I am proud to report that we are now just an episode or two away from the merge – as you know, a key halfway point in any Survivor season – and there are tons of players left in the game that if they won, I would not be willing to toss my buff into the fire.
Not that I have a buff – that would be so Cochranesque.
But seriously, think about the breakdown of Survivors remaining. On Upolu, there are several who either deserve the win or at least are playing hard enough to deserve the win. Coach, Albert and Sophie are playing very good games – stunning as it is with Coach. He has been a revelation this season – it’s similar to what Parvati pulled in Fans vs. Favorites. I remember saying at the time that Parvati had no business being on that season as she was so one-note in Cook Islands. And yet, look what she did. Coach has been entertaining, but not an impressive player in his two seasons, and he has really been bringing it strategically and socially this season. Albert and Sophie have a clue – and have a good chance of being there until the end.
Brandon doesn’t deserve the win, but boy, has he been a go-to-guy for entertainment and crazy. Uncle Russell actually deserved a win (matter of opinion) in Samoa, and was at least an arguable choice in Heroes vs. Villains. Brandon is out of his league, but he can still go rather far. Edna has not impressed for the most part. Yet. I have a feeling that if given an opportunity, she could be a player down the stretch. Her vote could be very important, and she seems as if she has a gameplaying clue. However, if Upolu loses next week, it would be difficult to imagine she survives that vote. Rick has barely been in the show. So that’s three of six from Upolu.
On Savaii, Rice is stepping up to potentially be one of the best strategists in the show’s history. Not sure if he will wind up in the pantheon with both Robs, Hatch, Stephen, Cirie, Parvati, Yul, Russell, and yes, even Fairplay. However, Rice has been super impressive, right down to his line this week about Ozzy. He’s important to keep around for two reasons – he helps win challenges during the tribal portion of the show, and come time for individual competition, the target on Ozzy keeps it away from Rice. The man is really bringing some mad skills this season. His new alliance also has Cochran and Dawn – both of whom are easy to root for, as both have emerged from the depths to find themselves in potentially great positions. Think about it, if Upolu loses next week and are down to five, the Redemption returnee is likely a disgruntled Upolu member. Savaii finds themselves with a 7-5 advantage and Rice/Cochran/Dawn as power players. Can you see them sticking with Keith and Whitney to take out Upolu, the Redemption person and Ozzy? I can. And I have less faith that Keith or Whitney will notice their folly until it is too late. Those two are likable enough, but not sure if they have what it takes.
That leaves Ozzy. Before I get into him, let’s review. That’s six I can definitely root for, another two or three who I can live with. Plus the growing legend of Christine and the somewhat likable Mikayla and you have tons of people left who could make this season one of the top few in the show’s run. Not bad for the 23rd installment!
Now, Ozzy. Has there been a more perplexing multiple-season Survivor than Ozzy? Maybe Amanda? She’s played the same kind of game three times, going deep each time, including two Finals, but never seeming to learn from her mistakes. Russell did the same thing. Ozzy is a different animal altogether because you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Survivor for the physical portion of the show. Ozzy has the surviving portion down. He ranks up there with Rupert and Hatch – and probably surpasses them – as fishermen. He scales trees like a monkey and removes coconuts with his feet. He swims like no other before him – Probst called him a dolphin on Cook Islands. He even won challenges which incorporated puzzles. He should be unstoppable.
However, he has to deal with people, and there is the problem. On Cook Islands, he had his foil, he did the physical and Yul did the mental. If not for the mutiny, he was doomed for an early jury finish. Because Aitu had to stick together, Ozzy made it deep in the season. If they could spare him, they would have voted him off the first time he would lose immunity. So, he got a lot of jury votes due to his skills. On Fans vs. Favorites, he tried to be a leader and strategist, but was clueless to what was going on around him. This season, he made those same mistakes. He tends to act before thinking – a bad move on Survivor.
So after Savaii took out Elyse, he came back to camp and let loose on his tribe. He felt like an idiot, he was done with alliance play, and is “what is called a free agent.” Dumb. The tribe was stunned, Keith asked if it was him vs. the tribe. Whitney said it wasn’t against him. This isn’t really true, because it was, but her point was that if it was really against him the vote would have been for Ozzy, not for Elyse.
The best part was Ozzy revealing that he had the idol to the tribe and how he’d be just fine going to Redemption Island. Keith hysterically responded that “if you want to go there, just let us know.” The funny thing here is that it may have actually been the best move for Ozzy to reveal the idol, it’s just that he did it for the wrong reasons. He was doing it out of spite, but in actuality, telling them about the idol may have saved his skin. Let’s assume for a moment that Rice, Cochran and Dawn found out for the first time just now that he had it. Instead of voting for Ozzy should they lose next week, and risk being the subject of his vote (remember I went into that scenario last week), they can direct their vote to Keith or Whitney. Ozzy just put the fear of the idol in the tribe and may have managed to alter the vote order.
However, as the episode advanced, Ozzy realized that he was being a total dick and made up with the tribe. We shall see how much that resonates over time and whether or not he’s just lingering as he was in Cook Islands. Who knows – maybe Candice and Penner will inspire Dawn and Cochran to mutiny!
Meanwhile, on Upolu we were presented with the age old Survivor question – loyalty or strength. Upon losing the challenge, the Alliance of Five had to decide who to bring along as their Six. No, not that Six, but that would be amazing. Mikayla or Edna. Mikayla has been the stronger physical player – remember her in past challenges and during the construction of the shelter when she inadvertently tempted Brandon. She’s not really been part of the group though. Edna was with Coach from the first minute of the first episode, but weighs about 15 pounds wet. Coach wanted Edna, Albert wanted Mikayla. Coach said Edna would always be loyal, and Albert said that they have a better chance to win the next pivotal challenge with Mikayla. However, cut through the BS and get this – Edna gives Coach the advantage, Mikayla gives it to Albert. That’s the sub-alliance within the alliance which has now taken shape. Albert is with Sophie, and Coach is with Brandon (irony of ironies). Edna and Mikayla represented a third part, leaving Rick as the swing fourth. Should Upolu defeat Savaii down the stretch and this group become the final six –advantage Coach.
It was almost moot though, as during the challenge, Upolu held a huge lead. It was an inspired challenge which actually featured the construction of a wheelbarrow, which converted into a slingshot. I think we may have stumbled upon a Transformers prequel! However, despite the huge lead, only Albert was able to hit any targets with the slingshot. Coach couldn’t and Mikayla couldn’t. Mikayla was doing some weird one-handed technique which irritated Coach, but it wasn’t as if he was channeling his inner Dennis the Menace. That one-handed deal may have sealed Mikayla’s fate – not with Coach, put perhaps with Rick who cast the tiebreaking vote at Tribal. Of course, we’d actually have to hear insight from Rick to understand his motivations. At least he has a cool hat.
Treemail Top 10
• One of my favorite scenes in the history of Survivor took place the day after Ozzy’s hissy fit. He is talking to us about how hurt he was about the Elyse vote and how he’s a big part of the tribe. The voiceover happens over scenes of Ozzy fishing. Then we get to see Ozzy make his final points about being a provider – but the visual is hysterical. Ozzy, acting tough while wearing a mask and snorkel. And using a poor fish carcass as a prop. Hilarious.
• Loved the use of Russell footage to show how similar he and Brandon ran. And Coach’s impression? Priceless.
• I have one question regarding the hidden idol for Coach, Albert and Sophie. If they are so worried about making Brandon run around on a wild goose chase, why not pull a Bob and make a fake one? Or, if it really bothers you, bring him in the loop. Pretend that you just found it. Whatever. Bottom line is that I assume Brandon will find out eventually and be pissed.
• Duel – Shuffleboard game. Really. That was it. Yawn.
• However, Redemption Island is really getting to Christine. Matt started to break down last year as well, getting so deep into his own head his already strident religious beliefs took on a life of their own. Christine is starting to feel the effects as well. Being by yourself for essentially two weeks will do that. If she gets back into the game, it will be interesting to see how she deals with people. I think the producers didn’t expect to have someone dominate on RI as much as has happened so far. The dynamic may not be all that attractive to them, and I wonder if this experiment in format will be short lived.
• Kudos to Elyse – she left the show well and with dignity. Not many have. At least she didn’t give them the finger, that would be Christine’s job.
• Based on the first half of the episode, I wrote in my notes that Savaii was going to win the Immunity Challenge. Reality shows need to mix up their formula some more because I don’t like not being surprised.
• The natural waterslide rock formation was also a reward win during Samoa. The pitfalls of doing three seasons out of the last five on the same tiny island.
• Sophie after Brandon chose to “stick to his word” about keeping Edna as the Six, despite saying that Mikayla was ok after all and was a better option to keep around, “she’s no longer the whore of the tribe, I just don’t get it, he’s nuts.” I want more Sophie, Show, she gets one line a week and always nails it.
• Tribal Council was fascinating this week as we actually watched an internal alliance debate unfold – a legit one. When a real discussion emerges, Probst takes on the role he loves – moderator. He has to instigate sometimes, but he seems very comfortable playing the guy who keeps the volley going. Brandon stating that if they were not going to play honorably that they should vote him out right there was crazy. I wanted them all to lock eyes and say, “ok, you got it!” Coach used some great words in there and poked a hole right into his usual argument about honor – “There’s a point of being too honest, and you have to keep some cards hidden.” Right. This is a huge poker game with human beings as the cards and the chips. You have to lie. You have to. The question is how much can you live with. And by the way, hearing Brandon talk about the dangers of lying and how a little one leads to more, like a cigarette or marijuana, gives some real insight into what he was talking about a couple of episodes ago and his checkered past.
Votes – Mikayla 4 (Coach, Edna, Brandon, Rick), Edna 3 (Albert, Sophie, Mikayla). I loved Edna’s vote out comment to Mikayla – “I hope the time here has helped your future modeling career.” That may be the most polite insult ever.
Next week – Another close challenge, Brandon talks about bullets and Ozzy implies a willingness to go to Redemption.
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