Category Archives: Survivor

Survivor: Caramoan – Finale – And The Meek Shall Inherit A Million Bucks

Season 26 of Survivor came to a close last night and as it turns out, this season ranked most certainly in the top half of seasons – possibly in the top third. It is pretty amazing when you think back at the first half of the season – which was populated with insanity from Sgt. Hulka, Phillip and especially Brandon Hantz. More on him in the Reunion review. But the second half? Several great episodes marked with some effective strategy and, crazy as it may sound after 26 editions, things we have never seen before on the show.

It’s crazy when you think about it – but the two Fans vs. Favorite seasons were eerily similar. The weird first episode featuring a monumental first boot (Fairplay’s destruction vs. Francesca’s history of failure). The fans’ overall trouble with keeping up with the Faves. More than one medical evacuation – including one fairly late in the game. And most especially, a very unlikely winner.

Parvati was not an especially impressive player in Cook Islands, so it is not surprising that few people expected much from her in the first FvF. Amber was similar back in All-Stars. This is why I had predicted Andrea to be the winner this time – a decent finish, but unimpressive game the first time. My mistake was that I went with the theme of good looking young women – Amber, Parvati, Andrea. I didn’t look down the roster for the better choice – although, if you recall, I did pick Cochran (and Sherri!) for the Final Three. Cochran fit the bill too – decent showing, poor overall first time. But the potential was certainly there.

Look back at South Pacific. If Cochran had been placed on Coach’s tribe from the start, he might have actually gone pretty far. With Coach, Sophie, Albert, Rick, etc. it was a much better fit for him – and perhaps Cochran could have had a legitimate chance of being at the Final Tribal instead of Sophie. But he was on Ozzy’s team – populated with bullies, pretty boys, and beauty queens. He had no real chance with that group. He was ridiculed; he was pushed around and taken for granted. He flipped because he had to – but he was really damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. He deserved another shot – he was interesting, funny and fun to watch.

Cochran came out this time with a plan and improved confidence. He understood the Boston Rob Rules more than Phillip did. He also tweaked them a bit. He got himself into a solid majority alliance in the early part of the game. More importantly, he developed a hard core ally to navigate the miasma with in Dawn. Along the way, he found sub-alliances in the majority alliance. He was wise to position himself alongside a larger personality in the alliance (Phillip) to attract the most attention from enemies. He managed to get Dawn on the firing line – her social game plus his strategy was the combo – to take the brunt of the jury ire. He was not afraid to make big moves, and stepped up his physical game. To use baseball terms, it was not a perfect game like Boston Rob in Season 22, but Cochran threw a six-hit, complete game shutout.

He joins Earl and JT as the only unanimous winners – curiously, all three did it with different jury numbers (7,8,9). And no matter what you think of the man, it is hard not to smile just a bit. He was a kid watching Richard Hatch win the first time around, and here he is on the show. He wore a buff to high school. He wrote a thesis about Survivor juries. He is us. If Cochran can do it, so can you. So can I. Well, maybe not me, but you know what I mean. Dawn would have been a worthy winner too – her game was just as good as Cochran’s, except it was a bit flawed. She just cried way too much and didn’t time her moves the way Cochran boasted that he did. Who could have known that Dawn would have become the end game villain this season?

I do think that Dawn’s undoing was in the works already but really her game ended with the Brenda blindside. I went through it all last week. Only Eddie and Erik posed threats to Cochran in the Final 5 and all he had to do was keep his F3 alliance with Dawn and Sherri intact and immunity out of the boys’ hands for the F4 vote. He did and it is over.

As for the episode – anyone paying attention knew that it was just a two hour march to Cochran’s coronation. Only the one challenge posed any kind of threat to that eventuality. If Eddie won that immunity challenge at Final Four, he was going to be a huge threat for the vote. Dawn would have probably been voted out, but Cochran would have had a hard time winning that vote to win. So there was some drama there to see how the challenge turned out – and at the Reward Challenge.

What? Reward Challenge in the Finale? How can that be? It can be because Erik made history again. Last time it was for giving up immunity at the Final Five and getting voted out – this time it was for almost giving up his life. After leaving Tribal Council and booting Brenda, Erik began to feel feint. He said everything was spinning and had to lie down. This is literally just down the path from Tribal, so Probst is still there. He pops in to talk to Erik as the Survivor doctors show up and amazingly get schooled by Eddie. He does so much lunkheaded behavior that it hard to forget – even as it appears on chyron – that Eddie is an EMT. He knows that Erik is going to need an IV and is malnourished badly. It is curious that Erik, one of the most well-fed people this season thanks to rewards, is the one to fall victim to this. Sherri and Dawn are showing their skeletons badly, and Eddie is a shell of the he-man he was at the start. Wait, He-Man and Skeleton…er…Skelator… Whoa.

Anyway – so Erik is told by Dr. Joe, or whatever his name was (I was hoping for Dr. Nick, everybody) that it’s over. No one has ever been evacuated this deep into the game – breaking the record held (I believe) by James in the first FvF (7th place). At Ponderosa he reveals that it just took a couple of hours of IV to get him right – but if he didn’t have that, he could have been in grave danger. Amusingly, Probst starts talking strategy with them with Erik lying right there. Cochran goes up to Erik and says, “I don’t come out here to make friends. But I seriously made a friend in you. I wouldn’t have wanted to share this with anybody else.” I think part of that is true, and part of that was Cochran’s self-proclaimed psychotic ability to separate the game and life.

I feel badly for Erik. He has been ridiculed over the last few years for the immunity necklace thing, so this was a great chance for redemption. Instead, he is essentially silent for 30+ days and has to be carted out at the exact same position as he was in the last time.

We go to the Reward Challenge which would have been the F5 Elimination Challenge and clearly Erik’s evacuation was too sudden for them to come up with a picnic lunch or something. Instead it was for a Final Elimination Challenge advantage – they did this last season too, but they also didn’t have five in the Finale. I would have liked a more pure Reward for food – or the old car reward – and have a final challenge without advantages. As it turns out, Eddie would have lost anyway. He and Dawn were neck and neck throughout the physical part and she was dusting him on the puzzle.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 13 – The One Where Cochran May Have Won It All

I am trying to come up with a scenario where Cochran doesn’t win Survivor this season – and I am having a hard time doing it. Unless he is the one that is being medically evacuated as teased in the coming attractions. Other than that, I don’t see it. It is hard to speculate on scenarios because of the medical emergency about to happen, but think about it. If Eddie gets hurt, Erik is the target – and Sherri would go if Erik won immunity. Reverse it again for Erik getting hurt. If Sherri gets hurt, then they take out Erik or Eddie at the F4 and take their chances with the jury. If Dawn is hurt, Cochran and Sherri will have to take their chances with one of the guys. In all of these F3 scenarios – I think Cochran wins the vote. Dawn will take the heat directed at him – I see few scenarios where Dawn can win now – maybe against Sherri and Erik. Eddie will get Lord Snow and Reynold’s vote. Maybe Malcolm and Andrea too. His ceiling is likely 4, and I think Cochran’s presence in the finals could swing Andrea and/or Malcolm to his side.

