Ozzy makes another social and strategic blunder that could cost him dearly, while I examine the importance (or lack thereof) of going into the merge with numbers

By Dalton Ross
February 28, 2015 at 12:27 AM EST
Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S23 E6
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Recapping Survivor is a lot of fun. Almost as much fun as back when I used to play keytar for 1980s glam metal band Slaughter. Damn, those were the days. Okay, okay, I admit it. That’s what I call a half-lie, or a “little bit of a lie.” The truth is, I would have been a kickass keytar player and Slaughter would have been damn lucky to have me, but alas, it was not meant to be. But it’s cool to just lie and say I did, right? Almost as cool as this cigarette I have right here next to me. Not a problem to just smoke it up. Although, if I am going to smoke something, might as well just make it marijuana, am I right? You with me? I know one person who is  — my boy Brandon! He says lying, cigarettes, and pot are all totally cool! At least I think he did. Truth be told, I’m so freakin’ baked on doobies right now I have no idea what he said. All I know is I just downloaded the entire Cheech & Chong library, am halfway through a bag of Cheetos, and for some reason can’t stop listening to Phish. But all of that will have to wait as we hit on a few big themes and moments from last night’s Survivor: South Pacific.

Strength Vs. Loyalty

Usually I follow some sort of chronological line in these here recaps, but we’ll start right here because this seems to be a debate that never dies. Is it better to go into a merge with numbers, or with the most solid, loyal group you can? Now put aside the fact that this debate with Albert and Sophie on one side and Coach and Brandon on the other over whether they should keep Mikayla or Edna was really more about Coach wanting to keep someone (Edna) that would be solidly in his corner while Albert and Sophie were most likely looking to save someone that they could control a bit more in Mikayla. It was still framed as an argument over the importance of going into a merge with numbers. No one would sit and argue that it is better to go into a merge down in numbers to the other tribe, but how vital is it exactly to have that advantage? Well — NERD ALERT! — I did a bit of research.

The first thing I did was throw out any season in which there were any pre-merge tribe swaps or consolidations, just because that made it harder to track loyalties (is the player more loyal to the person on their original tribe or their second one?). That left nine seasons. Four of those seasons (Borneo, The Australian Outback, Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains) went into the merge with completely even tribes. For the five seasons in which one tribe went into a merge with a numbers advantage, three times (Thailand, Palau, Redemption Island) the winner came from the tribe with the advantage, but twice (Tocantins, Samoa) someone from the tribe with the deficit won. So by no means is the advantage imperative, especially when you consider that Palau featured only one member (Stephanie LaGrossa) merged from the smaller tribe — making her victory a near impossibility, and putting the above comparison in a virtual dead heat. The irony, of course, is that in this case the whole debate about the value of keeping a tribe tight and strong seems to have actually caused division within the team. And we all saw how that turned out for the Timbira and Galu tribes.

NEXT: Ozzy name-drops Hank Azaria

Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy, Get Your Tantrums Here

Extra bonus points if you picked up on the Schoolhouse Rock reference. No doubt about it — Ozzy is a mellow fellow. In fact, the man Dawn once called Bob Marley is probably on his way over right now to partake in my Cheetos and Cheech & Chong party (if you pick up what I’m putting down). But we’ve seen him blow up before. He screamed “Death to mutineers!” at Candice and Penner after they bolted his tribe on Cook Islands, and he threw a major hissy fit at Parvati at the final Tribal Council on Micronesia after she blindsided him. But he hit a new low here. And let me be clear before I continue: I like watching Ozzy on Survivor a lot. No one embraces and embodies the living-off-the-land conceit of the show better than he does. But he’ll be the first to tell you his social game has been poor in the past. And he’d be the first to tell you that this post-Tribal blowup here was a miscalculation of epic proportions.

Let’s be clear about one other thing: Ozzy was absolutely right when he said Keith and Whitney made him look like an idiot, and he was absolutely right when he told Whitney that anytime they leave him out of the loop on plans then those plans are indeed against him. But that doesn’t mean you say it! Keep your yap shut! When the entire tribe blindsides you by getting rid of your biggest ally, you keep you head down, collect some fish, and do your best to make people want to keep you. What you don’t do is say “I’m done playing the alliance way.” You also don’t call yourself “a free agent” because you know what happens to free agents? They get cancelled! (Just ask NBC.) And you certainly don’t warn everyone that you’re going to go to Redemption Island, kick tons of butt, and then come back and kick their butt for dessert. But most of all, no matter what, you never, ever, ever say, ”I’ve got the idol. How about that?”

My policy on telling people about idols has been consistent and clear: You don’t do it. And to now not only do it, but do it in a threatening way is just about as bad as you can get. Ozzy and I spoke before the season began about his poor social and strategic game, and how he needed to improve on both. It seems it hasn’t happened yet. And I fear he could be running out of time.

