This week, Survivor is back! Unfortunately, that also means that Coach is back.After weeks of waiting, we return to Jalapao on night 15. It’s been longer than 15 nights since this show was last on, so I guess these people know that for every night of Coach they make us watch, they have to give us a night off. Thanks, CBS! JT gets us back up to speed on what happened three weeks ago, noting that Jalapao is down five members to Timbira’s six, so all they can do is how to go into the merge tied at five.
Sydney, who is worried that she’ll go home if they lose again, talks to Joe about whether they can kick Taj out next time. She figures that the boys will all stick together, so it’s got to be her or Taj. Joe admits that he’s “got a little thing” for Sydney, so that somehow she’s safe. So what, Joe calls the shots at Jalapao all of a sudden? I don’t really view him as having any sort of influence. Also, everyone’s got a thing for Sydney. I mean, look at her. There are species of plant life that have a thing for Sydney.
“Damn, she’s hot.” – Shrub in the corner of the shot
Sigh. I guess we have to check on Timbira too. We open on Debra sticking her fingers in her mouth, so that bodes well for this episode. Timbira is cooking beans, and because Coach likes them to be softer, he adds a bunch of dirty river water to the beans, which seems both sanitary and delicious, doesn’t it? Debra is suitably disgusted, noting that now they’re all going to have to wait another six minutes so that the water (and beans) are safe to eat. Of course, Coach immediately faults them all for not having enough willpower to wait so that the beans taste good. Yes, everyone but Coach is a giant weakling, because they don’t want to wait around and wait an extra six minutes for tainted food. Pussies!
To make matters worse, a storm is coming, so now instead of being full and dry, Timbira is hungry and wet, and Coach is directly at fault. Coach, of course, thinks they’re all being babies. Instead of staying out in the rain to rectify his error, Coach just sort of…follows them into the shelter and leaves the beans out in the rain to burn. “It’s just another one of those classic ‘Coach moments’,” Brendan says with finger quotes, becoming the only person in the history of this show to use finger quotes in an appropriate fashion.
So Coach allows the beans that he kept from cooking to burn out in the rain, making this show sort of like MacArthur Park, except with beans instead of a cake, but everyone has hair from the seventies, so it’s all pretty much the same.
After it stops raining, everyone scurries out to eat the food, which is now burned beyond belief. Like, people are scraping disgusting burned bean chunks off of the bottom of the pot and eating them. It looks a little like your kitchen sink after you’ve left the dishes there for a few days. Everyone is understandably angry at Coach, who looks at all of them like they’re gum that he just stepped in. Instead of apologizing like he should, because people like Coach can never apologize ever, he continues to talk down to them for deigning to be unhappy about their situation.
Sierra is the first to voice her frustration, admitting that she’s frustrated “as [Coach] would have been had one of us done it,” which is a very level headed and restrained way to put things, given the situation. Coach seems to think that this admission somehow vindicates him, because she’s obviously only mad at him because she doesn’t like him, and not because he’s a giant asshole who threw tainted water on their food and then watched from the shelter while it burned. He seems to think that he’s touched on a deeper issue, which is that other people who are not coach are petty, and don’t like Coach because they let their weak emotions rule them. This is convenient for Coach because this explanation allows him to act like a dick without repercussion. “And the truth shall set you free!” he yells into the air like an evangelist, acting like he’s just uncovered some sort of deep rooted prejudice against him. Why can’t people just give Coach a fair shot? Everyone’s so bigoted! Let’s have a sit-in at the diner and let the cops spray us with the fire hose to showcase this fact! No more ‘Coach only’ water fountains and bathrooms! We will not rest until Coach is given the right to vote, and allowed to go to sit in the front of the bus! WHO’S WITH ME?
YES WE CAN
“It was raining, I wanted to cook the beans longer, and it was just a bad combination. No need to blame anybody.” Coach says, because ‘anybody’ means ‘me’. Coach does seems to realize that he owes everyone an apology, so he gives one of those “I’m sorry that you’re all so weak that you’re actually mad at me about this” apologies that are so popular among people like him. “I screwed up the beans, my bad,” he says condescendingly. “Please forgive me, all of you, especially you Sierra, who seems to have the most angst about it,” he says with his hands folded in front of him like a monk, because if you’re going to be a giant douchebag, you should do it with as much new age-y bullshit as possibly involved.
