Holy smoke! No, not the white smoke visible above the Vatican, I'm talking about the steam billowing out of Survivor! Wednesday night's episode surely will go down in the history books, as promised. But it's not one of those good, respectable historical moments, or even the part-sad, part-shameful events we've already witnessed this season with Francesca becoming the first person to be voted out first...twice.
No, what we saw tonight was not only Survivor history, it was reality television history. I have much to say about it in my TVKing episode analysis, so be sure to click over to that link following this episode recap.
This episode did contain a lot of shocking content, tension and conflict, but worst of all to me, it featured a poor, misguided reference to my favorite movie of all time - Braveheart. Don't be going and dissing my favorite film now. I can tolerate the mess that was Episode 5 but don't be disrespecting Braveheart. You don't want to see me get all crazy.
Sorry...having a bad temper is in my blood (Brandon, you're not alone). Let's just see how this episode unfolded - or unraveled - and what led up to one of the worst meltdowns since that dude's face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Freedom! The main theme of the film Braveheart - freedom - started off tonight's episode. The Fans tribe returned after voting out Laura - a Tribal Council that also saw Reynold giving up his Idol - and Reynold was feeling like a free man. Free of the burden of carrying the Idol, free of having that Idol separate him from the majority. Of course, no one was buying his new attitude, knowing that he is going to do everything possible to try to sway his tribe. Sherri is shown as being a bit down, revealing that she was not at all in favor of voting out Laura, but was forced to go along with the rest of her tribe.
Tick...Tick...Tick...At the Favorites camp, unstable Brandon Hantz begins to question why he is in the game, feeling selfish for leaving his family at home to play Survivor. "I've been miserable. Every day is a waste," he says. He then volunteers to go home at the next Tribal Council, to the rest of his tribe. Malcolm is a bit irked at what the implications may be if that were to happen, wondering why he didn't think about that before agreeing to play again.
Honesty = Not Always the Best Policy. Wavering back and forth, Brandon then confesses that he was so mad recently, that he had actually thought to burn the camp down. "I was going to pee in the beans and rice," he added. "Clearly it's just a matter of time," Corinne said about Brandon, referring to when he was going to snap. Then she asked the question on everybody's mind: "What's he going to do?" At least Brandon knows what he'll do...right? "I don't know what I'm going to do," Brandon tells the camera. Oy vey.
Reward Challenge. For reward, the winning tribe would score a nice barbeque meal, complete with a few bottles of wine. The challenge consisted of two members from each tribe having to hold a large net in the air via a rope. Opposing players would toss coconuts into their nets, making them heavier and heavier to hold onto. The last tribe left without dropping their net would be the winner. Brandon and Phillip held the nets for the Favorites while Michael and Matt held for the Fans. Brandon was targeted first, leading Jeff Probst (foreshadow much?) to say, "Brandon, struggling to hang on!" Understatement of the year, although in this instance he was talking about his rope. Brandon's net dropped followed by Matt's for the Fans. Phillip then outlasted Michael to win Reward for the Favorites. Another crushing defeat for the Fans.
History Repeats Itself. The defeated Fans tribe returns to camp and many of them begin looking for the hidden Idol, which is back in play since Reynold used his up at the last Tribal. I don't really like that there always has to be an Idol in play, but such is the game in 2013. Sherri searches long and hard, also grumbling that cutting Laura loose in favor of the tribe "muscle" didn't help them much, as they lost yet another challenge. As the search continued, Reynold stuck his hand in a tree and, voila! His second Idol, just six hours or so removed from using up his last one. An ecstatic Reynold shares his good fortune with ally Eddie and Reynold proclaims, "This is how you play Survivor!"
Springing a Leak. If that was an example of how you play Survivor, we were about to find out exactly how NOT to play Survivor. Brandon begins to have what Malcolm calls "one of his downward swings" and starts to get agitated with Phillip being Phillip, who he perceives as gloating about winning the challenge. As the rain pours down, Brenda asks a seemingly innocent question about whether or not they are going to take down the leaky tarp. Phillip says no, he wants to save his energy and this irks Brandon. They exchange a few words and Brandon calls Phillip a "dictator," in which Phillip then decides to get up and leave the situation. "I'm a street fighter," Phillip says to the camera, and he also says he is trying hard to avoid these types of confrontations. "I think he (Brandon) should be out of the game."
Persona Non Grata. With tensions building, Brandon and Phillip decide to talk it out. "You don't bite the hand that feeds you," Phillip tells Brandon and it doesn't go over too well, as one would expect. "I have to keep myself under control," Brandon tells himself and the camera. Phillip tells Brandon he is still in the alliance and the two shake hands, seemingly squelching the situation. Phillip calls him a "persona non grata," known to those that speak Latin as "an unwelcome person."
Wishful Thinking. The last few weeks it has been high drama at the Fans camp and little going on with the Favorites. This week, each Fans segment seemed like a distraction from the real story. The last Fans segment of the episode showed how the unending rain was starting to effect camp morale. "We're failing on all levels of Survivor," Michael says. Matt followed it up by saying, "I wish something good would happen to our tribe."
