Category Archives: pop culture

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!

sandra-camera-face-survivor-dirty-deed

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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.

Debbie-1.jpg

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survivor re-cap: who couldn’t see THAT coming?

Jeff-snuffing-torchAll season long I’ve been saying there is no way Debbie can win this game. No way. After last week’s power-play move to blindside Ozzy, I began to think she might’ve learned a thing or two from her consultation with Cochran. But this week, I found myself saying, “Oh yeah. THERE’S the Debbie we all know!” We saw it when she was dictating strategy to Aubry, ahead of Tribal Council. Aubry studiously listened to everything Debbie told her. And once Debbie turned around, Aubry’s eyeroll reflected the way most viewers felt.

Before getting to this week’s drama, let’s spend a moment on last week’s developments (since I didn’t write a recap last week). Voting out Hali was an easy move. For Hali, it was never a matter of if her torch gets snuffed, but when. The only time she really and truly began to play Survivor was at Tribal Council. That’ll work once, maybe twice; but not three times. I wish she had applied that gift of gab a bit better back at camp. She has the power to influence, but never used it until her back was to the wall. PIty.

And then there’s Ozzy. Sweet, handsome Ozzy: a man who was born half-fish and seems to thrive in this game as a fierce competitor and challenge beast. No other player seems more at home on an island in Survivor than Ozzy. And that ability to acclimate himself and win challenges means he’ll always have one of the biggest targets on his back. For all his athletic prowess in Survivor, Ozzy seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Survivor strategy. There’s no other way to describe it.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.31.24 AM

No matter what, Aubry’s hair from last week’s two-hour episode remains my favorite Survivor moment this season.

It was certainly a smart move to take him out now, so props to Debbie for orchestrating that. However, she overplayed her hand—and her extra vote—in taking out Ozzy. By playing the second vote, she all but guaranteed she lost a jury vote. Had she kept the extra parchment in her pocket, Ozzy still would’ve gone home. Even if he didn’t, Debbie was still in a good spot with her alliance and could’ve easily taken him out another time. It was a simultaneously smart and dumb play, if you ask me. But that’s Debbie for you. She goes all-in on everything; doesn’t know how to manage her bankroll. And that caught up to her.

As the game moves into a chaotic plays of shifting alliances and occasional backstabbing, I was a bit surprised at how personally Andrea took it that Zeke pondered targeting her. Well, let me backtrack. I understand her being upset about it, but blowing up at Zeke, post-Tribal Council, is a surefire way to paint a target on your own back. Acting on emotion in Survivor is a fool’s gambit and often leads to torch-snuffing.

It probably should have, were it not for Officer Sarah flipping from her solid alliance to take out Debbie. And I have to be honest, I’m shocked by that. Sarah earned herself a true advantage by sneaking away the “steal a vote” advantage during the reward challenge. I can see that paying major dividends the deeper we go in this game. I’m not sure if Sarah acted on emotion or calculation in flipping the vote to Debbie at Tribal Council. Although, Debbie did bring it on herself by not-so-quietly betraying her own alliance by approaching Aubry to take Sarah’s place. To that end, sure, I can see why Sarah switched her vote. Will her alliance buy it? Therein lies the question.

If anything, this shows just how difficult it is to maintain a strong alliance in Survivor. Zeke correctly stated the deck re-shuffles after every vote. While a player like Brad Culpepper is in control when his alliance isn’t cracking, Zeke’s game opens up when the relationships remain fluid. As a fan of the game, I prefer the latter. It’s way more fun to watch the balance of power shift. Although Culpepper’s put himself in a strong, strategic spot. He’s well-liked, has a loyal core alliance (Sierra, Troyzan and maybe Tai) and seems like a threat in challenges. But it’s his game play at camp that’s earned him a shot at winning. He’s playing a very patient, quiet game. For now.

Yeah, we have to talk about Cirie.
Even Cirie herself would tell you she’s not a threat in physical challenges. That’s never been the strength of her game. And who among us haven’t been where she was, feeling like she failed her tribe in the reward challenge? It was in that moment we saw Cirie turn her weakness into a strength. Rather than being scorned by her tribemates, Cirie was supported, encouraged and pushed to complete the challenge, long after winning was an option.

On a human level, it was great to see her entire tribe rally around her so she could overcome an obstacle. I don’t doubt it was a genuine moment. But somewhere within all that drama, I give Cirie credit for turning that difficult personal moment into a triumph. There was no heat on her at all, afterward. Make no mistake about it: Cirie is a serious threat to win this game. In a season where we’re waiting for a challenge beast to arise, Cirie still has a shot at winning because she knows how to manage the players.

And Then There’s Michaela.
I want to like Michaela. I did like Michaela the last time she played. But that kid simply cannot get out of her own way long enough to become a true threat in this game. She’s a smart, athletic player who could really become a top-tier threat. But her arrogance, selfishness, passive-aggressiveness (eating coconut at Tribal? Gimme a break) and petulance alienates her from the rest of the tribe. We see it, over and over.

Cirie surely would love to see Michaela on the jury, I imagine, because she’s got Michaela wrapped around her little finger. That’s a guaranteed vote for Cirie. But if I’m anyone else in this game, I want to be sitting next to Michaela at the end because no one will vote for her.

I wonder if she’s going to become a target anytime soon because of her inability to blend with the tribe. Either way, I see non path for her to win a million dollars.

The Haves
Right now, the players I see as having the best shot at getting to the Final Tribal are Culpepper, Tai, Troyzan and Sarah. Culpepper’s playing a smart, patient game. Sarah might be playing the best strategic game of all, right now; plus she has her vote advantage. That’ll come in huge for her.

By virtue of holding Immunity Idols, Tai and Troyzan have a great shot at getting deep in the game. And, to Troyzan’s credit, he’s worked his way to a decent alliance. We’ll see how long that lasts.

The Maybes
Cirie, Aubry, Sierra and Zeke are definitely positioned to make a move, but on the wrong side of an alliance, at the moment. That can change in a heartbeat, though. Zeke is a sneaky gamer, so I can see him pulling some serious moves in the chaos that arises out of Debbie’s ouster. That could improve Aubry’s game along the way. Cirie is like a sniper. She’s just waiting for her shot. Sierra? Until she makes a move, she seems to be riding Culpepper’s coattails.

The Have-Nots
Andrea and Michaela. I’ve already said Michaela has zero shot at winning a million dollars. She may make it to the end, but she’ll never convince enough jury members to give her the money. Andrea is simply on the wrong side of everything right now, but she can move into a strong position very quickly. She’s a bit of a free agent and could turn into a useful vote for one of the stronger players. If she can parlay that into an even bigger move down the line, she’s off the chopping block and suddenly holding an executioner’s axe.

9d39464d16ad785ad02ba59a65b3ddbbEmployee of the Week
Officer Sarah. Not only did her awareness earn her an advantage in the game, she has friends on both sides of the alliances. It was a slightly bold move to vote out Debbie because it shakes up the game. But I like it. She was immediately aware of her position in the Alliance of Six and took steps to shift the balance of power. I love players who do that.

Predictions for Next Week
No idea, but I’m sure everyone at the Ponderosa are unhappy that Debbie has joined them with so many more votes left in the game. She is wreaking havoc over there, I’m sure.

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survivor recap: a betrayal of the highest order.

Survivor Game Changers 06_Tribal

If you felt a gust of wind and the earth move under your feet last night around 8:45 p.m., that had nothing to do with weather patterns. It was the collective gasps and jaws hitting the floor of millions of Survivor viewers. Three-time player Jeff Varner knew his back was against the wall, heading into Tribal Council on Day 18. He wouldn’t be the first desperate Survivor player to pull out all the stops and go for broke in an attempt to save his own lot in the game. In his zeal to paint a target on someone else’s back, Varner did the unthinkable by publicly outing Nuku tribemate Zeke Smith as transgender, accusing Zeke as deceiving this tribe by withholding this information. Varner used Zeke’s personal life in an attempt to advance his position in Survivor. How’d that work out for him? Not great.

The remaining Nuku members—Ozzy, Sarah, Amanda, Tai and Debbie—were visibly shaken by Varner’s declaration. Even host and executive producer Jeff Probst was left speechless.

Hell, I was speechless! “This just stopped being a game,” I said to Dino as the carnage unfolded. It wasn’t fun to watch. It was sickening and infuriating. Sure, reality TV shows thrive on schadenfreude, but this was so much worse. This was a real-life attempted character assassination. There is no joy in watching that.

Survivor Game Changers 06_Ozzy Jump

There were challenges in this episode, but no one will be talking about them.

And true, Survivor likes to call itself a “social experiment,” but that always felt like a pithy way to distinguish itself from the nonsense of the Kardashians and the Honey Boo-Boo crap. It’s not a place to drag gender identity politics to the fore and call it entertainment. Sure, real life will creep into Survivor—Adam Klein’s mother from Millennials vs. Gen X, for example—but those are people owning and telling their personal stories within the context of life in a game where the players are cut off from society. It is not a place to use someone’s reality against him in a means to humiliate and advance yourself.

That makes Varner’s actions so much worse, if you ask me. He attempted to turn Zeke’s gender identity into a dividing line in the game and, in turn, damaged the integrity of the game. Survivor has very few hard-and-fast rules and Varner managed to piss all over them in one fell swoop. What’s even more aggravating: this was is big, master plan to make a big move in this game. He hyped himself heading into Tribal Council, as though he was about to make history as a true game changer. Seriously, Jeff? This is the best you could do?

What’s interesting, and heartening, is the reactions from the remaining Nuku members to Varner’s big reveal. They were not upset or angry with Zeke. They empathized with him. They were angry for Zeke. They were furious with Varner for outing Zeke in such a mean-spirited and selfish manner to the point that they essentially formed a human shield around Zeke. They refused to accept any of Varner’s weak excuses and rationalizations. They treated his actions as they were: a betrayal of the highest order.

For his part, Zeke remained silent and expressionless through most of this Tribal Council. When he did speak for himself, Zeke handled the outing with grace and class; embracing what had been heaped upon him with the subtlety of a branding iron and choosing to wear it proudly. It’s not for his own gain, either, Zeke said. Despite having no interest in being a role model, Zeke now hopes his experience will make it easier on young people who may be experiencing gender identity issues. He even showed class toward Varner through it all, but I have a hunch that may change once the game is over.

For my money, the betrayal also exposed Varner for the weak Survivor player that he is. Because you don’t want to get voted off a game show that you’ve never been particularly good at in the first place, you choose to rob Zeke of his choice in front of the entire tribe and the viewing audience at home?

What the hell, man?!?!

Survivor Game Changers 06_Probst

Even Probst was left speechless by Varner’s actions.

For weeks, I’ve been publicly saying Varner has no business being in this game. As he himself pointed out in last week’s episode, he’s never once made it to a jury. He’s not a game changer. He’s a stooge; a useful idiot whose only lasted 50 days in the game over three separate seasons. You aren’t even in Phillip “the Specialist” Sheppard’s class, man!

Once Varner realized he made an awful mistake by outing Zeke, the gravity of his actions began to set in. I do believe he was embarrassed and regretful of his actions; not only because he mounted such a personal attack on Zeke, but because he may also wind up a pariah within the LGBTQ community. But remorse alone cannot unring the bell; especially given the ugly and divisive history of public outing within the LGBTQ community.

Once upon a time it was a popular weapon of homophobes who sought to damage peoples’ lives and reputations. In the 90s, it became a weapon of choice for the pro-gay activist group Queer Nation. I’ve got to believe there are still people bearing scars from those actions, and that’s what makes Varner’s actions even more troubling. He’s 50 years old. He lived through those battles. And here he is, using that shameful tactic himself. But not even in the name of activism. He did it for personal gain. That is inexcusable.

Though Varner tried to weakly defend his actions, Probst and the Nuku tribe were having none of it. Ultimately, he gave up and copped to committing an awful deed, resulting in what felt more like an excommunication than a vote. Probst all but announced he himself was voting Varner out of the game; not even allowing a proper vote. My impression is Probst was pissed off that Varner would not only use Zeke’s personal life in such a manner, but he stained the game. It will make for an interesting reunion episode, that’s for sure.

