I had hoped that when Coach finally got voted off, we would all have time to savor it. I’d envisioned a recap that reveled in his delusions.
But that’s not going to work, for a couple of reasons. For one, I almost feel sorry for Coach, because I don’t think he realizes at all how others perceive him. And for another, CBS is having the finale Sunday (which is tonight, by this point), so we have to quickly process that Coach is gone and move on to the important questions, like “Who does he blame” and “What kind of crazy-ass speech is he going to make at the final tribal?”
Please Don’t Throw Me in the Briar Patch
Last week Debbie was voted out after she turned on Coach. Back at camp after the vote, JT tells Coach that Debbie was gunning for him. Coach is stunned. “I’m like the lamb led to the slaughter house,” Coach says. He’s amazed and thankful they saved him. He believes the game is still being played honestly.
But he wants to talk to Steven and JT and just ask when he’s going, because he’s clearly no longer in control of the game. Well, there’s a little bit of reality in there, after all. On Day 34, the next day, Coach says he’s at their mercy but asks if they still want to do Erinn next. He says he just wants to do what they want to do. Coach also complains about inhaling campfire smoke. Apparently he has asthma, and so doesn’t want to go to Exile.
Stephen tells us he and JT are eager to send Coach to Exile. Coach is pulling out all the ailments – the asthma, the back problems. They think Coach is scared to go to Exile.
The reward challenge is a maze that spells out Survivor. They’ll race through it, build a pole to retrieve a sandbag, which they’ll use to knock over three targets to raise a flag. All while their feet are tied together. The winner gets an overnight reward at a governor’s retreat, with a bed, shower and feast.
JT trots out into the lead, and Coach just follows him. Those two get a lead, and eventually while everyone’s working on their poles, JT is way ahead. JT wins reward.
He asks for any volunteers for Exile, and without any, he sends Coach, explaining he hasn’t been. Coach says he’ll take a monastic approach, meditating and not eating. Erinn pipes up and says he’ll take the martyr approach, making sure he has the worst experience on Exile.
Coach says she’s always trying to tear him down. He says his body is “about this close right now from total disaster” but that he won’t use that as an excuse if he doesn’t win immunity.
JT pretends to think about who he’s taking on reward, and chooses Stephen, saying he’s got to take the person who took him.
JT tells us Erinn rubbed it in Coach’s face. “People are so dumb in this game, they talk way too much. It’s going to hurt her and not me.”
Back at camp, will Taj and Erinn be smart and talk about voting against the JT and Stephen alliance? No. Taj says she feels very confident in her alliance with the two guys, and that they’ll go to the final three together.
Erinn tells Taj she feels guilty about what she said. Taj says Caoch is a jerk and not to worry about it. Taj says Coach says all this stuff about how he’s broken down, but he was fine when he was on JT’s heels, and if he’d won, “the warrior would have been back.”
Turns out Erinn’s “guilt” is mostly fear that what she said will lead to her getting voted out before Coach. “This is the time when you do start to get paranoid about this stuff,” she says.
Moving on to Exile, we’re treated to a hilarious montage of Coach slogging through the sand in different areas while soaring, sad music plays. Coach claims this will be like a vacation from all the “wishy-washy” people at camp “with no character.”
He says his foundation is built on a rock, unbreakable, unmovable… well, a lot of other words. Not eating, being out alone in the wild, is “going to be like the ancient American Indians, my ancestors,” Coach says. That made them men, he says, and while he clarifies that he’s already a man, this, he says, will make him more of a man.
He also carves himself a twisted piece of wood, explaining that the “dragon slayer needs a dragon cane.” Cue triumphant music as he claims he can still outlast anyone.
JT and Stephen take a private plane to a private retreat. JT says that’s his dream and he just soaked it up.
“You can tell there were some big parties thrown in this place,” JT says. They’re horror-struck by the mirror, discovering what they really look like.
“I haven’t seen myself in over a month,” Stephen says, scraping at his teeth.
They quickly take turns showering. “34 days I have not washed my nasty tail,” JT says. I could have done without that visual.
Their feast is a Brazilian barbecue, with hunks of meat cut at the table. I guess that’s the inspiration for Texas de Brazil, a restaurant I’ve never eaten at, not being a huge meat eater.
They toast each other to the final two. JT says they’ve got this thing. He says Erinn’s move today was dumb. Stephen sort of agrees that she could be a liability.
Back at Exile, Coach says his Exile experience was no sleep, no food, starving, little water “and it was freakin’ awesome.”
He says he somehow “tested” himself. He says he is walking slower, and it will take him longer to get to the challenge. He says he doesn’t feel tired or hungry, he’s just focused. “Marcus Aurelius once said, ‘Through our greatest adversities come our greatest successes’. I plan on winning immunity today,” Coach says.
Warriors Can Still Be Brought Low by Back Spasms, Apparently
He staggers into the challenge slowly, with his cane. Taj tells us he’s “such a drama queen. … Any 37 year old man who thinks he’s a dragonslayer belongs in a mental institution.”
He says he had the best time of his life, but whispers to JT to get a drink of water.
Jeff explains the challenge is they’ll brace themselves between two walls while their feet are on very small footholds. They’ll move to smaller ones before it becomes an endurance test on the last one.
Jeff asks Coach if the time he spent meditating has prepared him for this. Coach says he wanted his mind to tell his body he still has it. Jeff says, well, this is about mind over matter, and it will get difficult.
At 30 minutes they move to the final foothold. Erinn slips off and is out. Stephen drops out. Taj drops out. So quickly, it’s just JT and Coach. “The listener and the talker. The young buck and the older warrior,” Jeff says.
JT asks if Jeff has food, and says he’d probably step down for a steak and a six pack. Coach says he might as well go, then, unless he’s trying to vote Coach off. JT asks if he doesn’t trust him. Coach claims he does.
Coach says he has something to prove, coming back from Exile. He’s clearly in pain. Dramatic music plays as coach steps down. JT wins.
Coach collapses in a fetal position, nearly in tears, muttering something about his back. They help him to a bench. Coach says his back spasmed while he was up there.
Stephen tells us he feels sorry for Coach, but that Coach is still a strong competitor, and he wants to win.
Back at camp, Coach congratulates JT on winning. Erinn tells us Coach is ridiculous. She and Taj speculate that he’s playing on people’s sympathy. They note that now Coach is standing up and walking.
Privately, JT reassures Coach that Erinn’s going. Coach says a lot of his “bravado” is because “I’m trying to tell myself you’re still kind of the man.” Aww, that’s actually kind of sad.
Stephen arrives and says Erinn’s words to Coach when he left for Exile were tasteless and classless. Stephen tells us JT is going to vote for Erinn because he promised, but he’s not sure what he’ll do.
Coach tells us the warrior alliance is strong, and he surrounded himself with strong players and it hasn’t backfired yet. What?
Roses are Red/Clouds are Hazy/Poems at Tribal/Show Coach is Crazy
Jeff goes straight to Coach, bringing up the Erinn outburst before he went to Exile. She says it rubbed her the wrong way and minimized the entire experience, which for her was miserable.
Coach says he had past experiences on which to draw that made Exile easier for him. He babbles about a pebble and a boulder, and then says he wasn’t trying to minimize Erinn’s experience.
Jeff says get to the vote, but Coach stops him – he wrote a poem. Oh dear lord. It’s something about battles, warriors and being remembered.
The vote is two for Erinn, three for Coach. Thus the dragon is slain. In his final confessional, Coach says he can’t imagine why someone would keep Erinn over him, but he blames Stephen, who he says has turned evil.
Jeff says it’s going to be a really fun finish, based on the number of blindsides.
Finale! Stephen tells us JT voted with Coach for strategic reasons. The editing and voiceover is trying to play it up like JT and Stephen part ways, but I doubt it. Unless something crazy happens, I expect JT to win – but not before some insane speeches.