Hindsight Bias #4: Take Me Back To The Start

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This will be handy for if I get any more predictions wrong. If not, I’ll just use it for Cambodia.

I’m going to open this article with the warning that I don’t think I can write a Hindsight Bias for this episode. For one, I feel like most of the things I said in my Autopsy, I stand by, even factoring in rewatches. For another, the two big subjects in my Autopsy- the heat stroke epidemic and Alecia’s elimination- were basically the entire content of the episode. There were no real moments related to that aside from the backlash of the Liz elimination where Peter decides that since they eliminated their sickest, weakest member, Chan Loh is now the weakest tribe left.

Seriously, this episode is very hard to write about, much less write about twice. Nine people got zero confessionals. Three of the people that did were on To Tang, so it was all about Alecia. Tai got one related to Caleb’s medevac. Debbie got two related to the medevac, and only one of her confessionals plus Peter’s are separate from the two big elephants in the room.

For a third, I experienced an actual medevac myself. Luckily, it wasn’t heat stroke, just a fever and a cold that, combined with chemo lowering my white blood cells and immune system to jack shite, meant I was in the ER getting pumped with fluids for two days. I slept a lot, and when I wasn’t sleeping I was eating or watching videos. Of these videos, I watched a few random Survivor episodes, one of which was Heroes vs Villains’ double boot, which I actually recommend because you can find some goddamn hilarious moments hidden in there. I’m serious. The moment where Russell suggests Danielle to Colby and Colby literally laughs in his face and blurts “uhhh, really?” Is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

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Where was I? Oh yeah. I did seriously consider doing a Hindsight Bias on that HvV episode, but I’d hate to incite a riot on RTV for all the non-fun reasons. Instead, I’m gonna catch everything up into the now. I’m not gonna Hindsight Bias last episode. If you wanna know what I think of last episode now, basically read the Autopsy, or better yet, rewatch the episode. Because of the nature of the episode it’s basically all on YouTube save for the Mansplaining hour with Scot and Kyle, which is the only part not worth rewatching unless you need to collect an insurance premium on your TV.

Instead, I’m gonna give a Hindsight Bias on our thirteen remaining contestants. I’ll summarize the best and worst of their journey and how the road ahead looks for them now that they’re hitting a swap. Think of it as a giant Pity the Living segment. I don’t usually do “swap predictions” or any predictions after the pre-game, because I suck at them and because the result is just a factor of the story, not the entire mission in my eyes. After all, to understand the future, we have to go back in time.

For now, it’s time to see how the 13 characters stack up this season. Usually I go in order of tribe and intro shit, but I figure it’d be more fun to rank from best to worst, or in this case worst to best so I can get progressively happier in my soul as we go on. And to start us off, time to surprise no one.

  1. Jason Kyle Kyle Jason

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“Well nothing says strong woman than letting a giant and a guy who thought getting anus tattooed on his body was a good idea call you worthless on a regular basis.” -John Debono

Hah. I have the best friends.

From the moment I saw his bio I knew he could be a contentious character, but there was also enough hidden in there (his daughter, his military service, his counter-intuitive love for Rudy) that I could also find him a respectable character. They really do try to bring that out to make him bearable. Instead it honestly just makes it suck more when Jason acts like a complete high-and-mighty douche to anyone he considers an inferior.

It’s a little like hearing Will talk about his love of family a few episodes after berating Shirin’s abusive family history. On its own, he has sweet moments, like his comforting of Cydney after the heat stroke freak out. It seems genuine and meaningful. Yet, it’s hard to buy “we take care of our own” after you spend four episodes berating those you see as beneath you, refuse to use their name, talk about feeding filthy toe skin water to, and shove into sharp rocks after you get the idol key. Yeah, you watch closer and Jason only does the shove after he grabs the idol key.

Kyle Jason seems like the lesser type of villain you find in worse reality TV shows. Like, as a lead on one of those TruTV abominations or the know it all misogynist you get on some survival TV show. Their usage of him reflects this- his attitude is so naturally nasty that it feels forced. I want him to go away back to VH1 where he belongs and stop polluting the show with his cheap knockoff villainy and his blatant to the point of boring sexism. At least with Dan and Will, as awful as they were, they started a conversation. They were too real, and you could argue all day that’s worse, and I wouldn’t begrudge you. But at least in their name donations were made to domestic abuse charities and people seemed genuinely moved to learn about Survivor. Kyle is just evil enough to get us disgusted but boring enough to feel like a cheap repeat of what we just experienced, and most of all, too deliberate and charmless to feel like anything but something far beneath Survivor.

Sadly, for now, he’s on Survivor. I expect him to hit controversy come the swap, forcing an idol usage, but I do see him hitting the merge, where he’ll likely continue to be controversial but still have a depressing amount of possibilities. I don’t know if he’s an endgamer, but we probably won’t ditch his anus that easily.

  1. Scot Pollard

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Yeah, no surprise to anyone who argued with me over whether or not sexism existed in Survivor over the last week or if it counted if they didn’t like the woman involved. Maybe there was something to Scot just trying to help Alecia fit in, as he insists, but all we saw was blatant condescension and demeaning because Alecia was just a tiny blonde woman and not an NBA player. The idea of a stranger you barely know fathering you because he’s older and male just reeks of being absolutely demeaning, much moreso when Scot is certain on Twitter that if you were the father of Alecia, you’d be ashamed of your child as well. Which, of course, led to:

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That’s an awesome father.

Tony Holden also would go on to insist to, like, literally every Twit on twitter that his daughter wasn’t bullied because she was strong enough to stand toe to toe with them. And, you know, there’s something to that. To that, I say, the actions that Kyle and Scot took were at the very least misogynistic and at worst bullying, and they might hurt someone who isn’t as stubborn as Alecia in the face of people like that. Others would argue it isn’t misogyny and bullying since Alecia was genuinely a troublemaker, possibly falsely bragging about feeding Scot and Kyle food that was… let’s say, unconventionally pickled. Again, though, I say, someone doesn’t have to be an angel to experience sexism, and the onslaught of every “x deserves (insert sexist act) because (vastly inferior crime)!” argument is getting tiring the fifth go-around.

(Past examples include- “Abi deserved to have Joe say she’d punch her because she called him a clown!” “Missy deserved to be called a bitch because she didn’t obey Dale about the rice!” “Shirin deserved to be terrorized by Will because she played Survivor!”)

So yeah. Alecia can be annoying and downright rude, but again, just because you don’t start with the upper hand doesn’t mean you finish with it. Scot, despite being a full grown adult, shows that his stint in the NBA really did show his immaturity and lack of preparation for an actual challenge. I was hoping he’d surpass the expectations of pro athletes but all he’s done is run his “superior” team in the ground because he was too proud to weed out the weak before.

My anticipation is that this semi-blatant intentional Matsinging ends up in flames. I can see he and Kyle getting targeted given the right tribe, possibly for what Hali Ford would consider a “quality-of-life vote”. If Kyle plays the idol, Scot is dead in the water, especially given he’s got the “Pro Sports Sporter” label on him in an egregious oversell of his skills. And if he follows the path of his fellow NBA player/Survivor, his wealth.

  1. Nick Maiorano

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There’s little to say about editing’s little joke. He’s still a total try-hard and by far the least interesting Gondol, but the storyline of absolutely ignoring the blatant fake except to show people want to vote him off for being fake is still vindication for every crap nobody trying to sell a villain brand that’s hit late Survivor. If only Philite was treated this way.

Nick isn’t relevant to this season of Survivor. He could be a swap boot, and if it comes between him and Tai there’s enough plot armor for Tai to build a fortress. Either way, he has no role in the season other than to alienate others and look like a jackass. If there’s ever a double episode coming up, put 20 on Nick in the fantasy pool.

