Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Survivor: Caramoan – Season 26, Episode 13 – Don’t Say Anything Bad About My Mom

That was a pretty brutal penultimate episode of Survivor: Caramoan. Brenda, who had clearly been given the editing short shrift for a majority of the season (she went a record seven episodes without a confessional), had one of the most heart-breaking episodes in the history of the game. For someone whose emotional stability had, in recent weeks, rivaled that of Dawn’s, Brenda really didn’t deserve what happened to her tonight. In a better world, she would have survived episode 13 – but this is the game of Survivor, and she was rightly voted out of the game. Let’s talk about why, shall we?

A clueless Eddie continues to fail upwards.

A clueless Eddie continues to fail upwards.

The episode started out innocently enough, with a super hungry Erik climbing a coconut tree he was never going to reach the top of. Everyone is incredibly hungry, and it is driving them out of their minds. Things take a turn for the better when the final six realize that the family visit challenge is on the horizon. Spirits are immediately raised, and the actual family reunion is more overdrawn and emotional than it has ever been, largely due to Dawn, who freaks out like a sugar-addled child at the sight of her husband.

Brenda, center, is faced with an unwinnable decision in tonight's episode.
Brenda, center, is faced with an unwinnable decision in tonight’s episode.

The actual challenge is fairly easy. The castaways, and their loved ones, have to build a ladder and throw a rope around it – three ropes around the structure equals victory. If you’ve ever played monkey ladder or lawn ladder or whatever variation, this is essentially the same exact game as that. While some of the castaways, notably Cochran, seem like they are intentionally not trying to win (actually a good strategy during the family visit episode). Brenda ends up winning the challenge, and along with her dad, she gets to pick another castaway and their loved one to enjoy a nice afternoon bbq together.

This is where the episode takes a turn for the bizarre. Host Jeff Probst announces that Brenda and Dawn can go on their bbq, or instead Brenda can send the other four, who did not win and were not chosen, along with TWO of their loved ones (secretly left behind) to enjoy the food and afternoon together instead. This is a completely unfair proposal, and quite unlike anything we’ve seen on Survivor in quite some time (maybe not since Guatemala in 2005). It puts Brenda in about the worst possible situation, and creates unintentional tension between herself and Dawn. Of course Brenda chooses the other four to go on the picnic, and Dawn almost instantly breaks down.

Dawn then ends up winning immunity, and the seed for a Brenda blindside grows into a full-grown plant at this point. While a clueless Eddie throws a vote Erik’s way, Cochran, Dawn, and Sherri vote out Brenda, who instantly breaks down. Brenda played a very low-key game this season, choosing to live in the background of the game, voting along with the alliance and not making a spectacle of herself. In a lot of ways, her low-key game ended up costing her a possible win in the end. When you have no enemies and you do nice things, it comes back to bite you on Survivor.

Next time, on Survivor: It’s the season finale, which airs Sunday, May 12th!

-Z-

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