Survivor’s alliance sticks with loyalty, integrity, and a crazy person they can easily beat

Survivor South Pacific took another step toward its apparently inevitable conclusion tonight, detouring so several contestants could make an ad for Sprint with their family members before Edna’s inevitable elimination. Not even the previews could convince us that the dominant alliance would keep a smart person over a crazy person.

First, Cochran took his final bow as he lost at Redemption Island to Ozzy, though the duel was significantly less of a blow-out than most of us expected. While Ozzy breezed through the first part so fast that Probst nearly crapped his pants (“Keep fightin’, Cochran. Let’s go”), Cochran caught up using a crazy strategy with the ball maze, just flinging it around. It worked, though, and he caught up and was about to beat Ozzy when instead of slowing down for a nanosecond, his methodology backfired and sent the ball out of the winner’s circle into a hole. It was a metaphor for his strategy in the game, really: wild and crazy moves that usually worked but ultimately failed him.

Cohchran’s exit was pretty epic for the super-fan, however. He talked with genuine emotion about he couldn’t believe that he was hearing Jeff Probst say “Come on in, guys” in person, and added, “I’m one of the guys: he’s talking about me.” He said the show was “one surreal moment after another” and called it “by far the most incredible moment in my life.” Even though his strategy backfired, we can thank Cochran for endless entertainment in his confessionals and a move that gave us one hell of an episode.

That gave way to the introduction of the contestants’ family members, who they already knew were on the island, as producers dispensed with the pretending, which made sense. However, what followed really annoyed me, and I’m officially over the family visits. I know they make Jeff Probst erect with excitement, but they’ve turned into crass manipulation.

This week, the producers even let someone who’s been voted out of the game, Ozzy, affect the game by selecting which half of the tribe got to spend time with their family members and which half did not. And they spent their time together at Redemption Island, defeating the purpose of having Redemption Island be separate. That was simply manufactured drama of the worst kind. I loved the days when the show let the family members participate in the reward challenge–but those were the days when the show had a reward challenge.

At least there was some minor comedy: Sophie’s dad giving her a really dickish compliment (paraphrasing: We all thought you’d fail at this but you didn’t so far, so good job at not being the loser I assumed you were) and then having Probst introduce him with the mildly disturbing, “there is nothing like the love of a dad to make it all good.” Coach’s brother showed up–not his assistant coach this time–and he looks just like Coach in that way that non-twins look like each other. And then that weird mountain man came out and squeezed a woman’s butt inappropriately. Seriously, the more we see of Rick, the more we realize less is better.

Half of them got to go to Redemption Island to film a commercial for a Sprint phone, where Coach and Ozzy created an “irrevocable promise” for “two noble warriors” to go to the end, a pact created while Coach waved a machete at Ozzy’s chest.

Meanwhile, we learned from a guest appearance by Russell Hantz’s brother that God only gets involved in Survivor at the final three (“then at that point, that’s when it’s up to God”), which means his son’s constant prayer circles and the tribe’s occasional knee-falling at challenges has all fallen upon deaf ears, perhaps because God has better things to do, like interfering in professional sports.

Sean Hantz’s hilariously disturbing (though perhaps predictable) argument against his son’s plan (to “set an example for Christ,” Brandon said) because “you’re also here to do a job”: win cash. Sean Hantz told us, “I don’t like what I see,” but of course that had nothing to do with his son’s emotional state and bizarre behavior, just Brandon’s failure to play the game in a way that would benefit his dad.

But his dad doesn’t know how recklessly he’s been behaving. That continued at the immunity challenge, a rather inspired and fun game that involved thinking. The tribe pretty much ganged up on Edna, forcing her out of the challenge, but Brandon had to rub it in, because that’s what Jesus would want: pour salt in a wound and grind it in with broken glass.

Coach, who was hilariously bitchy to Probst during the challenge (“Great metaphor, Jeff. Took the words right out of my mouth”), recognizes that the “kid’s a loose cannon.” Back at camp, the discussion of how nuts Brandon is continued, and even Rick had something to say: “Why kick her in the guts? It’s not right.”

But even though everyone seemed annoyed at his apology and thought it was akin to specious confession and absolution one might think they get in a church, they stuck with Brandon and sent Edna home. Edna even told Albert and Sophie she’d “eat a piece of [Coach's] shit” she was so confident that he’d vote out Brandon, but her exit was inevitable.

That’s because it’s a perfectly logical move in the game to dump the smart person and keep the crazy person, because everyone wants to sit next to him at the end, so he can lose just like his uncle did, because neither of them know how to play a social game but assume their survival in the game is because they’re great players instead of actually terrible players. But I digress.

Edna’s argument to Coach–“We’ve been preaching that our tribe is about honor, integrity” but “the actions of Brandon aren’t really consistent with that”–was perfectly rational and the best one she could have possibly made, calling the tribe out on its family/honor/integrity/loyalty/Christ/gag bullshit. She even made Coach repeat it at Tribal Council: “Our mantra is honor, loyalty, integrity.”

But really, his mantra is win the game the third time he plays. And that’s what it’s looking like will happen, just like last season, unless something crazy happens first, or the deus ex Ozzy does something more than just getting voted out again.

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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.