Survivor: South Pacific Recap: Did Cochran Make the Right Move?

“It’s a little bit surreal, but also a little bit exciting, that I am the person right now who gets to decide how Survivor: South Pacific takes shape, and possibly ends.”

Call that statement the rantings of a guy on an ego trip, if you must, but it doesn’t mean Cochran wasn’t spot-on about his position in the newly merged Te Tuna tribe during this week’s episode. And yet now that the smoke from this week’s extinguished torch has settled, the question remains: Did Savaii’s scrawny duckling make the right decision?

Here’s how it all played out:

As Savaii returned from Ozzy’s self-imposed ouster at last week’s Tribal Council, Keith made the strategic error of mouthing off (with no discernible purpose), sneering at Cochran that “I don’t let people fight my battles for me.” (Sorry, dude, but when someone offers to put their own chance at a $1 million prize on the line and guarantee your 1-in-12 chance of remaining in the game, you don’t start waving your “honor and duty” flag — unless you’ve sewn it to your “I hate money!” flag.)

The next morning, at Redemption Island, Ozzy tried to pretend he’d been blindsided by Cochran’s immunity idol, but Albert — proving he has brains to match his beauty — wasn’t buying it, and neither were any of his Upolu tribemates. In fact, Sophie got the night’s best zinger at Tribal Council with her review of Ozzy’s one-man show: “I was actually offended at Redemption Island,” she declared. “I found the charade to be over-the-top and somewhat pathetic.”

Ozzy fared better in the duel itself, however, annihilating Christine in a game of “tie twigs together and use them to retrieve keys” that found our ever-focused host Jeff Probst shouting a lot of unintentionally funny play-by-plays about contestants’ poles being “long enough and strong enough.” And then the tribes were merged, and the dance to break the “six Upolu, six Savaii” deadlock began.

The merged tribe dubbed themselves Te Tuna, but Keith’s tale of the new moniker was clearly so dull that even the Survivor editing team lost interest midway through it.

The episode’s biggest move, to my eye, was Coach immediately scoffing at Cochran’s cover that he was a “spy” for Savaii, and instead yanking the scabs off the wounds Cochran had amassed at prior Tribal Councils due to his tribemates’ general lack of respect for him. Coach took the position of kindly/protective linebacker to Cochran’s bullied math geek. His basic message: Join forces with Upolu and show those Savaii foolios that you’re a power player, that they never should’ve treated you like an outsider, and we’ll have your back. Coach has been incredibly annoying all season, but you can’t fault the way he masterfully appealed to Cochran’s wounded ego to sway the course of the game. And it worked! Funniest moment of Cochran’s flip? When he began to tell Sophie, Albert, and Coach that he was going to “spill the beans” about Ozzy’s Redemption Island playacting. “The beans were pretty loose,” laughed Sophie, much to everyone’s delight.

In a sidebar that may or may not prove relevant in future weeks, Cochran shared his plan to go all #TeamUpolu with his closest buddy Dawn, who then spent the rest of the episode riding the kind of emotional rollercoaster that comes from being stranded on an island for three weeks with minimal food and no contact with the outside world. Dawn went through at least three stages of castaway grief, regretting her failure to stick up for Cochran, getting excited about his plan to vote Upolu and teach Savaii a lesson, reversing course and deciding her Savaii allies weren’t so bad, trying to convince Cochran not to flip, and then stressing about the emotional fallout and her own decision not to warn Savaii of the impeding blindside.

Cochran had a good point, though. Why allow a six-six vote to send the game into a chance elimination of drawing rocks when he could take control of his own destiny. When Dawn won the ladies’ immunity necklace — Ozzy snagged the one for men — Cochran’s decision became that much easier: Someone from Savaii was going down. And why not Keith, who couldn’t even muster a laugh at Cochran’s fireside joke about having entered the game wanting to be the tribe sweetheart?

The initial vote went six for Keith, six for Rick, but the recount of the second vote was a thriller: Keith, Keith, Keith, Keith, Keith, Keith; Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick; ¡Keith! And just like that, Jim started hissing the word “coward” at Cochran. And Brandon managed to utter his first sentence of the season that didn’t make me want to put him in a bag and throw him against a wall: “Don’t talk to him like that,” he puffed. “That’s what you get for talking to people like that in the first place.”

