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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in buntsign's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, May 13th, 2012
11:43 pm
Day 39

Tonight’s finale of Survivor: One World included two Immunity Challenges, three Tribal Councils, and no men with any chance to win, because the women had systematically eliminated them over the course of the season. In fact, it was so one-sided that early on, the men started eliminating themselves. They did it when they gave up immunity after winning four straight challenges, and they did it again when they merged at even numbers but immediately handed the women the advantage.

The person who should win Survivor doesn’t always win. Some people play with a chip on their shoulder and can’t bring themselves to vote for the person who engineered their elimination. It’s a physical game and a social game, but also an emotional one, and all three elements go into the decisions made throughout the season, but especially by the jury, at the end of the season.

Tonight Kim won both Immunity Challenges. After the first, there were four others left, and she knew their votes would be split, giving her the deciding vote. She showed her ultimate hand at this early stage by choosing to vote out Alicia instead of Chelsea. So when she won immunity the second time, it was a foregone conclusion that Christina was going home. There was no argument and there were no issues, even from Christina, who gave up without a fight. She wouldn’t have won the fight, but she probably should have made the effort.

So the final three were the three who pledged themselves to each other at the beginning of the season: Kim, Chelsea and Sabrina. They were such a tight group that you felt any of them would have been happy with any of the others winning the game. I was happy for them, but afraid of what might be waiting for them at the final Tribal Council. Juries can be notoriously bitter, because they are made up of people who at one time were allied with the ones whom they are now judging, and were betrayed (or at least lied to) by them.

Instead, we got the most restrained, respectful jury questioning I think I’ve seen in 24 seasons. Jonas was satisfied with Kim’s answer to his one pointed question, about why she didn’t take the easily beatable Christina to the end. (Kim said she didn’t think it would matter, because by that time people either respected her moves or rejected her for them.)

Michael asked Kim if she had perfected "the art of the blindside." She said it was a necessary strategy, and even explained to him why he had been voted out when he was. At that time, he was the only man Troyzan was willing to vote for over a woman. This apparently satisfied him, because he congratulated her on taking all the heat and all the blame for the decisions she made.

Leif felt betrayed by Kim, and she told him plainly that she wasn’t sure she could trust him. His vote was one of the two for Sabrina, possibly because she told him that she knew when he was being voted off but felt so connected that she wasn’t able to tell him. Troyzan, the other vote for Sabrina, asked Kim a similar question, wanting to know the moment the decision was made to vote him out. Her answer, that it was done when they voted Jonas out, was clear, but he said it was wrong, for some reason.

Alicia revealed to the final three what she had been telling us all season, that she considered herself the same kind of power player Kim was. She was flattered that she was taken out at final five, because she understood that she was the biggest threat. I’m not sure the audience saw her as the "kingpin" she portrays herself as, but she played that way, whether the power was real or an illusion.

There were two emotional moments during the final Tribal. One was when Tarzan thanked the final three for keeping him in the game long enough for the loved one visit, so that his wife could walk on the same sand he had walked on. The other was Kat’s explanation of why, after being so badly hurt by her blindside, she has been able to let things go. She had heart surgery as a child and faces her own mortality, with "no time" to hold onto anger.

So this time, the vote of seven for Kim and two for Sabrina, was probably fair. It definitely rewarded the right person. Only Kim played hard from day one but stayed likeable. Chelsea and Sabrina both admitted that they took a back seat in the game. Chelsea said she forced herself to keep an emotional distance from the others, which is probably why she got no votes. Sabrina may have been the most likeable of the three, but her admission that her strategy was a choice not to step up, in challenges or around camp, kept her from getting more than two votes.

The star of the reunion show, by the way, was Colton’s mother, who was embarrassed by his behavior. But she also said that he’s a better person in real life than he was on the show, and that she loved him. She indicated that not everyone in his life accepted him when he came out at a young age, and that might have made it harder for him to accept others at times. That doesn’t really explain (to me) why he lacks empathy. I’d think it would have the opposite effect.

In the end, for once the right person did win. Kim made all the right moves, even not bringing Christina to the final three. As she said, it wouldn’t have mattered, and she looks better for staying true to her friends and allies. She dominated the women’s tribe early in the game, and she dominated the whole game beginning with the merge. What a difference from last season, when the jury was so negative and refused to reward Coach, who outplayed them all. I have a lot more respect for this season’s players.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
10:33 pm
Not exactly undeceptive

With only six people left on Survivor: One World, it was time for the plots and subplots to come to light and get unraveled. Each of the remaining castaways had a plan to get someone else out, and it almost seemed that each of them had a different deal with the other five.

Kim is at the heart of the intrigue, and not just because (as Sabrina insisted) no one could resist her “angelic eyes.” Somehow she managed to convince everyone to vote out her best friend Chelsea. But later, after Chelsea showed her hand by inviting Kim on the Reward she won, Kim somehow made Tarzan the target. She exposed the deals Tarzan had with each of the other women, even though she herself wasn’t aware of them before she started talking.

Tarzan, meanwhile, had made it clear to Alicia and Christina that if Kim came back from reward and tried to deflect their votes away from Chelsea, she would be giving away her true agenda. The three of them were determined to stick together and vote out Chelsea or force a tie. Kim did return with a new plan, but instead of creating suspicion against her, she galvanized her own position. So maybe the magic is in her eyes after all. It has to be coming from somewhere.

After Alicia won immunity, she assumed that she had control of the vote. That’s never true, but she thought all she had to do was tell Christina and Tarzan to vote for Chelsea, and they would do it. Not only that, but Kim had privately decided that she would still vote out Chelsea if she couldn’t talk the others into getting rid of Tarzan. So either plan would have worked, depending on how Alicia decided to vote. Instead of taking control of the game, she let Kim stay in charge and save Chelsea.

Christina has never been an active player, but she has figured out who is allied with whom. That could have been a card that she used to get out a stronger player, but instead she played it backwards. Instead of using her insight to get closer to Chelsea and Kim, she repeated a private conversation she’d had with Chelsea to Kim, not understanding that Kim and Chelsea tell each other everything. (Well, almost everything.) So instead of getting Chelsea out, which would have been the right play, she strengthened Chelsea’s position in the core alliance. This isn’t unexpected, because Christina has been playing this way all season. Whatever she says or does is always the opposite of what she should say or do.

