Survivor: China: Week 8 Recap: Farewell, Susan Lucci

I think the overall theme of this episode is meant to be “Jean-Robert is stupid,” but some other stuff happens, too.

When captains pick teams of four for the reward challenge, the picking follows Zhan Hu/Fei Long lines, except Denise is the odd woman out, making her feel like the big, fat kid that no one wants on their team in gym class. I know, someone had to be left out, but it wasn’t a very smart move for the other members of Fei Long to send Denise the message that she’s toward the bottom of the totem pole.

The team of Jean-Robert, James, Amanda and Todd wins the reward of going to an ancient village, eating a meal and getting the complete list of clues for the hidden immunity idol. Jean-Robert is amazed to learn of the existence of this idol, not aware that not only does the rest of his tribe already know about it, but that he’s also sitting across the table from the man in possession of both of them. I suppose Jean-Robert isn’t really being stupid here — he just thinks he’s one step ahead when he’s really several episodes behind, which makes it easy to point and laugh at him.

But it gets better. Jean-Robert feels that he dodged a bullet when Jaime pulled out a plaque thing that she thought might be an immunity idol at the last Tribal Council — had it been real, Jean-Robert would’ve been voted out — so as others sleep, he looks around camp for the idol. He figures out that the clues are referring to the plaque things on the overhang, and he pries off the three remaining non-idol plaques, reasoning that he’ll try to figure out later which one is the actual idol. Dude — did you see what Jeff Probst flung into the fire last week?

Oh — but it gets even better. Jean-Robert later tells Erik that he has the hidden immunity idol. Erik says, “Huh,” and then tells Jean-Robert that he’s pretty sure James has two idols. You’d think at this point, Jean-Robert might want to say to himself, “Jean-Robert doesn’t really have a clue what’s going on and should keep his mouth shut.” (I imagine that even Jean-Robert’s thoughts are in the third person.)

But then, Jean-Robert has a conversation with James that really seems scripted. Badly scripted. Like a bad soap opera:

Jean-Robert: “So what’s your feelings on this hidden immunity idol?”

James: “I don’t know. I gotta look for it. Have you been looking? What did you come up with?”

Jean-Robert: “What I came up with [turns dramatically toward James] was the realization that you’re holding out on me — that’s what I came up with.”

Jean-Robert tells James that he knows the baby is his … I mean, that James has two immunity idols, and he threatens to blackmail James with the hidden surveillance tape … I mean, turn against James if James doesn’t agree to join forces with him. (Oh, and Jean-Robert points out that he’d figured out on his own that James had the idols, ’cause he’s just that clever.) James turns down his proposition, driving Jean-Robert into the arms of Todd, who agrees with Jean-Robert’s plan to get rid of James.

Todd, bothered by the fact that Jean-Robert thinks he just came up with a plan that Todd has been pondering for days, then tells James that Jean-Robert wants James out. So they plan to kick off Jean-Robert instead. Courtney comments that while it’d be great to get rid of Jean-Robert, she wasn’t going to get her hopes up, since “he’s become the Susan Lucci of Tribal Council.” Another hint that this whole thing is a soap opera.

As the votes are read at Tribal Council, Jean-Robert’s name is on the first two ballots. He looks a little nervous. Then there’s a vote for Peih-Gee (who was supposed to be Fei Long’s target this week — Denise is the only one who didn’t get the memo. Again, alienating Denise is not a good move). And then three votes for James, who starts looking antsy and bug-eyed and wishing he’d played one of his immunity idols, while Jean-Robert looks smug. And Todd sits there all impish, as if he’s thinking his favorite Willy Wonka line: “The suspense is terrible … I hope it’ll last.”

And then Jean-Robert’s smugness fades as two more votes are read for him, and he’s voted out.

Other points of interest in this episode:

* The Chinese name of the merged tribe is “Hae Da Fung.” Whenever I see it, my brain says “Hide da funk.” I have yet to figure out what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

* Courtney won the immunity challenge for her excellence in staying motionless on a barrel and not falling into a swamp. The real challenge came when she had to wear an immunity necklace that weighs half as much as she does.

* I’m hoping we get to hear more verses of the song Frosti started during the immunity challenge: “Starving artist/on the dragon/balancing on barrels for Jeff Probst.” My suggestion for the next lines: “Jean-Robert/don’t be braggin’/you thought you were so clever; now you’re toabst.”

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