Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Blood vs. Water recaps

Before we actually start, take a moment to click over to Erik Reichenbach's (and Billy Laurain's) latest adventure: "Islands of Chaos," A Kickstarter for what will eventually be a mobile app that lets players compete in a social/strategic game that in some ways resembles a certain TV show/game that this site covers. It's like an ORG, except with Reichenbachian graphics and less social stigma.



Surprise win

Puzzles! And swimming


Before we get into bemoaning Redemption Island, some kind words about the immunity challenge: We loved the combination of swimming and a puzzle. Why? Because it worked as a challenge should.

After berating Ciera's slow performance in the swimming leg of the immunity challenge, Jeff Probst must have been pretty shocked when she came all the way back from last place to win immunity (and reward). And that's why puzzles are better equalizers for otherwise physical challenges than crappy carnival games: If the puzzles are sufficiently difficult, anyone has a chance at winning, even someone as previously terrible at challenges as Ciera. Any idiot, given enough time, can eventually knock down wooden blocks with a bunch of sandbags, and if you give that idiot a huge lead, chances are they'll maintain it. It's just hand-eye coordination. But putting together a word puzzle takes thought, creativity, and a bit of luck. And it can be done in a short amount of time if you're good at it, which Ciera was/is.


Or maybe it's just that people from Salem, Oregon always win late-game challenges (Laura Morett at RI, Brett Clouser in Samoa).


Wrist-buff start
Almost there!
Starting over?


Before we leave the challenge area immediately, a question:


We're not trying to say Ciera's win wasn't completely above-board, but was there some technical problem with the challenge that required a re-shoot? We ask this because at the start of the challenge, through the water portion, and in early puzzle shots, Gervase has his buff on his wrist. But at the end of the challenge, it has somehow moved to his head. It jumps back and forth a bit between those two locations in the challenge as aired, so there are continuity problems. But still, we're left wondering how Gervase got SO CLOSE to winning -- "You_Are_Going_To_Have_To_ ... DIE PEGD" -- then fell short. Maybe it's foreshadowing?


One more thing about that puzzle...


If you're gonna have a Probstian catchphrase as a puzzle answer, shouldn't you try to reproduce the phrase in the manner in which he actually says it? "You are going to have to dig deep" resonates with the crisp, precise grammar and enunciation of a private school A.P. English teacher. It sounds nothing like Jeff Probst. It should have been "You're gonna have to dig deep" or "You've got to dig deep." No need to make an awkward eight-word phrase out of something simpler.


Combat rocks

Yay for fifth! Or possibly seventh


Okay, with that out of the way, back to our thesis: Redemption Island, defying all expectations, was spectacularly lively, and full of drama and surprises pre-merge. Post-merge, however (as we worried at the time), it's been a net drag, despite a few great moments. But where do we start? Let's start with Hayden.


Hayden got booted this episode, on Day 35 of a 39-day season. Just short of the finale. But he could officially finish as far down as seventh place, depending on where he places in the final duel, which will be held the first day of the finale episode, on Day 36. That's sad.


Hayden had an impressive run. For someone who came in with a huge target, as a buff, charming guy who had also won another reality-competition social game, scratching and clawing to stay in the game for six days straight, and getting himself all the way to being voted out with five people left was reasonably impressive. But to now suddenly be in a position to lose two places, due entirely to his ability to balance a pot on the end of a board? That has to be pretty demoralizing.


Too late

Tina vs. Katie: Why RI is still there


The argument for Redemption Island in a Blood vs. Water season is the opportunity for duels like this episode's, in which Tina was forced to intentionally eliminate Katie, her own daughter. What's interesting, however, is that due to the unlikelihood of two loved ones being at RI together, this is the first and only time this situation (a person having to eliminate their loved one) has happened. In the three other duels with a loved ones pair competing against each other (two with the Codys, one with Aras and Vytas), one member of the pair finished first every time, which is not surprising, given the 2/3 chances. When that happens, there's no familial regret over succeeding.


To be sure, it was touching to watch Tina fight her parental instincts, and literally leave her daughter behind as she opened the door to (figurative) self-preservation. Even though the situation was manipulated (and perhaps the emotion and sense of finality had been stoked a bit by Probst's pre-duel questions), this internal conflict with which Tina wrestled was real, and moving. But if the grand payoff for Redemption Island is one brief piece of legitimate drama in 11 episodes, that seems like a steep price to pay, especially when weighed against the plethora of negative aspects of post-merge RI, none of which have been fixed.


Also too late

Wasted opportunity: Finale return still doesn't work


The finale will mark the third time someone has returned from RI in the final episode. In Redemption Island and South Pacific, that person (Andrea, Ozzy) faced a solid, intact alliance of four (Ometepe, Upolu), which opposed their getting any further in the game unless they won immunity. Here, there's finally division within the remaining players, and... the RI victor will return to the game one episode too late.


Had Laura Morett returned this episode, after her decisive duel win, who knows what could have happened? The majority alliance's game could actually have been flipped upside down, or at the very least, we could have gone to rocks again. Instead, somone will return on Day 36, most likely join up with Ciera, and then promptly get voted right back out again. And this should continue to happen every single time, especially with a final three.


It's near-impossible that a player re-joining the game right after a late-game Tribal Council will find the camp split evenly, right down the middle. Somebody's alliance had to have the numbers to vote out the last person! So why send the post-merge returnee back to an even-numbered tribe? Send them back one episode earlier, when odd numbers remain, and you may actually get the game-changer you're dreaming about, Jeff Probst: a tie. (No, not the one your kids are giving you for Christmas.)


But as it stands this season: such a waste of time. And that's not even touching on the usual stuff: it robs blindsides of meaning; the griping about the boot that we saw pre-merge is moot here, since everyone saw it happen the first time; someone returning to the game after a long time at RI has unfair juror connections and no blood on their hands; and so on.


But wait, there's more RI griping to be had!


One more thing we hate about post-merge Redemption Island? The finale is in four days, and up until tonight, there have only been three sets of Ponderosa videos. With the finale upon us, fully half the jury is still playing, either in-game, or on Redemption Island! Maybe that's why CBS uploaded Aras's Ponderosa arrival video to YouTube early. They were as anxious to watch Ponderosa footage as the rest of us.


Survivor: Blood vs. Water Ep.13 image gallery

Recaps and commentary


Exit interviews - Katie Collins

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Talking with the Latest Person Eliminated from Survivor"
  • Gordon Holmes at "Katie: Ciera Is 'So Good at Lying'"
  • Dalton Ross at EW's Inside TV Podcast: "Katie from Survivor on pulling the dreaded white rock"



  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Shane Powers Gets Real About Survivor: Blood vs Water" (featuring some guy named Jeff Pitman from True Dork Times on the voicemail segment)
  • Rob Cesternino & Stephen Fishbach at RobHasAPodcast: "Know-It-Alls Recap the Final Survivor: Blood vs Water Wednesday"