Category Archives: pop culture

survivor recap: another action freak bites the dust.

Survivor EE LogoAction freak. That’s a term I’ve explained in the past, but I’ll explain it again. When I was a casino dice dealer, we would occasionally have a player at our table who had to spread bets all over the table. He had to press bets, add bets and move bets around between every single roll of the dice. He’s an action freak. And action freaks can’t stand it if there are no payouts coming his way after a roll, so he keeps betting and betting until pretty much any number—other than seven—will result in a payout. Action freaks are too preoccupied with keeping bets in action, rather than the final goal (winning). Sure, the action freak thinks he’s charting a path to victory. In reality, he’s just looking super busy until a seven rolls and wipes him out. Action freaks control the pace of a craps game, to some extent, but in the end, they usually get hoisted on their own petard.

So it goes with Ron. He’s the second consecutive Survivor action freak to find himself on Edge of Extinction with a snuffed torch after making a series of unnecessary and colossally stupid moves.

Two weeks ago, the player who arrogantly calls himself “the Wardog” (what an asshole) shot himself in the foot by stupidly voting out his closest ally—because he thought he was a great chance to vote out what he deemed his biggest threat. What happened next? He got bounced. This clown whom I refuse to call by his self-given nickname was the greatest Survivor mastermind in his own mind. In reality, just another Chaos Clueless Kass; someone who makes a shit ton of moves and is always “strategizing.” But, like Kass, he overthought everything without actually excelling at any other part of the game and now finds himself snuggled up to the likes of Reem, David and Aubry on a desolate island.

SURVIVOR

This is the guy who’s crushing it on Survivor: America’s Ultimate Dad Bod Champion.

Unlike Dan “The Wardog” DaSilva, Ron was actually a much more strategic player. He truly was manipulating fellow Survivor players, moving them around like chess pieces on a board of his own creation. Since the merge, Ron has played a major role in voting out everyone but for Joe on Day 19. He also successfully kept his own name off the parchment until Day 31. Of course, had Anchorman Rick Devens not found the all-important hidden immunity idol during his midnight caper, Ron would’ve dodged a bullet, since final vote was four for Devens, three for Ron and one for Aurora. So, credit Devens for being something of a king slayer in this episode. He continues to find ways to stave off elimination.

 

Up until this episode, I really respected Ron’s game play. I’m not one to get too amped up when players lie to one another, or blindside a player or backstab to get ahead. It’s a game. No one died. Get over it. However, Ron was taking a bit of a victory lap and congratulating himself way too much. Was he in control? Sure he was. But he made one of the dumbest calculations I’ve ever seen on Survivor when he gave Devens his expired advantage. Ron gained nothing—absolutely NOTHING!—in making this move. He told Devens he was doing it to re-gain his trust after lying to him in the vote to knock off WarDog Puppy. Why?!?!

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 4.26.04 AM

Am I the only one reminded of da Vinci’s The Last Supper here?

Devens was already on the chopping block. Virtually all remaining players were onboard with the plan to knock off Devens first chance they got. It was out in the open. Devens himself knew this. So why the hell would you give him a worthless advantage? To gain his trust? Again, why????

 

Let’s game this out…suppose Ron never gives Devens that advantage. The worst thing that happens is Devens wins immunity or finds a hidden immunity idol. Either one happens, you coalesce around your Plan B (Aurora, likely) and move on. If neither happens, Rick goes back to Edge of Extinction and thinks nothing differently of Ron. But what did you do, Ron? You just had to play your puppet-master role even though there was absolutely no strategy behind it.

At Tribal Council, Devens plays the bogus advantage, Probst informs him it’s expired and now Devens has someone to vote against had his torch been snuffed tonight. It made you look petty and vindictive, Ron, because you stood to gain nothing other than to watch Devens embarrass himself. That is poor jury management. Just like the action freak you are, Ron, you got hoisted on your own petard.

Ron may very well find his way back in this game (I doubt it), but his chance of winning $1 million just took a nosedive. He was one of the strongest manipulators in the game this season, but he got sloppy and arrogant. I was not sad to see you go, Ron. You did it to yourself.

 

Awkward

I’m not crying! YOU’RE crying!

