Welcome back to Survivor: Game Changers! Are you still emotionally hungover from the last episode’s malicious “move” by Jeff Varner? Are you ready to get back to your regularly scheduled favorite reality show and enjoy a bit of levity? Here’s to hoping that a merge (with 13 contestants, no less) will be what cures your ills. But then again, it’s hard to know what to expect in a merge episode. Let’s see what happens in “There’s a New Sheriff in Town.”
Debrief at Nuku
It’s Day 19 on Nuku beach and people are still dealing with the fall-out of last night’s emotional Tribal Council. Sarah tells Tai that it’s nice that they forgave Jeff Varner, but she’s not ready to do that yet. She says in her confessional that she’s never known a transgender person before, but getting to know Zeke for who he really is has convinced her that it doesn’t really matter.
Zeke seems to have recovered nicely, at least for the time being. He was happy to see his tribe mates come to his defense in a game where you’re usually out to get one another. He says Survivor makes you tough, resilient and adaptable, and he was those things before, but now he has strengthened and grown even more. And there’s still a task at hand: Winning that million dollars.
A Merge with a Twist
The two tribes head to the merge feast, but there’s a twist before they can enjoy. Jeff tells them that one person from each tribe has to volunteer to not participate in the merge feast. But if no one volunteers, they’ll only feast on a cracker with cheese and a swallow of iced tea.
Brad immediately volunteers for Mana. He says it’s what Monica would do (#WWMD). Zeke says in his confessional that Brad didn’t like the way he came off in Blood vs. Water so it makes a lot of sense that he would fall on his sword and be the hero to re-brand his image.
Tai volunteers next for Nuku. Andrea says it doesn’t surprise her because Tai is so selfless and so caring and she’s so thankful.
While they’re not participating in the feast, Brad and Tai talk strategy. Brad pulls Tai right back in from when they were together earlier in the game. He says Michaela and Hali are on the bottom, and Tai’s just glad to be in a solid alliance even if that means trusting in the almighty strategic prowess of a one Brad Culpepper.
At the feast, Debbie pretends to get drunk and dances around. Then she moons poor Tai. She says in her confessional that if she has to pretend to be drunk to make people comfortable around her, then that’s what she’ll do. (I’m not sure what it says about her personality that she has to pretend to be inebriated for people to like her, but okay.)
Back at camp, Debbie takes Cochran’s advice and apologizes to Brad. Brad’s happy to hear it because he tells his bro alliance (Ozzy and Troyzan) that he has Debbie in his back pocket.
The former members of Mana want to know how the last few votes went down. So Zeke takes it upon himself to tell them what happened at the last Tribal Council. In doing so, he comes out to all of them as transgender. It was nice that Zeke got agency of his own story for at least half the people left in the game. And it’s admirable that he had the courage to go through it all again, only this time on his terms.
His tribe members have positive reactions. Aubry says she respects Zeke more for simply sharing his story than some of the people she’s spent the last 20 days with. (Please let this mean an Aubry/Zeke alliance is on the horizon!)
There’s also a power struggle going on in camp. It’s between Brad and Sierra’s group that wants Michaela out, and Zeke, Cirie, Andrea and Sarah who are considering using Michaela as a number to get another strong threat out of the game. All that’s for certain is that the first vote after the merge is going to be utter pandemonium, as usual.
Hali notices that there are a lot of conversations happening, but she’s not really part of many of them. She knows Michaela is on the chopping block, but she thinks working with her could be a good opportunity for both of them. She tells Michaela that she’s heard her name which of course makes Michaela mad. She knows being out of the loop is dangerous at this point in the game, so she needs to find someone she can trust.
Since all of her old allies are gone, Michaela tries to get closer with Cirie. Cirie tells her that she needs to chill or at least put on a calmer exterior. She says that she used to be like Michaela when she was younger and putting a guard up only pushes people away when you’re in a game when you want to bring people in. The two click right away and would love to work together. But Cirie knows Michaela is on the bottom, although she wants to do what she can to save her.
First Immunity Challenge
For the first individual immunity, the Survivors have to stand on their tip-toes and balance a block between the tops of their heads and an over-head beam.
Hali is the first one out followed by several others. Most notably, Michaela goes out about five minutes into the challenge. Uh-oh. She needed that.
The final two are Tai (who is always so strong in these kind of challenges) and Andrea. Andrea hangs on to win the first immunity.
On the Outs
Sierra thinks she’s the person in charge and she makes the decision to split the votes between Hali and Michaela because she thinks Hali has an idol with the majority of the votes going to Michaela. But who do they tell those two to vote for? They decide on Zeke.
But Cirie is super tight with Michaela now and she doesn’t want to send someone home who could be one of her numbers in the future. Plus she thinks that if they do end up voting Michaela instead of Hali, Hali will be one of their numbers. So this is a crucial vote.
Cirie tells Michaela not to believe or trust the other crew. She tells Michaela to trust her and vote for Zeke, and she’ll do everything she can to save her tonight.
First Tribal Council
Zeke says this is a huge shift in the game and it’s insanity. There are so many people to watch and keep track of. Chaos is happening and there’s nothing you can do to control it.
Andrea says this is the point where the tone is set for the rest of the game and Debbie doesn’t expect to be shocked at tonight’s vote.
Hali says she feels like she and a few other people are blindfolded in a dark room and they’re about to be shot by one of the people who actually knows what’s going on. Michaela says she’s worried too, and she says the other people should be asking themselves why they’re targeting who they’re targeting instead of bigger threats in the game.
What about an idol? Who could have one? Jeff asks if there’s an instinct to search someone’s bags to find an idol. Hali says if anyone wants to check her for idols, all they have to do is ask. No one takes her up on the offer.
To the Vote!
