The tribes have merged on Survivor: Caramoan, and the result was the best episode yet in a season that has already been pretty solid. Pre-merge, the season was okay. The favorites dominated the fans, the challenges were exciting, but crazy personalities (Shamar, Phillip, Brandon) dominated over strategy. This episode changed all that. It was all strategy, shifting alliances, betrayals and last minute moves. It was glorious.
Following Tribal Council, Phillip pulled Dawn and Corinne aside to say he’d thrown the challenge “in the moment”. “At the challenge. That’s convenient! That’s around the same time you blew the challenge,” Corrine scoffed. Oh, Phillip. Why bother with this silly delusion?
The next day, Dawn was feeling a little emotional – no surprise there. They’re around the same point in the game that she was last time when everything went to hell in a handbasket. Cochran had told her he was going to flip, she did nothing about it, and her entire game fell apart. Knowing the outcome of the episode, this was blatant foreshadowing. But I also think it’s pretty revealing about where Dawn’s head is at.
Dawn seems ready to play a more aggressive game, make moves and be in control. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Dawn make the finals this season. (I hope she does, as she’s my pick in my mom’s Survivor office pool.)
The tribes merged with little fanfare – the orange tribe left their beach to join the purple tribe, and Malcolm named the tribe for his mom – Madeline, spelled backwards as “Elin Edam”. Why do people keep falling for this? It’s a little funny, though.
Eat It, Eat It, No One Wants To Be Defeated
The first individual Immunity Challenge was a gross eating contest, which is both one of my most and least favorite challenges. On the one hand, it is kind of fun to watch people freak out and root for unlikely winners. On the other hand, it has all the qualities that made me hate Fear Factor. I can only watch so much of people eating (and spitting out) disgusting things, and now I have had my fill for the next three years.
Going into the challenge, Eddie – ever the voice of shallow vanity – voiced concern that participating would turn women off of him when the game was over. No one will sleep with a cute fireman who ate cow testicles on national TV! Or that was his fear, anyway. Cochran, however, had no worries – he thought the challenge would give him a “wild streak” and make him seem dangerous to women. “I think this is exactly what my love life needs,” he told the camera. Cochran needs to make the finals this season because I can’t live without his hilarious commentary.
Not only did Cochran participate in the challenge, but he won it! It was a nail-biter. And a stomach-churner. For the first round, everyone ate live larvae. Kudos to Andrea for being the only gal to make it through to the next round. Those six people chowed down on slimy, grey disgusting “ship worms” and Malcolm, Eddie and Cochran were the unfortunate victors. Eddie was knocked out next, when the three dudes had to eat a bird embryo. (That was the one that grossed me out the most.) Rob’s favorite quote of the night was Eddie saying “I bit into the beak first”, but it mostly just made me want to barf. For the grand finale, Cochran and Malcolm ate brains and Cochran JUST beat out Malcolm.
This challenge wouldn’t have been nearly as good had Cochran not won. But his dancing and humble-bragging made my day. “Me, this little pipsqueak, and Malcolm the golden god of the tribe – and I win?” he incredulously told the camera. He apologized to the tribe for his excessive celebration, justifying it by admitting there are so few challenges he has a chance at winning. Even Malcolm had to be happy for the guy.
Movin’ and Shakin’
The best part of the episode, though, was everything that happened after the challenge. THIS is why I watch Survivor. I love watching people strategize, screw up, make moves that are the best for them, betray people and all the rest of it. Particularly this season, it’s fascinating to see what a huge role personal relationships played in the moves. Phillip and Corinne’s personal differences have everything to do with these moves, as do Andrea’s dislike of Corinne and Erik and Brenda’s original alienation from the rest of the Favorites. But then you have someone like Dawn, who’s making her moves right now purely based on getting herself further in the game.
First, Phillip told Corinne that he wanted to split the votes between Reynold and Eddie. It’s the obvious, Survivor 101 move for the Favorites alliance – pick off the minority opposition, beginning with the big physical threats. However, Corinne secretly wanted to betray Phillip. But she made a big mistake right here. Corinne suggested voting out Sherri instead – let’s talk about why that was a mistake.
Corinne and Malcolm’s plan to break off from the Favorite’s alliance meant that they’d have a new alliance of them, Reynold, Eddie, Michael and, hopefully, Erik. That’s a best case scenario alliance of six in a tribe of twelve. Not good enough. Corinne tried to convince Phillip to vote out Sherri so that suspicions wouldn’t be raised, but there was no good reason to make that move. Instead, Corinne should have agreed to Phillip’s plan. Then she and Malcolm should have made their big play and targeted Phillip. They easily could have gotten Sherri on board with that plan, and that would have given them a majority. Later, when Dawn approached Sherri about an alliance, she said “The problem is, I can’t stand Phillip. He’s so arrogant.”
Instead, Corinne made another huge mistake – she told Dawn that they were targeting Sherri as the vote, that they had a backup alliance, and that Phillip would likely be voted out next. Why did Corinne think Dawn would be OK with this plan?
If I’m Dawn, I look at that pre-formed alliance of young, strong players and think “They’re only asking me as a last resort. Corinne and Malcolm are running the show, and I’m on the bottom of that alliance.” Dawn wasn’t going to repeat the mistake she made in the first season, but this time instead of tattling on Cochran she was plotting with him. They agreed that Sherri and Phillip getting voted out would leave the two of them in a very shaky position, and it would put Corinne in a position of power.
Cochran and Dawn had Phillip, Andrea, Brenda and Sherri on their side – six players out of twelve. Suddenly, Erik was the swing vote at a crucial stage in the game, and as Andrea said, “He never talks strategy with anyone.”
I’m unsure about why Erik has returned to Survivor. The money, I suppose. The kid was a huge fan of Survivor, went on the show, got real close, and blew it. He became infamous for a stupid move, it soured the show for him and according to Rob Cesternino’s podcast, he hasn’t watched since. But he once loved this game, so how interested is he in strategy this time around? “I have no idea what’s going on,” Erik told the camera, “But I have a feeling that I’m the swing vote.”
Erik had to choose between voting out Corinne and voting out Sherri, and I think his decision shows that there’s more strategy going on there than meets the eye. I believe the smart choice for Erik was to go with the (physically) weaker alliance. Is he close to Brenda? I’m not sure, but they were sort of on the outs together in the early days of the season. He has no reason to believe that he’s anything more than #6 in an alliance of 6 with Malcolm and co. However, I think he can go further with the other group, whether by bonding with the right people (I mean, he’d at least outlast Phillip) or just winning his way father into the game. He’s great in challenges, but is more likely to win when he’s not competing against Malcolm and Reynold.
So Erik voted for Corinne, and she was blindsided. Remember earlier in the episode when she said “I’ve never been a part of a blindside, I think it’s time”? That was foreshadowing! I’m bummed that she’s gone because a) My mom had her in the office pool and thus, goes yet another year without winning and b) I can’t stand Phillip. But I like Dawn and Cochran, I want to see them go far, and I’m happy to see Dawn really playing the game. Malcolm may think he has some tricks up his sleeves, and Eddie might try and flirt with Andrea, but I still think the Dawn and Cochran power couple can make it far in this thing.
What did you guys think? Did you love the episode as much as I did? Were you hoping Corinne would pull off her plan? Do you think she screwed up?