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Loyalty Is All Relative On Survivor

The annual family visit reward brings its usual amount of tears, drama, and contestants who get all butthurt about not winning said reward.

A Leg(acy) Up On The Competition

Last time on Survivor, Zeke went home in a shocking blindside, and it turns out that Zeke was not the only person shocked by this turn of events. Sierra, Brad, and Troyzan -- who were told by the majority alliance to vote for Tai -- didn't see it coming; neither did Tai, who was especially shocked to see his own name written down -- and by people he thought were his friends, no less.

Sierra, feeling backed into a corner, makes the only move she can think of. Remember that Legacy Advantage she found in the first episode? It's okay if you don't; there have been approximately 93 hidden advantages in this game so far, and this one is by far the least powerful, since it can only be played when there are 13 or 6 players left. So Sierra's Hail Mary involves going to Sarah with the information that she has some unspecified advantage that she won't be able to put into play for three more votes. Sarah is outwardly willing to hear her out, but inwardly, the knowledge that there's a secret advantage that a voted-out contestant might leave to her just makes her want to make the person who has it into a voted-out contestant.

The Family Way

Probst introduces this week's reward with the standard spiel about food, and everyone dutifully oohs and aahs over the prospect of burgers and cupcakes. But wait, he says, there's more! He barely gets out the words "loved ones" before Sarah comes totally unglued, so after he reveals that everyone's nearest and dearest are waiting just off camera to say hello, he might as well let Sarah see her loved one first. Everyone seems quite taken with her significant other, Wyatt: Sierra comments on how sexy the dude is, and Tai gives him a winning smile and a little wave.

Longtime viewers may recall that the family visit reward generally happens when there are around five or six Survivors left in the game. This is because the show likes to spend a good three or four minutes on each family reunion: Probst's got to ask each Survivor who they expect to see, they've got to cry and hug, he's got to comment on how touching it is and how he's never seen a reunion like this one, and then they have to show yet another reunion exactly like that one. The DVR informs me that this segment takes only around fifteen minutes, which can't possibly be right. It feels as though this segment has bent the very fabric of space-time.

Tai says he's excited to see "the love of my life, Mark," and for a second I forget that back in Survivor: Kaoh Rong he named his pet chicken to honor his significant other, so it's a little surprising to see a human emerging from the jungle here.

Oh, yeah, there's also a challenge. Eventually. The lucky winners, who'll get to spend the afternoon eating food with their loved ones, are Andrea, Aubry, and Culpepper; Probst is especially excited about this development since Culpepper's wife, Monica, is a two-time Survivor contestant in her own right, and this marks the first time that a Survivor has brought an ex-Survivor back to serve as his or her loved one. (And it bears mention that Monica was probably cast in the first place because she had an ex-NFL player for a husband, and she was definitely brought back for Survivor: Blood vs. Water because she could bring her ex-NFL player husband along for the ride.)

For extra drama, the winning team is allowed to choose one more person to join them, and they elect to take Cirie. Probst decides the losers aren't pissed off enough yet, so he lets the winners select an additional companion, and this time they pick Sarah. Michaela seems to be acting like a little bit of a sore loser, but Andrea's sure they can sort it out once they return from the reward.

Meal; Planning

Because we've spent so much time introducing everyone's family members, there's no reason to show much of the reward beyond the obligatory shot of everyone eating. Oh, except just in case you missed it, we should mention again that Culpepper's wife was on Survivor before.

Back at Loser Beach, Michaela continues to be salty about not being at the reward, and Tai, Sierra, and Troyzan -- also varying degrees of salty -- take the opportunity to try to flip her to their side.

Buoys Will Be Buoys

Immunity this week is another endurance challenge, this one involving balancing a buoy with two sticks, which, according to Probst, is a brand-new challenge. He's not as stoked to try out all-new double entendres about the center hole as I would have expected.

This challenge is over pretty quickly. The screen proclaims an elapsed time of eighteen minutes; in TV time, the whole thing takes about three, and Culpepper wins without much fanfare.

Me, Me, Me, Me, All The Way Home

According to Andrea, Culpepper's immunity win throws a snag into her plans, because she'd planned to make him the target. She and her group settle for Sierra as their new target. Sarah's hoping to get Sierra out of the game so that Sierra will bequeath her Legacy Advantage to her. Tai, Sierra, Troyzan, and Brad intend to target Andrea. Both sides appear to be counting Michaela as one of their numbers.

At Tribal Council, Probst asks Michaela if she can ever trust an alliance. "'We' is relative to whoever feels like they're the big W at the moment," she says. "And that W can flip upside down and be a 'me' at any moment." Jeff is way too impressed by this turn of phrase, but then again, the rest of the group is giving him stuff like Sarah's "just when you think you know what's going on, you seem to not know what's going on," so the bar's kind of low tonight.

It now just remains to be seen who's "a part of the real 'we,'" as Sierra puts it (Sierra is even more taken with this "we/me" business than Probst was). Answer: not Sierra, whose torch is snuffed in a 6-3 vote. She chooses to give her Legacy Advantage to Sarah, adding that she hopes Sarah didn't vote for her. (Spoiler: Sarah totally voted for her.)

Verdict

Every season of Survivor has those episodes that are merely connector pieces between major game moves, and this is that episode. To her credit, Sierra brought much more strategy and character to this season than anyone could have predicted when they saw her name on the cast list back in February, but it's still somehow fitting that the castaway who's arguably the most inexplicable, least memorable choice for a cast full of game changers would go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

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