Survivor: Game Changers
There's a New Sheriff In Town - Part 1
By Jim Van Nest, BOP Game Changer
April 24, 2017

Ma Claven: When a man loves a woman, he gives her a special kind of....hug


Yes, yes it is. Hello good people, this IS Jim Van Nest and I'm thrilled to be tagging in for my partners in Survivor crime, Kim and David. I'll be with you for the next 4 episodes - the double episode this week and the next 2 weeks as well. And that is simply fantastic as I have so many thoughts on this season and absolutely nowhere to go with them. With that in mind, if you will indulge me, I want to get caught up.

Ciera - meh. Tony, #TeamTV - NOOOOOOOOO!! Caleb - meh. Malcolm - seriously, I teared up. JT - in contention for one of the worst winners ever. Two absolute boneheaded moves in back to back seasons, the luster has worn off the Tocantins cowboy. I've heard that the jury from that season tried to switch all their votes to Stephen Fishbach, but it was disallowed. Sandra - once again, NOOOOOOOOOO!! I'm pretty well breezing through all of this and I'll get back to that speed after I eulogize Sandra real quick. First off, how in the blue hell did she make it through the first double episode? How in the blue hell did she go to Tribal Council 5 out of 6 times and only then, did people get wise to getting her out? How in the blue hell does the best player ever get any kind of foothold in this game, much less actually take the reins and run the game through 6 hours of television? What Sandra did on this season is more impressive than anything she did on either of the 2 seasons she won. And even though I started to get tired of hearing it, it's true - the Queen does stay Queen! Varner - enough ink has been spilled on this topic, suffice it to say, I agree with most of what everyone has said. Whew - that should have us caught up to tonight's episode. Before I get started, I want to say that while the pre-merge has been pretty enjoyable and definitely unpredictable, the fact that Tony, Sandra, Malcolm, JT and Ciera are gone may have an adverse effect on the rest of the season.

We're left with several people who were questionable additions to a season called Game Changers, Ozzy and Cirie. I'm sure some people will say, "Well, the fact that they're still in the game means that they deserve to be there." Um, no. Just no. Now, one of these people will win this season and I'm sure when all is said and done, they'll deserve the win. But, we can't be result oriented here and call them Game Changers based on what they haven't done yet. Especially when people like Natalie Anderson, Earl Cole, Mike Holloway and even 'Mama C' Carolyn Rivera were on the short list for coming back. But enough about that, people have been whining and complaining about it all season - let's get ready for the merge episode of Survivor: Game Changers!

I'm sure we'll open with some Zeke/Varner fallout. And again, I don't want to rehash what Jeff did, but I will say that Zeke has been an oak through it all. He handled this thing with more class and more poise than I could have mustered. The fallout is pretty small actually; Sarah is still pissed off about it. Zeke tells us that it was tough and he's ready to fight through this. At this point, the game is still afoot and he's ready to put this issue behind him and get back to playing the game of Survivor. You'd think something like this will really galvanize this group heading into the merge. But, this is Game Changers, so who knows what the hell will happen when these groups get together. And with that, it's time for a...

Probst Sighting!! Cirie narrates the walk into the challenge/merge. They arrive to a huge feast laid out before them indicating a merge. She's thrilled to see it, but Jeff is standing off to the side next to a covered table, which means something is getting ready to change and it's not going to be predictable. Jeff explains to them that they have 1 last decision to make as tribes before they merge. One person from each tribe must volunteer to forego the merge feast or no one will get it. Like seriously? I'd be jumping out of my skin to skip the feast. There's no way that this volunteering won't come with an advantage, right? You give up the food and get something for it...every time. We head to break as the tribes squirm and deliberate. Let's see who's thinking like me.

We come back from break and Jeff tells us that if we don't get the volunteers that they will lose the feast and celebrate the merge with a cracker and a swig of ice tea. Zeke lays out why he doesn't want to do it. And right after, Brad volunteers right away. "That's what Monica would do." Zeke doesn't 100% buy the gesture as completely good hearted. He thinks it's Brad trying to make up for his game last time. I think Brad knows that he'll get something better on the other side of this. Will anyone else step up? It won't be Ozzy - shocker. It won't be Debbie and it won't be Zeke. But last second, Tai steps up and volunteers. Now, Tai - he'll do it for the betterment of his tribe. He's not good enough at the game to think he'll get rewarded for this.

Jeff sends Brad and Tai off down the beach to a log with their new buffs on it and everyone else screams and starts digging in. Sierra feels like she really needed this meal to get her head straight to make some moves. Cirie tells us that this is when the game takes off. Sure, they're all buddy-buddy now, but this is where the game gets stepped up. They all acknowledge Brad and Tai, so now we get to check in with them. And, maybe I'm not the Game Changer I thought I was. Brad and Tai got nothing for their generosity. All they got was a chance to talk, undisturbed for the length of the meal. They had hooked up early in the game and they are both excited to start working together again. Brad lays it out that Hali and Michaela are on the outs and will likely be the next to go.

