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Recap: 'Survivor: Nicaragua' - 'You Started, You're Finishing'
The teasers weren't lying. It's an unprecedented night on 'Survivor.'
I'm abroad for work, which means that in order to watch and recap "Survivor: Nicaragua" on Wednesday (Dec. 1) night, I'm actually watching at 1 a.m. on Thursday morning. Why would I possibly choose to do that? Because CBS' promo wizards indicated that tonight's episode is going to be unforgettable and unprecedented. They would never lie to me, would they?
Pre-credit sequence. Like I said, it's early morning and my brain is a little fuzzy, but was that stuff about Purple Kelly wanting to quit in the open credits new material? In fact, is Purple Kelly actually a contestant on this show? The episode begins on Night 27. It's dark. It's threatening to rain again. And Purple Kelly goes to NaOnka and announces, "I didn't understand it at all," referring to that night's vote. She feels betrayed by NaOnka, Chase and Sash, who have put her at the bottom of the pecking order. WHO ARE YOU, KELLY PURPLE? Sorry. Early morning impatience. Meanwhile, suddenly at the top of the pecking order, Holly is reassuring NaOnka that she's still in good shape. I'm not sure I like her very much, but the reversal of fortune that has seen Holly go from near-quitter to cocky Queen Bee has to be one of the biggest swings in "Survivor" history. NaOnka is ticked off at Brenda still. Sure, NaOnka betrayed a friend who was never anything other than straight-forward with her, but NaOnka is offended that Brenda went after her at Tribal Council. "Do I look like Boo-Boo the Fool?" NaOnka muses. Hmmm... Wait. Rhetorical question, right? Nevermind. NaOnka swears that she's unintimidated and that, if anything, people fear her and her rapier wit. Chase figures that he's sticking with NaOnka, Jane and Holly for the rest of the game, but he expects things to change. Foreshadowing.
Quitting time. A storm is brewing the next day, as rainwater has caused cascades of run-off in what used to be their "nice little pond." Jane says camp life is miserable with this kind of weather and the "Survivor" editors clearly agree. NaOnka, apparently anemic, is having problems with her joints. Holly tells us that we don't understand what they're going through. Purple Kelly, bawling, says that she's day-to-day in the game. Kelly doesn't want to give up, but she hasn't wanted to play "Survivor" either. Fabio says that the secret is finding a mental happy place and acknowledging that all is misery is temporary. Might I end up finding myself rooting for Fabio? Weird. The next morning, Benry and Fabio confab and agree that anybody who wants to leave is welcome to leave. Still shivering, NaOnka admits to Chase that she's nearly done and she hands her Idol -- "the key to the game" -- to Chase, who observes, "I appreciate the hell out of this." NaOnka tells Chase he needs to get his swagga on. And, swagga-ing indeed, Chase says that even if NaOnka sticks around, she isn't getting the Idol back. Ringleaders Jane and Holly don't care if Purple Kelly and NaOnka leave, they still have a solid four-player alliance. But Sash doesn't trust his new allies as much as he trusts Purple Kelly and NaOnka.
A [Jack] Black mark on "Survivor." The rain has stopped as we settle in for a Reward Challenge. They're going to be divided into teams and the teams are tethered together in an obstacle course to rescue an 8-foot stuffed dummy named Gulliver. Want to know what they're playing for? They're going to go to go to a makeshift cinema to be subjected to Jack Black's "Gulliver's Travels." Oy. Is this the "Survivor" First the commercials were talking about? The first time a Reward is actually a Punishment? Meanwhile, Jeff Probst, never shy about diving into productive placement, explains how the theme of "Gulliver's Travels" relates to their own travails. They do a schoolyard pick and Fabio, Sash, Jane and Purple Kelly are the Yellow Team. Everybody but Dan is on the Blue team. Nobody picked Dan, but he's aligned himself with Blue. At a certain point, I stop paying attention, just as I will with "Gulliver's Travels." It appears to be competitive and Probst gets very excited by their effort and the chance to shill for a "major" motion picture. Blue team wins reward. It sucks that Dan gets another reward for doing nothing. At least it's *this* reward.
Two quitters, one martyr. As Jeff is repeating the reward, NaOnka interrupts. She instructs Jeff that this will be her last day. Then Jeff asks if anybody else wants to quit. A bemused Probst smiles incredulously as Purple Kelly announces she's leaving as well. Although Probst belittles them, NaOnka and Purple Kelly both maintain they're proud to be quitting. Probst is having none of this. He gives them the rest of the day to rethink their decision. Probst tells the Blue team that if any *one* player quits reward, the whole tribe will get more rice and a new tarp. Superhero Holly volunteers, making a long speech accentuating her heroism. But Holly is pissed off that NaOnka, who was leaving anyway, didn't fall on her sword for the good of the team. Damn straight. Meanwhile, I promise you I'd have bailed on "Gulliver's Travels" before the offer was even out of Probst's mouth.
Purple, don't be yellow. The losers and Holly return to camp and prepare for yet another storm. Everybody worships Holly. Fabio describes it as "a pretty cool gesture." Holly, taking on the Jimmy Johnson role, pulls Purple Kelly aside and tells her to suck it up and play the game. "If you quit, you're always going to be remembered as the girl who quit 'Survivor: Nicaragua.'" But, to be fair, if she *doesn't* quit, she's only going to be remembered as "The Kelly with two legs." If that. Holly instructs Kelly that there are going to be tougher things ahead and that she needs to suck it up. But Kelly insists, "I have nothing left to suck." Heh. Heh. Heh. Holly doesn't like quitters, be it Kelly Purple or when her darned daughters threatened to quit cross country. Momma Holly wants to be an inspiration for all future generations. Holly: The Woman Who Wouldn't Quit.
