Survivor: Caramoan - Episode 13
Don’t Say Anything About My Mom
By Ben Willoughby
May 9, 2013


Previously on Survivor, Stealth R Us controlled the game – and continued to with Eddie being the Last Amigo. But instead of ridding us of amigos para siempre, Andrea wanted to target Brenda, and in turn was blindsided herself. Six are left, who will be voted out tonight?

Day 35. Erik wakes up and shakes the sand out of his hair. Eddie interviews about how Andrea went home last night, taking the immunity idol with her. Eddie claims that “all the chicks I hook up with or go after get voted out” as though it’s some elusive mystery rather than some basic function of the game. Note to potential girlfriends of Eddie, not only is he a doofus who has put all sorts of disgusting things in his mouth, but his girlfriends are cursed. Anyway, Eddie thinks he’s a sitting duck.

Eddie and Cochran have a chat, with Eddie saying that he’s probably next going home, Cochran says that he has a chance with immunity challenges and all, and asks “If you win immunity who would be next?” “You,” says Eddie. Cochran wants some clarification about whether that’s who Eddie will vote for or the group. “The group will be voting for,” says Eddie.

Cochran interviews that previously he was sitting back smoking fat cigars comfortable in the knowledge that he’s a “worthless, scrawny, whiny twerp, of course everyone’s going to want to go to the end with me. But now I’m starting to wonder if I can make it to the end of this game, or do I have an expiration date that’s rapidly approaching?” How do those immunity challenge victory struts feel now, Cochran?

Meanwhile, Dawn and Brenda are having a discussion about who goes if Cochran wins. “Cochran,” says Brenda. Erik is on board with this, too. Dawn is tempted to go with Brenda and Erik to the end, but she also knows that it would break her agreement with Cochran. She tells Erik and Brenda that the vote for Cochran would be hard for her, but she knows he’s a big threat to win the game. Dawn interviews that “I have options and I’m going to take responsibility for it in the end, and prove I played a game that was worth a million dollars."

It’s Erik’s 70th day of playing Survivor, and we see him carving a notch in a tree. According to Erik, it’s one of his hardest days yet. He has to have food. The mental strains of the game are showing, as Erik explains how he feels like he is trapped here in a horrible, miserable, beautiful prison. “The most beautiful prison I’ve been in in my life.” How many other prisons has Erik been in? “It’s killing me, it’s absolutely killing me.”

It’s especially galling for Erik to see coconuts hanging from a tree “laughing at him” saying “You can’t get us, you can’t get us." You have to pity Erik here, because it’s actually plausible the coconuts are laughing at him.

It’s a tall tree, sticking out way above the rest of the forest, but Erik thinks he can climb it. “That’s too tall,” nay-says Dawn. “It’s pretty high, yeah,” says Erik, before an interview where he says he thinks about falling from the tree, breaking a leg and leaving the game, and no one would blame him or call him a quitter and he could have get all the coconuts he wants. Erik is scared by these self-defeating, self-harming thoughts. “I just want food!” he wails from the tree.

After the credits, Brenda, Dawn and Sherri are watching Erik return to earth. They all applaud when Erik touches ground.

Everyone is back at camp when Eddie comes running in and cheering “Look at this!” He’s holding a boring wooden box, but Dawn recognizes the product-placed logo on the side and jumps on Eddie. Inside is the product-placed phone, with video messages from all of the loved ones.

There’s Brenda’s father Raymond, and Brenda thanks him in interview for his advice in the game “to be humble." And Dawn’s husband Dave, and it happens to be their 21st anniversary today. And Sherri’s husband Jarred, and Cochran’s mother, who hopes that Cochran has “been using lots of sunscreen." Yep, she’s Cochran’s mother all right. And when she sees her son’s beet-colored nose she is going to be so disappointed in him.

Eddie’s father is named Edward and calls Eddie “Superman” and Erik’s brother is Richard, and Erik interviews about how the footage on the phone reinvigorated him. The six castaways top things off with a goofy photo taken on the product-placed phone, presumably at the suggestion of some production assistant who just feels dirty now.

Probst sighting! Reward challenge! Probst plugs the product-placed phone again, about how they were “authentic video messages from your loved ones”. Wow, phones can take video now? Is it 2007 already? But the loved ones are here in real life as well! And here they come!

Brenda hugs her father, “You gave me the best advice,” she says “You told me to be humble. And I’ve been so humble thanks to you, so humble." So humble that we’ve hardly seen Brenda until this late stage of the game. Probst actually sheds a tear at this. First time after 26 seasons. Pretty weak, Probst. Erik’s brother Richard comes in and they give each other manly hugs before jostling with each other. Richard is so much bigger than Erik now, so if Erik wins the challenge he’ll be in for some noogies.

