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Survivor Blood vs Water: Is It Love? Or Friends With Benefits? – 09/21/13

castAs Jeff described the season’s premise, we saw a few pairs of players as they were being brought to their respective destinations. Aras and Vytas, Brad and Monica, Tyson and Rachel, Kat and Hayden were the first four pair shown while Rupert and Laura were on screen when Jeff told us what the players didn’t know, that they would be playing against each other.

Indeed, the initial twist practical joke played out mostly at the Pirate’s expense.



First player introduced.

The first player that Jeff introduced was Gervase, saying he was returning from the very first season

Gervase: “I’m one of the originals…This time, I’m going to win.”

Marissa was quick to shoot him down: “It’s cute that he thinks he’s going to win after 13 years.”


Jeff then went to Kat, saying that her instability cost her the game. He also used the time to present Hayden as the winner of Big Brother.

Hayden: “Big Brother is Survivor in a house. So, as far as training or preparation, I’m going to be more prepared than anybody else who hasn’t played this game.”

Kat: “Hayden has already won a show before. This is my time, my game.”

Maybe as a prelude to a story that will show us that Survivor is quite different, we heard Hayden saying: “This is nuts” as they entered the jungle and were “greeted” by an angry monkey.


Jeff then moved to Laura who had played like a mother to her tribe in Samoa and now she would have to split her time with her daughter, Cierra, and the game.

Cierra: “I think that our ability to balance each other out is going to benefit us.”

Laura: “She is my heart and nothing is harder than seeing somebody that you love suffer.”


Next came the “fan favorite” Rupert who never made it to the end.

Rupert: “I am returning to Survivor for my 4th time.”

Laura: “This has always been about Rupert.”

Rupert: “Now, it’s time for Laura.”


Jeff told us about Colton’s controversial statements, his mysterious illness and that he didn’t have many fans.

Colton: “I don’t know how people will respond to me. Last time, I played with a big ball of anger. My goal, besides winning, is to show a different side of me.”

Caleb: “I’m worried about Colton’s reputation because he pissed a lot of people off but I know a different Colton. This is going to be like a redemption for him.”



Candice is now a doctor.

Jeff then presented Candice who is now a doctor and so his her husband.

Candice: “We are two people who have been very successful and it could be something that people perceive as a threat.”

John: “Absolutely. We are young and athletic so we are going to have a big target on our back.”


Monica was presented as a former NFL wife who played the game for herself but must now share the spotlight with her famous husband.

Monica: “Normally, I am Brad’s wife but, when it comes to Survivor, I am the wily veteran here.”

Brad: “I am going to play second fiddle to Monica. I am the young rookie.”

Monica: “I am going to win and, this time, I brought some ammunition.”


Tina has her sights set on a second title but her daughter Katie has plans of her own.

Tina: “I’ve told Katie that our love transcends this game but our family is very competitive.”

Katie: “There can only be one winner and there are two of us and that poses a very difficult situation. I would love to beat my mother at her own game.”


Jeff reminded us how Tyson had been blindsided in Tocantins and had voted himself out in Heroes versus Villains. “Now, with girlfriend Rachel, he hopes to redeem himself.”

Tyson: “I’ve been disappointed by Survivor twice but this time, I feel like I am in a pretty good spot. In a game like this, I think the loved ones aren’t going to be prepared and I am going to slit their throats.”

Rachel: “Survivor was always Tyson’s game. I never thought in a million years that I would be out here. With the loved one season, it’s going to be a game changer. It’s going to be crazy out here.”

(As she said that, we saw Tyson carrying her to shore on his back which could symbolize her game)


Aras was presented as the likable winner of Exile Island and is playing the game with his brother Vytas who has a much darker past.

Vytas: “I was a drug addict. Heroin definitely led to my arrest. I spent a year in LA county jail. Aras still has a lot of resentment against me.”

Aras: “My brother was pretty abusive when we were younger and that inspired me to beat him in things I couldn’t beat him. I’m not sure going on Survivor made my brother envious but winning it certainly did.”



Hayden, one of the first non-returnees to speak.

Hayden could have been given the lead only because of his notoriety but then Brad was only showed as Monica’s ammunition. If we look at the rest of the episode, it will come clear that Kat was merely an adjunct to the Big Brother winner.

Cierra’s words showed her naivety and would probably apply more if they were on the Amazing race than Survivor. Since Laura cannot stand seeing her daughter suffer, can there be any doubt that she would take her place in redemption island?

We jumped in immediately in Vytas’ life story and that means one of two things: He’s an early boot or he has legs. Since the tribe’s dynamics puts him in a nice place, we are led to count him as a long term player and could very well turn out to be our Villain.


Gervase was put down quite brutally by his niece which foreshadowed what was about to happen.

Tina and Katie had a nice bond, symbolized by the close-up image of holding hands, but Tina reminded us of her competitive spirit and we would see more of that later on. We are told immediately that these two are out to play the game.

While Rupert’s “Now is time for Laura” prepared us for his decision to go to Redemption Island, we realized that Tyson won’t be playing for his girlfriend. Her remark that she never expected to be on Survivor could be telling us that she is totally unprepared.

Candice did have a big target on her back.

Finally, with Caleb mentioning Colton’s possible redemption, we have to expect to see the One World contestant going to that island soon. 


As the pairs realized they’d spend a night in the jungle alone, it was funny to see how each was portrayed:

–         Gervase asked Marissa for suggestions, something to take as meaning he hasn’t learned much.

–         Kat suggested they shouldn’t be sleeping off the ground

–         Colton just sat there which is how he mostly acted in One World.


As Jeff went on, we had more confessionals:

–         Kat told us that the most important thing in her life was to beat Hayden.

–         Gervase said Marissa was a threat  and that he had to get rid of her at some point.

–         Vytas: “I want to win the money, I want to win this game and I am going to beat Aras to do it.”


While Vytas mentions winning the game, it seems that these three had the wrong focus: Beating their loved one won’t be enough. There are 18 more players to beat.



Monica was on screen when Jeff mentioned the million dollar prize.


As soon as the 10 pairs assembled, Jeff immediately went to Hayden so that he could tell us the jungle wasn’t like anything on Big Brother.

Then Jeff told them they would be playing against their loved ones, we saw a disappointed Tina, a troubled Colton, a wide-eyed Rachel, a stunned Laura Boneham and an uncertain Kat.

When Jeff asked if anyone was looking forward to competing against their loved ones, Monica, Candice, Marissa, Kat and Aras were the first to raise their hands followed by Katie who said “sorry mom”.

When Jeff asked Katie about it, she said she was surprised that her mom didn’t raise her hand.

Tina explained: “Competing is great. I think it’s going to be the hardest thing any of us do is to get to that point where the tribes come out and you see your loved one might not be there. I think it’s going to be sad for any of our loved ones to go home.”


Like Tina said, this season will come down to “Competing is great but it’s going to be sad for any of the loved ones to go home.”  It figures that the winner will display compassion for the situation but also determination to play the game. Rupert and Brad would soon show too much compassion while others, including Tyson, Kat, Gervase and Vytas showed too little. 

It was a nice editing decision to highlight Katie’s “sorry mom” after Tina’s earlier confessional where she mentioned their competitive nature. Add the fact that Tina realized immediately the difficulty of the situation and that she didn’t raise her hand that would show a lack of compassion and it seems we are once more in the presence of the Outback’s cold-blooded strategist, the one some called Benedict Tina.


Brad put his foot in his mouth when he said “If there is a challenge for a tarp and it’s raining every day, and we are going to win and she is on the other team, part of me is going to say: “I need her to have the tarp instead of me.”

Marissa was quick to tell him: “You better not be on my team thinking that.”


Brad (confessional): “I answered with my heart instead of my head and, all of a sudden, I got stares and looks from every person down the line. I’m thinking to myself: Oh! My God! First five seconds of the game; way to go Brad.”


Brad would soon make amends to his tribe for this comment but we saw members of Galang listening to him also. We saw Tyson, Colton, Kat and Gervase on screen as he talked, telling us they realized he’d do anything for Monica. They could find a way to blindside him even if he isn’t at Tribal Council.


Caleb had a confessional: “My heart sank because I know Colton was hoping to have me with him…It was definitely a wake-up call.”

Rachel (confessional): “It was sad but it’s a game and I can play it on my own too.”

Aras: “Vytas and I have such a competitive relationship that there is no way that, if I lose a challenge to my brother out here, that I am not going to hear about it for the rest of my life.”

Rupert: “Watching my wife walk to the other tribe, it was a little bit of a relief and little bit of sadness at the same time. I didn’t have to worry at all about writing my wife’s name down but I also can’t protect her.”


The first reaction we had when Jeff mentioned the double elimination came from Tina making it twice that her reaction was used first.

Hayden (who should have been prepared to expect the unexpected!) was shocked and said it was early to vote someone out.



Remember me?

Colton: “In true Jeff Probst style, he has to twist the knife…Remember me? I’m probably going to be the one.”


As expected, Laura received all the votes shown from Tadhana.

Galang was a little more divided and it seems that attending Survivor functions played a role (or more likely served as the alibi) but there wasn’t any surprise to see Candice get the majority of votes. The surprise was that Colton and Rupert were sparred, Laura receiving most of the minority votes.


Rupert: “Watching my wife get voted out of her tribe just about killed me. Why would they do that? It’s a smack against me, everyone of those scared newbies saying we have to stop Rupert.”

John: “Every time that I saw her name come up, I felt like I was getting kicked in the head. I wanted to do every thing that I could to vote out every single person that wrote her name down and I am never going to forget that.”


Jeff then announced the return of Redemption Island and the swap twist. Again, we weren’t surprised to see Rupert take Laura’s place. What was surprising was Tina’s attempt to change his mind.


Rupert: “To put myself in a position where I am not safe is killing me but I would rather have myself in this position than have my wife. Laura deserves to play the game.”

Tina: “I was really ticked when Rupert switched with Laura. I understand the emotion behind it but we were counting on Rupert. Rupert is a fantastic shelter builder (she was already out of Saboga when Rupert built the worst shelter in history!) he’s a fantastic fisherman. Right off the bat, he weakens our tribe.”


After talking it over, John told Jeff that Candice can beat Rupert so he stayed on Tadhana.


Rupert: “If I can battle my ass off of Redemption Island and Laura is still there, you better watch out because we will be a hell of a team.”

John: “Watching Candice walk off was like having my heart torn out of my chest. The second I watched her walking off, I was like there is nothing that is going to be harder than not doing everything to save my wife’s butt in this game. Now, I have an opportunity to show these dumbasses how big a mistake they made.”


Will John have the opportunity to show them that they made a mistake? It could be the start of a long range story depending on how things evolve, if he ever meets up with Tina, Colton, Kat, Laura and Monica. I suspect Candice will meet up with a few of them on Redemption island and she will show them first hand their mistake.


Galang Day 1


The music, using lots of string instruments, was a theme befitting an adventure while a flock of bird flew overhead as the returning players reached their beach and hugged each other.

Gervase said that they would not be seeing Jeff at Tribal.

A woman (Monica?) joked “I’d much rather see Tyson running around naked” drawing general laughter.


Gervase: “It’s been 13 years since I’ve played Survivor. I think this is the longest layover anyone’s ever had. It’s going to be interesting to say the least. I know I’m up for it though. I was excited to see we had a box with supplies.” Just then Aras asked if they had flint, Tyson was quick to say that he saw how Boston Rob did it. “We can do it.” Gervase confessional continued: “I think Galang is a strong tribe just because we have returning players but Laura is not Galang. She is now but she didn’t start out that way. I wanted to play with Rupert, I didn’t want to play with Laura. If her ass gotta go; goodbye!”



Laura showed her inexperience.

Rupert’s wife showed her inexperience when she tried to open a coconut. She had a confessional: “Joining the returning players’ tribe is very intimidating. All these people are the experts (Aras is shown at this time giving her advice) “I have a lot of pressure on my back. I have to show how tough I am and how valuable I am to the tribe.” Aras then told her that he wished Rupert was there. “I think there are expectations that I am like Rupert but I’m not.”


As they started on the shelter, everyone was impressed when Tyson chopped down some bamboo. They were even more impressed when, with Monica’s help, he got the fire started.


Laura M.: “Being experienced players, we know how important it is to have fire. Don’t worry about your shelter, don’t worry about anything else because, unless you have fire, we are dead in the water. Within 15 minutes, Tyson went out there and started a fire. It’s been non-stop: We have been boiling our water; our canteens are full. We’re eating our rice; morale is good. It’s amazing. We are really comfortable at this point.”


Monica was observing Colton acting like a newby when he went to work with a saw. She had a confessional: “I’ve played not once but twice and both times, Colton’s been out here. He was seen as one of the most vindictive, villainous, mean people to ever play the game.” We heard her telling him that he hurt her to death the last time. She wanted to bury the hatchet and move on. Her confessional continued: “I played with him before, he stabbed me in the back. I’m not going to have happen to me what happened to me before.” He told her she could trust him. They hugged. “As he changed? As he not? I don’t know. Does a zebra change its stripes? Am I once again going to be bamboozled? I don’t know.”


We had very little strategic discussions on Galang. Gervase is out to boot Rupert’s wife, Aras doesn’t really want her there and Monica is worried about Colton. Since they didn’t go to Tribal Council, the editors decided to keep the alliance talk under wraps but there had to be some. We know from Brad that Monica was going to be hitting the beach running but we didn’t see her talking about alliances. Will she find herself on the outside once more? Is her focus on Colton misguided?




Instead of a flock of birds, we had a school of fish greeting the newbies. While the birds were flying in formation, the fish gave the impression of confusion. Even the music was more hectic with percussion dominating the theme. That isn’t an encouraging sign for the newbies but was it only to set the table for this episode? Samoa’s Laura told us that a tribe shouldn’t think about the shelter first yet the newbies were working on the shelter. It seemed like a message telling the viewers that the newbies didn’t have the right priorities.


Brad: “I have lived Monica’s One World experience a thousand times but we are dropped on a beach and woh! There’s nothing here! There are some butterflies but here we go. This is how it’s going to start. So we’re all working hard around camp. The boys are making a shelter, the girls are weaving palm fronds. We have no veterans here so we are going off what our loved ones told us and basically, it was a bit shocking. We don’t know anything. I feel I could be in trouble: 5 minutes into the game, I made a huge blunder about not going 100% in order to potentially help my wife cause she’s now the enemy.”

Brad gathered everyone to tell them that they would have his blessing to vote him out if he wasn’t going 100% in challenges.



Marissa is keeping her eye on Brad.

Marissa had a confessional: “Brad said he wasn’t going to throw a challenge for his wife but it wasn’t an apology exactly. He’s one that I will have to keep my eye on and keep him close cause it seems he could be a loose canon.”


Just as she said she was going to keep her eyes on him, she lost sight of him! She asked Katie “where are the guys?”

Brad and John were exploring the island and found a waterfall.


Brad had another confessional: “There’s one thing I learned from Monica. She said: “You play this game, you better hit the ground running”. You hit the ground running talking to people. You make connections; you need to get an alliance fast!”

So, he went to work, first with John, selling him the idea of having the five guys sticking together.


John (confessional): “The idea of having the five guys together stemmed from Brad. It’s not a surprise at all: The guy who played in the NFL Football wants to keep his locker room together. But, the more he talks about that kind of stuff and asserts himself as the leader, the more that could potentially end up biting him in the ass later.”


Brad then went to the ex-Brigade member, Hayden, selling him the idea of the all-men’s alliance.Hayden thought it was gold.

Caleb was next and he thought it was genius. Brad even offered him the number 1 spot.


Caleb (confessional): “When Brad got me by myself, he was pretty much trying the buddy-buddy, the bromance-type thing. All guys to the end, blah-blah-blah.” We saw them shaking hands but Caleb went on: “I’m thinking: No, you’re trying to get yourself and your wife to the end and whoever she’s with. I’m not stupid. Whatever. I’ll agree to anything at this point with him because it’s going to shut him up.”


Vytas was the last to join and he was definitely up for it. Brad told him he feared the “John Cochrans” of Survivor: “Those are the people that win”.


Brad (confessional): “I got Caleb, I got John, I got Hayden, I got Vytas and I got me. That’s five. 4 in 9 equals out! No…OK…but 5 of 9 equals in!”

They laughed when Vytas said it was too easy.


As solid as this alliance could be, we already hear that there are cracks. The alliance shouldn’t have a very long life.


The shelter was coming along but not the fire.


Vytas: “There’s no flint and none of us know how to start a fire without flint. We can’t boil our water…I can feel the liquid leaving my body and I’m turning to sludge.”


The two guys talked to Cierra who told them about her family situation, saying that she had her first child when she was 16.


Cierra: “I was actually a teen mom…That was a huge game change for me and my mom. It was really a tough obstacle for us to get through. Embarrassing for my mom, probably.”


e1- vytas

Vytas talked about his jail experience.

Vytas then told them about his jail experiences. Learning that his team mate was a drug addict shocked Brad.

Vytas went on: “My brother was the golden child…Straight-A student while I was the opposite…robbing people every day to get my fix”


Vytas (confessional): “My addiction impacted my family profoundly. Even my relationship with my brother to this day is still not fully mended. This is a great experience that I will have with my brother. The fact that we are on this together is pretty great. I think in a game where trust is the most important part, I wanted to share with my tribe my past. If you want somebody to trust you, you have to let them in a little bit. I don’t think people are going to think less of me. I don’t think people are going to see an ex-con that is conniving and a dope fiend that is willing to do whatever he can to get what he wants. I’ve got 14 years clean…I want to show that there is more to me than a yoga teacher. I think it will strengthen the bonds that I have with them and we can get further in this game.”


As he said that we saw the back of Brad’s head and his back, suggesting he could pay for trusting Vytas. This confessional is typical of Journey Players so it tells us that Vytas will stay in the game for a long time. He has to meet and play with Aras post-merge. The last part was shown with Vytas sitting on the beach watching a beautiful setting sun which tells us that the editors are investing us in his story. More than a simple journey player though, Vytas confessional also had strategic implications. He wants to bond with the others and he knows how to get  their trusts. Add that with his stated desire to win this game and that he would do whatever he can to get it and we have a powerful player before us.


Galang Night 1


Colton was talking to the tribe by the fire.


