Another contestant makes the mistake of spilling the beans to Dawn, setting off a flurry of idol-related activity at Tribal Council

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:12 PM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS


S26 E9
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The following is a Public Service Announcement from Jeff Probst.

Hi, I’m Jeff Probst. You may know me from such pop culture catchphrases as “Come on in, guys!” “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” and “Worth playing for?” But one thing I never play around with…is contestant safety. On our show ‘Survivor,’ we take great pains — no pun intended — to make sure our players receive the best care possible should any situation arise which is hazardous to their health. Board certified medics like Dr. Ramona — who as far as I can tell has no actual last name — are on hand should a contestant find him or herself in any form of peril.

There are a lot of dangers out here on the island: snakes, infection, dehydration. But I’m here today to talk about another sort of danger — a danger that can take out even the strongest, savviest player. I’m referring, of course, to Dawn Meehan. ‘Survivor’ studies have shown that talking to Dawn Meehan is, in fact, hazardous to your health in the game. And it can lead to a deadly condition known as Meehanitis. Symptoms of Meehanitis include a false sense of security, the sudden urge to reveal your entire plan to the last person you should be revealing your entire plan to, and, finally, the painful realization that you have been duped once it is too late to do anything about it. At this point, the only known survivor — again, no pun intended — of Meehanitis is one John Cochran, who inexplicably lived through his harrowing encounter of informing Dawn of his plan to flip sides on ‘South Pacific’ before being ultimately done in by his own fear of colored rocks.

But Meehanitis has only grown stronger, more powerful, and more resistant to the antibodies used to counter it back then. Now, you don’t know you are even suffering from the disease until it is too late. It truly is the silent killer. Its victims are many. First it took Julia. Then it took Corinne. The latest victim is none other than Malcolm, whose entire plan was undone after he confided in the Mormon mom. (While Malcolm has not yet fully perished, his game remains on life support after his brush with death.)

A few simple steps to protect against contracting Meehanitis.

Step #1: Avoid any and all contact with Dawn Meehan.

Step #2: If cornered and forced to talk to Dawn Meehan, try to think of something that will make her cry. Drowning puppies is a good start. Improper bread baking should also do the trick. And don’t be afraid to bring out the big guns if need be: Talk about missing your loved ones back home. That should have her crying all the way through Tribal Council and she won’t have time to play tattletale with all the other tribe members.

Step #3: If you feel the onset of Meehanitis, take immediate action and use her own tactics against her. Start going up to everyone and telling them that Dawn is the one plotting to overthrow them with a brand new alliance involving that firefighter from New Jersey who is worried about eating “cow’s d—.” The best defense against Meehanitis is a good offense.

Follow this three-point plan and you too can survive even the strongest strain of Meehanitis. I’m Jeff Probst and I hope to be seeing YOU on the island. CBS cares.

Well, thank you very much, Jeffrey. That’s some crack advice right there if I do say so myself. Almost as useful as your PSA on Proper Tribal Council Voting Etiquette. Now, without further ado, let’s recap the latest episode of Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs Favorites. It was another doozy, as the pre-merge histrionics have been replaced by post-merge strategy moves and counter-moves. The merge can often mean a whole new season, and in this case that has been a very good thing. Okay, let’s do it.

NEXT: Cochran performs pelvic thrusts on a ladder

It’s day 23 and…HOLY SMOKES! THE ENTIRE ISLAND HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY MONKEYS!!! What the hell is going on? Monkeys here, monkeys there, monkeys freakin’ everywhere! How many monkeys are they going to show us before we get to the actual, you know, humans? I actually think the producers are on to something with this. I don’t know about you but I would totally watch a season of Survivor: Monkey Island. Unfortunately, the players eventually make their way to the screen, starting with Reynold, who tells Eddie, “Have you noticed, like, every girl that gets herself associated with us gets voted out?” Excellent! And female viewers hate you guys even more now! I honestly didn’t think that was possible.

Meanwhile, Phillip is busy sweet-talking new Stealth “R” Us alliance member Sherri, telling her, “I remember the first time I saw you on the beach, I said, ‘Damn, she’s hot!’” This was a really odd thing for me to hear because for some reason I always considered Philip to be a somewhat asexual creature. Maybe it’s just because I’m unclear what the cross between a gorilla and a lion (Gorillion) finds attractive. Is it attracted to other gorillas? Lions? Males? Females? The whole thing is mildly perplexing. All I know is that I did not like hearing this from Phillip one bit.

