SurvivorSurvivor: Blood vs Water

Survivor: Blood vs. Water’s Cast: The RHAP Blogger Round-Table – 9/12/2013

With the premiere of Blood vs. Water a week away, the stalwart league of RHAP Survivor bloggers has reassembled: we have our returning line-up of Glenn Holford, Josh Wigler, Michel Trudeau, and Sarah Freeman, and we even have a crossover from the Big Brother stable in Scott Gallagher—but we decided to draw the line at inviting loved ones to blog. You should have already read our take on this season’s twists, and now we’re making our predictions for the contestants. Owing to the nature of the theme, Blood vs. Water has perhaps the most random cast ever assembled, yet we put forth our opinions in full confidence of our own genius.

In three months’ time, we can all look back at this and have a good laugh.

Aras & Vytas
Candice & John
Colton & Caleb
Gervase & Marissa
Kat &Hayden
Laura & Ciera
Monica & Brad
Rupert & Laura
Tina & Katie
Tyson & Rachel

Who Will Win?


ARAS & VYTAS

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One of the more exciting tandems gearing up for Blood vs. Water are the Brothers Baskauskas. These brothers could not be more different—in looks, personality, and temperament—and while it appears that their bond is deep and real, just below the surface I see glimmers that it’s fundamentally a transactional partnership. Aras and Vytas, the Golden Boy and the Black Sheep of the Baskauskas clan, seem primed to build that most efficient of all possible Survivor gameplay relationships—AJ Moss’ “Marriage of Convenience”.

Let’s talk about Aras. Aras is a Survivor social game savant, and a tragically underrated winner. If I had to throw my chips on a horse, sight unseen, Aras would my pick to win the game. His sincerity and likability are huge assets in the current paradigm of Survivor.

Let me explain. In my read of Survivor history, it seems to me like the game has evolved through three movements. The early seasons of Survivor, perhaps up until All-Stars, was characterized by grueling physical ordeals. If the ideal Survivor balance is the classic 33%/33%/33% outwit/outplay/outlast, these early seasons may arguably have tilted that delicate balance toward the advantage of stronger physical players.

The second wide swath of Survivor history lies, in my mind, in the more contemporary seasons, specifically as the game has adjusted to the legacy of Russell Hantz. Strategic player archetypes became fashionable, at the expense of social and physical studs. We began to see more Russells, more Coltons, and more Pete Yurkowskis. The mantra of a Survivor of this era was Win At All Costs. But these players are being cut down earlier and earlier in the game now. They are being recognized and eliminated before they can wreak enough havoc to gain control. With winners like Denise Stapley and Kim Spradlin coming down the pike, I think we’re in the dawn of a new Survivor paradigm—one I’m excited about. This may be the Golden Age of the social player.

And I think that the casting of this season confirms that the game is moving in a new direction. Not only are there no Hantzes, there are no discernible and conspicuous villains. Even Colton is on his best behavior. This is a thoroughly benign and likable cast at first glance, and that tells me one thing: the next winner of Survivor will be a social player.

Who’s the best social player out there? Aras.

Watching the casting videos, I was struck by Aras’ quiet sincerity. He listens more than he talks. He smiles warmly. He talks about how building relationships pay dividends. This is a guy who knows how to cater to others—but never at the expense of his own goals. He is socially strategic, rather than strategically social, and I think that bodes well.

But Aras can’t make it on his own. He’s perhaps a little too soft and fuzzy. When it comes time to do the dirty deeds of a Survivor endgame, Aras is going to need an assassin to do what he can’t. This is what makes Vytas such an asset to his game.

Vytas seems a little sketchy. With a weathered face, bristly beard, and checkered personal history, he sits in sharp contrast to his brother. Where Aras is reserved and attentive, Vytas is an aggressive communicator. He sits sprawled out on the bench. He interrupts when others are speaking. While Vytas may be well-versed in the theory of charm, he is far from master in practice. He strikes me as a shark, and someone who will be too abrasive to ever win in this paradigm of Survivor.

But, it seems to me that he will be a good right-hand man as Aras conquers Survivor 27. The Brothers Baskauskas are riding in hot, and I think they’ll make a very deep run together

Josh

I’m with Glenn on Aras. If I had to pick a winner out of the entire cast, knowing nothing but what we know right now, Aras gets my vote. He’s a social assassin (not in the bad Larry David way), he’s a challenge beast that gets overshadowed because Terry walked away with most of the wins, and he’s sharp as hell.

The “winner” label might work against him. Tina knows all too well about that. But Aras is easily one of the strongest and most well-rounded players on the Galang tribe. They need him early on. “Winner” or not, Aras isn’t going anywhere until at least the merge, and when that time comes, it’s very likely that he’ll have the right support system in place to keep him through to the finish.

I disagree with Glenn about Aras needing Vytas to take out his trash. Aras can wash the stink out of his tribe just fine on his own. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a second Baskauskas brother on the beach, one who appears to be just as physically fit as Aras and just as hungry to make it to the end. I need some time before I can make a fair assessment of Vytas, but as a tandem, I think the Brothers Baskauskas have a ton to offer. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing how they play their games, both separately and together.

Michel

I am in total disagreement with Glenn and Josh about Aras’ social game. Simply put, he had none. I’d think the way he treated Bruce would have made all the viewers realize how poor he was at the social game but if it wasn’t then the players had plenty to say about him. The first thing Nick told us on the show was that Aras was weird. That opinion didn’t change after the merge when Nick said that his former Viveros “buddy” didn’t even talk to him about the game. Likewise, Bobdawg said he was very disappointed that Aras shut him down after the switch. At the time he didn’t know about the alliance of four “Nutballs” so he was expecting Aras to stick with him but they never talked. Aras never let him know that his name was being mentioned.

We also know from Insider videos that both Sally and Austin didn’t like Aras and only voted for him because Danielle was worse. Bruce was always at odds with Aras, Courtney said he seemed fake and Terry argued continually with him. So, I ask, where was Aras’ social game? Only Shane and Cirie liked him and, in Cirie’s case, it tells us more about her social game than his. After all, the first social contact Aras had with Cirie was to tell her that either she or Melinda was going home. Those were not the words of a good social player.

As for being a winner, Aras has been much maligned. Many viewers credit Cirie with all the strategic moves in Panama and see him as the guy that was lucky to outlast. Indeed, if Terry had lost an early immunity, Aras would have been voted out by the idol so it can be said that he won by losing all those challenges. At the time of viewing, I like the Aras character but since, I have come to realize that Aras was only a slightly smarter Fabio. The difference was that Aras wound up in the dominating alliance while Fabio was in the wrong one.

Yet it took a lot of poise for Aras to stay calm knowing that the Casaya women didn’t give a damn if he left as collateral damage for flushing the idol. If he had panicked or gotten angry, it could have cost him the needed jury votes. That calm and his proven loyalty will make him a valuable alliance mate. I see Aras making the merge and being part of the main alliance on Galang. He also seems very happy to be back so that positive outlook will certainly help. Cirie helped him a lot to get to the end the first time so maybe he will realize that Tina could do the same.

Vytas doesn’t seem to be as strong as his brother but he should be a physical asset to Tadhana. There shouldn’t be a big fear of Aras on the other side so I don’t see why the newbies would want to get rid of Vytas… unless his temper gets the best of him. The two brothers seem to be opposites in that respect and very few things get players eliminated faster than being irritating. It will be interesting to see how much of Vytas’ temper comes to the surface.

Scott

First off, it’s really throwing me that when you combine Aras and Vytas’ names it becomes 7’4, former NBA great from Lithuania, Arvydas (Sabonis). Sorry, life time jock here. I guess I missed Aras’s season of Survivor, it must have been during that one fall a few years back when I was looking for One Eyed Willy’s treasure. Anyway, thanks to Youtube I was able to watch a five minute video with the cheesiest Creed song playing, while they showed slow motion clips of Aras doing challenges during his season… let’s just say it really helped me get to the “essence” of who Aras is. Vytas, if you put a pair of glasses on him he could be a stand in for Daniel Stern in City Slickers, and he looked at Aras at least twice during the “meet the brothers” video like Cain looked at Abel before he took him in the forest to stone to death.

With that being said, I like their chances this season. They both seem intelligent and composed, which are two big strengths in Survivor. I would always be inclined to bet on brothers as a combo against a Man/Wife, two sisters or any other combo, because brothers will fight to the death together and usually don’t have to “walk on eggshells” around each other. I think if the other players were smart, they would hire a woman to try and get in-between them, because that’s the only way you’re coming between two brothers. Think how great that would be to watch this season, one night she’s cuddling up to Aras when it’s cold at night, and then the next day she goes fishing with Vytas with Aras looking on pissed. I think the Bros are my favorites to win this season! If I was making Cesternino money I would definitely put a big wager down on them.

Sarah

“The Brothers Baskauskas” is an amazing title. It’s an Oscar-bait movie; it’s the next Great American Novel. The pressure is on Aras and Vytas to come up with a story worthy of their name. Fortunately, I agree with the rest of the bloggers that they should last long enough to give it a good effort.

I’m middling about Aras’ original social game—as the best moments podcast revealed, he didn’t really start playing until the merge, and he certainly came off as brash and immature a couple of times. (This is the guy best known for calling a Wahmbulance after all.) What fascinates me about Aras is that he is one of the players who became a huge student of the game after he played, and I’ve found him to be one of the most insightful guests on RHAP—certainly the most insightful of the players on this season.

Kat pointed out that she got to final seven without really knowing what she was doing the first time she played, so just think how well she can do now. Well, Aras won without really knowing what he was doing, so by Kat’s logic (which is surely infallible!), he’s about to become the greatest player of all time.

Or perhaps we should ask ourselves what it means for Vytas, who is being schooled by Aras? Vytas, who has cheerfully stated that he cares more about beating Aras than winning the game. Vytas stands to struggle with this temper, but he’s going to be a physical asset which always carries more weight with newbies than veterans. He’s shown an analytical mind in his interviews, and he should be able to convince his allies that he’s willing to take down his brother (though perhaps not as soon as they’d like).

This pairing is going to be an odd threat to deal with as the rest of the contestants might be divided over the loyalty of the Brothers Baskauskas. Of the two, Aras is the bigger threat, but I’m curious to see which of this Cain and Abel pairing outlasts the other—even if they could reach the finals together, I don’t think either would want to be sat next to their brother!


CANDICE & JOHN

prev-candicejohn CANDICE & JOHN[/caption]

I may be the only person on the internet who feels this way, but I am so excited that Candice is back for a third shot. She’s a huge fan of the game, smart, strategically aggressive and a force in challenges, so she’s always going to have potential as a player and certainly has a track record in changing up the game. Yet, much as I love her, I suspect she’ll have an early exit this time around as she’s going to have one of the biggest targets on her back.

Rupert will almost certainly hold a grudge from Heroes vs. Villains, and she has a reputation for jumping ship. Not only that, but she and John were last minute replacements, so some people might feel she’s got less of a right to be there, making her perfect fodder for that first, arbitrary vote. I’m pretty sure that Candice is going to join an exclusive club of people who’ve been to both Exile and Redemption Islands (currently just Ozzy, if I’ve got my facts straight.) While she’s got a shot at making it through the duels there, the safe bet is always to assume she won’t make it back into the game.

I am more optimistic for John, who deserves his own shot at the game after postponing his wedding to let Candice do Heroes vs. Villains. He’s a military doctor, which should give him the right combination of physical and mental ability to play, and Candice feels he is less neurotic and more personable than she is. They’ve clearly discussed game theory thoroughly, so he has as good a shot as any of the newbies—which is, automatically, not as good as a returner.

His tribe doesn’t lack for brute strength, but if Candice does go out early, that will boost his game-stock as another pair’s third. If she stays in the game, both of them will have the targets that I’d expect all couples to have, since if one wins, both win, giving them more tactical room. I’ve got no read on John’s social game, so we’ll see how he fares, but right now, I’m thinking he might get lost in the shuffle of alpha male types.

Glenn

For my money, Candice is a lousy Survivor player. She’s proven in the past that she’s willing to make big moves, but she lacks in follow-through. Her flips have never been game moves, in that they’ve never increased her level of control over her own fate in the game. [Editor’s Note: Glenn, remind me to have a heated debate with you on this sometime!] I don’t think she’s capable of going deep in the best of circumstances—when you factor in her reputation for disloyalty, I have to think she’s an early boot. Trust is a valuable commodity in Survivor, and I think Candice will find it in short supply.

John could fare better. Decent in challenges, relatively likable, intellectually robust. A modest three-tooled player, and he’s got the Captain America thing going for him. But a winner he is not. This game format has been specifically designed to protect the returnees at all costs, and so John will find himself cannon fodder. He does strike me as a potential heartthrob who could make his own return to the game one day, though. Maybe his best bet is to play to the cameras, rather than play for the money.

Josh

I basically agree with Sarah and Glenn here. Bad look for Candice, better one for John. There are so many alpha males on the Tadhana tribe that John could easily get lost in the mix if he keeps his head down. Brad strikes me as a more vocal type, Caleb strikes me as more of a target for his association with Colton, Hayden has “veteran” baggage thanks to Big Brother… other than Vytas, I think John has the best chance of blending into the Tadhana tribe as little more than a valuable, non-threatening asset. I like his chances.

Not so much for Candice, for all the reasons my pals have already stated. Rupert won’t let her last if he has any say in the matter. She’s the new fish in the water, replacing R.C. at the last minute. She’s not a memorable player, but if you do remember her, it’s because she notoriously betrayed her alliance both times she played the game previously. Unless everyone has short memories, Candice goes early.

Scott

I don’t remember much about Candice’s game, other than she was fairly unlikable. I also remember that she talks with her hands so much it’s like she is using sign language every time she speaks. I recall somewhat that she was a pretty good schemer. I might like the possibility of seeing Candice and Tyson link up to form an evil kingdom. I feel like the women who have a scouting report that says their schemers or play dirty have a harder time shaking that reputation more so than male returning players. If you agree with me on that theory then Candice, you would think, will be targeted early potentially. Look for Candice to play nice early on and under the radar until she feels confident in her ability to take the gloves off and get down and dirty.

With John, let’s first address the elephant in the room that we’re all thinking, he looks like an adult film star, maybe named Buck Naked, from late night Cinemax movies. I didn’t get anything from his interview clips that give me any idea on what type of player he will be. He doesn’t look cut out for Survivor though. I could see him going crazy and then twenty days in CBS gets this footage of him.

Michel

After her mutiny in Cook Islands and her betrayal of the Heroes in Heroes vs. Villains, Candice doesn’t stand a chance here. I always liked Candice because she is a smart woman who isn’t afraid to make moves and she showed she can be very good in challenges, but this game is about trust and no one will ever trust her again. It’s too bad because her moves weren’t done simply out of disloyalty. The mutiny put her back with Adam and Parvati and away from Yul who had already told her they’d back stab Jonathan before too long. Similarly, she was on the outside of the Heroes’ alliance, the next boot for sure if the Villains hadn’t imploded so she had to do something. Contrary to what Glen said, they were solid game moves that just didn’t work out. If Sundra had mutinied as planned instead of Jonathan or if RussHell understood the concept of the “goat”, the moves could have succeeded. I wouldn’t be surprised if Candice gets the immediate boot.

John is a doctor which seems like a guarantee that, as smart as he is, he will be a dumb player! It’s a tradition that goes back to Kenniff so why stop now?! He is one of the stronger guys on Tadhana but he could be dispatched before the merge if they get up in numbers. If Candice does go early then John could become a valuable free agent. As usual, it all depends on his social game.


