1) DEAR ANDY: After fighting for my life for twelve days,
I walked into the Redemption Island arena feeling good about my chances to return to the game. But when I saw the challenge – Hold onto a pole? Are you %&$# kidding me? – I knew I was doomed. What do I do with these feelings of bitterness and anger? – DOC DONE WRONG
DEAR DOC: I understand your pain, John. But take comfort in the fact that you were doomed no matter what, thanks to the existence of pre-game alliances. As alternates who didn’t have an ‘in’ with the Old School Players or the One Worlders, you and Candice were going to be easy targets at each and every Tribal; it isn’t fair, but these days, Survivor never is.
Sadly, the final Redemption challenge made it clear that even the producers didn’t want you to stick around: assuming that the pole-gripping challenge was always planned as the pre-merge “get back in” battle, the fact that the producers didn’t switch it to something better suited to your skill set (strength, puzzles, surgery) makes it abundantly apparent that they wanted Laura back, not you.
Look on the bright side, though: You’re a shoo-in when Probst finally has his dream season… Survivor: ManCrush Island.
2) DEAR ANDY: Why is everyone giving me a hard time about meditating?
Didn’t they notice that I was getting my Om on in the early morning, but that Tyson was plotting my downfall later in the day? Have people already forgotten that I’ve won this game before, and that I know what I’m doing? – STILL THE KING
DEAR KING: You’re correct to point out that the Survivor editors had some fun at your expense, and that many writers – including yours truly – didn’t pick up on the time difference. In the end, though, the fact that Tyson’s treasonous conversation didn’t happen when you were off meditating really doesn’t matter; those daily retreats made that conversation possible.
As you well know, one of the key facets of Survivor is the web of connections spun as this self-destructing micro-society is built and toppled. Any sort of self-selected separation – as opposed to being pulled aside for confessionals – sends a message to the other members of your tribe, a message good players can manipulate to serve their own ends. To you, it was just meditating; to Tyson, it was “Look how superior Aras acts.” You were seeking balance; Tyson was spinning it as “He’s getting too comfortable.”
Any time away from camp creates moments when other players can bond – and those connections, made in your absence, inexorably led to alliances, which in turn gave rise to your assassination.
Perhaps your demise was inevitable – being a previous winner will do that – but I think you made it a little easier for Tyson to turn.
3) DEAR ANDY: My feelings are hurt.
Everyone thinks I strategize too much! And now I find out that Tyson would rather gouge out his eyes with a rusty spoon than listen to my worries and concerns. What gives? – HOT PEPPER
DEAR HOT PEPPER: You’re being edited as the third place finisher, that’s what.
Even though it sounded like a staggering social game error, Tina actually offered you the opportunity to be the fulcrum player who could choose which of the two couples would go to the end with you. Instead of taking her offer, you flipped over to an alliance that’s run by a guy who just blindsided one of the smartest winners the game has ever seen. And you want to sit next to him at the final three? (Alongside Gervase, who may well get to the end with far less blood on his hands than Tyson?)
Making matters worse, we got a long speech from Tyson about how annoying it is to talk game with you. I’m sure I’m not the only one who heard echoes of noted Survivor strategist Kat Edorsson’s confessional while Tyson talked: Both of them wanted you to simply “Shut up.” I wonder if we’ll hear something similar at the Final Tribal Council.
If you make it to Day 39, I will be impressed, given the rocky beginning to your game. But at this point, I don’t see how you can win. And I’m guessing that the FTC won’t be much fun for you if and when you get there.
4) DEAR ANDY: I’m so angry I could just spit on a rabid hillbilly!
I offered Monica a sweet Final 5 deal, but she decided that working with those #CoconutBandit hooligans was better for her game. And Tyson! What a piece of work! Doesn’t he understand that I’m supposed to go from first to worst to first, not get Pagonged? – MAD MOUNTAIN WOMAN
DEAR MAD: I have two suggestions for you, Tina.
First, the next time you restructure your alliance, do so clearly: “I’m NOT saying we’ll vote you out 5th – I’m saying you’re in the Final 5 (and at that point, you’ll bring Katie and me to the end, because who wants to sit next to a Baskauskas).”
Second, rather than yell at Tyson and insist that he won’t get any jury votes, commend him for his brilliant move and announce that if he gets to the end, he’ll win the million bucks, guaranteed. The former makes him a tempting goat; the latter guarantees he’ll get voted out at the first opportunity.
