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Survivor surprisingly loses its greatest source of entertainment

Last week’s episode of Survivor South Pacific was the recap episode, and despite its unintentional sexuality, it was the usual boring slog through familiar footage. Sadly, that’s what most of tonight’s episode felt like–at least until the quasi-explosive Tribal Council with a quasi-surprising conclusion.

We lost John “please call me Cochran” Cochran to Redemption Island, which is too bad if only because he’s given us great television, and not just through his decision to switch alliances or via censored votes for him. Even when he’s doing nothing, he’s entertaining; last night, he sat at camp, a fly buzzing around his head, his face twitching like a horse to shoo it away.

Also this week, there was his confession that, when he was younger, he prank called a girl and told her “I really want to trade sperm with you,” and his subsequent confession that his only experience with massage was giving them to his mother. We got to watch as he was “on the receiving end for once” and told us, “having a beautiful woman stroke the insides of my legs is a new experience.” Watching that and suppressing the dry heaves is a new experience for most of us, too.

Most of the episode was spent at camp, people hanging out and glaring at Cochran as he tried to convince the tribe to keep him around. Sophie gets the award for the best version of that, staring into space while stabbing at a log and telling us, “I can see now why people got annoyed with him.” Then we saw her hacking at a branch with a hatchet, a great metaphor.

What the episode had in metaphors and odd behavior, it lacked in challenges. The Redemption Island truel was a repeat of the plate-stacking challenge we’ve seen before, and Ozzy won, keeping him around to face off against Cochran, climb things, and say things that sound both sensible and moronic at the same time–this week, that was about continuing to win so he win. Dawn was out first and our BYU college professor swore so much that they blurred out her face; Whitney then dropped her dishes like she dropped her secret husband for Keith.

The immunity challenge was, oddly, a repeat of challenges we’ve seen this season. This is the kind of corner-cutting that I especially hate on Survivor, since we know the show is capable of so much more. And if they need to save some cash for a challenge, why not resurrect the auction? Or the gross eating challenge? Or the stand on a stump in the water challenge? The only truly interesting part was when some bearded woods creature nearly won.

But Albert won and then in a move I initially could not figure out, decided to give up his reward–a shower and a massage–to Cochran, citing the fact that Cochran’s birthday was coming up. What could Albert gain by this? Cochran explained that he thought it was an attempt to either thank him for switching or buy his vote from the jury. The latter makes the most sense to me, except since Cochran figured that out it’s obviously a failure.

One weird little twist was Cochran’s reveal that he lied to everyone about his birthday, which he said was coming up but had actually occurred six months earlier. Like nearly everything else he’s done strategically all season, this was both brilliant and pointless all at the same time.

Tribal Council brought the biggest surprises, both emotional outbursts and the vote. Cochran did his usual thing of saying way too much, though it has so far not really affected him. At Tribal, he said, “I’m here to collect the debt” owed because he saved that tribe by switching into their alliance. “It’s a little bit humiliating,” he said. “I feel like I’m entitled to at least one more night in this game.” Being entitled is one thing; articulating your entitlement is something else entirely. It’s kind of baffling and awesome all at once that he says this shit, which he’s done since day one.

And oh, how I’ll miss Cochran if he leaves next week, because we won’t get lines like this one, which Cochran addressed to Jeff Probst: “Talking strategy with Brandon is like talking to you about shirts that aren’t blue. He just doesn’t comprehend it. It’s not in his vocabulary.” Members of the tribe polled by Probst agreed with him that Brandon is a terrifyingly bad strategist and player. It’s the Hantz gene.

Brandon didn’t seem to mind because he was post-breakdown, having started to cry–again–and confessing, “I want to do wrong things.” I feel like we need to call someone about that, although he followed that up by saying, “There’s something inside me that won’t let me.” So he’s possessed, apparently, maybe by the Lord or maybe by one of those aliens that’s going to tear out of his stomach and latch onto Rick’s face.

I expected the tribe to vote out Rick, because in the edit, he comes across as utterly disposable and pointless, and if he sticks around any longer I will be even more surprised. But in the end, what Cochran feared came true: He became the symbolic Sharon Tate of the tribe, which he compared to Charles Manson’s “family,” because they call themselves a family. At least he no longer has to join in their prayer circles, which means he’s in a better position than we are.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.


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