Survivor Survival Guide: “Expectations”

Coach: “I just want once to hear Courtney say, ‘I want to play. I can beat this guy.’”

Courtney: “Thanks, Dad!”

Danielle: “Well he is a coach.”

One week after Russell ousted Boston Rob in one of the most memorable episodes of Survivor in years, the show couldn’t help but take a step back last night. The rising conflict between Rob and Russell had driven the previous two episodes, so now it was back to expositing the next crises in each camp and creating new drama.

It didn’t take long for Jeff Probst and the producers to tip their hand, as the episode began with what could only be described as a kind of tribute to Boston Rob that was surprisingly editorial in showing the instant remorse exhibited by Jerri and Coach in siding with Russell. The new conflict was set: Russell’s axing of Rob splintered the Villains tribe, which was now far more dysfunctional than the Heroes. In fact, the Heroes gained another feather in their cap when JT found the hidden immunity idol they received a clue for last week. Now, JT had said they should all look for it as a tribe and he did find it on his own, but for the second time this season, Amanda happened to spot someone find the hidden idol, and JT was forced to come clean and pretend like he was getting it for the tribe all along.

As such, the Villains were praying for the merger, and if you watched ANY of the Final Four last weekend, you know they brought their entire camp to the site of a Reward Challenge only for Jeff to tell them, “Drop…your…expectations.” Clearly, he was setting them up for “buffs,” but “Drop your expectations”? I have never used “expectations” as the direct object of “drop.” A bit too manipulative, Probst. Regardless, the Reward Challenge involved Survivor bowling, which is exactly like real bowling but with a smaller ball—about the size of a skee ball. The lesson of the challenge? The survivors would not be good at either bowling or skee ball. Seven of the 15 rolls went for gutterballs as the Heroes rolled to a 3-1 victory—their fourth straight win in a challenge. The reward was a feast of nasty-looking pizza, which they seemed to enjoy.

The biggest thing to emerge from the Reward Challenge, however, was the Heroes’ reaction to the elimination of Boston Rob. Aside from being happy about the loss of their toughest opponent, the Heroes also took the logical leap that there was an all-female alliance picking off the men in the Villains tribe (since Randy, Tyson, and Rob have been the three to go). This isn’t a crazy idea: Parvati did, after all, construct such an alliance during the Fans v. Favorites season and ride it to victory. The problem is the Heroes seem to be basing a lot of their decisions off this vague assumption. JT told Russell to “Hang in there” at the challenge, and they’re already working on strategies for Candice and Amanda to infiltrate the alliance post-merger. (The scene from next week’s episode shows an even bigger play based on this assumption.)

The Immunity Challenge was a race through a muddy obstacle course with teammates paired up (except for one leg, when it was one-on-one). Again, the Heroes emerged victorious, with JT and Colby blowing away Parvati and Courtney in the rubber match. The only notable part of this challenge is that, by the end, most of the competitors—and especially Rupert—looked like they came straight from the cover of R.L. Stine’s You Can’t Scare Me!, also known as the book cover that inspired the most fear in nine-year-old Tim’s life.*

*Remember Goosebumps? Man, reading some of those plot descriptions really reveals how much of my youth was wasted on “reading.”

With Tribal Council looming, the Villains were left with two choices: They could get rid of their weakest player and a remaining member of Rob’s alliance in Courtney, or they could buy Sandra’s lie that Coach was looking to get revenge on Russell for voting off Rob (even though Coach was complicit in said elimination) and vote him off. It was a smart play by Sandra because Coach did briefly consider making such a play; it wasn’t that ridiculous a suggestion, and Russell was likely to believe it, being the paranoid leader he is. Russell was leaning toward getting rid of Coach not only in case he was gunning for him, but also because it would maintain the idea in the Heroes’ minds of a female alliance. Danielle, meanwhile, strongly pushed for Courtney to be voted off to make the team stronger.

At Tribal, Courtney turned in easily her best performance of the season in her sarcastic replies to the others’ criticisms. First, Jeff reiterated how dumb it was to vote off Tyson and Rob by pointing out how weak Courtney is, to which she smarmily responded, “Thank you, Jeffrey.” Coach, Courtney, and Danielle then combined on the conversation that earned epigraph status, largely because of Danielle’s “Well he is a coach” defense of Coach. Finally, Courtney called herself “the poster child of weak survivors” (true) and a “skinny bitch that’s determined to get to the end” (probably not true). Before this sequence, I had had a hard time separating Courtney and Candice in my mind: They were both really skinny blondes who went along with their alliances while complaining about certain moves, and neither was particularly strong (as much as Candice likes to think she is). Also, both their names begin with C. It was nice to see some differentiation this week.

And it was important, too, because Courtney was saved in the end! Parvati and Danielle joined her and Sandra in voting off Coach and making him the first official member of the jury (no idea why the jury is starting pre-merger, although this strongly implies both that the merger is next week and that there will be a final three since the juries are almost always composed of nine people. I am not happy about a final three). I’m not sure why Russell still voted for Courtney when it seems like he pulled the strings to get Coach voted off. Perhaps he had a jury vote in mind? Courtney even gave Coach his final sending-off by calling him a “freakin’ lunatic” as she voted for him.

This means we’re down to 11, with five Heroes and six Villains left in play. The Villains’ aristocracy:


SECOND ESTATE: Sandra and Courtney

FIRST ESTATE: Parvati and Danielle

THE KING: Russell

It’s clear now that Jerri has no idea what’s going on and, moreover, has no friends left in the game. She’s the only player left in this game for whom I cannot envision a scenario in which she cracks the final five. Sandra helped buy her and Courtney another week, which might be enough to get them to the merger, where they can then turn on Russell (and perhaps disavow the Heroes of this female alliance mumbo jumbo). Russell still looks like the one in charge, but even then, if I had to guess, I’d say Parvati and Danielle have a better chance of making the finals than he does. It will be interesting to see how Russell exploits the female alliance assumption of the Heroes. He said he could use it to find out their voting strategy, but for how many episodes could that work? One? At the same time, one might be enough to tilt the numbers enough for his alliance to get to the end.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] were interrupting a showing of Treasure Island in the Robert Louis Stevenson House, Courtney’s snarky comments at Tribal, and finally, what in my mind goes down as the greatest quote in the history of Survivor from […]


  2. […] awful-looking pizza. I mean, really truly AWFUL-looking pizza. This is another stable of Survivor: The pizza always looks awful. As a sidenote, though, kudos to not going nuts with the product placement here. It was surprising […]


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