Redemption Island got a lot of deserved criticism when it debuted a few seasons ago. It allowed a contestant who had been voted out of the game a shot at coming back into a game which they had already lost – a twisting of the fundamental and basic rules of Survivor. RI proved so unpopular that I barely lasted two seasons before production gave it the ax. When RI returned for Blood vs. Water, I was immediately skeptical. But as it turns out, Redemption Island has been one of the most compelling parts of the new season. I still wouldn’t campaign for it to become a regular Survivor feature, but the family aspect of Blood vs. Water has really helped RI become a more welcomed and intense feature of the show.
Candice, Marissa, and John compete at Redemption Island.
Take tonight’s episode, for example, which pitted recently voted out Tadhana member John against his wife Candice as well as Marissa, who had been voted out at the end of the first episode. Husband versus wife facing off in a battle for survival is pretty interesting stuff for television. Add in the obvious hatred the two have for Tadhana member Brad Culpepper (both deserved and not-so-deserved hatred), and you have a recipe for sparks at Redemption Island. Last night’s RI challenge involved a sort of 3D puzzle, which John handily won. Candice received second place, assuring her another three days in the game. Marissa played valiantly, but fell behind and couldn’t catch up to Candice. She is in tears upon elimination, but she played a heck of a game – no one can criticize her unfairly for how she exited Blood vs. Water.
John won the duel, so he gets to give any tribe member he wants a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol. What happens next is something that rarely happens on Survivor (I can think of only two other examples in 27 seasons). He chooses Monica, in order to single her out (she is Brad’s wife) to her tribe. Monica, far too smart to play this game, simply throws the clue into the fire. She’s not willing to risk her place in her five-person alliance for a lousy clue to an idol she may never find. It was her smartest move of the game so far, and came at a key moment for her. It allowed her to solidify her alliance while simultaneously putting Candice and John in their places for a moment (that Candice responds with allegations of sexism isn’t pretty). I’m not Brad’s biggest fan (I’m really not a fan at all), but I thought this was an all class move by Monica, and it impressed me.
Back on the Galang tribe, Tyson and Gervase have been sneaking coconuts. Why? Because it’s really funny, and the antics those two are up to give some much needed levity to a dramatic season of Survivor. Both Gervase and Tyson have lost their loved one in the game, so their connection makes an odd sort of sense. Not only are they on the same tribe, but they have solidified their alliance so that even if Aras turns on them at a possible merge, they will still at least have each other’s backs. Tyson’s shoulder, which he popped out of its socket last week, is thankfully on the mend. I’m not sure I’d want to watch Blood vs. Water as much if Tyson weren’t around.
Brad and Hayden contemplate a Tribal Council vote.
On the Tadhana tribe, it seems Brad is continuing to play a scorched earth game. Too many players attempt to play a post-merge game in a pre-merge scenario. Brad alienates his tribemates with his boorish antics and his “leadership,” but Hayden and Vytas both agree that Brad is valuable. He not only serves as a scapegoat should any unsavory stuff go down, but he also is an easy post-merge boot due to his perceived strength and leadership. Brad might be hard to get along with, but they recognize him as a valuable piece of their alliance. The Immunity Challenge is once again a combination of physical strength/endurance and puzzlemaking. Tyson decides to stay in the challenge despite his shoulder issues. Tadhana is able to build a nice lead, but it is squandered as usual. Though Galang falls a bit behind in stage two of the challenge, Tyson and Laura M. are able to easily solve the puzzle (and quickly too), and Tyson releases the flag for the Galang tribe, sending Tadhana to yet another Tribal Council.
At the Tadhana camp, Caleb begins to struggle. When Colton quit the game last week, he left Caleb hanging. Brad astutely notes that he can eliminate Caleb from the game without continuing to cause a dramatic stir on Redemption Island, and begins to formulate a plot to oust Caleb. Vytas and Hayden aren’t so sure, and consider voting Ciera, who had blown yet another puzzle challenge, out of the game. At Tribal Council, we still aren’t entirely sure who is going home when Caleb pulls a stunning move. Sensing a blind side from Brad, Caleb announces out loud that he will write Brad’s name down, and anyone who wants to can join him. Brad scrambles, looks unsure of himself, and then seems resigned to defeat. The first vote ties, 3-3 for Brad and Ciera. Hayden has a genuinely funny and tense moment on the revote, and it is revealed that Brad is eliminated to the game, as Vytas changed his vote. Culpepper was a valuable scapegoat, but apparently not valuable enough. Caleb pulls of a big but risky move for Tadhana, and now Brad is sent packing to Redemption Island.