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Libby and C.J.'s Stay of Execution Ends with a Missed Train in Japan!

Whew! After this one, I'll finally be all caught up!

This week's second episode of The Amazing Race was . . . well . . . slightly better than the season premiere. It began with the ten remaining teams, fresh off Jeff and Lyda's sad elimination, continuing on with the race, now continuing their jaunt in Japan, but departing from Tokyo and heading to a new city, Nagano. Jelani and Jenny were glad to have won the first leg and to have the Express Pass, to boot. They were connecting very well. Jeff and Jackie admired each other's honesty and competitive spirit. Laura and Tyler were focusing on the race over focusing on love. Aly and Steve felt a connection to Nagano, since it was a city that hosted a Winter Olympic games, and they were part of one. Harley and Jonathan were glad to be in Japan, even though Jonathan had last been there twenty years ago and was supposed to have returned over the summer with the other New Kids on the Black. But they'd canceled and gone to Las Vegas instead. Bergen and Kurt were surprised to be dating each other since they looked almost exactly like each other. But while Bergen was focusing on the race, Kurt was focusing on love. Mike and Rochelle were hoping to nurture their relationship so that Rochelle could introduce Mike to her seven-year-old son. Hayley and Blair were having trouble getting along, but they were finding their groove and dynamic. Matt and Ashley figured that the blind date couples not knowing each other was helping them more than hurting them. And Libby and C.J. felt like knowing each other for ten years would help them. Also, Libby wanted to get married, but not C.J. In the end, Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Laura and Tyler all got on the first train to Nagano. Aly and Steve got on the second one alone. Harley and Jonathan, Bergen and Kurt, and Mike and Rochelle all got on the third train. Hayley and Blair and Matt and Ashley all got on the fourth train. Libby and C.J. got stuck on the fifth and last train due to how far behind the other teams they were. And even worse, they missed one because they had to take the time to stop and take a selfie! They had to wait for one that left sixteen minutes later than the one they'd paid tickets for. And even then, that one had to make an emergency stop at one point.

Once the teams had reached a castle in Nagano, they were tasked with the Roadblock. This saw one member of each team figuring out how to open a trick box using a series of complicated moves in an exact order so they could unlock a password they’d have to repeat to a guard. Also, in a random trick box was a ticket to Date Night, a romantic interlude to be enjoyed during the Pit Stop by the couple who received it. Jelani, Tyler, Aly, Jeff, Mike, Harley, Bergen, Ashley, Hayley, and Libby all took the task for their teams, with Tyler, Jelani, and Aly all flying through it. Also, Harley and Jonathan pulled the “golden ticket” and got the Date Night pass.

The teams’ next stop was a pagoda, at which they were tasked with the leg’s Detour. This saw them choosing between Share and Chair. Share involved team members feeding each other noodles only using chopsticks. Chair involved putting each other around a speed skating track, with one person sitting in a chair while the other pushed him or her for one whole lap, and then switching places for a different lap before three minutes and fifty-five seconds elapsed. Laura and Tyler, Jelani and Jenny, Harley and Jonathan, Bergen and Kurt, and Libby and C.J. all chose and completed Share, with no one having any problems. Aly and Steve (the former of whom was inspired to be an Olympic speed skater by watching the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano), Jeff and Jackie, Matt and Ashley, and Hayley and Blair all chose and completed Chair, with only Aly and Steve finishing it on their first try. Mike and Rochelle initially chose Chair, but after they had a little accident that saw Rochelle’s wrist getting hurt during it, they switched to Share.

In the end, Jelani and Jenny once again arrived first at the Pit Stop! They won Fibit wellness kits as their prize, complete with a one-year gym membership, their own private chefs, and healthy foods for one whole year. Laura and Tyler were right behind them, clocking in second after barely missing out on first due to letting their cab driver go at the Detour. Aly and Steve finished third. Harley and Jonathan made it in fourth. Bergen and Kurt landed in fifth. Jeff and Jackie, despite leaving the Detour in a very high fourth, wound up checking in sixth. Matt and Ashley ran up to the mat in seventh. Mike and Rochelle jumped onto the mat in eighth. This left things down to Hayley and Blair and Libby and C.J. A team who’d struggled a bit at the Roadblock and at finding the Detour, and another team who’d been behind from the get-go and had made things worth by missing a train over a selfie. But in the end . . . being behind made all the difference, as Team Prescription for Love barely eked out Team Tuskegee to hit the mat in ninth, barely staying alive for another leg. This left Libby and C.J. to finish tenth and last . . . and become the second team eliminated.

Once again, as I knew that they were out early (I know the general order, but not the exact one, and I knew already that Libby and C.J., Jeff and Lyda, and the team who goes out next were the first three teams out, and I know the next three out, though not the order, and I also know the fifth-place-finishers), I was only a little bit sad for this ending. But Libby and C.J. had so much going against them on this leg that it really was a no-brainer that they would be eliminated. For starters, no equalizer for them to hit after they’d fallen so far behind on the first leg due to getting so very lost after the Detour. They couldn’t catch up to any other teams with a bunching point. Then, they wasted time needed to board their train by taking an ill-timed selfie right in front of their train! Next, their actual train made an emergency stop that set them back even more. From there, they didn’t seem to make any real mistakes. But just not making those that they’d made before getting to Nagano might’ve saved them. Alas, the token black team is out early. Sorry, Libby and C.J., and so long. I hope you do marry Libby someday, C.J., because she does seem like a nice woman. She’ll treat you right.

In other news, I’m still loving Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Mike and Rochelle. I also love Aly and Steve now. I’m still liking Laura and Tyler, Harley and Jonathan, and Hayley and Blair. I’m still quite neutral on Bergen and Kurt. And I’m still no real fan of Matt and Ashley, due mainly to Matt.

Once again, here’s the order in which the teams finished this week:

#1. Jelani and Jenny (One Fitbat Pack Each)

#2. Laura and Tyler

#3. Aly and Steve

#4. Harley and Jonathan

#5. Bergen and Kurt

#6. Jeff and Jackie

#7. Matt and Ashley

#8. Mike and Rochelle

#9. Hayley and Blair

#10. Libby and C.J. (ELIMINATED)

Nine teams remain. Who’ll be eliminated next week? We’ll see then!

The Ultimate Blind Date Begins . . . and Quickly Ends for Jeff and Lyda in Japan!

Well, here we go again! Fresh off Amy and Maya's amazing win in The Amazing Race 25, a new race is going to begin, as host Phil Keoghan welcomes us to The Amazing Race 26, yet another race kicking off in Los Angeles, California. But this go-round is a special season (that many were dreading). Eleven dating couples will be racing around the world for one-million dollars -- six of them preexisting, and five of them meeting for the first time at the starting line.

The season premiere of The Amazing Race was really . . . not good at all. It began with these eleven couples meeting Phil at the starting line. The six preexisting couples are: Aly and Steve (dating seven months), Libby and C.J. (dating ten years), Mike and Rochelle (dating eight months), Harley and Jonathan (dating seven years, and Jonathan is a New Kid on the Block), Matt and Ashley (dating three years), and Jeff and Lyda (dating four years). The five Blind Date couples meeting at the starting line were only seen in part are: Hayley and Blair, Jeff and Jackie, Laura and Tyler, Jelani and Jenny, and Bergen and Kurt. With these introductions made, Phil explained the usual rules -- twelve legs, eight ending with Pit Stops, and the last team arriving at most of them getting eliminated. The first team to cross the finish line after twelve legs would win one-million dollars.

But right away, they would be racing for tickets to Tokyo, Japan. They'd have to start out by running around the lake shore to find a grueling mud run. They'd have to get through as quickly as possible, because there were only eight tickets on the first flight there, and three on the second and last one. But the first team to reach the first Pit Stop would win the Express Pass. And one more warning: there would be a U-Turn on this very first leg for the very first time. But after this, Phil concluded with his usual sendoff: "Good luck . . . travel safe . . . GO!"

The teams set off right away, getting through the mud run. No team seemed to care for the start of it. Then, they had to go over sand mounds, followed by a trip through ice water. Hayley and Blair thought they would be compatible due to sharing the medical profession. Libby and C.J. felt like they would be in sync having been through ten years of trials together. Mike and Rochelle met at Mike's truck stop, and Rochelle was planning to be aggressive since she played roller derby. Harley would punish Jonathan since he was a fitness trainer. Aly and Steve were hoping their backgrounds as Winter Olympians would aid them (Aly's a speed skater, Steve's a bobsledder). In the end, Matt and Ashley, Jeff and Jackie, Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Harley and Jonathan, Jeff and Lyda, Bergen and Kurt, and Jelani and Jenny all got on the first flight (not that I'm surprised with the two men's teams -- the other teams had the disadvantage with having a man and a woman, and there'd have been an even bigger disadvantage for a women's team, if there were one this season). Hayley and Blair, who'd just barely missed out on it, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. all ended up on the second and last flight. The teams got to shower afterwards, and then, they were all sent off to find their Ford cars to head for the airport to catch their flights. Oh, and they could take "selfies" with "Selfie Cams."

On the drive to the airport, the Blind Date couples got to know each other, and Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Bergen and Kurt, and Jeff and Jackie seemed to have no problems with one another. Blair already seemed tired of Hayley, though. And Jonathan admitted to the other teams that he was a New Kid on the Block, surprising many of them.

Once in Tokyo, the teams were tasked with finding Kanda Myojin, a Shinto shrine. Getting there by taxi was the smarter route, Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, and Libby and C.J. did just that. Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Harley and Jonathan, Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, and Matt and Ashley all took the Skyliner train to get there, while Bergen and Kurt and Jeff and Lyda took the faster Narita Express train.

Once at the shrine, the teams were tasked with the first Detour of the race (and this is the first season since season thirteen to have a Detour on the first leg!). This saw teams choosing between Syncing Steps and Samurai Sake. Syncing Steps involving mastering the slow-motion choreography of the Japanese pop group World Order. Samurai Sake involved memorizing the names of ten sakes, taking a drink order from samurais, and correctly relaying the order to their partners. Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, Aly and Steve, Bergen and Kurt, Mike and Rochelle, Hayley and Blair, Matt and Ashley, Libby and C.J., and Jeff and Lyda all chose and completed Syncing Steps, with Laura and Tyler completing it the most quickly, and Jeff and Lyda struggling the most, taking nearly four hours to finish it. Jeff and Jackie and Harley and Jonathan all chose and completed Samurai Sake, with Jeff and Jackie getting it after two wrong answers, but Harley and Jonathan getting it right immediately.

The teams’ next stop was the Wakaba Higashi Park, where the Blind Double U-Turn awaited. A U-Turn appears at the end of a Detour, and after doing one Detour, one team can use it on another team to force them to go back and complete the Detour they didn’t previously complete. From its introduction in season twelve to season sixteen, only one team could use it on another. But in season seventeen, it was implemented and made into the Double U-Turn, in which two teams could use it on two other teams, and it’s been that way ever since. A team could only the power once, though, so they’d have to use it when it was most advantageous for them. Running behind, Mike and Rochelle used one U-Turn on Jeff and Lyda, the only team they knew was behind them at the time, forcing them to now complete Samurai Sake after having already completed Syncing Steps. Jeff and Lyda, upon seeing this, realized that they had one shot to choose a team who might, by some chance, have fallen behind or gotten lost in getting to the U-Turn, especially since they saw two clues left — one for them, and one for the other team. But they aimed incorrectly and chose Jeff and Jackie, figuring that they’d been held up for too long at the Samurai Sake Detour. In reality, it was Libby and C.J. who were behind, as they were having trouble navigating their way to the park to find the U-Turn themselves.

In the end, Jelani and Jenny arrived first at the Pit Stop, which was set in the vicinity of the UDX Building! They won the Express Pass as their prize. Jeff and Jackie were poised to finish first after an amazing first leg, but got confused with what “vicinity” meant (in the area, not inside) and went into the building. This gave enough time for Jelani and Jenny to win the leg, forcing them to settle for second. Laura and Tyler checked in third. Aly and Steve landed in fourth. Harley and Jonathan ran up to the mat in fifth. Bergen and Kurt made it in sixth. Mike and Rochelle got to the mat in seventh. Hayley and Blair found the mat in eighth. Matt and Ashley finished ninth. This left things down to Libby and C.J. and Jeff and Lyda, one team who was terrible with navigation, and another team who’d fallen behind due to struggles at the Detour. It all came down to correctly enlisting English-speaking locals and completing the other Detour. And in the end . . . Team Tuskegee (Libby and C.J. are from Tuskegee) barely eked out the Flight Crew (Jeff is a pilot and Lyda is a flight attendant), arriving in tenth place, barely staying alive for another leg. This left Jeff and Lyda to finish eleventh and last . . . and become the first team eliminated.