The Obligatory “Loved Ones” Episode aka A Very Special Episode of Blossom
Yeah, I’m sure this is a great and emotional moment for the players who’ve been locked away from society for more than a month. As a fan of the game, I get it. It’s a warm-and-fuzzy. It’s our very special episode of Blossom each season. The only time I really like this is when the loved ones get to participate in a challenge, so cheers for that. But I don’t agree with Lauren’s assertion that the reward winner is making a “million dollar decision” on whom to take to the reward.

 

It’s also worth noting that, in a week where Ron made a series of poor decisions, bringing Gavin to the reward was smart. It didn’t pay off, but it was smart.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.48.02 AMImmunity Challenge: Stand in the Place Where You Live…
A simple endurance/take the pain challenge. Well, simple to understand; difficult to win. This particular challenge probably favors people who are lighter and have a stronger core. Also…small feet probably help. I would’ve expected Julie or Victoria to win, honestly. But props to Gavin for snagging his second immunity necklace.

Tribal ProbtsTribal Council: Aurora’s Understated Big Move
We already broke down Ron’s colossal stupidity and arrogance toward Devens, so no need to replay that down. Let’s talk about Aurora’s understated big move. By giving her second-vote advantage to Gavin, Aurora earned consideration for Survivor Employee of the Week™ honors. Unlike Aurora, who voted for Devens, Gavin ended up throwing both votes on Ron, thus avoiding what Aurora feared the most: a tie with her Survivor game in the balance.

Why was this a smart move by Aurora? Had Gavin voted for Devens, his votes wouldn’t have counted and there would’ve been a tie between Aurora and Ron, forcing a second vote; a vote in which neither Ron nor Aurora could participate. She would’ve been a spectator, which is not a place you want to be when the stakes are this high. Since four people voted for Rick and only two voted for Ron, there’s no telling how this vote would’ve gone for Aurora. That move of giving votes to a guy who’d be guaranteed to vote in a tiebreaker vote was very shrewd.

Sure, you can argue it’s moot since it never got to a tie. But Aurora played her advantage smartly to decrease the odds of it happening. Smart move, Aurora. Very smart move.

The Haves vs. The Have Nots
So, who’s got a chance to win this season? Well, we’re down to six remaining players—plus a returnee from Edge of Extinction, at some point. But some seem to have the inside track. Who are the Haves and who are the Have Nots? Here’s what I think.

The Haves
AuroraAurora McCreary. I have no problem with Aurora rifling through Devens’ bag while he was idol hunting. Sure, she got caught and it’s a bad look, but it’s part of the game. No, I wouldn’t like it if it happened to me, but it’s allowed. Truth be told, Aurora’s one of my favorite players this season. Like Devens, her name seems to come up a lot for elimination. She’s received votes in three consecutive Tribal Councils. But she’s a threat and her tribemates know it. If she can work a new alliance—possibly with whomever comes back into the game + Victoria and/or Lauren—she could get herself to the Final Tribal Council

GavinGavin Whitson. He’s a sharp player, a threat in challenges and has built some decent relationships along the way. But I feel he’s a man without a home, at this point and his game has been too quiet. I could be wrong about that and reserve the right to change my mind. With Ron and “WarPinhead” out of the game—he did player a major part in those votes—this could be his chance to step up and take control.

The Have Nots
DevensRick Devens. Clearly, Devens is the anointed “good guy” and fan favorite this season. I admit I underestimated him early in the game; called him doughy and non-threatening. I was wrong. He’s become a bit of a challenge beast and has a nose for hidden idols. Even though he has very few allies back at camp, I’m betting the jury likes him more and more because he’s one of them and refuses to lose. HIs competition knows it too, which is why the target on his back gets larger with every day he’s still in the game. Devens needs to win out or he’s done. Will he do it? Story at 11.

JulieJulie Rosenberg. Her stock plummeted when her ride-or-die (Ron) got snuffed. Then again, this might be the best thing that happened to her. Julie’s more conniving than she’s given credit for in this game, if you ask me. She’s also won an immunity challenge.

She needs one good win or one good vote to distinguish herself has a threat.

 

Stuck in the Middle.
LaurenLauren O’Connell. A tough competitor who seems to have been on the wrong side of reward challenges way more than she deserved. Her strength is she’s mostly been on the right side of elimination votes. Her weakness is probably one of perception and that’s not necessarily fair.

Juries like players who make big moves. Lauren needs a big move to jump to the other side of the ledger. But let’s not forget: she has a couple old allies over in the jury. Lauren may have more votes than we realize.

