Survivor still knows how to pull a fast one. For three quarters of this episode, it felt like a replica of last week’s, with Caleb inevitably going home in the exact same way Brad blindsided John. The whole episode was even structured as The Brad Show (or at least the Everyone Hates Brad Show), in a way that focused on his control of the game and made it seem like that control was ironclad.
But a funny thing happened once Tadhana lost the immunity challenge (again) and Brad started to take charge of the scheming once they returned (again). Caleb, observing Brad’s behavior and noting its similarity to how he acted last week when John was eliminated, starts thinking he might be in trouble now that Colton is gone. And unlike Colton, Caleb has the patience and wherewithal to wait until the perfect moment to strike back against this perceived threat.
I don’t know if Brad, Vytas, and Hayden were planning on voting for Ciera like they told Caleb, but at Tribal, Caleb rightly notices that Brad is fixated on keeping people in the game who have loved ones still over at Galang in an attempt to have less anger directed at him during the Redemption duels. Not only does he notice, but he calls Brad out on campaigning against him back at the camp (which he technically did by telling Ciera and Katie to vote out Caleb). Where Caleb immediately proves his worth as a Survivor contestant—Colton or no Colton—is when he then tells Brad he’s writing his name down and urges the girls to go along with him. It’s a damn courageous move, the kind of nothing-to-lose thing Caleb probably thought he had no choice but to make, and it is glorious.
What makes it really glorious, though, is that the girls go along with him, forcing a tie, and forcing Brad to make a face like he wants to projectile vomit his meager rice dinner all over Jeff Probst’s face. But the revote is where the real magic takes place, and that’s all in the editing. The show milks every second of this drama perfectly (with a perfect assist from Hayden), showing Hayden write down the beginning of Ciera’s name before crossing it out. Could Hayden have flipped and voted out Brad? It’s that genuine yell-at-your-television moment, the kind of thing that it’s amazing a show can still produce in its 27th season. And the genius part of it is how Hayden didn’t even end up switching his vote—but Vytas did, sending Brad on an apologetic trip right to Redemption Island.
The whole thing is extremely entertaining, but it’s even more entertaining on reflection when you realize exactly what the show was setting up here. The entire episode felt like it was setting up Caleb to get duped by the all-powerful Brad, Brad who could do no wrong, Brad who would inevitably make the merge and then flame out in some sort of massive power struggle. What it was really setting up, though, was the downfall of someone who grabbed way too much power, too soon, and forgot that in a game about trust you need people to trust you. Declaring to John “you made a wrong decision in trusting me” like Brad did at the Redemption Duel is a ridiculously dumb thing to say when surrounded by a cast of other people you have asked to trust you, but it’s exactly the kind of thing someone as overconfident as Brad would say. He dug his own grave.
Although Caleb made an impressive move here tonight, he made it very early and very out in the open. If he hadn’t said anything, would Ciera have gone home and Caleb still be flying under the radar, strategically? Even if Caleb sunk his entire game at one Tribal Council, I’m glad he did because it was the most entertaining thing that’s happened all season, and this has been a strong season so far. With the loved ones playing as hard—or harder—than the returning players, this season only seems to be getting stronger.
- Brad’s first night at Redemption Island had to be the most awkward night ever.
- I hope “Tyson and Gervase’s Mischievous Adventures” is a weekly segment. And then every week they blame whatever is missing or ruined on crabs.
- Between the coconut shenanigans and admitting he was playing up his shoulder injury to get out of work, Tyson had a pretty hilarious week. Rude, but hilarious.
- Really loved Gervase’s speech to Monica about how Survivor Brad and home Brad could very well be two different people. Wisdom from the old-timer!
- Marissa, I was very sorry to see you go. For someone who barely played the game, you were pretty awesome.
- Hayden: “Today we lost to a one-armed dude and three moms. That’s brutal. Brutal.”