“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.

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