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Survivor: South Pacific Watch - Then There Were Five

Last week, for the fourth straight episode, it was business as usual. Ozzy coolly won his fourth straight duel, dispatching Cochran in a close match, and is now officially the only former Savaii member with a mathematical shot at winning the million dollars. Meanwhile, with no one left to turn on but each other, the core group of Upolus decided that Edna, despite being a nice person and all, was less worthy of a spot in the Top Five than Bipolar Brandon, who, despite his early-season proclamation that he was nothing like his uncle, has proven time and time again that he possesses the exact same amount of tact as Evil Russell – that is to say, zero.

I’ve said it several times in these recaps… Survivor is at its very best and most entertaining when the unexpected happens. When something totally unforeseen is introduced and it causes everyone’s individual strategy to be turned on its head, and they're suddenly sent scurrying around like crabs hopped up on meth. But that hasn’t happened. The Upolu masterplan, as boring as it is ironclad, has been executed to perfection. All of the extraneous elements have been removed, and now, only five Upolus remain. My God, people, can SOMETHING interesting happen?!

Here’s what we know, going in to tonight’s episode… with the number of contestants dwindling, there can only be one more duel (two, tops), before the RedIsle survivor reenters the game. Likewise, there are only two more Tribal Councils left for Coach to play his Hidden Immunity Idol, which he found early on and has kept tucked safely in his back pocket ever since. It’s rarely been discussed in the last two months, because there’s been no need. Coach has had the upper hand ever since Cochran switched sides.

Albert has kept his personal endgame strategy pretty close to the vest thus far, but now we finally get a peek inside his head. He says his original plan was to go to the end with Coach and Sophie, but now he’s starting to perceive Sophie as a viable threat. Which I guess is true: she’s won two IC’s, and is probably the only woman with a shot at winning this thing (not that female solidarity will be that big a factor, what with only three women on the jury should Edna not defeat Ozzy). He tells Rick, however, that it’s the two of them all the way, and Rick seems to agree. And twelve episodes in, I would really like to get Rick on camera, you know, talking. He’s had about as much to say during this whole season as the trees that surround the camp.

Albert’s strategy now is to be in the Final Three with Coach and Rick, fairly convinced he can beat both in a vote because Rick hasn’t done anything strategically and Coach has been more ruthless. And I have to say, that strategy is about 50% effective. Why on Earth would you keep Coach around when you have Bipolar Brandon right there?

Duel #10: Ozzy vs. Edna. Today’s duel is in two stages: firstly, the duelists must solve a slide-puzzle in order to free a small hatchet, which they must then use to cut a rope and release a bag with four puzzle cubes in it. They must then put the four cubes into a vertical turntable such that each “column” must have one blue square, one red square, one green square and one orange square showing.

It’s interesting that all five Upolus in the gallery root on Edna (except, I’m assuming, Coach, who remains mum) considering they just voted her out. Both of them struggle for several minutes to solve the puzzle, and then Edna tries to figure it out without using the turntable. Everyone’s jaw drops when they think that Edna may pull off the upset, but it doesn’t quite happen, and Ozzy wins again. Poor Edna, that would have been epic. For the first time, there is an Upolu on the jury. And it turns out that Ozzy’s time on RedIsle is NOT done yet, which means there will be one more duel to come.

Back at camp, the inevitable implosion of Upolu begins. The watchwords of the five-strong alliance thus far have been “honor, loyalty and integrity”, and Albert awesomely interview that though he has maintained otherwise in public, he has no interest whatsoever in those qualities as far as the game of Survivor goes. (FINALLY, someone I can root for!) Brandon still believes that he’s going to the end with Coach and Albert, and Albert does nothing to burst that bubble. He does remind Brandon about the huge threat that Ozzy represents, and that Sophie should go next. Again, Brandon just nods.

Sophie brings something up to Coach that I hadn’t considered. Ozzy has made no secret about being the greatest “provider” in Survivor history, and that just might be true. Though he has defeated all comers at RedIsle, he has done so with no callousness at all. When someone has been voted out, Ozzy has welcomed them, fed them, tended the fire, and then given them a commisserating hug before sending them on their way. Who wouldn’t give someone like that a million dollars? Sophie refers to RedIsle as “Ozzy’s Pleasure Dome”, which is just awesome.

