Fourth time’s a charm? This time, however, the recap is interrupted by two jokes. The first is a rather obvious joke of intern torture that we’ve seen before, mixed with Chris’s classic cynicism. The second, however, definitely ends the recap with a cliffhanger.

The episode opens with yet another example of Lightning’s ignorance, or just plain stupidity. Forget being a running gag; this is definitely its own separate story now. And then we move right into a rather crude joke with Jo. Edgy, and courageous of the writers to do? Yes. But a good opening to an episode? No. This could cause one to lose interest in the episode before we even get to the challenge, just as I almost did. The bit of Brick/Jo served as a nice rebound though, especially with a first in their relationship: Jo actually being slightly intimidated by Brick.

Wow. Chef finally spoke. It’s about time. And no, this wasn’t just one line; he was back to his old, familiar self again, and even a moment of pain thrown in there for good measure. THIS is what Chef should be like in the fourth season.

This is definitely a major plus for this episode; introducing a brand new location in Camp Wawanakwa. This old mine is definitely original, creepy, and mysterious in true Total Drama style. The involvement of the nuclear aspect in this challenge is also just right; not overkilled like it was in the previous episode, but is more subtle and just right, while still playing a big role. Plus, we see the return of the Gilded Chris Awards in a very subtle callback to a previous season. Overall, this is setting up to be one of the coolest, most original, and yet most simple challenges in Total Drama.

Then we’re hit with a curveball: Dakota’s bald. Great. Just great. First Heather, then Sierra, then Alejandro, and now Dakota? Do the writers have no shame? I can understand torture in the name of internship, but this has gone too far.

Finally, Lightning’s ego starts to cost his team. Let’s hope this adds up soon.

We also see the return of Brick’s phobia of the dark, which is quite hilarious. What’s more so, he’s slowly starting to overcome it. Definitely a plus for his character.

Here we go. A brand new personality of Mike’s: Manitoba Smith. Now THIS is an interesting and likeable personality. Charismatic, funny, a great play on the Australian accent, and not too much of a godplayer. He’s slightly commanding, but not dramatically. Looks like Scott’s finally found a worthy opponent in the battle of wits.

The Lightning/Jo interaction, whenever one isn’t being stupid in not knowing the other’s gender, is definitely proving to be hilarious. That bit with Jo shoving the jar on Lightning’s head is just the beginning (and, not to mention, a brilliant play on words).

Also, for the first time, we’re seeing something else: Scott’s attempts to throw the challenge are failing dramatically. Not so much because he’s not good at it, but because someone else on his team is finally smart enough to call him out on his bluffs. This is definitely proving who’s now number one on Scott’s list.

Whoa. They actually threw the first gay joke in there since Cody and Noah. Definitely edgy, and yet another sign that the writers are getting bolder.

For the first time in the episode, we’re seeing more hints at a friendship between Scott and Zoey, in the midst of Anne Maria at her worst once more. I loved the rather subtle movement in the background that implied something’s presence while Scott was talking. Scott’s response to Anne Maria’s disappearance was also hilarious.

We’re also seeing another new friendship develop: Mike and Cameron. Also, for the first time since Finders Creepers, we see Cameron taking charge of his team in Jo’s absence. Only this time, Jo’s no longer on their team at all. Thus, it seems very likely that Cameron will rise to be the unlikely team captain, especially with Jo and Brick gone.

Enter the latest mutated monsters of the season: Giant gophers. Once again, I don’t see a dramatic overkill of the radioactivity in these creatures, especially in comparison to the army of freaks in the previous episode. These are more believable and realistic (at least in Total Drama standards), and are just as creepy.

Brick’s boots = Epic win.

And finally, at long last, after all of the predictions, it’s true: Ezekiel is one of the cameo appearances this season. Alas, he is still in his deranged feral zombie form. And yet, ironically, he’s more epic now than he was as a deranged feral zombie in TDWT. Why? Because here, he’s in command of an army of giant gophers and, more or less, taking advantage of his condition. Not as good as he was back when he was normal, but at least it’s better than him being a silent cling-on. And Anne Maria actually got his name right. There’s something new.

And Jo, for the first time, displays deviousness. She actually manages to convince Lightning to join an alliance to vote off Brick, using trashtalk and lies to manipulate someone else. She’s definitely showing signs of being an all-out antagonist now, but still not at Scott’s level.

Now THAT’S irony. Zeke kept the briefcase that he stole from Heather in the World Tour finale, only for all the money to be reduced to ashes. Poor guy. He deserved that money.

Yep, there’s definitely a friendship between Mike and Cameron now. And this is quickly followed by Cameron at his best:

Cameron: “My first buddy and we’ve only got five minutes to live!”

Now THERE’S a good reminder that Mike and Zoey are still strong: A tackle hug. But it’s definitely an improvement to Mike’s character to show that, even after he’s reunited with Zoey, he still wants to save Anne Maria, even though they both don’t like her.

And there’s something I’ll never forget: Ezekiel attacking Lightning, only for Lightning to tie a bomb to him and send him flying. If Ezekiel lives through this, then Lightning must die.

Bombs. Wonderful. That was definitely Chris at his best.

Wait, scratch that. If there’s one character who was definitely at their best in the whole episode, it was Brick, in that final, climactic moment. When he says leave no man behind, he means it. Even if it means saving his rivals. Especially if it’s at the cost of his own team, he’s still willing to help out.

And the friendship between Mike and Cameron culminates in Cameron finally revealing to Mike what he knows: that Mike has MPD. Not only does this solidify the latest major friendship, but this subtly hints at a whole new plotline: Cameron’s distrust for Scott. This could also mean an alliance between Cameron and Mike against Scott, which heightens the tension on the new Maggots even more. Although Scott definitely wasn’t a major focus in this episode, I definitely sense a major focus on him in the near future.

Although this wasn’t what I’d call a “Final Spotlight” episode – where the character who gets eliminated is heavily focused on and is so epic throughout the episode that it’s very obvious they’ll go home – the last five or so minutes made it obvious enough that Brick would go. And I couldn’t have asked for a better end for his time on the show: Even though he didn’t win a major victory in the game, he won a moral victory by proving that his military discipline triumphs over pure greed and competitiveness, something that Jo and Lightning clearly and severely lack.

At least Lightning got a bit of what he deserved in his moment of triumph over Brick.

Even in the face of such a disappointing elimination, Brick ultimately still turned out well. His initial attitude, where he tried to justify why he should stay (saying “I’m large and in charge”), was slightly out-of-character. However, when he made the saluting motion to Cameron, Mike, and Zoey in his final moments on the island, he ultimately rebounded and acted just as I thought he would: Acting appropriately and handling it just as a true military man would. This is one particular challenge that Brick succeeded where Dawn failed; even right after his elimination and loss at the chance for a million dollars, he still acted in-character, took it in stride, and left with his head held high. This definitely forever secures Brick as one of my all-time favorite members of the new cast, if not one of my favorite Total Drama contestants of them all.

And the epicness doesn’t end there. It was never implied at all in the episode, even in the final moments leading up to it, but Anne Maria’s sudden announcement that she was quitting was probably the greatest curveball I’ve ever seen and enjoyed in the series. And, as if that wasn’t good enough, the diamond responsible for her quitting was proven to be fake. Even better than that, she frantically changes her mind, but finds that it’s too late. The first double elimination of the season, featuring one of my faves and my absolute least fave. And it STILL doesn’t end there. Now Dakota’s back, after a rather long absence in the episode since the revelation that she was bald, and finally returning as a contestant. This promises even more epicness in the next few episodes to come.

So, overall, the main thing achieved by this episode was that it showed that the season is not running out of juice just yet. Just when we thought we knew all the major interactions (Mike/Zoey, Brick/Jo), plotlines (the Love Triangle, Scott being Scott), and characters (Mike and his MPD), we see a fresh new batch of all of the above and more. New friendships (Scott/Zoey, Cameron/Mike), new personalities for Mike (Manitoba Smith), and new plotlines (Cameron’s distrust of Scott, Lightning and Jo’s alliance). This episode wasn’t heavy on development of individual characters, but it focused on quite a few new plotlines, and was great at introducing entirely new storylines without rushing it, overkilling any one in particular, or making it seem awkward or out-of-the-blue. This was probably the first episode in the season that almost completely lacked physical comedy, but, surprisingly enough, I don’t mind it. The cameo, of course, was epic (Zeke being king of the mutant gophers and getting Anne Maria eliminated). The challenge was startlingly original, didn’t overkill the radioactivity too much, allowed for close interaction between characters due to its tight confines, was deadly without being too unrealistic/unbelievable, and proved to have some significance as far as the overall scheme of the show itself was concerned (helping Chris to bury the toxic waste). The episode was also perfect at hinting at/setting up future plotlines, such as the Cameron vs. Scott deal, Dakota’s return, and Lightning and Jo’s alliance. There are, however, a few problems that I had with the episode. The rather slow and boring opening, for starters. Plus, there was the rather unfair elimination of Brick (Lightning and Jo leaving him behind, then turning around and saying that he left them behind? Plus, Lightning clearly being the reason for losing the fireflies, not Brick), which was only softened due to Brick taking it in stride and sharing an elimination with Anne Maria. One other problem was that this episode, while it did certainly introduce many new and unexpected plotlines, did fail to match the plots that were heavily hinted at in the previous episode: The switching of Scott and Jo. In all honesty, Scott wasn't nearly as a big a focus on his brand new team as I thought he would be, and was mostly overshadowed by Mike's new personality and Mike and Cameron's friendship. If it weren't for the last few moments between Cameron and Mike, where the latter reveals his distrust for Scott, this would've completely failed to meet those expectations. Then there's Jo on the Rats; she was undeniably a big focus, but her character took a serious fall in her ruthless betrayal of Brick like that, and teaming up with an idiot instead. Jo being on this team now only allows for even more moments with Lightning's stupidity in not admitting to Jo being a girl, and this is definitely looking to be a plotline that will be heavily overkilled and will get more and more annoying over time. So, with many pros (some big, some small), and quite a few subtle but strong cons, I ultimately give this episode an 8.5/10.

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