Knoxville native Ben “Coach” Wade hit some bumps in the road on the last episode of CBS’s “Survivor: South Pacific” (8 p.m. Wednesdays, WVLT), though he ultimately made a big play that could benefit him, if not his Upolu tribe.
Coach’s team had a one-member advantage over rival Savaii when the episode began, and Upolu was clearly the more unified group. Onetime Savaii leader Ozzy Lusth was reeling from a fractured tribal council vote that blindsided him and ousted one of his closest allies, Elyse Umemoto. After that tribal council, Ozzy declared himself a “free agent” to the rest of his team and isolated himself from his tribemates.
But as has been the case in this season of see-saw momentum, the tide turned against Upolu as the most recent episode unfolded.
First, Coach had to wrestle with his conscience when his ally Brandon Hantz conducted an intense search for a hidden immunity idol. Coach had already found the idol and kept his discovery a secret from Brandon, even though Brandon has repeatedly declared honesty as key to the integrity of their alliance.
Later, Ozzy had a change of heart and apologized to the rest of Savaii and said he wanted someone from his team to win the game, which helped bring his tribe back together (and seemingly dashed the hopes Upolu might have had for Ozzy to defect to their side once the two tribes merge).
The immunity challenge was more bad news for Upolu. Despite his team’s quick start on a multi-tasking challenge, Coach saw Savaii catch up and overtake Upolu on the last segment of the challenge, which involved target shooting with oversized slingshots. During that part of the challenge, Coach and tribemate Mikayla Wingle bickered as she failed, badly, to get off any good shots. First he pushed her with, “Mikayla do you want to just rest for a little while?” to which she responded, “No, I’m not tired.” As she continued to launch bad shots he again suggested she sit out and she tersely replied, “Coach, I got it!” and stayed in the game.
She never hit a target, and after Upolu lost the challenge, Coach bitterly called Mikayla “uncoachable.”
Faced with a tribal council vote, Coach lobbied his team to oust Mikayla and spare the other target, Edna Ma, whom Coach had earlier said was, “the one person out here that I think would lay her ‘Survivor’ life down for me.”
Brandon, who has looked to Coach as something of a mentor, agreed to vote out Mikayla. But two of Coach’s other allies on the tribe — Albert Destrade and Sophie Clarke — wanted to vote out Edna instead, and they pitched the idea to Rick “Cowboy” Nelson, who initially agreed to be the swing vote to send Edna packing. Coach realized Cowboy’s power and attempted to lasso him to his side, saying, “Edna’s loyal.”
Ultimately Coach and Cowboy worked together, along with Brandon and Edna, and sent Mikayla out by a 4-3 vote. The move strengthened Coach’s leadership role on Upolu, and the tribe is now even with Savaii going into this week’s episode.
Meanwhile, Mikayla was sent to Redemption Island, where she will duel another former Upolu teammate, Christine Markowski. And if either woman plays her way back into the game, she will have a grudge against Coach.