We really don't want to pile on the burgeoning anti-Cochran vibe here too much, because the entire (post-duel) episode was essentially "Cochran has a big choice to make! What will he do?" and nobody else was really even shown for the entire episode (except perhaps Dawn and Coach). So it's just that there's not really anyone else we can logically include here. The Troll's job is to hog the camera, and for better or worse, whether by editing or by intent, Cochran certainly did it. For God's sake, people, the usual most egregious suspects (Coach and Brandon) were collectively shown a grand total of about three times, and each time they were sane, rational, and even nice! Work with us here!
And it's not like Cochran didn't run with the opportunity on occasion, cranking out a not-very-good Al Pacino impersonation that got in a dig at Ozzy as "the egomaniac." But for the most part, Cochran's extended time on-screen was actually thoughtful and sincere. Far from openly mugging for attention, anyway, as the usual Trolly recipients are wont to do. Look, it's not like he repeatedly broke out his usual go-to knee-slapper of calling people "bitches," or anything.
Speaking of Ozzy, we were expecting to be giving this award to him, since his half-baked volunteering-for-Redemption plan actually ended up working as planned, and he got back in the game. Not to mention that he then went and destroyed a hard-won Survivor precedent, and avoided getting voted right back out of the game again, by winning individual immunity. Couldn't the editors have tossed in a clearly soon-to-be-ironic, crowing post-IC Ozzy confessional about how everything was going perfectly, and he (Ozzy) was the most brilliant player of all time, or something? Come on, editors, it's like you don't want us to loathe these people, or something! So many missed opportunities! So we're sorry Cochran, but you sort of get the Trolly by default.
This is a tough one this week, since (as mentioned above), Cochran pretty much had a one-man show for the latter two-thirds of the episode. Frequent awardees Rick, Whitney, and Edna were, characteristically, silent for pretty much the entire episode. True, someone resembling Whitney did say a few swear words that were bleeped and blurred, but since we could neither see nor hear them, did Whitney actually exist? Hard to say. We did love Rick's spit-take reaction to receiving votes at Tribal Council, though. To be honest, we were suspicious and a little worried that trouble was afoot when Rick received undue attention during the IC, even getting his name spoken aloud by Probst. So while Rick shuddered in dismay as if to say "How did Savaii even know I was here?" when Probst read his name off the parchment, we weren't surprised. Completely, anyway.
But no, perhaps the biggest omission from the episode (apart from a welcome respite from Brandon's tears) was one of the former Savaii narrators: Jim. He was mentioned in passing as "the guy with the temper" as Cochran was giving Upolu his "help, help, I'm being repressed" narrative, given a confessional to explain the (convoluted) reasoning for giving Whitney the idol and voting for Rick, and was then shown hissing "Coward!" at Cochran after the vote. A pretty anticlimactic showing in the all-important merge episode for a guy who at one point looked like he could be the evil mastermind who controlled the course of the game. Guess the editors are trying to tell us something?
The first individual post-merge challenge is fraught with peril. Traditionally, the merge is the point in Survivor at which the challenge beasts are summarily dispatched. Sure, they may have helped their tribe get to the merge in the first place, but now it's time to shove them towards the exits, generally without even offering a nice parting gift.
So it's probably not a great idea, if you're already perceived as a challenge threat, to go nuts in the first individual IC, flaunting your strength and ability... unless you actually win, as Dawn and Ozzy did. (Although they're now bigger targets next time. See? Fraught.) Falling just short, as Albert and Sophie did? Less great. Exposes your strength, and sets you up for an immediate vote-out. Luckily for all four, they all survived the vote (unlike Keith, who clearly just to disprove this entire treatise, may have tried to cloak his Beastliness by not doing all that well in this challenge). So, IC winners and runners-up? You're on notice. If we throw in fellow late-finisher Brandon, you make up close to half the tribe, so there's... strength in numbers? But it's not like you'd ever get together and oust the weak, so carry on.
Why did we single out Albert from this group? Because when Probst told the Te Tunas it was time to head back to camp and prepare to vote someone out, the camera cut to Keith, then Albert. They know you're there, Albert! Next thing you know, Probst will be saying your name during a challenge! Then where will you hide? Sigh. It's so hard to warn people of impending doom four months after the fact.
We know, we know. We're supposed to be either high-fiving or up in arms about Cochran's flip. But here's the problem: We can't evaluate it on its merits yet. As a move in isolation, it's terrible. Ostensibly, Cochran moved from #6 in the Savaii alliance to (presumably, nothing to the contrary was shown) #7 in the Upolu alliance, with the added benefit of enraging his former tribemates. All of which is crazy and pointless, unless there's more to come (as with Ozzy's Redemption move) that we haven't seen yet. And with 11 people left in the game, there's certainly time for that. Furthermore, given that both Jeff Probst and CBS have been pitching Cochran as a great player since before Episode 1, the chances seem fairly high that moves will be made that improve Cochran's situation. But at least as things were (more importantly, as they were shown) when the episode ended, the move looked pretty bad.
So instead, we'll give credit where it's due: Coach's insightful swaying of Cochran. This is the type of move you're supposed to make at the merge, especially when it's tied: Infiltrate the opposing tribe, find the person at the bottom of their pecking order, and convince them they'd be much happier with your group. (Even if, as in this case, it numerically makes no sense for them to flip, unless Cochran was promised something we weren't shown.) Coach used exactly the right tactics, making an emotional bond with Cochran over being an outcast, while firmly but gently getting across that nobody was buying Ozzy's Redempton Island charade, so now nobody from Upolu trusted anything anyone from Savaii was saying to them. Basically: we know you're probably trying to play us, but if you're actually sincere about feeling like an outcast on Savaii, we'll be nice to you if you flip. Not only that, but in being given the power to decide whether or not to flip, Cochran thinks he's in control of the board... when in fact it was Coach who was moving the pieces. We never thought we'd say this with respect to Coach, but: perfectly played.
Update: CBS's secret scenes show Cochran was promised final four by Coach, Sophie, and Albert, so his flip makes a lot more sense, especially considering how negative Savaii (especially Keith) had been to him prior to the merge. Even in this context, Coach's play was vastly superior. But we should at least give Cochran credit for seizing an opportunity to act, rather than allowing good things to happen around him (countering our disparaging young Harry Potter comparison from last week).
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Christine Shields-Markoski