Cirie votes for Michaela, but she says it doesn’t mean anything. Michaela and Hali vote for Zeke, but those don’t end up meaning anything either. The votes are tied at five a piece for Hali and Michaela. The sixth vote comes in for Hali and she’s the first one sent to the jury. Cirie must have worked her magic behind the scenes and convinced the majority to vote for Hali, but we didn’t get to see it.
Building an Army
Michaela knows that Cirie stuck her neck out for her the night before, so she knows they can move forward together. She appreciates being a black American female who can play this game with another black American female and there’s an inherent level of trust there. She knows Cirie understands the game and the dynamic at camp more than she does, so she’s going to be loyal and try not to mess up Ciries game. Smart woman.
Cirie has her own ideas about how she wants the game to go. She wants to send either Brad or Sierra home next because they think they’re running the game. Aubry feels like she’s stuck in the middle, but she’s more than okay being on Team Cirie.
Zeke, on the other hand, has other plans. He thinks that Andrea and Cirie are bigger threats than Brad and Sierra, so his next move might be one of them. And although being in charge put him in a tough spot in his last season, he doesn’t have the benefit of a lot of time to analyze that that’s what cost him the game. It might be better for him to lay low for a bit, but he’s used to being the boss.
The Survivors are split into two teams of six. They have to dive out into the water to retrieve fish, bring the fish to shore, hook them on a pole, and then use the fish to solve a puzzle. The winners get a day at the spa where they get to clean up and eat hamburgers!
People are losing fish left and right. Sarah loses a fish for the orange team (which consists of Sarah, Brad, Michaela, Cirie, Aubry and Sierra) and then Tai loses a fish for the blue team (Andrea, Tai, Ozzy, Troyzan, Debbie and Zeke).
But as usual, it all comes down to the puzzle. Sierra and Cirie blew it for the Orange Team and Zeke solves it for the Blue. Time for some R&R for half the tribe.
The other half goes back pouty and feeling hungry. This taps into some of Cirie’s insecurities about being able to provide for her kids. She feels like she let her tribe members down by losing the puzzle and not providing for them. It’s okay, Cirie, there’s always another reward challenge (or Ponderosa…).
On the spa reward, everyone eats and takes showers. Tai streaks through the picnic. (I hope his idols weren’t showing.)
Zeke pulls Debbie and Tai aside later to try to convince them that either Andrea or Cirie needs to go. He tells Debbie that Andrea put Debbie’s name out there. But Debbie’s not as dumb as she looks! She doesn’t believe Zeke at all and doesn’t thinks she can trust him going forward. She knows she wants to make a big move, but she doesn’t think she needs Zeke’s help to do that.
Second Immunity Challenge
The challenge is simple: the Survivors have to hang onto a pole with narrow footholds for as long as possible. (Fun fact: Ozzy is undefeated in this challenge in his Survivor career.)
Cirie is the first one out. Andrea, Ozzy and Tai are the last three left. Tai and Ozzy look extremely comfortable, after 40 minutes, Andrea lets go from the very top with a scary fall. Ozzy says if he wins, he’ll go fishing today, but if he doesn’t, they’ll all just go hungry. How nasty is that? Tai says “Sorry.” He’s not giving up.
After about an hour and forty minutes, Ozzy drops out, so Tai dethrones Ozzy and wins immunity.
Zeke is happy Andrea didn’t win immunity and now he’s gearing to get rid of her. He tells Sierra that Cirie and Andrea are coming for her, but he doesn’t want to see that happen.
But Sierra doesn’t trust Zeke. She tells Cirie what Zeke told her. Cirie is shocked. She thought she and Zeke were close. She tells Andrea and Ozzy too, who are equally as mad. Andrea says that she and Zeke have been together since the beginning of the game and she thought they were friends. Not only is she mad, but she doesn’t know what Zeke is trying to accomplish here. So they decide to target Zeke.
Sierra and Debbie talk and they’re irritated with all of the double-crossing. Debbie suggests just taking matters into their own hands and voting off Ozzy. So Debbie goes around whispering in everyone’s ear that they’re going to blindside Ozzy. Now, if anyone is taking Debbie seriously remains to be seen.
Sarah feels like she’s in the middle of the two groups that are starting to surface. One group wants to vote Ozzy out and the other wants to turn the vote around and get out Zeke. She knows they’re both big threats in their own ways, it’s just about who she wants to work with going forward.
Second Tribal Council
Ozzy says the stakes are higher in this game than they have been in his last few games and there’s a more cutthroat mentality. But if his tribe mates want to keep eating, they’ll have to keep him around. We get it, you’re a provider. But this isn’t Pearl Islands, it’s Game Changers, and bringing in fish doesn’t keep you in the game.
Sarah says it’s hard to know where the real relationships lie after there have been so many swaps. She says they’re like a bunch of single people waiting to hook up right now.
Zeke talks about how mentally exhausting it can be to constantly be running numbers and thinking about how other people see you. Tai is impressed by Zeke’s way of speaking at Tribal Council which makes him realize what a big threat he is.
Cirie says that she’s basing tonight’s vote on who she can trust and Debbie says she thinks she knows who she can trust, but she’s not quite sure.
To the Vote!
We see Andrea vote for Zeke and Sierra vote for Ozzy. But before Jeff reads the votes, she plays her extra vote and she casts it for Ozzy too. She didn’t necessarily need it after the votes were read as a majority of them were for Ozzy, but it was a good insurance policy to make sure that the person she wanted to go home, went home.
Meanwhile, Cirie voted for Sierra “just to stir things up” (she’s an evil genius) and Zeke was completely out of the loop and voted for Aubry.
What do you think? Did Zeke just completely screw over his own game? Are you total shipping Hali and Ozzy over at Pondrosa? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!
(Image courtesy of CBS)