Survivor: Kaoh Rong

Survivor: Kaoh Rong – The Bloggers’ Roundtable Preview

Survivor is back! It feels like we’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath from the excitement of Second Chances. There was a different vibe to that season because so many fans came into the game pulling for specific players. While that was great fun, it’s refreshing to start over now with an entire cast of fresh faces (mostly) to compete for the million. The Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty twist is back just four seasons after Cagayan, and there are quite a few intriguing characters.

The Rob Has a Podcast Bloggers are here once again for our normal tradition of assessing each season’s cast. There are quite a few disagreements among this distinguished group, which should make for a great discussion. This sharp group of bloggers is: Dan Heaton (that’s me!), Sarah Freeman, Michel Trudeau, Scott Gallagher, and Catherine Lucas. Don’t miss our predictions about the winner and other parts of the season at the end of this article.

We’ve all spent a lot of time watching pre-game videos and analyzing players’ bios. Our past misses have shown there is no exact science for correctly predicting a Survivor season. I tried to avoid my rooting interests and chose Terry last season. It wasn’t a terrible pick, but I had little chance of knowing (without following social media) about his son’s condition. The promos have promised that this season will include multiple injuries, and  expect they will play a role in blowing up our predictions. Regardless, it’s fun to take a shot at calling it right. Let’s get to it!

Chanloh – The Brains Tribe

Aubry Bracco

Aubry Bracco of Survivor 32Dan: The leader of the elves! I typically root for the nerdy players, and Aubry is no exception. How can I not like someone who calls herself the love child of Sophie and Cochran, with the hair of Shambo? Her energetic personality should make for good TV, assuming it doesn’t rub others the wrong way. That’s the real challenge with Aubry, who might get targeted for being a less physical player or too intense. If the Brains tribe doesn’t shine in the early challenges, she’ll need a few strong allies to find her way. Taking a down-to-earth approach is the right call.

Aubry is clearly a big fan of the show and is a thinker, but that only works if you’re able to build strong bonds. She will hopefully learn from the demise of Max and Shirin in Worlds Apart. Chanloh is filled with a wide range of personalities and varying levels of fandom. Aubry may be interested in astrology, but she should probably keep that knowledge to herself. Regardless, I’m excited to see how she does and hope it goes very well.

Sarah: This is the most one-note female cast we’ve had for a good while, so thank heavens for Aubry whose quirkiness breaks up the line of bikini babes. Seven of the nine women this season are under 30, but Aubry’s brought the glasses to be the season’s Official Nerd. As cheesy as the stereotyping is, I’m with Dan that I usually like the nerd-casting, and I’m so excited to see this become a female role. If production’s intent is to cast another Shirin, can I just say: “More please?” Aubry’s adorable. She’s the rare contestant I’d like to invite over for a cup of tea.

What I like about Aubry as a player is that she’s assessed her own personality and is going into the game with a strategy based on that rather than following a template from past winners. She knows she comes off as awkward, and that means she’ll be dismissed as a threat. As it turns out, she’s going to be the second youngest player on her tribe and she appears much less poised than Elisabeth; my money is on everybody wanting to secure sweet Aubry’s vote.

Her potential downfall, as Dan said, is how she meshes with others. I believe Aubry when she says she can get along with anybody, but that doesn’t mean everybody can get along with her. If she’s able to be the joker of the tribe and make people laugh, as she hopes, she’s going to stick around for a very long time. If she annoys people, she’ll be making a regrettable departure from our screens before the tribe swap.

Michel: Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many of these types of introduction videos, but Aubry didn’t spark my interest. She talks about being nerdy, weird, and funny and I should react positively to that, but I have the feeling that those are words she’d like to have associated with her personality instead of her real traits. I’d bet that Aubry will not get many confessionals because she’ll be too shy or intimidated by the whole thing. Working on a company’s Facebook page isn’t exactly the ideal job to make real bonds with people, and her talk about being a Scorpio with Gemini rising could be a turn off especially in the Brains tribe. I don’t think she’ll be a first boot but I don’t think she’ll make an impact either.

Scott: Aubry at first glance in that video was a little too Shirin-ish for my liking. Like Sarah pointed out with every other girl (but one) under the age of 30, Aubry may be the outcast, which doesn’t work unless it’s going to be one of those random seasons where the outcasts run the game. Aubry is on the Brains for a reason, though, so maybe she will bring more to the table than expected as far as the social game is concerned. Aubry’s game is going to hinge on how more/less annoying she is. For her sake, let’s hope she is less Shirin.

Catherine: Honestly, I must be completely blind, because until it was pointed out to me, I wasn’t reminded of Shirin at all when watching Aubry’s video. After re-watching, I can see that they both have these endearingly awkward introduction videos, and both are obviously intelligent women. But I don’t expect to see Aubry play at all like Shirin. She seems to have more social intelligence and is more aware of the way other people perceive her. Whereas Shirin plays an overconfident game and likes to get herself into a position of leadership early, I think that Aubry will be much quieter. In her bio, she compared herself to Sophie Clarke, and I’m expecting to see a Sophie-like game from her.

Like Sophie, she clearly has the intelligence to read the game well, to see what moves she needs to make, and what alliances she needs to stick to in order to get herself in a winning position. But this isn’t going to be anything like South Pacific. Starting the game with three tribes will mean that the path to the end isn’t going to be straightforward.

I think Aubry will be a fun character, and I’ll probably enjoy watching her. Early on, she is going to find herself in some danger, particularly if the Brains Tribe 2.0 follows Luzon’s lead and implodes. Aubry is far from being the most physical player on the tribe, and if the Brains lose too many challenges, Aubry will be an early boot.

Elisabeth Markham

Elisabeth Markham of Survivor 32Dan: It’s cool to have a player with a real mind for game theory and strategy in Elisabeth. She’s clearly very smart but doesn’t immediately come off as a brain. However, citing Parvati as a model for her game is a red flag that makes me wonder how well Elisabeth knows the show. She also references flirting in her video, and that strategy rarely works like most expect. Parvati did well in her return appearances through solid alliances, idol play, and success at challenges. Flirting is more likely to create a target in modern Survivor than to lead to success.

I can see Elisabeth as the type of player who may draw allies from other tribes. She’s attractive and in good shape, yet I sense a bit of arrogance that could be problematic. Anyone who’s made serious money counting cards in Vegas needs a lot of confidence. I don’t expect Elizabeth to be the first one voted out of Chanloh, but I wouldn’t be shocked by a pre-merge blindside. She’s strolling onto the beach ready to take charge, and that boldness could be her undoing.

Sarah: I’m also feeling underwhelmed by Elisabeth. I think she suffers from there being so many similar players — in particular, she and Anna feel like they should be alternates for each other rather than appearing on the same season. Still, there’s nothing wrong with her as a contestant: she’s super-smart. It’s kind of fun to have somebody on the show who’s actually studied game theory, and being recruited by Stephen Fishbach is definitely a point in her favor. I like the fact she’s actually had jungle training too — she’s not the demographic you expect to have survival skills, and I always think beating people’s expectations of you is a plus in this game.

What bothers me is her focus on numbers over the social game. Her point about being unthreatening at the card table is a valid one, but she’s so clearly excited to be running the numbers, playing the strategy, and maybe being a villain in her wheeling and dealing. Being on the Brains tribe (and the youngest member of the Brains tribe at that), she’s going to need to dial it down a little and play under the radar. Of all the Brains, Elisabeth is the one I worry about overplaying it too early, but I think she’ll recognise her bad tribe draw, and that will force her to adapt. She may end up being the season’s Spencer: unable to play the game she intended, but doing better for it.

Michel: Once more, I’m a little disappointed with this introduction video. Someone who talks about game theory should pique my interest considering that it was a post explaining how game theory impacts the game (and the way the editors present it) that really got me involved in the show after being more of a casual viewer during the first five seasons.

The problem here is that I don’t know if Elisabeth will ever get the chance to apply the theory. She seems much too sure of herself and her abilities. Since those introductions are edited, I’m thinking we heard her bravado because she comes to regret it. If she is given a role in the premiere and we do see that strategic side of Elisabeth, then she has a chance. She certainly seems better equipped to make an impact than the other two women on this tribe.

Scott: Is there ever a time in Survivor when going in thinking that flirting will get you far in the game has been anything other than a colossal disaster strategy-wise? All that happens is that you create an easy target not only for yourself but the helpless other person that you’re flirting with in the game, as everybody else at camp goes: “Okay, let’s find the easiest reason to vote out somebody here…hmm, those two are flirting and are a pair so let’s get them out”.

With that said, I don’t hate Elisabeth’s chances as much as my comrades do here. I think that she can fit in at camp, and clearly has the smarts to think big picture in the game. I see her making it past the merge. I think she needs to establish that she can help dominate puzzles and not cause any drama at camp. I see her being able to do both.

Catherine: Elisabeth is the person on the cast that I had the most trouble writing about for this blog. Like Michel, I was a little underwhelmed by her video, and like Sarah, I see a lot of similarities between her and Anna. Just as I think Anna has the attributes of a good Survivor player, I think Elisabeth can also do well in the game.

Elisabeth does have one strike against her. She’s been placed on the Brains tribe. This means that she can’t hide her biggest strength — her intelligence. Nobody is going to underestimate her. She’s going to be expected to be sneaky, strategizing and manipulating the game, and any thoughts she had of playing a quiet game have to be put aside.

In the Brains/Brawn/Beauty format, I really do think that the Brains are at a disadvantage. They are the only tribe who have something to prove. The Brawn tribe can point to their muscles. It’s obvious that they deserve their label. It’s similar with the Beauty tribe. Only the Brains have to be judged by their actions. In Cagayan, we saw Luzon crippled by this. They over-strategized. They played the game too hard, too fast. And I don’t think Elisabeth will be able to stop herself. In any other season, she would be my winner pick. But in this format, I don’t like her chances.

Debbie Wanner

Debbie Wanner of Survivor 32Dan: Can we just take a moment to marvel at the greatness of Debbie’s tiger swimsuit? It tells the others that she’s an odd bird, and that may not be a wise move. Regardless, it definitely leaves a strong impression. Debbie also is self-aware in definitively citing Coach as a model for her personality. There’s no doubt in her mind. If you’re a little bit out there, it’s best not to take yourself too seriously. These are all good signs for her ability to survive the early game.

