Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Game Changers – Power Rankings and Thoughts After Episode 5

I guess the queen doesn’t stay queen after all! For weeks I’ve been anticipating when Sandra’s unbeaten streak would finally come to an end, but this week that became a reality. Overall, it was a fantastic episode, with a really ridiculous exile twist, and a nail-biting Tribal Council where the editors really tried to make the results unpredictable until the very last minute. I thought this was another great episode; it had a little bit of everything and ended with an unforgettable moment! Without any further ado, here are this week’s power rankings:

  1. Debbie Wanner (0)

– Debbie got a cringeworthy reward this week when she was sent to Exile Island, only to be welcomed by a feast, a boat, and Cochran. While it was a strange moment in the history of Survivor, she did manage to garner an advantage in the game which could end up being very useful. Too little too late for Debbie though, I don’t think people are in her corner to any extent anymore after her blow-up last week.

  1. Jeff Varner (-4)

– Varner lost his best ally and lifeline in this game with Sandra being gone, and without her I think his game is kind of shot. Sure there seems to be a hope that he could work with Zeke going forward, but that’s not a certainty at all. I’m not sure if Varner has any traction to make the kind of game changing moves needed to win this contest.

  1. Tai Trang (+3)

– Tai is a freak when it comes to finding idols. It’s a huge risk to be constantly looking for idols, but when you have two in your pocket, you have a lot of room to maneuver. I still don’t think Tai has the social game to win, but he’s got time and lives to spend now, and you just never know how things can shake out. Tai might have some hope all of the sudden.

  1. Michaela Bradshaw (+2)

– As much as I think Varner is hurt by Sandra’s absence, I think it might help Michaela out a bit. She can now float around on her new tribe and make it clear that she’s an available number come merge time. Not only that, but Michaela seemed like more of a villain when she was aligned with Sandra, but without her I believe she could play whatever game works to her advantage best. I’m still not holding my breath that Michaela is going to behave well enough in a team environment to go deep in the game, but I think she’s smart enough to turn this thing around.

  1. Andrea Boehlke (0)

– Andrea’s still not getting much camera time, so I don’t know what to make of her game. She does have numbers, and she hasn’t pissed anyone off to our knowledge, but my expectations are rather low.

  1. Troyzan Robertson (-2)

– Troy seems to be lacking some confidence out there on the island, and that’s a bit worrisome I think. The history of Survivor is riddled with second place finishers who lost because they lacked the confidence to own their games, and it feels like Troyzan is getting in that territory tight now. He still has that idol so I’m excited to see how he plays, but I hope he plays boldly once it becomes an individual game.

  1. Hali Ford (+3)

– The tribe swap helped Hali keep her head above water, and now she’s in a really good position because she can start from scratch and develop whatever kind of alliance she wants to. I think if she’s able to stay strong with Brad and Sierra, she’s going to be just fine for a long time.

  1. Aubry Bracco (+1)

– Aubry was also saved by the swap, and is in a very similar position to Hali at this point, under the radar and able to find her way with whatever numbers work best for her. I don’t have a great read on Aubry’s game so far because her allies keep getting voted off, but I have a lot of faith in her as a player, so she’s going to stay high-ish on my rankings for now.

  1. Ozzy Lusth (-1)

– I really love the way Ozzy and his alliance handled the Sandra vote. They stayed firm to their plan to get out the only two-time winner in Survivor history, despite a crazy tribal council scene. It’s good to see Ozzy playing a sensible game right now, staying cool and staying as under the radar as he can.

  1. Zeke Smith (-2)

– Zeke is playing magnificently as well, making friends with Varner and gently reminding Tai to trust people when his intuition tells him to cause chaos. Zeke is a cerebral player, and, for me, it’s very exciting watching smart people play smart games like he has so far.

  1. Sarah Lacina (+2)

– I think Sarah may be the one who impressed me the most this week. Her confessional about Sandra’s behavior showed a very high game intellect, and it has me really thinking about her as a possible winner. Weeks into the game, Sarah is thinking and acting about as clearly as anyone in the game, and if that keeps up, I think she will stay in control of her own fate.

  1. Cirie Fields (+1)

– I think I’ve said it week after week, but I’ll keep being a broken record about it; the longer Cirie stays in the game, the better it gets for her. Cirie is not outwardly threatening, but she is smart, warm, and great for team morale. If anyone can play a perfect social game, of the remaining cast at least, it would be her.

  1. Brad Culpepper (0)

– It doesn’t seem like Brad is ever in a terrible position on this Game Changers season. His conversation with Troyzan re-affirmed my respect for the game he was playing after the whole Debbie incident because it shows how capable he is at making alliances and speaking his case. I think it will be fantastic to watch his alliance and Ozzy’s alliance go to battle once they merge just to see how the numbers end up.

  1. Sierra Dawn Thomas (0)

– I’m convinced that Sierra’s legacy advantage is going to put her in an amazing position when they merge at Final 13. She continues to lead my rankings because of that simple fact and because no one’s really going to think much about getting rid of her for the time being.

Thoughts after the Episode:

  • My player of the week honors go to Sarah for this episode. It’s really kind of a tie between Sarah, Ozzy, Andrea and Zeke for sticking together and eliminating Sandra, but I’ll give some special preference to Sarah for her great character assessments so far…My favorite moment of the episode was Sandra getting her torch snuffed. It’s not even a malicious thing from my perspective; it was just such a wonderful TV moment to see this legendary player who had never lost before finally get her torch put out by Jeff. It was really just a special moment…The whole ‘Cochran is the reward’ scenario was a bit ridiculous if you ask me. Are we really supposed to buy the concept that listening to Cochran’s advice on how to play the game is an amazing advantage? From my recollection, I don’t think Survivor has brought on a former player in a guest spot like this, and I’d appreciate it they never did it again, because that was a real waste of screen time…I think the thing that’s making this season so good is the amount of twists and idols they’re making available to the contestants. It’s really helping the build-up of this season to see all of these twists piling up, knowing they’re all going to come to a head in an epic way once they merge. Just taking count for a second: Tai has two idols, Troyzan has one, Sierra has the legacy advantage, and now Debbie has an extra vote advantage. All of these extra variables are really helping to build excitement for Game Changers, and it seems pretty likely that this game is going to get even more exciting pretty soon, considering that all 4 of them have kept their advantages secret.
Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Game Changers – Power Rankings and Thoughts After Episode 4

Yeah, so this season is turning into a bit of a dramatic proceeding. I’m not sure how I feel about all of the yelling and fighting from a game perspective, but it’s really great television. We saw Debbie being Debbie, Sandra stirring the pot, Michaela acting up, and JT making me question his Survivor IQ just a bit. One thing is for certain, the game is staying very turbulent, and it’s very hard to predict just what the producers are going to try to throw at the contestants to shake things up. These are good things though; I don’t really have any big complaints so far. Here are the power rankings for the week:

  1. Tai Trang

– Tai’s game is just riddled with little issues, isn’t it? First he’s forced to play an idol for his alliance very early on, and now he’s caught in between Brad and Debbie as she’s melting down. The guy can’t catch a break, and he’s just not decisive enough t come out of the interpersonal squabbles looking good.

  1. Debbie Wanner

– Debbie is her own worst enemy. Her little breakdown was such a bad scene, and it was in no way strategic or smart to keep the animosity going as long as she did. I think we can count Debbie out as a winner; no one there is going to respect her game after seeing the way she’s played things so far.

  1. Michaela Bradshaw

– I don’t want to dislike Michaela, but, when she does things like pulling out the mug at tribal as the votes are being read, I just can’t help myself. I think her showmanship is bad for her game prospects because it can create animosity that will linger on. I hope Aubry remembers what she did there later on when it counts, because what goes around comes around.

  1. Sandra Diaz-Twine

– The longer this game goes on with Sandra still in power, the more nervous everyone should be getting. Sandra is the queen, as she likes to remind people, and she has an uncanny ability to get by vote-to-vote regardless of what kind of threat she possesses. There’s bound to be a moment later on when Sandra has finally run out of luck and people finally turn on her, but that time better come soon or she may just sneak under the radar yet again.

  1. Hali Ford

– The Debbie situation should be of some help to Hali, but she shouldn’t really feel safe just yet, especially given the numbers disadvantage her original tribe is mired in. I’m still very confident in Hali’s game because she has options these days, but without strong alliances she’s going to have to play extra hard to survive.

  1. Andrea Boehlke

– I can’t imagine why anyone would target Andrea right now in the game, so I feel a lot better for her as time goes on. She’s still not in the running for the title of Sole Survivor given her invisible edit, but she’s gonna get a chance to show something after the merge I imagine.

  1. Jeff Varner

– Jeff made the right decision going with Sandra on this vote. Making an enemy of Sandra is a bad idea for anyone, every time. Now Varner can count on an alliance with two people who are larger threats than him, who he could go to the end with and maybe win against if they keep playing aggressively. Once this game is down to an individual contest, Varner will be able to maneuver in the background, and I think he will be able to do well.

