Two contestants are voted out as the former Upoluians take complete control of the game
Credit: Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S23 E9
  • TV Show

I should be taking a stand one way or another on Jim referring to John as a “piece of s— coward,” a “poor excuse of a man,” and a “f—ing piece of s— nerd.” But I won’t. I should take a side after Whitney told the rock-phobic law student “you disgust me.” But I choose not to. However there is one comment on which I will rule, and that comment belongs to Ozzy Lusth, who informed the camera that John’s flip-flop was all about self-preservation. “That’s how a wiener plays.” A what? A wiener? Who the hell still uses that word? Seriously, unless you have a dachshund or some sort of Oscar Mayer jingle obsession, there is absolutely no reason to be using the word wiener. Which is exactly why I am in complete support of it being used here. I don’t care if John was or was not being a wiener. It is not my concern. Nor is the alleged wiener’s wiener my concern either. However the fact that one person is calling another a wiener? Simply fantastic. Old-school put-downs are the best. I can only hope that this will lead to a flood of obsolete name-calling among the cast. Blockhead! Harpy! Knucklehead! Muckracker! Nincompoop! I hereby support all of those words and anyone who dares employ them.

Now that that’s settled, let’s get back to poor John and the barrage of insults heading his way as episode 9 of Survivor: South Pacific kicks off. I was very, very angry with John as well after he chose to join up with Upolu rather than risk pulling the dreaded colored rock. But not because that would make him a spineless backstabber. I couldn’t care less about such matters. This game is about getting to the end and winning and doing whatever moves help you achieve that goal. My anger toward John was based more in what I saw as a major strategic blunder on his part. The bottom line is that John’s percentage chance of pulling a rock and thereby going to Redemption Island was 14%. But now his chance of winning by not pulling a rock is hovering somewhere around zero percent. If “you play to win the game,” as Jets coach Herman Edward once put it, then John played it wrong, plain and simple.

But Jim, Whitney, and Ozzy care not for numbers at this point. They feel angry and betrayed, and they’re letting John know about it. Continuing to act as John’s personal bodyguard, Brandon interrupts John and Ozzy’s chat. “I just wanted to make sure that nobody is being aggressive with him.” Brandon doesn’t like aggressive. Like when women get really aggressive in walking around in their bathing suits while on a beach, forcing him to aggressively drool all over his shirt which is aggressively covering his tattoos. Temptresses!

Ozzy can’t help but be amused by the situation, informing Brandon that “We’re not, like, gangsters out here, man.” Oh, but what if they were? I am officially petitioning the producers right here and right now to make season 25 Survivor: Fans vs. Gangstas. How awesome would that be? I can totally even picture a challenge. Probst: “Wanna know what your playing for? The winner of today’s challenge will receive an original UZI sub machine gun. It can fire 600 rounds per minute and could prove to be a real difference maker in this game. In addition, the winner of today’s challenge will get to choose two other tribe members…to be shot. Choose wisely, because they will be dead and therefore not only out of the game, but also unable to cast votes in the final Tribal Council.”

NEXT: To puke or not to puke? That is the question.

Speaking of challenges, after being treated to the trembling fist of Coach, we are off to one ourselves. Having an immunity challenge this early is a clear indication that there will be another immunity competition to come later as well. I’m both hot and cold on this one, however. I’m cold on the first half of the challenge, which involves merely tossing a coconut into a ring. Only the fist four to do so advance, meaning we are robbed from seeing people like Coach, Ozzy, and John compete in part two, in which the remaining contestants have to crack open coconuts with a rock, fill their mouths with coconut water, sprint through an obstacle course, and then spit the water into a tube until it is filled.

So what exactly was the point of the first portion — besides boring us to tears? Why wouldn’t you want everyone on this barf-inducing obstacle course with their cheeks all puffed out with coconut water. The only good thing to come out of the coconut-tossing portion was watching Jim and Sophie jump up and celebrate awkwardly after advancing. I mean, really awkwardly. Dawn and Whitney also made the second portion, which comes down to a two-horse race between Jim and Sophie, who are most likely not too pleased right now that I just referred to them as horses.

When Jim comes up a millimeter short, it looks like Sophie is our winner, but then just as she’s about to descend the jungle gym with her mouth full of coconut water, she stops. The hand goes to the throat. The gag reflex starts. Oh, boy. Time for me to put down the Garden Salsa flavor Sun Chips. Looks like Sophie’s gonna lose it. But wait, now she’s trying to continue on! What a trooper! Or, is she just squatting as if there’s an imaginary toilet bowl to puke into? Can she hold it down? There hasn’t been this much will-it-or-won’t-it-happen anticipation since Brian Doyle-Murray bet the Bushwood shoe-shine guy $50 that the Smales kid would eat his own boogers in Caddyshack. The thing about Caddyshack that cracks me up the most — besides the fact that everyone who worked on the film appears to be coked up out of their minds — is that…oh, wait, Sophie just hurled. Crap. Now I’m down 50 bucks.

What I do enjoy most about this vomit scene is that because there is no meat or smoothies involved, producers decide to just treat us to the entire puke job. Usually we just get a little taste — no pun intended — of what’s coming up and out, but this time not only do they show us the entire expulsion, they even stick with it to treat us to the post-puke gags and spit-spray. In any event, Sophie’s stellar reenacting of every single Sunday morning of my collegiate career opens the door for Jim to throw his arms in the air and wave them like he just don’t care, and if you’re about to win immunity to keep you in the game, somebody scream “Oh, yeah” Oh, yeah! (Sorry, just helping Probst out with some ideas for Survivor: Fans vs. Gangstas.)

NEXT: Ozzy runs out of time…and just plain runs

Now that Jim is safe, that makes Upolu’s vote for Ozzy a done deal, and Brandon tells John just that. “How many chances do you get to vote him out of this game?” he asks. “Apparently, two,” answers John. (Well played.) Ozzy tries to make a plea to Coach to stay and while it doesn’t work, it does lead to one thing that has been sorely lacking this season, and that is Coach reaching deep down into his Jack Handey book of Deep Thoughts for a sage-like quote to sum up the situation. “Some of the greatest inspiration is born of desperation, Marcus Aurelius once said,” Coach tells us.

Wow. That was awesome. And you know what makes it even more awesome? The fact that Marcus Aurelius never said it! No, it never came from the lips of the Roman emperor, but rather from one Comer Cottrell, a man who made his millions on — you are going to absolutely love this — Jheri curl. That’s right, Cottrell founded his company (Pro-Line) after concocting a strawberry scented oil sheen for afros. Roman emperor, Jheri curl magnate — practically the same thing, right? Genius. Genius that Coach bothers to memorize a quote book before playing, and genius that he then manages to mangle his power quote on national television. That is seriously my favorite misattribution of all–time. It involves Jehri curl for crissakes! As well as he is playing this season, this is the Coach I know, love, and kind of miss. Glad to have him back.

Ozzy is done. As he says himself, he has no moves left, except searching for a new hidden immunity idol that would have replaced the one that was just used (however we don’t see anyone searching for it for some reason.) Ozzy joins Jim and Whitney in the water where the two are still discussing how much they loathe John. Jim then does the harshest thing imaginable by actually getting Ozzy’s hopes up. Jim’s plan involves him giving his immunity necklace to Ozzy and then convincing Upolu to vote off the only person in the game that refused to stick with their own tribe: John. Of course, Upolu has nothing at all to gain by doing this so it will never happen. “Knowing Jim, I believe that if he says he’s gonna give me the necklace, I believe he will,” says Ozzy, who clearly does not know Jim like he thinks he does.

Off to Tribal Council we go, where John once again professes his fear of rocks and Jim tries to convince the Upolu folk that if they really are about honor and integrity then they will vote out John. Coach says to do so would be sending a message to future Survivor contestants that if you stick up for yourself then you’re going to get screwed. If sticking up for yourself means avoiding taking a rock-related risk as well as getting suckered by your opposition with a bogus final four deal (as we saw in a deleted scene last week) then, yes, John totally stuck up for himself. The vote for Ozzy is obvious, but we can still be entertained by Ozzy’s kick-ass decision to sprint to both the voting urn and out of Tribal Council completely. Reminds me of that old baseball player (and Simpsons guest star) Steve Sax who insisted on sprinting to first base after being walked. I always found that odd, especially since first base tortured the guy so much because he had a mental block about throwing there. Whatevs.

NEXT: The Dawn of another overacting job

In this case, however, Ozzy seems happy to be at Redemption Island. He’s catching a huge fish with his boy Keith and looking forward to winning some duels. Speaking of which, shouldn’t he be, like, dueling Keith right now. Jeff Probst told me before the game began that there would be no group duels this season, but the only duel Ozzy and Keith are having right now is to see who can eat more fresh fish. If we want to witness a competition, were going to have to head back to the unfortunately named Te Tuna tribe. The 10 remaining contestants are back fighting for immunity. Check that. Three of the remaining 10 contestants are fighting for immunity. The other seven choose instead to enjoy a scrumptious feast of pastries and iced coffee. Only Coach among the Upolu seven (and yes I’m including John in that group) hesitates in passing up a chance to compete.

