SurvivorSurvivor: Blood vs Water

Individual Games – The Peculiarly Predictable Fall of the Brothers Baskauskas – 11/12/13

Blood vs. Water has been foreshadowing Aras’ blindside at the hands of Tyson for some time. This week it finally came to pass.

And… that was it. This has been the biggest blindside so far, a huge shift in the power of the game, and yet it told us nothing we didn’t already know. We have never really seen enough of the bonds between the varying members of Galang to be lulled into the same false sense of security that Aras was.

e8-tysongervase Would Tyson and Gervase have the nerve?[/caption]

The question was never if Aras’ side would win but rather would Tyson and Gervase have the nerve to go through with it this early. That was answered last episode when Tyson rallied his troops in preparation for the merge.

In some ways, I feel like the merge episode was a conclusion. Yes, we still don’t know how the rest of the game will unfold, but our main storyline has now been resolved with a distinct lack of suspense, there are no obvious new hooks, and most of the new information comes from Aras and Vytas themselves, in rare mid-game interviews: both brothers with EW and Vytas with Extra. (For the record, the latter more or less kills my pre-swap Hayden/Ciera/Katie/Vytas alliance theory. Darn.)

I could speculate how things will go next week, but really, I might as well just point you to last week’s blog, because contrary to my expectations, most of it still applies! So instead, I’m going retrospective: why were Aras and Vytas so confident and what factors beyond Tyson’s initiative went into their defeat?

Let us unchain ourselves from the show’s linear limitations and set our prologue on Redemption Island…

Redemption’s Eve

This week should surely have been the end of clue-burning. No previous returner from Redemption Island has survived a Tribal Council without immunity. Laura Morett was handed a clue that, by this point, must be a precise map to the hidden immunity idol’s location. She burned it.

I loved this move when she did it. I appreciate Jonathan Penner’s point that even if looking for the idol makes you a target, there’s a lot you can do with the idol to outweigh that disadvantage. However, in Laura’s case, she’s already got a big target on her back. Keeping the clue was a virtual guarantee that the new Kasama tribe would split its first vote five-four between Laura and (most likely) Ciera. Burning it showed solidarity; it made a statement that she was on the same level as the other players.

In fact, it was an even better move than it seemed. John explained in his interview that in his search for the idol, he had figured out its location by process of elimination but then he got voted off. Ever since, he had been sitting on Redemption Island, knowing exactly where the idol was and counting on Monica to burn every one of those clues, so he could collect the idol when he returned to the game. (Thanks to all the commenters who had to spell this out for me last week.)

According to a tweet from Candice, John told Laura the clues the night before the final duel. With only one of them going back into the game, it made no difference to him whether he told her or not, but it’s human nature to want to have some influence over a game even if you can’t win: we saw that when Rachel put the spotlight on Brad in episode three.

John and Laura had spent the better part of a week together, which was enough of a bond for John to help her. (It’s also possible, seeing as they wouldn’t know where the merged camp would be, that he wanted to get her thoughts on where the Galang idol was buried assuming the clue would be the same for both beaches.)

So Laura burned that clue for the same reason that Amanda emptied her bag in Micronesia: she wanted to prove she didn’t have an idol before she found it.

Clearly, events did not exactly go to Laura’s plan. Less clearly, this will be significant for the Brothers Baskauskas. (This is foreshadowing. Unlike the Survivor editors, I’ll try not to go overboard with it.)

Blood and Water vs. Survivor

The battle-lines drawn up for us this episode were Aras plus nu-Galang, and Tyson with nu-Tadhana (excepting Aras). The Brothers Baskauskas were under the impression that the original Galang alliance, with their final five promise, was still in effect, and Tyson and Gervase were with them. On that fateful night before the merge, Galang reviewed the pecking order. Gervase was instantly given preference over Tyson in what was as close to an admission of a pre-game alliance as we have ever seen on the show.

This season, the unofficial online consensus is that Aras, Gervase and Tina are the surest bet for a pre-game alliance, over even the One World or Heroes vs. Villains returnees. The oldest veterans in terms of their original games also had the oldest relationships. These might not have been as strong as the ones they had with their loved ones, but they were certainly the strongest bonds of ‘water’ between any of the players.

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Monica was their 5th but she was having none of that.

We have never known how Tyson and Monica got drafted in for their majority. We don’t really need an explanation for Tyson since his bro-lliance with Aras and Gervase was practically inevitable given their personalities. Monica’s inclusion is more obscure. They needed a fifth, but I’m surprised they didn’t go for Laura Boneham, who they should also have been familiar with and who seems like a loyal pawn for the taking. Monica might lack merge-experience, but she’s not playing to be a pawn or ostensibly loyal (witness the death of her own pre-game One World alliance). I’ve said it before somewhere, but I still give Monica credit for whatever social game gained her entry to that clique.

Regardless, if the bond between Gervase, Aras and Tina was this obvious to us, it had to have been obvious to Tyson and Monica. When Monica was leading Tyson into the temptation of gouging his eyes out with a rusty spoon, the thing that struck me was that she was worried about Gervase, not Tyson. Moreover, Tyson did not need to tell her anything—he had the numbers with Laura and Ciera.

I don’t think it’s too huge a leap to conclude that Tyson and Monica had agreed before the merge to have each other’s backs against the old-schoolers. (Obviously this potential sub-alliance would have come under strain after Rachel’s Red I duel, but somebody has to be Tyson’s island hairdresser, and it’s not one of the guys who swapped to Tadhana with him.)

After the tribal swap, Monica found herself on Galang with one ally, two loved ones of allies and two people who she apparently was not interested in playing with—and all this after seeing her own loved one depart the game. In many ways, she didn’t have much choice but to go with the loved ones alliance, and I commented last week that being the swing vote between two pairs was no bad position. Vytas said in his livechat with Extra that he had told her that they would vote off the two winners and she would be at the end with him and Katie.

Perhaps Monica didn’t believe him, or perhaps she felt that that would be a bad path for her since it would entail betraying her entire alliance. On the other hand, she must have trusted Tina after the Kat issue. Tina, whether she was aware of the implication or not, told Monica that she was number five, effectively rejecting any final three scenarios with both of them.

Monica might have been a swing vote, but it was a particularly lonely position in this game with two pairs of blood relations, and two friendship pairs (Aras/Tina; Vytas/Katie) that had known each other longer than her—even if only by a few days in Vytas and Katie’s case. I still don’t think it was necessarily a bad spot, but there was certainly a lot of room for the pairs to stay loyal to each other and figure out who was unlucky fourth when they got to that point. It was worth considering other options.

Yet Monica’s was not the greatest betrayal. The person who really played against the Baskauskas’ expectations was Gervase.

Aras explained to Entertainment Weekly that he was counting on Gervase to tip him off if he was ever targeted. “Gervase and I have been good friends for many years and he was my ace in the hole. I would never let someone target Gerv, and he had promised me the same. I figured if Tyson was gunning for me, Gerv would let me know well before I was actually in danger.” In Exile Island, Aras was saved from a blindside by Cirie, his closest friend in that game, so it’s no surprise he wanted a similar confidante here.

Yet, on day three, Vytas swayed Tadhana to vote against Marissa, and Gervase found himself set at a disadvantage against his old friend Aras. This has now become one of the most inexplicable votes of the season. Vytas said on Extra that he knew Aras and Tina would probably work together, so he told Katie he would keep her safe. Yet Vytas also knew Gervase was an old friend of Aras’. Why did Marissa not get the same courtesy as Katie? Was it a Sophie’s Choice where he was unable to save both?

For whatever reason, Vytas was responsible for making Gervase the odd man out in that alliance. Once Rachel and Marissa were both out of the game, Gervase had something in common with Tyson, which Aras (if last episode was any indication), never quite grasped. To be fair, I’m not sure if anybody really understood what it’s like to go from playing with your loved one to not… until they were faced with it. And I think we’ve all (us commentators included) underestimated the emotional shift and even resentment the surviving half of the pair is left with.

Clearly this isn’t an over-ruling factor in alliances—Tyson and Gervase never hooked up with Laura Boneham, after all—nor has Gervase’s social game been governed by his emotions over Marissa: we saw him hugging Monica to comfort her in the aftermath of Marissa’s FUBC rant. Looking at the pre-game interviews, I don’t think Gervase was particularly attached to playing with Marissa. But he lost her almost immediately, while his pre-game alliance, Tina and Aras, not only kept their loved ones, but at least in Aras’ case, proved to be totally committed to seeing them again at the merge.

By the time the ever-fidgety Tyson started talking about voting off Aras, Gervase was willing to turn against his old friend. Going to a tribe with so many other affable but Unloved players sealed the deal. If Monica (as is likely) passed along the information that he was sixth in the pecking order with Tina, Katie, and Vytas, that would just have been the icing on the cake.

To be fair, his defection was probably always on the cards. When Gervase voted for Kelly in Borneo he said it was because she had flown under the radar and gone where she needed to go for her own game (making a better case for her than she had herself).

The way this game was going, Gervase had no reason to believe that he could beat Aras… but having an old friend on the jury would not hurt his own chances! There’s the Lex/Boston Rob risk, of course, but Aras’ sporting reception of his own blindside was hardly a twist in this tale.

When Friendships Count for Nothing, Neither should Enmities

One of the strangest moments of last Tribal Council was Jeff Probst’s conviction that an Alliance of Pairs must be ruling the game at this point. It’s unusual for Jeff to harp on an alliance that doesn’t actually exist, even if it was an obvious way for the couples to reduce the targets on their collective backs.

Like a women’s alliance, the pairs alliance is another that’s based on an arbitrary demographic. As Tyson pointed out, it could just as easily be guys against girls, returning players against newbies… Even if the Pairs had joined together, I doubt very much it would have lasted for more than one or two votes—of course those one or two votes might have been all that Aras needed.

e1-lauram

Aras’ error was voting off Laura M.

If Vytas’ most egregious voting error was in booting Marissa, then Aras’ was voting off Laura Morett. I can’t really blame him for his reasoning at the time, but she was loyal to him. Even when she came back into the game, she was still willing to work with him, latching onto the Pairs concept as a potential lifeline. Yet Aras and Vytas never checked their options with her. Aras had already betrayed her and she had shown she blamed him by giving an idol clue to Vytas. (This act was an error in her social game, since she was burning a bridge she later considered rebuilding.) Vytas had voted for Ciera, so they doubted she would join them either, despite her friendship with Katie.

Vytas confirmed that Ciera and Laura never approached them with the idea of a Pairs Alliance, so we must assume that Ciera advised Laura to join with the coup against Aras. We’ll never know what would have happened if Aras and Vytas had extended an olive branch—though if Laura was willing to work with Tyson whose every vote up to this point had been cast against her, she could probably have overlooked Aras’ part in her blindside too.

It’s not just Aras and Vytas at fault here. Tina explained in her secret scene that she was nervous of Laura, considering her one of the biggest threats in the game. Katie was right to be willing to vote out Ciera, but it doesn’t seem that she even tried to check in with her. Katie’s link to Ciera was possibly the weakest spot in Tyson’s whole plan.

Of course, this is all in retrospect. It’s easy to say that you should never leave anybody out of your social game, but voting the Red I returner off as soon as possible was a logical move. This time it just happened to come with an ironic twist: the players the Brothers Baskauskas were targeting were the only ones who could save them.

It should also be noted that from Ciera’s point of view, she had remained on the chopping block ever since Brad’s vote-off. On the day of the tribal swap, Caleb and Hayden told the Galang men that Ciera would be next. (It’s always possible this was a ruse.) I don’t know if Aras ever made a real social effort with her, but I do think it’s likely that Ciera was aware that Aras would have voted for her if Tadhana had returned to Tribal Council.

Last Hope Lost

If the Brothers Baskauskas had one chance other than winning every challenge from here on out, it lay in finding the Hidden Immunity Idol. Unfortunately for them, said idol is now in the hands of their arch nemesis.

