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Survivor Blood vs Water – Blogger Round-Table: The Twists! – 10/09/13

castThere are enough new twists in Survivor: Blood Vs. Water to blindside M. Night Shyamalan. From the return of Redemption Island (albeit with some game-altering new rules) to the season’s primary directive of pitting veteran players against their family members, the new season of Survivor is almost unrecognizable to longtime fans of the show — for better and for worse, according to RHAP’s Survivor blogger bullpen.

Read on for what our five Survivor bloggers — Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah), Scott Gallagher (@Scotty07), Glenn Holford (@GlennHolford), Michel Trudeau and Josh Wigler (@roundhoward) — have to say about the new season’s announced twists and turns!

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Pitting “Blood” Against “Water”

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“The castaways have been sequestered and the game is therefore fair.”

Glenn: Survivor has never openly acknowledged the behind-the-scenes relationships that have always impacted All-Star seasons. It’s always been an open secret that returning players spot one another at casting, and start to strategize amongst themselves long before filming begins. Plausible deniability has always been enough — Jeff Probst can claim that the castaways have been sequestered and that the game is therefore fair.

No longer. We’ve created a bizarre season of Survivor built specifically around exploring how real-life relationships impact the way the game is played. Do we like this twist? Is this a good idea?

I have to say that, while I appreciate the attempt to inject some novelty into the game, I don’t really get the point of the twist. It actually feels a little malicious to me. If we’ve learned anything from All Star seasons, it’s that feelings really do get hurt in this game. Betrayal stings. We can pish-posh that fact, and talk all day about how a game is just a game — but when you’re deliberately putting people who love and need one another in a situation where they have to tear one another apart like wolves, I just question what’s to be gained.

But even putting aside the ethical dubiousness of the twist, I also just don’t see how it operates functionally from a gameplay perspective. Tandems are cool, I guess, but Survivor is very specifically designed to be a “One Winner” game. You can’t share the title, and you can’t split the money. Why would you want to work with anybody? The winner takes all.

But if we presume that these tandems will work together, the situation becomes even more troubling, from a gameplay perspective. It seems to me that some people must by definition go home pre-merge, and that whoever is the leftover meat from those tandems will go in mirror order after the merge. Once your buddy is gone, you’re very weak standing alone in a field of twosomes. Why would anyone vote out a close friend or family member when you’re a sad little lamb away from the herd?

I don’t know if I like the notion that the first person sent to the jury will likely be out of the game solely because the opposite tribe lost an immunity challenge at some point in the past, and his or her loved one got the axe. If you beat the other team, that’s supposed to help your game, not hurt it, right?

Josh: There’s a lot to be read into how Probst described the origin of the season. He told Dalton Ross that the idea was casting director Lynne Spillman’s, an idea that quickly evolved from a future season twist to the main twist of this coming season. In other words, for a season as twist-heavy as the one we’re entering, Blood Vs. Water came together alarmingly fast.

I’m concerned that the “favorites versus family” twist wasn’t thought through all the way. Like Glenn said, it’s very possible and likely that players are going to get voted out simply because the other halves of their tandem are already gone. The rub to that is Redemption Island, I suppose, but that’s the opposite of a “fix” in the eyes of many fans.

On paper, I love the idea of a “Loved Ones” season. I said as much in a Wiggle Room last season. But I really wish it was just loved ones — 16 relatives of popular contestants from the past — for many reasons, but largely because of what Glenn said: the way Blood Vs. Water is set up, there’s potential for disastrous interfamily fallout as the season rolls out. I don’t watch Survivor for life-ruining high drama. Game-ruining drama, sure, but nothing that’s going to tank a family. On one level, I’m very afraid of that happening this season. On another level, I’m afraid that the contestants are just as afraid of such an outcome, and will play softer (re: boring) games as a result.

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Kate Collins, a loved-one who has been on Survivor before.

On top of all that, we’re faced with a very strange cast that doesn’t reward longtime Survivor fans. Of the “loved ones,” only two have ever appeared on the show: Laura Boneham, and a not-on-the-“island” Katie Collins back in Australia. Where’s the love for Miles Freberg or Eddie George or any other number of the memorable loved ones from seasons past? Disappointing.

So, I’m skeptical. I’ll hold out hope because it’s a season of Survivor and that’s (usually) better than most seasons of anything else, but I’m skeptical.

Michel: When I first heard we’d see loved ones joining returning players, I was hoping to see some of the memorable characters that had paid a visit in a previous seasons, but all we have is Laura Boneham. (More on that later.) Why not have Chris Daugherty and his wife, considering she was a big factor in his win? Or Big Tom and Bo? When Shane said that Terry’s wife was more competitive than him, I’d thought for sure she would be part of a cast at some point — so why not here? CC Heidik was arguably the best loved one visitor ever, but I don’t think she’s with the Iceman anymore. Maybe they could have teamed her up with Clay! Now that would have been funny.

As far as the possible repercussions it could have on the players’ lives after the game, I don’t give a damn about that. It’s their business and no one forced them into this ridiculous situation. If they are that desperate for attention, then why care about their future well being?

What I am interested in is how it will affect the game and how one tribe could affect the other by voting out their partner. In that sense, it’s especially bad when there is a big difference in strength between partners. The newbies could vote out Laura or Rachel just to get Rupert or Tyson to take their place in Redemption Island. Or the returning players could vote out Kat, Candice or Monica to get Hayden, John or Brad out of the game. That makes it a stupid twist in my book.

Scott: Survivor “Civil War” style! I’m not totally against this set up.

First off, I like that I will be able to see the reactions of people looking on horrified when their loved one acts insane. Getting to see a few instances of, “Honey, calm down,” “No, your doing great, I’m so proud of you,” “We’re doing this together,” sounds very appealing to me. Obviously some of the returning players could have (and probably have) conspired before entering the game to form an alliance or two, but that’s okay in my eyes as it adds another dynamic to the game.

I understand that people do get their feelings hurt and it can be really sad sometimes to watch, but that is kind of what you sign up for when you play Survivor or any other reality TV game. Survivor is a game that is so personal already without having a loved one playing with you that when you add the element into the game, it’s going to make this season a lot of fun to watch.

Sarah: I am a little more optimistic about the players’ relationships than everybody else. For one thing, half of every pair has played before, so they’re going into this with their eyes open about how the game can get personal. For another, six of the pairs are couples, so in that respect… yes they will be splitting the prize and can operate as a team.

And this is where the loved ones thing gets a little lopsided. You’ve got half the players working as mutually benefiting tandems, and the other half playing as individuals (albeit with one built-in ally). If the players have any sense, they will target the couples first, particularly the married ones, to reduce the teams. Also, the pairs who will be considered less loyal to each other (i.e. brothers Aras and Vytas, and uncle/niece Gervase and Marissa) should be the most desirable allies.

I differ from Glenn in that I think anybody who loses their partner to Redemption Island becomes less of a target. Just as in the usual game, power couples should be broken up before you go after a lost lamb — though I lack Michel’s conviction that you can rely on somebody saving their partner on Redemption Island. Ultimately, a lone player can be attached to another pair to create a threesome — and in a game of twos, three is most definitely a magic number.

———

Beginning On “Day Zero”

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Hopefully Day Zero will focus on more than Rupert and Laura.

Josh: Here’s one Blood Vs. Water twist I’m totally fine with — well, almost totally fine with.

I’ve made my position on 20-player seasons quite clear in the past. I stand by that position today, especially going into these “Half-Stars” seasons. With so much attention spent on returnees, we’re lucky if the first two or three ousted newbies get a single confessional before exiting the game.

If I understand the twist correctly, Day Zero addresses my problem to some degree. Blood Vs. Water boasts a 90-minute premiere, so I’m guessing that every single pair will get some Day Zero screen-time. That’s a quick and easy way to get the viewer familiar with each player in the game, even the ones who are doomed to die by the end of the episode. As someone who mourns the days of Survivor when you knew every single contestant from the first boot on up, I’m all for Day Zero.

(Unless, of course, Day Zero only focuses on Rupert/Laura and two or three other “exciting” pairs. In which case, I’ll just go cry in the corner for a while.)

Michel: The Day Zero twist seems only made to get reaction camera shots from the surprised players when they are told they will compete against each other. It’s nothing more than a practical joke, but it could be fun. Like Josh said, it will give us a bit of time with some coupes at least so that’s good.

Sarah: I like the twist on the principle that it at least gives all the pairs a day of sharing the experience with each other. There are going to be a lot of players who will be devastated when put on separate tribes, so this feels like a way of softening that blow. It strikes me as interesting in that the game is not really going to begin until the following day (hence “Day Zero”), so we’re not going to see any alliance-making or picking out targets — well, maybe some of the latter. In other words, Day Zero should be about *gasp* camp-life, about people getting used to the deprivations of the game. I’ve always had a soft spot for cam-life scenes and wish there were more of them.

