Survivor: Second Chance Week Nine – “The Witches’ Coven (+3?)

Survivor

Usually, when it’s someone’s boot episode, especially someone who has been non-existent for much of the season, we get quite a bit of footage of said player. It’s only fitting, given how invisible she’s been from the jump, that Kelly Wiglesworth would get one (ONE) confessional in the episode that would see her go home. In fact, the only real development we got for her as a game player was people like Stephen claiming that she was a “big threat” to win the game.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering how this is possible. The edit certainly never painted Wiglesworth as a potential winner. Sure, she hadn’t made waves, but would an old school game involving little to no moves actually lead to a victory? In this season, it sure didn’t seem like it. If anything, she was set up to be someone’s goat, not a winner of an all-returners season.

And that’s why, even in her boot, Kelly is far from the most interesting topic to look into when dissecting the episode. Instead, it’s the move Stephen, Jeremy, and Spencer made to align themselves with the Witches’ Coven (Ciera, Kelley, and Abi, if you weren’t on the up-and-up). Was that really the best move for any of their games? Have they completely blown up their alliance going forward? It’s certainly something worth discussing.

survivor-second-chance

Let’s first examine Stephen; after all, he was the fulcrum that brought this move along. In the immunity challenge, Fishbach elected to go after the advantage, narrowly beating out Spencer for an item that allows him to cancel someone’s vote and then vote twice himself. Even without anyone knowing what that advantage is, Stephen effectively placed a huge target on his back.

Think about it. No one knows about Jeremy’s two idols, so Stephen has the only advantage that’s publicly visible in the game. Making him an obvious target going forward because people will assume that, at worst, Stephen has an idol. And then, Fishbach decides to blindside his nine-person alliance and side with the Witches in getting out Wiglesworth.

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If Stephen was sweating with Savage still on the island, this has to take him to a whole new level. He just went against a majority alliance that he and his “voting bloc” had tons of control over to side with a group of three girls that have little to no interest in keeping him in the game. Now, Stephen has put in the legwork with Ciera and might believe that he has her on his side; however, I wonder if this move was needed. If he had been able to axe Joe here, I think people are fine with that, but Kelly? That’s a little dicier.

I mean, are we to believe that Stephen can trust the Witches going forward? It’s certainly possible, but doesn’t seem likely. And will old school players like Keith and Kimmi be willing to go back to Jeremy, Stephen, and Spencer with Kelly gone? Maybe, but I think the people those three blindsided are more into alliances than “voting blocs”. Of course, Stephen has that advantage in his back pocket and Jeremy has two idols, so maybe it’s not over for the know-it-all. That said, you have to be very nervous if you’re a Stephen fan for the next boot or two.

s31_ep9_sg_028Jeremy, with those two idols, can probably afford to make a big move like this to try and build his resume. He’s also so good at talking people down, that I think he might be able to bring Kimmi , Tasha and Keith back to his side (he’s probably lost Joe). That said, Jeremy has to play his best Survivor next week or he could be in a very bad position if Stephen goes home. I think Jeremy thrives in chaos and this next week will be a test of that.

Spencer was probably hurt the least by this move. He really did seem to be on the bottom of the majority alliance and might’ve been an easy clipping had the alliance stuck together. Now, he has options. I think he and Ciera can work well together and the same goes for Kelley. The trick is, whom do they target next? Spencer could really use a Joe boot because that effectively makes him the resident challenge beast. Thus, I think his best move is to try and keep this bloc together for one more week and get off either Joe or Tasha (if Joe wins immunity).

survivor-cambodia-tribal-council-rain-cold

As far as the Witches go, they’re happy to be in the game for another week and could have the target off of them. If the majority alliance turns on themselves, then the Witches can just sit in the center and, essentially, choose who they want to go home. They went from a position of no power, to potentially absolute power. It’s incredible how quickly this game changes.

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Finally, the blindsided four represent an interesting group. You have to figure that Joe and Keith are tight and the same goes for Tasha and Kimmi. I’m not sure if those two groups are super interested in working together, but there’s no reason to assume they won’t. Joe’s best move might just be to try and get the women together and go after Jeremy or Spencer. He knows that his best chance to win is to win as many immunities as possible going forward and those two (and Tasha) seem to be his biggest hurdles. Keith would probably follow him wherever he goes, though there’s something to be said about Keith and Jeremy working together.

For Tasha and Kimmi, a women’s alliance is certainly a possibility, but I don’t know how willing Kimmi is to get away from her manly meat shields. She’s surrounded herself with beef all season and it’s hard to see her changing up that strategy this late in the game. Tasha will be more open to a move; it’s just a matter of finding the numbers to move with her.

This week may have been a little boring, but it set up some juicy prospects for next week’s two-hour show.

Other Highlights:

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The team of Jeremy, Keith, Kelley, Kelly, and Kimmi were Luzon bad in that reward challenge. Of course, it would’ve been much more interesting if one of the three Luzon members in this season had been involved. Instead, Spencer and Tasha were killing it on the other side and Kass was busy being Queen of Ponderosa.

Jeremy’s second idol find sure had a touch of Mike Holloway editing, didn’t it? If Jeremy wins this season, people will point to this moment as the edit giving the ending away just a little too early. That said, it’s great to see Survivors get emotional moments like this because it makes them feel more like real people.

Stephen beating out Spencer to the advantage buoy was very surprising. Who knew Stephen was such a good swimmer? Maybe it’s just his length that got him the win, but I was actually impressed with Stephen during an immunity challenge. There’s a first time for everything.

That’s all for this week (or at least this column). Lots to unpack in the strategy portion, which means that we’re getting to the real meat of the season. Check back this weekend for my power rankings and next boot list.

Thoughts on Metal Gear Solid V

Reviews, Video Games

Metal Gear Solid V is one of the better games released this year, but also one of the most confusing. In some ways, it’s baffling how a series that has long been known for lengthy and ambitious (whether those games deliver on their ambition is up for debate) storytelling can release a game that is so deep in scope in regards to its gameplay, but lacks the same cinematic appeal that made the MGS series a fan favorite.

With that said, the moment-to-moment gameplay is some of the best in video game history. No one has ever done tactical stealth this well. The gunplay is intuitive and near perfect in its execution (something that’s always been lacking in past games). The breadth of options for how to approach every situation is absolutely mind-boggling. Many games claim that there are countless ways to approach every situation, but MGSV is the first game that I’ve actually felt like that is completely true in every encounter.

Your playthrough will be completely different than mine because of how many options we have at our disposal. Every gun type has at least three or four main options and those main types even break down into more options. And then there are countless different options for support items and various sneaking suits. It’s hard to wrap your mind around at first, but once you dive in, the game really opens up and you’ll love all the tools you have at your disposal.

On top of all these ridiculous options (which I could go into more detail about, but won’t to keep some secrets for you), you unlock various companions throughout your journey. These range from a horse that helps you get around faster (and can poop on command) to a Walker Gear that you can outfit with tons of different options. For my money, Quiet, your sniper friend, is the most helpful. Once you get her a tranquilizer sniper rifle, she’ll singlehandedly knock out everyone in an outpost and you can meander in to Fulton everyone.

Now, I said I wouldn’t talk about any more items, but the Fulton has to be mentioned. Essentially, it’s a balloon that you attach to knocked out guards (or weapons or cars or tanks or shipping containers) that whisks them off the battlefield and into your arsenal. This is how you build up your base, which is a very important part of the game.

Base improvement brings quite a few major perks. For one, it opens up more of those gun and support options mentioned above through your R&D team. Additionally, you’ll get better weather and enemy position intel as well as a better strikeforce to send on missions that get your more materials. As mentioned, it can be hard to wrap your head around everything when you first start, but as you play, you quickly pick it up.

That speaks to how slick this game is overall. We’ve talked about both the base building and gameplay systems and how incredibly well put together they are, but I should also mention that the game looks great. Metal Gear games have been pushing graphical boundaries for years, and this game is no different. However, it’s the scope of the environments that really got me. There are two massive areas for you to explore and, while there is a lot of empty space, both maps feel very well laid out and interesting.

And really, the end of that sentence sums up my overall feelings about the game. Everything feels lovingly crafted and you can tell they put a ton of time and money into development. Everything, that is, outside of the story.

For a series so renowned for its bonkers narrative, it’s disappointing to see Kojima step away from that. Most of the story is told through listening to tapes and the handful of cutscenes aren’t near as grandiose and insane as past entries. That isn’t to say the story is bad, it’s just not good in the same way other games in this series were.

Adding to the lack of narrative development is the weird way the story is doled out. As mentioned, a lot of the story comes through tapes that you listen to, but the cut scenes you do see are structured in a very non-traditional way. The game has two acts and the first one is pretty solid. Sure, nothing that noteworthy happens, but there are varied and fun missions to complete. Then, the second act begins.

It was here that the game started to fall apart a little for me. At first, you get a few story missions to complete, along with a few important side ops. But then your next missions are simply harder versions of missions you completed in act one. As you complete those, you sometimes unlock more story, but it’s never really clear what exactly unlocks those.

And then, the game just ends without too many of your questions answered. If this wasn’t Kojima’s last foray into the series, that’s not a big deal. However, this is (supposedly) his last entry and I don’t think many fans will end the game satisfied from a story-telling perspective. It honestly feels like they build up this very solid opening act (which, it should be noted, takes about 40-50 hours) and then ran out of time, money, and passion. The second act feels thrown together, potentially by a different team. Obviously, I know nothing about the game’s development, but it just doesn’t feel like this is the ending Kojima would want for his swan song.

Maybe I’m being overly negative about the story because of how excellent the gameplay is. If something can be a game of the year and disappointment of the year competitor, this is it. There’s so much promise here that I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone. However, I can’t say I was, as a huge fan of Kojima’s story-telling, was completely satisfied when the final credits rolled.

SHOULD YOU PLAY IT? YES (?)

MGSV reminds me of the James Bond film, Skyfall. Both are incredible works of art in their field. Skyfall is the best film in the James Bond series, but also didn’t really feel like a James Bond movie. MGSV is the same. It’s an absolutely must-play game, but it doesn’t have that MGS feel. That will turn some people off, but this is something you should probably experience for yourself.

Survivor: Second Chance – Week Eight Power Rankings

Survivor

Week eight brought about what is likely the biggest move of the season, thus far. Kelley Wentworth was able to use her idol to negate nine votes (the most ever, I believe) against her and send Andrew Savage packing in a stunning boot. It was great TV and got rid of the season’s villain (at least as this viewer is concerned). Was Kelley able to bag the top spot for the first time since week one? Read on to find out.

12) Andrew Savage (-6)

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 4   Total: 11  

Savage’s arrogance finally caught up with him this week. He’s continuously talked down to players he doesn’t deem worthy of his alliance (read: most women and Fishbach) and he’s super tight with Joe, which keeps Joe away from the minority alliance. That made him an obvious target for Abi, Ciera, and Kelley. With him out of the picture, Joe probably flips and goes after Jeremy and Stephen, which that means the Trios Amigas have a chance to flip people like Keith and Wiglesworth. A huge move that could shake this game up quite a bit next week.

11) Kelly Wiglesworth (+1)

Strategy: 5  Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 5   Total: 14  

Another week, another Kelly sighting on the bottom of these rankings. Sure, she redeemed herself in that second chance reward challenge, but otherwise, there’s nothing to talk about. She’s just a background prop, at this point.

10) Abi-Maria Gomes (0)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 6   Total: 15  

Abi finally let out a little bit of that fiery Brazilian we came to love/hate early in this season following Savage’s boot. It was a hilarious moment that demonstrated how quickly things change. It was only a few weeks ago when Savage and Abi were super tight. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the two sour on each other in the edit, but it’s obvious now that they no longer had each other’s back. Moments like that are why I would be fine with Survivor going to 90 minute episodes.

