The Reality TV Guru

The Amazing Race episode 8 recap, November 13, 2011.

Andy & Tommy look up the tall spire of the Vor Frelsers Kirke church (photos courtesy CBS)

Welcome to the eighth episode of The Amazing Race! With the elimination of Justin & Jennifer last week, six teams remain in the Race around the world.

Andy & Tommy, clear favorites having won most of the legs this season, are the first to depart Livingstonia Beach in Malawi at 3:12 in the afternoon. Teams will now fly from Malawi to Copenhagen, Denmark. Upon arrival, they will pick up a car and drive themselves to Vor Frelsers Kirke, an old church with a huge spire on it. Ernie & Cindy, having lost the footrace to Andy & Tommy at the finish last week, depart second. Bill & Cathi leave third at 3:26, with Amani & Marcus next at 3:34, Laurence & Zac at 3:36 and Jeremy & Sandy last at 3:42. Only half an hour separates all of the teams as they head to the airport to catch the quickest flight to Copenhagen.

Laurence & Zac are the first to arrive at the airport. Laurence thinks they should fly to London as a major air hub and then transit to Copenhagen. Ernie & Cindy meet up with them at the airport, but Laurence & Zac won’t reveal their flight plans saying the ticket agent is in the middle of “checking on stuff right now.” Ernie & Cindy get the hint to buzz off and work on their own arrangements. It turns out all of the teams except Laurence & Zac are on the same flight to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and then transits to Copenhagen. With Laurence & Zac arriving in Copenhagen at 8:30 p.m., is it the quickest route? Or will it even make a difference if the church is closed for the night when they all arrive?

In Amsterdam, Bill & Cathi and Ernie & Cindy are talking about flights. Bill & Cathi advise them that they are switching to Norwegian Airlines, which will get them to Copenhagen at 11:00 p.m. Andy & Tommy, meanwhile, find a slightly earlier flight on Cimber Air that arrives at 10:35. Marcus & Amani don’t see the other teams and ask themselves, “Where did everybody else go?” Jeremy & Sandy join Andy & Tommy on the Cimber Air flight, with Ernie & Cindy joining Bill & Cathi on the Norwegian Air flight, and Laurence & Zac going via London. Marcus & Amani still hadn’t figured out which flight to take next and they’re still sitting in a Schipol airport lounge “kind of hanging out right now.”

Laurence & Zac are the first to arrive in Copenhagen while it’s still light outside. They arrive to Vor Frelsers Kirke church and, sure enough, it’s not open until 7:30 the next morning. So much for the flight drama! The other four teams arrive to the church later that night while Marcus & Amani are still decamped in the airport lounge in Amsterdam and end up departing on a flight at early the next morning. They realize that they blew it with the other teams “already on to the next clue and we’re still sitting in Amsterdam at the airport.” “It feels like death to me,” Marcus remarks, but Amani retorts, “It doesn’t feel like death to me and if death came, I’m fighting death every step of the way.” Spunky lady.

Meanwhile, the other teams enter the church, where they climb 400 steps up to the top where there is a banner, “Borg Slot”. Down below on the roof of a building, there is another banner “Frederiks” that tells them the rest of where they must go, Fredericksborg Slot. It’s quite a breath-taking view from up there. Laurence & Zac only see the banner on the spire balcony (Borg Slot), but miss seeing the other banner as they race back down the stairs.

Cathi happens to notice the other banner on the building down below, where two guys are busy furling and unfurling it on the flat rooftop. The other teams see it, too, except Jeremy & Sandy, who consult a sightseeing plaque on the balcony and assume that it must be “Rosenberg Slot” and end up going to a restaurant that opens later at 10:00. Without any other teams around, they realize they’re in the wrong place. Jeremy & Sandy end up starting over again by going back to the church where, lo and behold, Amani & Marcus have just arrived!

Laurence & Zac happen to notice a street sign reading “Fredericksborg Slot” and assume (correctly) that’s where they need to go. They arrive to the castle plaza in their car first, with Ernie & Cindy just behind them, where a lady in traditional attire hands them their next clue. It’s a Roadblock that requires teams to perform a three-part dance routine that dates back to the Renaissance. They’ll be wearing that era’s dance attire and even get a bit of a makeup job for the complete royal look!

Ernie does the dance routine with Cindy watching on, while Zac does it for the two sailors. Bill & Cathi arrive and Cathi does the dance task. Bill talks with Cindy about how he and Cathi met and got married. They met when he was thirteen and she was twelve and got married the day they graduated from college. “Wow. We met in a bar,” is all Cindy can say! Meanwhile, Ernie seems to be pretty good at picking up Renaissance dancing as he fairly easily finishes the three routines to a full round of applause and the next clue.

