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.

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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.

“Are You Blackmailing Me?” Survivor: Game Changers May 17, 2017 Recap

21 May

We are down to eight people left in the game. At the end of the prior episode, we saw Sarah putting on a “shocked and confused” face as Sierra left the game, all to make sure Sierra didn’t suspect Sarah voted against her so she would bequeath the Legacy Advantage to Sarah. But at the time we saw Andrea observing Sarah’s expression and looking a bit confused herself. At the start of this episode, Andrea discusses this with Aubry, who saw Sarah’s face too. Was Sarah pandering to the jury, or what?

Cirie tells us that she would like to go to the end with Sarah, since the policewoman had a hand in voting out most of the people who are on the jury. Sarah meanwhile wants Andrea gone: “I cannot stand the girl.”

There is no reward challenge this episode, instead we go straight to an immunity challenge: build a house of (wooden) cards with one hand while holding a balancing board with the other hand. Jeff Probst tells us this was last won by John Cochran, so it presumably took place in the Fans vs. Favorites II season. Aubry emerges as the winner and gives Probst a big hug.

Andrea tells us that Brad and Troy have both voted for her twice. Still, she thinks this might be the time to take out Sarah. In other words, she has the opposite opinion from Cirie regarding Sarah’s chances with the jury.

Aubry, meanwhile, is more in favor of voting out Brad. Michaela wants Brad gone too, and since she doesn’t know where he is, she suspects he’s off looking for a hidden immunity idol. She wants to go find him and suggest he go fishing, after all he’s not going to find an idol out on the water. But the way she puts it to Brad comes off as bullying, or a threat. “Are you blackmailing me?” Brad asks her. And he tells us “I’m not going to sit here and kowtow to some diva’s demands.”

Andrea wants to push her Sarah plan but Aubry is not up for it, and neither is Cirie. In fact, Cirie promptly goes to Sarah and says they need to take out Andrea, because she and Aubry are trying to “do something slick.”

Tribal council, is fairly uneventful, and alas it ends with “my girlfriend” Andrea being voted out, though she looks darn good doing it. Andrea makes sure to pass by Cirie on her way and give her a playful poke, having figured out that Cirie must have orchestrated her demise. There were just two votes for Brad: Andrea and Aubry.

We’re just halfway through the show at this point, so it looks like two votes will be happening in the space of one hour. I assume the fact that this season had no medical evacuations and nobody quitting left the producers with one too many people.

So now we’re down to the final seven, and right away Cirie tells us she’s after Aubry, who puts on a brave face but tears up when she’s alone talking to the camera. Tai consoles Aubry, which makes Cirie wonder where Tai’s loyalties lie.

And as I’ve been saying for about four weeks now: why is not one player pointing at Cirie as the number one threat? It’s crazy.

We’re soon at another immunity challenge, and like so many of them this one ends with a puzzle. Michaela thinks she has solved it, but Probst yells “not right!” and a few seconds later he adds that Michaela “kicks the puzzle, which always helps.” Typical Michaela.

Brad wins the challenge and celebrates quite hard, so much so that Troyzan says “whoa.” Troy is the last one who should be shocked; I seem to remember that on Survivor One World he did the same thing at least once, loudly proclaiming “This is my island,” etc. At any rate, Troy reminds us viewers that he has an idol, and with Brad being immune from being voted out, Troy might need to use it.

Tai and Aubry confer: both of them are lacking a big move on their respective resumes. But they agree on what a great move would be now: voting out Sarah. However, after the conversation Aubry decides that an even better move would be … voting out Tai! So Aubry tells Cirie that Tai is gunning for Sarah, hoping to get more votes against Tai.

Cirie alerts Sarah of the Tai threat, bit Sarah tells Cirie she shouldn’t believe Aubry. Sarah trusts Tai much more than Aubry. In fact, Sarah is so confident she won’t be voted out that she will give Cirie the vote-steal advantage (which she told her about last episode) for safekeeping. Cirie swears she is just the trustee and will give it back after the vote.

