7:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers' Love Blooms in 'My Kisses Are Very Private'
[This article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, October 11 episode of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.]
For half of this week's Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, love was in the air.
Then all of that love turned out to be irrelevant and we got one of those fun endings where the Survivor editors left viewers without key pieces of information in order to make the tribal council vote a surprise.
From the outside, it felt to me like Ginger Patrick did a good job of damage control at the Hustlers tribe's latest visit to tribal council. He only took responsibility for his immunity challenge failures in the most roundabout way possible, but he eventually got to saying that he should have tagged out of the sandbags sooner. And he wasn't resistant when it was suggested to him that his social game wasn't as strong as he seemed to feel it was. He also was fairly respectful of Lauren's all-out attack on him, taking it as something she needed to do in order to stay alive, which was made easier because he was confident that she was going home no matter what she did. Basically, there was no part of his tribal council performance that pointed to changing the vote to go against him, so when Jeff Probst opined that some of the conversations may have swapped some votes, I just assumed that was an indication that Lauren was going home.
Instead, the votes went against Patrick and he was shocked and bitter. "You guys are awful," he told them. "This is the worst thing I've ever felt," Patrick said in his post-mortem interview and wished failure on his fellow Hustlers.
It wasn't a reaction that felt aligned with what we'd just watched. The editing of tribal made it look like only two people really talked and only two people were really discussed, so even if Patrick had been reassured by his buds before leaving camp, he had to be aware that there were only two options and one of them was him. So of course it's always possible that there were whole other tribal council tangents in which people talked about how Devon's abs were distracting the team or how Ali's demands for Hollywood-style perks were getting on everybody's nerves. Or else, and this is more likely, there was a chat right before tribal when somebody made a persuasive case that with a tribal shuffle inevitably coming, Lauren will have fewer people trying to woo her and therefore will be less likely to be flipped. And everybody agreed to vote Patrick. I'm well aware that if they show us that conversation, there's no drama to tribal council, but if they don't show us that conversation, we don't know which Hustler is persuasive and steering the ship.
Or maybe Lauren just made the best argument of all: "I've never believed a redhead a day in my life."
Maybe the vote against Patrick was just straight-up anti-ginger prejudice.
It was hard for me to get invested one way or the other. Patrick's edit this week didn't focus as heavily on his more annoying social traits and even the conversation with Lauren in the shallow water, a conversation that left Lauren irate and complaining about Patrick smirking and taunting her, didn't come across that awful to me. He definitely should have let somebody else throw sandbags at blocks in the immunity challenge, especially given that Lauren has 25 years of baseball or softball experience under her belt, but I'm not omniscient enough to know the difference between inaccuracy based on fatigue and inaccuracy based on the precision of aiming at the last few targets. If Patrick was feeling strong still and he'd done a good job up until that point, who am I to say he should have subbed out just because other throwers had switched out on other tribes? We knew that Lauren had 25 years of centerfield experience because she told us several times, but maybe she hadn't gotten to that part of her biography at camp yet? Also, it looked like the Hustlers were just slow stacking their blocks at the end of the challenge. Was nobody to blame there?
Definitely at this point in the game, Lauren would have been the more predictable vote on "It keeps our tribe strong" grounds and also "She's the one who doesn't fit in with our good times" grounds. It's almost impressive that the Hustlers eschewed that easy path. I wonder if they made a mistake. Yes, we assume the younger players tend to be more social butterfly-y and strategically changeable, but there are a few older players left in the game who might find Lauren a workable piece after a shuffle or merge. Chrissy and Cowboy Ben might be able to sway her. She might gravitate toward a Mike in the right situation. Who knows? [Strange fact: Lauren is, at 35, much younger than I thought she was. I'd have thought both she and Cowboy Ben were both five or 10 years older.]
There's a level on which I'm sad that either Lauren or Patrick had to go home, because they're both distinctive types separate from the interchangeable masses and the interchangeable masses are beginning to pair up.
