Survivor: Game Changers

The Characters and Their Stories: Week 3 – Jeff, We Love You!

The Characters and Their Stories is a blog in which Michel Trudeau uses the edit to determine the themes of the season to try to find its long-term players. Each week, he will explores the overt signs as well as the more nuanced nods.

The Characters and Their Stories: Week 3 – Jeff, We Love You!

tree-1Previously on Survivor:

A surprise switch shook up the game.

At the Nuku tribe, JT was outnumbered.

At the Tavua tribe, Troyzan had no control.

At the Mana tribe, Brad held all the power.

At Tribal Council, Brad rallied the tribe to vote out Caleb.

I found this recap interesting because Jeff didn’t approach the three tribes from the same angle.  The overview of Nuku and Tavua was done from the perspective of their underdogs but for Mana we immediately are told that Brad is in charge.  Why were the three tribes treated differently?  It could be for the simple reason that Mana went to Tribal Council and voted as a bloc against one of their underdogs but it could also be in order to set up long-term stories. JT and Troyzan both need to change the game just to have that long term story while Brad seems set on a direct course to the merger and beyond.  However, being singled out as the power player isn’t necessarily good news for Brad.  Could it be that both JT and Troyzan outlast Brad?    


Jeff, We Love You

Scene 1 – Night 11 in Mana

Sierra was trying to comfort Tai who was distraught after voting out Caleb.  Tai said he did it to show his loyalty and Brad agreed, adding that actions speak louder than words in Survivor.

Tai’s interview:  “I was close to Caleb so this vote was really hard for me but I want to earn my trust from the rest of my tribe.  I’m not playing with my heart this time. I am playing with my…my, my head.”

Mana Day 10

Hali was talking to Debbie at the waterwell.  When Debbie asked her who she would vote if they lost, Hali quickly said it would be Tai.

In her position, the only answer to Debbie’s question was another question:  “Who do you want me to vote?”  Naming her preferences without knowing if it coincided with Debbie’s was a rookie mistake.

Hali’s interview:  “Caleb going home last night instead of me was a break in this game.  I know that Debbie and Tai do have a complicated relationship so I am trying to show Debbie that I am your asset going forward and Tai is a liability.”

Debbie’s interview:  “This is my second time playing, not my first, so I tell Hali just what I think she wants to hear but the philosophy for this Mana tribe is to keep old Nuku tribe.  It’s too soon to make Tai a target, so Hali, you have no options.  You have none.”

I think it was quite telling that Tai’s emotions were more important both to the players and the editors than Hali’s predicament.  Hali’s attempt to play the social game with Debbie got an immediate rebuttal.  On the surface, that reminds us of last week’s exchange between Andrea and Troyzan.  There were however some important differences:  Hali was approaching Debbie from a position of weakness and her overture was completely flawed.  Andrea talked to Troyzan from a position of relative safety and she was trying to make Troy feel comfortable inside the tribe.  Andrea’s safety came from her tribe’s initial challenge wins and a lucky draw during the swap.   Hali’s safety in this episode came from an unprecedented twist in the game.   It would follow that Andrea’s future looks brighter.


The Reward Challenge

Running the reward with only two players should have carried a consequence: One of the players that ran this challenge should have been forced to sit out the Immunity Challenge. It would have forced the tribes with a numerical advantage to weigh their options more carefully.

When Jeff announced that Caleb had been voted out at the previous Tribal Council, Andrea expressed the opinion of the castaways and a large segment of the audience: “That’s crazy.”

  • JT and Malcolm played for Nuku.
  • Ozzy and Troyzan were Tavua’s participants.
  • Tai and Brad carried Mana’s hopes.

As expected, Ozzy led all the way and finished first while Tai was in last place.  Brad told Tai to relax because he could catch up.  While he was too far behind Malcolm who won the reward for Nuku, Brad overtook Troyzan and got the consolation prize.

Cirie’s interview:  “We thought we had it but then Troyzan dropped the ball.  He was terrible.  He was already the odd man out and now Troyzan’s life is hanging by a string.”

I looked for which bench players would be featured in case our eventual winner wasn’t participating in this challenge.  We first had a group view of Tavua and heard Zeke’s encouragements to Ozzy.  Then we had a close-up of Sierra exhorting Tai to take his time and focus.  We then hear Debbie saying “son of a bitch” when Tai dropped his ball on the 3rd leg. We then had a group shot of Nuku with Aubry encouraging Malcolm and then Cirie doing the same for Troy.  Sierra clapped her encouragement to Culpepper when he finally had a chance to join in.  Then we had Nuku admiring Culpepper’s form as he quickly caught and overtook Troy.  He did play football after all so even if he wasn’t a Quarterback, all players throw that ball around for fun in practice so his arm has had much more training than Troy’s and it showed. 

So, to recap, only Sierra, Debbie and Cirie had individual close-ups and Debbie’s was quite negative.   We can add that while her advice was positive, Cirie’s interview wasn’t very kind.  Did she get that interview just to give her something during this episode or does it suggest that she’ll be the victim of Troy’s idol?


Scene 2 – Tavua Day 10

While the camera gave us a close-up of Troyzan, Ozzy showed some diplomacy:  “You win some; you lose some.”

Ozzy’s interview: “As a tribe, losing is always horrible.  We all want to win but losing the reward challenge was great for me because without rewards they need me to survive in this game.  I feel really confident; I’ve been doing an awesome job being the rock of this tribe.  Not to toot my own horn but I’m able to catch fish and I’m able to provide a constant supply of great proteins.  If I didn’t bring food in, my name would come up a lot more than it does but, more than that, it’s almost like a meditation.  Fishing gives me a chance to think about the game and come back a little more grounded.  It’s just extraordinary.”

We saw that he brought back a big fish.  Both Troyzan and Andrea were impressed.

I was intrigued by Ozzy’s remark about his name coming up.  Did he hear from someone that his name had come up once or twice or was he just assuming that it had to come up?  If it’s the former then Ozzy has solid allies in this group even if he is momentarily separated from JT, Brad and Sierra.  Some will say that Oscar’s arrogance showed in this segment but I think he was proven right.  He is the tribe’s provider and their MVP in most challenges.  Troy and Andrea’s words showed that they appreciate Ozzy’s work.

Andrea’s interview:  “Ozzy’s played four times; he’s no joke.  As a fan of the show, just seeing him in action is amazing.  He caught a stingray so we’re going to get a meal and hopefully that’s going to give us more confidence to do well in the next challenge.”

While this is mostly narration and some positive words about Ozzy, we have to note that Andrea will actually do very well in the crucial challenge coming up next.  As a side note, we know that production likes to color match the players’ clothing to their respective tribes so I found it funny that both Troy and Ozzy have green colored swimsuits.  Did production know they’d wind up in green Tavua?!  While I find it funny, the fans should find it disturbing, but did they even notice?


Nuku Day 10

Varner was thanking JT and Malcolm and the tribe toasted to their win.

Sandra’s confessional:  “This tribe has it going on, let me tell you.  Best tribe ever! I’m ecstatic here at the Nuku tribe.  I pretty much got everything in line; all my relationships with everyone are perfect.  I’m the queen here– I know that much. I know I’m running the show and nobody really knows it.”

Talking to Malcolm, JT said that Sandra should be taken out if they went to Tribal Council.  Malcolm agreed.  The two also promised to watch each other’s back.

JT’s interview:  “The longer Sandra is in this game, the more trouble we’re going to have getting rid of her.  She’s a two-time winner for more than one reason and you can tell by the attitude, the sass in Sandra’s voice:  She knows she’s in charge.  Malcolm and I definitely hit it off.  We are both hard competitors so Malcolm is excited, I can see it.  He wants to play with me.  I don’t plan on losing but if we lose the immunity challenge then bing, bam boom, I can go ahead and make my move like I need to do here and get rid of Sandra.”

Juxtaposing Tavua and Nuku’s scenes is interesting.  Ozzy and Sandra both expressed confidence in their situations in the game but while Troyzan and Andrea backed up Ozzy’s statement, Malcolm and JT completely deflated Sandra’s claims.  While Tavua’s scene ended with Ozzy going back to catch more fish, the one in Nuku ended with Sandra lying in the hammock, unaware of the dangers around her.  How did she escape the trap that production had set up? 

It has to be noted that we didn’t go to Mana to see them toasting Brad for his nice performance.  It could mean nothing because Mana would be heavily featured after the immunity challenge but would they have missed the opportunity to celebrate their eventual winner?


Scene 3 – The Immunity Challenge with a Twist

I have to wonder why the cameras had to show us the dream teamers running through this challenge.  We’ve seen it run so many times that we know how it works.  If they do want to remind us how it works then they should use footage from previous seasons.  It wouldn’t be exactly the same course but it would be more fun but the fun is gone…  We could have even seen that both Ozzy and Sierra did that puzzle maze before.

Sandra and Troy sat out for their respective tribes.

We didn’t get close-ups of them encouraging their tribes.

We were going to have only one winner (finally) while the two losing tribes were going to Tribal Council.

Malcolm was the one who voiced concern when Jeff explained the part of both tribes going to Tribal Council.

He had good reasons to be concerned.

Led by Varner, Nuku finished the blindfold segment with a big lead over Cirie’s gang.  Strangely, no one in Mana could hear Brad.

Jeff mentioned Malcolm’s fall.

Malcolm was heard laughing about it but his later fall would not be so funny.

This challenge used to be great comedy– people knocking each other over, people not knowing their left from their other left, Michelle falling off the calling tower, etc…  What about this time?  Nothing really unless you count the weird way Michaela ran back to the platform behind JT.  Survivor has lost most of its comic factor, one of the things that made it such a success.

JT and Ozzy did well on the puzzle maze portion while Sierra had problems, so she handed it off to Hali who didn’t do any better.

Michaela took over for JT, but she would have to let Malcolm take over.

Sarah followed Ozzy for Tavua and scored the second ball.

Varner had a big lead when he took the third ball for Nuku, but then Andrea took her turn and quickly put the pressure on Varner.

Jeff said:  “Varner is in the middle of the maze.  He was the caller who got them this lead but now he’s going to be either the hero or the goat.”

Varner’s ball was inside the inner circle while Andrea was still two moves away.

We saw Ozzy on the ground, praying for Andrea’s success.

Varner made a sudden move and his ball went sideways into a hole, opening the door for Andrea who won it for Tavua.

Everyone hugged Andrea while Aubry had to console Varner.  We could hear him crying.

When Zeke and Sarah came to embrace Andrea, she had quite the winner’s pose!  Her two hands were still holding the handles of the pulleys so she had her arms raised as in victory!  Will she have the same pose on Finale night?  Will Zeke and Sarah be next to her and embracing her?  It would be fun to look back at this moment if it does unfold this way.

When Andrea ran over to collect the idol, Jeff congratulated her and poured salt in the wound:  “Andrea pulled it off over Varner.”

It was only after Tavua left that Jeff dropped the bomb:  The two tribes would be voting as a group with only one person going home. Sierra’s expression reflected everyone’s reaction.

Aubry’s interview:  “This twist is so dangerous to everyone because any fracture in any relationship is a reason to send somebody home tonight.  This Tribal is going to be insane.”

Well, all I know is that suddenly the people who were in danger, namely, Aubry, Hali and JT are now pretty much safe.  In fact, Hali and JT momentarily held the keys to this Council until Tai found an idol. 


Scene 4 Nuku Day 11 – It would have been more interesting to send all 11 players to the same camp.

Now that was what I call a big chameleon fish!  Rupert would probably say that he didn’t know they made such animals! 

Nuku was confident that their six would beat Mana’s five.

In interview, Malcolm told us that he needed to get ready for everything with this season because who knows what Probst was cooking up next.

The group figured that they would try to get JT on board with them, but JT said he was solid with this group.

Sandra’s interview:  “It takes one person to flip to change everything but we have to vote six strong.  If someone messes this up they’re getting their ass beaten when they come back to this camp.”

Sandra put the target on Sierra because she was their strongest woman but JT disagreed, saying they had to go for Tai instead because he wouldn’t have an idol.  Malcolm said he wouldn’t want to risk his life that they didn’t have an idol.

Oh, the irony of it all!  Poor Malcolm…  We can also note that Sandra said she wanted to vote against Sierra for being a strong woman twice and that both times the camera went to a silent Michaela who couldn’t be too happy to hear that.  She was either thinking that targeting strong women was a bad idea or realizing that Sandra didn’t believe that she could compete against Sierra.

Varner’s interview:  “We are not on the same page. Everybody is on their own page. This is Survivor and everybody plays as part of a tribe but it’s an individual game from the beginning regardless of what anybody says.”

When Malcolm asked who Brad would target, JT whispered that it would be Sandra.  Malcolm agreed, adding:  “I would say me but if he thinks we’re good…”  JT reiterated that they were good.

JT’s interview:  “The most trustworthy relationship I have on the Mana tribe is Brad Culpepper.  If I was a betting man, Brad is over there now saying all our votes go on Sandra.  I could be a swing vote and vote out Sandra, but it’s a big risk.  I could simply go with the majority and vote for Sierra or Tai but, you know, I’d much rather see Sandra go.  If I wanted to I could definitely change the course of this game big time.”


Mana Day 11

Debbie was saying that they should convince them to take out Sandra.

Brad’s interview:  “This Tribal is going to be extremely complicated because now we’re going with them having six against our five.  I know that four of us are all going to vote one way.  We have one wild card, Hali, who used to be on death row however now the survivor gods have smiled on her and she’s in a pretty enviable position.”

Brad tried to convince “blue eyes” to stay with them.

Hali’s interview:  “Oh my gosh!  All of a sudden, oh, look how the tables have turned.  I mean, I have options:  I could go with this tribe but I could also flip.  There are so many different dynamics going on that you need to consider your short-term and long-term game at the same time in this vote.”

Brad was sure that JT would vote against Sandra so they had to do the same.  Sierra said that they probably had to do Sandra but that it was stupid for the long-run not to vote out Malcolm.

Tai’s interview:  “It’s very tricky tonight because we still don’t know if JT is with us or with them.  They got the numbers so wouldn’t they stick together so I need to look for the hidden immunity idol.”

How convenient that this idol was hidden at camp and not in the challenge arena!  Of course, Tai found it.

Here is more of Tai’s interview:  “This idol’s gonna equal out the two tribes’ power.  They have the numbers; we have the idol.   It’s the key to our life.”

After expressing her fears, Sierra noticed that Tai had something to say.  He told them he had found an idol.  Sierra gave him a kiss.

Where was Hali during this time? She was probably recording her interview.  They did well to keep it secret.

Sierra’s interview:  “Right before Tribal, Tai has found an idol.  I’m extremely excited but I’m also completely terrified because we just don’t know who to play it for.  A lot can go wrong but I’m just praying that we can make this happen.  It’s going to be a huge move.  Tonight’s Tribal has never been done before.  This is going to be crazy because it can be anybody tonight.”


Tribal Council

Malcolm was the first questioned and he told Jeff that despite all the experience in this group this was unlike anything they had seen.

Then Brad said that it was a Mexican standoff except they didn’t know if all of the guns were pointing at the other side.

Sandra intervened to say that all of their guns were pointing at the other side.

Debbie said that one of their six used to be close to them.  She needed to remind Jeff that she meant JT.

Once more, Sandra interrupted saying that the magic words were “used to”.

JT said that people were expecting him to put himself at risk but he didn’t want to take a shot in the dark.

Brad said they had to look at the threats and the two biggest ones were Malcolm and Sandra.

Sandra told Jeff: “I’m not worried.  I know I’m not going home tonight– how about that?”

Malcolm said that Brad probably mentioned his name because he was scared and wanted to take the target off his own back.

Varner said they tried to figure out what would happen if any from the other side had an idol.

Sierra told Jeff that they also looked at the big picture so it was just a question of who will be going.

Debbie had two big questions: Would JT flip or would Hali flip?

Brad added that if Hali didn’t stick with them, she’d become public enemy number one.

Hali didn’t think those were the right words to groom her in.  That made Varner smile.

Hali said they could be in a situation that would require drawing rocks.

How could you have a tie in a group of 11?  Please explain that one to me, blue eyes?  It would have to be a 3-3-3-2 vote and the only people drawing rocks then would be the two from the same tribe!  That would be such a dumb plan that it’s not worth considering! 

Sandra had no concerns.

Sierra realized that Sandra meant they didn’t need Hali.

When JT told Jeff he had concerns, Sierra started talking quietly to Hali, pleading with her to stay with the group.

Raising her hand, Hali said that they should only be concerned with physical threats.  Whispering to JT, Sandra said that Hali wanted Brad gone.  JT and Sandra then spread the information to Michaela and Varner.

Addressing the former football player, Probst said that the other tribe was calling an audible.

Malcolm and JT said the other side was voting against Sandra.

Aubry said she felt that she had walked into the wrong wedding.

Debbie got up and talked in Brad’s ear.

Both sides were saying they should stick to the original plan.  Sierra said she thought she was the target.

Probst told Sierra that she looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

Wanting to save herself, Sierra said they should continue playing the way the game started.

That’s when Jeff lost all control:

  • First JT went over to Brad telling him that they were voting against Sierra.
  • Hali walked across the floor to tell Sandra that they had to vote against Brad.
  • Standing behind everyone, Brad asked JT to come back and swear that he was being honest. He swore.
  • Hali told Varner that she would vote Brad with them.
  • Sitting alone in the middle of the two huddles, Sierra and Malcolm, the two who had reason to be scared, agreed they were indeed both scared.
  • Brad huddled his four to tell them what JT had just revealed.
  • Sandra huddled her forces saying Hali wanted Culpepper out because he doesn’t have an idol.
  • JT told his group that he informed Brad that it wasn’t him.
  • Sierra told something that made Hali go “Oh!” She then asked if they were voting against her. Hali said she had tried to change everything.
  • Hali and Probst exchanged laughs.
  • Varner and JT were talking but we couldn’t hear.

Using an on-line game analogy, Aubry said it was like carrier pigeons going all over the place.  Jeff realized that round two was starting.

  • JT was telling Brad to vote against Sandra.
  • Sandra said that it was just side notes and the group agreed they were ready to vote. Everyone said they were ready so Probst sent Hali first but she objected, saying she didn’t give her consent. When Sandra said they could vote, Hali stood up but said they could regret this.
  • Jeff finally realized that order had been restored so he stood up, trying to look like the man in charge!

Michaela was worried about Hali who should have told them who had the idol.  Sandra reassured her saying nobody had the idol.

When Probst asked if anyone wanted to play an idol, Brad told Tai to do it so Tai stood and showed his idol.  Turning to face his allies, he asked who wanted it.  Brad pointed to Sierra who was all smiles and ready to accept it, so Tai gave it to “the pretty lady”.   Varner’s jaw dropped.

When Probst read the first Sierra vote, the whole group rejoiced because they knew they had outwitted the others.  Probst read Sierra’s name five more times.  Sandra was getting nervous, wondering who they went after.  Probst turned the 7th parchment which read “Malcom”.  The next one was also for “Malcom” and Malcolm was starting to feel sick and Aubry was dumbfounded.  (I wonder why.  None of those were against him but someone named “Malcom”.)  An excited Sierra first told her group that they had done a good job and then she kissed Malcolm on the cheek while Varner, unable to watch, buried his face in his hands. The next vote was against “Malcomb” but for some reason, Probst said that Malcolm was the 4th person voted out of Game Changers.

Before grabbing his torch, Malcolm said he was about to vomit.  JT looked at the other side with daggers in his eyes, but Brad could only smile.  When Malcolm started down the steps, it looked as if JT was crying.

Probst said that this Tribal Council showed why Survivor was so entertaining and devastating because “No matter how many times you play, no matter how certain you are, the game can still smack you in the face.”

When the tribes headed off, Michaela told Varner that she thought JT set them up.  JT walked out of there looking rather lonely.

In case you weren’t certain, all of Mana voted against Sierra while everyone in Nuku, including Hali, voted for Malcolm (only Debbie knew how to spell his name.)


The Story

Like Malcolm said, this was the most ridiculous Tribal Council in the history of the game.  There is a saying in sports that you should always let the players play which means that no one wants to see the referees deciding the game.  Survivor is definitely more of a TV show than a real competition because Probst heavily influences the outcome.

While Sandra said she loved Jeff when he offered them chocolate, I used her quote sarcastically, having in mind what she thought of him after he revealed this latest twist!  I think the idea would have been better served if both tribes had been sent back to one camp before going to Tribal Council.  Maybe Probst could have told the players they could mutiny and go from one tribe to the other.

The price to pay for this one shining moment is much too high because we’ve now lost three of the biggest schemers who were cast this season and others are toast.   Despite what Varner said and all the cross-tribal chatter, we still had monolithic votes so the game changers haven’t really been changing the game.  It’s much like having Hatch’s Tagi going up against Lex’s Boran despite all of Probst’s shenanigans!  If only we had the same fun watching them now as we did back then… One thing that will be interesting is hearing how Probst explains the vote to Tavua when they get to the next challenge.

While many strange things happened during that episode, the strangest of all was to note that, despite their 10-7 advantage, only one of the three possible combinations of tribes going to Council was going to favor the original Nuku players.  The Tavua-Mana combination would have seen Nuku with a 9-2 advantage.  If Tavua had joined Nuku it would have given us a 6-6 deadlock.  We wound up with the worst possible combination for Nuku and yet another original Mana member went home.

Like the green fish that disappeared from our sights as it approached the sandy bottom of the ocean, Tavua disappeared from the players’ sight when Nuku and Mana had to target each other.  That Tribal Council will leave scars and both sides could be looking at the Tavua players to side with them.  This twist could really favor the Tavua players that make it to the merger.  So where does that leave our castaways in the race to become Sole Survivor?


The Characters

The Red Lanterns – These players have a target on their backs

JT: I wonder what his plan was when he told Brad that Nuku wasn’t targeting him but Sierra instead.  His tactic didn’t match his vote.  If he wanted Brad to join him and Malcolm then those two had to vote against Sandra but JT joined Sandra and voted against Sierra.  It wouldn’t be the first time that JT got all confused trying to figure the dynamics of the other side!  However, it would make sense if he guessed that Mana had an idol and was going to play it on Sierra and he was trying to get them to vote against Sandra while trying to look like he was loyal to his new tribe.  If so, why didn’t he tell Brad that Malcolm was with him and would be a solid ally for Brad later on?  Now JT’s only options are winning immunity until the merger, finding an idol, or seeing another swap.

Hali:  I think seeing Debbie’s explosion in the previews is a bad sign for Hali.  If production is pointing us in Debbie’s direction then we should expect someone else getting the votes.  Where else should we look than in Hali’s direction?  While her hesitation before voting wasn’t as bad as Hannah’s last season, everyone saw that all those discussions had confused her and her tribe will think that she voted with them only to save appearances.  Like JT, her options are limited.

Troyzan:  Nothing in this episode changed our impressions that Troy will have to play his idol to save himself but will then be dispatched immediately after.  Before the season started, he said he would vote against Tony because he was too crafty so he would likely target Cirie in this group.   Maybe we heard the “little devil” comment about Andrea only to blur the issue.

Cirie:  I’m hoping I am wrong but Cirie’s unnecessary interview about Troy’s desperation made me think she could be the one eliminated by his idol.  I’d like to see her working with Ozzy, but she may not have the chance.

Sandra:  She said she wasn’t worried about going home but we know that it came close.  Debbie, Brad, Malcolm and JT all wanted her gone and only Sierra’s influence and the madness of Tribal Council saved her.  Malcolm’s elimination may have been the best thing for Sandra especially now that the tribe has found the ideal scapegoat in JT.  I noted that Sandra was often showed sitting behind a cloud of smoke from the campfire.  She thinks she’s in a great position but we know she isn’t.  If she is to remain queen, she has a lot of work to do.  I would never count her out but she doesn’t look like a three-time winner.

The Peloton – This group includes all the non-descript players who will leave unceremoniously or will be unlucky finalists.

Michaela:  She sits in silence which is a great way to stay in the game but a terrible way to win it.

Aubry:  She didn’t sense that there was a strong current going in Sandra’s direction.  Talking to JT could have helped Aubry who was definitely outside of the Queen’s army, but we haven’t seen her attempting to change the game at all.  Like Michaela, she just sits there but she has a lot more to lose.

Debbie:  It looks like the craziness is coming out so the end can’t be too far but it figures that the next episode is too early.

Tai:  He says he wants to play for his own benefit but he’s really playing for Brad and Sierra.

Sarah and Zeke:  We do see them in group images reminding us that they are indeed in Fiji (if they really are filming in Fiji and not in Burnett’s backyard!) but they have no substance to their characters.  Sarah scored the second point for Tavua but Probst only mentioned that it set up a showdown between Varner and Andrea.   I do want to mention, though, that Zeke’s relative anonymity, just like Michaela’s and Aubry’s is a rebuttal of all those comments from casual viewers who say that players are invisible only because they are boring and they blame the casting department for casting duds. While it certainly was true for a few, all the people cast have interesting personalities.  Those three did impress us in recent seasons but now they simply don’t have the same role to play in the overall story so they are ignored.

The Chase Group – These players are trying to catch up to the “échappée”

Varner:  In two consecutive weeks he’s seen his main allies exiting the game.   His interview about the game being individual tells us that he gets it but you do need allies in order to advance to the finals.  The original Mana players are going to have a hard time finding enough numbers if things continue like this.  His challenge performances are really hurting him but his story is still quite interesting. He stands out of the peloton but he is fading and would need to pedal hard on his little bike to catch up.

Brad: The guy smoked through the reward challenge and was called the “Terminator” after winning the consolation prize. Will he be the season’s Terminator?  The story is certainly turning in Brad’s direction and he showed a lot of cool when he pointed to Sierra, indicating she was the one who should receive Tai’s immunity idol.  He is the backbone of this group and he should be able to get Tavua to join his side over the new Nuku tribe when they reach the merger.  This hectic Tribal Council solidified his group of four so if they do get rid of all the original Mana players then Brad could find himself sitting behind the wheel when the original Nuku players turn against each other.

The Lead Group

Sierra:  She was the first to put the target on Malcolm and the vote eventually went as she desired.  In that situation it would indeed have been dumb to go after Sandra if they couldn’t count on JT.  This way, they’ve reduced the opposition’s power for the next immunity challenge. It was also interesting that the scene where Tai revealed his idol was presented in such detail.  We could have simply heard Tai saying he had the idol and was playing it for the tribe but instead we saw him hesitating so Sierra had to draw it out of him.  Presented this way when some say that she was lucky to be saved, we can always counter with the argument that she played an active role in getting Tai to give her the idol.  She also said something to Hali at the last minute that surprised the budding attorney.  Sierra must have made Hali realize that Sandra’s tribe wasn’t voting against Brad which meant they were abandoning her.  That would explain Hali’s vote against Malcolm.  We also saw a few close-ups of Sierra during the reward challenge encouraging first Tai and then Brad, so she is given a role even when she has none which is a great sign.

Andrea:  She is still under the radar as far as getting screen time is concerned but she had another interestingly positive confessional and she was right to say that a good meal would help her win that next challenge.  When Nuku and Tavua were on their last ball, Probst told us that we would see if Varner was the hero or the goat and since he turned out to be the goat then that left Andrea as the hero and she gave us a victory pose.  If she wins a Final Three against Sarah and Zeke, we will have to look back at that celebration when she had her two arms raised in the air and they were on each side hugging her.

Ozzy: Just like that chameleon fish, Tavua could be so well hidden that they will be forgotten in the heat of the battle that will surely erupt when Mana and Nuku sit down once more in front of Probst.  Tony, Caleb and now Malcolm have been removed from the game while JT is sitting in a very precarious position so it leaves a much weaker competition for individual immunities.  That could play nicely in Ozzy’s hands. Of course, it looks like this season will have a majority of women making it to the merger, a rather unusual situation except Ozzy certainly has vivid memories of one such season!  If all the physical threats are removed before the merger then he could find himself in a situation where he will have to win all the immunity challenges but he’s done it before.  I would prefer if we didn’t hear him say his tribe needs him, but it doesn’t have the same arrogance as his words once had.  He is confident but I don’t think it has reached overconfident levels, at least not yet.  Andrea’s positive comments certainly indicate that Ozzy could get votes if he makes it to the end.


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