Well, that figures. The moment the gameplay at Tadhana gets truly interesting, with alliances completely in flux following Caleb’s big move at Tribal Council last week, the tribe manages to eke out a win and avoid having to actually establish any sort of new world order.
The episode itself even recognizes that Tadhana is the more interesting tribe here, spending a significant amount of time devoted to the aftermath of Caleb’s big power play. Everyone knows where the shifts are—with Caleb now stuck firmly in the middle as the potential swing vote between the two remaining men and two remaining women—but neither side has any real idea where they stand with him. What Caleb did was potentially a fantastic game move to get rid of a power player, but how fantastic of a move is it if people now have no idea to play the game with you?
Vytas puts it best when he says no one will be able to ever trust Caleb 100 percent after pulling a big, unexpected move like that, especially since he is so hard to read. Vytas, who is turning out to be one of the more perceptive and interesting players of at least the last few seasons, realizes that in order to play with Caleb, he’s going to need to placate him, because a nervous and unsure Caleb might do something crazy like blindside him at Tribal Council.
But Vytas never gets the chance to test if his strategy is working. From the editing, this episode looked like it was either heading for a Vytas boot or setting up a triumphant Tadhana win, and as a growing fan of Vytas, I was certainly happy it was the latter. The show really laid it on thick, too, luxuriating in Tadhana’s misery—with Katie’s disgusting, rotting feet as the obvious low point—until it gave them an underdog moment of reflection on top of a mountain. It was gorgeously shot but more than manipulative enough to know what was coming at the Immunity Challenge, as Tadhana took their very first win.
And then there’s Galang. Gervase and Tina make a big point at Tribal to discuss just how much more they’re actively playing the game this time around than they did in their first seasons, but we’ve spent so little time with the tribe so far due to their long winning streak that it’s kind of hard to see. We know there’s one big alliance within the tribe made up of Aras, Gervase, Tyson, Monica, and Tina, and from everything I’ve seen, Aras seems pretty confident he’s in charge of it. When it comes time to vote someone out, there seem to be two obvious choices this alliance is targeting: Laura M. and Laura B. (Kat is never really mentioned, probably because Kat is so weirdly likeable.)
This is where the episode suffers, because no matter if Laura M. or Laura B. goes to Redemption Island, does it really matter? There hasn’t really been enough time to establish either as a personality, and although Laura M. is a returning player, she’s wholly unmemorable, so the only interesting thing about either of them leaving has to do with what the reasoning means for the people still remaining in the tribe.
Everyone sees Laura B., the outsider, as the easiest boot, but now that Redemption Island is always in play, there’s an extra wrinkle to every vote. Aras takes the opportunity to go into mastermind mode, thinking that taking out Brad would make Monica much more solidly entrenched in their alliance, and Laura M. has a much likelier chance of beating Brad than Laura B. It honestly seems like one of those last-ditch crazy schemes the editors toss in to throw the viewers off the scent of who is really going home, but that’s not the case here: Aras and his alliance pull it off and blindside Laura M. right into Redemption Island, as a minion tasked with doing their dirty work without having any knowledge that’s what they intend for her to do. The added loved one wrinkle to Redemption Island strikes again and makes what looks like an easy decision a much trickier one. I’m definitely digging all the layers.
The one thing about this episode that I definitely wasn’t digging, though, was Jeff Probst’s semi-disgusting berating of Laura B. at Tribal Council. I understand questioning Laura to see if she feels like she’s fitting in to her tribe and if she belongs there, but Probst was like a dog with a bone, practically informing her she wasn’t worthy to lick her dear husband Rupert’s game boots, and it was unseemly. What was he hoping to accomplish except humiliating a woman on national television? Or maybe that was his goal all along. With Probst, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
- Redemption Island update: John wins again, and Brad comes in second, sending Candice home. What was interesting was just how much cheering the returning players were doing for Brad and what that means.
- For once, the Immunity Challenge just looked completely fun and not desperately soul-killing and tiring. Waterslides!
- Yes, fishing equipment is logically more useful than delicious steaks, but DELICIOUS STEAKS. Also a merge has to happen eventually, right? You can fish when you merge! STEAKS.
- It was nice to get confirmation that Caleb decided to target Brad on the fly and Hayden and Vytas weren’t in on the plan at all. Man, that was gutsy.
- Aras and Laura M. were too close for my comfort level. That’s more dirty people rubbing on each other than I need to see, ever.