Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers: Episode 7

Survivor

I honestly don’t think there’s much I can say that would add to the conversation about this week’s Tribal Council. Instead, I’d rather just direct you to Zeke’s own written response (see here) and get to talking about my players to watch for the upcoming week. His write-up does the situation 150-200% more justice than I ever could. Suffice it to say that I give mad props to Zeke for how well he’s handled this whole thing and I think it’s of utmost importance that we remember Jeff Varner is still a person.

With that said, let’s move on to the players to watch next week.

Ozzy: With the preview spoiling that next week is a merge, it’s important to keep your eye on someone like Ozzy. He’s this season’s traditional merge boot and has a history of misplaying the social game at this point in a season. This next week should really tell us quite a bit about Ozzy’s winning potential. He should have a solid core alliance with Zeke, Sarah, and Andrea. Plus, I think he has a shot to pull in Brad and Troyzan (the two alpha-males might be smart to protect each other for at least a few weeks). However, everyone knows he is a major immunity threat going forward, which makes the next few boots very important for Ozzy. If he’s able to latch onto a tight majority alliance, he has a chance to make it to Final 6, at least.

Tai: My big question for Tai is what he’s going to do with his idols going into the merge. Does he show someone to potentially strengthen/build an alliance? Does he play one just to be safe, knowing he has one in his back pocket? It’s hard to say what the right move is for Tai, but I think those idols (or Troyzan’s) are going to play a part in the next episode, even if it’s just a red herring.

Sierra: Sierra seems to have Brad (and Troyzan, by association) firmly in her camp, but who else is a guaranteed number? Michaela might be on her side; however, I wonder if Aubry or Hali will jump given that they haven’t been shown to be super tight with Sierra and Brad’s alliance? Either way, Sierra appears to have an important part to play in this season’s narrative and I wonder what move she’ll be making at the merge.

Sarah: Is it just me or does it feel like Sarah’s game is finally starting to heat up? We’ve slowly been getting more of her perspective in confessionals and that either signifies that she’s about to get cut from the game or her arc is beginning to shape into something important for the end game. This week could be a make or break one for Sarah’s game. She needs to make some moves and now might be the time to do so.

Zeke: This one is pretty obvious. Anytime Zeke is on the screen will be must-watch after last week. How will he handle the fallout of Varner’s move? I’m assuming he’ll want to downplay it as much as possible, but will his tribemates let him? I sure hope so. Zeke is an exceptional game player and I expect him to quickly recover. If Zeke isn’t in the majority after the merge, I’ll be surprised.

That’s all for today. It’s almost merge time, people!

Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 5

Survivor

Was J.T.’s exit a demonstration of excellent manipulation by Michaela, Sandra, and Varner? Or is it just further proof that maybe Stephen Fishbach did all of the strategy steering during J.T.’s run to the Tocantins million?

survivor-gamechangers-michaela-bradshaw-sipping-tea-tribal-council

Personally, I think it’s somewhere in between. I mean, I cannot fathom someone sitting at Tribal Council, listening to someone repeatedly talk about how they “know they’re going home”, and actually believe that there isn’t some secondary plan I need to be worrying about. It seemed like J.T. was sipping his own Kool-Aid just a biiiit too hard and truly believed that he had pulled this masterclass move.

Unfortunately for the cowboy, it was Michaela who was pulling a masterclass at Tribal Council. She (and her alliance) correctly assumed how J.T. would react if she basically acted like she was lying down at the final moment. Sure, she was still cocky; however, she also gave off the air of someone who had given up hope. It was perfect.

And J.T. bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. It’s hard to remember a more perfect blindside from the last several years of Survivor. This one had it all. Sandra stirring up the pot by eating all the sugar. J.T. keeping that idol at camp (not even in his pocket!). Heck, we had our first “coffee sip” moment at Tribal. Just incredible. What a magnificent play by Michaela, Sandra, and Varner. They played J.T. like an Alabama fiddle and set up a dangerous foursome moving forward.

Not only was the move memorable, but I believe it was second-level smart. Listen, Jeff Varner’s last season was the twist-heavy Cambodia that saw a number of tribal shuffles. If anyone was going to sniff out the upcoming switch, it’s Varner. If they weren’t switching, you’re basically guaranteeing that you go right back to Tribal when you vote off J.T., but with the shuffle, it doesn’t really matter if you eliminate a physical player. An excellent reading of both the player (J.T.) and the game.

WHO TO WATCH

Aubry: Aubry is a great Survivor player and maybe the best confessional from an excellent Kaoh Rong cast. So, to see her regulated to maybe one confessional per episode and a minor part in the current storyline is pretty sad. Plus, she just found herself on the wrong side of a blindside at the last Tribal and has lost almost every early game ally she had. Where does she go from here? Does she stick with Varner, Sandra, and Michaela if any of them stick with her after the switch or does she look to jump ship? Aubry is not in a very good place right now, but if anyone can bring her game back from the brink, I think it’s her.

Debbie: What happened to Debbie? She was even more delusional than usual last week in her tirade against Brad. Did she even watch the challenge she was complaining about? If I’m Brad Culpepper, I would have seriously considered throwing that immunity challenge just to get Debbie out of there and protect myself from the wrath that is surely coming if Debbie makes the merge. I really questioned Brad’s choice last week in getting out Malcolm and I think this one might have been worse. He’s tossing his friends out of the game almost as quickly as he’s making enemies. Not a good look for someone with #winnersedit potential. That said, I’m really interested to see what Debbie does next. Here’s hoping she and Brad stay on the same tribe.

Brad: If you’re scoring at home, Brad Culpepper is one of two physical alpha males left in the game (the other being Ozzy). Yes, Sierra, Michaela, and Sarah are solid physical competitors, but the two traditional merge boots left are Culpepper and Ozzy. And that’s largely because Brad has directly and indirectly sent three of the other alpha males home over the last few episodes. That leaves Brad with nearly no one to hide behind, meaning his game is going to become very, very difficult if he doesn’t try to team up with Ozzy and keep him in the game. If these two end up on the same tribe, they have to work together. And if they don’t….one them will go very soon.

Sandra: The last player I’m really keeping my eye on as we watch another tribe shuffle is Sandra. If you’re going to get Sandra pre-merge, this is the time to do it. You switch tribes and then you pick her off before she can wrangle numbers. This woman is too dang good at building alliances and if you don’t get her out now, you might never get another chance. If Sandra makes it through this week, I love her chances to make it to Day 39.

Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 3

Survivor

With my increasingly busy schedule, it’s become exceptionally difficult to find time to write about Survivor (or anything for that matter). However, there is something about this game that compels me to continue talking about it. After this past week’s thrilling tribal council, I decided it was time to get back to some Survivor strategy. Hopefully I can keep up with the season in this spot, but we’ve seen how that turned out in the past. Either way, let’s talk about what happened last week.

The first thing we have to talk about is obviously going to be that tribal council. Specifically, I want to focus on Brad Culpepper’s move. If you’re in Brad’s spot, you must be feeling good. Last week, you cut Caleb and essentially guaranteed that Tai is going to be loyal to you for quite awhile because he has no where else to go. That was an awesome move that proved Brad came to actually be a game changer this time around.

But I think Brad got too greedy this week. He seemed to pick up that Malcolm was the only person keeping JT afloat over Nuku tribe. Since it worked so well with Tai, he targeted Malcolm. After all, that would bring JT right into Culpepper’s arms and knock out another strong player. On the surface, it’s probably a great move. I think it’s going to be a big mistake.

Look at where JT is sitting now. If Nuku goes to tribal next week, he’s gone. Sure, he could find an idol and play it, but with the information we have, he’s out. If Brad cuts Sandra instead of Malcolm, JT and Malcolm could easily control where the next vote goes, dropping someone like Varner or Michaela. Then, when we hit the merge, and Brad scoops up two huge targets (read: meat shields) that will likely feel that he’s trustworthy because he knocked off Sandra instead of Malcolm.

Essentially, voting off Malcolm is (at least as far as we can see) the equivalent of a swing of four votes (you lose the two votes you would have and give them to the other side). That’s a rough place to be in. Now, I fully believe that Brad can come back from this. He’s shown this season that he learned a lot from his first time out and his duo with Sierra Dawn Thomas is extremely dangerous. However, Brad is the physical threat out of those two and without JT and Malcolm to protect him, he might be ousted earlier than he’d like.

That said, what a tribal council! I cannot remember the vote every being so up in the air and I certainly haven’t seen anyone running around discussing the vote quite like that. Plus, an incredible idol play by Tai and another big blunder from JT that has to be on par with his letter to Russell in Heroes vs. Villains. Can the season possibly top that moment? Well, before we find out, let’s take a look at some the Survivors I’m watching closely as we move through the next week.

survivor-gamechangers-jt-teary-eyed-after-malcolm-boot

JT : Obviously we have to keep our eye on JT. He’s in the worst position among anyone in the game. I cannot fathom a scenario where JT is not the next person voted out at Nuku if he doesn’t find the idol. Culpepper really screwed over his former ally. I think there might be a sliver of hope in the form of an alliance with Aubry and Varner against Sandra, but that’s probably just me trying to find a way to get JT to the merge than something that may actually happen.

Aubry/Jeff Varner: Sticking with the Nuku tribe, I really want to find out what’s going on with these two. We have heard from them in bits and pieces, but they have yet to feel important to the season’s ongoing narrative. That leads me to believe that neither has a big impact on the outcome of the season, but they are both so bright and such good narrators that it’s hard to see their talents being wasted in the early part of the season. Here’s hoping that changes next week because I believe this duo could do some real damage if they get together.

Cirie: The “Original Gangster” made it through what was always going to be one of the tougher parts of the game. Those first few votes, players tend to want to keep “strong” people around and Cirie is never going to be seen as a physical asset (though the girl can do her some puzzles). Plus, she had Ozzy gunning for her due to her past betrayal. Now that she’s through the early game rush, what can this strategic mastermind pull together? We’ve seen Jedi mindtrick her way into a great situation in the past and it feels like something is brewing. Very interested to see what she does from here.