  1. Aubry Bracco

– Aubry has found herself in the minority all of the sudden, suffering from two very bad Tribal Councils in a row. Aubry’s only other saving grace would be having Tai and Debbie still in the game, but even teaming up with them doesn’t seem like the healthiest idea right now. I think Aubry is a great player, but she has her work cut out for her at this point. I still rate her high just because she’s very perceptive

  1. Troyzan Robertson

– The fact that Troy’s tribe keeps winning immunity is such a boost to his game. If he had to burn his idol early on, he might have been in a rough spot long-term, but now that he’s seemingly survived to another tribe swap (maybe???) everything is looking up for his game now. Troyzan’s idol is one of the big variables in this game right now, alongside Sierra’s legacy advantage, and I really can’t wait to see how he plays it.

  1. Sarah Lacina

– At first glance, I wasn’t very impressed with Sarah’s decision-making, regarding her talking with Troyzan, who was clearly at the bottom of the tribe. But, the more I think about it, the better of a move I think it could be. Those two can work together later on now that they’ve established a working relationship, and it’s always funny how one person can end up swinging a critical vote. She’s establishing options in a nuanced way, and I think her head’s in the right place so far.

  1. Ozzy Lusth

– Ozzy’s just going to keep winning immunity’s for his tribe, and provide them with fish, and that’s going to go a long way towards establishing him in a good alliance once they merge. I imagine he’s going to get picked off like Joe in Second Chance, but it would be amazing if he found a way to survive instead! I’m low-key rooting for Ozzy right now; fourth time should be a charm for him, right?

  1. Cirie Fields

– These fools let Cirie get comfortable in this game. Bad decision. On a side-note though, I’m really stoked to see her interact with Sandra at some point. I’m dying to know if they’d work together or work against each other. Hopefully we find out soon!

  1. Zeke Smith

– I still firmly believe that Zeke is in the best spot in his alliance because he is the least obvious person there. That and the fact that he, like Aubry, is super perceptive. But, I’m also not seeing too much from him either, so I really don’t know what to make of his chances. My heart tells me he’s a winner, but my brain is not so certain.

  1. Brad Culpepper

– Brad’s still playing a cerebral game, leading his tribe well and playing it cool. But now Debbie has become a real concern for him, and she’s acting to out him in a very similar (albeit crazier) way as Candice did in Blood vs. Water. I think Brad’s alright for now, but if he doesn’t rein in Debbie (or get rid of her), he’s not gonna make it 39 days.

  1. Sierra Dawn Thomas

– If there’s anyone at the Mana camp who’s OK with the craziness of Debbie, it’s gotta be Sierra. While Debbie is going after Brad and Hali, and Tai is looking on wishing he wasn’t tied to her strategically, Sierra can just get the popcorn ready and watch things carry on. The beauty of Sierra’s predicament is that she doesn’t even need the numbers at the merge; because of her legacy advantage and the immunity it could grant her if she chooses to use it. Sierra is in a sweet spot right now.

Thoughts After the Episode:

  • Player of the week honors go to Sandra for this episode. She was the one who successfully stirred the pot causing conflict between Michaela and JT and made JT feel secure enough to not even bring his idol to Tribal Council. She’s playing a bit more aggressively than we’ve seen before, but she’s staying true to the game that’s gotten her two crowns already, so I have to give her some credit this week…My favorite moment of the episode was the entirety of the Debbie outburst scenes. It was truly amazing to watch her self-destruct over absolutely nothing, making ridiculous arguments, and just go generally berserk. Such good television…JT’s demise was disappointing to me, considering how high I was on his original winning game. I thought JT showed great charm and perceptiveness when he won Tocantins, outmaneuvering everyone in the social game, and showing great strengths in challenges and around camp. This season we only saw mistakes from JT, culminating with what could only be described as a colossal set-up. The show has been building up JT’s demise for a few episodes now, and the payout was pretty good. JT should’ve seen what was coming considering the numbers disadvantage, yet he was blinded by his own interests. JT found an immunity idol, which would’ve saved him, yet he didn’t even bring it to Tribal Council. It was infuriating watching him get duped because it seemed so obvious. For the second game in a row, JT got played badly, and it’s definitely going to hurt his Survivor legacy a bit…I’m genuinely scared to know who the former player coming into the game is. This seems like a ridiculous twist, regardless of what comes of this. I’m very sure that they’re not actually bringing someone in to play mid-game, but whatever Jeff Probst is pulling, it’s probably going to be ridiculous. On a more positive note, I’m pretty sure I heard Exile Island mentioned in the preview, and that makes me happy. It’s been way too long since they utilized Exile Island, and it could be a great way to throw some more interesting twists into the game.
Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Game Changers – Power Rankings and Thoughts After Episode 3

That was seriously one of the craziest things I’ve seen on Survivor. The tribal council that came from the twist of two tribes going to one tribal to vote one person out was astonishingly good, proving once more that after 34 seasons, we haven’t seen everything we could see yet on Survivor. I’m so torn about the ending of the episode, because on one hand it was riveting television, and I genuinely had no idea how that vote was going to play out considering the fluidity of the moment, but on the other hand that was an unprecedented move and seemed kind of unfair to the concept of the game. I hate that a losing tribe was able to skirt elimination due to a twist that changed the concept of eliminating a contestant because it took a step away from the central purpose of the game to a small extent. I might just be over-thinking things making a statement like that, but I also can’t help being a purist sometimes. Anyway, it’s clear that good TV moments are great for Survivor, and regardless of the results, that was a fantastic moment in the history of the game!

Power Rankings after Episode 3:

  1. JT Thomas (0)

– I have JT ranked as my top winner on my Winner Rankings list, and I did that in spite of being outplayed in his second season because I thought his winning season was an extraordinarily great game played. But now I’m started to wonder if his game play after winning calls for a demotion, even after the fact, because he really is losing this game for himself. JT’s surprise maneuver at the combined Tribal Council was a complete failure, and it’s left him in an untenable position where he has no trust and no one to work with at all. I don’t think JT has any shot left whatsoever now.

  1. Sandra Diaz-Twine (0)

– Sandra keeps looking bad in this game, so that’s not good for her prospects I imagine. And now Sandra is without a great ally and shield in Malcolm, so that’s a pretty bad twist in the road for her towards win #3. I was kind of hoping JT’s plan could work and Sandra would be voted out at this opportunity because that was the one move that could’ve benefitted all 10 of the other players. But I guess we’ll just have to wait for her ouster; it’s bound to come soon anyway, right? Right????

  1. Andrea Boehlke (0)

– Nothing from Andrea for another episode. She’s just here for the ride I guess.

  1. Tai Trang (+4)

– Tai found an idol, which was a crucial thing for his tribe, allowing them to pull the upset at Tribal Council despite being down in the numbers. That was a fantastic moment. The problem was when he played the idol, he had to look at Brad and ask who to play the idol for. Tai is playing the same game, and it could push him very far, but he’d just be a losing finalist again unless he takes some ownership of his game.

  1. Troyzan Robertson (-3)

– Troy has that idol in his back pocket, but he’s not performing well enough in the challenges for me to believe he’ll gain the kind of respect that will allow him to hang on to that idol for a long time. Still, as long as his team can find ways to win, he can make the merge and start anew with whatever line-up suits him best. But it’s all very iffy for him if he can’t perform well.

  1. Jeff Varner (-5)

– Aside from losing one of his numbers, Varner didn’t necessarily have any missteps this week that make him fall in my rankings. The reason why I’m starting to sour on him is the same thing I mentioned with Troyzan, performance. Varner is an older guy, much like Troy, and he just cannot perform at a high level in challenges. This makes him a bit more expendable for his tribe in the team portion of this contest. I’m not convinced Varner is in imminent trouble, but it would not surprise me if things turn on a dime and he’s sent packing soon.

  1. Hali Ford (0)

– Hali should be in trouble, but I don’t think she’s in a horrible position. Sure, she’s on the bottom of her tribe, but she’s bold, she’s opinionated, and she’s smart, and I imagine Brad and Sierra think they can work with her going forward, maybe moreso than Debbie or Tai. I’ve had a feeling that she’d do great this season, and regardless of bad luck, I see no reason to cast any doubts on her ability to play the game.

  1. Debbie Wanner (+4)

– The vote really worked out well for Debbie this week. She’s now in a good position with a very strong alliance. The only issue for Debbie is the teaser for next episode seems to indicate she might be blowing up big time next episode. My initial reaction was to think that was a misleading preview, but there have been indications online that this game may turn as ugly as every returning player’s season eventually does, so maybe Debbie will be in trouble after all.

  1. Sarah Lacina (-1)

– No problems so far for Sarah, mostly because her team never loses! I don’t think she’s going to win this game because we’re really not getting the kind of back-story on her to see that coming, but what do I know about the edit anyway! Malcolm was getting such a winner’s edit, and look what those crafty producers did by doing that. Maybe we don’t hear a damn thing from Sarah until the finale and she’s the shock winner.

  1. Cirie Fields (+5)

– Cirie is gaining traction in this game, and that is scary! We know she’s an amazing social player, and the fact that she’s now in a good, stable alliance of five bodes well for her prospects in this game. If I were playing this game, I would vote out Cirie before she could get a foothold in the game, but her team’s winning ways have made that impossible thus far. She’s still a threat, but Cirie is rising in my books!

