Survivor Game Changers: Episode 7 Recap

Last week, before a cyclone and a family emergency got in the way, I was going to open my recap by crowning Zeke the new queen of Survivor for his ousting of Sandra. But given what happened tonight, and knowing what we know now, it seems a more than a little crass. Ladies and Gentlemen, the King of Survivor, Ezekiel Smith.

I’m not going to sit here and pour vitriol over Jeff Varner, not go in to why what he did was so wrong. I’m sure he’s been eaten away by guilt and regret ever since the event happened, and I have no desire to add more negativity to the situation. Instead I’m going to talk about every single other person in Tribal Council that night, and how proud I was of them.

When the theme of Millenials vs Gen X was announced, I started cringing straight away. I imagined seeing the Millenials – either my own generation or the one immediately above me, depending on what system you use – being portrayed as a bunch of vapid, technology-obsessed slackers. And although there were a few such people (*cough* Kappa Kappa Survivor *cough*), I was heartened to see how many hardworking, intelligent people were on the tribe. Tonight, I was even more proud when Millenial Tribe alum Zeke spoke calmly and graciously, showing forgiveness and comforting the very person who had done him such injury. I always liked Zeke, for his ability to connect with people in the game, and for his habit of wearing Hawaiian shirts and dinosaur boardies. After his behaviour tonight, I like him even more, for his graciousness, his spinning this horrible thing that happened to him into something positive, and his ability as a wordsmith – taking the challenge word ‘metamorphosis’, and applying it to his own personal journey, both as a Survivor player, and as a transgender individual.

I was also gladdened to see how Zeke’s tribemates, after their brief moment of shock, unanimously leapt to his defence. The Transgender community are a group who, it seems, are only recently becoming more visible, and they are a very vulnerable group; the target of politicians’ fear mongering to gain votes, and the victims of hate crimes including murder. Even one of their most iconic spokespeople, Jazz Jennings, has to use a pseudonym to protect herself and her family. And so how wonderful it was to see five people from all walks of life, who have spent the past seventeen days competing against each other, came together to defend another human being. Debbie, unexpectedly, was the voice of reason, being the first to speak up that Zeke’s gender history was a private matter, outside of the game. The notion that transgender people are deceptive, and that they have a duty to tell people about their gender history plagues the community. The fact that all five people, without hesitation, said that, no, Zeke was not duty bound to tell them, and that they weren’t owed an explanation was beautiful to see.

Finally, Jeff Probst handled the situation beautifully, seamlessly stepping down from his role of reality TV host, and becoming the mediator for a group of people after a very ugly confrontation. So many hosts would have manipulated the situation to create drama, pitting people against each other. But Probst had the decency and insight to realise that this moment was bigger than the game, as evidenced by his decision to dispense with the ritual of voting, and allow Varner to remove himself. I’m always impressed with how quick Jeff is to pick up on people’s body language, and ask intuitive questions, but this incident really highlighted just how good he is at reading people and reading a situation, and navigating it with sensitivity and class.

Like Zeke said, it was a shame that it had to come out this way, and I think given the choice, Zeke would have chosen to keep this aspect of his story private, I sincerely hope that Zeke being outed will demystify what it means to be transgender, and whether that can give comfort to someone struggling with their own gender identity, or people like Sarah, who don’t know much about this community in the first place, and in that this chapter in Survivor history will have a positive end.

 

P.S. If it weren’t for what happened at Tribal Council, this recap would totally have been about how awesome Hali was for working out that challenge, and how thrilled I am that things are looking up for Aubrey.

Survivor Game Changers: Episode 4 Recap

What on earth just happened? I watched that scene twice, read several recaps and reviews, and listened to podcasts and exit interviews, and I’m still not sure what happened. I don’t think many of the people who were actually there understood what happened. I am, of course, talking about the most chaotic Tribal Council ever.

But before we get into all that I may as well start at the beginning. The morning after Tribal Coucil sees Debbie and Hali by the well, talking strategy. It’s all looking good for Hali, who appears to have a potential in Debbie, but this just goes to show how terrible I’d be at Survivor, because Debbie is is just telling Hali what she wants to hear. Debbie’s so kooky that I sometimes forget that she’s actually very intelligent.

We then move on to a very strange reward challenge, where each tribe must select two people to compete – one has to balance a ball on an ever increasing pole over a series of obstacles, and the other has to knock down nine targets with sandbags. The challenge itself isn’t that strange, but why are only two people from these tribes of five-six competing. It feels like this was an individual challenge that got brought forward in the season and hastily modified into a team challenge. Why?

