Survivor: Phillip and Steve Squabble Over Rice, Race. Who Wanted to Change the Channel?

I’ve been absolutely loving the current season of Survivor: Redemption Island, but am I the only one who wanted to switch off the TV during Wednesday night’s heated “rice wars” argument — in which Phillip insisted that Steve calling him “crazy” was his coded way of using the n-word?

Things got heated when Steve, Julie, and Ralph — the three remaining members of the former Zapatera tribe — kept their rice rations separate from the six former Ometepe players (a divided lifestyle that was openly encouraged by Ometepe ringleader Boston Rob, for those of you keeping score). Phillip and his fellow alliance members became increasingly agitated by the Zapatera players’ heaping portions of carbs, and when their own rice container got infested with maggots, Phillip asked if the two factions could combine their uncooked grains in the Zapatera container.

When Steve didn’t immediately say “yes,” and explained he’d have to talk things over with Ralph, Phillip became completely incensed, insisting he would hide Zapatera’s rice rations at the first possible opportunity, then seconds later adding that “unless you [Steve and Julie] walk with that f***** can everywhere you go, I’m gonna put the [Ometepe] rice in there.”

Steve, relatively unrattled by Phillip’s patented brand of ridiculousness, barely shifted from his “reclining dude” pose and called Phillip a “f****** lunatic.” And that’s when the feather-wearing, incessantly chattering special agent ratcheted up the rhetoric. “That’s your perception, anytime somebody of my color gets up in one of your faces, then you feel like I’m a lunatic. I’m crazy!” Phillip’s own ally, Andrea, tried to cut off his ugly accusations, but Phillip rambled on, arguing that “some white folks like to take a black man and make him crazy,” and dropping the n-word into his rant on two separate occasions.

Look, Survivor definitely doesn’t have the world’s greatest track record casting rational African-American players — oh, Na’Onka, how I try to forget about you! — but as Rob so succinctly summed it up, “Phillip somehow managed to make a war about white rice racial.”

At Tribal Council, host Jeff Probst did his best to navigate the feud without escalating it further, acknowledging that he was unable to put himself in Phillip’s position as an African-American man who’d experienced racial prejudice in the past, and whose experiences with said prejudices informed how he views the world. “It’s very tricky when you have a white guy and a black guy talking about race and the n-word,” Probst said, adding “it’s quite possible both of you are telling the truth.”

I dunno. Without intimate knowledge of the players involved, it’s hard to weigh in with any kind of confidence. But as someone who’s in an interracial marriage with a black man, and who’s generally got his antennae tuned to pick up on subtle and not-so-subtle instances of racism, I tend to think Phillip made a race war out of a molehill of rice. When Steve said that as a 13-year NFL vet, “there is no line of black and white in my heart,” I really believed him.

And come on, Phillip — with his visions from his ancestors, his crab-hunting, and his talk of the “stealth alliance” and all its wacky nicknames — knows that on some levels, his behavior is absolutely cray-cray. Last week, he even admitted his openly loopy (and often annoying) demeanor was a strategy to get Rob or any other power players to carry him to the finale. So it seems a bit disingenous at best — and appalling at worst — for him to accuse Steve of n-word-level treachery based on a simple “f****** lunatic” bomb. What do you think?

Other highlights of the episode:

*Julie burying Phillip’s shorts in the woods — a totally offensive move considering Survivor viewers will now have to look at the guy’s saggy pink skivvies for the remainder of the season. Still, while I think it was probably smart for Julie to push Phillip’s buttons — and make him a less appealing presence at camp to his alliance members — why on earth did she cop to being the culprit at Tribal? I wonder if the Ometepe Six has planned to vote her out before she confessed to the thievery. That said, she did get the season’s choicest parting shot: “Guess you’re not ever gonna find your shorts!”

*Apparently, God is still DVR-ing Survivor. Despite Matt’s prayer lamenting “how much I want out of this game” he survived his seventh straight Redemption Island duel, as he and Mike both built eight-foot houses of tile cards faster than initial jury member David.

* Matt should probably dial back the dramatic talk in front of Ometepe. I know those six players will probably never really trust him (or vice versa), but if he makes his way back into the game, he’s going to have to forge some alliances somewhere. So while a comment like, “I never knew that strangers could hurt me so deeply,” is probably honest, it’s probably not beneficial to his overall game.