9) Kimmi Kappenberg (0)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16  

Kimmi continues to play her role to near perfection. She is not seen as a threat and has surrounded herself by strong alpha males. As I said last week, I think she’s set up to change the game around Final Seven and make a run. That said, unless her move is getting out Jeremy, I can’t see her actually winning against that many people. She has a move in her; I just don’t know if it’ll be enough.

8) Tasha Fox (-4)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 7  Entertainment: 5   Total: 17  

Tasha’s place in this game seems to largely rely on how long Jeremy and Stephen can stick together. She’s firmly in that alliance and has masterfully put herself in a position where she’s able to change decisions without seeming like the ring-leader. Outside of last week’s blowup with Kass, Tasha has quietly played a very good game. Plus, Tasha is a threat to win every single immunity challenge, which has to boost her confidence going forward.

7) Ciera Eastin (+4)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 7   Total: 17

If Ciera had any challenge ability whatsoever, she would be a much higher on this list. She just doesn’t have the physical skill to win that crucial challenge every winner needs. That said, she’s playing a very aggressive game that suits her second chance well. I don’t know if her tactics are working with this group, but she continues to survive and that’s something. Every extra day you buy is another chance to get someone to flip. Ciera is using every second she has and you have to commend her for that.

6) Stephen Fishbach (-1)

Strategy: 6 Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 7   Total: 18  

Stephen’s infatuation with getting Joe out continues to feel dangerous. When you fixate on something so excessively, it opens you up to blindspots from other players. It would’ve been an excellent move to send Joe home if he lost immunity this week, but I don’t think I would bring it up as much before the challenge has even played out. I get that you don’t want to scramble, but with so many people still on the island, you have to assume that everything you say is going to get back to people. It just felt a little premature.

5) Spencer Bledsoe(-2)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 6   Total: 20

Spencer continues to be a huge physical threat in challenges. He’s not quite at Joe’s level, but he’s pretty close. And he has a great mind for strategy. Yet, somehow, his name isn’t coming out of anyone’s mouth. He’s also positioned very well. He’s close with both Joe and Jeremy and could easily go with either side depending on how the numbers swing. My gut says he sides with Jeremy, but who knows in this season?

4) Keith Nale (+4)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 7   Total: 21

When balls and “to-tos” are involved, Keith is the best Survivor player in the world. Otherwise, he’s just there to have fun and be Keith. He’s not winning this season (or any season, probably), but he’s great to have on your TV. Keith is Survivor’s Donny from Big Brother 16, and I love it.

3) Kelley Wentworth (+4)

Strategy: 9   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 9   Total: 21

Wentworth’s poor challenge performance keeps her out of the top spot. However, let’s be honest, she had the biggest moment of this season so far and looks like a force to be reckoned with going forward. No one can read her and everyone is scared of her now. If she can get Joe to permanently flip, she has a chance to win.

2) Joe Anglim (-1)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 10   Entertainment: 6   Total: 22

Joe, as would you expect, continues to be THE dominant challenge threat. Most of the time, he doesn’t even look like he’s struggling out there. That’s got to be demoralizing if you know that you have to beat him. However, the problem for Joe becomes that he absolutely has to win every single challenge. With weeks to go, it’s hard to see him winning all the way to the end. I just can’t see Joe making it past the first week that he loses immunity.

1) Jeremy Collins(+2)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 7   Total: 22

The king is back. Jeremy retakes his top slot due to a strong physical performance in the reward challenge (even in a loss) along with some expert social maneuvering to keep Stephen around. Jeremy has become the best version of himself this season and has reached a level of evolution that is really fun to watch. If he makes it to Final Five, it’s going to be great TV.

Next Boot:

Joe has to stay in these rankings because he’s just too big of a physical threat. If he doesn’t win immunity this week, I think he’s gone. Unless of course a girl’s alliance (more on that in a second) forms and brings Joe with them now that he’s not tied to Savage and the Bayon Bros.

The girl’s are currently enjoying a 6-5 majority in the numbers. Does that mean a girl’s alliance could be forming? It’s certainly plausible, though I wonder if Tasha and Kimmi would be interested. That said, if Jeremy or Stephen sniffs this out, I could see them going after Ciera. After all, Wiglesworth has demonstrated that she’s willing to just go with the votes and you have a chance to work with Tahsa or Kimmi going forward. That leaves Abi, Kelley, and Ciera. They maybe see Kelley as the bigger threat, but I think Ciera is the most likely boot.

Fishbach continues to sit in my most likely to go position and that’s largely because of his relationship with Joe. Until we see that standoff break, one way or the other, I can’t take Stephen out of this spot. Jeremy protected him last week, but will it continue? That’s the question.

1) Stephen Fishbach

2) Ciera Eastin

3) Joe Anglim

Survivor: Second Chance Week Eight – Keith’s Delivery Service

Survivor

Survivor: Second Chance has been a fountain of excellent Tribal Councils. However, none have been better than last night’s slugfest. With no one seeming to want to make a move (though, I would argue that sitting pat can, in fact, be a move), Kelley Wentworth decided to take things into her own hands and shift the game in a major way.

The edit made this boot feel like it could go almost anywhere in the minutes leading up to the vote. Joe was on the table until he won immunity (and he probably needed it, given Stephen’s quest to off the Golden Boy). Ciera was an obvious, easy choice given her placement in the alliance. Stephen was scheming hard and Savage doesn’t think he has “integrity”. Jeremy was named as someone on top of the alliance. It was so up in the air.

But, in the end, the night would see justice, as potentially the worst strategic players of the season this side of Abi, was eliminated in satisfying fashion. That’s right, Cambodia’s de facto villain, Andrew Savage, went home after Kelley masterfully played her idol and negated all nine votes against her.

It was a great moment and more than validated Wentworth’s inclusion on this list of fan favorites. Further, it rids us of Savage’s arrogance, which I couldn’t be happier about.

