(I didn’t have plans to post the To Tang buff. I just don’t want the article’s first photo being Sarg flipping you off for no reason. Hey, it was this or Debbie’s swimsuit again. Count your blessings. Fitting that a tribe called To Tang would have a buff so Orange you’d think someone put Tang mix into it.)
Hey guys, it’s good to be back! Today we’re gonna pick at the To Tang tribe, aka the Brawn tribe. The Brawn tribe is gonna have a lot to live up to because the Brawn tribe in Cagayan made up the F2 and had half of the F5 representatives after a rocky start burned three of its members in three separate rounds, at eventual winner Tony’s own manic hands. It’s easy to dismiss some of these more bizarre characters as no-hopes based off their manic bios, but at the same time many of us made that mistake with Tony himself, and he’s now the new strategic legend (and thank God it’s finally someone who won on the first time). Who knows what some of these confrontational fireworks are sheathing under their tank top sleeves.
In any case, it’s time to find out.
Kyle “Sarg” Jason
Tribal Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Detroit, Michigan
Occupation: Bounty Hunter
I cannot tell you how much I just want to write this guy off. My trigger finger is itching to just flick this termite off of the nose of decent proper Survivor. And no, this isn’t because of the tattoos or the ridiculous cross-season Troyzanning of a nickname (you forgot the E, but congrats on making a drill sergeant who came to FTC with his nuts in the American flag look less insanely MURICA than you) or even because of his profession or self-stylizing of trying to be more badass than he appears, which is the first sense I get.
No, to me, he mentally was drawing dead as soon as he dropped:
“SURVIVOR Contestant You Are Most Like: Russell Hantz because he is the only person that has ever truly played the game the way you should. The only difference is that I wouldn’t wait so long making things disappear.”
No, pumpkin, no.
I don’t jive with the Russell fandom that much, but I get why it exists. The guy went all-out, was brazen about it, and there’s plenty you can appreciate about him as a villain or pick out of his game like Gillian with elephant dung. But, first off, no one person played this game alone the way it was meant to be played. That’s oxymoronic. Even from Season 1 the people on Pagong who didn’t sharpen their knives first were still able to carve out social game rules that still silently stand til this day- the reason Gervase lasted in Season 1 are the reasons he lasted in Season 27, if you get me. But it’s also a hell of a statement to make of Russell, a player of roughly the same quality. Specifically pointing out that you will do what he did to Foa Foa on, what, Day 2, sooner, in 100 degree Cambodia (some ‘strategic move’ that arguably could have contributed to Foa Foa’s failure as a tribe if not altogether kickstart the near Ulonging) is an example of missing the point and almost inhumane awfulness.
If I were to dismiss people solely on their desire to emulate Russell, there’d probably be zero people in the last 30 seasons to root for. This includes Tony himself, who has long been a proponent of Russell’s strategic game (if not his entitlement to the jury votes he didn’t win) and came off as equally crazy in his pre-game material, if not more. If there are flaws to the idolization of Russell (pun unapologetically intended), even if I think he’s the type of fake idol Probst throws in a fire, I still gotta get my skirt out of a wad and look at Sarg more objectively.
I wish my Russell-senses hadn’t been tingling, because otherwise Sarg kind of has my interest. In his video he is remarkably calm and soft-spoken. The things he mentions doing this for include his daughter with autism. Hell, he even immediately counteracts the aforementioned Russell jock-swinging by saying Rudy should’ve won and not taken his hand off the pole in S1. Rudy, while having many many flaws, is the kind of wholesome winner that someone who prefers the cocky strategist over all (Richard) would not necessarily root for. Honestly, the fact that in S32 we have someone going in saying Richard shouldn’t have won is kind of adorable.
