“That is not an advantage.” Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers October 18 2017 recap

18 Oct

The episode begins with … the challenge site? Yes, because it’s time for a tribe swap! The new tribes are as follows.

Blue: Ashley and Alan; Desi and Joe; Devon

Yellow: Ryan and Ali; Chrissy and J.P.; Roark

Red: Cole, Jessica, and Mike; Lauren; Ben

Normally I’m no huge fan of these tribe swaps, but as my earlier posts show, this season has had some boring stretches thus far, so I’m all for mixing it up!

The Red team wins the reward challenge. At the peanut butter and jelly reward, Jessica looks into her bag of chips and sees a secret advantage. She looks at the note later and sees that it is the power to block one person from voting at the next Tribal Council. She can send it to someone anonymously, and the recipient won’t know the power until they open it at tribal council. If Jessica’s tribe doesn’t go to Tribal Council, she has to send it to someone on the tribe that does.

Jessica tells her boyfriend Cole about it, and also her fellow Healer Mike. But then Cole decides to win some trust by telling Ben. What the heck? “It cancels out one of y’all’s votes” is how he puts it. And then Cole tells Lauren too! So everyone on the tribe knows!

On the Yellow tribe, Ryan takes a walk with Chrissy and tells her that he’s the one who sent her the immunity idol back in the first episode. How did he choose her, she asks. We viewers know the real answer: Chrissy was vomiting and looked a bit pathetic, and he wanted to get it to the weakest tribe member. But wisely Ryan gives a different story. “I just had a good vibe,” he says. And she buys it!

On the blue tribe, Ashley tells us her worst case scenario was being on a tribe with Alan. Still, it’s in their interest to work together, and she suggests they team with Devon to oust Desi or Joe.

Joe, for his part, wastes no time in telling Devon that the Heroes spoke to Joe about getting Devon out, which is a complete fabrication.

Back on the red tribe, Lauren and Ben (no, not that Lauren and Ben, thank goodness), being on a tribe with three Healers, decide to see if they can swing Dr. Mike. They tell him about the advantage. He pretends this is the first he’s heard of it, but immediately wonders how news leaked out and knows it had to be Cole. Mike tells Jessica that everyone knows about the advantage, and she confronts Cole. Cole denies telling Lauren. Anyone could spot his guilty face a mile away so in an effort to deflect he sheepishly does admit to telling Ben. Jessica, having long since decided Cole is the love of her life, wonders what she has gotten into here.

The immunity challenge is won by Red with Yellow second. So the Blue tribe has to go to Tribal Council. Devon talks to Ashley and soon confirms his suspicions that Joe was lying earlier. He and Ashley hug, but Desi sees them doing so and tells Joe about it.

Joe decides there’s no alternative to playing his immunity idol at Tribal Council. But now he needs to ensure that all the votes are cast against him, so he gets the most value out of the move.

So as everyone sits together, Joe and Alan face off a bit, and we find out Alan is a true voice of reason compared to Joe. I also am getting to enjoy Alan as a character because he’s different than the usual player, even if he is a bit crazy! Anyway, Joe goes scorched earth and declares he’s voting Ashley. Desi is understandably furious that Joe is blowing up his own game and Desi’s along with it. In a classic line, Joe tells Desi, “You’re probably upset but … I had to get the target off you somehow.” She counters that his over-the-top display will convince everyone Joe has an idol so the votes will now go to her. Joe insists he’s willing to give her the idol.

And then we see Devon reach into his bag and get a surprise. He’s the one who has received Jessica’s secret advantage. Surely he’ll just block Joe’s vote and this will be smooth sailing, right?

At tribal council, the arguing from camp continues. Jeff Probst announces that it’s time to vote, and Devon announces that he has an advantage to open. All smiles, he opens it up … only to find out that the advantage is being used against him to block his vote. What? Boy, I misunderstood that. Did Jessica misunderstand too? More on that shortly. Also, Probst is quick to note that although Devon can’t vote, he can be voted against! Gee, thanks Jeff.

This obviously changes everything. Will everyone just put their votes on Devon now? But there’s no time for any discussion, as everyone is sent to vote immediately. When they’re done, Probst asks if anyone has an idol. Joe goes up to him and clarifies that he can use it on himself or someone else. Joe eyes his tribemates and says he’s going to keep it for himself.

Sure enough, two votes were for Joe and don’t count … and the other two were for Alan, who is now out! Joe boasts to Ashley, “I read your face. Thank you baby girl.”

Now then, did Jessica (understandably) misunderstand what she was doing with this advantage? She had said earlier in the episode that she wanted to use it in a way that would help the Healers. Remember the Blue tribe had two Healers (Joe and Desi), one Hustler (Devon) and two Heroes (Alan and Ashley). It’s pretty clear in that scenario that the Hustler will either ally with the Healers to vote out a Hero, or vice versa. So how would Jessica know she isn’t taking a vote away from a 3-2 majority for her group? Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to block the vote of Alan or Ashley? I’m going to guess that this was unintentional.

Contenders: Devon, Ben, Ali, Ryan, Ashley, Chrissy, Jessica

Not sure: J.P., Roark, Cole, Desi, Mike

No chance: Lauren, Joe

Advertisements

“I’ve never believed a redhead a day in my life.” Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers October 11 2017 recap

12 Oct

The Hustlers try on the clothes left behind by voted-out Simone. Does every Survivor leave clothes behind? I’m not sure if this has ever been discussed on the show to date.

The first quarter of the episode is filled with what charitably might be called character bits. An uncharitable sort would just say it’s boring.

The Cole-Jessica flirtation on the Healers tribe is still going strong. Cole says Jessica is his dream girl, and she essentially said he’s her dream guy. Cole tells her about Joe’s idol.

On the Hustlers tribe, we are shown a shot of Ryan as some “Apocalypse Now”-like music plays. He sees Patrick head off to the woods, strongly suspecting he’s looking for an idol. But as Patrick tells us, what else would you expect from a Hustler? Ali then tries to coach Patrick on his social game. By the way, we have heard Ali wonder multiple times if Patrick is the right ally for her.

Cole has been thinking about the fact that Joe has all the power since he’s the one with the idol. He suggests to Jessica that they blindside Joe. And to Jessica’s chagrin, Cole also reveals the idol secret to Roark, a young woman who we have only seen briefly so far and seems like a bossy older sister type. And then Cole shares the information with Desi as well.

The immunity challenge has throwing bean bags to knock down blocks as a key component. The Healers and Heroes finish that part before the Hustlers, who have Patrick making every throw. We hear his teammates making offers to sub in about 20 times, but they fall on deaf ears, and since he misses a lot of throws they fall behind. The Heroes win, followed by the Healers, while the Hustlers have to go to Tribal Council for the second week in a row.

Everyone is annoyed with Patrick, but Lauren makes no bones about it, telling everyone who will listen that she has played center field for 25 years and is an accurate thrower. Lauren takes a while to cool down, if she ever does, and her social game is not good. (By the way, despite her 25 years of experience and the fact that she calls herself an “old woman,” she’s supposedly only 35.)

At Tribal Council, she continues blasting Patrick, including repeating her earlier statement that “I’ve never believed a redhead a day in my life.” Obviously either Lauren or Patrick will be voted out. The tribe is already musing about how they will fit in after a merge, since they’re down in the numbers. Ryan points out “We’re not coming in as CEOs, we’ll be moppin’ the floor at first.”

When the votes are revealed, Patrick is voted out unanimously.

Contenders: Ben, Devon, Ali, Jessica, Ryan

Not sure: J.P., Chrissy, Roark, Cole, Joe, Ashley, Desi, Mike

No chance: Alan, Lauren

“Shape the narrative”: Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers October 4, 2017 recap

11 Oct

Chrissy of the Heroes tribe looks back on Tribal Council. She didn’t use the idol she has, and last episode was the one time that she was allowed to use it. But at least she still has it in her pocket to potentially use to fake someone out later in the game. Everyone else talks about how crazy Alan is, while Alan himself, in a Russell Hantz-like moment, thinks fomenting suspicion is never a bad thing.

On the Hustlers tribe we are introduced to Simone, barely seen in the premiere episode. We find out that she is very proud of having had a bowel movement underwater, and that she hates being outside, a curious pet peeve for someone who applies to be on Survivor. We also finally hear from Lauren, a stocky fisherwoman, though only to tell us that she is annoyed by goofy redhead Patrick.

On the Healers tribe, Jessica and Cole are busy flirting. Meanwhile we find out that Desi, whom we’ve barely glimpsed so far, is a former Miss Virginia. And Tony Vlachos wannabe Joe is still trying to sell the story that urologist Mike has an idol. Problem is, Joe can’t both spread idol paranoia and look for an idol himself, but he really wants to do the latter. Finally he gets some time alone and finds the clue to an idol carved into a tree. It must show a location out on the water, he thinks, so he pulls in outdoorsman Cole to help him find it. Joe somehow manages to tell Cole about the idol clue while simultaneously accusing Cole of having an idol! Once Cole sees the map, he says the symbol Joe took to be a raft is actually the symbol for a well. That tells them where to dig, and Joe finds the idol in short order. Cole wisely chops the clue off the tree trunk so nobody else can find it.

Back to Hero Chrissy. She needs an ally and considers the candidates. J.P. is athletic but she doesn’t think he’s smart enough. Plus she’s not convinced J.P. and Ashley aren’t a couple, so Ashley’s out. And Alan is too volatile. “At this point the data shows (sic) that Ben is a better option for me,” says the actuary. Ben has a strong social game and Chrissy can handle the strategizing.

The final puzzle of the immunity challenge involves placing signposts that have the names of previous Survivor locations. The Healers win, continuing their streak, the Heroes are second, and the Hustlers are last, with Ali and Simone taking the blame for losing the tribe’s lead on the puzzle.

It seems fairly clear Simone is going to be the one to go — why else would they have featured her earlier in the episode despite her having nothing to say besides bowel movement discussion? But she is determined to “shape the narrative,” that narrative being that Patrick is not only annoying but too unpredictable.

Patrick doesn’t help matters with his curious comment at Tribal Council that he trusts “most of the people here,” but it’s a unanimous vote-out for Simone.

 

“We’re gonna cause chaos together.” Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers September 27 2017 Season Premiere Recap

28 Sep

Season 35 begins on a boat — nothing new about that, but what is new is that Jeff Probst is heaping praise on the contestants before they have even started! He goes into great detail about the great qualities the Heroes have, and so on. Then he tells the three tribes they have to get as many supplies as they can into their tribes’ individual boats and get to shore where some burning urns are suspended 15 feet in the air. The first tribe to light its torch at one of the urns wins a firemaking kit.

Before the predictable chaos ensues, we are shown that a Secret Advantage, labeled as such, is hidden among the supplies. It is found by Ryan, a birdlike bellhop who tells us he is “125 pounds soaking wet.” He tucks it into the back of his trousers, unobserved. Amid the tribes hustling to their boats we see Probst jumping into his motorboat, commanding the driver “Let’s hit it, go!” And that’s not the only Probst action shot we see, curiously enough.

The Healers come in first, the Heroes second, and the Hustlers last by far. The tribes get maps to their beaches, and the Healers find theirs easily as a huge, impressive fire is burning.

