SURVIVOR: NICARAGUA Recap: Flushing The Johnson

By: Josh Wigler

Nay Sayer: There isn’t too much to be said for La Flor this week, as most of the drama went down at the old folks camp. Still, we can’t not mention NaOnka. In an effort to get to an immunity idol clue before Kelly B. could take it for herself, Nay not only destroyed the tribe’s hard earned banana reward, she also intentionally knocked over an amputee in the process. What a ruthless human being! Sure, this is SURVIVOR, but does that really give you an excuse to check all forms of common decency at the door? The sad answer: sure it does!

The truth is that Nay isn’t just great television, she’s also potentially a great ally. She’s like a female Russell Hantz without the acknowledged strategy: her strategy, if she knew it, is that she has absolutely zero social game. It’s such a gift, in fact, that it virtually guarantees her a spot in the finals if her alliance has a majority when the tribes merge. Her allies would be complete fools not to take her to the end zone. Sure, she’ll get second or third place at best — she stands zero chance of winning the million at this point — but in terms of contestants who play for the silver medal, NaOnka is one of the best I’ve ever seen, not to mention one of the downright coldest players I’ve ever witnessed on SURVIVOR.

Idolized: Moving onto Espada, a lot of the business this week revolved around Marty. Jill encouraged him to reveal the hidden immunity idol to the tribe, and after some inner debate, he obliged her. The reaction was mixed: in one corner there was Jimmy T., the camp cry baby who suddenly fell in love with Marty over his revelation and apparent display of honesty. Tyrone represented the other side of the coin: “I think Marty’s shady,” he said. “I think he’s for sure doing his own thing.” Tyrone’s right, of course, as Marty cooly confessed to the camera: “Everyone knows the idol can only belong to one person, and that one person is me.”

Except he’s wrong. As I wrote last week, possession is nine-tenths of the law, and all that anybody has to do is walk up to that dangling idol in the middle of the night, stuff it in his or her pocket and shut their mouth until they need to play it. It’s not as sexy as Amanda’s attempt to steal Danielle’s idol in HEROES VS. VILLAINS, but it’s completely within bounds and it would work. Marty thinks he’s thinking outside of the box here — what he doesn’t realize is that there’s another, bigger box surrounding his level of thought that he simply can’t see. If another player stole Marty’s idol out from under his nose, he would be absolutely flabbergasted. 

Three-Pointers: It was a great immunity challenge this week, and La Flor was wise (and lucky) not to use the Medallion of Power. Tyrone tore through the challenge with six baskets in a row, before La Flor evened the score and ultimately broke ahead of him.

It’s hard to identify who’s at fault for Espada’s meltdown at the challenge. Yes, Tyrone was overconfident and should have let someone else take a crack once he missed too many shots in a row, but he’s also got a point when he says that “everybody can’t touch the ball if you want to win.” And Jimmy T. needs to quit his whining; sure, he has talents that aren’t being utilized to his satisfaction, but almost crying about it every five seconds isn’t doing himself any favors in winning over the tribe.

But the sad fact is that a healthy portion of the blame falls on Jimmy Johnson’s shoulders. The only real value Jimmy ever brought to his tribe was his coaching abilities, as he himself pointed out. Rather than play it cool and downplay those skills, Jimmy J. should have managed every single challenge, and that means knowing when to pull a guy like Tyrone out and pick a sub off the bench. Tyrone worshipped Jimmy, and he would have forgiven him for a heated game time decision. Jimmy T. felt neglected by his similarly named rival, but if Jimmy J. had put him in the game earlier, it would have smoothed over some feathers between them. At the end of the day, Johnson was simply not a savvy enough player to recognize that the target on his back was the only thing keeping him in the game — in the end, his unwillingness to step out into the light cost him not only the challenge, but also the game.

Garden Snake: Let’s go back to Marty. After rallying the troops to vote out Jimmy Johnson, Marty appears to be the big shot at Espada. He technically has the idol and he clearly has sway over his peers, but there’s one thing he doesn’t have: subtlety. When he told Probst at tribal council that he’s itching to accelerate the strategic portion of the game, Probst replied: “Man, if I didn’t think they were thinking about that, the last thing I would do is remind them.” Probst is right, and it brings me to the following conclusion: Marty is very average, if not straight up bad, when it comes to playing SURVIVOR.

The idea of snakes and rats goes all the way back to the very first season of SURVIVOR courtesy of Sue Hawk: the rat squirms around fighting for its life, but the lying snake eventually eats the rat. While Marty is not a rat, he is a very bad snake. A good snake, like Boston Rob or Richard Hatch, doesn’t slither up to its victims and say: “Hey, I’m a snake.” A good snake, like Boston Rob or Richard Hatch, slithers up to its victims and says: “Hey, want an apple?” By the time the victim realizes that they’re dealing with a snake, it’s too late; the damage is done.

But Marty has pulled off his mask and essentially revealed to everyone that he’s here to play, and that means back-stabbing and betrayals and all of that fun stuff that comes with snakelike behavior. It’s a bush league move, and it’s very indicative of the fact that Marty thinks he’s a master SURVIVOR player. He’s not. He’s average at best and won’t go very far.

Sacked: But that’s enough about people who are still out there in NICARAGUA. It’s time to pour out a big old bucket of Gatorade for the dearly departed coach Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy, you were excellent television and there was a point in time when I actually thought you were playing the game. Had you made it all the way to the merge, I sincerely believe you could have made it quite far, so much so that you could have even won in front of a jury. But in the end, you were the soft player that you said you were, not some secretly brilliant strategist. I just hope you had a hell of a time out there, and I think you did.

Next Time on SURVIVOR: Hurricane NaOnka wreaks havoc upon Nicaragua, as the outspoken contestant declares to Kelly B.: “Screw your leg! Keep it away from the fire!” Hooooo boy.

Josh is an entertainment reporter based out of New York City. He is commanded with ruthless efficiency by his office manager, Pardo the cat, and writes regularly for MTV News, Comic Book Resources, Spinoff Online and more. He’s a SURVIVOR fanatic and would have gladly followed Jimmy Johnson to the gates of Hell. Then he would have realized his mistake, called his mom to pick him up, and spent the next three months grounded in his room without video games. Follow him on Twitter: @roundhoward.

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  • ToddWinNC

    Logistically, you may be right about NaOnka. Personally, however, I'd love to see her voted out as soon as possible. I have little patience for someone that annoyingly obnoxious, theatrical, and self-centered. Her attitude is bad enough, but the theatrics — I really can't stand the theatrics.

    So far, she has not demonstrated a single positive quality. Granted, maybe she's edited to make her seem worse than she really is. But, some of her distastefulness you can't edit in. In fact, the only thing worse than someone that acts like she does is someone that seems to acknowledge the way they are and then brags about it like it's a good thing.

    I don't watch football at all, but I really like Jimmy Johnson. He seemed to be the heart of the show this season. It's a shame to see him gone this early.

  • Nicole Woods

    Could not agree with you more about NaOnka. It might be good television, but I really hope she is gone SOON. I can't stand people with attitudes like that.

  • Josh Wigler

    Definitely don't disagree with either of you about NaOnka, on a personal level. I do think she makes for entertaining television — sometimes you gotta love to hate somebody, and she fits that bill — and I expect that unless she becomes TOO grating on everyone out there, her allies will be wise enough to keep her until the end; she's a surefire bet to lose in a final tribal council. That said, I am definitely not convinced that her allies have the patience to keep her around that long.