Erik probably can only muster up a Brenda vote – he’s been likable but his only real chance is to go against Sherri and Dawn. Sherri, well, I don’t see where she has any votes on the jury. I think she can make the Final Three – but she could very well be a new member of the Zero Vote Club. Perhaps Dawn too. In fact, I think it is well within the realm of possibility that Cochran could beat Sherri and Dawn in Fiji Earl fashion – a wipe out.

So, in my humble opinion – and it is based solely on logic and reason, two things often at a premium in Survivor – is that for Cochran to lose he has to either be the F5 evacuated player or be the target at F4. He’s managed very well so far in keeping the target off his back – and with his alliance with Dawn and Sherri fairly tight – if the three of them exist at F4, he is in great shape. The amazing thing – in a Fans vs. Favorites season, it was a Favorite who is probably the biggest SuperFan ever to appear on the show, which seems to be firmly in the driver’s seat.

Of course, what the hell do I know. I spent this entire episode saying – there is no way they vote out Brenda. And yet, they did. To me, the easy and smart play was to take out Eddie right here, right now. Even though he has done nothing all season and has not actually won a challenge at all – Eddie is still a physical threat to Dawn, Sherri and Cochran. And with Erik withering away – perhaps to Erik as well. Brenda has done well in challenges – sure – but I still fear Eddie’s sudden ability to use brute strength to win a few of these. Even with Eddie gone – Brenda is next to go for them. If she was voted out F5 – I think she would have been ok with it. Instead, she gets blindsided, goes out before Eddie, and goes out IMMEDIATELY after doing a selfless thing for the tribe. In fact, what they have done is turn a loyal jury vote into a total wild card. If you watch the Ponderosa video, you see that Brenda was really devastated and the other jury members were pissed for her. Phillip even made a comment very derogatory to Dawn.

Dawn and Cochran are super tight. We all know that. No one in the game realized it. Brenda and Dawn were also very tight. Dawn needed to do a better job in managing her votes – getting rid of Brenda now may have had some logic (get out a Finals threat, get out a strong woman, get her now when she least expects it) but the logic was almost all Cochran logic. Where are Dawn’s votes going to come from now? She is personally responsible for Malcolm and Brenda getting voted out. Phillip seems against her now. Can you really see Reynold voting for her? All they had to do was be patient, get out the last AMC member and then have the Final 5 do its business. Dawn had a strong threesome – all they had to do was keep immunity away from Brenda and Erik.

And even if they failed to do so…Cochran and Dawn had a very strong jury case over the likable Brenda and Erik. Cochran and Dawn moved the pieces – Brenda and Erik were the pieces. This jury would have been cool with that argument – more so than other juries in the past. It was a poor move to blindside Brenda – and now instead of a pleasant jury, we have all bets off now.

The big item this week – family visit. I’ll get into the nuts and bolts in the Reward Challenge summary in a few, but the main crux is that once again the winner of the challenge got screwed. I know it has been said elsewhere, but I totally agree with it – there is no reason to win this challenge. None. Take the big hug you get when you see your mom, husband, kid, whatever and then enjoy the few moments you have during the challenge and let someone else get screwed with the decision making. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get lucky and enjoy some time with your loved one. If you don’t, chances are you will see them after about another week.

The latest twist had Brenda select someone to join her – she chose Dawn. Logical. But then Probst revealed that another set of loved ones were there waiting for them. However, Brenda could either enjoy them with Dawn, or pass it up and give it to the other four. Diabolical. So, she pisses off the majority by being selfish, or makes herself a threat by being selfless. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Side effect – she further damages the already damaged Dawn. Double side effect – the reward was in sight of Dawn and Brenda – so they got to watch the others enjoy their family and grilled meats. Cruel.

Just lose the challenge people. Just. Lose. It. Do what Cochran did – hang out and ask your mom about her flight.

Reward Challenge – let’s talk about it. The Survivors get a product placement phone and know it means the loved ones challenge. Dawn is crying the moment they see the company’s name. Then again – all of them basically start crying. The family members are:

Brenda’s dad – Raymond – He told her to be humble this time around. She did it.

Dawn’s husband – David – Happy 21st Anniversary!

Sherri’s husband – Jared – Sherri is showing more humanity in her reaction to her husband as she has shown all season long. Remember when she mattered back in the Sgt. Hulka days? We’ve barely seen her for weeks.

Cochran’s mom – Arlene – Exactly as you would imagine her to be.

Eddie’s dad – Edward – also exactly as you expected him to be. I will say this – I loved how affectionate the Eds were with each other. Coincidentally, the first time I’ve had any affection for Eddie all season.

Erik’s brother – Richard – He’s like a preppy, hairless version of Erik.

They all arrive with huge smiles and the family comes filing in. Raymond has cool flowing grayish hair that bounces as he runs to Brenda. She cries in his arms, says “Look how far I got, daddy.” Aww. Even Probst cries. The old softy. Erik won’t shake his brother’s hand – they hug. Sherri whimpers that she just wants her husband to hold her. Double awww. Cochran’s mom is proud, and he apologizes for stinking. Eddie’s dad calls him the hairiest man alive. Clearly, he’s never heard of Robin Williams. Dawn is a mess. She manages to ask how the kids were doing. They kiss. That’s love right there – she must stink to high hell.

The challenge has then competing together – become a human tandem corkscrew as they spin around and remove rails. Then they build a rack with the rails and have to toss three bolos onto the bars. The first ones to land three of them wins. The prize is a floating BBQ right off of the camp shore with burgers, steak, apple pie and beer. Brenda gets really excited about the pie.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 12 – Seeking Blindsides Always Comes With A Price

Be careful on Survivor when you seek a blindside – because it may be you going home. On Once Upon A Time they say magic always comes with a price. On Survivor, seeking blindsides always comes with a major edited irony risk. But that’s for later in the column.

Get our your Doublemint gum because it is double your tribal night. That’s right – two eliminations in this episode to line us up properly for next Wednesday’s Final Six elimination and the Mothers’ Day Final Five finale. For those wondering why we need to do it this way – you can, like with many other things this season, look back at the first Fans vs. Favorites ten seasons ago. Because of the amount of injuries and mental breakdowns that season, the Show had to ditch the Final Three plan and return to a Final Two (one of the last two seasons to employ a Final Two) because they were running out of players. In order to avoid this same dilemma, we have 20 players and some quick Tribals later in the game once it is clear there weren’t too many injuries. If they had this the first time around, Parvati Shallow would not be an all-time great player – it would be Cirie crowned as Micronesia champion.

Another reason why Cirie is important right now is that we may have a new Cirie. Her first time around, she had an infamous first episode where she was afraid to look under leaves. She barely survived her first vote. She had one of the more impressive arcs as ever seen on the show back in Season 12 making it very far. Her second time around she was arguably the brains of the operation and would have coasted to a Final Three win. This season – Cochran has become the new Cirie.

I know – scrawny ginger nerdy man is very different from full figured African-American woman, but run with me a bit here. Cochran’s first few days in South Pacific were a disaster. He was afraid to take off his shirt. He rambled endlessly at Tribal even though he was not the target. He started playing defense right away and really never recovered. However, he still made it to mid-jury that season. He didn’t right the ship the way Cirie did, but he righted it enough to survive and get pretty far. However, exactly like Cirie, he has stepped up his game in his second attempt. He’s the brains of the operation – not Phillip, not Andrea, it’s been Cochran all along.

And now after this week – which destroys my pre-season pick for the win – we have, what I believe to be, the power alliance in place to go to the Finals. Cochran. Dawn. Sherri.

Let me display – immunities of course a factor I cannot predict – how I expect the next votes to go. On Wednesday, Eddie’s magical carpet ride comes to an end. Finally. He has no allies left, and no one really needs his vote. Unless he wins immunity – and we have seen nothing to indicate that he can win immunity – he’s toast. Next out in the Finale will be Erik, and then Brenda. Why them? Because Cochran and Dawn know they can’t beat them. But Sherri? They can beat Sherri. To be honest, barring an Erik or Brenda Final Four immunity win – I can’t see how Cochran loses this thing now. He can bring likability with the Jury, he can prove mastermind cred, he has immunity wins, and he has the personal growth from his previous season on top of that. No one brings that combination. Sherri doesn’t have enough to present to a jury. Dawn has been the direct cause of too many jurists losing. Eddie gets no votes outside of Reynold.

Amazing. This is Cochran’s game to lose. The little guy has come a long way.

Now, as for Andrea. She goes down in Survivor history as just the latest victim of Hidden Immunity Idol comfort. Having won immunity and the HII earlier in the episode during Reynold’s swan song, Andrea found out the hard way that she was not the one in charge. It was Cochran. She also joins Corinne, Malcolm and others who were not aware that Cochran and Dawn were closely aligned from the start. Dawn sold out earlier attempts at big moves, and now it was Cochran’s turn. That duo has been the key part of this entire season. It has shifted power so many times. I think no one expected this to be a duo based on Cochran’s betrayal of Dawn in South Pacific.

Never assume on Survivor. Never. Especially on a returning player season. This is why Boston Rob – way back in All-Stars – didn’t trust Lex and Big Tom. He heard (if you believe him) that the former Africa players had a pre-set alliance. This is that in reverse – no one expected an alliance based on what we saw on TV. But these two thought differently, and in retrospect, it was brilliant.

Andrea went to Cochran with her plan to take out Brenda, but her error was including Dawn as her backup plan. The seemingly throwaway plotline of Andrea and Eddie’s showmance clouded her thinking. She seems to think Eddie would be an easy F3 opponent – probably because he is incapable of strategic thought. However, as Cochran told her, they’d lose to him. He’d have three votes in pocket – and no real enemies. Cochran was right.

So, he went right to Dawn and Brenda and told them what was going on. Instantly, they were on board with him. We don’t see them getting Sherri on board, but that would have been an easy sell. Erik sees himself as a swing vote here – but really, all they needed was Cochran/Dawn/Brenda/Sherri to get it done. And just like that – Andrea was gone.

She played a good, hard, aggressive game. As it turns out, she played it just a tad too hard. In retrospect, the right move for her would have been to oust Eddie and fall into a comfortable F4 alliance with Cochran, Dawn and Sherri. That’s a winnable F4 immunity for her. She just got slightly more ambitious than she needed to be – Cochran was talking all about timing this episode. And he’s right. The time was wrong for big move within the alliance – and she’s done as a result.

Oh, and Reynold was voted off in the first half in what was one of the most anticlimactic eliminations you’ll ever see. If the Stealths had failed to take out Reynold when he was finally totally vulnerable, then they did not deserve to win a damn thing this season

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 11 – A Million Dollars Or A Bucket of Buds?

My favorite episode of any season which features it – the Survivor Auction. This coming on the heels of the wacky ousting of Phillip last week makes it four great episodes in a row. It is really funny how FvF2 is mirroring FvF1 by having a fairly uneven to poor series of early episodes – featuring some unpleasant characters (Brandon, Big Joel, etc) – leading up to pure insanity at the merge. Who knew when it was 8-4 Faves at the Merge that three of the four next boots would be Faves…and that they would still have a stranglehold on the game? And yet, here we are.

I expect that the next two votes will be a bit more straightforward – with a 6-2 advantage on the vote, the Stealths are poised to reach the end. Barring an immunity win and the discovery of the HII, expect the remaining members of the AMC to be on the chopping block this week. Let me also say – how are Reynold and Eddie still in this game? They have been in the minority alliance since the game started. Thirty days later and they are still lingering.

This week’s episode rotated around the Auction – nothing before it was of much note, and everything that happened after was related to what went down at the Auction. In the pre-auction scenes, the one thing of note was that Brenda got some attention for once. It was for crying and an unexpected fear of what the AMC was capable of doing – but it was attention nonetheless. Note to Brenda – despite the last Tribal, there is only so much a group of three out of nine can do without help.

So, let’s go to the Auction. In recent Auctions, they have had one item to help a player at the next immunity challenge. It is an imperative for someone on the bottom to acquire. In fact, Majority Alliances should draw straws or something and assign someone to outbid the minority on this advantage. Let’s call it the Danni Rule. Danni wins Guatemala because she bought that advantage, enabling her to break the Majority Alliance. Just give up the snacks and win immunity.

Of course, there is a flip side to that. If you are in the minority, you are not bidding on ANYTHING until you can get that advantage. Just don’t. You will eat burgers and pizza in nine days – likely less. Just hang in there and get your clue. Unless you don’t want to win, in which case, feel free to buy yourself some snacks.

Let’s do the Auction step by step – and keep in mind. This is edited. There may have been several other items not seen, and it could have been presented to the Survivors in a different order. First item up – a beer and peanuts. First one to offer $20 bucks gets it. Twenty bucks for a beer? Is this Survivor: Midtown Manhattan? Anyway, Malcolm’s boozing beats his desire to win Survivor as he throws away $20 for the beer. He proves his skills by chugging it in front of Probst. It’s a great idea for one battling dehydration to down alcohol that quickly (although, it is possible this is O’Douls, but unlikely). As a bonus he gets a bucket of beers and pretzels – because what Malcolm needs right now is to get liquored up and loses his judgment.

Next item – It is covered. Erik considers it, but Reynold buys it for $180. Another poor decision from the AMC – Rey sure doesn’t need immunity or anything. Probst channels Monty Hall and offers up two other covered items and asks Rey to decide which one he wants. Cochran begins to explain the math and probability, but that ain’t the way Reynold bros down. He elects not to switch. The first item revealed is a rotten coconut. Good call. If Reynold used Cochran’s advice, now would be the time to switch. He doesn’t. He earns a slice of pizza. If he switched, he would have gotten the rest of the pie. Sherri incredibly offers up all her money for the pie. She gets it and is out of the auction. Why would she offer all her money? Why not just say, for $200 (a bit more than what Reynold paid), she would take it? I blame lack of food for lack of judgment.

Item Number 3 – A roasted chicken. Dawn freaks out and spends all of her money! WHY? Have these people never seen an auction? Granted, that’s a lot of needed protein – but seriously, do some bidding! She is now out of the challenge – I am sure she won’t regret that later. Just make sure you eat all of that chicken – even the butt.

Item 4 – Probst calls it information. Malcolm offers his full $480 remaining. Incredibly, Erik, Cochran, Brenda and Andrea let him have it. Hopefully Sherri is enjoying that pizza. It is a clue to a new HII – he gets one minute to read it and memorize it.

Item 5 – Another covered item. Brenda is in tears and is afraid to bid on the blind item. Andrea is not. She buys it for $280. It is spaghetti, garlic bread and wine. Yum. However, she is offered the chance of giving it up for a bag of rice and a bag of beans for camp. There is no way you can say no to that if you a) want to avoid getting voted out and b) expect any of these starving people to vote for you. She takes the bags.

Item 6 – The Immunity Challenge Advantage. NOW is the time to blurt out $500 if you want to, but amazingly, no one does. Eddie has all of his money (we assume) and Reynold has $320. Cochran bids it up to $340 to take out Reynold, but Eddie does not beat Cochran. I really hope Eddie spent some cash on something we did not see or else he is actually dumber than I ever thought possible.

Item 7 – Covered item. Brenda is daring now. She spends $300 and gets busted – a big ole plate of cow brains. She takes a bite and has a bizarre exchange with Probst. She “just remembered” she doesn’t eat pork. She asks Probst if pig brains is good for you – he has no idea. I would add that it probably isn’t – and that we have all probably eaten some form of pig brains on a bun with mustard at the baseball park. Amirite?

Item 8 – Covered item. Eddie appears now and buys it for $200. My theory works here – somewhere unseen, Eddie spent some money and could not bid on the advantage. I have no proof, but I want to believe that for Eddie’s sake. He gets a big bowl of peanut butter to share with the tribe. Malcolm is amazed at how they got all of that into the bowl. I don’t think they used Jif, Malcolm. Someone was in the back brewing some Survivor brand nut butter. They have a minute to eat and smear – whatever is on their bodies when time runs out can be saved. Later on they pool their haul and save for later.

So, coming out of the Auction – Cochran blocked the AMC from an immunity edge, Malcolm has a shot at another HII, and Dawn got a big ole pile of protein. Everyone else – I don’t get it.

The results – Cochran uses the advantage to win his second immunity – he has now won half of them. Malcolm gets up in the middle of the night and digs – but cannot find it in the dark. Andrea spots him and becomes his shadow preventing him from continuing. He tries to bluff and say that he has it – but the fact that she found him there means that he hadn’t found it. That’s a much more difficult bluff to sell.

The Stealths have a decision to make – go all in with their votes, or split it again. The big risk in splitting the vote is that one defector – or Tyson-like voter – ruins it all. Going all in with six votes on one guy is a risk only if there is an HII in play. They chose to split between Reynold and Malcolm. Presumably, they chose this because of Malcolm’s smarts and Reynold’s ability to toss things, and Eddie’s ability to…um…not sure. They don’t realize that the AMC is trying to lure Erik and Sherri over to their side.

I am completely amazed that Sherri didn’t bite on the sales pitch. I mean, fifth place! How could she hold back? The correct play for Malcolm here is to forge a F3 alliance with Erik and Sherri in order to win them over. It would be – forgive me Phillip – quite the Boston Rob move. Malcolm also didn’t realize how much Sherri did not care for the other AMC members. Meanwhile, depending on Erik for strategy is a sure way to be ruined on Survivor. Erik is playing a Fabio-type of game – riding the power waves for a while until very few are left.

So, the Sleaths split their vote and force a 3-3-3 tie between Malcolm, Reynold and Andrea. Malcolm’s charm and boldness was more of a threat to them than Reynold’s physicality – and all votes went his way. Malcolm has departed and has become rather popular. In fact, I think only Cochran is a real threat to him for Fan Favorite. He played a better game last season – I think he got too antsy this season and made his move too soon – but Malcolm was a real character and will be missed.

Now, with the 6-2 advantage – the Stealths are poised to run. There is a chance for some shenanigans with the last AMC members if they want. Perhaps now is the time for three of them to bolt with the two guys and form a new majority. More than likely is that the six stay steady and we get a break at the F6. After these last four eps, I can’t wait.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 10 – The Reason We Love Survivor

OK. First off – that was one hell of a dramatic Tribal Council. After over 400 of them it is amazing that they can have something happen so unexpected. And yet, there we were. So major props for the plot to throw a major curveball into this game.

However, I don’t like rewarding bad behavior. First thing I don’t want rewarded – Eddie has not played a good game so far, and so that gift he was given was totally undeserved. I mean, what has Eddie done this season? Link up with hot babes because they were hot babes. Fail to count to six properly. Not do well in most challenges. Reveal everything to Andrea by accident last week. I mean, it’s a crime that he is still lingering. But he survived.

Meanwhile, Malcolm has really added to his legend, hasn’t he? It is a testament to his likability that he has essentially linked up this season with the lunkhead, the smarmiest man, and the bitchiest woman in the history of Survivor (factoring in Gabon, of course), and he is STILL beloved. I mean, I am rooting to see the other two thirds of AMC get booted as soon as possible, but I will be sad to see Malcolm go. And go he will, unless he continues to do Hantzian things with idols.

Malcolm’s moves leave him with a three-man alliance, but still down 6-3 in numbers. He has to figure out a way to flip two votes to their side. Let me ask a serious question – why would anyone flip over to be in the minority side of a five-person alliance against the three young, fit guys? There is absolutely nothing in it for them. Malcolm has to be able to sell to the two turncoats a Final Three alliance, and if they swallow it, they’re crazy.

For the six remaining Stealths, the logical move is to keep targeting the ones without immunity and whittle that group down. If they play their cards right and there is but one remaining, they can make a big move with that one vote at the F7. They must also focus completely on finding the re-hidden idol(s) before the boys get them. That should be Stealth Operation Numero Uno.

I think Malcolm needed to sacrifice Eddie last night. If he did, he would have still had a secret idol in his pocket. If he failed to win immunity next week, he could play it and survive another week. The problem is that I don’t think it likely that he can turn anyone, so down 6-3, or 7-2 in bodies makes no difference. The idol in the pocket is what matters. What would have been even cooler would have been if Malcolm rolled the dice even more and pocketed his idol. Again. He would have not gone home and held an idol.

But, by putting an idol in the hands of Eddie and putting the Stealths in a position where they have to eat one of their own or gamble, he made the episode epic. This was not an ambush like Russell pulled in the infamous Tyson self-vote-out. He handed the idol over during the council discussion. So the nine sat there with the three minority castaways wearing idols. As Erik pointed out rather astutely (I know!), just because they were wearing the idols didn’t mean they would play them. That led to some weird moments.

The Stealths had to whisper among themselves to suggest votes. Would it be Dawn? Would it be Andrea? The seating arrangement may have saved Andrea as Phillip’s suggestion to turn on his RI partner could not be properly relayed to the other side of the room. Finally, the Three Amigos (ugh, I can’t. I loved that horrible movie. I’m sticking with AMC) announced that they are voting for Phillip. The fun sponge. That must make him SpongeBob’s archenemy. Phillip took it in as much stride as Phillip can and said to the team, let’s stick with our plan. The plan was four votes for Eddie, three for Malcolm. He was calling their idol bluff. Perhaps it was this announcement that pushed Malcolm to play the idol, who knows. But Phillip was basically daring the boys to vote for him and to burn two idols to get him out.

And they did. The Stealths stayed true to form and had the four ladies vote for Eddie. So much for that Andrea/Eddie romance. Phillip and Cochran voted for Malcolm as planned, but Erik voted for some guy named Fillup. Please say that was a weird inside joke and not how he thinks you spell that name. Erik may have been spooked by the AMC decree that Phil was their vote, or maybe Erik’s weak allegiances are shifting again. Who knows. But that made it a 4-4-2 vote and Phillip was voted out for the first time ever. If Malcolm pocketed his idol, Phillip still would have gone home.

Phillip had the chance to become the fourth player (that I can think of) to have played Survivor more than once and never get voted out. The other three? Sandra, Skupin and Jenna Morasca.

We will see if it was all worth Phillip’s scalp on his belt for Malcolm’s two-idol play. I still anticipate that all the boys did was take out the guy who annoyed them. The real brains of the operation are still in there – Cochran, Andrea and Dawn. Who knew this season may turn on the quiet ones – Brenda, Sherri and Erik!

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 9 – You Get Nothing, Mike Snow

OK. That’s two weeks in a row of some wild vote scrambling – perhaps there is hope for this season yet. I am hopeful that we have put the Hulka/Brandon wackiness in our rearview mirrors and that this season is going to sprint to the finish with some craziness. If we learned anything this week, it is this.

1 – Malcolm has brass.
2 – Dawn is the ultimate spy because no one seems to ever suspect her.
3 – Women need to stay clear of Eddie and Reynold – for reasons other than being themselves.
4 – Andrea and Eddie are very awkward flirts.
5 – Cochran is going to win this game if things continue at this pace.

Let’s go from the top down. Malcolm is cementing a place among the Survivor annals of most popular players to never win the game. There are many who fit the category – Ozzy, Coach, Rob C, Rupert, Amanda, even Russell. Malcolm has done back to back seasons and has charmed his way through both of them. Last season, he was one immunity away from the victory – and he had a great story arc. He came into this season an unknown quantity among the fans AND the favorites – the last time something like that occurred, Russell ambushed the HvV field. You would think they would all be wary of this guy, who got added to the cast for a reason.

But they haven’t and here he is on the jury no matter what happens the rest of the way. I will have to say that Malcolm needs some more magic to survive much longer, but he has done wonders so far. This week, he chose to double down on his Corinne/AMC plan which crashed and burned last week with Corinne’s ouster. Instead of throwing it all on Corinne, what we viewed was Malcolm trying to revive the dying embers of that plan. He still had the AMC, but with Lord Snow rather than Erik. However, that’ still a 7-4 deficit. He needed two votes. The problem is – he went to the wrong places.

The right move for him would be to gobble up Erik and Brenda – who have always been on the fringes of the Stealths. All he had to do was tell them that it was a Final 3 alliance – and that no one else is willing to give them one. He could have gotten his six. Instead, he went to Sherri – his logic being that she was really an Alliance of One at this point. However, her bad blood with the rest of AMC founding members made her an impossible add for the group. Then he went to Dawn. More on that in a bit.

Malcolm’s instincts for two seasons have been pretty great – other than the Dawn misstep – and nowhere was that on display more than at Tribal. After The Specialist’s speech – one of the few times he wasn’t referencing Redemption Island – Malcolm realized something was amiss. Now, was this a brilliant sub-strategy of Phillip to scare Malcolm into making a mistake? I doubt it. I think Phillip was just running off at the mouth.

So Malcolm, got spooked. He threw a vote at Reynold – for some reason – but that wasn’t the big deal. Reynold felt it was time to play his idol – which is interesting for another reason, since they thought it was going to be their blindside of Andrea or a Stealth split vote between Eddie/Reynold. That means that Reynold was ready to sell out his buddy right there. But even THAT is not the big deal.

Malcolm stopped him and theorized that Phillip’s speech about loyalty, etc. was all about Malcolm. He thought the votes went against him. He asked Reynold for the idol and Reynold amazingly gave it to him. It turns out he was wrong, but imagine if he was right! The best part is that Malcolm had an idol in his pocket and instead of using it actually convinced a grown man to hand it over three steps away from using it for himself. Incredible.

The Tribal was a boon for the Stealths as they peeled off another fan with the vote, flushed out an idol, AND forced one of their own to reveal his duplicity. If this was planned, then boy, that’s a hell of a good plan. However, I think the Malcolm reveal was a total accident. Still, a good plan.

Meanwhile, it is the Dawn Factor which came into play again. For three weeks in a row, a Survivor has come to Dawn to confide in her and each time she has turned around and given the information to the Stealths to use against that person. Julia was first, then Corinne, and now Malcolm. Is it possible that no one knows about Dawn and Cochran’s sub-alliance within the Redemption Island/South Pacific four-way sub-alliance? Is it Dawn’s ever-teetering game mental health that draws people to thinking of her as a wild card vote? I think it is more Dawn’s South Pacific reputation that has put her in that spot. People trust her based on that season and not what they see before their very eyes.

Note to players – STOP TALKING TO DAWN!

The Fan members of the AMC alliance mentioned that all women associated with them in this game get voted off – Allie, Hope, Julia, Corinne. Women beware. And not just the frat boy immaturity. If you hang with these guys – you will disappear and be taken to a secluded CBS hideaway for several days.

Speaking of Eddie, was that lagoon courtship with Andrea one of the oddest and most awkward flirtations you’ve seen on TV? First of all, flirting with knives needs to be left to the folks at Game of Thrones, or Spartacus. It was weird to see Andrea bat her eyelashes at him while brandishing a machete. And it was not exactly poetry being exchanged. It was like keg pumping banter. Which I think is the only style of flirting the lug has in him.

Amazingly, it was only Eddie’s bumbling conversation with Andrea that saved Andrea at the vote. He revealed everything. He revealed Reynold’s idol, he revealed Malcolm’s duplicity, he revealed that Andrea was the name they were voting for. And he did it all by accident. If he hadn’t spoken, the Stealths would have voted for Malcolm, who would have played Reynold’s idol, and Andrea’s three votes would send her packing.

Meanwhile, Cochran is playing to win and a huge part of it was his teaming with Dawn. He has a partner, and most great Survivor wins started with a two-person core alliance which took those players to the end – or at least rather close to the end. Hatch/Rudy. Tina/Colby. Romber. Tom/Ian. Yul/Becky. Earl/Cassandra. Todd/Courtney. JT/Stephen. Russell/Natalie. Blair/Scoopin’. And there are others. Stealth R Us may be ridiculous, but at its core, it is an alliance of four with extra members for number dominance. If no one really makes a move soon, when it gets to the F7 – this core four will take it to the end. And how much trust do you have in the AMC to break that? Or Brenda to make a move – she hasn’t even spoken yet!

