Palau Episode 5: The Best and Worst Reward Ever

Previously, the Ulongites just kept losing. It's quite amazing, really, how there seems to be one tribe every season that gets decimated before the merge? Either this is nature's cosmic law about what will happen to society one of these days (yeah, I don't think so either), the show is scripted in a particularly repetitive manner (probably), or they keep casting the same idiots every season which is why I get pretty much the same stupid show every time (ding dong). I know this season is better than Vanuatu, but seriously, which season (other than Thailand) isn't better than Vanuatu? I'm just not getting into Palau as much as I should be and it's because I feel like I'm watching the same old story played by the same old fools, over and over they will be a fool for me and I will be a fool for Burnetto. Egads, we're all trapped in the same vicious cycle. And what is Burnetto doing to stem the staleness devouring his show? By coming up with increasingly ridiculous twists that rarely have long-lasting impact on the game, which is what he does in this episode.

I mean, all these twists, designed to "shock" - just what do they do, exactly? Burnetto wanted a "twist" in the first episode so he brought out twenty people only to send three home at the end of the episode. Okay, it get some people talking, but what exactly does it do? All it does is to quickly bring the contestant number down to seventeen. And today they kick two people away, which is a stale twist now that we've seen it in action in Vanuatu, which leaves us with fifteen people, which is precisely where this show was at this point in the previous season. The numbers are bigger and there are some shuffling, but in the end, nothing changes. The twists become more elaborate in the meantime, or becoming even more cruel, but like the numbers game I've mentioned, these twists are just window-dressings to hide the rot in the core of the show. Burnetto has pulled off these lame "twists" before on his other shows, with the nadir being the ridiculously overextended waste of time that is the finale of the season of The Apprentice, and I'm disappointed that he is pulling the same tricks here. Those tricks didn't save The Apprentice in the ratings and they certainly aren't doing The Contender any good.

But why should he care, eh? People are still watching Survivor. I apologize for the soapbox moment but I'd like to explain why my recaps of this season feel perfunctory and devoid of excitement. It's because I am not feeling any excitement for this season. I love this show at my very core and I don't want to see the show end but the show is becoming stagnant after ten seasons. Burnetto's "twists" are mere band-aids on a gaping wound that keeps festering. All I can hope is that he does something to stop the festering stagnation one way or the other.

Back to the show. Credits, yai yai yai uga uga uga. And now, night, day eleven, Camp of Horror. Ooh, J Lyo and Gregg are cuddling! (Since those two are recruited to be on the show, as opposed to being picked from normal applicants, maybe they are bonding over similar backgrounds.) Wait, is that a hyena assault on the camp? Oh no, hyenas are dangerous (I've seen The Lion King)! No, wait, that's not a hyena, that's J Lyo. Now I know why they don't show her speaking so often on the show: she laughs like she's a happy hyena giving birth simultaneously to six hyena babies that also laugh when they arrive in this world. If this show add some echo effects to J Lyo's giggling, they will succeed in capturing the sound that drive the world into stark, raving madness. Bring back Wanda's singing!

Cobb tells the camera that Gregg and J Lyo have "teamed off". Yes, and right now the team is moving towards second base, as Cobb tells me that he knows that those two are a couple because he can see that her hand is on his stomach. Wait, is he really sure that her hand is on Gregg's stomach? Maybe Cobb should take a closer look because I know I am waiting to know everything about two people that, so far, the show have taken pains to hide from me. Hey, I'm sure somewhere in Tanzania or Beijing two people are happily shagging - good for them - but do I care about these two people? No. By the same principle, since I have seen or heard nothing about Gregg and J Lyo, do I care whether they are shagging like bunnies or picking each other's fur for fleas? No, unless these two end up wounded, dead, or something, because then I'd be interested if only to see whether the same fate will fall onto some of the other losers on this show. Now, Cobb, where were we? Oh yes, he says ominously that the whole tribe knows of the "teaming off". But do they care? I'm sure they know where to send the postcard. I'll be right here, in the corner, keeping close watch for signs of intelligent life on Palau.

The Horrors decide to go to bed and wake Willard up, telling him that he's in charge of keeping an eye on the fire but if he doesn't like that, he can go try and "wake somebody up" to take over. Is that the way to treat an old man in a pair of grey bikini briefs? Bastards!

