Pre-credit sequence. We begin with Team Coach, returning to camp after evicting Mikayla. Edna’s feeling a big grumbly at seeing her name at every Tribal Council, but she thinks that Brandon’s unpredictability might help her in the future. Rick warns Coach that another Brandon Blowup, especially after the Merge, could be damaging. Coach nods sagely, as if he hadn’t been carrying a lunatic as his key alliance partner for weeks and references “Of Mice and Men” in suggesting that sometimes, people just have to be put down. He adds, “In this game, it’s kill or be killed.” Settle in, kids, for a homicidal episode of “Survivor: South Pacific.”
Planks, but no planks. We’re going straight into this week’s Duel, in a somewhat odd and uncomfortable piece of editing. We also don’t spend any time with Mikayla and Christine making pronouncements or finding out who got to come to the Duel. It’s actually a complicated Duel that starts with players taking planks from a crate. Then they have to make a bridge with the planks. And then they have to solve a puzzle also with the planks. This is certainly the most difficult and challenging Duel of the season. Christine gets out to a big lead, despite Albert’s coaching of Mikayala. Christine gets to the final puzzle first, but with only a small advantage. Mikayla thinks she has it, but she made a tiny mistake. Mikayla is stymied by her failure and Christine sneaks in and wins another Duel. Mikayla says this whole experience has taught her how much stronger and better she wants to be and she tosses her buff on the fire, crying. When Jeff suggests that Christine has become a threat, she shoots back, “I’ve always been a legitimate force.” Even Ozzy is impressed with Christine, forcing him into a peculiar new strategy. He suspects that with the Merge looming, if his tribe loses Immunity, they might be better served sending a strong player to Redemption Island so that they can take Christine out and retain numbers. Hmmm.
Ozzy contemplates Survivicide. Before returning to camp, Ozzy is chatting with his Duel partner Cochran and sharing his Redemption theory. “I don’t want to go to Redemption, but if it comes down to it, if it’s like a Do or Die situation, I would go,” Ozzy says. Cochran is taken aback by Ozzy’s willingness to sacrifice himself and to pass his Immunity Idol to somebody else on the tribe to hold in the interim. “It might be one of those big moves that I might have to make,” Ozzy takes Cochran, who sees Ozzy as “a new man” and is perfectly happy to send somebody to Redemption Island who isn’t him.
The Great God/Coach Immunity Idol Cover-Up. Is this the first time this season we’ve seen Coach doing his water praying? He’s having a lengthy conversation with his Father. He — Coach, not God — knows his tribe needs a shot in the arm and boosted spirits. He thinks telling the entire tribe about his Immunity Idol is the way to help the tribe recover its… RAINBOW! Wait. Coach’s strategy is to have the tribe FIND the Immunity Idol, an Idol that he’s going to have to re-hide. Coach and Brandon lead a prayer circle to find the Idol (that Coach already has) and win the next Challenge. Sophie says that Coach’s words give her “a little bit of an icky feeling.” But in their quest, Sophie and Coach find Tree-Mail that talks about “family” and “twins.” They have to begin by painting themselves as warriors, dividing themselves into perfectly matched pairs. They return to camp and announce not only that they have Tree-Mail, but also that they’ve found the Idol. Brandon is giddy and thinks that God gave them the Idol. “It’s definitely an advantage having the Big Guy Upstairs on your tribe,” the deluded Brandon says.
Kneel before Coach. Challenge time. Everybody looks hilarious. They had a lot of blue at Team Coach, so they look like they’re all Na’avi. Meanwhile, they had a lot of red and yellow at Team Ozzy, so they resemble “Amazing Race” clues. In addition to Immunity, the winning tribe will go to see a sneak peek of… “JACK & JILL.” Wow. Yes. The WINNING tribe. And now Jeff Probst is going to whore himself out to an Adam Sandler cross-dressing comedy. See, they’re all in made-up pairs and they’re twins. And it’s about trust and Katie Holmes… Just like in the awful looking Adam Sandler movie. Oy. Given the importance of Ozzy’s Redemption Island plan — and given that no sane human being wants to see “Jack & Jill” (which I’m WELL aware is going to be a huge hit) — I’m surprised there hasn’t been any conversation about throwing a challenge. The challenge involves blindfolded players and a lot of yelling and bumping into things. And yes, I’m laughing at all of the castaways bumping into things, which only proves that I’m the target demo for “Jack & Jill.” There’s also a lot of pixelation happening and somehow when Probst refers to “a big malfunction” and he’s referring to a Team Ozzy gaffe and not to Sophie’s boob. Probst is not a big fan of Cochran’s failures, which he keeps announcing. Meanwhile, Coach starts praying right in the middle of the challenge. Team Coach wins and he demands they all stop their celebration to pray. Coach is actively pulling people by the arm to enforce. [Ugh. How did I miss that several members of Team Coach have crosses painted on their face? This is as blatant a misunderstanding of religion as I’ve ever seen on reality TV. And that’s saying something.] Ozzy is PISSED. “Pure frustration and anger,” Ozzy says, describing his feelings. He’s really unhappy. Cochran feels like he blew the challenge and he doesn’t think Ozzy will want to remain true to his word. And now… “Jack & Jill” commercial!
At least it’s not “Grown Ups.” “What an adventure, guys,” Coach says as the castaways arrive at Survivor Cinema. They have hot dogs and pretty much unlimited candy. Pity about the movie. As the castways watch “Jack & Jill” (in a fully lit screening room), they laugh like maniacs. “It was good, but at the same time it had a message,” Coach insists. Darnit! If “Jack & Jill” is really such a great movie and it was ready to be seen back this summer, what kind of merciful God would make paying audiences wait until November for it?
Redemption Island is our gift to you. “It was a disaster,” Ozzy rages as his team returns to camp. Cochran, head bowed, asks everybody to vent at him. “This was a new level of ostracism and it felt awful,” Cochran says. Around the fire, they agree that they have to decide as a group who will be going out next. “It was a huge error and it ended up costing us the win,” Ozzy, who doesn’t want to blame Cochran, tells Cochran, blaming him. They all put a positive spin on things by telling Cochran that going to Redemption Island will be his chance for redemption. “Everybody was on-board with voting me out and what made it worse was that they had this weird kumbaya rationale for voting me out,” Cochran grumps. “I don’t want to shine right now. I’m willing to shine later,” he adds.
I am become Death. There’s still a lot of time left in this episode. Is it possible the losing tribe is going to have to watch “Little Nicky” on VHS? No. Instead, we’re spending more time with Team Ozzy. It was a restless night for Ozzy and an embarrassing night for Cochran. Dawn can’t stop talking about Cochran redeeming himself, but Ozzy is wondering if he made an actual vow to Cochran about sending himself to Redemption Island. So Ozzy puts the Idol around his neck and then comes to camp and lets everybody trust it. Wow. Team Coach prayed to Jesus, but Ozzy has become Jesus. But Whitney and Keith aren’t impressed with Ozzy’s sacrifice. Keith’s a fan of personal responsibility and he worries that the Merge won’t come the way they think it will. Jim agrees with Keith. What will happen at Tribal Council?
Tribal Council. At Probst’s light prodding, Ozzy admits that they returned to camp and pointed their fingers at Cochran. A humbled Cochran admits that he blanked during the challenge. “I’m usually pretty calm, cool and collected,” Cochran swears. The conversation then steers over to Redemption Island and the hopes of knocking off Christine. “I’m a little confused,” Probst admits, hearing the bare bones of the scheme. Here, Ozzy says that he’s putting his life on the line. “You can basically say that I had a dream,” Ozzy says, expressing his desire for redemption for his past “Survivor” failings. Ozzy calls his potential move ballsy and big and crazy. Ozzy’s plan now also includes an elaborate story about Cochran playing the Idol and booting him, positioning him as a double-agent. “What if we don’t Merge tomorrow?” Probst asks, before pointing out that if Ozzy loses the Merge, he’d actually look like an even bigger fool than in his last season. “It’s definitely a risky move. Let’s see if you have the courage to go through with it,” Probst tells them.
The Vote. Cochran votes for Ozzy. That’s the vote we see before Probst goes to tally the votes. After a quick fake-out, Ozzy hands Cochran the Idol and announces “Let’s do this.” The votes: Ozzy. Ozzy. Ozzy. Ozzy. Two of the votes contained frowny faces. With a big smile, Ozzy skips off to Redemption. “You just made one of the biggest moves in the history of this game, based on one big assumption: That the Merge is next,” Probst tells them. Ozzy arrives on Redemption Island knowing that he either made an iconic move or an idiotic movie. Christine is confused to see him, but she correctly guesses Ozzy’s lie that Cochran was involved.
Bottom Line. Well, you can’t say that wasn’t amusing. Here’s the thing: You can make smart moves in “Survivor” by out-thinking your fellow castaways. They’re as hungry and tired and bug-bitten and weary as you are. Trying to out-think the competition won’t *always* work, but I think Boston Rob has effectively proven that it’ll work around 25 percent of the time. But I don’t believe that you can make smart moves in “Survivor” based on out-thinking Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst. That thing they say about what happens when you make assumptions is true and Ozzy has made a couple massive assumptions. Those assumptions include: A) The immediate arrival of a Merge B) A Duel challenge that will reward his particular gifts — strength, possibly endurance — and rather than his potential weaknesses. C) That Christine wouldn’t have immediately flipped after a Merge anyway, what with only spending three days with her Tribe and then being voted out without explanation. Ozzy’s sacrifice makes sense as Grand Theater, but there’s absolutely no way to justify it otherwise. As we saw last season, just because Redemption Island looks like it’s done doesn’t mean it’s done, so sending yourself there as a brilliant endgame is only brilliant insofar as it made for the season’s most interesting episode.
Bottom Line, Part II. Coach is ridiculous. Brandon is ridiculous. That entire tribe is ridiculous. Yes, God punished them for their hubris by sending them to see “Jack & Jill,” but they thought it was a blessing. Coach thinks he’s Moses, but he’s really Job. I think there are evangelical Christians who were probably embarrassed to watch Coach and Brandon tonight. And as for Coach using God as a cover for a “Survivor” lie? That’s just… predictable.
What’d you think of this week’s episode? Where do you stand on Ozzy’s Big Move and on Coach’s connection to The Big Guy?