Survivor: Slow And Unsteady Loses The Race

The mid-game of a Survivor season is typically as draggy for viewers as for the participants. Within the game, the thrill of competition has been replaced by fatigue, hunger, and paranoia; and the fans at home generally have a few more weeks to wait for the truly memorable moves to occur and consequential players to depart.

No one is having much fun these days at the Fang tribe, as their constant losing and their failure to properly ration their food supply early on have led to some seriously unhappy campers. Matty fashioned a makeshift ring to remind himself of his girlfriend (even though he also seemed to indicate he missed food and his dog even more). Sugar, sent to exile for a ridiculous fourth time, got to relax and eat yet again, but shed tears thinking about her destitute tribemates. Crystal, the onetime Olympic athlete who has nonetheless had an awfully mediocre record in challenges so far, literally cried after Fang was badly whipped in the reward challenge, which gave the winners a much-desired big breakfast.

The reward challenge perfectly illustrated Fang's weaknesses: a lack of heart and a refusal to cooperate to find the best strategy. The tribes had to chase each other around an oval in a pursuit while carrying a 200-pound snake overhead. A challenge like this measures stamina and willpower above all else, but although Fang had the disadvantage of three women as opposed to the Kota tribe's one, their capitulation was still startlingly quick, helped along by four players having to drop out, including the Olympian.

Hunger is also beginning to affect the ability of the Fang players to act in their best interests, with the exception of Ace, whose position just keeps getting better even as his culpability in the tribe's losing streak is becoming more obvious. He managed to talk Sugar into giving him the individual immunity idol, using the logic that since everyone knows she found it, there's no point to her having it anymore. Well, that certainly makes perfect sense, as now the others will surely believe the idol has simply evaporated. Ace also talked Matty, who was in a solid alliance already, into making a new pact with him, a decision which then forced Matty to go to his other allies to explain why it was now necessary to keep a player no one believes can be trusted.

The immunity challenge was a microcosm of Fang's season to this point: weaker players putting them in a hole, stronger players making up the difference, and then a collapse at the end due to a failure to cooperate. As pairs of players of roped-together players raced through an obstacle course to retrieve pieces of a flagpole, Matty and Ken wiped out what had once been a sizable Kota lead. But Kota worked together to find the correct way to assemble the flag, while Ace ineffectually took the entire flag responsibility upon himself. Result: another trip to tribal council for Fang.

Crystal fought against Matty's plan to bring Ace into the fold, correctly seeing him as not only a snake, but nowhere near as useful in challenges as he thinks he is: "A lot of people see Ace as a strong competitor, but he's been in our tribe for three or four challenges now, and we haven't won anything. So how is he benefiting me?" Matty even tried to tell Ace that it wouldn't make sense to ally with him and Sugar, seeing as how those two are a strong pair and that she has the idol, but Ace simply said "trust me" again and crisis was averted. Seriously, it's been that easy for him. He's more persuasive than Mystery.

Ken had the right idea, telling Matty that Ace's growing sense of cockiness made this the perfect time to blindside him, but with Matty not on board with the idea, he couldn't get the numbers. This left Kelly, who wasn't shown making a single attempt to defend herself and whose specialty thus far has been antagonizing her tribemates at tribal council, as the logical person to get rid of. The warm feelings about Kelly can be summed up by Crystal's giving her the finger as she cast her vote.

It's not easy finding any drama at the fat-and-happy Kota tribe, which apart from winning another food-based challenge even got to chow down on a turtle that Bob plucked from the lake. But the grumbling about Dan continued this week, as the lawyer was cited for trying to eat too much. These criticisms are taking place behind Dan's back, so it remains to be seen if he's aware of any peril. Otherwise, the main entertainment from Kota is coming from Randy, who has gotten used to being on the winning side to the point where he's now trash talking his former Fang teammates after challenges, even making fun of Crystal's tears.

Randy might be a jerk, but he's a spark of personality in a season that's mostly lacking in color, save for him and Ace. The fireworks might intensify next week, as the previews suggested that both tribes will be shedding a player at tribal council. That's the kind of twist they usually don't give away this early, so perhaps the producers are also aware that the season needs a jumpstart.