I was of two minds of this ending. For one thing, I knew Jeff and Lyda were out first, so I can’t be too sad about it. But now that I’ve seen how they got out first, I can’t help but feel a little bit sad for them. Or at least for Lyda. They got off to such a solid start. But despite Lyda nailing the Syncing Steps Detour, Jeff kept on screwing it up left and right, costing them so much time. Now, I can’t feel totally bad, because they’d always had the option of switching Detours, but still, it’s sad that one member totally screwed over the other. Plus, they were the oldster team, and it’s always sad to see the oldsters go so soon, unless they’re annoying like Steve and Dave from the fourth season or just too incompetent like Steve and Linda from the fourteenth season. Jeff and Lyda could’ve gone a fair way, I think, if not for what’d happened at that Detour. So goodbye, Jeff and Lyda. Hope you stay together, and I hope you are both very happy going forward.

In other news, I’m not really happy about the premise of this season. Too many couples (though thankfully, there’s a shortage of couples drama), a not-too-interesting cast (I’d say Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. are probably the most interesting, as were Jeff and Lyda, who are gone now. But the rest of are pretty, young, Ken-and-Barbie couples. But I do love Jelani and Jenny, Jeff and Jackie, Aly and Steve, Mike and Rochelle, and Libby and C.J. I simply like Laura and Tyler, Harley and Jonathan, and Hayley and Blair. I’m neutral toward, and thus need more time with, Bergen and Kurt. And while I’m okay with Ashley, Matt, I hate. What a jerk.

And now I’ll just take a moment to express my utter contempt at the casting department for not casting a single women’s team this season. I mean, really? They couldn’t find one lesbian couple who was interesting? Granted, the two we’ve had have been hit-or-miss (Kate and Pat from the twelfth season were sweet and kind, but admittedly, not very interesting, while Carol and Brandy from the sixteenth season, while not the most likable of teams, were at least bursting with personality), but still, if this is a dating couples season, at least one lesbian couple wouldn’t have hurt! And I’ll give a big, fat “screw you!” to the annoying, woman-hating Emo troll on Survivor Sucks for his pure joy in there not being one. SCREW YOU, EMO!

To remind you, the teams finished this first leg in the following order:

#1. Jelani and Jenny (Prize: Express Pass)

#2. Jeff and Jackie

#3. Laura and Tyler

#4. Aly and Steve

#5. Harley and Jonathan

#6. Bergen and Kurt

#7. Mike and Rochelle

#8. Hayley and Blair

#9. Matt and Ashley

#10. Libby and C.J.

#11. Jeff and Lyda (ELIMINATED)

Ten teams remain. Who’ll be eliminated next time, when the show returns to its normal time slot on Friday? We’ll see then!

Too Bad, So (is) Sad! Worlds Apart Ends for Her "So" Soon after it Begins!

Well, it's finally here. Fresh off the win of Natalie in Survivor: San Juan del Sur, it's time to begin anew with Survivor's thirtieth season, Survivor: Worlds Apart!

The season premiere of the thirtieth season of Survivor was definitely an amazing, interesting one. It began with eighteen new castaways joining host Jeff Probst on a beach in Nicaragua. They were already divided into three tribes, all based on their professions and how they work -- White Collars (those who are corporate, executive types and make the rules), Blue Collars (those who prefer labor-type work and follow the rules), and No Collars (those who are more freespirited, have less constraining jobs, and essentially break the rules). The White Collars, wearing yellow buffs, were called Masaya, and they consisted of Tyler, So, Max, Carolyn, Joaquin, and Shirin. The Blue Collars, fittingly wearing blue buffs, were called Escameca, and they consisted of Rodney, Kelly, Mike, Sierra, Lindsey, and Dan. The No Collars, wearing red buffs, were called Nagarote, and they consisted of Nina, Vince, Jenn, Will, Joe, and Hail. Probst welcome them all to the beach, and after talking to some of the castaways to get a feel for whom they were -- Tyler, Carolyn, and Joaquin on their white-collar approach, Dan, Lindsey, and Rodney on their blue-collar approach, and Vince on their no-collar approach -- it was time to get down to business.

Probst had each tribe nominate one member to make a decision for his of her tribe. Masaya nominated Joaquin, Escameca nominated Dan, and Nagarote nominated Will. But then, each of the three men had to pick someone to join them in making the decision. Joaquin chose So, Dan chose Mike, and Will chose Jenn. Each pair was tasked with separating from the tribe once they got to camp and going off to make a decision that was set in place for them to make. So after each tribe got maps to their camps, they were sent off to start the game.

At Nagarote, the tribe was already gelling well. Hali was glad to be a No Collar and enjoyed the feeling of freedom that came with it. They also learned something surprising about Nina -- that she was the second-ever deaf contestant. She'd lost her hearing seven years ago and only heard using cochlear implants. Still, the tribe established some team spirit right away. And later, it was time for Will and Jenn to go down to a set of creates. The crates held two options: Honest and Deceive. Honest meant to take a big bag of beans for their tribe. Deceive meant to take a smaller bag of beans and take a clue to the hidden Immunity Idol located at their camp. As tempted as they were, Will and Jenn agreed to be honest, so they took the larger bag. It was too early to risk making any enemies.

At Escameca, Dan and Mike were already getting to work in making their own decision. Both of them were very tempted to take Deceive, since they both wanted the hidden Immunity Idol. But this early on, it made no sense to give the rest of the tribe any reason to distrust them. So they went with Honest and took the larger bag of beans. However, when they were honest with Rodney, Kelly, Lindsey, and Sierra about it, it turned out they still weren't fully believed or trusted. Sierra, in particular, thought that there had to be a bigger bag of beans. Whether or not they were believed, Dan and Mike felt they'd made the right choice.

At Masaya, the White Collars introduced themselves to one another. Carolyn wasn't ashamed at being a White Collar. They made introduced like an executive meeting or training exercise. And then, it was time for Joaquin and So to choose whether they'd be honest or deceptive. So wanted to go with Honest, but Joaquin wanted to go with Deceive. In the end, So relented and went along with Joaquin. They read the clue to the hidden Immunity Idol together and formed an alliance with one another. Now that they had a general idea of its location, it was time to spin their choice to the rest of the tribe. So decided to take the lead in this, telling Tyler, Carolyn, Max, and Shirin that there were three options -- Honest, Deceive, and Neutral. They'd picked "Neutral" because there'd be no punishment to go with it. But Carolyn didn't believe them, and when she learned that Shirin and Max didn't, either, an alliance was born. Shirin put out feelers to Carolyn and pulled her into an alliance. And then, to try and form a majority, they recruited Max, as well. To ensure a majority, though, they'd need Tyler to make sure that Joaquin and So were on the outside.

At Escameca, the Blue Collars jumped into setting up their camp and catching some food. They almost immediately got their fire going. Dan was happy about this. And then, Rodney and Lindsey bonded a bit. He learned the story behind some of her tattoos. And she learned about one of his tattoos -- one that was dedicated to his sister, who'd died two years ago when she was murdered in cold blood. With this, Rodney formed an alliance with Lindsey. He then wanted to pull in the other girls, Sierra and Kelly, to join up with him. And later, Mike got sick when he stupidly ate a scorpion he caught just to get its protein. It was a dumb thing to do, but hopefully, he was all right.

At Nagarote, the No Collars were still enjoying their harmony. Jenn was enjoying the flow of their vibe. But things started to be threatened when Vince started to feel a connection with Jenn. He pulled her aside and admitted that they could have a good connection that could take them both far. Jenn agreed to an alliance with him, though she was surprised by how hard he was playing right out the gate. Nevertheless, she was going to smile and nod with him. However, when it came time to set up their camp, Vince got a bit ticked off at Joe when he saw that he had a better way of setting up their shelter floor and roof than he did.

At Escameca, tensions were also starting to brew in their own tribe. They couldn't decide on a leader, for the one thing. They chose Dan since he was the oldest one there. And then, when Lindsey suggested on how they'd hold up their shelter's roof, Dan kept shooting her down. He also kept saying other things that were out there and didn't make sense, and he didn't offer up anything useful to help the tribe in their efforts. Kelly knew he was trying to prove his age and wisdom to them, but he also had to listen to them and get their opinions, but she could see that he didn't have the social skills for that. This only got the tribe ticked off at him and deciding that he was the one person who really didn't belong. Rodney got the three women together and got them to agree that at their first Tribal Council, Dan needed to go. He went off by himself to vent it out, but as he did so, Mike joined him and assured him that he still had a friend in him. Dan was happy to at least know that.

At Nagarote, Vince got even more ticked off when he saw Jenn talking to Joe, who made fire for the tribe using a technique he'd watched on YouTube and had practiced every day before leaving for the show. Seeing this, Joe started feeling like their connection wasn't real. It was clear that a rivalry was brewing. One between Vince and Joe. Even though it was so far turning out one-sided. Still, Vince took Jenn aside and tried to see where her head was. He asked her if she was attracted to him. She tried to assure him that she wasn't, but Vincent wasn't ready to believe her, though he pretended to do so. He thought she was being fake, but Jenn knew he was just being paranoid so soon into the game. And in the end, he capped it off with a way-too-long hug.

At Masaya, the tribe knew that their shelter was bad. They hadn't slept well their first night. Their floor was weak, and their roof was bad. And Tyler, Joaquin, and Max couldn't start a fire. But things were looking up. At least for Carolyn. At one point, Joaquin and So went off to search for the hidden Immunity Idol. But Carolyn saw them, especially So, and realized that it was way too obvious. So she followed them and began searching herself. And much to her big surprise, she actually found it in a funny-looking tree! So she now had some protection had Tribal Council! And even better yet, no one knew! I immediately felt happy for her. Women rarely find hidden Immunity Idols, and she's probably the first older woman to find one. So kudos to her!

The first Immunity Challenge of the season involved some interesting new layers. It involved the three tribes racing down a ramp, through a large pile of hay, and heading through a foot obstacle. Once they reached a large crate, they could choose between two different methods for unlocking it -- by either using a set of twenty keys to open three locks, or by physically untying twenty rope knots. Once the crate was opened, they'd release a ladder that they'd have to carry and use to climb up, over, and down the next obstacle. After that, they'd have to push it through another obstacle. After that, they would have to use the ladder to climb up to a post from which three puzzle piece bags hung. They would then have to choose which bag to take -- a bag with five pieces, a bag with ten pieces, or a bag with fifty pieces. They would then have to send out one tribe member to solve the puzzle pertaining to that number of pieces. They could either build a square puzzle with five pieces, the hardest one, complete a tree puzzle much like the one from week three of One World with ten pieces, or complete the easiest, most straightforward puzzle with fifty pieces and simply spell out the premise of the season. The first two tribes to finish would win immunity, but since they were also playing for reward, they would win different rewards, as well. The first tribe would win a massive fire-making kit. The second tribe would win flint. The losing tribe would head to Tribal Council and vote the first person out of the game.

So here's how the challenge shook down. All three tribes started out neck-and-neck in heading down the ramp and through the hay. When they reached the foot obstacle, though, Nagarote fell behind a bit. When it was time for the huge crate, Joaquin tried using the keys for Masaya, Lindsey tried it for Escameca, and Vince tried it for Nagarote. But when none of them met with any success, they all switched out. So untied the knots for Masaya, Mike untied them for Escameca, and Joe untied them for Nagarote. So whipped through the knots and opened it up to release Masaya's ladder. Joe actually started out behind Mike, but passed him and got Nagarote's ladder free right behind So. Mike struggled and fell behind, and he took too long to release Escameca's ladder. Masaya used their leader to go up and over just seconds ahead of Nagarote. Escameca remained behind. Masaya and Escameca worked to push their ladder through a slot obstacle. Nagarote took over the lead here, reached the puzzle pieces, and had Joe climb to get the ten-piece bag. Masaya got there next, had Joaquin climb, and grabbed the fifty-piece bag because Shirin was so sure that she could solve it. Escameca got there well behind the other tribes, sent Rodney up, and chose the bag with ten pieces. No one chose the five-piece bag, and good on them for it.

So here's where everything got dicey. Jenn started out trying to solve the tree puzzle for Nagarote. But she couldn't put in a single piece, so she switched out for Joe, who quickly started solving their puzzle. Shirin started out solidly with Masaya's puzzle, but she eventually got rattled and addled and started melting down, not realizing that she could switch out. She finally did just as Sierra arrived to start solving Escameca's puzzle. Joe eventually blew through Nagarote's puzzle, and . . . Nagarote won immunity! They'd also be taking the fire-making kit back to camp as reward! So that left it between Masaya and Escameca. Shirin finally realized that she had to switch out and let Max come in. But Sierra had also let Mike come in, so it came down to them. Too bad Max also had a bit of trouble with the puzzle, because that helped Mike solve the tree puzzle, and . . . Escameca won immunity, as well! An amazing comeback! They'd also be taking the flint back to camp! This meant that Masaya would be heading to the first Tribal Council, where the first person would be voted out of the game.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious targets emerged — Shirin, Carolyn, and So. Shirin was targeted by So and Joaquin for blowing the challenge for Masaya. Carolyn was challenged by the same two for a weaker reason — for not stepping up. Even though, from what we could see, she did nothing that made them lose. This resulted in So being targeted by Carolyn for targeting her, and for lying on the first day, and for openly looking for the hidden Immunity Idol. Actually, Carolyn didn’t want to target her (she wanted to target Joaquin since she trusted him even less than she trusted So), but she knew that Max, Tyler, and Joaquin would be looking to send a woman home first to keep the tribe strong, so she felt like she had no choice. So kept up her lying when she told Carolyn that Shirin was being targeted. But Tyler honestly told Carolyn that she was the target, and Carolyn repaid this by telling Tyler about her hidden Immunity Idol. Tyler was shocked, but decided he’d think about the vote. Carolyn got Shirin and Max on her side, so Tyler would be the deciding vote. Would he go with Joaquin and So and vote Carolyn out? Or would he side with the idol, join Max, Shirin, and Carolyn, and vote So out? Where would the swing vote go? . . .

