Millennials vs Gen XSurvivor

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X — The Bloggers Roundtable Preview

Few conflicts in humanity are fiercer than that of generations, particularly the Millennials and Generation X. If I had a dollar for every time a millennial walked by me on the street and yelled “get out of the way, old man!” I’d be a very rich guy. Thankfully, Jeff Probst has arrived to help guide us through this bitter conflict. Which group of 10 players will have what it takes to win Survivor? Who will do their generation proud?

The Rob Has a Podcast Bloggers are back again to assess this season’s cast. There are quite a few differences among this passionate group, especially with our winner picks. This sharp team of bloggers is: Dan Heaton (that’s me!), Sarah Freeman, Catherine Lucas, Michel Trudeau, Scott Gallagher, and Christine Lariviere. I’m thrilled to have Christine join us for the first time to predict the season. Don’t miss our predictions about the winner and other parts of the season at the end of this article. Let’s start with the youngsters who believe in freedom and the glories of social media.

Vanua — The Millennials

Survivor 33 AdamAdam Klein

Dan: Can anyone who spends his free time browsing the Survivor Subreddit do poorly on Survivor? Anything is possible. Super fans don’t have a great track record on this show. Adam seems to have the right personality to connect with the other young players, though. There’s no awkwardness in the way he talks to the camera, so he won’t jump out as a thinker. He’s 25 and manages a homeless shelter, so he should be able to deal with all the different personalities on the island. Adam is also driven by his mom’s fight with cancer, which should give the producers an easy story and keep him motivated when the conditions get rough.

On the other hand, I wonder if Adam is a little too confident. It’s easy to read too much into videos, but I have impression he expects to have a mental edge on most players. Adam will need to pull back and work behind the scenes to build relationships. If he underestimates the other players, he may not see the dangers lurking around him. Adam talks about being like Spencer Bledsoe and Hayden Moss, and he could learn a lot from their first games. They didn’t jump out as threats at the start and survived tricky circumstances to make deep runs. If he keeps his fandom and confidence in check, Adam may have a chance to make an impact.

Sarah: As many reservations as I had about the term “super-duper fan”, it’s really hard not to watch Adam’s video knowing his mother has since died and not immediately have him as my sentimental favorite. As Dan says, that’s going to be great motivation for him, but it’s also going to be an incredible strain. Adam said to Gordon Holmes that he might need to share it with somebody, even if he doesn’t want that info to get out. If he ever ends up on a tribe with Sunday, herself a cancer survivor and a mom, those two could form a serious bond through that.

Personal story aside, Adam’s deep into the online fan base, yet looks more like the party guy than a geek — while his job is managing a homeless shelter. It’s a really odd mix of archetypes, but on the oddball millennial tribe, it gives Adam a lot of ways to go since he can find some common ground with almost everybody there. Between his earnest idealism and his confidence bordering on arrogance, Adam reminds me of Panama’s Aras. Aras’ game certainly had its flaws, but his ability to connect with other people carried him through the danger points. I don’t know if Adam can pull off a similar trick, but I wish him all the luck in the world.

Michel: It’s easy to like the idealistic Stanford graduate and hope he does well in memory of his mom. While the comparison to Aras is valid, he isn’t an athlete and I don’t think he’ll share the same arrogance that we saw on occasion in the former Panama winner. Being a manager of a homeless shelter I think gives Adam an interesting baggage of experience of dealing with all sorts of personalities, and that should help him work with the athletes and the nerds on his team.  It should make him a member of the main alliance.

Adam is another member of Paul’s foursome, the ones we saw when the rock singer mentioned participation trophies so I see him going far into the game. Since his mom’s cancer was part of his introductory video, it could be featured in the opening episode. That would create a strong bond between him and the audience especially if he has more than one confessional over the first few episodes telling us he is playing for his mom. On the other hand, if we don’t have those repetitions, then it will lead us to conclude that Adam won’t be as important as I think.

Catherine: As a rule, people who have to tell us that they are smart usually are not. The first word that Adam uses to describe himself in his bio was intelligent, and that set off all kind of alarm bells for me. However, upon watching his video, it became obvious that Adam just might be that rare exception to the rule. He does come off as genuinely intelligent, and he has the credentials to back it up. I think Adam has the potential to be the most dangerous player out there.

His story about his mother certainly tugged on my heartstrings, and I’m hoping to see him go far. I think his tribe is going to love him, and he will easily get into the majority alliance. Adam will probably assume some sort of unofficial leadership role. Although I’d love to see Adam go all the way, I do worry that it is going to be difficult for him to get to the end of the game. He says that he is most like Spencer Bledsoe and Hayden Moss, and unfortunately for Adam, I think he will have more in common with Cagayan Spencer than Cambodia Spencer. I think he’s going deep into the game, but I don’t think he’s going to make it to the end.

Scott: On a personal note, as someone that works in the non-profit world, I like Adam. He seems like a great guy. Survivor-wise though, I don’t agree with my colleagues here. I feel like and I can’t put my finger on it, but something is missing. I see an awkwardness, maybe a natural ability to connect with a whole bunch of outgoing type A personalities. Maybe I’m just being cynical for no reason, but I just think Adam is missing that “it” factor. I see Adam as a back-end jury member, probably someone that doesn’t stick out in a big way at any point during the season. I hope I’m wrong because I like his story, but I’m not buying much stock in his chances.

Christine: I love Adam! I think he has all of the qualities that break the Millennial stereotype in the minds of Gen-Xers. He seems to connect to people given his job and his situation with his mom. I think he will find inroads with the self-identified hard workers of Gen X.

One apprehension I have about declaring that Adam will make it to the end is that I’m unsure of which people he will form an alliance with in the game. Should he fall on the right side of numbers initially, and have sound bites, I expect to see him at the end because he seems like a nice, non-threatening guy. Another problem could arise if he shares his heart-wrenching story of wanting to win for his mom. There are enough cutthroat players to target him for that or his occupation because he seems too perfect.

Hannah Survivor 33

Hannah Shapiro

Dan: It’s so easy for me to find Hannah endearing. The comparisons to Aubry and Shirin are obvious, though her personality seems less reserved than theirs. She’s definitely the type of person to play Ben Franklin in a school production of 1776. Hannah should be a fun character, and I can’t complain about Survivor casting more people who aren’t one-dimensional. It’s also no surprise that she connects with Cochran and even wrote a college application essay about the show. If anyone in this cast is a diehard RHAP fan, it is probably Hannah.

Hannah’s quirkiness is a positive for me, but I’m not sure it will play well on the island. Will she make the right bonds and not get too overbearing about her fandom? It will get old quickly, especially with players less interested in geeking out over Survivor. What we can’t see from the videos is how Hannah will connect with the other millennials. There was no way to know that Aubry would form strong bonds and have that killer instinct within her. I’m skeptical that Hannah can play at that same level, but I hope she surprises me.

Sarah: I would say less reserved than Aubry, but more reserved than Shirin, Dan. (You remember the monkey sex, right?) I’m delighted to see the show continue their newfound love of the female nerd archetype, and I adore Hannah already, but I wonder if she’s too nervous to replicate the success of her predecessors. That’s perhaps a little ridiculous in light of how the jurors saw Aubry, but Aubry felt more comfortable with her paranoia, like it was something she had learned to deal with, whereas Hannah seems to still be figuring that out.

I’m inclined to think that the millennial tribe will be dominated by misfits who will embrace Hannah’s neuroticism and protect her in the early stages of the game — though if I’m wrong, she’s a more obvious target than most. If the Cochran comparison is as apt as she says, then even if she lasts through the merge, she’s going to be too nervous to play the game rationally. She could be a good ally, but she’ll be one who needs to be managed. I don’t think this season will be Hannah’s game, but I’d not object to her getting a chance to repeat Cochran’s success as a returnee.

Michel: With her rapid fire speech, her insecurities and her nerdy glasses, I think Hannah would do much better as a stand-up comic than as a Survivor. I’d like to share the general enthusiasm and say she could go as far as Aubry but if there is a designated first boot in this tribe, it could very well be Ms. Shapiro. She could gain friends by being the funny one around camp, but I don’t think this tribe will be short on quirky characters.  She may have a hard time finding another role to play.

Catherine: I too am thrilled that Survivor is continuing to cast the nerdy female archetype. It seems like every season now has to have a “female Cochran” out there — an overexcited but slightly neurotic super fan who looks like she’ll never fit in with the tribe. I like that to be a young female and make it onto the show, you no longer have to be able to double as a model.

But I have to be honest here. I could not with Hannah, in either her bio or her video. I found myself cringing at basically every joke she made. While Hannah had some good one-liners, overall the whole package was a bit much for me. I think her tribemates are going to find the whole package way too much for them. I also worry that Hannah is going to struggle to fit in with some of the heavily religious people in her tribe, so even if they love her brand of humor, I think there’s going to be other problems.

I don’t know how Hannah is going to do in the challenges. Maybe she is some sort of puzzle prodigy, and that saves her. But honestly, I think Hannah is headed for Loser’s Lodge sooner rather than later.

Scott: Sorry, but there were way too much Shirin vibes I got from watching Hannah’s video. I can already see Hannah being a humongous pain in the ass for everybody in her tribe. I can see the argument over how to make food with Hannah in the middle of it, causing everybody to just say “screw the original plan; can we please get this girl out of the game now?”. Hannah will need to hope that she can manage what I’m guessing is a natural ability to annoy people, so what can she do? Well, she needs to kill it with the puzzles and hopefully she can play well with others, more so then she appears able to. I see Hannah gone either right before jury, or she becomes the first jury member.

Christine: Like Cochran, I don’t think Hannah will end up being a first boot. Michelle is likely to annoy people and Hannah may coast by. Many people seem annoying on the Millennial tribe, so if she can contain herself, she could survive for a bit. Most of us thought Aubry would be out when she had panic attacks, yet she bonded with the older members of her tribe because of that.

I like that Hannah embraces who she is and I find her to be quite a beautiful, intriguing person as a result. Expect her to become island hot should she make it far.  Like Aubry, I expect the older players to find her personable. She has many good traits according to her interview with Josh: she’s a good listener and she knows she needs to lie low. Yes, she comes across as a bit loopy in the video, but so did Zeke, Michelle, Jessica, and Taylor. I think Hannah will have the wherewithal to keep her cards close to her chest unlike those other players, Zeke excluded.

Figgy Survivor 33Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa

Dan: Figgy is only 23 but seems even younger. I feel like we’ve seen almost this exact video from quite a few contestants in the past, and not many did very well. Figgy even gives the stock answer of being “more than a pretty face” that is so tiring. She seems determined to be a fun character and act as a “free spirit” like she says in her bio. That’s rarely a wise move in the long run. I’m not ready to write off Figgy at the start; the warning signs in her bio and video could easily slip away once the game begins. Players want to highlight their unique qualities in their pre-game clips, so Figgy might just be responding to what the producers want to see.

The saving grace for Figgy might come through her athleticism, which will make her valuable in the early stages. Survivor challenges are odd beasts and not the same as team sports, so Figgy’s past doesn’t mean she’ll kill the competitions. I don’t sense that she’s ready for the grind of playing this game. There are too many red flags to suspect that she’ll last a while.

Sarah: In a very quirky tribe, it’s somebody named Figgy who is the most generic girl. Considering who I said that of in our last roundtable, perhaps I should make Figgy my winner pick now. But in Figgy’s case, I wonder if will make it harder for her to fit in. All the other women are older misfits. The guys tend more towards the in crowd, but will Figgy want to bro down with them? There are a few Millennials who I think can swing between the misfits and the bros; I don’t think Figgy will ever feel comfortable with either, and owing to her age, that’s not something that will improve with a tribe swap.

