Pre-credit sequence. "I've got a really solid plan," Rodney says. He's beginning the episode by plotting Mike's demise. Tyler is intrigued. Mike is watching with caution and no longer considers Rodney to be part of his alliance.

Bid Fortuna. It's time for a pre-credits "Survivor" auction. How odd. They each have $500 and, as always, the auction could end without warning. A covered plate goes to Will for $100. "It's probably grilled ass or something," Will says. Nope. It's a mystery note. "You just bought yourself out of this auction," the note says, telling Will to leave immediately. Everybody is shell-shocked by what happened to poor Will. But an uncovered plate of chicken and waffles goes for $300 to Shirin, who claims she didn't want to bid for an advantage. But most of the group is waiting for an advantage. So because the "big players" are holding out and not bidding for food, we just zip through a bunch of treats without knowing exactly what's being bidd on -- I don't have a clue what Jenn got -- or how much people are paying. Probst throws in a wrinkle and puts messages from loved ones on the table and Shirin tells everybody that Jeff has, in the past, allowed anybody to buy letters for whatever price was established by the winning bid. So Sierra gets a letter for $20 and Probst doesn't try to screw Shirin and everybody can buy letters for $20. It appears there's a gentleman's agreement that everybody will go in with the $20, so they'll all be even while awaiting the advantage. Mike swears he's going in and walks to Probst... BUT HE DOESN'T TAKE A LETTER, giving him a $20 head-start in bidding for that advantage. Well, then! On that note? Off to commercial!

Bad day at white rock. Shocked by Mike's behavior, Carolyn tries to get a take-back. Everybody grumbles Mike and his lack of trustworthiness. "That wouldn't go with my conscience. That goes against who I am as a person," Mike insists, plunking down his $20. That means Carolyn, Mike and Dan are each bidding $480 and drawing stones. Dan picks the white rock and wins the advantage. And the auction is over. "It broke my heart and he might have just lost my trust," Dan says of his former chum.

Jerky boy. Will returns to Merica inconsolable. But then he gets back to camp and there's a map. "I thought it was the worst day ever, but this could be huge for me," he says. He goes to a very clearly marked stake in the dirt and unearths a "personal stash of rations." Hmmm. He has electrolyte powder, dried fruit and jerky and he's told he can share or not. And Will decides to share. Everybody's happy, but with their auction results, but also with Will's added food, at least until Mike decides to make things awkward by outing the four-person alliance he thinks is working against him. He accuses Rodney of flipping and repeats Dan's not-so-wife "Flippers never win" motto. A shouting match ensues. It's unpleasant to watch.

Dan, the Champion of the World references Roald Dahl. It makes me sad that Merica has become a dysfunctional tyranny of the loudest, a bunch of obnoxious, ignorant people shouting at each other and ignoring any chance for consensus. This ain't my 'Merica. Sierra says Mike's behavior is a symptom of exhaustion and paranoia. Nobody's even read their letters from home. So the fighting pauses for letters and pictures. Once again, Mike is uncomfortable with having ruined a moment. Rodney goes to the red-faced, bawling Dan. Mike managed to simultaneously be correct and also make Rodney's job much easier. What did Dan get for his advantage? He gets "an extra vote." Whoa. That's an absurd advantage. "Do you have any idea what this means to me?" Dan asks, comparing it to the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket. Yeah. That's crazy.

Nope, God don't like ugly, Will. Mike thinks that Will didn't tell them everything about his box of goodies. Because Will didn't bring the box back to camp, Jenn and Mike are convinced there has to be more than that. Tyler tells Will about the discontent, which pisses Will off an awful lot. For some reason, Will's attack focuses on Shirin, who definitely was the third person on the skepticism bandwagon, if that. Mike comes and rescues Shirin, but Will continues. "We all have loved ones that loved and cared for us. You have nothing," Will tells her. Leaving aside Shirin saying that she grew up in a family torn apart by domestic violence, which is obviously awful on its own, what the heck does Will think he's doing? Strategically, he's got literally one thing going for him: He seemed like a nice guy. "God don't like ugly and I'm exposing ugly," he rambles. Shirin's pissed off at everybody for not standing up for her. This is pretty much awful to watch. "Those people suck so bad, I think I'll stick around," Jenn says, now aligned with Shirin and Mike.

Not the way it works, Will. Immunity time. Will seems unhappy. Is he guilty about being The World's Biggest Tool to Shirin? NOPE! He's just bitter about missing out on his letter from home and volunteers to skip Immunity for a letter. Oh, hell no. Probst says he'll do it if every single agrees. Probst asks if anybody objects. And Shirin puts her hand up. I'm a bit disappointed in Jenn. But Shirin is cold, saying this was about choices made in the auction. The challenge is about transporting six balls on tongs via teeter-totters. This isn't an easy challenge and it's going to become interminable. Mike gets out to an early lead, followed closely by Tyler. As always, though, the only real winner is the man who gets to say "Balls" over and over again. Mike wins Immunity. "Yeah, Mike. No one else get too excited," Jenn says. "Bring the popcorn, baby. It's gonna be the best Tribal ever," Will promises. I doubt it, Will.

