And what pray tell is this? Do my eyes deceive me? Is that an endangered species I see before me? Why, I believe it is! Everyone be super quiet or you may scare it away. I can’t remember the last time we saw this in these here parts. I’m referring, of course, to the biggest of Survivor endangered species lately: actual strategy talk. In a season filled with yelling, shouting, and food-destroying courtesy of an ex-marine and an unhinged member of the Hantz family, we finally got back to seeing people actually playing the game.
Granted, there was no jaw-dropping maneuver; no crazy super risky move to flip the game upside its head. But we were treated to some basic chit-chat that illuminated options that players had to closely weigh as they decided how to best proceed: Should the Favorites on the new Gota side with the men or the woman who were each ready and willing to sell each other out? Should the Favorites on the new Bikal take out their weakest member who may have the idol, or the stronger member who is less likely to have the idol and also has a very strong alliance-partner already?
These are the choices that we viewers like to make in real time, deciding how we would proceed and then seeing how our choices match up to what happens on screen. Half the fun of Survivor is playing along, but we haven’t been able to play along too much this season thanks to the heavy emphasis on off-their-rocker characters going off on other people over and over again. But with Shamar and Brandon now gone, that hopefully seems likely to change.
I know a bunch of you don’t enjoy watching Phillip due to the huge emphasis put on his lunacy as well. But Phillip to me is much different, because believe it or not, all of his wackiness and eccentricity actually does come from a place of strategy. It may be bad strategy, but it is strategy nonetheless. He is trying to form alliances, giving everyone weird code names, and attempting to control what is going on from a strategic perspective. He’s not out there just sitting on his ass and yelling at everybody for attention. The dude is actually trying to win this game. Here’s a weird fact: Phillip Sheppard has yet to ever be voted off Survivor. He’s also (until last night) doing extremely well in challenges. So I have no problems with the amount of screen time he’s gotten this season. And I am sure that episode in which he finally does realize that he is not in control —and I have to believe that episode is coming — is going to be (borrowing Mark Burnett’s favorite word ever) EPIC.
But that time is not yet at hand, so let’s take this episode from the very top. We start off with the aftermath at the Favorites camp post-Hurricane Hantz. Phillip calls Brandon a traitor. Corinne, in one of her 1,237 sound bites of the episode, compares him to Mel Gibson, while Malcolm perhaps sums up the situation most astutely: “He just wanted to go down in flames.” Such is the Hantz way. As for Cochran, he feels relief that he is now free from at least half of the crazy in his life: “When Brandon was here it was actually like a certified asylum. It’s comforting to know that Brandon was successfully able to fly over the cuckoo’s nest and now we’re just left with Phillip.”
NEXT: All new tribes means an all new game