Anyone who still doubts Sandra’s title as Survivor’s queen needs to watch the premiere episode of Survivor: Game Changers.
It’s a masterclass in strategy.
She just schooled Tony and showed everyone that when the Queen wants something, regardless of how much you dislike it, you present it to her in a golden plate.
But more on that amazing boot later.
Let’s talk about the first three days.
Game changing time
It was a classic marooning. And it’s nice to give homage to the very first one. Seeing those familiar faces was a delight for any Survivor fan and when Jeff gave the signal to start collecting items, things went from fun to frenzy.
It’s interesting how editing played out. When Jeff started talking about this season’s theme and referred to silent moves, the shot went straight to Sierra; bold moves, Tony’s face appeared on the frame; and then legendary moves, the camera showed Malcolm and Cirie.
It’s clearly a reference to their previous games but does it also signify something? Are they telling us we need to pay attention in future episodes?
We got our first answer when Sierra found the Secret Advantage that Andrea missed. And boy was it exciting.
A surprise from previously underwhelming players
Pre-season opinions about Sierra coming back were not very flattering so for her to find it was like hitting gold. Now, we’ve got a reason to root for her. We also saw her starting to make strategic small talks with Brad and then Ozzy. Makes sense for her to stick with the physical threats for now since she’s a physical force herself.
Good for you, Sierra. Now people have something else to remember her for aside from her barrel performance in World’s Apart.
There’s something about returning players who were mediocre or had bad placement on their first foray that surprises viewers in a positive way.
Wentworth is the perfect example of that. Her second time is now one of the most successful and popular stories in Survivor history.
Now, based on edits, it’s possible that Sierra may surprise us all. She had a good start and if she continues to play her cards right, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her do better than her previous placement.
The same thing with Hali. Her edit’s quite different but we saw her get into the right group in each vote. No one’s looking at her as a target yet no one’s ignoring her. People talk to her. They include her in their plans. If she continues to lie low and side with the right people, she can, in her own words, strike like a cobra and everyone would have no idea what hit them.
The usual antics don’t work
Tony is not meant to play with returnees. He’s won, yes but his mentality is for a newbies game.
The first thing he did when they reached camp was to run and tell everyone he’s looking for an idol.
He said that he’s trying to see if they’d run after him and that he’s not really looking but that doesn’t matter. In a season with these players, that’s a wrong move that can get you targeted sooner than expected.
Another wrong move would be to throw names prematurely. Ciera was perfect for this season not because (in Jeff’s voice) she voted out her mom but because she’s gritty and unafraid. These are two dangerous traits for a player. She clearly got what she wanted back in Cambodia but she played a second too early so she got voted out first.
8-year grudge ignites war
Staying under the radar is probably the best move for any returning player. With the exception of a select few, those who come back in all star seasons must never put themselves out there because it will only highlight the targets on their foreheads.
One must not, hmm, dig underground spy shacks and confront people in the middle of the night like Tony because that surely spells “torch snuffed.”
That’s exactly what Cirie tried to do. But failed. Michaela was right when she said you can’t contain greatness. Cirie is far too good to just lay low especially if she has one tribe mate with a chip on his shoulder.
What’s even scarier is Ozzy is tight with JT, who targeted Cirie in Heroes Vs. Villains, so the most popular couch potato went to work.
“What difference does it make if the war starts today or tomorrow?”
And she’s right. The earlier she can see who’s with her, the better. The problem is most of the people she talked to seem to not be that invested in her.
This makes Nuku’s immunity wins important because they gave her more time to work her magic.
How to school a winner
Mana’s continued loss is hilarious. And it’s making Michaela frustrated, which is also why Sandra could be in even more danger. If Mana decides to stay strong physically, Sandra is one of the first to go.
But she makes a really smart comment at tribal council:
They put the right (strong) people in a specific part of the challenge yet they stil lost.
So what does that mean?
It’s one of the MANY signs that Sandra knows what she’s doing. She’s lippy and dangerously convincing. The second she opens her mouth, no one will be able to mutter a retort.
Snappy comebacks don’t work with Sandra simply because you won’t have the chance to make them.
It’s exciting to see the war of winners play out. From potential allies, Tony and Sandra quickly became the candidates for elimination thanks to Tony’s paranoia.
But it was never a battle to stay alive because, from the very beginning, Sandra knew she’s not going anywhere.
It was a question of who’s going to side with her and who’s going to commit Survivor suicide by voting with Tony.
Varner noted how dangerous the Queen was by assembling an alliance of 5 in just fifteen minutes.
‘Dangerous’ is an understatement.
‘Ominous’ might be a more apt term.
It seemed, before tribal, that votes are heading Sandra’s way because people are looking at keeping the tribe strong. But when the Queen want something, she must have it without any difficulty.
And she wants Tony’s bald head on a plate.
And she had it served to her on a golden platter.
Sandra, in her usually hilariously unabashed honesty, didn’t make it easier for Vlachos:
“That’s what you get for plotting against me!”
“Send your ass home,”
“Say ‘hi’ to Sierra for me.”
It was hilarious.
It was gold.
Most importantly, it showed us how Survivor is played.
Sandra delivered a masterclass in strategy that doesn’t involve any hidden immunity idol or advantage. It’s just plain wit, cunning, and charm.
She didn’t have to suck up to anyone to avoid getting voted out.
She wasn’t even playing to stay alive.
She was playing to eliminate a pest that annoyed her. Tony was, in no way, a threat to her. He just pissed her off.
This play is a brilliant show of force from an intelligent and sassy Survivor player.
Definitely beats any power play (like Parvati’s two-idol move).
This is how you play Survivor. Despite the years and the evolution of the game, with all its idols and advantages, the best (and most entertaining) way to play is plain and simple: outwit, outplay, and outlast.
And who better to learn from than the best?
The Queen stays queen.