10-8 (respectively). The Beauty Women- Anna Khait, Julia Sokolowski, Michelle Fitzgerald

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Yikes. The editors just didn’t care. It’s perplexing. They’re an alliance of three that’s been highlighted intensely and shown as really the only true alliance for episodes at a time, yet they are so indistinct they may as all be one person. Even when the women are the only ones shown with power they don’t get good edits I guess is the lesson to take from this.

Of the three of them, Anna has gotten the most independent airtime, and did hatch the plan to get rid of nothing Nick, but she’s also pretty gamebotty and I wish we saw more from the other two women more. Julia seems like an insanely capable nineteen year old with a fun personality who seems like she’s more than a Natalie Tenerelli clone. Michelle Fitzgerald, in her few scenes, has been shown to be a pretty fun narrator, but probably has gotten the least individual airtime of them all. Edgically, she’s one of the top contenders mostly by default since editors apparently deleted the “how to edit a winner” file from their computers, but I’m wondering how much of that is residue from Episode 1 and the good pre-game material. No one this season has a good edit, but the fact that the women’s alliance is basically one entity Anna occasionally speaks for makes me think they’ll have power during the swap but get picked apart come merge, like Nagarote. If something does happen to them expect Anna Wentworth to get the furthest but don’t expect her to win.

I wish I liked them more than I did, but sadly there’s just too little to go by right now.

  1. Cydney Gillon

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Knowing Cydney is the only one who in real life started her Survivor experience off by saying she hated most types of women unless they were similar to men is not the best first impression. While I haven’t necessarily started believing that she has respect for women or is less of a female misogynist than before, I do believe that the fact that she showed respectful disagreement towards Alecia and handled her dislike with almost unanimous class and maturity means there’s no excuse for Scot and Kyle. I respect her level of maturity- Scot and Kyle got on Alecia’s case because she was 24 and wild, and therefore in need of parenting, but leave it to the 23-year-old bodybuilder who hates women to outclass the two parents, one of which is nearly twice her age.

Cydney is the one To Tang left that hasn’t been left six feet under by the edit. She’s been separated from the awful treatment of Scot and Kyle, and has been highlighted as probably the only sharp player between dull and joyless Scot and chaotic evil Kyle, and when I said she’s probably the safest at a swap, I believe it still, but would add an exception- just so long as she’s not with the other To Tangs. I remember it being highlighted that if Scot and Kyle make merge, any of their allies could easily just be picked off with them as an easy vote. If Cyd is too attached to the two To Tang men, she could have a downfall with them. Still, I think most of us forget that despite her bodybuilder image, she’s still an Ivy League student. She’s smarter than anyone out there thinks.

Really, I remember the rumor that “a black woman goes far in this game and does well for herself” in Cagayan made everyone miraculously back J’Tia as the winner in what has to be the worst series of coin flips ever as fellow African-American Tasha actually fought her way to sixth as an underdog. Still, Cydney reminds me of the J’Tia everyone was expecting in ways that transcends the obvious racial element that seems to make everyone go stupid with their betting chips. Despite being young-ish and from a more visual-based background (J’Tia as a model, Cydney as a bodybuilder) they’re also highly intelligent and their immediate bio belies their accomplishments. Difference is, with Cydney you get the maturity, level head, and the strategic sense that everyone expected J’Tia to have until she made Rupert look like a good shelter builder and burnt the rice. I think Cydney’s a pretty great player stuck in a shit situation and if she can distance herself from that, I think she’ll be alright.

  1. Joe Del Campo

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I really do love the Chan Loh tribe. Joe probably delivers the least, showing traits of being a bit of a stalwart but also being especially strong for his age. He’s generally levelheaded and seems nice to people, and he was a good help during the heat stroke scene for Debbie. I predicted him pre-game as being “boring, but generally nice” and that’s about right. He’s calm and he generally seems kind and intelligent, but he doesn’t do much as a character other than support other people.

Will Joe be a swap boot? If it happened, it might be out of fear for his strength, or maybe some BS “he’ll have a story and therefore automatically win” which has worked out so well for people *coughtwiladreamzcough*. If they see him as weak, I don’t think that most of these brainiacs will boot him. To Tang is full of overplayers, Chan Loh is even crazier, and Gondol probably will be too solid to play it cautiously. I think he’ll slip through to that comfortable eighth place I predicted, which, at least something will go right for me.

  1. Neal Gottleib

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I don’t think he’ll be as major a character as his first episode seemed to indicate, but as it stands, he’s a pretty great small character too. He’s always on, and while sometimes it seems a little bit like too much effort, I really do get the sense that Neal loves being out here, loves being on Survivor, and is drinking in every moment. He and his crazy dramatic eyebrow make for fun times on the sidelines and I actually like that way more than the potential boring strathead they would have tried to make him otherwise. He’s got this Gilligan’s Island/Robinson Crusoe thing about him that feels a bit strangely classic and I wish they’d expand on it more and just make him a fun character.

If Neal hits any danger at the swap, it’s because he’s unintentionally good at giving off bad vibes. Peter and Liz were certain he’d screw them at swap. Peter and Liz weren’t portrayed as bastions of intelligence but I do wonder where that came from. Maybe when Neal said at TC that it was possible everyone thought they were the smartest one in the room, he was speaking from experience, and it showed. Neal could be perceived as “the strategist” even if he basically could have “Property of Debbie Wanner” branded on his asscheeks, and get voted out for that. I get the sense that this swap will be rough for Chan Loh, and the reason for that is…

  1. Peter Baggenstos

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I love it when you get a character you don’t have to explain, because you can just show everyone a series of his quotes and call it a day. He’s no Drew Christy, but just as with Alecia we got to see the “first boot miraculously lasts longer” storyline, we got to see the “super negative early downfall douche manages to live past his downfall” storyline. Peter is arrogant, he’s strategically bankrupt, and he seems to have learned and to have been humbled literal zero from his humiliation. Now we’re at a swap. What can happen from here?

For one, if he’s any bit as obnoxious as Chan Loh found him, he’s dead. They only protected him for strength since Liz has had a lovely album going around of her nauseating, miserable injuries sustained from her stay on Survivor (which I refuse to link out of love and respect for all of you). When strength becomes a liability in the midgame, Peter’s the perfect target to remove from existence. Wipe his ass out.

However, Aubry hinted at the other path- Peter flips at the swap. Maybe there was the chance that the Chan Lohs knew that Liz would be medevac’d soon (which could have made this episode just the craziest thing on the face of the planet with a merge on day 12) and just wanted no hangers on whatsoever. I think Peter flipping on Chan Loh is gonna be unavoidable. Perhaps instead of smiting him in place, the outsiders let him flip and use them to get out someone like Neal. Kind of a shame that Peter could get his little-anticipated revenge against Chan Loh while Alecia doesn’t get her revenge on To Tang, but at the very least the dynamics will be fun.

  1. Aubry Bracco

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Her being this high is based entirely on bias and her first episode, as well as the suckitude or complete lack of too much of the cast. I loved her mini-Holly arc in the span of one episode, and it’s always awesome to see someone who looks like Aubry, possibly the most stereotypical female brains appearance you could draw up, dominate challenges. In the few other scenes she’s gotten she does great with them like accurately shutting down Peter’s douchebaggery and making some killer headgear. She’s the one I have the most faith in to deliver in the future.

To do that, however, she has to last past a swap. I’m not entirely certain with this edit that she does that. Maybe Peter exacts revenge on her for some reason come swap if they come to a head. I don’t think she’d be highest priority on a surface level but I can see it coming down to a personality thing. I think I’ve made the case that practically anyone can be booted at the swap for different reasons, which, no shit sherlock. I don’t think Aubry is in the gold tier of being swap-bent like people who act like Jason or Nick, but her edit has me concerned. It’s a pretty Wentworth-esque edit- Dale’s underdog story that was endearing for an episode, and Kelley’s complete disregard for macho douchebags.

  1. Debbie Wanner

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Sometimes Debbie makes me cringe, and sometimes she comes across as trying a little too hard. Ultimately it’s what holds her out of the number one spot. However, I feel like selling her as a Coach wannabe like Phillip is underselling her. For someone who’s so blatantly delusional and obnoxious, she also has plenty of content where she looks intelligent, plays well, and perseveres. Her handling of heat stroke was a neat microcosm of Debbie- on the surface she denies her own faults and weaknesses and when she’s faced with them she plays it off, but she has a lot of heart and intelligence between the pom-pom waving demeanor she sets up for herself. I think her play in the Liz episode showed that she wasn’t your average loon. She had game, and she had discipline, and even if her attitude could hold her back sometimes it isn’t enough to make her weak in any regard.

Debbie’s in it for the long haul. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her take over at merge. There’s been a tradition lately of forty-something mothers losing the jury vote in late seasons, and Debbie is possibly the most obvious filler of such a spot since… uhm, Chaos Kass. Okay, bad example, the point is that Debbie has both a reason to do well and a reason to lose. She’s strategically sharper than your average bear, possibly the most astute in this mess of a season. However, she’s also insanely annoying and delusional and easy to vote against in the FTC. I look forward to the stunts she pulls, and hopefully she continues making the season better.

  1. Tai Trang

 

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I don’t know the last time there’s been a character who not only edited this much, but who also felt as big, unique, and gamechanging as Tai. Tai feels like a phenomenon, something new and fresh. I think the editors took what they had with him and ran because everything about him is fantastic, and a success. I’m glad he’s a good distance from what the editors usually cast and the fact that it paid off is both a relief and hopefully a beacon for change.

I’ve tried not to stress this outright, but I feel like I need to. Tai is a fifty-something Vietnamese immigrant who owns a garden in San Francisco and is gay. If you say “so, that shouldn’t affect whether or not he’s cast” I think, yeah, I agree to an extent. CBS should not be afraid to cast him, and sometimes with such homogenized seasons with such safe and dull casting save for the token trainwreck that in itself starts to get repetitive, it feels like Tais would never get cast despite their amazing story and personality. Yet, Tai WAS cast, and he’s a rousing success- easily the fan favorite of this season so far, and I believe it.

Tai is funny, adorable, and a hell of a little determinator. I dunno if there’s any interaction he hasn’t had that isn’t at least good TV, and some are even great TV. The grace of Tai rescued Beast Mode Cowboy from the scrappy heat, just by being a satellite to Tai. His energy is boundless, in a way that isn’t often seen without feeling fake or overwhelming. He brings genuine human conflict to the tribe in a way that isn’t nasty, both internal and external. His emotions are always raw and genuine as well, and I argue that his attachment to Caleb even during Caleb’s final moments on Survivor is what sold the medevac as something truly sorrrowful. “I still want that kiss” is a line that I could only dream of writing in some fanfic but Tai said it naturally from his heart and it made the scene go from horrifying to unforgettable. Tai is great TV.

I also feel like Tai is in it for the long haul. He could be like Varner, just such naturally great TV that every moment he gets they’ll show damn if he goes in Episode 4 or 14, but they’ve laid plenty of groundwork for his future. I feel like Tai is the type of character that editors could fear being controversial about if they showed him, so maybe Tai made the editors need to notice him. I think Tai’s gonna be vital to the outcome of the season, and I think his decisions will be made with his heart. Will he be the downfall of the women’s alliance, or will he piggyback off of it? All I know is I expect him to be amazing while doing it.

Next Time on… Survivor.

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Yo, when they say drop your buffs…

Production finally finds their notes and gets their swap on, a vote too late- or at the very least, something to shake things up. More than likely it’s a swap. Possibly an early merge. I’m calling swap. Presumably because of the swap at thirteen, there’s going to be a twist. I assume to take care of the one leftover person. It probably won’t be anything gamechanging, and I don’t expect much from swap episodes anyways. I just know that it’s around this middle stretch that I think the season will be defined. Will it continue its hot streak, or become a hot mess? Time will tell.

-Cameron

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