Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can
“You can’t let these emotional things distract you too much out of the game. You have to keep your focus.” – Laura Morett, Survivor: Samoa
So Ciera blindsided her mom. Wow.
The hype-y premise of Survivor: Blood vs. Water was: Will family members stab each other in the back for a million dollars?
But we all knew that would never happen.
We watched contestants trip over themselves to help their loved ones on the other tribe. We saw Rupert sacrifice himself for his wife, Laura. Hayden manipulated Kat into not swapping on Redemption Island.
But nobody was really going to vote out their loved one – right? For all the chatter about Vytas and Aras battling through their fraternal issues (and how awkward was it when Jeff Probst forced them to have a “moment”?), the two brothers couldn’t wait to team up.
Then Ciera wrote down “Mom” on the parchment and sent Laura to Redemption Island.
Ciera sounded pretty convincing when she explained herself. Laura was a threat, and they were the last pair left. If Ciera didn t turn on Laura, “she ll be voted out, and I m going to go next.” Why ruin two games?
Or to translate that into Rebellious Teen: “If my cool new friends see me with my mom, they re not going to want to hang out anymore!”
Ciera believes that by lying low, she can coast into the finals. So far, she s done an excellent job, dodging bullets since the first Tribal Council.
Now her mom was ruining everything! “If you weren t in the game right now, I know I d be in the final three,” Ciera said.
Laura, however, asked the critical question: “Would you win?”
As she explained to her daughter, “They would take you to the final three because they know they can beat you.”
Here s the thing. Laura has the invaluable and irreplaceable experience of playing the game, then coming home to watch herself on television.
One of the first things that everybody realizes as they watch themselves on Survivor is that they wish they had made bigger, better moves. When you re in the game, and every day is a struggle, just going deep seems like a victory. Let the chips fall where they may at final Tribal!
When you re back home, however, players see how foolish that strategy was. They realize they should have taken ownership of their destiny. That s why returning players are so frantic to make big moves.
Ciera wouldn t listen. “I ve proven to be the better player,” she says. Translation: “Mom just doesn t get it.”
Laura, desperate to graft a positive narrative onto her daughter s impending betrayal, convinced herself that this was all about Ciera s growth. “The fact that my daughter has the courage to say that to me shows that she s grown into a woman,” Laura wept.
But by fixating on her daughter s game, Laura sacrificed her own. She knew that she and Ciera could be a powerful force. “We re two votes,” she said. “We hold the power in the game.”
Two locked votes can be strategically decisive. Could the Moretts make a side deal with Monica, or petition Caleb to target Tyson?
We ll never know, because they didn t even try.
Ciera was unwilling to contemplate using their power. “Avoid any strategy conversation with anyone,” she instructed. Committed to embracing Ciera s game, Laura kept quiet.
When Tyson told Ciera that Laura was the target, Ciera made a half-hearted attempt to switch the votes onto Katie. Credit where it s due, she did a great job of sniffing out Katie s lie.
But she caved, and voted against her own mother.
The Fishy goes to Tyson, of course, for duping everybody. Tyson is taking ownership of his destiny.
He could be in trouble next episode, if the preview is to be believed but it usually isn t.