Hello fellow Survivor fans. It’s that time again. We’re roughly a week before the start of Game Changers and I, for one, am ready for a world with Survivor again. It’s been a long offseason. It’s also a lonely time without our favorite show. And I know you all have a hole in your heart each week without another Well, In Theory… column. I’m sure.
But before we start this here preview column, I need to make a confession: I suck at predictions.
Since I started writing here at True Dork Times, you know whom I’ve picked to win? Are you ready to behold this amazing suckitude? In Second Chance, I chose Monica, who was voted out fifth and didn’t speak on the island. For Kaoh Rong, I chose Liz (or Neal), who looked good on the island, but only lasted nine days. And in Millennials vs. Gen X, I chose Mari, who lasted six days. Sense a pattern? Clearly, for Game Changers, whoever I choose will be out first.
In my defense, I’ve certainly come close to picking a winner if you look at my second or third choice for winning, but winner picks? I suck. But, you know, my parents always told me if you don’t succeed, try and try again. So that’s what I’m going do.
After week one, you can return to this here space to find some theory talk, but right now, let’s do some predictions. In the spirit of my fearless leader Jeff, I’m going to categorize the castaways into the following categories: The Likely, The Possible, The Unlikely, and The Impossible.
How have I prepared for this? I’ve read some of the cast interviews, but not all. And, of course, I’ve watched all the original seasons.
That’s it for the appetizer. Let’s get to the (definitely wrong) predictions:
Positives: I’m going to pretend like this is Andrea's second season. I mean, nobody besides Rob played in Redemption Island, so why count it? I thought Andrea played a really good game with only a couple small mistakes that unfortunately became major in FvF2. I think she’s a triple threat, honestly. I’m thinking Andrea’s learned a lot and will put it all together for a very deep run this time around.
Negatives: Well, how many times will Andrea make the same mistakes? In both seasons, she’s flirted too openly and telegraphed her strategy too much. What’s that dumb expression about fool me once?
Positives: Nobody really knows Michaela’s game. And, I think it becomes obvious very quickly that Michaela’s pretty straightforward. She basically feels old-school Survivor to me in that she’s likes to have a solid alliance and places a whole lot of weight on physical challenges. People might find that type of game less threatening; we’ve seen a shift toward that way of thinking lately. And if Michaela can stick around to the merge, I think that puts her in a very good spot to win the whole shebang.
Negatives: Nobody really knows Michaela’s game. See, that can be a good and a bad thing. We all remember Russell and Heroes v. Villains. Smart returnees are going to want to focus on ditching Michaela and Zeke quickly because they’re wild cards. And, of course, we know Michaela may be a bit too emotional for this here game. Modern Survivor players need to keep a lid on their emotions and not telegraph their moves. We’ll see if Michaela can adapt quickly after getting the boot last season for not thinking in this manner.
Positives: To me, Hali seems like the kind of castaway who always does well on seasons filled with returnees: She’s smart, fits in well with different types of people and is totally unthreatening. Think Amber. Think Parvati. Think Sandra. Think Jeremy. Sensing a pattern? None of these folks did very well the first time around (except, of course, Sandra) and all flew under the radar the second time around until about the merge. Then made some moves. And their prior games allowed them to fly under the radar. Hali seems like that kind of player. I mean, are any of these folks stepping onto the island looking to boot Hali. No way. I look for a long run.
Negatives: We never really saw if Hali can play this game well. In Worlds Apart, Hali basically went on Spring Break with the rest of the No Collar tribe and, when forced to integrate with other tribes, she, like the rest of the former Nagarote, could not adapt. But, it did look like she got along with folks. Again, doesn’t this sound like another first-time contestant who ended up winning her second season (hint: Parvati)?
Positives: I’m not sure if this is simply because I love Malcolm the player or because I’m actually being smart, but Malcolm just seems like the kind of guy who can win Survivor. Heck, his first time out he might have if didn’t make one huge mistake at final four. And while he made some idol plays his second time around, if Corinne didn’t make a boneheaded move, Malcolm might have had a chance in Caramoan.
Negatives: Malcolm won’t fool anyone this time around. Everyone knows he’s great in challenges, can find idols, is strategic and wants to win oh so badly. He’s an alpha male (who acts like he’s not) on a season with a fair amount of alpha males, who never can seem to work together. I think we’ll know a lot about Malcolm quickly: If he can make it through the first handful of votes, he’s in good shape to win it all.