Over at Ulong, a storm hits the camp and Jumbles calls for order as they all go look for the nearby cave to seek shelter from the storm. So they get lost while looking for the cave. Well, it is pitch black out there so getting lost is an understandable gaffe, I suppose. Bobby Jon says that the cave is actually just three hundred yards from the shelter but they get lost, thanks to his leading the tribe. Oh, Bobby Jon. For someone who has dedicated himself to playing the tribe martyr, he is such good at creating instances to make himself a martyr from. Angie declares that she's going back to the shelter because scrambling around in the dark for a cave is stupid. Bobby Jon and Jumbles take her to task for "wanting to quit" and being pessimistic. I don't understand why she's being pessimistic or wanting to quit since it's obvious that the Ulongites will never find the cave in the first but... whatever. Finally Stephenie points out that the storm is worsening and standing under the trees while lightning dances in the sky isn't the best thing to do right now. The Ulongites then head back to their shelter, where Jumbles lecture his tribemates for not sharing his philosophy of never saying never. Bobby Jon says an amen to that speech. I shake my head at this scene. Angie is right and Jumbles and Bobby Jon have to retreat back to the shelter but those men still think that Angie is wrong in pointing out the obvious about how foolish the men were being. Well... whatever.

Morning, day twelve. The storm has hit the Ulong camp hard and everyone is cold and unhappy as they survey the damage caused by the storm. The weather doesn't seem to be improving.

Camp of Horror sees Tom looking exhausted as he lies on a hammock. He reveals that Willard hadn't tended to the fire last night since the man happily snored the night away. It was up to Tom the Mighty to keep the fire burning through the night and he is not happy about this. He and Gregg tell each other and the camera that Willard doesn't help with the fire at all - not even adding a log into the fire once in a while - and Gregg predicts that the longer the lazy Willard stays, the higher is the chance that Willard will betray everyone else. Huh? Tom says that he'd "unload" (ooh, that sounds kinky) in real life on anyone as lazy as Willard. Gregg tells the camera that Willard has gotten a "free ride" on this game because the Horrors never have the chance to vote anyone off in the Tribal Council. Ah yes, the tedious and proven-irrelevant "lazy asses don't deserve to win" argument. Now I know that I'm watching a stale and formulaic season of Survivor.

As per the show's pattern of forcing fifteen minutes of relentless stupidity on me before giving me a reprieve, reprieve is at hand when the show cuts to the Reward Challenge. Here's the beach, here are the standing platforms (which must be the same ones that were used in previous Challenges), and here is Jeff "Shut up, Philo, the Robfather loves me more!" Proboscis. He asks the two tribes whether they are ready to go on an adventure. They say no and tell him to go terrorize some wild boars. No, of course they say yes, duh. In this Challenge, each tribe must send someone out on a skiff using a network of pulleys and when this person reaches a buoy that marks the location of a "Japanese shipwreck", he or she must dive down and retrieve a sake bottle at the ocean floor. Repeat this six times and the first tribe to do so wins the reward. What's the reward? Dinner... at Tribal Council. Both tribes will be sending someone home today and the winning tribe, after dispensing of its unwanted member down the drain, can sit in on the losing tribe's Tribal Council, eat and drink to their faces, and listen in to their Tribal Council. Probby promises that this reward is great because the winning tribe can get valuable information of the other tribe in the Tribal Council. After all, the last two hundred Tribal Councils are nothing if not filled with shocking revelations, heartrending sincerity, and no-holds-barred heart-to-heart confrontations. Oh, and since both tribes are sending someone home tonight, Immunity Challenge is officially cancelled.

Horror sits out Willard, Janu, Katie, and Caryn. Probby gives the signal and... well, Ibrehem really costs Ulong plenty of time when he can't even dive under the surface long enough to get a bottle. Ian has the same problem but he manages to grab a bottle in a shorter time than Ibrehem. Stephenie is the star of Ulong today but in the end, it's no use. Ibrehem has bled too much time for Ulong so it's them going without dinner at Tribal Council tonight. Angie cries when her tribe loses. The camera zooms in on her because, as we shall soon see, this is a very important scene of foreshadowing, snort.

