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survivor recap: go fish???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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survivor re-cap: nothing to see here, folks!

Game-Changers-e1486573854660.jpgIn a season called Game Changers, tonight’s episode would’ve been better off being called “predictable.” It was the obligatory loved one visit episode of Survivor tonight, followed by a whole lotta nothing to see here, folks! While I don’t mind the tears and emotion from the players (who’ve been completely cut off from their families and friends for more than a month, at this point in the game), it’s really only a part of Survivor as a McGuffin to create a little bit of drama where none otherwise existed.

Who’s going on the reward? Are they taking me? Why didn’t they take ME?!?!

Bah! Who cares? Let’s have some real drama, please!

”Calm down!”
There’s always one who overreacts in the moment. Not surprisingly, it was Michaela who took it all a bit too personally when she was left behind. While Michaela, Sierra, Troyzan and Tai moped in the ocean, a motley crew of Andrea, Aubry, Cirie, Culpepper and Sarahshared a jungle barbecue with loved ones. It is no exaggeration to call this the oldest trick in Survivor’s book.

The entire point of this challenge is to stir emotions, positive and negative. Despite a few post-challenge outbursts from Michaela (shocking), the players seemed to accept the results and move onto strategy. But I did love it when Michaela’s mother had a very “mom” moment and told her daughter to “calm down!” when Michaela was throwing a tantrum.

 

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All that was missing was some sort of argument with Six over a boy…or something. I don’t know. I never watched Blossom.

Special Episodes of Blossom Had More Drama Than This
Even though there was some light chatter about sending Culpepper home, all the attention focused squarely on Andrea and Sierra. And I’m not so sure the players made the right move, but we’ll get to that later.

 

It was really a fairly quiet boring episode with little in the way of actual game-changing moves. Seriously, everybody just sort of muddled along until Tribal Council. Honestly, was anyone surprised? And Sierra, true to form, went out with a dull whimper. For someone who knew she was on the chopping block, she did remarkably little to save herself. Special episodes of Blossom had more drama than this, for Christ’s sake!

Perhaps that’s because Culpepper won his first individual Immunity Necklace tonight, thus rendering moot any thoughts of sending him packing. In terms of distinguishing oneself as a championship-caliber player in this game, Culpepper really needed a necklace. I’m a firm believer that a Survivor champion’s game should be an equilateral triangle of performance at challenges, big, strategic moves and a strong social game that keeps your name off the parchment.

NerdAlertBannerSquare.pngGame of Geometry
Right now, Andrea is the closest to equilateral, with Culpepper right behind. Everyone else is working off all manner of isosceles and scalene triangles. It’s not pretty (look it up!). The fact that Andrea has quietly moved herself into the driver’s seat of this game is a bit shocking and impressive. I’ve never doubted her Survivor acumen, but she really and truly snuck up on bigger, bolder players in recent days while having to fend off serious attempts to snuff her torch. If you consider Hali as a player who faced similar circumstances, look at the start contrast in strategy to survive and advance. Hali never started playing until Tribal Council. Andrea? She never stops.

160129104607-12-break-up-movies-breakup-super-169The Break-up
I understand the strategery behind voting out Sierra tonight. It was about splitting up a voting bloc to further put Culpepper in a deep hole. If you don’t break up a power couple in Survivor, they will run the entire game.

Poor Culpepper. His alliance has essentially crumbled all around him in a matter of days. Unless he can sweet-talk Tai and another free agent or two (Michaela?), he’s going to need to win a couple more immunity challenges to save himself. As it stands, Culpepper has become the No. 1 target with one remaining ally: Troyzan. And if Troyzan’s smart, he’ll start shopping for a new alliance soon, lest he wants to be picked off too.

242e304d9db88ff0763d03104f50f167Lord of the Jungle?
Let’s talk about Troyzan for a moment. He is an athletic player and seems to have a sense of strategy in this game. Yet, here we are again, looking at Troyzan on the wrong side of an alliance. Sure, it wasn’t as blatant as his previous turn in Survivor One World, but his alliance—which was fairly tight a couple weeks ago—has completely fallen apart around him.

