Monday, May 30, 2011

Well, I failed again

Yesterday I did not post, meaning that Manic May ended right again on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I did it intentionally, choosing to sleep/relax/hang out with friends over posting. I'll get into this more in the post-mortem on Wednesday, but it was definitely the right choice.

I'll have a UFC 130 summary up either later today or tomorrow But for those who can't wait, the results of my predictions...

Overall, my predictions were 6-4 (starting out 6-0, then going 0-4), putting me at 40-26-2 for the year. I made $10.40 on my wagers, putting me at a net profit of $18.30.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

UFC 130 Predictions

Some quick predictions and theoretical wagers...

Renan Barao over Cole Escovedo
Michael McDonald over Chris Cariaso

Bet: $20 on McDonald at 1.22 odds to get back $24.40

Gleison Tibau over Rafaello Oliveira
Tim Boetsch over Kendall Grove

Bet: $20 on Boetsch at 2.15 odds to get back $43

Demetrious Johnson over Miguel Torres

Bet: $20 on Johnson at 2.15 odds to get back $43

Brian Stann over Jorge Santiago
Thiago Alves over Rick Story
Stefan Struve over Travis Browne

Bet: $20 on Struve at 2.20 odds to get back $44

Roy Nelson over Frank Mir
Matt Hamill over Rampage Jackson

Going out on a limb for this one, but if Rampage isn't taking Hamill seriously, Rampage will lose.

Bet: $20 on Hamill at 3.40 odds to get back $68

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Friday, May 27, 2011

JayRo in Vegas - Day 4

Love - still good

Yesterday I went and saw Love for the second time. It was just as fantastic as the first time. It helped to have a bit of an understanding of what they were trying to tell us, but even without that, it is fantastic to watch. I went in a group of eleven, and everyone was impressed and loved it. I think I liked it more than Absinthe, but I'm not entirely sure. I'll have to think about it some more.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

JayRo in Vegas - Day 3

My new home base

Yesterday I moved to Mandalay Bay after spending two nights in the Tropicana. The Trop was a fantastic place to stay (with review still to come), but I kinda feel like I'm home now.

Just yesterday, I was thinking about the places I have stayed the most. If I'm counting right, I have stayed at Excalibur the most, with Mandalay Bay the next in line. The next time I stay at Mandalay Bay, it will tie Excalibur. But I haven't stayed at Excalibur for 4 years, while my stays at Mandalay Bay have been more recent. I don't know why, but it just feels more comfortable now. Maybe I'm just used to it, and know what I'm going to get - a standard room which is nice and comfortable, and slightly luxurious as well.

I will definitely stay at Tropicana again, but I will always start with Mandalay Bay when considering a place to stay.

A brief review of Absinthe

This is the best show I have seen in a long time. It's an acrobat/circus based show with a lot of humour built in. It should be noted that the show is definitely adult, with both female nudity and rather raunchy humour being told. So be prepared to offended. At the same time, the acrobatics being displayed are incredible, and are emphasized by the size of the "tent" - at worst you are about 25 feet away from the action, which is about an 8 foot diameter circular stage. I can not recommend this show strongly enough.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

JayRo in Vegas: Day 2

Quick thoughts about the Cosmopolitan

I went to the Cosmopolitan for the first time yesterday, and gave it a once over. Some thoughts about it:
  • The first view I saw was this:

    I have to admit it that is a great first impression.

  • Next order of business was to sign up for my new Identity rewards card. The clerk was extremely nice and knew some things about Ontario which I did not know.

    One thing I didn't like about the process was that the clerk had to enter your secret pin number, as opposed to having a number pad where you could enter the information yourself. Granted, it was only a pin number, but how many people would use the same pin number for that and, say, their debit card?

  • Once I got my card, I parked myself at a $0.25 Video poker machine and played my free play through, along with another $40. This lasted me about 45 minutes, during which I was never offered cocktail service. There was at least two cocktail waitresses walking by, but neither seemed to have my section. When I subsequently moved to another machine, all was good in the world and I got my drink.

  • The atmosphere during the day was a bit non-existant. No real energy or excitement on the casino floor. So I came back at night. The first thing I did was head to the secret pizza shop and had a decent slice of pepperoni for $3.75. The pizza joint is a cool idea, and is sorely needed for a place to get a quick snack.

  • I walked the casino floor after and as I figured, it was like night and day (no pun intended). The table games were relatively active, but the bars had the most action in them. One thing I did notice about the table games were that the minimums were pretty high. I saw as many $50+ tables as $25 tables, and a sparse amount of $15 tables. There was a $10 Casino War table, but otherwise you needed to be betting a quarter to be playing at those tables. I can't say as that was good for my plans to play a couple of hands of blackjack to acquire some chips, but if it works for them, so be it.

  • One other thing I found interesting was the attire of the people who were there at night. A lot of suits and cocktail dresses - not what I would expect from the "curious class", but closer to the convention types that you would expect.

  • Random final note: I had my first celebrity sighting of the trip - Brad Garrett was at the Cosmopolitan with a woman who I presume was his girlfriend. (I didn't ask.)

I'll probably visit Cosmopolitan again, and there is a chance that I will stay there for a few nights the next time I am in town. While the table limits at night are a non-starter, the hotel still has amazing views in it's rooms, and some interesting restaurants as well. I can always gamble at another casino.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

JayRo in Vegas - Day 1

As I've mentioned once or twice, I'm in Vegas this week. I'm hoping to put up a post a day about my various adventures and tribulations along the way. So, let's get this started...

Eating at Bacio

For the first couple of nights, I'm staying at the newly renovated Tropicana. A room review will show up, but I will say that the renovations look fantastic. I love the room and the look of the casino.

With all this said, I also wanted to make sure I ate at some of the restaurants being offered here. I was torn between Bacio and Biscayne (which are convienently located right across from one another). As it turns out, a passerby would end up making the decision for me by handing me an unused $27 comp for Bacio. To that person, I thank you again for your generousity.

I was seated by the hostess (who is sure to be featured on Eating LV's Hot Hostess Watch), and once seated was asked by Glenn if I would like water and what kind. Being a simple person, I asked for regular/tap water, and it was brought without problem. Then my main server Manny appeared, asking me if I had any questions about the menu or wine list, and making recommendations of his choices from both. For the small berth in the actual Bacio restaurant, there were 3 teams of two servers, a main who handled orders and delivery of the meals/alcoholic drinks, and a secondary (junior? What's the correct term here?) who served the non-alcoholic drinks, bread and did some cleaning of the tables as well.

I ordered a Chianti (which Manny said was the house Chianti), and received my bread basket.

I'm going to be honest and say I don't remember what the breads were. There was a foccacia, some sort of olive bread, a cheese something (the thin large wafer). An olive oil/balsalmic vinegar combination was served along side for dipping. The breads were fine, and the oil/vinegar combination complimented the breads nicely.

Manny came back and I made my order:

I started with the Vongole Oreganate, which are described as "Broiled Bread Mixture Stuffed Littleneck Clams". This was on the recommendation by my mysterious benefactor, the hostess and Manny. These were pretty good, and surprisingly light considering that the bulk of the food is just bread mixture. The one downside of this dish was that the clams played second fiddle to the breading. The breading was quite tasty and definitely carried the dish. The broth was lemony; if you put some on top of the clams it would have added another dimension.

For my main course, I selected the Gnocchi al Ragu, which is a "Potato Gnocchi in Slow Cooked Ground Beef, Veal, Pork and Tomato Sauce".

This was a disappointment. The problem was the Gnocchi. The gnocchi stuck to me, but to my teeth instead of to my stomach. This ended making the gnocchi feel more heavy than it should have. The sauce was good, not good enough to elevate the dish, but it was good enough.

In all, I think I would come back. I'm willing to give the gnocchi a pass and try something else (I am eyeing up the Pollo Scarpariello), as the service was a strength and the ambience was suprisingly nice.

The bill came to $46

I hate having to do the right thing

I played a lot of video poker yesterday, and came across this dealt hand:

What an unfair choice - take the guaranteed $6.25, take the the 1 in 47 shot at the $1000 Royal Flush, or the 2 in 47 shot at the $62.50 Straight Flush.

