And we’re back!
…and while we’re at it, Debbie Wanner
Season: Kaoh Rong
Placement (Tai, then Debbie): 3rd/18 (5-2-0), 9th/18 (4-3-2)
Time Span Between Seasons: A year
Why am I lumping them together? I mean, of all the KR folk returning, hell perhaps of all the KR mergers, they have the least interaction. While Aubry enters into Debbie and Tai’s stories, they do not enter each other’s often. Still, there’s a method to my madness. I covered Kaoh Rong from start to finish, and at the end I named Debbie and Tai my top two characters of Kaoh Rong. However, the fact that they worked there and lasted there is a goddamned miracle.
Debbie could have been entirely cringeworthy and Tai could have been all potential. What we got instead was a crazy mastermind with kind nuance in between her goofy overplaying, and an underdog with an amazing story of the sweetest person on Earth scrambling his way out of any jury votes with unnecessary big moves. You would think Tai and Debbie would change placements on first glance but the way their stories played out was remarkable, and treated them both with surprising respect. I was really glad with the way that the show made Caleb out to be a side character to Tai, and it was easy to see that within all Debbie’s craziness she was very positive to others, as if to get them to be as self-loving as she was.
Those were once in a lifetime stories. I doubt we get those again.
Tai’s story was incredibly intense- he was the lovable underdog of Gondol and a genuine sweetheart. At swap he got caught up with the premier villain of the game and at merge started doing things that were against his best nature. This duality came to a head when he finally seemed to make a friend that cared about him and his allies the villains wanted her out immediately. Fed up with it all, he betrayed them at the height of their power to join her ranks, but took so many attempted and failed big moves that it hurt him at the end and he got no jury votes.
Will Tai change in this season? Has he gotten more cocky? I don’t think so, but even if he lasts all the way to the end, I doubt he has the story he had in Kaoh Rong. At best he’s a number, a kind of funny and sweet side character to a gamebot. At worst, what I see happening to him is what I feared could happen in early Kaoh Rong- he’s an early boot. I see him being a number for someone whose perceived disloyalty gets him the ax or worse, gets him Edgardo’d. Since there’s no splitting allowed this season, that could easily happen.
With Debbie, it’s not so much that she could place lowly in Mamanuca that would ruin her reputation, it’s that the producers edited her right in Kaoh Rong and I highly doubt that carries over. Debbie was a rare “Casaya” character (my new name for all crazies and kooks) that while self-compared to Coach, had her moments where she showed sincere emotion, aggressive gameplay, and kindness to others, all mixed in with that kookiness. Was the crazy real or put on? That’s uncertain. What was certain to me, however, is that there was more to her.
In Mamanuca, however, I feel that she will be boiled down to that crazy character, the one element of her with questionable genuineness. What really made Debbie work before was that she went beyond what we expected, and in an All-Star season they rarely ever go beyond two dimensions. Not only that, but she is coming into this season with a lot more bitterness than before. She took her blindside very hard, especially from Aubry, and will be going into the season with that in mind. Sadly, I think this season we’ll get the Debbie we would have predicted pregame Kaoh Rong- one of the first boots, or a finals goat. If Nuku goes to Tribal in the first episode at any part, Debbie could easily go home.
I think the problem with them returning is that they both had an obvious fate in Kaoh Rong that they miraculously avoided. In Mamanuca, those possibilities are wide open again, and it would be hard to see them not land there.
Season: Millennials vs Gen X
Placement: 9th/20 (5-0)
Time Span Between Seasons: Friggin’ yesterday to them
Speaking of people I already covered, here’s Zeke! Please, hold your excitement.
Man, although we just found out now after both seasons have filmed, Zeke’s immediate return was a drastic misfire by production. Michaela has gotten a lot of hype in general, but it says a lot when a pre-merge boot has gotten more excitement to return than you. It’s no secret that I myself didn’t like Zeke- Michaela was my second favorite and him my second least favorite. He was a drag on the season, a dry hypocrite, and often very meanspirited or self-aggrandizing. However, in this season he is to me the biggest question mark I can think of.
We’ve in the past had a handful of immediate returnees, some later that didn’t even go in with their season premiere aired. Generally, you can see why, but with Zeke it is hard to. Despite the fact that he got a very inflated edit, we didn’t get the sense of him doing extraordinary things or having special gifts. Sure, David vs Zeke happened (and for the record was insanely short lived) and it led to a rock draw but we never got the sense that it was Zeke who did all the groundwork- there was far more focus on David’s side in that. Zeke could bring in allies but Zeke could not keep them to win the game, ultimately going in ninth thanks to an emotional eighteen year old he constantly patronized.
I think that having a second unknown variable that is labeled a game changer is going to put a lot of the known players on high alert- they have the Russell factor as perhaps the most notable example to think of. What’s more, two of the players have played with Russell before. Their reviews, to put it kindly, are middling. Zeke will have that fear over his head, but while people like Michaela have the humility and the clear head to work around that, Zeke has the longevity and the ego to take the title of Game Changer too literally.
