Can you believe that this was the second last episode of Survivor of the season? It seems like there are too many people left in the game. With Redemption Island still in play AND a final three, it kind of takes the pleasure out of the penultimate episode – it just feels like any old Wednesday.
When everyone returned back from camp there was a lot of back-slapping and congratulations – one thing I’ll say about these players is that they all seem determined to not be Bitter Bettys. But there was a clear divide between the two and the three.
Later, Tyson told Monica that he has the Hidden Immunity Idol just so she’d be quiet. Monica’s chatty paranoia has come up again and again this season, and I’m worried it will hurt her end game.
Let’s Take a Pole
Redemption Island time! Tina was feeling conflicted over whether she should just let Katie win – it was like everyone was just assuming Laura would come in first, and the mom and daughter were playing for second. And of course Laura came in first, by a mile. I’ll be floored if she doesn’t return to the game.
The challenge was to build a pole, retrieve keys and unlock a gate – one we’ve seen many times before. (Freshen it up, Survivor, come on.) After Laura’s early win, Tina came from behind and took second place – with permission from her daughter. Ugh, just play to win, people! Ciera, for her part, had said earlier “For the first time, I want her to come out” about her mom getting back in the game. Daughter of the Year here, folks!
Katie went home, Laura gave the clue to Ciera, and after searching for a while Hayden determined that Tyson must have the Idol.
Misguided Tears of Gratitude
Monica thanked Gervase and Tyson for keeping her around – she knew they easily could have turned on her and voted her out to avoid pulling rocks. I was worried she was getting too emotional about it, but I think Monica has her head in the game. The question is, why did Tyson want to risk going home in order to keep Monica? It’s not because he likes her, and if she thinks that she’s sadly naive. It’s because he trusts her, she doesn’t have a mom likely re-entering the game in the Final Five, and he thinks he can beat her. Monica needed to decide whether he was right about that.
You Are Going To Have To Dig Deep
The Immunity/Reward challenge required players to swim through a small obstacle course, and then solve a word puzzle. Tyson, Hayden and Monica were in the lead, and I assumed one of them would win it. Shockingly, Ciera came from behind, solved the puzzle, and won it! I honestly didn’t think the girl had it in her.
Ciera won a meal back at camp, and she selected Hayden to join her. Dumbo! Did she just assume she’d be getting a second choice, as players usually do? Because she was supposed to pick Monica to join her. Why didn’t she pick Monica to join her? Choosing Hayden just widened the divide between the two groups, when she had the opportunity for some easy face time with the swing vote. I think Ciera wants to be a good player, but the strategic mind just isn’t there.
Monica, Monica, Monica
After dining with Hayden, Ciera set to work on getting Monica to flip. She wanted her to vote Gervase, and argued that Tyson and Gervase had been “talking mad crap” about Monica all along. It was partially true. Tyson and Gervase make fun of Monica, get annoyed by her, roll their eyes, etc. But as an argument to flip, it wasn’t very good.
Ciera needed to lay out a solid plan for the final three. She needed to not only tell Monica that she wouldn’t beat the guys, but tell her how she’d have a better chance with Ciera. What was the plan – a final three with Ciera, Monica and Laura? Would they vote Hayden out in fourth? Or was Monica to believe that Ciera would vote out her own mom in fourth place?
Monica cried when Ciera described all the mean things that had been said about her, and I was just hoping she’d keep it together. The thing is, Monica is pretty much guaranteed final three if she sticks with Tyson and Gervase. But if she went with Ciera and Hayden, she could easily get bumped down to fourth place when Laura (or, whoever) returns from Redemption Island. That’s not a tempting deal.
At Tribal Council, Hayden and Ciera played Monica hard. She spoke well, I thought, and came across as human but tough. Gervase, as always, did not come across like a peach during Tribal Council. Monica was in a tough situation because whatever her decision she would look like she’d been convinced – either by Tyson or by Hayden. I don’t think there was a way for her to come out of this looking like an independent, strategic player.
Monica stuck to her crew and Hayden was voted out. He goes up against Tina and Laura in the finale on Sunday night, but I’ll be surprised if Laura doesn’t pull it off.
So my question is, what is Monica’s best play now? Let’s say we have Ciera, Laura, Monica, Tyson and Gervase left in the game. Does Monica stand a better chance against Ciera and Laura, or against Tyson and Gervase? Ideally, I’d like to see her sitting between Ciera and Gervase – two people I know she can beat. But that seems unlikely. I think Tyson has a good chance of winning, and I think Laura has a great chance of winning if she makes it to the end. Monica’s odds are OK. Ciera’s aren’t great and Gervase’s are, I think, worst of anyone.
I’ll write more next week, after the finale, on what I thought of this season. But for now I’ll say, I liked the Blood vs. Water twist but I still dislike Redemption Island. I miss Reward Challenges, I hate having so many players left this late in the game, and it kills the drama of a player getting voted out. At the very least, I wish Redemption Island would end at the merge. What do you guys think? Who are you rooting for in the finale?
(Office pool update: I win if Monica does, my mom wins if Gervase does, my sister wins if Tyson does. Keep your fingers crossed for us.)