There are those moments - those dumb moves - on Survivor that stick with you. Erik Reichenbach giving away his immunity idol before being voted out on Survivor: Micronesia. James Clement being voted off Survivor: China whilst holding two immunity idols. Tyson Apostol failing basic math in Survivor: Heroes v. Villains and changing his vote guaranteeing his torch snuffing. Woo taking Tony, Colby taking Tina, And to this list we can now add Keith Nale and his fatal foot in mouth moment from last night's tribal council.
But before we launch into one of the dumbest survivor moves ever, let's look at one of the smartest. After Natalie was blindsided by her allies voting out Jeremy at the last tribal council, she had to scramble quickly. She was not in the loop and did not want to be the next out. If she sticks with Missy/Baylor and Jon/Jaclyn, she's still in a dominant five, versus Alec, Reed, Wes/Keith. But she just as easily could have felt angry or upset that they went behind her back and voted off her closest ally. What would the spunky, hotheaded, supercharged, intimidating, alpha girl do under these circumstances? We saw how she dealt with John Rocker. The girl is a spit fire. So what did Natalie do?
She kept her cool. Natalie did the math, saw how the next few days could play out, and let her alliance know they could still count on her. She swallowed her emotions and went with her head. She knows that her target is Jon; she also knows that timing is important. If she doesn't win the million dollars, it'll be a travesty. That's how you play Survivor.
In fact, not only does Natalie get the smartest move award, she also gets runner up for doing even more math and figuring that Jon may have an idol from Exile Island and Keith may have an idol from his camp, but there might still be an idol at the current camp. I question why she brought Baylor into this plan (unless it was to solidify their alliance) but nevertheless it worked. She found the third idol and she and Baylor seem tight.
Reed was counting his blessings. He should have been the next one to go after Josh. Instead, he watched as the strongest, best positioned player was blindsided and he still had life in the game. He got together with his alliance and gave them some great advice. Keep your head down, stay together, and try to get someone's vote. Meanwhile, he's thinking what's best for him. He can join with the dominant five-person alliance and vote to get rid of his allies (Alec, Wes and Keith) or try to bring someone over. He sees Jon as the next biggest threat, he now has to convince someone from the other side of that.
Not much to say about the reward challenge. They did a school yard pick to select teams and I would love to see how it played out so that there were all the super fit people (Reed, Alec, Jon and Jaclyn) on one team and the less able-bodied (Nat, Baylor, Missy and Wes) on the other. Keith was not selected by either team. The super group one and immediately afterwards, Baylor was reduced to tears at the thought of her mom missing out on another reward. Reed volunteered to give Missy his spot on the excursion, winning him brownie points as well as the chance to talk some game while his target (Jon) was away.
During the reward (a fun afternoon of baseball and snacks) and we hear again about Jaclyn's medical condition which makes it so that she can't have her own children. Jon talks about how he loves her regardless and this, along with the discussion of Jon's father's serious medical condition, is starting to look like a winner's edit for Jon. Meanwhile, Missy the mom is in her element surrounded by all the kids.
Reed puts his plan into motion and using very small words and speaking very slowly he tries to instruct Keith on how to stay in the game and organize Jon's ouster. Too bad Reed doesn't have hand puppets or some other way to help Keith understand. All they have to do is vote for Jon. The other side of six will be splitting their votes because they know Keith has an idol. So four votes against Jon will trump the three votes for Keith or Wes. Simple. It is a brilliant, fool-proof plan that will only fail if Jon plays his idol. But if Jon does not think he's in any danger, he will want to save the idol for later in the game.
Elsewhere at he camp, after finding the third hidden immunity idol, Natalie talks to Baylor about the plan. There are four girls, five guys. Vote out one of the guys that's not in their alliance (preferably Reed since he does well at challenges) and then when it's down to eight, get rid of Jon. They would still have the numbers (and would pick off Alec, Wes and Keith). Great plan (although Jon's idol could be a problem in the future).
The immunity challenge is often very telling, especially when it's a "who wants it more" challenge. It tells you who feels safe, who thinks they're at risk. Who is thinking about the team, who is thinking about their own needs. Here, the challenge was about holding on. You drop when you can't stay up any longer...or when you are tempted by Jeff. Here comes Jeff with a small plate of sweets and faster than you can say, get your fingers off my Butterfinger, Jon is out of the competition and on his way to finishing the plate Jeff had started in on.
Jon said he thought he'd be the first out and typically larger guys with big feet do have a problem in this type of challenge. But it was still a sign of arrogance and comfort that he jumped off so early - not a smart strategic move. It did not go unnoticed by Keith, who teased him about falling off so far before an old guy. Alec made a comparison to Jesus on the cross. I'll just leave that one alone.
