Thursday, September 26, 2013

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Episode 2 Power Rankings

19. Colton

Colton's behaviour seems to be a byproduct of the Blood vs. Water twist. If I had to guess, one of the main reasons why he agreed to play again was that he was going to be able to play along side Caleb. He seems to truly adore Caleb, and he draws strength from him. So when he was split from Caleb, Colton became more emotional, and more unstable. Initially it manifested itself in the way of crying, but as time went on, it became boredom and finally an excuse to bring back the old Colton. I wonder if Colton and Caleb were brought back together if we would see a more jovial Colton. We won't see it though, because Colton has guaranteed his boot as soon as possible, which he should have seen coming.

When Colton reverted back to his old ways, he seemed to be more confident in his place in the tribe. He thought he was pulling one over on the tribe. But he forgot that the majority of his tribe mates have played the game before, and that they are aware of what Colton did in the past. They know what a destructive force he can be if he is left unchecked, so they will do whatever they need to in order to keep the peace, including voting Colton out. They won't care if Caleb switches spots with him; that weakens Tadhana in multiple ways. So it's an easy decision for them.

What isn't clear is why Colton didn't see this coming. He's a fan of Survivor; he knows what happened to Russell Hantz the third time he played the game. Maybe he thought that it would be like Russell's second time playing, when on Heroes vs. Villains Russell was able to run the exact same game. But that ignores a key fact: none of the players had seen Russell play before. They weren't prepared for his onslaught. When they were prepared, Russell was the first one to go. This is the same situation that Colton is in, but he ignored the obvious signs that this would not work for him. That makes this season a tragic one for Colton, not a redemptive one.

10. John

John had a very bad week, though I don't think he knows just how bad it was. Much like Colton's change could be traced back to Caleb, John's bad week can be traced back to his love for Candace, and hers for him.

Getting the hidden immunity idol clue isn't in and of itself a bad thing. It leads to an immunity idol, which is never a bad thing.  But what you do with the power of the clue can be a bad thing. What John did was very close to stupid. He has a majority alliance, but chose not to share with them the clue or anything related to an immunity idol.

Wishing that Rachel would not go to Redemption Island is understandable. If the plan works, and Tyson to switches with Rachel, that would make things look bad for Candace. But it's another thing entirely to try to convince people to not vote out Rachel because she's strong. That argument might have worked if they hadn't already voted out Marissa, who was strong as well. John needed a better argument and he had none. That's why Rachel is at Redemption Island.

These two things combine into a massive amount of distrust of John, and worries that he might have the idol already makes him ripe for a blindside. Until John realizes how much danger he is in, he can't correct his actions. And once he does realize the danger he is in, it could still not be enough.

3. Tina

Tina has found her Colby this season, and it's Aras. The pairing is a natural one, as they are the only winners to return to the game. Tina's experience in All-Stars also informs her thinking here, as she was targetted immediately because she was a winner. But the way that they were able to make a majority alliance quickly and subtlely was quite the accomplishment.

Why is this alliance going to succeed, even when the Brigade 2.0 is flailing? First and foremost, there is no leader to this alliance. While I am comfortable in saying that Aras will probably be viewed as the leader, he is not actually leading the alliance. Until they have gotten rid of Colton, there is an agreement in the alliance that there isn't much more to discuss.

What I predict is going to happen is that Tina and Aras will figure out their best move, and then encourage their alliance mates to agree on that best move, even if it isn't the best move. And that will carry on until Tina and Aras are in the final tribal with each other.

The full power ranking list:

20. Rupert

19. Colton
18. Marissa
17. Candice
16. Rachel
15. Laura B
14. Laura M.
13. Kat
12. Katie
11. Gervasce
10. John
9.  Brad
8.  Ciera
7.  Monica
6.  Caleb
5.  Tyson
4.  Hayden
3.  Tina
2.  Vytas
1.  Aras

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Episode 2 Thoughts

Being true to yourself
While listening to this week's "The Right Reasons" podcast (from the Grantland network), David Jacoby made an interesting statement in reference to Brad Culpepper:

"You will always act as who you are no matter how much you want to act differently."

It's a valid thought based on what we've seen of Brad. He knows that he shouldn't take the lead of a tribe; more often than not you will be voted out, especially if you are an alpha male and challenge threat. But once he got to the island, he reverted back to his old ways. He became the alpha male, and took charge of his tribe. Heck, he even created a team of fellow alpha males. He couldn't help himself.

