What a season Survivor Game Changers has turned out to be so far. We have started off with three fantastic hours of action and three intriguing eliminations, all worth so much discussion. But what a strange spectacle Episode 2 turned out to be! I loved every single minute of it, but everything about it was very odd. The tempo was strange and slow at times and the content was at times very heavy, but it was still incredibly entertaining! There is so much to unpack with this episode titled “Survivor Jackpot” so let’s get right to it, and begin our discussion of Episode 2 (the third hour) of Survivor’s 34th season, Survivor Game Changers.
A Tribe Shake-Up
Without any fallout of any sort from the previous night’s elimination of Tony Vlachos, the two tribes gathered at the beach for what appeared to be a reward challenge. But instead of having any sort of challenge, a massive shake-up was in order as the two tribes suddenly became three. This is how the three tribes shook up…
Nuku: JT, Sandra, Malcolm, Varner, Michaela, Aubry
Mana: Sierra, Hali, Caleb, Tai, Brad, Debbie
Tavua: Troyzan, Zeke, Cirie, Andrea, Ozzy, Sarah
With each new tribe, there was a clear and succinct easy and instant vote-out. Over at the brand new Tavua, Troyzan was unfortunate in being left as the only former Mana member on a tribe of all former Nuku members. Similarly, over at the new Nuku, JT found himself in the same position, being forced to host five former Mana members. Caleb and Hali meanwhile were immediately outnumbered on Mana thanks to being put on a tribe made up largely of former Nuku members. No matter which tribe was going to lose immunity, you felt that it was going to be one of these names going home. JT and Troyzan in particular instantly felt the pressure of the possibility of being eliminated. With their backs against the wall, both resorted to a desperate idol hunt in an attempt to save themselves, both with different tactics on how to approach the hunt.
“If I can get in them in the ocean, I can start looking for the idol” – JT.
These were the words of James ‘JT’ Thomas. It was one of the first things he said to the cameras after he found himself with that terrible numbers disadvantage: five to one, with him being the one. No sooner than Malcolm and Jeff found themselves amazed by the stunning camp life at Nuku, they found themselves perched on a raft in the middle of the ocean. All JT then had to do was wait for an excuse to swim back to shore where he would then look for the idol, and the perfect excuse arrived when Malcolm bent the tribe’s spear. JT swam back to the beach to get a set of pliers but when he got there he instead began to look for the hidden immunity idol. Unfortunately for him, it was to no avail. The Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains contestant’s hard work ended up being all for nothing as he was unable to locate the idol. But, where JT came up short, over at Tavua, Troyzan found himself a whole lot luckier.
Before moving on to Troyzan and his idol hunt, it has to be said that if Nuku really wanted to get rid of JT they could have just thrown the challenge and voted him out. But JT is such a likable guy. He works hard around camp, he gets along well with everyone and no one ever seems to want to vote him out. Just ask Tocantins’ Brendan Synnott who said that the most desirable outcome for him in the game would be JT winning! JT is just such a likable guy, so much so that he might have even safe had Nuku lost the challenge and been sent to tribal council.
Troyzan On The Outs
Out of all the contestants, Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson probably got screwed over by the tribe swap the most. The game’s first shake-up saw the One World contestant join Nuku’s Ozzy, Sarah, Andrea, Cirie and Zeke, instantly putting him on the bottom. But instead of laying down and excepting his fate, Troyzan fought for his life in the game and began to look for the idol. His quest to find the hidden item was one of the shortest immunity idol hunts ever seen on Survivor as it seemed like the moment the One World contestant finished a confessional about how he was going to look for the idol, he was already breaking down in tears, clutching a clue to its whereabouts in his hand.
By the way how cool was this? An immunity idol clue hidden in a bottle washed up on the beach! This was a super smart move by the Survivor producers and one that matches their incredible shipwreck tribal council theme wonderfully well. It’s so simple but beautiful because you wouldn’t even have to look all that hard to notice something like that sticking out in the sand, but you would certainly have to have the intent of looking for something with a purpose to really notice it as it could just as easily been walked over by anyone else and discarded as any old washed up bottle. Anyway, a teary-eyed Troyzan, squatting down and clutching the note in his hand, then revealed to us that the idol was going to be at the challenge, hidden on the backside of the puzzle table. The Flordia native played it off so well as after his tribe won immunity he slowly descended down, appearing to be feeling some sort of mix of exhaustion and relief, and when nobody was looking, grabbed the idol.
The best part about this from a Troyzan perspective was that nobody saw him get the clue or the idol. If someone had seen him grab it, it wouldn’t have been much of a problem because then Tavua would be forced to vote off one of their own but this is so much better as now he can pull off a total blindside.
Speaking of blindsides, this episode didn’t see one, but it did witness a very strange scene with goats that may forever become infamous, particularly when looking back at the character of the great Sandra-Diaz Twine.
Sandra Loves Her Goats
We all know just how much Sandra loves her goats, just check out the two above! In all seriousness, this was one of the strangest Survivor scenes I have ever witnessed. For whatever reason, seven days in, Sandra found herself starving and decided that she just had to eat a goat. So JT and Malcolm did the hunting and brought Sandra back two goats – a baby and her mama. This was probably the most villainous Sandra has ever been made to appear on Survivor. She even was quoted as saying “That’s what they here for, human consumption”. Meanwhile the two that actually did the goat hunting, Malcolm and JT, were made to look like heroes, or at the very least protagonists to the antagonist that was Sandra. It seemed like everyone on the tribe except for the two-time winner was strictly against the idea of killing the goats, including JT and Malcolm who instantly felt bad for what they had done. But as we have seen in both Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains, Sandra Diaz-Twine loves her some goats. But in the end after Michaela pointed out “Hey, we have 4 chickens!” and made everyone else look silly, Malcolm and JT let the goats reunite with each other, a happy ending to this strange Survivor tale.
Speaking of goats, Kaoh Rong zero-vote finalist Tai Trang found himself jumping for joy at the tribe swap when he found himself reunited with his good buddy Caleb Reynolds. But this reunion would end up being short-lived, just like it was in Survivor Kaoh Rong.
A Caleb and Tai Reunion
Episode 2’s tribe swap may have appeared to be good news for Caleb on the surface, he was after all reunited with his best bud on the show, but in reality the moment he found himself with a 4-2 numbers disadvantage and Tai also on his tribe, Caleb was screwed.
Tai went to Caleb’s wedding. Everyone on this season knew going in just how close the two of them were. So when the Kaoh Rong pair ended up together on Mana beach it was no secret at all that they were going to be close pals. And they didn’t do any job at all at hiding it. At one point, Caleb even unwisely told Tai to kiss him on the cheek in front of everyone!
Although this move will forever go down in my books as unwise and one that Caleb instigated solely for the cameras, there really was nothing he could do about his position on the tribe and it set up a very awkward scenario when Mana lost the immunity challenge.
Hali vs. Caleb
With a clear numbers disadvantage, an unfortunate 4-2 split, Worlds Apart contestant Hali Ford and Kaoh Rong‘s Caleb Reynolds immediately found themselves on the outs and when Mana lost the challenge it became an immediate battle for survival between the two. Although on the surface Caleb would appear to be the much more capable challenge competitor, Hali Ford is no slouch and can really hold her own, particularly in the water. So as Brad noted at tribal council, both had their advantages to keeping around. But between the two, Caleb clearly brought with him the most baggage because of his previous relationship on Survivor Kaoh Rong with Tai Trang. This worried Brad, Sierra and Debbie and after Brad convinced Tai to go along with it as well, Caleb was sent packing by a vote of 5-1.
Why Caleb Was Voted Out
Caleb’s elimination from the game was purely as a result of a tribe-swap and a pre-existing relationship with another castaway both inside and outside of the game. In other words, there was very little he could do to save himself from the vote. I had predicted pre-season that he wouldn’t make enough of an effort to get to know his fellow castaways and that would be why he was voted out early on. But the exact opposite almost seemed to be true as Caleb was voted out because he had too good of a bond with his castaways, or at least Tai.
Brad Culpepper seemed particularly worried about the Caleb-Tai bond and although declaring that he didn’t want to be the chief, ended up being a real driving force behind the Kentucky native’s elimination from the game. This may be giving the Blood vs. Water man a little bit too much credit, but he really was amazing this episode and played a massive role in sending Caleb home. Before that crucial conversation with Tai by the beach, it seemed like everyone was leaning that way anyway but Brad certainly sealed the deal. The former NFL’er approached Tai about voting off Caleb with such a cool head and just looked him in the eye and said “Having Caleb around at the merge would be bad for your game”. That very simple sentence was all it took for Tai to be on board with voting out his friend and so that was that, Caleb was taken out by a vote of 5-1.
|Player||# of Confessionals||Running Total|
|2nd||James ‘JT’ Thomas||5||6|
|5th||Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson||3||4|
After a slow start, receiving just one confessional in the first episode which was all about Tai and his chickens, JT is back, this time receiving 5 confessionals. The one worrying thing for JT was that they were all, not necessarily Middle of the Road, but very much about short-term events. Three centered around his hunt for the idol, a tool he did not end up finding, and two centered around the goat debacle, something that won’t come into play for the rest of the game. Malcolm and Sandra currently top the charts in the running total column, both with 11 confessionals, but it was Malcolm who came out particularly strong in this episode over the two time winner. Brad Culpepper, Jeff Varner and Troyzan Robertson all played a big role in the episode and were given three confessionals each, while Tai Trang, Ozzy Lusth and Caleb Reynolds received two.
Andrea again comes up short in confessionals, which is quite a surprise given that she was one of the favourites to win this season going in and had such a massive role to play in both of her previous seasons. Her only confessional this week was about Troyzan! Meanwhile, Sierra, Zeke, Michaela and Cirie were the other contestants to be left with just 1 confessional, having a minimal impact on this episode. All of them except for Sierra were not involved in the vote. Finally, surprisingly Aubry Bracco and Sarah Lacina were the only two to come up with 0 confessionals this season, two players that had very good first boots and never shy away from giving the cameras something to work with.
