Previously on Survivor, Troyzan was on the outs, Tai found an idol clue, Debbie lost her mind, and JT got played by Sandra and was voted out.
So … why was Sandra voted out? It’s obvious: She was too much of a threat. There was also an element of luck involved, ending up away from Michaela, her only other strong ally in the game. But she never stopped playing hard, and she got very close to surviving. I am honestly sad to see her go. But at least there are still a bunch of my ol’ faves still in the game. Andrea. Aubry. Cirie. Varner. Zeke. And the rest are a mix of alright (Michaela, Brad, Sarah), possibly interesting (Hali, Ozzie), and “I don’t want them to win” (Tai, Debbie, Sierra).
As is typical, we got a lot of potential red herrings, some of which were double sided. Aubry informed us that she needed to learn from Sandra — perhaps that will also mean her mistakes? Right now, she’s in a better position than she was, so maybe she will.
Tribal shakeups are pretty normal for any season of Survivor, and people are always lucky or unlucky. Sandra and Varner couldn’t help their position by magic, and Sandra did a pretty decent job targeting Tai. I think she could’ve done more to connect with him, figure out he had an idol, and convince him to play it on her (like with Parvati back on the “Heroes vs Villains” season). The truth is that as the only two-time winner, Sandra was always going to be a huge target.
The fact she made it to day 16 is a testament to her skill and adaptability. Perhaps it’s the edit, but it did seem like she very nearly pulled it off. Her level of aggression and manipulation seemed higher than her previous two seasons; she certainly had a higher level of control than before. But hey, that’s the game.
The challenge was fun to watch, extremely tense, with a very impressive quick puzzle finish. So we got a bit of minor strategic talk from the new Nuku tribe, with Brad and Troy having some interesting comments. They connected over being dudes, but only Troy said he never wanted to be “bamboozled” by women again. Yeah, that’s … unfortunate phrasing, Troy. Makes him seem petty.
Once again nothing significant from: Cirie, Hali, or Sierra. Michaela didn’t have anything, but her last episode was big, so nothing to worry about there. Before I discuss the Nuku folk, a word on Debbie. It was fun to see Cochran show up to Debbie’s “Exile,” but Debbie was both the worst and best target of him showing up. Fun to see her fangirl out, eye-rolling to see her not get it, uncomfortable to see her burst into tears and kiss him repeatedly, amusing to see Cochran excellently analyze the situation.
After the episode, Cochran said that Debbie was smart, self-aware, if overconfident, but I don’t know. Her choices of vote, fake immunity kit, and advantage were interesting, but I think that the vote is almost certainly not going to work. The fake immunity idol is too tricky to get right, and the advantage has really often worked a lot. But a tough call, we’ll see how it ends up.
So back to the losing tribe. We saw some hard playing from Zeke, Ozzie, and Andrea, with Zeke pushing the Sandra target strongly. The fact that they did vote her out means his game is quite good, especially for a relative newcomer to the game. I think it was certainly the right move, but they should’ve actually pretended to target Tai to get him to play a potential idol.
Two idols! It was a clever move and then he also just gave up the Sandra target to Varner, which was just a bad move. So Tai is all over the place, and he is an understandable target. But Sandra was the most dangerous, so good on them for getting her out finally. It’s sad, but hey, as long as a good player wins, I’m still okay with it.
Next time, Mana reaches a breaking point, alliances implode, and Varner finds an opening.