At Tribal Council, after a blowup between Carolyn and So, the question was answered. Carolyn did not play her hidden Immunity Idol, so she had to have felt confident. So by a vote of 4-2, the first person voted out of Worlds Apart was . . . So. So I guess Carolyn did have every reason to feel confident. (Oh, and the lone votes were Joaquin and So’s for Carolyn.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.

This was a sad ending from me. I liked So (or I wanted to, especially after hearing that she’d had to pull out of San Juan del Sur due to her sister falling ill right before the game). But she made a few key errors. First, she didn’t let Joaquin lie about the Honest/Deceive choice and let him put the target on his back. Then, she way-too-openly looked for the hidden Immunity Idol in front of Carolyn, who already didn’t trust her. And once Tribal Council was looming, she did a poor job hiding the alliance she thought she had with Tyler, Max, and Joaquin, not knowing that only Joaquin was on her side in getting rid of Carolyn. She likely only strengthened Carolyn, Shirin, Max, and Tyler’s alliance by doing so. I do think she’d have done a better job at the game had she managed to play in San Juan del Sur, after all. That season was full of recruits who were only barely learning the game as they went along, and So was a student of the game, so she could’ve run right over them. So long, So. I regret that I won’t have any more opportunities to make any more “So” jokes. So sad, So. So, so, sad. Well . . . those are the last ones I can make right now. Also So sad to see the only Asian person in the game leave first, but that’s the game sometimes.

In other news, this season looks like it has great potential. I already like a good many people. On Masaya, I love Shirin and Carolyn, and I like Max and Tyler. I don’t like or care for Joaquin all that much. On Escameca, I love Sierra, Lindsey, and Kelly, and I like Rodney. I need a bit more time with Mike, but I already know that, while he seems like an okay guy in real life, I don’t like Dan. And finally, on Nagarote, I love Jenn, Hali, Nina, and Will, and I like Joe. I don’t like Vince. He’s got all of Coach’s negative qualities (he even looks like a younger version of him). But as a three-tribe season, this might turn out wonderfully. Philippines was a great season because it started out with three tribes, and Cagayan at least started out good before it devolved into Tony’s anticlimactic domination and run to the end. So I’m hoping Worlds Apart can also be good.

Seventeen castaways remain. Who’ll be voted out next week? We’ll see then!

New Castaways and Teams Out at Last!

Well, with three days to go, I figured I might as well get this over with and help you all prepare!

The Spring 2015 season of reality shows is about to begin, and with it comes the casts of my two favorite reality shows, Survivor and The Amazing Race!

First, here are the eighteen new castaways who'll be playing in Survivor's thirtieth season, Survivor: Worlds Apart:

http://www.cbs.com/shows/survivor/cast/

They'll be divided into three tribes -- White Collar, Blue Collar, and No Collar. I'm a no collar, so I'll probably be rooting for them, but I'll likely mainly just focus on whomever is female and/or playing the best game! So with that said, I'm rooting for Carolyn, Hali, Jenn, Kelly, Lindsey, Nina, Shirin, Sierra Dawn, and So. Of the men, I think I might like Dan, Joe, Rodney, and Will, but that's it.

Three-tribe seasons usually turn out awesome. Look at Philippines and, before Tony soaked up too much airtime and looked way too obvious as the winner, Cagayan. So we'll see if this one's good, too!

And now for the eleven new teams racing in The Amazing Race 26, a "special" season featuring only dating couples:

http://www.cbs.com/shows/amazing_race/cast/

Usually, women's teams are my go-to teams, so the fact that this will be the first season not to have even one is quite troubling and glaring to me. What, they couldn't find one interesting lesbian out there? I mean, I could've dropped any two of the nine coed couples -- particularly two of the more generic, Ken-and-Barbie, pretty young couples -- and replaced them with two lesbian couples since they seemed to see fit to cast two gay couples. But anyway, if I have to choose from two men's teams and nine coed teams . . . then I guess I'll root for Aly and Steve, Bergen and Kurt, Blair and Hayley, Harley and Jonathan, Libby and C.J., Jeff and Lyda, Jeffrey and Jackie, Jelani and Jenny, Mike and Rochelle, and Tyler and Laura. So that's all but one team, basically -- Matt and Ashley. And that's because Matt looks like a real jerk.

But really . . . I don't get why CBS thought this was a good idea. I've heard reports that Bertram Van Munster and Elise Doganieri, the two producers behind the show, absolutely hated the idea and only carried it out because CBS's higher-ups forced it on them. They seem pretty dour in interviews they've given about the show, so I wouldn't be surprised if that were actually true. Who wants to watch eleven couples air their relationship drama all around the world? Especially knowing that five of the couples will be meeting for the first time right at the starting line -- Bergen and Kurt, Blair and Hayley, Jeffrey and Jackie, Jelani and Jenny, and Tyler and Laura! All are meeting as "blind date" couples! I just . . . I have no words as to how anyone at CBS thought that fans would like this. Most people have already declared hatred for it. So it'd better impress with a good route. Or at least the cast had better be entertaining.

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Both shows debut this Wednesday, February 25, and both will have ninety-minute premieres. Survivor starts at 8/7 Central, while The Amazing Race starts at 9:30/8:30 Central. From there, The Amazing Race will then air its second episode two days later, on Friday, February 27, and then continue on in its normal Friday time slot for the remainder of the season. So knowing this, on Survivor, who will be voted out first? And on The Amazing Race, who will be eliminated first? We'll see then!

Brooke and Robbie Final Team Gone! Adam and Bethany Third! Misti and Jim Second! Amy and Maya Win in L.A.!

Eleven legs ago, eleven teams set off, in front of a live crowd in New York, New York, on a race around the world for one-million dollars to celebrate the twenty-fifth season of The Amazing Race! The teams clashed and bonded as they faced Detours, Roadblocks, regular tasks, navigation, Speed Bumps, Fast Forwards, and Pit Stops. Along the way, seven teams fell by the wayside -- Lisa and Michelle, Dennis and Isabelle, Michael and Scott, Keith and Whitney, Shelley and Nici, Tim and Te Jay, and Kym and Alli. This left the final four teams -- newlywed surfers Adam and Bethany (the latter of whom was the race's first-ever one-armed racer), married dentists Misti and Jim (even though, really, only she's a dentist, while he's an orthodontist), dating wrestlers Brooke and Robbie, and food scientists Amy and Maya. For the first time in the history of the show, four teams were running the final leg for the million dollars, although midway through the leg, one team would fall victim to the final elimination. Who would it be? And who would win?

The season finale of The Amazing Race was chock-full of excitement and suspense. It began with the four remaining teams, fresh off Amy and Maya's non-elimination, setting out on the final leg of the race, now heading from Manila, Philippines, to their final destination city, Los Angeles, California. Brooke and Robbie were disgusted to see Amy and Maya walk into the airport, as she'd wanted them gone (even though they were the least threatening team). Still, they were sure that they'd be rich and win the money in spite of the final four twist. Adam and Bethany were just as irritated and frustrated by their appearance (something that was hard to hear from them). But Misti and Jim were not only sure they'd win, but that Amy and Maya would lose and be the team eliminated since, in Jim's words, "It [was] good to have low-hanging fruit." He even wanted to kick Amy in the shins to hobble her even more. And Amy and Maya were just glad to still be in the race with a legitimate chance of winning, even though they had to remind Brooke that they didn't make the rules that brought about their survival (though to Brooke's credit, she at least acknowledged that). Just the same, the four teams all boarded their flight and were ready for action when they got to Los Angeles.

Once in Los Angeles, the teams were greeted with something that hasn't been done in a long time on the final leg -- self-driving and self-navigation! The teams had to drive themselves in Ford Explorers to City Hall in Downtown L.A. and reveal the contents of their manila envelopes: film permits that they'd have to have stamped by a waiting clerk. Amy and Maya and Adam and Bethany got off to great starts, as the former navigated well for probably the first time the whole race, and the latter, having traveled to L.A. several times before, knew just where to go from the airport! But the "villain" teams weren't as lucky. Misti and Jim got lost right off the bat and needed to get turned around (despite Jim having thought that they were the only team going the right way!), while Brooke and Robbie initially started off well by following Adam and Bethany, but lost track of them and got lost themselves, forcing them to find someone to give them directions. Amy and Maya got their permit stamped first, followed by Adam and Bethany, and then Misti and Jim. Brooke and Robbie were, well, way behind, though they, too, eventually found their way there.

The teams' next stop was the Southwest Marine Warehouse, and before leaving for it, Amy and Maya smartly got directions from someone using a SmartPhone. Adam and Bethany had to get directions at a firehouse (at which a fireman actually recognized Bethany!), Misti and Jim had to go to a store of some kind that was just past where they needed to get off, and Brooke and Robbie . . . got way too lost again and started bickering and whining, with Brooke still lamenting Amy and Maya not getting eliminated where and when they technically should've been. Once at the warehouse, the teams would have to hand over their permits to be given the clue for the first of two Roadblocks. This saw one member of each team becoming stuntmen (or stuntwomen, potentially, in Amy, Maya, Misti, Bethany, and Brooke's potential cases), suiting up in protective suits, training with a stunt coordinator, and running and jumping out a window and into a large platform below to receive a satchel containing their next clue. Maya (who mysteriously got scared during the training), Jim, and Adam all took the task for their teams, with nothing revealed about Brooke and Robbie's choice of Roadblock performer. This was because apparently, this was the location of the mid-leg elimination. The last team here would be eliminated, and unfortunately, getting lost for so long, even to the point where they didn't arrive till well after the preceding three teams had left, that team wound up being Brooke and Robbie.

I was actually not that sad about this ending for them. Of course, yes, I'd already known that Brooke and Robbie were coming in fourth since the beginning of this season. I'd just figured that it'd happen on the penultimate leg rather than halfway through the final one. But anyway, navigation had been their weakness from the beginning, and they'd done nothing to change it. Also, Brooke was way too defeatist for my tastes. And she and Robbie had gotten just so loathsome toward the end, especially due to their out-of-nowhere hatred toward Amy and Maya. It was just despicable. Seriously. They had gotten so uncomfortable to watch, I was so damn happy to see them get the boot. I mean, their villainy was entertaining. Don't get me wrong. But it didn't show either one of them in very good lights. So I'm glad they're gone. And the sad thing is that had they stayed calm and not lost Adam and Bethany, they might've sent Misti and Jim packing instead. Bye-bye, Brooke and Robbie! Thanks for being entertaining . . . to an extent. But I'm not sorry you lost! And you broke up after the race? Let's hope you two don't get back together! You two are poison together!

Following the first Roadblock, the racers who'd done the task had to remove the protective clothes. Jim and Adam remembered to do so . . . but failing to read the clue resulted in Maya forgetting to, so they had to go back. But once that was done, next up was a trip to the U.S. Coast Guard Base at the edge of Terminal Island, at which the teams would board one of three waiting Response Boats (and seeing the three boats told me that a team would be eliminated at or before that point). From there, they'd be ferried out far into the water and be forced to swim out to retrieve a 200-pound dummy floating in the water, and then returning to the shore. A Coast Guard soldier would be waiting with a clue upon their return. For the most part, nothing eventful happened with any of the final three teams (though none of the teams knew they were the final three by this point, as Brooke and Robbie had actually not been eliminated yet).

