Now that Colton — with holes where his heart and appendix used to hang out — has been shuttled off of Survivor: One World, I had some concerns about things getting dull around camp. I shouldn’t have, because look at Tarzan: rusty-mustached, inappropriately tearful, and ... what’s that? Pause it there. Is that dirt on Tarzan’s upper thigh, right below the tight elastic of his skivvie’s leghole? Or is it ... no, it couldn’t be. That’s what the ocean is for, or a hole in the ground. Right? More on this in a second.
The newly merged tribe, Tikiano, goes back to camp to find a nice cheese platter and some wine waiting for them. This season’s cast members aren’t starving quite as much as I’m used to seeing, and after 17 days I’m sort of ready for someone to cry because they miss spaghetti. Alicia is a little sour that Colton brought the idol back home with him, but she’s more chill without her bossypants dictator friend around to stoke her bitchfires. The next morning, Tarzan asks for coffee, which Jay refuses him on the basis of Tarzan being on the loser’s tribe when they won the coffee reward. Sort of selfish, but maybe the coffee was Salani’s magic potion that kept them winning? I don’t like to share coffee with losers either.
At the reward challenge — they played for beer, pizza (the isle of cheese!), and a secret note — the tribes are split into two teams again and four members of each team are sent scrambling through a sandy obstacle course to retrieve bags of puzzles for the remaining two members to assemble. The losing team (Jonas, Leif, Kim, Kat, Michael, and Tarzan) take a strategic gamble by sending Leif through first, and he loses a lot of ground by getting stuck going the wrong way through his limbo pole. This is awkward to watch: Jeff compares Leif to a turtle, and nobody likes to see trapped legs flailing from under a pole and some pounds of sand. The losers make up some ground only to fall behind again when Tarzan and Jonas fail to complete the puzzle quickly enough. (Tarzan’s leisurely banter with Jeff during puzzle time underlines and bolds the fact that he’s socially inept — after they lose, he goes, “Oh well.” Guess he filled up on brie the night before.)
The victors (Troyzan, Jay, Sabrina, Christina, Chelsea, and Alicia) open their secret note over label-free beer and slices (I think roasted vegetable, but don’t quote me). The note informs them that there’s still another immunity idol back at camp, and they decide to keep this information on the down low. In loserville, robustly bearded Michael tells Jonas that Tarzan hopes to keep the men’s alliance, and Jonas is unsettled because (a) Tarzan hadn’t told Jonas that yet, and probably still thinks his name is Jason, and (b) Michael was (briefly) a strong Salani member, and isn’t the most reliable confidante when handed the ailing Misfit Alliance’s plans.
When Jonas confronts Tarzan, Tarzan becomes defensive and nutty-eyed, quits the alliance, and wanders off to the beach to seethe like a gray-haired dictionary on fire. Troyzan, meanwhile, the Snow White of monkeys, wakes up early to hunt for the immunity idol, which he finds after some confusing expressionistic cuts (Troyzan’s hand going into a tree/an extreme close-up of a reptilian eye). Like people who wake up early always do, he smugs around for a bit about how lazy everyone else is for sleeping in until 5 a.m. Irritating, but I suppose you do find idols and deals on eggs at that hour.
At the immunity challenge — with a brand-new Etsy necklace featuring a skull and feathers for the individual lucky enough to risk avian flu by wearing it at stake — the castaways perch on wee platforms while balancing balls on a lipless tray. By the fourth shot of Troyzan’s five-finger barefoot-technology shoes, it is clear that he will win and that Vibram’s stock is going up. Kat, however, comes in a close second by taking the pose of a waitress holding two dozen overflowing cosmopolitans — is she experienced? Troyzan leaves with the immunity idol, in addition to the one he found when you were sleeping, you asshole. During the scramble back at camp, Jay brings up Jonas’s name, even though he can caramelize coconut and make it taste like hash browns, citing the fact that he’s a threat. After hearing that he might be on the block, Jonas apologizes to Tarzan and Troyzan for the earlier scuffle, bringing Old Man Willoughby the plastic surgeon to tears. He only cries like that over truly beautiful breast implants. The alliance is patched and a plan to vote off Kat is floated around, though they don’t have the numbers to pull it off.
