Normally I’ve been waiting until Pacific Time to recap “Survivor” this season, but with baseball postponing FOX’s “The X Factor,” I get to dispatch “Survivor” on the early side tonight.
Click through for the full recap…
Pre-credit sequence. Stacey arrives at Redemption Island and greets her old pal. “What the hell is going on?” a confused Christine asks Stacey. It’s here that Stacey reveals to her buddy that Coach is the one running things back at camp. Why does this surprise anybody? In particular, why does this surprise Christine? Who the heck did Christine and Stacey *think* was running things at their camp and might that have played some role in their being voted out? Yeah, I agree. In any case, Stacey declares that all is not “hunkadory” with Team Coach. “Tribal was so fake. It was so fake,” Stacey rants to us. She calls Coach a joke and says that when she reveals what she knows to the other players, it’s going to upset the balance. And when will she have that opportunity? Perhaps at a little Duel that’s just moments away. Good times!
The pot calling the kettle Hantz. We’re up to Day 12 over with Team Coach, where Brandon is waking everybody up for Tree-Mail. Brandon’s still irked at people judging him as a Hantz and calls such judgement “prejudiced.” Because clearly when it comes to judging people equally and without preconceived insanity, Brandon Hantz is an expert. He breaks down crying. Because that’s what he does. Sigh. It’s time for another Duel and Coach is worried that either Stacey or Christine is going to use the Duel as an opportunity for showboating and bean-spelling. Good call, Coach!
Balls: How Well Can You Handle ‘Em? It’s Duel Time. Christine and Stacey arrive in the arena and with almost no prompting, Stacey points at Albert and Mikayla and calls them liars and tells Dawn and Whitney that “Benjamin” is running things. Jeff Probst has never heard of this “Benjamin.” “Adults call him ‘Benjamin,'” states Stacey, who has the temerity to assume that Coach’s momma didn’t name him “Coach.” Stacey also doesn’t appreciate Coach’s storytelling, or how how much her fellow castaways seem to appreciate Coach’s storytelling. If I weren’t watching this on Slingbox, I’d list some of the stories Coach tells, according to Stacey. Alas, this rant is going by much too quickly for me. After it finally ends, Albert mutters “sour grapes.” It’s the familiar game with the Rube Goldbergian contraptions where you drop a series of balls down a chute and try to keep said balls from hitting the ground. “Concentration! That is the key to this challenge,” Probst tells them helpfully. One ball is easy, Jeff informs us, but warns that two-balling it is a real challenge. Albert is really unimpressed with Stacey’s ball-juggling strategy. “There are no tomorrows for the loser,” Probst warns with an ominous tone. Christine fumbles a couple balls, but it’s Stacey who drops a ball first, giving Christine her third straight Redemption Island win. She’s like Matt, only the challenges she keeps winning are almost all based on luck or randomness. “I challenged myself,” Stacey declares, calling herself a diva in her outside life, saying that she had fun and was proud of herself. Stacey offers encouraging words in Dawn’s direction and throws her buff on the fire. Albert is pissed off at Stacey’s truth-telling and worries that Coach is going to be even more pissed.
Benjamin Wade’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. We’re staying with Team Coach, because Team Ozzy is excruciatingly boring. Albert and Mikayla pull Coach aside and they tell him about Stacey’s accusation. Coach isn’t especially annoyed to be outed as his tribe’s ringleader. He’s VERY annoyed to be outed as “Benjamin” and cautions, “If anybody calls me Benjamin to my face, I’m gonna go nuts.” For the record, this Coach we’ve seen for three seasons? This is sane Coach. And yes, his momma does, indeed, call him “Coach.” “It just ruins my day. It sucks. Could this day get any worse?” Coach wonders.
