‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 15


EP15Some 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 get started…

Episode Thoughts:

What did the Internet think was going to be the change at the end that Probst hinted about in the open?

Sundra, if you think your alliance hasn’t discussed what to do at final four, it’s because they haven’t been discussing it with you.

If Ozzy’s plan was to go for the hardest bag first, I can dig it. That’s how I eat. I eat the thing I like least, first.

What happened to Nate’s foot?!

Ozzy’s challenge immunities and Yul’s “Get Out of Jail” free card are making the tail end of this season suck.

They burned all the torches?! That’s eBay gold!

Before we get to the final immunity challenge, let me make it clear that Yul can have a seat cause of his magic idol.

Those foot close-ups are unnecessary. Bleh.

We’re going to go to matches! That’s what I’m going to name my fantasy football team.

So, this final three came from behind and only really stabbed Penner in the back. So, no bitter jurors, right?

If Ozzy is a surfer, why is his surfer impersonation so bad?

Also I wouldn’t brag about coming up with the stratagem that sent Billy packing.

So Yul, what do you think is the most important element? The part you dominated or the part Ozzy dominated?

Ugh…I also hate the “talk trash about your opponent” question.

Wow, you know Ozzy’s story about his dad has gotta be the real deal because of how awkwardly he lied in South Pacific.

Sorry Ozzy, I’m voting for killer strategy over killer challenge skills ten times out of ten.

Final Thoughts:

Should Yul’s overpowered immunity idol count against him? My final answer is…sadly, yes.

Yul is an amazing, fascinating player. His strategic chops have to rank up their with the best the game has ever seen. His style of play is the reason I still watch this show after 47 seasons.

But, it can’t be denied that his mega-powered idol handcuffed the rest of the players toward the end.

Is any of this Yul’s fault? Of course not.

That’s why they should bring him back…immediately. To see what he can do with an even playing field and for my own selfish reasons.

Discussion Questions::

As a juror would you respect Ozzy and Yul’s decision to go for a tie or would that seem wishy washy?

Sundra voted for Yul. What if Becky’s admission that Yul had offered her the idol had swayed her? What would the world be like with Ozzy Lusth – Cook Islands champion?

Where does Cook Islands rank for you?

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

Even More Whatnot…

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15 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 15”

  1. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    First, thanks again for organizing this, Gordon. It’s been fun revisiting this season.

    I’m not so sure Yul’s idol should count against him (in this episode, at least). The fact that neither Ozzy nor Sundra took Adam up on his half-hearted attempt to flush the idol at F5 speaks to Yul’s social game: they didn’t want, whether to Yul or to the jury, to be seen as betraying him. There was no threat of retribution there, they were just being loyal.

    In light of that, I think the decision to force the tie at F4 was the right one, and Becky’s reasoning for turning down the idol was also solid. Perhaps with perfect hindsight, maybe she should have taken the idol, but getting to F3 under her own power was an admirable step to take, at least in the minds of the jurors. Sadly, the firemaking debacle sucked away all the jury respect she should have received for that.

    The jury vote that confounds me the most is Jenny’s. Sundra’s makes sense: on re-watch, she seemed much closer to Yul and Becky than to Ozzy. Jenny never even met Ozzy, except during his Raro camp invasion with Cao Boi and Flica, but apparently didn’t feel Yul or Becky contributed anything to Puka’s early success, or anything after that. Bizarre. Actually, Rebecca’s vote is also weird, since Ozzy’s response to her question was just a “me too!” after Yul crafted a thoughtful, sincere reply. Honestly, it’s a bit sad that Yul didn’t win by a larger margin. He gave the strongest FTC performance. Maybe they were all struck by Ozzy’s emotional story about his biological dad, or just like physical dominance?

    Cook Islands was a good season, with a great location, spectacular challenges, a nail-biter finish, great winner, and multiple standout performances, but it’s not without its flaws. New Raro was overloaded with boring stiffs (including Adam, disproving the “takes one to know one” hypothesis). Yul’s overpowered idol probably prevented some late-game strategy. But part of the problem also was the deficit of strategic thinking among the Raros, which was probably due to the recruit-heavy nature of the season. A good chunk of the cast were comfortable following, voting people out when they had numbers, but seemed bewildered about how to proceed once in the minority, unable or unwilling to forge new alliances. The editing focused almost exclusively on Yul, and shafted Becky. Still, a satisfying finale and a satisfying season. Not the greatest, but better than most of the post-HvsV fare.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      Regarding Jenny’s vote, I always got the impression from her interviews that she never really cared for Yul. She doesn’t say anything specifically negative, but she did say she didn’t click with Brad, Yul or Becky on Puka because they were the young-go-getters while she was already established with career and family.

