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 – 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.

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.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week 3 Power Rankings

Survivor

I’ve been having a crazy weekend, so I’m just posting my power ranking order this week without comment. It’s mostly for tracking purposes, as I doubt anyone wants to read this with no commentary, but I hope to get things settled after today and get back to full writeups this weekend.

16) Liz Markham (-3)
Strategy: 2   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 7   Total: 12

15) Peter Baggenstos (-10)
Strategy: 1   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 5   Total: 12

14) Alecia Holden (+1)
Strategy: 4   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6   Total: 15

13) Michele Fitzgerald (-5)
Strategy: 5   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 5   Total: 15

12) Nick Maiorano (-4)
Strategy:    Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 6   Total: 16

11) Julia Sokolowski (0)
Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16

10) Scot Pollard (0)
Strategy: 4   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16

9) Joseph Del Campo (+5)
Strategy: 6   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 5   Total: 16

8) Aubry Bracco (-2)
Strategy: 6   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6   Total: 1

7) Tai Trang (-4)
Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 7   Total: 18

6) Debbie Wanner (+10)
Strategy: 8   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 6   Total: 18

5) Kyle Jason (-3)
Strategy: 5   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 7   Total: 18

4) Anna Khait (+7)
Strategy: 7   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 6   Total: 18

3) Cydney Gillon (+1)
Strategy: 7   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 6   Total: 19

2) Neal Gottlieb (+4)
Strategy: 6   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 7   Total: 20

1) Caleb Reynolds (0)
Strategy: 6   Challenge: 9   Entertainment: 5   Total: 20

Survivor: Kaoh Rong Episode 3 –

Survivor

That’s three straight Survivor episodes that firmly fall in the “above average” tier of ratings. We’ve had that great mix of character development and strategy that makes excellent Survivor. In fact, I would say that Kaoh Rong has a better than expected chance to go down as one of the more exceptional season of modern Survivor.

This episode alone had: some great strategy in both the Beauty and Brains tribe, a fun (though rough) Idol hunt, character building and development abound, and a very satisfying blindside. Obviously, there’s a lot more game to be played; however, I think we could be looking at a really great season.

As always, let’s discuss each tribe in order of how they finished in the challenge. That means Beauty first, then Brawn, and finally Brains.

Beauty:

This Beauty tribe seems really stacked. I don’t know if they’ll lose anyone without either a swap or a medivac. Caleb has been a complete beast in every competition and everyone else is, at the very least, average. I pegged either Scot or Cydney as your “typical merge boot” before the season, but Caleb is making a strong case to be that “challenge beast” boot instead.

Luckily for Caleb fans, he’s doing a fine job of making friends. We know from last week that he and Tai are tight, and the bromance continues here. What’s a little more surprising is how quickly Nick is playing himself out of the graces of the women’s alliance. Nick’s shadiness is great news for Caleb and Tai, as they don’t really need to worry about the first boot if they ever lose a challenge.

Speaking of Nick, I loved that the edit gave us that moment where he sort of shrugs away and laughs about Tai crying over the dead chicken. They did a great job of setting up a few characters for us to hate and take joy from when/if they’re voted out of the game. These examples will become much clear in time, but this subtle, early instance made me chuckle.

Finally, I would be remiss to not talk about how happy Tai finding the #Taidol made me. I’m still worried that his tribe might use his perceived shadiness as a reason to vote him out, but he did it! And that’s all that matters.

With Tai’s idol, that stacked tribe in challenges, and the Anna, Michele, Julia alliance, it’s looking more and more like the Beauty tribe is going to run this season.

Brawn:

The talking point coming out of Brawn has to be that idol hunt. I thought the preview made Jason’s shoving of Alecia look much more vicious than it was in the episode, but it still was a little harsh. I get that you want (and maybe need) the idol; I just think you need to make the person on the bottom feel more comfortable that that if you don’t want them to flip.

I mean, we all know where this is going. Alecia is going to make the swap and then she’ll find new allies to go after either Scot or Jason. And it’s not like it will be hard to drum up support. Those two are major threats physically! Jason really has to work on his alliance management or it’s going to come back and bite him.

Outside of that fun little sequence, the biggest thing for me was Cydney’s gameplay. That girl is sneaky great at the social part of Survivor. She’s perfectly playing Alecia, while keeping Scot and Jason close. She’s always calm and seems to have a solid grasp of the game’s strategy. If you told me I couldn’t pick Neal as my winner, Cydney would be my girl. She’s just that good.

Other than those two things, it was a quiet night for the Brawn tribe, which is exactly what they needed.

Brains:

“They really laid that boot on thick,” was what I was thinking while watching Liz and Peter’s game blow up behind their backs. It’s never a good look when you are constantly telling the producers that you’re “in control” of this game or that you’re “confident”. If any phrases signal a Survivor’s boot that night, those are the two.

To be fair to Liz, she didn’t come off near as badly as Peter tonight. She was actually kind to Debbie when she explained her plan, which is about as far from Peter’s tactics with Aubry as you can get. However, in her confessionals, she was putting people down and acting like she and Peter were the only people playing. When you start to assume people are “good soldiers” who will do what you tell them to, that’s when you’ve made a real mistake.

Two of the biggest problems people have when they play Survivor are a lack of self-awareness and the inability to turn their blinders off. Liz made both of those mistakes in her short run this season. She was never able to realize what was going on around her because she thinks so highly of herself. She assumed that people would fall in line because she was so intelligent and knew so much about this game. She didn’t put in the time to actually get to know these people and, if she had, she may have realized that her assumptions about people (particularly Debbie) were way off base.

