Purple Rock Watch-Along: South Pacific Episodes 1-3

Blurry Denzel and Barbara Anderson smash colored eggs and begin the Watch-Along of Survivor: South Pacific with Episodes 1-3. Quick reminder: this Watch-Along will have spoilers for the entire season, so tread with caution if this is a concern for you. Also, this post ran into some technical difficulties, so there are no fun screenshots or gifs. Fingers crossed for next week!

Ozzy vs Coach

Blurry Denzel: Going back to watching South Pacific is already a bit of a wild ride. There is a ton to analyze when it comes to characters and their motivations and gameplay. An obvious place to start is with the return of Ozzy and Coach. These early episodes revolve around them as is what tends to happen in a season with a couple of returnees thrown into a majority newbie season. They are the familiar figures that ease the viewers and the new players into a new game of Survivor. The first question that pops into mind when it comes to Ozzy and Coach is if they are good choices to be the single returnees carrying a tribe of players? They don’t have the history that Boston Rob and Russell had going into Redemption Island, so there isn’t that story there. While they are known faces, are they complete enough characters to lean on for a season? What do you think, Barbara?


Barbara Anderson: Great question, but I am going to avoid that for right now. What I do think is that Ozzy was due to return. If you go back to HvV, the one area of the cast that was no filler is the male Heroes and that is without candidates like Ozzy or Terry Deitz (who was most definitely 6th and 7th on that list). At this point, Ozzy was still a fan favorite who had a really bad blindside because of the villainous Black Widow Brigade and, as he puts it in the premiere, he needs redemption. Coach, though, is the bigger question mark. Yes, he is a great character but I don’t know if he needed to come back for this kind of season. Of course, there has been much speculation about who was really supposed to be on this season. Do you remember what you have heard about who was supposed to come back?


BD: I actually don’t know who was the rumored returnee, or perhaps it slipped my mind. I agree that Ozzy is still a popular figure. He belonged on HvV but unfortunately there wasn’t room for him. I thought the opening sequence spoke volumes about the perception of both players. Ozzy is treated like a conquering hero. Players remember him as this challenge beast and provider. Those are solid reasons to want to be on a tribe with Ozzy. Ozzy though hasn’t been known as  a master strategist. His social game also leaves a lot to be desired. At best he seems disinterested in that aspect of the game and can sometimes be a dick to his fellow tribemates. He always struck me as a more interesting version of Joey Amazing. There is enough personality to keep me invested but I’ve seen his extraordinary challenge skills already and not sure that will carry the day. Coach, on the other hand, is presented like a joke. I don’t blame the players for thinking that. The show has told us twice before that Coach and his antics shouldn’t be taken serious. The position as the actual leader of tribe demands that he should be taken a legit force and it’s hard for me to buy that at this moment.


BA: That being said, Coach is in the best possible spot of the returnees right now. He has an alliance of 5 with another person as a 6th in a 9 person tribe. He was also able to take out arguably his biggest detractor in Christine despite what some people in his alliance wanted. What is interesting is that Coach is able to use the rhetoric that he used previously and a lot of his tribe is buying right now. Look at how Albert is trying to defend Coach and his loyalty at Tribal for example. Meanwhile, Ozzy does have an idol but misplays the sharing of said idol by telling Keith who is already fairly tight with Whitney. He also expends a bit too much social capital too early in trying to save Semhar after her disastrous Immunity Challenge performance. What do you think about Ozzy so far?


BD: Ozzy is more or less the same as he was in Micronesia. He wants to be around people he vibes with or relate to. The others can go and he will make his feelings known about that. He is still the super provider and I’m not shocked he found the idol. That man always covers ground. I think the issue is that after players get over the initial high of being with Ozzy, he is someone who is easy to read. He is able to always be in the majority because he is a next level teammate to have premerge but nothing I’ve seen so far convinces me he can win the game. By the way who was the rumored player to return?


BA: The long-standing rumor was that it was supposed to be Jenna vs Ethan (they were still together at this point), but then they ended up on Amazing Race. In recent years, it has emerged that it was reportedly supposed to be Coach vs Phillip. 


