Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Survivor: Two Last Things

Two follow-ups from my last post regarding the season finale Sunday night.

1. I was wrong, the finalists were congratulated by some jury members. I still think the jury was unduly hostile, but they weren't all miscreants.

2. I've been asked to identify who I consider to be less worthy winners than Sophie. Wikipedia has a handy list of all the winners, and it doesn't take too long to rank them. Sophie isn't near the bottom. Here is my list in order of worthiness (season in parenthesis):

Tom Westman (10)
Brian Heidik (5)
Pavarti Shallow (16)
Boston Rob (22)
Richard Hatch (1)
Bob Crowley (17)
Chris Daugherty (9)
Yul Kwon (13)
J.T. (18)
Ethan Zohn (3)
Todd Herzog (15)
Earl Cole (14)
Tina Wesson (2) 

Amber Brkich (8)
Sophie (23)
Sandra Diaz-Twine (7)
Aras Baskaukas (12)
Danni Boatwright (11) 

Sandra Diaz-Twine (20)
Fabio (21)
Jenna Morasca (6)

Natalie White (19)
Vecepia Towery (4) 

I know some of these will be controversial. If you are going to write and scream: 'how can you have X so low?!?!', please include at least two people X should be ahead of on my list.


Survivor: South Pacific, Final & Reunion

It has been noted by people who have played that most Survivors vote for who they liked the best, not who played the best game. When Sophie started getting flak and then broke down at tribal council, I thought it was due to a realization that the game might be slipping away for this reason. In the final tribal, the unduly hostile jury didn't give many overt signals that they liked Sophie, so I really thought Coach might pull it out in the end. Thankfully, he didn't. It turns out nobody really liked any of the three, so Sophie won for being least objectionable. It was not an All-Star caliber performance, but she's nowhere near the list of least deserving winners. She played a good game, and I would have voted for her.

The duel and both immunity challenges were very exciting. Watching Sophie crack at tribal was interesting. It's clear the strain was finally getting to her, but I don't think less of her. She had the presence of mind to win the next challenge and stop Ozzy. It was a very good performance.

So, the question is - why did Coach target Brandon and Rick instead of Sophie? Albert was rightly worried about her, and Coach dismissed his concerns by saying that Albert isn't as smart as Sophie, so he's threatened by her. I too doubt Albert is as smart as Sophie, but on this issue, he was smarter than Coach. So, why did Coach not see it?

I think Coach could see that Sophie was smarter than Albert, but I don't think he was capable of seeing Sophie beating Coach. I'm not saying Coach is a full-blown misogynist. But, for whatever reason he had a hard time seeing Sophie winning - instead, he feared Brandon and Rick. I think Sophie being a young woman might have something to do with this. Coach coached collegiate women's soccer for 13 years. As a coach, I think Coach might have started seeing college-age girls differently. For whatever reason, he just couldn't see the 22-year-old Sophie beating him (when Albert could).      

The final tribal annoyed me a little. I understand the jury is going to be disgruntled, and often with good cause. But, frankly, though there were some legitimate grievances, I thought the anger was a little higher than in relation to the crimes of the finalists. It was unpleasant to watch the perpetual undertone of nastiness from the jurors. Did anyone even congratulate them for making it to the end? If so, I don't recall.

Cochran rehabilitated himself a bit at the reunion show. He had months to prepare an explanation of himself, and made the most of it. Brandon, however did not. I thought Ozzy was pompous and long-winded. Ultimately, the reunion show was only OK. so, overall the first half of the evening was very good, and the second ninety minutes were a bit dry (apart from Sophie actually winning).

This was the best season since Heroes vs. Villains - but below average overall. Yet, a below average season of Survivor is still better than most of the garbage on TV.

At the end of the Reunion, Jeff revealed the twist for next season - the two tribes will live on the same beach. This makes cross-tribe alliances much easier. I also suspect it could lead to a challenge or two getting thrown (I hate that). We'll see. In general, I like the idea a lot. The next season premiers February 15, 2012 (less than two months away!).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Silence the Bell

The FOX News debate last night was dominated by the sound of a bell signaling the candidate that his/her time was up. Needless to say, most candidates continued for long periods of time after the bell rang.

Why can't they have a clock which shows how long each candidate has spoken thus far, and warn the long-winded that they won't get any questions until the other candidates have caught up? Isn't that preferable to a distracting bell that everyone ignores?

