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After this episode, I’m convinced Vytas might be a sorcerer, or maybe some kind of pusher, á la Alphas’ Nina. This is two weeks in a row where his exit seemed all but certain, right up until someone else on his tribe does something so monumentally stupid that he just escapes by the thinnest of margins. Is Vytas causing these mistakes to happen with his mind?


This week’s big blunder comes courtesy of Laura B., whose utter love for Vytas causes her to lose her mind for a minute and tell him—in front of everyone—that the women have decided he’s the one going home. By the editing of everything leading up to this moment, what she says seems almost surely true. But what Laura B. doesn’t take into consideration is just how paranoid Survivor makes people, and just how easily going rogue like that can rub people the wrong way, especially the week after Kat was booted for scheming behind Monica’s back. Laura B. confuses Survivor for a game of feelings for just a moment, and it’s all Vytas needs to use his very strong relationships with the rest of the tribe and his very stealthy emotional manipulation to simply remind everyone just how trustworthy he is, while the people around him prove they aren’t trustworthy and he sits there with a big shit-eating grin on his face. It’s kind of fabulous.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that there was a lot more happening behind the scenes that we didn’t see in order to preserve the surprise, but it certainly seems like Vytas is sort of lucking his way into a very good game with Galang, simply by building his relationships within the tribe and hoping someone messes up enough to spare him. What’s clear is that Galang is obviously much more concerned with the short game than the long game, worrying less about what will happen once they merge and Aras and Vytas are reunited and more about what happens within their tiny little Galang alliance right now.

This is exactly the opposite of how Tadhana is shown strategizing this week, with the whole tribe rallying together to move against Aras at the next available opportunity and ride final five all the way to the end. It’s such a fun little sequence—Tyson directing his new alliance-mates back on the beach while Aras quietly meditates on a mountain, secure in his place within the tribe—that it’s almost disappointing when Tadhana wins the immunity challenge and we don’t get a chance to see it all play out. Tyson is playing a really confident game right now, but it’s easy to be confident when you win challenges and don’t have to test your new alliances by going to Tribal Council. It will be interesting to see how all of his strategizing holds up when put to the test.


And then there’s Redemption Island. Up until this point I was very much in support of using Redemption Island for this loved-ones season, enjoying the extra layer of strategy it gives to the game when the people you vote to go there are family. That all blew up in my face tonight with perhaps the most interminable, annoying, exploitative display of grossness regarding Kat and Hayden. Pretty much all of the blame here falls squarely on the shoulders of Kat and Jeff Probst, who both shamelessly attempt to manipulate Hayden into giving up his place in the game so he can switch places with Kat. Kat is at fault because she’s an absolutely insecure, neurotic mess about her relationship with Hayden, repeatedly worrying that her ouster from the game is somehow going to cause him to break up with her. And Jeff Probst is at fault because he encourages this behavior.

Here’s the thing: Survivor is not a dating show, and Jeff offering Hayden a chance to “prove” his relationship with Kat was real by taking her place in Redemption Island is, frankly, bullshit. The loved-one switch has always been the dumbest aspect of this Redemption Island season, mostly because no one except Noble Rupert ever had any intention of doing it. Is Jeff putting Hayden on the spot like that—challenging him in some sort of masculine fantasy of “saving” his girlfriend—good television? Not in my opinion. It’s completely obvious Hayden is a better player and has a much better chance of winning the game, so for Jeff to offer this challenge—and Kat to say she wants him to switch!—just makes Hayden look like a jerk while calling out to everyone playing the game that Hayden is in a good, secure place. That’s not interesting Survivor to me, it’s just contrived nonsense.

Luckily, Hayden refused to switch, and Kat came in last in the Duel challenge, sending her on her merry way and ensuring that I never, ever, ever have to hear here ask Hayden if he’s going to break up with her for losing a game show ever again. See ya, Kat.


Stray observations:

  • John was so miserable listening to Kat worry about her relationship with Hayden on Redemption Island. I feel you, John.
  • That Redemption Island segment took up a third of this episode. 20 minutes. No, thank you.
  • Tina was in rare form, trying to make a love match between Katie and Vytas and then saying that Katie is going to have to get “hit over the head and dragged into a cave” by a man because she is terrible at flirting.
  • The immunity challenge was fun! More chances for people to mess with each other during games, please.
  • Tina did come here to make friends, thank you very much.