Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers: Episode 7

Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 5

Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO TO WATCH

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

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

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

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

Survivor Strategy Talk – Game Changers Episode 3

Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X – Week 7 Power Rankings

Survivor

NOTE: When looking up some last names for this post, I went to Wikipedia where episode seven is seemingly spoiled. Please stay away if you want to stay pure! I’m going to keep my rankings the same, but I wanted to be upfront about everything.

Howdy folks! It’s been a crazy week and I honestly have zero time to make these rankings today. Thus, I’m just going to post my list here for tracking purposes next week. Sorry for the lack of commentary!

Requiem for a Figgy: I hate to say I told you so, but……this was not a surprise to anyone watching this show. Hope you found love on that island Figg!

1) Adam Klein

2) Jay Starrett

3) David Wright

4) Ken McNickle

5) Hannah Shapiro

6) Chris Hammon

7) Zeke Smith

8) Jessica Lewis

9) Michaela Bradshaw

10) Taylor Stocker

11)  Will Wahl

12) Bret LaBelle

13) Sunday Burquest

14) Michelle Shubert

Running Point Total: 26

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X – Week 6 Power Rankings

Survivor

Well, there you go. In four or five seasons of blogging about the game I’ve never had a winner pick go this early, but CeCe is officially out of the game following The Great Redistribution. Might as well get on with my queen’s requiem.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CvOa4xCWEAATMPy.jpg

A Requiem for a CeCe Taylor: So, this was as obvious as the day is long. CeCe is a big minus in challenges and, though Chris is a fellow Gen Xer, you knew he had zero loyalty to the two people who had helped blindside him in back-to-back weeks. I have no idea why CeCe was so confident in her “majority” after the switch. Chris had every trait imaginable for someone who is about to flip and David’s only real loyalty is to himself. If the numbers aren’t there, neither is David.

This was an extremely weak alliance and CeCe’s confidence was supremely misplaced and misguided. I placed CeCe at 11 last week, so I’d have gained 11 points. Of course, I haven’t been blogging this season so my current total is….11 points.

Oh well, on to the rankings.

Jay Starrett: Jay slides into the top spot because I simply cannot see any way his tribe can afford to cut him this week. Ikabula would be dead in the water with Jay’s skills at camp-building and swimming. To stay away from Tribal Council, they need Jay. I think he’s safe until we merge back down to two tribes (or hit the real merge).

Chris Hammons: It might be a mistake to place Chris this high, but I really loved his move to flip his tribe and align with Zeke and Michelle. This lets him sort of decide what happens if they lose again next week. Obviously, David could throw a wrench into Chris’ plans with his idol (more on that in a second), but I see zero chance of Chris getting the boot.

David Wright: If Vanua loses immunity, David is the easy vote. Everyone there knows it. However, David has an idol and you can bet that he’ll be playing it. So, does he show the idol to Chris and maybe try to swing votes onto either Zeke or Michelle? Does he show the Millennials and jump on a chance to boot Chris? Or does he tell no one and just decide for himself who goes? This could turn into a very important week for Mr. Wright. Just not one that will see him going home.

Adam Klein: Adam still has the idol? He’s still on a tribe with Figgy? Okay, I think he’s good.

Taylor Stocker: I really thought we’d finally see Taylor and Figgy split last week and give us a chance to see what Taylor would be without her. Sadly, it didn’t happen and I think that’s probably good for Taylor’s game (?). I mean, it seems like Figgy is being seen as the brains behind their operation, thus Taylor should be safe if his duo is targeted. If I’m a FigTails fan, I’m much more worried about our girl Figgy.

Ken McNickle: We didn’t get to see much from Ken this week, but his role in the season’s overarching story still feels significant. It could be a swerve from the editors, but I venture to guess that Ken easily makes the merge.

