Survivor: Caramoan – Recap: How to Eat Shipworms

Recap video and review of Survivor: Caramoan – Episode 8 – Blindside Time:

Here’s the thing with the editing on Survivor: Caramoan. Within the first ten minutes of the episode, when Corinne says this next tribal council is “Blindside Time”, was there ever any doubt that Corinne would be the victim of said blindside? Maybe it’s just from years of fanatical Survivor viewership, but I’ve noticed that the editing team has a very clear-cut way of telling their stories, and while it works like a charm in some episodes, they have a tendency of hammering the viewer over the head with what’s going to happen in others. Of course, this is kind of a stupid complaint to make when you look at the fact that “Blindside Time” is, ultimately, the best episode of the season so far. The merge happens in the first five minutes, and the immunity challenge within the first 15-20, which means we have a huge chunk of time for delicious strategizing, the meat of which happens when Corinne attempts to shore up influence with Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

The tragedy of Corinne’s game crashing and burning is that she was actually doing everything she was supposed to be doing, early on. She recognized that she was near the bottom of the Stealth R Us alliance, due to the personal animosity between herself and Phillip. In an attempt to change her fate, she proposed a six person alliance that would have herself, Michael, Malcolm, Eddie, Reynold and Eric that would blindside the original Stealth R Us by lulling them into a false sense of security by first getting rid of Sherri, thus shoring up a six-to-five advantage that would allow them to take control of the game and proceed dumping all the other contestants they had no intention of keeping around, such as Phillip (according to Corinne) and Cochran (according to Malcolm). This was all solid strategy on Corinne’s part. Where it all went wrong was in Corinne overplaying her hand. An ancillary story to the episode focused on Dawn’s regret at not acting on the information she learned in Survivor: South Pacific, as she could have changed the game for herself if she hadn’t kept the news of Cochran’s impending flip to herself. Her guilt over potentially costing her family a million dollars, which has the potential to put her kids through college, has resulted in Dawn vowing to play the game differently, this time around.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

This minor story ends up crossing over with Corinne’s to form the crux of the episode: Corinne, not satisfied to simply have a majority alliance of between 6-7 people, decides to try and balloon the numbers to eight by including Dawn in the process, telling her about their plans to vote off Sherri in order to give them the numbers. It’s understandable how Corinne would see this as smart, as she has a fondness for Dawn and wants to give her a heads up, and maybe get her in at the ground level of their alliance so that she’ll have a friend within this new alliance who will feel some sense of gratitude and loyalty towards her. However, had Corinne simply kept her mouth shut until after phase one of the plan had gone through, and Sherri had her torch snuffed, then there’s a high probability that Corinne would still be in the game. Yet, unfortunately for her, Dawn can’t sit on information of a potential flip after what happened in South Pacific, and so she takes news of Corinne’s betrayal directly to Cochran. Phillip’s indignation at the idea that Corinne would DARE target “The Specialist” is amusing in itself, but the real point of intrigue is in how the dominoes started falling against Corinne as soon as she opened her mouth to one person too many. Corinne’s look of shock and horror as Probst reads the votes and she realizes that it’s pretty much over for her ranks as one of the most stomach-churning, genuine reactions I’ve seen from a contestant on the show. As inevitable as it was, Corinne’s downfall was eminently compelling.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Yet the same could also be said for the rest of the episode. I don’t know that many developments in the history of Survivor have caused me as much unbridled mirth as the sight of John Martin Cochran with an individual immunity necklace hanging around his neck. It’s a development made all the more delicious (pun cheesily intended, given the nature of the challenge) by the fact that Cochran defeated two of the “Golden Gods” of the tribe to earn the necklace: Eddie and Malcolm. The contest was the classic Survivor food challenge, and I’ve always wondered what happened to challenges like these (along with the sorely-missed trivia challenges, and obstacle courses that involve a similar trivia component. And hey, while it’s too late to employ this season, why not bring back the old “Build an SOS sign on the beach, and whoever gets spotted wins” challenge for next season?). These challenges level the playing field and create interesting results, as the individual portion of the game doesn’t simply become a clear-cut blowout for the most physically capable competitor, the way it tends to become in the more lopsided seasons. Cochran’s over-the-top victory celebration was also something to behold, as he cut a rather gangly figure while doing his Rocky Balboa-esque shadowboxing. But you can’t argue that he didn’t earn his garish victory celebration. The way he put away those larvae, duck embryos and shipworms was really something to behold. Malcolm referred to Cochran as the “Ginger Kobayashi”, in reference to his beguiling ability to put away mass quantities of food in no time flat, and I’m not sure Malcolm was that far off the mark. John Cochran: a man for all seasons.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Honestly, though, Cochran has sort of become the stealth MVP of the season, with his commentaries that vacillate between amusing observations and genuine insight. He goes into detail about the threat Corinne’s betrayal presents to him and his allies, and discusses with Andrea how best to put out that particular fire. There’s a sense of urgency to the strategizing on display here, as Cochran is perhaps getting a glimpse into what it was like on the other side of the fence in South Pacific, following his betrayal. It’s a wonderful bit of insight into how chicken salad can still be made out of chicken s*** when you have people who actually know this game doing the cooking (because I haven’t tortured enough analogies to make the same point). Though Dawn is the one initially responsible for turning the tide against Corinne, it’s Andrea and Cochran who really turn this game around…by keeping it exactly how it is, more or less. Erik continues to blindly follow whichever way the wind is blowing (though he does astutely surmise that he’s the swing vote in the scenario. It remains to be seen whether his decision to side with Stealth R Us over MalCorinne United bears fruit). Phillip continues to believe that he holds the power, even though it’s Andrea who tells him how he’s going to vote (by playing to Phillip’s grudges, much like with Francesca). Meanwhile, Cochran is actually sitting in a position where he wields a considerable amount of influence, while simultaneously not coming across as a huge threat to slip the game out from under everyone’s noses. It’s exhilarating to see this many capable players all in the mix in a single season. Not since Heroes vs. Villains has the strategic component of a season been this consistently fascinating.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Given that Malcolm has two immunity idols in his alliance (one that belongs to Reynold, and one of his own), it’ll be interesting to see him in scramble mode following this huge blow to his alliance. His bravado about taking control of the game because he was sick of playing the vanilla, laid-back strategy he’s been employing, has more or less blown up in his face, though not necessarily through any fault of his own (though I guess allying with Corinne in the first place could be considered a mark against him. You never know). It’s all good to trick your fellow castaways into naming the merged tribe after your mother (“Enil Edam”, which is “Madeline” backwards), but none of that is going to matter if you don’t actually get to stay in said tribe.

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