Survivor Review, Season 27, Episode 13
“Out on a Limb”
Airs Wednesday at 8pm (ET) on CBS
In this current Survivor era dominated by returning players, it’s been intriguing to watch how they respond based on their previous experiences. Many over compensate and try to make big moves too early, while others avoid the target that doomed them. Monica Culpepper’s first appearance on One World showed her strength but also a vulnerable side that placed too much trust in others. It’s important to have allies, but placing too much faith in them isn’t wise. The key is recognizing what’s best for their game and if you fit in those plans. Despite more remarkable game play from Ciera to convince Monica she should flip, she makes the right choice this week and sticks with her alliance. Her situation is worse if she switches to the other side. Hayden and Ciera have become the lovable underdogs that the jury roots for against the people who betrayed them. Monica can’t defeat them in the end and is just handing over the million with that move. Voting for Gervase serves little purpose since it puts Monica in the number four spot when the Redemption Island victor returns. No matter who wins the final “duel”, they become the third person ahead of Monica if she betrays her alliance.
Despite the end result, Hayden and Ciera make a convincing case that Monica can’t defeat Tyson and Gervase. The weird thing is that they’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean she should flip. In her current scenario of facing the two guys, she at least can make a case for the win. Monica survived after Brad left early and stuck to her alliance right to the end. The problem is that she’s in the unenviable third chair next to a power couple. That may gain her a few votes like Sabrina in One World, but the respect isn’t there to overthrow Tyson. Despite her challenge victories, Monica is stuck as the goat behind the leaders. Even so, there are examples of players in this spot gaining a win. Sandra was in a similar position in Heroes vs. Villains, but the difference is likability. Players have repeatedly talked about Monica’s irritating personality for the entire season. Despite the mantra of “outwit, outplay, outlast”, the final vote often comes down to who the jury likes. Did Fabio really play the best game in Nicaragua? If you’re number three in the dominant alliance, the only chance is having the jury’s sympathies over the others.
When the Blood vs. Water cast was announced, one of my least favorite choices was Laura Morett. She was a strong player in Samoa but was sidetracked by feuds with Shambo and Russell Hantz. It’s been stunning to watch her dominate at Redemption Island and form strong bonds with other players. She isn’t just surviving in second each week; she’s destroying the competition. Even more impressive is the fine game play from her daughter Ciera, who gives Monica a perfect sales pitch on the beach. When Monica wisely brings up Tyson sticking by her and picking a rock, Ciera’s reply about the numbers is brilliant. She stretches the truth about people talking behind Monica’s back without going too far. Hayden over plays the case by bringing up Brad and the kids at Tribal Council, but Ciera never wavers. It’s clear that she loves the game and lacks the fear that derails so many players. If she makes the end, Ciera deserves the victory just as much as Tyson. The question is whether that can happen given the numbers disadvantage that she faces.
The Redemption Island challenge has added emotion with Tina competing directly with her daughter to survive. Given the tragic news from last week, this moment feels more poignant. When Tina pauses at the door before eliminating Katie, it shows a bond that’s grown even stronger during the game. Despite Jeff Probst’s painfully giddy exclamations of “Blood vs. Water!”, the true emotions show the success of this new format. The challenge is familiar and involves tying a stick to retrieve keys. Even so, it’s the Tina/Katie connection that makes it work. Looking towards the final contest, it’s interesting that everyone just assumes that Laura will win it. Hayden should be a strong challenger, and Tina has survived thanks to a great deal of luck. Even so, it’s hard to bet against Laura returning. Will she join Ozzie in the “three vote-outs” club? That seems like the most likely scenario given the current trends.
The immunity challenge has a great combination of swimming, navigating ropes, and a challenging puzzle. Probst spends a lot of time ragging on Ciera (why does he always pick on the women?), but she surprises everyone and blasts through the puzzle to win immunity. This puts Hayden on the hot seat unless Monica flips. He does get to enjoy a meal from the “Survivor menu” at camp as a reward. Instead of trying to woo Monica, Ciera picks her ally and leaves the others at camp. It’s a daring approach and shows her choice to play a more confident game. While choosing Monica would have made little difference, it shows Ciera’s choice to stick by Hayden. Many players have sat in her position and voted against their buddy to prove loyalty. That tactic rarely works, so it’s refreshing to see a different approach. Heading into the finale, can Ciera avoid the vote? Tyson still seems like the odds-on favorite to win the million, and the immunity idol gives him a free pass to the final four. It would take a betrayal from Gervase at that point to change the story line. It’s been an incredible season, and the main question is whether more surprises are ahead. Tyson has navigated dangerous waters and has a few more tricky steps before he can grab the ultimate prize.