An big time mistake in the challenge costs one tribe dearly, but those at fault manage to stay safe

By Dalton Ross
February 27, 2015 at 10:59 PM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS
S27 E6
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Folks, before we begin, I’d just like to say thanks. Here we are on season 27 — yes, 27! — of a reality series that nobody anticipated lasting past about season 3. A fad, a trend, a flash in the pan — Survivor was accused of being all of these things…and much worse, actually. But here it still is. And here we still are. We have become our own community bound by debates and discussion about strategy, inanity, and everything in between. It’s good to be a Survivor fan. Season 27, still going strong. Keep in mind, some other shows are not so lucky. And so we should take a moment to consider all those poor souls still trying to find some semblance of excitement in programs such as The X Factor. Please bless those souls who are unfortunate un…I mean, please bless those souls who are un as fortunate as we are. Wait, that’s not right, either. What I meant to say is, please bless those souls that are misfortunate than we are. There, that’s it. No? That’s not it? Less fortunate, you say? Ugh! Stop confusing me with your “words” and their “meanings.” Talking is hard!

Oh, I shouldn’t be so mean to poor Kat, especially considering she has so far gone this entire season without once uttering the word “MARGARITAS!!!” or farting on someone. That, my friends, is the definition of progress. So let’s progress ourselves through this masterful segue into recapping episode 6 of Survivor: Blood vs. Water.

We begin with Zero Dark Thirty night-vision cam as Aras worries both about angering people that may end up back in the game, and being seen as the ringleader of the tribe. This was one of my arguments against voting Laura M. out last week (although I also presented several arguments in support of the move). And sure enough, the next morning we see Tyson telling Gervase that the time to get rid of Aras (who was my episode 1 pick to win it all) may be near. Tyson wants to use a bunny, a top hat, and a smoke bomb to make Aras disappear, at least I assume that what he’s getting at by professing his love of magic. (Either that or he’s chapter president of the Doug Henning Appreciation Society. Moto: Doug Henning — Magic at its miscoolest…oops, we mean, uncoolest.)

Next we head to Redemption Arena, where not only is magic in the air, but so is ESP! (Is that the same thing? I honestly don’t know. I don’t believe in either because I am not ridiculous.) Ciera sees that her mom was voted out and claims “all day I had a really weird feeling. I just kinda knew.” Jeffrey Probst immediately consults his tarot cards, turns on his neon Fortune Teller sign and then asks, “Does that surprise you, Laura, that she may have felt some kind of energy?” “Not at all,” responds Laura. Ugh, all this talk about premonitions and energy and hocus pocus is simply absurd. Why can’t they knock this all off and devote their time to more important things — like, say, tracking Big Foot, who we all clearly saw get away after his slow-motion battle royale with the Six Million Dollar Man.

NEXT: Brad Culpepper morphs into William Wordsworth

So after Laura takes a preemptive strike and refuses to allow Ciera to switch spots with her — which Ciera must have already known since she can sense everything around her at all times — we get to the truel. The truel involves racing across a balance beam while collecting bags of number tiles which must then be arranged in the proper order of 1-100. It is seriously the most idiot-proof puzzle in the history of puzzles. You basically have to know how to count and that’s pretty much it. My other initial thought was that Laura is going to smoke this, and not because I have ESP, but rather because balance beams always tend to favor women. Throw in the fact that Laura is a puzzle demon and she has this one in the bag. Sure enough, she races out to a huge lead and never looks back, not even when John almost castrates himself by slipping on the beam. “That’s gonna hurt and leave a mark!” exclaims Probst. Candice will be the judge of that, Probst.

So after Laura emerges victorious, John just beats out Brad Culpepper for second place to stay in the game. Ah, Brad. Homeboy came to play this season! Which was exactly his problem. Brad played too fast too soon, needlessly disbanding his alliance and making himself a target for no reason whatsoever. A lot of you in the message boards have hated on the guy, but I have no personal problem with Brad. He just made a huge blunder and I called him on it. His gameplay was flat-out terrible. But at least he tried, and the season was more entertaining because of it.

