Pre-credit sequence. We’re following up on Brad’s shocking outster from last week. “Wow, you guys,” Caleb says, obviously pleased with himself. “What the heck? Tribal was unreal,” Teen Mom says, obviously unclear on the very nature of reality. “If this is Brad’s time, it was Brad’s time,” Vytas rationalizes, obviously unclear on the very nature of time. Teen Mom knows that if they can get Caleb to go with them, they’d have the numbers. “It just festered,” Caleb says, explaining that his big move wasn’t premeditated. Hayden is stunned and doesn’t know if he’s now on the outs.
Guess Who’s Coming to Redemption Island? “Caleb made a good move. Kudos to him,” Brad says, crediting Caleb for learning a thing or two from Colton. As we saw last week. Brad arrives at Redemption Island apologizing and raising the white flag. He surrenders aggressively in the middle of the night, waking up John and Candice. “At least I feel a little vindication here,” John says, groggily. “Quite frankly, I’m glad I’m not going to get abused and yelled at on Redemption Island,” Brad says, but Candice says she still has no love for Brad. “In this game, it’s kill or be killed and he’s on our island now,” Candice says, vowing to knock Brad out for good.
The Eyes of Laura M. Meanwhile, the Returnees keep winning and they’re doing OK. Actually, Laura M and Aras are doing better than OK. They’re doing some late-night rub-downs. Laura views this intimacy as a sign of trust. Aras, however, doesn’t think that Laura’s flirtation is earning more of his trust. In fact, he still has Laura, Laura and Kat outside of his alliance. Laura M has posted on Facebook that she thinks this episode was improperly edited to imply something naughty happened, but there she is mentioning her 20 years of marriage. Don’t worry, Laura! I don’t believe for a second that there’s a showmance brewing. Anyway, though, Other Laura, Rupert’s Wife, is still feeling like an outsider, which she is, so that’s appropriate.
A bridge too far. Welcome back to Redemption Island Arena. Monica starts crying when she sees that Brad was booted. “I’m so sorry,” she cries. “Can I take your spot?” she asks. “You’re never gonna take my spot. I’m gonna battle. I’ll come back,” Brad promises, and says he wants to prove to everybody that he’s not a jerk. Candice stands by what she’s heard, but gets lectured by Monica about making judgments or something. Ick. The Duel: You have to take planks and build a bridge and then get the planks back and form them into a puzzle. This is a familiar, recycled “Survivor” task. Candice gets out to a big lead building her bridge, but she slows down. John finishes his bridge first, followed by Brad, with Candice suddenly lagging. But the biggest part of the task is still the puzzle-building. “Yin-Yang in the middle! Yin-Yang in the middle!” Monica yells to Brad. John finishes first, winning his second straight Duel and turning to coach Candice. It’s neck-and-neck. Brad finishes! Candice and John exchange no-mouthwash kisses. “I think I’d have to say that this is my hardest,” Candice says, explaining that this was different from playing with 20 strangers. “It’s absolutely miserable,” John says. She tells him not to worry about her and burns her buff. John gives Monica another Immunity clue. “Throw it in the fire,” Brad yells at her. “Throw it in the fire,” Monica repeats. “It’s no good,” Brad yells at her. “It’s no good,” the Stepford Wife repeats.
Momica and Talky Tina. “Thanks for your tears and support,” the Stepford Wife tells her tribe, while Tina agrees that she’d be surprised if Brad doesn’t return to the game. “We’re the same person. If one of us is here, we’re both here,” Monica says, a thought that concerns Tina, even if Monica is vowing that their alliance won’t be changed. “I think that our group will stay five,” Monica tells Tina, saying they’ll decide what happens after the Merge. The jury is still out for Tina.
Big Cajones Burger. The Newbies are sharing a banana. Like bananas, the game has layers, Teen Mom explains. She’s having a tough time, covering in bug bites and with unbrushed teeth. “At this point, we’re losing and slowly our bodies are disintegrating,” Teen Mom says. Katie has athlete’s food and we’re staring it it, just as we’re staring at the flies hovering around various scabs. And… Ew. Why am I looking at Katie’s toenails, which are falling off. “I feel bad for the girl,” says Vytas, who’s also a bit sickened. Out on the water, Vytas and Caleb are chattering, even as Vytas says he’ll never 100 percent trust Caleb again. Vytas is frustrated because he can’t get a read on Caleb, so he’s kissing his butt and talking about how great his skin looks. “Do I feel powerful now? I think the word I’ve heard is ‘big kahunas.'” I genuinely don’t know if he’s talking about the burger joint from “Pulp Fiction” or suggesting he has big balls, only with faulty Spanish.
MVP – Most Vytas Player. Vytas is doing pre-challenge yoga. He says that without Brad around camp, everything is quieter and he can hear the nature. “I’ve never been anywhere more beautiful,” he says. The remaining Tadhana castaways sit across a glorious cliff and declare that they just have to win. Teen Mom thinks that winning the next challenge would be perfect timing for all of them. This is absolutely a stunning place to contemplate sucking.
Chutes and Ladders. Immunity is back up for grabs. Players will race down a slide, two-by-two, catching a ring and tossing it onto a post. First tribe with five rings wins. They’re also playing for Reward. It’s steak, vegetables and spices or, if you’re Tadhana, possibly fishing materials. Monica and both Lauras sit out. Caleb beats Gervase and gives Tadhana a 1-0 lead. Tyson beats Hayden to even things at 1. Katie finally does something successfully and beats Kat to make it 2-1. In our second brother-on-brother showdown, Vytas wins a tiny bit of redemption and Tadhana takes a 3-1 lead. Tina beats Teen Mom and it’s 3-2. With everybody on their second turns, Caleb beats Tyson and Tadhana is on the verge of its first win. The editing suggests this is about to be a big moment for Tadhana. It is. Hayden beats Gervase and the Newbies win their first challenge of the season. Katie thanks Jesus. For the Reward, Tadhana takes steaks, an immediate-gratification decision Jeff Probst mocks.
The choice between Laura and Laura. Suddenly, the Returnees are facing Tribal Council. This is a first for Rupert’s Wife. Her strategy is to be very aware and to mix it up, whatever that means. Laura B, causing trouble, tells Tina that the other girls wanted to do the challenge instead of her. Kat nods politely and figures that Laura’s rumor-spreading was just an act of desperation. Tyson tells us that the plan is to vote out the person everybody is annoyed with, specifically Laura B. Laura M and Aras agree that this could be an easy decision. “Everyone feels uncomfortable with her,” Aras says of Laura B, but he’s beginning to feel like easy votes might be too easy. Aras’ confusing suggestion is that they could vote Laura M out and she might beat Brad and send him packing, making Monica a future asset. They tell Monica that plan, without explaining their reason, but she figures it out herself and counter-suggests Laura B. Aras wants Laura M, but he also doesn’t want to appear to be manipulating the vote. That leads me to suspect we’re about to end our streak of interesting Tribal Councils.
Tribal Council. In this game, fire represents life! Probst begins by asking Gervase about how the game has changed in 13. Gervase says that these people make moves faster than in his day. Tina a agrees that she played more in five days here than she did in Australia. Well, sure. Colby probably wouldn’t say that. Blah blah, blood, blah blah. Aras and Laura M agree that their tribe is their blood, more than their blood on the other tribe. Point-blank, Probst asks Laura B if she belongs in the game. She says she does. Monica agrees that Laura B is part of the tribe, which Probst suggests could be the dreaded vote of confidence.
The vote. Laura M writes Laura B’s name and says there’s only room for one “Laura.” Tina writes Laura, but we don’t know which one. Laura B writes Laura M’s name and also says something about having only one Laura on the tribe. Nobody plays an Immunity Idol. Probst tallies: B. M. M. M. M. The fifth person voted out is Laura M, as Kat engulfs herself in her hoodie. Laura says nothing. “I would expect nothing less from a group of returning players than a blindside straight out of the gate,” Probst grins. Laura arrives at Redemption Island admitting that she trusted people she shouldn’t have trusted.
Bottom Line, Part I. Candice was sent to Redemption Island originally because none of the returning players really knew her. And most viewers didn’t care about that decision, because we didn’t really know her either. So it’s funny that this will probably go down as Candice’s most memorable “Survivor” run in a season in which she didn’t play the traditional “Survivor” game for a single second. In this strange context, she was aggressive, somewhat successful and even briefly likable. It would have been a decent story if she could have somehow found a way to break back into the game. Well, slightly decent. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still not completely sure who Candice is. But this was a better season for her. I’m going to be able to ask her lots of questions about the chore wheel on Redemption Island.
Bottom Line, Part II. I don’t know who Laura M is either, but I don’t think the episode made her looked as bad as she apparently worried it might. She was doing a little flirting, I guess. But it wasn’t egregious. I’m sure her husband couldn’t disapprove. As for Laura M as a “Survivor” player? Yeah. I still don’t remember anything she did in her first season other than not quite buy into the Russell Hantz BS Machine. She deserves some credit for that, but in this case, I can’t say whether voting her out was meaningful at all. If Laura B has been trying hard in challenges, then I think between the two of them, it doesn’t much better who you vote out. It comes down to whether people with loved ones are more dangerous than people without. Laura B is still a free radical. Laura M has ties to Teen Mom, if we care. It doesn’t seem like the Returnees are weakened by one loss or the other, nor would they be strengthened by any particular move. Would there have been logic to voting Monica out and trying to make sure that that pair couldn’t be in the game together? Well yeah, that would have been my first thought. But what do I know?
Bottom Line, Part III. After two straight weeks of big Tribal Council blindsides and game-changing twists, this was an disappointing episode. Yes, Laura M was blindsided, but it got to the point where I could barely tell the two Lauras apart anyway. Otherwise, we spent a lot of time watching Laura M massage Aras and a lot of time picking scabs with Tadhana. That’s not a great “Survivor” episode.
What’d you think?