In her introduction to the Guatemala season, Veruca Salt defined three archetypes for Sole Survivor: The Clinical Player (Hatch, Brian and Vee), the Head of Household (Tina, Ethan, Tom) and the Under the Radar Player (Jenna, Sandra, Chris).
For the following seasons, we saw that these archetypes held: Earl, Parvati, Tyson, John and Natalie Anderson were clinical players (even if Cirie ran Parvati’s clinic!) Aras, Yul, Todd, JT, Boston Rob, Kim and Jeremy were Head of Households while Danni, Bob, Natalie White and Sandra were UTR players.
We first encountered a problem with Fabio’s win, forcing us to envision a new archetype yet undefined. With Burnett ceding the wheel to Probst we saw a proliferation of idols, swaps and seasons with returning players who began to play to the camera rather than for the win. This led to a definition of this latest archetype: The “Accidental Winner”.
It fit perfectly with Sophie’s win in South Pacific: While the season first looked like it would be “Sophie’s Choice” that theme completely disappeared when Coach overruled her and voted out Mikayla. We constantly saw images that underlined her poor social game: She was shown manicuring her toe nails or looking to be more interested in sun tanning when people like Edna, John and Dawn came to plead for a stay of execution. She won the game when Oscar called her out for being a spoiled brat. Her tears in front of the jury won votes over the self-righteous Coach and the despicable Albert.
While Denise could be called an “Under the Radar” type winner, I think the “Accidental Winner” fits more. After all, as early as episode 4, Russell Swan told everyone that if anyone was dumb enough to let Denise get to the end, she’d win so she wasn’t under the radar. No, Denise won by accident when that idiot Mike and his equally idiotic ally Lisa eliminated Abi Maria over her.
Likewise, Tony and Mike were “Accidental Winners”. Following Fabio's recipe, Mike won only because he ran the tables in the immunity challenges which can only be done if the player is lucky enough to have a series of challenges that suit his skill set.
For Tony, we certainly can’t call him a clinical player because his strategy was all over the place and entirely based on his emotions. He won mostly because Trish got Kass to flip and then stayed incredibly loyal to the Jersey cop, Probst put the overpowered idol back in play, Kass unbelievably beat Spencer in the Final 4 immunity and Woo is an idiot. That is the very definition of the “Accidental Winner”.
Michele and Adam were also “Accidental Winners”. Aubry and Hannah were the clinical players in those two seasons but the jury chose not to acknowledge their accomplishments. It was particularly vexing in Hannah’s case because Chris championed Adam’s win by crediting him for turning Ken against David when we all saw that it was Hannah who did all the work to get Ken to vote with her.
So, what can we expect in this season of so-called “Game Changers”? Could it be anything but another “Accidental Winner”? With that in mind, I give you my impressions of these Desperate Attention Whores who haven’t had enough yet of being puppets for Probst.
Let’s start with Mana:
Michaela: I enjoyed watching Michaela last season but I would have preferred waiting a few years before seeing her again. The funny thing is that could have helped her, giving her time to socialize outside the game which is a vital part of seasons with returning players. See, Michaela can’t win for one simple reason: She hasn’t had that time to get to know the Survivor alumni so they will use her strength in challenges but won’t let her in the inner core of their alliance. She will probably make the merger because no one will feel threatened by her but then she will have no one huddling around her to hear how she wants the rocks to fall.
Hali: I want to thank production for giving us some eye-candy. Hali is nice decoration but as far as game changers is concerned, I don’t see it. The funniest thing is that this cast may have doubt concerning Hali’s loyalty because of her vote against Vince! I don’t think she’s part of the Survivor “brotherhood” so I don’t know if she’ll fit in. Hali has no chance of winning this game.
Ciera: While Jeff clearly has a hard-on for her, I don’t think Ciera played well at all. It’s one thing to change the game to please the fans, it is quite another to come up with a winning strategy. If she’s a first boot, I’d be happy. No one will trust her so her chances of winning are NIL.
Aubry: Despite a roller-coaster ride, things worked just about as well as could be for Aubry during Saoh Wrong but she still didn’t win. How can she do it now? She’s one that could be described as a schemer but she has a good social game and can contribute in challenges so she does have a small chance, say 5%.
Sandra: While I’m glad that Sandra is back because, let’s face it, she’s one of the few that can make us laugh, I wonder if she was invited only because Probst wants to finally snuff her torch. I have a feeling that this will please him tremendously. 5 Players list her as their intended first target, the most after Tony’s 6, so we have a repeat of the original All-Stars focus on previous winners. Sandra simply has no chance at a threepeat.
Troyzan: The guy has a problem: He thinks Survivor is HIS own personal adventure and his alone. Most kids grow out of the phase where they think the world revolves around their bellybutton but, apparently, Troyzan hasn’t reached that stage yet. I enjoyed One World a lot and a big reason why was seeing Kim completely outwit this pretentious dumbass. Troyzan’s chances of winning: Nil.
Caleb: What move did Caleb do to earn the title “game Changer”? Jeff’s attempt at justifying his selection can only be called pathetic. According to him, Caleb was willing to die to win but actually Caleb risked his life for, wait for it... salt and pepper shakers. What a player! On the other hand, he is a hard worker, a strong competitor and loyal in a way that is completely detrimental to his own game. That means he will be used early on especially when we consider that Mana looks overmatched physically but at some point no one will need him anymore. Caleb’s chances of winning: Nil.
Jeff Varner: Varner had a shot during Second Chance but a foot injury and an unlucky swap did him in. Unfortunately for him, everyone saw that he is much smarter than your average Survivor player. Who else votes someone from his own alliance just to shake up everyone else and get them to play? That sort of deviousness will certainly get him in trouble. I don’t think Varner has a chance this time.
