Survivor: South Pacific 23.12 “Cult Like” Recap

You are not hallucinating: we are now on Episode 12 of this season’s Survivor, and my last recap was for Episode 10. That is because Episode 11 was the annual Thanksgiving Eve recap episode. With relatives in town for the holiday, I didn’t find time to recap a recap, but if you’d like to know if you missed anything important (you didn’t, well……..except for RICK SPEAKING!), take a quick perusal of Entertainment Weekly‘s recap provided by the illustrious Dalton Ross. I’ll wait…………………………………………………………………..

Done? Good.

This week’s episode begins on Night 27 at Te Tuna. Coach celebrates the elimination of Savaii. Edna confesses that she is paranoid about being at the bottom of her tribe. Cochran is also worried because it was said at Tribal Council that he is the next to go — he knows the “family” could turn on him at any moment.

The next morning, Cochran talks about how he used to prank call girls in the fifth grade. Sophie believes that Cochran’s personality used to be a benefit to him, but now she is just annoyed by him, as is evident by her furious wood chopping. Cochran notes that the “family” that is Coach’s alliance is reminiscent of the Manson Family, Brandon in particular. Cochran needs a plan, or he might end up drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid. So, he calls a tribe meeting to make his case that he should be saved at the next Tribal Council in thanks for the move he made for their benefit. Sophie ain’t having it. Coach and Albert want to make it a group decision, but they are in favor of keeping Cochran; they only need one more vote to keep him. Cocah contemplates who that other vote might on his way to…

…Redemption Island Arena. Jeff welcomes in Ozzy, Dawn and Whitney. For the Duel, the castaways must balance an increasing number of dishes, emulating the final Challenge from Survivor: China. The last one with dishes standing remains in the game. The losers become the third and fourth members of the Jury. They begin with a large plate, then a large bowl. Dawn loses her concentration for a moment and almost loses the whole stack. At nine dishes high, Jeff tells them to add a small plate. Ozzy starts wobbling a bit, but recovers. The players then add a large bowl. Dawn loses her balance and goes down. Next Jeff orders a large plate, then a small bowl. Whitney wobbles and the goes down. Ozzy stays alive! Dawn, Jeff asks, what’s lesson did you learn about what you’re capable in life? She responds that anything is possible. Whitney’s response is that her family and friends will be proud of her. With the women dismissed, Jeff sends Ozzy back to RI, and Te Tuna back to their beach.

With Ozzy up a tree, we return from commercial to RI. Ozzy then goes fishing and brags about his skills at survival. He is home on RI. Back at Te Tuna, Albert is focused on strategy, while Edna cleans up the camp. Cochran goes fishing with Brandon, and though he didn’t physically catch the fish, he will be physically carry it back to camp so he can win the accolades from the tribe.

Meanwhile, Albert accidentally puts out the fire when trying to pull out the laundry. Coach and Edna voice their frustration that Albert hasn’t worked one day during the game; he just lies around and eats. Rick speaks! He goes on and on (and for Rick, that means two sentences) about how there is a reason they call him “Prince Albert.” Edna asks Coach about how she can stay safe. She suggests that Cochran should be next, and Coach slightly, barely agrees. For him, keeping Cochran and Edna would be best for his game, but he doesn’t know what to do.

Day 30. Coach teaches Cochran some more tai chi, noting that with their new-found serenity, one of them should win the Immunity Challenge. You see, Coach just plays the game so he can find a student, and he thinks he has done so with Cochran. With the support of Coach, Cochran believes he can win the…

…Immunity Challenge. This is a typical Survivor De Ja Vu Challenge. The castaways will toss sandbags onto three crates. The first three to land their bags move to the final round to fire slingshots at targets. The first to knock down three targets wins Immunity and a Reward of a bush shower and massage treatment. Survivors ready…go!

Coach immediately lands two bags to everyone else’s one. Sophie gets her second bag as does Rick. Albert gets his second, and third to advance. Rick gets his third, as does Sophie. Taking one coconut at a time, Albert, Sophie and Rick aim for their three targets. Albert gets his first, as does Rick. Rick then knocks down number two, quickly followed by Albert. Sophie can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Albert knocks down his final target. Albert wins Immunity and Reward! Jeff informs him that there is a second massage table back at camp. He may pick one person to join him in the massage. Albert picks Coach, and then asks if he can pick a third person. When Jeff tells him no, Albert then asks if he can give his massage to someone else. Jeff says that is fine, so Albert gives his Reward to the birthday boy, Cochran. Cochran tells the camera that either Albert gave him the reward to curry favor for a possible alliance, or as a nice farewell before Cochran is voted off.

When the tribe returns RI camp, two massage tables and two masseuses await them. Cochran is psyched that his little lie about his birthday has won him something. His birthday was actually six months ago! It’s not as evil/brilliant/devious as Jonny Fairplay having his “loved one” say his grandmother died, but it is just as effective. As he enjoys his massage and shower, Coach feels like he has everything right now, but he would also like Cochran to be safe tonight.

