Parvati Shallow Breaks Down 'Survivor': Lovers' Quarrels, Threesomes and Tribal Rats

The 'Survivor' champ analyzes season 29 for THR
Courtesy of CBS
The castaways

Parvati Shallow is a Survivor champ and three-time competitor on the show. The OG Miss Survivor and Survivor Hall of Famer now covers health and wellness for CBS News in New York City. Find her on Twitter @parvatishallow.

“There’s nothing worse than angry girls.” – Reed

The pressure is building as we near the final days of Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, and Jon and Jaclyn are feeling the strain of being the swing vote couple week after week. Communication breakdowns and power dynamics are par for the course with any relationship. When these types of conflicts arise on Survivor, they typically stem from an alliance member being betrayed in the game. Not so with boyfriend and girlfriend. The relational conflicts we’re witnessing with Jon and Jaclyn stem from past interactions and resentments.

Jaclyn’s irritation over Jon asking her to give him credit for playing his idol is quite telling. All she wants is a little credit, some validation that she matters and she will back him up forever. But, when Jon wants to take all the glory for a move he simply would not have made if Jaclyn and Natalie hadn’t told him to, Jaclyn feels useless.

Even if they are on the verge of a complete meltdown, Jon and Jaclyn are still the most powerful couple on the island.

Reed is incredibly aware of his outsider position in the tribe. After trying (and failing) to orchestrate Jon’s blindside last week, Reed needs to work hard to get back into the good graces of the majority alliance.

This reward challenge will not offer Reed any chances to make friends. I remember being the first person to get her Survivor voodoo doll smashed into smithereens in a very similar challenge for Fans vs. Favorites. So, just like me, Reed is the first to get his skull crushed, an effective metaphor for being on the bottom of the tribal ranks. There’s something very unsettling about watching your likeness be demolished by people when you are powerless to fight back. And, we watch something snap in Reed after this moment.

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Once Missy decides she will be the winner, Jeff asks her to choose two people to join her on the reward. Obviously she chooses her daughter Baylor. Then, much to Jaclyn’s dismay, Missy selects Natalie to be her second guest. Reed tries to comfort Jaclyn by telling her they’re happy to have her at camp. When Baylor makes a sarcastic remark, Reed can no longer contain himself. He’s had it.

“Baylor, you’re a brat,” he says matter-of-factly.

He’s right. She’s cocky because she’s surrounded by her mom and Natalie, and she’s in the majority alliance. Girlfriend ain’t scared. And, Reed is over it. Something tells me that normally it would take a lot to get Reed to react. He has demonstrated a serious amount of patience thus far, and now his patience tank is running on fumes. He engages Missy in a confrontation about her bratty daughter.

Missy, the protective mama bear, won’t have it. She tells Reed his fortune and then frolics off with her bear cubs to enjoy horseback riding, a slumber party and making a final three pact. Jaclyn is left to fend for herself back at camp with the three lowly amigos.

At camp with the boys, Jaclyn is treated like the queen she is. (Y'all do know she’s a beauty queen, right?) She’s fed a heaping bowl of rice, and Alec fans her with rapturous attention until she’s practically giddy. The boys are laying on the charm, knowing they need Jaclyn’s support to keep them in the game.

While the queen gets the royal treatment, her prince charming gallivants around Exile Island until he magically stumbles upon yet another idol. Jon’s got idol game. And he’s always so happy about everything. It’s impossible not to like this guy.

When Happy Humperdink rejoins the tribe for the immunity challenge, he’s grinning from ear to ear. Jon has nothing to worry about right now. He found an immunity idol and he’s running the show back at camp. The people who need to stress about this challenge are Keith and Reed. If Reed loses this one, he’s a goner.

Keith wins.

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Things look very bleak for Reed. Never one to give up, he approaches Jon and Jaclyn as soon as he can. Even then, Reed’s too late. Jon and Jaclyn’s little tiff from a couple nights ago has escalated into a full-on blowout. Jaclyn feels shut down and unimportant and Jon just wants to be loved on.

Reed becomes collateral damage in a lovers' quarrel. Because he’s not able to have any real game changing conversations with the two key decision makers, Reed is forced to watch his hopes of winning Survivor spiral into the abyss.

At tribal council, Jeff gets to play couple’s counselor giving Jon and Jaclyn a forum to air their grievances. Their fight gets resolved too late to save Reed.

As Reed’s torch is snuffed, we’re reminded of his famous line: “There’s nothing worse than angry girls.”

Sounds about right.

