Warning: This recap for the “A Line Drawn In Concrete” episode of Survivor: Game Changers contains spoilers.
Timing is everything on Survivor. Knowing when to make a move could be the difference between a $1 million check and selling your in-game underwear on Ebay after the show. We saw how easily things blew up in Zeke’s face last week after his premature strike against Andrea. You have to make sure you’re paying attention to all the details in order to pull off a Survivor blindside. In the words of Michaela, nobody wants to end up looking like Boo-Boo the Fool.
Sarah, the cop from Marion, Iowa, timed her move perfectly this week. After leading the charge against Ozzy, Debbie was quick to declare that the line had been drawn in the sand or concrete, or perhaps coleslaw if you talk to Aubry. Sarah, however, saw an opportunity to step over that line not only to propel herself further in the game but to grasp control. “The tide comes up pretty quickly and that line gets washed away,” as Sarah poetically put it. By the end of the episode, the only line visible was the chalk one around Debbie as she was eliminated from Survivor: Game Changers.
A Very Special Reward
Before I get into this moment, I want to preface it by saying that I think Cirie is great. She’s one of the all-time legendary Survivor characters. Not only is she funny and engaging and heartfelt but she’s a shrewd strategist that came within a coconut’s husk of winning this game TWICE! I love Cirie, okay?
But seriously, what the hell was all this about?
To set the scene: the eleven remaining castaways are split into two teams to compete in a reward challenge. Due to the odd numbers, Michaela is left unpicked and has no chance at going on the seaplane ride to the beautiful Yasawa Islands to enjoy a picnic lunch. Michaela is rightfully frustrated and slumps on the sit out bench where she jeers and heckles her tribemates like Statler and Waldorf in The Muppet Show.
That’s not what made me cringe, though. The moment comes towards the end of the challenge as Cirie struggles to pull herself out of the water onto a floating platform. That’s not a big deal in of itself; many castaways have suffered epic challenge failures over the years, and this one wasn’t even that bad. Jeff Probst is what turns this small scene into a whole ordeal.
Sarah swims out to help Cirie get onto the platform; meanwhile, the other team, who are far ahead by this point, win the challenge. That should be the end of it. But Probst tells Cirie that if she wants, she can keep going until she completes the course. Survivor suddenly turns into A Very Special Episode as the music swells up and the entire tribe cheers on Cirie as she courageously crosses the balance beam. Probst looks like he’s about to burst out of his blue shirt as he emphatically claims this to be “one of the most powerful moments on Survivor!”
Firstly, Cirie doesn’t have to prove anything to Probst or anyone for that matter. She already went from the woman afraid of leaves to arguably the best player to never win the game. Secondly, since when does Probst allow someone to finish out a challenge once it’s over? I can’t remember Rupert getting a second chance to rebuild his terrible beach bunker in All-Stars until it met building regulations. Thirdly, calling this “one of the most powerful moments” on the show, after what we witnessed with Zeke and Jeff Varner just two weeks ago, seems reductive.
What bothered me the most is that it all felt so contrived. I’m sure it did mean a lot to Cirie to persevere, but it came across like Probst trying to force a TV moment. That said, perhaps there’s another reason why Probst let this happen, and that might have been to give Michaela more time to find the secret advantage tied underneath the sit out bench.
That’s right, the conveyor belt of elaborate twists keeps on moving. While sitting out of the challenge means missing out on the reward, Michaela does have the opportunity to snatch a secret advantage beside her feet. Unfortunately, she spends too much time cursing and not enough time observing, allowing eagle-eyed police officer Sarah to snag it right behind her back.
The reward winners, Brad, Andrea, Debbie, Aubry, and Sierra, are flown out to an exotic island where an array of delicious food awaits. Debbie reminds us once again that she’s a member of the Civil Air Patrol and therefore she’s essentially Captain Sully compared to her inexperienced, non-frequent flying tribemates.
The picnic offers an excellent glimpse into the attitudes of the rich and powerful. Debbie is flying high and confident of her position in the game. Sierra is maybe even more comfortable, not only convinced in the tightness of her alliance but believing she is the one in the driver’s seat. Brad, while still feeling secure, is a little more cautious, telling us that he picked the teams in a purposeful way, allowing him to keep “eyes and ears” back at camp in case any counter plans are formed.
