Survivor: Caramoan - Episode 11
Come Over to the Dark Side
By Ben Willoughby
April 25, 2013

Never ever ever claim you're taking control of the game.

Previously on Survivor, there were the Three Amigos and the “unbreakable” seven of Stealth R Us. But the Three Amigos were ready to make a big move, and you know how Probst loves big moves. I imagine him making pelvic thrusts all through his voiceover.

Anyway, Reynold won immunity (pelvic thrust!), Malcolm found another idol (bigger pelvic thrust!) and then played both his idols (pelvic thrust so big that Probst throws his back out!) to protect Eddie. Malcolm declared that Phillip was the “fun sponge," but only Erik decided to vote with the Three Amigos so even though Phillip is gone they are still down 5-4 at best. And Erik is flaky, so 5-3 really.

I’ve read a few interviews by the departed Phillip about the reasons why Malcolm voted him out – basically Phillip’s version of events is that Malcolm thought Phillip was going to win the game, and that’s why he blew two hidden immunity idols to get Phillip out. It is no surprise that Phillip thinks Malcolm's reason for engineering his elimination was “Phillip is too awesome."

But more realistically is that last week’s Tribal Council was basically a Hail Mary pass by Malcolm. He felt he needed to do something that would change the game, and getting rid of the guy who everyone wanted to take to the end would certainly get everyone to re-think their strategy. I’m not saying it was a perfect strategic play by Malcolm, but it’s the strategy he went with and it wasn't a horrible one given his limited options.

Phillip was never in danger of ruining Malcolm’s game by winning it for himself, but Phillip could have ruined it by being the obnoxious character he created so that he would make it to the end. Anyway, will the Hail Mary pass work? Probably not, because there are plenty more potential Phillips left in the game.

The castaways arrive back at camp. They all seem remarkably chipper for a group who just had a divisive Tribal Council where the leader of their alliance was basically blind-sided. It’s almost as though they are not really that unhappy Phillip is gone! “What a night. That was incredible. You did a good job,” congratulates Dawn, while giving Reynold a hug.

Reynold tells everyone that it was worth three immunity idols to get Phillip off the island and Andrea breaks out laughing. Cochran will just be glad if he never hears the phrase “Stealth R Us” again. “Thank God,” says more than one person. Dawn and Andrea, I think. Eddie declares that he did not actually dislike Phillip, except for Phillip’s head and ego being too big to fit under the shelter. I wonder what Eddie thought about Phillip’s id?

Anyway, Malcolm interviews that with Phillip gone, he hopes that the six will fracture and one or two of them will “come over to the dark side with me and the Three Amigos." Full respect to Malcolm for admitting that his alliance is evil. He also realizes that if those six stick together, he doesn’t have a chance in this game.

Erik is also pleased that Phillip is gone, because it opens up a lot more opportunities for him to talk to people that he wasn’t allowed to talk with while Phillip was around. Erik is especially pleased, because it means he’ll be able to choose at the last minute which option is best for him. As we’ve seen on past seasons, Erik doesn’t have a lot of form on making good decisions at the last minute while under pressure. So why does he relish it, exactly?

Next morning it’s Day 29, and we get a lot of footage of despondent, miserable castaways. Cochran said that last night’s Tribal Council left him “breathless” and “terrified,” and now this morning “people are really hungry and spirits have been low.” Brenda breaks down in sobs and Dawn comforts her by saying that they’ve been through a lot, like the Brandon days and the Phillip days, so... every day so far in the game. Shouldn’t they be happy now?

Then we get an interview from Brenda about how scary she found the huge surprises at last night’s Tribal Council, and how “losing control of the game was terrifying.” Brenda thinks she is in control of the game? In her defense, Brenda hasn’t seen her edit yet. But even so, now she’s worried because “there’s a lot more uncertainty of what these boys are capable of.”

