Pre-credit sequence[s]. The Zapatera Five return to camp after booting Sarita. Everybody’s making feeble rationalizations about how they hope they’ve made the Tribe stronger, while Julie says they need to win a couple challenges in a row. I do believe they’re closing the barn door, but all the goats and chicks and horses and cows already got loose. Meanwhile, Sarita arrives at Redemption Island, impressed with the Swiss Family Robinson set-up that Matt has made for himself over the past 10 years of isolation. Matt, clearly getting a bit worn down by his captivity on Redemption Island slurs, “I was quite happy to see her, because she doesn’t appear to be too incredibly tough.” At Matt’s urging, Sarita reflects on the challenge-losing awesomeness of Zapatera, giving her particular seal of approval to Marine Mike. Matt listens patiently. Up until this point, Matt has been planning on realigning with his Team Rob allies, but listening to Sarita, he seems to be having a change of heart. Perhaps starvation has messed with Matt’s math skills?
Full recap of Wednesday’s (April 6) “Survivor: Redemption Island” after the break…
There’s a bad Merge on the rise. Tree-mail (and pretty green frogs) arrive at Team Rob. The message says that the entire tribe will witness the next Duel and immediately they all begin to suspect a Merge is coming. Team Rob packs in case they have to shift camps. Something has happened since we last saw this group. Phillip found his meds? Somebody gave Phillip a taste of The Crispy? He’s suddenly happy and perfectly willing to stick with his tribe, post-Merge. Over at Zapatera, they get the same message from their Tree-Mail. Marine Mike is eager to go toe-to-toe with Rob.
One foot in the grave. And speaking of toe-to-toe (or similar extremities), Matt is going into his sixth Duel with an injured foot. He’s got a deep gouge at the bottom of his foot and he’s concerned that if it’s an endurance challenge, he might be in trouble. But Matt has a secret weapon and that secret weapon’s name is God. Sarita thinks Matt is impressive, but she also thinks she’s a worthy opponent. But does she have God on her side? I don’t think so.
Hang on Sloopy. Sloopy hang on. Matt and Sarita arrive at Redemption Island Arena, where Jeff Probst quickly announces that the winner of this Duel gets to return to the game. Boston Rob? Displeased. “There’s a possibility that he might defect to the other team. I mean, that’s what I would do,” Rob explains. Uh-oh. The Duel is, indeed, one of endurance. They have to brace their arms against the wall of a small box. That’s bad. Wanna know what’s worse? Their feet will rest on narrow footholds, which will get increasingly small. This is an absolutely nightmare for Matt, who will be clinging by his injured foot, which appears to be bandaged. A slightly evil Probst decides that 15 minutes into the Duel is the perfect time to ask Phillip what it takes to succeed in this sort of situation. Phillip quotes from the Samurai Code and rambles and rambles as clouds race in the sky. Rob chucks. Matt chuckles. The Zapateras have no idea what to make of this guy. Another 15 minutes pass and they move to the smallest foothold remaining. As Probst talks of leg-cramps, Matt and Sarita both squirm in discomfort. And down goes Sarita. Matt returns to the game. You can’t say the kid doesn’t deserve it. Six duels and six wins. Sarita is bummed. Probst tosses Matt a new buff and it’s a different color. They are, indeed, Merged. Hugs all around. They’re going to a new beach and… A TWIST. At the next Tribal Council? Redemption Island begins AGAIN. Matt figures he has enough inside information to make a big decision.
And “Rosebud” was actually the name for William Randolph Hearst’s mistress’… New beach. New camp. And a feast! Fruit! Bread! “My whole body got happy,” Julie says. They drink beer and wine, munch on nuts and prepare chicken for later. Of course, it’s soon time to choose a new tribe name and, as per usual, Boston Rob is feeling bored and reckons this would be yet another time to screw with everybody. He suggests “Murlonio,” which he claims means “from the sea united.” It’s apparently a reference to the ringleader of Amber’s group of stuffed animals. Awwww. As a Tribe, they build a shelter, while Grant tries to justify their decision to vote him out in the first place. While Matt and Adorable Andrea have resumed their flirtation, Marine Mike makes his move, attempting to woo the Power Couple to his alliance. Mike promises that Matt and Andrea will be guaranteed a place in the Final Four, sweetening the pot with access to an Idol.
Tee-hee. Oh Matt, you’re so clever! Tee-hee. Night brings rain and reveals an unfinished shelter. Oddly, it’s unfinished only on the side where the former Zapateras are sleeping. Team Rob is dry under the tarp. But somewhere, somewhere the baby turtles are moving toward the sea, Matt and Andrea are talking about feelings, or at least talking about strategy. Matt has a plan: He wants to take out Team Rob. He wants to first vote out Steve and then Phillip, lure his Tribe into a false sense of security, and then flip and boot Boston Rob. Adorable Andrea is so astounded you’d think Matt just cracked cold fusion. “This game respects big moves,” Matt reassures a jittery Andrea, who professes willingness to follow him blindly. To us, however, she admits the risk of Matt’s big move.
