We’re Heathens (Episode 12-7)

It was merge week on Survivor: Panama – Exile Island. All ten remaining castaways pretended to get along, until the members of the old Casaya tribe ganged up to vote off Nick.

The morning after voting out Dan (which happened three weeks ago in viewer time), the last three La Mina men, Terry, Austin, and Nick, received instructions to pack up camp and row to Casaya’s beach. Sally, who was still on Exile Island, was picked up in a separate boat.

Casaya was eating rice for breakfast when they noticed the three men rowing toward them. They quickly gorged on the rest of their rice because, as Aras put it, “We’re heathens, and we didn’t want to share.”

La Mina didn’t have a clue of Casaya’s true feelings, as their hosts quickly finished chewing and greeted them warmly at the beach. Sally was soon dropped off, and everyone enjoyed a crate full of wine and snacks as one big, happy family.

As soon as the snacks were gone, Terry approached Bruce about switching sides, as the ex-La Minans were outnumbered, 6-4. Shane and Aras witnessed the discussion from afar, and later tried to pump up Bruce’s ego to make sure he didn’t take Terry up on his offer.

Bruce was having a great time being the most powerful man at camp, until Nick hit him the face with a machete. It was an accident, of course, but the blow chipped a tooth and gave Bruce a nice gash on his lip.

Alas, Bruce was not the immobile figure ferried away by medical staff in the middle of the night that CBS has been hyping in their Survivor promos. Though I’ve had trouble imagining what could be more serious than a head wound from a machete blade.

The new tribe decided on the name “Gitanos,” apparently in honor of the brand of blue jeans (“Jordaches” was their second choice). Art teacher Bruce painted the tribe flag — with blood from the wound on his face! Or paint.

Terry broadened his pool of potential recruits when he approached Shane and Cirie with the ridiculous offer to “take the burden of Tribal Council” off of them for the next two weeks. Shane and Cirie laughed about it, and told Terry he wasn’t in a position to offer them anything. Cirie equated Terry to a dictionary salesman, and herself to someone who already had a set of encyclopedias.

At the Immunity Challenge, contestants had to hang from a horizontal wooden post by their arms and legs for as long as possible. Looking like pigs on a spit, almost everyone dropped within 13 minutes, especially after Jeff Probst told them there was no food to tempt them down later, as has happened in past seasons.

The three most vulnerable people, Austin, Nick, and Terry, were the last on the pole. Austin made a big show of struggling to hang on, later admitting at Tribal Council that he was trying to fool people into thinking he was the weakest of the three. After 30 minutes, he realized Terry and Nick weren’t going to budge and he dropped to the ground.

Nick made it to 46 minutes before falling off, and Terry was awarded the macrame immunity bib.

Back at camp, Shane irritated the former La Minans by loudly announcing a gathering of the old Casaya tribe to discuss how they would vote. Sally, Terry, Nick, and Austin agreed to vote for Shane just to get under his skin.

At Tribal Council, Cirie said she would be “flabbergasted” if any of her old teammates switched sides. Her intuition was right, as Bruce stuck with Casaya and voted Nick off the island. After this week’s episode, everyone who remains will either be a member of the jury or one of the final two contestants competing for $1 million.

Nick’s well-rehearsed parting words were a plea to directionless twentysomethings to take the time to find out who they really are. According to Nick, self-knowledge can be achieved by turning off your iPod and not eating “for a while.”

Nick is the slacker bodhisattva.

Next week, Terry admits to Sally that he found the hidden Immunity Idol on Exile Island. The entire tribe gets wind of the news and discusses whether it’s true and, if so, what to do about it.