Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 5

Survivor

Was J.T.’s exit a demonstration of excellent manipulation by Michaela, Sandra, and Varner? Or is it just further proof that maybe Stephen Fishbach did all of the strategy steering during J.T.’s run to the Tocantins million?

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Personally, I think it’s somewhere in between. I mean, I cannot fathom someone sitting at Tribal Council, listening to someone repeatedly talk about how they “know they’re going home”, and actually believe that there isn’t some secondary plan I need to be worrying about. It seemed like J.T. was sipping his own Kool-Aid just a biiiit too hard and truly believed that he had pulled this masterclass move.

Unfortunately for the cowboy, it was Michaela who was pulling a masterclass at Tribal Council. She (and her alliance) correctly assumed how J.T. would react if she basically acted like she was lying down at the final moment. Sure, she was still cocky; however, she also gave off the air of someone who had given up hope. It was perfect.

And J.T. bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. It’s hard to remember a more perfect blindside from the last several years of Survivor. This one had it all. Sandra stirring up the pot by eating all the sugar. J.T. keeping that idol at camp (not even in his pocket!). Heck, we had our first “coffee sip” moment at Tribal. Just incredible. What a magnificent play by Michaela, Sandra, and Varner. They played J.T. like an Alabama fiddle and set up a dangerous foursome moving forward.

Not only was the move memorable, but I believe it was second-level smart. Listen, Jeff Varner’s last season was the twist-heavy Cambodia that saw a number of tribal shuffles. If anyone was going to sniff out the upcoming switch, it’s Varner. If they weren’t switching, you’re basically guaranteeing that you go right back to Tribal when you vote off J.T., but with the shuffle, it doesn’t really matter if you eliminate a physical player. An excellent reading of both the player (J.T.) and the game.

WHO TO WATCH

Aubry: Aubry is a great Survivor player and maybe the best confessional from an excellent Kaoh Rong cast. So, to see her regulated to maybe one confessional per episode and a minor part in the current storyline is pretty sad. Plus, she just found herself on the wrong side of a blindside at the last Tribal and has lost almost every early game ally she had. Where does she go from here? Does she stick with Varner, Sandra, and Michaela if any of them stick with her after the switch or does she look to jump ship? Aubry is not in a very good place right now, but if anyone can bring her game back from the brink, I think it’s her.

Debbie: What happened to Debbie? She was even more delusional than usual last week in her tirade against Brad. Did she even watch the challenge she was complaining about? If I’m Brad Culpepper, I would have seriously considered throwing that immunity challenge just to get Debbie out of there and protect myself from the wrath that is surely coming if Debbie makes the merge. I really questioned Brad’s choice last week in getting out Malcolm and I think this one might have been worse. He’s tossing his friends out of the game almost as quickly as he’s making enemies. Not a good look for someone with #winnersedit potential. That said, I’m really interested to see what Debbie does next. Here’s hoping she and Brad stay on the same tribe.

Brad: If you’re scoring at home, Brad Culpepper is one of two physical alpha males left in the game (the other being Ozzy). Yes, Sierra, Michaela, and Sarah are solid physical competitors, but the two traditional merge boots left are Culpepper and Ozzy. And that’s largely because Brad has directly and indirectly sent three of the other alpha males home over the last few episodes. That leaves Brad with nearly no one to hide behind, meaning his game is going to become very, very difficult if he doesn’t try to team up with Ozzy and keep him in the game. If these two end up on the same tribe, they have to work together. And if they don’t….one them will go very soon.

Sandra: The last player I’m really keeping my eye on as we watch another tribe shuffle is Sandra. If you’re going to get Sandra pre-merge, this is the time to do it. You switch tribes and then you pick her off before she can wrangle numbers. This woman is too dang good at building alliances and if you don’t get her out now, you might never get another chance. If Sandra makes it through this week, I love her chances to make it to Day 39.

Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 3

Survivor

With my increasingly busy schedule, it’s become exceptionally difficult to find time to write about Survivor (or anything for that matter). However, there is something about this game that compels me to continue talking about it. After this past week’s thrilling tribal council, I decided it was time to get back to some Survivor strategy. Hopefully I can keep up with the season in this spot, but we’ve seen how that turned out in the past. Either way, let’s talk about what happened last week.

The first thing we have to talk about is obviously going to be that tribal council. Specifically, I want to focus on Brad Culpepper’s move. If you’re in Brad’s spot, you must be feeling good. Last week, you cut Caleb and essentially guaranteed that Tai is going to be loyal to you for quite awhile because he has no where else to go. That was an awesome move that proved Brad came to actually be a game changer this time around.

But I think Brad got too greedy this week. He seemed to pick up that Malcolm was the only person keeping JT afloat over Nuku tribe. Since it worked so well with Tai, he targeted Malcolm. After all, that would bring JT right into Culpepper’s arms and knock out another strong player. On the surface, it’s probably a great move. I think it’s going to be a big mistake.

Look at where JT is sitting now. If Nuku goes to tribal next week, he’s gone. Sure, he could find an idol and play it, but with the information we have, he’s out. If Brad cuts Sandra instead of Malcolm, JT and Malcolm could easily control where the next vote goes, dropping someone like Varner or Michaela. Then, when we hit the merge, and Brad scoops up two huge targets (read: meat shields) that will likely feel that he’s trustworthy because he knocked off Sandra instead of Malcolm.

Essentially, voting off Malcolm is (at least as far as we can see) the equivalent of a swing of four votes (you lose the two votes you would have and give them to the other side). That’s a rough place to be in. Now, I fully believe that Brad can come back from this. He’s shown this season that he learned a lot from his first time out and his duo with Sierra Dawn Thomas is extremely dangerous. However, Brad is the physical threat out of those two and without JT and Malcolm to protect him, he might be ousted earlier than he’d like.

That said, what a tribal council! I cannot remember the vote every being so up in the air and I certainly haven’t seen anyone running around discussing the vote quite like that. Plus, an incredible idol play by Tai and another big blunder from JT that has to be on par with his letter to Russell in Heroes vs. Villains. Can the season possibly top that moment? Well, before we find out, let’s take a look at some the Survivors I’m watching closely as we move through the next week.

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JT : Obviously we have to keep our eye on JT. He’s in the worst position among anyone in the game. I cannot fathom a scenario where JT is not the next person voted out at Nuku if he doesn’t find the idol. Culpepper really screwed over his former ally. I think there might be a sliver of hope in the form of an alliance with Aubry and Varner against Sandra, but that’s probably just me trying to find a way to get JT to the merge than something that may actually happen.

Aubry/Jeff Varner: Sticking with the Nuku tribe, I really want to find out what’s going on with these two. We have heard from them in bits and pieces, but they have yet to feel important to the season’s ongoing narrative. That leads me to believe that neither has a big impact on the outcome of the season, but they are both so bright and such good narrators that it’s hard to see their talents being wasted in the early part of the season. Here’s hoping that changes next week because I believe this duo could do some real damage if they get together.

Cirie: The “Original Gangster” made it through what was always going to be one of the tougher parts of the game. Those first few votes, players tend to want to keep “strong” people around and Cirie is never going to be seen as a physical asset (though the girl can do her some puzzles). Plus, she had Ozzy gunning for her due to her past betrayal. Now that she’s through the early game rush, what can this strategic mastermind pull together? We’ve seen Jedi mindtrick her way into a great situation in the past and it feels like something is brewing. Very interested to see what she does from here.

Debbie:  Debbie has to be on the watch list this week after her volatile scene for next week’s preview. And if we didn’t know something big was coming for Debbie, the broad’s a gamer. You know she’s going to bring great TV until her very last in-game breath. I’m captivated by Debbie on most occasions, so going into an episode knowing she’s about to explode on someone is a real treat. Here’s hoping episode four delivers on what are sure to be sky-high expectations.