You know, sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you let a person play Survivor, they just never learn how to tweak their games.
Take last season with Boston Rob and Russell. Sure, you can debate the differences in their tribes til the cows come home – but there was another key difference between the guys. Boston Rob was playing his fourth game of Survivor, and it was a vastly different one than games he’d played before. In Marquesas he was a young, arrogant guy who didn’t quite know what he was doing. He didn’t even make the jury. Then he came back in All-Stars and played an incredibly sharp and cut-throat game. When he showed up in Heroes vs. Villains he was like a totally new guy – still smart and strategic, but more focused on helping the tribe and forming a loyal alliance. Thanks to Tyson that got cut short, so he came back in Redemption Island with a similar strategy – only that time he formed an alliance of bozos who wouldn’t have the guts to pull a stupid move like Tyson did. The point is, Boston Rob’s game has evolved over the seasons as he’s grown up personally and evolved as a player. Then you have someone like Russell – yes, Russell played his three games over a short period of time and you can make the argument that he didn’t see the flaws in his game when he played Heroes vs. Villains because he didn’t yet know he’d lost Samoa. But there was no excuse for Redemption Island. He went in there with the exact same strategies and personality, and his tribe threw a challenge to vote him out.
|Someone’s come down with a case of Crybabyitis.|
Clearly, this season, Coach has emerged as the player that’s been able to change and adapt his game play while Ozzy is the guy that’s still making the same mistakes. Coach used to drive people on his tribe absolutely nuts. Now he’s in an alliance, making important decisions. Ozzy? Ozzy has always struggled with his social game, and this season has been no different. He freaked out over Elyse being voted out when he should have just played it cool. Yeah, it was a hit. It sucked. Your ally was voted out, your position in the tribe has been undermined. No matter what crap excuse Whitney tries to feed you, it was most definitely a move meant to undermine your power in the game. But you know what? Suck it up, princess. Will whining, calling yourself a free agent and revealing that you have a Hidden Immunity Idol really help that situation? No! Play it cool, brother! Free agents get cancelled after a few episodes, just ask Hank Azaria and NBC. Even Ozzy knew he shouldn’t have reacted so emotionally after he’d had a couple days to clear his head.
Everyday I’m Shufflin’
|Dawn’s callin’ ’em like she sees ’em.|
So, there were a few things I liked about what went on before the duel – and in general, I thought this was another great episode of Survivor. I loved how Dawn called Ozzy out on whining about people withholding information. Dawn’s getting feisty! Remember how annoyed she got when Ozzy mocked Jim’s strategy talk, because she knew Ozzy was talking strategy but just not with them? Well, she’s still got that chip on her shoulder. Dawn knows she’s always been on the outs with Ozzy and his alliance, so she called him out on his hypocrisy that people shouldn’t withhold information. I don’t necessarily agree with Dawn, but I liked how easily she was able to get under his skin. He was annoyed, and then stupidly dropped the Idol bomb by saying “I’ve got the idol. How about that?” like some kind of petulant teenager.
Meanwhile at Upolu, there were shades of Russell coming out in Brandon Hantz as he found a clue for the Hidden Immunity Idol (which is already in Coach’s possession) and started looking for it like a madman. When will this tribe smarten up and vote this kid out? He’s too much of a loose cannon. Coach being Coach, he actually debated telling Little Hantz about the Idol because he didn’t want to lie – but apparently he can still play like a Christian man and not tell Brandon about the Idol, because lying by omission is a grey area. Or something. Also, he freaked out a little when Brandon’s classic Hantz Family Waddle gave him PTSD flashbacks to Heroes vs. Villains. (Did something happen with Coach and Russell in the villains’ tent at night that we don’t know about? How horrible could Coach’s experience have been?)
Ozzy, Keith, Rick and Sophie all go to watch the duel. Christine is still incredibly bitter about being voted off, which was no surprise. I kind of wish people wouldn’t be so obvious about their resentment. If Christine returns to the game, her old tribe knows for sure that she’ll never work with them. If she wasn’t so hostile towards them, she’d actually have a little leverage and be able to pretend like she was going to vote for them but actually flip to the other side. Acting like a bitter Betty doesn’t work to your advantage at all, it’s a pointless emotional response.
|Channeling her anger to win the duel.|
The duel saw Christine and Elyse competing in a game of “Survivor Shuffleboard”. Not my favorite challenge, but the episode made up for it with the reward/immunity challenge. It seemed inevitable that Christine would win at first, then Elyse caught up, and then Christine won again. Yawn. But it’s at least interesting that Christine could go on a Matt Elrod style Redemption Island run. She just shouldn’t follow in his footsteps and act like a complete moron if she gets a chance to reenter the game.
There was a little chatter before the Immunity Challenge – Coach reiterated his desire to keep Edna around. She’s his adorable little friend who he loves, and she’s made it painfully clear that she’ll do anything for him. Of course, Coach’s confidence that it would be Mikayla going home and not Edna meant that things would not be that simple if Upolu lost the challenge. And over at Savaii, Ozzy came to his senses and apologized for being a jerk before heading to the challenge. Savaii needs Ozzy to win challenges in the merge, but post-merge he’s a big threat. I don’t think he’s doing a good enough job of forming bonds with people that will keep him around.
The Reward/Immunity challenge was a good one. First, three people from each tribe had to assemble a wheelbarrow and go through a small obstacle course and collect obstacles. Then, the rest of the tribe would turn that wheelbarrow into a slingshot and use the coconuts to knock over several targets. (But there were no slingshot incidents like this one.) Since Upolu had one extra person, they sat tiny Edna out.
Upolu gained a huge lead on Savaii during the first part of the challenge. Ozzy and Dawn couldn’t manage to work together to move the wheelbarrow smoothly, and Cochran was…also there. But when it came time to shoot the coconuts, they made a HUGE comeback thanks to Jim. Upolu could have done better had Albert done all the shooting (that guy’s a rock star), but Mikayla insisted on continuing to take turns shooting.
Here’s the thing about Coach, Mikayla and that challenge. Coach thought that Mikayla was “un-coachable” because she didn’t follow his directions. First of all, did anyone actually appoint Coach as coach of the team during that challenge? I think on these big group challenges, it’s always good to agree on a leader. Second of all, Coach wasn’t forceful enough when asking Mikayla to step out of the challenge – if she was really a detriment to their tribe he should have told her to stop, not asked her. Asking her if she wants to take a break isn’t a coaching order. Third, if Albert was doing the best of everyone Coach should have also taken a step back himself and just thrown coconuts to Albert as he needed them. So sure, Mikayla showed a lack of self-awareness and continued to participate in the challenge even though she wasn’t even coming close to hitting the targets. But Coach? That was bad coaching.
Winning the challenge gave Savaii a serious morale boost, as they all bonded over a delicious-looking picnic lunch and went water sliding on rocks. Even Cochran took off his sweater vest and joined in, despite telling Dawn “I’m not physically or emotionally capable of doing that,” when Ozzy jumped off a big cliff. Oh Cochran. I’m pretty sure we could be really neurotic friends.
Brains vs. Brawn
Since no one seemed to want to vote out Little Hantz, the members of the five-person Upolu alliance had to decide if they wanted to vote out Edna or Mikayla. There were good arguments to be made for both cases.
Coach wanted to keep Edna around, of course. She’s in his back pocket and everyone knows it. The argument that I think Coach should have made to the others was that Brandon is a loose cannon and might have to be voted off at some point, which means he’d need replacing. Coach knows that Edna would be loyal to the alliance if they used her to replace Brandon, but he doesn’t know that about Edna. I think Coach needed to frame his argument in that it’s better for the whole alliance to have Edna around, because people thought it was a bit of a selfish move.
Sophie and Albert didn’t want to vote out Mikayla, and they had good reasons as well. Sure, Mikayla kind of blew the challenge that day, but Edna hadn’t even participated. Overall Mikayla is stronger than Edna, and is therefore a bigger asset as they head into the next Immunity Challenge at even numbers with Savaii. They need to win challenges if they want to head into the merge with numbers.
|Well I sure know who I’d side with…|
It’s a pretty classic debate – are numbers or loyalty more important? It’s gone both ways in Survivor history. (And I suggest you check out Dalton Ross’s recap on EW.com as he gives some pretty interesting statistics on how important the numbers advantage is.) You can have a tribe with the majority that just picks off the minority tribe, like Boston Rob did last season. Or you can have a majority tribe that is so splintered that people flip or in-fighting causes them to eat their own before picking off the enemy. In this case, I thought the smarter move was to vote off Edna. Mikayla is much stronger, and I don’t think she seems like she would flip to the other side come the merge. More importantly, Sophie and Albert had some strategic concerns about Edna. They know she’s more in Coach’s corner than theirs, and presumably they could have more control over Mikayla than they do Edna. They were also worried that Edna, being a smart woman, would know her lowly place in the alliance and flip to the other tribe when she had an opportunity despite her loyalty to Coach. It was a good argument, and Sophie and Albert pitched it to the rest of their alliance.
|Who are you? A cameraman?|
Brandon wanted to keep Mikayla, once the whore who haunted his dreams, over Edna but couldn’t because he’d already given his work to keep Edna at sixth. That left Rick – silent, mustached Rick – as the reluctant swing vote. You could just see the despair in his eyes as he realized he was being put in the position of choosing which half of the alliance to side with. This guy clearly wanted to fly so far under the radar that he’d be underground, and the swing vote position doesn’t really allow you to do that.
At Tribal Council, Probst had the whole tribe debating the merits of strength vs. loyalty. And once again, Brandon Hantz took the opportunity to show his tribe why they should keep both Edna and Mikayla and vote him out. “This next challenge is absolutely detrimental to the way the game turns out,” he told Probst. OK, so an accurate vocabulary isn’t a part of the Hantz DNA. But then he went a little further into Crazytown, admitting to Mikayla that he’d prefer to keep her around but had made a promise to Edna that he had to keep. OK, that’s fine. But then the little rant about white lies and cigarettes and marijuana? And once again Brandon is struggling with having Jesus on one shoulder and Russell Hantz on the other. No seriously, I’m pretty sure he hallucinates those images. He even went so far as to tell the tribe to vote him out if they weren’t going to play a loyal game. Yes! Do it! This was your chance, people! This is Survivor, of course it’s not going to be a loyal game.
|Good luck on Redemption Island!|
The only vote up in the air was Rick’s. Edna wrote Mikayla’s name down, wishing her success in her future modelling career. Good one, Edna! Maybe Mikayla would have been better off on America’s Next Top Model, they even had a football-related challenge on Wednesday night’s episode. Maybe that’s a challenge Mikayla wouldn’t have botched.
When all was said and done, Rick sided with Coach and voted Mikayla off to Redemption Island. When she got there she blamed “Crazy Brandon”, which just goes to show how little of an understanding Mikayla has of this game. Sure, Brandon voted for her. But this vote was courtesy of Coach. And to some extent, Rick – but Coach was the one lobbying to get rid of Mikayla.
What’s unfortunate about the decision is the position it’s left Sophie and Albert in. I have Sophie in an office pool, so obviously I was bummed to see her end up on the wrong side of this argument. But I also like Sophie and Albert much better as Survivor players than I do Coach and Brandon. Little Hantz is a loose cannon, he’s only on the show because he’s Russell’s nephew, and he’s a crazy person. Coach is playing for the third time and while he’s definitely playing his best game yet, he’s still not a Survivor force to be reckoned with. I would much rather see Sophie and Albert, two rational and intelligent people, in the driver’s seat of this game. Hopefully they can find a way to get themselves back into power positions.
What did you guys think of the episode? Now that the core alliances from both tribes have been fractured, I’m really excited about what will happen come the merge. Could Albert and Sophie team up with Jim, Dawn and Cochran? Will Ozzy try and get Upolu to turn on Albert, the strongest physical competitor? Will Redemption Island finish at the merge this season? (Fingers crossed on that one.) I think this season could play out in a lot of different ways.