Laura out-sneaks sneaky puzzle-copier Vytas by helping fellow mom Tina knock him out of the game

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 10:34 PM EST


S27 E11
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Laura Morett is a genius. Evil genius, perhaps. But genius nonetheless.

I’m not saying this because she is a puzzle-solving sage close to or on the level of Boston Rob (although she kinda is). No, I am saying this because she did something extremely shrewd in tonight’s episode of Survivor: Blood vs. Water. It was shrewd. It was rude. It was blatantly unsportsmanlike…and I loved it. Let’s set the scene…

Laura, Tina, and Vytas are competing in a truel at Redemption Island Arena. The contest involves removing colored cubes from a long net tunnel and then stacking the cubes so there are no repeating colors on any sides. Regular readers of this here column know that I am always harping on many things, and one of those things is the fact that they no longer ever seem to put blinders up between competitors during puzzles so people can just copy right off of each other. After Laura came in first here, that is exactly what Vytas attempted to do. To stymie this attempt, Laura began spinning her completed puzzle so he could not get a good look. But then she went one step further: She started not only cheering on Tina, but coaching her on exactly what box to put where. And due to that coaching, Tina came from waaaaay behind to beat Vytas by a split second, eliminating him from the game.

Here’s why I loved the move: Laura could have simply come in first, breathed a sigh of relief and called it a day. But instead of siting back and letting fate decide whom she took on in the next truel, Laura took control of her own destiny. Vytas is clearly a big threat in a variety of challenges — smart, athletic, and with good balance obviously as a yoga instructor — so if you have an opportunity to get that guy out of your way and out of your game, you take it. And that’s exactly what Laura did. Maybe I’m giving her too much credit. Maybe this was just a case of Mom Power bonding run amok and this move was more social than strategic, but I doubt it.

Now, should players be allowed to give other players the answers and therefore game the system? Well, if producers are going to let them copy their answers anyway, why not? You either have to ban both or neither. And as long as it is not against the rules, you need to exploit it. This is why as much as I hate it when players copy off of other puzzles, Kat was 100 percent wrong when she said she didn’t want to do it because it was cheating. Cheating is doing something against the rules. For better or for worse, none of this is against the rules. We may hate the lack of a rule being in place, but don’t hate Laura for cleverly exploiting it. That’s what you should do as a competitor — find the loophole. So well played, Laura Morett. Now that I have taken three full paragraphs to praise your game-play, don’t hold it against me when I trash your daughter a little later bit later in this here recap. Deal? (Oh, and you can also read Jeff Probst’s take on the move right here.)

Speaking of the recap, a little format change this week, folks. Seeing as how it’s the holidays and I have to go pretend to look busy so my better half doesn’t accuse me of slacking off while she does all the work getting ready for the big meal, this will be a shorter installment this week and we’ll just hit on some important odds & ends from the episode. Don’t worry, when I say “shorter” that still means it will be way too long. I will also do my best to not make any lame Thanksgiving puns along the way, like, say, referring to Tyson as a “jive turkey” or talking about Gervase stuffing food into his mouth during the challenge, or referring to Ciera going on a pilgrim-age to the Tree Mail station. You get the point. I will do my best, but…NO PROMISES!

Vytas’ Last Stand

Vytas was none too happy with Laura after her move to help Tina cost him his spot in the game, and he rebuffed her when she tried to console him after the defeat. I don’t blame Vytas for being bummed, but deep down he has to know it was a rock solid strategic move. Vytas strikes me a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win kind of guy (even if it means cheap-shotting your own brother), and this was a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win type of move. And his send-off line of “Namaste, bitches!” has to be one of the world’s great oxymorons of our time. You played a really good game, Vytas, and I have a sneaky suspicion we have not seen the last of you.

NEXT: The challenge of turning down free food

Ciera Plays Tattletale

Hayden and Caleb had the right idea to get rid of Tyson. The guy is a big threat and has played the best game. So, to me, it made sense for them to approach Ciera about blindsiding him now. What I don’t get is why Ciera then went back and told Tyson about it. “It’s too sketchy for me to invest in them,” she said of Hayden and Caleb. “I don’t want to work with people like that.” She has a point. If they’re flipping on Tyson, what’s to stop them from flipping on her later? Makes sense. But what’s the alternative? Stick around and watch Tyson take home the million dollars? Because to this point Ciera has done nothing to make anybody (except her mother) think she is worthy of their million dollar vote. And telling Tyson “I’m voting however you’re voting from here on out. I’ll vote however you want me to vote” doesn’t really position you as a true gamer.

When you are as truly awful as Ciera has been in challenges — going back to the very first contest where she and Katie got smoked in the puzzle by their moms — you need to make big moves to offset that weak part of your game. And you need to get rid of better players. Ciera was presented with an opportunity to do both, and she declined. It’s almost as if Tyson put her under the same sort of spell Boston Rob put on all the women on the Redemption Island season. Will the spell ever be broken? We’ll see.

