Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Episode 6 Power Rankings

Survivor

With the last episode before the merge, both tribe’s boot order seemed to be extremely fluid. On Brains 2.0’s beach, the editors appeared to be suggesting a Nick vote-out; however, it was also easy to either Michele or Neal going home given Nick’s budding relationship with Jason. Obviously, we weren’t able to see that situation play out, but it’s something everyone needs to pay close attention to when each side is trying to drum up numbers after the merge.

At Beauty 2.0, Julia seemed to be the easy out for the three former Brains in the majority. After all, she was coming back from exile and will be a key number against them when the merge hits. Instead of playing it relatively safe, Peter elected to make a play against his allies Joseph and Aubry. When this was sniffed out by former FBI agent Joseph, Peter tucked his tail between his legs and went back to them, hoping to live to fight another day. Unfortunately for Dr. Obama, the damage was already done.

Scot, Tai, and Julia made their pitch to Aubry and, eventually, convinced her to vote her assumed ally out. Was that a good move? And how did Peter’s boot shake up my power rankings? Read on to find out.

 

12)Peter Baggenstos (-3)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 6   Total: 16

As the pre-merge villain, Peter played his role perfectly. He was so much fun to hate and never stopped building himself up as this arrogant jerk who everyone wanted to see go home. Peter was pretty good at strategy, he just has zero people skills (or the people skills you need to survive a game of Survivor. I’m sure his personality works great in an ER).

I was impressed by his ability to quickly reassess his own game over and over again to try and save himself from the social faux pas he continually committed. Even in his boot episode, Peter found himself caught in a lie by Joseph, but was able to fix that relationship and get Joseph back on his side. That’s pretty impressive, considering the spot Peter was in.

All that said, you knew his style was going to catch up to him sooner or later. It was a fun ride for Dr. Obama and I hope to see him back someday. Don’t ever change, Pete.

11) Joseph Del Campo (-1)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 7   Total: 16

I wasn’t too high on Joseph’s strategy of getting Peter to admit he was targeting one of his alliance members. I think there are ways to be more subtle and not draw so much attention to yourself. Then again, I’m not a former FBI agent and Joseph’s tactics did ultimately work. Maybe Joseph has more game than I thought. After all, he made the merge as a non-threat (especially in challenges) and now looks poised to be someone’s goat or a solid under the radar player. Of course, nothing is ever as it seems in Survivor (much more on this later).

10) Michele Fitzgerald (+2)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 6   Total: 16

I really liked what I saw from Michele this week. She showed off just a hint of game during her confessionals about Nick and, if she’s able to actually use him as a shield in the merge, that plan could work well. We haven’t quite seen enough out of her to prove to me that she has what it takes to effectively control an Alpha Male like Nick, but the precedent is there for this to be a good strategy. I ultimately think it’s going to work, especially if she hooks up with Julia this week. That could be a great twosome.

9) Julia Sokolowski (-1)

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

Speaking of Julia, she did a great job of staying off everyone’s radar this week. She should’ve been the easy vote. She was coming back from exile and is a former Beauty, making her an enemy of the Brain majority on Beauty 2.0. However, she quickly got on Peter’s good side and that ending up proving his willingness to flip to Aubry. It was a very low-key effort, but it kept her safe and demonstrated that she may have enough game to play well without Anna. If she sticks with Tai and Scot, while bringing Michele, Jason, and Cydney into the fold, she could have a significant say in how the rest of the game goes. Pretty impressive for an 18-year-old.

7(tie) Cydney Gillon (-3) and Kyle Jason (-2)

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

These two were nearly invisible this week. Neither had a confessional and no one was really talking about them. I don’t think they’ll have many more similar weeks. Given their edits and gameplay, I would be very surprised if these two don’t play a major part in the rest of the season. Jason is an Alpha who will try to put himself in the forefront of the tribe’s strategy. Cydney, on the other hand, excels at playing from the shadows. Her subtle manipulation might be the strongest of the season. If these two don’t make it to at least final seven, I’ll be very surprised.

5(tie) Debbie Wanner (0) and Neal Gottlieb (-3)

Debbie: Strategy: 6   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6  Total: 17

Neal: Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 6  Total: 17

I’m grouping Neal and Debbie together because I didn’t see a big gap between either of them this week. They’re both on the verge of running their tribe, but have been smart to attempt to stay away from that role. Debbie is a little more vocal about her scheming and is more likely to go home because of it. However, I’m still pretty high on both competitor’s chances, though they do appear to be in the minority when the merge hits.

4) Tai Trang(-1)

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

As usual, Tai isn’t high on this list because of his gameplay. Sure, he led the pitch that ultimately sent Peter home, but that felt like more of Scot decision than a Tai decision. Scot was just aware that Tai is better at connected people and correctly assumed he could sway Aubry. No, Tai isn’t some Survivor savant, but he is incredibly entertaining. As “America’s Favorite”, Tai is must-watch TV.  As a Survivor player, Tai is just decent. That said, he does have that idol, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play a big part in the post-merge game.

3) Nick Maiorano (+4)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 8   Total: 19

Nick’s arrogance and challenge ability gets him this spot. I mean, the guy almost beat Scot Pollard (a former NBA player) in a basketball shooting contest. Granted, Scot shot about 50% for his career, but still. It was impressive. And after that showing, the edit appeared to be setting Nick up to be the Peter of the post-merge. He’s arrogant. He thinks he can control other players. And every time he opens his mouth, the edit plays footage to show him being incorrect in his assumptions. Unfortunately, I am just a little worried that Nick might be the merge boot, which would be unfortunate for anyone looking for a fun Survivor villain in the second half of the game.

2) Scot Pollard (-1)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 8   Total: 19

Scot continues to be a pretty fun character that plays a villain almost as often as he plays a fun-loving oaf. You have to wonder what that means for his actual place in the game though. Will he emerge as the post-merge villain and take Peter’s place as the guy we most want to see go home? Or will he continue his team-up with Tai and Julia to become “America’s Alliance”? It’s hard to say, but I have every confidence that Scot is going to be around for at least a few more weeks and leave an NBA-sized mark on Survivor: Kaoh Rong’s post-merge game.

1) Aubry Bracco (+10)

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

I can’t’ say enough how much I loved this move from Aubry. Her Brains alliance was in a very bad position if they kept Peter in the game. At the merge, he would flip on them in a heartbeat and the Aubry-Joseph duo would’ve killed off any chance of the Beauties working with them against Peter or the Brawns by voting off two of their players back-to-back.

Now, the Brains may not have the appearance of numbers on their side, but they do have a solid core four and have made in-roads to working with the Beauties after saving Julia. It’s still a very precarious position for Aubry to be in and she could very well be the merge boot. However, now there’s at least a glimmer of hope that she might be able to get back into power, which makes this the best play she had, from my perspective.

Next Boot:

I see the numbers breaking one of two ways. Either the Brawns and Beauties team up and target the Brains or Julia brings Michele and Tai to the Brains who will target someone like Nick. The former seems more plausible given what we’ve seen so far, but you never know in this game. Thus, I think I’m going to hedge my bets and pick Nick as your most likely merge boot. Outside of maybe Jason, I don’t see anyone who really wants to work with him and it’s obvious that he is, by far, the biggest immunity threat left in the game. I think each side of the beach takes the easy vote this week and lives to fight another day.

I could also see Joseph or Aubry getting votes if the Brawns and Beauties stick together. They can’t make a play to flush an idol, they don’t have the numbers. Tribal would be a 4-4-3 split. If they guess wrong and put the most votes on the person with an idol, then one of their players is out of the game. And you have to assumed either Debbie or Neal have the idol because they’ve been on Brain beach the longest. Thus, if those two tribes stick together, they have to target someone that wouldn’t have the idol played on them. In this scenario, I would put my votes on Joseph. Aubry is a good player and someone might be willing to play their idol to keep her around. Joseph is expendable. It’s going to be a very exciting merge episode. See you Wednesday.

