‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 3


EP03Some quick reminders/orders of business, etc.

First, if you don’t want to know who wins “Survivor: Cook Islands,” this isn’t the place for you. There WILL be spoilers. Go watch “Survivor: The Amazon” instead.

Second, speaking of “Survivor: The Amazon,” Mr. Rob Cesternino is very generously offering his “Survivor: The Amazon – Unauthorized DVD Commentary” at an exclusive DISCOUNTED RATE for Summer Book Club members.

Third, our friends at True Dork Times are once again getting in on the fun with stats, awards, and more.

And finally, this whole Book Club thing is kind of a work in progress. If you have ideas on how to improve the proceedings, please let me know.

My Big Question: Parvati Shallow, “Boston” Rob Mariano, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, Tom Westman, Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.

That’s the full roster of“Survivor” Hall of Famers. All eleven have appeared on the show more than once.

Whenever the topic of worthy one-timers comes up, Cook Islands champ (spoiler alert!) Yul Kwon is always a popular pick. However, many seem to think his (spoiler alert!) over-powered immunity idol should count against him. With this re-watch, I hope to get to the bottom of that mystery.

And with that, let’s make some friends and get started…

Episode Thoughts:

So, Cao Boi joins the proud tradition of people who are in trouble because they don’t shut up. Any examples of true gamers who haven’t been aware of how their talkativeness (maybe not a word) affects their tribe mates?

The challenge clue says, “You may get a better life at camp, or just go home feeling blue.” There’s an “Arrested Development” joke in there somewhere…

Holy crap was that tribe swap boring.

Nate: “It’s like they took us out of the ghetto and put us in Bel Air.” So basically his life got flipped, turned upside down.

I like Stephannie being the conversation facilitator. You’re on an island with reality TV types. They’re all dying to talk. Let them.

It’s easy to write Parvati off as “The Flirt,” but her game is so much more terrifying than that. Dozens of “Survivor” women have broken down their charm to simply, “She’s a hot girl, I want to do things to her.” But Parvati has a unique ability in that she makes you want her to like you. Does that make sense? It isn’t sexual, and it isn’t purely aesthetic, because people of all genders and sexual preferences fall for it. I think the best way to relate it to people is the scene in “Mean Girls” where Regina George is fixing Cady Heron’s hair, and Cady says, “The weird thing about hanging out with Regina was that I could hate her, and at the same time, I still wanted her to like me.” And what makes Parvati so dangerous is that there really aren’t any reasons to hate her to begin with.

“We can align with some of the Asians,” has to be in the running for one of the weirdest “Survivor” quotes ever.

Followed up by, “I’m here to make friends.” You don’t hear that much anymore.

I kind of love Nate.

“That’s a lot of meat.” – Parvati Shallow (OK, maybe she did some flirting)

Classic challenge here. I like this one when it’s competitive (Palau) and hate it when it’s not (Caramoan).

I’m getting a refresher on Ozzy this season too. I remember being a little shocked when he freaked out after losing challenges in South Pacific, but here he is throwing down the bags after the challenge.

It’s like Penner’s playing chess and Jessica’s playing OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT SHELL!


Discussion Questions:

In the case of Yul’s over-powered, after-the-votes-are-read idol, is it better that everyone knows you have it?

How have Ozzy and Parvati changed?

Has Penner changed at all?

Is it better to string along someone as wishy-washy as Jessica and hope people won’t respect her at the end or send her packing?

Post your answers and questions below, and be sure to swing by True Dork Times for awards, stats, and more…

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18 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 3”

  1. Jeff Pitman Says:

    With respect to Yul’s idol: one key aspect is he has to hand it off to someone BEFORE tribal. So it’s better that only one or two people know, because otherwise, the entire tribe will be begging for it, and it’s a great way to blindside Yul if you get enough people to act like someone is targeted. I wonder if he let Becky have it this time, or if Cao Boi & Flica were solid enough before leaving that he didn’t risk it.

    I thought Ozzy’s tantrum after the challenge was funny (in a not-actually-funny way) too. He seemed to just ignore Yul’s suggestion to try to win by just tackling the other tribe, and keep right on trucking. Had they had Ozzy and Yul on the defensive end, rather than Cao Boi and Yul, maybe it could have worked. But it’s odd that Yul suggested it in a vacuum, then decided to just go ahead and try it. Was there some discussion that was cut out?

    I’ve never understood how Parvati’s alleged charms work. “I’ll bet you could eat that whole thing yourself” doesn’t strike me as particularly alluring. Maybe you have to be there?

    As for Flica, the greatest moment in the episode was watching Penner desperately trying to find some common ground through which to explain the need for numbers. After striking out with his chess analogy, he just tries nodding. Clearly Flica doesn’t really like him all that much, but it’s also clear that they really have nothing in common. Logic vs a brick wall. As with Brandon Hantz, there’s no logical reason to keep someone who’s that much of a loose cannon around any longer than the one or two votes you need to establish a majority.

    • gordonholmes Says:

      Parvati’s charms really need to be witnessed first hand. I picked up on it the 2nd time I interviewed her (for ATWFF).

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        That makes sense. One thing I meant to comment on was just how much screen time Parvati’s had–I didn’t remember her doing anything much in Cook Islands, but she’s been one of the biggest narrators. Clearly her charm worked on production, which might explain why she was brought back as a Favourite. That in-person charisma was probably why Jonathan was targeting her out of the gate in Micronesia too…

    • Drew M Says:

      Really interesting how we perceived Penner’s style (slightly) differently, Jeff. I think he does certainly take the rational approach, like Yul, but I think he’s got a healthy amount of right brain in him, too. He’s an actor and writer after all. You’re certainly right that it was two Thinkers applying the full court press on two Feelers, but oddly Penner probably shares more of Flicka’s creative mental tendencies than Yul does of Cao-Boi. And yet Yul is the one who is successful in his pitch. Yul is kind of good at this Survivor thing.

      • Jeff Pitman Says:

        I think part of the Penner-Flica conflict was the age difference, but it’s interesting that the same was true for Yul-Cao Boi, with the ages reversed. Maybe it’s mostly that Yul is a lawyer, and trained at convincing randomly selected people of his position, whereas as a creative person, Penner mostly gets to make his statements as he sees fit?

      • Drew M Says:

        Yep, that’s exactly it isn’t it. Penner is like a basketball player who always knows how to get himself open for shots, but can’t actually make many. We’ll see that he’s constantly maneuvering in to what he thinks is a good position, but can’t nail the shot when it matters.

  2. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    I’m pretty sure that Ozzy and Parvati haven’t changed as much as we think they have.

    Personally, this episode reminded me exactly why I was so disgusted to see Parvati being brought back over almost any other female player. Perhaps she comes across better in person than she does on camera, but even now, knowing that she played a perfectly good game in Micronesia, I just wanted to throttle her as she started giggling over the guys.

    Most of this is kneejerk feminist reaction, but it’s also the sheer aimlessness of it. She doesn’t seem to have any solid goal in mind, beyond keeping herself off the hit-list. Perhaps she’s actually employing her own version of the Sandra strategy: anybody but me. Except without the read on people that Sandra has. But honestly, to me she comes across kind of like Flica… more about wanting to make friends (with the cool kids!) and have fun than play the game.

    Speaking of Flica, I thought that most of her non-committal attitude to Jonathan was because he was so over-bearing. This is a problem Penner’s had with every season he’s been on, and Flica’s expression made me interpret her monosyllables as: “Keep quiet, and maybe he’ll go away!”

    Penner has got a little better at this with time, but he always struggles to empathise with anybody who’s coming at the game in a different direction. Or at least, he struggles to rein it in when he talks to them. I can see how Flica is getting intimidated.

    Significant points of this episode for me: the new Raro tribe picking on Candice to go to Exile Island. Jonathan asks why they would do it, and he and Yul conclude that they’re trying to protect her–which seems a bizarre thing to tell the rest of their tribe, since it should put a target on Candice’s back! Luckily, they’re the only alliance that seems to know how to play the game.

    How did Raro come to that decision? If Adam and Parvati brought it up, you have to hope somebody else on Raro took that into account. Candice is one of the smallest on Aitu, so it might have been purely to keep the challenge weaklings around (in which case, they picked the wrong person).

    Finally, I wonder how much this moment played into Candice’s mutiny. It certainly demonstrated to her that Adam and Parvati were looking out for her best interests.

    Of course, that particular move almost backfired on them, since it nearly destroyed Candice’s alliance by stealing their majority! Which has always made it one of the more interesting Exiles for me.

    Anyway, Candice’s alliance did pull it out when Yul talked Cao Boi into saving Becky. The formation of this alliance is the other significant thing for me, partly because Yul (future Godfather of the Cook Islands) had so little do with it. Becky was mostly responsible for engineering it, which I think is worth bearing in mind when she later claims to have been a co-strategic partner.

    Also, it’s never made clear why Becky and Cao Boi effectively turn on each other this episode–Becky excludes Cao Boi from her alliance, and Cao Boi actually suggests Becky’s name for the vote. I understand that Becky reminded Cao Boi of his ex-wife, which was not a good thing, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see them willing to throw away their numbers advantage.

    Random other observation: in her vote off words, Sundra says she’s voting for Becky because she knows she won’t be going home. Yul said at one point that they didn’t know where Sundra was, so it seems likely that they’ve been talking to her.

    • Jeff Pitman Says:

      “Luckily, they’re the only alliance that seems to know how to play the game.” Probst defended the wholesale recruiting for this season as that it was refreshing having people unfamiliar with the show play Survivor, just like it was in Borneo. How dare you contradict his glass-half-full view?

      You raise a good point about Sundra. Probst even highlights how she’s a potentially valuable swing vote, with no pre-existing ties, yet we were never shown any of that, apart from a brief glimpse of her hanging out with Ozzy.

      • Katie Bieber (@Dithyrambic) Says:

        For the first several years, I just watched without really reading anything about the show but then a few years ago I started getting more involved and noticed the resentment a lot of people feel toward the “recruits.” Just watching, I was oblivious to any of it, but now rewatching you really can tell a difference. Hindsight, as they say.
        I personally found Borneo somewhat tedious but I think this season does have a good balance of people who know how to play and those who either don’t know or don’t care. It is less interesting, though, to watch someone who is probably just hoping to get a modeling or acting job out of it than someone who is looking for the pride and honor that comes with being Sole Survivor (Russell Hantz has that in spades).

        That being said, I was surprised with how well Cecelia took being voted out. I am always surprised when they give some sort of sentiment wishing their tribe will do well without them, as if they still feel a sort of allegiance. I am pretty sure my loyalty would die with being voted out. Maybe she had already gotten out of the experience what she had hoped, but I thought she would be a bit more frustrated. She did say something to the effect of, they would be regretting getting rid of her, but it wasn’t with the anger or vigor I expected to see. I suppose it’s possible she was just exhausted.

      • Drew M Says:

        Here’s the problem as I see it. I get that you’re going to need or want recruits to fill out a season. But in Cook Islands when you’ve recruited Yul, Ozzy, Penner? Pretty strong. Yul and Penner demonstrated a pretty sophisticated grasp of how Survivor works. Recruit away, but get people who will at least pick up the game fast and are there for the right reasons. As opposed to the other type of people we can all imagine.

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        To be fair to Probst, that alliance *is* mostly recruits (save for Candice). And I think somebody said last week that Cao Boi was one of the applicants?

        To rebut Probst, if you’re trying to recapture Borneo, try casting and editing like Borneo. I’m working my way through that season at the moment, thanks to Hulu, and it’s striking how different the cast is. I do think you have to recruit to get that divergence at this point of the game–but most of their recruits are the pretty people, whereas Borneo’s cast were more on the gritty side.

  3. Drew M Says:

    While I can see why people would think these swaps make for boring TV, I always love watching them (the pick ’em ones at least) and seeing how the new tribes shake out. I cannot think of a time where a pick ’em swap had boring results or made for uneven tribes, likely because pick ’ems are designed to create fairness. Does someone know why they stopped the pick ’ems and started doing it totally random? As we’ve seen, when you leave it up to chance, tribe balance can get way out of whack. And I personally liked the women pick, men pick, mash them together proceedings, thought it was a cool way to sort it out.

    It’s easy to say this because we know the eventual outcome, but I think Yul’s strategy with SuperIdol 2006 is as good as you can play it. Reveal it to just a few people early on to build further trust, and then let the whole tribe know at an opportune time. If I recall, he does the tribe reveal with 8 people left? At that point he has his group of four plus newly acquired Penner on his side, so he must feel it’s safe to let the cat out of the bag as that’s 5 votes in a tribe of 8. If I was in possession of a similar idol, my concern would be the earlier I revealed it, the more time my opponents would have to devise a way to flush it, or blindside me. Granted, if I were Yul playing against this group, I’m not that concerned someone’s savvy enough to plan a counter attack, but in a vacuum you assume someone or ones is capable of it.

    I’ve always been a little unclear of the rules of the Immunity Challenge here (which I agree, perfect Survivor challenge, has everything you’d want, Palau is perhaps top 3 in terms of challenges in a season and this one in that season is so great). When Yul wants to turn around and tackle Raro, if he successfully got the guy at the front of the line to the ground, does Aitu win? Or is he simply trying to fend them off so that Aitu can then run ahead and create some distance. He looked like he was ready to just wrestle it out, but I interpret it that all he could do was prolong the challenge, where Raro was able to win if they tackled Yul.

    I can’t express how much I enjoyed this good cop – bad cop routine of sorts by Yul and Jonathan. I love how the editing goes right back and forth between the two so you can contrast the different approaches. Yul, naturally, takes the hyper rational approach, and it pretty quickly works. Notice how Cao-Boi responds instantly when Yul gets forceful about Becky’s challenge strength. When a mild mannered guy like Yul raises his voice a little like that, it’s incredibly effective. Flip over to Penner where he’s taking a sort of emotional and slightly threatening approach with Flicka, that ends up working out but only because Cao-Boi convinces her, who was of course convinced by Yul. Was it that true that Becky was better in challenges that Cecelia? I’m not sure, but Yul sure made it sound like it was. And so interesting that the rest of Aitu pegs Jonathan as the manipulative one, where really it was Yul and Becky who did the bulk of the convincing. There’s where Penner always struggles in Survivor. He is anything but subtle in his dealings. Definitely got better in the Philippines, but this trait of his was still there.

    Two random other thoughts:

    -Pirates of the Caribbean theme music! Great tune.

    -I miss underwater fishing scenes.

  4. FiligirlFu Says:

    Pre-swap vote-offs – I think this is the first season two men were the first two voted out. (anyone disagree?) Cao Boi is lucky his tribe is actually good, or he would have been back to the nail salon. Being Asian myself, I have no problem with Asian jokes, but if nobody else is laughing, you should probably just pipe down or go laugh maniacly at yourself elsewhere.

    Tribe Swap – While boring, it was probably the fairest way to divide the tribes up. I found it interesting how the ethnic tribes chose alignments (e.g. Af-Amer tribe subdivided by gender, Asian tribe subdivided by within-ethnicity, Hispanic tribe… gender & age?). In the end, the lazy ones did not float through to the merge, and thank God for that! Can you imagine how the love-at-first-sight storyline could have gone had Billy made it to the merge and/or to Ponderosa?! Yikes! Billy got off sooo easy, in later seasons, Jeff would have been all over that story line!

    Classic Challenge – Yul is usually pretty thorough. The fact that he thought overnight about where to find the HII shows his analytical nature. However, at the challenge, he seemed to think he could simply take down an Aitu member first and win… but that’s not the rules: Jeff said they had to catch the other tribe and bring a member to the ground; therefore, going around the course in the wrong direction (“stopping to fight”) should not have won them the challenge – they would have to throw Aitu to the ground, run a lap, and THEN pull someone down. Regardless, it didn’t matter since Cao Boi fell like a house of cards.

    Ozzy – I have always liked him, despite throwing his second challenge ever. Like Stephenie (Palau) there is no quit in him. I find it interesting that Ozzy and Yul will end up on the same side in the end.

    Yul’s HII – While he could easily tell everyone he has it, so they don’t bother voting for him, this would only work when the numbers dwindle down. At this point, the tribe could throw 4 votes at him and 3 votes at someone else, leaving his/Becky’s votes insignificant. Gandalf says “Keep it secret, keep it safe” and that’s exactly what should be done until it’s a necessity to share information.

    Penner – Another player I have always loved to watch, but it’s probably because his game play was more pronounced because he was overly aggressive. While his arguments are sound, why would you want to bring Flicka into the alliance? She clearly is not thinking about the game or she wouldn’t have lifted the box to see what was underneath and let the chickens loose! He is the same Penner, just a little better at filtering as time went on, but still an obvious cerebral threat.

    Funniest Part of the Episode: Penner doing cat stretches to prepare for the challenge.

  5. Katie Bieber (@Dithyrambic) Says:

    The Jonathan-Flica scene reminded me so much of the Jonathan-Lisa scenes in the Philippines that it hurt! I think he did learn and evolve because he did actually have Lisa’s attention (for a little while) whereas Flica I think was just in it for the “experience.”

    I have never been a fan of Parvati’s game but obviously she is owed a great deal of respect for winning. Like Sarah said, as a woman I just find it kind of insulting. I am not sure I even really see or understand why the men are so bowled over. I guess that is why I have never been good at manipulating them (you may sense a hint of jealousy there). Parvati’s foil this season is Becky, who as Sarah mentioned, totally orchestrated the vote this time around with (according to the edit) very little if any input from Yul. He may have helped talk some people around, but only at Becky’s direction. Becky shows no interest in flirting or being the most popular girl in school, she is all about organizing the advantage. This worked against her with the jury votes, to some degree (although I think anyone would have lost to Yul) but it got her where she was trying to go.

    I don’t think it is worth stringing someone like Flica along because she is so wishy-washy. The any-way-the-wind-blows attitude does not a good ally make. Just like Brandon Hantz, you can’t reason with someone who is outside logic and you can’t convince them or predict their actions. A wild card is never safe to keep around (unless you’re Yul and have the all-powerful idol).

    I kind of like the idea of keeping the idol until after the votes. I think it means it won’t be wasted and put back into play over and over again like in Caramoan.

    I think Ozzy’s demeanor in this season is interesting because he truly believes he is going to win without much effort. When he came back the second time, he was more determined to win but Amanda kind of got in the way. By South Pacific, he was just bitter and ready to take down anyone and everyone to win. I think winning is a task he thought would be easy and then he became increasingly more frustrated when it wasn’t happening.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      Jonathan also had a similar frustration with Cirie in Micronesia. I’m not sure whether he’s changed so much as those three women are all very different. Flica tried to avoid the confrontation, Cirie met it head on, and Lisa was willing to be his friend but not necessarily his ally. I think he also has some awkward discussions with Candice shortly before the mutiny…

      Which isn’t to say that Jonathan isn’t good with women–he obviously worked pretty well with Eliza and Kathy in Micronesia–but incompatibility with other people’s games is a recurring issue with him.

  6. Glenn Oke Says:

    SO HAPPY that I found this. Especially on Cook Islands, which is quite an underrated season in my books.

    In regards to Ozzy and Parvati, it’s so interesting seeing how much editing can cause people to forget their first impressions over time. Even right back in his first season, Ozzy was always a whiny little douche. Sure, he’s a total challenge God and almost single-handedly won a lot of the challenges, but the sense of entitlement and almost bad sportsmanship is glaringly obvious right from the beginning. People forget that, had Aitu lost one more challenge before the merge, he would have been voted off. There are frequent citings of his poor social skills throughout the season.

    Parvati, on the other hand, gets kind of a bum rap this season. Everyone forgets that, until 2/3’s of the way through, she was always Top Three on the CBS popularity polls. And in both of her pre-merge tribes, she was basically in charge, particularly in the swap where she became Queen Raro and was running the show. And she’s consistently their MVP in most of the pre-merge challenges. Had Jonathan not flipped at the merge, she would have been our likely S13 winner 9 times out of 10.

    That’s the thing I love about Survivor still, is that it highlights so many little social psychology things that are totally relevant in day to day life. With Cao Boi, we see the incessant talking. Or with Flicka the painful flakiness. But the strong reactions to Parvati’s flirting strategy never ceases to amaze me in how divisive it (still) is. I think partially it’s because flirting to get ahead still has such strong negative connotations, when really there are so many different variations on it. The way Parvati uses it (for the most part), is less sexual and more just a way of making a connection with someone. It’s a way of creating a one on one bond and a closeness with someone. Flirting is best used not to stroke your own ego but to subtly engage someone elses, and make them feel special. I’m curious to know how much of the reaction is down to heavy handed editing versus how many of the contestants really felt it was too much in real life.

    Yul’s super powered Idol still upsets me to no end. I still don’t know why Jonathan didn’t just let him play in at F9 so at least it was out of the equation.

    And you raise a good point about the recruits! Yes, we can hate the idea conceptually, but if it produces players like Ozzy, Parvati, Yul, Nate and Penner in one season alone, what’s not to love (provided there’s some balance)?

    Great piece though – so glad I found this! I guess Twitter’s not completely evil after all..

    • Drew M Says:

      At the risk of expressing an unpopular opinion, I’ll say I’ve never had a problem with Parvati’s flirting strategy. She clearly recognizes she has this superhuman ability, so she uses it to further herself. It’s not unlike Ozzy using essentially only his challenge prowess to further himself. That being said, I of course get why her behavior would offend or annoy people. I just think you use whatever the best parts of your personality are to get to the end.

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