I’m sure that Andrew Savage is a great guy outside of Survivor. I’m sure his family is awesome and he’s an exceptional dad and husband. But, man, could this guy be anymore dense when it comes to Survivor strategy? Maybe I’m being too hard on him, but it never felt like he had a handle on what was going on, even as he continuously told us he was in complete control.

That’s when you know someone doesn’t really get it. Savage’s only chance to make it far was to team up with a better strategic player (Tasha or Jeremy seemed to be his go-tos) and whenever he had thoughts of his own, they were terrible.

Obviously, he’s a solid challenge threat and, when things go his way, he can be a valuable ally. That said, even if I’m in his alliance, I’m not that mad that he’s gone. I’m just pissed if I’m a Woo fan because this means we lost Woo for basically nothing.

On the other side of the game, the trio of Kelley, Ciera, and Abi are making waves; I just don’t know how long it lasts. I mean, Spencer is an obvious candidate to flip and Joe probably will too, but that’s only five, while the other side has six. Jeremy, Stephen, and Tasha are as tight as it gets and I think Kimmi is right there with them. So, you’re trying to get either Keith or Wiglesworth to flip on the numbers.

If your game is relying on those two to make a move, I think you’re in trouble. Wigleworth is barely playing and Keith seems fine playing to be a goat. Even with the Savage boot likely swinging Joe to their side, things don’t look great for the minority heading into next week.

But, we can’t take too much away from them for now. Kelley Wentworth just pulled off an excellent blindside that had my jaw on the ground (I was expecting Stephen). And, as Jeff Probst tells us every week, this game can change on a dime. Who’s to say someone won’t have a massive screw-up and someone unexpected goes home? That’s why watch and that’s why this week was Survivor at its best.

Other Highlights:

The edit is playing up Stephen’s infatuation with getting Joe out to such a ridiculous degree that I can’t actually see it happening. Much like my other love, professional wrestling, Survivor seems to like to swerve us with these smaller stories and I sense that something similar will happen here. I’ve had Stephen on the bottom of my Next Boot rankings for two straight weeks and his conversation with Ciera to start this week’s episode is probably going to keep him there.

Speaking of Ciera, she is playing so aggressively thus far that I’m very concerned about her safety. I mean, she has to do something to stay in the game, but publicly telling everyone that they’re playing poorly isn’t going to get you on very many player’s good sides. I understand that she’s trying a tactic that Hayden used in her season to get to flip, but I don’t think that works on everyone, especially players with as much collective experience as these Second Chancers. She’s still a very dangerous player, but I can’t see her lasting too deep into the game unless the alliances are all broken wide open and this season becomes Survivor’s version of the Wild West.

Is Keith the best part of your Survivor week? Because I think he’s the best part of mine. First, he’s driving everyone around in a “to-to” and saying that he’s going to get his Cambodia’s driver’s license. I want to know what made him decide to do that. Did he ask for permission or did he just go out, jump on, and rev ‘er up? I like to believe that Keith just does what he wants and Cambodia can suck it. And then, he continues to be a force in challenges, but only the ones involving balls. Was a Keith a carni before he became a firefighter? How many weekly visits did he and Wes make to Chuck E. Cheese’s during Wes’ youth? These are the questions that must be asked in his eventual exit interview.

Jeremy’s subtle maneuvering to throw the target off of Stephen was some of the best Survivor I’ve seen in awhile. He is absolutely dominating this game and the vibe is that he’s barely even on the radar. How long can this keep up? Surely, someone will turn the tide on him, but who? If anyone is the odds on favorite at this point in the game, it’s gotta be Jeremy (sorry Keith).

A Challenger to Roman’s Reign

Fantasy Booking/PPVs, Raw, Wrestling

Following the absolutely devastating injury to Seth Rollins’ knee, the WWE landscape is devoid of a top heel. It seems pretty obvious that Roman Reigns will come out of Survivor Series as the champion in a few weeks, but, with Rollins on the shelf, who is going to be his biggest dancing partner?

Could it be Brock Lesnar? The guy he main-evented Wrestlemania 31 with. It would make sense, given that the two have unfinished business from the match. Remember, that was the match that saw Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank contract to steal the title.

However, is that really the best the WWE can do? I mean, all of these injuries should light a fire under Vince McMahon and co. to start promoting more legitimate new-age stars. Is Brock Lesnar the biggest obstacle to conquer for anyone in the company? Yes, but I don’t know how many tickets a Reigns-Lesnar main event is selling.

Therefore, I think it’s important that the WWE brass dig deeper. Kevin Owens is a valid option. He already finds himself as the #1 heel in the mid-card division and, given his indie pedigree, it’s not a stretch to say he can handle an extended run in the main event scene.

That said, Owens is doing great work as the Intercontinental Champion. That belt needs a strong worker who puts on amazing matches night after night attached to it and Owens is performing that responsibility admirably. Owens’ time is coming; I just do not think right now is the best time.

Outside of Owens, your biggest heels are guys like Sheamus, Stardust, and Bray Wyatt. Sheamus is certainly a threat given his MITB contract; I just don’t think you use that here, especially against Reigns. In fact, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Sheamus successfully cashes in his contract. He simply hasn’t been booked as a threatening presence and a championship run seems unbelievable, at this point.

Stardust would be a very interesting opponent, but I don’t see Roman having much chemistry with the Cosmic Prince. He’s just too out there and Reigns doesn’t seem to be in a situation where he can have a jokey storyline this close to Mania season. He needs a feud that legitimizes his spot as champion.

Wyatt has too much on his hands right now with his on-going story between himself and the Brothers of Destruction. That feud probably comes to a head this month at Survivor Series; however, unless he can cleanly beat either the Undertaker or Kane, it’s hard to see Bray as a credible #1 contender.

So who should become the WWE’s #1 heel over the next few months and face down Roman Reigns for the title at Wrestlemania? Well, you what he says, “your time is up, my time is now!”

