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survivor re-cap: what the hell just happened?

Survivor_Island_of_the_Idols_logo

Okay. Someone smarter than me needs to explain what the hell just happened during that Tribal Council. Everyone had a plan and it was shaping up to be an epic blindside. And then, out of nowhere, Dean starts whispering to Tommy the plan to vote him out…but Dean’s not a part of it! Nope. Not at all.

Huh?!?!?!

Just five minutes prior, we witness Dean enduring a walkthrough of CrazyBall Noura’s headful of bad wiring and worse math to split a vote. All the while, Dean is telling Noura to stay the path and vote Tommy out.

Meanwhile, Dan, Janet, Lauren and Tommy are basking in the glow of winning with loved ones in tow, conniving to split the vote between Karishma and Elaine.

That all makes sense, right? Well, it did, right up until Dean blew it up. And in the end, Karishma was sent packing; not surprising, really, since her game and campsite demeanor earned her no respect from her tribemates. Nevertheless, I feel like we all missed a really important scene that ties together all these elements. After all the plotting and scheming from Dean, Elaine, Karishma and Noura, Tommy didn’t receive a single vote.

It’s even more confusing when you see who voted for whom:

  • Karishma: Dean, Elaine, Lauren, Noura, Tommy
  • Noura: Dan, Janet, Karishma

Nothing makes sense. Nothing.

By itself, voting out Karishma makes sense. But the journey to this vote is a peculiar road with little strategy behind it. Or, perhaps, there’s plenty of strategy there, but in the hands of an unpredictable weirdo (Noura), it gets messy.

I certainly can’t argue the vote. Karishma’s been on borrowed time since Day 1. She didn’t start to really play this game until very recently. Unfortunately, the die had already been cast for her. Karishma was viewed as a pawn and a stooge. As a result, she never found her footing and never landed in an alliance that would allow her to be a threat. But, to be fair, her wounds were mostly self inflicted. It wasn’t until she stood up to the overly arrogant Missy’s bullying that Karishma started to get some game. Too little, too late.

In the Driver’s Seat
Heading into the home stretch, there is one player who is legitimately calling the shots: Lauren. She is definitely in the driver’s seat. Doesn’t mean she will absolutely stay there, but no one else is matching her strategic moves right now.

No. 1 Contender
It’s a two-horse race for the next best challenger after Lauren: Elaine and Tommy. Although I’d say Elaine has a much better shot at winning than Tommy. I think the jury favors her more than him, at this point. Although neither of them possesses a strategic advantage over one another. This is where one of them has to make a bold move to take out Lauren if they stand a chance of winning.

Hope is Waning
Janet remains the fan favorite, but she continues to find herself on the wrong side of votes. For now, that doesn’t seem to bode well for her chances of winning. Add to that her uncomfortable (for me) alliance with Dan and I’m thinking she’s backing the wrong horse. Then again, sitting next to Dan at the Final Tribal Council could prove advantageous, given all the drama he caused a few weeks ago. However, does Janet have a resume that will impress the jury? I don’t recall any of her big moves paying off. That could cost her in the end.

CrazyBall
You know who I’m talking about. I realize that operating in total chaos is the preferred medium for some folks out there. But I don’t get the sense Noura is playing a game. I get the sense she’s a complete wildcard and even she doesn’t know her next move.

Though, in fairness, blowing up Tribal Council once she saw Dean whispering to Tommy was a smart move. Her execution looked a bit manic, but it was a smart, defensive maneuver in the face of Dean being a weasel.

The problem for Noura is any strategic move she makes is canceled out by her overall unpredictability. She backs her way into a good move more often than not.

No Chance
Dan will not win Survivor. I’m calling it right now. He may very well make it to the end, but he will not win. Not a chance.

And I’m close to adding Dean’s name to this list, too. His best strength thus far is truly staying in the game. He’s a man with no home. Perhaps that will impress a jury if he makes it that far, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m curious to see how his antics at Tribal Council play for him moving forward. Did he buy some trust with Tommy? Enough to shuffle the deck and put him in a control position? Too soon to tell.

I’m Not Going to Miss You
I’m so glad Missy is out of this game. Initially, I really liked her. She was easily the smartest player out there. Add to that her ability to compete in any immunity challenge and she’s an immediate threat to dominate. But her smugness, her arrogance, her bullshit move with Kellee and her overly-dramatic, spotlight hogging exit when she was voted out is where she lost me. I’m glad you lost and I’m not going to miss you.

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survivor re-cap: …who the hell are you?

Survivor_Island_of_the_Idols_logo

Welcome back, Survivor! Loyal fans of the venerable reality competition franchise gathered ‘round their televisions Wednesday last night to take in the exploits of 20 people competing for a million dollar prize. Twenty people who would otherwise never so much as acknowledge one another in real life. Twenty people who will, by season’s end, probably hate each other on some level but air kiss like long lost friends at the season wrap-up show.

For a reality show to last as long as Survivor has lasted, it has to evolve. It has to continue to shock and awe old and new fans alike to keep that spark of romance burning. Some of those twists work—Exile Island (the first time around), Super Immunity Idols and surprise tribe swaps. Other times—like last season’s Edge of Extinction—it’s about as popular as bringing Cousin Oliver into the mix. But this season’s twist of bringing back two of the game’s most successful and most popular players, Boston Rob and Sandra, is already paying dividends, if you ask me. Although, I’m not gonna lie. Those giant busts of those two on that island? Weird.

Who the Hell are You?
Survivor 39 CastBefore we get to that, however, we have to choke through the obligatory “who the hell are you?” first episode nonsense of the tribes interacting with one another and over-exuberantly enacting Day 33 strategy before their feet even touch a beach. Seriously, people! This again? Members from both the Lairo and Vokai tribes dove into end-game alliances, targeting the “big threats” way too early. Why do they always do this? I realize there’s a great deal of excitement and energy around playing this game, but c’mon, man! You just got there. Your underwear is still clean, for Christ’s sake! Why don’t you at least build a shelter before making such boneheaded overplays!

It started with people at Vokai chattering about Jason the personal injury lawyer being gone too long and making them nervous. Of course, their suspicions were verified when we see Jason rooting around the base of a tree, clearly looking for idols.

Over at Lairo, we’ve got Ronnie the professional poker player not-so-subtly building a strategy to get Elaine booted first because she’s, like, soooooo popular! Leave it to a freakin’ poker player to remind everyone he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room because he plays poker. Who couldn’t see where this was heading for Ronnie?

Survivor 39_E01 Challenge 02After white-knuckling through the getting-to-know you sequence, we finally get to the challenge: an obstacle course, of course, capped by a puzzle. Someone’s gotta lose, so it might as well be you, Lairo. They did well, right up to the puzzle, where their three puzzlemasters appeared to have never actually put together a puzzle before in their entire lives. In a challenge that was virtually neck-and-neck most of the way, Vokai smoked ‘em for the win.

Enter the Twist!
Survivor 39_HeadsUpon announcing the winner, Probst instructed Elaine to pick a name out of a hat. Is this person going to Exile Island? Nope. The random person—Elizabeth, the Olympic swimmer—was sent away for an afternoon to the mysterious Island of the Idols. Unbeknownst to her tribemates, Elizabeth would spend a few hours with former champions Boston Rob and Sandra.

”Think of it like a Survivor boot camp…”
Not gonna lie, I already LOVE this new twist on the game! It might be the best use of former Survivor players to shake up the game. It’s almost unfair to everyone when former champions come back to play among first-time players. The champions enter with HUGE targets on their backs while also robbing a new player of a chance to compete.

Survivor 39_Sandra and RobPutting Rob and Sandra in ‘mentor’ roles is both fitting and interesting. It also adds a new wrinkle, forcing players to take risks to earn advantages in the game. That’s way better than the endless stream of hidden idols, which handicap the entire game, if you ask me. The randomness of hidden idols negate actual game play. Sure, one hidden idol is okay. But keep putting it back in circulation all game long? Blech!

Getting back to Boston Rob and Sandra…there is nothing like watching the first contestant down the mine shaft try and sort out the new twist. True to Rob’s words, Elizabeth was treated to a “boot camp” by learning to make fire; an all-important skill one must have just in case they make it to the Final Four fire-making challenge (one of the best twists in Survivor ever). I also admire Elizabeth for accepting the challenge to win immunity for the next two tribal councils. Sure, she lost the challenge and, subsequently, lost her vote at the first tribal council, but so what? The odds of being a swing voter that early in the game do not outweigh the benefit of knowing you’re safe for six more days. I would’ve done the same thing.

Where Elizabeth may have risked too much was by not being more forthright with her tribemates about the nature of Island of the Idols. Perhaps it won’t matter much down the line, but it seemed like a really big bluff at a point when you don’t really need to bluff that much. We shall see if it comes back to bite her (but I doubt it will).

Tribal Council

Survivor 37

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All that chatter around likable and affable Elaine being on the chopping block seemed premature to me, and it was. Poker Genius and holder of 38 jobs before playing Survivor Ronnie and his Day 33 strategery spectacularly backfired on him and he was the first to have his torch snuffed in this Season 39 of Survivor. Good, I say. Yes, Survivor is a game that respects big moves to remove big threats. But not on Day freakin’ Three! That’s simply a boneheaded move, man! That’s why you didn’t see it coming.

Survivor 39_Ronnie

Ronnie folded on Day Three.

Is Elaine a long-term threat on this game? Sure. But at this point, everyone is a long-term threat. With so many random twists and turns to come, isn’t the smartest move right now to keep your tribe as strong as possible to win challenges? Between now and the merge, there will likely be at least one “drop your buffs” moment as well as a double tribal council and who knows what else Probst has cooked up?

