Pre-credit sequence. I’d completely forgotten that Caleb was voted out last week. At Kasama, it’s Night 30 and Hayden has, once again, been blindsided by what happened in the last Tribal Council. He is, once again, very gracious about his cluelessness. But Hayden has a play in his pocket. To everybody around the fire, he announces, “I hope everybody here likes second place, because if Tyson goes to the end, he’s winning,” Hayden says. “Pure poetry,” Tyson mutters. Hilariously, and with a big smile, Gervase explodes and announces that Tyson wouldn’t be anywhere without him, but Hayden tells Gervase that he’s just playing for second. “I’ve gotta do something, dude,” Hayden tells the suddenly irked Tyson, who admits that he wishes he hadn’t wasted his Idol. Tyson secures a fireside promise from his alliance that Hayden is out next.
Sour apples for Caleb. It’s time for yet another Redemption Island Duel, pitting Tina, Laura and Caleb, who says he only has kind feelings for Katie and Hayden. Caleb whines that in the South, a man’s word means something, but in Utah and Philly, it doesn’t mean as much. Oh, cram it, Caleb. On to… CREDITS!
A time limit and a winning quitter. We’re back and Jeff Probst is helpfully explaining to Tyson and Gervase that they’re from Utah and Philly, so Caleb was calling them out. Gervase insists that Caleb and Hayden tried to do his alliance dirty first. True story. Deal with it, Caleb. It’s a stacking Duel. You have to take 150 wooden tiles and build a tile eight feet high. OR the two people with the highest towers after 30 minutes. What the heck? When did “Survivor” decide this was a task that shouldn’t last forever? A time limit? And a 30 minute time limit at that? Pathetic. After 24 minutes, Laura’s tower is nearly at the eight-foot limit. Nobody else is close. Why is she still stacking? Why wouldn’t she just quit and wait six minutes. “Being close is not being finished,” says Probst incorrectly. When you make stupid time limits, Jeff, that’s no longer true. Laura finishes anyway and, again, starts coaching Tina. It’s very close, but with a minute left, Tina’s structure begins to teeter. Caleb’s whole structure collapses and Tina counts her way to survive another day. Pathetic. Tina’s made it through two Duels, one because Laura held her hand and one because she sat on her hands and waited for a stupid time limit. She won by quitting tonight. Caleb’s out of the game. Whatever. He had one great moment. Caleb explains that opposites attract, as Jeff Probst expresses confusion regarding his relationship with Colton. And another Immunity clue goes to Ciera, but this time she knows the Idol is out there and she doesn’t burn it.
Battle of the Bulge. “Ciera, your mom is unreal,” Hayden says, correctly noting that Laura is undefeated at Redemption. For her part, Ciera is psyched to have the Immunity clue and she takes her alliance aside and opens the scroll. The alliance goes out to the woods to start looking, but there’s nothing stopping Hayden and Katie from looking as well. The camera seems to find the Idol, but nobody else does. Tyson knows he’s Threat No. 1, so he has to find the Idol, because if he doesn’t stay in the game, he’ll regret not replacing Rachel. Tyson cries for the camera and he also finds the Idol. Ha. Good for Tyson, in any case. He jams the Idol in his crotch, “where nobody will suspect a bulge.” Tyson decides not to tell anybody and he’s now able to take a nap. Everything makes sense for Tyson, but only if Hayden doesn’t win Immunity.
Gervacillating. Hayden senses that he struck a nerve with Gervase the night before and tells him that he isn’t OK with second place. Gervase agrees, but says he won’t do anything if there isn’t a move and he won’t make a move without being assured Ciera is in, 100 percent. “I’m not putting my trust and faith in Hayden at all,” Gervase says, but he insists that Hayden is merely an option.
Sandbagging. As one might imagine, Immunity is back up for grabs. You have to race through obstacles while balancing a ball atop an increasingly tall pole. After finishing, you release a key and unlock a box of sandbags. Knock over nine bamboo targets and you win. They’re also playing for Reward, specifically an afternoon of ice cream. The weirdly unbeatable Monica is the first to the the sandbags, followed closely by Gervase. It’s a study of throwing contrasts. Working overhand, Gervase races ahead of Monica, who is tossing underhand, but moving steadily. Gervase is down to just one target and he hits it, winning Individual Immunity. Monica has been dethroned and Hayden and Katie were never really in it. Gervase elects to share his ice cream with Monica, saying that they’re even for the Reward Monica gave up. He gets one more ice cream guest and, of course, it’s Tyson. That, of course, leaves Hayden and Katie alone with swing vote Ciera.
Brain freeze. I’ve been promised craziness. Bring on the craziness! Gervase is feeling good about himself, figuring he’s in a secure alliance with Tyson and Monica. Ice cream arrives, include root beer. The chowing down happens directly in front of the losers, which gives Hayden the aforementioned opportunity to woo Ciera. She’s initially reticent to do anything with Hayden, but he offers a choice: Make like they’re voting Tyson, flush another Idol and vote Monica. Somehow, a scene later, Hayden is alone with Gervase and Ciera and makes his pitch again, this time to vote out Tyson, followed by Katie. Gervase still insists that he can beat Tyson, but Hayden keeps pushing with his insistence that second place is first loser. “I’m the worst loser,” Hayden tells the camera. At camp, Hayden is amusingly forthright and tells Tyson exactly what he’s doing as he’s doing it. I like Hayden. He’s trying. He says that he’s going to go into Tribal guns blazing.
Tribal Council. Craziness now please? Jeff Probst steers and Hayden starts with the dead horse beating, saying that the main alliance is being controlled by Tyson. “Let him think what he wants to think,” Ciera says, so Probst reminds her that she didn’t get taken on Reward. Gervase is all, “I took my original Galang members” as if that’s going to make things better. It does not. “This is the opportunity you need,” Probst tells Ciera, telling them exactly what they’d want to do to switch things up. Thanks, Jeff Probst! You may win the million dollars yet! Katie gives a wishy-washy answer and Jeff Probst explains the meaning of the game to her. Then Jeff Probst explains the meaning of the game to Monica. Hayden is lobbying hard, but Gervase tells him he’s trying too hard. “You’re going on the Jury. Believe that,” Gervase says, though he also lists Ciera as only fourth in his alliance. Why is Gervase so determined to alienate Ciera? I have no idea. Off to the side, Hayden tells people around him to vote “Monica,” as Jeff Probst explains that they could vote three-three and force rock-drawing. SHUT UP, PROBST! Tyson tells Ciera he’s sticking with her. Hayden tells her she can be No.4 with them, but he could be Top 3 with him. Then an awesome thing happens: Katie says something to Gervase about a move to “rustle” his feathers. Nobody hears her. Seconds later, Hayden repeats it and Tyson is having none of it. “Ruffle. Ruffle feathers,” Tyson corrects. Nobody understands why this vocabulary lesson is happening. Rock or No. 4? Which will it be?
The Vote. Gervase votes for Hayden and loudly says “This isn’t ‘Big Brother.’ It’s ‘Survivor.’ We do things different here. You’re about to get a lesson in how to play the game,” Gervase says. Tyson also votes Hayden. But Ciera is pensive. Tyson doesn’t play his Idol. Probst tallies: Hayden. Hayden. Monica. Monica. Hayden. MONICA. Madness! Ciera flipped. “What are you doing?” Tyson asks. Ciera goes dead in the eyes. The Jury loves it.
The Revote. We don’t see anybody’s vote, but Ciera has a big smile for some reason. Probst retallies: Monica. Hayden. Monica. Hayden. Deadlock. This happens so rarely that I’d forgotten the exact logistics: If Katie, Ciera, Tyson and Gervase and come up with a unanimous vote, that’s how it goes. Otherwise, Hayden and Monica and Gervase are safe and the others will draw rocks. “Let’s not bulls*** me. I’m No.4,” Ciera says. Stubbornness ensues and they agree to draw rocks. The Jury could not love this more. There are two black rocks and a white rock, which represents elimination. Palms out. Katie has the white rock and she’s eliminated and all of that drama was for a person who could have been voted out with no drama. Suddenly, there’s hostility everywhere. Tyson stands up and hugs Katie and points her to her Jury chair. He glares at Ciera and denies he’s glaring at her. Gracious. This was only the second time in 27 seasons that we’ve drawn rocks and Hayden is pumped at having made history even if he failed, so pumped that he leaves his torch and Tyson has to remind him.
