We now return to your irregularly scheduled article.
Season: Millennials vs Gen X
Placements: 14th/20 (4-2)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: I think literally two weeks
Usually when people return for back to back seasons before their first has finished airing, it stands to reason that they made it relatively far. Rupert was a big star who made it through most of the episodes. James and Amanda made it to seventh and third. Russell and Malcolm also made it to the finale. To some extent, they’re all very memorable and were or became fan favorites.
Yet, here comes Michaela who didn’t even make the merge, who was one of the first seven out, and she’s immediately brought back. Not only that, unlike Zeke, she was hyped hard. She was announced at the reunion, she was featured as a legend in the commercials, and she’s featured a lot in the pre-game material. A good number of people point to that as “she has to do well for CBS to care” and that might be the case, but it might also be because Michaela is awesome, legitimately one of the five best characters in the season, and is incredibly memorable.
Talking about her past game is really hard to do because… well, she barely played. I mean she survived well, twenty days in fact. It’s just that after the Mari vote, she didn’t make much of any strategic moves. Not only did she barely have the opportunity to play, the seaon seemed to indicate that she was a simplistic player. I don’t see any big moves if she survived the fatal vote; her plan was to get those four millennials further. She is one of the oddest choices, if not the oddest, if you want to cast people who are “Game Changers” or at least big players. However, if you just want a fun character who gives great soundbytes, Michaela is very near the top.
Despite my continued feeling that Millennials vs Gen X tended to be on the dry side of things, Michaela was an exciting character, as I have already outlined in my last article. She shoots from the hip in a way that isn’t really refined, she has varied amounts of emotion, and of course her blindside was instantly memorable despite it being a very simple vote, which is a big change from the power shifts and idol plays that usually come to people’s minds. I think a lot of these personality traits will still be present in Mamanuca.
In Mamanuca Islands, she has the chance to really play for the first time. Even Caleb had an entire season of Big Brother, and Brad played a very cutthroat game for his four rounds. Michaela isn’t coming in with that same sort of strategic muscle, which in itself is quite the statement because I am comparing her to Caleb and Brad. She may learn quite quickly how to play this game in a selfish way, especially since her blindside was shocking to her (she forgot her shoes, remember?) and left her quite disappointed in herself.
She may be coming in with a question mark on her back since no one knows who she is other than presumably she is a game changer, but I think she can shake that off. A big reason for that is her honesty, as I think they will always know where she sits, but another part of that is because compared to most of her tribesmates, she’s the kid. Sure, she’s barely younger than Hali and Ciera, but she looks by far the youngest, her honesty can easily be tied to her age, and her general newness to the game can portray that far more than those two. I can see others taking her under their wing and easily slot her into an alliance. From there, I doubt she sticks out, but it’s a matter of taking what she learned in MvGX and applying it here. I can’t see Michaela playing too cutthroat, but I would watch out for her before it’s too late.
Season: Kaoh Rong
Placements: 15th/18 (Medevac)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: 2 years ago*
*Again, they filmed KR and Cambodia out of order
…I got nothing.
Season: Kaoh Rong
Placements: 2nd/18 (Medevac)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: 2 years ago
My very first action of writing on this site was writing about the Chan Loh tribe, which Aubry originated from. I will have choice words about the other two (and as you’ve already seen, no words for the one above) but I can say this- I did not anticipate Aubry lasting as long as she did. I certainly didn’t anticipate Aubry becoming such a huge presence. I absolutely did not expect her to broach the female confessional record- if I’m right, she’s in the top five. My thoughts on her have been recorded- I was pretty high on her as a character but I expected her to be a pretty cool character who got a pretty UTR edit and placed in fifth. Basically, I swapped her and Joe around.
Mamanuca was filmed days after the world saw Aubry lose a jury vote to Michele. At this point, Aubry had a year to decompress from the FTC due to the filming schedule being just the most jank thing. The fans, however, and for that matter a large amount of the players, just saw that. What was an inevitability to Aubry was a shock to them, and if a large number of them thought Aubry deserved to win or basically won, I wouldn’t be surprised.
While the jury vote hurt since I put a lot of stock in Aubry-mania from the moment it happened it made sense to me- Michele was the underdog with friends on the jury and she got to the end, sort of like a Fabio. Also, while Aubry reached some insane heights, she also hit some lows. The crossing the name out bit, while great TV, was a sign that Scot and crossee Julia didn’t forget that said “Aubry is weak-willed”. The Debbie vote was a mess but I think showed some callousness that Debbie didn’t forget. She also showed some underestimation of Cydney as a threat that she didn’t forget. Presented with a really likable option in the jury, even Aubry’s friends didn’t vote her.
At the same time, those heights still are there, and those are more important going into this season than a thoughtful analysis of Aubry’s game and loss to the jury. She was talented as hell, dodging a super idol, managing her alliance, swinging Tai and making Tai her most important ally, and keeping them together through her lack of arrogance and genuine pathos. A lot of the moves we remember Aubry making, for better or worse, were very defensive, as when she came to prominence she was down in numbers and forced to play that way.
That is to say, because of her reputation I think the other castmates will see her as the “real winner” and target her just as hard as the other winners and legends. At the same time, if they put her in a defensive position, they’d best watch out. I think at this point she’ll iron out the kinks to her game and play well, but if it’s a dire situation, I can see her going guns a-blazin’ and trying a number of things to scramble out.
Her last game, the lack of respect is what killed her and lost her jury votes. This time, she is going in with a lot of respect, but that could also kill her. Still, if I trust anyone to bail out of their target, it would be Aubry.
Season: One World
Placements: 8th/18 (4-3-1)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: 5 years ago
I think I’ve mentioned this in other spaces but there’s a concept out there that I know mostly from Lucahjin called the “hate-bitch”. It’s where you pick someone largely to hate on them just out of a sense of catharsis. It was the role Troy was born to play.
I wouldn’t have him at the levels I had Kyle Jason at, or even some of the worst before I started writing, but it’s no secret that Troy is easily my biggest concern for this season. I just don’t like the guy, and I see no indication that he will change a thing. The problem with Troy is his delusional arrogance. I always point this out, but Troy’s game revolved quite largely around handing people the majority then bitching that they had the majority and leaving the game thinking he’s the smartest person in the universe for it. I remember him saying he was basically the second incarnation of Richard Hatch. Bullshit, he isn’t even the second incarnation of Ralph Kiser.
I have always found Troy to be overrated. I’ve tried to be diplomatic about my opinions, but it has always been a pet peeve of mine when people try and undermine Kim’s game by saying that Colton would have challenged her (when he very openly would have jumped in her pocket) or when people say Troy was the only one who challenged Kim. Kim at that point had the numbers and it was entirely because of him. He voted Jonas and Mike out and then tried to idol Kim out, but by that point she had everyone else on her side. The very reason Kim had all six women together at merge was because Troy kept voting out men.
Most notably, Troy was one of the two members of this cast to get snubbed at the Cambodia live vote. The other, Brad, was understandably snubbed- the audience didn’t like him and he barely went the distance. Troy, I’m actually pretty surprised didn’t get on. He was never a legend but he was a pretty big character in One World. The problem is that he was a character from One World, the middle of Survivor’s dark ages for which Philippines was a ray of light. The best I have seen people say about One World is that it’s an okay season- no one, even the Troy fans, seems to think it was a great season.
Theoretically, I see Troy not coming in with a big target. One World is not a fondly remembered season and he is largely remembered for being the only one who could stop Kim, which makes me want to retch. However, because his legacy is not one worth adapting to, I see him not adapting at all. In most tribes that aren’t as bass-ackward as Manono, I can see him grating on people and being treated as a joke. I mean the guy unironically calls himself Troyzan. I think more than anyone, he has to worry about the current game more than the past one, but considering he seems to think he was awesome in One World, I do not think he has to worry about over thinking.
Seasons: Pearl Islands/Heroes vs Villains
Placements: 1st/16 (6-1), 1st/20 (6-3-0)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: 13.5 years since Pearl Islands, 7 since Heroes vs Villains
Here we go, the final two to talk about today are perhaps the season’s two biggest characters. No one has ever had more eyes on them than Sandra Diaz-Twine has going into this season. She’s entering as the show’s only two-time winner, a feat winners next to her and after her could not accomplish. The target on her back is one of the biggest I have ever seen. Right now, her fans are looking for any reassurance that she lasts more than the first episode. Her haters are hoping she doesn’t even make it to the second half of the first. I think a lot of my four viewers came down here just to see what I had to say about Sandra, to give them reassurance of how well she’ll do.
Before that, however, I’ll (dodge the tomatoes and flying chairs and) detail what about Sandra’s seasons and what she did on them made her the legend she is today. Legends don’t come out of nowhere, after all, and Sandra didn’t get, say, 109 confessionals in her first season, but she won that first season, and that alone didn’t jump her into superstardom.
Had she played PI alone, would she be considered a game changer? Well considering this cast has Caleb and Sierra on it my initial reaction is “who gives a shit” but based on PI alone, I think I would have a few before her. Still, I don’t care, because Sandra was already entertaining there. I think we can name all the I-can-get-loud-toos and snake-motherfuckers and yes-they-ares word for word, but there’s more to her than being funny- even in a world where Sandra gets like 16th in HvV she still shines as a badass.
The fact that a challenge-awful-person with a loud mouth and a propensity to flip out when she’s turned on nearly became the show’s first perfect winner is amazing to me on its own. More to the point, she has a habit of being in the alliance with a decent number of shields, but also way willing to throw down when needed. Her “anyone but me” strategy is quoted a lot but she took control of things a surprising amount. Her in the Panamanian village is a work of art- sure, she had an advantage because she spoke Spanish better than Tijuana, but she hustled like hell to get the Drake Tribe a ton. She took strategic charge of her alliance and when that fell through she still hustled to survive. Remember when she snowed the biggest liar in the game during the Burton blindside? Mr. Dead Grandma falling for it shows that just because you’re the biggest doesn’t mean you’re the best.