Debbie:  Debbie has to be on the watch list this week after her volatile scene for next week’s preview. And if we didn’t know something big was coming for Debbie, the broad’s a gamer. You know she’s going to bring great TV until her very last in-game breath. I’m captivated by Debbie on most occasions, so going into an episode knowing she’s about to explode on someone is a real treat. Here’s hoping episode four delivers on what are sure to be sky-high expectations.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week 11 Power Rankings

Survivor

Another week of Survivor down and another rough week for me work wise. That said, this season has been consistently fun to watch and week 11 was no different. As I’m sure you’re aware, Julia was sent to jury this week in a somewhat surprising vote. Do I think this move was a smart one for all involved? And where do I see Jason sitting now that all of his allies are out of the game? Read on for that and more in this week’s version of my Kaoh Rong Power Rankings.

7) Julia Sokolowski (-3)

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

Julia has been really impressive all season, but I think her immaturity finally caught up to her. Coming back from the previous week’s vote, Julia was absolutely irate because she wasn’t included in the vote to get out Scot. It was a case of extreme saltiness that really hurt her game, especially as it relates to her relationship with Aubry. Michele and Jason were quick to say “they understood” and knew it “was just a game move”.

Julia, on the other hand, didn’t “want to hear it”. Being that angry at someone just solidifies to them that you never really had their back. How is Aubry supposed to react when you express so explicitly that Scot (one of Aubry’s main enemies) was someone you wanted to move forward with? That just proves to her that you were never on her side. Considering that, outside of maybe Cydney, Aubry has the most power in this game, I think it’s easy to conclude that you’d want to do everything you can to pacify her and try to reaffirm you’re on her side. Julia didn’t do that and now she’s out of the game. That said, I would feel bad if I didn’t quickly say that I was really impressed with Julia this season. I would not have been able to function nearly as well on Survivor when I was 18.

6)Joseph Del Campo (+1)

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

Joseph is slowly and steadily moving up these power rankings. Will his march continue until he is crowned the Sole Survivor? I sure hope not.

5) Tai Trang (-3)

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

Tai continues to be entertaining television and has probably already earned a second chance at Survivor if he loses this season. That said, he’s made a ton of strategical missteps and will only win this season on the merits of his personality. I mean, I know I talked about how Julia poorly mishandled the tribe after Scot’s boot, but I think Tai might’ve done an even worse job of talking to Jason afterward. I don’t know if it’s the language barrier or what, but he did not seem sincere at all and Jason didn’t buy what Tai was selling for a single second.

The one thing I think you take out of the episode if you’re a Tai fan, is that he still has an idol and an advantage. Now, will Tai correctly play those? I would guess not, unless Aubry tells him exactly what to do. Tai gets how to play the game enough to be dangerous, but not enough to actually win the season. I think Tai is firmly on the bubble this week and would not be surprised to see him go home with an idol in his pocket.

4) Michele Fitzgerald (+2)

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

Michele’s case for a winner’s edit got stronger this week. She performed very well at both challenges, winning them both, and continued to get prime confessional time. She continues to appear involved in the strategy of the season through her confessionals, while never actually doing much in the gameplay. It’s a really weird edit and either means she’s going to win the game or be booted out next week. At this point, I still firmly believe she’s winning this season against Jason in a very unsatisfying end to a great season. Nothing against Michele, she’s just one of the least interesting players left in the game (though she is better than Joseph!)

3) Cydney Gillon (+2)

Strategy: 7  Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 6   Total: 20

Cydney was in an interesting spot this week. She had an opportunity to side with Jason, Julia, and Michele and vote Tai out, which would, one way or the other, get the last idol out of the game. She elected to stick with Tai, Aubry, and Joseph to vote out Julia and I’m not certain that was the best move for her game.

If she votes Tai and he doesn’t play his idol, she could easily spin it as just trying to flush the idol. I don’t think, in that scenario, Aubry and Joseph have anywhere to go. Thus, Cydney would be able to choose who she wanted to side with at Final Six. If Tai does play his idol, then she still gets Julia out and should be able to spin a similar tale to both Tai and Aubry. Instead of playing the middle and having her choice of alliances, Cydney let Tai keep his idol and sent Julia home.

That’s giving a lot of power to a player with an idol, an advantage, and a track record of screwing over his allies. Plus, you now leave Jason as a player with no prospects, meaning people won’t be gunning for him anymore. If they’re not gunning for him, it’s within the realm of possibility that they might start gunning for you. I’m not saying Cydney made a terrible move (in fact, I think it was a solid move); I just think she could’ve made the same move differently and put herself in a much more powerful position.

2) Kyle Jason (+1)

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

I love Jason’s spot in the current makeup of this tribe. He has no allies and no idols, making him the smallest target in the game. Plus, most of the jury doesn’t like him, giving him goat potential. And Jason’s smart enough to be able to work from this position. I fully expect him to work two of the girls against each other in Week 12 and gain himself a few more days. The only scenario I see Jason going home is if Tai plays his idol to knock Jason out. Otherwise, I don’t see why anyone would be driven to go against Jason at this point. He’s completely cut off from everyone and has managed the jury terribly. If anything, people are going to want to keep him around to drag him to the end. And, if he makes FTC, anything can happen.

1) Aubry Bracco (0)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 6  Entertainment: 9   Total: 22

Aubry’s playing the best game of the season, and I don’t really see how you can argue it. She’s driving almost all of the strategy this season and has continuously steered the vote to a position where it benefits her the most. That said, I think she’s in a very, very dangerous spot this week. People are realizing that she is the power broker this season. Now is the time for someone like Cydney to test the waters on going after either Aubry or Joseph and cutting Aubry down a few pegs. In fact, Aubry and Joseph both sticking around in Week 12 will be as surprising as if Jason goes to jury. The only scenario where I see both of them staying is if Aubry is able to convince everyone that Tai and his idol are a bigger threat. Considering she’s the reason Tai still has his idol, I think this is exactly what Aubry plans to do; I just wonder if it will actually work.

