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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Free Agent”

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This season of Survivor has been kind of a funny one so far. Although tonight was the sixth episode, it was the first one that truly felt like a classic, strategy-filled, twisty Survivor romp. Instead, the proliferation of volatile personalities (all right, personality, singular) took over the narrative, and before last week only allowed strategy to slip out in concentrated bursts in between the insanity. This episode, however, was heavy on the strategy, still managed to fit in a good bit of crazy, and ended up being a heck of a lot of fun.

One of the great things about the hour is that it spends a significant amount of time with both tribes, which is good because both tribes are at the beginnings of the seismic shift that happens every season right around the time they begin to suspect a merge is imminent. Savaii is in an especially tenuous situation after the last blindside, with the entire tribe pretty much going against Ozzy by voting out his biggest ally. Ozzy takes it horribly, immediately starting a fight and then moving on to pouting, sulking, and ignoring his tribemates. Tip to Ozzy: When Cochran calls you a “stupid bitch” and people laugh in agreement with him, you aren’t in a good place. Worst of all, he reveals he has possession of the idol during a heated argument with Dawn, of all people, declaring himself a free agent. (Ozzy needs to be careful, free agents have a history of getting canceled.)

Once he gets over his initial snit fit, Ozzy realizes being a declared free agent is a horrible way to play this game and starts working to mend fences. He starts with Keith, who immediately takes him back, as we all knew he would, since he was too spineless to fully go against him in the first place. He hits up the rest of the tribe next, apologizing to everyone individually. I still think Ozzy is on the outside of his tribe looking in, no matter how many times he makes the apology rounds. The last thing you want to do is to be so obnoxious you give people a reason to bond over you, and that’s exactly what he did. Jim, Cochran, Dawn, and potentially Whitney are clearly in their own camp, a camp that has no use for Ozzy. Depending on what happens with immunity challenges before the merge, Ozzy better make sure he uses his idol wisely.

One thing Savaii was together on this week was the immunity challenge, where they worked together to pull off a dramatic come from behind victory. This means Upolu is going to Tribal, and Upolu at Tribal surely means some Brandon Hantz insanity. Long before Brandon gets a chance to go Full Hantz, before even the immunity challenge, we get an interesting look at Upolu’s dynamics when Brandon starts looking for the immunity idol and Albert and Coach come together and decide not to tell him they have it. It’s clear Coach’s entire alliance knows they are teamed up with a crazy person and are only sticking with him because they haven’t been forced to make a tough decision yet. I must say, it’s pleasing to know the editing doesn’t lie in this case, and Brandon is just as nuts as he is being portrayed.

When Upolu loses immunity, though, things get really interesting. Albert’s focus is keeping the tribe strong so they can win challenges and not lose any more members before the merge, lest they get picked off one-by-one once it happens. To him, this means voting off Edna, who is by far the weakest member. He gets Sophie and Rick (who?) on his side, but knows Brandon and Coach are going to be a tougher sell. The reason they are a tougher sell is because Brandon is insane, and Coach has no desire to get rid of Edna considering she is his little game lapdog. He even goes to Rick and tries to sway him toward his way of thinking. Brandon, for his part, sees Albert’s argument and actually wants to keep Mikayla but refuses since he apparently gave his word to Edna to be the “sixth” member of their alliance. Brandon’s word is his bond, except when he says Mikayla is a dangerous woman and must be voted out immediately and then later changes his mind. Albert, who is a smart guy I am glad is finally getting some air time, realizes Coach and Brandon aren’t going to come around, so he approaches Rick and tells him he is the lynchpin: whoever he votes for is going home. Rick, who might have been taking a nap on the beach for the past few episodes as much as I remember him, is displeased with this responsibility.

Then comes Tribal, and we all know Tribal is where Brandon truly shines. Jeff actually impresses me by leading a debate between Albert’s camp and Coach’s camp about what type of player their tribe needs and what voting should be based on at this point in the game. Then Brandon’s Full Hantz shows up, and he starts berating his fellow tribemates about their lack of loyalty (and his excess of it, of course). To Brandon, loyalty and honesty are the most important virtues a person can have, which is obviously why he came into the game planning on hiding his true identity and denouncing his uncle. Jeff even gets to the point where he tries to get Coach to explain how withholding information from someone during the game of Survivor isn’t the same as being disloyal or a liar, but Brandon’s singular mental focus doesn’t allow him to even entertain the possibility, let alone understand it. One might ask why a person would come on a game revolving around lying and disloyalty if they believed such things, but I feel they would only be disappointed by the inevitable answer. In the end, Rick goes with Coach, and Mikayla is sent to Redemption Island.

Yes, Brandon's crazy is getting old, but at least this crazy came in service of some pretty interesting scheming within Upolu. Albert played pretty hard tonight, but he has good ideas and seems to command respect. If he can make it to the merge and keep the target off his back in the first few Tribals, he might have a shot at going pretty far in the game. That is, if Coach doesn’t realize what a threat he is and work to get him out first.

Stray observations:

  • Christine wins the duel AGAIN. She is the Jesus Matt of the South Pacific, minus the Jesus and with less luxurious hair.
  • I don’t understand Whitney’s argument that she and Keith’s votes weren’t votes against Ozzy. That’s exactly what they were, as getting Elyse out was specifically to derail Ozzy’s security in the game.
  • “In all seriousness, he’s just behaving like a stupid bitch.”
  • “If I’m going to coach this team, I need people in the heat of battle to listen to me. She’s a problem.”
  • “I’m not physically or emotionally capable of doing that.”