That may appear to put him in a bad spot, but he does have a hidden Immunity Idol in his pocket and I doubt he’ll be dumb enough to not play it. With the right votes happening around him, Troyzan could find himself in the catbird seat at the end of the game because, as of right now, he’s been a part of one, big move (Ozzy’s ouster) without voting against majority of the current jury. Could that play to his advantage in a Final Tribal Council (providing the jury members are smarting over getting betrayed and want to take it out on their Judas)? Too soon to tell, though, because Troyzan is not the only player with untold advantages in this game.

 

russell-crazyeyes1

No, Russell Hantz is not on this season of Survivor. But he is the Survivor Patron Saint of All Holy Hell in this game, no?

All Holy Hell
On the surface of the game, Survivor is in a very calm, predictable state…sort of like a powder keg with a lit wick. Sure, it’s calm, until the flame reaches the keg. That’s how I see Survivor right now. We’ve already had some great and explosive Tribal Councils this season, but I think we’re very, very close to seen All Holy Hell break loose!

 

Between Troyzan’s hidden Immunity Idol, Tai’s TWO hidden idols and now Sarah’s two advantages—having been bequeathed Sierra’s Legacy Advantage last night—the stars are aligned for a perfectly crazy night around Jeff Probst’s Tribal campfire! With so much hidden treasure waiting to be exposed (let’s not forget Sarah’s other advantage in the game: the chance to steal a vote) we could be looking at, quite possibly, the most explosive Tribal Council of the season.

Oh, I hope so. I really, really hope so.

Survivor-Game-Changers-2017-Spoilers-Week-10-Sneak-Peek-17-550x310Big Move of the Week
Officer Sarah has, once again, made a brilliant move to advance her game on many levels. In addition to gaining Sierra’s trust as a close ally in order to be first in line for the Legacy Advantage, Sarah also successfully rallied the votes to get her “close ally” bounced out of the game. That’s some gangster shit, right there!

Perhaps Sierra will wake up to the betrayal at the Final Tribal Council—should Sarah make it that far—but I doubt it. Sierra was too passive in this game. She really didn’t pose much of a threat and Sarah exploited that. Sure, they chose to take out a pawn tonight instead of a rook (or a bishop, or whatever, in Andrea), but Sarah made off like a bandit by acquiring Sierra’s wares. That’s a solid, Survivor move right there.

SURVIVORSurvivor Employee of the Week
I’m giving it to Culpepper. He needed a big performance and he delivered twice; first, in the Reward Challenge and again in the Immunity Challenge. Sarah’s a close second, but Culpepper gets it because he had to win tonight.

Sure, he lost his closest ally in the game, but he probably would’ve been taken out tonight otherwise. Winning a must-win challenge—even if you don’t realize it—is a big deal to me.

 

3c8df0_9af3c34ce75e4e00994dfcd32f651bf2.jpg_srz_969_1297_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Andrea’s moving her way up the chart. Fast.

The Haves
I’m still calling Sarah my top seed, but Andrea may have moved into a tie with her. Andrea’s been playing a more out-in-the-open game—and has staved off elimination twice while winning immunity twice—so her résumé is getting more and more impressive. Sarah’s playing more like a sniper, lurking in the shadows and maintaining a quiet dominance over the social aspect of Survivor.

After thee two, I’d put Cirie in at No. 3, but I’ve got to believe her backroom strategizing is going to catch up with her. She’s widely regarded as the smartest player out there by her contemporaries. And Cirie is the only player who can be a liability in challenges it won’t ever count against her. Figure that out.

 

The Maybes
If I had to rank the remaining five players, it would look something like this:

aubry-bracco-survivor-kaoh-rong-winner-620x3604. Aubry—Because she’s positioned herself on the right side of an alliance, but needs a big move under her belt to gain street cred. Aubry’s proven herself to be influential and perceptive—and a better competitor in the challenges than people might expect—but she needs to take out a big player to make people see her as a threat.

5. Culpepper—For now. He could fall next week, so he needs to step up and rebuild his alliance fast. No one is on shakier ground right now than Brad. If he doesn’t win the next Immunity Challenge, he will be going home.

6. Troyzan—He’s been an underdog this entire game, but found his footing when he joined the move to get rid of Ozzy. Culpepper’s been shielding him, to this point. Where Troyzan will either make or break his game is deciding when to stab Culpepper in the back. I don’t think he could win over the jury sitting next to Culpepper. Timing is everything.