Speaking of which, her in Heroes vs Villains, namely her destruction of the Russell legacy. I think a lot of her game was early on slotting herself into the Rob-led alliance with Courtney, and later on just shitting all over Russell whenever she had a free second to. A lot of her original plans fell by the wayside due to the sudden stupidity of others, including a plan to Tony/Woo the post-merge with Candice and flip between hero and villain to get to the end. This shows that Sandra CAN do things and will to get her way- “anyone but me” isn’t the same as “just sit there and look pretty”.
Still, what really helps Sandra is her cult of personality. In HvV especially, a lot of the jurors really remembered that unlike her allies, even as she often sided with Russell she made it clear she was not about to take his control freak bullshit. Plus, despite, or perhaps because of her openness, she got them actually invested in her, so the votes were not just “being against Russell”. Most importantly, being open was not the same as being honest- to get ahead she lied a lot, and as her words said, she made up good lies. A lot of fellow tribesmates came away respecting her gameplay, as she was possibly the best liar they’ve met, especially since she manages to mix some innocent truths and lies together, like “I doubt she’s lying about being resigned to going home, she mentioned chocolate chips and she and Darrah do talk about those”.
A lot of the fellow players probably respect her for winning twice, and a good few think it was, quote unquote, welfare she didn’t deserve. Still, I don’t think they understand why she was successful. They can name “anybody but me” but with the idea that she will vote anyone. I’m going to be optimistic- even though she has a target for being a two time winner, I think she will still be underestimated. I think a number of people will think “oh, she yells sometimes and sucks at challenges and will vote whoever we say” and figure they have a license to boot her and hers whenever. However, while I believe that Aubry is the best defensive player in the cast, Sandra is certainly the most violent. Her opponents who cross her will have hell to pay.
Placements: 1st/18 (8-1)
Time Lapse Between Seasons: 3 Years
And then there’s this guy.
I have met a lot of Survivor fans. I have been in so many Survivor fan groups that my therapy bill would be in the six digits. I have heard podcasts from many people. I have met people who love Tony, and I have met people who can’t stand him. The reasons for both are thick, going beyond the pale. Whether one likes or hates him, both for legitimate reasons, it cannot be understated that Tony is perhaps the biggest, most authentic legend this show had created in at least five years prior.
People say he should not have played so soon, but Tony could play in thirty-six years and his target would still be massive. Sure, he didn’t win twice, but he won as easily the biggest winner ever, and one of the most frenetic. He tried a million things at once because even if 999,990 of them fell off he only needed ten to stick. Loyalty and allegiance meant nothing to him, and he could vote you out with zero provocation. He talked a million miles an hour, spoke in his best estimation of an animal’s tongue, and was seen as a villain by a lot of the people he played with; hell even more than half the jurors who voted for him.
Despite that all, his biggest, most memorable move was something that would mortally scare anyone that would be on the Mana tribe- he convinced Woo that the honorable move, taking him, was the best move, despite him going on an episode earlier that he had to vote Woo out. That’s a thing Tina does. That is not a thing you would expect Tony to do, but Tony got someone to act against his best interest. If I were Mana, I would be scared that as much as I wanted Tony out, it was proven that he can get into one’s mind.
Still, I think Tony has the opposite deal that Sandra has- everyone knows his game pretty well. I mean, shit, they better, he got like seventy-thousand confessionals more than everyone. Tony invokes a lot of fear from people as he should- if I were playing Game Changers… because I found a genie or something… I would target Tony early too. The guy isn’t just a popular winner, he has proven that no matter who you are, he will have no issue destroying your game.
With such a reputation as that, will Tony survive? I will say this- he will try his damndest. He is not short of plans, and absolutely not of effort and energy. I can sense that he knows he’s on the outs. I can imagine him looking for idols until the sun goes down, trying to find fellow big names to align with, and scrambling his ass off to stay in. I cannot imagine him, however, lasting long. His target is just too huge to see anything else in his future. While I hope I’m wrong, if he survives to the merge I will probably fall out. It may be better to be feared than respected, but to come in with that fear that you can’t shake is going to be too much for people. I see him going the Tom Westman route- standing by his gameplay and scrambling as much as he can, but going out early regardless.
The one thing I can say about Game Changers is, (nearly) everyone has a story. Is it always the biggest story? Not really. Still, in such a legacy-driven season, a lot of people will go by their version of events. Not just what they’ve experienced, but what they’ve seen. Whether they are totally accurate or not, affected by their biases or memories, that will be a factor. Like Survivor, the perception players have often becomes fact, and the illogic of humans is the show’s prime factor. In the Outcast Twist, Probst said “your past has come back to haunt you” and that could be the case for some of these players. It’s just, how will they take “then” and make it “now”?
That’ll be the question whose answer interests me the most.