COLTON & CALEB

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COLTON & CALEB

The self proclaimed “country club” kid is back after a medical evacuation his first time around. What I remember about Colton is that he talked and acted like one of the mean racist white kids in Remember the Titans. I do remember Colton was pretty effective at getting people to listen to him and carry out his bitchy orders. I bet CBS has snipers in high locations on the island watching Colton, because of the Big Brother “racism-gate” all season long. The first sign of bigotry out of Colton, and I bet CBS shoots him with a blow dart and drags him off the island never to be seen from again gives him a stern talking to. I think Colton, if he can convince people he has changed, can play the type of quality social game to take himself far in this game. The main concern and question which will be answered early on is: will anyone trust Colton and want to align with him this season?

Caleb to me has the vibe of someone who gets killed off early in a horror movie, or a “redshirt” from early Star Trek episodes. He seems just your nice but “vanilla”, average, normal looking person. I have a hard time believing that he can help manage Colton’s emotions if Colton starts going off the deep end. I could be wrong, but I don’t see a lot of magic in Caleb’s eyes. Am I wrong?

Glenn

 

It’d be a hard sell to keep Colton around after his sideshow appearance on Survivor: One World. He’s riding in to Season 27 on the coattails of a notorious reputation, and I can’t imagine anybody will be clambering to ally with him. Perhaps he’s had a genuine change of heart, but I don’t think anybody would bet their million dollar game on it.

Even if Colton were to be able to gain inroads in the trust department, he has another strike against him as a potential ally. All Star casts are resentful of screen-time hogs, and Colton is a major one. He’s a monster confessional assassin, and I don’t think anybody is going to want to keep him around long enough to tear them apart on national TV.

And even if this cast is forgiving enough to trust him, and humble enough to let him take their airtime, there’s even a third strike against Colton—I’m wondering how damaging his dominant appearance on Survivor: Jeopardy! will be. Who the heck wants to play Survivor with someone who knows so much about Survivor? Three strikes and you’re out, Colton. This game won’t let you come back.

Caleb kind of reminds me of Chase Rice from Survivor: Nicaragua. He’s a sweet likable guy with not much going on upstairs. His affiliation with Colton can only hurt his game. I can’t imagine a scenario where this is our winner. Next.

Josh

Yeah, Colton doesn’t have much of a chance. He has a bad reputation and a dangerous mind. He’s not a challenge wizard, either, making him one of the least valuable members of Galang by quite a bit. I don’t see how Colton survives to the merge, unless Caleb grabs his spot on Redemption Island and makes a run. Even then, if (and hopefully when) Redemption Island dies at the merge, it’s straight to the jury for Colton. No one’s letting him near the million.

All that said, I have no problem seeing Colton again. He’s a true-blue Survivor fan with some legitimate strategic thinking to boot. It really sounds like he wants to prove that he’s not as horrible as he seemed on One World. I don’t know that he’ll succeed, but I’m interested to see him give it a shot.

On top of that, I like Caleb. By all appearances, the guy has a good head on his shoulders and a lot of physicality and survival skills to bring to the game. His big weakness is his connection to Colton. If players can’t get past that, then Caleb can’t go past the first few rounds of voting. But if Caleb squeaks into the post-merge game, I can see him making a serious impact.

Michel

Colton shouldn’t stay long in this game. Monica and Kat will be gunning for him and he won’t fit in the “good guys” alliance that Rupert will want and that Tina will use. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but Colton shouldn’t last more than two or three Tribal Councils.

Caleb will probably be a victim by association. He seems like a good guy and he probably helped Colton gain perspective but this is Survivor and people rarely recover from a bad impression.

Sarah

I agree with everybody else on Colton. He may be determined to play nicer this time around, but he’s not going to have much time to convince the others of that (potentially no time at all). Even if he lasts longer than we expect, I don’t have high hopes for his game. He admits that he’d never have got the jury votes to win last time, but he seems to think that was the only thing wrong with his game. I can think of a number of things wrong with his game that had nothing to do with the way he treated Bill, Leif or Christina… like, I don’t know… giving away immunity to the other tribe!

I think Colton over-rates himself in this game. Yes, he had the power in his tribe last time, but that was because he had the immunity idol. Even if he finds it again, returners are less likely to be so awed by its power—having an idol helped nobody on Caramoan. He’s a bit of a loose cannon in that he wants to pull off big moves, just to show off, and for that alone—never mind his social skills—his tribe should get rid of him as soon as possible.

I’ve not got much of a read on Caleb from the available press, but what I have noticed is how much the press likes him. Dalton Ross, Gordon Holmes, even Jeff Probst have all said they were surprised by how much they liked Caleb.

This might be over-reaction because of the contrast with Colton, but the other players will likely have a similar one. And if Caleb really is that charming? Well, that’s a powerful thing in this game. I don’t think Caleb’s got the Survivor savvy he needs to fully compete against veteran players, but I do see him going deep.


GERVASE & MARISSA

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GERVASE & MARISSA

One of the things I finally got round to doing this summer was to watch Borneo in its entirety. (Yes, I suck at being a True Survivor Fan.) One of the biggest surprises for me was Gervase, who for all his goofing around, was remarkably perceptive. At final tribal, though Kelly told people to vote based on who she was as a person rather than how she played the game, Gervase voted for her game, and analyzed it much as a modern day viewer of Survivor would—totally different from all the other jurors’ final voting words. In many ways, Gervase was as prescient as Hatch in understanding what the game of Survivor was and would be.

This doesn’t mean he can put that perception to work for him and get the win, but he still has the physical ability and demeanor of a guy fifteen years younger, and I don’t doubt he’ll find a niche on his new tribe. (I am going to assume that he’s since learned how to swim, though he’s gone on record saying he won’t eat any more larvae.) The same applies to Marissa, who Gervase apparently chose over his own children because she was more like himself! Marissa comes over as very bubbly and outgoing, and although they are the most distant relations of the cast, it’s clear from their videos that they are on easy terms with each other.

Despite this, of all the pairs, I don’t see them looking to align with each other post-merge. Each of them is there to win the money for themselves, not to help the other to it. This makes them hugely valuable as allies. It’s also its own disadvantage to be playing an individual game when so many others will be playing a couples one—not to mention that neither of them have the firsthand experience of the game that Survivor has become. I expect them both to go far in the game, but I think they’ll be blindsided before the end.

Glenn

Gervase is an exciting casting choice, both for his nostalgia value and for his potential as a player. I wonder who will be more excited that Gervase is there—Gervase or Colton?

But Gervase is as old school as you can get, and I don’t know if that bodes well for him. This game has changed so much since his glory days on Borneo, and even new school players will be struggling to adjust to this seasons’ radical departures from convention. I think he may find himself swept up by events, and fail to execute.

That said, it’s a delight to have him along for the ride. I hope he makes the jury!

Meanwhile, Marissa strikes me as a dud. I enjoy her extroverted personality, but I don’t think it will suit her in the game. Camp life is grueling—full of long dull days in cramped quarters and poor living conditions—and Marissa strikes me as a girl who bounces off the walls. My money says her outspoken nature will rub some other castaways the wrong way, and they’ll burn her.

Josh

My favorite pair in the game right now. Gervase, man. Gervase! Who would’ve ever guessed we’d see him play Survivor again? I’m so thrilled about the return of Gervase. Optimistic, too. I don’t know that he has the stuff to win Survivor — he needs to learn what an alliance is, first — but he’s charming and socially brilliant, and looks like he still has a good amount of physical fight in him. I can see a lot of these players wanting to align with Gervase. He’s so likable, and doesn’t come across as a strategic threat. If he can lean into those expectations and come out with a few surprises, he could go deep. If nothing else, he’ll be highly entertaining television.

