Last week on Survivor, we were given a glimpse at a potential power struggle in the Savaii Tribe orchestrated by dispensary owner Jim Rice.
This week, his plan was put to the test and our local guy came out on top -- for now.
Things really started in motion on the actual Redemption Island, where Upolu Tribe's castaway from last week, Stacey, showed up ranting and raving to fellow former-Upolo member Christine. Stacey's anger kept up through to the competition the next day between her and Christine to determine who would stay in the game. In front of the two opposing Savaii team members sent to watch, Christine went off über-diva style about how back-stabbing and dishonest her former team members were. She also let them on to the fact that Survivor veteran Coach is running the show over there.
Though Stacey eventually loses the competition, her plan works and both the Upolu and Savaii tribe representatives run back to report what had happened. In the Upolu camp, this stirs up Coach who realizes the other team will put a big target on his back when the two tribes are forced to come together eventually.
His paranoia sends him on a mission later to search for the hidden immunity idol, based on a clue that fellow teammate (and arguably second strongest member of the Upolu tribe) Albert had found. Unfortunately for those of us tired of arrogant weirdo Coach, he finds the idol that flips his paranoia to a boastful arrogance, and it lasts the rest of the episode.
On another side of the island, Dawn brings the news of the Redemption Island match and Stacey's rant to a lazy Savaii tribe. Lounging in the makeshift bed with his clear crush, Elyse, veteran player Ozzy says that if he were Coach, he'd be gunning for the next strongest player. And on the Savaii Tribe, that is either Rice or washed-up Abercrombie & Fitch model-looking Keith, depending on who you are pulling for from your point of view on the couch. On the surface, Ozzy seems pretty confident that he would be able to orchestrate that because he clearly feels like he's in charge of the entire tribe. In his mind, Cochran should be voted off next and the rest of the team agrees.
Rice's plan, though, would take that power away from him instantly by getting rid of Ozzy's girlfriend and more importantly his puppet vote. Last episode, Rice got suburban mom Dawn and wimpy Cochran on his side, getting him three of four votes needed for a strong majority to get Elyse off. This week, he had to work on getting Keith and country music wannabe Whitney on his side.
Challenge time came, and it was the grossest ten minutes of network television I've watched in some time. Two huge cooked pigs impaled on spits sat in the middle of the arena and both teams had ten minutes to pull as much meat off as they could using only their mouths. The teams didn't eat the meat (yet), but instead carried it over to a basket, spit it out (I'm gagging now) into a basket that was later weighed. Here's the kicker: In the end, the Upolu tribe won. Giving them not only immunity, but a few loaves of bread, spices and (choking back puke now) all 22 pounds of the meat they just ripped off the pig, chewed up and then spit out into a communal basket. Worse is that they've been out on the damn island for 17 days, so this actually comes across as a reward to the team. Back in camp, weirdo Brandon - who took a noticeably quieter role from his usual quackery this episode - throws it all into a Cajun-style gumbo of ABC-meat and backwash that his malnourished teammates lap up.
Back in losing Savaii-land, Rice puts his plan into high gear. He pulls Keith aside, who is immediately on board with keeping wimpy Cochran around longer and instead voting out Ozzy's love toy, Elyse. As soon as the two separate, though, Keith turns into a total wuss and debates whether or not he should betray veteran Ozzy's trust with Whitney. What I don't get is why these two care so much to keep Ozzy around and in power for this long? Clearly they are missing the big $1 million picture that Rice, Dawn and Cochran can all see. As Cochran says: "I don't care if Ozzy thinks we are all against him, we are all against him."
Keith and Whitney remain soft through the voting in the elimination ceremony, throwing away their two votes on Dawn instead of voting one way or another for Cochran or Elyse. Still, the trio of votes against Elyse was more than the two for Cochran and the two throwaway votes and she was sent packing off to Redemption Island to join Christine. Ozzy, who was completely out of any loop, was left with a shocked look on his face. Dude is too arrogant and thinks the rest of the players owe him, so it's good to see him get knocked down a peg with this.
As host Jeff Probst said, it was the first blind-side hit on anyone in the game -- and surely will change the way it is played from here out. As the architect of the big shift, Rice has likely moved into the realm of a sneaky player and possibly villain to some people, from my seat on the couch Rice is making the right moves to keep himself around and get the best odds for the $1 million prize.
This week's Survivor Strain: Flo. A light, breezy yet earthy cut that Savaii tribe member Cochran could sure use to calm his neurosis.