For all its reliance on a set of newly minted underdogs who were remarkably un-rootable, this episode captured the essence of Survivor. It allowed the repurcussions of the previous episode's major event at Tribal Council to play out, and explored the social consequences of Penner's betrayal of the Raro alliance. Sure, it also showcased its own production-inflicted contestant suffering, sending Candice away from the auction for an absolutely pointless night on Exile Island. Despite that, the episode an in-depth look at the dynamics of success, failure, and betrayal in a social game. As Survivor was intended.
That's bollocks and you know it
Obviously, the decision (made mostly by Penner, but strongly supported by Ozzy) not to share Penner's fish with the lackadaisical Raro Three of Candice, Adam, and Parvati, was one of the major events here. But was it really that bad, considering that just three days earlier, they'd admitted among themselves that they sort of enjoyed laying around, forcing Penner to feed them in order to maintain his place in the game. So when the merge reversed that power relationship, all of a sudden it's Penner who's revealing his true colors, and an arrogant rat? Really, if the Raros were so hurt by Jonathan not sharing his fish, why didn't they just catch some of their own? Oh, right. Because Parvati has barely even bothered to watch someone gut a fish, let alone catch one.
One large plate of cruelty, covered. Bids start at $20
"Gee, Probst, thanks a ton for making me spend $640 on a punishment for someone else and, by extension, me. Signed, Becky."
As purely cruel as it was to force Becky to send someone to Exile Island, even after Yul pointed out, in front of everyone, that there was no idol there to find, it's important to note that this alleged "power" item was a total booby trap. Ever since this auction item, every "advantage" or "power" item sold has actually been helpful (unless we're missing something, but at least in Gabon, Tocantins, Samoa, Philippines, and Caramoan). Alert players have wisely been saving their cash in order to put down a $500 instant bid, shutting everyone else out. Why not mix in an advantage that's actually harmful, like this one, to keep players off balance? Secondary question: Why has the sharing of money been done away with as a feature?
That's out of order, and you know it
When Sundra gets her crappy sea-cucumber-in-a-jar, neither Parvati nor Ozzy seems to have gotten their auction items yet. Even though it's presented as the last item in the auction. Why show it out of order? Wouldn't Ozzy's faulty ice cream machine be more impressive closer to the end? Did we really need Parvati's bath jumped so far forward?
Penner to the Penner power, plus...?
Despite his obvious natural exuberance, one has to wonder if any of Penner's actions in this episode were production-coached. Or, dare we say... acted? He was over-the-top in his excitement at the auction, even by Penner standards.
It's not hard to imagine someone hinting, pre-auction: "Hey guys, we won't have time to air everything we sell here. This is like a game show, show some excitement if you want your time with the host televised. Don't be afraid to jump up and down, and cheer, and stuff." Also, having spent a huge number of confessionals the previous few episodes complaining about the Raros' complete absence of work ethic, one has to wonder if a producer ever asked him: "Do those kids really deserve all the fish you're catching them? Really, you think so? They seem awfully ungrateful." Not scripted, exactly, but a little nudge in the intended direction?
Of all people who could possibly win a recall-and-math challenge, Adam would seem to be one of the least likely victors. And yet, there he was, so far ahead in the final stage that he casually sauntered over to the flag to raise it, back turned in showboating douchebaggery. Most shocking, he's close to the only person in history to give a "I really need to win this immunity today" confessional prior to an IC, who then went on to win. Ha, Adam does everything wrong.
Um, whatever you say, hyung
The scene in which Yul and Becky are discussing whether they should switch things up right away and vote out Penner first, in order to make the Raro Three hate Yul less, is bizarre. Why is it Becky's job to make Yul look great to potential jurors? Isn't that just a tad condescending of Yul to be asking? And even though she doesn't actually say anything, why would Becky even respond with anything positive? And why would Yul presume that any advice she gives him in that situation actually benefits him, and not Becky? And finally, why are they talking about booting Penner, when this may be their only chance, ever, to boot Ozzy? Why? Why?
Oh, there you are
After a mere hint that verged on empty bragging during the immediate post-switch Raro days, we were finally shown Parvati Shallow playing Survivor in this episode, as she attempted to pry her way into the crack she saw emerging between the Aitu women and Penner. It didn't actually work in this episode, and really only advanced her cause by a single boot, but still, it was nice to see something that suggested her return invitation in Micronesia wasn't just because she didn't get along with Penner. But the best part was that Adam had not even the faintest idea what she was talking about when she mentioned seeing these cracks in Aitu after the auction.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Candice Woodcock
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes