When I first saw this episode, I was left dumbstruck. Incredulous. The blood drained from my face. What those women did to that poor boy Erik was disturbing. Horrific. But after watching it again, those last 15 minutes of the show were beautiful. Poetic. It was like watching masters at work. They spun their words and twisted Erik’s mind as if his thoughts and emotions were tangible threads that could be woven however the women chose. The women worked so well together, and each played their part flawlessly. They were the Harlem Globetrotters of Survivor backstabbery.
But before those amazing last 15 minutes were 45 fairly typical ones. Before the reward challenge, Erik talks with Natalie about how Amanda’s still a big threat, and the two agree that if one of them wins the challenge, they’ll send the other to Exile Island to search for the rehidden immunity idol.
Amanda, Parvati and Cirie feel good about their Final 3 alliance, and they don’t want Natalie or Erik to win the reward challenge and send the other to Exile. Cirie suggests that Amanda get in Erik’s head (before the night is over, all four women set up camp in Erik’s head) and tell him she forgives him for not supporting her during the last vote, so then he’ll do whatever Amanda says.
Amanda tells Erik that if she wins the reward challenge, she’ll take him along on the trip. Erik tells her that if Natalie wins, she’ll send him to Exile, and Amanda says of course Natalie would — she wants to weaken him. Amanda tells Erik to pick Parvati to go to Exile, and when Erik seems to agree with her, Amanda compliments him for being good at thinking.
The reward challenge involves answering questions about “Favorite moments from past seasons of Survivor.” These are our favorite moments? If I had to pick a favorite moment, I’m not sure I’d pick Rupert having a pet snake, Richard Hatch biting a shark, Michael falling into the fire, or the castaways being divided into four tribes. But Kathy peeing on John’s hand in Marquesas? They got that one right. That event, just like Kathy’s pee, was golden.
Erik wins the reward of going on a helicopter ride to a luxury resort. He picks Parvati to be exiled and Amanda to go on the reward with him. Amanda hugs him and says he totally redeemed himself. You wuz played, boy. But your days as a fiddle have only just begun.
At the reward, Erik tells Amanda that he feels like he’s been the center of attention lately, that people want to know his decisions about the game. He says, “I work in an ice cream parlor — I don’t do this, I don’t make these decisions about people.” He says he’s got to step up: “Maybe it’s part of being a man — being an ice cream man instead of an ice cream boy.”
When Erik returns to Exile, he notices that Natalie is “no longer sunshine and happiness.” Cirie explains to Erik why Natalie’s upset — if he wanted to vote out Amanda like he’s been saying, why would he take her on the reward? Erik tells Cirie that Natalie and Amanda are the biggest threats and should be the next voted out. Natalie hears them talking, and she tells the camera that after hearing what Erik said, she “could’ve literally bitch-slapped him [she acts out said slapping], smack him like his mother.” (I assume Natalie means “like his mother would smack him,” not like how Natalie would smack Erik’s mother. Actually, I take that back — Natalie could totally smack Erik’s mother.)
Cirie then reports Erik’s words to Amanda and Natalie (had Parvati not been sunning herself on Exile Island, no doubt she would have been in this conversation, too). Amanda says that Erik’s there with four women — of course the women are going to talk.
Erik sees the women talking about what he’s been telling them, and he says, “I might have screwed up quite a bit.” He realizes the “women talk to each other” thing a little late, and he knows they think he’s full of crap.
The immunity challenge involves using coordinates to criss-cross ropes and dig in the sand for puzzle pieces. Erik easily wins the immunity necklace, which means that the women have again failed to keep Erik from moving on.
… Or have they? The four women talk about how Natalie is next to go, and Cirie says, “I wonder if he would give Nat his necklace. Probably not, huh?” They discuss why Erik would think this plan would benefit him, and Cirie comes up with the angle: Natalie should tell him that Cirie is willing to vote against Amanda, but Cirie needs proof that Erik has finally picked which side he’s on. Since his word is no longer any good, he’ll have to give his necklace to Natalie to prove his loyalty and redeem himself, and he’ll also earn respect from the jury. Natalie says, “Who would fall for that? I feel stupid listening to you guys,” but she agrees to try.
Erik’s first response when Natalie suggests that he give her the immunity necklace is “I’m not even going to consider that.” Like they always say, you should go with your first answer.
But Erik is worried about winning votes on the jury, should he get to the Final 3. Natalie assures him that giving immunity to her would be “a huge pivotal move” for him if he wants jury votes. Erik talks with Cirie and asks why they can’t just vote out Amanda while having Erik keep his immunity necklace, but Cirie says gosh, I wish we could, but you’ve been saying all sorts of stuff to different people, so I need proof.
Erik is scared that Parvati may have found the hidden idol on Exile and given it to Amanda, so he suggests to Natalie that they vote for Parvati instead. So Erik is now considering giving up immunity in order to vote out one of the women who’s not a threat. Natalie checks with Cirie, who says sure, I’ll fake-vote for Parvati instead of fake-voting for Amanda.
Cirie (do you notice how much of this plan is coming from Cirie? If I may quote from my own Week 3 blog: I love Cirie) suggests to Amanda that she and Parvati blast Erik at Tribal Council, so it might push him further in the direction of thinking that giving up his immunity is a good plan. That’s exactly what they do, mercilessly digging into him for flipping sides. Cirie skillfully drives home the point that redemption is possible and important, but once your words have been discredited, only actions can do that. Throughout, Erik says they’re totally right — he has been full of crap — and he’s hoping for forgiveness. Oh, Erik. You’re way too soft for this game. Switching loyalties, strategizing, ticking people off — it’s all part of the game. If you’re too worried about people liking you, you’re going to end up doing something stupid …
… like giving your immunity necklace to Natalie, which is what Erik does. Natalie puts on the necklace and looks almost solemn, in contrast to the others’ jaw-dropping, head-shaking laughter. Erik doesn’t seem to be redeemed in their eyes. Can he not see how dumbfounded everyone is?
For the first time I can recall, we see what everyone says as they cast their vote (Erik against Parvati; everyone else against Erik). Some excerpts:
- Erik: “You’ve got to take some risks sometimes, and I hope people keep their word. Oh God …”
- Natalie: “I don’t even know what to say … but thank you.”
- Parvati: “You’re crazy! You’ll officially go down as the dumbest Survivor ever, in the history of Survivor, ever.”
Indeed, after the votes are read and Erik is voted out, James triumphantly shouts, “I’ve lost my reign as the dumbest Survivor ever!” Erik tells the women, “You guys drive me crazy” before his torch is snuffed and he runs down the path away from the Tribal Council area.
Erik tells the camera in his post-vote goodbye, “Damn! Damn! They got me! … There’s one thing to be said about surviving the elements, and there’s another thing to be said about surviving four crazy, sexy women. I never thought I’d be shoulder to shoulder with all these people I’ve seen on TV. And these are my heroes, and they’re talking to me, they’re acknowledging me as a person.”
So in the end, Erik was hampered by hero worship, weighed down by guilt, and, just like when he watched Amanda, Ami and Ozzy shower together at the Herbal Essences spa back in Week 7, distracted by boobs.
Photo: © 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS