Category Archives: survivor

survivor recap: no jacket required.

Probst-Meme_JacketThe immense sense of satisfaction a Survivor fan feels when that one player you’ve decided to despise finally gets her comeuppance after weeks of skating by is a moment I look forward to with every season of Survivor. It’s like waiting for Christmas morning…or your ear to pop after a head cold. Either way, the gratification is both immediate and somehow self congratulatory, even though you had nothing to do with it.

That’s how I feel about last night’s episode of Survivor. Watching Natalie’s torch get snuffed by Jeff Probst was my ear-popping moment. Of course, I’m also left saying, “what took you so long?” I’m still saying that. Some players get to the island and just can’t find their place in the game. Initially, we may have wondered if Christian and Gabby would end up on the outs with the Goliaths—and Gabby still has reason to worry, it would seem—but there was no question with Natalie. She just never found her footing but seemed to always find her way to piss off every member of her tribe to the point I thought they might kill her and feed her to an octopus or something.

Jackets and EggsBut then, at Tribal Council, she would turn on that smug, faux sincerity act and throw just enough doubt on any plan to vote her out and live another day. It made me want to puke blood. Her tribemates were obviously only keeping her around as an insurance policy, but is that really the best strategy in Survivor? Is that really playing the game?

Using a stooge as a human shield works, but not with a person who makes life so insufferable for others that they want to kill her. You don’t start dragging along a stooge in single-digit days. You do it after the merge when, within your alliance of four or five, two of you take control and bring in a No. 3 whom you prop up as the brains behind the operation. Remember Shambo? Russell Hantz perfected this strategy.

Survivor 37_Natalie

Natalie Napalm burned out before it ever ignited.

Anyway, no more worries that the Goliaths were going to pull this off because Natalie got the boot. Finally. You might say strategy took a holiday on this one, since the vote came down to preserving some level of civility on that teeny-tiny Jabini tribe. But I wouldn’t be so quick to call it unstrategic. Overdue? Yes. Easy? Yes. Strategic? Perhaps. More on that later.

In the meantime, here’s where we are now:

Vuku (Orange): Alec (Goliath), Davie (David), Elizabeth (David), Kara (Goliath), Carl (David).
Jabini (Purple): Angelina (Goliath), Lyrsa (David), Mike (Goliath), Nick (David).
Tiva (Green): Alison (Goliath), Wrestler John (Goliath), SWAT Dan (Goliath), Christian (David), Gabby (David).

Welcome to the Jabini Tribe: No Jacket Required
Let’s talk about Angelina for a moment. Early on, she struck me as a smart, crafty player who could very easily win this game. That still may be the case, but last night, she came off like she was running for the Asshole of the Year Award, making everything about trying to vote out a Lyrsa AND take her jacket. Turning that into a bargaining chip was one of the dumbest moves ever. What player on the chopping block would give up a personal item under duress in the hopes it will buy him or her anymore than three more days? That wasn’t strategy. That was arrogance, pure and simple.

Survivor 37_Jacket

Sorry, Angelina. Not this one. It says “Members Only.”

Angelina thought she was the puppet master and controlled all the moves…right up until she got blindsided and the strings of her puppet (Natalie) got cut. Natalie’s ouster was even more delicious because it completely blindsided Angelina. And then, after her cloyingly disingenuous embrace of Natalie on her way off the island, she immediately turns into “all about me Angelina” by begging for Natalie’s jacket. By completely ignoring Angelina’s whiny pleas, Natalie bought back a little respect from me. Thanks for that, Natalie!

Was it a smart vote? I don’t think you could classify it as smart or dumb, but it definitely made sense. Camp life harmony does matter in Survivor. Anyone who’s ever worked alongside a difficult co-worker can relate. There’s only so much acrimony you can tune out before the pot boils over. And again, why did they wait so long in the first place? I’m of a mind that getting rid of bad seeds early makes for a much cleaner, sharper game. Keeping them around only prolongs the inevitable and, if you ask me, benefits the real targets you should be worrying about. Natalie was a distraction. Distractions favor the weasels. They don’t help your game.

Meanwhile, over at Tiva…
SWAT Dan is showing himself to be a crafty, unassuming player with more savvy that I initially expected. By finding a second Immunity Idol—by choosing to look for it in the first place, while no one else was looking—Dan is lining himself up to become a power player. He’s still got Kara as a partner in the game if they both make the merge.

