Survivor: Game Changers premiered last night, and the 500th episode brought all of the regular magic of the 17-year-old reality series, from the chaotic grab for goodies at the start of the game to the high-stress tribal councils where strategies and loyalties already ran deep and wide.
This season is a collection of returning players, all of whom have been dubbed “game changes” — people who have evolved the Survivor playing strategy, people who have made shocking moves and people who have turned on even their closest allies. As host Jeff Probst explained in the opening segment, some of the game changers have met with success in the past, and others have been sunk by their strategies.
The first episode was a window into how these highly cerebral players are going to enter this season of the game. While some were going for their tried-and-true strategies, others seemed to be rebranding (or telling others they have changed). Let’s take a look at the first chess moves of a few key players.
Sarah Lacina is playing good cop, bad cop
Sarah Lacina took a lot of flak for even being included in Game Changers. She was voted off relatively early on her first appearance, in Survivor: Cagayan, and came off as someone who was too loyal and who had trouble reading the field. For this season, the law enforcement officer claims that she is going to try and keep her good cop persona on the surface, but play a very different game on the ground. She claimed she was going to be a “silent assassin” and “play like a criminal, not like a cop.” Only time will tell, but viewers don’t seem convinced.
Ciera Eastin came out of the gates running
Ciera Eastin, who appeared in both Season 27 and Season 31 of Survivor definitely opted for a rebrand last night. The player, who was perhaps known best for voting for her own mother, seemed determined to be more aggressive and more driven this time around, openly suggesting who should go from the Mana tribe seemingly seconds after everyone was off of the boat. Her strategy certainly didn’t pay, as the 27-year-old was blindsided at the first Tribal Council and jettisoned from the game first.
Tony Vlachos went full Tony
Tony Vlachos came into the game with a big reputation from Season 28 (which he won), and he seemed pretty aware that he wasn’t going to be able to hide his true colors and big personality from anyone. His rebrand was just an amplification, as he pulled all stops immediately. In the opening minutes, he was breaking from the tribe to explore, digging a spy bunker and testing the waters for early alliances. Sadly, his aggressive go-big-or-go-home strategy led to him going home, during the second tribal council of the night. He tried to throw down against Sandra Diaz-Twine, and he went down in flames.
Tai Trang wants to put flip-flopping behind him
The second runner-up from Survivor Season 32 is hoping that the rest of the players don’t remember his loyalty issues of the past and no longer consider him a flip-flopper. But although he was working hard on his loyalty rebrand in the first episode, he was also up to some of his old habits, including his attachments to the camp’s chickens. While he seemed to think that taking care of the livestock would help his chances, others already seemed annoyed at some of his old antics.
Sanda Diaz-Twine’s not fixing what isn’t broken
While many of the cast members seemed to be trying new strategies and new images on for size this season, two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine seemed to be keeping just as cool and collected as ever during the opening episode. Despite having a target on her back because of her past successes, she rolled through the first two eliminations with a smoothness that makes it clear why many consider her to be the best player in the history of the game. She even threw her weight around with Tony Vlachos during the second half of the season premiere without getting burned. With a golden reputation and a track record to match, why change?
So far, it seems like two of the people who went for rebrands have not fared well this season. Only time will tell what will happen as the game continues.
Have you chosen someone to root for yet on Survivor: Game Changers? Who and Why?
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