Outside the game, I’ll be curious to see if Varner can repair the damage he’s done to his own reputation. I may be in the vast minority here, but I’ve always believed a person deserves redemption if he or she truly wants it, earns it and works for it. Zeke may or may not ever be able to forgive Varner for what he did, but I do hope Varner is allowed the chance to redeem himself.

Either way, I’m pretty sure Varner just played his last game of Survivor.

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survivor recap: the queen is dead…long live the queen

Queen is Dead.pngActually, I don’t care that much about Sandra to actually call her “the Queen,” but let’s be honest. You don’t win Survivor twice without being a pretty savvy player. As the only two-time winner of this game, no one came into the Game Changers season with a bigger target across her back. For my money, Sandra lasted much longer in this game that I expected. She isn’t a particularly physical player, but her ability to manipulate and work the alliances to her advantage to make it past the first one or two Tribal Councils this season was pretty impressive. In fact, I was bracing for her magic to work one more time and blindside Tai, who’s currently sitting on two Immunity Idols.

Sanddra Torch

After 94 days, Sandra’s torch was finally snuffed out.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I’m wondering if Sandra’s tribe mates were throwing a little kabuki theater out there to make her believe she was still in the game and Tai was about to get his torch snuffed out. I honestly don’t understand why they had all that whispering drama if the numbers were already there. Nevertheless, Sandra went out fighting right to the end. I’m guessing she knew the jig was up, but wasn’t about to throw in the towel. I respect her for respecting the game to not give up. And while I thought it was classy that her tribe mates applauded her out of respect as she left the island, I’m pretty sure it was the goats who were really happy on this night!

How Did We Get Here?
After (yet) another shakeup, reshuffling the castaways into two tribes, players were once again scrambling for alliances. Well, everyone but Tai. He was busy collecting Immunity Idols like Star Wars action figures. Because of the odd number of castaways, one player was the odd man out. Naturally, it was the oddest of them all: crazy Debbie. She was sent off to “exile” for a few days. Of course, her exile experience was pretty sweet: a boat stocked with food and a visit from Survivor: Caramoan Sole Survivor John Cochran who came aboard to dispense wisdom and advice to the most wisdomless player in the game.

Look, we get it. Debbie’s good for TV because she’s…eccentric. She’s also hard-headed, tone deaf, immature and consumed by pride and insecurity (though she’d never admit it). Watch her conversation with Cochran. Everything she said with her mouth was completely contradicted with her body language; up to and including a creepy and invasive hug that went on nearly too long. I Cochran is a budding television writer, but his acting skills to keep Venus Flytrap at bay and (somewhat) on message was impressive.

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“Somebody, help me. Please? Someone? Anyone? Help?”

Better than the food and visit from Cochran, Debbie also collected an advantage to be played later in the game: a second vote at Tribal Council. On paper, this sounds like a great advantage—and it is—but Debbie’s going to have to be smart to play it. The last time we saw this advantage in play was during Survivor: Second Chance, and it didn’t work out so well for Stephen Fishbach. He used both of his votes in the very Tribal Council that saw him get eliminated. Fishbach was one of the smartest players ever in this game. Giving this advantage to Debbie is like giving a gun to a chimpanzee: even though the monkey has no idea how to use it, someone’s gonna get shot.

sandra-camera-face-survivor-dirty-deedOne More Word About Sandra
Here are a few more points to consider about Sandra. She’s now played Survivor three times. She won the first two times (Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains). Prior to this season, she’s only had three votes against her in 94 total days in the game, placing her in eighth place on the Most Days list. Here’s the most interesting stat on top of all that: she’s never won individual immunity. Not once.

People often associate challenge dominance with being favored to win, but Sandra is the exact opposite. This is why I’ve always believed people inside and outside Survivor place too much emphasis on physical threats. Look at Ozzy. He’s won 14 individual challenges during his four seasons and has only made it to the Final Tribal Council once (Cook Islands).

Sandra stood out by being smart and strategic and knowing how to make the luck work to her advantage.

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Nuku is Sarah’s roost to rule, now that Sandra is gone.

In the Driver’s Seat
With Sandra out of the way, Nuku’s got a vacancy for top dog. Ozzy seems the natural choice, but for all his physical attributes, Ozzy’s lack of strategery usually costs him in the game. For my money, Sarah’s about to become the real player at Nuku. This is her opportunity to step up and make a big move in this game. Watch your six, Ozzy!

