Survivor Game Changers Episode 1 Recap, Edgic and Analysis

Wow! What an amazing way to kick off Survivor Game Changers. This episode was full of hilarious confessionals, interesting strategies and amazing moments. Let’s not dilly-dally, let’s get right into dissecting this wonderful 2-hour premiere titled The Stakes Have Been Raised.

Opening Scenes 

After a brief introduction for what the season has in store by the always pragmatic host Jeff Probst, we begin to see our first few opening confessionals. Opening confessionals in the past have been used to silently establish who the big characters of a season are going to be. They are a way for a character to tell the audience before the show even begins, this is why I’m here, this is what I’m going to try and accomplish this season and this is why I’m going to win. The characters who receive these opening confessionals aren’t just picked by who gives the best one’s; they are picked by production for strategic reasons. Take Cambodia for example where every relevant character to the story-line: Jeremy, Jeff Varner, Kass, Abi-Maria, Joe, Tasha, Kelley Wentworth, Spencer, etc. all received opening confessionals. But this in contrast was clearly different, as we only saw five true opening confessionals and Brad with a generic statement before the marooning. The five to receive air time before the marooning in a meaningful way were Malcolm, Cirie, Tony, Sandra and Debbie. The only interesting pick here is Debbie and given the company she shared that spot with, you have to think it means something. The fans obviously wanted to hear from the show’s biggest stars who have all played multiple times, the Sandra’s and the Tony’s of this world, but Debbie? Why Debbie instead of Aubry or JT or Ozzy? To me it must mean something more than just the fact that she had something interesting to say. To me, Debbie is going to be an extremely important character to this season.

I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see what more players had in mind before the marooning but one thing that was very striking were the intentional camera-cuts that were mixed in with these interviews. For example when Malcolm said something along the lines of “I’m going to have to make big moves if I want to win this game”, it zoomed in on Ozzy, suggesting possibly, that he’s going to make a big move to get Ozzy out later in the game. Similarly in Sandra’s confessional when she said “Imma make it to day 39” it zoomed in on Andrea. This was followed by her saying “The queen stays queen” which prompted the cameras to show Sierra Dawn Thomas. From this we can hypothesize that a new queen in Sierra Dawn will arrive and that Andrea could be right there with her as a day 39 finalist. Now we can’t take these clues as absolute canon but they were at the very least very interesting!

After Brad ended the opening interviews with a generic phrase about “going big or going home”, the marooning began. The contestants had a limited amount of time to gather as many supplies from the boat as they could before they had to head to their beaches. While this was going on, two slightly more interesting things were happening amidst the scramble. First, there was a toolkit underneath the water at a decently far away distance. The first contestant to unlock the toolkit would claim it as their own for their tribe. The contest to retrieve the toolkit was over before it started as Ozzy was the only one to even attempt to retrieve it and once Ozzy jumped in the water there was always only going to be one winner. But the most interesting thing that was going on through the scramble was a note, laying out in the open, that said “secret advantage”. Several contestants stepped over it several times, most notably Andrea Boelhke who just seemed completely oblivious to it even though it was right in front of her. In the end Sierra-Dawn Thomas claimed the secret advantage which was later revealed to be an improved version of Jessica Lewis’ legacy advantage. This may be harsh to say, but in truth Sierra was probably the last person that needed it. The reason why Sierra might be the last person that needed this “secret advantage” is because she’s the least threatening person on the entire island! It is highly likely that she’ll make it past the final six quite comfortably and from a television perspective, I personally don’t believe she has the strategic chops to use it to create chaos in the same manner that someone like Malcolm or Tony would have been able to do. Nonetheless, Sierra came out of the gates flying by finding this thing and it’s far too situational but, she will now have immunity at either the final thirteen or final six if she chooses to play it at either of those points in the game.