7. Michaela—She’s starting to move out from Cirie’s shadow and play her own game. Although she’s only moved herself up to “swing vote” status. No one respects a swing voter enough to give that person a million dollars. It’s like being a permanent traitor. I still don’t think she can win, regardless, but she needs to make a big move to give herself a fighting chance. That means she has to knock off Sierra, Andrea and/or Sarah. Good luck, kid.

8. Tai—Perhaps I’m being disrespectful of Tai’s game, but I can never tell if he’s operating on strategy or just rolling with whomever gains his trust the day of a vote. Unbeknownst to everyone else, he has two hidden Immunity Idols. Finding idols is a good skill, but not enough to advance your lot in Survivor. Knowing how and when to play them is going to be critical to Tai’s fortunes. He’s going to have to take big risks and play like free agent for a couple votes, I think, to move up into the upper tier. He may be sitting at No. 8 right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t move up into The Haves next week. He most definitely could.

Predictions for Next Week
If the bottom five were smart, they’d start picking off Sarah, Andrea and Cirie as soon as possible, but that’s less a prediction and more wishful thinking to stir up the drama. More likely is the girls gang up on the boys and either eliminate Culpepper or Immunity Idols are played and we finally get the All Holy Hell Tribal Council! Hey, a fella can dream.

Also next week, we’ll start examining the jury to look at potential voting outcomes. Stay tuned!

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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.

survivor-gamechangers-cochran-reward-debbie

“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.

S34_Sarah_Cast_Photo1

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.

aubry-bracco-survivor-kaoh-rong-episode-9-cbs_nzswrz

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survivor recap: his own worst enemy.

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J.T., walking us through his Survivor strategy.

In the pantheon of all-time dumbest Survivor moves ever, nothing will ever top Erik’s decision to give away his Immunity Necklace. Nothing. That’s the dumbest move ever, in a very specific sense. In a general sense, the dumbest thing a Survivor contestant can do is watch your torch get snuffed out by Probst while an Immunity Idol is in your possession. Enter: J.T.

Oh, J.T. Sweet, sad, stupid J.T. You are a former champion of this game who’s done everything in your power to delegitimize your authenticity as a champion every chance you get. Think about it. Here’s a guy who won Survivor: Tocantins over the vastly underrated Stephen Fishbach in a unanimous Final Tribal Council vote. And how did he follow that dominant performance? By cooking up the “genius” plan during Heroes vs. Villains to give his Immunity Idol to Russell Hantz—while Russell was on an opposing tribe, no less! That move, of course, led to J.T.’s ouster from the game.

If you considered that move to be an anomaly—an otherwise strong player overthinking the game during a season full of strong players—J.T.’s decisions this week should lay all that to rest.

It’s bad enough he screwed his own tribe last week, tipping off Culpepper about their voting strategy during Tribal Council (only to watch it backfire in most spectacular fashion). Forced to lie to this tribemates in the aftermath of that debacle, J.T. seemingly saved himself by finding a hidden Immunity Idol. Only to leave it at camp instead of taking it to the very next Tribal Council.

In a game where deception is often abound and players must have sharpened wits to sniff out blindsides, J.T. committed the Survivor equivalent of stepping on a rake. He was his own worst enemy.

How Did We Get Here?
Simple: Sandra is running the show at the Nuku Tribe. She locked onto J.T. after the previous Tribal Council and, like the cold-blooded serial killer she is, gutted J.T. like he was a baby goat. Think about how Sandra exposed a personal fissure between J.T. and Michaela at camp to her advantage. Remember how Sandra was, at one point, a target in J.T.’s eyes? That was ancient history once Sandra devoured all the sugar—in front of an obsequious and docile Jeff Varner, no less—and successfully convinced him it was Michaela who did it. I wouldn’t call that brilliant, but I definitely applaud the move as opportunistic and kinda funny. Although I wonder if consuming all that sugar made Sandra run to the woods. That could NOT have been pleasant.