Consumption Over Competition

The challenge forced the contestants to hold a rope handle carrying 25 percent of their body weight. When the bucket drops, you’re out. Why do they do a percentage of weight in strength challenges like this to even the playing field against bigger contestants, yet then have other challenges like last week’s that clearly penalize you for being big because you are having to hold up more of your own weight? Excellent question! And one that I have asked a million times! Therefore, just like last week, this challenge is geared towards thin and fit people. And just like last week I predict a Monica or Tyson victory. But Tyson doesn’t even compete because it’s one of those deals where players who feel safe can opt to enjoy a succulent feast instead of partaking in the chance for immunity. Alas, Tyson, Gervase, and Ciera all take the food. LAME!

So many reasons to not take that deal. First off, why would you want the rest of the tribe to know how safe you feel? I would be immediately suspicious of anyone who didn’t feel like they were in any danger and felt comfortable enough to not even play for immunity. Secondly, why are you feeling so safe? Look at Tyson: The dude — who totally could have won this, by the way — decided to eat a steak instead. And then, because of it, he had to burn his hidden immunity idol later that same day when he started to feel a bit vulnerable! Huuuuuuuuge mistake. How many times over the years have we seen people opt for food and then get voted out? It easily could have been Tyson or Ciera tonight.

NEXT: Monica dominates…again

Then there’s the third reason not to sit out: Why would you ever want to sit out a Survivor challenge? This is the adventure of a lifetime. You only get to do this once — unless you are Rupert or Boston Rob, in which case you can do it as many times as you damn please until you finally win. And then can do it a few more times if you really want. (Basically, as long as you wear your Red Sox hat or tie-dye t-shirt, you are permanently persona grata!) Ciera’s assertion later at Tribal Council later that “I’d rather not play and eat, than lose and not eat” was positively INFURIATING! No, Ciera! Play! Soak it all up! Test yourself and your limits! And maybe — just maybe — do something that you can be proud of. Something that you can take home with you even if you don’t make it all the way to the end. I’d rather not play and eat, than lose and not eat? There are thousands of people who would give anything to play. I understand that food is nice, but I also understand from Aras that there is tons of food available on the island this season. He said there was no comparison at all between this season and the last time he played, when they actually had a food shortage. (You can see Gervase offer his explanation for why he sat out the challenge in our exclusive deleted scene in the video player below!)

Enormous props to Monica for wanting to embrace as much of this experience as possible and actually playing, saying that she wanted to “show the kids that more than one badass lives in our house” Well, consider them shown. While these past two challenges have been totally geared towards her body type, the fact remains that Monica has now kicked everyone’s collective ass in three of the past four challenges. I hereby rescind the last name honor of Culpepper prematurely bestowed upon husband Brad and recommission it for wife Monica, who has now completely usurped badass status from her NFL hubby.

Caleb is Cut Loose

So because Tyson opted for the food, he later had to waste his hidden immunity idol — after he got it out of his bag, that is — once he thought there was a chance it could be him getting voted out. While there was some scuttlebutt that the men might rejoin together to get rid of Ciera, it was Caleb who was voted out and sent to Redemption Island, where he opined that it was “definitely a successful blindside on their part.” Although I’m not sure how he can think it was a blindside considering he and Hayden had already sensed they might be in trouble. (Note to future contestants: Getting voted out does not mean you were blindsided. Being blindsided is considering yourself absolutely 100% safe, and then getting voted out. The proliferation of the term blindside needs to stop and needs to stop now.)

Although tonight’s result was pretty clear pretty early on, I still dug this episode. I dug watching Laura’s new wrinkle in getting rid of Vytas. I dug watching Monica dig deep. I dug watching Tyson and Gervase romantically share a sausage together, which is not quite as gross as it sounds. And I even dug looking at Hayden’s gnarly blisters — because I expect all reality show contestants to suffer for my enjoyment. So I give thanks for all things Survivor, especially for the fact that they did not stick us with a clip show this Thanksgiving (although the clip shows have gotten so much better in recent years — for which I also give thanks). And I give thanks to you for bothering to read this nonsense on a holiday in which you no doubt have much better things to do with your time. (Not that I do, but you probably do.)

And to thank you even further, we have presented an array of goodies for you. Because of the holiday, I’ve posted my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst earlier than usual. You can read that sucker right now! We also have an exclusive deleted scene from tonight’s episode as well as my pre-game interviews with Vytas/Aras and Caleb/Colton in the video player below. My exit interview with Vytas will be delayed until next week because of the Turkey Day festivities, so check back then for that. (Although you can enjoy our Aras interview here.) And for Survivor scoop sent right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Did you love or loathe Laura’s move to get rid of Vytas? Are you as exasperated as I am when people sit out challenges to eat? And did Ciera make a good or bad move in siding with Tyson? Hit the message boards and let us know and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of leftover Thanksgiving crispy!

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