Archive | December, 2013

Final thoughts about Survivor: Blood vs. Water

21 Dec

Time for some quick hits to wrap up the season.

Tyson and his idols: While Tyson ended up not needing either of his idols to decide a vote, they definitely helped him in the game, and he got both because of the stupidity of other players. In the first case, chatty Caleb and Hayden blabbed too much information after the tribe swap. In the second, Ciera foolishly shared her clue with her whole alliance.

Ciera: I think she’s getting a bit too much credit for her gameplay this season. Yes, she played hard, but she failed to ally with Hayden and Caleb against Tyson at the juncture where it would have changed the game. Instead, she was so indiscreet about being chummy with Tyson that the guys got suspicious of her. So while drawing rocks at Tribal Council in a later episode was dramatic, she could have avoided all of that. Plus the fact that she shared her immunity idol clue with Tyson, Gervase, and Monica further hurt her, and helped the others.

Good things about this season:

– The “loved ones” gimmick was a hit, as it made the game even more complicated by adding an extra layer of strategy, especially with the twist that anyone could swap with his or her loved one at the Redemption Island duel. It was tough enough to ponder all of the ramifications of every move as a viewer, just think how tough it was for the people on the island! In particular, the episode with the tribe merge was a great one, with so many different factions, and factions within factions.

(By the way, a nice side effect of a whole “loved ones” season was that it eliminated the annual “loved ones” single episode. I have always hated that episode because a) it is just a cheap way to get all of the players to cry and b) it devotes half the episode to people who usually aren’t interesting (and if they are, they’re gone again anyway). When the loved ones are around the whole time and characters in their own right, it’s much more engaging.)

– Probst telling off Colton in the Oct. 2 episode, revealing that Colton had basically faked his illness the last time he was on the show. Loved it! In general, the casting was strong: while they whiffed on Colton and Katie, they succeeded with Vytas and Ciera. And even an obscure player like Laura, who I didn’t even remember, provided entertainment.

– Lots of smart players, and almost everyone was playing hard from the get-go.

– The best player won, and all of the better players at least made it to the jury.

Bad things about this season:

– There was no real villain.

– None of the challenges were memorable, most being recycled from previous years.

– Not that many “classic” moments in general, which isn’t to say the season wasn’t quite entertaining.

Does anyone from this season make my all-time top ten players list? No. Not that Tyson didn’t play an excellent game, but he made some blunders along the way. For instance he insulted Katie such that he almost lost her vote, and he sat out a challenge when he got overconfident and then had to waste his immunity idol.

Where does this Survivor Blood vs. Water rank all-time? I guess you’ll have to look at my updated rankings.

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“A charging horse”: Survivor Blood vs. Water December 15 2013 Season Finale Recap

19 Dec

Hayden trudges to Redemption Island and notes “getting voted out sucks.” He’s never experienced this, since he won the season of
“Big Brother” that he was on. But of course he can get back into the game if he beats Laura and Tina at the duel.

The duel involves putting one’s foot on one end of a seesaw contraption (pciture a seesaw that can also rotate left and right). On the other end is a vase, and balancing it is not easy. Fifteen minutes in, Hayden rubs his eye, perhaps losing a bit of concentration, and his vase falls and he’s out of the game. Laura tells Tina “Let me have it, please.” Tina replies, “No way, sister! I love ya but this is a million dollar challenge, honey.” Thirty minutes in, both women are in obvious pain and have lost and regained their balance a couple of times. Finally Laura’s vase drops!

Thus, Hayden and Laura throw their buffs in the fire and exit, the latter after getting confirmation that her daughter Ciera is proud of her. Incidentally, I have no idea if this was new or if I spent 20-plus seasons overlooking it, but the buffs actually each have a logo on them that says “Buff!”

In my previous post, I painstakingly worked out what every combination of jury would likely vote with every combination of finalists. To keep the permutations somewhat in check, I made the logical assumption that Tina would be on the jury and couldn’t possibly beat two challenge monsters in Hayden and Laura. Oops!

