The finale of Survivor: Caramoan was clearly Cochran’s to lose heading in, but it more or less became a foregone conclusion just moments in as a gaunt, 95-pound Erik was carried off on a stretcher.
Did Erik, whom the one-named, robotic doctors claimed to be dealing with starvation despite his having scarfed down a stadium’s worth of burgers and hot dogs hours earlier, have any chance to win? Probably not. But had he stuck around, things could have changed considerably. Instead of having a reward challenge to determine who gets an advantage in the final immunity challenge, the remaining castaways would have had to participate in two ICs. While Cochran was singing his praises as a challenge monster periodically during the show’s Ben Hur-sized finale, he had predetermined advantages in two of the four he won.
That alone makes it extremely unlikely Cochran would have won the final two ICs, and that would have set things up for his ouster – if Erik, Eddie and Sherri could have combined to form one rational thought at the tail end of their Philippines stay. Eddie and Sherri certainly weren’t capable of that, proclaiming during their meeting in the woods early in last night’s show that there was no way the jury wouldn’t vote for Dawn. Very intuitive. Teaming up to take down Cochran and Dawn would have given us a rather undeserving winner of $1 million, but at least it would have made Probst’s dramatically delayed reading of the final votes a bit interesting. As it turned out, the last hour prior to the reunion show was a sizable waste of time from a procedural standpoint.
That’s not to say the show didn’t have its moments. Among them:
- Eddie unveils his master plan to the world: When you’re attempting to engineer the world’s first combination of a veterinary practice and a bar, it may not be best to blurt it out to an audience of nearly 10 million people. For as vacuous as the space between Eddie’s perfectly aligned ears may be, it’s not quite the worst idea I’ve ever heard, which means it’s one that probably 9.98 million of the folks plopped down on their couch Sunday night could execute better than Eduardo. But considering Comcast’s Gordon Holmes and Checking The Score had already outed Eddie’s plans, the cat was already out of the bag – or half in it if the VetBar ever sees the light of day. Here’s to hoping The Bark Bar eventually makes waves, since I’ll happily accept royalty checks for that can’t-miss moniker.
- The four remaining castaways pretend to feign sympathy for Erik: “I love you!” Dawn shrieked. “I don’t come out here to make friends,” Cochran admitted, “but I seriously made a friend in you. I wouldn’t have wanted to share this with anybody else.” Oh, except for the fact that a group that just minutes earlier voted out Brenda now got rid of one of the five remaining contestants without having to witness the horror of a coconut tree leading to his demise. The thought bubbles for Dawn, Cochran and Sherri almost certainly couldn’t have been more full of glee as Erik was carried off, while Eddie surely had the same reaction once the producers sat him down and explained what was happening. “OH ERIK NO DON’T LEAVE US NOW WE LOVE YOU AND CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU!!” = “Don’t let the ambulance door hit your feet and please bathe and allow a lawnmower to run through your hair before we have to see you on the jury.”
- Reynold being Reynold: In case it wasn’t clear from his 31 days on the island, Reynold’s biggest fan is Reynold. And – shock! – he’s so insecure he has to know what other people think of him. Reynold’s chance to address they jury turned into a game of Catch Phrase, as he wanted to know the three adjectives Dawn thought best described him. She hit the nail on the head with “chauvinistic” and “vulgar,” but swung and missed with “has a great sense of humor.”
- Cochran owning every response in tribal council: It’s pretty easy to be caught off guard by some of the questions at the final tribal council even if you have some sense of what’s coming. It’s still tough to judge who’s going to bitter and who’s up there to try to make a ridiculous point – i.e. Brenda (we’ll get to her). In Cochran’s case, he could have stumbled over every word, a la Sherri, and still probably won easily. But as you might expect from someone with a Havard law degree, his answers were articulate and thoughtful from the beginning. He didn’t hide behind the fact that he had to lie and deceive to get as far as he did, and he was proud of the fact that he was able to do so when necessary without really burning any bridges. As soon as he wisely ousted Eddie in the last vote, I thought he had a good chance to become the third Survivor with a unanimous win. This performance just cemented it.
- Erik losing his mind: Apparently the IVs the Survivor medical staff hooked Erik up with contained a small amount of fluids before suddenly pumping him full of heroin. He was the last person I’d expect to pop off at the final tribal council, but apparently he was not such a big fan of Dawn and Sherri. He especially went hard after Miss Congeniality, who proved to be anything but as she told Erik to sit down and that she didn’t need him or his vote. That turned out to be true, so instead of living off her Survivor winnings, Sherri will have to keep making movies with Melissa McCarthy.
- Brenda taking away Dawn’s bite: I fully expected Brenda to have fire in her eyes when she got up to address Dawn, but she was less fixated on Dawn pouring her heart out on the beach while their pals BBQ’d last week and more concerned with The Great Denture Incident of 2013. Dawn, you may recall, claimed to lose her retainer in a pond in the fittingly titled “Zipping Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” only to have Scuba Brenda swoop in to rescue her perfectly disingenuous smile. Thinking they were tag team partners for life after that incident, Brenda couldn’t fathom being backstabbed by her bestie, and now she wanted Dawn to take out her bottom teeth to reveal what only she, Dawn, Dawn’s husband, Dawn’s children and every dentist in Provo had seen before.
- Though they made up only after Probst practically waterboarded a nearly nine-month pregnant Brenda by satellite, it’s safe to say Brenda is having a baby on her own volition and not to donate to Dawn’s collection.
- Phillip revoking Sherri’s membership in Stealth R Us: She’ll be OK though, because she’s a successful businesswoman who has 75 employees and once kept a bus above 50 MPH for many hours without crashing.
- Eddie seriously basing his vote on where Cochran said he’d stand if he were at a bar with the self-proclaimed Three Amigos: Behind Reynold but in front of Eddie, Malcolm and the golden retriever that’s trying to grab a Heineken before going to the attached vet to be neutered. Duh.
The reunion show is typically either fairly insightful or genuinely useless, with this one landing firmly in the latter category. This was the first time to my knowledge that the entire cast wasn’t on stage – just the jury – and that might not normally be a bad thing. The reason wasn’t a lack of seating, though. Apparently crazy old Brandon Hantz was not invited, and this was CBS’ ploy to get people to not notice.
Probst’s questions, normally strong, often missed the mark here, ranging from repetitive to ridiculous. His insistence that Dawn and Brenda make nice was creepy, his lack of questions to Erik and Eddie was odd and the plug of Boston Rob’s book – available in a recycling bin or bird cage near you – was a complete disaster.
CBS, it seemed, was more interested in the reunion of what was one of the better seasons of the show turning into a turn-back-the-clock takeover. Between Boston Rob, Richard Hatch’s disturbing cameo and ex-Navy SEAL Rudy getting paid by the amount of times he could sneak the word “queer” onto national TV, it was uncomfortable at best.
Uncomfortable also seems like it might be the best way to describe what Survivor has in store next. The show will be headed back to the Philippines to shoot “Blood vs. Water,” which is rumored to have former castaways competing with a family member.
I’ll probably change my tune come September, but for now that sounds less appealing than being stranded in a TGI Fridays with Brandon, Shamar and Phillip.