Pre-credit Sequence. How will things change in the aftermath of the elimination of The Fun Sponge? Will fun magically reign? There’s a bat in the trees and the Alphas are gloating. “With the execution of The Specialist Phillip Sheppard, I think Stealth R Us hopefully is going to fracture,” Malcolm says. “If those six people stick together, I don’t have a chance in this game,” Malcolm adds. “The stability has been rocked out of the game,” Erik says, relieved that he’s finally allowed to talk to people Phillip didn’t want him talking to. Erik figures that he has the ability to switch to whatever alliance he wants to. He’s got options! And if there’s anything more exciting that Erik deliberating on his options, I can’t wait to see it.
Brenda Starve. It’s an extra-long pre-credit sequence actually, featuring two narrative arcs. Way to get fancy, “Survivor” editors. The next morning, everybody is exhausted. “It left me breathless. It left me terrified,” says Cochran, still reflecting on Tribal Council. Everybody is worn out and now it’s Brenda’s turn to cry uncontrollably and Dawn’s turn to calm her. “Stuff like that scares me,” says Brenda of the Tribal Council upheaval. “Losing control of the game, It’s terrifying,” says Brenda, which implies that she thought she had control of the game. Dawn tells Brenda to drink something and to eat more, but Brenda is unnerved by what the boys may be planning.
Hope arrives. And no, not the Hope who you’ve *completely* forgotten was a contestant this season. Just when you thought things were hopeless, Tree-Mail brings hope in the form of nine envelopes. Each envelope contains $500 in cash. Malcolm is hoping to hold out for a big advantage in the game, even if it means skipping a food option at auction. That strategy worked out well each of the past two seasons with Troyzan and Abi both saving their hides for at least one Tribal Council by eschewing sustenance for advantage. Let’s see how things go.
Brenda eats brains. Braaaaaaaaaaaains. “Who doesn’t love the ‘Survivor’ auction?” Jeff Probst asks as the castways arrive. No money or food can be shared he warns them. Up first is beer and peanuts. And, inexplicably, Malcolm’s resolve lasts one second. He gets beer and nuts and surrenders $20 of his money. Eddie looks confused and incredulous and even Malcolm knows he may have made a mistake. Of course, it isn’t just a beer, because he gets two more beers and some pretzels. Well that was worth it. For $180, Reynold gets a covered dish, but he can trade it for one of two additional covered dishes. He sticks with the first tray and gets one piece of pizza, missing out on rotten coconut, but also on the rest of the pie. Without it even going up to bid, Sherri offers $500 for the rest of the pizza and I’d like to believe Jeff just pockets that cash. Dawn shells out $500 for a whole roasted chicken. That’s a good amount of protein, I guess. A covered dish contains “information” and Malcolm bids $480 and nobody’s stomach will let them outbid him. He gets 60 seconds to stare at a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol. It’s a buried Idol, which presumably means that nobody’s gonna be able to find it just by sticking their hands in the right holes. If you know what I mean. Another covered dish comes up and Brenda is afraid to waste her money. For $280, Adorable Andrea gets a plate of spaghetti and meatballs and a glass of wine. But she gets the choice of giving up her food for bags of rice and beans. Andrea, of course, does the right thing and gives up her prize for the communal good. An advantage in the next Immunity goes to Cochran for only $340. What the heck is Eddie doing? For $300, Brenda gets… Pig brains. “Ironically, I don’t feel like crying right now, which is weird,” Brenda says. She takes a bite before saying, “I just remembered, I don’t eat pig.” Here, Jeff Probst helpfully notes, “You’re eating… the brain of a pig.” She replies, “It’s good for you, right?” “I have no idea,” Probst admits. Well that was awesome. Letters from home are available and they cost only $20 apiece. That’s a great deal for everybody other than Sherri, Dawn and Malcolm, who are feeling remorse. Dawn cries. Sherri cries. Malcolm doesn’t cry, but looks miserable. Eddie spends $200 on the ceremonial group item that ends the auction each season. It’s a giant jar of peanut butter. They get 60 seconds, but Probst says anything that’s on them can go home with them.