Here’s what I think Cirie thinks will happen: Aubry and Tai will get Troy and Brad to vote along with them against Sarah, and 4 votes would be enough against Sarah, Cirie, and Michaela.  So Cirie thinks she needs to actually use the vote-stealer she is supposedly just holding onto, to get that fourth vote against Tai. And she thinks she needs to do this to save Sarah, but in doing so she risks making Sarah mad!

And there’s another problem with the plan: the vote stealer has to be played right before it’s time to vote. In other words, an immunity idol can still be played after the votes are read. So Cirie needs to find a way to convince Tai not to use his idol. Summoning up fake tears, she tells Tai that she is going to use the vote steal advantage at Tribal Council … to save him. Tai freaks out. He certainly considers the possibility Cirie might be lying, but can’t figure out why she would make up such a crazy story.

At Tribal Council everyone seems to agree that there are several lies being told, by someone. Finally Probst says it’s time to vote. Cirie speaks up and says she is holding a vote-steal advantage and that she is going to use it … to steal Sarah’s vote! She assures Sarah this is for her own good.

Sarah replies: actually that’s my advantage. Read the text, it says it is non-transferable and cannot be stolen.

The jury is going nuts over all of this. Cirie reads out the text and sure enough the part Sarah mentions is in there. Probst says the key word is non-transferable, and that Cirie can’t use the advantage. Sarah says “can I have that?” and takes the advantage back. Then she goes over to whisper something to Tai.

This kicks off a whole round of whispering like the one we had an an earlier tribal council this season. Various people whisper things to various other people. At one point Troyzan decides to stick his head into a huddle among Michaela, Cirie, and Sarah, and Michaela tries to push him out.

When all of that has subsided, Sarah says “you know what Jeff, I’m gonna use my advantage,” and the vote she wants to steal is Tai’s. Surely there can be no clearer signal to Tai that he needs to play one of his idols. But when Jeff Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol, Tai  shockingly does nothing!

The votes are read, and the person voted out is…. Michaela! She grumbles something at Sarah and wishes everyone but Sarah luck as she troops out. There were also two votes for Tai and one for Aubry. Brad gets Tai’s attention and points twice, saying “She and she voted for you!” Presumably he was pointing at Aubry and Cirie.

When we see the votes after the credits, we see Brad was wrong: one Tai vote came from Aubry, but the other was from the departed Michaela. The Aubry vote came from Cirie. And the Michaela votes were from Brad, Troyzan, and two from Sarah. In other words, if Sarah had put her two votes against Tai or Aubry, it would have been enough to send either of them home. So now let’s revisit Sarah’s vow that  she would be the first player ever to use the vote-steal advantage correctly. Sorry Sarah. Your own vote already made it three against Michaela, which by itself would have been enough to vote her out, since Tai obviously wouldn’t vote against himself.

Two things about this episode remain mysteries:

  • Why did Cirie want to use the vote stealer to steal Sarah’s vote? Why not try to steal the vote of Aubry, Tai, Troy, or Brad who were all presumably voting against Sarah and Cirie?
  • Why did Brad, Troy, and Sarah vote against Michaela, who had no chance to win the game, instead of Cirie?

Cirie’s attempted “big move” was really a major misstep. Instead of a potential final three of her, Michaela and Sarah, which would have meant a blowout win if not a shutout win, Michaela is gone and Sarah is now her enemy.

After much deliberation I am bumping Cirie down to #2 in my contender rankings. She finally has people who want her out of the game in Sarah and also Aubry (whom Cirie voted for). I think Brad wins if he makes the finals, though he will probably have to win 1 or 2 immunity challenges to do that. I think Sarah might well run afoul of a bitter jury even if she makes it to the end. Aubry and Troy need to hope for a final three of the two of them plus Tai.

contenders: 1. Brad, 2. Cirie, 3. Sarah, 4. Aubry, 5. Troyzan

no chance: Tai

jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Hali (no idea), Ozzy (Cirie), Debbie (Troyzan), Zeke (Brad), Sierra (Brad), Andrea (Cirie), Michaela (Cirie)

 