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

Christopher Hitchens was one of the few voices on the left willing to defend Enlightenment values from the forces of darkness. While most leftists crumble when faced with Islamic militancy, Mr. Hitchens could always be relied upon to muster a muscular defense of Western ideals. He will be greatly missed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Acting for the Sake of Acting is a Fool's Errand

Salon has a piece titled, "Why do people still deny climate change?" It opens:
At the expense of being tedious, from a climatological perspective, 2011 was a real killer — both figuratively and literally. If not quite so hot as 2010, which tied 1998 for the warmest in recorded history, it’s likely to end up among the top 10, all occurring over the past 15 years according to the World Meteorological Organization.
So? Records go back 150 years. It sounds like temperatures increased after coming out of the Little Ice Age and have now plateaued. Where's the problem? Why is a slightly warmer world than 100 years ago a bad thing?

The author then notes that in 2011, "Extreme weather plagued much of the world", and proceeds with a laundry list of meterological events. All of these events have happened in the past, and will happen in the future. Linking them to climate change is tendentious. If the world were cooling, would we have fewer extreme weather events? Why the assumption that warming menas more extreme weather?

The piece meanders into insults ("It’s remarkable how well some people can type with both eyes closed and their fingers stuck in their ears") before ending with this:
Everybody wishes global warming weren’t happening. But the evidence is overwhelming. Alas, one can’t help doubting that human beings, genetically predisposed to tribalism, can quit fighting each other long enough to act.
It's remarkable that the author is able to insult those who disagree with them and then ask that we quit fighting.

More importantly, what does the author want us to do? Cap carbon emissions? What will that accomplish? Can it survive a cost benefit analysis? That's how you get people to act. Vague whining and name-calling of your political opponents won't accomplish much.

One of the reasons I'm a skeptic about the hazards of climate change is that the alarmists rarely debate it. They don't have confidence in their theories. You can find dozens of examples of Richard Dawkins debating evolution vs. creationism - but not one of Al Gore debating global warming. Global warming alarmists rely on the opinion pages - places where they can avoid answering questions.

Alarmists, it's simply not enough to say we have to do something about climate change. I need to know the costs and what it will accomplish. You guys can't answer those questions, and that's why nobody has acted thus far.

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 13

When I wrote my last update, I thought I might have been too tough on Brandon. I wasn't. 

In many ways, last night's episode was tough to watch. Games are entertaining as long as they are competitive. No one wants to see the Green Bay Packers demolish a High School team or a kid with Down's Syndrome play Jeopardy.

I said early on that Brandon had no business being on the show - he was way too young, immature and out of control. I still don't know how he passed any sort of psych evaluation to get on the program. It took a while for the train to jump the tracks, but when it did - it did so in spectacular fashion. Frankly, even though it was entertaining, it was also a little bit uncomfortable. 

Back in Fans vs. Favorites, it was fun to watch 10 former players run rings around 10 new-comers. It wasn't Green Bay vs. Glendale High, it was more like the Washington Generals vs. the Harlem Globetrotters. But one episode made me very uncomfortable (Erik was convinced to give up his immunity, and then he was voted out). His decision was so stupid, it was unbearable to watch -  like watching an autistic kid getting tricked out of his lunch money - sickening. Last night sort of approached that feeling for me. I want to see people win making great moves, rather than watch people lose making horrendous mistakes. I'd rather see an awesome game-winning shot than watch Fred Brown pass the ball to James Worthy with two seconds left in the 1982 NCAA Championship.

Those misgivings aside, last night was good television.

I can't understand how Brandon would hug Coach after the vote. I can't believe Coach had the nerve to say "It's God's Will, go win redemption." That is outrageous, and I hope Brandon can see that some day.

I don't know how the jury will interpret yesterday's events, but I would have an impossible time voting for Coach after a move like that. How dare he blame his vote on God's Will? Own your vote - don't blame it on God. I think Albert can recover from last night's episode, but I'm not sure Coach can.

What we had last night was the classic problem with Predestination. It has plagued the Abrahamic faiths since their inception. How do we reconcile the fact that God gave man freewill, yet  God is also omnipotent? If God is omnipotent, isn't any event the result of his Will? Do you see the paradox?

Despite the paradox, I reject Predestination. I think it's horrible and extremely dangerous. It gives people an excuse for poor decisions. It allows people to tolerate and justify the existence of terrible evils (Predestination was used to justify the existence of slavery). Predestination has plagued Southern Protestant denominations for centuries. As you can see, Brandon got caught up in it. Man was given Reason and Free Will by the Creator. I believe in Free Will because I have to ;-). If you don't, you go down the path of Predestination, and it's one heck of a swamp. You're left with that scoundrel, Coach, denying responsibility for his vote, and blaming it on the Will of the Lord.

When Coach is asked about last night's vote in the final tribal, how is he going to answer? How did he know God's Will? Did he hear voices? Is he Joan of Arc now?

