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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers' recap: The Round Table

Photo: CBS

Warning: This recap for Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers contains spoilers.

Happy Thanksgiving! What better way to celebrate the holiday than reading about people starving on an island while you stuff your face with turkey and mashed potatoes.

Since the merge, the Hero-Hustler alliance has made it their mission to pick off the remaining Healers systematically. Referring to their decision-making process as a “Round Table” discussion, the group of seven have projected an image of equality and democracy. But beneath the surface, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the alliance is ripe with inner power struggles and rising tension. Think of it as a Thanksgiving dinner where siblings try to one-up each other over who made better use of their degree, while mom and dad almost get a divorce because they can’t settle on whether to serve pumpkin or pecan pie. A Survivor tribe is just one big dysfunctional family trying to pretend everything is going to be okay.

SECRETS & LIES

Survivor is a game full of secrets. It’s also a game full of blabbermouths. Any time you choose to share a secret you are taking a potential risk that someone could turn around and use that information against you. But it happens every season. It’s rare to get a player like Kelley Wentworth who didn’t tell a single soul about her idol in Survivor: Cambodia until she whipped it out at tribal council and blew up the game. People just like to talk and talk, like grandma at Thanksgiving dinner — she’s asking you awkward questions about your love life right now, isn’t she? You know who really likes to talk? Ryan!

Firstly, the turtleneck-wearing bellhop tells Devon, “I have an idol in my pants,” which is not a come-on but a vital piece of information. Ryan and Devon have been tightly aligned since Day 1 on the Hustler beach and so the decision to let Devon in on the secret kind of makes sense. Devon certainly seems stoked to learn the news and commits himself to Ryan and their partnership. “That’s never leaking,” the surfer-bro tells his buddy. Unfortunately, the very next day, Ryan springs a leak when he blabs to Ben using the very same line, “I have an idol in my pants.” If you have a winning chat-up line then stick with it I guess? I’d also recommend “Do you have a sunburn or are you always this hot?” as it’s both to the point and island appropriate.

Photo: CBS

Ryan says the reason for telling Ben about the idol is because he wants to build as many relationships as possible. Forming relationships is definitely a solid strategy, but there are other ways to go about it than spilling secrets. Maybe compliment his cowboy hat? Or talk about your admiration for the Marines? I think because Ryan’s connections with Devon and Chrissy were both created with the help of a Super Idol, he’s become too reliant on using advantages to bond. It’s almost immediately proven a mistake when Ben – who told Ryan “I’m not going to say anything to anyone about this” – goes and tells Devon. For his part, Devon doesn’t let on that he already knew about Ryan’s idol, choosing to act shocked upon hearing the news. Although, perhaps the surprise is genuine, but not because of the idol but because he just found out his number one ally has been telling lies.

That’s why this move didn’t make sense. Ryan went from a stealthy position in the majority alliance to potentially losing his closest ally and painting a target on his back as a threat. Information is power in this game and Ben used it to push Devon away from Ryan and into his Final 3 plans instead. Whether Devon truly intends to ditch Ryan for Team Ben remains to be seen, but either way, it’s certainly going to make him wary of Ryan’s motives going forward.

ALWAYS MOVING

After surviving the tie vote last week, Joe is firmly on the bottom and looking for any way to escape his impending torch-snuffing. His primary strategy involves searching every nook and cranny of the island for an idol. He’s practically dug a trench under the tribe flag. Sadly, he’s yet to search Ryan’s pants. He did get to explore a luxury yacht however after leading his team to an impressive Reward Challenge win. Unfortunately, having Chrissy on the boat with him to “control the conversation” meant that he couldn’t use the opportunity to talk game. Instead, Joe goes clue hunting, hacking into the dessert like he was trying to find the plastic baby Jesus in a Louisiana-style king cake. “The fifth idol is underneath the boat,” Joe jokes. Mike begins to admire Joe’s boldness.

I enjoyed this whole scene with Joe rampaging around the deck like The Lonely Island in the “I’m On A Boat” music video. There is also a humorous moment when the yacht passes by camp, blaring its horn, and the losers back at the beach pull down their pants and moon the reward winners. As far as I’m aware, Ryan didn’t lose his idol during the depantsing. It’s rare in modern-day Survivor to get these light-hearted sequences that have very little to do with the game and I welcome more of them in the future.

Photo: CBS

Ultimately, Joe’s idol quest is a failure, and so he comes up with a new strategy. He wants to get everyone so upset that they’ll keep him around, thinking that they can vote him out at any point. Old school fans of Big Brother will recognize this as the Dr. Will strategy. However, Joe lacks the charm of Will Kirby, and so it’s unclear if he’d be able to turn this aggressive approach into a win come Final Tribal Council. But he effortlessly succeeds at the first part. He tells Ashley that she’s a goat who everyone wants to drag to the Final 3, and lets Chrissy know that nobody cares what she thinks. “He’s strangely entertaining,” Mike says. “There’s a difference between gameplay and just being a dick,” Chrissy retorts.