Colton (confessional): “The last time I played this game, I had this mask on. I was rude…mean to everyone…It was all because I was insecure. I’m trying…to get them to understand me…When I was growing up, I was the sweetest kid in the world…I got tired of being called sissy and faggot and queer…I’m trying to change. I’m going in with positive thinking.”

He started to cry so Tina, Monica and Laura B. comforted him.


Monica (confessional): “For all of us to judge what decisions he makes is hard. We haven’t walked a mile in his shoes…If he’s changed: Wouldn’t that be a beautiful story? Then again; it’s Colton Cumbie.”


So, the editors decided to use some more airtime to redeem Colton and show that Monica is still focused almost exclusively on him. Revisiting this story so early makes it sound like a short term one.


Redemption Island Day 2


Candice was chopping a coconut thinking of Kat, Monica, Laura, Colton with each powerful chop!

Note that Tina’s name wasn’t heard.


Candice: “I definitely got my feelings hurt…I’m out for revenge…I’m trying to keep my mind focused…so that I can beat Rupert. Living with Rupert is extremely annoying to say the least. Rupert is either eating or sloshing around in the water.” We see her doing all the chores while Rupert remained seated in the ocean. “Rupert just enjoys the spoils. It’s infuriating.”



Rupert, not doing what he has done in the past.

Rupert: “I am not going to do what I have done…One of the reasons why I have never an immunity challenge is that I kill myself going out fishing. This is more individual and, if I am going to beat Candice, I need every once of energy that I got. If Candice wants to kill herself…Great! I am not going to and I need to have in my head that I will eliminate her.”


Despite the nice helicopter shot, I have a feeling that this is the kiss of death for Rupert. Showing laziness is never good on Survivor. While Rupert is loved by many viewers, Candice has very few fans so, I take the fact that Candice looked more like the survivalist on Redemption Island as a sign that she will win the duel and eventually get rid of the four time player. Why else prop her up like this?


Tadhana Day 3 (already missing a day in camp!)


Brad and Rachel went to retrieve tree mail.

Brad told us in confessional how excited he was to get tree mail. “Until you’ve gotten tree mail, you haven’t really started the game.”


Galang had Tina and Colton retrieving the mail.


Laura had a confessional: “I feel great going into a challenge. The advantage we have…keep calm…anything can happen.”


Katie had a confessional for Tadhana: “Right away we are trying to think who’s the fastest swimmer, who’s good at sprinting, who’s good at puzzles.” Cierra told everyone that she knew her mom would do the puzzle but that she was better. Katie’s confessional went on: “My mom’s great at puzzles too so she’s probably on the puzzle. I’m on the puzzle so it’s going to be a mother-daughter duel.”

John thought it would be awesome if they were to beat their mothers.


Gervase was telling everyone that the puzzle would be key and indeed it was all that would matter.


Laura (confessional): “Puzzles are my strength and I have the experience of knowing: Think outside the box; how can we do this quicker.” Tina and Laura both knew that Katie and Cierra would be on the puzzle. Laura continued: “…As much as I love her, I am going to beat my daughter at this game. Sorry Cierra.”


I noted that, while Tina was determined to win the challenge, we didn’t hear her expressing her desire to beat Katie like the others did. We weren’t going to see anything that would hint at a lack of compassion from Tina, as if she already knew Katie would be in trouble. Laura was used to narrate the situation but, more than that, she was the one that talked about beating her daughter, choosing water over blood, thus going against the theme of the season.


The Challenge


Galang told Jeff that Tyson made fire. Laura told them it only took 15 minutes.

Brad said he didn’t know if they were telling the truth.

Tyson taunted them by asking “Do you guys not have fire?”

Brad lied: “We have fire.” Vytas even offered to share.


Hayden (confessional): “They probably have fire because they are experienced. We don’t because we’re a bunch of meat heads.”


Monica joined Laura and Tina on the puzzle while Caleb stayed with Katie and Cierra.

Tadhan had better teamwork over the obstacles, but while Brad and Hayden were the ones helping out, Jeff didn’t single them out.

“Tadhana continues to work together very well…John pulling Rachel, pulls Marissa over.”

“The returning players are struggling…Aras is last, on his own. Nobody helping Aras….Gervase having a really tough time in the water…Gervase can barely get up on the platform…Big lead for the new players…Gervase…really slowing his tribe down…Gervase…a horrible belly flop…Aras helping Gervase…

The returning players…don’t know how to paddle…”


An exasperated Colton yelled at Kat: “Shut up and paddle before I hit you with this ___ paddle.”

Galang reached the beach paddling backwards!


Tadhana had a huge advantage but then Galang’s women started on their puzzle and soon caught and overtook them.


Katie, trying to find her way.

Jeff noted that Katie was “trying to find her place…Katie struggling to get her pieces to fit. The women of Galng working together well…the advantage…is gone…The returning players are now in the lead…Absolute collapse at the puzzle stage for the new tribe. Two mothers schooling their daughters right now.”


Galang won immunity and Gervase lost his cool. Turning to Tadhana, he repeatedly yelled: “Don’t let that fool you” until Tyson got to him and brought him back to the group. Even Marissa gestured to tell her uncle that it was enough. Vytas simply said: “See you next time.”


After Jeff handed them the idol and flint, Colton started crying. Jeff asked if it was because he thought Caleb was in trouble or just for sending him to TC. Laura answered for him, saying it was a bitter-sweet moment, knowing their loved ones were in jeopardy.


Brad had the exit confessional: “That guy Gervase, for him to jump up and down kinda in your face; I was “Hey Bozo!  Your loved one could go home. You’re cheering about that? You beat us. Great, but it’s like you are beating your own.”


Brad’s confessional continued once we saw them back in camp: “We lost the challenge and it stinks. I didn’t get to where I am in life by losing and I hate to lose.”

(Well, the early 90s Vikings and the late 90s Bucs weren’t exactly winning teams!)


With John, he told the puzzle makers not to get down about losing.


Katie (confessional): “After the challenge, my heart sank to the floor. It’s our first challenge and our first loss. I knew that I was part of why the team lost. I got creamed by my mother and the fact that the three of us, the puzzle people, were the reason that we didn’t pull through at the end, it makes me a little nervous because what are we going to judge the votes off of.”


When Vytas mentioned Gervase, Marissa was quick to disassociate herself from him by saying he was the loudest one.


Marissa had a confessional: “I do think the other tribe was celebrating too much…Yes you won but you are about to send one if us home…”


Vytas assembled the five guys to say they were in a great position.

The way the shot was presented, with Hayden joining the other four in the middle of the discussion, made me wonder if the Big Brother player is truly in that alliance.


Brad, John and Caleb continued the discussion at the water well, Brad saying he was happy Monica didn’t gloat so much. He then said he was “a little spoiled on Marissa right now because of the way Gervase acted.”


Brad (confessional): “Marissa; before the challenge, she was a little off the radar but there is a side of myself that saw Gervase jumping up and down..she’s going home. How do you like them apples?”


Not too bad how this worked out for Brad considering Marissa was the one that called him out originally.


Caleb then had a confessional: “With the puzzle, it was Cierra, Katie and me. Cierra jumped in, she was really helpful, it seemed like Katie was just the extra cook in the kitchen. I don’t want to see Katie go but if the majority’s in then I’m in with it.”


Vytas: “The girls probably know that the guys have bonded; we are not being subtle at all with these women. So it’s important for me to keep my alliances with the girls strong. I’m going to tell those girls which one the guys have decided which one will go first.” Note that Vytas said “alliances”, plural, which tells us he is a sneaky, devious player. He then told Rachel that Marissa was the target, he told Marissa it was Katie. His confessional continued: “Let’s be honest, in the end, it doesn’t matter whoever they choose to vote for because the guys have definitely bonded with each other. I mean, I feel bad for the girls but, at this point, it would be foolish to go against that.”


Brad gave us another confessional: “We are five guys strong. One of the girls has to go. It may be Marissa, it may be Katie, to me they are equal. The girls are both connected to the other tribe. We have to start thinking about who we vote out could potentially affect their tribe.”


Interesting hint that things could quickly turn against Brad if we go back to our earlier speculation.


Tribal Council


(Note that Katie was positioned in the “hot seat”, right in the middle of the group, while Marissa was at the extreme left.)



Brad wanted fire.

Jeff asked Hayden what had been the most difficult part of the first three days.

Hayden said it was making fire so Jeff mentioned their lie. Hayden admitted their bluff as Brad and Vytas nodded.

Jeff turned to Cierra who said that, despite her mother’s stories, “actually being out here is completely different. I’ve never been this hungry…”

Jeff pointed out they were only 3 days in.

Brad answered that it was frustrating not having fire.

Caleb said the season’s twist complicates thing because “(Colton) doesn’t know what’s going on here and I don’t know what’s going on there. We just have to trust each other that we are going to do the right thing.”

John told Jeff he had “a lot of guilt about this decision.” On the verge of tears, he said that he thought Candice must have felt like he had let her down.

Vytas gave him a firendly pat on the shoulder and John told Jeff that he wanted to keep the tribe strong because the other side wasn’t pulling any punches. He said that, by doing that, it had the advantage that Candice could kick that person’s butt.

Brad told Jeff he didn’t know why the others were celebrating so much. He mentioned that Gervase stood out.

Marissa was shaking her head because she expected him to be more mature and wiser.

Vytas said it added insult to injury. He said that, in previous seasons, teams don’t worry when the other side goes to TC but “tonight, that team is worrying.”

Marissa said she was guilty by association.

Jeff said it would be devastating to be voted out for something she didn’t do.

Marissa wanted to be judged on her own character and performance.

Katie admitted that the guys did really well on the first leg of the race but that the puzzle makers fell behind. “The fear is that, based off of the challenge, that’s something to base our votes off of so there is some fear.” She added that she wouldn’t be surprised if she was voted out.

Brad said they weren’t going only on the puzzle.


When Jeff snuffed her torch, Marissa gave her tribe a prolonged death stare. The camera showed us Rachel, Brad and Hayden’s discomfort while Vytas looked at the stars as if nothing important happened, as if he wasn’t the one that ate the canary.

Jeff noted that their family members taught them well on the art of the blidside but that they didn’t teach them everything since they were at TC.



The Story


If the premiere is any indication then this Blood versus Water twist will give us much more character development than we have seen in recent seasons. By the format itself, the viewers have to be given some information on family stories and the connection between players. It started with each player receiving an introduction and at least one confessional.

As for the story itself, it seemed that the theme of this episode was that “Love transcends this game… but we are competitive.” Most of the players talked about their desire to beat their loved ones in competition, only a few mentioned the consequences of a victory. The players that will thrive are those that will grasp the importance of the twists, mostly how one tribe’s decisions can affect the other side. Tadhana decided to hurt one person on the other side but maybe they would have been better served to eliminate someone that had a stronger connection with the other side.


The Characters


Falling in Love

These players received a lot of attention from the editors. While they will be the main characters early on, it makes it unlikely the winner will be in this group…but there are one or two exceptions.


Gervase: Many viewers were eager to see Gervase back in the game and now they are left wondering what happened to the guy that everyone loved in Borneo. Right away, we were told by his niece that he hasn’t learned much and we have to agree with her. I was expecting to see Gervase making an immediate alliance and maybe he did but it wasn’t seemed important to show. As far as we know, he is playing alone just like in season 1.


Colton: His redemption story started when he told us about his difficult childhood and when Caleb told us about his frailty. It ended when we heard him yelling at Kat during the challenge, threatening to hit her with the paddle. The editors may give him a few more good moments but we will see the old, the real, Colton soon enough. His redemption will be on the Island which awaits.


John: If the opening twist hurt Rupert’s game, it hurt John’s feelings. We heard his rage against the players that voted against Candice so that could set up a confrontation between them but will they ever meet? It could be that some of those that voted against Candice find themselves on Redemption island also and Candice can get her own revenge. Still, John vows to never forget and that puts him on a collision course with Laura and Tina, two players that seem to have the longevity to make the merge. John is in the male alliance but he isn’t sold on it, knowing that it’s only a tool for Brad to make it to the end with Monica. Much more than Rupert’s wife who has all the markings of a follower, this single player is now a free agent and could make surprising moves.


Monica: She was totally focused on Colton so it seems likely that she is missing something. While she thinks Brad could be her ammunition, he could turn out to be her downfall. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone’s life ended by friendly fire. As much as Brad needed to set the record straight with his tribe, Monica had to do it also yet she apparently didn’t sense the danger. That’s how one gets bamboozled.


Brad: He was all over our screen, from his faux-pas during the introductions to the formation of the 5 guys’ alliance and the decision in the end to boot Marissa. Of course, a former NFL player will be featured but the general feeling is that, despite is strong alliance, there are dangers looming around Brad. John and Caleb both voiced reservations about that alliance. Hayden didn’t seem too warm at the idea while Vytas has other alliances already. More importantly, the guys weren’t very subtle about their connection and that could be easily relayed to the other side. If Galang learns that Brad is leading an all-male alliance, they could strike him down by booting Monica. They also heard him saying that he’d do anything for her.


Vytas: He was the star of this episode: We got to hear his personal story, his conflicts with Aras and we also saw that he was deeply involved in the game, He is a member of the majority all-male alliance and he also has alliances with the girls. The scene that showed him alone on the beach was particularly powerful because he told us that they wouldn’t see him as a devious player. Vytas could become a delightful villain and the look he had at Tribal Council is the first sign. Hurting someone by blindsiding them won’t stop him from playing the game all out.


Caleb: Besides all the time spent on his relation with Colton, Caleb appeared to be a smart player. He isn’t fully into Brad’s alliance but he will go along for now and he wasn’t totally in agreement with the vote but he went with the majority. That’s a good plan for now and we were presented his strategy which is always a good sign. While he received less attention than Vytas, his chances to go long into the game are strong.



Let’s Stay Friends (…with benefits?)

These players had a good showing in the episode even if they didn’t have  starring roles. We’d suspect that one will benefit from this start and  that the winner will emerge from this group.


Laura B.: Rupert’s wife had to be shown because of the initial vote but we did hear how she will try to integrate the tribe even if it didn’t have to be shown. She may not be long for the game, as Gervase said, but as long as Rupert is on RI, Galang won’t want to vote her out. (That, by the way, is another weird consequence of these twists: Laura could outlast some players simply to keep Rupert happy) It will be interesting to see if she gets into an alliance on Galang or will simply be kept around to lure Rupert back into the fold.  If she gets into an alliance and the tribe wins enough challenges then maybe Rupert’s words will prove right and it will be Laura’s time. Wouldn’t that be surprising?!


Cierra: She got the opportunity to tell us about her life story which is good but her story was partly about her mother and how that early pregnancy strained their relations. Since we heard that mom would do anything for Cierra then we can say that this served mostly to soften the image of Samoa’s tough woman.


Laura M.: She had a very complex edit: Her first confessional seemed to tell us that she would do everything for her daughter, that she didn’t want to see her suffering but then we heard her saying that she wanted to beat her during the challenge. For now, it seems that she could be Galang’s narrator, telling us about the fire, the shelter and the challenge. Her words also served to tell us that Tadhana had the wrong priorities. All in all, Laura seems to be in for the long haul.


Hayden: It wouldn’t be surprising if his original confidence about being well-prepared for the game served as a prelude to a story of struggles. I’d bet that production would love to show that Big Brother isn’t on the same level as Survivor, that it isn’t the equal to “Survivor in a house”. Hearing him saying “This is nuts” could be the start of that story arc but for now, Hayden had another, more interesting story: He is in the alliance of guys but doesn’t seem totally committed to it. They are, after all, meat heads. It seems Hayden is waiting to join Kat and the veterans to start playing the game. He could be in for a bad surprise.



Tyson had no love for his fellow castaways.

Tyson: He clearly was on the side of the players that had no love to share for his opponents so that puts him at odds with the Theme of this episode. However, showing him as a true survivalist gives him legs in the story. He was a big part of building the shelter and his ability to make fire was noted nicely. We also heard that he learned from Boston Rob, something that could be a recurring theme like it was for Phillip. Still, Phillip didn’t last to the end. Tyson, once more, should be an interesting character, one to keep in mind.


Aras: As likable as Jeff finds him, Aras showed lack of social tact when he was the lone vote against Gervase and then telling Laura he’d prefer to have Rupert on the tribe instead of her. He had to know that “being a Redskins fan” wouldn’t get the majority votes so he should have tried to figure out how the others were thinking. At least, he repaired that initial affront by helping Gervase during the challenge. In the end, it was more problematic that his story seemed concentrated solely on beating Vytas. His athletic abilities and his easy going manners almost guarantee him a spot in the majority alliance but his mental game had its limitations and nothing here prepared us for an improvement.


Katie: As my pre-season pick, I wasn’t very optimistic going into Tribal Council. Normally, a player that gets called out by Jeff during a challenge isn’t the likely winner but there have been exceptions, Sandra and Chris to name two. Like Katie, Chris cost his team a challenge and was on the block but rallied to win in the end. Are we going to have a repeat of that story? It’s too early to tell. For the immediate future, the TC seating arrangements were interesting. Katie was the secondary target and they sat her right in the middle. They had to know she wasn’t really in trouble, that Marissa was getting all the votes but they made us worry about her, putting her front and center to get all her reactions. She could be in a stronger position within the tribe than we think. However, between Katie and Tina, it certainly felt that their respective portrayals favored mom over daughter. As Katie herself said: This is her mom’s game.


Tina: There were some interesting manipulations going on with Tina’s edit: She had first reaction shots to many of the twists and we heard Katie’s amplified “Sorry mom” when Jeff asked who wanted to beat their loved ones. She was also the first to note the main difficulty of this game: Watching the other tribe come out and seeing that your loved one wasn’t there anymore. Also, Candice mentioned the names of Kat, Laura, Monica and Colton when she was chopping the coconut in frustration but Tina was the first to vote against her and the editors didn’t let us hear her name.

This, more than ever, is a social game and Tina mastered the social game a long time ago. These new twists have many ramifications and it seems that Tadhana already missed an opportunity to affect the whole Galang tribe. I suspect that, if Tina has a say in it, Galang’s boots will hit Tadhana at its core.


Getting No Love

These players were only extras in the story even if they did get a confessional or two.


Kat: She was only an adjunct to Hayden’s story and while she told us she wanted to beat him, it’s doubtful that she will outlast him.



Rachel only served to advance Tyson’s story.

