The Baker's Dozen - Survivor: Blood vs. Water

1) If we are at all self-aware and question the world around us, we swiftly realize that there are lies which contain truth and truth that is cocooned within lies.


To quote Tim O'Brien (who wrote the brilliant novel/memoir The Things They Carried), "A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth." This is why we love stories, be they found in novels, plays, movies or shows like Survivor (which, despite its claim that it is "reality" TV, is really more like historical fiction: sure, it's based on what really happened, but the experience is shaped by a number of storytellers – producers, editors, network execs – to weave a tale worth telling); at the heart of every good story can be found fundamental truths that events themselves cannot possibly hope to convey.


Which is an epic preamble to this: Survivor, as most of us have grown to understand and accept over the years, plays fast and loose with the truth. The edit is shaped reality; to be sure, the producers cannot create moments that didn't happen (in the end, the castaways said and did what we see), but they can and do contextualize and manipulate everything, and in the process alter our perception of events. After 27 seasons, the Survivor creative team has discovered and refined any number of ways of shaping the story that we witness on Wednesday nights.


The blind hope is that what we're getting is O'Brien's truth within fiction; we'd like to believe that the reality of Reality is preserved – nay, augmented, extracted, enhanced for enlightenment – by the edit, by the inclusion and omissions, by the choices made and the prisms used. It is impossible to be truly objective, and there is no such thing as a storyteller without bias. But if the end result is truth, then maybe, just maybe, we're onto something when we tell our stories.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at some true lies.


2) True Lie #1: I have no advance knowledge about anything that happens this season.


A quick note before I get into the column proper: while I am not spoiled with regards to this (or any) season's boot list, I do gather intel from official outlets that a casual viewer might not seek out. TV and web- based previews and promos, CBS "cheat tweets," official press photos: to me, these are all fair game, because they all have the show's stamp of approval. While I don't want to know who makes the merge or who is in the final three (so please don't spoil anything in the comment section!), I do like to get as complete a picture of what's going on in the upcoming episode as possible, based on what has officially been released by CBS and the Survivor producers.


I share that facet of my weekly column research as a preamble to a heads-up: towards the end of this column, I'll be talking about the logistics of tribe swaps and how they'll affect Blood vs. Water. Last Wednesday's, "Next week on Survivor" teaser made it clear that a tribe swap is coming, and the recently released press photos have identified the composition of the new tribes. As a result, I'll be naming names below, particularly in #13 (the Prediction section); needless to say, the tribe swap will play a massive role in how I think this week will shake out.


So fair warning: if you want to head into this week's episode as a tabula rasa, tread carefully the deeper you get into the Dozen.


Coming up with alternate paths to the endgame

3) True Lie #2: Laura wasn't eliminated because of her Brad-beating puzzle ability nor the controversial back rub.


After watching the episode and thinking about the edit's justification for Laura M.'s blindside, something just wasn't sitting right with me. I could feel the manipulation of omission; we weren't being told the whole story. After letting my brain chew on this conundrum for a bit, I realized what was bothering me:


There's no way Aras cuts loose an asset like Laura M. just because she might beat Brad at Redemption Island. Sure, that's a consideration and a nice benefit, but the only way a player with Aras's understanding of the game kicks a loyal ally to the curb is if she's been doing something which threatens his spot in the game.


Here's what I think happened:

Laura M. knew she was on the outside of the Old School Alliance (as outlined in last week's column), so even if she felt close to Aras, she had to expect that Gervase, Tyson, Tina, and Baskauskas the Younger would at some point turn on her.


She needed to explore alternate paths to the endgame – and there was an obvious one staring her in the face within her own tribe: The women outnumbered the men 5-3. Better yet, three of the other four women had a reason to listen to any plan Laura M. might concoct. Laura B. is flying solo and has seemingly been ostracized by all of Galang; as a One Worlder, Kat is on the outside of the major alliance (although she thinks she's on the inside; Kat's inability to analyze the game will once again be her own undoing); and Monica, yet another isolated One World castaway, is no doubt aware that she's a tenuous, necessary fifth in her current alliance. All three of these women would have to at least consider taking out one of the men while they have a chance – probably Aras, given his power position and the fact that the other two are less of an individual immunity threat.