Lucha Underground – Episode Nine “Power Rankings”

Lucha Underground, Wrestling

Lucha Underground had their second annual Aztec Warfare battle royal for the LU championship belt this past week. It was a hard-hitting affair that featured 21 of Lucha Underground’s best grapplers and ended with Dario Cueto back on his throne and his brother as your new champion.

Because of the nature of the match, it’s proved difficult to put together a traditional power ranking. Instead, for one week only, I’d like to take a deeper dive into some of the wrestlers and storylines that intrigued me the most during Aztec Warfare. If you’re looking for my top ten, check the bottom of the post. For now, let’s examine some of the better parts of Aztec Warfare II.

Famous B Scouting Talent

We’ve seen a series of vignettes that painted Famous B as something of a “used wrestlers salesman” who was ready and willing to take on new clients and make them famous. B finally made his presence felt in the Temple this week, as he sat on the sidelines and appeared to be scouting this season’s crop of wrestlers. He gave his business card to Joey Ryan, spoke very positively of Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans, and PJ Black, and told his lady friend “that’s what we want” when Fenix came to the ring with his title. Is Famous B about to become the Xavier Woods of a Lucha Underground stable? It would certainly be an upgrade from his jobber status of season one.

Mundo, Evans, and Black Become Fast Friends

Since I mentioned them, let’s talk about this trio seemingly joining forces during Aztec Warfare. It started with Black helping Evans take out Drago and culminated with Mundo hitting Cage over the head with a cinder block. We knew that The Unlikley Trio would need some new challengers following their title wins last week. It appears that we may just have our team.

However, you have to wonder if these three will first face a team of Drago, Aerostar, and another masked wrestler (Fenix?). We know that Drago and Aerostar have beef with Evans and Black, so adding Mundo and someone like Fenix to the mix makes sense if you’re looking to build a team to challenge The Unlikely Trio at Ultima Lucha.

Cage is One of the Best Booked Men in the Company

It’s no secret that I’m really sold on Cage’s ability to challenge for the top spot in Lucha Underground. He has the build and the moveset to make him a credible threat to either Muertes or Mataza. In fact, I’m convinced that Cage could work anyone on the roster and it would look like a million bucks.

It certainly seems like LU’s brass sees dollar signs in Cage. He was booked as an absolute beast in Aztec Warfare II. He shook off getting thrown through a glass window and looked like a legitimate threat to win until Johnny Mundo smashed a cinder block over his head. It was a dominating performance that demonstrated just how good Cage can be.

Plus, they kept him away from Mataza, effectively protecting both monsters, while also protecting a future match-up between LU’s two biggest powerhouses. Booking like this is what makes Lucha Underground as good as it is. They know how to put on compelling product, while protecting their guys and continuously setting up excellent matches for later in the season.

Mil Muertes’ Quick Exit and Pentagon Jr.’s Interference

I think most people were expecting Mil Muertes to play a major part in the finish of Aztec Warfare II. Pentagon Jr. disagreed.

Pentagon Jr. wasn’t given an invitation for the battle royal because he assaulted Muertes’ handler Catrina a few weeks ago. So, Pentagon decided to make his presence known in a different way, taking out the monster Muertes and costing him a shot at the LU title. It was a big statement by Pentagon Jr. and should lead to a devastating feud between him and Muertes. We know both of these guys work a brutal style and seeing them in something like a Grave Consequences match would be amazing.

My only question coming out of this new development is what happens to Prince Puma? He and Pentagon Jr. were embroiled in a feud that has lasted the entire season thus far. Was their three-way match against Muertes meant to be the blow-off to that feud? Or are they going to go their separate ways and come back for Ultima Lucha II in an attempt to keep the match-up fresh? It’s hard to say at this point, but you have to figure that Lucha Underground’s two biggest draws are going to find themselves dancing together at some point in season two.

Rey Mysterio Still Has It

That was a heck of debut, wasn’t it. Mysterio was the second person out for Aztec Warfare and the last person eliminated. It was a performance that called to mind Mysterio’s 2006 Royal Rumble win. He was active throughout, had a few big spots, picked up four eliminations, and generally looked like the Rey Mysterio of old.

However, even with his impressive showing in Aztec Warfare, I didn’t feel like Mysterio was the guy who should face Mataza for his title next (more on that in a second). Instead, Mysterio seemed more like the attraction that most veteran superstars tend to be in today’s wrestling world. Will he be in the ring next week? Or will he stay more on the sidelines, mentoring his apprentice and only coming out when it’s necessary?

I’m leaning toward more of the latter and believe that Mysterio’s in-ring presence will be relatively minimal this season. Look for him to step back behind the scenes next week, as he prepares himself to challenge Mataza in a month or two.

And Dragon Azteca Jr Has It

dragon-azteca-jr

As mentioned above, I don’t think Mysterio is the first or best person to immediately challenge Mataza for his belt. Instead, I think it’s Dragon Azteca Jr. Sure, he’s a rookie with a single match under his belt, but he was one of only three wrestlers (the other two being Prince Puma and Rey Mysterio) to put up a real fight against the monster Mataza.

Of those three, I thought Dragon Azteca’s style had the best chance of taking Mataza down. His quick and furious strikes could believable fell the beast and thickly built enough that you could believe him getting up from multiple Mataza suplexes. I’m not saying he’ll take the title from Mataza, I just think he has a shot. That said, they might elect to keep him out of the title picture and focus on a storyline match that has more significance for the character. Who would that be against? Well, if you remember your Lucha Undergound history, Black Lotus killed El Dragon Azteca before going into hiding with Dario Cueto and Matanza. Could Dragon Azteca Jr.’s fate be to avenge his father’s death? It would certainly make a lot of sense.

No matter which way Dragon Azteca goes, you know he’s a wrestler we need to pay a lot of attention to moving forward.

Matanza Dominates

Just brutal. Absolutely brutal.

Matanza was the twenty-first entrant into Aztec Warfare and he quickly eliminated nine men to claim the Lucha Undergound title. Most of those men didn’t even put up a fight against the monster and those that did, were met with some of the most vicious suplexes and tosses that Lucha Underground has ever seen.

Dario Cueto’s brother is the real deal. He proved that Wednesday night. In his first ever showing, he proved to be the Devil’s beast, destroying competitors without mercy. Dario is the man the incredibly dark plan, but Matanza is the muscle that allows his brother the opportunity to call the shots. Catrina’s reign over the Temple is effectively over, and I believe we should all fear the new darkness that is coming with Cueto brothers back on top.

Power Rankings:

10) Texano (3-1)

9) The Unlikely Trio (Ivelisse: 3-1, Son of Havoc and Angelico: 2-1) Trios Champions

8) Mil Muertes (2-1)

7) Fenix (3-1)

6) Cage (2-1)

5) Dragon Azteca Jr. (0-0)

4) Pentagon Jr. (1-2)

3) Prince Puma (2-1)

2) Rey Mysterio (0-0)

1) Mataza (0-0) Champion

 

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – “I Worry For Your Prom Date”

Survivor, Uncategorized

I don’t want to get too hyperbolic, but that was one of the better examples of a Tribal Council being up in the air until the contestants put pen to parchment. More often than not, the Survivors come into TC with their votes locked down. You almost never see any real switching going down during Tribal. Sure, there might be some lip service from people claiming to be considering a flip, but usually, it just doesn’t actually happen.

That made this episode a rare demonstration of how dynamic this game can be, even at the place where it’s often not. The beach is the place for planning strategy, not sitting in front of Jeff five minutes before you vote. Seeing a group of people be so ready to change things up on the fly is a very exciting prospect as we head into the merge. This cast has some real potential. I can’t wait for next Wednesday.

As usual, let’s break the tribe’s down in order of immunity challenge finish.

Brains 2.0:

There’s really not a lot to say about this tribe right now. Confessionals for Brains 2.0 were hard to come by and some of the season’s bigger players (Cydney, Jason, and Neal) were nearly invisible here. That said, that meant there were opportunities for some of the lesser known players to make names for themselves.

Nick began the episode by claiming that Debbie has a crush on him. Considering she continually referred to him as “Adonis”, he might not be that far off. And, if his subsequent confessionals are anything to go by, I think he might be letting the praise go to his head (or he’s just that arrogant to begin with, which I can’t rule out).

About five minutes in, I proclaimed that this was going to be Nick’s boot episode. They really portrayed him in a negative light from the get-go and everything was pointing to Nick having his comeuppance here. We had him talking about how he was running the camp and him telling Michele to shut up and do what he says. If not for his challenge dominance, I don’t know if there would’ve been a single positive thing Nick did in this episode.

However, his challenge performance helped save his tribe from Tribal Council and likely saved his own rear as well. I get the feeling that he’ll need to continue that string of impressive performances next week. If he doesn’t win individual immunity, it’s hard to see him finding a path that doesn’t end in him being the merge boot.

Nick wasn’t the only former Beauty who finally got a chance to shine this week. Michele had a few moments that suggested she might be more of a player than previously believed. I loved her strategy of letting Nick think he’s in charge, while she uses him as a shield until she can set up a better place for herself.

That move reminds me a little bit of how Sophie used Coach’s arrogance against him to get herself a win in South Pacific. I highly doubt Michele would take Nick to the end, but the parallels are there. I would expect she’s hooking up with Scot and Julia next week, which made lead to a six-person mega-alliance that includes those three plus Tai, Jason, and Cydney. Looks like it might be a scary time to be a Brain.

Outside of those two, not a lot happened. Debbie revealed that she’s a former model and continued to do Debbie things. Neal, Cydney, and Jason were surprisingly under the radar. I don’t recall seeing any of them in a confessional. Expect that to change next week.

Beauty 2.0:

Queen Aubry decided that it’s time to start playing the game! I’ve already spoken about how fluid that Tribal was, but I want to take a second to talk about why I thought Aubry made a good move here. Obviously, I love people who are able to be smartly (that’s a key word) dynamic with their vote. You can’t just be flipping willy-nilly, but you should flip when it makes sense.

Looking at this from Aubry’s perspective, this really wasn’t a question for her. She almost had to flip. As a fan of the game, she knows that the merge is coming in one or two votes. She also knows that Peter is ready and willing to flip on the Brains at any point. She should also assume that Scot is tight with Jason and Cydney and Tai and Julia are tight with Nick and Michele.

If she drops Julia, then she’s setting herself up to, for sure, be down in the numbers 7-4. Importantly, she also doesn’t have any way to break up the Brawn-Beauty alliance and her Brain tribe would likely be pagonged. By voting out Peter, she stays in that 7-4 minority at a merge; however, she’s now saved one of those seven and might be able to leverage a working relationship with either Julia, Scot, or Tai. It’s still a less than enviable position to be in, but she has much more hope at this point. Keeping Peter around would have been a kiss of death for the Brains when they hit the merge. With him out of the game, they have a fighting chance.

219646971_4804107814001_video-still-for-video-4804064918001

Speaking of Peter, I doubt that he’s super popular with the casual Survivor community, but I love him as an arrogant villain. His confessionals were always incredible and his downfall was fun throughout. If you’re a casting director hoping for a compelling pre-merge villain, you can’t really ask for better. I hope Peter gets to play again and I hope he doesn’t learn a single thing in between his appearances.

Peter’s boot sets up what could be an epic merge episode. The pieces are in place for a real showdown between the three original tribes. Which way is it going to break? Will Scot and Tai’s bromance lead to a team-up between Beauty and Brawn? Or will Aubry’s move convince Julia and Michele to join the Brains? It really does feel up in the air right now, making it an exciting time to be a Survivor fan. Check back this weekend for my sports style power rankings and next boot predictions.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week Five Power Rankings

Survivor

This one’s going to be a bit of a quick-hitter, as I’m struggling to concentrate with March Madness going on. That said, episode five was subtly great and one that I can see people looking back on a few weeks from now as the episode that set up much of the post-merge storytelling. Let’s get into it.

 

13) Anna Khait (-3)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 5   Total: 12

Anna was unlucky this week. She set herself up beautifully in the three-tribe phase of the game, but there’s not much you can do when you get hit that hard by the swap. Unless Tai played his idol, she didn’t really have a chance. There’s no way the former Brains would let the former Beauties get to three strong with Julia joining them next week. I’d like to see her play again some day, because she appeared to have the skills to make a run, but I don’t know if she (or her assets) made enough of an impact to warrant a return.

 

12) Michele Fitzgerald (-2)

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

Not much to say about Michele this week. She continues to play under the radar, which gives her a chance with how the tribes are currently aligned. Unfortunately, she just lost one of her best friends in Anna, and her other alliance member Julia might not be far behind her. Will she be able to move forward without the Beauty Babes? It’s one of the things I’m watching out for next week.

11) Aubry Bracco (-4)

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

Aubry was a bit of a disaster in the challenge, which was surprising given her aptitude in the water to this point. That said, I liked that she was able to be flexible and work with Peter during this swap episode. You can tell she doesn’t like him, but it’s good gameplay to stick with your numbers until the merge. Then you can take out Dr. Obama.

10) Joseph Del Campo (+3)

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

Joseph gets the same grade and write-up as Aubry, except he didn’t flub the challenge. Next week’s preview suggests that Joseph and Peter will have a blow-up, so maybe things aren’t as happy in paradise as they seem?

9) Peter Baggenstos (-3)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 8   Total: 16

Speaking of Peter, he really screwed the pooch in that challenge. He and Anna had a decent lead going into the puzzle and were blasted by Brains 2.0. It wasn’t even close. That makes me wonder if Peter secretly threw that challenge to keep the original Brains in the majority. It’s a risky move, but, if anyone is going to do it, it’s Peter. Now, the only question is if Peter can keep Aubry and Joseph on his side. If so, he’s easily in the merge. If not, he’s likely the next boot.

8) Julia Sokolowski (+2)

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

Julia ended up alone on Brawn beach, which means good and bad news. The good news is that she got to skip a Tribal Council. The bad news is that she’s the most likely next out on the Beauty 2.0 beach. Tough draw, Julia.

7) Nick Maiorano (-3)

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

Nick actually got some screen time this! And he was trying to work an alliance with Jason! Is Purple Nick finally going to start playing this game? It does seem like the perfect time for him to rev up his game and then be the second boot after the merge.

6) Kyle Jason (-4)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6  Total: 17

This is the first week Jason is out of my top five, which is pretty impressive. And it’s not like he had a poor performance this week. In fact, if not for Cydney and Debbie’s strategy talk dominating the conversation on Brains 2.0, Jason might’ve scored higher. He’s firmly in between two alliances, making him a power player the next time Brains 2.0 goes to Tribal Council.

5) Debbie Wanner (0)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 7   Total: 19

Debbie hit the beach running this week. She jumped on both Cydney and Jason to try and get her and Neal into a majority. I’ve been really impressed with Debbie’s turnaround these last few episodes and I’m starting to see some winner’s potential here. If Debbie firms up her relationship with Cydney next week, I can see those two going very deep into this game.

4) Cydney Gillon(-3)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 7   Total: 19

The Cydney and Debbie buddy cop duo is my current Survivor dream. However, Cydney is so low key in strategy, that I wonder if she’ll rock the boat in the event Jason wants to go with Nick and Michele. It’s easy to see Cydney taking that “anybody but me” mentality and voting out a potential ally in Debbie or Neal.

3) Tai Trang (+5)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 9   Total: 21

If this were a competition for class president, Tai would win going away. He is America’s Survivor and has been playing himself into a second season from the first week. I’m still in the camp that believes he should’ve played his idol on Anna last week to give himself the majority. That said, it’s hard to fault him when he’s probably making the merge with an idol and at least three potential alliance members.

2) Neal Gottlieb (+7)

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

Neal has an idol. Neal helped dominate the immunity puzzle for Brains 2.0. Neal is hilarious. Neal is sometimes a creeper. Neal is still my winners pick.

1) Scot Pollard (+2)

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

Scot beasted that challenge and was able to convince Tai to not play his idol. Those two moves pretty much insure that Scot is safely through the merge and might have just locked down a solid five-some with Tai, Julia, Jason, Cydney, and himself. For someone who’s strategy I continue to question, that’s a pretty good spot to be in. I still think he’s a little predictable and not very fun to watch, but it’s working for him. Plus, I’ve never been on the show, so what do I know?

Next Boot:

Beauty 2.0: Julia is the obvious choice. She’s coming onto a tribe that has a three-person majority and you have doubt the chances of Tai and Scot protecting her. That said, next week’s preview foreshadowed some infighting between Peter and Joseph. Could Peter be grinding on Joseph and Aubry so much that they decide to get rid of him? My gut says yes, so I’ll predict Peter is the next boot if Beauty 2.0 goes to TC.

Brains 2.0: This tribe’s next move is much less obvious. Neal/Debbie and Nick/Michele have been courting Jason and Cydney for at least three days at this point, and we still don’t know which way that third pair will swing. So, like with my Beauty 2.0 boot, I just have to go with my gut. I’m picking Nick, but wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone who doesn’t have an idol voted out.

Lucha Underground – Episode 8 Power Rankings

Lucha Underground, Wrestling

Lucha Underground continues to get better and better. Both as a ridiculous wrestling show and a soap opera-like drama. This week, we saw two incredible matches and got some really quality out-of-the-ring scenes. And all of this is leading to, what looks to be, a game-changing Aztec Warfare next week. It’s a great time to be a Lucha Underground fan.

We have to start this recap/power ranking by talking about the scene between Fenix and Catrina. Apparently  Fenix has some sort of magic that Catrina wants. Also, they used to be lovers, but Catrina choose to be dead. Or something? And now Fenix might bring her back to life? Or she can never be brought back to life? I don’t know. I just know I want them to flesh out this backstory like right now.

After that scene, we saw The Unlikely Trio beat the Disciples of Death for the Trios Championship, which means they get to stay in the company. The match was really fun, but the title change wasn’t the biggest story here. Because, later in the episode, Mil Muertes killed the DoD, I think? Whatever actually happened, I know he beat them up a lot and then some electricity discharged from their body. To me, that signified that Mil had taken their life force to help him fight Fenix. This show is such dumb fun.

Before they got to the lackluster “Bull Rope” match between Chavo and Texano (please let this boring feud die), we were treated to the full scene that they used to tease the season. Every time I see Prince Puma punch through that heavy bag, I mark out hard. It’s such a cool visual and the full scene made it even better. Will Puma break away from his fight with Pentagon Jr. to fight Johnny Mundo? I sure hope not. I guess we’ll find out next week at Aztec Warfare. And I guess Rey Mysterio and his pupil will be making their debuts in that match. This is going to be huge.

Finally, we had the main event of the night. The title match between champion Mil Muertes and Gift of the Gods challenger Fenix. In terms of pure carnage, this bout drifted toward Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro at Ultima Lucha territory. It wasn’t as graphic, but the physicality and torture those two went through made it nearly as hard to watch.

This match was incredibly well-booked from start to finish. I loved how quickly the hinges came off and how vicious Muertes was from the jump. Those spears, in particular, were incredibly effective. And the way they put the belt on Fenix was picture perfect. Given Muertes size and death-defying powers, Fenix couldn’t just beat him straight up. By having him “steal one” they made it both believable and set up a great rematch down the line. Of course, that rematch might not mean as much now that Catrina has declared that Fenix will defend his title at Aztec Warfare. They have the chance to really make Fenix the top guy if he’s able to last through the entire 20-man gauntlet and retain his title. However, even if he does retain, there’s still the threat of Dario Cueto and his monster brother looming. What effect will they have on the final outcome of Aztec Warfare II? I cant’ wait to find out, but, for now, let’s get to the power rankings.

10) Texano (3-1)

Texano deserves better. Chavo’s matches are always sluggish and rarely interesting. This feud was no different. Texano obviously has talent (his AAA Mega Championship run is the longest in company history) and that makes me think that he’s being wasted in Lucha Underground. He’s only 31, so it’s not like he’s breaking down (unlike Chavo) and his body type makes him very different from much of the roster. He could become a great heel in LU, if given the chance. Here’s hoping for bigger things following this tilt with Chavo.

9) Johnny Mundo (2-0)

Mundo’s involvement in this episode was minimal. He just jawed at Puma for 30 seconds before Puma PUNCHED THROUGH A HEAVY BAG (I can’t stop watching that scene). The bigger news is that Aztec Warfare is next Wednesday and you know Mundo is going have one of those classic “Kofi Spots”. I can’t wait to see how he incorporates some of his parkour into the match next week.

8) Jack Evans (2-0)

Evans took the week off and you have to expect his part in Aztec Warfare will be minimal. That said, you can’t discount how great his heel work has been this season. He’s really bringing it in and out of the ring. When the Gift of Gods medallions get redistributed, you can expect to see Evans heavily in the running for that match.

7) King Cuerno (2-2)

Like Evans, Cuerno took a break this Wednesday. I still think he has a big part to play in the overall story of the season, but I’m becoming less certain with every episode. At first, I assumed Cuerno would become Catrina’s mercenary, who took out all of Mil Muertes’ enemies. However, Cuerno has been little used in backstage vignettes, which makes me think his part in the main event feud might be over. As an unabashed Cuerno fan, I hope that’s not the case, but I think his placement in Aztec Warfare will be telling.

6) The Unlikely Trio (Ivelisse: 3-1. Angelico/Son of Havoc: 2-1)

The Trio got their titles back in a decent match that saw Son of Havoc and Angelico really get their offense in. That said, this match felt like it was put on fast forward. Obviously, they had to make room for Fenix and Muertes match, you’d just like to see it not come at the expense of a match with so much potential. And now the DoD is probably dead, so, who does The Unlikely Trio feud with now? Are we looking at another Trios tournament?

5) Prince Puma (2-1)

I mean, right? Puma is, along with Pentagon Jr. the face of Lucha Underground. He’s going to be on this list until someone takes the spot from him. I expect he’ll be firmly in the final four at next weeks Aztec Warfare.

4) Pentagon Jr. (1-2)

See: Puma, Prince.

3) Cage (2-1)

Cage can’t win Aztec Warfare. He has too much unfinished business with Mundo at this point. That needs to have an actual blow-off before either guy moves onto another program (which makes Mundo’s interaction with Puma also pretty needless). When he does break from Johnny, I’m expecting big things from Cage. Unlike Fenix, Cage can go toe-to-toe with Lucha Underground’s resident monster and his style should bring the best out of Muertes. Look for a real heavyweight fight between those two in the future.

2) Mil Muertes (2-1)

The champ finally lost, but he looked like a million bucks in the process. Muertes’ spears was absolutely devastating and his Flatliner was one of the better finishers we’ve seen in LU to date. If you have to lose, that’s probably how you want to do it. Plus, he gets the last entry into next week’s Aztec Warfare II, making him the odds on favorite to win back his title. Things are still looking good for The Man of 1,000 Deaths.

1) Fenix (3-1)

Fenix finally made good on his Gift of the Gods win at Ultima Lucha by beating Mil Muertes for the Lucha Underground championship. It was an incredible match that saw both competitors doing everything right. From Mil’s previously mentioned spears to Fenix ripping off Muertes mask, this was as good of an in-ring story as you’ll get. Now we get to see just how hard Fenix will be pushed. If I was a betting man, I would say Fenix will technically win Aztec Warfare and then Dario Cueto’s brother will appear to immediately challenge Fenix. Then, a very exhausted Fenix will lose the title after being dominated by Cueto’s sibling. Regardless of what ultimately happens, next week is shaping up to be quite an episode.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong -“The Peter You Know”

Survivor

It’s easy to see Survivor fans as a whole viewing episode five as something of a “down” episode. After all, we’ve had an incredibly exciting start to this season and last week, in particular, was one of the more dramatic episodes the show has ever had. By contrast, this swap episode was, on the surface, a little boring. However, I would argue that this episode was some of the better editing the Survivor team has done in a while.

Think about it. How often does the edit make the boot relatively obvious? At best we get two names being thrown around and, even then, the actual vote isn’t that tense. But this week? I can count at least three people who had a solid chance of going home and there were more than a few contestants who what you might call death knell confessionals.

Neal said, “if someone’s betting in Vegas, I should be the front runner.” Peter constantly talked about how good of position he is. Jason claimed that he and Cydney had all the power as the swing votes. Debbie believed she had locked everything up. There was so much talk of being “solid” and “feeling good about where I am”, that it was impossible to tell exactly where the game was going to break until the last 12-15 minutes.

The way it ended up going was a little surprising to me, but we’ll get into that in just a second. Let’s, as is tradition, run through every tribe in order of finish in the immunity challenge.

Brawn:

Poor Julia. She may never look as happy as she does above ever again. Not only does she have to survive by herself on Brawn’s terrible beach, but she also just lost one of her closest ally in the game. Plus, when she joins her old tribe back on Beauty beach, she becomes an immediate target. It’s not like Scot and Tai can protect her from the New Beauties and, even though they hate Peter, I can’t see Aubry and Joseph breaking away from him at this point. The road to the merge is just too clear for them to instigate a major shakeup.

So, Julia’s only option is to help her team win immunity and pray that either Debbie or Neal are voted out. Otherwise, she can’t be long for that island.

Brains:

The New Brain tribe is in an interesting position following this vote. When they see that Anna has been sent home, I wonder if the former Beauty and Brawn members will consider throwing the challenge to keep the majority power out of the Brain alliance’s hands. It’s a risky strategy and might not actually be worth the effort. That said, I think it’s worth paying attention to.

As far as this episode goes, I loved Debbie’s play this week. She did a great job of pumping Cydney up and those two can work well together. They’re both employ subtle strategy, easily able to stay on the outskirts of conflict and mold a situation to their advantage. It could make for quite a powerhouse of a twosome. My only concern is that Cydney doesn’t seem to want to rock the boat, so if Jason wants to stick with Nick moving forward, would she separate herself from Jason and Scot to go with Debbie and the Brains? It’s a bit too early to tell, but I’m confident that Cydney can play both sides if she needs to.

I also found it interesting that Nick was the one shown pushing to get Jason and Cydney on his side. We haven’t seen anything out of Nick thus far (though he does continue to claim to be a master manipulator), so it’s fun to finally see him play a little. Of course, we didn’t see that much from him, but at least he wasn’t “purple” Nick this week. I would like to see his relationship with Jason grow, because I think Nick could become a key vote for the former Brawn members when we hit the swap.

Otherwise, the New Brain beach was mostly some silly character building and Neal’s idol hunt. As an unabashed Neal fan, you know I’m stoked that he found the idol (and found it much faster and much more easily than Tai and Jason). If he hangs on until the merge, he has a great shot of winning this season.

Beauty:

So many things happening with the New Beauty tribe.

Peter is still an arrogant jerk, but he’s smart enough to know he needs to stick with the numbers. Considering he’s spent the past two episodes telling us he was ready to flip the second they hit a swap, I thought this demonstrated how calm under pressure Peter can be (key word: can). Is he the biggest villain of the season? For me, absolutely. That said, I respect his game when he’s not in a confessional or at Tribal Council. In the thinking part of the game, he has it down. He just has immense struggles socially.

Tai is still the most naturally hilarious person on the show, but he also proved that he came to play this week. I really thought Tai might use the idol and I think it might’ve been a bad move to keep it in his boot. If Tai saves Anna and knocks out Peter, he can enjoy a three person majority next week and I believe Scot would come to his side to knock out another Brain. Without Anna, Tai is firmly in the minority and might have to use his idol anyway next week. However, this time he wouldn’t have the opportunity to jump ahead in the numbers as easily. It wasn’t an easy decision. In my opinion, Tai was too easily swayed by Scot and might’ve cost himself a spot in the majority because of it.

Speaking of Scot, how weird is that he’s basing his entire strategy around putting together the super idol? Does he really think Jason is going to go for that? And how convinced is he that he and Tai will both make the merge? I mean, just looking at the numbers, the merge is probably coming at ten people (if we assume a three-person FTC). That means he and Tai have to get through two more weeks before they’ll see Jason again. If Beauty loses two more challenges, that seems unlikely. Sure, Julia would be voted out first next week, but then it’s Tai right? Unless he uses the idol and negates Scot’s plan anyways? I’ve said a few times that I find Scot’s strategy to be very surface level and that he doesn’t really dig into the numbers. I think his play this week just confirmed that theory (or at least made it more plausible).

Anyway, enough idol speculation. Suffice to say, I think Tai and Scot made the wrong choice. The one thing they have going for them is that Peter is so unlikable, that it won’t be long before either Joseph or Aubry want to get rid of him. We’ve already seen some in-fighting between Peter and Aubry and next week’s preview suggested a fight between Peter and Joseph. It looks there will trouble in paradise and an opportunity for Tai and Julia very soon.

It would be a mistake to not at least mention Anna, given that it was her boot episode. There’s no doubt she was screwed by the swap. She was in a great position on Beauty beach and that all got ripped away pretty quickly. Then she came on really strong to the former Brains and was immediately seen as a threat because of how hard she was pushing. You can question her style if you want, but I thought she did the best with what she was given. It’s too bad she went home so early, because I thought she could really do some damage post-merge. She has a good head for strategy, connects with people easily, and demonstrated an aptitude for puzzles (until her boot episode, that is). That made her a legitimate threat to go far and it’s always a shame to lose potential winners this early.

All in all, I really liked this episode. It didn’t have the drama of last week’s medivac, but it did seem to set up quite a few stories as we move forward. I think people will look back on this episode and, in hindsight, notice a fair amount of foreshadowing in the confessionals that aired in episode five.

Check back this weekend for my sports style power rankings.

Thoughts on…Firewatch

Reviews, Video Games

I played through Firewatch a few weeks ago and I’ve sat down to write this article at least three times since then. In truth, I think I’ve spent more time thinking about Firewatch than I spent actually playing the game. Why am I focusing so much brain power on trying to understand my feelings about Firewatch? Well, it might sound weird, but the focal point of my pondering has been me wondering why I’m so intrigued by a game that I didn’t think was very good.

For those of you still wondering, “what is Firewatch?”, let me give you the quick elevator pitch. At its most basic, Firewatch is a walking simulator like Gone Home. It’s focused on telling you a story and (theoretically) telling it well, while also finding interesting ways for you to interact with the world around. It’s a very contained 4-5 hour journey that has you filling the role of a fire lookout in Wyoming with a few twists and turns to (hopefully) keep things interesting.

Mechanically, Firewatch is pretty basic. You can talk to another character through a walkie talkie and you find a few ways to explore previously off-limits areas as you play through the game. Otherwise, you’re basically just walking about looking for stuff to explore. Thus, most of the interesting things that happen come from the dialogue between your character (Henry) and his boss, Delilah.

Fortunately, the two characters are by far the best part of the game (maybe even the only good part). I was really impressed with how they built these two up from the opening scenes. Firewatch starts by just showing you text and letting you make a few choices about Henry’s life before he went to Wyoming. This sounds pretty basic, but it was honestly my favorite moment in the entire experience.

You see, in most games this would be the opportunity for you to put yourself into the character. You would likely shape the character in your image (making them as perfect as possible) and then you’d have ownership over the character. That’s not how Firewatch handles this scenario.

Instead, you’re given very limited options in how to respond to the various situations presented to you. At first, this gave me some dissonance because there’s no way I would ever do the things Henry does to his wife after she comes down with a disease. But I’m not Henry and Henry doesn’t think like me. He’s a deeply flawed individual, which makes him feel like an actual person and not a digital avatar. For me, this was an incredibly profound way to force me to abandon myself and instead play as Henry. Would I ever flirt with a women I just met when I was still married? Absolutely not, but Henry just might. Unlike the majority of video game protagonists, Henry is a three dimensional person with hopes and dreams that I, the player, have no control over.

This idea of placing a multi-faceted personality into a digital being continues when the player meets Delilah. It would be easy to build her as a perfect person who could either teach Henry something about life or give him the perfect out to get away from his wife. However, like Henry, Delilah isn’t perfect. She has her own struggles and, though she puts on a brave face and tries to laugh at herself and her problems, she’s as flawed as Henry is.

This is what makes their relationship work. Heck, it’s what makes the game worth playing. Henry and Delilah’s relationship feels more real than almost any other pairing I’ve ever seen in a video game. They are so natural with each other that you wonder if their voice actors are best friends in real life. It’s pretty incredible what Campo Santo was able to put together between these two, but it also makes you wish they’d been able to do as well in other areas.

As mentioned above, the gameplay is fairly limited and I honestly don’t fault the team for that. After all, they are focused on story, not on mechanics. On a micro level, they nail their story-telling. Henry and Delilah are a perfectly imperfect match. It’s when you get past that and move onto the main narrative that I’m left deeply disappointed.

The narrative tries to give you a few twists and turns to make things interesting, but it never really goes all the way. Additionally, there are a few plot threads that never get resolved and don’t end up making much sense. My biggest issue in that regard, was the weird phone message you can listen in on between Delilah and an unnamed person. That ends up having no impact on the plot except to make you ask questions. Really, most of the story just seems like a series of red herrings that are thrown in because they needed to keep you semi-engaged for longer than their story actually warranted.

In short, the story feels sloppily done, which is in stark contrast to how well written Henry and Delilah are. It feels like Campo Santo got about two thirds of the way there and then had to push out the game. So they threw something together and put it on the PSN store. As mentioned, the game feels like they had one story to tell that wasn’t going to be very interesting decided to pad the game out with false stories that only served to annoy because there was zero resolution.

That’s why I struggled so much with formulating my thoughts for Firewatch. On one hand, it’s built one of the better relationships in video games and gives the player two, three dimensional characters that could exist in the real world. On the other, it’s a boring mess of a story that doesn’t capitalize on anything built between the two characters. Maybe it’s my fault for letting my hype meter get too high; however, Firewatch reeks of a game with unrealized potential.

And that’s why I can’t help but feel like Campo Santo’s next effort is really going to rock my world. They’ve proven they can build characters and relationships, now they just need to polish up the overall product. I wouldn’t recommend this game to a friend (or someone reading this blog on the Internet), but I am looking out for the company’s next product. There’s so much here that could be great and I believe they’ll pull everything together on their sophomore project to go above and beyond the foundation that is Firewatch.

 

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Episode 4 Power Rankings

Survivor

Survivor: Kaoh Rong’s fourth episode  was one of the stranger ones you’ll see. Obviously, the medivac escapade was must-watch (and hard to watch, at the same time) television. You never want to see medivacs, but, based on the edit, Caleb is a strong contender to play again. So, better to get him healthy for his second chance. From there, things turned extremely odd. I can’t remember an episode of Survivor ever skipping the scrambling portion of the show that always follows an immunity challenge. Instead, we went straight to Tribal Council where the “bullying” of Alecia mercifully came to an end. And then we found out that next week would see the swap…with a #TWIST! Will someone just get sent home? Will Exile Island come into play? No matter what happens, it’s sure to be interesting. Before we can get to next week, let’s quickly analyze how and why contestants moved up or down my power rankings.

N/A) Caleb Reynolds

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 5   Total: 18

As mentioned above, you have to feel bad for Caleb. He was playing a great physical and social game through three episodes and had just entered into a majority alliance with the women of Beauty beach. Fortunately, all signs point to him making a return to Survivor in another season, so it’s not all bad for Beast Mode Cowboy. I’ll say this, I’m infinitely more interested in how he plays in his second time out than I was in this first foray.

14) Alecia Holden (0)

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 2   Entertainment: 8   Total: 13

The Brawn tribe made the smart move to throw the challenge and send Alecia home. She’s a loose cannon who was going to flip at the first possible chance. That’s not someone you can keep around. Now, do I think it was smart gameplay to treat her like a second class citizen on their beach and basically not talk to her for the past few days? Absolutely not. Jason has the tools to win this game; however, I’m beginning to wonder if he can effectively manage an alliance in the post-merge game. You have to make people on the bottom feel like they’re on the top and it seems like when Jason is done with you, he’s all the way done with you. That’s not a smart way to play Survivor. Anyways, Alecia certainly gave us some quality comedy with her stupidity. As much as I disliked her as a player, I’ll miss her character.

13) Joseph Del Campo (-4)

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

Joseph had an average week. My only knock is that he seemed to struggle (albeit slightly) in both challenges. It wasn’t some big to do; however, it was noticeable and made me question how well he’ll perform in individual challenges. Given his struggles thus far in the social game, Joseph’s only hope to get to FTC might just be as a goat.

10 (tie) Julia Sokolowski (+1), Michelle Fitzgerald (+3), and Anna Khait (+1)

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

The Beauty Babes have been playing super under-the-radar thus far, which may signify that they’re going far in this game. The swap could really screw one or more of them over, but I have faith that they’ll all make it through next week. From there, it’s a little more up-in-the-air. Luckily, I don’t see them as easy boots on either tribe after next week’s swap.

9) Neal Gottlieb (-7)

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

Like the Beauty Babes, Neal has been under-the-radar through much of the game. We saw a little bit of his strategic, social game when Brains went to Tribal Council and I took that as a good sign that his game was starting to ramp up. He’s obviously a challenge threat, so you have to worry about someone targeting him for that if you’re a Neal fan, but I think he comfortably makes the merge.

8) Tai Trang (-1)

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

Tai has that #Taidol, so he’s probably safe in the swap; though, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen someone get voted out with an idol in his pocket. That said, Tai is very charismatic, so I’d bet on him being safe next week. Tai also has the body type of someone who might excel in the post-merge challenges, which means he’s quickly becoming a legit threat to win this game. He just needs to rally a few more people to his side pre-merge.

7) Aubry Bracco (+1)

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

Aubry has shown some surprising ability in challenges, especially in the water. That’ll teach me to not judge a Harry Potter book by its cover. She also has a solid foursome with Debbie, Neal, and Joseph who could do damage depending on how the tribes shake out. Aubry is probably the least likely to be targeted post-merge from that group, so I really like her placement right now. I’m looking at a top seven run for Aubry, at worst.

6) Peter Baggenstos (+9)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 5   Total: 18

Peter jumps in the rankings only because he was great in the challenges and the Brains beach didn’t have to do any strategizing. I’m still selling on Peter’s chances to win and think he could be a target this week if he ends up with a few other Brains on his tribe. Peter might be able to turn it for one week, but I think his personality will quickly turn people off and he’ll be gone pretty soon.

5) Debbie Wanner (+1)

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

Debbie’s game has really improved from the first day. She’s no longer claiming to know everything and instead sits back and observes. She’s done a great job of picking her spots thus far and she’s expertly maneuvered her pieces to give her the biggest advantage at Brain beach. However, Debbie really struggles to make quality first impressions, so she might be vulnerable this week. She’s shown an ability to grow on people over time, so, if she gets past this week, she might go deep.

4) Nick Maiorano (+8)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 5   Total: 19

Like Peter, Nick is bumped up solely because of his challenge performance. I’m actually super low on Nick this week and think he might be your next boot. He wasn’t in a good position on the Beauty beach and I can’t see him making enough of a first impression on anyone to be kept around with a merge coming. He’s the biggest physical threat now that Caleb’s gone and people might want to get rid of him before he even has a chance to make an immunity run.

