‘Survivor: Game Changers’ Premiere Recap – Full of Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits!


‘Survivor: Game Changers’ (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: XFINITY.com is the place to be for all of your bug-eatin’, back-stabbin’, “Survivor” coverage. During the season we’ll have insightful weekly Power Rankings, exit interviews, and full episode recaps. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

I was on location for the first three days of filming. So, the first half of this recap will be jam-packed with behind-the-scenes tidbits. Unfortunately, the second half will only be filled with obvious jokes. You can’t win them all.

Let’s do this!

We start off with our castaways on a boat…so technically they’ve yet to be cast away.

Tony immediately breaks down his Game Changing resume. And it’s pretty impressive; spy shacks, special idols, etc.

Malcolm is next, he tells us about the big moves he’s made in the past. The Three Amigo double-idol stratagem being the one that is highlighted.

Sandra, the show’s only two-time winner, lets us know that the “Queens stays queen.”

Cirie getting Erik to give up immunity in Micronesia is also called out.

Man, these folks changed…the…game.

Then, Debbie tells us that she has the tenacity of a squid.

Brad follows this up by saying they’ve all change the game.

All? Like everyone there?

It’s then that a guy in a logo-riddled cap says something about…

39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog…

Alright, let’s take a look at the tribes as they currently stand…

The Mana Tribe (wearing orangey-red)

Aubry, 30
Caleb, 28
Ciera, 27
Hali, 26
Jeff, 50
Malcolm, 29
Michaela, 25
Sandra, 41
Tony, 42
Troyzan, 54

The Nuku Tribe (wearing blue)

Andrea, 27
Brad, 47
Cirie, 45
Debbie, 51
JT, 31
Ozzy, 34
Sarah, 32
Sierra, 29
Tai, 52
Zeke, 28

The ship drops anchor and Jeff welcomes everyone to “Survivor: Game Changers.” He tells them that they all make moves, some big, some quiet. Fair enough.

JT thinks this season will crown the next two-time winner. Cirie disagrees.

After pleasantries are exchanged, Probst tells them that they’ll have a minute to grab what they can off of the boat. And in a fun twist, a large cache of tools is located in the water. The first person to reach it and untie it can claim it for their tribe.

Jeff sets them loose and Ozzy immediately dives for the tools. And, because it’s Ozzy, nobody bothers trying to compete with him.

Everyone else scrambles to grab what they can. In the chaos, Andrea uncovers an advantage, but doesn’t see it. Sierra eventually stumbles upon it and stashes it away. That’s gotta be rough for Andrea to watch after the fact.

As they dive into the water, Tai almost meets his maker when a chicken cage falls on top of him. Although, I imagine that’s how he’d want to go.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I can make fun of that now because Tai is OK, but when it happened, everyone on the crew freaked out. It looked really bad.

Once the chaos has died down, the two tribes paddle off to their respective beaches.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: The tribes paddling away with all of their goods is always a hilarious trainwreck. At one point Probst screamed, “(Expletive deleted), my kids paddle better!”

When the Mana tribe arrives at their beach, Tony immediately runs off into the woods to find the idol. He wasn’t trying to be subtle either, as he was screaming about it the whole way. Sandra is cool with that because he just made himself a target.

Tony claims that he was making a joke. But…you know…Tony.

Sandra and Caleb eventually catch up with Tony and tell him that he’s managed to upset everyone.

Over at Nuku Beach, Zeke tells us how excited he is to bathe in his opponents’ blood. I know that isn’t a literal statement, but c’mon.

The tribe finds a trio of goats, but Brad tells them not to bother because they’d have to kill Tai before they kill any goat. OK, that’s funny.

Also, nice to see that Brad isn’t the only goat on Nuku Beach.

Sierra sneaks away to check out her advantage. Apparently it’s a legacy advantage where she’ll be able to use it as an immunity idol when there are thirteen or six people left in the game. That’s oddly specific. She can also will the advantage to someone if she’s voted out.

Meanwhile, the Ozzy vs. Cirie narrative has immediately kicked off. They seem to make peace during a shelter building session, but Tai accidentally lets Cirie know that Ozzy might have it out for her.

The three quickest ways to spread info; telephone, telegraph, and tell-a-Tai. (Millennials will not get that joke.)

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Both tribes got a ton of food from the drop. The camps look like a WholeFoods produce section.

At Mana, Tony sneaks away so he can start building his Spy Bunker. And I was right! When I was on location I saw this weird hole…

Troyzan catches him digging and assumes he’s looking for an idol. Because you’d never expect a rational adult to dig himself a hidey hole.

Hali, Jeff, Ciera, Aubry, Malcolm, and Michaela meet at the water hole to discuss the latest development. Ciera wants to get rid of Tony or Caleb who is now considered Tony’s “Right-hand man.”