The biggest problem with such an embarrassment of immunity riches is complacency. Dan’s already setting his sights on voting out Gabby, but that’s going to be a tough needle to thread. For better or worse, Dan is still thinking in terms of David vs. Goliath. Unless he pivots and realizes he’ll need to rope in a David or two, Dan could very easily get blindsided.

Vuku’s Alec Problem
The post-blindside fallout behind Alec’s back is exactly what I predicted would happen. But winning immunity buys him precious time to talk Kara and others off the ledge. I still think he’s a man without a home until the merge, if he makes it that far. And if he does, it’s clear the Goliaths are not all that loyal to one another. Without having to sacrifice too much, the David tribe finds itself in a slightly powerful position just now. Goliaths are viewing their own as a threat more than any of the Davids. In my mind, you ignore them at your own peril. At least on Vuku, the Davids hold all the cards. We’ll see if they wield the power to their own advantage, or pile it into a tree as Goliath is currently doing.

Survivor

Two Immunity Idols = EOTW

Survivor Employee of the Week: SWAT Dan
You already have an Immunity Idol and are sitting in a relatively comfortable spot within your tribe. So what do you do? You take it upon yourself to find another idol. And you do. AT THE IMMUNITY CHALLENGE!

I still think SWAT Dan is a bit of a chucklehead, but he’s got a nose for Survivor and keeps proving that. If he can keep this second idol to himself and not blab about it, he’s got a shot to get deep into the game.

 

Predictions for Next Week
Goliath will continue to cannibalize itself. Angelina will go into overdrive, trying to ingratiate herself with Nick, Mike and Lyrsa. Jeff Probst will wear a blue shirt.

Survivor Probst

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survivor recap: gabby gabby hey!

Survivor S37E04Survivor is at its best and its most entertaining when the game is unpredictable, when there is a villain you love to hate, when tribes are swapped, when the underdog you love succeeds, when alliances are broken, big moves shake everything up and blindsides are afoot. Episode 4 of Season 37, Time to Bring About the Charmpocalypse, checked all those boxes.

Time to Bring out the Charmpocalypse

Survivor: Not the Bee’s Knees. David tribemate Bi had to drop out due to a sprained MCL.

So much was packed into that hour, I bet you already forgot Bi tapped out of the game at the very top of the show. Disappointing, only because I think she could’ve been fun to watch in the challenges, given her MMA background.

Drop Your Buffs
Thirty-seven seasons into Survivor, the #DropYourBuffs moment no longer shocks players or fans. The only stunner about this last night is it broke into three tribes of five and Truckdriver Carl walked buffless to Exile Island. The trio of new tribes, chosen randomly by the players themselves, put three Goliaths and two Davids on each tribe, eliciting Christian to astutely refer to the exercise as “gerrymandering.” He was right, since the David Tribe got cracked-and-packed into permanent minorities alongside their Goliath competitors. But Survivor is rarely so tidy, is it? Just because Goliath maintained majorities doesn’t mean the alliances carry over. There are always fissures to be exposed and the one thing a majority alliance needs the most in these tenuous times—patience—is usually washed away by torrential rainfall, sleep deprivation and personality clashes.

For those of you scoring at home (or if you’re alone*), here are the new tribe rosters:

Vuku (Orange): Alec (Goliath), Davie (David), Elizabeth (David), Kara (Goliath), Natalia (Goliath).
Jabini (Purple): Angelina (Goliath), Lyrsa (David), Mike (Goliath), Natalie (Goliath), Nick (David).
Tiva (Green): Alison (Goliath), Wrestler John (Goliath), SWAT Dan (Goliath), Christian (David), Gabby (David).

Tiva: Will Dan’s Heart Go On Without Kara?
While SWAT Dan initially fretted over losing his schmoopy, Kara, in the tribe swap, this is actually the best thing that could happen to him. Their two-headed monster strategy has a chance to lie dormant and be forgotten while they build reinforcements. If I’m a former Goliath, I would be working hard to get rid of whomever is nearest Dan or Kara right now. If Dan and Kara make it to the merge, they become a much stronger alliance to defeat. Mark my words.

survivor-Christian-Hubicki-Gabby-Pascuzzi

Christian & Gabby. The most adorable pair in Survivor history.