Ozzy buys Tavua an early lead, because Ozzy can’t help but be irritatingly proficient at all physical challenges, but any goodwill is lost when Troyzan allows Nuku’s Malcolm to close the gap and overtake him. But unfortunately here comes Brad for Mana knocking down targets like nobody’s business.

And then something very strange indeed happens. A caption appears on the screen saying #coffeeisforclosers. What? Is Survivor trying to get their own hash tag going? And why such a terrible hash tag? Did someone say it in the show? I didn’t hear it, but maybe we get a different edit in Australia. I noticed earlier that an @JeffProbst caption popped up, but is the social media push a new thing this season? I hate when shows try to get their audience involved on social media. It’s like when your aunt tries to be your friend on Facebook.

Anyway, Tavua will go without coffee and biscuits, but they won’t be going hungry. Oh no. Because Super Ozzy just went and caught a huge stingray for them to eat. i wouldn’t imagine you could eat a stingray.  Incidentally, are there marine biologists out there telling the contestants what fish won’t kill you if you eat them? I’ve always wondered.

Meanwhile at Nuku, JT and Malcolm are bro-ing out and discussing a plan to oust Sandra. This is music to my ears, as Sandra’s cockiness is grating – and even worse seems to be the effect that her cockiness is deserved. She did manage to pull together a new alliance in five minutes when it became clear that Tony was a liability; she’s the two-time winner but has survived three out of four tribal councils, including this latest crazy fest; and she appears to be in control over at her tribe, seeing as her pick for the vote, Sierra, is what the rest of the tribe eventually goes for.

At the immunity challenge, Jeff reveals this episode’s big twist. The bottom two tribes will be going to Tribal Council. I’m fairly sure this has been done before, but after the challenge is over, he reveals the other part of the twist: two tribes might be going to Tribal, but only one person will be voted out. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The challenge involves four tribe members blindfolded while a fifth guides them to collect bags from water towers filled with Nickelodeon slime. They will then manoeuvre the balls from the bags through a table maze. Tavua seem to be doing the best straight out of the gate, but it ends up being Nuku who move on to the second part of the challenge first.  But it all comes down to the table maze. It’s tight between Tavua and Nuku (with Mana, true to form, flailing way behind), but in the end Tavua win, sending the other two tribes to Tribal Council.

In words that will come back to haunt him, Malcolm says that if there were any challenge to lose this was the one. Nuku are up in the numbers 6-5. It should be easy. New Nuku vote one way, New Mana vote another, and whomever Nuku voted for will be going out. But its not that simple. There’s the chance that someone will flip – Hali might vote with Nuku; Malcolm and JT might band together with Mana to get out Sandra; someone might have an idol. Ah yes, the idol. Tai goes out and finds the idol, via an ‘x’ marks the spot clue. Normally my opinion on idols is the fewer people know about it the better, but in this case, I think Tai was right to make the idol public property for whoever on his tribe will need it.

Tribal Council starts out normally enough, with the two tribes pounding their chests and putting on a show of being two unified fronts. Brad threatens Hali to vote with them or else; she isn’t particularly impressed with his approach, and reminds everyone that it could come down to rocks. Both sides start fighting for Hali’s vote, and then the whispering starts. At first people are just whispering in their seats. Brad Culpepper’s name does the round of the Nuku tribe like he’s the answer in a Chinese whisper. Then Debbie grabs Brad by the head to whisper in his ear and wonder if they’ve switched their vote to him. The whispering seems to die down, as Jeff asks Sierra a question. But the camera’s are on JT asking Malcolm if he should talk to Brad. Then JT gets out of his seat and tells Brad that it’s not him they’re voting for. Then all hell breaks loose. “If that’s how they’re going to play it,” says Hali, who walks over to Sandra and implore the Nukuians to vote Brad. Soon everyone is standing, whispering to each other, huddles are forming, weird aggressive whispers that involve grabbing people by the head with both hands, Jeff nearly falls out of his seat, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria

Jeff declares it’s time to vote, and as Hali goes up – telling Sandra she may regret it – Michaela, who’s been pretty quiet this episode, wonders why Hali didn’t tell them who had the idol. “Nobody got no idol over there,” says Sandra.

But someone did have an idol, and so all Nuku’s votes for Sierra are null and void, and the episode ends with the death of another bromance as Malcolm is voted out.  But the episode doesn’t end there. “JT set us up,” Michaela whispers to Varner as they march crestfallen out Tribal Council.

