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Game Changers – Episode 5: Vote Early, Vote Often


This season is pitiless, taking out all of the big names pre-merge. This is tough on us. And now, Sandra!
I mean, we all knew that this was pretty unrealistic that she’d win a third time, and yet, none of us could imagine seeing Sandra’s torch being snuffed one day.
Well, this day has happened. Sandra has been voted out. But don’t get mistaken, she’s still the Queen.

There was also another swap (which did Sanda in, she would have gone much further without it) and another twist in form of the return of a very special Exile (boat, not island) and the return of Cochran!

Let’s start with that

Exile Boat

A lot of people don’t like Exile Island. Actually, I kinda do, but it has to come with a small twist; an idol (remember when they used to be only at Exile?) or something. Well, we got a twist, and not just one. Let’s try to see if I didn’t forget any. The boat itself is a pretty big thing, it means sleeping in a warm and dry place and that is big. Add to that a lot of food. And… John Cochran joining as a special adviser.

I kinda got scared with the preview last week. Was Survivor going to jump the shark? They couldn’t add a player in the middle of the game like this, could they?
Good! They didn’t. I always say that Survivor will never jump the shark, but this season, Probst seems hellbent in adding more or less ill-advised twists at every episode, and that could make us thread into dangerous grounds.

Actually, I gotta be honest, I like the idea of an adviser as a “reward.” We had helpers with camp and surviving before (who could have forgotten Tata the Bushman in Caramoan?), why not helpers at strategy?
And that way, Probst is happy, he can have some of his favorites returning even if they’re unable or unwilling to compete (expect Boston Rob to be a “reward” in a future season.. or after the merge?)

I gotta say, I love the idea of someone getting sent to Exile only to find some sort of solace or advantage there, but comfort, food, and Cochran was a little too much, wasn’t it? Especially when the thing that sent Debbie Vanner there was just luck.

Now, the pair-up of Debbie and Cochran was just priceless, and the advantage not too ridiculous because of Debbie’s personality. You gotta love the exchange where she shoots down Cochran’s questions because of her over-confidence (of course, she doesn’t need advice, isn’t she the best Survivor player out there?). Yet, in the end, she found a shoulder to cry on, and being able to be emotional and yourself that way is priceless. It may help you a lot for the next few days (a little bit like the loved ones visit can). Cochran succeeded at doing something nobody on Survivor was able to yet: make Debbie show her true self behind all the masks, even if for just a few minutes.

Yes, all of those advantages were not too much because Debbie was the one who won them, and I trust her to squander them, but can you imagine if it had been a Cirie or an Aubry? Not mentioning Andrea because of her own history with Cochran?

And yes, I know, there’s one more advantage, I didn’t forget. It was a pretty big one too. Not only it’s big in itself, but she got to choose among three.
So we had:

  • An advantage for the whole tribe for a future challenge.
  • A fake idol making kit.
  • A second vote.

Of course, the second vote is the most powerful (in theory), especially because it’s a secret and doesn’t make you a target (like it did for Stephen in Cambodia and Dan in World’s Apart). However, there are many ways to misuse it too. We’ll see how this plays out.
I think it was a wiser choice to pick the team advantage. The rest of the tribe has to suspect something special happened at Exile, and that will make some people suspicious of you. There’s no better way to fight off that mistrust with something that is for the team and that will make you last three days longer and into the merge – they gotta suspect the merge is very soon. That’s pretty big in itself.
The fake idol thing may or may not be useful depending on many factors, but I’d rather have a something that will help me for sure rather than something that could, maybe, possibly, if I’m lucky.



We barely saw them this week, even before the immunity challenge. You could tell they were going to win as the focus was on Nuku all episode long. Now it’s clear that the edit this season decided to focus on all the big names being voted out before the merge, keeping everyone else for later, with an exception, someone whose edit screams “winner” more and more.

Aubry Bracco: If a swap usually screws some people, it also can save some. Aubry was clearly the next to go at Nuku, and that swap really saved her. Now, she’s not really in the bottom anymore and she’s reunited with Troyzan (if I’m correct they were aligned at first, weren’t they?) and all he has to bring with him.

Brad Culpepper: Yes, earlier, when I talked about obvious winner edit, I meant Brad. Even this week, when they had nothing to show about Mana, they still showed him bonding with Troyzan and making an alliance. While it’s not a big surprise, he also revealed that he’s tight with Sierra, and all they need is a fourth. Aubry seems like the obvious choice in my opinion. And here they are, with a majority that can bring them pretty far. Why is this an obvious winner edit in my opinion? Well, because of Brad’s edit in previous episodes, and also the fact that more strategizing must have happened and yet it wasn’t shown. This one was…

Cirie Fields: She’s now the only player this season who hasn’t been to tribal council yet. One the one hand, it’s good for her, she has had plenty of time to make plenty of bonds. On the other hand, we haven’t seen much of her since the first episode and maybe the second one, and it’s still pretty unclear where she stands. While she still seems under the radar, it simply could be because she’s not going to tribal. She could be voted out as soon as she goes there. Who knows? The thing that worries me is that she doesn’t seem close to anyone in this new Mana tribe. And she’s the only real “big threat” in the tribe. If Mana goes to tribal council, can she pull a Aubry – Michaela – Hali – herself alliance? Or join Troyzan – Brad – Sierra? I see either of those two options as unlikely, and she could be voted out.

Hali Ford: She’s quite invisible, and a non-factor at the moment. Fun fact: she’s the only one who hasn’t changed tribes this season.

Michaela Bradshaw: Pretty invisible this week.

Sierra Dawn Thomas: Invisible too.

