05/02/13 – It’s Double Elimination Week, Loyal Blog Readers. These episodes usually err on the dull side, and are among my least favorite of any season. But tonight’s wasn’t too bad! Two stellar Immunity Challenges, followed by yet more idol hijinks and some meaty strategy talk. Brenda’s knee has healed. Cochran’s mighty torso has been exposed. Our 8th and 7th place losers are in the books, and the end of this game has been written in stone. An exciting episode all around. Let’s get to work.
Let’s start with Reynold. I’ve hardly written about him all season, and now that he’s gone, I really feel like I should take a moment to acknowledge a man who I think is actually a future star of Survivor. Reynold has taken a lot of heat from the Survivor community for being too innocent and naïve, for wielding his idols foolishly, and for exhibiting arrogance about himself and his position in the game. People have accused Reynold of being soft on strategy and lousy at the social game. Some of these criticisms, perhaps, are well-deserved—but let me take a moment to defend the guy.
Reynold is a star. I would put him in a class of elite challenge competitors that includes Colby Donaldson and Ozzy Lusth—and yet he isn’t a one-dimensionally physical player. He’s a super likeable guy, and he’s just been given a brutal crash-course in Survivor strategy—and I think that’s relevant. I don’t punish people for making mistakes—mistakes are a crucial part of the learning process. To quote Andrew Carnegie: why would I fire you, Reynold? We just spent a million dollars training you.
Maybe I’ll catch flak from you guys for this prediction, but I say that if Reynold comes back with the benefit of a year or more of reflection on the social and strategic facets of this game, I could see a winner. The Statue of David was once just a block of marble. This game could sculpt Reynold into something truly remarkable. The potential is there. I’d buy his stock.
But Survivor does not reward potential. Survivor, like life, rewards only action. Reynold painted himself into a corner—and like a sick dog, we had to put him down. I only hope that we in the Survivor community don’t frown upon his legacy too much. Let’s not forget that for more than half of Survivor: Marquesas, even the immortal Boston Rob was given a fool’s edit. There are diamonds in the rough, and I think Reynold is one. Time will tell.
That said, there’s not much else to say about the Reynold boot. We all knew it was coming, and it passed mercifully quickly. Let’s move on to the much meatier and more interesting second act of our Double Elimination: the infamous Survivor 7th place vote.
Anyone who reads this blog knows already where Final Seven Tribal Councils rank in the annals of Survivor Lore. Jonathon Penner, James Clement, and Monica Padilla all jump to mind as very strong players who succumbed to the treacherous minefield of the Final Seven vote. Andrew Boehlke 2.0 may be the strongest 7th place victim of them all, though. If she survives this vote, with a Hidden Immunity Idol in her pocket, is there any chance she isn’t in the Final Four? If she’s in the Final Four, is there any chance she doesn’t win Final Immunity? Since I’m already making audacious claims, I’ll take it even a step further: if Andrea had survived this vote, I think she wins this game. Even though this is a worse finish for her than Redemption Island, I think her game improved by orders of magnitude. The girl is good.
And unfortunately, I think, that is likely to be forgotten. Who remembers the loser of the Super Bowl? Much of a Survivor’s legacy in the hearts and minds of the fans is determined by results in a strictly numeric fashion. Even though I am a notorious Andrea lover, and I hope she marries me someday, I think that this at least is objectively true: Andrea’s game this season was better—indeed, far better—than she’s going to get credit for. I think that’s worth pointing out.
But Survivor isn’t about wishes and buts, and it isn’t about revisionist history or wild speculation. Survivor is about what is. And Andrea is gone. The good news is that we already know she’s caught Jeff’s eye as a gamer—or else she wouldn’t have been asked back this season—and the list of strong female Survivor players who Jeff remembers is short. I think we’ll see Andrea again. So I’d speculate that it’s not goodbye, Andrea. But parting is such sweet sorrow. I’ll miss you. XOXOXO.
I think you have to hand it to John M. Cochran. He masterminded this vote, and he played it exactly right. Andrea showed herself to be a brutal strategist, and she was going to become a problem. When John Cochran sees a problem, he takes care of it. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this—the guy is a Survivor assassin, and I think he just won Survivor: Caramoan.
As much as I love Dawn—and picked her as my winner—I had no idea that Cochran was going to come out of the gates playing such a cool, calculated, ruthless strategic game. I saw him as a loveable goofball. Certainly intelligent, likeable, and funny in a self-deprecating way—but I never predicted we’d see such a Survivor badass emerge. If you’d asked me to project at the beginning of this season where John
Cochran would have finished, I’d have said right exactly here. 7th place. The Andrea Boehlke throne. And yet, not only is he not gone, but his level of control over this game, and his exceptional ability to read every situation he’s encountered and make the right call has consistently bordered on perfection. The self-declared GameBot is living up to his title. Color me impressed. If I ever get to play this game, I hope I play it half as well.
Is it too soon to declare Cochran the winner of this season? There’s a lot of gameplay left. Surely that’s a claim that’s too audacious to be allowed, even within this column. Shouldn’t I be worried about making such a sweeping and very public declaration?
The short answer is no. A few weeks ago I made the point that I thought this season would be solved long before Final Five, and I believe that now it has been. If that’s good enough for you, then feel free to stop reading here and I’ll see you next week. For those of you who require evidence to back up audacious claims, let me first congratulate you on your well-disciplined mind, and then let’s dive into why I think this is an open-and-shut case. Let me be Cochran’s lawyer and defend my client.
Your Honor, the evidence is clear in this case. All you have to do is look at the edit.
I’ve never discussed the edit before, for a very good reason. I’m not good at reading edits. I never have been. Mike does it much better than I do, with a level of insight and a staggering predictive power that I could never match. I generally just let my team of monkeys bash away on typewriters and then let autocorrect turn the nonsense into words, which I post here for my Loyal Blog Readers to enjoy. But when we’re dealing with a Final 6 that involves three nearly silent players, it isn’t hard to see where this is going. Brenda can’t possibly win. Sherri can’t possibly win. And Eddie is so far on the outside that I’m not even sure he’s in the Philippines anymore. Who among the other three has been omnipresent, narrating every episode and winking coyloy at the camera all the way? Who gets the smug smirk reaction shots to every vote out? I’m by no means an authority on edit-reading, but I can’t remember a player dominating the air time this much since Boston Rob in Redemption Island.
But it’s also true that Russell Hantz was given two dominant winning edits back-to-back—and lost both times. Isn’t it possible that John Cochran will succumb to the same fate?
Sure. It’s possible. But I don’t believe in hedging my bets. It’s called integrity. I’ll sink or swim on this prediction, buddy. I’d go all-in on John Cochran at this point, if I could. But Dawn, you and I are stuck with each other. Let’s ride this one out and hope for Fan Favorite. I think we could both use a win at this point.
How do you feel about the Double Elimination? Is Reynold as good as I said, or substantially worse? Is Andrea really the best 7th place finisher of all time? Turn on your Caps Locks keys and start yelling, Loyal Blog Readers. I deserve it.
Stay tuned for plenty more Survivor analysis from the rest of our esteemed team of bloggers, with new columns up almost every day!