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‘Survivor’: Game Changers Episode 1 Fantasy Recap

Our cast of Survivor alums sail in on what looks kind of like a pirate ship.  We get to see some nice shit talking videos from Tony (who references creating the “spy shack” during his run to the million), Malcolm, Sandra, Cirie (who references convincing that moron Erik to give up immunity to prove himself only to get voted out that very tribal council during her first season), Debbie (who says she has the strength of a gymnast and the tenacity of a giant squid, which is literally EXACTLY how I would describe her), and Brad, who honestly couldn’t hold any of those players’ Survivor jock straps.  Jeff Probst gives us the intro to get us pumped up while standing on a rusted out abandoned shipwreck.  Season 34 is on like Donkey Kong.

Jeff Probst tells the group they were “hand-picked” (as opposed to the usual casts, which are picked by some sort of elaborate super-intelligent cast-picking machine) because they are willing to make the moves to change the game.  He asks a few random questions and then splits them into their tribes—the Mana Tribe (Aubry, Caleb, Ciera, Hali, Jeff, Malcolm, Michaela, Sandra, Tony, and Troyzan) and the Nuku Tribe (Andrea, Brad, Cirie, Debbie, JT, Ozzy, Sarah, Sierra, Tai, and Zeke).  He tells them the boat is loaded with supplies and to go nuts and then get on a raft and use a map to get to their new homes.  There is a buoy in the water and whoever can get there first gets a huge thing of tools.

Ozzy dives in and no one challenges him for water supremacy.  Caleb jumps in several minutes later, which is like giving Usain Bolt a 5 second head start in a hundred meter race.  Ozzy gets the tool kit for Nuku.  In the chaos (and it is absolute chaos) on the boat, a secret advantage card is uncovered when something is moved that goes unnoticed for a little while.  Meanwhile, Tai gets completely destroyed as a crate gets dropped on him.  It is absolute pandemonium.  Tony appears to be stealing shit off the other team’s boat; it is an awesome start.  In the confusion, Sierra picks up the secret advantage and puts it in her pocket.  The Nuku Tribe ends up leaving this first clash with both the tool kit and some chickens—a great start to the game.

Mana Tribe – Day 1

The meet and greet starts up.  Hali tells us she’s like a cobra.  Michaela says she plans to schmooze up to everyone.  To demonstrate that immediately, she pretends to think Troyzan has a cool name which is hilarious because Michaela is awful at being insincere.  Tony tells them all to do their thing and he’s gonna go look for the idol.  He runs off hooting and hollering like a crazed New Jersey cop on angel dust in the jungle.  This seems really stupid to me, as he is drawing a ton of attention to himself, but I suppose he knows what he’s doing (famous last words, I know).  He seems to think everyone is going to chase him, but no one really follows him except Sandra and Caleb after a little while.  Eventually they catch up to him and they shoot the shit for a while and go back to build the shelter.

Nuku Tribe – Day 1

The Nuku Tribe walks up their beach carrying their chickens and their tools and a bunch of other shit.  There are some goats there that you can tell at least some of them want to kill, but Tai (as a well known animal lover who has befriended chickens in the past)ndoes not seem down with this at all.  Sarah announces to the camera that she has a “phenomenal social game” (which is really overstating things) and will be a “silent assassin” in this game.

The secret advantage card Sierra picked up on the boat is the Legacy Advantage, which she found on the boat.  It gives her immunity (you can only use it with 13 people left or 6 people left) and if she gets voted off she wills it to someone else in the game.  Brad and Sierra chat.  He is making an effort to play it cool and is trying to operate under the WWMD (what would Monica do) system—Monica being his wife who was on the Blood vs. Water season with him a while back.

Sierra then goes and chats with Ozzy, trying to secure numbers early on.  In the first hint of trouble at the Nuku camp, Ozzy tells Sierra the only person he is a little scared of is Cirie because she tried to oust him on a previous Survivor season.  It is bad luck for Cirie that Ozzy is on her team, because you’d think if you schemed against someone on a remote island it would be unlikely that you would find yourself on a different island with that very person 8 years later.  But that is Survivor for you.

Tai, JT, and Ozzy are walking and talking and Ozzy is advocating for Cirie to be the first to go when the time comes.  Moments later, Tai and Cirie are chatting and he tells her she doesn’t have to worry but she should work it out with OzzyCirie catches his drift and it’s on—Tai has said too much.

Mana Tribe – Day 2

Back at the Mana Tribe (which seems like the way more interesting tribe right now) Tony goes to fetch water but then he runs near to where the well is and proceeds to try and build… wait for it… an underground bunker.  Troyzan walks up on him and sees him digging, but thinks he is digging for an idol, so the dream of a bunker remains alive.  Now everyone has the sense that Tony is up to no good and they’re all talking.  He’s a huge target.

Ciera is throwing a lot of names out, and that makes her a target as Malcolm and Aubry both identify her as a threat.  The levels of both gameplay and paranoia are both extremely high this season, which usually makes for an outstanding season.


Finally, we’re guaranteed our first fantasy points of the episode.  The first immunity challenge is a race to a raft, paddling a ways, having someone swim out to get some keys, then they’ll all go over a series of obstacles, dig up some puzzle pieces, then get another bag of pieces somehow, then make a ship’s wheel puzzle and raise a flag.  You know, just a regular day at the office.  The winners will get the immunity idol, which is a very cool looking deep sea diver’s helmet.  The winning team will also get flint to start a fire.

Jeff Probst then randomly announces that this season if there is a tie at tribal council, there will be no revote.  They can talk and if they can come to a unanimous decision OK, but if not, everyone else draws rocks.  I’m sure this will be significant later, but right now I don’t care at all.

The challenge is on.  They pile on their rafts and paddle with Nuku taking the lead.  Ozzy and Hali (yes, cobras can swim—I checked) go into the water.  Ozzy establishes a pretty good sized lead for Nuku during this leg.  Michalea and Aubry are being huge workhorses for Mana trying to make up ground.

Nuku reaches the beach first and starts digging for puzzle pieces.  JT immediately finds a bag.  Tai finds the 2nd bag.  Mana starts digging and Caleb finds the first bag.  They quickly find the second bag and are right back in it.

Debbie, despite years of experience under the tutelage of some of the foremost locksmiths in the world, is struggling with the locks on the box and Jeff Varner is trying to catch up with her for Mana.  Jeff Probst ridicules him for panicking (-2) which he denies.  Eventually all the locks get undone.  Both teams are now puzzle solving, with Cirie and Zeke (Nuku) going against Ciera and Sandra (Mana).  As an aside, Ciera lost in this exact puzzle challenge to her mother in a previous appearance so you would think she would do better this time around.  Wrong.  Zeke and Cirie complete the puzzle first and Nuku wins immunity, earning 3 fantasy points each for every member of their tribe.

Mana Tribe – Day 3

A bunch of them are talking around the well and Tony goes into alpha male mode, saying they need to vote someone weak out.  They all bring up CieraCiera eventually walks up and they decide to tell her Michaela is going to get voted out just to be able to tell her something.  Michaela asks them later who Ciera thinks is going home and Tony tells her it’s her.  Michaela doesn’t like this plan and starts talking a little which she told us she wouldn’t do.  Aubry identifies her as a “tricky player” and now all of a sudden people are talking Michaela for reals.  Momentum switches so fast in Survivor.


At our first tribal council, they talk about Tony’s antics for a while and he acknowledges the  superiority of these players relative to the last time he was on.  Caleb says the fact that he left his game early will help him because they don’t know what he’s capable of.  Sandra smirks at this.  Michaela then talks and gives a very experienced sounding, rehearsed answer.  Then Probst calls Sandra out on winning it all twice and she’s like, “everyone loves me! I’m the perfect person to go to the end with.  Do it with Sandra!”

Hali talks.  She says they are going to get rid of a weak player and that “loose lips sink ships”.  This gets Ciera’s attention and now she seems worried.  The vote is on.

During her voting, Michaela says “Bye Felicia” as she writes down Ciera’s name which was pretty much laugh out loud funny.  Sandra looks into the camera and announces, “the queen stays queen, so adios”.  These players are a real treat to watch so far.

Ciera (most famous for her previous act of matricide) is ultimately voted out, losing 5 fantasy points for her unlucky owners.  Michaela gets 1 vote cast against her (-1) and that’s it.

