survivor recap: go fish???

Logo_MainPage_SliderRemember last week, when I said we were heading toward all holy hell breaking out at an upcoming Tribal Council? Welp, we got it! With so many advantages, immunity idols and sneaky players floating around, it was only a matter of time before something broke and turned into a Jerry Springer episode. But before we get to that, let’s first mourn the loss of one of the players who truly had a shot at winning: Andrea.

She fought off Jeff Probst’s torch snuffer (that’s not a euphemism) twice in the past and maneuvered her way into a power position in the game. She was calling the shots and building a reputation as a gamer. But, if being a fan of Survivor has taught me anything, it’s that an alliance of five is held together with Scotch tape and hope. They are always much easier to break apart than hold together.

Vo_andrea_gcFor all of Andrea’s strengths in the game, she (and the other players) seem completely oblivious to the fact that Cirie is running circles around the rest of the players…and it cost Andrea dearly. But it wasn’t just Cirie who fragged Andrea. Sarah made a strong-yet-predictable move in pushing Andrea out of the game, too. Sarah’s been in a power position for a few tribals now. She rightfully recognized Andrea as a threat.

Though I have to admit I found it slightly shocking that the alliance of five—Andrea, Aubry, Cirie, Michaela and Sarah—broke up during this vote. It would’ve made more sense to give Culpepper the boot. He’s a perceived threat and did not have the immunity necklace around his neck. That belonged to the incomparable Aubry (full disclosure: my favorite player). The stars were perfectly aligned for the five to stick together for at least one more vote.

lfsfu0hr.pngWhat the Hell was That, Michaela?
Before going too far, I want to throw something out there: what the hell was Michaela’s plan in telling Culpepper to “go fish?” Seriously, what was that supposed to accomplish? For someone whom I thought was a smart player, Michaela’s done a lot of things this season that don’t make a lot of sense.

The fact that she’s made it this far in the game isn’t testimony to her game play. It actually speaks to her poor attitude. If I’m on that island, I want to be sitting next to her at the Final Tribal Council because I’d be certain she wouldn’t get any votes. Being an arrogant, mouthy, selfish ball hog doesn’t make you a champion. It makes you an insurance policy for other players. Cirie recognized that right away and seduced Michaela the first chance she got. And Michaela bought it hook, line and sinker.

Jury Strategery
Even though I love the drama of watching an alliance collapse upon itself, it didn’t make much strategic sense. Perhaps it’s about positioning for the jury or something, but even then, did it have to be right now? Looking at the current jury, Culpepper has probably only one vote in his favor (Sierra). He’s written Andrea’s name down three times. I doubt she’s going to reward that; especially since he didn’t orchestrate her ouster.

It’s pointless to speculate on the jury right now, though. Who knows what they’ll decide in the final Tribal Council? My only hope is they’re not big babies about solid game play. If a jury member holds a grudge over being blindsided, that jury member doesn’t belong there. Blindsides are a big part of winning strategy.

SurvivorGameChangers_TribalCouncilTribal Council Chaos
More on the jury later. We haven’t even discussed the last Tribal Council, which turned into one of the most revealing councils of the season. Culpepper winning immunity on Day 35 was big, although I don’t think it was certain that he’d get voted off the island; not with players like Cirie and Sarah in the eye of the storm. But his immunity win did force an already fragmented alliance to either band together or fall apart.

True to form, it fell apart. And that’s not very surprising, when you consider how it all played out.

With Culpepper wearing the immunity necklace, Sarah’s game play suddenly comes into focus a bit more for everyone. People took note of her feigned shock over Sierra’s vote a couple Tribals prior. Is Sarah playing to the jury? To Sierra? What’s up with that? It didn’t take long for Cirie to sort out that Sarah was legit. So why is it taking so long for everyone else to catch on that Cirie is a major threat?

After that last Tribal Council, though, I can’t imagine anyone is going to trust Cirie too much. Prior to going into Tribal Council, Cirie and Sarah seemed to be colluding to vote out Tai. Or was it Aubry? Now, I can’t remember, but for whom they were planning to vote was less important than what Sarah did next: she gave Cirie her secret “steal a vote” advantage as a show of trust. In the moment—and even right now—that made no sense to me. I’ve always been of a mind that if you’re holding any sort of advantage, you never let it go. Ever. Because the moment you hand it over to an opponent, it will be used against you. Perhaps Sarah was merely testing Cirie’s trust or she was genuinely trying to gain Cirie’s loyalty. Either way, it turned out to be the launching point to yet another epic Tribal Council.

Cirie kept her promise to use Sarah’s advantage (against Sarah?) at Tribal Council. Only there was one problem: it is non-transferrable. DOH! Did Sarah know that? She seemed to know that, which leads me to believe she was testing Cirie. And Cirie FAILED! She was planning to hoist Sarah on her own petard and ended up exposing herself as the rat.

With Cirie’s master plan lying in tatters at her feet, Sarah snatched back her advantage. And that’s when all order went out the window. Long story short: the whispering began again, Michaela got mouthy, Tai was somehow in the middle of it all and Cirie was pleading her case that she was actually acting in Sarah’s best interest (uhhh…what?).

In the end, Sarah decided to steal Tai’s vote (dowhatnow?), seemingly putting the target on Tai. But, apparently, that was a ruse to throw Cirie and Michaela off the scent of her actual plan: vote out Michaela in a complete and total blindside. Shockingly, Tai did not play one of his hidden Immunity Idols, despite receiving votes from Michaela and Aubry. Cirie, weirdly, voted for Aubry. Culpepper and Troyzan joined Sarah in voting for Michaela, sending her packing.

It was a lot to process in five minutes of TV time, honestly. Initially, it seemed Sarah would target Cirie for her apparently betrayal and vote her out. Instead, she went after her in a much more gangster way: she took out Cirie’s unwitting No. 1, taking away her favorite pet. The move only makes sense if Cirie is next on Sarah’s chopping block. If she’s not, then you’ve done nothing more than guarantee one jury vote for Cirie. Sarah’s been a smart player and must recognize that.

In spite of all the nuttiness at Tribal Council, the most baffling moment for me was Tai’s decision to not play his idol. He has two! For my money, that’s a HUGE gamble to take at this stage of the game. He put all his trust in Sarah, it would appear. That just seems crazy to me.

SURVIVOR game changers aubry eyerollThe Wrong Side of the Vote
And, once again, Aubry is on the wrong side of a major decision. As one of the smarter players in Survivor, that will certainly continue to bother her. She knows she needs to beef up her résumé if she wants a shot at winning. No matter the season you play, you have to have big moves in your column to convince the jury you’re worthy of the million dollars.

For better or worse, blindsides and bold moves outweigh any sort of performance in challenges or your ability to socialize at camp. Does anyone care that Ozzy was a great provider? Hell no! They don’t even care if you’re a challenge beast (unless you’re an unlikely challenge beast, like Cochran). All this is running through Aubry’s over-active brain, which is leading to her frustration. She’s running out of runway to ramp up a game as a serious competitor. Still, she’s my favorite player.

Survivor-Game-Changers-2017-Spoilers-Week-10-Sneak-Peek-17-550x310Big Move of the Week
Normally, Culpepper winning a crucial Immunity Challenge would qualify as the biggest move. After all, he’d probably be on the jury next week without it. But I’m going with Officer Sarah’s decision to hand Cirie her hidden advantage. Whether it was calculated or accidental, it created the flashpoint to a lot of chaos at Tribal Council. Most of all, it exposed Cirie’s game to Sarah. We’ll see if Sarah uses this information to her advantage.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.31.24 AMSurvivor Employee of the Week
In an episode rife with big moves, important victories and shocking votes, I’m going with my favorite player: Aubry. No, it wasn’t the biggest win of the season. But she’s my favorite player, so there!

Breaking Down the Final Six
I’ll provide a deeper breakdown of the remaining players next week. In the meantime, here’s how I’d seed the finalists:

1. Officer Sarah. She’s sitting on a legacy advantage and is playing a sharp, strategic game. But she’s got a big decision coming up: who’s the greater threat? Culpepper or Cirie?

2. Culpepper. He’s won two Immunity Challenges—none bigger than on Day 35—and has been adept at keeping his head off the chopping block. He’ll need to win another Immunity, more than likely, if he wants to advance.

3. Cirie. She’s still dangerous, but exposed. If she survives the next Tribal Council, it’s because she played either Sarah against Culpepper or (more likely) the other way around.

4. Aubry. She needs to be on the right side of the next couple votes; otherwise, she’s an also-ran in this game.

5. Troyzan. Dude is just floating along, avoiding suspicion. He’s won Immunity, has an idol in his pocket and hasn’t had his name written down once this season. This guy is a dark horse.

6. Tai. I love Tai. I really do. But I can’t tell if he’s crazy or crazy like a fox. He’s cheated death a few times in this game (as well as won Immunity once), but is he cheating death because of his game play or in spite of it? Normally, a player with two hidden idols in his pocket at this stage in the game should be a Top 3 contender, but Tai’s so unpredictable that I have no faith in his ability to play them properly.

Predictions for Next Week
Someone’s going to win. Michaela will roll her eyes. And Debbie will say something self absorbed and stupid.

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monday, 14 may 2007: the decision that changed everything.

000_0459Ten years ago today, I started working for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. At the time I took that job, I told myself it was going to be a major turning point in my career.

I said this because it fulfilled several goals for me:

  1. I wanted to work in a downtown office in a big building (Chamber’s offices were on the 19th floor of Chase Tower, Indiana’s tallest building)
  2. I wanted a job that connected me to the movers and shakers in Indy
  3. I wanted a job that expanded my role and responsibilities

With those three boxes checked, I immediately believed my career and life trajectory would take a drastic turn, thanks to the Chamber opening doors for me. I was only half right. Ten years ago today, my life’s trajectory took a drastic turn. But it never went to where I expected.

I had it all going for me. So why did I leave that job after one year and eight months? “Mid-life crisis,” is how I usually answer that question, jokingly, but it was more than that. So let’s take a look back in time, eh?

This is where the story begins.

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Chase Tower (now called Salesforce Tower). The tallest building in Indiana is smack-dab in the middle of Indianapolis. And I loved working there.

May 2007: Suite 1950
That was (and is) the Indy Chamber’s suite address at Chase Salesforce Tower in downtown Indianapolis. Truly an impressive structure, it is the tallest skyscraper in Indiana. Each day, I would be going to work in the heart of Indianapolis. While some folks hate the Urban Jungle, I love it. “Welcome, Kevin MacDonald” was written on a printed sign, greeting me as I pushed open the glass double doors on my first day. I walked down the hall, past a small cube farm—a cubicle “garden,” if you will—took a right at the Chamber president’s corner office and arrived at my office, about a third the way down the hall. There it was. My own office on the eastern side of 19th floor of the Tower. I felt important. I felt like a bigshot. I really did.

I’ll spare you the day-to-day details of my tenure there because, really, it’ll sound like the goings-on at any office in America.

The reality is my Chamber gig was great. But it was a volatile place. Not in the sense that people were screaming at each other and you’d have to duck a stapler being thrown at you. It was more subtle than that; more understated than that. Turnover there was high, that I recall. I did the math on it once and it was something like nearly 10 people had left over the course of a year or something.

It was a pressure-cooker job, but that didn’t bother me. I loved the Chamber and everything we were trying to accomplish while I worked there. In fact, I am still very loyal to that place. Sure, my frustration with certain elements of the job led me to bang my head against a wall to ease the pain, but isn’t that the same at any job? Truth is, I bought into the Chamber’s mission. It was an organization founded by Col. Eli Lilly to make Indianapolis a better place. That truly meant something to me.

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Riding the elevator to the 19th floor. Clearly, I was a serious man with a serious job.

My All-Time Favorite Chamber Experience
Working for the Chamber also availed be access to the major players in the business community as well as the political community. Even though I was a bit player at the Chamber, I was still privy to knowledge of big doins’ around town. My favorite story is of the city’s successful bid to land Super Bowl XLVI. It was May 2008 when Indy’s host committee presented before the NFL owners. Local businesswoman and past Chamber board chair Cathy Langham was on that committee.

Having met her and spoken with her at several Chamber events in the past, I asked her to call me with the results of the vote. I had a Post-It note with her cell phone number stuck to my computer monitor, in case I didn’t hear from her. She called me immediately following the vote to tell me we won the bid. This moment in my professional history is one of my all-time favorite moments because, for about 10 – 20 seconds, I knew something REALLY BIG before anyone else in Indianapolis knew.

About the time I hung up the phone, I could hear other phones ringing around the offices and cheers of “we got it!” Within minutes, it was breaking news on local television. But for about 10 seconds, thanks to my connection with Cathy, I knew before anyone else.

No, I can’t put that on a résumé, but it represents one of the more unique and interesting aspects of working for the Chamber.

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The road to this place…

About That “Mid-life Crisis”
Yeah, about that. Around the same time I was working at the Chamber, I had another goal, competing with my realized Chamber goals. For those who don’t know me, this particular life goal I’m referencing may seem like it’s out of nowhere. In some ways, it was, but it was what I wanted and in my head, I started to plot and plan for it right around New Year 2008.

