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: Zeke and Andrea hate each other! There’s a solid alliance of six! Except for Sarah. Who pretty much obliterates the alliance and sends Debbie (her stunned smile and her ego) packing!
WHO’S LEFT: Michaela, Cirie, Zeke, Culpepper (ugh), Sierra (with SECRET ADVANTAGE), Aubrey, Tai (and his two Immunity Idols), Troyzan (with largely-forgotten Immunity Idol), Sarah and Andrea (suddenly the most dangerous players in the game.)
QUICK AND DIRTY RECAP: It’s back to camp after Tribal Council and everyone’s been stunned into silence. Sarah owns up to turning on the power alliance after absolutely nobody guessed it was her (which tells you everything you need to know about Sarah’s place in the game to this point.)
We’re off to the Reward Challenge, which is a repeat of the hoist-someone-on-a-platform-to-collect-puzzle-pieces challenge from Millennials vs Gen X. Again, we split into two teams of five through a schoolyard pick. Again, the physical part of the challenge is largely useless because of the f**king puzzle at the end. (Been a while since I mentioned this, but I HATE puzzles. What happened to the good old days of rolling a giant ball of twine through an obstacle course? All right, enough Survivor Grumpy Old Man.) The puzzle, which is supposed to spell out Reinventing How This Game Is Played, completely flummoxes the players. After an hour of this, Probst gets desperate and practically spoon-feeds the answer to the players. It was like watching someone play the old 25,000 Pyramid on the Game Show Network. (“You are always changing.” “You are always evolving.” “Unlike Joe, who named two complete obsolete things in that simile.”) Anyway, Andrea and Zeke figure out the key word just before Probst would have started going, “Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiinnnnnnn…..” and the blue team (Zeke, Andrea, Culpepper, Aubry and Sarah) gets flown to a beach for a feast and an overnight stay.
Once on the reward, Culpepper and Zeke do some bonding over college football, a thing that doesn’t escape Andrea’s and Aubry’s notice, since they already think Zeke is shady. As if to prove their point, Zeke begins talking in an interview about how he plans to put together a final five with Culpepper, Troyzan, Sarah and Michaela. When everyone returns from the reward, Cirie and Andrea waste no time in talking about getting rid of Zeke. Cirie sounds out Sarah, who doesn’t want any part of it. She already has a plan for tossing Zeke and lets Cirie know about her Secret Advantage (stealing someone’s vote.) In an interview, Sarah considers flipping back to the other alliance (because that strategy ALWAYS works brilliantly and NEVER results in someone getting tossed because they’ve burned every bridge in the game.)
Sarah and Zeke discuss his final five plan (by the way, Michaela’s inclusion is pretty much an afterthought, telling you everything you need to know about where SHE is in the game.) Zeke makes the final five offer to Culpepper and Troyzan, who quickly accept (because it’s not like they were getting there any other way.) Culpepper is feeling good about his chances. (One would go so far as to say smug. I would be that one.)
We’re off to the Immunity Challenge, which involves stacking blocks on a board while high-stepping a structure that will shake the board. First one to domino their blocks off the end of the board wins. Michaela and Andrea pull out to an early lead, but nobody (other than Culpepper) seems that far out of it. Andrea is the first to complete the blocks, but realizes they won’t reach the end of the board. She’s forced to go back and re-stack. Michaela, Sarah and Sierra get close, but Andrea coolly re-stacks the blocks and dominoes her way to victory.
Back at camp, Andrea is now locked in on the idea of getting rid of Zeke. She and Cirie again decide to talk to Sarah. As a backup plan, they talk to Sierra about joining up. Sierra, showing the kind of integrity that Survivor breeds, is ready to throw everyone in her old alliance and any future alliances she may form under the bus. When they chat with Sarah, they don’t get a lot of enthusiasm, but, privately, Sarah sees a risk in sticking her neck out for Zeke. Michaela doesn’t want to vote out Zeke, either, partially for numbers, partially for trust. She and Sarah represent the swing votes that may decide someone’s future.
At Tribal Council, Sarah owns up to turning against the old power alliance, drawing the finger from Debbie (you stay classy, Debbie.) There’s a lot of talk about who to vote out. Sierra pleads her case, stopping just shy of saying, “Please, please, please! Anybody but me! I want to live!” Sierra casts a vote for Tai (so clearly SHE wasn’t let in on the plan) while Zeke votes for Sierra. Tai collects as many as three votes before the run of Zeke votes begins and Zeke’s voted out of the game, something that brings Michaela to tears. (Seriously, a) I don’t Michaela was capable of crying and b) Millennials vs Gen X aside, I wasn’t certain she and Zeke had even been introduced.) From the jury, Debbie hisses, “Idiots.” (Any chance Debbie could get voted off the jury? Would anyone object to this?)
WHAT COMES NEXT: Sierra and Michaela are looking to form a new alliance! Looks like they’ve got Sarah and Tai on board! And we’re getting the loved ones visit! Cue Creepy Probst: “Who wants some love?”
SCORECARD (Our weekly breakdown of how the castaways are doing.)
Michaela: Michaela took a slightly more active role this week, at least in her willingness to try and talk sense into her group. (Stating that the numbers were not good enough to go after someone in their own alliance.) To this point, Michaela hasn’t built much of a case for herself, but if she’s spearheading a new alliance, she might be ready to come out guns a-blazin’ (to use a Culpepper metaphor.) Maybe laying back all this time was a strategy…
Cirie: Up to now, it’s looked like Andrea was Cirie’s sidekick. But it’s significant that when an errand needed to be run (sounding out Sarah about Zeke) Cirie was the one who did it. Made MORE interesting by the fact that Andrea said in an interview that you don’t want to be the one tossing out names. Maybe the roles have reversed with Cirie and Andrea. Or maybe I’ve been wrong all along about who was playing who.
Culpepper: If I didn’t find Culpepper to be a sexist bully, I’d have some sympathy for him. He thinks he’s in an unbreakable alliance. Then he’s at the bottom of the game. Then he thinks he has a final five alliance with a strong player. And then that player is voted out. Personally, I’m surprised Culpepper hasn’t been targeted more. He’s the exact kind of guy (strong physical player, decent social and strategic game) who gets tossed as soon as he doesn’t have the numbers, post-merge. Let’s see if he Energizer Bunnys his way out of this latest mess.
Sierra: Again, Sierra dodged a bullet this week. I’m guessing because she’s seen as a stronger strategic and social threat (while also being a good physical player) she’s a more enticing target than Culpepper. If Sierra advances far in the game, I’m not sure she did herself any favors by begging to be brought along by whoever, just to avoid elimination. Unless she’s got a big move in mind down the line, she’s setting herself up as a goat.
Aubry: It feels like the editing isn’t doing Aubry any favors (although, ideally, the editing is supposed to reflect what’s going on in the game.) This week, she just talked about how much she enjoyed the reward and added a glorified “Me, too” to Andrea’s thoughts about getting rid of Zeke. If she and Andrea are planning to go to the Final Three, it seems like that’s a big boost…for Andrea.
Tai: This week seemed to prove that it hasn’t been the editing, Tai’s game really has gotten timid. In an interview, he mentioned having two Immunity Idols and no intention of playing them until later in the game. Where was the guy willing to give Sierra his only idol just to flip the game around and vote out Malcolm? Tai is getting close to the point where he can play the idols and make the final five. But he could get voted out before then, maybe even with two Immunity Idols in his pocket. I can see it going either way.
Troyzan: If not for his Immunity Idol, Troyzan would be a complete non-entity in this game. He’s pretty much content to play Bucky to Culpepper’s Captain America and hope that someone drags both of them to the end. Still, there may come a time when he’s targeted and winds up playing the idol. It will be most exciting thing he’s done in 30+ days.
Sarah: So the big question around Sarah is this: was she right to let her closest ally get voted out of the game? On the one hand, it was a surprisingly timid move for someone who practically begged to be recognized as the one who got rid of Debbie. On the other hand, making yet another big move might have put a target on her back. Either viewpoint is valid. One thing that’s becoming clear: Sarah needs to make more moves in the game. The others still see her as more a number than an actual threat.
Andrea: I’ll be interested to see what Andrea’s Final Three looks like. If her words at Tribal Council mean anything (and her attitude toward Zeke’s betrayal would certainly mean they do) she prizes loyalty above everything else. Toward that end, it would seem she wants to go to the end with Cirie and Aubry. However, sending Cirie on errands isn’t going to do her game any good, as it will probably give Cirie credit for the moves they make. And with Zeke gone, Andrea has GOT to be seen as the biggest strategic threat left in the game. Next week may be VERY interesting…
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO: Zeke
It took a few weeks, but the consequences of blowing up his own game finally hit Zeke. While Sarah was willing to trust him, almost nobody else in the game was (even Michaela’s statement of trust was pretty tepid.) In a strange way, Zeke is exactly like Rupert and Ozzy, even though he’s completely different. Rupert and Ozzy will only get so far in the game because they refuse to play it any other way (survival first, strategy last.) Unlike Rupert and Ozzy, Zeke loves the strategic side of the game. But his two appearances have yielded the same results: he makes an alliance with another strong player, turns on that player when they show a willingness to think for themselves and winds up getting voted out WAY earlier than he should. And like Rupert and Ozzy, it’s very difficult to see him adjusting his game. Maybe he could come back again and get Boston Rob Lucky by finding a group of players willing to do his bidding from start to finish. But I think that’s the only way it will happen.
(BTW, that entire assessment was Zeke the Survivor player. There’s obviously more to Zeke’s story, but for now, let’s concentrate on his game play. I think that’s how he prefers it.)