'Survivor: Tocantins': Episode 3, "Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This" Recap Part 1 of 2

In the cold opening, Erinn begins a damage control campaign with the rest of the tribe after getting a little too close to Candace. Coach takes a hard line, saying she’s made her bed and now she’s going to have to lie in it. We’ve seen several times now that one of Erinn’s most endearing qualities is also one of her biggest problems strategically. When she gets uncomfortable she runs off at the mouth and can’t stop. If she gets voted out she’ll probably write everyone on the tribe Christmas cards this December explaining that they misunderstood her but she’s not mad. She’ll need both sides of the card. I’ve liked Erinn from the beginning without being quite sure why. Judging by the polls, though, I’m not the only one who’s soft on her. I hope she stays.

When we get back from the commercial break Erinn is still talking about her association with Candace. She says she has to outperform the others in the challenge - she’s fighting for her life. Jerry ate some beans that didn’t agree with his stomach. Hopefully this scene was every bit as useless and unnecessary as it looked because if it went somewhere it would probably mean Jerry got dysentery and left the game. That would be far worse than losing Erinn. This season may literally ride on how Jerry does. He’s got the potential to be that much more compelling than anyone else on the cast, in my opinion. Every season of Survivor needs at least one extremely likable, one-of-a-kind character.

At Jalapao the tribe is having a hard time using the fishing net they won and can’t even catch minnows; until, that is, the happy music stars and they catch a feast. JT confidently declares that the tribe is a force to be reckoned with. I’m a bit tired already of the JT and Stephen country boy-city slicker connection. Stephen is obsessed with his own specialness as a city boy who doesn’t understand country things and whose making friendships for the first time with country people. I grew up in an academic environment. If my friends in college had been that thrown off guard by the idea of picking up a fishing pole I would have been shocked. Come on, Stephen. What are you, Rapunzel? Have you been stuck in the Ivory Tower your whole life with no one to come rescue you and teach you how to hammer together a spice rack? 

The Reward Challenge involves running back and forth collecting water to fill one tank and corn to raise another. Blindfolded. It’s a Survivor favorite going back to The Australian Outback. This time it’s Debbie screaming herself hoarse while Brendan and Jerry wander off in search of Atlantis. Timbera was never in it and Debbie is grief stricken as Jalapao wins chairs, pillows, hammocks and a waterproof tarp. The tribes choose Brendan and Taj to go to Exile Island once again. Timbera totally lacks cohesion right now. They’re going to need a tribal swap to get this thing straightened out. There’s no way these guys sit down like the Fellowship of the Ring and get this thing straightened out.

Back at camp Coach says the worst thing we could do is to blame any one person in the tribe for the loss, but then he runs to the watering hole with Tyson and rattles through a laundry list of reasons why it was Sierra and Erinn’s fault. He calls Tyson the Assistant Coach and the wacky Mormon mocks the entire conversation in a confessional, insisting he‘s going to be promoted to full Coach soon. So far this season is The Coach Show - not a great choice given that Coach is more unpleasant and unlikable than outrageous and interesting. Tyson seems to be the comic relief, and along with Jerry he’s going to be responsible for eventually turning this season around.

At Exile Island, Taj and Brendan agree to form a four way alliance across tribal lines with Sierra and Stephen. When the two tribes merge everyone else will be sitting ducks as the four of them shock everyone. It’s an intriguing idea. When tribes have met in the past I’ve certainly wondered what would happen if someone worked out a cross-tribal alliance. I’m not sure I see this working out. There’s a long time from now until the merge and so many distractions. But it’s interesting.

After some innocuous banter in the tent at Jalapao it’s time for the Immunity Challenge. The challenge requires the tribes to flip five foot tall building blocks end over end, then stack them to make a staircase. Jerry plays hard but seems to be in pain. Timbera comes to a stand still as Erinn and Debbie argue over how the blocks fit together and Brendan tries to mediate.

Jalapao wins, of course, and for once the young and buff tribe on Survivor seems to be thoroughly in control and riding an incredibly crest of momentum, a combination of self-confidence, cooperation and game-changing rewards. It’s the older, theoretically wiser tribe who can’t get it together to save their lives. I’d expected these early rounds would go entirely the other way. The old guys always beat the gym rats. It’s Survivor 101. I blame Coach almost entirely. He’s introducing a lot of anxiety and conflict into the tribe that’s distracting them, not only in the challenges but in building a shelter. That shouldn’t be the 39 day project they seem to be making it. Somehow, though, I think he’s the safest of all of them.


(image courtesy of CBS)