Monty Brinton/CBS
Mandi Bierly
July 06, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Pirate Master”: Three guys take control

Okay, besides that heavily promoted non-kiss between J.D. and Nessa (did we really need to cut to commercial?), this episode was the real deal: The expedition was varied, challenging, and visually interesting, and the politics aboard the Picton Castle were heated. This was the show Mark Burnett set out to make — too bad he and I (and, okay, you) were the only ones watching it.

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t fully understand what Captain Azmyth and his officers, Jay and Ben, were doing last week when they gunned for Sean. I thought it was just Jay’s payback, but by eliminating Sean, they also made certain the opposing red crew would have only two men on it this week — J.D. and Louie — thus increasing the odds that they’d continue their reign with a win in the expedition. I still despise you, Jay, but you are a smart evil bastard. Because the rest of the crew saw what a boys’ club the axis of evil was becoming, the pirates fighting under the red flag — Nessa, Jupiter, and Kendra, in addition to J.D. and Louie — really wanted to win and shake up the command. (Anyone else find it funny that J.D. got on Azmyth’s case for sleeping the day away, when the only work we ever saw J.D. doing when he was Captain Cocky was…well, nothing?) But alas, it was not meant to be. The crews were even during the swim through ”treacherous” (note: no longer ”shark infested”) waters, where J.D. got points for pulling teammate Kendra along, but Azmyth’s black crew pulled ahead during the carry-the-heavy-ass-ladder-you’ll-need-later-up-a-muddy-incline portion of the challenge. Joy held back the black crew, naturally, actually bringing up the rear even though she was in charge of reading the map. At one point, she stopped and asked for water, which you do not do if you’re on a team with Jay or, it turns out, Christa, who Ben called ”a Barbie doll on steroids.” Christa motivated Joy by telling her that if she stopped, she would be receiving a black spot. It was at that moment that I realized why I would never be on a show like this — my reaction would not have been to pick up the pace; it would have been to pick up a rock and hurl it at Christa. (And then probably make some comment about her boobs, which, bless their heart, stayed out of sight this week.) Eventually, the crews got to use their ladders to climb a tree in order to ”untie a key from a tricky knot.” (Is that the lamest voice-over ever?) Hilarity ensued when Louie took it upon himself to climb the red crew’s ladder and couldn’t find the key. Finally, we witnessed the coolest physical challenge we’ve seen so far on this show — the pirates had to cross a rope footbridge while reading words on the boards that when put together, gave them their next clue. The bridge didn’t look as dangerous as the one in Romancing the Stone, but it was still scary and took some coordination to maneuver. When the black crew found the hidden treasure, the red crew was not even near the site, which Nessa rightfully found demoralizing. Imagine if the black crew had been given a sabotage opportunity this week. (I guess the show’s done away with those? Fine by me, if they couldn’t figure out a way to make them have more impact than they did in the first few weeks.)

After the expedition, Azmyth made the risky decision not to split the treasure evenly among the winning crew. He and his two officers shared 60 percent of the loot, while the rest of the team divided the remaining 40. (Ben didn’t like that call, but hey, why speak up when it brings your purse up to $20,000?) Then ”the tremendous trio” decided to black-spot Kendra, Joy, and J.D. for possible elimination at pirates’ court. I don’t think anyone thought J.D. would go home, especially after he spelled out for the rest of the crew that they need his strength if they’re to have any chance of winning an expedition and electing a new captain. I bet I wasn’t the only one hoping we had a mutiny on our hands — especially after delusional Azmyth said that the crew loves him (when, speaking for most of them, Laurel referred to him as both a ”superfreak in a blue coat” and ”a greedy idiot that needs to go home”). But damn this show for requiring the officers to go along with the mutiny. That will never happen with the tight-knit TT.

At pirates’ court, we again got to hear how charismatic Joy is, though I’ve yet to actually see it for myself. She told the crew, ”Do what your heart tells you to do,” and mine was saying, ”Vote for her,” because Kendra came to play when she defended herself. She acknowledged that she was slow in the expeditions, but reminded everyone that she never quit (unlike Joy). She also said that although she might finish last, she always makes sure her ass is only 10 feet behind her crewmates. We all knew it would come down to the two ladies — even if J.D. hadn’t won the royal pardon with a $12,000 bid — and in the end Joy was cut adrift. I’d say the look on her face was priceless, but my favorite moment of the night had to be J.D. using his defense time to inform Azmyth that he’s coming for him. I’m liking J.D. more and more each episode, even if he and Nessa continue to suck face next time.

So what do you think: Can the TT be toppled? Does anyone respect Jay (and Azmyth) for residing on Cutthroat Island? How should the rules change as the number of pirates in the jury dwindles? And what side is Christa on?

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