The love blanket is a little old place where, we can get together. Love blanket, baby! Finally, we’re spending time with Team Ozzy, where Ozzy and Elyse are lounging, cuddling and talking about their bond. “We’re pals,” Elyse says coyly. Meanwhile, The Little Cochran That Could is going around camp doing chores. Cochran is resentful of Ozzy, Elyse and “their love blanket.” Dawn and Whitney return from the Duel and reveal that “Benjamin” is running the show. Ozzy for some reason says that Coach should get rid of Albert, which sets off Jim’s paranoia radar. “Nothing sells like fear and I’m gonna put that fear in Keith, help me get Elyse gone next,” Jim plots.
Benjamin Wade’s Sweet, Awesome, All Good, Very Nifty Day. Suddenly Albert is mighty chatty. This is a guy who hasn’t said a word worth featuring outside of Tribal Council all season, but now he smartly realizes that he’s going to be a target either after the merge or before. So Albert goes off looking for the Immunity Idol. In no time, he finds the clue, because everybody knows that if there’s a hole in a tree, there’s sure to be an Idol or a clue because “Survivor” producers just aren’t any more creative than that. With the clue in hand, Albert pulls Sophie and Coach aside and decides to use them as worker bees. Coach goes off on his own. First he’s searching aggressively. Then he’s praying. And finally he finds the Idol. And yes, I believe it’s in a hole in a tree. He’s very proud of himself. “Are the stars aligning for Coach, or what?” he says, calling this the most exciting moment in his 67 days in “Survivor.” Albert’s all smiles. Sophie’s so pleased she’s practically in tears. “I’m not running the show, but at the moment, pretty close,” Coach gloats. Hubris doesn’t look good on anybody, but it looks particularly awful on Benjamin Wade.
The Jungle Boob. The Education of Cochran continues with Ozzy taking Cochran out on the water for a lesson in fishing. But really, this segment has nothing to do with Cochran or with Ozzy teaching. It has to do with Ozzy thinking Ozzy’s the best. “Fishing’s not easy. It might look easy to somebody watching at home, but it’s very difficult,” Ozzy tells us, comparing it to underwater yoga. “I’m totally happy to play the provider role,” says Ozzy, who thinks this is truly becoming his tribe. I’ve been calling this Ozzy’s tribe since the first week. Cochran, though, is unimpressed. He recalls originally watching Ozzy on “Survivor” and being astounded by his Mowali-esque instincts and athleticism. But now Cochran calls Ozzy “the arrogant fisher-boy, jungle-boy” and also dubs him a “lazy ass.” Ouch. That’s pretty coch-y, Cochran.
Emeril was right. Pork fat rules. It’s challenge time. Immunity is up for grabs and each tribe has a roasted pig on a spit. Their hands are tied behind their backs. In 10 minutes, they have to bite off as much pork as they can and spit it into a basket. They’re also playing for reward, specifically vegetables, spices and a loaf of bread. The challenge is rather astoundingly gross, but it also makes me just a bit hungry. There’s flesh and saliva everywhere, one glistening ooze blending into the next. “Coach’s face covered in sauce,” Probst says enthusiastically. Keith gets a piece of meat stuck in his teeth and Dawn has to pull it out with her mouth. Coach does the same for a piece of meat in Edna’s mouth. This is one of those rare times I’m glad my Slingbox isn’t in HD because, as Probst puts it, “This is a disgusting challenge.” In an awesome moment, Rick drops a piece of meat on the ground and Mikayla actually kneels and picks it up off the dirt with her mouth. [Serious side question: How is it possible that this season includes no vegans, no Jews and no Muslims, that NOBODY had any sort of objection to a challenge of this sort?] Team Ozzy has accumulated 22-pounds, 12-ounces of meat. Team Coach accumulated… 22-pounds, 14-ounces. Dang. That’s mighty close. Team Ozzy is shell-shocked in defeat. Team Coach also gets to take home their 22 pounds of meat. “Spit and all!” Coach cheers.
Mmmm… ABC Meat. They’re washing spit out of meat over at Team Ozzy. They started with 22+ pounds, but I’m wondering how much of that was slobber. Brandon’s in his element with meat and veggies and he thinks that they’re now a team and a family. “We own it now,” says a gleeful Coach, going one-step further. A reminder: This is still Sane Coach.