Or, as Josh said, Day Zero might just be a few clips of the “Main Characters.” Or Day Zero could be a repetitive muddle of scenes as they try to go through all ten pairs. We’ll see.

Glenn: Day Zero is a good twist. I don’t think it will affect the gameplay at all, but I’m all in favor of being given the opportunity to do some character-building on screen. I hope that the producers take this opportunity to show us some of the more tender and likable sides of these castaways. It’s a good storytelling opportunity — I just don’t know if I trust the editors not to screw it up!

Scott: Why is CBS having an orgy of twists this season? I guess out of all the ones they’re throwing into the blender this season, this one seems the least forced. I think getting to see all the players in neutral before the game starts will be helpful for viewers to see who is who and to get an idea of the vibe of each pair will be cool. It would be great if they didn’t air Day Zero till later on in the season, like a flashback scene from Lost. I think it would be cool to see a few episodes, kind of get a feel for everybody and then flashback to Day Zero to see what they said at that time and compare it to that present time. Just a thought…

———

Day One’s Double-Elimination

Michel: Jeff thinks his Day Zero twist makes up for the stupidity of the double elimination, but he forgets that there is one big problem with an immediate vote: It goes against the principles of the game. How can a player “outwit” and “outplay” if they are booted immediately based on appearance? In this format, it’s even worse because the first boots can almost be predicted:

The newbies will all know that Laura has been on Survivor before; she even made two previous appearances, with Poopert slobbering over her both times. She’s the obvious choice to go before everyone so that the others can experience the adventure for a few days at least. Add the fact that she’s the oldest, and can anyone doubt how the vote will go?

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Candice simply can’t be trusted.

For Galang, it will have to be either Candice or Colton. Candice simply cannot be trusted after her mutiny in Cook Islands and her move to align with Russell in Heroes vs. Villains. No one will want to live with Colton, so the returning players have their first two boots handy. It will just be a question of who goes first. Candice had a longer run so they may let Colton live the adventure a few more days.

Sarah: I’m more or less in full agreement with Michel, including on who the first boots are likely to be. It looks like this double boot is designed to fill up Redemption Island as quickly as possible so we can get started on the duels, but it does rob those first boots of the chance to outwit and outplay.

If Day Zero was actually a Day One World, where everybody was on the beach together, getting to know each other before dividing into tribes, that would make a difference. But that’s not happening. To make matters worse, this is a returning players season, so the players who are active on the Survivor circuit (and that includes their significant others) have an advantage anyway — we saw that in Heroes vs Villains. Those who don’t live in New York or LA or who don’t go to all the events have a lot of ground to make up. Having a start-of-game vote takes even that chance away from them.

Glenn: Yeah, let’s just be honest about this. The double elimination is dumb. It just is. It’s based on nothing, and it serves only to prop up a preposterous twist. But I’m not that upset about it. This cast is full of dead weight, mostly due to its fundamentally flawed casting premise, and whatever helps us weed through some of the garbage faster is going to ultimately improve the pacing of the show.

Is this good Survivor? No. But in a season riddled with flaws, it might be a necessary evil.

Scott: This twist feels like the crappy sequel to a good movie franchise or trilogy. Think Bad New Bears Go to Japan, or Godfather 3. (Even though that movie never happened. Do you hear me? It never happened!) This twist sucks and hopefully it wont alter the destiny of how the game should have unfolded.

Josh: Not much to add. In the immortal words of Jay Sherman, it stinks.

———

Redemption NuDemption Island

Sarah: I am never going to be a fan of Redemption Island, for the very same reason that Jeff Probst gave Russell Hantz when the latter insisted the viewers should be able to vote for the winner: Survivor is about convincing a jury of people who you voted off to give you a million dollars. Once you alter that part of the game, it’s not Survivor any more, it’s something else.

Fast forward to South Pacific, when Ozzy won every duel on Redemption Island and then headed back into the game with the resolution to win the last two immunity challenges, and then be the only finalist who had not voted out the majority of the jury, thus scoring an easy win. Had Ozzy won that last immunity challenge, he would have won South Pacific — but he would not, by Jeff Probst’s own definition, have won Survivor. And that is why, in my opinion, Redemption Island has no place in the game.

So let’s just get this straight: I disapprove of Redemption Island being there. Nevertheless, seeing as the season wrapped three months ago, I’m going to have to deal with it. And honestly, in an incarnation of Survivor where instead of twenty strangers, we’re getting ten relationship pairs, we’re on skewed rules anyway. So that brings us to the twist on Redemption Island this season where a player’s loved one (assuming they’re still in the game) can swap in for them before a duel, sending the voted off player to the other tribe. This also is a corruption of what we might consider “pure” Survivor: once voted off, there should be no going back into the game.

But we’re not in pure Survivor, and as I’ve already accepted the fact that this is a variant of the game (with the traditional format hopefully returning in season 28), I am intrigued by NuDemption Island. (Thank-you, Josh, for the name.) I think this particular twist will take advantage of the Blood vs Water concept in a way that nothing else could.

I don’t think as many people will take up this twist as the producers are hoping but I’m very curious to see what moral standard the players will set for it. Will it be considered foolish to sacrifice yourself for your loved one, or will it be considered disloyal to refuse? To what extent will relationships be taken into account? You might be expected to save your daughter, but what about your uncle? Is it OK to leave your girlfriend on Redemption Island, but do marriage vows obligate you to take your spouse’s place? Is it fairer for veterans who’ve already had a shot at the game to give their newbie counterparts their chance to play?

In an era of Survivor when so much has been deemed permissible for a million dollars, it’s rather refreshing to see an entirely new moral dilemma for players to resolve.

I also like the fact that we effectively get a player voted onto the other tribe. Generally speaking, any time a single player gets swapped over, they’re in a bad position since the other players can’t be sure of their loyalties. But in this case, the player that’s come over has been betrayed by any alliance they had and lost their loved one to Redemption Island. That makes them a loose end waiting to be picked up and threaded into whatever tangled web the gamers fancy, and that gives the voted off player a genuine second chance. Which again, is not pure Survivor… but for this season’s impure Survivor, it might just work out.

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NuDemption Island looks sloppy, poorly planned, and impotent from a gameplay perspective.

Glenn: I hate to be a party-pooper, but I don’t share Sarah’s optimism on this. From where I’m standing, NuDemption Island looks sloppy, poorly planned, and impotent from a gameplay perspective. I could not be more disappointed to see it rear its ugly head.

Redemption Island, at its core, is about one thing: disempowering the players. Production wants more say over who stays and who goes home, but they can’t directly interfere with the voting process. This is the compromise: keep Probst’s “little darlings” sequestered in a special limbo game-state, where they can still be a part of the fun. The only problem is, it neuters the players’ ability to play the game.

The players themselves are the biggest victims of the Redemption Island format, because it destroys their ability to do their jobs. To play Survivor, you need to have some control over who goes home. You just do. You need to be able to plan your game, and strategically eliminate friends and foes in a configuration that maximizes your own safety. That’s the only way to play the game that makes any sense. If you can’t control who goes home, you can’t control your fate. You can’t really win or lose. The game just happens to you.

If we are going to allow arbitrary challenges to dictate 100% of who stays and who goes, then we don’t need 39 days. We can wrap Survivor up in an afternoon. Whoever can stand on one leg the longest gets a million dollars! Once you gut the game’s strategic and social dimensions, it’s just dumb.

NuDemption island shares this same fundamental flaw with the original version, but also comes with new bonus baggage, in the form of the “switching” power. Is this the most bizarre Survivor twist of all time? Let me get this straight: you and your loved one are switching in and out of battle, like some kind of Pokemon, and continuously swapping tribes with one another like a swingers party? All of this just sounds like pure chaos, and runs counter to Occam’s Razor. How can you tell me that the thing missing from this game has been a series of inscrutable and willfully obstinate small-print addendums? Far from the subtle meddling of the past — this format feels like an explicit declaratiproducer.

Scott: This would be the only way I would ever be in favor of Boo-demption Island. Wouldn’t it be great to see Tina and Candice going head to head in that format? Who wouldn’t be in favor of seeing that?

I just don’t get it. I mean, has Redemption Island ever worked for CBS? I really think the only reason they’re bringing it back this season is that the cast is pretty shaky in terms of appeal, so if one of the four popular players this season gets sent to Redemption, they can potentially fix the competition to get that player back in the game.

I also think it’s unfair based on the dynamic of each relationship. Meaning, if it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, the boyfriend would be expected to sacrifice himself or face the wrath and possible “trial separation” with his girlfriend/wife. But if it’s a mother/daughter or brother/sister, the repercussions seem like they would be much less. Basically what I’m saying is that if I played with my sister and it came down to her and I, I would say, “Best of luck to you, sis, go get ‘em!” If it was my girlfriend I would have to put on this whole act and appear distraught and weigh the short term and long term repercussions and it would be a nightmare. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t really see this gimmick paying off… unless Hayden uses it (or doesn’t use it) to screw over Kat!