Troy “Troyzan” Robertson: So Troyzan is in an alliance with Brad and Sierra! Big news… I find it amusing how the edit implies that they “found each other” being the only two men on the tribe (and both being the “manly man, somewhat macho” type) when in all reality, they must know each from outside of the game (from One World days, Troyzan having played with Monica), they may even have had a pre-game alliance (dating back from their pre-Cambodia campaigning days). Oh, and also, Sierra in her pre-game interviews heavily hinted that she had a pre-game alliance with Troyzan. So, yes, unfortunately, pre-game alliances are alive and well, and it seems that we have one here).




Andrea Boehlke: Wow! We saw her a little bit this week. Still not much to say about her though, except for the obvious fact that she seems tight with the people she played with since day one.
Jeff Varner: I feel bad for Jeff. If Cirie hasn’t been to tribal yet, he’s been to all of them but one. One could argue that it’s good that he didn’t get a single vote yet. But truth is, nobody sees him as a threat whatsoever. His editing is still weird. While it seemed pretty positive early in the season (except for his poor showing in challenges), now not so much. Especially when he totally bought Zeke’s lie while Sandra didn’t. Ironically, for the first time this season, Probst said something positive about him during the challenge. Now, he’s the only original Mana left in the tribe, he has no ally, and he could be an easy vote for the next tribal. The only thing that could save him is that with the merge coming, he’ll be even less of a threat, and it’d be mistake to vote him out over bigger threats like Ozzy or unreliable players like Tai. Also, Zeke may think he can use him, but Jeff may not trust him anymore after that. Hmmm…
Ozzy Lusth: Is it one of the first time I see him talk strategy? It can’t be. Also, this episode, he passed Boston Rob as the person who played the most days on Survivor! Finally, I’m wondering where he’ll go from here. Tai trying to target him at tribal could have been a ruse, but if it was not, Ozzy’s ego could get in the way and go in a vendetta against Tai. He seems tight with Andrea, Sarah and Zeke, but they also could see that as an opportunity to get rid of him.
Sandra Diaz-Twine voted out: I want to say that I’m heartbroken, but truth is that I prepared myself for this moment since the day I learned that she was going to be on the show. There was no way she could win a third time. And truth be told, I’m quite impressed that she survived that long, especially playing the game she played, being very pro-active and almost more strategically dominant than she ever was. And it had to be a silly swap that did her in. Even this episode, she showed how good a player she is. When Jeff bought Zeke’s lie, Sandra didn’t fall for it, and fought until the end, almost (possibly?) succeeding at pulling an upset and turning the tide against Tai… Or not (more on that in Tai’s paragraph)… So, great job Sandra, and I can’t wait to see you win the All-Winners season!
Sarah Lacina: Not much about her. I wonder if her thing last week (about allying herself with Troyzan) was just a misdirection, or if it’s going to come into play later?
Tai Trang: Oh Tai… So let’s start with the fact that now Tai ties Russell Hantz and Tony with the record of most idols found in one season (three) and if he survives longer, he may beat them. Also, I wonder whether he holds the record of most idols found total (that has to be five, right? Did anyone find more? Russell?). Now, while Tai is a great idol finder and a delicious person overall, he’s one of the worst liars to play this game. It may be a good thing in the real world, but it’s a terrible thing on Survivor. His lack of poker face almost blew up in his face and almost got him voted out…. Unless…. It was all an act? I can’t believe it, specifically because of his lack of poker face, but tribal was just odd… There’s this moment when he wants to target Ozzy and it backfires and you have everyone whispering to each other “let’s vote Tai out” and then, he doesn’t play his idol, and doesn’t get a single vote from the original Nuku-Tavua members. Either we missed an important chunk of tribal (to keep the suspense concerning the reveal of the votes and Sandra’s fate) or they staged a great decoy at tribal in order to get Sandra, with Tai being in on it. I guess we’ll know more in Sandra’s exit interviews.
Zeke Smith: Finally, we see him play a little. I love little Zeke. His debonair personality associated to his cutthroat game play makes him a very enjoyable player to watch. While it was a team effort, edit almost made it look like the plan to oust Sandra was hatched by him. That’s a good sign, isn’t it?



Game changer of the week: I want to say Zeke, but it really was a team effort by the former Nuku-Tavua Four, with Tai playing some sort of part in the thing.

Winner pick: Brad. I don’t see anyone else getting some sort of edit that’d imply they could win. Now, it could all change after the merge (San Juan del Sur style) or not (World’s Apart style).

Next person voted out: I’m on a roll. I got JT right two weeks ago, and I seriously suspected Sandra last week.
Next week, Cirie at Mana is in trouble. Over at Nuku, Jeff seems like the obvious choice, but he won’t go down without a fight and will do all he can to have Ozzy or Tai voted out. He could succeed.
Fun Fact: Two weeks ago, I put JT as my picture and he’s out the following week. Last week, I put Sandra and she’s out this week. I’m putting Tai this week , does it mean he’s out next week? We’ll see.

Next time on Survivor: Not sure why Mana is reaching its “breaking point.” Wheather? Why only Mana seems to suffer then? Something else? What? It feels like a misdirection, and not relevant in terms of strategy. At Nuku, it seems that Jeff and Sarah will align together and target Ozzy. It would make sense to go after him right before the merge, but if it’s the preview, it has to be a misdirection, does it? Still, it heavily implies that Nuku is going to tribal council again!

We’ll see.


Stay tuned and see you next week (hopefully, my days when I can blog in a timely fashion seem to be coming to an end this season).

In the meantime, remember, if you like what you’ve read, the best way to thank me is to share this post on your social medias of choice. Thanks.



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