After that, it was simply a matter of making J.T. believe everyone was onboard with him in voting out Michaela, which didn’t seem too difficult if he didn’t even bother taking his Immunity Idol to Tribal Council. I can’t call it a blindside since J.T. simply fell victim to his own inability to read the tea leaves. He missed not just one clue, but an ENDLESS SERIES OF CLUES!”

The Deadly Sins of J.T.
I know the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. J.T.’s Deadly Sins are much simpler to identify: STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!

From the moment he got back to camp from watching Malcolm get voted out, he knew he was a target. So he runs out, finds an idol, unbeknownst to his entire tribe. SMART!

He has a five-minute chat with Sandra, Aubrey and Varner about voting out Michaela. Did it not occur to him that Sandra was all-too-agreeable to his plans, despite her obvious frustration with him over the previous vote? Did that not seem a bit too easy, J.T.? STUPID!

And then, so convinced Michaela was going home, leaves it at camp for the next Tribal Council. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!

You never leave it at camp! Ever! Did he not see the red flags popping up at Tribal Council? Every time he tried to pile on Michaela, who was defending her? Sandra! Honestly, I’m not even sure J.T. recognized those as red flags. I think he was so convinced Michaela was going home that tuned out everything that was happening around him.

If J.T. were smart, he would’ve played his idol. Even if there weren’t as many warning signs, he should’ve played it. All signs pointed to a close vote. If you knew you were on the chopping block three days prior, chances are, you still are on the chopping block. Getting snuffed with an idol in your possession? STUPID!

It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!
As far as Reward Challenges go, this was almost a “who cares” challenge, to me. Yeah, food is always an incentive in a game where you’re starving yourself on rice and dirt, but it’s not like they were getting something really big. The winning tribes got every 12-year-old’s favorite lunch. Big deal. Especially given how physically taxing—and mentally taxing, if you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs like you-know-who (more on that later)—the challenge turned out to be.

The hidden subtext to me was Michaela’s performance and how her inability to be a team player is going to bite her in the ass. In terms of sheer competitive will and intensity, no one comes close to Michaela in this game. She backs it up by usually coming through for her tribe, as she did in this challenge, digging out bags from the sand in record time. But she also leads the way in selfishness and bad attitude. I get it. I want players with a “gimme the ball” mentality. But when you turn “gimme the ball” into “all about me,” you lose me. That’s where Michaela is terrible as a team player. Her tribe knows it. I think she knows it, too. It’s unfortunate because she’s also a smart player in this game. I could very easily see her making it to the end, but her inability to get out of her own way is going to cost her votes if she’s not careful.

 

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Debbie, plotting her next psychotic break.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs
In case anyone forgot one a complete nutbar Debbie is, she reminded us this week. “Oh yeah,” said the audience during her onscreen meltdown. ”NOW I remember her!”

 

What. In. The. HELL! Is wrong with Debbie?!?! That Gordian Knot of bad wiring she’s got inside her head creates a bizarre and frightening worldview that I can’t even begin to comprehend, to say nothing of her complete lack of self awareness. She had a bad performance at the Reward Challenge. It happens. But instead of owning it, she turns around and unleashes a machine gun-like spray of vitriol, blame and insanity at virtually each member of her tribe. Best of all, she openly called out Hali for losing the challenge. Really, Debbie? Really? Is that the hill upon which you chose to die today?

On top of that, she carries that grudge into the Immunity Challenge to the point that she’s screaming and bellowing, “I was over first!” at her tribemates like a petulant child. Seriously, Debbie. How old are you? WHY are you, Debbie?!?!

I’ve been saying it all season long, Debbie will not win this game. If I’m on her tribe, I’m more concerned with my personal safety than winning a challenge.

Meanwhile…Over at Tavua
Who the hell cares? They keep avoiding Tribal Council, so we have no idea who the dynamics are playing out. Is Troyzan actually building an alliance with Sarah? Is Ozzy deep sea fishing with a spear to relax? Is Zeke’s mustache encrusted with charred rice and snails? No one knows.

In the Driver’s Seat
Sandra has her little Nuku minions marching to the beat of her drum. And she knows it. At what point do they wise up and realize they’re being pushed around that island like a bunch of chess pieces? Clearly, Sandra is dominating the team portion of Survivor this season. I wonder if she becomes a target as soon as we reach the merge. If she doesn’t, I question the brains of some of these players. Which ones? Any of them who’ve ever watched Survivor! It kills me that no one seems to recognize a growing threat until Probst is kicking them off the island. You let a player like Sandra control the game at your own peril.

The Load of the Week
Instead of Employee of the Week, I decided to change things up a bit. Who’s the Load of the Week? Varner. Dude is lying around the joint like Jabba the Hut, pretending to be some sort of quiet mastermind while waiting for things to happen. And that’s just his performance in challenges.

Back at camp, he’s no damn better. Varner over-relishes his significance in this game right now, playing up his “swing vote” status. Think about that, dude. You’re a swing vote. You know what that means? It means no one looks to you for strategy, because you’re a walking tactic. Swing voters are not big-move players. They are sneaky weasels who advance in this game by merely laying low. You can skate by for a long time in this game as a swing-voting weasel, but you’ll never win. My guess is Varner’s waiting until the merge to make moves, but that’s a risky strategy. On a tribe of five four, Varner is a distant last when it comes to a championship-earning résumé.

Move of the Week
Sandra proved that it doesn’t require A Beautiful Mind-like mathematical equations to influence this game. All it took was eating a pound of sugar to fool J.T.

Prediction for Next Week
Debbie continues her descent into madness, challenging Culpepper to a leg-wrestling match while Varner reveals to his tribemates that his spirit animal is a Coney Dog.

ConeyChiliDog.jpg

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survivor re-cap: “wait…what?”

Jeff-snuffing-torchIn a season called Game Changers, this week’s installment of Survivor may be the game changiest of all…so far. TWO tribes go to Tribal Council and vote off just one player? Wait…what? Whosever heard of such madness?

”My God…How Did We Get Here?!”
Since we were teased coming into this episode that two of the three tribes would be going to Tribal Council, I thought it would be a fun twist if they both went at the same time and got to listen into each other’s deliberations. Forcing them to act as two separate bodies to vote out one, singular castaway, given all the new rules on tiebreakers turned it into a near-chaotic, completely unpredictable vote.

Culpepper’s Master Stroke
The fact that Tai found an Immunity Idol just ahead of this first-of-its-kind Tribal added a wrinkle that ultimately blew up someone’s game in the most dramatic fashion possible. That “someone” turned out to be Malcolm. Once again, a potentially great player gets sent packing. For my money, this was Brad Culpepper’s master stroke. He was controlling his own tribe fairly handily. Now, his influence took out whom he considered one of his fiercest challengers.

Do I agree with Culpepper? Time will tell. But looking at the Survivor world through his eyes, it makes sense. He himself is an athletic, competitive and dominant player. He wants to be the alpha male and regards any other athletic, competitive, dominant men to be threats that must be neutralized. What remains to be seen is if Culpepper can recognize the more subtle threats.

He already knows Sandra is a force to be reckoned with, despite being somewhat enigmatic as a competitor. She’s not the greatest in challenges, so she relies on guile and smart alliances to advance her game. Sandra’s also taking a more aggressive approach to pushing around her alliance, asserting herself as the leader of her tribe. Give Sandra credit. Where most people want to avoid being a target, she stands up and embraces it.

Sandra vs. Culpepper?
Right now, these two are lining up as a pair of field generals, ready to go head-to-head in battle. It’s Rocky vs. Creed, Patton vs. Rommel and Brady vs. Manning…or something like that. The key question is can they survive their own tribemates to make it to the individual game.

I seriously wonder when Sandra’s Nuku tribemates will realize they are letting her run the game and need to take her out. I suppose everyone is thinking their best option is to be sitting next to her (and J.T.) in the end because she’s a past winner. I don’t buy that strategy. Not at all. I think these players this season will think nothing of awarding a past champion the crown again if that person outwit, outplayed and outlasted.

If I Were on That Island…
With that in mind, I’d take her out right now. If I’m on Survivor, my strategy is simple: take out the most immediate threat right away. Don’t wait. Don’t dawdle. You see a threat. You kill the threat. Period. Sure, keeping Sandra around is great for television drama. But with every passing day she wakes up on the island, that’s one more shovel of dirt on your own grave.

taiclimb

After hastily playing his Immunity Idol for Sierra, I’m afraid Tai is hanging on for dear life.

