Watching the recap for last week’s episode, I’m astonished at just how weak some of this season’s players are. Semhar is already on Redemption Island and (John) Cochrane stands out like a sore thumb. Meanwhile, the latest Hantz, Brandon, is having identity crisis issues, trying to keep his identity hidden while his “goodie-goodie” nature picks at him.
Don’t get me wrong. As the episode leaps into the new material all sympathy for Semhar disappears as she wallows in solitude at Redemption Island. I’ll be surprised if she actually makes it to a challenge, let alone survives one. Her “spoken word art” is pretty, but it’s utterly useless in a campaign like this. Meanwhile, Cochrane’s tribemates work to try to redeem the nerd without having to cast him out. Good luck Savaii; you’re going to need it, especially after the monologue about his mom instructing him not to handle a machete. Could he make himself look any worse?
The first episode lightly touched on the search for the immunity idol and reinforced the idea that Survivor was taking a drastically different approach to idols – the winners of last week’s challenge didn’t even get a clue for the idol – they got a clue for the clue. Still, Mark Burnett’s people obviously still aren’t thinking outside of the box enough, as Ozzy manages to find the idol after what appears to be a very short amount of time. As Ozzy himself points out, he’s one of the Survivor players who has managed to get voted off with an idol in his possession, so it’s not enough to just have the idol – you have to know when to play it too. Ozzy hides the idol in a spot of his own choosing, so now the veteran player just has to hope nobody else looks up higher for something suspicious… and that he recognizes the right opportunity for using it.
Remember the “goodie-goodie” nature I talked about above? Brandon reveals his identity to Coach, possibly the worst player for him to expose himself to. Coach was betrayed by Russell Hantz in Heroes vs. Villains, after being told he was a “man of God.” Brandon recites a passage from the Bible and then shows Coach his tattoo. Still, the moment seems to bind the two men together a little closer, with the ever-trusting Coach even announcing that he hopes this will bring redemption to the Hantz name. You know Burnett was probably hoping for the mystery surrounding Brandon to last a little longer.
Challenge Time: There’s a part of me that misses the old layout of the game with two challenges: one reward and one immunity. They’re sticking with the new format, with this week’s challenge offering immunity and comfort items: pillows, blankets, and such. I love the attitude Coach’s tribe brings to the challenge, entering eating fruit to jab at the other tribe, who lost the last challenge. At first it looks like the tactic works, with Upolu taking a huge lead in the first part of the challenge, which requires unraveling ribbons around a giant pole. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear from the editing, that lead is lost as Savaii comes back to win the challenge. I don’t know if it was just that Coach and his tribemates had trouble with the puzzle or if the editing and Probst’s commentary were designed to make it look worse for Upolu than it really was. Regardless, the numbers are about to become balanced as Upolu has to vote someone out (and you know Cochrane is sighing a breath of relief as he’s now in the game for three more days).
Brandon immediately makes it known to the audience that he’s gunning for Mikayla, which is an odd choice. Yes, she’s sexy and playing up that card, but she’s also strong and social. In other words, she’s a triple threat. Getting rid of her is a smart move when the game becomes individual, but you don’t get rid of a strong player this early in the game and risk losing more challenges because of it. On the other hand, Coach is aiming for Christine, both because she’s been so active in looking for the immunity idol and because of her comment last week that Coach and Ozzy were “temporary players.” Coach’s head is in the right place; Brandon’s isn’t. Unfortunately, the “Little Hantz” is putting more value on getting rid of Mikayla than sticking with his alliance, so the Hantz name may not be finding that redemption after all.
Tribal council: Coach’s bluntness is his most entertaining feature. Obviously Probst believes the same thing, welcoming Coach back after he opens a can of worms. This is the same thing that got Coach in so much trouble before though, and it’s part of the connection the host drew between the returning players – their inability to play the social game. Coach does a brilliant job of exposing the plan to vote out Mikayla without turning on his alliance, putting the pressure on Christine, who is his target. But Brandon pulls a ridiculously surprising turn and admits he’s the one gunning for Mikayla. The look on the Dragon Slayer’s face as Brandon admits his deception is amazing. There will be fallout from this… assuming Brandon sticks around long enough for that to happen. With all plans thrown into chaos, it’s time to vote, and…
Christine heads for Redemption Island.
It looks like the alliance sticks with Coach’s original plan, despite what we saw in the council meeting before the actual vote. Even Little Hantz voted as he was supposed to instead of going rogue. Really, if that’s the way they were going to go, why bother bringing Mikayla into discussion at all? Expect fallout between Mikayla and Brandon and probably Brandon and Coach in the future. Frankly, if Coach was wise, he’d dump Brandon from his alliance and include Mikayla instead.
Next week Redemption Island will finally enter the mix. I wouldn’t even put a bet on the competition between Christine and Semhar, mostly because nobody would bet against me. Semhar will be gone for good (and will barely be a memory by the time we get to the reunion show). Christine will get a few more days and will at least offer a little competition for future Redemption challengers.
Keith: Did we see much of this guy last week? Well, we didn’t see much of him this week either. We got a few moments from his confessional early on, which makes him seem like a bigger player, but then he fades into the background for the remainder of the episode.
Jim: Every season has to have the arrogant ass who thinks he’s calling the shots. Jim’s trying hard to be that guy, but to cushion the blow he claims he understands their position. I expect Jim will last in the game for a while and become one of the more frustrating braggarts, which will make up for some of the weaker players. The problem is that Jim will be mostly talk, riding on Ozzy’s coattails until a merge.
Edna: I didn’t say much about her last week, because other than sticking around when the rest of the tribe was leaving Coach behind, she didn’t leave much of an impression. Interestingly, she isn’t part of Coach’s 5-man alliance, but he still claims to have her back. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for her… and him.
Brandon: The more we see of Brandon, the more we realize he may share the family name with one of Survivor’s best players, but the cutthroat attitude isn’t there. Was revealing his family connection to Coach a wise move? Is gunning against Mikayla a good decision? As the episode title says, this guy’s obviously got demons and he’s letting them guide his movements instead of focusing on any sort of solid strategy.