Hannah Shapiro: Hannah was someone I’ve been worried about for awhile; however, I think she’s done a great job of slipping under the radar after seeming like someone who might get annoying on the island. Her anxious personality irked Zeke and Adam early, but we haven’t seen any more of that. A good sign for Hannah.

Zeke Smith: This week might be make or break for Zeke in Survivor. He hasn’t felt like a major player in the early goings, more of a “second fiddle” to some of the other players on his beach. However, with David making a potentially huge #BIGMOVE, we might get to see Zeke’s full game come out this week. I expect that he will out-maneuver his opponents and skate through the week, but I’m not completely confident, hence the lowish ranking.

Will Wahl: I’m not getting anything from Will. He’s had no screen time and is obviously not a factor in how this season shakes out. Maybe that changes this week, but I doubt it.

Jessica Lewis: I was concerned that Jessica take charge attitude might come out after the redistribution, so I was happy to see that my concerns were unneeded. That said, we haven’t been given evidence that Jessica will be here for long and I think she’s the easiest boot if Takali loses immunity.

Michelle Schubert: If Vanua loses immunity, you have to assume David plays his idol. I think he believes he can work with Zeke and maybe Chris moving forward, which leaves Michelle as the odd woman out. Plus, we know that, when Michelle is in trouble, she tends to push waaaay too hard. I think she’s gone soon.

Michaela Bradshaw: Michaela said in the pre-season that she struggles to control her emotions and we saw that this week. Will outbursts like that shoot her in the foot this week? Maybe not, but I’m betting it happens sooner, rather than later.

Bret LaBelle: Now that Bret doesn’t have Chris around, he’s become a much less compelling character. Sure, he was just Chris’ lackey in the early game, but now he’s much closer to being a bump on the log. Ikabula has a Millennial majority, meaning that both Bret and Sunday are in trouble.

Sunday Burquest: Sunday is firmly in the minority with Bret at Ikabula and, like Will, we have seen nothing from here. Sorry, Sunday!

Figgy: If you read this blog, you know my thoughts on Figgy. She’s an interesting player who lacks social awareness and has done an incredibly poor job of reading her tribe. Her relationship with Taylor is a mistake (in Survivor, I’m not judging them as an actual couple) and will likely cost her the game.

Running Total: 11 pts

 

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X: Week 5 Power Rankings

Survivor

So….Survivor is still thing! A thing I still watch and then rewatch every single week. A thing I really want to write about. Unfortunately, life (and World of Warcraft) have gotten in the way the last few weeks as I finish moving, start  new job, and play hours and hours of WoW. Now things are settled and it’s time to get back to making power rankings, but first…a Requiem for a Lucy!

Requiem for a Lucy Huang: Lucy got  very Monica Padilla in Second Chances adjace edit in her boot week. Like Monica, Lucy was completely invisible through the first of her season. She wasn’t even on the show, as far as viewers were concerned. Now, Lucy could have been doing things behind the scenes that we’ll never seen, but, as far as viewers are concerned, Lucy had no impact on the game through three weeks. So, when she suddenly became the most heavily edited player on the show, you knew she was getting her torch snuffed.

I will give her credit though. At least she got idoled out by David; unlike Monica who completely misread her tribe and went home in a classic 3-2-1 vote. That means Lucy was able to control most of her tribe and convince the person going home that the fake plan was legitimate. I’m not saying Lucy was a better player in this season than Monica was in hers, but I’m not not saying that…

Anyways, on to the rankings!

1) Adam Klein: Adam has to be this high because, with an idol in his pocket, there’s no way he’s going home this week. If he so much as sniffs a chance of the votes going his way, he’ll save himself and no one knows he has an idol, so they can’t purposefully blindside him. Plus, I firmly believe that Adam’s story is key to how this season plays out, making him a major player this season. I fully expect Adam to make Final 7, at least.

2) Jay Starrett: I wasn’t super high on Jay going into the season, but it only took a few weeks before I became a believer. He’s very aware of everything going on around him and makes great observations in his confessionals. I think he’s one to watch going forward.

3) Ken McNickle: Ken’s story still seems crucial to the overarching plot of the season. Plus, it would be a mistake to get rid of someone who so obviously excels in challenges this early.

4) Michelle Shubert: Michelle is locked to Jay right now and, with a swap coming, that could quickly change. That said, she’s already shown an ability to flip numbers her way, so I like her chances at surviving another week.

5) Michaela Bradshaw: Michaela’s social game has been lacking in subtlety, but she makes up for it with her ability to stay fluid with her vote. That “anyone but me” mentality could be her saving grace this week.

6) Zeke Smith: Zeke was a major character in the first four episodes and I don’t feel like we’re anywhere near the culmination of his arc. I think after Taylor and Figgy’s arc culminates, we’ll see much more of Zeke.

7) Taylor Stocker: Like I said, Taylor and Figgy have been THE storyline on Millennial beach and were the big talking point of this week’s swap. To me, that signifies that we should be worried about at least one member of the couple. Figgy is much less socially aware than her man, so I would not be surprised to see her go home this week. Additionally, Taylor has dominated the screen all season, leading me to believe that he plays a major part in how this season shakes out.

8) Chris Hammons: Chris started the season on top of his tribe and, given his personality, I think he’ll find himself in a similar place after the swap. This guy is a born leader and, while it won’t serve him after the swap, I think it keeps him safe for now.

9) Will Wahl: Will has been almost nonexistent in the edit this season. That signifies to me that he’s going to be gone in a random spot at about 12. The swap boot is usually a major player, so I don’t see Will going this weekend.

10) Sunday Burquest: Sunday feels like the older, female version of Will. She’s just…been there(?) this season. Neither feel like a player of significance.

11) CeCe Taylor: It’s sad to rank my preseason winner’s pick this low, but unfortunately, this is where we are. We haven’t really seen why she’s found herself on the bottom, we just know she is. For her, it all comes down to who she ends up with this week. She needs a new tribe to readjust her position on the ladder.

12) Hannah Shapiro: At this point, I’m looking at players who have a potentially grating personality when you first meet them. I’m not saying Hannah is a bad person or is hard to be around, but swaps come down to luck and first impressions. She’s very anxious and struggles to correctly read social cues. That puts her low on the list with a swap.

13) Jessica Lewis: Jessica can be bossy at times, which could hurt her if she ends up with a majority of Millennials on her new tribe.

14) Bret LaBelle: Bret is in the same place as Hannah and Jessica. I’m not saying he has a bad personality, just that it’s the type that could leave a bad first impression.

15) David Wright: David just played an idol. That tells people he’s here to play. If he ends up on a tribe with Chris and Bret, you can rest assured that he’ll need to scramble again. David needs some luck on his side to stick around after a bold Week 4 performance.

16) Figgy: The preview for Week 5 suggests that we need to be worried about this season’s showmance. Now, I’m not a huge believer in reading the edit; however, we know that Figgy is not self-aware of how she comes off. Thus, it’s not a huge stretch to see her losing her camp boyfriend and then getting booted by a tribe that doesn’t want to put up with her crap.

So, is Figgy your next boot? We’ll find out tonight! Let me know in the comments how terrible my rankings are and thanks for reading.

Survivor: Millennials vs Gen-X Week Two Power Rankings

Survivor

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.

Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X-ers: Pre-season Tier Rankings

Survivor

It’s that time again, Survivor fans! That’s right, the next season of Survivor starts tomorrow, but I’m sure you already knew that. After the abrupt end of my blogging for Kaoh Rong last season (blame my job as a summer camp director) I was wondering if I’d bother blogging again this season. And then the pre-season started in earnest and I knew I needed to get to writing. Thus, what follows is a quick-hitting look at every contestant from the upcoming season. They’ll be grouped into rough tiers based on their “winner’s potential” and I’ll pick my winner at the bottom. As always, thanks for reading! Get ready for Wednesday, y’all!

Tier 6 “Am I ageist?”

Brett LaBelle – Gen X-ers: Brett was a little hard for me to read in his pre-season material. He could be a big surprise and use his skills as a cop to go far…or he could blow it in the first episode, play hard too fast, and be the season’s first boot. Gun to my head, I think he lasts a few weeks because he seems to know how the social game of Survivor works and I’m betting he comes through with some solid early leads. Unfortunately, I don’t find him dateable and he’s gone before the merge. Sorry, Brett!

Rachel Ako – Gen X-ers: If Rachel makes it past her first Tribal Council, she’ll be fortunate. I don’t see what she brings to the game besides being a pretty face. Her interviews give me zero insight into her game knowledge and her constant harping on being an “author” make me assume she’s going to try and prove how smart she is. The tribes being separated by ages does her no favors because the only player that’s going to be swayed by her looks is probably Ken McNickle. I could be wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I’m not seeing it.

Paul Wachter – Gen X-ers: As we saw with Debbie last season, big, weird characters usually don’t win this game. That’s not saying Paul can’t make the merge, just that ninth place is probably his ceiling. Let’s be frank, these people are out on an island for 39 days. If you’re going to be constantly talking, it’s going to get annoying fast and give them a reason to vote you out. I know it’s the same as not breathing to you Paul, but please, for your own game, learn to shut your mouth.

Lucy Huang – Gen X-ers: I have to be honest, Lucy didn’t really give me much in her pre-season interviews. She’s a mom and also a bodybuilder. She also doesn’t seem to have much of a game background. I don’t know, I just didn’t get a great vibe from her and it’s hard to see her having a big impact on this season.

Tier 5 “Dateable, but Not That Dateable”

Sunday Burquest – Gen X-ers: Sunday has to (HAS TO) play up the mom role as soon as the swap hits. She appears to be a massive minus in physical comps and it would be a shame if that was the reason she leaves early. If she can slide through the first few boots, I think Sunday’s chances to play that Dawn/Lisa Welchel role and group up with a few younger players as a solid number. That said, the game is too cutthroat these days for me to see her making it to FTC. Instead, I think her ceiling is probably somewhere around fifth. Not a bad showing for Mrs. Burquest.

Jessica Lewis – Gen X-ers: I get the vibe from Jessica that she wants to be in charge. Especially among the Gen X-ers, I think this is going to be her undoing. I think Jessica has merge potential, but may have a first boot floor. It all just comes down to how slow she plays the first episode.

Michelle Shubert – Millennials:  Our first Millennial! Michelle is a very interesting player for this game and it all depends on her poker face. In all her pre-season material, she seemed to push her religion and that could really go either way for her. Plus, in her interview, it seemed like she was planning to play a game that doesn’t really fit her personality. If people can read through that, how long will she last? I think it’s mistake to try and play to a role that you don’t fit and that might be what sends Michelle home. I think Michelle slots in the eighth to thirteenth range this season.

Tier 4 “Contender or Flame-out”

Ken McNickle – Gen X-ers: Ken is fit, attractive, and has  great reason to play (his daughter). Ken is also on a bad tribe for him and may struggle to keep his mouth shut about said daughter. Which side wins out? That will decide his placement.

Hannah Shapiro – Millennials: Hannah has a lot of the tools you’re looking for in a quality Survivor player. The obvious comparison is probably a funnier Aubry from Kaoh Rong. That said, my biggest hangup was Hannah’s constant need to overtalk in her pre-season interviews. It annoyed me and I’m not living on a island with her for weeks at a time. It might just be a personal thing, but it keeps her out of my true contenders list.

Tier 3 “Just Here to Chill”

Taylor Stocker – Millennials: The three Survivors in this category strike me as people who aren’t really huge fans and are just here for the ride. In some ways, that can work out very well. For instance, Taylor has the classic Survivor body type for challenges and could be a real threat if he makes the merge. However, I really worry about his ability to strategize and make a case for why he should win if he makes it to FTC.

