Pre-credit sequence. It’s Night 36 and Erik’s head is killing him. Dawn thinks that Erik is just stunned by Brenda’s elimination, but no. Erik’s head is spinning. Jeff Probst and Dr. Joe show up to examine Erik, which leads Dawn to suspect something may be genuinely wrong. She’s a clever one, Dawn is. Dr. Jen takes Erik’s blood pressure and Dr. Joe suggests that Erik may be in a starvation state and he worries that not enough blood is getting to Erik’s head. They’re going to give Erik an IV and, remarkably, Eddie is the one who can explain what’s happening. Eddie, you see, is an EMT. This is the smartest Eddie has looked all season. Yay, Eddie. I guess. Dr. Joe doesn’t want Erik to crash any further and he officially pulls Erik from the game. Holy Cow. “This game just got rocked again,” Probst says. “I don’t know what tomorrow’s gonna bring,” says a dazed Cochran. Everybody comes and says good-bye. “I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else,” Cochran tells Erik, adding that he didn’t come to make friends, but he made a friend in Erik. Sniffle. They have three days left and Probst warns them that no relief is coming. “This opens the door hugely for me,” says Eddie, whose place in the Top 4 is wildly unexpected and weird. This is going to cause endless “What ifs,” most particularly, “What if Erika had bailed seconds *before* Tribal Council? Would that have saved Brenda? Etc…
Steady Eddie. It’s *still* Night 36, but there are only four people getting back to camp. Dawn is shaken, but she likes that her odds have improved. “He was starving and yet he still had those rewards,” Dawn points out, while Eddie agrees that he’s just as starving. “I’m already thinking about the game,” Cochran says, realizing suddenly that he may need to bond with Eddie and fast. It’s not hard. Talking to Cochran, Eddie agrees that it’d be best if they went to the end with Sherri. They shake on it and Dawn is the next target, at least for now. Tree-mail warns them that a Reward is coming and mentions something about digging deep. “I’ll be so relieved to have my brain back,” Dawn says, reflecting on the decisions she’s made that got her to Final 4. “It’s almost all you can do to keep it together,” she says.
Babel. Reward is up for grabs. It’s that task where you have to balance a board while simultaneously building a house of cards/tiles that can reach a red line. Want to know what they’re playing for? The winner gets a scroll that gives a huge advantage in the Final Immunity. That’s pretty big. I’d want a cheeseburger. Cochran is getting close, but his tower comes tumbling down. Sherri’s tower tumbles next. Dawn is close, with Eddie right behind. Down goes Dawn’s stack. Down goes Eddie’s stack. Now Sherri is getting close. Aren’t I doing an awesome job of capturing the drama? Yeah. Probably not. Sherri gets close and her stack collapses, down it goes. OK. Just assume everybody’s getting close and blundering til I tell you who won. Sherri and Dawn are neck-and-neck and… Cochran WINS! Go Cochran! “This could be a million dollar reward right here,” Probst announces.
Baby, Baby, Baby Ohhhhh. Cochran is glad that his challenge streak as return. “I am the Challenge Beast,” Cochran crows. “It’s in the right hands. It’s in capable hands. And I’ll see what happens,” Cochran says of his advantage. Sherri wants to go to the Final 3 with Cochran and Eddie, still figuring that Dawn would be unbeatable because of the sympathy card. “I’m not sitting next to that. She’s too powerful,” Sherri says. Back at the fire, Dawn and Cochran agree that they’re locked into voting Eddie out next, though Dawn is getting paranoid and Dawn’s paranoia is concerning Cochran. Cut to Dawn comparing herself to “a baby stomping its feet.” So Cochran’s job is to be the baby-wrangler. “Every day is a roller-coaster with her and it’s not fun and it’s not funny,” Cochran says.
Rites of Passage. Day 38. Tree-mail tells them to wait for some men in a boat before Rites of Passage. Cochran is jazzed to have made it this far. Oh, Francesca. The Johnny Vander Meer of “Survivor” losing. Oh, Allie. “So who exactly was Allie? Which one of the three blondes was she?” Cochran asks tellingly. Oh, Hope. “Survivor” relishes the chance to showcase slo-mo jiggling footage, teasing us at the attractiveness we missed out on.. Oh, Shamar. “He was misunderstood,” Sherri says. Oh, Laura. I thought Laura was smarter than she got the chance to showcase. Too bad. Oh, Brandon. NEVER AGAIN, “Survivor.” “I made it rain with them beans,” Brandon reminds us. Ugh. Oh, Matt. I’ll miss your beard most of all. Oh, Julia. Who? Oh, Corinne. Always good for an exit interview. Oh, Michael. Shrug. Oh, Phillip. “He was a powerhouse,” Cochran says respectfully. Oh, Malcolm. I take back what I said about Matt, I’ll miss you most of all, Malcolm. Oh, Reynold. I can’t believe they called everybody a “Challenge Beast” other than the REAL Challenge Beast, Reynold. Oh, Andrea. We all know that I was just kidding about Malcolm and I’ll really miss *you* most of all. Oh, Brenda. Never help people find their teeth. Lesson learned. Oh, Erik. Tough way to go out. Facing the last Immunity, Eddie is hoping it’ll be something physical.
This Cochran’s on Fire. Immunity Time. Erik’s departure really screwed with the timing on this episode. I have no clue how they’re going to fill the next 30-ish minutes. Ruh-roh. The task has a heavy physical component. It involves a lot of running up and down to a three-story tower, collecting pieces to make a fire puzzle. What is Cochran’s advantage? He doesn’t have to untie his bags of puzzle pieces. Hmmm… I’m really not sure how huge an advantage is, but Probst thinks it’s big. OK. It takes only one time through for me to see where Cochrane’s advantage becomes a large one. He’s basically one bag ahead throughout and he gets his last of three puzzle bags when everybody else is on their second. Surely Cochran should be good enough at puzzles to make this pay? “Big advantage, don’t squander it,” Probst says. Soon, Cochran’s advantage is gone. Probst won’t let Cochran forget what he seemingly squandered, as Dawn moves into the lead. But Cochran begins to come back and he moves back into the lead. I like Eddie’s look of glee as he finally begins getting a couple pieces. Cochran pushes back into a growing lead. Only three pieces remaining. Two. One. Cochran wins! It’s his third Individual Immunity and his fourth individual challenge win. That’s crazy. Cochran explains this puts him in with the Donaldsons and the Marianos and who’s going to argue? Under what circumstances could Cochran possibly lose the million? Nobody would have been surprised by Cochran strategically dominating this season, but doing it strategically *and* in challenges? Anybody who votes against him should get caned.
Made it ma… Top of the world! “The big question right now is who deserves $100,000 and second place,” Cochran ponders. “It’s so lonely at the top… This is horrible stuff for me to be saying. I will, of course, lose,” Cochran laughs. I’m so pleased with and for Cochran at this point. We should spend the next 50 minutes just honoring him. “There is a part of me that feels like I don’t deserve to do good,” Dawn says. BABY MONKEY! Eddie doesn’t want to bully Cochran, but he wants to convince Cochran that he can’t beat him. Eddie, for the record, knows exactly what he wants to do with the money. “I want to open like a dog… kennel… playpen area attached to a bar,” Eddie says, because this combines all of his favorite things. “I hope I don’t kick myself over this decision,” Cochran says.
Tribal Council. Erik looks much happier. Have the coconuts stopped screaming, Erik? Eddie says that Erik, Dawn and Sherri were the Final 3 if Erik hadn’t gone out, which raises Cochran’s hackles. But now, let’s celebrate Cochran. “I’ve always thought ‘Maybe I can satisfy a third of those requirements,'” Cochran says of the Outwit, Outplay, Outlast motto. He talks about how he wouldn’t have been able to do this a few years ago. “I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of maligning myself with most people on the Jury,” Dawn says, before praising Eddie’s likability. Eddie reminds us that he only voted one person out of the game and basically says that he didn’t do a darned thing strategically. It’s funny how well Eddie understands his uselessness. “My perception of what the Jury wants in a winner, that’s what I’m probably going to base my vote on,” Cochran says. Sherri says that she’s been overlooked. “I may not say a lot, but I take in a lot,” Sherri warns. I’m so fascinated by what the final Jury vote is gonna look like. Let’s get there, eh?
The Vote. Eddie writes Dawn’s name. Dawn writes Eddie’s name. Probst tallies: Dawn. Eddie. Eddie. Eddie. “I’m gonna miss you,” Dawn cries with a level of insincerity that makes everybody on the Jury laugh. Hey, I’m vaguely impressed that Eddie made Top 4. He deserves exactly the right amount of credit for that achievement. “I think Sherri has a zero percent chance of winning,” Eddie says, maintaining that he would have won if he’d made the Final 3. I’m glad we’ll never have to find that out, because he’d have been the least deserving winner in “Survivor” history.
[This recap is too long for only one page… Continued on the next! Sorry…]
Mongo only pawn in game of life. “Tell me your definition of a pawn,” Sherri asks Cochran, who thinks pawns are worthless. I wonder if this is a trap, but my Slingbox goes out for a minute. As they get breakfast, Sherri says that her argument is about being adaptable and flexible and also about running the Fans alliance. “My alliance was Cochran in the game, but my alliance was really my family at home,” Dawn says. Yeah. That’s not a good argument. “I learned that I can actually play this game well and I’m proud of that,” Dawn says. Dawn and Cochran have played “Survivor” for 67 days together, which makes this Final 3 storybook, as far as Dawn is concerned. “There’s a big difference between writing a paper and living out the reality,” Probst says, reminding us that he wrote a paper on the “Survivor” Jury system for Harvard Law School. “This is my game to lose, but all of a sudden these doubts are plaguing my mind,” Cochran laments. Go Cochran! If anybody says anything mean to him at Final Tribal, I’m gonna beat them up.
Final Tribal – Opening Statements. Dawn goes first. She says she’s humbled and hopes that they realized how hard this was for her, especially how hard it was for her to be duplicitous. She credits Cochran as an ally she could trust and she’s proud of giving herself permission to play the game and to control her destiny. “If this is football, I have to be willing to tackle,” Dawn says. Sherri’s turn. She talks about her success as a business woman, which was apparently news to everybody. She giggles nervously. “I had to make, like, lots of decisions,” she says. Erik has his head in his hands. This is not going to win her a million dollars. Cochran could do a soft-shoe and win. “This is the culmination of 13 years of passion for ‘Survivor,'” Cochran says. He talks about his performance as a challenge player, but also as an in-camp therapist, while also being candid about his limitations. “I know I can’t outmuscle, I know I can’t outcharm, I don’t even think I can outstrategize,” Cochran says, celebrating his timing, while owning everything he did. Go Cochran! Come on, shutout!
Final Tribal – Jury Indignation. Bring it on! Malcolm smirks and congratulates everybody. “Sherri, I don’t have a question for you,” Malcolm says, before telling Dawn and Cochran that he’s voting for one of them. He promises he’s gonna be Dawn’s best friend and congratulates her on being “cold-blooded as hell.” “What quality do you have that I don’t have?” Malcolm asks Cochran. Cochran’s answer is that what he has is insecurity. Good answer. “I just can’t imagine you being insecure,” Cochran says, making Malcolm smile. Eddie asks Sherri to admit she got carried to the Final 3. Sherri refuses to admit that and everybody laughs. Eddie criticizes Dawn for her paranoia and weakness. “I think I’ve been strong, but I think we’ve seen the wear and the tear of the game on me,” Dawn says. Eddie wants to know where Cochran sees himself after this game. Cochran says that thanks to the game, he’d now feel confident hanging with the Three Amigos, which is exactly what the Three Amigos want to hear. Phillip tells Sherri that she’s no longer a member of Stealth R Us and doesn’t ask her a question. Phillip does an awesome impression of Dawn’s paranoid frenzy. “You made camp life for most of us very disruptive,” Phillip tells her. “I just really enjoyed playing the game with you. You’re a real class act,” Phillip tells Cochran. Oh, such a rout this is gonna be. Erik felt like Dawn crushed their bond when she voted Brenda out and wants to know if she’s aware of the damage she caused. Dawn says she came in wanting to play the game. Erik also wants Sherri to be aware of why she’s there. “I played my game,” Sherri says, unsure why nobody’s asking about her strategy. “You never did anything in this game. You were a seashell on the beach the entire game,” Erik says, on the verge of tears. “If you’re done with me, I’m done with you,” Sherri says, telling Erik to sit down. HAHAHA. Erik