The remaining players soon have to participate in the second-to-last challenge of the season. It involves setting blocks upright on a wobbly table, then having to walk backwards quite a ways to get more blocks while holding onto the rope that steadies the table. It’s difficult, and everyone has all of their blocks fall down more than once. But Tyson triumphs.

Tyson tells the camera “I’m not gonna celebrate because I’m not done.” But he says he wants to keep his immunity idol to give to his girlfriend! He wouldn’t be that foolish, would he? Remember, this is the last point in the game at which an idol can be used.

Tyson, Gervase, and Monica now have to debate whether they want to vote out Ciera or Tina. Gervase advocates Ciera: she made a big move that might impress the jury, she’s a young mother who should get some sympathy, and unlike Tina, she hasn’t already won a million dollars. Monica wants to vote Tina out, because not one person currently on the jury was voted out by Tina. What comes next is surprising to me: Monica says she’s tired of being bullied by Tina. Monica seems like just about the toughest woman around, so this is a surprising accusation indeed.

Obviously Tina and Ciera won’t get anywhere voting two-against-three, so they make a pitch to Monica… who signals she’s willing to vote Gervase out! Ciera gives the same spiel as she did previously: You would show your kids how admirable you are, etc. etc. At tribal council Monica tells everyone that this is all about her, and that this Tribal is her big strategic move (!).

Everyone votes, and Jeff notes that this is the last night an idol can be played, and does anyone want to play one? Cut to a commercial, arrgh! (Not quite as agonizing when you’re watching it on TiVo, but still). After the word from our sponsor, Tyson reaches into his bag and wordlessly hands the idol to Gervase, who plays it. Jeff reads the votes. There are two for Gervase that don’t count, and … two for Ciera. That’s enough, and she is out of the game. But what about Monica’s vote? It’s revealed during Ciera’s confessional that Monica did indeed vote for Ciera also.

Of course, Monica’s paranoia knows no bounds. She says “I walked away from tribal council blindsided,” i.e. that Tyson and Gervase didn’t trust her enough not to use the idol. What is with this woman, she’s so annoying! My gosh, if you spend all of tribal council talking about your strategic move and how it’s all about you, that’s not a show of unity! The guys would have been utter fools not to play the idol.

So you could say that Tyson didn’t really need his idol either time he played it… on the other hand, the fact that Monica knew Tyson had the idol most likely helped Tyson.

Soon it’s time for the final challenge, and alas there is no “Fallen Comrades” tribute along the way this season. The final challenge appears to be nothing new: go down a slide, collect bags, solve a puzzle, ho hum. However, one part was kind of cool: as part of the puzzle the players, had to know the number of steps in the stairway, so Tyson had to venture back into that part of the challenge even though he was almost done. It could have added a lot of extra drama to the final stretch if anyone had been close to him.. but nobody really was, and Tyson wins!

So Tina’s only shot is now to try and get Monica to vote with her and force a 2-2 tie. In the round of four, drawing rocks is no longer used as a tiebreaker, instead there is a fire-making challenge, and Tina thinks she could beat Gervase in the finals now. Surely Monica can’t be foolish enough to take Tina to the finals, for the reasons Monica herself enumerated earlier? Anyway, once again tribal council is largely about Monica. Probst asks Gervase before the vote if big moves at this late stage could sway a jury, and shockingly, Gervase says yes! You’d think he’s want to discourage Monica from any such thing!

Still, Monica does not switch things up. Tina is voted out, and afterwards she says she would have won the game if they had kept her. I definitely agree.

Time for the tribal council with the final three of Tyson, Gervase, and Monica.

Vytas says “Tyson, the name of the game is to get before you get got, and you definitely did that.”

Katie asks Tyson about his incredibly jerky moment when she was voted out: you’ll recall he acted like he was going to hug her, then pointed to the jury area and said “there’s your chair.” Tyson says he’s sorry and that this was his one regret of the game.

Caleb asks Gervase what his game-changing move supposedly was: Gervase says it was voting out Aras (i.e. Gervase played a bigger role in the decision than people think, according to him).