Tony: Judging by his exit interviews after Cagayan, Tony thinks he’s a great player. He isn’t. He thinks his skills earned him the title of Sole Survivor. They didn’t. Luck and an overpowered idol did it all. From a pre-game poll, we have 6 people (Andrea, Hali, JT, Sierra, Tai and Varner) all wanting to vote him out first so unless he finds another idol very quickly, Tony is dead meat. Tony was part of the Reunion 7 so I’ll be generous and give him a 5% chance of winning but that’s mostly because I’ve just realized that I have 5% left after going over everyone else and who am I going to get that? Debbie?!?!
Malcolm: While Malcolm hasn’t shown that he is a trustworthy player, Mana is going to need his challenge skills. His good nature should also get him inside an alliance but at some point it likely will collapse around him. Still, he is resilient so I think he’ll make it far. I put his chances of winning at 10%.
So now, let’s move over to Nuku:
Debbie: Like all the other players, we saw that Debbie is “coocoo for cocoa puffs” and judging by the reason she gives for targeting Andrea first (“This isn’t a Playboy shoot”) things haven’t improved since last time. All the guys will want to get rid of her because she tried to rally a women’s alliance while the women wouldn’t want to cut their options by sticking their neck out for her. Bye Debbie.
Sierra: One could ask why she is on this cast because what move did she ever make. I appreciate the eye candy factor and the Nuku tribe may consider that she's the only woman they have to rival Michaela physically. Add the fact that she will be seen as a loyal player so she could last a while but the other won't see her as a deserving returnee. The concept of being a deserving player has played a role in every season of returning players except the very first one. Her chances of winning are nil.
Sarah: It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened if Kass hadn’t given the game to the other side. Maybe she should have been aware of her tribe mate’s concerns but she was dealing with Kass who acted like a needy 5 year old so I don’t hold it against her. Sarah gave us the impression of being a clinical player when she decided it was time to get rid of Cliff and when she aligned with the Luzon trio against the three “Beauties”. For the most part, Sarah played a loyal game so that should serve her well here. She is quite capable in challenges and she is level headed in camp so I expect her to go far. I give her a 5% chance of winning.
Cirie: Cirie has stated it often: If she trusts you, you can trust her. In Panama, she trusted three people: Bruce, Aras and Danielle. She never betrayed any of them. In Micronesia, she trusted Parvati and Amanda and she was loyal to them. The same can be said in HvV where she was loyal to her alliance. Cirie is also somewhat of a regular in Survivor get-togethers which means she has a web of connections by now so I have no doubt she will be well prepared for this game. I really like Cirie and I think she’s a great character, but that doesn’t prevent me from seeing Cirie’s main flaw in Survivor: She can’t win those final challenges so she isn’t really a threat to win it all if you don’t give it to her. A good strategy for anyone aligned with Cirie would be to use her connections and then get everyone to vote her out at F5 or F4. Since she was part of the “Reunion 7” I give Cirie 5% chances of being Sole Survivor.
Andrea: I’ve seen hubris, paranoia and schemer used to describe Andrea but I really don’t see her that way. If anything, Andrea was not paranoid enough! She let Rob run things at will in her first season and then, in Caramoan, she trusted her alliance so much that she sat on her Immunity Idol. The best way to describe Andrea is to say she’s a naïve player. For the longest time, she thought she could go to the end with Boston Rob and then she thought Cochran would choose her over Dawn. If she lets the game come to her it will run over her once again. She has shown more loyalty than most of the other players here and I think she’s been active on the Survivor circuit so I think she could do well. I’ll give her 10% chance of winning.
Brad: Brad was brought back for one reason: Create conflicts. They’ll endure him while it’s time to build the shelter and win a couple of challenges and then he’ll become disposable. His chances of winning are Nil.
JT: Will we see the smart Tocantins version or the dumb HvV one? Since Stephen won't be there, I think we can expect the latter. JT's challenge abilities should keep him from being voted out early but he's proven to be untrustworthy so he'll probably fall at the swap. Chances of winning: Nil.
Tai: While his Survivor skills will be appreciated during the tribal portion, the players will see him as someone who can make the game go Boom! and he showed a propensity of finding idols so he won't be trusted. He was one of the "Reunion 7" so that makes me think he'll see the merger but he shouldn't last much longer. Chances of winning: Nil.
Zeke: The biggest question I have regarding Zeke is why Jeff didn’t mention his presence this season during the last reunion. He did say Michaela would be there so why not Zeke? I’d say there are two possibilities: Either Zeke does very poorly or he does very well. His final words last season included a line about playing better next time. Of course, he had no way of knowing how he would do at that time but when it came time to edit his last words, production knew how he had done because, for them, S34 had already been filmed. I think they included that line because Zeke does, in fact do well. Like Michaela, Zeke hasn’t had time to mingle with the other Survivors outside of the game but he is a much more gregarious person so that shouldn’t hurt him as much. Zeke’s chances of winning: 25%
Ozzy: When he is competing in challenges, Ozzy is someone to watch but when he is trying to play the game, Oscar is a moron. As sick as I am of seeing him, I have to realize that this is his 4th go-around and production owes him still. Maybe even more than Cirie who was robbed by the Micronesian F2, Oscar was deprived of any chance of getting rid of Yul when that abominable Final 3 twist was revealed. Like Boston Rob during RI, South Pacific was designed to reward Oscar but Sophie intervened. (Hey! sometimes you think you’ve fixed your car but it still refuses to go) This could be his time. Besides, Ozzy was part of the Reunion 7, and not only was he introduced last, he completely dominated that stage. I have a bad feeling so I give Oscar 35% chances of winning this game.