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Well, that certainly wasn’t as interesting as I was expecting. Last week, after Rob finally eliminated all of the Zapatera detritus that was still hanging on after the merge, it seemed we were in for at least a little bit of intrigue as Murlonio-slash-Ometepe navigated a return to their singular status. Although the editors attempted to drum up a bit of mystery by using the crazy Phillip so readily supplies, this elimination was almost preordained from the second the last Zapatera member was sent to Redemption Island. (Yeah, almost? Try completely. They trust in you, Father Rob.) But hey, who needs intrigue when there are product-placed family visits to take up our time!

The one thing that was amazingly, compellingly right tonight was the immunity challenge. Nothing beats an old-fashioned ass kicking physical challenge, and the Puzzle Staircase of Doom is one of the better ones in the show's challenge arsenal. It managed to be physically and mentally exhausting all at once, and it was a real horse race throughout between Rob, Grant, and Andrea, enough to get me yelling at my television. (Yes, I do that. Yes, I realize this makes me only slightly less insane than Phillip.) Granted, immediately upon winning, Rob looked so close to dying that Probst almost called in the rescue helicopters, but despite that scare—or perhaps even because of it—it was some pretty great television.

Rob winning immunity, however, is not in the best interests of the type of game-changing moments this show is likely going to need in the coming weeks in order to make this season do anything but limp to the finish. As an admitted fan of Rob, I do want him to win, and it’s impressive to see someone play so well. But as someone looking for an exciting reality show each week, anything might be preferable to the Boston Rob steamroller. A bright spot is that even if the steamroller continues and the coming weeks are less than stellar, a jury full of Zapatera and blindsided Ometepe are bound to make for an interesting jury session. Rob is working hard to keep everything friendly, but as we saw with Andrea’s exit speech, it’s almost impossible to eliminate someone from the game and avoid hurt feelings, even if you don’t outwardly betray them as blatantly as Rob did to Lex way back when.

The one thing we still have that is bound to throw Rob off a little bit is Redemption Island, though its purpose and import becomes more and more nebulous as each week passes. Steve went home this week, but that still leaves Matt, Mike, Ralph, and now Andrea on the island, slowly listening to Matt lose his ever-loving mind. Seriously, the dude is cracked. The duel this week, despite the added bonus of the winner getting to visit with a loved one, was fairly boilerplate stuff. The producers tried to play a few mental games by giving winner Mike a choice of who would get to spend time with their family, but Mike does exactly what everyone watching expected and gives the visits to the players still left in the game. Probst acted like this was the most insane thing he’d ever heard, but it didn’t seem that odd to me. Keep the people in the game happy, and maybe if you make it back in they’ll have less ammunition to vote you off. The only odd thing was Mike invoking God when doing it, because apparently God likes the people still in the game better than everyone else? That might be wrong; it was a bit unclear.

The one bit of slightly new information of the night came from our old reliable, Phillip. It seems his confrontational, slightly off-kilter behavior throughout the game isn’t his real personality: It’s an act he’s putting on in order to make him the “villain,” so other people will want to take him to the end. As a strategy, it’s not a bad one (especially considering how many times Rob has said in confessional he wants to do exactly that). It’s hard to tell how much of this is true and how much Phillip just can’t help being kind of a crazy asshole, but if he can make it to the end using this “strategy” and Rob falls for every second of it, the jury statements are going to be kind of incredible. Phillip even claims he knows exactly what to say to the jury to make them vote for him over Rob. Phillip: crazy? Or crazy like a fox? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stray observations:

  • It’s kind of a bummer Amber was pregnant and couldn’t make the trip (at least, I’m assuming that’s what happened), because it would be nice to see Rob and Ambuh back together again. I’m kind of a sucker for them, I admit it.
  • Andrea’s dad immediately picked her up like a sack a potatoes. So, that’s a weird dynamic.
  • Phillip is a good speaker? Huh?
  • “As long as they don’t start talking to each other and realize I’m the one that should be going, I’m all set.”
  • “I’m prepared to go crazy if I have to. That’s what works for me.”
  • “Straight back to normal Felipe.”
  • “Honestly, I think I could defeat Rob.”