Survivor Game Changers: And the Winner Is…

After a two hour season finale where we saw the end of three players’ games, we finally saw who claimed the title of “sole survivor.”  But in typical Survivor fashion, there were still some hiccups and game-changing moments along the way.  This week, I’ll take a look at each of the final six players rather than recapping the most notable moments.  As always, spoilers ahead.

Cirie Fields:  In what was one of the most devastating moments of the game, Cirie saw her torched snuffed after having zero votes against her this entire season!  Unfortunately, Cirie was the victim of the insane tribal council where everyone was protected with an immunity idol or immunity necklace except for her, leaving her as the only player available to be ousted from the game, despite having no votes against her.  It was particularly sad since Cirie was able to get the target off of her back after her previous disastrous tribal council where she tried and failed to play Sarah’s vote stealer advantage.  Cirie ad Aubry were able to pull Tai onto their side and finally make a move to take out Sarah, the biggest threat in the game.  The plan would have worked if Sarah had not played her legacy advantage, which was left to her by Sierra.  The fact that Cirie was able to remain in the game coming in with the reputation she has is impressive and Survivor gave her the send-off she deserved, but it was still a tough pill to swallow and I hope the producers avoid having this many advantages in play at one time again so that we don’t see a player go out in this fashion in the future.

Aubry Bracco:  Aubry didn’t get a lot of air-time this season.  I suspect many players were weary of working with her because she was such a strategic threat on her first season and seen as the player who should have won.  We saw glimpses of her strategic prowess when she was the only player to put a vote on Brad at the final eight, which was the last chance anyone had to take Brad out before he went on his immunity winning spree.  We also again saw how masterfully she handles Tai when it seems like no one else can.  While Aubry was able to draw Tai into playing the idol to save her at the final six, she couldn’t make it past the next vote and we saw her exit at five.  I have high hopes that this isn’t the end of Aubry’s Survivor career and we’ll be seeing her again to close the deal.

Tai Trang:  Tai is so lovable! Is there anything worse than seeing him cry because of being bullied by Brad?  Also, was anyone else getting flashbacks of Scott Pollard when seeing Brad bully Tai into giving him the idol, which only made Tai flip once again to Aubry?  Tai can find immunity idols in his sleep and truly seems to care about people, but he appeared to be a frustrating and indecisive ally to have.  He made a good pitch for himself at the final four to try to force a fire making challenge, but it wasn’t enough to earn him a spot in the final three.  Despite Tai’s wishy-washiness, I enjoyed watching him this season and would look forward to seeing him play again with a little more eye on strategy in the future.

Troyzan Robertson:  Troyzan is another player who barely got screentime this season.  Troyzan aligned himself with Brad early on which cemented his status in the final three.  Considering he didn’t want to get bamboozled by the women like he was during his first season, it’s unsurprising that he made tight allies with the one alpha male left on the island.  In an older season where players didn’t respect strategy and gameplay as much, Troyzan might have had a decent chance to win, but his understated social game that involved being nice to everyone wasn’t enough to garner him any votes this season.  His closing speech at the final tribal council acknowledged this with grace which the jury and viewers appreciated.

Brad Culpepper:  We really saw the rise and fall of Brad Culpepper this season.  He began the season incredibly strong socially, easily manipulating players like Tai into doing what he wanted.  He also went on an immunity run, becoming one of the few players in Survivor history to win five immunity challenges.  But we saw what a toll the stress of 39 days on an island in Survivor has on a person.  By the final four, Brad was barking orders at Tai and coming off as a bully.  He also made the fatal flaw of deciding to eliminate whoever did him the most “wrong” at the final three, instead of taking who he had the best chance to beat. As we saw when Jeff polled the jury at the live finale show, if Brad had taken Tai to the end despite his bitter feelings, he had a much better chance of eeking out the win.  But instead, Brad let emotions get to him and misread the jury, assuming their bitterness towards Sarah would guarantee him the win, and he was wrong.  Although he managed to gain three votes for the win, it wasn’t enough to beat Sarah and Brad found himself in second place, the same position his wife Monica finished during their first season together.

Sarah Lacina:  I end with our Game Changers Sole Survivor.  Sarah played what can only be described as a Tony game, but arguably better.  Sarah played right down the middle post-merge, making friend with everyone.  She also betrayed almost everyone but did it in a way that a jury didn’t hold against her.  She was on the right side of every vote, and as Zeke pointed out, that was because she was controlling every vote.  (Can anyone hope for a better jury champion than Zeke? He is so articulate and smart and anyone would be lucky to have him making their case for them.)  Sarah cleaned up her own messes after every tribal council unlike Tony, who had Trish go to bat for him over and over again when he blindsided everyone, including her.  And Sarah did this all of this as a women, which is not a small feat in Survivor history where women who betray their allies rarely are respected.  Sarah never lost her focus in the game and found advantages that were right in front of other players’ faces throughout the game.  She managed to find out about Sierra’s legacy advantage, convince Sierra to will it to her if she were to be voted out, vote Sierra out, and then actually have Sierra leave her the advantage.  This move saved Sarah’s game when she actually played it to save herself at the final six when she was finally on the chopping block.  Sarah also managed to convince Brad that she wasn’t someone who could beat him so he took her to the final three.  She handled the new final tribal council format perfectly, relating her gameplay to her career as a police officer.  She put people on the jury, like Zeke and Michaela, who were her vocal champions at the final tribal council, and showed Brad, the lawyer, how to really sway a jury.  She clearly deserved to win and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.  Congratulations Sarah Lacina!

There are so many other things that happened this season that I can discuss.  Was Sarah right not to take Tai’s offer to force fire at the final three vote? (Yes.)  Is this new final tribal council jury round-table better? (Yes.)  But for now, I think I’ll leave it at this for Survivor Game Changers.

Survivor Season 35, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, begins in the fall and I look forward to being back here with recaps then.  Thanks for following along with me this season.

Photo Credit: CBS

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Priya lives and works in New York City. She is an avid consumer of all things pop culture and celebrity gossip. In her free time, she loves watching Netflix and Youtube. Her favorite shows currently in rotation are Survivor, Homeland, Girls, and Shameless.

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