In short, she got what was coming to her. When you play this game with that much confidence and bravado, you better be able to back it up with the hard work necessary to actually pull people in. Someone like Russell Hantz was confident in thimself, but they also worked on people harder than anyone else. At least in the edit, Liz came off as someone who had had everything she wanted given to her and assumed that would be the same in Survivor. Of course, even with all that said, she didn’t come off near as poorly as Peter.

Oh Peter. I had actually turned around on you during last week’s episode after a poor initial vibe in the pre-season. And then you showed that arrogance that made me think you had a “zero percent chance of winning the game”.

His cocky confessionals would’ve been bad enough, but it was his Tribal Council performance that really made him look like a buffoon. Let’s just examine a few of things he said.

“As an ER doctor, social interaction is what I’m a professional in.”

This is immediately followed by both Debbie and Joseph trying to suppress laughter. If people are laughing at you when you make a statement, then it’s probably not true. And this was evident earlier in the episode when Aubry made a pitch to switch from Liz to Peter because he wasn’t treating her as an equal. Instead, he outright told her who to vote for and offered her no chance to argue. That’s great if you’re telling a nurse how to save someone’s life, not so great in Survivor.

Jeff: “You can’t judge a book by its cover out here.”

Peter: “I do judge a book by its cover.”

First of all, I think it’s probably a mistake to go against the guy who runs the show, but whatever. I’m pulling this quote because it speaks to what I talked about with Liz above. Neither Liz or Peter are able to get past their high perception of themselves. They view these players as pawns and not people and, therefore, don’t put in the work to actually learn anything about them. This leads to them having blindspots in their game and, ultimately, led to Liz’s boot.

“Well, it’s not your plan.”

This is what Peter says after Neal wonders which plan is “going forward”. Essentially, Peter is telling Neal he’s going home. Even if you have your votes locked up completely, that’s probably not a smart thing to say to someone you think might have an idol. You want to keep them comfortable so they don’t play it and your night is easier. Peter is basically daring someone to flip their vote because now Neil, the intended target, could play an idol and you might get idoled out. That’s, of course, assuming Peter does have his votes locked, and he doesn’t. This arrogance is not going to win you many friends back at the beach, even if everything does go according to plan.

“I like all of these people. I respect…some of their gameplay. But, at this point of the game, there’s three pairs, so..what do you want? Liz and I are both smart people and we’ve thought about everything.”

Listen, I appreciate some boldness in Survivor strategy. Heck, I even think there’s some value in just throwing everything out of the table. However, making statements like this is basically you just asking to be voted out. In about 15 seconds you’re putting down your entire tribe, telling them you’re better than they are, and demonstrating a complete lack of awareness in the game. Obviously, we’ve seen players like Alecia and Debbie completely turn things around, but I don’t know if Peter can come back from this debacle. He certainly better hope there’s no Brains on the jury if he does make it to Final Tribal Council.

That’s enough about Liz and Peter. Let’s end with some positives. First off, how about Debbie? She sure came out of no where to become a strategic powerhouse. I was really impressed both with how she calmly handled talking to Liz about the vote and how quickly she rallied her four together after being such an outsider for the first two episodes. I don’t know if the Debbie Wanner winner’s edit is in full effect, but it has some life!

Speaking of a winner’s edit, I think my personal favorite “small moment” of the season thus far is Neal’s fakeout at Tribal Council. Liz and Peter was so sure that Neal had the idol and he played it up in the perfect way. When Jeff asked if anyone wanted to play an idol, Neal turned to his bag and acted like he couldn’t find it. It wasn’t a #BIGMOVE, but it was a funny moment that only furthered my Neal love. I picked Jeremy last season, so let’s make it 2-for-2, Neal!

Check back early next week for my sports style power rankings.

 

Survivor: Kaoh-Rong – Week 2 Power Rankings

Survivor

Who saw that boot coming? I sure didn’t. RIP in peace my boot list. I didn’t peg either of the first two losers to win the game, but I did have them firmly through the merge. Shows how much I know! On that note, let’s get right into this week’s power rankings and then we can all laugh about how wrong I am on Wednesday.

17) Jennifer Lanzetti (-13)

Strategy: 0   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 7   Total: 12

Biggest Tribal Council meltdown in Survivor history? Maybe. All I know is that I had Jenni’s strategy score firmly sitting at a seven pre-TC and then those points just ticked off, one after the other. It was pretty astonishing to see someone is such a position of power lose it in ten minutes of TV time and probably a hour and a half of real time. Oh well. Better luck next time, Jenni!

16) Debbie Wanner (+1)

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 4   Entertainment: 6   Total: 13

I see a lot of people love Debbie on the Internet, so I can’t help feeling like I’m missing something. Sure, she’s entertaining because she’s so dumb, but I just can’t get past her constantly telling everyone how great she is and then not backing it up. If she makes the merge, I’ll be very surprised.

15) Alecia Holden (+3)

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 5   Entertainment: 5   Total: 13

Alecia’s redemption arc is in full effect! She lit the fire after spending five hours (FIVE HOURS!) working on it. She kept her cool during Tribal Council, helping Jenni sidle off the edge in the process. Heck, she didn’t even completely space out in the challenge! These are small steps, but at least they’re in the right direction. I’ve come around on Alecia a little bit and firmly believe she’ll make the merge, at least as a goat candidate. She’s still dumb as bricks though.

