The biggest revelation in this week’s Survivor took place during the first Tribal Council vote. It was such a shocking twist – and something the show has never, ever done before. Never before has a surprise new member of the tribe been introduced, much less to the merged tribe. I mean, when Brandon voted for Don, I was stunned because I didn’t remember seeing some dude named Don and I…wait, what’s that? There was no Don? That was how Brandon spelled Dawn? Just like his uncle spelled “Luara” in Samoa? Ah, it’s a Hantz thing, not a show thing. Never mind then.
Actually, nothing really big happened this week except that nothing big happened. That’s the most important thing to take away from this episode – Final 9 came and went with no big moves, and now those not poised to make the finals have one final great chance to shake things up before the Finale. Next week is a clip show, but in two weeks a Savaii-less Final 7 will have at it with power at stake. The question will be – can anyone shake things up?
The chance was there this week. Coach is sitting pretty and has multiple people thinking they are going to the end with him. It is amazing how much this season has mirrored last season. While it was not a huge leap to think Boston Rob could manipulate a cast the way he did last season – I mean, he did it to All-Stars in Season 8 – it is stunning to see Coach do it. Perfect case in point – remember in Tocantins when Coach threw a hissy fit when he was not appointed the leader of the tribe? Anyone with a vast knowledge of the show knows that being the leader is often the kiss of death, but he was really hurt by it and it led him on his quest to get back at Brendan. When the subject came up this week, Coach sidestepped it and shrugged off any thought of being the leader. What a game, and I must say it ranks up with Parvati in Micronesia as the most surprising game of any Survivor. Now let’s see if Coach can close the deal the way she did.
However, the others had a chance to get him. With two remaining Savaii and Cochran, they needed to flip two Upolu votes. With six remaining from that Tribe, convincing two to join a Final 5 alliance instead of a Final 6 alliance shouldn’t be hard, right? Well, not so much. Albert was apparently game, but no one else would go along with it. Of course, the only other option he had was Sophie. Edna is bound to Coach, and Rick (according to a deleted scene on CBS.com with Dawn) refused to break his word with Coach. Brandon is a wild card, but he owes nothing to protecting Savaii. In the end, Sophie chose to stick with her group, for right or wrong.
So here’s where we stand. Cochran is very likely in trouble, and Coach is going to have to make a decision very soon. He has to decide who he is going to betray. He can’t take five to the finals, and with the idol in his pocket, he only needs to survive a couple of more Tribals himself. The smart move for Coach is to target Albert. Not only would it remove his single biggest threat, but it would pit him on Redemption Island (most likely) against his other single biggest threat. Albert and Sophie are playing hard, and both could do a good job in swaying jury votes. If Coach can somehow manage to get to the end next to any combination of Cochran, Edna, Rick and Brandon – he is going to win. He is that close now.
Redemption Island may become an issue for him though. Ozzy survived a huge challenge this week against Rice and Keith to remain in contention. Now he has to beat Dawn and Whitney, likely a much easier task. Ozzy would smoke them in a physical challenge, and would likely do the same in an endurance challenge. The ladies’ biggest hope is that it will be something else – balance, a quiz, or something ultra random like shuffleboard or the coconut in a hole toss. Don’t rely on a puzzle to take out Ozzy; he is surprisingly adept at those as well. He is in much better shape on Redemption Island as you could hope to be. His unbelievable fishing skills are serving him well – he is eating better than Te Tuna whose only protein right now is in their tribe’s name. If he can return to the Final Five the most physical combination he can face is Coach/Brandon/Rick/and either Albert or Sophie. And likely, he’ll face Edna and maybe Cochran instead of two of them.
Would you be stunned to see Ozzy win back to back challenges and enter the Final Three? Not me. A question I have, and one I really don’t know the answer to, is whether it behooves Coach to send people like Albert or Sophie to Redemption to take Ozzy out one-on-one, or to send cannon fodder like Cochran and Edna there and save the strong ones for a Final 5 and Final 4 battle where you can gang up on Ozzy if possible.
The funny thing is – who really has a chance to win this season? Certainly Coach can win, and I think Albert and Sophie have real chances to win as well. If Dawn can escape from Redemption, she may as well. Ozzy has a decent chance but needs some help – if he makes the Final 3 he has four votes in his pocket (Rice, Keith, Whitney and Dawn). He would need the other five to splinter between the two Upolu/Cochran sitting with him. A 3-2 split wins it for Ozzy. A 4-1 split earns him a tie – and I have no idea how they manage that during a live show. But if Ozzy keeps mouthing off to everyone, I’m not even sure if he gets those four votes in the end.
I cannot see any way shape or form that Rick, Brandon, Cochran or Edna can win, unless they face off against each other. That would require one of them winning immunity in the Final Four. Do you see that happening? That’s Cochran’s only chance, by the way, because if he was against any of them, he wins. At least he tried to win – he may even earn some Savaii votes in that scenario.
And here we come back to the best chance for any movement in the Final 7. That group of four needs to align. The problem is that I know, and you know, that they don’t see it. It will likely be up to Cochran to convince them that if they want to win the million, they cannot sit next to anyone else. Because he has Coach standing in the way – we heard it from Coach’s lips that he learned one of the most important end game strategies of them all. Make the bottom of your alliance not feel that they are the bottom of the alliance. It leads to blindsides, but it keeps your alliances together. The end game is upon us and people will have to start breaking their word. This is the game they have chosen to play. It is inevitable – let’s see if they start to play it.