“You’re my ‘it girl’ out there.” Survivor Game Changers May 10 2017 recap

13 May
In last episode’s tribal council, Brad, Sierra, and Troy voted for their ally Tai, no doubt having been given that name by Andrea & Co. as a fake-out. So now Brad wonders if he has lost Tai. Meanwhile Cirie wants to target Brad or Sierra.
Sierra tells Sarah that she’s going to “throw up a Hail Mary.” She proceeds to tell Sarah that she has the Legacy Advantage, which as you’ll recall can only be used one more time in this game, at final six. Sierra says that if the two of them make it to the round of six, she will use it to help the two of them. If not and she is voted out before then, she’ll bequeath it to Sarah. Sarah tells us that this makes her feel good about aligning with Sierra, and it’s good to have someone who gives her information.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am no fan of the annual “loved ones” episode, and this one seems to be drawn-out more than most. We do, however, learn that Andrea endured the death of a sister some years ago. And I’m surprised how happy I am to see Brad’s wife Monica Culpepper again!
The reward challenge has three teams of three competing. The one that wins is Aubry, Andrea, and Brad. Inevitably, Jeff Probst says they can pick another player and his or her loved one to go on the reward, and everyone begs to be chosen. Andrea picks Cirie and her son. Then Probst says they have to make a second and final pick, and Aubry says it’s Sarah and her boyfriend/husband. It isn’t clear if these were consensus picks of the three or if Brad has no say in the matter.
On the reward, Brad talks to Monica, who is a great advisor to have since she made it all the way to the final three of a season. Monica points out that Michaela was obviously angry she wasn’t chosen and is therefore a threat to flip.
The only ones back at camp and not on the reward are Sierra, Troy, Tai, and Michaela. The latter two talk seriously about an alliance. Then all four discuss Andrea: none of them could win against her at the finals, therefore they need to target her.
The immunity challenge is, I believe, a brand-new one. The contestants have to hold up a buoy using two short poles that can easily slip out of their sockets … and do. It comes down to Michaela, Brad, and Tai. Brad wins. Surprisingly for the former pro athlete, it’s his first-ever individual immunity win per Jeff Probst.
The situation we’re left with is that Tai and Michaela are the swing votes. They can join with Sierra, Brad, and Troy to vote out Andrea, or join with Andrea, Cirie, and Aubry to vote out Sierra.
As noted earlier, Sarah appeared to be ready to vote with Sierra as well. But now, having pondered the legacy advantage Sierra told her about, Sarah comes up with an absolutely diabolical plan. She wants to vote Sierra out, but while pretending to be on her side, so an unwitting Sierra still gives Sarah the Legacy Advantage as promised! Wow!
Of course, there are two huge possible pitfalls. The first is that Sierra could realize Sarah has turned on her and will the Legacy Advantage to someone else (as we know from last season, this bequeathal is made after the player’s torch has been snuffed and he or she has left Tribal Council). The second pitfall is that not enough votes come together to vote Sierra out, in which case Sierra would obviously become a bitter enemy.
Sarah addresses the first issue immediately in her next conversation with Sierra. The cop tells the rodeo rider “I love you. You’re, like, my ‘it girl’ out there. Like, on a real level.” The feeling seems to be mutual. Then Sierra reveals to Sarah that Tai and Michaela are going to vote against Andrea. So soon, Sarah looks up Michaela and tells her about the Legacy Advantage, and in no time Michaela and Tai have decided to switch their votes to Sierra … or so it seems at least. Wow, Sarah is so impressive here. Combined with her recent hiding the idol in the shoe maneuver, she has made two of the slickest moves this season.
A note on Sarah: I was going to say earlier that Sarah lied to Sierra “with a straight face,” but Sarah pretty much has the same pained expression no matter what she’s saying. That probably helps her pull these things off.
By the way, as with every prior episode, nobody is targeting Cirie. How is that possible?
At Tribal Council, nothing happens other than everyone stating the obvious. When the votes come, there are three for Andrea and the rest are for Sierra!
By the way, Sarah makes sure to play her role to the very end, putting on an extremely shocked expression as Sierra grabs her torch and exits the game. After the credits we find out Sierra does indeed will the advantage to Sarah, making this incredible maneuver complete.
It will be interesting to see next week whether Michaela and Tai make the connection that Sarah must now have the advantage. Of course, Sarah also still has her vote-steal advantage which neither of them knows about.
Let me update my look at the six players I think are contenders.
#1 Cirie: When are the others going to wake up and see that she’s an even bigger threat than Andrea, since she has more connections in the game than Andrea does?
#2 Brad: Even though this was his first immunity win, he’s certainly a threat to win more of them, and he already has a couple of fans on the jury.
#3 Sarah: She moved way up in my rankings. She has some amazing moves on her resume now, however she has had a hand in the ouster of most of the people on the jury, so would they be too bitter to give her a vote?
#4 Aubry: Nobody seems to be gunning for her, but perhaps the others all think that if Michelle could beat her in the Kaoh Rong finals, they can beat her as well?
#5 Andrea: Has played a very good game, unfortunately she seems to be at the very top of everyone’s list of threats, and unlike some of the others, she doesn’t have an advantage or idol. Winning a couple of key immunity challenges seems to be her only shot to get to the finals.
#6 Troyzan: If Brad wins the next immunity, Troy had best get ready to play his idol. Barring that, he can likely stay under the radar a while longer, but he’s running out of time to make any kind of resume-building move.
contenders: 1. Cirie, 2. Brad, 3. Sarah, 4. Aubry, 5. Andrea, 6. Troyzan
 