I’ve never been one for blind patriotism, but I think most of the time soldiers deserve our respect, and Sarg has mine for serving. War is a really, truly complicated miserable experience and I think the veterans who return deserve a LOT better than they get. (Article two and I’m already knee-deep political, go Cameron). I think these experiences have had an effect on Sarg, not just out of discipline for his military or pride for his nation or even as a person. Let’s just say I get a lot less self-centered swagger from him than I do a certain other someone…
Still, even if I can give him the benefit of the doubt, hell even if I decide to root for him, I worry for him. And yes, it ties to the Russell comments again. Modeling yourself after Russell without proper context is bad- even Tony had the context of using Hantz’s strategic manic work ethic with the social standing and ability to relate to others that Russell lacked. Sarg speaks like he doesn’t think Survivor should exist outside of Russell and maybe Rudy, but he doesn’t seem to realize Rudy on Day 1 realized that even as longstanding military, a rigid background though it may be, his best bet is to swallow his pride and adapt to THEM instead of making the Tagi Boot Camp. If Sarg can play up his calmer and more meaningful side, it’ll work far better for him than if he pours out water bottles the second his feet touch beach.
Yeah, my feelings are complicated on Sarg. I don’t really have high hopes for him, but when I joined this site, I got a sense that I’d need to stick up for those who would usually be ignored by the audience. I usually got the feeling that means the Katie Collins and Kimmi Kappenbergs of the world, but I also realized I was part of the line of people who saw the Russell line and jumped out of a window. So even though I doubt we’ll be lacking Sarg airtime when the show starts, I think I owe him a fair shake here.
This fair shake business is going to be very very hard to do when we get to a certain… someone.
Cydney “Cyd” Gillon
Tribe Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Douglasville, Ga.
Occupation: Body Builder
I have to say, I’m really impressed with the fact that Cydney was cast. CBS has a tendency as the “old network” to cast amongst archaic standards, and there’s still plenty of holes in the diversity net that they’ve yet to fill with any substance that I’d have a heart attack and die seeing. While “female bodybuilder” was not on my list, it was mostly because I didn’t even think of that. Seeing it now, I love it. It’s a really big challenge to the beauty norms of a show that has most of its contestants in swimsuits, whether you like it or not. Cydney is a bodybuilder and that involves working hard to build a muscular body that’s more Schwarzenegger than Gisele Bundchen, and being perfectly fine and proud with that even when society lands on its collective fainting couch. One contestant from the past, a lingerie football player no less, became an impressive bodybuilder some time afterward, but we’ve never had a woman with Cydney’s build on Survivor before. For that alone, I like that she was cast. To be clear, she doesn’t look this built in her Survivor pre-game footage, but even there, let’s be honest, she could probably throw Cochrans at dodgeballs.
Reading Cydney’s bio, she is a shot to the heart of straight-arrow dedication. Everything in her bio is strength-related. She hates weak people and bigots (weak-minded people), she is all about the strength of others like her mother who fought breast cancer twice (and yes, I did choke up a bit when she talked about her mother struggling to find the energy to walk from chemo, if you’re asking). She’s had to do a lot of work just to live the life she wanted.
She’s disciplined and responsible, as seen by her wanting to use the money to pay off college debt like anyone who’s ever been a college student can only dream of. (Tom’s pitch to Ian to take second just to pay off some college loans would probably alone snap my broke ass off of the buoy in three picoseconds). Cydney is dead serious and when she says she can get things done, I just leap out of the way because even if she doesn’t, she’s gonna leave a pillar of smoke behind her in her rubber-burning pursuit of the win.
She also mentions a sense of humor in passing, which becomes more clear in the video. She mentions having other personalities she turns to, which comes off surprisingly not like Phillip calling upon his 1/16th Cherokee Heritage and more like personality traits and values personified through individualized parts of her. Rebecca is the more refined, collected qualities she has when she does interviews and interacts with people important to the progression ahead, whereas Storm (™ Marvel I guess) is the chaotic pot-stirrer who according to Cydney is there to (expletive deleted x2) up. Cydney seems to lie somewhere in the middle. Too cool to be Rebecca, too principled to be Storm. I think Cydney has a thing about her image, though not to the desperate I SWEAR TO GOD I’M NOT OBAMA extents Peter showed. I think sometimes more than a character, she sees herself as an action figure, and the personality traits of the other two are personality traits she has, but just doesn’t want as part of the images of muscular, powerful, unstoppable Cydney.