Zac, meanwhile, can’t get his feet to cooperate as Cathi completes her second routine and Andy takes to the dance floor. The lady teaching Andy asks him if he hasn’t done this before, as he picks it up right away. Cathi completes the third routine to an enthusiastic round of applause and she & Bill move on in second place.

From the dance, Ernie & Cindy go to a farm in Frilandmuseet to find the next clue in a red “Post” box. The next task is a Detour, “All Hopped Up” or “All Churned Out”. All Hopped Up requires teams to assemble a steeplechase course and then guide a rabbit to run the entire course without knocking anything over. All Churned Out requires teams to churn out blocks of butter by hand from milk cream. Ernie & Cindy decide to try their hand at churning butter. Bill & Cathi later arrive to the farm in second place and choose their hand at churning butter, too.

Meanwhile, Andy completes the second and third dance routines as Zac continues to flunk the first one. Andy & Tommy are now off to the farm in third place. Jeremy & Sandy soon arrive to the castle dance hall in fifth place. After repeated attempts, Zac eventually gets the dance steps right and they’re in fourth heading to the farm. Laurence congratulates Zac, but claims that “it would have taken me a while, but I would have landed it a little quicker.” You can land a sailboat, but how do you land a dance?

Marcus & Amani are lost somewhere in their car. Marcus tries everything from flagging down motorcycles and cars from the roadside to standing in the median of a highway getting honked at by trucks flying by in an attempt to get directions from someone. Finally, someone stops and gives them directions. Did Amani have a map of Louisiana with her in the back seat as Marcus was driving? It sure looked like it! You’re a long way from New Orleans, gang.

Ernie & Cindy complete churning several blocks of butter and are now well in front of the pack. The next destination is the Karlstrup Windmill within walking distance. A Double U-Turn board is located there where up to two teams may opt to delay two other teams of their choice. Ernie & Cindy decide to U-Turn Bill & Cathi in order to increase their lead over the second place team on the way to the Pit Stop at Havet Ship, seven miles away in Copenhagen. They say they feel bad about doing the U-turn on Bill & Cathi, but they really want to win this leg. On the way to the Pit Stop, Ernie goes on about how he’s regretting doing the U-Turn while Cindy admits that she’s “the mean one” because she wants to win this leg so bad.

Bill & Cathi make their way on foot to the windmill where the U-Turn board is located and are dismayed to find out they’ve been U-turned and they’ll have to do the rabbit steeplechase task as well. “Oh, shoot,” Cathi says, “that says something, doesn’t it?” So she decides that they’ll U-Turn Laurence & Zac who are further behind. They know Andy & Tommy are in third, having just met them coming to the farm, and also know that Zac was having trouble on the dance floor a while earlier. They don’t know where Jeremy & Sandy or Marcus & Amani are, so they go for the sure thing to avoid last place. They put together the course and Bill starts guiding the rabbit, which he has named “Hopper”. It knocks over one bar in the first run and some later runs, so he goes back to get another rabbit, which he calls “Speckles”. Speckles is a sprite rabbit and completes one course with Bill and another course with Cathi. They’re now on their way to the Pit Stop. Laurence & Zac later arrive in fourth to the farm, where they see Andy & Tommy almost finished with the butter churning task.

Marcus & Amani finally arrive to the castle dance hall floor with Jeremy & Sandy still there. Sandy completes the third routine as Amani begins her lessons. Amani turns out to be pretty good with the dance and she completes the three routines with a smile and a round of applause. It looks like the two last place teams will have to vie for their survival.

Meanwhile, Ernie & Cindy arrive to the Pit Stop to finish in first place! They win a 5-night trip to Fiji, courtesy of Travelocity. Cindy says they feel kind of bad about U-turning Bill & Cathi, “but you kind of have to do what you have to do to secure first.”

Jeremy & Sandy aren’t having a good day. He’s driving, she’s reading the map, the camera man is taking shots of the road signs and they realize they’re going the wrong way on a highway. She says they should be going north and he tells her she should have told him that, as the usual mutual miscommunication problems continue.

Amani & Marcus reach the farm in fifth place and decide to do the rabbit steeplechase. Laurence & Zac rush out to the windmill to discover they’ve been U-Turned by Bill & Cathi. “This is bloody ridiculous,” Laurence remarks with a touch of sarcasm. They arrive to see Amani & Marcus about to do a second rabbit run, with Marcus giving the rabbit a pre-game pep talk. “You do good, ok? I need you to work your magic.” The rabbit does a splendid job and Marcus gives it a hug and says, “I love you.” They’re now in fourth place and on the way to the Pit Stop.

Laurence, however, doesn’t feel the magic and he’s constantly grumbling about how “this is the most ridiculous thing in the world” when he and Zac set up the course and get ready to run their rabbit. In spite of his crankiness, the rabbit cooperates and runs the course nicely.

Meanwhile, Bill & Cathi and Andy & Tommy arrive at the parking lot to the Pit Stop at exactly the same time. The two snowboarders sure have an uncanny sense of timing, don’t they? It’s not really a foot race, as both teams know that they’re neither in front nor in last. Bill & Cathi step on the mat for second place with Andy & Tommy in third place right behind them. Amani & Marcus show up a while later in fourth place.

Jeremy & Sandy finally arrive to the farm and try their hand at churning butter. They’re in last place now, with a time-consuming task ahead of them. Their only hope now is that Laurence & Zac somehow get lost on the way to the Pit Stop. And, oops, sure enough, Zac is saying “we’re going the opposite way we need to go.” There is some construction going on with exits closed. There is a traffic jam. They’re sitting like dead ducks in traffic, then Laurence decides to use the emergency lane on the right to (illegally?) bypass the traffic.

Meanwhile, Jeremy & Sandy finish up the butter task and head to the Pit Stop. It’s still daylight, so maybe there’s hope for them yet. They’re not having the traffic problems that Laurence & Zac are. And… Jeremy & Sandy reach the Pit Stop mat first! They’re convinced they’re in last place and are shocked to hear that they finished in fifth place. Good job not quitting, you two.

Laurence & Zac are the last team to arrive to the Pit Stop and Phil is sorry to tell them that they have been eliminated from the Race. They say they think they had a good run at it and were glad to run the Race with each other.

Next week, teams “act up” in play acting, “spin out” in those Disneyland type whirling cups and “hose down” as body builders.

Stay tuned!

The X Factor episode 14 recap, Final 11 results show, November 10, 2011

The X Factor host Steve Jones will announce who gets eliminated tonight (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X Factor Final 11 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 have the Top 10.

The show gets on the road quickly with a group sing of Save the World Tonight by Swedish House Mafia. On top of preparing for their own acts, contestants have to also prepare for the group sing thing. And the bottom two acts will also have to be prepared to sing once again! It must be grueling for all of the contestants, doing this every week, with the only respite being taken off the show altogether.

The group sing, of course, has individual solo bits where the crowd sometimes cheers for a favorite, along with others doing a chorus. The song abruptly changes pace with Astro joining in and it goes all chorus-y after that. They really don’t mesh too well as a whole and, as we found out last week, it’s being lip-synched to pre-recorded material. Thankfully, it’s a short, forgettable performance. Nothing to see here.

L.A. apologizes to Melanie for being a little too mean to her for last night’s performance because he “was jealous” (of Simon, we presume, since he’s the one smiling at the comment). We get some snippets of last night’s performances and judges’ comments, along with some behind-the-scenes clips of the contestants with the judges, family and friends following their performances.

We’re also invited to participate in the production of a Pepsi commercial through The X Factor web site (see link at the right).

The first special guest is Willow Smith, performing Fireball. It opens with a flaming background and flashing red lights. Willow looks like an elf out there on stage in that green outfit, with the hair slicked back so much that the ears stick out. It’s a hip-hop, thump-bump kind of song, complete with a line of dancers surrounding Willow. It’s a crisp and quick performance full of energy, fun to watch. Standing ovation by the judges along with a long applause the the audience.

Next up is the second special guest, British superstar Jessie J, with Domino. Yikes, her body-fitting outfit looks like someone wrapped her in giant sticks of Tootie Fruity striped gum. The song kicks of with a trio of kettle drummers whacking a beat along with a deep base. A line of dancers follow her around as she hops around on the stage, singing. The flashing lights and visual effects follow the beat, assaulting our retinas. She looks out of breath after that performance!

Now, it’s time to reveal who make it through… “the results right after this break.” Ok, give us a break, will ya? We’re half an hour into the show and, of course, not a single result has yet been revealed.

Without further ado (and skipping all of those silences that fail to add any semblance of suspense), going through “in no particular order” (said twice) are:
Stacy Francis
Melanie Amaro
Marcus Canty
LeRoy Bell
Rachel Crow
Josh Krajcik
Chris Rene

The Stereo Hogzz (again) and Lakoda Rayne at now at risk of going home and have to sing for their survival. Steve Jones asks Paula how she feels, saying “this is a nightmare situation.” “It is,” Paula replies, “it is a nightmare situation.” She says she’s proud of them and would not have wanted any other category, although it’s almost certain Groups will be extinct within the next week or two. It’s just that Americans don’t seem to care to cast votes for groups in a show like this.

Lakoda Rayne begins with No Air by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown. They’re already looking scared. It also sounds like they haven’t quite practiced this long enough, as they’re not in harmony, with someone flat throughout. The louder they are, the more obvious it is. Nice try, but far less than stellar. Less than that even. Scorecard: C for a mish-mash vocal performance where the vocal tones and notes didn’t mesh well at all.

