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Survivor: “Actions vs. Accusations”

John Rocker (left), Josh Canfield
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For an episode with such a satisfying ending, the rest of it was sure dull. Survivor is in the unenviable position of having a tribe that has turned out to be a complete failure at everything but Tribal Councils, and the strain of that failure shows in this third installment of the season. There’s simply very little story left to tell at Coyopa already.

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What story there is at Coyopa revolves around John Rocker, and he is squarely the focus of this entire episode. So much so that his blindside is likely the least surprising Tribal Council outcome in the history of blindsides. Josh’s concerns about John’s allegiance following last week’s Val ouster are practically the first words uttered in the episode, which rolls into Jeremy’s disgust at John’s failure to keep Val in the game, which rolls into Jeremy telling the rest of his tribe about John’s history of racist remarks, which rolls into some tense times at the Immunity Challenge because of what Jeremy told everyone. Basically, John had a no good, very bad week of Survivor, and he was voted out for all of his troubles.

The disappointing thing is how an episode so focused on an awful person getting comeuppance for his history of awfulness was generally so not fun to watch. Most of this boils down to the rote inevitability of the episode structure, but much of it is due to the aforementioned tenseness at the Immunity Challenge. It’s hard to remember two tribes who have such a weird, negative energy toward each other during and after challenges (though I know there must be examples I am forgetting), but Coyopa and Hunahpu do not play nice. The whole nasty affair—which follows a pretty fun and competitive Immunity Challenge—starts when Natalie immediately talks trash once Hunahpu wins immunity, calling John out for being a racist, homophobe, and bad sport, and screams at his entire tribe to vote him out. Listen, John is probably all of those things, but hearing Natalie scream about it (when it’s really not any of her business, at least at this point) isn’t a walk in the park, either. It is so obnoxious that I even took John Rocker’s side for a few agonizing, short seconds, right up until he couldn’t keep quiet any longer and started leveling not-so-vague threats Natalie’s way. The whole thing is just ugly and uncomfortable, and not a good time. When everyone’s an asshole, no one wins. (That’s an old Chinese proverb, I’m pretty sure.) (Don’t look it up.)

The one bit of new insight we get this week at Coyopa is just how much Josh appears to be running things at that tribe. The presence of the all-male alliance was a big talking point this week, with Baylor working hard to make inroads against it yet she be the next to go home. But the all-male alliance quickly goes by the wayside when Josh decides it’s time to vote out John instead of his ally Baylor. He practically orders Wes, Baylor, and Alec to join him for an alliance, promising they will “take over the game,” and the impressive part is that everyone does this with very little questioning or concern about what Josh is doing. Sure, it’s a perfectly fine move to take out John—especially when the tide is so turned against him, socially speaking—but the only person who even questions it for a second is Alec, and Alec just isn’t the person who is going to rock the boat. In fact, no one in Josh’s tribe looks like the type to rock the boat except maybe Baylor, but with her now firmly on his side Josh is putting himself in a pretty darn good position.

Now, if only Josh’s tribe could win a challenge or two that would be a good thing, both for him and for the game. Because Hunahpu’s challenge domination sure is getting boring.

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Stray observations:

  • John went home with an idol in his pocket. This is pleasing.
  • John’s soundbite about “I made a few comments back which I regret; I wish I didn’t run my mouth so stinking much” was totally an edited together monstrosity. No way he said those things in that context. Ever.
  • Dale was the only person out of the loop on the John vote, and it showed in his quizzical face as the votes were read. You’re in danger, Dale.
  • So the “Drew’s a moron” montage was setting up next week, yes? Drew is a moron in a way I find funny and pathetic, so the footage from next week amused me.
  • Keith remains great and it was touching to see him and Wes have a father/son moment, even if it was confusing. Why were they talking about dead people all of a sudden?
  • “If you were a man, I’d knock your teeth out.” Charming!
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