And as for Cochran – if he gets to the end, well, he has friends. How much do they cheer him when he does well? People like him. The little guy may be a couple of votes away from the end game and a potential win. Amazing.

Survivor, April 10 – Idol, Idol, Who’s Got the Idol

This has been one confusing episode of Survivor. Often I do work while I'm watching the show, but it didn't work too well when I tried that last night. I missed out on everything. At the end I found myself asking … what just happened? I had to rewatch the show, or at least all those key conversations, to find the changing alliances and voting plans. One thing I found was that Malcolm is one crafty guy.Once again an idol just became important in a big way, but not in the way that the other Survivors think. They think an idol was flushed out last night and that it caused no harm. They're probably pretty happy with themselves. Wait until they realize the full scope of it. Malcolm and Corinne were trying to split away from the Favorites last week to form a new alliance with the Fans. They were punished by Corinne being voted out. That made Malcolm vulnerable this week. But, in voting out Corinne, the others voted out the only other person who knew that Malcolm is holding onto an idol. Everyone seemed to know Reynold was holding onto an idol. The others feared he might give it to Eddie, so the talk became splitting the vote between the two of them. Andrea was worried about protecting Eddie, both because she likes him and because she thinks he could help her later in the game. Malcolm wanted to get her out, seeing her as the real mastermind in the Favorites alliance, despite the fact that Phillip thinks it's him. Meanwhile the others changed their plan to taking Malcolm out instead to get rid of that major threat now.Andrea caught onto Malcolm trying to convince Eddie, Reynold, and Michael to join him in voting her out. She wanted to play it safe, not knowing if he had an idol or not. She wanted to vote out Michael, the only one who they were sure didn't have the idol and feeling confident that no one would share theirs with him. At Tribal Council, once Phillip mentioned punishing those who go against his alliance, he knew he was being targeted. He pleaded with Reynold to give up his idol to him to keep him safe. Reynold did. The funny thing was the only vote Reynold got was from Malcolm. Reynold, Eddie, and Michael did what Michael told them to – votde for Andrea. The others decided to play it safe for her and voted out Michael, who became the first member of the jury.You have to appreciate Malcolm's gameplay though. He flushed out an idol, kept himself safe, and convinced others to vote his way, even Eddie, who cast a vote against his mini alliance with Andrea. All the while, Malcolm has his own idol safely tucked away that no one knows he has. That's a clever move.Malcolm is definitely dangerous, and the others know that. That's why they wanted him out. He has a chance to make it to the end, though, if he can villain-ize himself a little more. If he can make himself very unpopular, and can stick around through a few more rounds, others might want to take him to the end. The smartest players in the game are Malcolm, Andrea, Dawn, Cochran, and Phillip., although Phillip implodes because of his ego. And the previews make it seem like Dawn implodes next week. Sherri thinks she's as smart as the others, but she's not; she'll be the first one to go. They're only using her votes, and if she actually believes that crap Phillip sold her, there are a few bridges around her with her name on them.Want more commentary on Survivor? Read JNT's Survivor updates on Reality Shack.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 8 –Ginger Kobayashi And The Case Of The Blown Blindside

Well, that merge sure was busy. For a season which has had seven previous episodes primarily focused on the absurd behavior of Sgt. Hulka, Brandon and Phillip, we finally had an episode which was an old-school, hard-core Survivor episode. It had it all – merges, feasts, backstabbing, shifting alliances, swing votes, and friggin’ gross food. It was Season 1-like in the eating challenges, and up there with some of the great merge episodes with the scrambling for power. These are my favorites:

Australia and the Case of the Colby Deception.
Marquesas and The Case of The Failed Boston Rob Power Play.
Pearl Islands and The Case of the Lillian Revenge Scenario.
All-Stars and The Case of the Lex Deception.
Vanuatu and The Case of the Male Purge.
Cook Islands and The Case of The Way You Use An Idol.
Fiji and The Case of The Most Awesome Blindside.
FvF Par 1 and The Case of the F*cking Stick.
Tocantins and The Case of The Dragon Slayer.
Samoa and The Case of The Galu Implosion.
HvV and The Case of JT’s Blunder
Redemption Island and The Case of Matt’s Lament
South Pacific and The Case of The Cochran Revenge Scenario

Now add this one – Caramoan and The Case of the Blown Blindside.

The tribes merged and the two power alliances did battle – the season-long Faves power Stealth R Us alliance on one side, and the burgeoning Alpha Male Alliance (AMC) on the other. Malcolm and Corinne rejoined and realized that with the AMC and her linking with Lord Snow, they had six people against the other five Faves plus Sherri. However, six people does not a majority make when there are 12 people involved. So, instead of risking a Purple Rock Scenario – and how awesome would it have been for Cochran to be presented with that possibility again – they chose to go in a different direction. Corinne set out to convince the Stealth agents to take the easy way out and take out Sherri, i.e. the woman with no remaining alliance. If they did, her six would then pounce on their 6-5 advantage next week by turning on the Stealths and taking out The Specialist.

It was a smart plan, except that it wasn’t the smartest plan they had before them.

When Corinne took her Operation Cougar Vote Out plan to the Stealths, she was met with expected skepticism. Phillip wanted to go for one of the AMC dudes instead – going after the fit young guys. With eight votes on his side, he presented a vote split option – four for Eddie, four for Reynold and even if the four fans united, four for a Fave. The revote would be Eddie or Reynold. Not a bad idea, especially since Lord Snow and Sherri would probably jump at the option of going with the Stealths on that vote.

Here is what was missed. Corinne didn’t need to target Sherri. She didn’t need to try and shore up a seventh vote with her ill-fated recruiting attempt with Dawn. Her power play was right there in front of her – and, best of all, she didn’t even need Erik to pull it off.

Corrine and Lord Snow, along with Malcolm, Reynold and Eddie made up a solid block of five votes. Erik is on his own planet, so let’s assume for a moment that he was not even an option. With Phillip proposing a split vote, Corinne should have jumped at it. All she would have to do is suggest that the male Faves vote for Eddie and the ladies vote for Reynold. She and Malcolm, of course, would be voting with the AMC and Lord Snow. Phillip, Erik and Cochran vote for Eddie. Andrea, Brenda and Dawn vote for Reynold. Sherri does whatever the hell she wants. Meanwhile, Corinne and Malcolm’s coup sends all five of their votes at Phillip. 5-4-3 (or 5-3-3-1) and Phillip is gone. Then they have their five strong into the F11 and can either recruit Sherri, or perhaps finalize Erik or Brenda into their team and take over. It would be a clean takeover and would take out Corinne’s nemesis. And it was all there for the taking.

Except, she didn’t take it.

What she did was bring to light the strength of the core of the Stealth alliance. When she approached Dawn about the new AMC/Snow alliance, Dawn had PTSD flashbacks to South Pacific and Cochran’s flip and the destruction of her chances to win. She went right to…Cochran. Talk about letting bygones be bygones. They went to Andrea and Phillip and the counter move was on. If you want to find the power of this game right now – it’s the Redemption Island/South Pacific foursome. Amazingly, that plays right into my pre-season prediction – which is almost never correct. My Final Three prediction of Andrea, Sherri and Cochran is very much alive and well.

