Survivor: Who’s ready to play chicken?

I’ve always hated the drawing of rocks in Survivor. Personally, I’m with Cochran – Survivor is a game of strategy and skill, not of chance. Sure, there’s already a lot of luck involved – who your tribemates are, whether the challenges play to your strengths, freak accidents and injuries that get you evacuated from the game, etc. But getting eliminated because you pulled a purple rock out of a bag? That’s all kinds of lame, and I would have wanted to avoid it as well.

Last night on Survivor, Cochran found himself in a fascinating position, and I think strong arguments can be made for why he did or didn’t end up making a smart decision. But we’ve got a lot to discuss before we get to that.

Lucky Duck, Bad Actor

First of all, Ozzy is one lucky dude. Not only did he win the duel, but the merge did happen and he reentered the game. Everyone got to attend the duel this week since immediately afterwards the tribes would be merged. Ozzy took the opportunity to put on the worst acting performance anyone has ever seen. I didn’t see any of Ozzy’s work on The Playboy Channel (and I’m not sure how much acting it required…) but I hope he delivered a better performance than this. Honestly, I’m pretty sure Johnny Fairplay actually snickered during his dead grandmother bit, and it was still better acting than Ozzy. Immediately, Albert whispered to his tribemates that he wasn’t buying it. Later, Sophie actually said she was offended that Ozzy thought they’d believe that load of crap. Oh well, I guess he tried.

The duel was one we’ve seen before – build a long stick out of smaller sticks so you can retrieve sets of keys. It’s OK, but not very interesting for a final duel. I would have preferred to see some kind of balancing/endurance challenge like what we got for the Immunity challenge later. Christine’s stick wasn’t strong enough, and in the time she took to try and fix it Ozzy had managed to win the whole challenge. I have to say, I was disappointed. I felt bad that Christine blew it after having such a great run on Redemption Island, and I was interested to see how Ozzy’s departure would change the game – especially since I was pretty sure Christine would immediately try to side with Savaii.

Man In The Middle

Speaking of acting, Cochran considers himself to be a better performer than Ozzy. At the beginning of the episode he said “I’ve already been pretending like I like these people for the past eighteen days, I think I deserve an Academy Award for that.” Have things really been that bad for Cochran and his tribe? I mean, they never voted him out. That’s something.

Since Cochran was supposed to be playing the role of double agent for Savaii, it gave him a unique opportunity to talk to the other tribe more than you usually would and suss out whether he should actually flip or not. The problem was, Ozzy’s overdramatic performance at the duel meant that no one was buying what he was selling. Coach immediately laid out the entire plan – he had it 100% right. He told Cochran that his six were strong and they were prepared to force a tie and draw rocks. There was no way they’d consider letting Cochran know who they were voting for, because they knew his tribe still had a Hidden Immunity Idol. Still, Cochran was eager to work with the opposing tribe and dished all the information to them that he could.

Survivor: Who's ready to play chicken? I might have hated on Coach a lot last week for his crazy religious antics (and I still hate that crap), but I have to give him credit this week – he played like a pro. (And considering this is his third time on the show, I guess it’s about time.) Coach played Cochran like a fiddle. He simultaneously told Cochran that his tribe was prepared to pull rocks and told him pulling rocks was a bull—- way to play the game. He empathized with Cochran about being bullied and seriously stroked his ego by telling him that people like the ones on Cochran’s tribe are always intimidated by those with superior intellect – people like Cochran and Coach, obviously. This was Boston Rob level work. Impressive.

Cochran wasn’t ready to make up his mind, though. He didn’t want to flip alone, so he tried talking to Dawn about it. At first she seemed receptive to the idea and teared up about how mistreated Cochran had been, and how she hadn’t stood up for him. She seemed willing to sacrifice her spot in the game in order to right some kind of moral wrong. And just because Cochran reminds her of her redheaded son? It was bizarre. Pull it together, Dawn. At the same time, Cochran still went ahead and gave Ozzy back the Idol. He was waffling.

There’s a Joke About Coconuts In Here Somewhere

Challenge time! I love individual Immunity Challenges, and this first one was exactly the kind of thing I like to see. Players had to balance a coconut on two ropes while simultaneously balancing their bodies on a small perch. It looks easy, but if you’re concentrating hard on the coconut you could lose your balance. If you think you’re losing your balance on the perch, you could loosen the ropes and drop your coconut. It’s great.

Two people would win individual immunity – the last man and woman standing. Edna was out almost immediately, followed right away by Cochran. Looks like both tribes were right about who their weakest links were! After a period of time, the ropes would get longer, making it more difficult to keep the coconut balanced. During the next round Whitney was out, followed by Sophie – and just like that, Dawn had won immunity! I knew she was a dark horse.

Coach was out next – I guess all that tai chi was for nothing, hmm? Rick, Jim and Keith quickly followed, leaving the competition down to Brandon, Ozzy and Albert. These guys are all pretty strong in challenges so it should be fun to watch them battle it out for the next few weeks. Brandon, and then Albert, dropped their coconuts and Ozzy was declared the winner.

Since two members of Savaii had won immunity, that made their odds better should they have to pull rocks. When the vote is a tie two times in a row, the people who received votes become immune and everyone else has to draw rocks. For the record, this is what I hate the most about this rule – the people who get votes become safe? That’s all kinds of lame! Anyway, that meant that five Upolu players and only three Savaii players would have to participate. Only two Savaii players, if someone played the Hidden Immunity Idol. (Assuming the Idol will keep you safe from the rock draw – does it?) Those aren’t bad odds, but Cochran didn’t want to leave his fate up to chance.