Sarah’s on the money with the Gervase/Marissa pairing. More than any other pair (other than maybe Kat/Hayden and Tina/Katie), I see these two playing individual games. They’ll vote for each other if they have to. They’ll vote with each other if it makes sense. They’re a valuable twosome to team up with if both are around come the merge. As for Marissa herself, I don’t have much of a read on her as a player, but I like her very much as a human being. If she’s as much like Gervase as Gervase says she is, then Marissa could very easily wind up as one of my favorites this season.

Scott

First off, isn’t it weird that Gervase hasn’t aged at all? I mean for god sake the first season of Survivor was what, 1978? Is he a part of that weird club that Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep were in from Death Becomes her, where they take a magic anti-aging potion? I think out of all the pairs his seems the most forced by CBS… I mean a niece…really? That was the best they could do? How many players from season one said no before they settled on Gervase and his niece? With all that being said, I like Gervase and hope he does well, but I don’t see a deep run in this game for him. If you’re on #TeamGervase than cross your fingers that he can make a good first impression with his tribe and prove his value in competitions and playing the “nice guy” social game. Maybe Gervase and Rupert can form a solid alliance?

Marissa seems like a nice, outgoing person. Out of all the “civilian” partners I like her potential the most for some reason. I see her as being able to get along with most of her tribe. I could be totally wrong about this but I like her chances more than Gervase’s as far as getting further in the game.

Michel

What can we make of Gervase coming back? I’m really happy to see him and maybe he’ll prove that Burnett was right when he said that he was the only one, besides Hatch, that understood that the key to the game was to surround yourself with people that would never vote against you.

The game of Survivor is so simple that, despite all the bells and whistles SEG added along the way, it’s still easy to understand. It’s the execution that’s hard but most difficulties come from poor social games. Gervase mastered the social game before everyone else and he says he has studied the game for the last thirteen years and he still appears fit so I have no worries about the game being too complicated for this old school player. We should see early on if he has learned anything. He needs to get in an alliance and he needs to help around camp to be taken seriously. Odds tell us that it’s a long shot that he will get as far as he did the first time but if he makes it then he could win.

On the surface, Marissa looks strong but we’ve heard other players saying that she isn’t comfortable outdoors. We will have to see if she can adapt quickly because she will need to prove herself to her tribe.


KAT & HAYDEN

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KAT & HAYDEN

I might be in a minority but I liked Kat in One World, finding her hilarious. To me, she was Eliza’s twin from a parallel universe. Yes, Eliza is a smart brunette while Kat is a dumb blonde but their games had more common traits than contrasts. Both women were motor mouths that found themselves barely hanging on to the women’s alliance. They were both weak in challenges even if they had one memorable moment: Kat beating Troyzan, Eliza guiding the women in a puzzle. They were always the “next to go” but both escaped mostly due to a tribal swap followed by a pagonging. Kat survived because she was lucky while Eliza survived because she was plucky.

The new Kat said she has learned and will listen more than talk. While she puts her finger on her biggest problem, we will have to wait and see if she can keep to her resolution more than a few days. Like I wrote above, she could become a target simply because of the fear Galang could have seeing Hayden on the other side. I’d really like to see Kat make it as far as before but I doubt she makes the merge.

I don’t think Hayden would go to Redemption Island for Kat. After all, he did have a showmance with Kristen in Big Brother and he never tried to get her inside his Brigade. Being on the block against her, he didn’t fall on his sword but knew he had the votes to send her away. That being said, the “animal” wasn’t the worse ever Big Brother winner but he was far from the smartest one either. He needed Enzo to make his decisions… Enzo! Hardly a mastermind himself

Sarah

I’ve never watched Big Brother, but Michel’s assessment is consistent with what I’ve been hearing about Hayden. That said, he seems to be more savvy than Kat (admittedly not a high standard) and he’s in an interesting position on the loved ones tribe of being Not Quite A Returning Player. He won’t be able to offer them survival tips, one of the usual returning player stock-in-trades, but some people might look to him for gameplay advice—or target him for same.

I don’t doubt that Kat has learned a lot from her previous experience of playing Survivor, but so has everybody else. However, she’s so harmless that the only way I see her being a target is if she starts screwing up the challenges again because she can’t follow the rules. Michel might have a point that her tribe will target her to weaken Hayden, but I think this cast are more likely to influence the opposing tribe to target Hayden. First rule for returners in a mixed season is to get the newbies to work for you.

Still, Hayden won’t be targeted early, since his tribe will need him, and in such an athletic cast, he’s unlikely to be a threat to run the individual challenges, so he can be disposed of when convenient. Given his track record, I don’t think anybody will let him get close to the end. Kat might, as Hayden said, float all the way to the end as somebody’s pawn. She could even win, though seeing as she doesn’t match up to her tribemates in either strategy or athleticism, she’s going to require her fellow finalists to have made themselves really unpopular.

Glenn

This is a good season for Kat. If she just keeps her mouth shut, I think she can ride her naive reputation easily to final seven and then turn on the afterburners.

The big question mark surrounding Kat is to what extent she has improved as a player. While she still seems goofy and admits that she is naive, she also did have the opportunity to study Survivor under the tutelage of the beloved Kim Spradlin, and it seems possible that she may have learned a thing or two about the game. She’s a decent physical player, particularly in late-game challenges that tend to reward balance and endurance.

It’s a little surprising to say this, but I think that Kat is a dark horse to win the game for me. She strikes me as someone who is almost certain to make the merge—and I think in general, being underestimated in Survivor is the best possible scenario.

Hayden is a doofus. I think he’s coming into the game way too confident, and it’s going to rub people the wrong way. He will be a challenge contributor, which should be enough to carry him to the merge, but it seems possible to me that his mouth could get him in trouble. We may have another Survivor Shannon on our hands.

Even if Hayden does make it to the merge, I think he stands on thin ice. His tribe is conspicuously devoid of Bros, so if he is going to make social inroads, he’s going to have to find a way to meet other players where they are. That’s an exercise in humility that I think may just be too much for Hayden. My money says he will crash and burn.

Josh

Like Sarah, I’m not a Big Brother watcher, so I can’t weigh in on Hayden’s past performance. But I’m digging the carefree vibe he’s giving off in his interviews. He’s charming, funny, appears athletic, and he clearly knows his way around a reality game. The “fans” tribe could use some experience from a guy like Hayden. I expect to see him come merge time, and if that’s the case, he could absolutely make a run at the title, especially if Kat’s still around.

And there isn’t a whole lot of reason to think Kat won’t be around for the merge, is there? She’s an asset in physical challenges, she keeps camp life exciting, she’s goofy enough to hang with folks like Tyson “Loincloth” Apostol and Gervase “The Cow Said What??” Peterson. Heck, I can even see her bonding with Rupert. Kat has a great social game, no doubt about it.

Her strategic game? Not so much.

Kat thinks she’s Kim Spradlin going into round two. That’s dangerous. As Colton said during his pre-game interview with Dalton Ross, Kat thinking she’s Kim is like “giving an eight-year-old a machine gun.” That’s a bit extreme, but the point’s well-taken. Kat’s no Kim. Her strengths are different from Kim’s. If Kat relies on what makes her Kat, while keeping her eyes open wider than they were during One World, she’ll go far. If she leans into Kimsanity instead by making side-deals with every player left in the game and assigning out animal faces … yeah, that’s just not going to work.

Scott

Wait, what in the hell is Hayden doing? What happened to his true “love of his life,” Kristen from Big Brother? Is this the first show cross-over since Steve Urkel joined the Tanners on Full House? Granted, Hayden isn’t nerdy and he did dominate his season of Big Brother with the Brigade. I see Hayden either getting targeted early as a huge threat or getting near if not to the end of the game. Hayden has a real underrated social game, which probably has to do with the fact that he looks like he’s the offspring of Jeff Spicoli and the volleyball star Kerri Walsh. I would like Hayden’s chances even more if he wasn’t paired up with a crazy that he happens to be dating. Managing a loose cannon girlfriend is hard enough at a bar let along the daily, hourly, every second stressful environment of Survivor. Hayden seems like he can handle this challenge as he has the ability to dominate challenges, while being humble and likable. I would not be surprised to see him distance himself from Kat while the game unfolds if he starts to feel a disturbance in the “Kat force”.