doesn’t say a word to Cochran. Loving this. Michael wants to give Dawn the opportunity to explain why Cochran is getting off scott-free and not being called a villain. Dawn says that the difference is that she developed the relationships that go information. “I don’t think he would necessarily be here if I hadn’t developed the relationships,” Dawn says, scoring a good point. “In full disclosure, I’m happy she’s getting these reactions,” Cochran says. “Certainly there’s a reciprocity and symbiosis,” Cochran says of his relationship. “If I hadn’t become your therapist, I don’t think you would still be in this game,” Cochran tells Dawn. “I pretty much disliked you from Day 1,” Reynold tells Dawn, saying she created “a false character.” Reynold demands Dawn say what she thinks about him, honestly. And she can’t, finally calling him chauvinistic, vulgar and funny. “I’m really not trying to be fake,” Dawn says. Reynold says nothing to anybody else. Hmmm… Dawn did OK there. Adorable Andrea says it was “awesome” the way they blindsided her. Andrea asks Cochran what animal he played the game like. He says “chameleon.” Good answer. Andrea tells Dawn she understands her, but doesn’t ask a question. “Let’s do this,” Brenda says. She tells Cochran she gave him a family visit and then he voted her out and asks him to justify. “I consider that an emotional gift you gave me, not a game gift,” Cochran says. Brenda sounds on the edge of tears remembering the tooth incident and all of that, asking Dawn if she’d really have quit if Brenda hadn’t given her the teeth back. “No, I wouldn’t have,” Dawn says. “I want you to take your teeth out, Dawn,” Brenda demands, very weirdly. This is the strangest gangster move in “Survivor” Jury History. Finally, after much deliberation, Dawn pulls her teeth out. Yikes. I have no idea if that was a good moment for Dawn or not. But I *do* know that Sherri isn’t getting any votes here. That was a fun, fun, fun Final Tribal.
The Final Vote. If we don’t see a vote for Sherri or Dawn, there will be no votes for Sherri or Dawn. Phillip votes for Cochran as his Intelligence Attache. “This is not the name I thought I’d be writing down tonight,” says either Malcolm or Eddie. OK. I’m honestly thinking this has to be unanimous. And if it isn’t, I’m gonna be pissed. Time for Jeff Probst to walk back to the mainland.
Live Results and our winner: Sherri’s a millionaire, apparently. Everybody loves Cochran, who’s wearing fancy eyeglasses. There’s no question who the live audience wants to win. Sherri frankly says “Not good,” regarding her odds of winning. “Watching that footage, I feel pretty confident,” Cochran says. “I don’t think I’m gonna win, but I think I’m gonna be able to buy some new teeth,” Dawn says. I’m not sure we’ve seen this much certainty since Boston Rob. Probst tallies: Cochran. Cochran. Cochran. Cochran. COCHRAN! Yay. I’m so darned happy for Cochran. I haven’t been this happy for a winner since Boston Rob.
Bottom Line. For a season that started off with such a weekly level of discomfort, “Survivor: Caramoan” ended up really delivering. There were unpredictable blindsides, emotional moves and, most importantly, there was an utterly deserving winner. He overcame his physical liabilities and became a Challenge Monster. He overcame his social liabilities and made the alliances he needed to make in order to get farther. And he did it all without anybody hating him or anybody picking on him. This definitely goes down as a Top 10 “Survivor” individual performance. And who on Earth would have predicted such a thing? Personally, I respected what Dawn did throughout and I don’t begrudge her the second place finish at all. I think she played an aggressive and smart game, but she did it with absolutely no confidence or style. People have been minimizing her performance for weeks and I strongly disagree with that contention. Dawn made good moves and did, indeed, control much of her destiny. And as for Sherri? Yeah. Well. Somebody had to finish third. [NOTE: This paragraph was written before the full results — i.e. the well-deserved shut-out — were revealed. I’m not going back to edit it because… well… I don’t care. Sherri and Dawn both got zero votes, but I’m going to stay confident in the notion that Dawn would have been everybody’s second choice.]
Bottom Line, II. The second half of this season was classic “Survivor.” The first half was painful. Provided “Survivor” promises never to bring Brandon Hantz back under any circumstance, I think I can admit that this is was a very good season.
What are your thoughts on Cochran’s win? On the finale? On the season in general?