Denisemartin_survivor_china_240On Survivor, even if you aren’t rooting for anybody, it’s sometimes enough to have the people who don’t like plotting reversals and reversals of reversals. Thursday (Nov. 8) night’s Survivor: China certainly kept things confusing until the last second.

Pre-credit sequence. James is still giggling about Jaime playing the non-Immunity Idol, but Jean-Robert’s pulse is still pounding at what he sees as a near escape. He so nearly emotionally checked out that he refuses to make room in the shelter for Erik. Nope. We don’t get it either, nor does James, who continues to tolerate Jean-Robert without trusting him, saying, "We just need to keep his dumb ass in line, just ‘cuz we’re stuck with him."

All they need is a movie star, a professor and Dawn Wells. James is impressed that the original Fei Long has managed to stay together despite their clashing personalities and professional backgrounds. He notes that when it came to merely being copasetic, the original Zhan Hu had a big advantage, "They weren’t trying to win a million dollars. They were trying to win a high school friend contest." Of course, as James preaches Fei Long Power to the camera, Amanda is using her confessional time to admit that with his dual Idols and potential Immunity strengths, James is a major threat.

Courtneyyates_survivor_china_240You sunk my Courtney Ship! It’s Peih-Gee, Frosti, Erik, Courtney versus Jean-Robert, James, Todd, Amanda in a competition to submerge boats containing each team’s lightest members (Todd and emaciated Courtney initially, then Amanda and Frosti). Poor Denise isn’t chosen in the schoolyard pick and thus doesn’t get to play or win. Want to know what they’re playing for? The winning team will go to an ancient village for an authentic Chinese meal. Team Jean-Robert wins both heats, claiming reward. In addition to their feast, the victorious team gets a scroll.

An American Immunity Idol in China. Even though James says he’s "not one to enjoy the romantic side of stuff," all of the winners are overwhelmed by the unnamed 1000-year-old village, where a group of attractive women in red silk gowns deliver plate after plate of yummy-looking hot food ("This place has been around for 1000 years, I think they might have made a won-ton or two," James says happily) and free-flowing alcohol. Sufficiently soused, Jean-Robert opens the scroll and is shocked to discover that there’s "an American Immunity Idol" hidden somewhere. The other three, all of whom both know of the Idol’s existence and know that the Idol is in James’ bag, find Jean-Robert’s drunken behavior quite funny.

Lunchlady Land. Why the winners feast on whole fish and chickens’ feet, the losers are picking over the scraps of the fish James caught that morning. While the fish stews, Denise does the same, muttering  "I’m big, I’m fat, I’m always the last one picked. It’s been like that my whole life." While others are stirring up the food pot, Denise decides to stir up the game, asking the Zhan Hus why they didn’t get rid of James when they had the chance. In no time, there’s a general consensus that nobody wants to be eliminated before Jean-Robert, though Denise refuses to commit to swapping sides.

Working on his night moves. The winners return at nightfall, stinking of leisure and Chinese history. Jean-Robert, still thinking of his American Immunity Idol, can’t sleep. He prowls the camp upsetting the frogs and insects with his every step. He crawls around the main pagodas, prying off the pagoda plaques in search of the Idol. He wants to have a trump card. He’s a poker player, after all.

Jamesclement_survivor__china_240We’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy. Todd is unhappy. He has to sit around the fire listening to James complain about his hunger and Jean-Robert complain about James’ hunger. Eager to introduce a little craziness into the game, Todd approaches Amanda to try to cut James off at the knees. Amanda wants to get Peih-Gee out first, but would be willing to boot James after that, but Todd thinks the gravedigger can be blindsided. "Him changing so quickly really makes me nervous," Amanda says. Frosti, content to be viewed as a swing vote, tells Todd he’s game for anything.

Chasing the dragon. Frosti sadly relinquishes the Idol as Jeff Probst sets up a task that requires contestants to remain balanced on wildly unstable segments of a winding dragon. The physics of the challenge — the dragon is made up of untethered barrels gradually losing water and thus shifting in weight — are tricky and Jean-Robert is quick to whine about his barrel, earning Jeff’s response, "Glad you’re still around, Jean-Robert. We always need a complainer," to which Courtney shoots in, "I thought I was a complainer." It challenge appears to benefit the smaller contestants. Indeed, Jean-Robert and Denise go out first, followed by James and Erik. It comes down to Frosti, singing all the way, and Courtney, who’s unmovable ("I *am* lazy," she says). Frosti finally spins out, giving the victory to Courtney.

Uroboros. OK. Try keeping up. "I didn’t think I would ever win anything," says Courtney. "I pretty much don’t care who gets voted out." While she may be apathetic, the drama begins immediately. Jean-Robert, cards close to the vest, tells Erik he has the Immunity Idol, but the Pretty Boy calls the Bad Boy’s bluff. Erik plays his trump card, telling Jean-Robert that James has both Idols, causing the poker player to suggest backstabbing James. At the same time, Jean-Robert approaches James and tries to get him to admit to his Idol possession and then to make a deal of some sort "I might look like a dumb monkey and just fall for anything," says James, deciding that aligning with Jean-Robert would be the worst move in Survivor history. Thwarted, Jean-Robert goes to Todd and suggests getting rid of James, but Todd doesn’t necessarily like having his brilliant idea co-opted, so he goes to James and says Jean-Robert wants him out, so it’s time to get rid of Jean-Robert. You think you’re confused, imagine how Amanda feels, saying "Todd is all over the place right now." Courtney would be happy to see Jean-Robert go, but says "He’s become the Susan Lucci of Tribal Council. His name is always up there, but he never gets voted out."

Jeanrobertbellande_survivor_china_2Tribal Council. All cleaned up and jury-fied, Jaime shows up to listen looking cute and stupid. James warns that as big a physical threat as he might be "the talkers" are worse. The former Zhan Hus are worried and Jean-Robert, the self-described "local jerk," agrees they should be, saying something like, "They basically got the deuce-seven off-suit." Erik spouts a little strategic lobbying and James calls him "beautiful."

The vote. Of the ballots we see, Courtney sure thinks the vote is for Jean-Robert, Denise goes against Peih-Gee and Jean-Robert sticks to his James plan. Rolling the dice, James sits on his two Idols, but after getting three votes, he has to be wondering if he made the wrong decision. But five votes go against Jean-Robert. The Bad Boy of Poker is No More.

Was this the week to blindside James or did the main alliance make the right move? Will you be sad to miss out on weeks of poker analogies from Jean-Robert?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg