Blurry Denzel and Barbara Anderson drop their stacks as they finish watching Survivor: South Pacific with Episodes 13-15 and the reunion. No spoiler warning needed at this point!
Badass Sophie, The Dragonslayer
Blurry Denzel: I fell in love with Badass Sophie at the culmination of this season. The story all came together in the end and I believe Sophie played a perfect game for her to win and it was such a satisfying climax to a rough road. Her being able to be Coach’s right hand woman, making the strategic moves while Coach is out front taking the blame was awesome. Her defanging Albert every step along the way after the merge was awesome. Her slaying the ultimate challenge beast in Ozzy when it mattered most was so fucking awesome. Her play is why I love Survivor. She was able to find an angle of her own and work it so efficiently from start to finish.While it was not flashy, I was riveted by her play. There were a couple of standout moments in this final grouping of episodes but I think the first major turning point was Sophie showing emotion was at the tribal where Ozzy heavily criticized her. That moment needed to happen in front of the jury. What are your thoughts about that?
BA: That is indeed a very crucial moment and it is great that it happened in front of the jury, because it was clearly not planned so they were able to see Sophie process this information and react in a very genuine way. Of course, I don’t like how Probst handled her “breakdown”, but that is pretty normal in this time frame for him. I also wonder how overblown this was from Ozzy. What do you think about that part?
BD: I think part of the issue is that Ozzy wasn’t in the game. He is hearing about Sophie secondhand from people who aren’t the most happy with her. Stories tend to be hyperbolic whether it is positive or negative. I think there are fair criticisms of Sophie but they are getting magnified and that is all Ozzy knows. Ozzy can also be a bit of a dick. He wasn’t exactly wrong to point out Sophie’s hypocrisy but he does it in such a demeaning way. I agree with you that I didn’t like how Probst was handling things but Sophie handled herself well in a tough spot.
BA: I think Ozzy got a lot of his information from Keith and Whitney, who definitely had their fingers on the pulse of game, but I get the idea that Sophie could be intimidating just from first appearances. What I especially like how Sophie uses that to fuel her FTC performance because she knows that this jury has already seen her as a brat (as Ozzy so eloquently put it), but she needs to go about her responses in a very logical way rather than emotional. That is especially true when you have a jury that may want the cold hard facts instead of being sold a bill of goods.
BD: A Mount Rushmore FTC performance by Sophie. Every answer she gave was clear and concise without feeling like spin. She landed great hits on Coach and Albert every time it was needed. She didn’t let them breathe, always had them on tilt. The guys couldn’t hang with her. I think my favorite moment was her reveal that Coach orchestrated the whole hidden immunity idol find. It killed the facade that Coach was trying to hold onto. I rarely seen credibility destroyed so quickly. What was a standout moment in that FTC performance for you?
BA: I may be a bit lower on Sophie’s FTC performance than you, but I do like it. She definitely capitalizes on the much, much weaker FTC performances of her opponents. I think a standout moment is her response to Dawn’s question about why Albert and Coach, which of course produces some great reasoning that you can absolutely buy.
However, I think my favorite thing about Sophie’s FTC performance is how she goes after potential undecided votes. We know that Sophie is definitely thinking about the jury throughout this endgame, so she must be aware most of Savaii will vote as a block and that Brandon could be swayed if he knew about the idol. What do you think about that idea?
BD: Oh I absolutely think she analyzed where each vote was going and planned accordingly. Sophie was always thinking logically in the game. You can’t outsmart her. Perhaps others can have a better emotional connection, which is stronger when things go well but also turn people off stronger when the relationship ends. Sophie doesn’t have the highest ceiling in the game but also doesn’t have the lowest floor. She will always be steady. One moment that needs to be talked about before we move on is “drop your damn stack.” In this crucial challenge that you need to oust Ozzy and she just commands Albert to help her move forward because she knows she has a better shot at winning. I love it so much. How about you?
BA: We have seen in previous seasons where we see a majority alliance trying to work together to take out the underdog, but Sophie had to know that Probst wasn’t going to allow them to do that against Ozzy. It was worth a shot though. Also, she had to know that out of everybody, Albert would not be the one to ask considering he wrote her name down two nights go. Go for Rick, who probably would have done it in a heartbeat.
BD: Albert being right next to her is what made him the one to ask. Albert was never going to go for it. Albert is always going to believe Albert is the best way to get tasks accomplished. Maybe not the best move by Sophie but it is a fabulous character moment. This finale did a lot in showing us Sophie the person in ways the previous episodes didn’t. I wouldn’t call her invisible but it was mainly her talking game, which I’m drawn to but not everyone latches on to. It does give snippets of how good Sophie knows the game so it isn’t crazy to see her win but I’m not sure they crafted a narrative where people (myself not included) can root for Sophie to win in a season that needed that person. What do you think of the portrayal of Sophie this season?
BA: I think what makes Sophie not a rooting interest (as she herself notes in the reunion that most of her fans are from her small hometown) is that she is the person who stops Ozzy. But, I think they definitely learned their lesson of how to present a winner who is the brains behind the operation after how they handled Natalie White. Even though she does not have very many confessionals, they are always substantial with her thoughts on the game. The editors always made sure to give her content just so the audience would know her. However, I think on a rewatch, you do root for Sophie because she does call out the hypocrisy of her alliance early on.
Nearlynina explained the appeal of Sophie’s win really well in last week’s comments: “I think that’s a large reason why Sophie winning is looked upon as a saving grace of this season. In a season that had self-righteous returnees with a built-in game mechanism designed to let them return, the Brandon v. Mikaela shitshow, the sausage-fest post merge, and the seeming inevitability of either a Coach or Ozzy win, it was a revelation to have Badass Sophie show up. She represented a strong female player who was able to stand up for herself and fight back against the misogyny of the season and Survivor fandom at the time. She beat the alpha male returnees at their own game and contended with a majority male jury to gain respect. The possibility of Badass Sophie winning seemed very small, but it provided such a payoff.”
Ozzy’s Pleasure Dome
BA: Sophie’s main obstacle to winning was Ozzy. Unfortunately for him, puzzles lead to two near demises and one actual demise. However, after his second return from his vacation…I mean stint on Redemption Island, he comes back with gusto. I noticed that he seemed to actually realize that he can win this game now and is putting it all out there. What do you think was Ozzy’s best and worst move in the finale?
BD: I think Ozzy looking to cause chaos was his best move. I think causing Upolu to show their warts will only make him look better, especially in front of a jury that wanting to see a powerhouse fall. He knows he needs to win out so why not do whatever you can to throw them off their games? Get an edge whenever you can. Maybe they will be too rattled in a challenge or maybe they are caught in a lie at tribal. I really like that Ozzy doesn’t sit back. It gives him a story to potentially use at FTC besides Redemption, if it isn’t needed. I think his worst move is not winning that final challenge. It may be the simple answer but he needs to hold that lead. That was a million dollar challenge. I think the lack of evolution in his game is a bigger overall problem. As great as Ozzy is in the challenges, no one wins out, not even him. He needs to better with relationships, he needs to be better at strategy. He is too one note and almost won only because this season was designed for him to excel. He might have too much of an intimidating reputation for it to matter but you have to at least try to diversify your game so that it doesn’t come down to that puzzle in the first place.
BA: I agree with you about his ability to be very Joker-esque and watch the world burn. I especially like how he targets Coach in two specific ways-his “iron sharpens iron” philosophy of how the strongest should go to the end and how if Coach breaks his promise to go to the end with Ozzy and Albert, then it would make him look less of a good Christian man. He may go after him a bit too intensely, but he knows that this is going to impact Coach in a very specific way. I do think he needed to be a bit more social with a Rick or even an Albert to get them to sway his way. So, basically everything that he used against Sophie could be used against him at FTC.
BD: Ozzy on this season is the subject of one of my biggest Survivor what ifs, or a big one before season 38. What if Ozzy wins that final challenge and wins the season? I know I would absolutely hate it. This particular game pushes back against what Survivor is. But it isn’t a pushback in an innovative way like we would see in later seasons with players like Tony. This feels cheap and weak. Absolutely floundering in many aspects of the game just to fail upwards doesn’t hit right. This isn’t even on Ozzy. he rightfully see his best path to victory. This is on the show for having a concept like Redemption Island in the first place. The thing I fear the most is that Ozzy’s popularity would win over the shitty finish and we never get the bounce back of seasons like Philippines or Cagayan or winners like Kim Spradlin or Natalie Anderson. What do you think?
BA: I think if Ozzy wins, then there would be no Joe Anglim on Survivor, so that’s good. But, we also wouldn’t get other people who kinda sorta resemble Ozzy like Malcolm or Jay or Devon or even Alec from DvG. I think the show and Ozzy both definitely thought that this would be the last time, so they almost immediately start looking for the next him. There is also this weird bitterness throughout that I did not remember from my first watching of this season about Micronesia and how someone he cared about (I presume Parvati) stabbed him in the back. As I said before, Micronesia simply is just constantly on his mind and I think that prevents his best gameplay from happening. Sure, he now knows what being blindsided feels like, but being rewarded by playing like this feels wrong.
BD: I think we get Ozzy clones whether he wins or loses but there might be less desperation to make it a thing. Ozzy does play again but it is really not noteworthy. I think South Pacific puts the finishing touches of his legacy. I will say seeing Ozzy dominate challenges back in the Cook Islands was one of the times I was most wowed by Survivor. I think there is room for that type of player in this game as long as it’s part of a mix of various types of players. I don’t want to completely write off his importance to this game. He is one of the most important players the show has seen. That being said, each return brought diminishing returns He never has nothing new to bring to the table besides his hair. He is a player with too many holes and while he can be interesting at times, there have been better personalities on the show that could’ve taken this spot.
The Tragedy of Brandon Hantz
BD: One of the most memorable players (for worse) of the season is Brandon Hantz. His first chapter of Survivor ends with quite the downfall. It is a well crafted episode that wraps up the arc nicely but after watching it the second time around, I can’t help but feel a little sick. It is relentless cringe that I want to end. You see it coming from a mile away and while it’s a riveting ride, it’s not a fun one. I can’t help but compare Brandon giving up his idol to the episode where Erik gives up his idol in Micronesia. While the latter is fun hour of smart, charismatic players perfectly execute a complex plan step by step, this feels like a couple of players using a very uncomfortable tactic on someone who should’ve never been out there.
BA: The big thing is that Brandon himself puts out the idea of giving up the immunity necklace. But before we get there, we should talk about the loved ones visit where we get to meet some characters like Coach’s normal brother Pete Wade but also Russell Hantz’s brother, Shawn Hantz. Shawn is already unhappy with how Brandon is playing unlike Russell (if only there was a premerge loved ones visit). Even if Brandon doesn’t see Shawn, you can tell that the pressure of the game was getting to him.
BD: I enjoyed the moment where Brandon is explaining his game and why God would want him to play this loyalty game and Shawn quickly trying to find a spin to this obviously bad not ideal path. Brandon does put out the idol idea himself but that is definitely based off past religious manipulation Coach and Albert have deployed this season. Coach was pretty egregious in calling Brandon a Russell like bully in what was a pretty calm line of questioning from Brandon. While I’m no longer a practicing Christian, I’ve spent the first 21 years of my life in the church and Brandon struck me as a Born Again young man eager to please but doesn’t have the pieces altogether. He is full of contradictions and outdated philosophies along with an earnestness that gets destroyed here.
BA: I rewatched the scene of Coach calling Brandon a bully and you are absolutely correct. Brandon walks up, waits for a natural break in the conversation to ask what they were talking about, and very calmly (especially for Brandon) expresses his discomfort in that conversation, especially since he is being left out of a very important conversation by his two closest allies. Brandon is 100% Born Again Christian, especially given some of his interpretations of the Bible. Sophie calls it out when she says that Brandon expect shallow apologies to make up past misdeeds. Of course, I think at this point, Coach is done with Brandon anyway because of Shawn’s antics on the loved ones visit to Redemption Island.
BD: While this is the end of Brandon’s time on South Pacific, it would not be his last time on Survivor. Unfortunately, it got worse than it was here. The show is so desperate to milk the Hantz name for it’s worth past the point of expiration. They seem to seek out the most potentially volatile member of the family. This reeks of irresponsible casting and the fact they double down on the Brandon Hantz experiment is a black mark on the show.
BA: But before he gets to Caramoan, he gets to deal with being humiliated by Uncle Russell on a live national stage after he told Probst that most of his family did not like the way he played while he was out there. I have to assume that a lot of them besides Uncle Russell didn’t like how he was playing to redeem the Hantz name. I just hate the fact Survivor probably would have had him Brandon on Nicaragua if he was able due to how popular Russell was at the time. That’s the biggest problem. Brandon is 19 and has already gone through being in a gang where he was taken advantage of, becoming Born Again, getting married, and having at least two kids before Survivor. That’s an intense life that he hasn’t really had a chance to process due to his environment. Unfortunately, from what we know, this road doesn’t get easier. In between South Pacific and Caramoan, he gets divorced which is another major life change that will not help Brandon be a better player in his second outing.
The Ballad of Coach and Albert
BA: Brandon giving up his immunity doesn’t just hurt his chances at being Sole Survivor, but it also fatally wounds Albert and Coach’s chances as well. Who is scummier about this: Albert or Coach? My vote is on Coach for using the whole “well your God told you this, but my God is going to tell me to do this” when we all know that Coach is voting out Brandon without really needing to pray about it. Of course, Albert doesn’t look good by not even thinking about giving Brandon’s immunity back, but Coach trying to loophole Brandon on prayer is really bad.
BD: Coach’s line of this being God’s will that Brandon is getting voted out is real shitty way of skirting responsibility. That is the game of Coach though. He doesn’t own anything and hides behind this honestly, loyalty, integrity line that is somehow always convenient for Coach. He has chances to redeem it all at FTC. These people can see he was full of shit but some are still impressed. He just needs to give up the narrative and he barely takes any steps toward doing those things. Religious manipulation as a tactic is something I’m not comfortable with but I don’t think it is out of bounds but it is so much more disrespectful to pretend that isn’t what you are doing. After South Pacific, how are you feeling about Coach as a player?
BA: Throughout his three seasons, you can actually see growth in him as a player. He is able to make some good social moves and deserves all the credit in the world for the Cochran flip. Hell, in this stretch of episodes, he correctly theorizes why Albert is going after Sophie so hard. However, once he starts getting reminded of his schtick from Tocantins, he gets distracted. He easily could have won against Edna and Cochran, everybody knows that. But, he doesn’t want that. He wants to take an alliance to F5 and he was able to do that…plus Ozzy. He wants to prove to the world that a Warriors Alliance can succeed instead of proving that he can play the game and win. Also, how he handles the Immunity Idol at F5 Part 2 is ridiculous but so fitting for him.
BD: Coach is a lot more savvy than he lets himself be seen as. It’s a disservice to himself, He could’ve won this game and been an ultimate growth arc, although more of a villainous one. Someone who had no chance in hell of winning is Albert. He thought he was the smartest person out there and he couldn’t recognize his flaws. He is too transparent of a player and he underestimates other players too much. He was sloppy in his handling of the Upolu tribe and they easily broke down everything he had with one conversation. He really should’ve let Sophie fucking finish when she was trying to explain why he was failing. He would’ve saved himself some trouble. He also buried himself with that Brandon idol fiasco with a shovel Probst provided.
BA: Albert often gets compared to Sash from Nicaragua due to similar play styles and placements. But as Sophie puts it, where is his strategic mind? He votes out people and then very vocally helps them at Redemption Island. He also thinks that he will win votes from that Savaii contingent who probably feel the most burned by him out of the final three because all of his obvious politicking. Something he does have over Coach is that he knows that Sophie is a bigger threat, especially since Albert and her collaborated on a lot of the moves. Coach appreciates Sophie’s talents, but Albert knows that on a surface level, Sophie is the most impressive to this particular jury.
BD: He knows Sophie is a threat but his inability to get her out is basically Albert’s game. While resume is becoming an annoying phrase in Survivor, what exactly can Albert point to as a good mark for him? He was less irrational than Brandon, less snowed than Edna and more self interested than Rick, not exactly the highest marks. I will say I find his messy play interesting to watch and his arrogance fun to root against. I would watch Albert play again. At least he is not Jim Rice.
BA: I don’t know if we are going to get a lot more of this cast coming back, but Albert is probably on top of the list, but like you said, not exactly the highest mark.
