Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Blood vs. Water recaps

The finale could have been trimmed (or expanded in other areas, such as airing the complete intro), but it was at least a satisfying end to a satisfying season. The reunion show was a step up from Caramoan's, primarily in that it restored the pre-jurors to their rightful place on the stage. Even so, poor choices were still made: Probst completely ignored Marissa, yet found plenty of time to talk to Colton the Quitter, talk to another random person in the audience, AND air a cringe-inducing bit with Will Arnett and Cochran, which served as an extended ad for The Millers.





What we've always liked about Tyson is that he is, indeed, fun-loving. Listen to his various RHAP appearances. Watch his YouTube channel. Watch his audition video. Tyson's refusal to take anything too seriously is refreshing in a game like Survivor. To some degree, that version of Tyson was kept in check much of this season, as he maintained his focus on playing to win (apart from the Coconut Bandits stuff, anyway). Even so, it was great to watch all the pieces finally fall into place for him, as he marched, one-armed, to a non-conventional win (and we note it took him one fewer try than Boston Rob).


One of the strengths of this season, however, was that the field of competition Tyson faced was surprisingly solid. It may not have been reflected in the final jury vote, but Monica and Gervase both played impressive games themselves. Up until the finale itself, it looked like the final vote might break evenly along strategic-vs-physical game lines as it did in Cook Islands, with Tyson's vote mastermindery narrowly edging Monica's challenge dominance. Gervase, too, played a great game, consistently saying smart, game-aware things at Tribal Council and in confessionals, or demonstrating social smarts (such as comforting Monica after Brad took verbal heat from Marissa... at the duel in which Marissa was eliminated). But Tyson's dual finale IC wins erased Monica's physical argument, and also rendered Gervase unable to dispatch the leader and claim the throne for himself. And beyond the final three, Hayden, Ciera, and Vytas played fierce, laudable first-time games. Lots of people (including the final three) made mistakes along the way, but almost everyone was playing hard. And that's more than a lot of seasons (hello and goodbye, One World) can say.



The finale itself


As satisfying as Tyson's win was to watch, the finale episode itself was, well... a bit of a snooze. And the blame for this lands squarely at the feet of the editors. This should have been a great finale: a do-or-die re-entry duel that took out a challenge dominator, two great, brand-new immunity challenges (the last one epic in scale), even a hidden idol play. It seemingly had all the ingredients. But even so, there was almost zero suspense, especially over the last hour. Why? There were no season-long narratives still in play for much of it, except Tyson's.


The only plausible winner candidates left were Hayden, Ciera, and Tyson. Hayden was eliminated in the opening duel. Ciera was gone within the first hour. Perhaps the greatest suspense was found in wondering whether Tyson would play his idol, or keep it as a souvenir. And even that trifling question was answered in the first hour. Was the explosive controversy over Monica elbowing Gervase in the challenge really something worth spending five minutes on?


Tyson himself has said he was worried he was going to lose to Gervase. Why couldn't the editors have crafted a better argument that Gervase or Monica could actually win this? Or show jurors (on the way out at Redemption Island, at least) angry at Tyson? Anything? In a way, it seemed like the editing was simply playing to get to the Final Three, then hadn't bothered to think of an argument to win the game.


Some of the finale's lackluster feel should probably be blamed on the jury questions, as well. After Tyson's brilliant opening speech at the final Tribal Council, the jury mostly gave him a pass, instead taking turns making Monica cry and ignoring Gervase. It was neither fun nor particularly interesting to watch. And despite all the perceived plodding of the pacing, there was still no time for the full intro/title sequence, which never once aired with the show? Maybe Tyson's tears were because he couldn't nap through this.


You win

The season


On the whole, though, this was a season that easily and triumphantly surpassed our (admittedly dismal) expectations. Before seeing the premiere, we were convinced that a twist with some intrinsic dramatic potential (loved one pairs playing Survivor) would be crushed beneath the combined weight of so many additional twists (Redemption Island, swapping out at duels, duel winners giving away idol clues, and did we mention Redemption Island?). But we were wrong: It all worked wonderfully. Even post-merge Redemption Island, for all its pointless time-sponging, had a couple of brief moments of relevance: Tina stepping through the gate to eliminate Katie; and Ciera's building excitement at the foregone conclusion that Laura M. would be coming back to make the second final five, only to have that crushed, again by Tina.


So, at least on paper, we're not at all concerned that one of seasons 29 or 30 (which film next year) could resurrect the Blood vs. Water format. There's still a lot of life left in it, still a number of strategic layers that could be more fully explored. But there should be some caution here: This season worked because it had a large number of smart players looking to exploit the format for novel ways to gain and maintain power. Blood vs. Water also succeeded because both the returnees and their first-timer loved ones had a level playing field, navigating the complexities of an entirely new format, even if it mostly reverted to standard Survivor post-merge (not surprisingly, that led to an all-returnee final three). The novelty helped. The casting definitely helped. It will probably work again with newbies. But only if they come to play, and play hard.


One of many

One last thing: Random-access memories


  • The no votes club: The first two people out this season each received zero votes against them. Rupert swapped out for Laura after the Morning 1 vote, then promptly lost the first duel. And Colton quit before the next duel. Sort of like Palau, except in this case, it was the BvsW contestants' own fault they were out.


  • Everybody gets votes, lots and lots of votes: Odd companion fact - of the other 18 contestants, the only one who received fewer than four votes against was the winner, Tyson (who had just two).


  • Some gets lots and lots more votes than others: Laura Morett set a new record for votes against in a single season: 19. The previous record-holders were Phillip Sheppard (Redemption Island) and Ozzy Lusth (South Pacific), tied at 17 votes against each. To be fair, Phillip did this without ever being voted out, whereas Ozzy and Laura were each voted out repeatedly (Laura twice, Ozzy three times). Ozzy does hold on to the career mark, however, with 27 lifetime votes against.


  • The family records: Laura's daughter, Ciera, had the second-most votes against, with 13. So that's 32 votes against Team Morett, altogether. The pair with the fewest votes against? Again, the one that won: Tyson and Rachel, with 7. (We're disqualifying Colton and Caleb, who had four, thanks to Colton quitting before he could be voted out.)


  • What do you guys have against Lauras? Between them, Laura Boneham and Laura Morett were voted out FOUR times this season, racking up 30 votes against them in the process. Also, both finished second in the duel that would have returned them to the game, allowing them to be voted out a third time.


  • Frequent attendee award: Katie attended all but one Tribal Council this season, either as a voter or as a juror. But Monica voted the most people out, 12 victims in 13 appearances.


  • Sharing the wealth: The only members of the jury/final three who didn't win an individual challenge or duel: Hayden Moss, Caleb Bankston, and Aras Baskauskas. The only pre-jurors who DID win a duel? John and Candice Cody.


Survivor: Blood vs. Water Ep.14 image gallery

Recaps and commentary


Exit interviews - Tyson Apostol (winner)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Gordon Holmes at "Survivor Winner Tyson Apostol: 'I Might Have To Go on a Fourth Time'"
  • Dalton Ross at "Tyson Apostol explains how 'fate was on my side every single step'"


Exit interviews - Tyson Apostol (2nd place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Gordon Holmes at "Survivor Runner-Up Monica: 'I Don't Think Anyone Dragged Me Anywhere'"
  • Dalton Ross at "Monica on being slammed at the final Tribal Council -- 'It hurt me'"


Exit interviews - Gervase Peterson (3rd place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Gordon Holmes at "Survivor Runner-Up Gervase: 'Nobody Knew Monica Was With Us'"
  • Dalton Ross at "Gervase explains why he thought he could win"


Exit interviews - Tina Wesson (4th place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Dalton Ross at "Tina says she would have won 'hands down' had she made the finals"


Exit interviews - Ciera Eastin (5th place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Dalton Ross at "Ciera & Laura on pulling rocks... and stealing Tyson's pants?"


Exit interviews - Laura Morett (6th place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Dalton Ross at "Ciera & Laura on pulling rocks... and stealing Tyson's pants?"


Exit interviews - Hayden Moss (7th place)

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Post-finale Interviews with the Survivor: Blood vs Water Final 7"
  • Dalton Ross at "Hayden on his 'top heavy' girlfriend and the one move he wishes he made"