Wow! Only five episodes in, Survivor: South Pacific is already more interesting than the past couple seasons of Survivor had been. Don’t get me wrong – I was one of the people who considered Rob Mariano’s win on Survivor: Redemption Island last season to be completely, 100% deserved and an interesting lesson on how to play a perfect game of Survivor. I didn’t think it was easy for him, but it made for a predictable season. But not this time – this time, one of the returning players has already had the rug pulled out from under him.
It’s All About the Benjamin
OK, let’s talk about the duel first. Upolu BFFs Christine and Stacey would be facing off, and I for one was rooting for Christine. Stacey’s sour attitude always bothered me, and while I think Christine’s attitude was just as bitter she has a special kind of spunk that makes her fun to watch on Redemption Island.
Stacey, however, seemed more concerned with trying to sabotage Coach Benjamin on her way out rather than winning the actual duel. When Albert, Mikayla, Dawn and Whitney showed up to watch the challenge she had a lot to say…but most of it was rather inaudible. The gist, from what I gathered, was that Coach was leading his tribe with Albert as his right-hand man. It was spot-on information that helped trigger a major strategic move back at the Savaii camp and, interestingly, therefore hurt Ozzy much more than it did Coach. Both Christine and Stacey made a big show of refusing to call Coach by his chosen nickname but rather “Benjamin”, the name he’d been given by his mother. OK. Thing is, that would have been much more effective had Coach Benjamin actually been present at the duel. Instead it just sort of ruffled his feathers once he was told, but nothing more.
Th duel was a return to one of my favorite challenges – each woman had to roll balls through metal chutes without ever letting them drop to the ground. I love this one because it’s probably much harder than it looks, and Christine definitely seemed to grasp the concept better than Stacey. As balls were added Stacey just popped them into the chutes as they came into her hands, while Christine spaced them more thoughtfully. Without paying attention to spacing the balls will start to come to quickly and you won’t be able to replace one back in the chute before needing to grab the next. Although Christine almost blew it a couple times, she managed to keep her cool and Stacey was the first to let one of her balls drop.
Names were a big deal at the Upolu camp this week. Before the duel, Little Hantz was still fuming over how Mikayla had voiced her concerns about his heritage during Tribal Council. OK, fair enough – no one likes to be targeted, especially crazy people. “I don’t care what people think of me,” Little Hantz huffed. “That doesn’t matter.” Weeeelllll, it does if you eventually want them to vote for you to win a million bucks. But I guess not understanding the end game of Survivor is to be expected when you’ve been tutored by Russell Hantz, King of Invisible End Games. Following the duel, Coach was also pouting about name calling, having heard about how often the name “Benjamin” had been uttered. “If one person calls me Benjamin to my face I’m gonna go nuts,” he warned the tribe. “My parents call me Coach. I’ve been being called Coach since I was 18.” For reals? You own mom calls you Coach? And did coaching PeeWee soccer when you were in high school really earn you that nickname? Oi. This was a return to the Crazy Coach we know from previous seasons, but luckily he didn’t stick around for long.
Loose Lips, Part One
When Dawn and Whitney returned to the Savaii camp they let all their tribe mates in on what they’d learned, including how Coach was running the show with big, strong Albert as his right-hand man. Hmm, sound familiar? Hi, Ozzy! “If Coach is smart, he’ll get rid of Albert,” Ozzy told his tribe. “Before the merge.” Oh hi there, Keith! Did you hear that? Because Jim definitely did!
Ozzy’s major slip-up magnified one of his major flaws in playing Survivor – he’s never had a good social game. The guy just doesn’t understand social cues the way great players like Parvati, Boston Rob or even guys like Yul and Earl have. He should have easily been able to see that the Coach/Albert partnership was a mirror image of the Ozzy/Keith leadership duo on his own tribe. Instead of professing about how the smart thing to do is vote out your strongest male ally before the merge he should have been making sure everyone knew that their tribe isn’t like that, that their tribe is a democracy and their alliance of five is rock solid. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Jim immediately saw an opportunity for himself, Cochran and Dawn to make a move. With these words from Ozzy, heard by everyone, he could try and convince Keith that Ozzy couldn’t be trusted and therefore had to be weakened. It was the perfect opportunity to make their move to vote out Ozzy’s girl Elyse. Brilliant.
Loose Lips, Part Two
Why are so few people incapable of keeping information about the Hidden Immunity Idol to themselves? Is it because they’re bored? Do they really think it’s to their advantage to share the information? Or, in the case of Albert, do they really think they’re too dumb to figure out the clue?
Albert found a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol, but after fruitlessly searching for a while he decided to share the clue with both Coach and Sophie, in hopes that as a team they’d be able to find it. This was a stupid move, but it works in my favor – I have Sophie in the office pool, and I like knowing that she really is at the core of this alliance. Coach did a little praying and then, boom – “Ask and you shall receive,” Coach said as he came upon the Idol. Or as I said, “Oh come on, really? I think I might throw up.”
Not only did Coach not really need the confidence boost that comes with finding the idol (and thinking you found it because you prayed that you would), but I’m kind of bummed that both of the returning players now have Hidden Immunity Idols.
Oh man, do I ever love food challenges – especially this one. We’ve seen this week’s Reward/Immunity Challenge before, but not for a while and it’s one I really love. It’s just so disgusting! Each tribe had a certain amount of time to rip apart a piece of meat and get as much as possible into a basket – whichever tribe ended up with the most weight won. Oh, and they were ripping the meat off with just their mouths since their hands were tied behind their backs. Yep, it sure was gross!
There were so many things to love about this challenge. One player biting pieces of meat out of another player’s mouth when it was stuck in their teeth? Fantastic. Mikayla picking up a piece of meat WITH HER MOUTH that Rick had dropped on her ground and Probst shouting “Mikayla’s not too proud!”? Yeah, also amazing. The POV camera placed in the basket to make it feel like players were spitting the meat directly onto my face? OK, that was a bit much but whatevs, it still added to the experience.
In the end, Savaii weighed in with 22lbs 12 ounces while Upolu weighed in at 22lbs 14 ounces – thank god for those 2 ounces Mikayla picked up off the ground! Way to have no shame, girlfriend. No, seriously – I would have picked it up too. I can’t believe Rick didn’t. Not only did Upolu win immunity, spices and some nice looking veggies, but they also won roughly 22lbs of lovely, dirty, saliva-covered meat! Yippee!
Back at the Savaii camp, Cochran says what we were all thinking – I hope no one has herpes! Well, he said what some of us were thinking, anyway. For reals, can you believe that Cochran was the only person who thought about orally transmitted diseases after that challenge? I had a conversation about it during the commercial break! And why didn’t anyone know that cold sores are a form of herpes? I know that, and I have never had a cold sore or a Harvard education.
Not only was Cochran disgusting his tribe mates with his facts about contagious disease (good thing Contagion came out after this was filmed, or no one would have participated in that challenge), he was annoying them with his eager work ethic. You had to feel bad for the guy here – he wants to prove how useful he is, but he doesn’t realize that part of the Survivor social game is being able to read cues like “Right now we’re all going to sit around and relax.” If he wasn’t out fishing with Ozzy, he was chopping up coconuts for people or dragging firewood around. It was all just so obvious.
Luckily, Cochran had Jim to protect him. While Cochran was worker bee-ing the hell out of the camp, Jim was approaching Keith with his plan to oust Elyse – and Keith was immediately receptive to it. Perhaps Keith is smarter than I thought, because he seemed to already be thinking what Jim was trying to convince him of – that if Ozzy thought Coach should vote out Albert, then Ozzy must be planning on voting out Keith before the merge. Keith immediately went and discussed it with Whitney, who has clearly become his strongest ally in the game.
It was an interesting dilemma that Keith and Whitney were facing. By voting out Elyse, they were essentially cutting ties with Ozzy and breaking up that original alliance of five. And where will they stand in an alliance with Jim, Cochran and Dawn? Will the powerful three within that five be themselves and Jim, or will they be the duo at the bottom of the totem pole? However, Jim’s argument was a convincing one – Ozzy had a lot of power and voting out Elyse would undermine that. It was a bold move, and I was really hoping that Keith and Whitney would go for it.
A third option was pulling a Coach in Heroes vs. Villains – in that season, Coach essentially betrayed Boston Rob and contributed to his demise by throwing a lone vote Courtney’s way, therefore giving Russell and his alliance the majority. This is an odd strategy – sure, it means that Keith and Whitney wouldn’t be writing Elyse’s name down, but they were still breaking up their alliance and betraying Ozzy. He’d be just as mad as if they’d voted for Elyse themselves, so why not go all in?
It’s a new Dawn, it’s a new day
Heading into Tribal Council, I was pretty sure Keith and Whitney were going to stick with Ozzy and vote out my little buddy Cochran. I just didn’t think they had a big move in them. You also can’t deny that not only is he a bit of a detriment in challenges, he’s also an odd duck when it comes to these folks. (I feel like I’d get along with him just swimmingly, though.) Probst quizzed Upolu about their meat injuries which included cut lips, broken teeth, an alleged dislocated jaw and, thankfully, no herpes. What badge of honor was Cochran suffering through? Oh, he thinks the challenge had messed with the alignment of his pearly white teeth – through some fault of his own, as he hasn’t been as diligent about wearing his retainer as he should have.
When the votes were tallied, Cochran received two, Dawn received two, and Elyse was voted out with three votes. I don’t think having voted for Dawn instead of Elyse will do Keith and Whitney any favors when it comes to dealing with Ozzy – they should have just gone all in – but I’m really excited to see the tribe shaken up in this way. I can’t wait to tune in next week and see just how much Ozzy’s going to pout about this. And as for Cochran, as long as he can sit back, watch everyone around him bicker, and try not to single-handedly lose a challenge for his tribe, he could be in a really good position here.
What did you guys think of the episode? Are you excited that the game has been shaken up? What would you have done in Keith’s position? Talk to me in the comments and I’ll see y’all next week!