Sunday, December 11, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific - Episode Twelve: Is All Fair On Redemption Island?

Picture courtesy of SophieGClarke's Twitter (Thanks!)
L to R: Stephen (Tocantins), Courtney (China),
Brian (Guatemala),  Sophie (SP), Sandra (Pearl Islands),
Cochran (SP), Eliza (Vanuatu), Ozzy (SP), Sash (Nicaragua) 
This episode was not all that exciting aside from the rate my heartbeat reached when watching Ozzy almost lose to Cochran at Redemption Island...

But I'll tell you what was exciting! Watching with my old-time Survivor friend Deekhsa, who was visiting from England, and meeting up with a big chunk of the Survivor gang afterwards. (You can read all about that here.)

That said, there are always interesting conclusions to be drawn from each episode, and here are mine for this week:

1. Cochran's unexpected grappling hook tosses and boldly jerky arms risked putting a serious dint in the Ozzy armor. 

Regardless of who you were rooting for, I think it's safe to say everyone who was watching the Redemption Island Duel unfold was experiencing a higher than average heart rate - or conversely, a sporadically inexistent heart rate. I think I was somewhere in the middle. I was rooting for Ozzy, but it would have been really rad (for some reason, I can't think of any other word for this!) if Cochran had beaten the odds and dethroned the Challenge King.

In any case, despite the love/hate relationship both contestants and viewers seem to have with him, Cochran did rather well for himself, and I think there's no better way to throw in the towel - or buff rather - than with an outstanding challenge performance against who I would feel is the most intimidating opponent in any Survivor challenge, let alone an individual, game-changing Duel. Well done, Cochran!

2. Another disappointing flaw of Redemption Island: Family visits are out of your hands.

Back in the day, when the show was down to its final six players, each contestant would have the opportunity to fight for - and with - their family for an exclusive visit with their loved one. But because Redemption Island has essentially eliminated Reward Challenges, this important one also took a major hit. Indeed, the contestants no longer even get to fight for their families! Last season, Mike could either choose to see his mother, OR give it up to his fellow Redemption Islanders, OR give it up to the tribe members that had just voted him out, which is what he ended up doing.

This season, the remaining Redemption Islander - a.k.a. Ozzy - did not even get to compete for a visit from his loved one, but got to decide which remaining tribesmen should enjoy this reward, despite the fact that none of them had actually competed for it. Sure, this does put Ozzy in a strong strategic position, but I also think it's unfair for this particular challenge to be reduced to a social/strategic move without the fighting aspect on behalf of the players who are actually vying for the prize. Plus, it's always fun seeing families participate in the challenges too.

3. What was Coach thinking when he promised Ozzy a spot in the Final Three?

Coach is coasting through this game. He's got his tribe under his spell (Tyson Apostol argues on Rob Cesternino's podcast that CBS might have cast people who were more inclined to submit to Coach and follow him blindly); he seems to have a secure spot in the Final Three; and he's got the Jury - whatever it turns out to be - on his side. So WHY would he promise a spot in the Final Three to the one guy who could actually stand a chance of beating him? Because he wants to compete against a warrior? A worthy opponent?! That's the old Coach coming out... the one that didn't win - twice.

The only way this could be a positive strategic move is if Edna somehow beats Ozzy in the Duel and Ozzy ends up straight on the Jury, more likely to vote for Coach. Because if Ozzy gets back in the game and has the misfortune of losing a challenge, I don't see Coach convincing the remaining Upolu members to keep Ozzy around - which would result in a scorned Ozzy in the Jury.

I'm perplexed by this move, but will see how it plays out... keeping in mind even that if Ozzy makes it to Final Three and only gets the four Savaii votes (not counting Cochran), everyone else would have to vote for Coach in order for Ozzy to come in second. Risky move, Coach.

4. Would voting for Ozzy be unfair or considered a cop out?

Here's a question that arose from talking to the Survivors last Wednesay: as a Jury member evaluating a contestant's performance in the game and merit in winning the title of Sole Survivor and the million dollars, would it be fair to award Ozzy with this title considering that he has "evaded" a large part of the actual game and everything it entails for most of its duration?

I would argue that yes, it would be fair. You can't judge someone's performance based on previous rules of the game. In this season, Redemption Island is very much part of what should be taken into consideration when casting a vote. You could argue that with Matt last season (had he made it in the Final), he did indeed miss most of the game, causing him to forge very few connections and having almost no social impact in the game. In Ozzy's case, he was very influential in the first half of the game, making moves - good and bad, strategic and impulsive ("lone agent," anyone?), but impactful nonetheless - and using Redemption Island as it was meant to be used: to earn your way physically and mentally (challenges are about concentration not strength) back into the game. Furthermore, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, even though we do not see it as much, there is a social aspect to Redemption Island that Ozzy is handling very well - for the most part. (He really could have toned down the condescension with Cochran back there, particularly given that Cochran's Jury vote will be an important one, and potentially a million dollar one for Ozzy.)

Conversely, as a long-time, passionate fan of the show, a bill many of these contestants seem to fill (Cochran, Jim, Dawn, Rick [he applied 14 times!!!]), you could consider Redemption Island the way many fans have considered it: a cop-out, a twist that has shafted other aspects of the show people value, an unfair advantage to a physical threat like Ozzy, etc. These reasons might cause someone to NOT vote for Ozzy simply "on principle." To them, I still say: you need to evaluate the player's performance in this game, not in your "ideal" game, or what the show has been in the past.

5. Cochran's journey in the game continues on Ponderosa...

If you haven't been watching the Ponderosa videos that CBS has been putting up on their YouTube channel, you're missing out. If you don't already know, Ponderosa is the place eliminated Survivors go when they're on the Jury, watching the game unfold from Tribal Council to Tribal Council. Usually, you'd think it's a place where you can mostly detach yourself from the game and become the observer and ultimate judge you need to be in order to vote for the winner of the game. But not in this case... The former Savaii members are very bitter, and Cochran's arrival feels very much like an extension of the game... which cannot be fun for him.

I'm definitely going to miss Cochran in the game - particularly if Upolu keeps voting in the "boring" tribal alliance pecking order. If you feel the same way, definitely watch these Ponderosa clips. Both entertaining and insightful, they're small, undervalued gems.

I've embedded Part 1 of Cochran's arrival at Ponderosa, to illustrate a) how rough it was for Cochran and b) how awesome these clips are. Make sure you make it to Part 3 to meet the cutest piglet you've ever seen.

That's it for today! What did you think of this week's episode? Would you vote for Ozzy if he made it to the end? How did you feel about Coach's move to promise Ozzy a spot in the Final Three?

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