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A pre-merge failure for Survivor’s losing tribe

I’ve been so conditioned by Survivor‘s editors to expect an introduction of a red herring that I was genuinely shocked by the vote last night. With the threat of Aras plus Vytas so well-established by both tribes, it seems shocking that Laura Boneham’s bone-headed blurting to Vytas would be enough to convince her tribe to not get rid of such a considerable threat before the merge.

But such is Survivor Blood vs. Water, which continues to deliver surprises. That decision is likely something the tribe will regret, unless the merged tribe takes care of that problem at its first Tribal Council–and they are merging next week, as the preview revealed.

It also continues to be the host a lot of anxiety about sex and gender roles, such as a mother’s desire for her daughter to get pregnant, like she’s supposed to. For example, Tina Wesson said of Vytas, “I would be honored if he took an interest in Katie, just because he seems like a straight-up guy. However, the guy who gets Katie is going to have to hit her over the head with a club and drag her into his cave, because Katie is not a very flirtatious girl. But one can dream, I’m ready for grandbabies.”

WHAT THE FUCK, TINA. Club her? Drag her to his cave? That’s not charming; that’s horrific. In other words, Katie is not interested is squeezing out babies for her mother’s amusement, so the only real solution is violence and forcing her to do something against her will. How fantastic.

Earlier, at Redemption Island, Kat started crying and told Hayden, “I’m so sorry.” Just as I was thinking that Redemption Island needs fewer women apologizing to men for their game play, Jeff Probst and Hayden both surprised me. Kat said, I feel like he was going to be disappointed in me” and was “letting him down.”

Probst summarized that to Hayden and said, “she’s worried about your relationship and that you might see her differently because she got voted out.” Actually, that’s not at all what she said! Being disappointed in someone is very different from thinking your relationship with them is in jeopardy. Perhaps Kat expressed that in something that was edited out, and to be fair, she did say something like that later, after she lost the challenge, asking Hayden, “You’re not gonna break up with me, are you?”

But Hayden pushed back against Probst’s assertion. “That’s not the case. Our relationship is going to be fine. I’m not going to view you differently. My relationship with Kat is more important than even this game.”

Producer Probst saw an opening, and went for it: “Really? I want to challenge you on that.” Probst is desperate for another switch, and Kat was kinda into it “because it’s a puzzle and I can’t even spell.” But when Hayden asked her, “Who has the better shot to win the game?” Kat admitted it was him, and gave a long speech about how amazing he is, a speech that I’d be surprised if it didn’t hurt his chances because it illustrated to others why he’s a big threat.

The challenge itself was a repeat of a puzzle from last season–oh, Redemption Island, even when you bring the drama you have to bring the shitty challenges–and was basically a game of copy John.

In a wonderful illustration of hypocrisy, Kat called Laura a “cheater” for looking at John’s puzzle just seconds after Hayden was looking at John’s puzzle and giving Kat advice based on that. Probst, never one to lose an opportunity, said, “Kat struggling with the ethics of it–there’s nothing wrong with looking at the puzzle next door.”

All in all, more than 20 minutes was spent on the duel and its aftermath, which included Hayden crying about regretting his decision to not swap with Kat: “Kat is a little naive at times, and doesn’t always know which way is up, and I’m the one that helps her.”

After the immunity challenge (chains, balls, blocking each other) and a reward of fried chicken (lovely on an empty stomach, I’m sure), Laura marched back into camp and declared that the women were voting out Vytas. He’d earlier said that yoga has helped him in “dealing with feminine energy and girls,” which sounded both sexist and stupid, but between Monica’s annoyance and the apparent effects of his yoga-induced vagina energy sensor, they clearly decided to bail on the alliance and get rid of Laura B.

At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst took his leading questions to yet another level, basically giving speeches to 1) establish story, and 2) try to stir shit up. That is not the Jeff Probst who is a great stand-in for viewers, asking the questions we’re thinking from home, such as, “Why is Jeff Probst giving speeches and trying to play the game for the contestants?” I wish Probst would ask himself that question.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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