Austin of Nazareth (Episode 12-4)

Ruth Marie’s promise of loyalty wasn’t enough to persuade the La Mina Boy’s Club to keep her around instead of the younger, fitter Sally. La Mina needs all the strength it can muster to stop the misfit juggernaut tribe, Casaya.

After the last Tribal Council, Sally returned to the La Mina camp stunned by Misty’s ouster — and acutely aware that she was probably the next to go. The next morning, Dan virtually assured this by asking Ruth Marie to join the the tribe’s four guys in their voting block.

But Ruth Marie should’ve been more skeptical of Dan’s offer to take her to the final five. It was poorly disguised code for, “The best you can do is fifth place.”

Over at the Casaya tribe’s camp, Shane, Bruce, and Aras returned from collecting snails to find Bobby and Danielle asleep, while Courtney did yoga. Cirie, apparently the only Casayan to realize the fire had gone out, was collecting firewood.

As the tribe struggled to rekindle their fire, Aras and Shane took this opportunity to lecture their tribemates. It’s one thing to be considered lazy enough that you need to be lectured about camp responsibility. But the slothfulness may be getting out of hand when you need to be awakened to even hear that lecture.

Contrarian Courtney objected to being told she was irresponsible, but didn’t explain how her Downward-Facing Dog pose was helping her tribe. In an interview, Aras said that he’d considered throwing an Immunity Challenge just to get rid of her.

This week’s Reward Challenge was a floating water puzzle. Each tribe member retrieved one triangular puzzle piece anchored to the bottom of the sea. After dragging the piece back to a floating, hexagonal puzzle frame, the piece needed to be hoisted over the side of the frame and pulled completely inside before the next team member could go — no easy feat since the pieces were heavy and the frame reached almost one foot over the surface of the water.

Once all six of the pieces were inside a frame, tribe members would work together to match symbols on the sides of each puzzle piece. The tribe who first placed all six of their pieces correctly, won.

Cirie sat out the challenge, now that Casaya had one more member than La Mina. The tribes stayed neck-and-neck dragging their puzzle pieces back to the frame. But Casaya solved their puzzle quickly, while some of La Mina’s pieces had escaped the frame altogether. As part of their reward, Casaya sent La Mina leader Terry to Exile Island for the next two days.

After three weeks of unsponsored rewards, Casaya won the season’s first corporate-sponsored reward: Casa de Charmin. It consisted of an outhouse, a bush shower and sink, some towels, a few bars of soap, and plenty of rolls of Charmin. Finally, Cirie would be able to use something besides the leaves she finds so frightening.

Back at camp, Casaya spent a few moments fawning over their new outhouse before deciding it would be most useful as a wood storage shed. Bobby ignored his teams wishes, announced that he needed to “drop a deuce,” and proceeded to christen the Casa. The tribe’s disapproval didn’t faze him, as he told them upon returning, “I feel 10 pounds lighter!”

Things were a different kind of crappy at La Mina. Without Terry to guide them, the rest of the tribe floundered. Hundreds of fish jumped in the water mere feet from Nick’s raft, but he couldn’t get a nibble on his fishing line. And as soon as Austin and Dan built a fire, it started to rain.

Terry, on the other hand, was doing quite well by himself on Exile Island. He focused on finding the hidden individual Immunity Idol. He knew from previous week’s clues that the idol was above the tide line, that it was buried underground, and that the word “why” figured in to its whereabouts.

This week’s clue said that the idol was hidden under a rock. Terry found a tree with Y-shaped branches, turned over a rock, and began to dig. A short way down, he found a box containing the immunity idol: a desiccated, shrunken head he described as “beautiful.” I have a feeling that, when Terry calls his wife beautiful, it might not mean so much to her anymore–unless she, too, is desiccated and shrunken.

After finding the idol, Terry started a fire and was able to drink some of the nasty water that production had provided for this season’s exiles. There’s a reason why he’s called Super Terry back at camp.

Before heading to the Immunity Challenge, Casaya found time to squeeze in one last argument. Shane and Aras decided to move the fire pit closer to the shelter, and Cirie helped dig the new pit. As Danielle practiced her supervisory skills, standing two feet from Cirie and watching her shovel, Shane again confronted Danielle about her poor work ethic.

Danielle defended herself, and tried to deflect the argument to the equally lazy Bobby. But Shane rallied support for his position, calling in first Aras and then Cirie to back him up. Cirie, normally adept at staying out of her tribe’s conflicts, caved and admitted that Danielle didn’t work as hard as some of the other tribe members.

In an interview, Cirie described the crumbling alliance between Shane, Aras, Courtney, and Danielle as a “psychotic joke.”

At the Immunity Challenge, the inept La Minans were overjoyed to have Terry back to lead them. In the challenge, one member of each tribe sat on a swing, which was connected via pulleys to a raised, empty barrel. As the barrel was filled with water, it would eventually weigh enough to sink to the ground, and the swing would rise. The seated tribe member could then pull a pin near the top of the contraption, and the tribe’s flag would unfurl. The tribe whose flag was displayed first won immunity.

To get the water necessary to fill their barrel, two tribe members crossed a zig-zagging balance beam across the beach, carrying a small pail in each hand. But the pair was roped together and could only move as fast as its slowest member. After crossing the beam, both team members filled their pails in the ocean and headed back across the balance beam.

If either member fell off the beam at any point, both had to forfeit their water and return to the start.

After returning with full pails, the competitors emptied their water into a bucket. The bucket was hoisted up by a rope by another tribe member stationed in a crow’s nest. That tribe member then emptied the bucket into the raised barrel.

Casaya paired Courtney with Shane, and Aras with Bruce. Danielle sat on the swing, and Cirie stood in the crow’s nest. Bobby sat out the challenge.

La Mina made the dumb decision to have Nick stand in the crow’s nest, instead of having him navigate the beams. The gangling, older Dan would’ve been a more obvious choice. But Dan paired with Terry, and Sally with Austin. That left skinny Ruth Marie sitting in the swing.

What slowed both teams down was having to wait for their slower pairs to cross their balance beam. Sally & Austin and Courtney & Shane consistently finished filling their buckets before their other tribemates had even crossed the beam. Dan actually fell off the beam at one point, and had to stop and regain his balance at a few others.

Both teams stayed relatively even throughout the competition. Eventually, each barrel was just a bucket away from being heavy enough to lift its swing. Courtney and Shane quickly filled their bucket, so that Cirie could add its contents to their barrel. At the same time, Austin poured the contents of his and Sally’s pails into their bucket slowly and carefully, not realizing how full their barrel was.

Danielle rose in her swing and pulled Casaya’s pin first. Ruth Marie followed on her swing just seconds later.

Casaya was gleeful in victory. Bruce and Aras splashed pails of water on each other, squealing like schoolgirls and even dousing Bobby.

Upon returning to camp, the rest of La Mina asked Terry some vague questions about his search for the hidden idol on Exile Island. But they never got around to asking him whether he’d actually found it. They were just happy to have him back assigning them chores.

Knowing she was a lock for elimination, Sally started campaigning for herself. She told Nick and Austin that she wanted to stay, but she’d respect them no matter what they did. She went to Terry, arguing that her strong performance in recent challenges was more beneficial to the team than anything Ruth Marie could contribute.

Austin went to bat for Sally, too. He told Terry that keeping her would improve La Mina’s chances of bringing five people to the merge. Austin reasoned that, if the tribes merged and only the four La Mina men remained, they’d be picked off by the Casayans one at a time. And Terry would be the first one targeted.

Austin said that only Dan, and not the other men, had promised Ruth Marie final five. Dan thought that was a cop-out, and he refused to break his word with Ruth Marie. He felt that Ruth Marie’s loyalty was more valuable than Sally’s strength. After a merge, he was sure that Sally would switch sides.

But pragmatic Terry realized that they needed to get to the merge intact before worrying about loyalty issues, and he agreed that Sally should stay. Austin was pleased that he’d been able to pull off such a miracle, saying, “Apparently, I got some Jesus of Nazareth-like powers myself.”

The women made the same arguments for themselves at Tribal Council that the men had made throughout the day. Sally said that her best days are the challenge days. And Ruth Marie said that, while they might not need her tomorrow, they’d need her loyalty later on. As she said this, the cymbal crash of foreshadowing clanged, meaning that Sally’s loyalty could indeed become an issue in later episodes.

Ultimately, Dan kept his word and didn’t vote against Ruth Marie. But his vote couldn’t save her, and Ruth Marie hit the road, by a 4-2 vote.

Next time, Bruce builds a zen garden, and Courtney uses it for yoga practice. Then their camp is washed out by a flood. Did Courtney upset some kind of karmic balance?

Also, La Mina gets hit with a stomach bug. They’re really sorry they didn’t win all that Charmin.