Quick Aside: While she’s talking, they show a cut-away of poor Caleb wiping out on the rocks at the beach. Dude’s trying to earn his second med-evac.

Jeff disagrees with this course of action because he wants to stay strong for challenges. This concerns Malcolm too because he wants to keep as many threats around as possible.

Ciera thinks she has an advantage because she has played with winners. Everyone who’s ever donned a buff has played with winners.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: I was totally there when this scene was shot. Apparently Sandra is a part of this clique, but she doesn’t want to get rid of Tony or Caleb either.

Oh…and by being the person to throw out names, Ciera has earned a target on her back. So sensitive these Game Changers.

Immunity Challenge Time: Seven players from each tribe will push a raft into the water. They’ll paddle out to a platform. From there, one player will swim to a second platform to retrieve a key. When the key has been obtained, all seven players will have to go over some obstacles on the way back to the beach. They’ll dig in the sand to retrieve two bags of puzzle pieces. Then one person will use the keys to unlock a third bag of puzzle pieces. The first tribe to complete the puzzle will win immunity and flint.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Debbie asked if they could play for a tarp, but Probst shut her down.

Debbie and Jeff will do the key portion. Zeke and Cirie and Sandra and Ciera will do the puzzle.

Before the game starts, Jeff tells everyone that tie votes will not lead to a revote. If there is a tie, a unanimous decision will have to be made amongst the remaining players. If a decision can’t be reached, they have to pull rocks.

The Survivors are ready…and they go.

It’s pretty even up until the swimming for the keys portion. Ozzy swims for Nuku and Hali swims for Mana. No offense to Hali, but you can imagine how that turned out.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Probst couldn’t tell who was swimming for Mana at first and kept calling her Malcolm.

Nuku is the first tribe back to the beach, they maintain this lead through the digging portion.

Varner is having some trouble with the keys and he gives Probst some serious attitude when he mentions it.

Debbie is the first to open her crate, Jeff isn’t far behind her.

The two duos go to work with Cirie and Zeke figuring it out to give Nuku the win.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: During the press challenge, it took Josh Wigler and I four minutes to complete this puzzle. In the game it took about twenty minutes. I was so sure that Ciera was going to remember this puzzle and win it for her tribe. I was very wrong.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: It was pointed out that Jeff Varner hasn’t won an immunity challenge since October 2000.

Politicking back at Mana beach starts off with Tony, Malcolm, Caleb, Jeff, and Aubry wanting to target Ciera. Sandra approaches this group and tells them that she’ll do whatever they want. Classic Sandra.

When Tony pushes her for an opinion, she tells him to tell her who they’re considering and then she’ll give her opinions. So good. She’s like a “Survivor” master class.

Ciera sidles up on the group and they tell her that they’re targeting Michaela. As you’d imagine, this news does not sit well with our favorite Millennial challenge beast.

Michaela has a low-key freak out, which is enough to have Tony and Sandra wondering if she’s worth keeping around.

That night at Tribal Council, there’s some ritual about having fire in your life or something.

Tony thinks this cast is way tougher than Cagayan.

Caleb hopes that his game being a bit of a mystery will help him.

Michaela isn’t sure if she made a great first impression. She thinks she’d be too easy of a first vote on a big season like “Game Changers.”

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbit: Malcolm’s torch blew out three times during this Tribal. I was freaking out.

Sandra calls Michaela a “pleasure” and says that everyone loves her.

Probst points out that voting out Sandra would make a big statement. Shut up, Jeff.

Sandra pitches herself as the perfect person to take to the end.

Hali wants to keep the tribe strong. She also says that “loose lips sink ships.”

Ciera is very concerned with Hali’s “loose lips” comment.

Voting Time: Ciera votes for Michaela, Michaela votes for Ciera, Sandra says, “Queen stays queen” for the fortieth time, and the rest of the votes are secret.

JPro tallies and returns. We’ve got one vote for Michaela, five votes for Ciera, and the first person voted out of “Survivor: Game Changers” is…Ciera.

Behind-the-Scenes Tidbits:

• Aubry was worried that there was a target on her back because there are so many “Kaoh Rong” players in the game. She said that she doesn’t know Caleb and Debbie didn’t vote for her. Malcolm said that sounds good, but he’s not sure he believes it.
• Varner expected a fast game like in “Second Chance,” but that’s not happening.
• Sandra didn’t think she was responsible for the challenge loss because they never had a lead.
• Ciera rolled her eyes when Tony said the whole tribe was one alliance.

What Was Said In the Voting Booth:

Note: I was in a dark room, so these quotes aren’t verbatim.