The problem is, the fifth person they'd need is Tina – and if she was approached about voting out a man, particularly Aras, she'd immediately expose the plan to the gentlemen of Galang. Tina's entire game, both in Australia and in Blood vs. Water, is predicated on forging relationships with male players, and Aras – as the only other winner playing the game – is particularly important to her long-term plans (more on this later in the Dozen). I would guess they spent many, many hours talking with one another before the game began, strategizing about how to deal with the winner stigma (Tina, who was gunned down like all of the Sole Survivors in All-Stars, would understandably be particularly sensitive to this issue).


Given how tightly Aras and Tina are entwined, as soon as Laura M. pitched an alternative alliance that would target Aras, Laura M. was going home. For all of the talk of the tribe having "too many Lauras," the real problem is that Galang has too many mothers; one other factor in Tina's decision-making process is that she has eliminated someone who could conceivably compete with her for the allegiance of the boys, should Laura M. have opted to go the maternal route. With Laura M. out of the game, Tina – who, given her age, more naturally fits the mother role for the male members of Galang – is left as the closest confidant that the TAG alliance (Tyson/Aras/Gervase) has.


To make a long story a little less long: I don't think Redemption Island and beating Brad Culpepper had anything to do with Laura M.'s ouster. I think she tried to turn the women against the men, and her plan failed. Tina ran to Aras, Aras arranged the votes, and Laura's back rubs were all for naught.


Back rubbing

4) True Lie #3: A back rub is a back rub is a back rub.


One of the many maxims my students hear me make throughout our year together in the classroom: "Contradictory things can be true." Whenever I think about the instantly-infamous Laura M./Aras back rub, I keep coming
back to this statement. To me, the back rub completely crossed the line – but, paradoxically, I also thought it was understandable, acceptable, and, for lack of a better word, utterly normal behavior, on a human as well as "Survivor as a game" level.


Do I think that back rubs happen all the time on Survivor, on camera and off? Yes


Do I think that Laura was playing the game while giving Aras a back rub? Yes.


Do I think Laura and Aras both enjoyed the back rub? Yes


Do I think that the back rub crossed the line into truly intimate territory beyond the boundaries of a typical "craving human connection" encounter? Yes. (Fingertip tracing of the arms while the person receiving the back rub can feel your breath on his back doesn't, in my experience, fall into the "friendly massage" category.)


Do I think Aras and Laura may have felt uncomfortable after the fact? Yes. When an intimate encounter is motivated by forces, desires, wants and needs that have nothing to do with the touch itself – especially when there is a power discrepancy between the two involved participants – then the aftermath is almost inevitably going to involve some underlying feelings of regret and possibly shame.


It was a back rub with game context intent... it was an innocent moment of connection... it was more than what the players involved have said (both within the episode and recently on social media), but it was less than we're making it out to be.


And frankly, despite the fact that I've written about it here, it's none of my business (and yet it is, since it happened on Survivor; another contradiction).


Let's just move on, shall we?


Best player in the worst position

5) True Lie #4: Aras is the best player in the worst position.


Setting aside back rub-gate (because everything sounds so much more nefarious when you put "-gate" on it; thank you, Richard Nixon), I'd like to point out that I am many, many things, and one of those things is an idiot.


Back in Survivor: Panama, I was largely unimpressed with Aras; he was overshadowed by the challenge prowess of Terry, the strategic emergence of Cirie, and the unbridled insanity of Shane Powers. Ever since then, though, largely due to his appearances on RHAP, Aras has proven himself time and time again to possess a deep understanding of Survivor as a game and an intuitive grasp of social psychology and group dynamics (particularly as they pertain to competitive/cooperative competitions). And so far during Blood vs. Water, he's been offering a master class in manipulation; in every confessional, we get a glimpse of a mind furiously, and yet calmly (thank you, yoga), working through every pre- and post-merge permutation.


From his confessionals this week about not going for the easy vote, to his awareness that he shouldn't expend his social capital to push through a vote this early in the game, to his secret scene about how useful Tribal Council can be when you want and need castaways to commit to an alliance, Aras impresses every time he talks to the camera. If this were a season with a limited number of returnees – like Philippines or Redemption Island – we could already be planning a parade for Aras. Unfortunately for him – but fortunately for us – he's got some formidable opponents standing between him and the million, and they're all onto him.


Right now, Aras is Julius Caesar, controlling the destiny of this ephemeral empire. And somewhere down the line, he will have to cross his Rubicon and turn on those who thought they were in his triumvirate. Gervase, Tyson, Tina, Vytas – one or more of these players are going to betray Aras, and the general turned consul turned dictator for life will end up sacrificed in the Survivor senate (aka Tribal Council) with a number of his most trusted friends and followers standing over him, bloody blades in hand.


I don't know who will be Brutus – narratively, I really hope it's Vytas – but one thing is for sure: At the height of his power, Aras must and will be cut down.



6) True Lie #5: Every player has an equal chance to get to the endgame.


I have to wonder if Candice agreed to play this season solely because Dr. John would have an opportunity to experience Survivor for himself (and as a result, have a better understanding of her).


Otherwise, why put yourself through such an arduous ordeal when you know you have almost no shot of winning the game?


Because she was an alternate, Candice couldn't arrange any pre-game alliances or broker any pre-game deals -- and in a season that was going to favor the returning players (that's how these 50/50 veteran/newbie splits work out every time), Candice had to know that not having a deal in place was a death sentence.


So why play? Love, I imagine. Which is a beautiful thing.
That said, if I were Candice, I'd be bitterly bitter and full of bitterness.


WoodcockedOn a season when she knew it would be a long shot for either her or John to get to the merge, she had to endure the producers pouring lemon juice into that gaping wound:


** There was a Day One vote-out that she was doomed to lose; they didn't even give her a chance to defy the odds and shape an alliance for herself. Her slimmest of hopes was shattered against the rocks of Redemption (and the need to populate it).


** She had to duel against her husband, knowing that only one of them was likely to emerge from their exile.


When I first heard about the cast of Blood vs. Water, I thought, "Why Candice?" She always felt a little bland to me; I wasn't sold on her candidacy to be a three-time player. In the end, though, I wish she had actually been allowed to play Survivor this season; given what she did with what little she had to work with – she found a way to be a social and strategic player by being a catalyst (or at least a contributor) to blindsides even from the isolation of Redemption Island – I would have loved to have seen her battle against the other returnees on an even playing field.


Sadly, whenever veterans come back, the fields will never be even.




Remember what I said a couple of weeks ago about life possibly intervening and keeping me from obsessing about this column? That happened this weekend. As a result, the second half of this dozen will be decidedly half-baked.




Vytas being Vytas

7) True Lie #6: The edit is blunt, subtle, bluntly subtle and subtly blunt.


As if we needed any more proof that Vytas will be around for the endgame, we get to see him do the following:


** He articulates what everyone is thinking and feeling: that the camp is a far more peaceful place without Culpepper. When you're the one who is singled out to provide perspective, you're being counted on to be a long- term narrator. (Also, note to future Survivor players: Don't underestimate the importance of being a positive contributor to camp morale – we don't get to see the long hours of boredom the players are asked to endure, but how people fill it can be the difference between an early exit and occupying a spot in the post-merge party. Brad was loud, controlling, and annoying. And now he's gone.)


** He expounds on Survivor strategy as he's courting Caleb out in the boat. Yes, Vytas's efforts to ameliorate any post-Brad-blindside uneasiness were almost uncomfortably transparent, but his voiceover explanation of what he was trying to accomplish make it abundantly clear that he knows not only what he's doing, but how and why. When you get to explain to the viewer the thinking behind your decisions, you're going to be around long enough to make more of them.


