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When we last left the latest season of Survivor, CBS casting fave and fan tolerated fading fave Rupert was shockingly eliminated first from the game. He bungled his Redemption Island challenge in an almost epic fashion. Of course, he was screwed by a twist of the game – he was allowed to sub himself out for his wife Laura, who had actually been voted out first by the loved ones tribe in what was really the cruelest twist of the game (I still can’t get behind the idea of voting someone out this way – it’s wholly unfair and unnecessary drama). Thus, Rupert left the game without a single vote cast his direction. Again, it is wholly unfair, but it is also part of the reason why Redemption Island actually kind of works this season.
The loved ones, or Tadhanna, tribe has added an increasingly interesting element to Blood vs. Water. Last week, Rachel, returning player Tyson’s girlfriend, was strategically targeted and eliminated by Tadhanna in a ploy to get Tyson to sub out for her, thus making Tadhanna’s challenges versus Tyson’s Galang tribe that much easier (Tyson is a known competitor and challenge beast). When presented with the opportunity to sub himself for Rachel’s spot on Redemption Island, however, Tyson doesn’t take the bait. He very astutely surmises the Tadhanna tribe purposely voted out Rachel, and Rachel doesn’t want to ruin Tyson’s game plan for Blood vs. Water by switching spots with him. It’s all very confusing and twisted, but it works on screen.
Part of the reason why Redemption Island just never worked all that well in the past is because a player’s snuffed torch should mean a final exit from the game. As the Tadhanna tribe points out after Candice and Marissa win against Rachel (thus eliminating Rachel from the game), in past seasons players voted out couldn’t air their dirty laundry the way they’re doing now. Marissa calls out Brad Culpepper of Tadhanna as a leader, which he is but also denies. He doesn’t need a bigger target on his back than he already has. Simultaneously, as the victor on Redemption Island, Candice gives yet another hidden immunity idol clue to her husband John, putting a target on his back once again as well.
Something else happens at Redemption Island as well, and it is something that I am loath to mention. When I first found out villainous, borderline racist, deceitful, and all around intolerable Colton Cumbie was going to be on Survivor once again, I nearly puked in my mouth a little bit. Colton was the worst kind of Survivor villain. He was petty and vindictive for the sake of being petty and vindictive. He saw everything he did as some kind of big move or flight of fancy. He thrives off of drama, not unlike sociopathic cartoon character Eric Cartman. So when Galang continually refuses to meet him at his sub-human level, Colton quits the game. Watching host Jeff Probst systematically tear Colton down for being the coward and quitter he is was great television, but at the same time I’m upset CBS would ever allow this guy back on the show at all. At least he was only around for three episodes. He will not be missed.
Going back to the main game, in a tribe like Tadhanna, one that continually loses challenges, having any sort of target on you isn’t good. Tribe members like Vytas and Caleb are more content to take a cerebral, patient approach to the game, while Brad and to a lesser degree John are clearly playing a post-merge game pre-merge, which is never a good sign. It doesn’t help that John continually fails to shore up solidarity with his all-male alliance (it should be noted once again that single gender alliances are almost always boring and rarely successful, sans the awful One World season of course). So when John shares his idol clue with Brad, it at first seems like a smart thing for him to do. Brad, however, devises other plans for John.
The combined Reward/Immunity challenge is a classic American Gladiators-style brawl, as one contestant from each tribe tries to knock the other off of a platform for a point. On paper, this brawl heavily favors Tadhanna, who have the more muscular men on their team. They also, however, have the weaker women, which is something they also had control over. Had Rachel and Marissa been around, Tadhanna easily wins the challenge. Katie and Ciera both lose a point to their mothers, which is enough to win the day for Galang, despite Tyson’s dislocated shoulder (please let this injury be non-game threatening – Tyson is a personal fave of mine and I want him around for the long run). Galang wins not only immunity, but also a reward of blankets, pillows, and a tarp for a roof – not a bad haul.
Before Tribal Council, Brad contemplates voting out John, who has been seen as a bit of a waffle thus far. John, as noted earlier, has sort of failed to cement his loyalty with the men. The tribe is also fearful of him finding the immunity idol, especially now that he has two clues. Most importantly, however, John’s wife Candice is absolutely dominating Redemption Island challenges. Brad, and to a lesser extent his alliance, are fearful of a potential Candice/John twosome tearing the game to shreds. Brad doesn’t want to lose control of John’s vote – once again, he’s playing a post-merge game in a pre-merge environment. It won’t bode well for Brad in the end, but tonight it’s John who gets sent packing in a landslide vote. He joins his wife and Marissa on Redemption Island. He’ll get a chance to return to the game, but it won’t be easy.