Meanwhile, Debbie is pretending to be drunk. Why? Because she's more concerned with being on television and being a "character" than actually winning the show. Seriously, I'd have rather seen Keith Nale back if they wanted someone to act like a goof at the merge. So, she pretends to be drunk. She moons Tai and honestly, I'm not sure that she really fooled anyone with the antics, but I guess it was a nice mood lightener, or something. Either way, she's certifiable and I'd be ok if she wasn't on my TV anymore. Cirie, Brad, Ozzy, Zeke - someone take pity on me and do what has to be done. Kthxbye!

We come back from break to another incredible underwater shot of this gorgeous school of fish. I have to say this at least once every season; you cannot beat Survivor in terms of wildlife shots. Just phenomenal. It seriously is one of the things that keeps me coming back season after season. But back to the other wildlife out there, our new tribe comes back to Nuku beach and right off the bat, Debbie decides to make amends with Brad. She tells us that she swallowed her pride and apologized. Um, you SHOULD be apologizing for crying out loud. You went WAY off the reservation with him for no reason. But, the kinder gentler Brad Culpepper accepts her apology, gives her a hug and actually might mean it. Weird, right?

As the group settles down, questions start to rise about the Varner vote, so Zeke tells them the story. Much like at Tribal, the looks on all of their faces tell the story. To a person, every single person out there is/was appalled and were very impressed with Zeke's response to it all. Aubry's ready to defect from her other folks to work with him. She says with 13 people, everyone will start to split up soon to start seeing where alliances lie. And as she says this, Brad and Ozzy take a walk. They're joined by Troyzan and Ozzy tells them that he wants to work with them and that they can do whatever they want. Brad tells us (and Ozzy) that he'd like to see Michaela go first. He says that he just doesn't know about it and he worries that she might turn out to be good in challenges. Ozzy is on board with that and takes this information back to Zeke. Zeke is totally down with that plan as that takes away a number from the other side and can let him, Ozzy and Andrea run the game. Troyzan gets Tai on board and Tai gets Hali on board. Right now, it would seem that we're headed for a 12-1 Michaela vote at the merge...and that would be insane. Brad passes the news on to Sierra who then fills in Cirie and Aubry and pretty much everyone is aware what the plan is and seems to be ok with it. This is like, really odd to me. Not very Game Changer-y.

Sierra tells us that Michaela has to go. She tells us that Michaela constantly walks up on every single conversation so no one can really talk. She's ready to get her out. And given her personality, this will need to be a blindside. We click to Zeke, Cirie and Andrea lying in the shelter and they're concerned that Michaela could be a number for them and maybe this isn't the best move for them. Zeke tells us that he, Cirie, Sarah and Andrea are not down with just going along with Brad and Sierra's plan. As one of the chickens lays an egg on the roof of the shelter, a plan seems to be hatching to keep Michaela in the game.

We come back from break to the new Maku Maku tribe and Andrea is walking on the rocks by the ocean. Troyzan starts taking "photos" and no, this isn't weird, he's actually a fashion photographer. This is exactly what he does; only he usually has a real camera. Anyway, as he shoots the scene, Andrea promptly slips and falls right on her behind. Nice little light moment before the coming slaughter. Hali tells us that people are everywhere and you can't keep track of who all is talking. She says that Michaela is someone she wants to work with, since no one else is really talking to her. Hali tells Michaela that she is a target at this vote. Which, of course, pisses Michaela off. She's on the verge of blowing up when Cirie enters the scene. Cirie takes her aside and tells her that she has to stop doing what she's doing. Every emotion shows on her face and it's gonna kill her game. "If you're hungry, get unhungry. If you're mad, get unmad." THIS is what makes Cirie so damn good at this game. She has the knack for telling people what they don't want to hear, but what they need to hear. And she does it in a way that has them thanking her and pledging everlasting loyalty to her. This is just masterful how she handles Michaela here. She tells us that she used to be Michaela, so she completely knows from whence she speaks. She has decided that she doesn't really want to vote Michaela out. Cirie continues telling her that it doesn't matter what's real out there. It only matters what the perception of you is...not the reality. Michaela tells her that she would love to see 2 black women make it to the end of the game. To prove that they really can work together and not come for each other. And just like that, Cirie has someone to follow her into the depths of hell. Nice work.

Whoa - Probst sighting!! Time for today's immunity challenge. Jeff reveals the immunity necklace and everyone "oohs" and "ahs". Today's challenge will have player standing on their tip-toes while holding a block on top of their head against a board. Last one standing wins immunity. They cannot touch the frame or lose the block. Before Jeff can finish explaining it: Hali, Troy and Zeke all drop out. Cirie and Debbie are next out. Michaela is really struggling with this one and finally, it's just too much for her and she drops. 6 people have dropped and we're only 5 minutes into the challenge. Ozzy starts to shake and he drops out, followed quickly by Aubry. Culpepper starts to shake and he drops out. Only 4 left. Tai, Sierra, Andrea and Sarah. We pass the 25 minute mark and Jeff points out that this challenge has never been won by a woman. And right about then, Sarah and Sierra drop out. It's now Andrea against Tai. And despite hardly moving for the first half hour of this challenge, Tai starts to shake and drops out giving Andrea the first individual immunity of Season 34. As we head to break, Andrea tells us that tonight's Tribal Council is all about who will take control of this game. Really? By voting out Michaela? Or Hali?

We come back from break to play, "It's anyone but Michaela", I guess. When we went to the challenge, only Cirie and Hali wanted to keep Michaela in the game. I'm not so sure even Cirie can eclipse those odds in one afternoon. Sierra tells us that she's in charge and she loves having control. She lets us know that it's between Hali and Michaela tonight. She tells Andrea and Sarah that she's worried about Hali. She's very confident, which suggests that she might have an idol. So her plan is to throw some votes on Hali, but to still vote out Michaela. Sierra tells Cirie that 4 people are voting Hali and everyone else is voting for Michaela. She suggests that they tell Hali and Michaela that Zeke is the vote tonight. Hali says she'll go along with that, but she doesn't feel too good about that tonight. Cirie tells us that she doesn't want to vote for Michaela just because Sierra says so. She pulls Zeke aside to suggest to him that they should keep Michaela in the game as a number with them. If they take her out, they lose a number and strengthen Brad and Sierra.

Zeke goes to Sierra, who seems to be holding court in the hammock, and asks her why they're not putting the bulk of the votes on Hali. His suggestion is that if she has an idol, they should give her enough votes to either force her to flush it or to take her out and send her and her idol home. Sierra comes back with something about Michaela wreaking havoc on the camp when they get back. "So, we vote her out in 2 days," is Zeke's reply. He makes very good Survivor strategy points and confirms what Cirie was telling him. This vote isn't about's about Sierra and Brad taking out a potential number against them. Cirie tells Michaela that they're lying about Zeke. Cirie tells her to stay with the vote for Zeke and that she'll take care of the rest. She has every intention of keeping her in the game. I, honestly, have no idea how she's gonna pull that off. Should be an interesting Tribal.

Speaking of which, Cirie is making her first appearance at Tribal this season so she has to ceremonially light her torch and then we get started. Zeke and Andrea talk about how insane everything is right now. You can't keep up with everything, but this is where lines start to get drawn that set the tone for the rest of the game. He comes to Debbie and of course, Debbie isn't going to be shocked by the outcome. Of course, she won't be. Hali and Michaela say that they're both worried tonight since no one was talking to them all day today. And it's time to begin all the idol talk. Jeff finally asks Cirie if anyone has ever offered to just strip down and prove that they don't have an idol. She says that usually, the person people are worried about having the idol don't know they're worried about it. Hali offers to shake down to prove that she doesn't have an idol. But she won't do it of her own accord, but someone will have to ask her. Hali points out that the people on the bottom right now are the weaklings in this game and it makes no sense to go after them. And she is absolutely right. Targeting either one of these girls makes no sense. But with that in mind, it's time to vote.

We see Michaela's vote for Zeke and then Hali's vote for Zeke. We then see Cirie's vote for Michaela saying that it's to save her life and will hopefully bring longevity to their games. Um, what??? We also see Sierra's vote for Hali. But seriously, I do not understand Cirie's vote - unless she's just hedging, which seems weird considering she's trying to make a decent sized play here. Oh well, Jeff's reading the votes now. Zeke x 2. Michaela, Hali, Michaela and Hali. 2 more each for Michaela and Hali. As the final votes come up Hali, there are definitely some looks of confusion on people's faces. Cirie and Michaela share a glance that says they're together til the end of this thing. I can't wait to see what Cirie does here!! Thankfully, I don't have to wait to see what Cirie will do, because the next episode is now!!

However, YOU all will have to wait til tomorrow to see what happens, because I am signing off for tonight. We'll pick this back up tomorrow with the Maku Maku tribe heading back to camp and a potential Cirie-led alliance starting to come into power. Until tomorrow, my friends, take care!

Read Part 2 here!