Every once in a while I get to say this, and I am always surprised when it happens. Perhaps I should stop being surprised. But, we are in Season 25 of Survivor and something happened which never happened before. And frankly, I love it. This really just proves that the Survivor formula simply works. By putting 16-20 people together in this format, with crazy challenges, you put them in situations where something unexpected is bound to happen. In this case, we got some good old fashioned wheeling and dealing between the tribes.
The Reward Challenge (welcome back to the game RCs) was a classic Survivor theme. Pit contestants against one another in a challenge where the main object is to wrestle and slam each other to the ground. The task itself is a bit of a MacGuffin. The purpose is to have some violence, arguments, and potentially some removed bathing suits. In this one, three members had to move a Large Wicker Ball across a very, very muddy field to a goal. The first tribe to three wins a reward of dryness, sandwiches, soups, chips and brownies. And as we learn later, letters from home, but teams do not know that. Tandang sits out Artis and RC. So in theory, Abinormal actually gets to play. However…
…that was not meant to be. The first matchup pitted Blair/PBP/Skupin against Penner/Carter/Denise. To sum it up – Carter and PBP kept body slamming each other. Mostly PBP body slamming Carter. Blair grabbed a hold of Denise and wouldn’t let go, no matter how much the therapist writhed. Penner and Skupin focused on the Large Wicker Ball before getting into it themselves. To prevent Skupin from moving the ball, Penner got awfully close to, well, his Skupins, as he reached underneath the Outback veteran to grab some wicker and give some wedgies. In return, Skupin chose to sit down. So, to recap. PBP and Carter wrestled, Blair and Denise wrestled, Penner had Skupin’s crotch, and Skupin was sitting on Penner’s face.
Best line? Skupin – “This is like heaven.” Penner – “Yeah, it’s like something.” HA!!
And then, they sat. Frozen. For an hour. No movement. Essentially, they beat each other up to the point that their exhausted bodies were spent. The lack of any traction whatsoever thanks to the mud made it impossible to move the LWB anywhere. This was an impasse. The only way to move the ball at this point would be for one team to give up. And that’s where Penner and Skupin went to work. Penner suggested a deal where Kalabaw would win the reward. What would it take?
Earlier, we got a glimpse of Tandang camp life where Skupin is oblivious to the anger surrounding him from The Most Obnoxious Alliance on Earth. PBP, Artis and Abinormal are bitching about Skupin, because that’s what they do. At least, in this case, they have a point. Skupin keeps eating the raw rice, claiming that it will cook in your body. And, um, I’m no chef, but I don’t think your stomach works the way he thinks it does. So, their rice supply is running very low.
So, presented with a swap option, Skupin suggests the challenge for the remainder of Kalabaw’s rice. And the tribes began to debate it. Tandang looked to Artis for thoughts since it appears they wanted to win the challenge to give him a birthday celebration. He didn’t want to give up. Big words from the guy sitting out the challenge. Did he not see the impasse before them? Probst tells the tribes that for the deal to take place, the tribes must all agree. That means Artis, PBP, Carter and all of the others who later complained said yes. If they thought the deal stunk for them – they should have said no. They only have themselves to blame.
As for me, my knee jerk reaction was that this was a terrible deal for Kalabaw. They get the big feast, but give up all food reserves in the process. It seemed like a huge gamble. Penner especially took on immense risk by not only proposing the deal, but by selling it with a claim to be able to catch fish. Should he fail – and he basically did – that is huge reason to vote him out. They also are gambling that they can bridge the gap to the looming merge with fish, foraging, and the feast.
That’s a big risk for a tribe already down in numbers to potentially compete on very empty stomachs. What we didn’t know until later is that Kalabaw’s rice supply was quite low as well. They had barely enough to get through the next cycle of days to the potential merge. Tandang also risked the Curse of the Blown Challenge which has burned so many tribes in the past. So, the bottom line – it was a good deal. Both sides took risks, both sides earned gains.
However, Carter sure complained a lot, albeit verrrrrry, verrrrry slooooooowwwlllllyyyyy. Man, this guy takes a week to finish a sentence. Also complaining? All of Tandang’s Evil Alliance. Not sure what Blair is doing with that trio – they are insufferable, and she’s pretty interesting. Malcolm tried to “put a positive spin on it” and was literally taken aback by the hissing and venom from the tribe. Not literal venom, but he visibly moved his body backward after speaking as if to avoid the bad energy from this group.
Penner failed to spear a wayward sting ray and then set out to fish in deeper water. He got nothing but a couple of tiny bites. That meant the tribe would head to the challenge, presumably rather hungry.
Immunity Challenge – Another classic Survivor challenge. One member launches a ball with a giant slingshot, while the others try to catch them in the net. It doesn’t matter which color ball you catch, it is a point. The four pairs of outfielders start off by grasping a pole (shut up) together and can only move once the ball is in the air. The first team to five points wins. Of course, Abinormal sits out for Tandang, along with Skupin. Blair and Denise are the launchers. The paired off catchers are – Artis/Penner, Malcolm/Carter, Kent/PBP, and RC/Katie. In a nutshell, Artis and Katie are useless. Neither do anything at all – Katie is only mentioned when she forgot to “put her hand on the pole.” Heh. (Shut up – let me have this). Carter is only mentioned because once again PBP is wiping the floor with him – not literally this time. Penner lands the first one before PBP and RC simultaneously catch the next two points. Kent intercepts PBP for the tie. Kent spent a career getting under pop ups in the infield – albeit not often fighting with a younger, fitter man to catch said pop ups – so one would expect he’d be the star of the challenge. After Kent catches the third and fourth point for Kalabaw, it appears he will be the star, as the tribe now lead 4-2. At this point, Skupin calls in some advice – Blair just should keep shooting it over to Malcolm. Why was this not the original strategy?
Of course, Malcolm makes short work of Carter on two in a row, meanwhile Kent dropped the potential game winning catch. With the score tied and the next point deciding the winner, Kalabaw switches Kent over to defend Malcolm and even that battle up. However, Kent flails and misses, while Malcolm scoops up the fifth and deciding point. Boom. Look how much has changed thanks to the 50-50 chance of the buff pull between Malcolm and Denise. Tandang got a challenge monster, and Kalabaw got a jinx. I love Denise, but she will now be attending every single Tribal Council possible. And if she goes deep post-merge, she could be a part of every one for the season.