The Miami Heat were on cruise control in early February. They were 29-14 just past the halfway point of the season but were only 9-8 in their previous 17 games. They were percentage points ahead of the Knicks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, six games behind San Antonio for the league’s best record and generally stuck in a midseason malaise that so often happens to teams coming off a championship run.
Then, for the next 53 days, they didn’t lose.
Miami’s 27-game winning streak ultimately fell six short of matching the 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA record, but its place in history had been cemented. No mention of the 2012-13 season will be complete without mentioning the Heat’s seven-and-a-half week stretch, which considering the strength of the league was largely more impressive than what Los Angeles pulled off four decades earlier.
The past five weeks of Survivor has been the series’ equivalent of Miami’s run.
Slogging along through seven solid but somewhat forgettable episodes, the two tribes merged in the April 3 episode “Blindside Time,” and with that suggestive title, the show has taken off on one of the most fascinating, complex and impressive stretches in the series’ 26-season history. It started with the surprise booting of the confident but careless Corrine immediately after the merge, continued with the ouster of “her gay” Michael a week later – I haven’t confirmed that Corrine spent the last few days trying to become Jason Collins’ publicist, but one can assume – and seemed to peak with professional lunatic Phillip getting bounced after refusing to participate in an immunity challenge. That, of course, only occurred after Malcolm’s startling revelation at Tribal Council – stunning to the participants if not the viewers – that his three-man alliance had one immunity necklace and two hidden immunity idols, seemingly forcing the remaining seven-person partnership to turn on itself.
But the peerless Malcolm, one of the top combinations of brains and brawn in the series’ lengthy run, then made his fatal mistake. Rather than forcing those seven to scramble in mere moments to decide which among their allies to vote off, Malcolm announced publicly that he, Reynold and Eddie were voting for Phillip. The other seven split their votes between Malcolm and Eddie to ensure both had to play their idols – Erik voted for Phillip – and with Malcolm identified as a potential mastermind in addition to his dual careers as a male model and 80s hair band drummer, he was kicked to the curb a week later, idol-less and left to toil on the jury for a second straight season.
Surely, with the majority alliance’s biggest threat gone, Wednesday night’s double-elimination showdown couldn’t compete with those four incredible April episodes … right? But somehow it did after a relatively straightforward first half. The moment Reynold fell off that strange oceanic bird house, America’s smarmiest real estate salesman was toast, but the second elimination – wisely – came out of left field. After finding the Hidden Immunity Idol – or rather, sending errand boy Erik into the hole to dig – Andrea climbed back on her throne and was ready to pick off Brenda rather than sending fireman Eddie back to Joisey to open up a bar with a veterinarian’s office attached.
“Down the road I think the coolest thing I could possibly do, I’m already really happy with my job, but I’d like to open up a bar with a vet, like a veterinarian place attached.” – Eddie Fox, to Comcast’s Gordon Holmes
Let that sink in. Picture it. Imagine it. LIVE IT. Now drift slowly back from Eddie’s world to the one the rest of us live in.
I can wait.
After spending the first 33 days being paranoid and largely being better off for it, Andrea let her guard down. While attempting to backstab her lone remaining threat in any sort of balance/stamina/endurance challenge, Andrea didn’t stop to consider the same thing could be about to happen to her. It wasn’t Brenda pulling the strings, though, but Cochran, who long ago established himself as the most cerebral player in this game.
Suddenly, he might even have a chance to win. Though next week’s preview seemed to indicate the other five cast members have finally wised up and realized Cochran is the game’s true puppet master, don’t be surprised if the Little Red Machine manages to wind up as the Sole Survivor.