All that said, I have NO IDEA what is going on at the very end here as Brad all of a sudden starts fancying himself a poet with his final words to wife Monica. “Monica, I came on here as a shield. Through my fault, or no fault of my own, I became an anchor. You’re free. The wind’s blowing. Sail. Sail hard.”

Sail hard?!? What is this, a Dewey Cox sequel? What does that even mean? Isn’t “sail hard” a bit of an oxymoron anyway? I can’t help but wonder what Survivor poet laureate Benjamin “Coach” Wade thinks of Brad’s unique meter and flow. However, Brad then does manage to do something very smart  — he tears off part of his buff as a souvenir before throwing the rest of it in the fire. I’ve always said it is a bummer contestants on a Redemption Island season do not get to keep their buffs, and it seems Brad came up with a pretty decent solution. Of course, my only problem in such a situation would be that I am far too weak to tear the damn thing. Seriously, those buffs are super stretchy and it would be pretty humiliating to attempt to tear it and fail. For someone like Cochran, it would be quirky and endearing. For someone like me, just straight up lame.

Now, winner Laura has to give away the hidden immunity idol clue, and she once again uses it as a weapon, giving the clue to Vytas because she blames his brother Aras for her blindside. The only problem is, Vytas pulls a Monica, and for the third straight week throws the clue into the fire. Let me tell you something: This is absolutely KILLING the Survivor producers. Jeff Probst has said it a million times — they want the idols to be found. They love the drama and unpredictability they unleash in the game (remember the Three Amigos ousting Phillip with them last season?). So while Monica burning the first clue was probably cool in that it was something new and different, the fact that nobody has yet to find or play an idol has to be seriously bumming Probst and Co. out.

NEXT: Tribe switcheroo time!

The season has been pretty damn strong so far, but the aforementioned Probst and Co. are going to tempt fate anyway and instigate a tribe switcheroo. This really is a crap shoot. Sometimes it has worked in terms of creating more drama, and other times it has backfired. The only reason I can think for them doing it at this point was to see what would happen when you then had a few couples playing together to see whether blood or water won out. One problem: After the random pulling of buffs, only one pair — Tina and Katie — actually ended up on the same tribe. WHOOPS! Not only that, but we got a major imbalance in terms of gender. The new Galang (Tina, Katie, Monica, Laura, Kat, Vytas) has 5 women and 1 man while the new Tadhana (Aras, Tyson, Gervase, Caleb, Hayden, Ciera) has 5 men and 1 woman. DOUBLE WHOOPS!

So what’s happening on the new tribes? Well, over on Tadhana, the newbies have decided to tell the returning players absolutely everything! This even includes the clue to the hidden immunity idol. As Tyson himself says, “stupid will be stupid,” and trust me, judging by his moves on the past two seasons he has played — Tyson knows stupid. Meanwhile, Hayden does not like the new additions to their camp eating all their stuff, so just imagine how he’d feel if he knew Coconut Bandit #1 was off draining their supply. “It is definitely a goal to eat and steal as much as I can from this tribe,” says Tyson. “And I’m going to keep eating that food until it’s gone.” When not stealing food, Tyson does his best to make Aras look like the bad guy and the man calling all the shots. That way, if it ends up being a split vote along old tribe lines, the newbies will be voting to get rid of Aras instead of him. Possibly smart, although it could also backfire if Aras picks up on it enough and then works against his former ally. We’ll see.

Over on Galang, Vytas is busy doing his best impression of Dalton Ross attending Sarah Lawrence College — meaning he is completely surrounded by women. The only difference being I didn’t have any cool stories about doing heroin or going to jail to impress the bevy of ladies I was surrounded by at that point in my life at a predominantly female college. (Since then, however? Done TONS of heroin, and let me tell you, excellent conversation starter.) Vytas appears to be in trouble strategically as the only male and only former Tadhana member not related to someone on the new tribe, but he has two things going for him. 1) He knows how to rock the sympathy vote. And 2) Kat is getting jumpy and nervous over the fact that Monica is something of a chatterbox. Kat, who appeared to be Brad’s most vocal supporter at last week’s truel now fears that his wife may be overscheming without her. This will prove to be a very costly miscalculation.

