Category Archives: opinion

survivor recap: burning bridges.

Survivor EE_David.jpgAll right. I’m back to writing about Survivor because last night’s episode pissed me off. No, I’m not questioning the vote at Tribal Council. I’m not questioning the not-so-subtle movement in Manu to get rid of Wentworth (because it’s a smart strategy). I’m not questioning the Kama Tribe ganging up on two strong, returning players in an attempt to eliminate threats. Thus far, the players have shown their ability to be strategic early and I’m fine with that; even if it comes at the expense of a favorite player or two (Aubry will always be my favorite player. Always).

What’s got me amped up over last night’s episode as that clowntard idiot, Wendy. Initially, I thought she was your typical, flaky player who would eventually show some strategic thinking.

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

Survivor EE_Wendy

Dimwit.

Her hypocrisy and stupidity—topped off by her utter smugness—about the chickens has reduced her to my least favorite player ever. Yes, ever. It would be one thing if you were an actual vegan or something, Wendy, when you got on your high horse about killing at eating the chickens. But you’re not. And your selfish behavior shows your complete lack of understanding of how to actually play this game. Seriously, Wendy. Have you ever watched Survivor?

And how about the dimwits in the Manu Tribe not figuring out that she stole the damn flint. I’m looking at you, Rick. You know Wendy’s plan. Why are you sitting on it like it’s the secret code to finding a hidden immunity idol? You have nothing to gain by protecting this donut.

Look, I admire Wendy’s performance in the challenge, bum wheel and all, but her behavior shows a tremendous lack of foresight and pragmatism. No one’s asking you to kill a chicken if you don’t want to. No one’s even forcing you to eat one if you don’t want to. But when you put your head up your own ass and like the smell too much and decide no one else can eat the chickens…well, that smells of arrogance and ignorance. Calvin Klein ain’t gonna bottle that shit.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
I was not disappointed in the Tribal Council vote. Wendy looked like the easy vote from the beginning of the episode, but things are never so simple on Survivor. How did Manu end up at Tribal Council—again?!?! Because puzzles are hard; harder than DIY slingshots, apparently. Manu was setting the pace in the immunity challenge…right up until the all-important final element: putting together a puzzle. “Puzzles are hard,” David muttered over and over, in defeat. Yes, David. Yes, they are.

Survivor EE_Chris

Chris Underwood. Great with a slingshot. Lousy with bridge building.

Despite manning a slingshot like he does it every weekend at home, Chris found himself on the wrong end of a torch snuffer because he didn’t listen to David and blabbed to Wardog Dan about the plan to blindside Wentworth. Chris trusted the wrong player. He said he didn’t want to burn a bridge in this game and he didn’t. The person he trusted torched it first.

He should’ve listened to David. Once Chris told the wrong person about the plan, he put himself in the cross hairs. David, recognizing Wentworth sniffed out his plan, pivoted and made the shrewd play: cut your losses.

In Chris’s defense, he was trying to pull in an ally he’d developed, but his alliance wasn’t as tight as he thought. In Wardog’s head, Wentworth > Chris. Now, he’s off to spend a few days at the worst cookout ever, but I like his chances of getting back in the game.

Survivor EE_Reem Keith

Worst Cookout Ever. Reem & Keith are setting up camp with rice and…a torch.

Old Business
Let’s get the previous two votes out of the way. Reem was her own worst enemy at camp. She all but begged everyone to vote for her by assuming she could do whatever she wanted. Her attitude of “if they don’t like it, they could change it” doesn’t fly. It wouldn’t fly with me either. Here’s a tip, Reem: if you’re going to take it upon yourself to put everyone’s shit on the beach, why don’t you ask them first? It’s not incumbent upon them to clean up your mess.

And Keith…dude, you are not long for this game. If you had to hesitate and say “please, God” 88 fucking times before figuring out what you wanted to do, you should’ve just gone home. You’ve been in this game for five minutes. You’re still fresh. Grab a torch and get back in. Although I truly think you’ll get bounced out again and probably quickly. Perhaps not learning how to swim better was a poor Survivor strategy.

Meanwhile, Over at Kama
This tribe is itching to get to Tribal Council because the new players can’t seem to throw Joe and Aubry off the island fast enough. It’s slightly disappointing if you’re a fan of either of them, but it’s a strategy that makes sense. The newbies are afraid Joe and Aubry’s experience and guile make them strong players. This is true, but I can’t help but wonder if players these days are too busy trying to seat a jury in the single-digit days instead of focusing on winning challenges and studying one another. After all, how long does a tribe remain together on Survivor before Probst says, “drop your buffs?”

Survivor EE_Kama Tribe

Kama Chameleon. Seriously, who the hell are half these people?

I still don’t know who half of you are just now because you haven’t had to dip your torches in the flame. Seriously, I heard Probst say Ron’s name and I said, “…who???” The only newbie on Kama I recognize straight away is Victoria, thanks to her red hair. After her…yeah, I got nothin’.

But I will give it up to Aubry for snagging a hidden immunity idol. Even though I think the hidden idols are a little cheap and ruin good strategy, props to her for achieving that personal goal. People forget Aubry is a beast in Survivor. She’s play 74 out of 78 possible days during her previous two seasons. She may very well be the best player who’s never won.

Survivor EE_Rick

Anchorman Rick.

Back to Manu…
If your real name is Dan and you call yourself “The Wardog,” you’re probably an asshole. David is distinguishing himself as the sneakiest player on that tribe, thus far, but Anchorman Rick—who just made First Team All Dad Bod—wins the Sneaky Latenight Uncle award. Seriously, dude. I hope you don’t drive a van back home. He’s probably a nice enough guy, but he seems to have creeper tendencies. He’s one mustache and a basement X-Box away from being on the local police radar.

No Shot of Winning
If I were a betting man, I’d lay odds that Wendy, Reem and Keith have no shot at the million dollars. Reem and Keith are easy to mark for termination, what with already being voted out. But at least one of them may get back in the game. I still don’t think they’ll get enough votes ever to win. Wendy is a clueless dimwit. She will be the useful idiot to someone with an actual game plan. Once her usefulness runs out, she gone.

Gang of Four
These are the four most dangerous players (so far):

  • Dan. I refuse to call him “Wardog.” Yes, he’s an asshole, but he’s lining himself up to be a major player to go along with being a major asshole.
  • David. Some people seem to truly understand the social game that is Survivor. David is one of those players who bends the game to his will. That’s impressive. And dangerous. I wonder how long it’ll take for people to recognize he’s a threat.
  • Wentworth. She’s got the biggest target on her back, but has already built an alliance that has bailed her out. She may get her torch snuffed out sooner rather than later, but her ability to fend off elimination in the first two tribal councils of the season is impressive.
  • Aubry. Finding an idol may be the advantage she needs to stave off elimination before the merge. We shall see.
Survivor EE_Aubry cropped

Aubry is a Survivor Beast and you don’t even know it.

Survivor Employee of the Week
Aubry. She was a challenge beast when it counts the most. Her work in solving the puzzle that won immunity for her tribe should earn her some cred with her people…if only they weren’t so focused on Day 39 just now.

And whether it’s paranoia or game sensibilities, Aubry’s self awareness as being on the chopping block led her into the woods to hunt down an immunity idol.

Next Week’s Prediction
Hopefully, that clod Wendy goes home. I already can’t stand her stupid ass.

Survivor EE Logo

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And the oscar goes to…

105044455-Jordan_Peele_Oscar.1910x1000During my brief history Oscar Movie Marathons, I’m going into tonight’s Academy Awards having seen the fewest, compared to previous years. I’ve only viewed four of the Best Picture nominees and nothing else in any nominated category. Hey, blame Iceland. I was gone for a week and preoccupied with travel logistics during a very crucial Marathon period. Nevertheless, let’s just white-knuckle our way through this, eh?

Best Picture Nominees (that I saw), Rated
From most favorite to least favorite (for want of better phrase):
1. A Star Is Born. A beautiful and heartbreaking film. Yeah, it’s a remake of a remake of a remake, but so what? It stands on its own, based upon the lead performances and fantastic original songs.

2. BlacKkKlansman. A giant middle finger at the absolute worst of the worst in our society. And I love it for that. Yeah, Spike Lee resorts to some of his usual techniques here and there, but I can look past it. A smart and poignant statement film, no doubt. That John David Washington didn’t receive a nomination for his portrayal as Ron Stallworth is truly disappointing.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody. Look, I love Queen. I’m the biggest Queen fan you’ll likely ever meet. And I truly enjoyed this picture, but I don’t think it’s worthy of a Best Picture nominee. Despite all the weird inaccuracies (I mean, Brian and Roger were right there!), it captures the essence of the band. Rami Malek was outstanding as Freddie, but Gwilym Lee was simply stellar as Brian May.

4. Green Book. In fairness, an enjoyable film that tells a great story. But it’s Oscar-bait. I like it. I like it a lot. And I’m a big fan of Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. Both gave great performances. My favorite fact is this is a true story about an actor most Sopranos fans would remember (Tony Lip).

Now then, onto my predictions…

BEST PICTURE
What the Academy will choose
A Star Is Born…but I have a sinking suspicion they may go with Roma (yeah, I’m hedging).

If I had a vote…
A Star Is Born. I really enjoyed this film.

BEST DIRECTOR
What the Academy will choose
Alfonso Caurón, Roma.

If I had a vote…
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman. I’m sure Roma’s a fine film, but I really think Spike Lee deserves it. Then again, I’m still chapped he didn’t even get nominated for Malcolm X.

BEST ACTOR
What the Academy will choose
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody.

If I had a vote…
Agreed. Malek. But I’m also partial to Bradley Cooper’s portrayal in A Star is Born. He was pretty incredible.

BEST ACTRESS
What the Academy will choose
Glenn Close, The Wife.

If I had a vote…
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born. For her first time out there, she nailed it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
What the Academy will choose
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born.

If I had a vote…
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman. Nothing against Sam Elliott. I’m sticking up for the kid from Mishawaka here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
What the Academy will choose
Marina de Tavira, Roma.

If I had a vote…
Same. I’m embarrassed to say I have not seen any of their performances.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
What the Academy will choose
Roma.

If I had a vote…
Green Book…because it’s the only nominee I’ve seen.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
What the Academy will choose
BlacKkKlansman.

If I had a vote…
Agreed. I think this is the bone the Academy throws to Spike…I hope.

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the best of (and worst of) survivor.

the-best-moments-fro

Survivor’s been on American television since the summer of 2000. Tomorrow night, Jeff Probst will bestow the title of Sole Survivor on the 37th recipient…and a check for $1 million. You’d think winning the game is enough to cement your name into immortality with the fans, but does it really? Who won Ghost Island (the season prior to David vs. Goliath)? Do you even remember? I don’t. Winning does no guarantee Survivor immortality.

In preparation for tomorrow’s season finale, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down Memory Lane through a few lists. Who’s been the best Sole Survivor? Who’s been the least deserving? Who were the best players to never win the title?

