Survivor: Game Changers has finally reached the major turning point in the game: the merge. After a pre-merge full of twists, eliminations of fan favorite players and controversial moments, this season is sure to enter a whole new level of insanity. As such, it is time to assess which contestants are looking the best as far as winning Survivor: Game Changers and which are drawing dead.
Thus far, Survivor: Game Changers has been a difficult one for physical and strategic threats. Fans have seen strategists like Ciera Eastin, Tony Vlachos, and Sandra Diaz-Twine go home much earlier than their previous seasons, in addition to alpha males like Malcolm Freberg, Caleb Reynolds, and J.T. Thomas. Now, after last week’s uncomfortable moment with Jeff Varner outing Zeke Smith as transgender followed by Varner’s exit, Survivor fans are looking forward to the game getting back to some good, clean fun.
With the merge coming in this week’s double episode of Survivor: Game Changers, let’s rank each of the remaining 13 contestants in order of winner potential, based on gameplay and editing.
13. Andrea Boehlke
Through seven hours of Survivor: Game Changers there has been no one less relevant to the overall arc of the season than Andrea. This is not a slight on her strategy or the social game she has played, but we simply aren’t seeing it. She seems to have a strong core group with Ozzy Lusth, Zeke Smith, Sarah Lacina and Debbie Wanner, but we get so little insight from her in confessionals that it can be easy to forget she’s on this season. Simply put, the Survivor editors are making it clear that she’s not winning Game Changers.
12. Debbie Wanner
Debbie’s arc on Survivor: Game Changers has been as all-over-the-place as her ever-changing careers. We’ve seen her assess her tribemates with some level of insight, be a loyal member of her alliance, viciously turn against Brad Culpepper and then have a moment of vulnerability on Exile Island. When things are going well for Debbie, she is a valued member of her tribe, but when things go bad, she goes mad. If she gets into a bad situation after the merge and she has another meltdown, the rest of the tribe will probably coalesce around getting rid of her.
11. Ozzy Lusth
Ozzy has proven through four seasons of Survivor that he is one of the most dangerous physical threats in the show’s history. Let him get too far and he’ll win every Immunity Challenge and make it all the way to the end. That seems to be the resounding feeling on Game Changers, in which Ozzy’s name has come up on a few occasions to get out before the merge considering his physical dominance. If Ozzy’s alliance wins out after the merge then he could make a deep run and have a shot at the $1 million. But he’s also very likely to be the no. 1 target from the get-go, so he’ll have to go hard in these Immunity Challenges.
10. Michaela Bradshaw
Michaela is in a precarious situation heading into the merge, even if she’s not the first target. Sandra and Varner were her main allies in the pre-merge and both of them are now gone. We haven’t seen her make connections with many other people in the game, and was notably left out of Brad’s list of allies he trusts heading into the merge. Michaela could be a key swing vote between warring factions, but her proclivity for saying exactly what’s on her mind could get her in trouble sooner rather than later.
9. Tai Trang
Tai continues to be the same Idol-finding, alliance-breaking, slippery guy we were first introduced to in Survivor: Kaoh Rong. After accidentally letting it slip to Varner that they were voting out Sandra the day she would ultimately be booted, Tai almost got voted out himself for his word diarrhea at Tribal Council. His tendency to say the wrong thing will almost definitely lead to his downfall in the post-merge, unless he makes it all the way to the end again. However, he will likely get zero votes (again) if he doesn’t make those important social bonds.
8. Troyzan Robertson
Troyzan is another castaway we haven’t seen much of on this season of Survivor, outside of his big Idol-finding moment. Compared to his previous season, Survivor: One World, he has gone with the flow more, even if he was in the minority. He has now found a way in with Brad’s alliance, and with an Idol in his pocket, he probably won’t be going anywhere soon. As far as winning, though, we haven’t seen a strong narrative to suggest he’s well-liked enough to earn votes in the end, but we still have a lot of game left.
