Survivor: South Pacific
He Has Demons
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
September 26, 2011

Surly only looks out for Surly.

Can you please call me Van Nest? You always call your favorite Survivor Analysts by their last name, so can I be Van Nest? Thanks!

Hello, good people. This is Van Nest reporting for Survivor: South Pacific. The first episode of the 23rd season of Survivor did not disappoint. The extra 30 minutes in the running time allowed us to get a glimpse into some of the personalities we'll be rooting for (or rooting against) for the next 13 weeks. We already knew a lot about Coach and Ozzy, so we got to spend a lot of time with John "Please call me" Cochran and Brandon "Don't call me Russell" Hantz. The former is a self proclaimed Survivor nerd whose weak challenge performance and weaker Tribal Council performance almost made him the first person voted off the island. The latter is trying his best to escape the shadow of his villainous uncle Russell. And what better way to do that than to lie about who you are while you stalk the pretty girls? We got to meet others, but let's be real; none of them merit mention before the new episode begins.

Previews for tonight suggest that after his brush with Survivor death, Cochran has turned over a new leaf and is determined to be the hardest worker around camp. But will that stop his tribe from going to Tribal Council a second time in a row? And if they go back, will he be able to escape the wrath of Ozzy? Also, the Hantz secret is really weighing on Brandon and it appears he's ready to break after a whopping four days in the game. And of all people to confide in, it seems that Coach will be the person to mentor the young Hantz in the ways of Dragon Slaying. Whatever happens, it's sure to be a doozy of an episode, so without further ado, let's get to it.

The episode begins the way the last episode ends...with Semhar arriving at Redemption Island. After crying some more about how those mean ol' Survivor players just sent her away, she recites some poetry and we leave Redemption for the friendly confines of Savaii beach.

As they get back to camp, Cochran thanks everyone for keeping him around. He tells us that he had a horrible Tribal Council and that he really has to change if he wants to stay around. Ozzy tells us they decided to keep him around in hopes that he can change. If not, he could be next to go. We then join Keith and Ozzy as they plan strategy. They've decided that if they get Jim, the three of them could run the show. Keith tells us that despite his alliance with Ozzy, he still feels like he needs to keep a close eye on him.

We come back from break for our first look at Upolu and Coach and Edna are chatting. Coach thanks her for having his back from the beginning. He tells us that he feels he's in a good place in the tribe and even though she's not in his alliance, he likes Edna and wants to keep her close. Talk comes to the immunity idol and whether or not anyone has found it. Edna suggests that maybe someone did because no one is looking any more. She tells us that as one of the weaker players, she needs to hook up with someone who can help her. Someone like Coach. Coach confirms with us that he does feel the need to protect her if at all possible.

Over at Savaii, it's the dawning of a new era of Cochran. He tells us that his mom will be upset that he's handling a machete without supervision. Cochran tells us that Cochran will do what Cochran has to do, no matter what Cochran's mother would think. In other words, honey badger don't care. As Cochran's patting himself on the back, Ozzy has decided to go idol hunting. He starts scaling trees, like only Ozzy can. And after a little bit, he finds a weird rock hidden in a tree. When he removes the rock, he finds a little package. And there you have it...all the talk about how idols were going to be harder to find...and yet another idol is found without a clue. I mean seriously, people, are you even trying? Ozzy stashes his new idol in a new spot and heads back to camp.

We come back to Upolu again and Coach and Brandon are chatting about how cold it was last night. Brandon tells us how much he respects Coach as an honorable player he's been in the past. He says that it feels hypocritical of him to want to play honorably with Coach while hiding the fact that he's Russell's nephew. So as they're walking, he shows Coach the tattoo and Coach's jaw drops. Coach remembers how Russell told him that he's a man of God and they'll play together and then he voted his ass out. How can he believe Brandon? Brandon tells Coach that he gains nothing by letting him in on the secret and admits that it could completely screw up his game. They pray a little and then hug it out. Coach tells us that either he'll be duped...again...on Survivor, or there will be redemption for the Hantz family.

Back at Savaii, Ozzy and Keith are heading out to fish with Jim. They don't get too far from shore when strategy talk comes up. Jim wants them to be part of his "three plus two" plan. The three guys will be the core of this alliance and the two hotties, Elise and Whitney" will be the "plus two" to help them get to the merge and beyond. Keith doesn't bother to mention that he and Ozzy had already talked about this. He's happy to let Jim think this is all his idea and that he's running the show. Switch to Jim telling us about how this is all his idea and that he's running the show.

Back at Upolu, the guys and Mikayla go out to catch some fish. She tells us that she's an athlete and a tomboy. She doesn't feel that she's a girly girl, but she is a strong person and that will help her in the game. As she's talking about being taken seriously as a strong player, Brandon tells us how he calls her "Parvati" because she's using her seductive ways to get farther in the game. Ya know, seductive ways like fishing and thatching the shelter roof and being one of the strongest female players we've seen. The problem is, she's doing it her underwear. And the purple little underwear shorts things she has on makes Brandon feel weird in his private parts. And we just can't have that. He's a happily married man, so naturally, the hot half nekkid chick is sure to be pulled into his manliness like a tractor beam. With that in mind, she has to go. Her lone crime is that she looks good and makes Brandon feel funny in his shorts. I'm not playing, the way they're editing this and what he's saying makes him seem like a frickin' stalker AT BEST. He keeps talking about transgressions of the past and he can't trust her and things like that, it actually makes me a little scared for her safety on this show.

While Brandon plots Mikayla's demise, Christine is back at camp trying to find the hidden idol clue. As the others talk about the idol, they all acknowledge that she's looking hard core. After a while, she stumbles onto Stacey's tree, only she finds the idol clue. The clue says it's near the jungle by the beach and that it's just barely out of reach. Naturally, she decides to keep that clue to herself in hopes that she'll find the idol.

Probst sighting! As Upolu arrives at the challenge, they're all eating the same fruit to send a message to the other tribe that they, um, eat fruit together and stuff. Anyway, today's challenge starts with four people tied to ribbons that have been braided around a huge pole. Those four will need to unravel the ribbons to release a key. They'll use that key to release the rest of the tribe and those people will work on a very heavy puzzle. Aside from immunity, the tribes are playing for some comforts, including pillows, blankets, bedding and blankets. Oh yeah, and a useless immunity idol clue. Upolu sits out Edna for this challenge. Savaii puts Cochran, Dawn, Whitney and Elise on the pole. Upolu has Stacey, Christine, Sophie and Mikayla on the pole. I can't imagine what the thought of Mikaya on the pole is doing to Brandon. As the challenge begins, the Upolu women have it going on, while Savaii is having a hard time with it. Very quickly, Upolu has their key and they've released the men to work on the puzzle. Several minutes later, Savaii finally releases their puzzle movers. While we can't really tell who's running the show on either tribe, what we can tell is that Savaii has not only closed the gap, but surpassed Upolu on the puzzle portion of the challenge. And after a few more seconds, Savaii completes their puzzle and they win immunity and reward. As they head back to camp, Brandon assures us that he will get rid of Mikayla.

We come back to Upolu as Coach compliments the women on completely rocking in the challenge. Christine tells us that the guys were not moving with enough urgency. We join Coach and crew in strategy sessions. He's afraid of the idol so he wants to split the vote between Christine and Stacey. He hasn't forgotten the "temporary players" thing from the first day. Brandon then tells Coach that Mikayla has to go because he's a married man. Coach tells us that Mikayla is by far their strongest female player and getting rid of her is not smart. Coach tells us that he thinks Brandon has some demons that he's dealing with. Uh...ya think?!?

Coach rallies the troops to say that he feels that Mikayla has to stay because the next challenge is all that matters. As Mikayla walks up, Coach asks her to give them some privacy. Mikayla is blown away that she might be a target. Christine corners Edna to find out what they were all talking about. As Edna fumbles her way through answering that question, Christine is thinking Edna may be the vote. Brandon then goes to Christine and Stacey and tells them to vote Mikayla. No one understands why he wants Mikayla gone so badly. Coach feels very strongly that Christine should be the one to go. Brandon tells Coach that Christine and Stacey are planning to vote for Mikayla. He feels bad for lying to Coach, but he wants Mikayla gone that bad. As we head to Tribal, Coach seems to think his "splitting the vote" plan is still in effect, but honestly, I have NO idea what's going on.

Jeff starts by asking Brandon if he made a good first impression. He feels like he has, he's worked hard and been nice to everyone. Coach felt his first impression was pretty bad, but he feels like he's fit in a little more now. And then in typical Coach fashion calls out Christine and Stacey as voting for Mikayla. They both jump down his throat saying they never told him anything. Naturally, his statement is based on Brandon's lie. Mikayla is obviously nervous about hearing her name. Now we go back and forth on whom Coach heard about the Mikayla vote from and they argue back and forth about Coach's honesty and loyalty. And out of nowhere, someone named Albert speaks. And he makes sense. He mentions that by NOT saying who told him, Coach is demonstrating his loyalty and honesty. I assume we'll hear from Albert again in a few episodes.

Coach tells Jeff that he's seen Christine looking for the idol quite a bit. She says this must mean that he's afraid of her. Jeff suggests that it could be because she said he was a temporary player. As we argue more about the whole Mikayla vote thing, Brandon finally helps everyone by admitting that he told them to vote Mikayla and that he lied to Coach. For the second time this episode, Coach's mouth drops. He is visibly blown away to learn that Brandon is already lying to him. Albert gets a second chance to speak and he mentions that it's interesting to see personalities coming out and that eventually, the real person will come out in everyone. For the first time in a long time, I still have no idea who's going home.

Jeff's gonna tally those votes for us. He asks for a hidden idol and no one has it. So let's get to it. First vote: Sophie (huh?) Then Edna (huh again?) Then Christine and Stacey. Fifth and sixth vote are Christine and Stacey. Seventh and Eighth vote are Christine and Stacey. How about that, Coach's split the vote plan actually did work. And the final vote goes to Christine and she becomes the second person sent to Redemption Island.

I have to hand it to this year's two votes; they booted exactly the same people I would have booted. And they happen to be two of the more annoying people in the cast. I applaud this cast for doing their part to make my viewing of the season more enjoyable.

Next time on Survivor: Ozzy seems to be the focal point for Savaii and Brandon's meltdown looks like it'll only get worse. Awesome, another Hantz that seems to crave the camera. Until next week, take care.