It's the return of the Survivor food challenge, as well as a return to some good ol' fashioned strategy talk of yesteryear
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S26 E8
  • TV Show

THIS. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Plotting. Scheming. Betrayal. Lies being spewed. Lines being drawn. Sides being taken. Survivor: Caramoan had been big on big personalities, but light on any semblance of strategy or actual gameplay. Well, we finally got a delicious dose of it this evening as Corinne and Malcolm attempted to make their first move against the Favorites majority, only to then be successfully countered by the people they were attempting to overthrow. It was truly marvelous to behold, and long overdue after we were repeatedly subjected to the ravings of lunatics (Shamar and Brandon) for so long.

One comment to one person can completely make or break your chances in this game. Let’s look at the two big ones and how they played out differently.

Comment #1: Corinne to Dawn

After the merge, Corinne used some sort of Jedi mind trick to convince the rest of her Favorites alliance to vote off Sherri instead of one of the two more physical threats (Reynold and Eddie). What the alliance did not know is that at the following Tribal, Corinne’s new alliance of her, Malcolm, Eddie, Reynold, Michael, and Erik would then presumably make a play against Phillip. It could have worked. All she had to do was keep her mouth shut. Maybe she felt like she needed Dawn in case Erik wasn’t with the program (which we’ll get into in a bit), but the subject should not have been broached until after they had all gone along with the plan to vote off Sherri first.

Instead, she blabbed to Dawn about turning against Phillip on the next vote. Why do that? Or, more accurately, why do that now when you have no numbers advantage? Because you know there is a risk that if Dawn does not like what she hears she will go back and tell the others and then you are completely screwed. And that is exactly what happened. I love that Corinne was playing the game aggressively, but you have to plan your aggressive moves at the right time, and the nonsensical timing for telling Dawn of the later move against Phillip could not have been any worse. That one comment is what got Corinne voted out of this game.

Comment #2: Andrea to Erik

Well, this wasn’t a comment so much as it was a point to Corinne’s name on the new tribe flag. After Dawn told Cochran about Corinne’s plan, and Cochran told Andrea, and Andrea told Phillip, and Phillip told Sherri, a new plan was hatched to oust Corinne. Andrea then went and informed Erik. This is where things got interesting because now the question became, what would Erik do? He could bring this to his new Gota bromance alliance, and they could potentially decide to give Corinne the hidden immunity idol, giving their side the numbers going forward. Or he could stay with the Faves plus Sherri crew, which was the safer play. We saw how Corinne’s decision to talk to Dawn backfired on her, but would Andrea’s finger point to Erik now come back to haunt the other side?

That was the question heading into Tribal, but Erik decided to not only play it safe, but play it smart, I think. There still seems to be enough flux in that majority Favorites alliance that I don’t think Erik is clearly sitting at the bottom and needed to make a move. He can probably sit back for a few more weeks and make his bottom-to-top move then. Plus, had he joined with the other side, he wouldn’t have improved his position any. In fact, seeing as how tight some of those other people are, he may have been in an even worse spot.

In any event, the moral of these two stories is to be very careful whom you talk to, what you say, and when you say it. And pray that what you are telling them doesn’t come back to bite you in the you-know-what. Now, without further ado, let’s recap this episode from the very tippy top.

NEXT: Guess who’s crying again?

It’s hugs all around as the Bikal tribe returns from voting off Vanilla Ice Cream at Tribal Council. Michael thanks the group while Corinne boasts to us about how “I made sure I got the gay.” I wonder if Corinne is horrified by the amount of times she keeps referring to her favorite person in the entire world as “the gay.” I mean, he does have a name. (Michael, I think?) Corinne then inadvertently describes all heterosexuals as raging morons by saying that Michael is the only Fan with a brain out there. To that I’m sure Sherri would say “Hey, I was masterminding our tribe until the reshuffle,” Reynold would say “Hey, I found two hidden immunity idols,” and Eddie would say “Hey…can I have your phone number? Cause you’re pretty hot. And I’m pretty hot. And we’d be pretty hot together. Hot people are the best.”

Dawn senses it’s almost merge time, and merge time — not unlike wake up in the morning time, cook some rice time, and go sit in the shelter time — means it’s time to start crying. (My friend Janae still can’t forgive Dawn for reneging on her “tear free season” promise to me this time out, and for that I give Janae permission have someone whack Dawn over the head with an issue of Entertainment Weekly should they ever meet up. Entertainment Weekly — it’s not just for bathrooms anymore!)

So yeah, Dawn goes and does her best Lisa Whelchel impersonation by sobbing at the water well. The only thing missing is the humiliating #SURVIVORBREAKDOWN hashtag. “I want to make sure I don’t sit back,” she says in between tears. “Last time I let my game go to heck. I let Cochran flip. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t change the outcome.” She promises to play differently this time around. “You have to be the person that makes decisions. Those are the people that win.” Unless, of course, your name is Amber. Or Natalie. Or Fabio. But I digress.

