You know, I’ve got to hand it to the casting producers for this season of Survivor – I think they did a really good job. Casting is such a huge part of whether a season of Survivor will be good, since so much of the game revolves around human nature and interaction. And this season, I think they’ve assembled a really interesting crew of folks.
Nothing big happened in this episode, and the vote-out wasn’t a shocking one. Yet, I thought it was a really strong, captivating episode. I loved both challenges and I think we’re really starting to see people’s personalities come into play here.
The obvious person to discuss is Brandon Hantz, who continued this week in his unsettling struggle between good and evil. (Now with the added effect of ominous church bells!) He apologized to Mikayla and ‘fessed up to Edna that she’s not as secure as she thinks, but this newfound sense of honesty means he’s not really playing the game. I wouldn’t want to be in an alliance with this kid – he’s good in challenges but is such a wildcard, and people are starting to realize that. As Mikayla said, “Dude, maybe you should think two or three times before you talk.” By the end of the episode, Coach was starting to realize what a liability Little Hantz could be.
|Lookin’ a little crazy here.|
There are other fascinating players as well. I mean, look at Dawn. She had an emotional breakdown early on that almost sent her packing, but she managed to hold it together while two other members of her tribe were ousted. She’s still struggling with her age – the moment where everyone finally received their swimsuits and she watched the two hot twenty-somethings on her tribe prance around in their colorful bikinis while she rocked her modest one-piece number was a really revealing moment for her. And then she basically single-handedly won the immunity challenge for her tribe, bearing a surprising amount of weight and earning herself a much needed boost in self-esteem. Dawn’s story in this game is going to be a good one.
|Cochran needs a big move to validate his surname-only status.|
We also saw the beginnings of an alliance between Jim and Cochran, as they plotted to take out Ozzy’s right-hand girl Elyse. Whether they’ll actually be able to do it is one thing (they can’t swing Keith, so they’d have to convince Whitney to flip and that seems unlikely) but I loved watching Cochran get a second wind in the game with the knowledge that he could possibly be a part of a big strategic move in his favorite game. That is why it’s fun to cast super-fans, guys!
|Maybe this hate is the reason people don’t like you?|
And then you have a personality like Edna, someone who is probably charming and lovely in real life, but is driving her tribe absolutely bonkers on the island. And the best part is, she thinks she’s being a delight! Edna knows the right moves, she just isn’t playing the right cards. She knows she’s the sixth person in a five-person alliance (the look on her face when Little Hantz confirmed that for her was kind of heartbreaking) and she knows she isn’t a physical asset to her tribe. She’s a smart lady, she knows she has to up her social game if she wants to stick around – and she ends up annoying everyone! Her laugh, her cheerful disposition, her well-meaning but overwhelming inquisitiveness. All things meant to create connections with people that are actually driving wedges between herself and them. It was fascinating to watch.
|Elyse doesn’t know she has a target on her back.|
The conversation with Jim and Cochran began before the duel, when Jim decided that Ozzy had too much power already, and his blooming relationship with Elyse made him even more dangerous. At this point, everyone knows how strong a couple can be whether they’re romantically involved or not (see Boston Rob and Amber, Parvati and Amanda, Boston Rob and that mindless brunette from last season). My favorite reason given for voting out Elyse? When Cochran added that “it might make the other pretty people feel a little bit less secure.”
Jim and Cochran were nominated to go watch the duel, and as soon as Jim was out of earshot Ozzy was mocking his constant strategizing. Now there’s a clear sign that Jim is at the bottom of Ozzy’s totem pole. If he can manage to shake things up, it’ll be the right move for him. What was interesting was how Ozzy’s jokes upset Dawn – not because of any loyalties she has to Jim, but because she knows this is Survivor and even if Ozzy says he doesn’t want to talk strategy, he’s gotta be doing it somewhere, with someone. It was a keen observation and it gave her the extra push she needed to want to vote the guy out. Instead, she agreed to settle for second best and target Elyse along with Jim and Cochran. Like I said, they’ll need one more vote to do it, but luckily they won the immunity challenge and will have a little extra time to figure that out.
As I mentioned, I really liked both challenges this week. The duel, which saw Christine and “Papa Bear” facing off, required each player to toss sandbags onto ten different pedestals. It wasn’t a particularly hard challenge, but it was the kind of nail-biter that almost makes this whole Redemption Island twist worth it. First Christine started out with a big lead while Papa Bear floundered. I mean, she was killing it. But then he made a strong comeback and they were tied, 9-9! It was crazy exciting. Christine finally landed her last bag, and the feisty New Yorker (who got a pre-duel apology from Brandon, who was there watching the challenge with Edna) lived to see another day. I, for one, was happy – she seemed like she wanted it more than Papa Bear, and I like to see people with that kind of fire continue on. Plus, I never want to have to type the words “Papa Bear” again, unless someone develops a TV show based on Goldilocks.
The Weighting Game
|Run The Challenge (Girls)|
Not only was the duel good, but the immunity/reward challenge was even better. Each team would select three people to hold weight, which the other tribe would distribute as they pleased. The tribe with the last person standing would win immunity and a crate of chickens. We’ve seen this challenge before, and it never fails to impress.
