Jeffrey Neira / CBS

Survivor Goes From Blindfolds To Blindsides

At the immunity challenge, Jeff unveils yet another shocking twist...and a couple of totally unshocking comments about balls and holes.

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right

Hey, did you remember that Tai and Caleb were BFFs the last time they played together? Just in case you missed it the first twelve times they brought it up, we open this week on Tai lamenting the loss of his good buddy. However, he's quite clear with his tribemates that he was fully on board with voting the guy out. No matter how much Tai likes him personally, Caleb didn't serve his long-term strategy.

Adds Tai via confessional, "I'm not playing with my heart this time, I'm playing with my..." and it takes him a second to remember what it is he's playing with, which doesn't bode well for a cerebral game from Tai in the future.

Today's reward challenge features all of Jeff's favorite things: poles, balls, bags, and holes. Each tribe selects two representatives to run the course for them: Blue chooses JT and Malcolm; Green selects Ozzy and Troyzan; Orange selects Tai and Brad. This game is about as mismatched as it sounds. As Tai's tribe shouts encouraging words about focusing and taking his time from somewhere near the beginning of the obstacle course, it looks like Blue and Green have it sewn up, and indeed, Blue takes first prize. Somehow, though, Brad manages to pull out a pretty amazing come-from-behind silver-medal finish in the second phase of the challenge, which involves tossing bean bags at targets. The spoils are coffee or something; since we're long past the days where corporate sponsors underwrote the challenges, Jeff doesn't waste a lot of time on what exactly they've all won.

Fishing For Compliments

Green Tribe returns to camp, demoralized and reward-less, but Green Tribe still has Ozzy, which is kind of like its own reward, according to Ozzy and his stupid Pippi Longstocking hairdo. Owing to his amazing swimming skills and the fact that he's played four frickin' times, he's a pretty great fisherman, so his tribe won't go hungry, even if they might rather be eating...whatever it was they didn't win.

As Blue Tribe enjoys their reward (fine, it was cookies), Sandra confessionalizes that she's running the show. As she says this, the camera cuts to shots of Malcolm and JT forging a new alliance and agreeing that she'll be their first target.

Maybe I'm Amazed

Jeff has some news for the Survivors as they roll up to Immunity challenge: only one tribe's winning immunity this week; both non-winning tribes are going to Tribal Council. Initially, it feels sort of like Production wants to double up on vote-outs since nobody's had to leave the game for medical reasons yet, but stay tuned; the reality is far more interesting.

The challenge is an oldie but a goodie: blindfolded Survivors are tethered to one another in an obstacle course while a tribemate shouts instructions. The usual crotch-level obstacles are there, but this time there are also big buckets of paint and water that the blindfolded contestants can accidentally dump on themselves, which adds...color, I guess.

The final phase of this challenge is the good old "table maze" game that we've seen a few dozen times before, and Green Tribe ends up pulling out the win after Varner ends up dropping the ball at the last possible minute.

But Jeff has one last surprise under his belt: it's not a double elimination after all! Orange Tribe and Blue Tribe will report to Tribal Council as one and vote out only one contestant. And since it's only 8:30 at this point, one has to think that this is going to involve some pretty interesting strategy. Or maybe a lot of shots of talky, tortured overthinking, but I'm a table-maze-is-half-full kind of gal.

Tai And The Idol, Sittin' In A Tree

Sandra notes that there are six members of Blue Tribe going to Tribal Council and only five Orangies, so the most logical thing to do is all pile their votes on an Orange Tribe member: she suggests Sierra, the strongest woman on Orange Tribe. JT observes that Orange Tribe is very likely to vote for Sandra, though, and he realizes that he and Malcolm could flip the script and take her out.

Indeed, Orange Tribe seems pretty set on voting for Sandra, although Brad's a little worried about Hali. While they're deliberating, Tai goes idol-hunting and uncovers not an idol, but a clue to an idol, although said clue is basically "go here and dig," and he does, and there it is, so that was pretty much five minutes of our lives we're never getting back. For something he just dug up out of the dirt, Tai is surprisingly eager to put the idol up to his mouth and kiss it repeatedly. I guess in the absence of chickens and Caleb, he needed something to love up on.

After he's gotten enough, um, private time with the idol, Tai introduces the new love of his life to the rest of the tribe, and promises that he'll use it at Tribal Council.

Double The Contestants, Double The Fun

Man, remember back in Survivor: Pearl Islands when Sandra basically just flew under the radar and occasionally surfaced to throw crippling barbs at Johnny Fairplay? And remember in Heroes vs. Villains when Sandra gave zero fucks about anything or anybody in the game, least of all Russell Hantz? I miss that Sandra. This Sandra can't seem to stop running her mouth about how she's controlling everything and everybody while everything and everybody reports in confessionals that this is the opposite of what's actually happening. She's made of more hubris than sass now. Nowhere is this more apparent than in tonight's Tribal Council, when she sneers into the camera, "I know I'm not going home tonight, how 'bout that?"

Brad Culpepper likens tonight's Tribal Council to a Mexican standoff: "We've got our guns against them, they've got their guns against us. The question is, is one of their guns pointed at themselves, or is one of our guns pointed at ourselves?" Sandra is very quick to assure him that all of the Blue guns are pointed Orangeward. Even JT, Debbie inquires? Especially JT, says Sandra, and JT indeed mumbles something about this being a bad time to flip.

For that matter, says Debbie, what about Hali, who used to be tribemates with everyone who's now on Blue Tribe? Hali points out that she could throw a wrench into things, and then there's a lot of cross-talk as Sierra tries to convince Hali that her allianceship is very much wanted among Orange Tribe, and Blue Tribe tries to extrapolate who on Orange Tribe she might be interested in getting rid of. Finally, JT gets up and whispers in Brad's ear that the Blue vote will be for Sierra, as Hali crosses over to Blue Tribe, where they try to convince her to vote for Brad. Then all the tribes huddle, football-style, to regroup, which Jeff has never seen before (but in fairness, Jeff, you've never done this twist before).

Finally, Jeff breaks up the huddles and tells Hali it's time to vote. Hali attempts to stall for time, but to no avail. At the last minute, Michaela wonders if they need to factor an idol into their plans, but Sandra puts the kibosh on that. "Ain't nobody over there got an idol."

"If you pull out an idol, I will soil myself," whispers Varner over an unseen vote. It's unclear whom he's referring to, but after the votes are cast, Tai hands the idol over to Sierra, and the camera declines to show Varner's pants as Jeff begins reading vote after vote for Sierra.

The remaining votes are for Malcolm (or "Malcom" as most of the votes read, and "Mall Come," as the closed captioning calls him), and everyone's jaw drops. As they pack up and head back to camp, there's much murmuring among Blue Tribe about where to place the blame: squarely on JT. It's unclear at first whether he actually deserves this, especially when you factor in how close he and Malcolm were for most of the episode, so you can imagine that this sets the stage for some complicated scrambling next week, and/or forty-five minutes of Sandra yelling at him followed by his totally anticlimactic ouster.

Verdict

In his tearful parting words, Malcolm calls this "the most ridiculous tribal council in the history of tribal councils," and he's not far off. Now granted, it was only ridiculous as a result of a ridiculous twist imposed on the Survivors by Production, but the twist does play out in an eminently watchable way. You're definitely going to want to see this one.

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