Survivor has always been a game of intense social strategy. Wednesday night's episode of "Survivor: Blood vs Water" was in some ways a perfect encapsulation of the game and those that play it. We had some players, like Tyson, leave an important moment up to fate. Some tried to take the game into their own hands. Some battled through a physical and mental challenge in order to remain alive in the game. Some over-played their hands and found themselves sent packing.
Yes, Survivor: The ultimate social, mental and physical game...a game that still takes a great deal of luck - call it fate - to come out on top. Here's the recap:
Tread Carefully. Returning from her first Tribal Council ever, Laura B. was just glad that she was still in the game, noting that her husband, Rupert, would be proud. Tina said that her tribe had been like an octopus - eight strong - but losing Laura M. was like being "down a leg." Aras is aware that he is calling the shots and even more importantly, that he is being perceived as calling the shots. "Tread carefully I suppose," says Aras, giving advice to himself. Despite what Mel Brooks always says, sometimes it's not good to be the king.
Coconut Bandits Hatch a Plan. The next morning, Tyson and Gervase get together and Tyson explains to Gervase why Aras needs to be on their immediate radar. "That's the tricky part: When to dethrone King Aras?" says Tyson to the camera. Gervase is determined not to be just a "chess piece" like he was during Season 1. "That won't happen this time," he says.
Redemption Island Duel. Laura M. arrives and Ciera reacts to seeing her mom having been voted out of the game. Ciera had sensed all day that something was wrong, call it daughter/mother intuition. Laura M. does not even want Jeff Probst to talk about the possibility of Ciera swapping with her mother, so the Duel was on. John, Brad and Laura M. needed to walk across a balance beam to untie a series of bags that contained numbered tiles, 1-100. They then had to assemble these in order to win the Duel. Laura M. was off to an early lead and never looked back, finishing in first place. That left John and Brad in a very close race. By just a second or two, John finished his puzzle first, meaning that Brad Culpepper - the aggressive, hard-nosed former NFL player - was officially eliminated from the game. Something about his send-off felt anti-climactic given his huge role during his time on the show. But he hugged Monica good-bye and told her that the wind was blowing, so "sail hard." In his final moment on the show, Brad ripped his buff in half before tossing it into the fire, an appropriate exit.
Burn Notice. Having won the challenge, Laura M. got to give a clue to the hidden Idol to a player of her choice. Since the clue has only been a target in the past, she did not choose to give it to her daughter, Ciera. Instead, she chooses Vytas. Vytas though, follows Probst back down the stairs and immediately tosses the clue in the fire without looking at it...an action that has become quite popular, if not increasingly more stupid. What harm could the clue have befell on Vytas at this point in the game? Surely he was in a good enough place on his tribe? He would perhaps come to regret this decision, because Probst was not done yet. "OK, one more piece of business," Probst told everyone. "After 14 days of playing against your loved ones, we are going to switch things up."
Leaving It Up To Fate. Following a well-timed commercial break, Probst continued: "Drop your buffs, we are going to draw for new tribes." As he went to hand out identical tubes containing either red or yellow buffs designating the new tribes to each of the players, Tyson asked if he could just take the last one and to "let fate decide where I'm at." He did so. Upon opening the tubes, the new tribes were revealed.
The New Tadhana Tribe. Caleb, Ciera and Hayden would remain at Tadhana, now joined by Aras, Gervase and Tyson. That's five guys to one girl, Ciera. She mentioned that it, "could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing."
The New Galang Tribe. The new yellow tribe was the polar opposite of the red, consisting of five females - Tina, Katie, Monica, Kat and Laura B. - with only one male, Vytas. "I fancy myself a ladies man," Vytas jokingly told Probst, when asked if he was worried about being the only guy at camp. Tina found herself the only player to finally get to play with her loved one, her daughter Katie, reunited at last on the new Galang Tribe.
Gone Fishing. At Tadhana, Gervase, Tyson and Aras immediately let their presence be known. They fish for information on their old foes and Caleb, Hayden and Ciera spill all kinds of stuff to them. Happenings at past Tribal votes and whatnot. Call this smart move the "returning player advantage," or label the naivety of the newbies, as Tyson says: "Stupid will be stupid."
Showing Restraint. For Hayden, all is not well with these three new people on his tribe. They are eating his rice and making changes to the camp that has been his since the beginning. But the former Big Brother winner knows how to play a social game and at least at this point in the season, he has played this angle remarkably. Not happy with things, Hayden shows restraint and buries his feelings...for now.
Coconut Bandit Strikes Again. You've got to love Tyson, making up and living by his own set of rules in Survivor, and seemingly, in life. When asked to go get a coconut for his tribe to share, he opens up a few and drinks them all by himself. Then he brings a half-drank coconut to share with his tribe and they all love him for it. This whole drinking-coconuts-on-the-sly storyline may be one of the more amusing non-game threads we've watched unfold in quite a while.
Over-Strategizing at Galang. Over at Galang, Tina is ecstatic to be playing with her daughter. Vytas though? Not so happy to be on a tribe with all women and no immediate allies. "I'm the odd man out," he says. Anyone who remembers Survivor: Vanuatu and winner Chris Daugherty knows that sometimes, being the lone male on a tribe of females is often a great spot to be in. And wouldn't you know...is that a crack forming? Kat is growing increasingly annoyed with Monica, who she feels is just way over-strategizing all the time. Forget Boston Rob's "BR Rules," Kat now is sharing her keys to the game. In order to win Survivor? "Just shut it," she says. She would have been wise to take her own advice.
Brothers. An ongoing theme this season has been the rocky relationship and the competitive spirit between brothers, Aras and Vytas. Vytas - being on the outside of his tribe - tries to let them see a more vulnerable side and shares his past jail experience with the women to garner sympathy, a move that was pure strategy. Brother Aras on the other hand, is starting to descend, from a position of power and comfort to...something less than that. Tyson continues to plant seeds at his new camp, simultaneously distancing himself from Aras and letting others know that Aras is the one calling the shots...which is never good in this game.
Immunity Challenge. The first challenge with the new tribes consisted of swimming out to untether a series of fish traps that contain puzzle pieces, and getting them back to shore where they would be used to solve a vertical puzzle. Is that Gervase - whose poor swimming is now a thing of legend on Survivor - taking the first leg of the water challenge? He did pretty well, actually. His tribe was aided greatly though, when Tina and Laura B. inexplicably swam out and released their fish trap...but then failed to bring it back in with them! They had to go back out to retrieve it, setting their tribe back by a huge margin. Wouldn't you know, they would fight their way back into the challenge and pulling out a miraculous comeback, they finished their puzzle first! But oops, the puzzle was wrong....not once, but twice. These missteps were too much for them to overcome, and Tadhana finally pulled ahead and took home the victory. That meant that the tribe of all women and Vytas were heading to Tribal Council.
What Goes Around. Vytas - like Hayden earlier in the episode - shows great restraint in not showing his frustration towards Tina and Laura B., who cost them greatly in the challenge. All of the women are on board to stick together and get Vytas out, but Kat just can't seem to deal with Monica's constant game-talk. She finally has had enough and she approaches Tina with the idea that they should target Monica. Tina goes straight to Monica and throws Kat under the bus. Monica in turn confronts Kat, who lies right to her face. Yes, it looks like another all-female alliance has collapsed before it had even begun.
Tribal Council. The Kat and Monica riff is now full-blown and talked about at great length. Vytas continues to remind the others that he has not done anything to lose anyone's trust in the game, unlike Kat. Kat pleads with them to keep her in the game.
The Vote. Kat votes for "Vetus," Vytas votes for Kat. The other votes? Unanimously, Kat is ousted and sent to Redemption Island. Vytas gives them a "thank you," while Kat is distraught upon arriving at Redemption Island, believing that her new boyfriend, Hayden, will probably be incredibly disappointed in her. She drops one of the best lines ever as the episode ends: "No one wants to date someone who doesn't even make the merge." Classic Kat.
Analysis. For all of my thoughts on tonight's episode, please read my episode analysis at TheTVKing.com.
Next Time On...The rise and possible fall of the Baskauskas brothers is again played up. Has Vytas worked his way into his new tribe? Are he and Katie an item? Does Tina want grand-babies? The answer to at least one of these questions is "yes." But concerning Aras, it appears Tyson - the one-man-wrecking-ball himself - will be full steam ahead and gunning for him.
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