After the break, Cochran announces tree-mail, and Dawn holds up envelopes with a grin. It’s time for Cochran, as a fan of the show, to tell us what the envelopes mean. Survivor food auction! Why doesn’t one of the “fans” tell us this? And I’m sorry to keep on with the mocking of the “fans” and making air quotes every time I describe them as “fans”, but every time there’s an interview with someone about being a fan of the show, Cochran is the interviewer’s go-to guy.

Isn’t it telling that I can't recall a single “fan” interview about what having a genuine Survivor experience means to them as a fan of Survivor? Wouldn’t that be what you’d want out of a Fans vs. Favorites season? Has there been a single “fan” interview that went “I couldn’t believe I was in an actual immunity challenge!” or “so this is what Tribal Council feels like” or “that was my challenge performance Probst mocked! I’m part of Survivor history!”?

Whatever else can be said about Cochran – and there is plenty to be said about Cochran – he is a true fan who is genuinely excited to be on the show and he has a passion for Survivor that none of these so-called “fans” have. You’d think each season, whoever casts Survivor would be actively looking for several people like Cochran (or Malcolm) who know the game and would be living their actual dreams to play it. Instead, we get maybe one real fan every second season or so, and returning castaways.

Anyway, Malcolm interrupts my diatribe to explain that at Survivor auctions there is usually some clue or advantage in the game up for grabs – as he learned from Abi last season - and he intends to get it.

Probst sighting! Survivor auction! Normal rules – bids are in increments of $20, no sharing money, no sharing food, it will end without warning.

First item includes a beer and Malcolm is immediately in for $20! In interview, he narrates about what a dope he was and how he had been “prepping myself for hours and I might have just shot himself in the foot for a beer and some nuts." That’s what you get when you take a course in impulse control from Michael Skupin. Probst asks Malcolm to drink, and Malcolm drains a bottle while Eddie stares longingly as though Malcolm is naked Kate Upton.

The next item will be auctioned blind, and Reynold eventually wins it with a bid of $180. But there’s a twist – Reynold can exchange the still-covered item, for another covered item, or a third one. Cochran says it’s the Monty Hall problem and Reynold should switch. “I don’t trust you, Cochran,” says Reynold and he sticks. “Don’t you? Oh.” Cochran doesn’t care.

Good news for Reynold, he did not buy a rotten coconut; he did buy a slice of pizza. What he did not buy was the rest of the pizza. Sherri immediately bids $500 for the rest of the pizza and after Probst recovers from the surprise it is sold. “Don’t you think there might be something else down the road?” asks Probst. “I don’t care.”

Next up is a whole roast chicken, which Dawn buys for $500. Reynold thought it might be a bat. Heh. Then it’s information that will help you in this game. Malcolm immediately bids $480, and there’s a tense moment, but no one has the gonads to raise to $500. Malcolm has 60 seconds to read directions to a hidden immunity idol.

The next item is covered. Brenda tentatively bids $100, Andrea ups the bid to $200 and Brenda’s voice cracks as she explains to Probst about how she doesn’t want to take risks. Erik is in for $260 and Andrea bids $280, and she gets spaghetti, garlic bread and even a big glass of wine.

But there’s a dilemma – she can either keep the meal with all that tasty, tasty garlic bread, oh my God I’m going to go and make some garlic bread right now, or she can trade it for a bag of beans and rice. Andrea does the only thing she really can and trades for beans and rice. If I were Probst I would have started tucking into that garlic bread right there in front of everyone. After toasting everyone with my brimming glass of wine.

Next up is an advantage in the next immunity challenge. Reynold bids $300, Brenda $320 and Cochran wins the bid with $340. No bid from Eddie, the dum-dum. He’s probably thrilled some guy gave him a wad of bills and wondering “Why is Sherri spending $500 on pizza? It’s like $5 a slice at Sbarro, dude!” Cochran collects a sealed note which he will read out at the challenge.

Next item! Brenda, who has missed out on everything she has bid on so far, bids $300 on what turns out to be pig brains. That’s what happens when you take risks, Brenda. She tries a bite before remembering she doesn’t eat pork. “It’s good for you, right?” she asks Probst. “I have no idea,” says Probst. So much not caring at this auction.

