One of Survivor's favorite viewer-ensnaring tricks is to open the show in the camp of the previous episode's losing tribe. This allows the producers to get an inside (translated: cheap night-vision) look at the knife-sharpening theatrics of the angry, angry contestants, as the tensions raised in tribal council subsequently spill over in continuously-filmed semi-private. And this episode is no different. Or is it?
According to the graphic on the screen, we're in the Rotu camp, on the last night of Episode 1. But they didn't lose, did they? And what's going on here? Seems to be some sort of group-groping thing, and there's Gabe in a voice-over, proclaiming them the "Love Tribe." We knew that, since this is Episode 2, and the contestants are due to eat some of the foulest "food" imaginable, there would be much vomiting involved this week. We just didn't think it would be this soon. Has the whole world gone mad?
Ah, but there's poor, uh, "assertive" Kathy sleeping outside the hut by the fire. Looking for all the world like it was in a van, down by the river. Maybe this is Survivor after all. Yes, yes, it must be, because, after spending all of three days eating the abundant fruits of their tropical paradise, the Rotus are whining about the food already. Robert is apparently on death's door, because he hasn't been able to go through the McDonald's drive-thru in over 72 hours. Luckily, Scheming John has come up with a surefire plan to save Robert, and pick up the cool million at the same time: Taking Mark Burnett hostage, then sailing off into the South Pacific on the production crew's luxury liner, all the while singing jaunty pirate shanties. Truly, it's a scary thing what three days without highly-processed animal protein will do to the human brain.
Actually, Rotu has come up with several "innovative" (highly comical) hunting devices, most of which seem to have been ordered straight out of Wile E. Coyote's treasured Acme catalog, and involve some kind of stretchable rubber band thing. We're particularly impressed with John's pig snare, which might actually work if a curious pig mistook the bright yellow snare for, say, a six-foot length of Tropical Banana fruit roll-ups, or something. Still, John's pretty sure this is his ticket to the final four. It's not clear how he's going to off the (possibly drugged) pig who may someday eventually trip the snare, but we're pretty sure he plans to bore it to death with a marathon discussion of his brilliant strategies.
Over at Maraamu, boredom has set up a beachead as well, and the "Brains Tribe" decides to pass the time by giving America what it so desperately needs - yet another "wild and crazy" morning radio team. Resident cut-up Hunter "Mad Dog" Ellis delivers a hilarious riff on the most funny of all topics, the weather, leaving the entire drive-time audience in stitches, shortly after they crash their cars into the median strip from their uncontrollable gales of laughter.& Rob "Hacksaw" Mariano chips in with a side-splitting description of breakfast foods, and "Kooky" Sean Rector brings it home with a song that everyone seems to think they've heard, or at least are willing to smile politely at, to make it appear that way. Sadly, the unmitigated success of the indie operation is snuffed quickly, as the station is bought by Clear Channel later that hour, and replaced by a feed of Howard Stern, followed by a computerized playlist featuring a Staind or Creed song at least once every twenty minutes. That and Momma (Patriica) tells everyone to get off their lazy butts and get back to work.
Apparently, now that goofy Peter is no longer cramping her dictatorial style, what with his constant "chilling" and such, Momma is happy to let it all hang out. If something needs doing, she's not afraid to roll back her spandex and frighten someone else into helping her do it. Gina is pleased with this development, because otherwise she'd have to be the bossy Southern chick herself, and besides, she's too busy trying to convince everyone that, since Sarah is covered in no-no scabs, she (Gina) deserves to be crowned Miss Maraamu, swimsuit competition be damned!
Which tribe was the 'Love Tribe,' again? Hunter shows Rob that the proper strategy is not to tie yourself down to one woman so quickly.
Things are moving along swimmingly back at Rotu, as their collective efforts have produced a mammoth haul of one scrawny-looking shrimp. But in no time at all, Kathy is whistling up a storm, and showing poor John up by inviting everyone to a tasty feast of slithery things smashed against the rocks. Today's entree: slimy stuff, sand, and bits of shell. Dig in! Oh yeah, you'll be your own server today. And build me a hut while you're up, okay?
And as the commercial break draws closer, tantalizingly closer, we're treated to one more round of Patricia laying down the law in Maraamu. Shockingly, this doesn't go over well with the rest of the tribe, most of whom are convinced that they, themselves, should be the one bossing everyone around. Hooray! Twenty minutes down, and no action! Unless you count Momma getting rubbed down by Hunter, or Rotu's merciless bivalve slaughter.