Next Boot:

As mentioned, I think it’s either going to be Aubry, Joseph, or Tai. My guy leans to Aubry because of how strong she’s been since the merge started. You have to assume that the other players know she’s playing a winning game right and will be looking to knock her off the pedestal. If Aubry wins immunity, I think Joseph is gone. However, I would not surprised if Tai was targeted because of his extra toys. This episode is a little up in the air, but I think Aubry and Tai are the easy front-runners for the next boot.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week 10 Power Rankings

Survivor

Note: Running a week behind because of work. Think of this as mostly here for my own records.

Had a bit of a wild one last week, so I wasn’t able to post my initial thoughts on the episode. Though, if you watched it, you can probably guess that I was extremely giddy when Tai didn’t play the idol and loved Aubry’s sly manipulation of both Tai and the jury. This has been some of the most exciting Survivor television (in entertainment value, not in strategy) in recent memory, which makes it really fun to cover week-to-week. Heck, even villains like Scot and Jason are fun to hate. Now that you know my general feelings on the episode, let’s dive in and take a look at this week’s rankings.

 

8) Scot Pollard (-1)

Strategy: 3  Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 6   Total: 12

I love, love, love Scot the villain. He is so arrogant and so full of himself, that the editor’s job is almost too easy. This guy’s downfall was obviously coming soon and seeing it happen in that manner was incredible. Like, you can’t write a more perfect ending for this guy.

That isn’t to say his game tape is all bad. I loved what I saw from him when he got away from Jason after the swap. He was kind and seemed to excel at manipulating social situations. His strategy was never that great and he didn’t appear to be a legitimate threat in any individual challenge we’ve seen this season.

All that said, I really liked Scot on the show. He was a fun guy to root against, but he wasn’t so completely slimy that you just wanted him off of your television. That’s about all I can ask for in my Survivor villains.

7) Joseph Del Campo (+1)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 1   Entertainment: 5   Total: 12

Joseph is playing that Dan Lembo game really hard right now. He is atrocious at every single challenge they put him in and I can’t remember the last time he had a meaningful confessional. His one redeeming quality is that he’s a great loyal soldier who will vote for whoever you tell him to. That makes him a key piece in someone else’s eventual victory.. And, even though he’s losing himself the game, you have to admire his ability to “stick to the plan.”

6)Michele Fitzgerald (-1)

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

Michele is getting the weirdest edit of the season. She has been extremely visible in almost every post-merge episode. She gets confessional after confessional, but is never involved in the strategy of the season in a meaningful way. What does this tell us about her role to play in the rest of the season? I think it’s time to start really considering that we might be staring down a final two between Michele and Jason, with Michele winning to a bitter jury. What other reason would there be for Michele’s continued placement in storylines she doesn’t really have a part of? Are the editors trying to throw us off or are they trying to give us a reason to like a player who is bland and, to be honest, boring? Obviously, I have no insider info, but I believe this might just be the path we’re looking down.

5) Cydney Gillon (-4)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 6  Total: 18

Cydney’s game wasn’t quite as good this week, as she took a backseat to the domination of Aubry. However, she’s allied with Aubry and, after getting rid of Scot, looks to be in a much better position than she was last week. If Cydney can keep the girls and Joseph strong, she should have a chance to win this whole thing.

Once Jason is gone, Cydney has to be the favorite in most challenges and I think Aubry values her enough to keep her around. Cydney’s real challenge might be finding a way to get Aubry out of the game because, at this point, if Aubry makes Final Tribal Council, she’s winning this game.

4) Julia Sokolowski (-2)

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

Without knowing exactly what the Super Idol could do, I thought Julia played her situation well this week. She was trying to force Tai to play his idol, while her ally (Scot) got to keep his. On paper, that’s a good move; however, it was never going to happen. Julia’s biggest problem is that she’s been so obvious in playing both sides that Aubry and Cydney refuse to actually work with her. Aubry knew she had to take a shot at the idols last week, but I would not be surprised if she turns her sights on Julia. People who play the middle are dangerous and getting rid of a floater might be more helpful than getting rid of someone you know is against you (read: Scot). Julia’s in dangerous waters this Wednesday.

3) Kyle Jason (+1)

Strategy: 4  Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 8   Total: 21

Jason’s challenge performance was pretty great and solidifies him as the de facto physical threat going forward. Of course, his strategy has been terrible since the merge and his arrogance around camp has made it almost impossible to imagine a scenario where he can win this game.

With that said, I actually like his spot right now. He’s not going to win the game, but I don’t think it’s crazy to imagine him winning second place. Think about it. He is absolutely not a threat to anyone for at least two weeks. If he keeps his head down and lets the majority alliance cannibalize himself, then he gets down to final five. Depending on how the numbers play out, he might be the biggest immunity threat and could easily win a few in a row to get himself to the finals.

At that point, he probably loses to almost anyone left in the game (he might beat Joseph), but at least he can say he played the villain role to the T and got all the way to second place. He’s always saying how much he loved Russell Hantz’s game. Maybe it’s fitting if he follows in his footsteps all the way to the end.

