Survivor is back for the fall, with its 35th season already under way. This season they returned to the Fiji setting the show has been using for the past few seasons, and have come with another interesting theme: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Initially when I heard about this theme I thought it was another clever way the producers could try to mold contestants into certain stereotypes that could induce some dramatic game-play, but it appears as if this cast isn’t biting on that so far. I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I think the big reason why is because it seems like this cast is learning the game as they go, which is a refreshing contrast to last season’s robotic play. I do enjoy watching new players learn the game and learn the survival aspects as they go, and I feel really good about this season most because I can’t tell who the real contenders and pretenders are. That being said, I don’t think I can do a proper power rankings for this cast because I don’t have a good feel for how this game will play out, but I would like to give some initial thoughts and predictions on the players and the first 3 days of play.
- Players who impressed me:
- One of the cool things about this game so far is that the people who seem to be doing well are the underdog type characters, and I think that bodes well for the fluidity of the game. Ryan is one of my favorites early on because he seems to have a good grasp on the strategy without seeming too sneaky, and is making friends without really trying too hard. I loved that Ryan was able to grab that advantage during the melee of the marooning because it shows that he is keyed on the game even from the start, and his use of the advantage to give it to someone who’s clearly appeared to be on the bottom of their tribe shows even more that he’s ready to go. Besides Ryan, I think Mike and Ali are two players who have a shot at doing very well this season. Mike is a bit on the nerdy side, but he does seem to have good mental wherewithal despite his age/physical stature. I think he could be a key figure in swaying tribes and alliances as things progress because people will find him to be unassuming. As for Ali, I think she has the kind of social savvy that is going to make the producers very happy. The hustlers tribe name was kind of made for her, and she’s already showed, if only through confessionals, that she’s capable of understanding the game, and creating alliances with people. I may just be tricked by the edit, but Ali does seem like a player to focus on thus far, right? I think her tribe will go as she does at least, so I imagine she’ll be imperative in the pre-merge game at least.
- Players who did not impress me:
- This is the spot in this particular blog that I go off on all of the issues in the Heroes tribe. Alan’s paranoia from Day 2 on was poor game play from him, and it makes me question if he has the social chops for a crafty game like Survivor. Perhaps he was just hangry and needs a Snickers or something, but it’s indicative of someone who’s going to get themselves voted off eventually. Then there’s the combo of JP and Ashley, who put targets on their backs by being too close to each other. That just tells me they don’t understand how people perceive each other in the frame of the Survivor game. Perhaps they’re not as familiar with the game as some of the super fans are, but if that’s the case, then they’ll get eaten alive in the game for sure. Also, Joe from the Healers tribe seems to be a bit of a loose cannon to me, considering the way he chose to talk to people and the way he spoke in confessionals. It’s as if he thinks the Russell Hantz method of play has some methodology to it. You have to respect people on Survivor, especially early on, and I have my doubts that he’s particularly good at considering everyone’s opinions and feelings when strategizing. I think he won’t be long for the game.
- Players who I’m on the fence or unsure about:
- Devon is a nice wild card in this game. I can’t tell if he knows the game too well, but the fact that he seems to be open to alliances like the one he is seemingly building with Ryan is a good sign for him. Every Ryan in Survivor needs a Devon to help him win, so this pairing might be great going forward. Ben is someone I generally like and respect as a player, but it also seems like he’s surrounded by people who are not playing the game correctly. By himself, Ben could be a good player, but sometimes in Survivor allies can become albatrosses. Also, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t match a face to the name of any of the women on the Healers tribe so far, so I’m clearly on the fence about all of them until they have some memorable TV moments at least.
- Players who can be ruled out of contention:
- Simone from the Hustlers tribe got zero screen time on the first episode. Clearly she will not win this season unless the editors are completely messing with super fans everywhere. It’s still kind of annoying that Survivor wouldn’t at least make an attempt to add something from everyone to the opening episode of a season, but I guess that’s what will happen when they cut the air time down from 90-120 minute premieres to a standard single hour episode like they did this time. Also, I think Chrissy is someone to rule out too, she had a lose-lose situation going into the vote with the idol in her pocket, where she could either mess up the vote and look like a threat or keep it in her pocket and just hope to be dragged along for a little while. Unless she’s way craftier then I expect her to be, she appears to be psychologically boxed in to a point where she will not make enough waves to win the game.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with Survivor: HHH so far. I like that the cast doesn’t seem to be playing up to the stereotypes assigned to them by production. It is early so perhaps I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I think the tribe divisions were just ridiculous enough to make the players kind of roll their eyes and really dig into the simple game play around camp, versus getting wrapped up in how they should play or be perceived. I hope the game progresses well without too many strange twists so we can get back to some true Survivor drama, like how to survive at camp, how and when to make alliances, and how to play as a team while trying to be the Sole Survivor at the same time. I think this has a chance to be a very traditional Survivor season, and if it ends up like that, I’ll be very satisfied by Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, despite its long-to-type name!