Kat was a polarizing player during her season it seems. In my humble opinion she was lucky that she latched on to one of the most dominating players in Survivor history in Kim. Just for fun let’s look at her telling Probst how fun blindsides are, followed up with her looking like me the first time my parents played Old Yeller for me, as I looked at them in disgust and anguish.

Maybe Kat is going to do what she is saying in her “meet the cast” video and listen more this time around. I do think that Kat does have the ability to be very likable around the camp and so the question is, can she manage her emotions and behaviors in a positive way for her game? I don’t think she will be a huge target early on in the game, and so maybe she can help her partner Hayden out and secure some alliance members to make Hayden and her a powerhouse. My money is on Hayden and Kat making a deep run in this game. I think Hayden makes it to the final five at least.


LAURA & CIERA

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LAURA & CIERA

Laura and Ciera as a tandem look like one big flop to me. Both are dull Survivor casting choices, doomed for failure. Neither has the tools to win the game, and their relationship with one another is toxic from a gameplay perspective.

An ideal Survivor tandem will consist of two people with separate, complementary skill sets to augment the implied trust which cements them together. Sandra and her husband seem like an example of this type of arrangement—Sandra could bring her winning social and stealth game, while her husband would bring his powerful physical prowess and quietly contemplative calming nature.

Laura seems like she’s learned nothing from her first foray off the cliff into Survivor doom. During her casting video, she talked about how it’s pointless to have a plan and how it is impossible to execute a series of maneuvers that will improve your position in the game. This philosophy runs fundamentally counter to what winning Survivors do. Yes, they encounter twists and turns, but a winning Survivor adapts to new circumstances and folds them into a larger overarching game plan. Winning Survivors don’t allow events to conspire against them. Winning Survivors don’t surrender to the chaos.

Meanwhile, Ciera seems like a lamb to the slaughter. When speaking about the value of having her mother as a gameplay partner, she spoke about the comfort she hoped she would derive. She wants someone to confide in and someone to care for her. She seems like a sweet girl, but way too soft. This game takes rookies and chews them up—and my money says Ciera will be an insect underfoot, crushed by a better player.

Josh

Laura was a leader on Galu, a strong competitor with two immunity wins to her name and wide enough eyes to see through Russell Hantz’s lies. Not wide enough to see a Shambo/Finchelor betrayal coming, maybe, but wide just the same.

In other words, I like Laura more than Glenn does. I agree that it’s boring casting — maybe there’s an Alternate Universe Wigler desperate to see Laura return to the game, but I kinda doubt it. But she’s here, just like the rest of this very random cast, and I actually think she could do quite well on this season. Laura and Ciera have another mom-daughter duo to confide in with Tina-Katie, and I think that’s going to bear some fruit as an easy alliance. Then again, savvier players like Aras won’t allow such an obvious foursome right under their nose for too long. Who knows.

Laura’s big problem in Samoa was not treating everyone on her tribe with equal amounts of respect and attention. She isolated Shambo, and it cost her everything. Laura can’t afford to be the polarizing person on her tribe again. I don’t know how much her competitors are going to remember about her season — Laura is pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things — but it won’t take long for them to see an Ice Queen if Laura elects to play that role again.

As much as I want to disagree with Glenn about Ciera, I can’t. I think he’s on the money. Seems sweet, seems soft. Maybe Ciera has her mom’s stone-cold killer instinct somewhere inside her, but I’ve yet to see it. I don’t think she’s a first-boot necessarily, but I don’t think she’s long for the game, either.

Michel

I am with Josh and think that, if we have to live with returning players it’s good to see Laura back. I also think that, in this format, it’s good that the two members are fairly equal: A tribe will not vote out one member of the duo because they fear the other. No one will say: “We have to boot Ciera before she teams up with Laura,” but they could say it about Rachel and Tyson.

As for this game, the question is: Will the others see Laura the way the editors portrayed her in Samoa or do they know the “real” Laura? The editors made sure that the viewers saw Laura as a villain, nearly as despicable as Vanuatu’s Ami. For one, I felt that Shambo was the villain, the moronic outsider that couldn’t accept that people could have fun during this game.

Laura surrounded herself with a nice group of allies that included Monica, Kelly, Brett and Dave and she was in charge. The edit made it seem like Monica Padilla would have been voted out if the Tribal Council hadn’t been cancelled when Swann was evacuated, but the players made it clear that Shambo was going, that she only had John and Erik to keep her safe. If Galang sees Laura as the loyal player that she was then she could go far. If they see her as a villain, then she could go early. I think it will come down to how she interacts with Tina. They are both on the island with their daughters so they could bond or, being weaker than most of their tribe mates, they could think that there is room for only one of them.

The only thing I noted about Ciera is that she would be ready to vote against her mom and they agreed that it would only be part of the game. I felt like it was fake, that she said it only to sound game savvy and that, when the time comes, she won’t show that resolve.

Scott

Mother-daughter team, which I think is a great thing if you’re betting on who will come in ninth-fifteenth place. Just like everybody else here, I remember Laura during her season as being unlikable, as she was entitled and hot tempered, not exactly the blueprint of characteristics you want in a Survivor player. Now multiply that times ten, because her daughter is out here too. Reality TV mother/daughter combos when in danger or if one gets voted off haven’t always handled things… gracefully.

Laura was good in physical competitions so I could potentially see her getting at least to the midpoint of the game if she can keep her emotions in check.

I was ready to write off Ciera five seconds in while watching her “meet the cast” video, but then she pointed out the advantage that her and her mom have, which is that they have each other out there, someone they trust more than anybody in the world. Yep, that’s a huge advantage for them, because none of the other nine pairs have that exact same advantage.

I don’t want to sound mean, but I don’t see Ciera having a prayer in this game unless she gets dragged through it like a hostage by a stronger player, who keeps her torch lit, feeds her the crappy parts of the fish, rice and whatever the hell else their going to eat this season, because they would know she has no chance in the end to win. I see these two as potentially one of the weakest team out here this year. Vegas has them at 100/1 to make to the end.

Sarah

I agree with what everybody else said about Ciera. The worrying thing about the comment Scott referenced, that she had somebody she could trust in this game, is that I don’t think Ciera saw it as an advantage over everybody else. I think she saw it as her lifeline in this game: she’s depending on her mother to be there for her and get her through the tough times. I don’t think there is any way Ciera would have played Survivor if it wasn’t for her mother.

That’s frustrating on all sorts of levels, but it leaves us with Ciera either being an easy early boot… or easy prey for somebody seeking a dependent ally—Vytas for example. She could become Survivor’s next great underdog, but she lacks the love of the game that distinguishes a Cochran or Cirie… Nice girl, I’m sure, but biggest mis-cast of the season from where I’m sitting.

I’m much more optimistic about Laura who I think is overdue for a second shot at the game. I can’t say I cared much for her in her season, but I was impressed by her game, both physical and social—though as Ciera observes, her mistake was in creating an obvious clique. Still, based on previous performance, she’s at least as good a choice to return as Aras. Glenn didn’t like her statement that you can’t have a step-by-step formula to win, but I agree with it, and I think she’s understood the difference between staying flexible and making it up as you go along.

She’s not going to have a troupe of young girls to marshal this time, so we’ll see how she gets on with women her own age and older—the veteran tribe stands to be a clash of Alpha Females, which should be an interesting spin on the usual pissing competition between dominant males. (Rupert might seek leadership, but I’m fairly sure Gervase, Aras and Tyson will just sit back and let the women duke it out.) Laura is probably the most assertive of the older generation of women, and I can’t decide if that’s going to work for or against her.


MONICA & BRAD

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MONICA & BRAD

This is probably the first or second couple production had in mind when they came up with this Blood vs. Water crap. (Taj and Eddie were probably first.) Monica showed in One World that she can be resourceful, getting herself practically in the women’s alliance even if it originally formed without her. As Colton’s last victim, Monica will have an easy target for that Day One boot. I hope she can get revenge but we’re rarely that lucky. Monica, despite being a strong woman herself, could be sent to Redemption Island just to force Brad’s hand. He still looks like a beast compared to the other guys and he is now an attorney. He isn’t only a physical threat.

Contrary to what Jeff says, I’m sure Brad would sacrifice himself for her because Survivor is her “thing”. Anyway, the format itself doesn’t give him much of a choice. Between sacrificing yourself or being seen by everyone as a snake, there isn’t really a choice. Brad looks like someone that could sweep the competitions on Redemption Island though so his sacrifice could pay back handsomely because he will have proven his loyalty.

With their plan to target the Cochran-type players, to form an alliance of strong players and to keep shields around them, these two enter the game with a clear strategy. It will be interesting to see if they can carry it out. I think this couple could make the merge even if Tyson is already targeting Monica.

Sarah

After her previous experience, I suspect Monica will be looking to make a majority alliance before she hits the beach—and that in itself could get her into trouble, since the other players may be wary of her aggression. Still, there are bigger targets for the first vote or two, and Monica’s strength was in knowing what her tribe needed on a social level.

There are a few red flags this time: one is that her tribe is generally older. The other is that Laura is a very similar type of player and there’s potential for butting heads there. You could also include potential bad blood against Colton—though I think Colton’s going to be the bigger target of the two. Finally, she and Brad appear to have a strategy where he acts as the meatshield and she directs him and works the social/strategic portion of the game.

Monica can probably replace Brad with Gervase or Rupert and adapt her strategy accordingly. I think Brad is likely to have a harder adjustment, especially since he’s got such a young tribe to deal with. His physical prowess should save him, and he knows how to play as a team, but it remains to be seen how he’ll fit in socially, and I don’t share Michel’s conviction that he’s got a good shot of returning from Redemption Island—there are too many other strong competitors for that.

Ultimately, even if they both make the merge, they lack the experience of the post-merge game. Eliminating the Cochrans of the game is a valid strategy, but if they keep the muscle around, they’ll also be keeping Tyson and Aras who have had plenty of experience with shifting loyalties. The path Monica and Brad have chosen leads to a blindside.

Glenn

I like Monica and Brad as a tandem, but as individuals both are weak Survivor players. This is, in my opinion, the most interesting couple of Season 27—two deeply flawed players with perfectly complementary skillsets. If both can make the merge, with their relationship intact and the trust still strong, I think we could see something very special.

Unfortunately, I think the far more likely outcome is that neither of these players will make it. Monica doesn’t have a lot to offer to her tribe that they can’t get somewhere else—from less threatening and aggressive players. She needs to pray for an early swap, because she has to be pretty high on everybody’s hit list from the word go.

Brad will be a physical asset to his team, and they’ll keep him around. If there are swaps, he’ll probably make it to the merge. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think anybody will want to keep him alive past that.

Josh

I agree with a lot of what you guys are saying. I agree with Michel that Brad could make a run at Redemption Island should the need arise. I also agree with Sarah that Redemption Island domination isn’t a guarantee given how many strong competitors are out on the beach this season. I also agree with Sarah that if Monica and Brad are looking to take out the brains and keep the brawn, then they’re overlooking the likes of Aras and Tyson, and that’s a deadly mistake to make. And Glenn’s on the money with Monica and Brad as a tandem that could go far if they both make it to the merge — not the likeliest outcome, in my mind.

But I also kind of don’t care about Monica and Brad? Is that okay to say? Is it okay to say that I’m pissed to see Monica and Brad here, but no Taj and Eddie George, as Michel mentioned above? I am a Tocantins man for life, and Taj is not just one of my favorite players from that season, but one of my all-time favorites, full-stop. It’s outrageous that she hasn’t been called back to play, and it’s doubly infuriating that she’s not on the season that really does feel tailor-made for her situation.

It’s my big problem with Blood Vs. Water in general. I love the idea of a “loved ones” season, but the casting is so random, so unrewarding for longtime Survivor fans. We haven’t seen any of these loved ones on Survivor before, except for Laura Boneham and Katie Collins — and in Katie’s case, she appeared to Tina via video chat, so that barely counts. My point is, why cast a barely memorable player like Monica over a proven badass like Taj, when they both check off the Veteran Survivor/Veteran Athlete box?

Man, I could go on, and I’m sure I will in Wiggle Rooms to come. For now, I’ll just say that I’m not exactly pumped to see Monica back. I wish her no ill will in her life, but I don’t wish her well in the game, either.

Scott

Did Monica really deserve this invite? She seems like a really nice, quality human, but I don’t ever remember thinking, “I really hope CBS finds a contrived way to bring Monica back.” She seems like the type of person that isn’t meant to play Survivor as her real daily life probably consists of: Pilates in the morning, maybe a lite gluten free lunch, and then skinny girl margaritas for happy hour, followed up with halibut and a pasta dish for dinner. Monica to be successful this time around will need to get her hands dirty, lie, cheat and steal if need be. I think trying to convince a majority of her tribe to join her in an alliance the first three days at camp will be the key. Again, having integrity in Survivor isn’t worth the forty cents the first person voted off sells their buff for on Ebay. If you’re lucky enough to get a second chance at Survivor, take some risks, its ok to be bad in the Survivor universe. I want to see Monica get down and dirty this time around.

Look, I’m the biggest football fan in the world, but I’ve never heard of Brad before. When he was talking about how he is going to be upfront and not hide his past like he’s Joe Montana or something I was really perplexed. I think you can hide your secret identity Bruce Wayne Brad. I don’t have a good feel for what type of player Brad will be. I would guess that he will be the workhorse around camp, building shelters, gathering wood and getting pissed at the people who sit around camp and do nothing like the Colton’s of the world. I need to see the first couple of episodes before I can make my “expert” opinion on Big Brad.


RUPERT & LAURA

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RUPERT & LAURA

If there’s one thing I’m sure of this season, it’s this: Rupert can’t win. I’m not saying that because I don’t want Rupert to win. I’m not saying that because I’m hoping against all hope that Rupert whiffs big during his fourth time at bat. (Both of those things are true, of course.) What I’m saying is, quite simply, Rupert winning Survivor, at least this season? Not gonna happen.

I don’t think a single veteran will let Rupert the Fourth-Timer, Rupert the Screen-Time Scourge, get within spitting distance of the finals. I think his physical abilities are an asset early on, but his personality won’t mesh with the other returning players on his tribe. Look at the way he’s talking about his odds in pre-game interviews. He keeps talking about how twenty-seven is his number, how he and his wife are destined to take the top two spots. Confidence is important in Survivor, but so is a sense of realism. If he thinks he’s walking away with the million because of fate, because he’s “the star,” he’s deeply mistaken.

Honestly, the only way I see Rupert ever winning Survivor is a Guatemala, Redemption Island, South Pacific and/or Philippines-style set-up: a small number of returnees in a sea of newbies. In that environment, Rupert brings enough star-power and wonder to dazzle his competitors. In an all-star or even half-stars situation such as this, no one is green enough to let Rupert move their needle.

As for Laura… I like her attitude, I like her potential, I like her pre-game state of mind. But she’s the odd one out on her tribe, physically. I hate to say it, but if I’m on Tadhana, and I have to vote somebody out of my tribe immediately based purely on first impressions, Laura gets my vote. I don’t like her odds one bit.

Michel

I think we only need to hear Rupert saying that he and his wife are the two best campers to know that the Pirate hasn’t yet understood this game. He then adds that you don’t have to be a bad person to win this game and that he wants to sweep first, second and fan favorite so we can call him delusional. Interesting though are his take on Tyson’s girlfriend and Gervase’s niece, saying both will struggle with the elements. That part could very well be right.