14) Joseph Del Campo (0)

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

Joseph’s confessionals rubbed me the wrong way in this episode. I was hoping he’d play up his age and wisdom a little bit and become the “father figure” of the tribe. That worked well for people like Bob Crowley and Paschal English and I think Mr. Del Campo could’ve played a similar (though more physical) game. Instead, he’s constantly down on the younger members of the tribe; both in and out of confessionals. That doesn’t lead me to believe that he’ll be having a very long run.

13) Liz Markham (-4)

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

Much like Joseph, I wonder if Liz is playing herself into a situation that will lead to her being a pre-merge boot, just from the way she treats people outside of her alliance. I get the impression that Liz doesn’t completely realize how she comes off to people, especially the older members of her tribe. Some of the things she says are obviously rubbing Joseph the wrong way and you have to wonder how exactly the numbers would shake out if the Brain tribe goes to Tribal Council. Is it too crazy to envision a scenario where Joseph and Debbie bring in Aubry to vote against Liz and then either Neal or Peter flips to avoid a tie? Liz is in a potentially precarious position and I’m not sure she realizes it just yet.

11 (tie) Julia Sokolowski (-5) and Anna Khait (-5)

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

Julia and Anna had next to zero screen time and their score reflects that. However, I’m still pretty high on these two and fully believe that the Beauty Women Trio could very well run this game. Hoping to see a lot more from them in episode three.

10) Scot Pollard (-8)

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

I could be misreading his edit, but it seems to me that Scot plays the game on a very surface level strategically. I really think he voted out Darnell because he dropped the goggles and he obviously wanted to keep Jenni around even after she tried to play him. If he doesn’t have Jason on his side, I don’t know how far Scot can go. He needs someone to make decisions for him and, the second that stops or he decides he knows better, I think he’s gone.

8 (tie) Nick Maiorano (+6) and Michele Fitzgerald (+4)

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

Nick and Michele are pretty much in the same boat as Anna and Julia. The only reason they’re above those two in the rankings is because they were shown as relatively strong competitors in the challenge. Otherwise, it’s pretty equal (though less equal for Nick) for these four Beauties after episode two.

6(tie) Neal Gottlieb (+2) and Aubry Bracco (-3)

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

Neal and Aubry are subtly in control of the Brains tribe. They’ve shown real skill both in challenges and (mostly in Neal’s case) around the shelter. More importantly, they firmly in the middle of the two emerging alliances and get to decide which way the early game goes (barring a swap). That’s impressive for an ice cream guy and a girl who almost died on the first day. I’ve been very impressed with both competitors thus far.

5) Peter Baggenstos (+5)

Strategy: 6   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 4   Total: 18

I bagged on Liz quite a bit for being in a potentially bad spot against Joseph and Debbie, so you might be surprised to see Peter, her running mate, placed this highly. However, outside of his alliance with Liz, I actually think Peter is relatively well-placed in this tribe. He’s a challenge beast that they have to keep around and his job has uniquely shaped him to thrive in situations where things are hectic and up-in-the-air. I think Peter makes the merge even if Liz goes home and I could easily see him make a deep run.

4) Cydney Gillon (+7)

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

Cydney’s fluidity continues to impress me. She’s playing a great “anybody but me” game right now and put herself in a good position on a bad tribe. I suspect we have at least two more eliminations before a swap and I don’t Cydney would go home even if Brawn lost both of those immunity challenges. Alecia would be the easy first boot and I really think that Scot and Jason would turn on each other before giving Cydney the axe. She’s very subtle in how she maneuvers and that’s a trait I didn’t notice in her pre-season videos and bio. If this woman can get past the Brawn tribe, there’s no telling what she could do.

3) Tai Trang (+10)

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

It’s weird putting Tai here because I still think he’s a solid candidate for next boot on the Beauty tribe. However, how can you not love this man? He is the most entertaining thing about this show if you’re into the characters of Survivor. I know I’ll relish every single second Tai is on my TV and I hope his boot comes later than sooner.

2) Kyle Jason (-1)

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 8   Entertainment: 6   Total: 21

Jason continues to rule the roost that is the Brawn tribe. He’s been at the forefront of nearly all the strategic decisions the tribe has made. In episode two, I really liked how he was able to pick up on Jenni’s potential flip in spite of his alliance-mate Scot having no idea what was going on. That shows me who the brains of the operation is and tells me that Jason is pretty good at reading people; an important skill in Survivor. If he’s able to steal an idol from Alecia (as hinted at in next week’s preview), then the other competitors could be in trouble. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t make the top seven, at least.

1) Caleb Reynolds (+4)

Strategy: 5   Challenge: 10   Entertainment: 7   Total: 22

Caleb was always a physical competitor during his run in Big Brother and, so far, his Survivor game is no different. If he can make the merge, he might have a chance to make a deep run. He’s physically fit and looks to have a ton of heart. Of course, that could play the other way and Caleb could work himself out of the game in a medi-vac. That said, I think Caleb has a good shot to make some noise. If he and Tai lock up their bromance and turn it into an alliance soon, they could be dangerous, depending on how the Beauty Women decide to go when their tribe goes to Tribal Council.

Next Boot:

Brawn — Alecia. Well, I didn’t think there was any way she’d make it past another Brawn TC, but she did. That said, I can’t see the Brawn letting her get past another one if they want to keep their alliance in tact. However, I really don’t think we’re getting another Brawn Tribal Council before a swap. They have to win at some point, right?

Beauty — Nick. We have seen almost zero development for Nick since the season began. I don’t know who this guy is. That either means he’s going deep and they’re waiting for his story to pick up, or he’s an early boot who doesn’t have a story to tell (think Monica Padilla from Survivor: Second Chance). With the women in charge of Beauty and Tai and Caleb getting on so famously, I think Nick is the easiest out if Beauty goes to see Jeff next week.

Brains — Liz. As much as I’d love to see Debbie get sent home, I don’t think it’s happening this week. If Brains loses (and I think they will based on how episode two was edited), I’m looking for either a 3-3 vote split between Debbie and Liz or for Liz to go home straight up. I think Aubry will side with Debbie and Joseph and she’ll bring Neal with her. Liz’s edit just seems to be setting her up too hard for an early boot.

Survivor: Kaoh Rong Episode 2 – “A Tribal Implosion”

Survivor

Going into the second episode of the season, I’m not sure many people would’ve predicted the final outcome of the night’s Tribal Council. After all, the person who went home was in a majority alliance with her tribe and there was a very, very obvious easy boot sitting right in front of her. But, before we get to that, let’s break the episode down tribe-by-tribe.

Beauty:

Beauty continues to be the most fun to watch tribe, largely because of Tai. Outside of the events at Tribal Council, Tai’s budding bromance with Caleb was the standout moment of the episode. His ability to be so effortlessly charming and hilarious demonstrate how on top of their game Survivor’s casting department is. This man is a gem and if he’s voted out pre-merge, I will be devastated.

That said, I don’t see Tai as a real strategic threat. Sure, he knows how to build connections and get people on his side. However, I really question if it was worth it to continue to go after the idol. Obviously, we don’t know if he’s the only one out there looking, but they’re showing him looking for a reason. I’m very worried for Tai’s long-term game because of how out of his element he appears to be in the strategic element of the game.

Outside of Tai and Caleb, the Beauty tribe was basically invisible. Michele and Julia got a confessional each, while Nick and Anna had none. That makes two straight weeks of minimal involvement of Nick, making him a candidate to be a very inconsequential player in this season. However, this may change quickly, as things tend to do in this game.

Even without a focus on camp life for Beauty, they continue to be the “jack of all trades” tribe in immunity challenges. They have brawn in Caleb or Nick, puzzle skill in Anna or Julia, and they have Tai’s dexterity for skill-based challenges. I don’t see this tribe going to Tribal Council before the swap. They’re too stacked.

Brains:

Brains had a very interesting episode that, I believe, it setting up quite a few future storylines to be explored as soon as next week. First, we had Debbie continuing to espouse all of her many virtues and talents, while not actually demonstrating any of them. Her comments about having the “immune system of a horse” really irked me. Whether it’s true or not that she won’t pick up bacteria from drinking untreated water, it’s one of the dumber things to come out of her mouth, which is saying something.

Joseph also jumped to the forefront of our TV sets this week, but, like Debbie, he wasn’t painted in a good light. He got into arguments with Liz and generally seemed like a crotchety old man, constantly bellowing at everyone, while failing to properly take care of the tribe’s fire. His confessionals were equally concerning, if you’re a Joseph fan. He seems out of his element, at least in this tribe, and I would be surprised if he’s not targeted early.

That said, there is one sliver of hope for both Joseph and Debbie. Neither were shown fighting with Aubry. Instead, all the tribal disagreements happened between those two and the triumvirate of Liz, Neal, and Peter. It’s not completely crazy to envision a world where Joseph and Debbie bring in Aubry to fight against the younger alliance.

Of course, Aubry appears to be a solid Survivor player and might asses the situation, see that the game is likely close to a swap, and assume that it’s safer to stick with the younger players and keep their numbers up heading into a swap.

Brawn:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so utterly and completely implode their own game at Tribal Council than the show Jenni put on tonight. I kept thinking that there’s no way this could get any worse for her and she continued to prove me wrong. She topped herself over and over again and gave any future contestants the perfect video to watch of what not to do at Tribal. Let’s quickly run down her mistakes.

1) She told her alliance that there was talk of the women coming together to blindside them. This isn’t completely terrible on the surface, if you can frame it correctly. That is not something Jenni did. In this scenario you say, “sure Jeff, there was talk, but I didn’t actually think about it”. You don’t act like it was a very real possibility right in front of the people you’re potentially blindsiding. Jenni said, “it’s up in the air…this isn’t as solid as I thought.” That’s not a comforting sentence, especially when you’re playing with someone as shrewd as Jason and someone like Scot who is constantly on the lookout for an easy out.

2) She then tried to put all the blame on Alecia, which is the right move. However, she made a huge error in how she presented herself, while Alecia exhibited, for once, some actual social skill. When your back is against the wall, it’s key to stay calm in Survivor. The second you start to look like a crazy person, that’s how people will view you and it’s where alliances get flipped. Alecia did a great job of keeping her cool, while Jenni completely lost it. That makes her look like the liar.

3) Midway through her breakdown, Jason asks who Jenni said to throw on the chopping block. Alecia pipes up with, “Jason!” and Jenni says, “Absolutely!” This guy is the ringleader of your alliance and the best strategic player on your tribe. And you’re going to tell him, at Tribal Council, that you batted around the idea of sending him home? You can’t be serious.

4) Finally, she gets up on her stool and implores to her original alliance to stick together and keep her around. During this, we see Jason and Cydney look at each other and shake their heads. Now, I’m not a mind-reader, but I firmly believe that this look was saying, “We can’t keep someone this unstable around.” Both of those player are playing a deeply strategic game and, when you’re doing that, you need to as few unstable elements as possible. You want to be in control. I don’t think they believed that they could control Jenni anymore and that is why she ultimately went home.