I’m always in shock when I see this happen. I don’t want to minimize the importance or lure of food when you’ve been practically starving for over 20 days, but you should never ever feel safe in this game, and even if you do, don’t you want to soak up every single part of the Survivor experience while you can? John and Rick are both hardcore fans of the show that tried like hell to get here and play. So play!!!! I don’t think I could ever sit out of one single challenge. Granted my belly is nice and full as I type this, but I’m pretty stubborn that way. Plus, if I’m sitting on a jury, I’m a lot more likely to throw my vote to someone who competed, even when they may not have had to. Think it through, people!

In defense of the pastry-gobblers, the challenge is kinda lame, and more-than-kinda weighted toward the female competitors. Women always do better in balance competitions, and if it also involves wedging your feet onto a small surface, then a woman is pretty much guaranteed to win due to their smaller shoe size. (Unless, of course, you’re a male with petite feet.) This particular contest has Jim, Whitney, and Dawn standing on an incredibly shrinking balance beam while balancing a ball on a wooden bow. Predictably, Jim is out first, leading to cheers from Brandon “Stay Classy” Hantz. “Jim has no shot at immunity tonight,” says play-by-play man Probst leading to Jim’s hilariously bitchy response of “I know!”

Like Coach’s misquotes and absurd survival stories, this season has been woefully lacking in bitchy contestant backtalk aimed at the host. Unfortunately, with Jim almost out of the picture, I fear the rest of this group to be far too nice to engage in any trash talk with Probst. Can’t we get Christine back in here so she can flip him off again? (That’s right — the middle finger she whipped out at Redemption Island was directed at Probst, not Rick.) The rest of the challenge consists of Dawn mounting a formal challenge to Ozzy for Worst Survivor Actor Ever honors. Dawn is smart to play nice with the in-power Upoluians, but goodness gracious, dial it back by like 18%, woman! It was bad enough watching Dawn vote Ozzy off, but her proclamations that “I really feel like there’s one tribe now” while telling the pastry-eaters that she will hold on as long as possible in the challenge so that they can keep eating comes off as waaaaaay over the top. Either that or we’re looking at a major case of Stockholm Syndrome.

NEXT: The long-awaited return of Crazy Tribal Council Brandon

Albert notices it — how could anyone not! — and once Whitney wins immunity and they all head back to camp, he begins a campaign to get rid of Dawn instead of Jim, who if nothing else has proven himself to possess excellent sand diagraming skills. But can he sell Coach and the others on it? Off we go to Tribal Council to find out, which includes John honing his comedy act by wearing Coach’s jacket and Rick’s hat. (I didn’t say it was a good act.) Even though the vote is once again obvious, Brandon brings his crate of fireworks nonetheless, picking a fight with Dawn when she notes that it was hard for her to sit and watch everyone else eat. The awkward back and forth ends with Brandon coming right out and informing everyone that there is no way any Savaii tribe member has a chance of breaking the Upolu six. “I can promise you, Jeff,” says Lil’ Hantz. “None of us are gonna stop until that whole Savaii tribe is completely…” and with that he sweeps his hand in front of him to motion them all being wiped out. (You hear that, John?)

This leads into some bizarre back and forth argument about who was excluding whom, with Brandon claiming that, “We were excluded until we got power.” How can you be excluded if there were just as many of you as them? Excluded from what? Ugh. Arguing logic with Brandon Hantz is a fruitless proposition so I’m just gonna stop right there before I get too enraged. Jim, who unwittingly set the ball in motion for his own demise by getting rid of Elyse instead of John, is voted off. So an episode in which Probst promised us that “two people go home” actually ends with zero people going home and a full-on sausage party raging at Redemption island. Not that I’m complaining. This has been a really good season of Survivor with a really good cast — great, actually, when compared to the past two installments. It’s the type of season where when one episode ends you can’t wait for the next to begin.

But you do have to wait! So while you wait, make sure to enjoy my weekly Q&A with the host with the most — Jeffrey Probst. Would he have competed in the challenge or taken the food? Read and find out. Also take a gander at the video player below, where you can find not only an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, but also parts of my pre-game interviews with Ozzy and Jim. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. Who do you want to win the upcoming Redemption Island duel? Who are you rooting for to take home the million dollars? And have you ever called anyone a wiener? Hit the message boards and 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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