Palau Episode 8: Neanderthal Man

Previously, the Horrors, having won everything, are discovering that paradise can be too crowded for all of them and cracks are showing between suballiances within the happy tribe. The bad news continue for Ulong, culminating in Bobby Jon tossing aside Ibrehem in favor of Stephenie. So now they are down to two. What awaits Ulong this week?

Credits. Oh, Wanda. If she is around, she could be singing happy songs and Ulong won't be as sad as they are right now.

Night, day eighteen, shortly after Ibrehem was booted in the recent Tribal Council. At Camp Ulong, Stephenie is trying to thank Bobby Jon for voting with her at the Tribal Council but her small talk only receives some curt grunts in response as Bobby Jon works at the dying campfire. To the camera, she talks about how she managed to last another week when she was certain that Bobby Jon would ally with Ibrehem and boot her out during Tribal Council. She is, naturally, happy because nothing can go wrong in Ulong now. Nothing! Back at camp, Bobby Jon tells her that she should have trusted him when he gave his word to her because his word was golden. Of course, that isn't true as his confessionals revealed in the previous episode but I think by now everyone can deduce that Bobby Jon isn't the brightest bulb in the bulb factory and there is no point in expecting more from him. In his confessional, an emaciated but still hot Bobby Jon explains that he kept Stephenie over Ibrehem even when he was closer to Ibrehem because Stephenie is stronger than Ibrehem. He had to "rule out feelings" when he wrote Ibrehem's name down. Aww, the poor man. Thinking is so hard on him. It will be over soon, so hang in tight, Bobby Jon. Stephenie tells the skeptical Bobby Jon and, after that, an even skeptical me that she is confident that they will finally score that elusive victory. Three may be a "weird" number, but now they are down to two of the best people, in her opinion, to score a victory. Ulong will rise again! Ulong will rule! Ulong will kick ass! And... and... oh Stephenie. Sigh.

Oops, is it morning already? Alright then, it's now day nineteen. I suppose the show will have to give the Horrors some screentime, although what could be interesting at their side, I have no idea. Tom the Mighty, contrary to his assertions that he want to lay down low to avoid being seen as a physical threat, has hanged the head of the shark he killed in the previous episode over the terrace of the shelter. Masculine pride takes a beating when the rotting shark head predictably attracts swarms of flies to vacation at the Horror Happy Home. Rats are also taking over the place. If I look closely, I think some of those rats are holding a political rally around some half-eaten coconuts. Katie, who is probably the first Survivor in history to put on at least twenty pounds nineteen days into the show, sits on the table and watches the rats around her warily. Heaven forbids that she actually does anything other than making knots and pretty puppets, after all. Tom and Gregg discuss the rats and Tom tells the camera that he doesn't know why the rats are everywhere.

Cobb thinks he knows why. He tells the camera that the tribe is becoming sloppy. Of course, he whines that everyone should have listened to him and now the Horrors deserve the calamity of rodents and flies that befall them because they never listen to Cobb. Maybe if he tries being a little diplomatic instead of flying off the handle with the others, he'd get some things done. I understand how he could feel exasperated and impatient with the others but on this show, showing such feelings would get him into trouble even if he's right. Cobb complains that the shark head is attracting flies and stinking up the camp but Tom never moves it when Cobb asks him to. Cobb also complains that Katie, J Lyo, and Janu never do anything around the camp and the other men enjoy catering to these useless creatures. Calling himself "too much of a feminist" to sit around and watch these happenings around him, he declares that he wants to push all three useless women into the fire. I understand the general underlying sentiment about his disgust with the conditions of the tribe but I hope he's not this bitchy when he's with the other Horrors or his ass is toast.

Hmm, it seems that Horror, from all appearances a strong and united tribe, is coming off as a tribe that has become so complacent and bloated with its own glory that it is like a fat carcass of a decadent Roman emperor ready to be assassinated by some angry rebels. This could only mean one thing: Horror is about to collapse on itself in the grand tradition of "Utopian wonder tribes" like Rothunk and Quack. Anyway, I always believe that the whole "Ulong is the worst tribe ever because they never win anything" thing is not entirely true because previous weak tribes like Maramoomoo were saved from complete decimation by tribal switches. If those tribal switches didn't happen, Ulong won't be the worst tribe in the history of the show.

