Breaking down Sarah’s case to win Survivor: Game Changers

Survivor: Game Changers had Sarah win in a pretty solid majority last week. To continue our post-mortem of the Survivor finale, let’s look at why.

Let’s keep breaking down the details of the Survivor: Game Changers finale. So far, we’ve already looked at why our second-place winner, Brad, lost, and why Troyzan did too. But before we get to look at why Aubry, Tai, and Cirie also didn’t win, we thought we’d take a moment to break down why Sarah won a little more.

She perhaps didn’t put on the best jury performance of all time, but she put on a very good one nevertheless. (She certainly got some help from Zeke in doing it; he became her best booster on the jury, and Zeke has proved through both seasons he’s played that he has a way with words. Jeff Probst even pointed it out during the finale.)

Most important of all was that Sarah learned from past mistakes. Way back when, when I wrote an assessment of her game prior to the start of Game Changers, I pointed out that she doomed herself at the merge in Cagayan. During confessionals during the season, she herself said that she kept finding herself in the middle. However, she ended up playing that position far better this time around. She never really led an alliance. During that post-merge phase, I identified two key alliances. You’ll note that Sarah was part of both of them depending on the day, effectively.

How she managed to do it did earn criticism from some jurors. Andrea called it “gross” at one point how easily Sarah managed to elicit trust. Here’s her talking about it from the reunion show, in her own words:

“Cop to criminal” is perhaps a bit simplistic, but Probst’s basic assessment does ring true. Another argument that came up this season is that Survivor does effectively require lying or, at the very least, deception. Both words got thrown around a lot. Playing with something that you call honor might get you a couple more stints on the island (ahem, Coach, who was a villain on Heroes vs. Villains), but it doesn’t really win the game. Sarah appears to have learned that.

But even so, it’s impossible to discredit her luck in picking up advantages. She didn’t have an idol to use, but she did get the Legacy from Sierra and picked up the vote steal as well. But luck doesn’t get you that far, either. It does, however, when you combine it with timing. She didn’t have to burn her vote steal as soon as Cirie used it, but it did mean that people couldn’t use it as part of the case to vote her out.

In short, Sarah didn’t necessarily play the perfect game of Survivor, and there’s an argument to be made that that doesn’t necessarily exist anyway, but what she did play was a game that worked given the people surrounding her and maximized her skills.