If Vytas hadn’t changed his vote, Survivor elimination would have been random

Caleb’s strategic move at Tribal Council made Survivor Blood vs. Water‘s Tribal Council unexpectedly dramatic, but a rarely invoked rule may have been ultimately responsible for sending Brad Culpepper to Redemption Island.

The rule involves tie votes, and says that if a tribe can’t change its mind, then the person who is voted out will be selected at random. The “purple rock” rule is detailed at length in the Survivor rule book (page 7, number 10, letter vi), and Jeff Probst confirmed that rule is still in play.

“When we have a tie, we do one re-vote and the rules are that if nobody changes their vote and we remain tied, then the two people tied are now immune (yes, immune) and the rest of the tribe must draw rocks to see who goes home. The person who draws the odd rock is out. So it’s a massive move to ‘go to rocks’ — you really have to feel it is your only way to last in the game, otherwise somebody is going to change their vote,” he told EW’s Dalton Ross. (Probst also said that Caleb’s decision was last-minute and came just before the vote.)

The rule is basically a mechanism to ensure someone flips on an alliance or does something equally dramatic; giving immunity to the people who’ve been targeted by the vote and sending someone else home is pretty draconian. It’s only ever happened once, during Survivor: Marquesas, at the final four; the rule book now explicitly says some other tiebreaker will be used in the event of a final-four tie.

That actually makes the re-vote somewhat less dramatic, and I forgot all about it since it wasn’t mentioned during Tribal Council. Vytas changing his vote might have been more of an act of self-preservation than alliance betrayal or voting against Brad. Of course, neither Hayden, Caleb, nor Katie changed their votes, so they were either confident enough that someone else would change their vote or were willing to take their one in four chance of being voted out.

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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.