All this to say focusing so much time and attention on identifying “the biggest threat to win” on Day Three is a fool’s errand. And just now, that fool is a pokah playah from Brockton, Mass.

The Watchers
In addition to the Island of the Idols twist, I also enjoyed the voyeuristic nature of Rob and Sandra perched atop tribal council in a hidden duck blind, providing their own commentary during the proceedings. This is a feature I hope to see expanded in future seasons. Invite a hidden gallery of past players to watch Tribal and, like sportscasters, give us color commentary on the players, their game play and their decisions.

And I’m solidly with Sandra on her scoffing over so much emotion in voting someone out. Sure, I realize the first vote is the toughest because there are so many unknowns involved. And you just spent three days bonding with these people and your emotions are flying high over it all. But get over it! I don’t begrudge Elaine for making an impassioned, albeit unnecessary plea to be spared Probst’s torch snuffer, but everyone else being soooooo wracked with emotion and guilt? Oh, FFS! Just write a name down and move on!

SURVIVORSurvivor Employee of the Week: Boston Rob
Yeah, it’s early and we barely know these people, but someone’s gotta win. There were a couple early favorites for EOTW on the Vokai Tribe—Lifeguard Janet for her adept fire making skills and Jake for his athletic leadership in getting his tribemates over the wall in the challenge—but it was not enough.

I even considered Lairo’s Elizabeth because she didn’t shy from risk at Island of the Idols, but also, not enough. This week’s Employee of the Week: Boston Rob. Why? Because showed no mercy in the fire challenge against Elizabeth. He truly has nothing to gain this season, but his competitive spirit is still strong.

Next Week’s Prediction
Germophobe Kellee will complain about handsy Dan’s “lack of spatial awareness” about 25 more times until someone throws a coconut at her to shut her the hell up (although, in fairness, Dan’s got a bit of a creeper vibe going on). Hockey goon Tom will spend time in the penalty box for cross-checking Vince into a palm tree.

Survivor 39_NHL Tom

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Keep the discussion going with your own thoughts in the comments section.

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survivor recap: another action freak bites the dust.

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

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

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

SURVIVOR

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

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

 

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 4.26.04 AM

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Awkward

I’m not crying! YOU’RE crying!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cheated death again, Rick! Well done.

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

Upset

 

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survivor recap: burning bridges.

Survivor EE_David.jpgAll right. I’m back to writing about Survivor because last night’s episode pissed me off. No, I’m not questioning the vote at Tribal Council. I’m not questioning the not-so-subtle movement in Manu to get rid of Wentworth (because it’s a smart strategy). I’m not questioning the Kama Tribe ganging up on two strong, returning players in an attempt to eliminate threats. Thus far, the players have shown their ability to be strategic early and I’m fine with that; even if it comes at the expense of a favorite player or two (Aubry will always be my favorite player. Always).

What’s got me amped up over last night’s episode as that clowntard idiot, Wendy. Initially, I thought she was your typical, flaky player who would eventually show some strategic thinking.

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

Survivor EE_Wendy

Dimwit.

Her hypocrisy and stupidity—topped off by her utter smugness—about the chickens has reduced her to my least favorite player ever. Yes, ever. It would be one thing if you were an actual vegan or something, Wendy, when you got on your high horse about killing at eating the chickens. But you’re not. And your selfish behavior shows your complete lack of understanding of how to actually play this game. Seriously, Wendy. Have you ever watched Survivor?

And how about the dimwits in the Manu Tribe not figuring out that she stole the damn flint. I’m looking at you, Rick. You know Wendy’s plan. Why are you sitting on it like it’s the secret code to finding a hidden immunity idol? You have nothing to gain by protecting this donut.

Look, I admire Wendy’s performance in the challenge, bum wheel and all, but her behavior shows a tremendous lack of foresight and pragmatism. No one’s asking you to kill a chicken if you don’t want to. No one’s even forcing you to eat one if you don’t want to. But when you put your head up your own ass and like the smell too much and decide no one else can eat the chickens…well, that smells of arrogance and ignorance. Calvin Klein ain’t gonna bottle that shit.

Loose Lips Sink Ships
I was not disappointed in the Tribal Council vote. Wendy looked like the easy vote from the beginning of the episode, but things are never so simple on Survivor. How did Manu end up at Tribal Council—again?!?! Because puzzles are hard; harder than DIY slingshots, apparently. Manu was setting the pace in the immunity challenge…right up until the all-important final element: putting together a puzzle. “Puzzles are hard,” David muttered over and over, in defeat. Yes, David. Yes, they are.

Survivor EE_Chris

Chris Underwood. Great with a slingshot. Lousy with bridge building.

