Survivor: Game Changers

The Characters and Their Stories: Week 8–Reshuffling the Deck

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 8–Reshuffling the Deck

Today, we are very lucky to have Jiffy Probe sitting in as we look back at the latest episode.  Thank you for doing this, Jiffy. Before we replay the episode, I want to go to the reward challenge because there were unusual things going on:  First, you showed Cirie completing the challenge even if it was over.  Is that something that happens from time to time and you just don’t show it or was this really unique?

  • “Well, we did show something similar once in Guatemala when Jamie wanted to finish a challenge even after Brandon had completely humiliated him, but you’re right, most of the time we let them complete it but cut it out since it means nothing. Here, we wanted to show Cirie’s struggles.  Yes, I know,  everyone was cheering for her and the audience was moved by her tears but our editing team had an ulterior motive in showing it:  See, for most of the audience, Cirie is the “Best-Player-Never-To-Win” Survivor but that’s just not true.  Survivor is all about PMS…”
  • “Pardon me?”
  • “PMS”: The Physical, Mental and Social Games.  While Cirie is great at the Mental and Social Games, she’s just awful at the Physical aspect and we wanted everyone to see it.  This year, she really lucked out; her tribe didn’t even have to go once to Tribal Council before the merge.  Was that because of her efforts?  Of course not!  Yes, she may have helped in a puzzle or two but she sat out in some challenges.  Maybe she doesn’t make it this far if she has to make a trip to Tribal Council.  In Panama, if only we hadn’t been so stupid, we could have stayed with 4 tribes for one more cycle which would have sent the older women to Tribal Council and even if Cirie had survived it and Ruth Marie had been voted out then Cirie and Melinda would have been the two last picked and, being in opposite tribes, would have been the first two voted out…”   
  • “Okay, if you say so… The second thing I wanted to bring up was Sarah’s “Secret Advantage”. How can it still be considered a “secret”?  I mean; everyone had to see that she didn’t get on the boat, she jumped off the team’s platform then climbed up on Michaela’s, bent over to untie the knot and then hid the envelope in her shoes yet she seemed to think no one noticed.  How is that even possible?”
  • “No one saw her and that’s all I’ll say about that.”
  • “But…? They were all there on that little boat so they certainly saw her jumping off the platform…”
  • “Hey! If we didn’t show it, then it didn’t happen. If you don’t drop this, then I’m walking out of here right now.”
  • “Sorry… (Sounds like a cover up to me but we’ll let it pass…) So, to get to the episode, the “Previously on Survivor” segment was interesting:  You said that Zeke started a revolt against Andrea but that Andrea fought back so that gave Debbie an opportunity to strike leaving Sarah in the middle with a major decision to make.   Debbie got her way but wasn’t Sarah the real game changer?”
  • “Yes, sometimes things fall right in your lap but you have to be ready to seize the occasion.”


So the episode begins and I really only have one question to ask. First we saw the fallout of the last Council: Debbie had the first confessional and she was quite happy with herself and the control her alliance had on the game.  It was set in concrete…”

  • “What was Frank’s line? “Linda is so concrete, she’s buried in the bottom of the Hoover Dam.”  That may have been true in season 3 but not anymore…”
  • “Yes, yes, we’ll soon see proof of that but getting back to the episode and my question…We then heard Andrea saying that she was shocked with the result of Tribal Council.  She confronted Zeke who answered that he didn’t feel that he was going to go far with her and Cirie.  When Andrea called him shady, he said that some people trusted him…”
  • “That was a funny way of putting it! The other six didn’t even tell him about their move!”

In confessional, Zeke said he needed to stay with the majority even if he wasn’t part of it.  He got a sympathetic ear from Sarah who was willing to go after Andrea next but, as she told us, the lines were about to change again.


On day 25, we were at the reward challenge and another thing I found interesting was that no one picked Michaela.  We didn’t see the pecking order, which, by the way, is something I think you should always show.”

  • “It’s funny how things work out sometimes. People were so fed up with Michaela that they preferred leaving her out of the challenge even if she would have been very helpful to their team.  On the other hand, can you imagine Debbie’s reaction if Brad hadn’t picked her?!”
  • “Since we heard her encouraging Aubry at one point, I thought Cirie must have been the one with last pick and she ignored Michaela to hide their alliance.”
  • “We showed Michaela clapping for Tai when he was racing against Brad, making him the bad guy in her mind.”
  • “Well, we only saw her clapping but that could have been for anyone really.”
  • “Did you notice that Debbie, the so-called gymnast, went across the balance beam on her hands and knees?”
  • “Yes, that made me laugh, but are you trying to change the subject?”
  • “…”


Okay, getting back to the episode, we had an inspirational moment with Cirie who vowed to push herself to do what she needed to do in order to win this game.  Then Sarah read the rules of her secret advantage: She would be allowed to steal someone’s vote and she vowed to use it properly.  We then joined the Blue team on their reward.  Instead of showing us those stunning mountain chains, we were subjected to more of Debbie’s love of Debbie. Brad then told us about one of his Survivor 101 rules: “Never take all your alliance on reward; leave some back at camp to keep tabs on the other side.”

  • “Or they could, you know, flip on you…”

Sierra was happy to see how things were going; Andrea was still mad at Zeke for flipping on her simply because he wasn’t the center of everyone’s attention.  Sierra was in the driver’s seat and she was all smiles.  Of course, back at camp, Sarah and Cirie were plotting against Sierra and Brad because they were running the show.  Cirie told Sarah that she didn’t have a chance to beat Sierra and Brad if she sat with them in the Final Three because everyone will say that they carried her to the end.  Cirie then told us that Sarah was facing her own “balance beam”; she had to cross that line but it was scary.  In response, Sarah told us that she didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes she made the first time.  In Cagayan she looked for the safest route, letting everyone else make the decisions.

  • “It’s funny when you think of it though: In Cagayan, Kass flipped on Sarah and their alliance because she felt that Sarah was receiving too much attention, being allowed to make the decisions.”


On day 26, we saw the immunity challenge and while Andrea came close, Troyzan won it.

  • “It was easy to see who the alliance’s target was because Debbie and Brad were cheering for Troyzan all the way. Debbie even let out an “aaah!” in derision when Andrea dropped her stack..”

We heard Sierra in confessional saying she was happy that one of her power 6 had won immunity and that the smart thing to do would be to eliminate Andrea who was a huge threat in the game.

  • “Yes, we know you guys see that as the kiss-of-death confessional so we wanted to change things up a bit. Anyway, we had heard enough of Debbie already.”

Getting back to my question, we returned to camp where Troyzan told us he loved that challenge.  Brad said they were all sick of Michaela who was eating all the time…

  • “Look back at that remark once we get to the vote…”

…He was tempted to vote her out but he knew that Andrea was a bigger threat.  Debbie was set on voting Michaela, but Brad immediately killed that idea because Andrea was simply too good.  Debbie told us she found Michaela to be highly annoying…

  • “Hello kettle, I’m pot…”

…but she was going along with Brad.  Huddling his alliance, Brad said they were taking out Andrea but telling everyone it was going to be Michaela, in case, like Troyzan said, she had an idol.

  • “Did you notice the social game mistake that Brad made there? He should have let everyone give out their opinion instead of imposing his.  They probably would have come to the same conclusion but everyone would have felt included.  Had he been paying attention to Sarah, he would have known this wasn’t sitting well with her.”


On cue, Sarah told us that the plan was hatched without consulting her so she knew she wasn’t high on their pecking order.  She went to Zeke to see if he wanted to make a move.  Since the power alliance was, in effect, ordering him to sit and be quiet, Zeke was all in for another move but he had no desire to work with Andrea.   He’d deal with it for at least one vote.

  • “One vote! I love that line…”

Andrea told Sarah that she wanted to work with her and Zeke to take out someone in the power alliance. Cleverly, Sarah said she was in that alliance so it could be good to be in with the enemy.  The two women hugged while we heard Andrea saying she was on board with that move.  She wouldn’t trust Zeke but she was willing to play with him.  Sierra and Sarah had a talk on the beach.  Sierra told us she was very close to Sarah and wanted to go to the end with her.  Sierra proposed a Final Three deal to Sarah with Debbie as their third.  Sarah said she loved that idea because it showed she wasn’t on the bottom of that alliance.   Meanwhile, Debbie had her own talk with Aubry, telling her that Michaela was going home.  In confessional, Debbie told us that she wanted the others to vote for Michaela in case Andrea pulled an idol.  Debbie told Aubry that Sarah didn’t trust her but that she did.  Debbie wanted to be able to use Aubry down the road and for that she needed to have her think they were friends.  She thought Aubry was buying it.

  • “Debbie said that in confessional but we caught Aubry’s eye roll and just had to insert it there!”
  • “I really like Aubry and think she should have won her season.”
  • “Let’s not get into that fiasco…”


Aubry told Michaela and Andrea about her talk with Debbie saying she felt like telling Debbie to go (bleep) herself.  Aubry explained in confessional that she was now seeing the same Debbie she saw just before voting her out the first time.  When Aubry told Sarah about Debbie, Sarah felt betrayed.  Both agreed that they hated liars. Sarah said she didn’t want to be in the Final Three with Debbie anymore. She knew she’d be safe going with her but she wanted to make big moves so we were off to Tribal Council…

  • “You said you had a question…”

I’m getting to it… In Tribal Council, Cirie made her case saying she didn’t want to give up, Sarah said she didn’t want to leave anyone behind while Andrea said she felt particularly in danger.  Zeke named the power six alliance, saying they went into the woods together and decided who would go.  Gloating, Debbie said she was in that six and, through dialogue and respect, they came to a unanimous decision.

