Survivor retro rewatch: Cook Islands episode 9, “Mutiny”

Still from Survivor: Cook Islands episode 9 "Mutiny" (2006). Image is a screengrab via CBS
Still from Survivor: Cook Islands episode 9 "Mutiny" (2006). Image is a screengrab via CBS /

Survivor: Cook Islands reached its second half, narratively speaking, without even getting to the merge, thanks to some people switching tribes.

Throughout this rewatch of Survivor: Cook Islands, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s been easier and easier to see how things from the premiere on have been building up to this moment, which basically divides the season into two parts. No matter when the merge happens, that’s usually what opens the second half of the season. But when you talk about Cook Islands, it’s impossible not to think about the rise of the Aitu Four, and that’s the true halfway point here. Let’s dive into episode 9.

Day 19 on Aitu started with Jonathan having a confab with his alliance of Candice, Yul, Becky, and Sundra. Jonathan opened things up, and in a confessional, he said the following:

"“But I don’t care how tight you think your fivesome is. Things are gonna change.”"

Then, to just make it a little more apparent, Yul made the case for keeping the alliance intact. Meanwhile, Candice had a confessional talking about “movement” in the game.

When editing this episode, how fast do you think production made the decision to put these confessionals and that scene in to open things up? That’s the kind of storytelling that sets the tone, and, since it airs before the credits, the intention is pretty clear.

Then, post-credits, Candice started making the case to jump ship from the alliance to Jonathan, and he sounded very receptive. Throw in a little ominous music, and you have your viewers on a knife edge.

However, then, the production muddied the waters a bit by switching over to Raro talking about the potential of a merge and Brad continuing to lose his standing because of his comments.

It all seemed normal for the first challenge of the episode, with Jeff Probst wearing a very orange Survivor hat instead of the cowboy hat he’s favored all throughout this season. Maybe the players should have known something was up based on the hat, really. Then, though, he said that everyone could “join the other tribe” in a “mutiny.” Players had to decide in 10 seconds.

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Probst got down to three seconds before Candice stepped off, and Jonathan did it when the count was at “one.”

Let’s take a moment and discuss the idea of the mutiny. It doesn’t happen very often in Survivor. Maybe it should, though. The last few episodes before the pre-merge sometimes feel like they’re just circling, circling, circling until Probst finally says “drop your buffs.” This mutiny flat-out sets the story for the entire rest of the season, and it jolts you back into paying close attention.

All of a sudden, four people — Sundra, Becky, Yul, and Ozzy — were left on Aitu. Now, Ozzy was the outsider of the four, and you’ll want to keep that in mind for down the road again, but for now? Well, there’s nothing like being abandoned by two tribemates to make you all band together.

For the reward, it all had to do with a barrel, with two people inside and two pushing, to collect buoys, float it out to flags, then dig up an axe to raise the four flags. To make it more appealing, the reward included letters from friends and family.

Raro’s barrel floated way off to the side, and as four Raro people who had to sit out watched, Aitu hung its flags, found its axe, and won reward. Ozzy took a moment to talk to Jonathan about mutiny, and then joined the Aitu group hug.Candice took the trip to Exile Island.

At the reward, the Aitu Four bonding experience began. There were tears, speeches, photos, and comfortable robes to wear. The confessionals from Ozzy and Yul solidified the perception of a tight-knit group, and Sundra talked about not quitting as well.

Back on Raro, sans Candice, Jonathan immediately began gaming and trying to put his best foot forward. It paid off a little with Adam, though.

The Aitu Four filed in for another immunity challenge against the eight members of Raro. Probst had his cowboy hat back on. All was right with the world, really.

This immunity challenge involved dropping cannonballs to raise buoys, followed by a buoy word unscrambler. It is perhaps better-known because of the Funny 115 entry on it. Parvati, Brad, Jonathan, and Rebecca had to play against Aitu. However, Aitu won the immunity challenge, Probst said Raro had “two big losses,” and it was on.

It came down to lying to Brad on Nate’s behalf. Jonathan’s charm offensive worked … albeit temporarily, since Candice and Adam rekindled their connection. She then started talking about Jonathan. For all his talk of game playing, this was a weakness of Jonathan’s here in his first game — he struggled hard with seeing how people see him.

At Tribal, Jenny pointed out that the numbers advantage was big. Probst, of course, pressed Jonathan and Candice. Then Brad openly said “I don’t trust everyone on this tribe,” which, sound effects aside, is not the kind of thing you want to say, even when you’ve been assured you’re safe.

Just to make sure that Survivor watchers knew the game had gotten serious, Brad joined the jury upon his voting off, with all seven votes he could have gotten.

Next: Survivor retro rewatch: Gabon episode 3

Cook Islands episode 10 has more of Jeff Probst’s cowboy hat and also another message in a bottle, because clearly the mutiny was not enough.