Move of the Week
No brainer: voting out Sandra. Even her tribe mates understand what sort of a threat she is and finally took her out of the game. Until now, she’s been the sharpest, most strategic player out there. Without Sandra in the game, it’s going to open up for someone. That someone will likely be anyone but Ozzy. He’s the biggest buck at deer camp, in the eyes of his Nuku mates.

tai

Like Harry S. Truman sitting on two nukes, Tai is now sitting on two Immunity Idols.

Employee of the Week
I’m going to give it to Tai. He’s now sitting on two idols that no one definitively knows he’s holding. That’s a huge advantage; especially for a player everyone knows is sneaky and has a nose for the idols. He’s going to have to play them wisely, though. He should be able to cruise into the merge with them, so long as his Nuku mates turn their attention to Ozzy (which we all expect to happen in three…two…)

Is This the Week Varner Finally Starts to Play?
No really. Is it? So far, he’s been a 200-lbs. bag of wet sand the rest of his team drags from one challenge to the next.

Prediction for Next Week
In an attempt to win immunity for her tribe, Debbie noisily devours 25 live grubs before she can be stopped and reminded it is not an eating challenge. Meanwhile at Mana, Aubry furrows her brow in quiet consternation.

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survivor re-cap: “drop your buffs.”

Sandra's Vote“Drop your buffs.” Thanks to last week’s teaser, we knew this was coming. But who knew the twist was going to be three tribes?!?!

Everyone. Everyone knew.

Survivor fans love the drama in part because some of it is predictable. The castaways were split into three six-member tribes: Mana, Tuku and Santa Maria. This was very predictable. We know Jeff Probst likes to mix it up so alliances get challenged (and sometimes broken) and cocky players—Sandra!!!—get taken down a peg. Well, the first part worked, but Sandra’s ego is still fully intact. Of course, she’s aided by the fact that her tribe of six provided minimal shakeup. Sandra, Aubry, Michaela, Malcolm and Varner moved over to J.T.’s beach and essentially relegated him to houseboy. The dynamics at the New Nuku played out predictably: five against one with J.T. on a mad dash through the jungle in search of an immunity idol while Sandra dreams of murdering baby goats. Seriously, what is wrong with that woman?!?!

Meanwhile, Back at Mana
Hali and Caleb joined up with Debbie, Tai, Sierra and Culpepper and immediately suspected they were at the bottom. Culpepper stepped into the leadership role rather smoothly, I should say. He wasn’t trying to be the alpha male. While Tai was waiting to steal a kiss from Caleb, Culpepper was seducing Tai to be wary of the strapping, young Caleb. That proved to be a smart play for both Tai and Culpepper; probably the smartest move yet. It made Hali’s job of begging for her Survivor life that much easier because, once again, people out there are threatened by muscular men…even though Caleb’s performance in the immunity challenge was anything but impressive.

”Tavua? What the Tavua Did I Do to Deserve This Tribe?!?!”
That must be what Troyzan was thinking. Like J.T., he was the lone former Mana member to be thrown into a pit with five former Nuku tribemates: Andrea, Cirie, Sarah, Ozzy and a mustache calling itself Zeke. Seems poor Troyzan just can’t catch a break in this game, can he? He got bounced by an unbreakable alliance of women in the One World season on Day 30.

Perhaps age and past experience led him to leave his brashness at home this time, but Troyzan knew it was do-or-die today and had to find an immunity idol to save himself. Only his idol was not buried in the woods. It was hidden in plain sight at the immunity challenge, which is an element of this game that I absolutely love! The drama and suspense of knowing there’s an idol hidden there that anyone could grab if the knew about it. Credit Troyzan for keeping his adrenaline in check—and for being a good actor—when he worked his way to the table leg where the idol was hiding.

Congratulations, Troyzan. Your tribe avoided Tribal Council, but you bought yourself a major insurance policy for at least another three days. Although I predict this could push him to the merge. Just a hunch.

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Hali was spared. Let’s see if she uses this opportunity to make an actual move in the game.