Sabrina was in a strong position. She wasn’t really a target, and everyone talks to her. She knew what Kim’s plan was, and she understood what would happen if it went wrong. She also seems to be the only one who realized that Tarzan has been playing the game hard all the way from day one.

On the other hand, Tarzan’s argument at Tribal Council was valid. He would have been the best one to take to the end, because he has helped the women take out the other men (and because he’s the one who least needs the money, despite what he says about needing new shocks for his car). He has played the villain and the fool. There was no reason to vote him out yet, but that’s what the women did, unanimously. And now they have only each other to worry about. That should make for fun times over the last three days.

Sunday, May 6th, 2012
11:16 pm
Paddle for your life

As is the case every season, the closer the teams get to the end of The Amazing Race, the more circumstances are designed to keep them within reach of each other. On tonight’s first leg, from India to Japan, the final four teams were all on the same flight to Hiroshima, but then Brendon and Rachel missed the bus (that would take them to the train that would take them to the ferry landing). They passed the other three at the train station, and all teams were together again – until, that is, Rachel and Dave missed the last ferry to Miyajima Island and had to wait overnight.

Fortunately for them, the next clue wasn’t available on the island until the next morning anyway, and all four teams were on their way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where they finally got a clue that would separate them. Their destination was a TV studio, and they took different modes of transportation and got there at different times and took different amounts of time to complete the Road Block, a Japanese game show called Bring That Chicken Home.

Due to the ankle that Vanessa turned on the last leg, she and Ralph fell behind at the game show and never really recovered. The other three teams made it through the Detour to the Pit Stop, and Vanessa and Ralph (known to Art and JJ as "Conan and Khardashian") were eliminated just short of the race to the finish line.

Rachel and Dave won that penultimate leg, their seventh win on the race, followed by Art and JJ and then Brendon and Rachel. All were on equal footing again, since they were on the same plane to Honolulu. After Art and JJ (or their taxi driver, anyway) drove all over Oahu looking for the twin towers (two tall buildings, not statues of a guy on a boogie board and a seal), Brendon and Rachel took over second place for most of the final leg.

They stayed in the same order through climbing the first of two final Road Blocks (this one involving shaving a block of ice). That’s when Art and JJ had their best chance to steal the race from the front runners, but not before Brendon and Rachel took themselves out of the running by misreading a clue.

They were to go on foot to the baseball field near the Road Block and take a helicopter to their next task. Brendon and Rachel not only didn’t go on foot, but they drove miles in the wrong direction before rereading the clue and doubling back. They were deep into third place now, but they completed the swimmer rescue and even took over second place briefly at the final Road Block. That’s because Rachel beat Art at sledding down the mountain. But Art beat Rachel at the other half of the task, rolling a rock into a goal. Art and JJ took second place here and that’s how they finished. Brendon and Rachel got what they deserved, third place.

To be honest, neither of the two teams who finished behind Rachel and Dave deserved to win the race. Both gave up, or checked out, at different times during the final leg. That’s not unusual for Big Brother Rachel, who quits on her partner whenever things get difficult, then blames him for making her do things she doesn’t want to do (like run, for example).

Art seemed to want to give up when he fell off that sled so many times, and he assumed that they were out of the running. But he kept at it until he completed the task, always a good idea since a team never knows what lies ahead until they see the whites of Phil’s eyes.

By the time Art and Big Brother Rachel had finished the last Road Block, Army Wife Rachel and Dave had already been to the Finish Line, only to be turned back by Phil because they had somehow missed the Road Block entirely. They lost their lead, but not their edge, and here’s where Rachel won the race for herself and Dave. She was the only person who rode the sled to the bottom of the hill without having to go up and down a dozen or more times. That’s what put them back in first place, and since they’d been to the Finish Line once already, they knew they didn’t even have to rush. Their win was convincing and well deserved.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
10:04 pm
Cool beans, touché, whatever

If you ever believed that someone on Survivor could forget they’re playing the game (and what’s at stake), you saw it played out tonight on One World. I’ve seen it season after season on Big Brother, but those people are stuck in a house together all summer. It only took Kat 31 days to get to the point where a couple of hours with friends (who aren’t really her friends) meant more than a million dollars. But then, she’s only 22. Did she mention that?

When Kat won the loved one Reward Challenge she didn’t give a second thought to Tarzan, whose love story with his wife is apparently one for the ages (and also “a quantum entanglement”), or Christina, whose father had a kidney transplant and has only a few years to live. She wanted to get drunk with Kim and Alicia because they would have fun together. Little did she know what that fun would cost her. She didn’t know because she didn’t think. At all. It was a knee-jerk decision when some strategic thought was called for.

And let’s face it. Even a 22-year-old with an immature brain has no excuse not to have a fully functioning heart.

Sabrina had been the consensus target since the previous Tribal Council. She’s perceived as strong and likeable and persuasive. Kat would probably not have been a threat in front of the jury, because she hasn’t played the game in a way that attracts votes. She’s been a lightweight coattail player, and even when she proclaims that she doesn’t want to be seen as weak, she makes weak moves, or no moves at all.

And this wasn’t the first time Kat has done well in an endurance challenge. She nearly won this one (and did win the Reward Challenge). She could have coasted through more challenges and taken the place of someone more deserving in the finale. It took some time for Kim and her minions to come to that conclusion, after Kim edged her out in the Immunity Challenge. But in the end all the votes were for Kat to go. About a minute after she had told Jeff that blindsides are fun, she was blindsided. She left in tears. No fun for Kat, but she’ll be the queen of Jury Island for a couple of days.

Getting rid of the threats in whatever order they can is the mission that Kim and company should be on, and Sabrina would be a good target. However, if they think Tarzan is no threat, they should take a look at the jury and see that there are already five men on it. That’s a majority, and none of them has anything against Tarzan. They all have the collective votes of the women to thank for their exits from the game.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012
10:00 pm
Nobody thinks

One player cut his thumb open on a packing box. Another turned her ankle and had to limp through the rest of the tasks. Mark was so close to heat stroke that he had to take intravenous fluids before he and Bopper could even start the leg, three hours behind everyone else. But at least Big Brother Rachel didn’t have to cut her hair. I wonder if she thought about the extensions she could buy with a million dollars.

