Pre-credit sequence. It’s Night 18 at Galang. Vytas is overjoyed and announces how much trust he has in the group that has been emotionally incapable of voting for him. Vytas says that this is his group of five and he’s ready for the Merge. “We’re standing for a certain way of playing this game,” Vytas says of the “moral” and “honest” way of playing the game that he’s telling the women he’s in favor of. Vytas is sure that he has his current tribe, plus Aras, plus Gervase, though Tina wants to advocate for Monica being ahead of Gervase in the alliance. Of course, Monica’s not nearly as pleased to be No. 5 as Tina might have hoped and she admits that if, post-Merge, she gets a better offer, she’ll have to consider it.
Laura B easy on the cut, no mistakes allowed. Laura B arrives at Redemption Island, calling it “a hugely horrible, non-strategic move” that led her tribe to keep Vytas over her. Laura M and John both agree with Laura B that Vytas should have been the vote. The next morning, Tree-Mail on Redemption Island indicates that they’re on to their last Duel, with the winner coming into the game. John says he’s been training for the Duel for 12 days and he’ll be disappointed with himself if he doesn’t get back in. Laura M is determined to return to the game for Ciera. On to Redemption Island. The two tribes arrive, followed by the three Duelists. Jeff Probst sets the stakes. And we move on to… CREDITS!
My only goal in life is to keep her off the pole. “I have mixed feelings about my mom coming back in the game,” Ciera admits. The last Duel is simple: Hang onto a pole. Don’t touch the ground. If this were “Big Brother,” they would start throwing marshmallows and chocolate sauce at the contestants. Instead, at 20 minutes, Jeff Probst just tells them that 20 minutes have passed. The footholds on the pole are very narrow, which isn’t good for John, who struggles with both his shoes and his socks. Laura B isn’t using footholds at all, just clutching. John hits the ground first and he’s pissed off, as you would be under these circumstances. I have to say that John’s frustration is one of the more genuine self-directed emotional outbursts I’ve ever seen on “Survivor.” Laura B keeps slipping lower and lower and soon she’s hovering just above the sand. “Quit telling yourself you’re sliding. Start telling yourself you’re glue,” Probst instructs Laura B. It doesn’t help. Laura M earns her way back into the game. “I feel like I defied the odds,” Laura B says, announcing that she’s going back the strongest she’s ever been. Laura B goes out gracefully. John compares this to things he went through in his first year at West Point. He reminds us that if he hadn’t been blindsided, he wouldn’t have spent any time with Candice in the game. And now… Drop your buffs! We are Merged. And guess what? Laura still has an Immunity clue to give out. Laura burns the clue. Really? Post-Merge? You’re trashing a clue to Immunity? Aras’ plan is to stick with Gervase, Tyson, Monica, Tina, Vytas and Katie. Well OK. That’s 7-4, then. Let’s vote Laura out again!
The finest meats and cheeses in all the land. Post-Merge Feast! They have bread and fruits and veggies and win and cheese and salami. Hayden is eating happily, but he also worries about the numbers. Hayden is running the numbers and he figures everything hinges on Ciera. Laura figures that the couples should stick together and she’s giddy to finally play with her daughter. To that end, they go for a walk. Ciera’s messed up and worrying that her mom made enemies, hence her elimination. Ciera lays things out, explaining that she’s in an alliance, but it’s an alliance without loved ones. Ciera thinks she’s running her mother and Laura thinks they’re running the whole game. “Just don’t play hard,” Ciera tells her mom. At this point, Tyson decides it’s time to find that Immunity Idol, which he assumes is at the giant tree on the way to the waterfall. He’s working with only partial information, but that proves to be enough. Tyson has an Idol and he isn’t planning on sharing it for a while. “I hope it’s solid gold,” he says. [It’s not.] “I’ve never had an Idol before and I’ve also never won the show before. Do those corollate directly with one another? Probably not, but at least it’s a little more advantage,” he figures.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my alliance. It’s time for some Brotherly Love between Aras and Vytas. “We have a path and it’s so perfect,” Vytas tells Aras. There’s agreement on six of Aras’ seven people, but Vytas doesn’t think Tyson is necessary. “What if he goes on like a run?” Vytas wonders, but Aras reassures him that Tyson’s arm is broken. The first target for Aras is Laura, who he thinks would be an easy vote, with Vytas suggesting everybody else’s smartest vote would be breaking them up. “Blood vs Water should really, in the end, be called Vytas vs Aras, because we would have to be real stupid at this point not to get to the end,” Vytas says. Cockiness ensues.
Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more. We return and it’s nighttime. Monica and Tyson go out into the jungle to talk. Monica is, as usual, insecure and Tyson throws her the bone that Aras is his first target. Even reassured, though, Monica keeps nattering. “At some point you just have to be like, ‘Monica, shut up,'” Tyson laments. “I’m just like, ‘Give me a rusty spoon so I can dig both my eyeballs out and then try and jam it through my eye socket into my brain,'” he says. Monica wants Tyson to give his 100 percent support and he seems not to do this. There’s too much Monica in this game.
Memory, all alone in the sunlight. Individual Immunity is up for grabs. It’s a fancy red, feathered necklace. The challenge is a memory test. They have to use cubes to repeat a series of symbols. Or something. We’ve seen this task before. It’s a kicked up “Big Brother” challenge, forcing me to make a second “Big Brother” reference in this same recap. The first person eliminated is Monica, followed by Caleb and Katie. “Loser,” Katie whispers to herself. Tina and Tyson depart next, followed by Hayden. This just isn’t a good TV-centric challenge. Laura and Ciera go out next, leaving us with Vytas, Aras and Gervase. And then it’s just the brothers, once again. Vytas wins Immunity. Will Tyson get to enact his anti-Aras initiative?
It’s a game, bitch. “If you need Immunity in this game, you’ve already made a few mistakes,” Vytas says. He thinks he and his brother “have this beach on lock” and he adds, “I’d be surprised if anybody has the guts to do anything about it.” So. Much. Hubris. Around the campfire, the plan is that the boys will vote for Laura, while the women will vote for Ciera. “It’s a game, bitch,” says Katie. Laura is being neurotic and Ciera’s job is to keep Laura from over-playing. The daughter has become the mother and the literal mother is cooking up weird vote splitting with Tina. Gervase and Tyson are ready to vote out King Aras, but Gervase admits that things could go a different way.
Tribal Council. OK. Let’s get crazy. Probst recaps the season for Tyson, who agrees that the couples want to work together as long as they can. Aras agrees, but says you can’t just be a pair at this vote. There are three pairs of loved ones and five individuals. Hayden agrees with Jeff’s prompting that voting Laura out again could happen. I wish Jeff Probst would stop narrating strategy at Tribal Council. He didn’t used to do this as aggressively. He’s just leading everybody left and right. It takes a lot of the fun out of Tribal Council. Laura compares herself to a kid who missed school with chicken pox. Ciera revels in this role-reversal. This episode is easily the most likable Ciera has been this season. Gervase says this’ll change everything.
The Vote. Katie writes Ciera’s name. Gervase announces that this is his power move in the game and votes for Aras. Aras votes for Laura. Jeff Probst tallies: Laura. Laura. Ciera. Ciera. Aras. Aras. Aras. Aras. [Vytas looks stunned and confused, but Aras reads the situation and puts his arm around his brother.] ARAS. “Well-played, guys. Well played,” Aras says. Tyson looks pleased with himself. Vytas looks shell-shocked. This is the first time Aras has been voted out of “Survivor” and he’s mostly worried about Vytas.
Bottom Line, Part I. Farewell, John. You had a decent run on Redemption Island. Sucks that you got a final Duel that required smaller feet. And farewll, Laura B. All things considered, since Laura B was voted out within 10 minutes after the start of the first episode, she did OK. It’s a pity that she treated “Survivor” as a place to make friends, build trust and come out of her shell, rather than to play a game for a million dollars, but there’s a chance that she feels what she got out of the experience was worth more than that. Maybe.
Bottom Line, Part II. The vote against Aras was simple and necessary. He had too many strong ties to too many people. And Aras was way, way, way too confident. The episode was edited only to concentrate on the Aras/Vytas hubris and so what was obvious to us presumably wasn’t obvious to them. But why wasn’t it obvious to them? I guess it was obvious to them that they *should* have been targets, but what wasn’t obvious was the direction from which the threat was coming. Aras trusted Gervase entirely, which makes sense. Did Aras take Tyson for granted? Did he overlook him? Did Vytas correctly view Tyson as a threat? Well, no. Vytas just viewed Tyson as a potential physical threat. He worried Tyson would go on a challenge run, not that Tyson would help orchestrate a strategic move. In any case, splitting up the brothers was the exactly correct move for everybody who wasn’t Aras or Vytas and it’ll be fun to watch Tina get pissy next week. I hope that brings spontaneous drama, because nothing in tonight’s episode felt spontaneous or nearly as fun as it should have been.
Bottom Line, Part III. On Sunday’s “Amazing Race” there was a minor conflict at the Pit Stop about a purloined taxi cab and some people felt like Phil Keoghan was too hands-off in that conflict. In the battle between Keoghan’s laissez-faire attitude towards two teams of twentysomethings whining about taxis and Jeff Probst monologuing the entire Tribal Council like a supervillain with logorrhea, over-explaining strategy and making it impossible for anybody to formulate a thought of their own, I’ll take Keoghan.
Thoughts on tonight’s big, over-telegraphed vote?