Sophie’s plan is to send Brandon up against Ozzy next, because Brandon is the second most dangerous person in the game. Rick certainly has no strong connection to Brandon, which means all it would take is for either Coach or Albert to turn his back on him. Barely a minute later, Albert makes his plea to Coach to take out Sophie. And there you have it… Coach is the deciding factor. Did I tell you that he was in control?

I think I called it several weeks ago, that when the alliance finally broke down, Coach and Albert would be on opposite sides. As Coach interviews, he respects Sophie’s intelligence far more than Albert’s, and his connection to Sophie is considerably stronger. Which means, if I’m reading this right, Brandon will be next, and picturing the look in Brandon’s face when it happens might just make this whole boring season worth it.

As if we needed more insight into Coach’s head, Brandon butts in onto the conversation between Coach and Albert, demanding to know what’s up. Coach sees this for what it is: a blatant Hantz move, something Brandon’s father told him to make during his visit in the last episode. With all the bad Russell memories swirling in his psyche, Coach seems more resolute than ever about what needs to be done next.

Immunity/Reward Challenge. In this challenge, the castaways must use a thick rope to climb up a steep-graded wall, retrieving bags of puzzle pieces. Of the 27 pieces, there were 12 identical pairs and three that didn’t have matches. On the backs of those three pieces were numbers, and the players must then race to the top of the wall and use those numbers to unlock a box. First person to open their box wins Immunity and a feast of pizza, garlic bread and soda, which will be delivered to them at camp.

I was actually kind of rooting for Sophie, but watching her trying to climb the wall brought back memories of Lisa Eilbacher in An Officer and a Gentleman. It comes down to a race between Coach, Brandon and Rick, and would you believe it, Brandon wins. Wow. That will make this TC the first interesting one in over a month. Jeff then tells Brandon that one (and only one) other person gets to share in the reward, in full view of the other three, and though he says his choice isn’t strategic (total BS), he picks Rick to share his meal. Rick is overjoyed, and Coach looks more pissed than I’ve ever seen him.

As Brandon and Rick nosh on pizza, Sophie and Coach discuss their Plan B, which is now, obviously, Albert. Sophie then makes a less-than-subtle move by cozying up to Rick and Brandon while they’re eating, and casually lets it slip that she’s voting for Albert. Rick seems down with that, but Brandon looks quizzical, because he obviously thinks that Sophie’s next, and that Coach and Albert are on his side.

And then it happens: both Brandon and Rick confront Albert about his promises to take both of them to Final Three (along with Coach), and it turns into an ugly shouting match. While Albert scrambles frantically, Sophie just sits back and watches with a smile. Yeah, Albert’s stock just took a nosedive, didn’t it? And that, Albert, is what happens when you confide in Brandon. The man can’t keep a secret to save his life.

In a last bit of damage control, Albert tries to woo Brandon back to his side by recounting the story of how Rick once called Albert “Princess”, so why would we take someone like that to the Final Three? Albert hammers it home by telling Brandon that they are solid, no matter what Rick says. And Brandon interviews that he loves Albert, and forgives him his trespasses. Wow. Somewhere, Evil Russell just wrote Brandon out of his will.

And if you need any further proof just how damn gullible Brandon is, first he tells us and then Coach that if need be, he will give Albert his Immunity to protect him, and then they can proceed in voting Sophie off. He throws himself at Coach’s feet and tells him flat out that he knows that Coach is on his side, and would NEVER vote him out. Brandon, of course, is giving Coach exactly the opening he needs, but these words are cutting through him like a knife. So Coach silently prays for guidance, and he leaves for TC with his mind apparently made up.

Tribal Council. I’ll keep it brief: the group no sooner sits down when Brandon takes off his necklace and gives it to Albert. The jury are dumbfounded, as is Jeff. Then, after a lengthy discussion about Brandon’s faith, his troubled childhood and his unwavering devotion to Coach, they vote. Brandon and Albert do indeed vote for Sophie, but everyone else, including Coach, votes for Brandon. And for the first time in Survivor history, a Hantz is voted out. And thus, MY prayers are answered.

This Sunday: it all comes to an end. One more duel, two more eliminations, and then the final Tribal Council that will determine a winner. See you then.