The best thing for the viewing audience to come of this switch is Christian and Gabby remained together. Honestly, I love everything about these two and love watching their interactions together. Both are easily fan favorites because we all can relate to feeling like an outsider. Christian is able to channel it and make it work for himself by finding commonality with everyone. Gabby, on the other hand, still struggles with it. And who can’t relate to that? Like she said, it’s like she’s trying to ask for a seat at the cool kids’ table.

But the divisions aren’t as stark and concrete as it might seem. John, a professional wrestler, is clearly a good performer, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously and seems like a sincere and nice person. In fact, all the players at the so-called “cool kids” table are like that. Nevertheless, it was a readymade awesome moment of reckoning for Gabby in the Immunity Challenge when she cooly and calmly directed her tribe to a first-place finish. She is this season’s Little Engine That Could and, thus far, has succeeded with flying colors.

am-goliath-strong-natalie-cole-on-the-third-episode-of-survivor-david-picture-id1052203060Jabini: Natalie Being Natalie
Over on Jabini, everyone seems to be getting along just fine. Well, almost everyone. Natalie is still Natalie and, in all honesty, I’ll give her a lot of credit for not flexing her personality. She is who she is and she’s going to ride that pony as far as it’ll take her. Perhaps it’s stragery to be a prickly pear carried to the end of the game to make someone else look better to the jury, but I doubt it. I think Natalie is at a stage in her life where she doesn’t feel the compunction to apologize or change for anyone. On some level, I respect that. But as a Survivor player, it must be a challenge to not confront her more about it. After all, “bossy” players (women, especially) usually don’t fare too well in Survivor. But if Natalie can white-knuckle her way through one or two more votes, she could be a dark horse in this game. It remains to be seen if her tribemates are willing to continue putting up with her, though.

Tribe chemistry aside, School of Rock Mike rightfully identified Jabini as the tribe of misfits, at this stage of Survivor. But he found a quick and easy alliance with Nick, who had to act fast after his Mason-Dixon Alliance with Christian got separated. This was a smart move for Nick. Similar to Dan and Kara, Nick and Christian have a strong alliance. If Nick brings in Mike after the merge—you know Gabby will be there, too—and suddenly, this foursome could become a power alliance.

Vuku: Goliath’s Self-Inflicted Wound
After losing the Immunity Challenge, Vuku predictably went into scramble mode. More accurately, Davie and Elizabeth went into scramble mode. For Davie, this had to be the most stressful of Tribal Councils yet. He’s sitting on an Immunity Idol that no one even knows about. Given the numbers, he knew his name would come up tonight. The blessing and curse of an idol is you don’t want to play it when you don’t have to and you don’t want to go home with it in your pocket. Fortunately for Davie, some Goliath members had big moves on their minds.

maxresdefaultSure, this resulted in one of the most entertaining early-game Tribal Councils I’ve seen in awhile. As a fan, it was fun and exciting to watch. But if I put on my Survivor Strategy Hat, it was really dumb game play on the part of the Goliaths: Alec, Kara and Natalia. In a vote that, at its easiest, could’ve been a slam-dunk, turned into a self-inflicted wound borne out of emotion, paranoia and overzealousness.

Think about it. Early on, Natalia got paranoid over Kara and Elizabeth bonding over horses. Horses! She immediately hit the panic button and branded Elizabeth her Public Enemy No. 1. By pushing everyone at camp so hard—Davie included—to vote her out, she got branded as bossy and rude; the one thing that happens too often to competitive women in Survivor. Even her bestie, Kara, could see it. That was all it took for Davie to expose a crack in the armor. He smartly played it up to Alec. By the time they got to Tribal Council, Natalia was already on the spit and didn’t even know it. I don’t know if Alec planned it this way all along, but his whispering campaign at Tribal led to a big, loud blindside of Natalia that completely changed the dynamic of this tiny little tribe.

Appearances Are Deceiving

That Moment When…Alec realizes that THIS was the alliance he should’ve trusted.

The #CluelessKass Moment of This Season
Alec’s blindside of Natalia was a shock, especially to Kara. It was big. And it was completely unnecessary. Voting out Natalia falls into a category I call #CluelessKassMoments (I refuse to call that amateur player “Chaos Kass.” She was a self-absorbed moron). Yes, it was a big, bold move. But did it really improve Alec’s lot in the game? Not even a little. If anything, it hurts him both in the short-term and the long-term. Had he, Kara and Natalia stayed the course, Elizabeth would’ve been voted out and Carl would’ve joined. The numbers woudln’t have changed. They’d still be in control. And if this trio could make it to the merge along with Dan, they become a powerful alliance of four.

As it stands, though, Alec has lost the trust of Kara, the numbers to David and, if he makes it to a merge, his former Goliaths will regard him as a Benedict Arnold who can’t be trusted. Alec will be on an island. And for what? A big move on Night 11? Please.

NataliaNatalia’s Heart > Natalia’s Head
Natalia also has only herself to blame. I loved her competitive spirit and wish she could’ve tempered her paranoia about Elizabeth, but she just couldn’t get out of her own way. Instead of feeling threatened by the bond between Kara and Elizabeth, Natalia should’ve made it work to her advantage. She was already tight with Kara and Dan. The smarter move would’ve been to embrace Elizabeth and, along with Kara, pick off Alec or Davie and seize control of the tribe. If there’s a lesson to be learned here: don’t let emotions guide your strategy. It’ll get your torch snuffed out.

I can’t say I blame her for her grumpy exit from the game. I’d probably be just as pissed off, too. Sometimes, I wish more players stared daggers into their blindsiders while Probst snuffs their torches. It was an honest reaction. By now, though, I’m sure Natalia recognizes where she went wrong. And it wasn’t trusting Alec. It was making Elizabeth a vendetta.

Meanwhile, on Exile Island
Carl comes into Vuku with a whole lot of power. He can rejoin Davie and Elizabeth and also has the sweet-ass new Survivor advantage: Idol Kryptonite! It’s a tricky, risky advantage to play and I can’t wait until the night he plays it. If Carl is smart, he’ll keep his mouth shut until it’s time to play the advantage. Mostly, I just want to see the looks on everyone’s faces when it gets played. It will be better than Russell Hantz and his plethora of idols.

Gabby Bikini

Gabby Gabby Hey! Being a challenge beast earns you our first EOTW honors of the season!

Survivor Employee of the Week
Even though I give Davie credit for quietly orchestrating Natalia’s ouster, the Employee of the Week is Gabby. If anyone needed a victory for purely personal reasons, it was her. And it wasn’t an artificial win at all.

She was literally and figuratively in the driver’s seat of that Immunity Challenge. In a do-or-die challenge, Gabby calmly and deftly guided her blindfolded teammates through a maze and a puzzle to win the challenge like she does this for a living. You don’t have to be a Gabby fan to appreciate that.

Predictions for Next Week
Natalie continues to drive her tribemates to the brink. Alec gets too big for his britches and Christian continues to say things that make me love him.

Survivor 37

EDITOR’S NOTE: The line, “for those of you scoring at home (or if you’re alone),” belongs to Keith Olbermann. It was one of his signature lines when he was a Sportscenter anchor on ESPN. It always made me laugh, back in the day.

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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: ghost island prediction.

Ghost IslandTonight’s season finale of Survivor will bring to a close one of the least interesting seasons of the reality show we’ve had in awhile. Survivor: Ghost Island started off promising enough: 20 castaways, no returning players and a slew of second-chance immunity idols, game advantages and tribal council extra votes. It was billed as a season to wash away past sins. It amounted to a season of predictability, passive game play and an overall convoluted mess of middle-ground personalities seemingly locked into a battle for third place.

Throughout the entire season, players Dominick and Wendell have called virtually all the shots without the slightest challenge and it makes no sense; none at all. It hasn’t been this predictable and this boring since Survivor: Worlds Apart, where selfish weirdo Mike Holloway walked away the winner.

What Went Wrong?
Too many gimmicks, that’s what. Too many diversions and distractions have made the game nearly impossible to play. Sure, one or two immunity idols makes sense. But the inclusion of Ghost Island threw the entire game out of balance. I’m all for the occasional tribe swaps and whatnot, but every week a new twist?

That took away from the game play, if you ask me. I mean, where are the blindsides? Where’s the cutthroat game play? Where are the vicious personal battles? In other words, where’s the game of Survivor? Instead of all the ups, downs, ins and outs that make Survivor fun and interesting, we’re left with six pairs of khaki pants, all vying for your vote as Best Pair of Khakis. I want a do-over, but I won’t get one. So, let’s just get on with it and decide who’s going to take home the million dollars tonight.