Let’s take a look…

Top Five Sole Survivors
In 36 seasons (and counting), some champions played the game better than anyone else. Here are the five best Sole Survivors (in no particular order):

Survivor_Yul KwonYul Kwon: Cook Islands
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And that’s exactly what Yul did in the Cook Islands. In a three-person final Tribal Council, Yul defeated Ozzy Lusth by a 5 – 4 vote. In a season with a deep bench (including future winner Parvati Shallow), Ozzy was the original challenge beast. Yul’s strength was in strategy, alliances and most of all, jury management. It’s one thing to vote out a player. It’s another thing entirely to know when to vote them out. Yul’s only played this game once, but he was arguably one of the smartest Survivor players ever.

Survivor_Sandra Diaz-TwineSandra Diaz-Twine: Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains
The only two-time Sole Survivor. Sandra’s strength was her craftiness. She was not gifted with athleticism, but made up for it in her strategic alliances and a whole lotta luck. Yes, luck goes a long way in Survivor, but what is luck? It’s opportunity meets preparation. In the Pearl Islands, she won because her runner-up, Lillian Morris, allowed her heart to speak louder than her head. Lillian refused to take Jon “Johnny Fairplay” Dalton to the final Tribal Council, opting for Sandra instead. Fast forward to Heroes vs. Villains and Sandra defeated Parvati Shallow and the evil Russell Hantz for her second title. Winning once can be chalked up to chance. But twice? Nope.

Survivor_Natalie AndersonNatalie Anderson: Blood vs. Water
Full disclosure: I hated Natalie when she and her sister Nadiya were on The Amazing Race. Hated! She was obnoxious. On Survivor, though, she channeled her weapons into a crafty win in a season where everyone started as part of a pair. That she made it to the end was slightly surprising to me, honestly. Though only winning individual immunity once, Natalie played an aggressive game and pulled some epic blindsides on her way to victory.

Survivor_Brian HeidikBrian Heidik: Thailand
You probably don’t even remember Brian. He was the Sole Survivor all the way back in Season 5. It was his first and last time playing Survivor. Brian is roundly considered one of the least likable players in Survivor history because of his serial killer-like approach to the game. Like him or hate him, Brian executed one of the most masterful magic tricks over the game that we’ve ever seen: he won without ever shining a light upon himself. Did he crack the code? Sort of, but it’s because he was emotionally detached. Sure, he won challenges, but he read his competition perfectly and played them against one another. He closed his magic trick by dragging a stooge to the end who was less likable than he was.

Survivor_Sarah LacinaSarah Lacina: Game Changers
This was one of the deepest competitions in a long time. Sarah had to beat some fierce competition to claim the title. In fact, one might argue her runner-up, Brad Culpepper was more deserving. I’m not sure about that, but I do think he played a championship-caliber game (he certainly didn’t deserve to lose 7 – 3 in the final Tribal Council). The fact that Sarah built alliances across the entire game is testimony to her victory. On paper, Culpepper should win, but he was too aggressive and, at times, a bully. Sarah was sharper at reading the room, which went a long way to jury management. She also positioned herself as a crucial swing vote and could pick off players like a sniper. That’s a powerful place to be.

Honorable Mention
Survivor_RIchard HatchRichard Hatch: Season 1, Borneo
The first champion and arguably the inventor of much of the strategy that still carries over today. No, Richard never had to deal with Exile Island, hidden immunity idols and other wrenches thrown into the game today, but he’s the one who understand jury management and used it to his advantage to beat his competition. Yeah, he’s a bit of a knucklehead, but so what? He still deserves respect for his game play.

Five Least Deserving Sole Survivors
One thing I hate about Survivor is the best player rarely wins. Petulant, red-assed jurors would sooner reward a bad player than a good one because the good player outwitted them. Talk about cheap. Yeah, yeah. If you win, you must be good blah-blah-blah. Screw that. So, here are the five doorknobs who backed their way into winning this game.

Survivor_Aras Asshole_CROPPEDAras Baskauskas: Panama (Exile Island)
Talk about your garden-variety load. Aras had no business making it past the merge, much less winning the game. I maintain this was the season that pushed producers to opt for three-finalist final Tribal Councils, since the best player that season (Terry Deitz) didn’t win. Aras was an obnoxious, immature, punk-ass little bitch the entire game. A loudmouth who was dragged to the final Tribal Council by Danielle DiLorenzo because she knew Terry would be the runaway champion if she didn’t eliminate him.

Survivor_Natalie WhiteNatalie White: Samoa
It may not even be her own fault, but Natalie did NOT deserve to win this season. She was up against the most feared, the most hated and the most strategic overall player in Survivor history: Russell Hantz. Natalie was a stooge and a puppet to Russell. The jury knew that, too. But they hated him so much that they refused to give him the money and the title. Credit where credit is due: Natalie won. But she sure as shit didn’t deserve it.

Survivor_Tina WessonTina Wesson: Africa
She is and always will be the blueprint for a coattail-riding, ingratiating, do-nothing who wins by duping the best player into trusting her. Yeah, she won, but she wasn’t a good player at all except for reading Colby Donaldson as a stooge. Donaldson was, hands down, a better player. Come to think of it, the jury was a bunch of morons, too.

Survivor_Vecepia ToweryVecepia Towery: Marquesas
For the most part, I never minded her game. She was an under-the-radar competitor who seized a target of opportunity at the end to avoid facing a player she probably couldn’t have defeated (Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien). Indeed, Faustian bargains are a part of Survivor. I can dig that. What I found most galling about Vecepia is she didn’t own it. She instead “give it to God.” WTF? Screw you, you condescending jerk! Just own your strategy instead of feigning some bullshit religious piety, eh?

Survivor_Tom WestmanTom Westman: Palau
I may get some heat for this one. In fairness, Tom was one of the best players of this game. The reason he makes this list is because of the cheap way he and that load Katie Gallagher ganged up on Ian Rosberger. They henpecked Ian to death up to and during the final immunity challenge over “broken promises” toward that load Katie. Those two ganged up on Ian and played the lowest card of all in Survivor: the “integrity” card. I liked Tom as a player right up to that point. Ian was a fierce competitor all season long. He was the only player left who had a chance to beat Tom in the end. But Ian was young and allowed them to play on his emotions to the point where he conceded in the final immunity challenge and asked Tom to vote him out. It’s not dirty to win, but it’s cheap as hell to manipulate a player like that. Ian was a fool, no doubt, but to endure that shit for 12 hours? You won, Tom, but it was tainted. Tainted as hell.

Best Players Who Never Won
This is an easy one.

Survivor_Ozzy LusthOzzy Lusth
The guy who’s spent more time in the game than any other player ever. And only made it to one final Tribal Council. That just doesn’t seem right.

 

Survivor_Colby DonaldsonColby Donaldson
If you don’t take Tina to the end, Colby, you win. No doubt.

 

 

Survivor_Aubry BraccoAubry Bracco
I loved everything about her. Everything. She was one of the smartest players in this game but just found herself on the wrong side of an alliance.

 

SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLANDRussell Hantz
A wretched human being, no question. But Russell went to back-to-back final tribal councils. That’s not an easy feat. I can understand losing Heroes vs. Villains, but he deserved Samoa. Still, he’s a soulless husk of a human.

Survivor_Stephenie LaGrossaStephenie LaGrossa
Remember her? Her entire tribe got eliminated during her first game (Palau), then she made it all the way to the end of Guatemala as a runner-up. She wasn’t really there in her third game (Heroes vs. Villains), but Stephenie was an impressive player.

 

Survivor 37

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survivor recap: the war on christian.

Survivor_David_vs_Goliath

And then there were six. Seems like yesterday we were trying to learn the names of 20 new Survivor entrants, competing on the deck of a boat in Fiji. Now, 12 days before Christmas, we’re counting down to the season finale, where one of the six remaining players will be crowned Ultimate Survivor.

The vote on Night 35 truly made the most sense, even though it likely disappointed many fans of the game. Christian became that player everyone loves to watch. He’s quirky, unassuming, doesn’t always fit in, but altogether likable. In that way, he reminds us of ourselves. Christian also became the unlikeliest of dominant threats in this game, although, that’s probably because the typical Survivor competitor has evolved.

So Smart They're DumbGone are the days when big, burly, muscular players are seen as the greatest threats. That it took so long to realize muscle is only one, small part of this game is a bit shocking to me. Even calling this season David vs. Goliath was kinda dumb and forced, if you ask me. Filmmaker Mike himself would probably tell you he’s not truly a Goliath in his real life. A successful filmmaker? Yes, absolutely. But Spielberg level? C’mon. THAT’S a Goliath!

I digress…

But I will say Mike’s game play has been rock solid all along. He’s made very few missteps and has recognized where the true threats lie. Earning immunity last night emboldened his plan to take out a big threat. By turning his attentions to Christian and away from Nick, Mike also flushed an immunity idol. That could burn Nick in the next Tribal Council.

Before we rank the final six players, I did want to bring something up that you probably hadn’t heard about. Did you know Angelina gave up a chance at immunity to get a bag of rice for the tribe? I mean, she doesn’t want to brag about it and she DEFINITELY doesn’t want any reciprocity from it, but you know, she wants you know what she did for you and that you TOTALLY don’t owe her anything for it. #puke

survivor-probst-rice

Here, Angelina. Here’s your bag of rice. Now maybe that will shut you up for once.

What an asshole. What an absolute asshole that woman is. Who do you think you’re fooling, Angelina? Seriously! You’ve been trading on that one moment for how many days now? And as much as you’d like people to believe this was part of some big strategy of yours, it wasn’t. Not even a little. It was a boastful move that did absolutely nothing—NOTHING!—to advance your position in the game. Really, it was self serving as much as anything else. And you proved how petty you are about it by cooking “revenge rice.” So, really, Angelina, cut the shit already. That move was all about you and everyone knows it. Quit being such an asshole about it.

Now then…

The Final Six.
Anything can happen and I have no earthly idea who’s going to win. I’d say there are three players with a legitimate shot at it, one is a maybe and one is definitely a ‘no’. Before we get to that, I want to underscore how impressive this entire season has been for game play. With the exception of a handful of players, the contestants have been smart, strategic and competitive.

Most of all, I appreciate that they moved beyond the emotional aspect too many players bring into the game. Most of the players understand it’s a game and it’s not really personal. Here’s to hoping that lasts to the end and we don’t get some whiny nonsense about someone’s hurt fee-fees over getting voted out. Grow up, you big baby!

There’s also been tremendous balance after the merge. Thus far, no one has won individual immunity more than once. That’s likely to change now that we’re down to six, but it’s an impressive stat in David vs. Goliath.

The Three to Beat
Survivor MikeSchool of Rock Mike
He’s been a quietly fierce player of this game. He’s controlled several votes at Tribal Council and has successfully kept his name off the parchment. And he just won immunity, too.

That’s a fairly impressive résumé right there. On top of that, he’s built alliances across tribes and played them to his advantage. He has a compelling shot with this jury.

Survivor DavieDavie
A behind-the-scenes beast in this game. Davie’s the quiet, smiling assassin this season. Along with Nick and Carl, Davie helped orchestrate one of the most elaborate blindsides in Survivor history when they knocked out SWAT Dan.

His alliance with Nick has been critical to his success, but that’s part of navigating a strong social game. And let’s not forget his nose for finding hidden idols.

Survivor KaraKara
From the beginning, I found Kara to be a sharp, focused player. She absolutely used Dan and who can blame her? He basically threw himself at her like a loyal puppy dog. Kara was the brains of that operation; so brainy that she never looked back once he got booted out.

If anything, Dan on the jury works for her. I’m sure he’ll vote for her if she makes it to the Final Tribal. Along with jury management, Kara’s been tough in challenges and smart with her votes. Also, she’s avoided being on the tip of the spear.

A Puncher’s Chance
Survivor NickNick
He’s been the OG conniver from Day One, setting an early alliance with Christian and later bonding with Mike. Both pairings worked to his advantage. But I’m not sure he’s done enough yet to win this game. Compared to Mike, Davie and Kara, Nick is a distant fourth. Again, another smart player who’s received no votes.

I’m not sure that’s to be lauded, though. After all, everyone ganged up on Christian over three separate tribal councils. It’s no wonder Nick hasn’t received any votes yet. Now, though, he’s exposed. Sink or swim time, Nick.

Survivor AlisonAlison
She’s had more lives than a cat in this game. Always perceived as a threat over others, Alison has seen her name written down at the past three tribal councils. I suppose there’s credit to be given when you continue to cheat death, but is that really about strategic game play? Not so much.

She did win the first immunity challenge this season, but hasn’t done much to personally influence the outcome of a vote. Like Nick, she needs some big, bold moves at the end to have a shot at the million.

The Survivor Stooge
Survivor AngelinaAngelina and her Goddamn Bag of Rice
I’d be shocked if Angelina didn’t make it all the way to the final tribal council. Whether there are two or three finalist, having Angelina sit next to you only increases your odds of winning since I doubt anyone will give her a vote. Maybe SWAT Dan, if Kara’s not in the final tribal council. But after that, who? And more importantly, WHY?!?!?! Don’t get me wrong, Angelina is a smart player…at least she was until the merge, then better strategists took over. I seriously doubt she wins the million dollars. However, if the same rules apply this season as last, Angelina could be casting the deciding vote.

I guess we’ll find out next week. See you next Wednesday! And by the way…did you hear? Angelina gave up a shot at immunity to get a bag of rice! #PUKE #PUKE #PUKE

angelina

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survivor recap: hoisted on her own petard.

Survivor_David_vs_Goliath

Okay, it’s been awhile since I’ve written about Survivor. I took an unintended hiatus for a few weeks and let you all down. I know. I suck. We’ll work through it.

That being said, let’s get caught up by talking about last week’s episode.

Gabby 02Gabby Makes a Bold Move
After promptly orchestrating the ouster of Trucker Carl, it was Gabby’s time to shine. She’s been a smart player all along, but her greatest strength is self-awareness. She recognized her tribemates would always regard her as an also-ran, so long as Christian is still in the game. That’s why she rightfully realized after Carl’s vote that her only path forward was to frag her closest ally: Christian.

To be fair, it’s not a genius plan and even Gabby would likely admit that, given Christian’s been cheating death so many times at Tribal Council (including one of the most insane combination of vote stealing, idol-playing and idol-nullifying combos we’ve ever seen). Everyone knows Christian is the man to beat. This diminutive brainiac from the original David Tribe is the true Goliath on the island and everyone knows it.

The fact that Christian has survived this long is testament to his game play, his social skills and his ability to sniff out a blindside. That’s why Gabby’s sudden turn this week appeared to be the final nail in Christian’s coffin.

Not so fast.

Gabby TorchNothing is ever so clean on Survivor, is it? The one, undeniable truth in Survivor is also true in the mafia: if everyone keeps their mouths shut and no one rats, you can get away with anything. The other undeniable truth: no one can keep their damn mouths shut. Davie’s whispering campaign was all Christian needed to get his guard up. And, at Tribal Council, Christian read the room perfectly and, in the end, Gabby was hoisted on her own petard.

Even though it may have felt like a dirty double-cross to some, I admired Gabby’s move. It was bold and it was necessary if she wanted to make a big, meaningful play that she could put on her Survivor resume. Unfortunately for her, she was too close to her target and became fodder herself.

Survivor Angelina 02Shut up, Angelina. Just. Shut. UP!
The reward challenge provided the obligatory “visit from home” moments that make people weep like little babies. I’m certain the emotion is real, so I shouldn’t make fun of it too much. The food aspect of this reward is probably more meaningful in the long run, but I imagine a visit from loved ones after being cut off for more than a month provides a welcome respite from the game.

And, of course, Angelina—obnoxious, self-absorbed Angelina—found a way to make this challenge about herself, yammering to her mother about how she saved her tribe from starvation with her big move of sacrificing immunity for rice. Shut up, Angelina, would you, please? Just SHUT. UP!

For one, your “big move” falls into the same bucket as all the big moves of preening jackasses like Clueless Kass from the Cagayan and Cambodia seasons. What you did was a grand gesture. And totally meaningless. It did not advance you in the game. It did not endear you to your tribemates. It did absolutely nothing. It was a true, Clueless Kass sort of move. For those who don’t remember, Kass, fancied herself a brilliant Survivor player and threw her alliances under the bus multiple times, claiming she was “shaking things up,” or some bullshit like that. She made big, gaudy moves that ultimately did absolutely nothing to improve her lot in the game.

Yes, big moves make a world of difference. But those big moves have to advance your position. If they don’t, it’s nothing but noise. All hat, no cattle. And that’s precisely what Angelina’s immunity-for-rice exchange amounts to. Yet, she can’t stop running her mouth about how awesome a move it was to whomever will freakin’ listen.

Well, listen to this, Angelina: you’re the stooge they’re going to drag to the end of the game. You know why? Because no one will give you a vote. Your only value, moving forward, is you will award someone $1 million; either on the jury or as a tiebreaker. You are an asterisk in this game.

Handicapping the Players
We’re down to crunch time. Right now, here’s how I would rate the remaining players’ chances of winning:

Odds-on Favorite
Kara. She has jury votes. She’s been a crafty player. She’s won immunity. Kara’s playing a complete game and no one even perceives her as the obvious threat she is. I like her chances.

Hope is Waning
Christian. Unless he wins immunity the rest of the way, he’s toast. Nobody wants to face him in the end. They’ll vote him out the first chance they get.

Angelina. Say hello to this season’s drag-along stooge. She’s a smart player, but not as smart as she thinks she is.

Dark Horse
Alison. She’s been an against-all-odds player for quite a bit of this season. Seems she’s always in the mix to receive votes, but always eeks it out.

The Sneaky-Sneaks
Nick. With the exception of winning immunity, Nick is a smart, sneaky player. I don’t think he’s done enough to win over jury votes yet, though.

Davie. Davie’s played a relatively quiet game to this point. If he can orchestrate one or two big moves moving forward, he could distinguish himself as a legitimate threat.

Mike. Mike seems the least threatening of all remaining players, but he may be the most conniving and least trustworthy. He’ll turn on you in a heartbeat if you’re not careful. I mean that as a compliment. Don’t get caught watching the paint dry on this dude.

Survivor Mike.jpg

 

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my 2018 election predictions: part deux.

VoteAbout 48 hours from the time I’m writing this, we should have a pretty clear idea of what the House and Senate will look like when they reconvene in January. Will Republicans hold onto both chambers in Washington, or will Democrats gain control of one or both? Before we get to that, a bit of historical perspective is worth a look.

The White House Usually Loses Seats in the Midterm
Traditionally, yes. This is mostly true. Going back to 1982, the party that holds the White House has lost seats in both the House and the Senate in seven of the nine previous midterm elections. The only outliers are 1998 and 2002.

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 7.31.11 AM

source: FairVote.org

Why does this happen? Good question. The public can be fickle, I suppose. It’s also true that the party out of the White House has more campaign ammo to unload. That was evident in 2010, when Republicans destroyed Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, that same set of laws is coming into play again in this midterm election; only this time, Republicans are getting beaten over it. Seems people who were once against it are now for it.

Like I said…fickle.

Voter Turnout is Much Lower in the Midterm Elections
Historically speaking, voter turnout in midterm elections is always lower than in presidential elections. For example, 60.1 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election. The 2014 mid-term election? 36.7 percent, which was a sharp decline from previous mid-terms. The highest mid-term voter turnout in modern times was 48.7 percent in 1966. Since 1982, however, turnout has cracked 40 percent only four times.

Voter Turnout

source: FairVote.org

What to Expect Tomorrow
Turnout is anticipated to be high. Already we’ve seen high turnout for early voting around the country. Here in my home state of Nevada, for example, 40 percent of registered voters have already gone to the polls. That’s a massive increase over 2014, which barely cracked 25 percent.

My prediction: national voter turnout will be somewhere around 45 percent. That’s purely a hunch. Even with all the hyperbole and rhetoric around this being “the most important election of our lives,” some people simply choose to not vote.

High Voter Turnout = Democratic Party Wins
Though that’s been true in the past, I’m not so sure it’ll be a clean sweep tomorrow. Yes, Democrats are predicted to win enough seats (they only need 25) to reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is another story entirely. That seems odd, considering Republicans are clinging to a 51-49 majority, but several factors favor their Senate races (we’ll get to that later).

For now, here’s how you’ll be able to tell if Democrats are truly leading the turnout: winning in Trump districts. If Democrats are competing and winning in districts and states that Trump won in 2016, then Democrats have momentum. We’re seeing many signs of Republicans in trouble in the House as well as gubernatorial races, but not the Senate. Again, we’ll get to that.

Before We Get Into it…
Here’s what I expect overall tomorrow: Democrats will win back the House, but not the Senate. In fact, don’t be surprised if it ends up Republicans gain a Senate seat. There. That’s the overall prediction. Now then, let’s look a little bit deeper at some races.

The House of Representatives
House Of Representatives Allows Media Rare View Of House ChamberAll 435 seats in the House are on the line tomorrow. You already knew that. There are far, far too many races out there and there’s no need to handicap them all. A handful of races, however, could be bellwether elections that may predict the intensity of the so-called “blue wave.” In fact, BallotPedia has a list of several key battleground House races on its website. Spoiler alert: most of these seats are currently held by Republicans.

As mentioned previously, the party that controls the White House traditionally loses in the mid-terms. Some degradation of Republican power is predicted.