The teams were then taken to ConGlobal Industries in the Wilmington area of L.A., where the second Roadblock, and final task of the race, remained. This was a complicated task with three layers. First, one member of each team would have to be sent out into an entire large section of a shipyard and look for large shipping containers, nine of which contained the names of the cities they'd visited throughout the race -- St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, London, England, Lerwick, Scotland, Copenhagen, Denmark, Marrakech, Morocco, Palermo, Sicily, Valletta, Malta, Singapore, Singapore, and Manila, the Philippines -- and matching the numbers attached to these containers. Then, they'd have to memorize these numbers and put them in order according to the country they'd visited on a requisition form. (So if, say, they saw a six for Valletta, it'd come before a four that they could see for Singapore, since Malta came before Singapore.) If they got the order correct, they'd obtain their next and final clue. All racers who'd done the first Roadblock were forbidden from doing the second one, so Amy, Misti, and Bethany were all required to take the task for their teams, and despite getting there last, Amy, due to having a good memory, got the task done first (despite her heart leg!), and in only one try, putting herself and Maya in first place! Misti, due to having an okay, but not great, memory, failed the task once before she got out, while Bethany, due to having a terrible memory, failed it twice before getting it right. Of course, as a twist to the whole task, each of the women had different numbers for which to search, according to the colors of the safety vests given to them. Amy wore a blue vest, so she had to remember the order of the blue numbers, Misti wore an orange vest, so she had to remember the order of the orange numbers. And Bethany wore a green vest, so she had to remember the order of the green numbers.

At long last, it was time to head to Pointe Vincent Lighthouse to find the finish line, which the first team would have to cross to win the million-dollar prize. And after traveling through eight countries, twenty cities, and over 26,000 miles . . . Amy and Maya crossed the finish line first to become the official winners of The Amazing Race 25! They had won much to Brooke and Robbie's obvious chagrin, so that was a bonus! They were now officially the third women's team to win the race, following Kisha and Jen winning the eighteenth season, and Nat and Kat winning the seventeenth season! Misti and Jim finished second, apparently a half-hour behind them. Adam and Bethany were forced to take the show position, arriving in third place.

So let’s start with the third-place-finishers. I loved Adam and Bethany from the start, and it would’ve been great to see a physically handicapped racer finally win. I’d say they had no real flaws except for their navigation and their memory problems. Unfortunately, both of those flaws came back to bite them hard on the final leg. With better navigation, they might’ve had a better lead in getting into the final task. And due to Bethany’s bad memory problems, they pretty much fell out of the running at the final Roadblock. It sucks, but at the same time, another pretty young couple would’ve won, so I was glad to escape that monotony. Nevertheless, good on Bethany to do so well despite only having her one arm. And good on both Adam and Bethany for getting all the way to the end! I wish you both luck in your future, and I hope that you’re happy since you two apparently have a baby on the way that is due in June! Congratulations!

Now for the second-place-finshers, the runners-up. I liked Misti and Jim early on, but by the end, I really only liked Misti. She was a sweet, nice, Southern belle of a wife from the start. But Jim . . . ugh. His cockiness and arrogance, while somewhat warranted, got on my nerves from about Scotland and on. I thought that it was tempered and humbled a bit by the their weak Denmark leg, but it came back in full force after they won the second Morocco leg and this time didn’t go away. So I was waiting for him to be hit hard by his own hubris. And thankfully, he finally was on the final leg! First by getting lost twice — once on the way to city hall, once on the way to the first Roadblock — and then with Misti messing up the final Roadblock. While I was a bit sad for Misti upon seeing them lose, I was very pleased to see Jim lose, especially after showing his express disdain for Amy and Maya by calling them “low-hanging fruit.” That, and his unbelievable hatred for Kym and Alli. So good for you, Misti. And . . . whatever, Jim. You were one of the “villain” teams this season, so it’s no surprise to me that you two lost.

Finally, let’s discuss the winners! I loved Amy and Maya from the start and was so happy that I knew ahead of time that they’d be in the final three! They were two determined young women, for sure! Amy’s grit and resolve was admirable, and Maya was just a ball of excitement and a nice ray of sunshine throughout the race. Sadly, they didn’t get much screentime and were thus kept under the radar the entire first five legs of the race, not really coming into any huge focus until leg six, the second Morocco leg, and then hitting front and center around either leg eight, the Malta leg, or leg nine, the Singapore leg, when their out-of-the-blue, one-sided feud with Brooke and Robbie really kicked into high gear. But still, what we did see of them was very cute, adorable, likable, and rootable. And they were a women’s team, so of course I was gonna root for them! (Kim and Leslie from the first season, Danielle and Dani from the ninth season, Lyn and Karlyn from the tenth season, and Ally and Ashley from the twenty-third season are probably the ONLY four exceptions as to women’s teams I won’t root for. Though more might come along in later seasons.) they were underdogs from the start, being the only team of the entire final five not to win even one leg (Misti and Jim won five, Adam and Bethany won three, Brooke and Robbie won one, and Kym and Alli won two), at least not until they finally won the one that counted! Yes, they repeated the feat of the truly odios Eric and Danielle by doing it, but that same thing was also what Kisha and Jen and Josh and Brent did! They never gave up, fought to the finish, and won the race, becoming the third all-female team to win the race! Sure, they had the new final four twist to thank for even reaching the final leg, but still, they didn’t make the rules. They did what they could to capitalize on that extremely lucky break and won when they had to! Congratulaions, Amy and Maya, on bringing the women’s team victories to three, and for taking your million dollars home to Madison, Wisconscin, just as Rachel and Dave did in season twenty!

In other news, this was an amazing season with an amazing cast. After season eighteen, I didn’t think there’d be a thrilling season with such a great cast ever again. But season twenty-five of this show delivered! It probably helped that there were only two men’s teams, neither of them being alpha-male teams, just five coed teams, and a whopping four women’s teams, something not done since season seventeen! Also, it helped that there was a good amount of racial and regional diversity, and no truly generic (or even boring) teams, aside from perhaps Michael and Scott, and even their Boston accents helped keep them from being completely boring. There were two nice new countries, as well, in the Virgin Islands and Malta, Scotland, Morocco, Singapore, and the Philippines all got some good visits after not being seen in quite some time (the third season, in the case of Scotland and Morocco, the sixteenth season, in the case of Singapore, and the fifth season, in the case of the Philippines). So a good route, basically. And, of course, a good, unpredictable elimination order really helped things out!

Once more, the teams finished this week’s leg, the final leg, in the following order:

#1. Amy and Maya (Prize: $1,000,000)

#2. Misti and Jim

#3. Adam and Bethany

#4. Brooke and Robbie (ELIMINATED, Checked Out at First Roadblock)

And so, the sun sets on The Amazing Race 25. We had some good legs, a good route, a spectacular cast, great tasks, and extremely deserving winners in Amy and Maya! Will The Amazing Race 26, slated to start in February (in five days, in fact), be even better? Well . . . a season of eleven dating couples racing around the world and bickering like ninnies I can’t honestly see going well, but we’ll see then!

Baylor Hit by Final Blindside! Keith Falls Victim to Final Vote-Off! Missy and Jaclyn Crushed by Natalie!

Sorry that this had to be two months late! I got caught up writing two treatments (scripts) for some video games I want to pitch to a game company, and then got lazy after they were done. But now, with the new season coming up next week, it's time for me to wrap this up.

Thirteen weeks ago, eighteen new castaways came to San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua for a chance to win one-million dollars. The castaways were divided into pairs of loved ones, some related by blood, and some related by romance. They were divided into two tribes, Coyopa and Hunahpu, and put through several weeks of challenges and Tribal Councils before the two tribes merged into one tribe, Huyopa. The challenges and Tribal Councils and even big blindsides continued, and along the way, thirteen castaways fell by the wayside -- Nadiya, Val, John, Drew, Kelley, Dale, Julie, Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon. This left the eventual final five castaways -- Missy, Baylor, Natalie, Jaclyn, and Keith.

The season finale of Survivor was tense and thrilling, for sure. It began with the five remaining castaways, fresh off Jon's long-awaited, well-deserved vote-off, resuming the game following the last Tribal Council. Natalie was giddy that her blindside plan had worked, that Jon was gone, and that Jeremy's vote-off had been avenged. But she had to deal with Jaclyn, who was pissed off. She knew that Missy, Baylor, and Natalie had screwed her. She vehemently tried to defend Jon to Natalie, but when Natalie tried to tell her that she disliked Jon based on what she knew of him in the game, Jaclyn fired back that she didn't know him in real life. She privately regretted going off on Natalie, though, and just wanted to refocus her efforts on trying to survive in the game without her boyfriend. The next morning, Missy and Baylor made their plans to go to the Final Tribal Council together, with Natalie. But they had to make sure that the big challenge threat, Keith, could be dispatched before their final three plans could be screwed up. But with Missy's ankle injury growing worse, it would be difficult.

The final Reward Challenge of the season saw the castaways being attached to a rope and racing to unspool the rope before heading out to assemble a bridge. Once complete, they could use sandbags to knock down a series of blocks. The first person to finish would win reward -- an advantage in the next Immunity Challenge. With Missy's injury, she could not compete. So only Baylor, Jaclyn, Keith, and Natalie could compete.

So here's how the challenge shook down. All four castaways were about neck-and-neck during the unspooling portion, but as the challenge went along, Keith and Natalie broke out into the lead, and it became between the two of them from the bridge portion to the sandbag throwing. But Keith pulled ahead and stayed ahead when he got to the sandbags, and . . . he won reward! So he would have the advantage for the next Immunity Challenge! In addition, though, he could choose the person to send to Exile Island. For her fit thrown the previous night, he chose Jaclyn. With nothing for Baylor, Missy, or Natalie, Probst sent them all back to camp with Keith.

On Exile Island, Jaclyn found the clue to the hidden Immunity Idol, but as Jon already had it and had undoubtedly been voted out with it in his back pocket, she just had to settle for getting comfortable there. Still, she likely looked for it just in case there was a new one. She got emotional while there, thinking about how she couldn't have children, and feeling alone without Jon. She knew the next Tribal Council would likely end with her or Keith voted out. If Keith won immunity, she'd be gone.

Back at camp, Baylor, Missy, and Natalie were all lamenting Keith having the advantage. They knew that him losing would be key when the next Immunity Challenge rolled around. Keith, meanwhile, got to find the advantage: a challenge table that'd been set up just for him in private so he could practice with it for as long as he wanted . . . but had to give up once he was done. It involved transferring balls through a series of obstacles using a set of large spoons, from one side of the table to the other. It would have to be done three times for him to win. Keith was determined to win for one reason. He, like Jaclyn, knew that Baylor, Missy, and Natalie were tightly bound and would vote either him or Jaclyn out -- and if he didn't have immunity, he'd likely be the target. But was that the case? Natalie, who still had her hidden Immunity Idol, was thinking about her ideal final three and was actually considering jumping to Keith and Jaclyn, if just for one vote, to split up Missy and Baylor.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways doing just what'd been hinted at by the challenge table Keith had received. They had to use a series of small paddles to maneuver three balls through a series of obstacles. The first to do so would win immunity and be guaranteed a one-in-four shot at winning the million dollars. The losers all be vulnerable at Tribal Council, where the fourteenth person would be voted out and become the seventh member of the jury, joining Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon. Since this just involved standing in place, Missy could participate in this challenge.

So here's how the challenge shook down. For quite a while, all five castaways had difficulties maneuvering their balls through the obstacles. It took many attempts before finally, Keith's practice time paid off, and he finally started making some progress. He began moving his first ball through the obstacles, and then his second, and, finally, his third before Baylor, Jaclyn, Missy, or Natalie even got one of them through! So Keith very decisively won immunity! He'd be guaranteed a one-in-four shot at winning the million-dollar prize! And he'd also guaranteed that the next juror would be a woman, meaning that the streak of male jurors would be broken that night! In other words, one of Baylor, Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie would be voted out at the next Tribal Council and join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon as the seventh member of the jury.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious target emerged -- Jaclyn. She was targeted for being outside of Baylor, Missy, and Natalie's main alliance of three. And for being Jon's closest partner, of course. She was the only option since Keith's immunity made a vote-off impossible. Jaclyn had even shut down a bit, knowing that she needed a miracle to stay in the game now, and she tried to fight to avoid being snuffed. But Natalie still trusted Baylor and Missy. However, a verbal slip-up by Baylor made a new plan start to take shape. She asked Natalie if, at Tribal Council, she played her hidden Immunity Idol on Missy just in case Jaclyn and/or Keith tried something funny. That sent warning bells off in Natalie's head. She realized that Missy and Baylor might've been trying something of their own to get rid of Natalie. So it was time to make a big move to target one of them instead before they could target her. So the target -- or at least Jaclyn and Natalie's target -- had now switched to either one of Missy or Baylor. Jaclyn preferred Missy since she was injured and couldn't beat Keith in the final Immunity Challenge, something for which they'd need as many able-bodied women as possible, and Baylor would do whatever they wanted without her mother around. But whom did Natalie want to see go? . . .

At Tribal Council, the answer was made clear. First, the votes were cast. Then, before Probst read the votes, Natalie got up to play her hidden Immunity Idol since it was the last chance she could play it. She'd been back and forth on playing it, but at the last minute, she'd decided that she would. She asked Jaclyn if she had voted for their agreed-upon target, and Jaclyn said yes. After gettin ehr confirmation, Natalie played her idol on Jaclyn. And then, by a vote of 3-2, with the three votes not counting and two votes being the only ones that mattered, the fourteenth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the seventh member of the jury was . . . Baylor. So Natalie did truly flip on her alliance. (Oh, and the three canceled-out votes were Baylor, Keith, and Missy's for Jaclyn.) So her torch was snuffed, and she was sent on her way.

This end result was result was sad for me. I mean, it would've been sad no matter which of the four women had been voted out. I liked them all, as well as Keith (although less so than the women). Admittedly, my love for Baylor was challenged a fair bit in the early weeks, when she immediately sold out the women of Coyopa to join Josh and the other men in voting out Nadiya and then still siding with them when Val was voted out. But I started to love her when she got away from Josh and started her genuine friendship and alliance with Natalie. I saw what a sweet, kind person she was. I don't know why the guys didn't like her around camp (according to many post-show press interviews). From what I saw, I'd be glad to have her as a friend, and so should any person who meets her. But she shot her mouth off with Natalie, sent up a red flag for her, and couldn't see her blindside coming because of that. If she'd stayed quiet, Jaclyn would've been tossed instead (as I'm sure Natalie would've just played her idol on herself, not on Jaclyn, for whom she'd have likely voted instead). But now her mother remains, as the final pair had finally been broken up. Bye-bye, Baylor. Glad you made it so far! I hope you're very happy going forward in your life! And I'm glad you're not bitter in the slightest toward Natalie!

Fresh off Baylor's vote-off, the four remaining castaways returned to camp following Tribal Council. Missy was shocked by Baylor being gone, but like her daughter, she wasn't at all bitter about the vote. She knew Natalie had to have her reasons for it. She did. Natalie realized that trusting two family members so close to the end was a bad idea. Plus, she'd gotten rid of half of a pair without looking like the big threat. Jaclyn, meanwhile, felt good to have a new lease on life in the game. She wanted to either have Natalie win immunity so she could take her to the Final Tribal Council . . . or win it herself so she could get Natalie there. Whatever happened, Keith was still the main threat, and he had to be stopped before he could win the final Immunity Challenge.

The final Immunity Challenge saw the castaways racing down a giant tower, maneuvering through a series of obstacles, and collecting three bags of puzzle pieces along the way. Once they had the first three, they would have to race back up the tower, deposit their pieces, and then head back down to get the last two. Once all five bags were in their possession, they’d then have to open the bags and use the puzzle pieces to solve a puzzle revealing three shapes. They’d have to go back down the tower again after that to match up the shapes with numbers, then use those numbers to determine a combination that would release a long pin, along with a flag. The first person to release his or her flag would win immunity, be safe from the vote, and be guaranteed a one-in-three shot at winning the million-dollar prize, as he or she would be sitting at the Final Tribal Council! The losers would be vulnerable at the next Tribal Council, which would see the fifteenth person be voted out of the game and the eighth and final member of the jury decided, as that person would join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, and Baylor. Since this challenge was so physical, Missy would once again be out of this, leaving it down to Jaclyn, Keith, and Natalie.

So here’s how the challenge shook down. In descending the tower, Natalie grabbed the early lead. But Keith took over the lead in going through the obstacles. Jaclyn lagged behind the entire time, not even coming close to catching up with them. After getting each of their first three bags, Keith headed back up the tower with Natalie right behind him. Jaclyn started to fall behind as she got her three bags, as well. Keith kept his lead, though, in going back down the tower again. But Natalie was right behind him in going for their fourth and fifth bags. Natalie actually overtook Keith in getting her fourth bag, and she took over the lead in getting her fifth and final bag. But Keith, despite falling behind due to age, kept close behind Natalie in getting his fifth and final bag. Jaclyn, however, lost so much energy and fell behind, despite getting all of her bags.

Now came the puzzle. Natalie had a lead in putting together her puzzle easily. Keith was close, though. Still, they got frazzled and stumped for a short time. But not so short that Jaclyn couldn’t catch up. And, to the surprise of many, she did! She solved her puzzle first, got the shapes, and hurried back down once more to see which numbers conformed to the shapes. She memorized them, came back up, and got to work in solving her combination. But Natalie finally solved her shapes and headed down to get her combination, as well. She made it to the numbers just as Jaclyn was heading back up. She reached her puzzle and started solving her combination. And . . . she did! Jaclyn won immunity! She would be guaranteed a one-in-three shot in winning the million-dollar prize! She was going to the Final Tribal Council! Meanwhile, one of Keith, Missy, or Natalie would be voted out at the next Tribal Council and join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, and Baylor as the eighth and final member of the jury. Obviously, it would be Keith, and Keith himself thought so, too, but we’ll see.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious target emerged — Keith. He was targeted as being too likable in the eyes of the jury. Even with his bad social and strategic game, there was still a chance he’d win a jury vote since, if Jaclyn sent Natalie packing, he’d be facing the jury with Jaclyn and Missy, two women who weren’t liked (Missy) or respected (Jaclyn) by the jury. Jaclyn knew that. Still, she tried to decide who would be ideal. She considered Missy, who already had Baylor’s vote, at least. But she knew that Natalie had Jeremy’s vote, as well as possibly Josh’s vote, Wes’s vote (if Keith ended up on the jury), Reed’s vote, and Jon’s vote. But Jaclyn was worried that, due to the overall sexist nature shown by a large number of the men this season, that Keith would have most, if not all, of the men’s votes, and six of the seven members of the jury thus far were men. It was really gonna come down to whomever Jaclyn wanted to see go. But who was it? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was made clear. By a vote of 3-1, the fifteenth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the eighth and final member of the jury was . . . Keith! Yes! (Oh, and the lone vote was Keith’s for Missy.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

I was okay with this ending. I did like Keith, but he was by far the worst, weakest player left. He had no strategy, he had very little social game, and his only asset was that he was a challenge monster. He showed how unreliable he was as an alliancemate, though, with his “stick with the plan” screw-up that messed up Reed’s plan to blindside Jon sooner than he was, and also consigned Reed and Alec to their vote-offs. So despite what the women feared, I doubt the men would’ve respected him to give him their votes. But I can see Jaclyn’s line of thinking, anyway. So on some level, it made sense. Goodbye, Keith. You were a good, nice, decent guy. But you weren’t worthy of winning. You have a nice, lovely wife, though.

Fresh off Keith’s vote-off, the three remaining castaways returned to game following Tribal Council. Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie were all happy and satisfied to have an all-female final three, especially after having had to start out in such a deep minority, what with ten men being there and only eight women (due to an additional all-female pair having to drop out of the game right before it started at the last minute). Missy even said as much. She wasn’t intimidated by seven of the jurors being men. She needed to try and sway them as well as she could. The women then enjoyed their final breakfast, provided to them by the show. Natalie was proud of herself for navigating through the game, even without Nadiya. But now she needed to say the right things to the jury. And Jaclyn wanted the jury to know that she did do things without Jon, and that she was underestimated from the start. But she really wanted the title of Sole Survivor than the money so she could inspire other girls and women with MRKH. With that, it was time to go to the Final Tribal Council.

At the Final Tribal Council, Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, Jon, Baylor, and Keith were all brought in to hear Jaclyn, Missy, and Natalie all make their cases. Missy, Jaclyn, and Natalie, in that order, made their opening cases, and by far, Natalie made the best one. Then, the jurors questioned them, and it was a generally non-bitter jury. All except for Reed, that is, who spewed all sorts of bile at Missy for claiming to be honest and loyalty, yet backstabbing Jon, and also being an “evil stepmother” due to the favoritism she’d often shown Baylor over others and fighting her battles for her (she’s her mother, you dick, so of course she would!). it was basically a bitter, nasty diatribe that made Baylor cry upon seeing her mother trashed. But after that, it was time to vote.

So then, it was time to vote, and Probst took the votes to Los Angeles for their live reading. It was time for the season to be put to bed with the reveal of the winner. And by a vote of 5-2-1, the winner of Survivor: San Juan del Sur was . . . Natalie! Whoooooooo! Jaclyn came in second, having received Reed and Jon’s votes, and Missy took the show position in third, having only gotten Baylor’s vote.

So let’s start with the third-place-finisher. I loved Missy from the beginning and thought she played a good game. My love wavered a bit when her favoritism toward Baylor showed itself in week five, but ultimately, I held on to my good feelings of her. But apparently, she must’ve been a horror around camp for the jury to not even respect her game, even despite many of them either thinking or outright knowing that she was at the center of her alliance. Also, she shouldn’t have claimed loyalty when, yes, she did betray Jon (and Jeremy, who also felt betrayed by her). So in a lot of ways, third place was deserved by her. Good job, Missy! But I can see why you didn’t win this season.

Now for the second-place-finisher, the runner-up. I liked Jaclyn a lot, but despite her claims of being a strong player, I can see why so few jurors disagreed with her. She and Jon did make their decisions together, but they played in such a way that Jon looked like he was the one playing and Jaclyn was just being carried, and Jaclyn did nothing to change that perception. I think she herself realized that, too. But she spent the back half of the game coming off like a spoiled princess who felt entitled to come have people talk to her, and took it badly when Jon was voted out and she was left alone. All of that had to be a turn-off to the jury, and deservedly so. So congratulations on second place, Jaclyn, but like Missy, I can see why you lost this one.

Finally, the winner. I’ve loved Natalie since she and Nadiya were both on The Amazing Race 21 and The Amazing Race 24. She was a smart racer on her first season (not so much her second season), and she turned out to be a surprisingly smart player on Survivor! She played her heart out, having to navigate the game after her loved one was the very first person voted out. She formed a good, tight alliance with Jeremy that blossomed into a real, genuine friendship. After he was voted out, she played masterfully to avenge him by getting rid of Jon. And she made just the right moves at just the right times for both the jury and the other players to see! Her win was very much deserved, and it was a good way of avenging her Amazing Race losses! Also, it’s pretty cool that the “Twinnies” bookended the standings of this season, basically — one of them, Nadiya, was the first one gone, while the other one, Natalie, won the whole thing! Congratulations, Natalie! You’re probably my favorite female winner in a long time (and the first one since Denise won Philippines)! Way to go!

In other news, we had a reunion that basically was much ado about nothing. We learned the nature of Missy and Baylor’s relationship, the nature of Jon and Jaclyn’s relationship, more about the third-booted John being harangued by natalie, even though that revisitation was totally unncessary, learned about Keith’s inability to play the game (kudos to Jeremy for pointing out how bad he was at the game, despite his fourth-place finish), and finally, that Reed wasn’t sorry about his tirade toward Missy. Jerk. (And he confirmed after the reunion that despite knowing that Natalie was far and away the best player of the three, he purposely voted for Jaclyn just to put Missy in third place out of spite.) And except for John, Probst spent no time talking to the early boots of Nadiya, Val, Drew, Kelley, or Dale. He also skipped over Julie the quitter. Though quitters don't deserve respect or acknowledgement, so I'm fine with that. Then, we learned of the theme of next season, our thirtieth one — Survivor: Worlds Apart, a season that would have three tribes once more, this time based on profession and income level — the preppy White Collars, the hard-working Blue Collars, and the freespirited No Collars. It’s interesting . . . yet also worrisome to me. Not something I’d revolved the thirtieth season around, to be sure.

And so the sun sets on Survivor: San Juan del Sur. We’ve had good challenges, great castaways, a solid elimination order, a near-perfect group of finalists, and an absolutely amazing, deserving winner in Natalie. Will Survivor: Worlds Apart be just as good when it starts in February? (In this case, this coming Wednesday?) Three-tribe seasons usually turn out to be great — just ask Philippines and, before it became way too obvious that Tony would win, Cagayan — but we’ll see then!

Amy and Maya Down in the Philippines . . . but NOT Out Due to a Stunning Pit Stop Twist!

This week's episode of The Amazing Race was a very intense, exciting one. It began with the four remaining teams, fresh off Brooke and Robbie's non-elimination, continuing on with the race, resuming their jaunt through Manila, the Philippines. Misti and Jim were glad to have won their fifth leg and thus brought out "the thumb" (ugh). But Misti was nursing a cut at the bottom of her foot she'd sustained from the ox task that she was going to fight through. Still, they knew they were vulnerable to elimination now for the first time since the Save had expired. Now that they were Amy and Maya felt like the underdogs since they hadn't won a leg yet (nor had Brooke and Robbie), but they were determined to beat Misti and Jim. Adam and Bethany were eagerly hoping to reach the final three and would rely on their faith in God and Jesus to do so, all while loving each other. And Brooke and Robbie were eager to overcome their Speed Bump and make the final three.

The teams had to take a jeepney to a park, but Adam and Bethany and Brooke and Robbie ended up getting there first due to each team grabbing one going the shorter way around a loop in which its course was set. Misti and Jim and Amy and Maya took longer to get there due to grabbing and sharing a jeepney that'd take them around the opposite direction of the loop, which was farther away. But once at the park, the teams ran into the Detour. This saw teams choosing between This or That. It was a Blind Detour, so they wouldn't know what each one would involve. This involved shooting at least twenty-one points' worth of baskets in a basketball game against some street players who'd try to block them. That involved having one team member pedal a pedicab-like bicycle around a course four times in less than seventeen minutes and fifty-five seconds while the other team member rides in the sidecar (with two laps for each team leader). Adam and Bethany and Brooke and Robbie all chose and completed This. Misti and Jim and Amy and Maya all chose and completed That, but Misti had a few difficulties pedaling with the ball of her foot, while Amy suffered a terrible crash while trying to pass Misti and Jim.

