Survivor: Game Changers

Survivor Pop Culture Recap: Sandra Vader

Each week, Scott Gallagher breaks down the show minute by minute in Survivor Pop Culture Recap. It’s live blogging complete with commercial breaks.

Survivor Pop Culture Recap: Sandra Vader

Welcome back everybody. Can you believe that we are already here? This season we are dealing with a pretty good mix of recycled players of old. We will get to see a pretty high quality of Survivor being played this season. Everybody knows the game, everybody has been there before and everybody should be coming in day one guns blazing. Let’s look at where everybody stands heading into this first episode.

Mana Tribe

Aubry: Probably feeling pretty good early on that she can lay back and let things unfold in front of her without being too much of a target…unless she really screws up in one of the challenges and everybody decides they want stronger physical players around. Doubtful, but you never know.

Caleb: Caleb really getting a gift being asked back to play with this level of Survivor players, I mean, Caleb is good in challenges, but really he can’t be seen as a great strategist or anything like that. He is likable so maybe he sticks around until the game gets more settled a few weeks in.

Malcolm: Challenge beast. Everybody knows he is a threat, so it just depends on Malcolm being able to continue to be likable and avoid that early target. To avoid that, he probably starts finding idols or winning idols and then, Bam, he makes it deep and people wait for him to lose an Immunity Challenge and pray that he doesn’t have a hidden idol.

Ciera: Cold-blooded Ciera, who for some reason, always reminds me of a dark teenage character from a Tim Burton movie. Her reputation can’t be good heading into this season, as all these players have to know she will stab you right in the heart without hesitation.

Hali: I honestly don’t remember anything about Hali, so Wiki says “Memorable for her personality quirks, including a love of patriotism and the U.S. Constitution”….Who decided that, that was “memorable”? I don’t remember that at all….Can that really be called “memorable”? I literally don’t remember her playing the game.

Michaela: Another beast in competitions, but really struggled WHEN things socially didn’t go her way at camp and Tribal. It will be interesting to see how the other players view her. She is a tough one to predict. I could see her winning the game maybe, but I could also see her being voted out first or second.

Jeff: The grizzled, grey veteran. Can Jeff finally get things right this time around? I think he is fighting an uphill battle against his own reputation and it’s going to be hard for him to overcome that. He just doesn’t have that “I trust this guy” vibe. Look for dark, troubled waters for Jeff.

Sandra: The two-time winner and arguably one of if not the greatest Survivor players in history. Is there any way she doesn’t have a gigantic bullseye on her back day one, minute one, second one of this game??? Will the players go after her right away????

Troyzan: For some reason, Troyzan seems like someone who would be good friends with Kato Kaelin, or better yet, Troyzan seems like someone that could be living in a pool house on a compound belonging to a former great professional athlete-turned-actor, whose greatest scene is this:

who then randomly decides to kill his ex-wife. Does any of that make sense?

Tony: To this day, like I wrote in the Bloggers Roundtable Preview, I don’t think Tony knew he was playing Survivor the first time around until about day twenty or twenty-five. Then, it hit him and he ended up winning that season somehow. I think Tony will be in the mix when all things are said and done. He can play a wide range of Survivor tactics, so who knows. Maybe he will win again.

Nuku Tribe

Andrea: For whatever reason, she just rubs me the wrong way. I think she plays with a sense of entitlement, which is a trait I just don’t like. We will see if we get a more humble Andrea this season, but I’m not holding my breath.

Brad: Brad is like the guy you watch in an old horror movie, where you know the second you meet him the first time, his character is going to be horrifically murdered. So yeah, you could say I don’t like Brad’s chances heading into this season.

Cirie: She has made to the end both times she has played, right? I feel she is the posterchild of just playing possum, appearing harmless and then you blink and she is at the end, orchestrating your demise. You have to respect her reputation, so it will be interesting, like some other players here, how she is perceived by the other players…Will she finally be seen as a threat early on?

Debbie: Cray Cray Debbie. I feel like she is going to be used, chewed up and spat out in this game. I don’t see her as someone that will be controlling her own fate in this game…I see her being a human shield for a player who is going to win this season.

JT: For some idiotic reason, I have picked JT to win this season…Why you ask? Well…I don’t know. I guess I figure that JT gets along well with people, and in the past, he was pretty good in challenges. That he could be sly and all that…..I don’t know, though, he looks like he has aged thirty years since he last played.

Ozzy: Does Ozzy still dominate physical competitions? That is the question. Is he still that monster in the physical aspects of the game? If not, then well, he doesn’t bring much more to the table. I need to see how he looks tonight before having a strong opinion on this matter.

