Bleah. A boring, by-the-numbers episode. Two challenges, both of which involved standing in one place. Two of the season's better players, predictably axed for being on the wrong alliance. There were hints of fluidity within the Alliance of Seven at the second Tribal Council that give hope for future, more interesting episodes, but not much else of note was found here. Next.
It's not you, it's them
This episode failed to deliver much excitement, simply because it was predictable. As soon as Aras's torch was snuffed in the last episode, it was apparent the three people in most danger this week were, in decreasing order of peril, Vytas, Tina, and (maybe) Katie. So when the two most endangered went in that precise order, nobody should have been surprised. Sadly, as with a similar spot in South Pacific (the Dawn/Whitney double-boot episode), all we were left with was a few people coming up with enticing fairy tales about different ways the alliances could have rearranged themselves, but ultimately didn't. But even then, nobody seemed particularly invested in rocking the boat. No Sophie squelching of Albert's plans required.
Editing made some feeble attempts to distract. Vytas's post-IC scrambling, which quickly devolved into outright begging for two more days in the game, looked like it might have had a chance of expanding some tiny cracks in the opposing alliance. But as soon as Kasama reached Tribal Council, and Vytas was doing 95% of the talking (and presumed alternate target Katie did almost none), the half-hearted smokescreen dissipated.
The next boot fell even further from unpredictability: the entire second half's counter-narrative was Tina attempting to find the hidden idol. Which the entire audience knew Tyson already had. Not only that, but Tina wasn't even able to look for the idol, because Tyson cleverly set the tribe following and observing Tina's every step. So in the end, Tina's idol hunt was, like the episode as a whole, an extended exercise in standing around, smiling awkwardly, and passing the time until the inevitable snuffing took place at Tribal Council.
The dog that didn't get bro-warded
In the post-merge of Caramoan, Malcolm had just played Reynold's old Gota idol, and still had his own Bikal idol in his pocket. Reynold won immunity, and all it would take to create Tribal Council magic was just one more "hidden" idol. Which seemed crazy, since in previous post-merge scenarios, only one hidden idol was left in play if the pre-merge ones were played. So here, with Tyson just having found Tadhana's old pre-merge idol, and nobody ever even having looked for Galang's pre-merge one, there was a chance Tina's quest for hidden immunity might pay off, right? A Tina/Katie double-immunity fireworks show, blowing up the Alliance of Seven?
Well... no. Even though Caramoan happily switched between clue-free idols just sitting in convenient holes (pre-merge) and buried idols that needed clues (post-merge), there was apparently no idol to be found for Tina. Sorry, non-bro.
The dark side of Blood vs. Water
So there was the problem: Tina was reduced to trying to look for an idol that wasn't there. But it goes deeper than that. It's possible idol hunting isn't her strong suit; after all, her social game is what won her The Australian Outback's million-dollar prize. Why was this fruitless half-search her last, best hope at surviving the vote? Because she was part of an alliance that included a pair of pairs. Ah, there's the (ironic) problem. Blood vs. Water's titular twist, which seemed so refreshing pre-merge, has now swung back and displayed its more ominous aspects post-merge. Fitting that an adapted yin-yang symbol is the core motif at Redemption Island this season.
Why was the winners pairs alliance targeted? Because pairs are dangerous in the endgame, and because Aras and Vytas were too good. This is the core problem with the pairs concept: Aras and Vytas individually are tremendously skilled, capable Survivor players. If they'd had a secret alliance, they might have finessed their way to the finals. But in a season where their bond is publicly announced on Morning 1, they are immediately the most threatening pair in the game, and as soon as that pair re-formed at the merge, it was taken down. They were victims of their own competence. And no number of Redemption Island duels can rescue that now, since at best, only one can return to the game.
To be fair, part of what ailed the Baskauski was that the third pair (Laura M and Ciera) was not part of their alliance, probably because Aras chose to blindside Laura pre-merge. A three-pair alliance would've had the merge majority. Would they have all joined together then? Maybe, since Ciera and Katie were tight at Tadhana. Oh well. (Also, they obviously underestimated the perceived threat of being a pair themselves.)
The Redemption Island concept was probably brought over to American Survivor because the producers saw in it a way to preserve their beloved physical players - the Colbys and Terrys and Ozzys - players whose challenge performances delight the host, but whose weak social/strategic skills make them easy post-merge pickings whenever they don't win immunity. Yet Redemption Island has always been an empty promise: the person returning from RI has been voted right back out again as soon as they didn't win immunity (until Laura M., at least).
Blood vs. Water's core concept - Survivor with pairs of players - seems even more at war with itself. This season, as soon as the balance between paired and unpaired players tipped in the singletons' favor, every paired player was at risk, and it seems reasonable to believe this will always happen if that tipping point occurs pre-merge. Perhaps in a non-switch season, or in a season where the couples begin on the same tribe, initial alliances might provide protection for enough couples for them to survive post-merge. But even so, the couples should always be in a tenuous position, late-game. There are still enough tweaks, and perhaps luck, that can reverse this trend. But at this juncture, a BvsW season with an endgame as strategically fluid as Philippines seems unlikely.
Good move, guys! But really, I want to beat every one of you up right now.
Oh well, at least I have less than 24 hours to save myself. Yay.
I know you guys are set on axing Vytas next, but first, I'd like to yell for a few minutes, so that I can be out this episode, too
*Sigh* Well, if you insist.
Wait. Aras made MULTIPLE alliances? Gosh!
Tina sets Katie free to pursue her own interests, especially if they might lead to grandbabies
Great. Now I have no alliances. Thanks, Mom.
Pre-challenge lineup, Final 10 IC
Presentation is everything: The purple covers make the delicacies that much more delicious
Tyson already in, Monica moving on, Vytas observing the five-second rule for meal worms
Ha. Pretty sure that's not fudge they're eating there, Gerv.
Gosh! I wonder what could be under these covers?
Gervase tries to let gravity do the swallowing for him
Yeah, you'd BETTER call this empty, Probst
Round two: The anticipation builds
A gutty performance by all involved
Vytas close to the Round 2 win (not shown)
Dude, Tyson, you're leaving it up to ME to beat this guy? Seriously?
Yes. Yes he did.
You are NOT going to lose this challenge!
Probst! Tackled by Culpepper for a loss of 10 yards!
I can't believe I ate the whole thing(s)
If I look away and say 'Culpepper wins,' I can almost pretend you're Brad. No offense.
Tyson learns about the exciting Vytas-Katie vote split plan
I COULD tell them about my idol, but they seem pretty excited about this vote split thing.
Definitive proof that Hayden and Caleb also appeared in this episode.
I came up with the vote split plan! Me! Woo!
You guys do know that Ciera's mom won her way back into the game from RI, right?
This is not the same tree Laura M was just sitting in, I swear
Neither is this! See? It's more leafy and stuff.
Sure, but if we did, Monica would just screw it up, anyway. Sorry, bro.
The sun's waning rays illuminate Vytas as he trudges to his impending doom.
Kasama tribe, Final 10 Tribal Council
F*** you, Monica Culpepper! Also everyone else who voted for Aras.
Gracious! I may have to adjust my grandbaby expectations.
Also: F*** you, bad call, editors! I ate eyeballs, and you didn't show it!
Only Ciera can be trusted to stick with the plan, apparently
Awaiting the results of Probst's tallying
Hee hee! I switched my vote. And I told a great joke: 'What up, Brad!' See? Hilarious, right? Right?
Is this 'What up, Brad!' thing some sort of reference? I don't get it.
Meanwhile, on Redemption Island, Vytas teaches Aras the difficult 'Read Between the Lines' yoga pose
This place is Purgatory. We've been dead this whole time!
Vytas is just grouchy that he didn't come up with this sweet epaulet buff idea
Whatever, bro. Just take the damn water bottle.
Meanwhile, back in the real game: more standing around
ONE SHALL PASS
Not appearing in this challenge: Vytas Baskauskas, Dan Lembo
Slipping through Tina's fingers
Just like that, Tina is out
It's raining money!
Four people left, assuming Caleb's actually there
It's sweat, guys. Come on, grow up.
So far so good for Katie
*Groan* Do you have to stand so close, Mom?
...and Katie wins!
Tina's almost as excited as when she and Katie won the loved ones RC back in Australia. Apart from the getting voted out next part here.
Katie's victory speech is, in its entirety, a shout out to Dalton Ross's all-time favorite TV show
The last guy who won this challenge got arrested on his skateboard in Santa Monica, Katie. Good luck.
Returning to camp
Winning immunity is pretty sweet, except that Mom's getting voted out now. Unless she finds an idol, HINT, HINT.
Tina gives idol hunting a shot, anyway
Tina lists all the clues about where the idol should be.
Nope, not there
Oh sure, I COULD let them know I have the idol, but everyone seemed pretty stoked about chasing Tina around in the forest
Uh, Tina? Violence never solved anything. Put the knife down, and let's talk.
A real Mexican sit-off
I haven't seen Tina or the guys in a while. Are they talking about me?
Actually, these two are talking about Monica
Monica's always so paranoid we're gonna vote her off. Now that I say it, that wouldn't be a terrible idea.
Everyone's always talking about Monica. Monica, Monica, Monica!
Seriously, I think they're talking about me.
This place, again?
When all hope is gone, just keep smiling
Well, we don't THINK she found an idol. That would be crazy. And I should know, I was on Big Brother.
Speaking of which, Jeff, I...
...have nothing in my backpack. Gotcha!
Recaps and commentary
(No exit interviews... thanks, Redemption Island)