‘Survivor: Game Changers’ power rankings: Brad Culpepper and Tai Trang stay on top after another power play

It was another epic tribal council on Wednesday’s “Survivor: Game Changers” after host Jeff Probst brought two tribes to the ceremony with the task of voting one player out. After a lively discussion and successful use of a hidden immunity idol, Malcolm Freberg was sent home, bewildered and frustrated. The shocking tribal council and the likely fallout for the remaining players serves as the foundation of our updated power rankings.

In last week’s second ranking, Sierra Thomas topped our chart with tribe mates Brad Culpepper and Tai Trang right behind her. This week the trio stays on top, but because of a masterclass power play at tribal council, Brad and Tai assume the top two spots. Below is the updated ranking, strongest to weakest, of the 16 game changers fighting to win. Read my analysis and then update your “Survivor 34” predictions in our weekly event.

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1. Brad Culpepper – Mana (+ 1 spot)
2. Tai Trang – Mana (+ 1 spot)
3. Sierra Thomas – Mana (- 2 spots)

The double tribal council was so chaotic that it’s almost impossible to comprehend exactly what transpired and how the disadvantaged Mana tribe managed to escape losing one of their own. I credit Brad with keeping calm and sticking to their plan of targeting Malcolm rather than allowing the Nuku tribe antics to confuse them into messing up. Tai gets points for finding the hidden immunity idol that allowed Mana to save themselves and Sierra remains strong for her her close alliance with the other two. Together the three once again make the kind of power play that not only solidifies their position at the top of our ranking, but justifies their label of “game changers.”

4. Ozzy Lusth – Tavua (+ 11 spots)
5. Sandra Diaz-Twine – Nuku 
(+ 11 spots)

After resting at the bottom of the rankings last week, Ozzy and Sandra make the biggest jumps this week simply because they’re each, by some miracle, still on the island. So far Ozzy is playing a similar game to the three he played before, securing his safety in the early weeks by providing his tribe with plenty of food at camp. And in many ways Sandra is also playing her typical game, laying low in challenges and building a social circle that protects her from her biggest threats. Though they’re playing off of wildly different strategies, both Ozzy and Sandra are the leaders of their tribes and seem to be in firm control of which direction each will go.

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6. Troyzan Robertson – Tavua (+ 2 spots)

Troyzan is still the outcast on the Tavua tribe and his poor performance at this week’s reward challenge won’t go unnoticed. But he still has a hidden immunity idol that no one knows about and with it comes the power to make his own decision about who from his tribe could be eliminated. When it comes time for Tavua to head to tribal council, Troyzan has many options and that should keep him safe for awhile.

7. Sarah Lacina – Tavua (+ 3 spots)
8. Zeke Smith – Tavua (+ 3 spots)
9. Andrea Boehlke – Tavua (+ 3 spots)
10. Cirie Fields – Tavua (+ 3 spots)

The other Tavua members are slowly becoming indistinguishable — all four came from the original Nuku tribe and are now comfortably on a 5-1 majority at Tavua. Sarah and Zeke get the edge because they don’t seem to be on anyone’s radar as threats, compared to Andrea and Cirie who have already been pegged by Troyzan and Ozzy, respectively, as deceitful players. Regardless, it’s hard at this point to not think of this group of four as a block likely to plan, vote and work together as long as they can and until they lose there’s no telling how smart of games they’re actually playing.

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11. Debbie Wanner – Mana (- 2 spots)
Debbie’s status on her tribe is hard to get a grasp on, but that Brad, Tai and Sierra seemed to be the tribal council decision-makers again this week confirms my belief that she’s at the bottom of the totem pole in her alliance. With only five people left at Mana, Debbie is surely vulnerable and it will take just one slip-up to get the tribe thinking she might need to go next.

12. Aubry Bracco – Nuku (- 7 spots)
13. Jeff Varner – Nuku (- 7 spots)
14. Michaela Bradshaw – Nuku (- 7 spots)

Though they aren’t necessarily to blame for it, the Nuku blunder at the double tribal council has greatly changed the fortunes of this tribe. Last week Malcolm seemed to be in one of the strongest positions in the game and this week he went home. The same thing could happen to any one of these three, none of whom have proven that they’re in a position to protect themselves from the twists the game is prepared to throw at them. While I don’t think any of them are in immediate danger of going home, none of them are showing that they have what it takes to get to the end of the game, let alone win.

15. Hali Ford – Mana (- 1 spot)
16. J.T. Thomas – Nuku (even)

I give Hali a lot of credit for her aggressive approach at the double tribal council. On the outside looking in at the Mana camp, Hali will be in a bad position at every tribal council they attend and will have to work hard to stay each and every time. That she’s already avoided elimination at two tribal councils is indeed impressive, but unless she solidifies a bond with someone I fear her luck is going to run out. J.T. made similarly bold moves this week, but his paid off much less than Hali’s. Not only did J.T. fail to get Sandra sent home, but his closest ally on Nuku was eliminated instead. Going forward, Nuku knows J.T. attempted to betray them and without Malcolm’s strength in challenges, he could be looking at a trip home as early as next week.

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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”?

Who will be eliminated?

Who will win Reward?

Who will win Immunity?

Will a hidden idol be played?

Will anybody quit or be medevaced?

Who will win ‘Survivor: Game Changers’? See exclusive odds

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Survivor” in our reality TV forum.

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