This was a brutal leg of The Amazing Race, and not just because the only team anybody likes was eliminated. Bopper and Mark had only one chance, and that was the Fast Forward. While the other four teams were at the Road Block spinning coconut rope, JJ was beside himself that no one had taken the Fast Forward, leaving an opening for Team Kentucky to pass them all.

It should have happened that way, but the time disadvantage, together with the Speed Bump they incurred for finishing last on the previous leg, proved to be too much to overcome. It seems to me that if the Fast Forward is a task that allows a team to skip all other tasks, they should have been able to skip the Speed Bump, too. But it didn’t work out that way, and the heart went out of the race.

Now all that’s left is the bitter taste of the final four insulting each other. It would be okay if they were clever, but I’m sick of hearing Vanessa talk about Big Brother Rachel’s nose. And I’m even sicker of Rachel talking about Vanessa talking about Rachel’s nose.

Actually, the only reason Bopper and Mark had a chance was that Art and JJ had a series of misadventures, starting with not being able to flag down a rickshaw as they left the last Pit Stop. Later they were the only one to choose the side of the Detour that required sifting and delivering ginger, which took much longer than decorating an elephant and shoveling its manure. They finished fourth and will start last on the next leg.

Rachel and Dave fell behind Vanessa and Ralph on their way to the Road Block, but they passed them again at that task and held the lead through the Detour. They had a slim lead but extended it when they managed to get their ferry to the Pit Stop to depart before anyone else could board. It was hard work and good luck that got them their sixth win.

Despite going to the Fast Forward, balking at shaving their heads, and retracing their steps, Brendon and Rachel moved from an early fourth place to finish second, hitting the mat just ahead of Vanessa and Ralph (and what a treat it was to see those two teams sharing air space).

Even though Rachel and Dave bicker so often, I think it’s due more to the stress of the race than any serious weakness in their relationship. Vanessa and Ralph also argue, but she proved herself by getting up off her tweaked ankle and racing on. Art and JJ have some rough edges, but they’re likeable enough. I’d be okay with any of those three teams winning the race, as long as it’s not, you know, that other team.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
9:54 pm
Things change

The only way to outlast your opponents, when you’re outnumbered and the biggest target in the game, is to outwit and outplay them. Troyzan knew he was in that position on tonight’s Survivor: One World, and he scrambled madly to keep from getting enough votes to send him home. It was an amazing thing to watch, and by the end I was cheering for him to pull it off. For most of the season I’ve had no particular allegiance to any of the players, so why not hope to see an underdog come out on top?

And Troyzan had a lot of things go his way, even if he couldn’t win immunity this time. It was helpful that while the alpha women were away on a picnic, he could work over Kat and Christina and undermine the alliance. It was also helpful that he had fooled the women into suspecting he had found the hidden Immunity Idol. That forced them to consider splitting the vote. Then he had to know who the alternative target was among the women. He knew because Christina knew, and because Christina told him.

It was a serious strategic error for Sabrina to tell Christina that two votes were coming her way. Sadly, those who said Christina wouldn’t figure out that it meant she would go home if Troyzan played the hidden Idol were probably right. Even so, Sabrina should have given her any other name. There was no reason to give her something to think about, even if she chose not to think it through.

The even bigger mistake was Christina telling Troyzan that she herself would be getting votes. That was all he needed to know. He approached both Tarzan and Kat about getting together to make sure that Christina went home, and not him. He did everything he could. He even picked the right person from the women’s alliance, because Kat had felt slighted ever since Kim had picked Alicia and Chelsea to go on the reward picnic with her.

But Kat ended up voting with Kim, Alicia and Chelsea to make it four for Troyzan, and he was sent home (or to the jury, actually). At least Christina didn’t stick with the women, now that she has every reason to know she’s sixth out of six. She voted for Chelsea, as she had told Troyzan she would. She hoped he would go along with her to get Chelsea out, but he was smart enough to know none of the other women would vote for Chelsea.

Originally two women were going to vote for Christina, but fortunately for their alliance, only Sabrina (with Troyzan and Tarzan) voted for her. Three votes, looking for a fourth. That probably should have been Kat, because if Christina is number six Kat is likely number five. And judging by the Reward Challenge Sabrina is number four, at best. They chose her as the one who does the least around camp, and they left her behind when they went off on their picnic.

It might have been easier for Troyzan to save himself if Kim hadn’t won immunity. She is obviously the best target for anyone looking at the end game, because she’s strong (strong enough to win both challenges). She’s also well-liked. And she’s running the show. That means she’s playing the game harder than most, a good argument in her favor when facing the jury.

If anyone else had won immunity, Troyzan might have had better luck convincing people to vote Kim out. Then we could have seen how he would scramble between now and the next Tribal Council. But there will be plenty of drama, now that it’s down to six women and Tarzan.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
9:51 pm

As the remaining teams rested at the Pit Stop in India following tonight’s leg of The Amazing Race, I hope they got a little perspective. For the last few legs, they have been turning on each other and fighting among themselves. Art and JJ felt betrayed by Rachel and Dave because they didn’t U-Turn Brendon and Rachel, who in turn have a rivalry with Vanessa and Ralph that has evolved into some very nasty name-calling. (“Duck-billed platypus”? Really?)

Meanwhile, Army Wife Rachel repeatedly gets upset with Major Dave because of his impatience with her. Vanessa and Big Brother Rachel both think their partners are criticizing them, even when they are trying to encourage them. Even Art and JJ have been at each other’s throats more and more as the race goes on.

The only team that has been fully supportive of each other and free of animosity with the other teams has been Bopper and Mark. They have been a strong team at times, even winning the previous leg, but they’ve also been at the brink of elimination more than once. Tonight they started with a medic seeing to Bopper’s injured knee. Then Mark got sick on a bus in India, on the way to the Road Block.

That Road Block, which required one member of each team to learn a Bollywood dance, took a toll on all of them, with one exception. Army Wife Rachel has enough of a dance background that she was the only one able to perform the routine correctly on the first try, and she and Dave used the advantage that gave them to win their fifth leg (out of nine). Along the way, even while learning to drive a rickshaw, they appeared to be having fun and making each other laugh for a change. That was refreshing to see.

