Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Blood vs. Water recaps

This one was a bit uneven. A solid, nail-biter duel (two puzzles!) that led to a disappointing, purely luck-based immunity challenge. Some more great strategic thinking, padded out with obvious, time-killing filler (and yet, no room for an intro). As a whole, it worked, though. We regret nothing.


Too many Lauras

Too Many Lauras


In two seasons, Laura Morett has now attended Tribal Council five times. Two of those times, she was voted out. Two of the other three times, she was wearing an immunity necklace. (She also received a third of the votes at the Morning 1 impromptu Tribal Council, which we're not counting above, and there, Laura Boneham was voted out.) Clearly, the name Laura is hazardous. Maybe she should changing hers to Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate.


Best lines of the week


We can't decide. We were initially drawn to Brad's attempt to smooth things over with John and Candice upon arriving at Redemption Island, by means of delivering a jaw-clenchingly sincere: "I apologize for whatever." But then Laura Boneham opened a can of Unnecessary Strategy and started spraying her tribemates with it, in gleeful recognition that "This game is fun!" and sealed the deal on her scramblicious sales pitch that Monica and Laura M. were plotting against Kat with a knowing, world-weary, "Oh, women!" Definitely a tie. We're absolutely willing to go to rocks for this.


Not what you think



It took us a while to realize this, but: You may recall that much of the first couple of episodes featured a lot of Monica's fretting about how Colton had betrayed her and voted her out in Episode 4 of One World, and wondering whether she really trust him now? So how fitting is it that this time around, Colton's fiancé, Caleb, betrayed Monica's husband, Brad, and voted him out in Episode 4 of Blood vs. Water? The next thing you know, Caleb will be demanding Tadhana give up their hard-won immunity to vote out Bill.


Expectations vs. execution


With a title like "The Dead Can Still Talk," we were naively hoping for some more fireworks at Redemption Island. Even though we knew Brad would not be there in the audience to take the verbal blows. Sometimes we just like to dream, even when we know CBS is trying to trick us. Is that so wrong? Okay, well maybe our dreams were stoked not only the title, but also the press release, which stated, first in all-caps headline form, then again in the body: "One castaway sacrifices their own life in the game for a loved one." Um... was this referring to... Rupert, maybe? Brad turning down Monica's almost-whispered half-offer to swap out with him? Did they really turn THAT into an all-caps headline? Brad wasn't really sacrificing his own life in the game, he was encouraging Monica to hold on to hers. Oh, CBS.


Professor Vytas

Professor Vytas


Nearly every word that came out of Vytas's mouth this week seems destined for enshrinement in a textbook about how to play Survivor. Not since Kim Spradlin has a first-time contestant seemed so wise to the inner workings of the social game, and unflappable and serene while surveying a constantly shifting strategic landscape. (Okay, Denise also came close, but did she survey that landscape while in a handstand position from on top of a giant mountain?)


Vytas's misgivings about Caleb after his somewhat loose-cannon performance at the previous Tribal Council seemed spot on, as did his attempts to (re-?) gain Caleb's confidence. Even if those attempts did seem to consist mostly of Vytas talking about his various rashes.


It's all downhill from here

Expectations vs. execution, revisited


As with the general overselling of the episode, this week's immunity challenge ultimately ended up being unsatisfying, but it took us a while to realize why. Yes, the enormous dual waterslide was pretty and impressive to behold, and who doesn't love a waterslide? But such a gigantic build raised expectations that there would be something just a tad more epic at the bottom of the slide than a simple ring toss. This is really just the slip-and-slide challenge from Fiji and Heroes vs. Villains, with the One World wrinkle of a ring toss at the end, instead of shooting balls in hoops. Yet those versions all seemed more fun.


Maybe the former version succeeded due to the contestants dousing themselves in oil? The goofiness of them waddling along the slippery surface to take their shots? The Gabon version of the water slide had the contestants racing to retrieve tiles, which were then used to solve a math puzzle, which then opened a combination lock. The complexity of this ending seemed to fit the size of the start better, and the water slide was a better match for the racing aspect of the first leg. The expectations matched the execution more completely. Maybe it's that this seemed to finally bring to life (as Andy Baker recalled) Rob Cesternino's dream of a "flip a coin and get back to camp" challenge, which miraculously ended up being just lacking in any requirement of skill whatsoever that Tadhana could win it. Or maybe we're just overthinking everything, as we are wont to do.



Twists galore - the gift that keeps on giving


Despite the initial fan backlash to the layers upon layers of twists this season (much of that complaining coming from... uh... us), what's been most compelling about this season is watching the smart players try to predict and navigate the complex consequences of each vote. Aras's plan to convert Monica to an alliance asset by dispatching Laura M. to take Brad out at Redemption Island was: 1. brilliant (although it echoed Tina's concerns in a prior confessional, so it may not entirely have been Aras's plan); 2. something the show has not seen before, and 3. profoundly more complicated than the "let's get rid of the annoying old guy" discussions of early seasons. Similarly, Vytas's earlier proposal to weaken Galang by baiting Tyson to switch out for Rachel at Redemption Island was an entirely new tactic. Everyone is wondering when they or their tribemates will reunite with their loved ones, and whether that will strengthen or strain their alliances. Five episodes in, the potential for completely off-the-cuff, novel Survivor gameplay is still ripe, and that's an amazing thing to say for a show in its 27th season.


Old school

Historical perspective


Opening the returnees' first Tribal Council with comments from Gervase and Tina about how much the game has changed since they were (first) on was a really nice touch. For a long time, Survivor was loath to make any internal references to the TV show itself, particularly to past contestants or seasons. Then the pendulum swung in the other direction, and the editors seemed to be going out of their way to bedazzle every episode they could with as many references to Boston Rob or Russell Hantz as humanly possible, even if it meant resorting to having Probst deliver them in his opening "Previously on... Survivor" monologue. But here, Probst made a Tribal Council choice that acknowledged the show's long history, and one that served as a subtle nod of gratitude to longtime viewers. Gervase was last on Survivor twenty-six seasons ago; Tina nineteen. What they said wasn't tremendously different from Mike Skupin's "the game moves so fast now" Day 1 observations in Philippines. Still, taking the time to seek out their views lent a tone of respect and gravitas to what would otherwise might just have been a fairly routine 7-1 vote.

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Ep.5 image gallery

Recaps and commentary


Exit interviews - Candice Cody

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Talking with the Latest Person Voted Off Survivor 10/17/13"
  • Gordon Holmes at "Candice - 'Coming in Late Was a Disadvantage"
  • Dalton Ross at EW's Inside TV podcast: "Candice says 'I basically lost my mind' on Survivor"