In some ways, it feels like this game didn’t truly even start until the shuffle. Admittedly, part of this is my own personal bias of being extremely uninterested in a game where the Favorites and Fans were segregated. Still, shuffling the ranks has brought a bit of strategic life to a game that felt woefully lacking in it just a few short episodes ago.
This has been a shockingly one-sided game both pre- and post-shuffle, with the Favorites first steamrolling the fans and now Gota steamrolling Bikal. The difference now is that despite the steamrolling, the Favorites of Gota now have a bit more reason to mix things up, strategically, as they march toward the inevitable merge. So while Gota wins both reward and immunity tonight, the Favorites of the tribe have reason to work on their long-term game.
The focus here was Malcolm, whom you can almost sense is feeling quite comfortable with his status in this new tribe and now starts to get to work. He starts by going straight to Reynold and proposing an alliance of the four alpha-male types of Gota, with them, Eddie, and Erik. One of the reasons Malcolm is perfect for this game is that he has just the right combination of alpha male and regular guy characteristics, so he can blend with anyone. When Reynold immediately jumps on Malcolm’s offer and even reveals his own idol to cement Malcolm’s trust, it’s clear that Malcolm can charm any old bro. Seeing how well that worked out for Pete, I’m curious to see whether this is a long-term strategy for Malcolm or just something he’s doing to protect himself in those vulnerable times immediately post-merge.
As for Bikal, well, they’re a complete mess. They can’t win anything and can’t get along with each other, and Phillip and Corinne are a landmine just waiting to be stepped on. Phillip is just darn near unbearable at this point, stroking his ego at all times and bullying everyone else in the tribe when he’s not doing that. When they lose reward on a challenge Phillip insisted he would excel at, it was because the other team had “young legs.” When they lose the immunity challenge, Phillip (who was basically responsible for the loss) pulls Cochran aside and insists he lost on purpose, which is simply ridiculous. Then he “tests” Julia’s loyalty by telling her not to ever say anything about her being in Stealth ‘R Us to anyone, and then gets angry when Julia talks about it with Dawn. Who is also in Stealth ‘R Us. So it really shouldn’t be an issue. (I’m basically just angry Phillip made me type Stealth ‘R Us so many times, honestly.)
When Phillip’s alliance wants to split votes between Julia and Michael and Corinne objects, their long-simmering hatred of each other comes to a full boil. On one hand, Phillip has a point: Corinne only objects to splitting the vote because she is working with Michael and she doesn’t want to alienate him in any way. On the other hand, Corinne has a point: Phillip is a jackass, and his jackass nature makes it very easy to mute the parts of his arguments that are reasonable. When they get ready to go to Tribal, it’s pretty certain the vote splitting is still happening and Bikal is voting off Julia, but as last week demonstrates, there’s always a chance that things will flip last minute and the editors are pulling the biggest fast one on us yet.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, which becomes immediately clear once Tribal begins. What was a fairly interesting episode takes a complete nosedive at Tribal, which is a long, useless, boring mess. For an episode that was almost solely focused on the conflict between Phillip and Corinne it was barely addressed here by Probst, and for the worse. Instead, it was a non-illuminating, non-entity of a Tribal council.
The one saving grace of this whole thing is Cochran, who has quietly become the MVP of this season. His solo interviews only get better every week, as he becomes the sort of all-seeing, all-commenting narrator and arbitrator of all the nonsense happening on his tribe. It’s not just that Cochran is astutely diagnosing all the dysfunction around him; it’s that he’s doing it with a smirk and edge that is so welcome amidst the self-delusion that is Phillip. Thank you, Cochran, for saving our collective sanity.
- Corinne’s desperation to have an alliance with Michael is almost comical. It’s not like it’s a secret, so how does it even help her in the long run? She’s the bull in a china shop of alliance makers.
- I thought the immunity challenge was really fun, even if it was just an amalgam of every challenge the show has ever done. The combination of water and boats and keys and throwing things and flags and statues was like a “best of” parade, and it just worked for me.
- Reynold: Still really good at throwing things at other things.
- Corinne: “You tubby lunchbox. I’ve yet to see an ab on you. I don’t see any pectoral muscles. I mean, he’s an amoeba. He’s a loose 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack. He’s just a mess.”
- Cochran: “I’m tempted to say she’s a vanilla personality out here, but I’m afraid that would do disservice to the flavor of vanilla. I mean, people actively seek out vanilla-flavored products. Children clamor for a vanilla ice cream cone. No one is clamoring for anything Julia-flavored.”