The Likely Winner is…
Domenick. He’s been in control since Day One (well, sort of). He’s been conniving, scheming, plotting and planning. He’s been moving all the pieces around the board on his own. And he’s also got himself an immunity idol or two. The fact that he engineered a finale with a bunch of also-rans means he should win. Unless, of course, the also-rans pull off a legitimate blindside.

Finalist with a Chance.
Wendell. He’s smart. He’s likable. He’s athletic. But he’s attached himself to Dominick from the beginning. If he’s in the Final Tribal Council with Domenick, Wendell comes in second. It’s as simple as that.

How the Hell Did You Get Here????
Laurel. She is a promising player who hitched her wagon to Dom and Wendell. At multiple points throughout the season, Laurel had chances to assert herself, take control of the game and eliminate some of her biggest threats. She balked. Every single time, she balked. To make such a move right now would be expected and very nearly pointless.

Could’ve Been
Angela. She was a tough competitor whose back was to the wall from the very start. Seems she could never get a true alliance working. But she’s hung in there…and she ate a shit ton of really gross stuff to win immunity. That, alone, should earn her high marks. But not enough to win.

The Trouble with Donathan
Easily my favorite player in the game from the start because he was the little engine that could. Donathan’s trajectory in Survivor emulates with many viewers who like to root for the misfits and the underdogs. Underneath his wide-eyed, homespun demeanor, though, is a fierce, vicious Survivor contestant. Unfortunately, his strategy is to throw gasoline on the campfire and watch it burn. Still, I like the kid. But he seems to have no winning strategy.

Sebastian: Half Man, Half Alien
Seriously, that dude looks like an alien to me. And how the hell did he last this long. Of all the Top Six, Sebastian seems to be riding coattails. He hasn’t done much to distinguish himself in the game. I guess that’s why he’s still there, right? Nice guy, but not a Survivor champion.

We shall see if I’m correct.

And yes, I still believe i could win this game.

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survivor: game changers season wrap-up.

Logo_MainPage_SliderAll’s well that ends well. That was my initial reaction to the outcome of Survivor: Game Changers. A great player beat another great player for the title of Soul Survivor. Having it come down to a Final Three usually guarantees that some of the best players will remain in the game. Sure, many great ones get knocked out early (Malcolm, Ozzy, Cirie), but we still have Sarah vs. Culpepper vs. Troyzan. That’s a pretty strong final three.

S34_Sarah_Cast_Photo1Sarah Deserved to Win
Absolutely. Unequivocally. Sarah played a smart, patient social game. Her takedown of Sierra might be the most legendary, in my mind, because she first convinced Sierra to will her the Legacy Advantage and then stuck a knife in her back. That is EPIC Survivor game play, if you ask me!

Is she the best winner ever? Who cares?!?! But the answer is ‘no’. She did what she had to do to win this season of Survivor. That required building strategic alliances, but it also meant Sarah had to gamble a bit on her choices at Tribal Council. With the exception of Hali and Cirie, Sarah was on the right side of every vote for the remaining jury members. In some cases, she took them down. In other cases, she played along. Taking out Sierra, Andrea and Michaela were probably her best moves because they were strategic threats all along.

brad2However…
Culpepper deserved to win, too. One of the unfortunate realities of Survivor is physically dominant players get very little respect from the jury. Culpepper joins a fairly distinguished group of players who were challenge beasts when it counted but couldn’t take home the title of Sole Survivor.

Here’s what I mean:
Colby Donaldson. Dude was unstoppable the first time he played in the Australian Outback season, setting the bar at five consecutive immunity challenge wins…and lost to Tina Wesson, 4-3.

terry-deitz-7-1_thumbTerry Deitz. He was a brusk dude at times during the Panama season, but got hosed when he lost the final immunity challenge with three players in the game. He was the most dominant player that season and didn’t even have a seat at the table. Aras Baskauskas backed his way to what I consider the least deserved Survivor victory in the history of the show. I’m of a mind that Terry’s loss is the reason we now have three-person Final Tribal Councils.

Ozzy Lusth. In fairness, Ozzy did lose to a smart, athletic and strategic player in Yul, but still…dude won FIVE OUT OF SIX IMMUNITY CHALLENGES! That’s got to count for something! Ozzy lost by one vote and, sadly, he’s never gotten that close to winning ever again. He’s been in the game for more days than any other player, but he always gets bounced early because of his physical prowess.

441256dd0c7930ea857d205e02937fefThe Fatal Flaw
Outside of being challenge beasts, Culpepper and Colby share the distinction of making a fatal flaw right at the end of the game: voting out the wrong player. In orchestrating a vote to knock out Tai, Culpepper let his heart rule his head. There was no way Troyzan could beat him. None. I think he knew that. But a smart guy like Culpepper should’ve recognized Sarah as the greater threat than Tai and taken her out.

Colby made the very same mistake in the Australian Outback. Tina Wesson—another undeserving champion, in my eyes—sidled up to Colby all season long and used him as a human shield. She couched it as a team mentality, but she was playing him and he didn’t recognize it. By virtue of wearing the Immunity Necklace, Colby lulled himself into believing he didn’t have to think as hard about the jury. It cost him dearly when he wrote down Keith’s name in the penultimate Tribal Council. Had he taken out Tina, he would’ve won.

If Terry had a flaw, it was personality. He locked horns with players that season (Cirie and Aras, mostly). But he didn’t even get the chance to take it to a jury.

the-best-moments-froAs for Ozzy, his fatal flaw is he never adapted after his first season playing Survivor. He continued to be a physical threat and one of the best providers at camp. But he never learned to strategize and work alliances better. He simply relied on his physical prowess to get through the day. While I certainly believe physically dominant players get the short shrift at times, they also have to recognize this and work the social aspect of Survivor to compensate.

To that end, Culpepper adapted and made it through most of the 39 days before he kinda went psycho. His treatment of Tai was both creepy and disturbing. In fairness to Culpepper, he recognized it, owned it and apologized for it at the reunion show. I’m sure a big part of that was his competitive nature as well as genuine frustration with Tai. I’m not sure what it is about Tai, but he must make his fellow Survivor players insane, because he left people feeling the same way during his previous season, Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn.

The only one for whom I feel any level of disappointment, it’s Ozzy. This was likely his last time playing Survivor and he went out getting blindsided. It’s a pity, but he joins a long line of great players who never won.

survivor25_malcolm_652Best Player Who Didn’t Make the Merge
Even though Sandra seems like the obvious choice here, I’m going with Malcolm. He’s got a better all-around game than Sandra, in my mind, because he can win challenges and build alliances at camp. Believe me, I take nothing away from Sandra, but the reality is she’s a one-trick pony in Survivor. To her credit, she is an expert at the social game. But I think a champion should have more than one club in his or her bag.

It’s also worth noting the only reason Malcolm got voted out when he got voted out this season is because J.T. was a complete screw-up at Tribal Council and tipped his hand to Culpepper, leading to Tai playing his Immunity Idol for Sierra.

Unfortunately for Malcolm, he aligned with some ridiculously bad players this season. If he gets another shot at Survivor, it’ll only be tougher for him to build alliances. People know he’s a threat.

jt-thomas-survivor

(Photo by Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images)

Speaking of Dumb Players…
J.T. is fast moving up my list of Dumbest Players in Survivor History. I swear, he’s doing everything he can to prove his Survivor: Tocantins victory was a complete fluke. He played a solid game that season, but I still question his unanimous victory over Stephen Fishbach, who was a very smart and crafty player.

After Tocantins, J.T. has done everything he can to deconstruct his own championship. Remember Heroes vs. Villains? When J.T. had the great idea of giving his Immunity Idol to Russell Hantz—who was on the opposing tribe!—as a means of building an alliance later in the game? Yeah, how’d that work out for you, J.T.? And then, when he had a chance to redeem himself this season, he openly betrayed his alliance by trying to curry favor with Culpepper. AT TRIBAL COUNCIL IN FRONT OF EVERYONE! Dude, what were you thinking?!?!

J.T.’s sin is one committed by many players. He was thinking too far ahead of the game and ignoring the most immediate fire that needed extinguishing. He crossed the wrong player (Sandra) and it cost him.

2017-03-30T00-29-23.466Z--1280x720_711x400_910084675878Craftiest Move of the Game
Speaking of Sandra, she proved her bona fides by exposing a growing rift between Michaela and J.T. and using it to her advantage. Remember the sugar incident? To this day, I don’t know how Sandra ate all that sugar without puking her guts out, but it exemplified her ability to seize upon an advantage in the game. She knew J.T. already had a personal beef with Michaela over the sugar. By misleading J.T. to believe Michaela ate all the sugar, it fed J.T.’s obsession to vote out Michaela and take his eye off the ball.

One might argue Sandra didn’t need to go to such lengths to get rid of J.T., but the point is she saw an opportunity to take advantage and tilt the game in her favor where no one else did. That is the mark of a smart player.

Debbie-1Worst Player Ever
This season’s Worst Player Ever Award (first time we’re doing this) goes to none other than Debbie. She rivals #CluelessKass as the most obnoxious, most unnecessarily arrogant, most self-UNaware, most self-absorbed load on two feet to ever play this game. With the exception of getting Ozzy out of the game, Debbie’s time on the island must’ve been an absolute nightmare for her fellow players. Strategically speaking, nothing she said or did made sense. Remember when she “acted drunk” at the merge? …the hell was THAT?!?! How on earth does that advance your lot in the game, you wackadoodle? Or, prior to that, when she went apeshit bonkers on Culpepper? And then insisted it was all an act? Mmm-hmm. Sure it was, Debbie. Sure it was.

Yes, orchestrating the vote to blindside Ozzy out was a smart move, but she screwed the pooch by overplaying her hand and burning her second-vote advantage.

That was dumb for two reasons:
1) You already had the numbers to get him out. Even if the plan backfires, you can lay low and use the advantage later when you need it.

2) Win or lose, you’ve shown everyone your hand—Ozzy included—and now he knows you were out to get him the whole time. That’s just bad jury management, man!

How do I know I was right? Debbie got bounced out the very next Tribal Council. In this game, Debbie with an advantage or power of any sort is like giving a monkey a blow torch: he’s gonna burn shit down and probably hurt himself in the process. That’s exactly how Debbie plays Survivor. Unpredictability only works when you have a strategy no one else can see and can’t predict. Debbie is just a nutbar. Even SHE doesn’t know where she’s going!

taiclimbIn Defense of Tai
Tai is a player I can’t help but like. He seems like a goodhearted guy. In the game of Survivor, he’s a decent competitor; better than people want to admit. Unlike Sarah, he did win individual immunity. His ability to sniff out hidden Immunity Idols is positively Russell Hantzian. To me, those are some pretty strong credentials for his gameplay. Where Tai blows it is his inability to articulate a strategy. He freestyles a bit too much and is therefore an unreliable ally. I’m sure that’s what frustrated Culpepper.

I also think he screwed up his own game by sharing information about his two idols. Sure, he saved Aubry and led to Cirie’s ouster, but he should’ve kept those both to himself.

SURVIVOR game changers aubry eyerollMy Favorite Player
Aubry is easily in my Top Three Survivor Players list. I think she’s one of the smartest, most mentally dialed-in players we’ve had in the game. But, for whatever reason, she just couldn’t get any traction this year and she knew it. Being on the wrong side of so many votes had to be frustrating, but she hung in there right to the bitter end; even winning immunity once! I hope she comes back and has a bit more luck next time.

lfsfu0hrA Word About Michaela
Michaela could very easily become one of my favorite players. She’s very close to it right now for the simple fact that she understands Survivor the same way I understand Survivor. She called out her fellow jurors for displaying any hurt feelings about getting voted out or getting blindsided or getting backstabbed. It’s part of the game! And the only reason those people bitch is because they got backstabbed first. Michaela’s like me when people bloviate about “integrity” in Survivor: I roll my eyes at that nonsense.

Approach to Survivor aside, Michaela is a smart, strategic player, but I think she got swept up into Cirie’s aura this season; which is easy to let happen. She’s certainly not the first. But playing from under Cirie’s wing didn’t allow Michaela to stretch out and show everyone just how strategic a threat she is to go with her athletic ability in challenges.

To Michaela’s credit, she knows her flaws. She allows her emotions to get the better of her and it ends up costing her. If you listened to her during the reunion show, she even talked about how she learned the game is more than just challenges and votes. If she gets a third chance to play—and I hope she does—I think she could win the whole thing.

Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers
All right, Survivor. You’re trying too hard now. I think we’re going to see some interesting players next season, but let’s cut the cutesy nonsense, eh?

See you in the fall with more Survivor chatter, kids.

s30_ep6_sg_d061

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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!

sandra-camera-face-survivor-dirty-deed

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