no chance: Tai, Michaela
 
jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Hali (no idea), Ozzy (Andrea), Debbie (Sierra), Zeke (Brad), Sierra (Brad)

“We gotta approach it real, real easy.” Survivor Game Changers May 3, 2017 recap

3 May
After Tribal Council everyone is so quiet that Sarah finally just says “Are people confused on who flipped?” She explains that it was her.
The reward challenge ends with an anagrammed phrase to decipher. Both tribes ponder it for over 50 minutes when suddenly Andrea realizes the 11-letter word could be “reinventing.” Winning a spa day are Andrea, Aubry, Sarah, Zeke, and Brad.
At the reward, Brad and Zeke bond over football, with Mr. Culpepper asking the Oklahoman if he saw the championship game of the 2008 season, which was played January 2009 and won by Florida. Andrea is annoyed that Zeke is palling around with Brad at all: “It’s super-lame.”
Back at camp, Troyzan and Tai talk about the possibility of an idol being played, and it’s amusing to see both keep their poker faces. After all, Troy secretly has an idol, and Tai secretly has two!
When the people who were on the reward return, we find out that Aubry is also concerned about Zeke bonding with Brad. And Andrea suggests to Cirie that they blindside Zeke. Cirie wonders, though, if “Officer Sarah” would be on board with that. Sarah tells Cirie “I already know how I want to handle Zeke,” alluding to “backup.” Then she explains to Cirie what she means by backup: the vote-stealer advantage. Sarah tells us viewers that she wants to let both sides’ plans develop and just pick a side at the very end.
Sarah talks to Zeke; they want to oust Sierra, Andrea, and Tai in that order. It certainly sounds like Sarah considers Zeke her #1 ally. Meanwhile, Zeke offers Brad and Troy a final five deal (with the others being himself, Sarah, and Michaela). I have to say none of this is doing anything to move Zeke up my rankings, as he’s really just positioning himself as a threat, as he did last season.
The immunity challenge is one we’ve seen before: arrange a long row of blocks so they’ll fall domino-style, but as you set them up you have to keep high-stepping through a metal grid. If you graze it, the blocks will fall over. Andrea gets to the end of her row but finds she has run out of blocks, i.e. she set up her blocks too close to one another. So others race to catch her as she tries to re-set her blocks further apart. Finally she decides she’s ready, and the blocks all fall as planned, and she wins immunity. I’m so proud of my girlfriend! Oops, sorry, she’s not really my girlfriend.
Sierra is worried about being on the chopping block, and she is certainly getting a lot of camera time this episode.
Now we come to a wonderful sequence. Andrea and Cirie go chat by the well. Andrea wants to go after Zeke, and she tells Cirie so. But Cirie wonders if Sierra would join them to vote Brad. Just at that moment Sierra comes by and says she’ll do anything to make sure it’s not her. Andrea and Cirie say they were just discussing that, could Sierra come back shortly? Cirie tells Andrea they would have to get Sarah on board for the move, and just then they see Sarah coming. “Be easy though, we gotta approach it real, real easy,” mutters Cirie, who has really been masterful lately.
As we viewers know to expect, Sarah doesn’t care for the Zeke plan. But she says, “I really need to keep my mouth shut because if I start scramblin’ around to try to save Zeke, I’m gonna get in hot water.” Yes! She has figured this out, it’s amazing how many Survivor players don’t.
Michaela and Sarah talk, they both think one of the four (Brad, Sierra, Tai or Troy) needs to go home. Otherwise a 6-4 edge only becomes 5-4, and if one person flips they would be right back on the bottom.
Tribal Council is very boring as Jeff Probst just belabors the obvious. So let’s fast-forward to the vote. We see Sierra’s vote, it’s for Tai (?).  Probst reads the votes and after the first five it is three votes Tai, two votes Sierra. And then he reads the other five votes … all for Zeke, who is voted out. Michaela is sobbing!
My first reaction is that this is a good move for Andrea (whom Zeke was about to come after, by his own admission in the credits scene). But is it a good move for the others, Aubry, Cirie, Sarah, and Michaela (yes, she did vote for Zeke, the sobs notwithstanding)?
In my rankings, Cirie moves past Brad into my #1 spot. Let me take a brief look at the seven players I think are contenders.
Cirie thoughts: Her social and strategic game have been amazing the past few weeks, and with Zeke out nobody seems to be gunning for her.
Brad thoughts: With his new improved social game and his athletic skills, he could certainly win it all.
Sierra thoughts: She’s athletic and fairly wily, but what is her resume exactly?
Aubry thoughts: Being under the radar and smart maneuvering could get her to the end. But the fact that she couldn’t beat out Michele in the Kaoh Rong final makes me wonder if she can convince a jury this time.
Andrea thoughts: Several people seem to think of her as the #1 threat in the game, and winning the last immunity reinforces that. She will probably have to win at least one key immunity to make the finals.
Sarah thoughts: Will she win the game or go out in the very next vote? I tend to think she is just too honest to do the former.
Troyzan thoughts: Right now his resume is zero, but he also doesn’t have anyone mad at him, plus he has his athletic skills and an idol.
contenders: 1. Cirie, 2. Brad, 3. Sierra, 4. Aubry, 5. Andrea, 6. Sarah, 7. Troyzan
 
no chance: Tai, Michaela
 
jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Hali (no idea), Ozzy (Andrea), Debbie (Sierra), Zeke (Brad)