Sarah is one of those people Brad considers his “eyes and ears,” but Officer Sarah doesn’t answer to a chain of command in this game. Sarah is trying to figure out the best way to get herself in a position where she can win. She feels that in her first season, Survivor: Cagayan, she took the safe route and allowed others to dictate the game. Although from what I remember, the reason she lost the first time was because she let her position as the swing vote go to her head. Sarah finds herself in the middle again this season and doesn’t want to meet a similar fate.
The difference here is, this time Sarah is paying more attention to the details. It’s what allowed her to snatch the secret advantage — which turns out to be a Vote Stealer (aka Stephen Fishbach’s Worst Nightmare). She also recognizes that within the six-person majority, she is toward the bottom of the totem pole. Sarah and Cirie chat in the hammock about the game dynamics, with both women pinpointing Sierra and Brad as the players running the show. Sarah, the Vic Mackey of the Game Changers cast, offers up a potential Strike Team to take on Sherrif Sierra and her deputies, but it requires Andrea and Zeke putting aside their differences*. Suddenly, the lines aren’t so clear.
(*Andrea and Zeke started off the episode in a mild confrontation due to Zeke’s unprovoked attempt to blindside her last week. The argument ended with a sarcastic “good luck” and a broken friendship.)
Out of Line
After Andrea loses the block stacking immunity challenge to Troyzan, she becomes the number one target for the majority alliance. Even though Brad, Debbie, and Sierra are sick of Michaela and “her attitude,” Andrea is viewed as a much bigger physical and strategic threat. It’s unclear why Michaela irks them so much, other than the fact she keeps eating coconut in a game where everyone is starving and she’s never picked for rewards. How dare she?!
Sarah isn’t pleased about being left out of the group planning session, which further solidifies where she stands within the alliance. It’s very similar to the merge episode in Cagayan, except this time Sarah doesn’t push her agenda onto her allies; instead, she methodically plots against them with new allies. She first approaches Zeke, someone she’s developed a close bond with throughout the game and a player who is always willing to make a move. Sarah persuades him to kiss and make up with Andrea. While Andrea is reluctant to trust Zeke, her options are limited right now, and she has no other choice.
There’s a moment of hesitation after Sierra says she wants to go to the Final 3 with Sarah and Debbie. Sarah questions if her position within the six is stronger than she assumed. But before she has a chance to change her mind, Debbie does a “Debbie” and makes Sarah’s decision that much easier.
Debbie reaches out to Aubry, who is still on this season despite a tragic lack of screentime, telling her to vote Michaela and that Sarah doesn’t trust her. Debbie wants Aubry to think she’s on her side in case she needs to use her down the road. Aubry’s eye roll and double middle fingers let us know exactly what she thinks of that! “[Debbie] starts to get cocky and then makes mistakes,” Aubry says, having Kaoh Rong flashbacks. She snitches on Debbie to Sarah, giving the blue blood probable cause, which justifies her making a move.
With tribal council looming, Sarah weighs up her big decision. “Whatever I do will determine how far I’ll go in this game,” she says, before ending her confessional with the tantalizing, “I’m gonna decide at tribal.”
End of the Line
Debbie’s arrogance lingers in the air at tribal council, boasting about the strength of the six. It’s classic Survivor downfall material. Once you find yourself talking about how in control you are you might as well be handing Probst your torch there and then. “It’s inconceivable for anybody to conclude at this point there’s anything other than a strong six sitting here tonight,” she tells Probst.
Debbie’s delusions blind her, as she doesn’t foresee Sarah jumping across enemy lines. But that’s exactly what happens, Sarah blindsides the Civil Air Patrol Captain as well as Brad and Sierra, all the while Michaela chews on coconut popcorn. Michaela is becoming a master of tribal council prop comedy; I want to see her with a monocle and a Sherlock pipe next week.
There’s a thin line between confidence and cockiness and the majority got sloppy. Aubry saw right through Debbie. Andrea recognized that she was the target and Michaela was the decoy. Their mistakes allowed Sarah, the self-described silent assassin, to plot the perfect sneak attack at the most opportune moment. Whether this move will pay off in the long-run for Sarah is unclear, but whatever happens, expect the lines to be redrawn again next week.
Player of the Week
Sarah: Learning from her mistakes in Cagayan, Sarah played the middle with precision. She observed, she listened, she weighed up her options, and she made her move.
Cirie: Not because of the cringe-inducing Lifetime Channel challenge scene, but because of her expert social game. Her conversation with Sarah in the hammock is what convinced Sarah there was an opportunity to make a move.
Andrea: Even though she was a target, Andrea remained self-aware and was able to put aside her differences with Zeke for the greater good.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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