Survivor Review, Season 27, Episode 12
Airs Wednesday at 8pm (ET) on CBS
It’s amazing to see just how vibrant Survivor feels this season, and the thrills are about more than picking rocks. It starts with the first scene of Hayden drawing out Gervase by crowning Tyson the victor. That conversation sets the stage for everything that follows, including an insane Tribal Council. It’s a rare case where a player with his back against the wall actually makes the correct arguments. By pressing the “Tyson as inevitable winner” story line, Hayden gets Gervase and Monica to say exactly what he wants. Ciera’s understated reactions say it all. She realizes that her road to victory doesn’t go through the Galang alliance. Monica’s reassurance that “four is better than six” isn’t what she wants to hear. Unlike the recent One World and South Pacific seasons, it’s wonderful to see everyone trying to win the game. They’d rather draw rocks than fade meekly into oblivion. It takes guts to accept a one-in-three shot to leave the game, so the fact that Ciera sticks to her guns is awesome. Katie is the ultimate loser by chance, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad strategy to flip the game.
Why does Survivor use the rocks to break ties? The reason is simple; they don’t want players to accept this option. It’s so dangerous that it usually pushes them to adjust on a re-vote. This happened earlier this season with Vytas turning on Brad. With one notable exception in the Marquesas, history shows that someone always takes the bait. This fear of a random exit caused John Fincher to flip on Laura Morett in Samoa and Cochran to change the entire South Pacific game. The producers don’t want the rocks to take out a dominant player, and that risk could have eliminated Tyson this week. Even so, they have to love the epic feeling of this Tribal Council. The stakes are huge and could put Hayden in the driver’s seat. The one factor that diminishes its impact is Redemption Island. Tyson is more willing to pick rocks with the knowledge that he can return by surviving a few challenges. There probably are just two more contests at Redemption Island. Cochran faced a different situation with 12 players remaining in his season. Even with this safety net, it’s still impressive to see the boldness this time.
This is an intriguing episode for Gervase, who wins immunity yet hurts his game by saying the wrong thing. There’s nothing awful in theory with reminding everyone he’s not a follower. However, his energetic denials over compensate and make him seem less believable. It’s good for him to practice this speech now in case he makes it to the end with Tyson. This confidence about his spot keeps Gervase from truly considering Hayden’s plans to take out his ally. Assuming Ciera is on board with his group, that hesitance makes sense. However, it only works if someone can assure her that she isn’t fourth.
With every new statement at Tribal Council, Gervase makes it clear that Ciera will not make the end. When Jeff gives him an out about choosing Monica for the ice cream reward, he sidesteps it and talks about her spot as an original Galang member. It even gets worse when he starts counting. It’s clear that he’s frustrated by Hayden’s inability to accept defeat, and those emotions knock logic out the door. Despite the dangers to his game, Tyson plays it better and even makes a silly joke about Hayden saying “Russell” instead of “ruffle”. Is this Tribal Council a preview of what will happen in front of the jury? Gervase looks ridiculous when he calls out Hayden for back-stabbing the alliance. Those comments are not going to win jury votes and place him in Coach territory. He still has a chance to adjust and grab a better shot, but it’s hard to think that Gervase could beat Tyson (or Ciera) in the end.
The Redemption Island challenge is the usual card stacking that Jeff Probst seems to love. Laura Morett again blasts through it while Tina and Caleb struggle. The interesting factor is putting a 30-minute time limit on the contest. When Caleb grabs a lead, he can probably just let the time expire. Instead, his massive structure falls at the last minute and keeps Tina’s game alive. Laura gives the idol clue to Ciera, who wisely doesn’t burn it. In a questionable but sensible move, she reads it to her alliance and sends everyone scrambling. While his tear-filled confession plays, Tyson locates the idol on a large tree. This feels like a winner’s edit, and now the odds of him leaving are even smaller. The immunity challenge involves balancing a ball on a pole, which brings out plenty of unintentional Probst humor. The editors have fun showing Katie dropping the ball on her head while Monica and Gervase battle at the end. His throwing skills win the day and give him the unfortunate chance to screw up the reward picks.
Can Hayden survive next week? He seems like the obvious choice after the rocks kicked out his ally. Even so, there’s nothing certain in this game. Gervase may finally recognize he can’t coast, and Monica could make the same decision. All it takes is one vote to give Hayden and Ciera a 3-2 edge. If that happens, Tyson’s idol could save him. He probably has two opportunities to play it with the Redemption Island winner returning in the finale. It’s likely he won’t take any chances after this week’s bedlam. The big question is whether Ciera is building a case to grab a surprise win. The jury has to admire her bravery in pulling the rocks, and voting out her mom is another bold move. Caleb’s comments at Redemption Island show bitterness towards Tyson that might lose his vote. Regardless of the final outcome, this is shaping up to be an exhilarating finish.