Tonight, on Survivor: our long national nightmare is finally over.Before we begin, I just want to gently remind everyone not to talk about the finale in the comments of this recap. There’ll be another recap for the finale in a few days, and we don’t want to spoil anyone. Cool?
On night 33, the final five return to camp. JT and Stephen deliver the news to Coach that his “number one ally was gunning” for him that evening, which is an awesome move as far as getting jury votes goes. Way to appeal to his sense of integrity-honesty, which we learned a couple of weeks ago is apparently one word. “We didn’t tell you because we thought you wouldn’t believe it until after it happened,” they say to him with a straight face, somehow. Coach seems to think that all of the other people on the tribe mounted some sort of counterattack to save him, when, in fact, they found a forty-six year old woman with the math skills of a second grader to be a bigger threat.
“I’m just going to have to ask Stephen and JT when I’m going, because obviously Coach Wade is no longer in control of this game”. POP QUIZ, COACH! Name a point at which you were in control of the game. Hint: It’s a trick question.
The next morning, Coach corners JT and Stephen, asking them if they’ll agree to get rid of Erinn next and then Taj. He proceeds to lobby for them to be sent to Exile Island. “I don’t want to go, I feel like I scarred my lungs inhaling smoke from the fire.” All of a sudden, he also has asthma and thinks that sending him to Exile Island will make it worse. “I know that’s a horrible excuse,” he says with more self-awareness than we’ve seen from him yet. “JT and I are eager to send Coach to Exile,” Stephen says. “I’m not entirely sure Coach can build a fire and cook food by himself.” I wouldn’t worry, Stephen, I bet the guy has had cooking lessons from Julia Child’s ghost.
Reward! The first portion is a race through a maze shaped like the word “Survivor”. The first person to reach the end of the maze, and then knock down some poles with a bag you retrieve by making a pole wins immunity. Oh, and also everyone’s feet will be shackled together. I know, it’s complicated.
Trust me when I say that it is also boring. Have you ever watched your overweight cousin with the learning disability take forever to solve the maze on the placemat at Denny’s? It’s kind of like that, but with more waddling, which I did not think was possible. JT ends up in the lead and then everyone just sort of follows him out. The editors try to make things interesting with lots of split screen, 24 style shenanigans, but it’s still people weaving their way through a simple maze. Once JT reaches the end, Probst tells him to “start working on that pole”, so we know that his love burns bright as ever.
Just like the back of the cereal box.
Coach and JT get about a thirty second head start before the rest of the Survivors get out of the maze, but JT puts his pole together so quickly that he’s won the challenge before anyone else can even get started, so he wins the overnight stay.
When it’s time to pick someone to go to Exile Island, JT asks for volunteers. Coach refuses to volunteer, so JT calls him out: “Let’s be noble Coach, let’s do this. You and me are the only two who haven’t been, man.” Interesting that he gave Coach a choice at first, just to showcase exactly what a poseur he is.
Coach tells Probst that he’s going to be taking “the monastic approach” which means he’s not going to build a fire, have any water, or eat anything. Erinn has had enough, since this whole thing is obviously meant to cover the fact that Coach can’t start a fire. She correctly assesses that what he is doing is taking “the martyr approach” so that he won’t have eaten or slept, which will give him an excuse when he inevitably loses the immunity challenge.
Coach gets all petty as a response, saying that she’s being selfish because she wants to have the toughest exile experience and get the most attention. “My body is close to total disaster,” he says. “I have discs rupturing and my asthma is choking me, but I don’t make any excuses,” Coach says after making a bunch of excuses. Taj begins an entire episode of being awesome by launching a monstrous eye roll here. Trust me when I say that it is epic.
“You can throw stones at me, and I go like this,” he says, turning his cheek. “Hit me with your best shot, Pat Benetar!” So, so awesome. I have covered this at length elsewhere, but let it be known that I am making this phrase happen. Fetch!
JT takes Stephen with him to the reward, sending Taj and Erinn back to camp. Erinn expresses some guilt about calling Coach out in public, wishing that she had dealt with him in private. Taj is like “Whatever, good for you for calling him out. I’m so ready to send his ass home.” The world nods in agreement. “I would hate, hate, hate for anything that I said to knock me out of this game before Coach.” I cannot imagine having to deal with him for the entirety of a two hour episode, so if you could refrain from any further vocalization of your opinions, I would appreciate it, Erinn.
And now, the greatest sequence ever aired on this show. The scene: Exile Island. Majestic music swells while Coach treks across the unforgiving sand dunes. Vultures circle overhead, smelling a potential meal. The rest is so mind-blowingly phenomenal that I’m going to need to transcribe it exactly: “All those wishy-washy people at camp with no character. (disgusted snort) Coach Wade’s foundation is built on a rock. Inside here? (points to heart) Unbreakable. Unbending. Unyielding. Immeasurable. Immovable. Invincible!”
“Incapable. Incompetent. Incontinent.”