Over at the happy Camp of Horror, Ian gives a confessional that, to me, makes no freaking sense. He says that the Horrors need to win this Challenge, although I don't understand why, since they are winning nearly everything anyway. He feels sorry for the "decimated" Ulongites but he looks forward to learn of the Ulong dynamics at Tribal Council tonight. Why is that? Four people shouldn't be so hard to eliminate when there are eight people in Ian's tribe. He also looks forward to having a "party in his mouth", which isn't such a wholesome picture when I remember how these people don't get to brush their teeth properly on this show so there is is party in his mouth, so to speak. Ugh. I need to go floss myself. Cobb announces to everyone else that the Horrors should be sensitive to the hungry Ulongites when they eat later that day. I wonder whether that means they'll just chew slower than usual. Ian sings happy songs about not having to fish anymore. I think that song comes from the Marquesas Rothunk Four's Greatest Hits compilation.

Things are not so chirpy at Camp Ulong, understandably. Jumbles blames Ibrehem for the tribe's failure, evoking the "he just gave up - and we should all say never say never" argument, although during the Challenge he was the loudest to tell Ibrehem to just give up. Stephenie and the others, minus Ibrehem who is too busy showing everyone watching the show his amazing popped-out thingie (it's a... very long pixellated blur, let's just say) as he tends to the cooking, get together for their usual chat-yes-act-no pow-wow. Stephenie declares to the camera that she's an athelete so she doesn't take to losing well. To the others, she lament bitterly about having to see the Horrors eat while the Ulongites have to vote someone out on a hungry stomach. Oh, the humiliation. Bobby Jon tells her that everything happens for a reason. And what reason is that, exactly? Bobby Jon is all talk but no substance, I'm starting to believe. Stephenie is now holding out for a merge before she goes down with the rest of them.

Ibrehem tries to insist that he's been good at previous Challenges (which is to say, slightly better than he was earlier today) so maybe he shouldn't be tarred for today's defeat. No, it doesn't work, predictably. He asks Bobby Jon to tell him beforehand whether he is leaving. Bobby Jon agrees because he thinks that it is fair that Ibrehem goes after today's dismal Challenge performance. But... doesn't Ibrehem have a reason for that, Bobby? And here I am thinking that Bobby Jon is all about the understanding and forgiving of his fellow man.

Over at the Camp of Horror, everyone other than Willard cavort in the water and talk about booting Willard because, according to them, he is a "thinker dude". We can't have people who think on this show, after all. Tom says that Willard will win all the puzzle games so he'll win all the Immunities, which makes sense only if Tom is admitting that everyone else in Horror is an imbecile and every challenge after the merge is a puzzle-based one (which certainly is not the case). It occurs to me that maybe it is true after all that Willard is the "thinker dude". I don't think these people here think often. Tom also announces that he "cannot live" with the idea of Willard being in the Final Two. Sigh, and here I have some nice fantasy of Tom the Mighty being smart as well as capable. All my pleasant illusions about him are shattered. Oh, the pain!

Willard acknowledges that he is most likely the one being booted tonight but he is sanguine about that outcome, saying to the camera that trying to fight that outcome is like trying to "fight gravity". I don't know about that. Many female Survivors that came and gone fought gravity quite well with just a few nips and tucks here. That's quite a bad analogy, Willard. He tells Cobb that he has his grumpy and happy moments but he doesn't have the "ability to schmooze" so he understands very well why he is going. I'm sure he'll be happier to know that he is leaving because everyone else, according to Tom, is afraid of his intelligence. He asks Cobb whether Cobb can fit into his shorts. I hope he's not talking about his gray underwear and I hope he is talking about leaving Cobb his shorts to wear after Willard is evicted. Anything else is too kinky and will make this show fun and we all know that the FCC won't approve. Cobb tells the camera that he can't do anything to keep Willard because he doesn't have the numbers in the tribe to back him up and he doesn't want to risk his own neck unnecessarily. Both men agree that the "useless" Katie should be the one leaving. Cobb vows to "puke, puke, puke" if Katie gets farther than him in the game. And so she will, because the editing is so predictable this way.

