‘Survivor: Game Changers’ power rankings: Sierra Thomas & Brad Culpepper dominate after second tribe swap

As depressing as it is that Queen Sandra Diaz-Twine‘s torch was snuffed (for the first time in 94 days of consecutive play across three seasons) on “Survivor: Game Changers,” I can’t help but feel like now the game is opened up for the rest of the players to assume the spotlight. The likeliest to blossom in Sandra’s absence are the members of a new Nuku tribe that voted her out, but the Mana tribe is still the most powerful. There Brad Culpepper and Sierra Thomas emerge from the season’s second tribe swap unscathed and are still together atop my rankings for the fourth week in a row.

Below is the updated power rankings, strongest to weakest, of the 14 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. Sierra Thomas – Mana (+ 1 spot)
3. Troyzan Robertson – Mana (+ 1 spot)

News of the tribe swap sparked very different feelings for the Brad/Sierra duo and Troyzan, but resulted in what just may be an alliance of three that lasts to the end of the game. For Brad and Sierra the swap could have erased the power they had acquired at the top of the totem pole at Mana. For Troyzan it was a chance to escape being the odd man out at the bottom at Tavua. Swapped together, but outnumbered by original Nuku members, Brad and Sierra may have lost some power, but the forging of alliance between Brad and Troyzan holds enough promise to make up that difference. And while Troyzan has an idol and Sierra has the legacy advantage, it’s Brad that is calling the shots here and looks best positioned to win.

4. Zeke Smith – Nuku (+ 4 spots)
5. Sarah Lacina – Nuku (even)
6. Andrea Boehlke – Nuku (+ 3 spots)

At Nuku, it’s Sarah, Zeke and Andrea that came out of the swap in the best position. The three, along with Ozzy, have been on the same tribe through both swaps and in their first tribal council appearance are credited as being the only players in three seasons to successfully eliminate Sandra. Most of that credit goes to Zeke who spearheaded the plan to distract Sandra with Tai and also built a foundation of trust with Jeff that can come in handy down the road. Sarah and Andrea took a backseat this week, but it’s Andrea that is still invisible in this season’s editing and is looking more and more like a goat/coattail rider with each passing week.

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7. Hali Ford – Mana (+ 6 spots)
8. Jeff Varner – Nuku (+ 3 spots)
9. Aubry Bracco – Mana (+ 5 spots)
10. Debbie Wanner – Nuku (+ 5 spots)

Hali, Jeff, Aubry and Debbie are each now playing without allies in a game that ultimately requires them. Hali, I think, is in the best position going forward because I firmly believe that she’s the likeliest to be drawn into the Brad/Sierra/Troyzan alliance as the fourth vote they need in a tribe of seven. I badly want confirmation that Sierra is running a long game in her insistence that her and Hali have no connection whatsoever despite having played on “Survivor: Worlds Apart” together. Similarly, Jeff is the easiest swing vote for Zeke and company to pull in at Nuku once they realize that they have enough numbers to take out the big threats in their alliance, Tai and Ozzy.

Aubry and Debbie are in more of a wild card position than the other two so I rank them lower. Aubry has been on the losing side in three of her four tribal appearances so far — all of which saw her main allies at the time (Tony Vlachos, Malcolm Freberg and J.T. Thomas) go home. If Mana loses immunity, Aubry’s best chance will be to throw Michaela under the bus before it happens to her. Somewhat wrapped up in Aubry’s fate is Debbie despite the fact that they’re on different tribes. This week we saw Sandra throw a target at the three remaining “Survivor: Kaoh Rong” players in her efforts to take out Tai. That leaves Debbie in the hot seat going forward because of an imagined Kaoh Rong alliance between her, Aubry and Tai.

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11. Cirie Fields – Mana (- 1 spot)
12. Michaela Bradshaw – Mana (even)

So far, Cirie and Michaela have both had a lot of buzz swirling around them without much to do in terms of strategy. Cirie is now the only player in the game that hasn’t attended tribal council yet which is quite lucky considering how huge of a threat she is when allowed a deep run in the game. The downside of that is that Cirie hasn’t had a chance to solidify bonds through the trust of voting the same with a group of people. No one knows where Cirie stands with them until she’s given the chance to vote with them. Michaela on the other hand has attended a few tribals and almost went home on one, but still feels like a non-entity when it comes to deciding the course of the game. Michaela has very little power in terms of an alliance, but will always be a threat because of her physicality in challenges and her apparent inability to gel with her tribes in the day-to-day living at camp.

13. Tai Trang – Nuku (- 12 spots)
14. Ozzy Lusth – Nuku (- 7 spots)

The biggest losers this week are Tai and Ozzy despite the fact that they: 1) swapped into a majority alliance, 2) successfully voted out Sandra and 3) Tai found two hidden idols. All of that good luck doesn’t matter when your entire tribe sees you each as huge threats in the game and you both turn the sword on one another. Tai’s attempt to deflect attention away from him and on to Ozzy is going to backfire on one of these two and probably soon. My best guess is that they continue to target one another and that Zeke and company will have to choose a side at their next tribal. The threat of Tai having or not having an idol to use will probably be enough to convince Nuku to take out Ozzy first.

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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.:

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

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