Pre-credit sequence. It's Night 35 and the Top 5 castaways return to camp. Carolyn is giddy. Mike is incredulous. Rodney is offended that Carolyn didn't tell him about the Idol, which is funny since Carolyn's offended that Rodney voted for her. They agree that without Idols or advantages remaining, everybody wants Mike out, which is especially funny since Mike was the only person to support Carolyn at the previous Tribal. But loyalty doesn't go very far when you're this deep into "Survivor."

Mother-Lover. Tonight's Reward is an individual challenge and it's really only worthwhile if Rodney loses. No Rewards for Rodney! It's a complicated challenge involving tiles, a number puzzle, shuffle board and other stuff. Wanna know what they're playing for? LOVE! Carolyn's husband comes out and she cries. It's a fairy tale marriage. Everybody cries. Mike's mom comes out and he cries. It's a fairy tale mother-son relationship. Everybody cries. Rodney's dad comes out and he cries and calls him "Bro." It's a fairy tale bromance and everybody cries. "I'm finally at peace with Natalie now," Rodney tells his father in a moment that Rodney Senior is clearly uncomfortable with. Sierra's father comes out and we all briefly have to remember who Sierra is. Everybody cries. Finally, out comes Will's wife. More tears. "I'm not fat no more," Will tells her. Will is pumped! We haven't seen him this pumped since he was telling Shirin how much nobody loves her. The winner gets timed with their loved one and an advantage in the next Immunity. Even Jeff Probst is impressed to see Will in action. Mike gets out to a huge lead with his tiles, followed by Sierra. Mike keeps getting the wrong combination. But he finally wins time with his mother. Farewell hugs are exchanged for everybody but Mike's mom. Mike's pumped to inflict a night of "Survivor" suffering on his mother.

Yas, Queen. Monkey! Everybody treats Mike's mother like she's the queen. But Mike wants quality time to tell his mother about how everybody has villainized. him and ostracized him. Narc. "Nothing is about me. It's all about him," Mike's mom says, as he praises everybody for being out to win the game. Mike says this is one of his better "Survivor" days, even better than the day he ate the scorpion. Or the day he ate the snake. Or the day he ate Max. The next morning, Mike and Deborah go to the site of the next Immunity. They have 30 minutes for Mom to navigate Mike around an elaborate maze, still blindfolded. Mom's eager to help, but she can't solve the maze herself, even with her eyes open, so there's no indication that if twists and turns exist, that Mike has figured them out. In 30 minutes, with his mother leading him, Mike is unable to make it through to the end. "That's just devastating," Deborah says, crying and worrying that she let him down. She's just like Hayley on "The Amazing Race."

You can call him "Minho," because Mike's a Maze Runner. This is an awesome, sweeping compass maze they're playing on. Mike gives up his Immunity and everybody gets a blindfold. They have to find four medallions and get to the Immunity neckless. There are guide posts along the way and this is clearly what Deborah and Mike should have been concentrating on, making sure that he knew how to use the directions. Even despite wasting his advantage, Mike still gets to the first medallion first, followed by Sierra. Mike gets his third medallion before anybody else gets their second. Smartly, Rodney begins steering other people to medallions, figuring an "Anybody But Mike" strategy could work. Mike has four medallions, but can he get to the Necklace first? He does! Deborah is off the hook and Mike wins his fourth Individual Immunity. Boo-yeah! I'm a little happy for Mike and a lot happy for Mike's mother. "This is the 'Survivor' that I signed up for, Mike says, even though he knows he's only bought himself a one-Tribal reprieve.

Fugazi-ass Women. Everybody pretends to be happy for Mike. Carolyn feels exposed without an Immunity Idol, but she thinks that she and Mike have a bond. Sierra, Carolyn and Mike agree that, relatively speaking, Will is more useful than Rodney. "At this point, I'm willing to do anything Mike wants," Sierra says, apologizing to Mike with a Dan-esque level of genuineness. Nobody's making long-term plans, they pay lip-service to the idea that they're a Final 3. Monkey! Rodney invites Mike to cuddle with him on the hammock and Mike tells Rodney that he's been targeted by the girls. Rodney finds this hilarious. "I don't kiss no man's ass, bro," Rodney tells us, promising to tell Mike his choice is going with "fugazi-ass women." Rodney tells Mike he has a better chance of going against "vulgar" Rodney than sweetheart Sierra. Rodney swears on his sister's soul that he's good with going to an all-male Final 3. "If I make the wrong decision, it could be a million dollar mistake," Mike says. 

Tribal Council, Part I. Mike announces that he's the swing vote, but admits that he can't trust anybody there with him. This seems correct. Rodney knows that it's him or Rodney. Sierra knows it's her or Rodney. She tries arguing from a position of strength and says this should be about who's trying hard and who deserves to be there. This attitude confuses Jeff Probst and confuses Mike. Rodney wants to get to the vote, which will prove where he's at in the game. And Dan's just sitting on the Jury glowering at everything. In contrast, Shirin's huge "I can't believe I'm really here" smile never wavers.

The Vote, Part I. Rodney votes for Sierra and says he outwitted her. Sierra writes Rodney's name. Probst tallies: Sierra. Rodney. Sierra. SIERRA. Dan is shocked. Carolyn is disappointed. Sierra takes being voted out as a compliment.

Bottom Line, Episode I. I'm glad to have one of the three people who definitely didn't deserve to win out, but it seems to me that Mike's best move was orchestrating Carolyn's elimination and taking out the only genuine threat remaining. Somebody would have joined him. And sure, it would have run the risk of getting us to the indefensible Will-Sierra-Rodney Final 3, but... if Mike loses to Carolyn either in the next Immunity or at Final Tribal, he'll regret this, I assume. But Mike's strategy has never really been his greatest strength. 

Episode 2, results and Bottom Lines on Page 2...

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.