  • “She does have a funny definition of dialogue, doesn’t she?”


Andrea said she heard it was going to be Michaela but since everyone cheered when her blocks fell, she knew they were spreading false information.  Sarah said Survivor was about being on the right side of the numbers.  Troyzan explained that making it to six was the smart thing to do because anything could happen after that. His argument didn’t seem to impress the jury.  Zeke was hoping the deck would reshuffle before they reached six.  Michaela said she knew who was in charge and that they needed to make a move before it was too late.  When it was time to reveal the vote, Michaela took some pieces of coconut out of her bag, looking very confident.

  • “Loved it! She was saying:  This is going to be a good show so I need some popcorn!”

While Andrea received 5 votes, Debbie was voted out leaving Sierra and Brad wondering what went wrong.

  • “So, your question…”
  • “Well, I have to ask: We are used to seeing the men narrating the story, running the game but this season and this episode in particular, it seems that the story is all about these women.  The women are getting the vast majority of airtime and are running the show.  Isn’t that an unusual editing decision?”
  • “Well, if you look over the years, the best players have mostly been men. Women are simply inferior… at playing Survivor I mean…”
  • “Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Jiffy Probe’s views on Survivor.”
  • “You’re not going to print it like that, are you?”
  • “Don’t worry; my editor will make you look good.”
  • “What would we do without good editing?!”


The Characters

As the jury is slowly forming, let’s look at how the players might be perceived:

  • Michaela: I believe Michaela would be everyone’s goat. We’ve heard that she is annoying and she is simply following along so I don’t see how she would get any votes at the end.
  • Tai: While he probably beats Michaela, it is starting to look like he would be Mr. Irrelevant if he were to make it to the Final Three just like he was the last time. His only chance rests on playing those idols to perfection.  If he can repeat what he did when he saved Sierra during the pre-merge then maybe he will earn the respect as a player that he clearly needs.
  • Aubry: I’m not sure exactly where to place Aubry in this scale of potential vote-getters but she’s been out of the loop most of the time this season and her allies are seen as better players. Maybe we will come a couple of vowels away from a repeat of the Aubry/Tai/Michele Final Three but that seems very unlikely.
  • Troyzan: We saw Ozzy’s negative reaction when Troyzan said that their only concern was to make it to the six. Someone has to tell Troyzan that he’ll need a résumé to present to the jury or else they’ll ignore his contributions.  He does have an idol to play and that could always turn some votes in his favor but if his alliance stays in power he may not even need it.  If they don’t then one idol won’t be enough to keep him safe to the end.
  • Zeke: His story will certainly earn respect but people are starting to realize that Zeke likes to be the center of attention and that was the motivation behind his moves. Dan in Worlds Apart was another player who liked to be the center of attention and that didn’t work too well for him.  I doubt that people will reward someone who played mostly to be noticed.
  • Sarah: While Cirie said that Sarah would lose to Sierra and Brad if she was to face them in the end, this move could reshuffle that deck.  It can either work in her favor or turn some people away from her.  We know that Debbie holds a grudge so I don’t see her voting for Sarah and it will be tough to convince Ozzy since she basically sealed his fate.  Strangely, her best option may be to put on the jury the players that she just helped out of a major jam, a jam that she prepared herself by the way.  Will they see her as the best player or the biggest snake?
  • Brad: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brad get votes from Ozzy and Debbie over everyone else in the field but then again he is a former NFL player and a lawyer so they probably see him as stinking rich. That will probably work against him.  Also, people are seeing Sierra as the head of the alliance and Cirie even said that he is being controlled by the cowgirl so would he get votes over her?  He seems intent on making it to the end with her but she may have other ideas as we saw in her offer to Sarah.  Brad may have to reconsider his Final Three.
  • Sierra: If she had guided her alliance to the end and then sat in the Final Three, I have no doubt that Sierra would have been seen like a second Kim and she would have easily won the vote but now?  Of course, the road to the end just got harder so she would be more deserving if she makes it to the end but can she?  We heard Sierra’s views on how a minority alliance should work so maybe she will put that into practice and find a crack.  It’s not very well hidden lying right between Andrea and Zeke.
  • Andrea: Her main problem will be making it to the end because she is seen as one of the biggest threats ever which is a little exaggerated if you ask me. She has done well in challenges and she is a good social player but she will need help to get to Finale night so that could cost her some votes.  Right now, she can tell the jury that she was a very strategic player but if she simply follows someone else’s agenda to the end she will have lost her main argument.
  • Cirie: She is a long-time fan favorite and most of these players were fans before being contestants so they all know her story very well. If she does finally make it to the end, I think she would easily win.


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