Warning: This recap for the “Reinventing How This Game Is Played” episode of Survivor: Game Changers contains spoilers.
For 28 days the ten remaining castaways of Survivor: Game Changers have schemed and back-stabbed their way through this treacherous game; building alliances, striking deals, and putting the pieces in place that will hopefully form the easiest path to the $1 million. But just like a row of dominoes resting precariously atop a balance beam, one wrong move can quickly bring those pieces tumbling down in dramatic fashion. Or as Cirie put it this episode, “It just takes a second and the wrong move, and next thing you know you’re sitting on the jury.”
That’s what happened to Zeke, who two weeks ago decided to make a premature strike against his supposed ally Andrea. He attempted to blindside her out of what seemed to be boredom. Zeke is very much a slave to the modern #BIGMOVEZ era of Survivor; a vivacious player who believes in constantly shifting and flipping and changing the game. It’s hard to blame him given how much Jeff Probst pushes that ideology both within the game itself and outside of the show in interviews and press events. You can imagine Probst straps players into A Clockwork Orange-style contraption before each season and forces them to watch Tony playing Survivor: Cagayan on an endless loop.
Unfortunately for Zeke, his eagerness to play like the Tazmanian Devil in a Hawaiian shirt lacks nuance, and more importantly, neglects a deeper understanding of the relationships at play. At tribal council last night, Michaela said: “Sometimes in this game, you have to turn the heart off in order to get to the end.” Andrea’s counter argument was that if you turn the heart off completely, you risk betraying the relationships required to make it to Day 39 and ultimately win. Zeke didn’t so much turn off his heart, but remove it and leave it back home. His unprovoked move shattered his relationship with Andrea — a relationship which seemed deeply personal coming out of the ugly Jeff Varner tribal council. All trust between the pair was broken and it was only a matter of time before Zeke faced the consequences of his actions.
The Rise of Andrea
Since the tribes merged, each episode has taken a kind of Lost approach, focusing primarily on one character and letting the events play through their eyes. The merge episode was told from Cirie’s perspective; the veteran player finally coming to life and taking charge of her game. Last week, Sarah took center stage; her dilemma of which side to pick becoming the backbone of an intense hour of television. This week belongs to Andrea and her tale of dominance and revenge.
Andrea was sorely underedited pre-merge, perhaps due to spending the majority of her time on winning tribes. But post-merge, the former two-time player has stepped into the spotlight as both a fierce challenge competitor and a strong, strategic force. She’s found a happy middle ground between her two previous games — the under-the-radar passiveness of Redemption Island and the super aggressiveness of Caramoan. With all the talk of being able to switch emotions off and on, Andrea knows when to turn it up and when to dial it back.
Andrea’s success begins at the Reward Challenge when she solves the word puzzle for her team. The puzzle is yet another chance for Probst to jam the Game Changers theme down our throats like an impatient father forcing vegetables into his child’s mouth. “Reinventing How This Game Is Played” is the dumb phrase the castaways must unscramble, and it takes over 50 minutes before anyone even comes close, rendering the obstacle portion of the challenge completely pointless. “Withering Away…,” “Deprivation,” “Perspiration” those are just a few of the guesses thrown out — coincidentally the same things I experienced watching this challenge. It takes some heavy hints from Probst for Andrea to pick up on the word “Reinventing,” and from there, her team is able to snatch the victory.
The reward is a helicopter ride to a luxury resort where the winning team (Andrea, Aubry, Brad, Sarah, and Zeke) is presented with a delicious meal and a bed for the night (that’s a bed each, they didn’t all share the same one like Bedknobs and Broomsticks). Sarah tells us that she’s never flown in a helicopter before — if only Debbie were still here, I bet she’d let everyone know about the time she had to emergency parachute from a burning chopper before it hurtled into the edge of a nearby mountain.
Speaking of mountains, Zeke compares Survivor to climbing Mount Everest: “The closer you get to the top, the harder it gets.” He takes to opportunity to bond with Brad over football, in a scene which bears a striking resemblance to last season when Zeke and Chris developed a friendship over their love for the Oklahoma Sooners. That’s one of the positives about Zeke’s game; he’s able to find a commonality with anyone regardless of background. It’s in nurturing those relationships where he lets himself down.