If you can see this happening with Culpepper, you can see it even more in the returning players. Our most obvious example is Colton.

Colton came in to the game say ing all the right things. He wanted this to be a season of redemption for himself, one that would change America's opinion of him. He was going to play the game differently, and was going to leave his jerk and bullying ways behind.

Three days later he was bored and so he decided that he needed chaos. Colton was conscious of the fact that the best thing for his game was to stay calm, move slowly in the game, and not antagonize anybody unnecesarily. But he couldn't help himself; he had to do something to break the monotony in order to feel better. So he did what he does best, and pushed people around while accusing them of trying to turn on each other. It was his dream.

Unfortunately for him, the other players haven't changed either, and they came into the game knowing who they are and what sort of Survivor player they are. Aras prefers to play a laid back game. He doesn't want chaos or any sort of conflict, knowing that a calm camp is an easily controlled camp. Monica knows first hand what Colton's chaos plan can cause; she fell victim to it in One World. And Tyson is well aware of what somebody can do to a tribe is they are allowed to bring chaos into your tribe, having played and fallen victim to Russell Hantz.

One of the reasons why the returning players are at an advantage is that the have played before, and know what sort of player they are. They also know what kind of players they are playing with, and know how to react to them. Colton is learning this lesson the hard way.

The effect of the playing against a loved one

When the main twist for the season was announced, it was dismissed as a gimmicky way to bring back previous players. It would end up being a boring season where two already established pairs would make it to the end. In the first two weeks though, we have seen that this twist is going to have a major impact on how the game is played, and for the better.

The most obvious way the twist has impacted the game is how the ability to replace your loved one at Redemption Island has already cost a player. I had already predicted doom for Rupert; his play wasn't even close to smart for allowing Laura to make it much further in the game, and it aborted his game unexpectedly. Now he has no game left, though Laura seems to have rebounded somewhat well.

We also Marissa head to Redemption Island apparently because of her loved one, but that was not by her choice. Gervasce's reaction to winning the first challenge was to gloat about it, and taunt Tadhana. Tadhana took this as a reflection on Marissa, and voted her into Redemtpion Island as revenge.

There are also subtle ways that this is affecting the game. We saw an interesting strategy used by Tadhana when they were faced with having to vote out one of their own. They chose who to vote out based on who would be most likely replaced in Redemption Island by their loved one, and who would end up weakening Galang the most. They landed on Rachel because they felt that Tyson was most likely to make the switch, and his loss would weaken Galang signficantly. It was an outside the box method to look at the twist, and it migh tbe one that works to Tadhana's advantage.

And of course, there is John. John is still distraught over not stepping up and taking his wife Candace's place. But he was also the beneficiary of Candace winning the Redemption Island challenge, and received a clue to a hidden immunity idol. You could see him trying to find a way to keep Rachel, wanting to give Candace an easier opportunity to survive so she can come back into the game.

As Jeff said at tribal council, this might be the most difficult season to decide on a vote. There are many more factors to consider when deciding who you want to vote out. It has provided many good moments already, and promises to provide more.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Episode 1 Power Rankings

(I'm going use a new format for this season's power rankings. It is blatantly stolen from Jonah Keri's The 30 column, so all credit to him.)

20. Rupert
19. Laura B.

I had them in the Least Likely to Win category in my brief preview, and this hasn't changed. Laura was voted out by Tadhana, and was only saved by her husband's incessant need to play the hero. I'm surprised it took Rupert as long as it did for him to jump to take his wife's place at Redemption Island; the two seconds it took was about one second more than I expected.

Let's be clear: Rupert made a huge mistake. Not only did his tribe expect to be playing with him, they weren't expecting to play with his wife. It made Laura an easy target for first boot from Galang: she's the outsider with no experience in the game. As well, it would eliminate one pair immediately. But Rupert values his image of a dedicated, nice guy who stands up for what's right.

That's what makes the edit he's receiving so interesting. You know that he wants to be perceived as the ultimate hero, much like he was after Pearl Islands. However, the producers seem to be dedicated to showing him in the worst light possible, continuing a story that has been happening since All-Stars. It's the story of a man whose actions are increasingly more "evil," though to him the actions are truly virtuous. Rupert is convinced of the righteousness of his actions, and with that we get to see him as the villain he is becoming. Kudos to the producers and editors for keeping this story together for 3 seasons.

16. Gervasce

What a terrible episode for Gervasce. Like almost making him the best goat to bring to the end level performance. He shows that his water performance from the first season did not cause him to improve his swimming skills, plus his cardio level has been hurt after 13 years of Survivor inactivity. And then, once Galang wins the challenge, he acts as though it was the greatest thing ever. His taunting of Tadhana was over the top and definitely on commiserate to his performance in the challenge. And his actions caused his niece to be voted out of the game and into Redemption Island. So in short Gervasce:

  • Showed himself to be weak in challenges,
  • pissed off potential jurors
  • and cause his best ally in the game to be voted out.
Stellar job Gervasce! Will you follow up next week by setting the immunity idol ablaze in some sort of pre challenge ritual a la a bon fire before a big high school football game?

11. Brad

I don't wish to really pick on Brad's intelligence; after Jeff Probst's tweets about him suffering brain damage from playing football it feels too much like piling on. With that said, I don't know that Brad has watched that much Survivor, regardless of his ability to recall recent history.

When trying to get together the all bro alliance, he referenced that Survivor winners are now "weak women, and John Cochran." He made this point many times, which was odd since if you look back on the last few seasons, you don't find that many weak women:

Previous winners (in reverse order):

Survivor 26 - John Cochran
Survivor 25 - Denise Staley
Survivor 24 - Kim Spradlin
Survivor 23 - Sophie Clarke
Survivor 22 - Rob Mariano
Survivor 21 - Fabio

From that list, I guess you could consider Denise a "weak woman" in a literal sense. She wasn't that big of an immunity threat I suppose. But Kim Spradlin? And Sophie Clarke, destroyer of challenge king Ozzie? Not to mention Boston Rob or Fabio (who won because he was able to win immunity into the final tribal.)

And not only that, but Brad made a rookie mistake when he spoke from his heart when the tribes were first put together. What he said wasn't that bad; it essentially said that he would have felt bad about winning an item that he knew his wife Monica could use at her camp. But that could have been interpreted as him saying that he would throw a challenge to his wife's tribe and throwing challenges never goes over well unless there's a maniacal plot behind it (that will ultimately bite you in the ass). So Brad decided that he should make sure that nobody was thinking that he was going to throw a challenge, which was a good idea. Unfortunately his speech came across as insincere and did not involve an actual apology, which lead his tribe to trust him even less. His own alliance mate Caleb was ready to turn on him as soon as possible.

Brad seems like a nice guy, but he's in a whole heap of trouble and might end up being blind sided if he's not careful. But he's confessional gold, so the producers will make sure we see a lot of him up until he is voted out.

The full power ranking list:

20. Rupert
19. Laura B
18. Marissa
17. Candice
16. Colton
15. Laura M.
14. Kat
13. Katie
12. Gervasce
11. Brad
10. Ciera
9.  Monica
8.  Rachel
7.  Caleb
6.  Tyson
5.  Tina
4.  Hayden
3.  John
2.  Aras
1.  Vytas

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Episode 1 Thoughts

Generally speaking, there are two rules when it comes to seasons with both returning players and new players, there are two rules that hold true:

  1. At least one returning player will make it to final tribal council
  2. When there are equal number of returning players and new players, a returning player will win.

1) is an absolute truth thus far; in every season where there have been returning players and new players, at least one returning player has made it to final tribal. It's pretty obvious why this would be. Returning players have the experience of having played before, and thus have made the rookie mistakes that come with playing for the first time. They also know what worked for them, and what did not. They can adjust their play from the start, instead of having to try to adjust on the fly.

2) is pretty truthful as well. In a fans vs. favorites season, a favorite has won both times. Of course, that is a sample size of a whopping 2. But at the same time, when only two or three players are returning, the returning players record is mixed.

This season might cause 2) to be broken.

I think part of why the favorites have won both half and half seasons is because the returning players end up separated from the new players, and that makes the new players still have a sense of awe when around the returning players. In turn, this leads to the new players deferring to the returning players whenever possible in the game, and especially when the merge occurs. (As an added bonus, the returning players tend to have an advantage in the challenges, and then have the numbers when a merge occurs.) When there's only one returning player to a tribe, they are more likely to either be integrated into the tribe, or to be ostracized from the tribe. Either way, there is less of an awe factor for those players.

This season's main twist of loved ones being on he show should take some of the awe away. The loved ones have experienced at least some of the insanity of Survivor. They're not likely to just defer to any Survivor player. They might defer to their loved one, but that's about it. They're also likely to try to make a move on the Survivor players, having lived in the shadows of their Survivor playing loved one. And add in the ability to switch players in and out of tribes, and you get new players being very comfortable with returnees very quickly, which will lead to less following, and more independent game play.

And all of that is a good thing for this season.

Some Other First Episode Thoughts

We got the expected edit, where the returning players showed their competence at the game and being able to make fire, build a shelter, etc. What was surprising is that it actually carried on to the immunity challenge, when the returning players (sorry, Galang), came back from a huge deficit to win the challenge by solving a puzzle very quickly. It really was a demonstration of both side's strengths; Tadhana showing their physical prowess by dominating the water course, while Galang showing that they can stay calm and also think back to some tricks they would have used in other challenges. The question that remains is whether this is the going to be the dominant story a la Fans vs. Favorites 2 (complete with the subtext of a Favorite player edging closer and closer to the deep end,) or if this is just a one off and Tadhana can get their stuff together.

One thing that wasn't so surprising was the five guys of Tadhana sticking together to vote out a woman. Still, Marissa getting the boot was a bit of a surprise - she seems like she could help the tribe in challenges. With that said, I don't know how much of a mistake it was to vote her out. Ultimately, the Brigade 2.0 (over/under on when Hayden mentions the word "Brigade" on an episode? I say Episode 3) don't really care which woman they get rid of, much like the fans from last season didn't care who went from the minority 4 person cool kid alliance. In then end, it will be the core 5 person alliance left standing, and they will do whatever they need to do to survive from that point forward. So while Katie might have made more sense to get rid of, I don't think the Brigade is thinking that way. They're just saying "We're the strongest, and we'll carry everybody else."  That's a refreshing way to look at the game, but it's probably a losing strategy as well.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Survivor: Blood vs. Water Preview

Twist thoughts

I hate that Redemption Island came back.It ruins the flow of the episodes, leaving us with no true closure at the end of an episode (since the bootee gets put into Redemption Island) and starts off the next episode with something important, but tangentially related to the game being played at camp. It also messes with the actual game a fair bit.

With that said, I think that if you were ging to bring it back, this is the bestway to do it. Giving the loved ones the option to take the place of a competitor in Redemption Island, which then leads to the mixing up of tribes is actually an interesting twist. I hope that it gets used and actually impacts the tribe's inner workings. But most of all, I hope that it only lasts until merge. Make post merge the standard game.

The loved one twist is also intriguing. It is being done in the only way it could (putting pairs together immediately would be disasterous for Survivor; the game would become a battle of tribe immunity challenges.) It also allows for some interesting game play post merge if both loved ones make it. Do you add the loved one to your existing alliance? Can they just slide into that alliance without issue? Will your alliance mates be threatened by the presence of your loved one, thinking that it would lead to a natural final 2 pairing? And finally, will somebody vote out their own loved one? (I doubt this very much.)

All in all, what looked like an uninspired twist is actually shaping up to be interesting. Which is all that I ask for.

Least Likely to Win:

Laura B and Rupert B

That's right. My apologies to the Bonham family, but there's no chance they're winning. They're loud, opinionated, not exactly liked by the returning players and woefully lacking in self awareness.


Colton gets listed here because I don't know how he makes it past the Day Zero part. Why would the returnees say "You know, that Colton sat around and did nothing, said horrible things and in general caused trouble for his tribe. Let's keep him"? S he's going to go to Redemption Island, where his only hope is to switch with Caleb and get on to the newbie team. From there, maybe he can work his magic and get an alliance together. This just seems like a giant long shot.

Most likely to win:


Like brother, like brother. Vytas seems like a physical threat and he seems to have a good social game. Hopefully his brother Aras imparted some lessons on the strategy of Survivor; if he did then Vytas has a great chance to win.


I think that Hayden's Big Brother win will be overplayed by others; the games are sufficiently different that you just can't say "Well he won Big Brother so he's going to win Survivor." But you can use it to get an idea as to how he's going to play Survivor and that is a strong game in Survivor as well. I'm not as convinced about his strategic game as he had the other Brigade members to work with and do a bit of the heavy lifting. But he does have a social game, and he is a challenge threat. That adds up to a top contender.


His only downside is that he is a previous winner, so he has a target on his back. But he's made for this game: strong social game, strong strategic game, and can win challenges. He has to be rated number one on this alone.

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