Challenge time! The teams arrive and Probst brings Sugar back from Exile. For today's challenge, each tribe will pair off into three teams. The teams are tied together and must navigate an obstacle course through the jungle to retrieve two flagpole sections and return to their mat, at which point the next team can go. Once they've collected all six pieces, they must assemble them into the flagpole and raise it. The first team to do so wins. Kota sits Susie out, and we're off! It's Randy and Bob against Sugar and Kelly first. Probst actually has something nice to say to Fang as Kelly and Sugar make it through the cargo net first. "Fang, lookin' strong!" Probst says. Both teams reach the flagpole sections, and Kota catches up to Fang as Bob quickly unties Kota's pieces. Coming back to the mat, Randy and Bob are in the lead with Sugar and Kelly pretty close behind. Of course, Probst is furious, and says "Go, girls! What are you doing? Fang slowing down!" and then "Kelly and Sugar are losing a TREMENDOUS amount of time for Fang! Kelly is dragging!" Which isn't even true. I am so cheering for Fang. I just want to see Kota go down in flames.
Corinne and Charlie head out for Kota, followed by Ace and Crystal for Fang. Interesting that they put Ken with Matty on the last turn. I'm ready for Crystal to disappoint me yet again, but she actually gets through the obstacles quicker than Ace and soon both teams are untying their flagpole pieces. Crystal tries to untie first, but then Ace runs up and takes over, since he's so good at things like this. Crystal grabs the pieces and they lightly bump into Ace's chest. "OOOOH! That hurt!" he cries out. Baby. Charlie and Corinne are the first team to reach the cargo net, but Ace and Crystal are soon right behind them! Come on, Fang!
Marcus and Dan set off for Kota. Matty and Ken make quick work of the first cargo net, with Ken's skinniness finally coming in handy. While heroic music plays, Fang is right behind Kota in the jungle obstacles. And then ... Matty decides to walk over the next obstacle instead of through it, and they pass Kota! Hooray! Oh, but then Probst has to announce Fang's strategy, which is just fucking wrong of him. Ken unties Fang's flagpole pieces first, but Kota gets theirs pretty quickly after. And then, of course, Kota copies Fang and climbs over the obstacle course. Thanks, Probst.
When they emerge from the woods, Fang is no doubt thrilled to see Matty and Ken in the lead. "We are neck and neck!" Probst lies. No, you're not. Fang is ahead. But Kota gets to work on their flagpole first, as Ken forgets to step onto the mat. And then it's time to get the flagpole assembled. "This is where teamwork is going to win or lose this challenge," Probst says, adding: "Kota working together very well!" Oh, crap. Come on, Fang. Win it! Please? And then, as all members of Kota work together to fit the individual flagpole pieces together, Ace orders his team to "get out of the way" so he can do it himself. He takes a piece and tries to shove it in the base, but it won't fit because it's the wrong piece. He keeps trying anyway, even though Probst basically tells him that if it doesn't fit, it's not the right piece. And then, while Fang doesn't even have any of the flagpole pieces assembled, Kota raises their flag. Aw, man. Ace lost that for everyone. He really did. I hate him more than ever. Probst sends Kota away with smiles and praise, then turns to Fang and dubs the line "if you continue to play like individuals, you'll be [at Tribal Council] every time." He tells them to spare themselves the pain of losing further challenges and commit suicide before Tribal Council tonight. And as Fang gets going, we get yet another VO from Crystal. This time, she's mad at Ace, saying he's a tyrant and a bully, and all that physical strength he supposedly brings to the tribe hasn't helped them win yet. What's up with this new Crystal post-challenge wrap-up show? I like it, but it's an unusual deviation from formula.