Recap: 'Survivor: San Juan Del Sur' - 'Million Dollar Decision'
Pre-credit sequence. Dale was the latest victim of Coyopa's ineptitude, Keith was confused to see his name written down at all. Apparently nothing notable happened on the nighttime return to camp, but the next morning Missy feels it's her responsibility to explain why things happened the way they happened. "You could've let me know," Keith pouts, asking what would have happened if Dale had voted for him. [Dale and I discussed that in his yet-to-post exit interview.] Although he's reassured that Dale was going home no matter what, Keith is merely making nice, telling us he'd be prepared to leave his current alliance high-and-dry.
Clearly they remember, picking on the boy. Dale may get his chance soon, because Tree-Mail tells Hunahpu to pack their belongings. A Merge is coming and Josh laments that his tribe didn't take advantage of the opportunity to vote Jeremy out when they had they chance. For his part, Jeremy is relieved to get away from Josh & Reed's fiefdom and he's prepared to crush them post-Merge. And me? I'm just happy not to have to spell Hunahpu ever again. That extra "h" has confused me pretty reliably.
Come together. Monkey! Coyopa gets the same Tree-Mail and even Baylor is able to figure out that this means Merge. Jon & Jaclyn are pleased that they'll be able to have dirty, unhygienic post-Merge kisses. Hugs are exchanged, while Reed explains the different strategic possibilities with pairs and singles. But forget about strategy, because there's a feast. Jon claims he's had nothing for 16 days, which know isn't true because he spent a long time gorging on rice at Hunahpu. Julie was annoyed to be with the couple-y Reed & Josh for a while, but now she's even more annoyed to be surrounded by other couples as well and she just wants to curl up and become an invisible non-factor in the game. Oh. Wait. Anyway... They're returning to the old Coyopa camp, collecting all of the leftovers from their feast. Keith is happy to play with Wes and spits at the notion that previous alliances apply. "Now we're merged and it's a little daunting with so many people," Josh admits.
Hashtag Blessed. "The Merge is a milestone," Jeremy says, calling the first half of the game "prelims." The singletons begin to gravitate towards each other. Jeremy figures he has the singles, but he wants to woo some couples. He starts with Jon, who is willing to welcome Jeremy and Natalie and Julie to his group of two couples and they'll be able to turn on Josh and Reed. "Missy's been with me since Day 1," says a confident Jeremy. They select Huyopa as a new tribe name, which isn't bad to spell. They add a hashtag to show how forward-thinking they are, while Josh is thinking forward to squeezing Jeremy out.
On Broadway. It's Wes' birthday and Josh remembered. Keith did not remember. Awkward. Keith offers Wes a crab and he figures that everything is cool. Josh and Reed really distrust Jeremy. Josh wants to get all of the couples to stick together and take down the singles, though Alec is a part of that alliance. Josh's assuming that Baylor will be grateful that he kinda saved her once and then he's assuming that Missy will join Baylor. "Oh dang," Baylor replies when confronted by another alternative, putting Josh off in the short-term. Baby monkey! Baylor tells Missy that it'll make her sad to go against Josh and she suggests to her mother that she wants to go and apologize in advance to Josh. "Baylor, you're gonna have to be a little bit phony," Missy tells her daughter. "Sometimes she acts like she's 30 and sometimes she acts like she's 10," Missy tells us. This is some of the poorest sound mixing I've ever heard on "Survivor." Did they lose the directional mics? I've never heard so much background cross-talk on this show. Missy views this as a chance for redemption for the whole multi-divorce thing and tells her daughter to get behind her and strap on for the ride. Josh is pissed off that Baylor is under her mom's influence and not under his. Seeing Baylor slip away, Josh goes to Jon & Jaclyn and plays they, "If we get to the end, they're going to give the money to the fireman" card. "Once again, we find ourselves in the middle," Jon says. It's amusing that part of his skepticism regarding Josh & Reed is that they make stuff up because "they're Broadway stars," which is surely the overstatement and suspect statement of the century.
But who stole Bre's granola bar? Hunger is setting in. There was trail mix at the feast and now it's gone. Julie took it with her and she doesn't feel the need to share with everybody. Julie would prefer to only share with the people she likes, but her fellow castaways are snoopy and go through her bag and find the trail mix. This is, as we know, a "Survivor" cardinal sin. "It is one of the most selfish things you can do in 'Survivor,'" Wes says, instigating rampant trail mix theft. I guess because it was initially communal property it's fair-play to steal? Jon has lost all trust for her. How much trust did Jon have for Julie? And why? Why do we even remember who Julie is? Anyway, Julie was off sunning while all this occurred and she returns to their distain. Oh and why don't the "Survivor" subtitlers think that Jon's name is spelled "John"?
