Rob’s ego grows as Survivor fast-forwards through two obvious votes, no duels

In one hour–less than 45 minutes, really–Survivor burned through content that would normally fill two episodes. That’s because the old Ometepe tribe is picking off members of the Zapatera tribe one by one, and there was little drama or suspense about either vote. First Mike left, then David: two smart, strategic players, two obvious choices. There was no hope for them, despite David’s voting strategy: He wrote Rob’s name four times on the vote and added, “Please count this as four Robs.” Jeff Probst, buzzkill, refused.

Despite having merged, Ometepe’s members are sticking together and staying loyal to their cult leader, Rob Mariano, who has fed them so much Kool-Aid they didn’t even eat fish the other tribe members caught. Their alliance, as we learned from a hilarious Phillip speech at the second Tribal Council, is called “Stealth ‘R’ Us,” which reminded me of the old Toys ‘R’ Us commercial song, which could describe this alliance: “I don’t want to grow up / I don’t want to play the game / I just want to follow Rob blindly and hand him $1 million.”

David complained, “When nobody’s willing to play the game, it’s not a lot of fun.” As a viewer, I share David’s frustration, because it’s much more fun when things change up, but I completely understand the other tribe’s desire to stick together. It’s just smart: it gets you farther in the game without having to do anything.

I’m not sure how much of this is smart strategy and how much is actually Rob’s influence, but the editors certainly had fun with Rob as mob boss, telling us, “It’s my game. I’m in charge.” He explained that he was trying to maintain an “us versus them” mentality because “I want my group to hate Zapatera.” Also smart, though it seems like a cult, as Zapatera members tried to point out.

While it seems difficult to penetrate such a tight, frictionless alliance, Mike and David did land on something when they searched briefly for an idol because they thought producers had moved the tribe’s flag while they were away for a challenge. Rob noticed this from far away and sent his tribe running, and they got shovels and dug while Mike and David basically mocked them, because they’d already dug sufficiently to realize nothing was there.

This paranoia, combined with Rob’s insistence that his tribe suck it up and not eat the dead fish Ralph caught, is easy to point out, and the only way Zapatera is going to crack that tribe is to take down their leader. Chipping away at his credibility would be a good place to start, and they seemed to miss two opportunities to do that. Julie tried a little at Tribal, following Ometepe’s insistence that they’re a big happy family with, “Matt thought you guys were his family, too.”

Grant and Andrea each won immunity in two decent challenges; the second was an endurance challenge that took place in Fabio’s pee pool, which is now glowing green it’s been sitting there and festering for so long. They had to hang upside down, and David lasted nearly to the end, so long that he couldn’t even walk when he climbed out of the pee.

Meanwhile, at Redemption Island, Matt had a chat with God, who was available since there’s nothing else going on that needs his attention. Matt did start by admitting that he’s “the most naive person to ever play the game of Survivor” (no, you’re not; Erik still is), and added, “I can’t believe I got blindsided twice by the same people. I feel like a moron.” Then he said to God, “I guess you wanted me to come back.”

He was soon joined by Mike, and then by David. Matt, temporarily forgetting that God is in control of the game, said, “What is Survivor doing to us?” It was a good question: Why was there not a duel? Jeff Probst revealed on Twitter that, post-merge, there “won’t always be 2person duels.” So, next week’s episode will likely start with a three-person duel–er, truel.

And it will also feature, Probst insists, an “unreal,” “huge” Tribal Council. I hope that means Ometepe breaks up, but it’s probably more likely a bird will fall out of the sky and knock the sense into Phillip.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.