Let's all go to the lobby... Let's all go to the lobby... There's a cabana area set up for the winning team. They accumulate popcorn and candy and hot dogs and go crazy with happiness. Chase, though, can't fully enjoy his pleasure, because of NaOnka's selfishness. But NaOnka figures she gave 110 percent in the challenge to get her darned reward and she wasn't going to give it up. Then, sadly, they have to watch the movie. Despite the fact that "Gulliver's Travels" is being advertised for its 3-D content, this is purely a 2-D experience. The winners sit around and giggle "Jack Black" over and over again. Benry is laughing, but in the back of his mind, he's rooting for NaOnka to leave. But NaOnka is experiencing the healing properties of Jack Black. She's feeling "explosive" and she's suddenly realized that if she stays, she could win a million dollars. [I want Jeff Probst to explain that "Gulliver's Travels" is relevant because it's a movie that co-star Emily Blunt had to be contractually forced to do, proving that, like staying in "Survivor," sometimes you have to do things that suck.]
Is Kelly Purple also explosive? Quitting hasn't crossed Fabio's mind. With rice and a tarp, Kelly Purple is a bit peppier, but she knows that that's not the same as lasting 11 more days.
Tribal Council, Kinda. Because of the tandem quitting, it's a Very Special Unplanned Tribal Council. No Immunity Challenge this week. Alina and Brenda look so shiny and well-fed. They also look shocked when Probst reveals NaOnka and Purple Kelly's plan. At Probst's prompting, Holly recounts her Jimmy Johnson experience once again. I love how we cut straight to Marty when Holly mentions Jimmy. Jane agrees that since she's hanging in there, Purple Kelly and NaOnka should hang in there. NaOnka starts complaining about her joints and we cut to Dan rolling his eyes. But NaOnka's proud that she's The Last African-American standing, saying she comes from a line of proud black women. Purple Kelly whines more and Alina looks like she's ready to kill the quitter. Benry mutters something about winners never quit and quitters never winning. Truer words, etc... Fabio, one year older than Purple Kelly makes it clear that this isn't an age thing, that he'd never quit. Probst asks NaOnka if realistically she ever had a chance to win. She says she did. Marty doubles over laughing. "Regale me with a story, woman," Probst mocks her, his derision moving in the direction of offensiveness. But then Probst stops the Tribal Council's substance to get the castaways to talk about how much they loved "Gulliver's Travels" and how a Jack Black movie saved their life. This is the most cutaways to the Jury in "Survivor" history, as NaOnka goes on and on about how she deserved the reward and never should have been the one to Pull the Holly. "I'm content," NaOnka declares.
To Quit or Not To Quit? What is the answer? Probst tells NaOnka she has a 1-in-9 shot at a million dollars. Mathematically, he's wrong. But he asks if she's going to quit. She does. Bye, NaOnka. Then Probst tells Purple Kelly that she has a 1-in-8 shot at a million dollars. He's wrong with his math again.., But she also quits. Jeff asks NaOnka what should happen to their torches. She says they should be "smuffed." Jeff agrees to snuff their torches, but they don't get to take the torches with them. BURN. Brenda calls it disgusting. Marty agrees. "You wanna go? Go," Probst tells NaOnka as she heads off into the wilderness. For one second it looks like Purple Kelly might be reconsidering, but she also sacrifices her fire, without the kiss-off from Probst. Then Probst tells the remaining contests that it's time to step up. Meanwhile, Alina is sitting crying. In her exit interview, Purple Kelly apologizes to Marty, Brenda and Alina. NaOnka says that she owes nobody an apology and that this was all an accomplishment for her.
Bottom Line: Well that was pathetic. Tis the week for quitting on CBS reality shows, but with very different messages. On Sunday's episode of "The Amazing Race," Nick & Vicki quit a challenge and were totally prepared to leave the game. Not only did Phil Keoghan not take them to task, but Nick & Vicki were rewarded with a Non-Elimination Leg keeping them in the game. They could still win the million after trying to exit. On "Survivor," we were treated to a 30 minute lecture on the importance of perseverance and the lame sportsmanship of bailing. On "The Amazing Race" a team quit and the game literally just ignored their spinelessness and kept going. "The Amazing Race" said, "Forget that, you *can't* quit." On "Survivor," the game ground to a halt and everything was put on hold to point fingers and criticize the quitters. Sometimes Jeff Probst's self-righteousness is irksome, but it played well tonight, especially with the acknowledgement that NaOnka and Purple Kelly were making a mockery of the three people on the Jury. On "The Amazing Race," nobody acknowledged the teams that gave full effort and didn't last as long as the quitters.
Bottom Line Part II: Legacy Time: Purple Kelly takes her place as one of the five worst players in "Survivor" history. Despite lasting 28 days, she contributed nothing to the game, failing to make an intellectual, social or physical mark in any single segment of any single episode. Not one. You have to work hard not to be the focus -- positively or negatively -- of even one three minute chunk of story. NaOnka, in contrast, will just sit around and wait for "Survivor 30: More Heroes and More Villains." You almost have to give NaOnka some credit. She gave her fellow castaways 28 days full of reasons to vote her out and somehow they abdicated that responsibility, so she got to quit, spitting one last time in their faces. The only way she could have ended her run more hated would have been to make it even deeper before quitting, to make more members of the Jury cry.
It's 2:40 a.m. where I am. I'm going to sleep. What'd you think of Thursday's "Survivor"?