Mana Tribe – Day 4

Hour 2 of our initial Survivor bloodbath kicks off with Tony talking about how it’s time to get things into gear, which is music to my ears.  He approaches Aubry at the well and suggests a Tony, Aubry, Caleb, Malcolm, and Sandra alliance in order to keep the physically strong players and past winners together under his control.  He approaches Sandra with the idea, saying that the only way a past winner can win at the end is if it is all past winners in the finals.  Sandra says something vague like that she is “maybe willing to work with him for their mutual benefit”.

At night, Tony goes out and keeps digging to build his bunker but Sandra and Troyzan come along and he runs away.  Eavesdropping, he hears them talk about some people including him.  This was initiated by Troyzan and they talk about a lot of people.  At one point he says something about Tony and Sandra answers “you never know”, which seems fairly innocent to me—but it starts a firestorm, let me tell you.  Tony bursts out of the bushes and greets them, wanting to know what they were talking about and seeming crazy.  They lie and say they weren’t talking about anyone.  He tries to use his cop-like persona like getting people to look into his eyes and stuff, but Sandra is decidedly not intimidated.  This is going to be interesting, as you could make a real case for the 2 of them being the best players in the game and it looks like they’re going to go at each other hard.

Nuku Tribe – Day 5

JT and Ozzy are talking and seem to be aligned.  Cirie notices and knows she needs to do a little something-something so she starts trying to gather allies.  She starts with Sarah and gets her support (she thinks) but Sarah then says if Cirie is the person everyone’s voting for, she’ll vote for her.  So… not so much.  Then Cirie goes to Zeke who is basically star struck by her, having only played last season and still identifying as a super fan.  Zeke likes her but also thinks she might be the most dangerous player in the game so he is wary.  Finally, she approaches Debbie and tells her everyone thinks she is talking.  She says she has some advice she will give Debbie as a gift.  Debbie doesn’t trust her and says Cirie doesn’t understand her training.  She mentions she is a captain (unpaid in dollars, she says—she is paid in pure military training) in the civil air patrol.  Her Debbie Sense is tingling.  I think it is fair to say Cirie’s ally-gathering was unsuccessful for now, and it is another great reminder of how high a level this game is being played at already.

Mana Tribe – Day 5

The fall-out from the overheard conversation at the well begins in full force the next day as Sandra goes and talks with Hali (the self described cobra) and talks about how Tony is not the boss of her.  She tells us “you’re only the king until the queen arrives.  Well guess what?  I’m here”.  I am absolutely loving that Sandra keeps referring to herself as “the queen”.  This is going to be a huge showdown between past winners if something doesn’t give.  Tony says it’s time for him to start getting ruthless, whatever that means.

At this point, Tony starts aggressively trying to gather allies.  Malcolm says he doesn’t trust Tony as far as he can throw his big bald body but he thinks he can work with him.  Caleb doesn’t trust Sandra or Tony but he says he trusts Tony more.  We’ll see how this shakes out.  A win in the immunity challenge the next day will make all of this a moot point anyway.


6 members of each tribe will go across a balance beam into the ocean to a cage, crawl up and over and get a long, heavy snake that weighs over 400 pounds and push it over and across the beam and back to the beam.  You get a bunch of tiles and you undo a combination lock and then throw rings to spell the word “immunity” to win.  The winning team will also receive a fishing kit which includes a raft—not too shabby.  Nuku sits out Cirie to make the numbers even and we’re officially underway.

They get to the cage and it’s neck and neck.  At this point, Jeff Probst ridicules Jeff Varner (again) who is barking orders “from the safety of the cage” (-2) while his teammates work, which is a totally fair criticism.  The snake is hoisted over the cage with great effort by Nuku.  Mana still has not untied their snake and is struggling mightily.  They finally get it over but are way behind.

Probst really drives the point home this time and calls Jeff Varner “useless” which he totally is.  Nuku is all the way back to the beach with their snake.  Debbie, who spent 6 years at Combination Lock Camp when she was a young girl, starts working on the combination lock for Nuku.  As she is doing this, the Mana snake falls into the water twice.  Sierra is already throwing rings for Nuku as Mana struggles to get back to the beach.  It is a blow-out.