For his part, Cochran pulls Albert aside, and the latter confirms that Cochran is likely to go home. Albert says that Coach is likely on their side. They agree that they’d rather get rid of Rick at the next vote. Cochran immediately runs to Edna to tell her that Albert wants Rick out. She admits that they owe Cochran a debt and that she’d like to work with him. Cochran then goes to Coach to talk about voting out Rick. Coach contemplates this…and contemplates…and contemplates. He confides to the camera that he has the game in his hands, so he must make the right decision at…

…Tribal Council. Coach, how many possibilities are there at tonight’s Tribal Council? Numerous as everyone is scavenging for votes. Cochran speaks to the debt that might be owed to him though he admits he is likely to be voted out tonight. Albert agrees and talks about how he wants to maintain the image of the tribe (why is everyone on Upolu obsessed with how the tribe looks on tv?). Edna is emotional because she knows she’s in sixth position. She’s sad because she’s already been deceived numerous times.

Brandon chimes in that he is definitely voting for Cochran tonight, and then Edna at the next Tribal Council as that has always been the plan. According to Brandon, things are truly black and white, and if you’re grey at all, that means you’re lying. Jeff asks Coach if Brandon’s unwillingness to change strategies is a disadvantage. Coach admits he is worried that Brandon isn’t malleable. Brandon starts crying that there are times he wants to do the “wrong” things, but then there is a higher power forcing him to do the right thing. Jeff asks Cochran, is there a glimmer of hope because Brandon might not be able to handle the rigors of the game? Yup — Brandon’s not a great player to align with because he is utterly inflexible. Sophie tells Jeff she isn’t worried about there even being a situation where they’d have to alter their plans, but what if Edna wins Immunity next? Cochran asks. “Then it’s on,” Sophie replies, although a bit unconvincingly. Noting this was one of the most interesting Tribals to date, it’s is time to vote.

They do, and Jeff collects the ballots. The first vote is for Cochran, the second for Rick. Vote Three is for Rick and Vote Four is for Cochran. Vote Five, too, is for Cochran. “The thirteenth person voted out of Survivor: South Pacific and the fifth member of the Jury…Cochran!” Cochran’s torch is snuffed and he stumbles out through the Blue Light of Death. Jeff mentions that a lot of information was revealed tonight, but it is up to the players as to what they do with it.

Next Time on…..Survivor!!

Brandon is in deep trouble as Edna scrambles to save herself, and Cochran is in even deeper over at Redemption Island.

As is evident, I am a huge fan of Survivor. I have the pleasure of writing these recaps and offering my analysis weekly. I have applied to be on the show a number of times, and have even been contacted a couple times. All of this goes to say that I have thought about Survivor more than most other things in my life over the last eleven years. I feel rather confident that I would do well because I know how to play the game and know what would be successful strategically. As a result, I would like to think that I would have used Cochran to make a move against Coach and eliminate the strongest player in the game.

But I also know that I would likely be just as chickens#!t as the rest of the former Upolu members and keep my head down, figuring that I will have some later opportunity to knock off Coach. Oh how wrong, how very wrong I would be! Albert and Sophie have missed their best chance to oust Coach. There are now six people remaining. Rick and Brandon will never turn on Coach. So even if Albert, Sophie and Edna align themselves, that sill puts them on even footing with Coach’s alliance. Of course, Ozzy is still out there to possibly tip the balance, but he likely isn’t coming back for two more Tribal Councils, which may be too late, especially with Edna seen as the most likely to go.

Albert, Sophie and Edna’s hope lies in their ability to convince Coach and ether Rick or Brandon that the other of Rick or Brandon must go next. Coach said he’d like to take Edna and Cochran to the end, but having Rick in the Final Three would be the same as having either of the other two. Similarly, he knows that Brandon won’t garner any votes at the Final Tribal Council because he’s insane. So, there is no benefit for Coach to switch allegiances. Moreover, it is evident that his tribemates are utterly in awe of him and are scared that he might use the Hidden Immunity Idol at any time, so there is no way they are going to move against him. Yes, the preview for next week implies that Brandon might be in trouble, but I’d put a good deal of money down on Edna’s ouster.

Odds to Win

So clearly, this isn’t a good season for my predictions. The only one of my favorites still with a shot at winning the game is my preseason #1, Albert. Unfortunately for him, and unfortunately for me, his best chance for victory may have been dismissed in the guise of a scrawny, slightly annoying, Harvard Law student. With seven people left at Te Tuna, this was the week to backstab Coach. Deft Survivor players are able to plot without the target any the warier; but even if Coach became hip to a plot to vote him out at the last moment, and he used his HII, any votes would have gone toward Cochran anyway. Albert would have been safe, Coach would have used his HII, and the game would still sit where it is at 3 vs 3. True, if Albert was obvious about orchestrating Coach’s ouster, votes may have gone for Albert instead of Cochran, but that’s where subtle gameplay is required. I’m afraid no one left in the game has such skills. So, in consideration of all this, let’s take a look at the new Odds.