Next week looks like it will see JT’s in a whole lot of trouble. But the real kick will come in December, when JT will sit by his mailbox, waiting for a certain Christmas card that will never come…

Survivor Game Changers: Episode 3 Recap

There’s no rest for the wicked because as soon as the previously on Survivor has finished, Jeff is calling the players to “come on in, guys”. Of course, all the old players don’t know what’s going on, but Millenials vs Gen X’s Zeke realises that it can only mean it’s time for a tribe switcheroo. They’re going from two tribes to three, and they look like this:

 

Mana:

  1. Brad
  2. Caleb
  3. Debbie
  4. Hali
  5. Sierra
  6. Tai

Nuku:

  1. Aubrey
  2. JT
  3. Malcolm
  4. Michaela
  5. Sandra
  6. Varner

Tavua:

  1. Andrea
  2. Cirie
  3. Ozzy
  4. Sarah
  5. Troyzan
  6. Zeke

 

 

For those of you playing along at home, this means Caleb and Hali are now in a minority on their new tribe, while Troyzan and JT are lone wolves on their respective tribes.  The new Tabua tribe will have to start from scratch with just the bare minimum of supplies. Fishing gear, cooking pot, a machete, and a small jar of rice, and that’s it.  realising pretty quickly that he’s on the chopping block, Troyzan goes idol hunting, and soon finds… not the idol, but a clue to where to find the idol at the challenge.

Meanwhile, JT shows off the Nuku beach with its trained chickens, bountiful food, and decorative glass balls. JT is trying to make the best of things by turning on his good ol’ boy charm, but he’s already planning on how to get his new tribemates in the middle of the ocean so he can search for idols. However, his extended absence doesn’t go unnoticed by the ex-Mana players. Varner isn’t so worried, saying it doesn’t matter if JT finds an idol, because they still have a five-one majority. No, Varner (or ‘Jeff’ as the credits are calling you). You should be worried if he finds an idol – if he does, and you go to Tribal, you have a one in five chance of going home!

At Mana beach, we find out who was responsible for the interior decorator at Nuku, and surprisingly, it’s Brad Culpepper of all people. It’s certainly looks cosy, as everyone pretends that they are a tight six, when the writing on the wall is that Caleb and Hali are in trouble. Particularly Hali, who doesn’t have a boyfriend in the ex-Nuku four. However, as Brad points out, it could be dangerous to allow Caleb and Tai to stay together; plus there’s the threat of Debbie joining them to form a Khoa-Rong power triumvirate.

After the ad break we return to find the new Nuku planning to catch and slaughter a goat to their great King, er, Queen Sandra. JT goes on a goat hunt never believing in a million years, that he’d actually catch one, but at least wanting to get into his new tribe’s good graces. However, he does, and it’s a tiny baby, while Malcolm has caught its mother. Theirs is then an extended debate where everyone but Sandra wants to let the goats go, but no one is brave enough to say anything. at this point, I am on the edge of the seat hoping that I don’t see ‘the goat version of Bambi’ play out. Luckily, common humanity prevails and the goats are freed! Hooray! Although, it does mean that a chicken gets killed instead, but c’est la vie.

Challenge time! It’s a multi-phase challenge, with three people tied together competing in an obstacle course, and the remaining three working on a puzzle. The idol is hidden under the puzzle table, but Troyzan will have to wait until after the challenge to nab it. Nuku has an early lead, while Mana is struggling in third place. Regardless, it all comes down to the puzzle, the great equaliser. It’s a tight run race between Nuku and Tavua, but ultimately Nuku takes first place. However, the fight for second place is still on, and again it comes right down to the last minute, when Tavua have to go back and correct a mistake. Nonetheless, Tavua claim victory, Troyzan claims his idol, and the curse of the orange buff continues as Mana will have to face Tribal Council.

It looks like it’s between either Hali or Caleb

Now, if I were Hali at this point I would go to Brad and Sierra and subtly sew the seeds of fear regarding Tai and Caleb’s borderline home-erotic relationship, plus point out that they could rope in Debbie, and suggest that they get rid of Tai, seeing as he won’t be as useful in challenges as Caleb, plus he’s so well-liked, plus he’s made it to the final tribal before. That way, if they lose again, she still has room to switch the target to Caleb. And maybe she did do that, but we didn’t see it. in fact, we heard from everyone except Hali. At this point, it’s impossible to tell who of Hali and Caleb will be going home.