What was Tai Thinking?!?!
Tai found the Immunity Idol. That nearly earned him Employee of the Week honors. But then he turned around and played it with very little strategic upside. This was a vote where you weren’t even in the mix, Tai! You were safe! Who cares if Sierra goes home??? Keep that idol until the merge, man! By playing his idol for Sierra during that crazy Tribal Council, he helped his Mana tribe win a battle. But it may have cost him the war.

In the Driver’s Seat
Same as last week, Culpepper and Sandra. There is no one else on their respective tribes prepared to unseat them. Of course, that could all change once they reach the merge. What about Tavua? Hard to say, since we saw very little of camp life this week. Ozzy is always a dominant player, but often forgets the strategic side of the game. I’d say Troyzan is in the driver’s seat, by virtue of holding an Immunity Idol.

jt-thomas-survivor

Someone’s got some ’splainin to do next week.

The Walking Dead
J.T. may have earned his way to TWD status. He was the first to shake up Tribal Council by approaching Culpepper to openly talk strategy. He went all-in and it backfired on him. He may be able to play his way out of this pickle, but it’s going to take immunity, I think.

Survivor Employee of the Week
Culpepper. He read the tea leaves better than anyone else during Tribal Council. He also backed it up by being a fierce competitor in the reward challenge. Perhaps he backed his way into it, but convincing Tai to give his idol to Sierra took guts. That was a bold move that paid off.

Move of the Week
Tai giving his Immunity Idol to Sierra. It worked, I must admit. But I do think Tai will live to regret it.

Prediction for Next Week
Sandra breaks J.T.’s glasses, Lord of the Flies style, then orders a Code Red on him in his sleep. Watch your six, J.T.!

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survivor re-cap: “bye, felicia.”

S34 Logo Final

One episode into Survivor: Game Changers and I’m already loving it. Because this is mostly a “pleased to meet you” episode, I’ll spare you the boring rundown of the season premier.

By now, you already know the drill: 20 castaways on a boat with Jeff Probst, who promptly kicks them off his boat into the deep, blue waters somewhere near Fiji. But not before the castaways plunder as much as they can from Probst’s boat. You know the rest…build a camp, search for an idol, start forming alliances that’ll be broken five minutes later…blah, blah, blah.

I’ll break down this episode with a few random thoughts.

The Four-Timers Club
With this season of Game Changers, Ozzy and Cirie join Rob Mariano and Rupert Boneham as the only four-time Survivor competitors. Ozzy is a perennial favorite every season he plays, but usually gets hosed because he’s a physical threat. Cirie is the least likely four-timer out there. Both have gotten deep into this game (Ozzy made it to the Final Tribal in his first season, losing to Yul on the Cook Islands season). My hunch: Ozzy makes it deeper into the game than Cirie this season. Just a hunch.

Who the Hell Are You?
I’m talking about Sierra. I haven’t missed an episode of Survivor since the Season 1 finale and I have no recollection of her whatsoever. None.

Those Returning Champions
Sandra, J.T. and Tony. Already, I’m annoyed by two of them. Tony got a little too big for his britches and…well, it bit him in the ass. Although I have to say I’m already tired of Sandra and her “queen” nonsense. If her tribemates have any brains, they’ll get rid of her right away. Yeah, yeah. I know. There’s that “she’ll never win three times” thing. I wouldn’t bet on that. I’d get rid of her ASAP.

First Torch Snuffed: Bye, Felicia
It’s a dubious honor, no question. I was sad to see Ciera go already. I’ve always liked her game and wish she had a chance to play the game. I don’t disagree with the vote, necessarily, because she is a dangerous player. But I’ll miss her. **sniff**

What the Hell are YOU Doing Here?
Why in the hell did the Mana tribe let Varner take part in the most physical part of that 400-lbs. snake challenge? Because he’s a big dude and could handle carrying that snake? Well, I think he proved otherwise throughout the course of that grueling challenge.

Second Torch Snuffed: You Dug Your Own Grave, Tony
Oh, Tony. Big, stupid, troublemaking Tony. You overplayed your sneakiness and got yourself booted off the island. You should’ve kept your powder dry and not looked to get in everybody’s grill so early. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

My Dark Horse Player
I have a couple: Michaela and Caleb. Both are strong competitors and strategic players. We already know that about Michaela. Her strategery is what got her voted off the last time she played. I hope she sticks around longer this time.

Same goes for Caleb. I’m glad he got a second chance. I’m sure the producers figured they owed it to him, what with nearly killing him the last time he played. Caleb has to figure out how to keep people from targeting him for his athleticism. He appeared to have a good strategy at first, allying himself with Malcolm and Tony. Now? Hmm…

My Favorite Player
Aubry. She’s smart and competitive, but not a physical threat. That fits the profile of a winning strategy, if she plays her cards right. She’s able to work her way into almost any alliance. I hope she sticks around for awhile.

The Game Changer That Wasn’t
I just learned Survivor: San Juan del Sur winner Natalie Anderson was originally slated to be a part of this season, but backed out at the last minute. That’s really too bad. Even though she and that “twinnie” thing she had with he sister was obnoxious, she was a strong competitor and deserving champion. Natalie would’ve been a great member of this cast.

Speaking of Game Changers
I like the new rule about ties at Tribal Council. Smart players cracked the code on flushing out immunity idols to the point it got boring. Forcing them to go to rocks in the event of a tie is an awesome way to shake up the game.

Odds-on Favorite to Win
At this point, too soon to tell. Survivor: Game Changers is still in the “stewing” phase. Let’s wait a couple episodes to see how it’s setting up. I will say I don’t see a path to victory for Varner, Debbie or Tai right now. I’m not suggesting they’ll be voted off soon; just don’t see any of them winning.

Stay tuned.

The tribe has spoken…

s30_ep6_sg_d061

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so…who took it like a champ?

Negan 01I know we’re a full five months out from The Walking Dead’s Season 7 premiere, but I find myself thinking more and more about that infamous final scene to Season 6. For whatever reason, I wasn’t so caught up in identifying Negan’s victim. I was more wrapped up in wondering how this new development—being knocked down a peg or five—is going to change the group dynamic for Rick & co. Whose head got bashed in? That could wait.

Negan 03_Back

Negan, making an entrance.

Now that I’ve had some time to absorb everything (and watch that final scene on YouTube over and over), I’m no closer to identifying which character spent his/her last day on earth in the episode entitled, Last Day On Earth. But thought I might break it down a bit to some mathematical possibilities; sort of like handicapping the race, so to speak. Like the ultimate game of Survivor, our heroes have a 1/11 chance of winning the worst game of eeny-meeny-miny-moe ever.

Negan 02Before We Get Started. Please, No Spoilers
This entire exercise is purely a speculative take, based only on what I’ve watched on the show. You may have other ideas, which is great. I hope you share them. But let’s set a couple ground rules first.

If you’ve gone searching out spoilers from spies in Georgia who are watching the comings and goings at the shoot locations, please don’t share those here. Stick to what we’ve seen in the TV show, thus far.

If you’re a comic fan, you likely have other information, too. We already know it’s Glenn in the comic, but know nothing about the rest of this story with Negan, so please be mindful of subtle, spoilers. Call me old fashioned, but I still like to be surprised on Christmas morning.

Still with me? Here goes.

Group Cropped

DEFINITELY Not Dead

Maggie, Michonne, Rosita and Sasha
Small_Women
Sure, Negan’s a horrible human being who may not be above beating a woman’s brains in to make a point, but there’s no way we open Season 7 watching that. No. Way. Something as dramatic and awful as that may play in the comic, but it would become distracting from the overall plot. No longer would it be a story about survival. The Walking Dead would become about misogyny and violence against women. I doubt AMC wants its centerpiece drama to fall down that rabbit hole, so no women shall be beaten to death just now.
Chance it’s them: 0 percent

Small_CarlCarl
Along the same lines as above, Negan doesn’t seem too interested in killing a kid (even though he rightfully calls him out as a “future serial killer”). Again, it would be hard for audiences to stomach and might become the focal point of the show, rather than the storyline. True, The Walking Dead has shown no mercy to children in the past. I still love the opening scene of the first episode when Rick has to shoot a dead, “walker” child in the head. That set the tone and let the audience know The Walking Dead doesn’t screw around! But kill Carl? I don’t know. It seems that would be a bridge too far if Negan’s intent is to keep this crew earning for him. Watching his son die would render Rick ineffective. I don’t think Negan wants him in that state.
Chance it’s Carl: 0 percent