Just kidding, a John Cena heel turn doesn’t solve anything, instead, I think it’s time the WWE finally lets Dean Ambrose out of the Asylum. During his run with The Shield, everyone and their mother predicted that Ambrose would be the break-out heel from the faction. The WWE was smart to play against type and twist the dynamics of that team by having Rollins be the one to break the group apart. However, now is the time for Ambrose to take his rightful place on the bad side of the spectrum.

Ambrose was born to play a heel. As a face, he can be charming and hilarious, but always seems to be holding himself back from his true potential, especially on the microphone.

And it’s not like he’s been tearing the world apart as a good guy. Sure, he’s had a few high profile feuds, but the WWE wants to push Reigns to the moon and that means guys like Ambrose are left to languish in the mid-card.

This is the time to turn Ambrose. Well, actually last week’s Team Reigns vs. Team Rollins was the time to turn Ambrose, but the WWE couldn’t know about Rollins’ future at that point.

Unfortunately, the WWE missed the perfect chance to have Ambrose turn on Reigns when the two of them were the last men standing for Team Reigns last week on Raw. Had Ambrose stepped aside when Reigns went for a last second tag and let Rollins pin Roman to win the match, this feud would have been set and we might’ve been staring down a dream Ambrose vs. Reigns vs. Rollins match at Wrestlemania.

That said, the WWE still has a great opportunity to make things right. Say Ambrose meets Reigns in the Finals of the new WWE Championship tournament. Then, Roman wins the match, but does so through somewhat questionable methods, we’ll say a countout. Ambrose is incensed the next night on Raw and accuses Reigns of not giving him a fair match. That sets up a rematch because Reigns is trying to be a “good guy”. And then, when the match happens, Ambrose blatantly cheats and steals the title from his former friend, turning heel in the process.

That sets up a months long feud of Reigns chasing Ambrose, which culminates in The Authority, unable to control either wrestler, bringing back Rollins for a three-way match at Summerslam (or, of course, Wrestlemania, if Rollins is healthy by then).

It’s a near perfect long con to get Rollins back in the title picture in meaningful way when he comes back. Further, it lets Ambrose explore more of his character and get out from under Reigns’ shadow.

Is this the outcome we can expect from Survivor Series? Probably not, but it just might be the one that makes the most sense if the WWE is thinking about the long-term payout surrounding a Shield feud.You might say, it’s best for business.

Survivor: Second Chance – Week Seven Power Rankings

Survivor

Week Seven brought about the biggest merge in Survivor history, with 13 getting together to form Orkun. The merge is always a crazy episode with people scrambling all over the place; however, this one was particularly interesting given that 65% of the cast are still on the island. And out of those 13 people, (at least) two of them completely hate each other in Kass and Tasha. It was juicy episode with tons of drama. Let’s get into it.

13) Kass McQuillen (-8)

Strategy: 2 Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 8  Total: 14

Kass went out with a bang this week. From all the pre-game press, you had to know this coming. She was targeted by almost everyone and, even though she demonstrated that she had changed since her time in Cagayan, you knew there was no way she was making it too far in this game.

That sucks for #TeamKass and it sucks for the theme of this season. Kass was completely embracing her second chance and showing real change in how she played. Unfortunately, Tasha was unable to do the same and let old feelings take over to paint Kass as a troublemaker. Kass didn’t have near the game she did in Cagayan, but I would argue that she likely had a much better experience. Until she saw Tasha, of course.

12) Kelly Wiglesworth (+1)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 4   Total: 14  

Kelly Wiglesworth continues to play the most old school of games possible. She doesn’t do any strategizing (that we see) and barely seems to be playing this game outside of challenges. She’s such a bland player at this point, that she has to be tops on the list of potential goats for players like Jeremy and Joe.

11) Ciera Eastin (-7)

Strategy: 4  Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 7   Total: 14  

It’s hard to dock Ciera too many points because I think she made an excellent move at the vote to go after Savage over Tasha. That sends a message that she’s ready to make a move and could help her generate numbers to send Savage out.

That said, I really didn’t like her trying to throw out lies about Savage with him around. If you’re going to do that, I think you have to do without him there to defend himself. Maybe she thought she could get him stuttering and looking guilty, but I felt it was too risky. Hopefully Ciera gets back on track next week, as I think she’s a very strong player.

10) Abi-Maria Gomes (-4)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 5   Total: 14  

If you would’ve told me after the first three or four episodes of this season that Abi-Maria would be playing a great low-key game after the merge, I would’ve called you as crazy as Abi. However, she’s proven me wrong by staying off the radar over the last few weeks. For a person with goat potential, this might be the best way to play until you make a move at Final Six or Seven. If Abi can keep this up, she might just have a chance.

9) Kimmi Kappenberg (+5)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 6   Total: 15 

Is Kimmi Kappenberg quietly playing the best game of the season? She only emerges when she needs to make a move (which could just be the editing) and she’s got herself smack-dab in the middle of an Alpha Males alliance. That’s at least three meat shields in Joe, Jeremy, and Savage that are protecting her. It’s hard to say she’s going to be the winner based on her edit, but who knows? She could emerge late and take this one home.

8) Keith Nale (+4)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 3  Entertainment: 7   Total: 15  

Keith is, at this point, Survivor’s comedic relief. He mostly does what he’s told in his alliance and does well with challenges that involve balls. But it’s his camp life moments when he’s practicing his golf swing while people talk strategy and doing other goofy things that make him an endearing character. Keith is so great.

7) Kelley Wentworth (+1)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 5   Total: 15  

Kelley has seemingly been playing in the shadows, but also gets quite a few confessionals. Is the edit trying to keep her in our minds because she’s going to make a big move late or even win the game? It’s hard to say. That idol makes her a player to watch going forward and her favorable edit has to signify that big things are coming for Kelley.

6) Andrew Savage (+4)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16  

Savage is quickly becoming my least favorite Survivor. He’s such a wet blanket, doesn’t have anything to say, is terrible at strategy, and generally comes off as super arrogant. I think he’s gone soon because his inability to strategize effectively is sure to catch up with him. If he was sitting back and letting other people dictate what’s happening, then I could see him making it further. However, he thinks he’s God’s gift to Survivor, so I think his hubris is going to bite him soon.