Mana Mania 

Practically the moment Mana got back to camp, Tony ran off like a fool, claiming “I’m out! I’m going to go look for the idol!”. “That’s fine we just going to vote his ass out first” Sandra said as Varner died of laughter. This scene was hilarious and a reminder of exactly why Tony Vlachos is one of the greatest characters of Survivor history; and Sandra too for that matter! Tony wasn’t actually going to go look for the idol and thought that everyone would chase him into the jungle. But once he realized that no one was coming after him, he decided to actually go ahead and look for the idol instead. But that was short-lived as Sandra and Caleb eventually came out and ushered him back to camp.

After that, tribe dynamics started to take form. Hali and Troyzan formed a quiet and subtle bond while Tony found a new Woo in the form of Caleb. Aubry also seemed particularly attached to Tony while Sandra and the Cagayan winner found themselves getting along at first as well. Up until the challenge we hadn’t seen too much of Ciera and the one scene we saw of her was her throwing out the names of Tony and Caleb. This was a rather unwise and a misguided attempt to play offense on her part. Being the first one to throw names out is never a good thing and it wasn’t a good look for Ciera at all. But the Blood vs. Water contestant wasn’t the only one finding the first three days difficult, over on Nuku, Cirie was having a hard time putting her past reputation aside.

Cirie Feeling The Heat

Cirie Fields is a legend of Survivor. She is widely considered the best player to never win and in any given season she appears on the show including this one, is always going to find it hard to remain under the radar now. The biggest worry for Cirie coming into the season was that she was put on the same tribe as Ozzy and JT, two people that she had significant history with in past seasons. Cirie was one of the central architects of Ozzy’s demise in Micronesia, while almost out of fear, JT directly targeted Cirie in Heroes vs. Villains. Now the Survivor legend is excellent at getting herself out of danger, but if Nuku had lost one of those two challenges, the four-time player could have easily found herself voted out. She was always in a tough spot on this tribe especially given the fact that real life friends JT Thomas and Ozzy Lusth were always likely to team up together, especially with a common enemy in Cirie.

However, she did an excellent job, as she always does, at appealing to her tribemates. First, she approached Ozzy calmly and in a non-confrontational manner to make sure he had no baggage from Micronesia. Ozzy claimed he didn’t, even though the opposite was actually true given what he was saying in confessional but Cirie still handled that conversation very well. She then appealed to Tai wonderfully well, practically manipulating his emotions into telling her that Ozzy actually did still have quite a bit of baggage attached to him. The Micronesia 3rd place finisher then approached Zeke, telling him “keep your options open”, which is something Zeke as we know from Millennials vs. Gen X will definitely be doing. The one person that Cirie wasn’t able to have a similarly positive impact in persuading on to her side was Debbie Wanner, who in hindsight she probably misjudged. The four-time contestant approached Debbie by saying “I just want you to know that people are talking about you”. This would have been great to say to someone like Tai, but the problem with saying it to Debbie is that she was never going to believe her. With all due respect to the great Debbie Wanner, she thinks she is the best at everything under the sun and so what Cirie should have done in this situation is ask for Debbie’s help rather than offering Debbie her help. Other than that, Cirie was practically flawless in her approach to trying to claw her way back up to the top after feeling the pressure from the coalition being formed by the strong alpha males. However, if Nuku had lost, she could have very well been going home.

But luckily for Cirie and the Nuku tribe, after an immunity challenge involving a rather large snake and a tricky puzzle, Mana just couldn’t pull it together and was sent to tribal council instead where in the pre-tribal scramblings it became all about a battle between Ciera and Michaela.

Michaela vs. Ciera 

Almost as soon as Mana arrived back at camp, it was clear who the intended target was. Ciera had clearly upset too many people and was deemed expendable due to her performance in the challenge. On a tribe of people who want to win, a challenge beast like Michaela was never going to be the one who was going to be sent home. But after Tony disclosed to the Millennials vs. Gen X contestant that it had been her name thrown out as the red herring to distract Ciera, Michaela was noticeably uneasy about it and that immediately upset Tony and Caleb. However, Michaela seemingly did an excellent job at keeping her cool, retracting her initial reaction, and remained under the radar for the rest of the episode, especially compared to the last time we saw her on our television screens. Michaela was clearly prepared to go with the flow of the game and with her ability in challenges taken into consideration, Ciera was sent packing unanimously by a vote of 9-1.