You guys? I think Coach is maybe awesome. It’s official, he has short circuited my brain. He is way, way too priceless to deny any longer. Let us all embrace this together and move forward amicably. It’s just easier if you don’t resist.
“The Indians would commune with their ancestors in the wilderness for forty-eight hours, and become men. (majestic music stops abruptly) Well, I’m already a man, so this will just make me more of a man, but still. (majestic music starts back up).”
At the top of the dune, Coach says a little prayer to baby Jesus. “Thank you for creating me as an individual. I ask that you would help me to forgive Erinn, as she is back at camp thinking negative thoughts about me.” Yeah, but what about the other eleven million of us? I hope you can find the fortitude of character to forgive us as well, as we are heathens, uneducated and ignorant.
I love that even his prayers are self-centered. That is dedication, right there.
Coach he finds a stick and shows it to the camera. “The dragon slayer has his dragon cane!” he says directly into the camera, smiling. With some searching and liberal use of the pause function, you can almost pinpoint the exact moment when Coach turns into Michael Scott. How many times has Michael Scott done something that he expects to be mind blowing and impressive, and then proceeded to look directly into the camera with this exact same mix of obliviousness and pride? I feel like I’m watching an elaborate Ricky Gervais-created comedy sketch right now. In fact, this is the only explanation for what is going on. I have solved the mystery of Coach, everyone.
“I won the argument with Erinn. I don’t know if it’s because I’m speaking such truth, or if it’s because I’m so eloquent that nobody can deny it, but whatever the case, I got the last word.” Yes, you did. And, as we all know, having the last word in an argument always equals victory.
In a wide, sweeping shot, Coach does his kata on the sand dune, preparing for the ultimate battle against evil, because it is his destiny to karate chop whatever the opposite of integrity-honesty is. Coach can summarize his experience on Exile Island better than I can, though: “Coach Wade’s body might be failing him in many ways, but Coach Wade still has what it takes to outlast anybody here in this environment. Period. Paragraph.”
More insurmountable evidence that this is a comedy sketch written by Ricky Gervais: Coach also doesn’t know when to stop talking. I swear to God, I’ve heard Steve Carrell end a talking head with “Period. Paragraph.” That is too brilliant not to be cribbed from The Office.
Which brings me to another point: if Coach was a fictional character instead of a real person, and he starred in a comedy doing these exact same things? That show would be hilarious. I would watch that shit every single week. It would win Emmys. Lots of them.
Over at the reward, Stephen and JT’s private plane lands on a little airstrip and they get a tour of the Governor’s mansion, which is huge. They see themselves in a mirror for the first time, and they’re amazed by their beards and hair, picking at themselves for a few minutes. JT takes a shower and porn music starts playing and he’s moaning and stuff. It’s…disturbing.
Their feast is a Brazilian barbeque, like one of those steakhouses where you hold the sign up for more food. Who doesn’t love a situation where all you have to do is hold a sign up to receive unlimited food? Stephen tells us that he’s really enjoying “the meat festival” because it’s important to squeeze in as many awkward vaguely sexual phrases as possible, now that it’s toward the end of the season. They toast to the final two, which I would say is a bit presumptuous, except that it’s totally not. They complain a bit about Erinn’s conduct back at the reward challenge, and agree that it kind of makes them want to keep her around less. You’re planning on getting rid of her in another three days anyway, what’s the point?
Back at Exile Island, Coach lays motionless in the water. “I did not sleep, I did not eat, and I loved every minute of it.” He definitely sounds tired, but I don’t feel sorry for him. I mean, the man is an idiot. “Marcus Aurelius once said, through our greatest adversities come our greatest successes.” I think you might be interpreting that a little too literally, there, Coach. I doubt he means that you are supposed to intentionally punish yourself in order to generate success. Someone’s seen Fight Club a few too many times.
Immunity Challenge. Coach hobbles up to the challenge field with his cane all dramatically, and Taj is so over it, again, some more. “Coach is such a drama queen. Any thirty-seven year old man who thinks he’s a dragon slayer belongs in an institution.” And at that institution, he can inspire others to be great through the majesty of soccer.
The challenge today is to use your arms to brace yourself between two walls, moving every 15 minutes to progressively smaller footholds. The last person standing wins immunity. This looks like it would hurt. A lot. After 15 minutes, no one has fallen so Probst begins to berate people to entertain himself. “Coach, do you think the time you spent on Exile may have ‘conveniently’ prepared you for a challenge like this?” You know that when Jeff Probst uses finger quotes, you’re kind of over the top. I mean, the man is kind of a walking set of finger quotes himself.
“Deep in the pit of every man’s stomach, is the feeling that he’s no longer going to be invincible,” Coach begins, because even the simplest questions need sprawling, majestic, pompous answers. Taj’s eyes cross once again. Have you ever been around someone you dislike for so long that you can’t even hold back anymore? I think Taj has crossed this line.
Pretty impressive, to pull off an eyeroll like this while balancing on such a small platform. It could almost be an Olympic Sport.
