Starting with the (back-to-back episodes in the) premiere, Game Changers has always seemed to had something of a dark cloud hovering over it. Maybe it was the parade of big reputation, big personality players that left pre-merge, some under such cruelly arbitrary circumstances that the entire concept of inviting good players back for an all-star season seemed like a nihilist farce. Maybe it was the ugly incident that happened right before the merge, or the other yell-fest that was possibly staged or deceptively edited or whatever. Maybe it's that one of the shows best narrators has had her presence on the show cut back to that of a live-action GIFroll during reward announcements.
Or, you know, maybe it's that the editors keep hammering home that everyone out there is miserable, crying, and wondering why they even bothered coming out this time.
We feel your pain, Game Changers cast! You're not alone.
This stretch of two episodes should have been a triumph: An obvious Pagonging thwarted, the few treasured remaining favorites saved, leaping from certain doom to running the show. And yet... the malaise persists. No sooner did Cirie and Andrea seize the numbers, than in the very next episode, they make a move that (while technically correct for Andrea in the short term) seems to be setting themselves up for certain failure.
Oh, and they took out another solid strategic player who was also an entertaining narrator. There's a phrase for that:
Mutually assured strategist destruction
Heading into this episode, we were concerned that the Zeke-Andrea conflict was one likely to pointlessly rob the season of decent players, no matter which side prevailed. Just as the Zeke-Chris/David conflicts did last season. With a resolution to the current battle finally having been reached, that's half-true so far. And seeing how it played out, it seems fairly likely that the other half will fall into place fairly soon, because Andrea and Cirie will now be seen as a power duo that must be broken up, presumably with the challenge beast, Andrea, going first. And if Andrea wins immunity, then... *gulp* Cirie.
Why? By taking out Zeke before it was safe for her alliance to do so, Andrea made a Big Move™. Combined with her two immunity wins, she now has a substantial in-game résumé, via which she could plausibly win the million. As such, everyone will now be gunning for her (or should be, anyway). As Michaela pointed out, now it will only take one person from the remaining five to flip over to the minority four, and that could easily happen this next episode, since at least two (Michaela and Sarah) were shown saying they didn't want to vote out Zeke.
Furthermore, even if the majority five stick together for one more vote, Andrea (or Cirie) could still be doomed: Troyzan still has an idol, and Tai has two, and Tai was the second-highest vote recipient this episode. While Tai was reluctant to waste an idol this week, next week there's no reason not to, especially since a successful idol play would move those power numbers right back to an even 4-4 split. Keep in mind also (as several people pointed out at the time) the pair of scenes from early post-swap Tavua: (1) Andrea's refusal to offer Troyzan a path forward in early post-swap Tavua, along with (2) Troyzan finding an idol. Together, those strongly hinted that Troyzan might eventually use that idol to take out Andrea.
If so, that would probably remove one of our two remaining three-time-plus players. Which is unfortunate, because in the remaining ten game days, they have a good chance at running up...
So yes, because they're currently in power, Andrea and Cirie's prospects theoretically seem okay, even if realistically, it seems unlikely that one of them is winning this season. But at the very least, they're both making big moves on the Survivor longevity leaderboard.
This episode, Cirie tied Parvati for the third-most days played, ever (114 days). If next week's episode spans three days as it should, she'll tie Boston Rob for second place by the end of it. (Sadly, with only ten days remaining in the season, she has no shot at tying Ozzy's record 128 day tenure.) Slightly further back, Andrea has now played 99 days total, so next episode, she'll become one of just seven players ever to cross the century mark. This is an especially impressive total for a 3-time player.
Andrea's also building her reputation as a formidable challenge competitor. This episode marked her fourth career individual challenge win (only 29th-best all-time, and behind several single-season performances), but as we tweeted, that mark undersells her ability. She consistently places among individual challenge leaders, so a better measure of her prowess is Mean % finish (MPF) in individual challenges. After this week's win, her career MPF now stands at 66.4%, good enough for 14th-best all time.
Speaking of career numbers, it's also worth noting that Zeke, in a barely five-month span (from MvGX through this season) racked up a whopping 21 votes against himself. That's good enough for eighth place all-time on the VAP leaderboard. This is not necessarily a sign that Zeke is a poor Survivor player, but rather that he enthusiastically embraces making bold moves, and that his tribemates see him as someone who is almost always scheming, as Ben Martell suggested this week. Both those traits make him a vote magnet. Finally having had the opportunity to see his game on-screen, Zeke is certainly smart enough to adjust his social/strategic approach the next time out. With enough time off between seasons, maybe he can make the same adjustment Andrea seems to have, since her last appearance in Caramoan.