Tubs of body goober goo. Monkey! Several castaways return to camp covered in take-home peanut butter, which is both gross and awesome. They scrape the peanut butter from their bodies and into a communal bowl, which is much more gross than awesome. It’s time for everybody with letters to sit together and cry tears of nutty happiness. “This is all that mattered,” Brenda says. Cochran blubbers, which he says goes against his strategy of being an emotionless game-bot. Reynold and Eddie target Sherri first and try to capitalize on her emotional afterglow to try to lure her. “We could guarantee you, worst case, fifth,” Reynold tells Sherri. Malcolm, master of the middle-aged woman, says he’ll shore up Sherri’s support if Eddie and Reynold can keep Erik on-board. Reynold’s first plan after taking over is to vote out Cochran, the strategic powerhouse. Late at night, Malcolm goes wandering. Only Adorable Andrea sees him leave. Malcolm thinks he has an idea, but while he’s digging, Andrea and Cochran come to join him. I love the eerie night vision, with Andrea and Cochran half-asleep monitoring Malcolm. “Is this a stand-off?” she asks. I’m not sure if we can trust the editing, but suddenly it’s night-vision no longer and Andrea is still sitting on the well and Malcolm is still standing, suddenly looking defeated. “You’re the little sister I can’t get rid of,” Malcolm says, agreeing to leave with Andrea and stop searching. Were this a movie, they’d fall in love. Instead, Malcolm isn’t sure if he just blew a million bucks.
End of your rope. Immunity is back up for grabs. For the challenge, they have to hold onto a rope that’s tethered to heavy log. At regular intervals, they have to move down the rope, making the weight even heavily. I’m confused. How is this not wildly and disproportionately imbalanced towards the Alphas? Cochran’s advantage is that at any point he can move his hand up two places on the rope. Eddie doesn’t think this will be advantage enough. Oh! They’re holding 1/3rd of the body weight they started the game with. OK. That makes theoretical sense and explains why it’s not totally unfair. Thanks for clarifying, Probst! Cochran uses his advantage immediately. I’m not sure why he used it so soon. They’re down to the last knot on the rope after 20 minutes, but nobody’s gone out yet. Until Brenda bails. And then Erik bails. On the last leg of the challenge, everybody else is holding a rope without a knot at the end, but Cochran has a knot. That’s a rather huge advantage. Malcolm tumbles. Andrea goes down. Probst coaches everybody on and Dawn goes out. “Great effort,” Probst says graciously. “Muscles twitching,” Probst says appreciatively of Reynold before he goes out. It’s just Eddie and Cochran. Eddie starts swearing like a sailor and, it slips. Cochran wins Immunity AGAIN! Suck it, Eddie. I feel like “Survivor” contestants need to remember this better: Advantage in challenge is worth whatever price you have to pay at the auction.
What is best in life? Cochran the Conqueror. “I am the greatest challenge competitor in ‘Survivor: Caramoan.’ There’s no debate. If you look at the scoreboard, I’m demolishing everybody,” Cochran celebrates. “I don’t care if it makes me a threat. I’m just gonna keep winning,” Cochran declares proudly. Malcolm decides that since he can’t find the Idol, he has to bluff and convince everybody that he has it. So he goes to Sherri, tells her he has the Idol and makes a handshake deal that he’ll go to the end with her. Malcolm pinky-swears to Sherri that the vote is against Andrea. “I’m putting all my trust in you,” Dawn tells Erik, who knows that he’s reaching a fork in the road. She also discusses her diarrhea, which I didn’t need to hear about. The majority alliance is set to split votes, but Cochran isn’t sure if they might not just be better off doing a straight vote for one person, suggesting Erik may not be so trustworthy. Andrea wonders if, after getting fooled by the girls in his first season, he might be out to fool a girl this time. “Neither side realizes this is my game right now. I’m the one calling the shots,” Sherri says, before playing dumb to deflect attention. It sounds like neither Sherri nor Erik has a clue what’s coming next as they go to Tribal.