I think Zeke would change probably the least to adapt to the season, except he would try and go even bigger. While he claims to be a superfan and would be giddy over some of the players, I get the impression that he thinks he has earned his title amongst them. Because of that, and his obsession of the game, I can see him acting like a standout when he’s not up to that caliber and playing himself out of the game pretty early.
Zeke, welcome to the big leagues.
Seasons: Panama, Micronesia, Heroes vs Villains
Placements: 4th/16 (2-2), 3rd/20 (1-0), 17th/20 (3-2-0)
Time Span Between Seasons: 11 Years Since Panama, 9 Years Since Micronesia, 7 Years Since HvV
More than anyone, Cirie has possibly the most famous story in Survivor History. Sure, others got famous for being good at something- challenges, moves, trademark strategies, all of that. However, what is trademark to Cirie, despite her handful of notable moves, is that she was the woman who got off the couch and became a superstar. Next to that, even her roles in the 3-2-1 split, the Erik immunity shebang, and the Ozzy blindside are generally forgotten by all non-Ozzys in comparison to her being the former couch potato. Make no mistake, no other Mount Rushmore types have the same legend of story Cirie has.
Cirie may have the biggest legend aside from winning twice of anyone this season. Even if she doesn’t have a better resume than Sandra, it is definitely a longer one. While they’re not as spoken of, Cirie does have a part in some of the biggest #bigmoves that everyone in Survivor remembers, though they’re often attributed to Parvati. A lot compare her and Sandra, but while Sandra plays a day at a time, Cirie plays a game of control. She doesn’t have to be seen as the chief (though apparently she does like being carried on chariot-type things), but she does want a role in making things happen, and isn’t afraid to get near impossible to get her way. That tenacity is what she is known for.
However, she does get lapses of being… how best to say this… I would say too big for her britches but as I have said before what she has pulled off is impressive, so those britches would be taller than a telephone pole. The general idea is, she has moments of being very openly selfish and somewhat blinded by her own star power, as is the case where she semi-Lacinas the swing vote position between Parvati and Yau-Man, and gets away with it. She will strongarm and forcibly move people around when things don’t go her way, and is virtually incapable of riding things out, as opposed to Sandra who, as angry as she gets, lives and lets die and makes a new plan if she needs to.
I think that Cirie’s target isn’t as much a conversation topic as her history, and it could follow her more than anyone else’s. Namely, she shares a tribe with Ozzy and J.T. The former she badly blindsided, the latter badly blindsided her. Ozzy does not strike me as the type to forgive and forget- in SoPa he expressed anger that Amanda betrayed him (she was nowhere close). I imagine sharing a tribe with one of the two most responsible for his betrayal would burn him. At the same time, I also highly doubt that Cirie would come close to forgetting that J.T. burned her. I think that amidst everything else, that little domino chain of distrust will drive Nuku early on.
What could go in Cirie’s favor is that she has no limit on what is possible and not. At a certain point many players would shrug their shoulders and give up, but few have the dogged, perhaps unhealthy commitment to a plan that Cirie has. At the same time, that inflexibility could be her greatest hindrance. She has gone on record against players who are notable for going with the flow in exchange for standout moves, but she faces the opposite problem- such a stick-to-the-plan mantra that she doesn’t see the tides turn until she’s drowning.
Seasons: Cook Islands, Micronesia, South Pacific
Placements: 2nd/20 (5-4-0), 9th/20 (5-4) 12th/11th/4th/20 (5-1, 9-2, 3-1)
Time Span Between Seasons: 10.5 Years Since Cook Islands, 9 Years Since Micronesia, 5.5 Years Since South Pacific
Ozzy being a fourth timer should have been something I expected, but at the same time, he is really different than the other three because he is not very consistent. Sure, he’s known as the island boy, a challenge beast who could do 390 days without the game but barely can do 39 days with it. However, as far as character archetypes go, he’s very inconsistent. Rob is the mocking schemer. Cirie is the couch potato turned brutalizer. Rupert is the hero of all. Ozzy… he swims good.
The fact is that Ozzy doesn’t have a really consistent character even in one season he’s in, let alone all three. He’s a villainous strategist, wait he’s a sulking loner, or he’s the challenge beast the Aitu four need, maybe a nonstrategic pervert. Wait now he’s the tribe leader, now he’s a giggling sneakster, or howsabout an arrogant dickwad, or a jeering jackass who deserved to be blindsided. Wait wait wait… he’s now the sole voice of reason in his tribe, but also a really shitty actor who tanked them, but a challenge god who deserves to win, but also an entitled jackass, and the last we see of him he’s on the jury looking like the Wendy’s Mascot.
What I’m saying is, Ozzy is somehow many things, but doesn’t flesh them out enough to make them definitive traits. The obvious one is that he is a challenge beast and many don’t take him seriously as a player (essentially a better Troyzan) but perception is only half of it going in. As for how he’ll do, we have to read between the lines.