Sarah's army vs. Brad's army?
So where is this all headed? There are only three episodes left. At some point, this war of Big Move™-maker attrition is going to devolve into a standard alliance-vs-alliance battle. At that point, is it possible that we'll finally see some payoff to all the narrative threads left dangling in the pre-merge?
The main people left who've consistently been talking about changing their games and planning to win the million are Brad and Sarah. (Well, and to a lesser extent Sierra, although she's been a lot less explicitly talking about game changing, and in her case, the real change is that she's been shown talking about the game.) For example, when Mana lost the final pre-merge reward, and sat around in camp collectively weeping, we saw Brad receiving sincere praise from Cirie and Aubry. Neither of them seem to have spoken to Brad since. Could one or both of them eventually become part of his endgame plans? Tai has been in that position since the premiere.
Similarly, Sarah had a glaringly unnecessary scene pre-merge where she made inroads with Troyzan, a connection that has yet to yield any discernible dividends. Could this also be coming soon? Once the Andrea-Cirie pair has been broken up, could the Brad-Sierra one be the next one to fall after that? Or will everyone just be Team Brad?
Given that Sarah was the lucky recipient of both Debbie flipping her off and Debbie's "idiots!" comment, we think we can see where this is heading. Especially since Brad was shown talking about how hard he's been working to get back into the numbers, despite not actually seeing him do anything except relax at the reward. Sigh.
*shrug* We have no idea why this season is so depressing.
Oh well, let's do some vidcaps to (hopefully) feel better about things.
Game Changers Ep.11 vidcap gallery
One Survivor! Standing all alone under the #1. It's a sign!
Ha ha, nice try. Say... have you been smoking something?
Fine, let's get back to the grimacing.
Well that didn't work.
Okay, this should be better. Zeke and Michaela both did this mere months ago, so this should be fun, right?
"Please send help. I'm being held prisoner and am not allowed to give confessionals" *sigh*
"Investments" in casting?
Out of thin chyron!
Aren't word puzzles great when the solution is a phrase that nobody has ever said before?
Uh... not really
As the football-playing guy, I'll be making a Hail Mary pass with this invisible football to save myself. Invisibly.
As the law-enforcing player, I'll be frog-marching this invisible perp.
All: Eh, screw it, there's booze. And the Fiji merge tribe, for some reason.
As the improv guy, I'll be finding an idol in this invisible coconut/log. Oh wait, that was last season. Dammit.
Aubry: OMG! It's a LAZY SUSAN!
As the sole three-time player left, I'll be serving everyone this invisible tray of blindside tea. Mostly Zeke.
As the Brad Culpepper guy, I'll be the Andrew Savage impersonator.
As the inanimate object, I'll be this somewhat-interesting piece of driftwood!
Can I be the streaker? *looks down* Oh wait, I already am! Whoops.
Fine, I'll be the Q*Bert pyramid, I guess. Whatever.
Cirie: "Be honest. How many of these knuckleheads have you interviewed?" Andrea: "I don't remember half of them."
On the plus side, most of them probably think I played once, last season, or something.
Are we still doing invisible things? I have Erik's invisible necklace here. I remember, Cirie!
You might target Cirie? Good job, Sarah. You had to go and make this depressing again.
Zeke ventures north of the Wall to recruit the last remaining Giants
Probst is impressed with the size of Brad's platform.
Hooray, running with blocks
Well... that was quick.
Whoa, deja vu, Andrea!
Eight days ago, your buff and the necklace were *much* cleaner.
Ugh, time to go volunteer in the strategy booth.
Yeah, whatever, Sierra. Just vote how we say, and nobody gets hurt. Capiche?
You too, Sarah. I really hope none of you have idols or advantages that could thwart this.
I went to the strategy booth and it was closed. I know! I'll make an alliance with Zeke.
Andrea: "So we're all voting Zeke." Aubry: "Dammit!"
What's an MvGX-appropriate prop for Tribal Council tonight? Tears? Okay, fine. Callback to my buddy Adam.
In *this* vidcap gallery? Come on, Zeke.
Smiles, everybody! Smiles! Stop making this so grim!
Yeah, f*** that.
I have an amusing anecdote about streaking and chickens. Should I share it?
I can tell lots of fun stories about sheriffing!
I dunno, you guys. Let's focus on how hard my life has been, and how I've just missed final Tribal twice.
Bonus points for bringing us all even further down with the frowny face, whoever.
From Adam to Zeke.
Poor Ozzy has consumed his lower lip. Please send help. Also for Aubry.
Other Game Changers Episode 11 recaps and analysis
Episode 11 exit interviews: Zeke Smith
Episode 11 podcasts