Survivor: "Skin Of My Teeth"
B+

Survivor: "Skin Of My Teeth"

Tonight’s episode was a great example of how Survivor is capable of pulling off a long-term story arc. Since the beginning of the season, the saga of brothers Aras and Vytas—one a former winner and golden boy, one a reformed drug addict who seemed to live in his brother’s shadow—has been front and center of this Blood vs. Water season. The past few episodes have even been all about building a sort of mythology around them, as Vytas escaped certain elimination twice in a row on his way to be reunited with his brother so they could blaze a path to the finals together.

Yet that wasn’t meant to be. Ever since the tribes reshuffled, Tyson has emerged as the secret thorn in the brothers’ side, quietly working behind Aras’ back to shore up votes against him and take him out at the next available opportunity. The last two episodes have really been all about the brothers, with Vytas fighting for his life over at Galang while Aras blissfully becomes more and more secure in his position in the game just as Tyson and Gervase were aligning with Hayden, Caleb, and Ciera behind his back.

All of this comes to a head here when Redemption Island brings Laura M. back into the game, followed quickly by a merge to finally bring the brothers together again. Aras and Vytas are immediately very overtly secure with their positions in the game, which is the first sign there is sure trouble to come. As a former winner, Aras should know better than to feel as secure as he’s felt since the shuffle. As a newcomer, Vytas should know better than to be so cocky as to think he and his brother have everything wrapped up so soon. Both of their confessionals in the episode are like blinking neon signs reading “Everything Is Not What It Seems” while they smugly grin and envision themselves holding a giant million-dollar check.

But no one can be that secure when playing Survivor. Tyson, who had a shaky week or two when it seemed he was overstepping in his social game, plays things perfectly here, waiting for the dust to settle with Laura M.’s return and trusting Ciera to get her mother on her side and vote with them. On top of that, he uses the idol clues Hayden carelessly revealed to him to find himself a hidden immunity idol, putting him in an even more solid position going forward. I’m not sure Tyson is getting a winner’s edit right now, but he’s certainly getting an edit that hints to him going very, very far in the game.

The tricky thing about the game now is that Redemption Island starts all over again, and Aras therefore has a chance to potentially return to the game. The strategy of whom to send to Redemption Island was a big part of how the eliminations were determined pre-merge, so it will be interesting to see if that aspect of the strategy remains. Do you send someone strong to Redemption to potentially take out Aras? Or do you simply vote strategically and just deal with whoever comes back from Redemption when it happens, no matter who it is? Certainly the prospect of Aras blazing his way through Redemption and then returning back to the game to team up with Vytas and run the rest of the game together can’t be an appealing option. This is why it seems like Vytas needs to watch his back or he’s likely to join his brother in the very next episode.

So far this season of Survivor has been incredibly strong, and much of this credit needs to be given to the “gimmick” of Blood vs. Water. It’s definitive proof that although gimmicks can be annoying, the right gimmick can end up to be just what a show needs to reinvigorate itself. The big question now is whether or not Survivor’s big story of the brothers Aras and Vytas will have a chance to continue, or if Aras going to Redemption Island was the end to this particular arc. If this is the end, it’s certainly been a fun ride.

Stray observations:

  • The new tribe name is Kasama. This whole “the merged tribe names the tribe” thing lost its luster a long while ago.
  • The challenges this week were not the most exciting. Laura M. was the obvious favorite for the Redemption Island duel, and watching people play a memory game is about as boring as it sounds.
  • I’m sorry, Laura M., but this is an individual game now, and you are crazy to not keep that idol clue.
  • Tyson’s diatribe about Monica was pretty darn amusing. It made me realize that while Monica consistently spearheaded booting people on her tribe who “schemed,” she is obviously the biggest schemer of all.
  • Gervase has been an incredibly fun presence on the show this season. He’s surprisingly levelheaded in his confessionals, which is a nice sort of counterpoint to the rampant paranoia that surrounds him.

More TV Club