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Survivor 24 - 5/24/17 - Lies, Damn Lies, and a Million Dollars

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Jeff starts off the show live at CBS Studios in L.A. in a basic black mohair pullover sweater and black skinny jeans. He wanders the backstage area populated by people who couldn’t change the game enough to save themselves. Sandra is wearing a tiara, for those keeping score at home. Also, Varner is there and smiling like a charming madman. I’m surprised he isn’t holding up his resume.


A long segment of seasonal recappage follows the opening but if you’ve come with me on this journey/process/fairytale this long, then you already know who is left on the show and what they’ve done to get there.


Post tribal, Sarah is livid about how things played out and started a fight with Cirie, who scrambles to try and justify her botched attempt at bogarting the Steal a Vote advantage. She insists she was only trying to help Sarah by exposing Tai as a rat! I am still unclear how that was going to work. To prove Tai was going to vote Sarah out, Cirie was going to…prevent him from voting? It was never a really logical plan. Just say you wanted to use it to get rid of a rival. Be an adult about it and own up to your shadiness.


Speaking of shadiness, Tai foolishly lies about Cirie coming to him ahead of time and working him so he would not play his idol. Sarah immediately knows this is false and calls him out on it, and yet another argument plays out about Tai betraying Sarah. Since he is such a great Survivor player, Tai goes to Brad for help and Culpepper just runs roughshod over the smaller man and pretends that he will ally with Tai again. However, Brad very clearly has had enough of Tai’s lies and declares to us he will drop Tai and send him out with his two idols in his pocket.


Immunity challenge time! Probst is wearing a robin’s egg blue shirt, for those keeping score at home. The challenge is a giant maze that will require the Survivors to run to three different stations and collect three different bags of puzzle pieces, which will be used to solve a compass rose puzzle. First to finish wins immunity and in addition there will be a reward for the winner: chicken parmesan, spaghetti, garlic bread, and key lime pie, because what goes better with Italian food than a tropical dessert? Survivors ready? GO!


The maze is huge and there is a great aerial shot of the giant rectangle as the players run through in search of puzzle bags. Probst narrates with his usual breathless enthusiasm, but it’s hard to be original with variations of “Culpepper navigates the maze and reaches the first station.” The highlights of the search consist of a big fall Brad took on a cargo net, and Troyzan showing that he is colorblind as he put one of his bags on the wrong station. Dude, they make it as easy as possible not to get mixed up! Aubry finishes collecting her puzzle piece bags first but pretty much everyone is working on the puzzle at the same time, though Tai shouldn’t have bothered showing up. Brad gets confused because he doesn’t have enough pieces but that is because he didn’t completely empty out his bags. It doesn’t deter him and the self-proclaimed “dumb jock” finishes first with a puzzle yet again. Jeff tells him to pick someone to share the meal and he chooses Troyzan before Probst can finish his sentence. He gets a second choice and agonizes for a moment, then picks Sarah.


During the reward meal, Sarah reveals she feels betrayed by Cirie and cannot trust Tai. The three easily decide to get rid of Aubry tonight. Brad, however, is leery of Tai’s two idols and decides the best way to handle this is to browbeat Tai into giving Brad one of his two idols to hold during tribal council so Tai can’t do any funny business. Culpepper is very angry with Tai and seems to barely be able to control his fury. Tai doesn’t hand over the idol however and tells Brad and Troy that he has to think it through. In fact, he goes to Aubry for advice and lets it slip that Aubry is the one who is on the chopping block. Tai starts crying, of course, and Aubry rubs his back and rolls her eyes at the same time. She expresses her frustration with him. Right there with you, sister. Cirie comes over and tries to talk to them but Tai really wants nothing to do with Cirie after the shitfest that was the last tribal council. Tai professes something akin to anger with Cirie, or as close as Tai gets to anger. It’s nice to know he has an emotion other than “puddle of tears.”


Tribal council time. Probst is wearing a jade green shirt, for those keeping score at home. Jeff starts right in on the previous council’s chaos. Aubry says it was to show we had a rat in our midst and this wends its way over to Tai, who STILL denies he was going to vote out Sarah. Pretty much everyone starts talking to him at the same time to point this out and Sarah finally gets the point across to Probst that people are frustrated with Tai not for actually lying, as they all know this is a game of strategic lying, but because he isn’t taking responsibility for his lies. They are okay with him lying, they are not okay with him lying about lying. Make sense? Yeah, we definitely need more vodka. Cirie thinks she has seen people in worse holes than Tai and they have made it through. Can we have an example of that, Cirie? No, okay moving on. Brad cautions that buyer beware when it comes to making deals with Tai, which is probably the wisest thing he has said this whole season. Probst proclaims the game is alive and moving moment by moment. And with that, it’s time to vote.


Before Probst reads the votes, do any of you want to play a hidden immunity idol? Why yes, yes they do. Tai stands up (FINALLY!) and plays his blue idol for himself. The jury wiggles with glee because they love seeing this kind of thing happen. Tai, however, does not go back to his stump of a seat but instead pulls out the second idol, the red one. Culpepper kind of grimaces when this happens because tribals never go as he thinks they will. Tai gives the second idol to Probst and plays it for Aubry. The jury loves it. Jeff confirms they are both legitimate idols and notes that any votes cast for Tai or Aubry will not count. Then Sarah interrupts him and says, “Hey Jeff I have this legacy advantage…I can only play it now and I don’t need a souvenir.” The jury is practically bouncing off the walls with this turn of events as Jeff intones that any votes cast for Sarah will not count. Finally Troyzan stands up and says he wants to get on the immunity train and gives HIS idol to Jeff. Probst confirms that this is also legitimate and any votes cast for Troyzan also will not count. The jury cannot help themselves by now and are guffawing loudly.


So let’s see…the remaining players are Sarah, Troyzan, Brad, Tai, Cirie, and Aubry. Votes for Sarah, Troyan, Brad (immunity), Tai, and Aubry will not count. That leaves only on person left who is eligible for voting: Cirie. She realizes what is going on faster than anyone else, which speaks to her intelligence and game smarts more than anything else. Probst lists the ways that this is an historic tribal council for Survivor: most idols played (3), most people safe at tribal (5), and most significant is Cirie is first person in 34 seasons to be voted out because there is literally no other choice. Jeff waxes poetic about Cirie and how she has played four seasons of Survivor with grace. He asks how many days she has play so far and she says with a laugh, “Not enough!” The jury gives her a standing ovation and even Ozzy has a few tears in his eyes. Jeff allows Cirie to say the famous tribe has spoken line and her fire is doused.


Day 37. Straight to immunity challenge time. Probst is wearing an Oxford blue shirt, for those keeping score at home. Actually, it looks like he is wearing a blue shirt that got a bit dusty. The challenge is a Survivor repeat: use paddles to maneuver three balls one at a time through a series of obstacles shaped like a Rube Goldberg fever dream. If they drop a ball, they have to start over. Sort of like when you hit puberty.


Survivors ready? Go! This challenge is all about steady nerves, concentration, and Probst saying “balls” as much as he possible can. Balls! Balls! Balls! Essentially, Brad flies through the challenge and gets his three balls in place while the rest of them have exactly none. This is the fourth individual challenge he has won, a feat that Probst notes is pretty rare. Brad breaks down and cries from emotion and I have to wonder why Culpepper crying doesn’t get under my skin like it does when Tai is sobbing.


Prior to tribal council, the scrambling involves Aubry pitching to Tai and Sarah to vote out Troy. Her logic is that if Brad wins immunity again, getting rid of Troy maximizes the chances of Sarah and Tai being in the final spot. Sarah has a spot in the middle between the sides, but she doesn’t trust Tai. The two of them go off and talk, and it seems to be Festivus because Sarah is participating in the Airing of the Grievances with Tai. In the end, they decide to vote out Aubry because that is what Tai wants. Sarah agrees. And so it’s settled…until Brad decides to be Mr. AlphaMale and he dictates to Tai that he has no choice but to vote for Aubry! And once again because Tai is such a terrible player, instead of just agreeing and going along with Brad since that is what he was going to do anyway, Tai runs to Sarah to complain about how mean Brad is (which he is, no question that he is kind of a dick for the last few days) and now Tai wants to vote out Troy. Sarah is back to having to make a decision.


Tribal council time. Probst is wearing an iris blue shirt, for those keeping score at home. The jury comes in and Ozzy gives Brad the stink eye for winning immunity again, though it seems to be an unserious sort of stink eye. The talk goes to how to negotiate into the final three. Aubry clearly lays out that if Brad or Troyzan wins immunity, then they are the sure things for final three, so it would be better to vote out Troyzan tonight. Tai confirms Aubry approached him with this plan. Everyone pretty much says they need to win to get in. And in an hilarious moment everyone EXCEPT Troyzan says there are people still in the running that could beat them for the prize. This for some reason sets Sarah’s facial expressions into a paroxysm of disbelief. Me too, Sarah. I am pretty sure a wet noodle could win against Troyzan in the final three.


Time to tally the votes: Aubrey. Troyzan. Aubry. Aubrey. And with that, she’s out. When Jeff douses her torch, she tries to take it with her since she never had it snuffed on her season. Probst just looks at her and shakes his head, muttering “That can stay here.” In her closing remarks, Aubry says she can’t wait to be on the jury and watch these “psychopaths.” I do not think that word means what you think it means, Aubry.


