Survivor: Tocantins
The Biggest Fraud in the Game
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 16, 2009

Yes, this will do him a lot of good later.

Survivor fans, watch for our quiz, How Well Do You Know: Survivor: Tocantins, to be published the morning after the series finale!

Previously on Survivor, Joe's leg was gross, which meant the end of his Survivor journey. Coach declared himself the Dragon Slayer (and not satirically), while Taj was willing to dump her super secret merge alliance with Brendan because he hadn't shown her attention lately. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and all that. Also, the tribes merged, and Tyson proved himself to be a master pole grabber, something we've suspected for some time now.

Night 21 finds the Forza tribe sitting under an umbrella, sipping cocktails and enjoying a dream vacation. That's what the delirious ones think they're doing, anyway. The rest of them are sitting under a chintzy parasol, listening to their growling stomachs and thinking about how stupid an idea this was if they don't win the million dollars.

That's okay. Things *can* get worse, as Coach points out. He proceeds to tell the group a story about four foot tall men in the Amazon who tied him up and beat him with clubs. Wait. Hey, that wasn't Coach! That was a scene from the Rundown! Will he next regale them with the story of the time he found out that the warlord he was trying to topple who had chopped off his hand was really his father. Or maybe the time that Mr. Miyagi taught him to be the best around.

The best part of this from our perspective is that this comes 24 hours after Coach said he would never lie to anyone. Brendan gives Coach the same look that we often see Jim give Dwight on The Office. The title of this episode, "The Biggest Fraud in the Game", comes from Brendan's comments about these ridiculous stories. We also hear that Coach was once a princess bride.

Erinn and JT have a conversation wherein they forge an underlying friendship if not quite an alliance. This friendship is predicated on the fact that Erinn has felt as if she would be the next one to go home for awhile now. As a member of the minority tribe, JT can relate. Both of them think that they're part of a majority alliance at the moment, but they're keeping each other in mind if they need a Plan B. We think that they were actually just looking to make small talk in a quiet location far away from Coach.

Probst has arrived! Today's reward challenge is an elaborate version of Toss Across. The tribe is split into three teams of three, who will compete against each other to break a set of tiles placed in eight connected boxes located from five to 30 feet away. The prize is a whitewater rafting trip. No word on whether the four foot midgets with clubs are included in the package. It's a close match-up, but the team of Brendan, Debbie and JT takes the reward. They also get to send one person to Exile Island. Stephen is the lucky guy who gets to spend a little time away from Coach.

Over at Exile Island, Stephen takes an opportunity to practice building a fire. This is probably pretty good strategy since we know that fire building has been established as a tie-breaker in tie votes at Tribal Council. Meanwhile, the Reward Challenge winners are having the time of their lives, and not just because they're not having to listen to Coach recount the horrors that occurred during his time on the Apocalypse Now shoot. Brendan remarks that part of what makes the experience even better for him is the joy he sees on JT's face. Over on Exile Island, we imagine Stephen is having a similar fantasy.

The upshot of Brendan's time with JT is that he decides that he wants to keep JT around all the way to the end if possible. He stays up all night pondering how to make this happen, and sets the game in motion with allies Sierra and Taj. Taj tries to play it cool, but she's so relieved that Brendan called. She was afraid she was just a one night stand, and that he'd forgotten about her to move on to the next conquest.

Tonight's show is flying, because Probst is back before we know it. Tonight's Immunity Challenge has the contestants working through a maze that is made up of obstacles and ropes. In some cases, they have to hurl themselves around as if they're on a jungle gym. Three contestants move on to a final competition, and those three are Tyson, JT and Brendan. We think it's pretty safe to say that those three are easily the biggest Challenge threats at this point, though Sierra is quite a gamer, too - she makes it a close contest to get the third finalist spot.

The final three are all pretty closely matched, but it comes down to Tyson and Brendan in the end. Brendan pulls ahead, but gets himself stuck, which allows Tyson - who is looking weirder and weirder as the game goes on - to take home a second Immunity Challenge in a row. Coach takes a moment to gloat. With Tyson bringing home the Immunity Necklace, Coach is confident that he, the Dragon Slayer, will be sending Brendan, the Dragon, home at the next Tribal Council. Uh, Coach, I hate to point this out to you, but more often than not this season, people who are referenced in the episode title are the ones who go home. Also, there has been an inordinate amount of time spent on Coach this evening. This surely cannot bode well for his chances of hanging around. Then again, there was that time that the four foot midgets were beating him with clubs, and he came out of that sticky situation okay.

To be fair, the vote really could go either way. JT is actually the power player here. One group - Tyson, Coach and Debbie - want him to vote Brendan/Sierra with them, while Brendan and Sierra believe that their super secret post-merge alliance will hold as Taj, Stephen and JT would instead vote with them. Since Brendan is likely the cleverest player there, always playing a few steps ahead, it makes some sense to eliminate him. But JT also has bonded with Brendan and does seem to value integrity...which could spell trouble for Coach.

Coach's stories...sorry, his life experiences, do come up at Tribal Council, and he claims that he has actually *toned them down* for the benefit of his tribemates so as not to be unbelievable. Why, he hasn't even mentioned that his search for a crystal skull ended with the building he was in turning into a spaceship. He does, however, explain some of his actions in this manner:

"The seven layers of heaven with the Vikings were determined on how they were defeated in battle. I want to surround myself with warriors...even if that means that they defeat me, I think that's the honorable way to play this game."

He gets a lot of funny looks for that one. Seriously, his comedy value is through the roof tonight. Now he's just confused Norse mythology with a WB television show about a minister with seven kids.

Though we make fun of Coach, he's the big winner (we will not say Dragon Slayer) in the end. Somehow, he does manage to rally the group to follow the Brendan/Sierra voting plan (Brendan receives four votes, while Sierra receives three). Because Brendan is confident enough not to play the Immunity Idol he has, he is the one sent home, which was pretty unexpected, frankly. We're really curious to see how Taj explains the logic of this play. In her alliance with Brendan, she was looking at Final Three at minimum and most likely Final Two. In the current configuration, we don't see how she's anything better than fourth. Of course, things can change, but we're just not too sure how she can feel confident about her situation as it stands at the moment.

For Brendan's part, he's a really good sport with his parting words. He notes that it feels good to blind side someone - and acknowledges that he had wanted to do exactly the same thing. It's refreshing to finally not hear sour grapes from someone who got outplayed, and who actually gives credit to the people who "got" him. He'll be sorely missed, though, as he was one of the most likable members of a borderline cast.