* Let us pause to consider Ralph’s spelling of Phillip’s name at Tribal Council: P-H-I-L-E.

That is all. What did you think of this week’s Survivor? Is there any stopping Rob, the Godfather with the immunity necklace and the immunity idol? At what point will the producers do one of those “pick two buddies” tribe-splitting moves that expose the game’s alliances with alliances? And what do you make of the escalating rice wars? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Jared says:

    I hate to admit this but Phillip makes the show entertaining. I love having a nut on Survivor! Keep the crazies coming!

    • darclyte says:

      I tend to agree. I think Mr. Slezak is alone with wanting to change the channel. The reactions of Rob and Grant alone made that segment worth watching. Also, what Probst did at Tribal was amazing. He needs to submit that as his Emmy reel this year. He was able to get them to reveal what happened, and then summarized it succinctly and made everyone at Tribal understand that both perspectives were valid. It really was quite remarkable, and as opposed to fanning the flames like he usually does (to make for good tv,) he actually reduced much of the pressure that was building. On a lighter note, not only does Phil completely mangle the names of both tribes as well as the participants, but has Ralph EVER spelled someone’s name right?

  2. Tee says:

    Philip is cray-cray. The nuttiest of all seasons. Makes Coach look even keeled.

    Poor Matt…I’d be talking to a deity if i was out there on Redemption for that long.

    This is probably the least emotional survivor ever and the most strategic…even though Rob’s alliance seemingly cannot be broken.

    • Kris says:

      That’s what has made the show so boring. Unless Probst lets both Mike and Matt back into the game next week and they get Andrea on their side, Zapatera is screwed. These episodes are so boring now because there is no conflict, even when they try to pretend that Ometepe is going to vote out one of their own, we know they’re not. Rob has made one of the best moves ever (in creating such a tight alliance) but has made one of the worst moves for the audience.

  3. Mallie says:

    I am getting really tired of Matt. I was rooting for him when he was the underdog, but now his religious angst is more annoying than Philip’s saggy pink underpants or made-up racial feuds.

  4. Sean says:

    My Random Thoughts:

    – Phillip was working on making sure his magic feather was placed just right on his headband as he prepared to look his finest for this episode. I loved the shot of Phillip staring at the hawk right as the opening sequence began, and then it all made sense to me…

    Do you remember the Wonder Twins from Justice League America? The brother and sister that would smack their fists together and say “Wonder Twin powers…activate!” before one of them turned into an animal, and the other into some form of water. I submit to you…that Coach Wade is one of the Wonder Twins!

    Think about it, it makes total sense! He’s activated his power, and turned into a hawk (obviously), who then flew to Nicaragua, and dropped a feather of divine inspiration for Phillip as a way to connect the two of them. That’s why we’re hearing the hawk screech, like we always heard with Coach. And that’s why there was that shot of Phillip and the Hawk at the beginning of this episode…he has now connected with his Wonder Twin Spirit Guide. The Federal Agent figured it all out.

    – Phillip commented on the rice situation, saying “I’m watching Zapatera like a lion.” Dammit Phillip, why do you always mess up the analogies!? It’s “watch like a hawk”, not a lion, and if my theory about Coach and the hawk is right above, then it’s even more confusing…unless you were deliberately trying to draw attention away from the idea of a hawk so that we wouldn’t catch on to you and Coach. Damn you’re good.

    But with all the jumbled metaphors that Phillip gives us, I want him to stay around as long as possible, just so I can hear something ridiculous like “Why don’t you make like a stapler, and get out of here”, or “Don’t count your puppies before they cross the road.”

    – I was amused at Julie burying Phillip’s shorts, but the short-term amusement turned into theoretical long term anger, as I realized that if he didn’t find them, then we’re stuck with Phillip in his tighty-pinkies the rest of the way. And when I realized that, I hated Julie with a blinding rage that made me want to go outside and find a puppy to kick…and then find another one, and kick it too.

    Ashley’s comment was “everybody in camp is over Phillip”, but it should have been “everybody in camp wants Phillip to wear pants at all times.” All of the remaining tribe members should have banded together to find those damn shorts, for the good of the show, and the sanity of the viewing audience.

    After you’re done here at TVLine, I hope you’ll check out the rest of my recap at – or you can click on my name.