Michel: I’m happy I don’t have much more to add to what Glenn said. He wrote: “The players themselves are the biggest victims of the Redemption Island format, because it destroys their ability to do their jobs.” And I completely agree. The only thing I liked about the old Redemption Island twist was that it enabled us to see Ozzy get the ineptitude record of being voted out of the game three times.

I think I can even answer Sarah’s questions: “Will it be considered foolish to sacrifice yourself for your loved one, or will it be considered disloyal to refuse? To what extent will relationships be taken into account?” If a player in my alliance refuses to sacrifice himself for his loved one, I’ll know that he won’t have my back, so I am not going to trust him and I’ll kick his ass out of the game. The loved one really has no choice but to go to RI unless they are told not to do it.

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Rachel may tell Tyson that it’s OK to leave her there.

For example; I could see Rachel telling Tyson that it’s OK to leave her there and that could be enough for Tyson to keep the trust of his alliance mates if he doesn’t save her. What if she begs him to save her though? Can he say no? It’d be even worse than Penner refusing Mike and Lisa’s final three offer.

Like I wrote above, one tribe will be able to weaken the other by sending their weak players to RI in the hopes that a strong player from the other side will switch places.

Josh: First thing’s first: I am so happy to see some of my fellow bloggers use the words “NuDemption Island.” Let’s make that a thing here, people.

Because it’s not Redemption Island. It’s NuDemption Island. It’s a totally different version of an already controversial twist. Indeed, in many real ways, as Sarah already suggested, we’re not even entering a new season of Survivor. We’re entering NuSurvivor. Between favorites versus family and a Redemption Island that allows players to ping-pong in and out of the game, there’s no escaping the fact that this season is not Survivor as we know it. It’s a whole new ball game, for better or worse.

Let’s look through a different lens for a moment. Michael Bay’s record-breaking, cash-grabbing “Transformers” movies dropped a big, steaming, Energon-laced stinker on old-school fans of the franchise. (I mean, that up-skirt shot of Devastator’s testicles? Really?) As a lifelong “Transformers” fan, I could let Bay’s movies ruin my memories of Optimus Prime’s glory days. Or I could shrug it off and say, “Oh well, I’ll always have Unicron and the Quintessons and ‘Dare to be Stupid’ to look back on whenever I feel like it.”

That’s my general attitude toward reboots: just because someone’s coming along to bastardize the original, doesn’t mean the original disappears. It’s still always there. With that attitude, I’m usually able to enjoy reboots for what they are: experiments that are very likely to crash and burn, but may have some form of merit on their own.

I’m trying very hard to have that attitude going into Blood Vs. Water. I’m not that excited about veterans playing against their loved ones. I’m not thrilled about Redemption Island coming back from the grave, “Walking Dead” style. But I’m going to try to keep an open mind. Even if Blood Vs. Water and NuDemption Island fail miserably, those early seasons are always available for another rewatch.

Rob Cesternino

Rob Cesternino is a two-time Survivor player and reality TV aficionado. Rob gives his thoughts on his favorite Reality TV shows as the host of "Rob Has a Podcast" More From Rob Cesternino »


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  • http://truedorktimes.com Jeff Pitman

    Sarah, good points on the unfairness of the Day One double elimination. It’s the same twist as Palau’s Ep1 double elimination, except that Wanda and Jonathan had three days to form connections with the people who failed to pick them. Here, the loved ones tribe will have no time together AT ALL before voting someone out. Same for the returnees, but at least they have a track record upon which to base a vote. (Although how many of these people will know Gervase and Tina?) True, they do get Redemption Island as a consolation prize, but as you say, it’s a really ridiculous affront to the concept of outwitting and outplaying.

    • Sarah Freeman

      It was Michel who made the original point about not being able to outwit and outplay. I thought they’d done it differently on Palau but wasn’t sure (that early vote is one of the things putting me off watching that season). I think it’s actually worse for the returnee tribes, because it gives a huge advantage to those who are on the Survivor scene in between actually playing. I would have thought the Heroes tribe in HvsV proved the problem with that, but apparently not…

      • Michel Trudeau

        You haven’t watched Palau? Nice scenery, good theme for the season but too many quitters.

        In Palau, the 20 castaways wound up on the same beach after having an individual immunity challenge right off the bat. They spent a few days building a shelter and then proceeded doing a schoolyard pick ‘em with the two immunity winners acting as captain.

        Faced with picking the last man, Caryn picked the old Willard over the strong Jonathan mostly to have a target to be voted out before her. Wanda was considered both weak and weird so she wasn’t picked but she would have been an interesting character.

        • damnbueno

          Hmmm, you called John “strong” even though he was also voted out at that first schoolyard pick.

          I guess the “strong” CAN be voted out early too, huh?

          Caryn picked Willard because she didn’t want to be outnumbered by the younger players on her tribe, not because she knew “weak” Willard would leave early. She hoped to make Willard her voting partner.

          • Michel Trudeau

            Still rehashing that debate? I find it incredibly strange that it still bothers you so much.

            CAN strong guys get voted out early? Certainly but it’s much less likely when their challenge skills are needed for the tribe. It’s that simple if you remember that the argument was about how a no tribe twist would affect strong players.

            PS. Palau started with no tribes so, technically, the no tribe twist did hurt an apparently strong challenge player. Lol!

          • damnbueno

            My #1 interest is factual accuracy. I’ll speak up whenever someone fails to give the complete story. That’s probably why you and I talk so much.

            John = strong — 2nd to leave the game, exiting at the first opportunity to boot someone.

            Wanda wasn’t picked for a tribe because she was annoying. Nobody booted her for challenge weakness.

            And last season?

            Francesca = strongest female on her tribe — left 1st overall. Brandon — strongest male on his tribe (considering Malcolm & Erik were sandbagging it) — left 2nd on his tribe.

            Allie & Hope were in the wrong alliance.

            Its a simple fact. Being in the wrong alliance, or being very annoying is a LOT more likely to get you booted early than being a weak challenge athlete.

            I’ve taken the time to examine the first 2 booted from each tribe in every season (pre-swaps in most cases), and the reasons why the PLAYERS said they voted those people out.

            Being seen as annoying (which includes laziness, being bossy, talking too much etc.) gives you a 49% chance of leaving 1st or 2nd.

            Being in the wrong alliance gives you a 20% chance.

            Being weak in challenges only gives you a 6% chance of leaving 1st or 2nd.

            Once again, this is based on reasons the PLAYERS gave for voting people out, not my own personal evaluation of why each person left the game.

            You choose to apply YOUR reasoning onto the players, and ignore the reasons THEY give. No doubt you’ll say Allie and Hope were booted because they were “weak” in challenges. The problem is that none of the players who voted them out said anything like that at all.

            The “Weak go first” theory is a lot more accurate if you only look at the first 5 or 6 seasons, which seems to be where your head is stuck.

            In THOSE days, yes, a player (like Sonia, Maralyn, Ramona, Skinny Ryan) was much more likely to be voted out 1st or 2nd simply for being weak in challenges.

            But the way people play game has changed quite a bit since then.

            Some smart players deliberately partner with a “weak” one so they have a better chance of controlling the “weak” player’s vote. That’s why Todd partnered with Courtney, Boston Rob with Natalie, Ozzy with Cochran, Coach with Edna, Penner with Katie, everyone with Abi-Maria, etc.) You haven’t seemed to notice this trend.

            Those who play in Survivor in 2013 make voting decisions primarily based on social or strategic reasons. If you listened to the players, you’d know this, and it would probably be reflected in your columns. Yet you’re still claiming all their decisions will be based on physicality (I read your part of this column. I was right. You ARE still talking about “strong and weak” players).

            Will you listen to the players this season? Or will you keep on claiming THEIR decisions are entirely dictated by how YOU define their “strength” or “weakness?”

          • Michel Trudeau

            You talk about factual accuracy and give the example of Allie & Hope being in the wrong alliance without even mentioning that Reynold and Eddie were in the same “wrong alliance”!!!!

            It doesn’t even come to you why Allie and Hope were voted out of that “wrong alliance” and not Reynold and Eddie! Roflmao! I’ve wasted enough time on this subject with ya! Ciao!

          • damnbueno

            Fine. Reynold & Eddie were in the same alliance as Allie and Hope — the wrong one.. Are you happy now?

            That still doesn’t change the fact that Allie and Hope were NOT voted out because the tribe saw them as “weak” in challenges.

            It also doesn’t change the fact that the Fans’ “weakest” challenge performers — Laura, Sherri, Julia & Michael — were NOT the first ones voted out of their tribe.

            Do you want to have the debate about how none of the “strong” players got a single vote right after the merge again, or are you finally willing to admit that Corinne and Sherri were not considered to be “strong” in challenges by anybody’s definition?

            If you’re gonna use the same evaluation methods this season, I suggest you change the players names to Rudy, Sue, Sonia and B.B.

            At least then your comments will be accurate.

          • Michel Trudeau

            “That still doesn’t change the fact that Allie and Hope were NOT voted out because the tribe saw them as “weak” in challenges.”

            But it proves the point that the stronger Reynold and Eddie were kept STRICTLY to win challenges. It’s incredible that you don’t see that.

            I will not read the rest or your replies anymore since you’re hopeless.

          • damnbueno

            Yes, I’m hopelessly dedicated to accurately listening to the players. You should try it someday.

            “But it proves the point that the stronger Reynold and Eddie were kept STRICTLY to win challenges.” Again, this is what YOU are saying was their reasoning. None of the players said this, except Reynold and Eddie. It doesn’t prove anything about the players, it only proves that you believe YOUR conclusion the same as the players’.

            Laura said “Let’s get rid of Allie. I think she’s a strategic threat.” Yes, that’s a direct quote.

            Sherri said “Shamar will probably calm down once he knows he’s safe, let’s vote out Allie.” Another direct quote.

            Matt originally wanted Shamar gone, and asked Reynold and Eddie to help. Sherri and Michael later changed Matt’s mind and convinced him to stick with the Alliance’s agreed upon target Allie instead. Julia and Shamar merely went with their alliance’s decision.

            Then of course, Laura spotted the Idol in Reynold’s pocket and warned her entire alliance at Tribal Council.

            The accurate answer says Reynold didn’t get votes because he had an Idol, and threatened to use it to protect himself. Allie was targeted because she was considered a strategic threat, and because 4 other voters decided to go along with Laura and Sherri’s idea. Funny how you forgot about that when it was more important to try and prove your theory.

            And at the next T.C., here’s what the players ACTUALLY said about booting Hope:

            Laura “I sucked today. I couldn’t swim fast. I hope we go after Hope.” Then she asked Matt & Sherri to vote for Hope. Since they knew Reynold had an Idol, they came up with a split vote plan between the two people outside of their alliance — Eddie and Hope — who didn’t have an Idol. Sherri brought the split vote plan to Shamar, who realized there could be a 3-way tie between him, Laura and Eddie. Laura, realizing she was still vulnerable, came up with a way to guarantee she’d stay. She totally fooled Reynold by claiming she and Julia would join him in voting for Shamar, which of course meant they wouldn’t vote for her.

            You also forgot that Eddie got 3 votes in the 3rd Tribal Council. His perceived “strength” did nothing to stop people from trying to vote him out.

            Not one single player said they voted for Hope or Allie because they thought those two were weak in challenges.

            That is YOUR reason, not the players’.

            It doesn’t matter to me if you don’t read my replies because other people will. Hopefully they’ll also realize how out of touch with today’s Survivor you have become.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Probably a good decision.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Isn’t it time you forget this “strong vs weak” thing? Your interpretation of the facts is different from his, so what? Can’t you just let it go already?

          • damnbueno

            You’re probably right. Michel is never gonna change his view. He’s always gonna look at Survivor through 2002 eyes and claim today’s players use the same approach as season 1’s players.

      • Justin

        I am real into the older Survivor seasons and Palau is an interesting one. If I were to describe the legacy of Palau, I’d say it is Tom, Ulong, and the tragic death of Jenn Lyon years later.

        It will never be my favorite, but there are some good fun moments, fantastic confessionals (James is comedy gold), brutal challenges, and some original music including different tribal music that popped up whenever something “epic” happens. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Palau, but it is an important season from a historical standpoint in that it is the first time since Survivor: Africa that a fan favorite won and the first time ever an alpha male challenge dominator won.

        It is not one of my favorite seasons and I’d be surprised if it was many people’s favorite season, but I would not classify it as a bottom-tier season and it is nothing if not unique. Give it a shot after BvW!

  • damnbueno

    I’ve never been crazy about Redemption Island either, but at least this time there’s some potential for real emotional drama to look forward to.

    I have no doubt Rupert would switch with his wife Laura if she got sent there. And I’m equally sure Colton won’t switch with Caleb. Candice and Marissa probably won’t either, but I can’t be sure about anyone else in the game. I’m looking forward to the first tough decision.

    And speaking of Colton and Rupert, I think both of them were cast because CBS knows they’re most likely to drive ratings. And this brings up a subject that none of you touched on — Idols!

    It seems every season one or two players who are dubbed “good for ratings” has an Idol or two drop in their lap (Russell, Boston Rob, Ozzy, Coach, Malcolm, Penner). I think those players this season are Rupert and Colton. Are Idols in play this season? I’d be shocked if they weren’t. And I’ll be less shocked if Rupert or Colton ended up in the right place in the right time to “find” an Idol.

    This is far from the strongest group of returning players. I’d say only Aras and Tina have the combination of strategic competence and savvy social skills to do well. Gervase and Monica are pretty much unknowns because we have no idea how much Gervase has learned since he played 12 years ago, and Monica got caught in a members switch. All the rest have fallen flat on their faces strategically or socially, and likely will be preoccupied with changing their reputations — and overcompensating themselves out of the game.

    I’m willing to give the new twists a fair shot (what choice do I really have)? And if the twists fail like the Medallion Of Power, we’ll all have fun ripping them apart, won’t we?

    At a minimum, the winner will still have to position themselves well in their Social game to prevail. Those who choose the wrong alliance, or annoy their tribemates will likely go first.

    And the Social game has always been the heart of Survivor, so I’m glad it’s still beating strong.

    • Jouni Knuutinen

      Idols are indeed in play and the winner of the RI challenge gets to award a clue to any player in either tribe.

      • damnbueno

        That’s not much of a twist either, because if you’re willing to switch places with your loved one in the first place, it’s a sure thing you’d also give that person your Idol clue — especially since most Duel winners will emerge after a members switch anyway.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Damnbueno wrote: “It seems every season one or two players who are dubbed “good for ratings” has an Idol or two drop in their lap?

      Then someone probably got fired when Ralph stumbled onto Russel’s idol! I agree with you that idols often wind up in the “right” pocket but it’s not always the case. Hopefully, it will be more random this time.

      • damnbueno

        Yes, I’m sure the Producers weren’t happy when Ralph and Kristina found the first two Idols that season. But nobody got fired over it. That would be just plain stupid. Its not very hard for players to find Idols. Ralph is proof of that.

        They were even less happy when Russell got bounced so early. That’s most likely why Idol clues started falling in Boston Rob’s lap.

        Boston Rob — a player who never even showed interest in looking for an Idol — was suddenly a master at finding them, as well as every subsequent clue.

        I didn’t buy it for a second.

        • Michel Trudeau

          Something we can agree on. Reality TV isn’t all real!

          • damnbueno

            As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t read your portion of the article. I just did a search for the word “Idol,” came up empty, and saw that nobody talked about Idols.

            Let me guess what you said:

            Anyone you’ve dubbed “weak” will be voted out first.
            Anyone you’ve dubbed “strong” will be booted first after the merge.

            Just like in Borneo, right?

            Francesca and Brandon were both terribly “weak” weren’t they?

          • Michel Trudeau

            Now that’s funny…

    • Sarah Freeman

      Eh… there’s not really anything new with the idols this year, and I’m really bored of them anyway. I can wait until the game actually starts before I give my Deep and Profound insights on the idol.

      • Stephen

        I think they add a lot to the game, look at the past 8 seasons (Samoa on), most of the memorable strategic moments happen because of idols. I think they need to make them harder to find though, for something that can switch the game up completely it should be harder to find than just flipping a rock 20 yards away from the tribe shelter over. Heck, in season 16 Parvati claims she found one by accident and Ralph did the same in RI.

        • Sarah Freeman

          I think they’ve contributed to some memorable moments (though Russell’s idols are mostly memorable for how he found them rather than how he played them), but I’d debate the point that they contributed to *strategic* moments. Also, for a good proportion of the past eight seasons, idols have gone into one person’s pocket and stayed there until they became invalid.

          • Stephen

            Strategic probably wasn’t the best word to use, but majority of the big tribal councils from Samoa are memorable because the idol was in play. The seasons where one person holds onto it (One World, South Pacific and Redemption Island) were considered dull seasons by many. How they impact the game usually depends on the types of players playing, if they are at piece knowing person A has the idol and is prepared to let them keep it, or if they feel the opposite has a big impact on how they are usually played. The seasons where it stays in someone’s pocket generally aren’t hurt because the idol stays there, would Ometepe have voted out Rob if there was no idol, or would the women of One World have gone after Kim?

            My beefs with the idol is evident if you watch Cook Islands with Yul going all over Exile lining up trees and surrounding islands, before digging a huge hole to find the idol, then compare that to Ralph literally stumbling upon an idol by accident in Redemption Island, it shows how lazy production is in hiding the idol, and how easy it is to find in relation to how much power it can have.

          • damnbueno

            The funny thing about Idols is that the smartest way to use them is usually the most boring to watch.

            Kim and Boston Rob used them defensively. “If I’ve got the Idol, I know I can vote anyone out without having to worry about THEM having one.” It makes strategy a little easier for the smart player.

            But obviously CBS and the Producers prefer that Idols be used the way Russell, Parvati and Malcolm used them — by making a scene at Tribal Council that surprises the other players.

            I thought Malcolm’s plan was very smart, and was in part done so he could make himself more memorable in front of the cameras. His plan got killed because he didn’t manage Corinne and Eddie well enough. Their big mouths pretty much neutralized his plans.

            The Producers want the Idols to be found — by smart players who’ll be aggressive with them, or by those who are good for ratings.

            But yes, I greatly enjoy seeing players hunt for the Idols, as opposed to stumbling upon them just by glancing at one of the more obvious hiding places.

    • Kapil

      Well there is another twist which was not mentioned in this article – and that is that the winner of the RI truel gets control of the clue to the hidden immunity idol and he/she can give it to anybody still in the game. Also, Probst said that they hid idols this time such that you can’t find it without a clue. I sincerely hope he’s not lying and the idols have been buried deep in the sand some where so that people don’t just stumble on to them and at least that bit of producer manipulation stays out this season.

  • Ron

    Has this question been answered yet? If a survivor arrives at RI for the “duel”, and elects to swap places with their loved one, what happens when/if that survivor losses the duel? Who leaves? The person who lost the duel or the person who was voted out?

    • damnbueno

      I’m pretty sure it works like this:

      If Laura Boneham is sent to R.I., Rupert has the option of taking her place there, or letting her compete in the 3-person duel.

      If Rupert chooses to go to R.I. in Laura’s place, Laura is 100% safe, and becomes a member of whichever tribe Rupert was on. She does not rejoin those who just voted her out.

      If Rupert loses the duel, he’s out of the game.

      I think that’s the way it should work, because otherwise, there’s no risk at all for Rupert for saving his wife. If Laura has to go home after his loss in the duel, Rupert can just rejoin his old tribe — possibly avoiding a couple of trips to Tribal Council in the process.

      • Kapil

        Also, to add to damnbueno, if Rupert survives the duel then, as far as I know, he CANNOT immediately swap back with Laura. Thus, once a swap is made, Laura will have to spend at least one episode, and thus possibly one tribal council, on Rupert’s tribe who might just vote off their new member.

        • damnbueno

          Good point. I guess it swings on when whoever makes it through R.I. reenters the game.

          I’m presuming R.I. will work the same way it always has. Once you’re there, you stay there until the merge.

          In Nicaragua and South Pacific, Matt & Ozzy didn’t come back to the game until the merge.

          I think this actually adds to the drama. Would you switch with your loved one to save them from the duel if you thought they’d probably get voted right back there to compete in duel against you?

          Depending on when you did it, switching with your loved one could totally backfire. If they are the first one sent, there’s more incentive to let them fight it out on their own. But if they’re sent to R.I. right before you think a merge is coming, it might be worth it to switch places so you can return to the game with a solid partner.

          • Kapil

            I do agree that switching can totally backfire and that’s what producers are hoping. However, I have to say I don’t see the backfire happening. I believe Probst has said that the pairs will get a few minutes to discuss in private whether they want to switch or not. Now, lets say I am in a majority alliance in my tribe. Before going to RI, I know that a switching possibility might come up. Thus, I might discuss the same with my alliance and get an agreement that if I do switch then my loved one can just come and take my place in the alliance. Then, at RI, I can inform my loved one clearly during the short private discussion who he/she is supposed to align with and trust. Now of course there are a lot of moving parts here and things can go wrong, but I think there’s a high possibility that if I swap with my loved one then my loved one can just take my spot on my alliance.

            On the other hand – if I am on the outs of my tribe then I am anyways in danger and I might switch in the hope that my loved can actually take a shot and may be forge some new alliances.

            So yeah, switching can obviously backfire with the entire pair landing on RI but I think its pretty unlikely (except of course when it was anyways pretty likely even without the switch).

          • damnbueno

            Good points all around.

            But the fact that there is so much uncertainty about how these people will play it, to me, that makes this twist worth trying.

            Always give people a chance to make a bad decision. That usually separates the good players from the bad ones.

            And we all love to watch people shoot themselves in the foot, don’t we?

          • Kapil

            Yeah – I agree that if RI HAD to be back, then having this twist is better than not having it. Ideally however, I would have surely preferred RI to remain buried for ever.

  • Kapil

    I am no fan of all the twists of this season but still, thinking positively, some counterpoints to the things mentioned in this article.

    Blood vs Water twist – I am surprised that no one has mentioned what I believe is the prime reason as to how the twist originated, which is to avoid a Pagonging. That has been Survivor’s biggest issue and Probst acknowledged that after One World. Preventing a Pagonging was the reason for 3 tribes in S25 and probably the starting point of this BvW twist. Preventing a Pagonging is the reason why we have a tribe of returnees and a tribe of loved ones as opposed to putting them on the same tribe and forcing people to live in a tribe which just voted your loved one out. In this structure, there is no way that a tribal alliance lasts as is after a merge as people, some of them at least, reunite with their loved ones.

    Obvious first boots – I have to strongly DISAGREE with this one. Its a little surprising to me how so many Survivor writers have claimed that the first boot is exceedingly obvious – but all of them have come up with different names and different reasons.

    For example, Rupert is a strong contender for the first boot. Pretty much all former Survivors HATE him and think he hams it up way too much. Just read/listen to various interviews and no one is happy to see Rupert and feel that his time is already gone (the only exception I have come across so far is Gervase and Marissa). However, on the flip side, there might be people who may want to use him as a goat as he clearly is not the sharpest guy out there. Rob C picked him as the most likely first boot and I have to agree with him. As far as Colton goes, people might want to keep him as a jury goat as he is NOT going to get any votes at the end. Candice is untrustrworthy but she is definitely no huge threat and that should help her in the first vote. Based on interviews, a no. of people don’t like Tyson and think he’s too villainous and mean but his athleticism is likely to save him. Also, Tina was mine, and a lot of others’, pick to get eliminated right up first when the twists were first announced. She is the older lady, weak in challenges, but extremely good at the social side – to the extent where she may have a target on her back similar to Cirie in HvV. However, based on interviews, everyone seems to love her and wants to align with her so she should be safe.

    On the fan’s side, Laura is in danger for the reasons mentioned in the article though I strongly doubt that newbies will know that Laura has been on the island twice before. Thats the kind of thing that even long time Survivor fans have to look up to confirm. Caleb is also a target as people might assume, wrongly, that he’s just another Colton. Rachael is another target, with a lot of people mentioning in pre-season interviews that she seems to be struggling with the elements. Hayden is also an obvious target, being the only one with reality show experience on the newbie tribe though his athleticism might save him.

    My prediction is that both halves of the tie-dye couple are the first ones on RI but I definitely don’t think its obvious.

    • Michel Trudeau

      Almost every twist introduced over the years has been done to eliminate pagonging but it rarely works. This season, I’m sure that alliances will include loved ones anyway. For example: If I’m in an alliance with Tina and her daughter is still there as we approach the merge, I will be sure to tell Tina that Kathy is included in our deal. I’d still be planning on a pagonging of members that aren’t in our alliances because that is the best way to play this game. When you don’t pagong the other side, you get screwed. Just ask Yasur, Nakhum, Timbira, Fang, Galu, etc…

      The fun part of the game is seeing how an alliance turns on itself because asking for an alliance to pop out of the blue after the merge is asking too much. We saw new alliances form post merge in Australia (Tina, Colby, Keith, Lis and Rodger), Marquesas (Kathy, Vee, Paschal, Sean and Neleh) , Pearl Island (Lill, Fairplay, Burton and later the last 3 women led by Sandra), Nicaragua (Sash, Holly, Chase) but that’s about it. All the others had roots in the pre-merge.

      For me, Amazon, China and One World were three of the most interesting tearing down of alliances we’ve seen. Those seasons had pagonging but they were far from straightforward.

      As for whom gets the early boot, you make a good point for Rupert but I doubt he’d be a first boot. Galang isn’t strong enough to boot the pirate that early.

      • Kapil

        Well – thats the point – isn’t it. Very few twists that Survivor has tried have really contributed directly to the prevention of a Pagonging – may be the three tribes in Philippines did work and swaps have worked at times. However, that’s the reason that producers keep trying new twists. This time they have basically gone balls-to-the-wall and actually changed the entire concept of the show by introducing loved ones in an attempt to get rid of pagongings. Now, because of that, I don’t think this is really Survivor – its a different game, at best a Survivor spin-off – but it will prevent pagongings as the format of this show just does not cater itself to a pagonging.

        The only scenario where I can see a Pagonging is if there are actually not too many pairs left at the merge. Lets consider a situation like South Pacific – where no swaps were involved (which I believe will be the case this time) and two tribes went into the merge with even numbers. Now, in this situation, pretty much everyone in the game is in a solid alliance and once the first vote was sorted out, it was a pagonging for the rest of the tribe. A similar situation happened in S22 except that Matt was in the middle and once Boston Rob got rid of him, Ometepe got a 6-5 advantage and pagonged Zapatera.

        However, there is no way those tribal alliances stay strong this time when people reconnect with their loved ones. To take your example, if I am in an alliance with Tina – yeah I would like to bring Katie in but Katie is also in an alliance on her tribe (the alliance which brought her to the merge) and she, and her alliance members, would like to pull Tina into their alliance. Further, I need to also bring my own loved one into my alliance or may be join their alliance. Now multiply this factor by however many pairs there are still left in the game. Thus, the numbers have now gone completely awry and in order to bring my own loved one and Katie into the alliance, I will have to cut loose some members of my own existing alliance. Secondly, if my own loved one is not in the game anymore, then I will be vary of aligning with a pair of loved ones as it is unlikely to go well for me down the road and thus I may actually have to think of breaking up Tina and Katie. I think that all this addition and subtraction in a situation where the numbers are anyways close will essentially mean that tribal loyalties will mean little at the merge.

        The way I see it, the post-merge game can go in three ways.

        1) If there are hardly any pairs left – say zero or just one – then it will just proceed similar to a regular season of Survivor with the pair having a bit of a target on its back.
        2) If roughly half the contestants are in pairs and half are singletons – then two new alliances will form – one consisting the pairs and one containing the singletons.
        3) If most of the contestants left are pairs then they will all align and take out the singletons or, more probably, roughly half of the pairs will align on one side and the other half will align on the other side with the singletons acting as the swing votes.

        In any case, a straight pagonging or even a near pagonging where a merged tribe is not really one tribe but two tribes living on the same beach is highly unlikely and formation of new alliances at the merge is highly likely.

        • Michel Trudeau

          The Philippines didn’t have pagonging but it wasn’t because of the 3 tribes. It happened only because Tandang was dumb. Had they simply stuck together for a few votes then one of them would have won the game. The 3 tribes twist could work but it would have to be balanced tribes. What we saw was a near complete premerge destruction of Matsing, a postmerge pagonging of Kalabaw and then Tandang simply forgot to finish off Matsing. Like Abi said: Mike and Lisa were morons.

          Swaps have worked at times but they open the door to the win-by-losing strategy which I personally dislike. A tribe should never gain an advantage by throwing challenges. What if both tribes decide to throw that challenge?

          See, I really like the game of Survivor as is even if it leads to pagonging. I’m far from thrilled with what you call a spin-off and I’m far from convinced that it won’t lead to a form of pagonging anyway. And even if it doesn’t, do you watch Big Brother? An alliance formed late in the game this season: The Exterminators. Do you think that was an interesting turn of events? Since it empowered GM and Spencer, two of the dumbest and vilest floaters ever and Judd, an “Outcast”, I certainly don’t.

          • Kapil

            Yeah – no twist used by Survivor has guaranteed a prevention of a pagonging. However, thats the reason why the producers essentially said “screw it” and changed the entire game. Now it may not be interesting and I think we both are in agreement that we don’t actually like this twist, but a pagonging (and by that I mean one tribe destroying the other – not a new alliance formed after the merge destroying another) just doesn’t cater itself to this new game and thus I heavily doubt it will happen. Whether that will make the game surely interesting – of course not. We don’t need to look towards Big Brother – just look at Survivor Nicaragua – no pagonging but still an incredibly boring season (and I don’t think the double quit was the only reason for it being boring). However, a pagonging is definitely rarely interesting and I feel that trying to prevent it was the major reason behind this twist and thus I was surprised that none of you guys pointed it out. Will that make for a good season – may be, may be not.

            Frankly speaking, the way I see it – the simple fact that the season has Probst’s all time favorite pet RI and he STILL is not going out of his way to claim that it was a great season strongly indicates to me that it’s going to suck.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            To be fair, Jeff got a backlash after he proclaimed that Philippines and FvF2 would be great seasons. If you ask me they were, but apparently some thought otherwise and as a result Jeff mentioned in an interview that from now on he will refrain from praising a season beforehand.

            I still fear this one might suck… which is probably why they will go with all newbies for S28. (Or so I’m guessing based on Jeff’s Twitter.)

          • Kapil

            I do agree that FvF2 backlash was surely a factor – but I still think that if Jeff really liked this season, being the jock he is, he would have said so. He may not have been so gung ho as he was about FvF2 but then would have said something like “I think this is one of the best seasons we’ve ever had but, of course, we’ll see if the audience agrees with me”. The fact that he hasn’t done so combined with the fact that his pet RI is back just because HE happens to like it (and may be invented it) makes me very suspicious. And yeah – indications that S28 is all newbies doesn’t bode well for this season.

          • Michel Trudeau

            Kapil wrote: “…a pagonging is definitely rarely interesting and I feel that trying to
            prevent it was the major reason behind this twist and thus I was
            surprised that none of you guys pointed it out.”

            I can only speak for myself but I looked at these twists to see how they will affect the start of the game. We are way too far from the merge to talk about how it will evolve then. For all we know, the 10 newbies will Ulong the Returning players and we won’t even have a merge! Now that would be something I’d like to see because it would leave Probst crying in his room.

          • Kapil

            Well – you wish. Unfortunately, I think we are past the days when anything can leave Probst crying in his room. If any such situation was about to come up – Probst will just meddle in some way or the other.

            Anyways – yeah I do look at the twists from a whole game perspective. Why limit yourself to just looking at the start when you can also have fun wondering about everything that can happen down the road. To each his own I guess.

          • Michel Trudeau

            From my point of view, there are too many variables right now to consider what will happen at the merge. We’ll have time to see how the twists affect the end portion of the game. I’ll look forward to our discussion when the merged tribe starts to take shape.

          • Kapil

            Surely – I am here, you are here.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Your memory is off on Philippines.

            Mike and Lisa didn’t choose to vote out RC, Pete and Abi-Maria did. There was no pagonging of Kalabaw. Out of the first four voted out after the merge, 3 were from Tandang and one was from Kalabaw. The next two were from Kalabaw, but only because Abi-Maria got a little help in the form of immunities. Mike and Lisa were ready to finish off Matsing, but couldn’t because Penner didn’t want to commit to a final deal with them, so they made the deal with those who could.

            Mike and Lisa were far from morons. Post-merge they knew they were at the bottom of Tandang and fought their way to the final by abandoning their old tribe and forging new alliances.

          • Michel Trudeau

            How many original Kalabaws were there in the F5? Zero. That’s a pagonging even if the reds didn’t leave one after the other. Heck, Tarzan outlasted Kat but One World is still considered a pagonging of the men. James and JR left before some Zhan Hus but China had a pagonging.

            Pete, Artis and Abi being bigger morons doesn’t mean Mike and Lisa weren’t also morons. At F5, their decision to boot Abi instead of Denise cost them the million. Isn’t that moronic?

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            I just don’t get how it’s a pagonging if in the first four votes post-merge only one resulted in a member of Kalabaw leaving. For it to be a pagonging you need to have one faction sticking together and just taking out the opposition one by one, maybe occasionally eliminating a member of their own in between. That didn’t happen in Philippines! Tandang themselves was taken apart, so who did the pagonging? The alliance of Mike, Lisa, Denise and Malcolm wasn’t solid until Penner refused to commit to Lisa, so it wasn’t them. The dynamics were pretty much up in the air until that point. The members of Kalabaw would have outlasted the core of Tandang had Abi-Maria not won immunity.

            Voting out Abi didn’t cost Mike and Lisa the million. Abi could have won had she made it to FTC with them, since both Mike and Lisa were hated by the jury and she would have had a great underdog story. If Mike and Lisa had backstabbed both Malcolm and Denise they certainly would have looked bad. Yes, they might have had a better chance at winning if they voted Abi out, but is it certain not doing so cost them a million? Hell no.

          • Michel Trudeau

            Call it delayed pagonging then. Yellow gave Red and Blue a chance to eliminate them then, when that failed, Yellow and Blue eliminated Red. That’s the pagonging.

            The players made so many dumb moves that Philippines isn’t what I’d call an example of good strategy. Even if you refuse to call it pagonging, it was like watching minor league players in action: Pete, Artis and Abi were blinded by their hatred for RC, Kemp was blinded by his need to eliminate Penner, Penner was dumb to refuse an alliance, Mike was blinded by his own glory, etc…

            Lisa wasn’t hated and would have easily beaten Abi. Keeping Denise cost her the million.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Sorry, still not a pagonging. If we were to use your very loose definition, then every season would have a pagonging of some sort. I can see why you and damnbueno have such a long-standing argument about the “weak vs strong” thing ;).

            There was plenty of good strategy on Philippines. It’s a good thing there was plenty of bad too, because otherwise we really would have seen a pagonging and the season would have been much more boring! All the people you mentioned were actively changing the course of the season and played hard or were in control at some point. People praised Kim for a good strategy and domination, yet her season is one of the worst.

