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Survivor: Game Changers Recap

Vote Early, Vote Often

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

April 6, 2017

We are experiencing the Infinite Sadness.

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This tribe shakeup is a bit different in that several of the people simply do not know one another. Brad Culpepper points out that while he still has Sierra (and they’re both gleefully away from Debbie now), he wasn’t friends with Hali…which was totally his fault. He also has never met Aubry or Michaela before and never spoke to Cirie before. Culpepper is optimistic about a potential bromance with Troyzan, who played with his wife on a prior season. What he’s realized that worries him the most is that there are only two men on his tribe. He could have had another one…if he hadn’t sided with Sierra against JT. Karma’s pretty swift this season on Survivor, Debbie excluded.

The mood at Nuku is erratic. The former members of Tavua are delighted that they’re in the power position. Jeff Varner and Sandra are less enthusiastic. They’re badly outnumbered and know it. What Varner should realize is that he’s got time to maneuver. If they target anybody, it’s going to be Sandra. It should be Sandra. How in the blue Hell is Sandra still there after two weeks?

In a shocking twist, everyone on Nuku targets Sandra. We’re not even being sarcastic here. Nobody’s ever done this, and she’s played for two and a half seasons.

Hey, did we mention Tai found an idol? We’re not talking about the one from a couple of episodes ago. We’re not even talking about the one from ten minutes ago in this episode. Tai gets the bright idea that the Survivor employees who hide idols are terrible. Maybe they’d be lazy enough to hide an idol in the same spot at both camps. AND THEY WERE! Tai now has two idols. We may have to start taking him seriously as a player. We won’t, of course, but we theoretically should.




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Life really isn’t fair. When Debbie reaches Exile Island, she discovers the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s a “gorgeous yacht” with a fully stocked kitchen. It has “meat, salads, snacks, soft drinks, alcohol, wine and dessert”. There’s even a hammock. Debbie eats and naps comfortably before…Johnny Cochran shows up? We’d think Debbie was in a delusional state and imagining the arrival of people she knows, but…

We see him, too.

As a reminder, Cochran’s one of the scrubs who somehow won a prior season of Survivor thanks to producer interference. They loved the story of him evolving from a useless nerd to a viable player, so they put their thumb on the scale to improve his odds of winning, same as they did with Coach and Tyson among others. Cochran’s purpose is to act as a sounding board and offer advice on the game. We guess nobody good at Survivor was available instead.

Cochran is pretty funny about his encounter with Debbie. He’s always had a nebbish charm, and that plays well in his evaluations of a truly insane woman. He points out that he can’t offer advice to someone who claims to be an expert at everything (like the balance beam!). Then, he asks if she’s worried about anyone and she says no. In his camera monologue, he remarks that overconfidence is a fatal flaw in this game. As usual, Cochran misses the obvious. She’s not overconfident. She’s woefully insecure.

Of course, a former Survivor player (we refuse to call him a former winner since that season was more rigged than Quiz Show) wouldn’t arrive without some help. The purpose of his presence is additional producer meddling. Sure enough, he has a game advantage to offer. Debbie can A) build a fake immunity idol using included tools B) vote twice at Tribal Council or C) give her entire tribe an advantage in an immunity challenge. Since Debbie’s a selfish person, C is out. And A doesn’t help much. So, B is the clear cut choice here, and she does choose it.

Debbie’s now much better positioned in the game, although we’re certain she’ll blow it. That’s three times already in this episode where someone’s performance in the game was impacted by outside interference. And we’re only halfway through the episode. When Survivor’s producers named this season Game Changers, we should have realized that they were talking about themselves.




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Speaking of potential bromances, Zeke and Jeff are hanging out on the beach. Zeke is a Survivor superfan whose love of the game hasn’t translated into great play. He’s trying to change that, which is why he’s already talked to his new tribemates about ways to strengthen his alliance while cutting out stronger players.

Tai is the current source of Zeke’s concern. He believes that Tai is capable of finding another idol. You’re underselling him, Zeke. He’s already found two! Varner happily agrees to align with Zeke and naively presumes that Sandra and he are no longer on the bottom. Jeff, buddy, don’t get too attached to Sandra. Tying your fate to hers is the quickest way to assure you’re going home soon. Barring yet another tribe shuffle, unlikely at this point in the game, Sandra’s only got about two votes left, give or take a vote.

Probst sighting!

Today’s immunity challenge comes with real stakes. Forget that the losing team has to vote somebody out tonight. They also get Debbie on their team. Failure isn’t an option in this one. In fact, we doubt Brad Culpepper in the NFC Championship Game he played in.

Tonight’s challenge starts in the water. Every player has to swim to a platform. At that point, they must cross monkey bars and then swim to the next platform. Here, players must lift puzzle pieces out of the water to hand to teammates. The final stretch when they reach land requires the contestants to pull a sled full of puzzle pieces up a steep hill. This is a grueling on its own, but it’s downright brutal for exhausted folks who have already done a LOT of work in the water.

Mana only has two men, but both of them are athletic, while the women are in great shape. Meanwhile, Nuku has Ozzy but they also claim Zeke, Tai, and Varner plus Sandra, all of whom are subpar challenge performers. Mana gets their puzzle pieces to the finish line a couple of minutes faster. Then, they absolutely destroy the puzzle portion of the challenge, working together flawlessly. Probst describes it as, “One of the fastest finishes of a puzzle in Survivor history.” He’s right, and Nuku is heading to Tribal Council.


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