Small_RickRick
It can’t be Rick. Sure, the simple fact that Rick is the centerpiece character tells me it’s not his time. Also, Negan’s not going to make an example out of the leader of the gang. He needs this crew in good shape; subservient and scared, sure, but in good shape to expand his empire. So Rick is not “it.”
Chance it’s Rick: 0 percent

The Definitely Maybes
That means everyone else is fair game. But some might be Lucille bait before others. Let’s tick down the possibilities.

Small_DarylDaryl Dixon
The Walking Dead has killed off major characters before, so Daryl’s number could definitely be up. I doubt it, though, for similar reasons as to why Rick is spared. Daryl’s too strong an asset to kill just to set the tone. He’s a loose cannon, but he’s already been shot and isn’t posing any threat just now. Plus, Daryl’s one of the most popular characters on TV. The fans would lose their minds over this.
Chance it’s Daryl: 10 percent

Small_AaronAaron
This one seems to be the most popular pick among cynical fans who think showrunner Scott Gimple is a jerk for using a cliffhanger in the first place. In the eyes of these fans, this is a cheap, storytelling device to get the audience lathered up and waiting several months for a weak payoff. Sure, get everyone hot and bothered, thinking it’s going to be something epic when, in reality, it turns out to be The Walking Dead equivalent of a red-shirt guy in Star Trek getting his head caved in. At least, that’s the theory behind Aaron getting whacked. Plausible? Absolutely. But I’m not ready to buy it just yet. I think it would be too obvious, so I think Aaron gets spared.
Chance it’s Aaron: 25 percent

Small_GlennGlenn
If The Walking Dead TV show adheres to the comic storyline, then Glenn’s fate has already been sealed. All we can do is wait for the Season 7 opener and watch in horror as the honorable Glenn meets his fate. I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anybody when I say there’s a better-than-good chance Negan kills Glenn in this scene. There’s a part of me that could see Gimple doing this as a way to stick it to those fans who are mad at him. “Think I’m just screwing with you? Think again. Here’s Glenn’s head busted open like a watermelon.”
Chance it’s Glenn: 37 percent

The Last Day on Earth Goes To…
It’s down to these two. Which will it be?

Small_AbrahamAbraham
A lot of Internet chatter focuses on our favorite ginger being the victim. I can see this as a strong possibility. Negan knows he’s not the leader, but needs to send a message so he takes out one of the biggest, strongest members of the pack. Also, Abraham shows no fear when Negan locks onto him. For whatever reason, I’ve got Abraham in my head when Negan says, “…takin’ it like a champ!” as he strikes his victim. Who would be most inclined to stand up to Negan and show no surrender in that situation? Sadly, Abraham is moving up my chart with every passing day.
Chance it’s Abraham: better than 50 percent

Small_EugeneEugene
Poor, lovable Eugene. He’s a fan favorite in the way they love a mascot. He’s funny, quirky and sometimes misunderstood, but never dangerous. You get the sense he gave up ample information when Negan’s men caught him and worked him over. In Negan’s mind, I’m sure he’s got Eugene pegged as a follower, a worker bee. Is he important to the group? Yes, in a sense. He figured out how to make ammunition (and already passed that info on to Rick). Unless he indicated to Negan he knows how to do this. Otherwise, is Eugene an asset? He’s a regular guy who’s been clever enough to ride along with the right people, to this point. The moment he was flying solo, he got caught. And, in keeping with my theory that Negan wants Rick’s crew to remain strong so it can earn for him, I think Eugene is “it.” Hate to see you go, Eugene. We shall miss your mullet.
Chance it’s Eugene: 75 percent

From the beginning, I thought Eugene was the one who got whacked by Negan. However, as time goes on, my mind is changing a bit. I could definitely see Abraham, Glenn or Aaron being the victim, too. It all depends on Scott Gimple. Does he go purist (Glenn), obvious (Aaron), pitiful (Eugene) or tough guy (Abraham)?

I guess we’ll find out on Sunday, 9 October 2016.

Lucille

 

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