Survivor: Mamanuca Islands Legacy Assessment (Can’t You Feel A Brand Nuku Day Pt 1)

Oh man did things change a lot when I was gone. Not for me, obviously, but for this season. I could rant a lot about the new rules and regulations (documented better by writers better than I) but this isn’t about my take on those, this is about my perception of the players, and I can’t stray from that for the sake of an ego trip. Still, if some of those change my perception of the odds of players, I’m sorry.

Still, this is Nuku, so I am not too sorry.


On Nuku if I find players a lot more than the sum of their parts I wouldn’t be surprised, but there are still a lot of extras here, and this seems like the lesser tribe. There are some big names here, sure, but certainly the lack of diversity in types of players shows. Not necessarily in their census statistics, so to say, but many are the same type of player, and very few go to extremes the way Mana felt very spread out. Sort of like the cast of Millennials vs Gen X, there’s no one that reaches those heights as a character, leaving most of them to be closer to base. I could write about them with far less vitriol to some but also far less energy. If the writeups here are shorter, I wouldn’t be surprised, but if they’re shorter than a literal near 8k words that’s a damn relief.

Enough semi-talking like Rodney after no rewards, time to dig in!


(I had to. I’m kind of sorry)

Brad Culpepper

Season: Blood vs Water

Placement: 15th/20 (3-3/3-1)

Time Span Between Seasons: 3.5 Years

Brad Culpepper has been somewhat of a joke.

Ever since Marissa Peterson decided his legacy as “fuck YOU, Brad Culpepper” which is one of my favorite lines because it is so out of nowhere, Brad’s future seems to have been decided. Between his self-deprecation, his “talent” at math, the Funny 115 humiliating him at literally every entry, and his innate knowledge that he is not appreciated much by anyone but the editors, Brad Culpepper has been seen as the less superior Culpepper on Survivor.

Still, I am actually excited to see him again.

Sure, I make the jokes like everyone else (no kidding right?), I find him as misplaced and low level on this cast as much as anyone, and I find him to be overwhelmingly a dork. That doesn’t change the fact that in Blood vs Water he was exceptionally chaotic and intimidating. Sure, no one had him high on their winner picks but this was before the advent of Tyson controlling everything. There was a chance he could be a merge boot; perhaps even a finals goat, and he would slay our favorites all season (or whatever you would call Rachel Fougler…) The fact that he left early on was really a blessing in disguise (and the fact that it was to quiet mellow Caleb Bankston was hilarious).

On the first layer, I wonder, how will he go from being the biggest fish in the pond to perhaps the least experienced and respected player there? I don’t know if anyone is going around saying he doesn’t deserve to be there, but I can’t imagine any of the players are going “woo, here’s Brad Culpepper!” Brad can be intimidating but I doubt he commands the respect of others, especially in a pond that contains Cirie and Ozzy. In comparison, Brad looks like a guppy, but I think he knows that. His self-deprecation, respect for Monica for making it all thirty-nine days, his place in life being very affluent, and his sort of goofy nature in general makes it clear that he in’t banking on his survival and that he won’t lose any sleep over it.

I think the part that gets lost with Brad quite a lot is that he is actually kind of oddly sweet, and very shakily a good sport. Sure, a lot of this was due to playing a season with Monica, and to be honest I am worried over how much of that will change going it alone. I’m hoping, however, it won’t change much. Brad has a lot of flaws, but I don’t think ego is high up on the list- at the very least it’s lower than most successful people. I think a lot of those good qualities will mix with his weird qualities and actually make him more bearable than we expect.

How will this translate into this season? Well, I think Brad will play the hand that he’s dealt with to the best of his abilities. Problem is, it’s not nearly as good of a hand as most- he has a lot of money and a good amount of fame, but doesn’t have a reputation higher than “rich dork who screws everything”. Without Monica, he will likely be less chaotic since he doesn’t have to worry about her well being, but I don’t think he can spin things much better than being second place. Still, I’m hoping this season gives him ample opportunity to show off his better qualities- most forgot they even existed.


Sarah Lacina

Season: Cagayan

Placement: 11th/18 (6-5)

Time Span Between Seasons: 3 Years

Sarah is right in that sweet spot of the “Parvati spot” and the “Jeremy spot”. She’s both an early merge boot with a crazy game and an oft forgotten woman who has some potential to do well. A lot of people have picked her as a winner pick, and on paper she seems like the type of player you would pick. In addition to her placement and reputation, she’s a cop from Iowa who presumably has good reads on people, is in a disciplined age and state of life, and has an even temper and a bit of snark.