Current House

Here are the House races I’m highlighting to watch tomorrow:
California 48th: Dana Rohrbacher (R-incumbent) vs. Harley Rouda (D)
Rohrbacher’s been in that seat since Christ was a corporal (as my dad used to say). True, California is a deep, blue state. But Orange County is a traditional Republican stronghold with Rohrbacher representing it for 30 years now. Why is this a fight right now? Ol’ Dana’s been the subject of some potentially naughty dealings with Russians of late. That hasn’t helped. Will it be enough to unseat him? We’ll see.
PREDICTION: ROHRBACHER STAYS

California 49th: Mike Levin (D) vs. Diane Harkey (R)
Republican incumbent Darrell Issa is stepping down after nine terms in office.
PREDICTION: LEVIN FLIPS 49 BLUE

Indiana 6th: Greg Pence (R) vs. Jeannine Lee Lake (D)
Yes, Pence is part of that Pence family. He’s the arrogant, lazy, entitled brother to the dimwit vice president. Yes, I called him a dimwit because he is a dimwit. Greg Pence is going to win this race going away. He has zero political experience and is running a campaign in name only. He refuses to debate his challenger. He refuses to make appearances. He’s running a lazy campaign because he’s a lazy, lazy man who doesn’t deserve to win. But he will win. And voters who pull the lever for him should be embarrassed they did so. Greg Pence represents everything that is wrong with politics. Everything. This is why I sometimes despise my former home state.
PREDICTION: PENCE WINS. PENCE SUCKS. IN-6 SUCKS

Michigan 8th: Mike Bishop (R-incumbent) vs. Elissa Slotkin (D)
Just looking at this district makes you want to scream for impartial re-districting. It looks conveniently drawn. Just sayin’. Though Bishop’s only held the seat for two terms, MI-8 has been a red district for 18 years. Until now.
PREDICTION: ELISSA SLOTKIN WINS

New York 14th: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) vs. Anthony Pappas (R)
This is a solid blue district that Ocasio-Cortez is likely to win in a landslide. That’s not the story. The story is the fact that she primaried Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley by running to his left and grabbing more than 56 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez is poised to become a darling of the left and (I’m guessing) a favorite target of Fox News because she uses the evil ‘s’ word to describe herself. That’s democratic socialist, in case you wondered. At 29 years old, I expect Ocasio-Cortez to be the far left’s favorite voice in Washington.
PREDICTION: DUH!

Utah 4th: Mia Love (R-incumbent) vs. Ben McAdams
An interesting battle between a pair of potential darlings of their respective parties. Mia Love made headlines four years ago when she won this seat because she’s a young, African-American, conservative woman who toes the party line. Her challenger is the current mayor of Salt Lake City and considered a moderate. Personally, I know nothing about this race, other than polls have it tied or McAdams leading. Keep an eye on this one.
PREDICTION: NO LOVE FOR MIA; McADAMS WINS

Senate Chamber.jpgThe U.S. Senate
This is a tough map for Democrats. They’ve got to defend 23 of the 35 seats up for election tomorrow. And they need to flip a net total of two seats to gain the majority. Not so easy, considering 17 of those seats (nine of which are held by Democrats) are in states Trump won in 2016. This is why Democrats have never been confident about their chances.

Senate Breakdown.pngRealistically, about five or six of these races are tight. And Democrats would need them all to break their way to win the majority. Chances of that happening? About 1/7, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. And I agree with them. But who knows. Perhaps Democrats thread the needle just so and produce their magical unicorn. I’m not betting on that, but there are a handful of races worth watching tomorrow. These will likely determine if the Senate goes red or blue.

NORTH DAKOTA: Heidi Heitkamp (D-incumbent) vs. Kevin Cramer (R)
Heidi’s in deep, deep trouble. Polling shows Cramer’s lead has widened over the past month. Unless something crazy happens—and, really, how often does something crazy happen in North freakin’ Dakota?—Heitkamp is likely one-and-done as a senator.
PREDICTION: CRAMER

TEXAS: Ted Cruz (R-incumbent) vs. Beto O’Rourke (D)
This has been an intriguing race to watch. Cruz, for the record, is a slimy, sweaty, chinless weasel. He’s a first-term senator that even his fellow Republican senators don’t like. But he’s a national brand (and Donald Trump’s latest lapdog). O’Rourke has become a national brand, too. Young, popular, hip, pulls in crowds of young people…sound familiar? Yeah, don’t your hopes up. Obama was smart enough to be in Illinois. O’Rourke is running to unseat a deep red senator in a deep red state. Unless all the polling data in Texas is wrong—which I don’t expect—Cruz will win tomorrow.
PREDICTION: SIX MORE YEARS OF THE SWEATY, CHINLESS WEASEL

INDIANA: Joe Donnelly (D-incumbent) vs. Mike Braun(R)
Indiana Democrats are something like el chupacabra. You hear about them, but rarely see one in person. Donnelly is a Democrat. An Indiana Democrat, so he’s really not all that liberal. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore in the Hoosier State of Mind. Outside of two or three counties, Democrats don’t fare well in Indiana. But I think those two or three counties will come through for Donnelly tomorrow. Why? I have no idea. Hope, I guess.
PREDICTION: DONNELLY

NEVADA: Dean Heller (R-incumbent) vs. Jacky Rosen (D)
This is one the Democrats need if they want to flip the Senate. Rosen is in her first (and only) term as a House rep. Heller is clinging for dear life in a state that seems to be going from red to purple. This race is truly neck-and-neck. Being as how I canvassed for Jacky Rosen, I will not make a prediction; just advise you to watch this one.
PREDICTION: YOU DECIDE

ARIZONA: Martha McSally (R) vs. Kyrsten Sinema (D)
This is the first real chance in a long time Democrats have at an Arizona Senate seat. Republican Jeff Flake (who lives up to his last name, if you ask me) is stepping down. Again, this is a race Democrats need. Sinema’s been leading most of the way in polls, but McSally’s narrowed the gap in recent days. I’m predicting a shocker here.
PREDICTION: SINEMA

MISSOURI: Clair McCaskill (D-incumbent) vs. Josh Hawley (R)
This one has Democrats genuinely nervous. McCaskill’s vying for a third term in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996…but did elect Democrat Jay Nixon for governor in 2008 and 2012 (thanks, Obama!). Two problems for McCaskill this time, though. 1: Trump destroyed Clinton in 2016; and 2: she doesn’t have a moron like Todd Akin to run against this time. Hawley is a young Republican whom I’m sure has designs on something greater than the Senate. This could be his steppingstone.
PREDICTION: TOO CLOSE TO CALL

There you have it, kids. Now get out there and vote!

Alice Elected

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my 2018 election predictions: part i

VoteI was going to try and pull a Steve Kornacki and put together a highly-detailed, well researched analysis/prediction of Tuesday’s midterm election. I was going to do that, but then I decided to pull back and focus more on the 10,000-foot view of it all.

I’ll start with a quick look at some hotly-contested gubernatorial races around the country. There are a handful of truly interesting ones that I’m sure you’ve heard about on the news. I’m also going to continue my tradition of making predictions…because my election-night predictions have always been stellar, right? Hey, I nailed 2012! 2016? Not so much, but I’ll redeem myself with some magic this week.

Before I start, let me preface this by saying none of these predictions are endorsements. I’m not that influential and I know it. But I like to follow politics for the horse race of it all. With that in mind, here goes…

The Gubernatorial Races to Watch
There are a few interesting ones to watch: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Yes. Many of those are Midwest states that were once thought of as an impenetrable “blue wall” in presidential elections. But all these states have one thing in common: all their governors are Republicans. One interesting wrinkle, though: only two (Iowa and Wisconsin) have incumbents seeking re-election. The rest are up for grabs. Will any of them change hands on election night?

Florida: Ron DeSantis (R) vs. Andrew Gillum (D)
This one has gotten ugly…reeeeeeaaaalllllly ugly! DeSantis is a Trump disciple. Gillum is a young (39 years old) mayor of Tallahassee. The politics of race and race-baiting has come to the fore in this election. Will it make a difference to Floridians? Not sure if that’ll be the tipping point, but I’m guessing there will be change in the Sunshine State.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Gillum
GILLUM

Georgia: Brian Kemp (R) vs. Stacey Abrams (D)
Who would’ve ever thought deep red Georgia would be in play? Well, it is. Along with the national attention it’s attracted, this race has also led to Will Ferrell and Oprah freakin’ Winfrey knocking on doors, canvassing for Abrams. Will she win? I think she’ll make it a close race, but Georgia isn’t ready to turn blue just yet.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Kemp
KEMP

Iowa: Kim Reynolds (R-incumbent) vs. Fred Hubbell (D)
I haven’t followed this race at all. Iowa is a fickle state, though. They’re sometimes red, sometimes blue. This might be the year of blue corn. I’m tossing a coin on this one, honestly.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Hubbell
HUBBELL

Kansas: Kris Kobach (R) vs. Laura Kelly (D)
Kris Kobach is a slimy character. He really is. But Kansas hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 2006. You’d think, after the sheer and utter disaster of the Sam Brownback Reign of Stupidity that Kansas would say, “hey…maybe we should try the other guys this time.” Wrong. They won’t.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Kobach
KOBACH

Michigan: Bill Schuette (R) vs. Gretchen Whitmer (D)
I have vivid memories from my Michigan youth of Bill Schuette’s campaign commercials back in the 80s. “Bill Schuette on duty.” It was very clever and very smart because it made a rhyme out of his name; made an otherwise hard-to-pronounce name into a brand. Smart. Very smart. Currently serving as Michigan’s attorney general, Schuette’s in a bit of hot water of his own right now (though I don’t recall all the particulars). Aside from that baggage, Michigan has been wont to flip back and forth on governors (though I’m still shocked they re-elected Snyder in the first place). Anyway, Whitmer seems to have a commanding lead right now. Another element, I imagine, is Flint’s water crisis. That can’t be helping any Michigan Republicans just now.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Whitmer
WHITMER

Nevada: Adam Laxalt (R) vs. Steve Sisolak (D)
My home state. Nevada is a purple state. While Clark County is a stronghold for Democrats, it’s not a runaway train. Yeah, Dems lead in Vegas and the surrounding areas, but Republicans hold their own. Outside Clark County, the vast majority of Nevada is rural and red, which offsets the Clark County Democrats. That’s why Nevada went blue in 2016, but outgoing GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won re-election in 2014 in a landslide. And while Dems hold three of the state’s four congressional seats, the senate is split (and Democrat Kathleen Cortez-Masto eeked out a victory in 2016). Like I said, purple. This race is truly a toss-up. Full disclosure: I’ve been out knocking on doors on behalf of Nevada Democrats this election season. My hope: Sisolak wins. But I will not make a prediction on this race. Just as Kirk Herbstreit will not give a prediction on a game he’s calling, I shall do the same. The bottom line: voter turnout.
PREDICTION
Question Mark
?

Ohio: Mike DeWine (R) vs. Richard Cordray (D)
I’m a little surprised this is such a tight race. Republican incumbent John Kasich seems like a popular guy (although his performance in the presidential primaries didn’t show that). Kasich left a good legacy behind, so I have no idea what’s going on here. My gut tells me Ohio stays red, but in a tight one.
PREDICTION
Headshot_DeWine
DeWINE

Wisconsin: Scott Walker (R-incumbent) vs. Tony Evers (D)
Democrats have been screwing up in Wisconsin for the better part of a decade. Walker rode in on the 2010 red wave and summarily went to war against unions. He’s a weasel, if you ask me. But Democrats screwed the pooch by forcing a recall election in 2012 that was confusing, messy and lacked a message. Walker survived that and won re-election in 2014. Though Walker’s benefited from liberal voter apathy in his previous elections, he may not be so lucky this time. One can hope. Weasel.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Evers
EVERS

Coming soon…part ii: predictions on key House and Senate races. Stay tuned.

Truman Waving "Dewey Defeats Truman" Headline

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