At thirty minutes everyone still remains, so everyone as to move down to the final foothold. Erinn drops trying to move, so she’s out first. Stephen falls soon after, then Taj, leaving JT and Coach. JT asks Probst to bring out some food, saying that he’ll step down. “Well then, you might as well step down, unless you’re trying to vote me off tonight,” Coach says. JT makes his “Who, me?” face, accusing Coach of not trusting him. Probst calls Coach out here. “You wanted competition against the best, didn’t you? Well, you’re gonna get it today.” I think maybe Probst has crossed the imaginary line, too.
After a little while, Coach starts screaming and crying like a baby, eventually falling and giving JT the win. He passes out on the ground in the fetal position and starts crying, because that is what mighty dragon slayers do when they lose: it is a little known technique to distract the dragon before you stab it in the neck.
Once Coach gets up, he hobbles over to a stone with a hump in his back, saying that it started seizing up. Probst asks Coach if he wants medical to look at it, and Coach says no because he doesn’t want to be taken out of the game. Taj? Rolls her eyes again.
I have a friend who has had some back problems, and she has presented some pretty insurmountable evidence against Coach. I’m not saying he’s lying, but if your back were seizing up, sitting on a rock with your knees close to your chest is not the best approach unless you want to pass out due to pain.
Back at camp, Erinn is pissed at Coach again, because he walks into the challenge like he can barely move, and then he’s standing on the platform for an hour. Taj and Erinn call bullshit on Coach in about twelve different ways, and it is awesome. Their complaints include: He wouldn’t let medical take a look at him because there’s obviously nothing wrong, he’s constantly begging for attention, he’s making excuses for losing, he’s now walking around camp like he’s fine all of a sudden. Also, Coach started the California wildfires, created Crystal Pepsi, and is the reason why Arrested Development got cancelled.
Meanwhile, Coach is telling JT how honored he was by the defeat and the way he went down. Really, you were honored by the way you went down? Because to me you looked like a five year old. JT and Stephen tell Coach they’re leaning towards getting rid of Erinn, because they were really unhappy about how she was speaking at the reward challenge. I’m not sure why what Erinn did is any different than what Coach has been doing to everyone, all of the time, since the beginning of episode one.
Not a great way to sit if your back is really bothering you.
Stephen notes that JT is going to vote for Erinn because he promised Coach, and Taj and Erinn are voting for him, so he’s the swing vote. Coach says that he’s just going to have to trust his allies. “I’ve surrounded myself with strong players, and that hasn’t backfired on me yet,” he says. I’m pretty sure that your own hubris, pride and ineptitude with people have made you appealing to keep around, but it’s cool, let’s pretend that it’s the people.
Tribal Council. A newly be-Debbie’d jury enters. Probst asks Erinn about Coach’s stay on Exile. She’s still angry, talking about how what he did and how he acted minimized the suffering that others (read: Erinn herself) underwent. Probst asks if part of her resentment stems from a desire not to be upstaged. Erinn is like “of course”, which is interesting. “Going to Exile absolutely sucked,” she says. “So why the hell is he acting all excited?” Because it’s annoying you? I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason. Deep down inside, Coach is one giant five year old.
“Sometimes men drop a pebble and women see a boulder,” Coach says, which is offensive in about ten different ways. Probst asks Coach if tonight’s vote will be a surprise. “No, because women have great intuition.” What is this, Coach Wade’s Sexist Variety Hour?
Probst says it’s time to vote, but before he can proceed, Coach interrupts and says that he wrote a poem for everyone. Probst nods begrudgingly, because he knows this is going to be awesome, which it is. Then Coach proceeds to unleash this gem upon us:
With friend and foe we march to the battle plain
Some to seek success, others to seek fame
We play with honor for the love of this game
And with armor or without, we will toil in vain
So that someday, someone somewhere will remember our name
That? Is a masterpiece. I’m just disappointed that it wasn’t written in iambic pentameter. The jury’s reaction to all this is just as priceless:
Even Debbie is embarassed for him, people. DEBBIE.
“Can’t think of a better way to lead us into the vote,” Probst says, tired of him and ready to move on. Erinn votes for Coach. “Dragon slayed,” she says, and you can tell that she’s just been itching to do this for awhile. Probst returns with the votes. He notes that this is the last chance to use the hidden immunity idol, but Taj chooses not to play it. Why wouldn’t she give it to Erinn or something, just for the hell of it?
The votes end up tied at 2-2, as we expected. Probst reveals the last vote, which is for Coach, and he is finally, mercifully ejected from the game. Snuff snuff snuff. GTFO, beotch! His hobble mysteriously returns as he makes his way down the stairs and out of my life. I look forward to forgetting all about him after Sunday’s finale. Which, by the way is almost certainly going to end with someone likeable winning. I am rooting for Stephen (whom Coach calls “an evil wizard” in his final words), because I think he’s been the best strategist, but also because he’s responsible for Coach’s ouster. But I’m pretty sure this is all heading pretty obviously toward a JT win, so this is the least suspenseful Survivor finale ever, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great.