“It is Time to Vote”
Thanks to coming in last, Mana faced Probst’s torch snuffer in what turned out to be a rather anti-climactic vote: five-to-one against Caleb who, once again, goes home on Day 9. At least it wasn’t in a medi-vac helicopter, though, so there’s that. It’s disappointing only because I like Caleb and think he could’ve done well in this game.

Hali was spared because she’s seen as less of a threat to Culpepper. It’s as simple as that. It wasn’t a dumb move. In fact, it could turn out to be a real turning point in this game for Culpepper. He’s the only player on that small tribe that seems to be working any longterm strategery. Hali was too busy fighting for her Survivor life. Sierra was…who the hell is she???? Seriously, I don’t remember her at all. And Debbie and Tai are Culpepper’s pawns, right now. They gave away their greatest strength—and alliance of three, had they kept Caleb around.

In the Driver’s Seat
Right now, it’s Culpepper and Sandra. I don’t think anyone’s driving the train on Tavua. Cirie, perhaps, but she needs to eliminate Troyzan and Ozzy to truly be a threat.

The Walking Dead
Still the same: Varner, Tai and Debbie. I see no path to victory for any of them…unless they team up and somehow manage to knock off everyone else. Yeah, that’ll happen.

Survivor Employee of the Week
Troyzan. He knew he had to get an immunity idol to save himself, either this week or next. His ability to be cagey while committed to the challenge in front of his tribemates earns him this week’s honors. Let’s see if this good fortune propels him deep into the game.

Move of the Week
J.T., Varner and Malcolm deciding it was not in anyone’s best interest to slaughter a momma goat and its baby so they could eat. Whether they recognize it or not, it exposed Sandra to be a cold, dead-eyed, emotionless psychopath in this game. Sleep with one eye open, boys!

Prediction for Next Week
Sandra yells at someone. Aubry makes a snarky comment that makes me laugh. Ozzy continues to look like Chris Cornell circa 1992.

Ozzy Cornell

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the rundown: oscar’s best picture nominees, ranked.

Now that I’ve seen all nine Best Picture nominees just in the nick of time for tonight’s Oscars, here’s how I slotted them (from least favorite to favorite). Your mileage may vary. If you disagree, let me know.

9. La La Land
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That’s right, Hollyweird! The movie you’re going to choose as Best Picture shouldn’t have even been nominated. Look, it was a decent movie. The second half was better than the first. But this entire thing feels like a cheap gimmick. You know how I know how? Nobody’s talking about any of the songs in the film. You can’t boast a great musical without a great song! Still, Emma Stone should call me, though.

8. Hell or High Water
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I love Jeff Bridges and I enjoyed how this film was shot and acted. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was good for me. Not sure if it’s truly Best Picture material or not, but so what? Enjoy the movie!

7. Fences
Pictured: Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson) & Viola Davis (Rose)
Strong acting throughout the film. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are outstanding together. And, seriously, I hated Denzel by the end! Hated!

6. Hidden Figures
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Great storytelling about an important footnote in 20th century history. Sure, the movie’s a bit of Oscar-bait, but it’s well executed on every level. Perhaps a bit too polished at times but still an entertaining, positive film to watch.

5. Manchester by the Sea
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Kinda dark, kinda gray, kinda sad. Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges were great, but maddening at times. The creepiest character in the entire movie was played by none other than Matthew Broderick.

4. Arrival
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Like I said yesterday, this is how alien movies should be made. It was a plausible view on how the world might react and interact with aliens, should they ever stop by for a visit. Underneath it all, a rather deep thought about the passage of time.

3. Hacksaw Ridge
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I’m mostly glad to see Mel Gibson out of the doghouse and directing quality films again. And, to be fair, Hacksaw Ridge is a great film. Great storytelling and one of the best battle sequences I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan.

2. Moonlight
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Possibly the most daring of all the Best Picture nominees and easily one of my favorites. Director Barry Jenkins took chances in composing Moonlight that I loved. It’s poetic, it’s fluid and it’s emotional. Truly a great film.

1. Lion
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My absolute favorite of all nine films I watched. Dev Patel was great, but the entirety of this film—the pacing, the dialogue, the acting, the cinematography…everything!—drew me in from the very start and kept me waiting for more. No other film evoked the same feelings for me as Lion.

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