Hayden tells everyone they're destined to lose to Tyson in the end; it doesn't take long for an alliance to crumble

By Grady Smith
Updated February 27, 2015 at 10:30 PM EST


S27 E12
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Well, that was pretty insane, wasn’t it? For just the second time in Survivor history, the tribal council voters tied, then tied again, then went into a deadlock-induced decision to draw rocks to see who was going to Redemption Island. And all thanks to Big Brother-winner-turned-Survivor-coaster-turned-out-of-nowhere-fighter Hayden, who single-handedly turned the game on its head by rustling — or ruffling — no, rustling, dammit! — everyone’s feathers and breaking up the Tyson/Gervase/Monica/Ciera alliance.

Oh yeah, as you may have noticed, I’m not your regular recapper, Dalton Ross. Sorry about that. You see, Dalton and I drew rocks yesterday morning, and unfortunately, he got the white one. Now he’s out of a job, and I’m your new full-time Survivor recapper! Kidding. He’s just in Toronto for some last-minute super cool, super secret EW-stuff, and you’ve got me this week instead. Try not to destroy me in the comments. I’m just a humble box office analyst! (And under-the-radar Survivor fan, to boot.)

Hayden wasted no time getting down to business at the beginning of the episode. As the Kasama tribe returned from tribal council, where they’d sentenced Caleb to a lifetime on Mommy Island, Hayden began telling his tribe mates how easily Tyson was going to win the game. “I hope everyone here likes second place,” he warned. “Because if Tyson goes to the end, he’s winning the whole thing.” Of course, Gervase didn’t buy that. “Tyson wouldn’t be where he’s at if it wasn’t for me! I’ve got my hand on his back!” Gervase yelled defensively, which tacitly acknowledged the fact that Tyson was, in fact, ahead of him. For his part, Tyson didn’t appreciate the target getting put on his back, especially now that he was idol-less.

Over at the truel arena, Caleb was still fuming from his elimination. He wouldn’t even look up at his former tribe, though he confessed he wasn’t all that mad at Hayden or Katie. Just those other jerks. “A man’s word is a man’s word, and in the South it means something,” Caleb snarked. “In the game of Survivor, and in Utah [read: Tyson] and Philly [read: Gervase], it just doesn’t mean as much.” Well, you said it, dude. In the game of Survivor it doesn’t mean as much!

Gervase correctly called out Caleb for having “sore loser status,” and then the challenge was on. This time, Laura, Tina, and Caleb had to build towers of cards out of thin blocks of wood. The first two people to get their stacks to reach eight feet into the air (or the two highest stacks at the end of 30 minutes) would stay alive on Redemption Island. Because this challenge was vaguely puzzle-y, Laura of course dominated her competitors. That woman is unstoppable! She left Tina and Caleb in a dead heat for second place. With just a few minutes left on the clock, Caleb quickly pulled into a decisive lead as Tina continually fumbled the same row of cards. But his stack got very high very fast, and then it started wobbling, and then, with 30 seconds left on the clock, it came toppling to the ground. Tina sat still and counted down the seconds, and she sailed away with a default victory.

NEXT: What are you doing, Ciera?!?!

Caleb left the competition with the same casually muted but good-natured vibe he entered it with. You can tell the man has a good sense of humor. When Jeff balked at Caleb’s suggestion that he and his boyfriend, Colton, were similar in some ways, Caleb just sort of laughed it off. “In what ways are you similar?” Jeff asked. “Well, we’re both guys,” Caleb responded glibly. “Other than his estrogen level is probably a little bit higher than mine, that’s about it.” Ha!

Laura handed the immunity idol clue — certainly the most important one of the entire season now that Tyson’s had been played — to her daughter Ciera, who didn’t throw it in the fire this week. Good move. Unfortunately, Ciera followed that up with a completely terrible move. She shared the clue with her entire alliance! “Come on Monica, Tyson, and Gervase! You’re all closer than I am and far more physically threatening! Let’s all read this clue together so you can keep me from having an idol!” Of course, she didn’t say that, but she may as well have. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?

Ciera had little to lose by keeping the clue to herself. If she had found the idol, she would’ve been set. If her alliance had turned on her when she didn’t share the clue, she could’ve just aligned with Katie and Hayden. She needed to make a big move, and she did the opposite. (My only rational explanation is that Ciera assumed her mother would be rejoining the game very soon, at which point she figured she could start working with her and getting her hands dirty.) Tyson found the idol in no time — no one was there to see him do it — and once again restored his power position in the game. But Hayden was already planning how he might dethrone him, telling Gervase he needed to consider blindsiding his comrade at the next tribal.

At the immunity challenge, which involved balancing a ball on a very tall pole and then chucking sandbags at some pendulums, Monica and Gervase trounced the competition — especially Katie, who just kept dropping her ball on her head and reservedly muttering “Ouch,” which may have constituted her most emotional moment all season. Props to the editor that kept every single one of those shots in. You had me laughing.

Because Monica insisted on very slowly throwing her sand bags underhand, Gervase ended up knocking over the final pin first and thus winning immunity plus an ice cream reward. Jeff told him he could share the reward with one person. Easy choice: Monica, who had given up her own food reward a week before and was the clear second place finisher in this week’s challenge. But then Jeff said Gervase had to choose a second friend, which was a dicier decision to make, since one of his three alliance members was going to be left out. Gervase went with his BFF, Tyson.