Next item, letters from loved ones, available to anyone willing to spend $20. Sucks to be you Dawn, Sherri and Malcolm.

The last item is covered and comes with a twist. Brenda bids $180 and Eddie wins with $200 and it turns out to be a big tub of peanut butter, to be shared by the entire tribe. They have 60 seconds to dig in and they don’t need much encouragement to shovel scoopfuls into their mouths. Sherri peanut butter-fingers Cochran in a phrase you didn’t want to read and I didn’t want to write. “You see that?” Cochran showboats to Probst. “How often does that happen?” “More often than you’d think!” Apparently Cochran isn’t as worried about oral herpes as he was in his first season.

Before we go to break, Dawn gives a grumbling interview about how everyone is freaked out about the wealth of idols played at the last Tribal Council and now they have another idol clue. “Because of that arrogance,” she spits, “they’ll give a sense of ‘whatever they do, we’ll outplay them’ so go with us."

Back at camp after the break, everyone still has peanut butter smeared all over their hands and face and they are still licking it off, and scraping it into a bucket for later. Reynold gives one of his glass-half-full interviews about how morale is a complete 180 from before the auction. All of the letter readers make plans to sit on the beach, and there is yet another (!) interview with Brenda, who has tears streaking down her peanut-buttered face. Even Cochran starts blubbing in relief that he is not an emotion-less Survivor-playing robot after all.

Malcolm looks awkward, like he wants to sneak away and look for the idol – which is totally what he should be doing while everyone is distracted! He doesn’t, though. Instead he and Reynold start talking with Sherri. “Keep hanging tough and stick with us,” says Reynold, as though he and Sherri have not been nemeses from Day 1. Reynold is the Chevy Chase of the Three Amigos. “You all better pull something out of your butt,” is what Sherri tells him.

Anyway, Reynold tells Sherri that with her and Erik, the Three Amigos could go all the way. “We need to talk,” Sherri says. “Not right now,” says Malcolm, because everyone is sitting down on the beach in near-earshot. “Think we’ll be able to get her?” Reynold asks Malcolm later. Malcolm says “yes, but let me deal with it." Ha! Eddie and Reynold are assigned to work on Erik, which indicates Malcolm thinks working on Erik would be a waste of time.

Sherri interviews about the vibe at camp, with all of these muscle-men threatening to dominate every challenge and throwing around immunity idols all over the place, and how you can’t help thinking “that they are unbeatable. And if you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em."

That night, Malcolm sneaks off into the jungle, and Andrea watches him go. Malcolm has followed the directions to the hidden immunity idol, and seems to have been there a while – or at least enough time for the camera to switch from night vision to all-grey twilight vision – when Andrea and Cochran walk in on him. “I love the smell of fresh dirt,” says Andrea. Malcolm is totally busted.

Andrea and Cochran sit down on the well, but soon Cochran has to go to the bathroom. Malcolm is left without an option but to hang around too. He should do an imitation of water running. Andrea interviews about her motivation – that it will probably be her doom if Malcolm finds an idol – and then Andrea asks him “is this a stand-off?” Obviously it is. “I’m just going to come back later,” says Malcolm, “Are you not leaving?” “You can do what you want to do.”

Later still, Malcolm gives up and sits down on the well. “I’ll go back with you,” he says. “You’re the little sister I can’t get rid of.” They are so going to get it on when the show is over.

Probst sighting! Immunity challenge! “Come on in guys! There are poles and big clay masks with names underneath them! Awesome! Is this the “smash the other person’s name so they can see who’s on the bottom of their alliance” challenge that I’ve been waiting two seasons for? Unfortunately, no. It’s the “hold onto a rope connected to a log” challenge where the rope has knots and the castaways start at the top knot and go one knot down every five minutes until the rope falls out of their hand and smashes the clay mask.

Cochran has an advantage in this challenge, and he reads it out to the group. At any point in the challenge he may go two knots higher up. Cochran does not claim that he has a hidden immunity idol, then rip up the paper. Eddie interviews that Cochran may have an advantage but he is no physical threat, which is what I thought right up until Eddie’s interview. Now I know Cochran could actually win this thing. Thanks, Eddie.

The challenge is on, and if you are interested, each castaway is holding up one third of the body weight they started the game with. Things move down to the third knot without any casualties, at which point Cochran declares he will use his advantage. It’s obviously the best time to use it.

Things are uneventful until the 25 minute mark when everyone but Cochran is down to their last knot. Brenda is out first, and then Erik shortly after. Dawn is bending right back trying to hold on until she can move down beyond the last knot and use the short pause in between to give her arm a break.

The round ends, and now everyone is just holding an end of rope, with no knot to keep their hand from slipping. All except Cochran, who is sitting pretty with two knots to spare. Will he have to move down as the challenge progresses? We don’t find out because Sherri is out, then Malcolm loses balance, then Andrea can’t hold on. “Mother, this is hard!” yells Dawn. I think Dawn is missing a word there, but she is too polite to say it. “Eddie, you’ve been through tougher, brother,” says Probst who can’t wait to bro down after the show. “Oh, mother!” screams Dawn. My sentiments exactly.

Reynold starts to slip, and then he is out. Dawn encourages Cochran, who says, “I’m trying...” and would probably be doing better without the nervous woman over his shoulder distracting him. Eddie has a blurred mouth and then his hand slides down the rope and he is out. Cochran wins immunity for the second time and he runs over to Probst with his now trademark victory jog. Not as many people are cheerful this time and someone is going home tonight.

The castaways arrive back at camp and it’s time for a triumphant interview from Cochran. “I am the greatest challenge competitor in Survivor: Caramoan,” he declares. “There’s no debate, if you look at the scoreboard. I have won half of the individual immunities.” He says this is a big turnaround from his first season where he was screamed at for sucking at challenges and being a weakling, but “now I am the biggest challenge threat in this game. I don’t care if it makes me a threat, I’m just going to keep winning”. I realize he is partly mocking interviews by real challenge monsters, but he is sounding less and less self-aware. Don’t start believing your own publicity, Cochran.

Malcolm gets an interview about how idols drive you crazy, and how it’s not really fair that he found two idols without clues, but now he has a clue that he paid $480 for and he can’t get near the idol. Why doesn’t he just say “hey, I’ve got to go have another of those lame interviews” as his cover story. Anyway, even though he doesn’t have the idol, he tells Reynold and Eddie that the others need to think he is playing it. “Did you get it?” asks Eddie. Duh, no. Malcolm says that if the alliance formerly known as Stealth R Us split the vote, they only need one person – Sherri – to flip.

Malcolm and Sherri have their talk and Malcolm basically tells Sherri that she is his only option. He tells her that he has the idol – and she doesn’t ask to see it. He reassures her that if Erik is with them now, he is out at five. Who are we voting for? Andrea. He pinkie-swears on it.

Anyway, in interview – actually, I think it’s the same Sherri interview as before, just a different part of it – Sherri has completely flipped on her “muscle-men are going to dominate” theory because Cochran won the challenge today.

Erik tells Reynold that he is with the Three Amigos in the vote, and then interviews he is about how exciting and terrifying it is to play both sides. We see him playing the other side as Dawn says “We’re putting all our trust in you, Erik." The Stealth R Us vote plan is for the guys and Andrea to vote for Malcolm, the rest of the women will vote for Reynold and they will vote for Malcolm on the re-vote. Cochran is tempted to just do a straight vote, and when Andrea says it is safer to split, suggests that it would be more disastrous if something went wrong.

Andrea interviews that it’s hard putting her faith in Erik, especially as he was “fooled by a girl” last time and might decide it is safer to bro down. But ultimately she doesn’t think he is “dumb enough to flip." I wouldn’t say that. What I would say is that Erik is an emotional player, and that players like Dawn and Andrea are better at building emotional bonds with guys like Erik than Eddie and Reynold are.

Erik demonstrated this in his interview just before, when he talked about how he is at a fork in the road, and he won’t really make his mind up until the vote. This is why nobody really wants to play with Erik. He doesn’t want to talk strategy, he always wants to play both sides and he is unpredictable. The things that he sees as his strengths in the game are actually weaknesses.

Meanwhile Sherri interviews that “Neither side knows that this is my game right now. I’m the one calling the shots. They don’t get it!” Ha! I don’t know about that, but she’s better at playing both sides that Erik is. Sherri then confronts Erik with a “we need to talk”. Erik looks bewildered and afraid. “What’s going on?” Sherri asks. We don’t learn from Erik because...

Tribal Council. Probst asks Reynold if anything is shaking after last time. Reynold claims that Phillip’s departure marked a new chapter in the game and that it’s not necessarily six on three anymore, because people know they have to “make moves." Why does Reynold feel compelled to tell the truth at Tribal Council? Is Probst going to slap him for telling lies?

Does this worry Andrea? In theory, but she says that anyone flipping will just be shut out by the Three Amigos later in the game. Probst points out that Cochran has won half the challenges so far, and she has to recover a little bit.

Probst says to Sherri that the rationale could be “I’m not getting to the end with the six because I already feel like I’m on the bottom." Sherri says it has crossed her mind, and she doesn’t really know where she sits with the six. Dawn adds that “everyone feels vulnerable and makes decisions as though they are on the bottom. In Sherri’s case, I hope she’s not thinking that.” Dawn’s speaking from experience there. That is one thing that Stealth R Us have done really well throughout their alliance – aside from Malcolm and Corinne, no one has really known where they are on the pecking order. Everyone, even people who were originally outside the alliance like Erik and Brenda, seems to think they are at the top or close to it.

Probst asks Malcolm about the clue he got at the Survivor auction, and all he really says is that it was “a fun day”. Andrea says the speculation is that it was a clue to a hidden immunity idol, and she is “80% sure” that he has it. After Probst asks a stupid question about why they are all so worried about idols, Dawn says that it’s because there are so many in the game. Duh!

Erik, are you concerned that someone could be flipping. Erik gives a non-answer about how someone could want to “trade up." Probst asks basically the same question to Cochran. Cochran sets out a hypothetical where they split the vote, someone flips and it’s 4-4 next week, but that’s a non-answer, too. Andrea says she is nervous tonight, but it’s important to trust the people you are with.

It’s time to vote. We see Reynold vote for Andrea, Dawn vote for Reynold and Cochran vote for Malcolm, saying “voting you off would be so delicious, it would be indescribably delicious, it would just be...”, then making a finger-kissing gesture.

No one is playing a hidden immunity idol tonight, which makes Andrea and Cochran share a smile, and the votes are Reynold. Malcolm. Andrea. Times three. It’s a three way tie, if you count the vote for “Reynold’s” as being for Reynold. Seriously? Reynold’s what? So we get a re-vote, with Cochran makes the same finger-kissing gesture in the voting booth, so bye-bye Malcolm. And when Probst “tallies” the votes, they are all for Malcolm. Cochran smiles, and Dawn whispers, “huge." “Best of luck, guys,” says Malcolm after his torch is snuffed. Then while making the walk of shame “I need a drink." Probst gives Reynold and Eddie a pep talk even though their days are clearly numbered.

Next time on Survivor, there’s a balancing immunity challenge that has Probst slobbering all over Reynold! Your first clue that this promo is full of lies is the claim from Probst: “Reynold is the biggest threat in the game!” And there are suggestions that the former Stealth R Us might splinter, with Andrea asking if Brenda or Dawn should go first and Cochran saying it’s the beginning of the end for the six. Do not believe Next Time on Survivor’s lies!

Malcolm’s final words are about the mocking he will get back home for not finding the idol, and regret that “as soon as you think you have the game figured out, you’re going home." Then next time, Malcolm – because there will be a next time – don’t make brash interviews about taking control of the game! You may be the best “bartender” to ever play the game, but you’ve only yourself to blame. Well, you and Corinne.