Earlier we had met Cole of the Healers tribe, who apparently leads Outward Bound-type tours. Now Jessica, a nurse practitioner, tells us “Cole is Tarzan.” And no, she’s not talking about the buffoon from Survivor One World, thank goodness, but rather comparing Cole’s ripped physique to that of the fictional character by that name. Also on the Healers tribe is Joe, a probation officer who looks like a Tony Vlachos type, and who tells us the other players are “just all my victims at this point.”

On the Heroes tribe, we find out that Alan played in the NFL for 9 years (looking him up after the show, I see it’s the former Dallas Cowboys backup defensive back Alan Ball). And Alan immediately has his eye on a duo that seems to be hitting it off, namely Ashley and J.P. (no, not that Ashley and J.P., thank all that’s holy). Ashley is an outdoorsy-looking blonde and fireman J.P. is more a standard Survivor hunk type. An alliance of four between Alan, Ashley, J.P. and former Marine Ben is quickly formed. Left on the outs in that scenario are fortyish Chrissy, who tells us she’s a successful financial analyst as well as a mother, and Katrina, who seems to be the standard “clueless middle-aged woman” found in every Survivor cast.

On the Hustlers tribe there appears to be an early alliance between Ali,  a personal assistant to an unidentified celebrity who is on Youtube (huh?), and redheaded  Patrick, a small business owner. We also see Ryan get a look at his secret advantage, which is nothing less than a “super immunity idol” that can be played after the votes are read. Really? That seems too easy. Ah, but there’s a twist: this idol can only be played at this first tribal council of the season. If Ryan is not on the tribe that goes to tribal council, he has to anonymously send it to someone on the tribe that does go.

Back on the Healers tribe, Mike, a Woody Allen-esque urologist, goes to “check on the fire,” i.e. look for a hidden immunity idol. Joe is suspicious that Mike’s doing exactly that, and confronts him in the manner of a cop trying to interrogate him. It’s clear right away that Joe is no Tony after all, more like a villainous Tony wannabe.

But Joe isn’t the most idol-obsessed guy in this first episode. Oh, not by a long shot. That honor belongs to Alan, who has been brooding over the incipient J.P./Ashley showmance and also is convinced J.P. has an idol. J.P. swears he doesn’t, but Alan will not let it go, and insists that the two go for a swim to prove it. Ashley tries to cool Alan off and let him know he’s being completely insane, but Alan won’t, so finally J.P. just drops his pants to put an end to the speculation.

Meanwhile, Ryan has decided he needs an ally, and of all people, the nerdy fellow chooses Devon, a surfing instructor who is a cross between Keanu Reeves and Survivor Nicaragua winner Jud “Fabio” Birza. Ryan tells Devon everything about his idol! A huge mistake? Actually it seems not, as this odd couple seems to get along famously. “Our chemistry is perfect … we’re gonna cause chaos together,” Devon says.

At the first immunity challenge, Probst lets us know that the tiebreaking procedure at Tribal Council is back to the traditional way as opposed to the way it was done in the Game Changers season. The Healers, who won the torch race at the start, also win the challenge, and the Hustlers are second, meaning the Heroes have to go to Tribal Council.

Chrissy from the Heroes collapses to the ground, and Probst asks if she needs a medic, but it turns out she just needs to throw up. Ryan observes this, and it seems likely that he will send the idol to Chrissy who seems to be an underdog.

We see a wonderful shot of some whales for the second time this show, and then we go to the Heroes tribe. Guess what: Alan’s obsession with Ashley and J.P. has not dimmed. He tells us “whatever they’re tryin’ to do, I’m blowin’ it up.” Alan goes over to Chrissy and Katrina, whom the others have unkindly dubbed “the mom squad,”and proposes an alliance with them. The women could join with Ben and take out Ashley or J.P. Or of course Ben and Alan could stick with the original plan of voting out Chrissy or Katrina. Ben appears to be the swing vote here.

Just before Tribal Council, Chrissy does a double-take when she looks in her bag to find the super immunity idol in there.

At Tribal Council, there’s lots of frank talk with everyone telling about everything that has happened. Alan seems just as insane as he has all episode, and he seems like an early candidate for consideration for my Worst Players in Survivor History list.

The votes are read, and most of them are for Katrina. Chrissy does nothing, and Katrina is out of the game.

As the credits roll we find out two things: one is that Katrina was an Olympian, no less (a swimmer at the 1988 Olympics to be exact). The other is that Chrissy was one of the people who voted for Katrina.

I think not using the idol was the right move for Chrissy. She and Katrina were lumped together but didn’t seem to be tight, so it’s better for Chrissy to stay under the radar, especially with Alan likely about to self-destruct.

Early favorite: Ben.

 

Survivor: Game Changers Final Thoughts

27 May

If someone had told me before the season that the final three would be a former 8th-place finisher (Troy), a former 15th place finisher (Brad), and an 11th-place finisher who I didn’t even remember (Sarah) I would have assumed this season turned out to be a bit of a dud. Luckily nothing could be further from the truth! In fact in my season rankings this one almost makes the top ten.

Good things about this season:

  • A deserving winner in Sarah. Her epic Legacy Advantage theft is one of the great moves of all time, but she was also very consistent, and one of the deciding factors in almost every vote. And she had another advantage that only she spotted at Michaela’s feet that led to a very exciting Tribal Council as Cirie, who was “holding it for her,” tried to use it!
  • New rules and twists: The Survivor producers threw in everything but the kitchen sink. There was a new final tribal council format, Debbie’s “advantage option,” a former player being brought in as an advisor to Debbie, two tribes going to tribal council together to vote out one person, and a new tiebreak format. Some hit, some flopped (like the time one person from each tribe had to volunteer to go without food to enable everyone else to eat the merge feast), but these returning players were always kept on their toes.
  • Then there were twists that didn’t come from the producers, but the players! Sarah’s two advantage thefts, Cirie’s attempted advantage theft, and the tribal council where 5 of 6 players were immune come to mind.

Bad things about this season:

  • Too many hidden immunity idols, or perhaps what I really mean is, immunity idols that were too easy to find. Troyzan had to work really hard for his; Tai didn’t.
  • The most entertaining characters exited early. Not that things didn’t turn out OK, but we’ll always be left to wonder what might have been if Tony or Malcolm had stuck around longer.
  • And I can’t fail to mention the awful “transgender” comment by Jeff Varner, which had a negative impact on Zeke that transcended the game.

Feel free to follow this link to see if Sarah cracked my best players of all time list. As a returning-player season, nobody was eligible for my best alliances of all time list. And much as I was tempted to add J.T. to my list of the the worst of all time, he did have another season in which he won the game, so I guess that gives him a permanent waiver.

You can check out my full rankings of the seasons here.

Survivor Game Changers Review: Who Helped His Or Her Legacy, Who Hurt it?

25 May

These Players’ Stock Rose:

Sarah. Wow. She went from a player I didn’t even remember to a winner who pulled off a couple of all-time great moves.

Sandra. Count me among the people who didn’t respect her previous wins very much, but boy was she impressive here, basically bending people to her will left and right. But the other players weren’t about to let her get near the finals a third time.

Cirie: Much like Sandra, she had made it far in other seasons without seeming to do too much, but boy was her social game impressive here. Nobody was targeting her for the entire game, literally! That usually means you win. Which she might well have if not for her huge blunder in the vote-steal advantage fiasco.

Sierra: I didn’t even remember that she had played before, yet this time she was supposedly “controlling the game” for a while, not that we viewers really ever saw precisely what that entailed.

Brad: Surprisingly his social game was good or even great for a while, and overall he was much better, but for the last few days he reverted to the arrogant jock we knew from his last appearance.

Andrea: Though the results weren’t hugely different than her previous times, everyone seemed to look at Andrea as the biggest threat in the game for a while, and it’s a tribute to her that she stuck around a while with neither big numbers nor an idol.

Hali: Nothing but a pretty face her first season, this time she had a few moments doing some lawyering at tribal council.

Troyzan: He had more of a social game this time, and was better than in the One World season in which he didn’t start playing the game until it was too late.

These Players Stayed the Same:

Ciera. She played the same game she played previously, but this time it happened to get her voted out first. Incidentally, in a season that also had players named Cirie, Sierra, and Sarah, it would really have been confusing if Ciera had stuck around.

Tony. I’m not sure what he could have done to stay in the game longer. Playing the under-the-radar game would have been impossible for him, as too many people wanted him out.

Caleb: Like his last season, he was gone before we could find out too much about him.

Malcolm: Never had a chance thanks to J.T. being a complete idiot.

Ozzy: The same guy as he was in previous seasons, and that’s both good and bad.

Zeke: Playing too hard was his problem the first time and this time as well. (I never did figure out why he was always trying to knock out Andrea, whom he knew outside of the game and who was a key number in his alliance).

Aubry: Much like the first time, she managed to stay in the game despite disasters happening left and right.

Tai: OK, he did a couple of impressive things, with an uncanny sense of when he didn’t need to play his idol. Had Brad been smart enough to take him to the finals, it would have been the exact same result as in Kaoh Rong: a blowout finals loss for Tai. I know Jeff Probst’s straw poll at the reunion show indicated Tai would have barely lost, but I’m not convinced the votes really would have gone that way.

These Players’ Stock Fell:

Michaela: On Millennials vs. Gen-X she was one of the better players in the game and a major threat to win. Here, she was the brat nobody could stand.

J.T.: Went from making a somewhat dumb move in Heroes vs. Villains to an incredibly dumb move on this season. Took down his own game and that of several others for no reason.

Jeff Varner: I never really saw his appeal as a character, but this time he showed a really unpleasant side of himself.

Debbie: Her kookiness was quite endearing in her first season, incredibly annoying this time. Debbie wins the title of the player who I would least want to have a cubicle next to at work.

“It doesn’t matter what votes are in the urn.” Survivor: Game Changers Season Finale Recap May 24, 2017

25 May

The moment everyone gets back to camp after Tribal Council, Sarah and Cirie confront each other. Sarah says “I wanna know who the rat was,” referring to a “rat” Cirie had mentioned when she stood up to try to use Sarah’s advantage. Cirie says “I wanna know what Michaela did” to warrant being voted out. Later, as all sit together around the fire, Cirie says “I felt that Tai was playing you, me, and them.” Aubry just grins as she is not one of the people under attack here.

Tai admits he was going to vote Sarah out, prompting Sarah to apologize to Cirie. Somehow Tai comes off looking like the bad guy even though it was Cirie who was trying to pull a sneaky trick! Last episode’s twists were so hard to explain, I can’t blame Tai for having trouble expressing what happened with his shaky English.

The next day, Tai panics and decides he needs to reveal to Brad that he has two idols. And it looks like he will give Brad one of them. Brad tells us “He’s lied to me numerous times, I’ve got no problem throwing him under the bus with his own idol.”

The challenge is a huge, complex maze, ending with a puzzle which Brad solves to win both immunity and a food reward. He picks Troyzan and Sarah to join him. Troy reminds us viewers that he has an idol he can play this time or next time. Sarah reminds us she has the Legacy Advantage that no one knows about. Based on yesterday, she can’t trust Tai or Cirie, so she will have to go with Brad and Troy. Meanwhile, Brad and Troy want to put their two votes on …. Tai and Aubry! I know I have said this almost every week this season, why are they still not targeting Cirie, the best player?  Brad, Troy, and Sarah finally decide to vote Aubry.

Brad tells Tai that Aubry is going home and basically orders him to play an idol for himself and to give Brad his other one to hold. “I don’t want any funny business,” Brad says, ‘I need a leap of faith from you the way things have been.” This odd guilt-trip strategy is reminiscent of the time Erik Reichenbach got conned into giving up his immunity was back on the Fans vs. Favorites season.

However, Tai is suspicious. He won’t give Brad his idol right away, but he does show both his idols to Brad and Troy. Once the latter two are alone, Brad tells Troy he’s taking Tai out on the following vote.

Now Tai goes to Aubry. He shows her the two idols and says “you need to help me.” But Cirie is coming close, and Tai says not to tell her. Aubry tells us “once again I feel like my life in the game is in Tai’s hands, which kinda sucks.”

Also, for whatever reason Troy tells Sarah about the two idols and about Brad’s plan.

Tribal Council is held, and the votes are cast. When Probst says that this would be the time to play an idol, Tai says he has a blue one to play for himself and a red one to play for Aubry, which makes Aubry break out in a huge grin. Then Sarah announces she has a Legacy Advantage and this is the only time she’s allowed to play it, and she doesn’t want to keep it as a souvenir. She hands it to Probst, who is then ready to read the votes, until Troy says “Jeff…” The jury howls with laughter, they love it. Troy plays the idol he has had since almost the beginning of the season.

So to recap, the six players sitting there are Tai (played an idol), Aubry (had Tai’s second idol played on her), Troy (played an idol), Sarah (played a Legacy Advantage), Brad (won immunity in the challenge), and Cirie. Probst says, “Cirie, it doesn’t matter what votes are in the urn … and for what it’s worth, not a single vote in here has your name on it.” There is no need to re-vote since the only possible choice would be Cirie. So she becomes the first person to be voted out without actually even receiving a vote! Probst also tells us that never before have 3 idols been played or 5 people been safe.

Here’s where it gets annoying to me. Probst decides to essentially hold a Cirie tribute on the spot. She stays seated and he asks her questions about her journey, blah blah blah. Then he lets her say “the tribe has spoken” on the way out. Pretty ridiculous. If, say, Troyzan had been the one eliminated, Probst would have shown him the door in two seconds flat!

While the players don’t get to see who the votes were for, we viewers do:

Cirie, Tai, and Aubry voted for Sarah.

Sarah and Troy voted for Tai.

Brad voted for Aubry. I presume his vote was done to avoid a tie situation arising which could have had unpredictable consequences.

I really can’t find fault with any of the four advantages/idols that were played. Sarah and Tai got votes against them, and Troy and Aubry were saved from going into a tiebreak, which as noted above would have been unpredictable.

We go right to the Day 37 immunity challenge without anything in between. This is a challenge we’ve seen before, involving transferring a ping-pong ball through an obstacle maze on the end of a little paddle. Brad wins, it’s his fourth win of the season.

So presumably Aubry and Sarah are now the targets. Troy, Brad, and Sarah agree they want Aubry out, as she would be a better orator at Tribal Council than Tai.

Aubry has not given up, and she makes a good pitch to Sarah and Tai: if Brad should win the next immunity, which seems fairly likely, he’s definitely keeping Troy, so Sarah and Tai would be vying for a single tribal council slot if Aubry were voted out. If Troy is voted out you have Aubry, Sarah, and Tai vying for two slots: a 66% chance to advance versus a 50% chance. Sarah realizes she is in the middle and the deciding vote, as she has been at seemingly almost every vote. But when she talks to Tai, he says he would rather vote out Aubry than Troy.

As noted above, Brad’s attempt to bully Tai last week failed. But surprisingly, he tries it again and doubles down! He says he wants Tai to promise that if Brad keeps him around today, he’ll vote with Brad tomorrow. And Tai is angry that he’s being picked on. The funny thing is, Brad wants to go after Aubry, which Tai wanted to do anyway, but now Tai mulls over changing his vote to Troy.

So there is a bit of suspense, but in the end, all four vote for Aubry and she is out.

