“Gonna push us out of Zen mode.” Survivor: Game Changers Season Premiere recap

12 Mar

The location for this 34th season is once again Fiji, and we begin by seeing the cast on board ship, with glimpses of all-time greats like Tony (Cagayan), Sandra (Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains), and Ozzy (three prior seasons). The “game changers” credentials of others are a bit more questionable, like Troyzan (Survivor: One World) and Brad Culpepper (the 15th-place finisher in Survivor: Blood vs. Water). Then there are a blonde and two brunettes who I’ve never seen before in my life. Check that: when the blonde’s caption appears, it’s Sierra from Survivor: Worlds Apart who I very vaguely remember as being a rodeo cowgirl … until I see that she actually finished 5th, and that was just four seasons ago! One of the brunettes is revealed to be Hali from Worlds Apart, who I do recall was on the “no collar” tribe. Having finished 11th, she was hardly a “game changer,” though you could perhaps argue that she was game-changingly good-looking. The other brunette is one Sarah Lacina, who it turns out finished 11th on Survivor: Cagayan. Even after looking that up, I still do not remember anything about her whatsoever.

As in several prior seasons, once Jeff Probst is done with his preamble he tells the players that they have a short time to grab as many supplies as they can off this ship and take them to shore. He also announces that tied up underneath the water a fair distance from the boat is a box of tools. Someone immediately says “Ozzy’s gotta go,” and the ace swimmer does immediately head towards the tools. The other tribe doesn’t even bother to send someone initially … who could ever out-swim Ozzy?

In all the chaos someone picks up some supplies without noticing that an envelope with “secret advantage” printed on it falls to the deck. The aforementioned Sierra sees it presently and tucks it into her shorts. At the end. Ozzy’s tribe has the chickens and the most supplies. in addition to the toolkit.

Yet it’s the other tribe, wearing orange buffs, that hits the beach first. We see Michaela from the prior Millennials vs. Gen-X season, who vows to keep her facial expressions under control (she did anything but when she played before). In no time, Tony playfully announces “I’m out, I’m looking for the idol,” and races off. He expects someone to chase after him, but when no one does he figures he might as well start looking, for real. I missed Tony — he is so entertaining and even his voice is hilarious.

On the blue tribe, Sierra opens her secret advantage to find it’s the Legacy Advantage that debuted last season. But there’s a twist: this one can only be used when there are 13 people left in the game or 6 people left in the game.

Ozzy surveys the other players and tells us the only one he’s scared of is Cirie (three prior seasons),  since she had a hand in voting him out of Fans vs. Favorites. He says something to that effect to Tai (Kaoh Rong), but when he and Cirie talk, he tells her it’s water under the bridge and everything’s fine. By the way, interspersed with these conversations are shots of some shark fins all too close to shore! Soon, Tai tells Cirie she needs to work things out with Ozzy. Wait, did Ozzy just say something today about us not being OK?, Cirie asks Tai. An extremely long silence ensues, with Tai obviously trying to think of some kind of plausible lie, and failing miserably!

At the orange tribe, Tony goes to “get water” and ends up sprinting toward the well. The inventor of the “spy shack” has decided he is going to build a “spy bunker” near the well this time. Not that his plan makes much sense: it’s one thing to pile up enough branches to hide behind, and a much bigger job to basically dig a ditch, plus he’s doing it just a few feet from the well!

I haven’t yet mentioned Ciera (Blood vs. Water and Second Chance) who tells us she has played with three winners in Tyson, Aras, and Tina and learned something from all of them. In a group discussion she observes that Tony has befriended Caleb (the guy who was medically evacuated from Kaoh Rong) and proposes splitting the vote between two of them. Not a fan of this is our old friend Malcolm (Philippines and Fans vs. Favorites II) who definitely wants to keep these bigger threats around to distract from him, and similarly inclined is Aubry (Kaoh Rong). Malcolm bemoans that Ciera looks to be “the one that’s gonna push us out of Zen mode on this tribe.”

When everyone assembles for the first challenge, Probst announces a rules change: when there is a tie vote at tribal council there will not, as in prior seasons, be a re-vote in which only the two people who tied can be voted for and those two people do not participate. Instead, it is on to the next step (an open discussion in an effort to make the vote unanimous) and if that doesn’t work, it’s time for the drawing of rocks to send one person home. One ramification of this is immediately clear to Andrea (Redemption Island and Fans vs. Favorites II)— splitting the votes can now be a dangerous strategy. By the way, I loooove Andrea. But readers of this blog know that.

With 20 players in the game, there are some big personalities who have scarcely gotten any camera time, a case in point being Debbie (Kaoh Rong)!

The orange team loses, and the consensus seems to be that everyone is voting for Ciera. But they tell Ciera the vote is for Michaela. Michaela is certainly fine with the Ciera choice, but when she finds out she herself is the cover story she quickly freaks out. Plenty of pouting and making faces ensues, in true Michaela fashion. “Wow, she’s scary, bro,” Tony says.

The Tribal Council set is a very cool-looking shipwreck scene including a lighthouse that’s the voting booth! I neglected to mention that there is also a  rusted shipwreck just offshore from one of the gameplay sites. The vote is straightforward, with Ciera getting every vote but her own.

Before we continue to the second half of this double-elimination episode, I should note there are three other players I hadn’t yet mentioned: Zeke (Millennials vs. Gen-X), J. T. (Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains), and Jeff Varner (The Australian Outback and Second Chance).

The next day, Tony says he wants to make some moves. He envisions an alliance of himself, Aubry, Malcolm, Caleb, and Sandra. He wants to keep big threats around to take attention off of himself, and Aubry says she feels the same (we already know Malcolm does). The following night there is a great shot of everyone sleeping … except Tony who is standing around nervously. He wants to finish his “spy bunker,” which is odd because everyone has noticed the dug-up earth. He tries to lie down in the small ditch and cover himself up, Rambo-style, but then when he hears Sandra and Troyzan coming, he crawls away. He catches some snatches of their conversation (which sounds quite harmless based on what we viewers are shown) but then he decides to burst in and ask them what they are talking about. Their answers make no sense, making Tony suspicious, and with that, the Tony/Sandra alliance is over before it started.

On the blue tribe, Cirie notices that Ozzy and J.T. have hit it off, which she thinks is bad for her.Where are her allies going to come from? She tries to bond with Sarah and also Zeke, who tells us his gut tells him it’s too early to align with someone that everyone is gunning for. Cirie chats up Debbie too, but Debbie tells us, “I assessed it, I don’t buy it.”

Back to the orange tribe. Sandra is now recruiting an anti-Tony alliance, and seemingly signing on are Varner, Hali, Troyzan, and Michaela. Tony observes this and tells Aubry that the two of them, Malcolm, and Caleb need to find one more person.

The challenge is to get a long, heavy fake snake out of a high cage that’s partially underwater. Probst says the snake weighs over 400 pounds. The orange tribe struggles more, and Probst mentions several times how little Varner is contributing. The blue tribe’s lead is huge, but somehow Malcolm solves a puzzle in no time and also puts on an incredible display of ring-tossing to almost tie it, but his tribe just barely falls short.

So Tony’s tribe is going to tribal council needing a fifth person to vote out Sandra. What about Michaela? She’s disgusted at her team’s challenge performances, so Caleb argues to her that they shouldn’t keep the unathletic Sandra.

To cut to the chase, Tony is voted out almost unanimously, though Sandra votes Aubry for reasons that are unclear. As he walks out Sandra can’t help talking trash to send him on his way.

Tony is arguably the most entertaining Survivor player ever, so it’s sad to see him go in the first episode. I don’t think he would have had a chance to win the game, though.

Early favorite: Malcolm.



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