Pre-credit sequence. When we left things, Jenn had just orchestrated the season's best Tribal Council, sending Kelly packing. Rodney's pissed off by the way things went down, blaming Mike for swapping the vote from Hali to Jenn, calling him "our idiot redneck." Using this as his wedge issue, Rodney lobbies Will. Rodney's frustration with Mike remains off in the future and he's only securing Will for a long-term decapitation. "Sorry I'm still here to disappoint you," Jenn tells Mike, who respects her play. "The No Collars are back in town," Jenn says, vowing to mess with things while she can. This is a mighty cocky four-person minority alliance. I'm sure eventually somebody will look at the numbers, though.

There's no "me" in Salami, at least not if you spell it correctly. It's Day 20 and they have a newly caught catfish at Merica. They also have some leftover Merge grub and Rodney is hoping for a little extra food. Rodney is fed up with "Joe and his Stooges," but he cures this problem by punching trees. He's finding it hard to be "a fugazi," because where he comes from, he respect has to be earned or something. They're fighting about salami. Rodney calls Shirin "the most pointless person in the game," but he's sure that his alliance is still running the game. I'm hoping we're building to another Confused Rodney Tribal Council. Those are my favorite.

Beam me up. Reward! They have to go across a series of balance beams collecting bags of puzzle pieces. The first three to collect the puzzle pieces get to put a puzzle together. Wanna know what they're playing for? A zip-line and a pizza picnic. Accompanied by comedy music, Shirin is struggling, while Joe and Mike get out to a lead. Joe and Mike and Hali advance to puzzle. The puzzle is a rusty anchor, if you care. Hali and Joe leave Mike behind and Probst mocks the disgruntled Mike. Slow and steady, Mike suddenly is making up time and Joe and Hali get frustrated. It's a good comeback for Mike, but Joe wins anyway. Boy, they have to get rid of him, don't they? He gets to pick three people and he takes Tyler, Will and Carolyn. That's a smart selection. Probst gives him one more pick. Rodney says he's hungrier than anybody. Joe mocks him for also eating more than anybody. Shirin begs to be invited and Joe takes her. She's pleased. "That's why," Joe says of Shirin's gratitude. Mike's worried that in addition to food, Joe will get an Immunity clue. 

Watch out for that tree. The reward winners zip through the jungle. Shirin's having so much fun that she forgets to break, nearly pulling a George of the Jungle. Things are good until Shirin remembers that she's with Carolyn, who she doesn't like. The pizza and soda and cinnamon rolls look yummy. Smart Joe spots a note at the bottom of Carolyn's soda and actually gets her to give him what's left of her soda. Only Tyler sees him get the clue. Tyler keeps quiet, figuring that this is a pathway worth following.

Of Mike and Men. At twilight the next morning, Joe and Tyler go off to read the clue. They think they're being stealthy, but Mike is also awake and tracks the dynamic duo. He's climbing through trees and creeping through the underbrush. It's very involved. This all worries Mike and then it worries Tyler, because he doesn't know what Mike knows. Tyler recites the clue to Mike and... A mad dash ensues. Joe's off looking for the Idol and everybody's off looking for Joe. This is crazy goofy. Pursued by cameramen, Mike pursues Joe and he decides to play a mind game, congratulating Joe on finding the Idol, an Idol Joe didn't find. There are fake hugs and everything. Joe isn't sure whether this could benefit him, if everybody thinks he has an Idol. But Dan isn't worried and he goes to Shirin and asks why a fellow superfan would put herself in a minority alliance. "Your game is over," Dan tells her. "Another fan who can't do basic math," says Dan. "Somebody slap this woman. For the love of God, just slap her," he tells us. Dan sucks, but Shirin sits back and lets Dan rant about how there are only two people in this game, people who don't do enough and people who do too much.

Termite-mare on Elm Tree. Mike is up a tree. Is the Idol up a tree? I'm not going to be patient if Mike finds the Idol. In lieu of Idol, Mike is eating termites, fresh from the tree. He's also crying. But he's not stopping. Why is he alone? "People who find Idols in this game are the people who are working hardest in this game," he says. And Mike finds an Idol. He does a Happy Dance. Is anybody really buying this? Mike's not gonna share this Idol and he's ready to take Joe out, if he doesn't win Individual Immunity. 

Shirin's arena. And with that in mind... Individual Immunity time! They have to race a puzzle piece through three slide mazes and then use the piece to create a slide puzzle. Shirin announces that this puzzle should be her arena and keeps nattering. As she does. Joe is the first through to the final puzzle, followed by Shirin and Tyler. Rodney and Hali lag. Dan thinks he has the puzzle completed. But Dan can't spell words in English. After a few corrections, Dan is still wrong. I wonder if this is some sort of agnosia of some sort? I mean, he can't think those look like words, can he? JOE FINISHES! Wow. Joe's a freaking machine, which Probst keeps mentioning over and over again. Does that mean that Jenn got a one-week reprieve? Rodney correctly points out that the only reason this is happening is because his alliance got fancy and targeted Joaquin instead of Joe.