Rachel: Like Kat, Rachel only served to advance her loved one’s story. Her confessionals served only to set the stage for the upcoming events. She clearly wasn’t prepared to play this game and she wasn’t part of the story. She did have an alliance with Vytas though so maybe something could come of that, most likely her blindside.


Seeking redemption:

Being voted out, these players had to be shown.


Candice: While it was expected that she would be the early victim, it was surprising to see her getting a better edit on RI than Rupert. That suggests that she outlasts him.


Rupert: He is still as delusional, thinking that the newbies’ vote was a slap against him. Laura was the oldest woman and she had been on the show before so it had very little to do with him. His decision to take her place was idiotic and his laziness didn’t have to be shown so things aren’t looking good for the fan favorite.


Marissa: The first victim of the season’s twist, she was Brad’s main opponent so it would be interesting to see how she would fare if she is still there when either Monica or Brad get to RI. As unlikely as it is to happen, her confessionals about Brad kind of set it up. Could Rupert lose to both Candice and Marissa? That could be what the editors are telling us.

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  • Alex

    Please call Redemption Island Re-dumb-shit Island.

    • Michel Trudeau

      I’d rather avoid it completely.

  • DubbacCforMUFC

    Would this be the same person as the fantastic panurge post on Sucks?

    Great stuff!

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thank you and yes, I posted a few seasons on Sucks under the name of panurge and then Andy recruited me to come over here. Love the place!

  • MikeyC

    Overall I agree on most fronts, particularly both Culpeppers, Vytas, and Laura Ms confusing edit (she was my pick to win it all being both savvy and likely under the radar)..

    I disagree marginally on several points.. While I agree that Aras had some pretty blatant (and oft overlooked) immaturity in his first season, I think you are too hard on him and believe he benefits from having time to “grow up”.. I did not see any reason to not be bullish on Aras.. He had a pretty uneventful night, but Vytas story line suggests Aras goes deep as well..

    I think there is a little bit too much love for Caleb.. I also think there is no reason not to be bullish on Caleb, but I really did not see anything in the edit to suggest he has deep game staying power.. With the exception of being distrustful of Culpepper, the majority of his edit revolves around Colton, which I do not think gives any indication of long term story line..

    Lastly, I think Rachel certainly belongs in the “friends” category.. I did not see her as being only a prop to Tyson, but she stated several times that she was ready, prepared, and excited to play the game without him, in ways that the other younger girls were not noted in saying.. I think she has some legs under her and could be someone to watch..

    My rooting interests fall to the Morretts, Brothers Baskauskas, and Tyson/Rachel.. with the hinting at a Vytas/Rachel alliance I can see Vytas/Aras/Rachel/Tyson being a dominant power in the post merge game..

    • Michel Trudeau

      I’ll be keeping my eyes on Rachel if only because she was the first one shown as being part of Vytas’ alliances. He told her to vote against Marissa and she simply said Gotcha! It’s about what Natalie had in Samoa’s premiere. There’s still time for her to get a role in this story.

      • Rubicon

        Another thought provoking analysis, Michael. Your insights are always extremely enjoyable to read.

  • Nicky

    Kudos to you, Michael. This article must take hours and hours to produce. All the transcribing, plus the insight = hard work. Thanks for doing it.. always a FANTASTIC read.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thank you. This premiere had a lot of substance and I wish I had even more time to devote to it. Hopefully we can revisit it some time down the road.

      One thing I didn’t talk about was Hayden and the rainbow. He was shown underneath a rainbow while Tadhana was trying to make fire. Was that a hint of things to come for him? I didn’t particularly like his first episode but if his character keeps growing then we will have to look back at that scene.

  • Austin S.

    When you first listed Vytas as a potential villain, I shook my head. You mean the guy shown silhouetted against a picturesque sunset as he recalled his dark past* and his incredible return from the brink of death is being set up as the bad guy? The guy had Redemptive Hero written all over him.

    But then you noted the glancing at the stars image at Tribal Council. I had initially interpreted that scene as an expression of guilt. Hayden had looked more obviously sheepish, but Vytas looked to be purposefully avoiding eye contact. But on thinking on it in light of your commentary, I can certainly see it as a cold, almost disinterested gesture that seems more in line with the “old” cold, heartless junkie Vytas. Could we be setting up a toeing the line story as Vytas balances his reformed nature with the brutal, selfish qualities of his past demons?

    I ultimately think he’ll get a hero edit, but I’m much more open to the idea of a sneaky, likable villain after reading this. Nice work!

    * This is probably more of an observation for Scott’s Pop Culture Comparison column, but that scene felt very Lost-ish to me. I kept expecting a whoosh sound effect to cut to a flashback. In fact, that comparison (to junkie-with-a-heart-of-gold Charlie Pace) gives me further reason to anticipate the Redemptive Hero edit.

    • Michel Trudeau

      I don’t think Vytas will be the overbearing, hated type of Villain but if you look at what Survivor considers Villains (Hatch, Brian, Boston Rob, etc…) he can find a very nice niche. I think Vytas will back stab his allies without remorse and, if he does, we will be enjoying the ride. Maybe anti-hero would be more accurate?

      • Austin S.

        Yeah, I think anti-hero is a much more apt prediction. Warm personality, cold strategy, but someone you’re rooting for in the end.

      • Mike Giangreco

        lol, brian shot a puppy and Boston Rob was every bit as bad as Russell in All Stars

    • Trixie02

      Another way to interpret it is the quote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

      It could be a winner’s edit. While voting Marissa out was a very low point, Vytas is looking upward at the bigger picture. That coupled with watching the sun set on his troubled past is fairly promising.

    • I found Vytas as complex and compelling a player since… Russell whom wasn’t mentioned as a villain of note in Michel’s list below. You could show “Culpepper” all night and not increase your viewership by 1 NFL fan, hard as Probst is trying. Every time Vytas appeared, we saw subtle manipulation. Sharp intellect, very calculating, always ‘on’, fantastic redemptive story, and the kind of charisma that conceals an ice cold ability to distance himself from the pain of another (Marissa) as seen at TC. We may be looking at the fan favourite.

      • Austin S.

        Although I wouldn’t consider Russell complex (to me, he seems to be the most moustache-twirling, ACME-investing cartoon villain we’ve ever had), I certainly agree that Vytas’ complexity is going to make him one of – if not THE – most interesting player of the season. If I had to place a bet, I’m with you: I think he’s got an excellent shot for fan favourite. And if he continues along this path, I’ll endorse it!

  • Jouni Knuutinen

    Michael, what do you make of the editors showing Brad messing up his fingers during his “5 out of 9” confessional? I thought it was something they very easily could have left out. There was a pause before the successful hand signals that they could have used to cut it, instead of showing all of it, if they preferred to show him as a master strategist. This scene alone made me think that he will get outplayed at some point.

    • Michel Trudeau

      To stay with the Lost analogy, I will say that the numbers are bad! That scene didn’t make him look smart but I think the lack of subtlety that Vytas mentioned is much worse. If Katie knows that Brad is in charge, I could see her letting Tina know during a challenge and out goes Monica…

  • masbond84

    I really think Vytas had a winner’s edit from this episode. Like some others have said, he might be a villain but more in the sense of a Hatch, Mariano, Parvati, Heidik in being strategic and not outright villianious. Will be interesting to see how certain storylines played out. And Brad seems to be headed for a blinside as he’s being shown in quite an unflattering light actually

    • Michel Trudeau

      He certainly is a top contender.

  • Sarah Freeman

    Glad you mentioned Vytas’ innocent expression after Marissa’s deathglare. It reminded me really strongly of Benjamin Linus from Lost. Perhaps that’s why I also have to look at Vytas in a villainous light–albeit a much more interesting, layered villain than we usually get. It’s a bit early to commit to the analogy, but Lost’s Ben would make a fantastic Survivor character too!

    Actually, considering Colton’s weepy backstory alongside his in-challenge bitchiness, perhaps this season will give us a generally more rounded edit rather than the black and white boxes they often seem to force characters into.

    • Trixie02

      Interesting. I thought of Jacob and his brother looking at a ship when Vytas was looking at the sunset. Aras is the Golden Boy.

      • Austin S.

        So at this point, between Charlie, Ben and the Man in Black, Vytas is basically every character from Lost. I like this theory.

        I can’t wait for his Hurley phase – although maybe Brad already has that covered with his struggles with figuring out the Numbers…

        • Michel Trudeau


          (And it’s even more interesting on a personal level since I hosted an on-line game using Lost characters not too long ago.)

        • Sarah Freeman

          I can see Vytas channelling a Desmond in there somewhere… Technically, he’s already Kate/Sawyer too, as ex-cons.

        • Trixie02

          He’s a math professor. He might be able to solve the Valenzetti Equation.

  • Stephen

    Agreed with most of what you said, although I feel like Aras came off well in the episode, so it was strange to see you felt differently. Vytas was telling Brad about how Aras was the golden boy of the family and in the episode Aras was helping out newbies, cracking jokes when voting someone out (making him seem likeable) and literally carrying Gervase through the challenge***. After I think about it I can see Vytas turning on Aras at a later point (or vice versa). I think both will be in it for the long haul and both will be big time characters.

    ***I was disappointed that this did not get an “Aras LITERALLY carrying Gervase on his back,” in Jeff’s challenge play by play, as it would have been very appropriate.

    • Michel Trudeau

      For me, making jokes when voting someone out is completely out of place. In the end, it didn’t really matter since that was the only vote against Gervase but, if I had been voting, I would have used Gervase’s Eagles T-shirt as an intro to bond with him as a football fan. If only we had seen how they handled it back in camp. I’d also would have liked to see how Laura interacted with Tyson who voted against her. Those interactions could have been shown instead of devoting two scenes to Colton. I guess we were supposed to stay in the dark about Galang’s dynamics.

      • Stephen

        I think the two things that worked for him there was that A. The joke landed with everyone (even Gervase) and B. It was not a malicious joke (it wasn’t something that made you hate Aras unless you hate the Redskins). If he voted for, say, Rupert and said “Roooaaarrrr” while revealing it, then I’d say something different.

        • Michel Trudeau

          Look, I am not saying it was a game ending mistake but you have to agree with me that he couldn’t know how his “joke” would be perceived. Even the best comedians have doubts about their material. He also couldn’t know how the vote would go. What if his was the third vote against Gervase? It wouldn’t have been as funny then. Aras often makes these weird comments.

      • Sarah Freeman

        Aras and Gervase were friends before the game started. Aras said that to Gordon Holmes, noting that he didn’t think anybody else knew about it. I’m sure they’ve made football cracks at each other before.

        (Obviously, that isn’t something that could be told from the episode alone, so I’m not sure how it’s meant to come across edit-wise).

        • Michel Trudeau

          For me, if it wasn’t mentioned in the episode, it isn’t part of the story.

          (Isn’t it worse if they are friends? Doesn’t it tell Gervase immediately that friendship goes out the window when Aras has a tough decision to make?)

          • Sarah Freeman

            I suppose it depends on who you are. If Aras knows Gervase well enough that he knows he won’t take it seriously, more power to him. My read is that it was such an obvious throwaway vote, that nobody was supposed to take it seriously (though the rest of his tribe could have been pissed off with him for making them the bad guys. But luckily that doesn’t seem to have happened either.)

            If Gervase *was* mad at him, then he probably got over it around the time Aras was dragging him through the challenge.

  • Dave

    Great article as usual, Michael – a lot of intriguing insight, most of which I agree with.

    Like a couple of others, I’d suggest that Aras’ edit was a tad more positive than you make out, and until we get anything more on her, I am also not convinced that Rachel’s story will be simply about being ill-prepared. In particular, I liked the little moment with Vytas we saw.

    Interestingly, I had the opposite reaction to you regarding Rupert’s portrayal on Redemption Island – his “laziness” seemed, to me, to be painted as smart strategy, while it was Candice’s over-working came across as poorly thought through. I can see how it could be viewed the other way around though, and I am curious to see which of the two players comes out on top ultimately.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Exile Island is one of my favorite seasons and I really liked Aras during the season but, analyzing his play, he didn’t have a great game. He won only because Terry was immune at every TC. This season starts and he’s once more making weird, tactless comments and taking the backseat to his brother. While both seem destined to make the merge, I’m not sure Aras will outlast Vytas. This challenge will be mental, not physical and Vytas seems to have the upper hand there.

      As for Rupert, all I can say is that laziness has never been considered a good idea on Survivor. Just ask Jean Robert! It will be interesting to see how it turns out. I’m expecting a tearful end for Rupert reminding us of Russell’s last moments in the game. That would be funny since Russell and Rupert could be considered polar opposites in Survivor.

      • Dave

        Definitely agree that laziness is rarely a good thing in Survivor – I suppose my feeling is that in this case, it seems to be portrayed by the edit as a “strategic laziness”. When your strategy sessions are coming from Rupert though, something’s up.

        That said, it’s a good point from Sarah above that the editors neglected to put in most of the negative Candice things they had in their arsenel – that could bode well for her short term RI chances.

      • damnbueno

        Jenna M., Parvati and Cochran were all called “lazy” by multiple players in their winning seasons. I also think Denise called Todd “lazy” in China.

        Cochran even called himself “lazy” last season, saying he spent most of his time thinking about strategy while others were working around camp.

    • Sarah Freeman

      One of the things I noticed about Candice’s edit was that we had zero reference to her mutiny and flipping (which would have been so easy to narrate into the intro). Instead, we had her pre-game suggestion that she would be targeted for being young, athletic and successful, and that was all the excuse given for her vote-off.

      It could be that Candice is being painted in a positive light for the benefit of John’s storyline rather than her own, but they could have started her off much more negatively than they did.

      • BogDa

        I agree with that. Candice is so easy to portray badly. This time I feel like she’s going to be a force —at least on Redemption island.

  • I agree with your point that the season’s formula will give us more character development and back story. While this episode still focused too much on Brad, we learned a lot about many of the players. There wasn’t tunnel vision to just two or three players. That was refreshing, and the 90-minute episode helped that part of it. Looking forward to your posts this season!

    • Michel Trudeau

      Glad to hear from you, Dan. Even if it wasn’t as spectacular as many, this premiere was interesting.

  • Liam Carlson

    I think you’re looking at Aras through the wrong angle. I think the reason he voted for Gervase was because he knew no one else was going to vote for him, and the “Redskins Fan” excuse was just a reason to not make the vote personal. Aras might have been the only person to not make any enemies. Dr. John is seeking vengeance for all who voted for Candice, and Laura M. is probably pissed at anyone who voted for her. No one is mad at Aras.

    • Michel Trudeau

      You are assuming no one is mad at Aras and that Laura is pissed. The editors left us in the dark. The throwaway vote strategy doesn’t always work. Anyway, with Rupert and Candice being two of the 3 votes against her, Laura only has Tyson left that voted against her. Judging by this picture, she doesn’t seem pissed.

      • Morty

        You’re assuming also, since that one pic also doesn’t mean anything. Most people are civil to those they dislike during fleeting moments when they need to be. Look at any workplace.

        • Michel Trudeau

          I certainly am speculating but I thought it was interesting considering the 3 people in the picture and what Tina said about discovering alliances: Look at those who sit together.

          In any workplace, people usually take their lunch break with the ones they like.

          Aras is in a safe place for now and he should go far in the game. I’m talking more about his chances to win and, for that, I didn’t notice many hints that he will be our winner. OK, we heard that he’s the golden boy which could be good but that’s about it. (and it didn’t work for Blake!)

          • Mike Giangreco

            I’m not sure the “look at who they sit with” bit really works, at least not for the viewer so much as the player. In a game where people are stuck with each other 24/7 there is bound to be a time where you can find any player sitting with any other at some point. We, as viewers, don’t have the context to know who they spend most of their time sitting with. I think the hint from Boston Rob about look at who they sleep with is much more telling.

      • Liam Carlson

        True, but you have to admit, Aras is in a safe place, and no one ever gets mad at Tyson… except for Sierra.

      • Kapil

        I am obviously very late to this discussion but let me pipe in. Aras said in one of his pre-season interviews (don’t remember which one) that he and Gervase actually know each other pretty well and are long time friends. Aras has also spent MANY evenings at Gervase’s house. Most importantly, Aras said that most probably, no one else knows about Aras’ and Gervase’s long-term friendship and thus they have a super secret pre-game alliance which no one will know about !!!

        Thus, Aras’ vote was a master-stroke. He knew Gervase was safe and thus threw that vote his way both to protect himself from angering anyone else AND to make it seem even more that Aras and Gervase may not get along.

        Neways – on a different topic, congrats Michel for winning our Candice-Rupert first boot debate on your previous blog. I’ll have to take solace in the fact that they both ended up on RI anyway and that the vote was still not obvious – considering Laura got 3 votes which no one expected.

  • Michel Trudeau

    I just noticed that a paragraph went missing when Hayden’s picture was posted at the top. It was supposed to go:

    “It was nice to have an introduction to the 20 players, something that is rarely done
    anymore. If this is a sign of things to come, editing-wise, then maybe we will
    have a good story. For our purposes here, I noted that a few loved ones took
    precedent over the returning players: Hayden, Cierra and Vytas were the three
    to talk first. While it may mean nothing, it could be that their story
    overshadows their partner’s.

    Hayden could have been given the lead…”

  • R .

    I’m pretty sure you can write off a few people’s chances after this episode. Rachel and Hayden were barely featured from the tribe that went to Tribal Council. Hayden will probably make the merge but I’m guessing Rachel will be one of those Julias who gets no air time until the episode before their boot.

    I remember you saying last season that the editors try to make story lines for people who end up getting voted out (like with Eddie and Reynold’s association with women). I think this is happening with Brad — the editors are hinting at more dumb moves in his future, so he’ll be gone. I like Vytas out of that alliance because he was really the only one showing strategy, and maybe Kaleb.

    The fact that the editors went out the way to show Colton being a bum in the challenge means that he’ll be portrayed similarly to last time and won’t win. And then Gervase also got a bad edit.

    I’ll eliminate those people as potential winners. Good work as usual.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thank you.

      As for eliminating people, it is a bit too early for that. I’d really like to eliminate Colton but… As for the others, Hayden, in particular, they still need to be watched. We had a beautiful image that showed Hayden under a rainbow that could have been included only because it was nice but it could symbolize that he will find the pot of gold. Rachel had very little but it reminded me of Natalie in Samoa: She was one of Vytas many alliances and she simply agreed with his decision. That puts her off the radar and in a good spot to survive if the guys continue to boot the women.

      The only end of story hint I noticed was Rupert’s laziness but others saw that as a smart decision so we’ll have to wait and see!

  • BogDa

    Great article.

    The one thing I think I noticed that you missed is that Aras and Vytas were set up as the Cain and Abel of the story. Everything about what we heard set them up as a Good Brother vs Bad Brother. Yes Aras was tactless with Laura, but overall I thought that the big thing was setting up their conflict and then showing how Aras helped Gervase in the challenge. (Apparently they are friends in real life, so the vote was a ruse). But overall I think the way that Aras didn’t rush, chastise or yell at Gervase really showed his character. It was contrasted with the ridiculous fight between Kat and Colton. We see maturity. The closest person I can think of to Vytas in past contestants is Lex. Hopefully not crazy and emotional like Lex, but he strikes me as someone who will play really hard and ruthless.

    If I can predict anything from the opening episode it is that the Aras and Vytas story is the big one for the season.

    I agree with your take on Tina and Katie. Tina’s compassion is a great point. She’s both a stone cold killer and a nice mom. She’s the full package completely integrated that Dawn is not. Dawn has both sides too, but Tina knows herself.

    Rachel’s lack of air time was puzzling as she really didn’t do anything.

    Colton is an interesting case because he started the last season in the same position. We said —no way this guy lasts the next episode, then suddenly BAM he had total control of the tribe. It would be great to see that story play out again.

    The thing that doesn’t bode well for Rachel, Katie and Ceira is that none of them were shown talking to each other. The alliance of men was all we saw and a bit of stuff with Vytas. It seems like it will be hard to overthrow this alliance.

  • What an excellent read! Your deconstruction of the edit is very interesting. Re. Laura B., I do not think there is a chance in hell she can win. Her fellow Survivors do not relate to her as their vote confirmed. Likability is essential. Tina has that off the charts and so much more to her arsenal which is why she is so dangerous. Laura B. like Rupert in his 3 past seasons will be a pawn at best.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Merci Sophie,

      I don’t give Laura much of a chance to win this game but her edit was solid. Eliminating her now would be more based on game analysis than editing analysis and I try to stay away from that.

      In Gabon, with Jeff talking about “Good vs Evil” and Dan being voted out partly because of his gluttony, I came to see the story as “Saints versus Sinners”. By then, only Bob and Matty weren’t “Sinners” so I had it down to those two. I went with Matty because I thought no one would be stupid enough to let Bob face the jury. Then Sugar intervened…

      • I come at things from a game theory / poker background, hence no love for Laura B from me. Your edit deconstruction is an indisputable predictor. Good vs Evil is so true in a game of imperfect information. Bob deserves more love for what was optimal strategy given his circumstances throughout. Let’s see who wears best a saintly mask to cover their sins this season. I wonder if the ‘sinful’ returnees will engineer Monica’s demise to strike at Brad or whether it’s Vytas…?

        • Michel Trudeau

          “Saints versus Sinners” was the theme in Gabon but every season has its own themes. Here, for now, I think the player with the right mix of Compassion and Competitiveness is the one to look for.

          I also like to analyze Survivor from the Game Theory angle. The editors often like to portray the winning team/player as following Nash game theory. Vanuatu, Palau, Fiji and China were fun to analyze through that angle.

          • I do wish they would cry less… I agree, compassion – whether real or feigned – is an important thread. Enjoy tmw night. I look forward to you next blog.

  • damnbueno

    I’m a man of my word.

    I haven’t read your column, as I said I wouldn’t do anymore.

    I also said —

    damnbueno reply to Michel Trudeau
    12 days ago

    “I agree that Candice is a very strong woman…” I’ll remember this quote if she gets voted out first and you claim it’s because she’s “weak.”

    Michel Trudeau reply to Kapil
    12 days ago

    “I agree that Candice is a very strong woman…”

    You’ve long since concluded that the weak are always targeted first before the merge, and the strong are targeted first after the merge (despite the numerous contradictions to your claim in recent seasons).

    The Candice vote is a textbook exception to your rule. Candice is “very strong” according to you, yet was voted out first. A “strong” player was voted out first. Or are you backtracking and now claiming Candice is “weak?” Its abundantly clear that the Veteran’s first vote was NOT based on strength or weakness.

    Laura was voted out first by the Rookies, but we have not yet heard any of them explain why they targeted her. No responsible conclusions can be drawn yet — at least if your conclusions are based on what the PLAYERS say.

    To take it one step further, the Rookies voted out Marissa 2nd. She did just fine in the first challenge — much better than Ciera, Katie and Caleb. So its also pretty clear that like the Veterans, they didn’t base their 2nd vote on strength or weakness either.

    I can admit when I’m wrong. Can you?

    • MikeyC

      To be fair, I think a season like this causes players to break from the mold.. Gervase was an external factor that would not have negatively affected Marissa in any other season.. Candice was a late addition which was very likely a factor in the first vote..

      I think this season has so many twists that it cannot accurately represent the way Survivor “typically” works..

      • damnbueno

        I just had this discussion with someone on another thread.

        I did some research, and here are the numbers in “typical” seasons, which includes all-rookie, all returning player, and rookie/returning player mix seasons:

        Here’s a list of the first two booted from each tribe in recent
        seasons, and the reasons the PLAYERS gave for targeting them. Make of this what you will.

        Caramoan: Francesca (clashed with Phillip, not trusted by Dawn &
        Cochran). Brandon (nobody felt safe around him). Allie (“She’s a
        strategic threat” — direct quote from Laura — Reynold had an Idol)
        Hope (not in majority alliance). Dawn & Sherri were oldest females.
        Sherri was weakest athlete.

        Philippines: Zane (asked to be voted out), Roxy (lazy and annoying), Dawson (sucked in the challenge) Katie (not in guy’s alliance), RC (too annoying) Artis (victim of Lisa’s defection). Denise & Lisa were oldest females, Lisa, Abi-Maria & Katie were weakest athletes.

        One World: Kourtney (injury) Nina — (not in majority, and she
        targeted someone — Kat — who was) Matt (annoyingly arrogant and pushy, not in majority alliance) Bill (annoying — to Colton). Nina was oldest female, but nobody mentioned her age as a reason for voting her out. Colton was worst athlete.

        South Pacific: Semhar (bragged, then sucked in challenge, Jim
        wanted to weaken Ozzy’s influence) Christine (annoying to Coach), Papa Bear (not in majority alliance), Stacey (not in majority) Dawn & Stacey were the oldest. Cochran and Edna were weakest athletes.

        R.I. Nicaragua: Francesca (wrong alliance, Kristina had an idol),
        Russell (annoying for “being Russell”), Kristina (not in majority),
        Krista (not in majority) Julie and Kristina were oldest females,
        Natalie T. & Sarita were weakest athletes.

        It goes even further than that.

        HvV — oldest were Cirie & Sandra (annoying Sugar & outsider Randy were 1st booted from each tribe)
        Samoa — oldest were Betsy & Laura (Marisa went 1st, but was strong in the challenge. She also clashed with Russell. Annoying Yasmin booted 1st from her tribe)
        Tocantins — oldest were Sandy & Debbie (annoying Carolina & Sandy — despite doing well in 1st challenge — was booted because she was in the wrong alliance).
        Gabon — oldest were Gillian & Susie (Corinne & Sugar were both 29 on the Kota tribe) 1st boot Michelle was very strong, but a loner/complainer, Paloma openly fought with Ace.

        Except for Laura M., these “oldest” women also sucked at challenges (Corinne & Cirie were probably “average”).

        NONE of them were voted out first, and only Sandy, Betsy and Gillian were voted out 2nd. Betsy was booted because she clashed with Russell, not because she was old or weak.

        It just plain hasn’t happened much in any of the last 10 seasons.
        Being the oldest/weakest looking female does NOT mean you’ll be booted first, or even targeted early. If your social game is good enough to put yourself in the majority, you’ll most likely be fine.

        And since we didn’t see any of this season’s rookies give a reason why they booted Laura B., we can’t even say for certain that age/weakness was the reason behind the Laura B. vote.

        Most of the oldest or weakest on this list made it to the merge, and 7 of them (Dawn, Sherri, Lisa, Natalie, Sandra, Susie & Sugar) made it to the finals.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thank you, DB, for increasing the post count on my blog.

      • damnbueno

        I guess you can’t admit when you’re wrong.

        Too bad, I was getting just a little closer to respecting your opinion.

        • Michel Trudeau

          Respect? You wrote: “I haven’t read your column, as I said I wouldn’t do anymore…”
          I consider this trolling not respect so I didn’t read your post either.

          All I will say is there were 29 votes during the premiere and only 1 for a strong guy (who proved to be weak after all!) That proves my point, really.

          • Kapil

            Well – Marissa did vote for Brad in that first boot but that was cut from the episode. Rewatch the episode – it needs to be paused but you may be able to see it. The same was also confirmed in the Gordon Holmes recap.

          • Justin

            And if you pause the show right as Laura is walking to join Probst after being voted out, you see that Katie actually voted for Marissa. Why the editors did not show us those votes I have no idea.

            What we know is Laura B. had 5 votes, Marissa had 2 votes, Brad had 1 vote, with two unknowns. Dr. John’s and Rachel’s vote remained a mystery in the edit and maybe in real life as Gordon Holmes did not even reveal who they voted for, either.

