"Whatever happens tonight, this is why I freaking love Survivor and have for 13 years.” – Cochran, during tribal council
Here’s what I freaking love: Number one, Cochran. But we’ll get to that later. Numero dos: The fact that this season began by spending every single second on a sleeping giant and a possibly unstable person with anger issues, but has more than made up for it with a string of awesome-awesomer-awesomest gamer episodes these past three weeks. Season 26 is in it to win it, as Randy Jackson might say. Not in it to win it? Dalton Ross, who's on vacation this week, so he won't be your tour guide through tonight's beautiful episode. I know, I'm not happy about it either. But don't be too mean on the message boards or else I'll start crying like Dawn -- and I don't even have missing teeth.
Speaking of which...let’s start off at the top of the episode with Dawn screaming for help. I kind of thought she was being eaten alive by one of those 10-billion-legged creatures the Mark Burnett team of camera people love to zoom in on. But nope, she’d just lost her fake teeth mouthpiece. Ah, shades of my sister losing her retainer at Sbarro’s in Westfield, NJ and my father having to pull a Brenda and deep dive to find it. Anyway, Brenda managed to pull Dawn’s bottom two teeth from the bottom of the ocean. As bad as I felt for Dawn, which is as bad as I’d feel for anyone who’s having a step-by-painful-step emotional breakdown on national TV every week, I wondered if she would have gone through with quitting if Brenda couldn’t find her teeth. Basically she’s saying, "I won’t show a gap in my lower teeth for $1 million." That's certainly one way to see things.
But it didn’t matter because with one dive, Brenda ensured Dawn will never turn on her. This move, gross as it was (teeth!) could come back to a key moment for Brenda. Did Brenda do it out of a general humanity and kindness for a friend in trouble, or was it calculated? I think the former. Aww, Brenda, you're a great swimmer and a great person.
Of course, Dawn’s teeth were the least of her problems this episode. “She’s losing it,” Andrea later announced to Phillip, no bastion of sanity himself. Even Dawn couldn’t run off to the well to cry alone and maintain focus in front of everyone else. “I honestly feel, like, unstable,” she told ally Cochran. “I cry more than a baby. Literally.” I have a baby at home, Dawn, and you are literally correct. You cry more than my baby. Luckily, a good night of sleep seems to cure all emotional problems and that was in her future! From the looks of last week's preview of this week's episode, Dawn was going to lose it on a whole other level. I guess I was expecting more of a meltdown or something, but I came away from the episode not wanting to mock poor Dawn, which still shocks me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a reward challenge to discuss!
Walk over a balance beam, waterslide into mud, climb through race, shoot balls. Almost everyone commits to the challenge with gusto. “This is how you do it!” Jeff Probst screamed when Cochran head-planted down the mudslide. How good is Cochran at challenges lately? He can actually, like, do stuff. And not even completely humiliate himself in the process. Man, I love that guy this season. Most of all, I love that we're about to see what he can do since he won't be able to hide behind a certain person next week. I have a feeling someone's game is about to get a lot stronger.
But back to the challenge...Malcolm kind of fumbled the balls, as it were. He took way too long to dig out the ball bags -- so long, in fact, that I wondered if he was throwing the challenge to get some time on the beach with Andrea and Sherri to try to recruit them. Sherri, on the other hand, continued to be a useless player in every way. The best thing she has going for her is that she doesn’t laugh in Phillip’s face. We’ll see how far that carries her in this game. Anyway, Reynold, Dawn, Eric, Cochran, and Phillip won the challenge before the other team even started shooting their balls.
NEXT: Phillip opts against showering