Balls drop. Individual Immunity is up for grab and Josh wants it. Nobody else cares, I guess. They have to balance a ball on a disk attached to ropes. Then they'll add a second ball. The balls can't hit the sand. Oh. This is not an elaborately devised challenge, is it? Jeremy goes out first in a gust of wind, with Missy and Julie going out next. In the next round, Reed, Baylor and Alec go out. Jaclyn's goes out, followed by Natalie. OK. I don't care anymore. Let me know when somebody wins. 75% of being a “Survivor” producer must be contriving opportunities for Jeff Probst to say “balls." It's down to Wes and Keith. Will Keith let Wes win a birthday present Immunity? Nope. Keith wins the first Individual Immunity. "I'm not ready to turn over the reins to him," Keith says of his son, calling that night's vote "critical."
Trail Mixalot. "I thought I'd kill these challenges. I'm terrible at these challenges," Jeremy says. He's especially unhappy that he went out before Julie. Jeremy feels inexplicably safe going into Tribal. The trail mix conversation is continuing with a snide remark from Alec. Julie doesn't know what to do, seeking advice from Missy. "It's obnoxious. It really is," Missy tells us, which is extra-cold as we watch her reassuring Julie and smiling at her and trying to keep her in the game. At least Julie is smart enough to know that Missy's only calling herself her loved one to get her vote. Jeremy admires Josh's gameplay and wants to take him out to cripple his alliance. Josh, correspondingly, gives Jeremy props for his gameplay. "We don't we get rid of the people who don't have their loved ones anymore," Josh says coldly and he sways Wes and Keith to his side and also finds traction with Jon. Jaclyn isn't nearly so convinced. "Looks like we're gonna be going on the couples' train," Jon says, praising this alliance's long-term potential.
Off her Rocker. But back at camp, there's a complication in the form of Julie's disappearance and Alec being an ass. Julie is so adrift that she requires a visit from Dr. Probst, Patron Saint of Potential Quitters. Jeff comes to visit Julie in her solitude and interrogates her about her relationship and her mindset and then feeds her lines. "We know that we can leave people that we love," Probst explains condescendingly, comparing this to summer camp and therefore comparing Julie to a child. Julie thinks that she's always judged because, I believe, of her boobs. "I can't stay here because Missy says 'We need you,'" Julie says. And... Julie quits. Because it's what's best for her. Or some nonsense. That means that it's time for Jeff Probst to come visit Huyapu. "Bad news and good news," Probst says, breaking the news. Nobody needs to ask Jeff who "Julie" was. "She was my number. I needed that," Jeremy says. Natalie is incredulous. Missy wishes she'd made a better case to Julie earlier in the day. Josh is predictably smug and hopes to get Jeremy out that night. Alec says Julie did nothing and had the easiest time of any of them. Jaclyn outs TrailMixGate as if that's a meaningful thing. But there's no Tribal Council, so Jeremy is spared. We end with Josh throwing sticks in the fire aimlessly, capping off one of the worst and most purposeless episodes in recent "Survivor" history. Julie knows she's going to have to deal with a lot of backlash. "Only I know how tough this was on me," she says. Whatever.
Bottom Line, Part I. "Survivor" has never lacked for quitters, but I'm not sure we've ever had such a lackadaisical quitter ever before. In the pantheon of reasons to quit "Survivor," "Missing John Rocker" is surely the worst excuse we've ever had, right? Julie spent 16 days on a tribe that gorged on rice, briefly experienced a little discomfort and rain and then gorged on more rice. She did beat John Rocker in that one Reward Challenge, which I think allows her to escape categorization as The Least Useful "Survivor" Contestant Ever, but only barely. Blech. I kept waiting to see if Julie would escape from John Rocker's shadow and prove herself to be surprisingly resourceful and impressive as an individual. She did not. Oh well.
Bottom Line, Part II. "Quit Facilitation" is the least interesting of Jeff Probst's many "Survivor" hats. Last season I felt like he basically talked Lindsey into quitting. Tonight wasn't quite as overt, if only because Lindsey had a personality and required coaxing. Julie was just like, "Whatever." And yes, while Lindsey didn't have a great reason to bail, "I was afraid I might kill Trish" is both a stronger and more understandable reason to want out than "I miss John Rocker."
Bottom Line, Part III. Jeremy is trying hard, but he's making alliances of useless people, which forced him to be genuinely frustrated at Julie's departure, which makes him a guy disappointed to be losing a girl who quit "Survivor" because she missed John Rocker, which has to be humiliating on four or five levels. And I guess I like that Josh is trying to play "Survivor," even if his strategy is "Let me hang out with my boyfriend until we can figure out how to vote the rest of you off." And I even felt like Missy showed some ingenuity and spine this week, but if Missy's great achievement in this game is successfully manipulating Baylor, that will be a small achievement indeed. And I'm sick of wishy-washy Jon & Jaclyn as swing votes and I'm actually excited at the idea that they may bicker next week, because so much power shouldn't be in the hands of people so bland.
Bottom Line, Part IV. While Julie's anti-climactic exit pushed this episode into the "awful" territory, it was never going to be a good episode. The Reward challenge was weak. The strategic maneuvering was lackluster and the two points of drama were Keith forgetting his son's birthday and a handful of trail mix.