On Day 38, we once again go directly to the challenge. While four people are competing, surely this is really just a battle between Brad and Sarah, as either of them would oust the other and go to the finals with Troy and Tai. Well, there’s not much drama as Brad once again wins pretty easily. Probst notes that Brad joins the very small group of people who have won four immunities in a season.

Surely this is the end for Sarah, how could it not be. But the first time we see Brad after the challenge, he says that Tai is going home ?????!!!!!! In fact Brad wants to see him suffer before he does. Brad sounds very vindictive, though I don’t think Tai did much to him other than not give in to his bullying. Tai seems to sense that Brad will be voting for him, and urges Sarah to vote for Troyzan so there’s a 2-2 vote and a fire-making challenge as the tiebreaker.

Does forcing a tie make sense for Sarah? Well, if Brad and Troy vote for her, then it’s certainly better to make fire in a runoff challenge than to simply be voted out. But if the two men vote Tai, it would be better to not have a tie vote since it would be better to go to the finals with Brad and Troy (any juror mad at one of them is mad at both) than with Brad and Tai. So if Sarah doesn’t force a draw, she had best be 100% positive the vote will be for Tai.

At Tribal Council, Probst belabors the possibility of a draw at great length. Finally it’s time to vote, and there are indeed three votes for Tai, who is out.

Nothing interesting ever happens before the final Tribal Council, so let’s fast-forward. Probst announces that in a season of firsts, the Tribal Council will also have a new format. Instead of each juror getting a chance to make statement or ask a question, it will be more of a free-form Q&A. First reaction: I think this is great. The prepared material by the jurors was usually very self-serving and too often more about themselves than about the finalists.

We soon find out that Zeke is championing Sarah’s cause. Ozzy, meanwhile, says he’s championing Brad’s — no surprise since like Brad’s path to the finals came through immunity wins just like Ozzy’s. Michaela contributes the tired cliche “how much did you bother to get to know me” (directed at Brad), though in fairness she is quite a good sport overall at this tribal council, surprising for someone who was such a bad sport in the game. Andrea is more the opposite (good sport before, bad sport now) and takes the hackneyed “how does it feel to have used people” route when addressing Sarah. Debbie spews her usual malapropisms and stumps for Brad while saying she has no respect for Sarah. Sierra confirms that Troy was involved in strategic decisions in their alliance and didn’t just do what others decided.

Brad takes credit for the biggest move of the game, saving Sierra and getting rid of Malcolm at the joint tribal council.

Sarah says that in her first season she behaved the way she does in real life, and wasn’t successful, so she knew she had to do something different this time. She has been an undercover cop, and to make a living she has to be a character different from her real persona, her life depends on it. She did what she had to do to win.

Troy wonders why he’s not even getting any questions. In his closing statement he basically offers himself up as a refreshing third-party candidate, sort of like the John Anderson of Survivor.

The votes are cast and we move to the CBS studios in Los Angeles. Probst announces, “Let’s not waste any time” …. and launches into a wordy, time-wasting introduction!

Finally he reads the votes. There are three votes for Brad and …. the rest are for Sarah, the winner of Survivor: Game Changers!

Time for Probst to do his usual interviews. He asks Sarah if she modeled her game after Tony who won her original season and she says yes. Then Probst wants to play his favorite game: if Brad had taken Tai to the finals instead of Sierra, would Brad have won? Brad has no interest and tries everything to get out of this hypothetical exercise, and Probst remarks that Brad is just like his wife Monica in terms of being difficult when he wants to be.

The mock vote actually results in a 5-5 tie. Probst mentions that he often gets asked how such a tie would be broken (there can be ties, since the juries have been even-numbered). He says the finalist who’s not part of the tie (in this case Troyzan) would cast the deciding vote for the winner. And of course Troy says he would have voted Brad, so Brad would have won.

Probst then announces the next season  will also be set in Fiji and will be called Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.

I’ll be back with final thoughts.