Survivor: Why Do Contestants Flip?

Survivor: South Pacific Recap
Stephen Fishbach (left) and John Cochran
Sylvain Gaboury/PR Photos; Monty Brinton/CBS

11/03/2011 09:45AM

"Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men."
– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of the Five Rings

Hey Cochran – here's a question for a fan. Has a flip-flopper ever won Survivor?

On Wednesday's episode, with the tribes tied 6-6, Savaii and Upolu were ready to draw rocks. The stakes couldn't have been higher. The tribe that came out victorious would be poised to pick off their opponents. They'd have smooth sailing to the final six.

Savaii had a tremendous advantage. They'd won two immunity necklaces. When Ozzy played the idol for Whitney, only Jim and Cochran were at risk. Coach, Sophie, Albert, Edna and Brandon were all vulnerable on Upolu. On a show with as much randomness as Survivor, a 5/7 shot at the endgame is incredible odds.



But Savaii also had a tremendous disadvantage. He was wearing a red sweater vest. When Cochran chickened out at the re-vote, Keith was sent to Redemption Island.

"I don't do odds," Cochran said. "I do Survivor." In this case, he did neither.

Surely Cochran has seen flipper after flipper cut loose and eliminated. Their new tribe doesn't trust them, and their old tribe wants them dead. John Fincher refused to go to rocks in Samoa – gone next episode. Shambo flipped – eliminated at the bottom of her new alliance. Coach flipped on the Villains. Gone next episode. Candice flipped on the Heroes. Gone next episode. You get the idea.

If Cochran stayed strong with Savaii, he could've had a decent shot at the finals. By flipping, he puts himself at the bottom of a seven-person alliance.

Why, oh why, didn't he at least keep the idol?! He might then have had some leverage. Now, he's just an expendable number.

Blame It On Savaii
Savaii has nobody but themselves to blame for Cochran's flip. You can see how dismissive they are of him. It boggles my mind that, season after season, people still get picked on and belittled. Of course they flip. Survivor is as much an emotional game as it is strategic.

If you can handle starving and sleeping in the rain, surely you can deal with a neurotic nerd for a couple weeks. As Brandon says to Jim at tribal council – "Don't talk to him like that. That's what you get for talking to people like that in the first place." (Brandon's obviously forgotten Mikayla.)

And another thing! If Dawn knew Cochran was a risk, why didn't she tell the tribe to let him play the idol, rather than Whitney? If Cochran felt safe at tribal council, he might have voted the party line. Instead, Dawn is so focused on making moral arguments, that she costs her tribe the game.

Not Another Teen Movie
This episode was a coming-of-age for Coach. On Heroes vs. Villains, Russell flipped Coach by preying on the abandonment he felt by Boston Rob. On Tocantins, JT preyed on Coach's frustrations with Brendan.

Coach wins this week's Fishy for using the tactic that has so often been used against him.

First, he puts the fear of Rock into Cochran. "There's a one in five chance that you're going to be drawing a black rock," he warns. Then, like the symphony conductor that he is, Coach cues the violins:

"I've been made fun of my whole life, too," he says. "I might be the Dragonslayer now ... but I know what it feels like, man. But you have a chance to change the game for yourself."

How can Cochran resist the Coach charm offensive? Coach puts Survivor into the lingo of an '80s movie: "I've convinced him ... that the nerds will finally rise up to the bully."

What nerd worth his glasses doesn't want to show-up the bullies, win the girl (Whitney?), and save the day?

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