VictoriaVictoria Baamonde. This is your time to shine, Victoria. Early in the game, she showed a lot of promise. She knew how to stay off the chopping block and worked with the right alliances. She was much more in control during the team portion of the game. Since the merge, she’s been more patient. That’s smart.

But now that we’re getting down to crunch time, Victoria needs either a run of immunity wins or she needs to orchestrate some big moves. Perhaps it’s an issue of perception vs. reality. I think she’s a sharp player who understands the game better than most. But right now, her résumé is incomplete.

Survivor Employee of the Week™
SURVIVORIsn’t it obvious? Rick Devens was going home. He was dead before the Immunity Challenge had begun. He was going back to Edge of Extinction.

Were it not for his Paul Revere-like midnight climb up a tree at camp while his entire tribe slept, we wouldn’t even be talking about Rick anymore. Devens’ never-say-die spirit saved him from imminent elimination.

You cheated death again, Rick! Well done.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.50.40 AMNext Time on Survivor…
Next Wednesday is the last episode before the finale, so this must be the week we finally get another Edge player back in the game. Whom will it be? Honestly, I’d love it if Reem got it. She’s been stuck on that Extinction island all this time and is pissed! She’d never win the million dollars, but I think she’d wreak havoc on the place if she got back in.

Upset

 

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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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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–david vs. goliath recap: jeremy spoke in class today.

jeremy-crawford-natalie-cole-survivor-david-vs-goliathPlaying Survivor must be exhausting. Because sometimes, these early episodes are equally exhausting for the viewers. It’s only Day 9 by the time Tribal Council No. 2 rolls around and already, players have end-game strategy on their minds. Last night, that meant the enjoyable and loquacious Jeremy was sent packing over Natalie before he had a chance to become a real threat. Seems the Goliath Tribe is willing to put up with an annoyance more than take the chance on letting Jeremy stick around. I suppose that’s a fair consideration, but give credit to Natalia for calling that shot and putting Jeremy in play. After all, Natalie was the obvious choice to go home.

How Did We Get Here?
The David Tribe finally notch a victory over Goliath with a nerd challenge simple puzzle. Naturally, Christian and Gabby—the most adorable couple in Survivor history ever—were at the ready to solve it. Over on the Goliath side, it was over before it even started. Natalie and whomever did the puzzle with her were doomed. Doomed!

I can’t decide if thinking about end-game strategy on Day 8 or 9 is smart or stupid. We already know Survivor is made up of both long-game and short-game maneuvers to get to the end. But how do you decide who should stay and who should go? Do you remove “weak” people or the ones who don’t play nice first? Not really, no. Alliances form quickly and one or two self-anointed masterminds begin labeling the sneaks vs. the layabouts (or some such nomenclature).

A Line in the Sand
Over on the David Tribe, Nick and Mason have quickly aligned in their Mason-Dixon Alliance, which proves one thing about today’s Survivor players: they are savvy enough to know hashtagable nicknames are a readymade way to become popular among fans and a great way to generate buzz. I give credit to Nick for that one. He knows how to play to the camera without being too obvious about it.

0bdc2f727c6f99ee_svr37_800x1000_jeremycrawfordJeremy Spoke in Class Today
Over on Goliath, Jeremy worked hard—too hard, apparently—to stand out as an influential player. His sneaking around and gathering of information was smart. His mistake was making it too obvious. Jeremy had a lot to say to everyone about his own game play. Sure, it makes sense to try and form an alliance by sharing information about Dan’s hidden immunity idol. What Jeremy didn’t realize is telling people he found it while rummaging through Dan’s belongings exposed himself as a threat. Perhaps a better play would’ve been waiting to share that information when it mattered more.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that a good player needs to exercise restraint as much as anything else. After losing to David, the Goliath Tribe made a unanimous decision that dragging Natalie along is better than running through the game with a gamer like Jeremy.

Personally speaking, I think they made a very bad move booting Jeremy. For one, Natalie Napalm? Yeah, no. You’re not dropping napalm, Natalie. You’re just not fitting in. You were spared because Jeremy is the stronger player. The mistake for Goliath is not recognizing they could be creating a monster. Then again, perhaps it doesn’t matter as much as they think.

The “Showmance”
But I do think the Goliath Tribe is making a MASSIVE error by keeping the “showmance” of Dan and Kara intact. Couples in Survivor are a dangerous thing. They are an inseparable, two-vote bloc that cannot be taken down. Once it takes root, the showmance grows like a weed. The best thing for Goliath—and every other player—is to break that shit up pronto!

