The season premiere of Survivor: Game Changers airs tonight on CBS. Read a live recap and join the discussion here.
Survivor is back! Once again, castaways will try to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other to win the $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor. This time, however, it is another all-star season. The theme for this season is Game Changers, meaning the people invited back have proved they are willing to make moves to change the game. Among the cast are three former winners, including two-time champion Sandra Diaz-Twine. Will she achieve the threepeat? Or will a former loser get redemption and win the season? I guess we’ll have to find out. So, without further ado, let’s get this season started!
Survivor’s 500th episode begins with an aerial shot of the islands of Fiji and a Jeff Probst voice-over, and he tells us how the game has evolved after 17 years and 33 seasons. He says the twenty people invited back have changed the game, and we see them all aboard a ship. We first hear a confessional from Survivor: Cagayan winner Tony. He says he knows he’s a huge threat, and we see clips from his former season, including building the spy shack, finding hidden immunity idols, and voting out his closest ally Trish. However, Tony says that we “ain’t seen nothing yet.” We next hear from Malcolm, who competed on Survivor: Philippines and Survivor: Caramoan. He says that he swung for the fences and made “splashy, firework type moves.” We see the clip from Survivor: Caramoan when he handed over his second hidden immunity idol to his ally Eddie (while already having another hidden immunity idol around his neck) at a tribal council, causing a big reaction from the other tribemates. Malcolm asserts that he has a reputation to uphold and he’ll continue to make big moves. He’s very excited to be back.
We next hear from Sandra, the winner of Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. Sandra reminds us that she’s the only person to ever win Survivor twice. She says it wasn’t just luck that got her the win twice. We see a clip from Heroes vs Villains with her and Russell. Russell asks her if she’s with him or against him, and she candidly tells him she’s against him. Sandra tells us that she knows how to make it to Day 39 and not get voted off. “The queen stays queen,” Sandra says. “Adiós.” We next hear from Cirie, who competed on Survivor: Panama, Survivor: Micronesia, and Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. She says she’s a gangster with a smile and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We see a clip from Survivor: Micronesia when she managed to get Erik to give up his immunity before blindsiding him at that same tribal council. Cirie says she’s already made it to the end, and the only step left for her to do is to win.
We next hear from Debbie, who competed just last year on Survivor: Kaoh Rong. She says she has the strength of a gymnast and the tenacity of a giant squid. She plans to go for broke, and that this game is the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes all at once. So, everyone better just go for it. We next hear a confessional from Brad, who competed on Survivor: Blood vs Water with his wife Monica. He says they have all changed the game, and they all must go big or go home to win. We next see Jeff standing atop a rusty shipwreck submerged in water as he delivers the classic line: “39 days. 20 people. 1 Survivor.”
The ship with the twenty returning players anchors before Jeff officially welcomes them to the 34th season of Survivor. He tells them that they were all handpicked to be part of this season due to them all sharing the same trait: they were willing to make moves to change the game. He says some of them make bold moves (as the camera cuts to Tony) and some of them make quiet moves (as the camera cuts to Sierra from Survivor: Worlds Apart). Jeff adds some of them have made big enough moves that were so successful that they are legendary (the camera cuts to Malcolm and Cirie). He says some of them have made moves that were a disaster and got them voted out (a camera cut to Ozzy from Survivor: Cook Islands, Survivor: Micronesia, and Survivor: South Pacific this time). Jeff says that most moves won’t work since there is only one winner, but it’s all about having the guts to make big moves. He tells them all the name of the season: Survivor: Game Changers. Jeff then asks some of them a question. He asks Ozzy how much time does he spend thinking about the mistakes he made in past seasons. Ozzy says he still has nightmares about a million dollars slipping from his hands, but he’s grateful for the memories. Jeff asks JT about the other winners among the cast. JT says it’s great he’s not the only winner, but he doesn’t think it matters. He claims that Sandra won’t be the only two-time winner. Jeff asks Cirie about JT’s remark. He jokingly says she has not shot if JT is right, but Cirie replies, “Who says JT is right?” to the amusement of the other contestants. Jeff then asks Zeke (from last season’s Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X) if he feels any pressure competing alongside these people. Zeke says he is “geeking out,” but he is determined to prove that he belongs on that boat.
The twenty castaways are already wearing their tribe buffs. Jeff informs the people wearing an orange buff that they are on the Mana tribe. This tribe includes Aubry, Caleb, Ciera, Hali, Malcolm, Michaela, Sandra, Tony, Troyzan, and Varner. The people wearing blue buffs are on the Nuku tribe. This tribe includes Andrea, Brad, Cirie, Debbie, JT, Ozzy, Sarah, Sierra, Tai, and Zeke. It’s time for the marooning. Jeff tells them that the boat is filled with supplies, and they are welcome to grab as many supplies as they can in the amount of time allotted. He also says they have their first game changing decision. He points out to a life ring floating out in the water. On either side of the ring is a color-coded rope. The first person to untie his or her tribe’s rope will unleash a tool kit that will give that tribe an advantage around camp.
The season begins, as everyone hastily tries to grab as many supplies from the boat to bring back to camp. The Mana tribe drops their raft into the water as Ozzy jumps overboard and begins swimming to the chest. Jeff is astounded that no one on the Mana tribe is going after Ozzy; he can’t believe they are basically letting him get the tool kit. “I guess we’re not gonna have a tool kit,” Hali says as she gathers supplies. Malcolm replies they won’t get it due to Ozzy being there, implying no one can outswim Ozzy. More people start jumping overboard, and we see an envelope labeled “secret advantage” on the floor. Caleb then decides to swim after Ozzy, and Sierra picks up the secret advantage. They have thirty seconds left to jump off the ship as Ozzy managed to untie the tool kit. The tribes get on their rafts and make their way to their respective camps.
The Mana tribe makes it to camp. We hear a confessional from Hali. She calls everyone a snake in the grass, but claims she’s a cobra. We hear from Michaela next. She thinks her best chance at succeeding is to schmooze as many people as possible. She’s worried about her facial expressions giving her away since she’s not a good liar. Meanwhile, Tony goes running into the jungle and says he’s going to go look for the idol. He seems to be joking, but the other tribemates are stunned that Tony just did that. They agree he just put a target on his back. Sandra and Caleb eventually go walking into the jungle and find Tony. Sandra says in her confessional that they might have to keep Tony around for his physicality. However, in his confessional, Caleb asserts that Tony is a big target.
Over at the Nuku tribe, Zeke says he’s there to slay everyone. However, he’s excited to be on a tribe with Cirie, Ozzy, and JT. Zeke says he wants to change the game. We next hear a confessional from Sarah. She think people will be too eager to make big moves that they’ll put a target on her back. She says that she plans to be the silent assassin. Meanwhile, Sierra reads her secret advantage: it’s the Legacy Advantage, which is similar to the one played by Ken last season. The difference is that this can be played when there are 13 people left in the game or when there are 6 people left in the game. Sierra talks to Brad next. They discuss teaming up with Ozzy, and Sierra later approaches Ozzy. We hear a confessional from Ozzy, and he’s worried about people making moves against him. He’s especially concerned about Cirie since she blindsided him in Survivor: Micronesia. He wants to plan the blindsides this time, and he’s already targeting Cirie.
Cirie thinks it’s possible to put the past in the past, but she’s scared to be on the same tribe as Ozzy. It’s been eight years since she blindsided Ozzy, so she hopes he can move on. Ozzy and Cirie talk, an Ozzy assures her they’re cool. However, Ozzy later talks to Tai and JT. He says he wants Cirie gone just because she’s not a physical asset. Later on, Cirie and Tai talk game. Tai accidentally alludes that Ozzy still has unresolved issues with Cirie, and Cirie is now very concerned.
Back at the Mana tribe, Tony gets to work on building a spy bunker. He believes everyone will be on the lookout for a spy shack, but he wants to spy from underground. While Tony is busy digging his bunker, Troyzan stumbles upon him. Troyzan doesn’t say anything to him, but he noticed what Tony was up to. Troyzan tells the rest of the tribe that Tony was digging for an idol, and Tony is now an even bigger target. Meanwhile, there is talks about who the first boot should be, led by Ciera. Malcolm notices that Ciera is throwing out Caleb’s name and seems to want to call the shots. Malcolm doesn’t want Tony or Caleb to leave early. Instead, he wants Ciera gone first due to how hard she’s pushing her agenda.
It’s now time for the first immunity challenge. They will get on a raft, paddle out to the ocean, and retrieve a set of keys. They will then have to return to the beach and dig up bags of puzzle pieces. They then will have to unlock a chest that will contain a third bag of puzzle pieces. They then will have to assemble the puzzle. The first team to complete the puzzle will win immunity. Along with immunity, they are playing for flint. In addition, Jeff informs them that there will be no revote in the event of a tie anymore. They will immediately go into a possible rock-drawing scenario. Afterwards, the challenge begins.
Seven on each tribe pull a raft to the water and begin paddling to the platform. Once at the platform, Ozzy and Hali swim out for the keys. Ozzy gets his keys first, but Hali is not too far behind. They have to go through a series of obstacles on their way back to the beach. It’s an even challenge as both tribes are digging for the bags of puzzle pieces. Nuku takes a slight lead, but Mana catches up as Debbie struggles with unlocking the chest. Varner also struggles with unlocking the chest, but the chest unlocks. Cirie and Zeke are working on the puzzle for Nuku and Sandra and Ciera are working on the puzzle for Mana. Cirie and Zeke pull ahead as they get to work on the last bag of puzzle pieces, and they complete the third puzzle. Nuku wins immunity!
Mana returns to camp, and there’s discussion about whom to vote out. Tony, Malcolm, Caleb, Aubry, Varner, and Sandra talk about how Ciera is throwing out names. However, Ciera approaches the group. They lie and say they want to vote out Michaela. Everyone is informed of the plan, including Michaela. Michaela also learns that Ciera is voting for her and Ciera thinks everyone is voting Michaela too. This bothers Michaela, and she reacts strongly to this. Now everyone is worried about Michaela having a short fuse, so they consider whether or not they should vote out Michaela and vote Ciera out some other time.
It’s time for tribal council. They talk about the theme of the season: game changers. They also discuss how Tony already has been playing aggressively. They talk about the vote. No one knows how Caleb will play since he was evacuated before attending a tribal council his prior season. Michaela says that voting her out will be too easy, and she hopes a game changers season will have a better move as the first boot. Jeff points out how the easiest vote would be Sandra, but Sandra says that she’s the perfect person to bring to the end since no one will give her a third million dollars. Hali says that the first boot will benefit the tribe, and that “loose lips sink ships.” Ciera believes she is voting with the majority, and Michaela says she’ll be surprised if she gets no votes. Sandra says a name for this tribal council is “the unknown.” Afterwards, it’s time to vote.
We see Ciera vote for Michaela and Michaela vote for Ciera. Which will be the first voted out?
Jeff reads the votes. The first vote is for…
Ciera is the first person voted out of Survivor: Game Changers.
The morning afterwards, Tony and Aubry talk game. They agree to work together since they see each other as a threat. They want to get together a majority alliance. They want to bring in Malcolm, Caleb, and Sandra. They want to align with threats, and Tony says Sandra is the biggest threat. Sandra and Tony talk game, and Tony lets her know about the alliance. In her confessional, Sandra says her game is simple: as long as it’s not her going home, she’ll vote anyone out.
Over at Nuku, they name the chickens. Last time Tai befriended a chicken, and he wants to keep them alive. However, JT doesn’t plan to let the chickens live, and he says in his confessional that Tai should be reasonable about the chickens.
Back at Mana, Tony continues to work on his spy bunker. While he’s working, he sees Sandra and Troyzan talk game. Tony hears his name being thrown out, and he confronts them. Troyzan and Sandra lie about their conversation, and Tony knows it and somewhat calls them out. Tony says in his confessional that he’s done with Sandra. Sandra feels the same way. She planned to align herself with Tony, but she says in her confessional that Tony needs to go.