In Dumbass' Hands. Mike does the happy dance to celebrate his Immunity win. I get that Mike didn't want to use it, but are we forgetting Mike has an Immunity Idol already? "She just has no soul, no worth, no nothing," Will says of Shirin, who he wants out, but he knows Jenn is a bigger threat. Suddenly there's a six-strong alliance featuring Carolyn, Tyler, Dan, Rodney, Sierra and Will. This alliance came completely out of nowhere, because the editors were wasting so much time on reenforcing the Blue Collar nonsense. So instead we're left with an apparent alliance held together by ties we haven't seen at all. Anticipating a vote-split, Mike wonders if his small alliance could get Dan to blindside Mama C. "My entire game is in dumbass' hands," Jenn says of Dan. Mike is repeating the Blue Strong stuff to Dan, saying he'll go to the Bottom 3 with him and Sierra still. Don't forget that Carolyn also has an Idol. "It could be Mike is right," Dan ponders, fearing that he's become a swing vote. "I make my own destiny! Nobody dictates my future but me!" Dan tells the Six Strong alliance. He thinks he's either about to make a million dollar decision or a million dollar mistake.

Tribal Council. Will rambles about Shirin accusing him of hiding food. "False," she says correctly. "I didn't personally attack you," Will lies. Shirin cries and talks about her father and Will refuses to back down, digging in. The saddest thing is that Shirin has nobody out there. She's crying and there's nobody there to give her a hug. Jenn can't even muster that. Sigh. Sierra says they're nine individuals, deprived and starving. There's lots of talk about the old tribal bonds and the current discord. Rodney rants for a while about Mike. 

The vote. Carolyn votes for Jenn. Rodney votes for Shirin. Probst goes to tally: Jenn. Shirin. Jenn. Shirin. Jenn. Carolyn. Shirin. Jenn. JENN. This time, Shirin and Jenn exchange a big hug. "A lot of people sucked super-hard," Jenn says, singling out Will, Rodney, Mama C, Sierra and Dan. "They're just fake and it kills me," Jenn says.

Bottom Line, Part I. Yup. Jenn is correct. A lot of people suck super-hard. She's looking forward to watching The Alliance of Suckitude collapse, but I'm not sure I see the same pleasure in that that she does. At this point, I can root for Shirin, but it's 90 percent just out of pity. I do feel bad for her and she's absolutely the most likable person remaining. But I don't feel good about anything she's done in the game. You'll notice that Tyler didn't earn any enmity from Jenn and he's probably the second most likable person, but he's also done absolutely nothing positive. He's just done nothing negative. It's impressive that Will charged ahead of Rodney and Dan in my "People I LEAST Want To See Win" sweepstakes, but he indulged in a level of callousness in this episode that went beyond Rodney's boorishness and Dan's cavalier misogyny. Dan and Rodney may have talked a big sexist game, but neither of them went out of their way to actively hurt anybody in the way that Will did repeatedly in tonight's episode. That was just hypocritical cruelty, from what I could see. [Tyler named Shirin first among the culprits speculating on Will's hidden food, but he did it only after Will suggested her name. Tyler's a narc and a narc to a strategically irrelevant person. So I take back what I said about his doing nothing negative.]

Bottom Line, Part II. I don't know why Shirin and Mike voted for Jenn. I don't know where it benefitted them not to follow through on their plan to vote out Carolyn. I guess this just counts as another thing that the "Survivor" editors haven't felt like showing us this season. They were so invested in Blue/White/No Collar that they haven't been interested in showing the evolution of the six person alliance we're now told is running the game. Mike's journey from ringleader to outcast has been glossed over. How did Carolyn and Tyler and Rodney and Will come to be the season's power alliance? Why did Sierra cave on her hatred for her Blue Collar enemies to become an automaton? I'd say that almost all of the season's nuanced evolution has been left out entirely by the editors. How did we get here? Did anybody do anything smart or well to get us here? Does anybody actually DESERVE to win this season? This just isn't my flavor of "Survivor." Sorry to anybody/everybody loving this season. 

Bottom Line, Part III. Jenn's a sad case study in the game's swift shift in momentum. Three weeks ago, she produced the season's most entertaining Tribal Council by playing an Idol and saving herself. But the next week, her alliance was back on the bottom and Hali went home. Then last week, she was strategizing to get herself out of the game without actually quitting, a hesitant pragmatism that led to Joe being voted out. And this week, even though you sensed she briefly was rejuvenated by the hope for revenge, out she went. If Jenn just quits last week and Joe stays in the game, would he have been good at transporting balls on tongs? I have no idea. But it's really hard to believe that only a month ago, Jenn was a hero.

Bottom Line, Part IV. There were moments in this episode. I just don't know if any of them were good moments. You had Mike's Auction trick, which he backed down from amidst peer pressure. Ummm... How much do you think Mike wishes he'd just sucked it up, screwed everybody else and taken that advantage and gotten the extra Tribal Council vote? With Immunity this week, an Idol in his pocket and a double-vote at a future Tribal? He might have been close to unstoppable and he would have had several stealthy ways to reverse the course of the game. Would people have hated him? Sure. A couple. But those people hate him now anyway. But he'd have made the big move and it would have paid off enough to be worth some hurt feelings. Otherwise, then you had Will's awfulness and his refusal, given several opportunities, to back down. I'm sure there were a couple other big things. But the big things involved people I don't like being awful. Sigh.

Your thoughts?

A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.