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Survivor: South Pacific Watch - Trojan Horse

Last week, a schism developed in the Upolu tribe. Coach diverged from his supposedly closest allies, Albert and Sophie, for the simple fact that he valued weak but loyal Edna over strong but unpredictable Mikayla. With three people one side and three on the other, it came down to rancher Rick to cast the deciding vote; in the end, he sided with Coach and sent Mikayla to RedIsle, where she will tussle with the 4-0 Christine.

Duel #5. The chosen spectators for this duel were Albert and Sophie from Upolu, Ozzy and Cochran for Savaii. The duel was a three-part challenge. Disassemble a medium box into its component slats, use those slats to build a bridge, cross that bridge, and then use some of the slats (which have letters on them) to form a picture puzzle. If Vegas were making odds on this duel, Christine would probably be the heavy favorite, and rightly so. And for the fifth straight week, Christine wins. Ozzy and Cochran share a knowing look between them, clearly hoping that they have a chance to make her an ally should she return to the game.

We’re about halfway through the season, and three events are looming: the merge, the beginning of jury selection, and the reintroduction of the RedIsle survivor back into the game. I’m not sure whether these events will all happen on the same week or separate weeks, but they show has been hinting that the merge is certainly imminent, and that the next I/RC could be the most critical one of the season.

Immunity/Reward Challenge

Before the challenge, the castaways were asked to paint themselves in fierce colors and don their best “warrior’s garb” for the occasion. For the record, Upolu looked a lot scarier, having painted their faces the same shade of blue that Mel Gibson wore in Braveheart. And this challenge also has a movie connection, as the victorious team will be taken to a makeshift cinema and shown a sneak preview of Adam Sandler’s new movie Jack and Jill, which comes out on November 11th (or 11/11/11, if you prefer). Wow, a reward AND a punishment at the same time.

The connection is: since the movie is about two people who are twin siblings, the castaways split into three pairs per team. One pair directs the a second team, who are blindfolded, through a land-and-water course to retrieve four bags that contain matching masks, which they must arrange in order, while the third duo makes sure that the rope through the course doesn’t get tangled up. And you just had to figure, with no team winning back-to-back challenges this whole season, that Upolu would find a way to gut out a victory and take it, and they did. Six in a row with no repeat winners. That is officially a Survivor record. Perhaps it was God’s will.

I actually love that the tribes are this evenly matched because there are people on both tribes that I really like, and that I would like to see go all the way to the end. It makes me anticipate the second half of the season more, not knowing how the numbers will play out. It’s also ironic that a season where no one can get the upper hand follows right on the heels of a season totally dominated from start to finish by one player.

Camp Life – Upolu

Despite the fact that he came to her rescue, Edna and Coach continue to have grave concerns about bipolar Brandon. Three TC’s, three meltdowns. That math ain’t hard. Hantz or no, I have to figure that the time to cut him loose is approaching. Coach rather interestingly compares Brandon to Lenny of Of Mice and Men, which is strangely apt.

Brandon, naturally, is still het up about finding the HII, and when the six of then join hands for a group prayer, where they dually hope that the Lord will grant them victory in the I/RC as well as finding the HII, I shake my head a little. Coach already has the HII, but only Sophie and Albert know that, and Sophie is a little icked out that someone as supposedly devout as Coach would make pray for something he already had, just to purport a lie. Yeah, that might cost him a few days in purgatory.

Thankfully, Coach realized that maintaining that charade for any longer would ultimately be counterproductive, he comes back from Tree Mail and produces the HII for Rick, Brandon and Edna. That makes them happy, and they probably won’t be any the wiser until they see it from their living rooms. Brandon literally takes Coach’s “good fortune” as a sign from God that they will be victorious in the I/RC, and whaddaya know, they were.

The multitude of prayers, along with the victory, seems to have truly cemented the bond between Upolu, and while they chowed down on hot dogs, popcorn and candy while they watched twice as much Sandler as anyone should have to, it made it seem that the discontent that was present as recently as one Tribal Council ago seems like a distant memory. Won’t last, though. It can’t.

Camp Life – Savaii

Right before leaving the arena, Ozzy acknowledged the importance of winning the next Immunity Challenge, but then, playing devil’s advocate, should they lose, they should send someone to RedIsle who stands a chance of beating Christine. And then he says he would consider being that person. And I seriously can’t believe this guy is actually considering this!

The reason is simple: Christine has shown nothing but contempt for Coach and all of Upolu since she was voted off. She has made a point of mentioning this at every turn with Savaii members in attendance. In the event that she survives Round One of the duels, she is clearly not going to ally herself with Upolu again. So why does it matter who Savaii sends to face her in the next (and potentially last) duel? The only thing I can fathom from this plan is that by sending Ozzy, you absolutely guarantee that whoever wins the next duel will be loyal to Savaii. If it were me, I would choose to send Edna instead. That way, you’d be trading a weak player for a strong one while maintaining numbers.

Two other things to factor in: it would mean Ozzy giving up his HII in the hopes of getting it back, and the hinging factor is that the merge will happen either this episode or the next one. It’d be just like the show to tease the contestants with a merge and then not make it happen. And what if Christine defeats Ozzy? So many possibilities!

After losing the challenge, I wonder if Ozzy had the stones to see his plan through to the end, especially given that they had a perfect excuse to vote off Cochran, who pretty much single-handedly cost them the victory, having botched his job as rope-man something awful. And Ozzy was PISSED. People have been voted out for much less.

Back at camp, after a few minutes of venting at poor Cochran (who, to his credit, took responsibility for the loss like a trooper), everyone calmed down and they talked about who should go to RedIsle. Cochran seemed resigned to go, since “redemption” is clearly what he needs. He is a little fatalistic about his chances to beat the juggernaut that is Christine despite the pep talk his tribe-mates give him, but I have to believe that unless the next duel is an entirely mental challenge, he probably won’t win.

The next morning, however, Ozzy strolls into camp with his HII in hand, and tells the rest of his tribe his original plan – to got to RedIsle, dispatch Christine, and return to the game to make the numbers even again. Cochran is delighted that this plan is back on again, but the rest of the group doesn’t seem as self-assured that this is the right course of action. Keith brings up the biggest “what if”: what if the merge doesn’t happen? Then win or lose, Ozzy will not be with Savaii at the next challenge, a challenge they are unlikely to win without him. And again, there’s always the possibility that Christine could pull out yet another victory. It’s that uncertainty that will weigh heavily on the vote.

Tribal Council

Jeff opens the Q&A by asking Cochran what went wrong at the challenge, and Cochran replies that basically, he just choked. Cochran then says what’s on everyone’s mind, which is that they expect the merge to take place after the next duel, and that they need to find a way to make RedIsle work for them. Jeff feigns confusion, wondering why Cochran would voluntarily go to RedIsle where he would certainly be the underdog, and then Ozzy drops the bomb.

Ozzy continues by saying that this is something he feels he must do, that his redemption is at stake, especially given the boneheaded way he exited the last season he played: overconfident, blindsided, and sent home with an HII in his back pocket. He then lays out the rest of the plan: that Ozzy will tell Christine that Cochran found the HII and played it when Savaii tried to vote him out. Pretty clever, actually… Cochran’s a Survivor fanatic and everyone knows it, so that’s not too big a stretch.

Jeff then points out the elephant in the room: what if they don’t merge? Ozzy can only reply that at least he went out on his terms and not someone else’s. Jeff retorts that if this cunning plan backfires, he’ll look like a bigger idiot than he did last time. Keith, Whitney and Jim all agree that the plan is far from foolproof, and that it’s not just Ozzy’s life on the line, but all of them. A lot of “if’s.”

Voting time. Cochran votes for Ozzy, saying that he’s thrilled to be part of this unique moment in Survivor history, especially since it saves his own bacon at the same time. No one else’s vote is shown. Jeff collects the urn, and then asks if anyone wants to play the HII. Ozzy, ever the wise-ass, teases Cochran by saying that he’s had another change of heart, but then grins and hands the HII over to him, warning him that if they meet again, he’d better hand it back over. And then, out come the slips. Ozzy. Ozzy. Ozzy. And… Ozzy.

So that’s it. The die is cast. Based on desperation, assumptions and suppositions, Savaii’s strongest player makes one of the ballsiest moves in Survivor history. For the first time this season, I have become truly invested in the outcome of a duel. Ozzy vs. Christine. She will plotz when she sees her next opponent!

Next week: Will Ozzy defeat Christine? Will he rejoin the game? Will the tribes merge after all? Does anyone really care about Jack and Jill? Stay tuned!