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.
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.