Bottom Line, Part I. Caleb had one great moment. Nobody can take that away from him. The Tribal Council blindside of Brad Culpepper was relatively unique in “Survivor” annals and will be remembered. Otherwise, it was 30 anonymous days of “Survivor,” followed by some really misguided bitterness that two people he intended to betray broke their word to him. Whatever. And I really don’t know what Tina is doing out there.
Bottom Line, Part II. Part of why we love “Survivor” is how even after 27 seasons, new things or rare things continually pop up. Drawing Rocks is a fundamentally weird tiebreaking system and it seems that I’m not the only person confused by whether or not the firemaking tiebreaker exists anymore or if it’s used only in certain circumstances or what. I’d feel a lot more excited about tonight’s rock-drawing if CBS promos hadn’t ruined the surprise and if the entire circumstance hadn’t been brought about 75 percent because of Jeff Probst’s excessive Tribal Council testifying and cheerleading. I’ll give Hayden a solid 20 percent of the credit for his aggressive lawyering and Ciera 5 percent for either being wishy-washy or for being smart, depending on how you view things. Actually, maybe I should take away Ciera’s 5 percent and give that to Gervase, who was determined to alienate Ciera at every turn in that Tribal Council when he could have just been quiet. You can distribute the percentage points however you want, but you can’t deny that Jeff Probst’s impact on the tangible actions of the game are getting more and more manipulative and that that’s problematic to the extreme. If Hayden somehow wins the million bucks, which seems remote but not absurd suddenly, he owes Jeff Probst a big cut, because Hayden was going home and then he wasn’t. Jeff Probst kept Hayden from being eliminated and that’s mighty close to tampering in my book and when you have an executive producer on a competition game show tampering with results? Dunno. I’m overstating it. “Tampering” is obviously not exactly what he’s doing. But Probst definitely looks to either have less confidence in this group of contestants or more desire to insert himself. One or the other.
Bottom Line, Part III. A lot of damage was done at that Tribal Council that probably isn’t repairable. In the end, would it have been smarter for Tyson to look Ciera in the eye and say, “Look. I’ll vote Monica. You’re No.3. Are you happy with that? Can we take our Final Three to the end now?” Katie would have done whatever. Gervase would have done what Tyson said. Yes, Tyson would have thrown away Monica’s Jury vote, but it wouldn’t have impacted his alliance and he still would have known he had an Idol in his back pocket (or crotch) for whenever. Dunno. I’m just talking out loud here. Ciera just wanted some reassurance. Tyson could have given it to her. Also, Tyson knows Monica is paranoid and prone to insecurity, so he takes that out of the equation. Or does he? Do you assume that given those people at Redemption, Monica would be a strong contender to win however many Duels remain and then return to the game with an even better case for winning down the road? Instead, Tyson’s temper flared up and things got ugly and between the vocabulary correction and the various displays of hostility, he may now have Jury members looking for alternatives. Like I said, I’m just thinking here.
Bottom Line, Part IV. I’m sure we can all agree that that was a dumb Duel format and that the 30 minute time limit was an embarrassment, right?
Bottom Line, Part V. I mean, what are you gonna say? Drawing Rocks is a gamble and it can turn the game upside down on pure chance, so of course Katie was willing to do it. She literally had nothing to lose. Ciera? Well, Hayden got in her head and Gervase got in her head. Nothing that Gervase said at Tribal Council was wrong, but it also shouldn’t have been a surprise to Ciera. She had Hayden offering her the keys to swing an alliance and she made her decision at such a late point and in such a wishy-washy way that she was willing to flip a coin, rather than coming to the same realization hours earlier, going to the side with Gervase and Hayden and trying to see if there was a play they could make. Tyson sat there listening to people calling him a target and never for a second thought he was in danger. He could have been blindsided in a proactive move, rather than praying that he’d be eliminated by the luck of the draw, which was what Ciera did.
Bottom Line, Part VI. “Rustle” *is* a word. And it does mean something roughly resembling what Hayden said it did. However, it refers to something literal. Gervase does not have feathers. In lieu of literal feathers, it becomes an idiom and the idiom is “ruffle.” But Hayden wasn’t TOTALLY stupid.
Anyway… I’m sure this recap is just a vehicle for folks to sound off on what went down tonight. So sound off!