• Caleb voted for Ciera and said that she should have never named him as a target.
• Michaela voted for Ciera and said that honest people don’t play with stinky people.
• Tony voted for Ciera and said if anyone appreciates aggressive gameplay, it’s him. But Ciera’s timing was off.
• Ciera voted for Michaela and said she’d rather play with the devil she knows than the devil she doesn’t.
• Troyzan voted for Ciera and said he was voting with the majority.
• Sandra voted for Ciera and said she would have rather had Aubry go home, but Ciera wanted to split up Tony and Caleb.
• Varner voted for Ciera and said, “You wanted fireworks, boom!”
• Aubry voted for Ciera because she went from 0 to 60 too fast and didn’t know the terrain she was on.
• Malcolm voted for Ciera and said he had no interest in playing with her.
• Hali voted for Ciera and said she talks too much about other people in camp.

Note: Check out what Jeff Probst had to say after this Tribal.

The next morning, Sandra, Aubry, Malcolm, Caleb, and Tony form an alliance. Oh man, Malcolm, Sandra, and Tony?! DREAMLLIANCE!

That night, Tony sneaks out to work on his Spy Bunker™ again. He literally crawls into this hole and starts burying himself. So good. However, he’s interrupted by Sandra and Troyzan. He manages to sneak out without them seeing him. The duo is talking about who to vote out next. Tony approaches them and they give him a story about a crate being too close to the fire. Tony does not buy this.

Oh man.

Sure enough, this kicks off a Tony vs. Sandra war.

NOOOOOOOO! Work it out, guys. Please?

Gah…Sandra immediately gets Troyzan, Jeff, Michaela, and Hali onboard with her plan to boot Tony.

Tony realizes that something is up and approaches Aubry with a counterattack. He thinks they have Malcolm and Caleb on their side, so they only need to pull one other person.

Caleb thinks he can trust Tony more than he can trust Sandra. That’s like saying you’d enjoy a punch in the face more than a punch in the groin.

In even more crappy news, Cirie is having some troubles over at Nuku. Ozzy and JT are getting really close and she is clearly their first target. Cirie tries to make inroads with Sarah, Zeke, and Debbie, but it doesn’t seem like she has anything solid.

Also, Debbie is concerned with Tai’s love of chickens. She thinks they’ll eventually start looking like angus cattle. Wait, why do they have to look like other kinds of food?

Immunity Challenge Time: Six players from each team will run across a balance beam and then climb into a cage. They’ll then have to untie a 400-pound snake and pull it out of the cage. They’ll carry it back across the balance beam and then place it into a cradle. The other three members will open the snake to find tiles that have the combination to a lock. Once the lock is open they’ll be able to retrieve a set of rings. The first tribe to throw all eight of their rings onto a series of paddles will win immunity and a fishing kit.

Cirie will sit out for Nuku.

The first half of this challenge is a disaster for Mana. In fact, Nuku has five rings in place before Malcolm throws his first ring for Mana.

Malcolm manages to gain some ground, but it’s too little too late. Nuku wins their second immunity challenge and Jeff Varner’s losing streak continues.

As you’d imagine, Cirie is ecstatic.

Back at camp, Michaela is bummed that she didn’t get a chance to throw rings when Malcolm was clearly getting tired.

Hali, Troyzan, and Sandra are trying to get Caleb to vote with them. Tony approaches them, and they tell him that they’re targeting Aubry.

Tony doesn’t want Aubry to go home, but he’ll do whatever he needs to do to stay in the game. Dude didn’t do all that digging for nothing.

Caleb and Tony decide that getting Michaela to flip is their best bet because Michaela wants to win challenges. Caleb makes this pitch to Michaela and Jeff and it seems like they’re into it.

That night at Tribal Council, Tony thinks they need to keep the tribe strong for challenges. Malcolm and Michaela agree with Tony’s assessment.

This freaks Sandra out a little bit, so she points out that they had the strongest players in the right positions and still lost.

Troyzan doesn’t want to have to worry about someone running off at four in the morning.

A giant bug then attacks Sandra’s hair and everyone freaks out. You sleep in the woods! One bug?!

Tony says that he hasn’t been scamming anyone. Varner, Caleb, and Malcolm believe him.

Varner finishes it up by claiming that they’re a round hole and they’re going to get rid of the square peg.

Voting Time: Sandra votes for Aubry and says that Tony is going home, the rest of the votes are secret.

Probst tallies and returns. We’ve got one vote for Aubry, one vote for Tony, one vote for Aubry, three votes for Tony, and the second person voted out of “Survivor: Game Changers” is…Tony.


And what’s worse is Tony and Sandra get into it as Tony’s leaving. Rewind this whole episode! Be friends and work together!

Verdict: Neither of the votes was much of a surprise. Everyone was wary of Tony and Ciera in their pre-game interviews. But, watching Sandra stick and move was a pleasure. All future players should be forced to watch her seasons and dissect her game.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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