2 (tie) Kyle Jason (+3) and Scot Pollard (+8)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 9   Total: 19

Jason and Scot only get a high ranking for being such delicious Survivor villains. I’m not convinced that the whole “bullying” angle was all on these two, as Alecia certainly struck me as someone who could quickly get on people’s nerves. That said, from a strategic mindset, you have to be smarter than to stoop down to this level and put someone down so unmercilessly. However, as characters on a TV show, villains like these two are good to have around. Here’s hoping they get some satisfying comeuppance somewhere down the line.

1) Cydney Gillon (+2)

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

Cydney’s subtle strategic game is secretly running the Brawn beach. Sure, Jason and Scot are the obvious figureheads of this threesome, but I think Cydney plays a much bigger part in their decisions that we’re maybe led to believe. She certainly has more tact than those two and that should serve her well when the merge hits. She strikes me as someone who has the social skills to almost effortlessly move through the post-merge minefield and put herself in a position to win the game. If she continues to build on her current momentum, I think she just might win this game.

Next Boot:

With the swap, it’s nearly impossible to predict who’s going home next, as so much of what happens will be decided based on who goes where. Therefore, I’m not going to do a next boot rankings and instead say you should look at my updated tier rankings that I posted next week. For this crazy week, that’s the best I can give you.

Lucha Underground Season 2 – Episode 7 Power Rankings

Lucha Underground, Wrestling

Through six episodes, Lucha Underground is really bringing out the big guns early and often. Last week, we saw a ladder match between Fenix and King Cuerno that brought the house down and this week we got a three-way dance between Pentagon Jr., Prince Puma, and Mil Muertes for the championship strap. Add in Fenix cashing in his Gift of the Gods belt next week and Aztec Warfare coming the week after that, and you have to wonder how they’ll top themselves as we move toward Ultima Lucha.

We started the episode with a very intriguing match between Marty the Moth and The Mack. The actual match was decent; certainly not the best we’ve seen from either competitor. Instead, the main talking point was the in-ring debut of Marty’s creepy stalker gimmick. I have to say, it’s working for him. When he stood behind Ring Announcer Melissa and flapped his arms, I thought, “They’re on to something with this.” I’m really interested to see how this plays out and can’t wait to see how his sister plays into the story in coming weeks. Hopefully the narrative between Marty, his sister, and Sexy Star continues for another month or so because it looks like it could really go places.

Following that, we were treated to a No DQ match between Cage and….Taya? Sometimes inter-gender matches don’t work (see: Angelico vs. Ivelisse), but I thought this one was alright, especially because it mostly just continued the Cage vs. Johnny Mundo feud. Cage is being booked as the second biggest monster in the company behind Mil Muertes and his program with Mundo is effectively grooming him for the main event. Johnny, for his part, is owning his cowardly heel gimmick right now and, because of the hard work each guy is putting in, Cage looks poised to shoot up the chart when he finally pins Mundo. I would expect this ends in a steel cage match somewhere down the line, as that seems to be the obvious path considering Mundo’s recent work. However it ends, these two can put on some real magic together.

In addition to some quality wrestling, I thought we got a few nice vignettes too. The bathroom scene with Jack Evans, PJ Black, Drago, and Aerostar was that perfect mix of ridiculous and awesome that makes LU such a joy to watch. I’m also slowly getting interested in whatever these Famous B commercials are building too. And, of course, Fenix’s vignette that detailed his childhood was fantastic. I really love it when LU sets up the backstories of their main event stars. It gives everything that’s happening the ring a little more weight.

The main event of the night was the previously mentioned three-way dance between Pentagon Jr., Prince Puma, and Mil Muertes for Muertes’ championship belt. I really loved the booking in this match. All three guys got in some solid offense and there were moments where you could believe anyone winning. The finish was the real masterpiece though. Throughout the match I was wondering who would eat the pin if Muertes won. It seemed like a mistake to make Pentagon or Puma look “weak”, considering their high-profile, ongoing feud. So, by having Muertes pin both men, they made him look like an absolute powerhouse and kept people wanting to see more from Pentagon and Puma. It was perfect booking and having Fenix come in to cash in his Gift of the Gods was just the icing on the cake.

Let’s see how those three matches and the vignettes shook up the power rankings this week.

10) The Unlikely Trio (Ivelisse: 2-1. Angelico and Son of Havoc: 1-1)

No match for these three this week, but they did feature in a short vignette that revealed that, if the Trio loses their rematch for the Los Trios belts next week, their time in Lucha Undergound is over. Usually, when a stipulation like that is thrown down, you know the team is going to win. However, Dario Cueto threw Drago out of the Temple last year when he lost his retirement match, so who really knows? Could Mil Muertes and his Disciples of Death lose all their titles next week? It’s going to be fun to watch.

9) Marty the Moth (1-0)

I love (LOVE) what they’re doing with Marty right now. He’s perfect as a weird, creepy stalker with an even weirder sister. This story feels big time right now and I hope they keep it up for at least another month. I can’t wait to see where they take us with this one.

8) Johnny Mundo (2-0)

Mundo slips down my rankings because his character doesn’t appear to be a threat to win anything right now. That said, Mundo is doing a great job as the cowardly heel who will (hopefully) help build up the young monster that is Cage. Mundo is so over that no loss will ever really hurt him. Thus, I’m betting that they’ll put Cage over Mundo relatively soon and let him slide into the main event, while Johnny’s talents are used against someone like Jack Evans.

7) Jack Evans (2-0)

Speaking of”The Dragonslayer”, Evans didn’t have a match this week, but he did leave a mark on the proceedings. Evans’ vignette perfectly summed up what makes Lucha Underground so great. It’s that mix of dumb fun, great characters, and ridiculous situations that put the show over the top (plus the great wrestling, of course). And it doesn’t get much dumber and ridiculous than Evans and PJ Black nun-chuck fighting Drago and Aerostar in a bathroom. More of that please.

6) King Cuerno (2-2)

Cuerno wasn’t even on the show this week. However, I can’t help wondering how he’ll play into the overall narrative of the season. He had some sort of working relationship with Catrina and Mil Muertes from the jump and I wonder if that will play into Fenix’s cash in next week. Could Cuerno interfere and cost Fenix his title shot? It certainly doesn’t feel out of the question and it’s something I’m watching for next week.

4 (tie) Pentagon Jr. (1-2) and Prince Puma (2-1)

Following their loss to Muertes, it feels virtually impossible to separate these two. And that’s fitting because these two look to be locked in an eternal battle. Pentagon and Puma are so much more over than anyone on the roster that their matches might as well be the show’s title picture, even if Muertes is technically the champion. This is the biggest thing going for Lucha Underground and I’m excited to see where they go from here. Hopefully it involves their respective mentors, Vampiro and Konnan.

3) Cage (2-1)

As mentioned above, Cage had a monster win over Taya that saw him overcome blatant cheating from Johnny Mundo and his lady friend. To be honest, when he no-sold Mundo hitting him with glass bottles, I marked out a little bit. This guy has everything you’re looking for in a typical, North American main event player. It’s just a matter of time before he challenges for the title.

2) Fenix (2-1)

If you’ve ever read these posts, you know that I’m super high on Fenix. I think he has the best shot of anyone from Lucha Underground to carve out a WWE career if he wants to. He is the next Rey Mysterio and his talent in the ring (specifically the air above and around the ring) is incredible to watch. If I was starting my own wrestling company, Pentagon Jr. would be the first guy I’d take from Lucha Underground, but his brother Fenix would be very close behind.

