Survivor: Game Changers Recap: Terms and Conditions

Well holy crap, that just happened! It was a rushed, whiz-bang episode of Survivor, featuring not one, but two Tribal Councils. Oh yeah, and it was also the last regular episode of the season before next week’s two-hour finale. The first Tribal of the evening was fairly straight-forward, but if you are like me, that last one left my head spinning. Let’s get to the bottom of what went down.

Be sure to read the fine print, as this week’s recap is non-transferable and can’t be stolen. Please only proceed if you have seen Episode 13 of Survivor: Game Changers. And while we WILL hit on all of the important developments, remember that this is more of a discussion and analysis and not a blow-by-blow account of how the episode played out.


Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

We are now down to our Final Six, people! But man was it a bit confusing to figure out just how we got there. The big drama from this week’s episode clearly came in the last 15 minutes or so, during the second Tribal Council of the night, the one that ultimately saw Michaela (?) sent packing. She followed out Andrea, who had been #blindsided earlier in the episode. We’ll get to the “why” of what exactly went down in a bit, but first let’s take a more linear approach to this week’s recap to try to make sense of things and put all of this craziness is some sort of context.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

First off, congrats to Aubry, who tonight won her very first individual Immunity Challenge after a total of 72 days (at that point) in the game. It was good she won, because we were starting to forget that she was even out there. Aubry is an All-Star in my book, please don’t get me wrong. But she’s getting only a slice of a better edit than Troyzan, who himself is getting just a pinch of a better edit than “Cowboy” Rick (from Survivor: South Pacific), who in turn was seen just a millisecond longer on-screen than “Purple” Kelly Shinn (Survivor: Nicaragua).

If you find yourself asking, “Who is Cowboy Rick or Purple Kelly? Exactly. Purple Kelly got such little airtime, that the phrase a “purple edit” refers to players that are not being shown all that much on-air. Both Troyzan, and to a lesser extent, Aubry, have been given “purple edits” this season, meaning that event though they’ve both reached Final Six and the Finale Episode, you can probably bet that they aren’t going to win. As an aside, it’s fun to follow Troyzan’s Twitter feed each week, as it usually includes him explaining to us what he actually did during that episode, despite the little credit he’s being given on television.

Aubry‘s Survivor experience thus far has been – as she explained this episode – a series of extreme highs followed by extreme lows. She wins the challenge, only to then come back and have her closest ally, Andrea, blindsided and voted out of the game. Now you can’t blame the others – namely Cirie – for targeting Andrea…she was one of the biggest threats in the game, a social, strategic and physical threat. But it was delicious to watch what led to her demise, despite how choppy and hasty the first half of this episode felt (you could tell they were cramming a lot more than usual into this week’s episode, and the unfamiliar format sort of threw me for a loop).

Thus far, we’ve been fed that Cirie and Andrea were close allies, but we found out that Sarah is much more valuable to Cirie’s game. Once Andrea dropped Sarah’s name as a potential target, Cirie flipped the game on Andrea and voted her out. Thus far, Andrea had been able to sniff out each and every person that had targeted her and was able to strike first…not up against the Cirie, who, by the way is (you know what’s coming by now…) THE BIGGEST THREAT LEFT IN THIS GAME.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

What followed after Andrea‘s exit tonight was, to say the least, mind-boggling. It seemed that the storytelling was a bit off, and people’s motivations and actions weren’t really explained all that well. For example, we were given a scene where Tai was shown consoling Aubry who was very emotional after Andrea’s exit. Cirie picked up on Tai’s kindness and did not like it one bit, calling them a “pair” to look out for.

Flash-forward to later in the episode, and we had Aubry telling Cirie that she feels Tai is a big threat. Say what? We weren’t given any sort of explanation around this Tai/Aubry relationship, and it is strange that if Aubry is now without a real ally in the game, that she would run to Cirie with information about Tai’s motives (wanting to vote out Sarah), when Tai was the one person who was being nice to her out there. Is there something I’m missing here? Some element of this they didn’t show? Again, much of this episode just felt chaotic and…rushed.

But let’s try breaking down what Cirie tried to do. Cirie clearly is looking out for Sarah at this point in the game and may truly want to go to the end with her. She said as much, when she made a comment about bringing Sarah to the end so that she could sit in front of a jury that would all be bitter towards Sarah, who was the one responsible for sending many of them home (a dangerous strategy for Cirie to try to win the game by the way, but we can discuss that later).

So Aubry inexplicably rats out Tai‘s intention to want to make a “big boy move” and take out Sarah. Cirie takes this information to Sarah, but because this story originated with Aubry, Sarah is not buying it. The audience knows it to be true because we saw Tai talking about voting out Sarah, but Sarah is so incredibly confident in her trust in Tai, that she not only doesn’t buy into it, she decides to hand her “steal a vote” advantage over to Cirie as a gesture of good will. Why does Sarah do this? Who knows, other than she really puts her neck out for Tai in showing how adamantly she trusts him. Why this doesn’t raise a red flag for Cirie, but Tai hugging Aubry did, is confusing.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

So you have Cirie who adamantly wants to vote out Tai all of a sudden (in another perplexing move, Cirie is showing a lot of faith in what Aubry is telling her)…to the point where she concocts a wild plan. So wild, in fact, that it just may work. With Sarah being unmovable on the idea of voting out Tai and Cirie having a 100% feeling that Tai is gunning for Sarah, Cirie brings in Michaela and tells her that she plans on using Sarah’s “steal a vote” advantage to ensure that Tai goes home. To do this, Cirie plans to steal Sarah’s vote, and then vote twice to eliminate Tai. But because Tai may have an Idol, Cirie needs to go a step further in an attempt to make sure that Tai doesn’t play an Idol. So Cirie figures that if she can appear to Tai to save him from a potential blindside, that maybe he can trust Cirie enough to not play his Idol. Is that what happened? Honestly, I’m asking…um, for a friend.

