Quit Me, Baby, One More Time
What to watch and what to skip as Survivor experiences a quit, an injury, and a blindside all in one episode.
Survivor might just have something here. While initially, the "Blood vs. Water" concept seemed like a thin excuse to bring back old players, the idea of having a loved one on the other side of the tribe divide is complicating strategy to a satisfying degree. I'm suddenly very interested to see what becomes of Monica's position in the veterans' inner circle (where we saw her entrenched last week) now that everybody knows her husband, Brad, is running the show for the newbies. Suddenly, there are more reasons to vote someone out other than the usual short-term-strength vs. long-term-loyalty lines. Call me a sucker for even the most rudimentary strategic concerns on this show (guilty), but I'm onboard.
Now about that Colton…
Camp Life: Chaos Doesn't Reign
It's almost exactly a repeat of last week's scenes, where Colton makes very transparent attempts to start drama on his tribe, nobody even comes close to taking the bait, and Colton pouts about how nobody wants to be "strategic." It's almost funny to watch Aras as he observes Colton whine about not being able to play a strategic game with these people. Aras tries to explain the concept of patience to Colton -- that "strategy" isn't just barging into a group of strangers, talking shit, and waiting for everyone to fall in line behind your schemes. Strategy involves some degree of getting the lay of the land, waiting for your opening, and manipulating people without making it screamingly obvious you're manipulating people. Colton just seems to want to scream "I'M BEING STRATEGIC" in people's faces until they all bow down to his scheming brain.
In the end, Colton's problem comes down to the fact that he's a spoiled brat who isn't used to having things exactly his way, immediately. It's hilariously how quickly and easily his tribe has been able to neutralize him, simply by refusing to entertain anything he says. It's how every Russell Hantz season should have progressed, honestly.
Lots of moving parts on this one. First of all, Rachel sensibly tells Tyson that he's in a better position on his tribe right now than she would be, so there's no good reason for him to take her place in Redemption. So there goes Brad/Vytas/Hayden's plan to snooker Tyson into giving himself up. This leads to a shouting match between Tyson and Brad, in which Tyson is correct on the merits (Brad is only making himself a target too early), but also: don't tell the guy who's becoming a big target that he's a big target. This leads to Marissa going full "FUCK YOU, BRAD" from her spot in the pit, and all of a sudden, everybody's getting into it.
And since everybody was paying attention to somebody other than Colton for two minutes, he starts crying and pulling the focus back to him. Probst wearily asks him what's going on, and Colton declares that he is quitting, because nobody on his tribe will play the game he wants to play. At which point like six hilarious things happen. 1) Rachel -- and only Rachel -- tells Colton not to quit; everybody else is like, "Ehhhhh let's hear him out"; 2) INCLUDING Caleb, Colton's boyfriend, who is nominally supportive but also spectacularly non-emotional about it; I guess this is yin and yang at work, and if you have someone as volatile as Colton, maybe the laws of nature dictate that he must be balanced out by someone this stoic, but honestly, Caleb actually says "catch you on the flip side" at one point. It's fantastic.
Things 3-6 mostly consist of Jeff Probst rolling up his sleeves and proceeding to go to town on Colton, most interestingly when he reveals that Colton basically faked his appendix attack on his original season in order to engineer a quit then, too. (Which, sidebar, is crazy because Colton not only had an immunity idol back then, but he also had an entire tribe deferring to his leadership; remember when we were all dismayed that Colton was headed straight to the finals?) Anyway, Jeff clearly despises Colton and maybe even was against him getting cast, so he's going to get his pound of flesh out of this guy before it's all said and done. You know I can't stand Colton, but I also can't stand Jeff Probst: Shamer of Quitters, and he's in full force right now. I know it's the part of Probst's shtick that everybody loves, and it's hard to stand up for the quitters, but it's so ugly to watch someone take this much moral high ground on a subject so ultimately silly as Survivor.
But, whatever, Jeff gets to act like a big man and deny Colton the "honor" of having his buff consumed by the flames of Redemption Island (seriously), and we at home never have to worry about Colton ever again, so we all win. Well, not Colton.
Oh, right, so there's also a competition! It's your standard domino-stacking challenge, this time on a semi-unstable course. Candice wins again, pretty handily, while Marissa vs. Rachel is somewhat thrilling for what amounts to, again, stacking dominos. Tyson is actually rather sweet as he hugs his beloved and asks her, "Did you have fun while you were here?" She did. Good for her.