Still, she’s athletic and upbeat, so I expect her to hang around for a while. But I think Figgy’s going to be that quiet character. A challenge asset and a steady vote, but she’ll never have much to say in either the game or the show.

Michel: If I identified them correctly, Figgy is the only woman that was seen when we heard the “participation trophy” comment so I will have to disagree with Dan and Sarah’s low opinion of her. Describing herself as an open book, I think Figgy will be seen as honest and that should gain her trust. I don’t really see her winning the game, but I’d place her as the last female Millennial standing. I don’t know if Figgy will find her showmance, but maybe she’ll be closely aligned to the guy who wins it all. In place of a ring, that should get her a nice check.

Catherine: Figgy is very pretty. Figgy seems to be athletic, and so Figgy should be an asset in the challenges. Figgy is a bartender. And Figgy says Figgy all the time, and so Figgy is not one of my favorites this season.

If the self-appointed and oft-repeated nickname wasn’t enough, she then mentions the possibility of a showmance in her video. If you are looking for a husband, Survivor is probably not the show for you. Did she mail her Bachelor audition to the wrong address?

And then she manages to hit on another pet peeve of mine and referred to herself as smart. Those who have to tell me that they are smart are usually far from it. Jessica (sorry, “Figgy”) doesn’t impress me much.

I think that Figgy’s fate in this game is basically that of South Pacific’s Elyse, who was voted out as a way to weaken Ozzy. Figgy will attempt to align herself with the men of the tribe. She and her chosen partner will start to look like they are getting too close. A tight pair is dangerous. They’ll need his challenge strength. And so they’ll vote out Figgy. I’m seeing her as a pre-merge boot.

Scott: Dear Lord I thought Hannah was annoying, but Jessica…errrr “Figgy” takes the cake. I mean you really can’t talk about yourself in the third person ever…ever…ever. Just on pure principle alone, I hope she turns out to be the worst player in Survivor history. Maybe her intro video was just not her thing and in the game she won’t be that awful, but my lord she made it hard to root for her coming into this season. I was so distracted by her video that I don’t know where to go from here. I guess if she kills it in the comps early on, she will be tough to vote out once the game starts. If she can get in with the right alliance, then shoot anything can happen, but my hope is that she is one of the first five 86’d.

Christine: In answer to Sarah’s question, Figgy more than wants to bro-down. I never got the whole Kyle Jason thing last season, so I will refer to her as Jessica rather than Figgy. If she persists, then I will call her Jessica Figueroa.

I do like the contrast of Jessica who wants a showmance being on a tribe full of Christians who may object to late night groping. While I think she belongs on a returning season for Ozzy, she could scrape by, yet I doubt it. As Catherine mentioned, she is likely to be the pre-merge girlfriend boot like Elyse, Angie, Allie, and Hope before her.

Survivor 33 JayJustin “Jay” Stirrett

Dan: What’s up with all the nicknames this season? We haven’t even started the season, and three players already are listing alternate names. In the first few moments of his interview, Jay talked about being charming and then immediately said he was humble. He just lives life and tries to be awesome! Jay cites Russell Hantz and Woo in his bio, which is an odd combination. I’d put Jay more in the Woo category than with Russell. He talks about making big moves but seems like he’s just citing terms from the Survivor playbook. That’s rarely a good sign.

I do give Jay credit for introducing me to skimboarding, a variation on surfing but with a smaller board and without fins. I don’t totally understand how it works, but I suspect Jay may tell us about it. He’s definitely an athletic guy and has the build to do well in challenges. That may help him to stick around for a while. Even so, I don’t see Jay as a player who will run the show. He’s crafted in the Joey Amazing mold but seems even more “no collar” than Joe. I foresee him being used as a vote but not running the show. That could make him less of a threat and destined for a Carter-like run, but his impact won’t be huge.

Sarah: I keep finding myself getting excited about this season…and then I read something about Jay and crash back down to earth. Here is your stereotypical Survivor villain wannabe. Of course he wants to be like Russell Hantz. Of course he’s planning to backstab with a smile on his face. Of course he learned about manipulation from his stepfather — wait. Can we close that can of worms back up?

The problem I have with Jay is that none of this is as easy as saying it. The whole reason this game still exists is because it’s so damned hard to vote people off without them hating you for it. Provoking fights is as likely to get you eliminated as it is the other person. People do tend to figure out the troublemakers. He is one of the older Millennials, but he’s got tribemates both older and younger than him who aren’t likely to suffer a Hantz-style game (or at least, not from somebody else.) Considering how religion was brought up in his video, there’s a good possibility he was cast to run into conflict over that as well, and you never want to be on the minority side of a religious debate in this game.

The real danger for Jay is that between the Millennials’ youth and abundance of hardcore fans, they’re not going to prioritize challenge strength when deciding how to vote. He doesn’t seem like somebody who will fly under the radar, so he’d better seize control. I don’t think he can do either, which puts him in line for a shock early exit.

Michel: I guess I’m bound to disagree with my fellow bloggers on this one. Jay is the fourth member of the “kids that get trophies just for participating”, and he had one of the few videos that impressed me. Jay seems charming but ready to play the game even planning to start arguments between other people to get them eliminated. I will be keeping a close eye on Jay, hoping that he proves to be the expert manipulator he claims. Along with listening to people, investing your time in them is one of the most powerful tools in this game. If he can make them think he loves them, then Jay will be golden. Right now, Jay would be my pick to win it all.  After all, he already gave us a victory pose!

Catherine: Jay just can’t help it. He was born to be this ridiculously good looking. And charming. He’s ridiculously charming as well. And did he mention that he is awesome? Because he is. And most of all, the thing you must not forget is that Jay is humble. So humble that he barely even notices how wonderful he is. He’s perfect. Basically, he’s a badass.

You can see where I’m going with this. Every season needs a gloriously entertaining early boot. One who is going to play himself out of the game in a blaze of glory. One whose downfall will be talked about and laughed at for years to come. Every season needs a Drew Christy. A Garrett Adelstein. A Peter Baggenstos. I think that Jay is this person. A Russell/Woo hybrid who truly is going to make his mark on the season.

I think that Jay is going to align with Figgy, and that his stupidity will probably be the cause of her downfall. He’s going to try and manipulate everyone on the tribe, only to find out that he is much, much more like Woo than he is like Russell. I do not have high hopes for Jay at all, and I can’t wait to see how Jay’s blindside face compares to Woo’s.

Scott: I kept expecting Jay to say check you later…check you later. I have no idea how capable of playing this game Jay is, but he isn’t that hateable and he just seems like someone that will linger in the game for a while. I can see him in the Jury. I don’t think he looks like a winner of the game, but he seems like he will be entertaining.

Christine: I somewhat agree with Catherine. Like the woman I predict he will have a showmance with, I will call him by his rightful name, Justin. Like their namesake celebrity couple, I predict that only Justin will have longevity following in the footsteps of Ozzy, Malcolm, Adam, Eddie and Reynold with Jessica voted out early.

Justin will likely plant seeds of discord, bro-down with Taylor, and have revenge exacted on him by Will at some later point in the game. Sure, it’s all speculation on my part, but the tribe can’t sustain two self-proclaimed manipulators for long unless they join their halves to become a super manipulator.

I’m curious to see how open he’ll be about his atheism. Lindsey’s jabs at Mike Holloway didn’t bode too well for her, but Sophie’s tolerance of Coach’s prayer circles, despite her inner feelings, proved a wise choice. If as he claims, Justin can make people feel valued like a certain used car salesman then he could go far as Michel predicts. Then again, my first impression was he’s a clone of Jason Siska.

Survivor 33 MariMari Takahashi

Sarah: Mari has me convinced: ballerina turned video gamer might be the best training for Survivor. Physical discipline combined with out of the box thinking? It’s perfect! Of course, the missing element is her social prowess — and as glorious as the “one does not accrue” phrase from her bio is, internet followers do not equate to a trusting alliance. Yet it does speak to her charisma. Mari’s pink hair makes a bold statement even in the pre-game Ponderosa, and it’s been received positively by two of her future tribemates: Hannah and Michaela.

Being the oldest person on the young tribe is perhaps the best starting position this game. While Mari isn’t likely to want a leadership role in her tribe, she should be in a dominant position in the almost inevitable alliance of oddballs, free spirits and smart-thinkers. She’s athletic, clearly intelligent and articulate, yet just by virtue of how she looks she’s not an obvious target. In fact, the only hesitation I have over Mari is that she seems too good to be true.

Michel: When I watched Probst’s presentation video for this season, it quickly hit me that the underlying theme to this cast is a rehashing of Blue Collars and No Collars. Outside of a couple of lawyers and a writer, the Gen-X players are all Blue Collars while a collar wouldn’t fit on any of the Millennials except for maybe one. So, instead of a replay of Nicaragua as the theme suggests, I initially felt like we’d have a make-over of the Worlds Apart season without the mostly boring “White Collars”. I’m not sure that would be an improvement because even if Nicaragua is my least favorite season, Worlds Apart isn’t much better.

That feeling returned when I started watching Mari’s video and realized she should have been cast in place of Nina. At least a chameleon doesn’t complain as much but I started growing tired of her when she mentioned that she will be great TV. We will be the judge of that, and I’m certainly not sold on her just yet. How many women have we heard saying they will be great at challenges only to fall flat on their faces?  How many have said they wanted to be villains but wind up getting their torch snuffed before they even realize it was time to start playing?

Catherine: I’ve been scouring Mari’s bio for flaws, and I honestly can’t see a single one. I adore this woman, and like Sarah, my only worry is that she might just be too good to be true. She cites Kelley Wentworth as a player that she would like to emulate, and it is possible that she will end up in a similar position. She might make it close to the end, but I don’t think anyone is going to want to sit next to Mari at a Final Tribal Council.

Initially, I think she’ll be in a good spot. There are people in her tribe who already want to work with her, she’s presumably competent in both physical challenges and puzzles, and she seems to be self-aware enough to understand her strengths and weaknesses. I liked the way that she described her strategy to Gordon Holmes, where she talks about wanting to portray herself as a sisterly figure rather than the flirt.

I think Mari is going to make friends on the Millennial tribe, but that in the event of a tribe swap, she’ll be able to endear herself to the Gen-Xers one of her pet peeves is laziness). She’s one of the people who has a good chance to win the game.

Scott: I think I fall in line with everybody above me here in liking Mari (with the little I’ve seen so far granted). I think she has the look as someone that can get along with different types of people and will not look like an obvious threat. I agree if she will be the oldest on her tribe then she will probably be a natural leader. I can see scenario where we see Mari sitting at the final Tribal getting peppered with questions from a bitter jury.

Christine: I absolutely love Mari! Having said that, I absolutely loved Jennifer Lanzetti from last season. Jennifer fit into her tribe perfectly, seemed like a really subtle, cool person, and her position seemed secure. People liked her from the start. Then, she imploded. I’m not implying that a worm will burrow into Mari’s ear, but unlike Jennifer, Mari is not subtle and stands out. Already, tribemates like her because she comes across as interesting and in control, which makes her a target, more along the lines of Anna in my mind.

I hope Mari can play subtly, but I doubt she will be given the chance. I want her to go far, but fear she will become an early target once the weaklings are voted off. The Gen-Xers may like her or find her intimidating. It depends on how good her social game is, and that is iffy for me right now. She is a ballerina and a gamer, both of which can be performed in group settings or individually. Worst case scenario, if she doesn’t make the merge, she’s still dateable.

Dan: I agree with a lot of what’s been said so far about Mari, but I have a lingering sense like Sarah mentioned that it’s too good to be true. Many chose Darnell and Jennifer (like Christine cites) as their favorites to win last season, and both went out immediately. I don’t foresee a similar fate for Mari and hope she does well; she’ll be a fun player to have on the show if she lasts a while. Mari will be noticed immediately, and it’s hard to win the game that way. She’ll need some luck and more understated play to have a real shot to grab the million.

Survivor 33 MichaelaMichaela Bradshaw

Sarah: I’m finding it hard to put my finger on Michaela. She’s young, but level-headed, and would seem to be an odd one out in this largely free-spirited tribe. On the other hand, she cited pink haired Mari as somebody she liked the look of, she clearly has a sense of humor, and is a person of faith which gives her immediate common ground with a lot of the cast. Young as she is, she’s a debt-free college graduate, despite a poor background: there’s clearly a lot going on behind those big brown eyes.

I recently did a lot of research on women of color for an analysis of Cydney’s game in Kaoh Rong, and one of the conclusions I drew there is that women of color with the attributes to succeed in a system dominated by white men can bring a lot to the game of Survivor. One of the points Michaela made in her video was that many people who go on Survivor have no experience being on the bottom, so they have to deal with that mentally before they can get out of it. It’s an excellent point and has never been more applicable than to a tribe this young. I’m still not sure how well equipped for Survivor she is, but I fully expect Michaela to be a key player.

Michel: Michaela is one of the few Millennials that could qualify as Blue Collar and frankly one of only two women I found interesting in this tribe. I liked the way she described her work ethic. In a sense, she’s more like the Gen-Xers than the Millennials! It must be noted that she also mentioned God so for religion to occupy such a big place in the highly edited presentation videos, it must come into play during the season. Michaela seems to be able to separate church and game, and that could be to her advantage.

Catherine: After watching Michaela’s CBS video, the first thing that I wrote in my notes was “I like her”. Like Michel, I think she seems extremely interesting. Her bio really emphasizes her work ethic, and I like her tenacity and spirit. She seems quite driven to do well, and I will be rooting for her success in the game. I’m hoping that she’ll do well, but I’m actually not sure which way this is going to go.

However, looking at Michaela’s bio and press interviews, there are lots of red flags. She lists incompetent people and losing as two of her pet peeves. She talks constantly about how hardworking she is, which gives her more in common with the Gen-X tribe than the Millennials that she will actually be sharing the beach with on her tribe.

She does say that she is in excellent shape, and she doesn’t expect to be a liability in challenges.  In her video, she came off as incredibly likable. She also talks about her strong Christian faith, and this will give her something in common with many of the people on this season.

So I really don’t know how Michaela is going to do, but I would love to see her make a deep run into the game.

Scott: Michaela seems like a very nice, hardworking woman that outside of Survivor I’m sure all of us would find more likable then the rest of this cast. BUT as someone that has any chance to win this season, I say no. To me she comes off as awkward, maybe shy, and I don’t see anything (with very little to judge so far) that would make me think that this is a real contender to win this season. I can just see her being a little aloof in one of the first two episodes, and if her team loses one of the immunity challenges that she becomes the easy vote to send home. Again, Michaela seems very nice an authentic, but I’m not buying any stock in her Survivor game right now.

Christine: Michaela is one of the contestants who struck me as making the final three. She seems understated and very sure of who she is on a tribe with a lot of eccentric personalities. She should be able to slide by if she performs well in challenges, and come the swap, she has much in common with the Gen-Xers and could survive even if she is in a minority position.

I expect her to be reliable and stealth on a season with lots of frenetic energy.

Dan: A lot of Michaela’s comments in her video would be more typical on the other tribe. She isn’t talking about being free due to the wonders if her generation. This approach will do her wonders if she survives the initial votes. Her different take might alienate Michaela from her other tribe mates if she isn’t careful. From what I can gather, she does seem to have a down-to-earth approach, however. Michaela has the right attitude to play Survivor; the lingering question is whether her social game will be strong enough to lead her to the end.

Survivor 33 MichelleMichelle Schubert

Sarah: I found it hard to pin Michaela down; I’m not even going to attempt it with Michelle. She’s about 10 years away from her destiny as the new female Coach. There’s a little too much intelligence there to write her off as your average kooky free-spirit, so “eccentric” it is. But what can we expect from a Christian who believes in dragons and is determined to flirt?

Her interview with Josh showed that while she’s unashamedly religious, she also understands how that can come across to the… less spiritually inclined. The fact that she’s one of the three oldest in her tribe might help her be taken a little more seriously than in another season. The flirting on the other hand? That could set off alarm bells — perhaps not with the men she’s flirting with, but with the rest of the tribe. With players like Zeke and Mari most likely taking a leading role in any votes, it might be Delilah not Samson who gets the chop.

Michel: I was enjoying the beginning of Michelle’s video where she said she was somewhat rebellious, but that came to a crashing end when she went on to say her rebellion ended four years ago. Maybe she should have been cast five years ago. Everything she said after that was meaningless blabber that she rehearsed for the cameras. He may be there for her, but he won’t help her, not in this tribe. It could be fun to watch her flirt, but I feel her plans will not have time to develop.

Catherine: Michelle. Oh boy, where do we start with this one? Last season, I feel like I, along with many people, was quick to write Debbie Wanner off as just a crazy lady, too concerned with acting for the cameras to really play the game. I gave her no chance at all to win the game. And then, while Debbie wasn’t exactly a Survivor mastermind, she did okay. She was playing the game, and playing it hard. I’ll admit that I underestimated Debbie.

That said, I’m about to do the exact same thing with Michelle. She describes herself as a hungry, hungry hippo. She studies dragons. She’s kooky, she’s going to make great television, but she has zero chance to win the game. In fact, I give her less chance than I gave Debbie. At least Debbie was self-aware enough to tell us that she was going to play like Coach. Michelle says that she is going to play the game the same way Boston Rob does, and I have never seen a contestant get this question more wrong.

I think Michelle is out early. If the Millennials lose the first challenge, then she is probably the first out. Hope there’s some dragons to study in Loser’s Lodge.

Scott: Michelle has a crazy look in her eyes. I think she will struggle to connect with anybody else on a real level, and it will be hard for her to form real bonds with anybody. Therefore, she will be a train wreck. I mean has the “I’m going to flirt” card really been effective on Survivor in the last nine years? I’m not a Survivor historian, but I really can’t remember watching Survivor and thinking “wow that girl is flirting so well; it’s totally carrying her far into this game”. Every pretty girl (and guy I guess) says it in their intro video, but it never really plays out at all. I think Michelle is going to be gone early.

Christine: Like Michel, I had high hopes for Michelle initially. At first, I thought she came across as charmingly quirky, but then thoughts of Room 23 from Lost entered my mind. She seems like a cheerful Dharma cult member, but once starvation kicks in and her dragon tales begin, her tribemates may turn on her faster than Carolyn and Tyler turned on Shirin for discussing monkey sex. Will, perhaps, will assume the role of Ben Linus and use her.

She has some potential, but I only see her surviving if tribal lines are drawn and she is a swing vote. As Scott mentioned, flirting only gets players so far and a few of the guys on her tribe might be more interested in smoking what she smokes than in forming alliances with her. If she prefers to talk to God and go off in solitude more than bond with her tribe, then like Simon in Lord of the Flies or Roxy, I expect a tragic ending.

Dan: If anyone seems to be channeling Parvati in her video, it’s Michelle. She seems really concerned with presenting a certain image for the cameras. Michelle is odd and probably not in a way that’s going to charm her fellow players. I don’t get the sense that she’s really focused on the game. Instead, it’s going to be about what comes across well on TV, especially with flirting. This is a recipe for disaster for Michelle’s game, and I’ll be surprised if she even comes close to the merge.

Survivor 33 TaylorTaylor Lee Stocker

Sarah: One of the recurring themes of this cast is that Survivor has filled it with young people who are thoughtful, driven, hard-working and successful…and then they appear to have thrown Taylor into the mix just to check every cliché of the millennial stereotype.

This isn’t to be negative about Taylor as a person. One of the points he makes in his video is that seeing the grass as greener on the other side doesn’t have to be a negative. He enjoys jumping to new things. Even as a jaded Gen-Xer, I can see the beauty in that sentiment. But as a Survivor player, Taylor feels terrifyingly unreliable. His strength will keep him around for a while, but I don’t expect him to ever be in the loop.

Michel: It seems like Sarah sees Taylor as someone that won’t last long, but I had the opposite feeling. His drive combined with that smile should get him far. He was one of the four Millennials shown when Paul mentioned that he doesn’t come from the generation that is given a trophy just for participating, the other three being Adam, Figgy and Jay. So, either Paul is right and these four are going to crash under the pressures of a true competition or these four will prove that Paul misjudged the new generation. Right now, I’m inclined to think the Millennials will succeed, Taylor being one of the successful ones.

What I liked most about Taylor’s video is that he only talked about himself, not how he was going to be good TV or play the Villain or blindside everyone. Now, if he can go from one alliance to another as easily as he does from job to job, Taylor will be an interesting player to follow.

Catherine: Nicaragua, the central point for time travel, has done it again. Because I’m pretty sure that Taylor is either future — Fabio, or maybe a Fabio clone. He has the same “whatever” kind of attitude. They are both free spirits, super nice guys who excel in the challenges. And I think that Taylor is absolutely capable of winning this game. He’s going to be everyone’s friend. He’s also going to come across as completely non-threatening.

I do think that Survivor suits someone like Taylor. I don’t think he is going to let anything worry him. He’s not going to be drawn into arguments. I think he’s just going to be out there, having the holiday of a lifetime. This is just another adventure for him, and I love to see people out there who are just enjoying themselves.

If I were out there, I’d align with this guy, and I expect him to quickly ingratiate himself with his tribe. At the merge, I don’t think he is obviously strategic enough to have a target on his back. In fact, I think he will do really well. I don’t think he is going to win, but I think he’s one of the people who have a really strong chance.

Scott: I’m too distracted by Taylor because he looks like the hot head from Point Break (President Nixon). I think Taylor is the young “fun guy” that makes to the jury every year, but we basically don’t really see him do anything really Survivor-ee that makes us think he should win the game. The Taylor’s of the world are always a part of the major alliance in a season, but never see the writing on the wall that they are on the bottom of the five or six person alliance and need to make a move before a move gets made on them. I like Taylor, but I think his ceiling is making it to the jury. Not winning the game, but probably fun to play Survivor with this season.

Christine: Dude talk aside, I’m not getting a Fabio vibe from Taylor since he admitted he is a jerk when he is tired and hungry to Josh Wigler. Instead, I see him as a Robb Zbacnik character with the constant snowboarding talk. He’d probably bring his snowboard if he could. Like Robb, he might strangle one of the older guys during a challenge, so I look forward to his unpredictability.

I don’t have high hopes for Taylor. He’ll be safe at first but I don’t see a strategic mastermind who can socially navigate past the Gen-Xers unless they’re still fans of Jeff Spicoli, which Paul might be. If he makes the merge, he might become a target because I can see him as a challenge beast. Unless the other Millennials stand out as strategic thinkers and he somehow snowboards by unnoticed, he will not make the final five, dude.

Dan: Oh, this guy. Maybe there is a chance that Michelle will be able to find a guy with a similar mindset. Taylor looks strong and outgoing, and that combo will probably keep him around for a while. I suspect that he’ll be easily manipulated and will believe he’s in control. Rob’s comparison to Drew Christy in the intro podcast with Nicole is perfect. Taylor’s comparison to Woo in his bio also really fits. He’s a guy who’s probably nice and not difficult at camp, but there isn’t that much happening in his brain. My brain foresees an eighth-place finish.

Survivor 33 WillWill Wahl

Michel: Will certainly doesn’t lack confidence, but already it feels like he will be edited as a “Player on a Journey” out to prove that teenagers can play this game. I suspect he will create some blindsides because he doesn’t have a problem with his conscience but that he will still come short of the ultimate goal. It’s interesting that many people talked about religion in the Millennial camp. I expect the subject will pop up at some point. I don’t see it reaching the level that we witnessed in So Pathetic (editor’s note: South Pacific) because I think the religious types will be in trouble with this group.

Catherine: Last season, I had absolutely zero faith in Will’s fellow teenager, Julia Sokolowski. In fact, I thought that because she was so young, she would end up being one of Kaoh Rong’s many medevacs. Well, not only was Julia not medevaced, but she was also not bad at the game. This season, I’m not making the mistake of underestimating Will just because of his age.

I think that most players on his tribe are going to underestimate Will, and that is going to play right into his plans. Will is going to come across as sociable enough to align with, and non-threatening enough as to not attract any targets. I can actually see Will playing a really strong game, and I think he could actually win.

Another thing in Will’s favor is that this is shaping up to be an extremely religious season, and he is already talking about how he wants to use his faith to create bonds and manipulate people. With so many strongly religious people out there, Will could easily find himself comfortable in a majority alliance if he follows this strategy.

I like Will a lot. I really think the only strike against him is his age. He may not have the maturity to play the game that he wants to play. But I’m definitely thinking that Will is going to be a strong player and make a deep run into the game.

Scott: I can’t go on with this until I can figure out what Will’s hair is reminding of…I feel like his hair is the son of Tom Hanks’ hair from The Da Vinci Code. And his voice sounds like the serial killer from Saw. I would think that one of two things is going to happen with Will. One being that since he is so young that everybody will kind of look after him and not want to crush his soul early on in the game and maybe carry him pretty far. Or option 2: everybody will resent the fact that a high schooler is playing Survivor and that he needs to be the first one voted off on pure principle. I decide which way I’m leaning here, but I would think that someone that age lacks the life experience to really be able to play the social game of Survivor. Will may be the Doogie Howser of Survivor and just way smart beyond his years, but I don’t like his chances.

Christine: I agree with Catherine. I really like Will. My first impression of him is that he is quite mature for his age and will be able to bond with the Gen-Xers. I think he will be able to give them a purpose to take him under their wings while he carefully crafts their demises. This is the first player I have assessed who is using who he is to manipulate people, and given the high number of Christians this season, Will should be able to find commonality with many of his tribemates yet have the savvy to bond with people like Jay.

I’d like to see him go far and would love to have an 18-year-old player win. It is not age that matters, but how one adapts his/her game to overcome it as a social obstacle. Will may just be able to do this because he is unlikely to be perceived as a threat.

Dan: I think Will is going to be a fun character, but I also think he may be a little too excited to play. That isn’t a bad thing in terms of delivering an entertaining show. Will is clearly a big fan and even references Randy Bailey in his bio. How can you dislike a guy who does that? His youth is an asset for Will, and he correctly assumes people will underestimate him. The danger might be if he tries too hard to prove he’s a real player. If Will lets the game come to him and forms good relationships, he could do well. But his energy and fandom could be his undoing.

Sarah: In his video, Will complains that many people say teenagers shouldn’t play this game because they don’t have enough life experience. Guilty as charged! And unlike Catherine, I am crotchety and set in my ways. Julia may have been fantastic (Evidence A: she finished her cast assessment weeks ago), but she was at least in college. Will is still raising his hand to go to the bathroom!

Will does however get brownie points for listening to RHAP and loving Josh Wigler. And he does seem smart and well grounded (as proven by his ability to skip high school for six weeks and still graduate). Plus, according to Jamie Gutfreund, he’s actually Gen Z and is likely to have a more realistic attitude than his Millennial tribemates. I think he’s a little optimistic in his plan to ally with the people closest to his own age — the next youngest player is Figgy, five years his senior — but taking on the son or protégé role will probably serve him well, once he gets to share a camp with the Gen-Xers.

In the pre-merge, everybody’s going to have bigger fish to fry than the 18-year-old. Julia kicked into higher gear in the post-merge, and if it wasn’t for the super idol twist, would likely have turned the game on its head. Can Will have the confidence to pull off something similar (and the discretion to make himself less obvious)? Or, like every other teenager to play, will he be overwhelmed by the game and get lost in the shuffle? I’m still inclined to put my money on the latter. Prove me wrong, Will Wahl.

survivor-33-zekeZeke Smith

Michel: Obviously, Zeke will be playing for the cameras and the cameras will probably fall in love with his style. Not too many people act like hippos and just roll in the mud! I prefer the less flamboyant type, the quiet assassins, but the casting department rarely agrees with me anymore. Hopefully, Zeke will be good for a few laughs but he’ll be too obvious to fool them all the way to the end.

Catherine: Clearly, Zeke’s CBS video is the best. If we were making winner picks based solely off b-roll footage, then Zeke is a shoo-in. Like Michel, I think that Zeke is probably playing more for the cameras than for the million dollars — and while I appreciate him for it, I don’t think it is going to lead to the win.

In his bio, Zeke compares himself to Tony Vlachos, and the only way that Zeke is going to win this game is if he can find himself a Woo or two. Luckily, in this tribe, Woo clones seem to be in abundance, with both Jay and Taylor citing Woo in their bio.

Ultimately, I think that Zeke is just too overtly charismatic to win this. He’s going to struggle to find people that are willing to go to the end with him, and I think he’s probably getting voted out heartbreakingly close to the end. I am certain that win or lose, Zeke is going to walk away from this as a new fan favorite.

Scott: I have to agree with everybody here that I think Zeke might be too much about mugging for the camera than actually being a true threat to win the game. You do have to be a little subtle to win Survivor and based on the little I have seen, I don’t think Zeke can play anything subtle. Not to say that he won’t be entertaining while he is there, I just don’t see the ability to manage emotions in a way that can lead to winning the game. I can see Zeke getting into a verbal altercation with someone that might lead to that person being voted off, but Zeke ultimately losing the war as in the long run you can’t win Survivor being loud 24/7.

Christine: I disagree with you all. I think Zeke is outgoing in his introductory video, but because he wants us to see him as the comedian he is. I think he will be capable of toning down the antics but will still keep things light-hearted at camp. I can see Zeke bonding with a few of his tribemates immediately but falling prey to becoming a crash and burn narrator for the Millennials, much as his RHAP blogger predecessor Nick was the narrator for Beauty.

I don’t think he will make the merge, but if he does, it will be due to the swap. Tony had Trish, but I do not feel that Zeke will be afforded the same luxury given the composition of his tribe. He may have a few Woos as Catherine said, but these Woos are in it for the million.

Dan: The editors are going to show us plenty of Zeke, and I can’t wait. His short video is hilarious and not just because he’s doing silly antics. Zeke’s personality is tailor-made for the TV show of Survivor. What’s interesting is that he’s more than a ham; the guy went to college at Harvard! Zeke is smart and won’t be taken seriously by his tribe. The trick will be still finding a way to be valuable while seeming unthreatening. I’m unsure of whether Zeke can do both, and he will probably crash and burn at some point. But it’s going to be a great ride.

Sarah: Zeke’s brief stint as Rob Has A Gay Correspondent predates all of us, so unlike Nick we don’t have any personal attachment, but I am always going to have solidarity for any contestant who has blogged Survivor, whether for RHAP or elsewhere. He’s also unique in that we can get a taste of him in action: Survivor Brooklyn. While Zeke claims that there is no sense in coming to play Survivor quietly, in Survivor Brooklyn, he advocated for keeping under the radar and was closely allied with Sophie Clarke, who is living proof that small moves work better than big ones. Has he changed his mind in the years since Brooklyn, or is he simply saying stuff for the cameras? Personally, I’m in agreement with Christine that Zeke will know when to tone it down.

Zeke does have tremendous potential as a player. He was raised in rural Oklahoma, but lives in Brooklyn, so he can identify with either the country or the city folk. He’s a gay religious scholar, so he can handle the religious streak in this cast, including any who might struggle with his sexuality. He works in finance, so he knows a thing or two about being cut throat, while his debating and improv experience should come in handy. And I love the idea he floated with Josh Wigler where if he finds an idol, he creates a fake one for his ally to find so they’re working with the same information.

Basically, Zeke’s got the chops to handle his tribe of misfits, and as one of the oldest on his tribe, he has no excuse not to get himself into a strong position from the outset. Whether he follows Sophie’s example or fulfills his promise to play like Tony, he’s going to have a massive impact on this game. I don’t know if Zeke can win, but I fully expect the winner to come from Zeke’s alliance.

Vanua — The Gen-X Tribe

Survivor 33 BretBret Labelle

Michel: Bret’s a big fan of the show and he wants to use his training as a police officer to detect the liars. He’s already passing judgment on the other players’ appearance, which could be a problem if he winds up needing them as allies. I think Bret will do well in the early portion of the game, but he may get in trouble in the merger.

Catherine: I think that this is the perfect season for Bret. He’s with a group of people that he should fit in well with here. The Gen-X tribe members are people who value hard work and integrity. And I think that Bret is going to feel right at home. I can see him easily fitting into alliances, where he is valued not only for his physical strength, but also for his honest persona. This guy comes across as someone that can be trusted.

Bret does seem to have a glaring weakness in his game — and that is working with people who are not like him. He worries that he is going to have to deal with weirdos on the island, and a lot of these people proudly identify themselves as more than a little weird. Bret is going to struggle with some of the social politics of the game. More importantly, he is an obvious threat, and if the Gen-X tribe find themselves down in the numbers, Bret isn’t going to be able to go under the radar. He’s an obvious target for the Millennials, and for that reason I think that Bret is going to be in trouble when the merge comes.

Scott: I feel like we always see a “Bret” in Survivor, the old school man’s man that always struggles to deal with people different then themselves. You can already see Bret getting hostile at camp when someone isn’t pulling their weight with getting firewood. This could lead to Bret trying to rally people to get that person out, only that person he’s targeting being a better social player then Bret, which then leads to Brett getting blindsided at Tribal. I feel like I’ve seen this movie over and over again.

Christine: I agree with everyone, especially Scott. We’ve seen this player before. There is a bit of Boston Rob, Tony, Mike Holloway, and Rodney in this guy. While this may look good on paper considering three out of four are winners and Rodney made the merge, it will not translate into a win or even perhaps the merge depending on how the swap pans out.

Bret seems to have assessed his cast mates based on how they look. And guess what? So have I — and from him, I expect tears, drama, and lots of bravado. Bret will be a loyal ally and a liability all wrapped into one.

Dan: Bret seems like a regular guy that’s really excited to play Survivor. He should be at the core of the majority alliance on Takali. Unlike a guy like Chris, Bret doesn’t seem to take himself so seriously. That means he’ll have a better shot to connect with the Millennials after a swap. I think Catherine brings up what could be a possible weakness for Bret. Will he be flexible enough to work with players that are way outside his comfort zone? If he can overcome that hurdle, I can see good things in Bret’s future.

Sarah: Bret’s one of several people this season who I can’t get a good feel for, but I’m probably leaning more towards Dan’s take than anybody else’s. I think not taking himself too seriously is going to be the key to his fortunes. If Bret’s willing to lay back and have fun with it, he should fare better (and be much more enjoyable to watch!) than if he takes a more tense and straight-laced approach. The Penner comparison in his bio gives me hope that Bret will be a net positive in this game–unfortunately for Bret, it might also be a good indicator of his final placement. I don’t think he’s got the wherewithal to avoid becoming that mid-jury target.