The Jacks or Better book says you have to keep the 4 to the Royal Flush instead of the open ended straight flush draw or even the flush. So that's what I did, to this result:

Ah well, maybe next time it will actually hit.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Random Thoughts on the Celebrity Apprentice and other things that pop into my head

A quick view behind the curtain here. When this posts, I'll be flying to Las Vegas. Right now, I'm going through my final preparations, making sure I have all of my tickets/reservations, that I have everything packed and in general that I haven't forgot anything. So some hurried thoughts:

- That red carpet skit at the start would have been much funnier without the lame "you're fired" bit at the end.
- The entire John Rich/Def Leppard interaction was fantastic. Between the blank stare when Rich went on about his kickdrum stuff, and Def Leppard
- David Cassidy insulting and making fun of Richard Hatch about going to jail, and then talking about getting what's coming to you when you take the low road was just a bit awkward.
- Donald Trump: Peace Negotiator is not destined to be successful.
- Donald Trump does a worse job in wrangling in the people who are getting too far off topic.
- With that said, Gary Busey was note perfect in his appearance in the finale, until he actually got to shwo what he was talking about on the Omaha Steak thing.
- The kickdrum argument was possibly the most inane cliffhanger "setback" ever. Heck, the whole argument was inane, as shown by how easy it was solved.
- So, why is John Rich getting all these donations, while Marlee Matlin isn't?
- Of course, we're getting a lot of John Rich's failures, so Marlee Matlin will win.
- How in the sweet blue fuck do you fuck up your timing on Def Leppard?
- Seriously, I still don't get how you end up saying "Time to go now, only 30 minutes before our headliner is supposed to show." For somebody who's been incredibly point on before this task, AND A PERSON WHO GIVES CONCERTS FOR A LIVING, how do you fuck up this schedule/timing?
- Your solution? I'll just jump up and perform myself. Not that awkward.
- You know, in wrestling there's a thought that if you fuck up a spot, you don't go back to it. That's what John Rich did when he had them sing that Retro 7Up opening again.
- Oh, and John Rich still loses. Between the timing and the not meeting the executives, he can't win.
- Speaking of awkward, that planned clinking of the cans by the executives was uber-awkward.
- Star Jones decides to bring up the black woman card against Nene Leaks. Whoops.
- Marlee Matlin's reaction to John Rich's extra fund raising was necessary, but came across as desperate.
- Hearing the crowd while they were showing the pretaped footage is still offputting. I don't want to hear it
- Donald Trump knows how to sell some things, for example putting his black cowboy hat on.
- If only Trump hadn't already announcedhe wasn't going to run for President. Then his "announcement you have all been waiting for" tease would have had more meaning.
- The musical performance was pretty good. And I'm happy that they finally integrated the ASL version of applause. I realize it's an verbal medium as well, but still.
- So the people who think Marlee should win are the people who were the first three to go, and Gary Busey. Not a great endorsement.
- Holy crap John Rich won. How did that happen?
- No really, how did that happen?

Er, that's about it. I'mstill stunned over John Rich actually winning.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

A video and a plug

Kevin Peirera interviews Royce Gracie on Attack of the Show, then decides it would be fun to get choked out.

I found the video posted on a new website created by Mike Sawyer: Tough Talk MMA. Add it to your rotation; MMA news and views plus the odd Las Vegas insider tidbit from a great man.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Might as well finish off the series

For those who haven't been following along, on Thursday I jumped the gun on a blog post, and found that an assumption about what I would find if I changed a study completed by Steven Levitt was absolutely incorrect. On Friday, I finished my analysis and figured out (to my satisfaction) why the results came through like they did. Today, I'm going to take a look at the NBA and see what happens if you take a look at it and compare that to the randomly paired poker pro results .

I have used the playoffs from 2007-2010 as a base for the basketball population test. Here's how the percentages break down:

Champion (1 team): 71.95% win percentage vs. the rest of the league, 81.60% vs non playoff teams
Made the finals (2 teams): 72.19% win percentage vs. teams that did not make the finals, 79.32% vs. non playoff teams, overall win percentage 71.65%
Made the Conference finals (4 teams): 67.28% win percentage vs. teams that did not make the finals, 73.79% vs. non playoff teams, overall win percentage 65.63%
Made the second round (8 teams): 64.91% vs. teasm that did not make the second round of the playoffs, 70.16% vs. non playoff teams, overall win percentage 61.43%
Made the playoffs (16 teams): 65.84% vs. non playoff teams, overall win percentage 57.70%

It's worth noting that there are 30 teams in the NBA, which means that 14 teams do not make the playoffs.

If anything, this destroys Levitt's main point, which is the random pairings he made of "elite players" vs. non-elite players show about the same win percentage of baseball teams when doing a playoff vs. non playoff cut. Basketball actually has much larger spread of win percentages, with teams having individual win percentage ranging from 10% to 75%+, which indicates a greater spread in talent between the teams. This would also match better with World Series of Poker fields, which have a large spread in talent.

What would be ideal would be to know more abou what Levitt's population did. How often do elite players cash vs. non-elite players? If you randomly pair an elite and non-elite player, how often do both cash, how often does only once cash, and how often do neither cash? Just throwing out the random pairing percentage doesn't give us a proper idea of it's significance.

All of this isn't to say that poker is not a game of skill; it is. The question is how much of it is skill, and how much is also random occurance of the cards.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Trying to make sense of it

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I ran the numbers for playoff, LCS and World Series teams against teams that miss that cut off for 1998-2010 (1998 chosen because it was the first year with full expansion.)

The pattern stayed the same - the playoff/non-playoff divide had playoff teams winning 56.53% of the time, while the LCS/non-LCS divide has LCS teams winning 56.00% of the time. After thinking about it, I'm a bit more comofortable with why this is happening.

It's going to seem like a simple explanation, but the reason this happened is because the non-LCS population of teams is better than the non-playoff population of teams. Playoff teams that lose in the divisional round have an overall win percentage of 54.93% in the following year, and have a winning percentage of 50.83% against LCS teams.

(I will note that if you compare LCS teams to non-playoff teams, LCS teams win 57.05% of the time, which is the phenomenom that I was expecting to see.)

I still have reservations about the testing method that Levitt used - baseball win percentages generally speaking range between 40% and 60%, so I don't know if a comparison of straight win percentages is the best method to show the comparison. But since there isn't really an equivalent win/loss for the random pairings that Levitt used, I don't know how to solve this. As well, there is a related argument to be made that MLB teams are already divided into varying ranges of elite talent teams, while the poker population tested contains talent levels that range from elite to poor. The argument basically is that if you put an MLB team up against, say, a beer league team, you would expect the MLB team to win 99% of the time, if not 100%. In the poker population, you already have the equivalent of MLB teams against beer league teams, so you would expect the random pairing win percentage to be higher.

I still wish to test the basketball playoffs, to see if there's something there. But I am glad to understand why cutting at a highter threshold ends up providing a lower win percentage. Sometimes it takes doing a bit more work and a second look to understand better what's going on.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jumping ahead of the story

This was supposed to be a post about Steve Levitt's paper comparing poker and baseball. In a sense it still is, because I have a couple of reservations about the test Levitt did.

The reservation I have which I haven't tested is to compare the WSOP results to NBA results. I think that's an interesting test as teams tend to not change quality that much from year to year. I haven't found the information in an quick format to run calculations on. Once I do get them together, I will post the results.

The other reservation I had was with the population size that Levitt tested. For poker players, he identified 720 players as being high skill that participated in the 2010 WSOP. We know that the full population of WSOP players is at a minimum 7,319 players, because that is the number who played in the main event. So Levitt's test of poker players defines the population of high skill players as being < 10% of the population. But when he makes the same cut for baseball, he defines the equivalent high skill as making the playoffs. The problem with this is that he's defining high skill in baseball as being 26.67% of the population.

That difference is huge. I realize there are restraints given the number of teams in MLB, but it still strikes me as there has to be a better definition to be used. So I decided that a slightly more fair definition would be to only consider the four teams that made the LCS. This would set the cutoff at being 13.33%, which strikes me as being closer to equivalent for my liking.

So off I went to run the calculations. And to be honest, I was expecting to find that teams which made the LCS won 56% or 57% of games against teams that did not make the LCS, and I would write something pithy about cosnidering definitions when doing a test and Levitt might not have proven what he thought he did.

Then I saw the results - Teams that made the LCS won 54.46% of games against teams which did not make the LCS. Compare this to the playoff/non-playoff cutoff, which sees playoff teams win 55.72% of their games against non-playoff teams.

Quite honestly, I don't know what to make of this. There is something about teams that lose in the divisional round of the playoffs - LCS teams only win 44.07% of their games against teams that lost in the divisional round. But LCS teams fare better against teams that did not make the playoffs when compared to teams that lose in the divisional round.

I am definitely going to get more data on this - I want to know if this is just a three year blip on the radar, or if there's an actual trend in place. Also, I want to know exactly what is going on here - is there some sort of pattern that can be found regarding divisional round losers? Is using World Series competitors any different for determining skill vs. non skill? Is there something else I'm missing?

The bigger issue here is that I had this post practically written in my head, and then I went to get the numbers to back up my thoughts only to find that maybe assuming what was going to happen was a bad idea. So even if in getting into this data I find absolutely nothing conclusive, I will be able to take away something - it's always better to ask a question, gather your data, then answer the question than to ask a question, answer a question and then gather your data.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Agendas and perspective

Two unrelated pieces of writing which struck a nerve...

Lorne Gunter has a lot of things to say about Jack Layton and Olivia Chow's trip to Disneyland and junkets in general. I agree with him in principle; politicians shouldn't be taking trips from lobbyists, especially if it can influence their position on legislation.

However, look at the top junket takers and the places they went. Jim Karygiannis took top spot with 16 overseas trips worth $71,950. Pretty damning. So, where did he go?
  • Greece. Yup that's pretty nice. Definitely not good.

  • France. Another vacation spot.

  • Belgium. I can see wanting to go to Belgium and maybe enjoying a beer or three.

  • The United States. Well, it's possible he had work there, but there sure are a good number of vacation spots.

  • India. It is emerging as a power...

  • China. We are trying to build better relations with China...

  • Egypt. There are places to go where you can really enjoy luxury. But if you went in the last few months, it might not be so comfortable.

  • Nigeria. Maybe he was collecting his money owed from a Nigerian prince?

  • Bangladesh. Maybe he was going for some spiritual awakening?

  • Cyprus? Haiti? If he was vacationing or going on a junket to these spots, I think he's doing it wrong.

Same goes for John Williams, who intersperced trips to Germany, England, Monaco, South Africa, the United States, Mexico and Qatar with trips to Albania, Serbia, Columbia, Kuwait and Indonesia.

Lorne really buries his lede here by showing us all of the trips and including trips that certainly look like they are related to an MP's job. But by not including those, it would look like he's actually trying to plump up the charges of junkets. It's great that he's decided to point out the worst offenders to taking trips from lobbyists. At the same time, it would be better to try to determine which trips were relevant, and which ones weren't.
On the other end of the spectrum, Robin Leach gives us a "report" of Danielle Staub's activities. (see bottom.)

Leach lets us know that Staub is gone from the Real Housewives franchise, and is no longer developing a show with them. Leach takes it a step further to tell us that Staub is making appearances at Score's in Manhattan, which is a topless club. There's a certain amount of glee that Leach seems to be taking with bringing us this and sure enough, Leach himsels tells us why he is so giddy. Staub in the past had said she was going to be the next Robin Leach.

Under most circumstances, this would be a tough situation of media letting their bias come through in their repoting. But with this being Robin Leach, it's more or less accepted that Leach's biases will be apparent in his reporting, and you go from there.

Both stories that I've mentioned here give us an idea as to how important perspective is for getting a better understanding as to what is driving the story and/or how big of a story it actually is. Without that, it would be very easy to over react.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Survivor - Ranking the winners

It's been a long time since I've done this. And there have been a few memorable performances and some not so memorable ones. Without further ado, here's the list.

1. Rob (Season 22)

Yes, I've put Rob's season at number one. It was a pitch perfect performance, which should have been a 9-0 vote. That it wasn't is not a reflection on Rob; it's just one of those variances that the game gives us. (Scary thought - Rob probably didn't need immunity go make final tribal.)

2. Brian (Season 5)

The best winner pre-Rob, I've knocked him down one perch because he was facing Clay, who was pretty unlikable in his own way. And yet, Clay managed to get two votes.

3. JT (Season 18)

Needed Stephen Fishbach to do a bit of the heavy lifting for strategy, but there is no questioning JT's dominance in challenges and the social game.

4. Richard (Survivor 1)

The originator of the strategy that carries the game even today.

5. Tom (Season 10)

Dropped from the number one spot when I reconsidered his final three performance. If Ian doesn't have a bout of conscious and a desire to buy back his integrity, Tom could very well lose. Given this, it's tough to give Tom credit for the best game ever. Even if he made of the greatest moves by threatening to tie the vote to essentially blackmail Katie into voting with him to get rid of Greg.

6. Yul (Survivor 13)

Even with the most powerful immunity idol ever, Yul played an incredible game.

7. Parvarti (Survivor 16)

Biggest jump from last time, after reconsidering how much was her and how much was Amanda that season.

8. Todd (Survivor 15)

Not a reflection on Todd, who played a very strong game.

9. Tina (Survivor 2)

Did what nobody else could do that season - take out Colby.

The rest.

10. Aras (Season 12)
11. Bob (Season 17)
12. Chris (Season 9)
13. Jenna (Season 6)
14. Ethan (Season 3)
15. Earl (Season 14)
16. Fabio (Season 21)
17. Sandra (Season 7)
18. Amber (Season 8)
19. Natalie (Season 19)
20. Danni (Season 11)
21. Sandra (Season 20)

Not last because she did give the jury what they wanted to hear.

22. Vescepia (Season 4)

Winning because your opponent won't admit she did something that she doesn't feel she did is not exactly the best credentials.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

My new favourist search which brought people to this blog

"survivor what was andrea doing showing her butt to her mom"

Brilliant not only for the absurdity of the situation on the show, but also because it was Natalie who did this.

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Survivor Season Rankings - Updated with Redemption Island

Here's my rankings of Survivor Seasons.

My goal is to rewatch each season during the summer and possibly revamp these ratings. In some cases it's been 8 years since I last saw them, so it's worth the review.

(6/2 Update: At the suggestion of commenter Scott, I'm leading off with a non-spoiler list which is just a list of the seasons. After that is a list with a bit of discussion with each season, along with the winner of each season. If you havent seen each season, stop after the first list.)

Ranking summary:

1. Survivor: Borneo (Season 1)
2. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (Season 20)
3. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Season 16)
4. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7)
5. Survivor: Samoa (Season 19)
6. Survivor: Amazon (Season 6)
7. Survivor: Palau (Season 10)
8. Survivor: China (Season 15)
9. Survivor: Australian Outback (Season 2)
10. Survivor: Cook Islands (Season 13)
11. Survivor: Tocantins (Season 18)
12. Survivor: Africa (Season 3)
13. Survivor: Redemption Island (Season 22)
14. Survivor: Gabon (Seaon 17)
15. Survivor: Panama (Season 12)
16. Survivor: Fiji (Season 14)
17. Survivor: Guatemala (Season 11)
18. Survivor: Vanuatu (Season 9)
19. Survivor: All-Stars (Season 8)
20. Survivor: Marquesas (Season 4)
21. Survivor: Nicaragua (Season 21)
22. Survivor: Thailand (Season 5)


1. Survivor: Borneo (Winner: Richard Hatch)

The original can never be duplicated.

2. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)

In this case, familiarity helps. Knowing each of the players going in and how they were likely to play set some expectations. The season lived up to it and more. The casting of players and characters was fantastic. The winner was a bit disappointing, but the lead to the final tribal was great.

3. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Winner: Parvati Shallow)

A lot of blind sides, the single stupidest move in Survivor history and some interesting characters introdued. Awesome season. Though I'm a bit frightened at the similiarities between this and the Ruins III.

4. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine)

Rupert. Johnny Fairplay. The season that Survivor became fun to watch for reasons beyond the actual game.

5. Survivor: Samoa (Winner: Natalie White)

Putting aside the jury vote, this season was a win simply because of Russell. His play reinvigorated the show and the game.

6. Survivor: Amazon (Winner: Jenna Morasca)

The first season where alliances were fluid. The game was played in a much different manner than before, with votes moving continually.

Oh, and chocolate and peanut butter.

7. Survivor: Palau (Winner: Tom Westman)

The first season where we saw a true dominant tribe. Then came Stephanie's survival for 2 weeks, then Tom's bold move to threaten to tie a vote to get people on side with him. Very underrated year.

8. Survivor: China (Winner: Todd Herzog)

It has James' stupid non-play of a hidden immunity idol, Todd wearing his bad deeds, and Amanda's first final tribal council failure. A pretty good year.

9. Survivor: Australian Outback (Winner: Tina Wesson)

The beginning of the Jeff Probst/Colby Donaldson bromance. Also the first ever major strategic blunder, though it was at least done out of some sense of loyalty. What ever happened to Elisabeth anyway?

10. Survivor: Cook Islands (Winner: Yul Kwon)

Two of the most likable players in Yul and Ozzie. It also had the funniest Survivor moment, when Sundra and Becky "battled" to build fire. Taking 90 minutes to do so. After being given matches 30 minutes in.

11. Survivor: Tocantins (Winner: J.T. Thomas)

The year of Coach! Also, a great blindside of Tyson.

12. Survivor: Africa (Winner: Ethan Zohn)

Oh Kelly. If only Brandon hadn't have gone into business for himself, we would have had the first momentum swing post-merge ever, and you might have stuck around longer. Also notable for Lex getting eliminated in the Fallen Comrades competition even though he answered a question correctly. That earned him (and Big Tom) 2nd place money.

13. Survivor: Redemption Island (Winner: Rob Mariano)

The Boston Rob show gets up her because of Boston Rob's hilarious confessionals, his running of the show from start to finish and Phillip's wackiness. In an unrelated note, if Rob didn't win I would have rated it lower.

14. Survivor: Gabon (Winner: Bob Crowley)

Even with the fake hidden immunity idol, Susie almost won. 'Nuff said.

15. Survivor: Panama (Winner: Aras Baskauskas)

The Terry year, where his loss of the final immunity challenge (under questionable means) ended up giving us Aras as a winner. Awesome for Terry's dominance, not so awesome for everything else.

16. Survivor: Fiji (Winner: Earl Cole)

Yau Man and Earl were the stars of the season. The have/have not twist and the inevitability of Earl winning once Dreamz refused to hand over immunity to Yau Man were the downfalls.

17. Survivor: Guatemala (Winner: Danni Boatwright)

Stephanie gets a second chance and turns into a mean person. Still an attractive person, but a mean person nonetheless. And then she loses to Danni.

18. Survivor: Vanuatu (Winner: Chris Daugherty)

Probably the most difficult to place. Chris's victory when outnumbered 5-1 and with not winning immunity was impressive, but the show was horrible before that.

