In a super-coincidental, convenient bit of timing, Survivor was once again delivered a double-elimination episode, borrowing from its bastard sibling Big Brother as it got rid of the final two members of the minority alliance and sent us into the two week break ready for the season’s dominant alliance/tribe to turn on itself. Even Jeff Probst shooting fireworks out of his interactive living room and sending up a plane towing a banner saying, “PLEASE DO SOMETHING BIG PLEASE PLEASE” couldn’t change the inevitable or tribe’s mind: they voted out Dawn, then Whitney.
Perhaps the most fascinating part was watching Whitney Duncan’s reactions to Keith Tollefson, because we just learned this week that they’re in a relationship that broke up her marriage. During the duel, Probst asked if the audience members were rooting for everyone, and Whitney “I’m single but was secretly married until I met Keith on Survivor” said, “Yes, go Keith,” one of many moments between them that seemed suddenly more interesting now that we have that back story.
But he quickly exited along with Jim, and they became our first jurors after they lost to Ozzy at the Redemption Island truel, which was about balancing, like every other challenge these past few episodes. (Someone has a balancing fetish!) Also at the duel, Ozzy basically threatened everyone left in the game and said he’d just keep swimming around and scampering up palm trees and taking breaks to beat them in duels, before he came in to triumphantly lose the game once again. I don’t think that last part is actually in his plan, but he’s not winning; he’s been voted out twice, and although he made an interesting point about how being alone allows him to recharge in a way he wouldn’t be able to if to is different than being paranoid, I cannot imagine he has a chance at all.
Before he left, Jim called the remaining alliance “a cult unlike I’ve ever seen before,” and it has Coach as its leader. I think he’s got them under control until he starts talking at Tribal and trying to convince everyone he doesn’t, and that’s when the facade falls away. But Coach is a clearly evolved version of his previous two game selves, and offers interesting insight, like the fact that he knows people in an alliance who are at the bottom “better not feel like they’re at the bottom of the alliance.”
Coach was also on the lookout for blindsides as Whitney and Dawn attempted to align themselves with stray members of Coach’s cult, because as Whitney said, “We have no alliances to anyone” (nor does she have a dictionary so she can look up the word “allegiance”). Albert agreed that Edna is Coach’s “little zombie,” and with Cochran waving his big moves flag again, it seemed like something could potentially happen.
But no. Perhaps that’s because, as Coach said, there would be “instant death” in the game for bailing on the alliance. He also said that there are “three kinds of motivation”: coddling, reaffirming, and fear. I’m pretty sure there are more than that, because he forgot violence and bullying. Nevertheless, the alliance stuck together through two votes, which made perfect sense, because why rock the boat when you have two obvious votes coming up? Not even Probst could get them to waver, although he tried, saying “big move” repeatedly.
Although Brandon voted for some dude named Don, Dawn was voted out of the tribe, and then we went into Survivor: Big Brother edition, sudden death trivia as an immunity challenge that was followed by another vote. To stretch that out and try to squeeze the drama out of this drama-free episode, Probst announced, “The one person clearly in trouble is Whitney and she’s one of the people left in this challenge.”
In these moments, sometimes I wish Probst would just drop the obviousness and pretense. They wouldn’t have enough to fill an episode if he didn’t try so hard, maybe, but it’d be nice if he was just honest and straightforward: “It’s obvious that this merged tribe’s dominant alliance is going to clean house before turning on itself, so we just phoned in a few challenges and made up some questions to try to make that happen as quickly as possible so we can get on with the juicy stuff after we waste your time with the annual Thanksgiving week highlight episode.”
These kinds of lulls are inevitable on Survivor, though, and the preview for the next real episode had me at Coach nicknaming himself Zeus and Cochran asking if it was Zeus who ate his children.