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.
It's the penultimate episode of Survivor: Game Changers and the contestants can see the finish line in the distance. I remember this time in the game. Suddenly you look around and realize: "Hey, I might get to the end of this thing. Heck, maybe I can even win it."
Like Amanda Bynes was in the classic film What a Girl Wants, the theme of this double episode is "What a Jury Wants." Here's the really tricky thing: Different juries respect different things depending on the season. During some seasons, a jury rewards the person who was kindest to them during their hard island days. On other seasons, a jury wants to see the craziest move maker win. Having your hand on the pulse of a jury is pretty darn tricky. I surely didn't do it right! Haha, million-dollar mistakes.
Let's dive into this episode like Jeff Probst dives into his closet of blue shirts.
Post-Tribal: Night cameras and nighttime revelations
There is discussion of the jury right away during this episode. Sarah Lacina played "shocked" when Sierra Dawn-Thomas was voted out, despite leading the vote. Andrea Boehlke and Aubry Bracco discuss whether or not Sarah is pandering to the jury, acting all innocent. They're smart strategists and notice that Sarah is playing a much more cutthroat, personal game then most realize. And they're not wrong!
Sarah, meanwhile, gets Sierra's "legacy advantage." It's the real reason she played innocent as Sierra left. Sarah said that she potentially wants to get Andrea next, adding she "can't stand the girl." I almost spit out my smoothie laughing at this. Who knows when Sarah actually said this, as we don't actually see her say it, just hear it.
Immunity Challenge: My doppleganger kills it
There is so much to love about this immunity challenge. First off, I love the simpler challenges. The "will it fall or won't it fall" is much more exciting than any complicated challenge endeavor. Secondly, Aubry just gets it. This is an intense competition for a million dollars, but it is also a TV show. Her playful attitude — calling John Cochran her boyfriend — and her overall narration was a treat this challenge.
Aubry stacks her pieces in record time and gives Jeff Probst the bear hug all Survivor super fans dream of giving the handsome, dimpled host.
Also notable was the wind, it gave me freaking flashbacks. There was a certain immunity challenge in my season where I got pretty close to winning. The wind was howling during that immunity challenge. The wind and the luck of the elements feels like a larger metaphor for the game. Sometimes you can play hard, do so much right and still fall short because of things outside your control.
Pre-Tribal: It's hard to have good timing without a watch
The discussions happening before tribal are all about timing. Threats are recognized but when to strike is up in the air. I found there to be some parallels this vote with Andrea. Andrea smartly recognized that she had to strike against Zeke Smith before he struck against her. Here, Sarah seems to realize she must strike against Andrea and Aubry before they strike against her.
Cirie Fields is a master of the game and once again I love watching her play. She sees the field, surveys it and goes to the person she trusts. Sarah benefits from having most of the strategists in the game trust her. It's her social maneuvering that puts her at a high strategic position. Sarah and Cirie work together this vote to target a threat.
The names on the block are Brad and Andrea. Brad for his athletic ability and position on the bottom and Andrea for recognizing a threat (Sarah) and discussing voting her out but not actually going for her.
Tribal Council: Juror glares and innocent stares
There is much discussion about what the jury will respect. Meanwhile, the jury spends most of tribal glaring at the contestants. Trust me, the animosity gets real, especially on a season like this which has been particularly nasty.
A bunch of important things are stated this tribal:
Sarah said she hopes the jury will reward gameplay. It's important to note that she rewarded gameplay as a jury member on her original season. Sarah voted for Tony Vlachos, who left early this season. Sarah wanted the jury to reward someone who plays like Tony with big moves. That makes sense since Sarah has been playing a very "Tony" game, flipping and move making.
Andrea pointed out that if you act like someone's best friend and then vote them out, they could be angry. Aubry lost Survivor 32: Kao Rong because the jury was very emotionally hurt by her. It's interesting how each player carries their last season in with them.
