'Survivor' is one of the hardest games ever conceived, and while there have literally been hundreds of people who have played it, very few people can say they've won. But while it may be incredibly difficult to outwit, outplay and outlast more than a dozen other people in a physically and mentally demanding environment, it turns out it's pretty easy to lose at 'Survivor.'
Coming into tonight's episode, five veteran players have already figured out how to lose at 'Survivor' ... again in some cases. James "J.T." Thomas was the latest castaway to learn that cockiness and confidence is a good way to lose the game. He got sent home with a Hidden Immunity Idol in his possession.
In tonight's episode, Hidden Immunity Idols were again a factor, but sometimes the Survivor Gods smile upon those who make bonehead moves. It helps when there's a two-time winner still in the game. In fact, the Survivor Gods were meddling so much in this Bizarro episode, it served as a good reminder that sometimes it's just a bad break.
TECHNIQUE 1: GET RANDOMLY SHUFFLED INTO A NEW TRIBE
After yet another tribal swap, the new-new Nuku saw three castaways at the bottom of the heap. Two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine and Jeff Varner from the former Mana tribe, and Tai Trang from Nuku were outnumbered by four Tavua tribemates: Andrea Boehlke, Sarah Lacina, Ozzy Lusth and Zeke Smith. With the numbers advantage, their target was clear from the beginning. It was time for Sandra to get voted out for the first time in three seasons. It would take a miracle to save her, but did she have it in her?
Things were more balanced at Mana with two and three members from each former tribe, giving no one an immediate obvious advantage. So instead they just bonded as a new tribe, not getting distracted by in-fighting and plotting. In fact, things were so harmonious that they dominated the Immunity Challenge with a ridiculously fast puzzle solve and were virtually ignored the rest of the episode.
TECHNIQUE 2: REVEAL YOUR ALLIANCE'S SECRET PLAN
Meanwhile back at Nuku, Tai admitted that he wasn't as smart as some of the other players in the game, and then he apparently set out to prove it. The Tavua Four let him in on the plan to secretly target Sandra, but it was essential that neither Sandra nor Varner get wind of this. They thought Tai was the target
So Tai told Varner the plan, because... I got nothing. Dude has not one, but TWO Hidden Immunity Idols -- and he panicked anyway. Varner's allied with Sandra. Come on, Tai, you've played this game before! Relax a little. TWO IDOLS!!
Helpful tip: If you're going to have a decoy to keep your real target comfortable, make sure the decoy can handle the pressure.
TECHNIQUE 3: TARGET YOUR OWN ALLIANCE AT TRIBAL COUNCIL
Tai kept at it, panicking again when Sarah said there were a few names tossed out before they came to Tribal Council. So he tried to flip the vote at Tribal by whispering to Sandra and Varner they should vote Ozzy, before ultimately saying it outright.
While the others considered flipping to Tai, they stuck to their guns and targeted the biggest threat in the game, sending Sandra home. Tai got away with something here, but it will cost him later.
It's a shame, too, because he had a chance to make a game-changing move that would have been one of the biggest upsets in 'Suvivor' history . He could have whispered to Sandra that he was going to give her an Immunity Idol if she voted Ozzy. He could have then used the other on himself in case some votes did come his way. Then, their two votes would have been enough to send Ozzy home, absolutely flipping the game. Then he simply heads out and finds another Idol to continue his game.
DANGER ZONE: Tai Trang (Nuku)
Tai was already in a precarious position because these players know he finds Idols and flip-flops his allegiances. He showed that lack of loyalty again at Tribal Council, and so his Survivor clock is winding down fast. His saving grace is his two Hidden Immunity Idols.
AT RISK: Jeff Varner (Nuku)
As Sandra's only ally in the new Nuku, Varner is the obvious next target. It doesn't help that he's virtually useless in challenges. He needs to take advantage of Tai's foot-in-mouth tendencies and convince the Tavua Four that Tai is the bigger problem ... and make sure Tai is as confident in his safety as he was this week (for some reason) so he doesn't play an Idol.
NO RISK: Mana Tribe
The tribe has synergy and no real issues between any of the players. I can see Cirie in danger just because she is almost as good at the social/mental game as Sandra, or the two guys being outnumbered by four girls, but those are all arbitrary distinctions. There's no real evidence of any concerns yet here.
LUCKIEST PERSON IN THE GAME: Debbie Wasser
After her meltdown last week that would have surely seen her the next one voted out, Debbie didn't get sorted into a tribe at the beginning of the hour, instead getting sent to Exile Island ... only this time it is a luxurious and fully stocked yacht. And when she came back into the game, she joined the new Nuku tribe, and the only person there who experienced her freakout is Tai, who is already at the bottom of the totem pole.
That said, if there's anyone who can put herself right back into danger, it's Debbie. It will be interesting to see how she returns to the game, and if she heeds former winner John Cochrane's advice. If history is any guide, she will not and it will be disastrous for her game, but very entertaining to watch.
'Survivor: Game Changers' continues every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.