To those people, I recommend they watch Cagayan.

Sarah has potential to be a good character, sure, but on Cagayan she ended as a deep, deep trainwreck, the type that is sown in the darkest corners of the farm. A lot of people say she seems to have learned her lesson, but it was not just bad gameplay that did her in, it was her personality, and a number of personal flaws that will take more than a cursory fix. Her problems are not like a virus scan you run in the background of watching Game Grumps; they require a full hard drive overhaul.

For the two of you who haven’t seen Cagayan, Sarah’s downfall differs from many modern day trainwreck boots in that it actually has a story arc to it. At first, she fulfilled all the positives her seventeen thousand winner picks hoped for- led the tribe, had a solid alliance and was placed very well within it, and had a level head and a ton of respect. However, after awhile Tony was able to get in her head to plant a seed that she was the target of Cliff’s three. Eventually this would bloom into a failed revenge plan where she would try to throw a challenge to boot him (and thanks to the ineptitude of J’Tia, fail miserably).

At swap, she ended up as the one Aparri in between all Luzons and three Solanas. Instead of being an easy boot, she manages to stand back and let the chips fall. Moreover, she managed to finally realize that Tony was playing her, and him crying “top five, baby!” when his new tribe won informed her that she was not in his plans. Because of this, she made a new alliance with her new tribesmates and swore to stick by them against Tony.

And then… 


…the rest is history.

We all know the story of Sarah leveraging her power and getting ganked by the clear number six of the alliance, of how she was so persistent in getting her way that she alienated people with her abrasive tunnelvision. Her boot at the merge is arguably the most memorable since Heroes vs Villains, and with good reason- it is a goldmine of hilarious character moments and the outcome arguably decided a season and an entire character’s legacy in #ChaosKass, aka the show’s one good hashtag.

A lot of people see her entire legacy as a trainwreck, but she had a long road of getting there. I see Sarah fixing a few obvious things about herself in Mamanuca. I can see her making sure everyone is loyal, not angering her alliance, not trusting as easily. The surface level things that led to her demise. However, I don’t think she’ll change the root of those problems, and those are very hard to ignore. I don’t see her changing her authoritative nature, her abrasive alienating side, or her acting on emotion. These are at the root of her problems, and I doubt that she ever thought to go that deep. I see her as an early boot- even if she pledges her loyalty and even if early on people believe it, I think her actions will speak louder than her words.


(I don’t even have to find a goofy image for him- his pre-game photos will do that for me)

James “J.T.” Thomas

Seasons: Tocantins, Heroes vs Villains

Placement: 1st/18 (7-0), 10th/20 (5-0)

Time Span Between Seasons: 8 Years since Tocantins, 7 since Heroes vs Villains

It is weird that J.T. is back. Not that he “isn’t a game changer” or some other bullshit. He’s more than earned his legacy with his crushing win in Tocantins and then his historical blunder in Heroes vs Villains, which happened so quickly after that it’s really what’s most remembered. I see a lot more people talk about whether or not that was a good move (it wasn’t) than I do about his absolute destruction of Brazil in a way Butch could only dream of. His story is therefore quite unique going into Mamanuca. No one else has won, then done a breakneck bonehead move.

The tale of him in Tocantins and him in HvV is a tale of two cities, and that largely lies on J.T. himself, and not just his circumstances. In Tocantins it’s hard to tell what was gameplay and what was just charm, as J.T. had an inhumane ability to charm socks off with his presence alone. His social game was at an eleven out of ten, to the point where he didn’t need to make big moves- he could get other people’s big moves to fall into his lap and benefit from them. Simply put, J.T. made winning look effortless, and like something he could do again.

Something in the air must have spooked him in HvV, however, because he took none of that with him.

Not that he couldn’t charm anyone. He still managed to land in the spot of swing vote and likable muscle a lot of the time. However, on the back of that were a multitude of needless, questionable moves- voting Cirie out with three votes then immediately flipping back on Tom, for instance- and carved out for himself no place in the tribe. Most notably, he assumed that Parvati was running another women’s alliance (which puzzles me that a winner who tried to change his entire game thinks another is sticking to hers) and decided to give the last man, Russell, his HII. Russell quite predictably gave it straight to Parvati, who used it to get J.T. out first thing at merge.