* What is edgic? Check out the Edgic section of our Game Changers Premiere Recap for all the information!
With such a complicated episode, Edgic this week was always going to be very hard to determine. But The Mastermind has still taken their best stab at discerning who falls under which category. These are our Edgic scores for Episode 2 of Survivor Game Changers!
James ‘JT’ Thomas
|Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson||CP||5||
Several characters on this season are still so underdeveloped, flying under the radar as we still await to see what kind of mark they make on this season. And no, not that Mark! Cirie and Ozzy’s storylines so far have both revolved around the notion of Ozzy wanting to target her, with the tale taking a twist this episode as the Cook Islands finalist relaxed on that thought. Every other under the radar contestant this episode has not had a storyline developed about them at all. The only airtime we’ve been given of Sierra was when she found the Legacy Advantage, Aubry has only been shown as a tool to other people’s games, Zeke’s been only shown in connection to the Cirie vs. Ozzy storyline and the rest of them haven’t even emerged past the preface. This is not a particularly great look for any contestant mentioned above, not to forget Sarah Lacina, the only contestant to go invisible this episode.
Episode 3’s Middle of the Road contestants include the now eliminated Caleb Reynolds, Hali Ford, who was presented as the alternative option to home, Jeff Varner who is always ready for a quote and the always eccentric Debbie Wanner.
Under the Complex Player column, we have quite a few oddballs. One World’s Troyzan Robertsen went CP with an exclamation mark, producing a strong showing and finding the hidden immunity idol; while Brad Culpepper emerged as not only a complex personality but also a pretty likable figure, quietly spearheading Caleb’s elimination. We were also given quite a deep dive into the mind of one Tai Trang, despite the Kaoh Rong contestant only receiving two confessionals, while JT was also an ever-present and had plenty of complex thoughts and beliefs.
Several characters were shown in a positive light, particularly the aforementioned Brad and Troyzan but also Jeff Varner, Malcolm and JT who all came across as protagonists to combat Sandra’s villainous hunger for goats. Speaking of Sandra, she was the only character to be Over The Top and presented in a negative light this week this episode with her desire for the aforementioned goats being the key reason why. Unfortunately, this does not boast well for the two-time winner who had such a strong start to the season in the premiere.
Malcolm Freberg was this week’s prime narrator but also had quite a bit of complexity to his confessionals as well, being the last contestant to get a Complex Player score this episode and continuing the trend of being The Mastermind‘s favourite to win the season.
The Winner’s Edit
That’s right, it’s Malcolm Freberg for the second week in a row! The Mastermind will not be getting Mari Takahashi’d this season. Every time we were given a chance to be shown Malcolm, we were shown Malcolm. He was the prime narrator about everything that was going on at Nuku, from his surprise about how good camp life was to the entirety of the goat scene. He was constantly given confessionals in place of others like Aubry, Michaela and even Jeff Varner, who you’d imagine all had quite a lot to say in those instances. He’s being shown as strategic, sociable, well-rounded and comfortably safe, which are all things you have to like in a winner pick this early on. Malcolm Freberg will certainly face adversity sometime in the future of this game, but right now it is all smooth sailing for him and right now the three-time contestant is coming across in the edit as the clear favourite to win.
Quote of the Week
“The trees have balls!” – Jeff Varner
For the second week in a row, Jeff Varner picks up The Mastermind‘s Quote of the Week award. Totally enamoured with his surroundings in his new tribe Nuku, Jeff said to Malcolm “The trees have balls!”. Taken out of context this is just about the weirdest quote you’ll ever see; but taken in context, this was a very funny moment.
Player of the Week
The fight, the desire to stay in the game at all costs, regardless of the circumstance you find yourself in, is what the fans of this show come to see. When Troyzan found himself on the bottom of his new tribe, Tavua, he didn’t throw in the towel and give up, he instead went looking for the idol. Just seconds after starting his search (seemingly), Troyzan found the hidden clue inside of a bottle and then when it came time to snatch the idol from underneath the puzzle table, the One World contestant played it off so spectacularly well, with Jeremy Collins-styled poise. Now Troyzan has a secret weapon that he can use to vote off whomever he wants to, which may come incredibly handy given that next time, two tribes are going to tribal council. For his fighting spirit and desire to stay in the game, Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson is this week’s Player of the Week!
Next Time On Survivor
Next time on Survivor, JT starts an uprising and the twists don’t stop coming! From the preview we were given of next week’s Wednesday night spectacular, it appears as though JT is going to start plotting against Sandra. At this point I’d like to take the time to remind everyone what had happened to the last guy who plotted against Sandra…..
Yep, this could be dangerous territory for JT. In addition, the preview also gave us a glimpse of what was in store regarding eliminations next week and it’s a doozy! A double elimination is on its way. AKA two out of the three tribes will be going to tribal council. Who will survive? Find out next week on The Mastermind!
Survivor Game Changers has kicked off in fantastic form and continues to impress! Although this episode was strangely paced and might end up being infamously remembered for the scene with the goats, it was still entertaining as always and gave The Mastermind so much to talk about.
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