  1. Ozzy Lusth (-1)

– Ozzy is officially playing the Rupert card this season, being the necessary provider for his tribe, trying to distract everyone from his physical strength by being more of a leader at camp. I don’t think this is a bad strategy for him, but time will tell whether or not it’s a winning strategy.

  1. Aubry Bracco (+3)

– Losing Malcolm as an ally is a big hit for Aubry. But, I genuinely think she has the best ability of anyone to move onto plan B or C or D without skipping a beat. She’s a new school player amongst a lot of old school types and Type A characters, so the more the game progresses, the better off Aubry is going to be in the grand scheme of things. She just needs to have some numbers left by the time they get to the merge.

  1. Michaela Bradshaw (+7)

– I still think Michaela is in a prime position to sneak up on people later in the game. She’s strong and smart, and the majority of the people out there on the island have no clue what to expect with her because they didn’t see her game. Even after the Tribal Council debacle, I still feel good about Michaela’s shot at winning right now.

  1. Zeke Smith (+1)

– We need to see more of Zeke to get a good idea of what kind of game he’s playing, but I go with my intuition when I watch the show, and my gut tells me Zeke is in a great spot. I think Cirie and Zeke might be the best pair to watch going forward, because they both have a good feel for playing the social strategy of Survivor and could use each others’ minds to bounce ideas off of. I’m still high on Zeke until proven otherwise.

  1. Sierra Dawn Thomas (0)

– Sierra got saved by strategy this week, but putting that aside, I think she has one of the best shots to win right now. Her alliance with Brad, Tai, and Debbie is strong, and even though her team is not winning challenges, she is doing great strategically. Having a strong alliance is a key part of the game, but also having other people around on the outside of your alliance can be a great help too, and Sierra seems to have Hali as a number to rely on at this point, and that could spell the difference later on.

  1. Brad Culpepper (+2)

– Brad continues to look like the guy in charge right now. He has his numbers, he has them in-line and thinking as a unit, and he is definitively the leader of the pack, just the way he wants things to be. The way he’s leading his alliance right now makes him look like the best player right now, but it’s way too early to be thinking things won’t change dramatically soon (and yes, I say that from experience).

 

Thoughts on the Episode:

  • The player of the week honors go to Brad once again. He’s got everything falling his way so far, and that’s quite a task to accomplish in an all-returnee season. Brad is so in control that he had Tai looking at him as to who to play the immunity idol for, which really says everything you need to know about the game he’s playing…My favorite moment of the episode was definitely at Tribal Council when Probst said it’s time to vote and Hali piped in, declaring that she didn’t consent to voting yet. That was such a great moment to put on cherry ion top of that crazy Tribal Council scene. I love Hali’s audacity; it’s the reason why I’m so high on her game…I can’t believe I fell for the bait with Malcolm. They were presenting him like a winner and I bought that hook, line and sinker. I should’ve known the rug would get pulled out from under him, but how could anyone have seen all of that coming. I’m going to miss Malcolm, he had a really good shot and he got robbed by a questionable twist when he was actually playing a wonderful game. They really are trying to make this game very unpredictable for everyone because of the ‘Game Changers’ concept, which is amazing, but it unfortunately has cost a major player big time. You don’t win Survivor solely by being lucky, but you damn sure can lose it by being unlucky, and this is the prime example of that going forward.
Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Game Changers – Power Rankings and Thoughts After Episode 2

Survivor: Game Changers continued to be a pretty fun show through the second episode. I found it funny that the producers didn’t even mess around with any camp life to lead into the episode, instead just leading off with the tribe swap scene. In a returning player season, the focus tends to be on strategy and cutthroat play, and that was certainly the case with the first scene being a swap, but I’ve been happy to see a lot of variety in the beach scenes thus far. It seems these players are playing with their cards close to their chest, but it’s actually made for a more well-rounded TV show thus far. I was very happy with episode 2, and with the outcome after my winner pick didn’t get voted out! It was a nail biter towards the end, but I think it could be leading to some interesting stories later on.

 

Power Rankings for Episode 2:

  1. Tai Trang (-4)

– Tai keeps finding himself in situations where people are talking him into things that are against his best interests. Essentially, he’s having the same issues he had in his original season, only now he’s trying to compensate a little by rolling over to everyone else’s wishes. Voting out Caleb was not something he should have done and not something he should have allowed to happen, yet it did and now he’s officially along for the ride.

  1. JT Thomas (-11)

– JT really picked the short straw in terms of the tribe swap. It really could not have gone any worse for him than it did, but he actually managed to bury himself a little further with his actions after the fact. Instead of staying calm and trying to make social inroads, JT decided to bring his entire tribe out to sea, then abandon them to hunt for an idol. Don’t get me wrong now, that was one of the funniest stories from the episode, but from a game-play perspective, that was way too obvious. JT looks like a goner if something doesn’t turn around quickly for him.

  1. Sandra Diaz-Twine (0)

– Sandra looked really bad during that whole gat debacle. She just wanted to eat poor Bambi-goat while all the others just didn’t have the heart for it in that moment. Michaela had a great remark about her, saying that’s why she’s the villain, and she’s on the money about that one. The negative opinions of Sandra can only really hurt her game I imagine, so I’m having a hard time picturing her lasting 39 days.

  1. Andrea Boehlke (+3)

– Andrea has been so invisible so far, and I hate it. She’s energetic and bubbly on screen usually, so either she’s being coy or she’s just not giving them great material so far. I’m not sure what it is, but we need more Andrea in the future guys!

  1. Debbie Wanner (+1)

– There’s a thought in my head that Debbie could be in trouble if they try to target Kaoh Rong people. That’s my only thought on Debbie this week because, other than that, she seems to be doing OK and assimilating well with that group.

  1. Cirie Fields (+6)

– Cirie is doing great now that her tribe has a new target to focus on. Now that they have a 5-1 advantage over Troyzan, the 5 of them can bond together and solidify something going forward, and with Ozzy on board, I imagine they won’t lose too much. Cirie just needs a foot in the door with an alliance and she’d probably be fine. The problem of course is that no one is bound to forget her game for too long, so she’s going to need to play a flawless game in order to win. But, I do feel much better about her prospects this week than I did last week.

  1. Michaela Bradshaw (-1)

– It’s dawned on me that Michaela might very well be the youngest person out there in the game. That could seriously be advantages for her if she lays back and lets the older people start telling her what to do. If she can wait out some of the pre-merge fireworks that are about to go down then she could find herself in an optimal position to play a strong game later on.

  1. Hali Ford (-6)

– That was a really close call for my winner pick in this week’s episode. I was not looking forward to having to explain my lack of foresight in this blog, but luckily I don’t have to! Hali was very diplomatic in discussing her usefulness to the tribe, and even though Caleb was likely always the target, I think she did a good job to save herself. My hopes for Hali haven’t changed despite her tough post-swap predicament because I still think she has the smarts to maneuver this game.

  1. Troyzan Robertson (+7)

– Troyzan looked to be in the worst spot of anyone after the swap, being down 5-1 in the numbers, but he was able to find a immunity idol clue and successfully procure the idol at an immunity challenge. That was a tough grab for Troyzan because he had to be careful about people seeing him do what he was doing, but his acting was amazing and no one noticed what happened. Troyzan is not in a powerful position and I’m excited to see how he’ll use the idol he found!

  1. Aubry Bracco (+3)

– Aubry knows not to overplay the game and I think that will serve her very well in this ‘Game Changers’ season. Plus, I think if she can stay by Malcolm’s side until like the final 6 or 7 she’ll be in a superb spot.

  1. Sarah Lacina (0)

– We don’t see much from Sarah, but I have a gut feeling she’s in an OK spot, compared to Andrea who has gotten a similar lack of TV time. Sarah’s also probably the one person who could benefit from Tony not being in the game, because people will likely forget about Cagayan, focusing instead on the dozen other people who have playing partners from their earlier seasons still in the game. Sarah’s OK for now, but she will have to start building a resume pretty soon.

  1. Jeff Varner (-3)

– Varner appears to be doing well in the game so far, but there are little editing points that make me wonder about him. The guy always gives snarky confessionals; it’s really a big part of his charm in all 3 of the seasons he’s been on, but the fact that he’s so confident that JT will be the first one out of his tribe gives me some reason to pause. Overconfidence in an edit can sometimes be a bad omen, so while I think Jeff is playing alright, I won’t be surprised if that changes quickly.

  1. Ozzy Lusth (+7)

– I think Ozzy is going to stay in this game for a long time. With the smaller tribes, he’s going to be relied on a lot more, and I also think that he’s going to be overlooked from a strategic standpoint. I don’t think people will target Ozzy as much as people might think because he’s not a strategic guy. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ozzy stays around for a long time and then goes on a huge immunity run towards the end.

  1. Zeke Smith (+4)

– Zeke is playing the same kind of game as we saw in episode 1; quiet and steady. As long as he keeps that up, it should be smooth sailing!

  1. Brad Culpepper (+6)

– So far, Brad looks like the most improved player out here in the game. Brad is not playing aggressively, but he is finding ways to influence the results. He masterminded the Caleb vote, but made it seem like Tai was the one coming to terms with it. I think Brad is playing the type of game that not only suits his personality but also lets him survive without the target on his back.

  1. Sierra Dawn Thomas (+4)

– I’m really high on Sierra right now. First she got the legacy advantage, and now she’s getting some good screen time in crucial moments. As far as I can tell, there really aren’t too many insignificant moments on Survivor, so I have to believe that the multiple mentions of Sierra and Hali not having a strong bond from their season are being mentioned to set something up. I think we are going to see Sierra and Hali work together despite what they’re calling a lacking relationship. If there’s a story to tell, Survivor will tell it, and my read of the editing is that Sierra and Hali’s relationship is worth focusing on going forward.

  1. Malcolm Freberg (0)

– Malcolm still feels like the golden child so far, and his tribe situation is favorable for this image. He seems in control, has a clear nemesis around him, and is working with a villain who will receive votes before he does. Everything is fantastic in Malcolm-land through two episodes, so he’ll stay atop my rankings for now.

 

Thoughts after the Episode:

  • My player of the week honors will go to Brad Culpepper for this episode. He’s doing everything right this season and correcting the mistakes he made from his last time, and the results are showing. Brad was able to eliminate a target of his without putting his neck on the line, and he appears to have the ear of his tribemates without any really resent showing through. I’m pleasantly surprised with Brad’s social skills so far, so he’s gets a tip of the hat from me this week…My favorite moment of the episode was when the Nuku tribe, on a raft out at sea fishing, slowly realized that JT had left them behind to look for an idol. It was such a funny moment to put on the show, not necessarily a strategic triumph, but a hilarious moment nonetheless…I’m surprised they decided to go to 3 tribes this early in the season again, especially after we saw this exact same set-up done in Cambodia. It was a predictable thing and a lot of contestants could have bet their strategy on a shake-up by not making strong alliances at first. I think the show should try to do a tribe swap with odd numbers and bring back Exile Island, just because people won’t anticipate or expect that these days. The show needs to keep unpredictability central to the tribe swap concepts in the future…The goat storyline from this episode were really a very interesting moment regarding survival ethics. For the entire run of the show, Survivor has often had a backburner storyline about eating the animals at camp, and this one in particular had some great ethical debating involved. While they ended up catching the goats, JT and Malcolm were quick to identify that it was a mother and child goat, and 5 of the 6 felt very bad about eating the goats, given the situation. Sandra, on the other hand, was the one dissenting opinion on her tribe, and her stance on eating the goats ended up making her seem like a ruthless player to some on her tribe. It was a very different story for the show, and it went on to show once again how important it is to balance personal and team ethics when playing Survivor.
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The Man in the High Castle Season 2 Review

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The Man in the High Castle is back streaming on Amazon Prime for its second season, and the story keeps getting crazier for Juliana, Joe, Frank, and the rest of them in their Nazi dystopia. While the show has been back for a few months, I’ve just now finished up the second season, and I must say that I like this season just as much, if not maybe even more than the first season. Sure, there are a few crazy storylines that confuse the timeline of the show, but overall there is a great deal of time and energy committed to fleshing out some of the major characters as individuals through these 10 episodes, and fans of the first season should find a lot to love in the way the story continues to unfold. Here are some of my thoughts on season 2, some of my wishes for the show as it continues on its story for seasons to come:

Favorite Character: Juliana

  • I think Juliana really blossomed under the pressure she was under during the events of season 2. I was blown away by the way she was able to assimilate to life in the Greater Nazi Reich after she was able to escape the Pacific States. She was able to blend in, make friends with the women in and around John Smith’s life, and still be a kickass spy, fighting to do the right thing in a world that’s all wrong. Juliana is a remarkable figure, one that fans can relate to and respect because you can tell she’s scared, but she never wavers, she never becomes something she’s not, and she never does what she thinks is wrong, regardless of how powerful her enemies are. Juliana, and her portrayal by Alexa Davalos, is one of the main reasons why The Man in the High Castle is such a strong series.

Least Favorite Character: George Dixon

  • The strangest thing about season 2, and season 1 to a certain extent as well, is how hardened and unlikable The Resistance can be for the viewers. These people are, on paper, fighting the good fight, but they act reprehensively at times, even downright malicious when it isn’t needed. Nobody encompasses the coldness of The Resistance better than George Dixon. George, who is revealed to be Juliana’s sister’s biological father, is a Resistance fighter who treats Juliana with a great deal of disdain, all the while telling her he’s taking care of her because she’s Trudy’s sister. The guy comes off so bad in all of his scenes, and the way he turns on Juliana towards the end is almost heartbreaking because it started to seem like there may have been some decency in him after all. George embodies the emptiness that underlies the show and adds to its tension, because he is just one of many people in positions of power who are jaded beyond compassion in their new world.

Best Character Development: Frank Frink

  • Of all the characters in this show, I think Frank improved the most from season 1 to season 2. I thought he lacked the gumption needed to match up with Juliana and Joe in season 1, but in season 2 he finaly was able to embrace his reality, and fight not only for himself and the family he lost, but for justice and the way things should be. The way Frank stood up for himself with the Resistance fighters were just as admirable as Juliana’s action in New York, and his ability to stay cool under pressure and muster up the courage to make the ultimate sacrifice in the end was a bittersweet story to watch unfold. I’m sad that Frank’s life had to come to an end in such a way, but I’m glad the producers went to great lengths to redeem his character and allow him to blossom into a hero.

Best Storyline: Thomas’ illness and the cover-up

  • This storyline was amazing for so many reasons, but above all, it’s special because it has the chance to sway the tides of history in this universe. Nazi eugenics are the law of the land in the Greater Nazi Reich, and one of its highest leaders, John Smith, has been forced to turn against this central mentality and defy the law to save his son Thomas from being put down. This story has made Helen Smith a central figure in the show too, and lead to some really powerful scenes with John and Helen, and with Juliana and Helen as she accidentally gets roped into the conspiracy that has been unfolding. The show is digging in really deep into the heart of the characters as they begin to face the true ugliness of their political system, and this story is truly the lynchpin for the changes that could come. I’m also glad it had a tragic end, even though it was a heartbreaking moment when they held Helen back as Thomas was taken away. I think this tragedy will become a catalyst for action for seasons to come!

Most Confusing Storyline: Tagomi’s dream sequence

  • The part where season 2 started to get a little bit weird was when Tagomi found himself in his own alternate reality where his family was living in a free United States instead of in the Japanese Pacific States. It was a really strange sequence, and while it was a wonderful story being told, I didn’t understand the what, the when, the how, or the why of the whole situation. I guess the show is experimenting with delving into alternate reality more, but I would’ve preferred if the show could’ve found a way to transition into that story in a less confusing manner. I enjoyed watching the scenes, but I hated them at the same time knowing it was all just a fantasy.

Favorite Moments:

  • John’s confrontation with Heydrich in the basement
    • It was nice to see some resolution to the final scenes of episode 1, and I’m glad the show decided to reveal Heydrich in the basement in such an intense moment in the action, while the world was teetering on destruction. The back and forth between the two was just as good in this scene as it was in the season 1 finale, and it allowed us to see John as the intelligent, fearless manipulator he can be. John might be a Nazi, but he is very much a hero in this story, even when he’s diabolical.
  • The Hallucinogenic Party
    • The last thing I expected to see in the story with Joe in Berlin was a hallucinogen-fueled party scene, but that was just what we got when Joe ran into a young Berlin woman who brought him on an interesting journey of self-reflection and promise. The sequence was so well-produced, and featured a brilliant scene where Joe hallucinated that Juliana was there. His desperation to see her when he was tripping was a small, but crucial moment in the episode, in my opinion.
  • Frank’s last moments
    • There was something so vindicating about how Frank was able to look Kido in the eyes before the bomb blew him and most f the other people in that building to Kingdom Come. Rupert Evans was masterful in his portrayal as Frank this season, and I think in that one instance he was truly able to convey the essence of his character with one look. Frank went down as a hero and was able to look the man who had his family murdered in the eyes while doing it. Not only was that a fantastic ending for Frank, I have some hopes that it will be a new beginning for Kido after he saw the machine that he has helped build become a force beyond his control. One can only hope at least!
  • Joe learns the truth about his existence
    • The scenes at Lebensborn were some of the better ones of the season, half because of the eerie scenery, and half because of the bombshell that Joe’s father drops on him; that he was born and bred in a Nazi experimental program. We got to witness the quickest cycle of grief ever from Joe, as he went through this vast whirlwind of emotions, feeling betrayal, denial, grief, and so much more in just a manner of minutes. Joe’s entire storyline this series focused on one important thing; his need to find purpose and understanding in life. While it was a great series of scenes seeing Joe comes to grips with and accept his father, it actually ended up hindering Joe’s path to finding himself.

5 Things I Would Like to See Happen in Season 3:

  • A deep and intense story between John and Helen
    • After he finds out about what happened to Thomas, there’s going to be a great amount of pain for John to cope with. I really hope the show doesn’t hold any punches in exploring the pain of the Smith family situation, especially between Helen and John. We got to see a sneak peak of the problems between the two of them at the end of the finale, and I’m really hoping we see more brutal honesty in the storytelling for season 3. For this show to reach the kind of conclusion fans would want, John Smith is going t have to be profoundly moved by what happened.

 

  • Joe finding his true nature again
    • Watching Joe come to get a grip on who his father is and accept him was another one of many bittersweet storylines from this season. On one hand it was nice to see him fill that hole in his life that was left when he grew up without his father, yet it was terrible to figure out in the end that his father was just as bad as any of the other Nazi higher-ups. I think Joe will need to finally put the brokenness of his past to rest, kind of like what Juliana and Frank were able to do this season, and discover who he wants to be in this world. I think Joe has the potential to be a transformative figure in the events of this show, but to really live up to his potential he’s going to have to take some time and decide what kind of future he sees for himself.

 

  • Kido becoming a better leader for his people
    • When the Japanese embassy blew up and Kido was left in charge due to the deaths of all the others in the blast, something seemed to change in him. I’d like to think it has something to do with that glance he shared with Frank, but in all honesty, I think he’s starting to come to terms with how out of hand this Japan/Germany feud has gotten and how close it’s coming to ending humanity. I’ve been reticent about giving Kido a chance because I haven’t seen much growth in his character, but right at the end of episode 9 it started to feel like he may be turning a corner. I loved the scenes with Smith and Kido during the finale, and I hope that kind of teamwork is what we can expect from these characters going forward.

 

  • Tagomi finding some peace in his life
    • If there was anything that the alternate reality showed us viewers, it’s that Tagomi is unsettled, and filled with regrets. He envisions a different life for himself and for his family, one that they never got to see in they’re time. I hope next season we get to see Tagomi able to reconcile his existence a little better, especially after getting to see a different version of life than his own. Maybe he can surprise us all and be the catalyst of change, the one who can affect the likes of Kido or maybe even Smith and bring some peace to the Americas. Either way, I hope Tagomi stays a prominent character and we get to peek even further into his mind.

 

  • An amazing Joe and Juliana reunion
    • After having such an electric chemistry in season 1, it was slightly disappointing to see Joe and Juliana separated for the entirety of season 2. While it’s understandable given the stories being told that they wouldn’t be in each other’s orbits, I think they are going to need to cross paths again because they’re story really could be amazing if they were together. This reunion is a must for season 3!
Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: Game Changers – Power Rankings and Thoughts on Episode 1

Here it is guys; Survivor is back with season 34, Survivor: Game Changers! We’ve got another season with a full cast of returning players, and it’s a very exciting, and very random group of former players. I think we’re in for a fun show if the premiere episode is any indication, and in the spirit of Game Changers I’ve decided I’m going to change some things up myself on the blog. My favorite blog for any season is always the one where I get to do my power rankings, so I’ve decided to make blogging a little more fun for myself by centering my weekly recap around the Power Rankings. I like breaking down the game player by player more so than recapping the action anyway, so I hope you all like the concept I have here and continuing checking in as I break down the season week by week, player by player! Here’s my Game Changers Power Rankings for episode 1:

  1. Cirie Fields

– Cirie already has people targeting her from every side, so she has to be in the worst spot right now. Luckily for her, a swap might help stabilize her spot in the game, but I imagine it would only be temporary. She can’t be seen as much of a physical player, so she’ll be considered a liability in challenges, plus her penchant for playing a devious social game will cause concern from every angle. It will take a miracle for Cirie to get to the merge, but if she does, her dds will increase dramatically.

  1. Andrea Boehlke

– I feel like we got nothing from Andrea this episode, and that’s a real pity. Andrea is such an energetic, interesting player, and seeing little from her at first gets me a little bit concerned that she may not play a big part in the story of the season. But who knows, it’s hard to give 20 people screen time in an episode, maybe her best is yet to come!

  1. Troyzan Robertson

– I like Troyzan as a player, I think he’s smart, strong, and survival minded. He embodies the Survivor mantra in a lot of ways, but I imagine that throwing in with Sandra will be a problem for him. Aligning with the biggest threat in the game can go well, but it can also get you eliminated very early. We’ll have to see how things play out for Troy, but I’m not confident about his place in the tribe after one episode.

  1. Sandra Diaz-Twine

– Queen Sandra won the battle against Tony, but might she have lost the war at the same time? Sandra has one twice by blending in, by paying an “Anyone but me” game, but she’s already gone off program by targeting Tony and letting her name get thrown around all over the beach. No one is underestimating her right now, and that does not bode well for her long-term prospects.

  1. Debbie Wanner

– I really liked the scene Debbie had with Cirie when she was questioning the strategy points Cirie was trying to tell her. It showed me that Debbie’s head was very clearly in the game and her heads were on point. My concern with Debbie is not whether she could play the game well, rather it’s whether or not others think she can play well. My guess is that she may have trouble making moves because people won’t go with her.

  1. Tai Trang

– Does Tai always need to “tie” himself to the chickens? We already saw another player, JT, make a point of saying Tai might be a problem when it comes to getting close to the chickens. We also saw Tai fail to assuage Cirie in a scene earlier in the episode, basically confirming his lacking social game. I don’t see Tai doing well on this season, but at the very least he’s a cool character to have around. On a side-note, I’d love to see Caleb and him on the same tribe again.

  1. Ozzy Lusth

– I think Ozzy is actually playing really well through the first two votes. Luckily for him he didn’t have to go to either Tribal Council, but even if he did I imagine he would’ve been perfectly safe. In the team portion of this game, Ozzy will stay essential, and I think that should give him plenty of time to make the necessary alliances to go far. I love seeing Ozzy back on Survivor, so I hope he can get past his status as a threat and go deep in the game.

  1. Aubry Bracco

– Aubry is a difficult player to figure out through one episode. I get the feeling that she’s respected by her tribe, yet she’s been given a bit of a negative tone so far on camera. It’s just a little thing I’ve picked up on watching what’s going on, but it makes me question whether or not she’s going to do well here. Considering her season just aired before they went out on location, she has to be fresh in peoples’ minds, and that will definitely play against her. Aubry will have to combat that quickly if she wants to win the game.

  1. Michaela Bradshaw

– It was a quick turnaround for Michaela to play season 33 and 34, but even still, it seems like she didn’t learn from her mistakes. She was getting upset and pouting all over the beach prior to the first vote when she should’ve just kept the poker face strong. Luckily, Michaela is safe through two votes and she can gain control of the game still. Michaela is an aggressive player, but if she wants to win I think she’ll need to add a little bit of finesse to her repertoire. Let’s hope she does, she’s great TV!

  1. Brad Culpepper

– WWMD? That’s the question Brad is asking, and it’s probably a plan he should keep for the long haul. In Blood vs. Water, it was Monica Culpepper who was able to make friends and prosper, while Brad made enemies and was voted out quickly. This time, Brad seems a little less interested in forcing the action, and that’s really his best chance at survival. If he doesn’t make waves, he will be fine.

  1. Zeke Smith

– Zeke played well out of the gates on Game Changers. I felt like he was approaching the game with a certain eagerness that everyone could appreciate and admire. He wasn’t being too gamey, choosing instead to make friends and feel people out. Zeke has an upper hand in this game because the rest of the cast don’t really know what kind of game he could play. I think Zeke can wait a little while to see how things play out before he ramps his game up, and being in the place to have that kind of luxury is nice.

  1. Sarah Lacina

– I love the way Sarah discussed her previous game on the show. She seemed to learn a thing or two from Tony as to how one goes about winning the game. You have to get your hands a little dirty to play the game of Survivor, and Sarah seems resigned to do whatever she needs to do given the situation. If Sarah is able to be malleable like that, I think she could do very well this season.

  1. Sierra Dawn Thomas

– Look at Sierra go! She’s probably the most criticized selection of the whole cast because she doesn’t seem to be a “Game Changer” per se, but right off the bat she managed to find the Legacy Advantage, and now has a leg up on her competition. I really like the choice component to the Legacy Advantage this year, and I think Sierra is smart enough to use the advantage as a ploy to make some alliances. I’m really excited to watch Sierra now that she has this advantage now, and who knows, maybe she’ll be the Kelley Wentworth of this season!

  1. JT Thomas

– How can a former winner seem so unassuming in a game of “Game Changers?” When he’s good, that’s when. I ranked JT as the best winner in my winner’s ranking for a reason, because he has a way of making people like him. So far we haven’t seen much of JT, but I imagine that’s perfectly OK. He’s not going to play a flashy game, but people aren’t going to be lining up to get rid of JT any time soon. As he said on the boat before the game, Sandra might not be the only two-time winner by the end of 39 days!

  1. Hali Ford

– You can tell from listening to her confessionals that Hali is ready to play. I love her spirit, and her mind, and I think she really is the cobra in a field of snakes here. Hali will be able to adapt to whatever group she goes with, and I think being able to play without the “No Collar” baggage is going to free her mentally to be a bit more fluid with her strategic game. I’m excited to see her play; I think she’s going to slay the competition!

  1. Jeff Varner

– I think Jeff Varner is playing a much more controlled game this time around, compared to how he played in Cambodia. Jeff was all over the place in his second chance season, and I think a lot of that was probably just nerves and adrenaline taking over. He sounds poised from what we’ve seen so far, and that’s an extremely good sign for him. If there’s one thing we know about Varner it’s that he’s a good talker, and I think as long as he stays calm and stays present, he’s going to talk himself into the right alliances at the right time.

  1. Caleb Reynolds

– I was extremely impressed with Caleb in the premiere; he really has a good mind for the game right now. We saw him at the center of attention for a lot of the episode, whether it is the Ciera vote or the Tony vs. Sandra war and it’s really awesome to see given how horribly his game ended last time. I think in a sense, Caleb is in one of the best spots of anyone in the game solely because everyone wants to use him for their own ends. As long as people want Caleb around to provide some muscle at camp, or to win challenges, or just be a good, loyal team member, Caleb may just find himself very deep in the game with a real shot at running the table for a surprise win.

  1. Malcolm Freberg

– Malcolm feels like the narrator right now, which makes him the favorite for the time being. We got to see Malcolm make the decisions this week without feeling like the alpha male or the leader, which is a sign that his game is honestly going quite well. Malcolm got to spearhead the Ciera vote and he got to make the decision to turn on Tony when he did and I only realized he did that after I was done watching the episode. So far so good for Malcolm, he’s playing as good a game as anyone through the first week on the beach, but it is early so anything could change!

 

Thoughts on the episode:

  • My player of the week honors are going to Malcolm for episode 1. I think Malcolm is comfortably in the middle of all of the action without sticking his neck on the line. Judging from the way he’s been talking, he seems eager to play well and confident in his ability to win, so I think of everyone on his tribe, he is probably in the best position to anticipate the flow of the game and stay in the numbers, without having to be the leader or make the move himself. I really like what Malcolm’s doing so far, his poise will bring him far…My favorite moment of the episode probably was when Tony, only minutes into the game, decided he was going to run off into the forest saying he’s looking for an idol. That had to be the funniest moment from the episode, and such a classic Tony Vlachos move. I hate the fact that we’re not going to get to see him play more, but I’m happy we got a full episode of his insane antics…This season has a really fun feel to it compared to a lot of other all-returnee seasons, and I’m really enjoying the nature of the game so far. I think the Game Changers theme has actually been helpful for the game because it evens the playing field a bit. The producers haven’t pigeonholed people into themes they feel they have to live up to, and in doing so, have let the players be 100% themselves without any pushes in any direction. I think we might be looking at the most organic returnees’ game ever, and that would be great to watch…I’m being bold for this season and making a winner pick early, because I really like going with my instincts when I watch this show. So here it is, I think Hali Ford will be the winner out of this group. My chances of being wrong are great, but there’s something about her wits, and her dark horse position amongst this group that makes me think she will go far and be able to out maneuver the big names towards to end to win. I think she has a leg up with the jury because she’s studied law, plus I think people will severely underestimate her knowledge of the game because she was a “No Collar” when she played. Look for Hali this season, she’s my pick to go all the way!
Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor Season Rankings

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Survivor is about to premiere its 34th season, titled Game Changers, and in doing so will also air it’s 500th episode on CBS! This is quite an accomplishment for a franchise that has ingrained itself in the television and cultural landscape in the U.S. and abroad. With this historic moment in mind, I’ve decided to look back on all of the seasons of Survivor that have come and gone and rank them from worst to first, much like I did last year with my winner rankings blog. Now this list is 100% opinion-based, so there will always be room for interpretations on what’s good and what’s bad about Survivor, the show and the game, but after alot of thinking, and planning, this is how my Survivor Season rankings read…Enjoy!

  1. Season 21 – Nicaragua

– Nicaragua was a season of Survivor where nothing really went right. The casting really didn’t go well apparently, leaving us with a full roster of contestants who were either terrible at the game, uninterested, or unpalatable to the audience. The old vs. young concept didn’t go great the first time it was tried, and it managed to go even worse this time, with both initial tribes feeling a bit lacking. The quits of Naonka and Kelly just as the game was in the closing stretch sealed the deal for this being the worst season of the show, and even though Fabio winning in the end was kind of fun to see, I don’t think anybody would think of him as a great winner. Looking back on Nicaragua, this is clearly at the bottom of the seasons rankings for me, just not a lot of good things to reminisce on.

  1. Season 24 – One World

– One World was another season where the show tried a big gamble on the season theme and the contestants couldn’t carry it. Having two tribes live on the same beach and dividing them by gender was OK on paper (not great), but this cast was remarkably uninteresting, and the game felt lacking because there weren’t great characters to root for. Sure, Kim was an impressive winner, but she wasn’t a great television character, and the people who were remotely interesting to watch didn’t end up playing the game very well. I really didn’t enjoy this season much while watching it, and time hasn’t changed my mind on it either.

  1. Season 11 – Guatemala

– The setting for Guatemala was aesthetically pleasing, with the Mayan pyramids at camp and the dense rainforests giving that true survivalist feeling, but the conditions were definitely detrimental to the game. This was on record as one of the hottest seasons of the game, and we saw many contestants fall ill from the get-go, leading me to believe that the game of Survivor really wasn’t going to be played to its fullest. The tribe swap on this season was convoluted too, leading to an awkward end game where a large alliance swallowed up the game and eventually imploded dramatically. The beauty of Survivor is that the contestants define how the game is played, and I’ll go on record as saying this was one of the worst played games. If you’re looking to see Survivor played to its fullest potential, Guatemala is not the season for you!

  1. Season 4 – Marquesas

– After an exciting start to the franchise, Survivor kind of dipped a little in its fourth season. It’s hard to explain just why, but Marquesas didn’t feel as special as the first three seasons of the game. Maybe it was the cast, maybe it was the location, but it seemed like the initial luster of Survivor was dulled with Marquesas. While we did get introduced to great characters like Boston Rob Mariano, and Sean Rector, Marquesas isn’t all that memorable in retrospect, and its end game is best remembered for its purple rock tie breaker than for the actual winner’s game.

  1. Season 5 – Thailand

– Brian Heidik played Survivor like it was a business trip, and his unemotional, methodic game play was fairly interesting to watch in practice. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast didn’t feel that excited about the game, and a lot of them were just bad characters. I’d even go as far as to say Sook Jai tribe was one of the least exciting tribes I’ve watched on the show. Thailand was good because of Brian’s diabolical game, but that was literally the only redeeming storyline of the whole season.

  1. Season 14 – Fiji

– Fiji had the most ill-conceived season theme of all-time, and because of that one judgment error from production, the season never really felt great. The Haves vs. Have Nots theme was an utter bust, making for an extremely lop-sided game. On top of all of that, the end game with the Four Horsemen debacle and the Dreamz/Yau Man broken promise left a bad taste in my mouth for the season. Luckily, Fiji was sandwiched in between two great seasons of the show, because this season was not great television.

  1. Season 22 – Redemption Island

– The Boston Rob show was kind of fun at the time. The Philip Sheppard show was kind of awkward. In retrospect, this is one of those seasons that keeps getting worse as time goes on, because it just felt so ridiculous, like it was all being set-up for Rob to get that win, and to get viewers flocking back to the show. I don’t think Redemption Island was a well-played season, and when you add in the ridiculousness of Redemption Island itself, it’s just not going to go down as a remarkable season of the show.

  1. Season 26 – Caramoan

– Note to the producers; if you’re going to do a Fans vs. Favorites season, try casting full tribes of Fans and Favorites. This season felt a bit strange because the fans didn’t really seem like super players, with a few exceptions, and at least half of the favorites were forgettable/lackluster players. The game got a little bit interesting towards the middle, with the Three Amigos idol drama, but with the exception of a few isolated moments, the show just sort of muddled along to an inevitable Cochran win.

  1. Season 17 – Gabon

– I hate to admit it, but I have trouble remembering the early game of Gabon. Granted, that is a season I haven’t re-watched at all, one that aired nine years ago, but that also speaks a little bit to the weakness of the casting too. I think the most-merge game was interesting with Marcus’ alliance getting picked off one by one until only Bob was left, and then Bob ended up winning the whole game. It was a pretty exciting underdog story towards the end, but that final three for the season was not very representative of who was playing the best game. The season just didn’t go as well as it could have, but that is part of the fun of Survivor. Things don’t always work out in a predictable fashion on Survivor, and Gabon was a season with an ending that no one could’ve expected.

  1. Season 2 – Australian Outback

– The second season of the show saw some of the greatest viewership of any reality show in the history of television, and it’s understandable why. The show developed some great storylines around some great contestants like Colby, Jerri, Tina, Amber, and more. Unfortunately, my lasting memory of Australia will always be that the hero didn’t win. Colby played a very strong game, winning many individual immunity necklaces and narrating the story for the most part. While Tina winning the season proved once and for all that Survivor would always be first and foremost a social game, I couldn’t help but feel like the show set us up for a letdown in the end.

  1. Season 9 – Vanuatu

– I think Vanuatu actually played out very well in the end, with Chris Daugherty coming back from a 6-1 alliance deficit to win the season. The problem with the show was A) the cast and B) the concept. The casting was really not that great for season 9, and a lot of the players were not very memorable. Then there was the ‘men vs. women’ theme, which has never really played out perfectly on Survivor ever, and most certainly exasperated a really weak contestant pool. So yes, the last three episodes of the show were really very good, but they don’t make up entirely for a forgettable early season.

  1. Season 30 – Worlds Apart

– Worlds Apart was a really fun concept that went very wrong in application. I think this season will be best remembered as a season full of vitriol, name-calling, and a predictable winner. Having characters like Dan, Will, and Rodney take up screen time being either ignorant or vicious towards others was never my idea of a fun season, or was having a guy like Mike win-out the individual immunity challenges and cap off an extremely predictable show in a boring manner. Worlds Apart was quite a circus to watch, I can’t say it wasn’t intriguing as a television program, but as a season of Survivor, it won’t be remembered all that fondly I imagine.

  1. Season 1 – Borneo

– The original season of Survivor was what started the whole phenomenon, and it’s easy to see why. The cast of characters from all walks of life trying to work together, survive together, and vote each other off for a million dollars was exciting to watch, even if no one really knew how to play the game. Since I watched them out of order, I’m probably not able to appreciate Borneo for what it truly was; an iconic moment in American cultural history!

  1. Season 6 – The Amazon

– The Amazon was the first season to attempt a gender split theme, and while I’ve been on record saying I don’t like how the concept has worked out on Survivor, this season didn’t turn out so bad. We got to witness the first true Survivor strategy nerd play the game, Rob Cesternino, and we also got the famous Jenna and Heidi peanut butter and chocolate moment. All-in-all, this wasn’t a bad a season at all, maybe not as memorable as some and definitely not the best cast, but a solid, enjoyable season nonetheless.

  1. Season 31 – Cambodia: Second Chance

– Cambodia was a season with a great amount of lead-up because of the fan vote that decided the cast. It was so terrific to see the show give the reins of casting to the fans, and it made the anticipation all the greater for when the season started. I think the anticipation for the show actually hurt the cause though because fans might have built up unrealistic expectations of how good the game would be (at least I did). I think the producers screwed up with the Angkor tribe swap, giving a third tribe absolutely nothing to work with, which caused some weird ripples in the fabric of the game that never corrected themselves fully. There were some interesting ‘could they do it’ moments toward the end, with underdogs like Fishbach, Keith, Kimmi, and Wentworth making strong pushes towards the end of the game, but having a unanimous winner crowned after a rather boring procession made a promising season feel like a letdown in the end. Cambodia could’ve been great, but the game didn’t play out that way.

  1. Season 20 – Heroes vs. Villains

– I see a lot of people mention Heroes vs. Villains as one of the best seasons of Survivor, but I really don’t agree with that at all. Sure, it had possibly the greatest assemblage of Survivor players in one cast, but the season felt uncomfortable to me, as a viewer. I think seeing Russell Hantz get to play the game before anyone could see his season was messed up, and watching the trio of Russell, Parvati, and Danielle work their way through the Villains tribe was just icky (for a lack of better words). The ending really upset me too because I really don’t think Sandra is a great winner, and I really dislike the fact that the jury let someone win the game twice. I think a lot of personal bias goes into this one for me, but this season felt so wrong in so many ways, from episode 1 to the finale.

  1. Season 16 – Micronesia

– Micronesia was the first time Survivor tried to pit fans of the show against returnees, and for the most part it was pretty successful. The Black Widow brigade that formed toward the end of the show will forever go down in infamy thanks to Erik Reichenbach giving up his individual immunity and getting voted out as “the dumbest player of all time.” But, there were a couple of little things that keep this season from being a top tier season. First off, the surprise return to a final two seemed a bit strange at the end, causing a little bit too much weirdness toward the end. Then there were the fans, who seemed somewhat ill-prepared for the game. Players like Kathy and Chet seemed to have no place being on that island in the first place, and a lot of the others who were eliminated early on were highly forgettable. All of that coupled with the high amount of medevacs from the game made for a really stilted narrative that just never felt ideal to me.

  1. Season 8 – All-Stars

– Notice how I put all these returnee seasons together in the middle of my rankings? That’s not by coincidence; it’s more or less to make a point. A lot of what I find to be the beauty of Survivor is how the players have to meet on the fly and define the terms of their social structure. The show is a microcosm of life in that way those peoples’ interactions with each other define their ability to succeed or fail. When you have returning players though, the spontaneity of the game play is taken out of the equation, and what we often are left with are cold, calculated games of savage betrayal, like the one we saw on All-Stars. Boston Rob’s game of lies and betrayal was riveting television, but it was not Survivor at its best. In fact, it might have been Survivor at its ugliest (up until that point at least). All-Stars lacked the organic nature that makes for a great Survivor season, and just about all full returnee season have been the same way since then.

  1. Season 29 – San Juan Del Sur

– The Blood vs. Water concept wasn’t exactly as strong with just newbie players, but it did introduce us to some great characters who gave us an exciting finish. Natalie Anderson’s vengeance quest leading to her crowning as Sole Survivor has to be one of the greatest single storylines in Survivor history, and ended up propping what looked to be a bad season into a very memorable one. Besides Natalie, we were also introduced to some wonderful players who really livened up this game and games afterwards like Reed, Keith, Jeremy, Jon, Jaclyn, and Kelly, to name a few. I don’t think this was strategically the best the show has been, but this cast put on a great show, and this is definitely one of those seasons that does get better as it ages.

  1. Season 25 – Philippines

– Philippines was the first season in many years to feature three starting tribes, and it helped to set the Survivor franchise back on course after a run of somewhat lackluster seasons. Inviting back three Survivors who had been medically evacuated out of the show was a smart idea, and watching the troubles everyone had trying to negotiate their way with smaller tribes was pretty great. We got to witness one of the coolest duo performances too, as Malcolm and Denise cleverly manipulated their way from being badly outnumbered to coming out on top in the end. Denise’s move to cut Malcolm at final four was brilliantly cold, and lead to an easy win when all was said and done. This wasn’t a super flashy season of the show, but it was a tense game, and featured some brilliant game performances from a lot of the players involved.

  1. Season 19 – Samoa

– Survivor: Samoa introduced us to the notorious Russell Hantz, and that is most certainly what the season will be remembered for. Russell was possibly the most despicable character to grace the ranks of the show, at least based upon his actions in the game. He belittled people in his confessionals, lied to everyone’s faces without blinking an eye, and found immunity idols with a cartoonish ease. While all of that was portrayed as the main story of the season, I think Samoa is memorable for other reasons. The complete destruction of the Galu tribe is a fascinating storyline from Samoa that deserves some attention, since it’s not every day that you get to witness a tribe blow an 8-4 advantage, and Natalie’s underdog win at final tribal council at least leaves the audience feeling a little better about the end result comparatively. I don’t think a guy like Russell deserves to be rewarded a million dollars, and it was nice to see the jury reward the person who played the least slimy game this time!

  1. Season 12 – Panama

– Panama is a good season of Survivor solely because of its cast. I’m not sure the game is the most memorable, but the people were too fun to watch together as a television show. Specifically, the Casaya tribe was the kind of trainwreck that gets people interested in watching reality TV. There was Shane, the crazy, angry guy; Courtney, the annoying free spirit; Cirie, the lady who was spooked by the wilderness; Aras, the All-American athlete; and Bruce, the eccentric older Asian guy who built a Zen garden on the beach. Every episode of this show was a trip because this tribe was so dysfunctional, yet s successful in the game. They constantly bickered and fought, yet they managed to roll over the other tribe to the point where they had 6 of the final 7 players in the end! Survivor: Panama is the kind of season I would show someone who really isn’t into the strategy of shows like this, because this might’ve been Survivor at its wackiest moment! It was just a fun show to watch!

  1. Season 3 – Africa

– Africa was one of the most fascinating backdrops the show ever filmed in. The danger of their surroundings really shaped the way they had to play the game, and it made for a show that was both entertaining and serious at the same time. It was riveting TV very early on in the show’s run, and definitely helped elongate the shows run. This season also introduced us to some memorable players like Ethan Zohn, Lex, and Big Tom, and their alliance is probably one of my all-time favorites. This season really was a wonderful representation of what the show could be; a mix of good game-play and stunning scenery.

  1. Season 32 – Kaoh Rong

– The popular saying going into this season was a play on words; “What could Kaoh Rong?” Well, it turns out a lot could go wrong. The elements in Cambodia became a serious hindrance to the production, as Caleb had to be evacuated after collapsing, and two other players were eventually evacuated with other physical ailments. This all could have been a bit too much for other seasons to last through, but for some reason, this cast was able to propel the game past all of the bad luck, and tough situations. The Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty concept worked just as well the second time as it did the first, and the individual players all came to play very hard. This was a deep cast filled with dynamic players who came out there to make big moves. When you look at a lot of the early boots of the season, most of them got voted out because they played too hard out of the gates, which is a good problem for viewers. This season was a roller coaster of ups and downs, but it made for a great television product, and a great game of Survivor.

  1. Season 23 – South Pacific

– South Pacific is a season of Survivor that is full of good stories in place of amazing strategy and game-play, and honestly that works out just fine every once in a while. South Pacific was framed as the season of Ozzy vs. Coach, and unlike the season prior, that rivalry truly delivered until the end. We watched one of the great characters in Survivor history, Coach, play his best strategic game so far, making strong alliances, forcing a key flip at the merge by convincing Cochran to switch his vote, and being a key figure in the story. And then there was Ozzy, who made history by volunteering to go to Redemption Island for his tribe, with the confidence that he would make it back in the game. Both Ozzy and Coach lasted ‘til the finale, and brought their best games to play, but it was Sophie who slayed the dragon that was Ozzy, and took the title of Sole Survivor over her allies Coach and Albert. I think South Pacific may be overlooked in the grand scheme of Survivor seasons, but it deserves some recognition because it has everything you could love about the show wrapped into one 39 day game!

  1. Season 13 – Cook Islands

– Cook Islands had a bad theme, but it had a really awesome twist in the middle that lead to one of the coolest stories that ever unfolded within a Survivor game. For this season, the producers decided to divide the tribes based on racial lines, because apparently that sounded like a good idea in a board room at CBS productions I guess. Not only was it a hot button issue, but it didn’t lead to great stories or enhanced game-play, with the exception of Cao Boi’s short, but memorable run. But, a twist in the game sent to season on a crash course with greatness midway through the show, and lead to one of my favorite Survivor stories. At the Final 12, Jeff Probst offered everyone in the game the opportunity to mutiny and join the other tribe, and both Candice and Penner decided to leave their Aitu tribe, giving Raro an 8-4 advantage in the game. From there, The Aitu 4 managed to go on a run, propped by Ozzy’s physical skills in challenges, and Yul’s mental prowess and hidden immunity idol, and they successfully managed to outlast all 8 of the Raro members to get to the Final 4. It was a brilliant end game for the season, and in my opinion, is the best underdog story of the show’s run. Cook Islands is a great example of how a season doesn’t have to start off great to end up being memorable.

  1. Season 27 – Blood vs. Water

– I think the Blood vs. Water concept was fresh and innovative for Survivor, pairing returning players with a loved one. Adding in a bad concept like Redemption Island actually enhanced the aura of the season, and lead to a tense, emotional game from episode 1 until the finale. E saw over and over again how difficult it was for the Survivors to balance their personal success and ambitions with that of their loved ones, and while this concept could have worked out poorly with a newbie cast, bringing in the right people made this concept a huge success. There were so many wonderful storylines in this season, like Candice’s Redemption Island vengeance against Brad Culpepper, Tyson and Gervase stealthily sneaking food as the ‘Coconut Bandits,’ Vytas surviving against an all-girls alliance, Aras’ blindside (which is one of the greatest blindsides in the history of the show), Ciera writing her mom’s name down at Tribal, Laura helping Tina beat Vytas at Redemption Island, and Ciera forcing a rock draw at Final 6. This season was full of intense moments, and the Blood vs. Water concept really made that possible by bringing the raw emotion out of the players. This is without question a Top 10 season of the show!

  1. Season 33 – Millennials vs. Gen X

– This was another one of those seasons that had a hokie concept that actually generated positive results because of an exemplary cast. This was one of the deepest newbie casts the show has ever casted, and it ended up being a hard fought battle of wits for 39 days between 20 players who all wanted the title. Watching how intense and important the early vote-outs in this season were demonstrated the sense of urgency with which the players decided to play the game, and that urgency made this a game to remember. The underdog alliance of David, Ken, and Jessica really helped pull the Gen X tribe out of monotony, while the infighting and chaos of the Millennials lead to a lot of great material for the show. The producers made a small, yet significant decision to switch from 2 tribes to 3 tribes, and the way that opened up the game to cross-alliances made for one of the most fluid, chaotic, and fun post-merge games we’d ever witnessed. Moments like the Taylor/Jay Tribal antics, Jessica getting rocked out at Final 10, Bret coming out to Zeke, Adam revealing his secret to Jay, and so much more made each of the final few episodes a roller coaster of ups and downs, leaving the finale shrouded in mystery as to who would possibly emerge as a winner. Adam’s crowning as Sole Survivor, given the situation with his mother’s illness, made for kind of a morose fairytale ending, putting a cherry on top of a season full of intense and urgent game-play. I’ll say this to wrap up my thoughts before I keep rambling; if this is the direction Survivor is going in, the show is alive and well and should be for a long time coming!

  1. Season 15 – China

– I think the location and the return to its roots made this season of Survivor feel very authentic. After Survivor spent a lot of time diving into convoluted ways to shake up the game in seasons prior, it was really refreshing to see the show return to its roots with 16 people stranded in the jungle, divided into tribes, and playing the game with no strings attached. The cultural backdrop made this season all the more interesting to watch as well, with the constant references to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and the beautiful imagery around their camp really acting as a tourism video for China as much as it was a season of a game show. On top of all of that, the game was very well played, with memorable players like Amanda, James, and Courtney animating the season, and Todd playing one of the best winning games in the shows entire run. There is very little not to like about Survivor: China, it was a wonderful show.

  1. Season 28 – Cagayan

– Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty was another really interesting new concept the show came up with on the heels of Blood vs. Water season. Along with Season 27, Cagayan helped bring the level of play of Survivor back up a notch with a cast of really over-the-top players. Tony Vlachos’ style of play was the focus f the show, and for good reason because he really played a crazy game. His strategy was all over the place, and people tended not to trust him too much, but he persisted in getting the numbers, swaying the vote in his favor, and gathering information in any way possible to stay in control of the game. His game was contrasted heavily with Spencer, who played a low-key, strategically sound game from an underdog spot almost from the get-go. The Tony-Spencer rivalry was one of the better rivalries the show has generated in the years, even if it was overshadowed by an amazing cast of characters at the end, like the villainous Chaos Kass, America’s favorite Woo, challenge beast Tasha, and southern belle Jefra. This was really just an All-Star cast, regardless of the fact that they were all first time players. And great players make for a great game, and a great game makes for great television. That’s why Cagayan is a Top 5 season!

  1. Season 18 – Tocantins

– Tocantins, like China, was a return to Survivor’s roots with 16 new players stranded together to play a game for a million dollars. What makes Tocantins about as great as any season of Survivor was the cast. There were so many iconic players introduced in this season, and they created one of the more compelling shows in Survivor’s nearly two decade run. With the likes of Coach and Tyson to keep the fans entertained, the Timbira tribe was always an interesting group to watch, but it ended up being the dynamic duo of JT and Stephen, and their unlikely pairing that lead to the greatest results in the end. JT was so charismatic that he even managed to get someone from the other tribe to admit they would rather see him win then win themselves, which is a great credit to his strength as a player. Between Coach’s crazy stories and endless pandering, Tyson’s hilarious antics, and JT’s dynamic social game there was so much great television and great game-play wrapped up into one season. Simply put, Tocantins is one of the best games and one of the most entertaining seasons Survivor has ever put on.

  1. Season 10 – Palau

– Palau is a sensational season of Survivor because of what transpired in the early game. In 33 seasons, Palau is the only season where an entire tribe outlasted the other one, and being able to watch the struggle of the Ulong as they haplessly battled to stay alive was a show in it of itself. There something special about the futility of Ulong that made this season start out with such a sensational tone compared to most seasons, and it also helped to develop a lot of heroic figures in a simple game. Stephenie and Bobby Jon came out of Ulong as heroes who were able to persevere through one of the toughest mental struggles any tribe has faced, to the point that they were invited to play again the very next season.  It would’ve been very easy to root for the underdogs if it wasn’t for the fact that the Koror tribe was filled with plenty of charismatic, heroic figures itself. Between Tom, the firefighter, Ian, the dolphin trainer, Gregg, the dark horse, and Katie, the scrapper, Koror was full of interesting, and potentially legendary characters to drive the season on even after Ulong was wiped out. The way the alliances built up and crumbled at the end was one of the highlights of Palau, and Ian giving up after a lengthy battle in the final immunity challenge to repair his friendship with Tom is, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable scenes in Survivor history. I think remarkable is the right word to describe Survivor: Palau, you could not have scripted a more interesting season if you tried!

  1. Season 7 – Pearl Islands

– Pearl Islands was Survivor at its best. The concept of the show, the setting of the show, the cast, and the drama of the game were all about as good as the show had ever seen and has seen since. The producers tried out a pirate theme that was actually very well-executed, and featured one of the most intense day 1 challenges where both tribes had to barter and scavenge a local village for supplies. The Pearl Islands themselves offered one of the greatest tropical backdrops for the show, making it feel like an ideal Survivor game just like the original season in Borneo. And who could forget all of the heroes and villains from this season, they ended up being some of the most iconic Survivors of all time. Rupert will always be remembered as one of America’s favorite Survivor heroes, always providing fish for his tribe, and being the gentle giant with the huge beard and rainbow t-shirt. Then there was one of the greatest villains of all-time, Johnny Fairplay, whose lie about his grandma dying will go down in infamy as possibly the most memorable moment in reality television history! Even through the bad moments, like the Outcasts twist, or the weird moments like the tale of Pete the pelican, Survivor: Pearl Islands always felt perfect, like Survivor being played the way it was always supposed to be played, in the setting it was supposed to be played in, with the kind of people who could do the game, and the show the most justice. Pearl Islands encapsulates all the little things that makes Survivor great, and for that reason, I think it’s the greatest season the show has ever seen.