Pre-credit sequence. I’ve already forgotten who the Newbies voted out at Tribal Council. Rachel, apparently. Instead, we’re starting with the Returnees, where everybody is discussing Tyson’s cupcake belt and Tyson and Aras are enjoying some homoerotic banter. Colton is frustrated. “I love the strategy component of this game and apparently that’s threatening to people,” Colton says, before Aras reassures him that he is, indeed, in trouble. Colton complains that he’d hoped to redefine himself in the game. “He doesn’t get this game. He thinks this game’s about creating chaos. He might have dug his own grave,” Aras tells us, before telling Colton to relax and enjoy himself. Yeah. That’s exactly what Colton wanted to hear. “Unless you’ve got people who are willing to roll with you, there’s nothing you can do,” Colton laments.
Mr. Football. It’s time for a Redemption Island Duel. Candice, Marissa and Rachel enter the Arena. “It’s not a bad move, Jeff,” Tyson acknowledges, properly describing the Newbie strategy, as Rachel outs Brad as the ringleader. Jeff Probst offers Tyson the chance to swap and he says it’s up to her. “You need to stay there with your tribe. They need you,” Rachel tells Tyson. I like Rachel, suddenly. Tyson nods. “If you see me in Redemption Island, none of you have a chance in hell,” Tyson tells the Newbies, targeting Mr. Football, Brad. Brad smirks and tells Tyson, a three-time player, says that the Returning players don’t know the tough choices they’ve had to make. This doesn’t impress Marissa, who responds that Brad doesn’t know what he’s was doing and that the Newbies have voted off two strong players, issuing a decisive “[Bleep] you” to “Brad Culpepper. Brad smirks as Gervase tries to calm his niece. I hate Brad. This starts Colton bawling and he says he doesn’t want to be there anymore. High drama and we haven’t even hit the credits.
You can’t fire my buff! I quit! We return to crying Colton, repeating that he doesn’t want to be there. “Meaning what? Meaning you’re quitting… Again?” Jeff Probst taunts Colton, before explaining to Colton why his move is selfish. “Oh well,” Colton sniffles. Wow. Probst accuses Colton of faking his previous departure from the game, when he thought he had appendicitis and actually just had a bacterial infection. “I don’t want to be that person. I’m tired of being hated,” Colton cries. “Colton’s having a hard time because we’re not playing Colton’s game,” Tina says, while Probst accuses Colton of taking his ball and going home. “My heart’s crumbling. He loves the game. I don’t know why he doesn’t stick it out,” Caleb says. “We brought a quitter back,” Probst says, adding that Colton never should have gotten off his couch. Wow. Jeff Probst may be right, but he’s also a bully tonight. I mean, Colton never comes back in the first place if Jeff Probst doesn’t sign off on it. “The irony is that the opportunity for the growth you seek is right in front of you,” Probst says, giving Colton the chance to stick around, but instead he leaves, without burning his buff, which is reserved for people who compete. Well. That was doubly petulant.
Oh, Domino. Roll me over, Romeo. It’s another balance Duel. Players have to stack/position tiles domino-style on a zig-zagging set of ramps. The ramps are attached to bars and if players tap the bars, the tiles fall. They then do a domino run, breaking a plate. Probst tells us that it’s 114 degrees. Candice finishes very fast and finishes first for the second straight Duel, running over and giving John a bad-breath kiss. Rachel triggers her tiles early and starts over. Marissa’s ready to go, but her domino run falls short and she has to start over. Pressure mounts. After 45 minutes, we’re still going and Marissa is on the verge of passing out. It’s a domino race and Rachel’s stack gets held up. Marissa breaks her plate and stays in the game. “Did you have fun while you were here?” Tyson asks Rachel. “Yes,” Rachel says. Awww. That was a genuinely sweet moment. Candice gives John another Immunity Idol clue.
Tyson tenders. Tyson says he’s fine. He wants to get all the way to the end, or he’ll regret not switching places. He gets a bit weepy in saying he’s glad that Rachel at least got to have some fun. “It is a game, you know? Too many people take it too serious and it shouldn’t be and it ruins their lives and makes them angry,” Tyson says, referencing the departed Colton. Monica’s worried by what people said to her husband and she and Tyson are both aware that this Blood vs. Water twist has presented a new dynamic wherein he could punish her because her significant other took out his significant other. Tyson claims to be chill with Monica and thinks things will work themselves out with Brad. “If he doesn’t know how to play the game, all he’s doing is creating a larger target on his back,” Tyson suggests.
Hail Caesar. Brad asks if he’s being a tyrant and everybody reassures him that he’s not. “I am, but I’m making everyone else feel that decisions are being made as a group,” Brad says. And John and Hayden discuss their satisfaction with the status quo, or at least John does. That doesn’t mean that John isn’t too content to go find the Idol. This time, he decides to tell Brad about his progress so that Brad doesn’t think he’s shady. John’s hero worship for the tyrant is a bit pathetic and he’s only letting Brad in on the secret. John insists on seeking the Idol by himself, which Brad suggests will prove to be a litmus test. So. Smug.
Get ready to rumble. Tree-mail promises a physical challenge, giving them the opportunity to “knock your loved ones in the drink.” Aras is looking forward to taking down his bully brother Vytas. “This is a chance for us to compete on an even playing field,” Aras says. Over at the Newbies camp, Brad is giving everybody lessons in boxing, while Vytas looks for the chance to get an edge on his brother. “This is my chance. I’ve gotta beat him at something,” Vytas says.
The Sweet Science. There’s a floating ring and they’re going to square off, sumo-style, using padded bags to knock the other player off the ring and into the water. They’re also playing for Reward in the form of Comfort. Galang sits out Monica. The first match is Brad vs Gervas, just what Brad wanted. It’s an OK battle, but Brad wins. He’s smug, but not vocally aggressive in victory. I guess I give him credit. Second up? Laura Boneham vs. Katie, with Laura scoring a commanding win. John goes against Aras and takes the former winner down. Teen Mom and Kat blow each other kisses before Kat knocks Teen Mom off with a single push. Hayden and Tyson are an intriguing pairing, but it’s a disappointment, with Hayden winning fast. As he falls, Tyson does something to his shoulder and immediately knows he’s in trouble. Medical confirms that Tyson has popped his shoulder and may have torn a tendon. Ouch. He gets a sling, but rejoins his team. Katie is the aggressor against mom Tina, but Tina has persistence and wins, tying things at three. Aras and Vytas get to compete, but not without some trash-talk from Vytas. “I’d like to take the bully and put him in the water,” Aras responds. Vytas takes the controversial turtle strategy and Aras gives Vytas the chance to restart like a man. Aras steps back to allow for the reset, but Vytas pounces from his knees. “One of the biggest unsportsmanlike moves,” Probst announces, before Aras shoves Vytas overboard. Teen Mom and Her Mom are up next, with Laura in position to give her tribe victory by taking out her daughter. Laura wins and the Returnees win their third straight Immunity. “When mother defeats daughter!” Probst yells, before Teen Mom reassures Laura that she’s not mad. Time for Brad to target another woman.
The greatest failure of masculinity since “We Are Men.” The Newbies lament their strategy, with Vytas particularly regretful at his performance. “Not only did he win, but he won after I gave him a little bit of a cheap shot,” Vytas says. The men are unimpressed with both of the women, who both lost to their moms. John at least respects that Katie cooks, so he wants to target Teen Mom. John isn’t worried, but he knows this is “Survivor” and goes out to get the Idol. The second he leaves, Brad tells the other guys that John is too much of a threat, especially if he reunites with Candice. Brad doesn’t want anybody else controlling his men, so he’s plotting a major blindside. “It could be like opening Pandora’s Box,” says a cautious Hayden. Brad tells the women that the vote is against John, though he’s also covering his bases by saying that he’ll write down a woman’s name just so he can reunite if things go wrong. Vytas is now distrustful of Brad and Hayden echoes that suggestion. Teen Mom’s OK with voting for anybody other than her. “Tonight is a huge decision for us and I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” Hayden says, promising a blindside. Boy, I hope so.
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst wants to talk about how only the Galang men scored points in the challenge. Katie admits it’s frustrating to have lost to her mom twice, while Teen Mom agrees that there’s embarrassment. “Males pretty much dominate it,” Caleb says of the tribal dynamic, though Vytas says that trust is the currency of the game and it isn’t as simple as Men vs. Women. This worries Brad, who doesn’t want to hear wobbling, as he denies his kingpin status again. Vytas is happy somebody in his alliance who isn’t him has the Immunity clues, as Hayden says that John’s lack of sharing raises questions. Let’s vote.
The vote. Teen Mom votes for “a huge threat.” We don’t see a single vote. Nobody plays an Idol and Probst tallies: Teen Mom. John. John. John. [John starts shaking his head after the third vote.] JOHN. John looks at his idol Brad in shock, while Brad smirks. “It appears your voting people out based on the future,” Probst says, cautioning that they’re also making the tribe weaker. “I feel like there was so much wool pulled over my eyes,” John says.
Bottom Line, I. That was on John. Well, it was also on Hayden and Vytas for not pulling the trigger. But that was on John. On two counts: Finding Idols on “Survivor” in recent installments has been easier than making fire, so it’s absurd that John wasn’t able to find the Idol with two clues. But even if he had found the Idol, he was too gullible to have even considered playing it. John seems like a nice guy, but an inept “Survivor” player. If you’re in a five-person alliance, I can see not deciding to share your clue with the alliance if you only have one clue, because then there’s ambiguity. But once you have two clues, you’re a target and the only play is letting everybody in on the clues, finding the thing and going with 100 percent full transparency. Anything less makes you look shady. And you could tell that John had no awareness that this was even a vague possibility. And I think Brad was probably right that targeting John was the smartest available move from his perspective and if Hayden and Vytas weren’t ready to make the big play, they might as way lay back and let the target on Brad get bigger and bigger. Brad is awful. I hope some humbling is coming.
Bottom Line, II. Jeff Probst was just saying to Colton what we were all thinking. I get that. And nothing he said was wrong. Colton never should have been brought back unless “Survivor” was doing another outright “Heroes vs. Villains” season, where at least Colton would have been surrounded by like-minded individuals. But putting Colton on a tribe made up of a mix of heroes, milquetoast nobodies and Tyson — categorized as a Villain before, but pretty clearly coming across as a Hero since then — it was a recipe for whininess. So yes, Jeff Probst was saying what we all were thinking, but Jeff Probst is a producer on “Survivor” and I don’t buy for a second that anybody gets brought back without Probst’s nod. So Probst brought back a guy he knew was a quitter and a repulsive individual and THEN lectured him on being a quitter and a repulsive individual. Not a fan. [UPDATE: I was thinking about this as I drove home from the office and there’s another possibility, of course: Probst is a producer, but he’s not the only producer. It’s possible Colton’s name was thrown out as a player, Probst said, “No way!” and then was outvoted, protesting all the way that Colton was a quitter and a malcontent. Given the chance to lecture Colton and the other producers simultaneously, he took it and that’s why he was so hard on Colton. That could be the case, if you want to take Jeff Probst’s side here.]
Bottom Line, III. Whew. It’s good to have “Survivor” back, maybe. After two straight dull episodes, this was a good one and it would have been a good one even without the trumped-up drama delivered by Colton. I continue to like that there are enough layers of strategy to the Blood vs. Water twist that everybody is playing far ahead and that there keep being unintended consequences, like Monica becoming a target because people realize that Brad is a horrible, powerful person. I’m not sure I love that the Newbies are being decimated, just because I’m not a fan of routs if I’m not rooting for the people being routed, but I continue to be really intrigued by the possibilities. And this also feels like it’s redemption for Redemption Island, even if we didn’t spend a second there until the post-credit sequence. Oh and I hope Tyson is OK, because I’m pretty sure he’s the only person I’m really rooting for.
What’d you think of this episode and its big moves? Will you miss Colton? Yes. That was a joke.