And just like that, the whole Manono tribe has officially joined the "Survivor" Hall of Shame.
After winning immunity in a blowout challenge against Salani and recapturing momentum in the process, the men of Manono flushed their good fortune down the toilet by volunteering to go to tribal council in place of the women. Their reason: to vote out one of their own, Leif, who "betrayed" the tribe's core alliance by telling stand-up comedian Bill, the unwitting nemesis of newly anointed Manono mastermind Colton, that he was next on the chopping block. After a racially tense tribal council, however, it was Colton who had the last laugh, and Bill — not Leif — was sent packing.
Manono's unanimous decision to exchange immunity for an early trip to tribal council goes down as one of the single-most confounding, moronic moves in "Survivor" history. At least, that's my take. Good thing we have the smartest player to never win the game, two-time contestant Rob Cesternino, to weigh in with his thoughts on this week's unprecedented episode of "Survivor." Keep reading for his take on Manono's controversial move, Colton's sudden rise to power and more.
MTV: OK, Rob. My head has not stopped spinning since the last 10 minutes of that episode. What was your reaction on seeing Manono's "plan" go into action?
Rob Cesternino: It really was such an idiotic thing to have happen on this show. I've seen a lot of dumb things happen in the history of this show, but usually the dumbness is confined to one person making a dumb move. Usually, the groupthink doesn't invade a whole team of people, which is what happened here. It's pretty remarkable. It's a remarkable event that eight people went along with an idea that was so insane.
MTV: So, just to clarify: This was not some brilliant outside-the-box thinking that I can't wrap my head around. This could very well be the single stupidest move in "Survivor" history.
Cesternino: Well, I don't think it's the single dumbest thing that's ever happened. I still think that belongs to ice-cream scooper Erik [from "Survivor: Fans versus Favorites," who was voted out after surrendering his idol to a chief competitor], with Brandon Hantz [from "Survivor: South Pacific," voted out in similar fashion] being second. I've been trying to wrap my head around this, though. Is there any sort of strategic advantage to the men's decision? I really can't come up with anything. The best I can come up with is that maybe for Colton, he feels that he has the girls in his pocket and he has a bunch of guys he's working with. "As long as I'm getting rid of somebody who isn't working with me, better than sending the girls to vote out someone who I have a good relationship with." But just from the beating that Colton took at tribal council from both Bill and Jeff Probst, it's not a good thing for his reputation to continue taking a pummeling like that.
MTV: Colton has been and continues to be an absurd character. He's like the homesick camper who cries and cries nonstop the first week, then comes back strong and rules the bunk as a dictator the rest of the summer. How did that happen? What do you think? Are the men following him out of fear? Loyalty? Is it the idol in his pocket?
Cesternino: I think there's some fear there. I think also some of these men are just along for the ride, and that's not necessarily a bad strategy. Jay, Jonas, Leif, these guys are just sort of more followers. Troyzan and Tarzan feel like more in cahoots with what Colton is doing. Then there are a few who are just outnumbered and are going along with it, not trying to upset the apple cart. Colton does have a very dominating personality. I'm sure there's some charisma there. Most of the offensive things he's saying are just to us, the audience. So I'm sure he can be charming. But I'm not sure exactly if it plays out this way every season, but right now, there's a combustible enough combination out there for Colton to be successful right now.
MTV: Everyone on Manono had to agree to make this choice to go to tribal council. If you're out there, how do you say no? Can you say no? There has to be a way you can say no to that without looking like a jerk, right? It's such a blatantly boneheaded move — would it really alienate you that much to go against the majority on this one?
Cesternino: This is the part that was really insane. "We're all going to tribal council, but it has to be unanimous!" First of all, they said they're going to vote Leif off — I don't know how much that's a smokescreen to get Bill to vote yes, but that even seems more idiotic. Why do you need a unanimous vote to vote somebody off? Why Bill agreed with it, I'll never know. But why did Leif agree to this plan? I'll never know! How much of this was misdirection?
Because he only got Bill's vote at tribal council. If Bill went, "You know, not good. I'm going to vote no on tribal council." What do they say? "Well, you're outvoted, and now we're voting you out." I don't know. It didn't make much sense to me.
MTV: I guess part of that might be that Leif seemed to feel genuinely terrible about spilling the beans to Bill, and Bill just seems like a bit of a dummy in the game of "Survivor," and was once again way too excited to dodge a bullet that was headed directly to his face. If the two people who really needed to object were a) too guilty to say no and b) completely unaware of how much trouble they're really in, I guess they'd vote yes?
Cesternino: I don't know. Why would Bill want to get rid of that padding? If there's a person between you going home and someone else going home, that's an airbag for you. That's keeping you alive in the game. Why you would want to accelerate getting rid of that person by going to tribal council [voluntarily] — all of this could have played out further into the game. There's always the chance that politics could change, there could be a switch, a merge. Time is your friend in this game when you're in that position.
MTV: There was some amazingly absurd foreshadowing when you see Leif in the box at the very beginning of the episode, which was just such a ridiculous visual. It portended some doom for this guy. But honestly, I don't think Leif did anything so egregious to warrant such a turnaround from his tribemates. Clearly he slipped up and that wasn't smart, but does anything he did warrant the reaction he got last night?
Cesternino: No, I thought everything was overblown with Leif. Who cares if Bill knows he's next to go? It's not like he has an immunity idol or anything like that. I didn't think that was such a big deal. I thought Colton's reaction was over-the-top, but Tarzan's too. Didn't it seem like Tarzan was talking to Leif like he was a Chihuahua? "That was bad, Leif! Get in your box, Leif!" [Laughs] I thought that was so over-the-top. And honestly, this was the most we've seen of Leif so far, and I really liked Leif. He seems like a nice guy.
MTV: Well, there's more to talk about in this episode, but Manono's decision is such a lightning rod that it's hard to focus on anything else. But what do you think: Who, if anyone, is playing the game well right now?
Cesternino: I think one of the guys who still looks good is Jonas. Even though he's going along with bad ideas, he's not rocking the boat that much. I didn't like how he negotiated with the women; he came off bad there, negotiating about using their fishing net. He looks easygoing enough to follow along in the aftermath of Colton and continue to advance in the game, though.
MTV: And who doesn't look good? Everybody?
Cesternino: Well, for the women, Alicia continues to get into arguments with people where she doesn't really have a conflict. She's continuing to create tension wherever she goes in the game, and that's not usually a good formula for success.
MTV: She was also instrumental in Salani losing immunity. Hypothetically, if things had played out as they should have played out and the women were sent packing to tribal, would Alicia have gone home?
Cesternino: Hmm. [Pauses] Her name was coming up, but I think Christina would still have been the one to go. Much like Cat versus Nina, the person inside of the alliance, even if they're deserving of going home, probably stays over the person not in the alliance.
Get more of Rob's thoughts on "Survivor" at his website.
What did you think of last night's episode? Sound off in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!