“In complete control of this game.” Survivor: Game Changers April 26 2017 recap

27 Apr
Debbie says her group is “in complete control of this game,” meaning herself, Sierra, Brad, Tai, Troyzan, and now Sarah. Zeke and Andrea squabble, and Zeke wants to align with the majority as protection from Andrea.
The camera shows us a series of reward-challenge platforms out in the ocean, and a close-up shows us that a secret advantage (clearly labeled as such) is there to be found in the challenge. There is a schoolyard pick to determine two teams of five, with one person not picked and thus ineligible for the reward. That person is the very athletic Michaela! So obviously the choices were made on the basis of alliances. Probst asks Michaela how she’s feeling and she says “Like they some bitches.” (I think.) And while Michaela complains, we see that the advantage is actually not in the challenge area proper, but attached to the leg of the very bench Michaela is sitting on.
In the challenge, Cirie is unable to climb out of the water onto a platform, and finally Sarah swims back out and pushes her up, while the other team led by Brad wins easily. The challenge is over, but Jeff Probst urges Cirie to still try and cross the floating balance beam that she failed to cross in the challenge. In tears, and with everyone urging her on, she does, and to make sure nobody misses it, Probst mentions a couple of times what a heartwarming moment this is. Hold on a second! I seem to remember that in many other seasons Probst has told other players to quit since the challenge was over, and I think openly scoffed at some for still trying!
The reward-winning tribe swims to the seaplane that is to whisk them off, but of course since Cirie can barely swim now, that’s not an option for the other tribe, and Probst summons a boat for the group and one to pick up Michaela from her nearby platform. That’s when Sarah spots the secret advantage. She swims the short distance between platforms and as Michaela is getting on the boat, Sarah pulls the advantage loose and sticks it in her shoe, very nonchalantly and in no particular rush.
So at this point I had best recap all of the advantages that we viewers know about (not counting the ones that have already been used):
Sarah now has a Secret Advantage, powers to be determined.
Sierra still has the Legacy Advantage she found in the very first episode, but the only remaining juncture when it can still be used is when 6 people are left in the game (we currently have 11).
 – Troyzan still has the immunity idol he picked up during a challenge early on.
– And Tai has two immunity idols!
Sarah soon reads the note with her advantage and finds out that it can be used to steal someone else’s vote and make it a second vote of your own. It can be used anytime but no later than when five people are left in the game (which if I’m not mistaken, is also the last time hidden immunity idols can be used). We have seen the vote stealer once before, in Survivor Cambodia aka Second Chance, when it was completely misplayed. Sarah vows, “I will be the first one to play this vote correctly.”
Sierra, like Debbie earlier, tells us their group is firmly in control. Cirie tries to tell Sarah that she doesn’t want to be on the bottom of Brad’s alliance.
The challenge is a fixture of recent seasons: pile blocks on a wobbly table attached to a long rope. Troyzan wins immunity, and Sierra immediately tells us viewers that Andrea must go.
Back at camp, everyone is annoyed at Michaela and some want her to be the next votes out, but Brad rules that it should be Andrea. Sarah tells us, “The plan was made without asking me, and I realize at that point I’m not high in the pecking order in that sixsome.” She starts making plans to join up with the five outcasts (Andrea, Zeke, Michaela, Cirie, and Aubry) to vote out one of the sixsome. It would require Andrea and Zeke working together, but Andrea is ready to grasp at any straw.
But then Sierra has some alone time with Sarah, and tells her: the group I want to go to the final three with is me, you, and Debbie. Well, of course Sierra would want that. Absolutely no one is going to vote for Debbie, and Sierra could just say that Sarah only rode her coattails. But the way Sarah sees this is: wow, someone wants to take me to final three! Maybe that would be a better plan than doing this big insurrection.
Debbie has a very condescending talk with her old Kaoh Rong castmate Aubry. To go against the strong six would be dumb, and you’re a smart person, she says. As soon as Debbie turns away, Aubry rolls her eyes at the camera. Aubry then tells us that she’s reminded of their earlier season together: “Debbie starts to get cocky and then make mistakes.” When Sarah hears about the conversation, she is turned off by the idea of going to the final three with Debbie. Or is she? She says her final decision will be made at Tribal Council.
At Tribal, I’m struck by two things. One is that any one of eight people has a serious chance to win this game, and I wouldn’t be shocked if any of them did! I’m referring to everyone besides Debbie, Tai, and Michaela. The other thing that strikes me is that Debbie, a goofy and somewhat likable character on her first season, has turned into an out-and-out villain. She tells Probst five different ways that the alliance of six has an unbreakable stranglehold on the game.
As for Michaela, she tells the others “You can either do something while you have numbers or you can sit here looking like boo-boo fool.” Troyzan has a confused facial expression at that comment, as do I.
When it’s time to vote, we see Andrea vote for Debbie (not Sierra or Brad?) and simulate a “goodbye kiss.” Probst reads five votes each for Andrea and Debbie and then reveals the deciding sixth vote: Debbie.
contenders: 1. Brad, 2. Cirie, 3. Sierra, 4. Aubry, 5. Troyzan, 6. Andrea,  7. Sarah, 8. Zeke
 
no chance: Tai, Michaela
 
jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Hali (no idea), Ozzy (Zeke), Debbie (Sierra)