Survivor’s Tony keeps playing with fire and burning others

After last week’s loss of the best player to play the game, Survivor Cagayan managed to recover with a crazypants episode courtesy of whirlwind Tony. Bravo to the editors for presenting the most coherent, linear version of Tony’s madness as possible, though I still had to pull out my whiteboard and map this out while it was happening.

Fearful that he was in jeopardy because the minority alliance voted against him (!), Tony decided to turn on his own alliance (!!). Instead of doing that directly, he lied to LJ about how worried he was about Woo (!!!) and that led LJ to basically agree Woo had to go (!!!!). Yet when it came to actual strategy talk after the immunity challenge, LJ kept his attention on the minority alliance: Spencer and Jeremiah, who I keep confusing with LJ. While Spencer/Jeremiah votes seemed to be the plan, Tony used the idea he’d planted with LJ to suggest that LJ was really the threat for turning on their alliance, and got his alliance to vote LJ out (!!!!!). That was most incredible to watch when Tony told Woo that LJ was targeting him, when, of course, it was Tony who’d targeted Woo.

I need a drink.

Tony’s game play strikes me as brilliant and insane all at once. It’s not quite out of control, but runs up against that line all the time. If Tony makes it to the finals I’d say he has a solid case; he’s spent much of this season dropping lit matches into a gas tank and has not been burned yet.

Earlier, after winning reward, Spencer told Tony his minority alliance of three were simply “pawns on the board.” All three of them ended up voting for LJ. In other words, the vote wasn’t even along alliance lines, though several members of the dominant alliance voted for Jeremiah as a back-up.

Tangent: I’m thrilled rewards are back but also remember fondly those days when rewards actually meant going someplace spectacular, not to a chair and camp shower set up on a beach.

I was glad to see a mental immunity challenge, which Tasha won, thanks to her ability to retain basic information–colors, in order–while listening to Jeff Probst babble on and on and on. Seriously, I don’t think keeping the colors in order was the challenge here; the challenge was keeping them in order throughout the long, drawn out process of showing one tile at a time while Probst did commentary. Just watching, I was thinking this.

That also seemed to be what everyone was doing at Tribal Council, talking around their collective decision to dump El Jay as Probst prodded. The most reaction came from the jury bench, such as when Sarah looked like she was going to jump up and beat Tony over the head with a torch when he was talking about trust and then identified himself as a construction worker.

Next week, Woo falls out of a tree (!!!!!!).

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.