Sherri and Jarred have a tearful hug, and Cochran apologizes to his mother Arlene for smelling so bad. Then it’s Eddie's father, a Tom Bosley type who calls Eddie “the hairiest man alive” and actually picks him up like Eddie’s a toddler. “Good job, good job” the father tells the son before things get too emotional. Probst has kept Dawn hanging all this time because she’d probably give the biggest reaction for the camera, but while she’s crying it’s probably no more than anyone else for once.

Ready for the challenge? The castaways will be competing along with their loved ones. They will have to spin in circles to unscrew a rail from a post, and then carry the post back to a rack and attach it. After doing this three times, they have to untie knots to release bolas, which they will then toss at the rails. First team to get three bolas hanging from the rails wins reward, which is that they will go to a floating backyard barbecue cruelly located only 50 meters offshore from camp. And for Survivor newbies, you don’t really want to win this challenge, because loved one challenges always involve picking someone to come with you on reward and it will burn you no matter which way you play it.

Erik and brother are the first to get a rail undone, followed by Brenda and father. Cochran is last and Probst gets out the smack-talk! “Arlene, already slowing down!” “Don’t say anything about my mom,” says Cochran in a tone that suggests he doesn’t want Probst to come over and push him onto the ground. In front of his mom. But good for Cochran. “How old are you?” “She’s about to be 64 in a few weeks,” replies Cochran. “You look good, woman!” which is Probst’s way of smoothing things over. I’m going to try apologizing to women that way. I’ll report what happens!

Brenda and father are also first to complete the rail part of the challenge, but there’s not much in it because everyone is tossing bolas at the same time, even Cochran and his slow mom. How slow is Cochran’s mom? She’s so slow, it looks like she’s doing the challenge backwards. She’s so slow she gives turtles high self-esteem. She’s so slow she could guest-star on The Walking Dead. As a human. Anyway, they catch up a bit over the challenge. “Was the flight over horrible?" asks Cochran. “Yeah yeah, but it was fine." Ah, moms.

Sherri’s husband seems to be the first to get a bola on the rails, and then Brenda and father have two, and Dawn and Dave have two, and Brenda’s father comes up to toss and Brenda and Raymond win reward!

Probst explains how this is going to work. Brenda can select one other person and their loved one to go with her. She picks “Dawn... for so many reasons.” But Probst wants to complicate things some more, and he shows her another product-placed phone. “Hey Bren, I’m here too! And I’ve got plenty of love for everyone!” It turns out that the second loved ones are here too! Disbelief from all the castaways. Cochran’s dad and Sherri’s son and Erik’s other brother and Eddie’s mom and Dawn’s best friend (who is nuts, according to Dawn) and Brenda’s sister. So Brenda has a choice to make.

She and Dawn can go on reward with both of their loved ones, or she and Dawn can sit back at camp alone while the other castaways enjoy their barbecue with both of their loved ones only 50 yards away from camp. That is brutal. So brutal we have to break to commercial.

Probst recaps the dilemma and “Of course I’m going to give it to them,” says Brenda. Probst hands the product-placed phone to the people going on reward to record some once-in-a-lifetime memories, though I’m sure that everyone on that boat has better phones with better service providers too. “Enjoy your afternoon of love,” says Probst. Creepy.

On the reward, Cochran talks about how he first started watching Survivor in the summer of 2000 when he was 13 watching the first season of Survivor with his mother. His entire puberty was spent watching the show, and it has all led up to this. “And to share this with someone you love, you can’t beat it."

Then he mocks his dad, who in real life is a bookish neurologist, but for some reason is working the grill and wearing sunglasses. Cochran wonders if his Dad has gone Hollywood, because Hollywood is about sunglasses? And grilling? I think there’s a little bit of “how come you never barbecue when we’re at home, just the two of us?” in there. Meanwhile, Eddie’s mom wants to fatten him up. I feel momentarily bad for all the mean things I’ve said about Eddie, who I genuinely think is a nice person.

Brenda gazes out at the pontoon and everyone partying. Dawn goes off to cry and violently break bamboo for the fire. She interviews that she is exhausted and hungry and the game is breaking her down. Everyone waves from the pontoon to encourage Brenda and Dawn, but I’m sure that just makes it sting harder.

Dawn is not taking it easy, because she feels that Brenda has earned all this good favor from her gift and that having to spend time with “people who are full and have seen their loved ones for the whole afternoon makes me want to spit!” Brenda is supportive, urging Dawn to let it all out and knowing that she will be stronger after this. But Dawn is all, “I just want to eat, I’m so mad, I don’t even have a coconut.” How have these people eaten every coconut on this tropical island? They certainly seem really hungry this season. “Four days from now, we’re going to have big smiles on our faces, I guarantee you that,” comforts Brenda.

