The Reality TV Guru

The X Factor episode 17 recap: Final 9 live show, November 22, 2011

The final nine acts perform for your votes tonight on The X Factor (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X-Factor Thanksgiving Special! Tonight, the final nine acts perform to earn your votes. Last week saw the ouster of Stacy Francis from Nicole’s Over 30’s category. It’s Inspiration Night where everyone sings a song for someone who has inspired them in their lives.

Steve Jones tells us that only seven of the nine acts will make it through the next round, so two acts will be eliminated tomorrow night. There’s a little chatter about “Astro-gate”, with L.A. saying that Astro is a kid that comes from a tough background and he expects a turnaround. Steve asks Simon what he’s thankful for on Thanksgiving and typically Simon’s response is about Simon, “I’m thankful for all the talent I’ve been given… Just to let everyone know, I haven’t been invited to anyone’s home yet.” Now, is that surprising?

On with the show…

First up is Rachel Crow with Yolanda Adams’ I Believe, dedicated with thanks to her parents for adopting her. We find out Rachel was born of a mother dependent on crack and it was quite a challenge for her family to take her in. Dressed formally in a full-length green plaid skirt over black slacks and a white collared blouse, Rachel sings with the accompaniment of a grand piano. It starts out softly then kicks in with a rock beat and a pair of choral groups. From the softly voiced beginning, she ups the tempo and volume in her song, finishing with a nice high note. L.A. says, “Rachel, you did it again… I really loved it.” Nicole says Rachel has made a believer out of her. Paula goes even further, saying, “If anyone ever questions if there are angels that exist on earth, it is you.” Simon says that she is one reason he is glad the show lowered the age minimum to 12 years old. Scorecard: A- for a genuine performance with fine vocals. Bubbling with charisma and gifted talent, she sings well beyond her age and experience.

Second up is Marcus Canty with Boyz II Men’s A Song for Mama, dedicated to his ma. He begins sitting on some bleacher steps in subdued lighting with a light accompaniment and soft voice. His mom’s face is so hot, she’s waving her hand to cool herself off. Marcus is singing with real soul here, very smooth in his voice. Marcus gets up, walks down the steps and briefly holds his mom’s hand as he is singing. He finishes with a nice series of high notes. After the performance, he comes over and hugs his mom. Marcus is wiping the tears from his face. Paula says his song had passion and connection and she’s glad his mom is here to watch his performance. Simon says, “I’ve got to be honest with you… tonight, for the first time, I actually felt a connection with you and the song.” L.A. tells Marcus that he is as great as Babyface the songwriter and the group that sang it, Boyz II Men. Wow. Scorecard: A for a very touching and genuine performance that showed Marcus’ true calling and vocal talent. He’s all soul. Download this one, folks, it’s a keeper.

Up third is Melanie Amaro singing R. Kelly’s The World’s Greatest, giving thanks to God as a church singer in her community. She comes onstage in royal blue dress. The setting is church-like complete a large choir in white. She’s comfortable on stage, leading the choir with strong and smooth vocals, the audience waving along. She looks up to the sky in finishing the song. L.A. says, “Girl, what am I supposed to say? I’m supposed to criticize that? That was really good.” Melanie is so excited as she says, “I cannot tell you how good it feels to be here tonight on this stage. Thank you so much for bringing me back, Simon. You have no idea what this means to me.” She’s in tears of joy. All four judges stand up and applaud. Nicole gets up and invites Melanie to share a long hug. Paula says Melanie revealed her vulnerability and people could easily fall in love with her. Simon says the whole arrangement with the choir fit in well with the performance. He is very proud of Melanie and asks the audience not to let Melanie go home. Scorecard: A- for an inspiring, spiritually lifting performance that can probably be heard every Sunday.

Next up is Chris Rene with the Beatles’ Let It Be, mixing in his own song, Young Homie, which he sang at his first audition. He dedicates the song to his rehab counselor, Tim Fry. We find out he had a horrific car accident while under the influence and could have died. From there, he went straight from the hospital to rehab to get his life back in order. He starts straight into a rap beat, headphones and ball cap on as fashion accessories. He leaves the fogged stage to approach the audience, behind the judges. The audience is connecting, singing along, “Ah, yay, yay!”. The crowd loves it. Nicole says it was a powerful performance. Paula says it’s nice that he got back to the place where they first fell in love with him. Simon didn’t like the first half of the performance, but really liked the second half. Simon adds, though, that Chris may have just helped thousands of people who may need to turn their life around. L.A. ends the comments by saying that Chris has a tattooed word on his arm that says ‘Believe’ and he believes in Chris. Scorecard: B+ for a good performance by Chris that the crowd also got into. Vocally, it wasn’t extraordinary, but his life story certainly is.

Fifth up are the four gals comprising Lakoda Rayne, singing You Belong with Me by Taylor Swift. Dani Knights and Hayley Orrantia both thank their fathers, Paige Elizabeth thanks her boyfriend, and Cari Fletcher thanks her grandma. They sit on vine-covered swings with a pair of acoustic guitarists on each side of them. As usual, each of them get a solo piece to go along with the group choruses. They get up off the swings and flank the judges in a bit of ad hoc choreography. They still don’t quite click as a group although you can tell they’re all talented in their own right. Considering that they were formed from individual acts into a group just after auditions, they make a good try of it. L.A. says they finally managed to drum up some excitement. Nicole tells them, “I felt like I was watching you in concert.” Simon goes further to say, “This is, by far, your best performance today.” Now Paula’s crying, telling them “You’ve proven to me the sky is the limit.” Scorecard: A generous B for a reasonably good group performance, although they’re still not quite recording studio album or concert ticket material.

Up next is Leroy Bell, dedicating his performance to his late mom Janice with the song Angel by Sarah McLachlan. Leroy begins the song sitting on a stool under the spotlights. A light keyboard accompanies his soft, yet clear voice. He then stands up and delivers the song in a stronger voice with a choral backup. It’s a short, but sweet and succinct performance. L.A. says it was a good performance but not his very best performance. Paula disagrees, saying she thought Leroy gave a beautiful performance. Simon gives his thumbs up, saying “This is the first time I actually feel that you meant every word. I got to know you more. I thought it was a fantastic tribute to your mom and I really think you made your mark this week.” Nicole says that she’s proud of Leroy for not holding back. Scorecard: A- for a fine, genuine tribute to his mom. He’s got the voice and passion to excel.

Astro is in a bit of a pickle after getting criticized for his attitude in last week’s “Astrogate” results show. Astro dedicates a version of Jay-Z’s Show Me What You Got (with his own lyrics mixed in, as usual) to his fans. He thanked his supporters for sending him words of encouragement. He admits that he could have handled himself better and apologizes for letting people down with his questionable behavior on last week’s results show. Let’s keep in mind that he’s still just a kid with a lot to learn. He performs his usual rap routine, firing his words like bullets out of a machine gun. He’s ripping it out with a lot of shout for his “Astronauts”. The crowd applauds. After the performance, he says that last week, “he had a moment” and hopes his Astronaut fans support him. Nicole was very proud of him and Paula says that he’s on his way to becoming “prolific”. and Simon told him, “I admire you. You know, I do because we all have tantrums… but you know what? The music industry needs unpredictability.” L.A. is glad that he did the “necessary thing” and apologized and encourages Astro to keep doing his very best. Scorecard: B- for a highly predictable Astro performance dedicated to his fans, but leaving anyone else out. Either you like the Astro rap thing as an Astronaut, or you don’t as an Astro-not.

Next to last tonight is Drew with Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper, dedicated to her best friend Shelby, going all the way back to second grade in school. They do all of the girly-girly things together, supporting each other when others won’t. For once, the wardrobe crew didn’t mess up, leaving her in slacks and denim jacket. Standing on a raised platform, she gives an emotional performance in her trademark stellar voice. She comes off the platform and the song kicks in along with her raised voice. She finishes the song with the voice falling almost into a hush. The crowd likes it. L.A. begins with some criticism, particularly for “her mentor” (Simon). He says that he doesn’t get why Simon would allow her to do music that wasn’t appropriate to her age, more for a 40-year older instead of a 15-year older (Huh? Aren’t good songs supposed to be timeless — and ageless? And isn’t Demi Lovato, who wrote this song, rather young herself?)

The crowd is restless, on the verge of booing outright. Simon is not pleased. Drew responds gracefully, but firmly, “That’s not the point. This song actually means a lot to me no matter how old I am because it goes out to every girl. Every girl needs a best friend.” In short, she did Simon a favor by effectively telling L.A. to shut up. Nicole and Paula, of course, loved it, both saying everyone needs a friend. Watch out, Simon’s next and he lays it on L.A. “I’m sick to death of your pointless, stupid criticism. It is unfounded. It is inaccurate. This is a young girl song. You are talking complete and utter rubbish.” Slam dunk! L.A.’s trash talk just won’t cut it against Simon’s crisply cut and witty British put-downs. Uh, guys, we’re running out of air time. Paula breaks it up and we finally see a flicker of emotion on Steve Jones’ face in a moment of exasperation. With Drew all smiles (she’s cute when she smiles like that!) in a I-told-you-so pose, we cut to the next commercial. Scorecard: A- for a superb tribute to a best friend in a voice that is truly her own. L.A., on the other hand, might find himself doing something else on the next season of The X Factor if this keeps up.

Last up in the pimp spot is Josh Krajcik, performing the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, dedicated to his 13-year old daughter, Rowan. For the first time on this show, a contestant plays a musical instrument to go along with their performance. Josh is playing a grand piano shrouded in fog and surrounded by a dozen or so spotlights in the darkness. It’s just him and his piano accompaniment, as simple, yet heartfelt as it can get. He looks like he belongs on stage, as if at a sold-out concert. The crowd gives a standing applause. L.A. tells Josh, “You have the right amount of everything.” Paula says he is larger than life, bigger than the song. Simon says, “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about a great, great song, a great voice, and you meant every word you sing.” Nicole is on the verge of breaking down as she tells Josh, “Beyond this competition, I strongly believe that your music can change the world.” Wow. Scorecard: A for a man totally in his element with an incredible tribute to his daughter.

And that’s all for tonight, folks! And a good one at that. There were some great performances tonight, separating the ordinary from the extraordinary.

The results are tomorrow night! Only seven of nine acts will make it through. Stay tuned!

The X Factor episode 16 recap, Final 10 results show, November 17, 2011

The final ten acts find out their fates on tonight's results show (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X Factor Final 10 results show! Tonight, the two acts with the fewest votes will be revealed and they will have to sing it off with one act going home. By the end of the night, we will know who the final nine acts are that make it through to next week’s show.

Take note! The next live show is on Tuesday, November 22 instead of on Wednesday due to special programming during the Thanksgiving holidays. The results show will be on Wednesday instead of Thursday.

The show gets on the road quickly with the group song, We Will Rock You. Shouldn’t they have done this last night? Astro, of course, can’t rock and raps out his lines up in front of the judges. It appears that the lead vocals are live this week. As a whole, it wasn’t a horrible group performance, but not worth the bandwidth to download.

Steve asks Simon if last night’s performances rocked. Simon says apart from his own contestants, two others stood out — Josh and Astro. Well, he got half of that right.

After a several minutes of clips from last night’s performances and judges’ comments we get the beginning of the results. LeRoy and Lakoda Rayne are the first two through. Of course, Paula is delighted!

More results after the break. But first, it’s time for some filler! The contestants go out for a photo shoot, which actually turns into a promotion for Sony cameras. They all get their own cameras to play around with. Get yours this coming Black Friday!

Now it’s time for tonight’s guest act. Rihanna takes the stage to perform her new single We Found Love. She starts out behind a chain link fence. Then she steps out on stage in her funky torn jeans and jacket over a bikini top, surrounded by dancers. She sounds rather nasal in this song and is almost drowned out by the loud musical accompaniment. She finishes the song with some guy grabbing her waist from behind. Prompted by Steve Jones, Rihanna has some advice for the contestants: “If you love it, it never feels like work.”

More results come (again, “after this break”). Chris, Melanie, Josh and Marcus are declared safe. Drew, Stacy, Rachel and Astro are left and it’s probably not too hard to guess who the bottom two are out of this group.

After another break, we get the next round of results. Drew is declared safe and she bawls on Simon’s shoulder. Now the young and impressionable Rachel is sobbing, Stacy looks sickly pale and Astro looks stunned. Rachel Crow is the last one to be declared safe and she hugs Simon in a huge release of relief. This leaves Astro and Stacy in the bottom two. Stacy looks awful at this point, while Astro shows a defiant attitude with his comments, like how could he possibly be voted in the bottom two? He looks angry.

Stacy Francis takes the stage first with Amazing Grace, which should be right up her alley. Yikes, it should be, but it isn’t tonight. Full of vibratos, there’s hardly a smooth note, with some screeches thrown in where a good long note should be heard. If you’ve heard enough versions of this song before, this performance is less than inspiring. Scorecard: C for a very unsteady performance that carried none of the power, emotion or effect of the original. It’s clear her nerves are about shot in singing for her survival.

Astro is next with Never Can Say Goodbye., but not before he throws out a few insulting comments. “Yo, yo, yo! I really don’t want to perform, I don’t think it’s necessary.” An irritated L.A. tells him that he’s come a long, long way. Astro asks the audience if they think he should perform and there are a few cheers. So he performs the appropriate song and it comes out like all of the rest of his performances do. Beat the bass, tap the drum, and rap every line with a finger waving. (You’d think that if he thought could get away with it on tonight’s live show, it’d be the finger.) Scorecard: C+ for the usual rap trap. And don’t like the entitled attitude. He phoned this one in.

Now it’s up to the judges. A mildly angry L.A. says it’s about attitude and calls out Astro for looking like a quitter. But he still sticks with his guy and sends home Stacy. Nicole says she doesn’t know about Astro and she is sending him home. Paula is sending Stacy home. It’s 2-1 Stacy going home. Now it’s up to Simon, who says to Astro, “I don’t like your attitude right now… you are showing disrespect to your mom, you are showing disrespect to the audience at home, and I don’t like it.” The audience actually cheers with Simon’s comments. Astro remains defiant with his response about “people who don’t want me here” and the audience starts howling, not quite booing — yet.

If you look closely, Steve Jones quietly lays a hand on Astro’s shoulder and says a few words in Astro’s ear which the camera catches. We don’t know what he said, but it could be something like, “Shut the bloody hell up, lad, lest Simon ruin what hope you have left of a music career forever.” After a bit more of a lecture from Simon, Astro apologies.

Finally, Simon decides to send home Stacy. She apparently already saw it coming and has no reaction to his decision apart from being stone-faced. She finally opens up and says she had a great journey and wants to thank Simon for the opportunity.

Whew, this is one time when we can be glad the show is over with!

Next week, nine acts perform. Don’t forget the live show is on Tuesday night with the results on Wednesday night!

The X Factor episode 15 recap: Final 10 live show, November 16, 2011

L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell in applause (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X-Factor! Tonight, the final ten acts perform to earn your votes. Last week saw the ouster of Paula’s group The Stereo Hogzz after Lakoda Rain was saved from the bottom two acts.

Steve Jones gets an entourage of dancers to escort him on to the stage as we begin tonight’s show. It’s Rock week and let’s hope the contestants will rock and roll instead of sinking like a stone!

Kicking off tonight’s performances is LeRoy Bell from Nicole Scherzinger’s Over 30’s category. We find out more about his tattoo which he had done a few years ago as a statement of his commitment to music. Leroy opens up with Bob Seeger’s Why Don’t You Stay with a soft keyboard accompaniment and a clear voice. Back lit in blue light, the arrangement is simple. The lights switch to red, a drummer kicks in along with a chorus of singers as he revs up the song. All in all, nicely done. L.A. says he sounds great but he’s “not working it like a rock star.” Paula says it’s live television and “there needs to be more of a connection.” Simon says in terms of originality, it was “zero” and he’s being mentored like “a session singer. “Right now, you can’t win this competition,” Simon adds It turns into a bit of a spat between Simon and Nicole as she praises Leroy. Leroy takes the criticism in good stride, saying that he can win the competition and if there’s “a couple of things I need to do, I’ll do it.” Scorecard: B+ for a solid performance that was pleasing to watch and listen to, although the judges have a point in that he needs to show other sides to himself to earn a wider fan base. We have to like his gracious attitude in the face of open criticism.

Next up is the diminutive Rachel Crow from Simon’s Girls category. Simon says he wants Rachel to try a classic rock song with a bluesy feel to it, so he has her tackle the Rolling Stones’ I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. The performance starts with an upbeat tempo and a fully lit stage with red and gold visual effects. The song is instantly recognizable with her first verse. So, too, is her unmistakable vocal tone. She’s backed by some chorus singers, but they’re hardly necessary. After the chorus line, Rachel starts strutting around the stage as she sings. Her voice is loud and clear, even when she’s going full volume. L.A. asks her, “Can you sell tickets?” “I can”, she replies. Nicole says this song was the absolute perfect song choice (mollifying Simon, maybe?). Paula says she connects with the camera and audience. Simon says he can see her in the Super Bowl Pepsi commercial. Scorecard: A- for an enthusiastic and flawless performance of a rock classic, although it didn’t really rock the house. Yeah, it’d be easy to picture her in a Pepsi commercial, as peppy as she is.

The third act for tonight is Chris Rene from L.A. Reid’s Boys category. L.A. is supporting Chris in building up his self-confidence as he continues his new life in sobriety. Chris sings Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry with a rap beat, bass booming and drum tapping in the background. He’s waring a blazer over a black t-shirt and some shades for a bit of stage persona. The flowing background lighting is psychedelic in color with the 60’s peace symbol. He dances, he struts, he squats. We’re hearing more vocal ability from his in this performance than in previous ones, mixing well with the backup chorus. L.A. is loving it, standing up and turning around to the audience with a wave of his arms. Nicole thought it was original, but it wasn’t her favorite performance by him. Paula also says it was original. Simon says he loved the performance, but the theme is rock, not reggae music. There’s a bit of debate between Simon and L.A. whether it’s rock or not. Scorecard: B for a solid, but modern take of a Bob Marley classic.

Before the next act, we’re given a graphical display of the number of tweets flying around — 5,105,348 of them and counting at 956 tweets per minute. Something doesn’t add up here (let’s pull out our calculators) as this translates to 5,340 minutes, or 222 hours, worth of tweets.

Next up is Stacy Francis with It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Meatloaf. With her back story of past “dark relationship”, we’re not sure we want it all coming back to us now. Enough of that, let’s get on with the performance. The lyrics begin with “There were nights when the wind was so cold, That my body froze in bed,” so this certainly doesn’t portend to be a hot performance. She sings this song with more of a howling church diva sound than rock or even blues. She’s missing the camera and we’re having a hard time connecting as the TV audience. It’s like she’s singing at everyone as she points her finger to the crowd, finishing with a howl. Ouch. L.A. says she sang it well and he’s going to leave it at that. Paula says it was her least favorite song by Stacy. Simon says he thought song was a horrible choice. “I wanted rock, that was a pebble.” Stacy looks very unhappy with an ugly look on her face. Nicole gives her some words of encouragement. Scorecard: C for a performance that was neither rock, nor connected with the TV or live audience. She’d make a fine diva, but that’s not tonight’s theme.

Fifth up is Melanie Amaro with REM’s Everybody Hurts. Simon says, “I’ve stripped away everything. No dancing. No tricks. It’s just about her voice.” There’s no arrangement at all with Melanie seated on a chair and a pianist next to her. Melanie effectively turns an REM song into a slow ballad showcasing her clear, vibrant voice. Finally, she stands up and increases her vocal volume to finish the song. Simon loves it. L.A. says he was confused, that “was so not rock.” Nicole says Malanie sounded beautiful. Paula says, “Melanie, you took us to church.” Hah! Simon says Melanie reminded him of Adele. Scorecard: B+/A- for a beautiful sounding performance, but again, it seems the judges have sent the contestants on the wrong track for what’s supposed to be Rock Week. Having said that, Melanie is a gifted performer.

Ok, let’s hope we get a rock number for once, or X Factor can toss out the whole American Idol-ish theme night concept. Josh Krajcik doesn’t disappoint us with his take on the The Pretender by the Foo Fighters. He starts the song off slowly and just seconds later the song really kicks in with the rock beat and blinding, flashing lights. He’s got a deep voice when he hits the parts without the music and otherwise he’s rocking it when the music is going full blast along with him. It turns out to be the perfect song choice as Josh rocks the house! The crowd loves it. L.A. says he’s the only one who’s rocked out the house tonight. Paula says it’s Josh’s best performance. Simon says it was “bloody fantastic.” Nicole is pleased, saying he could tour with the Foo Fighters as the “ultimate rock star.” Scorecard: A- for a superb genuine rock performance that we’d been waiting for all night.

Next up is the one and only Astro with I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, and 112. This song hardly qualifies as rock as it was initially a tribute to the late Bad Boy Records artist Notorious B.I.G. We can already guess what’s coming up next. Predictably, Astro launches into the song with his typical hip-hop rap beat and sound, wearing headphones as a fashion accessory. Although the audience is swaying to the quick beat, is this anything different than what he’s done before? Nicole questions whether he’s ready for a $5 million recording contact at his age and then says, yes, he is. Paula says she can imagine him selling millions of albums. Simon says Astro’s maturity and intelligence is amazing. L.A. says Astro “knocked it out of the park” and has everything he needs to win the competition. Astro publicly wishes a happy birthday to his sister on the air. Scorecard: B- for a very predictable Astro performance that was all rap and no rock, nor song. He’s good at what he does, but it becoming obvious that’s all he does.

Eighth up is the last survivor of Paula’s Groups category, Lakoda Rayne — Hayley, Paige, Dani and Cari. Their names appear vertically on the stage in the background, with each of them on their own platform. So now we know who’s who. They sing Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. The four gals skip the country sound this week, but it’s hard to pin down just what sound they’re making. Each get a solo piece and there are some choruses, but it comes across as four individual acts instead of a cohesive group one. There’s no choreography to speak of, either. L.A. says it looks like they’re having fun, but questions whether they measure up to their competitors. Nicole says they’ve found their niche in “country rock.” Simon says they’ve got potential, but it was “overall, a complete mess.” Scorecard: C+ for a decent performance that lacked cohesion, which is no surprise given that these four gals were individual acts tossed together as a group by the judges after auditions.

Next to last is 14-year old Drew with a version of U2‘s With Or Without You. She appears in blue, spotlit fog. Immediately upon hearing her softly ringing voice, we know it’s her. There’s very little in the way of accompaniment or effects, with just her alone on the stage in song. It’s an almost haunting performance the way she sings it. It’s a classic Drew performance, although it would hardly rate as rock. The judges are shrouded in stage fog as they give their comments. L.A. says she has the most original voice of all of the contestants. Nicole says she’s a little frustrated with the slowness of the song. Paula says she has a huge fan base, but she needs to show some diversity. Simon tells Drew to forget about what the other judges are saying, just keep doing what she’s doing. Scorecard: A- for a beautiful vocal performance, incredibly easy on the ears, yet intriguing to listen to, even if it’s not rock.

Last up in the pimp spot tonight is Marcus Canty with Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart. (Now, it would have been interesting to hear Drew sing that song instead!) We find out Marcus sings in church, where his aunt is the pastor. L.A. wants to see the “bad boy Marcus”, but Marcus wants to keep to his conservative values. Marcus begins the song with flames raging in the background. He’s got on a studded jacket and shades and is joined by dancers in black hot pants and tight tops. Janis must be screaming at the top of her lungs up in Rock Star Heaven about now. Marcus has a pretty good voice that carries the song, but the flaming visuals and dancers are a total distraction. Nicole says Marcus lit the stage on fire. (No, sorry to tell you, Nicole, the stage SFX guy did that.) Paula says it exhausted her. Simon says his mentor L.A. just put him in hell… “too much temptation.” Scorecard: B- for an okay vocal performance that was completely drowned out by the visuals that didn’t match the spirit of Janis Joplin’s song.

Ok, here’s a quiz: Out of ten acts, how many were rock performances? If you said more than one, you need to go to rock school.

And that’s all for tonight, folks! Which of these acts will earn the votes? It’s up to you if you decide to vote!

Stay tuned!

Survivor South Pacific episode 10 recap, November 16, 2011

The Te Tuna tribe witnesses the duel between evicted survivors (photos courtesy CBS)

We begin with a beautiful shot of the Milky Way in the sky on Night 24 over Redemption Island. Ozzy and Jim are talking about what’s happening with the Te Tuna tribe, with Coach’s grip on his original Upolu tribe and Cochran’s defection to them. “I hate to say I told you so, gentlemen,” Ozzy remarks after Jim gives his report, “so I won’t say it.”

Meanwhile, back at the Te Tuna tribe after tribal council, Coach says, “I shouldn’t be saying this, you guys are going to roast me for this” and he goes on to say that “Jim is the most dangerous kind of person”. He adds now that Jim is gone, they’re going to be a “close family” again. In confession, he talks about “Survival 101, Rule 37: Anyone one the bottom of the alliance better not feel like they’re on the bottom of the alliance or they’re going to revolt and scramble to find a better place.”

Whitney hears this and sees through Coach’s influence on his old tribe. “I don’t understand how these smart people can be so stupid,” she comments privately.

Day 25 begins with Coach doing his tai chi prayer ritual on the beach. Interestingly, Cochran is joining him and following his movements. Privately, Cochran says, “As painful as it is to admit it, I’m am drinking Coach’s Kool-Aid, not in gulps but taking ginger steps.” Coach tells Cochran that he’s a little worried about Albert acting “a little squirrelly” and Brandon “running around in Brandon mode.” Cochran privately says he “felt comfortable twenty-four hours ago; today I’m not so comfortable.” It seems Coach’s worries have affected him as well.

