Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Blood vs. Water recaps

Showdown, bro down


For a merge episode, this one left a lot to be desired, despite a large number of Major Events that should have propped it up. Chief among its sins: It was obvious one of Aras or Vytas would be getting the boot going into this episode. This became even more obvious as the episode continued (especially after the IC), and from there, it proceeded exactly as expected. All the narrative groundwork laid in the previous 2-3 episodes came to a climax here, yet it all felt decidedly anticlimactic. The show even went out of its way to point out all the alternative paths the vote could have taken (the three duos joining up, men vs. women, etc.), even as it bulldozed ahead to its inevitable, actual conclusion. With a looming combination of a pairs purge and post-merge Redemption Island rearing its ugly head, only the heaping helping of Tyson in this episode gives us much hope for the second half.



The other couple of couples


Surprisingly, despite the whopping ten pairs of contestants that started the season, all of them still had at least one member active through the start of the duel this episode, i.e. right up until the merge, Day 19. Interestingly, that duel dealt the final blow to both pairs targeted in the Morning 1 vote: the Bonehams and the Codys. Apart from them, all eight other pairs have at least one representative still playing, and the three pairs remaining are either receiving votes, or are in imminent danger of doing so. It's as if there's an abbreviated regular (non-loved ones) season that's about to start playing out in 2-3 more boots.


Get A Grip

The terminal pre-merge duel - pretty unfair


In previous iterations of "Get A Grip," the best players have all been thin and/or small: Ozzy and Candice (2+ hours in Cook Islands, with Nate and Adam out quickly); Tyson and Debbie (30+ minutes in Tocantins, with Stephen, Joe, and Brendan out first); Jerri, Candice, Parvati and Danielle (90+ minutes in HvsV, with Colby, Russell and Rupert out early); and Ozzy again, who needed only 20 minutes to outlast the stocky Brandon Hantz and return to the game in South Pacific. A tall, muscular guy like John had absolutely no chance.


Had it been "Chimney Sweeps" (Matt Elrod's returning duel win) or "Jail Break" (Ozzy's pre-merge return-to-the-game win), it might have been more even. Had it been "A Leg Up," the balance-the-pot one Andrea used for re-entry, John's surgical steadiness might have even won it for him.


Chimney Sweeps - S22 merge entry duel
Keep It Up - S22 final 5 re-entry duel
Jail Break - S23 merge re-entry duel


The first individual immunity challenge - also unfair


On the one hand, it's possible a fair number of the participants intentionally threw this one, so as not to attract attention. Not so the Baskauskas brothers! On the other, while it wasn't a particularly difficult challenge, it does seem to diverge from the usual endurance affair. We can see, perhaps, that having just had an endurance challenge at the duel, production wanted something less physical here. But why not something along the lines of "Roller Balls" or "Coconut Cradle," the last two Redemption Island season merge ICs? Neither of those were particularly strenuous. Instead, the memory-intensive challenge used seemed designed to save a Baskauskas brother.




With the midseason game-/ twist-related retrospective taken care of last week, we thought this would be a good time to look at contestant prospects going forward.


Oh my gosh!

Luckiest player still active: Laura M.


She got the ideal return-to-the-game duel for her size. Not only did she return, but her daughter was there, ready to fill her in on all the game events she'd missed. Not only that, but Ciera had an alliance ready and willing to take her. Not only that, but that alliance just happened to already have been planning to vote out the very guy who was responsible for taking her out the first time. Also: she got rid of the other Laura. Apparently that's what it takes to be the first Redemption Island returnee who's not immediately booted as soon as they don't have individual immunity. Looking ahead: prospects grim, since just about every word she utters is about Ciera, making it clear this is not Laura's season to win.


Apparently doomed: Tina, Katie, Vytas


There's still time on the clock yet, but the three remaining people not in on the Aras boot would seem to have the lowest chances of escaping the next episode's two Tribal Councils. Sure, the others could break up the Tina/Katie pair first, then ditch Laura M. again, to break up the other remaining pair. But even so, it doesn't look good long-term for Team Wesson and the remaining Baskauskas. We'd wondered about the curious under-editing of Tina, since she was clearly in on all the votes Galang made, yet was almost never shown discussing the boot decisions. An ignominious post-merge Pagonging might explain that.



Most improved players: Gervase & Tyson


Gervase has come a long way. In Borneo, he attended Tribal Council seven times, yet voted for the person booted only once (that time, for the late B.B. Andersen). Now he's voted out three people in three straight votes, including this power move against Aras, a guy with whom he had a pre-game alliance. Gervase has appeared to be on top of the strategy throughout, and has routinely made sage statements at Tribal Council.


Tyson was the anti-heroic star of this episode, finding an idol and successfully dethroning King Aras. Also the spoons; of course the spoons. Even though he and Gervase are nominally in this together, the editing has framed the newly ascendant Coconut Bandit alliance as mostly Tyson's idea, which makes Tyson a potential winner candidate. True, he always seemed like he had this in him: his "assistant Coach" position in Tocantins was the ideal spot for him, he just fell prey to complacency, and didn't see Stephen and JT's betrayal coming (much like Aras here). Similarly, he was burned by an idol in Heroes vs. Villains, and by taking that variable out of the equation here, he now has more control over his own fate. So long as nobody finds about his history of banditry.


