Even with the outsized attention paid to Colton's ragequit, this week's episode delivered the intended mix of conflict between strategy and emotion, particularly in the ratcheting up of hurt feelings at Redemption Island, and in the one-on-one conflicts of the reward/immunity challenge. It stumbled a bit towards the end, as several more interesting outcomes than the actual one were floated as Tribal Council decoys, but all in all, it worked.
The welcome airing of grievances at Redemption Island
One of the best changes to RI this season has been the requirement that both tribes, in full, attend the duels. Brad expressed shock and amazement that the duel participants have taken advantage of the opportunity to "air dirty laundry," but in fact, Russell Hantz did exactly that, in the second duel ever held at Redemption Island. The only difference is, instead of luck or strategy determining which four people get to witness the duelees' complaints, now everyone does. And this slight tweak to the format has absolutely paid off.
Not only does Tyson now get to angrily threaten the alliance that voted out Rachel (okay, mostly Brad), but we also get to see Monica enduring Marissa's "F*** you, Brad Culpepper!" tirade. Furthermore, we then see the disappointed, emotional Tyson and a slightly disgruntled Monica back in camp together, having to get along with each other. It's a completely new dimension to the social game that started with having pairs of players, and has actually been amplified and improved by Redemption Island.
Again, this was a simple ragequit. Colton can retroactively justify it with "I did it for Caleb" to his heart's content, but the simple fact is, if Colton had been in power in Galang, he'd still be playing. Instead, he realized he had no power, and rather than take Aras's advice to wait for a strategic opening to emerge, he quit.
Jeff Probst the Host took advantage of Colton's quit announcement to lay into him verbally, scoring points with his own ego, and with much of the audience, who weren't particularly thrilled to see Colton back again in the first place. Lest we forget, however, Jeff Probst the executive producer (and host) clearly facilitated hijacking a huge chunk of the One World reunion show for an extended attempt to rehabilitate Colton's image (featuring insights from both Colton's mom and Important CBS Actress Mayim Bialik). And then, mere months later, after seeing that Colton had matured all the way from a sheltered, pampered 21-year-old on One World to his grizzled, world-weary 22-year-old form in this season, put him right back on the show again. One World's reunion aired less than one year before the cast flew out for Blood vs. Water. That's some impressive maturation.
Probst went from telling Gordon Holmes "I can't imagine celebrating Colton and bringing him back" after Colton's One World medevac episode aired, to straight-facedly informing Dalton Ross "I like it that Rupert and Colton can stay in the game a little longer [because of Redemption Island]" just one year later. Great choices, all around. Here's a helpful hint: If someone as entertaining as Skupin or Gervase has to wait upwards of 12 years to play again, maybe you should consider taking a longer break between appearances for unpopular hotheads.
Whacking people with pillows - fun for all ages!
It's weird how evenly matched, age-wise, the bouts in the RC/IC were... except for the ones involved in next week's title: The one-armed guy and three moms. Brad/Gervase: 44/43; Ciera/Kat: 24/23; John/Aras: 30/31; Vytas/Aras: 33/31. Yes, Hayden/Tyson was a 26/34 disparity that ended in Tyson's injury, but the real story was the walloping the three older women gave the youngsters. Laura B (44) vs. Katie (25)? Laura wins. Laura M. (43) vs. her daughter, Ciera (24)? Mom wins. Tina (52, not 60, as John claimed) vs. her daughter, Katie (25)? Another win for mom. Don't make mom come back there!
Whacking people with pillows - let the tears flow!
We were skeptical at first, but the time the show has put into developing Aras and Vytas's backstory led to a truly great sequence during their reward/immunity challenge bout. By acknowledging both their lingering rivarly/grudges and their enduring fraternal love, the post-bout interviews with Aras and Vytas were one of the best parts of the episode, because it highlighted the inherent conflict in the season's format: a mostly internal struggle between rational play, competitiveness, and familial, emotional thinking. Obviously an area the show rarely touches on, but great to explore. Equally rewarding was the final bout of the challenge, in which Laura Morett took on her daughter, Ciera. Laura's tears before battling Ciera seemed a bit odd (would a father-son bout have had the same effect?), until it became clear that Laura was concerned that winning might result in Tadhana booting Ciera. Again, the show included the post-bout hug between mother and daughter, in which Laura made sure Ciera was okay. Completely non-standard Survivor fare allowed by the new format, all of which worked.
Whacking people with pillows - still totally unfair!
Despite the great moments the show reaped from this challenge, the forced gender-specific matchup format was completely unfair. For all their boasting of their all-important brawn, the men of Tadhana each only had to compete once (and Caleb didn't compete at all). In contrast, Katie and Ciera, who drew the brunt of Brad's scorn for their lack of success, both had to battle twice. True, they ended up losing all four bouts, but still, they made far more of an effort than Caleb did. Which brings us to...
