The principal gets schooled on basic arithmetic. Plus: How this season stacks up against all the others

By Dalton Ross
Updated January 14, 2020 at 08:07 PM EST
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Debbie Beebee
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S18 E12

Okay, we have a lot to get through because I’m going to give out my seasonal rankings and reveal where this one falls when compared against all of the others. (Usually I would do that after the penultimate episode, but Lynette Rice will be filling in for me on that one, so you’re getting it a week early.) Probst said this would be a top 5 season. Was he on or off the mark? We’ll see later in the column. But first, let’s start with an admission that regular readers know all too well: I’m not a big fan of the loved ones from home episode. Simply too much crying and hugging for my taste. Yes, I have a heart of stone, and yes, I’m probably in the minority on this. But what frustrated me most of all was that the producers missed a golden opportunity that could have made the whole thing worthwhile. They could have used the visiting family members to create some true drama, but instead they couldn’t resist getting a Heisman Trophy winner on the show. However, we’ll get to that soon enough.

The episode began with Coach on a rampage. ”Erinn and Taj need to be cut off at the knee-caps,” he proclaimed. ”This is the time for the Warrior Alliance. There’s a reason why we have a name.” Uh, yeah, because you insisted on bestowing it upon yourself! Me, I probably would have opted for Crazy–Man-Alliance-of-One, but to each their own. According to Coach, he was surrounded by cowards, cowardly lions, and possibly a flying monkey army in league with the Wicked Witch of the West. There were so many more bizarre quotes that came from his lips at this time, I don’t even know what to include, so let’s just move on.

Speaking of moving on, Debbie was ready to move away from Coach. Smart. But then she wentwaaaaaaay overboard in doing so, tipping Stephen and J.T. off as to what a schemer she was and the lengths she would go to to get further in the game. The more she tried, the bigger hole she dug for herself. But let’s take a time-out from Debbie’s self-destruction to head on over to the Survivor auction. Each contestant was given $500, could not share money or food, and had to bid in $20 increments. Let me just emphasize that last part again: YOU MUST BID IN $20 INCREMENTS. Everyone got it? We’re sure? Great. And awaaaaaaay we go. First up: French fries! Here goes Taj bidding $40. Looks like Debbie is interested as well. She bids…$50? Okay, simple mistake. She obviously just wasn’t paying attention to Probst’s directions. But now that’s he’s reminded her that they must be in — say it with me now — $20 increments, I’m sure she’ll be fine.

So, Debbie. To recap, Taj has bid $40. What would you like your bid to be?

”$70.”

NEXT: Things don’t add up for Debbie

SWEET JESUS, WOMAN, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? YOU’RE A SCHOOL PRINICIPAL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Which part is tripping you up here — figuring out what’s divisible by 20 or the word ”increment”? Remind me to never enroll my kids in your school. The mathematically-challenged Debbie eventually figured it out and won the fries for $120, while Coach bought some chicken parm and wine for $320. Then Probst brought out the first covered item. Memo to all future Survivor contestants: Always bid on the first covered item. It’s simple logic, really. If the first covered item is something really sucky, then people will be less likely to bid on future covered items, so the first one is always something great, thereby ensuring that some tool will then spend lots of money on something gross later on. Oh, hey, Stephen! Enjoy those chicken hearts. Actually, it looks like you are kinda enjoying them. Gross.

The last item up for bid was blatant product placement in a Survivor auction, and it was won by the Samsung Instinct by Sprint. Congratulations, Samsung Instinct by Sprint! Well played. Or rather, well paid, I should say. Actually the item up for bid was a videotaped message from home. Contestants were allowed to pool money for this one, and everyone handed their cash over to Taj. Then an odd series of events took place. Since no one bid against her, Taj only needed to bid $20, making their cash contributions completely unnecessary. She tried to give Probst all the money anyway, but he said he only needed $20, so she took it all back, leading me to ask — what the hell happened to that money?! Did she keep it or return it to the other players? I’ve always been under the impression than the producers take any money you have leftover at the end of the auction, but that was the last item of the day and Probst then said he didn’t need it, so what gives? My suggestion? Give all the cash to Debbie and see if she can count it.

Taj then watched her message from husband (and former college and NFL great) Eddie George. She was so emotional about it that she missed his key line. ”There’s one line in there — kinda hard to hear,” said Probst. And then it dawned on her: ”SEE YOU BACK AT CAMP!” she yelled while trying to pull Probst’s arm out of his socket. Taj proceeded to pogo around like she was at a Ramones concert circa 1977. I know I’ve said I’m not a fan of the loved ones stuff but it was cute to see her freak out like that. However, as much as I liked it, I HATED what came next. Probst said Taj had a choice to make. He explained that Taj could make sure everyone else’s loved ones came back to camp if….At this point I was loving it. Oh, this is perfect! After freaking out about how much she wants to see her husband, and after everyone just gave her all of their money so she could see him, Taj is now going to have to either deny everyone else the opportunity to see their family or she’s going to have to miss out on seeing Eddie completely. Does she play selfishly and deny everyone an opportunity to see their people, or does she play strategically and deny herself that which she wants most of all? Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

Only, it wasn’t so brilliant. Instead of not seeing Eddie, all Taj had to do was spend her time alone with Eddie on Exile, which she actually probably preferred anyway so she could be alone with him. Let me just say this decision by the producers was smothered in a big pool of weak sauce. They had a chance to force someone to make a gut-wrenching decision that could possibly impact the game (and one which viewers could have struggled alongside with the question of ”What would I do?”). Instead, they blew it. Maybe they simply couldn’t resist the lure of having a famous athlete on but consider this a big opportunity wasted to force someone to make a truly difficult decision.