Then it’s The Stereo Hogzz, who are in this position for the second straight week. They sing You Are Not Alone by Michael Jackson. It’s a simple song with a slow beat, woven in well-crafted harmonies that these guys are best at. Dressed smartly in suits, showcasing their vocal talents, they look as professional as they sound. It’s a surprise they’re even in the bottom two acts, but blame that on the voter demographics, not these guys’ talents. Scorecard: B+ for a fine performance that no doubt was put together on short notice.

For the second week in a row, poor Paula. The other judges don’t make it any easier for her. L.A. and Nicole begin by voting for The Stereo Hogzz to leave. Network time’s running out. Paula complains, “I’m not going to do this” pleads to forfeit her vote. This would send the Houston boys home, so she decides to vote against Lakoda Rain. Simon can either send the Stereo Hogzz home or leave it to the vote. He casts the third vote for The Stereo Hogzz’s elimination.

Whut? There must be something we’re not seeing behind the scenes because these guys are clearly the better act on the stage, but it’s been decided now. Kudos to The Stereo Hogzz! You guys are cool. Keep at it and you’ll go places.

Next week, will we end up saying goodbye to Paula with the possible elimination of the last group, Lakoda Rayne? Obviously she won’t be eliminated herself, but she’d be reduced to the role of being a commentator and last place act voter, no longer a mentor to any of them.

Stay tuned!

The X Factor episode 13 recap: Final 11 live show, November 9, 2011

The Final 11 acts compete for the $5 million dollar recording contract tonight (photos courtesy Fox)

Welcome to The X-Factor! Tonight, the final eleven acts perform to earn your votes. Last week saw the ouster of Paula’s group InTENsity after being selected over The Stereo Hogzz from the bottom two acts.

Tonight is Movie Night, with song selections from popular (as well as possibly unheard of) movies. In preparation, the contestants get the red carpet treatment and a photo shoot with Hollywood movie stars.

The performances begin. To the loud applause of the auditorium crowd, Nicole Scherzinger introduces us to Stacy Francis. She sings The Queen of the Night from the movie The Bodyguard, a song that L.A. co-wrote. Stacy, looking hot in red, begins the song trading a capella diva verses with a backup vocal trio. She belts out a scream and then the music kicks in and she struts the stage. After reaching some on-stage monkey bars, she swings her hips and legs in time with the beat. There are even a few bangs of fireworks in the back of the stage to punctuate the song. Simon doesn’t care for the dress or the dancing, saying he likes her more as a singer. He adds that it seems Nicole combined her and Paula into one person. What was that supposed to mean? Nicole says Stacy is shining from within. Scorecard: B for an energetic and vocally strong performance, but she could have done without some of the stage struts and moves. No “church singer” here.

Next up is Marcus Canty from Bowie, Maryland, with the song I’m Goin’ Down from the movie Carwash. L.A. says we’re going to see a different side of Marcus. Marcus is dressed in black, with a silver jacket that stands out. But we can barely see the rest of him, totally shrouded in gold-lit fog. The fogs lifts and the lights come on as Marcus sings solo with a skip-beat Motown sound. He’s got a trio of male back-up singers on the chorus, but he’s the one owning the song. He puts a lot of energy into it, so much so that the mike stand goes flying as he rips off the mike. He finishes the final notes on his knees. The crowd loves it. Nicole says, “Two words, two words, Ma-gic!” Then, of course, she has a lot more words to add, saying it was “a beautiful dream happening.” Simon says it was “a thousand percent better than last week.” Simon’s only gripe was that the silver jacket made him “look like a cabaret singer.” Scorecard: B+ for a vocally strong performance with a clearly defined sound to it. He could do without the mike stand tossing and swinging his arms, but this would sound good on an iTunes download. He sounds better than he looks.

Drew is next up with Coldplay’s Fix You from the movie You, Me and Dupree. Uh, oh, the Wardrobe department has done it again. They’ve taken a young lady who would look hot in jeans and a button up shirt and put her in that, um — what is that thing she’s wearing? It’s some kind of dress you’d expect to see flaunted by a supermodel in a haute couture fashion show. And what did they do to her wonderful silky hair, now colored in streaks? Oh, sorry, this is a song performance, not a fashion show. With a piano accompaniment hitting single notes, Drew sings Fix You with her signature tone and swing. It seems like she is singing softly but her voice rings clear in the air. Then the song kicks in with musical accompaniment and her voice continues to rise above all else. Wow. L.A. says it was really good, but he can’t tell the difference between this performance and previous performances, asking her to try something different. Nicole says she is brilliant beyond her years. Paula says it was a great song, but won’t give props for what Drew’s wearing. (Agreed!) It turns out the dress is something Drew designed herself. Maybe she should stick with singing instead of fashion design. Scorecard: A- for a crystal clear vocal performance in a tone that is uniquely hers. When (not ‘if’) you hear her on a sound track in the future, you’ll know it’s her.

LeRoy Bell is next up with a song from his favorite band, U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For from Runaway Bride. Dressing in dark jeans, a leather jacket and a white wool cap, he’s bathed in red lighting as he begins the song. He sings it with minimal musical accompaniment at the outset, then the music kicks and and he’s backed by a trio of male vocalists. He takes the mike off the stand (a lot more subtly than Marcus did) and revs up the song. He’s got a fine — and refined — voice that’s unmistakably his own. He’s a pleasure to listen to, although he’s not a stage wowzer. He gets good marks from the judges all down the line, with Simon saying LeRoy came out as a 60-year older sounding like he was a 20-year older. Scorecard: B+ for a fine vocal performance, mellow and easy to listen to. He doesn’t have a huge stage presence, but he’d be huge on the charts.

Lakoda Rayne is up next with Keith Urban’s I Wanna Love Somebody Like You out of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Paula has “my girls”, as she calls them, do an arrangement that mixes country and pop. Backed by a band right behind them, the four girls take the stage dressed in white and cream outfits so preppy that they look like they just walked out of class at an all-girls university, complete with Pepsodent smiles. It starts with a few solo lines then they sing in chorus, backed up by two trios, male and female, on each side of the stage. It’s hard to tell who’s voice is whose at this point. For a while, they’re drowned out six to four. They move around behind the judges and try to connect with the crowd, which claps along with them for a while. Where they get a chance to sing on their own, they seem to mix pretty well. L.A. says they’re his favorite girl group in the competition. (Aren’t they the only girl group left?) Simon says they were good individually. Scorecard: B- for a decent performance that was hard to judge given the relatively few moments when they sang on their own. They’d look nice on an album cover, but one shouldn’t judge an album by its cover.

Then we get the one and only Astro from Brooklyn, New York. He is always doing his own thing, this time with his own lyrics (if you can call them that) to Eminem’s song Lose Yourself from the movie 8 Mile. And, yes, the lyrics are eight miles off from the original, but that’s not the point of his performance. He’s dressed in red and black, red shoes, black slacks, black t-shirt, and a red and black hoodie jacket. The black hood covers a red cap hanging out over a pair of large glasses. Simple fashion. And, as it turns out, a simple rap song with a simple beat. Oh, then some flames in canisters light up behind him! A trio of guys join him in accompaniment and then he flips back the hoodie and tosses off the cap. Mid-song, he’s shouting and screaming more than before and it’s hard to discern the words. Nicole says it was “so heavy.” Heavy? Isn’t that from the ’60’s? Paula says he’s in a league his own. Simon is laughing. Simon says what he likes about Astro is his work ethic and creativity. L.A. says he likes Astro’s audacity. Scorecard: B for exactly what you’d expect from Astro. Every time.

Next up is Melanie Amaro with a song from the Michael Jackson documentary This Is It, Man In the Mirror. Melanie is sick with a sore throat and has to rest her voice instead of practicing a lot, but she sure doesn’t look or sound like it tonight. She is in the spotlight wearing a svelte black jacket with shiny black slacks. She starts out softly and then raises her voice and swings as the music kicks in with a female trio backing her. It’s a good performance, with a strong, loud finish. L.A. says she’s a really great singer, predictably strong, although predictable in song choice, too. Nicole says she can’t get enough of this song, saying Melanie’s voice is a “vessel of light and love.” Simon says she is “blood-y fan-tas-tic!” with the best performance of the competition so far. Scorecard: A- for a fine vocal performance that we’ve come to expect from Melanie.

Then it’s the other group, The Stereo Hogzz. They’re dressed in suits with fedora hats, singing Christina Aguilera’s Ain’t No Other Man from the Get Smart soundtrack. Their performance has that stage-show feel to it. They’re back by two trios and a large gaggle of dancers. They mix it up pretty well with solos and choruses, strong the whole way through. L.A. says he didn’t know the song, but they did a great job and were entertaining to watch. Nicole says it “was bananas” and her favorite performance from them yet. Simon says their choreography and work ethic is amazing, but they need to be “less cabaret.” Scorecard: B for a solid, yet predictable performance that might not win them many new voters.

Josh is next with Joe Cocker’s version of With a Little Help From My Friends from the Beatles cover musical Across the Universe. Josh takes the stage in a black blazer over a t-shirt with black slacks. He starts out smoothly with a solo and then is occasionally backed by a trio of guys and a chorus of gals surrounding him. It’s got a blues sound and rhythm to it and Josh howls and growls a few verses right down to the finish. He’s got variety in his voice and tone and can change it up easily. Simon says the first half didn’t quite work but the second half was good. Simon also adds (faulting Nicole) that Josh was “like Dracula and the brides up there” and to skip the gimmicks. Nicole says Josh is ready for a $5 million recording contract. He’s clearly her favorite. Scorecard: A- for a classic Josh performance that showed us what he had, with promise of more to come.

Next up is Chris Rene from Santa Cruz, California. His mom is mighty proud of her boy. Again, we see his “Life”, “Love” and “Believe” tattoos. He’s doing Gangsta’s Paradise from the movie Dangerous Minds. Something like what Astro did, he has switched things around a bit with his own rapped verses. Chris shows more of the hip attitude we saw from him in earlier performances. His voice and lyrics are clear, with some good switch ups in rhythm. He’s dancing around the stage, behind the judges, and all around. There’s a whole line of rap dancers behind him, but we hardly take notice. He ends the performance sharply at the end of the last line, punctuated by the following silence. Nicole loves how he “channels” the song. Paula says he’s in his element. Simon says, “All I can say is ‘Welcome back, Chris Rene’.” L.A. digs it. Scorecard: B+ for a solid, cohesive and entertaining performance in Chris’ characteristic style.

The last act for tonight is Rachel Crow. We find out that she has been adopted with her mom telling her that they were soul mates destined to find each other. She sings I’d Rather Be Blind from the jukebox movie Cadillac Records, a song she picked out herself. Simon says he hasn’t done too well yet with Rachel, but he’s saved the best for last tonight and it will be a big surprise. Rachel begins the song in solo with a simple bass, beat and wind instruments in the background. She sounds a lot older than her age, loud and clear with a slight growl in the lower registers, yet sharp and clear with the higher notes. It’s a short, but wonderfully succinct performance with a lot of punch. L.A. says she’s a real contender, his favorite yet. The praises go down the line to Simon, who says he trusts her. He calls her a “mini little Beyonce”. Scorecard: A for a performance perfectly suited for Rachel, her best yet.

And that’s all for tonight folks! Who will go out tonight? Will Paula’s groups escape the voters’ basement this week?

Stay tuned!

Survivor South Pacific episode 9 recap, November 9, 2011

Former tribe leaders Coach and Ozzy talk merged Te Tuna tribe politics (photos courtesy CBS)

A full moon rises over the South Pacific as the merged Te Tuna tribe returns from tribal council on Night 21. Keith has been ousted after a tie vote and re-vote that saw Cochran flip his vote, much to the consternation of his former Savaii tribe. Ozzy confronts Cochran and Cochran says that he wasn’t getting back at anybody. Cochran tells him that he “has been obsessed with this for eleven years” as a hardcore Survivor fan and he didn’t want to leave his fate to the draw of stones in case of another tie vote. Ozzy tells Cochran that he “screwed him over”.

Brandon, Cochran’s new protector (who told Cochran to “stay with me” after Jim called Cochran a coward at the tribal council), joins in the conversation. Ozzy tells him that he wants to talk with Cochran privately and, after a few words, Brandon leaves them. Ozzy tells Cochran, “I put my a** on the line for you directly, personally, and you just turned around and stabbed me in the back so hard.” Cochran replies, “This was self-interest, self-preservation.”

A very angry Jim approaches Cochran and calls him a coward yet again. Then Whitney approaches Cochran asking, “So you’re the vote?” He says yeah, and she goes on about how she and Keith saved him three times. She’s telling him that he “threw the whole tribe under the bus” and they’re going to get knocked out one by one. “You’ve got a lot to learn, buddy. You disgust me,” she says as she walks off.

Cochran walks over to the gathering of former Upolu tribe members and they ask him if he’s okay. Cochran says he got a “frosty reception, which is understandable.” That might be a major understatement, to say the least, as Whitney says he wasted six weeks of her life and Jim calls him a “piece of **** nerd”. In confession, Cochran says that he’s actually glad that he stood up to his former tribe members “who called me indecisive, weak, even annoying…” Needless to say, Cochran is no longer welcome in his former tribe, as the Upolu tribe — Brandon in particular — embraces him.

Day 22 dawns with Coach saying there’s cause for celebration and time for a little prayer. He does his prayer ritual thing along with tai chi on the beach as we’ve seen before. At the conclusion of his routine, though, we see gripping his fist so hard that it’s shaking.

With Brandon and Sophie present, Coach asks Cochran, “Who would you like to see go home next?” Cochran replies that on a challenge level, it’d be smart to see Ozzy out, but at a personal level, he’d like to see Jim out. “Really?” Coach asks rhetorically.

In confession, an angry and worried Ozzy says that “Survivor can be really cut throat… my total strategy is gone, I have nothing more to do.” He says now he has to keep winning challenges “until there’s nobody left.”

And now it’s time for the individual immunity challenge. “First things first”, Jeff takes back the individual immunity idols that Dawn and Ozzy won in the last challenge. This challenge begins with the tribe members tossing a coconut into a small ring. The first four will advance to the next stage, where they will have to hack coconuts open. They’ll drink but hold the water in their mouth to spit into a tube that they’ll reach after crossing a playground gym obstacle. They’ll continue cracking open coconuts and drinking and spitting coconut water until they fill the tube. The first one to fill the tube wins immunity. Notably, only one person will win immunity this time instead of two.

In the first round of coconut tossing, Dawn gets a coconut in the ring. The others try again next round. Whitney, Sophie and Jim each land a coconut in the ring in the second round and they advance to the next stage. Ozzy cusses. At Jeff’s mark, the four contestants start the routine of cracking open coconuts, drinking and holding the water, crossing the obstacle, spitting the water into a tube, and returning back to the coconut rack. Jim and Sophie are running ahead of Whitney and Dawn. On the next to last circuit, Jim’s water level is just short of the black line and Sophie is ahead of him. But Sophie suddenly begins to choke and vomit and she spits the water out at the obstacle. Jim races ahead and spits his water in the tube, going over the black line. Jim wins immunity!

After the challenge, Brandon tells Cochran, with Edna and Sophie present, that there are going to be six votes to take Ozzy out of the game. “How many chances to you get to vote him out of this game?” he asks. “Apparently two,” Cochran replies with a smile.

Meanwhile, Coach meets with Ozzy. Ozzy sees what’s coming and says, “I don’t want to go. All I can offer is just who I am.” Coach just hugs him and tells him, “You’ll be back”, with the notion that Ozzy can win the upcoming duels on Redemption Island. “I’ll try,” Ozzy responds as they part ways. Privately, describing Ozzy’s situation, Coach says, “Sometimes inspiration is born out of desperation.”

Privately, Dawn considers whether it’s best to remain with the Savaii tribe “and go down in flames” or to flip her vote and go with the former Upolu tribe.

Meanwhile, Jim and Whitney go wading in the shallows of the lagoon alone. He says, “I’m the most hated person in the tribe right now,” due to what he said to Cochran. Whitney tells Jim that she told Cochran that he disgusts her. Ozzy joins them. Jim’s telling Ozzy about a plan that he’s hatching. He intends to give Ozzy the necklace to give him immunity and try to swing a way to vote Cochran out of the game. Jim privately says the he doesn’t think he has that many “nights left here” because of the way the rest of the tribe perceives him after what he has said to Cochran. The question is whether he can swing two votes from the other tribe to take Cochran out.

Now it’s time for tribal council. Jeff begins, “The theme of the last two tribal councils has been — big moves.” Jeff asks Cochran what the reaction was to his flipping the vote at the last council. Cochran responds that the “reaction was understandably kind of chilly, a lukewarm reception, to put it mildly.” Jeff asks who in particular was critical of Cochran and Cochran mentions Jim. Cochran goes on to say that it was his opportunity to control his own fate with the kind of people he wanted to play the game with. “I didn’t mentally prepare for this eleven years to have my fate decided by drawing a rock out of a bag.”

Jim counters that by saying that he and Whitney and Keith saved Cochran in past votes and Ozzy saved him by going to Redemption Island in his stead. Jim implies that Cochran is dishonorable by indicating that he thinks the six members of the Upolu tribe have acted honorable. But Brandon doesn’t buy it. He reminds everyone that the last tribal council had “a way different tone… it’s kind of poetic justice… the smaller people don’t have to take it any more.”

Then Jim speaks up and reveals his plan. “I win immunity, I immediately think I’m going to give it to Ozzy tonight.” A lot of eyebrows are raised at this revelation! Jeff asks, “Why would it make sense to give Ozzy your necklace?” Jim replies, “Here’s why,” and he goes on to talk about honor, saying that ten people have kept their honor with their tribe and not wavered from it, but there is “one person who has” wavered, clearly indicating Cochran. “If you’re a turncoat, you’ve got no place in my tribe. You can say that by voting out Cochran!” Whoa, this is getting hostile.

Coach responds to Jim’s idea of voting Cochran out, “I think it would send a message to everybody, if you’re going to stick up for yourself, you’re going to get screwed. And I’m not going to see that happen.” So, it’s clear that Jim’s plan isn’t going to work unless two people from Upolu change their minds. It looks like Ozzy will be the target. Ozzy says he’s going to do everything he can to stay in the game, “My message is, I will be back… I’ll be putting every ounce of my soul into Redemption.”

Now comes a crucial decision before the vote begins. Jeff tells Jim, “You have the immunity necklace. You can assign it to somebody else if you want to, or you can keep it for yourself.” Jim replies, “I’m going to keep it tonight.” Hah! Ozzy doesn’t look surprised.

The tribe votes. Ozzy runs to his vote. Jim says, “I really don’t like you” as he votes for Cochran. As Cochran votes for Ozzy, he says, “You’ve been trying to get me out since Week One, so I don’t think it’s that inappropriate for me to be voting for you.”