It’s now time for the Redemption Island duel. Keith, Ozzy and Jim walk into the dueling arena with the whole Te Tuna tribe as witnesses. For the duel, the guys will have to balance two poles, one on the top of each of their hands up to a board and hold them there. The last one to hold their poles up stays in the game, remaining on Redemption Island. The other two who lose the duel are out of the game and become the first members of the Jury.

Ten minutes elapse and Jim, Ozzy and Keith are all still holding up their poles. Jeff creates a distraction by openly asking Brandon who he’s rooting for. Brandon replies that he’s rooting for Jim. Jeff asks if anyone else has favorites. Whitney says she’s for Keith. Jeff asks, how about for Ozzy? Nobody volunteers. “Ozzy,” Jeff states solemnly, “is on his own.”

Jim’s poles are the first to fall and his cuss word is visually blurred out. Both Keith’s and Ozzy’s poles scoot a bit on the boards above them, but they both recover. Ozzy somehow gets one of his poles from near the very edge of the board back to fully under it. The poles slip an inch here and there for both of them. Then suddenly one of Keith’s poles drops and he’s out. Ozzy is still in the game! Again! Both Jim and Keith congratulate him with a handshake and hug and encourage him to “go get ’em, bro.” First Jim, then Keith are seen off by Jeff. We will later see them in the Jury during the tribal councils.

It’s Day 26 on Redemption island and Ozzy is out for his usual dive in the reefs. He seems to be totally enjoying this, away from all of the tribal tensions and safe from any tribal politics. “Redemption is a beautiful thing. I’ve really scored out here. Like my own mini paradise,” he comments. He’s agilely climbing trees to collect coconuts and wandering the island at will. “The next couple of people going through Redemption are going to have a big challenge in front of them, and that’s me.” Whoa!

Meanwhile at the Te Tuna tribe, Rick is out casting a net for fish and comes up with an empty net. “Nothing, huh?” Coach asks. “We definitely have to eat. We’re eating less,” Dawn remarks and Cochran replies, “I’d just be happy with just some coconuts.” What a contrast to the feast Ozzy is treating himself to! The Te Tuna tribe’s hunger is surely bound to cause some grumpiness and short tempers in the coming days.

Cochran and Dawn are talking and she’s already saying that she’ll do anything to stay in the game. “It’s possible our interests intersect, then,” Cochran replies, telling her that she’s the number one person he wants to work with. Cochran is looking ahead in the game, where he may need to make “a big move” to escape his 7th place position in the Te Tuna tribe behind the original six in Coach’s old Upolu tribe.

It’s now time for the individual immunity challenge. The survivors will have to fill a bowl with dried rice and balance it on their head. Then they will have to carry it on their head without touching it with their hands, going over some teeter-totters to a collection basket to dump their load. They will need to do this several times until the collection basket of rice is heavy enough to flip up a flag signifying that they’ve won the challenge.

The challenge starts. Albert, Coach and Cochran all lose their loads as they reach the teeter-totters. Rick drops his on the teeter-totter. Dawn, Brandon and Sophie manage to make it all the way and drop their loads in the first round. Coach, after going back and getting a new load makes it all the way the second time. Brandon is the first one to get a second bowl of rice in, followed by Dawn and Sophie. It’s definitely a battle between these three. Brandon gets another load in, but it’s just short of tipping the scales. The same goes for Dawn. Sophie drops her larger load in and the balance tips and the flag goes up! Sophie wins immunity. Rick gives her a hug.

Jeff tells them that there will be a tribal council to vote someone out, “with a twist that will be revealed at tribal council.” Hm, what could that be? We’ll soon find out.

After the challenge, Coach and Cochran talk tribal politics. Not surprisingly, Dawn and Whitney are the two remaining targets from the old Savaii tribe. Dawn and Whitney talk and they know that they’re next on the block. Dawn thinks she’s the next one up of the two. They know they need to make a move to survive and they consider who they might be able to swing, “picking the right people” as Whitney puts it. Brandon “is such a loose cannon, you don’t know what to believe”, Rick “is not even playing the game”, and Edna is “so far up Coach’s butt, it’s ridiculous.” Whitney thinks “Coach is gonna take Edna and Sophie to the end.”