7. Cirie Fields
Cirie is one of the most respected, impressive contestants in Survivor history, and her making it to the merge here is a modern miracle. She is one of the best pure strategic minds to play the game, and despite being a target early on in Game Changers, she is the only contestant this season to make it through the pre-merge without going to Tribal Council. Cirie’s game begins now, and if she can continue onward with the likes of Brad, Sierra, Aubry and others, she could go deep. But she’s also four-time Survivor legend Cirie Fields, so it’s going to be tough for her to get to the Final Three. Though if she does get there, she will likely have done an impressive enough job to win jury votes.
6. Hali Ford
Hali is in a similar situation with Michaela in that she doesn’t have a proper home. Where she differs from Michaela ultimately is in her social game, and her general easygoing nature. She has succeeded in ducking and weaving her way through the first part of the game without strong allies, and her persuasive skills have helped her immensely. Hali is another person who could be in swing vote position, but if she manages to remain non-threatening, she could make it to the end and easily argue her case for why she should win the $1 million.
5. Aubry Bracco
Aubry should have been an early target heading into Survivor: Game Changers. Having so many people declare she should have won Kaoh Rong should have put her in a similar light as the winners who returned this season, but she has survived nonetheless. Aubry’s strengths lie in her savvy social game that she executes while hiding her impressive strategic acumen, and she can easily adapt to any tribal situation. Should she fall on the right side of the numbers, Aubry could make another impressive run and show she’s one of the greats by making it to the end again.
4. Sarah Lacina
Sarah has had a surprising amount of screen time and personal content for someone who has had such little influence on the game so far. We’ve seen her say she wants to play like a criminal, make sub-alliances with various players and have a touching personal moment at the last Tribal Council. The Survivor editors may be suggesting that she is someone to watch in this post-merge, and it’s tough to see her going home anytime soon. She’s trusted, well-liked and isn’t too threatening, and clearly has some sense of how to play the game. Again, her success could come down to whether she’s on the right side of the numbers, but for the time being she is looking good for a deep run and a real shot at the win.
3. Zeke Smith
Zeke became the most talked-about player of the season during last week’s episode of Survivor, after Varner outed him as transgender. This emotional experience clearly rattled him, but he remained resolute and had the support of his alliance. This kind of intense life moment doesn’t just get forgotten moving forward, so it’s tough to see Ozzy, Sarah, Andrea, Debbie and Tai wanting to turn against him. Zeke also went through the tumultuous post-merge in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, so if it comes down to an unpredictable post-merge here, he’s well-prepared. He can also argue his case very well, and his intense personal story could only help him in the end. But he may become too big of a jury threat at a certain point.
2. Brad Culpepper
Brad has come up in this ranking more times than anyone else, and this really shows his dominance so far this season. He came into the game without much of a reputation, and subtly turned into a trusted leader through various tribe swaps and twists. Brad could be a big target right after the merge, so having him this high may be generous, but the amount of personal content we have seen and his surprising likability make it hard to believe he’s going out anytime soon. If Brad can successfully lead an alliance to the end and possibly win challenges along the way, he could easily win this thing. At the same time, being seen as the figurehead of an alliance makes him the no. 1 target from the opposing alliance. He could also very easily bear the brunt of an angry jury.
1. Sierra Dawn Thomas
Sierra was probably the least memorable player heading into Survivor: Game Changers, and much like equally unmemorable Amber Brkich in Survivor: All-Stars, she’ll probably end up winning the game. While Sierra hasn’t been a major character, she’s always on the right side of the numbers and remains non-threatening. She’s also one of, if not the most trusted ally of Brad, and if they get to the end together, jurors make take out all their grievances on him, while rewarding the more social and less polarizing Sierra. Sierra also holds the Legacy Advantage, which she can use at her disposal and make a huge “game-changing” move that proves why she was brought back. As she says in the preview for this week’s episode, “there’s a new sheriff in town,” and Game Changers could indeed make a game changer out of Sierra Dawn Thomas.
Survivor: Game Changers airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
[Featured Image by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment]