The queen stayed the queen on Wednesday’s episode of “Survivor: Game Changers” after two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine worked her magic to take out the only other former champion left, J.T. Thomas. And while Sandra’s game play has been masterful, she’s had to do a lot of work to make the chips fall in her favor and that puts a huge target on her back. Doing much less work to stay in power are Tai Trang, Brad Culpepper and Sierra Thomas who I rank for the third week in a row as the most powerful people in the game.
Below is the updated ranking, strongest to weakest, of the 15 game changers fighting to win. Read my analysis and then update your “Survivor 34” predictions in our weekly event.
1. Tai Trang – Mana (+ 1 spot)
2. Brad Culpepper – Mana (- 1 spot)
3. Sierra Thomas – Mana (no change)
Because of a dominant performance at the immunity challenge this week, the Mana tribe escaped going to tribal council for this first time this season. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have their work cut out for them. Managing Debbie Wanner‘s outbursts may actually have been more stressful than voting someone out. The Brad/Sierra/Tai alliance is undoubtedly the strongest in the game so far, mostly because it’s been tested more often than any other and they’ve showed a willingness to stick together. Another tribe swap next week could threaten it though, which is why this week Tai gets the power advantage over the other two for finding the clue to another immunity idol immediately after successfully using his first to take out one of the biggest threats in the game.
Up this week and grouped together for the first time are Sarah and Troyzan. After a third straight week of very little action at the Tavua camp due to their challenge domination, the only scene we get of strategy there is between these two. We’ve now seen only a few bits of Sarah this season and both have been about her new approach to the game as a criminal rather than a cop. This week she approached Troyzan, knowing he’s at the bottom of that tribe, to prepare for the eventual moment when she can use him to take out a bigger threat. It’s a great play on her end, but it’s an even better play on his end because he refrains from disclosing to her that he has a hidden immunity idol — something most players in his position would have done in order to gain trust. But Troyzan knows that the longer he keeps that idol and the longer it stays a secret then the more power he has.
6. Sandra Diaz-Twine – Nuku (- 1 spot)
Let’s be clear about this. Sandra is a two-time winner playing for her third time and has now attended four out of five tribal councils, but has yet to receive a single vote cast against her for elimination. And she’s not avoiding elimination by staying under the radar. Quite the opposite. Sandra is playing harder than anyone out there and she’s proactively taken out the only other former winners in the game, J.T. and Tony Vlachos. There is still no chance that Sandra wins this season, but the fact that she’s gotten this far in such spectacular fashion is nothing short of confirmation that she is the greatest player in series history. For that reason it devastates me to drop her a spot in the rankings, but she can’t last much longer. Can she?
Last week I had Sarah lumped in with the Tavua three (Zeke/Andrea/Cirie), but she stepped ahead of the pack in her work with Troyzan this week, while at the same time Ozzy showed vulnerability in the one place he’s an asset, the immunity challenge. Without an appearance at tribal council yet it’s hard to tell how any of these four players are aligned which is why they keep hovering around the middle of the pack. Next week’s tribe swap will surely destine one of them for their first vote so hopefully I’ll have more information to pull from when discussing them next week.
Jeff and Michaela were on the right side of the vote again this week, thanks in large part to their devotion to Sandra. Michaela’s name was on the chopping block and Jeff could have easily voted against her, but didn’t. My guess is that Jeff realizes that his game is as vulnerable as Michaela’s — he’s easily one of the biggest challenge liabilities in the game. Keeping Michaela and Sandra in the game benefits Jeff because they’re bigger liabilities than he is. That being said, if people he’s allied with keep going home eventually he’s going to run out of protection and he’ll be picked off by a stronger alliance.
Speaking of being picked off, Hali and Aubry are now in a similar boat as the last remaining outcast on each of their tribes. Hali gets the edge here because from what I remember of her time at original Mana is that she was one of Sandra’s minions, a group that has fared well so far in the game. If next week’s tribe switch reunites Hali with Sandra and/or Jeff and Michaela then Hali’s fortunes could see a quick rise. I also think she’s managed to work her way ahead of Debbie in the new Mana alliance of Brad/Tai/Sierra. Aubry on the other hand is fresh out of luck after back-to-back eliminations of Malcolm Freberg and J.T., her closest allies. It’s unclear whether or not she has any bonds with original Nuku members (Zeke/Andrea/Cirie/Ozzy/Sarah) that will welcome her in after the swap.
15. Debbie Wanner – Mana (- 4 spots)
No one’s fortunes have plummeted quite as quickly as Debbie’s this season. After the premiere I clocked her as the third most powerful person in the game and now three weeks later she’s the least. Her outbursts this week were nothing short of crazy, at least as far as the editors wanted us to believe. It’s hard to imagine that Brad/Tai/Sierra will be eager to work with her at all anymore considering how unreliable she’s become. She didn’t manage to keep those outbursts contained to the Mana camp either, screaming hysterics while the immunity challenge was still in progress means the other tribes are now also aware of her lunacy. I still don’t quite understand what triggered Debbie so hard to act like she did, but I think it’s pretty much sealed her fate as a pre-merge boot simply because she’s now a huge liability to any alliance.
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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