Airdate: March 19, 2014
Boot: Cliff Robinson
Quote: “We’re not the brain tribe. We’re the crap for brain tribe.” – Kass McQuillen
Rating: 6 + Tier A (5) = 11
Somewhere around the 20-season mark of Survivor, season rankings went from a fun debate to an arduous exercise. When I joined the online fan community around All-Stars, I had no reason to expect that we hadn’t even come close to hitting the show’s halfway point, and somewhere along the line, juggling the nuances that make China better than Panama lost its appeal. And yes, I realize the irony of writing that on a blog dedicated to rating and reviewing every Survivor episode.
While it’s been quite some time since I’ve compared and contrasted every season, I’m pretty sure that Cagayan stands as my favorite modern season. A large part of this is because it ends the way the game is supposed to end: with a final two. But it’s also a really great collection of characters from beginning to end.
But almost all of even the best seasons have some less terrific episodes in the mix, and if you’re lucky they still fall into the “pretty good” realm. This episode is pretty big for the game–there’s a swap and five players attend their first Tribal Council, where three of them are genuinely blindsided–but it’s not the most electrifying content Cagayan has to offer by a long shot.
That doesn’t make it a dud, though. Tony and Trish’s decision to jump ship and team up with Jefra and LJ by eliminating Cliff is an exciting play, and both challenges are competitive and fun to watch. But as is so often the case, the highlights here center around petty drama. Yeah, I know that some people watch Survivor for its complex strategy or though-provoking social insight. Screw that. Give me finger-wagging arguments over chicken preservation or people bitching about someone eating a thimble’s worth of papaya any day. Call me unsophisticated, but I’m not above that.
The tribes may have been reshuffled, but there’s not much in the way of fresh conflict. Actually, it’s lingering bitterness between old tribemates that provides the most entertainment here. With Trish now sharing a beach with her beauty tribe crush LJ, she becomes even more attracted upon discovering his Massachusetts roots. LJ doesn’t mind using his sex appeal if it’ll help his game, and Trish is all too eager to flirt back, which makes Lindsey even more disgusted with her.
“You’re 50 years old,” Lindsey reminds Trish in a confessional. “Stop trying to get attention from 20-year-old men, seriously.” It’s one of the most consequential feuds in the history of the show, but that really comes into play with the next episode.
Over at the other tribe, Morgan is eager to chip away at Alexis. “LJ and her, like, cuddled together every night,” Morgan tells Kass, Sarah, Spencer, and Tasha. “He always asked her to, like, shake her butt. She, like, prides herself on being able to twerk really well.” Morgan, of course, has never used her body in a salacious way.
Another highlight is Sarah covertly forcing Morgan to reveal that she opted for an idol clue over a bag of rice for the tribe on day one. Morgan reacts to Alexis’s shock with a casual, “I didn’t find it.” That’s like calling out Christopher Columbus for introducing disease and wiping out indigenous populations and him responding, “Everybody knows you shouldn’t take blankets from strangers.”
We finish off with a great blindside, but all in all, this episode is mere setup for a much more dramatic aftermath.