Tyson’s apparently easy discovery of the idol has raised more than a few conspiracy theorists’ eyebrows. Half the players have been sitting on the information in the first two clues, and suddenly, come the merge, Tyson finds it? As usual, I’m not going to get into the conspiracy theory side of things, but I will say that I don’t see why the producers would latch onto Tyson as their idol-finder over, say, Vytas. I also think that if the producers were determined to get an idol found, they would have done something before the Galang tribe left their beach.

Candice tweeted that Laura had told Tyson where the idol was by way of currying favor. I’m not going to read too much into that, since one would think Laura would have told Ciera before she mentioned anything to Tyson. Perhaps she told Tyson while telling a group of people; perhaps Tyson deliberately asked her for the information to corroborate her story against Hayden and Caleb’s.

I do hope that either Laura or Ciera at least looked for it before telling the others, but it’s very possible that Ciera responded to her mother’s revelation with: “Oh, yeah, I know the tree. Everybody’s been hunting around there—it’s either been found or it’s somewhere else.” Vytas said to Extra that he hadn’t looked personally, but he knew exactly which tree it was because Brad and John had dug all around it. Hayden told us weeks ago that he was looking, though we don’t know if the tree he mentioned was the same one.

Tyson, tweeting about the find, confirmed that many other people had dug around there and that he himself spent three to four hours looking for the idol, spread over several visits. (He claims he looked in greater earnest that day as he didn’t want somebody else to find it.) It’s possible that, come the merge, the producers might have gone in and brought the idol closer to the surface to encourage it to actually be found, but if there was so much attention being paid to that area, somebody was going to find it eventually.

e7-cierra

The brothers were concerned that Ciera or Laura may have had the idol.

We don’t know what angle the Brothers Baskauskas took with the idol hunt. They were certainly prepared for the possibility of Laura or Ciera having it, since they split the vote. Vytas said on Extra he’d never dug for the idol personally. What I’d love to know is if there was a similar tree at Galang’s beach that could have fit the same clue. Unless he’d mentioned something to Katie, Vytas was the only one to be on Galang beach with that information.

Going forward the brothers might have a different attitude to possessing idols. We don’t know who will be joining Aras for the Redemption Island duels, but Aras has a good shot at winning. Does he continue the trend of targeting somebody via the clue, or does he give it to a former ally, in the hopes of saving them?

Assuming the producers don’t hide a second idol and change the clue (which is technically a giveaway that somebody has found the first), then the new clues should lead Vytas (or Tina) straight to the right spot… where they will find nothing.

The unknown quantity here is the presumption of the tribe regarding the idol’s fate. Is it generally believed that, with all the hunting, somebody has found it? Tyson, at least, thought it was still out there, but the split vote proves that others are afraid it’s already in play. Still, if it is proven that the idol has been found by persons unknown, paranoia is going to spread, and at some point that will tell on the alliance. (It’s virtually impossible to do a split vote at final five.) Tyson probably isn’t going to be the first target in idol possession, which is great for him, but he’s not out of consideration either.

If everybody thinks the idol is still buried and a non-factor in the game, Tyson’s find has more value than gold.

If Vytas survives to this point, I could see him doing something with idol-paranoia—maybe Katie too, but I’m not so sure about Tina. I am not, however, going to make a lot of predictions this week. After Aras’ blindside was foreshadowed so bluntly, I’m beginning to look askance at all Ciera’s complaints that her mother is hurting her game; Already, I don’t expect Laura to survive another three votes, though I’d rather the editors stepped up their game and proved me wrong.

For everything else… well, like I said, this episode seemed to be wrapping up the plotlines from the past few weeks. Let’s see what next episode tells us before I go back through my alliance breakdown.

Let it be noted, however, that while the game of the Brothers Baskauskas is on the rocks, it is Aras who has had the last laugh on Tyson. This week, he proposed to his girlfriend and she accepted. Thus passes the Bromance Arson. Congratulations, Aras! Your real future looks bright, and I couldn’t be happier for you.

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