Positives: Shouldn’t Aubry all ready be a winner? I’m thinking almost everybody who’s reading this thinks Aubry is the rightful winner of Kaoh Rong, right? Since this season filmed shortly after Kaoh Rong, Aubry should be able to hit the ground running and not spend the first six or nine days having panic attacks. She’s going to be confident and while she’s not a challenge beast by any measure, she’s also not horrid in challenges and therefore won’t be a liability and an easy early vote.
Negatives: Producers basically screwed Kaoh Rong over. This is a pretty smart, for the most part, cast and they’re going to want to split up the Kaoh Rong foursome as quickly as possible. That means Aubry, who is clearly the best player of the four, might have a big target on her back. When they left to play this season, folks had just seen Aubry play a great game. They know she’s good and they know she’s a contender.
Positives: I keep going back and forth on Sarah. She played a decent game on Cagayan, right up until supposed power went to her head. I think she’ll learn from that. I also think her early boot the first time around plays to her advantage. I’m not sure she’ll be a target this time. And we know that she knows the game and also fits the profile I described in my section on Hali. She could win.
Negatives: The little press I’ve read previewing this season makes me think we might see a bit of a Cagayan alliance between Tony and Sarah. That would be a horrible move for Sarah, I think. Tony’s getting targeted early. Sarah’s best bet is to make small, under-the-radar moves early and then turn it on post merge. Oh, and while she had potential her first time around, let’s not forget that she actually played badly. That’s important.
Positives: Unlike Boston Rob during his fourth time around, sort of, I think Ozzy will not be a target at all. I know that Boston Rob dominated like no other that fourth time, but he was always a target at least when those other castaways (or zombies) talked on screen. Nobody acted on it. With Ozzy, I think everyone knows his game so well this time around that he’s fly under the radar. He won’t be threatening. And, as we know, get him to the merge and he’s great at challenges. He’s older, but I bet he’s still the best player out here in challenges. And at final tribal, he could be rewarded for simply not pissing anyone off.
Negatives: He’s Ozzy. The first time he makes a good strategic decision this season might be the first time he’s ever made one.
Positives: For all his faults the first time around, Troyzan didn’t play a bad game. He tried telling literally everyone to boot Kim since she was going to win. It’s not his fault, kind of like Andrea on Redemption, that nobody listened. I feel like he could fly a bit under the radar this time around and maybe use his age to his advantage at final tribal. I mean, look, I don't think he wins, but it’s possible.
Negatives: You know, Survivor doesn’t cast that early year archetype of an older male who’s incredibly stuck in their ways very often any more. Remember those early seasons when there was always one? You know, B.B., Frank, Roger or Lea? That person never wins or goes very far, which is why I think producers stopped filling that role often. In my mind, that’s Troyzan this season. That means he will annoy and get the boot quickly.
Positives: I think if JT shows up and plays a similar game to the one he did in Tocantins, he might have a shot. I think, in only my opinion, JT might be the most underrated winner in the history of the show. Part of this might be the time he played, in those middle years that are now forgotten. And part of this is because of the way Survivor fans rate Stephen. And Stephen is a damn good player, but go rewatch Tocantins and you’ll see that JT, well, man he played great game, right up to an incredibly underrated final tribal performance. He can do this again. With all the alpha males on this cast, he can even do it a bit under the radar.
Negatives: JT is a winner. Winners don’t usually do well in all-star seasons. Those are just the facts. And his performance on Heroes v. Villains will not help his reputation.
Positives: On Cambodia, Jeff showed a strong strategic acumen, much better than the one on display in The Australian Outback. And we know he waited way too long to get that second chance and basically stepped out on the island and tried to play seven seasons of Survivor in about nine days. This time, more than likely with plenty of pregame alliances in hand, Jeff will take things slower and really play. He’s also in much better shape this time, which can only help.
Negatives: Did I mention Jeff shot out of a cannon onto the Cambodian beach? People will remember his over-the-top strategy and simply might not trust him at all. Honestly, if I were playing this season, Jeff would be one of my first targets.
Positives: I mean, what can I say? Nobody thought Sandra had a chance on Heroes v. Villains and all she did was go out there and win the whole thing. She’s always underrated. She’s a genius at figuring out tribe dynamics and what’s happening. In general, if anybody can go out there and win a third time, it’s Sandra of course. And, yes, I know nobody else can win a third time.
Negatives: She’s won twice. Nobody will give her the million. But we said that last time too. I don’t know. I’m putting her in unlikely because I think she’ll be an early target and people will be paying far closer attention to her this time around. There will be no flying under the radar for the most celebrated Survivor of all time.
