''Survivor'': The meanest alliance ever
Let's hear it for the now-defunct Nakúm tribe, an alliance of six that's willing to put up with two of the most annoying blowhards in recent Survivor history wannabe tough guy Jamie and hotheaded annoyance Judd to maintain its numerical advantage, after a merge that exposed the alliance's haughty self-importance. From the minute that the former Yaxhá members arrived at their new home after tribal council, the fur flew wildly. Bobby Jon quipped that new (well, sorta) teammate Stephenie made him want to ''vomit'' (awww...guess their shared tribulations last season now mean nothing). Jamie petulantly welcomed the tribe to camp by quickly announcing that there was no room at the inn er, shelter for them to rest their weary heads. And Rafe? Poor, uncoordinated, bleeding heart Rafe? Oh, the poor guy nearly lost his cool when he realized that Survivor is less about making friends and more about smiting newfound enemies, rhetorically asking the camera, ''Am I a member of the Axis of Evil?'' In my opinion? Not quite, bud. After all, you're suddenly being forced to compete with a mealy-mouthed former NFL player (shhhh! can't let that one get out!), a two-time Survivor contestant, a quiet-but-strong Kansas farmer, and a too-thin sports announcer who thought it would be a good idea to bring along the world's ugliest Kansas City Chiefs hat to the Mayan jungle. If that's not evil, then I don't know what is.
Survivor's latest installment inaugurated a new twist: A hidden immunity idol, a piece of stone no taller than six inches, has been hidden in the forest near (or maybe far from) the players' camp. This is an ingenious idea surely hatched by producer Mark Burnett, who loves nothing more than to make his shows' contestants squirm by dangling the faint hope that despite their weak strategy they might be able to hang on for one more week. But the quest for the hidden idol didn't take center stage in the way that I expected. Rafe seemed to give up on the search, declaring that he was ''the worst person at finding anything in the world.'' I found myself asking my television a question that went something like this: ''Um, Rafe, given that you've tripped and fumbled and heaved your way through pretty much every challenge that's come your way so far, did you ever expect you could find the precious stone in the first place?''
But I digress. The hidden immunity idol is a nice addition to this game, and it's especially suspenseful since we don't know if the producers will reveal whether or not it's been found.
Let's get back to this episode's most riveting element: the brewing conflict between good ol' boys Jamie and Bobby Jon. After their primal shouting match a couple of weeks ago, it was apparent that these two would never be friends, but they took their animus to a new level during tonight's immunity challenge, a boring endurance test that, unfortunately, did not involve peanut butter, chocolate, or bare-naked female contestants but instead ceramic pots placed atop the contestants' heads. (On second thought, I'm glad there was no stripping, given Danni's scarily skeletal frame. Girl puts Nicole Richie to shame, if you ask me.) Surprisingly, four cocky contestants sat out the challenge in favor of scarfing down some grub and throwing down the gauntlet: Jamie got downright nasty by revealing to everybody that Bobby Jon and Brandon were in the line of fire, a foolish move that could only come back to haunt him if either of them is placed on the jury that decides this season's winner. ''You know it's not one tribe,'' he announced, offering up further proof that he never won a Plays Well With Others award in preschool. Poor, uncoordinated, bleeding heart Rafe was visibly upset by Jamie's smackdown, whining about how unfair and uncool it was to call out the game's most vulnerable contestants all while he chowed down, of course. He must have touched Danni's overexerted heart, too, because right after he blubbered about fairness, she lost her footing, causing her pot to fall to the ground and shatter. (See, Danni? You should have eaten the food!)
With a five-way tie in place, the remaining competitors raced up the Mayan pyramid, and eventually Gary was the victor, winning another immunity that, to this viewer's eyes, seemed totally undeserved. It's not that I don't like Gary, but his obsession with deceiving his fellow teammates about his pro-football past and his generally ridiculous behavior haven't endeared him to me the way that, say, Lydia's daily jigs have. Back at camp, Judd tediously berated Jamie for mouthing off oh, the bitter irony! while Bobby Jon wondered aloud if he shouldn't have just broken his ceramic pot over Jamie's tousled head. To which I say: Right on, Bobby Jon! No Survivor player save Sue Hawk has ever charmed a fanatic like me by acting like an ungrateful brat, and Jamie's behavior certainly isn't going to change my mind ten seasons into the game. It's not that you need to be universally beloved to earn your place as a winner, but you do need to behave like a classy, well-rounded opponent, something that Jamie hasn't done since he arrived in Guatemala.
Given the numerous internecine tiffs, tribal council promised to be a heated debate that could have outdone the Judd-Margaret altercation a few weeks ago. Alas, Bobby Jon and Jamie traded a few tired barbs ''I don't even know whatchoo sayin','' they yammered, like two bratty schoolgirls while Rafe went off on a utopian tangent that brought to mind Rodney King's infamous 1992 ''Can't we all get along?'' plea. In the end, the Magic Six stuck together, ousting Brandon who, it bears repeating, did nothing to deserve this save playing a good game and choosing to stick with the difficult, unpredictable Judd and Jamie for at least three more days. Am I happy about this development? Well, no, because neither of them deserves to still be around, but there's something to be said for a game in which the idea that the best man should win gets thrown right out the window in favor of conniving, unpredictable players who just might turn on a dime if you push them and piss them off.
What do you think? Did Brandon's exit throw you for a loop? Has Danni lost too much weight? Will Rafe ever win a challenge? And do Judd and Jamie deserve to still be very much in this heated game?