            The cast hated Lisa. She was completely different on the beach than in confessionals, as many jurors have stated in interviews. They thought she was clueless about the game and crying all the time. Lisa wasn’t going to win over anybody. If Abi had made it to the end she would have had a pretty good story to tell the jurors, who really disliked both Mike and Lisa.

        • Jouni Knuutinen

          I think the three tribe format of Philippines is the best yet. They should do regardless of whether there are returnees or not. Even though the worst possible scenario happened in Philippines (one tribe winning every time and one losing four members in a row) they still got a good, unpredictable season out of it, with the underdogs coming out on top. Hopefully seasons after S27 employ the three tribe format.

          • Michel Trudeau

            But the underdogs wouldn’t have come up on top if Mike and Lisa hadn’t been morons. Voting out Abi at F5 has to be counted as one of the dumbest moves ever.

            I like unpredictability ONLY when it comes out of great game play. For example, a chess master winning a game after making a move that no one saw coming. When a doofus leaves his Queen exposed we get an unexpected result but we don’t have a good game. At best, it could be a funny moment but there was very little funny about Philippines.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            I wouldn’t call it dumb, especially not for Mike. In his view at least Artis and Pete would have voted for Abi had she made it to FTC. You take out Abi and those two votes are up for the taking. Lisa seemed like she just wanted to make it to the end and taking out Abi all but guarantees her place in the final. They both had good reasons to vote her out. Yes, in hindsight they were wrong, but given the information they had at the time and the fact that Mike really thought he had played the best game and could therefore beat just about anybody, it wasn’t dumb in the least.

            It’s easy for us to say something is dumb when we know all the facts. The competitors have to work on limited information and therefore make moves that seem dumb to the viewers but are completely logical to them. A good example is JT giving the idol to Russell. It won the “dumbest ever” award even though JT had good reasons to think the move might actually work. Had he been right he would be praised as a mastermind. Similarly if Mike had won he would be praised for taking out someone who might have stolen some votes from him.

            Dumb is when you have all the information needed and still shoot yourself in the foot, like Erik giving away immunity.

          • Michel Trudeau

            There are some things that have to be foreseen. Mike had to see the jury’s reactions and how people felt about Denise. People flat out told him he was giving the money to Denise or Malcolm so he did have the information. Add the fact that thinking he played the best game was extremely delusional and we can call him a moron. The only excuse I’d buy is if they were led to believe somehow that there would be a Final 2 facing the jury.

            As for JT, both Amanda and Candice said it was a dumb move before JT gave away the idol. They had the exact same information he had. Only Rupert and Colby, two of the least strategic players ever, thought it could work. That move proved that JT needed Stephen to think in his place.

          • Jouni Knuutinen

            Sorry, I just don’t buy it that me or you or even someone smarter than either of us would have done any better in Mike’s shoes. In his view people telling him he was handing the game to Denise and Malcolm were just trying to save their own skin. Reading the jury is certainly harder than we think, especially if you think the jury likes you.

            Mike was playing the game for himself and he made moves accordingly and the thought he would be rewarded for it. Turning on Denise and Malcolm at F5 and keeping the almost universally hated Abi would not have looked too good either, now would it? If they vote out Denise, Mike still has to beat Malcolm, who is now the underdog, in the F4 challenge, and even if he does he will have to go to the final with another underdog, Abi, who has two votes locked in FTC.

            Given the choice of a) keeping the votes up in the air and staying loyal to your F4 alliance and b) betraying that alliance and locking up two votes to another contestant, I would think just about anybody would choose a). So given the information that he had, he made the right choice.

            Reading what I just wrote made me realise it probably would not have mattered if they voted out Abi at F5 or not, Mike and Lisa were apparently doomed either way. Would be interesting to know how the votes go if you swap Denise with Carter at the FTC… but that’s enough of Philippines. I’m glad the new season starts next week so we can discuss something new :).

          • Michel Trudeau

            I think I just have to bring up the reason why they kept Denise to show how moronic they were: Both Mike and Lisa agreed that they needed to keep Denise in order to help them beat Malcolm at the F4 immunity. Remember that? I think that line of reasoning was totally absurd: If Denise had entered the F4 TC with the immunity necklace, she would have been even more unbeatable. The jury may very well have given her a standing ovation.

            Mike HAD to realize that he needed to do the job himself, that his only way to convince the jury was to be the guy that beat Malcolm. Even that turned out to be insufficient so it shows how far off he was reading that jury. That is such a grave mistake that it shows his stupidity.

            Abi had two votes locked up, yes, but those were her only two votes. Denise, Kent, RC, Penner, Malcolm and Carter NEVER vote for her. Mike and Lisa also HAD to see that.

      • Kapil

        And as far as Rupert goes, completely agreed that returnees are the physically weaker tribe with Brad, John, Vytas and Hayden forming a fearsome foursome. Unfortunately, the replacement of RC and her dad with Candice and John did tip the balance a little too much towards the loved ones in challenge ability.

        However, Rupert is no longer a challenge threat – he is a liability. He is much older now than he was in Pearl Islands and he kept crying in HvV about a broken toe which most of his tribe mates believed should not have been a big deal. Compare him to Tyson and Aras and Gervase and Rupert looks extremely weak. If you are thinking about challenge ability, Candice surely is far stronger than him – she is actually one of the strongest females out there and you need her more on a tribe filled with older females. I still definitely am predicting that Rupert’s gone.

        • Michel Trudeau

          I agree that Candice is a very strong woman but trust is more important. Candice can’t be trusted while Rupert is the perfect type of ally: Dumb and strong. He’s certainly weaker than he was back in the day (aren’t we all) but for brute strength like holding up a bag of coconut or wrestling, he beats Candice hands down.

          Anyway, Tyson, Gervase and Aras would never admit they need Candice for challenges but they would accept Rupert’s help. Rupert talks about an alliance of good guys which will be music to Tina. Rupert can be blindsided at any time and still vote for you in the end. Why boot him early? The only reason I see would be being sick and tired of his act and that’s certainly possible but I doubt it will come into play.

          • damnbueno

            “I agree that Candice is a very strong woman…” I’ll remember this quote if she gets voted out first and you claim it’s because she’s “weak.”

          • Kapil

            In brute strength – yes, Rupert beats Candice but in pretty much everything else – swimming, running, balance, puzzles – Candice owns Rupert. I do however agree with all the positive points you make about Rupert that he can be classified as “dumb and strong” and thus can be easily used. However, based on that logic, Tina is the exact opposite – weak and smart. In that case then Tina should be on the chopping block but she probably isn’t because everyone seems to like her. As far as Candice goes, yeah she’s untrustworthy but she’s surely not a threat and she’s also surely not weak in challenges. You may not want to align with Candice but you are also not worried about getting her out of there ASAP. I think the first boot will be either someone weak or someone who is a major threat or someone who is just plain unlikable – Candice is none of those things. I am still predicting Rupert but lets see how it turns out.

            In any case, the main point I am trying to make is that the first boot is NOT obvious. If you put up a survey on RHAP today about predictions about the first boot, I think Rupert will top that survey (and Rob C’s endorsement of him being in trouble goes a long way in that survey too). Obvious is something when most people agree that that’s going to be the case – like towards the end of Caramoan, pretty much everyone had Cochran pegged as the winner. That was obvious – this is not.

          • Michel Trudeau

            I rarely use surveys (especially of Survivor fans!). I went with how I’d vote if I was put in that situation. I can see reasons to vote for only 5 of the returning 10 players: Tina and Kat (weak) Rupert (obnoxious) Colton (worthless and detestable) and Candice (untrustworthy). Since trust is the key factor in this game, I feel that the vote is an obvious choice.

            My main point though was that most players will be completely safe from this vote while others will be unable to do anything to save themselves.

          • Kapil

            Well, saying that you yourself are sure who you would vote for in that situation is surely VERY different from saying that the first boot is obvious (which is what the article above seemed to imply) – because you are not going to be voting, the ten returnees are. Had it been me voting, I would have probably gone for Tina coz I would be extremely scared of her (but that’s based on the fact that I haven’t been on Survivor and haven’t heard first hand from various survivors how difficult Rupert is). Candice, for one, wouldn’t even be on my radar – I just don’t feel threatened by her at all and I also think that we might see a bit of an over-correction from her where she becomes too passive based on the fact that she has shot herself in the foot twice already.

            I agree with you that not everybody is at risk and its not fair and I don’t like this twist – but then all that is a different discussion.

          • Michel Trudeau

            I should have written that I went with how I was voting if I was one of the 10 players. I did try to put myself in their place, not going by personal feelings. For example; I’m pretty sure that Rupert will feel bad about the first vote in A$$ that sent Tina packing so he will not vote against her again. Tina will prefer to align with Rupert because of his loyalty so she shouldn’t vote for him. Going like that for the 10 players, the constant that comes up is Candice’s betrayals.

          • Kapil

            Oh come on Michel – get your story straight. Was it who you would vote for or who the majority of returnees would vote for and thus lead to the first boot? Sorry to say so but I think you seem to have mixed the two up a bit in your mind and thus ensured that the answers to both questions align.