A Tale of Two Challenges

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Oh, I’m sorry. I think I fell asleep while watching the Redemption Island duel, or, as I like to call it: Snoozapalooza. Survivor has long been enamored of its shuffleboard challenges, but this may have been the lamest one yet. The biggest problem — other than the obvious flaw of it being a shuffleboard challenge — is that it was too hard to follow the shots. Where were the pucks they were trying to knock out? What sort of angle or strategy were they taking? And why is Christine itching her nose? Oh, wait! She’s not itching her nose, she’s telling Rick to put on some glasses! No, wait again. She’s not telling Rick to put on some glasses, she’s informing her former tribemates that she’s number one! No, check that. She’s not telling her tribe she’s number one, she’s…ooooooooooooooh, naughty girl.

NEXT: Ozzy once again releases his coconuts

Of course, Christine flipping Rick off was the highlight — or “onlylight”, as it were — of the duel. (I love how Sophie complained later that, “She was so negative.” Of course she’s negative! You voted her off! First!) But Christine continued her Elrodian-like dominance of Redemption Island by dispatching this season’s hottest contestant in Elyse. I liked Elyse a lot when we spoke before the game and thought she had the potential to do very well. Had Ozzy not been part of the cast, perhaps she would have. Instead, she had to tell Probst all about her “adventure” and throw her buff in the fire. (I already went on at length last week about how I hate that due to Redemption Island the elimination moments have transformed from deliciously ruthless and cutthroat to all sparkly rainbows and unicorns. Whoops! Looks like I just did again.)

Okay, so shuffleboard and uplifting exit quotes like “I’m stronger than I think I am” are not for me, but the reward/immunity challenge most certainly was. The task before the tribes was to assemble a wheelbarrow, go through an obstacle course while picking up two loads of coconuts that then needed to be emptied into a trough. Then, three other tribe members had to disassemble the wheelbarrow and use the same pieces to construct a slingshot which would be used to fire the coconuts at a five targets. Big props to John Kirhoffer and his challenge department for this one. First off, I love the fact that they were able to incorporate different elements into a challenge without it ending in a major puzzle. Secondly, I love the element of having to use the same pieces to construct two vastly different tools — the wheelbarrow and the slingshot. Sure, constructing them did not appear to be too difficult, but it was creative and did incorporate a puzzle element that was not merely a puzzle for puzzle’s sake. Very cool.

The coolest thing of all is watching one team battle back from a major deficit to win. Ozzy, Dawn, and John totally blew it on the wheelbarrow portion, but thanks to some sharpshooting from Jim, and an ineffective one-armed technique from Mikayla (what is this, The Fugitive?), Savaii dramatically emerged victorious — leading to some truly awkward preening from Jim. Not only did Savaii now not have to wrestle with whether to vote Ozzy off, but they got to enjoy an afternoon at the sliding rocks. You may remember these rocks also served as a reward destination on Survivor: Samoa. I’ve been on them myself, although when I went I had the bonus of several shady-looking locals that would stare sketchily at all my female companions as they slid down the rocks bikini-style. That was their reward, it would seem.

NEXT: Beware the hand of Hantz

Some Guy With a Moustache I’ve Never Seen Before Is About To Decide Who Gets Voted Out Next

With Coach wanting to keep Edna because she would stay loyal to him, and Brandon wanting to keep Edna because he said he would, and Albert and Sophie wanting to keep Mikayla, ostensibly because she was stronger, but more likely because she would be more in their corner than Edna, that meant that all the power went to the mute guy with the moustache. Which I love. It’s one of the most exciting things about Survivor. One side wants you with them, the other says to do what they say. It becomes a total tribe tug-of-war, with one person stuck in the middle. What does he do? Which side does he pick? And how does that decision alter the entire course of the game, and season. Fun stuff. All we need is another looney tunes Tribal Council to sort it all out.

A Hand-Raising Experience

Know this: Whenever Brandon raises his hand at Tribal Council, something totally insane is about to happen. We saw it go down when he admitted to lying about Christine and Stacey wanting to vote out Mikayla, and it happened again here. A few minutes after insisting that “This next challenge is absolutely detrimental to the way this game turns out” — anyone understand that at all? — Brandon’s hand went up again and all heck broke loose. He began by calling out Albert for going back on his word to keep Edna in the final six, and ended by instructing his tribemates to “Vote me out today if we’re gonna play this loyal.” That’s not true, actually, He really ended later by rambling on about cigarettes and marijuana. Well, that’s not entirely true either. He truly ended by telling Coach he loves him, because who couldn’t love a man that salutes and winks to no one in particular approximately every 120 seconds at Tribal Council.

In the end, Brandon and Coach won as Rick sided with them and voted off Mikayla, who has a more-than-decent chance to knock off the nose-scratching Christine at Redemption Island. And it’s time for me to knock off this nonsense and tell you about all the other goodies we have lined up for you. I asked Jeff Probst for his take on the importance of numbers at the merge in our weekly Q&A, so make sure to give that a gander. And we once again have an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode waiting for you in the video player below, along with Elyse sharing some truly horrible jokes that need to be heard to be believed. And for more Survivor news and views all season long, you can follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss, although you should be warned that my profile picture is mildly distrubing. Now it’s your turn: Where do you stand on the strength versus loyalty debate? Which was worse: Ozzy’s meltdown or Brandon inviting his teammates to vote him off? And what the hell is going to happen if and when Brandon finds out Coach has been lying to him about the hidden immunity idol? Hit the message boards and let us know, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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