The other teams took several tries to get the dance right. Bopper and Mark were the last ones to arrive at the Road Block, and Bopper’s injury made it necessary for Mark to learn the routine. He was already sick from the bus ride, and having to perform the intricate steps over and over again in hundred-degree heat made him sicker. He didn’t want to quit, but by the time had done it six or seven times Bopper was ready to let him off the hook and take the penalty that goes with not completing a task. They were hopelessly last at that point, and they knew it.

Seriously, though, that’s not how Mark operates. He wouldn’t quit until after his eleventh attempt, when the heat and the thought that his kids might have to grow up without having him around finally convinced him to give up and go home. It was sad to watch, but it lasted only a short while. After catching his breath, he tried it one more time and finally won the choreographer’s approval. That was the most emotional scene we’ve had this season. The other dancers rallied around for a group hug that might have been one of the most genuine moments ever on reality television. If you can’t learn something from Mark’s ordeal and ultimate triumph, you might be hopeless.

Unfortunately, Bopper and Mark weren’t allowed to retire from the race with the dignity of having completed this difficult leg. It turned out to be a non-elimination leg, so in addition to the time lag they will incur from having finished so far behind the other teams, plus their injuries and exhaustion, they will also have to complete a Speed Bump on the next leg. But they will face it with heart and dignity. We’ve already learned that much about them.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
11:31 pm
Next in line

When someone feels everyone else is against him, his options are limited, but they’re also clear. After last week’s Tribal Council, the battle lines on Survivor: One World became obvious to everyone (except maybe Tarzan, who has a different way of seeing the world). It might not have been the politic thing to do, but Troyzan took out his frustrations on the six remaining women. He had seen his closest ally Jay get blindsided, and he knew he was next in line.

And he wasn’t receptive to hearing anything like “It’s just a game,” as Chelsea told him. He brushed aside Tarzan’s advice to “be noble” and dial back the animosity. And he definitely didn’t want to hear Sabrina tell him that to win the game, he had to be “somewhat likable.” He didn’t care about being likable, and beyond that he didn’t want Sabrina to tell him what to do. “You’re not my mother!” he told her.

The entire exchange between Sabrina and Troyzan at Tribal Council amused the three jury members no end. All Jeff did was sit back and watch. There was no name calling, but it did sound like a junior high playground argument. She said she was just speaking the truth, and he couldn’t handle the truth. He asked her what made her Mrs. Truth all of a sudden. “I’m not raising my voice. This is my tone of voice,” she said.

“This is my tone of voice as well,” he replied calmly. I thought he was running out of steam at this point, but he was just getting started.

Troyzan had won immunity, so he was going nowhere. But he was looking ahead, and he made a compelling point that the women’s alliance had a pecking order, and those at the bottom of the list should join him and the other two men to outnumber the women who were running the game. His logic was better than Chelsea’s, and his voice was louder, but Kim stepped in and denied his basic premise, that there was a pecking order. Obviously there was one, but her goal at this point was to convince the ones at the bottom that there wasn’t one.

In the end, no one was convinced by Troyzan’s proposal. The women split their votes, in case another hidden Idol came to light, and Leif was gone, with four votes (including that of Tarzan, who still apparently believes he has options). Three votes went to Tarzan, while Troyzan and Leif voted for Kim. That leaves eight people in the game, six women and two men. Troyzan insists he will keep winning immunity, but let’s face it. He’s good, but he’s not Ozzy.

One last thing. The others were quite properly irritated with Christina when she refused to outbid Troyzan at the Survivor Auction for an advantage in the Immunity Challenge. She was the only one with enough money left, and it would have been to everyone’s advantage to keep immunity away from him. He bought the advantage and it helped propel him to a win in the challenge. Christina ended up not spending any of her $500 at the auction.

Okay, one more last thing. It was so Tarzan of Tarzan to try to keep the $500 in auction money to take home and get new shocks for his Jeep. I believe he would have done it, too, if he hadn’t had a chance to spend it on a letter from home. I was just surprised that the others who could have afforded it (Troyzan and Christina) didn’t buy the letters. I don’t think I could have resisted, after 26 days in that dysfunctional group.

One very last thing: Kat was shocked and amazed at what she found on the BLT she bought for $180. “Y’all, there’s bacon on this!” Gotta love Kat.

Sunday, April 15th, 2012
9:51 pm
Underdogs no more

Several teams on tonight’s leg of The Amazing Race did the right things for the wrong reasons. Most notably, Brendon and Rachel U-turned Vanessa and Ralph. At that point, Brendon and Rachel were in fourth place, fighting for position near the back of the pack. They had been U-turned themselves, and only two teams were behind them. But Nary and Jamie were so far behind that they were irrelevant.

It was good strategy for Brendon and Rachel to U-turn Vanessa and Ralph, but they didn’t do it for strategic reasons. They did it out of spite, because Rachel thinks of Vanessa as a mean girl who says mean things to her in a mean way. Rachel takes no responsibility for her part in these exchanges, even though she started the rivalry and has been the instigator in every incident.

Bopper and Mark were first to the Double U-Turn but chose not to use it, because that’s the kind of guys they are. Rachel and Dave were next, and they had an agreement with Art and JJ: whichever team got to the U-Turn first would use it on Brendon and Rachel. At that point they had no reason to U-turn Brendon and Rachel besides their agreement with Art and JJ, so they chose not to do it. That choice kept them from being a target of Brendon and Rachel’s wrath, but the unexpected side effect came from their allies.

When Art and JJ got to the U-Turn and saw that it hadn’t been used yet, they hoped it was because they were the first ones there. Later, when they learned that Dave and Rachel had bypassed an opportunity to hand their rivals an extra task, they were so livid that they declared an end to the alliance. They insisted they didn’t even want to speak to Dave (whom they blamed for the betrayal) again.

It was a bit of an overreaction, in the great scheme of things. On the other hand, by this point in the race everyone is playing on the raw edge of emotion. At least JJ didn’t burst into tears (as Big Brother Rachel does on every leg), or start calling his partner nasty names, as the Other Rachel does repeatedly.

The tasks on this leg through Africa took second place to the scenery and wildlife as the teams traveled through the Ngorongoro Crater, and the help some of them got from the friendly local people. Naturally, while Art and JJ embraced the enthusiasm of the children who ran alongside their cart full of water containers, Big Brother Rachel shooed them away like so many tsetse flies.