Camp Life: Breaking Brad
After being well and truly outed as the newbies' prime mover, Brad makes a lot of empty "Who, me?" gestures back at camp. In his interviews, he acts shocked that everybody would think he's in charge. "I am, but I'm making everyone else feel like decisions are being made as a group, not by me." Okay, 1) they clearly do not feel like that, because 2) you just saw everybody at Redemption freak out on you because of it, and also 3) YOU JUST SAID SO LIKE 90 SECONDS AGO. Fucking Brad. Also, John takes his second immunity-idol clue that he got from Candice and goes searching for it. He brings Brad along as a trust-building measure, which…makes Brad distrust him. I don't even know. This is what happens with all-guy alliances. Everybody's worried they're not being alpha enough, so they have to invent reasons to want to take the other guys out.
Back at Vet Beach, an interesting thing is happening, production-wise. Tyson is getting a hero edit for the first time in three seasons. He was tribe sideshow on his original season in Tocantins, and he was decidedly Boston Rob's sidekick in "Heroes vs. Villains," but here, he interviews somewhat tearfully about sending Rachel off, then transitions into straight-up wisdom and compassion in assessing how Colton let the game make him bitter and angry. Then he talks about how it's slightly weird living with Monica after the Brad contretemps. This is Tyson in a new light, and it appears to be setting him up for a larger story, so if he ends up Final 3 this season, don't say I didn't call it.
More evidence for my Tyson Hero Theory: he dislocates his shoulder in the challenge, which involves a series of one-on-one sumo-style face-offs in which the Survivors are armed with a giant body pillow. The one-on-one immunity challenges are always worth a watch to see how storylines are being shaped. Aras vs. Vytas gets a lot of backstory -- remember that Aras still resents Vytas for being a bully of an older brother, while Vytas says he's been living in golden-boy Aras's shadow for years. Aras wins their faceoff and is genuinely emotional about it afterwards as his wires get crossed between "I love my brother" and "that was wildly cathartic to beat him."
In other news, Tina and Laura continue to assert their dominance over their daughters, with Ciera making a particularly poor showing in her two matchups. That ends up being the margin of victory for the veterans, as they take their third consecutive immunity. (We strangely never see Caleb compete, so parts of this challenge must have been edited for time.)
Scrumming For Votes
John's position is stated as follows: "Girls! Weak! Grr!" Ciera appears to be the target. Then that thing happens where one person (John) leaves the meeting while the other four hang back and discuss getting rid of him. Brad really wants to, because all of a sudden, he's worried that Candice will return to the game and start giving John orders instead of him. No such concerns for Hayden, whose girlfriend, Kat, is actually in the game. Nor Vytas, whose brother is a fairly vital part of the vets' tribe. Maybe those guys have sufficiently convinced Brad that they'll be calling the shots with their loved ones upon a merge situation, or maybe Brad is indulging in ballbuster stereotypes re: Candice, but the upshot is that he wants to blindside John at Tribal tonight.
At this, Hayden's tiny reptile brain starts working overtime, as he considers that if Brad could so quickly turn on an alliance member like that, are any of them safe? "It could be like opening Pandora's box," he muses, which is hilarious because I 100% believe he only knows that term because of its use on Big Brother. Speaking of which, how nice is it to hear Hayden speak at a normal human volume instead of that cranked-up way BB forced him to talk in his diary-room sessions? Anyway, Vytas is also not a huge fan of Brad's early scheming, particularly when Brad subsequently declares his intention to throw his own vote to Ciera, so that he might still be cool with John if he returns to the game via Redemption. Honestly, the balls on this guy. Vytas actually uses the term "shysty" to describe him in an interview, which is great. Suddenly, Hayden, Vytas, and the girls are talking about taking Brad out, which YES PLEASE. While it's somewhat comforting to know that Hayden/Vytas/Caleb are the true power on the newbies tribe, it'd still be nice to have Brad actually eliminated. (Also, send him to Redemption early, to maximize the chances that he'll get eliminated.)
Nothing at all crucial. Strong Men vs. Weak Women. John's attempts to find the idol. John declining to share the clues. Brad talking in circles.
Despite all that sweet talk about eliminating Brad, the guys take the path of least resistance and vote out John, sending him to compete against his wife at Redemption, and making Brad an even bigger target next week, from the looks of it. It's a decent enough game to play, for now, but at some point, you can't let the chance to eliminate big, dumb muscleheads pass you by.
Like I said, I'm in. We seem to be past the stage of easy eliminations, the cross-tribe dynamics are really interesting, and at present, Redemption Island houses three players I would be very interested to see return to the game. With Colton AND Rupert the first two players eliminated from the game, this season literally could not have begun any better.