Before we begin, I just want to quickly explain the differences I’m making in this column for season 33 of Survivor. In the past, I’ve always tried to post two blogs per week about Survivor, a strategy-centered post and a sports-styled power rankings. Well, I just don’t have the time for that anymore, so I’m going to trim down to one weekly column that includes most of both in a shorter fashion.
I’m also getting away from the sports version of my power rankings and simply going to the normal Survivor power rankings where I list out the contestants in order of who I think will be eliminated next. The sports angle was fun for me, but didn’t really lend itself the best to Survivor, so it’s getting the cut. I hope the three or four people who decide to read what I have to say about Survivor can handle the world-shaking changes to my Survivor commentary. Anyways, on to the rankings!
1) Zeke Smith: Call this high ranking a bit of edit-reading if you must; however, it’s hard to deny that Zeke is being set up as a major player this season. He got the hero edit with his “fire-starter” scene and his confessional count was pretty high. I haven’t actually looked at the Edgic this week, but I would assume it’s looking good for Zeke. I also think he’s incredible well-placed in a tribe that could’ve been his early undoing. He was able to quickly find the middle on a tribe that looks to be split between “cool people” and “nerds”. I think he comfortably rides that middle until the swap and then we’ll reassess.
2) Chris Hammons: We knew going in that Chris would be an alpha male in challenges. He’s a former college football player and keeps himself in great shape at his advanced age. What I’m surprised by is that he’s been playing his social game very subtly. I expected Chris to come in and command respect. We haven’t seen that. Chris has been low-key, aligning himself with Bret early and using David’s paranoia to buy his vote for the foreseeable future. A solid week for the former Sooner.
(Note: Yes, I’m aware that both of my top two are fellow Oklahomans. Am I biased? Probably.)
3) Ken McNickle: This is a potentially disastrous placement for me. I mean, on one hand Ken is the youngest, strongest player on his tribe and he’s got real outdoorsman chops that they can lean on. On the other, he immediately took a leadership role and, if the Gen-Xers continue to lose, this could turn for him. That said, I can’t see any Gen-Xer voting against Ken. They need some horses to go against the many young studs on the Millennial tribe. Ken is safe for now.
4) Mari Takahashi: Mari is in a very interesting position as we move deeper into the game. She obviously will be gunning for the “cool people” (Figgy, Michelle, Jay, and Taylor) if the tribe loses, but can she get the numbers to make the move? I think she easily grabs Adam and Michaela. Hannah is potentially down in they target either Jay or Taylor and Zeke could be swayed as he seems to hate typical surfer bros. That’s five and you need six. Does Will come over because he’s following the numbers or will the cool kids get a young Will to come over and bring someone like Hannah in with him? It’s hard to say at this point, which, I guess, is typical of a tribe that hasn’t been to TC yet. I’m nervous putting Mari here and I hope I’m not jinxing her.
5) Adam Klein: Adam had a pretty solid first episode edit. Plenty of confessionals and some strategizing with Mari early. All signs point to him being around for at last a few more weeks. The only question is who will the “cool people” target if the Millennials lose immunity? It’s really tough to say at this point. I would lean toward someone easy like Hannah or Michaela, but you just never know. I’m saying Adam is safe for now.
6) Will Wahl: Will was near purple this episode. He had a few confessionals at the jump, but wasn’t heard from as we moved through the episode. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes his trajectory more difficult to read. I think Will made a smart move in the short term of revealing himself to be the youngest because I think people will see that youth as something a jury will vote against, allowing him to slide through votes he might not otherwise. Look for Will to firmly make the swap with a great shot at merge.
7) Michelle Shubert: Of the cool kids, I like Michelle’s placement best. She has her close allies in Figgy, Jay, and Taylor, while also making connections across the tribe in Hannah. That fluidity will serve her well in the early game. Out of her alliance, I’m giving her the lowest chance of going home this week and I think that’s a super safe bet. I’m not reading Michelle a #player just yet, but she has potential.
8) Taylor Stocker: Taylor is leading the charge for the cool kids in this storyline. He’s the broiest of bros and Figgy wants him to be her husband. On the surface, that might lead you to believe that he will be the number one enemy of the misfits alliance if the Millennials do lose immunity. I don’t think that’s the case. You see, Taylor is too important to the story of Survivor. He’s been presented as a major player in the early parts of the season and I cannot see him being cut in the second episode. Can he win? Absolutely not. He’ll make the merge and be the likely classic merge boot because he, in his own words, “will never change”. Gotta adapt to win this game, Taylor. Better luck next time.
9) Bret LaBelle: Bret played second fiddle to his new friend Chris in the first episode and I think that’s about his ceiling. In all of his confessionals he was dissing players or generations and, while he handled David’s paranoia relatively well, I can’t see him keeping his cool through the entire game. I think Bret blows up on somebody in four episodes and Chris decides it’s not worth saving his buddy.