What is this life goal? I wanted to be a dice dealer at a resort on the Las Vegas Strip. As a communications manager for the Indy Chamber, I couldn’t have been farther away from that goal. I hadn’t been a dealer since about May 2001. That’s a long hiatus for a job that requires some intense mathematical skill as well as the manual dexterity to not look like an idiot, fumbling cheques all over a dice table. But as the weeks and months went by, the desire to be a dealer again grew with every passing day.

blue-chip-casino-and

…would go through this place: Blue Chip floatin’ Casino! Michigan City, Indiana.

Was I burnt out on being a PR monkey? Maybe, but as my fire for communications seemed to be fading, I became more and more in love with the idea of being a Vegas dealer for a few, simple reasons: I could make decent money at a job that was stress-free (by comparison) and never required me to work extra hours from home. I could go to work, do my job, then go home and not think about it until my next shift. That seemed so desirable at the time. It really did.

Of course, that also meant bidding adieu to my favorite side hustle of all time: PA announcer for the IUPUI Jaguars athletics program. I had just wrapped up seven-ish seasons of working the mic for every men’s and women’s home basketball game (save one, when a flat tire sidelined me), a few softball games and most of the men’s and women’s soccer matches. At the time, I thought this was the end of my era. So did they. The good people of IUPUI even honored me at the final home game of the 2007 season with a plaque in recognition of my time there. It was humbling, but nice to be appreciated. Sure, at the time, we all thought that was the end of the road for me. But I pulled a Jordan (or a Magic, or a KISS) and came out of retirement when I got back to Indy in 2010, working another three years or so before officially retiring. No, they did not give me a plaque this time, but we parted on positive terms.

Welcome Back!
As for becoming a Vegas dice dealer, I knew I couldn’t simply pack my life into my Blazer and skip across country on a lark. For one, the casinos have gone corporate. They no longer will take an audition from someone in black-and-whites who wanders in, just because you asked. And two, I hadn’t dealt in seven years at that point. I had to “get my dealing hands back,” as I told people.

To do that, I turned to an old friend: Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana. I worked there for about a year and a half in between my job at IU South Bend and IUPUI. Blue Chip welcomed me back with open arms, offering me full-time employment as a dice dealer on the graveyard shift. I took it. I still remember taking the phone call from John, the shift manager, when he offered me the job. “We want you to come back,” he said on the phone. It sounds corny, but that meant something to me, hearing that. It felt good to know I was appreciated (well, before I got on a live dice game again, at least).

Amidst several familiar faces and many more new ones, I made my return to the gaming floor over Fourth of July weekend 2008. My very first shift was all blackjack, highlighted by getting stuck on a table for the first 2-1/2 hours of my night, thanks to a shift manager who had forgotten about my table. “Welcome back!” he said, once alerted to the problem. That guy’s in prison now (for other reasons we don’t need to discuss).

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My Chamber office. One of the coolest offices I’ll ever have.

Meanwhile, Back at the Chamber
The good people at the Chamber allowed me to work part-time, remotely for a few months. Initially, the arrangement was…well, let’s be honest: it was a struggle for everyone. Working a graveyard shift meant I was trying to do Chamber work when I should’ve been sleeping. I ended up taking projects to the casino with me and writing news releases, newsletter articles and whatnot during my 20-minute breaks. It was hard for everyone involved; harder than they wanted to say (until it had to be said).

I made my way to Indianapolis about once a week or so to check in at the office. But by the time we reached October, it was clear this was no longer working. At the time, it was hard to admit that. But it was the simple truth. I couldn’t be in two places at once—mentally or physically—so I had to make a decision. By the time Halloween 2008 rolled around, I was no longer working at the Chamber.

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Employee #040776 at Wynn Resorts.

By November of the following year, I relocated to Las Vegas and was working as a dice dealer at the Wynn and Encore; the finest resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

I walked away from one goal to pursue another goal. And got it within 18 months.

Mission accomplished and they all lived happily ever after, right? If only…

Oh Yeah…There’s More
What I didn’t tell you is, in the midst of all this mid-life crisis nonsense was, of course, a girrrrrl. I know, I know. Cliché, no?

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On a break in the EDR (employee dining room) during a shift at the Encore.

We met while I was working at the Chamber and started going out. It was going very well until you-know-who decided he had to run off and join the circus and that was more important. Yeah, tell me THAT goes over well with the ladies, am I right? “Sorry, honey. You’re great an all, but I wanna go to a place where I’ll be surrounded by degenerate gamblers, hookers, endless smoking and drinking and all manner of social addictions. Gottagobyeeeeee!” I’m a real charmer, I know.

Out of respect for her, I will not share the details of our conflicts beyond simply saying it didn’t work out. That’s all that needs to be said. I’ll simply say that decision of mine set off a three-year, off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-living-together rollercoaster ride of a relationship that never settled into a good place for either of us.

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My first Las Vegas apartment, just as I was moving out. And yes, that’s about as furnished as it ever got.

Our relationship played heavily into my decision to move back to Indiana from Las Vegas in March 2010—not even five months after moving to Vegas. The other major reason was the economy. I was the low man on the totem pole at work and getting very few shifts. There was also a rising sense that I made the jump too soon. Sure, in my heart, I was ready to go to Vegas. But from a rational standpoint, I probably needed a little more time so I could establish myself. The struggle to stay afloat seemed too daunting and, given what the heart wanted at the time, it seemed best to pack up and move back to Indiana. Even though my employment prospects were pretty bleak in that moment, I knew I was coming home to the love and support of family, friends and The Girl.

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On the road back to Indiana, late-March 2009. Gassing up somewhere in America in the middle of the night. I was broke. My car was broke. It was nothing short of an adventure.

We all lived happily ever after, right? Well…fast forward 10 years later, Sunday, 14 May 2017 and here I am. Living in Las Vegas.

Again.

How did that happen? I’ll save the rest of the intervening years (2010 – present) for another day. It’s an interesting story by itself, but let’s stay focused on my 10-year anniversary of going to work for the Chamber. There’s good reason I want to do that.

The Fulcrum
Even though the jump from the Chamber to Blue Chip in 2008 feels like the turning point for everything that followed, it was really my decision to work for the Chamber in 2007 that served as the true fulcrum; the actual jumping-off point of every life decision I would make to follow. Without my move to the Chamber, none the dominoes that fell to put me where I am today—and where I’ve been over the past 10 years—would’ve have fallen the same way. Again, goes back to that “trajectory” thing. Moving to the Chamber set the course.

My stint with the Chamber has also cast a long shadow over the past 10 years of my life; mostly in a good way. Other times, not so much. Either way, I embrace it all. Sure, there were a few more bumps in the road than I would’ve preferred, but that’s life, man. There will always be bumps in the road. How you navigate over them and around is what matters.