Coach has studied. He had a conversation a few episodes ago with Cochran where he was giving the other players names from Greek mythology. Coach doesn't believe in Predestination. He believes in a Chivalric code, and your actions always reflect your character. He pulled this Predestination stuff out to save his butt in a tight spot - because clearly, he and Brandon had some sort of understanding that they were going to the finals together. Coach violated that, and was searching for justifications as to why. Coach did what he did because he had exaggerated Brandon's chances of winning a jury vote
- so he decided his betrayal was God's Will. It makes me want to puke.      

Was Jeff taking sides a little regarding giving the idol back. He asked Albert multiple times. I've never seen him ask that question ever. Granted, swapping the immunity usually occurs AFTER the Q&A and right before the vote, so Jeff usually doesn't have a chance to grill the people. But, still, he seemed to be pushing for Albert to return it (IMO).

If ever Ozzy was vulnerable in a duel, last night was it. It was all puzzles, and Edna had five coaches. Nevertheless, Ozzy keeps cruising. Ozzy needs to win one more duel and two immunities. That is very doable - and I think he'll wipe up a jury vote.

Odds of winning (off the top of my head):
Sophie  33%
Ozzy    22%
Coach  17%
Rick     15%
Albert   10%
Brandon  3%

Enjoy Sunday's episode!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 12

-----Original Message-----
From: Sean Hantz
To: Russell Hantz
Sent: Thu, Jun 30, 2011, 4:22 pm
Subject: Brandon has lost it

Hey little bro!!! What up dude!!! I'm rockin' it in the islands!!!

Am I ever glad I made this trip! Brandon's girl wanted to come down here, but I had to put my foot down. I was goin' to make sure MYSELF that the boy wasn't muckin' things up. And, bro, it's a good thing that I did - because that boy is a royal mess. There is no doubt about it - this was a pickle only his Daddy could fix. I just hope I wasn't too late.

I used to let his mother take him to the local prayer meeting every once in awhile because it gave me a chance to slip over to Big Billy's for a couple of longnecks with the boys, and I figured a little religion never did hurt nobody. But, I had no idea my son would turn into a fire-breathing, hell & brimstone type!!!  I can't believe he's still even in the game!

Russell, honest to God, I have no idea what that Baptist on the corner of Main and Orchard has been telling Brandon all these years, but his revival meetin' is gonna be my first stop when I get my tired butt back to Texas, because I got a thing or two to say to that fellow - preacher or not! To think that my Annabelle has been puttin' on her best and sassyin' down to that fool's tent all these years and this is the reward I get? I got a boy who is a couple of moves away from a million bucks and he's talkin' about throwin' the whole thing for Jesus? For Jesus! He's got hungry mouths to feed at home and he thinks throwin' a million bucks to Jesus might be God's plan?!?! Good Lord!

I told that boy that his mother has already given enough to Jesus in the collection plate and there was no need to be givin' away no million dollar check on top of that. I told him straight out that Probst had been owin' the Hantz family a million dollar prize for quite some time, and we would be a collectin' this year - one way or the other. Jesus ain't Santa Claus, so God's plan was for Brandon to pull his head out of his keister and start working on getting to the finals any way he can.

Kids!!!! You can never tell if they hear a darn word your a sayin', so I went to that Coach fella - the one you pwned in Heroes - and I told him that Brandon here was a good boy and would do exactly as he says. But, he went on about dragons and such, and you would of thought I was back in King Arthur's court or somethin'. I don't know if he was happy with the advice, but you'd think a guy who had been pwned the two previous times he's played wouldn't mind a little assistant coaching once in awhile. Lord knows what will happen now, but I hope my talk bought Brandon some more playing time. But, the last thing I told the boy was that he better get his act together. I told him that I don't rightly know if God is out there with him on the island, but if he doesn't get his head on straight - they a-goin' to send his sorry butt to Redemption, and he's goin' to be spendin' his time with somebody who really thinks he is god, and there ain't nothin' worse than that.

After all that, back at the hotel bar, I went up to that Pretty Boy Probst, and you are right brother - is he ever the dweeb. Anyways, I says to him, why did you reject my audition tape all those times. If anyone could defend the Hantz name it would be me, not my son Brandon. And Probst, he's got nothing to say - he just blew me off like I was nuthin'. So I says to him for Chrissakes look at this cast - you got the dragon guy runnin' the whole thing, and I would have owned this group if I had been in the game. It would have been like the old days with Russell, because Brandon might be a Hantz, but not all the acorns fall the same distance from the tree - if you know what I mean?  And again, Probst, he didn't say nuthin' back, he just looks at me. So I told him if Brandon doesn't win, he had gone and stole a million dollars from the Hantz family, and I ain't never gonna forget it, and he better never come around Katy, Texas, cause he ain't welcome there after puttin my boy on the show to make a darned fool of himself like he has. And Jeff, he just walks away like I couldn't kick his butt right then if I wanted to.

But, is it ever nice down here. Bro, you should have seen the girl Brandon gone and went and targeted on day one. She would go and make Pavarti- the one you was so sweet on - she would make Pavarti look like Roseanne. So, I sees her at the Ponderosa bar, and I apologize for Brandon being all ungentlemanly for targetin' her, and this Mikayla girl, she went and blamed me for the whole darn episode, like it was my idea to get rid of her in the first place! And there she was, the centerfold for February 2011 hootin' and a hollerin' at me about the Hantz family and this and that right in the middle of the bar, and it took near ten minutes before she got herself calmed down.  So, there was no chance of gettin' her number after a row like that, so on top of nearly blowin' the million, my boy had gone and ruined any chances I might have had with a playmate in the South Pacific. Is there any end to Brandon's foolishness?

But, I wouldn't mind splittin' some season tickets to the Tampa Breeze if you are game?

See ya soon baby brother and
Go Longhorns!

- Sean

Not a Category to Lead the World In

Mark Steyn links to a fascinating article about China's out-of-control air pollution:
A dense blanket of smog covered most cities in northeast China this past week, reaching record pollution levels and grounding hundreds of flights at Beijing’s international airport. Public outrage over the quality of the air in the Chinese capital is rising high while the government insists that the problem is down to inclement weather and nothing to be overly worried about.
For most of this week the air in Beijing has been rated as “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” by the US Embassy air monitor, reputed as the most reliable indicator of pollution in the city. On Sunday it posted a new record: “beyond index”, as it registered 522 micrograms of particulate pollutants per cubic meter of air.
More and more Chinese citizens - and not just expats - are turning to the US Embassy's BeijingAir Twitter account for precise data on pollution, especially since Chinese authorities continued to describe the situation as “moderate” despite the thick cloud of smog – “fog,” according to them - that envelops the city. 
I have two observations for America's Sinophiles:
  1. I find it fascinating that Chinese citizens have to rely on the U.S. embassy for accurate and reliable information about what's going on in their own country.
  2. The right to assemble, organize and protest is extremely limited in China. How can anyone expect to see a legitimate environmental movement develop under the conditions imposed by Beijing? Or, does China not need an environmental movement? Will the Communist Party eventually get to this problem when the time is right? The United States started tackling these issues with earnest in the 1970s, but the problem was never as bad as China is right now.
The streets of Beijing are beginning to look like something out of Blade Runner.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 11 (or 12?)

I have a question mark in the subject line because this latest episode would be the twelfth if you count the dreadful Thanksgiving Eve re-cap show. I don't think I need to explain why there was no review after that disaster - the less said, the better. I even had trouble digesting my turkey the next day.

Anyway, regardless of whether this newest edition was #11 or #12, it was watchable, though sub-par for this season. Generals fight the last war and Survivors use the tactics that worked in recent seasons. Everyone saw last season and they are sticking to Boston Rob's successful blueprint. So, assuming no returning player from Redemption Is. goes on an immunity run, the winner should come from the core five-person alliance that has dominated just as Rob's did [unlike two and three seasons ago, where the winners (Fabio and Sandra) did not come from the core alliance]. Yes, I know I'm discounting Edna with my assumption, but despite Jeff's tribal council speculation, I don't think she'll win immunity next week. Even if it's mental, shouldn't Sophie beat her? After all, if Edna is so smart, why is she just now realizing she's going home 6th? I understand inertia takes over, and it's hard to move against your tribe at 9. but, if you're going to wait till 7, you better have a plan - and she needed more of a plan than telling Albert that Rick calls him "princess". Edna, where's your plan for Coach or Sophie? They are the power centers. Albert had immunity, and he still couldn't get them to go with what he wanted. Sophie doesn't want to upset the apple cart, because the apple cart is carrying her to the final four. No one is going to target her before then, because no one is worried about her winning a stamina challenge at four. As long as they can get rid of Ozzy before then, she is safe. If Ozzy is still in the game at five, they might get rid of her if they think they need physically strong players to beat Ozzy at four. However, since Sophie won an immunity involving balance - she might have a more plausible argument to stay in the game rather than Rick, or even Brandon. I don't think Albert is that physical of a player, but Coach and Albert will be kept in the game as long as Ozzy is around. So, expect that to emerge as a consideration when they start making the tough decisions at five (after Edna is booted at six).

In some ways, Survivor has the rhythm of the tides. You go several seasons without a major betrayal, and a few people start forgetting that major back-stabbers might benefit in the short-term, but almost never go on to win. Then, a desperate player betrays his tribe, it blows up in his face, everyone re-learns the lesson, and you go several seasons without a major betrayal. (Repeat cycle). By almost any reckoning, Cochran's betrayal must be viewed as a failure. Don't expect to see anybody abandon their tribe over the next couple of seasons.  

Finally, my last re-cap contained an analysis of Coach getting flaky and wanting to target Brandon. It was based on a clip of the coming episode. However, the coming episode was a re-cap, and the clip came from EARLIER in the game. So, a lot of that analysis hasn't panned out yet. Coach has clearly stayed loyal to the core five.

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 10

It's not too surprising that the alliance held. I want to thank the producers for getting it done so quickly (four votes in two nicely paced episodes). Now, with just the seven-person alliance left, the fireworks can begin. 
Whitney mocked the majority for not seeing that they can't ALL go to the finals. So, why didn't the ones on the low end of the totem pole align with her & Dawn and usurp the existing regime? As I said last week, nine is a good time to do it (at 7, it might be too late). Are they all as dumb as Whitney claims? 
This is the second season in a row where they brought back two previous competitors. I believed they were going to be at a huge disadvantage because Christine's attitude ("they are temporary players") would prevail. However, it's only those with a bad reputation (Russell, last season) who have fallen victim to that thinking. It turns out that having a decent-to-good reputation has been a MAJOR asset. The newbies are out there with (a) strangers they know NOTHING about and (b) a dude who played before and was fairly honest. Who would you gravitate to?
Boston Rob is a snake, but he kept true to his primary alliance - even marrying her - in the series' crown jewel (Survivor: All-Stars). So, everyone he aligned with last year thought they were the one he would stay true to (even though he could only bring TWO to the finals). I thought betraying his other allies would doom Rob, but he got to hand pick the two he would face. This, and getting votes from the opposing tribe, gave him a huge advantage.  
As my analysis from last week detailed, Coach has a reputation for being a world-class flake, but not a dishonest one. His first two disastrous stints on the show did not involve betrayal - rather, Coach was often honest to a fault. So, this season, Coach is trustworthy in a way the other "strangers" aren't. He can make promises to everyone to go to the end (implicit and explicit) because he has a decent reputation. If you were out there - who are you going to trust Whitney or Coach? You've seen Coach play before. You don't know squat about Whitney. Furthermore, Cochran just blew up his own alliance - underscoring how you can't trust the new players to the same degree you can a returning player.
Anyhow, that's my theory as to why Rob won last season, and Coach has done so well this year. So, Coach's allies are not as dumb as Whitney claims.
I understand that you might argue: 'still, only two of them can go with Coach to the finals, so some of them - by definition - are making an error.' But, that's the case in ANY alliance. Only two can go to the finals with Whitney. So, some of them are playing under false expectations. I get it. But, wouldn't Whitney be forced to let some in her alliance down too? So, are the people hanging with Coach really that dumb? Furthermore, I've conceded that it's harder to make a move at 7, but it might be wiser to try and fail at 7, rather than succeeding at 9. You lose too many votes at 9 because you went against your own alliance. At 7, it's an intra-alliance move, and less egregious.   
Albert, if you're going to kiss up to the jury and not follow through, you should do so without raising Whitney and Dawn's expectations so much. I know you needed Sophie to go along, but they might interpret that you were pulling their leg, and resent it. However, at least you entertained their offer. Maybe it will help get their jury votes. And, at least you are thinking about the end-game. The last two seasons were marked by lots of players who had no conception of what would happen beyond the next vote. But, Albert doesn't seem to be cunning (or ruthless) enough. Frankly, he's broadcasting his moves. 
Sophie does seem tough enough to execute an effective end-game. I think the issue is will Coach realize he can't let Sophie reach the finals? In the preview he's talking about whether Brandon deserves to be here (but, Edna does?). That's exactly the sort of nonsense that blew up Coach in Tocantins. If he starts acting on thoughts like that - he could blow this game. He still has the idol and a clear path to the finals. Coach should fear Sophie. She can win the jury vote. Albert might also. They are his competition - not Brandon. Sophie did some major lifting for herself and her tribe this week. It will help her big time in front of a jury. It's hard to accuse her of coat-tail-riding when she won TWO key immunities when things were on the line. If I were on the beach, I would not want her in the finals. Coach needs to realize Sophie is his biggest threat.
If Coach is fearful that the Hantz in Brandon will come out - I can see targeting him. But, I think Coach fears that if he takes Brandon to the final three, the jury will resent Coach for taking an unworthy player - because that's how Coach thinks. Coach's end-game might be designed to impress a jury of nine Coach's! If that's the case, Coach's end-game could be disastrous (akin to Greg Norman at the 1995 Masters).
Somehow, my gut tells me everything might come down to Rick. That's how the Mikalaya vs. Edna vote went down, and I think those divisions are still there. But, that's assuming Coach acts rationally and doesn't make an ass of himself. There are signals he might.

