New alliances are formed and one player makes a bold move in the wake of the merge
RECAP: 4/19/17 Survivor
Credit: Jeffrey Neira/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S34 E8
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Welcome, everyone, to the Marshalls Survivor recap here on and written by yours truly, the recapper formerly known as Dalton Ross, now known as Marshall Marshall. We have a lot to get to today as… Hold on, it appears we have a streaker in aisle 4. “Attention, Marshalls shoppers. Please ignore the naked Vietnamese gardener with the chicken running down the home furnishings aisle. Repeat: Please ignore the naked Vietnamese gardener with the chicken!”

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes! A lot of exciting developments to discuss, like the big Marshalls merge and not one but two Marshalls Councils, where we lost one of the true icons of the game, as well as someone else I don’t remember. There were also game moves being made left and right after… I’m sorry. Can you excuse me for one more second? “Attention, Marshalls shoppers. Pay no mind to the photonics manufacturing supervisor/Red Lobster waitress twerking and intermittently mooning customers next to the discount footwear. Repeat: Ignore the twerking photonics manufacturing supervisor/Red Lobster waitress!”

Jesus, can’t a guy just sit back and talk about incredible bargain basement department store prices without being interrupted by streakers, twerkers, and mooners? What is this world coming to? I need a vacation. Actually, I am currently on vacation and currently in a hotel in Maine. But I live to serve, so I have opened up my checkout register for business anyway to break down this week’s two-hour extravaganza. The best news for all of you is that since I am on vacation and attempting to not inspire my wife to divorce me, I will be keeping this recap a bit lower when it comes to word count. JUST LIKE THE UNBELIEVABLY LOW PRICES ON EVERYDAY ITEMS AT MARSHALLS!!! Okay, let’s get to it and hit on the big non-nudity-related things that went down.

The Merge Twist
The merge episode is always one of the best of the season because it helps shape the direction and tone to come. Which alliances have held? Who will flip to the other side? Who will be the odd person out? It’s fascinating to watch this stuff develop. We all love the merge episode. But I have to admit, part of me wanted to hold off for a week or two, just because I wanted to see how the Nuku tribe would have responded as a team after that emotionally draining but ultimately unifying Tribal Council in which Varner outed Zeke. We’ll get into how the Nuku alliance imploded later on, but had they all been on the same side in the next reward and immunity challenge and pulled out victories in both, that could have been pretty damn inspiring.

However, we’ll just have to file that one under T for tough noogies since the merge was indeed upon us. Ah, but with a twist. After Jeff Probst brought all the players onto a beach with a giant merge feast laid out in front of them, he told them they could enjoy it only if one person from each tribe volunteered not to take part. If there were no volunteers, then each player would receive an individual cracker and swig of iced tea instead.

Great twist. I absolutely love it. Not because I enjoy watching people suffer… I mean, I do enjoy watching people suffer. But that’s not the only reason. I also love anything that forces players to make a big choice. And there were no good choices here. Brad and Tai sacrificed their food so the others could eat, and you might think that was a strong strategic move in terms of garnering favor and appreciation from their tribemates. But in the evolution of this game, that is not always a good thing. As soon as you do that, people are appreciative, but also, their antennas go up. (We even heard Cirie talking about how Brad and Tai got brownie points, “but that makes me suspicious because everything in this game is calculated.”)

And now you have just made yourself a target due to your increased likability and ability to get jury votes at the end. If I’m standing on one of those mats, I suggest a rock, paper, scissors tournament or some other random method of determining who has to take the fall. I definitely do not volunteer. I also definitely do not pretend I am drunk if I am not, which is what Debbie claimed. Although Debbie claims a lot of things, so who knows. I mean, I actually kind of hope she was drunk while twerking on Cirie and mooning Tai. At least that offers a semblance of an explanation.

The First Immunity Challenge
I’m just not a fan of the old, “Stand on your tippy toes with a block wedge between your head and the top of the frame.” I don’t know why, because I generally love endurance challenges, but this one just has never done it for me. Maybe it’s because three players dropped out in three seconds, with over half the tribe being out in the first five minutes. Or maybe it’s just because everyone looks so damn awkward while doing it. Whatever the reason, I just can’t get into it.

I will, however, give props to Andrea for becoming the first woman to win this challenge and beating endurance beast Tai in the process. That’s super impressive. But I think it may be time to retire this particular competition.

The Return of Cirie
We’ve seen hardly any of Cirie this season for one good reason: There’s been no reason to. She had never been to Tribal Council before tonight, so she never had to scramble or strategize — at least not to the extent that we needed to see it. But the second we went to an individual game, Cirie was back. She took the tribe consensus vote of Michaela and flipped it on its head because she saw a way to nurture Michaela over to her side as an additional vote. That was smart. So smart that it frightened Zeke into making his own move (which we will get into later), but it was great to see the old Cirie back to her wily ways.

