7:00pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
'Survivor: Game Changers' Adds Family Emotions In 'It Is Not a High Without a Low'
[This recap contains spoilers for the Wednesday, May 10 episode of Survivor: Game Changers.]
Is anybody else feeling a sense of deja vú?
For the second straight week, we went into tribal council waiting to see what Michaela (and to a lesser degree Sarah) were going to do facing a vote in which the choice was between sticking with their alliance or reshuffling the deck to a new set of numbers.
Last week, Michaela let Andrea steer her vote and turned on Zeke, formerly a piece of her core six.
Tonight, Michaela stuck with Andrea and that group, even though she admitted several times that Andrea was the biggest threat in the game and she wanted her out. Michaela voted for Sierra, severing a Brad-Sierra alliance that probably needed splitting up even though they've been scuttling in a minority for a while.
Both weeks, the editors used their beloved, "I'm in charge here!" Alexander Haig-style pre-tribal edit, and both weeks they didn't bother letting us know what turned Michaela in the direction of her final vote. Well, first time's funny, second time's silly, third time's a spanking, guys.
Even a week later, the editors still couldn't really illustrate the motives for Brad & Company's Tai vote last week, nor was Michaela able to articulate why she targeted Zeke or why that choice made her cry.
I guess this week was a little easier to understand. Michaela was prepared to go against Andrea and thought that was her best move, and then Sarah came and told Michaela that getting Sierra out was important because Sierra had a secret advantage she hadn't told anybody about. Sarah didn't mention to Michaela that Sierra's advantage could be willed to another player or that in the course of 24 hours Sarah had made the decision that getting her hands on that advantage was smarter than keeping Sierra around as an ally and friend. I don't know if we give Sarah full credit for tipping Michaela's hand, but if we do that's another major resume line, especially since she's now sitting on a pair of advantages. The part where I'm pretty sure Sarah was pretending to look shocked by the vote just to make sure Sierra didn't know she flipped on her was just icing. Sarah was definitely feigning confusion and Andrea seemed confused by her confusion. It was silly.
Let's go back quickly to the various advantages currently in the game, since four of them are now consolidated between Sarah and Tai, with Troyzan holding the third outstanding idol. Have we reached or are we now past the point at which Troyzan and, in particular, Tai have made a big mistake in not using one of those idols to shift the momentum in the game? In any one of these semi-obvious votes, Tai could have surprised everybody by whipping out an idol at tribal and playing it on Sierra or whomever and flipped the game on its axis and then even if people got annoyed with him, he'd still have another idol in his pocket for future use. Troyzan this week could have given Sierra his idol, sent Andrea home and he still would have been a less threatening piece of his alliance than Sierra and Brad. As it stands now, Troyzan has zero resume and saving himself with an idol won't be a big enough game move to sway anybody sensible, but using an idol to dethrone a reigning queen? Now that's an exercise of power. This was his week. He could have shocked the world. He did not.
As it stands, we have only a few more episodes this season, only a few more tribal councils, and there's entirely too much not using of game advantages. To clarify: I hate the over-saturation of idols and advantages, but once they're in the game, I lose respect for players if they don't use them.
Beyond the elimination of Sierra, whose season peaked a week or two in and pretty much fizzled into irrelevance in the last couple episodes, the episode was dominated by the always dramatic and increasingly melodramatic loved ones visit reward.
Nothing will ever touch last season's loved ones visit, with Adam getting an update from his brother about his cancer-stricken mother, Zeke's father calling him his hero and three or four other interactions that made me go "Awww." As I've written before, this once-innocuous segment has become Jeff Probst's way to reconnect with his canceled talk show roots, threatening to take over episodes with schmaltz. There was NOTHING in this loved ones visit that should have made me weepy, yet I sat sniffling for 10 minutes. I don't much like Brad and I never rooted for Monica, but darned if I didn't get misty at Monica coming out and Brad crying about her strength. Andrea's mom instigating conversation about Andrea's late sister? More eye-rubbing. Cirie missing her son's graduation and then her son running out to hug her? Probably unfair. And more and more and more.
I could have done without Probst asking the sobbing pairs dumb questions like, "Why is the sibling bond so special?" and "You really love each other, don't you?" and I definitely could have done without his repeated imploring for people to give each other hugs, but I'm not so dead inside that I can't respect the effectiveness of this regular segment. Last year's loved ones visit episode definitely cemented Adam's position as favorite. It felt like Cirie and Brad were the ones who most benefited from this edit.
There are other things to say about this episode, but I'll put them in my bottom lines ...
Bottom Line, I. There's no question that Andrea and her team made the wrong call in leaving Michaela back at came during the reward. Michaela is emotional and mercurial, and she was so pissed off about parts of the challenge that her mother had to reproach her. If you've got a huge majority alliance, you can afford to fritter a vote away, but Andrea did not. It made sense for Andrea to be a target and yet she seemed mostly oblivious (presumably because of the edit) until tribal council. Michaela and Tai are an odd partnership and we'll see how much longer it lasts and if Tai gets around to telling Michaela about the two idols he's just sitting on.
Bottom Line, II. Speaking of Tai, Survivor has been a very progressive game in many ways, but it was still a relatively rare thing for Tai to be joined by "the love of his life" Mark. My THR colleague Josh Wigler, who I would trust with my life if my life were hanging in a Survivor trivia balance, immediately reminded me that Ami Cusack got a loved ones visit from her girlfriend, but it definitely has not been common, for whatever reason. I have no grand takeaway from this other than my pleased feeling as I watched that it wasn't something we see every season. Tai immediately asking about their cats was vintage Tai.
Bottom Line, III. The Brad Culpepper domination on that reward challenge was also a little funny. His team had a big lead already when they got to throwing sandbags at a tower of blocks, but I loved Aubry's "Get out of his way" before the former football player (defense, but still) took over. I think Brad has a path to winning, but it's going to start with him finding somebody to use him as a number next week now that he isn't tethered to Sierra anymore.
Bottom Line, IV. Cirie's son's reaction to the island sanitation conditions was also a hoot. Was anybody else surprised that Probst didn't tell him all about Cirie's "most dramatic moment in Survivor history" from a few weeks ago? I wonder if he's already forgotten.
Bottom Line, V. Probst really liked Michaela's Me/We speech that began with "We is relative to whoever feels like they're the big 'W' at the moment. And that 'W' can flip upside-down and be a Me if you aren't watching." Of course, he also loved "trust clusters" last season, a revolutionary way of looking at the game that earned Hannah zero votes at final tribal.
Catch y'all next week ...