Finally, a down and out Brad Culpepper said that someone should work with the people on the bottom while that is still an option. Brad's argument is both correct and smart. I love the boldness of a bottom playing contestant. Brad pleaded and Sarah and Cirie listened.
Andrea gets blindsided with a shocked smile on her face.
Post Tribal: High highs, Low lows
For anyone who is about to judge Aubry for getting emotional after tribal — don't. Emotions are hard to control at this point in the game. You're hungry, tired and the finish line teases you constantly. The highs are like nothing you've ever experienced and the lows are crushing mentally and physically.
Tai Trang and Aubry comfort each other. They have played a full season together before, all the way to day 39. Whether or not they are playing together at all this time, they are still bonded.
Cirie sees their bond. She's got the eyes of an eagle ... or the eyes of a four time player.
Immunity Challenge: People who have lost their minds try to solve a puzzle
Jeff Probst said it best: "Nobody's mind is even close to 100%."
Trying to watch these exhausted people solve a puzzle is almost darkly funny. Michaela Bradshaw kicks her puzzle and Jeff Probst hilariously stated, "Kick the puzzle, that always helps."
Brad pulls out the win and is overcome with emotion. The highs are high, like Aubry said. Don't judge it, couch watcher.
Pre-Tribal: Try to keep up with the math, I dare you
There is a lot happening here, so much so that while trying to count the votes I started writing down diagrams on blank envelopes in my kitchen. On the island, when things got extra complicated, the sand became my white board.
Here are the basics: Troyzan has an idol, Tai has two idols, Brad has immunity.
Tai talks with Aubry and tells her that he wants to make moves. Sarah is someone he sees as a huge threat strategically and Aubry wants to make moves too — against Tai. Aubry goes to Cirie with information and a domino effect occurs.
Cirie sees that Tai doesn't trust her close ally Sarah. Cirie explained this to Sarah, who doesn't believe her. But Sarah does want to keep Cirie's trust, so she gave her the advantage she found to hold on to. The advantage is a vote steal and extra vote. It is non-transferrable but nobody is reading the fine print.
Cirie decided to use the advantage to steal Sarah's vote in order to save Sarah from her own mistake of trusting Tai. Cirie is correct in her instinct that Tai shouldn't be trusted. But stealing Sarah's vote, even to save her, is a risky move. She risked breaking trust with someone who she planned to keep in the game. But Cirie is a bold player and chooses to play boldly.
Cirie also doubles back and goes to trick Tai with mind games so he doesn't play an idol.
Cirie narrated the entire pre-tribal complicated hubbub. She's operating on the level only a four time player can. The only thing is that she doesn't include everyone she's trying to save in the plan. People like to be included, not saved.
We go into tribal with many names being floated around: Tai, Sarah and possibly other names, but it isn't even clear.
Tribal: THAT WAS INSANE ... also, always read the fine print
Hectic tribals often lead to unintentional errors. I've been at a few tribals in which my instincts were not listened to because everything got bonkers.
Cirie tried to use the advantage to steal Sarah's vote in order to save her. Sarah freaks out and then states the advantage isn't really Cirie's. Check the fine print — you can't give this advantage away! All trust is broken with the move to take Sarah's vote and madness ensues.
It was at this point that I didn't know what was going on. Sarah decided to jump from the Cirie ship, no longer trusting her. Sarah targeted Cirie's closest ally with the help of Troyzan and Brad.
Sarah even uses the advantage and steals Tai's vote.
The final vote breakdown is:
Michaela and Aubry vote for Tai, who bravely doesn't play his idol. Cirie votes for Aubry, who seems to be the original vote. Troyzan, Brad and Sarah all vote for Michaela. Michaela gets four votes, though only three are needed so the advantage wasn't necessary. Michaela goes home shocked.
Sarah's advantage wasn't needed but it sure impacted the game. The cards are reshuffled in a major way thanks to broken trust. It all leads to the GAME CHANGING finale!
More Survivor news, predictions and recaps
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