Hayden figured that Ciera’s exclusion from the ice cream soiree was the perfect time to pitch her the idea of blindsiding Tyson, but she wasn’t biting. He tried to get Gervase to listen a little later on, but Gervase didn’t want to hear it . “I think I have a chance to beat Tyson,” Gervase said, somewhat delusionally. (His tone made it seem like he was trying to give himself a pep talk.) Hayden couldn’t believe what he was hearing! “You don’t want to go to the end and get second or third. Who gives a sh–? Second place is the first loser!” Hayden’s argument was sort of disarmingly charming because it all rested on the assumption that he and everyone else in the game were inferior players when compared to Tyson. It was brazen and humble all at once.

NEXT: The most gonzo tribal council of the season

Eventually, everything seemed so futile that Hayden ended up just telling Tyson what he was doing. “I’m trying to convince everyone to blindside you, but so far, it hasn’t worked.” He knew he would have to do something insane. He knew he needed to go off the rails at tribal council to possibly shake anyone from that alliance. And, to his credit, he did just that.

Hayden had the crazy eyes going from the moment tribal council began. His mission: Convince Ciera that she was at the bottom of her alliance. Gervase, Tyson, and Monica made that mission much easier by continually referring to Ciera as number four when counting the members of their crew. This sounded entirely accidental every time they did it, but it also added up to a nefarious-seeming threat. Ciera began the tribal council looking steely and sassy, but fear began to creep across her face, especially as Hayden pummeled home the idea that Tyson and Gervase saw themselves as the top two dogs in this fight. At one point, everyone just started yelling at Ciera, staring at her desperately, as if she were a french fry at the center of a flock of ravenous seagulls. Vote with us! No vote with us! Gervase claimed his alliance was full of honest folks, which elicited sardonic laughter from the jury.

Suddenly, a weirdly mild side-argument began between Tyson and Hayden about whether feathers were ruffled or rustled or Russelled, which, if you listened closely, actually began with Katie saying “rustle feathers” before Hayden let the words slip out of his mouth. Hot damn, the girl caused a fight, and it only took her 12 episodes of reality TV! Good for her. After some explanation, Hayden emphasized that feathers were, in fact, able to be rustled. Not to play the writer card here, but I’m gonna have to nix Hayden on that one. Rustling connotes a crackling sound, and feathers don’t crackle or crunch, unless you’re talking about this exact bird.

Hayden told Ciera one last time that she had a one-in-three shot with him and Katie, but almost no shot with her alliance. She looked torn, broken even. Tyson’s alliance was gunning for Hayden. Katie and Hayden (and they hoped Ciera) were targeting Monica. But it was time to vote.

Gervase was pissed with Hayden’s antics — and, I’m guessing, the fact that he implied he’s playing second fiddle to Tyson. “Don’t hate the players, homey, hate the game,” he yelled while voting loud enough for his fellow tribe mates to hear. “This isn’t Big Brother, homey. This is Survivor. You’re about to get a lesson in how to play the game.” Dude probably needs to cool it. Getting angry at someone for having started at another CBS reality show is the equivalent of me stomping across the EW office to scold our Senior Art Director for having once worked at Sports Illustrated. “You’re about to get a lesson in how we make magazines, bro!” Tyson felt more bewildered than Gervase while voting for Hayden. “Never tell an insane person they’re going home next,” he whispered, a little bit shell-shocked. Ciera thought long and hard about which name she’d write out, and then Jeff went to tally the votes.

NEXT: Let’s draw rocks

When it all shook out, three votes had been cast for Hayden… and three for Monica! We all knew what that meant: CIERA HAD FLIPPED ON HER ALLIANCE. Yeeessssss. Peoples’ minds almost never change at tribal council — which is why it’s so awesome when they do! Ciera, with Hayden’s help, just made this game a whole lot more interesting. Of course, she probably should have turned on her alliance earlier in the week and gotten an immunity idol for herself, but hey, I applaud the ballsy move because it made for a dramatic episode finish.

Given the tie, the tribe voted again, this time only for Monica or Hayden (who weren’t allowed to vote), and once again, it came to a tie. Here’s where the rules got technical: if Katie, Ciera, Tyson, and Gervase could collectively decide to send home either Hayden or Monica, then that person would go home. If not, then Hayden and Monica would be off the block, and because Gervase had immunity, either Tyson, Katie, or Ciera would go home after drawing rocks.

After surprisingly little debate, the three people who were deemed safe decided to draw rocks to see who was going to Redemption Island, thus leaving Hayden and Monica safe from elimination. (At this point, the jury was almost giddy in shock. They could not believe what they were seeing — especially Aras, the dedicated Survivor fanatic of them.) I’m not sure why Ciera and Katie took the deal so willingly. They needed each other now that they were aligned, and going into a random rock-drawing ceremony gave their alliance a 66 percent chance of losing a player. Tyson, I was shocked to see, didn’t put up more of a fight, either. (I asked Jeff Probst how long the debate to draw rocks actually ensued. Find out the answer in his weekly Q&A.)

Nonetheless, Tyson, Katie, and Ciera each pulled a stone out of a bag — and it was Katie who drew the dreaded white rock and went packing to to Redemption Island, where she and her mom now have the formidable task of facing off with Laura to stay alive in the game. Good luck with that one, ladies! Meanwhile, Ciera was left looking flustered. Had she just totally squandered her chances by jumping to Team Hayden? We’ll find out next week!

Well, geez, we have a lot to talk about. Were you as thrilled as I was by that tribal council? Did you love seeing Hayden’s shameless game play? Can anyone beat Tyson in the end? And should Monica be joining up with Hayden and Ciera? Hit the comments to speak your mind, read our chat with Jeff Probst, and, if for some reason, you liked my writing, feel free to follow me on Twitter @gradywsmith, where I promise to tweet about Survivor at least once a year.

But don’t do any of that before you check out this deleted scene from last night’s episode!

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