No Happy Ending for Misty the Masseuse (Episode 12-3)

Southern charm and magic hands weren’t enough to save Misty from being voted off of Survivor: Panama – Exile Island. All the back massages she gave Austin and Nick were offered in vain, as the two younger men decided to align with the La Mina tribe’s elders, Terry and Dan.

After ejecting Melinda at the last Tribal Council, Casaya returned to camp with their new team member, Bruce. Unable to suppress his teaching urges, Bruce immediately involved his tribe in a water filtration project.

Since they didn’t have fire, the Casayans poured water through several layers of T-shirts, which Bruce claimed would eliminate 90% of dangerous impurities. The tribe drank container after container of the water, and nobody complained about it tasting like a dirty sweat cocktail.

Not everyone in Casaya was happy that Bruce had taken over. Courtney — who has somehow found time to become a wilderness expert in between her professional stints as a massage therapist, ski instructor, and performance artist — privately questioned the effectiveness of the shirt filter. Shane, always seeking a target for the rage caused by his nicotine withdrawal, interviewed that Bruce was driving him nuts.

Meanwhile, at the La Mina camp, things looked dire. Without the spear Sally had lost a few days before, all the tribe had been able to catch with their lines and hooks were poisonous puffer fish. The tribe’s meager diet of snails was augmented by a single tiny, non-poisonous fish that Terry caught. “Nemo,” as La Mina called the little fish, provided just enough energy for them to win the Reward Challenge.

Three members of each tribe took turns firing balls from a slingshot out to their remaining four teammates, who stood on a balance beam suspended over the ocean. La Mina caught more balls than Casaya, earning them a tarp, pillows, blankets, rope, water cans, fuel, and a kerosene lamp.

Perhaps most significantly, La Mina won the right to decide which member of Casaya would spend the night on Exile Island.

Upon arriving at the challenge, Casaya had gushed about the energy and survival knowledge Bruce brought to camp. Although they felt guilty doing it, La Mina reasoned that Casaya might disintegrate without Bruce, and they sent him back for a second consecutive stay on Exile Island, where he would remain until the Immunity Challenge. As Shane observed, La Mina was playing for keeps.

La Mina got their goodies back to camp just in time to throw the tarp over their shelter and protect themselves from another Panamanian downpour. They enjoyed a much more comfortable evening than Bruce, who didn’t even have time to look for the hidden Immunity Idol before the all-night storm hit. Bruce spent the night sitting in the rain, with only a piece of parchment to cover his head.

At Casaya, Bruce’s absence meant Shane and Courtney had to resort to picking on each other. Aras, who had pledged unity with Shane, Courtney, and Danielle immediately after Casaya formed, feared that he had aligned himself with a bunch of lunatics. Outsider Cirie entertained herself by watching the alliance members start to realize that they hated each other.

Over at La Mina, Misty pulled out all of her flirtatious tricks in an effort to shore up an alliance with Nick and Austin. Sally presented a logical argument for teaming up, saying that Terry would be the most obvious target after the merge, so an alliance with the two young women would appear less threatening to the members of Casaya.

Bruce returned to compete for Casaya in a beachfront Immunity Challenge. In each round of the Challenge, a canvas sack had been buried down the beach. Pairs or trios from each team raced toward the sack, dug it up, and tried to return it to their team’s mat. Participants were allowed to tackle one another in order to steal the sack or otherwise keep their opponents from completing the task. The first team to return three bags to their mat earned Immunity.

The full-contact competition seemed to favor the heftier Casaya tribe. When Shane wasn’t wildly tackling skeletal Dan, he even coached his tribemates to use their size: “Sit on her, Cirie!” But La Mina’s athleticism evened the competition, and, after four rounds, the tribes were tied, 2-2.

In the final round, Terry and Ruth Marie took on Danielle and Bobby. Terry dug up the sack and was immediately wrapped up by Danielle. Terry handed the sack to Ruth Marie, who had a clear shot at the La Mina mat. Mere steps before finishing, Bobby caught up with Ruth Marie, grabbed her by her shirt, and dragged her to the Casaya mat for the win.

Losing the Immunity Challenge forced Austin and Nick to decide which pair of La Minans they would align with for the remainder of the game: the younger women or the older men.

The young women targeted Ruth Marie, who was physically the weakest, had started to look as strung out as Shane, and was aligned with nobody. However, Terry and Dan were determined to boot Misty. They argued that she had performed worst in the Immunity Challenge. But the men’s real fear was how the clever and likable engineer might fare if she made it to the merge.

At Tribal Council, Terry told host Jeff Probst that Survivor was a physically challenging game, but the mental part was easy, because of the cameraderie with his tribemates. Dan, Misty, and Sally all agreed that their team got along with each other surprisingly well. Nick confirmed that different groups were forming at camp, but didn’t say with which group he and Austin would be voting.

Only when the votes were finally read did Misty realize that her efforts had failed, leaving only Sally and Ruth Marie to break up the La Mina boys’ club. Misty wished her tribe members well, and her torch was snuffed.

Next week, the situation gets worse for La Mina, when the tribe runs out of food. The Casaya alliance also struggles, as Danielle becomes the new target of Shane’s unpredictable wrath.