BD: Shit, I did remember the Phillip thing. I do try to block him out of my mind. Say what you will about Coach  and his honor and integrity persona, Coach is at least competent in Survivor. He can be savvy and understands what needs to be done to make him apart of the majority. Phillip comes across as a caricature of Coach. I prefer Ozzy by far. There is also 16 new people we are introduced to. I’m sure you are dying to talk about Elyse, Barbara.  


The New Blood

BA: Elyse has confessionals in the premiere. How?


BD: I will say this for the premiere, it does a good job of spreading the wealth and letting us know what everyone is experiencing as the game start and how they are relating to others. 90 minute premieres are a must and the show uses it effectively. Some of the standouts from the early batch of episodes are the same players that would return later in Caramoan. Cochran, Dawn and Brandon all have a lot of time here and each have rocky starts.


BA: All three of them stand out for both good and bad reasons, which is great. I would also argue that we get some good stuff from Christine, Stacey, Papa Bear, and Sophie. This cast does have some fun characters, but you also have people who are underedited like our friend, Rancher Rick. I also think we also get a lot of our storylines for the season here with Savaii being the popular kids vs the outsiders and Upolu having the Day 1 alliance as well as Little Hantz along with mini arcs like Queen Christine vs Coach and Jim the “master strategist”. 


BD: Yes, there is a mix of different characters that I like Survivor having. They all have potential though I will say the Brandon Hantz casting is super gimmicky in a bad way. The show was in full obsession with Russell during this time. Coach and Ozzy don’t have to carry everything. We can see Dawn adjusting to the hardships of living on the island. We get Badass Sophie immediately figuring out what Coach is all about. We get Cochran struggle to relate to the popular kids though I believe Keith does like him, at least in the beginning. This is an improvement over Redemption Island. The arcs you mention did entertain me and made the episodes easy to digest, with one key exception. Poor Miikayla had to be stuck with Brandon’s misogynistic bullshit.


BA: Poor Mikayla. First of all, Brandon calls her “Delilah”. Then, he compares her to Parvati. All of this is because she is young and underdressed (we are now firmly in the part of the show where the show underdressed younger women. Even Sophie can’t fully escape this). She also has to learn about what Brandon is doing way after the fact because no one on the tribe truly gets why Brandon doesn’t like her. She was already doomed for not being in the Day 1 alliance anyway, but now she is doubly doomed. 


Our First Three Boots

BD: While the new cast did show promise, we did need to say bye to three of them, because we all know it wasn’t going to be a returnee. Semhar made the mistake of standing out in any perceived negative way. People will jump on anything to make sure it’s not them getting voted out. She volunteered for a key part of the challenge and came up short, though she wasn’t as adamant on doing it as Whitney said she was at tribal. She also gets in a public spat with Jim that does not bring people to her side. Jim is the worst so I understand the appeal of yelling at him. The poetry probably didn’t help her out. Even with all that, I don’t think she was so awful. What do you think?


BA: Like I said earlier, she just seemed like an easy first boot based on her challenge performance. If she sucked but was perceived as trying, then I think she gets a bit of a pass. But how she performed as well as her answer to Probst afterwards does not help. That being said, I think she was destined to be a pre-merge boot based on the fact that she is focused on how her tribe can be so cruel as to vote her out. She wasn’t blindsided and had a chance to save herself. Her lack of knowledge on the game would have probably been fatal.


BD: Christine is amazing. She sucks at Survivor but I can watch her and Stacey talk shit for hours. She just tells it like it is to her detriment. She was never able to recover from calling Coach a temporary player. She doesn’t even try to smooth things over. Playing to Coach’s ego is an obvious way to go but instead she actually doubles down and continues to call him temporary and then mocks him for being upset about that. He should be targeting you, Christine, you took the first shot. He needs to protect himself. She even gets help from Hantz and his obsession with Mikayla and his twisted need to vote her out and does nothing with it. I will enjoy her time on Redemption Island though. 


BA: If Coach is so temporary, why not vote him out? Sure, she would probably only have two votes, but it would be worth a shot. Also, we can’t forget how badly she botches sneaking around to look for the idol. Sure, she finds the clue, but everyone knew she was looking for an idol. Despite all of this, I enjoy Christine and the vibe she brings to the season. To quote Coach, I love her “Long Island attitude”. 


BD: Papa Bear comes across the most knowledgeable of the game among the three players booted here. His downfall has a lot to do with being on the outside as the older male amongst a young group. He doesn’t have the challenge prowess that Dawn has to impress Ozzy. We see a lot of players like him go in this spot so this is pretty much par for the course.


BA: Papa Bear has a strong premiere where he comes out to his tribe and everyone is really chill with it (which is shocking considering how conservative this cast is). He is also pretty great in confessionals. However, I think he quickly realizes that he is the bottom of the totem pole and there is really nothing he can do. However, he still fights to the very end and even votes for Jim, which I think is really interesting. 


BD: I respect his vote for Jim. I think losing Papa Bear is the first blow to the season. He had great potential as a character. It will be interesting to see who takes up his camera time after he is gone. 


Our Favorite Bad Plays

BA: So, this section will probably be a constant in our coverage. We will each pick a bad play in the episodes and talk about it. I am going for Jim’s 3+2 plan. Now, you’re probably why I am picking this out of all of the bad plays, especially since it is a logical play. At this play, Savaii is down to 8, which means 5 is a clear majority. Unfortunately, Jim doesn’t quite understand that this alliance is good for everyone in the alliance except for him. He clearly doesn’t see Keith bonding really well with both Whitney and Ozzy. He also thinks that he can be the swing vote, when I think both couples would just take him out at 5. I actually think his better bet would have been to go with the outsiders, since he has probably more in common with them than he does with the popular people. Thoughts?


BD: He even acknowledges that he is the least popular of the cool kids. I agree with you that this move doesn’t make sense for Jim. He gives too much power to Jim and Ozzy. His motivation for voting out Semhar is so Ozzy doesn’t have too much power. This undermines that. I think he believes he is smarter than this group and will be able to outmaneuver them down the stretch.


As for my pick for bad play, I’m actually going with Cochran at the first tribal council. He was way too much defensive when there was an easy vote for Semhar. He has to read the room better and see that people are on his side. While he knows the mechanics of the game very well but he needs to do better with relationships. Votes are not often decided at tribal but Cochran could’ve easily talked himself out of the game. At the very least he put a spotlight on his flaws. Thoughts?


BA: It reminded me of the Natalie vs. Jeremy tribal in DvG where the other tribemates were giving encouragement to Natalie as a way of saying “You’re safe”. Savaii is telling Cochran in coded language that he is fine and it will be a slam dunk for Semhar. For being such a big fan, Cochran should have known that. 


Our Feelings on the Season So Far

BD: As someone coming into the season very down on South Pacific, these opening episodes weren’t so bad. There was a lot of good table setting here, building stories that will play out through the season. While I’m down on Coach returning, his turning around the perception of him so quickly is fascinating to watch in this early going. There is more than one note to him. The challenges  in this early going have been a lot of fun. Challenges that don’t end in a puzzle. Challenges that utilize the whole team. I like this and wish current Survivor was still doing this. I’m just as mad, maybe even more so now, about the treatment of Mikayla. This is not fun to watch. It does not make me want to love to hate Brandon, it makes me want to not watch. It’s an early black mark on the season and since they didn’t resolve it by just cutting Brandon, it’s something I have to dread even more in the future. 


BA: I agree about Brandon and Mikayla. It is not great (although I do appreciate the show airing Mikayla’s confessionals where she talks about being a tomboy to show how truly off Brandon’s line of thinking, it is just not enough). However, I do think we have a very fascinating season ahead of us if we are already talking about the ethical implications of religion, manipulation, and lying. It is a pretty good start. I also forgot how this cast seemed ready to play in a way that a lot of other casts didn’t at this point in Survior. Do you agree?


BD: I think there is a discussion to be had about what lines can be crossed when trying to game people. That is intriguing. Religion as a strategy annoys me a little from the standpoint that it’s not fun to watch. It’s tough for players to maneuver around faith based gameplay. I think it can stifle things, which is fine for people on the top but makes it hard for the bottom to rise up. The cast overall does seem ready to play, which is good for now.

BA: It is also hard for the show, I can imagine, because you want to portray the story of the season, but you also don’t want to be offensive to the religious fans out there. That thin line will be something to keep our eyes on in the future weeks.  

BD: Definitely, it’s an uncomfortable spot for the show to be in. It does make this season standout for better or worse. Next week we have some pretty interesting power plays within alliances that I’m looking forward to. Join us.