When Jeff Probst and the Survivor producers created the Blood vs. Water concept, they prayed for a moment like tonight’s vote. Ciera writes down her mom’s name to secure her place, but it isn’t even necessary for the 7-1 outcome. The heart of the episode is the ongoing conversation between Laura and Ciera about their future. While the music swells in the background, their confessionals show the value of having family members together in the game.
Considering the tremendous amount of footage that’s shot on each day of Survivor, it’s remarkable that the stories flow so smoothly. The combination of camp life, challenges, and Tribal Council works swiftly to keep the audience engaged throughout the hour. When the producers choose to cram two eliminations into one episode, it cranks up the pace to a ridiculous level. The story becomes a frenetic ride through challenge/Tribal Council/challenge/Tribal Council, with a bit of strategy thrown in the middle. The downside is the lack of much context to the votes and alliances set in place for the future. On the other hand, it avoids the drag of predictable exits. Vytas and Tina are the obvious choices to go next, and the cracks are just a set up for the battles to come. They join Aras at Redemption Island for an epic battle that will remove either a former winner or one of the season’s most intriguing players.
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.
Last season, the Survivor producers made the inexplicable decision to cast Brandon Hantz for a second time. He was clearly unstable during his first appearance, and it was only a matter of time before he exploded. The choice to bring back Colton is different because he controlled the game on One World before exiting. Even so, there are definite similarities. Colton is a nasty player who thrives on making others miserable. That strategy may work with newbies, but he’s found no traction with the returnees.