Airdate: November 27, 2013
Boot: Vytas Baskauskas (eliminated from Redemption Island); Caleb Bankston
Quote: “Teenage mom. Hellraiser. She can look you in the eye and lie better than anybody.” – Tyson Apostle, on Ciera
Rating: 7 + Tier C (3) = 10
Moms are supposed to be the most trustworthy people in our lives. They know us better than anyone else. They’re the first people we turn to when we need comfort. And they lead the family band with a bassist who’s a couple decades away from leaving Jonny Fairplay in such unbearable pain that he will ask to be voted out three days into Survivor: Micronesia.
I like “Come on Get Happy” as much as the next guy, but I’d rather have had a second full season of Fairplay, thank you very much.
But moms can be ruthless. And when they team up, you’d better be on high alert. That’s the takeaway from this solid but unremarkable episode of Blood vs. Water. Despite my unwavering belief that structures like Redemption Island and Edge of Extinction have no place in Survivor and automatically worsen a season, I have to say my favorite part of this episode is when Laura joins Tina and Vytas on the loser beach. As Tina nervously worries that her daughter Katie had just gotten voted out, Laura coos, “Mom?” It’s not until they’re about to hug that Tina realizes it’s actually her fellow mother using the secret code word that moms use to suss out one another. It’s cute. And yet when I stand outside Joan Cusack’s house beckoning, “Mom?” I get slapped with a restraining order.
Just give me a lock of your hair, Joan, and I’ll prove it.
The matronly dynamic duo teams up for their greatest act of subterfuge at the duel, however. Laura rapidly solves the puzzle, then guards it from Vytas’s sight while giving Tina step-by-step instructions to complete it. With Laura’s guidance, Tina beats Vytas by a single second, and afterwards Vytas rightfully refuses Laura’s pandering sympathy. But honestly, after sitting through Winners at War, it was kind of jarring to be reminded that people were actually eliminated on Redemption Island. Alas, that also means a weekly dose of Jeff Probst’s mushy forced stories about a contestant’s personal growth, with a sappy anecdote of how this experience will bring Vytas and his brother Aras closer together. Hey Jeff, there’s a reason your talk show got canceled. We don’t need this garbage.
“Today on The Jeff Probst Show, Eric and Lyle Menendez discuss how killing their parents really cemented their brotherly bond.”
Meanwhile, in the, you know, actual game, everyone is reeling from Ciera voting out her mom, knowing that it’s going to lead to a really annoying meme in a few years. Ciera boasts that she has proven her loyalty by eliminating the person who carried her in the womb for nine months, went through hours of painful labor, and supported her during her teenage pregnancy. And when Hayden and Caleb point out the obvious–that Tyson is unbeatable and the newbies have the numbers advantage–surely an aggressive, win-at-all-costs player like Ciera will want to seize this opportunity. Oh, no, wait, she just goes ahead and tells Tyson.
Ciera is the poster child for what the show tries to stress as the way players should approach the game, and I’ve always found her incredibly frustrating to watch. She is so hyper-focused on having moves to brag about on day 39 but lacks the patience and discernment to actually get herself there in the first place. Her short-sighted strategy in this episode and the one before it results in the first rock draw in 23 seasons three days later.
To that point, Caleb and Hayden are so keenly attuned to her shadiness that they abandon the plan to target Tyson and instead try to work with him to oust Ciera. It’s a valiant effort, and I like how boldly and bluntly they approached it, but it’s a pretty apparent decoy boot–if mother and daughter were to go out back to back, I think there would be some more fanfare. However, there is plenty of fanfare at Tribal Council when Tyson makes the most loitering idol play of all time. Tyson is one of the few players with the charm necessary to get away with such a deliberately airtime-begging stunt, and given his strategic prowess during Blood vs. Water that neutered much of his original appeal, I’m all for this silly reminder of the lovable asshole we met in Tocantins.