Survivor 33 ChrisChris Hammons

Catherine: Let me get one thing completely straight for you. Chris Hammons isn’t one of those wimpy non-leader types. No way. He’s the type of guy to hit the ground running. He’s a man’s man, you know. Men just seem to gravitate towards him. So on day one, he’s going to find three other guys, form an alliance, and bro down. This tried and proven strategy will obviously take Chris right to the end, where he will be handed the million dollars…right?

Unfortunately for Chris, I don’t think this tribe is built for his preferred game style. I don’t think Paul is going to want to fall into line behind Chris’ leadership. I don’t know how much patience Chris is going to have for someone like Ken. In short, I don’t think the all-guy alliance is going to happen. Ultimately, I think that Chris is safe until the tribe swap, and then he might have to start scrambling. He is an athlete, and his tribe is going to need his obvious strength. Also working in his favor is that Chris is a fan of the show. He’s never missed an episode. And according to his bio, he also has a medicine pouch that has been blessed with love and caring.

Although Chris sees himself as most like Boston Rob, I see him as more of an Andrew Savage. I think that he will probably end up with the same fate in the game and be an early jury boot.

Scott: I agree that Chris is not a real threat to win this season. He just strikes me as the guy that is going to get into a stupid conflict, or play a bad joke to the wrong person that would ultimately lead to him being voted out early in the game. I think it’s better for big, athletic guys to not try and force themselves into the leadership role, because I think nerdy….whoops I mean cerebral Survivor players are already going to be looking for any reason whatsoever to 86 the more alpha males in the game. The play for Chris would be to try and lay low at camp, don’t ruffle any feathers, just be a workhorse early on, build some trust with people, and make it to the merge. I’m not sure if Chris is capable of that, though.

Christine: I have a totally different read on Chris. He has overcome huge obstacles in having to raise himself at 14 years of age, and he identifies himself as both a nerd and a jock. I don’t think he is going to actively seek alpha males, but he mentioned that they gravitate to him. Instead, he is looking to bring in the outcasts and make them feel welcome. One of the males on the Millennials tribe has already identified Chris as someone he would want to work with in the game. Chris has that reliable presence that quirky Paul is lacking.

I think his skills as an attorney and his life experience in which his involvement in sports was more for routine than for notoriety will serve his social game well. Well, now I’ve heard the end of the video in which he says he will have no trouble telling people when they’ve crossed the line and that spells pre-merge boot.

Dan: There are few people more self-righteous than lawyers with a chip on their shoulder. I have some experience in this arena. This doesn’t mean Chris is a bad guy, but I get the sense he is one of the players that believes he’s better than the others. The understated way in which Chris talks about being a leader shows that he isn’t outwardly arrogant. My question is what will happen when the cards turn against Chris. We saw last season with Scot that it’s easy to be humble when you’re winning. Once the tide turned, his behavior was less gracious. If Chris finds the right allies, he could run the show in the pre-merge game. I think he’ll make the merge but will stumble when leaders usually fall. Catherine’s Andrew Savage connection should be accurate.

Sarah: Hello, merge boot!

I’m in agreement with the majority here. Chris is a nice guy, who has overcome some incredible odds and deserves his kudos for it — but equally, he’s a guy who isn’t used to failure and who fully subscribes to the theory that you can overcome anything if you only work hard enough. In his Gordon Holmes interview, when asked how he’ll deal with the starvation, he says he’ll find something to eat: “I don’t think enough people try hard enough.

I’m curious to how this “natural leader” will handle being in the younger half of his tribe, but so many people have already noticed him in the pre-game, pegging him as an NFL guy, that I think the older players will be comfortable letting him take on that target, and he’ll probably become a respected figure in the game. But like the Andrew Savages of this world, I don’t see him thinking outside of the box, and therefore, he’ll be easily disposed of as soon as the merge hits. Just as well, because his moralizing is likely to make for extremely tedious TV.

Michel: Interestingly, the 2nd lawyer in the Gen-X tribe also grew up in a rural community.  Unlike Jessica, I felt immediate antipathy for this guy. His smugness and his snarly expression caused an immediate negative reaction as a viewer, and I’d be ready to bet that he is the jerk that Rachel mentioned. Chris, despite his strength, should be an early boot because he gives off a really bad first impression and seems intent on being a leader. He does mention that Paul made a good impression on him, but will it be mutual?

CeCe Survivor 33Ciandre “CeCe” Taylor

Catherine: CeCe is one of the cast members that I really don’t have a good feel for. A lot of the Gen-X tribe members speak about the same kind of things in their bios — they come from a tough background. They had to become independent from an early age. They know the value of hard work. CeCe says all of these things in her cast video. This speaks well to her fitting in with her tribe. However, she doesn’t say anything to make her stand out. On a tribe with so many neat ladies, CeCe is going to have a lot of friends.

Like a lot of the people on this season, she mentions her Christian faith in her bio. Again, this makes me think that she is going to have no trouble with her social game. Also, she plays with a frog in her video, and I thought that was fun.

One thing that does worry me about CeCe is that most of the other women in her tribe look to be obviously strong — and CeCe does not. I think that the Gen-X tribe is probably going to lose more challenges than the Millennials, and CeCe’s challenge performances might make her an easy boot.

Scott: CeCe is a tough read. There were moments in her intro video that made me think that potentially she could be the type of social player that ends up in the finals at the end. If we go with the assumption that she may not be as strong as some of her other tribe members, her fate lies with how the rest of her team wants to play it. In some seasons, the tribe decides strictly to vote out the weakest competition player, and in others they just go for a big threat that they want to take out right away.

If CeCe can survive a couple tribals, I could see her deep into this season. I guess I am buying stock in CeCe. I think she will show an ability to connect with other players and avoid an early boot (Fast forward to the first episode when CeCe is the one that inevitably drops her swimming googles into the bottom of the ocean in the first immunity challenge that costs her team the win, and then she is voted out unanimously).

Christine: I agree with Scott that if CeCe can make it past the first few Tribal Councils, then she could make the merge. She has a lot to offer, and I think she will survive being an early boot because she does not seem to take herself so seriously, or at least the personality we met does not. I like that she can joke about her ex saying she has multiple personalities and be okay with it, so her strong sense of humor should help her social game. Like Chris, she has a strong work ethic and seems to be able to adjust to those around her. She is one of my favorites right now. After the first episode, I could easily be singing a different tune if her faith becomes her dominant personality.

Dan: I don’t get a winner vibe from CeCe, but there also aren’t a lot of warning signs. Scott correctly points out that she could go far if she makes it past the initial carnage. If the Gen-X tribe loses the first challenge and wants to look at challenge strength, they’re more likely to target Sunday (or possibly Paul) before CeCe. So much will depend on how she connects with her tribe in the first few days. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and seems humble, and both those traits will be needed with the older group. Despite her “multiple personalities”, CeCe should be a stable presence on her tribe.

Sarah: The B-Roll producers for these cast videos have a lot to answer for, so CeCe won my eternal adoration when she went off script and caught a frog. Unfortunately, I don’t think my eternal adoration is going to last too long. I am much more pessimistic about CeCe’s chances than the others. It’s not that I disagree with what everybody’s saying about her social potential, but she’s the odd one out in her circumstances. CeCe is somebody who knows that you can work hard, be employed since you were fourteen, and dedicate yourself to your family…and still end up as a single mother struggling to make ends meet. It’s not that CeCe isn’t a success story in her own way, but the high flying Gen-Xers might not respect her for it while she might struggle to sympathize with the more Bohemian group.

A good player can get past that, but the other thing stacked against CeCe is that she looks like one of the weakest players challenge wise, so she is basically in competition with Sunday for the honor of first boot, unless she lucks out with an early challenge that plays to her strengths — or can put her frog-catching skills to feeding her tribe. Realistically, I think she’s gone pre-swap.

Michel: Like many others, CeCe mentions that she had a hard childhood. I wonder if this will play out in the alliances that are formed. For now, what I can say is that I enjoyed CeCe’s video. For some reason, she reminded me of an edgier version of Cirie. Will the audience fall in love with the insurance agent the way they did with the nurse? I doubt it, but maybe Cece will make her own mark. I can see her clash with Chris so that she’d form a group to get him out. Now that would be fun.

I don’t know what to make of the little segment where we see her chasing a frog. It seemed to tell us that she would be going around after the wrong target but then we saw her catch the critter, so maybe CeCe can put her hands on the prize. I only give her an outside chance though, especially considering the frog escaped in the end! Last season, we had a player telling us that she had multiple personas but we never really saw them coming out. This time, CeCe says it’s her ex-husband that thinks she has different personalities, so maybe we’ll have more luck this time.

David Survivor 33David Wright

Catherine: David lists John Cochran as the player he is most like. And after watching him speak for less than two minutes, I think he is spot on. He is very, very Cochran like. He is uncomfortable in the outdoors. He is uncomfortable in social situations. He is obviously intelligent. He is extremely self-depreciating. But above all else, he’s a fan of the game. He loves the show, and he is delighted to be a part of it.

The question really is: which version of Cochran will David end up emulating? It could go either way. His paranoia and neuroses could see David struggle to fit into his tribe, and become nothing more than somebody’s pawn. However, in his video he comes across as funny and engaging. Perhaps his self-confessed problem with people won’t end up being such an issue after all. I can see him becoming the hub of the tribe, and he could even do what took Cochran two attempts, and win the whole game.

I am assuming that David’s preparation for the show, which included 3D printing of the puzzles, will make him an asset in the challenges. I think David is going to make a deep run into the season, and I’m interested to see whether he ends up in the role of the king or the pawn.

Scott: I feel like the David’s of the new Survivor world are the new chic, en-vogue thing: the super fan that identifies as a nerd. I think it’s starting to get a little played out honestly. David may turn out to be an authentic and nice guy, but it feels like they are casting the same character now every season. I guess that trend really isn’t that uncommon on Survivor or any reality show, but it makes it harder and harder to truly root for them.

David seems likable enough, and if he truly is a die-hard fan of the show then I do hope he gets the experience he is looking for here. I will say as someone who fears raccoons that I did feel a natural kinship with David; raccoons are so creepy with the way they walk, how they can use their hands, and the sounds they make — I’m not a big fan. I think David obviously has a chance to make it far in the game because I don’t think he will be seen as a threat, unless the game has evolved so far that now the big fans, the nerds of the game become the targets instead of the big physical threats. I still don’t think were quite there yet, but we are moving closer to that reality.

Christine: David’s OCD should be hilarious to watch. He is already freaking out about not having hand sanitizer! I really want David to go far because he will be a fun narrator. Since he has written for Family Guy, I wonder how well he will do surrounded by Christians, some of whom will have their faith in the forefront. I suppose as long as they don’t hug him, he’ll be fine. He’s already sizing up his cast mates and said one reminded him of Russell Hantz — it must be Chris. I’m curious to see if he aligns with “Russell” or targets him.

Dan: Every time I drafted David Wright on my fantasy baseball team, he always let me down. This David Wright has a better chance to do well on Survivor; he also should be a lot more engaging than the Mets player (sorry Rob!). I disagree with Scott that we’ve seen too many of David’s character type. Compared to alpha males or young beefcakes, the dorkier guys are still way in the minority. My feelings also probably relate to which players connect with my thoughts on the game. I might be a little tougher than David, but I still prefer the fast-talking thinker.

How can I dislike a guy who lists Mr. Spock as his inspiration? David is a TV writer and probably ill-equipped to succeed on the island, however. This could lead to two potential roads for David’s game. He could stand out to guys like Chris as weak and suffer the consequences. The other possibility is that the others will underestimate David and enjoy his personality. So much depends on those first few days on the island. I’m hopeful that David can make the right bonds and not get too wrapped up in his fandom. He seems like a fun guy to have on the show, and I hope we see him for a while.

Sarah: I go back and forth on David. I like the fact that we’ve got an older nerdy guy, but how does a Cochran in his 40s fare on Survivor? There are no obvious allies on his tribe, but beta males tend to be a useful commodity in an alliance, and if he is as good at puzzles as he claims, he’s going to be vital to the Gen-Xer’s success. Going deeper into the game, there are a few millennials that look like a great fit for him (most notably Hannah), but it’s harder to see how he’ll gel with the others.

The real question is how consciously self-deprecating he’s being. At 42, he should have a fair degree of self-confidence, and self-confidence behind self-deprecation is often a good mix for the social game. However, if he is genuinely scared about leaving his comfort zone, he’s going to end up annoying any tribe. Either way, I have high expectations for his confessionals for as long as he’s in the game.

Michel: Didn’t we see this story already? The two seasons with Cochran are at the very bottom of my list of favorites, and this Cochran rerun already practically put me to sleep. Yes, he’s nerdy and he tries to be funny but it simply doesn’t work for me. I’m really hoping that there is a bully in the Gen-X tribe and that he sends David right to Loser Lodge. Come on, Chris: Do me this favor before getting yourself voted out.

Survivor 33 JessicaJessica Lewis

Scott: Jessica looks really intense in that video. Like a little hint of Charlize Theron in Monster look in her eyes. Anyways, let’s talk about my initial reaction to her and how she will do in the game. I feel like someone working in the D.A.’s office is going to be someone that is used to having the deck stacked in their favor, and over time that breeds entitlement and snotty attitudes, both traits not great for a Survivor player. So the question becomes if you agree with me is whether there is a “work” Jessica and an “outside work” Jessica, where the outside-work Jessica being able to work and play well with others.

Jessica’s is the first video I have watched, so it’s tough to get a read for how she will do in the game without seeing the other videos. Based on what I have seen, I would guess that Jessica will try to be a leader on her tribe. Will the others follow? Will she, because of her day-job, expect to be respected off the bat? I think if Jessica can use her intelligence parlayed with a subtle social game she could potentially be a force. TBD though.

Christine: I really didn’t get a good vibe from her, Scott. At first glance, she appears to be a very savvy woman who balances her career and family, yet she’s a lawyer and they do not tend to fare so well as winners on Survivor. I do not see a bright future for her, especially when the Millennials enter the picture.

Her pet peeve is “people who blame others for their own misery.” This links to one of my pet peeves: people who blame people who blame others for their own misery. Sure, in the bourgeois sense, your marks are a measure of your understanding, not saving for a rainy day could be why you have problems now and how you treat others comes back to bite you, but some people have the odds stacked against them from birth, and they end up blaming others. In some places, students have teachers who do not believe in them or care about teaching, there is no chance for saving, and bigots and bullies are to blame, but I’m sure she meant people on Survivor. Oh yeah, that pertains to Survivor, too. If Cece is the first boot, then we can tick that box, but of course, Jessica will blame Cece.

I do not feel like I know her other than she is an attorney and that she lives by ideals and worked hard for everything she has. She claims her life is “unconventional” in that she grew up on a dairy farm and she had a child her first year of law school. Sorry, it is not traditional for her career path, but as a Gen-Xer, she seems sheltered if she thinks that is unconventional. But I suppose she grew up post-Grunge and thought Ace of Base was edgy. Even on her own tribe, Rachel, Paul and Ken have her beat at the unconventional game. She won’t survive, but she might scrape by for a while.

Dan: Jessica has accomplished quite a lot in her life, and it’s easy to respect her achievements. It’s easy to see that she’s a tough competitor and brings that approach to the court room. That intensity could help with the challenges and tough conditions, but it could alienate other members of her tribe. So much depends of the tenor of the camp in her tribe. Even the Blue Collar tribe on Worlds Apart didn’t love Mike’s serious style. I’m not as down on Jessica as Christine and think she might have the right style of the Gen-X group. The real questions will come after a swap when she joins up with the Milennials. I’m not sure this cast is a group that will bring out the best in Jessica. Still, I think she’ll make an impact.

Sarah: I am much higher on Jessica than the others, but then, if I have a Survivor type, it’s the lawyer Mom. Oh, true, anybody who manages to get through law school while having babies is going to inspire simultaneous admiration and seething resentment (this is coming from somebody who had to take maternity leave from a weekly Survivor blog), but she cites both Cirie and Labyrinth in her bio, so we’re good. Besides, while Jessica is clearly a different personality again from Deena and Kass, she’s going to have a very similar skillset and drive for the game. Plus she used to show cows! Maybe she’ll develop a feud with Bret that sets him mooing.

Her farming background has given her tenacity, while her legal experience should have given her an insight into different sides of society (unlike Christine, I think she’ll be able to sympathize with CeCe); she’s not an obvious athlete, but her B-roll shows she can do a handstand, which should mean she’s got enough physical strength and agility to hold her own in challenges. She assures Gordon Holmes that she’s already used to the deprivations of hunger and fatigue. And at the same time, she’s a very neutral character on the tribe, who she can bond with the other mothers and work with the lawyer (Chris) and police officer (Bret) who will be vying for the tribe’s alpha male slot.

I can’t see any reason for another tribemate having a problem with Jessica, provided she can settle for being a calm source of support at first — and even such aggressive gamers as Deena and Kass were able to play a supporting role in the early episodes. I don’t think Jessica is going to be an early boot, and I think she stands a good chance of making herself strong alliances throughout the tribe, which will secure her come the inevitable tribe swap. Historical precedent suggests she’ll then overplay her hand, but whether she can learn from the mistakes of her predecessors or not, I agree with Dan that she’ll have a big impact in the game.

Michel: OK, now that Sarah has given hope to all the fans of lawyer mom, it’s time to get you back down to earth. Jessica is one of the few White Collar people in this game, and her personality will rub the Blue Collars of her tribe the wrong way. What could help her is that she looks younger than her age, that she grew up on a farm and the big tattoo on her back doesn’t exactly say “Attorney”. That would be good if Jessica could stay mostly quiet and listen to the others, but I have the impression she will want to take charge. I found it refreshing that she took the opposite approach to most mothers we’ve seen on the show: She is out there focusing on herself, not doing it for her family. Now that’s an individual game, but will she be able to carry it out? How long before she cracks and starts missing her life back home? I really don’t have a good feeling about Jessica. In fact, if the first boot isn’t Sunday (and the game calendar tells us that the first Tribal Council was on a Wednesday!) then I’d put a back-up bet on Jessica.

Catherine: To be honest, at the moment, CeCe, Lucy and Jessica are pretty much interchangeable to me. Nothing about their bios stood out at all. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be CeCe, purely because of her weird frog moves in the CBS video. The three of them are nice women, all around the same age, and all very much hard workers. They all seem like neat ladies, but perhaps Jessica is the neatest lady of all. She’s looking forward to this time because she can just focus on Jessica. Jessica’s been focusing on everyone else for too long, and this is her time.

This makes me worry that Jessica might be happy to be out there for the experience, and if that’s the case, I don’t think she’ll last long. I think she’ll be out early, but I will qualify that prediction by saying that she is also the person who has the potential to surprise me the most, purely because I feel like I know the least about her.

Survivor 33 KenKen McNickle

Scott: Is there any chance his real name is Ken McNickle? I say no. Anyways, I think Ken will win the award for “Most irrationally hated by every player in the game within the first three minute of the first episode”. He just looks like someone that everybody is going to have a bad first impression of at the start. I like how he shoehorned the “My daughter asked me if this means we will be able to help more homeless people” story into his intro here. So we know Ken is going to be very dramatic, and I can already see the scene in one of these episodes where things are going rough, where Ken during a confessional tells us that he wants to quit but he can’t because he’s doing it for his daughter. Yes I’m being cynical, but tell me I’m wrong and we won’t see that scene this year!

Now with all that said, maybe Ken has the ability to be a good social Survivor player. I doubt it, but let’s look at the glass as half full here. Maybe Ken can avoid being an obvious target for the rest of the players early on and get himself into a power alliance and coast deep into the game…maybe? Gun to my head though, I would guess that Ken fair or not fair gets targeted early by smarter people who are looking for any reason to vote anybody out early on in the game and he will go quietly. I say Ken gets the boot somewhere between Episodes 3-6.

Christine: My first impression of Ken is that he is the love child of Jeremiah Woods, Reynold, and Nick Maiorano; he has Nick’s on-camera demeanor, Jeremiah’s model intellect, and Reynold’s hedonism. I was intrigued when he said he lived off the grid in Hawaii and collected water because he does not fit the stereotype, so he may have more substance than first meets the eye. Let’s hope so.

His love for his daughter is endearing but if that is all he can talk about then it will become grating. I don’t know if Ken got the memo, but most people love their children; some even have more than one. Crazy, isn’t it? Like Scott, I became cynical when he was tearing up as he told the story of how his daughter wanted to help “other homeless.” It is sweet that she thinks of others, as most four-year-olds do unbeknownst to Ken, but it made me think that his “sustainable” lifestyle means he was homeless. It all makes sense now and if he is the first one to propose slaughtering a chicken then nothing will convince me otherwise. Is that what broke guys are calling having electricity cut off these days…sustainability?

I have mixed feelings. Ken will make the swap, but then his problems will begin. Ken will be spooning with Rachel for warmth at night, and like Nick and Michele, they will probably “date” on social media after this season, too.

Dan: Ken seems destined to be the guy who doesn’t want to work on the shelter or get firewood. He’s just hanging out and loving the simple things in life, right? People like Chris and Jessica are not going to find much to like with Ken. He loves his daughter, and that’s great! Still, he feels like a one-note character to me. The fact that he chose Ozzy in his bio is so fitting. Ozzy was a guy who always thought he was more intriguing than he actually was. I’m glad that Ken has found love with his daughter, but he still gives off a strange vibe.

One positive for Ken’s survival is the fact that he’s only 33 years old. He’s on the young side of the older tribe and may be able to connect better with the Millennials. If he doesn’t get on the wrong side of his starting tribe, Ken might find a path deep into the game. I don’t believe he’s an expert on the show, and that’s okay. Still, he may be in over his head with the game intensifies following the merge. I think a blindside is coming for him around mid-season.

Sarah: Scott nailed it right off the bat. Ken actually reminds me of Shane — not the nicotine withdrawal craziness, but as a single Dad whose life revolves around his child and the intense moral philosophizing. Of course, without the nicotine withdrawal craziness, is Ken going to be anywhere near as entertaining?

Or can he hope to be as involved in the gameplay? Ken’s four years younger than anybody else on his tribe and feels like he has more in common with the millennials. It’s much easier to imagine him bro-ing down with Taylor or discussing how to save the homeless with Adam. Fortunately, all that island experience in Hawaii should mean he’s going to be an asset in challenges and possibly camp life as well, so he should stick around for a long time. Exactly how long depends on whether he turns out to be a loose cannon or a manageable ally, and I could see it going either way. Still, all I really ask from Ken is that he embarks on a misguided and tempestuous showmance with Michelle en route.