There is no moral to this story; no fairytale ending or any of that crap. It’s a simple reflection on a moment in time in a series of moments in time that proved more pivotal than I ever anticipated. I thought I was just taking a new job that would advance my career. It turned out to be so much more than that.

As I sit here, less than a month away from embarking on a new professional journey, I can’t help but consider the parallels between then and now. Just as I did 10 years ago, I approach my unwritten future with excitement and happiness.

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Somehow, I ended up back in Vegas. Go figure.

How Did I Get Here?
There are mornings when I’m driving to work and I catch myself admiring the mountains in the distance that surround Las Vegas. I’ll turn off NPR and drive in silence, appreciating the Sheep Range mountains to the north, which loom over my morning commute, every Monday thru Friday.

I’ll look across the skyline to the east and trace the outline of iconic Las Vegas Strip resorts—the Stratosphere, standing tall like a needle in the desert; the Wynn, like a piece of shiny, curved glass, gleaming in the sun; the High Roller, slowly rotating like a giant bicycle wheel. As I approach downtown, I laugh at the fact that I’ve passed no less than five local casinos to get to work…and lament that I have to drive directly into a tangle of highways colloquially known by locals as “The Spaghetti Bowl.”

I allow myself to appreciate the scenery, the weather, the gigantic tourist attraction that pays my taxes (thank you, tourists!) and another day of drawing breath, and I ask myself, “how the hell did I get here?”

The answer: it all started on Monday, the 14th of May, 2007, when I went to work for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce…

Sure, the last four or five years have been every bit the roller coaster as that 2007 – 12 stretch, but we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I will never stop appreciating everything—and the support of everyone—that led me to this moment.

Even the bumps along the way.

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survivor re-cap: nothing to see here, folks!

Game-Changers-e1486573854660.jpgIn a season called Game Changers, tonight’s episode would’ve been better off being called “predictable.” It was the obligatory loved one visit episode of Survivor tonight, followed by a whole lotta nothing to see here, folks! While I don’t mind the tears and emotion from the players (who’ve been completely cut off from their families and friends for more than a month, at this point in the game), it’s really only a part of Survivor as a McGuffin to create a little bit of drama where none otherwise existed.

Who’s going on the reward? Are they taking me? Why didn’t they take ME?!?!

Bah! Who cares? Let’s have some real drama, please!

”Calm down!”
There’s always one who overreacts in the moment. Not surprisingly, it was Michaela who took it all a bit too personally when she was left behind. While Michaela, Sierra, Troyzan and Tai moped in the ocean, a motley crew of Andrea, Aubry, Cirie, Culpepper and Sarahshared a jungle barbecue with loved ones. It is no exaggeration to call this the oldest trick in Survivor’s book.

The entire point of this challenge is to stir emotions, positive and negative. Despite a few post-challenge outbursts from Michaela (shocking), the players seemed to accept the results and move onto strategy. But I did love it when Michaela’s mother had a very “mom” moment and told her daughter to “calm down!” when Michaela was throwing a tantrum.

 

mayim-blossom

All that was missing was some sort of argument with Six over a boy…or something. I don’t know. I never watched Blossom.

Special Episodes of Blossom Had More Drama Than This
Even though there was some light chatter about sending Culpepper home, all the attention focused squarely on Andrea and Sierra. And I’m not so sure the players made the right move, but we’ll get to that later.

 

It was really a fairly quiet boring episode with little in the way of actual game-changing moves. Seriously, everybody just sort of muddled along until Tribal Council. Honestly, was anyone surprised? And Sierra, true to form, went out with a dull whimper. For someone who knew she was on the chopping block, she did remarkably little to save herself. Special episodes of Blossom had more drama than this, for Christ’s sake!

Perhaps that’s because Culpepper won his first individual Immunity Necklace tonight, thus rendering moot any thoughts of sending him packing. In terms of distinguishing oneself as a championship-caliber player in this game, Culpepper really needed a necklace. I’m a firm believer that a Survivor champion’s game should be an equilateral triangle of performance at challenges, big, strategic moves and a strong social game that keeps your name off the parchment.

NerdAlertBannerSquare.pngGame of Geometry
Right now, Andrea is the closest to equilateral, with Culpepper right behind. Everyone else is working off all manner of isosceles and scalene triangles. It’s not pretty (look it up!). The fact that Andrea has quietly moved herself into the driver’s seat of this game is a bit shocking and impressive. I’ve never doubted her Survivor acumen, but she really and truly snuck up on bigger, bolder players in recent days while having to fend off serious attempts to snuff her torch. If you consider Hali as a player who faced similar circumstances, look at the start contrast in strategy to survive and advance. Hali never started playing until Tribal Council. Andrea? She never stops.

160129104607-12-break-up-movies-breakup-super-169The Break-up
I understand the strategery behind voting out Sierra tonight. It was about splitting up a voting bloc to further put Culpepper in a deep hole. If you don’t break up a power couple in Survivor, they will run the entire game.

Poor Culpepper. His alliance has essentially crumbled all around him in a matter of days. Unless he can sweet-talk Tai and another free agent or two (Michaela?), he’s going to need to win a couple more immunity challenges to save himself. As it stands, Culpepper has become the No. 1 target with one remaining ally: Troyzan. And if Troyzan’s smart, he’ll start shopping for a new alliance soon, lest he wants to be picked off too.

242e304d9db88ff0763d03104f50f167Lord of the Jungle?
Let’s talk about Troyzan for a moment. He is an athletic player and seems to have a sense of strategy in this game. Yet, here we are again, looking at Troyzan on the wrong side of an alliance. Sure, it wasn’t as blatant as his previous turn in Survivor One World, but his alliance—which was fairly tight a couple weeks ago—has completely fallen apart around him.

That may appear to put him in a bad spot, but he does have a hidden Immunity Idol in his pocket and I doubt he’ll be dumb enough to not play it. With the right votes happening around him, Troyzan could find himself in the catbird seat at the end of the game because, as of right now, he’s been a part of one, big move (Ozzy’s ouster) without voting against majority of the current jury. Could that play to his advantage in a Final Tribal Council (providing the jury members are smarting over getting betrayed and want to take it out on their Judas)? Too soon to tell, though, because Troyzan is not the only player with untold advantages in this game.

 

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No, Russell Hantz is not on this season of Survivor. But he is the Survivor Patron Saint of All Holy Hell in this game, no?

All Holy Hell
On the surface of the game, Survivor is in a very calm, predictable state…sort of like a powder keg with a lit wick. Sure, it’s calm, until the flame reaches the keg. That’s how I see Survivor right now. We’ve already had some great and explosive Tribal Councils this season, but I think we’re very, very close to seen All Holy Hell break loose!

 

Between Troyzan’s hidden Immunity Idol, Tai’s TWO hidden idols and now Sarah’s two advantages—having been bequeathed Sierra’s Legacy Advantage last night—the stars are aligned for a perfectly crazy night around Jeff Probst’s Tribal campfire! With so much hidden treasure waiting to be exposed (let’s not forget Sarah’s other advantage in the game: the chance to steal a vote) we could be looking at, quite possibly, the most explosive Tribal Council of the season.

Oh, I hope so. I really, really hope so.

Survivor-Game-Changers-2017-Spoilers-Week-10-Sneak-Peek-17-550x310Big Move of the Week
Officer Sarah has, once again, made a brilliant move to advance her game on many levels. In addition to gaining Sierra’s trust as a close ally in order to be first in line for the Legacy Advantage, Sarah also successfully rallied the votes to get her “close ally” bounced out of the game. That’s some gangster shit, right there!

Perhaps Sierra will wake up to the betrayal at the Final Tribal Council—should Sarah make it that far—but I doubt it. Sierra was too passive in this game. She really didn’t pose much of a threat and Sarah exploited that. Sure, they chose to take out a pawn tonight instead of a rook (or a bishop, or whatever, in Andrea), but Sarah made off like a bandit by acquiring Sierra’s wares. That’s a solid, Survivor move right there.

SURVIVORSurvivor Employee of the Week
I’m giving it to Culpepper. He needed a big performance and he delivered twice; first, in the Reward Challenge and again in the Immunity Challenge. Sarah’s a close second, but Culpepper gets it because he had to win tonight.

Sure, he lost his closest ally in the game, but he probably would’ve been taken out tonight otherwise. Winning a must-win challenge—even if you don’t realize it—is a big deal to me.

 

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Andrea’s moving her way up the chart. Fast.

The Haves
I’m still calling Sarah my top seed, but Andrea may have moved into a tie with her. Andrea’s been playing a more out-in-the-open game—and has staved off elimination twice while winning immunity twice—so her résumé is getting more and more impressive. Sarah’s playing more like a sniper, lurking in the shadows and maintaining a quiet dominance over the social aspect of Survivor.

After thee two, I’d put Cirie in at No. 3, but I’ve got to believe her backroom strategizing is going to catch up with her. She’s widely regarded as the smartest player out there by her contemporaries. And Cirie is the only player who can be a liability in challenges it won’t ever count against her. Figure that out.

 

The Maybes
If I had to rank the remaining five players, it would look something like this:

aubry-bracco-survivor-kaoh-rong-winner-620x3604. Aubry—Because she’s positioned herself on the right side of an alliance, but needs a big move under her belt to gain street cred. Aubry’s proven herself to be influential and perceptive—and a better competitor in the challenges than people might expect—but she needs to take out a big player to make people see her as a threat.

5. Culpepper—For now. He could fall next week, so he needs to step up and rebuild his alliance fast. No one is on shakier ground right now than Brad. If he doesn’t win the next Immunity Challenge, he will be going home.

6. Troyzan—He’s been an underdog this entire game, but found his footing when he joined the move to get rid of Ozzy. Culpepper’s been shielding him, to this point. Where Troyzan will either make or break his game is deciding when to stab Culpepper in the back. I don’t think he could win over the jury sitting next to Culpepper. Timing is everything.

7. Michaela—She’s starting to move out from Cirie’s shadow and play her own game. Although she’s only moved herself up to “swing vote” status. No one respects a swing voter enough to give that person a million dollars. It’s like being a permanent traitor. I still don’t think she can win, regardless, but she needs to make a big move to give herself a fighting chance. That means she has to knock off Sierra, Andrea and/or Sarah. Good luck, kid.

8. Tai—Perhaps I’m being disrespectful of Tai’s game, but I can never tell if he’s operating on strategy or just rolling with whomever gains his trust the day of a vote. Unbeknownst to everyone else, he has two hidden Immunity Idols. Finding idols is a good skill, but not enough to advance your lot in Survivor. Knowing how and when to play them is going to be critical to Tai’s fortunes. He’s going to have to take big risks and play like free agent for a couple votes, I think, to move up into the upper tier. He may be sitting at No. 8 right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t move up into The Haves next week. He most definitely could.

Predictions for Next Week
If the bottom five were smart, they’d start picking off Sarah, Andrea and Cirie as soon as possible, but that’s less a prediction and more wishful thinking to stir up the drama. More likely is the girls gang up on the boys and either eliminate Culpepper or Immunity Idols are played and we finally get the All Holy Hell Tribal Council! Hey, a fella can dream.

Also next week, we’ll start examining the jury to look at potential voting outcomes. Stay tuned!

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survivor re-cap: the lady doth protest too much.

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If they were giving out awards on Survivor for most mercurial player, there’s no question who would win: Michaela; hands down. Just when I think she’s going to start playing the game for real, she resorts to her usual shenanigans (for this season, at least) of making a spectacle of herself at Tribal Council. And let’s be real for a minute here: did anyone buy her crocodile tears routine? If that’s gamesmanship, she’s going to have to explain whom she thought she was fooling. Was it her way of trying to swing a vote in the just-ousted Zeke? As though she were signaling to him, “it wasn’t me!” Do you really think Zeke would buy it, much less, respect it? After all, you’ve written Zeke’s name down THREE TIMES in the past four votes! C’mon, Michaela. Get real. The lady doth protest too much.

edbd2a54f2b5edf95a7f78fbcd0e7f87As for voting off Zeke at this stage in the game, it’s not a bad play. That being said, I was in complete agreement with Michaela about picking off one of the remaining bottom four players. This is where her understanding of the game is strong. She understands the numbers better than most players. She was keenly aware that going into the next Tribal Council at 6-3 is significantly better than 5-4. But then she completely threw that away and went along with Andrea’s plan. I suppose she knew it was smarter to just go along with the majority plan rather than rock the boat and bring attention to yourself.

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Mustache of Sadness. Zeke watches his torch get snuffed.

However, the alliances in Game Changers are proving to be fluid and ever-changing. So removing the greatest strategic threat when you have the chance makes perfect sense. Give credit to Andrea for backing her way into a smart play, even though she acting purely on emotion. Still smarting over the vote where Zeke targeted Andrea, she proved to be more about vengeance tonight than strategy. Either way, it opens the game up even more.

 

I have to admit, I thought for a moment at Tribal Council that Tai was about to make himself the dumbest Survivor player in history. He’s sitting on two immunity idols and openly states he feels like he could be at the bottom and possibly going home tonight. In fact, he even got some votes. If I’m Tai, one of those idols comes out tonight; if, for no other reason, just to be certain you don’t go home with idols in your pocket. It’s like being on house money. Even if you don’t need it, you make the remaining players believe you’re out of idols. At this point, Tai’s game can best be described as “better to be lucky than good.”

 

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Third Time’s a Charm? Andrea made it 30+ days in her two previous Survivor appearances. Can she make it to day 39 this time?

Move of the Week
This is a tough one, because the remaining nine players are making quiet, subtle moves. Even though it’s debatable if it was the best move, pragmatically, I’m going to say Andrea made the move of the week. Yes, she acted on emotion more than strategy, but coordinating a vote to blindside Zeke—one of the game’s smartest players—is a strong, bold move. Zeke plays a better three-dimensional game of Survivor better than almost anyone who’s ever played the game. Taking him out now is tantamount to taking out a queen in chess. But the prevailing question remains: was this the right time? Was it worth risking your six-person alliance right now?

 

 

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Yes, that’s really him.

Survivor Employee of the Week
Culpepper. Seems like a strange choice, given we don’t seem to hear much from him, right? That’s exactly why he earns EOTW honors. He went from the very top to the very bottom in the span of three days. He’s one of the last remaining dual threats in this game—meaning, strong at challenges, smart with the social game—and has yet to see his name written down. He’s playing a very quiet, very strong game. He did well to build a rapport with Zeke after the Reward Challenge. No, it ultimately doesn’t matter anymore, but it did force Zeke’s alliance to consider him a threat for flipping. No, that wasn’t Culpepper’s plan, but still…no one’s written his name down yet. He’s going to have his work cut out for him next week, though. With only nine players left, I’m pretty sure the shanks are about to come out.

 

sarah-lacina.jpgThe Haves
Sarah and Cirie are my only two definite Haves in the game. They’ve lined up strategies that include jury management as much as voting strategy. Given her voting advantage, Sarah has a chance to truly flip the game.

I give Sarah a better shot at making it to the end than Cirie, simply because Cirie has a reputation for being a smart player. Sarah is still in the shadows.

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I still think Troyzan has a decent outside shot at winning this game. But he needs a few stars to align first.

The Maybes
This is a long list: Andrea, Aubry, Culpepper, Tai, Troyzan and Michaela. Yes, Michaela. She earned an upgrade from me because she finally started playing the game this week. I’m still not 100 percent certain she’s got any votes on the jury or can win the game, though. I say that not because she had a hand in sealing the fates of Debbie and Zeke, but because she hasn’t orchestrated any big moves. Plus, her social game leaves much to be desired. Still, I’ll pencil her in on the low end of the Maybes; see what she does next week. But I have to be honest, I still don’t see her winning.

The remaining five Maybes all have nothing but opportunity before them. It’ll be toughest for Culpepper, I think, because he doesn’t have much of an alliance (nor any side advantages) to protect him. Troyzan and Tai, by virtue of sitting on idols, have tremendous opportunities to advance their positions in the game in a big way. It remains to be seen how strategic Tai will be, although he’s shown more game than people realize. Don’t count him out. Troyzan is a dark horse because he is a physical threat in challenges. However, like the last time he played, he’s always on the wrong side of alliances. He needs two votes to swing his way to earn a legitimate shot at making it to the end.

Aubry, still my favorite player, needs to start making moves right now. We’re down to nine and she has numbers. At some point she’s going to have to orchestrate a major move to take out a big player in the game. That means taking out one of her own; Cirie, most likely, in my opinion. Aubry’s smart and patient, but we’re making the turn into the homestretch. Time to get on your horse (yes, that was a Kentucky Derby reference).

SierraCovThe Have Nots
Sorry, Sierra. I just don’t see a path to victory for you. But this is written in pencil. It appears you’re about to step out from Culpepper’s shadow and start playing the game (finally!). To this point, your best move was really Tai’s best move. He saved you back on Day 11. Since then, you’ve been mostly coasting along. That might earn you a trip to the end, but it won’t earn you a million dollars (unless you’re sitting next to Russell Hantz). Make a bold move and we’ll talk in a week.

And I’ve just decided to downgrade Michaela to the Have Nots. Take a seat next to Sierra, Michaela. Yeah, you started to play the game, but you’re not going to win.

Predictions for Next Week
Something big is about to happen. A power alliance with Sarah in the driver’s seat will emerge. And we might see the first of three hidden Immunity Idols come into play. I don’t think the next Tribal Council will be the crazy one, but we’re going to have another nutty Tribal before we get to the end.

My only other predication is Debbie is going to remain the most obnoxious, least self aware player in Survivor history. You’re not as smart as you think you are, Debbie. And you can mutter “idiots” all you want from your perch in the jury box, but remember: you’re in the jury box. You were put there by players who were sharper than you. If they’re idiots, what does that make you?

survivor-gamechangers-cochran-reward-debbie

Cochran’s still having flashbacks to this awkward moment.

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survivor re-cap: who couldn’t see THAT coming?

Jeff-snuffing-torchAll season long I’ve been saying there is no way Debbie can win this game. No way. After last week’s power-play move to blindside Ozzy, I began to think she might’ve learned a thing or two from her consultation with Cochran. But this week, I found myself saying, “Oh yeah. THERE’S the Debbie we all know!” We saw it when she was dictating strategy to Aubry, ahead of Tribal Council. Aubry studiously listened to everything Debbie told her. And once Debbie turned around, Aubry’s eyeroll reflected the way most viewers felt.

Before getting to this week’s drama, let’s spend a moment on last week’s developments (since I didn’t write a recap last week). Voting out Hali was an easy move. For Hali, it was never a matter of if her torch gets snuffed, but when. The only time she really and truly began to play Survivor was at Tribal Council. That’ll work once, maybe twice; but not three times. I wish she had applied that gift of gab a bit better back at camp. She has the power to influence, but never used it until her back was to the wall. PIty.

And then there’s Ozzy. Sweet, handsome Ozzy: a man who was born half-fish and seems to thrive in this game as a fierce competitor and challenge beast. No other player seems more at home on an island in Survivor than Ozzy. And that ability to acclimate himself and win challenges means he’ll always have one of the biggest targets on his back. For all his athletic prowess in Survivor, Ozzy seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Survivor strategy. There’s no other way to describe it.

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No matter what, Aubry’s hair from last week’s two-hour episode remains my favorite Survivor moment this season.

It was certainly a smart move to take him out now, so props to Debbie for orchestrating that. However, she overplayed her hand—and her extra vote—in taking out Ozzy. By playing the second vote, she all but guaranteed she lost a jury vote. Had she kept the extra parchment in her pocket, Ozzy still would’ve gone home. Even if he didn’t, Debbie was still in a good spot with her alliance and could’ve easily taken him out another time. It was a simultaneously smart and dumb play, if you ask me. But that’s Debbie for you. She goes all-in on everything; doesn’t know how to manage her bankroll. And that caught up to her.

