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: The minority is down. Sierra will go with anyone. Andrea goes after Zeke; Michaela and Sarah be damned. Bye-bye, Zeke!
WHO’S LEFT: Michaela, Cirie, Culpepper (ugh), Sierra (with SECRET ADVANTAGE and weird eyebrows), 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: Back at camp, Tai discovers his old alliance members voted for him. Michaela’s uncomfortable with the power Andrea’s wielding. Cirie has an idea to bring Tai into the majority alliance and target Sierra and Brad. The next morning, Sierra’s trying to form a bond with Sarah and tells her about her SECRET LEGACY ADVANTAGE. She says she wants to will it to Sarah if she’s eliminated. Sarah now thinks Culpepper is the number one target.
We’re off to the Reward Challenge, where there’s a barbeque on the line. Oh, and everyone’s loved ones are here. Probst, clearly longing for the Jeff Probst Show, DRAGS this out by asking every tribe member about their love ones and pontificating on their relationships. (Stephen Fishbach Tweeted “The way Jeff introduces these family visits it’s like the entire concept of human relationships blows his mind.”) Still, the reunions not only hit you in the feels, they pretty much body block you. Probably 30 of these loved ones visits over the course of this series and everyone in my living room is STILL capable of going, “No, you’re crying!” Anyway, the challenge itself involves three teams of three being tied together and getting through an obstacle course to free up keys and then knock over blocks with sandbags. Culpepper, Andrea and Aubry obliterate this challenged and win the visit. How bad were the other teams? At one point, Tai was being literally dragged by his team and then looked like he was getting a sand swirlie. Probst declares that the winning threesome gets “Love and barbeque!” prompting my buddy, Lars, to go: “Good band name.” Since it wouldn’t be a loved ones visit without further destroying the tribe members, the winning team is allowed to pick two others to go on the reward. They choose Cirie and Sarah, much to Michaela’s displeasure. Andrea, though, isn’t worried about it (which is the international signal that she should be worried about it.)
On the reward, Culpepper and Monica (his wife and a former Survivor) are plotting ways to bring in Michaela. Back at camp, Michaela and Tai, both feeling on the outs with their alliances, decide to join forces. Sierra and Troyzan are also plotting to pull in Michaela. The four of them have a summit conference in which they realize Andrea is running the game. The only solution, of course, is to get rid of Andrea. The alliance isn’t as solid as the others think, as Michaela reveals in an interview that she’s still trying to decide which alliance to go with.
We’re off to the Immunity Challenge, which involves standing on a beam and balancing a ball between two sticks. The two people no one wants to see win, of course, are Andrea and Culpepper, as both alliances have designs on them. Andrea complies, but Culpepper won’t…ah jeez, I really don’t want to say play ball. I hate puns. Anyway, Culpepper wins immunity and the rest of the tribe has some decisions to make.
Back at camp, the conversation in pretty predictable at first. The Andrea/Aubrey/Cirie/Sarah alliance wants Sierra out. The Sierra/Culpepper/Troyzan crew focuses on Andrea. Michaela and Tai seem down with getting rid of Andrea. Sarah, though, sees an opportunity to get Sierra’s Legacy Advantage. She talks to Sierra and hears Andrea’s name come up. Sarah talks to Michaela about Sierra’s advantage, which gets Michaela thinking in another direction. Decisions, decisions….
At Tribal Council, Andrea defends the decision on who to take on the reward, but she’s feeling the resentment from the four who didn’t get to go. She certainly isn’t comforted by the talk of when to flip and when decks reshuffle (drawing a bemused smile from Zeke on the jury.) And we get the three finger We/Me gesture from Probst (which draws an entirely different finger gesture from my buddy, Mike.) When the votes are counted, Michaela and Tai have decided to stick with the majority alliance. Sierra is sent packing and wills her Legacy Advantage to Sarah.
WHAT COMES NEXT: Culpepper is pissed at Michaela! Cirie has a tough decision to make! What is it? They don’t tell us that…
SCORECARD (Our weekly breakdown of how the castaways are doing.)
