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Recap: ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’ – ‘Their Red-Headed Stepchild’

Pre-credit sequence. Did anybody else kinda forget who got voted out last week? Redemption Island makes it hard to keep track of the layers of elimination, especially when it was Kristina who went home, but Krista who was booted at Tribal Council. Krista arrives at Redemption Island and has to basically introduce herself to Matt. She’s already a fan of his substance and his positive attitude. They bond over the possibility for prayer. Matt says God put him there, but Krista warns him that she’s still going to compete with him. Each calls the other “Blondie,” but which of them will be devouring a Dagwood sandwich after losing the Duel? Yeah. I have no idea what that reference has to do with anything.
Full recap of Wednesday’s (March 23) “Survivor: Redemption Island” after the break…

Big Mean Steve vs. Tiny Mousy Stephanie. We begin over with Team Formerly Russell. Stephanie is tiny and all alone. Sarita commiserates with Steve, whose name appeared on multiple ballots at the previous Tribal Council. Steve comes to Stephanie and asks why she wrote his name down and Stephanie spares no feelings in saying that she feared for his weakened physicality. “It’s a gut check,” says Steve, who wants to mention his 13 years in the NFL and wastes no time in telling Stephanie that it was another poor strategic decision. “If we end up going back to Tribal, she’s out,” Steve tells us. Well, duh. This episode had better dig up a better twist than that.

The finer points of armpit grooming. Now in HD! The cuties of Team Rob are enjoying another Beach Day, as Phillip works in the background. It’s a little sexy, but also a little disturbing, as Natalie begins plucking Ashley’s armpit hair with a pair of scissors. Everybody else is working and they beautifying. “If you can make yourself be more comfortable, why not?” Ashley giggles. Feeling left out, Adorable Ashley decides this is the time to get her hair braided. Phillip interrupts their spa experience to ask them to check the fire every 30 minutes. The ladies all agree to his terms and promptly ignore him. “If I go to Redemption Island before Ashley and Natalie, there’s something wrong with the game,” Phillip says, calling their “Survivor” a beauty pageant. He wants a little credit for his effort, but admits that he’s “their red-headed stepchild.” Poor Phillip. Then, in a fabulous bit of editing, we cut to Natalie and Ashley. “I have a headache,” Natalie complains. “I have a stomachache,” Natalie complains. Totally apropos of nothing. End scene. Brilliant.
My luxury item would be the second book in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Might as well get a little reading done. Back on Redemption Island, Krista’s luxury item arrives and it’s… A Bible! Talk about a gift for everybody. Krista’s happy! Matt’s happy! They sit on the beach and pray. They’d previously been struggling without “a faith community.” That’s what happens when you align with Russell and Stephanie, Krista. Matt’s spirit is a little broken to be facing a fellow Christian. He’s not as anxious to break Krista and even gives her an extra scoop of rice. Uh-oh. Will going soft cost him?
Ten minutes of God’s will. Duel time! Andrea and Natalie are observing for Team Rob, while Julie and Mike are on hand for Team Formerly Russell. Matt and Krista have to use grappling hooks to capture bags, each holding a ball. Then they have to use one ball in a maze puzzle. Krista is amazingly precise and gets her three bags ahead of Matt, giving her the first shot at the maze. But Matt has been down in each of his Redemption Island challenge. This time, there’s tension in his voice. Jeff Probst tries coaching him and Matt snaps, “I’m working on it, Probst.” The annoyance is short-lived. Krista’s ball falls in the hole and that’s all Matt needs. It’s another win for Matt, who shows no joy in hugging his vanquished foe. Before depositing her buff in the urn, Krista gives Matt his Bible. What, we wonder, was Matt’s luxury item? Jeff seems impressed with their faith. Krista says that she and Matt had previously agreed that whoever won the Duel, it would be God’s will. “That book just breathes life,” Matt says, holding his Bible. So everything’s rosy for the Unstoppable Matt Train, right? No! Adorable Andrea, Matt’s Team Rob cuddle buddy sees the deep, spiritual closeness between Matt and Krista and the scales have been lifted from her eyes. She now realizes that Matt is dangerous. Cut to a rainbow in the sky.
If you perform dental surgery on yourself in the wilderness, be prepared to reap the whirlwind. There’s an adorable baby tortoise on the shore, stumbling towards the ocean. It’s irrelevant. But it’s cute. You know what isn’t cute? Thinking you have a cavity and trying to clean it and then getting an infected sore in your mouth. Ick! That’s what happened to Sarita. Julie isn’t buying the pain, calling her “a drama queen princess,” while Ralph agrees that Sarita may be “too fancy a girl for this game.” And heck, even Ralph is smart enough to know that jabbing dirty sticks into your mouth is S-T-O-O-P-I-D.  Might this be the break Stephanie needs to change her place in the poking order? Well, Stephanie has an unexpected ally in Dave. The lawyer may not have wanted Stephanie doing puzzles last week, but he’d rather have her around than Sarita. Stephanie’s challenge? How to suck up to people she hates?
I tried doing a subject line expanding on Boston Rob’s Arafat analogy, but bruised my brain. Before we see Stephanie complete that challenging task, back to Team Rob, where Phillip is warning everybody that a storm is brewing. “I consider this the calm before the storm,” Phillip says. A better embodiment of the calm would be the three cuties and Grant (also a cutie, I suppose, if you like that kinda thing) who are just lounging on the beach. Boston Rob and Grant are much more understanding of their distaff companions, figuring that 19 or 20 year-old girls just aren’t going to work. The storm is actually Phillip. Things break down between Phillip and Ashley, leading to a shouting match in which the Former Federal Agent mispronounces Andrea’s name and refers to himself as the “red stepchild.” Phillip’s threat is that the next day will be a fire-free day. “Somebody needs to diagnose him,” Ashley says. “I think this fracture’s going to end up splitting this Tribe,” worries Rob, who quickly pulls Phillip aside and tries to preach unity. “I had to play Arafat in the peace process,” Rob says, uttering one of the most interesting, confounding pronouncements in the history of this game, because the funny thing is that he may, indeed, be making a really clever analogy about his own position as villain-turned-peacemaker. Rob wants peace, but he wants something else. “The girls weren’t doing anything, but the less they do, the happier I am. I don’t want them working hard and giving us a reason to write your name down to win a million dollars,” Rob says. Oh, never a dull day with Boston Rob.
The entirety of Stephanie fits atop a canteen. Stephanie is still thinking. This appears to have been a complicated process. She starts by sitting down with Steve and going into humble apology for writing his name down. The former NFL-er is confused, but at least vaguely receptive. “I know she’s working hard, so I’m going to keep that door open with Stephanie,” Steve says. Stephanie then plants the seed that what she really wants is to write down Sarita’s name. Stephanie knows that her best bet is to excel in a challenge that Sarita tanks, saying “I need to drag her down and bring me up.”
Don’t stand between Grant and his balls. Challenge time! Probst starts by playing up the imaginary rivalry between the two tribes. Really? Phillip vows to bring both the gorilla and the lion to the challenge, but Steve gives him a forearm shiver. In the challenge, players from each team will be launching balls with a slingshot and other players have to catch the balls. This challenge did not take very much thought time for the production crew. They’re also playing for a mountain top picnic. There are four tiers of ball-catchers. It’s Grant vs. Mike, Rob vs. Steve, Julie vs. Andrea and Ashley vs. Ralph. Stephanie ends up as a ball-launcher, which isn’t a great position from which to show her awesomeness, though with Sarita sitting out, Stephanie’s got an edge there. Grant is a monster, scoring three straight points for Team Rob, even with Marine Mike tearing at his shirt. Rob makes it 4-0 for his Tribe and Grant seals the deal with his fourth individual point and his team’s challenge-winner. It’s a rout and Stephanie achieved no real greatness, not that it was her fault that Marine Mike got used and abused by Grant. Steve says they’ll have a tough decision at their next Tribal Council.
I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all outta bubblegum. Picnic time for Team Rob. And this isn’t a skimpy picnic. They have heaping bowls of food and a lovely view of actual civilization. They sit underneath a statue of Jesus. Rob either pretends not to recognize the guy, or he’s doing everything possible to keep his comrades distracted by snagging the next clue to the Immunity Idol he already has. This time around, his game is to let Grant find the clue and then to work with Grant to make sure that the Idol isn’t one the site of the reward. But they’re busted by Phillip. “I’ve been in an alliance with Rob, Grant and Myself. In face, I call ourself Stealth-R-Us. I’m the specialist. Rob is the mentalist. And Grant is the assassin,” Phillip explains, using some weird “Big Brother”-style alliance-nicknaming. But he’s royally cheesed off that his assassin and his mentalist were keeping secrets. “If you’re gonna make an alliance with me, you’d better adhere to it, because I’m all about integrity,” Phillip rants, noting his 4 years, 11 months and 13 days serving his country. He vows to smile for now and kick a little ass later. Wow.
The Mom or the Wolverine? Dare we say that maybe Russell was right about the impact of throwing that one challenge to get rid of him? Certainly this Immunity was one that Russell’s particular brand of bulldog effort probably would have helped in. But now Team Formerly Russell faces another vote. Dave says that Sarita is more like Team Mom than a player and he wants to keep Stephanie. For some weird reason, Mike announces that they just weren’t meant to win that challenge. That’s a fine piece of rationalizing from a man who just got his butt kicked. Although Sarita senses that she may be targeted, she vows to show her loyalty by not lobbying her cause. Stephanie has no such qualms and she approaches Julie next to plead. “Strong woman in a little package, that’s what you are,” Julie says, hugging Stephanie and telling her it isn’t a done deal. Lawyer Dave lays down the law for his alliance, advocating for Stephanie. Phillip says he isn’t opposed to keeping Stephanie around if he believes he can trust her.
Tribal Council. Lots of spiders tonight. Probst isn’t messing around. He immediately asks if they regret throwing the challenge that got rid of Russell and Dave admits that maybe they blew it by taking their foot off of the throttle. Ralph thinks that the problem with the challenge was that he should have been launching balls. Stephanie turns on Sarita for being afraid to compete in the challenge and, at Probst’s urging, Dave turns on Sarita as well. Sarita tries saying that she would have participated and that the loss made her sad, but again Stephanie isn’t relenting. Her teeth are on Sarita’s neck and she doesn’t want to let up. Stephanie’s a vicious little rodent. Probst asks if Stephanie’s spunk is worth keeping her around and Steve replies that while Stephanie is a warrior, Sarita is trustworthy (but still “an uptown girl”).”It’s a tribe that’s too obsessed with trusting one another,” Dave protests. “Sounds pretty good,” says Ralph after hearing Dave’s closing.
The Vote. Sarita makes a preachy speech and votes for Stephanie. Stephanie growls, writes Sarita’s name and vows to kick her but on Redemption Island if it comes to that. Dave also votes for Sarita. Time for Jeff to tally the votes: Sarita. Stephanie. Sarita. Stephanie. Stephanie. Stephanie. That’s it for Stephanie. BOO. I’ll be the only person in America rooting for Stephanie in next week’s Duel.
Bottom Line. Another episode with a less-than-thrilling Tribal Council vote. I’m blaming the core alliance over at Team Formerly Russell. Mike, Steve, Julie and Sarita are boring people and although Ralph has personality, he’s faded a bit in recent weeks. In the balance, we all know that they were *right* not to keep Stephanie around, because we’re just about at the “Start praying for a merge” phase and if you get to a Merge up one or even, you don’t want to know that one member of your tribe is as good as flipped. But voting “correctly” isn’t the same as voting “interestingly.” Meanwhile, it was just another week of Phillip being nuts, Rob entertaining himself by playing games within games and, for some reason, the cute girls grooming themselves. The pace of the season has slowed down from the terrific opening episodes and part of that really does have to do with the staggering caused by Redemption Island. That’s clearly a twist that will either pay off or backfire when the winner returns to the game, but as we move slowly toward that point, I’m not a big fan. Then again, I liked the minor surprise of Andrea’s reaction to Matt and Krista. That was at least unexpected. I think Andrea’s an intriguing character, the girl most likely to buck Rob’s “let them be lazy” strategy.
Any thoughts on this week’s episode?

By Daniel Fienberg – Krista and Matt Duel, Phillip causes more trouble and Stephanie scrambles

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