Warning: This recap for the “Dirty Deed” episode of Survivor: Game Changers contains spoilers.
In the game of Survivor, every little thing is magnified. The smallest disagreement is blown out of proportion to the point where people are ready to kill each other because of a balance beam or excessive glucose intake. With all the #blindsides and Twisty McTwists, it’s easy to forget the physical and mental fatigue the players suffer throughout the game. Things that seem crazy to us Cheetos eating sofa dwellers can be a huge deal to someone surviving on a diet of coconut, betrayal and Jeff Probst catchphrases.
However, with all that being said, I’m still none the wiser to what caused Cyclone Debbie. I don’t mean the actual hurricane which is currently storming through Queensland; I’m talking about the Jill-of-all-trades, Debbie Wanner. Her post-challenge breakdown and verbal tirade directed at Brad Culpepper seemingly came out of nowhere. It was like a cross between a ticked off Bruce Banner and Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer impression. The former Kaoh Rong standout went Full Debbie, and you never go Full Debbie.
But don’t get angry. Let’s take after Debbie, and try and work it out…
A Balancing Act
You’d expect the Mana tribe to be in good spirits after coming out of last week’s insane tribal council unscathed. But after losing out on a reward of PB&J sandwiches, the Mana camp descends into Debbie’s personal playground of preposterous claims and accusations.
It actually starts before the reward challenge when the tribe is discussing who to place on what part of the obstacle course. Debbie claims to have “a really good sense of balance,” and so Brad agrees that she should tackle one of the balance beams. Debbie then fails miserably, over and over again, leading to Mana’s eventual loss. Whether it was because she couldn’t navigate the beam or she was unable to keep the ball balanced on her handle, the fact is, Debbie screwed this up. But no big deal.
Oh, wait, this is a MASSIVE deal because it’s DEBBIE FRICKIN’ WANNER.
Debbie says the reason they lost the challenge is because Brad is a dictator who loves telling everyone what to do. Then in a rare moment, we get a flashback to remind us of Debbie telling her tribe how great she is at balancing. What is this, LOST? It was a very out of character editing technique for Survivor; I can’t remember anything like this happening before outside of previous episode recaps.
Upon returning to camp, Debbie bluntly tells her four tribemates that they can just vote her out and give her clothes to Hali. Her outburst is so unexpected that Brad wonders if she’s acting. She goes on to say that Brad has his head so far up Hali’s ass that his eyeballs are sticking out of her mouth. That’s a mental image I won’t be able to shake for a while.
Then she has the audacity to say that Hali took ten minutes to cross the beam while she zoomed across it like an all-star American Ninja Warrior. We’ve now officially landed on Planet Debbie where up is down, black is white, and Hali is… Debbie? Remember this is the woman that in Kaoh Rong declared that “puzzles lay down for [her] like lovers,” but unless her lovers are strewn across the floor like a toppled over Jenga tower, I’m not sure we can put too much stock in Debbie’s boasts.
She also says she doesn’t explode in anger; instead, she channels her frustrations into her workouts. Someone should sign her up for a series of fitness DVDs – The Debbie Wanner Workout: Burning Calories Just Like Allies. Funnily enough, her routine includes a warm-up exercise which involves screaming in Brad’s face followed by maniacal laughter that even the Wicked Witch of the West would consider “a bit much.” Like I said earlier, Full Debbie.
It must be said that Brad is no stranger to a good old fashioned tongue lashing. He spent the majority of his first season being verbally pummeled like he was starring in his own Comedy Roast. The show has portrayed a much more mellow Brad this season, but we’ve seen small signs of his condescending nature, like last week when he kept referring to Hali as “blue eyes.” So perhaps there is a slither of truth to Debbie’s claims of disrespect, but her reaction seemed so disproportionate to the actual situation that it came off as laughable and cringeworthy.
After all that, you’d expect Debbie to have gone home this episode, right? WRONG! The Mana tribe somehow pull out a win at the immunity challenge, despite Debbie’s running commentary about how she could’ve single-handedly completed each part of the course herself. The Debbie Wanner Experience isn’t over just yet, folks.
A Spoonful of Sugar
Over on Nuku, the tribe which actually went to tribal council, there is a similar sense of tension. Well, not that similar, nobody is doing anger-push-ups. JT is on the hot seat for his cross-tribal whispering at last week’s tribal council which resulted in Malcolm’s elimination. He swears to his suspicious tribemates that he didn’t tell Brad who they were voting. He says he’ll “take it to [his] grave” – he does realize this is all on film right?
JT recognizes that he messed up and is in trouble. Which he definitely is, because Sandra isn’t buying what he’s selling and she wants revenge for Malcolm. So JT goes idol hunting and finally gets his hands on the clue which directs him to a place to dig. After some quick work with the shovel, he finds the idol. The last time JT had an idol on Survivor he handed it to the infamous Russell Hantz, surely this time he’ll have learned to be a lot more careful with it?
Things are looking even better for the former Tocantins winner when Michaela starts to become an annoyance in camp. Her specific request for a cup of coffee with seven drops of coffee and one spoonful of sugar enrages JT. Her sugar consumption is apparently excessive. Again, in Survivor, every little thing is magnified. Sandra, being the pro she is, knows this, and when given the opportunity she devours the rest of the sugar, knowing that JT will blame Michaela. Jeff Varner thinks it’s hilarious — because it is.
With another challenge loss in the books and an empty jar as evidence, JT thinks he has all the ammunition he needs to put the target on Michaela. The rest of the tribe agrees that they’re tired of “babysitting” her and would rather have JT around for challenge strength. However, it’s all simply part of Sandra’s masterpiece. While JT and Aubry settle on voting Michaela, Sandra approaches Jeff and Michaela with an idea to blindside JT. A plan involving sugar hasn’t worked this well since Jessica “Sugar” Kiper got Bob to give his fake idol to Randy in Survivor: Gabon.
At tribal council, JT talks about how excited he is to boot Michaela. He claims she doesn’t do anything around camp, an accusation that Michaela vehemently denies, and which the rest of the tribe also seem to disagree with. But JT doesn’t see the signs; he’s so gung-ho on getting rid of Michaela that he doesn’t realize Sandra is playing into his ego. He tells Probst that “some people aren’t game changers, they’re just taking up space.” While I agree with his sentiment, I don’t think that statement applies to this tribe.
The votes are tallied. Probst asks if anyone would like to play an idol. And… nobody does. Michaela pours herself a cup of water and sips while Probst reads the votes. Two for Michaela, three for JT, and just like that, Sandra takes down another former winner, sending JT packing with an idol in his pocket. Hey, at least he gets to keep this one. Michaela whips her hair back and tells JT to let Malcolm know he was the reason he went home. Aubry sits in awe. Sandra then admits to being the sugar bandit, probably not a smart move in the long run, but man, after that move she deserves to brag.
Quick Tavua Recap: I feel like I’m short-changing the Tavua tribe, but there’s really not a lot happening. They keep winning. Ozzy keeps being Ozzy. Five of them haven’t even been to tribal yet this season. The only point of interest was Sarah once again talking about how she wants to play like a criminal. She then reached out to Troyzan to form a possible alliance — a criminal act if there ever was one.
Overall, a mixed bag of an episode. The sweetness of Sandra’s sugar sham was overshadowed somewhat by the sourness of Debbie’s terrifying tantrum. The season also continues to lose big-name players, something I foresaw happening early on but desperately wished wouldn’t be the case. While we may be getting the instant gratification of shocking blindsides, we don’t want to eat all the sugar at once, because by merge time there will be nothing left.
Players of the Week
Sandra: Obviously. This was classic sneaky Sandra, twisting the truth and setting people up. It’s slightly worrying that she is now the only winner left and a clear target, but she’s survived five tribals so far with zero votes against her. Queen.
Tai: I didn’t mention it above, but Tai found another idol clue. He’s on fire this season. He’s proved his loyalty, and is in the clear majority.
Jeff: We haven’t seen a great deal from Jeff, but when you compare that to his in-your-face game in Cambodia that’s a good thing. He’s voted with the majority each tribal council and looks to be in a solid position.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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