I have to say, if I were in Cochran’s shoes, I probably would’ve flipped, too. I’m just surprised he didn’t work a little harder to court Coach, Sophie, and Albert to give him a better position in Upolu as a result of his allegiance. Why not make them guarantee him a final-four slot, instead of just going for “please protect me in my sleep against the angry Savaii mob”? Then again, as Sophie noted, that was a “legitimate thing for a dodgeball target to be afraid of.”

What do you think? Did Cochran make a smart strategic move, or did he just make a $1 million mistake? Take our poll below, then hit the comments to expand on your thoughts. And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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45 Comments
  1. David says:

    “I’m just surprised he didn’t work a little harder to court Coach, Sophie, and Albert to give him a better position in Upolu as a result of his allegiance. Why not make them guarantee him a final-four slot?”

    Actually in one of the secret scenes from cbs.com this is exactly what Albert did. I’m even surprised that they didn’t keep it in the final edit.

    • Sean says:

      My Random Thoughts:

      Let’s all keep something in mind here….just because Ozzy’s plan worked, and all 3 factors converged to get him back in the game, doesn’t mean it was a good idea. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t stupid. If you’re playing blackjack and hit on 19, and catch a 2, that doesn’t mean it was a smart move…it just happened to work that ONE time. Still not a good overall strategy.

      After Coach told Cochran he knew everything with Ozzy was a charade, the look in Coach’s eyes said “I know this is absolutely true”, and the look in Cochran’s eyes said “I’m sooooo busted.” Give the Dragon Slayer some credit, this floored me. Both the exact analysis of the situation, and his brazen attitude about shoving it right in Cochran’s face and telling him he knew.

      And after being confronted with Coach’s suspicions, did Cochran the “Double Agent” try to deny any of it? No…instead he sang like a canary, telling Upolu everything. At the beginning of the episode, he’s telling us that he’s like the Godfather, but it turns out he’s more like Fredo instead.

      After you’re done here at TVLine, if you want more to read, I hope you’ll check out the rest of my recap at http://sfurfaro.blogspot.com/2011/11/survivor-south-pacific-recap-worst.html or you can just click on my name.

  2. TrulyRoxie says:

    I think that Cochran was smart because they didn’t even try to hide their disdain of him. Why not go to a group that will support him? Good for him and I hope he goes far in the game now!

    Kudos also to Brandon for sticking up for him.

    • John Berggren says:

      Dawn and Brandon scored some serious points with me this week. I’ve liked Cochran all along. I like an underdog. I’ve never liked Ozzy. Honestly, Coach is even growing on me.

  3. nonabgo says:

    Why be the 7th in the Upolu alliance when he could have (easily) persuaded Jim or Ozzy to take him to the end because he’s not a threat? Why would Upolu not vote him out first after all the other Savaii members are gone just for having the reputation of flipping? It was a dumb move. Upolu will never vote out one of their own before him, that has been proven time and time again with this tribe.

    • Chuck says:

      I believe Upolu would keep Cochran longer because he is not a threat at challenges and he has angered all of his former tribemates, so he can forget about their votes. Why wouldn’t some members of Savaii decide to get rid of Albert before Cochran seeing how stronger Albert is in challenges.

    • Denise says:

      For the Upolu alliance, Cochran is actually a pretty good person to take to the end, considering most of the jury will be Savaii – and they hate him. So a Upolu member would be guarenteed all those votes on the jury if they have Cochran sitting next to them, which is a pretty big incentive to keep him around. Not to mention, if your choice is 6th on one side or 7th on the other, why not spend the next 18 days or so on an island with people who are nice to you rather than nasty!

  4. Manny says:

    Cochran’s move was appauling. Savaii had 5/7 odds of gaining the advantage when they drew rocks. If Savaii have the numbers advantage Cochran can try to convince Jim/Dawn to oust Ozzy and Keith down the line. Alternatively he could try to make the switch with the remaining Upolos when there are eight or nine left – thus guaranteening him a spot in a 4/5 person alliance.

    As it stands, he is the seventh member of a seven person alliance and he just made 5 future members of the jury hate him. His game is done. Cochran now has NO CHANCE to win. In summary he made the best move to preserve his current game at the sacrifice of his endgame.

    Bad Move.

    • dan says:

      Another bad move was Dawn’s decision not to tell Savaii about Cochran’s plan. She was being too loyal to Cochran when she should’ve let the rest of the tribe know about the potential flip flop. All Ozzy had to do was give the idol to Keith instead of Whitney (without telling Cochran so he couldn’t spoil the plan with Upolo) and then Rick would’ve been gone before Cochran had a chance to flip. Even if Upolo had actually voted for Whitney, there would still be a 6-6 split and a re-vote which would’ve left Cochran deciding whether he should flip to get rid of Whitney who wasn’t a threat to him (ie: he may have saved his flip-flop vote to try and get rid of Ozzy or Keith next week).

    • Vetle says:

      My thoughts exactly. Liked Colby point out to Russell during HvV. Luck is a big part of this game.

  5. Phillip says:

    The thinking that it is somehow better strategy to forego the drawing of the stones, even when the odds are stacked in your favor, because it is “out of your control” is not too bright. In a game like Survivor some elements are always out of your control, every move is a gamble. What Cochran did insure was that no member of his former alliance would vote for him if he made the finals.

    • E says:

      To me, this was the flaw in his logic. If he’s successful in outlasting the rest of his original tribe, that means 5 members of the jury are least likely to vote for him. I suppose Dawn could throw him a vote, but it’s a huge gamble.

      And while he’s most definitely #7 at this point, eventually that tribe is going to have to turn on itself. It depends if they are willing to do that only when the original 6 remain or if someone (Albert as someone suggested) knows that he needs a pawn to make him in the top 3-4 and keeps him around.

      • dan says:

        Let’s be honest: the flaw in logic happened last week when NOBODY from Savaii realized that they could’ve counted on Christine’s vote had she won at RI. They would’ve been much better off sending Cochran to RI and then hoping Christine won (which, most likely, she would’ve done).

        • E says:

          Agreed! I’m not sure why no one picked up on that vibe from Christine after all those challenges. Ozzy’s tribe doesn’t seem to have master strategists or aware enough people. Once their plan backfired in their face were they not curious about Cochran continuing to chat with them and chat alone with Dawn?

          Sophie and Albert seem to have the best strategy skill set and intelligence at this point. Dawn probably does too, but is too worried/indecisive. Ozzy’s only prayer is to dominate in challenges or get back in the back door via Redemption Island.

          • Gia says:

            I know!! I mean, Christine made it perfectly clear that she HATED her tribe and would flip. I don’t understand how they missed that????

    • ck says:

      Those were my thoughts, as well. He now will have no former tribe members who will vote for him at a jury vote, and similarly, his new tribe also has reason to doubt his loyalty. He basically lost the chance at any jury votes, if he should make it that far, which is now even less likely.

  6. Gord says:

    I can’t see how this can be a good move, if the objective is to win the game. No one likes a snitch, especially an ungrateful snitch. Cochran seems to forget that the only reason he was still in the game was due to Ozzy’s plan, which saved him from Redemption Island where he had a good chance of losing that final challenge. Yes, it was I guess a rather goofy plan, but Cochran played it extremely poorly. His big “power play” just makes him look like Judas, something that will no doubt occur to religion crazed Coach and Brandon. Brandon as Cochran’s “new friend”? I laugh. They’ll turn on him as soon as it is to their benefit.

    • pete says:

      yes and the sooner the better!

    • tripoli says:

      Well said, Gord. He’s just stuck in the middle now, with zero chance of winning. He spilled every detail to Upolu, and they gave him nothing in return. Sophie wouldn’t give him any info when he asked. That should have been his clue that they aren’t really going to do much for him, but are surely going to make him believe he’s part of a new, wonderful group, just long enough to gain the numbers advantage. And it’s a bit strange that anyone was impressed or had a more positive opinion of Brandon after his comment at tribal. He was all kinds of awful to Mikayla, in a similar fashion to what Cochran claims to have experienced with his tribe. Nothing redeeming about that “protective” comment on Cochran’s defense. A bit hypocritical really.
      Can’t say that I’m all that attached to anyone, other than Ozzy and chances are he won’t win. It’s a pretty lack luster group, many of who barely speak, so there’s not much to root for. Props to Sophie and Albert though, who don’t seem terrible and are at least strategically playing the game.

  7. Roof says:

    hey Slezak…
    The 2nd vote was 6-4, not 7-5, as Rick and Keith couldn’t vote.

    I’m torn on the move and this season overall, as I can’t find anyone that’s playing a great game that I want to root for.

  8. PC says:

    Cochran now has no chance to win. No one will vote for him. None of the member of Savaii will vote for him if he makes it to the finals. Also, no one from Upolu will vote for him. He may actually make it to the finals because people will know that he will not get any votes.

    • Apollo says:

      What if ozzy starst winning challenges one after the other and soemwhere finds an idol. Some contestants in previous seasons win the fibal six challenges for immunity. Ozzy is very strong at challenges for immunity.

      What if Ozzy is left Savaii along with Cochran and a hated member of Upolu side. What if Coach gets blindsighted. Then anythinbg could happen. Coach would likely send his vote to Cochran and maybe a few others like Edna.

      I’m of the opinion Cochran will make it to the final 4 and then the final 3. Albert promised Cochran a final four spot but silly CBS edited that scene out which was stupid of them. They seem to want to demonize Cochran for ratings and to spice up the series.

      The final three is likely to be in my opinion, Albert, Ozzy and Cochran. Cochran is no dummy he’ll know to keep Ozzy around because Upolu don’t much like him and Dawn doesn’t have much time for him either. Coach and co likely to be furious at Albert getting rid of Coach and that would see Cochran the most unlikely winner of Survivor.

      There have been unlikely winners before. There was one lady that has won it twice and must gfo down as one of the more brilliant players ever to play the game because she’s won it twice. Stayed out of harms way and in the heroes vs villians wher she told Russle that Coach was after him when he wasn’t saw Coach get blind sighted.

  9. Snapy says:

    I prefer the Savaii tribe so I was hoping they would decimate Upolu like how it happened last season. Not impressed with Cochran the snake, but at least he made things interesting.

    • JAC says:

      I do not like Cochran and I really didn’t like his move but in what has been a terribly boring season, I have to give him credit for making things interesting. Not only was last night’s episode the most interesting by far, but you know the reprecussions will continue into future episodes.

  10. JAC says:

    The real flawed logic was when Jim and the rest of Savaii thought they were so smart to blindside Ozzie and vote off Elyse instead of Cochran! That was what really started this mess. First off Cochran wouldn’t have been around to turn on them and second had they voted off their weakest player (Cochran) they might not have faired better in the team challenges and not been down a man going into the merge to begin with.

    • E says:

      Agree with this as well. Jim seems to be aware of having to make ‘hard’ choices/moves but I question the choices he’s ended up making. He seems to be the only real strategist with some credibility, but his moves have been poor. He was probably right that Elyse would need to go….eventually.
      I wasn’t really aware that Keith was apparently so awful to Cochran. I wasn’t sure if that was part of his “story” to the other tribe, but Dawn seemed to back it up

  11. Joe says:

    I was bashing Cochrane last week in here for not even playing the game. In one week, he played and he played hard. Here’s why he made a brilliant move last night. Upolu has a 6 person alliance. When it gets down to 7 w/Cochrane he is now the swing vote that the entire tribe will be scrambling to get. In other words, he moved himself into the top 4 last night with his decision to flip.

    Jim should have come up with that plan on his own but he like the rest of his tribe were too arrogant. With 3 idols at tribal council they thought they had the game won but Cochrane did the right thing. He couldn’t risk going home on stones when he had a chance to cement himself into this game. And that’s what he did.

    Now he’s the bullied little brother to Coach and Brandon. The two of them will protect him and probably allign deep into the game with him.

    Coach, who I normally see as a buffoon, was a Jedi last night. When he cut through the BS plan Ozzy concocted and flipped Cochrane in a two on two conversation? That was some of the best gameplay I’ve ever seen. He saw right into the insecurities and used them to gain his trust. That was his best moment ever on Survivor.

    It’s interesting to me how the bullying storyline that has invaded the media showed itself on the island this year. Cochrane’s tribe did treat him like garbage and diminished him every chance they had. He often had to beg for forgiveness from the alpha males on his tribe.

    He turned the game around on it’s ear last night and I would not be surprised to see him in the finals. He’s the swing vote now. He’s a power player. He did the right thing. The only thing that could screw him up is the other tribe hates his personality up close and the neurosis that comes with it.

    As for the Ozzy show, he should be ashamed of himself for his acting performance. That was pathetic. A little less is more there might have helped them with the ruse.

    His tribe are morons. If they sent Cochrane to redemption and he lost they would have had a bitter Christine to allign with and the idol. Christine wasn’t bullied by them so the chances of her flipping were small. They would have been stronger with Christine. I still can’t believe they were concerned that Christine would go back to the tribe that put her on Redemption for over 20 days by herself. What a stupid move.

    • E says:

      I think you’re correct. I’d bet Coach and his minions would be willing to go down to 6 before attempting some sort of inner division, but I think Albert and Sophie are too smart to wait for that to make a move. There’s a lot of time left and 4 other Savaii people to get rid of before we get to that point.

      I hate to give Coach that much credit – I think it was Sophie and Albert that saw right thru the BS, not so sure about the others. Then they let Coach do the talking, which keeps him happy. But he must have performed well for Cochran to speak so highly of him.

    • tripoli says:

      I forget what Cochran’s first name is. Perhaps it’s Joe.

  12. Michael says:

    The thing people seem to be forgetting is that in a final three, all it takes is four votes to win. Say Cochran made it to the end with two unlikeable people, if Savaii Jury inadvertently split their votes 3-2 and the four Upolu vote Cochran, he wins!

  13. James says:

    Cochran’s game is not over. Albert and Sophie now know based on tribal council last week that Upolo’s aliances are Coach/Brandon/Edna/Rick and Albert/Sophie. Thus Albert and Sophie are smart enough to know they need to flip. Thus when Savaii is down to 2 memebers, Albert,Sophie,Cochran,2 remaining Savaii can form an alliance to vote out Coach/Edna/Brandon/Rick. Hopefully this will happen since Sophie doesn’t really seem to be into God like everyone else is on that tribe, so I don’t think she will have a problem turning on her Religious tribe mates (unlike someone like Brandon who would not dare lie to another Religious person).

  14. Preston says:

    Slezak: According to the secret scenes at CBS.com, Albert/Sophie/Coach DID offer Cochran a spot in the final four.

    • D says:

      CBS- This is what happens when you waste your time on covering these dumb RI duels. That scene should have made the broadcast!

  15. rjcarr says:

    I would have preferred Cochran to be a spy. Tell upolu who they were voting for and then have them play the idol on that person. They would have still given the advantage to upolu but it wouldn’t have been an obvious traitor move. The problem is it required full trust in Cochran which I don’t think they would have given him.

    Now Cochran will go 7th instead of 6-12 and at the expense of taking a chance at winning from all his tribe mates. Not nice and not worth it IMO.

  16. Kent says:

    What I don’t get is why Ozzy gave the idol to Whitney in the first place. Did they think that she would be the target from the Upolo tribe’s votes? Why was that even a consideration? And what a waste of the hidden immunity idol! Ozzy just doesn’t seem to know what to do with those things.

    • rjcarr says:

      They discussed this in one scene and I think it was reverse psychology and it was Jim’ idea. I think Savaii’s thinking is the obvious choice would be to vote out Ozzy or Keith, the strong players, but instead Upolu would “trick” them and vote for someone else and they guessed Whitney. And they guessed wrong.

      In my opinion there wasn’t enough talk about the idol. Everyone assumed it’d be a 6-6 vote but if you guess right and gave the idol to the right person then you could of won.

  17. BHM1304 says:

    All the “who loves Jesus more” garbage has made this season pathetic and unwatchable. Who gives a crap who wins? Whoever jesus wants, I suppose. This season has become just as boring and craptacular as last season’s homage to Rob. Try to tell me this show isn’t fixed, how many times has Ozzy competed in and won the redemption island challenge of the 800 times he has competed? I know he has won it before. Shenanigans!!!! Cochran is a tool who is going to be gone soon no matter what, he made the move too soon to be able to conceal it which guarantees he doesn’t win jack squat. He played into the Jesus camp’s game plan – he couldn’t have been a bigger pigeon – and he thinks he is a genius for doing so. Moron.

  18. Lee says:

    It made for dramatic TV, but he signed his own death warrant…he will be the last Savaii voted off, but he will NOT make it to the final 4.

  19. LL heidy says:

    Shortly before the vote started I thought I had it all figured out because watching last season there was only one smart move. Cochran doesn’t have a chance to get to the final, Six potential juries hate him and would have hated him anyway he’d went, the other six doesn’t really trust him and I don’t believe it will change. I thought the smartest and very risky move would have been voting Cochran out and telling him to vote out Keith. It could have been a cruel win win situation for coach’s tribe.
    but sadly I don’t care enough cause I don’t like either tribe and don’t root for anyone in this game. It just becomes boring with each episode. I was for Mikela and liked Dawn before her righteous nonsense in the last episode. Talking about cowards, she is the biggest coward. Being abused almost similarly to Cochran She should have flipped too, this way they could have a complete shuffling of the game’s alliances (there’s no such thing as an 8 ppl alliance).

  20. Professor Smart says:

    Cochran has been playing this whole game just to get to the next day. This move was no different. He has very little chance of winning this season. Had his former tribe not won the drawing of the rocks had it come to that, he would have be gone with the rest of them. This way he ensures that he gets to the final 7. Hopefully he can create a new alliance to oust the big dogs by then.

  21. Denise says:

    I HATE Cochran. He is a sniveling,neurotic, little weasel. It’s not his tribe mates fault that he’s physically inferior and has such a poor self esteem that he feels as if he should walk around apologizing continuously for his shortcomings. I think when he arrived on the Island he already had made up his mind that no one was going to like him…well Cochran, you get what you ask for…I can’t wait until they send your whiny ass home!!

  22. Dee says:

    sure he blindsided his tribe, but if he makes it to the final 7, there’s still potential for more ‘shifting’ of alliances within the old Upolu tribe. i’m not convinced albert and sophie will stay 100% loyal. lots of potential for ‘others’ to make enemies. besides, whether it was a smart move on cochran’s part or not, Savaii sort of had it coming. they were stupid in thinking he would stay loyal after the way they talked to him.

  23. Laine says:

    I hate what Cochran did. So stupid. I don’t understand why someone so unathletic was even cast on the show, let alone put on the beautiful people tribe where he would just seethe with resentment. Maybe he should have been on Big Brother instead of ruining Survivor.

    • Apollo says:

      The show was heading no where fast. Cochran has spiced up the game.

      You must be new to survivor because to play the gane one must back stab other contestants to get through to the end.

      That lady player that won it twice wasn’t athletic either.
      Many that have won it haven’t been athletic which makes for a better show.

      Never upset a nerd a sthey one day will be your future boss:)

      I think Cochran will make it to the final three and win this season of survivor. My final three I have as Ozzy, Cochran and Albert.

      Ozzy is hated by all of Upolu, When Albert blindsights Coach then Coach likely to send his vote to Cochran as will Edna. Dawn likely to send a vote to Cochran as well and another of Coach’s allience will be back stabbed by Albert and that will be enough votes to give Cochran enough votes to win survivor pacific.

      Ozzy will have to back stab to get to the final 3 as will Albert. They’ll cancel either other out and cochran likely to get votes from Brandon, Coach, Edna, Dawn and some others. They won’t like voting for cochran but won’t want to give albert or ozzy votes for blindsighting late in the game.

      By then early blindsights will be long forgotton. The last few blindsights will be in those memories of the ones blindsighted out of the game.

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