The safari nature of this leg was the one saving grace for Nary and Jamie, who started more than two hours behind the team in front of them, then had to endure a Speed Bump. They were hopelessly behind most of the time, except when they briefly caught up with Vanessa and Ralph at the Road Block. But they couldn’t overcome all the obstacles and finished last for the second straight leg. This time they were eliminated.

Bopper and Mark passed Rachel and Dave on the way to the Road Block and stayed ahead of them just long enough to win their first leg (and a Hawaiian vacation for two). They managed this despite the fact that Bopper had reinjured his knee on the previous leg and could hardly run to the Pit Stop. They are front runners for the moment, but Rachel and Dave and Art and JJ are stronger, and I’d be shocked if one of these two teams didn’t win the race.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
10:11 pm
The full-on switcheroo

The key moment in tonight’s episode of Survivor: One World wasn’t when Jay told Kim that Troyzan was planning on playing his hidden Idol at Tribal Council. That scared Kim, because it meant Troyzan was no longer confident in their alliance. She would have liked to talk her other allies and change a few votes, but in the end, the decision to split the votes meant that they had that possibility covered anyway.

The key moment wasn’t when Chelsea talked Leif into giving up immunity at the challenge, although that was kind of a hoot. She told him he would be seen as less threatening if he didn’t win immunity. He asked if she meant it, and she told him to look in her eyes. Then he stepped down and she won an immunity challenge that she didn’t need for herself, but at least she kept it away from the men.

And by the way, Leif. Nobody considers you a threat (although I doubt anyone wants to see you face the jury).

The key moment wasn’t when Chelsea finally realized, after the Immunity Challenge, that it would be “an idiot move” for her to stick to her alliance with Jay and Troyzan, when the numbers were telling her that her best chance was with the women. She felt bad about lying to her friends. Alicia told her to vote with her brain, not her heart. (Or, as Sabrina put it, “Put on your big girl panties and make a big girl decision.”)

No, the key moment tonight was when Jay decided he needed chicken wings and beer more than he needed Immunity. He was two people away from winning the challenge when he voluntarily stepped down off the ledge and gave up his chance to be safe from the vote. He had been suspicious of the women, but he couldn’t bring himself to believe the obvious, that they were working together. He even tried to convince Troyzan not to play his hidden Idol, because he felt they were both safe.

Wrong! Troyzan played the Idol, the women split the vote, and Jay was sent packing. He got five votes, including Tarzan’s, while Jay and Leif stuck to the original plan to vote out Alicia. Troyzan was the one who bolted from that plan and cast his vote against Kim. The weird part is that if the men had stuck together and voted for Alicia as agreed, she would have had four votes, to four for Jay. (Jay would still probably have been voted out, though.) And now it’s six women against three men. I don’t like the odds for Troyzan, Tarzan and Leif to last much longer.

Sunday, April 8th, 2012
11:40 pm
“Don’t misconstrue my support”

Although it seemed that all of the remaining six teams on The Amazing Race were at each other’s throats, the real source of tension on tonight’s leg was the obnoxious behavior of Brendon and Rachel. Rachel complains repeatedly about the other teams. She doesn’t like Art and JJ, yet she’s willing to ride their coattails. She thinks Vanessa is always picking on her, but it’s usually Rachel who throws out the first insult. Brendon shoves JJ then flips off Ralph in the airport. And this is happening in the heart of Africa, amidst some of the most beautiful sites on the planet.

As for the competition, most of the tasks in this leg served mainly to bring the teams closer to each other in their racing positions. Bike riding was a major means of transportation during their journey through Tanzania, and Vanessa couldn’t keep from falling off. She and Ralph fell way behind because she had to walk her bike, and they mentally cashed out of the race. They knew they were too far behind to catch up, until they did.

The last task was building a camp site, including a safari tent with a working shower. Rachel and Dave got to the camp first, then started bickering and fell way behind, allowing the other teams to draw even with them. Somehow they survived to win their fourth leg. Art and JJ ran into their first serious setback when they drove too far in the wrong direction looking for the camp. They fell behind Bopper and Mark, but the two teams came in second and third. Brendon and Rachel took fourth.

The federal agents pretending to be teachers, Nary and Jamie (and why do they stick to that story when nobody believes it?) were game for the effort but lacked the height and strength to construct the tent. That allowed the stragglers, Vanessa and Ralph, to pass them for fifth place. Nary and Jamie didn’t quit, and they were rewarded for finishing with the revelation that this was a non-elimination leg. (Thank goodness. Otherwise the last women left would have been Vanessa and the two Rachels.)
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
9:57 pm
“You got Tarzanned”

Tonight’s episode of Survivor: One World began with (at least) three soft alliances: the remnants of the reconstituted Salani and Manono tribes, and the women, who outnumbered the men six to five. The only reason there wasn’t a men’s alliance was that they were in the minority and pretty fragmented anyway. The five men were easily manipulated by the women into thinking they were part of alliances that no longer had any real cohesive power.

Somehow Troyzan never questioned the seed planted by Kim that Mike was working against him. He was solid from that point on with whatever voting bloc would take Mike out of the game. He believed he was voting with Salani, when in fact he was voting with the women. After Jay won immunity, he was scandalized when Chelsea asked him (in front of Manono members Christina and Alicia) about voting Mike out. He resisted, but only as long as it took him to fear for his own life in future votes.

As for Mike himself, Kim was clever enough to see that Jay was about to tell him about the plan to vote him out, so she followed the two of them into the woods and led Mike to believe that Christina was the real target. That’s how Tarzan and Mike ended up voting for Christina, while Alicia and Christina, left out of the mix for now, voted for Tarzan. The other seven voted for Mike, and he was the latest blindside victim sent to join Jonas on the jury.

It would have been easy to get people to vote out Christina, because everyone sees her as an easy vote. It would have been just as easy to get them to vote out Tarzan, who irritates all of them to some degree. He has repeatedly come close to talking himself out of the game, only to have the rule of numbers pull him back in. He’s out of the loop, though, and once the women realize they don’t need his vote, he should be gone. (Or they might keep him around to beat up on in the end game.)

For me, I’d like Tarzan to stay for the entertainment value. During a storm he was removing bamboo from the back of the shelter and cutting it up for firewood. Chelsea asked him about it, and he accused her of “subliminally harassing” him. He pulled her aside and asked her if she didn’t like him because he was a plastic surgeon and she had something against the doctor who did her boob job. If we didn’t know how socially awkward Tarzan is, we might take this more seriously. The fact is, he just can’t help himself.