** He did yoga... and a handstand... and commented on the beauty of the world in which he finds himself. Only players who will be asked to keep providing context and meaning are given these moments in the sun (both literally and figuratively).



8) True Lie #7: The producers shape the game to crown a preordained Sole Survivor.


This is, of course, ludicrous. The producers can control many elements of the game, but they can't control the players, not entirely. They can anticipate and they can manipulate, but they can't force a player to write someone's name down on that piece of parchment (well, other than the rumored Stillman/Rudy situation back in Borneo).


But the producers do indulge in adaptive gameplay (which is just a fancy way of saying that they respond to how the game has evolved to make preferable outcomes more likely); how some viewers can still insist that this isn't true is utterly baffling to me. There's a story that the Survivor creative team wants to tell, and they put safeguards into place to make sure that some version of their ideal narrative unfolds over thirty-nine days. Just a few examples:


** It's the very reason Redemption Island exists (and why it's back in a returnee-heavy season). Probst has admitted that one of the reasons for its return was to give more screen time to players like Rupert, and it clearly had its intended effect in the Boston Rob coronation (the looming threat of a possible return to the game kept any assassination attempts at bay). While Redemption Island can't save everybody – Russell Hantz is beyond redemption at this point – it helps the producers control the chaos that might occur if the cannon fodder dared to attack the cannon.


** The dynamics of tribe swaps, which were once the province of fate (new buffs drawn from one container) or social dynamics (the school yard pick 'em), are now heavily orchestrated. Just as in Survivor: Caramoan, when the paint-filled egg distribution was designed to give the Favorites a numbers advantage in both new tribes, the swap that happens this week is guaranteed to evenly split up the loved ones, giving the vets a 4-2 advantage in one tribe and a 3-3 tie in the other. (More on this in a bit.)


** Certain players are invited back over and over and over (and in some cases over) again. Some of these "characters" are there to provide entertainment and nothing more, but is it so unreasonable to believe that others are asked to return because the powers that be want them to win (believing that it would make for a great story)?


So what, pray tell, does this have to do with the most recent episode of Survivor? Quite a lot – possibly. Because one other area ripe for producer ex machina intervention is challenge construction. For the time being, I'll set aside the possibility that challenges are selected based on who's competing (a number of people who have insider knowledge have insisted that this never happens, but isn't it possible that more than one build is happening at the same time, and that over the span of three days, they can opt to finish one challenge rather than another?); instead, let me focus on the design of a particular challenge.


While I often talk about the secret scenes in this column, another CBS- supplied video clip that you should consider adding to your Survivor minutiae watch list is John Kirhoffer's Challenge Previews. In this past episode's clip, we get to see just how much a challenge has to get tweaked before filming: the aptly-named "Slide Show" went from having the rings suspended over the slide to simply leaving them laying at the bottom, and the target for the ring toss went from one forward-facing post to three. The end result is that the challenge was much easier than originally intended.


Now, it could be that there's nothing to see here, and that the tweaks were implemented because the challenge was just too hard. They have to film the competition and keep it entertaining for the home audience, after all. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who wondered, "Did they change the challenge so that Tadhana might win?" Before the changes were made, the "rings suspended above the slide" part of the challenge favored the physical players; the version that we watched on Wednesday amounted to an amusement park ride followed by a carnival game. Galang would have won the first iteration, and it wouldn't have been particularly close; the final version was the only sort of challenge that Tadhana could reasonably be expected to win.


In fact, now that I think about it, I'm POSITIVE that I'm not the only one who wondered about this. Go and watch Aras's secret scene ("Set the Table for the Merge") over at CBS – it's all right, I'll wait. (Insert patient, if melodically incompetent, whistling here.) Okay, did you see how Aras wryly commented on the "skill set" needed to win the "Slide Show" challenge? Perhaps I'm seeing what I want to see (always a possibility), but if you ask me, Aras knew full well that Tadhana needed a chance in hell (because up to that point in the game, they didn't have one), and the producers gave it to them.


Of course, King Aras – much like the proverbial honey badger (there isn't a proverb about honey badgers, you say? Well, there should be) – didn't give a sh*t. He WANTED to go to Tribal Council. Because the best players know that if you don't get to Tribal before the merge, you never get to find out where the people ostensibly in your alliance really stand.


(Oh, and one piece of anecdotal evidence that Tadhana was being given a helping hand? In his spare time, Caleb plays horseshoes. His thought on this challenge: "I was surprised that the post was so close.")


For those of you paying careful attention to my various pet theories, I realize that I'm contradicting myself; on the one hand I'm saying that Probst and the Survivor creative team want the returnees to have a clear path to the merge, and on the other, I'm arguing that the producers helped the loved ones win a challenge. So which is it? Both! Once the
numbers guarantee that the returnees are going to shape the endgame, a secondary desire kicks in: Avoid the Pagong. Complete annihilation is only interesting once, and that happened back in Palau.


And isn't how Koror's domination of Ulong was handled a great example of benign adaptive gameplay? Without a doubt, there were tribe swaps and merges planned for that season, but the producers looked at what was happening and said, "Let's see how this plays out!" Personally, I think it's a quick hop step and a jump from that sort of thinking to, "What's happening right now isn't interesting – is there anything we can do to jazz it up?" to "We'd really prefer it to go in this specific direction, so let's nudge it that way," to "Screw it, let's help Boston Rob win."


I know that the truth isn't at either extreme – the producers are neither that guilty, nor are they completely innocent – but Probst would do well to remember the dramaturgical adage, "When you can see the strings on the marionettes, art becomes farce."


In other words, give us more truth in the fiction.


9) True Lie #8: Tribe swaps are the great equalizer and create new strategic possibilities – which means they're just the best thing ever.


Okay, so that was a bit snarky. Truth is, I LIKE tribe swaps. They shake things up, and more often than not they force players to adapt – which provides an opportunity for the savviest social players to make the moves necessary to take over the game.


And Blood vs. Water absolutely HAD to have a tribe swap, didn't it? The concept, hook, and theme of this season is the testing of familial and romantic loyalty, the drama of family ties being strained by the centripetal forces of tribal, and ultimately individual, wants and needs. At the start, we had returnees vs. loved ones – Fans vs. Favorites with a nasty twist – and after the merge, we'll have tandems complicating the usual strategic shuffle. But what we really want is that messy middle: We need to see what players will do when they're on the same tribe as their loved ones – or, even more compellingly, being helpless as their loved ones play with other returning players, and quite possibly having those daughters, brothers, and lovers being sacrificed by the people they entrusted with their endgame hopes and dreams.

As I mentioned above, the tribe swap was predestined to favor the returning players; the 3-3/4-2 split was inevitable, even if it's unfair.


Yes, the vets "earned" the right to have an advantage by winning challenges, but why not leave things to completely random chance? Or have a school yard pick 'em? The latter would be compelling, watching as family members had to decide between being united with those they love or picking based on newly forged loyalties. Sadly, I think we're not getting this for two reasons: 1) It would expose the pre-season alliances, not something CBS is willing to do, and 2) The producers want to protect their beloved characters for the second half of the season.


The truth is, in seasons like this one, no one cares about the newbies. If one of them emerges as a superstar, that's a lovely bonus (I'm looking at you, Vytas) – and they'll be rewarded by being invited back (and discover then what a staggering advantage they have the second time around). But intriguing newbies are hardly necessary; all of the machinery is in place to make sure that the post-merge drama is centered around players we already know and, presumably, love.


