“Survivor” Recap: The Gay Twist No One Wanted

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Knew it was going to happen, but we’re finally at the point on Survivor where I lunged forward in my seat wondering which remaining competitor was playing the best game. Everyone’s bringing it, even that nervous upstart Ciera and her constantly awed expression. We were down to seven this week (exempting Redemption Island/Redemption Non-Island/Redemption Softball Field), and every last survivor is playing some version of a real game. Most of them are also fumbling that game in broad, obvious ways, which makes the whole thing a really entertaining show! Reality TV! I get it!

Since I’m already knee-deep in sweet potato pie on this fine Thanksgiving ‘noon, I’m breezing through the episode’s highlights and my accompanying thoughts of fascination and intrigue. I’m tired just remembering Monica winning her third immunity challenge. Her triumph is my tryptophan.

1. Laura M.’s “cheating”? Made me love her.

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Turns out that when Laura M. stops talking about being a proud parent for two seconds she’s actually a tricky dame! At first I cringed when she finished first in the Redemption Island challenge, a nutty little game where you retrieved big cubes from treacherous netting, then positioned the cubes in a column so that none of their symbols on any side matched. Laura’s not terribly compelling as a TV personality, and you’d have thought Ciera had solved the human genome based on Laura’s thunderstruck reaction to her gameplay, but I really applauded Laura’s wicked decision-making after¬†she came in first: She decided to help Tina come in second, even though she was trailing Vytas. Look, if Survivor affords you the opportunity to manipulate gameplay without consequence, you should probably do it, right? You should probably fix it so that the slowish Tina survives and the fiercely competitive Vytas loses. That way you get to play Tina again next week and likely beat her again. Good for Laura. Thanks to her efforts, Vytas indeed lost, and now he and his brother are (I’m assuming) two of the angriest losers in the show’s history.

2. Yikes: What a disappointing week for Tyson.

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Correct me if I’m missing something: Tyson had the gall to sit out of the immunity challenge, one where he could’ve been an adequate competitor, and then he nervously and clumsily played his immunity idol because he was worried he’d drawn on a target on himself. That is one of the most amateurish moves we’ve seen this season, and I say that fully remembering Kat’s histrionic flip-flopping awhile back. He took us on a psychological journey with that damn idol, telling us how he was protecting it with hundreds of decoy moves. Now it’s just gone and everyone knows he’s a liar. Tah-dah! And the target is only bigger now.

I actually like his newfound connection with Ciera, if only because they’re the two most active maneuverers still in contention. It’s like nefarious Jafar teaming up with squawky Iago. Sure, Ciera’s pleas for camaraderie sound a little sad (“I’ll always vote with you. Until the end.”), but her slickster side is bound to be sad given the fact that her actual athleticism is downright horrible. Do we think she’ll be at the final tribal council with Tyson? I kinda wouldn’t hate it. Though it would obviously be bad news for Agrabah.

3. Why are we ruling out Monica as a potential winner?

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There is something both exciting and just enervating about Monica’s athletic streak. Like, why do we have Survivor if we’re just going to allow steel-veined triathletes with Duracell constitutions to compete? But if Monica weren’t scooping up victories, she’d be so, so gone, so I can only throw golf claps and Clueless snaps her way, just like I had to applaud Fabio a couple years ago for nailing three straight immunities. That’s how he won the whole game, after all. I guess what unnerves me is Monica’s social game in all its paranoid and exhausting talkiness. It should be costing her more. But if she gets Katie and Hayden on her side, she has a good shot of overtaking the cocky hot dog-eating lords Ciera, Gervase, and Tyson.

4. Ashes, ashes, Caleb came Cumbie-ing down. :(

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I want to say that Caleb can’t blame himself for losing. The tricky finger of fate was pointed in a hundred directions this week, and in a way it feels just unlucky that it landed on our gay, bristly bearded troubadour. But settling into that two-person alliance with Hayden completely isolated him from his competitors and made him an obvious choice for elimination once the opportunity presented itself. In a way, Caleb and Hayden were the (Big Brother 15 reference approaching! Haters come at me!) Amanda and McCrae of this season. They presumed they were safe because they helped execute a number of eliminations, but they didn’t plan enough for when the remaining majority would (inevitably) turn on them. Poor little cub! Ciera garnered three votes while he earned four, and that’s enough to send him to Redemption Go-Kart Dirt Path. His killer takedown of Brad Culpepper is still one of the most cutting moves we’ve seen all season, and I guess the good news is we now have a redemption-seeking survivor to really root for.

5. Sigh. But let’s not forget this hotness.

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RIP, downward-facing dog sensuality.

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