Survivor Review, Season 27, Episode 8
“Skin of My Teeth”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
In one of the most telegraphed blindsides in Survivor history, this week’s vote flips the game on its head and pushes the once-confident leaders to the brink. Rarely have the editors spent this much time setting up a pivotal blindside. Unlike nervous players like Monica and Laura Morett, Aras doesn’t have a past failure to make him worry. He’s confident that the game will work out and doesn’t recognize the danger of standing in front. The key mistake is trusting that Gervase and Tyson will let the couples run the show. And that’s hardly the only miscalculation. Tina makes a ridiculous gaffe and tells Monica she’s fifth on the totem pole. The amazing part is that she sells it like a benefit. It takes some convincing from Tyson, but Tina’s comment sends Monica scurrying for the exits from a sinking ship. This foolish reveal from such a normally wise player shows that complacency can ruin anyone in this game.
Tyson and Gervase’s move is similar to what Malcolm and Corinne tried to pull off in the Caramoan at this same point. Their plans fell apart when Dawn found out and spilled the beans, and that possibility is always there with any major shift. Another example is the demise of the Rotu Four in the underrated Marquesas season. After showing their hand at the immunity challenge and revealing the voting order, the entire over-confident group was booted from the game. An unlikely band of allies joined together to preserve their spots. That was only the fourth Survivor season and the first overthrow of its kind. Things may be different looking ahead given the unpredictable nature of this contest.
This time, Tyson and Gervase involve the right people and don’t overplay their hand. The vote makes sense for all seven participants because they would fall behind the two couples in a final-four scenario. Tina and Aras are ready to stick with their loved ones as far as they can and don’t hide that fact. Putting your intentions out front is rarely wise in this game, and it makes the choice easy for the underdogs. It really benefits players like Hayden and Caleb who won’t face the vote anytime soon. They can sit back while the original Galang members get the blowback for backstabbing their allies. It’s a stark turnaround from their struggle to even win a challenge before the tribe swap. The possibility of a loved one grabbing the million dollars just keeps getting higher.
It’s time for the last Redemption Island battle! Just kidding; that would be too refreshing. The person who wins this “duel” will re-enter the game, however. Once the challenge appears, the expected outcome is clear. Hanging on a pole is not John’s strong suit. He exits first, and Laura Boneham follows after a valiant effort. Jeff Probst basically asks her what it feels like to fail after Rupert’s noble sacrifice, which is classy. He is definitely not a fan of Laura’s game. John gets a fairer send-off, and Laura Morett rejoins the tribes at the merge. It’s interesting to note that Ciera isn’t thrilled to see her mother back in the game. Couples face an extra target, and her position is now less secure. When Laura starts over-strategizing and considering remote possibilities, it’s her savvy daughter who keeps her on point. They’re the key votes in Tyson’s plan, though Aras and Tina make it easier by splitting the votes at Tribal Council. Sandra’s place as the lone two-time winner feels secure after this episode.
After the grueling Redemption Island face-off, the immunity challenge seems less inspiring. This type of memory test should give less physical players a better chance, but the final competitors are Aras and Vytas. It’s clear that the loser is heading to Redemption Island, though neither guy recognizes the stakes. Adding to the change-up is Tyson’s discovery of the immunity idol despite Laura tossing another clue into the fire. Probst’s expression is priceless as she pushes back against this added twist. Hayden’s previous gaffe at revealing the clues gives Tyson enough information to discover the barely hidden prize. Did the producers make it easier to ensure that someone found the idol? Tyson wisely avoids telling anyone else about this discovery, which is rare. The trick will be understanding when the vote’s coming his way (it will be) and playing it. He’s in a great position right now, but Aras’ departure puts one fewer shield in place to disguise Tyson’s power.
The only aspect that makes this blindside less epic is the continued existence of Redemption Island. While it functioned better than expected during the early stages, giving someone a chance to re-enter the game so late offers an unfair advantage. If Aras can run the table, he’ll have less blood on his hands and a great shot to win. The downside for him is the improved quality of the competition that might face him, including his brother. Vytas may not be in such a terrible position, however. With Aras gone, he can market himself as a free agent who isn’t tied to Tina and Katie. If he survives the next few votes, he could re-join his former Tadhana allies and make a push towards the finish. The prospects look dimmer for Tina, who now sits in the worst position. If the previews are any indicator, she won’t make nice and try to grab new allies. It will take some crazy moves to save her in the near future. Tina’s fate offers a telling reminder that the game never stops. If you start looking too far ahead, a reckoning is coming.