Frozen challenge ends with rice swap, and other odd things from Survivor’s latest episode

For the second time this season of Survivor, we have a tribe that’s completely falling apart, and this tribe seems to be suffering from self-destructiveness rather than just incompetence. And it’s not even the tribe that has the guy who bleeds all the time and eats dry rice because he’s convinced it’s fine because chickens eat this way and it’ll cook inside his body.

There were two relatively simple but strong challenges this week, but I’d have loved to have been there to see what the challenge producers made of what actually happened: a physically intense competition quickly turning into an incredible frozen stand-off lasting more than an hour that ended with a bizarre compromise that meant Penner’s tribe would give up its rice in exchange for the win.

So yes, Tandang essentially quit a challenge, and Kalabaw gave up its food in exchange for a reward meal and, as they discovered, letters from their family members. At first, I wanted to punch them all: We finally get reward challenges and now they just quit one? Go away, losers.

I was first appalled that they’d give up their food, and thus strength and even emotional well-being, for instant gratification. But it also might be smart because it’s their best option in the moment: eat big, feel good for the immunity challenge, win. I also appreciated Denise’s argument that the letters gave them a different kind of fuel. For all they know, there’s a merge next week–and the preview made it seem like that will, in fact, happen, though perhaps as some kind of tribe shake-up instead of a proper merge–so they might as well play the best hand they have in the moment.

Of course, they lost the immunity challenge, and while it wasn’t exactly a blow-out, they didn’t perform well. (As an aside, the place the challenge was set was gorgeous, though as fearkick mentioned to me, it looks like perhap the most developed location the show has used in years, if ever: there was a road and clear signs of agriculture.) Carter was practically useless, and when Jeff tried to take over, he failed, too, basically diving into the sand to allow Malcolm to easily catch the last ball.

Back at camp, there was conversation about who to vote out in order to distract us from the inevitable. As much as Jeff Probst tried to talk it up (“this is great drama!”), it really wasn’t that surprising. Probst even tried to stir shit up by asking Jeff Kent, “Jeff, do you play any game that’s similar to Survivor in terms of strategy?” He might as well have added, “I mean, even I’m not wearing a striped shirt and your shelter is not as protective as a dugout, you can probably make a comparison to your secret former profession, can’t you, Jeff Kent, major league baseball player?”

Probst laid the groundwork for Katie’s elimination at the immunity challenge with his oh-so-subtle commentary: “Katie, completely ineffective in this challenge.” Probst did miss a big opportunity with a ball challenge for some fun wordplay, especially after he said, “Katie, hand on the pole.”

Speaking of poles, when Carter actually talks, which is rare, it literally causes me physical pain to listen to his slow, simple speech (“rice fuels us”) that rarely offers anything of value (“those sandwiches were great”). But I am so glad he was cast thanks to the moment that occurred after he was talking with Jeff Kent about blindsiding Jonathan Penner, who later joined them in the shelter. Carter turned to him and said, “Penner, what do you want to do? Katie or Penner?”

Yes, he did.

Carter tried to recover by saying, “I mean, Katie or Denise?” So now I appreciate him as a character. You never know what he’s going to not say, and when he says something, look out!

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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.