SurvivorSurvivor: Blood vs Water

Individual Games – Redeeming Redemption Island – 10/08/13

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Before this season started, Jeff Probst defended the return of Redemption Island, stating that he likes second chances and that it means characters like Rupert and Colton (why, hello there, irony fairies!) would stay in the game a little longer once they were voted out. The edit has borne out this point of view, since Redemption Island footage so far has largely consisted of Rupert glowering from the water.

As a selling point, this has not convinced me. My problem with Redemption Island is that it keeps players isolated from all the politics that are the main challenge of Survivor. The first player off could battle their way back into the game, but when they’ve been unable to participate in the tribal scrambling, it’s hard to feel invested in their game.

That all changed this episode, when Rachel decided that a torch-snuffing was no reason to stop strategizing. We didn’t see it in the episode, but her secret scene is set on Redemption Island, where she declares that they need to form an alliance of women and turn the game against her male-dominated tribe. Clearly, due to the rules of Redemption Island, this is a ridiculous idea… and on Survivor those ridiculous ideas can be ridiculously effective.

It’s a million to one shot, but it just might work

e1-candice Candice has always been an aggressive strategist.[/caption]

That secret scene starts with Rachel talking about Brad. Marissa is politely paying attention to her, but Candice is only half-listening, making monosyllabic replies. As soon as Rachel starts talking strategy and actually getting Brad out of the game, the veteran sits up straight and gets actively involved in the conversation. Candice has always been an aggressive strategist, and seven days into the game, she must be frothing at the bit to actually play. The rest of the scene is devoted to them trash-talking Brad, including Candice who has never even met the guy! Rachel explains that he’s planning on hurting their loved ones, so they want to strike back by throwing him under the bus.

The apparently insurmountable problem here is that, at the most, only one of these women is going back into the game. They can’t form a voting bloc against Brad. Fortunately there’s more to an alliance than that, and while these women have no vote in the game, they had a moment of influence right before the so-called duel.

When Jeff addressed Rachel, she was ready. She called out Brad as the orchestrator of her exit, giving Tyson a target for his own declaration of vengeance. (Who ever would have thought after Tocantins that we’d see Tyson as a romantic hero?) Brad was not prepared for that; his impudent wave and assertion that they were voting players off out of spite only served to make it more personal.

Marissa was quick to butt in here with her own instructions for how Brad should be playing, winding up with a pithy statement that will probably be her defining moment. (We have been so deprived by Marissa’s early exit.) The women’s demonstration was interrupted by Colton’s breakdown, but they had already altered every player’s perception of where Brad stood in the game.

Obviously, it did not work in the way they intended. The power wielded from Redemption Island is a blunt weapon at best, and while the women hit Brad, it was John who took the fall.

Was this Brad’s way of spiting Candice? John’s wife fed her own opinions of Brad to the women at camp, but we didn’t see her saying anything at the duel, and she was careful to keep her face down when laughing at Marissa’s profanity. It’s possible her contribution to the Brad-beating was cut, but I am inclined to believe the edit, that she kept quiet—the women should have anticipated that Brad could go after John to punish Candice for a verbal attack. Certainly, in Monica’s description of the event, she only makes note of Marissa’s tirade.

Regardless, Candice and John are the first loved ones to be reunited on Redemption Island. Candice, with her experience, has to remain the favorite for their challenges, but John’s also proven very capable so far and, like Candice, is a doctor used to operating under pressure. This looks like the end of the road for Marissa.

Ultimately, of course, only one Cody can go back into the game, and John and Candice have to be thinking about that. I’m going to agree with the Know It Alls that John will give way to Candice this time—though not because he already ‘took’ her spot in the game. (She was the one who got voted out!) Rather, because he’s had his shot at this game, and it didn’t work. It’s her turn again under that moral logic. Besides, after the merge, the male challenge threats tend to get picked off before the women.

Honestly, I think either of them would be at too much of a disadvantage to pull out a win, but barring Hayden showing up at Redemption Island, my bet is on a Cody to get back into the game. I am betting against them forging a post-merge alliance with Brad.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

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Brad believes he is subtle.

Rachel and Marissa’s denouncement of Brad would have come as no surprise to the rest of Tadhana, who were probably more than happy that the attention was being deflected off them. This was why they set him up as their figurehead in the first place—though they should be taking due note of how he’s now the villain of this particular story.

For his own part, Brad was laboring under the impression that he has been a more subtle influence on his tribe. Like any good strategy-fan, Brad had endeavored to plant suggestions in his allies’ heads and let them think they came up with the idea. (I have my suspicions that the number of players who believe they pulled this trick off is vastly disproportionate to the number that actually succeeded.)

After the scene at Redemption Island, Brad declared that he was wide awake now and the game was on. What he really meant was that his paranoia had been awoken, prompting him to tear into one of the strongest players in his alliance, for fear that John and his ass-kicking wife would be too powerful a team after the merge—though, by my count, that merge should still be three or four tribal councils away! So much for keeping the muscle around and voting off ‘the John Cochrans and weak women.’

While John’s absence will be a huge detriment in the challenges, it’s not the worst idea in the world to vote him off. He had two clues to the idol and in all likelihood, Candice was going to keep on giving them to him until he found it. With him out of the way, the rest of the tribe can use what he told Brad as a starting point to find it themselves.

On the other hand, with both John and Candice on Redemption Island, it’s very unlikely Tadhana will be getting any more clues. (In this scenario, is it possible that one idol might never be found?) Having an idol in your alliance for the merge is always preferable to having no idol at all, and John tweeted to Dalton Ross, “I did tell my alliance that the idol was for us as a group to move forward multiple times.”

Oddly, after the previous tribal council, when John was angry about his name being written down, it was Brad who went to the trouble of reassuring him that it was the girls who had done it, that it had nothing to do with anybody else in his alliance. That investment paid off for Brad when John entrusted him with the clues to the idol; after Rachel’s demise, it appears that John decided to strengthen his bonds with Brad to secure his spot in the game. That kind of loyalty is a huge thing to throw away on the gamble that Candice would be coming back from Redemption Island.

Finally, if Brad didn’t like his dirty laundry being aired at Redemption Island, John is the last person he should be voting off. I will be very surprised if John and/or Candice don’t make sure to tell everybody that Brad knows the clues for the hidden immunity idol. Since Brad already told his Tadhana allies, he won’t get the idol target on his back, but he will come off as even more of a snake to Galang for betraying that trust. Image is a big thing in Survivor, and Brad’s going to have to work on his.

The real power in Tadhana

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John thought they were deciding between Ciera and Katie.

How far can John fall in a week? Not only did he get voted out, but after winning major feminist points with his she-can-fight-her-own-battles attitude towards his wife, he went and lost them all after ranting about the girls’ challenge performance and deciding that Ciera could go because Katie did the cooking. We shall be kind and chalk it up to challenge-frustration, especially since he argued to keep Rachel for her strength. (NB: this kind of challenge is precisely why you cannot rely on having the men be the challenge-strength; against your average Survivor cast, a strong woman can be more of an asset in a challenge than a strong man.)

It’s one of the anomalies of the season that the two weakest women on Tadhana are the last ones left standing, and that after three straight challenge losses, the tribe continues to vote out strong players. Ciera declared that it speaks to her social game, and it does, but I’m not convinced that Rachel or John were making any major mistakes in that line either. I’ll give Katie and Ciera full credit for staying alive in this game, but this is one of those situations that really requires the perfect storm of people and circumstance.

A tight alliance doesn’t hurt either. I speculated on an alliance between the girls, Hayden and Vytas last week, and now I’m sure of it. For the second straight week, we saw this foursome discussing the vote in advance of Tribal Council, all of them clearly at ease with each other, with none of the hesitation and “If you’re OK with that,” disclaimers we typically hear at such moments.

Obviously, my interpretation of these findings is biased. I admit, it seems a little odd that if such an alliance exists, we haven’t heard of it. Then again, it’s reasonably common for alliances to go unmentioned in Survivor, as the edit tries to simplify things, and it is at least as odd that Katie and Ciera haven’t been voted out yet if they’re not in a solid alliance.

One of the most significant pieces of evidence for me was that Vytas made no attempt to influence the vote. It’s always possible that he encouraged Brad’s paranoia against John, but he tweeted that he would never have suggested such a big move so early. So why not discourage Brad from doing so? He went on to add “I was happy to let Brad keep “running the tribe”. Sorry John. No targets on my back yet please.”

Vytas had no qualms about guiding the previous two votes (and even this week, he wouldn’t let Brad throw his vote at Ciera to duck the blame), so why is he suddenly so circumspect? In my hypothetical scenario, it’s because he didn’t have to get involved this time. In the previous episodes, he was not so much targeting Marissa and Rachel as he was deflecting the vote from Katie and Ciera. This week, Brad came up with the idea of turning on John independently, allowing Vytas to preserve his secret alliance without showing his hand.

Is it Vytas’ alliance? Well, without the alliance being acknowledged, it’s impossible to tell who’s in control. It’s not Hayden though. Hayden floated the idea of voting against Brad (and if that doesn’t mean he has total trust in Katie and Ciera, then Hayden’s too big a fool to have won Big Brother), and his secret scene shows that he wanted to keep John around because John keeps a target off his back. In an alliance of Vytas, Katie and Ciera, Hayden has to be aware his challenge prowess will stick out like a sore thumb.

So if Tadhana lose again (and at this point, I think it would be difficult for them to win a challenge, unless it’s one that forces Gervase to swim), does this mean Brad is out? Hayden was more interested in keeping John than in losing Brad, and keeping Brad around is vital to Vytas’ game. Not only that, but if they do lose again, that alliance is going to have to think long and hard before getting rid of a guy who has performed well in the challenges.

We saw in Caramoan last season that Laura’s alliance would only protect her for so long before they finally got tired of losing, and Vytas’ tweet indicates that he felt it was too soon to break up the five guys alliance. Ciera is not out of the woods yet.

On the other hand, Caleb has actually contributed less to the challenges than Ciera has. (Observation brazenly stolen from Jeff Pitman at True Dork Times.) Although his newly single status should make him an attractive ally, he might make a handy compromise boot if Vytas can trump up a reason for Brad to target him.

Or I could be totally wrong, and Caleb might be at the center of the real power alliance on Tadhana. Feel free to speculate!

Galang – Playing the Hand you’re Dealt

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Tyson consoled Rachel… but not Monica.

Despite Colton’s best attempts to make an impression on the Galang alliance, it was the Redemption Island women’s power move that created the first rift, as Monica struggled with the vitriol directed at her husband. Here, again, we see the maturity on Galang, as even Tyson was able to understand her point of view—he didn’t join in the group hug to comfort her, but Gervase did, and he’s no more of a Brad-fan than Tyson is.

It’s a difficult position for Monica to be in. It’s one thing to know logically that not all your friends necessarily like your husband; it’s quite another to see your friends and/or their loved ones verbally attacking him. In a game like Survivor, where emotions run so high and trust is so tenuous, dealing with that can be a big deal.

At least Monica is self-aware enough to keep some perspective. In her secret scene she admits that she would love to write Marissa’s name down in revenge, but moments later she’s acknowledging that Marissa’s young and nobody likes to be voted out.

Nevertheless, Brad’s image isn’t going to improve next episode, and going by his tribemates’ opinion of him, Monica isn’t going to find things any easier once they merge (or swap tribes). Monica isn’t somebody who had to worry unduly about her portrayal the first time she played, and it’s doubtful she ever anticipated that Brad would be seen as a villain. She’s going to have to find peace with that idea or else the strain on her relationships will isolate her from her alliance.

I think it will be easier for those angry with Brad to forgive Monica than for Monica to forgive them. Tyson’s bitter about Rachel’s departure, but as long as Monica’s sensitive enough not to defend Brad’s move to him, Tyson’s smart enough to know that it wasn’t Monica who voted her off.

Tyson’s game changed as radically as anybody’s this episode. He lost Rachel and he received a crippling injury. In an extra scene, Dr Ramona explains that he might have torn his tendon and tendons don’t repair themselves properly. As this scene was not deemed episode-worthy, it could be that Tyson’s tendon is not torn after all and he’ll be fine in a couple of episodes. However, at the time, he had to reassess his strategy to one where he can’t use that arm properly for the rest of the game. (Ironically, Tadhana managed to neutralize his challenge threat after all.)

Tyson remained philosophical, noting that if he’s no longer competing in challenges, that takes a target off his back so this could be a blessing rather than a curse. He is a liability to his tribe now, but Galang are back to being two players up, so they should be able to sit him out if they need to—unless the gender imbalance forces him to compete as in this episode.

My prediction is for one more change in Tyson’s fortunes. Assuming Candice wins the next duel as well, (if she doesn’t, John is more likely to beat her than Marissa, and the two will no doubt discuss this in advance), I think she’ll give the idol clue to Tyson. He was one of the only Galang not to vote for her, and his girlfriend was allied with John (and, briefly, Candice). Only one Cody can go back into the game, but from the previews next week, they’re going to burn their bridges with Tadhana. That means they need to start advertising themselves to Galang.

Candice considered this week the option of using the clue to curry favor with Galang, though ultimately she decided that as she had no idea what’s going on in the game, it was best to keep all the information with John. She never mentioned a name, and it’s entirely possible she could just present the clue to the entire tribe (though that would mean letting Monica have access to it), but it’s a bigger gesture to give it to one person. Laura, as the other single player they’ve met is also a possibility, or even Gervase if Marissa goes home. Tyson seems the most likely option.

Handily, last week, Tyson gave his opinion on the correct way to deal with the idol clue, saying that John should show it to his entire tribe, so I’m guessing he’ll show it to his alliance at the very least, though we’ll have to see how he handles this new target on his back—if it happens! Regardless, (assuming this is the third clue and Galang won’t start with the first) it’s very likely somebody will find Galang’s idol next week, so that could provide the dynamic change in the group that we’re looking for.

Despite Colton’s untimely exit, there’s really nothing going on with the rest of Galang. Probably the only person to suffer from Colton’s quit is Kat, who I now assume moves onto the chopping block—she’s aware that she’s out of the loop and wants Hayden to know that, if he’s secure, he should keep losing challenges to protect her. Gervase is focused on sending Tadhana, one by one, to Redemption Island so that Marissa can exact her revenge. Laura Morett, Tina and Aras are happy to kick back, relax and comment on their loved ones’ challenge performance.

Laura Boneham appears to be the only person actively working to improve her place in the game. In EW’s deleted scene, she’s gone spearfishing to increase her stock. She only catches a small fish and says it’s the second one she’s caught, so it’s hard to judge her success. If nobody else is having any luck with spearfishing, then even a small fish is a big treat for the tribe. If, say, Aras is bringing back at least one fish every day, then she’s redundant. But she’s clearly not taking anything for granted, so good for her.

Unwanted Déjà Vu

Honestly though, the biggest threat to anybody on Galang seems to be a med-evac. As I said above, it’s hard to believe that they can lose the next challenge (though it’s rowing again, and we saw how well that went last time), so it’s just a case of keeping those relationships strong to the merge, while Tadhana grimly hunkers down and decides which of their players they can most afford to lose.

This scenario has happened far too often in recent seasons—South Pacific was the last time we saw tribes evenly balanced in the challenges, while both Philippines and Caramoan saw one tribe all but wiped out while another coasted easily to the merge. As far as good television goes, it’s a killer for the pre-merge game, as the dominant tribe might as well be on Redemption Island for all the politics they have to worry about, while we viewers build our investment in the gameplay of the losing tribe only to watch those alliances destroyed by their increasing minority.

At least Philippines had that minority eventually pull out a win, but getting through the pre-merge is a depressing prospect, and the production staff needs to figure out a way to stop this happening so often—putting an end to newbies vs. veterans tribes would be a good start. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for Redemption Island, since the preduel tirades look to be the best hope for this season. (NB: let the record show that I still don’t ever want to see Redemption Island again; bring on more tribal swapping.)

It’s an odd legacy for Rachel Foulger to leave the game, but for somebody gone so early, she’s left a big mark. Kudos.

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