Miscellaneous Reunion Thoughts
BA: I feel like the SoPa reunion is notorious for a few different reasons. One, it becomes an Ozzy love fest to the point that he (obviously) wins Fan Favorite. Dawn had to be at the very least fourth in the Fan Favorite poll, right?
BD: Sure, I’m glad she got some time and I liked what she had to say. My main takeaways from this reunion is that Russell is still an asshole, Ozzy doesn’t stop talking, you will get alcohol poisoning if you drink every time Probst mentions talking to someone on the streets and Whitney gets the most sympathetic reading of her cheating in a relationship.
BA: Is it sad that I was happy it was acknowledged? It also sounded like Probst was not happy that they went public about it. Also, we get to see some brief glimpses of Yul and Penner, which is great. We also get our first kid asking questions. What do you think about that?
BD: I hate kids. I’m mostly kidding but they are very unnecessary on these shows. I didn’t need a question about why Ozzy is so amazing.
BA: Hey BD, have you seen The Act on Hulu?
BD: Holy shit, was that her?
BA: Yeap. So, didn’t catch this first watching, but definitely noticed now. That is confirmed Joey King. It’s on her Wikipedia and IMDB pages. So, I have known of her for a long time because she spoiled who she was playing in The Dark Knight Rises, which was in 2012. This reunion was filmed in 2011. Not only that, but she was in Crazy, Stupid, Love in 2011. So, it is a weird combo of celebrity Survivor fan and kid asking awkward questions in one.
BD: Well she is better at acting than having good Survivor opinions.
What We Thought of the Season Overall
BD: I was very excited at the idea of watching this season with Barbara. There is a small but very vocal group that feels like South Pacific is underrated. Plus this season has one of my five favorite winners ever (other four are Natalie A, Earl, Parvati, and Kim). I wanted to know if I would appreciate the experience the second time around. I’ll start with the positives. Some players like Dawn, Cochran, Coach, Badass Sophie, and even Albert had some fascinating arcs that I think were told pretty well on screen, The storytelling overall was put together well. The tribes were super even and there were great challenges. Jim Rice lost. Unfortunately, there were too many unlikable people. Redemption Island, while better this season is a shitty concept that needs to die. I found myself getting upset at times between the misogynistic treatment of Mikayla and the awful things said to Cochran. While I wasn’t bored, it was a chore to get through sometimes. It is not the 3rd worst season but more like the 7th worst season.
BA: So everyone is probably asking themselves the same question: Does Barbara Anderson think this season is better than Cambodia? The simple answer to that is of course not. I’m not that much of a contrarian. However, South Pacific isn’t far below it. I agree with a lot of BD, although I do think Brandon does go a bit too quiet in the post-merge in the storytelling department. The challenges were really fun besides most of the Redemption Island duels/truels. It also seems like that if you weren’t on Redemption Island, you were miserable due to lack of food, which often leads to many of the worst seasons of Survivor. I really think that South Pacific gets this bad rap of being the lesser of the two bad Redemption Island seasons, when it is probably the best of them (and that is including Edge of Extinction now).
BD: Blood vs Water is the best Redemption Island season and that was a miracle with such a shitty format. I’m glad you have Cambodia higher than this. I want to keep doing this in the future and I can’t have my partner getting banned.
BA: I feel like I should have been banned years ago for some of the seasons I have ranked above Cambodia. Anyway, we want to thank all of those who kept up week by week and commented. If you want to share your season rankings or just where you have South Pacific vs Cambodia in your rankings, feel free to do so. We also want to thank those who weren’t able to do week by week, but still comment on the blogs. We finally want to give a big shoutout to the PRP crew who let us have the opportunity to do this, even when they probably rather us watch a good season. I honestly hope that we can do another Watch-Along in the future together.
After being an off and on viewer for 14 years, Barbara watched the season premiere of San Juan del Sur and the rest is history. And by history, she means winning two Survivor fantasy leagues, becoming the resident Cambodia contrarian and Survivor gossip queen and lurking in discussion forums. Oh, and she’s totally not a witch.
Favorite seasons: HvV, Philippines, Australian Outback, China, Cagayan
Favorite players: Sandra Diaz-Twine, Jerri Manthey, Denise Stapley, Aubry Bracco, Courtney Yates