(Note: Due to a technical malfunction, I lost all of my notes for this episode and can’t retrieve them. Thus, all content is composted from memory and all quotes are paraphrased.)
It’s always nice to receive a reminder that you’re on the right path, and Jeff Probst provided me with just that in the “Previously On” segment. In its closing moments, he summed up the storyline by saying the next challenge could change the balance of the game (or something of that nature, remember, paraphrasing here). With Upolu’s win and Ozzy’s sacrifice, many of the themes and stories I’ve been focusing on have come to fruition. What’s interesting, however, is that voting out Mikayla was supposed to be about choosing loyalty OVER challenge success, yet Upolu managed to win the key encounter. What was the purpose of building up the characters and theory for that decision then? I’ll answer that question later (as will the editors, hint hint). Right now what matters is how this challenge was won: idol warfare.
Over the first half of the season, much was made about the two former players having possession of the Hidden Immunity Idol. This episode culminated both those early game plot lines and parlayed them into late game storylines. Make no mistake about it either: the editors were definitely playing on the idea that these Survivor idols had the idol. It fits perfectly with the compare and contrast that has been set up as the general story for returning players and the specific compare and contrast between Ozzy and Coach. In many ways, this episode echoed episode one, reminding us that winning isn’t about needing redemption, it’s about being prepared to play the best.
Savaii’s story was completely focused on redemption. The only question was who would be getting a chance to earn it. We opened with a scene of our two main contenders for it, Ozzy and Cochran. The former challenge star told the redheaded stepchild that, in the worst case scenario, he would send himself to Redemption Island. Of course, when they lost the challenge, the discussion changed, highlighting the theme of the season. Whoever needed redemption MORE would be the one to leave. Dawn and Jim even voiced the sentiment, stating that was the point of Redemption Island—to atone for your mistakes that caused you to be voted out. Keith and Whitney agreed, saying Cochran should go. “God” intervened though and spared the nerd, which is where things got really interesting.
You see, it wasn’t just Upolu’s story that was religious. Ozzy played the Jesus figure for Savaii, embracing the notion of self sacrifice for his flock after receiving a vision (in this case in the form of a dream). The metaphor stands out due to the religious undertones of the episode, season, and show since Redemption Island was introduced. Sticking with Savaii for a moment, if we remember the end of the first play they voted out, there is some interesting information to account for. Before Semhar faced Christine, she recited another poem about succeeding for his love. Christine said she was winning for herself. Christine proceeded to win. In other words, here it isn’t about playing for anyone else. You play for yourself. Ozzy played for his tribe (as we saw last episode) and he is on his way out now. Of course, this also has implications for the other tribe.
The main person who has spouted religion on Upolu has been Brandon, though Coach has been by his side with it at times. In this episode, Coach brought the praying to a whole new level. First, he started again with Coach things, performing a kata in the water with the nice graphic overlay of the sun (a visual clue to us that this was indeed a Coach thing). Then he had the whole tribe pray before, during, and after the challenge. Sure, part of it seemed manipulative by Coach, but it can’t be ignored that he was shown saying over and over again that he was doing it for him (his heavenly father) and his glory. It’s all setting up turmoil to come.
Not only did Coach lie to Brandon about the idol, he used religion to do it. When Brandon inevitably finds out about the idol, he’s going to meltdown. That’s a well foreshadowed plot point, as it was again mentioned that this was the third Tribal Council in a row where Brandon had a meltdown. Likewise, Coach even mentioned having to Lenny him like in Of Mice and Men. Will he? That’s the question that remains open for Upolu—one of the two major factors that makes me think they’re around for the end game. The other is, of course, that Coach has been shown as the better Survivor idol.
And though I admit that I see Upolu winning, I also have to recognize that some of Savaii seem to have longer stories. The most notable being Cochran, who survived what Keith called “his time.” If this was his time to go home, does that mean he never goes home? I also have to consider that Keith talked about him and Ozzy winning all the immunities post-merge. Is that what costs Coach the game, his voting out Mikayla causes a cross-tribal alliance to form due to the minority winning all the immunities and Brandon going crazy? Exactly how much havoc are the idols and their idols going to wreak?
The other main reason I’m mulling over the idea of a cross-tribal alliance is I can only place two Upolu in the F3 due to their stories: Edna and Sophie. There is an outside shot Albert will be there, I just have a hard time seeing him there and not winning and he definitely does not win. Thus, I have to wonder if the third person sitting with them will be a Savaii. I could easily see Jim, Dawn, or Cochran there—and if there was a cross-tribal alliance, I would see it being Sophie, Albert, Edna, Jim, Cochran, and Dawn. Anyway, here are my three most likely winners:
Cochran – His needs for redemption (story wise) is his biggest hindrance, but it’s arguable that this time which was his time for redemption proved he doesn’t need it. He gave a confessional where he was seemingly aware of that (“I don’t need to be the hero”), which could also be a winner’s quote for a non-mastermind UTR win.
Coach – I still maintain he is getting the “almost Rob” edit, but he is the front runner in Upolu. If he does what Deena couldn’t do in the Amazon, keep the car on the road, then he has the game. However, there is just too much foreshadowing for me to believe he does.
Sophie – She is the other member of Upolu—besides Coach and Brandon—who has the most interesting edit. Though she is in the six, she has been shown as being distrusting and wary of both Coach and Brandon from the first episode. This episode, her distrust of Coach was highlighted again and her comments about Brandon’s crazy religious beliefs were reinforced, as she was the lone dissenter from the praying. Being the only person being shown doing or saying something in a long term story is a very good sign. Now the question is if Coach’s little dragon is merely his undoing or if she is the UTR non-mastermind winner this season.