by Martin Holmes and Ian Walker
When the concept for Survivor: Blood vs. Water was first announced, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Returning players bringing along their loved ones, plus the return of Redemption Island had a lot of fans feeling skeptical about if this season could ever work, and with all of the new format changes one obvious question came to mind: would a player ever vote out their loved one? Surely nobody would ever vote out another person from their daily lives, somebody whom they love and cherish and could depend on in the high stakes game of Survivor.
From the opening heart-to-heart between mother and daughter, the episode does a great job building the will it/won’t it happen suspense until the final vote (Laura(Mom)) is flipped over. Both women play their part to perfection as well, with Ciera being the reluctant child who doesn’t want to vote her mom out but also wants to play to win, and Laura being the proud mom who admires her daughter for doing the difficult but right thing for her game.
Perhaps the best moment of the episode, though, and one far less remembered in the height of the mother/daughter dilemma, is Ciera’s idol lie. It is this move that cements Ciera as a crafty player with the expert ability to read an opponent. She quickly surmises that Katie Collins is lying about having the idol and gets her to admit her lie by confidently pretending to have the idol herself. Katie swiftly folds, and Ciera earns her credentials as a cunning Survivor player willing to make moves. Unfortunately, the idol lie doesn’t amount to anything substantial, and Ciera still faces the heartbreak of having to vote out her mother.
There is also a nice bit of foreshadowing to Ciera’s next big move – the upcoming rock draw – as the tribemates play a game with rocks in the shelter, with Ciera gleefully covering the rock in her hands.
Sure, the whole ordeal is a little melodramatic, but thankfully there’s a healthy dose of Tyson Apostol levity to help balance the episode out. This episode does a great job of showing the evolution of Tyson as a player. He delicately tries to tackle the Laura/Ciera problem from a position of power all while showcasing that classic Tyson wit viewers have come to expect from him. Stomping around the island as the big bad wolf, Tyson manages to blow Laura right out of the game, deftly avoiding any potential blowback with Ciera and proceeding to play the best game of Survivor of his life.