7:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers' Tribe Swap Brings Drama in 'I Don't Like Having Snakes Around'
[This recap contains spoilers for the Wednesday, Oct. 18, episode of CBS' Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.]
Farewell, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. You were not the best of arbitrarily divided themes, but now you're done and it's time to get to the business of actually playing Survivor.
And wouldn't you know it? The season's first episode after a pre-credit tribal swap was easily the best episode of the season, establishing that even if this season doesn't have any clear heroes, it at least has an entertaining villain and some other entertaining oddities. Plus, one player full-on became Keanu Reeves before our eyes, and if that's not entertaining, I don't know what is.
The tribal swap eliminated the randomly determined tribes and, as the best of tribal swaps do, it underlined several available storylines moving forward, without establishing clearly mismatched new clans.
Instead of Heroes, Healers and Hustlers, we now have:
Soko – The yellow-buffed tribe is made up of JP, Ryan, Ali, Chrissy, Roark. Roark, the season's most invisible player thus far, is the only former Healer on a tribe in which we're getting at least partial fulfillment on the promise of Chekhov's Immunity Super-Idol, with the uniting of Ryan and Chrissy. It's funny that Ryan said he gifted Chrissy with the idol because of the vibe he got from her and even funnier that Chrissy says that getting the idol made her feel loved, but since I like Chrissy and I like Ryan, I'll allow it. Because what was Ryan going to do? Say, "I looked at the composition of the tribe and I knew that either you or Katrina would be the weakest player and therefore the clear target"? No. He was not going to say that. And what was Chrissy going to do? Say, "Thanks for assuming I was weak, that was … sweet." No, she was not going to say that.
Yawa – The red-buffed tribe consists of Jessica, Cole, Mike, Lauren and Ben. Yes, that means that healer-of-the-economically disadvantaged model Cole and his virginal bae Jessica are still together, giving more opportunities to Jessica to realize that her infatuation with Cole is abdominal-deep. Also, separating Mike from his emotional blackmailer Joe is probably good for Mike's spirit, if not his game. And yes, that's three former Healers on one tribe, which would seem to bode well for the long-term hopes of that tribe, if you believe that a group of people with no real unifying characteristics will be faithful to the people they spent nine days with when they're brought back together again later.
Levu – The blue-buffed tribe includes Ashley, Alan, Desi, Joe and Devon. So that's two former Healers, in Desi and Joe, plus two former Heroes, in Alan and Ashley. But the two former Heroes happen to be people who were at each other's throats from the beginning. Plus, in Alan and Joe, the Levu tribe got the two players most likely to stir things up for no reason.
And? Guess what? Wednesday's episode revolved heavily around Levu and before going to tribal council, Joe and Alan both found a way to get up in each other's business, because that's who they are and Survivor probably wishes they could have put in another couple weeks of mutual irritation. Oh, well. And Joe, who I hate in the way you're supposed to hate Survivor villains, ended up winning the day after making a mess of the day in the first place.
Did Joe really figure that he could tell Devon that the former Heroes wanted to vote him out without the Heroes making a plea of their own to the surf instructor? And did Joe really figure that whatever plea Ashley or Alan made wouldn't come across as more sincere? Surely Joe knows he's one of the least sincere-seeming people in the world. So Joe sullied his own good name by accident, but then turned around and tried making it to his advantage by badgering everybody pre-tribal in the hopes that he would put the target on himself so that he could play his own hidden idol, except that he somehow shifted the target more toward Desi, who demanded Joe play the idol for her as a sign of solidarity. So then at the tribal, Joe played his idol, but claiming he was able to read Ashley's eyes, he played it for himself and this was exactly correct. Ashley and Alan's votes against Joe were thrown out. Joe and Desi's votes against Alan stuck. Bye, Alan. Well-played, Joe, even if it would have been much more spiritually satisfying for Joe to have given the idol to Desi and then gone home in embarrassment. I obviously can't say for sure if Joe really did read Ashley's eyes or if he really never had any intention of giving her the idol, because no matter how loudly he protested, "giving somebody else an idol" doesn't feel like the sort of thing Joe would do. Alan and Ashley just chose poorly.
And that's before you get to poor Devon. He got a note saying he had an advantage that he couldn't open before tribal, but then he got to tribal and discovered that the advantage had been used against him, nullifying his vote. The neutralizing of Devon let him opine "That is not an advantage" Keanu-style and let us witness the excitement dim in his eyes. It didn't matter, of course. Had Devon been able to vote, there would have been three votes negated against Joe instead of two. The vote itself was unchanged. The funny twist would have been if Joe had given the idol to Desi and it had become a tie. That did not happen.
The advantage was played against Devon by Jessica, presumably to protect Desi and Joe, her fellow Healers. I'm not sure I get that choice. Jessica, who found the advantage in a bag of reward chips, wanted to keep the Healers strong and the tribe that had to go to tribal had two Healers, two Heroes and one Hustler. Voting Devon out would have been a no-brainer for Levu — get rid of the outlier, worry about the tie later — in which case snubbing Devon's vote would have been worthless. But what if Joe had successfully stirred Devon's paranoia and he had been wrangled in to vote against Ashley and then his vote was neutralized and Jessica had forced a tie herself? Why would she not have used the advantage to take a vote away from one of the Heroes and strengthen the Healers advantage? Right?
Just seems odd to me. Maybe Jessica was distracted and confused by trying to figure out, for the second straight episode, why her beau hunk would tell people not aligned with them about something she thought was her secret. Or his secret, for that matter. Last week, Cole was telling anybody who would listen about Joe's idol, weakening the exclusivity of his knowledge in the name of alliance-building. That wasn't Cole's idol, but it was at least his knowledge. This week, he just sold out Jessica's advantage to Lauren and Cowboy Ben in the hopes that they would trust him eventually.
"He hurt me, whether he meant to or not," Jessica sniffled.
She added, "When I'm hurt, I always wonder, 'Was it me?'"
Poor Jessica. She has been hurt. She hopped in bed, metaphorically, with a guy who has a good sense of Survivor strategy, but no sense of Survivor pace and restraint. I'm really, really rooting for Jessica to come to her senses and stab Cole in the back. Soon. If she doesn't do it, he'll screw things up for her himself.
Let's get to some bottom lines...
Bottom Line, I. How many of Jeff Probst's Foo Fighters references did you get during the immunity challenge? There was "You are looking for both the color and the shape" and "In times like these, you need a little luck" and "You have to finish this, no matter however long it takes. Otherwise, it's a long road to ruin ... at tribal council." There was at least one other that I think I noticed at the beginning, something about "weight," and I believe there was supposed to be a sixth. I'm not sure where. I'm also not sure why. But that's between Probst and the Survivor gods.
Bottom Line, II. I'm still sad for Jessica. The emotional betrayal courtesy of Cole was bad enough, but to get no real use out of something she was so pleased with! She thought it was a sign of her angel tapping her on the shoulder and saying "Bing!" and since Jessica is really religious, she actually may have meant that literally.
Bottom Line, III. With "I don't like having snakes around," Devon got the episodic title quote. That was more generous of the Survivor editors than honoring him for the also Keanu-esque, "That was a crazy one. What the hell just happened?" He could have saved time by just saying, "Whoa."
Bottom Line, IV. Since Roark got some exposure for her several seconds as odd-woman-out in her tribe and since Desi took an unwanted spotlight as potential target in hers, that left JP as this week's invisible castaway. Without Ashley to ogle him, JP could vanish for the rest of the season and just reemerge on the finale with a string of fish wondering how he made it so far.
Bottom Line, V. I don't quite get why Alan was Joe and Desi's target other than, "Well, he was." One minute Joe was calling Ashley out as the tribe's weak link and that, relatively speaking, may have been right. It's not that I disagree with voting Alan out. It's just odd for a player as out there as Alan to get voted out without real cause. It just didn't feel like Joe was punishing Alan as a threat. Hardly matters. No sweat.
Back next week for more! And be sure to read all of Josh Wigler's great interviews!