The curious case of Caleb Bankston
Caleb has led something of a charmed life on Tadhana. After (with Katie and Ciera) surrendering a hard-won lead in the opening episode's puzzle leg, he has since "participated" in two straight challenges without actually doing anything in either of them. Yet every time potential vote targets come up, his name is never mentioned. Fully half the Tadhana tribe (Brad, John, Ciera, Katie) were considered this episode, but not Caleb. Why?
It's hard to know, because the edit has almost completely ignored him. He almost never gets confessionals, nor is he called on much at Tribal Council. Now, to be fair, as a guy who grew up in the country (and as an alleged farmer), it's plausible he does a lot of work around camp that we haven't been shown. His pre-game interviewers, to a person, came away singing his praises. Maybe, as with Rick Nelson in South Pacific, he's a quiet, diligent worker who doesn't give particularly colorful confessionals, but everyone likes him. Even so, though, apart from the obvious fact that he's a penis-bearing member of the Five Guys alliance, why has he had what amounts to a free ride up to this point?
Foreshadowing: Tyson will take a licking this episode
Tyson, cruelly sharing life stories in front of Colton
I did NOT sign up for listening to people talk
Colton, angrily enjoying a sunrise
Don't tell me how to play, Aras Baskauskas. Just because you won, that makes you an expert? Someone gave me an idol once.
Rachel talks, Marissa listens. Candice silently plots her path to challenge domination.
Now would be a sweet time for a metal cupcake.
What, now I'm the bad guy, just for voting out all the girls?
Come on, some of the other people here also voted you out
Fuck you, Brad Culpepper!
Oh my! I would never say something like that at Redemption Island! Not until next week, anyway!
Excuse me, can I have some attention? Please?
Dude, I JUST got done telling the press how much you've grown, not four days ago.
That does it, I'm shutting down the government until you guys meet my demands
You're doing what, now?
Redemption Island: The land of 'Aw's
The end of an error
Now... on to a scintillating dominoes marathon!
Rachel refuses to stoop to Candice and Marissa's level
Don't drop your stack
Good news, John: soon you'll be able to tell her in person
Candice wins again!
Thanks a lot, Brad Culpepper!
Sundra vs. Becky, 2.0
Great, 45 minutes in, and now my fingers are stuck this way
This one's for you, Brad Culpepper!
Return to Aws
That was quick
For me? You shouldn't have
Well, this is a bit awkward
It's funny when people cry
Pretty sweet way to wear a buff
Hug you, Brad Culpepper's wife!
Wait... is it me? Nah.
No time for self-reflection. We have melons.
At this rate, the Ep6 clue will be a 50-foot scroll
I hope this idol clue won't come between us, like, say, this dipping rod
Am I missing something in your body language, Brad? You're on board, right? We're tight?
Galang enjoys the sound of beating their loved ones, physically
Spoiler alert: all three of these people win their bouts
If I can't beat Vytas legitimately, I'm totally gonna pants him in front of America
I would like to see you try, Aras
You guys, I have NFL experience here: if you're not gonna win, grab the other guy's facemask
Old Brad's still got it, Vytas. Come on, I can take ya.
Wanna know what you're playing for? Bruises, possibly a sling or two.
Galang, pre-challenge lecture
Tadhana, enjoying the looks of the comfort and fishing gear they won't be winning
Not quite the body slam Brad fantasized about.
Tina, desperately trying to hide her glee at watching Laura battle Katie
Laura B dispatches Katie
Tina, still super-excited as Aras loses to John
Ciera, blown off the platform as Kat exhales forcefully
The moment at which Tyson becomes the one-armed man
Whoa, did I do that? Sorry, bro.
It's in Dr. Ramona's contract to always appear on-camera in episodes in which Colton leaves
I still say those guys don't have a chance in Hell if I go to Redemption Island
Gervase, keeping a lid on it, as usual
Tina sends Katie on an over sea trip
I lost to my mom? Dang.
Vytas gets the drop on Aras
Aras gets the final word, however
Gervase being Gervase
Good thing Vytas is a dude, because John does not like women to extract anything positive from losing
Aras gets choked up after not choking
Laura M, not too into this whole 'Beat your daughter at work day' thing
Still, she sends Ciera seaward
Well, at least we tried harder than Caleb
Vytas receives the Culpepper glare
So we're set, right? Boot one of the girls. I've got an idol to find.
In the Culpepper household, lightbulbs make a 'bing' sound
We should absolutely vote out anyone who has access to two hidden idol clues
Hayden seems excited about blindsides. Seems Kat thought they were fun, too.
Oh Brad, you master of strategic subtleties
Hayden floats an alternate plan that nobody goes along with, including Hayden
As long as it ain't me!
The Ep3 Tadhana Tribal hike: aquatic backdrop
Tadhana tribe, Ep3 Tribal Council
If I just close my eyes, I can pretend they're not here
Why yes, I have two idol clues. What's your point?
Time to visit Candice
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Rachel Foulger
Exit interviews - Colton Cumbie