Last week I made the inexcusable mistake of not commenting on the unadulterated coolness of the tribal council set.  ‘Pirates’ are clearly the theme of the season, as the whole set looks like a shipwreck, and the voting booth is in a light house.

It still seems unclear who will go home when it comes to Tribal Council, as both Caleb and Hali have to give their arguments for why they should be kept over the other. Caleb’s argument seems to be that he’s a stronger player, while Hali can be easily manipulated. As Hali rightly points out, this is more of a sell for her than it is for him. When it comes to cowboy vs law student, Caleb didn’t stand a chance, and it is he who is out.

So long, Caleb, or as he shall now be known, ‘the Nine Day Survivor.’

Survivor Game Changers: Episode 1 & 2 Recap

It’s another series of Survivor, and not one I’ve been particularly looking forward to. After an excellent season with all new players, it feels like a step backwards to have a returning players season, especially with some of these players coming back for their third or even fourth time.

Let’s meet the players:

On Mana Tribe:

  1. Tony – Urgh.
  2. Malcolm – In a tie with Joey Amazing with contestant most likely to actually be the Son of God.
  3. Sandra – The only person to have won twice. I remember neither time.
  4. Aubrey – Yay Aubrey! Nerds represent! Aubrey number one pick to win!
  5. Michaela – I’m glad Michaela’s back. I hope she’s able to learn from her mistakes last season and maintain a better poker face.
  6. Troyzan – Troyzan is back?! Really? Troyzan.
  7. Hali – Was Hali a game changer? I remember her as a perfectly nice person and adequate player who got booted halfway.
  8. Caleb – Tai’s doomed lover. Fate has intervened once more as these star-crossed lovers are on different tribes. Oh, the tragedy.
  9. Ciera – Sigh. I would have much rather had Kelly Wentworth back; I think she played a much better and more interesting game last time, but Jeff/the producers seem slightly in love with her and the fact that she voted out her own mother.
  10. Varner – There are quite a few big boofy alpha-male types whom I suspect are here more because Jeff likes them, rather than because they actually fit the game changer brief.

Nuku (isn’t that a Pokémon?) Tribe:

  1. Cirie – She was such a nice lady. I remember once she had to check a fellow contestant’s downstairs department for infection.
  2. Debbie – The woman who can list her occupations to the tune of ‘We didn’t start the fire’. In her own words, she has “the strength of a gymnast, and the tenacity of a giant squid.”
  3. Ozzy – bloody Ozzy. I am so sick of Ozzy. Is he just going to keep coming back until he finally wins?
  4. JT – Fishbach’s white whale. Why do I remember no one from Tocantins? Did the black hole of Coach’s personality just absorb everything else into a singularity?
  5. Zeke – Zeke is back with a whole new wardrobe of fabulous shirts. I hope he’s brought is dinosaur shorts with him too.
  6. Sarah – Wait who? I’ve never seen this woman before in my life. Are we sure she’s even played before?
  7. Culpepper – Another person who I suspect is there just because Jeff Probst loves the alpha males. He has the word ‘heart’ tattooed over left pectoral. Do we think this is just to remind him where his heart is located?
  8. Andrea – Oh, yes, I remember Andrea. She’s very pretty… I remember Andrea.
  9. Sierra – Who? *Checks the Survivor wiki* Ahh, she’s from Worlds Apart. I think I must have blotted that season and its cast of bullies from my memory.
  10. Tai – Oh Tai. I always forget that you’re bald in real life.

The season begins with the customary ‘Jeff Probst standing in a precarious location while he states the rules of the game’ shot. This season he’s balanced on the overturned hull of a sunken ship in the middle of the ocean.

After welcoming everyone, it’s straight to the traditional scramble for supplies. There’s a secret advantage amongst the booty, which is picked up by Sierra. Incidentally, we have Sarah, Sierra, Ciera, and Cirie. This could get complicated.

The mad grab for supplies is mostly too chaotic to keep track of who has what, but of particular highlight is when Tai is nearly drowned under a crate of chickens in what would have been the most ironic Survivor injury ever.

At camp, Tony doesn’t waste any time running off hollering into the jungle like a “big bald maniac” (©Malcolm Freburg) allegedly to search for idols in an attempt to psych out his tribemates. When no one follows him, he decides to look for the idol anyway.  I can’t see this early aggressive game play endearing him to his teammates.

