Survivor: “The Beginning Of The End”
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Survivor: “The Beginning Of The End”

Sometimes, all it takes is one good ending to redeem a somewhat stagnant episode.

When the description for this episode promised two immunity challenges and two tribal councils, I was immediately intrigued, as the annual double elimination episode of Big Brother is always a personal favorite. But when it was time to go to the second tribal council, the excitement I felt before the episode started had dissolved into a sort of bland disinterest in pretty much everything. Even the intense pre-tribal scheming was strangely non-propulsive; coming across more like filler than the setup for any destined game maneuvering.

Imagine my surprise, then, when that ho-hum scheming turned out to be in service of a very entertaining ending: Andrea, who spent most of the episode itching to blindside someone and scheming to make it Brenda, ended up blindsided herself with an unplayed immunity idol in her pocket. She didn’t just get blindsided, though. She got blindsided while having a very audible, surprised reaction; her unchecked scream of “WHAT?” when she got more than one vote will go down in Survivor history as one of the more hilarious reactions to a player getting played.

The funny part (and I’m sure this will not be surprising for anyone who reads these reviews regularly) is that I was also completely surprised by this blindside, even after Andrea gave a confessional early on saying that “Some blindsides need to happen before it happens to me.” That’s pretty much an editing red flag, and yet the 45 minutes leading up to Andrea’s eviction served as some sort of red flag suppressant, lulling me into a false sense of inevitability that Eddie would go home. This likely wasn’t a purposeful manipulation of the narrative, but it ended up working in the show’s favor anyway, letting the stark delight of the big blindside stand in sharp relief to the monotony of everything that came before.

Why was most of this episode so boring, though? In theory, cutting out superfluous camp moments should create a tighter, tenser proceeding, keeping momentum moving throughout the whole of the episode, since there isn’t ever a chance to drop the narrative. In practice, though, this might just have been the wrong time for a double elimination episode to work effectively. Reynold was such a threat in challenges that his ousting was inevitable unless he won the immunity challenge, so the second he fell off that platform the first tribal council was all but held out there on the water.

The only thing the first immunity challenge gave us was Andrea’s focus on getting out Brenda, which ultimately became her downfall. Andrea’s instinct to start taking out threats rather than someone like Eddie who would likely get very few jury votes is a good one. The problem is that Andrea is very obviously aligned with Eddie, so much so that it’s obvious she’s planning on taking him to the end as a little bit of a goat, so any final two promises she makes to anyone else automatically seem a bit less reliable. Cochran picks up on this and begins swinging the conversation away from Brenda and back toward Andrea, first by approaching Dawn and Brenda to reveal Andrea’s schemes.

And from there, it seems to all come down to Erik yet again. I didn’t see Erik’s original season—so all the barely explained talk of him giving away an idol and then getting voted out is nothing more than a story to me—but for how little he’s done in this game, he seems to be sitting in a pretty decent position despite not having a solid mini-alliance. The more capable people leave like Andrea and Reynold, the more his challenge profile rises, and he is unlikely to burn any bridges, letting others do the hard work while he sort of sits back and just looks around blankly. He’s certainly made it much further into the game than I predicted based on his number of confessionals in the first six episodes, that’s for sure.

No matter who is in control of the game—and for all that happened tonight, it really feels like Cochran is starting to take the reins—voting out a player like Andrea while she has an idol in her pocket bodes well for the scheming we’ve seen these past few weeks to continue, and the run of entertaining episodes to follow in turn.

It will pretty hard to beat a “WHAT?” like that, though.

Stray observations:

  • Interesting that Andrea and Brenda came up with their own (likely unenforceable) rules at the end of the immunity challenge. What’s keeping one of them from putting their foot down stealthily and gaining an advantage? Probst even said he wasn’t policing it.
  • Eddie didn’t even stay on that platform long enough to see if he had a shot in the challenge before jumping off for some donuts. Have some dignity, Eddie.
  • Interesting that Cochran cited Dawn as one of his biggest allies. I would be interested to see whom the jury would vote for between the two.
  • Nice ‘stache, Reynold.
  • Malcolm’s reaction to Andrea finding the idol was probably a relocated cutaway from another moment, but it was still highly amusing. Well done, editors.
  • Erik: “I come from a family of diggers.”
  • Cochran: “I’m not the little Harvard nerd who was trembling in the bushes last time.”

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