Interspersed between all of this is jury member after jury member saying to Monica some version of “I don’t feel I really know you, and can you show some vulnerability for a change?” I find this really weird. My gosh, the woman was in tears at every tribal council near the end of the season! Plus, even after one questioner had asked this, others said the exact same thing! Maybe they couldn’t think of anything else at short notice.

When it’s Hayden’s turn, he asks Tyson if he already had the idol when they drew rocks (yes). And by the way, where the heck was it? (Tyson tells him). And then Hayden… starts in on Monica with the same line of questioning everybody else used! She can’t take it any more and just cries, “Have you all never met a nice person?”

Finally Aras is up. Refreshingly, he seems to have no major axe to grind. Instead, he asks each of the players who played the best game (and of course they’re not allowed to say themselves). Gervase picks Tyson: he had great awareness in his social game. Monica picks Tyson: he won the last two immunities when he absolutely had to, plus “He was a charging horse for 39 days.” Tyson picks … Monica! “She always wanted everyone to think she was on the bottom.” Now, this choice of Tyson’s clearly infuriates Gervase. How can he not pick his buddy? But Tyson, going last, had a moment to think about it, and surely the best move was to plug whoever was unlikely to steal votes away. The tone of the questioners revealed hostility toward Monica, so he was safe in pumping up Monica.

The only two votes we are shown are Caleb voting for Tyson and Vytas voting for Monica. What, none for Gervase, my pick to win it all?

Alas, this was not one of the seasons where Jeff Probst is shown hopping some death-defying macho-man-type transportation to get himself and the urn full of votes to the reunion show site. Bummer. At the reunion, Gervase has a suit on, while Tyson wears a shirt that is so Tyson: a T-shirt with a tuxedo pattern printed on it. One vote is for Monica…. and the rest are for Tyson! What a rare thing, the jury actually voted for the best player!

So this means Vytas was the only person to vote for Monica, and Tyson even got the vote of Katie who he was a jerk to. Perhaps Gervase’s trash-talking earlier in the season caught up with him. One of the few things I got right in my predictions was that going to the finals with these two was a bad combination for Gervase:

Duo to avoid taking: Monica and Tyson! Yes, those two are part of his core alliance of three. But in that trio he is neither the one who played the best game (Tyson is) nor can he claim to be the one whose “hands are the cleanest” (Monica is) or the best challenge competitor (again Monica).

At the reunion, Tyson says in his inimitable style, “other times i played I’ve had brain farts.” Not much else of interest happens. I was hoping Probst would ask Monica how she felt when she found out that all of the  mean things Tyson and Gervase had supposedly said were really all made up by Hayden and Ciera! He didn’t ask, so perhaps I’ll never know.

Probst closes by announcing that the theme of next season will be Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty. Interesting!

So where does this season rank all-time? Well, I’ll be back as soon as I can with that and some other final thoughts.

Handicapping the Survivor Blood vs. Water finale: shocking prediction!

12 Dec

In computer-like fashion I decided to look at every possible combination of players and jury members at Sunday’s finals and predict the votes in each scenario, to see who has the best overall chance to win!

OK, there was one small cheat: I assumed for this purpose that Tina will definitely be on the jury and not back in the game. Since she would have to finish a challenge ahead of both Laura and Hayden who are fantastic challenge competitors, I think this is a pretty safe assumption to make.

Let’s get right to it.

#1 contender: HAYDEN. Out of the 20 possible combinations of players at the finals I have him winning 7 1/2 of them (1/2, you ask? Well, some of my predictions came out as ties).

Duo to try to take: Tyson and Gervase or Tyson and Monica. Either way, Hayden is up against Tyson’s alliance, who much of the jury is mad at, without another “sympathetic” person to steal away votes.

Duo to avoid taking: Gervase and Laura. With this combination he gets neither the votes of Tyson and Monica, nor the vote of Ciera, and probably not Katie and Tina either.

Of course, there’s one other major roadblock for Hayden: he’s on Redemption Island and needs to beat both Tina and Laura in the next duel. Otherwise he’s out of the game.

#2 contender: CIERA. Not that I think she played that great a game, because I don’t. But the makeup of the jury will be very favorable to her.

Duo to try to take: Tyson and Monica. In this scenario, it’s possible the only vote she wouldn’t get would be that of Gervase!

Duo to avoid taking: Hayden and Tyson. She wouldn’t get the votes of Monica or Gervase of course, and the I-hate-Tyson club would have a better alternative in Hayden.

#3 contender: GERVASE. Of course he has been #1 in my rankings for most of this year. And luckily he has a higher likelihood of actually making the finals than either of the two I have ranked in front of him.

Duo to try to take: I don’t see him running away with a vote in an scenario, but his best chance might be to go with Monica and Laura. I’m banking on the idea here that Aras and Vytas don’t particularly care for either of those two women.

Duo to avoid taking: Monica and Tyson! Yes, those two are part of \his core alliance of three. But in that trio he is neither the one who played the best game (Tyson is) nor can he claim to be the one whose “hands are the cleanest” (Monica is) or the best challenge competitor (again Monica).

And yes, I am saying that it would behoove Gervase to betray his alliance if he wants to win the game (but he’d have to do it in a way that Tyson and Monica would vote for him anyway).

#4 contender: MONICA.

Duo to try to take: Gervase and Tyson, for sure. Most of the people who have beefs with them have no beef with her, and there would be no alternative for the anti-Tyson crowd.

Duo to avoid taking: Tyson and either Laura, Hayden, or Ciera. In each case, she would neither be the person who played the best game, nor the person people like the most.

#5 contender: LAURA. Of course, she has to win the duel to get back in the game first.

Duo to try to take: Tyson and Monica. The people who were ousted by Tyson could be bitter, and Laura has more friends on the jury than Monica does.

Duo to avoid taking: Gervase and Ciera. Laura could well split votes with her own daughter (and lose), and people don’t seem to be as bitter at Gervase as they are at Tyson.

#6 contender: TYSON??? What the?? Why is the best player in the game ranked last? Well, it’s because lately juries haven’t been picking the best player to win, they have been holding grudges and voting for their friends. Tyson engineered a few ousters, and is also not the most likable guy in the world.

Duo to try to take: Gervase and Laura. Even this is far from a sure thing. But he can argue that he was the man in charge in his alliance and thus outplayed Gervase, and I think the people on the jury (other than Ciera) don’t have the warmest of warm feelings about Laura.

Duo to avoid taking: Gervase and Hayden. Seriously: since Monica would vote for Gervase in this scenario, is there one vote Tyson could be sure of getting?

Last year this number-crunching scenario accurately predicted the winner in Cochran. I hope that gives me some shred of credibility.

“Mad crap”: Survivor Blood vs. Water December 11 2013 recap

11 Dec

Five players are left (not counting the ones on Redemption Island) as we begin the episode.

Katie goes to Redemption Island and fills in Tina and Laura on the events of tribal council. Tina suggests letting Katie finish ahead of her in the upcoming duel, though this would be a very silly move as Tina has a much better chance to win the game than Katie does.

Meanwhile, the players in the “real” game are still recovering from drawing rocks at tribal council. Monica is very pleased that Gervase and Tyson stuck with her, when they could easily have switched the vote to be against her in the third round to avoid the risk of drawing rocks. However, Monica immediately starts presenting paranoid scenarios to Tyson and Gervase. What if Ciera or Hayden has the hidden immunity idol? Seeing a total freak-out coming on, Tyson tells her that he has the idol. And now the easily-offended Monica is offended that he didn’t tell her earlier!

The challenge at Redemption Island involves tying sticks together in a makeshift pole to try and snag some keys hanging on rings. This has become a standby of almost every, if not every, recent season. As the start of the challenge Tina yells out advice to Katie, though of course Laura can hear it too. Laura wins, Tina is second, and Katie is out of the game.

Monica and Gervase talk and reaffirm their trust in each other. They hug, and Monica says “I have loved you from Day One”(!). Meanwhile, Hayden and Ciera have their backs against the wall. They have determined that the possible crack in the other alliance is Monica, and they resolve to tell her every lie in the book about bad things Tyson and Gervase have supposedly said. Hmm, as paranoid as Monica is, that seems like a good strategy…

This season has had a few challenges that involved water, but sadly no memorable ones. This one starts in the water, but like so many, ends in a puzzle. The contestants are told they need to arrange the letters to form a classic Survivor phrase, which turns out to be “You are going to have to dig deep.” Classic Survivor phrase? More like tired Jeff Probst shtick.

The challenge is won by Ciera, and she also gets the reward of a feast that one person can join her on. Maybe it would have been smart to pick Monica here? But she picks Hayden.

Later, Ciera gets some alone time with Monica and says of Tyson and Gervase, “They are talking mad crap about you.” Ciera reels off anything she can come up with that she thinks will make Monica feel insulted, all of which is made up.

At tribal council, Hayden and Ciera both continue hammering away in this vein, and Hayden continues with his theme of “Tyson is running the show.” Gervase has a good rejoinder: “So who’s running your alliance? You?”

Hayden tries logic, telling Monica flat-out “Gervase and Tyson have played a superior game to you,” meaning she would have no chance against them in the finals. Then he and Ciera really start laying it on thick about how proud of Monica Brad and her children would be. I think I saw Monica’s B.S. detector finally kick in near the end of that.

It would be foolish of Monica to believe any of the fiction Ciera is throwing at her. But I asked myself, those lies aside, what’s Monica’s best move in the game? I do think it’s to stick with Tyson and Gervase. Simply because Monica is nobody’s favorite person, so her best bet is to find someone people dislike even more. Gervase has talked his share of trash and Tyson can be a jerk too, so they qualify much more than Hayden and Ciera.

As it turns out, Monica stays true to the guys, and Hayden is voted out. This is doubly bad for Ciera: not only does she lose her only ally, but Hayden is a strong challenge competitor who could very well beat her mother Laura at the next Redemption Island duel.

Favorites to win: 1) Gervase, 2) Tyson, 3) Monica, 4) Laura, 5) Hayden, 6) Tina

No-chance list: Ciera.

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Aras (Tina), Vytas (Tina), Caleb (Hayden), Katie (Tina)

“They tried to do us dirty first”: Survivor Blood vs. Water December 4 2013 recap

4 Dec

With his ally Caleb out of the game, Hayden wastes no time beginning his campaign to save his bacon. As soon as everyone is back at camp, he proclaims Tyson the sure winner. Of course, Tyson did something similar earlier in the season by constantly saying Aras was running the show, but that was much more subtle. When Hayden harps on this too much, Gervase jumps up… not to leap to Tyson’s defense but to let everyone know that he, Gervase, played the key role in all of Tyson’s moves!

We go to Redemption Island, which a long camera shot makes clear is not an island at all. Jeff Probst notices that Caleb isn’t making eye contact with anyone, and Caleb mentions that in the South, one keeps one’s word, unlike in Utah and Philadelphia. For the .01% of America that missed this being a reference to Tyson and Gervase, Probst points it out and tries to stir up further ill will. Gervase notes that Caleb and Hayden “tried to do us dirty first” (which is absolutely true!) and he and Tyson just beat them to it.

The challenge is a house-of-cards building competition which seems like it’s used every season. Laura finishes first in fairly short order. With just a minute or two left, Tina sees Caleb pull away for an obvious victory. Well, Caleb is from Alabama, and as one of that state’s football teams found out last week, there’s a difference between a likely win and a sure win. It turns out Caleb’s tall column is quite crooked, and it collapses. Katie tells Tina not to even work on her house of cards anymore, good advice since there’s only a minute to go, no time for Caleb to catch her from scratch.

But before Caleb leaves the game, Probst has to say what all of America has been thinking all season long: “Your relationship with Colton … is still a mystery to me.” When Caleb replies the two of them are very different (yes, I’d say a nice guy and an odious human being are different) but also similar in some ways. Probst pounces: “In what ways are you similar with Colton?” Caleb replies “We’re both guys.”

