Hannah Shapiro was a runner-up on Survivor season 33: Millennials vs. Gen X. She'll be recapping Survivor season 34: Game Changers throughout the season. You can follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahLilNessen.
Hey you! Yes, you sitting on your couch with a bucket of chicken wings, a blanket over your lap and your lover by your side. You've just watched episode 10 of Survivor: Game Changers and you're probably thinking: "Man these people are silly and way too emotional. I mean, it's just a game!"
I'd like to let you know that it wasn't just a game for the little characters on your TV screen. It was living in the dirt with a bunch of people who became friends, family and enemies.
This was around the point in my season where emotional control became difficult. In life, if you feel sad or happy or mad, food and sleep can help you control this. In Survivor, the stresses of the world affect you without boundaries. Your head, your heart and your ability to calculate risk all become blurred as sleep deprivation and hunger take over.
So remember, let us not judge those we see on our screens for their tears and moves — eh screw it! Let's judge them! Here we go.
Return From Tribal: This silence is a GAME CHANGER
I've never seen a group of people use the phrase "Game Changer" more than they do on this season. I almost wonder if it was some sick game among the contestants to throw in the name of the season again and again and again.
The group of Maku Maku return from the episode nine tribal in which half the people were blindsided. The silence has an awkwardness to it which is tangible. Sarah Lacina owns up to flipping — or making a move — depending on how you look at it. Nobody is mad at her because that's the magical ability Sarah seems to have this season. Sarah's move was ... a game changer.
Folks on the bottom feel the desperation. Folks who voted correctly feel the bonds start to form.
Reward Challenge: Sleep and food can be a GAME CHANGER
I got jealous listening to the description of this reward, and I'm not even in the game anymore! Whoever wins gets a helicopter ride and an overnight resort stay.
The lack of sleep on Survivor is just as crushing as the hunger. You literally start to lose your mind as thoughts slow down. Even colors are less vibrant after awhile. Winning a reward can really be a game changer.
This challenge is one I played in on season 33, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. On my season, the first part was all flash and it came down to the puzzle. The same thing happened this season.
I loved the montage of people trying to solve the puzzle by counting, writing in the sand and trying out words. Andrea Boehlke and Zeke Smith work together to solve it: "Reinventing how this game is played." I laughed out loud as Zeke literally jumped for joy and shouted the answer to the puzzle. Moments of joy on Survivor can be just as overwhelming as moments of hardship. And joy can fuel you to the end.
The Reward Winners: GAME-CHANGING helicopters, GAME-CHANGING orange juice and GAME-CHANGING infinity pools
A local with a game-changing good voice greets the challenge winners. They speak some Fijian and drink up. I got jealous sitting at home and I'm not even playing Survivor anymore!
While Aubry Bracco is ecstatic over an egg, everyone else is super excited for the lazy susan. But then the main gameplay arch of the episode is revealed: Zeke and Brad Culpepper begin to bond over football and bowl games.
The ole' pigskin is threatening to those who can't join in on the conversation. Bonding is important to get far in the game but bonding publicly can be dangerous.
Zeke has a target on his back that continues to grow in episode 10. Let's break it down a bit: Zeke plays hard and is a self-named Survivor super fan. That's one target. His timing with Andrea wasn't perfect. That's another target.
But even his closest allies this episode sound like they plan to cut him out, and this has everything to do with what happened earlier in the season. The Jeff Varner tribal continues to impact the game — it would be impossible for it not to. A few episodes ago, his campmates discussed not wanting to sit at the end with him. He has a story now. It's not impossible to get to the end with folks not wanting to sit with you, but it's an uphill battle. What happened earlier in the season didn't just affect Zeke's life, it affected his island game.
Zeke's target combined with Andrea's savvy game play leads to everything playing out the way it does tonight.
The Reward Losers: GAME-CHANGING hunger
The stark difference in how reward winners and losers live still causes me physical pain. I feel for these tiny TV characters.