Missy dropped out without waiting for Jeff to bring out any more goodies. While Wes was negotiating the terms of the next food item brought in, Jeff unveiled cookies and milk and Jaclyn and Baylor flew off their perches to share in the cookies. Wes cursed his bad timing. Meanwhile, Jeff tried to remind the remaining players that they were playing for $1,000,000 and not for the best food prize.
Despite reinforcing that they were playing for immunity, Jeff was able to get Wes out of the challenge by showing him a plate of hot wings. Wes' dad Keith called his move crazy and could not have been happy to see him give up a chance at safety for the chance to shovel more food into his mouth. Meanwhile, the old guy held on as long as he could. Keith noted how the rest of Natalie's team felt pretty comfortable heading into tribal council as each one of them had already hopped off. Natalie showed her loyalty to her team, the last one there to keep the other side from winning immunity.
In the end, it came down to Natalie and Reed. Reed, the very fit, very in danger dancer, against the very determined Sri Lankan twin. Natalie took inventory and realized there was little chance of her outlasting Reed, so she did what has been de riguer this season. Let's Make a Deal! I'll jump off for some pizza,wings, a cookie, a glass of ice water and some beer. And, because Jeff Probst can have anything he wants, a plate magically appeared, with everything Natalie had asked for.
Off she came and down Reed came in one of the more memorable finishes of a challenge.
The plan was set. With Jon hopping off the challenge so early, it helped solidify that he was too comfortable in his alliance and should be the target. Reed solidified the votes. He and Alec would tell the other side that they were joining them in voting to flush out the idol, splitting the votes between Keith and Wes. In reality, they, along with Keith and Wes, would actually vote out Jon. As long as the other side didn't get wind of the plan, they were golden.
Missy was convinced and, to his credit, the usually vapid Ken doll Jon had his doubts. He grilled Alec, unconvinced that Alec would really vote with them against Keith and Wes. Jon recognized that for the first time he and Jaclyn weren't the swing votes and so he had to trust in others. But he felt confident enough not to plan on playing his idol.
And then Jeff started questioning the tribe at Tribal Council. Things were going well until Jeff starts talking about idols and when to play them and the fact that they haven't yet been played so far into the game and you don't want to leave with an idol in your pocket. He kept on the topic of idols and asked Reed a question about them and Reed thought he would show his allegiance to the Jon/Missy group by pointing out the suspicion that either Keith or Wes had an idol. This would play right into the plan to split the vote, to uncover the idol and vote the other one out.
Only, it didn't play out like that. Instead, Keith flew into a white hot panic and nervously said to Reed to "stick to the plan." While Keith cackles maniacally, Jeff asks Jon to make sense of what he's hearing and Jon is definitely rattled by what he just heard. What plan? Who's sticking to what? Is there any more candy involved? Jon is confused (keep in mind, double knotted shoe laces confuse Jon) and doesn't know what is going on.
Natalie to the rescue. She has figured it out and realizes that, as much as she wants Jon gone, she does not want him gone at the expense of her alliance having the numbers. She still wants Keith or Wes gone this vote, Jon the next. But with Jon having an idol, it will be hard to get him out next time if he at all senses he might be at risk. So she can kill two birds with one stone if she can get Jon to play his idol at tribal. Keith or Wes will go home, either holding an idol or after playing it, and Jon will give up his. She will be the only tribe member to have an idol and her alliance will have a numerical advantage.
A lot of talking back and forth goes on and Jeff is beside himself enjoying chaos at Tribal Council. Those out of the loop are confused (Alec is sitting slack jawed, Baylor aptly describes feeling like she's staring at a funhouse mirror) and even those in the loop are panicking. Eventually, Natalie puts the pieces together and she whispers loudly to Jon just before the votes are read. Play your idol.
Jon plays his, Keith plays his, and Wes ends up getting his torch snuffed out with just two votes cast against him. Let's hope Ponderosa is stocked with tacos and chicken wings, Wes is on his way.
Natalie should be in a great position. She's showed loyalty to her alliance, she has a hidden immunity idol, and all the attention will be on Alec and Reed lying about the plan. With a double elimination coming up Wednesday night, we'll either have the final Pagonging of those two (with so many confessionals today, it's hard not to see Reed going next) or Natalie will put her plan to get rid of Jon into motion.
Natalie: It's just figuring out the right plan at the right moment.
Reed: It's about doing good for other people.
Reed: As long as we trust each other for this one vote we can make a huge change in this game. \
Jeff: Baylor and Jaclyn just gave up a shot at a million dollars for five chocolate chip cookies.
Keith: Natalie is fighting for her team. The rest of us are fighting for our lives.
Jon: This is where we build trust right now.