Stop everything! A baby goat nearly lost its footing on the rock! Permission to d’aww!

Cirie is just about as pleased as I am to see Ozzy back, seeing as she voted him out eight years ago. An awkward conversation ensues, in which they shake hands, but this obviously hasn’t resolved any underlying tension, as both go to Tai to talk smack about the other.

Incidentally, I’ve worked out who Tai reminds me of.

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What the heck are those great big fish we keep seeing in between scenes? Are they sharks? Will Tai befriend them? #MarktheShark2017

Tony starts digging an underground bunker, but is interrupted by Troyzan. Tony tries to cover his back, but unfortunately he’s already covered his back in leaves and sand from the BUNKER HE WAS DIGGING.  Soon, word of Tony’s activity makes its way around camp. Ciera starts suggesting they vote Tony first, but it looks like it might backfire as her throwing names around so early attracts the suspicion of Malcolm

At the challenge, Jeff makes two reveals. One is that this season’s tribal immunity idol is a wicked cool old-style diver’s helmet.

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The second revelation is that at Tribal Council the revote is dead. In the event of a tie, they will either have to unanimously decide or face the dreaded white rock. I wonder why they chose to reveal this twist now. Wouldn’t it have been more dramatic to wait until tribal council and watch the chaos unfold live?

Anyway, I tend to zone out of challenges at this point in the game, because I haven’t decided who I want to win and who I want to go, so the stakes aren’t that high. In any case, an early lead courtesy of half-fish man Ozzy results in victory for Nuku.

Back at camp, the plan is to unanimously vote out Ciera, but tell her that they’re voting Michaela. Michaela is not thrilled by this plan, and everyone gets all worked up about Michaela’s reaction, but I thought it was pretty reasonable. She just sort of pouted and expressed her displeasure when asked. I think Michaela might become a victim of the angry black woman stereotype – they’re expecting her to be unstable, and are extrapolating a fairly undersized reaction.

Tribal council is pretty uneventful. There’s a bit of talk about it being an easy boot first time around, and Sandra makes one of the earliest bids ever for ‘take me to the end, I’ll never beat you,’ based on the fact that no one’s going to give her the triple-crown. Still imagine if they’d reserved the twist reveal to tribal. It might have rustled a few feathers. As it is, Ciera goes 9-1. Goodbye, Ciera. You never know, fourth time might be the charm.

EPISODE 2

Tony’s getting restless. For God’s sake man, calm down, it’s only day 4. Did the man drink forty energy drinks before he came out here?

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Tai is practicing his chicken whispering again. He’s the chicken guy. It’s a role he describes as a burden.  It seems like a lot of effort for a bunch of birds they’re only going to eat/lovingly hand rear and then abandon after the final tribal where they will die of starvation having become accustomed living off human scraps (delete as applicable)

Tony is really getting on my nerves now.  He goes off to build his spy shack in the middle of the night, and is interrupted again by Troyzan, this time accompanied by Sandra. The ideal thing to happen would be they catch him, but he wriggles away like a SNAKE (it seriously has to be seen to be believed) and overhears them talking about him. Luckily for me, he does spoil it for himself, by going up and confronting them about it. But for the love of all that is holy, Tony. CALM. DOWN.

Debbie Job Watch: Pilot in the Civil Air force. Paid not in dollars, but in experience. She’s the hero Survivor deserves, but not the one it needs.

Malcolm keeps making reference to Tony’s baldness. It feels like a low blow coming him – we can’t all be born with shampoo ad-ready hair.

None of the contestants really trust Tony. Unfortunately for me, they fear Sandra more than they distrust Tony, and it looks like they may end up making a Faustian pack with ‘the po-po’.

The second immunity challenge involves a giant snake puppet, and I think it might be my favourite challenge prop ever. For a moment, it looks like Mana might win, but at the last minute Nuku claims a come from behind victory.

Alert! Alert! Aubrey’s name has come up. Aubrey might be in trouble. Why? Because she and Tony are allegedly super tight. How is that my favourite and least favourite people ended up in an alliance together. In a strange twist of fate, Tony might come to Aubrey and my rescue, by convincing people to vote out Sandra instead.

After Jeff reads the votes in the most dramatically arranged way possible, Tony is voted out. I told you, boy, too hard, too fast. He goes out warning people to beware Sandra, and Sandra rather loudly replies “The Queen stays Queen.”  OK, her cockiness is annoying me now. Now that Tony’s gone, she’s next in my sights.