Before the Detour, though, Brooke and Robbie ran into their Speed Bump, a task that only their team had to complete. This saw them transferring a roadside vendor's goods from one sidecar to another. Once they finished it, they could return to the race, with the hopes of making up their valuable lost time. They seemed to do the task quickly enough and got going before Misti and Jim and Amy and Maya could even reach the Detour decision point.

The teams then had to head to a market, but Adam and Bethany had to remember where to go by memory (and a bit of local help) since they'd apparently misplaced one of their clues telling them where to go. Once there, though, the teams were tasked with the Roadblock. This saw one member of each team picking up and deliver two popular coconut products -- the nut for polish floors, and the ting-ting to be used as a broom. Robbie, Adam, Jim, and Amy all took the task for their teams, with all four of them struggling from either not knowing where to deliver their goods (no one just for this one), not knowing how many to deliver there as determined by a document telling them where to go so they could drop them off (just Amy), or both (Robbie, Adam, and Jim). Amy also struggled from not being strong enough to carry so many heavy things at once.

In the end, after their first well-run leg, Brooke and Robbie arrived first at the Pit Stop! They were the first team racing to the finish line for the one-million dollars. If they won a prize, it was not revealed. Still, they made history. They were the second team to overcome a Speed Bump and win a leg, something that'd previously only been done by Jet and Cord in the sixteenth season. But more history was about to be made. For the first time in the history of the show, the final leg was starting right at the end of the penultimate leg! They were getting their next clue right away, which was telling them to fly to Los Angeles, California! Adam and Bethany came in second and got the same news, now the second team to be racing to the finish line. This left things down to Misti and Jim and Amy and Maya, two teams who'd made the jeepney mistake. In the end, strength at the Detour and thinking to double back and check the document sooner made all the difference, as the dentists eked out the food scientists to claim third, staying alive for the final leg and claiming the third spot to be racing on that leg. This left Amy and Maya to finish fourth and last . . . but they were not eliminated! No, they, too, were going on to the final leg! For the first time ever, the final leg would see four teams racing on it instead of the usual three that'd raced for twenty-four prior seasons! However . . . midway through the final leg, one of the teams would be eliminated. But Amy and Maya felt up to the challenge and wouldn't fall victim to that elimination. So they got their clue, and off they also went!

This was a relieving ending for me, as I really didn't want to see Amy and Maya go. But they brought a lot of their last-place finish on themselves, for sure. Going on the jeepney that went the wrong way to Manila was one thing, but Amy missing the quantity number on the document was another. Still, I hope they can recover and not be the final team eliminated midway through the leg. I'm rooting for you, Amy and Maya!

In other news, I'm rooting for Adam and Bethany or Amy and Maya to win next week. Brooke and Robbie I still dislike after how they've acted, but I wouldn't be upset with them if they won, either. Misti and Jim . . . ugh. I love Misti, but I can't stand Jim. Hope they lose.

Once more, here's the order in which the teams finished the penultimate leg:

#1. Brooke and Robbie

#2. Adam and Bethany

#3. Misti and Jim

#4. Amy and Maya

So it's all come down to this. Four teams still remain, and all four teams will be running to the finish line for one-million dollars. But only three of them will make it through the full leg. Who will fall victim to the final elimination next week? And of the three teams who remain, who'll cross the finish line first and win the one-million-dollar prize? The season finale will decide it all next week, so we'll see then!

Douchebag Jon's Hubris Leads to the Biggest, Best Blindside of the Season!

This week's episode of Survivor was probably the best of the season! It began with the six remaining castaways, fresh off Alec's long-overdue vote-off, resuming the game following the previous Tribal Council. Jon and Jaclyn were confused as to how Alec had been voted out over Keith. But Natalie spun a story to them, saying that she'd gotten confused as to whom she was supposed to vote out since only one person had talked to her about it and they hadn't worked out the details. Baylor laughed silently at this, saying that Jon and Jaclyn, if they were smart, would know that Natalie was lying. But . . . they didn't. They both bought it hook, line, and sinker. This just made Jon more determined than ever to send Keith packing. Meanwhile, the next morning, Natalie met Keith by the water to firm up a new agreement -- the two of them joining up with Missy and Baylor to finally blindside and break up Jon and Jaclyn. Or "Mr. and Mrs. Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen," as Keith hilariously called them. It really did seem like he, Natalie, and Baylor, at least, were fed up with Jon and Jaclyn running things, or acting like they did. It was time for one or both of them to go, and Natalie was ready to make that happen.

The Reward Challenge saw the castaways splitting into two teams of three and running through an obstacle course. They'd run and dig their way through a tunnel of hay, go over and under hitching posts, grabbing a bucket of water, running over and under a teeter-totter net, fill another bucket enough to lower a gate, and then racing to solve a plank puzzle reading "Blood vs. Water." The first team to finish would win reward -- a Survivor-style spa consisting of a hot shower, a massage, and steak and cookies. The teams ended up being as follows -- Keith, Missy, and Jon on the blue team, and Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn on the orange team.

So here's how the challenge shook down. Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn got off to an early lead from the hay portion. They kept it during the hitching post portion of the challenge and held onto it with the water buckets and teeter-totter. Keith, Missy, and Jon weren't far behind, but during the teeter-totter portion, a bad step resulted in Missy twisting her ankle fairly badly, though she was still able to hobble along with Keith and Jon. Through working well together, Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn were able to move right through the teeter-totter portion after two trips and moved straight on to the puzzle. But Keith, Missy, and Jon needed three trips. However, things started looking up for them at the plank puzzle. Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn started getting confused and stumped by the puzzle. But Keith, Missy, and Jon all figured it out and started gelling perfectly and managed to get a rhythm going to start solving it. But Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn finally got it together and started catching back up. It was very close, but in the end . . . by a nose . . . the blue team of Keith, Missy, and Jon won reward! So they'd be going on the reward! But wait. After a talk of massages and how jealous Jaclyn was that Jon would be going on the reward without her, Jon made a shocking move. He gave up his spot on the reward to Baylor. He wanted a mother and daughter to share it. Then, it was time for Keith, Missy, and Baylor to choose someone to head to Exile Island. Natalie volunteered, so off she went. Meanwhile, Jon and Jaclyn would be heading back to camp with nothing. Which was fine with Jon, since it meant the two of them being alone. Jon revealed that it was to curry favor with his alliance and strengthen it to give himself a case to make to the jury, but . . . I'll reveal at the end of this entry why he played this so damn badly.

Keith, Missy, and Baylor arrived at the reward, and they enjoyed the perks of it. They enjoyed their meal and then went on to get their showers and massages. Of course, Keith and Baylor also looked at Missy's ankle, and it was greatly swollen. She didn't know if it was a sprain or a full-on twist. She was in a lot of pain, for sure, though. She was hoping to finish the game, no matter how bad things were. Baylor's mind was also on the game, though. She had a feeling that Jon was trying to curry favor with her by giving up his reward. But it wouldn't work. She still wanted to get him out, and she knew that Natalie still wanted to, as well. Nonetheless, they enjoyed the time they spent together getting their massages and showers.

Back at camp, Jon and Jaclyn enjoyed being alone. It was how they both wanted it, especially Jon. They talked over Natalie's voting blunder, and Jon wanted to bring it up to the jury that she'd made a mistake, as it'd kept in one of the biggest challenge threats. However, Jaclyn started thinking. Maybe Natalie had a deal in place with Keith, or she wanted one, and she was planning on flipping to him, as well as getting Missy and Baylor to do the same. But Jon didn't think so. He thought the main five of himself, Jaclyn, Missy, Baylor, and Natalie were strong. Oh, how wrong he was.

At Exile Island, Natalie was faring very well. But she was also quite emotional. She really missed Nadiya and hadn't gone without her for that long before. Still, she was hoping to press on and reach the end of the game for her and show that her struggles in the game without her sister were worth it.

Before the Immunity Challenge, at which Natalie rejoined the others from Exile Island and got some rice from Missy and Baylor, Probst called in the Survivor medical team to look at Missy's ankle. It was even more swollen than before. Her injury was getting worse. The doctor could give her an X-ray, but to do that . . . they'd have to pull her from the game. But just a few days were left in the game. And because of that, she wasn't going to quit. She'd tough it out and stay in the game. Which was fine, because the doctor didn't think her injury was life-threatening or threatening to her mobility. So he just immobilized her ankle with a cast, and Missy decided to sit out the Immunity Challenge.

So with that settled, it was time to begin the Immunity Challenge, now with only five of the final six participating -- Baylor, Jaclyn, Jon, Keith, and Natalie. This saw the castaways balancing on teeter-totters, all while holding onto two handles. They'd have to keep themselves as still as possible, because they'd also be balancing a vase on their teeter-totter. If it fell, they'd be out. The last person standing would win immunity, be safe from the vote, and be guaranteed a one-in-five chance at winning the game. The losers would be vulnerable at Tribal Council, where the thirteenth person would be voted out of the game.

So here's how the challenge shook down. Jaclyn fell out first after only a few minutes. Baylor fell out second minutes after Jaclyn did. Jon, Keith, and Natalie all then had to endure a huge gust of wind that almost blew them all over. Still, it was all for naught, as just after that, another wind gust hit, and Keith ended up falling out third. This left things down to Jon and Natalie. It was a head-to-head battle for the ages, and one that probably went on for a while. They fought through a third strong gust of wind and stayed up . . . until Jon's vase suddenly fell over (despite him barely moving) and he fell out fourth and last. So Natalie won immunity! She'd be safe from the vote and be guaranteed a one-in-five shot at winning the million dollars. Meanwhile, one of Baylor, Jaclyn, Jon, Keith, and Missy would become the thirteenth person voted out of the game at the next Tribal, and they'd join Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, and Alec on the jury. Jon thought that that person would be Keith (and he arrogantly thought that Natalie winning immunity more than made up for her "blunder" with the Alec boot). But I don't know. . . .

Before Tribal Council, the potential targets emerged -- Keith, Jon, and Jaclyn. Keith was targeted by Jon and Jaclyn as the biggest challenge threat in the game. But Jon was at last targeted by Natalie for being the biggest threat, and to avenge Jeremy's vote-off. Jaclyn was targeted as the backup plan in case Jon played his hidden Immunity Idol. Jon was sure that Keith would be voted out, but Jaclyn wasn't sure that things were as secure. She thought that there was a plan to blindside Jon. But Jon brushed it off, not at all thinking that it'd happen. And quite stupidly, Jaclyn deferred to him. Of course, the blindside plan was in the works. Natalie and Keith were voting for Jon. Missy and Baylor were voting for Jaclyn. If Baylor could get Missy to agree with it. She was reluctant because of their alliance. But Baylor knew that she was clinging too tightly to Jon. She knew he had to go at one point. Missy did, too, but not that night. Baylor knew that they couldn't reach the end together if Jon was still in the game. He and Jaclyn had to be split up. Missy knew that, but she didn't know how she could betray him. The vote was going to hinge on her. What would she do? Stay loyal to Jon and Jaclyn, or flip on them the way she'd flipped on Jeremy and Natalie? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. Luckily for Baylor, Keith, and Natalie, Jon felt comfortable enough not to play his hidden Immunity Idol, so all of the votes would count. He and Jaclyn wound up stunned when, after the vote, a 2-2-2 tie voted was revealed . . . with the two of them and Keith being the recipients of those votes. This meant that Probst would have to call for a revote, this time with only Jon, Jaclyn, and Keith as the options. And only Missy, Baylor, and Natalie could vote for them. Also, if anyone had any idols, they could apparently not be played on the revote! So with said revote, by a unanimous, 3-0-0 vote, the thirteenth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the sixth member of the jury was . . . Jon! Yes! The blindside worked! (Oh, and the votes on the first vote shook out as Keith and Natalie's for Jon, Missy and Baylor's for Jaclyn, and Jon and Jaclyn's for Keith. And obviously, Missy, Baylor, and Natalie all voted for Jon on the revote, so no lone votes there.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

This was an amazing ending for me! Jon wasn't too bad early on, but I grew to dislike and then hate him as the weeks went by. He was an insufferable, arrogant, entitled prick who thought the game would be handed to him because he was rich, had a dying father, and was loyal to God, apparently. But luckily, Baylor, Keith, and Natalie all saw right through that, and eventually, Missy did, too. He got way too comfortable and got way too sure of himself, and he missed the signs of betrayal coming his way as a result. Add in the fact that he trusted way too much and shot down the concerns of Jaclyn, his own girlfriend, way too much due to his terrible inability to read people, and he more than deserved to lose. And let's get into what other bad moves he made this week. He let himself and Jaclyn be alone back at camp while Keith, Missy, and Baylor were left to strategize a bit at the reward, and then Natalie to possibly find a new hidden Immunity Idol on Exile Island (that wasn't there thanks to Jon). And then there was, as I said, shooting down all of Jaclyn's misgivings about their safety when the signs were right there in front of him. He was a terrible excuse for a player, and one I'd definitely not want to see again. So long, Jon! Good riddance and glad you lost! I'm also delighted by this long streak of male vote-offs and this all-male jury so far. Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and now Jon? Six male vote-offs (or exits) in a row, tying One World's six-man exit/vote-off streak of Colton, Jonas, Michael, Jay, Leif, and Troyzan (but beating the male juror streak, as Colton left right before the jury in One World, while Josh was San Juan del Sur's first juror).

In other news, with this final five, I don't hate any of them left. In fact, I like or love them all. Missy, Baylor, and Natalie would all be great winners due to their gameplay, and Jaclyn would be an okay winner since she was at least good at reading people (though perhaps she could've been better at actually strategizing). And while I wouldn't be as big on a Keith win since he had almost no strategy, gave himself and his alliance away more than once, and ruined what would've been a perfect blindside by Reed two weeks ago, but he's a decent enough guy that I wouldn't hate a win from him, at least. But I don't think the jury respects him, anyway, since he's so bad at the nuances of Survivor. So whatever. I'm just tickled pink that, in a season that started out so imbalanced in terms of gender (ten men and eight women due to the tenth pair, a pair of two women, having to withdraw right before the game started), that the women have prevailed with four left standing, and only one man left. And whoever thought that Keith would be that man? Or for that matter, that of all of the loved one pairs, that Missy and Baylor would be the last one standing? (From the editing, I kinda figured that Missy and Baylor would be that pair, but at the same time, you never know. . . .)

It's all come down to this. We're down to the final five castaways. With the two-hour finale on its way, who'll fall victim to the final vote-offs next week? And who'll face the jury and make their case as to why they should win the one-million-dollar prize? And who will be voted by that jury to become the Sole Survivor? The finale will decide it all, so we'll see then!

A Broken Oxen Ends Brooke and Robbie's Race in the Philippines! . . . Except Not

Sorry this is four days late, but I was on a vacation with my boyfriend and his mother and really fell behind in a lot of my shows upon my return. But fear not. I'm here to finally, officially catch back up.

This week's episode of The Amazing Race was actually a tight, packed episode with lots of action, even if the ending wasn't a preferred one. It began with the four remaining teams, fresh off Kym and Alli's sad, tragic elimination, continuing on with the race, now leaving Singapore and departing for Manila, the Philippines, a location that hasn't been visited since the fifth season. Twenty seasons have gone by since they were last there! (Coincidentally, it was the final four when they were then, too, with three coed teams/couples -- Chip and Kim, Colin and Christie, and Brandon and Nicole -- and a women's team -- Linda and Karen! Now, once more, it's the final four with three with three coed teams/couples -- Adam and Bethany, Brooke and Robbie, and Misti and Jim -- and a women's team -- Amy and Maya!) Adam and Bethany were glad to have won the last leg, and they felt they deserved to be in the final four, as well as the upcoming final three. Brooke and Robbie were surprised that they were still in the race, especially given that while they were a strong team physically, they were one of the weakest teams mentally. Misti and Jim were hoping to win their fifth leg and close the entire race out with victories on every leg. Especially Jim. And Amy and Maya felt like the underdogs of the race since they were the physically weakest team, though they were hoping their mental skills could serve them well.

At the airport, some drama emerged when Amy and Maya demanded answers from Brooke and Robbie over their lie about the Merlion statues. They fielded their question and gave them a semi-reasonable explanation for it that the girls did believe, much to Brooke and Robbie's delight. And meanwhile, flight drama occurred as the teams scrambled to get on the best possible flights to the Philippines. Adam and Bethany, Brooke and Robbie, and Amy and Maya all got on the better flight, arriving at eleven p.m., while Misti and Jim, through not checking carefully enough, wound up getting in at 11:55 p.m. The earlier flight they wanted got sold out. Something that would've hurt them . . . if they didn't face an all-night equalizer upon arriving at the location of their next clue, a flower vendor near a church.

Once the teams had gotten their clues, they were to take jeepneys -- vehicles that were a mix of buses and jeeps and used for taxis -- to a shop, Salina Specials, to get the clue to the Detour. This saw teams choosing between Catch and Coach. Catch involved heading to Manila Bay, getting into the water, and transporting three large buckets of fish -- about 300 pounds -- to a fish broker. Coach involved assembling a sidecar and attaching it properly to a motorcycle. Brooke and Robbie were the only team to choose and complete Catch, all the while struggling and fighting as they did so. Misti and Jim, Amy and Maya, and Adam and Bethany all chose and completed Coach, with only Adam and Bethany getting through it with no problems. Misti and Jim faltered several times when their work didn't pass the inspection due to them not noticing their shocks weren't properly installed, and Amy and Maya only had one failure before realizing their seat wasn't properly attached. Ah, but there was a catch to getting to both Detours. The teams had to secure rides in the sidecars of motor tricycles to get there, something that Misti and Jim, Adam and Bethany, and Brooke and Robbie all caught on their clues. But Amy and Maya completely missed it and tried to head there on foot (since it was fairly close), only to learn from Bethany that they had to ride there. It lost them some time in having to find their own one. Though at least Maya admitted to their brain-fart, saying that they should be reading their clues on leg ten.

The teams then raced to a rice field, where a familiar task awaited as a Switchback. Back in season five, eventual second-place-finishers Colin and Christie had the former's famous "My ox is broken!" meltdown at a Detour involving plowing a muddy rice field using a water ox to uncover a clue. Now, in season twenty-five, the teams had to do the same thing as part of a regular task rather than a Roadblock. All four teams had trouble with their oxen, but Brooke and Robbie, despite getting to the task first, had extra trouble by choosing an ox with the longest pond to plow, which left more room to search rather than the needed less room . . . and they couldn't switch their fields, either. In the end, the task was basically luck, since all four teams let their oxen lead them rather than having one of each of their pull their oxen from the front to keep them from going astray.

In the end, it was the closest finish for all four teams, as they all finished within minutes of each other. In fact, it was two two-team races, basically! But of the four, Misti and Jim arrived first at the Pit Stop. They won a trip for two to Vietnam, compliments of Travelocity, as their prize. Jim was pleased, as it meant their fifth win, and thus, "the thumb" got to come out at last. Amy and Maya, after the bad misstep with their clue, recovered beautifully to luck out big-time at the ox task and grab their highest finish ever, landing in second place after losing such a tight footrace to Misti and Jim. This left things down to Adam and Bethany and Brooke and Robbie, the two teams who'd actually reached the ox task first. In the end, the luck at that task made all the difference, as the newlywed surfers eked out the dating wrestlers, running up to the mat in third, staying alive for one more leg. This left Brooke and Robbie to finish fourth and last by a nose. But . . . they were not eliminated. No, it was the third and last of three predetermined non-elimination legs, and they were still in the race. But on the next leg, they'd have to complete a Speed Bump, an extra task only they'd have to perform, while the other teams continued racing. They were up to the challenge and determined to make the final three.

This was an okay ending to me. I've really come to like Brooke and Robbie so much less after hearing their comments about local cultures and Amy and Maya lately, and I'd have been okay with them leaving. At the same time, they're so entertaining in their villainy, that I don't mind them hanging around for at least one more leg. Still, I find them to be the weakest of the final four teams and hope they get booted next week. They have the Speed Bump mainly due to their stupidity in picking the largest, longest pond on the field. And I hope they show even more stupidity to not make the final three. So good luck, Brooke and Robbie . . . and bad luck, Brooke and Robbie. Heh. Though it's weird. I know the entire boot order of this season, and I'd heard that Amy and Maya were the team saved on this leg due to a supposed sighting of Maya crying at a location at which a Roadblock was supposedly taking place while waiting for Amy to return from it, and being there in last. But . . . as there was no Roadblock on this leg, another black girl might've been seen there who wasn't in the race. Unless something like that happens next week and they're in last there, I think someone was just mistaken.

In other news, I still love Amy and Maya and Adam and Bethany. I'm disliking Brooke and Robbie now, and while I still like Misti . . . I'm also still not as fond of Jim. But since at least one villain team's guaranteed to make the final three, I wouldn't mind if it's still Brooke and Robbie. At least them being there would make a win from Amy and Maya or Adam and Bethany more possible. Misti and Jim being there would make it more difficult. Of the two "good" teams, though, I'm rooting more for Amy and Maya. I think they might for one main reason. When Phil asked the teams what they each thought about their winning chances, they only showed Amy and Maya's answer: that if they won, they'd be the third women's team to win (after Nat and Kat from season seventeen and Kisha and Jen from season eighteen). I don't think they'd have left in that answer if they wouldn't win (though it could be a misdirection). And for that matter . . . they wouldn't have edited out Misti and Jim, Adam and Bethany, and Brooke and Robbie's answers to Phil's question if they didn't want to hint at something. Hmm. . . .

In any case, more parallels to season five's first Philippines leg emerged on this leg. Not only was it a leg with the final four, three of whom are coed teams and one of whom is a women's team, but it was also a non-elimination leg, and it saved one of the coed teams -- Brooke and Robbie. In season five, the coed team saved was Colin and Christie. A coed team also won the leg this week -- Misti and Jim. In season five, a coed team also won the leg -- Chip and Kim. Both couples are/were married couples. And finally, the remaining women's team, Amy and Maya, came in second on this leg. In season five, the remaining women's team, Linda and Karen, also came in second on the first Philippines leg. Pretty sweet.

Once more, here's the order in which the teams finished this week:

#1. Misti and Jim (Prize: Trip for two to Vietnam, Courtesy Travelocity)

#2. Amy and Maya

#3. Adam and Bethany

#4. Brooke and Robbie (Must Complete Speed Bump on next leg of race while other teams continue racing)

Four teams still remain. Who'll fall victim to final elimination next week? We'll see then!

Two Hours, Two Tribal Councils, Two Vote-Offs as Reed and Alec Join the Jury!

Sorry to be five days late, but I was away on vacation with my boyfriend and his mother and had no way of blogging this, though I finally did see the episodes.

This week's two-hour episode of Survivor was very thrilling . . . save for the Immunity Challenge in the second hour. It began with the eight remaining castaways, fresh off Wes's sad, Keith-caused vote-off, resuming the game following the last Tribal Council. Back at camp, the castaways were reeling from the attempted blindside going wrong. Keith caught fire for giving away the plan to get rid of Jon, and Reed and Alec were both furious at him. Alec, in particular, knew that Keith was bad at Tribal Council and had left their alliance feeling helpless and even more vulnerable than before. Even worse, Alec didn't trust Reed or Keith. Elsewhere, Jaclyn praised Natalie for sniffing out that Jon had to play his idol. It was clear to her and Natalie both that Jon wouldn't have played it without being told, even though Jon insisted that he would've. (No, he wouldn't.) He was upset that Jaclyn was giving credit to Natalie for what he thought was his play (when it was Natalie's). Natalie knew he wouldn't have played it. She knew that Jon was determined to look like the mastermind in anything he did when he really wasn't. But Jaclyn was upset at Jon for taking credit for the idol play when she knew that she and Natalie were the reason he was still there, not Jon himself.

The Reward Challenge was a Survivor classic. It saw the castaways taking surveys and answering the same questions based on how they assumed the majority of the castaways would answer. The answers would be the twelve people who made it to the merge -- Alec, Baylor, Jaclyn, Jeremy, Jon, Josh, Julie, Keith, Missy, Natalie, Reed, and Wes. If they guessed right, they'd chop a rope. If a castaway got three ropes chopped, a rock would full onto a skull with their names on it, spilling blood from that skull. The last castaway standing would win reward -- a horseback ride to a resort at which a barbecue meal was being served . . . with brownies.

So here's how the challenge shook down. Probst first asked who else, other than Natalie, has a twin sibling. The answer was Jeremy, and everyone got it right except for Keith. Natalie chopped Reed's first rope, Jon chopped Reed's second rope, Alec chopped Natalie's first rope, Missy chopped Reed's third and last rope, putting him out of the challenge, Jaclyn chopped Alec's first rope, Baylor chopped Alec's second rope, and Reed chopped Missy's first rope before he sat down. The second question was who owned and operated their own tanning business. The answer was Julie, and everyone got it right. Jon chopped Alec's third and last rope, putting him out of the challenge, Alec chopped Jon's first rope, Missy chopped Keith's first rope, Jaclyn chopped Keith's second rope, Keith chopped Missy's second rope, Baylor chopped Keith's third rope, putting him out of the challenge, and Natalie chopped . . . no one's rope.

