Because the voting is open for but two short weeks, we're racing to get this out as soon as possible, in the hopes that we can positively influence the casting of this season. Assuming the fan vote actually has a 1-to-1 correspondence to the final cast. And assuming anyone reads this, of course.
First the important parts:
1. Vote here: Second Chance Vote at CBS.com. Also watch the contestants' campaign plea videos. All are good.
2. Note that you have to vote for 10 men (or 10 women) for your vote to be submittable. If you want to vote for more than 10, no problem, just vote for the others the next day. But if you want fewer than 10, try Colin Stone's advice: "Pro tip: help your favorite male candidates by burning votes onto the complete locks (Spencer/Joe)...."
And now, on to the actual guiding of your votes (hopefully).
If any of these people don't make the final cast, the entire voting process will have been a complete and utter waste. In mostly chronological order, because they're all good. Although we'll start with the women.
Richard Hatch was an amazing strategic player in Borneo, but he didn't single-handedly invent alliances. Kelly was trying to create an all-women's alliance with Stacey in the very early days of Tagi. As has become the fashion in Survivor, that women's alliance never came to pass. Still, Kelly went on to set records in winning immunity challenges, and had a solid, active social game. Apart from a late-game crisis of conscience, her overall performance is spectacularly underrated. It's disappointing that she has yet to return, because her immunity streak (and the fear of people repeating it) is almost as fundamental a part of how the game is played today as are alliances and the strategic machinations Hatch originated. The Survivor world passed Kelly by when Jenna and Sue took her spot in All-Stars, and from then on, the entire Borneo cast was all but forgotten until Gervase returned in Blood vs. Water. This is our chance to rectify that, and it could well be our last. Make it happen, America.
Like Kelly, Teresa played an underappreciated game her first time (in Africa), in part because she had the misfortune of playing on the tribe that was down in numbers at the merge, and she was unable to crack the unbreakable Boran alliance. She also famously tried to form an all-women's alliance, which, of course, never came to pass. Also like Kelly, T-Bird isn't getting any younger, and at 56, this could well be her last shot at a second chance. There are many other younger women who are also deserving, but they'll have other opportunities going forward. Give T-Bird hers now.
3. Peih-Gee Law
Peih-Gee has been overlooked for a similar set of reasons, chief among them her original season (China) aired right before Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites started filming. Production raced to add in James and Amanda to that cast before China had even finished airing. Courtney Yates was then a welcome addition to Heroes vs. Villains, and then... that was it for Survivor remembering China (one of its best seasons). As with T-Bird, Peih-Gee was the victim of poor post-merge numbers against a solid alliance. She (along with Jaime) successfully threw the first post-swap China challenge to boot the other tribe's challenge beast. Survivor needs more people willing to play that way. Make it happen with Peih-Gee.
Every season needs Kass, or at least someone like her. And there is almost nobody like her. Without her, Cagayan's merge Tribal Council was merely an impressively high-level battle of gameplay to avoid two idols. Kass came in and kicked the entire chess board over, and the result was glorious. It wasn't perhaps the greatest strategic move, but it absolutely made things interesting. In a season likely overflowing with gamebots and alpha males, Kass's independent energy will be a welcome breath of fresh air. Make it so.
5. Tasha Fox
Tasha was a bit hard to read in Cagayan. Pre-merge she seemed to have a great shot at winning, but when everything fell apart post-#ChaosKass, she seemed unable to regroup, and was surviving only by virtue of the immunity necklace. (To be fair, Spencer was in the same boat, with no greater success. He was just given more airtime to talk about it.) Tasha's a longtime fan, had a solid grasp of gameplay, and was a fierce competitor in the challenges. Her all-in campaigning for the RHAP Miss Survivor 2015 title proves she's got some fight in her, and it would be pretty intriguing to watch her match up in challenges with a Terry or a Kelly Wiglesworth. Already at the upper end of Survivor's preferred age range for women (38), Tasha may not have many more opportunities to play again, and her just-right mix of game desire, knowledge, and ability merits her seizing this one.
Shirin made it through 10 episodes of Worlds Apart (and was booted in the 11th), all but one of them on the bottom of an outnumbered alliance. If you're reading this, you probably like Survivor twice as much or more than most of your friends, but still maybe only half as much as Shirin does. She is the superfan's superfan. Thanks to Shirin's eventually favorable edit and extreme recency bias of just having been (sadly) voted out on TV, she should safely make the cut here. Even so, let's not leave anything to chance: Vote for Shirin as many times as you can.
Kelley clearly had a good head for the game the first time, but was done in by both the format (Blood vs. Water), and an incredibly unlucky draw in the swap, going from an earned position of power on old Hunahpu, to stuck trying to keep her dad, Dale, from arguing with Missy. That post-swap Coyopa tribe was one of the least challenge-capable ones in Survivor history, and Kelley quickly found herself at Tribal Council, then voted out. Because, having watched the show before, she seemed like a threat. That sucks. We toyed with placing Kelley in the next tier down, because she's young and personable, popular with the fans, and (apparently) with casting, so if it doesn't work out here, she might get another shot. But there's also a fairly significant chance that as a pre-merge boot (fifth out overall), she won't get another chance. We're not willing to take that risk. Kelley deserves better than the fate the Survivor gods have dealt her thus far. This is where that starts happening.
8. Jeff Varner
Varner was an early fan favorite to win The Australian Outback, only to be taken out at the merge by a perfect storm of events beyond his control: Kimmi's big mouth, Skupin's medevac bringing Kucha's numbers down to a tie with Ogakor's, and the now-defunct "prior votes" tie-breaker rule (again, with Varner's vulnerability having been relayed to Tina via Kimmi's big mouth). Oh, and an insatiable desire for peanut butter. Ouch. His absence from All-Stars was inexplicable, as has been his continued absence in every other returnee season. He was a strong social/strategic player, and good in challenges, and like T-Bird, he's not getting any younger. Casting should have put him on again years ago. Guess it's up to us, the voters, to do their job for them.
9. Shane Powers
|S12, Ep12: Voted out, 3-1-1; fifth juror|
With Greg Buis not on the ticket, Shane is the closest you'll get to a male Kass. He's a one-man wrecking ball, someone who could be a loyal ally, or completely obliterate your entire game, seemingly on a whim. He's probably not going to win, but he's a huge, inimitable character, who curiously has never returned, even in an era that canonizes larger-than-life personalities. True, Shane came extremely close to being on Heroes vs. Villains and possibly other returnee seasons. He'd definitely be an interesting addition to this one. This is almost certainly his final opportunity, so act now, or forever be left wondering what might have been.
10. Terry Deitz
Terry is the male version of Kelly Wiglesworth, crossed with a bit of Tom Westman. In Panama-Exile Island, he won the most (single-season) individual challenges in Survivor history (8, in 12 chances). He found the first super-powered ("Tyler Perry") hidden immunity idol, which eased him through those few times he didn't win traditioal immunity. While his social game may have come across as arrogant, his back was also against the wall, as Casaya gradually picked off the non-idol-holding/-necklace-wearing remnants of La Mina. The prospect of seeing Terry Deitz and Kelly Wiglesworth (and Spencer, Tasha, Joe, even Keith) competing against each other in an individual immunity challenge? That's a historic Survivor event. (Which would be made even better if someone like Shirin ended up winning the challenge.) It's crazy that neither Kelly nor Terry has returned since their initial appearance. Now is the time to fix that.
11. Stephen Fishbach
You're forgiven if you think, "Yeah, but Spencer and Vytas and Jeremy are all pretty much guaranteed to make it on. Why do we need another dude who's a brainy strategist?" Because it's Stephen F***ing Fishbach, that's why. He will soon seize his well-deserved crown as the Knowingest Survivor Know-It-All. Every week, he gives away Survivor strategy advice for free in his People.com Survivor column. He deserved a far better fate in Tocantins than joining the hapless Zero Votes Finalists Club. And this is almost certainly his last opportunity to play again, since there has been no shortage of recent male strategic masterminds. Why not make Stephen compete, and force him to prove he can practice the gameplay he preaches?
12. Jim Rice
His first time out, in South Pacific, Jim irritated Ozzy with his constant strategizing, but he clearly relished getting to play the game of which he'd been a series-long fan. With Cochran and Dawn, he was one third of a superfan Savaii sub-alliance in South Pacific that briefly took control of the tribe, only to have everything blown apart by Cochran's (ultimately unsuccessful) flip at the merge. Cochran and Dawn got to play again three seasons later, in Caramoan. Even if you weren't convinced by his limited showing in South Pacific, he's a solid fan with a good strategic mind, and impressed in his recent RHAP interview. This is likely Jim's one and only shot at returning, so make it count.
13. Vytas Baskauskas
|S27, Ep9: Voted out, 8-1-1 | Ep11: Lost duel, 2nd juror|
Vytas was arguably the best new player in Blood vs. Water, and both Probst and the pre-San Juan del Sur TV ads have repeatedly sung his praises. But at 35 and as a new father, his Survivor-playing window could be rapidly closing. He wasn't a late-gamer like Spencer, or an impressively maned challenge beast like Joe, and in future seasons, he'll be competing for the same 30-something male strategist slot as guys like LJ, Josh, Jeremy, Reed, Max, Tyler, and however many others make the show in the next few seasons. As with Shirin, we think Vytas is very likely to make the cut this time, but if he doesn't make it this time, we worry if he ever will again.
14. Jeremy Collins
If anyone makes the cut from San Juan del Sur, it'll probably be Keith. But we're not sure Keith really needs (or wants) that spot as much as Jeremy. We think Jeremy's wife Val is probably a better fit for the Second Chance concept, since her game was directly torpedoed by SJdS's ridiculously unfair Day 1 duel/exile twist, but she's not on the ballot. Still, Jeremy was a solid social/strategic gamer who was good in challenges, and came across as a huge threat because he was a longtime fan who knew the game, which stood out amidst SJdS's stifling gaggle of non-fans. Furthermore, as a strategist in his 30s (see Vytas, above), Jeremy is hardly a rare commodity, so if he's going to get a chance to improve his lot, this may well be it. And this contestant mix is a good fit for him: In a season likely stacked with both strategic masterminds and challenge dominators, Jeremy might well be underestimated. At least he can't call everyone else dumb, right?
15. Max Dawson
Max is the Worlds Apart version of Jim Rice, just nerdier, beardier, and pre-mergier. He's old enough (37) and was an early enough boot (fifth overall, right after the swap) that if he doesn't get on again now, it's highly improbable he will in the future. His chief sin the first time around was overenthusiasm: Playing too hard, too soon, and talking too much about the show/game. As sins go, that's pretty forgivable. We'd vastly prefer to watch someone who's so excited to be playing Survivor that they play themselves right out of the game, as opposed to someone who's barely cognizant there's a game going on. Max is certainly capable of learning from his mistakes and performing better on his Second Chance. As much as we dread the inevitable #Fun31 social media campaign in which the S31 contestants post endless pics pretending to like each other, Max is definitely worthy of your vote.
This group of people would all make fine contestants, but all have at least one strike against them, whether it be underwhelming original performance, focus on the wrong aspects of the show, or a simple lack of urgency (we're looking at you, Joe and Spencer). Even so, we certainly won't complain if any make the cast, and in fact have already voted for several of them more than once. Arranged in quasi-historical order (women first), albeit with a few similar candidates grouped together.
Our one (female) old-school semi-holdout. Kimmi's best selling point here is that she's much older, wiser, and aware of the game than she was the first time. Which is good, because having recently re-watched The Australian Outback, she didn't show a lot of gameplay there, but she did bring the drama. In her campaign video, Kimmi disavows that to some extent, and seems eager to actually play the game, and her campaign seems to have a fairly high level of fan support. So she could well be getting back on, and be a stealth candidate to do quite well. But we suspect casting really put her on the voting list in the hope she'll repeat the more regrettable parts of her The Australian Outback legacy: the yelling and the finger-waving. Prove them wrong, Kimmi.
Like Kimmi, Abi's here for the conflict. Unlike Kimmi, Abi actually seems to embrace that in her campaign video, which is disappointing. Worlds Apart was ample demonstration that people yelling at each other is not what makes a Survivor season entertaining, and in fact lowers its watchability. And it's doubly disappointing that Abi seems to have a decent head for the strategic game. Combining highly public drama and cutthroat strategy is not the recipe for success. We hope we're misreading Abi's intentions here. She actually does watch the show, and could be a highly underestimated player. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
3. Ciera Eastin
Toward the end of Blood vs. Water, Ciera started playing well, and that finishing flourish has led to her overall game being vastly overrated by Probst and fans alike. Voting out her mom was hardly a ground-breaking achievement, since her mother was not part of her alliance, and they'd both agreed to do exactly that if necessary before they started playing. Furthermore, she seemed passive and/or invisible until after the merge, and really only made it that far because Caleb grew tired of Brad Culpepper ordering him around. But Ciera did do a few things well: she tricked Katie into revealing that Katie had not found the hidden immunity idol, and she correctly went to rocks to try to win a third-place spot when it was clear Tyson's alliance was not offering her one (even if Hayden mostly talked her into it). Regardless, she's almost certainly a lock for one of the female slots this season. We question whether she'll do better the second time around, but at least there's potential there.
Monica is the Samoa version of Ciera. She started playing hard right at the end of her game, but it was too late to change anything. The difference here is that Monica played four years before Ciera did, and has thus had more time to mull over where her game went wrong, and what she would do differently. Also, Monica's initial seemingly passive game was partly due to Galu's not really needing to talk strategy much until after the merge, since Foa Foa was so tragically inept at winning challenges. Also, Monica has used the time since Samoa to complete her law degree. She's smart, she's accomplished, and she has something to prove. There have been many worse casting choices in recent years than Monica Padilla.
Like Mike (below), she may have already won Worlds Apart, and if so, can't play Second Chance. Carolyn had a spectacular first episode, then quietly proceeded to take out all three people with whom she formed an alliance in that episode. Intriguingly, Carolyn has thus far managed to balance a maternal nickname ("Mama C") with the ruthless, calculating gameplay Dawn tried to pull off in Caramoan, yet with none of the blowback Dawn received that season (as far as we can tell without having seen the final two episodes). If Carolyn did win Worlds Apart, it's disappointing some other worthy options were blocked out of a spot in the voting by someone that CBS/SEG knew was ineligible. But if she didn't win, she'd be a fine repeat contestant.
Putting Mike here, just to be directly after Carolyn. All the same arguments against Carolyn apply to Mike. Still, Mike has put on a Vlachos-esque strategic showcase (so far) in Worlds Apart, and is far and away the most deserving from that season of an All-Star-type second chance. It's a bit unfair for both Carolyn and Mike to have to convince voters of their worthiness without the voters having been able to watch their entire first season. But it would also be unfair to both of them if they were not allowed to be part of Second Chance simply because CBS/SEG couldn't be bothered to wait a week or so after the season ended to run this poll. Unfairness all around. Certainly, if Mike didn't win the current season, he'd better be on the next one.
Sorry, Troyzan. Troyzan is a dedicated Survivor fan, and as the second-best player in One World, probably deserves a return invitation at some point. We felt for him as he futilely tried to explain to the also-rans that they couldn't all be in the final three, and needed to make a move to improve their standing. But still... we think he got about as far the first time as he's ever likely to get. He's too independent, and unlike alpha-male leaders like Terry (or Savage, or even Brad Culpepper), he didn't really inspire his castmates to follow him, and that was with a cast saturated with persuadable pawns. Maybe it was that following Kim just seemed like a better idea? We're not really opposed to the idea of Troyzan coming back, but not at the expense of a Jeff Varner or a Stephen Fishbach.
8. Woo Hwang
We know his strategic game was, shall we say... underwhelming. But if anyone needs a Second Chance, it's Woo, who talked himself into bringing Tony to the finals, thereby single-handedly cutting his own paycheck by 90%. Despite those shortcomings, we can't overlook that Woo always seemed to be having fun playing Survivor, even in the middle of massive rainstorms. In recent seasons, fun has been a precious commodity. So to his candidacy we say: "Woo. Why the hell not?"
Let's be completely honest with ourselves: There is no way Spencer is not getting on this season. Spencer has ZERO percent chance of not winning this fan-vote game. And he absolutely deserves a spot, as perhaps the best all-around new contestant in the last five seasons. His ranking in this tier is in no way indicative of anything other than: we don't feel we need to stump for him. He's in, and we're very happy he'll get another chance to play, and hopefully this time more things will break in his favor. Furthermore, there's no downside here. Even if the CBS computers melt down, and Probst is forced to pick names out of a hat, and Spencer somehow misses this shot? He's 22. He will still be just as perfect a candidate for every one of the next 20 seasons, if not the next 40. We are a bit worried that he'll be perceived as a threat out of the gate, and will be an early target. But even if that happens, he should be back on Survivor 33 or 34, at which point he'll probably win the whole thing.
10. Keith Nale
Along the same lines as Woo, Keith seemed to appreciate the opportunity to play, and was always up for schemes and shenanigans and... plans, even if he didn't initiate (or stick to) most of them. He happily if poorly went with Reed's scheme, and when Natalie needed to make late-game plays, Keith was there to participate when asked. Most of all, he kept the tone light. Who knows, maybe having watched a season or two, Keith might even play his own aggressive game this time? Or possibly show Terry Deitz or Kelly Wiglesworth a thing or two about how to win challenges these days. That would be pretty cool, right?
11. Joe Anglim
Joe is listed in this tier for the same reason Spencer is: There's absolutely no possibility Joe doesn't get voted in, so there's no need for us to push him. He was a fine three-tool player on Worlds Apart, and on a season more stacked with challenge beasts and strategists, Joe might even be able to surpass his circa-merge Worlds Apart boot. As with Spencer, having better luck would certainly improve Joe's chances of improving. Also as with Spencer, Joe will continue to be a fine potential contestant for every season for the next 10 years, so there's no particular hurry to put him back on. But put him on everyone will, and he'll likely be a fine contestant in Second Chance. Fine.
We won't be heartbroken if any of these people make it on, but we do question the need to have them back so soon (or at all, in some cases), especially when other alternatives existed.
We get that Natalie has stayed active in the L.A. ex-Survivor circuit since she first appeared (at age 19!), and has undoubtedly picked up a fair amount of game knowledge since Redemption Island. But that appearance was entirely passive, and while she seems to be more game-savvy, it's difficult to say with any certainty that she'd play any differently this time. Sure, she might be good. But there are so many other female players who would be good, it's really strange that she, of all people, was selected for this opportunity. We get that Survivor wants pretty young women, but both Jefra and Alexis from Cagayan fit that demographic, and showed much more aptitude for the game their first time out, yet neither is an option here. Natalie returning might work out, but that's too high a risk without further evidence.
Stephanie was one of the better players from Redemption Island. But not as good as Francesca or Andrea. Along with Phillip, there have already been three returnees from that season, one of Survivor's weakest ever. Given that there are zero returnees possible from Vanuatu (where is Twila?), Palau (Ian? Coby? Wanda?), Guatemala (Brian? Amy? Judd? Cindy? Rafe?), or even Nicaragua (Holly? Jill? Sash? Marty?), do we really need two more Redemption Island alumni to return? No, we don't. Especially when Stephanie was a pre-merge boot due to her own poor choices in her first season, primarily in leaping wholeheartedly onto the sinking Russell Hantz tankering ship, and seems unwilling to recognize that as a mistake in her campaign video.
Yes, it was unfair that she was targeted in South Pacific because of Brandon Hantz's sexual insecurity. Yes, it's probably also unfair that the biggest knock against her coming back is that Russell Hantz has been praising her potential. But Mikayla's ceiling as a player is probably Guatemala Stephanie LaGrossa. If we really wanted to put someone on just to have them finish second, we would put Natalie or Sabrina on instead, since they've each already done it once. Mikayla's a hard worker, she performed well in challenges, and she seemed to have a good attitude. It certainly wouldn't be terrible if she played again. But there are also better choices.
As with Natalie, Sabrina is a former finalist who is highly unlikely to improve on her previous finish. She seemed great in the first episode of One World, then completely disappeared, until showing up in the final three and somehow getting two votes. Furthermore, One World has all the oversaturation problems of Redemption Island: despite having one of the least compelling casts, it has already produced three returnees, none of whom were named Kim Spradlin. Sabrina and Troyzan would bring that total to five. That makes no sense, when there are so many more compelling stories if people from earlier seasons had been in the pool. Pass.
Gasp! This was the hardest cut. We didn't much care for Savage in Pearl Islands, and while we and everyone else knows of Probst's undying affection for his leadership and handsome alpha-maleness, we think Probst should just man up and put Savage on if he wants him, instead of trying to cajole the fans into doing his dirty work. Having said that, Savage made some valid points in his campaign video: mainly, that he was screwed over by the Outcasts twist, which was decidedly unfair, since it hadn't been announced pre-season. That's not to say Savage wouldn't have been out shortly after the merge if there hadn't been Outcasts, though. And we question strongly whether he'll do any better the second time around. He's a wiser Brad Culpepper, but we're not sure that's a compelling argument to return.
|S27, Ep4: Voted out, 3-3 (3-1) | Ep6: Lost duel, 6th out|
We appreciate that Brad actually watches the show, and was a fan before he played. Even so, there is really no reason to believe his perfomance the second time around would be significantly different from his first time, which was just two years ago. He's still the same guy, he didn't seem to think he'd really done anything wrong the first time, and putting him on again and again and hoping for better results is pretty much the same thing as doing that with Russell Hantz. Brad Culpepper will always be an abrasive, aggressive, super-confident alpha male, one who is convinced that he alone knows what's best for his tribe (and/or himself).
One of the most bizarre aspects of the voting mechanism CBS set up is that you're forced to vote for 10 and exactly 10 men (or women) each time you vote. Why, when there are only 16 to choose from? Sure, casting obviously didn't have the time to re-interview and vet every one-time player who didn't win. But if we have to choose 10, why so few options, and why is the pool so heavily populated with people from recent seasons? (25% of the people eligible were on seasons that aired in the last nine months, neither of which were particularly beloved by fans.) Wouldn't a cap of two candidates per season have helped cut down on both recency bias and pre-game alliances?
So we made a short list of people we wish we could have voted for. We're assuming Buis is holding out for Survivor: Greg vs. Colleen - It's Not All About Sex Anymore.
Other Second Chance pre-season voting-related articles
Podcasts - pre-season cast analysis