Over on Gota, a boat is approaching. Could it be Tata the bushman hoping for some more island lovin’? “I don’t know what is happening, but something awesome is about to happen,” says Erik in the most Erik quote of all-time. A note tells the tribe about a “new home” and they know it’s merge time. Soon enough, they are over at the Bikal beach meeting the new members of the newly merged tribe and digging into a trunk filled with green buffs, food, and booze. Within a matter of minutes Michael accuses Dawn of “literally cutting the cheese.” Well, congratulations, Michael. You just made Dawn cry again. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Now comes the point in the season where someone always makes up a word for the new tribe name that they claim to be from the native language but is, in actuality, some tribute to a relative or favorite stuffed animal. And Malcolm is this season’s someone, convincing the tribe to go with Enil Edam for the name, which Andrea mistakenly believes stands for “a new beginning” but is actually Malcolm’s mom’s name (Madeline) spelled backwards. (Hold on, did Malcolm just steal one of Phillip’s B.R. Rules?)

Speaking of the B.R. rules, Phillip talks with Andrea about a foursome alliance of them two, Cochran, and Dawn, finishing with this gem: “When you lie in bed tonight, pretend you’re Boston Rob, because that’s what I do.” Apparently Rule #47 of The Boston Rob Rules is “Act as creepy as possible when discussing Boston Rob.”

NEXT: Eddie would rather not order off of this menu

But Phillip and Andrea aren’t the only ones talking. Corinne and Malcolm have their own pow-wow where they plan to make a new group of six with Eddie, Reynold, Erik, and Corinne’s gay. Their plan involves convincing the others to vote of Sherri, thereby giving their new group the numbers advantage, And then, Corinne says, “It’s blindside time.” (Could be sooner than you think!)

Tree mail arrives, but more important is what comes with it: the third in our favorite new weekly series: Wacky Dawn Meehan GIF of the Week! This week’s exciting edition features Dawn attempting to…Jesus, I don’t even know what she’s doing. What kind of dance is that anyway? Is that the Dougie? The Smurf? The Cabbage Patch? I honestly have no idea. All I know is whomever makes the first GIF of that bad boy gets a public shout-out on Twitter. Get on it, people!

Reynold is not too happy upon learning that it will be a food challenge as he calls eating disgusting food “my one weakness.” (Hey, you forgot about modesty!) Eddie too is worried about what might transpire, especially when he returns back to civilization: “The worst part is when you go home. And, like, you’re about to hook up with a chick, she’s like, ‘Didn’t you eat, like, a cow’s d— or something?”

Okay, I’m just going to let that one sit there for a moment…

Hold on one more minute, if you will. You really to need let the words truly sink in…

Okay, we all good now? So, just to recap: Here we are at the first post-merge challenge with Eddie presumably among the two most likely people to be voted off should he not win immunity. But instead of being worried about winning and saving his own skin, Eddie’s chief concern is that 10 months later back in New Jersey, his attempts at banging some broad are going to be thwarted over a misconception that he ate “cow’s d—.” Way to be a gamer, Eddie! The cool kids are all super proud of you.

Cochran, however, thinks a win would be “exactly what my love life needs.” He believes being able to down pig brains will turn him into a raging badass. In essence, he is hoping for the same magical transformation that turned mild-mannered nerd Steve Urkel into suave and sophisticated Stefan Urquelle…which also occurred after ingesting a mysterious substance, I might add.

Let’s go see if it happens! I can’t tell you how excited I am to see a good ol’ fashioned Survivor food challenge back. It’s been years! I was never a fan of how the challenge evolved into the Survivor smoothie affair since the food always seemed a lot less disgusting in liquid form. I want feathers, pieces of beak, all that gnarly stuff. I want the contestants to truly suffer for my perverse entertainment. I mean, that’s why they’re there after all, right? Say what you will about this season with all that Shamar and Brandon nonsense, but the challenges have been excellent and this return to form continues that trend.

NEXT: Cochran floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee

Usually the disgusting food challenges happen pre-merge as a team competition with rounds of individuals going head to head to score points for their side, but this time the race will take place in bigger rounds with top finishers advancing to try to win the whole thing. The competition begins with beetle larvae that is literally “running off the plate” according to Malcolm. But it clearly doesn’t bug him too much as he advances along with Andrea and Eddie, who not only does not stick his tongue out, but also appears to still be chewing even after Probst announces him as advancing. I would claim the fix is in, but why would anyone rig the contest so freakin’ Eddie could stick around?

Of course, the best part of the first round is what happens with the three losers after it finishes. Sherri spits hers out and then vomits it back again while Corinne doubles over as well to expel the offending material. But Erik? He just keeps on chewing away like he is Aunt Edna choosing to chomp down on the peed-on sandwich in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Let me just say, I don’t like that move by Erik. I LOVE IT! You’re already halfway home, might as well finish the job.

