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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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election 2018: the battle for texas.

O'Rourke vs WeaselOf all the battles currently taking place among the 35 Senate seats up for grabs on Nov. 6, it’s the Battle for Texas that’s grabbed the most national headlines. Republican incumbent Ted Cruz is running for re-election against the national liberal heartthrob, Beto O’Rourke. Challenger O’Rourke hauled in more than $38 million from July – September, more than triple Cruz’s meager $12 million.

Despite all the attention, all the money and all the love from national liberals, Real Clear Politics has O’Rourke trailing anywhere from 5 – 9 percentage points behind Cruz. Surprised? Don’t be. No Democrat has won a senate election in Texas since 1988. With the exception of the city of Austin and Willie Nelson, Texas is deep, deep red.

Now, normally, I trust what the polls tell me. Yes, even in 2016, when the national polls were accurate (they were). The only reason I wonder if the current polls are tracking correctly is because O’Rourke is pulling MASSIVE numbers at his rallies. He is igniting audiences all across Texas unlike most politicians. In some small way, it’s highly reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 campaign and, yes, Trump’s 2016 run. If elections were won and lost on enthusiasm alone, O’Rourke would clearly have this one in the bag. But that’s not how it works. Looks can be deceiving.

Remember all the electricity and excitement around Bernie Sanders in 2016? He didn’t lose his primary bid because of rigged elections as many opined (without merit). In many cases, he lost because he ran a national campaign strategy without motivating enough people to register to vote for him when it counted. After all, Sanders was trying to appeal to voters who reject party labels. That’s a tough needle to thread when winning requires voters to declare a party when voting in a primary or caucus.

O’Rourke doesn’t have those same problems, though. This is not the primary. It’s the real deal. And it would appear the Cruz-O’Rourke Battle Royale has cheesed up the voters. The Houston Chronicle reported last month the Lone Star State’s voter rolls are up to 15.6 million people, a 1.6 million increase over the 2014 mid-term elections. And then there’s this:

“That includes nearly a 400,000-person increase since March, election records show. To put that number in perspective, from 2002 to 2014, the state added just over 100,000 voters a year, on average.”

That’s why I wonder if the tracking polls are missing something. It’s not as though Texas Republicans ever have trouble turning out the vote. Cruz won his seat comfortably in 2012 with more than 56 percent of the vote. He defeated Paul Sadler by more than 1.2 million votes. Of course, 2012 was a presidential election year and more than 7.5 million people voted in that particular senate race. By contrast, Texas Republican John Cornyn defeated Democrat David Alameel in 2014 (midterm) by a similar margin, but fewer than 4.5 million Texans voted in that election. How many voters will turn out three weeks from today?

Perhaps past is prologue here, though. Are there enough Democratic Party voters in Texas to unseat Ted Cruz? Better question: will they all vote? After all, midterm elections rarely turn out the vote like general elections. And Democratic voters are known to skip elections, unlike Republicans.

For O’Rourke to prove the polls are wrong, he would probably need to garner most of those 1.6 million new voters; a feat that is not likely. Perhaps it’s my own wishful thinking that refuses to concede just yet, but I’m hoping Beto O’Rourke can shock the world on Nov. 6, though the odds are long and time is running out.

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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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the nightmare scenario.

Just finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing, so that’s probably why I’m in a politico state of mind just now. I’m also out canvassing for candidates ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections, so there’s that, too. Yeah, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done any real work on a political campaign.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the 2020 presidential election. We have no idea who the Democrats will run two years from now, but I’m betting this is the most basic starting point for any deep strategery for either political party.

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.31.05 PM

It takes 270 electoral votes to win a presidential election. According to this map, 152 are up for grabs. Who decided these 152 are undecided? Me. These are the states where neither candidate received at least 50 percent of the popular vote. We already knew the razor thin margins in upper Midwest states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but they’re hardly alone. And they’re all reason for concern for both Democrats and Republicans heading into 2020.

Nobody has a clue how these states are going to play out in two years. After all, did anyone honestly believe in 2006 that Indiana would turn blue in 2008? A lot can and likely will happen between now and then. If my view of these 152 toss-up electoral votes holds true, there’s one nightmare scenario that could play out on Tuesday, Nov. 3:

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.16.46 PM

That’s right. A tie. If that happens, The Nightmare Scenario is unlocked and the presidency and vice presidency are both left to Congress to decide the winners. Think about that for a moment.

Sure, it might be a million-to-one shot that the voting plays out this way. But do you really want to leave your vote to chance like this? That’s why it’s important you vote in the upcoming mid-term election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Are you registered to vote yet? Click here to find out.

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the best picture nominees, ranked.

In order of worst to first, here’s how I’d break down tonight’s Best Picture nominees.

Phantom Thread_Breakfast9. Phantom Thread
This movie sucked and sucked hard. I’m getting kinda tired of Paul Thomas Anderson. You’ve become Jack Horner in the limo, dude! It’s been downhill ever since Boogie Nights. But I do love Daniel Day-Lewis’s hair, so there’s that.

The Post Streep Hanks8. The Post
No, I haven’t seen it, yet. But I’m pretty sure it’s better than Phantom Thread!

Call Me7. Call Me By Your Name
Pleasant, visually breathtaking and well acted.

Darkest Hour_Train6. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman is spectacular as the iconic Winston Churchill.

HarryStyles-920x5845. Dunkirk
Well-crafted, fast-moving film that sheds light on a major turning point in world history. Should be watched in same sitting with Darkest Hour.

shape_water.04. The Shape of Water
Stunning for its cinematography, story and acting. Michael Shannon was robbed. He should’ve been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

ladybird23. Lady Bird
Lovely, relatable storytelling that doesn’t beat you over the head to make its point. Ohhhhh…THAT guy actor Bob Stephenson KILLS in one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

GetOutChris.02. Get Out
Arguably the most original nominee this year. It’s as important and relevant as it is entertaining.

billboards1.01. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
I love everything about this movie. That’s really all I can say about it.

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for your consideration: three billboards outside ebbing, missouri.

Three BillboardsThree Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017 Fox Searchlight Pictures/Blueprint Pictures/Film4 Productions/Cutting Edge Group)
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage.
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh.
Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh. Music by Carter Burwell. Cinematography by Ben Davis. Edited by Jon Gregory.

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

What a fantastic movie. Truly. This is the shortest movie review I’ll probably ever write, but only because I don’t know how else to say it. Three Billboards is a dark movie with enough of salty language to make a sailor blush, but it delivers on every level. The beauty of the performances is they don’t feel over exaggerated. These are everyday people in small town America dealing with a tragic and complex situation. Of course, they make all the worst decisions when they address it, but that’s only where their journeys begin.

Exploring anger, redemption, vengeance and, ultimately, love, Three Billboards takes the audience through a town’s own sins as a grieving mother refuses to let them forget her daughter’s savage death. As Mildred, the grieving mother, Frances McDormand turns in one of the best performances of her career. Sam Rockwell’s been an underrated talent for years. After playing rogue cop, Dixon, in Three Billboards, I don’t think we’ll ever say he’s underrated ever again.

I’ll just leave it at that and say, thus far, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is my favorite Best Picture nominee.

STARS: ****1/2 (out of five)

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