Last week, the fallout of Cochran’s switching over to the Upolu tribe’s side rained down hard on the unprotected noggins of the former Savaii tribe. Despite Ozzy’s best efforts to convince the superior-numbered Upolu tribe that Cochran deserved to go because of his dishonorable actions – actions that he himself had a part in causing, though he’d never admit it – the Upolus sent first Ozzy, then Jim to Redemption Island, where they will join the previously ousted Keith in the first three-way duel of the season.
Winning at Survivor is, in many ways, like winning at chess: you have to think several moves ahead. If I’m Coach, my plan is thus: 1) Send the rest of Savaii (Whitney and Dawn) to RedIsle, thus eliminating any chance they could align with someone like Albert against me. 2) Next, take out Albert, easily the most conniving member of my tribe and easily the most likely to lead the charge to take me out; 3) Select the two people I’m most likely to beat in the final vote. That’s most likely Cochran, who betrayed his tribe (well, not “betrayed” so much as “stood up to”, but the jury will likely not split that hair at the final Q&A), and Edna, who has been as useless at damn near everything at this game as a one-runged ladder. You could also include Brandon, who has the double stigma of being bipolar AND a Hantz.
That’s a good plan. Nothing is foolproof, however. Sophie seems to be more on Albert’s side than Coach’s, and the wildcard continues to be Rick. The silent, mustachioed rancher has played his cards pretty close to the chest so far. If he has a plan of his own, I am hoping we’ll get a whiff of it before too long. If Albert makes his power play now, he could easily sway Dawn and Whitney onto his side. That would make it four against four, with Rick being the swing vote. Not an enviable position to be in.
Duel #7: Keith vs. Ozzy vs. Jim. The first three-man duel of the season is a test of concentration and balance. Each duelist must hold their hands, palms-down, tout in front of them at about shoulder-level, and balance on the tops of their hands a long cylinder, which is pressed up against a wooden plank several feet above their heads. Lowering their hands even a half-inch will cause the cylinder to fall, and that’s that. Only the winner of the duel remains in the game, while the two losers will before the first and second members of the jury. The cylinders, oblivious to Jim’s weaselly charm, are the first to fall, and Ozzy just barely outlasts Keith to remain alive in the game.
This seems as good a time as any to bring this whole “Redemption Island” point up again… why does it even exist? I mean, it’s a great hook for TV, yeah, but come on. When you get right down to it, putting someone who was already voted out back in the game is, on its surface, a fruitless enterprise. The same people who voted the person out has exactly one Tribal Council to make all the victorious duels hollow. It happened to Matt last season. It happened to Ozzy this season. (The way things are going, Ozzy may be the first person in Survivor history to be voted out three times in the same season.) If he finds his way back into the game, there’s no way in Hades the remaining contestants will keep him around. His only chance is to win every Immunity Challenge until the end of the game. That’s pretty tough, even for someone as fit as Ozzy.
There was an interesting segue in this episode, where we see Ozzy chowing on his bountiful feast of fish and coconuts, both of which he retrieved himself, to a shot of the men of Te Tuna striking out after hours of net-fishing. Cochran rekindles his friendship with Dawn, promising her that he will try to wangle something that will keep her around, but if it isn’t in the cards and there’s nothing he can do, no hard feelings. Dawn understands perfectly, because she’s awesome. Doomed, but awesome.
Immunity Challenge #1: Another test of balance: the castaways have to balance a bowl of rice on top of their heads, walk up and down two teeter-totters, and dump their rice into a basket. When one basket outweighs the counterweight on the end of it’s teeter-totter, the game is over. This definitely favored the contestants with a lower center of gravity (namely, the girls and Brandon). It was close, but a bold move by Sophie, who filled her basket as much as she could, scored her first victory. After receiving her necklace, Jeff announces that there will be a twist at that night’s TC.
Prior to TC, Dawn and Whitney made the only move they could, by approaching Albert about attempting a power play. Albert really seems to consider it… by getting rid of Edna, he can not only put a crimp in Coach’s endgame but curry favor with the Savaii jury members at the same time. Of course, he may just be blowing smoke up their asses, but it’s a workable plan. All he needs is a fifth vote to make it happen (the fourth being Cochran, who wants to move up to a position higher than seventh on the totem pole). Albert tries to recruit Sophie for that position, but she’s skeptical. Coach, who watches all these shenanigans from afar, is less than pleased.
Tribal Council #1: The only topic of conversation, of course, was the fact that the vote will go one of two ways: either Dawn and Whitney will be the next two out, likely followed by Cochran, or a big move will be made right here, right now. I honestly live for big moves, but it didn’t happen. Albert and Sophie ultimately decided that Dawn was a bigger threat than Edna, and even Cochran had not choice but to vote for Dawn as well. Too bad. One of the few completely non-judgmental players in the history of this game. I wish her luck against Ozzy, she will definitely need it.
Immunity Challenge #2: This was the twist. Right there at TC, another IC, which will be followed immediately by another vote. It came in the form of a sudden-death multiple-choice survival trivia quiz, with very simple rules: you miss a question, you’re out. About the only result that might have caused some consternation would have been if Whitney had won. Had that happened, with no time to plan a course of action, Cochran would likely have been the one to get the ax. And Whitney damn near did it, too, making it all the way to the final two before being bested by Sophie, who wins Immunity for the second time that day.
Tribal Council #2: There was not even a Q&A before the second TC, they went right into the vote. And it all went according to Hoyle, with Whitney being unanimously voted out by everyone else. So, for all intents and purposes, Savaii is no more. She and Dawn had better hope that the next duel will have some kind of random element in it that could trip Ozzy up, or they’ll be sitting in the cheap seats for the next TC.
It was speculated early in the episode that Coach would most likely choose to bring Edna and Sophie to the Final Three with him. After this episode, that eventuality seems less and less likely. By winning back-to-back IC’s, Sophie has proven herself to be a real threat in that category. She’s a very capable player, and that is not the kind of person you want sitting next to you when the million dollar vote comes up.
So despite all the innuendo that something big was going to come down, the center held in the Upolu alliance. Ozzy will take on the last two members of his own alliance next week, thus guaranteeing that the first four members of the jury will be ex-Savaii members. Rather poetic, considering that neither team could get any momentum at all over the first six episodes.
And now I have to wonder… what’s to come? Will Cochran be able to slither out of trouble? If I’m Albert, I have to wonder how much longer I can wait before I make my move. I know that Coach has the HII, so going after Coach directly may backfire. Edna is Coach’s most obvious ally, so trying to take her out could also backfire if Coach decides to give his HII to her. My next move would be to try to find out exactly where Sophie, Rick and Cochran stand, and try to rope them into a four-on-three alliance against Coach.
At this point, I’m not sure where Sophie’s allegiances lie. And Rick is the patron saint of stoicism, so who knows what’s in his head. As for Cochran, he has been knowingly “sipping Coach’s Kool-Aid”, though in small enough doses so that he is seen to be cooperative but not complacent. He turned on Ozzy, I’m sure he would turn on Coach in an instant if he thought he could finish higher than seventh place.
Next week: Te Tuna is running out of food, and Brandon’s time may be done unless he he’s got the self-awareness to notice. I’m guessing not.
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