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.

Another One Bites the Dust
I was one of many who openly questioned why Hali was brought back for a season called Game Changers. Another one of those people who questioned her inclusion was… Hali herself! I’m not going to bash Hali for anything. She followed J.T.’s lead and tried to make some waves at Tribal Council a few weeks back with her old Mana-mates. She got her tribe the victory with her work on the puzzle last week. And the she offered to “shakedown for everybody right now” at Tribal Council to prove she did not have an idol, but only if someone asked. “If you want to be more secure you can man up,” she told the tribe. “We can do a pat strip search here to settle things.” That was a bit awkward, but at least she was trying something.

Of course, she then went on to say she was not a Game Changer and therefore should not be taken out, which is a bit of a weird strategy because her basic argument in that case was that she didn’t deserve to stay… so should therefore stay. Also, openly saying you are not a Game Changer means you are not likely to get a lot of winner votes at the end to be named the ultimate Game Changer. Not the best long-term strategy. It didn’t matter, of course, as she was cut loose here and became the first member of the jury.

Hali did not really change my opinion all that much in that she did not suddenly morph into a dynamic personality who was on the beach making moves and playing an aggressive game. She was not really an effective narrator for what was happening either, which is always a vastly underestimated talent among Survivor contestants. (Zeke excels at that.) But Hali did not play poorly either. She was there. She did fine. Had a few moments. Nothing to make us think she should be brought back for a third time, but certainly nothing for her to be embarrassed about either.

Oh, one other note about this Tribal in which Hali got voted out: Sierra did not use her legacy advantage, so the next time that can be used is at the final 6. We’ll see if she makes it that far.

A Fishy Situation (as opposed to a “Fishbach Situation”)
God, there is little I love more in this world than when someone forgets something in any sort of race or competition and then has to go back to get it. Like when folks lose their passport or forget to do a task on The Amazing Race and mister cocked-eyebrow is all, “I’m sorry, I cant check you in”? Love it. I know it makes me a terrible person, but at least I’m being honest, and doesn’t that honesty make me a little less terrible? Or does it make me more terrible that I am aware of being an a-hole yet continue to be one? How much does self-awareness aid or hurt me in this situation?

But I know I’m not alone, because it just makes things more exciting! Like when Sarah and Brad totally lost their lead in the reward challenge because they left one fish back in the water? That was great! And when Tai and Andrea promptly gave that lead back when they then forgot a fish? Even better! See, I am an equal opportunity a-hole, rooting for everyone to screw up in some manner or fashion. Of course, none it ever matters, because as I say every single week: It’s all about the puzzle, which was proven yet again right here.

Tai’s Losing Streak
I’m not sure a streak counts as a streak if you end said streak by leaving the door open while you’re in the shower. That’s just going nude in my book. The perfect streak — not that I have a lot of experience in these matters — has you running in somewhere naked and then quickly departing. That’s the “streak” element. You’re in and out of there almost before people even have a chance to realize what has just happened. But if you “streak” into a shower right in front of everyone and then leave the shower door open and just sort of hang out there, that’s seems like something else entirely. Just sayin’.

Pole Position
Was there ever any doubt that Ozzy would not win this competition? I mean, maybe right when it began, because he had won both times he had done it and he’s, you know, Ozzy. But once everyone kept making a big fuss about how there was no way Ozzy was going to lose, Ozzy was destined to lose. “I plan on breaking my record,” he bragged at one point. “Ozzy ain’t coming off that pole,” Michaela explained as to why she appeared to give up.

But everyone was forgetting about the other endurance master up there on the pole, Tai. And when he took down the queen, or king, or whatever he wanted to call Ozzy, it was presented as a bit of a shocker, but it really wasn’t. Both were super duper impressive, and nobody should underestimate Tai in such competitions ever again.

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.

Zeke Makes a Move
“I’m here to play Survivor,” said Zeke the morning after he was outed by Jeff Varner. “So let’s just get back to it.” Agreed, let’s. I was gushing over the way Zeke handled himself at Tribal Council last week , but now we’re getting into strategy analysis and we’re going to have a bit more of a mixed review. After the merge, we saw two sides coming together. One on side was Brad, Sierra, and company, while the other alliance appeared to be led by Cirie and Zeke. But then we started hearing a little more from Andrea as well. And Zeke did not like that. He did not like that Cirie seemed to be pulling the strings and Andrea seemed to have a better line on intel than he did. Zeke was not in control and calling the shots. And he didn’t like it.

Now, you could look at this in one of two ways. The first way is to say that Zeke realized he was in a position where he may not have been in the inner loop and then would also not be getting any credit for the moves being made. In essence, he would be in a position of being carried by others and just along for the ride and therefore not really building his résumé up. If that’s the case, I’m not necessarily opposed to him making a move here to flip the script and break things up.

