by Ian Walker
When Survivor first implemented the rock draw tiebreaker, first seen in Survivor: Marquesas, the show gave birth to the perfect tiebreak methodology they could have ever hoped. Sure, the idea of somebody being sent home purely because of random chance is divisive, to say the least, but a game mechanic like that is bound to cause drama and tension, which is what the show wants.
Just the possibility of a player’s fate in the game being decided by an odd-colored stone is enough to force people’s motivations to change, causing some of the biggest flip-flops in the history of the show. It seemed as if an actual rock draw would never occur since the first one, as the self-interested players involved in those kinds of situations would choose the safer course of action that would better guarantee their safety.
Survivor: Blood vs. Water had already been a very exciting season up until this point. The concept of throwing returning players and their loved ones into the same season turned out to be an unexpectedly fresh wrinkle in the game. While the theme of the season doesn’t necessarily play into this historic tribal council at the Final Six, it indirectly created a cast of hyper-competitive players. Start with an eclectic group of returning players, add in the loved ones, and top it off with a former Big Brother winner, and you’ve got a recipe for a group of players ready to play big and bold, and that’s exactly what happens at this tribal council.
Heading into this vote, Hayden Moss looked done. Up against a tight four-person alliance, he and Katie Collins had spent the entire episode looking for a crack, hoping one of the dominant players would budge even a little. The easiest person to target to join their cause was Ciera Eastin, herself being in a curious position of being a new player who was aligned with three returning players.
But, no matter how hard Hayden and Katie pressed her, Ciera would not move. This trio of veterans had done enough good work to ensure Ciera would stick with them, especially Tyson Apostol, who had convinced Ciera that it was Hayden who had initiated the hit on her mom, Laura Morett, a few rounds earlier, to cover up his involvement in that vote. Now, with what looked to be Hayden’s last tribal council looming, he had one last hail mary to throw to try to survive the night.
Not only is this tribal council historic because of the outcome, but because it also features fantastic moments of both suspense and humor. Hayden came into this tribal ready to play and put on one of the most impressive displays of verbal maneuvering ever seen on Survivor. He said all of the right things, pounding the point that Ciera was the number four person in her alliance, and if she wanted to have a shot at winning the game she needed to jump over to him and Katie and force a tie. This gambit prompted some great, over-the-top bravado from Gervase Peterson, the guy wearing the immunity necklace, as he blasted Hayden for his attempts to pull Ciera, proudly declaring “You’re going to be on the jury! Believe that!”
Tyson, who quickly realized the big mess Gervase was making, took a more even-handed approach, professing his loyalty and honesty to Ciera, desperate for her to cling to his side. All of the discourse eventually turned into Hayden and Tyson furiously pitching to her to come to their side while sitting on opposite sides of her. This entire back and forth between all of the players involved is supremely riveting because, as Jeff Probst perfectly described it, “this is where the game is won or lost.” Both sides knew that they were about to make a hugely important vote, and were desperately trying to be on the right side of it.
Then, amidst all of the break-neck conversing, came the perfect moment of levity. While trying to explain a comment he had made earlier, Hayden got into a little spat with Tyson over his diction. The dispute over Hayden’s choice of “rustle feathers” or “ruffle feathers” perfectly captured Tyson’s character. Here Tyson is, playing the best game of Survivor of his life, a potentially game-changing move on the line, and he still took the moment to make a witty and sarcastic comment with the dry sense of humor that’s been with Tyson since his beginning in Tocantins. Even with the pressure extremely high, Tyson can find the time to crack a joke.
So the voting commenced, complete with Gervase’s vote for “Haydone” and his fantastic confessional: “Don’t hate the players homie, hate the game. This isn’t Big Brother, this is Survivor, we do things different here. You’re about to get a lesson in how to play the game.” The votes came in, and it was a deadlocked tie, Ciera had officially flipped, and the rest is history.
Gervase, wearing immunity, Hayden, and Monica Culpepper, the two people voted for, became immune, while Tyson, Ciera, and Katie had to draw rocks. In the end, Katie picked the bad rock and was promptly snuffed out, but not without some parting words from Tyson. As he hugged her goodbye, Tyson pointed to the jury and whispered to Katie “that’s your chair over there. One of those.” Not a good look on Tyson to end the night, but after what he’d been through, it was easy to understand why he might be a little lippy.
This vote instantly went down in the history books as one of the most exciting tribal councils of all time, proving that every moment counts until that torch is snuffed, and, if you’re good enough, you might just make something happen.