Pre-credit sequence. Snakes at the camp. Get it? SNAKES! Thunder. Lightning. “We lost a good one,” Katie tells her fellow castaways. She knows that if she doesn’t figure something out, she’s doomed. Silly Katie doesn’t realize, though, that Ciera and Laura may have become the biggest targets, even if they seem all nestled in the bosom of a seven-person alliance. They’re the season’s last remaining couple and they’re giddy about their position of power. Ciera’s feeling cocky, figuring that she’s survived one Tribal Council after another, while her mother was voted out at her first Tribal. The daughter has become the daughtee. Wait. That doesn’t work. “It is a little unnatural feeling to follow my daughter’s lead, but I totally trust her judgment,” Laura says, calling this a “Survivor” gift. Ciera wants to go as far as she can with her mother, but she also thinks she has a better chance of winning. That was our first one-segment pre-credits in weeks.
You’ll never get out of this maze. You’ll never get out of this maze. You’ ll never get out of this maze. You’ll never get out of this maze. Let’s Duel! Vytas, Aras and Tina arrive at Redemption Island Arena. They have to use grappling hooks to collect bags, each containing a ball. One of the balls has to be used to solve a table maze. It’s another “Survivor” standard. Tina quickly collects her three bags, allowing her a big lead at the maze. Vytas and then Aras follow. Tina is inches from finishing the maze, but has to return to the beginning. Vytas wins the Duel! It’s down to the two former winners. One will go home. Tina finishes second. Aras is done after 25 days on “Survivor.” Jeff Probst wants to stir up a brotherly moment. Vytas says he thinks they can have a relationship. “This experience has made it better and I hope we can live to a ripe old age together and have stories with our grandchildren about the experience we had out here when we got blindsided by Gervase,” Aras says, claiming this experience was worth more than a million dollars. “No hard feelings,” Aras tells the remaining players. Vytas gives Katie the clue to the Hidden Idol, a clue she doesn’t burn. “My biggest concern is finding that Hidden Immunity Idol,” Katie says. No cutaway to Tyson, who just isn’t getting nearly enough credit so far tonight.
Mother, May I Sleep With Danger. Kasama returns to camp. Aras is the first Jury member, it seems. Katie is proud of her mom and determined to either go to the bathroom or find the Idol. After reading the clue, Katie is sure she knows where the Idol might be. Back around the fire, Tyson isn’t worried. He’s ready to make a move and, best of all, he’s ready to be the bad guy if nobody else wants to be. In the shallows, Tyson sits with Caleb and Hayden and tells them the plan: The four guys will vote for Laura, sending her to Redemption and saving Ciera from writing her mom’s name. Awww. Katie and Monica will be targeted after. Hayden’s convinced that Tyson has her back and they all agree the key is keeping Laura from getting Immunity. Ciera sees the problem with the math, so it’s time for A Big Conversation with her mom. Ciera breaks down the strategy to her mom without flinching, telling her that she’s sure she’ll make it further without her. Awww. She compares this to telling her mother that she was pregnant, a conversation that proved to her that her mom loved her no matter what. Ciera’s reasoning is solid and emotional and it’s the payoff that “Survivor” was hoping for from this season’s twist. Mark Burnett has to be a tiny bit disappointed we didn’t get four or five scenes exactly like this. Laura is proud of her daughter, who has become a woman. Tears are shed. Music plays loudly. “I wanted this game to teach my daughter how strong she is,” Laura says, with an internal/external conflict that’s really satisfying. She says this is worth way more than a million dollars. A million dollars ain’t worth what it used to be, now is it?
Can you dig it. Daybreaks and Katie is out searching for an Idol that isn’t there. “They’re gonna have to start eating each other eventually,” Katie says of the others. In the sepia-tinted dawn, Katie heads into the woods, with Laura following behind and joining her in digging. “I’m like the Big Bad Wolf, almost. People aren’t liking me. They like me just fine here, but the second I vote them out, they hate me,” Tyson says, before going to Ciera and telling her the play against Laura, a play Ciera has anticipated. “I’m OK with my mom not being in the game,” Ciera agrees.
I’ll gladly give you a hamburger today for a million dollars tomorrow. Immunity, as we say, is back up for grabs. It’s that challenge where you stand on a tilting platform over the water holding a rope and leaning further and further back. They’re also playing for Reward in the form of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and soda. Jeff Probst knows it’s worth playing for and doesn’t particularly care what the players think. Hayden splashes out first, followed by Caleb, Gervase and Ciera. Katie bails. “You want Immunity tonight,” Jeff Probst says, in case you didn’t know. Laura goes out next, leaving Tyson and Monica dangling. Tyson splashes. Monica wins her second Individual Immunity, which is a bit remarkable. Monica gets to invite one chum to join her for lunch. Monica, hilariously, asks if she can give up the entire Reward to the remaining castaways. Kindness? Political maneuvering? “First, Monica is a mom, so I think it comes from the heart,” Caleb says. And Probst is all, “OK. Whatever.” And the losers switch place with Monica and eat her feast.
