Ulong, Day 11. Ibrehem has brought back some treemail, and Steph is regarding it with concern. She reads something about "balance and strength" and immediately calls it as a "gladiator thing" where they'll have to hit each other. She also notes that they've been given a sample of a sort of battering pillow with rope handles at each end. Steph says she's going to practice, and she takes a few whacks at a tree. Hee. She interviews that she really thinks they'll be screwed if they miss this immunity, because they'll be down 9-5, which is just not how you want things to go. Bobby Jon -- in an interview that's surprisingly compelling -- says that he wants it bad, too. "Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight," he says. "That's all I know to do." Aww. He's a nutbar, but he's such a sweetheart in his way. They head out for the challenge.
Probst welcomes the teams to a challenge beach. He starts by taking back the coconut monkey from Koror. I swear, if Ulong ever wins immunity, the coconut monkey is going to psychologically traumatized by being separated from the only home it has ever known. Jeff then explains that, just as Steph suspected, this is a sumo-style battle on a platform out in the water, and they'll use the padded bags with the handles -- in fact, they have to keep both hands on the bags at all times. So basically, the bags aren't really there to hit people with; they're there to keep you from hurting each other. The object is to knock your opponent off the platform, and you can't use your feet. Koror has to sit out three people, two men and a woman (because the challenge is man-man and woman-woman). They sit Willard, Ian, and Katie.
The first round is the epic battle of Tom and Bobby Jon that I felt from the beginning would control this entire thing. It would set the tone, for one thing, and it seemed like a lot of the rest of the battles could go either way -- both tribes have strengths and weaknesses. But this, to me, was the one to watch. And...go! Tom goes down first, and looks to be on the ropes. Bobby Jon is pushing him toward the edge of the platform when Tom...just stops being able to be pushed. Gradually, Tom gets to his knees, then does a spin move and hops to his feet. And then he gets Bobby Jon just slightly off-balance, and with a mighty couple of steps, hurls him off the platform. It's a sign of my growing affection for Bobby Jon that I honestly could have been happy with that one going either way. Have I mentioned I also have no defense against the demographic of Moderately Insane And Potentially Ill-Tempered But Probably A Lover Of Animals And Possessed Of Excellent Shoulders? Because it's a little bit true. Anyway, an excited Koror hoots and hollers.