Pre-credit sequence. John arrives on Redemption Island and greets his wife. “Candice. It’s me,” he introduces himself. He’s such a courteous man! “What are you doing here?” she asks, either confused or annoyed. John is shell-shocked that Brad lied to him, but Candice isn’t shocked that Brad was lied to. “I knew you were going to be too trusting with people,” Candice tells him. She loves how gullible her husband is, but she knows this bodes ill for his “Survivor” performance.
Us & Them, premiering on FOX at midseason. Back at camp, the Returnees agree that John wasn’t a good liar and Brad gloats about his achievement. He thinks that in past seasons, the five guys would have stayed together, but in a Loved Ones season, “This isn’t Us versus Them, this is Some against Others.” That’s confusing. Caleb thinks he may be in trouble, because he no longer has a Loved One on the other side.
A third pre-credit sequence? Don’t they know I need time to write? At Redemption Island, Candice arrives flipping Brad off. “I was really upset,” Candice tells Jeff Probst about seeing her husband again. She wanted somebody she hated to be sent to Redemption Island. “Somebody like Brad Culpepper,” she adds. Interestingly, Brad greets this without a smirk. Does the bully dislike being bulled? CREDITS!
The couple that puzzles together, um, something somethings together. “Just look away. You’re a child,” Candice tells Brad, who is trying to stare her down. Monica springs to her hubby’s defence. “There’s not just one person voting. There’s an entire tribe voting,” Monica tries telling Candice, who says that Brad has been hushing the women in the camp. Brad interrupts Candice to say that he doesn’t trust women. John, seemingly taking himself as a woman, admits that he has not been hushed, but adds, “He’s not somebody to be trusted.” Brad agrees, “I think you made a wrong decision in trusting me” I’m so distracted by the drama that I can’t pay attention to what the Duel really entails. They’re maneuvering a key across a rope that’s through a ladder. The key unlocks an assortment of puzzle pieces. There are so many puzzle pieces that really the whole thing with the ladder was utterly irrelevant. Window-dressing. Filler. John and Marissa get off to a fast start on the puzzle, while Candice sets her pieces aside in an orderly fashion. “It’s like he designed this himself,” Probst says of fast-moving John. Probst praises Candice for her calm when it comes to everything but Brad Culpepper. “You cut my baby, I cut you,” Candice says. Brad sneers and whispers to his tribe that he can win John’s trust back, proving his point by shouting helpful advice that John follows to victory. Brad is smug. And Candice finishes second and they both survive. There will be great intimacy at Redemption Island tonight! And Marissa is out of the game. “I’m impressed. I’m proud of you,” Gervase tells Marissa, vowing that she’s given him a little more oomph in the game. John has the new Immunity Clue, which Candice instructs should go to Monica. Probst mocks John for this emasculation, but John knows this will put a target on Monica. “Walk it down and put it in the fire,” Brad yaps at his wife. And Monica does just that. “That is the first time that has ever happened,” Probst says. “Doing what she’s told,” Candice says cattily, approving of spouses who do exactly what they’re told when it’s John, but not so much when it’s Monica.
Bow chicka wow wow. Apparently now that it’s a Couples Resort, we’re spending time on Redemption Island, where John is enjoying spending time with Candice. He wanted to play with Candice and how he has the chance. Plus, Candice is catching fish for the two of them. “This will be a fun story to tell the kids one day,” Candice says, well aware that it doesn’t matter who wins, because a million bucks is a million bucks. And all I can think is that these guys haven’t brushed their teeth for 10 days.
Stand by your Brad. Monica is mopey. “People have hurt feelings and they’re bitter and mad,” somebody tries reassuring her, but Monica is sure that the target is on Brad because he’s being so helpful to his fellow castaways. Yup. He’s just a misunderstood leader who’s surely fishing for everybody and doing all of the work around camp and they resent that. Wow is Brad! “You don’t know Brad from ‘Survivor,'” Gervase very correctly tells Monica, saying that Brad might be “decevious.” Gervase figures that somebody’s running the show over there and he knows it isn’t Marissa.
Daddy Braddy gets saddy. Caleb calls Candice out on her spousal inconsistencies, but Brad’s feelings are just a bit hurt, apparently. “It’s just natural for me to kind of lead my family and I have become the leader of this group,” Brad says. He’s already planning ahead and because Caleb is unconnected, he thinks Caleb could be a good target and would bring a Redemption Island Duel at which nobody screams at him. Live to dream, Brad! And for all of my derision just a paragraph ago, Brad is, indeed, providing fish right now. And as he’s out in the water, the other guys are discussing Brad and whether they want to keep him because he would take the target off of them post-Merge. Hayden wants Brad around, but he’s afraid of getting “Johnned.”
Cuckoo for Coconuts. Tyson’s arm is still in a sling. He’s in pain and everybody’s telling him to relax, rest and not help out. “I do like to play it up a little bit,” Tyson admits, noting that this boosts his sympathy and reduces his chore load. Whenever the women go away, Tyson and Gervase go out into the jungle and eat some specially emptied coconuts from outside of the main supply. They’re the Coconut Bandits! Later, Laura returns from the woods and discovers that there are slashes in the coconuts. She isn’t sure what’s happening, but Monica suggests that crabs might be using crowbars to open the coconuts. “Me and Tyson, who would have thought?” Gervase says of Operation Coconut, while Tyson tries telling the women that in Samoa, the coconuts were similarly cracked open. Tyson wants to work with Gervase after a Merge, because they’re both missing their loved ones. He’s also focusing on Aras and Vytas as the pair that would be dangerous if they’re together.
Paddle to the sea. Immunity is back up for grabs. Teams have to paddle out and get five crates. They then have to build stairs with the crates, solve a puzzle, get a key and unlock a flag. They’re playing for Reward as well. It’s tea and coffee and some carbs (or fishing gear). Tyson is determined to compete despite his arm, sending Tina and Kat to the bench. Once again, the Newbies get out to a lead, because the Returnees can’t paddle. Again. This is like going on “Amazing Race” and not being able to drive stick. When the Newbies lose a crate, the Returnees grab the lead back. Things get closer on the stair-building, with the Newbies moving back into the lead. Jeff Probst is throwing out lots of dramatic irony. Tadhana hasn’t won a single challenge yet! The last times Katie went head-to-head with Tina, Tina won! Galang finishes the puzzle first. Did they untie the right key? Yes! Galang wins once again. Laura is sad that Teen Mom’s tribe keeps losing, but she also knows that Teen Mom couldn’t beat her. There are tears.
Beware the three-armed moms. Disheartened Tadhana returns. “Unbelievable. We haven’t won yet. I mean, we suck,” Hayden says. “Today, we lost to a one-armed dude and three moms,” he accurately observes. The men go to get water, but Brad sticks around and tells Teen Mom and Katie that the vote is against Caleb. Teen Mom nods politely, but she isn’t sure if she can trust Brad, who warns them that if they lose another challenge, “it’s nut-cuttin’ time.” Ick. The non-Brad men want to target Teen Mom, but Caleb realizes that there’s something fishy to Brad sticking behind and talking to the women. He thinks, however, that he can trust Vytas and Hayden. Brad’s opinion appears to have changed, though and now he wants to strengthen the tribe and he’s back to targeting Teen Mom and… Oh, whatever.
Tribal Council. “This is not how I envisioned it,” Brad says, telling Jeff that they’ve lost two challenges solely due to puzzles and he blames Teen Mom. Teen Mom wants to find options and she’s determined not to whine. “It’s really tough when you’ve got your dirty laundry getting aired,” Brad says, insisting that the word that’s been spreading is false. Jeff tells Brad that voting out somebody without a loved one would be better for him, which Brad agrees with. This gives Caleb pause. “I love a blindside. Do I want to be the butt of it? No, I don’t,” Caleb says, claiming he’s the low man on the totem pole and accusing Brad of campaigning against him. Brad denies this, like everything else. “The problem is, once you distrust someone, it’s really hard to regain their trust,” Hayden says. Caleb announces that he’s writing Brad’s name down, because he doesn’t want to write Teen Mom’s down. He tells Teen Mom and Katie that they can join him Brad insists he isn’t writing Caleb’s name down. This shocks Aras.
The vote. Caleb does, is promised, write Brad’s name down. Brad, as promised, doesn’t vote for Caleb and votes for Teen Mom. Nobody plays an Idol. Probst tallies: Brad. Ciera. Ciera. Brad. Ciera. BRAD. A tie! Revote! We’ll see if this changes anything, since the lines are pretty much drawn. Hayden writes a “C” and crosses it out and laughs nervously. Probst tallies again: Brad. Ciera [Hayden’s vote.]. Brad. BRAD. Wow! “Well-played. I’m not mad at you,” Brad tells Caleb. “I made a bad move. I’m not like everybody else,” Brad says as he leaves. “What just happened?” Teen Mom asks. Jeff Probst says it’s one of the most shocking votes ever. I’m not sure about that. But it was definitely fun. Brad arrives at Redemption Island waving the white flag and Candice is giddy about the opportunity to take Brad out of the game for good.
Bottom Line, I. Marissa didn’t get to participate very much in the game, but she seemed feisty and smart and capable. I wish she could have had the chance to do more. I’m not crushed by her absence, but mostly I’m just going to have Redemption Island to talk to her about tomorrow morning. That’s less fun.
Bottom Line, II. For the first time, I started to feel like this was getting unpleasant, the one-sidedness of the season. On one hand, I like watching Brad lose and another Tadhana loss set up a really good Tribal Council and some interesting power shifts. On the other hand, you invite loved ones out to play “Survivor” with returning players and then you split them up and then the Newbies lose absolutely everything? That’s not a fun “Survivor” experience at all. I know it’s not anybody’s job to make “Survivor” a fun experience and I’m not saying this is unfair, just that it’s sad to take people who were excited about a new experience and then just watch them get beaten down. This is a personal-feeling comment, not a “Survivor” game comment, of course. But I guess you could ponder this: The Newbies keep leading the parts of challenges that are most in their physical control and they keep blowing the parts that are most “Survivor”-familiar. Back in “Fans vs. Favorites,” they only had four weeks before the tribes were shuffled and each side voted out two players, so there’s nothing to suggest that the game will always be weighed in favor of an All-Returning Tribe against an All-New Tribe. So, again, I’m not blaming “Survivor” for this. I’m just imagining how I would feel if I dreamed of having the same awesome “Survivor” experience as my loved one and then everything kept sucking. Anyway, though… enough empathy.
Bottom Line, III. Stupid Brad. Stupid Brad responding to getting blindsided with the class and respect of somebody who understands the way “Survivor” has to be played sometimes. Stupid Brad, actively admitting that he made a bad decision that led to his downfall. There’s something so unpleasant about briefly being forced to somewhat like Brad. Because I was really building up a deep reservoir of dislike for Brad, with the way he keeps responding to the antipathy hurled in his direction, with the way that he talked over Candice and ordered Monica around and with the way that his unlikability forced Monica to be his unlikable and oblivious defender. And kudos to Caleb, not just for correctly reading his position in the game and having a spine, but also for doing it in the way that he did. I feel like Caleb realized that people and also viewers are at least somewhat judging him based on Colton, so he decided to pull off a massive blindside right out in the open. That was a ballsy and dramatic move and he did it in a way in which he was both earnest, but also smart. Works for me.
Bottom Line, IV. On the other hand, it’s absurd that Teen Mom and Tina’s Daughter are still in the game. They’ve been useless in challenges, useless at strategy and yet they’re pushing deeper and deeper into the game at a stage where, under most circumstances, the useless people are supposed to be out first. And it’s worse, because Teen Mom and Tina’s Daughter are also aligned with two of the less useful returning players. They make a totally natural weak power quartet if things properly Merge. Nobody wants that.
Bottom Line, V. Candice has displayed a certain amount of unexpected verve these past couple weeks, but with John she makes an uninteresting couple. I see potential, though, for some Redemption Island drama, followed by a fun Duel next week.
Anyway, though, that was a good episode. Your thoughts?