Your own Personal Jesus. It’s morning in Murlonio and Marine Mire is reading the Bible. No, he’s not pandering to his new Christian potential ally at all. What book is he reading from? Matthew. Duh. Matt, who has more than a passing resemblance to Textbook Jesus himself, reveals to his camp that he believes God wanted him to win Redemption Island. “I’m morally conflicted here,” Matt admits to us. God wants him to stick with his word, he figures, but he also wants to make a big move. As Bible Study progresses, Rob is playing with a pair of pliers and worrying that he has nothing to add to the Christian Coalition. “I’ve got nothing against God. I go to church on Sunday. But any time a group of individuals likes the same thing, I don’t like that. It could be romantic comedies, it could be Oreo cookies. If they’re all liking it together, I want that broken up,” Rob says, plotting to send Mike right back to Redemption Island.
Your balls on a platter, sir. It’s their first Individual Immunity Challenge. The challenge asks players to perch on a log balancing a progressively large number of balls on a platter. This is kinda a lame challenge, eh? Phillip seems on the verge of going out first, but he recovers. Probst is impressed. “I’ve got rhythm, baby,” Phillip says. Julie goes out first, as the players all go up to two balls. Down goes Ashley and then David. The players start three-balling it. Out next are Andrea, Grant, Matt, Rob and Phillip. “Ralph, one ball hanging on the edge,” leers Probst. Although Ralph tries talking to his balls, he goes out, followed by Steve. It’s Mike vs. Natalie for Immunity. “It’s like those balls are glued to his disk,” Probst says of Mike. “There’s a fly on Mike’s ball,” notes Julie. It’s the fly that sinks Mike’s ship. Natalie wins. She’s amazed. And cute. Mike knows that pesky fly may have earned him a trip to Redemption Island.
I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors… Mike figures that he and Ralph are most likely to be on the block and secures Ralph’s promise to cede the Idol to erase the votes on this side. Mike’s plan is to target Grant, rather than Rob with their votes. Out on a precipice, Rob and Matt discuss how Redemption Island changed Matt. And Matt has decided that he’s going to honor his God and stay with his original Tribe. He’s so true to that devotion that he tells Rob about Mike’s promised Idol. “Thanks man, that means a lot,” Rob tells Matt. But he’s not as pleased as you might expect. “First of all, he has the audacity to think that he’s going to come up with a plan to vote me out. And then the stupidity to tell me that. It just confirmed he can’t be trusted,” Rob says, readjusting his sights squarely on Matt, who finishes explaining his plan to eliminated Rob and says, “I’m glad we talked.” Rob’s not pleased Matt squealed and Andrea is even less pleased, feeling like she’s been thrown under a bus.
But I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor… “This is like a turning point in the game,” Rob says, pulling Natalie aside and leveling that the vote is against Matt. Natalie giggles approvingly. “Dude. He’s such a good Christian guy,” Grant says, before being swayed. Ashley’s easy to convince. Matt isn’t blind, though, and notices that Rob has gone off on his own and Mike jumps all over his indecision. There are snakes everywhere. Mike writes a note to Matt. It’s a promise to take him to the Final Three if he votes for Grant. “Here I am at the crossroads between keeping my word and breaking it,” Matt muses, after showing the note to Andrea. Rob knows how big this vote is, telling the plan to Andrea, who suddenly may hold all the power in this game.
Tribal Council. Ralph and Rob agree to Probst that even though the tribes have merged, they’re still two separate tribes. When Dave maligns the claim that Team Rob “won” the tarp they were sleeping under, admitting that Zapatera threw that particular challenge. Probst seems proud to have gotten this confession, as if folks hadn’t been acknowledging as much at Tribal Council for weeks. Phillip goes off on an epic tale about The Sea, which sometimes carries something parasitic and leaves a stench. Team Rob knows Phillip and they laugh. Team Formerly Russell looks on perplexed. Matt claims he’s started to see the whole picture. Rob has a worried look. And there’s a lot of time left in this episode. Is something weird about to happen?
The Vote. We don’t see any of the votes, though Matt deliberates for a while. Will an Idol get played? Yes. Ralph gives his Idol to Mike. Probst reads the votes: Grant. Grant. Grant. Grant. Grant. Funny how that works. Steve. Matt. Matt. Matt. Matt. Matt. WOW. MATTY. Rob smirks. “Let the fireworks begin,” Steve mutters. “Genius is what that was,” Dave says. “What the hell, guys?” says Matt, as he walks down the steps. Matt returns to Redemption Island confused by God’s seemingly contradictory will. “I want to friends with these people. Well they don’t want to be friends with me. And apparently I’m just not very good at this game of ‘Survivor,'” he says.
Bottom Line: I don’t know if this was “genius,” but I know it was the right move. And it was so obviously the right move that I wonder why there wasn’t some provision gave the Redemption Island winner at least a one-week Immunity. Matt’s mistake was his approach to Rob and the weird impression that what Rob would appreciate most was honestly, rather than flatter. I really believe that if Matt goes to Rob and just says that because he’s a man of God, he’s sticking with his original Tribe, Rob takes a week to test that loyalty and targets Mike or Steve or whoever. Instead he admits to the possible plan to turn on Rob, which would never be the right way to win the guy’s heart. Meanwhile, Zapatera basically threw away an Immunity Idol for nothing. Oh and was there an Immunity Idol clue amidst the Merge Feast? We didn’t see it or hear about it, but shouldn’t it be assumed that a new camp would bring a new Idol into the game? Anyway, I like the sadism of Rob’s move. And I like the sadism of Adorable Andrea going along with it. She was truly Matt’s Mary Magdalene. Meanwhile, another potentially uninteresting exit interview tomorrow. But after this week, they should start getting reliably good.
By Daniel Fienberg – As the Merge arrives and a Redeemed player returns, things get interesting