“There have probably been five or six situations like that where everybody’s like ‘Come on, that’s not for the best of everybody, that’s just for the best of you’, Brendan says, “But I’m okay with that, because it makes him a predictable player, and predictable in this game is great.” Brendan does have a point. Coach is obviously not long for this game. There’s “being unlikable enough to reach the final two” and “being so unlikable that people will devise other strategies that don’t involve you, just to get away from you”.
Back at Jalapao, Taj pulls Stephen aside to run an idea by him: she wants to tell JT that she has the idol. “What does that accomplish?” Stephen asks very appropriately. Taj believes that telling him will “solidify their trust”, which might be true, but would also put an unneeded wrinkly in their endgame and possibly cost them a jury vote. Stephen argues the opposite, noting that telling JT would make him wary, since he would wonder why they didn’t let him know earlier. Stephen makes a very astute observation in confessional, noting that he has a lot of power as the bridge of communication between Taj and JT, and if they end up bonding, that makes Stephen himself less important. Could this guy make me want to root for him any more? He’s awesome.
Taj tells us that her real alliance is the four person alliance including Stephen, Brendan and Sierra, so she just wants to make it to the merge, and as long as JT’s on her side, she thinks she’s going to get there. Um, you have three days before the merge and the immunity idol; I think you might be in good shape without having to reveal what is arguably your biggest asset in the game.
Reward Challenge. Today, the tribes will have five minutes to build a barricade. After that’s done, the other team will attempt to throw ceramic pigs through the barricade for another five minutes. The team with the most pigs at the end of the time limit will win the reward, which is a trip to a waterfall which includes a cookout with hamburgers. Why wouldn’t they throw ceramic cows, then? There is no need to involve pigs in this when their meat won’t even be enjoyed at the reward.
Barricade building commences. Timbira decides to go with a structure composed entirely of horizontal bars, while Jalapao goes all crazy placing things diagonally at random and making it difficult to navigate. Once the pig throwing begins, Timbira manages to get a pig through the barricade unscathed before Jalapao can, and then they start getting into a rhythm and pigs start flying through with ease. The key to this challenge, it appears, is settling into a rhythm, and Timbira builds up a nice lead doing just that.
Pig on pig crime
Jalapao eventually gets their first pig though, but Timbira’s able to maintain its lead. Tyson does break their stride when he mangles a few pigs, which allows Jalapao to catch up and tie the game. When Coach drops a pig, both teams are tied at thirteen with ten seconds left in the game, and then Tyson makes a last minute throw to Coach, he rubs it in and Timbira wins the reward.
When it comes time to choose someone to go to Exile, Taj tells us that she doesn’t want to go, since her alliance has everything set in place, and there’s now no benefit. This is not necessarily true, because you want to go to keep other people from finding out you have the idol at all by going to Exile every time, but if you go to Exile every time, they’re going to assume you have it anyway. Timbira ends up choosing to send Joe, and we don’t get any sort of reason for that. Joe then stumbles into a huge opportunity when he chooses Erinn to come along with him. He thinks they’re going to need someone to flip, and he wants to use his “charm game” on her to make this happen. Obviously he has no idea that he’s actually stumbled onto something ingenious since she hates everyone on Timbira, but also: it’s Joe, so he’s going to make this both creepy and boring at alternate intervals.
After the break we’re at the reward with Timbira, and of course Debra is screaming her pants off over the hamburgers. OMG, beef! To be fair, these particular hamburgers do look pretty damn good. There is a hilarious montage of people eating interspersed with shots of Brazilian monkeys shoving food into their mouths. After eating, Timbira takes a swim at the base of the waterfall, and I do hope that they waited forty-five minutes. There is some horseplay in the waterfall, but I do not share their sense of whimsy re: this moment. In fact, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to see these particular people participate in shenanigans. It’s sort of like watching Hitler run through the sprinkler.
