Survivor: South Pacific (week two)

Episode 2:

Yes, I’m still determined to get caught up by Thanksgiving.

Episode two opens with Semhar crying on Redemption Island, wondering how people can be so cold-hearted as to vote her out. (Presumably she wouldn’t be cold-hearted if she’d stayed, and the person she voted for left instead. This little inconsistancy is never addressed.)

Shift over to Upolu, where Coach is busy solidifying his alliance. He’s got his little group, of course, but he’s also got Edna off to the side. Always nice to have an ace in the hole, so to speak.

I was amused by two quotes, one right after the other. In one confessional, Edna identifies why she wants to be aligned with Coach: he’s strong, he’s loyal, and he has a history of playing well. Whoops! Coach himself has to talk Edna out of this delusion, explaining that he’s “the biggest fool in this game.” He always looks to play with someone who shares his honor and integrity, and it just keeps backfiring on him.

I waited for the follow-up, where he says (pershaps in a confessional) how he’s going to switch things up to prevent a third ejection, but it never came. Apparently Coach’s plan is to play foolishly a third time and just hope he magically does better this time around.

Meanwhile, the whole “honor and integrity” thing eats away at Brandon enough that he reveals his terrible Hantz-flavored secret to Coach. Coach muses about how badly Russell burned him last time he played, but correctly concludes that Brandon isn’t Russell. Their relationship doesn’t look to change — at least not right away.

Savaii disappeared from the episode right after they won immunity, but two noteworthy things happened before the challenge. First, Ozzy found the hidden idol up in a tree. This seemed a little unfair to me; Ozzy is part monkey, and has a distinct advantage when it comes to scouring treetops for immunity idols. Anyway, Ozzy was already in a strong position, and this new development just makes his inevitable downfall all the more tragic. I can’t wait.

Then there’s Jim. Now, Ozzy has an alliance already with this dude Keith, right? Now Jim takes the two of them out fishing and lays on them his patented “three plus two” plan. This plan involves a solid core of Jim/Ozzy/Keith, with an additional plus two of Elyse/Whitney on the sidelines. Ozzy and Keith already had a thing going, so they agree and just let Jim think he’s calling the shots. Tidy.

It’s at this point I’d usually say something about how Jim isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, he’s not really in control, won’t never see no blindside a-comin’, yadda yadda. But here’s the freaky thing: Jim already seems to know he’s not the puppetmaster. He identifies himself as “being at the cool kids’ table — but just barely”. Where other players of his ilk might be smug and cocksure, Jim understands that his grasp on things right now is tenuous.

I don’t know what to make of Jim. I’m trying to think of a past player to compare him to, but he may be a totally new breed.

The immunity challenge comes at us in two parts. Part one: unwind a series of tangled ribbons from a tall vertical pole. Part two: standard-issue Survivor sliding block puzzle, except the blocks are as big as dobermans.

Cochran tripped up on the ribbons early on, allowing Upolu to take an early lead. That lead was somehow squandored, though, as Savaii came back to wreck the puzzle and take the win. I have no idea how this happened; I must have blinked and missed it. Ozzy’s red tribe is immune, and gets a pile of blankets in the deal, to boot.

So it’s back to Upolu for the requisite scrambling, and my goodness how they did scramble!

Everyone resents Christine for searching for the immunity idol too early. Her reaction to this is to go out and search for the idol some more. (Which is the proper reaction; if everyone thinks you have it, then you had better have it, or your ass is toast.) Instead, she comes away with a single clue. She gets excited about this, but then freezes up, unsure of what to do next.

Christine, I have never played Survivor, but I will answer that question for you. Go find the goddamn idol! Gee, that was some kind of brain-teaser!

She doesn’t do that, of course. Perhaps she is allergic to things that make sense.

Coach, apprehensive about the possibility of an idol in play, wants to split the vote between Christine and Stacey. This is a good plan, and will flush the idol if there’s one to be flushed, but a hitch suddenly arises from within his own alliance.

Brandon doesn’t like Mikayla.

Mikayla is this season’s athletic supergirl, and for some reason she really rubs Brandon the wrong way. I can’t tell if he’s threatened by her physical prowess, or just confused by the tightening she makes him feel down in his man-parts, but he has made it his solemn vow to destroy her first. To this end, he goes behind Coach’s back, tells Stacey and Christine to vote Mikayla, and essentially mucks up the entire plot.

By the time they get to tribal, absolutely nobody knows what’s going on. Christine and Stacey spend the entire time on the defensive, insisting they’d never mentioned Mikayla’s name before. Mikayla is totally baffled as to why anyone would want her gone this early in the game. Rick sits stoically, perhaps pleased he isn’t being asked any questions. And, inexplicably, Brandon comes clean at the end about his shenanigans. Then, when it’s time to vote, he doesn’t even put Mikayla’s name down.

Christine was sent to Redemption Island with just four votes. The remaining five were spread across three other players. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a vote that scattershot. I still have no real idea what happened out there. It’s clear now that Brandon is nothing like his uncle, and certainly nothing like Coach. Instead, I’m seeing shades of Dreamz here: a player who stirs the pot for no reason other than to see the pot well-stirred.

Who’s gonna win? From Savaii, I’m going to say Jim. I think he’s smarter than Ozzy, and I think he is aware enough of his weaknesses to avoid getting tripped up by them. Ozzy’s alliance is a good place to be, and Jim knows it. From Upolu, good heavens, I couldn’t even venture a guess. I think it’ll depend when and if the tribal shuffle hits, truth be told.

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