Sarah: Sarah didn’t really do much in my opinion to justify returning here this season. I mean, basically, she was doing well during her season and then her paranoia turned her game into this:

Sierra: Yeah, I don’t remember her at all. Hold on….so apparently she made it far when she played. It was the season with really bad play all season long and that guy Mike won the game. Okay yeah, I don’t like her chances this season.

Tai: I like Tai, to me though, he was so close to being voted out early on his season so many times the first time he played this game and he just survived by skin of his teeth. I don’t know if he can play with that kind of fire this season and not get burned. Maybe he will have adapted and will come in cold-blooded and ready, but I think maybe he could be targeted early here.

Zeke: Tough one. I think Zeke will lay low early on and maybe learn from his mistakes last season when his head got too big and it cost him the game. We will see how Zeke has adapted his game…Tough to judge here, though.


Okay, so that’s where I think we are at headed into tonight. This should be fun and this should be a good season. Let’s hope so. It’s 8 pm Portland, Oregon time, so let’s get this party started.

8 pm

Here we go! You can hear the exuberance in Probst’s voice. He tells us that here are the players that “have changed the game of Survivor”….Well, maybe like five out of this whole cast has, but sure, I don’t want to be a downer early on here.

We get our first glimpse of Tony, still looking like he could star as a brooding cop in a late night soft core porn movie. He reminds us about the spy shack he created in his season…Missed you Tony.

Sandra tells us coldly that “Queen stays the queen…Adios”…Wow, I like it.

Brad picking up with where he left off last time, “Go big or go home”…Haven’t heard that slogan before. Thanks, Brad. I’m sure that mantra will do wonders for your game this season.


Jeff sends us off into the opening credits by standing on a sinking ship, clearly trying to balance himself as he delivers his lines passionately.


Jeff back from credits, opens it up with the cast telling them that they were all “handpicked”. I can kind of buy that. Jeff is putting it in everybody’s head that we want big moves this season.


Ozzy looks like he has put on weight–like Tom Hanks pre-plane crash in Castaway.

Wow, JT claims he is winning this season, and like I said before, it’s jarring how much older JT looks.


Jeff announces that in a second the boat they are all in is going to be torn apart for supplies. He also announces that in the middle of the ocean is a huge toolkit for the first team to untie it.

Ozzy for the blue tribe goes for the tool kit and nobody from the other team even bothers to challenge him for that. Reputation is still king here.


Choas is all around us as the boat is being torn apart. At one point the live chickens and Tai fall overboard and Tai looks like Jackie O trying to protect JFK in Dallas in 1963 (too soon)?

For some odd reason, three minutes after Ozzy already went for the toolkit, Caleb now goes for it, but within seconds of getting there Ozzy has already unlocked it…Weird.

Commercial Break

And let’s see what shitty CBS shows are going to be pounded down our throats this season. It looks like MacGyver and Hawaii 5-0 are having a crossover, where the characters on both shows are all on the same show together. That’s usually a sign of good health for a show. I mean, you never saw Tony Soprano randomly show up on the streets of Baltimore to buy crack cocaine in The Wire.


Back from break, we join the orange/reddish team as they all hug and meet each other formally at camp.

Michaela tells us that her plans are to “schmooze” this season. She kicks that off by asking Troyzan if “that’s your real name”. Troyzan, looking thoroughly confused by that question, blankly replies “Troy”. Okay, watch out America, we got our next Jim and Pam “will they or won’t they” this season.

The rest of the team is going bamboo shopping to build the shelter except for Tony, who for some reason randomly stops, shouts that he is going to go look for an idol, and then literally proceeds to sprint into the forest manically laughing….Okay, that’s what way to do things.

Everybody else is stunned and not sure how to react. Caleb and Sandra go walking after him and join him. I think those three kind of come to some arrangement, but it’s tough to tell.


Back with the blue team the Nukus, I guess their name is. Everybody so far is playing nice with one another.

Zeke goes on in a monologue about slaying people in the game and making other metaphors as such. Zeke pontificating dramatically has picked up right where he left off from last season.

Sarah tells us that she plays a phenomenal Survivor game.  That is a real liberal use of the word “phenomenal”. She tells us how she is going to be the “silent assassin”. Okay. Settle down, Sarah.

Sierra, who found an advantage in the game, finds out that she will get to use it if she gets to the final 13 or final 6.

Sierra and Ozzy talk about sticking together and Ozzy is still harboring bad blood towards Cirie for previous transgressions in previous seasons and wants to vote her out first.

Commercial Break

Today was International Women’s Day, which of course flooded Facebook with numerous post of manufactured deep looks from women taking selfies with a feminist quote under the picture. Great. Facebook has turned too girly I think. If, for the sake of argument, there was some nationally recognized Men’s Day (Yeah, I get it. Every day is man’s day blah blah blah), I find it hard to believe that Facebook would be flooded with photos of guys taking selfies with quotes from JFK or FDR or anything close to that.