Now, I’ll be fair, there’s probably a lot we didn’t see. I’m sure Jenni wasn’t as bad as she showed here. And, I have to admit that she made some decent pleas toward the end of her fight. Chiefly, she stuck to pointing out how weak Alecia is in challenges and at camp. Considering the tribe she’s on, I think that might’ve worked, it certainly seemed to sway Scot. However, it’s hard to deny that her showing in Tribal Council was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, which is a shame because she demonstrated some real potential in the first episode. Maybe we’ll see her back someday.

Check back early next week for my weekly power rankings.

Survivor: Kaoh-Rong – Week 1 Power Rankings

Survivor

The first episode of Survivor: Kaoh Rong is in the books and I’ve taken a few days to rewatch the episode and collect some thoughts. What follows is a sports style power rankings and then a short ranking of who I think will be the next boot for each tribe. Alecia fans, feel free to tell me how badly you disagree in the comments.

18) Alecia Holden

Strategy: 2   Challenge: 3   Entertainment: 4   Total: 9

Wow, I didn’t know it was possible to do this much wrong in the first episode, help your tribe lose immunity, and still be on the show. Alecia was such an obvious first-boot that I have to  completely reject the idea that Darnell was voted out because he dropped the goggles. There’s something else going on here. Unfortunately for Alecia, there’s nothing going on for her. Moving on.

17) Debbie Wanner

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

Maybe I’m putting too much of myself into this ranking and downgrading Debbie because her personality grates on me to no degree; however, it didn’t seem like many of her tribemates would disagree with me when I say that this woman has no chance of winning the game. She cannot shut her mouth and is your typical “know-it-all” who can’t actually do anything. I don’t think that flies for very long with the Brain tribe and she’s out soon.

16) Darnell Hamilton

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

Oh King Darnell, we hardly knew ye. We had that one shining moment when you took the aqua-dump and blessed us with the funniest moment of the episode. And then you dropped the goggles and the jocks threw you in the locker known as Ponderosa. It was a good run while it lasted, my friend.

14(tie) Joseph Del Campo and Nick Maiorano

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

Joseph and Nick gets a perfectly average score because they was perfectly average in their first episode. That said, Nick looks to be in a better position, as Joseph is the victim of the younger Brains ganging up on him and Debbie. Of course, it’s still early and either guy could rub someone the wrong way and turn things completely. I’m intrigued to see where both players’ games go.

13) Tai Trang

Strategy: 3   Challenge: 6   Entertainment: 7   Total: 16

Oh Tai. If this season were a popularity contest, I fully expect you would win it by a mile. In fact, Tai might be the most lovable human on Survivor since Keith. That’s saying a lot. Sadly for Tai, he decided to search for Idols a little too early and a little too obviously. He looks to be on the outs over at Beauty beach and might be the target if they lose immunity. Hope you find that Idol, Tai!

12) Michele Fitzgerald

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

Michele wasn’t overly impressive this week, but she also didn’t do much wrong. She’s obviously tight with Julia and Anna; however, I see those two as more in control and Michele sort of following along. That’s hard to tell in just a few segments, so that perception could easily change in a week or two. She looks locked to make the merge, but you never know.

11) Cydney Gillon

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

I’m really feeling Cydney’s game right now. I couldn’t give her too many points because she wasn’t overly impressive in any category; however, I loved how malleable she seemed to be a Tribal. She knows she’s the fourth person in the Jason, Scot, Jenni alliance and wanted to keep Darnell around. However, when it came down to it, she didn’t fight too much to keep him around. With such an easy boot like Alecia next to you, I like that she was smart enough to keep herself out of any drama. Cydney will make the merge barring some type of insanity. I just don’t know if her physical presence will make her a threat to be the merge boot or not.

10) Peter Baggenstos

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

I came into the season very ready to hate a few players. Peter was one of them. So far, I don’t see anything wrong with him. Obviously, he had minimal time in the edit, but he seemed to turn off his hyper-competitive, super-leader personality and, if he continues to downplay that side of his personality, he could go far.

9) Liz Markham

survivor_peterbaggenstos

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

If Jeff Probst was dreaming up the ultimate female competitor in a lab, I’m fairly certain she would look a lot like Liz. She’s gorgeous, extremely intelligent, and looks to have a good grasp of the social game. And that’s why it’s so sad to see her screwed by the season’s twist. If she was on any other tribe, she could easily play down her intelligence and hide how much of a threat she is until at least the merge. On the Brains tribe, she has no chance. I still think she makes the merge, I just don’t see a ton of hope after that.

8) Neal Gottlieb

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

Neal is going to be a big threat to win this game. He’s smart, but not too smart. He knows the game and understands how to work people. Really, the biggest thing I’m worried about with Neal is what happens when he gets comfortable. We know that he thinks he has a solid four with Liz, Peter, and Aubry, but Aubry is also making good connections with Joseph and Debbie. Next week will tell us a lot about the type of player Neal is. A Survivor winner will work Aubry hard and that’s what I expect out of Neal. Time will tell.

6(tie) Anna Khait and Julia Sokolowski

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

I’m slotting these two together because I really felt they were the most connected out of the Beauty tribe. The women’s alliance looks to be running that tribe and these two are the queenpins. They also had a good showing in the immunity challenge during the puzzle portion. I pegged Anna to make it far in the pre-season, but Julia is very surprising. Maybe I underestimated the young lass (too soon?)

5) Caleb Reynolds

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

Like Peter, I was ready to hate Caleb. I did not like him at all during his Big Brother season and didn’t expect anything out of him. However, the two things Caleb can do well are compete and be a good, loyal soldier. He did that in this episode and was a big reason why his tribe didn’t lose immunity. A few more weeks like this, and you might just turn me, Mr. Reynolds.

4) Jennifer Lanzetti

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

It’s hard to give Jenni a fair shake, given that the majority of her edit consisted of her having a bug crawling around in her brain. That said, I was impressed that she didn’t let emotions get the better of her at Tribal Council. And, for what it’s worth, she actually gave it everything on the immunity puzzle, unlike Alecia. So, there’s that. She has a high ranking because she’s in a good spot with the majority alliance in the only tribe to see a Tribal. I need to see more before I believe that she can stick around the Top Five.

3) Aubry Bracco

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

Aubry had herself an episode, didn’t she? First, she had a panic attack that quickly painted her as a potential weak link. Then, she blew that out of the water (literally) by dominating the swimming portion of the immunity challenge. Finally, her one episode redemption arc culminated in her destroying the competition at the puzzle. She has to be your early dark horse candidate.

2) Scot Pollard

pollardweb_lrg

Strategy: 7   Challenge: 7   Entertainment: 5   Total: 19

Scot did exactly what we thought he would. He dominated everything physical and he preyed on other contestants physical weakness when deciding his vote. Listen, Scot Pollard will never win this game, but he’s going to make the merge. Any tribe that he’s on will be more than pleased to keep this monster around to help them dominate anything physical, but when we hit the individual part of the game, he’s gone ASAP. It should be a fun run until then, though.

1) Kyle Jason

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

Jason takes the top spot because his all-around game was on point this week. He’s entertaining in confessionals, he did his job in the challenge, and he’s the Godfather of his tribal alliance. This guy told us he was coming to play and, so far, he has not disappointed. I think Jason goes deeper than any other Brawn in this game and he could very well win it. The only thing I can say bad about him is that he didn’t steal anyone’s clothes on night one, so maybe all that Russell Hantz talk was just talk.

Next Boot:

Brawn — Alecia. I mean, come on. Did you really expect anyone else? Her only chance if Brawn loses immunity is Scot and Jason deciding to turn on each other to solidify themselves as the tribal leader. Otherwise, Alecia is gone.

Beauty — Tai is the easy pick and, realistically, I think it’s the pick that will be made. That said, I don’t see any of the men sitting in a good position just yet. It is very easy to see either Nick or Caleb sticking their foot in their mouth and taking Tai’s place as enemy number one. Plus, the preview for next week had Tai and Caleb in a potential bromance, which could spell trouble for Nick.

Brains — Debbie is the person I’d like to see go. Her personality and one-upmanship grates on my nerves pretty hard and, out of the old timers on the Brain beach, I think Joseph is the better player. Thus, I’m looking for Debbie to be the boot if the Brain tribe flubs immunity.

Survivor Kaoh Rong Episode 1 – “A ‘Mental’ Giant”

Survivor

Survivor is back y’all. The 90 minute premiere episode of the latest season of the world’s best reality show didn’t hold anything back and the potential seems to be there for a truly great season of Survivor. We had tears. We had bloody ears. We had idol hunting for almost no reason. We even had a crazy first tribal council that saw a tie at the first boot. What an episode.

There’s a lot to get to here, so I’m going to break it down into each tribe and talk about all of them in turn. We’ll start with the Brain tribes and then move onto Beauty and finally hit the Brawn because they have the most to talk about.

Brains:

The Brain beach was pretty mild in the premiere. We saw Peter, Neal, and Liz get together and seemingly lock in a “young people’s” alliance with Aubry. However, Aubry was barely shown with any of them and, in fact, seemed to be spending quality time with Joseph. Are they going to be able to bring her over and get the numbers or will she stick with Joseph when/if Brains have to go to tribal council.

Of course, with the way Debbie is annoying people, it might not matter too much. In the pre-season, I was very worried that Debbie was going to overstate her credentials and get herself on the outs early on. That seems to be happening and I would be very surprised in Debbie doesn’t find herself on the hotseat next week.

If Debbie is able to get out of her current jam (which, it could be argued she doesn’t even know she’s in), I think it can only come about from her really embracing the “mother” role. She seemed to lean into it some when Aubry had her panic attack/dehydration spell. I don’t know if moments like that will be enough to overcome her overbearing personality, but it looks like her only hope outside of a long string of Brain immunity wins.

Speaking of Aubry, that girl is a gamer. She might’ve had the best overall challenge performance to open the season and totally threw off any labels of weakness the tribe might’ve put on her during her panic attack. I didn’t expect big things from Aubry coming into the season, but she proved herself in that challenge.

Beauty:

Oh Tai. You had it locked up. You were so easily in the women’s alliance and had the love of America. Then you screwed it up by looking for the idol. And you weren’t even sly about it. I don’t know if this actually kills Tai’s game; however, the five other members of his tribe immediately shook hands on a five-person alliance. So, it’s not looking good for Mr. Trang.

I was a little surprised about how quickly the women came together. It seemed almost immediate and was in stark contrast to the men doing almost nothing on the strategy front until the women came to them about Tai. Obviously, Survivor is super edited down, so there’s probably more that happened that we didn’t see. It will telling to see what happens when Caleb and Nick are put up against it if they lose immunity.

That said, I think the Beauty tribe is probably the most well-rounded team out of the three. Caleb and Nick are physical beasts, Tai looks to be great at some of dexterity-based skills, and Anna and Julia seemed solid at puzzles. Michele didn’t do anything poorly, she just wasn’t overly impressive. These guys might not see a tribal council until we hit a swap.