Think about it this way: If you were a producer, wouldn't you want the "potential betrayal of loved ones" dynamic to be viewed through the lens of the returning players? Who's more important, Tina or Katie? (Tina.) Ciera or Laura M.? (Neither.) Aras or Vytas? (Both, actually.) Kat or Hayden? (The newbie wins this one.) Caleb or Mr. Irrelevant? (Caleb by default.) Okay, so maybe it's not as clear cut as I thought; maybe we will hear a word or two from the loved ones about the difficult decisions ahead. Still, I think most of our time will be spent with the returning players trying to figure out what to do with goats who aren't just aligned with, but are also related to, players they need to keep loyal.


Being a purist, a skeptic, and a contrarian, this whole dynamic troubles me – the swap will be set up in such a way that for the remainder of the game, the returning players will be the ones saying, "How do we use the people we love?" Am I the only one who would like to see an even playing field for once or, heavens forefend, just once witness newbies having a numbers advantage in a newly swapped tribe? I don't know about you, but I'd find watching novices take out returning players – particularly family members – to be really, really compelling.


Too bad we'll never see it.




10) Here's something that was once a fixture of the Baker's Dozen: "Lines of the Episode!"


Honorable Mention #1: "Everyone on this tribe has felt the sting of getting their torch snuffed but her." – Laura M. talking about the other Laura. To quote Dawn Meehan, "What the honk?" One fourth of your tribe won the game! Neither Tina nor Aras have had to stare Probst in his baby blues as he intoned "The tribe has spoken." You know, perhaps it says something about how Aras and Tina are doing so far that they've managed to make the players on their tribe forget that they're both millionaires.


Honorable Mention #2: "It's good to be the swing vote." – Caleb. These are famous last words for oh so many players, especially when you utter them this early in the game. He needs to tread lightly, because people carry a grudge when you cast the deciding vote against them. More importantly, however, does Caleb remember that he's on a season with returning players? Caleb is a cattle farmer, so he knows a thing or two about slaughter; you may be a swing vote now, Caleb, but the newbie killing floor is waiting for you at the merge.


Bronze Medal: "No one has beaten Candice at Redemption!" – Jeff Probst. Hey, Jeff, for someone who loves Redemption Island so much, you sure don't follow the results all that closely – John CRUSHED both Candice and Marissa at the previous truel. I know that hosting and executive producing and corrupting Survivor is a complex and demanding job, Jeff, but please try to keep up.


Silver Medal: "You hurt my feelings." – Monica AND Candice. What is this, middle school? (Remember, I teach middle school English, so I know a thing or two about immature emotional warfare.) If you're not hurting feelings in Survivor, you're not doing it right.


Gold Medal: "I apologize for... whatever." – Brad Culpepper. Add apologizing to the list of things he's not good at.



11) Fortunes rising: Tina.


The best Survivor players are able to juggle the oft-competing demands of short, medium, and long range strategy. So let's take a look at where Tina finds herself two weeks into the game:


** She's currently part of a five-person majority on Galang – and quite possibly insulated within a dominant "Old School Player" alliance which has a numbers advantage over the One Worlders.


** Post-Tribe Swap, she once again has a numbers advantage (I won't say any more just yet because I don't want to ruin everything for you); there is no way she won't make the merge at this point. And the merge will be happening sooner rather than later; the swap is so imbalanced (think One World) that the producers will have to step in to keep things from becoming completely predictable (once again, adaptive gameplay!).


** If Tina's game is predicated on surrounding herself with strong male players so that she's not a target at the merge (as I suggested about 4000 words ago), she's set up perfectly: players like Aras, Vytas, Tyson, and Hayden will be around for the alpha male feeding frenzy, and no one will think twice about the winner of Australia until that scrum is over. Once the dust settles, she can pick up the players who remain (Katie... Ciera... Gervase?) and assemble a late-game majority alliance.


The way I see it, the only real danger spot which remains for Tina is around F7, when her alliance would have to at least consider taking her out since she's won it all before.


I'd say she's set up pretty well, wouldn't you?



12) Fortunes falling: Laura B.


