Survivor: Cagayan, Episode 5 Recap- “Odd One Out”

by Julian

Previously on… SURVIVOR!

Three tribes continued to battle it out in Cagayan, Philippines. And by three tribes battling it out, I mean two tribes battling for first and second place while the third, the Brains, keeps losing. This is a problem for the last male Brain standing, Spencer, who stands a good chance of being voted out by the women. His saving grace may come from Sarah on the Brawn Tribe, who sets in motion a plan to throw the challenge so they can vote out mega-threat Cliff–but sure enough, the Brains still manage to lose out to a tribe that was actively trying to throw the challenge. Ouch. At Tribal Council, Tasha and Kass decide to shift their gameplan and go with Spencer, the stronger challenge competitor, rather than their volatile ally J’Tia, and the supposed nuclear engineer finds herself voted out. 14 remain… who will be voted out tonight?

The Brains return to their sad camp after having voted out their third tribe mate, leaving only Tasha, Kass, and Spencer remaining. The trio clings to whatever optimism they can muster, though you can tell this is tough for the naturally cynical Kass. Spencer, on the other hand, is simply glad to still be in the game, having convinced Tasha and Kass to spare him. While it’s certainly possible he could screw them in the long run, right now it seems like Spencer is all about proving his loyalty to the ladies who kept him. “This could be the final three,” he says to the others in the shelter, “all that stands between us is two whole tribes.” Foreshadowing? Please?

As Kass cooks the remaining 2% of the rice the next morning, Tasha arrives with Tree Mail, alerting the gang that a reward challenge is coming and they might finally be able to eat. The Brains head off to the next challenge, with Tasha hopeful that this is the start of their comeback. She has no idea. But we do! You see, the previews for this episode have been focused entirely around those three fateful words–“drop your buffs.”

That’s right–after arriving at the challenge, Jeff has each castaway discard their old buff as the remaining 14 castaways randomly draw for spots on two new tribes, meaning that Brains vs Beauty vs Brawn is no more. Or that’s what it means in theory. As the saying goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, so it goes to reason that the allegiances people have on their new tribes depend on which members of their original tribe they end up with.

Anyway, as random shuffles are sometimes doomed to go, not everyone gets shuffled. The three Brains all pull orange buffs, causing them to fuse into a three headed dragon as they join the New Aparri Tribe. Also along for the ride are Morgan, Alexis, and Jeremiah from the Beauty Tribe, Solana. Good Cop Sarah rounds them out, making her the only original Aparri member to stay on her tribe. The other five Brawns–Bad Cop Tony, Woo, Lindsey, Uncle Cliffy and Malnutrisha–all draw Solana purple and immediately swarm the mat, joining original Solana members Jefra and L.J. The way the numbers have fallen seem to have immediately established pecking orders for the new tribe, leaving Sarah, L.J., and Jefra in particular feeling vulnerable.

The first challenge as new tribes is for a reward of donughts and coffee and is a Survivor classic called “Kicking and Screaming,” originally used in Survivor: Cook Islands (better known as Survivor: Isles of Racism).

Pretend your a stripper and cling to that pole like the rent is due tomorrow

The game is played in rounds, with one player from each tribe having a simple goal of holding on to a pole for dear life while two members of the other tribe do everything in their power to dislodge them and then drag them across the field and over the finish line. First tribe to get their bounty over the line scores a point, and the first to an intentionally unstated number of points wins overall. It’s a brutal challenge that’s always fun to watch, but it doesn’t leave any room for a less physical tribe to bounce back on a mental portion. I think we all know how this is going to pan out. Even though Tasha says she’s excited for her new tribe because they seem strong in challenges, I think we all know she’s really just excited to be on a new tribe and out of the danger zone–because given how the cards have fallen, it seems pretty clear that it’s Solana, stacked with almost all the former Brawn–is at an advantage in a challenge like this. Tasha manages to win the first round for Aparri by proving completely immovable against Trish and Jefra, while Lindsey fares less well for Solana, eventually being bested by Sarah and Morgan.

After this, it’s all downhill for Aparri in this challenge. Former NBA All-Star and certified giant Cliff takes the pole for Solana and is predictably impossible for poor Spencer and Jeremiah to budge. By comparison, Aparri puts in petite little Alexis, who is torn from her pole in all of three seconds and literally dragged by her ankle by L.J. through the sand as she flails helplessly. After a suspicious cut to the very last round, we’re at the game point and Cliff once again takes the pole for Solana. This time, the Aparri boys are actually able to get his 30-foot long limbs unwrapped from around the pole, but it’s too little, too late. Despite her best efforts to fend off Tony and Lindsey, Sarah is pulled across the finish line, meaning that Solana wins reward and that even with a whole new tribe full of people, the Brains still can’t catch a break.

Solana returns to camp with donughts, coffee, and a whole new dynamic to their tribe. While the overall mood is joyful, as you’d expect it to be when starving people get food, L.J. is all game, and is starkly aware of the reality of the numbers. He points out the obvious–he and Jefra are now on the outs, the only original Solana members on a tribe filled with invaders from Aparri. L.J. knows he has two advantages that could potentially help him survive this unlucky draw–one of which is his Hidden Immunity Idol, which he reasons would only buy him a few extra days. The other ball in his court is the fact that he’s L.J., the most well-rounded castaway this season, so he hopes he can convince the former Aparri members that he’s an asset in challenges and not worth discarding.

It doesn’t take long for L.J.’s plan to set in motion–there is one member of the former Aparri who very quickly takes a liking to him, and it’s Trish. The moment that she finds out L.J. is also from Massachusetts, her vagina all but falls open as she is possessed by the spirit of a girlish crush. Trish swoons about how L.J. is so great and he’s handsome and laid back and a gentleman and not high maintenance like she assumed the Beauties would be. She gushes about the fact that he’s also from Boston and says that’s probably why she’s always thought he was cute. L.J. casually mentions being single and Trish can hardly contain her excitement or her giggling. Despite all this, Trish claims she’s only likes L.J., you know, as a friend, and that she’s not a cougar or anything like that… sure. L.J. for his part doesn’t really care–be it a shared hometown or sex appeal, Trish is into him, and she’s the only beacon of hope right now for him and Jefra, so he’ll happily take advantage of it. Lindsey, on the other hand, is nauseated, much as she is by everything else about Malnutrisha, and she is more than happy to rant about it to the camera. “You’re fifty, stop trying to get attention from twenty year old men, seriously,” she snarks with an eye roll. While she may have a point about Trish’s heavy-handed flirting, her math needs a little work. Whatever–this isn’t the Brains Tribe.

Besides being annoying, however, the other Brawns don’t seem too worried about Trish. Sure, Cliff says that he hated seeing Trish draw purple, but he and Woo agree it was basically the only bad part of how the swap went down. The plan seems simple–five Brawn strong. Cliff, as a result of having eyes and ears, is aware of Trish’s new love interest, and ominously threatens via confessional that if Trish plays emotionally, he’ll deal with the situation accordingly.

Elsewhere, on another island, Sarah leads her gaggle of new tribemates to the Aparri camp, desperate to figure out how she can keep herself from becoming a target due to her isolation as the only member of her original tribe. She immediately engages the group in a covert trust exercise, explaining that they have two bags of rice because Trish did the right thing. This is shocking news to Alexis, who, like the other Beauties, had no idea about the offer that was made to the banished castaways on the first day. This is because Morgan is a big, fat liar. Morgan is immediately displeased with Sarah outing her, but it was just what the Good Cop needed to shift the attention away from her. Morgan confesses to the tribe that she took the clue and kept it a secret, but adamantly maintains that she didn’t actually find the idol. As far as Alexis is concerned, it doesn’t matter if she has it or not–it’s just another red flag on Morgan cautioning her to stay away. Adamant that she cannot trust the Beauties she’s been abandoned with, Alexis immediately arranges to jump ship.

What follows can only be described as a weird interview montage as each of the three Beauties pitch their services to the Brains, offering to cut their old tribe loose and join forces with the former Luzon. Alexis pitches herself to the Brains over by the well, telling them that Jeremiah played both sides and that Morgan is deceitful and lazy. Morgan hangs with the Brains around the campfire, regaling them with mockery of Alexis whoring herself out to L.J. with her overrated twerking skills, only to have Alexis walk right into camp in the middle of the conversation. Jeremiah gets shirtless in the ocean with Kass and Tasha, apparently hoping to woo the women with his southern charm and the fact he’s a model as he swears to them he has no allegiance to anyone else in the game. The Brains are all more than tickled by the quick structural breakdown of the Beauties–Spencer is turned off by Alexis’ show of desperation and notes that despite being the tribe who’s supposed to excel in the social game, the Beauties are proving themselves to be anything but socially savvy. He compares them to gossipy high schoolers, and Tasha notes that the game has completely turned around and left the Brains sitting on top of the hierarchy in the new tribe–and that they didn’t have to do anything to make it happen. It’s a soaring confessional for Tasha as she talks about the total turnaround and it’s capped off with a shot of her celebrating joyously in the middle of the group. It’s the kind of thing they like to play in the winner’s victory montage at the reunion. I’ve got my eye on you, Tasha Fox.

Who’s looking like a winner?

It’s not just the Beauties of Nu-Aparri who are quick to throw each other under the bus–within moments of getting out of earshot of the Solana Camp, Trish proceeds to air all of her tribe’s dirty laundry to plucky lil’ Jefra, who can do nothing more than hope that this is indicative of a fracture she and L.J. can take advantage of. Trish informs Jefra of her and Lindsey’s mutual hatred of one another and the fact that Lindsey and Cliff have a tight alliance. Jefra says she finds Cliff shady–perhaps because he’s so tall? Yuk yuk yuk. Anyway, Cliff eventually shows up to break up the strategy talk, but it’s pretty clear from this vantage point that Malnutrisha is prepping to make her move.

The new tribes meet for their second showdown, this time with immunity at stake. Jeff discards the smaller immunity idol and reveals his inability to sex the larger idol before explaining the challenge, Gate Crasher, first seen in Survivor: China.

Each tribe must use a battering ram to tear through two barricades before arriving at a puzzle station, where they must slide their log into a brace and navigate a metal peg along the maze of grooves in the log so that they can successfully remove it from the other side. Once through the maze, use the ram to ring a gong, signaling the end of the challenge.

The challenge runs six on six. Malnutrisha wastes no time in volunteering herself to sit out for Solana, while Alexis and Morgan’s school girl rivalry escalates as they bicker over which of the two will sit out. It’s clear that both women know they’re in danger and don’t want to miss an opportunity to prove their worth, so it comes down to Rock, Paper, Scissors, leading Morgan to take the bench.

Solana gets a quick lead, as would be expected of the mostly-Brawn tribe, while Aparri struggles to leverage their battering ram. By the time Aparri figures out that they need to reconfigure who is carrying what part of the log, Solana has already torn down their first barricade. Spencer and Jeremiah step from the back to the front of the log, however, and the extra strength up front allows Aparri to very rapidly scramble back into contention, with both tribes reaching the maze at the same time. In a beautiful show of communication, for once, the three Brains take control, with Tasha calling out directions as they work the log through the maze. It’s a super close challenge, but Aparri manages to sneak ahead and send their battering ram crashing into the gong before they erupt in a jubilant explosion of celebration, having won immunity and their first challenge as a new Tribe. A misty-eyed Tasha takes the idol happily from Jeff, with him noting that victory and a night away from Tribal Council is a welcome change of pace for Tasha, Kass and Spencer.

Solana has the requisite post-loss pity party where everyone reassures each other that everyone did their best before heading off for the pre-vote scramble. Though L.J. begs the Brawns to keep him for his skill in challenges, Woo feels that there’s really nothing L.J. can bring to challenges that Woo can’t do just as well, if not better. Woo, Lindsey and Cliff all agree that L.J. is too threatening of a player for them to let slip by, with Cliff also worried about L.J.’s newfound influence over Trish. Lindsey panics that Trish could flip on them, but she’s reassured by her allies–even if Trish jumps ship, she’s still outnumbered, because Tony is loyal to Brawn. Right? Right? Right?

If Tony is, in fact, sticking with Brawn, Trish didn’t get the memo. The Cougar and her prey rendezvous away from camp where Trish tells L.J. that he’s safe, because she and Tony are aligned and have been looking to get Uncle Cliffy out for ages. This is just the news that Golden Boy was hoping for, as if Trish is telling the truth, he and Jefra are now safe in a new alliance and he can save his idol for a rainy day down the road. The music grows overtly ominous as Trish explains her reasoning, as she launches into a stalkerish monologue about everything she loves about L.J. followed directly by a creepy and borderline racist bash session against Cliff, all capped off with a cackle that really can’t be done justice with written word.

