Be afraid, Survivor fans. Be very afraid. Ever since JT walked off with the unanimous win in Tocantins, we have had heaping servings from the Hantz family. Season 19. Boom. Burned socks. Season 20. Villains. Boom boom. Season 21 – Hantzless, but full of Purple Kelly boredom. Season 22 – early exit Hantz. Boom boom boom. Season 23 – Mini Hantz. And this week, we met yet ANOTHER Hantz.
This week was the much beloved by some, much maligned by others, family visit. And for a season which has lost some momentum in recent weeks because of several very predictable votes – a trend which does not end this week – it provided a needed nudge. The show tried to mix it up a bit with the family visit by putting it into the hands of the Redemption Island inhabitant. He got to choose the three Survivors who would spend time with their loved ones. The twist is that they would hang out on Redemption Island. A big FU to the three who don’t get it.
Ozzy was the beneficiary of this, and I didn’t like it (more on the duel win over Cochran later). First of all, why should a twice-voted out person get to decide anything? Second, the whole point of Redemption Island was to provide a last-chance way station for the voted out. That’s it. All alone, minimal survival gear. Until the next one comes over, then it is head to head dueling. And yet, this year Ozzy seems to have stopped at a Dicks Sporting Goods to obtain fishing gear. And now, he gets to interact with the remaining Survivors. That’s ridiculous. He was basically given a chance to plead his case and work something out with half of the never-voted-out Final Six. This is unprecedented in Survivor and further undermines the vote out.
I have been willing to have the Redemption Island twist enjoy every benefit of the doubt, and much of it I like, but it continues to be unbelievably flawed. The best analogy I can make is from the world of sports. Baseball. Beginning in 1995, the league started to use a wild card playoff team in each league. One team that failed to win their division over 162 games would get a shot at the playoffs. That’s all well and good – and I was fine with that change. Except, I have always believed that the wild card team should have obstacles. No home field advantage for example. Too many wild card teams have advanced far into the playoffs over the years, with this year’s Cardinals team actually getting home field advantage in the World Series over a division winner because of the league’s dumb ass policy with home field. But I digress.
Basically, Redemption Island is the wild card. Baseball has altered the rules a bit this year to make two wild cards have to play one game for the right to get in to the next round. That’s a start. Survivor needs to take away the fishing gear. Take away the surprisingly advanced shelter. Take away the opportunity to make Final Three alliances with the remaining players. Make them earn it.
Another tangent before talking about the Hantz family. Coach is now in the Final Five and has an idol in his pocket. He’s in the final episode with tons of daylight to the end zone. The most unlikely touchdown in Survivor history is on its way. Unless Coach goes and does something rash. You know, like promise Ozzy the Final Three. What the hell was he thinking? Now I know why we saw that Ozzy/Coach scene in the recap episode.
I know what you are going to say – Coach was lying to Ozzy about the deal. If he was, then it was the dumbest, most useless lie he could tell. Ozzy’s on Redemption Island, he can do nothing for Coach. If Ozzy gets back in the game, then you can lie to him then and promise him the finals. But now, dumb. And if he wasn’t lying…beyond dumb. Ozzy has four votes in his pocket. That’s a fact. Cochran and Edna are betrayed. Others in the Five are going to be betrayed. He needs to start counting his votes. If Ozzy makes the Finals – he is going to win. Watch out, Coach. I’m with you – you have earned it so far. Don’t go and do some dumb Dragon Slayer crap again.
Now for Brandon. It is very interesting to watch irony at play. Brandon came on the show to prove that he was different from Russell. He was going to show the world that the name of Hantz meant more that what we saw in three Survivor seasons. He was going to be different. And he is. And he isn’t. Russell was all about scheming and manipulating, while Brandon is totally inept Brandon is all about redeeming himself through God – redeeming from what, we have no idea but we have all speculated that there are some nasty demons lurking beneath that body art. These two come at things from totally different angles, but in the end, they have one big thing in common. They will never win Survivor because they have no social game whatsoever.
Russell probably deserved to win Samoa based on his strategy, his manipulation and his crazy idol skills. But he lost it because he was a dick to everyone. He played the same game in Heroes vs. Villains but this time against better players who, much to his chagrin, were playing him the whole time. If he played again, he would have a great chance to go to the finals again because everyone knows that he can’t play any other way. Brandon is going to be in the Final Three – at least he will if these other people have any sense whatsoever. He cannot win votes, and he will take all of the heat in the Final Tribal. Two Hantzes, two approaches, two men who are as much of a Final Tribal Handcuff as Philip Sheppard.
And now we meet the third Hantz boy. Brandon’s dad, and Russell’s older brother. And he is totally like the other two! He told Brandon to cut it out and get his eye on the prize. He told him that God only shows up at the finals. Clearly, God hates his brother. The amazing part was when he went to Coach and actually tried to intimidate him with his middle-aged bodybuilder, crazed Little League coach attitude. Where do they find these people?
So, lastly, let’s talk about the two people who had a bad episode – Cochran and Edna. Well, let me rephrase. They had bad results, but good performances. Cochran came oh-so close to winning that duel. So close. Cochran played this duel in the same wildly aggressive and surprisingly effective way he’s played the full game. But when he needed to relax, he failed to and he missed his chance. More irony.
Edna made a good show of it even if she knew she was dead woman walking, even if she started off badly by isolating herself rather hysterically from the tribe’s group prayer. Both she and Cochran scrambled like champs at the end, but the writing was on the wall for both of them. The Upolu Five made a pact on Day 1 and have stuck to it through Day 31. There was no breaking this alliance. At least not yet. Because now they have to break up the band. And feelings are going to get hurt, which Ozzy or Edna may use to crack open the game.
We will find out soon enough as this game comes to the end next week. Personally, I think only three of the remaining seven people have a chance at the million – Coach, Ozzy and Sophie. And if you told me before the season started that BOTH Coach and Ozzy would be in that sentence, well, I would have asked you what you were smoking.