There are only two episodes left, according to CBS – next Wednesday’s regular show and Sunday’s finale, which makes me think we’ll have a final four rather than the usual final three. Sizing up the final six in order of least likely to most likely to walk away with the $1 million, and updating their odds from when we last checked in with 10 contestants remaining:
6.) EDDIE (Then: 3,000/1, Now: 30/1): If you couldn’t tell, Eddie’s odds the first time were slightly tongue-in-cheek, but considering his apparent lack of interest in playing the game and attachment to Reynold at the hip, they weren’t that much of a stretch. As the last remaining member of the all-male alliance, he’s in a position where he’s suddenly of great use to the other five. His vote will be incredibly valuable during these last two tribal councils, so it’s hard to imagine him NOT making it to the vote at the end. In one strange moment with Cochran in this week’s episode, Andrea said she believed Eddie would win a vote from the jury at the end, which I find impossible to believe. But if the jury’s primary criteria for awarding $1 million is picking the person who can do the best Joey Tribbiani impersonation, Eddie might be the guy after all.
5.) DAWN: (Then: 20/1, Now: 12/1): Dawn annoys the crap out of me. I’m sure she’s a nice person when she’s not being filmed 24/7 for 39 straight days without food or shelter and when she’s not 10,000 miles away from her 14 children (15? 6? it’s at least six) but she’s on the verge of tears constantly and would sap the little energy I had out there if I were one of the castaways. On a not completely unrelated note, I’m not sure I’d want to bring Dawn to the final tribal council with me. She’s been at least on the outskirts of some key strategic decisions in the game, and playing the card of the underappreciated mother of an entire Partridge Family could earn her some sympathy votes.
4.) SHERRI (Then: 16/1, Now: 10/1): Sherri was featured a decent amount early on as she juggled the wild personalities of Shamar and Phillip, but she’s been noticeably in the background in recent weeks. She appeared to be nothing more than a pawn in Andrea’s chess game, but there’s a chance for her to step up and make something happen all of a sudden. With Cochran and Dawn aligned, Sherri and Brenda need to stick together and make a pitch to the epically clueless Erik and Eddie to join forces. There’s a better chance of Jeff Probst letting the contestants stay in his suite at the Philippines’ Ritz Carlton than there is of Sherri winning a challenge.
3.) ERIK (Then: 10/1, Now 8/1): Erik is so bad at the strategic part of Survivor that he makes Eddie look like Bobby Fisher. He basically has spent 33 days sitting on the beach and climbing the occasional tree while being at least a decent participant in challenges, but he was forced to make one big decision this week after winning immunity. Andrea claimed she wanted to take Erik to the final three, but Cochran talked America’s skinniest ice cream scoop into taking out Andrea – though not before Erik weighed the dilemma internally in a manner nearly as serious as deciding between rocky road and mint chocolate chip. Erik could win another challenge, but it’s hard to see the jury getting excited about awarding $1 million to someone who’s essentially had CBS pay for his 5-week vacation in the Philippines.
2.) COCHRAN (Then: 7/1, Now: 5/1): It’s tough to think of any male who’s been less of a physical threat playing a better game than Cochran. Yau-Man in Survivor: Fiji and Todd in China the following season are up there, but neither brought the perspective that Cochran has. If it comes down to his tribe realizing that he’ll get (nearly) every vote if he’s part of the final pairing, there’s probably not much Cochran can do. But if he can survive these final two eliminations and get to the vote, he absolutely should be considered the favorite.
1.) BRENDA (Then: 8/1, Now: 4/1): Little Miss Under-the-Radar finally sort of helped engineer a big move this week, going along with Cochran’s plan to blindside Andrea – though really only after finding out Andrea wanted her gone first. She’s in a pretty good spot now. She’s a major threat to win one of these final few challenges, particularly if it involves balancing on two legs but NOT IF IT INVOLVES BALANCING ON ONE LEG.
Finding out that Brenda is only really, really limber instead of a shoo-in for Cirque du Soleil was easily the biggest disappointment in this latest episode, but I’m sure America will get over it eventually. Especially if she wins $1 million after getting less screen time through the first 75 percent of the season than the snake they show slithering through EVERY. SINGLE. TRANSITION. I’ve named him Parvati.