Survivor: Game Changers Recap: Reshuffling The Deck

Only “Booboo the Foo” would think it’s OK to get cocky when competing on Survivor. Tonight’s episode had more than one player boast that they “were running the show” and there was a lot of talk about “lines being drawn,” whether in the sand or in concrete. But here’s a prediction: Whomever ends up winning this season can draw a line straight back to the events of this episode, to determine just who ends up coming out on top.

It was explosive, emotional (in a good way this time) and really featured a pivotal Tribal Council that is usually reserved for the merge episode. Let’s get into the events of tonight’s episode, and remember, only read on if you’ve seen the latest episode of Survivor as this is not a straight “recap,” but more of a reaction/discussion of the episode.


There's A New Sheriff in Town

“The tide comes up pretty quickly and that line gets washed away,” Sarah told us tonight, proving that the “concrete” Deb had referred to must not have set just yet. Tonight was all about Sarah, like an episode of a great ensemble show like “Lost” or “The Walking Dead” that just puts focus on one character for the full hour. Sarah was the key vote last week, the one that sent Ozzy out of the game, and she once again held all the cards at this week’s Tribal Council. Speaking of cards, I loved Zeke‘s analogy that with each Tribal Council “the deck is reshuffled.” Oh, and speaking of the “walking dead,” you can put a fork in Sarah’s game, as I’ll make the argument as to how she chose poorly tonight by deciding to vote out Deb, going against her alliance of six.

Let me start be saying, man, I am loving me some Sarah this season. She, like Hali and Sierra, was one of the questionable picks for a “Game Changers” season. She showed some flare her original season and was most known for being able to sniff out Tony‘s lie, that he was a cop like she was. But a “game changer”? Well, I’ve been extremely impressed and a bit surprised with how well Sarah has performed this season. She used her status as “not a huge threat” to fly somewhat under-the-radar at the beginning of the season, but she has been working her end-game from Day One. Early on, when Troyzan was clearly at the bottom and the man on the outside of his tribe, Sarah slyly formed an alliance with him when nobody else thought to. She has been making small, subtle moves all season long, but there comes a time in every game where you have to eventually show your hand. That time happened tonight, when Sarah was finally put at an impasse. Her cards are now out on the table for all to see, and I think that Sarah made the wrong decision.

A Line Drawn in Concrete

Let me break down why. Yes, I know you are all ecstatic to see Deb voted out…from the comments on this site at least, let’s just say Deb shouldn’t be expecting any Christmas cards. Sarah chose to blindside Deb and go against the alliance that she sided with last week when she voted out Ozzy. On one hand, Sarah could have decided to stick with her alliance of six and vote out Andrea this week, or, on the other hand, she could have done what she did, and turned against them to vote out one of their own (Deb). It was a tough position to be in, and there wasn’t an easy path forward.

But in blindsiding Deb, she in turn blindsided Culpepper, Sierra, Tai and Troyzan. And for what? Does Sarah really think she is in any better a position of power while aligned with Andrea and Cirie? Sarah outed herself as not only a cunning player, but one that is willing to make huge game moves and go against her own alliance if she deems it necessary to do so. As we even see in next week’s preview, these people are here to play and we see two groups – Cirie, Andrea and Sierra in one scene and Brad, Zeke and Troyzan in another – scheming to make a “big move.” So who could they all be talking about? Well left out of all of these scenes was Sarah.

But that’s just speculation…the main reason I think she would be better off had she voted with her alliance, is because I do sort of put stock in what Troyzan said tonight:  You have to get to Final Six before you can start strategizing about Final Six. When there are six left in the game, anything can happen. People start jockeying for who they want to sit next to and even if you’re on the bottom you are only a few Immunity Challenge victories away from willing yourself to Final Three. So the question becomes, is a Sarah who turned against her alliance stronger than a Sarah who just stayed loyal and got “dragged” to Final Six? I say no. Now having turned, Sarah faces a tougher road than ever to get to the end, and now that the target is firmly planted on her back, even if she were to somehow make it, I’m not sure a bitter jury would reward her. I could be wrong of course. But there is a deeper issue at hand that is playing out tonight, that makes me think that all of these players are dead-in-the-water despite Sarah’s actions tonight…

There's A New Sheriff in Town

Here’s the nuts and bolts of it: All of these players – Sarah included – are absolutely playing a ridiculous game for one reason and one reason only: How on God’s green Earth is Cirie still in this game? CIRIE IS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLAYER IN THIS GAME. I’ve been saying it all season and I have to keep saying it because it is completely unfathomable to me that these other players keep letting her survive another day in the game. Sure Andrea is dangerous, but Cirie is Cirie. Her whole ordeal during tonight’s Reward Challenge really shows you the respect she has and the bonds she’s formed with all of the other players. Cirie is not a physical threat, so she doesn’t scare anybody in that respect, but how she is still in the game is a minor miracle and a testament to Cirie’s social skills in the game. Brad and Sierra are obviously not wanting to go to the end with Cirie, and because she’s not a big physical threat they may just be thinking they can get rid of her whenever they want. But her influence and manipulation over others is just too powerful to allow to hang around for any amount of time. It would be like if Boston Rob came back to play again and the others were just like, “Oh, let’s just get him out NEXT vote.” No! You take him out when you get the chance! Cirie is Andrea’s partner-in-crime and Cirie also has Michaela under her wing…taking her out would cripple anything that the minority alliance had going, and it’s painful for me to watch Team Brad/Sierra over-looking this obvious threat that exists right under their noses.

All of this being said, there might be a reason why Cirie is still in the game (other than the fact that she went nearly 20 days without going to a Tribal Council). A brief but very telling moment occurred tonight when Sierra and Sarah were chatting on the beach. Sarah mentioned she made it to Day 19 on her first season, to which Sierra reacted in complete shock. Um, Sierra…are you not a Survivor fan? Did you not see that season of the show? How do you not know your competition? If she doesn’t have a point of reference as to who Cirie even is or her legacy in the game, that explains a lot.

A Line Drawn in Concrete

So really, Sarah is now in a world of trouble, despite being perceptive enough to find a Secret Advantage that really should have gone to Michaela. Poor Michaela. It’s insane that she wasn’t picked to compete in the Reward Challenge, but it appears that nobody really likes her…most of the other players have said as much. Cirie has taken a liking to Michaela, but Michaela just needs a big break in the game…it almost came tonight, when she sat on top of the Secret Advantage throughout the Challenge, at one point tying her shoe as her hand was approximately just a few inches away from it. Kudos to Sarah, who noticed it and nabbed it up quickly. Sarah now has the ability to steal another player’s vote at Tribal, but it can only be used up to when there are five people. This reminds me that we should do a quick recap of all of the in-game advantages at the moment: In addition to Sarah’s “Stolen Vote” Advantage, we have Tai who still possesses two hidden Idols while Troyzan still has one. Then there is Sierra who still is hanging on to that “Legacy Advantage.” In a bit of possible foreshadowing, Sarah acknowledged that “extra vote” advantages have rarely worked out throughout Survivor history, but she vowed to be the first player to use her advantage correctly. Time will tell!

10 players are now left, and if we’re to believe Sarah has found a new home with what had been the minority alliance of five, that would mean that Brad, Tai, Troyzan and Sierra are now going to be scrambling. That’s three Idols that could come into play soon. This game is far from over, as the deck continues to be reshuffled. The tide comes in and the tide washes away.

A Line Drawn in Concrete

Episode Take-Away: It was all about Sarah tonight, which meant that I was totally enthralled. She’s playing hard and smart, but tonight she was put in an impossible situation. Her choice to vote out Deb was great television, but in my humble opinion it wasn’t her best move in the game. In addition to seeing Sarah get a Secret “Stolen Vote” Advantage literally right from underneath Michaela, we had a few other interesting subtleties play out: We saw Cirie fight through her fear and exhaustion to finish a grueling Reward Challenge, but in slight conversation with Sarah we also saw how influential and dangerous she can be (you may recall that she put it in Sarah’s head that she would not be able to win in the end if she stayed with the alliance of six). We also saw a subtle strategy-reveal by Brad, who admitted there was some strategy as to who he chose to pick for the Reward (he purposely didn’t pick his entire alliance to make sure that they could have “eyes and ears” back at camp). Zeke looks to have a new lease on life in the game after he was able to bury the hatchet temporarily with Andrea, but beware…that hatchet could reappear at any moment.

I will say that I love when seemingly strong alliances get broken up as it makes the season much more enjoyable to watch, and I like the fact that this season seems unpredictable from week to week. Michaela is starting to look like she could go all the way to the end – as a goat unfortunately – if only the others can stomach her (I for one, love Michaela and hate how things have shaped up for her this season). And Aubry – one of the most hilarious cast members ever, to me anyways – provided a few more GIF-worthy facial expressions that are already circulating on Twitter. I’m hoping that Sarah‘s big shake-up tonight leads to more and more fireworks and entertaining eps down the stretch.

A Line Drawn in Concrete

Strategic Move of the Week: Whether I like it or not, the biggest strategic move of the week was without a doubt, Sarah‘s decision to go against her alliance to vote out Deb. Honorary mention goes to Cirie, for her subtle manipulation of pretty much every other person she comes into contact with, including the audience.

Voted out this week: Deb

Won Immunity: Troyzan

Vote: No Idol Played. 6 – Deb (Cirie, Andrea, Aubry, Michaela, Sarah, Zeke), 5 – Andrea (Brad, Sierra, Deb, Tai, Troyzan)

Next Week’s Episode: Continuing with the tide analogy, Probst tells us that the “tide is turning” and it looks like another big blindside is brewing. We’re headed into the homestretch people, with just three episodes left leading up to the Survivor: Game Changers Finale on May 24!

Important Note! Remember to return right here to RealityTea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with Deb (or Debbie if you prefer). Last but not least, 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