“Three gay men together.” Survivor: Game Changers April 5, 2017 recap

6 Apr
It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited in the six days between Survivor episodes. I was just so curious who the returning Survivor would be. That part turned out to be a huge disappointment, but it was still a pretty good episode.
We begin with Aubry congratulating everyone on the move to take out her ally J.T. Aubry resolves to learn from Sandra’s gameplay.
Tai’s idol clue (which he received last episode) involved pouring water on a board to reveal a symbol. He figures out that board must be at the tribe’s well. He finds the symbol and then the hidden immunity idol. This is twice that Tai has been able to look for an idol in a pretty secluded area, unlike Troyzan who really had to work for his!
When the tribes gather, Jeff Probst tells them to drop their buffs. Everyone draws a new color, except for Debbie who draws no color at all. The new tribes form into groups and Tai hugs Zeke and Varner saying, “Three gay men together.” That’s no breaking news in the case of Tai and Zeke, but is it for Varner? His first season was so long ago that I really don’t remember.
The new orange tribe is: Troy, Michaela, Sierra, Hali, Aubry, Cirie, and Brad. Two men and five women.
The new blue tribe is: Sandra, Sarah, Varner, Andrea, Zeke, Tai, and Ozzy. Has Sandra lost her numbers advantage?
Probst tells Debbie that she is “going nowhere except to … Exile Island.” Wow! That is the first time Exile Island has been used in a long time. Actually, fact-checking that, it was used in the relatively recent Blood vs. Water (season 29, the current season being 34) but its heyday was seasons 12 through 18, so we haven’t seen much of it in the last eight calendar years.
We don’t see too much of the new orange tribe other than Brad trying to bond with Troy. The two do have something of a link since Troy played with Brad’s wife Monica in Survivor: One World.
On the blue tribe, that student of the game Zeke knows that it’s dangerous to let Sandra stay in the game, but he also knows that she literally has never been voted out. He decides that the only way to go after Sandra and Varner is make them think someone else is being targeted, so the cover story is that everyone wants Tai out. Zeke realizes this maneuver could blow up in the faces of him and his friends.
Tai meanwhile, being at a different camp than when we started the episode, wonders if this camp could have an idol hidden at the same corresponding place to the one at his former camp. Indeed it does, and now Tai has two idols! Too many idols on this season, say I.
Debbie soon finds out that Exile Island is no lonely stretch of sand but a ship. And not just a ship, but one well-stocked with creature comforts including plenty of food. And soon, we see a boat motoring toward hers, obviously carrying the returning Survivor who was mentioned last week.
As I mentioned last week, I was hoping they had found some excuse to get Malcolm or Tony back into the game. I allowed myself to fantasize that an all-time great character like Boston Rob or Russell would be shaking up the season. I even briefly considered the possibility that we would see the legendary first-season winner Richard Hatch (we have three gay men on the season, why not four?). Finally we see onto the boat and the returnee is … John Cochran, the nerdy winner of Survivor: Caramoan (whose season’s name is misspelled on the show’s graphic). Not quite what I was hoping for.
But we soon find out that Cochran is not joining the cast, but is just here as an advisor to Debbie. And Cochran tells us viewers he wonders how much advice he can give, since on Debbie’s first season she acted like she thought she knew everything. And he notes that one of her fatal flaws is overconfidence. We soon see a case in point. Cochran asks her, “Do you have any fears, or do you have any reservations about people …” “I don’t,” Debbie says. What? Now come on, Debbie. I mean, she certainly has reservations about Brad Culpepper whom she spent all of last episode yelling about and/or carping at.
Cochran gives Debbie some tips which knowing her she won’t listen to. But then he also hands her an “advantage option.” She hugs him and sobs! We find out that advantage option means she can choose one of three advantages: 1) a fake idol kit, 2) an extra vote, or 3) an advantage at one challenge for her tribe.
My first impression is that the extra vote is the best choice, and that’s what Debbie chooses. I don’t think a fake idol has ever really helped someone win the game (though they have provided lots of entertainment), and the challenge advantage would only help before a merge which is probably not that far away.
Not that the extra vote has ever helped someone win the game yet either. To recap, it was negated by a hidden immunity idol when used by Dan, completely botched through overthinking by Stephen Fischbach, and as Debbie will remember, was used by Tai ineffectively as Debbie looked on from the jury box. I’ll be interested to see if Debbie can do better.
Back at camp, Zeke sees Jeff Varner as a potential future ally, but for now he has to sell his fake story about Tai being the target. Jeff buys it, but when he reports back to Sandra, she smells a rat.
The immunity challenge involves dragging a very heavy sled up a beach. The orange tribe does that faster than blue and also solves a puzzle in no time. Here’s what strikes me immediately: guess who still hasn’t gone to even one tribal council: Cirie. There’s a reason she is near the top of my contender rankings.
Sandra needs to make a move. She starts working the angle to Zeke that he doesn’t want Debbie, Tai, and Aubry to join up since all of them were on the same season. But I’m not sure why that would be a big deal. Yes, Debbie will be joining this tribe since they’re going to lose a person, but she wasn’t tight with Tai or Aubry in Kaoh Rong. Plus Aubry isn’t even on this blue tribe right now. Still, Sarah is tempted by the pitch, noting that Sandra “just starts to suck you in.” It certainly seems that Ozzy, Andrea, and Sarah, none of whom have had much camera time all season, have formed an alliance.
For whatever reason, Tai chooses to throw a spanner into the works. He tells Varner that Sandra is being targeted, to the consternation of Ozzy who is standing right there.
Time for tribal council, the first of the season for lucky ducks Zeke, Sarah, Ozzy, and Andrea. Sandra starts by saying she thinks she’s a goner, and Zeke looks terrified as he knows this can only be the start of a maneuver of some kind. But for whatever reason, the move is made by Tai, who says he’ll give Sandra and Varner a name to vote for, and he whispers one to them. Varner points out that to make that happen, the three of them would need a fourth person since seven people are there, and it’s obvious Tai had not thought it through that far. Still, Ozzy looks like he’s going to throw up. After the whispering, Sarah says “Do you want to share with all of us?” and Tai says “I just named Ozzy.”
So now Tai is a major target. Sandra tells Andrea “Varner and I will vote with you,” if her group opts to take out Tai. Surely they won’t fall for it?
It’s a tense few moments. When votes are read, nobody plays an idol, and Sandra is voted out. She’s surprisingly gracious, and Probst notes that this is the first time in 94 days of playing that she’s being voted out. As she leaves, there’s a round of applause for her!
In my rankings, there are some changes, including moving Zeke down from #1 to #3. He’s just not staying under the radar enough for my taste.
contenders: 1. Brad, 2. Cirie, 3. Zeke, 4. Sierra, 5. Andrea, 6. Aubry, 7. Ozzy, 8. Troyzan, 9. Hali, 10. Sarah, 11. Varner
no chance: Tai, Debbie, Michaela

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