As the game moves into a chaotic plays of shifting alliances and occasional backstabbing, I was a bit surprised at how personally Andrea took it that Zeke pondered targeting her. Well, let me backtrack. I understand her being upset about it, but blowing up at Zeke, post-Tribal Council, is a surefire way to paint a target on your own back. Acting on emotion in Survivor is a fool’s gambit and often leads to torch-snuffing.

It probably should have, were it not for Officer Sarah flipping from her solid alliance to take out Debbie. And I have to be honest, I’m shocked by that. Sarah earned herself a true advantage by sneaking away the “steal a vote” advantage during the reward challenge. I can see that paying major dividends the deeper we go in this game. I’m not sure if Sarah acted on emotion or calculation in flipping the vote to Debbie at Tribal Council. Although, Debbie did bring it on herself by not-so-quietly betraying her own alliance by approaching Aubry to take Sarah’s place. To that end, sure, I can see why Sarah switched her vote. Will her alliance buy it? Therein lies the question.

If anything, this shows just how difficult it is to maintain a strong alliance in Survivor. Zeke correctly stated the deck re-shuffles after every vote. While a player like Brad Culpepper is in control when his alliance isn’t cracking, Zeke’s game opens up when the relationships remain fluid. As a fan of the game, I prefer the latter. It’s way more fun to watch the balance of power shift. Although Culpepper’s put himself in a strong, strategic spot. He’s well-liked, has a loyal core alliance (Sierra, Troyzan and maybe Tai) and seems like a threat in challenges. But it’s his game play at camp that’s earned him a shot at winning. He’s playing a very patient, quiet game. For now.

Yeah, we have to talk about Cirie.
Even Cirie herself would tell you she’s not a threat in physical challenges. That’s never been the strength of her game. And who among us haven’t been where she was, feeling like she failed her tribe in the reward challenge? It was in that moment we saw Cirie turn her weakness into a strength. Rather than being scorned by her tribemates, Cirie was supported, encouraged and pushed to complete the challenge, long after winning was an option.

On a human level, it was great to see her entire tribe rally around her so she could overcome an obstacle. I don’t doubt it was a genuine moment. But somewhere within all that drama, I give Cirie credit for turning that difficult personal moment into a triumph. There was no heat on her at all, afterward. Make no mistake about it: Cirie is a serious threat to win this game. In a season where we’re waiting for a challenge beast to arise, Cirie still has a shot at winning because she knows how to manage the players.

And Then There’s Michaela.
I want to like Michaela. I did like Michaela the last time she played. But that kid simply cannot get out of her own way long enough to become a true threat in this game. She’s a smart, athletic player who could really become a top-tier threat. But her arrogance, selfishness, passive-aggressiveness (eating coconut at Tribal? Gimme a break) and petulance alienates her from the rest of the tribe. We see it, over and over.

Cirie surely would love to see Michaela on the jury, I imagine, because she’s got Michaela wrapped around her little finger. That’s a guaranteed vote for Cirie. But if I’m anyone else in this game, I want to be sitting next to Michaela at the end because no one will vote for her.

I wonder if she’s going to become a target anytime soon because of her inability to blend with the tribe. Either way, I see non path for her to win a million dollars.

The Haves
Right now, the players I see as having the best shot at getting to the Final Tribal are Culpepper, Tai, Troyzan and Sarah. Culpepper’s playing a smart, patient game. Sarah might be playing the best strategic game of all, right now; plus she has her vote advantage. That’ll come in huge for her.

By virtue of holding Immunity Idols, Tai and Troyzan have a great shot at getting deep in the game. And, to Troyzan’s credit, he’s worked his way to a decent alliance. We’ll see how long that lasts.

The Maybes
Cirie, Aubry, Sierra and Zeke are definitely positioned to make a move, but on the wrong side of an alliance, at the moment. That can change in a heartbeat, though. Zeke is a sneaky gamer, so I can see him pulling some serious moves in the chaos that arises out of Debbie’s ouster. That could improve Aubry’s game along the way. Cirie is like a sniper. She’s just waiting for her shot. Sierra? Until she makes a move, she seems to be riding Culpepper’s coattails.

The Have-Nots
Andrea and Michaela. I’ve already said Michaela has zero shot at winning a million dollars. She may make it to the end, but she’ll never convince enough jury members to give her the money. Andrea is simply on the wrong side of everything right now, but she can move into a strong position very quickly. She’s a bit of a free agent and could turn into a useful vote for one of the stronger players. If she can parlay that into an even bigger move down the line, she’s off the chopping block and suddenly holding an executioner’s axe.

9d39464d16ad785ad02ba59a65b3ddbbEmployee of the Week
Officer Sarah. Not only did her awareness earn her an advantage in the game, she has friends on both sides of the alliances. It was a slightly bold move to vote out Debbie because it shakes up the game. But I like it. She was immediately aware of her position in the Alliance of Six and took steps to shift the balance of power. I love players who do that.

Predictions for Next Week
No idea, but I’m sure everyone at the Ponderosa are unhappy that Debbie has joined them with so many more votes left in the game. She is wreaking havoc over there, I’m sure.

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voter fraud in nevada? put away your torches & pitchforks, turbo.

The SimpsonsReports came out last night that the Nevada Secretary of State’s office is investigating possible voter fraud in the 2016 general election. Though few specifics were released, Sec. of State Barabara Cegavske alluded to non-citizens voting . Where did they vote? How many illegal votes were cast? She wouldn’t say.

The SoS’s office is looking to the Nevada Dept. of Motor Vehicles for its practice of disseminating voter registration materials as a possible link. The DMV responded with a feigned, “who….me???” expression.

Here is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s take on the investigation:
Nevada investigation targets alleged voter fraud in 2016 election

Also from KLAS-TV 8 News Now:
UPDATE: DMV responds to illegal voting investigation

Before this investigation becomes politicized and polarized, before Rachel Maddow puts us all to sleep with a 20-minute, antiseptic, high-minded, snoozy, professorial lecture, before the monkeys at Fox & Friends start flinging their feces about the studio in excitement, let me just say:

Calm. Down.

Put away your torches and pitchforks. Take a deep breath, settle in and let the process play out. Right now, we know nothing. This investigation doesn’t play into anyone’s narrative yet. Should voter fraud be uncovered, it still doesn’t play into anyone’s narrative.

Historically speaking, in-person voter fraud has been decidedly minimal. It is not the scourge it’s been made out to be by certain media outlets. This 2014 headline on his 2014 headline on The Washington Post’s Wonkblog should keep James O’Keefes and Oliver Stones of the world at bay (it won’t, but I like to dream):

A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billon ballots cast

That works out to 0.000000031 percent. I don’t even know how to say that. Is that 31-quadrillionth of a percent?