Jeff reads the votes… Ozzy, Cochran, Ozzy, Coc, Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy… and Ozzy is out. “You guys fell for my master plan!” Ozzy exclaims as he walks over to Jeff and gets his flame snuffed out. “For twenty two days, this game has been unpredictable,” Jeff remarks, adding, “for Whitney, Dawn and Jim, you’ve just got to hope it stays that way.”

Ozzy meets Keith in the dark at Redemption Island. “We got frickin’ betrayed, man,” Ozzy tells him upon greeting him. It’s Day 23 on Redemption island as Ozzy goes fishing underwater in the reefs. He comes back with a huge 15-pound fish in hand and a starving Keith smiles back. They enjoy a sumptuous meal afterward.

Meanwhile, the next individual immunity challenge is held for the Te Tuna tribe. For this challenge, tribe members will have to stand on a narrow wooden beam while balancing a red ball on an inverted bow and then walk down the beam. Anyone stepping off of the beam or dropping the ball is out. There is a twist… anyone who wants to pass on the challenge will be treated to pastries, sweets and iced coffee. What a temptation! But the eating ends when the challenge is over, so whoever decides to sit out the challange had better make it a quick breakfast!

Jim remarks, “There are seven people who don’t need to compete today.” Jeff asks who wants to compete. Not surprisingly, only Jim, Dawn and Whitney raise their hands. While six original members of the Upolu tribe and Cochran enjoy their sweets, the challenge is on. Jim is the first to go out as his ball rolls off his bow. Dawn comments that she’ll go as long as she can do everyone can eat. She also says it feels like it’s one tribe in a gesture of solidarity with the former Upolu tribe. Brandon is full on his breakfast and rests his head on Cochran’s shoulder.

Dawn almost loses her balance on the beam, but manages to right herself and recenter the ball on her bow. Nice recovery. Brandon cheers her on, earning Whitney’s ire, who says, “You can tell who Brandon likes more.” Just as she says that, she loses her concentration and her ball almost falls off of her bow. She also makes a good recovery. Soon after that, Dawn loses her balance from the beam and steps off. Whitney wins the individual immunity challenge! Jim gives her a hug as the others, now full with their breakfast, clap.

Privately, Albert thinks they were a little too nice to Dawn during the challenge and “I thought we were too inclusive with her… I want to nip this in the bud as soon as I can.” He’s obviously thinking the others will never like Jim or Whitney, so it’d be best to get rid of Dawn first with them to follow.

Back at camp, Cochran is strutting around with Coach’s “Dragon Slayer” coat on. Coach and some of the others are cheering him on. Jim isn’t pleased. “Cochran is playing the most brilliant third-place game in Survivor history,” he begins. “People would take Cochran to the end.” Jim realizes he’s in trouble. “I am 100% going to Redemption Island unless I makes some moves right now.”

Jim goes and talks with Albert and Sophie and tries to talk them into voting Edna out, drawing alliance votes out with a stick in the sand. Albert hears him out, but privately thinks he has a better plan than Jim. Rather, he’d like to see Dawn out, as “she is slowly, but surely, eating her way into our alliance.” Sure enough, Dawn is with Edna washing clothes and hanging them up to dry, like a pair of housewives. Albert talks with Sophie and tells her that they should take Dawn out since she’s more likable and nobody would “gravitate towards Jim”. Sophie says, “I think we’re fine.” Albert also proposes this to Brandon and Coach.

Coach likens Jim to a “rhinoceros that comes charging in straight at you” and Dawn to a “serpent or a snake, sneaking through the grass.” He adds, “They can both kill you, so hopefully we send the right person home tonight.”

It’s time for the next tribal council. Jeff asks Coach whether it’ll be Dawn or Jim being voted out, with Whitney wearing the individual immunity idol. “Yes, absolutely,” Coach responds. There is discussion about who the greater threat is, who’s better at challenges and who’s more likable. Then Brandon and Dawn get into it about whether she was trying to be nice to them by staying as long in the challenge as possible so that the others could have time to eat breakfast. “They’re being nice because they have to,” Brandon remarks. Dawn takes offense to this and argues with him. Brandon ends the discussion with, “None of us are going to stop until that whole Savaii tribe is completely…” (wave of the hand, meaning “gone”).

Dawn looks exasperated. On the verge of tears, Whitney says he knows how Dawn is feeling, saying they’ve been completely vilified even though they’ve been playing as honorably as the others have, as “real people”. Then she cries and Dawn pats her. It’s time to vote.

Jeff reads the votes… Edna, Edna, Edna, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, and Jim. Jim is voted out! After Jim walks off, Coach waves him goodbye with a wicked grin on his face.

Next week: Albert makes a big move, but Coach is on to him and Ozzy lies in wait on Redemption Island.

Stay tuned!