If Cirie were to play Sarah‘s “steal a vote” advantage, that obviously would not go over well with Sarah. Cirie’s hope – I think – was that once all of this went down and Sarah was to see that Tai had tried to vote her out, that Sarah would actually thank Cirie for playing the advantage and ultimately, saving Sarah.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

This entire plan was a high-wire act, so it was no surprise that Cirie ended up falling from great heights. Hilariously, Cirie’s attempt to play Sarah‘s advantage was given a cold, hard denial at Tribal Council, because the fine print of the advantage clearly stated that the advantage was “non-transferable.” Why it was not allowed to be transferred is, I guess, a good question, as you would think this would add some drama to the game. Oh, but drama was added this way too. Cirie’s intentions were exposed to the group, and it led to a total fluster-cuck, of epic proportions, as people started getting up and whispering all over the place. My favorite part was watching Troyzan try to listen in on the conversation between Cirie, Michaela, and Sarah…it was a metaphor for him trying so hard to be included in the season but not being allowed in.

As all of this was going down, I was thinking that Cirie – the all-powerful and cunning Cirie – had just sabotaged her otherwise great game. What a blunder! But no, suddenly it seemed as if Tai was becoming the target. Nobody wants to see a player go home with an Idol in his/her pocket, let alone two Idols, so the people at my Survivor party (my wife and I) were both screaming at Tai through the television, telling him to play one of his Idols. I, for one, was absolutely shocked to see that it was Michaela, not Tai or Cirie or even Sarah, who ended up getting her torch snuffed. Am I just being “Boo Boo the Foo?” Did I miss something? What the heck just happened, and why did Michaela ultimately end up on the wrong side of this thing?

All I can gather is that either something was said that wasn’t shown on TV to Sarah, that maybe she didn’t appreciate, OR that Sarah decided right on the spot that the alliance of Cirie and Michaela was her enemy. Thinking that through a step further and knowing that Cirie just made a huge error in front of the jury (not reading the advantage), Sarah may have decided to take out who she viewed as the more dangerous threat. Michaela is a challenge beast, that’s for sure, and nobody is worried about Cirie winning individual Immunity…maybe that was the play? I can’t even pretend to fully understand…I guess we’ll have to wait for next week.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Speaking of next week, it’s the Grand Finale of Survivor: Game Changers, a two-hour episode followed by the one-hour Live Reunion Show. I’ll be here with wall-to-wall coverage on all of it, with some breakdowns and predictions leading into the Finale, a full recap/reaction after the Finale, and then on Thursday, the final round of exit interviews on the FilmSurvivor Podcast. I’ll also be bringing you my updated lists of “Most Memorable Survivor Seasons” and “Best Winners.” All that and a look ahead of Season 35, which we will have more intel on following the Live Reunion Show next week. Probst promises us “the biggest game-changing move of the season” next week, so all signs point to a very strong finish to what has largely been an uneven season.

Episode Take-Away: So who will win Survivor: Game Changers? This is the question we will be asking in-depth as part of next week’s Episode Preview article. But last week, I wrote that this game was Cirie‘s to lose…and was her mistake enough to cost her? I’m not sure. People still love Cirie, and she’s still in the game, despite being one of the biggest threats at the beginning. If you consider that Tai is self-destructing (as Tai seems to do around this point in the season), and that the “purple edits” of both Aubry and Troyzan probably eliminate them from consideration, it suddenly comes down to just Sarah, Cirie, or Brad.

What I gathered from this week’s episode was that Brad‘s only chance is to win his way to the end, as few will want to keep him around to the very end. That being said, the power may have just shifted in his favor if you consider that Troyzan and Tai have three Idols between them, with only three more Tribals before Final Three. For Sarah, we know she will be immune at the next Tribal Council due to her “Legacy Advantage,” but beyond that I don’t see anyone who would want to be sitting next to her in the end. Cirie, I think, could lose this game if she ends up sitting next to either Brad or Sarah, so look for Cirie to continue to play a complex strategic game on her way to victory. It really comes down to those three, right?

There's A New Sheriff in Town

Strategic Move of the Week: Yikes. So much confusion, so much craziness, it’s hard to pick a winner here. Let’s go with Tai‘s gutsy decision to NOT play either of his two Idols. In holding on to them, Tai now has a free pass to Final Four, which would mean that if he could somehow pull out just one Immunity Challenge victory over the next three challenges, he’s guaranteed to reach the end of this game. From next week’s preview, it looks like he will have a mental breakdown prior to this actually happening, but in the moment it was a pretty big non-play, considering all of the drama and scrambling that was going down at Tribal.

Voted out this week: Andrea and Michaela

Won Immunity: Aubry and Brad

Vote #1: No Idols or advantages played. 6 – Andrea (Cirie, Sarah, Brad, Tai, Troyzan, Michaela), 2 – Brad (Andrea, Aubry)

Vote #2: No Idols played, Sarah plays her advantage to steal Tai’s vote. 4 – Michaela (Sarah, Sarah, Brad, Troyzan), 2 – Tai (Aubry, Michaela), 1 – Aubry (Cirie)

Next Week’s Episode: Again, it is the two-hour Finale!

Remember to return right here to RealityTea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interviews with both Andrea and Michaela. 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