'Survivor' Watch: Knox native Coach has found his groove

Ben 'Coach' Wade is flanked by 'Survivor: South Pacific' tribemates Brandon Hantz, left, and Albert Destrade.

CBS

Ben "Coach" Wade is flanked by "Survivor: South Pacific" tribemates Brandon Hantz, left, and Albert Destrade.

Coach Wade has found a groove on “Survivor: South Pacific,” his third try at the popular CBS reality show (8 p.m. Wednesdays, WVLT), but he’s not all about the Benjamins.

The University of Tennessee graduate who grew up in Knoxville is playing a more self-aware game than in his previous tries, and he seems to be respected as a leader by most of his tribemates on the Upolu team.

But not by former teammate Stacey Powell, who in last week’s episode refused to call him “Coach,” and instead repeatedly and derisively referred to him by his given name, “Benjamin,” as she called out his leadership to members of the opposing Savaii tribe. Powell had just been voted out of the Upolu tribe by all seven of her teammates and sent to “Redemption Island,” where she had a chance to compete to get back in the game, starting with a duel against fellow outcast Christine Markoski. The duel is witnessed by two members of each tribe, and Powell seized the opportunity to tell Savaii members Whitney Duncan and Dawn Meehan that Coach is running the show at Upolu, with Albert Destrade as his right-hand man.

Upolu’s Destrade and Mikayla Wingle were also in attendance at the duel, and after Powell ranted about Coach, Destrade muttered under his breath, “sour grapes.”

Powell lost the battle with Markoski and was thereby completely eliminated from the game, but she achieved her goal: Duncan and Meehan returned to the Savaii camp and told their teammates what Powell said, seemingly putting a target on Coach as well as Destrade.

Meanwhile, Destrade and Wingle returned to the Upolu camp and told the team about Powell’s revelations. Coach balked at being called “Benjamin”: “If anybody calls me Benjamin to my face, I’m gonna go nuts. My parents call me ‘Coach.’ I’ve been called Coach since I was 18,” he said.

Apart from Powell’s efforts to undercut his game, Coach has had a much smoother ride on “Survivor: South Pacific” than he did on previous shows, “Survivor: Tocantins” and “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” where other contestants belittled his idiosyncrasies and kept him in an outsider’s role before they voted him out.

After five episodes of “Survivor: South Pacific,” Coach, who turned 40 during a visit to Knoxville in September, appears to be more engaging with his fellow contestants and generally regarded as the informal Upolu team leader (he is the only veteran of the show on his team). His core allies — Destrade, Wingle, Sophie Clarke, Brandon Hantz and Rick Nelson — have not been shown making any moves against him. What’s more, in last week’s episode Coach found a hidden immunity idol at his team’s camp, meaning he can play it after a tribal council vote and veto votes against him, giving him a pass to the next round.

Meanwhile, the rival Savaii team was fractured last week and voted out Elyse Umemoto, the closest ally to presumed team leader Ozzy Lusth (who, like Coach, is the only veteran on his team). Lusth was dismayed by the vote and now could become a potential additional ally to Coach if both veterans make it to the show’s “merge,” when the teams are dissolved and all contestants play as individuals.

The more apparent potential obstacles to Coach at this point:

+ If Markoski plays her way back into the game, she has declared she will target Coach.

+ Edna Ma has learned she is the next player who will be voted out of Upolu; if she survives to the merge, she might turn on her tribe and join players from Savaii.

+ Hantz, who treats Coach as a mentor (and who is the nephew of notorious “Survivor” villain Russell Hantz), has played the game erratically and emotionally, forcing Coach to use spin control with other players.

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Comments » 1

knoxdude writes:

He went by Ben in high school

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