A Storm Cometh. And so, the fireworks were about to begin. Brandon is stewing over the whole "hand that feeds you" comment Phillip made. "I'm a Hantz. I feed me," Brandon tells us. Phillip is getting so frustrated with Brandon that he contemplates throwing the upcoming challenge just to get rid of him. He shares this idea with Andrea, who then goes on to make a serious boneheaded mistake...she tells Brandon that Phillip is gunning for him! Now she may have been close with Brandon, but clearly she underestimated what he may be capable of. And who can really blame her, actually...as Brandon would soon go far beyond Andrea's and all of our wildest expectations.
Brandon vs. Phillip. Hearing this unsettling news, Brandon immediately confronts Phillip. "What is your mind telling you now?" Phillip asks him. When asked directly, Phillip admitted that he does not trust Brandon. He brings up their alliance and this doesn't sit well with Brandon either. "Can you drop the Stealth-R-Us? It's really bulls***. Nobody likes it. Nobody really actually likes you."
Crossing the Line. Before Phillip has a chance to react, Brandon tells him, "Well, let me give you a reason to vote me out." Now, usually it is a joyous occasion - like a wedding - where we see rice being thrown, but the occasion was a bit more solemn when Brandon walked right over and poured out the entire container of tribe rice. He then emptied the bag of beans. Phillip walks down the beach and Brandon takes a few menacing steps towards him, yelling, "I thought you were a secret agent, come get some!" Then, as if talking to himself although yelling for all to hear, he proclaims, "I am the author of my fate. Now vote me out, bitch."
Immunity Challenge...or, Not So Much. By the looks of it, it would appear to be your average Immunity Challenge setting. In the background there seemed to be some sort of obstacle course, Jeff Probst was there waiting and both tribes arrived to stand on their colored tribal mats. But this was anything but your average Immunity Challenge. Upon arriving, Probst goes through some formalities, before asking Brandon how he was doing. Brandon asks to talk to the other tribe and starts to bad mouth Phillip. Corinne then very cordially explains that the Favorites are, in fact, forfeiting the challenge in order to go to Tribal Council on purpose. Brandon - now just getting hotter and hotter - takes issue with how Corinne told the Fans the news. It's at this point Probst realizes that Brandon is really unhinged and he calls him over to where he stood.
Massage Therapy. At the time this film, Probst had no actual daytime talk experience (his own show, at least), but he earned his stripes here. Trying to find the right way to handle the situation, he started asking questions to find out what was going on and to attempt to calm Brandon down. He began massaging Brandon's shoulders and it only got more and more intense the longer things went on. Brandon was calling Phillip names, swearing and going off, the likes of which I'm not sure I've seen on reality TV. "This is a meltdown," Brenda whispered. Andrea and Dawn were in tears, and a shocked Fans tribe stood with gaping jaws at the dysfunction of this team that has thus far bested them in nearly every challenge. In a calmer moment, Brandon admitted, "I had a rough time after the show the first time," but things grew heated again when Phillip stood his ground. "You are a pathetic individual," Phillip said. "You need to grow up."
The Legacy of Russell. Not being able to resist, Probst brings Brandon's Uncle Russell into the conversation. "Is it in the blood?" He asks. "We speak our minds," Brandon answered. When Phillip brings up how disrespectful he is to his elders, including his Uncle on the Live Reunion Show, Phillip then mentions something about Brandon's Aunt who watches his kids. The sheer mentioning of his kids sets Brandon off all over again, to the point where Probst had to restrain him slightly. For the record people, Russell was one of, if not the biggest, villains in Survivor history, but he never reached these sorts of levels within the game. Frankly, if I were Russell, I'd be insulted that Brandon is being compared to him in this way.
Emergency Tribal Council. Seeing things escalating, Probst announces that they will hold Tribal Council right then and there. Brandon of course, casts a vote for Phillip, with the rest of the tribe verbally speaking their vote. Shocker! Brandon is "voted" out of the game unanimously. Jeff then tells him to walk out and around the challenge structure to leave the game and he does.
Phew. And with that, this incredibly ugly, incredibly tense episode was over.
Braveheart-style? With his closing comments, Brandon showed no remorse upon looking back on his actions. "My exit was nice, it was glorious. I showed them. I'm going to go out Braveheart-style." I understand his reference to the fierce warriors, who in the movie, run fearlessly into battle. But those men fought for something, stood for something. No, I'm not really offended by his comments about the film. I just find it to be one more example of his delusion. In Brandon's mind, he did the right thing, fought for his family and stood up to those that challenged him. Here's hoping that Brandon has learned a few things from watching this back on TV and that his style was less Braveheart and more One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Analysis. I have much more to say about tonight's episode, about Brandon and about how this will impact the game. Again, click this link for my extended TVKing.com episode analysis.
Next Time On...Aaah, all things will be calm now that Brandon is gone...right? Wrong. A riff between Corinne and Phillip is mentioned, but Probst lets them know that a big twist is about to happen. It looks like we're heading towards a good old-fashioned Tribal shake-up next week.
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