Cobb gets a new life when Gregg approaches him for a walk and offers him an alliance. Gregg and J Lyo believe that they are the most dispensible members of the alliance of five between them and Ian, Katie, and Tom. Therefore, Gregg and J Lyo want Janu and Cobb to be with them so that they will form an alliance of four against the KIT alliance. As for Caryn, the plan is that she will be joining Willard in Loser Lodge soon enough. Conn accepts and giddily tells the camera that the plan of "Ken and Barbie" here has taken the game to "new levels". If that plot actually comes to be, I may actually start to become interested in this season because right now all I am watching - and recapping - are antics of relentlessly stupidity from both tribes. If this is what that will get me to feel some excitement again, I'm all for it. Go, Gregg! Go... um, what's her name again? Oh yes. Go, J Lyo!

But Cobb shouldn't be so comfortable with this new plan, because Gregg reveals to the camera - after reaffirming the decision to send Willard's behind off the camp with Tom - that he isn't sure whether he and J Lyo will stick with the KITs or form a new alliance. He is keeping his options open. Also, he complains about being considered one half of a "cute couple". Firstly, she giggles like a hyena and therefore she is not cute. Not that he is any better, come to think of it, because he will always be a poor man's Burtman in looks and strategy. Secondly, if he doesn't want J Lyo and him to be perceived as a "cute couple", maybe they should... oh, I don't know, be a little more discreet around the camp?

Night, Tribal Council. The Horrors' torches lose their virginity to the fire at last after five episodes of abstinence and a boring chit-chat session ensued where they talk about leaders (Tom is the leader in challenges, Ian lead when it comes to finding food), relationships (yucks, but at least I know now that Willard and Caryn are "close") and trust (yes, they trust everyone, or so they insist). And then it's time to do the necessary where everyone else purges Willard out of the tribe. Willard tells the Horrors to "finish" the Ulongites "off" by "staying strong" and "sticking to the plan". And after advocating genocide so casually like that, he's gone. Probby then sends in the main course and the Ulongites as dessert.

Willard talks about liking his tribemates and accepting his elimination because he can be a crabby old man. Only, he uses ten words to every one of mine in the previous sentence to drive home that point. What can I say? He's a lawyer.

The Ulongites take a seat and try not to look too miserable when the Horrors ooh and aah over their meal of stew, biscuits, and root beer. It's the "We Have No Sponsors So We're Cheap" Happy Meal. The Horrors remember to restrain their excitement just in time to noticeably play down their cries of joy. Now the Ulongites know they are being pitied. Sigh. It sucks to be down and then be kicked for being down, isn't it? Cobb, who earlier asked the Horrors to show some sensitivity, is now the loudest to exclaim about how delicious every bite and every slurp is. Is there a sensible person on this show? Anywhere, anyone? Probby tells the Ulongites that the Horrors are just here to eat and listen.

So now the Ulongites play pin-the-blame-on-Ibrehem's-dong before the Horrors. And Probby then reveals that he has lied to the Ulongites earlier when he told them that the Horrors are just here to listen. He wants the stunned Horrors to now vote for whom among the Ulongites should receive Immunity from eviction. Janu, Katie, and J Lyo decide that it is best to sabotage the Ulongites by tipping the scale and sending Immunity to Ibrehem. (According to Insider, Gregg votes for Angie, Cobb and Ian for Stephenie, and Tom and Caryn for Bobby Jon.) I wonder whether it is wise to keep a strong male in but it's obvious that the Horrors at this point have completely dismissed the Ulongites altogether. I wonder whether that smug assumption will bite them in their behinds.

Caught off-guard, the Ulongites now have to turn on each other. Stephenie and Angie vote for Bobby Jon while Ibrehem and Jumbles vote for Angie. Only Ibrehem, out of the loop as usual, votes for Jumbles. This forces a tie between Bobby Jon and Angie. Probby asks the remaining tribe members - Jumbles, Stephenie, and Ibrehem - to now make one last decisive vote between sending Bobby Jon or sending Angie home. Stephenie decides that, for some reason, she has to betray Angie so it is an unanimous vote of three for Angie to take a hike. Probby tells Ulong that they are still a tribe - a dying one with no hope in sight but still a tribe, I suppose - and send them off.

Angie says in her final words that she will never take things for granted again and she has learned how to be in a team. And with that, the only person to act in a sensible - if petulant - manner in the entire episode leaves the show, leaving behind a tub of dumb and a whole boat of idiocy for me to enjoy. Where should I send the "Thank you... I think" card meant for Burnetto?