It's the days of endgame for "Survivor: Caramoan" as the players calculate who they want standing next to them when they face the jury of their peers for $1 million.
In the early days of "Survivor," players try to keep voting blocks from becoming too dominant. In the midgame, the mob starts targeting the strongest physical competitors who might string together some immunity challenge wins, as well as the smartest strategists.
And at the end of the game? You want to keep the most obnoxious, hated players around and pick off the nicey nice ones. When you face the jury of players you've lied to and back-stabbed, your only hope is to have an even bigger SOB standing next to you.
"We're at the point in the game where likeability is a liability," said Cochran the geek, who knows a thing or two about "Survivor" strategy.
With only a handful of days left in the Philippines, the remaining six contestants are showing signs of wear and tear. It's at this point, when the players are at their most depleted, that the show brings in their loved ones to buck them up for the final campaign.
This is the part of the show where everyone breaks down in sobs at seeing someone they just left a month ago. The women on the island, Dawn, Sherri and Brenda, were absolute puddles over the chance to see their family members. Amid all the histrionics, Erik's nonchalance at being reunited with his brother was refreshing. Hey bro!
Flash forward to a reward challenge won by Brenda and her father, who scored a chance to bond at a barbecue with a second family member yet to be revealed, also on the island. And Brenda got the fun of picking one teammate to come along and party with their family members, a perk she shared with soul sister Dawn.
And then, in one of those wicked twists that make "Survivor" so delicious, host Jeff Probst throws another wrinkle into the party. Like ugly stepsisters, Brenda and Dawn can go to the barbecue with their families and leave all the grimy Cinderellas behind. Or Brenda can sacrifice her and Dawn's good time to let the other four players go the ball, while she and Dawn stay home sans their near and dear ones.
Don't you hate it when those moments in life come up when you have to take the high road?
Let's just say Dawn did not handle it well. Dawn's a weeper, she's hanging by her last nail, and she did not enjoy going back to the island alone with Brenda.
When the other four came back, sated on grilled meats and familiar companionship, they were appropriately grateful to Dawn's big gesture. Or were they? Nobody likes to owe a favor, as even Brenda herself recognized.
"Whenever you do anything big in this game, whether you save someone, whether you do something bad to someone, it's funny how it's always a double-edged sword," said Brenda. "It could be amazing because they're like, 'oh I'll never vote off Brenda because I owe her.' Or it can be boom - downfall!"
"The better and more likeable and untouchable Brenda seems, the more people are going to want to get Brenda out," said Cochran.
This week's obvious plan, the one on the table that everyone knows about but which never seems to come to pass, was to vote off Eddie, the now-scrawny N.J. fireman who somehow, some way, has hung around in this game. Eddie's one of those null players that generate nothing, plan nothing, scheme nothing, win nothing and yet somehow stick around. Remember Sandra Diaz-Twine, winner of "Survivor: Pearl Islands?" Same thing.
After some behind-the-scenes lobbying from Cochran, when the votes were tallied it was super girl Brenda -- swims like a dolphin, runs like a deer -- who was going home. Et tu Dawn? Was that you casting a vote for Brenda, who not too long ago swam to the bottom of the pond and got you back your phony bottom teeth?
"I was honest with you guys. I was genuine with you guys," said Brenda after her torch was doused. "It hurts."
Which leaves five players heading into this Sunday's finale. There's weepy Dawn, mother of six, who just knifed her best friend; phony boobs Sherri who was nice to Shamar at the beginning of the season but hasn't done much since; Teflon Eddie whose pants hang so low the censors have to wuzz out his pubes; cagey Cochran who could win this thing if he can survive another round or two; and shaggy dog Erik about whom I can't think of anything clever to say.
Brenda was bawling her eyes out as the credits rolled.
"I'm just crying because it was just...I'm shocked. I think the reason it hurts so much, I was hesitant to lie to people. I was so true to Dawn...Oh my God, it just hurts so much right now, what I'm feeling."
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