Just once, I would like someone to post “who cares” the next time a mom posts a picture of their two-month-old kid where they list what their baby’s “likes” and “dislikes” are to us. Would that cause the first ever Women’s Civil War?


Back from break, we are still with the blue team. Cirie shares that she knows that Ozzy will have it out for her. She knows she could be in trouble.

She confronts Ozzy and asks them if they are good. Ozzy tells her that they are and they shake hands….Wouldn’t bet my life that they stay this way, though.


Ozzy, Tai and JT talk alone. Ozzy tells them that he doesn’t trust Cirie.

Andddddd just like last season, Tai now is talking to Cirie and putting his foot firmly in his mouth as he basically spells out to Cirie that Ozzy is still slightly hostile towards her.

Cirie tells us that she ready to start a war right now if she has to…It seems like either Cirie or Ozzy is going to be gone very soon.


Back with the Manas, everybody is sitting quietly by the camp as Tony volunteers to fill people’s water bottles up. He calmly and nicely starts walking away, and then when he is out of sight, he runs in a dead sprint, telling us he is building a “spy bunker” underground…This should be good.


Troyzan stumbles upon Tony and he is not impressed. He relays what he saw to everybody else.


We get to hear from Ciera for the first time this season as she kind of is carrying herself like she is queen bee here. She tells Aubry, Jeff, Malcolm and Hali that they need to split the votes between Tony and Caleb.

Malcolm is not feeling what Ciera is saying as he talks with Aubry and Jeff and they both seem to be agreeing that Ciera maybe should be a target herself…Interesting, that Malcolm never becomes a target, it seems, until much, much later in the game. The guy is good.

Commercial Break

Okay, seriously, I’m not some hack sexist or anything, but International Women’s Day…really? I mean, shouldn’t all you be happy that we let you out of the kitchen in 1982? Kidding! Kidding!!! Just seeing if you are reading this closely 😉


Back from break and it’s the first Immunity Challenge of the season. It seems like a pretty basic Survivor challenge: swimming to get keys which then leads to digging for puzzle pieces and then solving the puzzle.

Before we get started, Jeff shares that there is a new twist for Tribal this season. If there is a tie, they will immediately discuss and see if they can reach a unanimous decision. If they can’t, they will go to making fire. No revotes this year. That should make things interesting as far as splitting votes and all that stuff.


The comp starts and both teams appear to be pretty closely matched.


Ozzy’s team has a lead, but not a massive lead.

They get to the final stage of the comp as Zeke and Cirie work on the puzzle for blue against Sandra and Ciera on the orange team.

It’s coming down to the wire here as both teams are close, but Zeke and Cirie are closing in and…………Blue teams wins it and avoids Tribal.


The Manas are going to Tribal and it’s looking like it will either be Ciera, Tony or Caleb???

Commercial Break

So, can we officially say that Kevin James’ career as a bankable actor has come to an end? “TV’s #1 new comedy Kevin Can Wait”….Lord, does that sound bad.


Back from break with Mana, and here we go, let the games begin.

Tony, Aubry, Caleb, Jeff and Malcolm talk and it seems like Ciera is going to be the target as of now. Ciera walks up to the group, and so far, she hasn’t picked up that she is the target. They throw Michaela’s name out there to get her off the scent.


Michaela finds out from Tony that her name is the decoy name being thrown out there, and instead of handling it, she starts slowly imploding. So much so that Michaela now is starting to become a target. Wow, Michaela…I mean, when  you come back to play Survivor, you should be a little more poised, right?


Tribal Council time. Here we go. It’s coming down to Ciera and Michaela. It looks like the producers have spruced up the Tribal Council set this season.

So far, nobody is really revealing anything major. Nobody really plays their cards, so we head to the vote not knowing if it’s going to be Ciera or Michaela….


Wow. They are voting in some sort of makeshift lighthouse looking thing. Survivor is living large these days.

Jeff goes to tally the votes.







1st person voted out of Survivor: Game Changers is Ciera. They got the cold-blooded Ciera out. Obviously, she never got a chance to do anything this season. I do think you can see Sandra, Malcolm and Tony as the three players to watch on that Mana team.



We immediately slide into the second hour of tonight and Tony points out that it’s too quiet here and it’s time to make some moves.

Tony and Aubry go off and talk and make a pact. They want to get Malcolm, Caleb and Sandra to make a group of five.

Tony approaches Sandra about it. Sandra has the same mantra that she doesn’t care who goes as long as it’s not her. That would be a fearsome five right there if they actually stick together till the merge.


We join the Nukus as Tai and Debbie make a weird pact, as Tai is busy fending to the chickens and roosters.

Not a lot of action with Nukus other than JT being thoroughly annoyed with Tai giving food away to the chickens.


Back with the Manas in the middle of the night, everybody is sleeping except for Tony who is creepily standing staring at everybody. He, I guess, waits for everybody to sleep so he can go finish his spy bunker.


Troyzan and Sandra though are awake and decide to go somewhere to talk. Almost on cue, they walk not knowing that Tony is right there.

Now Tony crashes the party and he is acting a little cray cray as he aggressively confronts the two and now they both are pretty much wanting to turn on one another. This should be good.

Commercial Break

Oh look, it’s Jennifer Aniston doing a make-up commercial. What’s the game plan for her now? I mean ever since she got left for dead with the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie affair she really hasn’t picked up the pieces. She’s not big enough to star in movies and she lacks charisma to carry her own TV show so I wonder what the next move is?


Back from break, we are with the sloth-like Nuku tribe as JT and Ozzy appear to make a pact. Cirie sees this and she knows she needs to do something.


Cirie feels alone and knows she needs to find some people to play with. She starts with Sarah. Sarah to her face says that she will have her back, but she tells us that she is not keeping her word at all this season.


Next Cirie goes to Zeke, who like Sarah tells her what she wants to hear but that he doesn’t trust her.

Next Debbie gets the Cirie pitch. Debbie tells us that her prior military training prevents her from being outsmarted by the likes of Cirie. Debbie isn’t really buying what Cirie is selling either. Cirie could be in real trouble here.


Back from the Manas, we get Sandra telling Hali that Tony has to go. So that alliance of five lasted for what– ten minutes??


Sandra is selling Tony up the river to anybody and everybody. It looks like Sandra, Troyzan, Hali, Michaela and Jeff maybe are making their own five….Need to see what Tony’s counter punch will be here.

Commercial Break

Wow..Sly Stallone has a new reality show called “Beast Master”. We need more of this in our lives:

How old is Stallone these days? Like seventy something? God, that’s weird.


Back from break, we join Tony who knows something is up. He tells us that he wants to get ruthless. Tony partners up with Malcolm, who realizes smartly that they can’t let Sandra mobilize the forces and maybe she should go.

Malcolm and Caleb know that they can’t trust Tony, but they know they need him for now. It looks likes either Sandra or Tony is going home tonight and that is just crazy!


Time for the Immunity Challenge. Basically, it’s the same challenge as the first one: swimming then solving a puzzle. It seems like things are getting shaped up for the Manas to lose again….


The Nukus are dominating this one.

The Manas are falling apart.


Wow, the Manas have come all the way back and it’s between JT and Malcolm throwing rings and just about tied.


JT wins it for the Nukus! So, here we go. Is tonight going to really come down to Sandra or Tony?????

Commercial Break

In one week I will be in Lake Tahoe eating In N Out burgers and gambling on March Madness College Basketball…AKA the place where dreams come true. I just felt like sharing that with all of you.


Back from break, we join the Manas post-losing and obviously tensions are high.

Sandra has almost all her people in place to vote out Tony, maybe needing one more person to lock it up.


Tony is trying to figure out a way to get Sandra. His plan is to try and get Michaela to flip.

Caleb makes the pitch to Michaela and Jeff. Playing into Michaela’s competitiveness about winning challenges and having a strong team, it appears to be working. Jeff clearly is the swing vote and we don’t get a read on which way he will go for sure.

Commercial Break

These two-hour episodes are tough because it gets late and I feel like I am losing steam! It’s late and I have to work early, and yeah, can we just get to this vote already??!!!


Back from break, headed to Tribal, here we go. There is a line in the sand drawn. It feels like we are 50/50 on who is going.

Everybody starts talking about keeping the team strong with physical players. Sandra speaks up and makes her pitch.

Can I just say that Troyzan is just like he was the first time he played? Just such a wimp. Come on, Troyzan.


So far it looks like Tony is winning this press conference …Is it a smoke screen?????


We go the votes….Oh my, I have no idea what is going to happen here.

Second Vote







Second person voted out is Tony!!!

Wow! Tony goes, but not before Sandra taunts him that she is the queen. That can’t be good business, but my lord, Sandra is good at this game.



What a night. So, we lost Ciera and Tony: two big players for different reasons. I’ve got to admit, Survivor can’t be as much fun without Tony around. I was pulling for him. Alas, we must move on and with this level of game being played this season, you have to think that we are going to get some huge moves. I really hope so at least.

It looks like based on the previews for the next episode that they are switching up the teams, so this is really hard to predict where we are headed, but I think it’s safe to say that the heavy hitters are once again the favorites. You’ve got Sandra, Malcolm, Ozzy and JT all seemingly carrying major swagger into this game. We will see how it all unfolds, but if they continue to keep Sandra in the game, she will go through them like Vader at the end of Rogue One:

Thanks for reading!

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