Ciera Madre. Everybody’s still thanking Monica when we return. There’s a snake in the shelter and that’s symbolic. On the hammock, Ciera and Katie share screwy strategy. Katie bluffs about having the Idol. Ciera doesn’t believe her and claims that she has the Idol. “You stole my Idol,” Katie says, mock offended, but pretty spineless. “It worked. She just folded her cards right way,” Ciera smirks. Ciera things she can get another week for her duo by telling Tyson that Katie is Idol-less. It’s funny how smiley Ciera suddenly is this episode. It’s almost like she got a second wind that nobody else got. Hayden’s OK with the easier move, while Caleb agrees that it’s more honorable. “Ciera, smarter than we thought originally, is making moves as well,” Tyson says, forcing The Big Bad Wolf to scramble and get his votes back in the row. Caleb wants Katie out. What will this all mean?
Tribal Council. Aras takes his place on the Jury. Katie admits there’s a target on her. Tyson admits that Laura and Ciera are dangerous as a duo. Caleb, though, is less worried about Laura and Ciera because they’re more competitive than Tina and Katie were. “You get one of us, you get two votes,” Laura says. Blah blah blah. So: Take out the pair or stick with the plan? As Caleb points out, we’re 4-4 Girls/Guys and 4-4 New/Returning.
The Vote. They’re all mysterious. Nobody plays the Idol and Probst tallies: Laura. Katie. Laura. Laura. Laura. Laura (Mom). Awww. “I’ll come back for you,” Laura tells Ciera. Awww. Off to Redemption Island for Laura. “It sucks that I’m here. It sucks that Ciera had to do that. It sucks that she did that,” Laura says, vowing to return to the game to help her daughter.
Bottom Line, Part I. Hubris did Aras in. He figured he and Vytas were running the game and they were not. He counted on Gervase’s vote and Gervase blindsided him. He underestimated Tyson’s desire for rebellion and didn’t consolidate his support. I don’t really know which is worse, the vote you lost because you were over-confident in an ally’s support or the vote you lost because you were under-invested in a potential adversary’s resistance. Either way, Aras and Vytas gave the season some good competitive moments and the farewell was exactly as emotional a Mark Burnett and company were hoping for when they set up this twist.
Bottom Line, Part II. Really, everything was coming up in production’s favor in this episode. It took 25+ days, but somebody finally voted against their loved one, somebody finally looked at the name of the game and realized that it’s still an individual game, even if there are pairs. Ciera had a really weak first half of the season and capitalized on that weakness to fly under the radar and she’s stepped up as a personality and as a player in the past couple episodes. And, frankly, if you’re not a hugely strong physical competitor, there are worse and less respectable strategies. If Ciera gets near the end, I’d give her mad bonus points for that one name she wrote tonight, not that she was the deciding vote or anything. She didn’t do anything *that* hardcore. She just stuck with the overwhelming majority. Still, she could have not written the name and had clean and noncommittal hands, but she went with the plan. Those conversations with Laura and Ciera were the fulfilled potential of this season, not Brad’s tribe-weakening over-strategizing.
Bottom Line, Part III. I say Brad’s over-strategizing was bad strategizing and not what the “Blood vs. Water” twist was supposed to deliver, but there’s Monica still playing and suddenly on an Immunity streak. She remained everybody’s vote-after-the-next-vote, but the more people jump to the front of that line and the more Immunities she wins and the more burgers she distributes, the better her prospects are. If Monica capitalizes on a Brad-decimated field and somehow sneaks into the Final 3, I don’t see her winning, but Brad can sure claim his strategy was effective.
Bottom Line, Part IV. There was some strange an unnecessary gamesmanship from Tyson with regards to Ciera tonight, especially for what ended up being a 7-1 vote. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel like Tyson is in that Boston Rob zone of pushing pieces around the chessboard out of boredom rather than necessity. You don’t get points for that stuff. It appears that if Tyson wants to be around after next episode, he’s gonna have to do something when it counts. I hope he does, because Tyson is always entertaining and we’re too deep into the game for so many players to still be in that Hayden, “I’ll vote for anybody as long as it isn’t me” rut. That’s acceptable pre-Merge. I want more spine. Maybe next week.
Bottom Line, Part V. You know what’s worth more than a million dollars? A million and ONE dollars. Also? Hugs.
Thoughts on tonight’s emotional episode?