It’s all fun and games, of course, until someone gets voted off the island. At tonight’s Tribal Council, Jeff managed to get everyone to say how confident they were of their own safety. One by one they offered how shocked they would be if they were to be sent home. As long as they feel that way, the behind the scenes manipulation by the stronger players is easy. I don’t think tonight’s vote gives enough away to worry the people who are likely to be targeted. One more Tribal Council might be all it takes, though.

It’s pretty obvious that the power vacuum created by the loss of Colton has been filled by Kim. How long it will be before she overplays her hand will determine how much staying power she has in the game. With the alliances as malleable as they’ve been to this point, getting rid of all the men might not be her best play. Sometimes it’s good to keep a couple of easy targets around for later.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
10:27 pm
Loose cannon

Numbers. That’s what rules in Survivor: One World. Sometimes you will vote out someone whose only threat to you is that he might vote a different way. And sometimes you’ll stick with someone you can’t stand, because he will vote like you. So often emotion plays too big a role in these decisions. That’s why it was refreshing to see what happened tonight, even though I’m not sure I agree with it.

Here’s the deal. Tarzan is a disruptive influence, mostly because he doesn’t know how not to say whatever is on his mind. And his mind is constantly working things over, to the extent that he often doesn’t know what he himself thinks. He tells us that his word is good, but that only applies until someone irritates him. He is, by the way, quite easily irritated. He doesn’t much like people, and he has no clue how to interact with them.

Before the Immunity Challenge, alliances in the newly merged tribe were still fluid. No one knew for sure whether it was men versus women again, or if the Salani alliance would hold together to pick off Manono. Half of them had ties to more than one alliance, and several of them thought they were the decision makers for one group or another.

Tarzan apparently thought he had an understanding with Jonas which made it unnecessary to confer with him before spilling the plan to Michael. When Jonas asked Tarzan why he would give inside information to someone outside the core alliance, Tarzan bristled. He quit the tribe. He suddenly decided he hated Jonas and wanted him out.

After the challenge, Chelsea and Jay decided that Jonas would be the best choice to go. He wasn’t part of the Salani 7, and he was somehow perceived to be the greatest physical threat from the old Manono 5 (which included Tarzan, Leif, Christina and Alicia, so maybe they were right). Troyzan, currently in possession of both the Immunity Necklace and the hidden Idol, didn’t want to vote out the chef who could make coconuts take like potato chips. He didn’t propose an alternative to voting out Jonas, however. Instead he went to Jonas and told him he was being targeted.

Naturally, Jonas disagreed that he was much of a threat, especially with Michael and Jay still around. He knew, though, that he couldn’t muster the votes against any of the big boys, so he took steps to throw the spotlight on Kat, widely seen as annoying and useless around camp. Jonas apologized to Tarzan, and the two of them, along with Leif and Troyzan, decided to vote out Kat.

Then Tarzan threw his dirty shorts in Chelsea’s boiling laundry pot, and it was on again. Chelsea was suddenly desperate to rid the tribe of the scourge of Tarzan. Her best bud Jay was fine with getting rid of any of the “dead weight,” of which he considered Tarzan a prime example. Jay had earlier refused to share coffee with Tarzan, because Tarzan hadn’t been on the tribe when they had won it as a reward. But then, Jay is just a generally nasty person and the one I would least like to see win the game. (I could be wrong, though. Nobody inside the game seems to have negative feelings about Jay.)

And then came Tribal Council, where chaos ruled the night. Jonas said he was going to vote out Michael as the biggest current threat in challenges. Tarzan attacked Jonas, saying he didn’t respect him for throwing Michael under the bus when he, Jonas, was in no danger. Jonas knew he actually was in danger, and so did Tarzan, so there goes the theory that Tarzan never lies. Jonas mentioned that Kat had been named as a target by Tarzan. That was true, but Tarzan called Jonas a liar for saying it. He said he would now vote Jonas out and encouraged everyone else to do the same.

In the end, despite Chelsea’s calling Tarzan “dead weight” (that old chestnut) and saying no one has problems with Jonas, everyone except Jonas and Leif voted out Jonas. Everyone ended up going along with the numbers, which is the right way to play the game, even if it’s not the right way to live. A million dollars at stake makes you vote out the one person who is known as a provider, whom no one had a problem with. There have been times when someone could talk himself out of the game at Tribal Council. If anyone could do it this season, it would have been Tarzan, but if he couldn’t do it tonight, he’s likely in for the long haul.

Sunday, March 25th, 2012
9:40 pm
Land of Fire

Some of the teams on tonight’s leg of The Amazing Race were curiously excited about heading to Azerbaijan. One racer, pilot Dave, even knew exactly where it was. A few didn’t know how to pronounce it, and of course Bopper and Mark were sure they were going to Africa. It’s a good thing all seven remaining teams got on the same flight, or we would have had a whole different show.

Once they got there, they immersed themselves in the culture. Sort of. They unloaded and stacked hay, and escaped from an upside-down helicopter simulation, and sorted through a carload of apples looking for a clue. You know, just like the native Azerbaijanis probably do every day. One side of the Detour involved scraping oil off a man who had bathed in it. Now that seems like something pretty specific to the culture.

However, as usual, it wasn’t the tasks themselves, but the choices they made and the attention to detail, that separated the top from the bottom. And both the team that finished first and the one that came in last chose to attempt the Fast Forward, which involved unloading 150 bales of hay from a truck and stacking them in a specific configuration.

One of these two teams, Joey “Fitness” and Danny, had earlier proclaimed themselves the physically strongest team in the race. The other team, Major Dave and Army Wife Rachel, had won the first two legs of the race. If you guessed they were the ones that beat the New York boys and won for the third time, you would be right. Joey “Fitness” and Danny wasted time they could never recover, and although they completed every task on the rest of the leg with ease, they were too far behind and were eliminated.

The last three legs had been won by Art and JJ, but they had already used a Fast Forward, so they were ineligible. They could only come in second, which they did. No new Tauruses were awarded for second place, though.

The last three spots tonight were taken by the three teams who chose the apple sorting side of the Detour. The three oil scrapers (along with Rachel and Dave, who were allowed to bypass the Detour) finished at the top. It seemed obvious that looking for one specific apple in a car stuffed with apples would be harder than cleaning oil off someone’s body, but I can understand why the cleaner task would be more attractive.

The only chance Joey “Fitness” and Danny had was handed to them by the sad, sad performance of Vanessa and Ralph at the carpet shop. With three clues sticking up in plain sight in the background, they combed through all the carpets on the floor and all the other items in the shop looking for them. When Vanessa finally noticed the clues, she could only laugh at herself. It wasn’t funny when their taxi driver wandered off trying to find directions to the Pit Stop. If they were going to be passed by the New Yorkers, that’s when it would have happened. Instead, they will start the next leg in last place out of six.

So after six legs, only two teams have wins under their belt, three by Art and JJ and three by Rachel and Dave. Bopper and Mark were surprisingly strong tonight, coming in third, followed by Brendon and Rachel in fourth, and Nary and Jamie in fifth. They will all have to step it up even more to beat the two top teams, though.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
7:57 pm
Judgment day

Based on the criteria you were using, any of the three finalists could have won Project Runway All Stars. Each of them produced a runway-worthy collection, and each brought his own vision to it. There were so many outstanding looks that it was fun to watch, but not so much fun to write about.

If you wanted the most commercial collection, you might have picked Michael as the winner. As always, his garments were simply feminine, but in the finale he stepped it up a bit. For most challenges, the looks Michael created were made strictly for models and didn’t seem easy (or sometimes even possible) to translate to real women. The pants, tops and dresses inspired by the Serengeti that he showed on the finale went beyond his previous limitations. It’s good he threw in a typical Michael drapey, flowy gown to remind us who he really is.

Austin’s finale collection was by far the most striking and colorful. If pushing the limit was the criterion, Austin would have to be the winner. And it’s nothing he hasn’t shown himself capable of doing all season, so you can be sure that you’re always going to get something interesting from him, no matter what the assignment. One or two of his looks tonight were the best ones we saw from anyone. And his explanation of his vision, the eighteenth-century vampire who now lives in Williamsburg and borrows clothes from her Hasidic dandy friend? Genius.

The winner, as we knew it would be, was Mondo. This all-star season was designed to give redemption to Mondo, and consolation to the fans who saw how badly he was robbed in his own season. What’s amazing is that he’s progressed so much since then that even a collection like tonight’s, which was a little muted compared to what he’s capable of, stands out. His mixing of different patterns and fabrics sets him apart, and his creativity makes you always want to see what’s coming next. His process might be tortured, but the product is exquisite.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
10:22 pm
Does it hurt when I do this?

It’s kind of a wake-up call when suddenly and without warning everyone on Survivor: One World has to cope with a new reality. The tentacles of the old reality are so far-reaching that it’s a bit of a butterfly effect. (Butterflies do have tentacles, right?) The instant analysis of what the new reality might mean gradually gives way to the unknowable repercussions. Sometimes the show is more like real life than it even pretends to be.

Nothing else that happened tonight ended up being of any significance, other than the fact that Colton suddenly found himself doubled up on the ground in pain, and moments later being evacuated for an appendectomy. He was, as he never failed to remind us, running the show. The power vacuum left by his leaving creates more uncertainty than just about anything else I can think of that might have happened. It definitely matters more than it would have if this had happened to anyone else. (There, Colton. There’s your legacy. Wallow in it.)

If Colton had stayed and Manono had lost immunity again (as they surely would have), Christina would have been voted off, simply because that’s what Colton wanted. He and Alicia spent most of the previous day bullying Christina and telling her how worthless and horrible she was. That night Alicia wouldn’t even move an inch so that Christina could sleep under the tarp with the rest of the tribe. Christina tried to explain that Alicia was tied to the women on Salani and was therefore a bigger threat, but it was a half-hearted attempt to save herself, at best.

As soon as Colton left, Alicia thought she was a goner, and Jonas thought he was in control of the tribe. Tarzan became the bully, trying to get Leif to leave the other guys and vote out Christina, but Leif wouldn’t commit to that strategy. If there had been a vote at that night’s all-survivor Tribal, I’m pretty sure Alicia would have been gone, complaining bitterly (as she did all day) that Colton had kept his Idol as a souvenir rather than giving it to her. (And why in the world would he allow someone else to have power they didn’t earn? Does that sound like Colton to anyone?)

When Salani got the news that both tribes were going to Tribal Council, they immediately starting parannoying. They made up every possible terrible scenario, where everyone voted everyone else out. The creativity must have astounded even the show’s producers, who are pretty good at coming up with their own twists, thank you very much.

Two things did happen at the non-voting Tribal. First, Alicia revealed that Colton had left with the Idol. The reaction within Salani was mixed. Some believed her, and some didn’t, and the other Manono members did their best to make sure they stayed confused. By the end, I think most of them thought the Idol was still in play, and they probably believed Alicia had it.

And the other thing. The sudden merge. The six men and six women who remain are now one tribe, playing an individual game. This gives a whole new life to a game that had settled for being the Colton Show for the first half of the season. Now I’m ready to see what happens next. What I predict is, none of these people has a clue how to play the game to his or her own advantage, and they will all scamper around like headless chickens for the next few weeks.

Sunday, March 18th, 2012
9:36 pm
Curling beards and curling gnomes

You never know what real life skills are going to come in handy on The Amazing Race. There are some things you can prepare for (like knowing how to drive a stick shift), but a lot of the time it’s the luck of the draw. One side of tonight’s Detour was styling a Bavarian man’s beard for competition. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) Rachel and Dave finished second there because of Rachel’s familiarity with mousse. Joey “Fitness” and Danny claimed to be the only racers who use gel and finished third.

First at the Detour and every other stop on this leg were Art and JJ. They didn’t need JJ’s expertise in hair care products to stay ahead of the pack, but it did make the task easier. This was their third straight time to hit the mat in first place. The big lead they had from the previous leg helped them stay well ahead of the other teams, but their willingness to tackle any task with confidence is their biggest asset.

Bopper and Mark surged good-humoredly from last place, where they started nine hours after the first place team, and through the Speed Bump, where they were the only team required to learn to yodel (although the judge seemed to be grading on effort rather than results). They made up some ground at the gingerbread house side of the Detour but had their greatest success at the gnome curling, where they passed both Kerri and Stacy and Nary and Jamie to come in sixth.