Coach: 8-1. Barring some miracle with Ozzy and Coach both making it to the Final Three (because Ozzy would never be able to convince Brandon, Rick and maybe Edna to vote out Coach), Coach is going to win the game. This is absolutely incredible to me. I mean, seriously, how did the other players let this happen? Is Coach’s cult of personality that strong that all of these people — excited to play the game, some of which openly professed their hatred for the veteran, and after they all just watched a veteran win last season — have completely ignored the fact that if Coach gets to the Final Three he is going to win? Now, with the alliances on his tribe even, and in possession of the HII, I don’t see how Coach doesn’t make it to the end. I mean, of course there are ways he gets eliminated (Rick grows a spine, Ozzy convinces Upolu members to vote him out, Coach gets really constipated and has to be evacuated), but how likely are any of those scenarios? Not very.

Sophie: 10-1. Another strong performance by Sophie in the Challenge shows that she is a continued force to be reckoned with, but her allowing of her growing hatred of Cochran to deter her from taking out a much larger threat (i.e. Coach or Rick, Coach’s ally) is not a good sign. I’m not sure what Sophie’s strategy now is? She can’t possibly think that getting to the Final Three with Coach is a good idea, so how does she figure she’ll eliminate him? By trying to keep her and Albert in play until Ozzy returns, using Ozzy to eliminate Coach, and then eliminating Ozzy in turn before the Final Three? That’s too many variables in the future. Yes, one has to play a forward thinking game, but on Day 30, that time has passed. Still, if there is anyone who can derail the Coach freight train, it may be Sophie.

Albert: 14-1. Albert is turning into one of the most frustrating players in the history of Survivor. For all of his talk about making big moves, he has played scared. Every time he seems ready to step out on his own, he falls back in line. Moreover, his overconfidence that he can just lay around while the others do all the work because he feels safe, is highly dangerous. Albert did finally come up big in an Immunity Challenge, and I do like the fact he gave up his massage to curry a bit of favor with a potential Jury member, so I’m not completely unsold on Albert. He just needs to make a big move soon or suffer the consequences.

Ozzy: 22-1. The Ozzy train keeps rolling along. If somehow he was to be eliminated by Cochran next week (and Ozzy’s bravado might just give Cochran that opening), I and the world will be shocked. At this point, there is really no reason he can’t keep winning at RI, and then win two Individual Immunity Challenges (assuming he would be reintroduced into the game with four people remaining) to make it to the Final Three. Of course, if he doesn’t, he would surely be eliminated by the former Upolu members — would you keep around a guy who has a majority of his former tribe on the Jury and who won all of those RI Duels? I wouldn’t. that said, ozzy’s Challenge prowess cannot be ignored, so he must be a relative favorite to win the game.

Edna: 40-1. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Edna at this point. I’m happy to see she finally made a move against Coach, but she wasn’t supported by anyone else. It appears that next week she will make an argument against Brandon, but as the person on the bottom of the totem pole, and with Brandon pulling his best Phillip impression (so freaking crazy one can’t not bring him to the Final Three), who is going to listen? Her best bet is to play on Albert and Sophie’s concerns about Coach, but I’m nto sure this strategy will be successful. The most likely scenario is that Edna will be the next to go.

Rick: 58-1. Rick! You showed up at the Immunity Challenge! You almost won!!! Maybe receiving a couple votes will stir something inside the cowboy to make a major move next week to prove he deserves to win the game. OK, OK, stop your laughing. But you’re right, that ain’t gonna happen.

John: 185-1. And so likely ends the run of one of Survivor‘s biggest fans. It really is a testament to Cochran that he made it this far (and, frankly, that we all actually refer to him as Cochran). He had no business making it this far as he was absolutely useless at camp, and useless in the Challenges. Still, he used his intelligence to maneuver his way into the Merge, and then made the only big move of the game by flipping against his Savaii brethren. It may not have been the smartest move, but it was a move nonetheless. I really doubt he has any chance to upend Ozzy next week, but there is something sticking in the back of my mind that he just might pull another rabbit out of his hat. Now wouldn’t that be something?

Brandon: 363-1. Almost another Brandon-free episode….until Tribal Council. Seriously, what is this dude’s problem? I have a feeling Russell convinced him to be on the show and then guided him through the audition process, because I can’t imagine that if he was any type of fan of the show, he would be having the weekly moral crises he’s been having. Listen, I don’t begrudge anyone their religious beliefs, but if said beliefs will absolutely paralyze you any time you might have to change your mind on something, perhaps Survivor isn’t the best game for you to play.

That is this week’s Survivor. What did you think of the episode? Can you believe everyone chickened out of taking on Coach or even attempting to form an alternative alliance? Are you rooting for Ozzy to return simply so this won’t be the most boring Survivor ever? Would you ever give up your Reward? Please leave your questions and comments below. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to hang on to a pipe dream.

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