After taking a back seat to Brad Culpepper‘s more visible alliance-building in the last few weeks of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Sierra Thomas stepped into the driver’s seat for the merge and assumed control of the game. The two have placed in and out of my top spots in the power rankings since the second episode and after the melee of the first two merge tribal councils seem to have a firm grip on the rest of the season. For now it’s Sierra that wields the most power to shift votes in her favor so she gets the the top spot, but something tells me Brad is still not to be underestimated.
Below is the full rankings, strongest to weakest, of the 11 game changers still playing to win. Read my analysis and then update your “Survivor 34” predictions in our weekly event.
1. Sierra Thomas (+ 1 spot)
2. Brad Culpepper (- 1 spot)
No alliance has been more in control so far this season than Brad and Sierra, but their control isn’t what’s most impressive. Instead it’s their unwavering unity that gives them the most strength, especially when you compare it to Zeke’s approach which was to turn on his season-long alliance the first chance he got. Sierra and Brad should be worried that the other players have realized that they’re the ones in control and need to be broken up, but following Ozzy Lusth‘s elimination the two have enough numbers to control all future votes (as long as their allies continue to toe the line).
Last week both Sarah and Debbie were looking at a narrow path toward victory with the Nuku tribe outnumbered by the Mana tribe, but both shrewdly maneuvered through the first two merge votes building trust among the group. Debbie actually looks like she might become Sierra’s most trusted advisor, and even showed considerable power redirecting the last vote toward Ozzy, but Sarah is playing much more under-the-radar so I give her the edge in terms of lasting longer. Eventually the group’s patience with Debbie’s antics is going to wear thin and I suspect that her use of the extra vote advantage will clue some people in to the fact that Debbie is playing much more strategically and secretively than she lets on — for now, she’s safe, but her days are certainly numbered.
There are three hidden idols possessed between these two players and both have (smartly) taken a low-key approach to the merge. Sitting comfortably under the protection of Brad and Sierra, Troyzan and Tai are flying so well below the radar right now that I actually think either could make a very deep run in the game and possibly win. Tai is at more of a disadvantage simply because of his reputation as an idol finder and his perceived connection to Aubry and Debbie while Troyzan is virtually invisible on the threat meter. My hope is that we get some follow-up to the deal that Troyzan struck with Sarah during their time at Tavua that results in a blindside or two, otherwise the 6-person alliance that I have at the top of the rankings this week is going to steamroll through the rest of what will inevitably become a snooze-worthy finish to an otherwise exciting season.
Zeke’s turning on Andrea this week is still so bizarre to me and while it on one hand painted Andrea as a threat it also gave Andrea the kick in the butt she needed to actually play the game. Andrea and Aubry can both be as ruthlessly cunning as the best and are major threats when it comes to strategy if given just a little bit of room to make a move. Aubry will probably last longer than Andrea because she’s certainly playing a quieter game at this point, specifically when it comes to the immunity challenges — Andrea won the first one and put up a valiant effort in the second.
9. Cirie Fields (- 4 spots)
Cirie’s merge game in this week’s two episodes is perhaps the most intriguing — unfortunately, despite some really deft plays, I don’t quite see where she goes from here. I’m talking about how at the second tribal council she knowingly wasted a vote on Sierra instead of strengthening the strike against either Zeke or Ozzy. My guess is that Sarah told Cirie which way she’d be voting so Cirie knew Ozzy was going home regardless of where her vote went. That’s a similar strategy to the one she used in the previous council where she instructed Michaela to vote for Zeke knowing that it meant nothing, but would keep up appearances with Sierra. If Sarah really did inform Cirie of her intentions then Cirie has an in-road with Sarah in a potential coup against Sierra and Brad. But, like I said, I’m just assuming this is what went down and it’s much more likely that Cirie is at the bottom of things just trying to create what little chaos she can before she’s inevitably taken out.
At this point both Michaela and Zeke have painted such huge targets on their backs that it is virtually impossible for either to win the game. Michaela won’t win for obvious reasons — it’s clear that no one, save Cirie, is in her corner and cares about carrying her to the end. Michaela has no say in who is voted out and if she’s allowed to stay it’s only because someone more powerful wants to use her vote against someone else more powerful. That’s not a winning position. Zeke, on the other hand, had all the power he needed until he realized he wanted more. I have no explanation for why Zeke turned on his alliance with Andrea/Ozzy/Cirie/Sarah. None. He should have been voted out because of it, but even though he wasn’t his time in the game now has an expiration date. Not only did Zeke kill any loyalty he had in this game (who in their right mind left in the game will trust him now?), but I would go so far as to say that Zeke killed any chance he ever had at winning in a future third season.
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