After another game changing tribal council on “Survivor: Game Changers” in which Zeke Smith was outed as transgender, the field is down to 13 and a post-credits preview of next week’s episode (“There’s a New Sheriff in Town”) announced the merge. Set to compete as individuals, the castaways will merge with seven current Mana members vs. six current Nuku members. While those lines are blurred due to two tribe swaps, it’s Brad Culpepper, leader of the Mana seven, that gets the clear advantage going forward having recently pulled in both Cirie Fields and Aubry Bracco as his “fourth” and “fifth” allies after Sierra Thomas and Troyzan Robertson.
Those five top my power rankings this week with Brad leading the pack for the second straight week. Below is the full rankings, strongest to weakest, of the 13 game changers still fighting to win. Read my analysis and then update your “Survivor 34” predictions in our weekly event.
1. Brad Culpepper – Mana (even)
2. Sierra Thomas – Mana (even)
3. Troyzan Robertson – Mana (even)
This week’s episode included two uncharacteristically (by “Survivor” standards) emotional moments — the first of which was the cry circle at the Mana camp. After most of the members found common ground in the loneliness they feel both in the game and returning home from the game, Brad, Aubry and Cirie all bonded on a personal level. Through their shared experiences and willingness to open up about them, Brad created an informal path toward an alliance of five that is going to be quite powerful at the merge. Brad is still the leader here with Sierra and Troyzan his closest allies. Those three are set up very nicely to make a run to the end if they stick together.
4. Aubry Bracco – Mana (+ 5 spots)
5. Cirie Fields – Mana (+ 6 spots)
6. Hali Ford – Mana (+ 1 spot)
The upcoming merge greatly improves the status of Aubry, Cirie and Hali who at one point seemed like they were on islands of their own. With Brad bringing Aubry and Cirie into his alliance and Hali comfortably positioned just outside of it (having worked with Brad and Sierra for quite some time now), the three women have vaulted to the top of the totem pole if the Mana seven stick together over the Nuku six. In relationship to each other, I think Aubry gets the edge here because she’s a bit more savvy than the other two. Cirie is and always will be a target for her status as a “Survivor” icon while Hali has mostly faded into the background in a coattail riding position.
7. Debbie Wanner – Nuku (+ 3 spots)
8. Tai Trang – Nuku (+ 5 spots)
After a glimpse that Ozzy and Zeke might target Debbie and Tai because of their history with Aubry as “Kaoh Rong” players surfaced it seemed like they both might be in danger at the latest Nuku tribal council. That, however, did not get addressed at all and I’m starting to wonder if it ever will again. If it doesn’t, Debbie and Tai can sit comfortably for at least a couple more weeks with their advantages in their pockets. Tai of course still has the two hidden immunity idols, but because most of the players will suspect he has at least one he’s probably a bigger target long term than Debbie who now has a double-vote advantage that no one knows about.
9. Andrea Boehlke – Nuku (- 3 spots)
10. Zeke Smith – Nuku (- 6 spots)
11. Sarah Lacina – Nuku (- 6 spots)
The latest tribal council was a rough one for these Nuku three that have played the entire game together, but in a weird way I think it solidified their bonds with each other. Unfortunately, the fact that they returned to tribal meant that Nuku will now enter the merge with one less number than the current Mana tribe. To add insult to injury, Debbie and Tai both worked with the power players at Mana for long enough to easily skip to their side, creating what could become nine against four. That would leave these three and Ozzy on the losing end of things. Andrea is probably the least threatening of the three while Zeke and Sarah are likely to come off as equally dangerous.
12. Michaela Bradshaw – Mana (even)
13. Ozzy Lusth – Nuku (+ 1 spot)
The merge is never going to be a safe place to play for the most physically competitive players. This season those players are Ozzy and Michaela, neither of whom are positioned within a majority alliance to protect them. Michaela is probably safer for now because she rolls into the merge with the Mana tribe — though she’s at the bottom of that hierarchy, she’s probably good for a couple weeks unless they decide she becomes too big of a threat. Ozzy on the other hand basically has to win immunity to stay. Brad and the rest of the Mana members are not going to want to let Ozzy stick around long enough to prevent them from winning immunity.
Get a closer look at the Season 34 contestants by clicking through our cast photo gallery. In our “Survivor” predictions center, you get to answer the following questions before each episode airs on CBS every Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET.:
Who will win “Survivor”?
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