Alright first let me apologize for not doing a recap for last week. It has been a very busy week for me as school is coming to an end and I have a lot going on. Also, because of what happened at tribal I wanted to consume as much as I could about the situation before commenting on it. More on that later. So what are we going to do today? Well I thought in order to prepare us for the the merge and two hour episode tonight I would do a few things. First I am going to give my thoughts on the events from last week. Then I am going to highlight a few things from last week’s episode that could have an impact this week and beyond. Finally, I am going to give a quick breakdown/catch up with how each player is doing at this point. Hopefully this will get you all ready for tonight’s big episodes!
First let us start off with the serious subject matter. As I said above, before I commented on the events I wanted to consume as much material as I could so that when I wrote about it I would be doing so in the most informed way possible. For me I needed to know all of this because there is no way I could have any first hand perspective on this. I am a white, straight, cisgender male and discrimination is not something I have experienced or will ever experience. Therefore it is my job to understand as much about other life experiences as possible. After all of my reading, podcast listening and video watching here are my thoughts. Let me start with Jeff Varner so that I can get that out of the way. What Varner did is incomprehensible and quite frankly disgusting. Many experts on LGBT issues will tell you that outing someone is a form of assault and that is what this was. In no way shape or form should this have come up at all. To add insult to an already deep injury the implication in the outing that not revealing this was a form of deception is most gross stereotype of trans people. Varner, who is a member of the LGBT community and has worked with many LGBT organizations, should know this. Yes I know Varner feels very bad about this now and is apologizing profusely, but the fact is that he has opened up Zeke’s life to many possibilities of discrimination and violence. Zeke, who wanted nothing more than just to be known as the quirky Survivor super fan, is now being defined by a private detail that should have remained so. Since the episode has aired Varner has actually tried to clear up a few things by blaming the edit and saying that he never implied that Zeke not revealing he is trans was being deceptive and that it just slipped out unitentionally. I am sorry, but I cannot buy that. In a confessional that aired not too long before tribal Varner makes mention of a much larger deception going on that has nothing to do with the game and that he plans to raise all hell. That shows both intent and the idea that he thinks Zeke is being deceptive for not revealing it. Varner has also said since then that he thought Zeke was out to the general public and that he was only hiding it from the cast. That does not make it any better! It is still Zeke’s choice and should not be brought up as a game move.
Since this episode was filmed Varner has had a really rough time, apparently being depressed and needing the help of multiple counselors. Some reports say he has even been suicidal and we now know that he has lost his job because too many people called the company asking for him to be fired. Listen I have sympathy for Varner on a human level and in no way am I saying that things such as death threats are justified, but Rob Cesternino said it best on Survivor Know-It-Alls last week. He said we need to just leave Jeff alone, because he does not get to be the victim here. There is only one victim and that is Zeke. Let Varner’s family and friends be his support system and move on from him. We need to focus our energy on supporting Zeke and doing what we can to educate ourselves so that things like this don’t happen.
Let’s put some focus on Zeke, who handled this with more grace than anyone would expect of him. He turned the worst moment of his life into a slightly better one by keeping his composure at tribal and giving a few eloquent speeches on helping the community. He wrote a beautiful piece for the Hollywood Reporter the day after the episode aired that is a must read. As much as he did not want this to happen he really has used his platform for good and has really become a role model. Zeke in the moment seemed to forgive Varner, but has since doubled back on that calling it complicated. To be quite frank, he does not need to forgive Varner and if he never does that is his prerogative. I honestly cannot say enough about Zeke and his words about the whole situation are much better than mine, so please go read the article if you have not already. I will put the link at the end of this post for you to find it.
A few more thoughts on this situation before I move on. I applaud the whole Nuku tribe who almost in unison came to Zeke’s defense. That was the best reaction possible and honestly I do not think many would expect that to happen. So a huge thanks to that tribe for showing the world what decent people should do in a situation like this. The final thought I want to share is this idea that Varner did not out Zeke, but CBS did by airing the episode. First of all ever since it happened Zeke, Jeff Probst, and CBS have been working together with GLAAD to make sure that this was handled with the utmost care. Some people worried about Zeke’s agency in the decision and if he was ever given the option to have it not air, but Probst stated that Zeke never said such a thing. Another concern was that they really gave the editors no choice but to include it when they did not do the normal voting process and just did a verbal vote at their seats. This is the most valid concern in my opinion, but I think this comes down to raw emotion. Probst was as rattled as anybody that night and seemed to just want to get Varner out of there as quick as possible because he did not want to deal with his crap anymore. You can’t fault the guy for not having his producer hat on in the moment. Overall these are just some ramblings on one of Survivor’s darkest nights. I will post some links at the end of this post in case you would like to educate yourself more on the subject, as well as liking to some other article written by people who are more eloquent and knowledgeable on the subject then I will ever be. Please check them all out.
Despite all that went on in the latter half of the episode there were two big things that happened in the episode that do have implications for this week. The first is the coalition that is now forming at Mana. After a breakdown where Cirie, Aubry, Sierra and Brad opened up to each other both Cirie and Aubry went up to Brad and said they were impressed with how vulnerable he was being. They both thanked him for opening up and seemed to make some in roads towards an alliance. The group of Cirie, Aubry, Sierra, Brad and Troyzan should be one to keep your eye on as we head into the merge. The other important thing that happened was the revelation that Zeke, Ozzy and Andrea have a secret alliance. This could very easily cause people like Sarah and Tai to flip once the tribes merge. We will see if this information gets buried heading into the merge or if will rear its head again.
The merge is shaping up to be interesting. There are few solid alliances and it generally seems to be coalitions forming at this point where most of the castaways have played with each other at some point during the season. That being said what alliances could be the ones going head to head? Well based on original tribes we have 9 original Nuku left and 4 original Mana. Those lines are essentially gone at this point though and I do not expect a Pagonging of old Mana people. As for the second swap tribes we have all 6 Tavua left, 2 Nuku left and 5 Mana left. These seem to be getting a little closer to what we might see, but its still muddy. Overall I think it comes to this, Ozzy’s people vs. Brad’s people. Those alliance names are placeholders because there aren’t really any solid divisions at this point. You have Brad’s coalition of 5 as mentioned above and I think he could easily pull Tai based on their Mana connection from the first swap. Sarah’s talk with Troyzan from a couple of episodes ago could also come into play here and she could flip to that group. Ozzy’s group seems to be set with himself, Zeke, Andrea and most likely Debbie because I doubt there is any way she goes with Brad. That just leaves Michaela and Hali in no man’s land as swing votes. Besides all of these shifting alliances we also have a lot of advantages in play. Tai has two idols, Troyzan has an idol, Sierra has the legacy advantage which can only be played at 13 or 6, and Debbie has her extra vote. This is shaping up to be a crazy merge.
Alright let’s start our player by player breakdown with Andrea. Its hard to get a read on Andrea because we have seen so little of her. She only has 4 confessionals through 7 episodes which is crazy. It partially has to do with the fact that Tavua did not go to tribal council once, but still we know little of where her head is at. In my mind she is on the wrong side of the numbers at this point and that does not bode well for her. From an edit reading perspective this could also be an indication that she gets voted out by a twist like an idol or something to that effect. They usually give small edits to people like that. The good thing is that I would expect her to be the last of her alliance to be voted out so my prediction for her is that she will be out around 8-10th place.
Aubry is in an interesting place. She has seemingly been on the bottom this whole game, having her allies be voted out one after another. In this last episode though she seems to have wormed her way into a power alliance and that could be good for her. She really turned it on at the merge in Koah Rong and I could definitely see that happening again. There is no way people let her get to the end again though because she is perceived as such a big threat. I am going to say she makes the finale though and is the first voted out of that episode in sixth place.
Brad has been really impressing me this season and sure has been getting quite the heroic edit. He seems to have made to right bonds and pulled in the right people to get himself in a good position. I find it hard to believe at this point that his alliance does not run the merge. Who’s worried about Brad at this point? His reputation from last time still follows him despite what people say and he is an ex-football player/lawyer who is rather well off. Perfect person to sit next to at final tribal to argue financial need against. I am going to say he makes the final tribal council.
Cirie, like Aubry, is in a very interesting position. She has not gone to tribal once and that is definitely an amazing feat. I just hope she is not rusty on strategy from not going all of this time. I really hope we get to see strategic Cirie come back and I think now that she has numbers she will definitely will be gunning for Ozzy. Cirie is a magic maker, but there is no way she makes the final tribal council. She is just too much of a legendary threat and none of these people are that stupid to let her get to the end. Her win would be a slam dunk. I predict a close finish in the 4-7 range for Cirie.