KING ARTHUR

The legend goes that King Arthur had the Round Table built so that no one person would be able to sit at the head of the table. It gave the illusion of equality. That’s exactly what Ben — the so-called King Arthur of the Hero-Hustler Round Table — is trying to present to his tribe. But is that the reality? Or is this a dictatorship merely posing as a land of equal opportunity?

At the Immunity Challenge, the goal for Ben and his knights is to beat Cole, the biggest physical threat remaining for the dwindling Healers alliance. It’s a cool challenge where the players have to squat while balancing poles on their shoulders. Any wrong movement could knock over an urn attached to the beams. If your urn falls, you’re out. Jeff Probst describes it as a “new Survivor torture device” — this Christmas’ must-have gift! Cole almost outlasts the entire field, except for Lauren, who snatches the taste of victory away from the Wilderness Therapy Guide. Ben is clearly ecstatic as he cheers from the sidelines.

Photo: CBS

Back at camp, the Round Table discussion begins with Ben saying they need to split the vote between Cole and Mike in case Joe has an idol. Ashley is not happy that Joe is now completely off the chopping block and airs her grievances to the group. She also brings up a valid point that Mike could just as easily have an idol. Ben brushes it off, saying that it’s a “group decision,” even though it doesn’t seem that way. For whatever reason, Ben is adamant that they split the vote four for Cole and three for Mike. Why doesn’t he want to get rid of Joe? He keeps saying it’s because of Joe’s magnetic attraction to idols, but Joe was a sitting duck last week at the re-vote, and they chose to boot Desi instead. Either the show is hiding something from us or Joe’s “upset them so they keep me” strategy is working wonders.

The rest of the alliance is starting to feel “steamrolled” by Ben, particularly Ashley and Chrissy who would much rather send the pot-stirring “bully” packing. When Chrissy mentions these concerns to Ben, he tells her nobody feels that way apart from her and Ashley. That was not a good answer Ben. Firstly, shutting Chrissy down like that is a prime example of steamrolling. Secondly, he even acknowledges that Chrissy and Ashley might feel that way — that’s two people in your so-called Round Table alliance that are unhappy with your approach, it might be wise to take the advice. But when Chrissy suggests putting votes on Joe, Ben says they can’t because he already took it upon himself to tell Mike to vote Cole. For all of Ben’s power and knowledge in the game, being unable to budge or listen to the worries of your allies is a surefire way to turn people against you.

THE COURT JESTER

Before tribal council begins, Mike leans across to Joe and tells him, “I need you to follow my lead tonight. Just trust me.” Earlier in the episode, Mike had toyed with throwing his old Healer compadres under the bus or sticking with them and making a big move. His actions at tribal council certainly constitute a big move, but I’m not sure it was the smartest move. After calling out the “Knights of the Round Table,” and referring to himself as the Court Jester who isn’t allowed at said table, Mike begins highlighting the hypocrisy of the majority alliance. He tells Probst that they’ve made Joe into this pariah and yet they refuse to vote him out. He even brings their morals into it. Lauren tells Mike that he’s digging himself a hole, perhaps bigger than the one Joe excavated under the tribe flag.

“If Ben is King Arthur at the Round Table,” the Sex Doctor continues, “I am happy to be the Statue of Liberty in America because America is going to beat England in the end.” I’m not quite sure what Mike was getting at, and as an Englishman, I don’t think I appreciated the burn. Arthurian Legend meets the American Revolution; Mike was all over the map. I assume he was trying to draw the votes towards himself so that he could bust out his idol and have his hero moment. But that isn’t how it goes down. Mike does play his idol, but the majority put their votes on Cole (including Mike and Joe!), who had spent most of tribal council trying to disappear into the background like JP. I guess Jessica was right when she said Cole wouldn’t make it to the end without her.

Photo: CBS

What the hell happened here? I thought I understood the strategic impetus of what Mike was attempting to do at first. I assumed that he didn’t believe Ben when he told him Cole was the target and so instead was trying to draw votes away from Joe onto himself, and then he would play his idol in an attempt blindside Ben. But both Mike and Joe voted for Cole. So what was the point? Much like the Desi elimination last week, it feels like pieces of the puzzle are missing from the televised show. Despite calling himself the Court Jester, Mike doesn’t seem to be an idiot, he must have had a larger strategic goal here, but I can’t for the life of me work out what it could be. All it seems to have done is put him ahead of Joe on the pecking order, the exact thing he was trying to avoid at the start of the episode.

That’s what you get for dissing England, Dr. Mike! But you know, Happy Thanksgiving, America, and things like that.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Devon: He seems set-up really well. Ryan still considers him his number one and told him about the idol. Ben then brought him into his Final 3 plans, also telling him about Ryan’s idol. Devon smartly kept quiet about already knowing about the idol. Everyone wants to work with him and he can keep a secret.

Lauren: Similar to Devon, Lauren is someone that people are happy to work with. Ben cemented his allegiance to her and so far hasn’t spilled about her extra vote advantage. She also kicked ass in the Immunity Challenge this week.

Chrissy: A couple of episodes Chrissy was targeted as one of the smartest players in the game. Since then she has swiftly shifted that target off her back while remaining in a power position. She has a lot of connections to work with going forward.

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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