Pre-credit sequence. When we left “Survivor,” Kat had signed her own execution papers and she was heading to Redemption. We begin on Night 16, as Kat is praising herself for not crying. “Apparently we had an issue with trust,” Kat says, crediting Vytas for swooping in for the kill. In the Redemption shelter, Kat places the blame on everybody else for her ouster. She’s worried, though, that Hayden will be disappointed with her. “No one wants to date someone who didn’t make the Merge. He’s gonna dump me,” she laments. The next morning, she’s finally crying. Now she’s worried that Hayden will feel embarrassed and upset and ashamed of her. “We’re like a team. He’s my best friend,” she explains. She’s hoping that Hayden will still be on her side after the Duel.
Will you still love me tomorrow? The two tribes arrive at Redemption Island Arena. Hayden looks pensive at Kat’s absence. She arrives and he looks pensive. She cries and begs him to come down and hug her. She apologizes repeatedly. Hayden says it’s OK and shakes his head when she suggests he might be disappointed. “That’s not the case. Our relationship is going to be fine,” Hayden tells her, adding that his relationship with her is more important than the game. At this point, Jeff Probst leers suggestively and offers Hayden the chance to swap in. And we go to credits.
Come on baby, construct my fire. We’re back and Hayden asks Kat what she wants. She asks how he’s doing and he says he’s in a good spot. “I would switch, because I’m afraid that I won’t do well in this Duel… Because it’s a puzzle and I can’t even spell,” Kat says, frankly. Hayden asks her to think longterm and, in tears, Kat admits that Hayden has a better chance of winning. Jeff Probst is loving this. “I’ll play here and I want you to stay,” Kat says. She cries. He cries. The Duel: They’ll use a machete to chop a rope and unleash puzzle pieces. The pieces form fire. We’ve seen this tricky puzzle before, as it led to Cochran’s big win. John frees his bag of puzzle pieces first, followed closely by Kat and Laura, but Kat struggles to open her bag and she falls way behind. “Cheater,” Kat tells Laura, who’s peeking at John’s speedily assembled flames. John wins easily and Laura’s brazenly looking at John’s puzzle. Kat calls it cheating and refuses to look. This is genuinely sad. Gervase and Hayden are coaching Kat, but it’s not helping. Laura finishes the puzzle and Kat is done. “Don’t leave me,” Kat tells Hayden and asks him for reassurance that he isn’t going to break up with her. There’s a cutaway to John laughing, which may or may not actually be in correct context. John gives Monica the Immunity clue. She says she’s flattered and honored, but burns yet another clue. Gotta say: The closer we get to a Merge, the dumber this clue-rejection thing becomes.
Hayden lost his Kat. We start on Tadhana, where everybody is consoling Hayden. “I feel responsible,” Hayden says, voice still cracking. “As soon as I made it, I regretted it,” Hayden says of his decision, calling Kat “naive sometimes.” He’s not proud of not helping her. “I think it’s way harder than everybody thought it was going to be,” Tyson says. They’re determined to just keep winning and to bring Vytas over. Hayden finally admits to relief at getting to play for himself, be more cutthroat. Hayden notes that Aras still has his loved one. Aras is feeling cocky. He just needs to let go and be intuitive. He’s visualizing Jeff saying his name and calling him the winner of “Survivor.” He’s out on the mountaintop meditating, but back at camp, Tyson is predicting that a Merge is a day or two away and if that’s coming, either Aras or Vytas has to go. Tyson vows to go to the Final 5 with all of them, including Caleb and Ciera. “Meditate all day long if that’s what you need. I think he’s getting real comfortable and that plays right into my game plan,” Tyson says.
Tina Wesson: “Survivor” Winner, Loving Pimp. Instead of meditating, Vytas is yawning over at the Galang camp. He looks tired, but he swears he slept well. And Tina has come to like Vytas, because of his graduation from The School of Hard Knocks. “I would be honored if he took an interest in Katie,” Tina says, wishing that Vytas would flirt more with Katie, who isn’t so good with flirting herself. Tina wants babies. “Yoga has taught me a lot about dealing with feminine energy,” Vytas says. Oy. He tells them stories about his trust and his generosity. He knows that women love “a newly reformed bad boy” and that’s the side he’s pushing. “Vytas, he’s a wonderful man that can share his emotions and feelings,” Laura says. She was raised on a farm, but she’s coming out of her shell more, thanks to Vytas. However, Laura’s willing to stick with the girls if she’s told to. Treemail talks about fate and chains. Vytas worries that it’s going to be a physical challenge and that Galang will inevitably be an underdog. He goes off to reflect and the women get together and agree that even if they love Vytas, he has to go if they lose. Laura agrees, but she cries. Everybody hates this possibility, so they decide they’d better win. Well OK!
Chain of Fools. Immunity is back up for grabs. Four members of each team will be chained together at the ankles. They then have to go through a series of obstacles and collect chains and balls. The fifth person has to make a bola (bolas?) and hit a target with three. They’re also playing for a fried chicken reward. Tadhana sits Ciera out, as you would. Of course, this challenge is less about strength than successfully working in tandem. Surely this gives Vytas and his female mind-meld a huge advantage? A strange logjam occurs, but it really makes no difference. The teams are even and it’s Tyson versus Tina at bolo-tossing. Tyson finishes first, but Tina is close. Tyson gives Tadhana a 2-1 lead, but Tina equalizes. It’s sudden death and Tyson lands his bola. Will Tina’s failure with bolas cost Vytas his, um, bolas?
Winner, winner, chicken lunch. The winning Tadhana tribe falls upon the fried chicken. “I feel great,” says Hayden. Tyson wasn’t actually hungry because, as he promised us, he’s a one-man wrecking ball. Apparently everybody has been enjoying the fruits of Tyson’s gluttony, because he’s a three-time player. They all agree they have no clue who’s in charge at Galang. Funny that…
Laura pulls a Kat. Back at Galang, Laura is crying and she tells Vytas that they’ve agreed that he needs to go. It’s unclear from the expressions whether this was her strategy to spill in this way. “Let’s just have a good afternoon together,” Laura tells Vytas. “Do you think that makes me want to have a good afternoon?” Vytas shoots back. It sounds as if this wasn’t a planned revelation, but Laura just keeps babbling and babbling. Laura thinks she’s taken a leadership position and she hopes it will get her some respect. Snort. “Oh my heavens,” says an incredulous Monica to Katie. “I’m flabbergasted,” Monica tells us, claiming that this was a violation of “Survivor” 101. Suddenly, Monica doesn’t think she can trust Laura anymore. “We’re getting down to the nut-cracking,” Tina says, calling Laura “unpredictable.” Tina tells Vytas that he may, indeed, be able to slip through. Vytas compares this to a pride of lions saying, “The females are in control, but they always need one male to keep around, otherwise there’s no future for the tribe.” Yes. The Galang women need your sperm to survive, Vytas. Katie is conflicted. The women all pray for both Laura and for Vytas, as Katie says that whatever goes down won’t be pretty.
Tribal Council. Ha. Jeff Probst begins by asking Laura what happened when they got back to camp. Laura says what she did, which gets a “Wow” from Probst. “I think it’s extremely risky,” Monica says of Laura’s choice to tell Vytas without talking with her alliance. “I wish we could have talked about it before,” Katie agrees. Probst lays out the dynamic and the choice between Vytas and Laura. “It doesn’t matter how many girls you have. It matters how many trustworthy people you have,” Vytas says. Tina thinks Vytas reeks of sincerity. Vytas thinks Aras would be bummed if he went out now. “I tried to be myself and put myself out there and let my guard down,” Laura says of what her story will be if she goes home. Vytas says that he’s voting based on who’s least trustworthy, not on who has the best story.
The vote. Laura writes Vytas’ name. Vytas writes Laura’s name. Probst tallies: Vytas. Laura. Laura. [Uh-oh!] Laura. Vytas smirks. The women all look chagrinned. Laura just looks regretful. “I just can’t believe that they’re keeping Vytas and they voted me out,” says Laura, who vows that if she’s returned to the game, it won’t be to realign with the girls. Hath hell a fury like a Laura scorned? I honestly don’t know.
Bottom Line, I. Kat consistently makes me feel sad for Kat. It happened in her first season and it happened tonight. I mean, going into a challenge convinced you’re going to lose because, “it’s a puzzle and I can’t even spell.” And actually having the mindset that your boyfriend’s love might be conditional on certain game-based incentives? You may call it pathetic or regressive or weak, but I just call it sad. When she left the game the last time, Kat talked about all the growing up she had to do and I feel like she was rushed back into the game because “Survivor” producers liked the idea of the cute blond with the “Big Brother” stud as her boyfriend. I’d have preferred to maybe see Kat again in five or six seasons when she’d gone through a bit more life and toughened up a bit. Instead, the takeaway from this was that Kat really shouldn’t have been brought back to “Survivor” and I don’t think she currently represents what constitutes “good” TV. Merely sad.
Bottom Line, II. Of course, Laura B also makes me sad, because there’s something pretty crushing about watching an introvert think that they’ve finally found the secret to being open and making friends and sharing herself with others, only to discover that maybe those attributes aren’t so great on “Survivor.” All Laura wanted was to be able to trust the people she thought she could trust and to be honest with the person she felt affection for and didn’t want to hurt. And is that such a horrible thing? Well, yes. In “Survivor,” that’s a pretty horrible thing. Apparently. The pretty clear lesson, from both Kat and Laura, is that “Survivor” really isn’t the place to work out your immaturity or social anxiety issues, unless you’re John Cochran.
Bottom Line, III. Vytas’ contempt for the women in his tribe is only rivaled by how the women in Vytas’ tribe are living down to his contempt. That being said, full credit to Vytas for not giving up and for recognizing the susceptibility of his new tribemates within seconds of meeting them. This was not a good episode for women.
Bottom Line, IV. This is the second straight season that “Survivor” has done a pre-Merge shuffle that yielded two tribes with wildly disproportionate strengths. It’s not my favorite thing. And for all of the weakness of both the original Tadhana and the new Galang, we’re pretty much looking at a wide open game that Aras and Vytas will be able to sway entirely if they decide they’re going the same way. They become a powerful swing duo that could either go with New Tadhana, decimate the weak women and move on, or they could go with New Galang and start picking off the strong men. I guess there could be some swing one way or the other depending on who returns to the game, of course. Still, the majority of the Merged tribe would be wise to pick between Aras and Vytas, vote one of them out immediately and then figure out the next move after that.
I’m sure I’m not thinking this through fully, but come on… RED SOX! Thoughts?