Edgic is a weekly feature analyzing each player’s edit, mapping characters to their story-arc. Note that our focus is not solely to determine the winner, as is typical of other Edgic sites. For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
We use a different color scheme than traditional Edgic. We wanted the bigger character ratings, the OTTs and CPs of the world, to stand out. So we made all of these colors bolder and brighter. Simultaneously we wanted the less important character ratings, particularly the UTRs, to blend into the background, as the characters do on the show. So we made these colors duller, more gray and brown. We also looked at the tonal dimensions — negative to positive — and wanted to make it visually consistent whether a character was portrayed positively or negatively. To that end, we reserved all variations of red and pink for the negative ratings, and all the positive ratings are variations on green.
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What Does This Episode Tell Us?
The merge episode is always a pivotal moment both in the game and in the edit of the season. It’s an episode that can cement certain characters and story arcs just as easily as it can dismiss previous assumptions. Characters come to the forefront; new stories emerge; decoys are put in play, etc. What makes this merge especially interesting is that it was paired with another episode. It gives us two merge episodes to get stuck into and analyze.
On first glance, we can see that there was a rise in CP ratings. As merge episodes tend to feature lots of scrambling for power and strategy talk, it’s expected to see an increase in CP ratings as players discuss their plans going forward. Rather than look at who received these ratings, it’s better to look at who DIDN’T receive a CP across these two episodes. If we don’t know where you stand or what your goals are at the merge, then it probably doesn’t speak well for your importance to the narrative. Aubry, Tai, Troyzan, Hali, and Ozzy were the CP-less characters. Obviously, Hali and Ozzy ended up being eliminated this week.
Things look particularly dire for Aubry and Troyzan who both had UTR ratings in both episodes. When you combine that with their pre-merge edit, there is just nothing here to suggest they’ll ever be lead characters. We are not seeing this season from their perspective. They are periphery characters – numbers. The edit shows very little interest in letting us know their motivations and desires. That doesn’t mean they can’t go deep, but we’ve been programmed not to care about where they end up.
One of the big themes across both episodes was the idea of “control.” The illusion of control – the thirst for it. Zeke thought that Andrea and Cirie had control and he wanted it for himself. Sierra thought she had control and loved being in charge. Michaela let Cirie have control and was saved because of it. Hali tried taking control into her own hands, but all it did was tip Michaela off and started the chain reaction which got her booted. When Zeke tried taking control, he made himself a target and caused his whole side to lose control. Debbie took control with the Ozzy blindside. It was all about timing – when to snatch control.
The other significant focus was the impending war. Two sides emerged and it was all about who was going to strike first.
The recap started with the Jeff Probst voiceover telling us, “At the Mana tribe, Hali and Michaela were left out of the Culpepper alliance.” Which was followed by a Brad confessional, where he told us, “I have people I wanna go with.” Recap credit at the merge is a positive sign, and the fact it was called the “Culpepper alliance” is important, regardless of Brad’s diminished role in this episode.
The remainder of the recap dealt with the Varner/Zeke situation which we don’t need to go over again.
As this was a double-episode, rather than sort by rating, I will be going through each character in alphabetical order.
Andrea has risen! While she was still UTR for the merge episode, she had a couple of nice lines that tied into the theme of these episodes. In her one confessional she said, “Everyone has ulterior motives. So tonight’s Tribal Council is about who’s gonna take control of this game.” Control and ulterior motives played a huge part in the episode. She also had a speech at tribal saying, “This is the point of the game where lines are drawn. And the first couple of votes after the merge are huge. It will show where the alliances are. It sets the tone for the rest of the game.” I think that is an accurate description of what happened in these two episodes and where we’ll go from here.
It was in the second episode of the night where Andrea really shot up though. We finally got to hear her strategy and goals. “I’m dying to get out Brad or Sierra. I’m starting to gather numbers to slowly take over this game, which would be ideal.” We also learned about her alliance with Cirie/Zeke/Sarah. And she wasn’t just presented as a number tagging along, she was set up as one of the people in control of the alliance. Her entire hammock conversation with Zeke where she laid out the tribe dynamics and her plans going forward was straight CP. Andrea was also correct. She told Zeke they had to keep Debbie out of their plans because “she’s playing really hard” and “she really likes Sierra.” What happened when Zeke told Debbie? She didn’t believe him and later showed how hard she’s playing by targeting Ozzy. And who did she discuss her blindside Ozzy plan with? Sierra!
The edit made sure to justify Andrea’s anger at Zeke. “I am furious at Zeke. I’ve been working with him since Day 1. I thought we were not only alliance members, I thought we were friends.” All episode we saw Zeke going behind Andrea’s back to try and take her out. It, therefore, made sense for Andrea and her allies to target Zeke. Andrea did not get any of the blame for her side losing out. It was the people under her that caused her to slip, much like how she fell on the rocks earlier in the episode, her foundations weren’t solid.
While this was a great episode for Andrea, it, unfortunately, doesn’t wipe out her terrible pre-merge edit. Eight straight episodes of UTR is not something that you can just shake off. It’s not like Cirie, who also had a breakout week, where her edit can be connected back to a strong CP beginning. Andrea never had that. So what does that mean for her story? It could be her CP bump before her upcoming boot, in a similar vein to Julia Sokolowski in Kaoh Rong. A couple of CP edits that set up her eventual downfall.
One thing I like to look back on at the merge is each player’s first confessional from the premiere. It’s a good way to see if they’ve had a consistent story and are following through on what they said. This was Andrea’s first confessional of the season:
“It’s Survivor: Game Changers, so you can’t just sit around and hope to get to the end. The stakes have been raised. This is going to be an epic season, so… game on.”
