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Survivor: South Pacific Watch - Free Agent

Last week, in this topsy-turvy season where neither tribe has been able to contrive a way to maintain momentum and get a leg up on the other, Upolu took tribal immunity home after a particularly disgusting eating challenge, leaving the still-present hostility between Brandon and Mikayla to simmer for one more episode. Meanwhile, at Savaii, nerdy Cochran and schemer Jim orchestrated a mini-palace-coup, voting Ozzy’s personal confidant and snuggle-buddy Elyse to RedIsle. Needless to say, he was not pleased. But I was. Just saying.

Duel #4. Ozzy, Keith, Sophie and some guy in a cowboy hat (I think his name is Rick, because he hasn’t said but ten words in five episodes) are in attendance for the duel between Elyse and Christine. For the first time, Christine’s veneer of indignant confidence cracks a little, as she tears up. Yeah, being on your own in the wild can be a humbling experience.

And it turns out that she’ll be staying for a little while longer, because a game of Survivor shuffleboard goes in Christine’s favor, meaning that Elyse is out, and Christine has won four in a row. I’m starting to admire her a little bit… not like Matt from last season, who had the misfortune of being a really good guy on the same tribe as Boston Rob, but enough to mention it. It's also worth mentioning that her four opponents have been skinny women and one old gay ex-cop. I have to wonder how she’d fare against someone with a little more sinew on their bodies.

Immunity/Reward Challenge

In this challenge, the teams assigned three people to assemble a wheelbarrow, and then push it through a maze, filling it up with coconuts along the way. After dumping the coconuts into a trough at the end of the course, the barrow would then be disassembled and reassembled into a slingshot apparatus (clever, that), where the other half would attempt to knock down six upright targets. Winning tribe gets immunity and a trip to a scenic locale that has a natural rock-slide, along with a picnic lunch.

I found myself hoping that Upolu could break precedent and win two in a row, and they got out to a big lead, but they couldn’t hold it. Savaii wrested immunity back to their side, which will have the effect of evening the tribes up again at six apiece. Unbelievable. It should be noted the Keith and Jim came up big for Savaii, and Mikayla pretty much stunk up the join for Upolu.

Camp Life – Savaii

Obviously, Whitney and Keith are just as guilty of conspiring against Ozzy to vote out Elyse as Cochran, Dawn and Jim are; the fact that they threw their two votes to Dawn when Ozzy specifically told them to vote for Cochran is beside the point. The first thing Ozzy does after returning from TC is stare daggers at Keith for stabbing him in the back, right before announcing that he is a “free agent”, meaning he’ll be looking after his own interests from now on.

See, this is the exact opposite of how he should be handling it. He should have said, “Okay, you got me, you knocked me down a peg, where do you guys want to go from here?” If they can somehow get momentum and go to the merge with equal numbers, they can use the HII as a decoy to backfire on someone from Upolu, because Ozzy is almost sure to be targeted first. By alienating himself from his tribe, he’s left himself without any allies at all, and more to the point, cost himself the respect of any potential jury members.

Keith rightly points out that they could have taken him out if they’d wanted to, because Ozzy would never have seen it coming, but they kept him around because they respect his strength and his ability to provide. It takes nearly a day of sullen, solitary foot-stomping, but Ozzy eventually realizes his error and attempts to do damage control by patching things up with the rest of Savaii. Keith seems amenable to the idea, but he may be the only one.

After winning Immunity, some fence seemed to have been mended as Savaii enjoyed their reward, which included some truly picturesque views and some really immense-looking subs. Ozzy claimed in interview to respect his tribemates, stating that if he doesn’t win the million dollars, he hopes it’s one of them. We’ll see if this era of congeniality lasts until next week.

Camp Life – Upolu

Coach, on the other hand, has played it much more coolly. He has the HII and told only Sophie and Albert about it. He’s rightly identified bipolar Brandon as a situation that will need to be dealt with at some point. Meanwhile, Brandon continues to search for the HII or the clue to the whereabouts of same. He actually does find the clue (not in the same location as the clue Coach found last week), and reveals his discovery to Coach and Albert. Coach doesn’t tell him he already has it, of course, perfectly content to let Brandon search in vain for it. There is a hysterical moment when Coach mimics the way Brandon walks, which is a spot-on match to the way Russell walks: determined, quickly, with the top half of his body leaning forward slightly, like he wants to use his chest to knock down some invisible walls. It’s uncanny, really.

This really puts Coach in a quandary, that could eventually have a drastic effect on the game: Coach is a very spiritual guy, just like Brandon is now. Not revealing his HII to Brandon qualifies as a lie of omission, one that could easily shatter the bond of trust that Brandon thinks he has with coach. And that could be messy, because being borderline-unstable AND a Hantz? That is one crazy sandwich.

Meanwhile, Edna continues to cozy up to Coach and get in his good graces. Coach still likes her, even though she’s not in his inner circle. He assures her that Mikayla will be the next to go, which will have the dual effect of getting rid of a potential threat and placating Brandon somewhat.

After losing the I/RC, a crack appears in the three-strong alliance between Coach, Albert and Sophie. Albert tells Mikayla that he’s going to convince Coach to keep her (who cost them Immunity, and refused to take Coach’s instructions as to the slingshot) over Edna (who sat out the challenge). Coach, on the flip side, blames Mikayla for the loss and is much closer to Edna. Albert lays it out that Edna is no dummy, and if they let her hang around until the merge, it could be a game-changer. Sophie seems convinced, as does Rick. The hard part will be convincing Coach and Brandon.

Brandon, for his part, seems to have softened in his opinion of Mikayla, and has now come to develop a distrust of Edna, believing her overt sweetness to be fake. Even so, Brandon says that he made a vow to Coach to vote Mikayla out before Edna, and he’s sticking to that. Coach counters Albert’s argument that Mikayla brings just as little to the table as Edna; the difference is, Edna is easier to manipulate. Albert says he respects the strategy, but with the next IC being so crucial, keeping Edna around is the wrong move.

The last bit of strategy prior to Tribal Council? With Coach, Brandon and Edna voting for Mikayla, and with Albert, Sophie and Mikayla voting for Edna, the swing vote has suddenly become Rick. Hmm. That’s a development I did not see coming. It’s certainly not a position Rick covets, because whichever way he goes, he pisses three people off.

Tribal Council

Jeff opens the Q&A by asking Coach what went wrong at the I/RC, and Coach responds that it was a lack of communication that doomed them: specifically, that he told Mikayla to let a red-hot Albert take point on the slingshot, and she refused. She denies that that’s what Coach said, but, in point of fact, that’s exactly what he said. Jeff then asks Edna why her tribe keeps sitting her out, and she admits that it’s because she is clearly the weakest.

It’s interesting that Jeff always asks the most pertinent questions at TC; clearly, the camera crew keeps him informed of what’s going on at camp, because he then asks Brandon, with the merge looming, whether it’s more important to keep people around who are strong or people who are loyal. Brandon says that he values loyalty higher, because having superior numbers means nothing if some of your tribe-mates are ready to break ranks. Albert and Sophie counters that argument by saying that if you go into the merge with inferior numbers, it doesn’t matter if everyone is loyal to each other or not. Compelling arguments both, to be sure.

The apparent line that is dividing the tribe, it appears, was too much for Brandon to handle. Two episodes ago, it seemed that Upolu was about loyalty above all else, so why is it an issue now? Upolu is now basically six people plus Mikayla, that’s what was decided when they voted off Stacey, and that’s how it should remain. But it’s still clearly going to come down to just Rick, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else at that moment.

Voting time. Brandon and Edna vote for Mikayla, of course. Mikayla votes for Edna, as does Albert, who mutters to the camera that Rick had better follow suit. Rick and his giant mustache are very pensive when he fills out his slip. Jeff then collects the urn, and out come the slips. Mikayla. Edna. Mikayla. Edna. Mikayla. Edna. And Rick’s vote went to… Mikayla. So he sided with Coach after all. I have to wonder if Albert will retaliate by outing Coach’s HII to the rest of the group. Mikayla’s torch is snuffed, and off she goes to battle Christine, a contestant she herself had a hand in sending to RedIsle.

Next week: a neck-and-neck Immunity Challenge that could be the keystone to determining which tribe will gain the upper hand.