Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Blood vs. Water recaps

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.


Nice try?

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.


Well... this is awkward

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.


Sure you can, boys. Sure you can.

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.


Survivor: Blood vs. Water Ep.9 image gallery

Recaps and commentary


(No exit interviews... thanks, Redemption Island)