The show cuts to the beach where Probby awaits with a Reward Challenge. Probby tells the Horrors that Ulong may be down to two but they are still a tribe. That's reassuring. Today's Challenge is a gross food challenge where the gross food in question is balut, a local delicacy of duck embryo. You can actually find street hawkers in some areas in the Philippines selling them, by the way. Not that I ever find the fortitude to try one, of course. Probby points out gleefully that the duck embryos are twenty days old so the legs and the beaks are already well-defined. The challenge takes place in rounds. In round one, one balut will be served. Two will be served in round two, three in round three, and so forth. The tribe that eats the most baluts will win a gallon of fresh water with showerhead attached for those too lazy to scoop the water out of the tank along with plenty of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and other toiletry goodies from Scope. Watching the toiletry bonanza that Probby is unveiling, poor Stephenie is hard-pressed not to cry or grab those goodies forcefully from Probby. Hey, why do the Horrors need all these things anyway? They already have a shower, right?

Ian and Tom the Mighty step out for the Horrors to stand against Stephenie and Bobby Jon. Tom finishes a balut, followed shortly by Stephenie. Ian and Bobby Jon now square off. Bobby Jon struggles but Ian has time to banter and flirt with Probby, which would no doubt earn him bonus points at the finale when an enraged Colby runs Ian down with his Harley. Both men manage to down their servings of two baluts each. Tom and Stephenie finish three baluts despite Tom's deceptively nonchalant attempts to unnerve Stephenie by talking about how he can feel the feet of the duck embryo that he is munching on. Bobby Jon and Ian both manage to finish their serving of four baluts each. For the tie-breaker round, for some reason Stephenie and Bobby Jon decide that he is the one who should face Tom. Personally I'd think Stephenie is the better choice as she struggles less than Bobby Jon when it comes to eating those duck embryos. Tom eats his five baluts one at a time while foolish Bobby Jon chucks all five into his mouth and then struggles valiantly to chew them all. The inevitable has to happen: Bobby Jon and Stephenie go back to camp empty-handed and defeated. "Man, I almost had him," Bobby Jon says bitterly. Not quite. Come to think of it, it's not even not quite as much as not at all.

The Horrors now put on a product placement thingie ad for Scope when they anticipate the pleasures to be had from those sponsored beauty products and toiletry goodies. But actually experiencing those pleasures is another matter when Tom square off against the others when it comes to the use of the gallon of fresh water they have won. He wants it to be used only for drinking while J Lyo wants to use it for her all-important shower. Tom is unable to believe that "some people" want to waste the fresh water on showers and stuff. I guess he is trying to say that there is nothing wrong in bathing in the sea. However, for useless creatures like J Lyo, I'm sure they'd rather not make the effort to walk into the sea. Cobb as usual tries to stick his nose into any confrontations by defending J Lyo but J Lyo says that she'd let the matter drop. To the camera, she says that she doesn't want to stand out as the only one who wants to argue with Tom about this matter. And then she complains that Tom decides what the tribe should do with the water without considering the opinion of "other people" (read: her). She hopes that this autocratic side of Tom would lead to his downfall. How does this silly and annoying creature get to be in Horror while Stephenie is languishing in Ulong?

Over at Ulong, Bobby Jon is unable to get over the fact that he has lost to Tom again and again. He is sure that he could have beaten other people in Horror but he always have to end up facing Tom. He thinks that his losing to Tom is "getting real, real old". He exercises his frustration by chopping wood and generally acting like a frustrated macho man needing to break things to feel better about himself. Stephenie tells the camera that he is starting to scare her.

And over at Horror, that fat hen Katie talks about how winning everything has brought on "days of monotony" to the tribe and suspects that they will have to "eat each other" once the merge arrives. She should know about eating since I suspect that is mostly what she does to pass the time. Seriously, how does one gain weight on this show anyway? Elsewhere, Janu gets comfortable on the hammock, the others are gathered around the picnic table admiring the view.

Tom and Ian decide to meet privately for some pow-wow, where Tom asks Ian for the "State of the Union report". Ian reports that Gregg and J Lyo will most likely sell them out. It seems that Gregg and J Lyo wanting to form an alliance with Cobb and Janu isn't such a secret after all, hmm. I have a feeling that Cobb won't be happy to learn about this as he has been banking on that alliance to topple the tirumvirate of Ian, Tom, and Katie. Ian tells the camera that they need to get rid of at least Greg or J Lyo because it is foolish to allow those two to remain as a single voting bloc. But he chuckles when he remembers that they can't vote anyone out as yet and calls Horror's winning streak as one "on the verge of utter ridiculousness". Tom then brings up the alliance they made with Stephenie on the second day of the show, before the Survivors were separated into tribes by Ian and Jolanda. Tom explains that only the four people in this alliance are aware of its existence and he believes that after all this time, the alliance still holds between the three Horrors and Stephenie. Needless to say, both men are glad that she manages to hang in there within the fast-dwindling Ulong. "Stephenie would be the wolf in the sheep's clothing that they wouldn't even see coming!" Tom tells the camera. Ian tells Tom that the four of them will be the final four. And... that means this lovely plan won't happen, right, or the show won't reveal it so soon? Maybe Stephenie will be the one to bring the downfall of the tirumvirate when she sells them out to the others, who knows?

Morning, day twenty. Poor Stephenie. Bobby Jon goes about his morning ritual of chopping up coconuts when he emits this strange grunting sound that has her asking him whether he has hurt himself. He says that he just likes to make noise when he feels like it. She tells him that her boyfriend behaves just like that and she cannot stand him when he does that. Bobby Jon cocks his head at her and goes, "Really?"

Stephenie tells the camera that she and Bobby Jon don't really have much in common so they don't have too many rivetting conversations. Besides, he's turning into what she calls a "caveman" - cut to Bobby Jon giving a belch that would make Jabba the Hut proud - and he also smells really bad. Stephenie points out that she probably doesn't smell too good herself but at least she tries to clean herself at a regular basis. She doesn't think that Bobby Jon bothers with personal hygiene anymore. He also eats "everything", and by "everything", Stephenie means that Bobby Jon just stuffs everything in his mouth and chomps it down - shells, bones, and anything and everything else. Maybe he's overcompensating for the balut fiasco. Oh, and Bobby Jon spits everywhere, including in their sleeping areas. He apologizes to her about that but he keeps doing it anyway. Stephenie is not a happy woman.

But making things worse is her knowing that the Horrors are enjoying life while she and Bobby Jon can barely move their heavy boat into the sea to catch their next meal. It takes all their combined effort to move the boat into the water. As she starts crying to the camera, she insists that she is not going to give up hope no matter what and she is going to keep trying to be strong even when there doesn't seem to have much hope left for Ulong.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet one of the future Final Four Survivors. Stephenie has been given the heroic edit so much that it is inconceivable that she will not last long after this week. The question now is just how far she can go and who will be in the Final Four with her. Hmm, I think the show has finally become interesting for me!

Day twenty one now, still at Ulong. Bobby Jon manages to catch a fish as well as a clam and they are both thrilled to have some protein. Stephenie hopes that the morale boost they have from that satisfying meal will help them in the upcoming Immunity Challenge. Unfortunately, their tree-mail comes with those danged puzzle thingies again. Goodbye, Ulong. Stephenie tells Bobby Jon that winning this Immunity is crucial because the fate of the tribe literally depends of them winning. She is confident that they will win today. I have heard that song before. It always ends in heartbreak.

Immunity Challenge time. Probby explains that in this challenge, two members from each tribe have to swim out, one at a time, into the sea, pull themselves along a rope (held in place under a pontoon), and collect a bag of puzzle pieces. There are four bags to collect. The puzzle pieces within these bags form a word-search. The tribe must solve the word search. Each time a word that is found in the puzzle intersects with another, the letter in that intersection forms part of a three-word phrase. The first tribe to unscramble this three-word phrase wins Immunity. Gregg and Cobb will be competing against Stephenie and Bobby Jon.

Stephenie trails behind Gregg in the retrieval of the first puzzle bag but Bobby Jon furiously dives into the sea to the point that Probby remarks that Bobby Jon is nearly walking on water. Well, he does look like Jesus sometimes, that Bobby Jon. Ahem, anyway, he manages to catch up with Cobb. Capitalizing on Bobby Jon's speed, Stephenie manages to actually have a lead over Gregg in the next swim. However, Bobby Jon fumbles in the subsequent swim, probably too exhausted from his previous swim that he can't dive quickly to grab his bag. Cobb catches up with him so both tribes are tied when they start working on assembling the word-search. The Ulongites botch that stage so badly that they are just starting the word-search when the Horrors are trying to rearrange the letters to spell the three-word phrase. Stephenie tries to take a peek at the Horrors' work but Probby catches her at it, dang. The phrase is "victory at sea" and yes, the victor is Horror once again. Probby tells the Ulongites that Tribal Council will see them competing in a challenge where the loser will have to leave the tribe. He'll see them later.

Over at Horror, Cobb is gloating over the decimation of Ulong. Caryn is amazed that a ragtag tribe consisting of a hairdresser, go-go dancer, and other assorted characters manage to be so strong. Katie is amazed too. Cobb crows that everyone in the tribe makes the Jury now. Woo-hoo! And then it's time for Cobb's sad story. Apparently he was picked on by bullies as a kid and how everyone called him a sissy until he had to stop school. Now the likes of Ian are telling him how well he did in Challenges so he's finally part of a team and he appreciates the experience. Since he spends so much time bitching and whining about the team, he probably doesn't appreciate the team that much though.

At Ulong, both Bobby Jon and Stephenie commiserate about how awful it is to keep losing even when they try so hard not to and how it is worse that they will leave the show without winning Immunity even once as a tribe. And then, in a scene that can't scream "foreshadowing" more than if it comes with a sign lit up by neon bulbs, they realize that their fire is out. Bobby Jon gets the fire started quickly and Stephenie marvels at his ability to do so in a short time and with such ease. Stephenie tells the camera that it will be difficult staying in the camp alone (or as alone as she can be with the cameramen, lighting crew, soundmen, and other folks lingering around and pestering her for a confessional). She also says that Bobby Jon can do more things around the camp that she can't do on her own so she'll be alone without help out here. Bobby Jon tells the camera that he doesn't see any difficulties that can arise if he has to live in this camp alone. Saying that he can fish, make fire, scavenge food, and more, he concludes that he can stay out here in the wilderness by himself "for weeks". That will be an interesting reality-show spin-off, I'm sure. Maybe he can be the bachelor in Outback Jack 2.

As evening falls, the two of them paddle off to Tribal Council. Bobby Jon tells the camera of Stephenie, "I think she even thinks when she sleeps so she's thinking right now, 'How am I going to kick Bobby Jon's ass?' That's just how she is." What really endears him to me is how he is saying all this with a tone of sincere admiration in his voice. He says that he will be looking out for himself and he will have no qualms in defeating Stephenie this time. "It's Team Bobby Jon right now!" he says.

Night, Tribal Council. After the initial chat about how strange and awkward this faux-Final Two situation is and life about the camp (I really like how Bobby Jon reassures both Probby and Stephenie that she can actually do more things in camp that she believes bu rattling off a list of things that she help to do around the camp), Probby reveals that the challenge to determine the last standing Ulongite involves the making of fire. Both of them would be given twenty-five matches and plenty of coconut husks. There is a torch hanging horizontallya distance above their pot.. The first person to pile the husks in their pot, light the pile, and get the fire high enough to set this torch alight gets to stay in the game. Stephenie looks worried because she knows that Bobby Jon is supposedly better at making fires than her. But as they work, sure enough Bobby Jon starts his fire first but Stephenie blows on her fire while he doesn't. This allows Stephenie's fire to quickly flame up and light up the torch.

"Bobby Jon, the tribe definitely did not speak tonight," says Probby as Bobby Jon sadly comes up to him to get his torch snuffed out, "nonetheless it's time for you to go." Aye, goodbye Bobby Jon. Take a long rest at Loser Lodge because you don't have to think so much and you can just stop worrying about yourself and the world now. As for Stephenie, she clearly doesn't want to return to Camp Ulong alone. "So..." Probby says as he grins at her the way a lion would grin at a cornered mouse. "It's just me now," Stephenie says, unable to believe it herself. Probby sends her back to camp after wondering aloud what the next day would hold for Stephenie. And there she goes, the last woman standing in Ulong, walking back to camp. For all her strengths and flaws, I can't help liking this tenacious lady and I believe I will be rooting for her to go far in the next few episodes.

Oh, Bobby Jon. He is clearly not cut out for thinking but what is it about him that makes him so gallant, so noble, so beautifully tragic as a martyr who keeps trying and trying only to finally fall to the sword? I can't define this quality of Bobby Jon that makes him so appealing to me. I suspect that it's the same quality that has me sighing for Heathcliff and other brooding dark-haired bright-eyed melodramatic males. Bobby Jon's final words only make me sigh one more time for poor Bobby Jon. He has no ill-will about his experience, which he says has given him plenty of things to learn about himself. He intends to change his way of living when he goes back to reflect this new insight he has about himself. He also wishes Stephenie luck and talks about how proud he is of her, whom he calls "the top player in the game" because, as he says, "the girl's almost invincible". Awww. I'll miss him.