Over at Nuku, JT and Ozzy say they trust each other and that they have nothing to worry about since they’re on a strong tribe. Meanwhile, Cirie is still worried about her fate in the game due to her reputation. At the water well, Cirie and Sarah talk game. Sarah promises she’ll have Cirie’s back. However, in her confessional, Sarah says she’ll vote out Cirie if that’s what the plan is. Cirie also approaches Zeke, and Zeke agrees to work with Cirie. In his confessional, Zeke still calls Cirie a dangerous player. Later on Cirie approaches Debbie. She lets Debbie know that everyone is saying Debbie is talking too much. In her confessional, Debbie has her doubts about Cirie. In addition, she thinks Cirie will still be on the chopping block if they were to lose the next immunity.
Back at Mana, Sandra and Hali talk game. She asks Hali if Tony has approached her. Hali says no, and Sandra says that Tony needs to go since he’s trying to call the shots. Sandra then forms her own alliance of five with Hali, Troyzan, Varner, and Michaela. Varner is in awe of how Sandra formed her own alliance in fifteen minutes. In her confessional, Sandra reminds us that she’s the queen: “You’re only the King until the Queen arrives,” she says. “I’m here.”
Tony talks to Aubry later. He’s certain that Sandra is forming something against him, and he tells Aubry that they need to pull someone in with the two of them, Caleb, and Malcolm. Tony talks to Malcolm, and Malcolm says he wants to team up with strong people. Malcolm says Sandra is too dangerous and they can’t let her have her own army. Malcolm still doesn’t trust Tony, but is on board with working with him. Caleb is also on the same page that Sandra needs to go, but he actually trusts Tony.
It’s now time for the immunity challenge. Six people from each tribe must race out into the ocean to a large cage. They must jump inside it and untie a large snakelike dummy. They must toss the snake over the cage and then bring it to shore. Afterwards, they must unlock a chest with a combination lock. Afterwards, they must throw rings onto posts. The first tribe to land rings onto the posts that spell out the word “immunity” will win. The challenge begins, and Nuku takes a lead as Mana struggles getting their snake over the cage. Nuku gets a huge lead, but Mana somehow manages to catch up due to Malcolm doing well landing the rings. It’s suddenly a very close challenge, but Malcolm cannot get the last two rings. JT lands the last ring for Nuku. Nuku wins immunity!
Mana returns to camp, bemoaning their loss. In her confessional, Michaela is especially frustrated. She says she is a strong player, but the tribe didn’t give her a chance to play. While Tony walks from camp, Sandra, Michaela, Varner, Troyzan, and Hali discuss how Tony needs to go. However, they are concerned about Tony finding idols. They might need to split the votes, and they consider approaching Malcolm and Caleb to split the votes. While Hali and Sandra talk to them, Tony approaches the four of them. He asks what they are thinking, and Sandra lies and throws out Aubry’s name. Later on Tony and Caleb talk game, and they say that Sandra needs to go. However, in order to have the numbers, they need to pull in Michaela. Caleb approaches Michaela and Varner, and he tells them that they need to keep the tribe strong. Michaela agrees and says she hates losing. Varner, meanwhile, is entertained to see two winners battling it out against each other. Sandra is aware that she could be voted out. However, she reminds us that no one has a track record like hers.
It’s time for tribal council. Jeff says back-to-back losses isn’t a good way to begin the game. Tony says they need to keep the tribe strong, and Malcolm agrees. Jeff asks Michaela her thoughts, and she agrees that strong people need to stay. Sandra is worried, and she says that physicality may not matter as much since they still lost. Troyzan talks about paranoia, and Tony calls Troyzan out for being sneaky. Sandra says that Tony confronted them about a conversation that was not a big deal. Jeff asks Tony about his reputation, and Tony says he has no plan to play a deceptive game this time around. Varner, Malcolm, and Caleb believe Tony is telling the truth about this. Afterwards, it’s time to vote.
We see Sandra vote for Aubry, but says that she’s not going home. Tony is the one leaving tonight.
Jeff reads the votes. The first vote is for…
Tony is the second person voted out of Survivor: Game Changers.
On his way out, Tony says that they’re all sheep being led to the slaughter, but Sandra loudly says that that’s what he gets for plotting against her and the queen stays the queen. She also tells Tony to take his ass home and to say hi to Ciera for her.
And that wraps up tonight’s episode of Survivor: Game Changers. Thanks for reading, post your thoughts in the comment section below, and come back next week for another live recap.