Sunday, February 21, 2010

For the Canadians who missed it

Tom Brokaw's piece on the Canadian/American relationship

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Survivor Heroes vs. Villains: Episode 2 Thoughts

As far as predicting the game goes, I'm well off. I mean, I got that the weakest was going to be first voted off of the Heroes tribe, but they've split into factions I was not expecting. It's left me confused.

I really don't get what the Heroes are thinking. Cirie has proven in two seperate seasons that she is one of the best strategic minds to play Survivor. Many players have said this. So why is her vote being courted by both sides? Why not just vote her out all together, so you don't have to worry about her later? It's not like she is adding to your team on the challenges. Some would argue that she is huring your tribe in the challenges. So why exactly aren't you dealing with her now, as opposed to later?

That confused me to no end. The repercusions of this also confused me. How much credit does Cirie get for putting herself in the position of being a swing vote AND keeping Amanda around for a possible alliance later? Did she just luck her way into a position where there was a faction fight and she was in the middle? The editing lends itself to Cirie and Candice lucking themselves into that position, but I could see how Cirie might have seen this coming and positioned herself into this situation. Then again, this might be a ruse which has Cirie and Amanda already aligned but appearing to not be initially so they can surprise their alliance later on.

Another thing that confused me was James going on and on about how Stephenie was a loser just outlasted the rest of her tribe. First, this ignore that she finished second in Guatemala, which is further than James ever got. More importantly, where does the guy who got voted out while holding two hidden immunity idols get off calling anybody else a loser? I really wished that somebody would have mentioned this at some point during the incredibly fun yet slightly uncomfortable Tribal Council. Heck, I'm sure I know James' reaction to that fact:

Shut your mouth.

Meanwhile, over at the Villain family camp out, Boston Rob has the flu and a bit of "crybabyitis", Coach and Jerri continue to work as a team (did you see how they rolled that block in the immunity/reward challenge?), and Russell continues to feel jealous and plot against Boston Rob. When the showdown between these two finally come, it will epic I can not wait.

Next week looks great as well, with them bringing back a purely physical game. I have to imagine that somebody is going to take a beating in this episode, and the end result is going to leave us cringing. Plus, we're going to see the end result of James' actions at tribal council. Are Tom and Colby going to be the next ones voted out, or can they swing the tribe to get rid of James before them. And isn't it time for the villains to have to face tribal council?

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Survivo Heroes vs Villans: Episode 1 Thoughts

It's indisputable that Mark Burnett and crew know how to start out a season with a bang and this was no exception. The chopper entrance was one thing, but the reward challenge was unreal. Anything containing nudity, violence and non-life threatening injuries can't be bad, can it?

It seems like Stephenie will be fine, but Rupert? He's in more trouble than initially thought. He won't be removed because of his broken toe, but if he shows weakness, the wolf pack that is the Heroes tribe will eat him alive.

One of the more interesting developments was how quickly the Heroes tribe evolved into many subtribes who were looking to take control behind the scenes, if not in front of the scenes. Meanwhile, the Villans seems to be following in line behind Boston Rob. Heck, that was almost as surprising as Boston Rob stepping up to be the clean cut leader of the tribe. It was like bizarro Survivor from the expectations.

One thing that was not surprising was Sugar's ouster. Ultimately, there was no groundswell to get rid of one particular player for long-term strategic reasons, even with Amanda, Cirie, Tom and Stephenie all being identified as possible threats. So instead, the person who showed the most weakness after the immunity challenge (and arguably during the challene) gets the boot. Too bad for Sugar, though I did think she was not long for ths game.

No prediction for next week; the teaser does not look promising for one Survivor player.

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Survivor Heroes vs. Villans Preview: Power Rankings 1-10

10. Stephenie LaGrossa (Palau, Guatemala) - Heroes

A strong player, Stephanie could have been put on either tribe. In Palau, she was the ultimate hero, being the last remaining player from her tribe up against a full opposing tribe who had not lost a challenge to date. In Guatemala, she ran her team's alliance right to the very end. On her way, she upset enough people that she finished second to Danni. She's been placed on the Heroes tribe; I suspect she will be under the radar until closer to the merge. One thing is for certain, she has been on both extremes of the game and she has an idea on how to play both sides.

9. James Clement (China, Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites) - Heroes

James is not a bad player, his holding of the second dumbest move of all time not withstanding. His physical appearanc hurts him more than it helps; James looks like he should be a dominant physical player, but he tends to fall a bit short of translating that to immunity challenge wins. If he can find himself to the final tribal council, he has a better than average chance of winning. He has a very likeable personality which translates pretty easily into jury votes. More than likely though, he's going to be eliminated early into the merge.

8. Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands, All-Stars) - Heroes

Rupert is a trusting individual. This has carried him far, but ultimately cost him the game. This time he's going to be prepared for possible blind sides, but he now has a bigger question in front of him: How will he handle not being the only alpha male on his side? Will he fight to be the alpha male, or will he let somebody else take charge and play a more subtle game? If he is able to tone down his personality, he has a chance to surprise, especially if he's willing to take a second banana role in the beginning.

7. Tyson Apostol (Tocantins) - Villans

When remembering Tocantins, one of the things you remember is Tyson's face when he realizes he is being blindsided. The change in his face from cocky to shock (along with Coach's reaction) was one of the highlights of the show. What is forgotten is that Tyson was a phenom at individual immunity challenges; part of the reason why Tyson became a target was that nobody was sure if they were going to have another chance to take Tyson out. If that continues, Tyson could surprise.

6. Amanda Kimmel (China, Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites) - Heroes

The eternal runner up. It's not fair to rely on her to repeat her mistakes from both China and Fans vs. Favs tribal council - she hadn't had the chance to find out how her strategy had gone in China and so she repeated it in Micronesia. With that sid, she is likely the best all-around female player in his game. Combining her strategical abilities and a strong base of skills for challenges, she might be the best female player Survivor has ever seen. Her concern has to be that she will end up being an early target precisely because of her broad skillset.

5. Colby Donaldson (Australia, All-Stars) - Heroes

Our first alpha male jock comes back for one more crack at the win. The lingering question is whether he remains the dominant player he was in 2000. I'm not sure he is, but I think he's learned more on how to play the social game and use his carm to his advantage. And if that does combine with the old Colby dominance, I doubt anybody can stop him from winning the game.

4. Parvati Shallow (Cook Islands, Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites) - Villans

Her game is known - play the social game to the max, and don't worry about immunity challenges. I suspect that her success in playing the game will be lost. (Honestly, how many people can remember that she won Fans vs. Favourites?) As well, I suspect that she would have no problem in attempting to fly under the radar until she is reunited with her good friend Amanda. So long as she doesn't cause waves early, she is a good bet to make it to the end.

3. Tom Westman (Palau) - Heroes

Tom is a former champion, which is always a negative in these all-star seasons. At the same time, he was a dominant physical player who showed an underrated tactical mind. He is also a born leader who can hold together a team. Strong contender to take a 4 person Hero alliance to the final four.

2. James "J.T." Thomas (Tocantins) - Heroes

JT is the biggest physical threat in this game. If anybody is going to "pull an Ozzie" and run the indivdual immunity table. At the same time, JT has shown an ability, to adapt to what is thrown at him. He is able to identify who hid best target is and act upon that. The only thing that concerns me is whether he's able to function on his own, or if he needs a Steven to be his sidekick.

1. Russell Hantz (Samoa) - Villans

Russell's greatest advantage is that nobody has seen his game. When combined with his tendency to "cause chaos", it's a great cover for his strategic mind. Everybody will assume he's a villan because he's overbearing, loud and a troublemaker. As well, nobody will have dealt with his strong "manipulate emotions" game. On the down side, he will grate on people, but if he's in control it won't matter. This game is Russell's to lose; it's only a matter of whether he keeps himself in control.

(An underrated piece is that Russell has experience on being both the underdog and the favourite.)

Russell is my pick to win Survivor: Heroes vs. Villans. We'll see, starting tonight, if I'm right.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Survivor Heroes vs. Villans Preview: Pre Show Power Rankings 11-20

bWe are less than 24 hours ay from the East Coast debut of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villans, and I thought I would do something different and provide power rankings that would also serve as a preview of the season. What makes this season so intriguing is that we know the participants and what they are capable of. Throw in that they did a good job of combining different types of players, and you have the makings of a great season.

One thing that I think is clear (and Rob Cesterino agrees with) is the Heroes tribe is much stronger than the Villans tribe. Cirie and Sugar are the weak links, and even at that Cirie is a plus player when it comes to solving puzzles. The villans have Randy, Jerri and Courtney as definite liabilities, along with Coach, Sandra and even Parvati who could falter in a variety of challenges.

It will be interesting to see how each tribe function when faced with tribal council. My guess (and Rob's - I swear I listened after coming to these conclusions!) is that the Heroes tribe is going to be straight forward in their votes - vote out the player who seems like the biggest liability to the tribe. When they approach the merge, they might get a bit trickier and vote out a threat for individual immunity, but that will really depend on the lay of the game at that point. The villans, of course, will be much more interesting.

The villans are not likely to stay just on the weakest link plan. You have 1 player who everybody knows dominated his season, even if he wasn't voted winner for his year. Nobody else has the same noteriety on the villans side; the rest have made their name for being pain in the ass and scheming. (This excludes Russell, but we'll get to that later.) This should lead to another season of backstabbing and blindsides; in turn, the strongest are actually in the most danger. How this tribe devolves into small alliances and ultimately chaos will be the storyline that carries this show for the first 6 or 7 episodes, and will please the Survivor fanboys and girls. From there, we will watch to see if the Villans can come back from being behind in numbers (and possibly turn to heroes.)

Without any further ado, players 20-11 in my power rankings:

20. Jerri Manthey (Australia, All-Stars) - Villans

Jerri is on record as wanting to use her feminine charms to get her way around camp. The problem is there is no obvious player who would fall for her charms. Most of the other players are either (a) married, (b) not interested in girls or (c) too self absorbed to realize that somebody is trying to manipulate them. When this is added to the fact that she is not exactly a master Survivor strategist, along with her tendency to whine, complain and generally act very negatively, you are left with a player who is looking for a miracle to remain in the game for a long period of time. I don't think she will get that miracle.

19. Cirie Fields (Panama, Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites) - Heroes

I feel bad for putting Cirie so low, but she got a bad draw. Being the worst physical player on a tribe of alpha dogs is a bad start, but also being known as a "brilliant strategica player" will seal your fate. She is going to have to get into a strong alliance early on and/or hope that the Heroes tribe comes close to running the table on tribal immunity. The earlier the Heroes go to tribal council, the more likely they are to try to strengthen the tribe by the "addition via subtraction" theory, which leaves her as the obvious targe.

18. Danielle DiLorenzo (Panama) - Villans

It's the return of Danielle's cleavage everybody! I have her this low because I remember her as not having a set alliance, instead choosin to float from situaton to situation. Whomever ends up running the Villans tribe will not want to risk carrying an unaffiliated floater any further than is absolutely necessary. Barring her making an alliance quickly, I can see a future where Danielle ends up isolated from her own tribe and thus an easy target for a "compromise' vote.

17. Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands) - Villans

Sandra suffers from the same problem as Cirie - strong tactical player, weak challenge player. One thing that worked out well for her is that she is on the villans, where her challenge weakness will be less of a hinderance. Unfortunately, winning a season based on your manipulations is not going to endear her to the rest of her tribe. I can see her making a move against somebody early on, and then making herself a target.

16. Jessica "Sugar" Kiper (Gabon) - Heroes

If only Bob was a woman. He could then have taken this spot and I would be happier. Sugar made it to the final 3 and voted to enable Bob to have a shot to win the game out of fairness. But she is a hottible tactical player - by moving against Kenny and friends she basically threw away any chance to win the game. She definitely a weak link on the Heroes side, which makes her a large target early on. I don't see her lasting long, unless the Heroes absolutely dominate all challenges.

15. Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano (Marquesas, All-Stars) - Villans

It's a shame to have him so low. But in the intro, when I was discussing the Villans tribe, I was describing Boston Rob. He's been chosen onto a team who has no player with the reputation as he does (save Russell; more about him later) However, this tribe he is on is very sneaky. They look for their edge and then they use it swiftly. Throw in Russell - aka Boston Rob v 2.0 - not caring for Boston Rob and I would expect that Boston Rob will be blindsided early on. If he lasts long enough, he might be able to make it again I doubt it though

14. Courtney Yates (China) - Villans

Courtney is in a good position to become Russell's right hand person, so long as she can keep her thoughts to herself. Of course, that is much more difficult for her to do. OTOH, in China she managed to carry that attitude to second place. She sits this low because if she does not find an alliance (which is likely) she is going to end up being viewed as too much of a wildcard and voted out around episode 5 or 6.

13. Randy Bailey (Gabon) - Villans

Randy is an interesting case - he's been chosen specifically because of his personality, not his skills as a player. This could be a good thing; he certainly won't be targetted for his skills. If he keeps his, uh, unique personaliy in check he could end up making it far.

12. Ben "Coach" Wade (Tocantins) - Villans

Coach is similar to Randy in that his tactical skills are not what brought him back. However, he also has physical skills which might make him useful to keep around for a while, especially since he's not a tactical threat. He's also a straight forward player, making him easy to predict and control.

11. Candice Woodcock (Cook Islands) - Heroes

Candice and Danielle were the most puzzling players brought back. While Danielle at least finished second in her season (besting Cirie). Candicee? She shook up the game and let the Yul/Ozzie combo run the game. That isn't enough to be deserving to be an all-star, no matter how often that gets pointed to as a major move. With that said, she is strong enough in challenges to not be targetted as a weak link and she is willing to make a bold move to theoretically get herself ahead in the game. A definite sleeper if she can clean up her act when a hope seems lost.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ramblings about Super Bowl XLIV

As a Buffalo Bills fan, the Super Bowl is a touchy time of the year. In recent time, it has also turned into a game where I do not have a set team to cheer for.

In some years, I cheer for the team that I have placed a wager on. Normally, this ends poorly. In other years, there is one team that I find kinship with and cheer for. Normally, this ends poorly. The years where there are two teams who I dislike in the Super Bowl tend to come down to which team I dislike the least, and even then I'd rather a event occur where the Super Bowl is just cancelled, and no champion declared. (cf Super Bowl XLII aka JayRo jabs a pencil into his eye to make the pain go away, and yet cheers the ending of the game completely as it marks the end of the 19-0 season and the New England Patriots' dynasty.)

What made the lead up to this year so enjoyable was that it involved two teams that I wanted to win in the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. The Colts, led by Peyton Manning, were playing for their legacy. A second Super Bowl win would cement Manning as this generation's greatest quarterback, and would create the argument of which team was most dominant in the past 10 years - the Patriots or the Colts. The Saints were the feel good story with what New Orleans had been through. They also featured an exciting offence to watch, with a great running game setting up a dynamic passing game.

I chose to root for the Colts, as I wanted to see thir legacy validated. As the game went on though, I found that I wasn't cheering that much when the Colts succeeded, or when the Saints failed. Really, I was going to be happy with the outcome no matter who won. Oddly, this made the game less interesting.

This was a very odd dynamic. There wasn't much to dislike about either team. So unless you were a fan of either team, it was difficult to truly feel any sort of negative emotion to the other team. Which left "dramatic ending" as the only thing that could save the Super Bowl. When Peyton Manning threw the pick-6, that option was gone, and we were left to consider what the Saints' victory meant.

Many will want to frame it as a great victory for a snake bit city. Others will use it to belittle Peyton Manning. Some will choose to bring up the decision of the Colts to rest their starters in Week 16 and 17 and forego a chance at a perfect season. I'm going to remember it for the great performance from the entire Saints' team, who executed a well prepared game plan in order to defeat a great team in their own right. We saw two great quarterbacks play. We saw some strong decisions made by Sean Payton, some of which worked out for him, and others that did not. All-in-all, we saw a well-played game which, while not that dramatic, left us with a satisfying conclusion.

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints on their Super Bowl victory - it is well earned, and well deserved.

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