Exile Island. Erinn ends up getting the note in her urn, and she and her blurred ass crack go off to read the note. Erinn quickly ascertains that the idol is hidden back at camp, and that this means there’s more than one idol. She might not be the most socially apt person here, but she is pretty smart. After that business is taken care of, Joe and Erinn chat while they make a fire. He asks who her favorite is and she dodges it hilariously, because can you really have a favorite with options like Coach and Debra? She does eventually ends up letting him see all the clues. He thanks her by creating this amazingly awkward moment where he tries to hold her hand and wrap her up in his arms, and it’s just scarily sad for both of them when she locks her arms together and looks beyond uncomfortable. The only thing that could have made this more awkward is the inclusion of a pencil moustache and a tank top.
“Hey, do you like candy?”
Meanwhile, Taj and Stephen know that Joe is probably to figure out that the immunity idol is hidden in the treemail, so they decide quickly that they’re going to have to make a fake idol in order to make Joe think that they haven’t found it. Taj decides to go get the real idol from Stephen’s pocket without telling him, in order to have something to work from. When she finishes making a fairly convincing new idol out of a bunch of beads and feathers (where do these people keep getting this stuff?), she hides it in the treemail statue where she found the original idol. Taj then takes the real idol and just sort of…stashes it in her bag, lazily throwing it on top of all her other stuff and just wandering away. I feel like Taj has been really careless these past few episodes, between this and the whole yelling affair from last week. She’s going to end her own game sooner than later, with this kind of thing.
JT and Stephen decide to go fishing, and when JT goes to get an empty bag for the fish, he grabs Taj’s by accident and sees the hidden immunity idol right there on the top. He goes right to Stephen to tell him, and Stephen is so blindsided by this that he just kind of stutters that he knows about it already. So now Stephen’s hand has been forced due to Taj’s carelessness, so he has to go to her and get her to tell JT about the idol, while pretending that she doesn’t already know that he found it in order keep him in the dark about her bond with Stephen. Confused yet?
“Yeah, me too. What goes in here, my head?”
Taj does manage to pull the whole thing fairly well, and JT buys into her ploy. “I think Taj feels like she can trust me,” JT says. Taj does go a little overboard, promising him that if he needs to use the idol, he can have it anytime he wants. When happens down the line when her secret cross-tribal alliance wants to vote out JT and he asks her for the idol? Towards the end of the conversation, Stephen forces the issue regarding the hiding place of the idol so that he ends up back in possession of it. Taj makes everyone join hands and then says very gravely, “We’re going…to the merge.” Stephen has to correct her: “We’re going to the merge? We’re going to the end!” he says, laughing nervously, because saying to someone “We’re in an alliance…for another three days” is not the best way to gain permanent trust. This whole thing could so easily have been avoided, you know? Her carelessness is disconcerting.
Immunity challenge! One member of each tribe will use a slingshot to break a tile, which will cause sand to pour out and release a bag of puzzle pieces. It’s a pretty clever setup, because the weight of the sand leaving the mechanism causes the puzzle pieces to swing down all dramatically. When all three bags have been released, two more tribe members will work on the puzzle for immunity.
Tyson and JT have the slingshots, and Tyson connects first, but JT hits two quickly in a row to take the lead. However, because JT hit the top of the tiles, not all the sand is able to come out, which makes his final target pretty small.
“I’m fixin to kill me a squirrel.”
This allows Tyson to pull ahead (complete with shit talk to JT in which he offers to take care of the last tile for him), and Timbira’s lead is just too big to overcome by the time JT’s hit his very small target, allowing Brendan and Erinn to complete the puzzle and win final immunity for Timbira. Stupid Probst asks Coach how it feels to win before everyone is sent back to camp, and Coach rubs it in by noting how pivotal this particular win is, since it ensures a Timbira majority for the theoretic merge. There’s only one more opportunity to vote him out before he makes the jury, people! Somebody do me a solid.
Back at Jalapao, JT feels responsible for the loss, apologizing profusely for the fact that they’re going to be down at the merge. Stephen lets him know that they don’t blame him for the loss. Yep, I think losing a freaking tooth entitles you to a couple of mistakes. Joe’s knee also looks pretty badly injured, and he tries to play it off like nothing’s wrong, because he somehow manages to make even an injury boring. I mean, seriously, how do you make someone getting maimed boring? It’s the whole reason for the existence of hockey.