2) Tai Trang (+4)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 10   Total: 24

From a pure entertainment standpoint, there isn’t anyone doing more for the show than Tai Trang. His performance this week was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen on television (scripted or otherwise) and he’s been a joy to watch all season. On the strategic side of the things, I’m still a little concerned that he may have made the wrong decision this weekend, but I think it’s still up for debate. On one hand, he loses two allies that he could’ve beat in the end and loses his power over the Super Idol. On the other hand, he now has the only Idol in the game and has an extra vote at one of the next few Tribal Councils. Is that swing enough to make this move look positive? That’s hard to say. In any case, Tai continues to be must-watch TV and I really hope he comes back sooner, rather than later.

1) Aubry Bracco (+2)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 9  Entertainment: 8   Total: 25

Aubry’s playing the best game of the season, and I don’t really see how you can argue it. She’s driving almost all of the strategy this season and has gone from an obvious position of disadvantage two weeks ago to being in the majority in the Scot vote. That’s a quick turnaround and really speaks to Aubry’s ability to subtly steer a person’s opinion. Her intentionality in conversation is fun to watch. Everything she says and does has a purpose and always furthers her game without making her look like too big of a threat. Plus, she’s shown a real aptitude for Survivor challenges. Going into the season, I assumed she’d be one of the first out in almost every challenge, but she sure has proven me wrong. Consider me fully on the Aubry bandwagon.

Next Boot:

Without Scot to shield her, I think Julia might be in the most trouble this week. She’s a known floater and it might be safer to cut off the person in the middle than to attack someone like Jason. I think Aubry has good control over both Cydney and Joseph, while Tai can’t really go anywhere else. That gives her a 4-3 advantage and lets her mostly dictate who goes. Obviously, anything could come up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Aubry or Tai targeted, but I think Julia is the safer bet.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week Nine Power Rankings

Survivor

Following last week’s episode of Survivor, one thing is for certain, our television sets are about to become a lot more boring on Wednesday nights with Debbie off the island. But seriously, Debbie was a Survivor character in every sense of the word. She was a joy to watch and I, for one, cannot wait for Survivor Redemption Island II: Coach vs. Debbie. It’s inevitable, right?

Anyways, you know the drill. The following are sports style power rankings and I’ll end this post with my prediction for the next boot (by the way, go back and look about how spot-on I was last week. I know my stuff…sometimes). On to the rankings!

9) Debbie Wanner (-4)

Strategy: 0   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 6   Total: 13

Here’s the weird thing about Debbie this week, I wouldn’t actually hate it if the rest of the tribe had followed her and voted for Scot. I mean, you know (or assume) the Super Idol is out there. You know that you have to attack it at some point to get it off the board and mitigate how much randomness can occur in the game. Therefore, putting votes on one of the threesome that has both idols and forcing them to either play the idols or keep them and go back on their words is probably the best move you could make.

With that said, you have to, and I mean HAVE TO, be fluid in the game of Survivor. When Debbie rolled into camp and was as rigid as a steel beam with her strategy, you knew that was a bad sign. She wasn’t willing to play with anyone else and would not even take the time to hear people out. No one wants to play with someone like that. They want to be validated. They want to believe that you think they’re smart (even if you don’t!). As much as this game can be about cold-hard logic, it’s also about controlling and playing to the other castaways’ emotions.

Debbie did not do that and she went home. Keep that in mind if you ever make it on the show.

8) Joseph Del Campo (0)

Strategy: 4  Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 5   Total: 13

At this point, it almost feels pointless to even write about Joseph. He’s loyal to an extreme fault and that’s literally all I know about him. He was willing to stick with Debbie even when it made zero sense to do so. If the Super Idol wasn’t hanging over the game, he’d be my next target. I just don’t see how you can play with someone like this.

7) Scot Pollard (0)

Strategy: 2   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 9   Total: 14

Scot did an incredible job…of playing himself into second place. The only people who would even consider voting for Scot right now are Tai and Jason. And really, I think Tai is even suspect. You just cannot mess with a person’s food if you want a shot at winning this game. It’s the kind of strategy that makes for good TV, but will get ripped to pieces if you make Final Tribal Council. And, I think we can all agree, Scot stands a much better chance of making the Finals now that he’s made such a horrible strategic move. People are going to want to bring him because they know he won’t get votes. It’s not an ideal position, but at least he got further than Uncle Cliffy.

6)Tai Trang (-4)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 9  Total: 17

Tai’s turn to the darkside was incredible to watch. He was so conflicted in every confessional and you know the editors were eating that up. I mean, this guy was the paragon of the Survivor community just a few weeks ago. Now he’s slowly giving into his anger and joining Darth Pollard and Kylo Jason on the evil Brawn empire. It is such great television. Here’s hoping the Tai downfall arc continues for at least a few more weeks. I won’t be satisfied until he strikes down that chicken.

5) Michele Fitzgerald (-2)

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

Michele was pretty quiet this week. She had a decent performance in the immunity challenge and was a key cog in bringing Julia into the Debbie vote. Otherwise, she felt super under the radar, which is either a good look for the game she’s been playing or an indication that she’s going to get that Kimmi edit from Cambodia and be voted out at around final five.

4) Kyle Jason (+5)

Strategy: 4   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 10   Total: 20

Jason really played to the cameras this week, especially at Tribal Council. He is a great Survivor villain. He’s easy to hate, but not so hateable that you actively want him out of the game. Instead, you want his roast to be slow, so you can eat it up each and every week until he ousted at final four or five. It’s going to be a fun next few weeks with Jason.

3) Aubry Bracco (+1)

Strategy: 9  Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 7   Total: 20

I thought Aubry was a little too quick to go after Julia. Sure, it never a bad move to vote out the person in between two alliances to get rid of some randomness and it would’ve been risky to go after any of the Scot, Jason, Tai coalition. However, you can’t win this thing until you get the Super Idol out of the game. It’s simply too powerful and is going to sway so many people. Better to take the early hit on the chin and give yourself enough time to regroup. That said, if she wasn’t going to vote out someone like Scot, I thought Aubry made the safest possible move she could. And (to cop a phrase from Alecia), at the end of the day, that’s sometimes the best move.

2) Julia Sokolowski (+4)

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

I was not a big fan of Julia’s decision to try and ally with Scot, Jason, and Tai. I mean, on paper, I’m a huge fan of putting yourself in the middle of two alliances and playing whichever one gets the power. I just wish she hadn’t been so obvious about it. This has to be a sly move, where neither side really knows that you’re playing them. Instead, she basically just announced her whole plan at the reward challenge and cost herself the trust of Aubry and Cydney. That’s a bad move and I question if her youth and inexperience is what caused her to chase the big, long-term move in favor of playing conservatively and biding your time. Maybe I’m reading too much into it; however, I wasn’t a huge fan of her strategy this week. Of course, if she keeps winning immunity, it doesn’t really matter.

1) Cydney Gillon (0)

Strategy: 9   Challenge: 4  Entertainment: 8   Total: 21

I’m starting to worry that my love for Cydney’s game is making me overrate her slightly. I think she played an incredibly great subtle game; however, we’ve seen her blow up on people a few times now. I wonder if that’s by design or if she’s actually struggling to control her anger. If it’s the latter, I struggle to see her surviving Scot and Jason’s attempts to sow chaos through the tribe. It’s also worth noting that she was the target last week if Julia hadn’t flipped. Will that continue and does that mean she may get idoled out the game? I certainly hope not. I think she’s played the strongest game thus far and, while Aubry or Julia would be solid secondary winners, I would feel a little disappointed if she doesn’t make Final Tribal Council. Fingers crossed, I suppose.

Next Boot:

So, if last week’s boot was tough to predict, I think this one is even more so. I know from osmosis (read: r/survivor) that there is an assumed third medivac coming (curse you, spoilers!). Just going off of who’s left and how they’ve been edited, I think it’s either Joseph with his invisible edit or Cydney with her borderline hero edit. This feels like the point an evac might be coming, though that’s just my gut.

Assuming a medivac doesn’t happen, I think the girls have to target that Super Idol ASAP. That means putting votes on either Tai, Jason, or Scot. If I was playing, I’d put them on Tai because I think he’s the least likely person to actually get that second idol passed to him ( i know, I know, he did last week, so this point is mostly moot). If the Super Idol (or regular idol, for that matter) is played, then it just comes down to who the boys vote for. Last week, that person was Cydney and I can’t see much of reason for that to change. Unless someone like Julia makes a move to upset Scot or Jason, I think we’re going to lose Cydney to an idol. You’ll find me in my room crying myself to sleep Wednesday night, if that’s the case. Thanks for reading. Talk to you Wednesday!

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – “Debbie, Debbie, Debbie”

Survivor

This is an absolutely must-watch season of Survivor, isn’t it? We’ve got incredible character development, solid strategy gameplay, and plenty of moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. And episode eight might just be the high watermark of the season thus far. It was legitimately that good.

There are at least three massive talking points coming out of tonight’s episode. Let’s examine them all in order of how they happened. First, we had Scot, Jason and Tai deciding to hide tools and put out fires.

To be honest, I almost universally hate this move. Sure, it stirs up chaos and could flip things around in your favor if played correctly. That said, when you are so obvious about it all you’re really doing is losing jury votes. I mean, think about it. Would you vote for someone to win a million dollars after they took away your ability to eat food on a deserted island? I didn’t think so.

In the short term, the move (along with their idol shenanigans) saved them, but how long does that last? Is there any way either of those three could win sitting against someone not in their current threesome at Final Tribal Council?

In my opinion, that was a move that nearly secures you third place. Second, at best. You just alienated everyone and taking food away is not something castaways forget easily. It’s just not the kind of move that wins you the game and you’d assume that people would’ve caught on after Russell Hantz tried to do it two seasons in a row and failed to win both times.

Of course, I would be remiss to not mention that, as much as I hate this as a Survivor move, I love it as television. Say what you want about Scot, Jason and Tai, it’s undeniable that they are excellent television. This season is single-handedly  making me interested in a Heroes vs. Villains II.

The second move that needs to be dissected is Julia’s move to try and bring in the Hantz-adjace alliance. On the surface, I like it because you’re giving yourself an opportunity to play off two alliances and potentially bring at least one goat with you to the finals.

