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The Survivor Game Changers merge takes two episodes to heat up

The Survivor Game Changers merge takes two episodes to heat up
Ozzy Lusth holds on to a pole in the return of a classic Survivor challenge. (Image by CBS)

Survivor Game Changers reached its merge and started forming its jury, and it did so with two back-to-back hour-long episodes that dragged a bit at first.

After showing last week’s events again, the episode started with Zeke basically giving permission for the game to continue. He said that what Varner did gave him an opportunity “to get over my own fears, and get over my own issues and complexes and insecurities with being transgender,” and added, “people who are out to get you in some regard do stand in your defense and do come to your defense, and I was truly touched, but in the meantime, there’s still a task at hand—a task I’m committed to.”

That task: blow up his own game, apparently. But that was episode two.

First, we were back to inane twists, which felt welcome after last episode.

This week’s unnecessary and cruel twist: forcing two people to sit out the merge feast in order for there to be a merge feast. Otherwise, everyone would receive just a single non-sponsored cracker and cheese slice. Brad Culppeper volunteered, as part of his image rehabilitation, and Tai volunteered also.

This twist accomplished literally nothing except giving Probst something to shout about later at an immunity challenge, and it was, I think, a missed opportunity for a double twist: Once two people volunteered, Probst should have revealed that they got to eat, too.

There were three major things that happened before the immunity challenge and Tribal Council:

  • Zeke told the merged tribe what happened with Varner, continuing to impress them and me
  • Cirie and Michaela bonded and Cirie mentored Michaela, helping her to avoid a repeat of last season.
  • Debbie used the merge feast as an opportunity to moon Tai and feign drunkenness (“If I have to pretend to be drunk and do a bad twerking and a shaking of my booty to crack these people up to feel very comfortable with me, then I’ll do it”).

Hali became the tribe’s target for her perceived stash of hidden immunity idols, though I still don’t understand why anyone thought she had an idol.

At Tribal Council, Hali volunteered to strip search to prove she didn’t have an idol—but only if someone would demand it. “I’ll shake down in front of everyone right now,” she said. “We can do a pat, strip search here to settle things.”

That didn’t help; she was voted out anyway, after which she let loose her best lines of the season: “I just feel like these people are dumb. Why did you vote me out? Do you want to sit with the big strong strategic players, or do you want to sit with the heard of goats?”

As it turned out, Hali was just an easy vote before the tribe started going after some of it its big strong strategic players.

Debbie makes a move, Tai streaks

Episode two started with me realizing that I’d forgotten tonight had back to back episodes, and being slightly annoyed because I was tired and a one-challenge episode, even with character development, dragged.

Then a butterfly landed on Cirie’s head as she said, “We’re ready for war.” Bring on episode two!

Survivor went nostalgic for the reward challenge, giving the winning team a sponsored reward: the Marshalls Lounge, a place with showers, food, and plenty of opportunities for the cast to say the name Marshalls and remind me of a store I never go to.

During the episode, I tweeted that the show still, after 17 years, hasn’t figured out how to make product integration on an island feel any less awkward. But seeing the Marshalls Lounge was also a reminder that Survivor does this very rarely, and I’m glad they have a sponsor willing to give the show money and keep it afloat. Other reality shows do so much more product integration and give us so much less content in return.

Also the Marshalls Lounge will now forever be remembered for Tai streaking, if running around in circles  naked and showering with the door open constitutes streaking.

Refreshed Tai was also able to beat Ozzy at his own game, defeating him in the pole-hugging challenge that Ozzy has never lost. That led to the wonderful moment when Tai said, “I can’t believe I beat Ozzy, the queen, the two-time-champion—the king! the king!” He laughed at his error, and in the background, Culepper said, “from king to queen.” (That image rehabilitation is not going well in my living room.)

Of note: Tai’s win was the second record broken during an immunity challenge last night: In the first episode’s block-on-head challenge, Andrea defeated Tai to become the first woman to ever win that challenge.

Back at camp, Zeke wanted to target Cirie or Andrea, and went to Sierra, infuriating Andrea. So she, Ozzy, and Cirie planned to vote out Zeke, while the other alliance targeted Ozzy. This was Debbie’s idea, which she floated to Sierra while laying in the hammock. Debbie said they should “just dictate to them this time” who to vote for.

And you know what? They did, at least according to the edit. Ozzy went home with a vote of 7 to 4.

The vote itself was full of curiosities:

  • Cirie voted for Sierra, saying it was “just to spice things up a little bit,” but it just seemed like a wasted vote. That said, if she’d changed her vote and Debbie hadn’t played hers, Ozzy still would have gone home with a majority of votes.
  • Zeke voted for Aubry, suggesting he was not privy to the Ozzy conversations
  • Debbie used her extra vote, which did nothing and makes this twist one of the most ineffectively used twists ever—or perhaps it’s just an ineffective twist?

A defeated Ozzy—who’d kicked sand earlier during a low moment in a reward challenge—let loose this stinging barb: “Good luck eating.” I’m sure we’ll see him again, in a future season or perhaps just next week when Probst resurrects the Outcasts tribe twist.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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