Continuing his efforts to make sure that Stealth “R” Us in the least stealthy alliance in the history of reality show alliances, Phillip then tells Sherri everyone’s secret code name while also bestowing on her the moniker of Tenacity, which makes Sherri sound vaguely like a Las Vegas stripper and/or member of the X-Men. (Also, why is Malcolm still “The Enforcer” if he was clearly outed last week being in an alliance with the fans and Corinne? I have so many questions about this damn alliance I didn’t even know where to begin.)

I also have a lot of questions about the reward challenge. A challenge that appears to have had a pretty big design flaw, as well as another flaw in terms of the scoring. The contest involves two teams of five, with one person on each team playing goalie and trying to block shots and stop the others from scoring via tossing balls into a net while jumping in the water. The sausage party of Erik, Reynold, Eddie, Cochran and Michael make up the purple team while Dawn, Phillip, Andrea, Brenda, and Malcolm make up the orange squad. Sherri is not chosen in the schoolyard pick ‘em and therefore has to sit out without a chance to go on reward. (Sometimes the odd person out is allowed to pick a team to root for, and if they win, he/she gets to go on reward with them. This is not one of those times.)

The aforementioned design flaw in the game is exposed on Brenda’s first throw as she lobs the shot over goalie Michael to score for team orange. This is the most Brenda has done all season to this point (although her true moment of glory will come later). After this toss, everyone follows suit with the lobs, and the defender basically becomes a moot point. The only way a team cannot score is if the shooter simply misses with their aim. Heck, even Cochran scores, and then celebrates by dry humping the ladder and awkwardly jumping and clapping his own hands before finishing with a flourish of even more awkward high fives.

NEXT: Was the orange team cheated out of a final throw?

But here’s what I don’t get: We were told by Probst that the teams were playing to four. And we saw the purple team shoot first. So when the purple team reached four, shouldn’t the orange team have been allowed one more shot to try to tie it up and send it to another sudden death round since they had shot one less time? You can’t allow one team to have more shots than the other. Something must have been lost in the editing here. Often in Survivor competitions, what you hear Probst saying they are playing to — in this case, four — is not the real number they actually played. When you hear — and you’ll notice that you often only hear it and never see it since the number is added in later in overdubbing — Probst say that teams are playing to 3 or 4, they usually are actually playing till 5, but then they edit out some of the rounds for time.

Were some throws edited out here and therefore it created the appearance of an inequality in the number of throws allowed for each team? Well, because I am a big time nerd who feels the need to suss out every single conspiracy theory, I asked Probst that very question in this week’s Q&A and you can check there for his answer.

In any event, the all-dude team wins, meaning the first ever reward for Michael (which basically serves as the equivalent as his last meal). For the island getaway, the men get to rappel down a waterfall and enjoy a picnic lunch. The extreme adventure aspect of the reward has John Cochran a tad concerned. “I rarely leave my apartment,” he says. “I rarely leave Twitter.” But it’s Cochran 2.0 we’re seeing now. “This is the same guy that was afraid to take off his shirt the last time I played Survivor,” he says. “Now I’m flying down a waterfall after wining a challenge. It was fantastic.” Well, flying may be pushing it, mister. Shuffling gingerly while occasionally stumbling and holding on for dear life is probably on the more accurate side, but let the man have his glory.

Of course, the Fans on the reward attempt to use the opportunity to bring The Intelligence Attaché and The Silent One over to their side as they talk about how super cool awesome it would be to have the men overthrow the women. This is the wrong tactic to take with Cochran. “Reynold, Edie and Michael must not know me that well that they are emphasizing the testosterone unity between us,” says JC. “And we’re men! We’re men and we hate women and we’re gonna slap each other with towels in the locker room and chug beers — that doesn’t work with me. That doesn’t appeal to me at all.” This quote is uttered over footage of Cochran taking part in the least manly fist-bump of all time with Michael under the waterfall.

Back at the beach, Malcolm is totally fine with the fact that his team lost. He’s just happy he’s with the people he thinks he needs to turn to help him form a new power alliance. He starts with Sherri, which is just an awful decision because when it comes to alliance partners, Sherri would rather work with Jack and S— than Eddie and Reynold. But then Malcolm makes his truly fatal flaw. He talks to the one person I said last week you should never, ever talk to: The Dawninator. He basically makes the exact same pitch that Corrine made and gets the exact same result, as Dawn surmises that Malcolm “is going to be a problem. It would be great if I can give him the impression that I’m voting with him, and we can all just take him out.” FOR THE LAST TIME, STOP TALKING TO DAWN, EVERYONE!

NEXT: Another excellent immunity challenge

So Dawn goes and does what Dawn does best (besides crying, that is) and tells everyone else about Malcolm flipping. They form a new plan to make Malcolm think the other faves are splitting the votes for Eddie and Reynold (or “Reynolds”, as Phillip calls him) when in fact, they plan to now take out Malcolm himself.