1) Mil Muertes (2-0)

Muertes not only retained his title, but he did so in dominant fashion. He pinned both of his opponents in their three-way match and he looked like an absolute beast doing it. Who knew Mil had a flying crossbody? At this point, you really have to wonder just who is going to knock this guy off of the top of the mountain. Fenix has an outside shot, but, if Pentagon and Puma couldn’t do it, I worry about his chances. The rosters best bet might be if Muertes puts his title on the line for Aztec Warfare, because, at this point, it’s hard to see anyone beating “The Man of 1,000 Deaths”.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Reassessing the Tier List

Survivor

That was one of the stranger episodes of Survivor I’ve ever seen. We spent what felt like a third of the episode focused on a reward challenge that led to Caleb’s medivac. It was incredibly compelling television and took away one of the better competitors in the game. It really was a shame to lose a guy like Caleb in that way, but the drama wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

Throughout the entire episode, we kept seeing Scot and Jason put down (or, to use Jeff Probst’s words, “bully”) Alecia. This culminated with Brawn seemingly throwing a challenge and promptly sending Alecia home. It was very odd and uncomfortable (though not as hard to watch as Caleb’s evac). I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode that completely skipped over the scrambling portion of an episode, which helped give this episode a very different feeling.

And then, in the preview for next week, we saw that the tribes are swapping (merging?) at thirteen. Which, as you hopefully know, is an odd number. Meaning the tribes would be uneven. So what’s the twist? Is it an early merge? Or will Exile Island come into play? I’m not sure. So, because I have no idea what’s about to happen and episode four was a such a strange one, I’ve decided to reassess my preseason rankings in the place of an episode writeup. It should be interesting to see how things shake out now that we have four episodes behind us.

Debbie Wanner

Preseason: Tier Four. Now: Tier Two.

Initially, I was worried that Debbie’s “know-it-all” attitude would be her early downfall. Those initial concerns proved valid, as most of her tribe was constantly annoyed with her during the first two episodes. However, Debbie was extremely lucky to end up on a tribe that won immunities early. I firmly believe that, had Brains lost the first immunity challenge, Debbie would’ve been gone. But they didn’t and that gave Debbie time. She was able to sit and watch as Peter and Liz’s narcissism came to a head in a really nasty way and was able to use that to her advantage and send Liz home. Going forward, I think Debbie has a good chance to match the merge and could then go far because people won’t really view her as a threat.

Julia Sokolowski

Preseason: Tier Four. Now: Tier Two.

Julia has shown some real spunk in the first four episodes. She’s helped Anna and Michele put together a dominant alliance that included the season’s strongest challenge competitor before Caleb was medivacced and she’s shown good puzzle solving skills. I don’t know how much losing Caleb hurts her game, but she had a great opportunity to hide behind him if they both made the merge. Either way, I think Julia will go far in this game and might make FTC. I still wonder if, given her age, she can actually win. This doesn’t feel like a group of people that would give an 18-year-old a million dollars.

Scot Pollard

Preseason: Tier Four. Now: Tier Three.

Scot has not impressed me with his gameplay this season. He doesn’t seem to think beyond the surface level when voting people out and hasn’t really wowed in challenges either. The lone positive is that he has been somewhat entertaining as a villain with Jason, but that doesn’t make a winner. Scot won’t be playing much longer. He’ll be a key number for someone in the next few weeks and go home.

Cydney Gillon

Preseason: Tier Three. Now: Tier One.

Cydney has been putting on a great show thus far. Her subtle strategy is secretly shaping Brawn’s middle and late game. She’s carefully setting things up to gain a big advantage from Brawn’s early struggles and hasn’t had to make any waves to get there. If she can keep up her momentum and pull off a few immunity wins, she might have a chance. She’s playing a winning game right now; it’ll be interesting to see if she can keep it up for another 28 days.

Aubry Bracco

Preseason: Tier Three. Now: Tier Three.

This is a hard one for me. Outside of a few great challenge performances, we haven’t seen much from Aubry. She didn’t feel like a key cog in the Liz vote and we haven’t seen much from the Brain beach outside of that episode, so it’s hard to form an opinion on Aubry. Her game really depends on how the swap shakes out, so I’ll leave her in the third tier.

Nick Maiorana

Preseason: Tier Three. Now: Tier Four.

In my opinion, Nick has the best (worst?) chance of going home next week. Even if he was on a tribe with a majority of Beauty players, I think they would want him out ASAP. His only real chance is to get on a tribe where he can flip against a Beauty to save himself. However, does anyone really think Nick is socially skilled enough to make people like him when he’s such an obvious immunity threat after the merge? I don’t see it. Nick has yet to show any real skill at Survivor and his days are numbered.

Peter Baggenstos

Preseason: Tier Three. Now: Tier Four.

Peter is a weird case because, had the Brains lost immunity last week, he would’ve gone home just as quickly as Alecia did. So, you’d think he’d be given new life in a swap. After all, he’ll be on a new tribe and has a chance to make new friends. And then you remember how full of himself Peter was at the Liz vote. Does someone that far up his own butt really strike you as a guy who can change his attitude in this game? I’ll have to see it to believe it. Peter won’t go too much further.

Michele Fitzgerald

Preseason: Tier Three. Now: Tier Three.

I said that Michele felt very “middle-of-the-road” in the preseason and I think that feeling still holds. Michele has gotten next to zero screen time, so we don’t really know anything about her thus far. She could truly go either way at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the next boot or if she made it to the Final Tribal Council. However, I would be surprised if she won. Sounds like tier three for Michele.

Tai Trang

Preseason: Tier Two. Now: Tier Two.

Tai has a few things going for him. He has an idol, which should help him reach the merge, at the very least. He’s also effortlessly likeable, which makes me believe that he’ll make friends quickly after the swap. That said, I still wonder if Tai will be voted out at around seven because of how likeable he is. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go to the end with Tai, so I’ll leave him here at tier two.

Joseph Del Campo

Preseason: Tier Two. Now: Tier Four.

I was relatively high on Joseph in the preseason because I thought he’d play up the “fatherly” role with someone like Liz or Aubry. We haven’t really seen that manifest thus far, which leaves Joseph with basically zero positives through four episodes. I mean, sure, he got past a vote a week ago, but is that really anything to write home about? Consider me down on Joseph.

Kyle Jason

Preseason:Tier One. Now: Tier Two.

I’m getting a little worried about Jason. He still has the skillset I think you look for in an aggressive Survivor winner, but I get the feeling that his poor social ability is going to cost him. He consistently put down Alecia when she was on the bottom at the Brawn beach. We know that’s a bad look because, any time you don’t manage everyone on your beach, you risk them flipping. Will he continue that behavior through the rest of the game? If he does, will his new Alecia find the numbers to flip on him before he sends them home? It’s a storyline to watch and, given how they’ve set him up as the season’s villain, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his comeuppance in the early post-merge game.

Anna Khait

Preseason: Tier One. Now: Tier One.

I love Anna’s placement almost as much as I do Cydney’s. Anna has effortlessly put herself on the top of a powerful girl’s alliance and has demonstrated her above average puzzle skills more than once. Like Cydney, she has to continue building momentum if she wants to pull this off. Anna needs to end up on a tribe with either Julia or Michele and bring in someone like Neal or Aubry (or both) to really firm up her alliance now that Caleb is gone. My one concern is that we haven’t actually seen much from her on the Beauty beach, so I might be too bullish on her chances. That said, I’m comfortable keeping her in the first tier for now.

Neal Gottlieb

Preseason: Tier One. Now: Tier One.

Everything I said in the preseason still holds, so I’ll just repost it here. “Neal is, by far, my favorite to win the game. He has everything you want in a “Sole Survivor”. He’s smart, he’s personable, he’s got that rock climber body type that tends to play into many of Survivor’s balance challenges, and he’s effortlessly funny. He knows the game and he has the tools to put it all together on his first try. The key is for him to pull all of that off, while also staying relatively under the radar. Considering how gung-ho most of his fellow Brains seem to be, I don’t think that will be a problem. It’s Neal’s world and everyone else is just living in it.” Neal has a similar concern to Anna in that we haven’t seen a lot from her beach, but I’m sticking by my preseason winner’s pick.

So, if you’re scoring at home, the new tiers shape up like this:

Tier Four:

Nick, Peter, Joseph.

Tier Three:

Michele, Aubry, Scot.

Tier Two:

Jason, Tai, Julia, Debbie.

Tier One:

Neal, Anna, Cydney.