Survivor: Game Changers

The Characters and Their Stories: Week 5– Preparing a Hit

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 5–Preparing a Hit

First, I must tell you that I’ve been warned about spoilers for this season and that some posters here have been using them. So, while I don’t know who will win, I have an idea of what those spoilers must have been saying.  I’ve committed to this blog so I will continue recapping the episodes and giving some of my impressions but I will not be making a winner’s pick.  I’m doing it only for fun so I hope you will enjoy this.

tree-1Previously on Survivor

At the Tavua tribe, Troyzan was in the minority.

Zeke: “I’m sure Troyzan feels like he’s on the outs because he is.”

At the Mana tribe, Tai found a clue to an idol…and Debbie lost her mind.

At the Nuku tribe, Aubry and JT tried to rally the troops but Sandra was leading the charge.

At Tribal Council, Sandra got her way…again and Aubry was left in the dark.

Boston Rob had been watching everything that happened on Survivor Game: Changers and he wasn’t happy:  “Those dumbasses are going to let Sandra win again” Boston Rob said angrily.  “All that clown JT had to do was play his idol and get Aubry to write Sandra’s name…  Right now, The Diaz-Twine cartel is tied with the Mariano-Brkich family so I have to do something to protect my famiglia.   I’ve been grooming my four little girls to win this game but it’ll take a few more years before they are allowed to go on the show and put our family seal on the record.”

Boston Rob got on the phone woke up Burnett and told him that he would need to use his jet.  Burnett knew better then to ask any questions:  A hit was being set in motion.


Scene 1

While BR and his secret associate were flying over to Fiji, we watched Nuku’s return to camp where Aubry said she was impressed with the tribe’s play.

Aubry’s interview:  “I went into Tribal thinking that Michaela was going home but they voted out JT. I’m constantly on the bottom and I feel I’ve been trying really hard to build relationships with those people but then it all blows up in my face.”

Aubry wanted to know why they chose to keep her over JT.  Sandra explained it was all about the betrayal.

Snitching is one of the worst things in any outfit and JT had been caught red-handed.  He really should have used his idol…  Aubry should have also been expecting that hit.

Aubry’s interview resumed:  “Clearly, Sandra is running the show and I feel like she’s cutting my legs out from under me like a slow death.  Without a doubt, Sandra is the best player here; she is the queen of this game and I need to learn a thing or two from her.”

Unfortunately, she will not have time for more lessons. 


Mana Day 13

Tai was on the hunt for an idol again and he wanted to find it before the others got up.  He was off to the water well.  There he did some spring cleaning and found the tribal symbol painted in invisible ink on the water well.  Underneath it was a bag which contained a message.

The message was:  “Use this but only if you need it to get rid of Sandra.”

Tai was now a made man. 


The Next Twist 

When Probst informed Mana and Tavua that JT had been voted out, we first saw Brad’s disappointment, heard Sierra saying “damn it” and Andrea shaking her head.

Hali was happy to say bye to these Mana folks, Troyzan was giggling like a little girl and Aubry was doing a happy dance.

Tribal Swaps usually help those who play poorly.

When Sandra asked Probst to give her a “good one” Boston Rob, who had been watching from the bushes, thought:  “Oh! Don’t worry.  I’ve made sure you’d get a good one indeed.”

Being at the end of the line, Varner realized he would be stuck with the buff that nobody wanted.

Sierra said she was scared while Andrea had to take a deep breath.

The New Mana tribe had: Troyzan, Michaela, Sierra, Hali, Aubry Cirie and Brad.

The Nuku tribe included:  Sandra, Sarah, Varner, Andrea, Tai, Zeke and Ozzy.

Debbie was left without a tribe.

Tai was quick to point out that the three gay men were together.

Probst noticed that Sandra and Varner were in the minority.

“No shit, Sherlock!” whispered Boston Rob to himself.  “There’s never anything random in Survivor… especially when I’m concerned!”

Sandra told Probst she was optimistic, hoping that they would give her time to get to know her first.

Everyone was surprised to hear that Debbie was going to Asylum.

Isn’t that what Probst called it?  My surprise was that they would let her leave the asylum in less than three days…

We heard Varner’s comments:  “I went from the top to the bottom in a New York minute…I’m going to charge head first– I’m not scared of it…”

A Bahston minute would have been more appropriate!


Scene 2 – Mana Day 14

The tribe arrived to happy Caribbean music.

Troyzan’s interview:  “When Jeff said drop the buffs I thought this must be some kind of good luck going my way.  Being 5-1 on Tavua was tough even though I’ve got an idol.  I’ve been sweating bullets all those days so I thought anything that happens now could be good.”

Brad’s interview:  “Jeff has thrown some curve balls this season and this is another one.  I end up in a tribe with most people I do not know.  I’ve got Sierra, I’ve been with her this whole time but, while I was on the same tribe as Hali, we weren’t really tight and I’ve never had a connection with Cirie, I’ve never met Aubry and Michaela but there’s Troyzan.  Troyzan played with my wife, Monica, so I figure that could possibly be a connection.  He’s also a man and I’m a man and we are the only two men on the tribe.”

It didn’t take long for the two guys to get together.  Troyzan said he was by himself.  Brad said he wasn’t alone and that they also had Sierra.

Troyzan’s next interview:  “Brad seems like a really up and up guy but I also feel we’re connected because we’re just two guys on a tribe with five women.  This takes me right back to my season of “One World” and the last thing I want to do is get bamboozled by women again.”

Michaela, Hali and Sierra were the three women shown as if depicting Sabrina, Chelsea and Kim!

Brad’s comments ended the scene:  “I definitely think Troy is an ally for me going forward.  I feel good with Sierra, I feel good with Troy but that’s only three and I need a majority of four so I’ve got some more work to do.”


When we arrived at Nuku the music was quite somber, eerie even.

Like he had done first with Chris and then with Bret last season, Zeke quickly connected with Varner.  They both had lived in New York so that formed the basis of their connection.

Varner’s interview:  “Sandra and I are on the outs over here.  We showed up here in the minority because Andrea, Zeke, Sarah and Ozzy were all on Tavua together and Tai was on the old Nuku with them.  You can just see that they are together.”

Sandra’s interview:  “Me and Varner, we are in a bad spot but when I come into a situation where I’m outnumbered I’m just calm and collected because once I get my feet wet, give me a day or two and I’ll be running the show over here too.  The queen stays queen.”

Taking a walk in the woods, Zeke told Ozzy that Sandra was scary and he wanted her gone.  Ozzy agreed, adding that Sandra and Varner would have to be blindsided in case they had an idol.

Zeke’s interview:  “We have to get Sandra out of the game before we hit the merge.  If you don’t, she’s going to beat you.  People always say that you can get Sandra out of this game at any time but you know what’s happened to everyone who’s said that?  They’ve lost the million dollars to Sandra Diaz-Twine. You’re doing the impossible here:  No one has ever gotten out Sandra so it’s going to be very tough.”

It’s strange that they showed us Zeke’s comments about getting Sandra out before the merger right after he was seen talking to Ozzy, someone who is much more the type that needs to get voted out before the merger.

Zeke revealed his plan to Andrea and Sarah, saying that they needed to feed Sandra and Varner a story but he didn’t know which one.  Andrea brought up Tai’s name immediately.

Andrea’s interview:  “Tai is the perfect decoy because Tai is dangerous in this game.  He’s really good at finding idols and he’s really sneaky.  He’s all over the place and it makes me very nervous working with someone like that.  So, even though we’re actually targeting Sandra it would seem that it would make sense to get rid of Tai.”

Zeke’s interview:  “We are in a precarious position: On the one hand, Tai is the name that we are giving Sandra and Varner so that Sandra believes she’s safe.  However, if Tai was to find out that we threw his name out there, it could very well blow up in our faces because Tai is known for flipping so it’s tricky.”

Tai told Zeke he’d be happy to see Sandra leave.

Tai’s interview:  “In the past, I found idols– I flip-flopped.  I was worried that they’d think I’m the dangerous one.  The plan is to get Sandra out but there is always a chance that they blindside me and get me out first so I want to go look for another idol just in case I’m the target.”

The Nuku idol was hidden in the same place as the Mana idol so it didn’t take long for Tai to be packing even more heat!  He said the Survivor gods were looking after him.

“I wouldn’t call myself a Survivor god” said Boston Rob in a secret scene “but, since season 4, I have a lot of influence on this show!”


Debbie’s Retreat

When Probst spoiled the surprise that a former castaway was going to be paying a visit, the viewers quickly figured it would indeed be Boston Rob.  He would have been the perfect candidate to give advice to a cast member but Rob declined since he had more pressing business to deal with this season.  He therefore got Cochran to act as his substitute, to play the role of consigliere.  Rob even sweetened the offer by telling Cochran it would be like a blind date in a Fijian paradise!  Imagine Cochran’s disappointment when he saw that his date was Debbie! 


Scene 3 – Nuku Day 16

Varner and Zeke were resting near the ocean.   Varner expressed his fears:  He had never made it to the jury phase and now he was in the minority.

Zeke’s interview:  “I will be the first one to admit I like Jeff.  I like him a lot.  We have bonded and connected quite a bit and even though we are going to vote out Sandra and blindside him, I see Jeff Varner as a potentially desperate person who I think I can trust and save going forward in this game but first I need to convince him that Tai is going home.”

Varner was relieved when he heard Zeke say he wanted Tai out of the game.

Varner’s interview:  “Me and Zeke, we go lie on the beach and within five minutes, me and Sandra, we’re not on the bottom anymore.  Zeke is scared of Tai because he can find an idol in his sleep and you got to get rid of that as soon as possible.  I didn’t think it would happen as easily as it did and I’m not sure I trust it completely yet but, at this point, I have no choice.”

By removing day 15 and presenting this on day 16, it adds to our impression of Varner’s gullibility.  This was the 3rd day that Varner and Zeke had been together so it didn’t happen as quickly as the presentation made it appear.

After being informed of this development, Sandra gave us an interview:  “Varner is telling me that they want to target Tai and as long as it ain’t me, I’ll vote Tai out all day every day but inside I’m thinking it’s not adding up because it would be stupid of them not to get rid of me or Varner.  We’ll see what happens at the challenge but if they think I’m not going to take control of the situation, they don’t know the queen.”


The Immunity Challenge

Considering that the losing tribe would get Debbie after their vote, we can say that this challenge was both for immunity and reward: the winning team wouldn’t have to deal with the crazy lady!  And we were rewarded with girls in bathing suits!

Jeff was surprised that Ozzy was the last to dive in the water and that Mana could finish the puzzle in record time but it was all due to Boston Rob acting behind the scene:  He made Ozzy an offer he couldn’t refuse and he numbered the barrels to show where they went on Mana’s board!

Cirie picked up the immunity idol which could be an indication that her tribe saw her as the one who solved the puzzle.

Varner told us that he hated everything about that challenge but he was certain Tai would be going home unless he played an idol.

Well, he said he would soil himself if an idol was played at the previous council so he shouldn’t have been so confident this time.


Scene 4 Nuku Day 16

Everyone was silent, the loss weighing on their shoulders.

Zeke’s interview:  “We got our tushies handed to us and the only solace I can take is now we have an opportunity to get Sandra out of this game.  She is the most dangerous player arguably in history of Survivor so she’s got to go.  As long as she and Varner think that Tai is going home, we should be fine.”

Sandra’s interview:  “Of all three times I’ve played Survivor this is the first time I feel something could go wrong.  Varner is telling me that Tai is going home but I don’t believe it so I can’t just hope for the best.  I need to assess the situation and work my magic.  I laid out the scenario of the Kaoh Rong three.  Aubry is still here, Debbie is still here and Tai is still here.  They can say that they’re not best of friends but at the end of the day these people share something that no one else shares:  They played that one season together and when you come out to play a game like this, you usually stick with what you know.”

We saw that Sandra exposed that scenario to all four previous Tavua members and she promised to help them.

Even if Sandra was warning all four of the dangers awaiting them at the merger, the cameras really focused on Ozzy.

Sarah’s interview:  “The reason Sandra has won twice is because she doesn’t come off as the most dangerous person in this game.  I almost feel that the way Sandra talks to people is she’s grooming us.  She doesn’t pressure you; her voice never raises. It’s calm and she just starts to suck you in.”

To prove the point, Ozzy was heard telling Andrea and Sarah that he almost started believing what Sandra was saying but they were still voting her out.

Tai was starting to notice the conversations happening around camp.

Tai’s interview:  “I’m getting really nervous.  I feel certain conversations I’m not included.  I’m not very smart compared to all these dangerous people like Ozzy and Sandra.  They’re very good at scheming and plotting.  It’s not the way I think so it makes me nervous when they walk away.”

So Tai mentioned the plan to vote Sandra out if the game in front of Varner.

Ozzy’s interview:  “Tai just spilled the beans and told Varner that we’re all voting for Sandra.  What the hell is he doing?  It was stupid. It was unnecessary.  It didn’t make any sense.”

Soon everyone knew about Tai’s slip but Tai was telling the group that he had faith in them.  Sandra had to be taken down because she won twice.  Tai felt safe because of his two idols.

Sandra’s interview:  “Coming into this game, I knew I had the biggest target on my back and now Tai is saying they are coming after me.  Tonight’s Tribal Council is making sure that Tai is enemy number one.  I am going to set him up big time.  I’m going to twist it around and he will go home.”

To her credit, she almost did. 


Tribal Council

This being their first visit, Zeke, Sarah, Andrea and Ozzy all had to get torches before Debbie returned from Asylum.

One more person entered the council area but went unnoticed.

Probst asked Andrea about the state of the game.

She explained that it was all about getting rid of the big threats so they were looking for the next big threat to eliminate.

Probst turned to Ozzy saying everyone was a threat.

I’d say it is all relative.

Ozzy said he was debating every day about his targets.

Like Probst, Sandra knew Ozzy was talking about her so she simply said: “It’s been sixteen great days Jeff but I think this is it for me.  I went in to the new Nuku tribe at the bottom and in the three days I’ve been there, no one has talked strategy to me.  I haven’t heard any names and I figure they consider me a big player.”

Lurking in the back, Boston Rob was smiling:  “This is going according to plan” he thought.


Can you spot Boston Rob?

Tai almost told Jeff that Sandra was going home but he said he was worried he could be the one going home after making the game changing move of getting rid of Malcolm.  He froze for a moment because, as he then explained, he was paranoid.

Sarah said she heard a few names and that some of their votes were still open.

“Damn!” muttered Boston Rob under his breath.  “Is this starting to unravel?  I guess I will have to be the brains of this operation once again.”

Probst realized that Sarah’s “few names” were making Tai nervous.

Tai said he thought they were all on Sandra.

Sandra openly said that she would vote with Tai as long as it wasn’t her.  Tai laughed but the others weren’t too happy.  Sandra added that he could whisper the name in her ear.

“Great!  ‘Pretty Boy’ Probst lost all control again.”  Boston Rob was fuming:  “I should have known better to leave it in the hands of a cugine.  This is a job for the Robfather.   The Russians can hack into an election to influence a vote but we’ve been doing it for a long time and we do it better.”

After hearing the name, Sandra whispered “Ozzy” in Andrea’s direction while Tai walked over to Varner to give him the name.  So, while he wasn’t looking, Sandra pointed at Ozzy to let everyone know what Tai was planning. Realizing they needed one more vote, Tai shared the information with everyone.  He said he couldn’t compete against Ozzy who was a god.

While Ozzy silently asked Zeke if they should change their vote, Sandra told Andrea that she and Varner would vote with them.  Soon everyone was ready to eliminate Tai.

Zeke asked Tai if he trusted anyone, saying he couldn’t vote with him if he couldn’t trust him.

Everyone was ready to vote.  Varner was even clapping.

Andrea was the first one up.

“Psssit!” she heard once she reached the voting booth.  A hand reached out and she heard a shadowy figure saying in a Boston accent: “This is your vote.”  She looked at the parchment and it read: “Sandra” in big bold letters.  “But I was going to vote Tai,” she said.  “Not if you know what’s good for ya.”  The threat was clear so Andrea took the parchment and presented it to the camera.

Varner and Sandra were the next to vote.

When Sarah came up next, Boston Rob repeated his threat.  Having dealt with Dons before, Sarah knew when it is best to avoid a fight.

Next came Tai who was about to write Ozzy’s name.  Boston Rob grabbed his arm and said:  “Do you wanna stay in the game and keep your two idols?”  Scared, Tai turned around and saw who was talking to him.  “Su…Sure” he said.  “How do I do that?”  “Just take this parchment and put it in the urn.”  Hesitating, Tai looked at the parchment, saw the resolve in Boston Rob’s face and quietly put that vote in the urn.

Ozzy and Zeke were just as easily convinced.