Probably also-rans: Monica, Hayden, Ciera


Up until this episode, we might have included Monica in the "most improved" category, but it became clear from Tyson's "rusty spoon" comments (which echoed Kat's earlier complaints) that Monica's game is not viewed as highly by the remaining players as she apparently views it herself. She's gotten a fair amount of editing attention, so it's not impossible she could make a social game recovery. After all, those coconut bandits aren't exactly known for their infallibility.


Hayden has been gradually emerging from the shadows over the past few episodes, and got the key "the merge is where the real Survivor game starts" quote this episode. Amazingly, nobody seems to have noticed he's there, despite his having won Big Brother. Although to be fair, it was Big Brother. Once the Baskauski and the other pairs have been dispatched, maybe people will finally notice that he's a challenge threat who also gets along with everyone.


Ciera has also started getting more meaty, game-related confessionals, albeit mostly fretting about how her mom's return might interfere with her game. She's clearly not a challenge threat, so as soon as mom leaves she should be able to safely drift under the radar again. But it's not clear she could necessarily make a compelling argument to win.



Most disappointing player: Aras


Aras's biggest error was obviously his unflagging trust in Tyson and Gervase, which probably should in part be credited to Tyson and Gervase's gameplay, as much as a knock against Aras. But Aras did make a number of mistakes, just this episode. Most glaring: his insistence that Tyson is not a challenge threat because "he has a broken arm." True, we're privy to smirking Tyson confessionals about exaggerating his injury, info that Aras didn't have. But Tyson also competed in a highly physical rowing challenge right after "breaking" his arm, which Aras should remember, since he was right there in the boat with him. Aras and Vytas, who should have been worried about appearing as challenge threats, outpaced the field in the IC. It's unclear that Aras made any effort to mollify Laura Morett after she returned. But worst of all, Aras failed to accurately read everyone else's concerns about his tight bond with Vytas. Where he saw the spirit of fraternal competitiveness, the rest of the tribe saw an unbreakable duo of physical/mental/social powerhouses. It's not a bad problem to have. Unless you're playing Survivor.


Most disappointing - honorable mention: Tina


Aras at least had the benefit of a supportive edit as he fell from power. Tina is now in much the same position, but has largely been ignored, except when making mistakes. Challenge-related screw-ups are one thing, and probably irrelevant long-term. Social flubs, however, are far more baffling, especially for a previously masterful social player like Tina. "Rewarding" Monica's loyalty with fifth place, when she was at worst fifth in Tina's original alliance with Tyson/Aras/Gervase, was all the nudging it took to induce Monica to flip to the anti-pairs alliance. With one of Tina's intended Colbys gone, Vytas will have to give a truly (S2 version) Donaldson-esque performance going forward to avoid leaving Tina and Katie entirely unprotected.


Still on this show, as far as we can tell: Caleb


Everyone mentioned him when going through their potential alliances, yet he was barely shown even then. Hayden gets the quota-designated non-affiliated newbie strategy confessionals. Caleb gets nothing. Maybe with the flannel and cowboy boots, they thought he was Rick Nelson?


Survivor: Blood vs. Water Ep.8 image gallery

Recaps and commentary

  • Gordon Holmes at "Downed Dog?"
  • Dalton Ross at "Beware the Swing Vote"
  • Dalton Ross & Jeff Probst at Q & A
  • Andy Dehnart at "Survivors merge, and the Redemption Island winner returns to ruin someone’s game"
  • David Billa at "Episode 8 -- Skin Of My Teeth"
  • Stephen Fishbach & Erik Reichenbach at "Tyson Gets It Right -- and Ousts King Aras"
  • SuperJude at xXSuperJudeXx's SuperBlog™: "Survivor Blood vs Water Episode 8 Thoughts"
  • Andy Baker at The Baker's Dozen [Ep7]: "Things We've Learned"
  • Sarah Freeman at RobHasAWebsite [Ep7]: "Individual Games: The Bro of the Species is more Deadly than the Female"
  • Josh Wigler at RobHasAWebsite [Ep7]: "Wiggle Room: Survivor is Lost"
  • Lisa Ferreira at Winter Pays for Summer [Ep7]: "Prayer, Bro -- 27.7"


Exit interviews - John Cody

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Talking with the Latest Players Eliminated from Survivor -- 11/07/13"
  • Dalton Ross & Jessica Shaw at EW's Inside TV Podcast: "Was the last Survivor duel fair? John Cody weighs in"
  • Steve Helling at "John Cody: I Took My Elimination Hard"


Exit interviews - Laura Boneham

  • Rob Cesternino at RobHasAPodcast: "Talking with the Latest Players Eliminated from Survivor -- 11/07/13"
  • Dalton Ross & Jessica Shaw at EW's Inside TV Podcast: "Was the last Survivor duel fair? John Cody weighs in"