There’s little more I can add to the Brandon Hantz conversation that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere. We all saw what happened. With respect to “Little Hantz,” it’s clear that he never should have been cast on Survivor Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites — from the fact that few would call him a “favorite” even before the season began, to the abundantly clear evidence that this was a man mentally unfit to play Survivor.
So, rather than flog Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst and anyone else responsible for putting Brandon back on the beach and putting people’s safety at risk, I’ll turn my attention to alternate realities that never came to pass. It seems to me that Survivor whiffed on the opportunity to bring back some real power-players, some truly entertaining veterans, on the second edition of FvF, all in the name of instilling some Hantz-branded madness to the first few episodes of the season.
Here are five relatively recent male Survivors who I think deserved a spot on the latest Fans vs. Favorites over Brandon, players I think could have satisfied some of what producers were hoping to elicit from El Loco’s time in the game, while actually pushing the narrative forward on a gameplay level.
If it’s venom Survivor wants, it’s venom Survivor gets when Colton is around. But Colton isn’t just another poison-tipped tongue mugging to the cameras. He has sharp wits to go with his cruel behavior, engineering shocking decisions like surrendering a hard-earned immunity victory to remove a personal annoyance from the game as quickly as possible. On top of that, we know Colton knows Survivor better than just about anyone else — see his Survivor Jeopardy win for further details — and from his RHAP appearances, many of us can agree that Colton is actually a lot more charming than his ugly One World appearance would lead us to believe. (Many of you, I’m sure, will disagree with that.) I get the sense that Colton has grown since his game, and would be looking for some kind of vindication from a second appearance on Survivor. As a veteran, as a true fan with something to prove, I think Colton’s presence on Caramoan would have provided a lot of the same drama that comes with having Brandon on the show, with the added bonus of Colton owning confessionals and in-game interactions with smart insight and bitchiness galore.
Here’s another One Worlder who could have made a difference on the current season of Survivor. As an alpha male, Troyzan’s not likely to step aside and abide The Specialist as he doles out Stealth R Us letters of employment and nicknames to any and all who would serve him. Troyzan is not the type to just idly watch Phillip “control” the game. We would have seen blow-outs between Troy and Phillip, but nothing that would involve spilling out the camp’s food supply and burning one’s psyche up faster than Mike Skupin’s hands in a fire, in front of the show’s entire cast no less. Add to that Troyzan’s proven power in challenges and the strategic game, and I think Troy would have filled a void that this season has been lacking.
During my recent Exile Island rewatch, I was struck once again by the awesome power of this fighter pilot turned immunity hog. How is it possible that Terry’s never played the game since kicking Aras’ ass all over Panama? (Right up until it really counted, of course.) Exile Island seems like a long time ago in Survivor terms, and Micronesia is already the natural and understandable cut-off point for the current season. But if the gates were opened a little bit earlier, I’d lobby hard for Terry to get another chance at the title. He is, as mentioned, an immunity beast. He’s also a smooth-talker to the camera, if not to his fellow contestants, and he’s a strong leader who isn’t afraid to sacrifice a close ally if it means keeping his tribe in top form. (Sorry, Spaceman Dan!) That’s a classic kind of Survivor player you don’t see too much of these days, and certainly one who is practically bred for conflict against a guy like Phillip. Watching Terry and Phillip’s brands of leadership collide in Caramoan would have been a real treat to watch. At the very least, I don’t see any scenario in which Terry would react to adversity by threatening to pee in the beans, so that’s already an improvement.
Survivor producers love themselves some South Pacific, evidenced by the three SP alums on the current season. If it’s representation from South Pacific they wanted, then they made a pretty big oversight in not bringing Mr. Medical Marijuana back for another chance at the million. Jim is loud, confrontational and strong as an ox — all of which are things you could say about Brandon Hantz. But Jim has something Brandon doesn’t: a strategic mind built for the game of Survivor, as seen by his genius execution of Elyse, Ozzy’s closest ally and a possible Amber-in-the-making. Jim isn’t a man in need of redemption, no, but he’s a fan-favorite power-player, the type of contestant we’re sorely lacking on a season dubbed Fans Vs. Favorites. It also would have given Cochran a legitimate challenge on his tribe; everyone else in the Philippines seems to have forgotten young Hercules’ great betrayal, but something tells me Jim wouldn’t forget quite so easily. It would be nice for someone to actually give Cochran some serious opposition, no?
My first time watching Nicaragua, I remember thinking that Marty had a very high and highly unearned opinion of himself as a Survivor player. The silver-haired “chess master” talked the talk, but when the time came to convince his peers to vote out Jane in his place, he couldn’t walk the walk. My recent rewatch of the season to prepare for Brenda’s role on Caramoan yielded a much higher opinion of Marty. He’s Penner-esque: a gifted narrator with a smarter-than-the-average-bear head on his shoulders, but someone who thinks he’s a lot better than he honestly is. Time and multiple appearances improved Penner’s gameplay (to a certain extent at least), and I bet the same could be said for Marty. Like the others I’ve mentioned, Marty is a guy who would butt heads with Phillip, a guy who could get into some shouting matches with Corinne and Malcolm, a guy who would think of Cochran as a harmless protege until far too late. In other words, he’s a guy who is a great source of entertainment and drama, but also a great enough thinker that he could make a meaningful impact on the game, from a gaming perspective — not from an “I’ve had enough of this crap so I’m going to hit the self-destruct button and make every longtime fan of this show at home question why they’re still watching Survivor all these years later” perspective. Important distinction.
Okay, those are some of my picks. With over three hundred players in the history books, we’re not in short supply of people who truly deserved a spot on another Fans Vs. Favorites season of Survivor. Leave your suggestions for who deserved a place on the Caramoan cast over Brandon in the comments section below, or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward (like Ron Howard but rounder), and I’ll see you again next week in The Wiggle Room. Hopefully I’ll be a little less depressed by Survivor by then.