Day 38 and it is the final Immunity Challenge. Jeff is wearing a navy blue shirt, for those keeping score at home. The Survivors are lined up in their grimy finest and this is when I noticed that Brad is wearing a burlap sack as a shirt. I feel fairly certain he arrived on the island wearing a shirt but now he is sporting a fashion that Lucy and Ethel made trendy a few decades ago in Paris. I am guessing this is a rice bag and it is tied at the waist with strips of burlap. It’s hilarious and random and unexplained. The final challenge, the Survivors will race through an obstacle gathering key rings and then go down a giant waterslide, collecting bags of puzzle pieces as they go. Once they have all three bags they can use the puzzle pieces to make a lighthouse puzzle. Survivors ready? GO! Sarah, who may very well be one of the best female athletes Survivor has had, is leading from the beginning. The water slide looks like it would be a lot of fun, but not the way Brad does it: ass first. The best part is on Culpepper’s second slide, Probst is just a little too close to the splash zone and his shorts get doused. Sarah is at the puzzle station before anyone else but she has such a hard time finding the first piece she falls far behind. Brad manages to sail through the puzzle yet again, and he wins his fifth immunity challenge in a single season. It’s an elite club after 34 seasons, where the other members are Ozzy (Cook Islands), Tom Westman (Palau), Colby (Australia), Terry Dietz (Panama), and Mike Holloway (Worlds Apart).


Post challenge finds Brad ready to take his revenge on Tai for being so disloyal and untrustworthy. Culpepper is so certain he has this thing won, he proclaims that it is good to be king. He’s Superman, bulletproof. It comes down to who has done him wrong the most: Tai. Troyzan suggests telling Tai first that he is going, since Troy is actually a decent if weird human being and being concerned with another person’s feelings is part of that. Tai and Sarah, meanwhile, talk at camp and Tai suggests that Sarah votes for Troy with him and force a fire-off at tribal. Tai sells his case for being taken to the jury by pointing out the jury hates him. Yes, all true, but he should be appealing his case before Brad, not Sarah. Not that I think Brad would have listened to him at this point since Brad’s Ego is taking up all the room in his headspace. Sarah reasons with herself that Troyzan may very well pose a danger to the jury votes because he never pissed anyone off, and that was how Sandra won twice. That is Sarah’s logic, but I think Sandra had a bit more game in her than just that. In other news, Tai has a big bump in the middle of his forehead that has dried blood streaked around it. Either someone shot him or one of the chickens beaked him. Possibly it was obtained during the challenge, but much like Brad’s burlap sack shirt, it is never explained.


Tribal council time. Probst is wearing a zaffre blue shirt, for those keeping score at home. I think that color name may be my favorite so far. The jury comes in and Aubry apparently thought it was a Tart party from the way she’s dressed and her make up is slathered on with a trowel. Conversation begins with Brad announcing it is time to figure out who to goes to the final three. Tai brings up the possibility of making it go to fire, and then he goes on to complain about how Brad treated him like a little child and he can determine his own destiny, thank you very much. Troyzan is perfectly mellow about going to fire if there is a tie. Sarah has her cop poker face on, but it is fairly easy to see from Tai’s attempts to fan any doubts in her mind how the vote will go.


Let’s go tally the votes: Tai. Troyzan. Tai. Tai. And with that, Tai thanks Jeff for a good season and walks off into the night.


Day 39 dawns in Fiji and Troyzan desecrates a tree with the thirty ninth hash mark. A basket of breakfast is waiting for them and as the camera focuses on them cooking over the fire, I see a perfect pancake is flipped over in the pan. How the hell did they do that? I can’t even make perfectly golden pancakes at home in prime conditions! That just pisses me off. Anyway, they each make their cases to the camera: Troyzan is a nice guy who never had anyone write his name down, Sarah hopes the jury rewards her honest answers, Brad doesn’t need the money but really really really wants to win. Oh, well, there is a good reason to vote for him. “I’m already rich but I like championships.” Well, not according to his football career stats.


Final tribal council. Probst is wearing a sea green shirt, for those keeping score at home. The jury makes their way in for the last time and Zeke’s shirt is so ugly it makes Debbie look good. Probst starts out by pointing out Brad has won five immunities and joined an elite club, and Ozzy has played the most days of Survivor at 128 days, while Cirie is close behind at 121 days. And not a win between them! Probst goes on to explain a change in the final tribal format: instead of asking one question per juror, it is going to be a more open discussion between the final three and the jury, centered around the Survivor motto: outwit, outplay, outlast. Outwit is the social game. Outplay would be how they responded to conditions put on them by the game such as challenges, building shelter, twists. Outlast would be the critical step of putting people on the jury who respect the way they played over the other two finalists.


Starting with the outwit portion, Zeke talks to Sarah and notes that on day three, he gave her his jacket and she wore it every night to tribal council, which was ballsy. The other move she made that put him squarely in her corner is convincing Sierra to promise her legacy advantage. Clearly Sarah outwitted the lot of them. Andrea feels she is in a dilemma with Sarah because of how she betrayed personal relationships. Sarah’s response that her personal relationships were 100 percent real elicits a great deal of laughter from the jury. Ozzy wants to know if what she is saying now is real since she lied so much. He says in comparison is Brad who won challenge after challenge, and managed to get to the end with clean hands, as opposed to Sarah. Cirie asks Brad to prove that Sierra wasn’t the brains of his operation. Brad counters with his relationships with others, particularly JT, allowed his tribe to survive the Tribal Council of Whispering and get rid of Malcolm (pretty, pretty Malcolm). Michaela wants to know what Brad knows about her personally, since this is a social game. Brad is slightly confused and responds that she’s from Texas, went to Texas Christian University and works selling vacation club memberships but he has nothing after that. Yeah, I really hate that question because it is all about validating Micheala and not necessarily about the game. Also, that personal relationship goes both ways. How much would she know about him put on the same spot? That just irritated me. Andrea asks (as interpreted by Aubry) what specifically is real Sarah and what is game Sarah. She brings up working undercover and playing a part. Debbie dismisses Sarah as a Lady Macbeth and declares her loyalty to Brad, nothing that Sarah would not be sitting there if it weren’t for Brad. Well, yes, if not for Brad’s all-consuming need to punish Tai for being disloyal, then the three men would be sitting there and Sarah would be on the jury.


Troyzan’s big moment is when Ozzy calls him a passenger in the game. That’s all that really needs to be said.


As for Brad’s jury questioning, he has to do a lot of scrambling to explain why he was such a dick to Tai. Culpepper tries backpedaling and saying he was trying to secure a deal by forcing the idol issue but really, we all saw it. He was on a power trip and was in high bully mode. Brad can try to justify his manner and tone with Tai but there is no getting around his lack of social grace and kindness to someone less well-off in the game than him. Debbie tries to compliment Brad by saying his has 100 percent more testosterone than the average male. Brad looks nonplussed.


Outplay is next and Ozzy makes the eloquent case for Brad winning the outplay portion of the pageant with his five immunity wins, camp work and providing food. Sarah, however, defends herself for the outplay title by bringing up getting rid of Sierra but still getting the advantage out of her, and during the challenge where Michaela sat out and totally missed the secret advantage that Sarah spotted during the game. That shocks a few people but Cirie obviously knew the story already.


Outlast at last. Brad tells the jury you don’t need to deceive and lie to make it to the end. Sarah hopes the jury respects her game play and her ability to adapt. Troyzan admits to not being the best strategist or game player but he has loved playing the game with everyone and loves Survivor. He gets a round of applause, which is all he’s going to get from this jury.


Finally it is time to vote! We are allowed to see the ones we knew were coming: Michaela votes for Sara, Ozzy votes for #77 Culpepper, Zeke votes for Sarah, Debbie votes for Brad Culpepper. But that’s it and Probst collects the lantern that has been used for this season as the vote repository and takes off. Unfortunately he does not hop on a jetski or waterski on the backs of dolphins to the finale stage. I miss those days! The three finalists are sitting on stumps and look a bit odd. Brad has a mustache, orange tie and a short sleeved shirt that makes him look like a floor manager for a small warehouse in Cincinnati. Troyzan is clean shaven, but his lips look like he had some plumping injections done recently. Sarah looks pretty nice without the whore make up favored by the rest of the Survivor women and she’s wearing a sedate blue dress. Unfortunately she is smiling with only one side of her mouth turned up so I am a little worried she is having a stroke. Well, at least then we’ll get to see Cute English Doctor since we haven’t had him all season. Dammit, you experienced players, refusing to hurt yourself for my entertainment!

Time for Probst to read the votes: Sara. Culpepper. Sarah. Brad Culpepper. Brad. Sarah. Sarah!!! Sarah. Sarah. And the winner of Survivor 34 is Sarah. She gets a huge amount of cheers, gives Troyzan and Brad quick pecks and runs out into the audience to hug her (husband? Baby daddy?) and parents.


Well done, Sarah. She sure as hell earned this win by managing her game from start to finish. She never made emotional decisions, she kept her poker face and her eye on the prize the whole time. This was a really good season from start to finish, full of surprises and shocks and big personalities and a surprising lack of bitterness by experienced players who have respect for each other on personal levels. And also Varner.


Thanks for sticking with me all season!

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