Jeffrey Neira/CBS

A few players get the short end of the stick when tribes are reshuffled


S34 E3
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March 15, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT

Well, I’m looking over this handy-dandy Survivor menu for what to eat after this latest installment from the gold star of reality television. This is an odd one because the menu says “Goat,” but then the word goat is crossed out. Does this mean notorious Survivor crosser-outer Aubry Bracco prepared this evening’s menu or was there a back-room feud between Chef Sandra and the rest of the kitchen staff?

No matter, goat is no longer on the menu, and instead it appears to have been replaced with… crow. That’s right, crow for me and crow for you. We’ll all be eating crow all day and all night because here we were before Survivor: Game Changers wondering how Caleb qualified under the terms of the subtitle moniker if he never even went to a single Tribal Council. We were dubious. We were suspicious. And then what does Caleb do? He ends up being eliminated on day 9 — the exact same day his journey ended last time. You know what they call that attention to detail and precision? A GAME CHANGER!

Sure, your typical Survivor player would have fought, and clawed, and scratched, and strategized to keep themselves in the game, but Caleb is no typical Survivor player, ladies and gentlemen. He’s a GAME CHANGER, and he truly changed the game by appearing to make no attempt whatsoever to stay in it (until a last ditch plea at Tribal Council). That’s the type of thinking-outside-the-box approach you expect from someone who redefined the game.

Forget about the Tony or Sandra battle last week. That was merely the undercard for this epic battle royale between Caleb and Hali — two people whose entire strategy seemed to be something along the lines of, “Well, I hope it’s not me. Guess I’ll just sit here and stare at the ocean for a while and then find out tonight at Tribal Council. No point in trying to do anything about it!”

Watch PEN Fan Forum: Survivor, on the new PEOPLE/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.

(By the way, remember to look for the hidden Survivor question somewhere in this week’s recap for your chance to win Caleb’s infamous “You aren’t a Game Changer!” vote at Sandra. It’s your chance to own a part of Survivor history… for free! And congratulations to last week’s winners, Meg and Lindsey, for taking home Tony and Ciera’s votes.)

Maybe I’m giving those two a bit of a hard time. The guy who really blew it this episode appears to be Tai, as the chicken-loving gardener got completely strategically played by… Brad Culpepper?!? Yes, Brad Culpepper! The whole tribe was ready to vote out Hali in order to keep challenge strength with Caleb, but then Culpepper — concerned about a Kaoh Rong power trio forming — somehow managed to convince Tai that having a strong partner that you can trust and count on no matter what was a bad thing.

Seriously, that was his pitch. Look, I get the subtext — that if you keep Caleb around you too will be considered a threat and then make yourself a target. But if Tai is smart, what he does is take steps to distance himself a bit from Caleb and make it seem as if they are not so close. This is not that difficult to do. You just bring his name up in conversations about whether to get rid of him, thereby giving the impression that you only want him around for so long. (Kissing him less would probably help as well.) So you do all of that, but you don’t vote him out. And that’s because you don’t vote out someone at this stage of the game who will have your back and protect you no matter what — and that’s exactly the type of guy Caleb is, loyal to a fault. (Go watch his season of Big Brother if you don’t believe me.)

Has someone from Survivor ever voted out their biggest ally this early in the game solely because they were a big ally? No, because you need allies in this game. You need numbers. You need loyalty. Those are the things you collect, not discard. Besides, guess what? Had Tai kept Caleb around, he could have had a Kaoh Rong power trio and would be running the Mana tribe right now with a 3-2 majority. He would be in control and he would be building a résumé to win the game. Instead, he allowed Brad to weaken his position by allowing himself to be convinced to vote off his best buddy. Whoopsie daisy!

But if we’re going to take Tai to task, we have to give props to Brad Culpepper. I know that is difficult for a lot of us, especially after all the nonsense in Blood vs. Water, but a well-executed game move is a well-executed game move. Respect is due. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call Brad a Game Changer, but he certainly appears to have changed his own game, and for the better. At least nine days in he has.

Okay, let’s get to all the other novelty and nonsense that went down this week, starting from the top. We begin right on the beach, where Jeff Probst is waiting in what can only be classified as an #OrangeHatAlert. The tribes converge, with the folks at Nuku expressing shock at the sight of Tony being voted out. “I can’t believe it,” says Sarah. This, of course, makes no sense seeing as how Tony got the most votes in my whom-do-you-want-to-vote-out-first pre-game poll, but I suppose everyone making yeah-that-makes-sense faces is significantly less dramatic and does not make for particularly good television.

It’s clearly tribe reshuffling time — even Zeke knows it! The men have to pick from one tray of covered buffs while the women pick from another, and apparently they have to do it without looking, as everyone gets super-superstitious, avoiding any and all eye contact with the tray as if it is Medusa and they will somehow be turned to stone should they steal a glance in its general direction.

NEXT: Breaking down the new tribes

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