NEXT: Taj doesn’t get her groove on

Once Taj and Eddie got together at Exile, Taj talked about wanting them to get together at Exile, and how she wanted ”to take him to the side and have a conjugal visit.” (To the side of what, exactly? Looks like a whole lot of barren wasteland to me.) Eddie started off by telling his wife how bad she looked — just what every woman wants to hear — but then seemed to change his tune once he noticed how much weight she had lost. Apparently, Eddie George is a fan of the Survivor diet! As for the rest of the tribe and their guests back at camp, the producers went truly overboard (even for them) with the gratuitous hugging and crying shots. Look, I understand it for a minute or so, but it went on forever! Hard to be alone…appreciate my family more than ever…not taking life for granted…yada, yada, yada — got it.

Although I do have to admit, it was all worth it just for this one quote from Coach to his visiting friend. ”C’mon, guess what they call me in this game? The Dragon Slayer. Because I’m slaying all the dragons! I’m running this freakin’ show, let me tall you that right now. I think I’m going to be in that final two unless something crazy comes up.” You mean like, oh, I don’t know…REALITY?!?!?!? Honestly, I want to comment more on this quote, but I just don’t know where to start. Let me take a second….Okay, so…wait…no, I need another one….Alright, now I’m ready. First off, no one calls you the Dragon Slayer except yourself. Secondly, you have slayed no dragons. Thirdly, you are running nothing. And fourth, I’m positively certain you are on crack cocaine. And who is that guy visiting you anyway, Coach? ”If you said to me, you can have filet mignon or you can see your assistant coach for 10 minutes I would say, I’m going to see my assistant coach.” Hold on, I thought Tyson was your assistant coach? Do you mean you want to see Tyson again? Oh, and if it’s true that you were fired from your job as women’s soccer coach for saying you were going for cancer treatment when you were really going to appear on a reality television show, does that mean that your assistant coach just took your job and is now the coach? Should we start calling him Coach instead? And, taking all of this into consideration, do you now kinda wish you’d ordered the filet mignon? And speaking of filet mignon, shouldn’t you have least bought some for your assistant coach-turned-Coach before you forced him to engage in weird sexual positions that you insisted were not weird sexual positions? So many questions!

After we finally got rid of the loved ones, Debbie went back into game-play mode, but once again, she came on a little too strong, even offering to hand over immunity should she win it at the final three. ”I’m happy with third. Swear to God, I would hand it to J.T.” Now, this actually isn’t an awful move if she was banking on a final three, meaning there would be no immunity to give away. It’s actually pretty smart if that is the case. (Personally, I hate the final three but producers seem to prefer it and only go to a final two these days if they have too many injuries or quitters along the way. As far as I’m concerned, the inherent drama of A Vs. B is always better than take your pick among A, B. or C.) But Debbie’s aggressiveness made J.T. and Stephen uncomfortable, meaning she probably had to win immunity to stay alive, which provides a perfect segue to…the immunity challenge!

NEXT: Funny Coach moments at Tribal Council

I gave the challenge team a hard time last week, saying that this season’s competitions have lacked excitement and originality, because, well, they have, but this one, I liked. It featured an obstacle course followed by 10 spinning math symbols that had to be memorized and then used for an equation to come to a final answer. (Math symbols? Might as well count out Debbie.) We’ve seen people have to memorize things before, but having the symbols move and rotate was a nice touch. There’s also nothing better than seeing someone completely out of a challenge storm back to win it, and that’s what happened when balance beam-phobic Stephen memorized all 10 symbols on one trip to miraculously pull out a victory. How did he do it? By turning the symbols into numbers (because they are easier to memorize) and then breaking those down into two big numbers. I have to say, that is pretty freakin’ brilliant. Huge props to you, Stephen. I now hereby forgive you for your idiotic decision to take J.T. and Taj on reward with you last week.

After Stephen and J.T. wondered aloud back at camp why now one was trying to get rid of them, we were off to Tribal Council. There were four priceless moments from this T.C. and they all involve You Know Who (no, not Voldemort). (1.) Coach dancing with the fire briefly as he put down his torch. (2.) Coach saying of Debbie: ”She will never lie to me, no matter what. I trust her implicitly. She will not lie to me in this game.” Whoops! (3) Coach insisting that he did not come up with the nickname Dragon Slayer, to which Probst replied ”Let me guess — some chief in a small village.” Zing! And best of all (4.), in one of my favorite Tribal Council moments ever that did not involve a single word, Brendan and Sierra silently mocking Coach by hanging their sweaters over their shoulders as Coach walked by doing the same with his jacket after casting his vote. (By the way, did you notice how Sierra smiled more in 5 minutes on the jury than she did the entire 30 days she was in the game?)

