Is it wrong to like an episode just because a very, very annoying person in that episode doesn’t get something he wants? I sure hope so, because watching Rodney get set up for reward challenge failure by the editors was a darn good time. Forget any actual gameplay, because the sad, glorious saga of Rodney’s awful birthday is this episode’s true strength.

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So yes, it is Rodney’s birthday, and it so wonderfully for our entertainment happens to fall on a reward challenge day. Throughout the season Rodney’s hopes and dreams have steadily lead up to this day, when he expects to be granted a reward simply because he happened to be born on this day. He’s so confident that his combination of constant whining about never getting to leave the beach to go on a reward and occasion of his birthday means that even if he doesn’t win someone will graciously give it to him is obviously leading up to a moment where he doesn’t get to go on the reward. All the audience has to do is gleefully wait for it to happen, and happen it does—in glorious fashion. During the actual reward Rodney makes a huge error that causes his team to get behind, and when the other team wins, no one is willing to give up their spot for him, no matter how much Jeff Probst prods them and Rodney whines about it. It’s a hilariously awkward sequence of a grown man complaining about not being given special treatment on his birthday, and every bit of it is wonderful and pathetic.

Rodney’s temper tantrum doesn’t stop there, though; no, it continues back at camp, both when the reward winners are gone and then again when they come back. Rodney’s new plan is to endlessly complain about how everything is awful and how the people who went on the reward are awful. He then comes up with a terrible plan in order to make everything better. His plan? To complain so much and convince Mike that he wants to be voted out because he’s so done with the game following his reward defeat, so Mike doesn’t play his idol and they can “blindside” him at the next vote. Shockingly, Mike immediately figures out what Rodney is trying to do, so all Rodney accomplishes by doing this is continuing to annoy everyone around him with all of his incessant complaining. Rodney: The leader of this season’s final majority alliance, ladies and gentlemen!

Once it’s obvious Rodney’s plan isn’t going to work—and to everyone else’s credit, at no point do any of them actually think it’s going to work, they’re just trying to get out of the way of Rodney’s emotional steamroller—the vote basically comes down to Tyler and Dan, who were the two people who got votes in last week’s Tribal. The episode goes through a lot of strategy in an effort to make the vote seem like a toss-up, and for once it’s really nice to see these people actually be forced to play the game, no matter how feebly it is done. The vote seems to boil down to which two people in their alliance are going to vote someone out (when everyone else votes for Mike, even though those votes will obviously be thrown away).

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The interesting thing is that despite the fact that Carolyn and Tyler have been close since the beginning, Carolyn very easily decides to vote him out. From the peek into her head in the confessionals this week, Carolyn is convinced she is playing a strategic game, so what was her strategy behind his vote? Was it because she feels secure holding an idol, and is pretty sure she can beat anyone else at the end (especially Dan)? Was her relationship with Tyler not quite as strong as we were lead to believe? Was Tyler repeatedly asking Carolyn to use her idol on him as annoying to her as it was to watch? As is Survivor tradition, any answers to these questions will come in the next episode. I’m certainly curious to know more about why Carolyn made this choice. (I was just starting to like Tyler, so obviously per the rules of this season it was time for him to get voted out.)

If there was one good thing about Shirin getting voted out, it’s that it made for a much more pleasant Tribal Council as the whole thing wasn’t focused on all of the abuse she was getting. This Tribal was almost fun (if not especially compelling) especially watching a carefree Mike enjoy his enemies having to turn on each other. Now that Mike’s idol is gone and the first blows have been cast in the majority alliance, the gameplay should really pick up—but with this cast, you just never know.

Happy birthday, Rodney!

Stray observations:

  • Here’s the link to vote for Survivor Second Chance. Who is everyone voting for?
  • The ominous music of Rodney’s great discontent as the action went back to camp after showing that (amazing) reward was brilliant.
  • Mike’s refusal to let Sierra help in the reward challenge and then crushing it on his own felt like an obvious winner edit. Mike, the man who does it all on his own! That’s a pretty decent story in the midst of all of this other awful madness. (Even if Mike not letting Sierra help was kind of annoying, honestly.)
  • Mike’s cool drawing on Tyler’s vote is my new favorite thing. Has he been doing this every week and I haven’t noticed?
  • “I don’t know if I’d call Dan extremely gullible, but I would call him extremely loyal and in this game, they’re kind of one and the same.” Tyler got a lot of really good confessionals right before getting voted out of the game.
  • Mike: “Just because I talk slow doesn’t mean I think slow.”

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