Last Night’s “Survivor”: Mother, May I Sleep With Danger (And Vote You Out)?

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Thought I’d start out this recap with a brash (or obvious, whatever) idea: Is there no way a woman can win this season? Seems like the gents — including the sinister Tyson, the sage and silent Caleb, the game-flipping Gervase, and the Julie Chen-approved Hayden — have a stranglehold on the vote right now. Unless Tina can survive Redemption Island and strut her way back into contention, I feel like the ladies will be axed in quick, furious succession. I’m not angry about this, but I expect harsher competitiveness from the boys if this is the case. I want to see more gentlemanly winning in the future. This game should feel like one of those male-dominated celebrity poker nights where Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio make seven figures in a single sitting, but instead it feels like a bunch of unnecessary competitions where the ladies win mini-games for nothing. Let’s see some fight, boys.

Otherwise, here are my notable observations from last night’s tight, yet tender episode.

Aras and his lovely, provocative body let us down!

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Look, Aras, I’m already in your corner because of your wheaten complexion and CockyBoys appeal. You didn’t have to do much to keep me as an ally, besides sunbathe and stretch. But God, you sure challenged my patience/temper/undying devotion with whatever “strategy” you tried during the Redemption Island challenge. I put “strategy” in quotation marks because maybe you were just hyperventilating and pretending to channel that into your gameplay. God, I hope.

The setup: Tina, Vytas, and Aras had to retrieve bags of large marbles by hurling grappling hooks into sand and reeling them back to a starting line. Then they operated a handheld marble maze, and the two to complete that maze first remained on the ever-exotic, not-really-an-island Redemption Island. When the competition began, all three players ably retrieved their marble sacks before attempting the handheld game, but then something strange happened: Aras controlled that maze with the steadiness of a feral horse. As Tina and Vytas meticulously maneuvered their marbles past traps and around corners, Aras slammed around the course and seemed not to react as he found himself accidentally retracing the same path three or four times. It was shockingly bad gameplay from a true Survivor veteran, and I sighed at his demise after Vytas and Tina (who beat Aras even after restarting her marble maze a second time!) trounced him. To Aras’ credit, he was a good sport as he departed the arena. But now Aras is the first jury member, and that means we only get to look at him in glum passing shots as others process past him. I hate this life.

Gulp. I found the Laura/Ciera exchange moving.

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Laura and Ciera aren’t exactly compelling players, but sometimes a commonplace display of mother/daughter affection is enough to warrant some sniffles. Come on, you’ve seen Stepmom. You know this.

Ciera knew the moment would come when she’d have to vote out her mother. Their lasting alliance made both of them easy targets for eviction. To Laura’s credit, she also seemed to know it, noting that while it was disappointing that her game might be ending, she was proud of Ciera for knowing that her mother’s exeunt from the game was necessary. They both cried about this. Oh my God, I almost — ALMOST! — cried. Why! This is a childish game about popularity and tiki-themed ring-toss challenges. Why! I think it was one of those rare moments when I actually related to players in this game; if I were on Survivor with a loved one and knew I had to separate, I’d have precisely this dialogue. That weird? No, I’m normal, let’s move on.

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Of course, I didn’t love when Ciera asked for her mother to basically lose the immunity challenge on purpose because Ciera didn’t trust her own skills enough to win. That was annoying. See, now my tears have stopped. Wait, did I say tears? I meant… emotional non-tears. Because I never, ever cry at Mark Burnett productions. Remember that.

Ugh, you knew Monica would win that immunity challenge. 

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I’m sorry, but a major fault of Survivor (and Big Brother and many other shows) is that you can always tell when certain challenges are geared to favor either male or female competitors. It makes the show boring. When Jeff explained that the remaining combatants would be balancing on a slanted platform and holding onto a dock by a rope, it was clear that a sinewy woman (less body weight, lower center of gravity) would be the winner. And wouldn’t you know it? Hayden, the brawniest of the man candy, dropped first. The last dude standing was the scrawniest, Tyson, but Monica outplayed him with her impossibly taut physique. That woman’s body has an iron-veined Teri Hatcher thing going for it, and I suggest fearing her altogether. You know she was one of those 9-year-olds who could do 20 pull-ups on the President Fitness Test. But honestly, it’s not a triumph that she won this challenge. It would’ve been absurd had she lost it, and I hate applauding that. And speaking of applauding Monica…

Wait, you can just give your reward away?

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Was anyone else shocked when Monica won her reward — a buffet of hot dogs, burgers, fries, and other anti-Monica things — and successfully offered it up to the rest of the contestants? How is that an available option? Probst seem tickled to indulge her philanthropic effort, and that struck me as unusual. Monica gave every last frankfurter to her competition, and while that was a good way to deflect the responsibility of picking a single competitor to share it all with, it also — when you think about it — makes Monica a bigger target. Seriously, she’s won two immunity challenges¬†and she gave a bunch of luscious diner grub to her teammates? How wouldn’t that sway a jury? I expect her elimination to come sooner than later. She’s far more dangerous than the likes of Gervase and Ciera. She’s just dangerous, period, and by that I mean you can impale yourself on her major veins.

The major tragedy of this episode? Caleb is still disappearing!

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Laura M. was voted out for the second time at episode’s end, but that shouldn’t bother you. What should unnerve and depress you is that Caleb, our soft-spoken cub prince who turned an entire tribe against Brad Culpepper in a single tribal council, is virtually invisible at this point in the competition. He and Hayden are a functioning alliance, but we know nothing about them anymore. Are they getting along? Are they enjoying themselves? Does Caleb miss Colton? Is he mad at Colton for, you know, being infuriating? Does he own other shirts besides that red checkered thing? Does he think he’s getting airtime? How do we know he’s still gaming and ruling and willing to kill off Brad Culpepper-sized prey in an impromptu attack? We deserve answers. We deserve homosexuality. We deserve adorable cub footage.

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