However, I thought Julia was way too obvious about how hard she was playing both sides. She didn’t even wait a second before volunteering to go with the boys. How is that not sending red flags flying to every single female on the island? This was the first moment that I worried about her youth/inexperience was beginning to catch up to her. Julia obviously understands how to play Survivor, I just wonder if she knows how to play people.

You can’t mention Julia’s move without getting to my third talking point and that is Debbie’s severe inability to read people. It was ridiculous how poorly she read the situation regarding Julia, especially with Aubry and Cydney laying out it so clearly for her.

I wonder if Debbie’s success in her first vote was what ultimately led to her downfall. Ever since she orchestrated the Liz boot, Debbie has had this awkward arrogance about her. It was like she made one good move and then believed that she was, without question, the smartest person on the island. In Debbie’s head, no one is better at reading people; thus, Debbie’s gut is the only gut worth trusting.

When you’re playing Survivor, it’s fine to have confidence. Heck, if you’re not confident, you’re not getting the show. However, every player needs check that ego on the boat or you’re going to develop blinders. Debbie was so supremely confident in her reads and her ability to persuaded people that she was blinded to everyone around her.

If Debbie’s strategy is categorized as bad this week, then Aubry and Cydney are the exact opposite. Those girls are beyond impressive strategists, in my opinion. Aubry correctly read every single situation happening in the other alliance and Cydney was able to pull both Michele and Julia to their side. Really, the only thing I can knock on either of them this week is their inability to control Joseph. He just kind of does whatever he wants, making him a dangerous ally.

Outside of that, I felt that Aubry and Cydney were borderline perfect in their reads and strategy this week.   They both have an above average chance to win this game, though it’s going to be tough to navigate around that Super Idol.

All in all, this was one of the better episodes of Survivor in recent memory. Aubry and Cydney’s strategy was intriguing, Scot, Jason and Tai were hilarious, and Debbie’s character finished out its truly epic arc. I’m incredibly excited to see how this all plays out.

Check back this weekend for my sports style power rankings and enjoy the CBS previews!

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week Eight Power Rankings

Survivor

As I grow in my Survivor fandom, I find my taste in the show’s characters warping ever so slightly. For instance, just a few seasons ago, I think a hateable, arrogant jerk like Nick would quickly get on my nerves. When his “Purple” edit morphed into “post-merge athletic villain” I would have been clamoring for him to go home. I probably would’ve thought that his social game was trash and his confessionals were annoying.

However, as I rewatch older seasons more and more, I begin to fall in love with Survivor’s character archetypes in ways that I hadn’t before. The game is, at its core, a TV show, which means they need interesting people to find success. That’s why people like Nick and Peter such important players, especially in an all-new players season. They are so fun to root against that their portrayal by the edit reminds me of some of the best heels (bad guys) in professional wrestling. They know they’re playing a character and really amp up that version of themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes that self awareness bleeds a little too heavily into your gameplay and that’s where I think Nick made his mistake.

It’s all well-and-good to act like jerk in your confessionals. In fact, it’s a great way to get asked back for a second season and build your Survivor brand (along with that bank account). However, the best villains can put that persona aside in their day-to-day interactions and build real bonds with their fellow castmates. Nick was, unfortunately, super arrogant to the other castaway’s faces and doomed himself through his actions with Michele, Aubry, and Cydney. It was poor gameplay, but it sure was fun to watch.

How does Nick’s boot shake up my power rankings? Find out below.

10) Nick Maiorano (-9)

Strategy: 2   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 6   Total: 14

As mentioned above, I didn’t love Nick’s idea of social gameplay this week. He seemed to be trying to lock up a side alliance with Aubry by telling her how the vote was going to go, but his arrogance was an immediate turn off for her. Plus, you’re telling someone on the bottom exactly how the votes are going; giving them the information to pull a person or two and send someone from your majority alliance home in a split vote. A better player could’ve worked this situation to his advantage and gained a key ally in Aubry. It’s just too bad Nick’s not a very good player and seemed more interested in getting famous than winning the game.

9) Kyle Jason (+1)

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

Jason continues to befuddle me with how badly he’s playing the post-merge portion of this game. It appears that a switch flipped after he got his hands on the idol and now he’s playing with entirely too much confidence. Jason is at his best when he’s scrambling. He isn’t afraid to make big moves and shake things up. He’s shown an ability to make the tribe crumble and then be the first to pick up the pieces and stack them back up in his advantage. This wasn’t a great week for Jason, but it might just be the kick in the pants he needed to make his push to the finals.

8) Joseph Del Campo (+2)

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

Joseph is still not really doing anything outside of following Aubry and Debbie around. He’s quickly gaining #1 goat potential and, if you have the chance, you’d be crazy to not drag him to the finals. At this point, a Joe win would be the most surprising win in Survivor history.

7) Scot Pollard (0)

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

Scot’s strategy isn’t as bad as Jason’s, but it’s pretty close. His confidence is sky high right now and I can’t see him lasting much further in this game. Sure, he’s shown some aptitude for making friends, especially with people like Julia and Tai; however, he continues to cling to Jason. I feel like that will be his downfall because people are going to assume either Scot or Jason have the Brawn idol. So, unless he can flip the numbers next week, I’d assume the plan will be to split the votes on the two Brawn and flush that idol. If that’s the case, Scot goes home. Of course, not much has gone the way I predicted this season, so Scot’s probably winning.