Figgy Figueroa – Millennials: Figgy’s video left me wondering where she’s going to fit. On one hand, she’s a great female athlete who should thrive in individual comps. On the other, she says she will tell everyone anything, which doesn’t really work in Survivor? I’m not seeing her as much of a game player. Look for her to just barely make the merge.

Jay Starrett – Millennials: I think you can basically take everything I said about Taylor and put it here. I just have a better vibe about Jay and think he’ll go further. No real reason.

Tier 2 “Strong Males”

Will Wahl – Millennials: Strength can relate to a lot of things, but for Will I think his strength is his self-awareness and his game knowledge. I commend Will for saying he’ll be open with his age and it honestly could be a big positive for him. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see him being an easy early boot if the Millennials lose. If he can lay low like Julia last season, I think Will has a shot.

Adam Klein – Millennials: Adam has the tools to compete. He knows Survivor and is just generally intelligent. Plus, he has a great reason to play. My one worry about Adam is that he seems like the person who’s going to play super hard, super early and that could rub some of the Millennials the wrong way.

Chris Hammons – Gen X-ers: He’s a fellow Oklahoman, so you know I have to love Chris! Even without my bias, I think Chris is going to be a near lock for the merge. I think his alpha male tendencies will work well on the Gen X tribe (though I worry about him and Jessica butting heads) and he will always be an asset in team physical challenges. I wonder how he’ll connect with the Millennials when the swap comes and he has merge boot potential written all over him. Hoping he goes longer!

Tier 1 “Winner Potential”

CeCe Taylor – Gen X-ers: CeCe is a big-time social threat. I think she can easily play a game reminiscent of Cirie. I don’t know if she knows the game, but I don’t know how much that will actually hurt the style of game she’s likely to play. Instead, my biggest worry is that CeCe’s temper will get the better of her and cause her to blow up on somebody. That said, I think CeCe is going far.

Michaela Bradshaw – Millennials: Michaela gives off the vibe of someone who’s going to fly under the radar for the first six episodes and then become a major player in the midpoint of the game. She’s a hard-worker and is driven to do well. Plus, I think her background makes her hungry to play well. I’ll be surprised if she isn’t “top five, baby”, at the very least.

Zeke Smith – Millennials: Zeke has my heart. He has your heart. He has everybody’s heart. I can’t remember anyone being this hyped about a new Survivor in awhile and I think it’s deserved. Obviously, that makes it hard for Zeke to live up to our expectations; however, I think Zeke easily makes the merge and gives us the incredible character we’re craving. He’s probably too big of a threat to win, but consider me contagious with the Zeke-a virus.

David Wright – Gen X-ers: I love David. He’s going to be the season’s “know-it-all” and I think he’s overplaying his social awkwardness just a tad. In fact, I would be surprised if David doesn’t turn out to be something of a social butterfly on the island. Look for David to play a big role in shaping the outcome of this season.

Mari Takahashi – Millennials: If you built a female Survivor competitor in a lab, I think it would come out looking a lot like Mari. She’s intelligent (both in-game and out), she’s a competitor, she has a background in ballet, which translates well to Survivor, and she’s attractive. She really is the total package. In fact, she might be the odds on favorite if I wasn’t so worried about her overplaying her hand early. But don’t get it twisted, Mari is coming to play and she just might win.

WINNER PICK:

CeCe Taylor. As much as I want to say Zeke or Mari will win this season, I think CeCe is going to ride her social game to the end. She impressed me quite a bit in all of her interviews and I think she will slide through the early days of this game before really awakening at around final 13. I’m expecting big things out of her, but would not be upset if any of my top five made it to the winner’s podium.

So, what do you think? Will my winner pick be the first person cut from the island (probably)? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you on Wednesday (but really Thursday because I’m a tired old man who doesn’t write as fast as he used to).