Any of the simple-minded people who think Survivor is fake and populated with actors need only watch last night’s Tribal Council, when the camera focused on John’s face as he realized he was about to be voted out. His confident face sank and transformed until it looked like it belonged to a wounded child, genuine shock that could only be mimicked by the best actors, not an aerospace engineer who swam a race in jeans.
That he was surprised might be the most surprising part, because John flipped to save his own ass last episode, and that decision and its aftermath led to Probst snuffing his torch. John really screwed up both by betraying his tribe and acting arrogantly about that and by making a deal and sort of threatening the guy who he’d helped blindside someone else. After buying a clue to the hidden immunity idol’s location during the reward challenge auction, John confronted Russell and prompted Russell to confess having found it. Russell told us, “It was my mistake, but sorry, John, you’ve gotta go home for it.”
Galu minus Shambo (was there ever a Galu plus Shambo?) gladly went along with the plan to get rid of John instead of Dave, because they saw John as a loose cannon free agent. However, all of this has the potential to backfire on Russell because as Jaison smartly pointed out, Foa Foa just did to Shambo what Galu did to her: took her vote for granted. Shambo’s clairvoyant dreams from god told her Dave Ball was going home, because she clashed with him about how to cook the chicken that she’d told “I’ll talk to you in heaven when I go to heaven, okay?” just before her tribemates cut its head off. Totally amazing.
Shambo’s been acting kind of insane, and the editors are having as much fun with her as they did with Coach last season. Last night’s episode had a night vision sequence–featuring frighteningly edited shots of a crab, a chicken, and Shambo jerking in her sleep as if she was in a Japanese horror film–that was the weirdest and freakiest thing the show has ever done.
And that was just one part of a very full, very satisfying episode. The auction reward challenge included a soft core porn shower for Natalie, an advantage for the immunity challenge that Jaison bought and used so effectively that he won immunity, and John refusing to trade a piece of pie for a full pie that he’d have to give away. In Jeff Probst’s EW piece (which has not miraculously transformed int a blog despite Entertainment Weekly’s continual, stubborn insistence on using that label), Probst insists that “John could have used that pie to buy a lot of good will from a lot of people, and I absolutely believe had he done so he would still be in the game.”
There’s obviously footage we didn’t see–since all of Galu except Shambo voted against John–but in the moment they didn’t seem to be upset about his decision, and I don’t think they dumped him because of the pie. John feels the same way: When I talked to him a few minutes ago, he said, “I certainly disagree [with Probst]. There was a long dialouge with me and the other cast members when that whole thing happened.” He said that if he thought “it contributed 1/10th of a percent to my going home,” he would have taken the offer for the full pie. But John said that the pie “was the very last” auction item, and by that time “everyone except Jaison had something to eat.” That means that those people who we didn’t see bid at all, like Brett and Russell, actually won items that were edited out.
As to “the hit that was executed on me,” as John called it, he discussed it with his mix of obvious intelligence and intelligence-defeating cockiness. He’s clearly given everything a lot of thought, and admits mistakes and alternative options, but also seems overly confident about what he did do, even if it led to his downfall in the game.
“I think there were several things that could have gone differently, and had they gone differently, I’d still be in the game,” he said. For example, he said that if Dave, Monica, or Brett had talked to him, he could have proposed “a plan that served them better than voting me off,” but “people don’t always do what serves them best,” John said.
I pointed out that he didn’t do much to convince them he was trustworthy, and he essentially defended his flipping last week. “If you had executed more effectively on your plan, Natalie would have gone home, but guess what? You didn’t, and I’m not obliged to take a rock,” John said, adding that he “could have worked harder with Monica,” because “we were both gunning for each other, let’s take a step back and reassess the situation we’re in.”
While he worked with Russell, who he’d helped to vote out one of his own the previous week, John said, “I certainly didn’t trust Russell. Sometimes you have to work with people.” As to their conversation about the idol, John said, “sometimes the conversations happen really, really quickly” and “it’s not like a phone interview for a new job where you have a list of things to talk about, and be prepared for it. In hindsight, you’re like, ‘I shouldn’t have said this, I shouldn’t have said that, and that’s maybe one of them.”
Finally, I asked him about one of the most baffling things I’ve seen: his decision to swim in jeans in the opening challenge. He laughed and said it was “clearly not the right thing,” and blames the way the whole situation is “very chaotic.” Ultimately, he said that while “there are lots of people on that island that I could have beat with jeans on” (there’s that cockiness), he said he was beaten because “Jaison is a hell of a swimmer,” and it was “certainly the wrong play to swim in jeans; I’m an idiot.”