Why Ciera Was Voted Out 

It is clear that in those first three days, no one felt like they could trust Ciera. If they did, she wouldn’t have been voted out so emphatically, 9-1. Out of the gates, there were three big targets on Mana that you could easily point to as potential targets – Sandra, Tony and Ciera. But where Ciera lacked in comparison to Tony and Sandra was in her ability to make emotional bonds with her tribe-mates. Tony immediately lost people with his crazy idol hunt and paranoid behaviour, but he also won people over with his comedic relief and fun personality. Tony immediately had Caleb, Malcolm and Aubry all wrapped around his finger. Who did Ciera have? Similarly, as Sandra said herself at tribal council “Jeff, I’m just too damn likable”. And it’s true. Everyone on Mana seems to love Sandra so far and instead of being the person that should have been everyone’s number one target, it’s almost like she’s in charge! That’s because Sandra does a fantastic job at getting people to trust her, perceive her to be nonthreatening, and by proxy everyone wants to keep her around! Ciera claimed in confessional that she was playing like Sandra by saying “I’m fine with anyone as long as it isn’t me” but that couldn’t have been further from the truth because she had just thrown Tony’s name out three hours earlier!

The moment where Ciera threw Caleb and Tony’s names out was the moment that sealed her fate. The moment she devised her strange plan to take Tony out, you could just see Jeff Varner’s face go “oh no” and everyone else was instantly afraid of her. This was the biggest reason in her elimination from the game and was in truth, a horribly misguided move from a player who should have known better.

In short, perhaps the greatest detriment to Ciera’s game in the first three days of Survivor Game Changers was her inability to make good enough social bonds that would keep her in the game for the long haul.

READ MORE -> Survivor Game Changers Premiere: Why Ciera Eastin Was Voted Out

Keeping The Strong People

Without even switching to a commercial break, episode 2 had begun without warning. And boy did the second hour of this fantastic premiere began with a bang. Immediately after the vote we cut to Tony talking to Aubry about keeping the strong people out. Practically instantly, one of the greatest Survivor alliances imaginable had been formed. Two winners of the game in Tony and Sandra and two players who came desperately close to winning in Malcolm and Aubry, + Caleb, were suddenly all on the same side.

But not before long, this dream-like alliance capitulated in an instance. While working on his spy shack late at night, the winner of Survivor Cagayan, Tony Vlachos, spotted Sandra and Troyzan talking off in the distance. Tony scurried away quickly but after hearing his name come up, just couldn’t sit still, something Tony never seems to be able to do, and immediately interrupted. Strangely, Sandra and Troyzan played this off terribly despite the two of them not even really saying anything all that bad about the Cagayan winner. Troyzan declared that they were talking about the shore and quite laughably, Sandra then declared they were talking about the crates. Tony himself could do nothing but laugh at the ridiculous excuses. But this is where it all began. Suddenly, Sandra wanted Tony out and vice versa. Suddenly this dream-like alliance was dead and an equally entertaining Sandra vs. Tony rivalry commenced in its place.

A Sandra-Tony Showdown 

Episode 2 was all about Tony versus Sandra. Other than Tai being criticized by JT for paying so much close attention to feeding the chickens, nothing was really happening over on Nuku and this episode was all about the two players that we all came to see, winner of Survivor Cagayan Tony Vlachos and winner of both Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains, Sandra-Diaz Twine.

Sandra throughout her career has always been one to not be leading the strategy. The two-time winner always takes a back seat, which is exactly what she did for the Ciera vote when she said “Hey, you guys tell me what to do and I’ll do it”. But in Tony’s elimination, a whole new Sandra came to life. A Sandra who wasn’t afraid to take the driver’s seat and was actually quite ruthless in doing so. Fantastically, Sandra in separate one-on-one chats, courted Troyzan, Hali, Jeff Varner and Michaela all to her side and had everyone on board for voting off Tony. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the hardest of sells to get everyone to vote off the most notorious villain in recent Survivor history, but it was still amazing how she managed to accomplish it so effortlessly.

But not everyone was buying into the plan to take Tony out. Caleb in particular was very vocal about keeping the tribe strong and claimed several times in confessional how much he admired Tony. Aubry also seemed too deeply connected to go against him, while Malcolm also spoke about wanting to keep the tribe strong by saying “I can’t lose every single challenge and expect to win a season called Game Changers!”

Either way, Tony was sent home by a vote of 7-2 thanks to the fantastic work from Sandra-Diaz Twine.  A key thing to note here is that despite being the one to lead the charge to get Tony out, Sandra actually voted for Aubry instead. This was likely because she was afraid that if Tony had an idol and planted his vote on her, that she would be sent home. She didn’t end up needing to play her vote on Aubry because Tony didn’t have an idol and strangely voted for Aubry as well, but it was still a very interesting vote from the former two-time winner.

Why Tony Was Voted Out 

The biggest factor in Tony’s elimination from the game has to be his ginormous reputation from what he accomplished in Survivor Cagayan. As previously mentioned, he’s the biggest villain in recent Survivor memory and his name seems to get brought up every single season to describe a dangerous player in the game. Tony was always going to have an uphill battle in this season and the incredible start he made in episode 1 was just too good to be true.

But beyond his past reputation, the Cagayan winner made a couple of major mistakes in the second half of the premiere that played a role in why he became everyone’s number one target. The first mistake that Tony made was just not going to bed. Tony can never just sit still and while everyone was sleeping, he was instead building his spy bunker. Another mistake that he made was just in building his spy bunker in general. Tony got far too caught up in what I think was an attempt to appeal to the audience and while building this spy shack, got caught by Troyzan who assumed he was looking for the idol. This seemed to instantly make Troyzan wary of the Cagayan man and from there, he was instantly pegged as a schemer again. Tony’s most significant mistake of the premiere however was in scaring Sandra. Sandra was someone Tony was prepared to work closely with but after he busted her conversation with Troyzan, the two-time winner immediately lost trust in him and that is what sealed the deal.

But that was it! For any other player, that might not have been that detrimental to him, but with a player with as big of a reputation as Tony Vlachos, after that it was almost like there was nothing else he could do! How many players did we see talk to Tony in the second hour of the episode after the incident with Sandra and Troyzan? Two. Caleb and Malcolm. That’s it, and that’s never a good thing. From this, we have to assume that no one was willing to entertain the idea of keeping Tony around and that only a miracle idol would have been enough to keep in the game.

In short Tony made a couple of mistakes on route to being eliminated from the game, while targeting Sandra didn’t help his cause, but undoubtedly the biggest factor in him ending up as the 19th place finisher of the season has to be down to his mammoth-sized reputation from Survivor Cagayan.

READ MORE-> Survivor Game Changers Premiere: Why Tony Vlachos Was Voted Out 

Confessional Count

With twenty players all with varying complex strategies and thoughts, keeping track of all the confessionals this week sure was a tough task. Nonetheless, The Mastermind can never get enough of these confessionals, especially when Sandra and Tony are involved. This is what we counted for the confessionals from the amazing premiere of Survivor Game Changers!


Player Number of Confessionals
1st Tony Vlachos



Sandra Diaz-Twine



Malcolm Freberg 6
4th Jeff Varner



Caleb Reynolds 4


Michaela Bradshaw 4

Cirie Fields


8th Ciera Eastin


9th Debbie Wanner


10th Sarah Lacina


11th Aubry Bracco


12th Zeke Smith



Brad Culpepper 2


Ozzy Lusth  1


James JT Thomas 1


Tai Trang


17th Hali Ford


18th Sierra Dawn-Thomas


19th Andrea Boehlke


20th Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson


Sandra and Tony, as they should be, were the two stars of the first two episodes. These were the two players that every single fan wanted to see back more than any other and these were the two who provided us with the most amazing TV moments across the first two eliminations. So deservedly they top the charts for confessionals after this wonderful premiere. Caleb also received quite a few confessionals for being decently invested and involved in the direction of both votes but it is unclear as to whether or not this is an indication that he will go far. Cirie also received a high number but they all revolved around her feeling frightened at the prospect of being eliminated, while Michaela, Jeff Varner and Malcolm were also heavily involved in the episode. Surprisingly, three-time player Andrea Boehlke finds herself towards the bottom of the pile, alongside both of the “why are they here?” girls Sierra Dawn Thomas and Hali Ford. JT, Ozzy and Tai also went relatively anonymous while Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson was the only other character to receive just 1 confessional across the two hours, which isn’t the greatest of signs given the fact that his tribe went to both tribal councils.


For those new to Survivor or Survivor Superfandom, you may be unfamiliar to the term Edgic. So allow The Mastermind to teach you all about this wild phenomenon.

Edgic uses a set of terms to describe the edit that each player is receiving on the show. This is a show where the producers are trying to tell the audience a story and that story often helps us to discern who could be the eventual winner of the season. There are five different “Edgic Scores” that a person can receive for any given episode. This includes the the following…

  • CP (Complex Player):  This castaway was shown in several confessionals, often in a positive light and in a complex manner that made them appear well-rounded with complex views, strategies and opinions about themselves and the game.
  • UTR (Under the Radar):  This character is being deliberately hidden by the editors and/or received little air time or connection the overall story of the episode. They were clearly there, but had a very low impact on what happened.
  • MOR (Middle of the Road): This player told us a lot about what was going on in the game, almost as if they were a narrator, but very little about themselves or their game-play.
  • OTTP (Over The Top): This character was shown in a goofy, crazy or outlandish light in an attempt to distract us from the likely contenders to win. They often took their confessionals and/or behavior to the extreme.
  • INV (Invisible): This player was nowhere to be seen. They had no confessionals, no tribal council questions, and they weren’t relevant to the over-arching story-line whatsoever.

So with that all in mind, here are The Mastermind‘s Edgic Scores for Episode 1 of Survivor Game Changers!


Edgic Visibility Tone

Tony Vlachos

OTT 5 Negative

Sandra Diaz-Twine

OTT 5 Positive
Jeff Varner MOR 5


Caleb Reynolds MOR 5

Malcolm Freberg

CP 5 Positive
Cirie Fields OTT 5


Michaela Bradshaw

CP 4

Ciera Eastin

OTT 4 Negative

Debbie Wanner

CP 3
Sarah Lacina CP 3

Zeke Smith CP 3

Aubry Bracco UTR 3

Tai Trang

OTT 3 Negative

Ozzy Lusth


Brad Culpepper 

Sierra Dawn-Thomas UTR 2


Hali Ford UTR 2

James JT Thomas UTR 2

Andrea Boehlke


Troy ‘Troyzan’ Robertson UTR 2

There were an abnormal amount of Over-The-Top players in the premiere of Survivor Game Changers. This included both eliminated castaways, Ciera and Tony, as well as the always fiery Sandra-Diaz Twine, chicken-loving Tai Trang, and the in-danger Cirie Fields. Malcolm Freberg, Zeke Smith, Sarah Lacina, Michaela Bradshaw and surprisingly Debbie Wanner were the only three players to receive Complex Player scores while the majority of the other characters faded into the background and went Under The Radar. So what does this chart point to in terms of a winner’s edit after episode one? Let’s find out!

The Winner’s Edit 

Survivor cracked the code on how to create an unpredictable winner’s narrative last season, and after two episodes it seems they are sticking to the same formula that worked so well for them last season. What I mean by that is that nobody saw Adam Klein winning the game in Millennials vs. Gen X. Okay he was always a contender, but he was never at the top of anyone’s list. Everyone was talking about David, Ken, even Michelle Schubert! That’s because the producers did an excellent job at hiding Adam’s winner’s edit. Survivor Game Changers seems to be starting off in similar territory from an editing perspective as no one really emerged as the clear eventual winner of the show after the first two eliminations.

At this point, regardless of the fact that it is so early on, I have to go with Malcolm Freberg for the title of who has that coveted Winner’s Edit. They could be psyching us out like they did with Mari last season but Malcolm certainly was the one with the most memorable winner-type quotes. He was one of six contestants to get a confessional at the start of the episode before the chaotic marooning, he spoke about making alliances and social bonds rather than strategizing early on and he had almost like a feel-good-factor about everything he was saying in confessional. Another thing to keep an eye on is that Debbie, the person that Malcolm said he would most like to work with in his CBS interview, was also one of six to earn an opening-scene confessional. Could this be a sign that the two both end up being big characters and make it all the way to the end together? Only time will tell. But for now, Malcolm Freberg is our projected most likely to win!

Quote of the Week

“When two winners of Survivor go after each other, it gets ugly fast…and I love it! I can’t wait to see the fireworks” – Jeff Varner

Sandra Diaz-Twine was full of amazing quotations tonight as she always is, but Jeff Varner has to take the cake for quote of the week on this go-around for this wonderful summing up of the enthralling Sandra-Tony rivalry.

Player of the Week 

With so many amazing confessionals/hilarious outbursts concomitantly intertwined with a firm grasp over her tribe, Sandra Diaz-Twine has to be this week’s Player of the Week! Sandra throughout her Survivor career has always been playing defense. The words “As long as it ain’t me” are almost synonymous with her name at this point and the two-time winner only really goes on the offense when absolutely necessary. But tonight Sandra, proved just how capable she is at playing the offensive side of the game by somehow managing to convince 7 people, a lot of whom seemed incredibly connected to Tony, to take him out!

In addition to her amazing play in eliminating someone who was clearly coming after her, we can’t forget how much fun Sandra was in tonight’s episode. She was absolutely hilarious at tribal council like when Jeff Probst said to her “Sandra surely you’d be the biggest target out here”, she responds in jest by saying “Everybody loves me Jeff what can I tell you”. This followed by a proclamation of exactly why everyone should want to take her to the end because she’s won twice (which is the exact reason why everyone should not want to take her to the end) is exactly why we love Sandra.

But an honourable mention has to be given to the always flamboyant Jeff Varner. Jeff just has such a cool head about him at the moment and compared to the last time he was out on the island where it seemed as though he was prepared to play “balls to the wall” and a mile -a-minute, he seems much more prepared to take a backseat, relax and have fun, which is exactly what you need to do in any season of Survivor, especially in one involving All Stars. The best part about Jeff Varner tonight though were his amazing confessionals. He summed up the Sandra-Tony rivalry perfectly in the quote of the week above, and also had great words about how safe he felt by saying “I’m in heaven. Having two winners going against each other is Christmas!”. Then later at tribal council when Probst asked the three-time player to sum it all up before the vote Varner responds “We are a round hole and we gotta get rid of our square peg”. Whatever this means The Mastermind has no idea, but we love Jeff Varner and this kind of thing is exactly why. He’s in a great spot and this finally could be his season to accomplish what he’s always wanted, jury at the very least.

Next Time On Survivor

Next time on Survivor it’s a tribe swap already! This is good news for players like Cirie and Aubry who might have been on the outs and potentially bad news for players who were sitting pretty like say Zeke or Andrea. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY…It’s a return to the greatest ever method of hiding a hidden immunity idol that we’ve all been calling for since Survivor Cambodia…idols at challenges! No clues have been found so far but perhaps you don’t even need a clue to be able to spot one of those idols if you’re perceptive enough. Will anyone find an idol at the challenge next week? Tune in here to find out!


The premiere of Survivor Game Changers did not disappoint. Ever since Survivor Redmond‘s cast reveal on June 1st, I have been thinking about this season multiple times a day and I could not have asked for a better way to kick off the season. Sandra, Tony and Cirie all came out with a bang and both eliminations were interesting and so much fun to watch. This season could truly be something special and The Mastermind cannot wait to continue covering it with you all season long. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

9 thoughts on “Survivor Game Changers Episode 1 Recap, Edgic and Analysis

  1. Always so well written! I very much look forward to sitting down with some coffee and reading your summary, thoughts and edgic! Cant wait for next week!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s