•••

If the pressure was mounting last episode, the volcano is fully blowing it’s top right now. Everyone has reached his or her breaking point. Missy’s crying, Baylor’s crying, Jaclyn’s losing it, Keith it spitting… well, that’s totally normal. Even cocky little Alec has been knocked down a peg.

With his boy Reed getting the boot last tribal, Alec has no friends to talk to anymore. He’s lonely, and what does any lonely boy who’s stranded on a deserted island with a bunch of hot chicks do? That’s right — flirt.

Now, as many of you know, flirting is one of my all time favorite things to do. Alec’s new lonely boy demeanor is making him much more endearing to the ladies. Jaclyn has already been spending more quality time flirting with Alec, and now Baylor is coming around. This may be all the support Alec needs to save him from elimination.

It’s just not enough to spare him from being sent to Exile when he loses the reward challenge. Alec looks completely demoralized as he trudges off alone.

Natalie, who was a picture perfect yogi throughout the challenge wins the reward —a king-size bed and pasta dinner to be delivered to camp. Things get weird when Nat chooses boyfriend and girlfriend Jon and Jaclyn to share her reward. I’ve never seen a Survivor ménage a trois before, but I’m not surprised. The show continues to break new ground every season. History is being made here people.

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Oh, wait. I take that back. In Cook Islands, I shared a king sized bed on an overnight reward with Ozzy and Yul. Never you mind about that, though. It’s all in the past.

We’re now sitting in bed with Natalie and the two young lovers eating pasta and drinking Nicaragua’s finest red wine. That wine’s got legs, and Jon would know. He loves him some vino. Natalie couldn’t be bothered to listen to Jon’s enthusiastic wine lesson. She’s busy concocting a plan to shank him in his sleep. This girl came to play, boys. I think Nat’s time competing on Amazing Race taught her a few lessons in playing reality television games, and it seems no one remembers that she has any prior experience. She was a threat early on, but when her twinnie got voted out, everyone got a lot more comfortable with her.

Poor, sweet, smiley Jon has no idea he’s sleeping with the enemy. He’s loving every minute of his king-sized reward, and ultimately decides to trust Natalie with his big secret. In vino veritas, eh? It really does Jon no good to tell Nat about his idol, but he’s feeling confidant and in control of the game. I’m sure Jaclyn was pinching her big-mouthed boyfriend under the sheets to get him to shut up.

As soon as the sun rises, Natalie hops out of bed and runs over to Baylor to concoct a plan to back stab Jon. Nat’s hell-bent on avenging Jeremy’s blindside, and she will stop at nothing to get rid of the man who betrayed her closest ally.

Nat’s taking a huge risk trusting Baylor. Baylor can’t leak any of these plans to her mom Missy. Jon and Missy have developed a close mother-son relationship, and, much to Jaclyn’s chagrin, Missy is incredibly protective of Jon.

She doesn’t need to worry, however. Jon rocks this immunity challenge and saves himself and his idol to live another day.

Now we get to see how good Alec’s hustle really is. Can he flirt hard enough to save himself? It’s going to be tough this late in the game to change people’s opinions. For any future Survivor players out there, I would recommend leading off by making people love you. If you lay the groundwork up front, it’s much easier to appear authentic when you’re in trouble down the road.

Alec was always pretty rude to Baylor. She tagged along after him for the first half of the game, then went her own way once she met up with her mom post-merge. After the merge, we didn’t see much of an Alec/Baylor dynamic at all. But, now, Alec is laying on the charm. And, it’s working!

I can’t believe it. Baylor is falling for Alec’s puppy dog eyes and his "lessons learned."

She wants to keep him in the game.

Natalie, however, has other plans. She wants to keep someone in the game that could actually beat Jon in an immunity challenge. Although she told her allies she would vote Keith, she’s setting her sights on switching things up.

At tribal council, the plan looks set in stone. The alliance of five is going to vote out Keith. They’re splitting the votes in case Keith has an idol. Keith and Alec are voting for each other, as the bottom dwellers are sometimes forced to do. It’s all very straightforward. 

Until a rat runs through tribal council and reminds everyone why they’re here and what’s really important in life.

I’m not sure why the rat has that effect, but its Jeff’s show so let him do his thing, ok?

And Jeff’s thing on a season of Blood vs. Water is to get right to the heartstrings. He works on Jon until he begins to break down about how much he regrets not spending more time with his dad who’s dying of brain cancer.

This tribal council just got real. The question is, did Jon’s emotional outpouring change Natalie’s mind?

This woman is determined and in the game. No manly tears are going to deter her from getting the vengeance she’s after.

She switches her vote, and Alec is toast.

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