Now that Brendan, Sierra’s only ally, has been voted off, Sierra knows she’s the next to go. She tells the tribe, “Let’s just try to make these next couple of days congenial,” which apparently involves her having many painful conversations with everyone as she explains why she made the “bad decision” to vote against Coach.
Sierra and Coach talk, and he tells her she could’ve written down anyone else who doesn’t have the character that he has, which is superior because he’s never lied to anyone. (I’ll have to watch the tape again to see if Coach told Brendan he was voting against J.T.) Instead, Coach says, Sierra pitted herself against him, and in love and war, it’s kill or be killed. Her eyes widen, and for a brief moment, I think she fears he’ll kill her. Or he loves her. In which case, he’d still kill her.
We again see Coach doing his meditations in the water, this time celebrating his victory over Brendan. He says that defeating such a worthy opponent — even though this opponent can’t bench-press as much as Coach — gives him a peace that permeates his every fiber. “The Dragon Slayer has vanquished the dragon once and for all. [Insert primal scream here.] Over. The battle has already been won. Victory is mine.” Oh, I want to see him voted out.
Sierra talks with others about why she sided with Brendan, and Tyson likes seeing her scramble and mope. And cry. ‘Cause it’s funny. He tells the camera that Sierra’s of no worth, and he tells her she wasn’t smart enough to mastermind Brendan’s plan, and she can’t change that she’s the next to go.
For the reward challenge, the players are divided into two teams of four. They collect four puzzle boards and line them up so vowels can be seen through the holes, and then they unscramble those letters (along with tiles containing consonants) to come up with a phrase. The team of Erinn, J.T., Debbie and Tyson wins easily, and Probst says to Coach, who would’ve loved going to the reward feast and watching local folks do a martial arts kind of dance, “All that life experience, not helping you out here.” “You know,” Coach says, “I didn’t line up boards like this in the Amazon.” What? Something Coach hasn’t done? I so want someone to raise a hand and say, “I have.”
On the reward trip, Debbie gravitates toward the local kids and gets teary when she thinks about how she misses her own kids and those at the school she’s a principal at. The contestants join the dancers, with Debbie doing back flips and others doing cartwheels. After they’d eaten a ton of food. Erinn throws up on her feet.
The winning team chose Stephen to go to Exile, in case there’s a clue to a new hidden immunity idol, but there’s not. He’s there for nothing. “Thank God I have no food and bleak surroundings for a couple of days,” he says, and then lets out a frustrated yell that’s a little whinier than Coach’s primal scream.
Back at camp, Sierra and Debbie talk. Debbie sees Sierra as having been disloyal, and Sierra says that everyone will be backstabbing once she’s gone, and they’ll regret voting her out. Erinn jumps in and says Sierra’s just saying the same thing over and over, but then she says to the camera that although she can’t stand Sierra, everything she says is right — people will backstab, and Erinn’s first in line to do so.
Coach tells Sierra that the honorable thing would be for her to accept her fate and not make deals with people, and implies she should fall on her sword. She cries and asks Coach if he’d give up if he made the wrong choice. She reminds him that he pushed her to make her stronger; well, now she’s showing her strength by fighting to stay in the game. “How do you save the kind enemy?” she asks. She doesn’t get the compassion she wants, but I give her credit for using his own language to talk to him.
So Sierra’s having a crappy few days — she has no ally; she wants to prove she’s a good person who made a horrible decision; she feels guilty that she hurt everyone; she wishes she hadn’t murdered everyone’s firstborn child. Wait — what? She didn’t do that? She just tried to blindside someone by voting the way she thought her alliance was going to vote? Huh. That’s not dishonor. That’s playing the game.
Probst offers pizza to anyone who chooses not to participate in the immunity challenge, and Stephen, J.T. and Coach take the offer. Tyson’s perturbed that he’s left, pizza-less, to win immunity and seal the deal so they can get rid of Sierra. The challenge is a game of shuffleboard, where the player who slides their puck closest to the X wins. It’s raining, and everyone is soaked and shivering, huddled together between their shots. In the final round, Sierra’s puck takes the closest position and knocks two of Tyson’s pucks away from the X, and she does a little I-might-have-a-chance excited pace. But Debbie has the final shot and gets closer to the X, knocking away Sierra’s puck and snatching immunity from her.
Back at camp, folks are talking near Sierra about how great it was that Debbie won. Tyson says, “There’s nothing awesomer than seeing someone celebrate before the game’s over.”
And there’s nothing awesomer than to see the mighty fall.
Erinn, Stephen and Taj talk about how this could be the chance to take out Tyson — who knows when he’ll lose another immunity challenge? Stephen tells J.T. that a lot of times on this show, people go on a run with winning immunity challenges — instead of letting Tyson be the one to do that, “Let’s make it you.”
Of course, voting against Tyson would go against the alliance of Coach, Tyson, Debbie, J.T. and Stephen. Coach tells J.T. that it’s a priority to get this Warrior Alliance to the final five — “It would be [surprisingly long obscenity] stupid if we made an alliance, gave it a name, bandied the name about, talked about ourselves being warriors and then chickened out at the last second.” Well, yeah, duh. Once a name is bandied, it’s a done deal. And J.T. gives him his word.
I’m starting to wonder what J.T. looks like when he’s telling the truth — it seems the more trustworthy and earnest he looks, the more he’s probably not genuine. Often when players assert that people underestimate their intelligence (because of being a beautiful model, living on a farm, whatever), they end up being not as smart as they think they are. But J.T. has some magic country boy charm, and he’s savvy enough to know that it makes people trust him.
At Tribal Council, Tyson says he’s glad someone he loves won immunity, and then lists everyone he loves — including Brendan in the jury — but doesn’t include Sierra. There’s talk later about how Sierra sees Tyson as a smart ass who’s never been nice to her, so even though Sierra wasn’t told about the plan to vote out Tyson, she votes against him and whispers, “You’re a jerk.”
Everyone expected possibly one vote against Tyson, but Tyson’s smugness is deflated and Sierra’s mope turns to surprised confusion as a second vote is read against Tyson, then a third, then a fourth, then a fifth. There’s an opening for a new Assistant Coach, as Tyson is voted out. Over on the jury bench, Brendan gently applauds. Me, too.
Photo: Credit CBS