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: 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.

219646971_4804107814001_video-still-for-video-4804064918001

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

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

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – Week Five Power Rankings

Survivor

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

 

13) Anna Khait (-3)

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

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

 

12) Michele Fitzgerald (-2)

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

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

11) Aubry Bracco (-4)

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

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

10) Joseph Del Campo (+3)

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

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

9) Peter Baggenstos (-3)

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

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

8) Julia Sokolowski (+2)

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

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

7) Nick Maiorano (-3)

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

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

6) Kyle Jason (-4)

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

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

5) Debbie Wanner (0)

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

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

4) Cydney Gillon(-3)

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

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

3) Tai Trang (+5)

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

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

2) Neal Gottlieb (+7)

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

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

1) Scot Pollard (+2)

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

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

Next Boot:

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

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

Survivor: Kaoh Rong -“The Peter You Know”

Survivor

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

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

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

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

Brawn:

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

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

Brains:

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

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

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

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

Beauty:

So many things happening with the New Beauty tribe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back this weekend for my sports style power rankings.

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.