With Sierra Thomas joining the jury on “Survivor: Game Changers,” Brad Culpepper, our early pick week-to-week as the most powerful person in the game, is running out of allies. To make matters worse for Brad, Sierra failed to will her legacy advantage to him, instead bequeathing it to Sarah Lacina, the player most in the control of the game and leader of our updated power rankings for the third straight week. But this week’s rising star award goes to Michaela Bradshaw, ranked the highest she has all season after successfully maneuvering through the last vote as the person in the middle of two opposing alliances.
Below is my full rankings, strongest to weakest, of the Final 8 game changers still playing to win. Read my analysis and then update your “Survivor 34” predictions in our weekly event.
1. Sarah Lacina (even)
This week I expected Sarah to once again be the decision-maker of which alliance took control of the game, but instead she took a back seat and let Michaela drive for once. To give up power and let someone else make the moves is the kind of restraint that makes Sarah easily the most dangerous and effective player in the game. Sarah is being very calculated about every move she makes, somehow still able to straddle two different alliances without ever becoming a target herself. Even in voting out Sierra this week she was able to play convincingly enough that she was on Sierra’s side to get her to will her advantage to her while remaining loyal to Andrea/Aubry/Cirie. Now Sarah has two advantages in the game, one being an immunity idol she can play for herself after the next two votes and the other a vote steal she’s likely to use in order to ensure she makes it safely to the Final 5.
2. Tai Trang (even)
3. Michaela Bradshaw (+ 3 spots)
Without a doubt the season’s most unexpected alliance, Tai and Michaela each recognizing their positions at the bottom of opposing alliances and joining together because of it became this week’s biggest power move. Tai was already sitting rather comfortably, now in the Final 8 with two hidden immunity idols at his disposal with only a few tribal councils left to use them (unless there’s a huge blindside coming his way, like Sarah, Tai can probably easily coast to the Final 5 at this point). Michaela, on the other hand, has been doing the bidding of other players all season, limiting her own power in the process. Now she seems to have earned the trust of both Tai and Sarah, which when paired with her unlikability, could actually give her an easy path to the end of the game. A Sarah/Tai/Michaela Final 3 might be too perfect on paper, but the only hiccup there is we have yet to see Sarah and Tai bond and/or make a deal with each other.
These three players have become mostly invisible since the merge, each not really controlling who is voted out and posing very little threat to anyone else. That kind of position in the game is a great way of lasting long, but without power none of them are looking like eventual winners. Of the three, Cirie is perhaps working the hardest, mostly because her reputation and likability makes her a massive threat. Troyzan, in possession of a hidden idol, doesn’t have to work very hard and benefits from laying low until he can make a move. Aubry on the other hand just seems to be lost, hidden in the shadow of her closest ally Andrea. As long as bigger threats remain in the game none of these players should be targeted for elimination next week, but at the same time I’m willing to say that I don’t think any of these three has a shot at winning either.
7. Brad Culpepper (- 3 spots)
8. Andrea Boehlke (even)
Based on the edit of the previous episode, Brad is lucky he won immunity otherwise he’d be on the jury and Sierra would still be in the game. In any other season I’d say that now he has to win immunity every week in order to remain in the game, but this group of players has alliance-jumped more than is typical and so Brad could still have a chance. His best chance is playing up how dangerous Andrea is to everyone that is working with her. Andrea’s name has come up for discussion almost every week since the merge so there’s a steady drumbeat to take her out that no one has capitalized on yet. With Aubry firmly in her corner and Cirie seemingly working with her, too, Andrea has a bigger net of supporters than Brad does, but with Sierra gone I’d argue Brad now has a lot more room to breathe and looks less threatening, especially if he can keep how close he is to Troyzan quiet.
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.:
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