10) Michaela Bradshaw: Michaela was nearly invisible in this episode, which makes me wonder how much we should actually care about her. She was shown to be observant in her limited screen time, so I don’t think the situation is super dire. However, I’m much lower on her winner potential after this first week. She just was not presented as a major player of season 33. It can change, but for now I’m cooling off on Michaela.
11) Hannah Shapiro: In one scene Hannah is claiming to be on the outs with everyone, while in another Michelle is telling us that Hannah is someone she could see herself aligning with. So which is it? My gut tells me that Hannah was presented the way she was because the editors want the Millennials to have a “David” on their side to set up something later on in the story. Thus, I’m not too worried about Hannah right now. Talk to me in a week or two when we can really assess her game.
12) Jay Starrett: Jay was Taylor-lite this episode. He’s not quite the broiest of bros, but he’s up there. Given that Taylor is being set up as such an essential character in the early game, I think there’s real potential for Jay to be the first Millennial out. His strategy has been super minimal and I can his attitude rubbing people like Zeke and Mari the wrong way.
13) Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa: That being said, if I’m a fan of the cool kids, I’d be most worried about Figgy. We heard from members of the misfits alliance that Figgy is “trying to run the tribe” and is “aggressive”. If that doesn’t scream early boot, then you’re not watching Survivor. Look for Figgy to be cut if/when the Millennials hit tribal, which might lead to Michelle dropping Taylor and Jay like a bad habit.
14) Jessica Lewis: I thought Jessica had a strong first episode. She wasn’t overbearing (like I thought she might) and she seemed to be a driving force behind the plan to get Rachel out. However, I can’t see anything other than the kiss of death when I see her Legacy Reward. For anyone to have that, they need to vote her out, but also be someone she wants to win? It’s an intriguing addition to the game, just not one I would want at the very beginning of the season. Can she keep quiet about this thing for 35+ days? It’s hard to imagine, so I’m bumping her lower than I maybe should.
15) Lucy Huang: Lucy had no impact on the story of this episode. In fact, the only thing I really saw from her was overlooking the Legacy Award in the beach scene and her rolling her eyes at the Millennials. Not seeing Lucy as much of a player this season.
16) Sunday Burquest: Sunday got an intro confessional, which is a good thing. She a few confessionals. Also a good thing. Unfortunately, everything she said was just negativity toward the Millennials. I firmly believe that the edit is telling us that a Millennial will win this game, so I’m not high on Sunday’s chances to make a deep run. I think she makes the swap, underestimates a Millennial, and is sent home at around 14.
17) David Wright: David getting that S31 Fishbach edit. Seriously, if you didn’t get crazy Fishbach vibes, we were watching a different show. I mean, THEY SHOWED HIM BREAKING A STICK! A STICK! We all know what this means. That’s right. David is going to ride that triumphant breakdown music to the merge and a potential victory. David’s a player, mark my words. I’m slotting him this low because I’ve been fooled by the edit before and am trying to cover my bases, but I can’t see David leaving our screens anytime soon.
18) Paul Wachter: Don’t love Paul’s edit this week. He was immediately super anti-Millennial, which suggests that he’s too set in his ways to adapt and he’s a big minus in most physical challenges. That said, he did handle Rachel remarkably well, so maybe there’s hope.
19) CeCe Taylor: This is going to be my worst winner’s pick yet. I mean, I’ve only been writing for three season’s so far, but last year I predicted Neal to win (was evacced, so I’d call it a wash) and Jeremy to win in S31 (who, as you’ll remember, dominated the game). I had high hopes for CeCe and her ability to social maneuver through the game and then she was one of the first people to talk down to the Millennials on the mat. IT’S THE FIRST DAY CECE! YOU CAN’T WAIT ONE DAY?!?! Ugh, my solid track record is forever sullied with CeCe’s second week boot. She was on the chopping block, but the editors felt it wasn’t important enough to give her time over David. That should tell you who’s going to be the important player this season. She might make it a few more weeks, but her ceiling is a Monica Padilla from Second Chances edit. Meaning, she’ll get a purple edit for a few weeks, have one big moment, and get the boot. There’s no story here and I can’t believe I this was my choice for the S33 winner. Ya win some and ya lose some.
Requiem for a Rachel Ako: Oh Rachel. You can’t get a much worse first boot episode. It was so typical. She was overbearing, trying to tell people what to do at the shelter. She volunteered to both smash the mask and do the puzzle first (PSA to all future Survivors: literally never tell anyone you’re good at puzzles. This can only hurt your game). Predictably, she failed at both. It was almost sad how obvious her boot was. Sorry, Rachel. At least you made an impact.