While Russell cannot win this game because he doesn’t understand how the jury works, Rupert can’t win this game because he doesn’t understand how to get to the jury. The first move he ever did was to steal shoes but he hasn’t done anything devious since. I don’t think he will make the merge this time. Twenty-seven will probably not be his lucky number.

Laura could be the reason why Rupert leaves early. We know he would “do the right thing” and jump in the duel arena for her and I believe she will be Tadhana’s immediate boot. Like I wrote above, Laura is the only newbie that has been on Survivor before as a visitor. The twist of voting someone out immediately is not only cruel; it’s dumb. Why? Because the newbies should come to the realization that Laura has lived this adventure on some level before while none of them have so they have the perfect excuse to vote her out. Add the fact that she is an older woman and I don’t think she stands a chance of seeing Tadhana’s camp. She should see Galang’s camp however when Rupert takes her place.

Sarah

I’m a little surprised to see Rupert back a fourth time, just because he’s such a repetitive player—though I suppose there’s something to be said for reliability. I’m not as convinced as Josh that the other players won’t let Rupert through to the merge—a veteran player looks at Rupert and, rightly or wrongly, sees an over-sized pawn they can use, and this lot don’t have the type of ego to fret about him stealing their screentime. (Tyson gladly played with Coach twice, after all.)

However, I’m in full agreement with Josh and Michel about Laura being the obvious first boot on Tadhana—and I also buy into Michel’s scenario that Rupert would take her place (which, if Candice ends up being the first boot for Galang, could lead to the most awkward Redemption Island moment since Cochran speculated that he could beat Ozzy in a duel).

It will be suicide for Rupert, who doesn’t have the skillset to win his way through the duels, but I think Laura could easily flourish amid the returning players. She will have women her own age to bond with (she should at least have met Tina before), and her inexperience and solo status will make her an attractive ally. If Laura ends up on Galang, I’m not sure what’s stopping her making the merge.

The problem with her after the merge is that for all she might be more grounded than Rupert, she wants, like him, to play the game ethically. Either that’s going to come into conflict with her alliance and she’ll be disposed of, or she’ll make it to the end and, most likely, be viewed as a hypocrite by the jury. (See Coach or Dawn for two potential scenarios.) Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing her play.

Glenn

I have to echo Sarah’s sentiment. Does Rupert have anything to offer us that we haven’t already seen? Absolutely not. I have to think we could have passed on Rupert 4.0, especially when there are twenty-six seasons worth of exciting players who haven’t ever returned.

Nevertheless, the beard and tie-dye have come once more to darken our doorstep. Delusional hijinks are sure to follow.

A question for the audience: how much Day Zero screen time will be devoted to Rupert and Laura sloppily sucking face?

Scott

Can you pick a more random number as your “lucky number” than twenty-seven? What, was fifty-seven taken already? Am I the only one who is a little “Rupert-ed out”? I guess I understand the reasoning for bringing him back for round number four, but unless Rupert plans to play like Russell Hantz then I just don’t think he is that interesting anymore. It will be interesting to see if there will be a divide and two major alliances forming between teams of “good” returning players and “bad” returning players, because if so I could see Rupert having better odds at making a deep run in the game. If not, I can see him getting targeted and getting shown an early exit.

I feel like this can go very, very bad if anything happens to Laura. If Laura gets voted off unexpectedly, is Rupert going to start backdrafts all around the island? Rupert is trying to paint the picture that Laura is the greatest female athlete since Tatum O’Neill in Bad News Bears. I would guess that Laura is someone who will be able to blend in with the tribe and not cause any waves. I would think her only danger would be if someone like Tyson wanted to mess with Rupert by going after Laura. In closing, I think Rupert makes it exactly to the half-way point before taking that long walk to Ponderosa. I think Laura makes it further in the game then Rupert.


TINA & KATIE

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TINA & KATIE

The long forgotten champ Tina returns to the ring. I feel like Tina will always be a tough one to get out because she is so nice. I wonder if all that is an act and maybe she is masking and evil side and has a crystal meth business on the side like Walter White in Breaking Bad. Has Survivor passed her by? You figure that the rest of the tribe knows her game style, knows how she likes to play. I would like to see Tina shock everybody and play a “dirty” game, but I won’t hold my breath. How great would it be if Tina went prison code of conduct and on the first day she picks out the biggest girl on the island and without provocation just beats her into a bloody pulp while the rest of the tribe looks on in horror… again I won’t hold my breath.

I really wanted Katie to have dyed black hair, a spiked neck collar, twenty-seven piercings and a bad attitude like Darlene in the middle seasons of Roseanne. Alas, she seems just like a normal, shy young women that looks horrified that her mom made her come on survivor with her. Obviously Tina is doing the “mom thing” and hyping Katie up, but I don’t see it. I don’t see her doing a single thing in this game unless someone decides that she would be a good person to take to the end of the game because she hasn’t done anything.

Glenn

Tina’s a fantastic Survivor player. I am thrilled that she’s back, and I hope she wins again. She’s a three-tooled threat, with one of the best social games of all time. If she can negotiate a strong pre-merge position, I think she could have this game wrapped up and in the bag before anybody even realizes she’s there. She’s that good.

Katie, on the other hand, looks like a total Survivor dud. This is the frustrating this about this season—someone like Katie would never have been cast in a normal Survivor season on her own merits. She doesn’t have what it takes. She’s a sweet girl, and God bless her, but she just doesn’t belong out there. She’s worm food. Her best hope is to follow Tina blindly through the game, and pray for a third place, zero jury vote finish

Josh

If anyone can tie Sandra Diaz-Twine’s record for winning multiple Survivor seasons, Tina might be it. I think the days of targeting winners because they’re winners are gone. At least, it’s probably not a main motivator when you look at who’s on the Galang beach, with smarter targets like Colton and Candice to get rid of first. Tina is a sharp strategist, a soothing and solid voice around camp, and an asset in challenges. She’s loyal to her inner-circle. She’s a great ally. If anyone is foolish enough to let Tina into the end-zone, it’s her game to lose.

I’m picking up better vibes from Katie than Glenn and Scottie are, it seems. I think she’ll ingratiate herself with the tough guys of Tadhana, perhaps buddying up with Ciera through their mutual mother-daughter connection as well. It’ll be enough to get her to the merge. But I can see her game taking a nosedive if she ever reconnects with Tina. Her instincts will be to pair back up with her mother. But Tina’s pre-game interviews give the resounding impression that she’s more than willing to cut her daughter out of the picture if it furthers her own game. That’s why I like Tina’s odds for winning the season: she’s a smart person to align with early on, and she’s willing to choose “water” over “blood” when the time comes.

Michel

For a long time, Tina was my favorite winner. She really understood the game and, despite the editors’ intent of showing her as the good mom, she didn’t hesitate to backstab everyone that stood in her way. Scott: After backstabbing Mitchell, Jerri and Amber, how much dirtier do you want her to play? She used the prior votes with mastery, as well as Russell has used idols. I have no worries about her ability to adapt to the “new” game. Of course, having gone from first to last, she could be treated the same way Francesca was treated in the last Fans versus Favorites but I think Rupert will feel like he owes her and he will want to align with her. That would allow her to back stab him as soon as he becomes expendable. Given the right alliance, I think Tina could take it all the way to the end once more.

Of all the women newbies, Katie seems like the most prepared and, if she is as smart as her mother, she is the only new cast member that I see being capable of winning it all. She’s already got Glenn and Scott thinking that she isn’t a threat.

Sarah

Francesca and Sandra can at least rest easy that Tina can’t share their 100% record in this game, but Tina could take back her longstanding Oldest Woman to Win crown from Denise. I think she’ll make a good run at that—she’s probably not going to measure up physically against the others on her tribe, but she doesn’t look like she’s lost much with age either, and everybody seems to be open to aligning with her. Like Cochran last season, she’s in the neutral spot.

