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Recap: Culpepper the 'Survivor' swing vote

Will this scene be repeated in the finale? Tampa's Monica Culpepper appears to be in a tight alliance of 3-2 heading into Sunday's finale


Will this scene be repeated in the finale? Tampa's Monica Culpepper appears to be in a tight alliance of 3-2 heading into Sunday's finale



You can’t quite call it the Final 4 yet, but you might as well as Survivor: Blood vs. Water heads to Sunday’s finale with Tampa’s own Monica Culpepper looking like she’s in a great position to face off in the end to win $1 million.

There are four players left in the game and another three over at Redemption Island, only one of whom will make it back into the game. Meanwhile, Monica, Tyson and Gervase continue their tight alliance despite last-minute attempts to tattle on all the mean things Tyson has been saying about Monica behind her back. Hayden and Ciera made a mighty attempt to get her to flip. She admitted it hurt her feelings to hear what had been said about her, which makes us wonder how in the heck she’s taking all the Twitter hate heaped on her husband, ex-Buccaneer Brad Culpepper who joined her in the show’s first try at pairing veteran Survivor players with loved ones.

The two-hour finale is Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS, followed by a live reunion show hosted by Jeff Probst.

So let's get into this episode, with a mother-daughter battle and Monica Culpepper put in the awkward spot of swing vote, which meant she was told horrible and embarrassing things being said about her in order to manipulate her. Was I the only once wincing as they used the mean-girl strategy to swing her vote?

The first order of business was Redemption Island with puzzle master Laura against mother Tina and daughter Katie. And we get an old standby of a challenge. In fact, CBS last night tweeted that the Jail Break challenge of assembling a pole to retrieve keys to open a door is the only duel that has been performed on every Redemption Island. Yawn. Laura wins it. (Note to self: Offer to write Laura Morett's resume for her. Under skills: "Able to complete any puzzle anywhere even when starving on a desert island")

After an awkward and totally passive-aggresssive "Katie, are you okay with this?" veteran Tina pretty much couldn't help but best her daughter. Still, I got a big lump in my throat after that speech from Tina to her daughter about what she meant to her. And I couldn't help but think how this family would soon be rocked just a few months later.  Tina's  son and Katie's brother Taylor Lee Collins was killed in a horrific car crash on Dec. 3. The 25 year old was ejected from the front seat of a vehicle when the car he was riding in went off the road in Chattanooga, Tenn., and rammed into a wall. Earlier this week, Tina tweeted thanks for the outpouring from fans of the show, "Wow such luv!! I have cherished each and every word from you all. In honor of Taylor please buckle up.He would be with us if he had"

Back to the game. The challenge is to retrieve some letters from out in the water and get back and assemble a "classic" Survivor phrase which turns out to be  “You are going to have to dig deep” as the puzzle answer. Umm, what? Sure, we've heard Jeff say that but it's no "The tribe has spoken."

Ciera wins the challenge, finally showing she can solve a puzzle and for her food reward oddly picks Hayden to feast with her instead of Monica who she will soon be trying to convince should flip her long-held alliance and join with the now very-well-fed Hayden and Ciera.

This is where the game got ugly, in my opinion. In order to sway Monica, Ciera and Hayden revealed to her that Tyson had been saying some really rude things about her. The look on her face is genuine hurt and it was painful to watch. That's why Gervase's point at Tribal Council, "Why are you bringing this up now?" worked so well. If they really cared about her, they would have told her at the time, but no they saved it until it served their purpose. She stuck with her boys, and Hayden was sent off. Now we head to the finale. What's left is an awkward gang of four in which Ciera is clearly on the outs of a tight alliance and no matter who comes back in the game from Redemption Island, that's not likely to change.

So I say chances are good that Tampa is coming in for a landing in the Final 3, but will she be able to stick the landing?

Here's some of my random reactions:

--Once again, this season brings a dramatic tribal council, many times more interesting than the challenges.

--Has Gervase forgotten the people he's yelling at will be on the jury? At first I was thinking he was doing a good job pleading his case to keep Monica from flipping but then he had to go that extra step to basically call them all losers. That will likely be remembered when it comes time to vote on $1 million.

--Last week’s crazy episode, in which Hayden’s last-ditch effort to sway Ciera’s vote and save himself went all the way to a drawing of rocks after two tie votes, drew the show’s best ratings of the season with 10.6 million viewers, up 18 percent from the week before.

--Redemption Island really dilutes the game. The most dramatic moment of the game is being voted off the island. Except with RI you aren't. You are just in limbo for awhile and might comeback. That's likely why Tyson threw caution to the wind last week's and let the tie vote go to the rocks. He must have figured that he had a good chance of winning RI and coming back in the game so he had nothing to lose.


[Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 1:39am]


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