Survivor: Fiji, Episode 12 "A Smile, Velvet Gloves and a Dagger in My Pocket" Recap

Originally aired on Thursday, 05/03/2007

Episode Rating: *** (3 stars out of 5)

Episode Overview: Alex is working overtime to save himself on Survivor:Fiji and Boo might just be digging himself a grave every time he opens his mouth.

Episode Highlights:

  • Alex's vote for Mookie last week saved his own neck.  Now he's searching for a new target as he tries to get through the next tribal council.
  • Will Yau-Man's confidence in his alliance and hidden immunity idol be his downfall?
  • Boo has some success in challenges this week, but he's not winning any friends.

Tonight’s Survivor: Fiji starts with what feels like the single longest recap of the previous episode ever. I don’t know if this is just because there were a lot of twists and turns last week that need to be reviewed well, or if this doesn’t bode well for this episode’s entertainment value if they are starting off with filler.

Because, let’s face it, it seems pretty obvious what is going to happen this week. Barring some truly clever maneuver on Alex Angarita’s part or his winning immunity, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he isn’t going home.

And Earl Cole would like it to stay that way. He’s ticked off that the vote went down as it did – with Alex’s unexpected vote deciding Mookie Lee’s fate instead of the alliance’s tie-breaker sending home Alex – and complains to the others. I’m not sure why he’s so ticked off, except that he feels some kind of territorial thing, like the vote was his to call and it’s somehow a loss of power for Alex to have control anything at all. I also think that Earl must be very threatened by Alex; unless he is worried about Alex’s ability to turn the other players, why would he really care that Alex and not Mookie is still around? His reaction seems to indicate he’s a little more concerned about what Alex will be able to pull off than what he thinks Mookie would have been able to do.

Later, Earl, Cassandra Franklin and Yau-Man Chan discuss strategy. Earl and Cassandra are on board with Dre "Dreamz" Herd being a member of the final four. Yau-Man isn’t so sure. He can see himself with more risk with Dreamz in the final four than Stacy Kimball or Kenward "Boo" Bernis. He is frank with Cassandra about his concerns, and she reassures him that she wouldn’t necessarily just be blindly loyal to Dreamz, that if she had to choose, she’s going to look at the whole picture.

Right, and that whole picture would seem to be: take Dreamz, who flipped and burned the Four Horsemen and so is unlikely to ever get their votes in the final jury, or Yau-Man, who hasn’t, so far, really seemed to tick any of the jury members off. Sure, some of them weren’t in his alliance and he voted them off, but at least he doesn’t have the stink of turncoat on him as does Dreamz. Who would you rather compete against in the final two? In other words: Cassandra’s words of reassurance to Yau make me think he shouldn’t be reassured at all.

Alex is trying to lie low – like a “ninja” he says – and keep his eyes and ears open to see if he can develop some kind of game plan to keep himself alive.

A break in strategizing as the Survivors now head to the single most disturbing reward challenge I’ve ever seen. It’s actually just really disturbing in general, not just in the context of Survivor: Fiji. They have to take big mouthfuls of meat from pieces of pork hanging and transport the meat to a plate. They can’t use their hands. The person with the most meat at the end of five minutes wins reward, the ability to send someone to Exile, and a special secret prize that will help them in the immunity challenge.

So they start and it’s really just gross. Gross and sort of degrading somehow as the Survivors race and chomp and get covered in gristle and bits of meat. Very animalistic, but in a really bad way. Survivor seems to usually take the high road – or at least a road that has the appearance of the high road – but this seems just devoid of anything that could be redeeming and so instead seems exploitative of the Survivors. At least with the other eating challenges, they have to ingest the items. So even though they might be eating something unappetizing, at least they might get some nutrients. But to have them waste food in such a vulgar way when they are hungry…well, it’s just all quite distasteful.

