Survivor: Caramoan - Episode 12
The Beginning of the End
By Ben Willoughby
May 3, 2013

2 of these people have been eliminated. Also, we miss Malcolm.

The title for this episode is “The Beginning of the End.” Amen. And with so many other sound bites to choose from, the producers went with that as the title. They must be looking forward to Season 27 already.

Previously on Survivor, it was the Three Amigos against the six former members of Stealth R Us, who were only too pleased to see the backbone of their alliance voted out. There was a Survivor auction, which is always fun, and it included a clue to a hidden immunity idol for which Malcolm paid $480 and completely failed to capitalize on.

At Tribal Council, Eddie and Reynold saw “yet another chance slip through their fingers” as Malcolm was voted out. Probst would have you believe that the story arc for this season is all about Reynold and Eddie. Eight are left, who will be voted out tonight?

Everyone arrives back at camp and the former Stealthers are loudly congratulating each other. “Job well done,” “Big move,” etc. Reynold is less obnoxious, even though he puts on a big “You and me, Eddie.” Andrea laughs.

Reynold tries out some of his psychological tricks by saying he thinks he can win five immunities in a row. Convincing, after his massive one-out-of-four immunity streak. Sad if he believes this could work. Unless he actually believes it, which would be even sadder. Eddie thinks he could chip in an immunity victory or two, missing the point. Andrea reassures him, “you’re still here.” We get an interview from Eddie saying, “I’m still here.”

Andrea and Cochran have a quick conference, where Cochran reassures the ever insecure Andrea that no way will Reynold win five immunity challenges in a row. Not with beefy challenge monsters like Cochran around, he gratefully does not say.

Cochran interviews that the “fans” are desperate and have no power, which rests with the “favorites”. He says that his goal at this point is to take as much power in the game as possible, and to do it without any remorse or reservations. Cochran feels that he would scare his mother if she saw him now. He claims not to be the “Harvard nerd trembling in the bushes” from his first season. Though he is saying this while sitting in the bushes.

The next morning, we’re moving things right along with tree-mail about another immunity challenge. Erik interviews about how devastating it was to have an immunity challenge instead of reward, because Erik is extraordinarily hungry! But he also says they need to vote Reynold off.

Probst sighting! “Come on in, guys.” It’s a windy day and Probst even points out admiringly that Cochran is shirtless as he removes the immunity necklace! Then he points out how Cochran was afraid to go skins in his first season, so that the cool guys like Eddie and Reynold won’t think he’s slobbering over a pitiful nerd like Cochran. No weakness in front of the other dudes!

The challenge asks the castaways to balance on a triangular platform out in the water. There are tiny footholds on the side to stand on, and they have to move up footholds every 15 minutes until they reach the top. Last person left standing wins immunity, and also some information to help them in this game. Reynold interviews that he is “#1 on the hit list and I have to win." Do we think this immunity challenge is suited to top-heavy, carrot-shaped men like Reynold?

Everyone is in position. “All you have to do is balance on a very uneven platform, in the water, with the wind blowing,” Probst helpfully summarizes. Probst really wants this challenge to end quickly, so he immediately offers up a plate of donuts. “Go for it, Eddie,” urges Dawn. “What kind of donuts are they?” asks Eddie. Eddie really isn’t getting any brighter. Probst obligingly takes a bite of donut.

Erik says that if Eddie doesn’t do it, he will. “I’ll do it with you,” Eddie tells Erik. Reynold tells Eddie “It’s OK.” The “bro” is understood between bros. Eddie and Erik dive off the platform and swims over to the donuts. When asked if it is worth it, he says he doesn’t know yet. While he already has a mouthful of donut. Dummy. “You’ll find out,” laughs Andrea.

After 15 minutes, the remaining castaways get a chance to sit down while moving up a level on the platform. Cochran is looking pretty wobbly at this point, and he quits when Probst has three hot dogs and soft drink to give away. “My thighs are about to burst,” he says. For a hot dog? No one responds at all except Reynold with a “Do it, Cochran,” and Probst points out that Cochran got “no love from any of them.” Cochran gets a self-justifying voice-over about how he couldn’t last much longer so the audience can believe he wasn’t really a quitter.

The next position change is the last one, because now everyone is standing at the very top of their platform. Brenda has a very uncomfortable-looking squat technique, and Probst congratulates Reynold and Dawn on surviving close calls. Sherri is “shaking all over but still there,” which is probably the nicest thing Probst has said about Sherri challenge-wise.

There’s a sudden gust of wind, and Dawn is out. Then Sherri is out. Reynold makes a “huge recovery.” “He’s not gonna go down easy... ladies.” Nice recovery yourself, Probst. Reynold goes through a series of gymnastic combobulations and makes “another incredible recovery,” which does actually look pretty good but I already saw it in previews. It doesn’t last. Reynold does a series of weird balancing movements that Mr. Bean himself would be proud of before falling into the water.

Andrea and Brenda are left and they have to figure out whether to compete. “I’ll share the clue with you if you jump off,” says Andrea. But Brenda says that she would prefer Andrea beat her than step off. Andrea feels the same. “Are you worried or something?” Brenda asks. When is Andrea ever not worried? Andrea claims that it’s because she hasn’t won yet. So they continue.

Three hours have elapsed. Let me say that again. Three hours have elapsed, and the challenge is still going. Probst is anxious to hurry things along, and when Andrea and Brenda tentatively agree to stand on one leg from now on, he jumps at it. “Your rule, not mine!” he hand-washes. Turns out Brenda isn’t as good at balancing on one leg, and she falls off. Andrea! Wins! Immunity! And reward in the form of information in this game. Triumphant music plays as she receives her immunity necklace.

I’ve seen some talk that this challenge was inherently unfair because it is dominated by small-footed women, while men with big feet are left at a disadvantage. It’s no less unfair than every other challenge we see that focuses on strength - which is pretty much every challenge. Even though they have made some challenges more even by, say, making them proportional to body weight like the immunity challenge last week, someone with upper body strength is still going to perform better in that challenge than someone without it. The people complaining are basically saying “Oh no, the one challenge that isn’t weighted in my favor is unfair!” while ignoring every advantage the game gives them.

Anyway, Brenda interviews that it’s okay that she didn’t win because one of Eddie and Reynold are going home. Normally I would say for a certainty this means that neither Reynold or Eddie are going home, but it’s just so obvious that one of them is. Nice try, Survivor editors, but no dice.

Reynold gets another interview. “It’s basically Reynold’s eulogy now, but if they’re smart, boom, now’s the time to strike and blind-side.” Sure, that’s why they’re voting you or Eddie out – because they’re stupid. It’s the only possible explanation why they won’t keep Reynold in the game and let Reynold win! Such dummies! “Unfortunately, I’m not the conductor right now,” he says with this world-weary air.

Anyway, Andrea seems a wee bit peeved that Brenda made her “stand on a perch for hours” and she still has to share her stupid hidden immunity idol clue with her. Well, that’s what the information she won at the challenge is. Andrea decides to tell her whole alliance about the clue so she won’t seem suspicious and they all go off to look for it. Erik finds it, which must make Malcolm shiver a bit, and holds it out for everyone to see. Andrea takes it.

Cochran is mentally face-palming here. Cochran was looking forward to controlling Erik and his idol, but “before I can start celebrating, he’s handed the idol over to Andrea. Does he learn nothing?” Well, Erik was in kind of a bad position. Andrea told all her alliance about the idol clue and they all went off into the jungle to look for said idol, and when Erik finds it he’s supposed to say “Tough break, suckas! This is my idol!”? It would make him an instant target and everyone would have to take a side. And it’s completely against Erik’s under-the-radar, make-me-the-swing-vote strategy.

Anyway, now that Andrea has immunity times two, she has immediately switched from insecure to triumphant. Sure she wants to get Reynold out of the game, but she’d also like to blind-side someone before it happens to her. She is right there at the tree the immunity idol was buried under when she says this. Instant turnaround. Cochran, Andrea and Sherri sit on the beach in the shallows and have the conversation we saw in the preview where Andrea is talking about it. "If you had to blind-side someone, who would it be?” She thinks either Dawn or Brenda. Following is the Cochran interview about how this is “the beginning of the end” for the six.

Cochran says there are two easy votes in Reynold and Eddie, but “we are seeing the self-interested desires bubbling to the surface and people are playing for the endgame to secure their own victory instead of a ‘group victory’.” Obviously the “group victory” concept is always crap, and taken seriously only by those who think their own alliance is a stepping stone to their personal victory.

But I don’t think Cochran actually believes in the ‘group victory’. What he is saying is “we have now reached this stage of the game." He explains how Andrea is a smart player and Andrea, like him, is looking beyond the six. Andrea wants to blind-side Brenda, but Cochran says the game is all about timing – which means that Cochran also wants to blind-side Brenda but he thinks it is too soon to do that.

Andrea is now talking with Dawn, who says that Brenda is a threat but “I want Reynold gone. He’s disruptive to my brain.” Andrea says “I think it’s Brenda”. Her main argument is that she hasn’t upset anyone. Is that because Brenda hasn’t spoken to anyone? “Oh my gosh!” says Dawn, who immediately starts clenching her jaw. She interviews how both Reynold and Brenda are options, and how the biggest obstacle for her has been her mind.

Time for Tribal Council. Here’s Michael and Phillip and new juror Malcolm, who seems to have come straight from shooting a Garnier-Fructis commercial. His hair is luxuriant. Probst leads things off with a judgmental question about Eddie. Can you believe he quit a challenge for food? Eddie explains quite disarmingly that he knew he wouldn’t win, so he sacrificed security and self-pride for some donuts. Everyone laughs, because it’s Eddie. It’s like how everyone cheered Cochran when he won his first immunity necklace.

Probst goes on to recap the rest of the challenge. Why did Andrea and Brenda stay out there for hours if they were such a tight group of six? Didn’t you just berate Eddie for quitting? Brenda said it was an opportunity to test herself and she is happy she was beaten. Andrea nods.

But Probst wants to keep talking about it, and asks Reynold if maybe it means they are not so tight. Reynold declares that he’s “a guy everyone assumes is going home, but I could be a great instrument for any moves you want to make.” Like that plea has worked at all the last six times he’s tried it. If this is Reynold’s pitch, and he’s not saying something like “there could be a few surprises tonight, wink wink,” it’s pretty clear he’s going home.

Probst asks Cochran about Reynold’s “use me” plea and that moves are all about timing. Cochran agrees it is about timing, and ideally about making a move the second before a move is made against you. “It takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to pull off something like that”. Well, probably. But not every time.

Probst gets out the thumbscrews. “Dawn, no matter how comfortable you feel, it’s possible that it’s you on the outside tonight.” “Always, which is why the longer I play both sides, the harder it is to trust anyone at all, because I know I’m not trustworthy.” Probst says that this is one of the most honest things anyone has said ever at any Tribal Council. I think in Probst’s “honest” means “stupid.”

But Andrea joins in. “When you know what you are capable of, and you know you can lie and deceive people, you know that the people you’re playing with can do it to you.” “Have you thought about this?” asks Probst. “Oh yeah,” confirms Andrea, “it only takes one person to flip over and I’m gone.” Why do these people feel compelled to spill their guts to Probst? If anyone was not thinking Andrea would turn on them, they certainly are now. She goes on: “All of a sudden, numbers are dwindling, and there are a lot of very capable people around.” Even Erik is probably thinking it now.

Eddie says “if you look at these six, they are all major players.” I think he really believes it, too. Probst asks Andrea about how they have reached the place in the game where they start thinking “who do I want left in this game?” Andrea talks about Reynold and Eddie’s backs being against the wall and with their votes “you could get out a Dawn, a Cochran, an Erik or a Brenda." “Or an Andrea,” Probst points out. “Not tonight, though,” she says.

It’s time to vote. We only see Brenda’s vote for Reynold. “I think things would have gone better for you if you’d been a little bit more humble in this game”. Oooooh, burn! From the castaway who never says anything! More confirmation that the Survivor editors hate Reynold.

Probst goes to “tally” the votes. Erik. Sherri. Huh? Did Reynold and Eddie not even talk to each other about who to vote for? Then, Reynold. Eddie. Reynold. Eddie. Reynold, Reynold. Reynold fist-bumps Eddie and tells everyone about what a blast it has been.

His confessional continues in true Reynold style, about how he put his trust in a lot of people and it wasn’t reciprocated, and he ran out of rabbits to pull out of hats. Did we see him pull any rabbits out of hats? He got in that position by assuming an alliance of four would be enough to dominate. He burned his first immunity idol, and gave his second to Malcolm to burn. I suppose it’s to his credit that he was able to stay around this long, but a big reason for that is that his enemies always had someone else more important to get rid of.

Thanks for being this season’s punching-bag, Reynold, but it was well-deserved. I wonder how it will be bunking with Malcolm at Ponderosa? There’ll probably be a conversation along the lines of “Help yourself to the Mane n’ Tail all you want, but don't even look at the Verticoli...”

The castaways arrive back at camp. “It’s surreal, only seven left,” Andrea squeals. “The gun-slingers take out another victim,” Cochran says in a moment alone with Andrea. Sounds like Stealth R Us rubbed off on Cochran. Andrea is relieved to be rid of Reynold, but is still disappointed that “we didn’t make a big move tonight." So next up, she wants a blind-side.

Andrea is discussing her position with Cochran. “If we don’t do it, they’re gonna do it to us,” she insists. Which is why she spoke about it for about ten minutes at the tribal council we just saw. She still thinks it should be Dawn or Brenda. Brenda because she’s good in challenges and has not pissed anyone off. Dawn because she’ll turn on anyone. But Brenda should go first.

Cochran interviews that Andrea is right about making big moves, but the big move she wants to make isn’t one he agrees with. Especially as it involves booting Dawn, his closest ally. Doesn’t Andrea see that? In a confab with Dawn and Brenda, Brenda is saying that Eddie should be their next target, but Cochran says that Andrea doesn’t want to vote out Eddie. “She’s debating between both of you right now.” That is well-played by Cochran. “I’m completely loyal to my alliance and want to vote for Eddie next. But she wants to vote for one of you two!” And he’s even telling the truth.

So now Brenda is gung-ho about getting Andrea out of the game, and they count the numbers for a blind-side. The three of them, plus Sherri, plus Erik. “Is Erik cool with that?” asks Cochran. “Probably,” says Brenda. I’d say it’s more like 50-50, depending whether Erik’s lucky coin lands heads or tails. “The time to make a big move is rapidly approaching,” interviews Cochran.

After the break, Probst sighting! Immunity challenge. Andrea hands the immunity necklace back to Probst and it is now officially back up for grabs. This is one of those multi-stage challenges that is tedious to describe and to recap. Push a buoy along a rope through obstacles. “Rope management is key”. When you reach the finishing post, untie knots to release a key. Use the key to open a locked box. Inside are rungs for a ladder. Fit the rungs to the ladder frames and then run up to release your flag and win immunity. Ready?

The rope part of the challenge takes the longest. Erik is out first, and then Cochran, Dawn and Andrea. Followed by Brenda and Eddie. And Sherri in dead last.

Erik also gets through the knots first, followed by Andrea. Then Eddie and Brenda. Cochran is now in last, and by the time he arrives everyone else has their locked boxes open and is fixing ladder rungs. I was going to make a joke that with Erik in the lead and a puzzle ahead it is still anyone’s challenge, but after a slow start Erik goes on a ladder-building tear and has all nine rungs in place while Brenda only has four or five. “It is a blow-out!” exclaims Probst. Erik runs up his ladder and wins immunity.

Giving him the immunity necklace, Probst can’t help reminding Erik about how dumb he was to give it away last time he won immunity. Erik interviews that “I have learned from my mistakes in the past. This is not any moral decision for me to make, whether to give it to someone else or keep it. It is a security blanket to get me further in the game.” Ominous thunder. I’m sure it’s the editors just messing with me. Erik’s not giving up his idol. Is he? Surely not.

Andrea is still pushing for Brenda to go next and Eddie and Dawn and Cochran and Sherri are enough votes to ensure that. She interviews that “I feel bad for the kid (who is seven years older than Andrea) because going back to my first season, I felt completely comfortable and *blam* I was blind-sided”. But this time “my ducks are in a row.” Foreshadowing.

Andrea tells Eddie of the plan to vote out Brenda. She says it is supposed to be him tonight, but it is really going to be Brenda. Eddie, who has been tricked so many, many, many times already, believes Andrea for the simple reason that she has no reason to lie to him now. He claims it is the first time he’s going in with an idea of who’s going home. Can foreshadowing cast a darker shadow than this? We all know Eddie’s streak of cluelessness cannot end.

Cochran is still pushing the Eddie vote with Andrea, arguing that he would win in front of a jury, even though everyone thinks he’s a clueless lunkhead with no game who quit a challenge for donuts not 24 hours ago. But after Andrea insists it should be Dawn or Brenda, Cochran tells Dawn, Sherri and Brenda. “She [Andrea] is banking on Eddie. She wants to go to the final three with him.” “She’s going to have to go,” says Dawn.

Cochran, because he’s the only person we ever see discuss the strategic aspects of the game, lays it out pretty succinctly by saying, “I admire Andrea for having a game plan,” but “if I’m not part of your plan, Andrea, you’re not going to be a part of mine.” With Dawn and Sherri he talks about splitting the vote between Andrea and Eddie, just in case Andrea plays the idol. Then Cochran brings Erik up to speed and says the thing is to make Andrea feel completely safe, followed by the now ritualized speech of “now I have to trust Erik and that’s really scary."

Later, Andrea is telling Erik that it will be Brenda tonight. She doesn’t point to a name or anything. Andrea tells Erik that she would love to go to the end with him, and Erik says “the other thing too is that we have the hidden idol”, which is a pretty smart way to mention it. If Andrea thinks Erik thinks he has a share in the idol, he won’t be voting for her. Erik interviews that Andrea owes him a solid because he helped her find the idol, and that Cochran hasn’t promised him final three. So everyone’s at his mercy! He claims to be in control of the game and will do whatever’s best for him.

Tribal council! Reynold has shaved his beard, and now he has a total porn-stache. So now we know he’s the type of guy who finds that funny. Not that it’s a huge leap or anything. Phillip continues to sulk.

Eddie, who I don’t think can say anything original and relies on things he remembers from the last three days, talks about “timing” and “perfect night for a blind-side."

Probst asks Brenda what happens if there is not a big move tonight and it gets down to the alliance of six. Brenda says that people will start lying and feelings will be hurt. Sherri says that people are lying to her already. Cochran joins in, saying that multiple people have promised to go to the end with him when they haven’t meant it, and he’s been just as guilty of that.

Is Andrea picking up on any of this? “That makes me nervous,” she says “Are you any different?” challenges Probst. “Of course not.” she says.

Probst asks about the information in the game that Andrea won at the first immunity challenge of the episode, and Andrea reveals to the jury that she has a hidden immunity idol. Malcolm laughs from the bench. “Is that a big deal?” Probst asks Cochran. Well, duh. Cochran says it is a big deal, but talks about how you can only play it until there are five. Andrea claims that if she feels paranoid then she’ll play it tonight, or at any time and it’s someone else going home.

Time to vote. Andrea votes for Brenda. “I think it was the moment when we were balancing on a doghouse in the middle of the ocean that I realized you were a huge threat and needed to go”. Brenda votes for Andrea, saying, “You’re a sneaky, sneaky little girl, always ready to blind-side someone. But I don’t think you’re ready for this one." “Huh!” sighs Erik arriving at the booth.

Is anyone wanting to play their hidden immunity idol? No, so Cochran and Brenda both smirk. And the votes are for... Brenda, Andrea, Eddie, Brenda, Andrea. “What?” Andrea is total surprise. Brenda. And the 14th person voted out of Survivor and the fifth member of the jury is Andrea. “Oh you guys,” she laughs. “That’s good, that’s really good.” For someone who was always so nervous about being voted out, she took it pretty well. After the torch-snuffing, Probst congratulates the remaining castaways on their big move before asking “what next?”

Next Time On Survivor, Brenda is saying that the next to go should be Cochran. But she’s telling Dawn, so you know that Brenda is going next. And Erik is going a little bananas, climbing trees for coconuts because he wants food. And a visit from home “changes everything." Because something “changes everything” every week. But it does include a money-shot of Dawn crying. Probst said that even he cried.

Andrea’s interview is about how she should have learned from her first season that when you are comfortable and people are napping, you’re probably going home. But at least she’ll always “have a souvenir to remind her of trusting people too much." Is that why she forgot? Because she didn’t have a souvenir from last time? It’s not as though there weren’t plenty of reminders, like what happened to Corinne after she started saying, “I want to keep Michael around?”

But I’m sorry to see her go. Despite my doubts at the beginning of the season, she was a worthy addition to a Fans vs. Favorites season. Plus, it makes the end of the season a lot more predictable.