Debbie has calmed down a little bit since her outburst with Brad. I think the Cochran visit actually did her some good and she is doing better now than before. The problem is that in my hypothetical merge situation she is on the wrong side of the numbers. Also there is the curse of the extra vote which have never been deployed correctly and usually is used when that person is going to be voted out. If Debbie says she is going to use it, look for it to be her boot episode. I think Debbie goes early in the merge somewhere in the 9-11 range.
The first of the two wild cards at this merge is Hali. She seems to have allegiance to nobody and that can be a good or bad thing depending on how she plays it. If she plays it well then she is the swing vote who is key in a lot of big early votes. If she plays it wrong then she is an easy boot that both sides can agree upon while staving off the inevitable. The only connections I see for Hali are that she seemed to have a relationship with Debbie on her old tribe and even that is tenuous. I genuinely have no prediction for Hali because she is such an enigma.
The second wild card is Michaela. Her two biggest allies at the second version of Nuku were Sandra and Varner and they are both gone. In the original Mana she did vote with Troyzan and Hali, but again that was through Sandra. Michaela also seems to be putting off an unlikable vibe among the cast. Her inability to hide her emotions is costing her and honestly I do not think she can be more than a final tribal council goat at this point which is a shame because I like Michaela. Her best case scenario is that she wins some early challenges and it comes to a point where the others see her as an easy vote out later and they just forget. Realistically speaking though I think she goes soon after Ozzy and is out in the 12-10 range.
Heading into this two hour episode the person most in trouble is Ozzy. His reputation is that of a challenge beast and deservingly so. Unfortunately for Ozzy besides this already stellar challenge reputation, a secret alliance of his has been exposed causing people not to trust him. Add to that most likely being on the wrong side of the numbers and that spells an end to the game for him. He needs to win both immunity challenges to make it past tonight and I do not see that happening with competitors like Michaela, Brad, Sarah, Troy, Sierra, Zeke, Andrea and Aubry all being good challenge competitors. That means he gets 13th or 12th place.
Depending on how she plays it Sarah is in a pretty good position. If she is suspicious enough of Ozzy that she jumps ship then she saves herself from the third version of Nuku decimation. If she can only work her way into some tight alliances she could go far. Her relationship with Troy could definitely help with that and her willingness to play this game is evident. Unfortunately she has not had many chances to do that because she has only gone to two tribal councils. The merge will provide her with ample opportunity and it will be interesting to see what she does. I am going to say she comes close to the end and lands in the 4-7th range.
Sierra is another one who is in a great position heading into the merge. She has a tight alliance with Brad is going to be a perfect bullet catcher. She has also showed a relatively good strategic side at this point so I think she is in one of the best spots heading into the merge. Her threat level is not too high and she is in the numbers. Not to mention that she has the legacy advantage in case of emergency. I think Sierra will go far in this game and make the final tribal council.
Tai is one crazy player. Some have called him the Survivor bomb who can blow up people’s whole games. The problem is that you never know when he is going to go off. Add to that the fact that he has two idols and he is an even more dangerous rogue. The way he has been playing he has been setting himself up to be a perfect final tribal council goat once again. Brad also seemed to have a hold him at the second version of Mana so that could be interesting to watch play out. I honestly think Brad and Sierra will drag him to the end so that its easier for them to get votes.
Troy is in an interesting spot because he seems to be tight with both Brad and Sierra, but literally no one else. He has connections to Sarah, but that’s about it. We also have not gotten much Troy airtime since his idol find so its hard to figure out where is head is at. I feel like he could very easily make the finale as dead weight, but they might cut him sooner just for being annoying. I do not have much of a read on him at this point so let’s say he goes in the 6-8th range.
Finally we have Zeke who despite being probably the best player out there not named Cirie, is in a pretty bad spot at this merge. He is on the wrong side of the numbers in my mind and any attempt by him to wiggle his way into the numbers will be seen as too strategic. Besides being so smart, he just looks like a villain with that mustache and crazy shirt so even though these people have known him for 18 or so days they still do not know him as well as other people. They never saw his season so in some ways he is still an unknown quantity. Unfortunately I see him going early in this merge in the 10-12th area.
Well that is my breakdown of all the people left in the game. I am very excited for this merge and I hope you are too! Remember the episode is two hours tonight! Until next time!