Pre-credit sequence. While I’m a bit sad to see Brendan and his JT-generated man-crush sent home, the absence of the Dragon means we no longer need to hear about Coach’s alleged Dragon Slayer status, right? Right? The “Survivor Tocantins” Elite Eight returns to camp at the start of Thursday (April 23) night’s episode. Everybody is happy and gloating. Well, everybody except for Sierra, who calls it the worst night she’s had in Brazil, Sierra asks if things can at least be congenial in her last days in the game. She begins her campaign for Miss Congeniality by apologizing to Coach for writing his name down. “Every decision you made is bad,” Coach lectures Sierra, before mispronouncing the word “assuage.” He then instructs Sierra that in this game, it’s “kill or be killed” and he’s not about to be killed.
[Full recap after the break…]
You’re nobody til somebody loves you [and by “somebody,” I mean “Tyson”]. It’s morning in Forza, so Coach must be out meditating. He finds peace through celebrating his Dragon Slaying. Coach, who claims to bench press 300 pounds, makes sure we remember “once and for all” that he slew the dragon. “The battle is already over,” he tells us, adding “Victory is mine.” JT’s happy that he decided to stick with the Warrior Alliance and that Sierra can go home next. Sierra decides her best strategy is to play the victim, claiming she was lured into Brendan’s plot by the glow of his giant, throbbing Immunity Idol. Tyson makes it clear how little he values Sierra, cutting her down with, “I mean, her parents probably love her. I can’t imagine her boyfriend’s that cool.”
Board now. The Reward Challenge is a wacky mixture of running, knot-untying, puzzle placement and word scrambling. Want to know what they’re playing for? An afternoon of local entertainment and local food, including a performance of capoeira, which also received exposure on last night’s “America’s Next Top Model.” It’s Red (JT, Erinn, Debbie and Tyson) against Black (Coach, Stephen, Taj and Sierra). Red lines up their Swiss cheese boards first and solve the puzzle in no time at all. “Black team never even gets started,” Jeff Probst shames them. The Red team sends Stephen off to Exile Sand Dune. Jeff stares down Coach and mocks him for another missed Reward. “All that life experience not helping you out here?” Jeff cracks, reminding us why he’s an Emmy winner.
Erinn gains lunch, loses lunch. Ah, this is one of those fine moments where American reality contestants go to a local village and gorge on quantities of food that the villagers probably don’t see in a month, while complaining about how hungry they were. Debbie is particularly taken with the beauty of the native kids. JT is taken by their musical stylings, which he compares to dueling banjos. Erinn is impressed by the capoeira, which was much more successfully demonstrated by Allison and Fo on last night’s “ANTM.” The castaways are invited to fight along with them, which creates unfortunate digestive problems, particularly for Erinn, who goes off to the bushes and barfs regretfully. Is anybody else wondering why Erinn hasn’t started putting her hair in dreadlocks? She’s so close already.
Clue # 7 seems superfluous. On Exile Sand Dune, Stephen is disappointed to see that he’s just gotten the latest clue to the old Idol (by this point, the clues pretty much read, “Check under the Tree-Mail Dude’s skirt, Idiots!”), the Idol that Brendan took home with him. With nothing to search for in his time in exile, Stephen throws his hands into the air. “I’m lucky not to be on that reward. Who wants to be feasting when they can be in sand?” Apparently the joy of making fire has lost some of its novelty for Stephen.
Erinn, Gamechanger? Sierra, grasping at straws, tries convincing Debbie and Erinn that people will turn on them soon, that they’re making alliances with liars. Seeing she’s unable to sway the other ladies, the light in Sierra’s eyes goes out. “I’m done with fighting,” Erinn says. “I’m done with everything.” Sierra goes stomping off into the woods. After spending time taunting Sierra into tears, Erinn tells the camera that everything Sierra said was right. Erinn implies she has a plan to turn the game on its head. We don’t believe her.