5) Stephen Fishbach(-2)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 2   Entertainment: 6   Total: 16

Fishbach is seemingly in a great place as Jeremy’s right-hand man. He’s able to put forward his excellent strategy and make it seem like it’s a two-man operation. That said, Savage and Joe seem to be souring on Stephen, so his time on the island might be coming up soon.

4) Tasha Fox (+7)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 7   Total: 18

Tasha did a pretty terrible job of handling Kass this week. If you want to get Kass out, that’s fine, but don’t tell her you lied to her. Let her think you’re being truthful and then blindside her. It was a bad look for Tasha strategically and has effectively alienated two potential jury votes in Kass and Ciera. Tasha is a great competitor and can be near-masterful in her strategy, but she struggles to not play overly emotionly at time.

3) Jeremy Collins (-2)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 6   Total: 22

Jeremy gets knocked from the top spot for the first time in weeks largely because of Joe and Spencer’s performance in the challenge. He’s still the player to beat, at this point, and the de facto leader of the Bayon Bros. Jeremy’s sure to be challenged very soon, but those of us on #TeamJeremy are loving where he’s sitting right now.

2) Spencer Bledsoe (0)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 7   Total: 23

Spencer briefly flirted with flipping on the Bayon Bros to get out Tasha, but I think he made the smarter move by “Sticking to the Plan”. I think Spencer has the best shot to worm his way into Fishbach’s place beside Jeremy if/when Stephen is cut from the game. Jeremy likes being a mentor and Spencer would be the perfect person to play under him. And really, Spencer is getting too big of an edit to not be seen as threat down the line. If he’s not in the Final Five, I’ll be very surprised.

1) Joe Anglim(+6)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 10   Entertainment: 7   Total: 23

Did Joe’s ball even move during that challenge? This guy is too good at Survivor to be true. He cannot be stopped in these challenges. I think that means he’s going to Ponderosa relatively soon because I feel like the second he loses a challenge; you have to get him out. He has the ability to go on a Mike Holloway-like run through the rest of the game and that’s too dangerous for anyone to keep around.

Next Boot:

I considered putting Ciera in my third spot, but the episode previews have been proclaiming that the cast has decided it’s time to make a “BIG MOVE™”. Ciera seems like an easy vote after last week, so I decided to go with Joe here. As mentioned above, Joe is the biggest immunity threat on the table and if he loses, I expect his name will be brought up by at least Stephen. If Fishbach plays his cards right, he might just be able to pull it off.

Savage is another Alpha Male who could be on the chopping block this week. He’s made quite a few enemies this season and that could be enough to turn the tide on him. I could honestly see him try to move against someone on the Bayon Bros, forcing Jeremy to manufacture Savage’s exit.

Fishbach was my most likely out last week, and I’m keeping him here for now. If people are talking big moves, then Stephen is throwing Joe out there. Jeremy needs Joe to stick around for as long as possible, so it’s not hard to see Jeremy sending Fishbach packing if he’s too insistent. I’m hoping for a Savage boot, but I’ve already prepared myself for Fishy’s demise.

1) Stephen Fishbach

2) Andrew Savage

3) Joe Anglim

Survivor Second Chance Week Seven – Bayon Strong

Survivor

Oh Kass. So much potential with your growth arc in your #SecondChance, but you just couldn’t contain the Chaos. And really, you can’t be too upset with her for it. After all, this is why we voted Kass back on the show. She’s never going down without a fight, she’s has an amazing ability to be completely calm in the face of adversity (and Tasha), and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to win the game.

We knew Kass was the most hated (Feared? Disruptive? One of those) players in the game. We knew that she was more likely to go out spectacularly than to win. Heck, I put her in the bottom tier of my winner rankings by herself. This was always going to happen, which makes it pretty great that it was as compelling as it was.

I thought the early merge screwed Kass. Is it awesome to see the biggest post-merge tribe in history? Obviously, but I fully expect that, had the tribes had at least one more week, Kass would’ve been able to secure a much better spot in the post-merge game.

Think about what we saw in episode six. Kass actually saved Spencer’s life in this game. It went against everything we know about those two’s relationship, but she did it. And that kind of social equity is something that’s hard to come by. Kass proved to Spencer that she’s trustworthy, something that Jeremy and Stephen can’t claim because they never went into a Tribal Council with Spencer as a potential target. If Kass had one more week to solidify with Spencer (and maybe get Savage out), that would’ve been huge. That said, this game is all about adaptation. Kass just wasn’t able to pull it off this week.

She made the mistake of believing something Tasha told her and compounded that by trying to blow Tasha’s game up in front of everyone. And then Ciera tried to jump in and spread more lies, which I really don’t think could’ve possibly helped Ciera and Kass’ position even if people had believed them.

Even with those missteps, Ciera and Kass almost pulled off a colossal move to bring Spencer over and blindside Tasha. In fact, if not for some masterful vote assignment (more on this later) by the Bayon Bros, I fully expect Spencer would’ve flipped and we would be looking at a completely different game.

Unfortunately for fans of Chaos, Kass got got. It’s too bad because she’s an outstanding character and watching her maneuver around this cast would’ve been excellent TV. All in all, a solid run for Kass and she’s surely a great candidate if we ever have a Heroes vs. Villains 2 (fingers crossed!).

Other Highlights:

Let’s talk about Ciera this episode. I thought it was a mistake to try throwing out lies about Savage right in front of him, but otherwise she had a relatively strong game. I love that, once she knew they didn’t have the numbers to knock Tasha out, she threw her vote on Savage. At first, I didn’t really get it, but, after thinking it over (and seeing her Tweets, to be fair), I think it was the right move. As she correctly pointed out, there was no chance of her and Andrew working together in the future. He wanted her out over Kass! So throwing a vote on him doesn’t really hurt her game, probably secures Kass’ jury vote if she makes the final three, and sends a message that she’s loading up to take out Savage. Can she pull in the numbers to drop Second Chance’s de facto villain? That’s the story to watch next week. My brain says no, but my heart has hope. Ciera continues to make, as The Primetime Players would say, “million dollar moves”.

I said I was going to talk about the vote assignment, so it might as well be here. My gut says it was either Jeremy or Stephen telling people who to vote for in the split and telling the two potential swing votes (Joe and Spencer) to vote for Ciera was a masterful move. The only way to get Tasha out at that point was to get both of them to flip. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly more difficult than just asking Spencer to align with Kass. Obviously the move wasn’t foolproof, but nothing really is in Survivor. That was great strategy and great Survivor. Whoever made that move with the Bayon Bros is playing to win and I love it.

Now for something a lighter. Did you notice Keith just casually working on his golf swing while people were talking strategy? I can’t remember exactly where it happened, but it was hilarious. I had to rewind to catch what people were actually saying because I was laughing so hard. Keith being Keith is one of the best parts of my week.

Speaking of the best parts of my week, I’ve been the biggest Jeremy fan since I first watched San Juan Del Sur’s premiere episode. That said, if Spencer and Joe are really going to team up, I might be changing my alliance. That’s just an incredible combo. Both guys are good at challenges (though Joe takes a slight edge) and both really do understand the game (Spencer gets the edge here). This is like a modern day Stephen and J.T., except maybe better? I don’t’ know. I just know that this is a super interesting development between two guys I honestly didn’t think could work together. Will it last? Probably not. Spencer flips a little too easily and I think Joe is too good to be kept around too much longer. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts though.

That’s it for this week’s write-up. What an episode! This season is getting particularly juicy and I think the best is yet to come. Check back later in the week for my power rankings and thanks for reading!

Thoughts on The Unfinished Swan

Reviews, Video Games

The Unfinished Swan is a short, fun romp that gives you interesting new things to do at every turn and smartly doesn’t overstay its welcome. Lesser (read: more bloated) games would take the simple idea of painting a world to solve puzzles and fill it out with 20 hours of content to make it a slog. Luckily, the team at Giant Sparrow knows exactly how to pull off a memorable indie experience.

You begin the game in a world that is completely white. Your character, Monroe, was left by his parents and given only a magic paintbrush to remember them by. In the distance, Monroe sees a swan and decides to follow it.

From there, the game spins a tale about a King who loves to paint and his kingdom that Monroe is puzzling through to find the titular swan. It’s an interesting yarn and is short enough that it’s worth your time to set aside a few hours on a lazy Sunday to play it through in its entirety.

However, the gameplay is where this experience truly shines. Smartly, The Unfinished Swan starts out with its best stuff. As mentioned, you begin the game in completely white world; you can’t see anything. The only thing you can do is throw black paintballs to show you what’s actually there. It’s a really neat mechanic that I haven’t ever seen in gaming. In fact, I liked that first section so much that I was mildly disappointed when the game slowly started adding other elements to the world.

You see, as you move through the kingdom to catch that dastardly swan, you’re always watching as the King grows in his painting skills. First, he adds shadows and then colors and it keeps getting deeper from there. The only mechanic that I didn’t love was relatively late in the game where you can begin building shapes yourself to make platforming possible. It was just a little too fiddly for my taste, but, with everything else being so fun, it’s pretty easy to overlook.

The game has pretty basic upgrade system that gives you a few powers after you hit a certain number of balloons with your paintballs. It’s pretty barebones and isn’t crucial to progression; rather, it just makes going back through levels to get 100% that much easier.

There’s not much else to say. I know the Internet’s opinion on indie games (particularly on PS4) has soured in recent years; however, this game is worth your time. It’s got some very interesting mechanics and doesn’t linger like so many open-world Triple-A games do nowadays. In fact, I firmly believe The Unfinished Swan is one of the better palate cleansers available right now. Once you’ve put down MGSV or The Witcher 3, throw down 15 bucks and play through this one. You can thank me later.

SHOULD YOU PLAY IT? YES!

Survivor: Second Chance – Week Six Power Rankings

Survivor

Week Six saw two Survivors leave the island; with Terry going home to be with his son and Woo being voted out by the new new Ta Keo. It was a roller coaster of an episode with twists, turns, and its fair share of loop-de-loops. That made this power ranking an interesting task and makes the game going forward very, very interesting.

15) Terry Deitz (-2)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 5   Total: 12

It sucks to see Terry leave so early. I don’t think he had a very good chance of winning this game, but you would have loved to see what kind of damage he could do in the post-merge game. Best wishes to the Deitz family and I hope Terry gets to come back some day.

14) Kimmi Kappenberg (-12)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 6   Total: 15  

Kimmi takes a tumble this week and parts of me feel like I’m being too hard on her. Sure, she was absolutely terrible in both challenges (particularly in the eating challenge) and she’s become one of Joe’s main targets.

However, I don’t think her game is in that bad of shape. She still seems strong with Jeremy and Stephen and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andrew join that group after the merge. That’s a really solid foursome for Kimmi that should carry her far. She’s set up to be a solid goat with winner’s potential given her mother storyline. Don’t take this placing as a sign she’s gone next week.

13) Kelly Wiglesworth (-1)

Strategy: 4 Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 5   Total: 15

Wiglesworth doesn’t seem interesting in playing this game and, without her alliance of Jeff and Terry, I don’t see her getting very far. She’s too dangerous in challenges to be someone’s goat and she doesn’t talk strategy with anyone. I think she’s one of the first three boots after the merge.

12) Keith Nale (-6)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6   Total: 16  

Keith flew up the rankings last week because of a solid challenge performance, but this is the spot Keith needs to live in. He’s not a front-runner and is the furthest thing from a strategy threat. That means he just needs to stay likeable and unassuming enough to ride it out to the finals and try to win over a hopefully a bitter jury. It’s a goat game, but Keith has the tools to pull it off.

