though, it's Blue Collar who comes up short, and they'll be Tribal Council bound.

In confessionals, Sierra says that Rodney's the weak link, both in challenges and at camp: "My horses are smarter than Rodney."

Listen Like A Woman, Vote Like A Man

Blue Collar has gotten so accustomed to not going to Tribal Council that they initially have no idea whatsoever how things are going to go for them. Lindsey tells the tribe that however it shakes out, she's happy to have been with this particular group of people.

Dan asks Lindsey if he'll be on the chopping block. She says she wants to vote out Rodney. Dan strikes another blow for gender equality by confessionalizing about the difference between "listening like a guy and listening like a girl." If you're listening like a girl, he says, you "smile and nod: 'yes dear, whatever you say.'" He smiles and nods his way through the conversation, but it's clear that he considers himself part of a foursome consisting of Kelly, Mike, and Rodney.

Rodney considers himself the leader of this quartet, or the Tom Brady, if you will. He's keen on targeting Lindsey, observing that if she'd back-talked him out in the non-Survivor world, he'd "grab her by the hair and spank her like a bad baby." To their credit, Kelly and Mike are unimpressed by this, and they don't trust Rodney a bit, but they're still on the fence.

At Tribal Council, Rodney recaps his conflict with Lindsey. "We're like chicken pahm and tuna fish," he tells Jeff. Lindsey agrees: they've definitely got different morals.

"So if Rodney has different morals, it would imply he has none," says Probst. She assents. Kelly and Sierra also admit frustration at the sexist, vulgar things Rodney says. Rodney's sole statement in his defense is that the only woman he loves in his life is his mom. He was burned by two different women in the past, he says, which gives him the right to indict the entire gender (apart from his mom, who, we established clearly last week, is definitely not a whore).

Lindsey gives a big rallying speech about working, fighting, and loving together as a tribe, and about how she's certain someone from the tribe is going to win the game. The lack of slow clap at the end of her speech kind of points at the outcome of this vote.

Votes are read. Two for Rodney. Two for Lindsey. Two for Sierra. Mike, Dan, and Kelly revote, and on the revote, Lindsey's out. Not much she could have done differently, she says. "I'm walking off this island because I hurt a man's ego."

Swap And Awe

Back at the Blue Collar camp, Sierra wants to know who voted for her. Mike says her name got written down in case she or Lindsey had an idol.

Mike is fine with losing Lindsey, but he doesn't want Sierra to feel alienated. Dan, too, says he wants everyone to feel good about each other, but his version of an apology involves starting off by listing every single thing Sierra has done poorly as a tribemate. He is shocked when she doesn't take his olive branch.

The next morning, on Challenge Beach, Probst announces that "we are switching things up." (You probably should watch this segment just because if you don't, you'll spend the rest of the season trying to figure out who's on what tribe.) Sierra's psyched because "my tribe is absolutely dead to me. Dead."

White Collar, Blue Collar, and No Collar are no more. There are now just red buffs and blue buffs. On Escameca (or "Blue Tribe" as I will be calling it from here on out) there's Sierra, Dan, Mike, Rodney, Tyler, Joaquin, and Joe. Nagarote (aka "Red Tribe") is Will, Hali, Jenn, Max, Carolyn, Shirin, and Kelly. Sierra is decidedly underwhelmed by her new tribe, which is mostly made up of her old tribe. Carolyn whines that she's stuck with Max and Shirin on the red tribe.

The new tribes compete for a reward of kitchen supplies and sausages, plus everything White Collar won in rewards up to this point (since their beach will no longer be in use). The game involves catching balls (Jeff's excited already) using these sort of modified lacrosse paddles. Blue Tribe wins easily, though this challenge was so unexciting that the editors basically just show you a highlight reel.

The New Tribe, The New Colossus

It's pretty clear that as the sole ex-Blue Collar tribe member on Red Tribe, Kelly's going to be a swing vote, so both the ex-White Collar and the ex-No Collar factions are courting her pretty hard. After what appears to be one five-minute conversation, Shirin reports that she's pretty sure she's got Kelly on lockdown already. Kelly is a bit more cautious going into this. She says this is like being an undercover cop, going into a house to buy drugs from people you don't even know. Certainly hanging around Max and Shirin could mimic some of the same effects, I'd wager.