Michaela: Building from last week, Michaela’s finally playing the game. She formed an alliance with Tai and positioned herself as a swing vote between two factions. The only problem? She really hasn’t done anything yet. She stuck with the majority alliance in voting out Sierra and greatly assisted Sarah’s game. While I’m certain Michaela’s got some big moves in her, she’s running out of time to build a case for herself at the end.
Cirie: While Zeke greatly admired Cirie, he didn’t follow his hero’s style of gameplay. While Cirie’s chipped in some ideas here and there, she hasn’t been aggressive the last few weeks, content to let someone else be in the driver’s seat for a while. Given that Andrea was a target this week, it’s a strategy that seems to be working. And if the preview means anything, Cirie’s done sitting back.
Culpepper: Again, if the preview can be taken at its word (always risky) Culpepper is finally starting to come unglued. Given the way the game has crapped on him in recent weeks, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. However, a big flaw in the power alliance’s recent strategy may have also revealed itself in Culpepper’s win at the Immunity Challenge. While the alliance has been concentrating on easy targets and cannibalizing their own, they’ve let a dangerous physical player go deep in the game. It’s the sort of thing Culpepper may need to get ahead.
Aubrey: I know I sound like a broken record here, but I’m still not seeing Aubrey building a case for herself. If she gets to the Final Three, it’s not hard to imagine her “I was in on every decision” argument falling on the jury’s deaf ears.
Tai: Well, Tai is certainly in a much better position now. He and Michaela have become swing votes AND Tai’s got two Immunity Idols in his pocket. And again looking at the preview, whatever big move Cirie is contemplating is going to involve Tai. His Final Three chances–hell, his VICTORY chances–are starting to look pretty good.
Troyzan: Strangely, Troyzan isn’t in a bad position. He’s not going to win the game, of course. But he’s the least threatening person in the minority alliance and an attractive goat to take to the end. AND he’s got an Immunity Idol. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Troyzan (which, of course, means he’ll be voted out next week.)
Sarah: It’s pretty clear to the viewers at this point that Sarah’s playing the canniest game out there. She’s engineered the elimination of two players AND scored herself a Legacy Advantage in the process. The only question, again, is just how much credit she’ll be given for these moves. I’ve already speculated that Cirie might be able to claim credit for Sarah’s flipping to get Debbie out. And “I voted you out to get your Legacy Advantage” will be an…interesting…way to get Sierra’s vote at the end. But there can be absolutely no doubt that Sarah’s more than earned her place among the Game Changers.
Andrea: I think Andrea got a little rap on the knuckles this week with the way she picked up 3 votes. Between insisting on Zeke’s elimination and taking a “she’ll get over it” attitude about Michaela being left out of the reward, Andrea has shown signs of getting entirely too comfortable with her position in the game. Let’s see if this shock to the system does her any good.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO: Sierra
There’s no doubt Sierra’s game had been on tilt since her alliance lost power. It didn’t help that she had an advantage she couldn’t yet use and was without the luxury of being the least threatening member of her alliance (i.e. Troyzan). Rather than coolly figuring a way out of her predicament, though, she seemed to panic. As I wrote last week, I don’t think the “Please, please, anybody but me!” strategy was going to play well with a jury. And telling Sarah about her Legacy Advantage was a HUGE blunder (although she’s hardly the first–or the fiftieth–player to get burned by putting too much trust in someone.) Ultimately, Sierra was at her best when–and only when–she was in a position of power.
BIG GRIPE: I like to throw these in every now and again. The thing that’s currently grinding my gears is the realization that we have only one episode left before the finale and EIGHT players still left in the game. Assuming no one quits or gets evacuated (developments nobody wants to see) we’re due to get SIX Tribal Councils over the last three hours of Survivor programming. That really messes with the pacing of the show. In years past, the show slowly built to its final four or five. The last couple editions, though, it feels like someone (in my head, Probst) is going, “Quick! Quick! Get these a**holes out of here and get to the Final Three!” Bigger is not always better. The game will do just fine, thank you very much, without 36 players, 17 jury members and 15 people competing in the final episode. Okay, gripe over.