Even if JP, Devon and Cole are all different people, they all serve a similar eye-candy role. Ashley and Jessica are also different people, but serve similar roles. So who is surprised that JP and Ashley are pairing off and Cole and Jessica are pairing off? I can't tell if this means that Devon is destined to hook up with Roark, or if I'm just profiling Roark because she's blonde and young and I don't know much about her because we're three episodes in and she's talked maybe twice.
I'll admit it. I'm kinda into Cole and Jessica. She's a socially awkward 29-year-old virgin. He's a secret-blurting 24-year-old Ken doll with altruistic tendencies. Can they find sweet, sweet sandy love on the beaches of Fiji while also progressing in the direction of one or the other of them winning a million dollars? Cole seems much more physically gifted and therefore physically threatening, so Jessica is far better positioned to draft along for a while and make a good move or two and I loved watching her horror as Cole told anybody who would listen about Joe's idol. It's going to be interesting to see if Jessica has a moment where she realizes the limitations of her puppy love. It'll be interesting to find out how much of her religious backstory Jessica has told Cole.
I'm much less into Ashley and JP because JP's personality is a conspicuous lack of personality. You can tell from the way everybody is talking about him. He's just this well-meaning, decent, fish-wrangling slab of man-meat and Ashley's just slobbering from a distance. You can say what you want about whether Alan's behavior in that first episode was crazy and excessive, but he had only one goal and that was to make sure that Ashley and JP couldn't become a workable power couple. He didn't care if they were a power couple for real at that moment. He saw in them the potential to be a power couple. By antagonizing them and making sure everybody was conscious of what was happening with them, he made Ashley self-conscious and now they feel unable to become the power couple Ashley wants them to be. JP doesn't care. He just wants to catch fish and be strong.
Some Bottom Lines ...
Bottom Line, I. Cole didn't need to tell everybody about Joe's idol because Joe was already alienating people as was. Who complains that their Survivor potato chips weren't crispy enough? You can eat raw potatoes, Joe. Or give your undercooked potatoes to somebody else! Regardless, it was always going to be semi-easy to ostracize Joe because, as I've said before, he was the Healers' outlier. His personality and approach were never going to line up completely with the rest of the tribe and you could have squeezed him out in a different way. And by having the conversation as early as he did, before it was made necessary by an immunity loss, Cole expanded the number of people who could now be told about the idol after a shuffle. So whatever power his knowledge gave him, he diluted it for no reason.
Bottom Line, II. The concentration on Cole and Jessica when we've spent time with the Healers has left us with two really blank spots for Roark and Desi. It's easier to make the assumption that JP is dull because of how people have spoken about him. Nobody's said a word about Roark and Desi and they've barely said a word about themselves.
Bottom Line, III. Because the Hustlers have lost the past two weeks, they've gotten a lot of screen time and they've also contributed the most needless re-enforcing of the tribal themes. Hustlers keep talking about how they're hustling, while the Heroes and Healers haven't mentioned being heroic or healing for a long time. Again, give me a shuffle and then the season can actually begin.
Bottom Line, IV. I needed more of a payoff from Ryan appropriating Simone's thigh-high boots. Are they going to be mentioned again or was it just an odd way to start an episode? Which is more likely to return in a crucial role: Chekhov's Super-Immunity Idol or Chekhov's Simone's Thigh-High Boots?
Bottom Line, V. In an episode of romantic or objectifying babble, Jessica got the episode-title quote, but my favorite florid observation was Ashley's, "Every time he walks out of the ocean with a different animal on his spear, something happens inside me."
Bottom Line, VI. Serious Patrick was Scary Patrick. The poor loser who appeared after the votes were read is not a guy you want out there with you in Survivor, so better for the Hustlers, H-U-S-T-L-E-R Hustlers, that they only saw it after Patrick was sent packing.
Bottom Line, VII. Lauren has played centerfield for 25 years.
Be sure to check out Josh Wigler's awesome producer and exit interviews and head back next week for another recap!