On Blue Tribe, Mike observes four ex-Blue Collar, two ex-White Collar, and one ex-No Collar. He notes that ex-Blue Collar would be in a pretty good position, except that Sierra had a rough go of things after the last Tribal Council and might be susceptible to wooing from the other side. But Sierra's actually ready to do the wooing herself. She goes straight to Tyler, Joaq, and Joe and tells them what's up. Tyler's more than happy to take her in. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Survivors," he intones. Anybody who says they expected a Survivor to drop an Emma Lazarus reference on us is lying.

At Red Tribe, Max and Shirin are continuing to be weird, both together and separately. Max staggers up the beach in his boxer-briefs and the tribe asks him "what's wrong?" (Clearly something must be wrong, since he's not naked.) His feet have been stung by stingrays. Jenn, a former lifeguard, helps him treat it by sticking his feet into a pot of boiling water that had been destined for drinking. Hali is immediately horrified by the fact that Max is putting his nasty, plantar's-wart-ridden foot into the pot they drink out of. Many close-ups of said foot ensue. In an episode with a gushing head wound, the race for "grossest close-up" is tight, but Max's warty, bleeding foot pulls ahead.

Dan Came In Like A Wrecking Ball

In the episode's fourth challenge, the Survivors drag a couple of big clay pots through an obstacle course, and after all that effort, they're just going to smash them up with a big swinging wrecking ball.

Naturally, Blue Tribe, front-loaded as it is with pretty much every strong man left in the game, takes an early lead. In fact, it's not really even much of a contest. Red Tribe doesn't even get to the point where they can start wrecking their pots before Blue Tribe's got it sewn up, oddly enough, thanks to Dan's skillful aim with the wrecking ball.

You would think that someone who has actually studied this show on an academic level would know that losing a challenge is a bad thing, but Max is actually really, really happy to go to Tribal Council. He's ready to shake up the tribe dynamics.

Annoyed To The Max

Max starts reciting incredibly specific Survivor trivia at Jenn, which mildly terrifies her. Any slim chance that they might have worked together is pretty much out the window here.

Red Tribe's vote, at this point, still seems down to Kelly. Jenn and Hali discuss targeting Shirin, since they may need Max for challenges. Shirin and Max decide to target Will, because he sucks at challenges, and they assume they're pretty much running the show. But Carolyn, not to be outdone, proclaims herself to be a swing vote as well. She thinks a fabulous blindside could be in the works.

The editors comb stock footage for the exact right establishing shot for Carolyn's flip, and "lizard covered in writhing caterpillars" becomes the new high mark to beat in the "grossest close-up" department. Carolyn and Jenn bond over the fact that they can't stand Max or Shirin.

But who will it be? Jenn thinks they need to get rid of the most annoying one. "It's exactly like a horse race. Is it Shirin? No, here comes Max with his foot wart. Oh, but here comes Shirin with her...whatever it is about Survivor...oh, but here's Max again. Who's the most annoying? I don't know! We'll see!"

At Tribal Council, Shirin starts out by telling Jeff how happy she is to be on the new tribe and how well everyone gets along, and even Jeff, who wasn't even there, can't conceal his incredulity. Or maybe that's just his face.

To try to articulate his feelings on his new tribe, Max invokes Survivor: One World. Jenn, who's seen every season of the show and previously considered herself a huge fan, is quickly realizing that there's a whole stratum of fandom she can't even begin to comprehend. Max can't help it; "there's something in my DNA," he says. "I don't know my mom's cell phone number, but I do know what happened at the swap in One World." (Rodney would spank Max like a baby for disrespecting his mother like that.)

And with the admission that his very biological makeup can't quit beating to the rhythm of Survivor arcana, Max sews up the victory for "most annoying Red Tribe member." When he pretends to play an idol after the vote, Jeff shuts him down with a quickness. His fifteenth minute's up. Time to go.

It's tough to see a true fan of the show go out so early, but I can't say I'll miss his foot wart.

Verdict

The usual beats of Survivor play out without very many surprises this episode, and it's hard to watch the season's villain claim his first victim in the first half, but then a satisfying blindside (and the first real downfall of a big character) in the second half redeems things. Keep your finger on that skip button, but go ahead and give this one a go.

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