Both Kerri and Nary were stuck at the ice rink for the longest time, but Kerri finished enough ahead of Nary that she and Stacy should have finished seventh. Instead they got confused by directions to the Pit Stop and came in last, the latest team to be eliminated. They’ve been middle-of-the-pack racers all season, so their one failure came at the worst possible time. If only they’d known ahead of time, they could have practiced sliding gnomes across the ice.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
9:54 pm
Pinky promise

The problem with learning you can’t trust Colton, the evil prince of Survivor: One World, is that you don’t realize until he has manipulated you out of the game. It happened to Bill last time, and it happened again tonight, even after the shuffling of the tribes left Colton on the new Manono with three other men and three women.

He portrayed himself as the swing vote for each group, and then he convinced Alicia to vote with the men against Monica, the strongest member of the tribe. Evil, maybe. Brilliant, definitely, at least in the short term. And let’s face it. In this game, the short term is all that counts until you’re down to the last handful of players.

The reason the new Manono was at Tribal Council is that the new Salani has all the other strong players. It has physical strength in Jay, Michael and Troyzan, and the solid existing alliance of Kat, Chelsea, Kim and Sabrina. Both sides knew as soon as the switch was made that Salani was in trouble, and they managed to lose two challenges (and a chicken) in the course of one episode.

Colton got lucky in one sense. Although he’s stuck on a weak tribe with his former tribe mates Tarzan, Leif and Jonas, who are bigger threats to themselves than to anyone else, he got three women who don’t much like each other. Alicia already had problems with Christina on the old Salani, and everyone fears Monica. If they can’t win challenges anyway, Colton might as well get rid of future threats and solidify the appearance that he’s sticking with the men. That might save him, at least for a while, when the merge does come.

He obviously underestimates my favorite castaway, Tarzan, who will not reveal much about himself because “the game is afoot”. But he can analyze the game and articulate a vision. That his articulation of his vision goes over the heads of everyone else isn’t his problem at this point. I had to laugh at Colton’s panic that Tarzan wouldn’t remember the name he was supposed to write down at tonight’s Tribal, even before he knew Tarzan had nominal aphasia.

However, now that we know a little more about how Tarzan’s mind works, I wouldn’t be shocked if he were pretending to forget people’s names, just to mess with them. Anything that messes with Colton is all right with me.

Sunday, March 11th, 2012
10:27 pm
Run hard and think deeply

The extra hour and a half that Bopper and Mark spent in the airport in Paraguay on tonight’s leg of The Amazing Race felt like an eternity to me, although they seemed to take it in stride. They were well behind all the other teams when they got to Turin and weren’t seen much on this episode, until the very end. They decided to make the most of their experience and enjoy cleaning a vintage statue (which they said was the most fun they’d had yet).

Not reading the clue that told them to get their airline tickets at the travel agency should have cost Bopper and Mark their spot in the race, but fortunately this was a non-elimination leg. It’s fortunate, that is, for viewers like me who enjoy their positive attitude, which is sorely missing from at least half the other teams. I wouldn’t be as happy if Brendon and Rachel had been kept in the race after finishing last.

As it was, Team Big Brother slipped from second to sixth because they couldn’t figure out the meaning of the two-euro coin they found in the Tin Lizzie inside the automobile museum. Every other team quickly concluded that they were to go to the building shown  on the coin, while Brendon and Rachel were wasting time looking for a slot to put it in.

Then they picked the more difficult side of the Detour, tasting and identifying 14 kinds of salami. That brought on several new meltdowns from Rachel, who reacts to every setback, no matter how minor, as if Brendon had pushed her off the side of the building. Which is what I feel like doing every time she bawls her eyes out and pouts and wants to quit. There are enough tall buildings in Turin that it could probably be passed off as an accident. No Italian jury would convict him.

The other Rachel (sorry, but to me she’s the other Rachel) was having coping problems of her own, mostly because her Army major husband doesn’t have the patience to deal with her when she barks criticism at him. He’s not without fault, either. He really wanted to take the Fast Forward, which was about landing a helicopter. She realized that Art and JJ, leading the race, had already taken the Fast Forward, and she wanted to do the Road Block and rappel down the inside of the building. Somehow they got through all their squabbles and finished second.

Thank goodness for Art and JJ, who combine for about half of the total combined IQ score of the eight remaining teams. The five-hour lead they started this leg with was eradicated at the airport, but by doing the Fast Forward they’re still well ahead of the rest. It shouldn’t take much effort for them to stay there. They’re the least likely to make stupid mistakes, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Hopefully.

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
8:07 pm
Fabric eater

By a show of hands, who thought the final four challenge on Project Runway All Stars was an easy ticket to the finals for Kenley? Seriously, a ready-to-wear look on a budget is pretty much what she does every week, except for last week when she wove fairy lights into a grid jacket and made a plaid skirt out of strips of neon. You probably couldn’t sell that look in your boutique, but every other garment she’s made all season might have won tonight’s challenge. This was her free ticket not only to the finals, but to a win.

And yet, not so much. She made a different dress than the one she showed her client, Nanette Lepore, and she refused to listen to the suggestions her client made. Plus, the seams were so badly cut that it was a waste of the beautiful peacock print she was so in love with. Even though Michael made a totally inappropriate piece of loungewear and called it a caftan-slash-something, Kenley is the one going home one week short of the finale.

Michael thinks his look should have won this challenge. I thought he was the one who should have been eliminated, for showing something that would make a hooker blush, and leaving the length so extreme that it was dragging awkwardly along behind the model. It was well made, though, and that might be what got him through.

Austin made a striking rustic red raincoat that was the most eye-catching piece on the runway, and he might have won if he’d used a more appropriate fabric. Rumpled taffeta did him in this week. But Mondo also did a number on him, while doing a number on himself.

Mondo’s tortured design process nearly had him clearing out his space. He had picked a variety of colors and prints that he couldn’t seem to mold into the dress he had in mind. (Perhaps if he knew how to sketch…) Until he did. As usual. His winning design turned out to be as Mondo as anything he’s made all season, and yet inexpensive (in the sense that a $300 dress is considered inexpensive; these people live in a different world than I do). With all the challenges he’s won, he should be the favorite, but you never know if he’s going to make it through a challenge. How he’s made it through this season is kind of miraculous.

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