The merge is finally here! The defining moment that significantly changes the course of each Survivor season has reached Survivor: Game Changers. I’m glad to say goodbye to Mana and Nuku. Both tribes have merged into one big group and it changes how they’ll play the game for the rest of the season. No more group challenges, no more group immunity idols, and definitely no more imbalanced alliances. They’re all together in one large group, picking each other off one-by-one. This is my favorite time in a Survivor season. And better yet, “There’s a New Sheriff in Town” was a two-part episode!
This was the perfect time for the castaways to merge. Nearly all of their food was gone and they look exhausted. Something needed to change to give them a burst of new energy and a chance at winning the game. I loved the twist where each tribe had to sit someone out at the feast. Food is a commodity and getting the chance to eat a full meal can be the difference of winning an immunity challenge or being sent out. Both of the castaways – Brad and Tai – decided to volunteer to sit out for their tribes, and this did curry some good favor. However, I was surprised by the reactions to them volunteering.
Tai has proven to be selfless in the past. It was almost expected that he would give up the chance to eat for the others. I wasn’t shocked by this in the least. Also, the fact that he’s already safe with hidden immunity idols doesn’t hurt too with him giving up a reward. The reaction to Brad, however, did pose some questions. Why was the first instinct to look at Brad suspiciously and not Tai? Sure, Brad is a challenge threat and he didn’t have the best first run on his original season, but both he and Tai gave up the food together. I think this was all based on personal opinions. Tai is thought of more positively than Brad, so Tai gets more sympathy and love when he does anything.
Kudos to some of the castaways who used the merge feast as a chance to make alliances – this was a great idea. Brad and Tai being separated gave them plenty of time to assess the others and map out where things stood in the season. I think their new alliance will help them both out later on down the line. I’m not sure if I believe that Debbie was sober at the feast. Sierra, Cirie and Andrea were clearly drinking, but Debbie was acting drunk (and she was called out on it). It’s a good strategy as it helped her bond with the others and they could blame her drinking. There might be more to Debbie’s game than I had once thought. However, I still don’t think she’ll win.
Cirie’s vote on Michaela during the first Tribal Council of the night, in my opinion, seemed like one out of necessity for her alliance. Even though she would rather take Michaela under her wing and control the vote, the others were going in a different direction. She made a numbers decision instead of a personal one. Zeke, on the other hand, surprised me the most with his strange game moves. He and Andrea were close friends on the island, but he threw her name out a few times to get her out. The players have just made it to the merge and with the ever-changing numbers, it’s a better idea to not burn bridges. Zeke is coming across as untrustworthy to those who may eventually be on the jury. I have a feeling this may hurt his chances when the time comes.
We got three challenges for this extra-long episode. I love watching the individual immunity challenges as they tend to focus on endurance or determining the aptitude of the players. Andrea securing the first immunity victory was amazing to see as balancing challenges tend to be the hardest. She pulled it out and secured a first for this type of challenge. When it came to the second immunity challenge (grabbing onto a wooden log with foot holes), I figured it would come down to the same players as always – Ozzy, Tai and Andrea are the best with endurance competitions. The big surprise of the night was Ozzy losing the challenge. He bragged about trying to beat his last record and yet he lost to Tai. There was some satisfaction at seeing this play out. The players who have a big ego or become cocky are the ones who get blindsided and falter – this was all too real in the end.
Unfortunately, Hali and Ozzy were the two who got the axe. I give credit to Hali for making a bold argument in trying to keep herself in the game. She called out all the rumors that were surrounding her and did what she could to stay around. The only chance would’ve been if she turned against Michaela, but that didn’t look like it was going to happen. Hali is a subtle game changer; it’s a shame to see her go, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Ozzy’s elimination was amazing. I couldn’t believe Debbie was the one who turned the tide and convinced people to go after him. He’s a big threat and could’ve easily made it to the end. Her big mistake, though, was using the extra vote. She didn’t need to use it to get Ozzy out; she already had the majority secured. This extra vote would’ve been useful at a further point when the numbers start to dwindle. My gut is telling me this vote will come back to haunt her. She’ll need it at some point and it will work against her. Survivor has that way of enjoying karma’s cruel irony.