Despite manning a slingshot like he does it every weekend at home, Chris found himself on the wrong end of a torch snuffer because he didn’t listen to David and blabbed to Wardog Dan about the plan to blindside Wentworth. Chris trusted the wrong player. He said he didn’t want to burn a bridge in this game and he didn’t. The person he trusted torched it first.

He should’ve listened to David. Once Chris told the wrong person about the plan, he put himself in the cross hairs. David, recognizing Wentworth sniffed out his plan, pivoted and made the shrewd play: cut your losses.

In Chris’s defense, he was trying to pull in an ally he’d developed, but his alliance wasn’t as tight as he thought. In Wardog’s head, Wentworth > Chris. Now, he’s off to spend a few days at the worst cookout ever, but I like his chances of getting back in the game.

Survivor EE_Reem Keith

Worst Cookout Ever. Reem & Keith are setting up camp with rice and…a torch.

Old Business
Let’s get the previous two votes out of the way. Reem was her own worst enemy at camp. She all but begged everyone to vote for her by assuming she could do whatever she wanted. Her attitude of “if they don’t like it, they could change it” doesn’t fly. It wouldn’t fly with me either. Here’s a tip, Reem: if you’re going to take it upon yourself to put everyone’s shit on the beach, why don’t you ask them first? It’s not incumbent upon them to clean up your mess.

And Keith…dude, you are not long for this game. If you had to hesitate and say “please, God” 88 fucking times before figuring out what you wanted to do, you should’ve just gone home. You’ve been in this game for five minutes. You’re still fresh. Grab a torch and get back in. Although I truly think you’ll get bounced out again and probably quickly. Perhaps not learning how to swim better was a poor Survivor strategy.

Meanwhile, Over at Kama
This tribe is itching to get to Tribal Council because the new players can’t seem to throw Joe and Aubry off the island fast enough. It’s slightly disappointing if you’re a fan of either of them, but it’s a strategy that makes sense. The newbies are afraid Joe and Aubry’s experience and guile make them strong players. This is true, but I can’t help but wonder if players these days are too busy trying to seat a jury in the single-digit days instead of focusing on winning challenges and studying one another. After all, how long does a tribe remain together on Survivor before Probst says, “drop your buffs?”

Survivor EE_Kama Tribe

Kama Chameleon. Seriously, who the hell are half these people?

I still don’t know who half of you are just now because you haven’t had to dip your torches in the flame. Seriously, I heard Probst say Ron’s name and I said, “…who???” The only newbie on Kama I recognize straight away is Victoria, thanks to her red hair. After her…yeah, I got nothin’.

But I will give it up to Aubry for snagging a hidden immunity idol. Even though I think the hidden idols are a little cheap and ruin good strategy, props to her for achieving that personal goal. People forget Aubry is a beast in Survivor. She’s play 74 out of 78 possible days during her previous two seasons. She may very well be the best player who’s never won.

Survivor EE_Rick

Anchorman Rick.

Back to Manu…
If your real name is Dan and you call yourself “The Wardog,” you’re probably an asshole. David is distinguishing himself as the sneakiest player on that tribe, thus far, but Anchorman Rick—who just made First Team All Dad Bod—wins the Sneaky Latenight Uncle award. Seriously, dude. I hope you don’t drive a van back home. He’s probably a nice enough guy, but he seems to have creeper tendencies. He’s one mustache and a basement X-Box away from being on the local police radar.

No Shot of Winning
If I were a betting man, I’d lay odds that Wendy, Reem and Keith have no shot at the million dollars. Reem and Keith are easy to mark for termination, what with already being voted out. But at least one of them may get back in the game. I still don’t think they’ll get enough votes ever to win. Wendy is a clueless dimwit. She will be the useful idiot to someone with an actual game plan. Once her usefulness runs out, she gone.

Gang of Four
These are the four most dangerous players (so far):

  • Dan. I refuse to call him “Wardog.” Yes, he’s an asshole, but he’s lining himself up to be a major player to go along with being a major asshole.
  • David. Some people seem to truly understand the social game that is Survivor. David is one of those players who bends the game to his will. That’s impressive. And dangerous. I wonder how long it’ll take for people to recognize he’s a threat.
  • Wentworth. She’s got the biggest target on her back, but has already built an alliance that has bailed her out. She may get her torch snuffed out sooner rather than later, but her ability to fend off elimination in the first two tribal councils of the season is impressive.
  • Aubry. Finding an idol may be the advantage she needs to stave off elimination before the merge. We shall see.
Survivor EE_Aubry cropped

Aubry is a Survivor Beast and you don’t even know it.

Survivor Employee of the Week
Aubry. She was a challenge beast when it counts the most. Her work in solving the puzzle that won immunity for her tribe should earn her some cred with her people…if only they weren’t so focused on Day 39 just now.

And whether it’s paranoia or game sensibilities, Aubry’s self awareness as being on the chopping block led her into the woods to hunt down an immunity idol.

Next Week’s Prediction
Hopefully, that clod Wendy goes home. I already can’t stand her stupid ass.

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the best of (and worst of) survivor.

the-best-moments-fro

Survivor’s been on American television since the summer of 2000. Tomorrow night, Jeff Probst will bestow the title of Sole Survivor on the 37th recipient…and a check for $1 million. You’d think winning the game is enough to cement your name into immortality with the fans, but does it really? Who won Ghost Island (the season prior to David vs. Goliath)? Do you even remember? I don’t. Winning does no guarantee Survivor immortality.

In preparation for tomorrow’s season finale, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down Memory Lane through a few lists. Who’s been the best Sole Survivor? Who’s been the least deserving? Who were the best players to never win the title?

Let’s take a look…

Top Five Sole Survivors
In 36 seasons (and counting), some champions played the game better than anyone else. Here are the five best Sole Survivors (in no particular order):

Survivor_Yul KwonYul Kwon: Cook Islands
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And that’s exactly what Yul did in the Cook Islands. In a three-person final Tribal Council, Yul defeated Ozzy Lusth by a 5 – 4 vote. In a season with a deep bench (including future winner Parvati Shallow), Ozzy was the original challenge beast. Yul’s strength was in strategy, alliances and most of all, jury management. It’s one thing to vote out a player. It’s another thing entirely to know when to vote them out. Yul’s only played this game once, but he was arguably one of the smartest Survivor players ever.

Survivor_Sandra Diaz-TwineSandra Diaz-Twine: Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains
The only two-time Sole Survivor. Sandra’s strength was her craftiness. She was not gifted with athleticism, but made up for it in her strategic alliances and a whole lotta luck. Yes, luck goes a long way in Survivor, but what is luck? It’s opportunity meets preparation. In the Pearl Islands, she won because her runner-up, Lillian Morris, allowed her heart to speak louder than her head. Lillian refused to take Jon “Johnny Fairplay” Dalton to the final Tribal Council, opting for Sandra instead. Fast forward to Heroes vs. Villains and Sandra defeated Parvati Shallow and the evil Russell Hantz for her second title. Winning once can be chalked up to chance. But twice? Nope.

Survivor_Natalie AndersonNatalie Anderson: Blood vs. Water
Full disclosure: I hated Natalie when she and her sister Nadiya were on The Amazing Race. Hated! She was obnoxious. On Survivor, though, she channeled her weapons into a crafty win in a season where everyone started as part of a pair. That she made it to the end was slightly surprising to me, honestly. Though only winning individual immunity once, Natalie played an aggressive game and pulled some epic blindsides on her way to victory.

Survivor_Brian HeidikBrian Heidik: Thailand
You probably don’t even remember Brian. He was the Sole Survivor all the way back in Season 5. It was his first and last time playing Survivor. Brian is roundly considered one of the least likable players in Survivor history because of his serial killer-like approach to the game. Like him or hate him, Brian executed one of the most masterful magic tricks over the game that we’ve ever seen: he won without ever shining a light upon himself. Did he crack the code? Sort of, but it’s because he was emotionally detached. Sure, he won challenges, but he read his competition perfectly and played them against one another. He closed his magic trick by dragging a stooge to the end who was less likable than he was.

Survivor_Sarah LacinaSarah Lacina: Game Changers
This was one of the deepest competitions in a long time. Sarah had to beat some fierce competition to claim the title. In fact, one might argue her runner-up, Brad Culpepper was more deserving. I’m not sure about that, but I do think he played a championship-caliber game (he certainly didn’t deserve to lose 7 – 3 in the final Tribal Council). The fact that Sarah built alliances across the entire game is testimony to her victory. On paper, Culpepper should win, but he was too aggressive and, at times, a bully. Sarah was sharper at reading the room, which went a long way to jury management. She also positioned herself as a crucial swing vote and could pick off players like a sniper. That’s a powerful place to be.

Honorable Mention
Survivor_RIchard HatchRichard Hatch: Season 1, Borneo
The first champion and arguably the inventor of much of the strategy that still carries over today. No, Richard never had to deal with Exile Island, hidden immunity idols and other wrenches thrown into the game today, but he’s the one who understand jury management and used it to his advantage to beat his competition. Yeah, he’s a bit of a knucklehead, but so what? He still deserves respect for his game play.

Five Least Deserving Sole Survivors
One thing I hate about Survivor is the best player rarely wins. Petulant, red-assed jurors would sooner reward a bad player than a good one because the good player outwitted them. Talk about cheap. Yeah, yeah. If you win, you must be good blah-blah-blah. Screw that. So, here are the five doorknobs who backed their way into winning this game.

Survivor_Aras Asshole_CROPPEDAras Baskauskas: Panama (Exile Island)
Talk about your garden-variety load. Aras had no business making it past the merge, much less winning the game. I maintain this was the season that pushed producers to opt for three-finalist final Tribal Councils, since the best player that season (Terry Deitz) didn’t win. Aras was an obnoxious, immature, punk-ass little bitch the entire game. A loudmouth who was dragged to the final Tribal Council by Danielle DiLorenzo because she knew Terry would be the runaway champion if she didn’t eliminate him.

Survivor_Natalie WhiteNatalie White: Samoa
It may not even be her own fault, but Natalie did NOT deserve to win this season. She was up against the most feared, the most hated and the most strategic overall player in Survivor history: Russell Hantz. Natalie was a stooge and a puppet to Russell. The jury knew that, too. But they hated him so much that they refused to give him the money and the title. Credit where credit is due: Natalie won. But she sure as shit didn’t deserve it.

Survivor_Tina WessonTina Wesson: Africa
She is and always will be the blueprint for a coattail-riding, ingratiating, do-nothing who wins by duping the best player into trusting her. Yeah, she won, but she wasn’t a good player at all except for reading Colby Donaldson as a stooge. Donaldson was, hands down, a better player. Come to think of it, the jury was a bunch of morons, too.

Survivor_Vecepia ToweryVecepia Towery: Marquesas
For the most part, I never minded her game. She was an under-the-radar competitor who seized a target of opportunity at the end to avoid facing a player she probably couldn’t have defeated (Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien). Indeed, Faustian bargains are a part of Survivor. I can dig that. What I found most galling about Vecepia is she didn’t own it. She instead “give it to God.” WTF? Screw you, you condescending jerk! Just own your strategy instead of feigning some bullshit religious piety, eh?

Survivor_Tom WestmanTom Westman: Palau
I may get some heat for this one. In fairness, Tom was one of the best players of this game. The reason he makes this list is because of the cheap way he and that load Katie Gallagher ganged up on Ian Rosberger. They henpecked Ian to death up to and during the final immunity challenge over “broken promises” toward that load Katie. Those two ganged up on Ian and played the lowest card of all in Survivor: the “integrity” card. I liked Tom as a player right up to that point. Ian was a fierce competitor all season long. He was the only player left who had a chance to beat Tom in the end. But Ian was young and allowed them to play on his emotions to the point where he conceded in the final immunity challenge and asked Tom to vote him out. It’s not dirty to win, but it’s cheap as hell to manipulate a player like that. Ian was a fool, no doubt, but to endure that shit for 12 hours? You won, Tom, but it was tainted. Tainted as hell.

Best Players Who Never Won
This is an easy one.

Survivor_Ozzy LusthOzzy Lusth
The guy who’s spent more time in the game than any other player ever. And only made it to one final Tribal Council. That just doesn’t seem right.

 

Survivor_Colby DonaldsonColby Donaldson
If you don’t take Tina to the end, Colby, you win. No doubt.

 

 

Survivor_Aubry BraccoAubry Bracco
I loved everything about her. Everything. She was one of the smartest players in this game but just found herself on the wrong side of an alliance.

 

SURVIVOR: REDEMPTION ISLANDRussell Hantz
A wretched human being, no question. But Russell went to back-to-back final tribal councils. That’s not an easy feat. I can understand losing Heroes vs. Villains, but he deserved Samoa. Still, he’s a soulless husk of a human.

Survivor_Stephenie LaGrossaStephenie LaGrossa
Remember her? Her entire tribe got eliminated during her first game (Palau), then she made it all the way to the end of Guatemala as a runner-up. She wasn’t really there in her third game (Heroes vs. Villains), but Stephenie was an impressive player.

 

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survivor recap: the war on christian.

Survivor_David_vs_Goliath

And then there were six. Seems like yesterday we were trying to learn the names of 20 new Survivor entrants, competing on the deck of a boat in Fiji. Now, 12 days before Christmas, we’re counting down to the season finale, where one of the six remaining players will be crowned Ultimate Survivor.

The vote on Night 35 truly made the most sense, even though it likely disappointed many fans of the game. Christian became that player everyone loves to watch. He’s quirky, unassuming, doesn’t always fit in, but altogether likable. In that way, he reminds us of ourselves. Christian also became the unlikeliest of dominant threats in this game, although, that’s probably because the typical Survivor competitor has evolved.

So Smart They're DumbGone are the days when big, burly, muscular players are seen as the greatest threats. That it took so long to realize muscle is only one, small part of this game is a bit shocking to me. Even calling this season David vs. Goliath was kinda dumb and forced, if you ask me. Filmmaker Mike himself would probably tell you he’s not truly a Goliath in his real life. A successful filmmaker? Yes, absolutely. But Spielberg level? C’mon. THAT’S a Goliath!

I digress…

But I will say Mike’s game play has been rock solid all along. He’s made very few missteps and has recognized where the true threats lie. Earning immunity last night emboldened his plan to take out a big threat. By turning his attentions to Christian and away from Nick, Mike also flushed an immunity idol. That could burn Nick in the next Tribal Council.