Boy did Laura B. have a terrrrrrrible episode this past week. To whit:


** Despite being an asset in challenges and working hard around camp, no one is recruiting her as a float vote.


** Her efforts to throw Laura M. and Monica under the bus were painfully transparent; when Kat can see through what you're doing, you're doing it wrong.


** We're getting confessionals about how everyone feels uncomfortable around her.


** And at Tribal, Probst asks Laura B. if she feels like she belongs (knowing full well that she is on the outside looking in); her response is awkward for everyone, and has been included, at least in part, to see her say something she doesn't fully believe to be true (and we know for a fact is, at best, wishful thinking).


Every appearance Laura B. makes – every time her name is brought up in a confessional – we're seeing her in a negative light. It's pretty obvious at this point that if Laura B. makes it deep into the game, it will be only as a pawn. Her more likely fate, though, is to be an easy elimination at one of the post-merge even numbered tribal councils (F10/F8). Given her overall Survivor skill set (which is pretty limited), to borrow from Rupert's vernacular, for Laura I think that's plenty faaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggh.




13) Prediction time:


The Redemption Island Challenge: There's no way that I'm betting against Dr. John at this point – he's gotta be the odds-on favorite to win any sort of hybrid endurance/strength/puzzle challenge, doesn't he? – so he's not going home. And given that every RI challenge has a puzzle, and Laura M. has a well-deserved reputation as puzzle master, I'll say that Brad finishes a distant third, loses graciously, and on his way out insists once again that he's not a jerk and that he apologizes for whatever.

As for who will join Dr. John and the Massage Therapist...

*** WARNING: I'm about to talk about the post-swap tribe composition. ***

The new Galang – Tina, Monica, Kat, Laura B., Vytas and Katie – are going to get crushed in the immunity challenge this week – it's physically demanding, and all of the strength is over on Tadhana 2.0.

If this weren't Blood vs. Water, the 4-2 split would seal the fate of either Katie or Vytas; given that Tina's calling the shots, though, Katie is safe, and given Tina's relationship with Aras, Vytas, too, is probably going to get a stay of execution.

This means, of course, that one of the original Galang members is heading to Redemption, and the two obvious choices are Laura B. and Kat. Laura B. can be taken out any time... so the bulls-eye can, must, and will be on Kat's back.

The thinking: Voting out Kat will weaken Hayden, and, more importantly, she's a One Worlder; Tina will want to continue the systematic destruction of the competing pre-season alliance so that she and her fellow Old Schoolers can control the post-merge game.

Last week, I predicted Kat would get the boot – I still think that would have been a better move, but I don't disagree with the Laura M. blindside, particularly if she was plotting against the TinAras alliance – and this week I'm going to do it again.

This Kat, I assure you, does not have nine lives.




If this column feels at all rushed, there are a few contributing factors:

** I was fortunate enough, thanks to the kindness and generosity of my best friend in all the world, to go to Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night, where I watched my beloved Red Sox win the American League pennant (sorry, Skupin, I know you're a Tigers fan!). As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, life will occasionally intervene with my writing schedule; this is one of those times (which will likely hold true until the end of the World Series).

** I thought it would be better to put out the BD earlier so that more people might give it a read before the next episode... as any baker knows, freshly baked goods have a short shelf life, so you gotta take advantage of the window of opportunity. Eventually, I'm going to shoot for Mondays, but for now, Tuesday evening will have to do.

** I also think it may be wise to limit myself to 1500-2000 words per week; not everyone wants or needs to read a treatise whenever they check out the Dozen. When an episode warrants it, I'll no doubt opine at egregious length. But for most of these columns, I'll seek a balance of brevity and insight. (Editor's Note: I wrote this addendum when I was sitting at a thousand words. I'm now at nearly 6000. So much for being concise.)


That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!


Andy Baker

Andy Baker is a Survivor blogger who wants nothing more than to get a back rub from Jeff Probst the next time he's thinking about quitting his column. Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius