Survivors avoid the “easy vote” with more fascinating strategy

Massages. Toenails. Yoga. Vytas telling Caleb, “your skin looks great.” Vytas talking about how “peaceful” and beautiful the Philippines are. Yes, there was day spa filler for a large part of Survivor Blood vs. Water, which had long stretches of the mundane punctuated by some really dramatic and interesting moments and challenges.

The first truly exciting truel at Redemption Island was won by John, leaving Candice to battle it out against Fuck You Brad Culpepper, who ultimately won. Candice’s exit is somewhat tragic, in part because Candice never really had a chance since replacing RC as a last-minute alternate, but mostly because we still have to deal with the insufferable Culpeppers.

For her part, Monica apologized to Brad (for what?), who insisted, “I’m not here because I’m a jerk.” No, that’s exactly why you’re there, buddy. After John won, he gave the immunity clue to Monica, and the editing made it seem like she was at least considering keeping it, until Probst asked if she’d burn this clue, too, and Brad answered for her, ordering her to destroy it.

Later, in a fun water slide ring toss immunity challenge, the tribe of newbies finally won, breaking their streak of four losses with a pretty decisive victory. That earned them both immunity and a reward, for which they chose steak instead of fishing gear. Jeff Probst–whose in-game attempts to advance the story and create drama is becoming more and more annoying–insisted that the tribe was “giving up the chance to feed themselves the rest of the game in order to feed themselves right now.” No. Besides their supply of rice, we already saw that they have fishing gear, such as the spear used to murder Nemo.

Speaking of creating drama, there was a scene early in the episode that prompted Laura Morett to issue a rare advance warning about her edit. The scene, which was teased in a preview, suggested she was flirting with Aras to cull favor. While the massage she gave him seemed innocent, Aras framed it in an interview as Laura “flirting with me,” and the editors made sure to include a reference to her being married, as if to make this into some kind of thing. (After watching it, Laura wrote, “I am aware not that I overacted, but I am fiercely protective of my marriage.”)

What the editors clearly needed was some kind of foreshadowing for her blindside, which wasn’t the kind of awesome blindside that occurred last week. Instead, it represented some interesting but somewhat odd thinking.

Laura Boneham was, as Aras said, the “easy vote” because, as Tyson said, “everybody is super-annoyed with” her, and her post-challenge attempt to throw the other women under the bus was hilarious awkward. But Tina pointed out that it’s “very threatening” how close Monica and Fuck You Brad Culpepper are, and Aras made the argument that Laura Morett should go because she’s good at challenges and thus can defeat Brad and eliminate the chance of a power couple after the merge.

But if you’re really afraid of a power couple, why not vote Monica out and make sure it’s 100 percent impossible that they’ll ever team up again? And why get rid of someone who’s so great in challenges?

It seems pretty clear that Laura M. just wasn’t close to the others. (Tangent: It’s so fascinating to think about her place in the game in comparison to her “huge Samoan center” strategy four years ago, going into Survivor Samoa.)

That she was essentially a wildcard who was outside the circle has been verified by Aras, who apologized and now says, “I had no idea where she stood. Hindsight being 20/20, she was an ally to work with.” Oops.

So ultimately, it came down to a pretty simple strategy: get rid of the person you don’t trust. That said, I remain impressed with how the family plus Redemption Island components have really altered the way people think about and play Survivor. It stays interesting, even when people are staring at their toenails.

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Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.