Before we rank the final six players, I did want to bring something up that you probably hadn’t heard about. Did you know Angelina gave up a chance at immunity to get a bag of rice for the tribe? I mean, she doesn’t want to brag about it and she DEFINITELY doesn’t want any reciprocity from it, but you know, she wants you know what she did for you and that you TOTALLY don’t owe her anything for it. #puke

survivor-probst-rice

Here, Angelina. Here’s your bag of rice. Now maybe that will shut you up for once.

What an asshole. What an absolute asshole that woman is. Who do you think you’re fooling, Angelina? Seriously! You’ve been trading on that one moment for how many days now? And as much as you’d like people to believe this was part of some big strategy of yours, it wasn’t. Not even a little. It was a boastful move that did absolutely nothing—NOTHING!—to advance your position in the game. Really, it was self serving as much as anything else. And you proved how petty you are about it by cooking “revenge rice.” So, really, Angelina, cut the shit already. That move was all about you and everyone knows it. Quit being such an asshole about it.

Now then…

The Final Six.
Anything can happen and I have no earthly idea who’s going to win. I’d say there are three players with a legitimate shot at it, one is a maybe and one is definitely a ‘no’. Before we get to that, I want to underscore how impressive this entire season has been for game play. With the exception of a handful of players, the contestants have been smart, strategic and competitive.

Most of all, I appreciate that they moved beyond the emotional aspect too many players bring into the game. Most of the players understand it’s a game and it’s not really personal. Here’s to hoping that lasts to the end and we don’t get some whiny nonsense about someone’s hurt fee-fees over getting voted out. Grow up, you big baby!

There’s also been tremendous balance after the merge. Thus far, no one has won individual immunity more than once. That’s likely to change now that we’re down to six, but it’s an impressive stat in David vs. Goliath.

The Three to Beat
Survivor MikeSchool of Rock Mike
He’s been a quietly fierce player of this game. He’s controlled several votes at Tribal Council and has successfully kept his name off the parchment. And he just won immunity, too.

That’s a fairly impressive résumé right there. On top of that, he’s built alliances across tribes and played them to his advantage. He has a compelling shot with this jury.

Survivor DavieDavie
A behind-the-scenes beast in this game. Davie’s the quiet, smiling assassin this season. Along with Nick and Carl, Davie helped orchestrate one of the most elaborate blindsides in Survivor history when they knocked out SWAT Dan.

His alliance with Nick has been critical to his success, but that’s part of navigating a strong social game. And let’s not forget his nose for finding hidden idols.

Survivor KaraKara
From the beginning, I found Kara to be a sharp, focused player. She absolutely used Dan and who can blame her? He basically threw himself at her like a loyal puppy dog. Kara was the brains of that operation; so brainy that she never looked back once he got booted out.

If anything, Dan on the jury works for her. I’m sure he’ll vote for her if she makes it to the Final Tribal. Along with jury management, Kara’s been tough in challenges and smart with her votes. Also, she’s avoided being on the tip of the spear.

A Puncher’s Chance
Survivor NickNick
He’s been the OG conniver from Day One, setting an early alliance with Christian and later bonding with Mike. Both pairings worked to his advantage. But I’m not sure he’s done enough yet to win this game. Compared to Mike, Davie and Kara, Nick is a distant fourth. Again, another smart player who’s received no votes.

I’m not sure that’s to be lauded, though. After all, everyone ganged up on Christian over three separate tribal councils. It’s no wonder Nick hasn’t received any votes yet. Now, though, he’s exposed. Sink or swim time, Nick.

Survivor AlisonAlison
She’s had more lives than a cat in this game. Always perceived as a threat over others, Alison has seen her name written down at the past three tribal councils. I suppose there’s credit to be given when you continue to cheat death, but is that really about strategic game play? Not so much.

She did win the first immunity challenge this season, but hasn’t done much to personally influence the outcome of a vote. Like Nick, she needs some big, bold moves at the end to have a shot at the million.

The Survivor Stooge
Survivor AngelinaAngelina and her Goddamn Bag of Rice
I’d be shocked if Angelina didn’t make it all the way to the final tribal council. Whether there are two or three finalist, having Angelina sit next to you only increases your odds of winning since I doubt anyone will give her a vote. Maybe SWAT Dan, if Kara’s not in the final tribal council. But after that, who? And more importantly, WHY?!?!?! Don’t get me wrong, Angelina is a smart player…at least she was until the merge, then better strategists took over. I seriously doubt she wins the million dollars. However, if the same rules apply this season as last, Angelina could be casting the deciding vote.

I guess we’ll find out next week. See you next Wednesday! And by the way…did you hear? Angelina gave up a shot at immunity to get a bag of rice! #PUKE #PUKE #PUKE

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survivor recap: hoisted on her own petard.

Survivor_David_vs_Goliath

Okay, it’s been awhile since I’ve written about Survivor. I took an unintended hiatus for a few weeks and let you all down. I know. I suck. We’ll work through it.

That being said, let’s get caught up by talking about last week’s episode.

Gabby 02Gabby Makes a Bold Move
After promptly orchestrating the ouster of Trucker Carl, it was Gabby’s time to shine. She’s been a smart player all along, but her greatest strength is self-awareness. She recognized her tribemates would always regard her as an also-ran, so long as Christian is still in the game. That’s why she rightfully realized after Carl’s vote that her only path forward was to frag her closest ally: Christian.

To be fair, it’s not a genius plan and even Gabby would likely admit that, given Christian’s been cheating death so many times at Tribal Council (including one of the most insane combination of vote stealing, idol-playing and idol-nullifying combos we’ve ever seen). Everyone knows Christian is the man to beat. This diminutive brainiac from the original David Tribe is the true Goliath on the island and everyone knows it.

The fact that Christian has survived this long is testament to his game play, his social skills and his ability to sniff out a blindside. That’s why Gabby’s sudden turn this week appeared to be the final nail in Christian’s coffin.

Not so fast.

Gabby TorchNothing is ever so clean on Survivor, is it? The one, undeniable truth in Survivor is also true in the mafia: if everyone keeps their mouths shut and no one rats, you can get away with anything. The other undeniable truth: no one can keep their damn mouths shut. Davie’s whispering campaign was all Christian needed to get his guard up. And, at Tribal Council, Christian read the room perfectly and, in the end, Gabby was hoisted on her own petard.

Even though it may have felt like a dirty double-cross to some, I admired Gabby’s move. It was bold and it was necessary if she wanted to make a big, meaningful play that she could put on her Survivor resume. Unfortunately for her, she was too close to her target and became fodder herself.

Survivor Angelina 02Shut up, Angelina. Just. Shut. UP!
The reward challenge provided the obligatory “visit from home” moments that make people weep like little babies. I’m certain the emotion is real, so I shouldn’t make fun of it too much. The food aspect of this reward is probably more meaningful in the long run, but I imagine a visit from loved ones after being cut off for more than a month provides a welcome respite from the game.

And, of course, Angelina—obnoxious, self-absorbed Angelina—found a way to make this challenge about herself, yammering to her mother about how she saved her tribe from starvation with her big move of sacrificing immunity for rice. Shut up, Angelina, would you, please? Just SHUT. UP!

For one, your “big move” falls into the same bucket as all the big moves of preening jackasses like Clueless Kass from the Cagayan and Cambodia seasons. What you did was a grand gesture. And totally meaningless. It did not advance you in the game. It did not endear you to your tribemates. It did absolutely nothing. It was a true, Clueless Kass sort of move. For those who don’t remember, Kass, fancied herself a brilliant Survivor player and threw her alliances under the bus multiple times, claiming she was “shaking things up,” or some bullshit like that. She made big, gaudy moves that ultimately did absolutely nothing to improve her lot in the game.

Yes, big moves make a world of difference. But those big moves have to advance your position. If they don’t, it’s nothing but noise. All hat, no cattle. And that’s precisely what Angelina’s immunity-for-rice exchange amounts to. Yet, she can’t stop running her mouth about how awesome a move it was to whomever will freakin’ listen.

Well, listen to this, Angelina: you’re the stooge they’re going to drag to the end of the game. You know why? Because no one will give you a vote. Your only value, moving forward, is you will award someone $1 million; either on the jury or as a tiebreaker. You are an asterisk in this game.

Handicapping the Players
We’re down to crunch time. Right now, here’s how I would rate the remaining players’ chances of winning:

Odds-on Favorite
Kara. She has jury votes. She’s been a crafty player. She’s won immunity. Kara’s playing a complete game and no one even perceives her as the obvious threat she is. I like her chances.

Hope is Waning
Christian. Unless he wins immunity the rest of the way, he’s toast. Nobody wants to face him in the end. They’ll vote him out the first chance they get.

Angelina. Say hello to this season’s drag-along stooge. She’s a smart player, but not as smart as she thinks she is.

Dark Horse
Alison. She’s been an against-all-odds player for quite a bit of this season. Seems she’s always in the mix to receive votes, but always eeks it out.

The Sneaky-Sneaks
Nick. With the exception of winning immunity, Nick is a smart, sneaky player. I don’t think he’s done enough to win over jury votes yet, though.

Davie. Davie’s played a relatively quiet game to this point. If he can orchestrate one or two big moves moving forward, he could distinguish himself as a legitimate threat.

Mike. Mike seems the least threatening of all remaining players, but he may be the most conniving and least trustworthy. He’ll turn on you in a heartbeat if you’re not careful. I mean that as a compliment. Don’t get caught watching the paint dry on this dude.

Survivor Mike.jpg

 

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