11) Tasha Fox (-3)

Strategy: 5  Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16  

Tasha had a pretty “meh” week with Bayon. She didn’t do anything too good or too bad and that’s probably good for her in the short term. That said, I think Tasha needs to make a few big moves if she wants to beat some of these Alpha Males at the end. She has the chops to win the game, but I don’t feel like she’s visible enough with her maneuvering. We need some more flash from Tasha or she might get third place at the end sitting next to someone like Savage or Jeremy.

10) Andrew Savage (-2)

Strategy: 4 Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 6   Total: 17  

Speaking of Savage, he demonstrated why he’s such a terrible strategist this week. Without Tasha to tell him what to do, he completely blew up his own spot in trying to submit Ciera as the pawn. It was a terrible move and will spell doom for Andrew if the merge doesn’t happen soon. He needs to get as far away from Kass and Ciera as he can and go back to the bro-alliance back at Bayon. Otherwise, he’s in big trouble.

9) Woo Hwang (-2)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 5   Total: 17  

It’s weird to have someone who’s completely out of the game ranked above players who are still in the game, but I really couldn’t find much fault with Woo’s game outside of voting for Abi twice. He was a force in both challenges and didn’t do anything wrong from a strategy standpoint.

His downfall was Andrew Savage’s hubris. There’s no way Kass and Ciera could get Abi to vote out Savage, so they had to do the next best thing. Thus, Woo is out in a week that he actually played pretty well. That’s Survivor.

8) Kelley Wentworth (+2)

Strategy: 5 Challenge: 7  Entertainment: 5   Total: 17 

Kelley has herself slotted in a very good position. She’s got Joe out in front of her as a meat shield and she’s holding onto a hidden immunity necklace. Plus, she’s got that final five with Joe, Keith, Kass, and Ciera that could be coming into importance pretty soon. Don’t be surprised to see Kelley make a deep run.

7) Joe Anglim (-3)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 6   Total: 17  

Joe is starting to get just a little too cute with his strategy. If this is two or three weeks ago, I could see making the push to get out either Kimmi or Stephen based on challenge strength. However, you have to know that you’re, at most, two weeks from the merge.

That means you want to keep those sorts of players around, while also making your own target minimal because the merge boot is almost always a strong player. It’s just a shortsighted move by Joe and should really hurt his position in this game. He’ll stay around because Jeremy needs him, but his path to a win is getting murky.

6) Abi-Maria Gomes (+6)

Strategy: 6 Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 5   Total: 18 

For the second week in a row, Abi has kept herself firmly off the radar. Which is a major surprise for everyone who watched the first four weeks of this show. I’m not sure if getting out Woo was actual strategy from Abi, or just Kass and Ciera preying on her weaknesses as a player. That said, she did a great job in both challenges, which makes it easier to see her getting deeper in the game than previously assumed.

5) Kass McQuillen(+10)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 8   Total: 19

Kass shoots up the rankings because she finally left Kuddles Kass behind and embraced the Chaos. Will it come back to haunt her? Or does she leave a path of destruction and slit throats behind her on the way to the title of Sole Survivor? The latter seems much more likely, but you gotta love finally seeing the player we voted onto this season finally emerge.

4) Ciera Eastin (+7)

Strategy: 9   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 7   Total: 19

Like Kass, Ciera finally capitalizes on her potential this week. She’s played an incredibly quiet game thus far. And she had to. So many people had her in their sights because “she voted out her mom”. Had Ciera been on Ta Keo from the jump, she might’ve had first boot potential. That said, she found a place to hide on Bayon and has sloughed that target right off her back. It will be interesting to see where she goes from here because, now that her game has come out of the bag, it can’t really go back in.

3) Stephen Fishbach (0)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 9   Total: 21

Fishbach keeps his spot this week because of his always rock-solid strategy and an emotional confessional that played into what this season is about. Outside of being dreadful at physical challenges thus far, Stephen’s biggest negative is that he might be pushing too hard to get Joe out.

I think Joe is the right boot for Bayon if they lose this episode; however, Jeremy isn’t having it and could quickly get annoyed if Fish keeps pushing. At the end of the day, I think keeping Joe is more integral to Jeremy than keeping Stephen and Fishbach’s days seem numbered.

2) Spencer Bledsoe (+3)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 7   Total: 21

Spencer had a good all-around episode this week. He demonstrated his flexibility in strategy, quickly switching from pro-Savage to being willing to turn on him when needed. He was a beast in the eating challenge and he continues to be entertaining in his confessionals. Plus, his vote quote was hilarious, albeit a little forced. Spencer needs to get back to Jeremy and Stephen, but, if he makes it, he’s set up for a good run.

1) Jeremy Collins(0)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 7   Total: 24

My pre-season’s winners pick for both this season and SJDS continues to impress. I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect game, but my bias makes me say that he’s dang close.

Next Boot:

From the episode previews that have been airing on both CBS.com and on TV, we can tell that next week is when the merge finally hits. Thus, I’m going to start putting three names forward in the next boot section and then ranking which of them is most likely gone. Goodbye Ta Keo and Bayon, we hardly knew ye.

Joe is a pretty obvious candidate for the first boot post-merge. He’s type of player that classically goes here; however, he’s protected by Jeremy, so I think we’re more likely to see Savage go if they decide to take out one of the Alpha Males. That said, I think both Joe and Jeremy want to keep Savage around, making this my least likely option.

Kass is another solid option because she just showed her true colors in the last episode by embracing the chaos. We know from the pre-game press that almost no one feels comfortable working with her and the only players I can see her aligning with long-term are Ciera and Joe. You could easily see her try to make a move and get caught; making her a boot that everyone is comfortable with.

That said, I’m unfortunately putting most of my money on a Fishbach boot. I think last week was a foreshadowing of how hard he’s going to push for Joe and I think Jeremy will nip that in the bud ASAP by getting rid of Stephen and bringing Spencer under his wing as his new right-hand man. Stephen and Kass are pretty close in my rankings, but Fishbach gets the unfortunate nod.

1) Stephen Fishbach

2) Kass McQuillen

3) Andrew Savage