19. Survivor: All-Stars (Winner: Amber Brkich)

It gave us Boston Rob and Amber as a power couple, but it also gave us the biggest farce of a final council before Samoa. And the overriding theme of the previous winners didn't deserve tostay around becaue they had already won was anoying and uncomfortable.

20. Survivor: Marquesas (Winner: Vecepia Towery)

This should rank higher. It gave us Boston Rob, whatshername being carried to the island like Cleopatra, and the first shakeup of the status quo. But it was the most frustrating final two ever, with both not really deerving of being there.

21. Survivor: Nicaragua (Winner: Judson "Fabio" Birza)

It was a tedious season until Fabio went on his immunity streak. By breaking up the boot order, Fabio rode to victory, and gave us a likeable winner, which puts this slightly ahead of...

22. Survivor: Thailand (Winner: Brian Heidik)

Oh, the tediousness. We were just waiting for the end so Brian could win and watching was like watching a death march to the end. Cool final challenge though.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Finale Live Blog

Funny, just 15 minutes ago I wasn't sure I was doing this...

- Ashley has made a habit of being strong in challenges?
- Grant is the last person at Redemption Island. YAY!
- Hinting Philip is acting the beginning of the show...hmmm...

- I still don't get how Grant is a-ok with being blindsided by this alliance.
- Andrea understands that she's in trouble at Redemption Island
- Why does Andrea still have to sleep on the ground when Grant gets in the shelter?
- Rob claims to have a huge heart in there. He also acknowledges he is the only threat left.
- And now it's Rob vs. Ashley, unless Grant comes back.
- Matt finding his serenity might be an indication he's going back.
- Mike hoping for pizza is awesome.
- I have to imagine the relief of Redemption Island being over is fantastic.
- Thanking god for Redemption Island Matt?
- The tribe is also there because the tribe has shown up for all duels after the first return Jeff.
- You know what would have been cool for the final immunity challenge? This Redemption Island duel. Balancing a vase on a tetter totter using one foot? Awesome.
- 40 minutes? Wow.
- Wow Grant's out first. Good for Boston Rob.
- (Is this what the season has come to? Analyzing things through the eyes of Boston Rob?)
- Matt out. Wow.
- Hey, remember when Andrea was talking about being an underdog? She is so winning.
- Stretching your leg muscles does not look strong.
- Funny, Jeff mentions pay attention to what you were doing, then Mike loses focus and his vase drops.
- Hell of a comeback for Andrea.
- All girl alliance?
- Grant has also found his zen.
- Matt is honestly a very likeable person. Too bad he had to spend a lot of time on Redemption Island.
- Mike "Today's outcome wasn't what I wanted" Really?
- All girl alliance.
- Rob hs to be thrilled about this outcome. Will people really vote for Andrea over Rob?

- Commercial alert: Kevin James is Dr. Dolittle, only not under that name. I mean, do you not rememberDr. Dolittle coming out in the last 15 years?

- Congratulating them again?
- Today's word is "Awkward".
- All girl puppet alliance.
- Andrea is playing this awesome. Making up stories about how people will vote for Phillip to win?
- Uh-oh, Rob has his mind set on Ashley. Remember Heroes vs. Villains and Russell, Rob.
- Holy crap that's going to be a difficult yet easy task. Balance beam, then arranging tiles from 1 to 100?
- Oh, that's not as difficult. Go on balance beam, bring tiles, arrange those tiles. Repeat with other bags.
- So Phillip and Natalie aren't that good at challenges.
- Oh criminy, they were teasing another Ashley win in the intro.
- Ashley has to win, right?
- Yes, yes she does.
- So this is how Ashley wins - the Fabio plan of winning a few immunity challenges at the end.

- Let the scramble begin!
- Another s
- Uh-oh. Rob is way to confident about not being voted out.
- And now the puppets talk. Didn't Rob
- Natalie promises that she won't vote Ashley out next. Um, yeah.
- "And now she's listening to my entire conversation." Awesome secret agenting there Phillip.
- What in the sweet blue fuck is going on?
- Wait, they're going to vote for Rob now Andrea? Need consistency in your story Andrea.
- Then again, you're telling Ashley and Natalie, so they probably doesn't figure it out.
- "I like to gamble. God I'm sick. I'm so sick." It's called Gamblers Anonymous Rob.
- (Also, he's using the idol.)
- Holy crap Grant shaved and cut his hair. Must have used the Ponderosa Spa.
- "Obviously you have forgotten my title. The Undercover Specialist." FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING GOOD IN THE WORLD, LET THIS MAN MAKE FINAL TRIBAL.
- And then Rob casually mentions that he had Phillip look out for
- Hey, Jeff is actually pushing the all girl alliance that
- Andrea's "this jury is an intelligent jury" line is fantastic for it's knee sucking.
- And then Natalie shocks Rob by saying he is a threat.
- Rob gets to poke the "Andrea will win this as well" button.
- Way to ensure the idol will be played, Natalie.
- Grant's eyes lit up when he played the idol.
- So he didn't need to play the idol after all. Too bad you didn't get to keep your Silver Strike, but the $10 is worth it.
- I think this vote sealed it for Rob if he makes Final Tribal. I'd like to take my prediction back.

- In other news, my PVR is almost caught up to the live feed, so no more fast forwarding through commercials for me.

- Um, Stealth R Us didn't do what they wanted Phillip. Grant isn't there.
- Ashley thinks Andrea threw Natalie and Ashley under the bus and that Andrea being gone is a sign that Ashley made bigger moves? Come on.
- Jeff showing passion in this speech. An early contender for "The Thing that Made Jeff Probst's announcing side too happy," award.
- The flag thing indicating you have already hit that spot is not fair.
- Though I guess it tells Jeff what is going on.
- Ashley dropping her bag is kinda odd.
- I bet Rob kicks the bag if he sees it.
- "Natalie being a good sport and still playing along." Awesome Jeff.
- Rob trying to trick Ashley into "working together"
- My god Rob comes through in the clutch!
- And then he breaks down. Call the Wah-bulance!
- Jeff previews the biggest hurdle for Rob - this is his 4th time playing. Why does he deserve it this time?
- Rob is now okay with not winning? I guess he understands that the jury vote isn't completely in his hands.

- Let the scrambling begin!
- So what happens if it's a tie at final four? Fire challenge? Will it beat the epic Sondra/Becky fire challenge?
- Hey, playing up Ashley and Natalie's connection is good.
- Ashley got close to the Zapatera people? When did we see this?
- "I have to convince Natalie" "It's Ashley." Way to go.
- Here's a thought, propose a two/two split and say that they have to compete to be in.
- Natalie is a terrible actor.
- "I'd rather lose this game than lsoe a friend in Ashley." That's why 19 year olds should not play Survivor.
- Phillip's "And Rob should be worried about me beating him because I won how man challenges? Oh yeah, none!" was pitch perfect.
- Ashley basically dared Natalie and Phillip to vote her out. What a stupid thing to do. Don't say you have a better chance to win over the other two people voting for you.
- Did Ashley pick up on the horrible Natalie acting and realize she was going?
- Well, Ashley just said she didn't know she was going, which means she's very unaware.

- Wait, I just realized we didn't have Fallen Comrades yet.
- Phillip is saying in confessional that his great great grandfather coming to him in a vision is an actual thing?
- Phillp's jury plan of "pouring salt in the wound" is terrible.
- "This is the hardest thing that I've ever had to do in my life. I'm 19" 'Nuff said.
- Yay blurring!
- Boston Rob's opposite pointers are fantastic.
- Phillip is burning his briefs!

Jury time!

Natalie' opening statement:
- Wanted to play well
- My social skills were my key, choosing
- God this is painful. Way too scattershot.

Phillip's opening statement:
- I had to change my strategy as soon as Rob showed up.
- I don't know what to say to this beyond AWESOME!

Rob's opening statement:
- Rob might as well have a power point presentation
- Here's what I did, but it doesn't matter. It only matters what you think. I played 4 times, but it doesn't define me. My family is most important and I want to bring something home to them.

- So, who asks the "are you donating to charity?" question?

Andrea up first for questions:
Phillip - "You are weird" "We've seen a lot of different Phillips. Who is the real one?"
"I was on the outside of the tribe, that's why you don't me." "So you aren't answering?" "I'm Phillip Sheppard."
Natalie - "borderline creepy relationship with Rob" "Why did you betray your friend?" "Rob's so great" yada yada. "Rode coattails" "rob's so great" yada yada.

NATALIE Apologizes for being creepy?

Ashley starts with lecturing Phillip, and Phillip tries to interrupt and it goes on and on.
Ashley asks Natalie why she didn't share Ashley was going, and Natalie says it was a back and forth and wasn't set. Ashely is disappointed.
Ashley put Rob on a pedastal and doesn't think she knows who he is and after tonight doesn't know if she wants to see him again. Rob shrugs.

Grant up.
Natalie what was the Natalie/Rob alliance dynamic like.
Same question for Rob. Natalie came up to me and asked me what to do. I valued our relationship until you were going to kick to my ass.

Natalie, you can't do nothing without looking at Rob. And then Natalie looks at Rob.
Ralph points out that Natalie never got to know him, and Natalie says it was for her place in the tribe.
Why does Phillip not have more feathers? Because he only put them in when he found them. Does Phillip like Ralph? Phillip thought he worked hard and was funny and if they were in the same tribe initially they would have gotten along fine.

Matt to Rob - clearly you are duplicitous and a liar. Where is the line drawn? "When I get back home" I feel it's necessary to play the game like this. I had alliances with everybody in Omatepe but

Julie starts with the fucking lectures because the people there did not play the game with honour. SAYS THE FUCKING PERSON WHO THREW A CHALLENGE! Glass houses, ye who have no sin, etc. etc. Quick summary:
- Natalie, would your parents be proud of how you played the game? Because if you were my daughter the answer would be no.
- Phillip would your son be proud of how you played?
- Rob, teach your daughters to be strong women, not how you treated Natalie.

- Did you learn anything about yourself out here?
- Rob needs to take care of his family and stop playing games.
- Natalie learned how to support yourself
- Phillip knew he was an outcast, and could bring his knowledge from the outside world to here and be a beacon for the Sheppard family.

- Congratulations Rob and Natalie on surviving the elements
- Natalie congrats on being 19 and surviving.
- Rob, you lasted 117 days, I broke at 31.
- Phillip I'm sorry for you. I think you're pretty shameful.
(Guess Steve isn't voting for Phillip.)

- I'm going to talk to the jury. Basically telling them to vote for Rob since he played the best strategic game ever. Very good final arguments councillor. (Though it might work against him.)

Voting time.
- David would have rather played the game with Rob? Um.
- Ralph votes for Phillip and spells Phil wrong. Awesome and fitting. Also, Andrea was right!
- Bring on the jet ski!
- BOOO! No jet ski!
- First thing I noticed - Ashley is a brunette. That and Phillip's fine suit.
- Thanks for dressing up Rob.
- Ashley breaks the "looks better while playing Survivor" rule in half.
(Rob looks very confident right now)
(It's OVAH!)

- Hey, they all snuck in the old players.
- Russell among the first to congratulate Rob.

- The Superman bit was awesome.
- Hey, Jeff changed.
- Rob knew in the beginning if he could make these people play with me, he stood a chance.
- Kristina's looking for the idol was a key moment, and it really was.
- Loyalty was most key for Rob. Adn that's why Natalie was the key.

- Wait, Natalie and Ashley knew Rob had an idol? That would have been a nice piece of information to have.
- Andrea's take away is that you have to check in with everybody always.

- Rob knew that if he showed Phillip love, he would be loyal. Based on his life story.

The Grant/Rob exchange probably deserves it's own blog post, but it does highlight one of the key things all future players of Survivor need to realize - if somebody votes you out, it's not a personal thing unless they tell you it is personal.

- Thing I just realized. Why didn't they have Russell and Rob pick their tribe schoolyard style?

- Matt really didn't win 10 out of 11 duels. He survived 10 out of 11 duels.
- The Jeff Probst trying to figure out showmances segment is never not awkward.

- Nice transition from "our troops are great" to "any regrets about that last challenge?"

- Russell Hantz would appreciate it if you would stop showing him cry.
- A bit of humbleness from Russell in congratulating Rob.
- And then he goes off on his tribe and brings back the old Russell. Russell is still scarred by his tribe throwing that challenge.
- Jeff calls Russell "Phillip"
- That was an amazing back and forth between Jeff and Russell to leave open the opportunity of Russell retuning.

- Jeff Probst learns that trying to control Phillip Sheppard on live TV is a losing proposition.
- Phillip says calling Steve a racist a mistake. Thank goodness. Now maybe Steve can apologize for the stuff he said at final tribal?
- And it's official, Phillip is a former federal agent.

- 40 to 36 is close?
- Rob wins Viewer's Choice? I'm shocked.
- David is dating a Survivor who I don't remember. And then he and Jeff Probst set up a marriage proposal to said Survivor woman. And there's a curse word.

_Redemption Island is back...and so is the two returning players twist! They're in the South Pacific. Um, interesting.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island - How Everybody Can Win

As I mentioned on Thursday, this season is tough to figure out in terms of who will probably win. So, before I roll out my OFFICIAL PREDICTION on who will win, a run through why each person still in the game will win the game and will not win the game.

Mike, Matt

(Note: I'm combining these two because they essentially have the same reasoning.)

Why they will win: Because they will win the Redemption Island duel and then win all immunity challenges on route to the final tribal council. Because they are likable people who treated everybody on the jury nicely.

Why they won't win: Because they did not win all the immunity challenges. Because the jury doesn't like the idea of somebody who was not involved in playing the main portion of the game winning.


Why she will win: Because she came back from Redemption Island and was able to engineer the ouster of Boston Rob. Or she was able to be brought to the final three and looked like a better option than either Rob or Philip. Or she benefitted from a Rob/Natalie vote split and somehow won 4-3-2.

Why she won't win: Because she did not win at Redemption Island. Because the jury did not enjoy her anger over being betrayed after she betrayed Matt in a very similiar way. Because the jury felt that her getting voted out was an indication that she did not play well.


Why he will win: Because he will come back from Redemption Island and win challenges, which he has done continually throughout the season. Because he will be able to make an argument that he was involved in the strategy of voting out everybody before him.

Why he won't win: Because he won't come back from Redemption Island. Because he will not make Final Tribal if he does not win immunity challenges. Because the jury will pair him and Rob together and vote for the third option.


Why she will win: Because she's sitting beside Rob and Philip, and the jury is bitter about Rob running the show.

Why she won't win: Because she has annoyed most of the jury. Because she did not actively play the game until 4 days left. Because she is seen as a follower of Boston Rob, and lacking independent thought.


Why he will win: Because she wasn't lying about having the greatest final tribal council argument against Boston Rob. Because his unusual actions were an admitted put-on to make the final three. Because the jury thought it would be funny if he won.

Why he won't win: Because he's Philip.


Why she will win: Because the jury wants a place to park their votes which isn't Boston Rob. Because the jury will find irony in Rob losing again to the girl he brought along to the end. Because she's everybody little sister, and really how can anybody vote against her? Because the game was especially tough for her since she is lacking some life expereince.

Why she won't win: Because she is only 19, and the jury will have a problem in voting to give her $1 million. Because she is seen as a puppet of Boston Rob's. Because she hasn't really played the game. Because Ashley's jury question is an epic takedown of her.


Why he will win: Becuase he dominated the game from start to finish and the jury will want to recognize this accomplishment.

Why he won't win: Because he dominated the game from start to finish and the jury will want to punish him for this.

My choice for this year's winner? I really think that Boston Rob deserves to win this season. We haven't seen a dominant point-perfect performance like this since, well, All-Stars (Thailand, if you want to only include winning performances.) At the same time, I can not shake what we have seen over the last few seasons - a jury who chose not to reward the best strategy, and instead voted for the more likeable (to them) player.

So I am choosing Natalie to win this season. She benefits from the jury's bitterness towards Rob, and wins the game.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

When second isn't good enough

I've always thought about if I were on a reality competitionshow , what position would I want to finish (assuming I did not win.) I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be the person eliminated right before the final challenge/jury vote/whatever.

I realize that this seems a bit odd - most people would at least want a chance to win the game. I can understand this theory, but at the same time you have the knowledge that you failed if you did not win. I'm not sure what feeling would be worse: not knowing how you would fare in a final, or knowing that you weren't good enough to win. But it goes beyond that. History shows that when given a choice, other reality competition players will more often than not choose the weakest player(s), who they feel stand the worst chance to win in a final competition as their competitors.

This truth can best be seen in the first season of Survivor. In the final immunity challenge, Richard Hatch actually removed himself from the competition early, using the logic that whomever won the competition whould have to choose to face him in the final tribal council. Both other competitors realized this was the case immediately, with Rudy stating that he had lost $1 million when he lost that immunity challenge. This proved to be true, with Kelly voting out Rudy and choosing to bring Richard along to the final tribal council.

We also got to see the opposite of this theory in play in the second season of Survivor. Colby, dominant in challenges, had to choose between his main alliance mate in Tina, and his other alliance mate (and much more hated) Keith. The person he chose would be in the final tribal council. Colby willingly chose Tina over Keith for honour reasons, knowing that his job would be much more difficult in facing Tina. As it turned out, Tina won and most members of the jury indicated that if Colby had brought Keith to the final, Colby would have won in a landslide.

This rule also applies to Big Brother and other "vote for the person who you feel is the winner" type of shows. But what about a show like the Apprentice, where there is really only one arbitrator - Donald Trump? Funy enough this exists in a slightly different way.

Apprentice (and its Celebrity cousin) has a tradition for the "finale." 4 (or the odd time 3) candidates are brought in to be interviewed by various people who have had success in either the Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice, or in actual business. These people then come back to Mr. Trump and give him their recommendations for who should end up in the final two. Trump then takes these recommendations and results to decide who will be the final two candidates who will be competing in the final challenge. The dirty secret is that Trump tends to already know who the final two will be, and he does what he can to influence who the final two will be prior to this interview process.

Let's use this year's Celebrity Apprentice as an example. Jon Rich and Marlee Matlin had competed as project managers earlier in the season, and had combined to have the lartgest amount of donations brought to any challenge in the history of Celebrity Apprentice. This was so impressive that when the final 5 competitors came together to figure out the next competition, Trump was very excited to find out that Marlee and Jon Rich would be battling again, going so far as to hype the battle as a rematch of two titans. Jon Richwon, leaving the losing group of candidates to be Marlee, Star Jones and Meat Loaf.

During the previous competition, Meat Loaf was very emotional when he was raising money once he realized the money may not end up going to his charity of choice. He even went so far to get Star to inquire if Mr. Trump would allow them to keep the money they had raised. He cried when Jon Rich stood up and told him that if Meat Loaf lost, he would personally donate the amount Meat Loaf raised for his charity. In the current task, Meat Loaf was the driving force behind the creative for a losing promotional video.

Meanwhile, Star Jones had been a strong competitor going into that task. She was in charge of branding for this task, and the branding was identified as another of the weak sots. Both Jones and Loaf were likely to be on the chopping block. One would assume that Jones would make it through on the strength on her previous performances.

One would assume wrong. Buoyed on by a blowup between Meat Loaf and Star Jones about Loaf's referring to Jones as "sweetie", Trump followed through by firing Jones, citing her inability to get a long with people (using the "sweetie" argument as an example) as well as the weak branding (which was her responsibility.) He ignored that Loaf was the one who edited the video (thus not including the necessary branding), and created the ideathat the onStar executives hated (specifically the bumbling police officer character.) The reason why this happened had less to do with their respective performances, and more to do with an overriding narrative - Marlee Matlin and Jon Rich were now tied 1-1 in head to head competitions, and there was only going to be one opportunity left to match them up once again.

In order for Trump to get to a final two of Rich and Matlin, he needs for them to get through the final four interviews. Trump has no way of preventing Li'l Jon from affeecting his preferred final two, beyond finding a reason to fire him in the final four. He can probably point to Jon Rich and Marlee Matlin being moreimpressive or something - call it a close choice, but ultimately firing him. Meat Loaf has done a good job in terms of being a worker bee - when put in a role where he has to either lead a group or is in charge of running a significant piece of a task, he has proven to be more of a questionable commodity. Mr. Trump will be able to easily fire him while giving him the platitudes about his performance. But Star Jones? One of Star's greatest gifts in this competition is her ability to present arguments that favoured her. She is very likley to impress the interviewers, putting Trump in a position where he woud have to jump through hoops to explain why he was firing her. So instead, when given the oportunity to get rid of her before the interviews, he pounced.

This is a continuing story with the Celebrity Apprentice, where the stronger candidates Clint Black and Maria Kanellis were fired prior to the interviews for menial reasons, while Jesse James and Curtis Stone were kept even though they were subsequently fired for either not having what it takes to be the Celebrity Apprentice and being a one-trick pony (Stone) or holding back contacts and not bringing in big donors (James). In the first Celebrity Apprentice, Trace Adkins' inability to win a task as project manager was glossed over so that he coudl be brought back and face Piers Morgan in the final. As well, Trump changed what he had said he was going to do during Apprentice Season 6, when he fired strong competitor Kristine Lefevbre for a mistake, even though he had previously stated he would be firing two members of a team. It's an indicator of how Trump works - get an idea as to what you want your final two to be, then make the path to it as clean as you can. If anything, being eliminated prior to the one on one interview process is an indication of how strong a player you are - should Trump think you could mess up his ideal final two for the show, he will want to get rid of you before the final four.

When you are eliminated right before a final challenge/tribal council, it is an indication that you are considered to be a threat to win the competition outright. If I can't win, I'd rather have the knowledge that I was a threat to win the entire thing than to know that I was given a chance to win, but could not. Call it the power of the "What If".

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Episode 13 Power Rankings

One of the things is not like the others

8. Andrea (9)

I feel bad for Andrea in that she has to compete with three of the top four challenge players in the game for a shot at coming back. I mean, no pressure or anything.

Also, her talking (then crying) about being betrayed as especially awkward when Matt was right there. You would have thought that she'd have more self-awareness, but that was for naught.

Hope you have a streak in you...

7. Matt (7)
6. Mike (6)
5. Grant (2)

The one thing I would wager a lot of money on - the winner of Redemption Island will be voted out the first time they do not have immunity.

Let's Go Crazy

4. Philip (5)

He is so far over cover that he's undercover. In a sense, he's running a similiar plan to Russell in terms of keeping people off balance with his antics. The main difference is that Russell was also trying to continually advance his game. Philip ssems to think the game is done until final tribal now. I would not assume that at final 4+1 means there's no change to the plan. That's a sure way to end up getting out manuevered and to get put through to the jury.

understands she's in a poor position now, but isn't doing enough to help herself

3. Ashley (4)

Ashley figured out she's trouble in the eyes of Boston Rob which could be an issue. But she hasn't tried anything to knock off the king of the island, and it's probably too late to do it. At this point, people are convinced that they are going to the end with Rob, and there's no real benefit to jumping ship this far away.

Your new power couple

2. Rob(1)
1. Natalie (3)

Those with acute memory will recall that Rob has been number one on these power rankings for a long time. Today is the first time Rob isn't number one, and that's because of the uncertainty of the jury and the reactions of some of his former alliance mates.

I came away fro this weeks' episode with an uneasy feeling that Rob wasn`t taking the blindsides that serious but instead was just assuming that nobody would hold him responsible for voting him out. That was very much a projection of how Rob would look at it. What makes it exceptionally funny is that this is what happened in All-Stars. The difference this time is that Rob isn't marrying Natalie (as far as we know.)

And thus, that's why Natalie is ranked number one. We know that she is going to the final three. We assume that she hasn't done anything truly offensive towards the jury, and that they all think she's a sweet girl. If we also assume Rob makes the final three with Natalie, she's going to come out as the best spot to make the protest vote.

No matter which way things turn out, Sunday is going to be an interesting two hours.

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Survivor Redemption Island Episode 13 Thoughts

This is a tough season to judge what is going to happen in the final tribal council. Normally, you have a good idea as to where the jury stands with most of the final contestants. But this season is different, as we have no idea where the jury stands on the remaining players.

The Pagong-ing of Zapatera was both inevitable and obvious. From what we saw, Zapatera didn't really have too many bad feelings about individual Omatepe members, save Phillip. Ralph seems incredibly bitter about everything that Omatepe did as a tribe to him, but it didn't seem as though he was singling out any one person as the reason for this. So there doesn't seem to be a clear cut favourite to receive the favour of Zapatera. And since it is most likely that there will be 5 members of Zapatera on the jury (which would be a majority), it gets more difficult to figure out who is the odds on favourite to win.

The other item is that we don't know how the Omatepe players that end up getting voted out are going to react to being voted out. Andrea seemed to feel betrayed, but she didn't make it clear if she held Boston Rob responsible, or if she holds the entire tribe responsible. Grant knows he was betrayed; he doesn't know if it was Philip or Boston Rob (for some reason he didn't seem to think of both of them betraying him). He also said he was at peace with what had happened, so there is a chance he doesn't truly blame any of the players.

With all this in mind, nobody can really state with any certainty what the final result is. Heck you can't really rule Philip out since he has that amazing final tribal speech in his back pocket.

(Okay, I'm kidding. You can rule Philip out.)

The funny part is that Redemption Island actually helps to clarify what will happen at final tribal. If the returning Redemption Island player makes it to final tribal, they will win. Period.

It's an interesting year to be watching, because of this uncertainty. You can make the case for any player remaining on how they can win, or alternately why they should win. Maybe this is why Jeff Probst was so high on the season.
Throughout the season we've been straight forward story telling. A thread would start at the beginning of the episode, and would be resolved by the end of it. There were no notable swerves out there. Once the editors told you what was going to happen, they delivered it.

Tonight, they through that back on us.

We began with Ashley delivering the following statements:

"I love blindsides. In an evil way it's fun to see their reaction and how shocked they are. And she was shocked. You could tell."
"Can Natalie and I just say that we are the last girls standing"
"I just always felt that Natalie and I were always like this [crosses fingers]"
"I'll tell you if there's any plan to vote you out, and you tell me and maybe us two..."

Which would normally be a tease of Ashley getting voted out. This was combined with:

"I'm kinda stuck in a bad situation, just because Ashley keeps bringing up 'You're looking out for me and I'm looking out for you'"
"I'm leaning towards sticking with Rob just because he has been there for me througout this, but so has Ashley."

"There's just something about her that's sneaky."

Which should have sealed the fate. Then Ashley won immunity, and that tease went to waste. We did end up getting Grant's vote out, which was teased prior to the immunity challenge, so there was a tied up thread there. And Ashley's word did lead into a bigger storyline of essentially "Ashley starts playing the game about 20 days too late". But to get blindsided by a tease not delivering in the same episode was a bit of a jolt.
A new feature for this recap, as I'm awarding an new award every episode. It's called "The Thing that Made Jeff Probst's announcing side too happy," which means an event or scene which wasn't that big of a deal necessarily, but gave Jeff an opportunity to act like a true investigative journalist or colour analyst for the action.

This week, it went to Andrea's struggle in the Redemption Island challenge, which let Jeff make a comparison to show how composed Matt and Mike were in comparison to Andrea. You know Jeff was thrilled that he could use some psychological babble to explain why Andrea was failing, and Jeff rose to occasion,

It's too bad that Ralph had to mess it up by choking as though he ate a whole chicken in one go.
Your schedule for Survivor posts this week:

Thursday - Final Power Rankings
Friday - General post on how where you finish in a reality show indicates how respected you were as a player
Saturday - A look at the remaining players and why they can win final tribal along with why they can not.
Sunday - Finale thoughts
Monday - the much popular Season Rankings
Tuesday - Winner Rankings
To be determined - Final thoughts on the Redemption Island twist.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Art of the Misdirection

When I was much younger, I had some eclectic tastes and interests. One thing that interested me was the rise of Donald Trump. I read Trump: The Art of the Deal with a lot of interest. I own a first edition of Trump: The Game(*)

(*) That reminds me that I should play this again sometime.

This is a roundabout way to say that I'm not surprised by what he's been doing by flirting with running to be president of the United States. And nor will I be surprised when he doesn't formally declare as a candidate.

The biggest thing to realize about Donald Trump is that the biggest reason he has been so successful in business is his name. Trump has built the Trump name up to be one of the biggest hotel brands in the world. And his method of building up that Trump name is to get personally involved in many other projects, whether that be the USFL or Trump Ice, his brand of bottled water.

Once he gets involved in these projects, one of three things occur - either the project is a success and he's able to claim some credit for the success, the project is slightly successful and Trump takes credit for this part of the success, or it fails and Trump avoids being the scapegoat by placing the blame elsewhere.

So let's look at his recent musings about running for President.

The first key to his musing is that Trump recognizes that there is no shining star in the Republican ranks to take a run at President Obama in 2012. The early returns on the presidential candidates is that there are no good candidates there; the best option is Milt Romney and he does not appeal to the Tea Party part of the Republican caucas.

Trump saw this and took advantage. He knew by flirting with running, the public would know his name and this would allow him to do well in polls. In turn, this would give him some credibility with the journalists who would otherwise dismiss his flirtation as a publicity stunt. (This isn't to say that it still isn't being dismissed by some as a publicity stunt; instead any "publicity stunt" argument comes with a caveat that Trump is polling well and might be resonating with the public.)

Next, Trump starts making stump speeches in locations. These speeches contain a lot of "no nonsense" talk about the economy and what needs to be done to fix it. It appeals to the Tea Party side of the crowd which again helps him with polling, along with getting the positive attention of other Tea Party representatives. These representatives defend him on panels, and further the mystique of a Trump presidential run.

And then there was the birther nonsense. Trump knew that it was a no lose issue for him to tackle. The group that he was trying to get the support of was already of the opinion that President Obmaa was hiding not being born in the US. Trump also knew that he didn't need to have the support of the more mainstream Republicans, as he wasn't planning on running for president. This meant he wouldn't have to worry about the long term ramifications of this line of attack.

The end result if Obama did not release his birth certificate is that Trump could rage on about how untrustworthy Obama was, and that he was hiding something. Trump would essentially be in the same position he was before persuing the Birther argument. Fans/supporters who disagreed with Trump would be likely to dismiss it as another exampleof Trump's blowhard antics, which makes him appealing to watch. The fans/supporters would stay.

Now, when Obama did release his birth certificate, Trump was very quick to take credit for the release. This ended up helping him in two main ways. First, he was able to solidify his position amongst the outsiders of the Republican party. He gained more influence with them, and thus gained more influence in the Republican party. he will now be somebody who the eventual Republican Presidential candidate will have to court.

Second, this gave Trump his exit strategy. He can now say that he has accomplished something in his teasing of running for president, so he can declare it a victory and an accomplishment which nobody else can. He can be gracious in leaving by just saying that he is confident that the Republican candidate is now better equipped to lead the party against Obama (or something). That was the end game for Trump - find a way to say you accmomplished something, while not actually putting yourself out for scrutiny.

(Why has Trump continued on with his attacks by saying that the certificate could have been forged? Because until he announces he is not running for president, Trump needs to keep his base comfortable and activated.)

What's the next step for Trump? Continue on, then on the Celebrity Apprentice finale, announce you will not be running. Then promote your latest venture, while still using your position to keep your values in the forefront.

Trump's motives are prety clear most of the time. You just have to know where to look.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

JayRo Listens To: Wasting Light

I'm going to be honest with you; I'm not entirely sure how to write a valuable review of an album. I'm not a musician, so I'm not able to get too much into the detail of the technical skills of the artists. I also think that music is much more of a personal experience than, say, a movie or a book or a television show. It is difficult to offer a review on those circumstances.

With that said, I can tell you what I like. And I really, really like Wasting Light by the Foo Fighters.

At this point it's probably fair to admit that I am an unabashed Foo Fighters fan. So it's fair to say that there is a hint of bias in this review.

For those who do not like the Foo Fighters, you should give this album a chance. It is rather accessible and more standard rock. There is less experimentation with their sound and more straight forward rock.

For fans of the Foo Fighters, this is closer to The Color and the Shape. It is a welcome improvement on Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, which seemed to be more Dave and the band trying to expand themselves artistically. It isn't as good as In Your Honor, but that is not a slight given the accomplishment that In Your Honor is. All things considered, it is a welcome return for the Foo Fighters.

I recommend purchasing this album.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

A quick post on the Amazing Race

It's always frustrating when the most deserving teams end up 3 and 4, while the teams that coasted through end up 1 and 2.

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Hotel Review: Cambridge Suites Toronto

Last weekend, I went to Toronto and stayed at the Cambridge Suites Toronto Here's a review.

Sitting Room

The room was a standard suite at Cambridge Suites. When you walk in, you are put in the sitting area/kitchenette area.

Standard fare here, with a couch which apparently folds out (I never checked), a flat screen TV with some HD content, a chair and a coffee table.

From there, you can head to the left, where you find a communal closet to store your coats and other outside wear (as seen by my fantastic photography skillz).

To the right is an entrance to the one washroom in the suite.

Another fantastic photo.


The bathroom is a very good size, with standard amenities. The bathtub/shower combo:

The showerhead was a bit finicky. I had to work a little bit to find my preferred pressure but once I did, all was fine. The temperature was no problem.

Standard low rider toilet. No problem with flushing or anything.

One sink in the washroom, which was no problem for me, but might be a problem for a couple or a family who need to get ready for a night out.

The bedroom

Separating the bedroom from the sitting area are a set of french doors:

When you enter, you find the bed:

The bed seemed comfortable enough, but I wasn't able to get a truly good night's sleep. I would get half an hour then wake up. This repeated for every night. I don't know if it was because of the bed, the room, or my sleeping pattern, but one way or another I couldn't get a good night's sleep.

The alarm clock. No docking station for an iPod and a bit confusing to figure out at first. Once I did figure it out, there was no problem at all, and it worked without problem.

Flatscreen TV in the room. Same as the one in the sitting area.

The closest in the bedroom. In it is a luggage rack, iron and ironing board.

Other items

Notably missing from the room was a safe to store your valuables. I don't know if the hotel has a safety deposit available, but I think the lack of safe was a downside.

The room does have a microwave and a mini fridge to use for storing food. As well, it comes with more glassware than normal. 6 drinking glasses were available. It also has a desk you can sit and work at. As well, there's a continental breakfast in the restaurant in the morning. If it's included in your room, it is a nice bonus. If you have to pay to add it, I would not recommend it. It is very basic.

(It's also worth noting that coffee and water is available free throughout the day.)

Finally, the view from the room:

Overall thoughts:

Overall, I did not mind my room. It served my purposes well. I would definitely return for the right price, though if I look to stay downtown Toronto in the future, I would likley lookat another hotel first. It probably has most value for more than one person than a single traveller.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

JayRo Watches Movies: Thor

Yesterday, I talked about the theory of the summer popcorn movie. Last night I saw the prototypical popcorn movie in Thor.

Thor's the retelling of the comic book superhero from Marvel. It's not so much of an origin story as it is an introduction story. Taken on it's own, it is a fine film. It's not going to win any Oscars, but it is a step above a normal action film.

It tells the story of how Thor became the great god that he is today, and his growth from a powerful warrior, to a more worldly god. Through it, Thor is also thrown to Earth as a mortal, left to learn humility and other methods beyond fighting to solve conflict. Luckily for him, he meets Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) and her friends.

The strength of the film is actually the fish out of water scenes on Earth. Between Thor's lack of understanding of regular human interactions and everybody else's reaction to Thor, it is comedic gold.

There is also a fair bit of intrigue in Asgard, where most of the film's gravitas comes from. Kenneth Branaugh draws from his Shakespearian background to lenda fair bit of credence and value to these scenes. It does break down at times, especially when it comes to trying to determine Loki's intentions through his various actions. That is more of a weakness of the story than it is the fault of Branaugh or the actors.

A special mention for Chris Hemsworth, who does a great job in playing Thor. He seemed to know which notes he needed to hit in a role which could have easily given way to extreme overacting in the wrong hands.

A solid thumbs up and watch it for Thor.