If there’s one thing that turns me off, it IS her comments about women. I respect who Cydney is out of a feminist respect for women having autonomy over their own fates- being a mother, being a career woman, being a model, being a body builder, and anything in between regardless of your body, history, or your heart’s desire. And that includes asking it for myself cause good God could I use it. But one thing I really can’t get behind is women turning on women for the same reasons. I just don’t really know what to think of a woman who I could realistically see watching Fiji agreeing with Rocky. It’s not a good look, but there’s still five trillion layers behind that it’d take three hundred pages of you not caring to untangle, so I can’t really hate her for it. It’s just a red flag.
So what kind of character is Cydney in this game? Definitely one of controversy. I’m concerned it’ll mostly be with women not on her tribe. I definitely don’t think she’ll show Alicia R. or NaOnka qualities, but the Brawn tribe is still a small circle making up 33% of the season’s cultural dynamics. There’s also the fear of male jealousy from some of the more jock-swaggy types who can’t deal with a woman who can feasibly and doubtlessly hang with the men. These would be conflicts they’d have to initiate, because Cydney does admit to getting along with men, especially ath-a-letic men, over women. Still, I think her dedication will define her, whether it makes her a tribe star or it drives her right into- and likely through- a horde of enemies.
Name: Scot Pollard
Tribe Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Carmel, Ind.
Occupation: Former NBA champion. Played for the Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
“Hey. Hey kids. Do drugs.”
This stunningly hilarious backfire of an obvious attempt to troll a cameraman Pollard assumed was not filming between breaks, something I can only believe Pollard realized was not the case by the end of this gif. I think this was a controversy? I don’t know why, it was stupid but not offensive to anyone who has a sense of humor and knows the basic constructs of a joke- which, let’s be clear, this is Attempt at Humor 101, not an avant garde piece about culture and humor.
I’ll admit, even when cast photos were being released, I had more of an idea of what Darnell, the only person with no picture reference, looked like, than Scot Pollard. The guy’s a chameleon, and under a pretty deadpan voice lies, from first impressions, a really loopy guy. I struggled to find a good picture to use, but I tried to go with the obvious one, for the defining moment and because it looks relatively close to current Scot and not…
The point is, I find Scot to be in theory a pretty bizarre human being, which usually isn’t a combination you get from the pro athlete. You get some with quirks, like Hogeboom or Steve Wright (who admittedly didn’t have as big a fame shield to protect his edit, and yes I did just call Steve Wright quirky and personality-having), some really positive forces (Cuoch Jimmee Jawnsin and Uncle Spliffy) or some flat-out strategists (Jeff Kent.)
The only real outlier so far seems to be the last pro athlete cast, John Rocker, who was blatant stunt casting of an outspoken bigot whose only reparation efforts were along the lines of “BUT BLACK FRIENDS”. Even then, the show treated him with more credit he deserved, blacking out lines body shaming and threatening violence against opposition leader Natalie Anderson, a Sri Lankan woman who’s the closest thing we had to Cydney Gillon before Cydney Gillon.
Can Scot break this trend and become a bold, flat-out-weird personality despite having editors potentially giving him slack because he’s a well known player? Based on off-show exploits, I think that’s why they cast him- again, quite like how they cost Rocker to get a figure of blabbermouthed controversy and not a mush-mouthed idiot with an ugly streak. They cast Eminem and got 50 Cent, if you get me. Scot seems like a guy with little care for how others see him and a looser sense of humor, if not the smartest.
Going by bio and video Scot, I cannot tell you how much NOTHING I have to say. It is boring. It is nothing. This isn’t casting Eminem and getting 50. This is casting Fetty Wap and getting Flo Rida. Fetty Wap wouldn’t be the bastion of intelligence but his sheer oddity would get a laugh every now and again. Flo Rida is the kind of person who says nothing worth remembering and even after reading his bio and giving his video several fair shots, he kills the hype. I’m hoping the bio is him phoning it in for better things once enough island time unhinges him but it’s hard to be enthusiastic.
His three words were Driven, Fun, and Loud. I only see Phoned-In, Boring, and Quiet.
Name: Alecia Holden
Tribe Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Dallas
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
A more beige photo does not exist.
