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Survivor: South Pacific Watch - Cut Throat

Last week, Ozzy won the final pre-merge Redemption Island duel, and won a spot back in the game. Jeff decreed that Savaii and Upolu were done, and that they were now one tribe; they chose a new tribe name (“Te Tuna”) and the question of the day was: with six players on each side, how would the vote go? Ozzy gave his HII to Whitney, anticipated some votes would be thrown her way, but none were. It looked like a luck-of-the-draw elimination was imminent, but rather than go with the odds, Harvard nerd Cochran switched sides, sending his chief tormenter Keith to Redemption Island.

This was probably the most pivotal moment in the entire season. Despite their earlier disagreements, the six ex-Upolu members appear to be rock-solid (for now), and Coach – who has played so much smarter than he ever did before – promised Cochran amnesty if he flipped, which he did. Just how much amnesty Cochran will be granted remains to be seen, but unless something changes within the Upolu dynamic, Cochran will get no higher than seventh. Now that the Upolus have the upper hand, they can spend the next five Tribal Councils picking off the Savaiis one by one. And it’s just as well… with the jury starting to form, I doubt that Cochran would get any victory votes because of his actions.

I mean, I’m all for nerd solidarity, but I can’t think of a single case in Survivor history when someone has emerged victorious after blatantly switching sides. To me, it’s just making whatever decisions you need to to stay in the game longer, but people have really weird and convenient opinions about honor when playing this game. When it comes time for the final Q&A, all the pettiness and bitterness that people feel about being voted out comes bubbling to the surface, and it matters not a whit whether THEY played the game with a shred of honor, decency or respect, they are all too willing to draw a big red circle around any character flaws that others have shown. But I digress.

Obviously, the fallout hits Cochran hard immediately on returning to camp. Ozzy is frustrated but can only be passive-aggressive, Jim is still in the petulant name-calling phase and Whitney, well, she goes into full-on belligerent mode, lambasting Cochran for betraying her and Keith after they both fought to keep him around on multiple occasions. The term used all the time on reality shows ending in the words “under the bus” – a phrase I have come to absolutely despise – is used again. And on that, I have to call bullshit. I mean, the entire season Savaii adopted a “we think you suck, but we’ll keep you around anyway because you’re not a threat” attitude towards Cochran, and now they’re surprised that he turned? Puh-leez. Karma’s a bee-yotch.

I never had much respect for Jim, and I lost whatever admiration I had for Ozzy early in the season, and Whitney’s little foot-stomping tantrum got her on my list as well. My only regret about Cochran’s move is that it may spell the end for Dawn, a truly awesome lady who has proven on numerous occasions that she is not only strong for her age but a very decent person as well. She actually showed disgust at Cochran’s treatment at the hands of Savaii, and it’s entirely possible she may flip as well, for what it’s worth.

Immunity Challenge #1: I knew going in that this episode would feature two ICs and two TCs, so there won’t be room for much else. This particular IC was a multi-stage challenge, involving tossing coconuts, cracking coconuts and carrying mouthfuls of coconut milk through an obstacle course to fill a container up to a specified level. It was a must-win for Ozzy, but he was out early; victory went instead to Jim, who eked out a narrow victory over Sophie, Whitney and Dawn.

Not much to say about the strategy leading up to the first Tribal Council. Cochran explained the previous day that if he had to choose who would be voted off next, it would be either Ozzy or Jim, and with Jim winning immunity, Ozzy was the clear choice. Ozzy made one final impassioned plea to Coach, his fellow “celeb”, and while Coach admired his humility, he called the gesture “too little, too late.” Damn straight.

Tribal Council #1: To summarize, the first TC came down to one issue: Jim pleaded with Upolu to get rid of Cochran because he’s the only person of the remaining eleven to play dishonorably, and doing so wouldn’t weaken Upolu at all. Brandon turned it back on Jim, saying that sticking up for yourself is not dishonorable at all, and Coach seconded that sentiment. Jim’s even tinkered with the idea of giving his Immunity to Ozzy so that Upolu would be taken aback and not have enough time to confab about whose name to write down, but he decided to keep it after all. (Who’s the coward now, jerkass?) Ozzy and Jim voted for Cochran, but even Dawn and Whitney saw the writing on the wall and voted Ozzy back to RedIsle, where he promised he would dispatch them all, one at a time, before reentering the game again… and will likely get voted out a third time. Won’t that be fun.