            Personally, I didn’t think Rupert was in danger when the cast was first announced. At the end of the day, the guy is “dumb and strong” and can be easily manipulated and that means a few players might be thinking of aligning with him so he can ride their coattails. Similarly, I thought that though Colton was definitely in danger, he is likely to be saved by the fact that people will see him as a jury goat who won’t get any votes in the end and thus they may want to align with him. Most of all, I thought that Tina was dead in the water as I just didn’t see what benefit there is to keeping her – she is essentially like Cirie, no help in challenges but extremely dangerous at tribal council (and, as always, Candice was never on my radar – you and I clearly have differing views on her).

            Then – I watched/read various interviews. And pretty much everyone absolutely HATES Rupert and LOVES Tina. It’s also not just a personal thing – they think Rupert shouldn’t be there and want to get him out ASAP while they all want to align with Tina. And I can understand the difference between theirs and my thinking. I haven’t lived with Rupert or even heard first-hand the stories of his big head – and clearly, they are so bad that he’s probably incapable of being a malleable coattail rider even though he doesn’t have any strategy of his own. Also, he will surely eat up screen time which the other players hate and I didn’t think of that. Tina, on the other hand, may not be as dangerous as I imagined because she after all played all the way back in S2 and thus some people have forgotten her win and remember her more as the first boot of All-Stars while others just think that she is a nice southern lady who can be trusted to be a loyal ally but will not be able to adapt to all the twists and the backstabbing that goes on in modern Survivor.

            Thus, since I am not out there voting, I am predicting Rupert as the first boot. However, its surely not obvious and I wouldn’t be too surprised if it doesn’t happen – especially if it turns out that as many as 3 or 4 people get votes in that first boot and thus, the one eliminated actually has only 3 or 4 votes cast against him/her.

            There’s also another factor which may or may not play a major part that none of us have talked about yet. And that is that everyone out there would rather want to vote for the person who does get eliminated as opposed to someone who survives and then is out for the blood of whoever voted against him/her. Thus, do the players themselves start predicting who the other 9 would vote for rather than just go ahead and vote for the one person they themselves want to get out ??? For eg, based on interviews both during S24 and now, Monica absolutely DESPISES Colton. Others also obviously don’t particularly like him but Monica’s hate is on a different level. If Colton knows this, and he very well might, then he would surely want to vote for Monica and get her out. However, he is savvy enough to know that no one else is going to vote for Monica and thus there is no point in him voting for her in that first vote and he will thus find another target based on who he thinks is on the chopping block. On the other hand, imagine 5 or 6 people out of the 10 voting for the same person in that first vote and the rest disagreeing. Right there, you have a solid alliance all set and the players didn’t even need to talk to each other (assuming that it’s an open vote where it’s revealed who voted for whom). What else can solidify an alliance better than a situation in which everyone in the alliance came up, completely independently of each other, with the same name to vote out ??? Thus, if you are a smart player, you clearly want to be in that 5 or 6 and need to also think about who the other players might vote for rather than just who you want to get out.

          • Michel Trudeau

            What I wrote was: “I went with how I’d vote if I was put in that situation.” By that, I meant I was putting myself in the player’s shoes, trying to figure out how they’d vote.

            I know they hate Rupert but I don’t think they will boot him immediately. They’d worry about being seen as playing the game too hard too fast, something most of them learned spells disaster.

            I imagine the vote will be much like in Tocantins, with no opportunities to talk about it. So, put in that situation, I’d hate to be the only one voting against Rupert. I’d much prefer to wait and see if everyone is on the same wavelength vis-à-vis the Pirate.

            Candice, on the other hand, is a sitting duck. No one would blame me for voting against her because I could simply say: “I want loyal allies and she has never been loyal.”

          • Kapil

            Well – Tocantins consisted of new players. This season, we are talking about returnees – all of whom bring their baggage. I think Rupert has the biggest baggage. Anyways, lets see what happens.

            In any case, I think I have proved my point that whatever happens, the first boot is NOT obvious and the fact that we can debate it at such length does indicate that its intriguing. That is the first question every Survivor viewer is wondering and thus waiting for the premiere where it will be answered. It may not be fair and all, but it surely is intriguing.

    • Sarah Freeman

      You make a decent point that what seems obvious to one person seems counter-intuitive to another–and goodness knows, we bloggers have disagreed enough. It’s a little surprising we’re all so consistent on who we think will be the first boots (and Rob and Nicole were on much the same lines in their own predictions), but we’ve got a cast assessment coming up (today or tomorrow I think) that will go further into our reasoning–I agree with you that most of her tribe probably won’t remember that Laura has visited the game twice, but I still think she’s the first off.

  • Stephen

    Blood vs Water twist: I will give it a chance, best case scenario it gives us some good moments and delivers a quality season. Worst case scenario it takes badly like the One World twist, and the season sucks. Oh well, there will be a season 28 irrelevant of how this season performs.

    Day Zero: If you are 100% strategy orientated then you will hate this. If, like me, you pay attention to the story then you’ll have more time for it. Considering almost half the couples will be broken up come the merge by the time any merge/switch comes along, we won’t get to see any loved ones living together. This gives you a look a their relationships on a neutral basis. For example, if Candice goes first and John doesn’t switch with her at the duel and she goes, you just think he’s a dick. If he does switch and loses, you just think he’s incredibly whipped. It will be the most honest look at the relationships you will have.

    Immediate vote off: Since a double boot is inevitable, this gets it out of the way. Hopefully they get it right (Rupert and Laura). However it will add little to the season (unless I am missing something) and it could potentially ruin it (imagine losing the big characters here, Tyson and Brad/Hayden). It’s success will depend on who goes. I guess if the votes are not unanimous then it sets up some drama, especially if it is not a secret ballot.

    Nudemption island: I like the idol clue part, the switching part is stupid. Someone can get voted out premerge, come back at the merge, voted out again, switch with their loved one and come back, be voted out a third time, win their way back and win the game. Only 3 people have been voted out three times in their survivor careers (Jerri, Ozzy and Cirie, unless I am missing someone), and none have ever won. If that happens to you in one season, there should be a path to victory, you could be voted out at more tribals than you survive and win the whole thing. However after someone switches and loses, no one will switch again.

    RI on it’s own: For the concept to offer anything to the show the winner needs to be reintroduced earlier than 5, they’re too dangerous to use in an alliance at that stage, so you have to vote them out. Bring them back at 7 and they may shake something up. I am less averse to the twist in the premerge, if only because it can give a good player another chance, and can help reconcile the unfairness than may arise from a tribe switch or any other twist.

    • damnbueno

      It should be noted that Jerri and Cirie both left a total of 3 times in 3 different seasons. And technically, Cirie wasn’t voted out in Panama, she lost an elimination tiebreaker.

      Ozzy, Matt Elrod, and Andrea all managed to get themselves voted out twice in the same season.

      In addition to Jerri, and Ozzy, two others have been voted out 3 times too:

      Rupert (Pearl Islands, All-Stars, HvV)
      Andrea (Twice in R.I. Nicaragua, and once in FvF 2)

      Candice and Tyson can join that club this season. If Tyson gets blindsided again, he’d be the vote-out King.

      James and Jonathan are close to being 3-timers, but both left once because of injury.

      • Stephen

        Thanks for pointing those out, although Burton has also been voted out twice in a season (blindsided both times for what it’s worth). My point was the switching is a way we could get a really lousy winner.

        • damnbueno

          That’s right, I forgot about Burton. Good catch.

  • Dave L

    It’s always fun to hear the Survivor brainiac philosophers break things down, and I agree with most of them, and find it disturbing that one of them uses the exact same Critic line I oft quote.
    I’m not sure I agree with the politics of switching though as it pertains to your alliancemates subbing for their partner. If I’m on a tribe of 9 people, and we have a 5-4 advantage, I don’t want one of those 5 switching. I want him staying with me to perserve my majority. Similarly it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to switch, since you are just saving somebody unpopular. It will be interesting if loved ones get a chance to discuss alliances at challenges, since knowing the opposite tribes alliances is more important than ever.
    I also don’t think single players will be at a definite disadvantage. Just like in any other season, a singleton player may become an easy victim, or might become a ghost, or might join another alliance. However in past seasons when there were 2 obviously tight people, at like a final 5, sometimes the others had difficulty eliminating them. In this case I think it’s so incredibly obvious that even the Tysons of the world would be able to figure out who to vote out. And of course it makes immunity a bit of an interesting situation, with it far more likely somebody might give it to their loved one.
    Ultimately it adds a lot to the game, and takes a lot away. I’m of the opinion that it is going to take away more than it is going to add. I think the cast is fairly decent for the gimmick, although Rupert has become progressively more annoying and dislikeable each time he appears. I think this season will be less about alliances than usual, and more about eliminating a few players… I expect a decent start, a potentially great middle, and a likely bad ending.

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