Shutdown Corner's "Survivor" correspondent is Chris Wilcox, longtime Cowboys fan and proprietor of BlueandOrange.net. He'll keep us posted on Jimmy Johnson's progress through the season
Last week, Jimmy Johnson looked to be on shaky ground on Survivor Nicaragua. Physically, he wasn't holding up well, throwing up and getting little sleep, even admitting that he was the second-weakest member of his tribe, shortly before they voted out the weakest. Socially, he didn't seem to have any strong alliances, and a few tribe members (notably Jimmy T, the fisherman) seemed to have the coach in their crosshairs.
How did Coach Johnson fair in Week 2?
Thankfully for football fans, the coach improved his standing this week. He assumed more of a leadership role within his tribe, giving each tribemate their jobs around camp in the morning. Jimmy T. continued to show hostility towards the coach, chafing under his leadership. Marty, the technology executive, was more content to let Coach Johnson assume the leadership role, claiming that the leadership position would put a target on Johnson's back. Nevertheless, the rest of the tribe seemed pretty satisfied with Coach Johnson as the team leader.
One area where Coach Johnson's leadership skills helped the tribe was dealing with Holly, the swim coach. She had been aligned with Wendy the goat farmer last week before her ouster, and even contributed a vote towards her elimination. Coming back from camp, she had problems with the rest of the tribe, and after an off-hand comment by Dan the real estate agent concerning her sanity, Holly stole his expensive alligator shoes, filled them with sand, and threw them into the ocean without his knowledge. When Dan noticed his shoes missing, Holly suddenly had a crisis of conscience and admitted that it was her that threw the shoes into the ocean. Dan, understandably, was not quick to accept her apology, and suddenly Holly realized she was in a very vulnerable spot, as she had no allies in the game and was slowly losing whatever grip she once had on her sanity.
She expressed her desire to leave the game to Coach Johnson. The coach, having dealt with a football player or two who wanted to leave the team, knew exactly how to get her head back in the game. He told her that the tribe needed her, as they were already down one member to the younger tribe and could not afford to lose another. By reminding Holly that they still valued her contributions to the team, Coach Johnson was able to bring her back into the fold and she remained in the game.
Physically, we got to see the coach in action in this week's Reward/Immunity challenge. It was another convoluted-type game that required contestants jumping through the mud, searching through giant haystacks for game balls, and then a complicated paddle set up where each tribemate passed balls to each other using wooden planks before a final tribemate used the plank to shoot the ball into a barrel. The first to get four balls in their barrel won immunity and their choice of fishing gear or a tarp to strengthen their shelter. The older tribe, still in possession of the Medallion of Power, was given the option to use it to gain the advantage of having one ball in their barrel, meaning they would only have to find and shoot three balls into their barrel. This time they decided to use the medallion, which will allow the younger tribe to use it in the next challenge.
Coach Johnson was one of the tribemates that had to dive through the mud and search in a haystack, and contrary to his own claims that he was among the weaker folks out there, he performed rather well. He was able to keep pace with a younger woman head to head despite a 40-year age difference and helped his tribe keep their advantage. The older folks went on to win their first immunity challenge, giving them the fishing gear and avoiding tribal council.
One thing to keep an eye on down the road is that Marty and Jill, the ER doctor, were able to combine their efforts to find the hidden immunity idol, for which the tribe had been given a clue along with their fishing gear. The hidden immunity idols, when played, can keep folks in the game even when they have been voted out, as long as they present host Jeff Probst with the idol after the votes have been cast but before the votes have been read. It remains to be seen if the idol will affect the coach in any way, but it's out there and something he will need to consider.
Still, a much better outing for Coach Johnson in Week 2. He asserted himself both as a leader around camp, as well as making a good showing in the immunity challenge. We will see if he can use his strong performance Thursday night to carry himself further in the game.