If Jeff Probst is looking down at the sand for no apparent reason, then he must be telling people to “Come on in, guys!” and sure enough it is challenge time. We’re finally getting back in the water. This contest has pairs on each team race out to a cage at the bottom of the ocean, dive down, release a gate, retrieve a fish trap and bring it back to shore — let me repeat that part right there for emphasis: retrieve a fish trap and bring it back to shore! — and then the next pair goes until all three fish traps have been brought back and used to form a vertical puzzle. Winners get immunity as well as a bunch of sandwiches, which I suppose is better than a crappy Adam Sandler movie.

NEXT: Tina at her worst and best

Then, something absolutely incredible happens. On the first leg out for Galang, Tina and Laura swim out, open the gate, and then swim right back…without the fishing trap! At first Probst starts to warn them, yelling “Ladies!” but then seems to stop himself, realizing the inherent drama at play if they make it all the way back to shore and have to be told by their tribe to go back to get the trap. Which is exactly what happens.

How could this have happened? How could Tina and Laura swim out to retrieve something, only to return without it? It’s pretty incredible, especially considering what you do not see on the show. After Jeff Probst gives the tribes the quick instructions at the top of a challenge and says, “I’ll give you a couple of moments to strategize,” here’s what actually goes down. All the cameras — and there are a hell of a lot of them — go and reset to get in proper positioning for filming the challenge. While that happens, Probst and challenge producer John Kirhoffer walk each tribe individually through all aspects of the challenge. If there are knots or hooks that need to be undone underwater, they may even show you pictures of them so you know what to look out for. And, they answer questions. If you are unsure of a particular element of a challenge, you can ask and they will clarify.

Not only that, but there is also a person from the CBS standards and practices department listening in to every word on a headset. If Probst tells something to one tribe and somehow forgets to mention it to the other, this S&P person jumps in and alerts the host so that both tribes have equal information. This most often might happen if someone on one tribe asks a question, so Probst explains it to them, and then has to go back to the other tribe to make sure they get the same extra information. All of this is a long convoluted way of explaining that Tina and Laura really, really blew it on this one. Not only did they have the quick on-air Probst challenge instructions, but they also had the much more in-depth walk through and yet still managed to mess it up. So how could it have happened? Read my weekly Q&A with Probst to see the host’s take on the critical error.

However, shockingly, once they get to the puzzle portion of the challenge, Tina and Monica make a huge comeback. Not only is this fantastic because it adds some much needed tension to the proceedings, but it also leads to my absolute favorite thing in the entire world: awkward and unwarranted celebrations. To me, because I have a warped sense of humor, there is nothing better than watching some guy who has just scored a touchdown prance and preen and do some bizarre celebration dance that he has clearly choreographed and rehearsed waaaay too many times in the mirror, only to realize about halfway through said celebration dance that there is a penalty flag lying on the ground about 30 yards behind him and he has, in fact, not scored anything at all. This leads to the three best stages of unwarranted celebration: 1) Confusion: Wait, I didn’t just do something completely awesome? 2) Embarrassment: How can I get out of this celebration gracefully without looking like a complete jackass? 3) Resignation: I guess I need to just get over it and go try it again.

The only thing more glorious than an unwarranted celebration is…TWO unwarranted celebrations! The Galang tribe goes back-to-back, jumping up and down twice and squealing in victorious delight, only to twice be told by Probst that their puzzle is actually wrong. DOH! The time lost while hugging and celebrating allows Tadhana’s Aras and Tyson to finally finish their puzzle and take home immunity, avoiding one of the most epic collapses in Survivor history. “Wow!” says Probst and I could not agree more.

NEXT: Kat opens her mouth. Not a good idea.