As we look forward, what will be the aftermath of Corinne’s ouster? First, Malcolm needs to buddy up with the Stealths and put all the blame at her feet. He can still plot away with the AMC, but he needs to do some persuading of Erik, and probably Brenda to slide over and join his group. He would also be wise to consider some idol play. With two idols in play with the AMC, they could get the power back if they can play their cards right and get a little luck. The most likely vote next week – the safest vote for the Stealths – is to take out Lord Snow. The likelihood of AMC sliding him an idol is remote. This enables them to have 7-3 advantage and split into a 4-3-3 vote and avoid idol madness.

I am still baffled by the performances from Brenda and Erik. Brenda just doesn’t speak. She was super aggressive in Nicaragua, and she is just kind of there now. She is not getting a winner’s edit – she is getting a likely F6 edit. Erik is playing a Fabio-esque strategy of being a bit spacey and out there. I wonder if he has it in him to do a little last minute maneuvering the way Fabio did during the weakest Survivor season of them all. Until then, we get silent Brenda (also from that same craptacular season) and an Erik who is told who to vote for by having a name pointed to…and no questions asked.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 6 – A Warm Glass Of Shut The Hell Up

It has gotten to the point where if I see the long form credit sequence, I know we are going to be watching a subpar episode of Survivor. The scary part is that based on the tribal shuffling, we may be having some more issues coming up. Remember the inequity of the One World tribal shuffle? Yeah, we have a repeat. Our only hope to avoid a streak of blowouts will be for a lot of puzzle challenge – and even that is no guarantee, as Malcolm is just as good at those. The most interesting thing to watch for as we approach a merge – which could actually be in very soon – is whether or not the Faves reform at the merge.

This could be a real situation. The former Faves came out of the shuffle with a 4-3 advantage in each tribe. If they stick together, there won’t be many fans left by the time we reach the endgame this season. There are a couple of scenarios which could mess around with things, however; but what are the odds that we get any real movement?

For context – the new tribes are:
Gota – Eddie, Reynold, Andrea, Sherri, Malcolm, Erik and Brenda
Bikal – Corinne, Phillip, Mike, ZZ Top, Michael, Cochran, Dawn and Julia

That’s a very physical tribe over at Gota, where they arguably have the four strongest men AND the three strongest women. As the tribes formed, Gota instantly showed the fracturing of the fans. The three of them are not joining together and searching for a Fave to flip, which increases the likelihood of either Eddie or Sherri going out if they ever lose a challenge. However, if the three fans stuck together…

Scenario 1 – They realize the hierarchy of the Faves left Erik and Brenda at the bottom of the eight Faves. Unless they have cut an unseen Final Four deal, those two would be perfect candidates to flip and take out Andrea or Malcolm. CHANCES? Slim.

Scenario 2 – The boys stick together. The four young guys become a team and take out the women, eventually teaming up with a former Fave or former Fan faction which remains on the other side. CHANCES? None.

Scenario 3 – The ladies team up. All they would need is to convince one of the guys to flip over to join them. Malcolm could be the one – with the women, Corinne and Michael on the other side, that’s a six-person alliance that is on its way to power. CHANCES? Possible, but doubtful.

Scenario 4 – Nothing happens. The Faves stick together and take Eddie out first – since they still have three other young dudes, then Sherri. And link back up with the other Faves to run the table.

Meanwhile, the Bikal weakling tribe was also 4-3 after the shuffle. The Phil/Corinne/Cochran/Dawn majority is less vulnerable to fracture – with the exception of Phillip. However, the Fans came over and didn’t do much at all to try and split them up. Instead, Julia curried favor. ZZ Top pledged fealty. Michael went along with his buddy, and linked up with self-proclaimed “f-g hag” Corinne to become her new Charlie. This meant one Fan would be the first post-shuffle boot. However, if the fans stuck together…

Scenario 1 – Convince the others that with Hulka and Brandon leaving, now is the time to oust the other big personality. They would all rest easier with less Stealth R Us chatter and less purple underwear. CHANCES? Somewhat likely.

Scenario 2 – ZZ Top and Michael convince Cochran and Dawn to form a new power foursome – pledging Sherri from the other side to join them, thinking that physically they would stand no chance down the road against others, so why not link up. CHANCES? Not bloody likely.

Scenario 3 – I just don’t have one. Phillip is not a moveable entity, so they are very limited in what they can do. Cochran and Dawn seem to be a tight South Pacific duo. That leaves Corinne as an ally, but it is very unlikely to convince her to leave her power alliance to form a group of four with them. Even if she did and took out Phillip, if the Faves reformed with the other six at the merge, she’d be at four and dependent on the remaining fans to come over – and NOT to vote her out immediately. Unlikely.

What happened was Corinne protecting Michael as a ward of her state, ZZ Top going full in with them and Julia actually speaking to Phillip, and no one else. The plan following their embarrassing loss in the challenge was to take out the quiet race car driver and send Julia out of the game. They were worried about the idol – since they have no clue if these three fans had it in their possession. ZZ Top was rather adamant about not having it which wound up having the opposite effect than what he intended. He wanted them to feel comfortable with him, and that he was no threat to burn them, so keep him around as an ally. Instead, they bought his story about not having the idol, and viewed him as a safe vote. Cochran also pointed out that breaking up a solid duo is always a good thing. Ironically, Cochran is actually a part of a solid duo, so there’s that.

So, ZZ Top is gone – a shame because he was kind of a fun character. Michael is now under Corinne’s protection – and one wonders if she will use him as a Final Three option with Malcolm down the road, and as a Phillip substitute for their alliance. She got a whole lot more attention this week, and I wonder if that is significant. Hulka and Brandon demanded so much screen time that some other non-Phillip contestant needs to fill the void. I wonder if Corinne will start to become more of a factor – she sure is a quote machine. Reynold has gotten plenty of air time so far, and now finds himself in better shape due to the shuffle. If they start losing, he is likely the last of the three fans to go – and I don’t think a) there are many episodes before the merge and b) they will be losing very much.

If we follow recent form, the merge is coming up very soon. It has been at either the F11 or F12 mark in each season since Heroes vs. Villains when it was at the F10. We currently have 13 Survivors left. That means only 1-3 eliminations based on the current tribe formations. The odds-on-favorites for eliminations during that span of time are – Julia, Phillip, Michael, Eddie, Sherri and Reynold. In that order. What that means for the merge? Hard to tell because the alliances are very nebulous so far as to whom is truly in power. Let’s see some combination of Malcolm, Corinne, Andrea, Cochran and Dawn making it, with Erik and Brenda now in better shape. Then maybe Reynold and Sherri in decent shape. I think Michael and/or Phillip joins the merge. Then we will see what the power truly is – and don’t be surprised to see the big boys get booted rather quickly from the game.

Other than that…not much to the episode. Shuffle. Readjustment. Blowout challenge. No more ZZ Top. And a season teetering on the edge of mediocrity…or worse.

Survivor: Caramoan – Ep 5 – Brandon Spills The Beans On The Favorites

That was the most screwed up episode of Survivor in the Show’s history – and that’s saying something. The closest thing I can think of in the past seasons was when Sue Hawk lost her temper at the challenge and quit the game. She was reacting to what she called a sexual violation from Hatch a couple of days before during a challenge. Her ire was at Hatch, but since he was gone, it was directed at Probst. Maybe the grinding saga back in Thailand qualifies too. I’ll throw in the night-vision almost fight between Fairplay and Rupert in Pearl Islands. But the Brandon Hantz implosion this week was off the charts.

It was compelling. It was fascinating. It was incredibly sad. Brandon should be embarrassed (I’m sure he’s not). Phillip was both at fault and incredibly restrained. Andrea must have been feeling a lot of guilt, as she was essentially the straw that broke the Hantz’ back. And Probst once again showed why he is the best host of any reality show – and I expect that he will be submitting this episode to Emmy voters – but showed questionable judgment in his line of questioning with Brandon.

This column will be all about Brandon. Let me do a quick summary of what else happened – The Fans power is in flux as the boys may be aligned, the old majority may be aligned, it is hard to say. Meanwhile, the entire tribe except Eddie sought the re-hidden idol, and Reynold once again found it. Who needs any clues for these idols if they are so simply found? That’s about it.

Let me say off that bat that Brandon Hantz should not have been allowed back on this show, and I am very dubious about claims made that he cleared psych exams. Just watching South Pacific, we all knew that Survivor does not agree with him. At his core, Brandon is a young man with a lot of problems. The Hantz family is a scripted TNT drama waiting to happen. I am no doctor, but this is a man in desperate need of counseling. He should never have been allowed back, and his first involvement in the show was questionable – it is only because of his uncle that he became part of this world. The Case of Brandon Hantz feels – more than any other past Survivor – of the show taking advantage of a vulnerable person who doesn’t know any better.

So, all season long Brandon has been teetering on the edge of quitting. After the first vote out, he went off on the tribe. He has threatened to burn down the shelter and pee in the food. He reiterated this desire to Cochran, Andrea and Corinne this week in a night-vision conversation the night the Fans voted out Laura. Their reaction was hysterical. Corinne called him loco, which is appropriate since Brandon has that tattooed in his body! The only reason he is still in this game in Episode 5 is because the Fans tribe was so inept in challenges. Before the grand meltdown, Brandon chose to quit to be with his family (which is ridiculous, because he would be sequestered until the show ended – I know Jenna got to go home when her mom was dying, but am unsure what happened with Micronesia Kathy when she quit for mental health), then he woke up and changed his mind again. And so on. And so on.

His clashes with Phillip were inevitable this season – as these two personalities are NOT easily matched. The interesting thing is that Brandon was on Survivor with the most Phillip-like other player ever on Survivor – Coach. Brandon got very far that season – and if you believe the other South Pacific cast, he could have won. Coach and Phillip are both extremely quirky men with gigantic egos. Both were attention magnets during their first seasons and objects of ridicule for cast members and fans. Both came back a second time with what seems like a conscious desire to be treated differently. The big difference is that despite the ego, Coach wants to teach and pass along what he sees as his insight into the human experience – for right or wrong. Phillip seems to exist in a separate world of his own creation, and has no desire to coach, he wants to give orders to followers.

Brandon has classic little man syndrome – and was perfectly played by Coach, while Phillip has no patience for that approach. Brandon does not respond well to instructions – his ego is just as huge as the other two. He needs to feel respected and heard. If you notice, the Faves he responded to well this season are those who just hung out with him and listened. Another huge personality opposite him was going to cause strife – Brandon remembers how Coach played him on national television. Throw in the disrespect and this was a time bomb.

I also believe that this is almost exactly what the show wanted. They had to know that a Brandon/Phillip pairing for two weeks would be toxic. I think they didn’t expect the extent of the problem and that there could have legitimately been physical contact. This is the dark side of the recent trend of casting big personalities and psychological case studies. You give them a forum and they’ll take it.

If you think about it, Brandon seemed to be really focused on taking down that camp and tossing or peeing in the food. It’s such a random thing to focus on, that it makes you wonder. Is it possible that creating such a moment was exactly why Brandon wanted to come back on the show? To prove his birthright as a Hantz by doing something outrageous? Would that surprise any of you?

In fact, the argument that triggered the whole meltdown seemed innocuous at first. Phillip was talking about how well they did at the challenge, and Brandon took offense to Phillip’s bragging about his role. To be honest, they are both kind of right here. The challenge was a variation on the old weight bearing challenge – Brandon and Phillip had to hold up rope baskets while the other team tossed coconuts in them. The Fans foolishly ganged up on Brandon to take him out while Phil rested. The Faves kept a steady attack on both ZZ Top and Mike. So Brandon goes out, and Phillip outlasts the Fans to win it. Both served a role – but it was bad Fan strategy that really won it.

So Brandon got worked up – again – and Phillip had enough. He told Andrea that he was considering the unthinkable – throwing the challenge to oust Brandon. Honestly, this is always a bad idea. I don’t care how toxic Brandon is – you don’t give the Fans ANY momentum here. You have them on the ropes. You are on Day 13 – and know a merge is about a week away. And you have to assume a shuffle is likely. You need the numbers. Just ignore him. It can be done – just hold your tongue and he will be gone soon enough. But Phil cannot hold his tongue.

Neither can Andrea, it seems. She decides to give Brandon a heads up on this plan. Why? No idea. But she does. Interestingly, while she does, Brandon yawns. For someone so irate, he sure seems sleepy about it. He must have gone away and thought about it – and then got freaky. He decides to scream at Phillip and say he is going to give a real reason to vote him out. He dumps the rice on the wet ground – ruining it. He tries to do the same for the beans, but it seems as if he is thwarted. He heads to the beach, tossing a Reward chair and tries to confront Phillip. The Specialist wisely gets the hell out of Dodge – or is told to by the crew.

And then one would imagine time passes – because would they really go straight to the challenge here? It means they had time to cool down, and likely for the producers to talk to the Faves. If so, it brings into question the giant outburst at the Immunity Challenge. Brandon seemed to manufacture the scene and then got rolling. Phil admirably bit his tongue for a very long time before mixing it up. He was correct in scolding Brandon for disrespecting his elders – including his uncle. He was incorrect in verbalizing this though. Even more incorrect was even mentioning Brandon’s kids – albeit as part of a larger point. Probst had moved Brandon over to his station to keep him away from Phillip, and here had to physically corral him and give him a rather vigorous shoulder rub to calm him down.

That’s what happened. Brandon cursed out Phillip a lot and then was voted out right then and there. He probably thinks it was amazing. Russell probably thinks it was something to be proud of as well. It was compelling to watch, in the same way that car crashes attract rubbernecking. It was memorable, but it was also sad. And I know I was riveted watching it, and I felt really shitty about it afterwards. Maybe now we will no longer have any more Hantz involvement in Survivor. Please.