SURVIVOR Buffs, this is a story about control. The opening words of Janet Jackson’s 1986 album rang true in this week’s episode of SURVIVOR. Last week, Caleb engineered the ouster of Brad, who had dominated his tribe until then, and whose story continues to dominate much of the season’s narrative. This bold, amazing move seemed to wake everyone up this week, as people tried to influence others in all sorts of different ways. It was out of control!
Caleb’s move leaves a power vacuum at Tadhana, and nobody is sure how to fill it. Vytas points out that he was the vote that finally made it all happen, Ciera starts scheming about getting Caleb to join her and Katie to make a majority, and Hayden realizes that he is not actually sure where he sits. It’s interesting because, although Caleb made a move to turn on one of his own alliance, it doesn’t really indicate that he’s rejected them completely or formed a new alliance. He has interviewed numerous times that he trusts the remaining guys, Ciera and Katie don’ t seem to think he’s completely with them, and his actions could be considered Tribal Council self-defense. Around the fire, Caleb reveals that he decided to vote against Brad in the moment, probably right around the time Brad opened his mouth and declared open season on those with no loved ones left in the game. It’s like even Brad thinks Brad talks to much, so everyone tunes him out. And they do, but the most zoned-out radio listener perks up when the DJ calls him by name.
It takes a little while longer for those in a deep sleep on Redemption Island to wake up to Brad’s voice, however. Candice and John look so downright comfortable sleeping, that even I’m kind of mad that Brad wakes them up. But as soon as they realize the intruder isn’t some demon coming to steal their breath in the night, but rather the guy who was trying to steal their million dollars, Candice and John perked right up. I mean, Starbucks should sell See-the-Person-You-Hate-Get-Kicked-Out Gloating-Allotas as a drink, because nothing keeps you up and happy better than an Venti Smugness. Brad tries to win them over with “It’s jut a game” platititudes and is met with “You’re just an ass” faces.
Brad should have saved his advice for his wife at the Redemption Island Arena, because, Monica, once she realizes he’s on the chopping block, starts bawling and then apologizing to him and then offering to take his place. Basically the next step would be her keening. It’s a little much, and by a little I mean add a huge Easter hat and you’re basically at a funeral scene of a Tyler Perry movie. He’s just voted out of the game. Pull it together. He’s an athlete, and has been in many games, not all of which he won. Plus, he’s not even out of the game. He’s on Redemption Island with a good chance of returning, and definitely a much better chance of success than he would have in the Galang Tribe if you switched. Brad really takes the “redemption” part to heart and tries to fix his image by announcing that he’s not there because he’s a bad guy, and his enemies here now it, and the people who don’t like him over there know it, and everyone must know it because it’s true because Brad is proclaiming it, and everyone loves his proclamations and this annoying habit he has of telling people what they think did not AT ALL contribute to his ouster. [I, for one, am sold.]
The ensuing Immunity challenge involves destroying a crate, then building a bridge, the destroying the bridge to reveal puzzle pieces. Not all the bridge boards are painted, and not all of the painted boards are necessary in the puzzle. This challenge is more confusing than that dumb Million Second Quiz thing that Ryan Seacrest hosted a few weeks ago. Candace takes an early lead, but by the end, she and Brad end up going down to the wire for second place behind John. In a photo finish, Brad wins, sending Candace packing, and providing John another chance to assign a hidden idol clue to someone. Brad chooses Monica, who seems to debate holding onto it this time. And then the creepiest thing happens. Brad, from his spot on the Arena floor, tells Monica to throw it in the fire. And she, like a robot, gets up, repeating his command verbatim. Then, as she walks to the fire pit, she repeats his next statement, “It’s no good,” word for word. And she’s kind of got this dazed look on her face. And it becomes very clear – Brad is a hypnotist, or a vampire! He clearly is running mind control over his wife, which explains a lot. It also explains why he talks so much. He thinks his voice can control other people’s actions, so it makes sense that he’s constantly telling people how they feel. Monica, for her part, recruits others to join their side, as evidenced when a whole of bunch of Galang members cheer loudly for Brad, previously their enemy, during the Redemption Challenge.
Not having major time-suck Brad around means that we get to spend more time with everyone else this episode. At Tadhana, the contestants are a mess. It seems a bit early in the season, but we are treated to the requisite bug-bites-and-other-gross-body-things montage that is so common on the show. This one seems particularly long, though, and exceptionally gruesome, thanks to Katie’s foot injury and a well-placed fly. At Galang, things are also pretty gross, but this is due to Laura (Ciera’s mom) and her weird massage of Aras. She considers him her biggest ally, and this apparently warrants an extended muscle rub, including light scratching and comments on various muscle groups. We’ve never before seen an “older” female contestant use her feminine wiles on SURVIVOR to control male allies, although younger female contestants do it all the time. And perhaps we should leave it to them, because this scene is making me uncomfortable. And Rupert’s Laura, with her “I’m the odd woman out” sad-sack story, is depressing me.
At Tadhana, Brad’s absence has the same effect it does on the show as a whole. Everything is quieter, calmer, and more pleasant. Vytas even has time to do yoga and go out in the boat with Caleb like they are on some sort of Central Park date. Vytas is doing this because he feels like he needs to coddle Caleb since Caleb is so volatile, based on his Tribal Council performance. I must say, even though Caleb is clearly eating up this attention and his newfound, and well-deserved, status as an important swing vote, Vytas is overreacting by thinking he needs to “handle” Caleb. Caleb is not Colton. Caleb did not switch loyalties just to be a pain in the ass or drama queen. He had been getting wind that Brad might be making some kind of move, and then, at Tribal Council, Brad, as usual, was running his mouth, and it became clear that, either that night or some Tribal Council very soon, Brad, who everyone didn’t really like anyway, was coming for Caleb. So Caleb struck first. It wasn’t irrational, it was actually good game play. But, if Vytas wants to blow smoke up Caleb’s ass and think he’s controlling him, let him. Caleb’s smart enough to handle himself.
And handle himself, he does, along with the other four members of Galang, in the Immunity Challenge. It’s a series of head-to-head competitions involving the most fun water slide ever, and a huge ring toss. Throw in deep-friend Twinkies and you’ve basically got a county fair as an Immunity challenge. The Bad New Bears win, and Galang faces their first Tribal Council. The two Lauras are clearly the targets, as you can tell by the editing all episode, and especially in the time before Tribal. Laura (Ciera’s mom) has a powwow with Aras, who says the other Laura is going home. Rupert’s Laura awkwardly tries to drive some sort of rift in the tribe by exaggerating comments made by some teammates who had sat out the Immunity Challenge. This feeble attempt at manipulation doesn’t work in her favor, and actually makes her more of a target. The same behavior led to Colton being on the outs with this same tribe, so, way to learn lessons, Laura.
At Tribal Council, Probst blatantly and hilariously asks Rupert’s wife if she belongs there. Despite her insistence that she does, it seems like nobody really believes it. Both Laura’s write the other’s name down and each comments how there can only be one Laura. They are proven right, as the fifth person voted out is Laura….M (Ciera’s Mom)! See, as annoying and not-Rupert as Laura B is, she and Laura M are equally expendable, and neither is really in control of her own fate. But Laura M has the potential to beat Brad at Redemption Island, and her tribemates — including BFF Aras — are trying to use these skills to their best advantage, whether or not she agrees. Turns out her physical game and mental game are strong. Unfortunately, she never got her social game under control.
What did you think, SURVIVOR Buffs? Did Caleb seem like an evil mastermind or just someone with a healthy amount of enjoyment of praise heaped on him? Should Hayden be worried? Was Probst too harsh to Rupert’s Laura at Tribal Council? Leave your comments here and check back tomorrow for my video recap of the episode. So many awkward moments happened this week, and I want to talk about them…