      I remember hearing from somewhere that she and Rebecca voted for Ozzy because he said he’d use the money to get himself through school. I find it kind of ironic that half of Ozzy’s votes came from people he’d never even been on a tribe with!

      Speaking of FTC performances, Becky could definitely have given a better one–though it’s easy for me to say that after spending years watching them. She should have pointed out to the jury that she was responsible for forging the power alliance on Aitu after the first tribal swap. She could have put forward the narrative of herself and Candice as the power brokers on that tribe controlling the vote, and how when Candice turned enemy, it was Becky who came out on top. Of course, like all good FTC performances, this would have required her setting the scene for that narrative in advance. But she did have a story beyond being one of the Aitu Four underdogs.

  2. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    Before the rewatch, I would probably have said that Yul benefited hugely from the idol and the final 3…. now I’m not so sure.

    What I’ve really been struck by is how emotional the alliance of the Aitu 4 was. Sundra was strategising before the mutiny, but afterwards, she seemed purely focused on getting her Aitu family as far as they could. Ozzy was all up about being fair and sniffing over Becky and Sundra not deserving to be there…. I think Drew M said somewhere that Yul had a final two deal with Ozzy. We’ll never know if Ozzy would have honoured it, but watching that last episode again made me think he just might have taken Yul to the end over Becky, because he liked and respected Yul so much more.

    And really, Parvati and Adam found the way to flush out Yul’s idol, when they urged Ozzy (and later Sundra) to vote Yul along with them, offering up their own necks for the blowback vote. It would not have left Ozzy/Sundra with a clear majority for the next vote, but it would have taken away Yul’s advantage. The fact that we never saw Ozzy and Sundra worry about Yul having the idol or discuss the problem of getting him out (compare to Becky and Sundra worrying about Ozzy’s immunity potential) implies that neither of them want him out. Maybe it was edited out, but you’d think that kind of scene would ratchet up the tension.

    Watching the reunion, where a disgruntled Ozzy pointed out that all four of them were making the decisions, not just Yul, I think they underestimated Yul’s dominance in the eyes of the jury (and how he might be rewarded for it). So, if anything, Yul benefited from the naivete of recruits… He’s hardly the first!

    I don’t want to say he played a perfect game… he didn’t. But he did do a great job of balancing a passive vs aggressive and emotion vs logic in his gameplay. I’d definitely rate him higher than some (OK, many) of the other people in the Hall of Fame.

    Regarding the tie… I’d feel it was wishy-washy, but I think in the confines of this game, it makes sense. As I said above, the Aitu Four is an alliance built on emotion, and refusing to turn against each other is a part of that emotion.

    Ozzy winning Cook Islands would have delighted my husband. I would have been disappointed, but I’d have lived with it (him winning South Pacific would have been a travesty on the other hand, but that’s due to the whole Redemption Island issue not Ozzy himself). I wonder if though, had Yul lost, he would have been brought back for a second stab at it. I think Ozzy would have returned regardless, but had Yul made it so close and *not* won, I think production would have been more willing to let him try again.

    I don’t think Sundra’s vote would have been swayed by Becky anyway. I have my suspicions that the jury were aware that Ozzy and Yul were going to draw the most votes, and anybody who felt tempted to vote for Becky was more likely to want Yul to win than Ozzy… so the safe bet is to go with Yul, even if he’s the second choice. I’m not sure if anybody did want to vote Becky over Yul, but I do think she’d have fared respectably against Ozzy in a final two situation.

    I still love Cook Islands… I’d heard people say it’s quite bland on a rewatch, but I didn’t find it that way. My tastes lean towards the geeks who waffle about the game in (allegedly) boring fashion, the scenery and challenges are amazing and the Aitu Four underdog story is insane. It’s going to stay one of my favourites.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      PS Almost forgot–huge thanks for doing this. It’s a great way to spend the summer!

    • Drew M Says:

      I’m not sure that he had an out and out final 2 deal with Ozzy (though that wouldn’t surprise me), but according to Yul he had convinced each of the other 3 that they should take him to the final 2 because they could beat him. Now, this strategy never came in to play of course, so we’re taking Yul at his word that he had that all set up. But because he of the emotional ties he worked so hard to forge, wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he would have been taken to the final 2 regardless of who made the decision.

  3. Drew M Says:

    I didn’t find the forced tie to be inappropriate at all, it made complete sense they would want to go down that road. After directly voting out most of the folks sitting across from them on the jury, you want to maintain some sense of loyalty to a group in their eyes. And I think it was clear that it wasn’t a tie like in Palau, for example, where there emerged a clear “2 vs. 2 and no one’s budging” situation. They had all discussed this and liked this to be a good conclusion to their alliance’s role in the season. Good on them.

    I kind of have faith that Sundra, if she had learned Becky had been offered Yul’s idol, would have been understanding of their tighter bond, and still voted for who she thought was more deserving. That being said, no I’m really not ready to live in a world where Ozzy wins. However we already live in a world where a guy named Fabio won, and it can’t be as bad as that.

    What an impressive final 5 immunity performance by Ozzy. Coming from behind and then beating a guy like Yul on a very difficult puzzle is no small potatoes. Strategy or not to start with the hardest bag to get, you have to have the kahones to actually pull that strategy off. And really, here’s to Ozzy’s amazing challenge performance the entire darn season. We’ve never seen anything like it before or since. There’s been other seasons with one person dominating the challenges, Tom and Terry come to mind, but even they didn’t do it in such dominating fashion like Ozzy did. Great fun to watch.

    I for one enjoy Fallen Comrades. I know many rag on it for taking up episode time and being cheesy, but I find it a neat way to review the season through the eyes of all the characters.

    Quite something they stay up on that smallest sized perch for as long as they do in the final immunity challenge. Any idea why Yul crouches here? Seems like that would be mighty painful quite fast. I actually wondered if he fell off on purpose, so as to avoid winning immunity and being really forced to choose who to give up the hidden idol to. Maybe he started in the crouch position so he could make it look like an accident when he attempted to stand up? Hare-brained theory.

    If Yul was just playing the odds, there’s a low chance that Sundra And Ozzy would vote for him at the final 4, since there’s really no way of knowing if he gave the idol to Becky or not, so why chance it. Meaning that Yul could in fact give it to Becky. But do Sundra and Ozzy go a step further and discern that’s what Yul would do, and then vote for him? Around and around we go.

    You wonder if they were just banging away at the flint for an hour, or if this was clever editing. I think Becky said during the reunion that the two of them were actively trying to help each other! Each may have known at this point that they had small chances to beat either of the men in the finals.

    I hate to be cold, but does Yul see Ozzy cry and mentally see votes slipping away from him? What can he possibly do about that? As already stated, Ozzy seems to have received two votes based only on wanting to put himself through school. Maybe it’s even more impressive then that Yul was able to hold on to 5 votes.

    While I do think the hidden idol was a gigantic advantage, because he used it as a tool to bind an alliance together and not just as a gun with one bullet in it, we can’t dock Yul too many points. He used it exactly as he should have and it worked almost perfectly. I found Jeff calling out Yul for toting the group advantages of the idol funny. Yes, it’s easy for Yul to say it worked, but the fact is it did work, and there that alliance stood in the final 4. This all being said, Yul absolutely needs to play again, so we can see him without a super idol as protection. He did so many other subtle things well that didn’t involve the idol that would work again in a new season. He’s still one of the best to ever play. If you want to make a Baseball Hall of Fame analogy, Yul is Greg Maddux. He’s not going to outright dazzle you with strategy or physical prowess, but his superior intelligence and ability to assess and ultimately defeat his competition means he wins a lot of games consistently.

    I have loved going back to Cook Islands and dissecting it as we have. I’ve always had it as a middle of the road season, solid but not amazing, but I think it may rise in my personal rankings after this re-watch. Yul’s a guy for me who can absolutely carry a season, despite what CBS thinks. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I find him to be so interesting and complex. Put that with Ozzy, Penner, the underdog story, and the location, and you have a very good season produced. I’ve been thinking all re-watch how the three who returned for Fans vs. Favourites were perceived when they did come back. We remember this history differently now because of the events of that “bigger season” but as far as I can remember, Penner was probably the biggest no-brainer casting choice we had. Ozzy you could understand, but the fan base would probably have been ok not seeing him again. And Parvati’s inclusion was pretty quizzical at the time, and now look what she’s gone on to do. Penner for a long time was largely “the guy who got pulled for the bum knee”. This re-watch has reaffirmed what a delight of a character he is.

    Another excellent Summer Book Club Gordon, thanks for organizing this again. I’m always game for some intelligent Survivor discussion. You’ve picked two great seasons to do this for, I can only imagine a third go round would be just as fun.

    • Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

      Love the Greg Maddux comparison – one of my favorite baseball players ever, for exactly the reasons you state, which indeed overlap nicely with Yul’s strengths.

      • Drew M Says:

        I just thought of that one today, pretty apt eh? Gordon, if he hadn’t won a World Series in 1982, we could do the Ozzy/Ozzie Smith comparison really easily.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      I thought Yul’s crouched position was to lower his centre of gravity and thus improve his balance. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of cramping.

      I would have said Yau Man was the biggest no-brainer for the original Fans vs Favorites. I remember predicting Parvati for the win in that season, purely because she was the person I was most annoyed to see back. (And although she went on to play a great game, I still find it frustrating that they picked her on the strength of Cook Islands when so many more interesting games went unrewarded–probably not how All-Stars season work, but still..)

      • Drew M Says:

        Yes I forgot to include the rest of the cast. Penner, Yau-Man and Cirie were the slam dunks. CBS had a LOT of people turn them down for that season too, if you believe what players say in interviews. But I know Tom was being heavily considered, so was Yul for that matter. Tom I think did turn them down, otherwise he would have had a slot on that season.

  4. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    One thing Blood vs. Water-related item to go along with the reunion episode here: in their pre-game BvsW interviews, Candice and John reveal they started dating after she filmed Cook Islands, but before it aired. So the whole Candice-Adam showmance must have been awkward for John to sit through, made all the more awkward by Probst practically begging her and Adam to tell him that they’re still dating at the reunion.

  5. George W Says:

    First, thanks for organizing this very intelligent and mature discussion of Cook Islands and thanks for the other posters for being so intelligent and mature.

    Yul did have an overpowered hidden immunity idol, but he was smart enough to find it right away with the clues given. Once the idol was revealed, the remaining players could have flushed the idol at any time, but Yul’s social game and the Aitu bond was strong enough to keep that from happening. Third, after the mutiny, it was eight Raros to four Aitus. Yul was lucky to have Ozzy, the greatest physical Survivor player ever, but Aitu was only four with the other two being Becky and Sundra, hardly the most inspiring challenge competitors. Yul was pivotal in the challenges that knocked Raro down to five. People might complain about the advantageous double elimination twist, but had Aitu lost and gone to tribal, that “advantage” would have doomed them, knocking them down to two. Fourth, Yul was instrumental in using rational and emotional appeal to flip Jonathan to Aitu’s side and thus complete Aitu’s highly improbably comeback. Fifth, Yul was also smart enough to make a deal with Adam to boot Jonathan first to earn Adam’s winning vote. Perhaps Yul’s greatest asset in the game is that one never gets the sense that he has a malicious bone in his body. When people get voted out by Yul’s alliance, they’re naturally unhappy about it, but they would never think Yul has anything against them personally, that he voted against them because of some personal foible or annoyance even if they did actually annoy him. At least from this edit, it’s always clearly just a game for Yul and people go because they are the most logical threat. How do you vote against someone like that when you’re on the jury? Well, if you vote for someone who just flat-out astonishes you in another aspect of the game.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Ozzy is the best physical challenge competitor in Survivor history by a significant margin. He’s not always going to win puzzle or question/informational challenges and he’s sometimes going to lose a challenge like trying to keep breathing while the tide is rising as he did to Jason in Micronesia, but if you have to run, swim, or use dexterity, he’s Survivor challenge god. He won 5 of the 6 individual immunity challenges here and 1 of the only 2 individual reward challenges (they really skimped on that this season). Colby won 7 total individual challenges in Australian Outback, but he actually had 4 more opportunities than Ozzy had this season. Terry also won 7 total individual challenges in Panama, but he had 3 more opportunities than Ozzy did this season. Ozzy was voted off early in Micronesia and South Pacific so he didn’t get much of a chance to compete in individual challenges there, though he won 6 Redemption Island challenges in South Pacific. What’s indisputable though is how much Ozzy helps out on team challenges when he either extends a lead or catches up a lag on his leg of a challenge. Sometimes he just figures out a strategy to singlehandedly lead his team to victory like when he pushed all the coconuts to the front of the cage in that memorable Micronesia reward challenge. He hunts and fishes and provides coconuts like no one else who has ever played the game, and we get plenty of reactions of other players just in awe of him.

    But ultimately, it was Yul, not Ozzy, who flipped Jonathan and gave Aitu the pivotal win and for that and all the other qualities he brought to the table, Yul is a most deserving winner, not only for this season but one of the most deserving ever. He and Ozzy led the Aitu four into one of the biggest and most emotional comebacks ever in Survivor history.

    Cook Islands has always been one of my favorite seasons, maybe the best season without any returnees, though China, Australian Outback, and of course Borneo are right up there. I think that the producers were sensitive to the contestants representing their respective races to some degree and wound up collecting a smarter group than usual, Billy and Flicka aside. There really were very few duds this season – Cristina, Brad, and Rebecca probably come closest for me, but I didn’t actively dislike anyone like I do most seasons. (Characters who people love to hate are good for the ratings, but not really why I watch the show.) I do find Candice bland, but accidentally making Billy fall in love with her easily merited her participation.

    While we don’t fully see what Parvati would become in her next two seasons, I can see why she was brought back, especially compared to returnees like Candice, Danielle, or Russell Swan, and it’s fun to see “the origin” of Parvati. Toss in the sociologically interesting Cao Boi, the oblivious Billy, the effervescent Nate, the underrated Becky, and of course Yul, Ozzy, and Penner, and it’s a great cast. And I never hear Sundra mentioned when people talk about beautiful Survivors, but I think she’s among the prettiest.

    • Drew M Says:

      That’s a part of Ozzy’s challenge game that gets overlooked, I think, his value to his team in team challenges. His team doesn’t win every team challenge over the course of his 3 seasons, but he always dominates his part of it and often will single handedly lead his team to victory, many times from behind. His team challenge prowess in FvF is almost as fun for me to watch as his individual efforts in Cook Islands.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      I fully agree with you on Sundra… absolutely stunning.

      I disagree on Ozzy in team challenges though. He’s a huge advantage for any team, but he’s not necessarily a team player–or at least he’s not one to coordinate a team effectively. We see a little of that in Fans vs Favorites, but it’s really noticeable in South Pacific.

      Savaii had the physical strength to completely wipe the floor with Upolu, yet Upolu held their own because they invariably had a better strategy for the challenges (it was the littlest things like in the pig-eating challenge where three of Upolu went to the far side of the pig and three to the near side, while Savaii all clustered on the near-side). Savaii won the challenges that could be bruted out, but they couldn’t balance their team effectively as Upolu could and did. That’s not purely Ozzy’s fault, but pulling a team together is clearly not his strong point.

      In that regard, I do wonder how much of the Aitu 4’s team successes were down to another person (the temptation is to say Yul, but for all we know, Sundra could be a challenge coordinator extraordinaire) having everybody prepped for their role, rather than Ozzy simply gaining them a huge lead.

      But you can’t knock Ozzy’s challenge ability. He’s a genuine all rounder, since he can even hold his own in a puzzle–he might not beat somebody like Penner in a direct puzzle race, but he isn’t just a physical player.

  6. George W Says:

    Some favorite quotes from this season…

    Billy: My prize isn’t even the million dollars. My prize was that I fell in love in this game. Love at first sight. Her name is Candice.

    Brad (about Cao Boi): In my heart of hearts, I don’t think he’s all there and will never be there (long pause) unless he’s medicated.

    J.P.: All the stuff that came out of Billy’s mouth tonight was just ridiculous. I don’t know. Words can’t describe about the Candice situation. If it’s true, it’s true, but (emphatically) it’s not true.

    Probst (on Cao Boi’s fire-making method): Cao Boi’s either going to be a hero or really silly.

    Jenny (about Aitu): And if we merge, we’re going to pick them off like zits.

    Jenny (about Candice and Adam): I wonder what they’re talking about? Parvati: They want to make babies and get a house with a white picket fence.

    Jonathan (to Yul): Let’s say I did what you’re proposing, okay, but which I’m not actually entertaining, but I’ll play the scenario.

    Yul (after explaining mass increases faster than surface area): I’m never going to get a date again. Parvati: Smart equals sexy.

    Jonathan: If I switch over to Aitu, I’m a complete bastard, if I stick with Raro, I’m a complete bastard!

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