Brenda interviews that she’s praying this was the right move, but “Dawn is devastated” and “Dawn is livid.” Dawn is Dawn’s jealous rage. We cut back to Brenda bright-siding it with Dawn, suggesting that “in a couple of days we will be cracking up about it.” Brenda explains to the camera about the “double-edged sword” of anything big in this game, that “it could mean I’ll never vote out Brenda because I owe her or boom! downfall.”

Eventually, the lucky castaways wade back from the reward and thank Brenda, and Cochran interviews about this sense of Brenda suddenly being indomitable. His mother even said to him “Brenda’s going to win this game.” Cochran explains that the more likable and more untouchable Brenda is, the more people will want her out. “We are at the point in the game where likability is a liability.” Cochran claims to know this from experience, but it’s probably not personal experience. He also says that Brenda will experience it soon if he has any say in it.

Day 36. We are not messing around because Probst sighting, immunity challenge, back up for grabs. This is a simple one – the castaways stand on a ledge over water, holding onto a handle while their arms are behind their back. The handle is connected by a rope to a winch, which Probst will crank to extend the rope and lower the castaways further over the water. Probst even has an adorable captain’s steering wheel for the job! Last one left standing wins immunity. Eddie interviews that he is definitely going home tonight if he doesn’t win. Hmmm...

The challenge has been on for ten seconds when Erik, who should still be digesting the mountains of barbecue that he spent all yesterday afternoon eating, asks Probst if he has any food to offer. Nope. “This challenge is designed to test your will,” Probst replies.

After 15 minutes, it’s Probst’s favorite part of the challenge where he cranks the steering wheel over a notch. He probably has pirate fantasies in his head. Eddie goads Cochran to “go first, buddy,” and while Cochran claims he wants to win, he can’t hold on any longer and falls in the water. He is out and has to sit pathetically on Probst’s deck like he’s Probst’s cabin boy.

Time to lower again. Eddie is struggling by now, and falls in after Brenda and Dawn look at him inquiringly. Erik is next, leaving Dawn, Sherri and Brenda in the challenge. I wonder if people will claim this challenge is sexist too. “It’s not fair because those women don’t have their boobs in the way like they should!” Sherri is “slipping... I can’t do it!” and shortly after Dawn tries to cut a deal with Brenda.

Dawn’s pitch is that she hasn’t had one [immunity win], and if she wins she’ll share. Share? There’s only one immunity up for grabs. Brenda doesn’t want to, claiming that she would prefer to keep going and test herself, and she doesn’t have three hours in her like that other challenge. This is great for Probst, who gets to lower them a notch further. “Two women who did not spend time with their loved ones battling it out!” Eventually Brenda is true to her word, because she can not hang on any more and Dawn wins immunity!

Probst presents Dawn with her necklace “for the first time in her Survivor career” even though she did win immunity in her original season (one of two immunity necklaces in a post-merge coconut-balancing challenge). But Dawn doesn’t fact-check Probst, as she is relieved to be safe and seeing Day 37. One of the others, Eddie, is going home. Before the commercial, Brenda gives an odd interview about how she never wants to give up, but it’s not a bad thing that she lost because keeping “someone as paranoid as Dawn” has benefits too.

Everyone arrives back at camp, where Brenda reiterates that the whole point of the immunity challenge was not to let Eddie win. “I think it is a straightforward vote tonight,” and after Eddie they plan to take out Cochran. “It’s a perfect plan and if we stick to it everything will go amazing.” Foreshadowing.

Meanwhile, Cochran is interviewing that if he had his pick he would get rid of Brenda, and it would benefit him and his alliance of Dawn and Sherri but everyone else is so gung ho about getting rid of Eddie. He talks with Sherri about how they are guaranteed final four now, but then he mentions a scenario that he has been running through but doesn’t think Dawn will go for. Sherri asks if she can guess the scenario and says “blind-side Brenda tonight, because she will never see it coming.” So Sherri was already there.

Cochran interviews about how Brenda is a big threat and could go on an immunity streak and how he wants to make sure it doesn’t happen. So he and Sherri go to speak with Dawn, who readily agrees that Brenda is a big threat. “But if Eddie wins the last challenge, and then we are left at the mercy of Eddie’s decision-making.” Her tone suggests that Eddie’s decision-making is not very sound. “Do you think Eddie staying in the game is a big threat?” Dawn runs through “Brenda’s stayed the course, everything has fallen into place, so I’m guessing in her mind she’s thinking ‘Eddie can go today and Sherri or Cochran next’. We knew it was going to get hard.”

“I didn’t play my own game last time,” says Dawn “and I’m trying to and this is a point where there’s a fork.” They go through the worst case scenario. Dawn says that “we take Eddie out tonight, and then deal with this exact same thing tomorrow.” “We can stick with Eddie then,” Cochran gives the weakest opt-out-if-you-want suggestion before burrowing his face in his hands and saying how tantalizing it would be to get rid of Brenda.

Dawn interviews that she wants to vote out Eddie but feels like Brenda is the biggest strategic threat in the game and her approach has always been to take out the biggest strategic threat, and with only three votes left it may be tricky. Sure, after tonight’s vote and this other vote, there’ll only be one vote left! Dawn says that she is swayed by Cochran’s emotion, and last time she left her game in his hands and went home before him. She’s confused.

Tribal Council. And here are the members of the jury, including Andrea, who has made a special effort to dress up tonight. I guess we won’t be hearing Eddie say anything but “Mmmmuhhhh...” this Tribal Council. Also, Reynold has shaved his moustache.

Dawn is wearing the immunity necklace for the first time. She feels great. “It feels good to come to Tribal Council and just breathe, and not worry so much.” She is proud she can say “I did that, I trained for this game and came and did it, like a bucket list thing.” Brenda repeats the line that she was okay with Dawn winning because “I wanted her to win it, without me just jumping off.”

Is Eddie feeling the pressure? He thinks he is going home for sure. Probst calls Eddie out on how many times he has said that, but Eddie says “my One Amigo fuse is running a little short lately.”

Probst asks Brenda about the loved one challenge and whether her decision was difficult. She explains that because “it was either the two of us or the four of them, it was a no-brainer. It was hard but easy.” Probst asks Dawn if this buys Brenda anything in the game and Dawn says “It does buy her something, everyone was happy, in the long-term it will benefit her in the game.” Sherri agrees: “Everyone is looking to Brenda as a saint, you could not do anything to her right now.”

Probst asks Cochran to confirm that tonight is an easy vote, and he replies that “the easy vote isn’t always the smartest vote. It’s about weighing the short term gratification versus long-term benefits, and that’s a constant struggle in this game.”

Eddie thinks it’s time for him to give his farewell speech, and starts talking about how he had the best time and so on. Probst has to say, “Let’s find out what’s going to happen,” before announcing that it is time to vote.

We see Sherri vote for Brenda and poor trusting Brenda vote for Eddie. Probst collects the votes for “tallying” and then remembers to ask if anyone has a hidden immunity idol to play. Everyone face-palms and says “Dammit, I forgot to look!”

And the votes are for Eddie, Eddie (which we know is Erik’s vote because it is written in fancy writing), Erik and then Brenda, Brenda and the sixth member of the jury is... Brenda. “I knew it,” she sighs. She stands up and faces them “I was honest with you guys, I was genuine with you guys.” But the tribe has spoken. It’s time for you go to. “It hurts,” she says to the remaining castaways.

Eddie still cannot figure out what happened, and Probst sends the final five packing about what a “crazy finish” we are going to have this season.

Obviously, voting out Brenda was one of the harshest things we’ve seen in the game, but those are the sorts of things that have to be done to win Survivor. After the loved ones reward, Brenda was clearly a big threat to win everything and it was important to get rid of her, though I’ll concede that the timing could have been better. Remember too that Brenda’s decisions to invite Dawn on the reward, and then to stay home while the other four enjoyed the reward weren’t 100% altruistic either. Brenda made those decisions to take her further in the game.

There’s been a lot said about Dawn in particular on the Twitters, but to me, anyone reaching for their smelling salts or saying that Dawn is an immoral devil-woman with has no soul understands the game so little that they should apply to be on the next “fans” versus “favorites” season.

That said, while I don’t think it was particularly evil of Dawn to vote for Brenda, I do think it was a bad move for her. Dawn’s problem is that she is working two separate strategies – she has her strategic game, which is about eliminating the biggest long-term threats as she explained in interview. But there is also her social game, which is all about building close, personal, bonds and also by sharing vulnerabilities and seeking emotional support from others.

I think a player can win Survivor by either one of these strategies, but it’s usually a disaster to do both. I don’t think you can deliberately build connections based primarily on emotions, and then expect other players not to be emotional when you cut them loose.

There are players who have done this and won their seasons, like Boston Rob and Kim Spradlin. But their connections with people on their tribe were built around less emotional things like respect and leadership and authority, as well as being a big brother or a big sister figure. But Dawn’s relationships are built around being a mother figure, and it hurts deeper when your mother cuts your throat.

If she makes it to the end, tonight’s really going to cost Dawn at the jury.

Next time on Survivor, it’s all on the line for the final five, but “one Survivor goes down.” An extremely rare night-vision shot of Probst saying “this game just got rocked!”

Brenda totally breaks down in her final interview. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so genuinely upset in one of these. Disappointed, frustrated, angry, sure. But not upset like this. “I’m in shock. I’m hesitant to lie to people, I was so true to Dawn. It just hurts so much right now what I’m feeling.” So long, Brenda. Maybe next time you should get some better advice from Dad.