The second round kicks off with Jeff Probst and Dawn Meehan staging a modern day retelling of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”

Dawn: “Can I go whole?”

Probst: “Hold on, Dawn. Put your food down”

Dawn: “Wait, put it down?”

Probst; “Yeah, just wait.”

Dawn: “Forrrrrr…”

Probst: “For go.”

Dawn: “K.”

Brilliant. So after another round of beetle larvae, and then a round of shipworms, we were on to my all-time Survivor fave: balut. Let me tell you something about balut, which are partially formed bird embryos. I like to think that I would do pretty well at the game of Survivor. And I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in many actual challenges while on location covering the show and —without sounding too Reynoldish and braggy — have acquitted myself quite well. But I have to say: I don’t know if I could do the balut. I really don’t. I am not exactly what you would call an adventurous eater. I’m the type of loser that goes to a sushi restaurant and asks for the California roll. My idea of living on the edge gastronomically is ordering something with the word “tandoori” in it. Once in Bali I ordered rice for dinner. Just rice. (Everything else freaked me out too much.) So here is an arena in which I would most likely be destined to fail.

But pimp daddy Cochran has no such issues. He scarfs down the balut as if it’s an Easter Peep candy and then faces Malcolm in the final. But what is it? “It looks like brains,” says Malcolm. “You’re right,” responds Probst. “It’s pig brain.” Of course it is. Cochran just bests Malcolm in a photo finish and then suddenly morphs into Muhammad Ali, raising his hands in victory and then awkwardly shadowboxing around the premises. He then closes it out with a quote to Probst that might be seen as more than slightly creepy when taken out of context: “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. You’re going to touch my shoulders. It’s going to be incredible.” Actually, it’s kind of creepy even in context! Oh, and P.S. — Phillip totally threw the challenge in case you were wondering.

NEXT: Corinne gets punched in the face

Back at camp, nobody seems annoyed with Cochran’s display. In fact, Malcolm says he’s glad that JC got to win something before he got sent home. Meanwhile, Phillip and Corinne argue about who should be voted out. Phillip wants to do a split vote between Eddie and Reynold. Corinne says she hates the split vote, to which Phillip responds, “I believe, like Boston Rob, in getting rid of the power first.” Is Phillip getting paid for every time he says Boston Rob’s name? Is there a quota he is trying to hit? Are he and Corinne is some sort of arms race to see who can go out of their way more to mention the words “gay” and “Boston Rob” as much as possible? (Winner gets to “throat-punch” the other.)

So we know what happens next: Corinne unnecessarily tells Dawn about moving against Phillip after the next vote, and Dawn — having already been burned by not acting up to protect herself after Cochran flipped in her last season — immediately tells her alliance about the betrayal. (That Dawn is turning into quite the tattletale this season — first on Julia and now on Corinne. Memo to all past, present, and future Survivor players: STOP TALKING TO DAWN!) And the fate of the game ends up in Erik’s hands. “I have no idea what’s going on,” says the former ice cream scooper. “So I feel like I’m the swing vote. I’m suddenly becoming a very valuable player, which is so cool. I just wish I knew what I was going to do.” I take it all back: That is the most Erik quote Erik has ever said.

This is one of those weird Tribal Councils where pretty much everyone thinks they are safe, even if they’re not saying it. “I don’t think the Fans have a shot,” says Sherri, even as she knows there’s a damn good chance that Favorite Corinne is the one going home. “Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the face,” says Corinne. Little does she realize that she’s the one about to get punched, but I suppose that can happen when you’re not looking for new friend applications.

“Oh my God,” gasps Corinne when the vote gets to 5-5 and she realizes what has transpired. Two votes later, and she’s gone. And not only is she gone, but she doesn’t even get to be part of the jury, which in recent seasons has been pretty much automatic for anyone who makes it past the merge. As shocking as Corinne’s ouster must have been for her, the most shocking thing for us is hearing how not bitter she sounds in her final words. I thought she would treat her former Favorites as if they were all Sugar Kiper clones, but she is surprisingly calm about the entire thing. I didn’t think I would say this when the season began, but I’ll actually miss Corinne. She was a walking-talking quote machine the past few weeks, and she totally had the right idea about shaking the game up. She just picked the wrong person and the wrong time to do it. I look forward to hearing how she feels about it now when we speak on Thursday’s edition of the InsideTV Podcast. [UPDATE: Our Corinne interview is now live and boy, is it a doozy.]

But we have tons more to carry you over until then. Make sure to read what Jeff Probst has to say about Corinne’s ouster in our weekly Q&A. Plus, we have an exclusive MUST-SEE deleted scene from the episode in the video player below of Cochran going off on Phillip. And you can also check out my midseason interview with Malcolm, in which he talks about one big pre-merge moment that you didn’t see. Finally, for more Survivor scoop delivered right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. Are you glad, grossed out, or both to see the old-school food challenge back? Sorry to see Corinne go? And which side would you have picked if you were swing vote Erik? Hit the message boards to let us know and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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