Luckily, when we come back, there's still time to slip in one of Mark Burnett's most treasured themes - all African-American men are lazy - before the reward challenge. True, he did depart from this in the African version, where he implied that some may be thieves as well, but it just wouldn't be Survivor without a product placement ad for the Aryan Nations. Admittedly, there are new wrinkles this time: Sean is smart and devoutly Christian. But above all, he must also be abjectly lazy. How do these casting interviews go, exactly? "You have a tremendous resume, sir, and that Nobel Prize in Chemistry looks like it's yours to lose this year, but we have a Korean-American gentleman who we just can't turn down for the 'ethnic male' slot, not unless you can agree to sit around lackadaisically for hours on end once you get out there. Do we have a deal?"
But there's always bossy Kathy to distract us from such issues, and she tells Rotu in no uncertain terms that if she's going to be the slime-encrusted crustacean winner around here, they'd better get busy building her a shelter, chop chop. And no shoving her out of this one at night. Oh, and you'd better thank me for the food while you're at it. Seriously, why is it that everyone is a bunch of assholes, and I'm the only normal person? Can't you people answer that? Huh? Ingrates.
Eventually, the reward challenge happens, sometime in the fifth hour of the show. All they have to do is remove rocks from a sunken rowboat, bail it out, then row to shore. Proving once again why they are universally known as the Brains Tribe, Maraamu approaches this strategically, deciding it's best for Hunter to do all the diving and rock-moving parts, since Sarah can't get to the bottom without a weighted belt. Meanwhile, Rotu not only sends the entire tribe down in small teams, they quickly figure out it's easier just to turn the boat over and dump the rocks out. Maraamu notices this, and waits for Hunter to get it done. By this time, Rotu has also figured out that dumping the boat over speeds up the bailing process, too. As Rob goes down and removes one more rock, it almost occurs to someone in Maraamu that this might have been a good time to have had Peter around, holding his breath for hours, but then they notice a shiny penny in the water, and they get distracted. Hours have passed since Rotu has wandered away, giddily clutching their fishing equipment prize, when Jeff Probst decides to call the challenge, since it appears the Maraamu have forgotten all about the racing aspect, and are stretching out on their dock to catch a few rays. Once again, he is heard to mutter, "I can't believe I gave up Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy for this."
Having done so well in yet another challenge, it's time for Maraamu to bicker again about hut-building. Like Sean, Patricia, Rob, and probably Gina, Sarah is annoyed that everyone else has annointed the wholly undeserving Hunter the leader, when it should righfully be her. When this is not immediately made so, she stalks off in a huff. Everyone else, feeling betrayed and oppressed by Hunter's easygoing charm and grinning white teeth, swiftly follows suit.
Which is, of course, the ideal preparation for the gross food immunity challenge. In a brilliant leap of directing genius, this season's delectable delicacy is fafaru, which is essentially raw fish marinated in fermented water. Mmm. Although, and far be it from us to point out the obvious, it looks exactly like sushi. Which is actually quite tasty. Sure, the stench of fafaru may well be overpowering, but psst, Mark: you can't smell things that are on TV... pass it on. As always, everyone eats the allegedly foul stuff. And only Rob, who we'll note seemed to have about 10 times the volume of fish his competitor Neleh did, has the courtesy to bring it back up to show the audience watching at home. That being during the final faceoff, Rotu wins immunity, and it's back to Tribal Council for the brilliant Tribe With Seven Chiefs.
Once there, they break with protocol of seasons past, and openly attack one another. Hey, maybe this is like the first season, after all! Cruelly, Mark Burnett seems to have bowed to censor wishes, and edited out the clothes-shredding Gina-Sarah catfight that erupted during Jeff Probst's interrogation, but there's still hope that the same matchup will soon be featured on FOX's Celebrity Boxing. Judging from the caliber of that show's lineup, this group should be desperate enough to participate in about, oh... three hours after the final episode airs. Anyway, after much subterfuge (including Sean swearing either he or Sarah are toast), Patricia gets the boot. Around America, people mark their calendars for the oddly-scheduled next episode, silently begrudging the fact that they may have to sit through a full hour of this just to see the Snickers commercial.