Note: From this point on, I won't be doing a basic summary of the episode before the review. The only reason I did that before was because that was a saved draft for when I thought I'd be the Episode Reviewer for the Newsletter. That didn't work out so well, hence why I'm instead doing my own independent blog series.
So, let's get down to business.
If there's one thing I love about an episode, it's one that opens with a strong character interaction scene that allows for development and good humor. To this day, I can't think of one episode that's featured an opening scene (or any scene, for that matter) of that nature longer and better than this one. The first six minutes featured multiple different interactions, including Dakota and Dawn; Scott, Sam, and Lightning; Anne Maria and Zoey; Mike and Cameron; and Brick and Jo. All of them were absolutely hilarious, full of brilliant one-liners, amazing dialogue, and comedic gold. One such example:
Sam: Hey, man. What's with all the dirt?
Scott: Oh, uh...just had an early morning make-out session with one of the honeys.
Lightning: Which one?
Scott: Um...a gentleman doesn't kiss and tell.
Sam: You kissed a gentleman?
But my personal favorite, of course, was Brick and Jo:
Jo: Just did my morning 5-K run. You?
Jo: I mean I did an 8-K warm-up, then 5-K for full sprint!
Brick: My entire run was uphill!
Jo: Yeah, uphill with my eyes shut!
Brick: I ran backwards with earplugs!
Jo: Why earplugs?
Brick: I don't know!
More and more of scheming Scott. As we progress through the season, he reveals his strategy bit-by-bit. Pulling a total Russell Hantz and searching for the immunity idol definitely builds him up as a cunning antagonist, and his plan as of this episode is actually quite clever.
Oh, yeah. And then there was Lightning, who was an absolute jerk throughout the episode, constantly boasting about his being the best and criticizing everyone else on his team. But that's a rant I don't want to get into right now.
The first challenge had some very promising potential with revealing embarrassing facts about more characters, allowing for more backstory. However, we only saw that for three questions, and then it was over. A chance at even more development was rushed and cut off abruptly. I guess that was the price tag for having such a long development scene as the opening.
Sam/Dakota. Sam...and Dakota. Never before. NEVER. EVER. In the show's HISTORY. Has there ever been such a CRACK couple. Yes, it may seem initially like a one-sided attraction on Sam's part, but there are definitely noticeable hints on Dakota's part too, trying to compliment him back, etc. The running gags of their electronics withdrawal was also fairly entertaining, but not hilarious. It was clearly being built up throughout the episode, but I'm glad it wasn't total overkill.
Then enter the second challenge. The parody of "Wipeout" (one of my favorite reality shows ever) was just as hilarious as the real show. Dakota's scream was absolutely epic, as was Cameron's win of the challenge and Dawn's taking advice from the rat during the challenge. But Beverly making a female wooly beaver out of mud in 3 seconds? God...player. Lightning acted like a complete jerk once again - after his team just lost. If I had one complaint about this episode, it would be this: If they wanted to make the Bonfire's bottom two really dramatic, they should've made it Lightning and Dakota, instead of Beverly and Dakota. When it was down to those two, it was indeed quite obvious who was going home. But putting the lazy, picky, and easily-distracted Dakota against the guy who thoroughly insulted his whole team during and after the challenge would've made it a genuine moment of: "What's gonna happen?" instead of "Well, we know who's going home now."
So, overall, I feel that this episode perfected the level of physical comedy that was set by the premiere. At the same time, this episode was able to put enough focus on character interaction and development without rushing it or making it feel awkward, and this probably ranks as my all-time favorite episode opening ever. This had some big shoes to fill following the premiere, and it ultimately filled them pretty well. I'll give it an 9/10.