We hadn't previously been aware that Coach was an ordained minister in the Church of Sun God-Coach Chi worship, and yet, there he was, knee-deep in surf, mitre of unknown provenience perched on his head, praying for absolution, or possibly the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch ("may thou blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy"). To be honest, we're not the most religiously oriented of recappers, but this newfound acquisition of incessant, domineering, completely-for-the-cameras divine power does make us question the existence of Coach.
Previously on Survivor, when Coach felt he needed a little more attention, he would trundle himself down to the beach to strike various poses for the cameras, and mumble something about Dragons, or Warriors, or Honor. He may have meant it on some level, but it was clearly all a winking nod to the editors, saying "Hey, put this on the show. Perhaps with lightning special effects!" This time around, the slaying of dragons has been replaced by the flogging of the nonbelievers, and the lightning with a giant sun-ball thingy. However we got to this point, Coach's pre-, during- and post-challenge overt religious grandstanding seems designed either to cement the favor of Brandon and Rick, or to get even more camera time. Or perhaps he's announcing a late-breaking GOP Presidential candidacy, and next episode he'll roll out his plan for tax cuts for people who've won $1 million on reality shows (first ad: Richard Hatch smoking a cigarette, saying: "He has MY vote!"). Maybe if we were more religious ourselves, his constant shoving of his tribemates to their knees, for forced group prayer, might seem... touching? But because it's Coach, and because he's done this schtick before, it's mostly touching in the creepy, point-to-the-area-on-this-doll way.
Not to belabor a point, but if Coach had really been playing the role of penitent Believer in a straight-up fashion, he probably wouldn't have arranged for the tribe to pray for the idol (which he already had), then send them off to find it (like kids on an Easter Egg hunt!), before suddenly getting distracted by treemail. Because that led to an abrupt change of plans, culminating in this heartwarming reveal: "Hey kids, glad tidings I bring! You'll never guess what happened. The Easter Bunny left this idol right here in my pocket! It's a miracle! Blessings be upon us! Now let's go to the challenge." True, it was a little amusing to see Brandon did leap around like an excited puppy given a lifetime supply of treats. But still, it would probably have been a little more compelling religious narrative if Coach hadn't gone to such lengths to make the power of God's blessings seem so much like the tooth fairy.
God, or at least his vessel, Coach, was so busy shoving his way into the talk at Upolu this week, there really wasn't room for the half of the tribe that wasn't Coach. (Or Brandon, or Sophie, but they were mostly just the ones who had the good fortune to be talking to Coach while the cameras were rolling). We had been a little worried about Rick, fearing that his unexpected series debut last week was a portent of an imminent boot this week. But no, as with Albert the week before, or Edna the week before that, this was apparently just the delightfully random editors' way of saying, "Oops, this guy was also on the show, sorry we forgot to put him in for the past five weeks."
So settle down and enjoy some sweet, non-Ozzy-like dreams, Edna, Rick and Albert. We're sure you're still on the show, probably even safely on the show, even if by "safe" we mean you're pretty much only going to be shown if you're getting slammed into posts while blindfolded. Or nodding, cross-faced as your "twin," Coach, lectures Probst about God. If you'd just had the good sense to pander loudly to perceived demographic groups, maybe you'd be shown more often. Better luck next reality show.
Oh, and Whitney, who'd already been on another reality show? (Nashville Star, which IMDb tells us is/was actually shown on TV.) Even though she was on the tribe where almost all the camp action was happening... she didn't seem to get on screen the whole episode, except when silent and blindfolded. Weird.
There are times when sometimes it's better to do nothing than to give 100% effort, and leave it all on the challenge arena floor. One of those times is when your tribemate has come to you with a brilliant plan to vote himself off, head out to Redemption Island, and dispatch the pesky person from the other tribe (who, as it happens, would rather die than rejoin Upolu, a minor detail that nobody seems to have mentioned from their previous observational visits).
So we salute Cochran with this season's inaugural Courtney Yates Memorial Sit-out Award, for seizing inertia by the... edges?... and doing nothing, absolutely nothing, as his blindfolded tribemates screamed and yelled for help with their ropes. Sure, it was job to untangle, unhook, rehook and redirect them, but it served Cochran's purposes much more fully for him to mutely stand there, blankly staring. This is the kind of inaction that wins games (well, the long game, possibly). As long as said tribemates don't murder you as soon as you return to camp, then grill your flesh upon sharpened sticks over the campfire, of course. One of the many fine lines that Survivor contestants constantly have to negotiate: contributing, or being cannibalized. It's harder than it looks!
True, all may have been for naught had Ozzy not had Shamboesque dreams of voting off Dave, er, himself (we thought it was a nice, urine-scented touch to edit a chicken(ish)-looking bird in for effect as Ozzy discussed his nocturnal premonitions). So, even though Cochran was just following Ozzy's own plan, and was almost ritually sacrificed for doing so, it all worked out it the end. Just like Harry Potter in the first couple of books. Sure, he found the world of magic exciting and fascinating, but it turned out he didn't have any real innate talents for it, and even some of his fellow students who didn't come in through the benefits of family ties seemed to be able to do it much better (Dawn/Hermione), but when crisis after crisis happened, Harry just closed his eyes and hoped for the best. And in response, enemies just killed themselves (Ozzy re-deciding to boot himself/Quirrell), or useful magical items just appeared out of thin air (hidden idol necklaces/sword of Griffindor). We can't wait until Cochran's scar starts hurting.
When the returning players/alleged leaders on both tribes are suddenly cranking out the crazy, sometimes the best move is to just stand back and let the self-destruction proceed. So while the whole "strategy" thing seemed completely nonsensical and/or nonexistent this week, Dawn did a fine job of not letting her own opinions get in the way of other people doing stupid things, for which she earns this week's Slitty.
Sure, Dawn joined in the "Kumbaya campfire moment" as the rest of the tribe was convincing Cochran that he needed to Redeem himself. Always a good idea to go with the group. But while angry he-men Keith and Jim were still angry about Cochran denying them the chance to see "Jack and Jill," and begging Ozzy not risk team strength (for that all-important, possibly non-existent, next team challenge) by volunteering to be voted out, Dawn kept her mouth shut, nodding occasionally as Cochran stated his case to her privately. (Whitney, of course, was equally silent, but also invisible... perhaps she was off filming a music video? Hard to say.) Dawn let Ozzy have his way, and kept Cochran and his gift necklace close at hand. Sounds close enough to strategic for Slitty purposes.
Still, there is an off chance we're being overly harsh about Ozzy's chances of actually returning to the game here. And if he does, maybe his "big move" won't look quite so insane. But let's review, shall we? While Ozzy has won one duel in Redemption Arena already, that was against Coach, and Ozzy was helped by his tribe. On the other hand, Ozzy's strength has always been in water challenges, which are guaranteed not to take place on Redemption Island.
So unless the duel is "Who can climb this coconut tree the fastest?" (and since it's at Redemption Arena, where no expense is expended, the "coconut tree" would more likely be a ten-foot-length of 2x4), it's probably not going to be in Ozzy's wheelhouse (the preview showed it's a rehash of the first-ever Redemption duel, the tying-sticks-together "Jailbreak" one in which Matt beat Francesca last season). Ozzy's hardly been dominant in other challenge types this season, either: Boogie boarding? Spitting pig chunks? Coconut basketball? Manuevering wheelbarrows? Not to mention that Ozzy's plan assumes he has only one duel ahead of him. And that the Redeemed person won't face exactly the same fate as the two previous recipients of that title: immediately getting voted right back out again. But yeah, go for it, Ozzy. Whatever.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Mikayla Wingle