So, here’s what I can tell you about this first immunity challenge — the players got off easy. That’s because we tested out the challenge a few days before the players did, and it was much harder. How? Well, in the show, the Game Changers had to race out to raft, paddle out to a platform, then one person would swim out to get a set of keys and swim back. When they person returned, they would all make their way back to the beach over a series of obstacles, dig up some puzzle bags, unlock a chest with another puzzle bag, and then solve a ship’s wheel puzzle.
When we did it, however, there was one key difference. Instead of sending one person to swim out to the last platform (easy), we had to paddle the raft all the way out and around the last platform while getting the key, and let me tell you right now — that sucked. Going against the wind and the current while trying to maintain some semblance of control was, frankly, embarrassing. They have these big camera platform stations out in the water to film things, and yeah, we basically crashed into it. (I actually pushed us off it in a lame attempt to get us back on track.) We eventually had to paddle our raft backwards just to get back on course. Pathetic. No doubt noting (and laughing at) our terrible struggles, producers streamlined it and ditched that hellacious leg of the contest.
But before Probst can send the players out, he has to tell them all about a big new change to the voting rules for the season. He explains that there will be no revotes after ties this season — that if there is a tie, everyone has a chance to vote unanimously against one of the people in the tie, but if that does not happen they will go immediately to rocks, with the people in the tie safe. The purpose of the new wrinkle is meant to take away what Probst calls the majority alliance’s “free peek into the future,” where they would split their vote to see if someone had an idol, and then if they did not, just get them out on the revote. This makes it a bit harder.
I’ve already stated my position on this, but I’m a fan. Anytime you have an opportunity to make players less comfortable and take away an easy option, I’m all for it. We always focus on the game between players, but there is a game of cat and mouse between players and producers as well. Producers constantly put in new twists to shake the game up, and then players eventually find a way to exploit those rules for their own benefit. I love watching it all play out and look forward to seeing if and how this impacts the game play.
Okay, back to the challenge. So Nuku basically gets into the early lead, which is what happens when there is water and you have a guy named Ozzy on your team. It’s a comfortable lead as both teams finally make their way back to the beach and… Wait, WHAT THE HELL IS MANA DOING? DON’T LET CALEB START DIGGING!!! I hope they have that chopper on speed dial in case he decides to go Beast Mode Cowboy on this sand pit again. Let’s just say the dude has a history.
Thankfully, Caleb tags out and as a result is not carried out on a stretcher for a second time. You know what that is right there? GAME CHANGER!!! Eventually, Jeff Varner gives Mana the lead when he opens his first lock… and then promptly gives it back when he can’t open the second, leading to unsubstantiated claims of “panicking” by Probst, which Varner goes on to vehemently deny.
But hey, Mana shoudn’t worry. After all, they have Ciera on the puzzle — the exact same ship’s wheel puzzle she did in Blood vs. Water. With a huge advantage like that, they can’t lose! Oh, by the way, did I mention that Ciera lost that puzzle the fist time she did it? But no matter! She at least did it! She now knows the error of her ways! She will rise out of the ashes of her previous defeat — to her mother, no less — and taste victory sweeter than she has ever tasted. Why lose when you can win? Why be the same when you can be a… GAME CHANGER!
Anyway, Ciera loses again. By a lot. Seriously, it wasn’t even close. Like, I honestly think she would still be there doing the puzzle if Jeff Probst hadn’t shut it down so they could film the rest of the season. Soooooo… Game Stay the Samer, then? That’s not Ciera’s only problem. Her tribe wants her gone for reasons that remain murky at best — something about playing the game? The only hiccup occurs when Michaela learns that she’s the one they all told Ciera they were getting rid of. Not sure if you’ve picked this up about Michaela yet, but the woman can be a bit volatile. She doesn’t like being used as a pawn — and why should she? — but makes no effort to hide the fact, which is unlikely to curry much favor within the tribe.