Survivor: Tocantins
Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
February 27, 2009

He's pretty happy for someone who feels so awful.

Previously on Survivor, Candace and Coach reenacted choice moments from The Cutting Edge, which is not easy to do in 120 degree weather. Eventually, their love/hate relationship devolved into pure, unadulterated hatred and Coach toepicked her to the curb. We're a full two hours into the season and we still don't know who anybody is among the people who aren't married to Eddie George. That can't be good.

This week starts with Candace's former BFF, Erinn, scrambling to curry favor with the rest of the Timbira tribe. Eagle-eyed viewers would have noticed last week that Erinn joined the rest of the group in voting against Candace. We were not sure at the time whether that portended her making new allegiances. It turns out that she deduced what the others had intended and thought that by going along with the majority, she would gain new friends. Instead, she's a person without any allies and she's sort of pissed off her teammates with her transparent attempt to make new friends and influence people. Coach calls her a fraud, which is a bit like the producers of Hotel for Dogs making fun of Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

In the morning, the big news at Timbira is that Jerry, the player we'd expected to most easily adjust to the climate conditions due to his military experience, is suffering from significant stomach pains. The man has served multiple tours in Afghanistan, a place with similarly scorching heat, so he, too, expresses surprise at his physical condition, pondering whether their steady diet of beans may be the source of his physical woes. It's bad news for all of Timbira that one of their strongest players has decided that a starvation diet is a good idea in 120 degree weather.

Team Jalapao, or as we're calling them, Team Eddie George, is trying to use the fishing equipment won at the previous challenge. Thus far, all they have to show for their troubles is a pair of tiny minnows. The budding bromance team of JT and Stephen turns things around by capturing a couple of bigger fishes, including a trout that is significant enough to feed the entire group. All this does is remind us how much we'll miss Top Chef.

It's Probst-y time! In this Reward Challenge, the two teams are playing for some tarp, blankets and a few chairs. This challenge features one of the worst performances a team has ever offered. The competition involves that Survivor staple where most of the tribe is blindfolded. One player, the "shouter", yells out instructions that help their teammates navigate a maze to retrieve buckets of water, then corn. It sounds simple in execution, and Joe from Jalapao has no problem directing his tribe to accomplish all their tasks. Debra's instructions for her Timbira tribe mates prove to be an inmitigated disaster. Despite the fact that she yells herself hoarse, they ignore her at times and simply go the wrong way at others. Their frustration grows until such time as they completely turn on one another. Timbira has not even completed the water portion by the time Jalapao has gained victory. This sets off the always combustible Coach, and seems likely to jeopardize Debra's position within the tribe. Meanwhile, Brendan is chosen to go to Exile Island, and he once again chooses to bring Taj with him, repeating last week's events. The early stage of this game belongs completely to Jalapao.

The next segment reinforces everything we decided about Coach on first impression. First, he offers a disingenuous speech to his teammates about not blaming any single person for their failures in the competition. Immediately afterward, he confers with Tyson about which members of the challenge performed the worst. Sierra takes the brunt of his criticism, but a couple of the other women get dinged as well. We don't want to psychoanalyze it too much, but we're guessing Coach's relationship with his mother has been strained at times.

Humorously, this scene is interspliced with Tyson offering comments where he eviscerates Coach for every single one of his crippling personality flaws. It's nice to see that he doesn't like the guy any more than we do.

While several minutes are dedicated to Coach's ranting about the fact that winning is better than losing (he's not much of a motivational speaker), the real discussions are taking place on Exile Island. Brendan and Taj are given another clue about the location of the immunity idol hidden at each of their camps. The two of them embark upon a long-term strategy for a super-secret four-player alliance combining players from both tribes. Taj states an intent to bring Stephen into the fold, while Brendan plans to cut a deal with Sierra. This sounds nice in theory, but we find it hard to believe that Stephen will make any kind of deal that doesn't involve JT. The other problem with this strategy is that it's still at least four people to the merge, so there's no guaranteeing that any of these people will make it that far. Sierra in particular seems like a longshot.

The next day sees the Jalapao enjoy what Doctor Zoidberg would describe as some "just friends cuddling". The group is relishing in the fact that their new shelter provides them with the sort of comfort that Timbira can only dream about. It's the depressing downside in not retrieving water and corn quickly when you're blindfolded. Of course, the folks at Timbira probably feel better about their fate while watching this episode. Now they know that the other tribe may have had better shelter, but they also had Sandy discussing what a sex kitten she is. I'll sleep out on the dirt in the rain, thanks.

Sensing a need to change the subject from Sandy getting the horn, the producers quickly cut to the immunity challenge. The task today is to take gigantic letter blocks and shove them back to their base. Then, they are to decipher the message by aligning various symbols. This would be the perfect assignment for either Baby Goliath or Shaquille O'Neal. For Timbira, it's another example that they're collapsing as a group. Jerry almost collapses from exhaustion at one point, then announces after his team has lost, "I'm through. I'm finished."

Meanwhile, Coach looks on in frustration as Team Sandy the Sex Kitten celebrates yet another victory. If nothing else, this is a satisfying result for the way that it devours his soul. After offering a primal scream following the reward challenge lost, he finishes the immunity challenge by giving the stink eye to everyone else on the island including Probst. Our host drives the nail in deeper by pointing out that this is their third consecutive loss. At this point, Coach looks like he's ready for a murderous rampage, but the tribe would have to earn a machete at a reward challenge first for that to happen.

It's time to play It's Anyone but Jerry. His indicating a desire to quit the game is good news for Sierra, great news for Erinn and probably welcome news for Coach as well. Sierra is perceived as the weakest player on their tribe, a somewhat unfair assumption relative to her effort to date. Erinn had exactly one ally in the game and that person is currently hanging out the hotel right now waiting to catch a flight out of Tocantins. Coach is just a jerk and even the people he believes are his allies despise him. So, either of them would have been likely to go if Jerry had not committed the cardinal sin of the game.

The next few minutes show some discussion about other potential eliminations. Coach laments the fact that Erinn is no longer on the chopping block today. He sees her as the blueprint example of what is wrong his tribe. Coach proceeds to demonstrate "The Look" to Tyson and follows this up with a classic moment of reality show self-absorption. He blithely tells the others that while it's okay for them to put up with Erinn's despicable nature, he is "so true that existing around people that smile evilly when somebody else is on their knees kills me." Sierra proceeds to point out to the camera what the audience already knows. Voting off Erinn over a personal grudge when Jerry wants to be eliminated would be an epic mistake. The fact that Coach is even considering it speaks volumes about how short-sighted he is as a player.

The one noteworthy aspect of the time between the immunity challenge and Tribal Council is that Brendan finds the idol. He has a burst of logical curiosity regarding the carved wooden statue next to the tree mail box. Ignoring the clues and simply feeling around the statue pays dividends when he unearths the idol. He proceeds to hide the idol by burying it a bit by a rock in the forest. This is a huge turn of events for the overall direction of this season. Should he tip off Taj to the location of the idol at her camp and she find it, they would have a hammerlock on the game after the merge. This assumes only that no one else becomes suspicious of the two of them making such an agreement while spending time together at Exile Island. As long as they can deflect attention away from such an agreement, that super-secret four-person alliance that seemed silly when they discussed it earlier suddenly becomes a potential winner. While we oftentimes feel that the power of the idol is vastly exaggerated, Brendan's chances of winning Survivor have just increased exponentially due to the fact that his group would have two.

Tribal Council is little more than a restating of known positions. Coach feels he should be leader and he feels that he is the de facto leader. Meanwhile, Erinn and Coach do not like one another and she feels Brendan is a much better natural leader. At this point, Coach throws Brendan under the bus by pointing out that the tribe has last three straight challenges and that is apparently all the leader's fault. Probst busts him on this nonsense, saying that it sounds like his real issue is one of ego. He...doesn't like that. We're guessing that when Coach was a little boy, he took his ball and went home A LOT.

The vote is unsurprising. When a person gets sick on the show, they generally get voted off. When a person states an intention to quit, they are almost always voted off. Both of these things have happened to Jerry, so he has to be eliminated, and he is. Despite a transparent attempt by the producers to show Tyson hinting at a sandbag, Erinn gets only one vote. The rest go to Jerry and he is out of the game. In his monologues, he verifies that he considers this competition far and away the most difficult thing he has ever done, an impressive statement coming from such an accomplished man.

Next week's episode highlights show Taj going to Stephen with the offer to join her in a two person alliance within their tribe. She promises him the opportunity to create one of the biggest upsets in the show's history, and this is the rare time when such a statement is not hyperbole. If Taj, Stephen and Sierra comprised three of the final four, that would undeniably go down as one of the most surprising combinations of weak players surviving until the end in the show's history. Only Brendan would be considered anything resembling a power player with Stephen and Sierra being on the short list of least imposing physical competitors this season. Combined with Taj's not running away from the fact that she is very wealthy, none of them should get to the end of the game without such an alliance. While tonight's episode was boring, it is anything but filler if that plan does come to fruition.

Since there isn't any way for us to end this column tastefully by being funny at the expense of an American soldier, we instead like to point out that Coach was fired from his job last week. He claims that they felt he had gone Hollywood. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!