So back to the Galang beach we go, where Tina offers the tribe an apology for her screw-up out in the water. But the person who will end up suffering from the defeat will be Vytas, who is clearly going to be the one voted out, right? But there is always that one person who gets a little too restless and a little too paranoid and can’t simply stick with the plan. That person is Kat. Kat thinks Monica talks too much…and I’m just going to let that sink in for a second. Go ahead. Reread the first part of that sentence over again: Kat thinks Monica talks too much. I know, amazing. Actually, Both Hayden and Kat told me before the game that Kat’s biggest problem was that she talked too much and that she was going to have to keep that in check during the game.

So Kat is getting annoyed by Monica’s allegedly constant strategizing and already wants to break up the new all-woman alliance. (Gender alliances are clearly not doing so hot this season.) She goes to Tina and asks about switching it up to vote out Monica. Wrong move. Tina — who I have said I believe had a pregame alliance with Aras and Gervase, which likely extended to their loved ones — immediately brings it up to Monica and they have a whole discussion about it…right in front of Vytas! Then Monica confronts Kat, who denies it, and suddenly we have a rubber-glue-bouncing-off-of-me-and-sticking-to-you situation as now Monica is the one campaigning against Kat. Meanwhile, Vytas is probably off reminding everyone everything he can about heroin, jail, and how scary people from East L.A. are.

At Tribal Council, Kat alternates between cutting Vytas off and pleading for her Survivor life. “Please, I’ll do anything,” she begs, before imploring “Please stay together” — to which Vytas replies “And we will stay together. We will stay strong.” (And sail hard?) It’s a pretty dramatic scene, but I can’t help but be distracted. My Spidey Survivor strategy sense is tingling — or maybe that’s just the beer kicking in — as I can’t help but sit and wonder: Why is nobody even thinking of targeting the one loved one pair on the tribe. Does nobody notice Tina and Katie sitting there? Are they under Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility or something? This is Survivor 101: If you have an unbreakable bond between two players, you break it. They will never choose you over one of them, so you need to get rid of one of them before they do it to you. Yet we never hear a single person express a single reservation about this mother-daughter combo platter. Amazing. Also, Tina is pretty damn smart (except when it comes to challenges, apparently). If Vytas goes home and the tribe loses another challenge, it would most likely be the only newbie left on the tribe — Katie — who is in danger next. By shifting that target from Vytas to Kat, Tina may have just bought her daughter at least three more days. And yet nobody else seems to even be considering that fact.

NEXT: The real reason Kat is upset about being voted out

Anyway, Kat votes for “Vetus,” but everyone else votes for Kat. Unfortunately, with Redemption Island in play, we do not get to see her “final words” after being voted out so we have no way of knowing if Kat shed more or less tears than last time when she was ousted in One World. Seeing as how the city of Apia in Samoa is still emptying out the flood of tears bucket-line-style from the last time Kat was voted out, I’m gonna go out on a limb and venture a guess of less this time around.

Actually, the thing Kat seems most bummed out about is how the indignity will make her look in the eyes of her hunky, reality-show-winning boyfriend. In what just may be the quote of the season, Kat worries, “Who wants to date someone that doesn’t make the merge?” Well, in the case of John Cody, I suppose the answer would be…someone else that did not make the merge? Hopefully Kat and Hayden’s relationship is strong enough to survive this embarrassing black mark within the reality TV community.

But you don’t have to be depressed like Kat, because we have plenty of other Survivor goodies for you right here. Check out my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst for his take on the tribe switch-up, Tina & Laura’s challenge blunder, and the lack of hidden immunity idols. And then click on the video player below for an exclusive deleted scene from the episode as well as my pre-game interviews with Kat/Hayden and Brad/Monica. Also make sure to check back Thursday afternoon for our InsideTV Podcast interview with Brad, which should be a doozy. And for more Survivor scoop sent right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the new tribes? Did Galang make the right move in ousting Kat instead of Vytas (or one half of the Tina/Katie pair)? And do you miss the hidden immunity idols? Hit the message boards and weigh in with your thoughts, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.
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