Survivor recap: Brad Culpepper's amazing technicolor dream shorts
Well that didn’t take long. A newsworthy episode last week had even non-Survivor fans tuning in to see Jeff Varner as he cruelly outed Zeke Smith as transgender — like it was some kind of evidence he’s sneaky. In a touching show of decency and solidarity Zeke’s tribemates offered him comfort and support … and then almost ousted him this week because he’s sneaky.
This week we also saw the continuing redemption of Tampa lawyer Brad Culpepper and his amazing technicolor dream shorts. The ex-Buccaneer star was ousted early when he last played this game (but not before one fellow player famously shouted, "Eff you, Brad Culpepper”). He learned his lesson and has been turning on the charm, winning over two of his female tribemates last week with a tearful confession that he didn’t give his wife, Monica, enough credit for sticking out the starvation and head games for 39 days in the Blood vs Water season she almost won.
No tears this week. Instead, he took one for the team and volunteered to forego a feast. Typical Survivor, they threw in a twist to welcome the players into a merged tribe. There was a bountiful feast to celebrate the merger, but each tribe had to choose one member to not take part in it. If no one volunteered, they each got a cracker and a swig of iced tea.
“I got this,” Culpepper says, reassuring his tribemates, “I can catch a fish. Don’t worry about me.” No one protests much. These people are starving. “It’s what Monica would do.” The hashtag #WWMD flashes, of course, to remind us of what Brad said is guiding him this season.
“Here’s the deal with Brad Culpepper,” Zeke says in a confessional later. “I don’t think he liked how he came out looking in the Blood vs. Water season. So Brad falls on his sword and he’s the hero and the great provider,” he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "So this is very much part of the Culpepper brand, to sacrifice himself for others.”
Yeah, what a jerk, amirite? Letting others eat. As if. Who’s with me? No one? Actually, Cirie has been on Team Brad lately but even she cast a side eye. Brad and Tai got brownie points for making the feast sacrifice, "But that makes me suspicious.”
Brad admits as much in his own confessional. “In football, you are only as good as your next game.” So he’s looking forward and knows he’s going to be a target if he doesn’t shore up some allies.
That’s where his game play vs. Zeke’s looks so interesting. After the tribes merge, Zeke tells the rest of the crew what happened to him at that emotional tribal council.
"I was very touched by how everyone responded,” he says and once again finds instant support from strangers horrified that he was outed on national television as part of game play.
“Survivor,” he says. "It makes you tough, it makes you resilient, it makes you adaptable.” He’s taking the incident as a life lesson and earns a lot of respect for it.
He soon squandered it.
Meanwhile, Cirie and Michaela gave us all the feels when Cirie turned maternal and gave the young hot head Michaela the pep talk we didn’t know we needed.
“You are a very smart girl. You have to control your emotions and you can’t shut down when everyone else is talking,” she advises. "I was a hot head and I've learned when you put that guard up you push people away."
They bond. We melt. "I don’t think I’ve ever seen two black women go to the end,” Michaela says, like it's a girl power challenge. Yassss! The talk works and Michaela comes in second to the not-very-interesting Hali as the first evicted in Wednesday's two-hour episode.
As we head into Hour Two, Hali says to the camera in her exit interview, "I just feel like these people are dumb. Do you want to sit with strong strategic players?” She's right. That’s certainly who you would expect to be targeted first.
That’s where Culpepper’s charm offensive strategy seems to be working. The tribe is clearly impressed with Brad 2.0 because his name surprisingly doesn’t come up much as a target. Though he is under the gun briefly.
Brad, Sierra and company have a pretty solid alliance, so Zeke and Cirie start cooking up plans of their own to get rid of those two. But in the middle of their plans, Zeke seems to feel like Cirie is getting too much attention and bonding with Andrea without him. So he completely flips on his alliance and starts feeding stories to Sierra about Cirie.
In the end, Zeke went from being at the top of a potential majority alliance to barely making it out of the Tribal Council with 4 votes to Ozzy’s 6. Dang it, Zeke, we were rooting for you and you may have just blown it. He only avoided the ax because he's not as tough of a player as Ozzy.
Oh Ozzy, you pole-hugging master. A fan favorite who has played Survivor a record four times is a great fisherman and challenge player so he tends to stick around longer than most because he’s a great asset.
Culpepper and Sierra read this as a threat. OK. Fine. You are right guys. But now the fans hope you all starve on that stupid island because we love Ozzy. (Although I will admit it was pretty funny that Culpepper wrote “the great and powerful Oz” in his vote.)
Next week: Zeke is called "shady" and untrustworthy and the majority alliance against him boasts there "is a line drawn in concrete" protecting them, which usually means it isn't.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SharonKWn.