Tyler Perry idol appears, may threaten one of Survivor’s best strategic seasons

The emergence of the stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, seriously Probst, stupid Tyler Perry immunity idol threatens to disrupt what has so far been an incredibly satisfying game of unpredictable strategy on Survivor Cagayan.

Although idols were flying at Tribal Council last night, and although the results would have been very different had Spencer thought to give his idol to Jeremiah instead of playing it for himself, the end result was predictable, as the larger alliance stuck together and sent Geremiah to the gury.

For the first time this season, we may be entering a period of predictable votes. At least, the outcome tonight, which sent poor Geremiah to the jury, suggests a dominant alliance unwilling to turn on each other, at least until the two strong players are gone.

Then again, that alliance does include Tony, who has otherwise proven unwilling to follow his tribe’s plan. The preview suggests Spencer uses Tony’s paranoia against him, which seems very probable, especially since Tony is so paranoid/brilliant he created a camouflaged area near the water well to listen in on strategy conversations. CBS hashtagged this “spyshack,” which reminded me of Big Brother‘s shack, if you know what I’m saying (masturbation location).

When Tony found the super-power idol by just digging around noteworthy trees, good for him, but this is what I pictured in my head, so I dry heaved and tweeted this. Because enough.

The idol’s appearance is frustrating because Tony has been a fantastic player who’s inspired smart and unpredictable strategy without insane godlike power to save himself after the votes have been read. Worse, the Tyler Perry idol is stupid, just like it was 16 seasons ago, before Tyler Perry suggested it and Jeff Probst decided it was a great, brand-new idea. Idol mania is problematic enough without this crazy power.

Tony seemed to impulsively pulled out the idol–or its wrapping paper, or a decoy–at Tribal Council even before the votes were read, so perhaps he’ll do something stupid with it. But essentially, he cannot be voted out right now, and if he uses it to his advantage, can hold the tribe hostage and march his way into the final three. As Spencer pointed out during his backhanded compliment during Tribal Council, “Tony has been steering this game and you all haven’t.” He doesn’t need the idol to taint his game play.

Taint, heh.

I don’t want to give all the game play credit to Tony, of course. We’ve seen a lot of really smart and interesting (and questionable!) decision-making this season. This episode, it was Trish who played a quiet but smart game. She deftly managed Jefra, whose feewings were huwt because of Tony’s strategy. Although Trish was similarly kept in the dark, she hasn’t let it disrupt her game and is essentially keeping Tony alive in the game. That may not work to her advantage–she may get voted out, or the jury may not value that less-visible game play–but it’s an interesting choice.

Having just freaked out for several paragraphs, I probably shouldn’t be so worried about something that may happen, and very well may not. I’ve just been so unexpectedly thrilled with this season that I’m worried. It’s like being halfway through some amazing ice cream and then having a bird shit on it. I guess it’s possible the bird shit won’t do any harm but ugh.

Meanwhile, I complained last week that Survivor was getting cheap with its rewards by just taking them to another beach, but this week the winning team had their cheap feast at Callao Cave, a pretty spectacular location. I really loved when the guide warned them about the slippery rocks–“watch your step”–and Spencer immediately fell. Fantastic comic timing. That memory helped me forgive the guide when he interrupted strategy talk, as Spencer and Tasha worked to get Jefra to flip. But my favorite part of the reward challenge was Jeff Probst inexplicably adopting a South Park voice to explain what they’d eat: “Cheekin! Reebs! Putatuh salad!”

Later, Tasha balanced her way to an immunity win, but that only gave the three smaller alliance members two idols between them, and once Jefra confessed she wouldn’t join them in the vote, the outcome was clear.

Knowing he was soon to be voted out, Jeremiah confessed to his alliance that he was, in fact, a fashion model. He told Spencer and Tasha–and everyone watching–to Google “Jeremiah Wood” and “just put model afterwards and you can see something.” As Jeff Probst said while narrating the immunity challenge, “That starts a lotta balls movin’.”

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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.