    • Leahei says:

      Stop cutting and pasting your “blog” on every Survivor comment section.I have read this 3 times now. We read the different re-caps and comments to get different perspectives and opinions-not your over and over.

  5. Karen says:

    Felt the same as you about Philip & the tribal council therapy session by Probst. Instead of calling Philip out on his obvious antics throughout the season, Jeff gave him the the recognition his accusations did not deserve.

    • GimplyGump ☺ says:

      Interesting you aid “therapy session”. I ½ expected Jeff to say, “Times up. You can pay your bill on the way out.” ☺☻☺

    • DotDotDot says:

      Absolutely. I get that it’s a sensitive topic, but he gave a credibility to Phil that was not not warranted. What ticks me off is that Phil admitted last week that he’s acting crazy on purpose, so to act in a way that he knows will evoke a response, and then call someone racist for responding is just low. I used to think he was just odd, but now I think he’s not a good person.

  6. Fiercelynormal says:

    I’m finding Phillip’s cray vastly entertaining but he definitely crossed the line last night. Sadly though I find Matt’s sniveling more annoying. Boston Rob is still pulling all the strings – I sure hope he makes it to the final!

  7. Loretta says:

    Why is no one talking about the rice that Philip stole from the Zapatera group. He took a substantial amount; so it is hard to think that someone did not notice a depreciation of their rice. Also, who thinks, like me, that the maggots came along because of something that the Zapatera folks did. It happened right after Philip stole rice from them; so immediately as Ometepe noticed their infested rice; I figured it was payback for the missing rice. It would not be difficult for Zapatera to damage the vessel that Ometepe stores their rice in and it would be hard to envision “all of a sudden” the container can’t hold rice and lets moisture in.

  8. JohnDoe says:

    This season of Survivor sucks. There is no strategy at all, being played.

    • Captain says:

      Agreed. The only person with any strategy is Rob. His cult just follows everything he does and Zap. is too useless to do anything about it.

  9. John Berggren says:

    As much as I can’t stand having to watch him in his drawers – Phillip is hillara riot. I hope he gets to final 3 just so I can keep hearing his moments.
    Rob deserves to win. I don’t know if he will, but he definitely deserves to.
    Mike needs to keep winning, because otherwise there will be no more eye candy.

  10. cheri says:

    It continues to amaze me the power that Rob has over the people on his tribe. Most of them claimed to have watched his seasons and here they go following him like sheep. That said…I admit I love it. I did not watch Heroes vs Villians, so I do not know how that went, but I think back to Allstars. Almost ever person who Rob said, ‘trust me’ to, said straight to the camera, I know I should not trust him, then were promptly voted out. Maybe they are planning to get rid of him after they get rid of Zapetera or maybe they figure no one will vote him for the win. I hope that if he makes it, they would due to the fact he is pretty much the only one making the moves and controlling the game.

  11. Buffy Freak says:

    Another week, another Philip-centric/dominated tribal council. It’s just too much already. And Probst is just way too involved in the game itself.

  12. Vlad Engleton says:

    “I wonder if the Ometepe Six has planned to vote her out before she confessed to the thievery.”

    Michael, of course they planned to vote her out beforehand. It would be incredibly dangerous (and foolhardy) not to have the vote worked out ahead of time.

  13. jef says:

    Tired of Philip getting all the screen time. Why should we have to listen to all his rants?

    • JohnDoe says:

      Because the producers know that’s all they’ve got on this poor season. The actual game-play has been stunningly boring and/or predictable.

  14. Jamie's FanGirl says:

    I used to enjoy Survivor (or, as I’ve dubbed it this season, “Phillip’s Comedy Hour”), but the “cray-cray” is getting worn out. In fact, I was so blinded by it that I actually thought the tribes would band together this week and vote him out. HAH! Silly me.

    Kudos to Jeff Probst for his careful handling of tribal, though. It’s never dawned on me (until last night) how much of a therapist he’s had to become over the last twenty-some seasons. I don’t think I’d disagree on using last night’s tribal as his Emmy reel.

  15. DoubleRho7 says:

    I’m starting to believe that Ralph is spelling all those names wrong on purpose ;> I don’t believe he’s gotten a single one correct all season!

  16. Jay says:

    I utterly despise this season. Phillip is the most annoying hateful contestant in the history of the show (worse than Russell!!!)… And I’m sorry but Redemption Island is neither an island nor redemptive. I hate it.