Laura, who is the clear favorite to be the one from Redemption to make it back into the game, says Ciera should be the one to get the clue to the location of the new hidden immunity idol. Ciera opts to keep the clue… which means she might actually have a chance to make some noise in the remainder of the game. Great! But she… shares the clue with her entire alliance? I can’t believe I’m even typing this, it’s so dumb. Gervase and Tyson can’t believe their luck, of course. The three of them, along with Monica, go hunting for the idol. Hayden and Katie spy on them and try looking in the same area.

Well, what do you know: Tyson finds it. It seems pretty foolish to go on Survivor wearing pants that have no pockets, but that’s what he did, so he shoves the idol down the front of his pants, explaining that a bulge in that area would not be seen as unusual. Groan.

The immunity challenge, or at least the first stage of it, involves walking through a course balancing a ball at the end of a pole that gets longer and longer. Gervase wins the challenge as well as an ice cream reward, and per the usual practice is allowed to pick someone to join him. In a genius move, he chooses Monica, helping to solidify that alliance. He gets to choose one more person and picks Tyson.

Earlier, Hayden had spoken to Gervase about possibly blindsiding Tyson (and counting on Katie and Ciera to join in). Gervase said he’d consider it, but only if Hayden could really deliver Ciera’s vote. While the three winners eat their ice cream, Hayden puts a recruiting pitch on Ciera, and it certainly would make sense for her to join with him! He notes, “You have to have a resume to win, and you have to have said you made a big move.” Ciera says that would just get them to a 3-3 tie. Frustrated, Hayden awkwardly yells out to Tyson that he’s trying to convince everyone to blindside him.

Hayden hasn’t given up on Ciera. At tribal council, he points out over and over that Ciera is nothing more than the #4 person in an alliance of four. She appears to have it dawn on her that this is true, even though it was blindingly obvious to everyone else all along. Hayden stresses that Tyson is calling all the shots, though Tyson points out that he, Tyson, is not the one who voted Ciera’s mother out, but Caleb and Hayden have both written Ciera’s name down previously. Gervase says going with Hayden and Katie would be going with “backstabber, backstabber, liar, liar.”

It’s time to vote. When Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol, Tyson keeps a poker face.

Well, obviously Ciera ended up agreeing with Hayden, as it’s 3-3 (with Monica, not Tyson, getting the votes from Hayden, Ciera, and Katie just in case Tyson found the idol). Per usual procedure, there’s a re-vote. Hayden and Monica can’t vote and nobody but them can be voted for. Ciera doesn’t change, and it remains 2-2. Now there’s a phase I had never seen before: namely the remaining players get an opportunity to unanimously agree who will be voted out. They have strong incentive to do so, because if they can’t agree one of the remaining players has to leave the game in a random draw. Tyson wants to talk things over, but Katie and Ciera insist that they want to draw rocks. So here we have it, just the second drawing of rocks in the history of Survivor!!!!!!!!! Wow!

And remember: Gervase still has an immunity idol around his neck. So the only people drawing rocks are Katie, Ciera, and Tyson. The two black rocks stay, the white one is out. And the white rock is drawn by… Katie. She gets up to leave, and Tyson gives her a hug… but then says “that’s your chair over there,” pointing to the jury. Why insult someone whose vote you’re going to need?

Ciera thinks of herself as a good player, but she really has no reason to do so. If she’d entertained voting out Tyson in the first place she might be on the right side of the numbers now, instead she lost an ally so it’s just her and Hayden (and even he has no reason to really trust her). Plus she had the clue to an idol all to herself, but now Tyson has the idol! Oh brother. I think she has no chance to win, but I do think she has a great chance to get to the finals. I’m sure everyone thinks they have a great chance to win against her.

With Katie out of the game (OK, she’s only on Redemption Island, but I give her no chance to win a duel), Hayden would seem to have a good chance at three jury votes. So I have to move him past Tyson in my rankings.

Favorites to win: 1) Gervase, 2) Hayden, 3) Tyson, 4) Monica, 5) Laura, 6) Tina

No-chance list: Katie, Ciera.

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Aras (Tina), Vytas (Tina), Caleb (Hayden)