Survivor: Tocantins
It's Funny When People Cry
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 23, 2009

Celebrate good times, come on!

Previously on Survivor, Coach started lying and he just couldn't stop. By the end of the episode, he was the Count of Symphonia, a three-time bowling world champion, and the inspiration for Harry Potter. For all these reasons and more, Brendan was voted off the island. In the real world, Coach would have been beaten up by security and escorted out of the building. On this show, he has a decent chance to be propped along all the way up to the final vote. Survivor is a weird game.

Brendan's dismissal means that overachiever Sierra is probably at the end of her run. After believing herself to be one of the first two people voted off even prior to arriving at camp, the California girl has proven herself to be feisty and pound for pound, one of the strongest competitors in physical challenges. She is suffering from the same affliction Sugar faced last season, though. No one seems willing to dissociate their perception of her from the reality. Brendan was her only true ally, although she is theoretically still in an alliance with Taj and Stephen. Unfortunately, this seems a lot like being a teammate of Terrell Owens.

Back at the island, it's not enough that Tyson managed to get rid of Brendan. He's got to mess with Sierra a little bit in the process. He talks about how awesome he was for pulling off the surprise vote in Brendan, and Sierra acknowledges that she knows she's next to go and if they can just be decent to each other for the next couple of days, that would be swell. Meanwhile, Erinn is just happy that the negative attention has been on someone besides her for awhile. She's like the nerdy kid who's totally pleased that a bully has found a new weakling to pound on.

Posted without comment: "Everyone out here has lied except for me." --Coach

The following morning, after Coach talks about how amazing he is for orchestrating Brendan's removal, we hear from the real brains of the game. JT discusses how he and Stephen have manipulated circumstances to the point where they are power players behind the scenes. His play has really been quite masterful. Other players would really believe that Tyson and Coach are in control of the game, but JT has been quietly making sure that things go in a way that favors him. The subtext has been very understated over the past couple of episodes. Most people, including the people playing the game, would believe that Coach and Tyson - who can claim that everyone except Sierra followed their plan in the previous week - have established some dominance in the group. If you look a little deeper, it appears that there's a lot more than that going on.

We hear JT tell the camera that he'll be more than happy to vote out Sierra next, and then Tyson has a rather nasty conversation with Sierra about how much she sucks and he can't wait to get rid of her ass at the next Tribal Council. The Survivor folks sure are working hard to make us think Sierra's situation is hopeless. You know what that means? Anyone else will be next to go.

It's time for Probst: The Probstening! The Reward Challenge splits the tribe into two teams of four. Each team must retrieve four boards with holes in them and then place them in the spot that matches up to the pattern at the bottom. Once all four boards are in their proper spots, then each team must flip them around until they can look through the holes and observe some vowels. These vowels will combine with a bunch of consonants (already revealed) to form a phrase. First team to solve the puzzle wins a feast.

Frankly, it's not even close. The team of JT, Tyson, Debbie and Erinn destroys the other group, and they select Stephen to go to Exile Island (JT reasons that his friend can find the Immunity Idol left behind by Brendan). We love Probst a little bit more when he gleefully rubs a little salt in Coach's wound over missing out on the past couple of awards. Coach looks like he's eating glass, and doesn't even have the acuity to claim that he'd already done it all before.

The team that won reward gets to eat A LOT of food. Seriously, they gorge themselves. And that would be fine if a bunch of Brazilians didn't ask them to participate in a martial arts dance afterwards. Erinn in particular has some issues, and she gets pretty queasy. She literally loses her lunch. She should probably be very, very careful, as we know that vomiting is a key fatal flaw in Survivor. When you throw up, your chances of getting voted off the island increase exponentially. She still has it better than Stephen over at Exile Island, who quickly realizes that Brendan's Immunity Idol has not been re-hidden.

We return to Sierra as she tries to work her way back into the good graces of some tribemates. It's a hail mary pass to be sure, but she's got to try. She talks to Debbie a bit, but quickly realizes that the school principal is not going to be swayed from her alliance with Coach and Tyson. She'll stick with them to the bitter end, most likely. Okay, so that's Tyson, Coach, Debbie and JT who have all said they're voting for Sierra. That's half of the votes already. And honestly, though we think she's been a gamer so far, Sierra gets pretty whiny at this point. We appreciate that she's still playing the game, but in a conversation with Coach, she just seems pathetic more than anything.

Probst returns! The Immunity Challenge is essentially shuffleboard, which is only slight awesome than a curling contest would be. But wait! There's a twist. Anyone who feels comfortable about their position in the game can choose to eat pizza instead of competing. The ones who choose pizza are Stephen, Coach and JT. Uh, Coach, this is not what men do. Especially not honorable men.

Tyson agrees with us, but he does it in the bitchiest way possible. Waaaaaaaaaah! Coach didn't participate in the challenge! Waaaaaaah! I didn't get pizza! Waaaaaaaah! I should be eating pizza! Waaaaaaaah! Why didn't you people bow down before my greatness and give me your pizza! Etc.

In the pouring rain, the game is fairly competitive. Sierra celebrates when she knocks Tyson's final puck out of the way and positions herself closest to the goal, but then Debbie follows up by hitting Sierra's puck and winning the challenge. So at this point, the show has worked hard to make us believe that Sierra is out, and with Tyson, Coach and Debbie having tonight's Idol in their hands, it's looking pretty grim for her, which means...

It's time to play It's Anyone But Sierra.

Sometimes the producers of the show have a wicked sense of humor. They give us hope that the game might go a different way than expected when they show Tyson saying, "There's nothing awesomer than seeing somebody celebrate before the game is over."

And lo and behold, we cut to Stephen discussing the possibility of voting out Tyson. He notes that Tyson has been a strong physical threat in Immunity Challenges and that this might be their only opportunity to get rid of him. Erinn seems to be up for the swerve, as does Taj. When Stephen broaches the subject with JT, the cattle rancher agrees that it could be a solid play, but he really dislikes Sierra. We'd love to believe that a blindside is a real possibility, but we've been fooled by Survivor before. Still, we're praying to the Gods of Survivor to get Tyson the hell off the island.

At Tribal Council, the biggest news is how determined Tyson is to antagonize Brendan and Sierra, the two people he believes are the first two jury members. Since it also seems important to him to win Survivor, we're really not sure what his motivation is. He's definitely not someone who's going into the end zone like he's been there before. And it certainly smacks of "celebrating before the game is over."

Further discussion has Coach go into a bunch of hoo-ha about how he wants to go to battle with the most honorable and worthy people. When Jeff asks him why he eliminated Brendan, he...doesn't have a good explanation, other than going back to that dragon/dragon slayer crap. When he struts (really) over to the voting area and writes Sierra's name down, he says that at the last Tribal Council, he slew the dragon. This time, he's taking out the dragon's bride and getting rid of the princess. We think he's obsessing over Super Mario Bros, but doesn't understand the logistics of the game. Is he pro-Bowser or anti-Bowser?

When Probst tallies the votes, something awesome happens. Sierra gets a few votes, sure, but you know who gets more? Tyson. And no one is more surprised than Sierra. Okay, maybe Tyson, Coach and Debbie are just as surprised, but we really never believed in the notion that Tyson could be the one voted out. We wonder what the conversations over at loser island between Tyson and Brendan will be like. Heh heh.