Instead, the five members of the majority alliance decided not to finish the challenge. Instead, they wanted to give the challenge to Missy by default. So Missy won reward! So she'd get to go on the horseback ride. She chose Jon to send to Exile Island, even though Natalie knew why he wanted to go. She also chose to take Baylor and Natalie with her, leaving Jaclyn to go back to camp with Alec, Reed, and Keith. Jaclyn knew it was coming since the three of them were fairly tight. So with that said, that was that. Jaclyn was stuck going back to camp with people who didn't like her. Reed claimed they did like her, but Baylor called out his phoniness, saying he liked everybody. This led to Reed getting into a fight with Missy over Baylor being a brat. It was all pointless. But still, the choices were set.

At Exile Island, Jon got a clue for a new clue to a hidden Immunity Idol. (And I found this odd, as it was so late in the game for there to be yet another one.) And to save time, I'll just say he searched for it and, again, found it. He thought it'd help him and Jaclyn.

On the reward, Missy was glad to have Baylor and Natalie on the reward. They enjoyed the horseback ride to the resort, and then immediately went to chow down on their food. But they realized from Jaclyn's reaction to not being picked for the reward and knew that they'd have to be careful for her feelings in future rewards. Baylor was worried that Alec, Reed, and Keith could bend her ear and sway her and Jon to their side. But things got better when Natalie and Baylor told Missy that they had a hidden Immunity Idol. Missy was proud, as this meant that her daughter was playing the game. Natalie was hoping to make a final three deal with Missy and Baylor, as she knew she'd beat them. Anything could happen, but for now, she liked her chances with them.

Back at camp, Reed decided to see if he could sway Jaclyn to flip to his, Keith, and Alec's side. He used her upset over the reward against her, seeing if he could get her to overthrow Natalie, Baylor, and Missy's planned final three. Jaclyn knew what they were doing, though. Still, she wanted to see what they pitched to her. Reed pitched a vote-off for Missy since she seemed ruthless. Jaclyn seemed open for it, but would she really be? When Missy got back from the reward with Natalie and Baylor, she tried to gauge where she stood, knowing how fast a worker Reed was. Natalie also kept an eye out, seeing Jaclyn get chummy with Alec. He made her feel comfortable, and he wasn't worried about what damage she could do since she was "like cream cheese" -- something that wouldn't hurt anyone and just be non-threatening. Natalie was disgusted by this, seeing her get chummy with Alec when she had a boyfriend. Baylor saw this, too, and was worried that she might flip, after all.

The Immunity Challenge saw the castaways balancing paddles on stands, then rolling balls down the paddle in an attempt to land it in a hole. It was similar to the challenge Michael won in the Philippines. The first castaway to land six balls in all six holes would win immunity, be safe from the vote, and be guaranteed a one-in-seven shot at winning the million dollars. One of the losing seven would become the eleventh person voted out of the game and become the fourth member of the jury.

So here's how the challenge shook down. Jon got an early lead with his first ball, as did Reed, though he quickly lost it. Jon landed his second ball around the time Natalie landed her first. Keith landed a ball, as did Missy and Alec, who lost it. Jon landed his third ball, followed by Natalie's second. Keith landed his second, as did Missy. Natalie lost both of her balls. Keith got his own third, and then his fourth and fifth. Jon got his fourth ball and went for his fifth. But it was no use. Keith landed his sixth and last ball to win immunity! He'd be safe from the vote and be guaranteed a one-in-seven shot at winning the game. Meanwhile, one of Alec, Baylor, Jaclyn, Jon, Missy, Natalie, and Reed would be voted out at the next Tribal Council and join Josh, Jeremy, and Wes on the jury.

Before Tribal Council, the obvious targets emerged -- Reed and Missy. Reed was targeted by Natalie, Missy, and Baylor for being the best strategist on the minority side. Missy was targeted by Reed, Alec, and Keith to break up her planned final three with Baylor and Natalie. But it all hinged on Jon and Jaclyn's choice of alliance. Jaclyn wanted to target Missy, but Jon wanted to trust their current alliance. They got into quite the fight over this. But not only over this. They also fought over Jaclyn's position of just being Jon's appendage. And that he didn't listen to her about anything they did. But after the fight was over, Reed tried to pitch to Jon, but Jon wasn't willing to trust him since he'd gone after him at the last Tribal Council. When Natalie walked up, he winked at Reed to throw him off and make it look like a show, but for all we know, that was a show to Reed. Also, Jon told Missy he had an idol from Exile Island, and that made Jaclyn nervous about how close he was with her now. Seeing them fight had Natalie worried that they wouldn't be on the same page. She needed them united for Tribal Council. Would they be? . . .

At Tribal Council, the answer was clear. By a vote of 7-1, the eleventh person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the fourth member of the jury was . . . Reed. So the plan of the majority alliance held, and Jon and Jaclyn stayed with their current alliance. (Oh, and the lone vote was Reed's for Missy. Even Keith and Alec voted for Reed.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

I was all right with this ending. I didn't hate Reed, but after seeing his true colors, I really did stop liking him. He was annoying and thought he was better than he was. Plus, he was tied to Josh, whom I hated. I'll give him props for his near-perfect blindside last week, ruined largely by Keith, but other than that, that's really the only good move he made. Other than that, he wasn't that good of a player, and this was why. So goodbye, Reed. Go enjoy your life with Josh. You both deserve each other.

Fresh off Reed's long-overdue vote-off, the seven remaining castaways resumed the game, returning to camp following Tribal Council. Jon and Jaclyn were glad they'd worked things out. Alec was feeling down with his allies falling one by one. He was still holding on, but he didn't know for how much longer he could. He had no loved one in the game with Drew voted out early, and seeing Jon and Jaclyn and Missy and Baylor together made him upset. He tried the next morning to talk to Jon about it. But while Jon felt for him, he knew he and Keith had no game left. They had no cracks to exploit in the main alliance of five. He trusted them completely. And he thought he was still controlling and steering the game. (He wasn't. Missy, Baylor, and Natalie still were. He and Jaclyn are still just the swing votes.)

The Reward Challenge saw the castaways standing on small blocks while stabilizing balls against pieces of wood. If they dropped the ball or fell off, they'd be out of the challenge. The last person standing would win reward -- a king-sized canopy bed delivered to camp to enjoy food and dessert.

So here's how the challenge shook down. Alec fell out first after just seconds. After twenty minutes, Missy fell out second. Keith fell out third. Baylor fell out fourth. Jon fell out fifth, and it was down to Jaclyn and Natalie. It was close, but in the end . . . Jaclyn fell off sixth and last! So Natalie won reward! She'd be enjoying the canopy bed, and she could pick two people to join her. But first, she chose Alec to go to Exile Island. Then, she chose Jon and Jaclyn to join her for the reward. So that was that.

Back at camp, Natalie, Jon, and Jaclyn enjoyed the bed immediately, though they had to be careful. They'd be enjoying it while Missy, Baylor, and Keith would be staring at them. Jaclyn saw Missy, Baylor, and Keith walk away eventually, and she hoped that Jon's bond with Missy was still strong enough to hold their alliance together. Indeed, Jon trusted her and also trusted Natalie, whom he didn't realize was plotting to vote him out. The trio of castaways and enjoyed some pasta and champagne. Natalie wanted to keep Jon and Jaclyn from plotting with Keith. Of course, Jon's douchiness was annoying to Natalie. He talked about and swished it in such a snobbish way reminiscent of what his father had taught him about it. But apparently, he'd been doing that over the course of the game, and it was torture. Natalie was sick of his know-it-all attitude. Nonetheless, she felt good that he trusted her, since he told her about his new hidden Immunity Idol. Just the same, all that mattered to her was him not winning immunity so she could blindside him at the next Tribal Council.

After the reward, Natalie vented to Baylor and Keith about how fake Jon was, as well as how much he'd acted like he'd be having an easy cakewalk to the Final Tribal Council. He had Jaclyn, he had his bond with Missy, he assumed Baylor wouldn't go against what Missy wanted, and he wrongly thought that Natalie was fully loyal to him. She would kill herself if he won the game. It was clear that he wasn't as liked around camp as initially thought. She got Baylor and Keith to agree to voting Jon out, and she was sure that Alec would be on board. Baylor knew that Missy would not be on board since she saw him too much like a son figure. Or like a man who'd burned her in the past. And Keith was on board because he knew that Jon was coasting through the game. His being the constant swing vote with Jaclyn got him feeling too complacent. All of this talk got Jon and Jaclyn worried that Keith was trying to get Missy, Baylor, and Natalie to turn on him. Jaclyn, in particular, was worried about this, since Jon was acting like he had the whole game in the bag, something that was apparently demonstrated in real life, as well. It'd brought him several failures. If he wasn't careful, he'd be failing again.

The Immunity Challenge (and it was here that the episode started to get lame) saw the castaways holding onto a rope keeping a wobbly table steady, all while racing out to gather wooden blocks to place on their tables one at a time. They'd have to start anew if any blocks fell. The first castaway to successfully balance ten blocks would win immunity, be safe from the vote, and be guaranteed a one-in-six shot at winning the game. The losers would be vulnerable at the next Tribal Council, where the twelfth person would be voted out of the game.

So how's how the challenge shook down. Everyone got their first blocks easily, though Alec just as quickly lost his. Keith got off to an early lead, putting down his third block while Jaclyn, Jon, Natalie, Missy, and Baylor all got their seconds. Keith actually held the lead for most of the challenge, but dropped his table after his fifth block. He recovered fast, but Jaclyn and Jon took the lead now with their sixth blocks. Keith caught back up, though, and retook the lead, and Natalie tied it with her sixth, as did Baylor. Jon, Jaclyn, and Keith each got their seventh ones. Alec kept dumping his blocks by accident. Jaclyn dropped her blocks after number seven, leaving it to Jon and Keith, who each got eighth. Natalie was right behind them. But Keith dropped his near the end, allowing Jon to put down his ninth block. Keith recovered and caught back up, putting down his ninth block. Keith went back to get number ten, catching up with Jon. But he didn't move quickly enough. Even worse, he dropped them all. This opened the door, allowing Jon to win the challenge. So Jon won immunity. Meh. This made the whole episode lame for here. So he'd be safe from the vote and be guaranteed a one-in-six chance at winning the million dollars. Meanwhile, one of Alec, Baylor, Jaclyn, Keith, Missy, and Natalie would be voted out at the next Tribal Council.

Before Tribal Council, now that Jon was immune, the obvious targets emerged for the majority alliance -- Alec and Keith. Both were targeted since they were on the outside. Plus, they were the Plan B for Natalie and Baylor since their main target, Jon, was immune. Meanwhile, with no game left in them, Alec and Keith were pretty much going to vote for each other just to keep themselves from going out. The plan was to split the votes in case one of them had a hidden Immunity Idol. Three of them (Jon, Jaclyn, and Natalie) would vote for Keith, two of them (Missy and Baylor) would vote for Alec. Jon wanted Keith out for being an immunity threat against Jon. Missy was fine with it since she had Jon's back. But Natalie and Baylor were unsure of it. Natalie wanted Keith more loyal to her and indebted to her if she saved him. Plus, he was the best bet for beating Jon at immunity. So she thought about getting Baylor to agree to flip the vote and just vote Alec out. Especially after seeing how close Baylor was getting when Alec tried to flirt with her to stay in the game. And being just as bad at it as Drew was, I might add. So knowing the dangers of Baylor getting drawn in, how would the votes go? Especially with the risk of Jon flipping out at them going against his orders? . . .

At Tribal Council, the question was answered. By a vote of 4-3, the twelfth person voted out of San Juan del Sur and the fifth member of the jury was . . . Alec. So Jon's plan to get rid of Keith failed, and Natalie's plan to save him succeeded. (Oh, and the lone votes were Missy and Alec's votes for Keith. So Baylor flipped to get rid of Alec, too.) So his torch was snuffed, and he was sent on his way.

I wasn't too sad about this ending. If Jon couldn't go, then I'd rather Alec go home. He was an asshole in the early parts of the game, only quieting down when the Jeremy vs. Josh stuff rose up, and then Jon starting rising up as a Grade A jerk himself. But really, aside from his jerkiness, he also had no real game to him and was just floating along as Josh, Wes, and Reed got picked off, waiting for his turn to go home himself. Add in the fact that he was worthless in challenges and Keith gave Natalie and Baylor a better shot at beating Jon at his own game, and Alec was an easy choice. So adios, Alec. Hope you and your douchebag brother, Drew, never return.

In other news, I firmly hope Baylor, Missy, or Natalie win. Keith is okay, too, but he's just so damn bad at the game. Jaclyn is too much of a follower for Jon. And Jon himself . . . I hate him. Enough said. He's a jerk, his dying father story is played out, and he just doesn't seem like a nice guy at all. I don't know what Jaclyn sees in him. At least this last vote shows he's not as much in control as he thinks he is.

Six castaways remain. Who'll be voted out next week? We'll see then!