So Debbie may not have done Dallas, but she did Tocantins, and was finally voted out, in sixth place. A respectable finish. She turned a lot of people off — rightly so — with her behavior last week, but she played hard, worked hard, and competed hard in non-math-related challenges, so I won’t hate on her too much. But I won’t really miss her either. So let’s move right on to where Survivor: Tocantins ranks (so far) in comparison to other seasons. Will it crack the top five like Probst predicted? Uh…no.

NEXT: The rankings

1. Survivor: Borneo (Winner: Richard Hatch)

Think back to when this show first came on the air — and how we had never seen anything like it. It will never be able to duplicate that sense of wonder and excitement…

2. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Winner: Parvati Shallow)

…although this one came damn close. It wasn’t just the most insane 4-episode-run in Survivorhistory (with Ozzy, Jason, and Erik all getting blindsided, and then Amanda pulling out one last hidden immunity idol). It was also great characters (Chet and Joel are the 21st century odd couple) and the perfect mix of solid and stupid gameplay.

3. Survivor: Amazon (Winner: Jenna Morasca)

Probably the most unpredictable season ever. Some people hate on Morasca as a winner, but she won challenges and played a great social game.

4. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)

Rupert stealing shoes. Fairplay getting drunk at Tribal Council. Osten sucking at everything. It was all delicious. Loses points, though, for the awful Outcasts twist, which also led to a disappointing final two.

5. Survivor: Palau (Winner: Tom Westman)

I loved watching one tribe decimate the other. And the challenges may have been Survivor’s best ever. Remember back when everyone loved Stephenie? My how things change.

6. Survivor: Marquesas (Winner: Vecepia Towery)

An underrated season that saw the first totem pole shake-up: where people on the bottom got together to overthrow those on the top. Yes, it was a weak final two, but it also had a woman peeing on a guy’s hand. Purple rock!!!

7. Survivor: Cook Islands (Winner: Yul Kwon)

What a difference a mutiny makes. It was listless until that fateful moment when Candice and Penner stepped off the mat. Then, we finally had underdogs to root for. The Tribal Council fire-making tiebreaker between Sundra and Becky may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

8. Survivor: Australia (Winner: Tina Wesson)

An overrated season. Probst loves it. I didn’t. Solid but unspectacular. Pretty predictable boot order as well. Dude did burn his hands off, though.

9. Survivor: China (Winner: Todd Herzog)

Really good cast. Kinda blah location.

10. Survivor: Tocantins (Winner: ???)

Okay, you may hate Coach. But imagine for a second this season without him. Bo-ring! His unintentional comedy single-handedly lifts this into the top 10. Seriously, other than Tyson getting blindsided, have there been any memorable moments that didn’t involve the Steven Seagal wannabe. As of now, this season falls in the middle of the pack, although the last two episodes could move it up or down a few slots.

11. Survivor: All Stars (Winner: Amber Brkich)

Overall, a letdown, but man, were there some hate-fueled fireworks at those final few Tribal Councils. Plus: Best. Reunion Show. Ever.

12. Survivor: Panama (Winner: Aras Baskauskas)

Ah, just writing the word Panama gets me daydreaming about Survivor Sally and her intoxicating knee socks. Terry was robbed on a final challenge that may or may not have been completely fair.

13. Survivor: Gabon (Winner: Bob Crowley)

It got a bit better near the end, but it was still a case of too little, too late. The fact that so many unworthy players went so far is simply too damning.

14. Survivor: Africa (Winner: Ethan Zohn)

Some great challenges. Not that much else was great.

15. Survivor: Guatemala (Winner: Danni Boatwright)

One of the more unlikable casts so far. (Remember Judd? Jamie? Stephenie’s evil twin?) Rafe was good for a few laughs, though. Especially on rope obstacles.

16. Survivor: Vanuatu (Winner: Chris Daugherty)

I don’t blame producers: The battle of the sexes worked well the first time around.

17. Survivor: Thailand (Winner: Brian Heidik)

The fake merge and brutal last challenge (where the final three had to hold coins between their fingers in a crazy painful pose) keep this out of the bottom spot. Barely.

18. Survivor: Fiji (Winner: Earl Cole)

The season that we shall never speak of again.

There’s my list. Feel free to tear it apart. Also make sure to post your own order (or at least your own faves and least faves). A few other programming notes: Jeff Probst is blogging his little heart out, as always, so go see his take on last night’s episode. We’ll be back with a new Survivor Talk. with Debbie that should be up sometime Friday afternoon. Until then, check out the latest exclusive deleted scene below. And how come I can’t stop talking about Celebrity Apprentice? I have no idea! But you can hear (and see) me discussing the finale with Jessica Shaw on the most recent episode of Must List Live! Okay, that’s it. Hit those message boards, people. And I’ll be back for the finale. C ya!

[Sorry, video not available]

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