But you could also look at it the other way: that he simply could not handle not being in control so therefore sabotaged his own game purely out of ego. In reality, the truth is most likely somewhere in between. I do think ego plays a big part in Survivor — sometimes in a positive way, but also often in a negative one. Zeke was actually very eloquent — as he always is — in his reasoning for pouncing now, talking about the pros and cons of making a move too early as opposed to too late and how it was better to regret the former as opposed to the latter. But that still does not mean that ego did not play a role here.

So he decided to completely abandon the alliance and flip to the other side, telling Debbie and Tai how tight Andrea and Cirie were and how Andrea wanted to keep Debbie in the dark, and then later informing Sierra that Andrea and Cirie wanted her out. Time will tell whether this was a bold move to completely shake up the game and remap all the alliances on the island, or if Zeke just took himself from the top end of one alliance to the bottom of the other.

But here was the very telling thing about the effectiveness of Zeke’s gameplay from this entire incident. I have always given him a lot of credit in this department. After all, anyone who can convince five people to pull rocks for him has to be doing something right. But what was so noticeable was the reaction of Debbie and Sierra when Zeke starting feeding them intel. Debbie said flat out that she didn’t believe him and that “I want to make a big move, but I don’t need Zeke to make it.” And then Sierra’s reaction was, “Whenever I talk to Zeke, I feel like he thinks I’m stupid. And I don’t trust him.”

This could be Zeke’s fatal flaw, because the key to controlling people in this game is having them believe what you say. Anyone can lie. But do you have the power to make them believe the lie? That’s what makes a player special. Here, Zeke was actually telling Debbie and Sierra the truth, and they still didn’t believe it. Not only that, but they had no previous bias from seeing him be duplicitous on a previous season because they didn’t see his previous season since it had not aired yet. So that’s not good and could be telling in terms of Zeke’s future in this game.

You also don’t like to hear potential future jury members saying, “Terrible game move. You suck at this game. I hope I see you never,” as Andrea did while voting. Don’t get me wrong: I think Zeke is a very strong player, but I definitely saw some cracks tonight, and it will be interesting to see if he can patch them up or if they become chasms moving forward.

An Ode to Ozzy
After Zeke spilled the beans to the other side, Debbie had the idea to switch their target to Ozzy. A lot of wacky stuff went down with the voting — Debbie used her extra vote, Cirie voted for Sierra (even though the rest of her alliance had already switched to Zeke), and Zeke voted for Aubry — but when all was said and done, Ozzy got the boot.

In lasting 24 days this time around, Ozzy has now played the most of any Survivor player in history. He is without a doubt a Survivor legend and personifies the game in some ways — the climbing trees, the fishing, the challenges — better than anyone who has ever played. He also made the most hilarious fake idol in Survivor history (“it’s just a f—ing stick!”).

But Ozzy will be the first person to tell you that his strategic and social game were never quite up to snuff. He was never the guy to think long term and set a high-concept plan in motion, and he sometimes had trouble establishing the personal connections to make people want to keep him around even though he was such a massive threat. But let’s also not overstate that flaw. Ozzy was one vote away from winning Cook Islands and one day away from winning South Pacific. He was a loyal player who could be counted on to stay loyal (which is why it made no sense to get rid of him last week, as Nuku considered).

He was never a complete player like Kim Spradlin, Tom Westman, Parvati Shallow, or Boston Rob, but he was a damn good one and did certain things better than anyone. I totally get why Jeff Probst was unsure about bringing Ozzy back at the start of the season and had to be convinced by CBS, but Ozzy adds something to this show that few people can. Personally, I was glad to see him back and was actually looking forward to seeing his relationship with Cirie come full circle with them working together 18 seasons later. Alas, it was not meant to be. But I choose to appreciate Ozzy for what he is, rather than dwell on what he is not.

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.

So Ozzy is out of here and so am I — back to vacation. But we’ve got more goodies for you. First off, it’s time to give away Ozzy and Hali’s original pre-game votes! As you probably know, I’ve been giving away all the original votes that the Game Changers contestants cast before the game (that you can view on my Instagram feed). To enter for a chance to win Ozzy’s and Hali’s, just answer the following question and then let me know which vote you would prefer if you happen to be chosen as a winner: Who is my favorite Survivor player to be voted out first the first time he or she played? Longtime readers should know this one. Email your answer to And please include your mailing address, since we have not heard back from some winners since responses may be ending up in their spam folders.

Okay, make sure to check out our exclusive deleted scene above as well our weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst. You can also follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for all the Survivor intel and updates. And now it’s your turn. What did you think of Zeke’s big move, Tai and Brad’s big sacrifice, and Hali and Ozzy heading to the jury? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the Marshalls crispy!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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