In the penultimate episode, loved ones came for a visit, a sacrifice was made and Jeff Probst (supposedly) shed a tear. Miss any of the action? Well, that’s why we’re here to recap it for you! And make sure to hit the comment section to sound off on who you think will walk away the winner on Sunday night!
Sometimes You Feel Like A (Coco)Nut: Eric marks his 70th day in the game, which for some unknown reason he describes as his “hardest”, complaining that “there’s nothing to be talked about, there’s nothing to be said, there’s nothing to be done.” In other words, he’s every child who has ever declared “I’m bored.” To “shake up the day”, he decides to climb a coconut tree to stave off his hunger. The ladies stand below, looking in turns bemused, confused and annoyed. Eventually, he realizes how dangers (read: stupid) the whole climbing thing is and comes down, coconut free.
Family Ties: It wouldn’t be a cycle of SURIVOR without the promo for Sprint that precedes the arrival of the remaining players’ loved ones. I know they’ve been out there for 30some days, but I still find it kinda hard to imagine that I’d be this overcome with emotion at the idea of seeing someone I’d left behind. (Note to self: Work on improving interpersonal relationships.) Sherri’s hubby, Jared, wins the “hottest visitor” award, while seeing video of brother Richard gives Eric a whole new outlook on life. As it does every cycle, it annoys me how much we’ve been manipulated by a product placement since moments after weeping over the video messages, our castaways are reunited with the very people. Brenda’s reunion with her dad is so moving that Jeff admits that for the first time in 26 season, he’s been moved to tears. To prove that he’s not just saying that, the camera immediately goes for a super close-up of our host’s face and… eh, his eyes are glistening a bit, but let’s just say nobody’s gonna be inspired to sing the tune “Tracks Of My Tears.” With everyone reunited — and me dealing with the fact I’m a heartless bastard — the reward challenge begins.
The Winner’s Circle: It’s amusing to watch the battle-tested contestants deal with their loved ones inability to keep up during the grueling three-stage competition, especially since the first part involves the pairs spinning in circles to the point of being dizzy. Having kinda concluded they don’t have a shot in Hell of winning, Cochran and his mom begin catching up. “So, was the flight over horrible?” he asks. It’s Brenda and her dad who walk away the winners of a floating BBQ, and she’s put in the unenviable position of picking another pair to join them. Although I’d probably pick Cochran and his mom, it’s hard not to support Brenda’s decision to take Dawn and her husband. After all, they are celebrating their 21st anniversary. But then comes the shocker…
Easy Come, Easy Go: Jeff reveals that for the first time ever, each contestant has two loved ones on the island! Brenda is told she can choose one other player and their loved one to join in the BBQ fun… or she can give up her own time with loved ones (and cause Dawn to give up her time as well) in exchange for letting the four remaining players enjoy the BBQ with their visitors. Tough as it is to imagine, Brenda agrees to make the sacrifice. Sorry, Dawn, no anniversary nookie for you! What’s particularly heartbreaking is that the raft on which everyone is partying it up with their loved ones is within viewing distance of the beach, meaning that Dawn and Brenda are left to watch the festivities from shore. Dawn is understandably devastated, admitting that the idea of spending the night in camp “next to people who are full and have seen their loved ones for the whole afternoon makes me want to spit.” Brenda tries taking the high road and hopes she may have scored points, but Cochran privately muses that “we’re at the point in the game where likeability is a liability.” Translation: Nobody wants to sit before the jury next to the woman who made such a huge sacrifice, so Brenda just painted a target on her own back!
When Women Ruled The World: The immunity challenge finds the players standing on a ledge facing the water, arms behind their backs as they hold onto a bar and a wench controlled by the Marquis de Probst slowly lowers them. Each crank of the wench puts more pressure on their shoulders. Cochran falls fairly quickly, followed by Eddie… who has only just declared that if he doesn’t win, he’s likely to go home. When Eric drops into the water, it’s down to the three women. When Sherri falls, Dawn tries — and fails — to strike a deal with Brenda. Dawn winds up winning her first immunity challenge, and I can’t help but feel that Brenda is genuinely happy for her. Until, that is, in private, Brenda admits she figured she’d give the win to Dawn rather than deal with her paranoia. Besides, everybody knows Eddie’s the target this week… right?
Parting Shots: As Brenda’s basking in her certainty that Eddie will be sent packing, the slickest ginger this side of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND begins testing the waters and finds he’s not the only one considering blindsiding her. Sherri and he are on the same page… although Dawn proves as wishy-washy as ever. Despite having his neck on the chopping block, Eddie’s happy as a clam, admitting he had a fantastic time while the ride lasted. As thunder rolls ominously, Jeff begins counting the votes… and Brenda gets the short end of the stick. “I was honest with you guys,” she says before exiting. “I was genuine.” After having her torch snuffed, she turns and admits, “It hurts.” While I expected this to reduce Dawn to tears, she’s smiling and seems rather pleased with the turn of events. And with only one episode remaining, I have to agree with Jeff’s closing statement: “If the first 36 [days] are any indication, it’s going to be a crazy finish!”
So were you shocked by Brenda’s departure… or have the blindsides been coming so often this season that the victim is the only one surprised? And who do you think will walk away the winner Sunday night? Let us know in the comments below!
Richard Simms is the Executive Editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility, which is available on Amazon.com.