Michel: Like Christine, I saw a resemblance between the male model and our Nick but I don’t see the same wit at all. In fact, his monotone voice made his presentation video extremely boring. Hopefully the game brings out his personality a bit but we usually see the opposite. His daughter changed his life and he wants to do this for her, but I don’t think he has what it takes.

Catherine: I’m glad others noticed the resemblance that Ken has to Nick Maiorano because it was literally all I was thinking when I was watching his CBS video. He looks exactly like Nick, and I expect that we’ll see a similar edit happen. Ken will probably think that he is in a great spot in the game, and then end up blindsided, probably early in the game.

Ken’s actually starting this game at quite a disadvantage. At 33, he’s more of a Millennial than a Gen-Xer, and I think he’s going to struggle to fit into his tribe. He’s wandering around in his underwear talking about how wonderful his life is, and I don’t think that is going to work here. I think Rachel will probably appreciate Ken, but I don’t see where else he finds a friend.

Conventional wisdom says that he will be kept around because of his challenge strength (and he does seem to be in fantastic shape), but conventional wisdom doesn’t work in new school Survivor. Vytas was the first boot of Cambodia. Last season, Darnell got the boot ahead of Alecia, who was clearly the weakest member of the Brawn tribe on Kaoh Rong. Physical strength doesn’t keep you safe anymore. I think Ken is out pre-merge.

Survivor 33 LucyLucy Huang

Scott: Lucy to me has the look of someone that goes really far in the game, but that you never at any point during the season think they have any chance to win. Like Lucy is going to be a supporting character this season, but will never be the lead. You would have to guess based on the fact that she is a health nut and in great shape that she will be great early on for competitions. If the early season trend of voting out the weakest players in competitions continues, then Lucy will probably be in good shape. If that is the case, it’s on Lucy to pick the right alliance to be a part of that will help get her to the back stretch of the game.

Overall, I don’t think Lucy is awful; she seems like a good person and will probably be likable, so who knows maybe she can go far this season? I just don’t see her winning the game, but hell, there can only be one winner anyways, so good luck Lucy!

Christine: Unlike Scott, I do not see Lucy making the merge. She describes herself as shy with Gordon Holmes but bossy with Josh Wigler and she admires the gameplay of Cydney, so I can see those two attributes merging successfully. She’s okay with lying and flirting to get ahead. I think she will be fine but could run into problems at a swap if she is in a minority situation with the Millennials or if some of the extroverted Millennials join her tribe simply because she does not stand out socially. Cydney was quiet, but her personality shone through. I think Lucy will be out before the merge.

Dan: Apparently I’m not as bothered by participation trophies as Lucy and others. Her bio and video is really selling the idea that young people aren’t as tough. I could have sworn that Gen X fit that mold too at one point. Regardless, Lucy appears physically strong and should be an asset in challenges. When Takeli starts losing challenges early, they won’t consider her as the obvious target. That’s assuming that physical strength is the main concern. Lucy calls herself stubborn and controlling in her bio, and I do appreciate when someone is actually honest. The question is whether she’ll have the nuanced approach needed to navigate the game. Her pre-game info is so one-note, so I’m hoping there’s a lot more there for Lucy.

Sarah: Actually, I quite like Lucy. I mean, obviously I have to get past the fact that she’s a business woman, mother of four, and a professional bodybuilder (freaking over-achiever) but she seems smart and to have a good idea of what to do in the game…in theory. I’m not sure how she’ll be received in practice. The other players might look at Chris and Bret and think: “Alpha Male.” They’ll look at Lucy (even if she’s saying and doing the exact same things) and think: “Tiger Mom.” Nobody ever incorporated the latter into their Survivor strategy.

She’s easily the physically strongest woman on her tribe, so she should be secure with the Gen-Xers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she earns the respect of many of them. However, I doubt she’ll be sympathetic enough to the alternative lifestyle set like Paul, Rachel, and Ken to forge strong enough bonds to see her safely through a swap. I hope I’m wrong, because I do like a good alpha female, but my money’s on her running afoul of a Millennial majority before the merge hits.

Michel: Lucy, as a 42-year-old body builder and mother of four, is one of the few interesting characters in the Gen-X bunch. Like Paul, she mentioned the difference between the generations and how life experience and hard work should help her age group. She has a relaxed attitude, which could help her integrate the group. I don’t have much hope of seeing Lucy win, but she should be around for a while.

Catherine: Lucy is obviously physically strong — she’s a bodybuilder, and her body is out of this world amazing. Physically strong women are really valuable in the tribal phase of the game, and so perhaps she will be okay, at least until the tribe swap.

As Dan noted, her bio is quite one-note. If it wasn’t for her muscles, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell her apart from the other women on her tribe. The Gen-X women seem remarkably similar. They all emphasize the value of hard work. They all have stories of overcoming and succeeding despite the odds. Most are mothers.  The similarities between the women might lead to a strong alliance, but I think that if the Millennial tribe lose as many challenges as I think they will, then the women won’t be able to vote the men out. They’ll have to turn on each other.

My prediction for Lucy is that she’ll make the merge, but be out early jury. I think that the Millennial tribe are going to be in the position of power in this game, and I don’t know if Lucy is going to be able to adapt her game, and fit in with the younger players.

Survivor 33 PaulPaul Wachter

Christine: What do David Lee Roth and Paul Wachter have in common? They are both front men with graying tresses, and they happen to share the same birthday. Paul exudes friendliness and has already made a good first impression on some of the other contestants, which should get him off to a strong start. He strikes me as the person who will narrate the Gen X ethos of being unconventional and a bit wary.

Paul claims his band can play pretty much any rock song, which means he’s adaptable. The fact that he hunts for watches with his children shows he is eccentric and a bit of a pirate. (If it turns out that his children are in their twenties, then it makes him somewhat awesome.) One of his hobbies is spearfishing, and the survivor he identifies with is Ozzy because he has “the heart of a lion.” Screech! I fear he will turn out to be another Rupert or have Ozzy’s social skills — and perhaps he will since he claims in his interview with Josh Wigler that “the game is 80% mental and 20% physical”. I hope he will not compare it to camping.

Paul seems like a very sociable guy, but by failing to mention an awareness of the social aspect of the game, I do not think he will win. He likes to talk a lot, which could be perceived as charming in his case since his smile is infectious, or he could rub his tribemates the wrong way. We all know what happened to Diamond Dave eventually.

Dan: Paul is definitely one of the standout characters in the pre-game portion; he doesn’t resemble your typical Survivor player. He seems like a fun guy to sit down and have a beer with, but I’m not sure he’d be a great 24-hour companion. A guy who compares talking to breathing may be a little much to take at camp. I’m sad to say it, but I don’t see Paul going that far in this game. He’s older and an independent guy, and it doesn’t take much to become the first victim. I don’t think he’ll be the first boot, but I can see a Jeff Varner-like experience for Paul. He’ll get a lot of screen time and leave quite an impression but won’t go beyond 4-5 episodes. I would love to see his band do a four-hour set and love that he was cast, but Paul has an uphill climb.

Sarah: The oldest person on this cast, Paul’s great fun on paper and in video, but as the others have suggested, he might be less so to live with. He’s too out there for the rest of his tribe to take him seriously, so he won’t be taking a leadership role, but his interviews and bio don’t give me hope that he can follow another’s lead gracefully. That said, if he can make it to the tribe swap, I could see the millennial misfits gladly rallying around him, and that could carry him deep into the game, though I think the youngsters will cut him loose well before the end.

Paul assures us he’s physically strong, so that might keep him around until the swap, and if so, I’d predict a mid-jury finish. However, if he does start butting heads with the likes of Chris and Bret, then he might be destined for an earlier exit than any of us want.

Michel: By saying that he doesn’t come from the era where everyone gets a trophy, Paul addresses the central theme of the season. I’m sure others mentioned the age difference between the players even if they didn’t know yet they would be split along that great divide but since it was Paul’s segment that was chosen both in Probst’s presentation video and in Paul’s own version, I think there’s a chance that Paul will be a narrator this season. How lucky would production be to have such a motor-mouth narrating the season!

What I took most out of his video that the other bloggers have yet to mention is that Paul completely changed his life five years ago. He was a business owner before becoming this pirate rock band singer so he has many facets to his personality and that could help him bond with both the blue collars in his tribe and the “No Collars” if he makes it to the swap. Yes, his big personality can get him in trouble but I see Paul making it far, maybe even as the last Gen-X member standing. The only drawback I have with Paul is that there have been too many Paul and Paulie’s in my reality TV diet lately. Why couldn’t he have a nickname?

Catherine: One line from Paul’s video stood out for me. While talking about himself, he said that “getting me to shut up is the hardest thing to do”. While that sounds like a dream come true if you are producing the television show, it doesn’t sound great to live with.

Throughout Paul’s bio and interviews, the comparisons to Rupert seemed obvious. He’s a big, intimidating guy, but he insists that underneath it all, he’s nothing more than a teddy bear. He even goes so far as to call himself a pirate — he and his children apparently scour beaches looking for treasure that drunk party goers have accidentally discarded. Rupert has always been kept around for his value in challenges and around camp (and I think Paul will be an asset here too), and also because you can count on Rupert as a loyal vote. Can the Gen-Xers count on Paul’s loyalty? If he is seen as a loyal vote, then Paul will be kept around. People who really do play with honesty and integrity are a rare breed. I think Paul will make a fantastic ally — he’ll be fiercely loyal, and get no votes at the end. I’d be trying to work with him.

Scott: Wow, he looks like Big John Stud — the wrestler from the ‘80s. I feel compared to everybody else here that I’m somewhere in the middle on Paul. To me it’s clear that he is going to annoy people and probably have one or two clashes where one of the younger girls gets pissed at Paul for trying to call the shots around camp. To me, though, the Pauls of the Survivor universe always seem to stick around to at least the jury portion of the game, and that is where I see Paul ending up here. I don’t think there is a chance in hell that he can win the game, but I can definitely see him being a part of the majority alliance that controls the game. Then, when it’s his time to go, he will go and probably be a candidate for “Most Hostile Jury Member” for this season.

Survivor 33 RachelRachel Ako

Christine: My first impression is that she’s very perky. She seems really upbeat, perhaps too upbeat, and her quote that sexiness comes from within is abundantly clear. She seems very likable, but she could be perceived as annoying or marginalized by her tribe based on her looks, yet she compares herself to Natalie Bolton and Yve Rojas, two women with more to offer than just looks. Hopefully, she will be underestimated and go far.

Given the composition of her tribe, she should make the swap and the merge as well.

Rachel’s backstory of losing her two sisters in horrible tragedies gives her a sympathetic story for a jury and probably adds some depth to the character she showed us in her video. I like her. Something about her reminds me of an exuberant Tracey Hughes-Wolf, and like Tracey, she seems compassionate, competent and resilient.

Dan: Christine’s use of “perky” to describe Rachel is extremely accurate. She’s the type of person who leans forward into the camera and seems a little too excited by the pre-game interview. In her CBS bio, Rachel doesn’t cite any other players and says she’s like herself. This is unfortunate for me. That point may be true; Rachel does seem authentic and unique. On the other hand, it makes me question if she’s really seen the show. Christine mentions that Rachel cited Natalie and Yve in another interview, so I’m probably reading too much into it. It’s tough to assess Rachel’s changes because we know nothing of how she’ll really play. I suspect she’ll be direct and tell people when they annoy her. Abi-Maria showed how that type of approach could keep her in the game for a long time. Rachel might also bug some people but still not be the giant target everyone’s targeting. On a tribe with Sunday and Paul, I think Rachel will survive and still be around by the swap and possibly the merge.