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 9 (Part II)

I've gotten several emails challenging the idea that Coach is the favorite with a 30% chance of winning. If anything, I think 30% is an understatement. Here is my reasoning.
First, there is no doubt that Coach's first two times playing Survivor were disasters. In Tocantins, Coach did things that were delusional and the public detested him because of it. At that season's reunion show, Jeff expressed puzzlement at why Coach was so disliked by the viewers - but the answer is easy. Survivor is a game. And, we all have experienced at least once in our lives playing a game that someone else isn't taking seriously or playing to win. It is VERY frustrating. Have you ever played Monopoly when you were 10, and one of the players sells Boardwalk for $1 to his buddy because of a chivalric code? Or, he refuses to collect rent because it's not honorable. Or, does things against his interest in an irrational manner because he's a dragonslayer? What do you do? You flip the board over and stop playing - right? You can't play a game unless everyone takes it at least a little bit seriously and tries to compete.
Coach in Tocantins was quixotic to the point where it was almost undermining the integrity of the game. Frankly, when this has happened in the past, Jeff has become infuriated (he hated Johnny Fairplay because Fairplay would do things suggesting a lack of seriousness - like showing up to tribal council drunk). But, Jeff indulged Coach's mania early because it tended to help people Jeff liked (JT) and I guess Jeff has always had a soft spot for Cervantes.
Coach was also hated by the audience because he was vain, had a superego, and told a lot of whopping tales. The mixture was toxic. His animosity toward Sierra was something I never understood, and I still can't believe how that poor, sweet girl sat through so many of Coach's endless lectures. My favorite part of that season was the challenge where everyone's loved one shows up and competes. So, there they all were: parents, siblings, friends, etc. Do you know who showed up for Coach? His assistant coach!!!! His employee!!!! The only guy Coach could get to come was someone whose job depends on Coach!!!! I still think it's hysterical.    
Coach got better in Heroes v. Villains, but he still had major problems - including an epic breakdown after one tribal council where he was crying like a schoolgirl the day Elvis died. Tyson had to console him and tell him things like (paraphrasing): "do your Tai Chi in private and stop wearing feathers to tribal council. That's why they mock you." Jeff was finally starting to become dissatisfied with Coach's windmill duels, and multiple times scolded the tribe for voting Boston Rob out (something Coach played a big part in). For Jeff, Coach's eccentric gameplay is great TV when it saves the likes of JT, but becomes a liability when the casualty is Boston Rob, one of the few Survivors to breakthrough to the wider popular culture. That's when Don Quixote's romanticism become a little irksome.    
Anyway, this season has seen a vast improvement. There are hints of his madness, but it is MUCH better. He might be getting a good cut from the producers, but there have only been a few complaints about him - and it's mostly been sour grapes from the uber-curmudgeons Christine & Stacey (though, the sensible Sophie has landed some blows while rightly questioning Coach's false prayer meetings).
I get the fact that the only guys on this quest who might actually like Coach is the village idiot and court jester (Brandon & Cochran), but, the rest are still aligned with him. The bottom line is this: despite his past, I think Coach can win a jury vote.
How do you stop him from getting to the finals when he has the idol? You can try to blindside him, but it's dangerous. And, once you get down to seven, I don't think you'll have enough votes. More importantly, they are already down to 9, and no one is even talking about going against Coach. Albert's worried about Edna!?!?
Coach can't play the idol once you get down to four - that's your best shot to take him out. But, Coach could win that immunity! There's only four of you! What if Brandon is still around, and he wins immunity? Will he vote against Coach? Never. Coach might have massive protection at four. Do you force a tie? At four, they don't draw rocks, but build a fire. Coach might win that. 
It gets a little easier if Brandon's not around at four, but he's going to be hard to get rid of before then. But, you need to win immunity yourself, or hope Ozzy comes back from Redemption and goes on an immunity run. Which means Ozzy is in the finals - and you lose to him, because the jury is stacked with his former tribe. 
So, I'll ask again - how do you keep Coach out of the finals? Can you beat Coach in the finals? It's going to be hard. He's played a clean game and has lead the tribe pretty well. I'm sure he's done flaky stuff we're not seeing, but no one is complaining about it. He's going to be hard to beat. And, he can handpick the two people sitting next to him. Coach might be unstoppable (but, he can always do something crazy and blow it).
I can write more - specifically, about how Coach got into this enviable position - but, I'll save it for another episode.

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 9 (Part I)

I was hoping we'd get two tribal councils to speed things along. So, that was good news.
Jim said two things that (when taken together) are interesting.
1. Towards the middle of the episode he said that 'Cochran was playing the most brilliant third place game in Survivor history.' I agree, and said so yesterday. 
2. During the closing credits, Jim was with the boys on Redemption and said: 'weren't we supposed to be the final three?'
In a roundabout way, Jim is conceding that Cochran's betrayal advanced him further into the game. If Cochran stuck with Jim, he'd finish 4th-6th (at best). Meanwhile, Whitney was crying something about "tribe betrayal". Cochran is there for Cochran and Whitney is there for Whitney. They only write one million dollar check. I heard Jim talk about how he "saved" Cochran at so many votes. Wasn't one of those times to backstab Elyse/Ozzy? When Ozzy got upset about that, didn't Jim ask for an apology? Why can Jim backstab Ozzy and vote Elyse, but Cochran can't backstab Ozzy and vote Keith? Cochran owed Ozzy, but nobody else. Maybe that's why Whitney cried about "tribal loyalty." I guess her thinking is that it's not the same when you blindside inside your tribe (i.e., Elyse). It's not a particularly compelling distinction to me, but Whitney needed some sort of lawyerism to justify her venomous rage.
Brandon's blow up at tribal was the reaction of a guilty mind. Dawn had assuaged his guilt during the competition by saying she wanted them to eat as much as possible. This cleared Brandon's conscience. When she partially retracted it by conceding it was difficult to watch, Brandon's mind snapped. Her approval (which he was so eager for) had wavered, and he simply couldn't handle the return of his guilt. He responded with anger, belligerence and a dismissal of what she was saying. Brandon is a child.
Coach did a good job of taking command before the second challenge. He made it clear to all in his alliance that sitting out (and eating) was acceptable. Brandon shouldn't have felt guilty after that. I think the game is emotionally starting to wear on him.
It looks like (next episode) that Albert is going to make another push against Dawn. The Coach alliance consists of an inner 3 (Coach, Albert, Sophie - the first to know about the hidden immunity idol). Add Brandon & Rick and you have the core 5 which formed in the first epsidoe. Edna was added as a sixth a few episodes back, and Cochran became the 7th when he ditched Ozzy & Co. The outer members (Edna & Cochran) might have more loyalty to Coach than the inner ones. Coach is in a very strong position to handpick who he wants in the finals. That could be some combination of Brandon, Edna & Cochran. If Sophie or Albert wants to move against Coach, they might consider doing it now (at 9) then later (at 7). Because, I think Brandon, Edna, and Cochran are now in Coach's pocket, so you won't have the numbers @ 7.
Of course, Sophie and Albert might have reasonable expectations to be in the final 3 based on promises (implied or otherwise) Coach has made (which is why Albert is focusing on Dawn instead of Coach). I think we can have a repeat of last season, where Boston Rob's tribe all thought they were going to the finals with him, but only two were correct. Will someone realize this and move against Coach? They might need Dawn and Whitney to do it. Or, will Coach's hidden immunity idol scare them off?
Bottom Line: Coach is in a VERY strong position. 
Ozzy says he'd rather be in the game, but I think he's quite fine with where he is. He gets to sit on the beach and hang all day after doing an hour or two of fishing. There's no worry about strategy or game talk - just wait for the next duel. This is vacation for him.
Chances of winning:
1. Coach (30%)
2. Sophie (15%)
3. Albert (12%)
4. Edna (8%)
5. Rick (8%)
6. Brandon (7%)
7. Dawn (5%)
8. Whitney (4%)
9. Cochran (4%)
10. Ozzy (4%)
11. Keith (2%)
12. Jim (1%)

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 8

Great plan, Ozzy.

You move heaven and earth (risking everything) just to keep Cochran in the game. And, after one conversation, he's Coach's man. Why was it essential to keep Cochran and boot Christine? Christine despises Coach. She doesn't even call him Coach. You would have been better off with her. Oh - I forgot. You wanted to play the hero. Good job, pal! You beat a 40-year-old Long Island school teacher. What a victory! We have an expression for that: Ozzy 'wins battles and loses wars.' You got outmaneuvered by Coach and threw away your immunity idol in the process. Atrocious. In Heroes vs. Villains, Rob got outmaneuvered by Russell while Coach got chewed up and spit out. In this game, Coach is owning you. That makes you a third tier All-Star caliber player. Boston Rob and Russell are two classes above you. 

But, maybe I'm being too hard on you. How could you see this coming? After all, maybe Cochran liked being abused after every immunity challenge you guys lost. Your temper tantrum last episode wasn't unprecedented. I saw a disgusted Colby throw a bucket of water on Jerri in Australia after losing a reward challenge. So, you kicking the wall and blaming Cochran wasn't too bad. Then again, Colby wasn't counting on Jerri as an ally after that. Why did you count on Cochran? You had called yourself a free agent the night before the tantrum. You planted ideas. You're lucky Cochran even gave you the idol back (which you promptly threw away).

