Survivor: Tocantins
By Jim Van Nest
May 8, 2009

I'll betray anyone! Just don't pick me! C'mon, you can trust me.

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

Hello, good people, and welcome back to the BOP Survivor: Tocantins recap. Your normal hosts for Survivor action, David and Kim, are off tonight and they've dragged me out of retirement to handle tonight's Survivor episode.

Previously on Survivor, the people that I like on the show are being exterminated one at a time. I was a huge Brendan fan...gone. I thought Tyson was absolutely hilarious and had the makings of one of the great Survivor players...gone. Sierra was, pound for pound, one of the fiercest competitors ever to grace Survivor Island, but after 30 days of bucking the odds, last week Sierra finally got her ticket punched.

So, by my count we're left with Stephen, the brains of the outfit; JT, who's playing the good ole boy shtick to perfection; Taj, my favorite R&B singing NFLer's wife; Erinn, who is now considered "most likely to be the finalist that has to answer the annual riding coattails questions"; Debbie, the middle school principal who is teaching her students all new kinds of lessons in lying and deceit; and Coach. Ah yes, Coach. I've gone back and forth on Coach for the bulk of this season. I've got it narrowed down to one of two things. He's either the biggest lying, scam artist, jagoff in the history of the show OR he's certifiably psychotic and actually believes the bullshit he spews on a weekly basis. The more time goes by, the more I think it's the latter.

That being said, Coach is the least of the worries of the power players this season. He's nothing, if not predictable. At this point, Stephen and JT have to be looking at Debbie as a huge threat and then at each other. But in all the seasons of Survivor, this may be the sole two-man alliance that actually stands the test of the game and runs the table. Of course, before that can happen, we have to get to tonight's episode. So, without further ado...

We join the Survivors after the Sierra vote and Coach is spewing a diatribe about Taj and Erinn being cowards for voting for Debbie and Stephen respectively. He goes into a speech about how people are not even half as honest as he is and he can't stand it. As he drones on and on, even Debbie has had enough of him. She tries to get him to stop and finally just gets up and heads back to the fire. As Coach laments the cowards in his midst, we go to the opening credits.

As the sun comes up, we join Taj making the daily fire in HER LAP of all places. Kids, don't try this at home. Your best bet is to keep the fire on the ground. As she plays Russian Flamette, Debbie tells us how she thinks it's time to get rid of Coach. She hits Taj and JT about getting rid of Coach as he's gone in a direction she was not ready for. As she goes on and on to JT, JT is telling us how he thinks Debbie is playing a very strategic game and she seems to have her game face on now. Stephen is also a little weary of Debbie and as he and JT discuss it, Debbie steps up to let them know that she considers her alliance with Stephen and JT...not Coach. As Stephen speaks of his concerns about Debbie, it's time for a...

Probst Sighting! Aside from that, it's Survivor Auction Time!!! Each player has $500 to buy items with. While this is usually the same every time, some rules have changed this time around. No sharing money or food. So, once your $500 is's gone. And we will have no repeats of the Randy and Sugar cookie fiasco from last season. And let's get to it...

The first item is some French fries. After explaining to Debbie what "$20 increments" means, she finally buys them for $120. The next item is chicken Parmesan and JT raises Coach up to $320 and the meal is sold. Third item is a mystery item. JT and Stephen go against each other and JT wins out for $160. Lift the lid and we have a big plate of nachos. Next is another covered item and again it's Stephen and JT. Stephen wins it for $100 and he is now the proud owner of a skewer of chicken hearts. They're cooked; so overall, it's not a bad item. Especially when you consider the supposed protein content in chicken hearts. That may turn out to be not too bad for Stephen. Final item is a recorded cell phone message from a loved one. On this one, Jeff says, people can pool their money. As soon as he says that, JT takes the lead and then everyone takes their money and hands it over to Taj. Cue the waterworks. After many tears and a few more mentions of Sprint, Taj finally gets to see her message. Overall, it's the typical message from home, except her message is from a future NFL Hall of Famer. Another mentionable is how the message ends. Eddie says, "See you back at the camp." And amazingly one catches it. Jeff finally asks Taj if she heard that last line. Taj still doesn't get it and as Jeff continues the light bulb goes on and so do the waterworks, all over again. Jeff tells Taj that she has a decision to make. She can either go back to camp with Eddie or she can make a sacrifice so everyone gets to see their loved ones. The decision is really not a decision and the sacrifice is not really a sacrifice as Taj can go to Exile with Eddie and everyone will have a loved one back at camp. Naturally, that's the choice she makes and everyone excitedly hurries back to camp.

We come back from break to see Taj greeted at Exile by Eddie. After much crying, hugging and stuff, we head back to camp to meet Stephen's brother, Debbie's husband, JT's sister, Erinn's dad and Coach' coach? Of all of the family visits, it's all pretty much standard stuff, except for Coach. He's telling his guy that everyone calls him the dragon slayer and that he's running the game. Then they do some stretching and back popping. So, um...yeah. That concludes the visit from loved ones...back to the game.

We come back from break the morning of Day 32 and there's more talk of booting Coach. Debbie is basically trying to tell JT how to run the game and he's feeling a little uncomfortable about that. Next up, Coach joins the conversation and targets Taj. JT plays a masterful hand right here as he makes Coach feel like he's with him, but he never does actually lie to him. He then tells us that he's not on the same page with Coach and that he feels a couple steps ahead of him. Next we see Debbie bringing Erinn into the fold on the Coach vote. She tells them all about how it has to be a blindside and how Coach will completely feel betrayed by her.

Debbie then lays down her complete strategy. She wants Coach gone now, then Erinn, then Taj. She goes so far as to tell Stephen and JT that if they get to the final three and she has immunity, that she would hand it over to them and accept third place. She swears that she'll be happy with third place. Stephen and JT both like the sound of that, but neither one of them believes she'll actually keep that promise. Like JT says, "No one wants third place in this game." So we head to the immunity challenge with the simple goal of not letting Coach or Debbie win.

Today's challenge starts off as an obstacle course. They will dig under a log, walk a balance beam, go under a rope crawl and then they'll come to a rotating set of mathematic symbols. Once there, they'll need to memorize those symbols and bring them back to a big equation. They'll use the signs to find an answer to the equation. First person with the correct answer wins. Survivors ready?

JT jumps to the early lead and is studying symbols before anyone else even gets under the log. Debbie is the next one under the log and JT is back with his first set of memorized symbols. He enters them all and then heads back out for the rest. Meanwhile, Coach, Taj and Stephen have all gotten under the log. Stephen then gets stuck on the balance beam, while JT makes his way back to the symbols. As Coach and JT head back to the puzzle, Erinn finally gets under the log and Stephen finally makes it over the beam. JT is back and now has all of the symbols and is working the equation. Coach enters his first set of symbols and heads back out. Stephen finally heads back to the problem after staring at the symbols for a long time. As Debbie and JT work on their puzzle, Stephen is adding all of the symbols on the first pass. As you would expect from a mathematical mind like Stephen's, he breezes through the equation and finishes just seconds before JT. Jeff comes over to check it out and his answer is...correct. Stephen wins immunity and has a one in five chance of winning the million dollars.

After what has transpired so far tonight, I can't believe I'm actually writing the recap on the night we get to play, "It's Anyone But Coach!" The only way it could be better is if I get to say, "And it's unanimous. Coach is the 11th person voted off of Survivor: Tocantins." Anyway, we come back to camp and everyone heads down to the river to wash all the sand off. Stephen tells us that he's amazed that he and Taj and JT were down six to three at one point and they are now completely running the game. As the Jalapao three are rinsing off, they talk about Debbie being a major strategic threat. Honestly, this three-person alliance is looking pretty damned solid...but as JT tells us, not even Taj knows what's really going on. After she takes off, Stephen and JT begin to discuss keeping Debbie around because she's more useful around camp and they really don't want any more days with Coach. Speak of the devil; Coach comes down for his reassurance that Taj is next. JT tells us that it's hard because he doesn't want to lie to him. And them we see Coach giving them a reality check. One of the three of them will be the winner of this game. And then JT tells us that he hates having to lie to people and that he likes to vote them off before he has to lie to them. Next up is a scene well edited to make us all believe that we know who is going home. JT and Stephen talking about being okay with tonight and discussing how they think it's the best move for them. The thing that worries me now is that they're talking about what a masterful game they're playing. And as it usually goes, when you start talking about how great you are that's when you get stabbed in the back. And with that, it's time for Tribal.

HILARIOUS!!!! Brendan, Tyson and Sierra all come into the jury box wearing feathers in their hair and carrying a jacket over their shoulder. And of course, you can see Coach swell up with pride. The dude is honestly delusional. I have to admit, I'm starting to feel bad for him now. I really don't think he realizes that these folks think he's a joke. As we get into the Tribal questions, there's more talk about Coach wanting to take the best players to the end. Coach talks about how great Stephen has been playing and that Debbie is playing the game with integrity, just like him. He says he paired up with Debbie on Day Three and he trusts her completely. As talk turns to Coach being a warrior, Jeff suggests that some chief in some tribe must have called him that. That provides a quick laugh for everyone and then it's back to blowing smoke. He talks about how great a person Taj is and how she deserves to be there. Of course, he's planning to vote for her. Next up is JT and why should Coach go to the end. JT and Debbie lay it on pretty thick about how honest Coach has been and how that could be his weakness. Everyone in the room knows he's not honest and everyone in the room knows that Coach is the butt of the joke tonight. Well, everyone but Coach that is. And with that, it's time to vote.

The first vote is Coach voting for Taj. He actually has something nice to say as he says that she is a beautiful soul. The next vote we see is Debbie voting for Coach saying that she hopes he forgives her. And I'll go tally the votes. First vote is Coach's vote for Taj. Second vote is Debbie's vote for Coach. And the last four votes all go to Debbie. I'll admit that as much as I wanted to be the one to write that Coach was voted off...Debbie was the smart play here. She WAY overplayed her hand today and she made everyone around her nervous. You can't have someone playing the game that hard out there as she was a wild card. Her next target likely would have been JT.

Next time on Survivor: Erinn seems to be falling out of favor with the Jalapaos. And Coach is quoting Pat Benatar. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what the hell that has to do with anything.