This is followed by a really weird yet enlightening scene of Andrea and Eddie hanging out by the lagoon while they both pretend to be hitting on each other while telling us that they are basically just trying to use each other in the game. The key moment is when Eddie flat out lies to Andrea about Reynold having an idol. This lie will come into play later in the episode, but first we need to head to the immunity challenge to see how many people will drown.

Let me be absolutely clear in what I am about to say: I LOVE this immunity challenge. It’s one we’ve seen before, but not in a good long while. The most classic iteration of it saw Ozzy wannabe Jason Siska actually beat Ozzy in it in the first Fans vs Favorites. The concept is pretty simple, as each player takes a spot in the water under a steel barrier. Then, as the tide rises, the water rises and the space to breathe decreases until there is no space to speak of. The last person to stay there wins. I love challenges like this that involve both ingenuity and mind over matter. The person that will win is the one who can come up with the most creative way to keep taking air in and out while not panicking as their entire face becomes submerged.

The players start out with about seven inches of breathing spaces, but 30 minutes in it is down to three inches, and an hour in it is down to a single inch. And then the contestants start dropping out. First Phillip, then Sherri, then…Erik? Well, that’s a bit of a surprise. Later, when Eddie, Cochran, and Reynold all exit simultaneously, it is down to just Andrea and Brenda. Andrea takes it to the very limit, removing her draped legs off the bars, going all the way under water, coming back up, but then eventually bowing out. That leaves Brenda as the victor, although since she can’t hear anything, Probst tells the contestants that someone has to jump in the water to let her know. And if there is a hot chick that needs to be grabbed in the water, you can bet that Eddie is going to be that someone to grab her.

Big props to Brenda, who until this point has been more invisible than any other single returning player EVER who has made it this far in the game. That’s a pretty incredible feat when you consider that Brenda was considered a big breakout character in her original run of Survivor: Nicaragua. Which just goes to show you how awful of a season Survivor: Nicaragua was. (Probst has comments on Brenda in this week’s Q&A that I encourage you to check out.)

So back to camp we go, where Malcolm is clearly displaying the early signs of Meehanitis, getting played by the sweet little Mormon mama who has convinced him that she is on board to vote off Andrea. “Dawn is really working it,” says Andrea. “Dawn is like the MVP. I don’t now where this Dawn came from. Dawn is good at this.” Malcolm even tells Dawn that Reynold has an immunity idol, which she then says she wants to see. Why? WHY NOT! If they’re going to hand over the farm, take the damn farm!

NEXT: Wacky Dawn Meehan GIF of the Week

For her part, Dawn is shocked that Malcolm is falling into the exact same trap his biggest ally did just a few days prior: “It’s nuts! The fact that I’m coming back after Corinne’s vote and Malcolm is still trusting me when I’m the person that gave the information on Corinne tells me that he’s not dialed in.” (Said quote also provides us with this week’s Wacky Dawn Meehan GIF of the Week when she does a simultaneous eye and hand freak-out with “It’s nuts.” Someone get on that pronto!)

So Malcolm then tells Reynold to show Dawn the idol, and show her he does, but with a very ominous warning. “If you don’t follow through. I go home tonight, so don’t screw me. If I have reason to doubt you, I’m gong to play it for myself tonight.” Dawn takes offense at this, saying that, “I can’t stand people that intimidate other people,” although I read it less as a threat than a plea and statement of fact. But the lady is 100 percent correct when she says, “Shame on you. You shouldn’t have shown me your idol. Shame on you, Malcolm You shouldn’t have brought me in.”

Survivor is all about identifying the right people you can trust or manipulate. Russell Hantz did it perfectly with Shambo in Samoa and getting Tyson to switch his vote in Heroes vs. Villains. Coach, of all people, also successfully pegged Cochran in South Pacific and rode that move all the way to the finals. Julia, Corinne and now Malcolm all flat out picked the wrong person. And Dawn definitely deserves credit for deceptively making them all think that she was trustworthy enough to talk to. It’s like when Russell got J.T. to give him the Heroes’ hidden immunity idol wrapped in a gooey love letter. We’ve seen courtesy of secret deleted scenes that Dawn has a very solid alliance partner in Cochran, and the fact that they appear to have concealed that from the rest of the tribe can not be underestimated. Corinne and Malcolm never would have approached just Dawn to flip if they realized how tight those two were.

It reminds me of the secret chess alliance between super snarky Danielle and virgin Jason in Big Brother 3. Nobody else had a clue they were secret alliance partners, because they made a point of only talking strategy when others thought they were playing chess. Dawn and Cochran have evidently kept a pretty good lid on their alliance as well. If anyone saw them as a solid unit, they would immediately become targets themselves.