Why did he change it up? Perhaps he didn’t think his game would work in an All-Stars season and decided to mix it up. Perhaps he was led to believe some backlash and discrepancies about his game that weren’t there. Either way, the first J.T. barely had to work to get ahead, but the second J.T. is pure overcorrection. Harmful “big moves” that eroded his place in the game meant he needed his Hail Mary to work, but no way in Hail it was.

The move was based on a lot of guesswork and had way too much risk to it. Sure, it would have been great if it worked, but as J.T.’s tribesmate famously said “if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas”. If James got to the F6 with two idols, that would be great. If Scot got to F7 with two idols, it’d be… okay, it’d be horrible but great for him. There’s a lot of dumb moves that could have been great if they worked. They didn’t, which is why they’re dumb moves. Some moves require risk to work out well, but there was way too much risk there.

So that’s the legacy that J.T. has going in. He’s already changed his play style for one All Stars season. Will he do it again? Absolutely yes, I think when it comes to Survivor that he’s more embarrassed by his idol blunder than anything else, though he has about six thousand benjamins (not Coach) he can dry his tears with. I think going in as Tocantins J.T. he is easily more insulated than the other winners, and can actually make it very far without getting targeted on the back of playing cool and being charming. However, he has a history of overcorrecting, and I think after his overplay in HvV he may do it again in the opposite direction. Time has gone by to ease the impact of doing two seasons in a year, the first of which he won, but now he’s thinking about Survivor again. If he is targeted, it is up to him to avoid being blindsided, and I am not certain he will.


Andrea Boehlke

Seasons: Redemption Island, Caramoan

Placement: 5th/18 (4-0), 7th/20 (3-2-2)

Time Span Between Seasons: 6 Years Since RI, 4 Years Since Caramoan

I think if you generated the ideal Survivor character and contestant, nine times out of ten you would generate Andrea.

That’s not to say that Andrea is the best character or the best player. That’s not even to say she’s a particularly great one. Simply, I mean to say that if Survivor was an assembly line, usually they’d be building Andreas. Every third pretty young girl says that they’re like Parvati but they generally miss the point of Parvati and in general believe in themselves a little too much. I think that most of those flops are closer to one of Andrea’s incarnations than Parvati, who (while she has some pretty cutting flaws) can play like crazy, maybe a little too crazy.

Andrea is not that crazy.

That’s not to say that’s a bad thing- Parvati had a tendency to go so over the top it bordered on haywire, which Andrea rarely reaches. However, both have one thing in common- they were both burned by their first game and tried to change perceptions of them. Parvati was part of one of the most loathed alliances of all time- seriously, show me anyone, a Clubster even, who rooted for the Raro Eight and I will show you a goddamned liar.

Andrea, well, the “Rob’s Zombies” thing took off as early as mid-RI. Ometepe were infamous for basing all their plans around tribe loyalty first which Rob was able to manipulate. Andrea stands apart, though- seeing the first Matt vote set her on edge with Ometepe, and once they went down to six, she was the first out. However, through the rarely useful twist of RI, she was able to see while she was in the game that Rob was playing selfishly, not for the team. While not successful, that was the attitude she re-entered the game with, and the one she left it with.

Enter Caramoan, her chance to prove that wrong. To her credit, she went in guns blazing. Perhaps too much so- unlike J.T. she didn’t make needless big moves, but she was incredibly paranoid and annoyed a lot around her due to it. Still, she was very involved and active; a big shift from RI. If you’ve ever played an ORG, you know that one person who is barely active and casts a vote every now and again? Imagine that person came back and had an active hand in gameplay, and you have Andrea. In fact, where she went home was when she became too active and overplayed, trying to get out her ally and instead getting the boot. In Mamanuca, I think that she will have that demon off her back and will not let it affect her play, giving her more clear vision to win.

I’m interested to see her this season. She has shown she can get an element of control, and also isn’t underestimated enough to get ignored if she does move- she can easily get a few on board. I think now that she isn’t focused on how others perceive her, she’ll stop acting on it, and with her not replaying RI, she can show off her good qualities. With her girl-next-door nature, her playful but never patronizing communication, and her ability to mesh with anyone with a smile, I think she’ll fit in good with a few alliances, but will this time also find her way out of big ones into small ones that benefit her. Honestly, she may be my winner pick for this season. At the very least, I see her doing well, and after Mamanuca I see a lot more young women putting her down as the Survivor they’re most like.

To Be Continued…

Yeah, another two-parter, our favorite! I’m gonna make sure the last half is touched up, add the photos, and be ready to go very soon. Click my name to find it- I’ll put up a link as soon as possible RIIIIGHT HERE. See you in a bit!


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