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Survivor: South Pacific – Ep 8 – To Flip Or Not To Flip

Boom! And just like that, South Pacific is on its way to being a classic Survivor season. Between last week’s gambit by Ozzy and this week’s stellar merge episode, the first half of this season ranks with almost any other. This week was all about what to do about the 6-6 tie. Now, in the early seasons the tiebreaker was previous votes. It led to the very clever plan hatched by Colby and his tribe when they misled the other side into thinking Colby had votes. After that, they installed the Purple Rock plan, which remains to this day. With the exception of the Final Four (or bizarre Ulong situations where there remain only two on the tribe), if there is a tie after two votes, the Survivors with immunity and the Survivors who received votes are immune. The rest randomly pick rocks, and the one who draws the colored rock goes home. Paschal remains the only one to be eliminated by this method in Marquesas.

The reason is that this is an awful way to go home. These men and women have put in at about three weeks into the game – starving, thirsty, dirty, smelly, eaten by bugs. To have it come down to pure luck is hard for some to swallow. It is why there has never been another rock drawn – somebody always flips. That’s what makes the rule so good. On Palau, Tom and Ian used it to get Katie to flip on Gregg when it was down to the Final Six. It may have cost Katie any chance of winning – and she probably knew it. Russell got Rocket Scientist John to flip for the same reason in Samoa.

Now, before you judge Cochran for his decision this week, think to yourself – if I had just gone through the physical and mental ordeal of Survivor for 19 days, and still had the million dollars as a possibility, would I lay it all on the table with a 1 in 7 chance of going home (Ozzy, Dawn, Whitney, Rick and Keith all immune)?

It is a hard decision. Especially when you realize that five of the seven at risk are all Upolu members. If you are lucky enough to not draw the Rock of Elimination, your tribe is up 6-5 and Pagonging can commence. Rice was ok with taking that chance – of course; he used to be a pro gambler. It takes a certain personality to live with that kind of risk. He also knows that he would stand a fighting chance on Redemption Island if the rock fell to him. Cochran is not a pro gambler, and he wouldn’t last very long at all if he picked that rock. One in seven. The rule is there to encourage flipping because losing your game based on random chance sucks. Great addition to the rules and it paid off big time this week.

Factor in the other element to Cochran’s decision – he has been the doormat of his tribe since Day One. Even with the blindside of Elyse, Cochran seems to have fallen back into the bottom based on his challenge ineptitude. Rice and Keith were all for sending him on his way before Ozzy’s Cockamamie Plan took shape. We have watched for seven episodes the tribe treat him like – well, like a nerd. And anyone who has ever been one recognized it. Cochran fought for survival since the first Tribal Council and has barely hung on each time. How can he feel confident that this group will stay loyal to him? Especially after they all but pushed him to RI last week before Ozzy had his dream.

I saw that Sophie tweeted a link to CBS.com last night, showing a deleted scene that shed a bit more light on Cochran’s decision to flip. In it, Albert approached him and implied that if he flipped, he would be Final Four with Albert, Coach and Sophie. Cochran said this was the only offer he had. For all of our assumptions about Rice and Dawn with Cochran, he did not have assurances that an alliance existed there. This really makes more sense now, and I wish the show hadn’t deleted that scene.

Logically, Rice/Dawn or Keith/Whitney would be wise to go to a Final Three with Cochran. I disagree. Cochran in the Final Three can be dangerous. Remember Courtney Yates in China? Or Susie in Gabon? Each of them won votes in the Final Tribal vote. Courtney’s argument was that she was a tiny chick who was abrasive and yet there she was. THAT’s surviving. Susie’s was similar – she was nice, always on the outs and there she was. Cochran would be similar. He would be a dangerous wild card in the Finals. I think Rice, Dawn, Keith, Whitney would have seen that and would have been the Final Four alliance. In fact, I think Ozzy is someone even more attractive to take to the Finals than Cochran. His arrogance will grate on the others – and his physicality is not going to impress this lot the way it did in Cook Islands.

Meanwhile, as part of the new seven-person Upolu alliance, Cochran has a crack in the door he can potentially exploit. Let’s assume for a moment that the Pagonging of Savaii is about to begin. Once it is down to seven, Cochran becomes the swing vote. All he has to do is manage to take the target off of him and pit the six against one another. At Final Six, they have another rock drawing situation. While Brandon may be willing to leave it in God’s hands, I can’t see Coach, Albert, Sophie or Edna risking it all that late in the game. Who knows about Rick – so far his moustache and hat have had more stage presence than the cowboy. So, it is not only likely, but it is logical for Cochran to be able to wedge himself in as the fourth with three of the Upolu members.

It is a fascinating development – and a perfect example of how this show can still generate debate and provide compelling television.

The other very important moment that must get talked about this week is the ever-growing development of Coach into a real Survivor player. It has been well-documented here, and in many places, that Coach has never been a good player. He’s been a joke, a sap, and many things. But never a mastermind. Until now – and this week cemented it.

After the merge, Cochran began his supposed role of double agent by trying to infiltrate Upolu. Albert didn’t buy it at the Duel, and it carried over into the interactions afterwards. Cochran sat with Coach and began to talk about how Keith talks about him, and Coach stopped him. He said the tribe was not buying it, and they felt as if they were being played. They knew the Ozzy to RI was a big show. He said they were a solid six and were absolutely willing to draw rocks. Coach said that drawing rocks was a BS way to play the game. He said he knew how people like the Savaii tribe treats people like Cochran, people with intellect. He said that he was bullied, and he knows that Cochran has been bullied. He wanted Cochran to decide how, and with whom, he wanted to play the game. He even literally drew a line in the sand for Cochran. The deleted scene took place right afterwards and Coach told Albert that he should approach Cochran with the Final Four offer and that being treated with respect would sway Cochran.

I mean, seriously, what happened to Coach? He is playing a damn good game. He has strategy, he has shown leadership. He went from being a “temporary player” to really being a couple of moves away from having a realistic shot at being in the Final Four. This season has tons of people playing very hard – Albert, Sophie, Cochran, Rice, even Ozzy – but I must say that I don’t think anyone is playing a better game than Coach after eight episodes. He closed the deal with Cochran by saying that instead of Cochran being eaten alive, then he thought Cochran would eat them alive. Who knew that Coach would give a motivational speech that worked?

Another thing I want to talk about – Brandon. For someone who was so much a part of the early run of episodes, he has been somewhat quiet recently. No more. It was interesting to see Brandon try to sell Cochran on the tribe – and for some reason I found it very strange to see them talking at all. It’s like if you’ve ever had a party where your friends and family were both in attendance and you witnessed your college roommate talking to your drunken uncle. Weird.

Anyway, after the vote, Cochran turned to his now-former tribe and said he flipped and that he’d explain later. Whitney dropped some F-bombs and Rice called him a coward. Twice. Nasty, right? Right up there with Judd wanting his tribe of “scumbags” to be eaten by a crocodile. However, in this case, Brandon stepped up to defend Cochran, saying that it’s that kind of treatment that put them where they are. He tells Cochran to stick close to him, presumably for protection. Man, did not see that coming. Brandon as Cochran’s bodyguard.

Prediction – if Upolu stands firm and we have Upolu+Cochran in the Final Seven, this Brandon/Cochran alliance will be HUGE part of it. As much as I would like to see Dawn and Rice stick around for a while, part of me wants this scenario to play out to see how Upolu eats itself and how Cochran plays a part in that. If he plays his cards right he could wind up being this season’s Guatemala Danni or Vanuatu Chris and split and conquer a tribe. The road more treacherous is often the road to victory in Survivor.

Lastly, Ozzy’s plan worked to a point. It worked to the point where he did win the Duel and there was a merge. And thanks to the immunity challenge, they were poised to have the best odds in a rock pull. That still doesn’t make it right. And here’s a scenario as to why. Let’s say for a moment that Savaii elects to not follow Ozzy’s wacky plan. What happens instead is that Cochran goes to Redemption Island and faces off against Christine. Based on the challenge we saw, I just can’t see Cochran winning that challenge. That would send Christine back into the game – and without a doubt, barring a Final Three promise from Upolu that was credible (and doubtful), she was coming over to Savaii. So we are back to six on six. Do you see a Savaii flipping? Dawn? Maybe, but doubtful. Christine? Again, maybe, but doubtful. This means they are in the 5-2 rock pulling odds situation anyway, but without Cochran. So, how was that Ozzy plan working out, guys?

Treemail Top 10
• You know, Dawn, if you are reading this column, you are aware that I have been rooting for you. But I have to take you to task on one thing. Before the Immunity Challenge, Dawn was telling Cochran that she was with him. That she regrets not defending him sooner. She made it seem as if she was going with him over to Upolu. And then she won the challenge. All of a sudden, she’s immune to the rock pull. And now she’s backtracking on flipping. Interesting how this change of heart came after she got safety, and the numbers worked better for her. I’m sorry – but that’s certainly convenient, no? And furthermore – if she was all about Savaii, why didn’t she tattle on Cochran? The Savaii play would be to feed him false info on where the idol was going, and hope that your 1 in 3 chance would result in Upolu votes for an immune player.
• One of my favorite moments – and feel free to freeze frame it – is when Rick’s votes started. His eyes bug out and his moustache comes alive. It is high comedy from a guy who just doesn’t talk.
• And one more thing on Cochran, he flipped on the second vote rather than the first one was because I am fairly certain that Upolu did not tell Cochran who they were voting for, so he couldn’t flip at first. He could have guessed, in theory, which would have brought about the same end, but that’s why he voted the way he did.
• Ozzy’s performance at the Duel – not the challenge, but his “performance” – was Razzie quality. At best. He was so over the top with selling the story that somewhere William Shatner was thinking, “turn it down a notch, son.” The right play if he wanted to sell it was to underplay it. Internalize it, and maybe, just maybe, Upolu buys into it.
• One line from his dress rehearsal with Christine that I liked, as Ozzy tried to sell the Cochran betrayal (not knowing the irony of it just yet), was this line – “What is it with the lawyers!” A nice callback to his Final Three showdown with Yul and Becky in Cook Islands.
• Hats off to Christine who deserves a second chance someday. Not many 40-year-old moms can go out there, live by herself on an island for two weeks and dispatch five opponents in challenges. She was done in by stupidity in the end. It’s a shame – I didn’t like her at the start, but I grew to like her. I wish she was still in the game. Her exit line as she burned her buff said it all, “This might explode. Stand back. Careful.”
• What might be the best side effect of Cochran’s betrayal and Coach’s gambit with the little guy – they also flushed the idol! They did it with Cochran’s help, of course, but that Savaii idol is now gone, and Ozzy is one lost immunity challenge from Redemption Island. They chose to play it now to better their rock odds by saving another tribe member – in this case Whitney – who they thought was going to be targeted.
• People forget every season that at its heart, Survivor is a social game. In a social game, you don’t belittle and ostracize someone. That person’s vote matters just as much as yours, and they want the million just as much as you. Many a tribe has forgotten this and been burned. Think about Lill in Pearl Islands. Or Eliza in Vanuatu. Or Shambo in Samoa.
• The Challenges – The Duel was a repeat of the cage challenge from the first duel last season. You had to construct a pole out of sticks – try and hook three keys and then open your cage. Ozzy smoked Christine, but the high (or low) point was the many pole jokes that Probst got to make. The Immunity Challenge was endurance – hold two ropes of increasing length and try to balance a coconut on them. Edna and Cochran fell early, and Dawn outlasted all of the women to earn one immunity. The men came down to Ozzy and Albert with Ozzy winning. This could have been huge if Cochran didn’t flip, but as it turns out it was all academic. However, the best part was the Probst Jinx. Every time he said something complementary about a player it seemed they dropped the coconut seconds later. It was as if the complement actually had physical weight which threw off their balance.
• I have to say – Te Tuna – dumbest name for a tribe ever. Great nickname – bad tribe name.

So, that’s that for the Merge. The former Upolu is set up, now let’s see if they can close the deal. Coach will try to do his best Boston Rob and keep his team together, and avoid being cast off before the end. Individual game has begun, folks. I am looking forward to it unfolding.

Votes Part 1 – Keith 6 (Coach, Albert, Sophie, Brandon, Edna, Rick), Rick 6 (Ozzy, Rice, Keith, Whitney, Dawn, Cochran) – Whitney played the idol, Ozzy and Dawn immune.

Votes Part 2 – Keith 7 (Coach, Albert, Sophie, Brandon, Edna, Rick, Cochran), Rick 5 (Ozzy, Rice, Keith, Whitney, Dawn)

Next week – It gets really nasty post-Tribal. And Rice moves on and starts to scramble.

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