I wasn’t sure whether there would be a duel between Ozzy and Keith the next morning, and there wasn’t. Just like last season, it would appear that the next few duels will be three-way contests, with the person coming in last being sent to the jury. All Ozzy and Keith now need is another opponent, and in an episode full of obvious choices, the identity of that opponent, barring another immunity win, is equally obvious. Still, the former allies at least got to spend a productive day together, dining on a sumptuous feast of fresh fish and sour grapes (heh).

Immunity Challenge #2: This challenge was one of pure balance: while standing on a narrow beam, the castaways had to keep a ball atop an apparatus shaped like a archery bow. Most of them, anyway… Jeff gave anyone who felt totally safe from elimination the option of chowing down on muffins, donuts and iced coffee. And since “safe” pretty much described the feeling for everyone but Dawn, Jim and Whitney, Immunity was only a three-person race. Jim dropped out early, and Dawn showed a bit of class (or suck-uppery, depending on how you read it) by saying that she wanted the challenge to last as long as possible so that the others could eat as much as they could. This earned her the praises of both Coach and Brandon, something that actually made Albert worried. Anyway, Whitney eventually won Immunity, which I’m sure she enjoyed but probably didn’t need.

There was a hilarious moment back at camp when Cochran strutted around camp wearing Coach’s “dragon-slayer” shirt and Rick’s cowboy hat, and all Jim could do was comment on how Cochran has suddenly become the perfect person to take to the end. And it’s true: It takes five jury votes to win, and if there are five Savaii on the jury, it’s pretty much guaranteed that four of them will never vote for Cochran to win in a million years.

Jim’s last-ditch effort at self-preservation came in the form of trying to drive a wedge between Coach and Albert. He drew a diagram in sand (truly) and outlined a plan that involved Albert and Sophie joining Jim, Dawn and Whitney in voting out Edna. This would still make the vote five against five, but it would appear to be moot as Albert isn’t remotely interested in this plan. It seems Albert has a lot of moves planned out in his head, and the time to make the first one is not yet. He is very wily of sweet, friendly Dawn, and sees her as a viable threat.

It couldn’t be more clear that once Jim and Whitney are out of the picture, when it finally comes time for the Upolu six to feast on each other, the final power struggle will be between Albert and Coach. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that Albert has Sophie, whereas Coach has Brandon and Edna. Rick could swing either way, and whether the inevitable clash between the two comes before or after Cochran and Dawn (or even Whitney) are sent packing could be the next big turning point of the season.

Tribal Council #2: since it was either going to be Dawn or Jim, all the questions were about them. All agreed that Jim was the stronger player and that Dawn was more likable of the two, though to be fair, Dawn’s no slouch at challenges either. It was also made clear that as likable as Dawn is, it won’t be enough to save her in the long run. Whitney broke down crying at being labeled a bully and a villain, saying that she never behaved that way. Yeah, I suppose the cheerleader who stands by and watches her jock boyfriend verbally and physically abuse the bookworm isn’t a villain either, but that doesn’t exactly put on the side of the angels, now, does it?

As for the voting, again, a complete no-brainer. Jim, Dawn and Whitney stuck to their guns and voted for Edna, but the remaining seven all predictably cast their votes for Jim, and his weaselly ass was sent to RedIsle for what might just be the most competitive three-way duel ever.

Like most seasons of Survivor, this season has had people I’ve liked and people I’ve disliked, but unlike the last few seasons, this one seems to have too many of the latter and not enough of the former. I either didn’t care for or barely got to know any of the six players who have already been eliminated, and I can’t stand any of the three people on Redemption Island right now.

As for who’s left? I’m desperately trying to find someone to get behind. Coach has played the best game so far, and I like him a lot more now than I used to, but he has bouts of arrogance on a Trump-sized level. Edna is sweet but a limp noodle. Dawn is terrific but probably doesn’t have a prayer, and neither does Cochran, who really made the only move he could and will forever be vilified for it. Whitney is a drama queen, Albert rubs me the wrong way, Brandon is a pretentious little prick, and eight episodes in, I still don’t know anything about Sophie and Rick. I mean, I knew South Pacific would be a step down after Boston Rob’s wire-to-wire victory, but I don’t remember feeling this lackluster about a season this far in for a long time. Maybe that will change. I can only hope.

Next week: Albert ponders making a move against Coach. Think Coach sees it coming? (Answer: yes.) Also: Keith vs. Ozzy vs. Jim. May the best jerk win.