Pre-credit sequence. It’s Night 24 on Redemption Island and Jim is the latest Savaii bootee to stumble over to the shelter. “I thought we were supposed to be the Final 3,” Keith says, looking at Jim and Ozzy. “That is a cult unlike any I’ve seen before,” Jim says, highlighting Coach as the leader of the cult. For some reason, Ozzy thinks he told everybody this would happen. Did he?
Kinda like Jesus, but not in a sacrilegious way. Te Tuna returns to camp. “Jim is the most dangerous kind of person,” Coach tells Dawn and Whitney, saying that Jim wouldn’t have protected any of them. Ah! Coach was protecting Whitney and Dawn against the malevolent Jim. Coach is in coddling mode tonight, because he knows that if the weakest parts of his alliance begin to feel insecure, that might foment revolution. “More blindsides happen than alliances sticking together,” Coach says. Part of Coach’s coddling strategy is to repeatedly tell his alliance that he’s not leading his alliance. Whitney, who probably hasn’t received a half-dozen talking head moments all season, suddenly has a lot to say. “Coach is running the show like he’s Jesus,” says an unconvinced Whitney. She has the choicest words for followers Cochran and Sophie, adding, “I don’t understand how these ‘Smart People’ can be so stupid.” I felt the same way about the movie ‘Smart People,” starring Ellen Page and Dennis Quaid.
The Coachtown Massacre. The next morning, Cochran joins Coach for his daily Pretentious Yoga. “I am drinking the Coach Kool-Aid,” Cochran says, agreeing that there’s a cult at work. And The Divine Father takes Cochran into his confidence and suggests that Albert may be conspiring against him. “I think there’s some sort of power struggle,” Cochran worries.
Planking. It’s time for a Duel, attended by all of the Te Tuna members. It’s a familiar endurance/balance challenge. But there’s a twist: The last person still standing remains on Redemption Island, but the first two people out are eliminated, becoming the first two members of the season’s Jury. The task is balancing two bars on the tops of your hands, with the two poles balancing a plank. Brandon’s rooting for Jim. Whitney’s rooting for Keith. Nobody’s rooting for Ozzy. Alas, Brandon’s God is not on Jim’s side and he goes out first. There’s a lot of fidgeting from Ozzy, but he recovers. And fidgets again. And recovers. But it’s Keith who fidgets most. Ozzy stays alive. “Try and win it for us, bro,” Keith tells Ozzy, who vows to just keep getting stronger on Redemption Island. Jim, a huge “Survivor” fan, is hoping that there’s a Secret Double Redemption Island, but instead he casts his buff on the fire. Keith hugs Ozzy and makes an encouraging gesture in Whitney’s direction. Whitney’s so sad to see her show-boyfriend leave. It’s so strange that that entire showmance obviously existed and yet was never featured on-screen for a second, presumably because of Whitney’s not-so-single marital status. That’s a weird storytelling concession the editors had to make.
Jacques Cousteau could never get this low. Ozzy’s having such a great time on Redemption Island that we’re just watching him swim around and spear fish. It’s quite beautiful in HD, probably the best underwater photography “Survivor” has ever showcased. “I’ve really scored out here,” Ozzy says, calling it a “mini-paradise.” Ozzy knows that everybody back at camp is playing a normal game of “Survivor,” complete with stabbing and backstabbing, while he’s relaxing and fishing and eating huge hunks of flesh. “I think that that Duel proved that I’m a huge physical threat still,” he says. Ozzy always did enjoy “Survivor” most when he didn’t have to play with humans.
I’m loving angels instead. While Ozzy is feasting, the Te Tunas are hungry. And Dawn is annoyed at herself for not outing Cochran’s flip-flopping and she asks for him to return the favor and protect her. Cochran begins to think that if he aligned with Dawn and Whitney, he might be like an angel and he might win some Jury votes. He’s not totally convinced that he wants to make a big move yet, but he’s considering it.
Bowl movement. Immunity is back up for grabs. For their challenge, they’ll balance a bowl of rice on their heads, run across teeter-totters and dump their rice in another basket. This is actually fairly difficult. I’m fairly sure I’d be falling on my face with great regularity. It seems, however, like another challenge that rewards female contestants, as Dawn and Sophie take early leads along with Brandon. The other contestants basically fade into the background. With a heaping third bowl of rice, it’s Sophie who wins Immunity. “Wow,” says the easily impressed Jeff Probst, before teasing them that a twist is coming at Tribal Council. Dawn doesn’t want to give up and hopes the twist will benefit her.