As for Cochran - what goes around comes around. There are no referees who will blow a whistle on you for an ethics violation. But, you have to face the jury - and that's where the game gets policed. Russell lost two jury votes because he pushed the envelope (actually, when it comes to Survivor ethics, Russell didn't just push the envelope, he split it in two and set it on fire). Similarly, a hyper-aggressive Boston Rob lost All-Stars to his more demure ally, Amber (Rob didn't just lose the game he lost friends - Lex, Kathy & Tom). If you go too far, the jury will punish you.  

All this means two things for Cochran: his chances of making the finals just increased dramatically (someone will want to sit next to him), while his chances of winning have collapsed. He will get no votes from his former tribe and few from Coach's.

But, Cochran seemed resigned to the fact that he probably wasn't going to win, and seemed more interested in advancing as deep into the game as possible. He also seems terrified of going to Redemption Island (and humiliating himself). Hence, he threw his tribe (and more specifically, Ozzy) under the bus. Ozzy saved him from going to Redemption Island, last week. For that reason, I think he owed him some loyalty (he doesn't owe Jim or Keith anything - they treated him pretty poorly).

Survivor instituted the "drawing rocks" tie-breaker in season 4 (Marquesas) when Pascal drew the unlucky colored rock from the bag and was booted from the game. No one has drawn a rock since. All ties get resolved because the prospect of randomly getting the boot is so terrifying when the two people potentially going home does not include you. This was by far the closest they came to drawing rocks since season four, but the streak continues. Someone always waffles on the second vote.

Usually, at this point in the show, the losing tribe gets picked off one-by-one while the producers hype potential breaks in the majority alliance that never materialize. We'll see if that holds to form or if the minority in the majority makes a move at nine or seven. Either way, what had been an excellent string of episodes might have come to an end while Ozzy & Jim walk the plank over the next couple of weeks. I think they'll want those guns out before the majority considers cannibalizing each other. I'd say the odds of someone from Coach's tribe winning must now be at least 80%. There's only one example of a post-merge minority taking control of the game: Tocantins. But, those were extraordinary circumstances. The majority had a gigantic lead (7-3, I think), they hated each other, and Coach was in a fullblown delusion about honor that simply created chaos. Somehow, 2 of the 3 person minority made it to the finals. I don't see that happening here, though Coach is again involved.  

It's going to be hard to watch tonight's episode as Whitney and Jim lecture Cochran about loyalty. How did they treat Elyse? The only one who has a legitimate gripe is Ozzy. He did sacrifice himself for Cochran. Cochran owed him for that. Ozzy now has to win almost every immunity. It would be a heroic achievement. That's why he'll probably be the least angry tribemember tonight. In some ways, Cochran gave him what he wanted - long odds, where only performing well in the challenges can save him.

Survivor: South Pacific, Ep. 7

Glory lasts forever - at least that's what Ozzy would have you believe. A million dollars? Most lottery winners are broke within a decade. But, glory is eternal.

Ozzy does not want to win, he wants to be the center of attention. As he said before parading around camp with the idol: "I might as well make a grand entrance."

This is is his third go around, and Ozzy hasn't changed much - he's a strong physical player, but usually with weak allies. In Cook Islands he got to the finals by dominating the challenges. In Fans vs. Favorites, he got blindsided with an idol in his pocket. Given his history, his decision to go to Redemption makes sense - his worst fear is another blindside without playing the idol, and he's with a crowd who could pull that off (he never saw the Edna double-cross coming). At least on Redemption it's all about winning challenges - his comfort zone.

Was beating Christine at Redemption really the key for this tribe? Hasn't Ozzy noticed Christine giving Rick the bird and Albert actively helping her competition (Mikayala) in the last duel? She seems a solid bet to side AGAINST her former tribe. Defeating Christine is a manufactured crisis. Three things have to happen for this to work as planned.  So, why do it? Because Ozzy has more control over his game on Redemption than with his tribe. He'd rather be there. And, it allows him to play the hero. He'd rather be the hero than win. He'd rather do something memorable than win the million in a ho-hum fashion. Volunteering to go to Redemption is memorable (getting blind-sided with the idol in your pocket, or getting picked off post-merge isn't). Ozzy knows Redemption is in his near future. Winning five duels in a row isn't special - heck Christine just did that. Volunteering to go is.

Sophie gets an icky feeling when Coach leads group prayers asking for help finding the idol. I don't blame her - there's a hint of Jonestown to all of Coach's BS prayers. It's creepy. That is one area where sincerity matters.

Cochran's panic in the challenge was atrocious. That's why every kid should play competitive sports. It helps one learn to handle pressure during a physical competition. He's too concerned about failing.

I don't have much else to say. Enjoy tonight's episode.