          • Michel Trudeau

            Thank you for that info. I thought only Gervase had a vote. So, out of 29, two votes were cast for strong guys.

          • damnbueno

            The joke that is Michel Trudeau continues.

            YOU called Candice a “very strong woman,” and she was the first one voted out of her tribe.

            Laura M. has two individual immunity wins under her belt, and can also be called “strong” yet she got 3 votes.

            Marissa did fine in the first challenge, yet was voted out instead of obviously weaker performers Ciera, Katie and Caleb.

            NONE of the rookies gave a reason why they voted for Laura B., so we can’t accurately say she was booted for perceived weakness yet.

            Colton is by far the weakest of the Veterans, and Tina is the oldest woman, yet neither of them got a single vote.

            You’re even hedging your bets by calling Brad “strong” and “weak” in the same sentence!

            And now you’re trying to slip in another BS stipulation that all this time you were only talking about strong GUYS????? You’re claiming your theory doesn’t apply to the women????

            This is the lamest response you’ve ever given.

            I have zero respect for blowhards who can’t admit when they’re wrong.

            This is the most conclusive proof ever that you’re more interested in protecting your theory than talking about what actually happens during the game.

            Have you actually spoken to a Survivor Editor yet, or are you going to continue to tell us what they want us to think with absolutely no factual evidence to support your conclusions?

    • Jouni Knuutinen

      If you don’t read the column, can you just stop commenting on it so everyone else can enjoy and discuss it in peace? Thanks.

      • damnbueno

        I’ll say again, nobody is forcing you to read my replies to Michel.

        • Jouni Knuutinen

          I’ll say again, if you don’t read the column, don’t comment on it. It’s that simple. You are making it personal, which is something Rob clearly told people not to do in the comment sections.

          • damnbueno

            Looks like you’re still reading my replies.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            I’m happy to read your comments when they are relevant to the column or you have at least something new to say. Not when you are just trolling, which is what you are doing now.

          • damnbueno

            Of all the people on this site, you’re easily the most aware of my ongoing dispute with Michel.

            So it comes down to your personal choice. After reading a few words, if you don’t like the content, just stop reading it.

            Its that simple.

            I probably won’t comment on anything Michel writes in his column because I simply don’t consider him to be credible. That alone should make your decision easier.

            I am however interested in what others have to say, so I’ll occasionally read those comments. And if Michel replies with fiction designed only to support his theory, I’ll usually provide the facts that contradict his conclusion.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Yes, I can see that that is what you think you are doing and many times you are presenting a whole lot of facts gathered with research. Unfortunately you also seem to think that your opinion equals fact and that’s where you become more of a nuisance than a contributor.

          • damnbueno

            You and I have disagreed on the definition of a “fact” many times, and I don’t see that being resolved soon.

            My opinions are 100% based on what the players say and do. So if you disagree with me, you’re disagreeing with the players.

            So many fans (including Michel) choose to substitute their own opinions for the player’s opinions. I choose to listen to the players because theirs are the only opinions that matter.

            Michel babbled on and on last season about how the “strong” are always targeted at the merge. He only heard Phillip mention using “strength” as a voting criteria, and ignored what NINE other players said about why they were voting (which had nothing to do with strength or weakness) Then he watched Sherri and Corinne get all the votes at the first Tribal council.

            “Strong” players Malcolm, Reynold, Eddie, and Erik didn’t get a single vote.

            Yet he still insisted all they cared about was booting the strong first after the merge.

            You tell me, what was the “fact?” Did the post-merge players target Sherri and Corinne because they were seen as “strong,” or did they target the two “weakest” players?

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            You keep saying that 100% thing. It’s not true, at all. The players say what they say. What I sometimes disagree with is how you interpret what they are saying and then present it as fact. You are doing the same thing you are accusing of Michael doing without realising it. So when I disagree with you, I disagree with YOU, not the players.

            Being strong in challenges will always make you a target post merge. Always has, always will. The players mention it every season, just like they discuss the social and strategic aspects when voting someone out. The result is always a mixture of reasons.

            Please don’t reply with a comment going through all 26 seasons, I really am not going to read something like that :).

          • damnbueno

            Its funny that you don’t want me to provide you a list with all the factual contradictions to your opinion — perhaps because you KNOW so many of them exist?

            “Being strong in challenges will always make you a target post merge.” — You mean like Sherri and Corinne last season? Erik and Eddie were perceived as “strong,” yet finished 4th and 5th. Malcolm became a target because he betrayed the Faves’ alliance, not because he was “strong.” And nobody targeted him at the 2nd post-merge vote either.

            My opinions are based on what the players say and do.

            Right after last season’s merge:

            7 votes for “weak” Corinne
            5 votes for “weak” Sherri

            0 votes for “strong” Reynold, Malcolm, Eddie or Erik.

            Followed by 7 votes for “weak” Michael and only 1 for “strong” Reynold — cast by Malcolm who at that moment said it was a throwaway vote.

            Are you really disagreeing with me, or the players? And before you answer, remember I didn’t have a vote.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            You still don’t get it, do you? Being a target doesn’t necessarily translate into votes. You can have a target on your back for all kinds of reasons and being strong in challenges is one of them. Why is it so hard for you to admit this, when the players themselves discuss it EVERY SEASON?

          • damnbueno

            If it doesn’t translate into votes, then who cares?

            Phillip was a “target” for the entire season in R.I. Nicaragua. He got 17 votes that season, yet was only seriously in trouble of being voted out once. He left with 100 grand.

            Aras amassed 9 votes against him in Panama, yet won the million.

            If your definition of a “target” is simply having another player TALK about voting for you, then the term becomes meaningless because there hasn’t been a player in 27 season who was never “talked” about being voted out — including the best who’ve ever played — Earl, Kim, Brian, Yul, and several others who’ve never been voted out.

            Every player in the game becomes a “target” if all that needs to happen is that someone “talks” about them. Talk that doesn’t translate into votes is meaningless.

            John and Caleb suggested voting out Katie instead of Marissa. But only Marissa actually voted for Katie. To me, that doesn’t mean Katie was a “target.” Katie was never in serious danger. Are you saying John and Caleb’s votes for Marissa doesn’t eliminate the thought that Katie was their target at that vote? That’s ridiculous.

            Colton talked about booting Laura M., Monica, Aras, and Kat. Does that mean they’re all “targets” now? What if everyone chooses to ignore Colton? By your definition, they’re all still “targets” simply because someone talked about them being one.

            The action will always be more important than the speculation. Votes mean more than talk.

            Brandon “talked” about peeing in the rice, burning down the camp, and punching Phillip. Did he ever do any of it?

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            No, that is not my definition of a target. I think I’ve written enough about the subject for any reasonable person to understand where I’m coming from. I will be abandoning this thread now.

          • damnbueno

            Let me know if you ever figure out what your definition of a “target” is.

            I’d really like to know how someone can be a “target” when nobody (or only the clear minority) votes for them.

  • Justin

    A great read as always, Michel.

    The only good thing about Rupert’s laziness was the editors gave him a chance to rationalize it, but overall, Candice certainly has a stronger story on Redemption and Rupert’s “now it’s Laura’s turn” confessional also pretty much cements Rupert will not be the one re-entering the game. The only question appears to be whether or not he beats Marissa in the duel. Also of note in regards to Rupert, he claims he never won individual immunity before, but that actually is not true. The episode of Ryno’s elimination in Pearl Islands, Rupert won the coconut chop immunity challenge. Of course, that won’t be an RI duel, but the editors/contestants/Probst do make those mistakes sometimes and I like noting them.

    The last time a player told us they needed redemption was Ozzy in South Pacific, and he ended up making all the way to Final 4. I do not know if it is significant or not that Caleb, not Colton, is the one that gave the “Colton needs redemption” quote, but a person in an RI season whose story revolves around redemption can have legs in terms of longevity.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thank you Justin,

      I appreciate the reminder about Ozzy’s comment. I’m sure you will agree with me that Ozzy had more of what it takes to survive on RI.

      I think that Caleb had the kind of edit that can get him far. Colton, on the other hand, will receive a good amount of airtime no matter his placement. His redemption story started so early that it felt short term. The next episode should tell us more as it seems Colton is quite involved.

      • Justin

        Ozzy definitely has more of what it takes to survive on RI than Colton, I’m just wondering if “so-and-so needs redemption” is the editors’ go-to setup for a long stay, however improbable it may appear on paper, or just a sign that the person will visit the island at some point

        Despite the fact that Colton is certainly a weaker person among a probably above average cast in terms of physical fitness, not all duels involve being athletic, so there is always the chance Colton can scrape up a few first or second place finishes before his end.

  • dsharden

    Wow…..Thank you, Michael! I love such an in depth look and recap…Glad I plugged into this site. Look forward to reading and talking with you through the season. Brilliant writing.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Thanks, glad to have you aboard and I look forward to some or your own comments.

  • dsharden

    Why is your name Michael as the author of the article, but everyone spells it Michel in the posts and your replies? What is the correct spelling of your first name? Thanks.

    P.S. I hate postsd that start with …I don’t watch that show but,…….. I didn’t read your article, but…..How big of an ass do you have to be to start with this sentence. I hope the troll leaves soon.

    • Michel Trudeau

      I’m French Canadian so my name is Michel. People can call me Michael or Mike if they prefer.

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