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Survivor: Blood vs. Water – Ep 14 – Hail Mary, Full of Lapdogs

Ok – Let’s get this column in the books. Stat. We have the Survivor Finale coming in a couple of days – and I will be spending that day in attendance, for the first time, for one of my beloved Miami Dolphins’ home games. The catch – I don’t live in Miami. So, because of this little quirk in the space-time continuum – the always-anticipated recap of the Finale and Reunion will be, most likely, delayed.

However, even so, I can safely say that I can give you the theme – Tyson or Monica wins Survivor: Blood vs. Water. Although, I will say for certain right now that I will be rooting for Ciera to take home the crown. I don’t expect she will, but that’s who I am rooting for. I think Tyson has earned it, but Ciera is not far off. He’s earned the title by living in the Winner’s Bracket all season – he’s always been in a position of power – first in the Aras Alliance, and then the Unloved. Ciera has done it through the Losers Bracket. She barely survived all of the early votes, and then latched on to the back end of the Unloved Alliance. She now stands exactly where she would have if she didn’t flip last week – fourth among the Final Four.

The two games are very different – but both have been impressive. In fact, there have been a lot of impressive people this season – both returnees and newbies. Monica did not impress me much in One World, but she’s been a beast in challenges and was wise to flip from Team Aras to the Unloved. Hayden has shown some real charisma these last two episodes – and some scrappy fighting skills too. Gervase’s game hasn’t been great – but he’s still here and is light years beyond what he showed back in the first season of the show. Laura has begun to challenge Matt and Ozzy for the title of Best Redemption Island competitor. If they are the Kings of RI, she’s the Queen. And that doesn’t even take in the quality showings from Caleb, Vytas, Dr. Cody, and others.

I guess what I am trying to say is – Blood vs. Water is going to be (barring a horrible train wreck finale) one of the upper echelon of Survivor seasons.

What impressed me in this episode?

1 – Sportsmanship. Let’s be honest – Survivor has not always been known for sportsmanlike conduct. There is a long history of hard feelings and bitter juries that we all don’t need to rehash here. Even the fans have been rough – remember Jerri getting booed off stage at the All-Stars Reunion Show? But perhaps it’s the spirit of family that we have had this season – that nastiness has been few and far between. It really only existed between Culpy and Marissa, and Culpy and the Codys. Oh, and Colton – but he really doesn’t count.

In this episode, we see good gamesmanship after the Rock Pull as the Final Five return. Hayden is praised for his good move, and Ciera for taking a huge risk. Tyson says he was excited to be a part of it – although he is sure Katie wasn’t excited to be a part of it. Snerk. But there was no nastiness to Ciera. In fact, there was goofing around with her. Kudos to the Final Five.

When Ciera had her unlikely win later on – they were all happy for her. No one was bitter when they didn’t get chosen for the reward. It was all positive. And when Hayden and Ciera’s plan to load up a bunch of negative emotions on Monica – there was no lashing out. It seemed as if she took it as pure gameplay. And as Hayden left with his torch snuffed – he shook hands and called a good game and left with dignity. Are we sure this guy was on Big Brother? Everyone else I have ever seen from that show was not like this.

I hope this bodes well for a solid jury with no axes to grind. Time will tell.

2 – Ciera wins immunity. Now, let me just say that it is very likely the fact that I watch these shows with a close attention paid to details and changes – something most people don’t do – but I called this early on in the challenge. How? Because Probst was laying it on rather thick with his mocking of her last place status leading up to the word challenge. In fact, I noticed how some of the commentary from Probst was in voice over format. This means they looped it in after the fact to add to the drama. This is done all the time on Top Chef – but I guess CBS techies are much better than the Bravo ones because it is seamless on Survivor and jarring on Top Chef.

So, Ciera, who has been horrid in challenges, the yin to her mom’s challenge yang, gets the win and can say she has won an immunity challenge. She has now won one more individual immunities than three-time player James ever won. And just as many as three-time player Jonathan Penner won. She proves, yet again, that you don’t have to be super buff, or a man (looking at you Probst), to be a great Survivor player.

That’s right. I think she is a great Survivor player. Her game play the last couple of weeks has impressed the hell out of me. I am very hopeful that she gets another chance at Survivor – it would be interesting to see her play again without her mom as part of the season. Not that it mattered much this time – remember, the woman voted her own mom out of the tribe.

3 – Good strategy. How often have we seen arguments at Tribal Council? Tons of them. How often have they been part of a legitimate strategic debate? Rarely. This is two weeks in a row where interesting game play was debated on the floor of Tribal Council. If only Congress could still do that. I like how Ciera and Hayden realized where they were and what they had to do – with no idol to be found, they had to find a way to flip one of the other three. Tyson and Gervase would be a waste of time – Tyson knows that Hayden and Ciera are serious F3 vote threats. Gervase seems to think he can beat Tyson. He’s wrong. He’s made the same enemies – but Tyson has done it better.

So they had to work on Monica. And there is logic to that play – Monica may beat Tyson, but she may have a better shot at beating Hayden and Ciera. And that was also the only chance the newbies had to make this work. Hayden called it a Hail Mary play – for non-football fans, that’s the name of the play that you usually see at the end of the half or the end of the game where the quarterback heaves it 50 yards to the end zone with the hopes that someone will catch it. Sometimes it works – usually it doesn’t. That’s what they had to rely on.

So, Ciera is tasked with approaching Monica – which she does just before Tribal, a smart play as it gives Tyson and Gervase little time to react. Ciera lays it on thick – to sum up…she tells her that the boys have been talking smack about her behind her back. They don’t respect her. They think she’s a lapdog and a puppet on a string. Monica is such a strong woman, she needs to show them who’s boss. And the like. It is the correct play – but a long shot. The argument back is a hard one to deflect – if it was so awful, then why not tell Monica before, over the last several days, rather than right before the Tribal Council where you are about to lose the vote?

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