Sure, that study has nothing to do with the 2016 election, but it does give us an indication of just on infrequently this sort of thing occurs. It also illustrates that in-person voter fraud is not a conspiracy.

As for the investigation in Nevada, Cegavske’s statement with more questions than answers. Do you have credible reports of fraudulent ballots being cast? If so, how many? Is there direct linkage between the ballots in question and the DMV? Or a specific DMV location/employee? What events took place to lead your office to open an investigation?

Her statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal was decidedly short on details.

“Based on new information we have recently uncovered, we have initiated an investigation into illegal votes cast in the last general election…Our office has been clear; we will investigate any allegation of election law violations that may jeopardize the integrity of Nevada’s voting process.”

Okay. Great. We can all go home now.

That statement says absolutely nothing that would merit anyone thinking it validates their beliefs, one way or the other.

Until the Nevada Secretary of State’s office answers these questions—and I sincerely hope local and regional media ask these questions—there is no there there. We’ll just have to wait and see.

And yes, I’m keenly aware I just turned into Rachel Maddow. At least I’m not acting like an agitated monkey though, right?

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survivor recap: a betrayal of the highest order.

Survivor Game Changers 06_Tribal

If you felt a gust of wind and the earth move under your feet last night around 8:45 p.m., that had nothing to do with weather patterns. It was the collective gasps and jaws hitting the floor of millions of Survivor viewers. Three-time player Jeff Varner knew his back was against the wall, heading into Tribal Council on Day 18. He wouldn’t be the first desperate Survivor player to pull out all the stops and go for broke in an attempt to save his own lot in the game. In his zeal to paint a target on someone else’s back, Varner did the unthinkable by publicly outing Nuku tribemate Zeke Smith as transgender, accusing Zeke as deceiving this tribe by withholding this information. Varner used Zeke’s personal life in an attempt to advance his position in Survivor. How’d that work out for him? Not great.

The remaining Nuku members—Ozzy, Sarah, Amanda, Tai and Debbie—were visibly shaken by Varner’s declaration. Even host and executive producer Jeff Probst was left speechless.

Hell, I was speechless! “This just stopped being a game,” I said to Dino as the carnage unfolded. It wasn’t fun to watch. It was sickening and infuriating. Sure, reality TV shows thrive on schadenfreude, but this was so much worse. This was a real-life attempted character assassination. There is no joy in watching that.

Survivor Game Changers 06_Ozzy Jump

There were challenges in this episode, but no one will be talking about them.

And true, Survivor likes to call itself a “social experiment,” but that always felt like a pithy way to distinguish itself from the nonsense of the Kardashians and the Honey Boo-Boo crap. It’s not a place to drag gender identity politics to the fore and call it entertainment. Sure, real life will creep into Survivor—Adam Klein’s mother from Millennials vs. Gen X, for example—but those are people owning and telling their personal stories within the context of life in a game where the players are cut off from society. It is not a place to use someone’s reality against him in a means to humiliate and advance yourself.

That makes Varner’s actions so much worse, if you ask me. He attempted to turn Zeke’s gender identity into a dividing line in the game and, in turn, damaged the integrity of the game. Survivor has very few hard-and-fast rules and Varner managed to piss all over them in one fell swoop. What’s even more aggravating: this was is big, master plan to make a big move in this game. He hyped himself heading into Tribal Council, as though he was about to make history as a true game changer. Seriously, Jeff? This is the best you could do?

What’s interesting, and heartening, is the reactions from the remaining Nuku members to Varner’s big reveal. They were not upset or angry with Zeke. They empathized with him. They were angry for Zeke. They were furious with Varner for outing Zeke in such a mean-spirited and selfish manner to the point that they essentially formed a human shield around Zeke. They refused to accept any of Varner’s weak excuses and rationalizations. They treated his actions as they were: a betrayal of the highest order.

For his part, Zeke remained silent and expressionless through most of this Tribal Council. When he did speak for himself, Zeke handled the outing with grace and class; embracing what had been heaped upon him with the subtlety of a branding iron and choosing to wear it proudly. It’s not for his own gain, either, Zeke said. Despite having no interest in being a role model, Zeke now hopes his experience will make it easier on young people who may be experiencing gender identity issues. He even showed class toward Varner through it all, but I have a hunch that may change once the game is over.

For my money, the betrayal also exposed Varner for the weak Survivor player that he is. Because you don’t want to get voted off a game show that you’ve never been particularly good at in the first place, you choose to rob Zeke of his choice in front of the entire tribe and the viewing audience at home?

What the hell, man?!?!

Survivor Game Changers 06_Probst

Even Probst was left speechless by Varner’s actions.

For weeks, I’ve been publicly saying Varner has no business being in this game. As he himself pointed out in last week’s episode, he’s never once made it to a jury. He’s not a game changer. He’s a stooge; a useful idiot whose only lasted 50 days in the game over three separate seasons. You aren’t even in Phillip “the Specialist” Sheppard’s class, man!

Once Varner realized he made an awful mistake by outing Zeke, the gravity of his actions began to set in. I do believe he was embarrassed and regretful of his actions; not only because he mounted such a personal attack on Zeke, but because he may also wind up a pariah within the LGBTQ community. But remorse alone cannot unring the bell; especially given the ugly and divisive history of public outing within the LGBTQ community.

Once upon a time it was a popular weapon of homophobes who sought to damage peoples’ lives and reputations. In the 90s, it became a weapon of choice for the pro-gay activist group Queer Nation. I’ve got to believe there are still people bearing scars from those actions, and that’s what makes Varner’s actions even more troubling. He’s 50 years old. He lived through those battles. And here he is, using that shameful tactic himself. But not even in the name of activism. He did it for personal gain. That is inexcusable.

Though Varner tried to weakly defend his actions, Probst and the Nuku tribe were having none of it. Ultimately, he gave up and copped to committing an awful deed, resulting in what felt more like an excommunication than a vote. Probst all but announced he himself was voting Varner out of the game; not even allowing a proper vote. My impression is Probst was pissed off that Varner would not only use Zeke’s personal life in such a manner, but he stained the game. It will make for an interesting reunion episode, that’s for sure.

Outside the game, I’ll be curious to see if Varner can repair the damage he’s done to his own reputation. I may be in the vast minority here, but I’ve always believed a person deserves redemption if he or she truly wants it, earns it and works for it. Zeke may or may not ever be able to forgive Varner for what he did, but I do hope Varner is allowed the chance to redeem himself.

Either way, I’m pretty sure Varner just played his last game of Survivor.

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