Over the coming months, Inside Survivor is undertaking its biggest list ranking yet, as we count down the 100 best episodes of Survivor ever. As always with these kinds of lists, it’s entirely subjective, and we’re sure many fans will have different opinions. This is simply Inside Survivor’s ranking. Join us each weekday for a new entry.
Season: Blood vs. Water
Episode: “One Armed Dude and Three Moms” (Episode 4)
Originally Aired: October 9, 2013
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Brad Culpepper lives for the drama, whether he wants to act above it or not. There’s a reason so many contestants had a visceral reaction to being ousted by him. The former NFL player is cocky, he’s pompous, and he’s bombastic. It’s no surprise then that his boot in the fourth episode of Survivor: Blood vs. Water is so complex and entertaining that it’s still remembered and put on this countdown today.
The episode kicks off with the recently eliminated John Cody and his wife Candice insulting Brad left and right, using him as their scapegoat to why they are currently on Redemption Island and not in the game. Candice, at this point a Survivor veteran, notes that Brad wouldn’t be rude or shush a man who “is bigger than him (John) and [could] beat his ass.” It’s an exciting opening full of emotion and personal investment that reveals just how these Redemption Island inhabitants feel about Brad and the way he’s playing the game.
This personal animosity carries through into the Redemption duel, where Candice, John, Brad, and Monica Culpepper argue back and forth over who is responsible for sending people to Redemption. Candice even flips Brad the bird. John and Candice go on to beat Marissa Peterson in the duel, but the battle with the Culpeppers is far from over. After finishing first, John is able to give an idol clue to a player still in the game, to which Candice suggests Monica, hoping it will put a target on her back. However, Brad urges Monica to burn the clue immediately without looking at it, which she does. It’s pure drama that makes the return of the Redemption Island twist worth it.
The eventual winner of the season, Tyson Apostol, also has some brilliant moments in this episode, with him exaggerating the extent of a shoulder injury in order to gain sympathy and support from his tribemates. This enables him to opt out of tasks around camp and eat more without having to put in any extra work. He also cements his alliance with Gervase Peterson here, which becomes pivotal in both men navigating the game. This episode truly jumpstarts Tyson’s mischievous yet lighthearted ability to disarm and work the tribe in a humorous way. He even plays in the Immunity challenge despite his injury, noting that he is “still better than everyone else on the tribe with one arm.”
Maybe Tyson is right because his tribe wins the challenge, forcing Brad’s tribe back to Tribal Council once again. Despite earlier toying with the idea of voting for Caleb Bankston, since he doesn’t have his loved one still in the game, Brad looks to be back on board with the men’s alliance, consisting of himself, Caleb, Hayden Moss, and Vytas Baskauskas. Between the two remaining women on the tribe, the vote seems to fall on Ciera Eastin. But Brad can’t help but complicate things as he tells Ciera and Katie Collins to vote for Caleb. While Brad tells the other guys that he’s voting for Ciera with them, there is a hefty dose of paranoia and suspicion heading into Tribal Council.
The real fireworks begin at Tribal after Brad admits that it would be easier to vote out someone without a loved one, thereby avoiding the backlash he’d been receiving from those at Redemption. Caleb’s ears perk up, and he calls out Brad for plotting against him, to which Brad vehemently denies. As Brad continues to dig his hole deeper, Caleb, having lost all trust in Mr. Culpepper, makes an incredible gut decision. Caleb openly tells Ciera and Katie to vote for Brad with him, leaving Hayden and Vytas to decide whether they want to join them or potentially go to rocks. It’s beautiful chaos that also foreshadows the rock draw later in the season.
Brad tries to de-escalate the situation by stating he is openly voting for Ciera, but Caleb has already made up his mind. As the tribe casts their votes, Caleb shows his vote for Brad to the camera, saying, “You mess with the bull, you get the horns.” It’s a real power-shifting moment in the season as a vote flipping live at Tribal Council like this is extremely rare. Jeff Probst reveals the votes, three for Ciera and three for Brad, meaning things are tied. At the revote, Vytas flips his vote, leading to Brad’s elimination and a trip to Redemption Island to spend the night with John and Candice—talk about poetic justice.
This is a thoroughly entertaining pre-merge episode that shows just how important being the “leader” can be in Survivor and how the power that comes with it can quickly ruin your game. Brad went from the top of the tribe to voted out the same episode, mainly due to his inability to please the right people. So for old time’s sake, let’s all blame Brad one last time.
Check back on Monday when we reveal which episode placed at number 72. You can check out the previous entries here.