Each tribe had to select two men and a woman to bear the weight, Brandon, Albert and Stacey represented Upolu while Keith, Jim and Dawn stepped up for Savaii. I was a little surprised that both tribes selected their oldest women to play (I was sure Mikayla would do this one) but they certainly proved their worth once the challenge began.
Surprisingly, the two strongest-looking dudes in the competition went out first. Keith was first to drop out at 180lbs, followed by Albert at 200lbs. Really, dudes? Stacey and Dawn can hold more weight than you? How embarrassing. The tribes began piling the weight on Jim and Brandon, who both broke the records set by Rupert and JT. Those guys had dropped out at 220lbs, while Jim, followed by Brandon, dropped out at 240lbs.
So then it came down to the women, and holy crap was it ever exciting. I should have been rooting for Stacey since that would mean my tribe (I have Sophie in an office pool) would be granted immunity and protein, but the emotional side of me was rooting for Dawn. It really looked like Dawn would break too, since Stacey had managed to rest the pole on the small of her back while Dawn’s was tilting heavily to one side – never a good sign. But then Stacey lost her grip and Dawn won it! Weeeeeeee! I think both women were at 140lbs, but I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it was damn impressive.
Having won immunity, Dawn was feeling on top of the world and Jim and Cochran were granted another three days to try and put their plan into motion. The folks at Upolu, however, had a decision to make.
|No conducting demonstrations, Coach!|
I have to say, I was getting a little worried about Coach when his tribe returned to camp after the challenge. So far, he’s been really good about keeping a lid on the crazy. No ludicrous stories about fighting off natives in the Amazon, no ti-chi, no Dragon Slayer talk. He’s been a good leader. But he took it too far with his post-challenge speech. I’m sure he meant to raise morale but he droned on and on, and people looked annoyed. He better reign that in.
So who would be going home? Stacey and Edna were the obvious targets, since neither of them were part of the core five and Mikayla, the other outsider, is far too valuable to cut loose. Stacey had performed well in the challenge, but her social game was even more lacking than Edna’s. Sure, Edna’s chipper chattiness was getting under everyone’s skin, but Stacey seemed downright grumpy. Stacey just didn’t seem to care about the social game at all – she didn’t care if you liked her, she didn’t care if you trusted her, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to give you a back massage even if you never asked her for one. It’s just not a great attitude to have in a game that’s all about building relationships. I sensed an attitude problem with Stacey in her pre-game interviews, and I do think it was her downfall.
I think Stacey’s attitude, and possibly her pride, got in her way. She knew it was down to her and Edna, and I don’t think she fought for herself in the right way. She should have gone to Coach and said “I’m every bit as loyal to you as Edna, and I’m also stronger in challenges. If I make it to the merge I will not flip, because no one trusts a flipper. Keep me around and we’ll keep the tribe strong.” Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, but I think it was a better plan that what she actually did, which was to tell Little Hantz that Mikayla, Sophie and Albert had a secret alliance.
Sure, her lie worked on Little Hantz and sent him into a manic tailspin. But as soon as he ran to Coach, Coach hit him with some surprisingly lucid advice. (Seriously, Coach seems in it to win it this time. I don’t think he’ll win, but it’s nice to see him actually try.) The problem with Stacey’s strategy was that she didn’t know enough about individual relationships to pull it off. Coach seems pretty close to Sophie, and I think he knew that she wasn’t part of a secret alliance. As Coach explained to Brandon, there was no reason to believe anything coming from the mouth of someone who is about to be voted off. You have to trust the people you’ve built relationships with. Little Hantz is too useful in challenges to vote out yet, but Coach is starting to realize that his psycho unpredictable behavior could screw everything up.
Tribal Council was kind of weird, wasn’t it? I didn’t really care for Probst’s tactic of asking individual players what annoyed them most about another specific player. It just felt like a cheap way to try and stir up trouble, not poignant questions about obvious tensions. I mean, asking Rick what annoys him about Albert? First of all, we all know Rick isn’t allowed to speak. He’s getting the Brett edit this year. And second of all, he had no reason to answer. He replied with “snoring”. The question went nowhere. I guess Probst finally found what he was looking for when Brandon admitted that people find Edna’s constant chatter to be annoying, but I feel like there must have been a better way to reveal that information. I do think Probst does a really good job at Tribal Councils, I just didn’t care for this one tactic.
The rest of Tribal Council mainly featured Brandon talking about how he’s proud to be a Hantz, but he really loves God. Or something. It was uncomfortable. Brandon Hantz is what happens when troubled people accept Jesus pamphlets from strangers outside the mall. I feel like he could really benefit from some actual therapy.
In the end, everyone voted for Stacey and tried to give her a group hug, which she naturally rejected. Come on guys, don’t you know her at all? At least she’ll be with her buddy Christine, they can stay up all night on Redemption Island gossiping about how much Coach sucks.
What did you think of the episode? Did you find it boring, or are you as into these personality quirks as I am? Is Dawn the unlikely hero we’re all going to root for? Sound off in the comments below!