'Survivor' watch: Knoxville native Coach banks on alliance with God

Knoxville native Ben "Coach" Wade made God a key part of his alliance on the last episode of CBS's "Survivor: South Pacific" (8 p.m. today, WVLT, Channel 8), praying early and often, alone and in a group.

Regardless of whether divine intervention had anything to do with the outcome, the prayers seemed to unify Coach's Upolu tribe, and the team won the episode's immunity challenge, giving them an important one-member advantage over the rival Savaii tribe.

Before the episode, Coach already had been shown to bond with fellow Christian Brandon Hantz because of their faith. Although the show has not explored the religious beliefs of the other four Upolu tribemates — Sophie Clarke, Albert Destrade, Edna Ma and Rick "Cowboy" Nelson — all six players prayed together before, during and after the immunity challenge.

Coach also used prayer as a tool to finesse his way out of a difficult situation with Brandon. Coach had found the hidden immunity idol several days earlier and hid his discovery from Brandon, telling only Sophie and Albert. Brandon has repeatedly stressed the importance of honesty to the tribe and had been searching in vain for the idol, which made Coach uncomfortable about hiding the truth. So Coach hatched a plan to stage a discovery of the idol with the entire team searching. Upolu prayed and then looked for the idol as a team, which was "found" by Sophie and Coach, much to the elation of Brandon, who said, "It's definitely an advantage having the big guy upstairs on your tribe."

The fake out made Sophie uneasy: "I find Coach to be a little more questionable when he actually is the one saying, 'Dear God, help us find the idol' when he knows he has the idol in his pocket. ... It gives me a little bit of an icky feeling."

Meanwhile, much of the episode was focused on the Savaii tribe and Redemption Island, where ousted players go to duel each other for a chance to re-enter the game. Christine Markowski, Upolu's first outcast, has won all five Redemption Island duels against weak-to-mediocre competition, which "Survivor" host Jeff Probst said makes her, "dangerously close to winning her way back into the game."

Christine has been openly aggressive toward Upolu during the duels (which are witnessed by members of Upolu and Savaii), but Savaii's Ozzy Lusth — like Coach, an athletic "Survivor" veteran — has been concerned Christine will re-enter the game and realign herself with Upolu.

Assuming a strong player could beat Christine at Redemption Island, and also assuming the next duel will decide which player re-enters the game as well as a merge will immediately follow the duel, Ozzy volunteered himself to be voted off his tribe so he could knock Christine out of the game, return to Savaii and merge with Upolu with each team standing at six members.

His tribemates, concerned about Ozzy's assumptions, reluctantly voted him out, sending him to Redemption Island, where he encountered a surprised Christine at the end of the episode.

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