Lesson: Nobody appreciates a good mouth herpes joke. “It just came down to team mouth volume size,” laments Jim. Cochran has bigger concerns: He figures the whole tribe now has herpes. As he joyfully tells all the pretty people, “Doesn’t everybody have herpes?” It turns out that none of them are willing to admit to any pork-borne sexually transmitted diseases. Cochran then changes gears and makes coconuts for everybody. “It just sucks. It’s a little too late,” Ozzy says, seeing Cochran’s effort. Ozzy’s a bit sad about sending Cochran away, but he’s sure Cochran is the weakest link. But Dawn, Cochran and Jim think that now is the time to boot Elyse. “I’ve gotta find that fourth vote to get Elyse out,” Jim says, targeting Keith. It’s fear-planting time for Jim, who reminds Keith of Ozzy’s earlier comments about Albert. Keith requires almost no convincing when it comes to booting Elyse, but he’s far more wary when Jim says that the plan is to boot Elyse without telling Ozzy. “Tonight’s vote is going to be really scary,” Keith says, worrying that blindsiding Elyse is also blindsiding Ozzy. Out in the water, Whitney and Keith are the pivot votes and they’re trying to “weasel our way around this,” Whitney admits. Jim reassures Cochran that “100 percent” the next vote is Elyse. “I don’t care if Ozzy thinks we’re all against him. We are all against him,” Cochrane announces.
Tribal Council. Ozzy begins by saying that they’re still at the point in the game where it’s all about keeping the tribe strong. Elyse says that “strength” is about a number of different elements, including physical strength and social strength. “The novelty of attending Tribal Council has long since worn off for me,” Cochran acknowledges. They list mouth injuries from the challenge. They’ve got cut lips and bloody mouths and sore jaws. And Cochran hasn’t been wearing his retainer. “I think Cochran’s endearing,” Dawn says when Probst tries to ask if Cochran’s more annoying than lovable. Now we’re taking Cochran to task for the “mouth herpes” joke, with Keith coming down particularly queasy. Elyse sympathizes with Cochran, but not for any good reason. “I think that people, or at least a good number of people do take to me,” Cochran says. Elyse tries saying that because Cochran loves “Survivor” so much, he’ll even appreciate going to Redemption Island. Cochran doesn’t look at all convinced of this.
The Vote. Jim writes Elyse’s name. Ozzy writes “Coch-Train.” Probst goes to tally the votes: Cochran. Elyse. Cochran. Elyse. Dawn. Dawn. Elyse. That was a decidedly amusing vote. Elyse is sent packing, looking confused, but even Cochran doesn’t look pleased by the lack of solidarity. “It have to admit… it was a total surprise,” says Elyse, who warns that the trust is forever broken.
Bottom Line. I’m not quite sure I get the Whitney/Keith weenie votes against Dawn. I get that it lets Keith and Whitney say, “Oh, but Ozzy… We didn’t betray our alliance!” Except what indication do they have that Ozzy is going to buy that sort of weak-willed logic. It seems to me Team Ozzy is now a three-person alliance, a two-person alliance and a one-person alliance, which makes for good TV, because we’re guaranteed to get some flipping and flopping in upcoming episodes. I liked this episode’s reminder — just in case it hadn’t been reenforced over and over and over again — that Ozzy, like Russell Hantz, is less a “Survivor” contestant than an Ayn Rand character, assuming that repeated proclamations about his own self-importance count as leadership, when they never have and never will. Russell Hantz was always pissed that just being the most conniving person in the game didn’t mean you were the best player in the game. Ozzy has consistently been perplexed that being a physical dominator (even an incomparable physical dominator) didn’t mean you were the best player in the game.
Bottom Line, Pt. II. I think this was the season’s most entertaining episode so far. I laughed at the mouth herpes and Stacey’s determination to call Coach “Benjamin.” I got queasy at the pig-spitting challenge. I gave some serious thought to the strategy afoot over at Team Ozzy. And Brandon didn’t say anything creepy or reprehensible about women. Score!
What’d you think of Wednesday’s “Survivor”?