So the plan is all set for Malcolm to get voted out, but then Eddie initiates one last conversation with Andrea, and in that conversation Eddie inadvertently reveals that Reynold may play a hidden immunity idol — the same idol Eddie previously promised Andrea they did not have. WHOOPS! But he also tells her that her name has come up, which she should have already known, but now she is getting cold feet about the plan.

She immediately runs and tells Cochran and Dawn that they need to change it up and go for the safe play of voting idol-less Michael off instead. And to think that Dawn was soooooo close to getting though an episode without crying! “I feel like my whole game is lost now,” she says through the oncoming tears as Dawn frets about all the work she did to deceive Malcolm, who now might end up staying in the game after all.

NEXT: Malcolm makes a bold (and brilliant) move

At Tribal Council, Erik starts acting out Survivor: Monkey Island by removing bugs form Andrea’s hair (although he doesn’t fully commit and eat them), Phillip continues to publicize every single move that Stealth “R” Us makes by gleefully informing Jeff Probst of Sherri’s new code name, Sherri and Eddie get into a minor war of words, and Phillip goes out of his way to mention “season 22 Redemption Island” as many times as humanly possible.

But then Phillip goes from silly to just plain stupid. After spending all this time and energy to make sure Malcolm has no clue that the Favorites are all still working against him, the Faves have to sit there and watch Phillip go off on a speech about how anyone that thinks they’re smart and tries to flip will get flushed out. It is around this point when it finally dawned on me: Philip Sheppard does not know what the word stealth means. He can’t. Because every single move Phillip Sheppard has made in this game has been the exact opposite of stealth. Hell, for this latest outburst he may as well have just gotten Tata the bushman to make him a big flashing neon sign that he could have held up at Tribal Council saying “Malcolm, we know what you are doing and are all united against you. P.S. Buy my new book, The Costa Rica Job, available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I plan to tweet about it early and often.”

So everyone goes up to vote, and then all chaos breaks out. Reynold goes to play his idol, but then Malcolm stops him in his tracks. “Hold up, Reynold,” says Malcolm. “They all voted for me. You can tell. That’s what that whole story was about. Give it to me and we’re in good shape. I’m being dead serious right now.” And then Reynold gives it to him! This is amazing for many reasons. Let’s look at just a few.

1. Malcolm already has an idol of his own! And yet instead of playing it, he got someone else who was also in danger and about three steps away from playing it to give it to him his instead. BRILLIANT! What if Reynold had said no? Would Malcolm have then played his? Did he even bring his? So many questions, but a truly bold and ballsy move by Malcolm.

2. The best part about Malcolm getting Reynold to give him his idol? The fact that Malcolm voted for Reynold to be out of the game. Incredible.

3. As dramatic as all of this was, it ended up making no difference whatsoever because the Faves and Sherri ended up following Andrea’s new plan to vote out Michael, and boy, are they glad they did. Although it should be pointed out that had Phillip not been so positively transparent and un-stealthy in his Tribal Council comments, that they could have stuck with the plan to vote off Malcolm. So in the end, whether Reynold or Malcolm played it didn’t really matter. The idol would be flushed either way. But damn, it sure was fun to watch.

NEXT: And then there was one (pick to win it all) left

So Michael — my Fan pick to win it all — got the boot, which means it’s now up to my Favorites pick of Dawn to prove me smart. I have picked runner-ups in each of the last two seasons (Chelsea in One World and Skupin in Philippines), which is pretty good, but I’m tired of being a bridesmaid. For his part, Michael had a fun exit, giving the tribe the finger while making a farting sound and calling them all “turkeys.” If only he had stuck the word “jive” in front of it.

So another excellent episode of moves and countermoves as Survivor: Caramoan finally begins to gain some steam while lending some much-needed credibility to Probst’s prediction of a great season. Why, it’s enough to make someone cry tears of joy. Someone like, say…Dawn! Judging from the preview for next week, the tears are back in full effect, but if she does in fact pull herself from the game, I WILL NEVER FORGIVE HER! And neither will my buddy Janae.

And you will never forgive yourself if you do not read my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst, who adds his two cents on Malcolm’s crazy Tribal Council move. And you will never forgive yourself if you do not check out the exclusive deleted scene in the video player below. You will totally forgive yourself for not following me on Twitter, but if you want Survivor scoop sent right to you, you can do that as well @DaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. Did you dig tonight’s episode? Who are you rooting for and against at this point? And how badass was that immunity challenge? Hit the message boards to let us know. One last note: I’ll be off on vacation next week so your scoop of the crispy will be cooked up by none other than super-sub Jessica Shaw. Have a good one and I’ll be back in two weeks!

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