Jeff Probst and Brandon Hantz
Wednesday's episode of Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites was one for the reality show's record books, featuring a forfeited immunity challenge and a narrowly-avoided physical confrontation between two tribe members — all brought on by an epic meltdown by Brandon Hantz unlike any ever seen on the show before, according to host Jeff Probst.
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From the opening minutes of the episode, it was clear that Brandon's emotional stability was questionable at best. While the Fans (Sherri in particular) tried to regroup and get over their guilt about voting out weak link Laura at last week's Tribal Council, the Favorites were dealing with a mini-crisis of their own: Brandon said he wanted to quit the game because he missed his wife and kids. (He also apologized for threatening to pee in the food and burn down the shelter in an earlier episode.) "He's loco, for sure," Corinne said after his speech. "Clearly he's spinning out of control. It's just a matter of time and it's a matter of what does that mean for everyone around him? What's he going to do?"
But by the next day, Brandon had changed his mind and decided he was going to not only stay in the game, but also step it up a bit. "You're going to see the most intense Brandon you've seen thus far, and it's gonna be awesome," he said. "I'm excited. I freaking myself out. I don't know what I'm gonna do!" Ominous words, these. Shortly thereafter, the seemingly unstoppable Favorites emerged victorious once again at the first reward challenge and won a full barbecue, complete with meat, vegetables and wine.
On the Fans side, as Sherri struggled to not point out that voting off her closest ally didn't exactly pay off, she and her teammates fanned out to look for the hidden immunity idol, now back in play since Reynold used it at the last Tribal Council. As luck would have it, Reynold found it again. "Back in business, baby. This is how you play Survivor," he gloated to the camera.
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Meanwhile, the Favorites enjoyed their barbecue — that is, until Phillip started explaining how he won the challenge for the tribe (which, it's worth noting, he did). That didn't sit well with Brandon, who started taking verbal jabs at Phillip and trying to bait him into an argument while their tribe mates looked on uncomfortably. Though Brandon and Phillip later seemed to make amends, Phillip admitted he was still seething under the surface. "I think he's unstable. I think he should be out of the game," he said. "The first opportunity I have to get him out of the game, he will go." For his part, Brandon added: "As long as I can keep myself under control, I'll be good."
That may have been true, but the tribe never got a chance to find out. While the already downtrodden Fans got ravaged by a two-day rainstorm, the Favorites were dealing with a tornado of their own in the form of Brandon, who woke up the next morning with his blood boiling again. As a result, the tribe contemplates doing "the unthinkable" — forfeiting the challenge so that they could go to Tribal Council that night and vote Brandon out. "It is a degree of compassion for him, as well as potentially a game-saver for us by eliminating him out of the game by throwing a challenge," Phillip explained. "We've got to get Brandon out of camp. He's not sane."
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Brandon confronted Phillip about the plan to vote him out — and things start to really get out of control. "I'm gonna give you a reason to vote me out," he told Phillip and the rest of their team, and then proceeded to dump all their rice and beans in the sand. "Here's a reason to vote me out, b----!" And that settles it. The Favorites decide that their best strategy is to skip the challenge entirely and go straight to Tribal Council, thus saving their energy and getting rid of Brandon in the process. Aware of his fate, Brandon told the Fans at the challenge: "You get a second chance, and I'm your second chance."
But he didn't stop there. As Brandon started laying into Corinne and Phillip, Probst pulled him aside into a "neutral spot" between the two tribes as the other players looked on, horrified. Brandon continued to lay into Phillip, who eventually can't help but shout back at him. Probst made them promise they won't get physical, and kept a restraining hand on Brandon's shoulder just in case. When Phillip mentioned Brandon's kids, Brandon threatened, "I'll knock your f---in' head off" (and Probst now needed a bear hug to restrain him).
Brandon told the Fans he dumped the rice and beans to even the playing field. "If you're not eating, we're not eating either. ... Now, you can starve with them."
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"Why don't we just cut to the chase?" Probst said eventually. "We're having Tribal Council right now." There was no twist here. Brandon voted for Phillip, everybody else voted for Brandon, and Probst told Brandon he needed to leave the island immediately, without even returning to camp. (The entire scene was so intense, Probst later told Entertainment Weekly, that he was literally radioing for help. "I was whispering instructions into my microphone ... for our safety and security guys to be ready to assist if necessary," Probst told EW. "I was also asking for our show psychologist to be put on a boat and brought over immediately so she could counsel Brandon after the incident was over.")
Brandon's last words to the Fans tribe? "Kick their ass."
Watch Brandon's full meltdown at the impromptu Tribal Council below:
Will this mean a momentum shift for the game? Probst seemed to think so. Do you? Are you glad Brandon's gone? And given his psychological state, should he have been participating in the first place? Weigh in below!