How can any Survivor fan not be excited about the merge? When the game becomes individual, it’s ultimately up to each player to play their best to win this game. Tonight, we were treated to two hours of Survivor so twice the fun!
Players at the start of the Episode (13 remaining)
Merged Into One Tribe
Andre Boehlke, Aubry Bracco, Brad Culpepper, Cirie Fields, Debbie Wanner, Hali Ford, Michaela Bradshaw, Ozzy Lusth, Sarah Lacina, Sierra Thomas, Tai Trang, Troyzan Robertson, Zeke Smith
The Nuku tribe takes a few more moments to heal from Varner’s outing of Zeke. The contestants notice the huge merge feast prepared for them. Before the merge was official, Probst asked one member of each tribe to sit out of the merge feast in order to allow the other 11 the ability to enjoy it, otherwise everyone has to settle for a more meager feast, which let’s face it can’t even be considered a feast. Brad (Mana) and Tai (Nuku) took one for their respective teams.
After the merge feast, which included Debbie playing the role of “court jester” to make her seem nonthreatening, the game truly begins. And even though Brad, Tai, and Ozzy merge alliances to get everyone united against Hali and Michaela (the two players on the bottom of Mana), sub alliances grow within the makeshift 11-person alliance. Cirie is worried that by sending Michaela home and keeping Hali, Brad, Sierra, and Tai’s sub alliance has a number they can use later on to make her expendable. So she mobilizes Sarah, Andrea, Zeke, and Michaela to build her own sub alliance.
It doesn't take long for Michaela and Hali to find out they may be in trouble so the duo tries to find a way out of their situation. Cirie gives Michaela advice on how to fit in with the group and not be seen as a volatile and emotional player to lessen her target. Michaela and Cirie bonded over this as well as the fact that they were the only two African American players left in the game.
Day 21 Immunity Challenge
In recent seasons, endurance challenges have been common sights post merge. That trend continues as the challenge was to balance a weight between their head and a platform while standing on a perch. The last one remaining without falling wins immunity. It wasn't the most exciting TV but Andrea won't care because she won immunity.
Back at Camp...
Sierra puts a split vote in motion: 7 votes for Michaela and 4 votes for Hali, to ensure that one of them go out. The one wrinkle in the plan, which Zeke and Cirie exploit, is why are they giving Michaela the majority of the votes when they are worried Hali has the idol. Both factions jockey for position and try to manipulate who from Michaela and Hali would be the primary target. At Tribal Council, Hali caught wind that people thought she had an idol. She offered to empty out her clothes and bag to prove she didn't have the idol, but would only do so if someone asked her to. This presented a dilemma: do they take the risk of not knowing Hali has an idol, or do they take the risk of making themselves a target for taking Hali up on her offer? No one budged, but the votes were in and Hali was voted out.
Juror #1: Hali Ford
In seasons where original tribal loyalties run strong, if you’re on the other end it can be hard to overcome no matter what you do. On one hand, you have to admire someone like Hali who plays with such authenticity and unapologetically stays true to herself. On the other hand, it's no surprise she wasn't someone many people wanted to work with. She isn't going to settle for bottom of an alliance and she's not easy to manipulate. Many questions were asked when Hali was selected for Game Changers, and questions will continue to be asked since she couldn't improve on her first season in terms of ranking. But she's been a pleasure to watch and rightfully has a strong fanbase.
With Hali becoming the first member of the jury, it definitely changes the outlook of the game. The focus is now appealing to the jury, and the best way to do that is to make power plays. For Cirie, that means breaking up the Sierra and Brad alliance. It seems logical enough, but Zeke isn’t happy. Zeke doesn’t like how Cirie and Andrea are relaying him all the information he gets, as it’s a sign that they are more powerful players in the game right now. In order to usurp their power, Zeke wants to vote out Andrea. I know Zeke loves to make big moves, but his moves usually make some degree of sense in terms of timing and reasoning. This one has neither, especially since it would hinder the alliance you tried to help build the previous vote by sending Hali to the jury.
Zeke and Debbie’s puzzle heroics won a spa day reward for the team of Zeke, Debbie, Tai, Andrea, Troyzan, and Ozzy. Rewards are huge at this point of the game because 1.you get a break from playing the game, a mental refresh and break. 2.you get food or other basic necessities to “rehumanize” yourself and 3.bonding over rewards has the potential to make new alliances and change the game. After Tai runs around streaking, Zeke takes the opportunity to get Debbie and Tai to blindside Andrea. Debbie and Tai are suspicious though because they thought Zeke and Andrea were close, so all that accomplished was make Zeke appear sketchy.
Day 24 Immunity Challenge
A Survivor classic first used way back in Season 13 Cook Islands: hanging on a pole. Yep, another endurance challenge. It sounds like another snoozefest, but it’s actually pretty interesting to watch since it really takes all of your strength and you can see the struggle and how much they want immunity. It comes down to Tai and Ozzy. Ozzy won this challenge both in Cook Islands and South Pacific, so surely he’s going for a threepeat? Don’t count out Tai though. This was reminiscent of an endurance challenge between Tai and bodybuilder Cydney from Kaoh Rong, where Tai came out on top. Either way, Tai dethroning Ozzy in a challenge he has had much success in would still be an upset. An upset that Tai pulled off, winning individual immunity over Ozzy despite a good effort from both sides.
Maku Maku, hours before Tribal
Zeke tries to get Sierra and her alliance to vote out Andrea. At this point I have an urge to yell at Zeke through the TV (knowing it won’t work, but still) to stop what he’s doing, but at this point the damage has been done. Sierra tells Andrea that Zeke tried to throw her under the bus and Andrea’s alliance shifts its focus against Zeke. Zeke’s gameplay has had its critics, but this episode those critics will be a bit justified because there’s no sound logic behind it. Sierra and Debbie discuss the Zeke plan and while they agree to tell Zeke the target is Aubry, Debbie brings up blindsiding Ozzy while things are still very chaotic and to prevent him from winning immunity later on. Both alliances seek out Sarah as the swing vote, while Debbie contemplates using her advantage.
Tribal Council Day 24
Ozzy explains that he was worth in this tribe because of his fishing and food finding skills. Aubry agrees that being able to provide food also provides peace of mind and good morale. Zeke explains the logic behind voting at this stage of the game, to which Tai agrees and says how intelligent Zeke is. Sarah explains how it feels like this tribe is “a bunch of single people waiting to hook up” in how blurred the lines are right now. And finally, Cirie feels that her vote will be based on who has proven or disproven their trust. Andrea happily votes for Zeke, while Cirie appears to be throwing a vote away to “spice things up”. After everyone votes, Debbie uses her advantage, claiming to have earned it during her “scary trip to exile” (which of course was actually paradise). The votes come in and we see a spare vote for Sierra (presumably and then later confirmed to be Cirie), a random vote for Aubry (Zeke’s misdirected vote), and then the rest go to Zeke and Ozzy. 4 votes for Zeke definitely appear to unnerve him, but ultimately Ozzy is voted out with 7. Surely Ozzy can’t be surprised at this point being a dejavu moment, but he still appears bitter.
Juror #2: Ozzy Lusth
In his 4th attempt at Survivor, Ozzy is the 2nd member of his original tribe to leave the game and also has his worst finish in Survivor history. As of tonight, he has been voted out more times than anyone else has been and maybe more than anyone else ever may be. Those are the kind of distinctions Ozzy racks up, but also comes various immunity challenge wins and days Survivor played under his belt. Ultimately, although he has matured as he’s gotten older, he simply could not evolve his gameplay. There’s not a whole lot you can do in terms of being physically strong and threatening, but using your provider status to get you through the game simply won’t matter to veteran players and opposing alliances. His fans will inevitably call for his 5th season, but like Boston Rob and Rupert, hopefully Ozzy is 4 and done. Respect to a great Survivor character and player, but it’s time to hang up the buff.
By The Numbers:
3: The number of Kaoh Rong players still in the game (Aubry, Debbie, Tai) despite everyone being concerned about a Kaoh Rong alliance early on in the season, which was the reason behind Caleb’s vote out.
4: The number of consecutive post merge Tribal Councils Zeke has had votes cast against him (final 10 and final 9 in Millennials vs Gen X, and both Tribal Councils in tonight’s double episode). Playing too hard too fast is Zeke’s achilles heel.
5: The number of times Ozzy has been voted out: once in Micronesia, three times in South Pacific (reentering the game through Redemption Island twice), and now once in this season.
6: The number of Game Changers remaining that haven’t received a single vote against them yet this game: Andrea (though she was targeted), Brad, Cirie, Debbie, Sarah, and Troyzan. How much farther can they go with this stat?
10: Assuming a final 3, this will be the amount of jurors this season. So far, both seasons with 10 jury members, Cambodia and Millennials vs Gen X, have voted unanimously for their respective winners Jeremy Collins and Adam Klein. This has been criticized by Survivor fans as they feel this large jury causes more group think. We’ll have to wait and see if the trend continues.
13: The opportunity for Sierra to use her legacy advantage was there, but she rightfully kept it for when there are 6 players left in the game, since she was in a good position at this time. It’s a long wait and will be a tough road to get this far, but I am intrigued to see how the legacy advantage comes into play this season.
14: Within the final 14 days of the game excluding Day 39’s Final Tribal Council, we are due to have 8 more vote outs. That averages to more than 1 Tribal Council every 2 days for the rest of the season. I like it when the game speeds up like this because with less time in between Tribal Councils, the more likely alliances and gameplay can change.
94: The amount of days Andrea has lasted in her three seasons of Survivor at this point. 6 more and she will be the 7th person to reach 100 days played in Survivor. We will talk about the 5th person to do so in this next stat.
128: The amount of days Ozzy has played in four seasons: 39 in Cook Islands, 27 in Micronesia, 38 in South Pacific, and unfortunately for him only 24 this season. Still, that’s pretty impressive. This does include several days spent on Redemption Island, but can you imagine playing Survivor for 4 months? That is not easy.
Survivor: Olympic Podium
Gold: Sandra, Zeke (2), Brad, Tai
Silver: Jeff, Sarah (2), Andrea, Brad, Debbie, Ozzy, Sierra, Tai (1)
Bronze: Hali (2), Brad, Malcolm, Sarah, Troyzan (1)
Current Leader: Zeke Smith: 2 golds
Bronze: Cirie Fields
This episode was the first time Cirie went to Tribal Council in this game, and I was a bit nervous for her. Much like when Sandra was sent to her first Tribal Councils, I was worried that no matter what she did, she would be voted out right away. But it seems like neither alliance is concerned about Cirie at this point. This is when it became apparent that Cirie still has those intangibles that make her one of the best players to ever play. She has yet to pull off one of her trademark blindsides, but she is making smart, subtle moves that has gained her some strong allies. I just hope Zeke’s bloodlust for power doesn’t keep Cirie for pulling off a blindside later this season.
Silver: Debbie Wanner
Prior to Debbie, every person who used the extra vote advantage was either voted out that same Tribal Council, or in Tai’s case used it so badly it blew their chances of winning. Who would've thought Debbie would manage to pull this off? It technically was a waste, but had Ozzy and Zeke’s side voted together, it would’ve been necessary. She is doing a great job of making moves and contributing to her alliance without being seen as a target. Additionally, she did great damage control with Brad. Whether or not she keeps this up remains to be seen, but looks like John Cochran’s advice is paying off for Debbie. Or maybe she had this level of gameplay in her all along underneath her quirky exterior.
Gold: Brad Culpepper
We saw more Sierra than Brad this episode out of that dynamic duo, but I felt Brad had a much better opening 6 days of the merge than Sierra did. It’s reminiscent of the Tasha Fox-Brad Culpepper partnership from Survivor: Cambodia. Sierra is playing hard right out of the gate which is building resentment towards her, while Brad is building stronger connections and appearing to be an honest and relatable person. Brad did a good job reconnecting with Debbie after their rocky history. Brad gets the gold because he managed to build an alliance that had every advantage in the game. Troyzan has a hidden immunity idol, Tai has two hidden immunity idols, Sierra has the legacy advantage, and Debbie had the extra vote. They will be difficult to stop.
Next Time On Survivor....
Sparks fly between Andrea and Zeke, and could Sarah flip on the alliance of Brad, Tai, Debbie, Troyzan, and Sierra or will that alliance start to steamroll the other players?