Going through the cast in my head, Alecia was the one I think I forgot the most, which speaks more to the women’s strength as a whole moreso than her own weaknesses. I mean, I can’t hold much against anyone who completes their bucket list by the age of 24 and THEN decides to try out for Survivor. The SurvivorSucks thread discussing her declares her “Elusive IRL Zero Suit Samus” (a much better dressed one at that). I can’t really go wrong with the idea of a bold, outgoing, and attractive adventure movie star. A sort of female Tom Westman, which even at 24 the world can use.
Alecia Holden is probably in the 2% of women on the face of this immediate planet who can say things like “Fearless, ambitious”, “I’m tough, don’t let the blonde hair fool you”, and “I’m most like Kass-” (actually okay let’s not get too crazy) and have me believe and support her. There’s something about her polish that sells it, which is what warrants the weird Tom Westman comparison. Tom should have been just the most Captain America stereotype. But his polish as a narrator and surface charm as a human being is what arguably makes him as a hero work. He says things like “I can’t stand down, and won’t stand down” and not have it sound like bragging, but like the deepest thing you’ve heard in your everliving life. Alecia Holden isn’t that level of quality yet, but it doesn’t make me feel like I’m watching a wannabe Charlie’s Angel.
She’s also apparently a passionate Christian. She puts her grandparents as heroes because they’re Baptist pastors, specifically putting them above doctors, nurses, and firefighte- okay maybe this Tom Westman fantasy of mine is starting to drain out. Saving lives eternally is a nice idea, but at the same time you don’t wanna call out other heroes as if their work is less important. You want to have alive people to convert, right?
Also, nurses are the shit, and I will not tolerate anyone denigrating them.
Alecia was starting to lose me pretty fast even as I write this paper. Luckily, her video captured more of what I was looking for- the motor mouthed, All-American adrenaline junkie with the denim vest and the semi-Southern voice. Some misgivings about her treatment priorities in an emergency aside, she really does have this fearless city-can’t-hold-us type of vibe.
As a character, however, I think this will quickly become fanfiction. Alecia seems the prime candidate for “immediate purplization until otherwise needed or early boot” a la Sierra and SJDS Kelley Wentworth, her two most immediate comparisons. To get to become a big character, and hopefully the character I have in mind, Alecia’s gotta matter, but if she gets in the thick of it she’s gonna matter a hell of a lot.
Name: Darnell Hamilton
Tribe Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Chicago
Occupation: Postal Worker
No more cool offshoot photos? Well, see here’s the thing with Darnell- son of a bitch can hide. He was the last one found out, and details about him came really slowly- first his name and age, then that he was a postal worker (to the immediate NOOOO of the Survivor fanbase). A twitter photo of his was thrown around a bit on Inside Survivor, showing he was black, but even then I just looked up Darnell Hamilton to get a good picture if possible and you get a trillion different looking people with the occasional photo of our Darnell him. Redmond dubbed his occupation as “Mystery Man”, and truly, none were better at not having the personal details of their life scoured to prematurely discover they were on a reality TV show than Darnell.
But I’m also a believer in “save the best for last” and that’s clear with Darnell. Despite being newest, or perhaps because to the people spoiled on the cast he’s a novel concept, he’s made a big splash, and no-change here. I am cheer captain of the hype brigade. Darnell for 2016!
There’s a lot to say about Darnell, but I recall one of my friends I chatted to about the cast said that Darnell reminds him of someone who would be a friend of yours. I’m not sure what else I can add. That’s the appeal to Darnell. He’s got natural charisma and a gift for telling a story, yet at the same time it’s all in a very down-to-earth, close-to-home package.
Darnell has a story. His story is that after his teen years he realized he spent too much time goofing off as a teen and not enough dedicating himself to learning. With this knowledge, he caught up on his studies, worked hard to get back on the track, and is now a college graduate with a 3.47GPA, which for the record is pretty damn cool- it’s about what I average (…it’s cool, right? Please?). It’s a story in progress. It’s not something huge like losing your husband and paying a mortgage on a farm, it’s a realization that’s more common but requires some introspection.
It’s also how he plays it up in his bio that makes him so endearing. He has a lot of light moments and panache, but it’s clear to see this is an achievement in life important to him. From scraping by in High School due to his own ignorance, to getting a solid GPA and graduating college, he feels changed by this and pride in it. He doesn’t expect you to see this as him finding the cure for cancer, and he also doesn’t seem to be indulging in the guilt of the past. He seems aware that it’s a pretty traditional accomplishment, and it might not make papers like that one time some NBA player lipped off at a camera, but damn it, it’s Darnell’s accomplishment, and I’m happy for him.
Beyond this, the guy was a way with words that both illuminate his backstory and parts of him. He claims not to have heroes (Jesus aside), just examples of what not to do, which could tie into his backstory of not trying in school. He’s also not necessarily a saint- Sunglasses to hide from all the ugly people doesn’t do anything but cover your eyes, for the record.
But he name-checks Sean Rector as someone who he wants to be like, and being Black himself this has me excited much the same way Sarg’s Russell crap had me running away. Sean Rector was someone who had so much experience with not only being black but whose life experiences built him as a man. If Sean was a rich kid who grew up sheltered, would he still be as outspoken about black rights? Possibly, he’s got the passion in him, but it’s his experiences in the inner city teaching the youth the world forgot and the experiences with racism that come with it, that’s what makes Sean Rector. Experiences make us.
To say that Darnell could emulate Sean because they’re black and witty is one thing, but that could also describe Jeremy, Earl, and even Tyrone Davis. No, what’s gonna make the comparison is that I can already see that Darnell’s had the down-to-the-ground experiences and the flaws in his life that also built Sean’s character. If Sean was the teacher, fourteen years later, Darnell would be a student he inspired.
I think he’ll absolutely deliver as a character. I hope we get into his backstory and we see behind the smooth machinations to see what makes Darnell Hamilton. But even if we don’t, Darnell will still deliver with humor and engaging narration, and I definitely don’t see him performing poorly in the game. Hell, with Scot Pollard, Cydney Gillon, and Sarg on one tribe, there’s no way you can lead me to believe the trouble child here is gonna be Darnell Hamilton.
Name: Jennifer Lanzetti
Tribe Designation: Brawn
Current Residence: Salt Lake City, Utah
“I have figured out how to win Survivor. You just need the right hat!”
I’ll outright say that I was hooked on Jennifer Lanzetti the moment I ran into her audition video. She’s a motormouth but not unnatural. She had a funny concept and ran with it with the hats. She showed some strategic acumen but more importantly to cast directors, she showed that attentiveness to being entertaining is what is most important. And thankfully, she does it well, with natural panache in the video.
I think I was most pumped for her pre-game stuff. Auditions are fun, but you really have to put your best foot forward with them. After you’re cast, you can mellow out a bit on whatever schtick you’re going for *ahemNickahem*. I think what we get here is closer to how Jennifer envisions herself, if not how Jennifer will become after twelve days with no food.
So who is Jennifer Lanzetti?
For one, already a pretty experienced Survivor. I get why she’s on the Brawn Tribe. She could be a waitress at Hooters or an IT technician for Starbucks and still make it onto Brawn. She’s a cancer survivor, she’s battled another painful internal disease that messes up your insides crazy hard with endometriosis, and she’s even battled drug addiction. Thank God that doctors and nurses were there for this lady, because that’s a pretty amazing resume to live with.
The list of things Jennifer Lanzetti is only grows from there. She’s a motorcyclist. She’s an adventure racer (you know Tough Mudder? That.) She thinks three and six are the same numbers. She admits to wanting a Snuggie and does not come off as less of a badass like 99% of the world does. She’s been through hell and back, and dammit, I believe her.
Her video is also a sigh of relief after Cydney’s. I mean, I still get a few eh moments (“I don’t let my gender become an issue”, it never could be Jennifer, you’re a freaking cancer survivor) but she shows pride in being a woman and in her fellow women in construction. She also doesn’t mind admitting to being a “princess” (especially in regards to weather) which I think all of us are at least a little inside. But gender politics are just my little interest. The fact is that Jennifer still shines through her video.