5) DEAR ANDY: I did everything right!
I threw the idol clue into the fire, I considered forgiving Aras for backstabbing me so that I could be a part of a majority alliance, and, after my daughter talked me down from a Hantz-related Samoa flashback, I stopped trying to over-strategize and helped blindside Aras. So why do I get the feeling that I’m about to get voted out? – THE ONLY LAURA LEFT
DEAR TOLL: There are three reasons you’ll be voted out soon: One, because you weren’t wise enough to accept the idol clue (you’re a double target anyway, as a Redemption returnee with her daughter in the game); two, because your tribemates are going to stock RI with challenge beasts so that you take each other out; and three, because the producers have been teasing a family betrayal for weeks, and Ciera is using confessional time to talk about why her game would be better without you around.
The good news? As a member of the jury, you might get to cast a vote for Ciera to win a million dollars. But you won’t want to, because she’ll be instrumental in your blindside.
6) DEAR ANDY: I was having a ton of fun with my friends, and then my mom showed up and crashed the party. – BUMMED OUT IN BLOOD VS. WATER
DEAR BUMMED OUT: Don’t worry, Ciera; you’ll get your revenge. The alliance you’re in is too big and too unstable; pretty soon, Tyson is going to ask you to sacrifice your mom as a sign that he can trust you. And you’ll do it – because they have the numbers without you anyway, and because (it’s okay, you can admit it) you really want to.
7) DEAR ANDY: What was with all that fratricide garbage in last week’s Dozen?
Eat it, English major – math rules! You say that you understand people, but if you did, you’d know that I would never betray my brother. – BASK(AUSKAS) IN MY AWESOMENESS
DEAR AWESOMENESS: Ah, but you should have, Vytas. Because you blindly believed that veteran players would allow both you and Aras to remain in the game, you’re now living on borrowed time. A shame, really; the game is far more interesting with you in it.
And you know what? One of you could defeat the other in the final post-merge Redemption Island challenge, bringing a natural narrative conclusion to the brother vs. brother storyline. Here’s hoping it happens.
8) DEAR ANDY: Has everyone forgotten that we’re on this season?
– CALEB, KATIE, AND HAYDEN
DEAR CALEB, KATIE, AND HAYDEN: Yep.
9) DEAR ANDY: It’s bad enough that I was around pre-merge, but now I’m back,
and someone is going to reenter the game at F5. I suck. – REDEMPTION ISLAND
DEAR RI: Agreed.
10) DEAR ANDY: Everyone keeps saying “Tyson this” and “Tyson that.”
What about me?! Bill Clinton was still president when I last played this game – and, yet, here I am, positioned to be an endgame factor. How about showing me some love? – CRANKY OLD MAN
DEAR CRANKY: Here’s some sugar for ya, Gervase: I’m picking you to win it all.
As proof, let me quote you verbatim: “You have to stay calm. Every second of every minute of every hour affects this game – it could change like THAT. So you have to be ready when it does and take advantage of it.”
That, my friends, is a winner’s quote.
You’re going to have to take out Tyson – perhaps at F5 (with the help of whoever returns from Redemption) – but if you pull that off, the title is yours, G.
11) Fortunes rising: Tyson.
By dethroning King Aras, he’s made his defining move of the season… and he has an idol. As episodes go, they don’t get much better. If his arm doesn’t betray him during the endgame immunity challenges – and if Gervase doesn’t marshal the forces against him – you can put Tyson’s name on the oversized check right now.
12) Fortunes falling: Katie.
After this past episode, Ciera has won the coveted, “Most Likely to Get to the End Without a Prayer of Winning” award. Katie was in contention, but she’s too closely linked to Tina who is linked to Aras who is linked to Redemption Island which is linked to Loser’s Lodge. You are right, Katie: “It’s a game, bitch.” And a cruel one.
13) Prediction time:
We’ve been told that it’s a double-boot episode – to repopulate Redemption Island – so here’s how I see this playing out:
** Vytas is sent to join his brother. He’s an individual immunity challenge threat, and this is the phase of the game where players like that are voted out. Yes, there are two tandems still in need of splitting, but they’re easy targets. And right now, the tribe needs Redemption Island to be packed with power players.
** Laura M – a challenge beast and part of a pair – is then betrayed by her alliance, her friends, and, worst of all, her daughter.
That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!
Andy Baker is a Survivor blogger who wants nothing more than to get a back rub from Jeff Probst the next time he's thinking about quitting his column. Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius