“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)

“Espionage behind every coconut tree.” Survivor: Game Changers April 19, 2017 recap

27 Apr
At the beginning of this episode, the two tribes go to see Jeff Probst and see the traditional “merge feast” spread out behind him. There is also a mysterious covered table next to him. Probst announces that one person from each tribe must volunteer to go without food. If that doesn’t happen, everyone will only get what’s on the covered table: namely one cracker with cheese per person, and a bottle of ice tea for everyone to share!
Quickly, Brad volunteers, saying “it’s what Monica would do,” meaning his wife who was on Survivor previously. And Tai volunteers for the blue team. How many brownie points does this win the two men? Cirie probably speaks for everyone when she tells us, “Everything in this game is calculated.” I guess this had the potential to be a dramatic moment, but it kind of falls flat.
Sierra reminds us that her legacy advantage can only be used at two junctures in the game, and this is the first of them with 13 people left. As for Brad, he wants to gun for either Hali or Michaela. Debbie, meanwhile, is busy getting drunk, twerking and mooning people. She claims (to us) that it was all an act and just strategy, and she didn’t have a sip of alcohol. Also, Zeke fills in everyone on the Jeff Varner controversy from the last tribal council.
Lots of people are talking about voting Michaela out, or would be if she didn’t keep sneaking up on the people having this discussion. However, the alliance of Zeke-Cirie-Andrea-Sarah is more interested in keeping Michaela around since there’s a chance she could join them later. Hali, more or less a free agent, feels the same way.
Cirie has some advice for Michaela: “You have to control your emotions.”
The immunity challenge involves standing on tiptoes and pressing a block onto a crossbar with the top of one’s head. It comes down to Andrea and Tai, and Andrea wins.
Who to vote out? Sierra thinks Hali must have an idol since she is acting so confident. She wants to split the vote between Hali and Michaela, but tell the two of them that the vote is for Zeke. Surprisingly she tells this to Cirie who was just now portrayed as Zeke’s ally. Then we see Cirie tells Michaela to vote Zeke. How does that help Cirie?
At tribal council there is much talk about what a crazy day it was. And I’m sure it was, but not in a particularly entertaining way. Jeff Probst asks the group: if someone wants to deny he has an idol, why doesn’t he just offer to strip down and empty his bag? Hali announces “I’ll shake down in front of everyone right now,” but only if someone asks her to, she won’t just do it.
It’s time to vote, and Cirie shows us that her vote is for Michaela and says “This is to save your life and mine.” Huh? It is also announced that Hali is voted out and is the first jury member. So it looks like a 10-person jury and a final three.
On to the second half of the double episode. Cirie tells Michaela she can’t let anyone know about their alliance. Cirie and Zeke talk about voting out Brad or Sierra. Andrea agrees, but tells Zeke they can’t tell Debbie or Tai about their plans. But Zeke tells us that Cirie and Andrea are much bigger strategic threats than Sierra. And Zeke tells Debbie and Tai that Cirie and Andrea are tight, but Debbie is skeptical.
I skipped over a not particularly notable reward challenge just now. Let’s get to the immunity challenge, which involves wrapping oneself around a pole high in the air and hanging on as long as possible. I remember Ozzy doing this in his original Cook Islands season. Probst tells us Ozzy has done this twice, and won the challenge both times. It comes down to Andrea, Tai, and Ozzy, then just the two men who are up there at least half an hour longer than anyone else. Finally Ozzy can’t hold on anymore and slides down, his arm bleeding.
Now, I have no idea why Zeke is suddenly on a mission to get rid of Andrea, but he is. Someone talks about voting Zeke, then Debbie proposes voting out Ozzy.
At tribal council, Ozzy is asked by Probst how this differs from his first three seasons. Ozzy answers “there’s espionage behind every coconut tree.” Everyone goes to the voting booth, and after they’re done, Debbie announced that she “gave up the basic necessities of life” on Exile Island in order to gain the advantage of an extra vote (she is sticking to the roughing-it story since nobody is in a position to disprove it). She goes back to vote a second time.
Alas, Ozzy is voted out.
The votes are as follows:
1 vote Sierra: Cirie (???)
1 vote Aubry: Zeke (just as mystifying)
4 votes Zeke: Andrea, Aubry, Michaela, Ozzy
7 votes Ozzy: Brad, Sierra, Troyzan, Sarah, Tai, Debbie, and a second vote from Debbie
So Debbie essentially wasted her extra vote.
Perhaps this recap did not make a whole lot of sense. Well, neither did the episode because we did not see anything that made us understand the relationship between Zeke, Andrea, Cirie, and Aubry and where what went sour.
contenders: 1. Brad, 2. Cirie, 3. Sierra, 4. Aubry, 5. Andrea, 6. Troyzan, 7. Zeke, 8. Sarah
no chance: Tai, Debbie, Michaela
jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Hali (no idea), Ozzy (Zeke)

“What I’m showing is a deception.” Survivor: Game Changers April 12, 2017 recap

16 Apr
Debbie, as scheduled, joins the blue tribe which just lost a member. She has decided not to tell about how luxurious Exile Island was for her, complaining “there was no flint.” Meanwhile, Tai correctly tells us, “I’m terrible at Tribal.” And Zeke tells Varner that though he had to lie about Sandra not being the target at the vote, he’s sincere about going to the end with Varner.
The reward challenge is for ten pizzas for the winning seven-player tribe! Led by Ozzy’s usual athletic excellence, the blue tribe wins. On a side note, Cirie, bizarrely, participates wearing a dress. Is that a Survivor first for Day 17? Maybe she had some sort of wardrobe malfunction and the producers had to step in.
Having failed to win the reward, the orange tribe is in tears at their camp from the hunger and the exhaustion on Day 17. Brad tells everyone he now understands why his Monica was such a wreck after going the full 39 days on their prior season, and that he wasn’t able to comprehend it then since he went out pretty early that season. Aubry tells us viewers that in her opinion Brad is the most genuine person in the game. And Brad has a fivesome in mind that he wants to move forward with: Troy, Sierra, Aubry, and Cirie. Which is bad news for Michaela and Hali.
On the blue tribe, meanwhile, the odd man out is clearly Jeff Varner, who tells us his only chance is to “throw some shade” on someone, that person being Ozzy.
In the immunity challenge, Blue has a big lead but then has to unscramble a long word at the end and can’t get it. Hali figures out that it’s “metamorphosis,” bringing the win to her tribe. So yet again, Cirie escapes going to tribal council!
So who will be voted out for blue, Jeff Varner or Ozzy? Zeke wants Ozzy to stay in the game because he wants bigger threats than himself to take the attention off of him. That was really the problem in Zeke’s prior season: he suddenly found himself the biggest threat remaining.
Zeke has another friendly chat with Varner, and the tidbit Varner gleans from it is that Zeke and Ozzy have some sort of understanding, officially or unofficially. He decides to tell the women about that, and Sarah and Andrea take everything he says at face value and are furious at Zeke (I don’t think Varner actually lies about anything here, just puts the most negative possible spin on things Zeke said).
At tribal council, Jeff really lays in on thick, prosecuting like Hamilton Burger to the power of ten (he kind of reminds me of Taylor’s over-the-top performance last season). He reveals the secret alliance between Zeke and Ozzy to the world and tells the women individually that they’re making a mistake. Not a bad strategy on his part … so far.
Then he says “There’s more…” and asks Zeke, “why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?”
Zeke is silent. Ozzy and Andrea both have an “oh gosh” look.
Varner continues: “What I’m showing is a deception.”
Then everyone else starts to yell at him — that’s too personal! Andrea starts crying.
Varner says he argues for the rights of transgender people every day in North Carolina. That doesn’t pacify the others, and even Jeff Probst is pretty critical. Varner apologizes. All this time Zeke is silent except to say he never brought it up in two seasons.
Later in the conversation (which takes up the last 15 minutes or so of the show), Zeke explains that he doesn’t want the label of being transgender, he just wants to be known for himself. We hear the various reactions, the most notable one being that of Sarah who, in tears, says “that was a malicious attack what he did.” This coming from a cop who presumably has seen some pretty awful things. Varner backtracks as fast as he can this whole time, but the damage is done. Finally Jeff Probst says, “We don’t need to vote, just grab your torch.” Surprisingly , Varner and Zeke share a long hug.
A few thoughts on all of this:
– As it was going on, my first thought was that the show lingered on it a bit too long, but now I think it was just right.
– One thing I love about Survivor is the way they do reaction shots. On some reality shows, when they want to show “surprise” they find footage of someone with his mouth so wide open you could stick an apple into it. Here, the more subtle reactions of Ozzy and Andrea were much more powerful.
– It was quite clear that not only did nobody in the cast know Zeke was transgender, few in his personal life did either. So to reveal this was quite shocking, especially coming from Varner, who as mentioned last week, is gay himself. It really was a malicious attack, and on top of that I’m not sure how that was supposed to help his goal of getting Ozzy voted out! And even if he had, how do you go from that to hoping to get any votes at a final tribal council?
– Poor Zeke. Not only was a very personal secret of his revealed against his will, having who-knows-what negative effect on his life, but there’s no question that this also hurts him in a game. To be a sympathetic character is to be a “jury threat” in this game, meaning nobody wants to take you to the finals.
Certainly a memorable episode, but for all the wrong reasons.
contenders: 1. Brad, 2. Cirie, 3. Sierra, 4. Andrea, 5. Aubry, 6. Ozzy, 7. Hali, 8. Troyzan, 9. Zeke, 10. Sarah
no chance: Tai, Debbie, Michaela

“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