The task is easier if two people chomp at the same piece of meat at the same time, and so most of the players try to team up, except poor outcast Alex who has to work alone. At the end, Boo is the winner, with Yau and Dreamz as the runners-up. Their reward is a helicopter ride to a white water rafting expedition and a fancy lunch. Boo sends Earl to Exile Island, and Jeff Probst gives Boo a mysterious sack that will be his advantage in the immunity challenge.

The trio heads out to their reward. It’s a lovely trip, but it marred by Boo’s constant chatter, which really gets under Dreamz’s skin. At the lunch, they get a special extra prize: an envelope of letters from home. Dreamz receives a touching letter from his sister that seems to refocus his desire to win.

Meanwhile, Earl is happy to be back on Exile Island and reviews the next clue, which indicates the new immunity idol is hidden in a tree near their path. He feels confident that he will be able to find it.

The reward winners return to camp, and Dreamz immediately begins to complain about Boo to Alex and Stacy. Alex heartily agrees about Boo’s annoying chattering, and states that he doesn’t know how much more of it he can take. He is trying to ingratiate himself with the others and possibly plant some seeds, clearly. He thinks he might be able to swing the votes against Boo. Dreamz actually encourages him and tells him he needs to focus on getting immunity.

The immunity challenge this week is in two parts. First, each player must dig in the sand in a designated area to retrieve three paddles. The paddles are, in fact, the advantage that Boo was given. Because he already has his, he is guaranteed a spot in the second part of the competition, where the paddles will be used to climb a pole. For the others, the first two people to find their paddles will also compete, and everyone else will be done.

Frenzied digging begins, and Dreamz and Alex become the two who, with Boo, will compete in the final. They begin to try to get up their poles, and Alex, in hungry pursuit of immunity, abandons the paddles altogether and just tries to scale the pole. Unfortunately for him, he slips back and this gives Boo the chance to make it to the top and win immunity.

Bad news for Alex. Once again, I wonder, is there anyway for him to save himself? He decides he’s neither going to beg for his life nor be aggressive, rather he will let the others come to him. And Cassandra does. She comes to deliver some kind of pep talk or speech, and winds up falling into a conversation wherein Alex builds a case for her to eliminate Yau-Man now while she still can.

Okay, a) DON’T MESS WITH MY YAU-MAN! And b) actually, it’s a pretty good plan. I don’t like the plan, but Alex has seemed to manage to find the angle that could work. Dreamz is ready to hear it – he knows that Yau-Man doesn’t want to take him to the final four. Cassandra seems hesitant but potential to flip. Stacy admits she’ll just follow Cassandra.

Alex even brings Earl into it, but Earl is only playing along for effect. As Alex builds the case, Earl pretends to agree, but he winks at Cassandra and Dreamz (which Dreamz dutifully later reports back to Alex). Earl doesn’t seem likely to flip, and so Cassandra knows that if they want to blindside Yau-Man (and he must be blind-sided since he has the idol), they have to blindside Earl.

I’m a little stunned – is this really going to happen?

In a word: no. Despite some strong convincing on the part of Alex, everyone but him (obviously) votes for him. Alex is gone. I realize that CBS had to find some way to build suspense for this obvious vote, but I am left wanting to understand what happened between Alex’s conversations and the vote. The editing made it seem unlikely that every single person would vote for Alex…whether Yau actually went home might have been uncertain, but I was definitely not expecting to see six out of seven votes for Alex. To edit everything one way and then have it pan out a completely different way just seems a little cheap. Twists are great, but twists that come with no context when the editors have so obviously taken great pains to build a completely different story don’t work. Then all they do is highlight how easy it seems to be to edit together whatever story you want to tell just by picking the right moments, whether or not the gestalt of the thing is really accurate.

To sum up: kind of a gyp. I want to understand why all the votes went back to Alex – did they chicken out or did Earl successfully build a case against the plan? Hopefully, this will all be explained next week on Survivor: Fiji.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Images courtesy CBS)