On the Mike Croft "Go" rating system, this scores a 2.
For the "Avengers" movies the rankings are as follows:

Iron Man
Iron Man 2

Note: There iso another setup for the upcoming movie version of "The Avengers" in this movie. Stay until the end of the credits (much like every other Marvel movie)

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Friday, May 06, 2011

JayRo Watches Movies: Fast 5

The term popcorn movie gets thrown around a lot for most summer movies. It means a movie that you can go into and not have to think about. Instead, you just watch the action and enjoy it for what it is. This is the essence of Fast 5.

Fast Five is the fifth installment in the Fast and the Furious. By now, you know what to expect. Cars, testosterone and violence. It hasn't changed at all. What has seemingly changed is the tone. The movie seems a bit more fun, with everybody seemingly being in on the joke that yes, the movie is ridiculous, the script is cliche ridden, and the actors are there to chew up the scenery. It's conceit is that it basically tells you that it's okay to laugh at it; in reality you are laughing with them.

That isn't to say that this movie won't challenge you - it will, but not in the way you would expect. Instead of questioning your values or anything like that, you are questioning how many laws of phsyics are broken, along with how 5 foot nothing Vin Diesel is apparently the same size as six foot three the Rock? It will dare you to find your own plot holes in the movie. It will do all this while winking at you.

In the end, I really enjoyed Fast 5. It is a bad movie that doesn't pretend to be anything but. It basically tells you "Of course this is terrbile. Would you have it any other way?"

No, no I wouldn't.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Episode 12 Power Rankings

What happened

9. Andrea (5)

Completely blindsided, and now having to face three pretty strong competitors in an attempt to save her game. It doesn't look good for Andrea, which is too bad. She seemed like she knew what she was doing, only to get caught up in the Boston Rob whirlwind.

I only have to beat one person, right?

8. Ralph (9)

I will be shocked if Ralph is able to beat Mike and Matt in any final duel.

When do we really have to try?

7. Matt (8)
6. Mike (7)

It's merely a question of which one of these two will go back into the game only to get voted out again. Omatepe has to be hoping that it's Matt, if only to avoid the awkwardness of voting out the guy who gave up visiting with his family so they all could visit with theirs.

I wish I had used that crazy unline a fox line this week

5. Philip (6)

He says he has the argument that will beat Boston Rob. I really want to hear this argument because it will either be the greatest argument of all time, or the funniest.

Thinks their position is stronger than it is

4. Ashley (4)

I don't think Ashley understands that she is in a bad spot here, and her best bet would be to split off with Natalie and Philip to geet rid of Rob and Grant. I think she thinks the final three will be her, Natalie and Rob, which then leads to the question of "How are you going to beat Rob?" I don't think she has the answer for that.

This is how Amber won

3. Natalie (3)

I don't know if Natalie realizes she's being carried to the finals. I don't know if she's going to be able to pull off the final tribal necessary to get the jury to give her the votes. And I don't know if this jury will hate Rob as much as the All-Stars jurty hated him. But I do know that it is a great position for Natalie to be in, because she has a chance to make these arguments in final tribal.

The one who loses the final four immunity challenge is in a lot of trouble

2. Grant (2)
1. Rob (1)

This season is coming down to a final showdown at the final four. The winner will win this season; the loser will be on the jury. It goes without saying that I'm looking forward to that challenge.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island Episode 12 Thoughts

To mix things up, I'm just going to put the notes I took here, and then expand on them as much as possible.

- Philip's ridiculous dance after getting the phone

It was just in the background, but Philip's dance was once the tribe received their smartphone was a funny aside.

- Philip's fist pump when Ralph won

I honestly had forgot about the Steve/Philip battle from two episode ago, so Philip's fist pump caught me off guard initially.

- Using Redemption Island for reward as well.

Fun little twist on the duel here.

- New Redemption Island idea.

With Redemption Island, why wouldn't they run a challenge where the winner gets back into the game, and the last place finisher gets the book. That would be an extra reason for someone to win.

- Not really "giving your love" for your mother up

Probst had some odd wording when referring to Mike's decision on who to choose to let them see their family.

- The decision.

I don't know if it is right for Mike to choose the players int he game to get to see their family instead of anybody else. I do know it was pretty magnanimous of him to do so.

- Ralph being selfish

While I understand his general point, I think Ralph's anger about Mike letting the remaining players see their family has a lot more to do with Ralph not seeing his family and less to do with Mike not taking the reward.

- Why does God care about Survivor so much? (Mike)

Mike first mentioned the bible when deciding on who would get the reward. No problem there. But when Mike started talking about praying and God causing him to win the challenge? That was a bit much. (I was also disappointed that there was no footbage of Matt questioning why God had forsaken him.)

- Mike, the greatest guy in the world

Mike explained in confessionals why he chose to send the remaining six, and it basically boiled down to "because it was the right thing to do". That was an incredible display of generosity.

- Andrea's Dad wanting hair advice

I was amused by Andrea's dad asking her how she kept her hair looking so good.

- No really, why does God care about Survivor so much? (Natalie)

So Natalie's mom tells Natalie that she was praying for Natalie, and asking God to watch over Nnatalie. How does God have so much time to deal with Matt, Mike and Natalie on Survivor?

- Philip - "I'm prepared to go crazy if I have to. That's what works for me."

Philip said this to his sister, leading us to wonder how much of an act this is.

- Rob's sister seems to care about Survivor oh so much

We see Rob talking about the game with his sister, and it certianly seemed like she was interested in anything but the game, and just patronizing his needs.

- Natalie showing off her bum to her mom

This was while Rob was giving a synopsis of why he is winning the game, and it was seemingly Natalie showing off her bum to her mother, including a gentle ass slap. Very odd scene to add.

- "All they have to do is talk to each other. But they won't"

Rob said this about all of the other players who think he is in a final two alliance with them. He knows that he has them all so under control that they aren't even questioning whether he is going to take them to the final two or not. Just another example of Rob's dominance.

- Rob's assessment of the players - most knowledgeable Rob, Grant and Andrea

This means that they have actually seen the show before. And honestly, that seems to be a fair assessment.

- Build steps immunity challenge

This doesn't cover the enormity of the challenge - it was a good 2-3 stories that they had to go up and down. As well, they could only bring one plank to attempt to fit into the staircase, so if they failed once, they would have to go back down to try again.

- Grant the choker

Grant had a lead near the end, only to squander it by messing up on planks twice in a row. It was kind of shocking to see him fail like that. One explanation is that the 110 degree heat make him a bit goofy, which also helps to explain...

- Rob almost dies to win

I don't know how much of that was a need for Rob to call the Wahmbulance, but Rob was struggling so much near the end that I thought somebody else was going to over take him in the end.

- "Can you help me stand up?"

Defeated in victory, Rob needs help to get his cramp riddled body to stand up.

- What is this Philip getting voted out stuff?

It was odd, because Philip started talking about how he had the argument that nobody had thought of to beat Boston Rob in the final tribal. Then, as if on cue, Rob started talking about voting Philip out because he thinks Philip might be playing him and might have something up his sleeve. What? We need some sort of line to be drawn for us to explain how that connection was being made by Rob.

- Oh Andrea, why do you feel safe?

I guess it's a credit to Rob et al as to how much they made sure Andrea think she was a part of the core crew, but when you don't have immunity, and you were in an alliance with the only person on your tribe on Redemption Island, and you 've openly talked about feeling bad about putting him there, you shouldn't feel comfortable in your position.

- The bizarre Jeff-Philip-Andrea thing

This occurred with Jeff chastising Philip for trying to seem like a big threat when that will just lead people to vote you out. In the net breath, he tells Andrea that she did incredibly well in the challenge today, and then she beams with pride. Did you not just hear what Jeff told Philip? Control your emotions.

- Andrea's excellent response to the immunity threat

Jeff asks her if it's a bad thing to be an immunity threat, and Andrea responds that they still need to be strong because somebody will be coming back from Redemption Island and they need to beat that person. It's a great point that I hadn't considered and if she was getting voted out only because of her strength in challenges, it might ahve given everybody else pause.

- Grant's not so good response to the same question

I've just got to be me and not change who I am? Huh?

- Jeff playing to Philip's ego with the counterintelligence line

Pure genius to ensure Philip will open up.

- "I made no alliances when I, you know, broke them"

Kristina and Francesca would disagree with this statement Philip.

- "Don't know for sure, but I think I'm a guy who you want to have around"

A subtle plea to the rest of the tribe, while not pointing out that he's a hatable guy.

- Nobody feels insecure at this moment

My mind was blown when nobody said they felt insecure. If anything, the fact that everybody else thought they were secure would make me feel insecure.

- Rob gives everybody a bit of a wakeup call by saying that he wouldn't feel comfortable if he didn't have immunity.

I don't know if Rob should have done this, but it's a fair statement.

- "You have done everything right to get to this point. Ovavate(?)"

Philip's great grandfather's words right before the vote. I honestly don't know that last word, hence the question mark.

- David, master of the obvious "She got blindsided"

You think, David? What was the tipoff, that she felt safe going into the vote, or that she reacted when she saw her name a second time?

Power rankings to come tomorrow.

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