Brawn:

I’m just going to come out and say, I think the Brawn tribe made the wrong move this week. At this stage of the game, you want to have a competition strong tribe and, while Darnell screwed up in dropping his goggles, I don’t think one screwup merits a vote out. Especially when you have someone like Alecia, who brings absolutely nothing of value to any challenge and doesn’t even help in the camp.

There has to be something else at play outside of Darnell’s goggle drop. That just isn’t a reason to vote someone out at this stage, when someone else so completely failed to do anything. Alecia was zero help in either of the physical portions of the challenge and showed so little ability in the puzzle portion that she traded places with Scot, who continually reminded us in the opening 30 minutes that he’s on Brawn because he’s not smart.

Then she had the nerve to call herself a “mental giant”. You can’t say that when a folding chair would’ve had been your mental equivalent during a Survivor puzzle. She has so little self-awareness that I almost feel bad for her. But that wasn’t even the end for Alecia.

When they got back to camp, Scot and Jason (Kyle? I have no idea) told her, over and over again, that she was safe. So, Alecia just chilled out and let Darnell be the easy vote out, right? You don’t know Alecia very well. Instead, she decided to keep coming at Scot and Kyle (Jason?). Scot got so annoyed with her that he had to just walk away. This guy is trying to help you! Why are you still trying to work him?

If the Survivor Gods were just, Alecia would’ve been sent home in a 6-0 vote. She would’ve gotten confused and thought she needed to vote for herself to stay. Unfortunately, Scot and Jason (Kyle?) are playing the end game in the first week and seem to want to keep the ultimate goat around. I don’t know if I can get behind that strategy.

So, Darnell went home and we’re robbed of one of the greatest potential bromances in television history between King Darnell and Tai. Also, Cydney is probably on the bottom of her alliance with Scot, Jason, and Jenni and won’t be able to turn things around until the swap. And, most importantly, Darnell’s one great moment was him pooping too close to camp. So, I would guess chances of a return are probably low.

All in all, it was a good first episode that set up quite a few storylines across the board. Scot and Jason are running the Brawn tribe, but might be playing too hard, too early. I’m looking for Jenni to make a move soon and take back power. Over at the Beauty tribe, Tai is on the outs, but I’m not so sure that it will stick. Next week’s preview seemed to point toward him and Caleb developing a bond, so that could turn things around for Tai and potentially pit the boys against the girls. And finally, the young foursome at Brains look solid; however, Aubry was getting close to Joseph in the premiere, so it might not be as locked down as Neal, Peter, and Liz think it is. Either way, the stage is set for a great season of Survivor, here’s hoping the contestants continue to bring it next week.

Survivor Kaoh Rong – Pre-Season Tier List

Survivor

Survivor Kaoh Rong starts up next Wednesday and has the unenviable task of trying to follow up Second Chance’s incredible returner’s season from last fall. It’s way too early to tell if it has a chance to do that; however, it’s never too early (or late, as the case may be) to do a pre-season tier list. So read on and let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.

Tier Four – “First Boot Potential”

Debbie Wanner – Brains: I’m very interested to see how Debbie performs in this game. On paper, she looks very deadly as a competitor; however, her attitude in her video tells me that she thinks very highly of herself. If she doesn’t reign that in, she’s going to have problems. We saw this in the last version of BvBvB where the Brain tribe thought they knew everything and wouldn’t work together. Will Debbie’s “know-it-all” attitude rub people the wrong way? I would say the odds are high that she does and she’s gone before the merge.

Julia Sokolowski – Beauty: Julia’s best chance is to stay under the radar and never be seen as a threat until the merge. From there, she’d have to make some major moves to build up a resume and make a run. That said, I cannot see any group of Survivor players letting an 18-year-old girl win the game. For one, I don’t think many of the men on the island will want to work with her outside of using her as a pawn. And, more importantly, I can’t see her getting votes over anyone if she does make it to the end because she’s so young.

Caleb Reynolds – Beauty: I can’t see anybody wanting to play with Caleb for a long period of time. I watched his Big Brother season when it was airing and he’s not a mental threat and is a pretty poor strategist. That said, he does bring physical strength and has value as a number in an alliance, so he could stick around through the tribal phase of the game. Beyond that, I don’t see much hope for Caleb fans. He’s incredibly full of himself, but isn’t good at strategy. That’s a dangerous player for anyone intelligent enough to win this game and I think that makes him a lock to be voted out ASAP after the merge.

 

Scot Pollard – Brawn: I don’t care how far he gets. Scot Pollard could make it all the way to FTC, but he’s not winning the game. People just won’t vote for an ex-NBA player to win the million dollars. You could maybe convince me of a jury that’s so ridiculously bitter that they just refuse to vote for the other player, but that seems unlikely. He’s just not going to win this game. He could easily make the merge and even make a deep run into the end game. However, when it comes to the final vote, almost no one is writing Scot’s name down.

Tier Three – “Hey, Making the Merge is Still an Accomplishment”

Cydney Gillon – Brawn: I actually think Cydney has the skillset to make a deep run, I just can’t shake the feeling that people are going to want her out as soon as individual immunity comes around. In fact, I predict that Cydney will be your merge boot if she doesn’t win immunity. Also, people who try to have “multiple personalities” almost never work. Hopefully she stops that.

Aubry Bracco – Brains: Quirky, super-fans can go a lot of ways. That’s what makes Aubry so hard to peg down. Sure, she knows the game and has the brains to make it far, but she’s also odd and could easily find herself on the outs depending on her tribe’s makeup. Just from her video, I’m seeing more of the latter and believe that Aubry has major goat status. I expect her to make the merge, I just don’t see her having any chance to win this game.

Nick Maiorana – Beauty: Wow. Where do you slot this guy? I have to assume he’s playing up a character (very much so) because I can’t believe anyone would actually act like this guy in real life. He does know the game pretty well and he looks pretty athletic, so he has a chance. That said, can he keep that ego in check throughout the game? I don’t think so. I see Nick quickly rubbing his tribemates the wrong way and being a pre-merge boot.

Peter Baggenstos – Brains: Peter comes off as a guy who is a little too full of himself in both his video and his bio. That could be a major detriment to his game. If he tries to take charge too hard, too early, he might just end up being the first guy voted out on the Brains tribe. However, he also looks like a physical threat, so, if he’s able to keep his head down, he should make it through at least the first few weeks. I don’t see much winner potential in Peter, but I also don’t see him as an early boot. I expect he’ll be a mid-game boot that we don’t talk about much in a few years.

Alecia Holden – Brawn: Alecia is relatively hard to read for me. She didn’t give up much to tell you how she’ll perform either way in her video or her bio. That said, I think her comments about her temper could be the one thing that gives us insight into her performance. You could easily see her tribe lose one of the early challenges, leading to her yelling at someone and going home. Therefore, I’m keeping her right in the middle tier. She could just as easily make a run to the top as be the first boot.

Michelle Fitzgerald – Beauty: Like Alecia, I think Michelle is pretty middle-of-the-road. She doesn’t immediately pop as a potential winner, but she also isn’t an obvious early out. I have a feeling she’ll make it to around the Final Seven and have a chance to make a play for better. However, I think she gets there mostly due to the play around her, rather than her own play. She has some potential, it’s just not as obvious as some of the players around her.

Tier Two – “So You’re Saying There’s A Chance”

Jennifer Lanzetti – Brawn: At first watch, I see a lot of Trish in Jennifer. They’re both brash, do-everything women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and don’t take any crap. That could be good for Jennifer, especially if she’s able to get behind a strong meat shield like Trish got behind Tony. She’ll have to pick her shield a little better than Trish if she plans to make the end, but she has some quality options on the Brawn tribe. I’m looking for Jennifer to get behind either Scot Pollard or Kyle Jason early and potentially make a deep run. She could win, but a lot of things will have to fall the right way.

Tai Trang – Beauty: I want Tai to win so badly. He is incredible TV in his intro video and you have to believe that will translate to the show. However, there are two major things playing against Tai. First, his accent and I don’t say that to be mean. Survivor is a deeply social game and adding in an element that makes you difficult to understand will only hurt your chances. And second, his likability. No one will want to go to the end with Tai. Everyone is going to love this man and he’s going to get jury votes, you know he is. Sadly, that means he’ll have to win a string of immunities to make it to the end and I’m not sure he can pull it off.

Darnell Hamilton – Brawn: The first time I watched his video, I thought Darnell had winner’s potential. And he could do it, I just wonder if he’ll be a victim of people not wanting to sit next to a charismatic guy who needs the money. Darnell appears to have the social chops and knowledge of the game to go far. And he could be well-placed in the brawn tribe where some of the obvious physical threats will be targeted first. I just can’t shake the feeling that he’s a Final Five or Seven boot, which keeps him from being my winner’s pick, but only just.

Joseph Del Campo – Brains: Joseph is a very intriguing Survivor player. Obviously, he has the survival skills down pat and the guy is in incredible shape for a 72-year-old. Then again, he is 72 years old, playing a game with mostly 20- and 30-somethings. Will the cultures clash in a way sees Joseph booted early? I’m thinking he’s smart enough to play up the “fatherly” role and try to provide/bond with some of the younger women in the Brains tribe. I can see a Paschal/Neleh-like bond developing between Joseph and Liz or Aubry that could help Joseph get in tight with some of the other Brains. No matter what he does, I think people will try to keep Joseph around for awhile because of his challenge strength and ability to provide for the camp. He probably doesn’t win, but he might come close.

Elizabeth Markham – Brains: Honestly, Liz would probably be my winner’s pick on another season. She’s obviously smart enough to win the game and comes across as someone who is effortlessly charming. Plus, she’s not so young that I question her ability to downplay her intelligence like I did with Spencer Bledsoe in Cagayan. However, I think the season’s theme really hurts her. Because she’s on the Brains tribe, everyone knows she’s a #MentalGiant, so she doesn’t have the luxury of being to hide it. That said, I would be very surprised if Liz doesn’t make it to, at least, the Final Seven.

Tier One – “The Favorites”

Kyle Jason – Brawn: Kyle (Jason?) should probably win this season. He’s got that Tony-esque skillset that worked so well in the first version of this season and he has a story that makes you want him to win. Will it happen? I’m not so sure. If he brings up his daughter and her medical problems, I think he’s dead in the water. He can talk about his family, he just can’t let on how badly he needs the money or no one will take him to FTC. That said, I would not be surprised to see this guy win the game. He has everything you need and has a figurative bomb to drop at FTC if he thinks he might not pull enough votes. As we saw on Second Chance, that can really turn people to your side when you need it most.

Anna Khait – Beauty: Unlike Liz, Anna gets the benefit of not being cast onto the Brains tribe. That means she can use her intelligence and strategic mind, while also being able to easily hide it. In fact, I really think both Liz and Anna are about equal in terms of winner potential; however, Anna has a slight edge simply because of her initial tribal alignment. This is why I’m not too personally high on the BvBvB format and would hate to play in it if I was ever cast on the show. I have Anna penciled into my FTC, but I don’t think she ultimately wins.

Neal Gottlieb – Brains: 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.