Whitney the “Survivor” player is as good as “Whitney” the NBC sitcom survivor. Everybody is impressed with Sophie, but Cochran is disappointed with himself and his lack of balance and agility. Welcome to our world, Cochran. Coach reassures Cochran that Dawn and Whitney have to be the next two to go. But Cochran is still nervous, fearing a double-elimination at Tribal Council along with possibly a second Immunity challenge. Dawn figures she’s doomed, but she vows “It’s not over.” Whitney says that she and Dawn would be up to make a move. Really? You think? Whitney isn’t impressed with Rick’s effort or with Brandon’s instability or with Edna’s carful placement in Coach’s colon, so she targets Albert, warning him that there’s no way Coach will take him to the end. “Right now, I’m at a crossroads,” Albert says, thinking that if he gets Edna out first, he’ll get at least some support from Cochran and either Whitney or Dawn for saving them for an extra episode. Albert wants to get Whitney, Dawn, Cochran and one other person in on a vote for Edna. But Brandon doesn’t like seeing Albert talking to the enemy and he warns Coach. Meanwhile, Albert tells Cochran that he’s going to be voted out in seventh, which pisses him off. “I came to play ‘Survivor.’ ‘Survivor’ is about big moves,” Cochran says, signing on. Albert then goes to Sophie and proposes the shift. “This is our one shot to make the big move,” Sophie acknowledges, realizing that she’s the swing vote for tonight. “Albert right now is playing for Albert and that’s a dangerous game to play out here,” Coach says, and he warns Sophie and Albert that anybody who goes against the core alliance, they’re dead. He compares himself to a mob boss.
Tribal Council I. Jim walks in clean-shaven. Jim walks in with a conquistador mustache and soul patch. They take their Jury place. Dawn and Whitney make their pleas for a revised alliance with positions five, six and seven from Upolu. Probst chides Cochran for not planning his game-play beyond seventh place. “Fracture’s inevitable,” Cochran says and Probst jumps all over it by suggesting that now would be a good time for somebody to make “a big move.” Yes. We watched the last segment as well. Big move. Big move. We get it. Cochran agrees. Big move. Big move. Dawn agrees. Big move. Big move. “It’s always a concern,” Coach says, referring to the possibility of a big move. Yes. Big move. Big move. “I’m not running this alliance,” Coach repeats, though he knows that big moves are always in the back of his head. Big move. Big move. [Just because Whitney says something doesn’t mean you’re now required to cut to a Keith reaction shot, editors. Keep in mind that we barely saw them together. So it’s Whitney now weirdly winking at some stranger with funny facial hair.] Whitney says Coach is the leader. Albert, however, says that Coach may be merely a figurehead. Why would you say that, Albert? Time for a vote. And before they go to cast their ballots, Probst reminds them that it might be a good time to make a big move. Big move. Big move.
The Vote I. Whitney writes Edna’s name. No other votes are shown. Probst goes to tally the votes. Dawn. Edna. Dawn. Edna. Dawn. Dawn. Dawn. Farewell Dawn. So… no big move after all? TWIST! We’re going to have an immediate Immunity challenge and an immediate vote. It’s everything Cochran feared it would be.
True or False: The band Hootie and the Blowfish got their name because their lead singer is an actual blowfish. Jim is very excited about the potential anarchy. But Immunity will be based on survival trivia. Surely if Cochran is capable of winning anything at all, this would be it, right? Albert, Edna and Rick are all eliminated on a question about hydration. A true/false question about coconut crabs eliminates Cochran and Brandon. Another coconut-based question eliminates Coach. It’s down to Whitney and Sophie, threatening to incite either anarchy or business-as-usual. Another true/false question, this one about clams, eliminates Whitney. Sophie wins her second consecutive Immunity and everybody other than Whitney is gleefully ready for her annihilation.
The Vote II. Keith knows his girlfriend is doomed before Probst goes to tally. Whitney’s symbolic vote is for Cochran. Whitney. Whitney. Whitney. Whitney. And that’s it for Whitney. “Nowhere left to hide. This game is about to change,” Probst gloats, relieved that the tyranny of boredom is now over.
Bottom Line. If you have an episode in which every single beat is completely predictable, in which there are no upsets or surprises, the one thing you don’t want to also have is at least a dozen references to people making “a big move.” Nobody on Wednesday’s “Survivor” made a big move, so everything happened exactly the way you would have guessed: Unsinkable Ozzy knocked Jim and Keith out of the game. And Coach’s Cadets knocked Whitney and Dawn out of the game. And that was booooring. It was funny to see the editors finally acknowledge the Keith/Whitney love affair they’d been turning away from. It was nice to see Sophie actually achieve something. But otherwise? That was not a very good episode of “Survivor,” the second straight dud after Cochran’s Big Move. Fortunately, next week something has to get shaken up. It seems likely that either Cochran or Edna will go next, but it’s hard to imagine anything happening with at least a minor skirmish. And this season desperately needs a shake-up.
What’d you think of Wednesday’s episode?