Joe also mentions that he tried to “juice” Erinn for info, but couldn’t get anything out of her. Well, that’s because you were too busy making her think you were a pedophile. All of sudden he gets all abrupt and yells “I’m going to get some water!” and takes off sprinting for the treemail like a fool. He is fooling no one, of course, and the rest of them (save for Sydney) know exactly what he’s doing. When he sticks his hand under the idol’s skirt (dirty!) he pulls out the fake idol and immediately thinks it’s real, becoming roughly the millionth person to fall for this ploy. Where do people keep getting the materials to make these things? Do they have Jo-Ann Fabrics in Brazil?
“Man, I sure hope no one sticks their hand up my backside just like I’m doing to this here statue. Nope, I sure don’t.” (Forty-five minutes pass)
Once Taj wanders away, Joe tries to rally the troops to get rid of her. Taj pretty much figures out what’s going on, but basically goes all “Um, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m safe tonight no matter what happens,” given that she has the idol and two solid allies and has successfully inserted a fake idol into the proceedings. JT and Stephen discuss the vote, agreeing that they need to keep Taj around for the merge. Stephen is protecting his interests by keeping her around, but JT doesn’t know that. JT tells us that Taj’s idol “is “my idol, and there’s no way I can vote my idol out of this game right now,” he says presumptuously. That’s a little bit of a stretch. I mean yeah, she said it and everything, but you can’t automatically assume that it’s going to be used for your personal gain. Then you end up looking like a douche.
JT and Stephen decide to try and get Joe on the same page so that they don’t feel bad when they get rid of Sydney. Stephen tells Joe that Taj has such a great connection with the other tribe that keeping her around makes it more likely that they can flip someone. Of course, Stephen wants to keep her around for his own purposes, but he’s not going to tell Joe that. Joe flat out tells them that there’s no way he’s voting out Sydney, since he “already told her she was going to the merge”, and he doesn’t want to break that. Since when is he in any sort of position to make statements like that, let alone stick to them? Most boring Machiavelli ever. “If JT and Steve don’t really give me consideration, I might just hand over the idol to Sydney and make a point.” And what point is that exactly? That you are both boring and beholden to the attractive? Consider it done. No need to waste your fake idol, loser.
JT and Stephen debate the upcoming tribal council some more. JT points out that if they get rid of Taj, the idol’s gone as well. “Well, that’s not true,” Stephen says. “It’s technically mine.” Correct, technically. JT very slowly makes the connection that they’ll get to keep the idol, and he has these really crazy eyes as it dawns on him. “We can kick Taj out right now and still keep the idol,” he realizes. “This is terrible right now. I’m going to hell.” For a minute they have me fooled, until the realization that Stephen is in control here since JT is a great guy, but a little behind the curve, and Stephen knows that he’s screwed if they get rid of Taj, since his alliance with the other team depends entirely on her presence in the game.
Tribal Council. Jeff asks Stephen about the merge, and he mentions that sitting at four when the merge comes is a real problem for them. By the way, can we talk briefly about how much stupid stuff is said at Tribal Council? My notes, very frequently, say things like “Taj worries that she is vulnerable”. That makes for a pretty boring recap. Tribal Council is the Joe of the recap world.
Probst asks Taj about Exile AGAIN, and she’s like “Yeah yeah, I’m tired of talking about Exile, and yes it has both bad and good sides, why don’t you ask me again next week too, jerk.” You know, Taj may be slowly screwing herself over, but she sure does do it in an entertaining fashion. Jeff points out that Taj has made relationships and the rest of the Jalapao members haven’t, so this can be both good and bad, in the sense that she could convince someone to flip, but also she could flip herself. OMG, SO DEEP! Welcome to the premise of the show, eighteen seasons in, Probst.
“Yes, yes, WE GET IT.”
Time to vote! Joe votes for Taj, saying nothing of note, because he is Joe. Taj votes for Sydney. After neither the real nor the fake idol is used (I guess Joe wanted to save his fake idol for a time when it would actually matter), the votes are read. The first is Taj’s vote for Sydney, and then Joe’s for Taj. After another Taj vote, the music editors fake us out with the music before revealing another Sydney vote (they’re getting smart, those guys), they reveal the last vote that we all knew was for Sydney, and that will do it for her. Joe watches her ass as she saunters off into the darkness, and then he looks sad. And boring. Not that you needed me to tell you that.