Finally, Mana starts working on their lock as JT begins throwing rings for Nuku.  He lands 6 of his 8 rings pretty fast.  Malcolm undoes the lock quickly and starts throwing rings like a boss.  He cuts the lead to 6-4 right away and then actually ties it up at 6!  JT lands his 7th and 8th after making his team sweat and Mana’s comeback is thwarted.  Each member of Nuku earns 3 fantasy points for this victory.

Mana Tribe – Day 6

Back at camp, Caleb is talking about how tough it was to move the snake and he says the snake weighed 700 pounds which is a patently false statement.  Michaela is mad that weaker players lost the challenge for them again but she’s going to bite her tongue for now, as she doesn’t want to put a target on her back.

Sandra has now deftly formed a group which seems to consist of the 4 people Tony did not include in his original planned alliance and herself.  Tony is actively trying to get Sandra out too. He is using all the same tactics he used in his dominant run to the million, and he is an excellent talker/convincer.  Unlike in his first time around, however, he is dealing with someone who identified him as a threat immediately and is not even a little bit intimidated by his 5-0 persona.  It is great seeing these two go back and forth trying to gather allies and flip people. Tony says Sandra’s going home and he’s a heat seeking missile when he targets someone; he compares Sandra to a hyena.  Tony knows they need one more vote and tells Caleb they should flip Michaela.

We get the obligatory shot of a snake, which I love.  Caleb goes and tries to talk to Michaela, appealing to her desire not to remain strong and not lose challenges—this is definitely the way to convince Michaela to come over to your side (if she is open to being convinced).  It seems like Sandra could be in trouble.


Probst kicks things off right away and asks Tony about the back to back losses for his team which is totally throwing him a softball so he can say they need to stay physically strong—a convenient response if you happen to be a juiced up Jersey cop.  He asks Michaela how she felt watching Malcolm throw a million times while she did nothing.  She obviously didn’t like it—she wants to win challenges and she says they shouldn’t send a strong player home.

Sandra says that scares her a little and points out that the “strong players” haven’t gotten them anywhere yet except tribal council.  Troyzan says Tony has been sneaking around and Tony immediately comes back about how Troyzan and Sandra were covertly talking and he heard them (he did not mention that he heard them because he was building a secret underground bunker).  Sandra mocks him for how he pounced out of the bushes to ask them what they were talking about.  Then something gets in Sandra’s hair and things get derailed for a minute.

Tony then gives some sincere sounding speech about how he lied a lot to win last time but that’s not the game he’s playing this time.  It is vintage Tony—total horse shit—but a bunch of people say they buy it.  Jeff Varner says they are a round hole and it’s time to get rid of the square peg, leaving everyone to wonder who the square peg is.

As Sandra casts her vote for Aubry (concerned Tony may have found an idol) she announces, “the queen stays the queen, so adios.”

In the end, Tony gets voted off with a final vote count of 7 for him and 2 for AubrySandra managed to not get a single vote in what has to be considered a spectacular series of moves against a former champion.

As Tony goes to leave, he shakes his head and mutters, “Lambs to the slaughter.”

Sandra responds, “The queen stays queen!  That’s what you get for plotting against me, get your ass out of here!  Say hi to Ciera for me!”  And then as he was slinking away, she yells, “Bye Tony!”  What an absolutely bad ass performance from Sandra.  She cannot possibly last for much longer being a 2 time winner and being so high profile so early on… can she?

A great start to season 34 of Survivor.  I’ll be counting the hours until next week’s show.


Andrea: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Aubry: -2 points (2 votes cast against her at tribal)

Brad: 6 points (immunity challenge x 2)

Caleb: 0 points

Ciera: -5 points (voted off)

Cirie: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Debbie: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Hali: 0 points

JT: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Jeff Varner: -4 points (ridiculed by Jeff x 2)

Malcolm: 0 points

Michaela: -1 point (1 vote cast against her)

Ozzy: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Sandra: 0 points (a crime I couldn’t give her points for what she did to Tony)

Sarah: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Sierra: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Tai: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

Tony: -5 points (voted off)

Troyzan: 0 points

Zeke: 6 points (immunity challenge win x 2)

And that’s all for the Survivor Episode 1 Recap. Be sure to check back next week for Episode 2’s recap.

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