Picking on Dan (for being horrible). Shirin thinks this Immunity was handed to her on a silver platter. Other than the "handing" part, I guess. Or the "taking" part? All she wants is to win a challenge, but she's hoping that nobody thinks of her as a threat and they'll keep her around. She's wrong. Carolyn and Tyler are confident that Shirin doesn't have an Idol and people want her out, but Mike says that taking out part of the Barbie Block would be smarter. [Obviously he's right.] At the beach, Jenn, Hali, Sierra and Shirin want Dan out. Sierra wants girls to the end, but she wants Blue Collar, too. "Together we can make each other stronger," Hali says of the ladies, though they need a guy. "You go misogynistic on the girls, the girls are gonna take you out, Dan" Hali tells... Me. Ouch. I didn't go misogynistic. Tyler is game to target either Mike or Dan, or at least he suggests he is. But is he really? I guess we're about to see.

Tribal Council. People who aren't Blue Collar miss Kelly. Sierra says there's no line and she can go with any way she wants to. Mike is a fictional percentage sure of what he wants to do next, but he's less sure of others. Dan says he expects the bombs to drop and hopes they don't drop on him. "Flippers never win," Dan protests. Shirin's having none of that and reminds Dan of how often Tony flipped. Go Tony! "He needs to remember, we're Tribe Merica," Hali says, reminding us all that the American Patriots were flippers. Ha. 

The vote. Mike votes Hali. Shirin votes for Dan and says, "You done gone off the rails." That's all we get. Probst tallies: Dan. Hali. Dan. Hali. Dan. Hali. Dan. Hali. Hali. HALI. Bah. "Love you Merica," Hali says, departing. I'll be curious to see the votes, because a lot of people look confused. "I was shocked," Hali says, but she says she understands why people voted for her and she's looking forward to whiskey and ice cream.

Bottom Line, Part I. Whether I was prepared to root for Joe, Hali, Jenn and Shirin, I was definitely prepared to root against any alliance featuring Rodney and Dan, so this result disappoints me, but that anti-Dan female alliance was always a pipe dream anyway. It required Sierra to be trustworthy, but it also required Tyler to flip? And just because he entertained the possibility in a conversation with Shirin doesn't mean it was ever a good idea for him. So I guess Sierra figures after the non-Will No Collars are gone, she'll be of use to Tyler and Carolyn, plus Will, in targeting Mike, Rodney and Dan? That seems like the most plausible way things play out? So I have to hope something dramatic happens to switch things up in the next couple weeks.

Bottom Line, Part II. Hali's oddball patriotism in the past two episodes was loopy and funny. It didn't make me root for it, but it wasn't unappealing. And when the competition is the repellant Rodney and Dan, practically everybody is looking better and better in comparison on a weekly basis. That's the wonder of editing. 

Bottom Line, Part III. I can root for Joe's amiable challenge domination, but if he's not contributing anything else, I can't get excited about rooting for him. He was just a blind follower in the anti-Dan vote at the end. And despite winning Reward and carefully picking a smart group to join him, he didn't just blunder the opportunity, he blundered it horribly, letting Tyler in on the Immunity Clue, which Tyler then gave to Mike, who then found the Idol. If Joe couldn't use that Reward to do any alliance swaying, he pretty much had to get Hali and Jenn (and maybe Shirin) in on the Immunity Clue to guarantee somebody in their group found it. And people last week were accusing me of hating Shirin and I don't. But I don't like people whose superfan obsessions convert only to negative gameplay. Shirin seems to actively hurt herself strategically every time she opens her mouth and she keeps not performing well on things she announces she should perform well on.  She keeps insisting she has a game strategy and part of that strategy is to be overlooked and viewed, at least for a long while, as a goat. So if she makes it to Top 8 or Top 7 and then a big move clicks in? I can get behind that. Otherwise, a goat is a goat. And I'm not getting behind Mike, no matter how Blue Collar heroic his eat-anything, high effort his worth ethic is. Just because his misogyny was more innocuous than Rodney and Dan's doesn't mean it wasn't there.

Bottom Line, Part IV. Last week, with its brief power swing away from the repulsive people, was a step in a right direction. So this week's power swing back to the repulsive people is a step backwards. Oh well. Merica.

Your thoughts? Any brilliant questions for Hali about civics and whatnot?

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.