Now we visit with Chelsea, who I keep forgetting exists at all. She’s often pictured with Jay, drawling under the foliage, but here she is scrubbing her clothes lustily in the ocean, preparing them for a dip in some boiling water. She’s being really thorough, as one does, and when she starts boiling up her wardrobe a big, lumbering beast in the form of Tarzan comes barreling over with a heavy-looking pair of manties. Sabrina notices that the concentration of dirt on said manties resembles — Tarzan’s words — "poop pants," and that she can’t even look at them. Plop! Into the pot they go, right on top of Chelsea’s sandblasted delicates. Chelsea hurries to lift the shape of Tarzan’s shame out of the pot (IS THAT WHERE THEY CARAMELIZE THE COCONUT? OH GOD ... ), but Tarzan tosses them right back in, and the lady doth protest too much: You’re okay, it’s not poop, it’s dirt! I swear to God! Boiling water kills the microbes! If they were poop pants, which they weren’t! But if they were, it doesn’t matter, the germs are dead and nothing else is disgusting about poo shut up! He digs himself an eight-foot grave of poop-pants justifications, and now nobody will let their clothes hang out in the suds tub with Tarzan’s. Because obviously.
Chelsea, moments later, is hit by a lightning bolt of brilliance: Hey, maybe instead of voting off the guy who’s a pretty good time and can cook, we vote off the guy who can’t remember our names and makes us feel dirty all over? Like all good ideas, however, nobody wrote this one down, and perhaps it was uncomfortably close to tribal council to switch things up. At tribal, Jonas pulls a bold (but miscalculated) move when he brings up Michael’s name as a more attractive alternative to his own: Michael is stronger, after all (though not in the last challenge, corrects Michael, who was non-proficient in balls). If Jonas had made a case for voting off Tarzan — perhaps risking his patched alliance with the fella, but with the advantage of being able to bring continence into the equation — I think he could have pulled it off. Tarzan is incensed that Jonas has shown his hand, claiming that he threw Michael “over the bus.” Jonas, probably feeling that he had little to lose, opines that they didn’t have enough votes to eliminate Kat; Kat goes “huh?” and an argument ensues. Save it for the credit vote montage, amateurs!
Tarzan tells everybody that he’s now voting for Jonas, and so it is: The fool in the storm has become the new emperor with no clothes, which sucks especially if you’re in a storm and you have no clothes because you went in them. Jonas, emotional and strangely giddy, goes back to caramelizing coconut somewhere more sanitary. Now the women have a numbers advantage, unless Christina the victim decides to take control of the game and appeal to the men.
As for Tarzan, what has repelled most of us has charmed Jeff: “Tarzan is so honest. That's what makes him so compelling to me — he means everything he says ... in the moment. Like now." It’s true that Tarzan is fascinating: bullheaded, seemingly clever and proficient in some areas (he diagnosed Colton’s appendicitis!) but totally dumb-witted in others (Chelsea was stirred to excuse herself to vomit after the laundry incident). He reminds me of Cochran: They’re both the kind of person who probably frequently thought, and even perhaps was told by other people, that he’d be really good at Survivor — that his encyclopedic knowledge of microbes or past seasons would offer him some kind of advantage. What’s interesting about the show is that it totally strips each individual of context (and nobody is necessarily who they say they are — just look at Russell Hantz) and exposes physical, social, and mental weaknesses in people who never knew they had any. Tarzan mentions that, in his bubble back on Dr. Tarzan’s Fantastic Planet, he manages quite well, but admits that he’s struggled to be likable or charming on the island; Colton, on the other hand, was made of social Teflon but had a wonky organ. There’s a randomness to what each season does to the castaways: the weather, the athleticism of wild chickens, the offhand remark overheard by an enemy. It is nearly impossible to predict the outcome of Survivor, at least most of the time, right up until the very end. There is no American Idol’s Jessica Sanchez — the best players are eliminated because they’re threats, the most strategically manipulative people defeated by a jury of their pissed-off peers, and sometimes it’s just a windy day and you draw the worst position for a challenge involving balancing feathers on your nose. At this point, Tarzan could become a walking pile of unintelligible dung and still stand a fighting chance of making it to the massage-on-a-yacht reward. They usually have a laundry service for that one. Somebody should warn the yacht captain.
Next week: a tremendously vague teaser. Kim wonders about how it’s all “going to go down.” I think that’s what the teaser is supposed to give us clues about. All I’m doing is counting down the days until Troyzan wakes up early and makes friends with some mischievous capuchins who steal his buff. Watch it one more time. It’s like injecting painkillers into your eyeballs.