Positives: Ciera once voted for her mom. Holy crap she’s amazing.
Negatives: Let’s be clear about something: Ciera is not a good player. We’ve seen this act twice and it’s never been good. People aren’t going to trust her and we’ve seen no indication that she’s a good strategist. In fact, we’ve seen copious amounts of evidence that suggests she’s bad. I don't think that changes. This is three times on the island in a very short amount of time.
Positives: I don’t have high hopes for Cirie, but the main positive is obvious: She’s a great player. She knows what she’s doing. And it’s been a while since she played, so maybe all these newbies don’t even remember Heroes v. Villains and beforehand.
Negatives: I dream of a second all-stars season, one that basically only features Gabon and earlier players. If that season happened, I might have Cirie very high on this list. Unfortunately, the last nine years have happened and people know Cirie’s good. She’s going to be a target. I’m not sure she can maneuver out of the spotlight.
Positives: Caleb’s a challenge beast who won’t be a strategic threat. He’s also seemingly likeable and steps on the island with three other potential allies. It’s very possible Caleb makes the right alliances, gets to the merge and then dominates. Is it likely? No. But it’s possible.
Negatives: Caleb’s a challenge beast who won’t be a strategic threat. He also steps on the island with three other potential allies. You see what I did there? I just don’t think the Kaoh Rong folks have much of a chance. The people producers picked from that season are all entertaining, but besides Aubry, none of them are what I’d call good players. They’re definitely not good enough to somehow remove the target off their backs.
Positives: Any of you who read my columns last season know that I love Zeke. I think he played a hell of game and could very easily have won with a little more luck. Without anyone knowing his game, maybe he can ingratiate himself well like last season and use his likeability and strategic prowess to maneuver to the end?
Negatives: Unlike Michaela, Zeke quickly gives off a “I’m a strategic player” kind of vibe. Castaways will know he was chosen for this season for a reason and it wasn’t athletic ability like Michaela. He’s going to be targeted early. Other players will be scared.
Positives: I know that True Dork Times’ own Jeff is high on Sierra. And I know Jeff Probst is high on Sierra. And I know I’m in Colorado and not high on anything. But I have a hard time finding positives in Sierra’s first game. I mean, she’s going to be good in challenges. But what else? Maybe she flies under the radar and doesn’t speak the entire time until final tribal? That would be quite the accomplishment.
Negatives: Sierra gave me no indication that she can independently maneuver through what will be a gauntlet of an all-star season. We know the cast of Worlds Apart just wasn’t very good. And Sierra was awful on that season. What makes us think she’ll be better against much better players?
Positives: Nobody likes Brad. Nobody will be threated by him.
Negatives: Nobody likes Brad. He will annoy the crap out of folks. Oh, and he’s rich. None of this adds up to a win.
Positives: Tai got to the end his first time playing. I think we often forget that. He can find idols, nobody will worry about him and then maybe he can surprise some folks at final tribal. We know he’ll be a provider and maybe he won’t upset folks. That could win with a bitter jury. Right?
Negatives: Another of the Kaoh Rong foursome, Tai will have a target on his back because he doesn't play rationally. Good players want rational alliance mates. Tai isn’t that. And if even if Tai gets to the end, we know how he handles final tribal. Not well.
Positives: Tony is one of my all-time favorite players ever. I am rooting for Tony this season. If there’s anyone who can outmaneuver a cast of all-stars and win for the second time (besides Sandra), it might be Tony. You think he will zig, but then he zags. Nobody thought he could pull it off during Cagayan, but, with a big assist from Woo, he did. Maybe he can do it again.
Negatives: It pains me to say this, but no effin' way, right? Nobody is letting Tony stick around for long. I’m not sure there is a winner game in the history of Survivor that would play worse the second time around. Can anyone think of one? Tony played an amazing game, but it’s one that literally everyone will be afraid of this time and nobody – I mean nobody – will trust him.
Positives: Debbie got kind of far the first time around. That’s a positive, right? Maybe people will underestimate her.
Negatives: I can’t think of many positives here. She’s another one of the Kaoh Rong four, which immediately puts a target on her back. And, maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like all-star seasons are way less patient with the “kooky” characters. People want to align with predictable folks. That’s not Debbie. And she’s annoying. Done.
And the winner is...
And now we come to the winner pick, the pick that will surely mean someone is going home first. For the past three seasons, I've gone female, so let's shake it up this season. I'm taking Malcolm. I guess I hope Malcolm enjoys his three days on the island.
That's it on this end. Talk to you all next week.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He’s seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he’ll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @patferrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.