However, she goes into this game with the same baggage as Cochran’s ally, Dawn: who would want to go to the end with her? While she might experience a similar fall from grace to Dawn, she’s a very different character with a different reputation. I think Tina’s biggest challenge in the game will be finding a niche where people have no choice but to bring her to the end.

The other thing about Tina is that unlike many of the other players, she seems to be prepared to play solo—and by extension so is Katie. Let’s get one thing clear, I am automatically a Katie fan solely for her crusade against bad grammar. My fondest dream for the season is to hear this exchange or similar during a challenge:

PROBST: Katie, correcting my grammar!

KATIE: Katie is correcting my grammar!

Tragically, I don’t have much other hope for Katie. Tina thinks well of her social skills which is good, but I have my concerns over how well the newbie tribe will handle the challenges—and their weak links all seem to be young women. Tina says Katie’s not the most athletic person—though she’s evidently done plenty of physical adventures alongside her mother, so Tina might be holding her to a higher standard than we would. How she measures up against Rachel and Ciera is the question mark… If Katie ends up holding her tribe back in the challenges, I don’t think the social game will be enough.

That said, I definitely like Katie from what I’ve seen of her, so I really, really hope I’m wrong.


TYSON & RACHEL

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TYSON & RACHEL

So, here’s my thing with Tyson. I’m psyched to see him back. He’s funny at camp. His confessionals are gold. He brings it at challenges. Tyson is great Survivor— he’s just not that great at Survivor. It was surprising enough that he made a second Survivor appearance considering his Tocantins placement. Seeing him back for a third time, especially after he effectively voted himself out of Heroes vs. Villains, is definitely a shock. No weirder than the majority of returnees, I suppose, but still a little strange.

The cast is what it is, so no use harping on what could or should have been. Instead, eyes on the future: if Tyson can get over what ruined his game the first two times he played, he could go deep. The Galang tribe needs all the muscle and athleticism it can get, especially when stacked against the powerhouses of Tadhana, so Tyson’s safe for the first few rounds at least.

I’m more concerned about his chances come merge time. Tyson’s proven himself a gullible “strategist” and trigger-happy voter in the past. Overconfidence is his weakness. Based on pre-game interviews, I think Tyson’s more self-aware going into Blood vs. Water than we’ve seen from him in the past… but all it would take is a well-placed blow from keener strategists like Tina or Laura Morett to wash him out of the game again.

As for Rachel? No strong impression just yet. She comes off as smart and witty in her interviews (no surprise, considering who she’s dating) and she’s obviously quite beautiful. Looking at the Tadhana lineup, I feel good about Rachel making it to the merge. Past that? We’ll see.

Michel

It’s interesting that Tina worries about Tyson being the villain yet we see both of them hanging out together in the promos. Is it a question of keeping your enemy close or are they going to form an alliance? I’d really like to see that because Tina and Tyson together would probably be the most powerful strategic combination on the Galang tribe. Since he was going after Erinn, I didn’t fully appreciate Tyson in Tocantins and the editors robbed us of his funny confessionals in Heroes vs. Villains but I believe that Tyson is smarter than his two earlier blunders have led us to believe. Like Candice, he made big moves too early and they backfired on him but I think he is a smart player. For one thing, he won’t sacrifice himself for Rachel and he’ll probably get people to understand his motive. Everyone else has their doubts on her strengths so it would be pointless to prolong her game. Tyson should definitely make the merge and, with the right alliance, he could even win this thing.

I’m really not as confident about Rachel as Josh. In fact, I could see Rachel quitting the game. If the weather gets rough, I don’t think she’ll stick around. It seems she just wants the vacation and to accompany Tyson on HIS adventure. I get the feeling she would tell Tyson to let her go instead of begging him to save her. Simply put, I don’t think she has what it takes to be a Survivor.

Sarah

I have no problem with Tyson’s return—he’s smart but easily distracted, so you never quite know what you’re going to get with him, but it’s going to be entertaining. I confess, I’m a little disappointed that his loved one isn’t Coach… Tyson’s heart to heart with him in Heroes vs. Villains was one of the most bizarrely touching things I’ve seen. Still, Rachel brings entertainment value for her self-confessed reason of what kind of woman dates Tyson (and holds his attention for five years)!

Tyson, clearly, should fare well pre-merge—he’s got the perfect type of athleticism for Survivor challenges, I believe he has a pre-game friendship with Aras (and if not, those two are an alliance waiting to happen), and his clown-around behavior always goes down well at camp. We shall assume he’s learned his lesson about being voted off (though he’ll no doubt get plenty of stick the first time he’s part of a split vote)…

Rachel is a little harder to judge. I don’t think she’ll quit as Michel suggests, though I agree she’ll struggle. I don’t see that she’s got anything to bring to the challenges that another person on her tribe can’t, and although she’ll have plenty of girls her own age to ally with, the newbies are going to be much more focused on challenge-strength than the veterans. I can easily see Rachel being a pre-merge casualty, and I don’t think Tyson will rescue her from Redemption Island.

I don’t think playing solo will hurt Tyson’s chances. It will take some of the strong male target off his back at the merge. Tyson has a history of being in the dominant alliance, and if he can make that work this time, he could bank on winning the last few challenges to get to the end. But post-merge, he’s probably his own worst enemy… even if he doesn’t blow up his game before the finals, what on earth would Tyson be like in front of a jury?

Glenn

Oh, I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want Coach to be Tyson’s loved one. A point of order—will we still be doing the Loved Ones Visit this season? Will the Loved Ones castaways get a Loved One visitor of their own? How many degrees of separation am I from getting a phone call?

Tyson is not a good Survivor player, and no one cares. Tyson doesn’t even care. We all just want him to go out there and be Tyson, and that’s what we’re going to get. This has to be the best casting decision of the season, because for my money Tyson is the single best casting find in Survivor history. I’d gladly bring him back ten more times.

Rachel is an interesting girl, and it looks like she brings pretty much the same value pitch to the table. We’ll lose them both, probably in absurd flare-outs, but they’ll make the season better. I’m game.

Scott

I enjoy watching Tyson play Survivor. I feel like he is a combination of Captain Jack Sparrow of the Survivor universe and a punk, rich kid villain from Dawson’s Creek, someone who has a high opinion of himself, who is neither good nor evil, always scheming, but also always coming up short or failing to account for something that leads to his potential downfall. I’m #TeamTyson for this season. As honorary team captain of #TeamTyson I’m ordering Tyson to tone down his cockiness, dominate the physical competitions and lock down an alliance with Aras and Vytas. Tyson always seems to start off strong so I think if he can keep his concentration throughout the game he has a real good chance to get over the hump this season.

I’m not too sure about Rachel. I almost feel like CBS wanted to bring Tyson back, but he didn’t have anybody to pair with, so they hired this girl, came up with a backstory for their relationship and sent them out there. I didn’t see any chemistry with them, as Rachel had the body language of someone in a hostage video. I didn’t get anything from her introduction video that makes me feel confident that she will be able to make it far in the game. I need to see more before I can give this relationship my blessing.


WHO WILL WIN?

Glenn: My money is on Aras to win this season, for all of the reasons I’ve already mentioned!

Josh: Tina Wesson: She has the opportunity here to either tie Francesca’s record as a double first-boot, or Sandra’s record as a two-time winner — and my money is on the latter.

Michel: Returning player: Tyson. It would be fun to see him win and I think he has the smarts and the social skills to do it.

Newbie: Katie. She learned from the best, she seems fit and sociable and she won’t be looked as a threat.

Sarah: I have gone back and forth trying to figure out what skillset this season will require. In the end, for an unpredictable season, I’ll try betting on an unpredictable player (and my husband’s personal favorite): Tyson!

Scott: As an Italian, it’s law that I have to be loyal to my Big Brother roots, and so I pick Hayden to win!

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