“The Marines have a motto, “semper fi.” Mine is “semper gumby”: always flexible. *dorky laugh*”
Case in point. Still, the fact is that the badassery Jennifer portrays in her bio mixes wonderfully with the bouncing, speedy, sense of humor of her audition tape. There’s a quote towards the end of her video. “Why not take the risk? You’re gonna be fine! You’re always fine. But there’s that possibility that you might be more than fine. You might be extraordinary and amazing and… really happy.”
Amen, Lanzetti. Amen.
I’m not sure how Lanzetti will do this season. Her credibility as a badass is great, and as a character is great, but that’s for me the audience. For her the player, she’s gotta make sure her cap is screwed on tight socially and strategically. I think she can get people to like her enough for her to avoid an early boot, which unless To Tang utterly implodes she probably won’t be. I’m not sure entirely how self-aware she is; her ability to throw herself into humor without regard for potential embarrassment is nice, but every jokester still has to read their audience.
To Tang as a Tribe
Cagayan’s Brawn Tribe, Aparri, is almost impossible to talk about with Tony. I said my piece about him up there, but despite the preconception that the Brawn tribe would be a bunch of Meatheads who can’t add 2+2 without coming up with “fish”, Tony alone blew that out of the water by thinking about how the win the game more than anyone else on that cast thought about breathing (especially Tony himself, who always worked himself into a manic panic).
That’s not even mentioning Trish, his #2 who had the social game down pat until a day 36 breakdown when she realized that she was living with Kassandra McQuillen. Sarah Lacina had a decent hold over Aparri until she herself blew her lid at the merge, also realizing she was in an alliance with Kassandra McQuillen, which Kass promptly corrected. That’s a recurring theme with the Aparri tribe- Tony being a sporadic human meltdown with sane moments interspersed, and Sarah/Trish imploding their own games, shows that the Brawn Tribe can be pretty damn strategic (with even future returnee Woo, formerly a mellow but unengaging second in command, showing major backbone in Cambodia) but they also are prone to meltdowns beyond compare.
With To Tang, are we getting another Orange repeat? Well, if we are, it’s gonna be the version of Aparri hit over the head before they went out. I’m not expecting great strategic things from most of the players here. Lanzetti and Darnell, sure. Alecia, maaaaaaaaybe. Sarg, Cyd, and Scot, however, not so much. Scot’s lifeless, Sarg’s overzealous, and Cyd’s selective. These are not the three traits you want to have a Survivor contestant. Not thinking enough, thinking too much, and only thinking what you wanna think are three tiny slivers of the big picture of Survivor. Even if they win a lot, I don’t think I’m breaking anyone’s heart by saying To Tang will probably not produce a winner, even if it gives us some great characters.
Still, there’s one big difference- Aparri played in the Philippines. Conditions were hard enough there, since they were stuck there during monsoon season. This time, they’re in Cambodia, during the summer. It’s sort of unavoidable now- the entire marketing has been around it. This has been marketed as the hardest Survivor season ever, and the reunion trailer teased potential medevacs aplenty. That’s what Probst wants you to know. That’s Kaoh Rong’s marketing pitch: “Eighteen people gon’ die tonight!”
And honestly, if you’re looking at who dies first, like in many horror movies, it’s down to… the jocks. What’d you think I was gonna say? Okay, yeah, I think if anyone goes first, it’s gonna be Cydney. She’s got amazing muscles but little else, she might be down to that by the first Tribal Council. She’s got a great body for everywhere besides here- Neal was headed in the right direction with the extra flab, but such is the difference between an ice cream company owner and a bodybuilder.
Even past Cydney, if you told me that the other two evacuees were from To Tang, I wouldn’t be surprised. Muscles are not the best thing to have when you’re starving yourselves. They’re good short-term, but not much use long-term. We might get to the point where there’s not enough Brawn to get to the end just because Mother Nature knows Elizabeth is going to win anyways.
First Tribal Boot: Scot
Big Character: Lanzetti
Gamebot “““““Mastermind”””””: Sarg
Mysterious UTR Sidekick: Alecia
Random Internet Favorite: Darnell