Tribal Council. “I think Phillip’s departure kind of marked a new chapter in this game,” says Reynold, who claims it may not be 6-3 anymore. “I think anybody flipping at this point would be pretty much dooming their game,” Andrea warns. “Who knows where I sit with the favorites,” Sherri muses out loud, which shakes Dawn a little. Andrea says she’s 80 percent sure Malcolm has the Idol. Cochran does the math to explain why if anybody flips, it makes a mess out of the split-vote plan and could make this a whole new game. “I think it’s important that you do trust the group of people you’re with,” Andrea says.
The Vote. Reynold writes Andrea’s name. Dawn writes Reynold’s name. Cochran writes Malcolm’s name and says it would be “indescribably delicious” to send him home. There are tensions between those two that we haven’t seen explored. Nobody plays an Idol. Because nobody has an Idol. Andrea and Cochran smile. Probst tallies: Reynold. Malcolm. Andrea. Reynold. Malcolm. Andrea. Reynold. Andrea. Malcolm. It’s a tie. Everybody stuck together. And Malcolm is doomed. And he knows it.
The Revote. Probst tallies: Malcolm. Malcolm. Malcolm. MALCOLM. He’s resigned. Eddie and Reynold are crestfallen. “I need a drink,” he says as he walks off. In his post-eviction interview, Malcolm is still lamenting the $480 clue, but he maintains he wouldn’t have played the Idol anyway, because he thought he was safe. Interesting footnote: We didn’t see Reynold’s revote vote, but Eddie voted for Malcolm. I can’t really see what purpose that would have had. [EDIT: I’m reminded that Reynold was one of the people in the original vote, so he didn’t vote. Still doesn’t explain Eddie’s vote.]
Bottom Line. I bet Malcolm wishes he still had one of the two Idols he played the last two weeks when, technically, he turned out not to need to. Oh well. I like Malcolm, but he didn’t have a solvent strategy for a single second this season. Once he split off from Stealth R Us, he was basically doomed, though he got in a couple killer Tribal Council flourishes. It’s remarkable, but Dawn narcing on Corinne’s plotting turns out to have been the biggest move of the season so far. That nipped a nascent alliance in the bud and there was only so much scurrying Malcolm could do. In his first season, he aligned with Denise and that took him an awfully long way. This season, he over-aligned with Corinne, or perhaps was overly hostile towards Phillip? Unclear which. Somehow, after charming nearly everybody for most of his first season, he managed to charm absolutely nobody this time and he was left scurrying to woo Sherri at the last second, without ever doing enough legwork. Yeah, leaving aside the great moments he provided the last two Tribal Councils, Malcolm just played a bad game of “Survivor” this time around. Or he didn’t play a *good* game. How about that? I’ll miss his quotability, certainly.
Bottom Line, II. It was a decent episode. Have wishy-washy centrists Sherri and Erik already ceded their position of power? This was the Tribal Council at which they could make things interesting by flipping. Now, it doesn’t seem like they have that power at all, at least in the short term. I assume they’ll still be key pieces for a power play once it’s time for the core six to crumble, though. Reynold and Eddie ought to be doomed, which is fine since I don’t especially like them when they’re not aligned with Malcolm. We may soon be reaching a Cochran point of genuine over-confidence, which would be an interesting change of pace. Much credit to Adorable Andrea for basically filibustering Malcolm out of a hypothetical Idol, a hypothetical Idol that he says he wouldn’t have used anyway. Those lamenting Brenda’s absence earlier this season may now be wondering if the Brenda we have — scatterbrained and vaguely Stepford-y — is the Brenda we wanted — more like the sassy and strong Brenda from her truncated season.
And… Yeah. That’s about it. Are you sad to see Malcolm go, or do you figure this is what he had coming?