(BLOGGER’S NOTE: So it’s been a few years since I’ve done one of these, but I thought it would be fun to bring back the weekly Survivor recap. For those of you who are new to this, I give my cheerfully rambling opinions on last night’s episode, both in terms of game play and production, and speculate on strategies the players might use going forward. It should be noted that this does assume you’ve already watched the episode. If you haven’t, go find an online recap and come back to us. (Or watch the thing On Demand. This doesn’t have to be hard, ya cheap bastard!)
WHAT CAME BEFORE: Post-merge scrambling! Zeke decides to car bomb his own game! Debbie gets Ozzy voted out.
WHO’S LEFT: Michaela (still eating), Cirie, Zeke, Culpepper (ugh), Sierra (with SECRET ADVANTAGE), Aubrey, Tai (and his two Immunity Idols), Debbie’s ego, Debbie, Troyzan (with largely-forgotten Immunity Idol), Sarah and Andrea (suddenly the most dangerous players in the game.)
QUICK AND DIRTY RECAP: We’re back at camp after Tribal. Andrea and Zeke are arguing about what happened (Zeke got votes, Andrea’s alliance got shafted). Debbie talks about how they have a such a solid alliance of six that a line hasn’t been drawn in the sand, “it’s been drawn in concrete.” (Because apparently Debbie’s never WATCHED this f**king show.) Meantime, Sarah is wondering how solid the alliance really is…
We go to the Reward Challenge, which involves navigating a water obstacle course and then collecting some rings with a hook. Culpepper and Cirie are the captains for a schoolyard pick. Since there are 11 players left, there will be an odd person out and that winds up being Michaela, who greets this development with: “They sumbitches… I don’t give a f**k what happens. I’m just watching.” Unfortunately, Michaela’s so busy looking over her License to Sulk that she doesn’t notice there’s a scroll marked SECRET ADVANTAGE at her feet. (I love how they don’t even bother to be subtle with this stuff anymore. It’s like the Simpsons bit where somebody trips a switch and a voice as loud as God’s bellows, “Silent alarm activated! Silent alarm activated!”) I’m surprised that Probst didn’t try to manipulate the situation.
PROBST: And Michaela’s just left off to the side, staring at her feet.
MICHAELA: I’m not staring–
PROBST: Just staring at her feet.
MICHAELA: What are you–
PROBST: At. Your. Feet. Michaela.
But alas, the challenge proceeds without Michaela noticing anything but her own resentment. Things are reasonably close until Cirie hits the water, the last member of her team to go. Cirie quickly becomes gassed and can’t get to the platform on the second obstacle. Sarah swims back to help her (meaning SHE has to complete the obstacles again.) Culpepper’s team then cruises to victory, but Probst offers Cirie the chance to finish the challenge. Cirie accepts the chance and her ENTIRE TEAM lends their support to the effort. It’s a hell of a moment. Well, it would have been if Probst hadn’t defaulted to State The Obvious Mode (“One of the most powerful moments on Survivor.” Yeah, here’s what GOOD play-by-play announcers do: they recognize a powerful moment, then shut up and let the images tell the story.) At any rate, it was great to see everyone turn off Game Mode for a moment and be there for one of their fellow players. Now, enough of that warmth, let’s get back to the game, which we do almost immediately. Probst has the tribe’s boat (the one that will bring them back to camp) brought over to them rather than make Cirie swim out to it. While this is going on, Sarah notices the SECRET ADVANTAGE and is able to grab it without her tribemates noticing. Game on.
Back at camp, Sarah discovers that she now has the opportunity to steal someone else’s vote, an advantage she can use until the Final Five. Sarah, aware of the stank that has followed this particular advantage, vows to be the first person in Survivor history to use the advantage correctly. (Somewhere, Stephen Fishbach is slugging gin and mumbling, “F**k you, lady.”) She has a conversation with Cirie, who tells her she would not win in a final three with Sierra and Culpepper, the perception being that Sarah had been carried there. (Manipulative game play by Cirie? Probably, but in this case, she’s telling the absolute truth.) Sarah begins contemplating a big move.
Meantime, Culpepper and co. take a seaplane to a beach feast. Debbie particularly enjoys the ride because she’s a captain in the Civil Air Patrol Reserve Ground Forces Homefront Assistance Unit. (I may have made up a lot of that. But the title was so convoluted, it prompted my girlfriend, Carrie, to say, “Is that even a thing?” To which my friend Carol replied, “I think that’s basically the Salvation Army.”) Culpepper talks about his master strategy of not taking his entire alliance on the reward, saying he needs a few people back at camp to act as his eyes and ears. And ignoring the possibility that those people would think they’re at the bottom of the pecking order. This doesn’t seem to be a concern for Sierra, who gushes, “As of now, I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat and it feels great!” (And at that point, I turned into Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest: “Seriously, have you people ever WATCHED the show?!”)
From there, we go to the Immunity Challenge, which involves bringing out a bunch of blocks that spell “Immunity” while using a rope to balance a platform. Andrea and Troyzan get out to an early lead and are neck-and-neck throughout. (Tai, meanwhile, fumbles around so badly, there are serious concerns about him having a brain tumor.) Andrea’s stack of blocks fall, forcing her to start over; something that prompts Debbie to give her the crocodile tears. Meantime, the rest of the power alliance cheer on Troyzan. (That’s a trend on Survivor that I could live without. Sure, you want someone from your alliance to win for voting purposes, but why be s**tty about it?) Troyzan wins the challenge, something that seems to surprise even Troyzan. He accepts the Immunity Necklace and gives Probst an awkward hug. (Probst manages to avoid saying, “Dude, you smell like a sewer rat after a workout. Reign it in.”)
Back at camp, there’s talk of getting rid of Michaela (who possesses the always-successful combination of gluttony and a bad attitude) but it’s agreed that Andrea is the more dangerous player. Sarah, who’s been left out of the Andrea decision after already being left out of the Reward, seems ready to flip. But then, Sierra tells her that her plan for the final three is the two of them and Debbie. Sarah, oblivious to the notion that this would make Sierra a SUREFIRE winner, begins to reconsider flipping. “If I could just control Debbie, I’d be fine,” she says, bringing a HUGE round of guffaws to my living room. (“Right,” my buddy Mike says, “After that, you can get to work on that tire fire.”) Debbie makes overtures to Aubry, as if Aubry’s cooperation is a foregone conclusion. Aubry privately talks to Michaela and Andrea about how annoyed she is with Debbie’s attitude. (“They’re so cocky,” Andrea says, although to be fair, that’s how every alliance that’s not in power classifies the one that is.) When Aubry lets Sarah in on this, though, Sarah begins contemplating flipping again. (Seriously, is this how Sarah deals with her job as a cop? “I should probably take you in. That would be the right thing to do. Probably. Do you think I should take you in? Might not be a good idea. No, no, I should take you in.”)
At Tribal Council, Debbie talks about how there is a REALLY strong alliance of six and seems to imply there’s no need to even have the vote. There’s some talk of making a move when you have the numbers rather than wait until you get to six and find out you’re on the bottom of the pecking order. Troyzan makes a reasoned counterargument (yeah, he actually did, I’m not making that up) saying that you can worry about numbers when you get to six. (In other words, stick with the six, but plan ahead.) Zeke talks about the deck reshuffling after every vote, but Debbie dismisses that as wishful thinking.
You can probably see where this is going.
The vote goes along alliance lines, with Andrea and Debbie each picking up five…before we find out that Sarah flipped and Debbie is voted out of the game. (Prompting a HUGE cheer in my living room.) Debbie smiles all the way through her torch snuffing and her exit interview. I’d like to think she’s being a good sport, but I’m pretty certain she’s in shock. I’d prepare for a Lewis Black-sized cry of “SON OF A BITCH!” coming from the Ponderosa sometime soon.
WHAT COMES NEXT: The deck has completely reshuffled! Andrea’s talking with Sierra! Zeke is scheming with Culpepper and Troyzan! Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria!
SCORECARD (Our weekly breakdown of how the castaways are doing. Okay, we’ve got ten players left. Let’s do this.)
Sarah: I appreciate Sarah’s recognition that she needs to make moves. It may have been underscored by Cirie telling her how she’d be perceived in the final three. The irony, though, is that the credit for her big move could wind up going to Cirie. As a friend of mine pointed out last night, credit for someone flipping tends to go to the person who helped make up the flipper’s mind. By that argument, Cirie, and possibly Aubry, could take more credit for Debbie’s ouster than Sarah. Clearly, Sarah’s going to have to make more moves and fulfill that promise of being the first one to use that vote advantage correctly.
Michaela: Either Michaela’s actively avoiding playing the game or the editing has removed her every reference to game play. (I’m willing to accept either argument.) I get the feeling Michaela’s still smarting over getting tossed from Millennials vs GenX for laying out her master plan too early. Right now, she’s done NOTHING to build an argument for herself at the end.
Cirie: Anyone else notice that Cirie’s been getting the Hero Edit the last few weeks? While I’ve been burned on this thinking before, it seems like the editors are setting us up for Cirie going a long way in the game, possibly to victory. But that’s outside the game. Within it, Cirie is absolutely in her element. She’s probably the strongest strategic AND social player left out there. The question will be how fast she adapts to the deck reshuffling next time out. And how quickly the other players conclude that they can’t beat her in the end.
Zeke: The game has swung back to where Zeke likes it: chaos in which he sits in the center. He’s also responsible for the “deck reshuffling” terminology that I’m sure Probst will run with in the future. A better analogy, though, might be “musical chairs.” People wind up pairing off into short-term coalitions and the player left out is the one on the chopping block. Which is what happened to Zeke last time. Careful what you wish for…
Sierra: Actually, Sierra might have dodged a bullet here (to use a Culpepper metaphor.) Debbie wound up being the target of the minority alliance, but it could have just as easily been Sierra or Culpepper. Still, her stated final three wish has been blown out of the water. Debbie’s gone and so, probably, is any trust in Sarah. But that’s what you get for the unpardonable sin of getting comfortable in this game. Let’s see what she does with her second chance.
Culpepper: The interesting part with Culpepper will be how he responds to Debbie’s elimination. To this point, Culpepper’s been able to keep his natural dickishness at bay and come across as a decent guy. But that’s easier to do when the game is working in your favor. With his alliance blown up, will Culpepper have the equilibrium to realize he’s still got Troyzan and (maybe for the short term) Sierra in his corner and that the other alliance is simply temporary? Or will he start cussing out everyone he runs across and turn himself into a target? Stay tuned…
Aubry: I hate to admit this, because I like Aubry and think she’s a great player, but I don’t see her winning this time out. In Kaoh Rang, she was the best player and really should have won the game. But other players took credit for her best moves and the jury bought it. Given that she hasn’t made any strong moves to this point (in fact, has frequently been out of the loop when big moves have been made) AND she’s working with players like Cirie, Zeke and Andrea, I can’t see that changing this time out.
Tai: Maybe it’s the editing or, based on Kaoh Rang, maybe this is how he plays the game, but Tai seems to have cooled off the last few weeks. He navigated the merge and rather than even contemplate a big move, he seemed comfortable with the “rock solid” six person alliance. However, Tai’s actually not in bad shape. He’s got two Immunity Idols in his pocket and the results in Kaoh Rang pretty much destroyed any notion that you can’t win if you take Tai to the end.
Troyzan: There’s almost no chance that Troyzan will win. He hasn’t played a strong enough game on any level to make a reasonable jury award him a million dollars. However, he might get to the final three BECAUSE someone will see that no reasonable jury will award him a million dollars. (Goat for dinner, anyone?) Actually, my favorite scenario would be if Troyzan was voted out and during his exit interview, he pulls the Immunity Idol out of his pocket and says, “F**K! I forgot I even HAD this thing!”
Andrea: Weird how Andrea evolved from non-entity to possibly the most dangerous player in the game. She was able to survive her near-elimination because she and Zeke were able to bury the hatchet…in Debbie. With a new lease on life, it looks like Andrea is going to try and make a big move in the game. Whether she can overcome Zeke and be viewed as something other than Cirie’s right hand man will remain to be seen.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO: Debbie
Fact is, Debbie was never going to win the game. She clearly had no social skills to speak of. Her ego would not allow her to even CONSIDER the possibility she would be eliminated, meaning she was abnormally susceptible to blindsides. And while I’m sure it was tempting for players such as Sierra and Sarah to take her to the final three, knowing she had no chance of winning, Debbie’s volatility was such that any person in an alliance with her would quickly realize they were riding a tiger they could not control. She felt confident after eliminating Ozzy because she was starting to build a resume. But thanks to her overconfidence, she’s now on someone ELSE’s resume.