Flip Flop

Winning both immunities also meant that Savaii had a one in four chance of giving the Hidden Immunity Idol to the person Upolu was going to vote for, and thus shifting the balance of power to be in their favor. Of course, that could only happen if someone didn’t go blabbing their plan to the other side…and someone did. 

Savaii decided to use the Hidden Immunity Idol on Whitney, hoping that Upolu would think she didn’t have it and vote for her. For the record, I don’t think that was a good strategy. I think some of the members of the Upolu alliance are smart enough to know that there was a good chance they’d give the Idol to someone like Whitney, and thus vote for someone else. But that didn’t matter, because Cochran went and told Upolu that Whitney would be playing the Idol anyway. Upolu wouldn’t tell Cochran who they were voting for, but it was obviously going to be either him, Jim or Keith. Cochran even told them who his tribe was planning on voting for – Rick. 

Meanwhile, Dawn had had a change of heart and was urging Cochran not to flip. But she didn’t want to betray Cochran by informing her tribe that he was considering doing so. It was an odd tactic, and it didn’t end up working out very well for her.

Even having leaked all of this information, Cochran still didn’t need to make his decision until well into Tribal Council. Since he didn’t know who Upolu was voting for, he’d have to vote with Savaii the first time and force a tie. Ozzy handed Probst the Hidden Immunity Idol on behalf of Whitney, Upolu didn’t play theirs, and the vote came out six for Rick, six for Keith.

Survivor: Who's ready to play chicken? So everyone had to vote again. If they’d tied a second time, the only people pulling rocks from Savaii would have been Cochran and Jim. (Assuming the Idol kept Whitney safe. I’m not sure that it did.) Everyone from Upolu other than Rick would have had to pull rocks. Again, these are not bad odds and it’s something that Cochran should have been factoring into his decision. But he didn’t want to do it and he switched his vote, thus sending Keith to Redemption Island.

Truth and Consequences

First of all, UGH. Redemption Island is back? I was really hoping it would conclude at the merge this season. I don’t like the idea of someone reentering the game when it’s almost over. What a crock.

Now, let’s discuss Cochran’s move. Do you guys think it was a good idea? Last night I thought he made the right decision, but now I’m not so sure.

The Pros: If Cochran felt that he was definitely, absolutely at the bottom of the food chain in his original alliance, then I could see the value in wanting to flip. There are four people left from the Savaii side, so assuming they vote them out one by one, that gives him enough time to find the fractures withing the Upolu alliance and try to make himself a final three deal. Will Sophie want to go to the end with someone as strong as Albert? I wouldn’t. She needs two people to sit next to in the end, and maybe those people could be people like Brandon, Edna or Cochran. It’s entirely plausible that Cochran could weasel his way into a better situation with the Upolu folks than with his old Savaii tribemates.

The Cons: That said, I’m worried Cochran’s decision might have been rooted more in emotion than strategy. You don’t flip because everyone has been really mean to you for the last three weeks. You flip because you think it is the best way to advance your status in the game. Do you think Dawn or Jim will want to go to the finals with Ozzy? Or with a couple of lovebirds like Keith and Whitney? I think they’d both want to go to the end with Cochran. He might have been better off sticking it out with his old tribe and trying to make a final three alliance within that.

That said, it looked like it was either Cochran or Jim going home that night, so assuming that Cochran stayed, losing Jim meant losing one of the few people from Savaii that Cochran was able to work with. In order to make it work, Cochran really needed Whitney or Keith to get eliminated. So that’s why I’m on the fence about this decision.

You know what I really didn’t like? How after the vote, with everyone mad at him, Cochran immediately turned around and told his old tribe “I swapped, I’ll explain it.” Nooooo! If you’re gonna flip, you have to own that decision! Sayonara, suckers! Time to learn the Upolu tribe chant, because I’m with them now! If he tries to apologize and make nice with his old alliance, Cochran will just seem like a weak, waffling weasel. (Like that alliteration?) Of course, no one from Savaii was having it. Jim immediately called Cochran a coward, and he had a right to do so. Jim was the other dude really putting his life on the line, and so if anyone’s going to call Cochran out on being a pansy it should be Jim. If Cochran knows what’s good for him, he won’t try and make amends with his old tribe and will immediately start trying to build relationships with the folks from Upolu. Whether it was a good decision or not, he made his bed and now he has to lay in it.

I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the whole episode was how Brandon Hantz is now Cochran’s official bodyguard. Cochran is the kind of dude that Little Hantz was shoving into lockers about eighteen months ago, and now he’s slapping him on the back and sticking up for him to his old tribal bullies like they’re BFFs. Oh Cochran, do you even know what you’ve gotten into with this friendship? Hilarious.

Upolu now has a huge advantage: they have the numbers over Savaii, a relatively airtight alliance, and they still have their Hidden Immunity Idol. It will be interesting to see if they’ll be able to hold it together long enough to vote out the remaining members of Upolu before they start eating their own.

That said, Upolu has some serious challenge powerhouses on their side. Albert, Brandon and Coach are all forces to be reckoned with. Like I said, people like Cochran, Sophie or Edna could realize that they need to get the big, strong guys out and band together. This has been a great season of Survivor so far, and I think it’s only going to get better.

OK, it’s your turn! Let me know what you thought of Ozzy’s theatrics at the duel, Cochran’s major decision, how this season is shaping up overall, or anything else you guys want to talk about.


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