Show of hands: Who hooted and hollered with shock and delight during Tribal Council on Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor: Redemption Island? Okay, good. Glad to know I’m not the only one with a sadistic streak.
Seriously, though, this week’s highly entertaining showdown at Redemption Island Arena, subsequent merge/scramble/double-cross, and “d’oh!” blindside vote — which sent Matt back to his state of isolation without passing go, and without collecting a shred of respect from his former Ometepe tribemates — were all things of reality TV beauty. There were so many moments in the episode that amused or entertained me, I’ve got to break ‘em down by bullet point.
* Sarita settling down with Matt in the Redemption Island hut and talking him through the ins and outs of Zapatera as if his win over her was an inevitability. (It kind of was, wasn’t it?)
* Jeff Probst getting Phillip to discuss the code of the samurai during the Redemption Island faceoff, and the producers using his incessant blathering (along with the changing of the position of the sun in the sky) as a means of marking the passage of time.
* Rob suggesting the name Murlonio — an inside joke with Amber that he said was a Spanish term for “from the sea, united” — as the merged tribe’s new name, and his fellow castaways embracing it wholeheartedly.
* Question for all of you: When Mike promised Matt and Andrea two of the final-four slots — “I’m okay with whittling down my tribe to honor your commitment,” he explained — do you think he was being sincere? I’m inclined to say “yes.” And even if Mike was just being manipulative, he wouldn’t have had any reason not to carry Matt till at least sixth or seventh place — pretty much the same spot in the pecking order he’d have gone with his former Ometepe “buddies.”
* Rob, who goes to church on Sundays, looking with suspicion on the “Christian coalition brewin'” between Mike and Matt, because anytime he sees a group of Survivor players united in one cause, “I want that broken up”
* Mike’s unflinching focus in the tense, terrific immunity challenge — in which players had to balance themselves on a log while balancing balls on a disc — slipping away after a fly landed on one of his game pieces. Bonus points for Ralph clucking and chirping to his ball like it was an errant farm animal. More bonus points for Jeff making me giggle like an eleven-year-old boy with his cry of, “Everybody grab your balls: You are safe!”
* Matt’s moment of honesty — admitting he’d briefly flirted with the idea of aligning with Zapatera before choosing to be loyal to Ometepe — backfiring with Boston Rob, who demands nothing short of absolute fealty, and who doesn’t tolerate even the slightest hint of independent scheming in his alliance-mates. “First of all, he has the audacity to think that he’s gonna come up with a plan to vote me out, and then the stupidity to tell me that,” said the incredulous Survivor vet. “It just confirmed he can’t be trusted, so because of that, I’m giving him a one-way ticket back to Redemption Island.”
* This exchange about Matt’s fate:
Grant (pleading): He’s a good Christian guy.
Rob: He can still be a good Christian guy…
Grant (resigned): On Redemption Island.
* Matt failing to read the tea leaves even after the other six members of Ometepe took off for a pre-Tribal Council chat — and left him to hang with Zapatera. “They just jetted off without me. I’m kind of feelin’ ostracized here,” he pondered cluelessly.
* Mike writing a note to Matt — “Vote for Grant and I’ll take you to the final three” — as if it he was in any way being less conspicuous than merely whispering to the sole swing player in the mix.
* Andrea choosing Boston Rob over Matt. I don’t think she ever forgave her one-time Survivor crush for getting so close so quickly to Krista while he was exiled with the latter svelte blonde on Redemption Island.
* Phillip’s insane speech at Tribal Council about the sea receding and leaving a parasitic stench behind. Sometimes I think he’s got to be in on the joke, right?
* Matt telling Jeff that “it was so much easier on Redemption Island,” completely unaware he was about to go back there.
* Ralph playing his Immunity Idol on behalf of Mike, never stopping to consider Ometepe had no intention of targeting the studly Iraq war veteran.
* Jeff turning up the suspense at Tribal Council, reading five straight votes for Grant (whoa!), a single vote for Steve (uh-oh!), and then six straight votes for Matt (OMFG!). “Genius is what that was,” whispered David. “Oh my God, that poor kid,” added Julie. “Apparently, I’m just not very good at this game of Survivor,” concluded Matt, who will now have a chance to make it 7-for-7 at Redemption Island. (Vote in the poll below about whether this is the most entertaining Tribal Council ever.) And with Ometepe still outnumbering Zapatera by a margin of six to five, chances are it’ll be Mike or Steve whose torch is snuffed next.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Were you as delighted as I was by the Tribal Council vote? Who do you think will go all the way to the end in this twisty, intriguing season? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.