Even Nick over at the David Tribe recognizes Christian and Gabby are getting too chummy. They truly are two peas in a pod and are totally adorable. But in the context of Survivor, I’d be working to remove one of them. Nick already sees that and will allow his David tribemates to continue believing Gabby is a threat.

On the Chopping Block
Because of what we saw tonight, I’d be shocked to see Gabby, Natalie or Bi make it to the merge. We’ve already discussed the issues with Gabby and Natalie, but what about Bi? I think that knee injury is going to prove to be a liability for her. It’s still too early to tell who’s a legitimate threat to win the game, though. Nick might be a finalist, simply because he seems to have a stronger knack for the underlying strategery of Survivor that others may not. Meaning: he’s a sly, subtle conniver. Christian can solve puzzles like nobody’s business, but he’s yet to display the street smarts he needs to advance. i still enjoy watching him play the game, though.

pro69high.viwindow0Goliath’s Quiet Mastermind: Natalia
Natalia (not Natalie) over on the Goliath side of things has also shown her ability to move the chess pieces around the board. Wasn’t she the one who pushed the hardest to oust Jeremy tonight? It was a bold move and a good move. Does it make the tribe stronger? She convinced everyone that matters less than people think and she was right.

Given how often Survivor shuffles the deck and moves players around, the idea of remaining a single, cohesive tribe doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. And that’s a good thing, by the way. As a fan, I always hated how tribal alliances played too much of a premium after a merge. It’s better to see players in an individual game early; makes things more interesting for the viewers.

What’s Next?
The tease for next week’s episode appears to shuffle tribes. This could be interesting since there’s an odd number of players. How will the alliances hold up? Will this split expose previously invulnerable players? Can this new development provide a much-needed reset for Natalie? Also, Bi’s knee (bee’s knees?) is likely to be a factor. Her game may end much sooner than she’d like.

Stay tuned.

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survivor david vs. goliath recap: everybody loves an underdog…right?

fullcast2
Every fall, I begrudgingly trudge into the first episode of my favorite reality show, Survivor. ‘Begrudgingly’ because fans of the show are attune to the fact that the first four or five episodes are more of an exercise in introducing the season’s players and the dynamics at play in each tribe. Who’s the good guy? Who’s the villain? Which ones are the vapid assholes who are going to spend their time spooning and coupling up? As much as I love the show, the first handful of episodes are not as enjoyable as the last few.

So, as we plow into Season 37’s opening episode, I’m sort of steeling myself to white-knuckle through it. But this time around, there were subtle differences that made this inaugural episode one of the franchise’s best. Sure, we still had the contrivances of producers clearly identifying for whom we should root and for whom we should jeer, but they did it in such a manner that was more compelling than I expected. Instead of hand-picking one or two players to be our plucky, little-engine-that-could common man or woman (think: Rupert Boneham or Donathan Hurley, or Stephanie LaGrossa), producers decided to make it easier this season by playing out Revenge of the Nerds on a tropical island.

People You Love to Hate
Under the banner of David vs. Goliath, it’s obvious which side the viewers at home are supposed to support. The David tribe is full of lovable misfits with whom the average person can relate and empathize vs. a team full of smug bullies, bosses you hate and vapid morons looking to get laid between immunity challenges.

No, it’s not fair at all to the members of the Goliath tribe; especially when one of their members is Mike, who twice competed on The Amazing Race with his father as his race partner. How can you ever hate that guy??? And John the pro wrestler—and obvious Goliath—is already one of my favorite players because he doesn’t take himself too seriously and seems to be more down to earth than some of his tribemates (I’m looking at you Dan, you one-dimensional chucklehead). But this is Survivor and we need someone to hate, so it’s you we hate, Goliath tribe. It’s you.

Not really. I mean, they’re going to mix them up soon enough anyway, so let’s not get too emotionally invested at this point, eh?

The best part of this episode is producers seemed to want to spend more time getting to know the individual players early. Sure, there was the perfunctory drama of alliances forming, that one’s lazy, that one’s creepy, that one’s looking for an idol already, those two are already trying to be a couple, that one’s too bossy while building the shelter, blah-blah-blah. But it all seemed to work better in this episode because we had a challenge between the tribes before they even got off the boat. I loved that! The challenge served as a great device in creating a little tension between the tribes while getting to know some of them as individuals.

Admittedly, This vs. That is nothing new, especially for Survivor. We’re already used to it. And we’re already used to people placing far too high a premium on physical attributes in this game. Big and strong is good for moving heavy things, but the physical challenges on Survivor—even in the early episodes—rarely rely on brute strength. Guile, agility, balance and quickness are the skills you really need. Give me a swimmer over a power lifter any day of the week on Survivor.

About That First Challenge…
It was clear from the very beginning what lesson was being conveyed: judge not lest ye be judged. The Goliath tribe lost because it was supposed to lose. But what did it really lose? Nothing. Nothing at all. Nevertheless, it was more fun to watch than pillaging or whatever they’ve done in past first episodes. It gave the audience as much as the players a real opportunity to size everyone up.

Camp Dynamics
I suppose there’s no way to change this element of Survivor. We’re always going to see the same arguments and friction points play out. Once the initial jolt of serotonin wears off and is replaced by hunger pangs and exhaustion, the players immediately begin weeding out the miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. Already we see Natalie at odds with her Goliath tribe. And we saw a gruff and unvarnished Pat giving his David tribe some anxiety. At least Pat’s tribe recognized he has a strong work ethic to match his ability to lead the shelter-building exercise.

While this 90-minute episode was constructed with a clearer narrative to give us a better glimpse into all the players, it’s still going to take a few weeks to truly sort them out. But I still feel like we learned a lot more about both tribes in a balanced manner. And what I learned is simple: not all Davids are Davids and not all Goliaths are Goliaths. That David vs. Goliath banner is cute, but it’s just a MacGuffin. Don’t get too caught up in it, no matter how many times this season Jeff Probst throws it at us.

Enough with Immunity Idols!
Even though I knew better, I hoped against hope that we might see an end to hidden immunity idols. Once upon a time, this was a great and interesting way to shake up alliances and shift power in the game. Now, it’s become the most predictable of game twists that producers don’t even have to bother with hiding clues. Players just go look for them now.

The reason I’m weary about hidden idols is because it completely upends the strategic element of Survivor. It’s like a game of chess being interrupted by Pac-Man sweeping across the board, gobbling up all your players. Sure, I get it. Hidden idols are a contrivance to foment drama and keep an air of unknown heading into the most perfunctory of tribal councils. But if there’s a hidden idol as a threat in every tribal council, how is that interesting? Hopefully we don’t see idols brought into the game too much this season, but I have no faith in that at all.

Immunity Challenge: Patdown
Admittedly, I was rooting for the David tribe to win the Immunity Challenge. I felt like Goliath’s maiden Tribal Council would provide more fireworks. Alas, it was not meant to be. It’s clear producers are once again creating physical contact between the tribes in challenges to ratchet up the conflict. Sure, whatever. I’m still not entirely certain Wrestler John’s strategy of playing defense was the best use of his time on the obstacle course. In fact, I think it was a complete waste of time. I understand the thinking, but I still think it was utterly pointless. Players in Survivor often outwit themselves in this game. John was thinking too hard there, if you ask me.

And the Davids weren’t thinking enough when they nominated Carl to dig the hole under the log. Survivor loves to see it’s players dig and slither under logs. The David tribe would’ve been better served in picking Bi for that portion of the challenge. She’s an MMA fighter, so we know she’s got strength and agility. I think she would’ve whipped through that challenge in no time.

In the end, though, I suppose it didn’t matter. Sadder still, we didn’t get to see the requisite post-loss scramble ahead of David’s first Tribal Council, thanks to a boat ride from hell that sent Pat to the hospital. Even though producers clearly took some creative license with how the footage was edited, the injury was clearly serious enough that they had no choice but to remove him from the game. I’m not sure which is worse: getting voted out or getting airlifted out. One outcome means nobody wanted you and the other outcome means you’ll never know just how far you could’ve gone. Mostly, though, it just sucks because you competed, you dealt with the elements and you dealt with the game. Only to get injured in the least competitive element of Survivor.

Where Do We Go Now?
Too soon to tell for either tribe. My hunch is Pat wasn’t going to be the first player voted off the David tribe, but there’s no way of knowing. Right now, if I had to pick two favorites from either tribe, I’d go with Wrestler John and Angelina from the Goliath tribe and Elizabeth or Christian from the Davids. But I’m writing their names in pencil. I’m not sold on them yet. My hunch is John’s going to end up getting voted out because his size will be seen as a threat and Christian will get booted for being too manic.

My Favorite Players (So Far)
Wrestler John and Gabby. John seems like he’ll be fun to get to know and Gabby seems like the nicest person on the island. So far.

Stay tuned. I’ll continue to break down this season every week and I’m looking forward to analyzing actual strategy when we get to it.

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survivor finale prediction: someone will win, but who?

Game-Changers-e1486573854660Yep, it’s already the end. Seems like we just got re-acquainted with these 20 former players; some we missed, some we wish would never come back.

So, who’s going to be crowned Ultimate Survivor tonight? Good question. The remaining six players are cagey veterans of the game; three of whom have made it all the way to Final Tribal Council in previous seasons. But when it comes to crowning a winner, it’s almost more important to analyze the jury than the players.

Jeff-snuffing-torchThe Jury
In order, it’s: Hali, Ozzy, Debbie, Zeke, Sieerra, Andrea and Michaela. Three more to come tonight for a total of 10. In a Final Tribal of three players, it takes at least four votes to win Survivor. Does anyone have four votes out of these seven? Honestly, it’s too difficult to know. But I’ll take a stab at guessing for whom (of the remaining six) these seven would vote.

Hali—She’s been on the jury awhile now. I could see her going with Culpepper, even though he did vote her out.

Ozzy—Tough one. Cirie, maybe? The person who orchestrated his ouster is on the jury, so he may go with whom he thinks is the next best player. But if Ozzy thinks athleticism matters more, he might go with Sarah or Culpepper…even Tai could get a vote here (but I doubt it).

Debbie—Culpepper or Sarah, leaning toward Sarah; just because she may have an axe to grind with Culpepper.

Zeke—Sarah. Even though she had a hand in voting him out.

Sierra—Culpepper. She was in his back pocket all along.

Andrea—Tough one, here. Maybe Cirie.

Michaela—Cirie. She worked hard to pull Michaela in. I don’t see Michaela betraying that.

Survivor-Game-Changers-Finale-PRThe Final Six
Who’s odds-on favorite to win? No idea, I’ll rank them in order of how I think things go tonight.

Tai—Though I hope I’m wrong, I have a sinking feeling Tai’s going to do something classically stupid to get himself bounced before the Final Four.

Aubry—I think she’s got a great shot at being at the Final Tribal again, because she’s yet to make a really big move. Her next target has got to be Cirie.

Troyzan—He’s been floating along this entire game on borrowed time. He’s got his idol to play, which could hurt one of the big players. Can he win? Well, if he goes on a run at the end, he could.

Cirie—The sneakiest player left in the game. She has almost no shot at winning immunity in any challenge (unless it’s a quiz or something). The rest of the players should bounce her immediately before she has a chance to talk her way out of last week’s Tribal Council fiasco. If they don’t vote her out when they get the chance, she’s going to win.

Culpepper—His back has been to the wall for quite a bit of this game, but he’s avoided the chopping block. So far. After Cirie, I think everyone’s most afraid of Culpepper going to the end. He’ll get votes. Can he win? Yes. But he’s got the biggest target on his back.

Survivor-Game-Changers-2017-Spoilers-Week-10-Sneak-Peek-17-550x310Officer Sarah—For my money, the best player this season, so far. If she makes it to the end, I think she could beat anyone; including Culpepper and Cirie. But if she’s smart, she bounces them and takes Tai and Aubry so they can be runners up again.

My Final Three Prediction
Sarah, Culpepper and Troyzan.

aubry-bracco-survivor-kaoh-rong-winner-620x360What Aubry Needs to do to Win
Because she’s my favorite player, I’ve given this some thought. She needs to win a couple more immunity challenges, just to beef up her résumé. Then she needs to vote out Cirie, Sarah and Culpepper. She’d be sitting at the end with Tai and Troyzan. That’s her best shot at winning.

Who Will Win
I’m betting on Culpepper or Sarah. But who knows? Tune in tonight!

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survivor recap: go fish???

Logo_MainPage_SliderRemember last week, when I said we were heading toward all holy hell breaking out at an upcoming Tribal Council? Welp, we got it! With so many advantages, immunity idols and sneaky players floating around, it was only a matter of time before something broke and turned into a Jerry Springer episode. But before we get to that, let’s first mourn the loss of one of the players who truly had a shot at winning: Andrea.

She fought off Jeff Probst’s torch snuffer (that’s not a euphemism) twice in the past and maneuvered her way into a power position in the game. She was calling the shots and building a reputation as a gamer. But, if being a fan of Survivor has taught me anything, it’s that an alliance of five is held together with Scotch tape and hope. They are always much easier to break apart than hold together.

Vo_andrea_gcFor all of Andrea’s strengths in the game, she (and the other players) seem completely oblivious to the fact that Cirie is running circles around the rest of the players…and it cost Andrea dearly. But it wasn’t just Cirie who fragged Andrea. Sarah made a strong-yet-predictable move in pushing Andrea out of the game, too. Sarah’s been in a power position for a few tribals now. She rightfully recognized Andrea as a threat.

Though I have to admit I found it slightly shocking that the alliance of five—Andrea, Aubry, Cirie, Michaela and Sarah—broke up during this vote. It would’ve made more sense to give Culpepper the boot. He’s a perceived threat and did not have the immunity necklace around his neck. That belonged to the incomparable Aubry (full disclosure: my favorite player). The stars were perfectly aligned for the five to stick together for at least one more vote.

lfsfu0hr.pngWhat the Hell was That, Michaela?
Before going too far, I want to throw something out there: what the hell was Michaela’s plan in telling Culpepper to “go fish?” Seriously, what was that supposed to accomplish? For someone whom I thought was a smart player, Michaela’s done a lot of things this season that don’t make a lot of sense.

The fact that she’s made it this far in the game isn’t testimony to her game play. It actually speaks to her poor attitude. If I’m on that island, I want to be sitting next to her at the Final Tribal Council because I’d be certain she wouldn’t get any votes. Being an arrogant, mouthy, selfish ball hog doesn’t make you a champion. It makes you an insurance policy for other players. Cirie recognized that right away and seduced Michaela the first chance she got. And Michaela bought it hook, line and sinker.

Jury Strategery
Even though I love the drama of watching an alliance collapse upon itself, it didn’t make much strategic sense. Perhaps it’s about positioning for the jury or something, but even then, did it have to be right now? Looking at the current jury, Culpepper has probably only one vote in his favor (Sierra). He’s written Andrea’s name down three times. I doubt she’s going to reward that; especially since he didn’t orchestrate her ouster.

It’s pointless to speculate on the jury right now, though. Who knows what they’ll decide in the final Tribal Council? My only hope is they’re not big babies about solid game play. If a jury member holds a grudge over being blindsided, that jury member doesn’t belong there. Blindsides are a big part of winning strategy.

SurvivorGameChangers_TribalCouncilTribal Council Chaos
More on the jury later. We haven’t even discussed the last Tribal Council, which turned into one of the most revealing councils of the season. Culpepper winning immunity on Day 35 was big, although I don’t think it was certain that he’d get voted off the island; not with players like Cirie and Sarah in the eye of the storm. But his immunity win did force an already fragmented alliance to either band together or fall apart.

True to form, it fell apart. And that’s not very surprising, when you consider how it all played out.

With Culpepper wearing the immunity necklace, Sarah’s game play suddenly comes into focus a bit more for everyone. People took note of her feigned shock over Sierra’s vote a couple Tribals prior. Is Sarah playing to the jury? To Sierra? What’s up with that? It didn’t take long for Cirie to sort out that Sarah was legit. So why is it taking so long for everyone else to catch on that Cirie is a major threat?

After that last Tribal Council, though, I can’t imagine anyone is going to trust Cirie too much. Prior to going into Tribal Council, Cirie and Sarah seemed to be colluding to vote out Tai. Or was it Aubry? Now, I can’t remember, but for whom they were planning to vote was less important than what Sarah did next: she gave Cirie her secret “steal a vote” advantage as a show of trust. In the moment—and even right now—that made no sense to me. I’ve always been of a mind that if you’re holding any sort of advantage, you never let it go. Ever. Because the moment you hand it over to an opponent, it will be used against you. Perhaps Sarah was merely testing Cirie’s trust or she was genuinely trying to gain Cirie’s loyalty. Either way, it turned out to be the launching point to yet another epic Tribal Council.

Cirie kept her promise to use Sarah’s advantage (against Sarah?) at Tribal Council. Only there was one problem: it is non-transferrable. DOH! Did Sarah know that? She seemed to know that, which leads me to believe she was testing Cirie. And Cirie FAILED! She was planning to hoist Sarah on her own petard and ended up exposing herself as the rat.

With Cirie’s master plan lying in tatters at her feet, Sarah snatched back her advantage. And that’s when all order went out the window. Long story short: the whispering began again, Michaela got mouthy, Tai was somehow in the middle of it all and Cirie was pleading her case that she was actually acting in Sarah’s best interest (uhhh…what?).

In the end, Sarah decided to steal Tai’s vote (dowhatnow?), seemingly putting the target on Tai. But, apparently, that was a ruse to throw Cirie and Michaela off the scent of her actual plan: vote out Michaela in a complete and total blindside. Shockingly, Tai did not play one of his hidden Immunity Idols, despite receiving votes from Michaela and Aubry. Cirie, weirdly, voted for Aubry. Culpepper and Troyzan joined Sarah in voting for Michaela, sending her packing.

It was a lot to process in five minutes of TV time, honestly. Initially, it seemed Sarah would target Cirie for her apparently betrayal and vote her out. Instead, she went after her in a much more gangster way: she took out Cirie’s unwitting No. 1, taking away her favorite pet. The move only makes sense if Cirie is next on Sarah’s chopping block. If she’s not, then you’ve done nothing more than guarantee one jury vote for Cirie. Sarah’s been a smart player and must recognize that.

In spite of all the nuttiness at Tribal Council, the most baffling moment for me was Tai’s decision to not play his idol. He has two! For my money, that’s a HUGE gamble to take at this stage of the game. He put all his trust in Sarah, it would appear. That just seems crazy to me.

SURVIVOR game changers aubry eyerollThe Wrong Side of the Vote
And, once again, Aubry is on the wrong side of a major decision. As one of the smarter players in Survivor, that will certainly continue to bother her. She knows she needs to beef up her résumé if she wants a shot at winning. No matter the season you play, you have to have big moves in your column to convince the jury you’re worthy of the million dollars.

For better or worse, blindsides and bold moves outweigh any sort of performance in challenges or your ability to socialize at camp. Does anyone care that Ozzy was a great provider? Hell no! They don’t even care if you’re a challenge beast (unless you’re an unlikely challenge beast, like Cochran). All this is running through Aubry’s over-active brain, which is leading to her frustration. She’s running out of runway to ramp up a game as a serious competitor. Still, she’s my favorite player.

Survivor-Game-Changers-2017-Spoilers-Week-10-Sneak-Peek-17-550x310Big Move of the Week
Normally, Culpepper winning a crucial Immunity Challenge would qualify as the biggest move. After all, he’d probably be on the jury next week without it. But I’m going with Officer Sarah’s decision to hand Cirie her hidden advantage. Whether it was calculated or accidental, it created the flashpoint to a lot of chaos at Tribal Council. Most of all, it exposed Cirie’s game to Sarah. We’ll see if Sarah uses this information to her advantage.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.31.24 AMSurvivor Employee of the Week
In an episode rife with big moves, important victories and shocking votes, I’m going with my favorite player: Aubry. No, it wasn’t the biggest win of the season. But she’s my favorite player, so there!

Breaking Down the Final Six
I’ll provide a deeper breakdown of the remaining players next week. In the meantime, here’s how I’d seed the finalists:

1. Officer Sarah. She’s sitting on a legacy advantage and is playing a sharp, strategic game. But she’s got a big decision coming up: who’s the greater threat? Culpepper or Cirie?

2. Culpepper. He’s won two Immunity Challenges—none bigger than on Day 35—and has been adept at keeping his head off the chopping block. He’ll need to win another Immunity, more than likely, if he wants to advance.

3. Cirie. She’s still dangerous, but exposed. If she survives the next Tribal Council, it’s because she played either Sarah against Culpepper or (more likely) the other way around.

4. Aubry. She needs to be on the right side of the next couple votes; otherwise, she’s an also-ran in this game.

5. Troyzan. Dude is just floating along, avoiding suspicion. He’s won Immunity, has an idol in his pocket and hasn’t had his name written down once this season. This guy is a dark horse.

6. Tai. I love Tai. I really do. But I can’t tell if he’s crazy or crazy like a fox. He’s cheated death a few times in this game (as well as won Immunity once), but is he cheating death because of his game play or in spite of it? Normally, a player with two hidden idols in his pocket at this stage in the game should be a Top 3 contender, but Tai’s so unpredictable that I have no faith in his ability to play them properly.

Predictions for Next Week
Someone’s going to win. Michaela will roll her eyes. And Debbie will say something self absorbed and stupid.

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