For dignity, Samurai falls on sword. For million dollars? Screw that. There’s a snake in the trees. But is there any snake left in Sierra? She tells Coach that she isn’t going to roll over, because Coach would expect more out of her. Why would Coach expect more out of her? We aren’t sure, but she tells Coach that with another chance, she’d prove her loyalty. Coach says that he’d like to give her a second chance, but he isn’t going to. He advises her on the way of the Samurai, telling her that she shouldn’t plot or try, that she should fall on her sword, saying, “Death before dishonor.” The Coach in Coach is having his heart broken by Sierra’s sob story, but although she sees a glimmer of hope, she knows her only chance is to win immunity.
Shuffle off your mortal coil. Speaking of Immunity… The challenge is a “Survivor” version of shuffleboard, with a chilly rain pouring down. There’s a twist, though. If you feel confident in your safety in the game, you can skip the challenge in favor of devouring rainy pizza. Stephen, JT and Coach opt to eat, as any noble warrior would. “So Coach is hungry enough to quit a game and eat pizza,” says a disapproving Tyson. “When do I get to eat?” The downpour doesn’t improve the challenge and Sierra takes a late lead, dancing like a spaz. For the first time, Coach wonders if he maybe should have competed. Coach’s dignity is salvaged as Debbie wins Immunity, ending Tyson’s streak. “There’s a large part of me that prays for a miracle,” Sierra insists.
Imagine if they’d made “Warrior Alliance” t-shirts. “Tonight’s Tribal Council’s gonna be awesome,” Tyson says. “I’m hoping that Sierra’s gonna cry a lot.” He’s unaware that back under the shelter, Stephen’s thinking this may be their best shot to get ride of Tyson while he’s Immunity-free. Erinn things she has control in the game, or at least that this is her chance to make a move. JT doesn’t know if it’s too early to make such a big split from the alliance. Stephen, trying to play Kingmaker, urges JT, “It seems like every season somebody goes on a run, let’s make it you.” Coach has a very sane point: They went to all the trouble of creating the Warrior Alliance and giving it a name, so they might as well stick to the Alliance.
Tribal Council. I’d forgotten the math. Brendan is our first member of the season’s jury. Intriguing. Jeff raises the specter of past blindsides, but Sierra is quick to point out that if she’s about to go home, it won’t be a blindside. Even without Immunity, Tyson says he has no worries. He expresses his love for each individual contestant who isn’t Sierra. A shouting match ensues between Tyson and Sierra over Sierra’s confusing attempts to articulate her strategy. I can’t tell if Tyson is funny or if Tyson is evil. Or if Tyson is funny-evil. Sierra makes a good point about Tyson’s strength, which Jeff tries positioning as a potential weakness. At Jeff’s urging, Coach reiterates his pledge to take the strongest people with him, for then the victory will be ever-the-more sweet, at least until Jeff cuts in and asks why he voted Brendan out. How much do you love it when Jeff hates a contestant and makes no effort to hide his hatred? Coach, bedecked in feathers, gets torn to shreds by the show’s host. What fun. JT and Coach agree that they trust in each other.
The Vote. Coach votes for Sierra. This gives him the chance to mention his dragon slaying one more time. And how nice that he upgraded Sierra from Dragon’s Feces to Dragon’s Bride. Who says Coach doesn’t have a heart? Sierra writes down Tyson’s name and says, “You’re a jerk.” Nobody plays a hidden Immunity Idol. The first vote goes against Sierra. The second goes against Tyson. The third? Sierra. The fourth? Sierra? The fifth and sixth votes? Against Tyson. Sierra looks even more confused than Tyson. The seventh vote goes against Tyson and his hands are on his thighs. The ningth person voted out is Tyson, whose eyes practically explode from his skull. Sierra’s expression of relief is beautiful enough to remind us that she is, indeed, credited as a model. Now that, kids, is how you pull a blindside.
Fun! Fun! Fun! That was a good one, eh “Survivor” fans?
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