Those in the majority (blindsided last vote) are now hungry, desperate and trying to survive. Getting knocked down and humbled can be helpful because it wakes you up. But you have to survive in order to be able to use the skills you've gained. I like that Tai Trang still has two idols in his pocket. For some of the heat he gets, Tai is in a decent position if he can play his idols correctly.
Aubry's guilt returning from the reward is palpable. Living the life of "the rich and famous" and having to describe it to hungry people is game changingly awkward.
Pre-challenge Camp Chatter: GAME-CHANGING chatter
Here's the basic breakdown: Andrea, Aubry, Cirie Fields, Zeke, Michaela Bradshaw and Sarah all voted together last tribal. They have the numbers over Brad, Troy Robertson, Tai and Sierra Dawn-Thomas. They can either vote as a group and expand their lead in numbers or try to make a game-changing move.
Andrea does a wonderful job here. She wants to vote for Zeke and strike him before he strikes her. But she doesn't want to take too much control and dictate the vote. The group in charge are new to voting together. The more you vote together, the more trust you have. In a game about timing, every player must decide when to move with the group, when to move with their own interests and when to strike.
Sarah is somehow not in extreme hot water for flipping, perhaps because the bottom is desperate. She shows Cirie her advantage to build trust and shows patience by letting the vote develop before she makes a decision.
Zeke and Sarah pow wow about a possible future alliance. Zeke does some leg work with Brad and Troy, but leg work is always dangerous. I like how Sarah okays the legwork but doesn't participate. Everyone feels the need to ask Sarah permission this season and it's pretty funny. Zeke continues to play hard, despite his growing target.
Immunity Challenge: Block balancing can be a GAME CHANGER
Blocks are balanced as dominos becomes a million-dollar game. Andrea wins immunity and proves she's the real challenge beast this season.
Pre-Tribal Scramble: GAME-CHANGING talk
Andrea's necklace gives her game-changing safety and game-changing confidence. The combination of this is game-changing.
I've broken down the basics of this vote, but to review: it comes down to the decision of whether to increase a numbers advantage or strike a target. Michaela correctly points out that the smaller the margin between the top and the bottom, the greater the chance that one person can flip and everything changes — game changes. This is literally what we saw in episode nine when Sarah flipped and the top became the bottom.
Correct timing for one person may not be correct timing for another. When do you speak up? When do you go along with the vote?
Andrea's safety and Cirie's game experience gives them the control over the vote. I love watching Cirie play Survivor. She looks at all options and pulls people in when they need pulling in.
The group heads to tribal with Zeke (a threat within the majority alliance) and Sierra (a target from the bottom) both being on the chopping block.
Tribal Council: GAME CHANGE, GAME CHANGER, GAME-CHANGING
I can completely relate to the struggle between head and heart on Survivor. I remember when the votes became painful instead of a rush. For anyone considering laughing at Michaela's tears or Sarah's pain, just know this: you become a family with those you play with. Ripping the rug from under a friend can be hard but it's the game. You move on and trudge forward the next day but the scars of betraying someone last.
I actually turned on Zeke at a similar time my season. I realized that we wanted to move in different directions and work with different people. Writing his name down, letting go of his company on the island, was a difficult and painful decision.
Andrea, Cirie and Aubry get their way. They strike while the iron is hot and Sarah and Michaela reluctantly join in. The bottom all turn on each other. Zeke gets the majority of votes and gets voted out.
Zeke leaves the game because he is a threat. He leaves the game because nobody is willing to let him get close to the end. He also leaves the game with a smile, wishing luck to those who have just voted him out.
Sometimes Survivor sees you being betrayed by those closest to you. Sometimes it puts you in tricky situations. You have the choice of how to handle it. Zeke exits with grace, humility and a love for the game. Meanwhile, on the jury, Debbie Wanner calls everyone idiots because she is hilarious.
More Survivor news, predictions and recaps
Mic has ongoing Survivor coverage. Be sure to check out Hannah's recap of the Game Changers premiere, as well as details about the filming location for season 34. You can follow our main Survivor hub here.