Normally, a new season of Survivor wouldn't merit any attention at all. But this season is different. This season, former Portland Trail Blazer Cliff Robinson is on the island. We've tapped Joe Swide, of the Portland Roundball Society—a blog known for recapping Trail Blazers games with lots of references to dragons, which of course makes it one of our 26 reasons to love Portland—to cover Uncle Cliffy's exploits.
It's 8 pm/7 pm Central on Wednesday night and my life has become nothing but a suffocating vacuum of fear. Our hero, Clifford Robinson, is in grave peril—beyond the usual peril of nationally televised survival on a remote island in the Philippines with a group of strangers and Jeff Probst. Dark forces are conspiring.
In the past week, I've drawn a crude web of the potential conspiracy in crayon on my wall—you guys are welcome to come over and check it out—and in the center is Tony, the psychotic cop from Jersey City. Underneath Tony are his recruits, fellow cop Sarah and roughneck Pilates instructor Trish. But I just can't believe that Tony, with his George Costanza-on-steroids physique and neurosis, is the beginning and end of this scheme against Uncle Cliffy. Tony seems less like a mastermind and more like a henchman, just as the generic tattoo of giant thorns/barbed wire awkwardly plastered across his shoulder seems less like a brand of badass-ness and more like a "Honda Racing" sticker plastered across the windshield of a beat-up '89 Honda Civic when everyone knows there's no racing league for beat-up '89 Honda Civics.
So how high can this conspiracy go? With all the "Blue Bloods" talk between Sarah and Tony, could the CBS executives be at the top of this chain of evil? Maybe even Tom Selleck himself?
Please, whatever happens, I only pray that Tom Selleck is not involved.
Jeff Probst, THE INCORRUPTIBLE GOD PRESENTED TO US TO APPEASE OUR SENSE OF CURIOUSITY SO WE BELIEVE THAT THIS WORLD IS GOVERNED BY A FAIR SYSTEM OF ETHICS AND LOOK NO FURTHER INTO THE GREATER FORCES AT WORK, explains the rules to the reward challenge. Everyone except one "caller" on each tribe will be blindfolded—AS IF THEY HAVEN'T BEEN ALL ALONG—and they will have to go collect stuff using the directions shouted by the "caller" and whoever gets the stuff in the least amount of time will be the winner and then the challenge starts and they walk into obstacles because they're blindfolded (LOL CBS you crazy) and the Beauty tribe wins and Cliff's Brawn tribe gets second after a comeback victory over the incompetent Brains tribe and Jeff Probst proudly/excitedly declares, "You never give up in this game." The Brawn team wins a dozen eggs.
Back at Brawn camp, Cliff and Lindsey the dreadlocked hairstylist are seen playfully joking about the differing emotional nature of men and women. Elsewhere, Sarah approaches Woo about joining the alliance against Cliff and Lindsey. Oh good try Sarah, did you not hear that Woo is the Robin to Cliff's Batman and the Pippen to Cliff's Jordan and—wait, Woo, why are you nodding? Sarah tells Woo that Cliff already has plenty of money—you know, that NBA money—and Woo agrees, saying, "It's our time to shine." I hope degrading the notion of friendship because you think the possibility of living in squalor on an island for 39 days with the unlikely reward of $1,000,000 is worth the same amount of "shine" to you as an 18-year NBA career, Woo. I'm upset.
Woo defends his treachery by talking about how he looks up to Cliff and idolized him but that Woo needs that money and I DON'T WANNA HEAR IT, WOO. YOU'RE DEAD TO ME.
Evil Tony hears the telltale whispers of alliances being formed against Cliff and approaches. He's wielding a machete in one hand and a giant saw in the other hand, because why not? He talks to Sarah about Woo joining their insurrection and Sarah gets Tony to swear on his badge that he won't turn his back on her. Tony swears on his badge, but then tells America, "That doesn't mean anything to me, swearing on my badge. I'm here to lie, cheat and steal. I'm here to drag people's dreams through the mud to fulfill mine." PEOPLE OF JERSEY CITY, THIS MAN WALKS YOUR STREETS WITH A GUN AND THE POWER OF THE LAW AT HIS DISPOSAL.
The clue poem for the elimination challenge has a line about "sinking shots," so naturally, Cliff brings up his NBA career to the camera. Curiously, Tony and his minions decide that this is the challenge—the one potentially featuring BASKETBALL—in which they will try to lose on purpose and eliminate Cliff. It's unclear if Tony has yet been told that Cliff played professional basketball for a number of years. Woo speaks briefly to America about his Fletch-like dream of shooting baskets next to his buddy Cliff, as if he didn't just sell out his "buddy" to the police. Snitches get stitches, Woo.
In the challenge, as outlined again by Jeff Probst, each team must collect buoys from varying underwater depths. Then, when they are all collected, one tribe member will shoot the buoys into another basket that looks about 15 feet away. Tony and Lindsey sit out for the Brawn tribe and Woo goes first, collecting his buoy with a quickness that for a moment inspires in me some belief in the power of human relationships. Sarah and Trish go next, and do poorly, as they planned to do. Beauty wins the challenge quickly, leaving the battle for second between a desperate Brains tribe and the compromised Brawn tribe.
The Brains tribe begins shooting their buoys while Woo still needs to collect the last one. Please Woo, don't do it for me, do it for your idol, Clifford Robinson. He believes in you, just as we all want to believe that human beings can harbor deep and lasting connections with one another. Woo dives in after the final deepest buoy, and up it comes with amazing speed and friendship! I never gave up hope in you, Woo!
Now it's time for Cliff to shoot, already trailing 2-0 to the Brains tribe.
After a couple misses, Cliff drops to a knee and finds his range.
2-2. I SEE YOU CLIFF.
3-2, Brawn takes the lead. EVERYONE JUST SIT BACK AND LET CLIFF TAKE US RIGHT INTO OUTER SPACE.
4-2. THAT SPECK IN THE MIRROR IS THE MILKY WAY. HELLO, EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE.
4-3. SPENCER, YOU ARE A 21-YEAR-OLD ECON STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO WHO LISTED MITT ROMNEY AS YOUR INSPIRATION AND THE 2009-2010 GEORGIA HIGH SCHOOL CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP AS YOUR CLAIM TO FAME AND YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST TUG ON THE CAPE OF A GIANT WHO PLAYED IN MORE NBA GAMES THAN MICHAEL JORDAN? NO ONE WAS EVEN AT THAT CHESS TOURNAMENT.
RATTLE OUT FOR CLIFF.
RATTLE OUT FOR SPENCER.
CLIFF CANS THE FIFTH SHOT TO CLAIM VICTORY AND WIN IMMUNITY FOR HIS TRIBE IN A CHALLENGE IN WHICH HIS TEAMMATES INTENDED TO LOSE IN ORDER TO ELIMINATE HIM FROM THE COMPETITION. WHAT A MOMENT. THIS IS TRUE HEROISM. I'LL CALL YOU ON YOUR FIREFIGHTERS, SCHOOLTEACHERS OR PARENTS, AND RAISE YOU ONE CLIFFORD RALPH ROBINSON.
NEXT WEEK: Jeff Probst frees humanity from the stigma associated with superficial labeling.