Convincing The Cop
Andrea is uneasy about Zeke and his “super lame” football bond with Brad, and when she returns to camp, she approaches Cirie about possibly voting Zeke out next. Cirie’s on board, believing Zeke is a much bigger threat than their original target Sierra. The Andrea/Cirie alliance has been a really unexpected treat of the post-merge game, two badass competitors who can put ego and pettiness aside and look at the bigger picture. They’ve struck up a great working relationship, and it’s a real pleasure to watch them strategize.
The obstacle in the way of Operation Blindside Zeke is Officer Sarah. Cirie says they’ll have to approach the subject delicately with the cop given her close relationship with Zeke. Sure enough, Sarah isn’t down with the plan. She tells Cirie that she isn’t worried about Zeke right now because she has “back-up.” When Cirie inquires what she means by “back-up,” Sarah tells her about her Vote Steal advantage. I’m surprised Sarah was so quick to part with this info, but it suggests she has more trust with Cirie than we’ve been shown, even if she does keep talking about flipping to whichever side will get her to the end.
Meanwhile, Zeke feels like he’s been playing this season handcuffed, but now the chains are finally broken, ironically, thanks to Sarah. While chatting with Zeke, Sarah outlines the next three boots as Sierra, Andrea, and Tai. Zeke is more than happy with the order and wants to bring Brad, Troyzan, and Michaela into a new Final Five deal with himself and Sarah. Brad and Troyzan are, of course, ecstatic to be involved in any alliance after finding themselves in the minority last week.
Andrea Gets Her Way
While Sarah seems to have put the kibosh on the Zeke blindside, Andrea’s immunity win, her second of the season, gives her the confidence to try again. Just like her stack of blocks in the Immunity Challenge, she might not have set it up perfectly the first time, but with a little bit of maneuvering, she can eventually get the outcome she desires.
Andrea reconvenes with Cirie at the water well, she doesn’t want to wait to pull the trigger on Zeke. Her read of the situation is spot on given that she was next on Zeke and Sarah’s hitlist after Sierra. Cirie is still very much aboard and thinks they’ll be able to use Sierra’s vote if they can’t convince Sarah. Right on cue, Sierra approaches, practically offering up her first born for three more days in the game. “I’m willing to throw anyone under the bus at this point,” Sierra admits in confessional.
Sarah, however, is still uncomfortable with the whole idea. She tells us that she trusts Zeke more than anyone else in the alliance but doesn’t want to push her agenda in case it makes herself a target. She does have a sympathetic ear in Michaela though, who is also concerned with leaving the bottom four still in the game, recognizing that all it will take is for one person to flip at the next vote.
But at tribal council, despite all the talk of the new six sticking together, and Zeke surprisingly saying this isn’t the night for a big move, Andrea gets her way, and her revenge, sending Zeke to the jury in a 5-3-2 vote. Assumedly, the bottom four weren’t clued into the vote, as Brad, Sierra, and Troyzan voted Tai, while Tai (along with Zeke) voted Sierra. Although, the fact Tai didn’t play one of his idols suggests he was privy to some info, either that or the man has balls of steel.
Andrea played a blinder of an episode, winning both reward and immunity and taking out her enemy at tribal council. I said earlier this was a tale of revenge, but it wasn’t simply Andrea being vindictive and holding on to a grudge; it was her recognizing that the trust between her and Zeke was irreparable and that one of them was going to come after the other at some point. For Zeke, he planned his first move against Andrea too early, and his second one too late. Much like when he turned on Chris last season, his move destroyed trust and set forth a chain reaction that he was unable to avoid.
Player of the Week
Andrea: Obviously. This was probably her best night of her Survivor career. Won the challenges, called the shot, beat her rival.
Cirie: She kind of played second fiddle to Andrea, but she was there every step of the way and vital in putting the pieces together and securing numbers.
Sarah: Even though I’m unsure about her telling Cirie about her advantage, the fact people keep including her in their plans shows that she has built solid trust and relationships.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.