Dalton Ross
September 29, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Survivor”: The great social experiment ends

Mark Burnett is not a patient man. I say this because last season he had four really interesting, unique tribes — and then dissolved them after one episode. I asked him recently if he thought that was a mistake and he wished he had left them intact longer. He said yes and promised that the four ethnically divided tribes in Survivor: Cook Islands would remain together longer. Yeah, one whole episode. Whoop-dee-damn-do! Way too soon, says I, who was enjoying watching the Asian sensations kick everyone’s collective ass. But a tribal downsizing it was. At least I think it was. As far as I could follow, contestants were forced to take off their buffs, pick objects out of a bag, play rock-paper-scissors, select members of the same sex who were not previously members of their tribe, crush paint-filled eggs, put said paint all over their face, pick a peck of pickled peppers, do the cha-cha slide, and then take a blood oath offering up their firstborn as collateral. Somehow after all that, they walked away as two tribes instead of four. I think.

It kinda made my brain hurt keeping up with all of that, but any pain I may have felt is nothing compared to what poor Billy must have been going through tonight watching Candice and company mocking his proclamation of love on national television. As if being voted off second didn’t suck enough, now he has to endure this?

That was about the most exciting thing that happened after the tribal realignment, unless you’re into watching people turn an octopus’ head inside out — something the contestants were taught how to do two days before the game started in a special Survivor school. But you knew that already because you read my article in Entertainment Weekly about it, right? Riiiiiiight?

But then came the challenge, which was interesting for several reasons. I even put little numbers next to them so I wouldn’t get all confused like during the tribal shake-up.

1. Jeff Probst went all medium-school on us! You see, old-school Probst goes hatless. New-school Probst rocks some sort of safari lid. Medium-school Probst, however, goes for the NASCAR look by donning a baseball cap. Personally, not a big fan of medium-school Probst, but I suppose anything has to be better than that Guatemala getup he was sporting in season 11.

2. The challenge itself was pretty much a carbon copy of one of my favorite Survivor challenges ever: Survivor: Palau‘s ”Hot Pursuit.” Except I believe they may have been carrying 20-pound bags in Palau instead of 15-pound ones, which just goes to show you one thing: The Cook Islands contestants are big wussies. The Aitutaki tribe made a huge tactical error, having all of their women drop out early and weighing the men down with extra baggage.

3. How much do we love Yul’s suggestion to fight upon realizing his tribe could not outrun Rarotonga? And you never know, with the connection he seems to have to Becky, he could be both a lover and a fighter.

4. Sending Candice to Exile Island? Not sure that was the best move. The woman scored a perfect 1600 on her SATs! You really want to keep her around for some of the puzzles and brain teasers sure to come?

Once Aitutaki lost, it came down to whether Yul and Jonathan would be able to persuade Cao Boi and Flica to vote out Cecilia instead of Becky. How pained and confused did Flica look every time Jonathan attempted to talk strategy with her? I’m pretty sure if you could have heard her thoughts at the time, they would have pretty much approximated the theme song from those old Meow Mix commercials. (You know, ”Meow, meow, meow, meow…”) Or the sound of a lone tumbleweed rolling through a deserted town. For a minute it looked like Flica was pulling a Christy/Dolly, but her wishy-washiness did not cost her — yet. Instead, Cecilia was sent packing. We never saw much of Cecilia this season, which is surprising considering the size of her breasts. We’ll miss all three of them. And although Aitutaki lost the first challenge, I still like the makeup of their tribe better than Rarotonga’s. In fact, seeing as how Candice is on that tribe, I might even dare to call it love at first sight. (Sorry, Billy — couldn’t resist.)

What do you think, dear reader? Did the tribal realignment come too soon? Will Parvati’s incessant flirting pay off? And which school Probst do you enroll in?

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