Survivor: Game Changers Recap: Sugar Daddy

We all know that little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, and that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Well whoever is responsible for making Sandra and Michaela (and Deb for that matter), they may want to check their sugar jar, because these gals seem to have been made up with a disproportionate amount of spice. Luckily for them, revenge is sweet, especially when it comes in the form of a Survivor #blindside.

It was the second-straight “good” to “very good” episode in a row and this season is definitely beginning to heat up and live up to its “Game Changers” name, but before we go over-confidently to Tribal Council without bringing all of our belongings with us, please be warned that there are spoilers to follow, as we will be discussing in detail the events that took place during Episode 4 of Survivor: Game Changers.


Dirty Deed

Well it’s too bad for JT, who now has officially imploded not only Malcolm‘s game, but his own, with last week’s Tribal Council blunder. And who knew last week’s #coffeeisforclosers would ring true again this week?

Sandra – who according to the message boards and Twitter this season, can be upgraded from “villain” to “super-villain” – was actually more like her former self this episode, the player that won Survivor twice. She saw a crack between JT and Michaela and exploited it with a subtle lie, eating the rest of the tribe’s sugar, knowing that this would get JT even more angry with Michaela. It was classic Sandra.

But in the end, it was Varner who ended up holding all the power at Tribal, and it was Aubry who – like often happened on her previous season – was left wondering why things didn’t go the way she expected, and hilariously, even what her own tribe name was…more on this Tribal Council a bit later.

The episode wasn’t all bad for JT…it started with what was quite possibly the quickest hidden Idol find in Survivor history. Now I’m sure it took a good deal of time in real life, but before we even got to the Survivor opening credits, JT had located a clue and found a hidden Idol! It was a much needed Idol, as JT was the immediate target after last week’s explosive, holy-crap-all-hell-broke-loose Tribal Council, in which he was responsible for most of the shenanigans.

As you may remember, JT had concocted a crazy plan to get Sandra voted out of the game, by spilling the proverbial beans to Brad and his opposing tribe just whom JT’s tribe was going to vote for (Sierra). JT did not intend for Brad to then vote out Malcolm, he truly thought they’d take the opportunity to send Sandra packing. Malcolm was blindsided, and JT was left hanging out to dry. He of course denied telling Brad anything, but it was clear from the opening segment that Sandra wasn’t buying what JT was selling. She was on to him. Being in Sandra’s cross-hairs is never a place you want to find yourself.

The Stakes Have Been Raised

Much of this episode though, dealt with the regression of the resident Survivor “crazy lady” Deb. Man, she is a strong, independent woman, who dare I say, is certifiably cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. She went absolutely bananas, screaming at Brad, at Tai, at the crew-person interviewing her for her confessional…pretty much anybody she encountered.

It stemmed from the Reward Challenge, where Deb claims Brad was ordering her and the others around as to what their tasks would be during the challenge. Luckily for all of us (and perhaps unknown to Deb), they happen to all be on video out there. Deb is shown volunteering for the balance beam portion, and Brad then agrees and lets Deb have her way. Deb apparently did not remember it this way, but Survivor showed us, the audience, the clip a second time just to make sure we weren’t going all Deb…I mean crazy…too.

Of course, Deb may have remembered that moment incorrectly, but it spoke to an underlying feeling she has had that was going on for quite a while, of Brad being the tribe dictator. It probably was more of an ego blow though, because Deb I’m sure was pissed and embarrassed that she was perceived as the “weak link” during the challenge, and she thinks better of herself.

Dirty Deed

Deb carried this verbal aggression into the #ImmunityChallenge, where she boasted to Brad during the challenge that she was the first to have climbed over the wall. Brad never took the bait – to his credit – and never got into a back-and-forth with Deb. All signs this episode felt as if they were pointing to a clear Mana Tribe debacle, but Deb’s tribe ended up winning first place at the Immunity Challenge, and Deb was likely spared. The other two tribes came down to a neck-and-neck battle of slingshots, between JT and Ozzy, but Ozzy proved once again why he is the most legendary of physical competitors on this show.

Elsewhere this episode, Tai was shown finding another clue to a hidden Idol, but he was not shown finding it. Could next week’s “drop your buffs” twist prevent Tai from locating this Idol?

Also we were given a possible “foreshadowing” segment, with Sarah from the dominant green tribe. This cop tells us she’s playing this season like a criminal, and we see her trying to form an alliance on the sly with Troyzan, who secretly you may remember, has a hidden Idol. Troyzan is on the outs of his tribe, so this is a bold and dangerous move for Sarah to make, but Troyzan has no other real option other than to accept Sarah’s olive branch. Once again, the green tribe avoided Tribal, so we will have to see where this story-line goes in future weeks.

The Stakes Have Been Raised

As it has now for the FIFTH consecutive Tribal Council, the original Mana tribe – now consisting of Michaela, Aubry, Sandra, and Varner – found themselves at Tribal Council. Yes, the two-time winner, self-proclaimed “Queen” of the game and Survivor super-villain Sandra Diaz-Twine has now managed to make her way through five out of five Tribal Councils this season. Now anybody will tell you that going to Tribal Council over and over again is no winning Survivor strategy, but you have to give it to her for lasting even this long this time around. With JT now gone, and Tony before him, Sandra is now the only player remaining who has won the game before, making her an even bigger target than ever. Anybody who has challenged her thus far has been sent home. So while I feel like she has nearly no shot of making it all 39 days, until I see her torch snuffed, I have no reason to believe she can’t do it. Who, if anybody, will be the one to finally take down Sandra?

Dirty Deed

JT was foolish in not only not playing his Idol at Tribal, but not even bringing it with him! He royally messed up his game last week and it seemed like only a matter of time for him, but finding an Idol seemed like a God-send for the former winner. I would have just played it no matter what, knowing what had just transpired the previous Tribal and knowing that Sandra has been very vindictive thus far this season. Nobody can ever argue that JT is not a perennial Survivor hero and a true game changer, but this blunder just furthers the narrative that he may have never won the first time if not for his counter-part, Stephen Fishbach, who was smarter and better at the strategic part of the game. Left to his own accord, JT has been thoroughly entertaining to watch implode (go re-watch Heroes vs. Villains again if you need further proof), but never a real threat to win a second time.

Dirty Deed

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Michaela…what a bad-ass! Picking up where she left off last season, Michaela was a beast during the challenge, digging a hole in the sand in record time, even making Probst do a double-take at her efforts. She then went head-to-head with a former winner and took him down, and sipped on a cup of tea while she did it. OK, I know it was probably water, but in my mind I want to believe it was her just sipping on some tea. Never have I seen such a show at Tribal, and it had to feel good if you’re a Michaela fan, to watch her sip her tea and flip her hair at JT, a guy who just told her “some of us aren’t quite game changers, some of us are just filling space.” You go on filling that space girl, because if these other veterans continue to underestimate you, you might just find yourself winning this thing.

Dirty Deed

Episode Take-Away: OK Game Changers, you’ve got my attention. Yes Tony provided some early fireworks, but for a brief minute early on, this season felt like it might not live up to the glorious “Millennials vs. Gen-Xers” season we just got through. I’m now getting very excited. Last week was an epic Tribal, and an overall fantastic episode, and this was a strong follow-up. With a potentially monumental episode on deck for next week, now is the time to grab your casual Survivor-watcher and tell them to get caught up with this season.

Sandra has miraculously made it through five Tribal Councils now already this season, and still seems to be in the majority alliance with Varner and Michaela. Brad is still running the show at his tribe, while Sarah is plotting behind-the-scenes at hers. JT was not only sent out of the game, he was sent home with an Idol still in his possession, although he didn’t even bring it with him to Council. It’s only going to get better folks.

Strategic Move of the Week: You have to hand it to Sandra for the sugar ploy. She noticed that JT was growing annoyed with Michaela, so she decides to eat all of the sugar so that JT would blame Michaela. It worked like a charm, and it actually gave JT someone to zone-in on strategically. Had this little ruse not happened, JT might not have had such strong feelings about Michaela and therefore might have been more apt to play his Idol. Now Sandra didn’t know JT had an Idol, but making him feel comfortable was by design. And keeping Aubry out of the loop? That could potentially be the one oversight to Sandra’s plan, as Aubry is not likely to forget this slight.

The Stakes Have Been Raised

Voted out this week: JT

Won Immunity: Green Tribe (Troyzan, Ozzy, Cirie, Andrea, Zeke, Sarah), Red Tribe (Brad, Deb, Tai, Hali, Sierra)

Vote: No Idol played. 3 – JT (Michaela, Sandra, Varner), 2 – Michaela (JT, Aubry)

Next Week’s Episode: It was music to my ears when Jeff Probst told us that this season, “the twists are never-ending.”  Not only do we get a “drop your buffs” meaning either a merge or another tribe switch-up, but Probst utters the words “Exile Island,” a place that has long been forgotten on the show that apparently makes a return next week. What else could this episode possibly do to top both of these things? How about a shot of a boat heading to shore, with Probst telling us that a “former Survivor player makes a surprise return.”  Who-in-the-what-in-the-what-now?

Important Note! Remember to return right here to RealityTea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with JT. Also, I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews. And as always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.


Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira