The concept of timing constantly rears its head throughout this episode. “It’s all about making a move the second before a move is about to be made against you”, says Cochran at Tribal Council and that statement is a pretty neat summation of “The Beginning of the End.” It also probably the most accurate insight of strategic planning you’ll hear regarding Survivor. As some will learn, it’s far easier said than done.
Returning from the vote where we sadly say goodbye to Malcolm, we are immediately thrust back into the game. There is no reward challenge tonight, only immunity, which of course if you look at your clock and run the numbers it becomes fairly obvious that tonight is a double elimination. And it’s still Eddie and Reynold against the world. Not even Erik is receptive to working with these guys which seems like a miscalculation in his book. But you know Erik: There’s plenty more where that came from.
The first challenge is an endurance competition that requires you to balance on a platform in the water. Eddie falters immediately after the first temptation offered: donuts. The only interesting thing about this competition is the possibility of Reynold winning, because if he doesn’t win we’re in for a predictable vote. And Reynold hangs in there for a while: It comes down to Reynold, Andrea and Brenda. Reynold is doing all of these crazy contortions, which intermittently look like the robot, and Jeff Probst will yell out, “Another incredible recovery!” “I’m going nowhere. Nowhere!” says Reynold trying to intimidate his foes.
Reynold falls off. He’s going home.
However, Andrea is becoming increasingly paranoid about Brenda’s athleticism, as well as being “the only one who hasn’t upset people.” Not only that, it would just be “more exciting” to vote her out. I like the way you think, Andrea. She talks it over with Dawn who seems receptive, but honestly, who the hell believes this? You’re not fooling me, Survivor editors!
This is the problem with the way the game is going now. Since Phillip and Malcolm have been eliminated, there is virtually no drama left in this game. It appears that the producers on Survivor are cognizant of that as well, hence this sudden double elimination and this preposterous Brenda option. The only three people that are left that could do something interesting are Cochran and Dawn (who may just stick it out until the final three) and Andrea who, well—we’ll get to that.
So yeah, Reynold—rather benevolently—goes home at Tribal. But before Reynold is snuffed, two fascinating things are said. The first is the aforementioned Cochran quote about timing. The second is that Dawn also says something about how the most disconcerting thing is to know how often she has lied in this game and wonder—by extension—how often people must be lying to her. Andrea echoes this at the subsequent Tribal Council: “When you know what you’re capable of, and you know you can lie and deceive people, you know that the people you’re playing with can do the same thing to you.”
It’s especially prescient coming from Andrea, but I love that we’re exploring some psychological quandaries here. Within the game of Survivor, lying is essentially neutral. That is the subtext of Andrea’s statement. Lying is something that unites nearly all of the “heroes” and “villains” of past. Sure, there are degrees of lying. There’s the whole my-grandmother-is-dead lie and there’s the more acceptable of-course-I’m-not-voting-you-out lie, but I’m glad that this cast can agree on the necessity of lying.
However, it’s not just about the necessity of lying; it’s about discovering one’s own potential to be deceitful. Back in Utah, the notion that Dawn is a dishonest person seems positively absurd. But when you jettison someone onto a remote island and apprise them that they will be participating in a game for one million dollars, your moral compass starts to atrophy. The environment changes your behavior. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell famously said, “The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment.” I think this is something we should bear in mind when we attempt to understand these people, and it is something we should also recognize about ourselves.
Anyway, after Reynold is voted out, Andrea discusses with Cochran the potential threats of Dawn and Brenda to their own respective endgames. Andrea posits that Brenda should be next to go, which proves to be disastrous: Cochran tells Brenda and Dawn about this and Andrea is looking like a goner. Her only play is to sway Erik, which seems like a good deal for Erik. Erik needs to realize that any final three with either Cochran or Dawn in it, is a loss for him. I really think this was a great opportunity to tell Andrea about this blindside and try to get her to change her vote to Cochran. He doesn’t have much time to get these two out.
Now this was another theme of this episode, the idea of transformation. Cochran says he’s not the nebbish weirdo “trembling in the bushes” anymore. At competitions he’s even going shirtless now! So what about Erik? I mentioned earlier that I think he probably should have worked with Eddie and Reynold. Later he literally hands over the immunity idol, unsolicited, to Andrea after he finds it using her clue. I guess I’ll give him some points for not giving away immunity after winning it in the second challenge; the bar is literally that low. Baby steps I guess.
Like I said last week, you’re in a dangerous position when you have to rely on Erik’s thought process. Andrea goes home, failing to play her idol, and although it looks like Brenda is “making a move the second before a move is about to be made against you”, it’s entirely spearheaded by Cochran who is thinking further ahead than everyone else.
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