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Survivor: “Cult Like”



“Cult Like”

Season 23 , Episode 11

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Tonight’s Survivor was a very good example of how the show often creates a narrative out of basically nothing. With the rest of Savaii gone, Cochran now stands alone as the sole outsider amongst a tribe full of enemies. Based on what we’ve seen in previous episodes, Cochran appeared fairly integrated with his new tribe. Immediately tonight, however, it becomes obvious this wasn’t actually true at all. Cochran is all alone, and although the show tries greatly to make us think differently, every moment before the inevitable elimination plays like a bit of a slow-motion death march.

The odd thing is how matter-of-factly the whole thing is handled by the rest of his tribemates. Despite being pretty much the only reason Upolu is sitting pretty, no one seems to be all that concerned about keeping Cochran around. Cochran doesn’t really help matters much by sitting everyone down (sans Edna) and basically begging for them to keep him another week and send Edna home instead, citing his previous good deeds. Cochran is right about what he did for them, but for a self-professed Survivor expert, he is going about it all wrong. Survivor is rarely a game you can beg and plead your way through. Survivor is a game you mostly either muscle or scheme your way through. Wimpy explanations and over-rationalization are not respected and get you nowhere. The only thing Cochran’s speech manages to do is gain the attention of Albert.

Albert is an interesting case because he is obviously itching to do something, anything to take the game out of Coach’s death grip. He imagines himself a schemer, and constantly comes up with plans, but as far as I can tell never manages to go through with them or drum up enough support to allow them to happen. Part of this is surely because of what Cochran attributes to the cult-like nature of Coach and his tribal “family” (which he jokingly compares to the Manson family), but the rest of it must be Albert, right? Albert is a smart and attractive guy, and appears to be well-liked by his fellow tribemates, but from the last two episodes, it has become apparent this might not entirely be the case. Edna and Rick find him lazy and annoying, and Sophie has admitted she doesn’t respect his strategic thinking. Albert and Cochran come up with a perfectly fine plan to eliminate Rick and manage to get Edna on board, but somewhere along the way—probably when Cochran tried to recruit Coach and he put the kibosh on the whole thing—they weren’t able to get the one other vote needed to pull it off.

The thing is, if Albert isn’t the one to start shaking things up, I’m not sure who it will be. Sophie is intelligent but seems all too willing to just let things play out. Rick is useless. Edna is powerless. Brandon is crazy. This really is all about the cult of Coach, and although I was somewhat enjoying his turnaround from idiot to idol this season, now it’s just boring. Last season was all about Rob taking over the game. We don’t need to see that again, especially from someone who subjects us to extended tai chi breaks in each episode. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, Te Tuna!

Even if it wasn’t obvious where the vote was headed, once Tribal started any doubts were quickly squashed. With no remaining false narrative to support, things got downright strange. Alliances were laid on the line, with Edna tearfully resenting her position as sixth in a soon to be six-person alliance. Then things got really weird when Brandon decided to verbally pledge his allegiance to his original alliance by vowing to vote out Cochran tonight and Edna tomorrow. Then he cries, because apparently these random outbursts he has are stressful? And he is one person but there is another, more sinister person lurking there as well? I think Brandon might have a Dark Passenger. I don’t know; it was all very unclear. What was wonderful about his meltdown was how it prompted the rest of his alliance to turn on him and talk amongst themselves about what a horrible alliance partner he is since he cannot talk or even comprehend game strategy. Survivor is a game with many shades of grey, but Brandon lives his world strictly in black and white. It’s odd and random and horrifying and also sort of awesomely compelling, in a train wreck sort of way. Then, as quickly as it began, it ended, and Cochran was eliminated.

The most frustrating thing about Cochran’s elimination, or at least the way he and the rest of the tribe talked about his elimination, is how they seemed to blame his position on his big “betrayal” of Savaii. This is absolutely faulty logic; if Cochran hadn’t flipped, and Savaii had won the rock draw, once Savaii had wiped out Upolu he still would have been the last person in his alliance. Cochran, despite his love and knowledge for the game, just wasn’t a person whose disposition was suited for what the game entails. But hey, he’s on Redemption Island now, ready to face off with Ozzy. There’s nothing more I would like to see than for him to finally take that ego-inflated jerk down.

Stray observations:

  • Cochran is so awkward his awkwardness has awkwardness. Between his remarks about always giving his mother massages and never getting one in return and the comments I blocked out while he was having the actual massage, everything about his anecdotes was cringey tonight.
  • I love when players make declarations like “I have a mind to get rid of Rick THIS VOTE.” Uh, how? That part is kind of important, Albert.
  • Ozzy wins another duel. Yawn.
  • “There’s a reason they call him Prince Albert.”
  • “Albert wins immunity… and massage!”
  • “As William Shakespeare says, ‘There’s a time that comes in the lives of men that when taken leads to great fortune but when omitted, all the rest of their lives are bound in shadows and misery.’”