It’s time for the bad news. Debbie has the look of a first boot, and it isn’t because she’s an older woman (relatively speaking at 49). There’s something about her style of speaking that makes me wonder how she’ll fit in with her tribe. Her mental and physical credentials are excellent, and she might surprise the younger players by thriving in challenges. If she can prove her value and help Chanloh win, Debbie might avoid a more predictable fate. I hope it happens because she’s such a unique character. Her bio is filled with such random references (Pit Bulls & Parolees! A jugglers’ club!), and she’s going to be fun if she can survive the start.

Sarah: I don’t know what to make of Debbie, and that’s kind of great. We’ve had quirky older women before, but not one with muscles this size, a brain to match (one assumes), and such a combination of experiences. Her unashamed swimsuit sets you up with one impression of her, but her calm, “I like logic!” conversation from her video leaves another.

Dan’s probably right that she’s at risk of being a first boot because she won’t fit in, and she’s probably best off building an over 40s partnership with Joe, even if he is old enough to be her father. But even if she doesn’t fit in, I don’t see her tribe disliking her if she’s as laid back as she comes across in her video. Besides, she should be one of the most athletic players on the Brains tribe.

Because of the disconnect between her and this very youthful cast (not many families here!), she’ll have a hard time winning. But I feel like she’s going farther than we might rationally expect.

Michel: I’m also a chemist, so maybe I should like Debbie. I’m not there yet. I’ll have to see how she’s edited before I can decide. My first impression is that she’ll be boring, which means I don’t really care at this point what will happen to her. Sarah says that she should form a partnership with Joe, but I don’t think that’s her best move. If those two are seen as a pair, they will be booted first and second. A smarter way to go would be to throw Joe under the bus and work on forming a strong trio with whatever pair that connects out there. With tribes of six people, a player really only needs two allies if the group agrees on an obvious first boot. Then it’s clear sailing for the trio until the tribe swap. I doubt that Debbie will act quickly enough to get in that alliance.

Scott: On paper, Debbie just looks like she would be beast in the game…as far as the physical aspects of Survivor. The issue that Debbies of the Survivor world seem to always have is that they’re monumentally bad at reading people and bad at seeing what is REALLY unfolding behind the scenes in the social game. They’re usually the ones at Tribal that the camera cuts to when a blindside happens, and they had absolutely no idea and make the “I just found out that my 19-year-old-daughter is pregnant” face. Usually, the Debbies of the world make it past the merge and then get on the jury and get resentful that there is lying and backstabbing in Survivor. I guess we will see if Debbie can prove me wrong.

Catherine: Debbie looks magnificent. Her swimsuit is possibly the greatest I’ve ever seen. In her bio, she describes herself as “Coach, period”. Assuming she means Tocantins Coach, and she isn’t about to start an uncomfortable religious cult, then Debbie will be epic. She won’t win. No chance. But she will at least be memorable.

Usually, if there is a kooky older woman, she’s only there as an obvious first boot. But in this tribe, Debbie should be okay. Joe is much older than she is. Aubry looks to be weaker (and possibly weirder) than she does. I think Debbie will be in this game for a long time. In fact, I’m a lot more bullish on her than my fellow bloggers. Maybe it’s just my love for her swimsuit talking here, but I think Debbie will make the merge, and perhaps even the final three. For Debbie, her problem is going to be trying to get people to take her seriously — particularly if she is going to be modelling her game on Coach.

I think that perhaps standout characters like Kass might have started to change the way that Survivor is casting older women. Kass and Debbie have a lot of parallels — older, intelligent and professional women who are not marketing themselves as the “mom”. I hope that like Kass, Debbie is a standout character this season.

Joseph Del Campo

Joseph Del Camp of Survivor 32Sarah: At 72, Joe is the oldest contestant since Rudy, yet he’s got a boyish feel to him — perhaps because he’s based all his life decisions on what would be the biggest “adventure”. Yes, we all wrote off Phillip Sheppard as an anomaly, but watching Joe, I get the feeling that all he really wants is to be the hero of his own action movie. Is this the FBI agent type? Not so much James Bond as James Bond fanboy?

Still, I can’t help but like Joe, and I think his tribe will too, but for all his FBI training, I don’t think he’s going to take the “sneaky, sneaky!” approach to the game. In Internet parlance, I’d guess he’s a “casual” fan (it’s not a dirty word!) and will opt for a slower build, while his whippersnapper tribemates make long-term plans behind his back.

With all we’ve heard about the season, the oldest contestant seems like a prime candidate for a medivac, but let’s remember last season’s Joe passed out from the Cambodian heat before Keith Nale, who was almost old enough to be his dad. Kaoh Rong’s Joe is at greater risk of being the odd one out of his tribe, or being a perceived challenge liability. Yet I’ll place my bets on him becoming a beloved figurehead of the brains and being voted out as a jury threat without having any huge influence on the game.

But he’ll have had his adventure fix. A good Survivor hit should keep him happy for a few months, right?

Michel: I really don’t share Sarah’s opinion of Joe. First, I don’t see him making the merger because of the tough conditions. Either he won’t be able to cope with the conditions like we saw with Mike Borassi, or the tribe will see him as a liability. I also think he will try to be sneaky, sneaky because there was a shot of him during the video where he is hiding behind foliage. This Tony wannabe is simply another castaway that will be outsmarting himself, thinking he’s cleverer than the others. Production always gives a tribe one free vote to give them time to get settled, and Joe fits the bill.

Scott: Besides the awful shot in this video where the producers have Joe hiding behind some sort of plant pretending to look like he is surveying the land, I feel like Joe isn’t a complete zero heading into the game. It’s tough for a 71-year-old to win Survivor, but Joe appears at least to not be completely clueless. The key for everybody in Survivor is how they come off to the other players. Sometimes, the Joes of the world try to come in and call all the shots early on, it rubs someone the wrong way, and that usually leads to their early exit. The key will be for Joe to avoid that exact situation. Joe needs to blend in early on and prove that he can pull his own weight in competitions and not be completely unlikable back at camp. I say he winds up in the middle this season.

Catherine: There’s so much to love about Joe. For one thing, he’s excessively polite on social media, and that in itself is enough to impress me. Unlike Scott, I found his intro video (especially the shot of him behind the plant) incredibly endearing. His life experience is fascinating (assuming that he is an FBI agent, and not an “FBI agent”, a la Phillip Shepherd), and to top it off, he’s the oldest contestant to play the game since Rudy. I really, really want to see Joe succeed in this game.

However, there is just no looking past his age. While he is probably in better shape than I am, there is no escaping it. Joe is 72. Not only is he more than 20 years older than anyone else on his tribe, but he is also playing on what has been promoted as one of the hardest seasons ever. Yes, Rudy was the same age when he made final three in Borneo, but I am sure that camp life this season will be much, much tougher.

Unfortunately, I think Joe is likely to have a similar experience to Rudy’s short-lived stay on All Stars, and he will be voted out early simply because his body won’t be able to handle the conditions.

Dan: I’m intrigued to see what happens with Joe, who could easily fit on the Brawn tribe. He’s very different from a lot of the older guys we’ve seen on the show. I don’t see a lot of connections between Joe and a guy like Mike Borassi. There’s vitality to him that comes across right away in his video. Even so, he does have an uphill battle at the start like others have mentioned. If we assume that an injury won’t remove Joe from the game, how can he do? If the Brains struggle early, it could be easy for them to target the older guy. If Joe can find ways to bond with them, however, I don’t feel like he’s doomed. I see more inroads in his tribe than if he’d been a Brawn. I don’t expect Joe to make a serious push to the end, but he could do okay.

Neal Gottlieb

Neal Gottlieb of Survivor 32Sarah: This season has some amazing careers, but shout out to “organic ice cream entrepreneur”! I suppose he’s not that different from Tocantins Brendan, but ice cream beats granola. Every. Time. I am a little concerned that the ice cream guy looks like he’s on the verge of tears throughout his cast video (and when he smiles for the camera, the result is frankly terrifying.) Perhaps he should sample more of his own wares?

At any rate, Neal’s led a conventional life (common ground with most of the cast) and also done the unconventional, doing good and having adventures (common ground with a select few of the cast, but great fodder for camp stories), plus he’s built up a successful business from scratch, which says a lot about his personal skills and patience, all good stuff for Survivor. He could do very well — or he could butt heads with another player over strategy.

How far Neal goes in the game really depends on how well he gets on with Peter — and whether or not the rest of the tribe likes him better than Peter. There will always be times in Survivor when you need to just go with the alliance’s decision, even if you don’t like it, and I’m not sure how well Neal will suffer that.

Michel: Once more, my first impression doesn’t match with Sarah’s. For me, Neal could be one of the most interesting characters we’ve met in a long time. Anyone that says he’s part do-gooder and part dirty capitalist can have a few surprises in store for us. I also like the way he expresses himself. He seems to have watched enough of the show to know what to expect but isn’t the superfan that will go overboard like Max or Shirin. His introduction videos showed him sitting in a tree, so I wonder if his confessionals will be shot the same way. It would be fun because those images made me think of Hatch and Varner. I really like Neal’s chances, and I don’t see any reasons to worry about a fracture between himself and his tribe.

Scott: I don’t know what the hell to think of Neal. His video didn’t even seem like a Survivor video. It seemed like some dude on a beach that posted a video of himself being stoned and talking on YouTube. He does seem like an interesting guy, but what will that translate to in the game? I think these types of players tend to be either feast or famine conclusions, meaning he will either be epic at the social game and end up at the end, or he will be terribly socially awkward and flame out in the first two episodes. I figure it will hard for anyone to predict how Neal will do this season, but my gut tells me that he may be a little too off socially for this game.

Catherine: I like Neal a lot. He seems like he will be easy to get along with and won’t cause any waves in camp. At the same time, he runs a successful company, so I think he will have the strategic acumen to take himself far. Although in his bio Neal identifies with Erik Reichenbach, his brother in ice cream, I think that Neal is going to prove to be an intelligent player and a real force to be reckoned with this season.

I also found his intro video quite engaging. I like his laid-back, conversational style. I think that within the Brains tribe, Neal’s quiet approach to the game is going to be valuable. While the other players are competing for screen time, Neal will be quietly gaining people’s trust. For all of Probst’s insistence that winning the game is all about big moves, the social game will always be the most important part of Survivor — and I think Neal is going to prove to be a strong social player.

Dan: Like Scott, I was also baffled by Neal’s video. It was repetitive and didn’t really say anything about his game. If Neal’s bio is any indication, he probably gave a lot of long-winded answers. I’m generally drawn to some of the more awkward Survivor players, and Neal is right in my age bracket. Still, I’m not convinced he’ll do well socially. He may have the mind and determination to succeed, but that only works if you can make friends. I hate to read too much into a two-minute video, so he could surprise me by forming close bonds. Sarah’s read that he’ll need to bond with Peter is accurate. Neal seems quite different than Joe, and he’ll need a buddy to risk ending up on the bottom. Based on what we know, I don’t see great things for Neal.

Peter Baggenstos

Peter Baggenstos of Survivor 32Sarah: He may not be on Beauty, but Peter could be this season’s LJ — rugged good looks, laid-back demeanor, and intelligence. He’s no horse whisperer, but I like to think an ER doctor would hold up well under pressure. The only red flag for me is his pride in his unpredictability. Unpredictability isn’t necessarily a bad Survivor trait, but fickleness could be a death sentence.

However, Peter’s biggest problem going in is circumstance: he’s not on Beauty. He’s not even in the older half of his tribe, and that makes it very difficult to determine just where Peter is going to land. Is he going to want to lead from the front, or is he happier to play behind the scenes? As I said for Neal, the big question for the Brains is which of these two men can win the favor of their tribe. If Peter doesn’t come out on top, it might not be LJ we should compare him to, but Garrett.

Michel: Will the Survivor editors present us with another “dumb doctor?” We’ve had a few that seemed completely out of their element when it came to the strategic aspects of the game. Sean, Marcus, and Mick come to mind as examples of what not to do on Survivor. I don’t think Peter will be as bad as those three, but there are some warning signs. I don’t see any direct conflicts between him and Neal because neither seems to take things too seriously, but Peter’s problems could come later when it’s time to make important decisions.

On Survivor, the players have so much down time that Peter will not feel the same need to make quick, life-or-death decisions as he does in the ER. I think that could lead him to take too much time to evaluate the ramifications of each decision, making him appear indecisive. Add in his penchant for unpredictability, and he becomes the worst type of ally: the smart, likable guy you can’t trust.

Scott: I can see the Obama comparison for sure, but I think Peter definitely lacks Obama’s swagger. Call me crazy, but Peter is going to struggle. He just seems like he will be a complainer. I can see him getting hostile when the food goes dry or if it starts raining for days on end. Obviously on multiple levels Peter has to be smart, but at first glance I’m not sure about his social smarts. He is going to have conflict with people and struggle and will have an early exit in the game. I guess I really am not that high on the Brains men this season.

Catherine: Peter is everything that you want in a Brains tribe member. He’s overconfident. He’s intelligent but perhaps doesn’t have the people skills to match. His self-awareness is hilariously low. He’s the kind of person who is going to want to be a leader, but I can’t see this group wanting to follow him at all. Basically, Sarah thinks Peter is an LJ who might turn into a Garrett, but I think that Peter is Garrett, through and through.

Like Scott, I think Peter will struggle with the conditions and become a complainer. The one thing that he might have on his side is that this version of the Brains tribe seem (on paper) to be stronger than Luzon. If Joe can keep up with people half his age, at least for long enough to prevent the Brains tribe visiting the first few Tribal Councils, then there may be some hope for Peter to at least last until the merge. But in his video, I simply don’t see the self-awareness that is necessary to win the game.

I’m not expecting much from Peter, but I am hoping at least that his inevitable flame out will be spectacular. If his exit is even half as wonderful as Garrett’s, then he will be a success.

Dan: I’ll see Catherine’s Garrett and raise Peter to David Sampson. He’s a good talker and seems very sure of himself, but he’s also rife to make a mistake. He really seems like the type who’ll want to lead the group. This raises two likely possibilities for Peter: 1) he’ll take charge and coast to the merge; or 2) he’ll irritate the others and be the first person voted out of the Brains. What I can’t gather is how knowledgeable Peter is about the show. Will he recognize the danger in stepping up on a tribe of thinkers? So much depends on if we see a repeat of Luzon’s futility.

I’m inclined to think Peter will hold back and survive the early votes. He’s athletic and in his mid-30s, so the challenges shouldn’t faze him. His biggest enemy in the pre-merge game is himself. Keep an eye on how Peter approaches building the shelter. If he tries to run the show and believes he’s superior to his tribemates, we’re in David or Garrett territory. If he makes the merge, Peter will stand out as a threat from the Brains and almost certainly fail. I’m intrigued to see what happens with Peter, who’s a contender on paper but maybe not in reality.

Gondol – The Beauty Tribe

Michele Fitzgerald

Michele Fitzgerald of Survivor 32Michel: As a superfan of the show, chances are that Michele will be portrayed as a dumb player! This bartender spent most of her introduction video just dancing in the sand. It may work to get good tips but I don’t think it will help her game much. I expect she’ll dance her way to loser lodge unless she’s useful to someone else’s game. One thing in her favor is that she seems fairly relaxed and easy going. Will it last under the tough conditions? If she can keep on smiling, then she could surprise us with a long coattail ride.

Scott: Every time there is a bartender playing Survivor, I overanalyze how good I think they are going to be in the social game for some stupid reason. And what always happens is that they suck. I think bartenders on Survivor think they have more power than they do because as a bartender you do kind of get power in that people for the most part are being friendly to you because they want you to continue to give them drinks and not cut them off. Bartenders can act douchey at their job, but it doesn’t work on Survivor.

I also think that Michele is just not going to be good at this game. She just seems like a lightweight, probably recruited by some buzzed producer at a Martha’s Vineyard bar. She talks about being worried about the New Jersey stigma. Listen, nobody outside of New York or Boston knows anything about a Jersey stigma. I’m going to say that Michele will be a nobody in this game. She’ll probably end up in 11th to 15th place.

Catherine: Michele reminds me so, so much of Shirin. She’s got the same obsessive traits (seriously, could there be any more Harry Potter in this woman’s bio?), and also the same joyful enthusiasm for playing the game. Unfortunately, being Shirin hasn’t worked out particularly well in Survivor, and I think that Michele might also struggle.

For one thing, the Harry Potter obsession is a lot less cute than she thinks it is. Even Tai, who seems like the nicest human alive, is not going to be able to listen to any more Harry Potter talk after about day two. I think that Michele is going to have trouble fitting in.

There’s also the excitement that she demonstrates in her intro video. I can understand it — I think that if I was ever cast to play, I’d be jumping out of my skin as well — but too much enthusiasm rarely leads to good gameplay. I think that Michele will either be too overawed to do anything much, or she will play in a Zane-like way, trying to align with everyone in her rush to “play the game”. Either way, I don’t see Michele as a possible winner.

Dan: My first inclination is to join the others and dismiss Michele as an unlikely contender. She’s a fan of the show, but that means little when the game starts rolling. Beyond her love of Harry Potter and a lot of dancing, it’s tough to glean too much from her video or bio. I do think she really benefits from being part of the Beauty tribe. Even with Beastmode Cowboy in the mix, they’re most likely to be a stable force that succeeds in the early game.

Michele seems likable and not overbearing, and that could serve her well if she makes the right allies from the start. I don’t envision a scenario where she’s the first one out of her tribe. I’m hoping there’s more from Michele that we haven’t seen thus far. Given her spot in the tribe, I think she’ll at least make the merge.

Sarah: I agree with everything my fellow bloggers have said, including the parts where they disagree. In a sea of young women, Michele is the most generic, though in all the right ways. She seems lovely, big fan, excited to be there, smart enough… perhaps a little too young, but she’s a perfectly acceptable player who just happens to be on a season where a lot of other people have better reasons to stand out. And that makes it hard to say how she’ll do. She could be the next Kelley Wentworth! Or she could be the next Kelley Wentworth (San Juan Del Sur edition).

At any rate, I don’t think she’ll be in any danger on her starting tribe. With any luck, she’ll last long enough to get onto a tribe with Aubry, who appears to moonlight as Harry Potter in her spare time.

Anna Khait

Anna Khait of Survivor 32Michel: While she isn’t a model, Anna is a beautiful woman. More importantly, she expresses herself very well. I wonder if she is aware of Vanessa’s run in the latest season of Big Brother. If she is, she’ll probably choose to hide her profession. I suspect casting a poker player was Survivor’s reaction to Vanessa’s strategic prowess. Will Anna fit the bill? I hope she does. She describes herself as sociable and mentions that she was a huge fan of the show before getting into poker (this site gives statistics for her going back to 2013).

Her total winnings aren’t very impressive. They are under $12,000 compared to Vanessa’s $3.5 million (even Jean-Robert had $2 million!). Her plan is to get people to like her and hide the fact that she will be playing hard. I like hearing her talk about trusting only a few people and getting people to underestimate her. She’s ready to flirt with anyone so she could be an interesting one to follow. I’d put some money on the poker player’s chances.

Scott: She’s a pro poker player, which if history has shown us anything, it’s that pro poker players implode in epic fashion on Survivor (see Jean-Robert and Garrett). It’s also a pet peeve when someone says that they are good at reading people. If you ask the person next to you wherever you are right this second, they are going to say that they read people well and guess what…they don’t read people well. With that said, Anna’s first impression seems like she might not be too bad. I see her fitting in with the vibe at her camp and not creating waves. I see her as a silent member of a sub-majority alliance early in the game.

Catherine: Pro poker players don’t really have an illustrious history on Survivor, but they do at least tend to be entertaining and over-the-top characters. For Anna, I think she’ll be the complete opposite of her poker playing forefathers, Jean-Robert and Garrett. She’ll prove to be quite adept at playing the game, but do it in a way that is under the radar, making her terrible television.

I will readily admit that I found Anna’s to be the blandest of all the videos. Nothing about her stands out at all. She seems nice enough, smart enough and physically strong enough, without being outstanding in any way. She’s nice, but not as obviously nice as Tai. She’s smart, but doesn’t have the perfect test scores like Liz. She’s fit, but doesn’t have the muscles of Cydney. In other words, Anna is perfectly suited to the game.

Within the Beauty tribe, I don’t think she’ll be targeted at all. Anna is someone who can get along with everyone (or at least pretend to), and this will put her in the majority alliance. Provided that her game isn’t sunk by an unlucky tribe swap, Anna is one of my favorites to win the season.

Dan: Anna is definitely a standout from the pre-game info, and I’ve been fooled many times by a solid video and bio. If you’re joining a Survivor pool, I suggest not listening to me. My lack of success makes me wonder if I put too much stock in our limited info. Even so, it’s hard not to like Anna’s chances on the Beauty tribe. She’s only 26 but is the oldest of the three women in that group. I expect she’ll have some power at the start, and a guy like Nick may decide she’d be a strong ally. On the other hand, there’s a risk she’ll stand out as the most capable threat. That’s the tricky part with considering Anna’s chances.

I don’t expect she’ll fall prey to Garrett’s mistake of trying to dominate the strategy of his tribe. If she plays her cards right (pun intended), Anna could do very well. She looks so good on paper, and I can understand why Rob picked her to win. However, there’s still a lingering feeling in the back of my mind that we’re being set up for a surprise fall.

Sarah: “Being a poker player does not mean you”ll be good at Survivor. They either overlook or lack the human relationship element of the game. Therefore, the next time you see a poker player cast, fold them quicker than 7-2 off suit.

Those words were written by Anna’s tribemate, Nick Maiorano, after Garrett was voted out of Cagayan. Immediately, I want Anna and Nick’s storylines to be intertwined, whether it be Nick fulfilling his own prophecy, Anna making him eat his words, or the pair of them making beautiful, disaffected babies together.

In general terms, I agree with Nick’s assessment of poker players and Survivor, but Anna defies the norm. For one thing, she cites Princess Diana as her hero and not for her glamorous lifestyle. More pertinently, she’s been watching Survivor on a longer-term basis than her predecessors, and (in direct contrast to Liz) her video is very much focused on the social game, not the numbers.

Of all the players in the game, Anna probably has the best tribe draw. I’m sure people will realize her intelligence soon enough, but Beauty will make it much easier for her to conceal the red flag of her career. She’s also bang in the center of it… she’s the most senior of three bright, female superfans, she’s got two men in flirting range, and she can bond with Tai over their immigrant backgrounds. When it comes for Beauty to pick their majority, Anna will have the key vote in which way they go.

What I don’t know is how much she’ll take advantage of that power. She’s the oldest woman on her tribe, but all the men are older and she’s still one of the youngest of the cast. As bright and accomplished as she seems, I’m not convinced she’ll play a forceful game. Honestly, I think she’s got the tools to do well either way, but I’m inclined to think that Anna won’t head up an alliance so much as a voting bloc for some other power player.

Julia Sokolowski

Julia Sokolowski of Survivor 32Michel: She’s the youngest contestant we’ve had since Natalie Tenerelli, and wouldn’t she have been another perfect ally for Boston Rob?! Another superfan of the show, she says she’s been watching since she was five years old. That means she started around the time of Pearl Islands, and that makes me feel so very old! She says her experiences in Tanzania will help her out there in Cambodia, but I doubt it very much. It’s funny that when she mentions being underestimated, she talks about being ready for all the outdoor experiences. The other players won’t really care about that. It’s her game that needs to be underestimated if she really wants to surprise people. I doubt that she has a game to play.

Scott: Julia is 19 and a college student. Let me say with 100 percent confidence that Julia has zero chance of winning the game. I just feel confident saying that a 19-year-old blonde college student can’t win Survivor. I think the world would explode and Survivor would cease to exist if that happened. This game is not made for 19-year-old blonde college students…it’s just not. I can’t even bring myself to trying to make a half-hearted argument about her potential in the game; it’s just not going to happen.

Catherine: Julia is very pretty and very sweet. Usually when I see young girls comparing themselves to Natalie Tenerelli, I roll my eyes a little. This time, she is completely correct. (On a side note, why do so many girls compare themselves to Natalie Tenerelli? It feels like we have one every season!) I just re-watched Redemption Island, and it is so easy to see the similarities between Julia and Natalie. With that in mind, my prediction for Julia would ordinarily be that someone will drag her right to final three, where she’ll get zero votes.

But I can’t ignore the way that CBS previewed this season. This is supposedly one of the hardest seasons ever. We’re going to see people struggling with the conditions. We’re going to see people getting hurt. And among this cast, there are a few people who stand out as obvious candidates for a medivac/quit. And I think that Julia, the youngest on the cast, has to be prime candidate.

Dan: I share Catherine’s concern that Julia won’t be able to handle the conditions. Survivor is quite different than a regular camping trip, especially in Cambodia. I hate to focus too much on her age, which seems like an obvious crutch like the others have mentioned. That said, you can’t dismiss just how much younger she seems than even Michele and Anna. I can see a scenario where Julia bonds with Caleb or Nick and forms a partnership that serves her well. I don’t believe it’s the most likely thing to happen, though. Natalie and Boston Rob is the obvious model, but we haven’t seen a similar pair make the end since that point.

I like Julia’s enthusiasm for the show, and there’s a great energy about her. I think her success will depend on how the Beauty tribe does in the early challenges. She’s a very obvious first boot for them, but the tide may turn once we’ve passed 10 days or so in the game. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see her around for a while if she survives the first few episodes.

Sarah: I don’t have much more to add. Like everybody else, it’s so hard for me to get past the age thing. For the age range that typically plays Survivor, there are two big life stages that shape peer groups. One is starting a family; the other is moving from education to employment. I believe I’m right in saying that Cydney is the only other player in full-time education, and that makes it really hard for me to ever see Julia in a position where people will take her seriously enough to let her influence the game.

I actually really like Julia herself. I love that she’s been watching since she was five (so has my seven-year-old son!) and I wonder how much of her interests growing up have been shaped by her desire to be on Survivor someday. Has she, like Joe, trained herself to be the perfect specimen of a Survivor player? Well, maybe not like Joe. But she’s charming enough that I expect somebody will always want to take her under their wing. Julia will go far and probably have the time of her life, but I’m not expecting our first teenage winner.

Nick Maiorano

Nick Maiorano of Survivor 32Scott: Let’s start with the elephant in the room here: Nick looks like a mid-‘90s soft-core porn star. I expect to see Nick on Cinemax staring as a cop trying to break up a drug ring at a playboy mansion rip-off with Shannon Tweed co-starring. It doesn’t seem like Nick really cares about winning the game; he only cares about looking cool. I don’t think Nick wants to win the game, which is pretty odd to think about someone in the pre-game. He seems like he’s lost.

I see him being aloof and not fitting in. I think he is going to be socially awkward at camp and is going to be one of the first ones gone. Being smug and coming off as indifferent isn’t a recipe for success on Survivor. Maybe I’m seeing him wrong and other people will disagree, but I think Nick is not going to be with us long this season.

Catherine: I am super-excited to see Nick play this game. Firstly, everything about his video reminded me of Tocantins Tyson, one of my favorite players ever; and secondly, as he was once a RHAP blogger, I’m really interested to see how he plays the game. I’ll be rooting for him to do well. I think that Nick definitely has the potential to do well. Admittedly, he didn’t come across great in his intro video or bio. I’ve seen some people with very strong negative feelings about Nick, and I can understand them. Certainly, if that is going to be his personality on the island, he is going to be in trouble.

However, I think that his arrogance, like Tyson’s in Tocantins, is primarily for the cameras. We’ll get some fantastic confessionals from Nick, but he’ll be well-liked by those in his tribe. I also think that like Tyson, Nick will eventually become complacent about his game, and he’ll end up blindsided. He’ll make the jury, but I don’t think he’ll be sitting at the Final Tribal Council — at least not this season.

Dan: After hearing that Nick was cast, I started looking back at some his blog posts. His thoughts are all over the place, but that’s why his blogs were great. I’m trying to connect the guy that I now see with the person who wrote those posts. If I didn’t know about his RHAP past, I might dismiss Nick as the type of arrogant guy Survivor often casts (see Beast Mode Cowboy). Someone who called their blog “Beloved Survivor” and clearly studied the game has to be playing a character, right? I believe the answer is “yes”, but it raises a few more questions.

If Nick is putting on a show for the kind of fans that watch pre-game videos and read bios (present!), then it makes me wonder what he’ll do within the game. The obvious comparison is Spencer, who talked about being a villain before Cagayan. Even so, this feels different. Catherine’s mention of Tyson is close, though I don’t believe Tyson knew the game that well in Tocantins. Nick clearly has thought quite a bit about the game and how he’s presented. I could write another thousand words, and I still wouldn’t be sure how to predict what Nick will do. My hope is that he doesn’t flame out by trying too hard to be a big character.

No matter what happens, I think it’s pretty awesome that a former RHAP blogger is on Survivor. Nick started writing here at the same time as me, though it does make me feel a little inferior. While I was busy making incorrect predictions during the past two years, Nick actually played the game! If he does well, maybe I can hire him as a life coach. If Nick shines, perhaps “RHAP personality” will become a new Survivor type each season. Crazier things have happened, though Nick’s spot on the Beauty tribe shows he’s more than a thinker. I believe that Nick will make the merge and be one of the game’s big players, but he’s going to fall short before the end.

Sarah: Holy crap, it’s Nick! Talks to italics guy! I don’t know what tickles me more… that Nick’s on the Beauty tribe or that everybody on the Internet hates him. At any rate, the important thing is that I absolutely slaughtered him in our Cagayan fantasy league. Screw you, Nick. The italics are on Team Sarah now.

We know from his Cagayan blog and the associated comment threads that Nick has an outrageously un-PC sense of humor but is friendly and respectful (if rarely serious) in conversation. Text social skills aren’t necessarily equivalent to in-person skills, but he’s got a really good tribe draw, and I think he’ll do fine with the youth of Beauty. Of course, he is this season’s most traditional bright young alpha, so the target will swing to him at the swap and increase from there.

Nick knows that; his blog demonstrated a huge amount of social intelligence (yes, more than Yates and Penner) and game awareness — the trouble is, he’s too smart and cynical for his own good. He plans on hiding his intelligence, which I doubt will work. Not over 39 days, probably not over 10. You get to know people when living on a beach with them 24/7. I have even more doubts about Nick’s intent not to share any depth of his personality, if for different reasons.

One common tenet in Nick’s blogs was that Survivor was a game meant for sociopaths but mostly played by nice, normal human beings. I had wondered in which category Nick saw himself, and it seems he’s aiming at the sociopathic side. The problem there is that the jury of nice, normal people wants to make genuine connections with their winner. Nick might feel more comfortable playing the sociopath, but my advice would be to also embrace his inner decent human being.

Michel: Before blogging on RHAP, I had been on the Survivor Blows board since Pearl Islands, a board where all castaways are called “Desperate Attention Whores”, DAW for short. It’s a board of Survivor fans that had a lot of snark for the players but we were mostly respectful for each other (even if we also called ourselves DAWs for spending so much time writing about the show!) All this to say Nick’s blog was my favorite because it was so much like our Basher forum. I was thrilled to hear that Nick would be on the show but I was very surprised to see him cast on the Beauty tribe. I guess the casting department didn’t think much of his mental and physical abilities.

Hey! How dare you say that about Nick? Talk about a friend…

Who said that? Is that the voice that used to argue with Nick all the time?

Yes, and I’m here to make sure you play nice.

Weren’t you always arguing with Nick?

He was always all over the place, so someone had to be the voice of reason.

So why are you defending him here?

Well, umm…I…er…carry on…

Thank you. As I was saying, it’s a little strange to do a first impression of someone that I consider a friend. I’m really curious to see how Survivor will edit Nick and which aspect of his personality they will stress. I certainly hope we get to see the game from his perspective but we will have to wait and see. As for his presentation video, it was really enjoyable.  It was a lot of what I expected and where many see arrogance, I see confidence and, most importantly, an understanding that a game is meant to be played for fun.

Nick mentions he doesn’t want to be bored out there, but boredom is always present on Survivor even if the editors try their best to hide the fact that there isn’t much to do for most of the day. It won’t be easy to stay active all the time. I like the fact that he mentions listening to others because that in itself is the best weapon when you want to manipulate people. I hope Nick does well and I’m pretty sure he’ll be fun to watch.

Caleb Reynolds

Caleb (Beast Mode Cowboy) of Survivor 32Scott: Whoa…Caleb from Big Brother? For those of you that don’t know, Caleb was famous for almost being the first houseguest to have an active restraining order put on him in the middle of a season due to his love for a female house-guest that bordered on exceptionally creepy. It almost got to the point that you thought there was going to be one of those “special episodes” where a character leaves and everybody that episode sits around and processes what they all just went through. At the end of the episode, a pseudo-celebrity would come on and say “If you know someone dealing with being stalked, understand that it’s not your fault”, and then they leave a 1-800 number to call. It was that bad.

With that said now, Caleb was a beast in competitions, but he wasn’t exactly playing chess with the social aspects of the game. He’s more of a Candyland player with the social aspects of the game. I see him being really cocky and killing it in the challenges and staying around in the game as an asset for the player that will end up winning the game this season. I predict that Beast Mode Cowboy will be the muscle protecting whoever is really pulling the strings.

Catherine: I’m Australian. I’ve never seen a single episode of Big Brother US, so I really have no idea who Caleb is. My opinion on him is far, far less informed than the opinions of my fellow bloggers. My only real knowledge of Beast Mode Cowboy comes from the preview podcast that Rob did with Josh Wigler. I’m thinking that he was cast on Survivor for the same reason that the Twinnies found themselves on season 27. He’s there to cause drama, he isn’t there because anyone expects him to have the ability to win. And I can’t see him being the next Natalie Anderson either. He was drama on Big Brother and will likely provide the same entertainment levels here.

I suppose it is possible that he is kept around for his strength in challenges and usefulness around camp, but I don’t think Caleb is going to last long. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up with a story very similar to Nadiya — and goes home because he proved untrustworthy on his last reality show. I know that if I was one of the Beauty women, I’d feel very happy about voting him off as quickly as possible based on his history. I think Caleb is the first one out of the tribe, and perhaps the first one out of the game.

Dan: I’m going to assume that when Caleb talks about being like Tarzan, he doesn’t mean the colorful player from One World. If only that was the case! I don’t watch Big Brother, so I only know about Caleb from his reputation. What I’ve heard isn’t that positive, though I expect he’ll provide entertainment. Being placed on the Beauty tribe also did Caleb no favors. I don’t see him connecting with Nick or Tai, and the women may not love his antics. Like Catherine mentioned, his challenge skills might help Caleb survive the early game. That said, he feels like the number one candidate for an early fall. There’s a Drew Christy vibe about Caleb, and taking him out early would fit with Nick’s desire to really play the game. He’s probably going down quickly.

Sarah: Another non-Big Brother watcher here, and after all I had heard about Caleb from the Big Brother fans, his video came across as quite the anticlimax. Of course, he’s not the sharpest tool in Beauty’s shed, and then you add his firm belief that he could be really good at this game plus the baggage of his Big Brother reputation (he’s bound to be recognized or even called out by Jeff at the opening, like the Twinnies were). Basically, I’m keeping my impression that he’s the tribe’s loose cannon.

Now, I am always of the opinion that you should get rid of the loose cannon, but (to go against Dan’s prediction), we know from the case of J’Tia vs. Spencer that Nick is in the camp that you manipulate crazy people to your own ends. The three women, also show-savvy, doubtless have their own opinion on this, but they all compared themselves to Parvati and/or talked about flirting. I’m leaning more towards Scott’s view than Dan and Catherine’s: Caleb is going far as somebody’s muscle. However, I am not so sure that’s going to be a recipe for success for his allies.

(Possible alternative: Caleb talked about letting himself get hurt to make people laugh — a plan that surely can’t go horribly wrong! It makes me a terrible person, but this is about the only scenario where I might enjoy a medivac.)

Michel: Unfortunately, I watch Big Brother… I’m not sure why but I do. Not every episode and certainly not the live feeds but enough to have some memories of Caleb’s season. So for those that didn’t see him, Caleb should not be targeted for being untrustworthy or a loose cannon. The guy was so loyal that he was still thinking of himself as the leader of the “Bomb Squad” even if his “allies” had long abandoned it to form a new alliance that I think they called the “Detonators”.

Caleb was a joke to Derrick, the real player on that season, and he was used to target all the players standing in the way. Caleb won quite a few competitions (four HoH I think) but he has some weaknesses. He certainly could be kept as the dumb ally, which really is the ideal ally! I seem to remember that he had a problem with being a have-not for a week, though so that could be an indication of problems to come on Survivor where you basically are a have-not for most of the time.

Caleb has some good qualities, and his plan to build a shelter for veterans if he wins the money is certainly worth noting. Also, it seems that he has been able to profit from his appearance on Big Brother because he was able to quit the part-time jobs he previously had. The main problem is that he sees Survivor as a game played in the jungle when, in reality, it is a game played between people. He probably thinks that all he needs to do is socialize and be friendly to get in the group.  He probably still hasn’t realized that his “friends” will be the ones that will blindside him again.

Tai Trang

Tai Trang of Survivor 32Scott: Call me crazy, but I really like Tai and think he is going to go deep in the game. He just has that vibe as someone that is going to be good at competitions and cause zero drama at camp. Do I think he is going to win? Probably not, but I see him ending in the top five. He is going to be liked by everybody, and he’s going to be a stable member of some sort of early alliance. When the game merges, I see him continuing to be the positive guy that everybody loves as he goes deep in the game. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about Tai.

Catherine: Voting for Shauna in the Amazon, Rob C said “I think you’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and you put what’s good for others before what’s good for you. Unfortunately, that also makes you a terrible Survivor player”.

Watching Tai’s video, he seems to be one of the nicest people ever to play. Everything about him just seems lovely. I want to see Tai on my television screen right up until the end of the game. I’m just hoping that all the things that make Tai such an engaging casting choice don’t make him a really terrible Survivor player.

I really do think that to win Survivor, you can’t just play a nice game all the way through. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You have to be able to lie, or at least be able to hide your true intentions. Does Tai have that ability? As much as I’d like to believe that he is a secret mastermind, I think that with Tai, what you see is what you get. He’s going to be amazing TV while he is out there. He’ll be sweet and loyal to a fault. If there was still a fan favorite award, Tai would win it. But I don’t think Tai is going to win the game.

Dan: Tai is so much fun! You can feel the charisma even in his short video. I expect that Tai will be the season’s breakout star. Even if he goes out early like Jeff Varner, he’ll have that kind of impact on this season. There’s a good chance Tai will do better, however. I don’t expect the Beauty tribe to spend much time at Tribal Council and doubt he’d be the first target. Assuming his body holds up, few people will be gunning for Tai. I’m on the same page as Catherine in hoping that he does very well and lasts for a while.

Catherine raises some great questions about whether Tai can play the nastier parts of the game. He seems excited for the adventure of Survivor and wants to win. When he’s forced to make a tough decision, will Tai make the right choice to help his own game? Tai should do well at camp and will surprise people in challenges. I’m not convinced he’ll be ready for the post-merge chaos, however. He should find allies and make the merge, but the final steps for Tai could be difficult. If he’s as well-liked as he seems, players will eventually look at Tai as a jury threat. Regardless, he’s definitely one of the most inspired casting choices of the season.

Sarah: I agree with Catherine that I think Tai might be a terrible player. I’m getting a Keith Nale vibe… and that’s good, right? I love Keith. He was great fun, lasted a long way, could easily have won either time if he’d just been a little luckier with immunity challenges… Except Keith was never on a tribe where he had more than two decades on the second-oldest member. Five out of the Beauty tribe are within a 12-year age span. Tai adds another 21 years to that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think his tribe are going to love Tai. How could they not? He’s adorable! But there’s a difference between fondness and the common ground you have with your peer group. The only potential I see for a deeper connection is with fellow immigrant, Anna, and I’m not sure she’ll care to stick her neck out for him. Beauty has enough stealth-brains and superfans that Tai’s tribemates should be too jaded and competitive to carry such an obvious jury threat any further than they have to.

Unless Beauty never loses (possible) or somebody else proves to be a major challenge liability (maybe) or makes themselves more of an outcast (less likely), we’re not getting as much Tai as we want. Damn.

Michel: There’s certainly a lot of love for Tai here and on the Internet in general. I think it’s at least partly due to the fact that he inevitably reminds us of Yau Man. People should remember that Yau survived the first few Tribal Councils because Ravu was the have-not tribe and therefore they really needed his survival skills. I wonder if you guys realize that love is the worst thing for Tai.

If Gondol turns into a “love” tribe, then they will go to their first Tribal Council and will all vote against Tai. I don’t think Tai will realize that he needs to subtly create conflicts between other people in order to survive. He’ll probably try to unify everyone instead of doing what worked so well for Scout. In the history of the show, from the very first couple of episodes to the demonstration we had with Samboohoo, nothing has divided people more than age. Unless Tai can prove to be as valuable as Yau Man, which I doubt very much, or unless Gondol develops early conflicts, Tai will not last very long. So what?

Totang – The Brawn Tribe

Cydney Gillon

Cydney Gillon of Survivor 32Catherine: Oh my goodness. I cannot wait to watch Cydney/Rebecca/Storm/whatever she’s going to call herself from week to week! This woman is completely crazy in the Abi-Maria kind of way, and that is going to make for spectacular television. Her CBS video certainly made for interesting viewing, and she was one of the few who really stood out for me.

That said, I’ll confidently pull a Jeff Probst here and say that Cydney has 0.0% chance to win this game. She’ll likely make it far, as people will be salivating over the prospect of taking her to the end. She looks like she’ll be a physical asset early (although on Survivor, those with the biggest muscles don’t usually end up being the challenge beasts), so unless the Brawn tribe find themselves in a Matsing predicament — losing every challenge — she will be safe until very late in the game.

As is the problem with Abi, unless Cydney is voted out early, she is virtually guaranteed a spot in the Final Tribal Council. I’ll be picking Cydney and her multiple personalities to come in third, getting zero jury votes, irritating nearly everybody all season, and creating her own kind of chaos. I think I’m going to love her.

Dan: I’m not entirely convinced that Cydney isn’t playing up the various characters to be “good TV”. That would relate to Catherine’s comparison to Abi, who wanted to play the villain. The difference is Cydney’s strength, which is the first thing anyone will notice about her. Despite the potential for entertainment, I don’t believe Cydney is going to do very well.

Like Catherine mentions, bodybuilding strength rarely translates well to Survivor, and there’s a chance Cydney’s personality could frustrate other cast members. What isn’t clear is how she’ll actually play the game. There isn’t much content in her video beyond all the shots of her physique. Her bio is also very thin and doesn’t reveal knowledge of the show. That doesn’t mean she’s doomed, but I’d still be surprised if Cydney makes a deep run.

Sarah: Just to go against the others, I was very taken with how friendly, genuine and fun Cydney seemed. It was only when she started talking about her “personas” that I got flashbacks to J’Tia’s cheerful description of what happens “when you leave the crazy person alone!” Much as I loved J’Tia, you can’t re-cast that magic, so I hope Cydney’s personas are not a big presence on the show. I don’t see her as an Abi-Maria, but she’s a lot of muscle and little fat, so perhaps she will turn that way after a few days of deprivation. In a rebuttal to Catherine, let’s just remember that Abi never made the finals, despite predictions in game and out!

Even if Cydney is as nice as my first impression, I expect to see some fire out of her, so I hope she lasts. However, if I’m right about Brawn being a train wreck, I can’t see her making it out of that tribe. I hope I’m wrong — one way in which I do agree with Catherine here is that Cydney is going to be great TV.

Michel: I’m going to side with Sarah on this one: The first thing I noticed about Cydney was her smile. I think others will notice it too and that could break the ice. I think her biggest luck factor in this game was to be placed on the Brawn tribe. There will be bigger physical threats and she won’t frighten the likes of Scot and Kyle. I’m not too worried about seeing Rebecca and Storm making a weekly appearance because I think Cydney mentioned them more for fun than anything else. Of course, who knows what will happen under the stress of the game and the conditions. I also like the fact that she will be going to med school: There is more than just muscle to this brawny girl.

Unlike Sarah, I don’t think the Brawn tribe will be the worst out there because, along with the Beauty tribe (and production), they will be motivated to humiliate the Brains tribe once more. What worries me more is her statement that she won’t share the food that she catches. That’s certainly something that could get her voted out. How will she do? I see her making the merger but then leaving somewhere in the middle of the home stretch.

Scott: I don’t know what the hell I just watched with Cydney, but it wasn’t good. Whenever you start talking about different personalities you have and then you name them, you’re probably feeling yourself a little too much, like you’re that important and “crazy” that you have these extreme personalities with names and what those personalities are going to do. I’m really not a fan of Cydney coming into this game. I think she will end up being the big villain this season if she doesn’t get herself voted out early in the game, which is a real possibility.

Jennifer Lanzetti

Jennifer Lanzetti of Survivor 32Catherine: I secretly always want to root for the people who say they like playing board games. I picked Josh to win San Juan Del Sur because he had Settlers of Catan listed on his bio. Jennifer’s hobbies are listed as motorbikes, good food, board games, and adventure racing. As soon as I read this, I knew I liked her. Actually, everything about Jennifer, from her bio to her adorable audition video, looks promising. She’s not overly threatening, but I think that if she was to make it to the end, people would want to give her the money. She’s got an interesting story, and she claims that the Survivor player she is most like is Kim Spradlin.

I also think that she’s got herself in a good position from the start of the game. The Brawn tribe is full of people who will be targeted before Jennifer. There’s crazy Cydney and her multiple personalities. There’s Kyle Jason, who’s hoping to model his game on Russell Hantz. There’s Scot, the former NBA player. In other words, Jennifer has plenty of room to maneuver herself into a solid position. She’s been dealt a good hand, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her win the season.

Dan: Jennifer is definitely the woman on Totang with the most potential to do well. Players in their late 30s have life experience but can still handle the physical toll of the game. We need look no further than Jeremy last season to see a good model. Jennifer is definitely in shape and seems to have the right mentality to play. She does seem to have a pretty large chip on her shoulder, so she’ll need to be careful not to clash with the volatile personalities in her tribe. The Brawn group should do well in challenges, but it won’t take much for them to crumble if they go to Tribal Council. Jennifer seems like a contender, but the factors that make her dangerous could also draw attention from paranoid guys like Kyle. I’m excited to see how she does.

Sarah: Jennifer Lanzetti is nicer than you.

Evidence A: Her cast video. Ray of freaking sunshine.

Evidence B: She’s friends with One World’s lovely chef, Jonas. (I hope Jonas passed on some of his island recipes.)

Evidence C: She rescued an abandoned baby squirrel and called it Gustavo. 

Case closed.

To put it another way, I’m on the Jennifer train with Catherine and Dan. Yes, I think the Brawn tribe is going to be a wreck, but Jennifer’s going to be its voice of sanity. She can relate to the players who have been through adversity and worked hard to get themselves where they are. She can relate to the single women who don’t feel girly and want to be assertive. She can relate to Scot on an age level at the very least. If Jennifer doesn’t connect with her tribe, it’s not because she was dealt a bad hand!

Dan worried about her being a target, but the 38-year-old woman is rarely the biggest target, and having everybody like you can take you a long way in this game. The way I see it, there’s never going to be a reason to vote Jennifer off, so she should be the last Brawn standing. If she’s got the Survivor savvy to set up her optimal endgame, she might end up being the Denise Stapley of Totang’s Matsing.

Michel: So you’re all on team Lanzetti? Let me put a stop to all the enthusiasm surrounding her. Yes, she had a pleasant video and she certainly could find a way to adapt her game to any situation, but those are only words. The first words I heard her say was that she owns a virtual construction company. A virtual construction company? I guess she builds dream houses!

From there, the next thing I heard was that she hates it when it rains, so I’m thinking rescue boat because we know it’ll be pouring out there. Since I wasn’t getting the same connection as my fellow bloggers, I looked more at her action shots in that video and she seems overly sure of herself and her strength. This self-proclaimed badass will certainly meet her match on that Brawn tribe, and I wonder if she’ll be ready for it. I’m not convinced that Jennifer goes far in this game. I need to see more from her before jumping on her bandwagon.

Scott: Am I crazy or is Jennifer a little Rodney from Worlds Apart? Let’s just hope she doesn’t have the mental breakdowns that Rodney had. I think she seems very likable but is one of those women that will rub the other women the wrong the way either out of jealously or resentment. I think she will be perfectly fine doing what’s right, and another woman at camp will be plotting to blindside shank her for no good reason. Jennifer probably has all the tools to win the game. I just don’t think she will be given the time and opportunity to use all those tools.

Alecia Holden

Alecia Holden of Survivor 32Catherine: If you are playing Survivor, there is one sure-fire way to my heart: just name drop Kass in your bio. According to Alecia, of all the 400+ people that have played this game, she identifies most with Kass. And because I love Kass, I hope that what she is saying is true. I think that when people play in a truly self-interested and chaotic way, it makes for a fantastic season.

Unfortunately, after reading her bio and watching her video several times, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing particularly Kass-like about Alecia. In fact, there were only two things about this woman that stood out: 1. She mentioned Kass, and 2. Apparently her father being once connected to boxing is what qualifies her as a member of the Brawn tribe, which bamboozles me. She’s a real estate agent. The Brawn tribe is the last place I would put her.

How’s she going to go this season? She seems like she is almost the definition of a replacement level Survivor player. I don’t think she’ll do anything remarkable. Probably just float along until she is no longer needed by the power players. I don’t see Alecia as a threat to win.

Dan: I’m beginning to wonder if most players have seen any season but Cagayan. I hate to immediately dismiss any player after a short video and bio, but Alecia isn’t very exciting from what I’ve seen. First of all, why is she in the Brawn tribe? She seems fit but not particularly strong. I have a sinking feeling that Alecia won’t be an early boot. Players are unlikely to target her as a threat, and she won’t ruffle any feathers. To stick with the Cagayan model, I’d cite Jefra as a good comparison. She was well-liked and lasted a while but didn’t make a real impression. I hope that Alecia surprises me, but she’s a rare yawn in an exciting cast. Catherine’s label of a “replacement level Survivor player” seems very accurate.

Sarah: Did they run out of space on Beauty? Alecia is the skinniest person on the cast with no visible muscle. To put this into perspective, somebody with the build of Courtney Yates is on the Brawn tribe. Catherine said everything that needs to be said, though I think Alecia’s obvious miscasting could get her looked down on by the other Brawns, making her a really good contender for first boot. Mind you, when the “replacement level Survivor player” is a tomboy adrenalin junkie, we have to acknowledge casting has made huge strides over the past three years. (See? I can get past the seven-women-under-30 thing!)

Michel: You guys may regret dismissing Alecia so quickly. First, I wouldn’t put too much in the fact that Alecia doesn’t really fit in the Brawn tribe. The categories rarely work anyway. Remember Heroes vs. Villains? I’ll go the opposite way and say that casting really liked Alecia and simply had to find a way to get her on the show so they used her tomboy personality and her father’s background to place her on the Brawn tribe. Secondly, Tina was a replacement in Australia and look what happened there.

Alecia could certainly find a nice spot in an alliance with the big guys and make her way far in the game. The worry I have is that she says she is very opinionated and confrontational, adding that she doesn’t like bossy people. Well, that might not be the best way to approach the game. Hopefully, she can put a lid on it and leave her anger for her confessionals. Now that would be fun because every tribe, including the Brawn one, needs a Courtney Yates to make us laugh. I’d like to see Alecia make it far in the game even if it is a long shot at this point.

Scott: She is kind of smoking hot, but I agree I don’t see how she ended up on the Brawn tribe. I think her bark in that video is way bigger then how her bite is going to be in the game. Cydney is going to take the hatred from the other players more so than Alecia, so Alecia is going to float along early on in the game and really not create a lot of waves. Call it a hunch, but I don’t think she is going to flame out (Cue to three weeks from now where Alecia is being escorted and deported from the game).

Darnell Hamilton

Darnell Hamilton of Survivor 32Dan: Darnell isn’t your typical idea of a brawny guy, but that may work better for this game. We’ve frequently seen the beefier players struggle at challenges. Another factor is that he won’t be considered the obvious target from the start. Darnell also seems down-to-earth and probably won’t get too locked into the intellectual part of the game. It’s easy to see him bonding with other cast members because of his personality. Unlike the other Totang counterparts, he doesn’t seem interested in being a giant character or running the show.

It’s easy for me to root for Darnell, and I can see him being part of a solid alliance. There is a flipside that could be dangerous for his long-term prospects, however. Wild cards like Scot, Cydney, and Kyle may decide to target the likable guy in the group. Kyle in particular seems determined to generate conflict, and I don’t get the impression Darnell will stay quiet if it happens. If he can adapt to his circumstances like he claims in his bio, he has a chance to go far.

Sarah: I always feel a little sad when a Survivor player includes “not having kids” and “not going to jail” among their accomplishments. We absolutely should see more of those players on the show, but with so many players from sheltered middle-class (or sheltered working class) backgrounds, players who have come from a genuine place of deprivation aren’t likely to find a situation where they fit in. They also rarely know the game… sorry, Darnell, but Survivor sneaky is not the same thing as sneaking out of the house.

Yet Darnell is citing players like Sean Rector, JT and Tony, so his Survivor knowledge encompasses a wide breadth of the show. That long, lean body sets him up as the potential immunity challenge beast. Moreover, I like Darnell. He comes across well in his video, and he’s somebody who’s worked through his adversity, now a postal worker and college graduate. Rather like Ciera, his experiences of adversity are going to help him bond with older players, and I can see him fitting in better with Jennifer and Scot than with Alecia or Kyle. But only if he can stay as level-headed as he appears in his interview… the biggest red flag with Darnell for me is that pack of cigarettes among the things he’d like to have on the island. Like Dan said, I can see Darnell getting into conflicts, when perhaps he should lie back… but I think the majority will side with him, letting him voice their feelings while they stay under the radar. I’m in on Darnell.

Michel: I liked Darnell’s interview a lot. We certainly haven’t had enough players who, like him, have had it tough from the start. Many can’t afford to go on the show, while most have too many problems to care about a TV show. The problem with Darnell is that his life story will certainly remind the other players of Dreamz in Fiji. I also liked Dreamz and thought he was a much better player than the editors showed, but I fear some members of Toe Tap will not want to run the risk of playing with someone that could turn into the new Dre.

If he can somehow get into the majority alliance on his tribe and avoid the pitfalls of the early swap that usually happens in seasons with small tribes, then Darnell could be a fun character to follow. I’ll be looking for a relatively quiet first episode, maybe only one confessional and a few camp scenes, just enough to let us know he’s a player. If he gets an over-the-top first episode, it would tell us that he’s either an early boot or that he’ll be portrayed as the dumb player that can’t win even if he goes far.

Scott: I’m having a hard time trying to read Darnell; he seems likable and seems like he will do well in challenges. The worse-case scenario I see for Darnell is if he tries to play to sneaky too early in the game and gets caught and makes himself an easy early target. For Darnell, I think he has to hope that the Brawns carry the day in competitions early on and get some good bonds going at camp and avoid going “postal” (you see what I did there). Darnell’s best-case scenario is that he is able to get along with everybody and turns out to be extremely likable without looking like a super threat. If he can pull that off, he has the ability to make a deep run in the game.

Catherine: Because I’m human, I enjoyed Darnell’s introduction video very much. He certainly has charisma, and charisma can take a person far in the game. His seemingly random mention of Sean Rector leads me to believe that he is a fan, and someone with Darnell’s charisma who also understands the way Survivor works is a dangerous player.

Darnell talks of his desire to play a sneaky game, but when he gets to camp and sees the people that he is playing with, he’ll have no choice but to lay low. There are a lot of dominant personalities in this group, and I think all of them are going to be fighting to have their voices heard. I also think that the Brawn tribe is a mix of very volatile players, and I see Darnell playing a role very similar to the role that Aras played in Panama (perhaps with Jennifer as his Cirie?). He’ll be the calm, centered one while his crazy tribe implodes around him.

Aras managed to win the game because he found himself in a tribe that was strong in the challenges (as the Brawn tribe should be), and also incredibly loyal to each other. If Darnell can find something similar here, and go to the end with all these crazy Brawns, he’s in a great spot.

Kyle Jason

Kyle Jason of Survivor 32Dan: Kyle’s background is really interesting, and he’s going to be a big character. He’s not the type of guy who won’t get screen time and will disappear quietly. Even if Kyle goes out early, I think he’ll make his mark. On the other hand, his bio includes this statement: “Russell Hantz because he is the only person that has ever truly played the game the way you should.” There are so many issues with this statement. If Kyle wants to just be a character and doesn’t care about winning, then he should follow the Hantz model. It wouldn’t shock me if that was the case.

Kyle should be able to handle the conditions given his military background. In a tough environment like Cambodia, that could give him a serious edge. He’s such a contradiction because he seems easy-going yet still could be the season’s villain. We should remember that players with large beards have not done well in recent seasons. Even a nice guy like Matt in the Caramoan didn’t have much success. I believe Kyle will stand out and probably get a lot of attention from Jeff Probst, but he’s doomed to flame out in epic fashion.

Sarah: My excitement to see Kyle on Survivor began with bounty hunter and ended with his opinion on Russell Hantz. RIP Brawn tribe, because if you’re not being Matsinged due to a lack of puzzle people, you’ll all become prime candidates for the teased medivacs when your machete, flint, and canteens start disappearing. (My tongue is in cheek, but there’s a can of worms for production…what if a contributing factor to a medivac is another player sabotaging the camp?)

I second Dan’s opinions on Kyle’s eventual fate, but how long can he put off his downfall? Kyle’s work experience proves he’s strong physically and mentally, so he might be the leading challenge asset for Brawn. While he hopes his looks will cause people to underestimate him, players with experience of adversity like Darnell and Jennifer might actually be drawn to him. On the other hand, the Russell Hantz game requires large amounts of time looking for an idol, which doesn’t fly in modern Survivor, and there aren’t many contenders for the “dumb girl” alliance. Alecia might fit the bill, but I’m not sure Kyle can handle Cydney. Ultimately, there’s nowhere for a Russell to hide in a tribe of six. I don’t think Kyle will be the first off Brawn, but I’ll be surprised if he makes it to the swap.

Michel: I’ll have to disagree with Dan and Sarah: I think Kyle will go far in this game. I like his no-nonsense approach, and his background should serve him extremely well in this situation. He mentions that he doesn’t make long-term plans, so maybe he’ll be able to adapt his game to the circumstances. Of course, my positive impression of Kyle stems largely from the fact that he doesn’t mention Hantz once in his presentation video! Hopefully he’ll have the tactical side of the villain, but he won’t forget the social game.

Being a blue collar, he could certainly connect well with Darnell, and that would make for a fun duo. On the other hand, his military experience and his job in law enforcement could make him distrust someone with street smarts. I think that the dynamics between these two could decide the fortune of this tribe. Will they be toe-tapping their way to the merger, or will they be stabbing their toes at every challenge? I’m not ready to say that they will be Matsinged because the first Brawn tribe dominated the game as did the Blue Collars, their closest match. Production will find a way to tailor the challenges to their skills.

Scott: Kyle Jason… That name sounds like the lead character of a futuristic science fiction movie where the government is trying to frame him for a murder he didn’t commit. I bet Kyle has the best stories to tell, and I would love to have a beer with that guy. Do I think he will win this season? No…no, I don’t. I think he is going to struggle mightily in the social game and will probably be an easy target early. He needs to prove that he isn’t one dimensional and only good at the physical aspects of Survivor, because you’re not winning the game solely on that. Can Kyle play well with others and tolerate the wimpiness of everybody else? I say no, and I think he fizzles early. Right now he’s my favorite player going into the season, so I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think he will see the merge.

Catherine: Kyle’s hoping to play like Russell. Really, in that sentence, I’ve said enough. If you are going into the game with the intention of having a dreadful social game, there’s really not much hope for you. As Sarah points out, the Brawn tribe has a distinct lack of “dumb ass girls” for Kyle to work with, and perhaps this will force him to abandon the “play like Russell” strategy, and try to just play the game naturally.

As I watched the introduction videos and read the bios, Kyle seemed to me to be playing to the cameras. His bio is deliberately written to be controversial. It almost feels like he is already hoping to be a returning player, and if he has this mindset in the game, he will make a comical blunder and be blindsided early. As Jeff Varner recently proved, making big moves too early rarely works out.

Kyle’s background should have him perfectly suited for this season. As the conditions worsen and his tribemates are suffering, Kyle’s military experience should mean that he is most capable of keeping his wits about him. If he can stop focusing on being a big character and only focus on playing the game well, Kyle could go deep in the game. I don’t give him much hope of winning, though.

Scot Pollard

Scot Pollard of Survivor 32 and the NBADan: If I can give an award to the dullest bio, it should definitely go to Scot. Was he on a word count? With a few exceptions, this bio could be used for any generic professional athlete reality TV contestant. I did learn that apparently Scot was a great teammate, at least in his mind. What’s interesting about Scot is that he retired from the NBA in 2008 due to injuries. He’s 40 years old and isn’t in the same shape, so he may not be a serious athletic threat. His size could help with team challenges, but his body also might collapse with the limited calories.

I’m intrigued by Scot’s plan to lean into his status as a professional athlete. It feels like the right move on Survivor after failed recent attempts by John Rocker and Cliff Robinson. Those guys didn’t expect to be targeted so early. I don’t believe Scot’s very knowledgeable about the show, but that doesn’t mean he’s doomed. On the Brawn tribe, there are other physical threats that could also draw attention. He’ll need to remind people that his playing days are long gone and sell his status as a solid ally. I’m mixed on Scot but don’t think he’s doomed at the start.

Sarah: For shame, Dan, Scot seems adorable! Actually he won me over when he said he wasn’t going to hide his NBA identity. He’s entirely right that at this point in the series, everybody’s going to assume the super tall guy is a basketball player anyway and lying about your career does not seem to have proven benefits. Far better to just be open about it, let them have their first days to be star struck and then get on with the game as Scot. Besides, when one of Survivor’s appeals is that it has players from all walks of life, isn’t it great that we have an NBA star sharing a beach with a kid “from the projects”? That’s a relationship I want to see!

Of course, with Brawn otherwise being a very blue collar tribe, I could see somebody like Kyle starting the attitude that they should get the NBA guy off immediately and let them have their shot at big money. I’m also a little concerned about Scot’s health. If old injuries keep him from playing basketball, is he going to be a liability in certain challenges? As he seems laid back, I’m hopeful that he can become a lovable leader, like Cliff, and gain his tribe’s sympathies that way, but it wasn’t like that ended well for Cliff. I don’t think Scot’s going as far as I want him to.

Dan: To clarify my position further, Scot played college basketball at KU (the evil University of Kansas) while I was in college at the University of Missouri. As a Mizzou fan who must root against all things KU, I cannot in good conscience endorse Scot’s game.

Michel: For once, a former athlete isn’t going to hide his past. We won’t have a Scot Hawkins in Cambodia! In a game where trust is paramount, it isn’t very smart to pretend to be someone else if there is a chance that you will get caught. I don’t follow the NBA, so I had to read his bio to know who he was. While he wasn’t a superstar, Scot played long enough and was on enough different teams that he will likely be recognized. I’d downplay the bank account, though.  Jealousy can create dissension.

I’m not too worried about his old injuries because it could actually help him avoid becoming a target. He’ll do well in strength-based challenges, and he should be smart enough to leave the races for others. Can he strategize? If he concentrates on the social game, the strategy could take care of itself. Being able to tell stories about the NBA and its players could help him make friends out there. I wonder if he’ll use one of his confessionals to tell kids to do drugs!

Scott: Being a big sports fan, I recognized Scot Pollard right away. He played at Kansas and then played in his prime for the Sacramento Kings and possibly had the ugliest jump shot in professional basketball history. He was always pretty quirky in the NBA with his look and how he acted on the court, so I assume he will be quirky here too. It seems like a lot of these professional athletes that come on Survivor end up being really docile, like they really don’t want to stick out in any way, shape or form. I think with Scott’s injuries now, he really won’t have to act that worn down as it appears he already is there. If he does get recognized, I don’t think it will completely kill his game, it comes down to how he relates to everybody else. I don’t think Scott will do awful, but I feel safe saying that he won’t win this season. I say he makes the jury.

Catherine: As with Caleb, I don’t know who Scot is. I’m Australian. I’ve never watched a game of basketball. I don’t know if he could realistically hide his identity from the rest of the cast, but I’m a bit disappointed that he doesn’t plan to do it. I loved John Rocker’s attempt to convince Wes that he wasn’t actually John Rocker, and Cliff’s half-hearted attempt to tell Woo that he wasn’t a basketballer. And then of course, there’s the legendary Gary Hawkins. I’m really sad that we won’t get a “Scot pretends to be a normal person” scene.

Instead, Scot is going to tell everyone, and as his former career seems to be the only interesting thing about him, I’m sure we’ll see him telling some basketball stories. I’m not overly excited about that.

Game-wise, I’m sure that someone will pick Scot up as a loyal ally and tell him what to do. He’ll probably make the merge. But I really don’t see the jury rewarding a former professional NBA player with a million dollars. Remember, the Second Chances jury wanted to vote for Kimmi. Whether he realizes it or not, Scot is out there with absolutely no chance of winning.

Our Fearless Predictions

It’s time to stick our necks out and make our picks. Who will emerge as the smartest blogger? I’ve found that reading too much into the bios and pre-game videos can be dangerous. Players who are great on camera and clever might be terrible Survivor players. Regardless, it’s part of the fun to be so wrong every season. As someone who picked Max Dawson to win Worlds Apart, it’s hard to do much worse. Let’s get to the predictions!

Who will be voted out first?

Dan: It would be too easy to pick one of the older players, particularly from the Brains tribe. However, this predictions game is all about big moves! With that in mind, I still think there’s a good chance the Brains do lose. I’m going to choose Peter as a guy who tries to take charge and ends up falling right at the start.

Sarah: I am sticking with my prediction of Brawn being a train wreck, and while I think there’s an outside chance they’d send Scot home immediately, I’m saying Alecia goes first.

Catherine: Remember all the way back to San Juan Del Sur? That’s why I picked Caleb as first out. In that first vote, people are looking for any excuse. Caleb’s somewhat unsavory reputation will be enough, and there won’t be much that he can do. Just ask Nadiya.

Michel: Joe. He just won’t fit in and may have early problems with the conditions.

Scott: Nick.

Who will be the breakout character of the season?

Scott: Tai. It seems like he will be a very popular player and a fan favorite.

Michel: Anna. I think she will surprise everyone, dominate the strategic game, and charm everyone with her smile.

Catherine: Debbie has to be the breakout character, right? I mean…that swimsuit. I think she’s a really unique casting choice, and if she truly is the female version of Coach, then she’s the star.

Sarah: What with his background and phrases as golden as “Hateration is my Motivation”: Darnell.

Dan: There are actually quite a few possibilities this time, including Darnell, Cydney, and Kyle. It’s probably the most obvious choice, but I think Tai is going to charm a lot of viewers.

How will the new idol twist play out?

Dan: Is it crazy to think that it won’t work at all? I have a sinking feeling this may be the new Medallion of Power. It has a lot more promise on the surface, but so much has to happen for it to come together well. I’m hoping that if the twist does come into play, we won’t have a single person holding two idols. I’d much rather have the idols used as a tool to build a new coalition and surprise an unsuspecting contender at Tribal Council.

Sarah: I am cautiously optimistic about the new idol twist, but I don’t think we’ll actually see it used, if only because combining two idols into a post-votes super idol would require a fairly specific set of circumstances. Odds are against those happening.

But it’s going to require players to rethink their idol strategy, which will have indirect influences on the game: Do you tell your allies you found an idol in hopes that one of them has another? Do you take the risk of not playing your idol in case you find another later? If you do hold two idols, does it make more sense to play one idol ahead of the vote and save the other for the next Tribal Council?

Even if it doesn’t come to anything this time, I’d like to see this twist in play for a few seasons, just to give the players time to work it out.

Catherine: I think it fizzles to nothing. Honestly, if it was anything fantastic, I think we would have seen the use it again for Second Chances. I think that two separate players end up with the idols, and wisely, neither will be willing to share.

Michel: Horribly wrong. I think it will become another too powerful idol, helping someone reach the end without really playing.

Scott: No freaking clue!

Who will make the merge?

Scott: Anna, Aubry, Caleb, Debbie, Elisabeth, Jennifer, Joseph, Kyle, Michele, Neal, Scot, Tai

Michel: Alecia, Anna, Caleb, Elisabeth, Jennifer, Julia, Kyle, Michele, Neal, Nick, Peter, Scot

Catherine: Alecia, Anna, Cydney, Darnell, Debbie, Elisabeth, Jennifer, Kyle, Neal, Nick, Scot, Tai

Sarah: Anna, Aubry, Caleb, Darnell, Debbie, Elisabeth, Jennifer, Joseph, Julia, Michele, Neal, Nick

Dan: Alecia, Anna, Aubry, Darnell, Elisabeth, Jennifer, Julia, Kyle, Michele, Neal, Nick, Tai

Who will be the two runners up?

Scott: Anna and Elisabeth. They seem like the dead weight that will be brought to the finals to lose.

Michel: Neal, Anna. I think those two will prove to be very smart players.

Catherine: Cydney is crazy, and has no hope of getting votes. As soon as I heard about her multiple personalities, I locked her in for a final three appearance. Jennifer is someone that I see working closely with Darnell from the beginning, as the least insane members of the Brawn tribe. I think she and Darnell could be a strong power couple, but (and I really hope I’m wrong about this) if they get to the end, he’s the Cochran and she’s the Dawn — another older woman getting slammed at Final Tribal Council.

Sarah: I’m getting a bit of Philippines déjà vu with my predictions, so let’s go the whole hog and pick a likely pair of allied elders: Joe and Debbie.

Dan: I’m really trying to go against my first instincts with these picks. I tend to predict wins for strategists and emphasize pre-game info too much. Therefore, I’m picking Nick to be a polarizing figure that makes the end but falls a few votes short. He’ll be sitting next to Julia, who will occupy the zero-vote slot.

Who will be the Sole Survivor?

Dan: I’ve made winner picks since One World, and I’ve never even come close. This time, I’m going to avoid the likely choices like Anna and Darnell. We’re due for someone to surprise us, and Michele is the right person for this job. The Beauty tribe should do well early, and Nick and Anna will draw attention. That will allow Michele to become the jury’s sentimental favorite (à la Kelley Wentworth) when the backstabbing happens in the post-merge game.

Sarah: As she’s the same age as me, I am probably being swayed heavily by my own gender and age bias, but so be it! Do me proud, Jennifer!

Catherine: I’m picking Darnell for one reason — I have no idea who is winning this thing, and I thought I may as well pick the person I liked the most! We’ve just seen Jeremy show how important likability is to the game, and Darnell has likability in spades.

Michel: Nick. I’m rooting for him.

Scott: I think they cast this season to get a woman winner, so my heart says Tai, but my head says Jennifer.

What are your predictions for the new season?

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