Sarah: Like the others, I’m struck by Rachel’s energy, yet I find her hard to pin down. A former playmate and contributor to a self-help anthology seems like a poor fit for Survivor, but I get the feeling there’s a real intelligence behind Rachel’s smile. Of course, intelligence isn’t going to help much if she can’t fit in with her tribe. I believe she’s one of only three Gen-Xers not to have kids and the only woman there who isn’t a mother. Perhaps this could aid her in a showmance, or perhaps that alone will be enough to cause paranoia among her more sedate tribemates. Even if she makes it to a tribe swap, I’m not entirely sure where she’ll fit in.

Still, Rachel’s appealing, and if I can’t figure out how she’ll do, that’s all the more motivation for me to watch her!

Michel: I have a game for you. Guess if Rachel had more plastic surgeries BEFORE or SINCE she posed for Playboy. I see a nose job, eye-lid surgery, a tummy tuck, a face lift, lips and ass augmentation and at least two boob jobs. Needless to say; I feel that Rachel comes off fake. Maybe you’ll call me Paulie but I’m not trying to win a social game just giving my impressions of videos from total strangers.  he only other thing that interested me in Rachel’s video, except for browsing the Internet to find those Playboy pictures, was a mention about a guy being a jerk. Unfortunately, in the short version that I saw, she doesn’t even describe that jerk so I’m curious.  I’m still looking for both.

Catherine: To be blunt, I don’t think that Rachel’s super positive energy is going to work out for her here. This tribe isn’t going to need a cheerleader. They are going to value hard work and challenge prowess. I don’t think they’ll find Rachel’s perkiness endearing. Perhaps if they give her more than three days to settle in, and the perkiness dies down a little, she might have a chance.

I’m not sure where in this group Rachel is going to find a place, and I think she’ll find herself on the outs. This seems to be a group of blue collar workers who have had it tough in life. Yes, Rachel has had to overcome some tragedy, but I think that her life experiences of modelling and writing are not going to be something that the rest of the tribe can relate to. I think that Rachel and Ken probably bond early and find themselves as the minority alliance. In fact, I’m predicting that Rachel is going to be first out of the entire game.

Scott: Rachel seems like someone that was cast to be on the show, not a Survivor fan that watched every season, but someone one of the casting people saw at a bar on the Sunset Strip. Maybe they struck out trying to score with her so they decided the move was to promise her a “role” on Survivor this season. Okay, that’s a little cynical, but these shows do this where they cast specific people from modeling agencies and places like that, and I believe it takes away from how good a season could be if you really cast all people that really want and are true fans of the show. I think Rachel will be weeded out of the game somewhere in the middle. I think she will fail to truly connect with people in the game when it gets down to where people are really looking for people they can trust and want to roll with till the end. I think she will struggle building that trust with people. She is tough to read, though, so I could be totally off…like I normally am.

Survivor 33 SundaySunday Burquest

Christine: Sunday is a breast cancer survivor, which I respect and admire. Besides that and her self-proclaimed quirkiness, which might translate into “Jesus loves Jaburu” further down the line, I don’t see her getting along with everyone on her tribe. Usually, when Survivor contestants speak about how their family does not think they can win, they do not disappoint them. Remember Wendy Jo? By some miracle or act of Probst, should she make the family visit, expect her ugly cry to rival that of Lisa.

Overall, she gives off a “here for the adventure” or pre-merge boot vibe, but that won’t get her down. As a missionary, she may very well see it as an opportunity to corner some unsuspecting Fijians. She is on a tribe with two other, albeit different, kinds of moms and Paul. The problem is the moms describe themselves as controlling, bossy and strong-minded, so the possibility of becoming the core of an alliance will be slim.

Dan: I’ll put my cards on the table: Sunday will be the first person voted out of this game. Takali will come into the first challenge ready to teach the young kids a lesson and fail. I hate to follow the obvious path and pick the older woman to be the first boot. It’s a trend that’s actually gone away in recent new player seasons, so I may be thinking back too far. Regardless, Sunday does seem to fit the bill.

I’m impressed with her as a person. She’s raised four kids and survived a tough battle with breast cancer. That’s no joke. Sunday compares her game to Lisa Whelchel, and it feels like a perfect choice. Unlike Tandang, I don’t expect Sunday’s tribe to completely avoid Tribal Council. Christine is right to mention that Sunday may not get along with her tribe. She is the type of player who could go far if she survives the first few boots. However, I’m not convinced that will happen.

Sarah: Sunday is a bit of a throwback to a Survivor Mom archetype we haven’t seen since Lisa Whelchel. Lucy is more typical of the older women we see cast on Survivor these days: the successful mother and career woman who also finds time to stay physically fit… so there’s a part of me that is immediately rooting for Sunday to do this, to prove her sons wrong.

But there’s a more realistic side of me that agrees with Dan. The Millennials might be receptive to an Island Mom with pastoral experience — particularly Adam who might find Sunday the perfect person to confide in about his own mother’s cancer battle — but the Gen-Xers aren’t going to need that nurturing and it’s not clear what she brings to the Takali camp that nobody else does. They know they’re up against a group of 20-somethings, so physical ability is going to be a priority in their pecking order, and Sunday is too obvious a weak link. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long to see the Gen-Xers go to Tribal Council, so Sunday had better hope that somebody else makes themselves a bigger target. As it is, I don’t think she’ll make the tribe swap.

Michel: I agree with Dan. I should just stop with that but I just want to add that it would make me smile if she does make it far because it will show her boys they were wrong about her. For now however, I just don’t care.

Catherine: I hope that there is someone out there who is playing this game to win. Because if you are playing to win, I think that Sunday might be the best ally to have. She’s so clearly there for the adventure. She’s going to be grateful for every Tribal Council that she survives, and I don’t think she’s going to be making any grandiose plans.

More than that — Sunday is a pastor. While the others might be able to check their jobs at the gate and play Survivor freely, lying at will, Sunday won’t be able to do that. She won’t be able to lie and manipulate people and then go back home and continue as normal. When this woman says that she has your back, she means it.

I also think that if Sunday is able to survive until the swap, she’ll easily find a home with the Millennials, who will appreciate her complete honesty and let her slip into the “Mom” role, where she is comfortable. I am much more bullish on Sunday’s chances than my fellow bloggers. I think Sunday is going to be in the unfortunate role of the over-emotional older woman who makes it to the end and gets completely destroyed in Final Tribal Council. She compared herself to Lisa Whelchel, and I think she’s headed for a similar end to her game.

Scott: Watching her intro video made me anxious because she looked so anxious. Anxious to me doesn’t play well in Survivor. I can see the week into the game confessional from her where she is falling apart emotionally and not knowing if she can do this, because she misses her family. Then, one of the more unlikely people on her tribe who will probably be the exact opposite of her will come over and tell her it’s going to be okay and remember that you’ve overcome harder things in your life. Sunday will then give it chance and we will all live happier ever after…and then I think she gets voted out right at the merge…The End.

Placing Our Bets

If you’ve made it this far, nice work! You’re probably now more confused than ever about what’s going to happen this season. It’s now time for the bloggers to put our cards on the table. This season, I’ve added a new system where more than bragging rights are at stake. Each choice below will be worth a specific number of points. I’ll provide updates during the season regularly on Twitter and in a blog around the merge. By the end, we’ll have a clear gauge on who made the best choices. Let’s get to the picks!

Who is the first person voted out of the Gen-X tribe? (5 points)

Dan: Sunday

Sarah: Sunday

Catherine: Rachel

Scott: Sunday

Michel: Jessica

Christine: Sunday

Who is the first person voted out of the Millennial tribe? (5 points)

Dan: Michelle

Sarah: Jay

Catherine: Hannah

Scott: Will

Michel: Hannah

Christine: Michelle

Who is the first player to find a hidden immunity idol? (5 points)

Dan: Adam

Sarah: Bret

Catherine: Bret

Scott: Mari

Michel: Zeke

Christine: Jay

Who wins the most individual immunity challenges? (5 points)

Dan: Mari

Sarah: Figgy

Catherine: Taylor

Scott: Taylor

Michel: Jay

Christine: Taylor

Who makes the merge? (pick 12, 1 point each)

Dan: Adam, Bret, Chris, David, Figgy, Jessica, Lucy, Mari, Michaela, Taylor, Will, Zeke

Sarah: Adam, Bret, Chris, Figgy, Hannah, Jessica, Ken, Michaela, Rachel, Taylor, Will, Zeke

Catherine: Adam, Bret, Chris, David, Jay, Lucy, Mari, Michaela, Sunday, Taylor, Will, Zeke

Scott: Adam, CeCe, Chris, David, Hannah, Jay, Mari, Michaela, Michelle, Paul, Taylor, Zeke

Michel: Adam, CeCe, Figgy, Jay, Ken, Lucy, Mari, Michaela, Paul, Taylor, Will, Zeke

Christine: Adam, Bret, CeCe, David, Hannah, Jay, Jessica, Ken, Michaela, Rachel, Will, Taylor

Who is the merge boot? (5 points)

Dan: Chris

Sarah: Chris

Catherine: Jay

Scott: Chris

Michel: Ken

Christine: Ken

Who are the two runners up? (15 points each)

Dan: Adam, Jessica

Sarah: Zeke, Figgy

Catherine: Sunday, Zeke

Scott: Adam, CeCe

Michel: Figgy, Taylor

Christine: Adam, Will

Who is the sole survivor? (25 points)

Dan: So much of how you predict a winner comes down to the overall direction of the season. I expect the Millennials to do well early and reach the merge with numbers. I don’t see them sticking together, however. A small group of Gen-X players will remain solid and slowly flip the game on their younger opponents. Bret feels like the type of guy that could lead this type of coalition, and he’ll make enough bonds to barely edge Adam for the win. Jessica will stick with Bret and be a strong ally, but the jury won’t give her enough credit in the end.

Sarah: I really want to say Mari, but like I said… she’s too good to be true. So I’m going for Adam. I don’t think he’ll pull off the masterful game he wants to play, but I’m sticking with my Aras comparison: when the power players fall short, Adam will be the person who could get along with everybody.

Catherine: Before I write anything else, let me remind everyone reading of my track record, which is terrible, and gets more and more terrible every season. Long-time readers of this post might remember that I picked Shirin to win Cambodia, and then when I thought that there was nowhere to go but up, I picked Darnell as the winner of Kaoh Rong. This season, I’m going with a risky choice and choosing Will. No real reason. I like him, and I think he has enough game smarts to win. I know he is only 18, but he comes across as mature beyond his years in the videos. Now watch as Will becomes my worst winner pick ever, and manages to somehow get himself voted off before the game even starts.

Scott: I think the Sole Survivor this season will be …stalling for more time…who the hell knows? I’m going to go out on the limb and pick a woman even though it always seems safer to pick a guy. Sometimes in a given Survivor season, random potentially good female players get picked off early. With that said, I’m going with Mari. She seemed poised in her intro video, and I think she can fit in with anybody.

Michel: Like I wrote, I think the Millennials will dominate the game. Jay impressed me with his calm attitude towards the game and his personality.

Christine: Will and Michaela will have more ties to the Gen-Xers, but no one will feel hurt by her betrayals. Michaela will be the Sole Survivor.

Don’t forget to visit this site all season for weekly blogs for different takes on the new season. Scott, Michel, and Catherine will help navigate the fun, editing, and strategy of this game. Sarah, Dan, and Christine will also stop by to give their commentary on the various issues and moves in this game during the season. Here’s the regular schedule:

Friday: Scott Gallagher (pop culture)
Saturday: Michel Trudeau (analyzing the edit)
Monday: Catherine Lucas (Lessons in Survivor History)

What are your predictions for the new season?

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