6) Julia Sokolowski (-2)

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

I love how low-key Julia is playing right now. I’m not sure it’s a winning game, but I think it gets her to at least final five. She’s locked into a solid twosome with Michele and could easily flip to either Scot and Tai or Debbie and Aubry, depending on how the numbers go. Plus, no one is voting her out of the game right now because she’s not a dominant physical threat and everyone seems to like her. She has effective shields around from almost any angle. There are three obvious physical threats above her (Scot, Jason, and Cydney) and if you’re looking to get out an obvious jury threat, Tai is always going to be the first choice. She is perfectly in the middle and that might just be enough to win her the game.

5) Debbie Wanner (+4)

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

Debbie’s balls-to-the-wall alliance strategy is working in spite of her. No one wants to work with Debbie, but through circumstance and force of will, they’re doing it. Does that mean I think Debbie is winning? Of course not. She has terrible jury management and has spent her entire experience on the island pissing people off. She’s way too abrasive and cannot read people. Debbie has a good head for strategy and should be commended for making it so far, but I don’t see her lasting more than a few more weeks.

4) Aubry Bracco(+2)

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

Aubry is slowly building herself a nice little winner’s edit. She started out the season by breaking down on Brains beach and has steadily built herself into a strategic and social threat. Plus, she had to come back from losing Neal (and his idol), which makes her case even stronger. Next week’s preview seemed to suggest that the “girl’s alliance” isn’t long for this world, so she’s not quite out of the woods yet. That said, if anyone can play this game from the bottom of the totem pole, it’s Aubry. She’s proven that much.

3) Michele Fitzgerald (+2)

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

Any Michele fans have to be absolutely giddy at her placement in the tribe after this vote. She and Julia are firmly in the middle of any alliance that forms in Nick’s wake and they’re both well-placed as non-challenge threats. Plus, of the two Beauty ladies, Michele is the most visible in the edit. That likely signifies that she’ll have the bigger overall storyline and may just be playing for a spot at Final Tribal Council. She needs to boost her resume with one or two more big moves, but she’s got a really good chance at winning this game.

2) Tai Trang (0)

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 8   Total: 20

Strategically, I kind of hated Tai’s game this week. He started out by winning an immunity challenge that he absolutely didn’t need to and outed himself as a credible challenge threat. You could even argue that Cydney might have not played quite so hard if she had won immunity. If that’s the case, then losing immunity would’ve been a good move for Tai because he’s in a better spot if the majority alliance stays together.

Things didn’t get much better for Tai from there. He followed that up by revealing to everyone that Super Idols were in the game, which essentially confirmed to everyone that he either has an idol or knows who does. Are people going to work with him now that they know he isn’t being completely truthful with them? It’s certainly food for thought.

Tai’s final transgression wasn’t as damaging as his first two, but it’s worth discussing. For some reason, Tai cast his vote for Jason. Either Tai got confused by the plan (a relatively bad sign), Tai promised Nick he would never vote for him (a silly move, but not too terrible), or he was told a fake plan to confirm his loyalty. The last option is the worst because if people were already doubting his loyalty, insinuating that you’re lying to them about the idol isn’t going to help things.

Tai is a great character and makes for incredible TV, he’s just not a very good Survivor player.

1) Cydney Gillon (+3)

Strategy: 8   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 8   Total: 24

I’ve been a Cydney flag-bearer for quite some time. She subtly masterminded some impressive moves at Brawn beach and has shown an incredible willingness to be fluid in her vote. That “anybody but me” strategy has worked very well in the past and I believe Cydney can work it to the end. That said, she certainly put a target on her back with her big move this week. Cydney was in a great spot in the majority alliance, at least for now.

It’s hard to see Cydney getting past top seven in that alliance of Scot, Jason, Tai, Michele, Nick, Julia, and herself. It’s not hard to see why Cydney decided to make a move. And it might just be a game-winning move. If she can keep the women together, she’ll be firmly in the middle of two pairs (Debbie/Aubry and Michele/Julia). She could ride that alliance to final five and then have her choice of who to take with her to the finals.

That’s a great position to be in. And that’s what jumped Cydney back up to the top of the list.

Next Boot:

This is a difficult boot to predict. If the girl’s stay together, I think Michele and Julia would push against a Scot vote, while Cydney would want to keep Jason around. Debbie and Aubry might not be as keen to keep Joseph around, but you have to imagine they’d try to keep him there. That leaves Tai as the odd man out. That said, they have to assume that chances are relatively high he has an idol, so can they actually vote for him? I’m not so sure. If the women do stay together, I think the vote is either Scot or Jason and I lean toward Scot. He’s a challenge threat and Michele/Julia might be able to let him go if they keep Tai around.

However, I don’t think the girls stay together. The preview video suggests a fight between the women and I believe Julia and Michele will go back to Scot and Jason. That leaves Tai in the middle of two four-person alliances. It seems like that Tai would side with whatever team Scot is on (though he did just vote against him). If that’s the case, the vote might come down to either Debbie or Cydney. I don’t think anyone sees Aubry or Joseph as a challenge threat and wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to send home.

In the end, I think it comes down to whether they’d rather handle Debbie’s personality or Cydney’s challenge ability. I hope I’m wrong, but I think they take the easy vote and send Debbie home.

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.

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.

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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.