Tribe members say and do baffling things on Survivor South Pacific

Survivor South Pacific delivered a good episode last night, though one more notable for its baffling behavior by contestants than for strategy or game play. The exit of Papa Bear was no surprise, to him or to us.

At our first duel of the season, Semhar and Christine faced off, and Christine won, allowing her to seek the revenge she wants. As she explained, “I think Coach just had it out for me from the beginning, and he was going to do whatever it took to get me out, and he succeeded.” Gee, where have we heard something like that before? Wasn’t there someone who, right at the beginning, seconds into the game, said she had it out for Coach and would do whatever she could to get him out? Who was that?

The duel once again included spectators from each tribe, which is something that’s kind of annoying; let the whole tribe go or don’t bother. Both tribes sent their returnees, and Ozzy and Coach had a fun moment when they rolled their eyes at each other while Semhar prepped by doing some spoken word poetry, which obviously helped her focus and concentrate on being eliminated by dropping the statue she was trying to balance.

Meanwhile, when Probst said, “Christine stays alive and continues her quest for $1 million!” I gagged a little, because that’s so antithetical to the game. She got voted out; her quest should be over. And I should just accept this new element to the game–which I was initially enthusiastic about–but it just doesn’t work. I’d much rather have a separate reward and immunity challenge each episode.

Back at Upolu, we learned that Brandon has been having critical conversations that the normally flawless Survivor crew members failed to capture on tape. “This morning God was chastising me big time,” Brandon said. “He was not pleased with me.” What great footage that would have made! God showed up apparently because Brandon was lying and stuff, so he decided to repent by showing his tribe his body. He totally awkwardly announced that he was taking his shirt off (“I really wanted to take off my shirt really bad”) and told everyone, “I’m Russell Hantz’s nephew.”

Now, the Lil’ Hantz tattoo on his arm was somewhat of a giveaway, but the tattoo on his hairy back said Hantz but in such a stylized font that I doubt anyone would have figured that out without any context, though for sure the arm tattoo could have provided that context. It just seemed like he made a bigger deal of it than he needed to, and it all speaks to how he’s very reactionary.

At one point, Brandon also told us, “I just let my flesh get a hold of me,” which I think could have been solved if he’d just taken a hold of his own flesh more often. That temptation led to the episode’s most bewildering moment, as Mikayla confronted Brandon about his obvious disdain for her, and he he didn’t like her, and he took that opportunity to attack her in front of the tribe, saying, “it sounds like to me you don’t have much of an alliance, period.” Then he said, brilliantly, “keep me out of the drama,” while he was, of course, creating drama.

Everyone seemed stunned; I loved how Sophie said that Brandon was “really torn between following whatever crazy religious beliefs he has, and yet at the same time, he inherently in his bloodline is a devious jerk.” Coach is still holding on to him as an ally, but I’ll bet Brandon’s gone sooner than later because the tribe doesn’t trust him, especially after the outburst and the name secret combined. Brandon could have just come in, taken off his shirt, and if someone asked, said, “Yeah, that fuckface is my uncle. Fuck him. But I love my family and last name and that’s why it’s on my hairy back. Now stop making me want to fuck you.”

Speaking of overreactions, over at Savaii, Ozzy told Keith that he has the hidden immunity idol, and Keith immediately told Whitney. But–headsmack–he said that Ozzy “has to tell me; then, it gives him all the power.” Dude, you have all the power, especially if he trusts you and thinks you won’t tell anyone. You all can blindside him and flush out the idol, too. They don’t seem willing to do that, even though Ozzy helped them lose the challenge by falling behind at a crucial moment.

The challenge was fantastic: a three-part test of various skills, and another strong challenge for John Kirhoffer and his team. The puzzle was perhaps the weakest part, but its format made it more challenging and interesting to watch. Although swimming wasn’t involved, it was great to see a water challenge, and watching them zip through the water while being pulled by their teammates was pretty cool. I’m not quite sure how Albert’s tribemates managed to pull him with all that drag from the contents of his boxer briefs, though. Sheesh.

One thing I realized while watching the challenge, however, was that I didn’t really care which team won or lost. I’m still a fan of Coach 3.0/Ben, so I want him and his tribe to go far, but I don’t particularly hate the other tribe enough to root for one over the other. Likewise, while Brandon’s behavior is disturbing, it’s interesting to watch and my face doesn’t ignite while watching him. There’s also no obvious underdog, which is usually what gets me to be root for one team over the other.

Papa Bear’s last-ditch effort to save himself was kind of half-assed but also had the potential to be interesting; he faked an immunity idol and, as Cochran so perfectly explained, returned to camp with “an extra-large bulge in his underpants” because “he clearly wants us to think he has the idol.” He exited anyway, in an unsurprising vote. The most unusual part was that it really seemed like the tribe was mostly sad about getting rid of him, but knew they had to because of his challenge performance.

The best part was that he could tell they were voting for him when Ozzy told him they were voting for Cochran. “I’m not an idiot,” Papa Bear said, forgetting that he’d nicknamed himself Papa Bear. “Sure, I believe that. I’m an ass.” His eye roll was almost as hilarious as his run through the woods to dig frantically for the hidden immunity idol. As Elyse said, “Papa Bear doesn’t sprint, ever”; if only he’d done that in the challenges, perhaps he’d still be around.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.