And now, Jeff's favorite part of the whole episode. He gets to talk to James! Yay! Whee! Jeff looks at James with faux-disapproval, and the audience goes wild with hysterical laughter at Jeff's flirty smile. The laughter is sort of pitying and creepy, though, the way people used to hoot and holler when Rosie O'Donnell lost her shit over Tom Cruise. (Remember that? Before they were both, in the immortal words of M. Giant discussing Ann Coulter, "poo-flinging bugfuck crazy"?) Anyway, Jeff grins as he responds to a fan catcall with "You've got fans, even in spite of making the biggest blunder in the history of this game!" I'm sorry, Jeff -- I think that's still Lex. Jeff runs through the situation again, reminding us all of James and the idols and so forth, even remembering to add the very relevant detail that there were only three tribal councils left where the idols would be good, and James had two, making it even more incomprehensible that he didn't play one.
When Jeff finally gets to the question -- essentially, the "What were you thinking?" question -- James pretty much shakes his head and says he trusted his alliance. Asked whether that cost him a million dollars, James says that it did. Which is...totally absurd, because James wasn't winning immunity and probably wasn't going to win immunities that wound up going to Peih-Gee and Amanda, meaning that even had he played an idol at F7, that exposes him at either F6 or F5, in addition to at F4, giving them two more chances to get rid of him before we even get to the issue of who would have gotten votes. The only thing James will admit is that he might have been vulnerable because "it might have been a swimming challenge," which presumably he's saying is the magic challenge he wouldn't have won, unlike other challenges he apparently thinks he would have won. (Incidentally, when he said the word "swimming," someone in Mark Burnett's PR department was like, "DUDE! Did you have to say 'swimming'?") Again, James didn't win immunity at F10, when the immunity challenge was about memory, or at F9, when the immunity challenge was about balance, or at F8, when the immunity challenge was about listening and memory, or at F7, when the immunity challenge was about strength and aim. So would James necessarily have won the F6 challenge where the obstacle course was combined with memory? Or the F5 challenge where it rehashed previous challenges he sucked at, including the drum and the throwing stars? Or the F4 challenge about balance and stillness and concentration? My point is that I always wish there were less mythology in these shows, and that we could actually see people discuss what really happened, which is that the big monkey in the wrench for this alliance was not James, because (1) he played stupidly when it mattered; and (2) Amanda was all over the fact that it needed to be addressed. Instead, the big problem turned out to be that Peih-Gee was really fucking good at challenges. James was not a strong challenge performer; the challenge showdown was Peih-Gee versus Amanda. This was a perfect year for Jeff Probst to be like, "Let's talk about why it is that people always assume the biggest guy will win all the challenges when time after time, it just doesn't go down that way." And he didn't.
And now, Denise. About whom "Oh, Denise" doesn't really begin to describe it. Jeff asks her about the chance she missed to flip and go with Peih-Gee and Erik at F6 to get out from under her last-place spot in her four-person alliance, which everyone knew -- including her, it almost seems like -- would result in her finishing fourth. Denise hems and haws and slings a lot of nothing until Jeff is like, "DUDE." He points out that, clearly, she was low man on a four-person team. She was going to come in fourth. This was a chance for her to get to F3. Denise basically says she thought she'd be last in either group, refusing still to see the difference between "at the bottom of a group of four," which means you never see the final jury, and "at the bottom of a group of three," which means you do. She does say she thought Peih-Gee would win an F3 with her and Erik, and Todd would win an F3 with her and Amanda. So how about Amanda and Courtney? How about Amanda and Peih-Gee? How about Erik and Amanda? How about Erik and Courtney? She halfheartedly says she thought her best shot would be to win at F4 and "take" Courtney and Amanda. She just...she's one of those people who thinks everything just happens to her, and she reacts, and unless you can fault her for her reaction, she's just a victim of all of it. But we'll get back to that.