Probst nearly had a heart attack when Boston Rob handed him the urn.  “You couldn’t get the job done so I helped ya.  Here: Enjoy the moment you’ve been waiting 13 years for it.”    

Sandra was voted out 5-2 and she probably had the classiest exit ever.  Her words were perfect, the players’ applauses were great and even Probst’s hesitation before finally snuffing her torch let us reflect on this momentous occasion.


The Story

This episode marked a Survivor revolution, the overthrow of the Queen.  Despite packing the field with supposed game changers, Sandra was really undone by production’s interference.  That second tribal swap was fatal. So, I wanted to have fun with it.


The Characters

I will list them by tribes and will simply order them in relative importance for this episode.

Mana – I’m listing them first because they didn’t go to Tribal Council.

Hali: She should have been Brad’s 4th and she probably will wind up in that enviable position but we only heard that she wasn’t tight with Brad.   It was very strange that Troy didn’t include her in Brad’s alliance because they had been working closely together with Sandra on the original Mana.

Michaela: Mana needed her strength during the immunity challenge but that could simply put a target on her back.

Cirie:  One of the three puzzle solvers, Cirie was probably the most valuable player in that challenge because her tribe let her grab the immunity idol.  She didn’t get any personal mentions, however.

Aubry:  She was smart to realize that she needed to take lessons from Sandra but she didn’t attend the final course.  An incomplete doesn’t really help her CV.

Sierra:  Like Michaela, Sierra had to compensate for unbalanced tribes during a very physical challenge.  We know she is part of the tribe’s main alliance so she should be safe until the merger.

Brad:  He formed a strong three-person alliance with Sierra and Troyzan.  We heard that he only had three people in a tribe of seven but since this group didn’t go to Tribal Council it gives him time to complete the work.

Troyzan:  After playing alone against a solid group of five, Troyzan is now teamed up with Brad and Sierra.  To recapitulate his story, we saw him working well with Sandra, we’ve heard Andrea say he was a cool guy, Sarah wanted to work with him and now he’s aligned with Brad and Sierra so we know that Troyzan’s social game is solid.   We saw that he hurt himself at the end of the challenge:  The raft seemed to land on his leg and then we saw him rolling in pain.  Hopefully, it wasn’t serious.



Varner:  I think it was quite telling that Varner’s gullibility was put in full display.  It could have been only to contrast Sandra’s awareness but it didn’t paint him very favorably.  His only option is to stick with Zeke but this Tribal Council really hurt his game.  Will he be able to simply make the jury?  It would be a nice reward for someone who has given a lot to this show.

Tai:  I don’t care if Tai gets 10 more idols, I don’t think he’ll ever be able to get a jury to vote for him.  His mind isn’t sharp enough to explain his actions to a jury so he always looks hesitant, indecisive.

Ozzy:  He has to rely on his allies and they don’t have his best interest at heart.  He is now the biggest physical threat left in the game so he will need to deflect the attack.

Debbie:  She called herself the queen and now that the real queen is dead, will we see a new one wearing the crown?  Production would be very happy if this new twist was going to pay off.  We will have to see if Debbie heeds Cochran’s advice, especially if she can swallow her pride and make up with Brad.

Andrea:  Her presence is quite noticeable:  Her face was shown in close up when Probst said JT had been voted out, when her tribe lost immunity, when it was time to decide the vote and whenever things heated up in Tribal Council.   She was also the one who came up with the story they needed to feed Varner and Sandra.  In her case, we have to wonder if she shouldn’t have used the occasion to get rid of Tai who made her nervous.

Sarah:  Aubry mentioned that she needed to learn a thing or two from Sandra but it was Sarah who figured out Sandra’s game.  It was her words at Tribal Council that alerted Tai and nearly derailed the plan so she still has things to learn about sucking people in.  However, if it’s true that someone who doesn’t look dangerous will win the game then we have to look at players like Andrea or Sarah.

Zeke:  He was given full credit for getting rid of arguably the best player in Survivor history.   We were worried that Zeke would be too eager to make a big move but this one was very well timed.  Only Varner was upset by this vote and he’s in no position to go after his only lifeline in this game.  That’s because Zeke has shown an uncanny ability to connect with people.  We can ask whether Zeke targeted the right threat though.  Since he had this good connection with Varner, then maybe Ozzy would have been the better choice.


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