Thus, this only leaves Albert and Cochran who Dawn and Whitney can possibly connect with and they decide to have a chat with them. Albert seems to go along with this, adding that he’ll try to swing one more vote into their circle to get the 5-4 majority to vote Edna out. If all else fails, he thinks that at least he has “curried favor” with Dawn and Whitney for a future jury vote while Edna wouldn’t vote for him anyway. Whitney says, “I am in with that” and why wouldn’t she be, already on Coach’s chopping block?

Albert and Cochran are playing checkers on a makeshift board with colored shells. Albert tells Cochran that “it’s bad for you, bro'” with Cochran being the seventh in the pecking order. Albert and Cochran approach Sophie, a potential swing vote. Albert asks her, “Who would Edna have the most alligiance to as a jury member?” They all know the answer as Sophie responds, “Coach.” None of them care for Edna at all, with Albert joking that Edna can “out organize, out clean and out gather” as her game objectives. So now Sophie, as the potential swing vote, has to consider whether it’s to her advantage to go along with the new plan or to stick to the original alliance with Coach.

Coach isn’t fooled by all this, as he knows something is going on, just by watching who’s talking to who. “Albert’s getting a little sqirrelly right now,” Coach warns Edna. “He’s really playing for jury votes.” Privately, Coach says, “I feel at the moment like an old mob boss. If anyone goes against the family, they’re dead.” Whoa!

It’s time for tribal council. Jim and Keith also witness the tribal council proceedings as the first two jury members. Jeff asks Dawn, the next obvious target along with Whitney, about whether there are any cracks in Coach’s alliance. Dawn says that some of the original Upolu tribe should think “about using the two of us”, indicating those who are “five, six and seven” in that alliance have an opportunity to switch things around. Jeff asks Whitney who are five, six and seven? Whitney will only reveal that she thinks Cochran is number seven.

Jeff makes the obvious statement that Dawn and Whitney are next or there’s a crack in the original Upolu alliance. He presses the question with Cochran about his being number seven and what he intends to do about it. Cochran doesn’t give much away, so Jeff asks him, “True or false, this is a time to make a big move?” Cochran agrees that, yes, this is the ideal time to make a big move if one’s going to be made. Jeff asks Coach what he thinks about a possible shift within his alliance. Coach says, “contrary to popular belief, I’m not running this alliance or running the show.”

Jeff pries Albert with a question about Coach’s leadership, “Is Coach your leader?” and Albert says no but he might be the figurehead and pulling the strings and from that connection he goes from “Coach to leader.” Hm, mob boss Coach just might put out a contract on Albert first chance he gets, if he hasn’t already!

It’s time for the vote. This should be interesting…

Jeff tallies the votes… Dawn, Edna, Dawn, Edna, Dawn, Dawn, and… Dawn is the seventh person voted out and sent to Redemption Island.

In case we forgot, Jeff reminds us… “Now for the twist I told you about earlier… we are going right into another immunity challenge with a vote to follow.” Jeff says that he is going to ask them a number of Survival related questions. After 27 days, they should know the answers to these. The survivors pick up cubes with a combination of letters A-D and True-False on the six faces.

Question 1: How much should survivors drink in one day to prevent dehydration?
A. One pint.
B. One quart.
C. One gallon.
This seems pretty obvious, given the climate, but Albert, Edna and Rick get it wrong. The correct answer is C.

Question 2: True or false, the coconut crab gets its name because its favorite food is coconut? The answer is True and Cochran and Brandon are out of the challenge, leaving Whitney, Coach and Sophie.

Question 3: The soft edible flesh found inside the shell of a fallen coconut is called:
A. Pacific artichoke
B. Heart of palm
C. Palm fingers
D. Coco sprouts
Whitney and Sophie get it right.

Question 4: True or false: Although they are quite delicious, you should should not attempt to remove giant South Pacific clams from the cocean as they are considered dangerous.
Whitney says True, Sophie says False. The answer is False and Sophie again wins immunity.

Now it’s time for yet another vote. And the tally is… Cochran, Whitney, Whitney, Whitney, Whitney and… Whitney, who joins Dawn to greet Ozzy on Redemption Island.

Next week: Brandon stops catching fish and the tribe is going hungry. Albert and Sophie talk about targeting Brandon next. Coach privately says Brandon “doesn’t have any business in this game” and tells Cochran, “my name should be Zeus.” Ozzy greets Dawn and Whitney on Redemption Island with a hug.

Stay tuned!