Now if you’ve been watching the show up until this point, none of this news is particularly surprising–Trish has been on the outs of her tribe from day one and Tony has been conspiring against Cliff for weeks now, but the editing is really doing it’s best to push Trish’s thought process as an emotional one, not a game based one… and it’s hard not to see it that way because she’s kind of out of her mind. Trish finds Bad Cop Tony and breaks the news to him that Cliff’s time is up, which Tony is bizarrely baffled by. Despite the fact that he tried to throw a challenge to get Cliff out, he suddenly finds Trish’s plan to be absolutely bonkers and sees no logical reason to get rid of Cliff now when the Brawn Tribe has the numbers. To be as fair as possible to Jersey City, he admits his primary hesitation is that if he turns on Cliff, he’ll have no choice but to put his trust in L.J., who he barely knows. From a distance, like a giraffe at the watering hole, Cliff surveys and plots. The second Trish leaves Tony alone, Cliff swoops in to find out from Tony what Trish is plotting. Tony assures Cliff that he’s trying to keep Trish on board with Brawn, but Cliff is unconcerned. “If Trish wants to make a move, Trish will get voted right out of here,” Cliff says bluntly. He’s confident that Trish is a non-factor–even if she wants to flip on Brawn, she lacks the numbers to make the move successful. Lindsey remains unconvinced, continuing to freak out that Trish is going to somehow screw them over.

As the Solana Tribe heads off to Tribal Council, the stakes are clear and the stage is set–L.J. and Jefra are pinning all their hopes on Tony. L.J. is hoping that when people start talking at Tribal, he’ll get a better sense of if he can trust Tony, and if he should play his idol. If everything goes right for him, he lives another day with his idol intact. Worst case scenario, he walks out the door with it in his pocket.

We get a great face from Lindsey as the former Aparri members light their torches for the first time, and everyone settles in for a Tribal to remember.

L.J. uses the analogy of him and Jefra being like a couple in the process of selling their house. They’re outnumbered in their own home by another group that’s moved in and feel as if all they can do is entertain and be good hosts until their asked to leave. Cliff and Woo both basically say that L.J. is right, and that the best move to make right now for all five of the former Brawn members is to hold their numbers together. Lindsey straight up says that right now, even though it’s five against two, it’s eventually going to be five against the whole other tribe–excluding Jefra and L.J. Trish, on the other hand, is quite blunt in her assessment–number are only useful if the numbers work for you, and if they aren’t in your favor, you should consider making other arrangements. Though Cliff once again warns against making choices with emotion instead of logic, Jefra counters that Survivor is just as much about risk as it is about numbers, and that in a group of five, someone is on the bottom and is going to need help if they want to get out of that position.

Woo kicks off the vote by casting against L.J., following through with the plan, while Jefra does likewise for the opposition, voting against Cliff. We see nothing of the other votes, save for Tony, who is only shown putting his folded ballot into the urn, apologizing to his target–“nothing personal, purely strategical.” Again, this is not the Brain Tribe we’re dealing with.

Jeff collects the votes and invites anyone who’d like to play an idol to do so, but L.J. remains seated. With that, Jeff gets to the votes, and sure enough, it’s a three-three tie, with Trish having jumped ship, putting three votes on L.J., three votes on Cliff, and leaving Tony’s vote to determine the outcome. In a 4-3 decision, Cliff becomes the 5th person voted out of Survivor: Cagayan.

Based on the previous episodes, this should have been a forgone conclusion–L.J. is the main voice of the Beauties and is being built up as a long term character, while Cliff has been Tony’s target from the start and was more of a representational character–an idea of a leader more so than someone who’s perspective into the game we were actually shown. Still, the editors did a great job of creating doubt this week, making you truly worry that L.J. was about to be voted out with an idol in his pants. The tribe swap also really let the editors flesh out the rest of the Beauties, establishing more of Alexis and Morgan’s rivalry and showing more of Jefra’s tomboyish grit that until now has been a mostly informed trait.

Next time on… SURVIVOR! After two weeks of being at each other’s throats, Lindsey vs Malnutrisha reaches it’s climax in the wake of Cliff’s blindside. The preview ends with nightcam footage of Jeff Probst sitting down next to an emotional Lindsey on the beach, asking her what’s up. Is Lindsey going to rage quit? Is she going to be disqualified for assaulting Trish? Funny third thing? All I know is I’m excited to find out, and you should be too.