It was a very “here’s the general theme of the season” confessional which suggested Andrea wasn’t going to play a huge role herself. That has mostly been the case up until this week. Given that she was correct this episode, her belief that “you can’t just sit around and hope to get to the end” could very well be true. If we are to take Andrea at her word, it means this season will require some big moves to make it to the end. Will Andrea be that person? It seems unlikely based on her edit up until this point.
With no CP rating after nine episodes, I think it’s safe to say Aubry has the worst edit of the season. We’ve never been given insight into her long-term goals or who her closest allies are/were. The merge was a chance for her to break out and really tell us where her head is it at – but that didn’t happen. Yes, she said she was happy being “Team Cirie, ” but that just made her seem like a number. And there was no follow-up to her connection with Brad from last week (although I suppose that thread could be picked up later).
Her only real content in the first episode was her confessional about Zeke. She said she respected him and his story and agreed with him that going on Survivor makes you tough. She basically propped up Zeke’s story rather than kickstarted her own narrative. She did end by saying, “the game at hand is figure out where people stand and who’s in the loop and who’s out of it,” but that was more of a general theme. We didn’t see this episode from Aubry’s perspective trying to figure out the dynamics. She was either an easy number (for Cirie) or an easy decoy (for Sierra).
Aubry’s role in the second episode of the night was almost the exact same thing. Her one confessional, again, was mainly about someone else. “I feel, right now, like I am in the middle of a big Italian family brawl. There are two sides, and Cirie, she’s like my black Italian grandma or aunt– she’s more like an aunt. And if I’m going to be on Team Cirie, that’s fine with me.” Just like she propped up Zeke earlier, she was now propping up Cirie. But why is Aubry fine with just being Team Cirie? Where is Team Aubry? What does she see as her path to the end? I’m sure Aubry talked about all these things, but the edit doesn’t care to show us.
Her story right now, if you can call it a story, is simply about not being able to find any footing in the game. The connections we see her build never develop into anything meaningful. There was zero follow-up to her Brad conversation from last week. She talked about respecting Zeke and his story but then in the next episode, Zeke voted for Aubry like she meant nothing. Maybe Aubry is just biding her time? We saw in this episode about how seizing control is all about timing? Maybe this isn’t Aubry’s time yet? But if Andrea is right that you can’t just sit around and make it to the end, we’ll need to see something from Aubry soon.
Aubry’s first confessional of the season:
“Michaela is definitely a tricky one for us as a tribe. She has a bit of a hot streak, and if you ignite that the wrong way, the whole place is burning down.”
There’s not much to say other than… terrible. Aubry’s first confessional of the season was propping up another player’s story. That’s essentially how she’s been used all season long. There was nothing set up for Aubry’s personal narrative.
Brad had an interesting edit this week. A mixture of pros and cons. Some of what we thought we knew about Brad and his position in the game was flipped on its head. The question we have to ask ourselves is, do we put more faith in the recaps and the pre-merge edit? Or do we suddenly believe players like Sierra and Cirie’s thoughts in this specific episode?
Almost everything we saw in the pre-merge set up Brad as the leader of his alliance. The recaps cemented this reading, even at the start of this episode with the mention of “Culpepper’s alliance.” Now all of a sudden Sierra was claiming to be the one in charge. Cirie backed up Sierra’s assertion when she said, “The way I see Sierra and Brad, Sierra is like the godfather, and she is controlling Brad.” While this initially seemed out of left field, if we recall, in Episode 4’s double tribal, it was Sierra who pushed for the Malcolm vote, overruling Brad’s desire to get rid of Sandra. So Sierra having control over Brad may not be as far-fetched as it seems at first glance.
Does that hurt Brad’s edit? Perhaps a little but not as bad as you might think. We still got a clear idea of Brad’s strategy in the merge episode. “My number one goal is reconnecting and strengthening the bonds that I had with people that I’ve– haven’t been with, people that I maybe had a little rocky time with. Bonded with Tai. Debbie, she’s come back and apologized. And with Sierra and myself and Troyzan, so far so good.” His strategy, for now, is all about reconnecting with people. We saw him do that with Tai during the merge feast (Tai backed it up by saying: “I love Brad. He and I have a lot of things in common. So I think he has my back. I have a number.”) We saw a scene with him and Debbie making up. And again, we heard about his alliance with Sierra and Troyzan. Brad wasn’t one of the people talking about needing to take control. He wasn’t shown bragging about being in charge. His strategy was focused on bonds and relationships.
The negatives for Brad is that he did wish to see Michaela go first and she survived. Although in his first confessional of the episode he said, “On my old tribe, Michaela and Hali were on the bottom, so I want to gun for them first.” So with Hali leaving it gives him somewhat of an out even though he did later settle on Michaela as the target. The other bad signs are Cirie saying he is controlled by Sierra and then later Sierra saying “These idiots are like freaking herding cats,” and it cut to Brad, Troyzan and Tai. Do we take those at face value? Given that Sierra was negatively portrayed in this episode and shown to be incorrect A LOT, it’s probably not wise to take her opinion on who the “idiots” are.
Brad also mentioned Monica again this episode (I’d be surprised if Brad doesn’t make it at least to the loved one’s visit). He had a big scene where he volunteered to sit out of the merge feast. This, combined with his empathy for Zeke (when he told the story of Jeff Varner outing him as transgender), added to his positive tone for the episode. It’s worth noting that Zeke undermined Brad’s act a little bit with a confessional that implied Brad volunteered in an effort to fix his image, but it wasn’t enough to wipe away the positivity. The interesting part about Zeke’s confessional was his last line: “I think this is very much part of, like, the “Culpepper brand,” to sacrifice themselves for others.” Is that foreshadowing that Brad will ultimately be a sacrifice to benefit someone else’s game?
Despite being portrayed as less in control as he was pre-merge, Brad was sort of protected from the negativity that Sierra received. The episode was primarily told through Cirie’s perspective, and as viewers, I believe we’re meant to be rooting for that alliance up against the arrogant “godfather” Sierra. Brad focusing on relationships and then all but disappearing in the second episode shielded him from that negativity. That to me suggests that Sierra will become a target before Brad, and if she goes, he still has options for other alliances and stories.
Brad’s first confessional of the season:
“We’ve all changed the game, so to win this game, you gotta go big or go home.”
First of all, this was one of only six intro confessionals, so that’s a good sign for Brad. Secondly, he mentioned winning, which is another big plus point. The rest is a little confusing. It’s similar to Andrea saying that you can’t just sit around and get to the end this season. Brad says that to win, “you gotta go big or go home.” However, so far Brad has played a relatively slow, methodical game based on relationships and bonds rather than big, crazy moves. He rectified this in his second confessional of the premiere: “I find myself saying, “W.W.M.D., What would Monica do?” And I promise you that she’d be slow playing this right now. I got a long way to go, but I think I’m off on the right foot.” If Brad is in this for the long haul, then he is okay to be “slow playing it right now” because there is still “a long way to go” and when the win is in sight that’s when he can “go big or go home.” As this episode showed, it’s all about timing. Brad still has time to make his big move, and if he doesn’t, then I guess he’ll be going home?
These two episodes were excellent for Cirie. The merge was basically told from her perspective. Not only did we get her thoughts on the strategy and the game as a whole, but we saw her building relationships, making moves, and delivering personal content. Her story tied into themes of family and providing. At almost every turn we heard from Cirie and her views on what was going on.
I said last week that “It would take a really strong CP merge episode to convince me that Cirie is anything but a periphery character with a B-plot.” Well by Jove, she got two insanely strong CP merge episodes! It puts Cirie right back into contention as a key narrative player and even bumps up her winner potential. Unlike Andrea, whose CP bump came out of nowhere, Cirie’s connects back to her early game edit. She was out of the majority and unable to round up numbers early on, with Ozzy being a particular sticking point. Here, she came alive, found a way to gather numbers, INCLUDING Ozzy, who said, “Cirie and I, we are good. I want her on my side voting with me…” It showed that Cirie ultimately won Ozzy over before he left.
“Yeah, we all happy and we’re eating and drinking and last suppering together, but people are having conversations, people are reuniting, everybody is sizing people up, and things are gonna start flying. People’s heads are gonna start rolling. So this is where I step my game up,” she said at the merge feast. That’s exactly what these episodes were – Cirie stepping her game up. While Sierra claimed to be in charge and directed everyone to vote out Michaela, Cirie was the one plotting behind the scenes to save Michaela and eliminate Hali – which ended up happening. “I don’t particularly like to vote for Michaela. Is that good for my game? Why would I just go with that plan? Because Sierra says so?” Cirie told us her plan every step of the way. “I need Michaela to vote for Zeke to stick with the plan, so nobody knows Cirie is the one that changed the plan.” And told us the reasons for doing it. “Tonight’s Tribal Council is about saving a person that I can depend on and use for the numbers on our side. And if I pull this off, the future of my game is looking good.”
She also had a heart-to-heart with Michaela which was very positively toned. She compared Michaela to herself when she was younger. And she advised Michaela on what to do in the game. “In a game like Survivor, you want to bring as many people in as possible. You don’t want to be pushing people away or making people feel uncomfortable.” That applied to many people this episode – players like Zeke ended up pushing people away. Michaela was shown to be appreciative of Cirie and gained her trust. “For somebody of my background, a black American female, to be able to play with another black American female, there’s a level of trust that’s there automatically… and the last thing I want to do is mess up her game when she tried to help mine.”
Cirie’s big theme of the episode was family. Obviously, there was a mother and daughter vibe with Cirie and Michaela. Aubry also referred to her as being like her “black Aunt.” In the second episode, Cirie talked about wanting to provide for her children. “I had kids young, so I worked really hard to provide. I never wanted to be in a position that my kids needed something, and I’m unable to do it for them.” She compared losing the reward challenge to not being able to provide for her family. “To not be able to get it for them is like not being able to provide for your family.” It was made to set apart Cirie from Sierra. Sierra was simply crying about not being able to eat, while Cirie was upset about failing her tribe/family. “You don’t have kids yet, but imagine if you had four kids and they didn’t eat for three days, and you are responsible to go get them food, and you don’t,” she told Sierra. This whole scene was to let us know more about Cirie and her reasons for playing: “My family is my motivation, and I plan on winning for them.”
The bad sign for Cirie is that while she took “control” in the first episode, by the end of the second episode, she’d lost it. In the first hour she said, “If I pull this off, the future of my game is looking good.” But in the second hour, she lost one of her allies and is now in the minority. While the edit certainly puts the blame on Zeke for causing the downfall of this alliance, the fact Cirie was distracted by Zeke was what allowed Debbie and the other side to take out a big target. Cirie also said she trusted Sarah, but Sarah ended up voting out Ozzy. The positives far outweigh the negatives, but these little things are worth noting.
Cirie’s first confessional of the season:
“I am a bona fide ex-couch potato that saw this game and loved it. I’m the gangster with a smile like a-a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’ve made it to the end. What’s the next step? The only next step for me is to win.”
Like Brad, Cirie was also one of the six intro confessionals. And also like Brad, she mentioned winning. “The only next step for me is to win.” That is definitely what a winner quote could sound like and it set out her goal immediately. She continued that thread this episode by stepping her game up and talking about how she plans to win for her family. There’s certainly enough substance to Cirie’s edit now to be a winner or main character in the second half of the game. Her connection she made with Brad last week is still a loose thread and with both of being family focused it could be foreshadowing a later bond. The only real concern is that Episode 4-6 dip.
Debbie continues to be a main character in the season. These two episodes looked good for Debbie. It’s another example of her up and down edit. Sometimes she’s crazy and OTT, other times she’s fitting in and pulling out strategy. And while her “drunk” antics might seem OTT on the surface, the edit allowed her a chance to explain her actions and motivations. “If I have to pretend to be drunk and do a bad twerking and a shaking of my booty to crack these people up and feel very comfortable with me, then I’ll do it.” It’s this which made her MOR rather than OTT.
I said last time that her story with Brad seemed set to continue and we got that here as they made up, with Debbie apologizing. “I swallowed my pride, and I did apologize to Brad, because on Exile, Cochran said, “Extend the olive branch all the way around.” We kissed and made up. I wanted to make sure that me and Brad were as solid as we could be in a game of deception and intrigue.” The screen time devoted to this relationship, and the fact they both had intro confessionals (one after the other), make it one of the most important relationships of the season.
Debbie also said that “relationships absolutely matter,” something which she said earlier in the season. As we saw with Cirie and Michaela, and Brad/Tai and Brad/Debbie, relationships definitely mattered this episode. Those that tended to their relationships were able to succeed (Cirie in the first episode, and Debbie in the second). Whereas players like Zeke, who threw their relationships aside to make a “big move,” ended up failing. Even though Zeke was telling Debbie the truth, she didn’t believe him because they didn’t have a solid relationship. “I want to make a big move, but I don’t need Zeke to make it,” Debbie said, and she ended up making her big move without Zeke. She instead made it with those who she had well-built relationships with – namely Sierra, Brad, and Tai.
“It’s okay if people think I’m quirky, and you can underestimate me at your own risk, but if everybody listens to me — Brad, Sierra, Sarah, Troyzan, Tai — this will go off, and we will be massive Game Changers tonight, largely thanks to me…” While Debbie’s move worked, there was a little bit of arrogance mixed in, and her way of talking to people came off somewhat demanding. “If you stick with us and you keep your mouth shut, we’re taking out Ozzy,” she told Troyzan. It’s certainly not the most friendly approach, and it’s signs like that which make you pause and recognize that despite her good moments, there are still flaws present in Debbie’s edit that probably means she isn’t winning.
Debbie’s first confessional of the season:
“Anybody who watched Survivor: Kaôh Rōng would know that I’ve got a strength like a gymnast and a tenacity like a giant squid. When I come into this game, it’s go for broke. This is the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes all at once… so you better go for it.”
Another intro confessional. Also another one similar to Brad and Andrea talking about how you have to “go for it.” It’s a very “Debbie” confessional – big, OTT. “Gymnast,” “giant squid,” “Kentucky Derby.” Very larger than life just how Debbie is as a character and how she has been throughout the season. In this episode, she did “go for broke” by blindsiding Ozzy and using her Extra Vote advantage. She’s delivering on her opening goals and promises. Unlike Brad and Cirie, she didn’t mention winning, so to me it says that Debbie will continue to be a significant presence making big moves but that ultimately it won’t end in success.
It was always a bad sign when Hali didn’t receive a confessional after the second swap (in either episode). Her only story was that of being an outsider, and that story was told through other players rather than Hali herself. There’s been a lack of substance to her edit for the majority of the season, and it was never likely for her to be a big character or winner.
Her role in this episode was to play into the larger themes of control, timing, and taking sides. She was an outsider with Michaela, and she knew it. “Seems like Michaela is on the chopping block, but I want to work with Michaela. I think that she’s a great person, but she’s also a good number for me right now.” But when she tried to take control of the situation but lighting “a fire under Michaela’s butt to start getting some strategy on that’s going to help me,” it ended up backfiring. She told Michaela that her name had come up and this led to Michaela getting help from Cirie, leaving Hali out in the cold. It’s perhaps because her idea of taking control was getting someone else to do the work.
After that, Hali pretty much fell out of the story, at least in telling it from her perspective. It became a story about Cirie trying to save Michaela and Sierra trying to get rid of Michaela. Hali was only mentioned by others, either as a target or someone potentially with an idol. Her other moments were things like talking about working on her tan during the challenge. She didn’t come alive again until tribal council, which is pretty much where most of her action and highlights have taken place this season. She ends the season as MOR overall – she got little strategy and character moments here and there, but we don’t leave feeling like we truly got to know the real Hali.
Hali’s first confessional of the season:
“Seeing the flag was like déjà vu. I mean, that’s when you really feel like you’re on Survivor. But everyone here is like a snake in the grass, and I’m like the cobra that you don’t know is sitting underneath you, and then all of a sudden, it strikes, and you don’t know what hit you.”
At the time I said, “…if [Hali] really is the cobra then perhaps she will be around long enough to strike later in the game. Or perhaps that was simply a fluff confessional to let us know who she is and why she is on this season.” Hali did stay around a decent while, but it was very much a fluff confessional. The only time she “struck” was at tribal council, like her “I didn’t consent” moment and this week with her “If you want me to shake down I will.” I also said back then that she “didn’t offer any expansion on what she meant or how she’d achieve it” and that pretty much sums up her entire edit of the season.
Michaela has the clearest story of anyone on this season. From the very first episode, her story has been about trying to hold her tongue and keep her facial expressions at a minimum. But it’s not just a one-note story, it has layers and complexities, as best demonstrated through Cirie in these episodes.
The interesting thing with Michaela’s edit is that it’s always other people saying stuff like she’s a “loose cannon” or will “wreak havoc” and has “no tact” (all of which count as negative SPV), but the b-roll didn’t back those things up in this episode. At the point when everyone started throwing Michaela’s name out, all we’d seen is Michaela enjoying the merge feast, smiling sympathetically to Zeke’s story, chatting with Hali in the hammock, and painting the tribe flag. Nothing that screamed out “loose cannon” or havoc-wreaker. It’s also worth noting that the person mostly throwing these labels on her was Sierra, who was portrayed as incorrect throughout both episodes. Sierra made it sound crazy that Michaela would “creep” into conversations, even though she had a reason to be worried because nobody was talking to her. But when Michaela did join in those conversations she was shown to be nothing but polite, asking if it was a private conversation, then asking Zeke what he’d told others about her and smiling. When Michaela said, “You can become a target very quickly here. Like I’ve already heard my name, and I haven’t done anything,” we knew that to be accurate.
Michaela’s story isn’t that she DOES explode, it’s that she tries NOT to explode even though people continually badmouth her behind her back. “Ooh, I was about to explode,” she said, but the key words there are “about to,” she never actually did. And that has been the case throughout the season. Even when something annoys her, she contains her explosion. We’ve certainly never seen her throw a Brandon Hantz/J’Tia Taylor style meltdown, so it is kind of odd when Sierra continues to say things like, “If one thing sets Michaela off, then we’re all going down.” That’s why the conversation with Cirie is so enlightening.
Cirie’s thoughts on the Michaela situation helped flesh out Michaela’s edit and character arc of the season. “Michaela wears her heart on her sleeve. I used to be like that. I was– I literally, when I was Michaela’s age, I was a hothead like Michaela. I thought I knew… (laughs) I thought I knew everything, but I learned when you put that guard up, you push people away…” Cirie recognizes Michaela’s problem as “putting her guard up” rather than “exploding.” “You can’t shut down. When everyone else is talking, you can’t have that (makes face) exterior,” Cirie tells her. It’s the story we’ve followed from the start, Michaela struggles to hide the emotion on her face.
But I think Cirie goes further to suggest why this is even harder for someone like Michaela. “You just have to let that go and be as regular as you possibly can. If you make any tension whatsoever, it don’t take a lot here for them to look at you. People’s perception is reality. No matter what reality is real, it’s what they think, that’s what’s real to them.” Michaela then goes on to talk about how they have a lot of similarities and how she’s never seen two black women make it to the end, to which Cirie qualifies “Never.” “You may have guessed from my aura, but I wanna show people we can work together,” Michaela tells Cirie. “I genuinely like Michaela, and as a human, and as an older (pause) person to a younger person, you want to save her.” You can read into the pause all you want, but I think it’s obvious what Cirie was about to say. Michaela further backs up this bond in the next episode when she says, “For somebody of my background, a black American female, to be able to play with another black American female, there’s a level of trust that’s there automatically.” The editorial focus on this scene and this relationship made both Michaela and Cirie complex personalities, and I think it did a great job to make us rethink Michaela and question other people’s perception of her.
If you needed any further proof that the read on Michaela was wrong, this episode had one perfect moment that really highlighted it. When Zeke questioned why they weren’t placing the majority of votes on Hali, Sierra said, “If we keep Michaela in this game, she’s gonna come back and wreak havoc. It’s gonna be awful.” But Michaela was kept in the game, and she came back, and not only did we not see her wreaking havoc, we were explicitly shown her calm and happy. She entered the camp and said, “Good morning everybody.” Then Tai asked her how she slept. “Perfectly. It was the most peaceful rest ever,” she said, smiling. No havoc in sight. Like Cirie said, people’s perception is reality, and this episode showed that other’s perception of Michaela is not necessarily accurate to what we’re being shown elsewhere in the edit.
Michaela’s first confessional of the season:
“This season, I believe my best shot at winning is going to be literally schmoozing up to everybody here and making them feel awesome. Anytime somebody starts talking to me I’m going to go like this… (makes face) because I can’t control my facial expressions. Like, it is very difficult for me to lie.”
Like I said, Michaela’s story has been clear from her very first appearance this season. She summed it up in that initial confessional, talking about how she can’t control her facial expressions and how she finds it difficult to lie. That story has remained consistent but has been fleshed out and given complexities. She did mention winning in that confessional, which does keep her in contention, although her edit seems more of a growth narrative than a winner edit.
Of all the big-name characters this season, Ozzy probably had the weakest edit. When you compare him to Tony, Sandra, Cirie, JT, and Malcolm, Ozzy’s edit was rather lackluster. I think what it comes down to is that Ozzy didn’t change. In a season called “Game Changers” and all the talk of “metamorphosis” last week, Ozzy instead stayed trued to the Ozzy we’ve always known. His main role has always been the challenge beast and camp provider, and those were the qualities highlighted here in his exit.
I said last week, “Now the merge is coming next week, Ozzy’s story could come to an end anytime soon,” and that’s exactly what happened. His only loose narrative thread was his relationship with Cirie, and that concluded here. “One thing that I’ve learned about this game is that timing is everything, and Cirie and I, we are good. I want her on my side voting with me against other people like Zeke,” he said. His story ended with Cirie winning him over, but as these episodes demonstrated, it was Cirie’s story, and Ozzy just happened to be a footnote in it. Once that concluded, Ozzy didn’t have anything left in his edit to hang onto other than all the talk of him being a big threat, and in this season big threats go home.
In the first episode of the night, he was barely present, although we did hear from him post-Varner tribal, and then later talking with Brad and Troyzan. Those short scenes accounted for his UTR. His second episode wasn’t much better. He had the Cirie confessional mentioned above, and his other confessional was simple reward narration. I gave him MOR mainly for that Cirie confessional, but I could see UTR being reasonable too. The reason for the mixed tone is that he received positive SPV at the immunity challenge from Troyzan (“Ozzy, you’re a frickin’ champ, bro”), but was also portrayed negatively when he threatened not to catch fish for the tribe if Tai won the challenge, and then after being voted out said, “Good luck eating.” It made him seem rather petty.
His overall season rating is MORP. Similar to Hali in a way; we got small moments of strategy talk and character focus, but we don’t leave the season feeling like we got to explore more layers of Ozzy’s character. He’s the challenge guy that can catch fish but lacks in the social strategy. And even though he left on a slightly negative note, the positivity he received for his challenge prowess and survival skills throughout the season will leave a positive lasting image of Ozzy.
Ozzy’s first confessional of the season:
“I think my competition is fierce. In Survivor, big moves always require big risks. A lot of times they’re not successful, but if you don’t make them, your chances of winning the game are-are very small. Cirie and I played together on Fans vs. Favorites, and Cirie helped to get me out. I’m not sure if I can trust her. So this time around as a Game Changer, I need to be the master of blindsides, and if we lose an Immunity Challenge, it’s gonna be Cirie that’s gonna go.”
Like Andrea, Brad, and Debbie before him, Ozzy also made mention of how big moves are needed to win the game. We never saw Ozzy make a big move, and he lost, so maybe there is something to that. The second part of his confessional was all about Cirie, and that was pretty much his main story of the season. He went from not trusting her at the start, to wanting to vote with her at the merge.
I said last week that Sarah seemed like the only real competition for Brad, and these merge episodes didn’t make me think too differently (other than throwing Cirie into contention). The thing about Sarah’s edit is that she is always given time to share her thoughts even when she isn’t leading the action within the game itself. It’s very similar to Michele Fitzgerald’s edit in Kaoh Rong, where we always heard her insights in confessionals despite her not being the main story.
She didn’t have a major presence in the first episode, but she was the first person we heard from. This is interesting given that you’d expect to hear immediately from Zeke given what had happened at the previous tribal council. Instead, Sarah got a confessional which fleshed out her personality and awarded her positive tone. “I come from a very conservative background. I don’t know any transgender people until now, and the fact that I’ve been with Zeke and gotten to know him as a person from Day 1… I love that guy, and it doesn’t change who he is to me.” It’s what tipped her into MOR rather than UTR for me because it was great personal development.
The rest of the first episode Sarah pretty much disappeared. But she was mentioned as part of other people’s plans. And that’s the thing about Sarah, we always see people including her and reaching out to her. We never hear people bad mouthing her. Zeke included her as part of his alliance. Cirie said she trusted “Officer Sarah.” In the second episode of the night, when the war between the two sides really started, we continually got interjections from Sarah. “We lost the Marshalls spa day, and it’s a huge letdown, but I’m finding myself in the middle. I have options. And it’s just going to be which group wants to vote out the person that I want to vote out. That’s where I’m going to go,” she said. The reason this stands out and makes me believe Sarah is a strong winner contender is because this confessional is so unnecessary if she is just another side character. Troyzan doesn’t get confessionals like that… Troyzan doesn’t get confessionals at all! Aubry had a similar confessional talking about being in the middle, yet she framed it as just being happy to be Team Cirie, which put Cirie in the driver’s seat. Sarah framed it as following the side that best benefits HER and what SHE wants.
If it was just that lone confessional, it wouldn’t stand out so much, but Sarah also got the final confessional before tribal council in the second hour. “At this point, I am sitting in the middle of two groups that are starting to surface. The one group, Brad, Sierra, Troyzan, Tai, Debbie, they want to vote out Ozzy, and then there’s another group of Cirie, Andrea, Michaela, Aubry, and Ozzy, and they want to see Zeke go.” She summed up the events of the episode. “I’m weighing out all my options, and to vote Ozzy out, that means taking out a big social and challenge threat right now. That’s the move to make early on in a merge.” She told us the pros of voting out Ozzy. “But then, a lot of people want Zeke out, because he’s a smart guy and he’s willing to make moves, and when you trust somebody like that, you will end up getting blindsided.” She told us the pros of voting out Zeke. “So it’s a real tough position to be in, but a line will be drawn in the sand this vote.” And she correctly predicted the outcome of tribal, that the lines would be drawn.
The episode wasn’t framed around Sarah; it wasn’t told from her perspective, her game was never in jeopardy. I’ve been saying that her talk of being a criminal combined with her connection to Troyzan and never badmouthing Tai probably foreshadowed her jumping ship. She did ultimately vote out Ozzy and side with the Brad alliance, but a big deal wasn’t made of it. Yet we got these complex, insightful confessionals that let the audience know exactly what was going on inside her head.
Sarah’s first confessional of the season:
“I played Survivor: Cagayan, and I have a phenomenal social game. I’m a police officer, so I can read people, and with a season called Game Changers, I feel like somebody will get anxious and feel as though they need to make a move, which will put a target on their back, and then I’m going to be the silent assassin.”
I debated at the time whether this confessional should have been a light CP, but in the end stuck with MOR. But really, this confessional told us so much in just a couple of lines. Sarah reminded the audience of what season she was on, what her job is, her skills, what she thinks will cause people to go wrong this season, and how she is going to play this season. While her claims of having a “phenomenal social game” and the ability to “read people” might have come off boastful, the edit hasn’t really undermined these claims. People seem to like and trust Sarah and want to work with her. And her reads have been decent, perhaps the only question mark being not realizing Troy already had the idol, but that’s minor. The biggest thing is that she said “I feel like somebody will get anxious and feel as though they need to make a move, which will put a target on their back,” and that has been the case for many people this season, including Zeke in this very episode. Sarah has been the silent assassin, operating behind the scenes. The question is, can that edit win? Or do we put more stock in the “big moves are needed to win” edit?
Sierra‘s edit took a dramatic turn this week. She’s been a fairly quiet presence throughout the pre-merge but with a slight positive bent. Here she became the overconfident villain calling the shots but being consistently undermined by the edit.
“I made the merge. I have food. I feel like a whole new woman. And now I’m going to go in guns blazing, and I’m ready to make some moves.” Sierra said itself, “a whole new woman,” that was her edit across these episodes. She was the new sheriff in town ready to go guns blazing. But it was all negatively toned. The music accompanying her scenes was villainous. “As of now, I feel like I’m the person who’s in charge. I love having control.” And worse than that, she was constantly incorrect in her assumptions. I’ve already discussed her read on Michaela in Michaela’s section, but she was very wrong about Michaela, assuming she’d wreak havoc if they kept her, which did not happen. She was also incorrect in believing Hali had an idol. Zeke brought up how her “flush the idol” plan was flawed due to where she was placing the votes and later blew off Sierra’s threat level, “I look at Cirie and Andrea as much bigger strategic threats than Sierra.” Sierra also wanted Michaela gone, and that didn’t end up happening.
Cirie referred to Sierra as “the godfather, ” and Aubry said it was like being in the middle of big Italian family brawl. Sierra, consistently shown plotting from the hammock, was definitely portrayed as the figurehead of her alliance. This could be a good thing, but the way it was presented seemed to be setting Sierra up for a downfall. The second episode toned it down somewhat, as Sierra fell more into the background, but she was still a part of the game. “If they’re saying my name, I just got to figure out ways to get the numbers, so I don’t go home,” she said. Although it was Debbie that ultimately got the numbers and turned the vote on Ozzy.
Where does Sierra’s story go from here? Her edit is still one of the better catered to this season. We know her relationships and alliances. She also has the Legacy Advantage which got a mention in this episode. There’s still a chance Sierra could go deep but her winner chances took a knock. She is now primed as the big bad that needs taking down a peg or two.
Sierra’s first confessional of the season:
“Finding the secret advantage is just giving me this opportunity to do something big, and it’s exactly what I wanted to do with my game this time around.”
More talk of doing something big and we’re told that is what it will take to succeed this season. We haven’t really seen Sierra do anything big yet though. In this episode, she wanted to target Michaela and that didn’t end up happening, and in the second episode, Debbie called the Ozzy shot. If Sierra can pull off a big move of her own, maybe she can turn this thing around. But right now the edit is pointing at a downfall for Sierra.
Tai is definitely still a big presence, but his complexity level has slipped recently. He’s now just more of a character that is part of fun moments. He even said after his streaking in this episode, “I promised myself I would have fun, and it’s a fun moment.” Tai is a fun, positive character.
In the first episode, he got a big focus at the merge when he volunteered to sit out of the feast. Andrea said it’s the kind of selfless act she’s come to expect of Tai. It was very positively framed. We then got a scene with him and Brad catching up and talking about the tribe dynamics and the strategy going forward. “I love Brad. He and I have a lot of things in common. So I think he has my back. I have a number. I’m comfortable. I’m happy,” Tai said. This scene accounted for his MOR rating. It also let us know which alliance Tai was in but he wasn’t presented as a leader of this group.
The next episode was OTTP Tai. He had his fun moment streaking at the reward. Then when he “dethroned” the challenge god Ozzy in an intense showdown. The first thing we saw him do after he won was going to check on Ozzy. This whole scene was given great positivity with the music and the congratulations from the other tribemates. And that’s all we really got from Tai over these two episodes. It was a further demonstration of his compassion and loving nature. We know who his allies are. But we also know he isn’t likely to be the one leading the alliance.
Tai’s first confessional of the season:
“I have a conversation with J.T., Ozzy; he keep bringing, uh, Cirie up. He and Cirie have a history. He doesn’t trust Cirie, but I like Cirie, so I don’t want to get caught in something that suddenly they say Cirie have to go.”
This is an odd first confessional. It’s a little bit like Aubry’s in that it’s primarily about other people, although at least Tai does mention himself. He said that he likes Cirie and doesn’t want to get caught in something where he’s told Cirie has to go. Now, we haven’t seen any development with a Tai and Cirie relationship (they’ve rarely been on the same tribe), so maybe this is something that could return? Or maybe this confessional was just supposed to demonstrate Tai’s conflict. He doesn’t like getting stuck in the middle and having to choose between his head and his heart. That’s something that has remained present in his edit this season.
What can I say about Troyzan? No, seriously, what can I say about him? He had nothing in these episodes. I mean, okay, he was namechecked again by Brad as part of his numbers, and he had that one scene where Debbie told him to vote for Ozzy. But seriously? It was the merge, and it was a double-episode, and he has an idol, yet Troyzan was the only person that didn’t receive a single confessional.
It tells me that Troyzan is not an important character. He had that one CP episode when he found that idol, and that’s it. There seemed to be a story of “Troyzan versus Everyone” which could have developed, but nothing came of it. Now he’s part of the majority but is presented solely as a number and nothing more. I said last time that if he were to be a winner contender he’d need CP content at the merge and boy, this was the worst edit he could receive. The thing is, Troyzan doesn’t even seem to be a target. Nobody is really talking about him unless it’s as a number or to say he’s been controlled. So he could be around a while still but unless he uses that idol it doesn’t seem like the edit will be giving him much focus.
Troyzan’s first confessional of the season:
“Tony is the biggest threat here. He’s probably the number-one Game Changer, and look; I already caught him digging in places like the idol weasel. I mean, like, he’s just… (smirks) he’s out of control. And then he acted like, “Oh, hey, bro, what’s up?” (laughs) I’m like, I didn’t confront him, but he had like– I can read– and when he’s guilty, he has a fantastic guilty face. But I got to be very careful with a guy like that.”
What is that? It was all about Tony, a character that was eliminated in the second hour of the premiere. That was Troyzan’s one and only confessional of the first episode. It didn’t tell us anything about him or his goals and strategies. It didn’t set up any long-term Troyzan story, and that’s why we haven’t had any solid Troy narrative and don’t look likely to get one anytime soon.
What a mixed bag these two episodes were for Zeke. From CPP to CPN in two hours. Zeke was the prime example of a player making a move too soon and it putting a target on his back. His lust for control cost him and his side. These episodes really felt like the downfall of Zeke.
The first hour looked positive. We got to hear Zeke’s thoughts on what had happened with Jeff Varner at the last tribal council. “Often in my life, when I tell people I’m trans, that’s sort of what they’re interested in, and everything else about me sort of gets pushed to the wayside, but, you know, Survivor, it makes you tough, it makes you resilient, and it makes you adaptable.” His thoughts were complex and in-depth and framed in a positive light. “I think I was able to be a… a little more brave and a little bolder to help others and also to get over my own fears and to get over my own, you know, issues and complexes and insecurities of being transgender.” He had similar positivity when he told the story of what happened to the entire tribe at the merge. “I was so proud of Zeke, it’s amazing. More respect for Zeke in telling his story than I do for a handful of these jokers in knowing them for 20 days,” Aubry said.
But Zeke also got to talk about his strategy and the goings on in the game. “It’s Cirie, Sarah, Andrea and myself. Then there’s Brad and Sierra’s group. And I think everyone is wondering, is the other side going to strike first, and I’m going to be caught with my pants down. And we have to strike first.” In the first episode, he seemed to be all aboard the Cirie alliance and ready to strike because he didn’t want to be caught with his pants down. “It’s the smiles before the bloodbath,” he said, calling back to his premiere confessional about wanting to lather in the blood of his enemies. But then in the next episode, he threw that all away in a senseless quest for control.
“Typically I’m in control, but I haven’t seen a clear picture so far because most of my information has been told to me from Cirie and from Andrea. They’re in control. Something is not right. I’m not in the position I want to be in the game,” he said. Even though Zeke had talked about the war mounting between the two sides in the previous episode, he was now willing to turn on his own side. “The last time I played, I might have shot for the moon too early. But if you’re going to live with regret, do you live with the regret of making a move too early or the regret of not getting a chance to make a move at all?” He even recognized the risk and that making a move too early was what cost him the last time. But he still went ahead with it. “I’m amassing a team of snipers right now because I know the war is coming. A lot of people in this game think the war is going to start one way, but I’m going to make sure that that war starts my way.” He stopped seeing the game as being about relationships and instead focused on people as soldiers for his army.
The problem for Zeke is that his move was presented as a mistake. Nobody trusted him, and when word got out, it almost blew up in his face. “It’s hard for me to take anything Zeke says at face value because he is trying to form a coalition for himself,” Debbie said. Even though Zeke was telling the truth, his approach was bad and offputting. Sierra echoed this thought, “Zeke is acting like he wants to switch sides all of a sudden, but whenever I talk to Zeke, I feel like he thinks I’m stupid, and I don’t trust him…” Zeke’s betrayal got back to Cirie, Andrea and Sarah and their anger was justified. “I am furious at Zeke. I’ve been working with him since Day 1. I thought we were not only alliance members; I thought we were friends,” Andrea said. His betrayal was portrayed not only as a poor game move but as an act of sabotaging a friendship. In the end, it was Zeke that was caught with his pants down.
Where does Zeke go from here? It’s hard to see a way back up to the top for Zeke. His game has been exposed, and he’s broken the trust of his closest allies. Sarah said that “when you trust someone like [Zeke], you end up getting blindsided,” which could be foreshadowing. If people continue to trust Zeke, they could end up blindsided themselves.
Zeke’s first confessional of the season:
“I’m here to slay everyone and to win a million dollars, right? But I have, like, the greatest tribe ever. I got the goddess Cirie. I’ve got Ozzy. I’ve got J.T. I’m playing surrounded by Game Changers. Part of me has to keep slapping myself and being, like, “You’re out here, too. You belong out here, and you need to act like it.” So I want to get my hands dirty. I want to lather myself in-in the blood of my enemies, right? Like, I want to… I want to change the game. That’s what I love about Survivor.”
Zeke very much returned to this mindset in these episodes. He told us in the premiere he is here to get his hands dirty and lather himself in the blood of his enemies. He’s here to “change the game.” And that is what he tried to do in this “bloodbath” of an episode. He tried to change the course of the game and “slay everyone” but his timing was off, and he was left exposed. He did mention winning the money in this first confessional, which is a good thing, but I think it’s there to set up how ruthless Zeke will play to try and obtain that money.
Main Stories In Play
-Two Sides Go To War – These episodes set up two clear factions. The Sierra/Brad alliance vs. the Cirie/Andrea alliance.
-Michaela and her expressions – the story of Michaela trying to hold back her emotions was given added depth and layers this week.
-Debbie/Brad – the relationship between Debbie and Brad was rekindled and looks set to continue.
-Sarah in the Middle – Even though Sarah voted out Ozzy, both sides talked about her as a number. It seems that she will continue to straddle the middle ground.
-Cirie and her family – Now that Ozzy has gone, Cirie’s new story seems to be fighting for her family. It will be interesting to see if this theme continues.
That’s it for this week’s Edgic. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.