Ozzy I don’t think is the brightest bulb in the display lamps, but he does show some abilities to dream up risky plans that he attempts no matter what- the timing, the ridiculousness, and his own abilities. Throwing the challenge over Billy targeting him, making the “””””fake idol””””” to fool someone, deliberately getting voted out to knock out Christine at RI, those are all risky moves that didn’t instantly kill him. (I even admit the latter got me back into Survivor instead of half-watching it). That’s the kind of craftiness I would expect from a game changer.
However, they’re often undone by one thing- his inability to lie. He rarely even tries half the time (“Come on, Jeff! That took hours to make!”) and when he does… well, we get “for revenge, basically”. People like Rupert don’t go into it lying but they can pretty well if push comes to shove (Rupert fooled “The Idol King” with a fucking rock) but Ozzy is very simply not a good liar. If I were playing I would take his plans and give them to someone capable of executing them. Oftentimes, that’s where he falls flat on his face.
Another consistent thing is that Ozzy can exude arrogance. That isn’t necessarily the problem, in my eyes. I already said Ozzy couldn’t lie; this is the case with more than failed plans. Whatever emotion he has, he can’t hide it. At times he’s very nice, at times he’s incredibly frustrated. He always wears his emotions on his sleeve, and at times that emotion is arrogance. I just think it’s a cog within his machine.
For Ozzy to succeed, he has to be humble enough to fit in where it’s needed. Tribe leader, golden challenge god, and lone wolf are three roles he cannot perfectly play. With the humility to fit into the plans of others, he can throw out a few himself. He should leave the execution to others and focus on winning challenges moreso than personal revenge. Coming in as a challenge beast is going to be a target itself- best to make that an asset, not a liability. If he’s couched in an alliance and doesn’t stand out he can go quite far. The problem that Ozzy has is that he naturally stands out. Not just because he swims like a school of dolphins, but because he overreaches strategically with an underreaching ability to match up to it.
Sierra Dawn Thomas
Season: Worlds Apart
Placement: 5th/18 (4-1)
Time Span Between Seasons: 2 Years
More talked about than anyone else- than Ozzy, Cirie, Tony, and Sandra. More well known as part of the cast than Aubry, J.T., Malcolm, and Ciera. More questions about how well she’ll do than Zeke, Hali, Michaela, and Andrea. Somehow, an even more derided castaway “game changer” choice than Caleb, Troyzan, Brad, and Sarah. This all sounds like exaggeration, but it’s not- the fanbase has taken the UTR fifth placer of a hated season and blew her up into the biggest thing ever, some sincerely, most out of spite.
FFGCSSSDT has some mighty big shoes to fill.
Last time, she was notable as one of the few nice ones of Worlds Apart, but also as one who seemed closest to flipping and chose not to, in a season that axed Jenns and Halis to keep around Dans and Wills. This ultimately didn’t work out for her, as she was seen not as a goat herder with an alliance with the ones she wanted to take to the end, but as a hanger-on who could win, and she was an easy ax for the Axis. Sure, she showed some spunk and, before Mike led her back in during the Joaq vote, a penchant and desire to flip, but decided against it.
Sierra has a sense of restraint that I envy. I can’t even read Caleb saying that Sandra and Tony aren’t game changers without wanting to give him a piece of my mind (he’s dead goddamn wrong for the record) and she managed to go thirty-six days with Dan Foley without trying to openly kill him. However, she has the hardest road to travel when it comes to respect. Her not flipping was a flawed but understandable strategy, but it was against people the audience largely loved. If the players can recognize her, if they remember that… well, let’s just say I would anticipate a lot of the other Ciera saying she didn’t play to win.
I think she will be a little spooked from aligning with people she doesn’t like what with her WA game being “I lasted a month with Dan and Rodney and all I got was this damn T-Shirt”. This go around, it isn’t just about avoiding being complacent, it’s about playing with people she likes. As we saw at the swap, she can get plenty sassy when she needs to, and she can use that to mark her territory- go any further and she’ll give you an earful.
This brings me into my next point- Sierra played last game so restrained and isolated. Largely she kept her emotions out of it and just vented in confessional, but it often made her seem unrelatable to others, especially Jenn who is very open with how much she hates people. I think she wants to be the “bigger woman” but what often goes unsaid is how playing with some emotion makes others relate to her more.
I guess what I’m saying is- big moves are fun, but they’re not what it takes to win. They’re fun, they can get you ahead, but as someone I respect once said, bad players rely on big moves. If you make them, it’s likely to get you into a jam that will require bigger moves to get you out of. Sierra knows this, as Mike’s move at the auction moved her and Dan into the Axis of Evil. While they’re not always a bad idea, it is better to be airtight about them than making them so big that you can’t fix all the holes. Since Sierra plays so close to the vest, I can see her doing well in that regard.
However, what Sierra needs is not to make exaggerated moves to show off and gain respect, but to be more open with her emotions. I think a nicer group of people than Dan and Rodney (aka literally anyone on this cast) would draw that out of her. We didn’t get much example of her personality on-show which is what made her such a mystery. I’m hoping to see her easily fit into an alliance with people who show her more decency than her last season, decency she can spin into respect. Respect she easily deserves, despite what others would tell you.
At first I thought this was a season with actual game changers being few and far between, but after thinking about it, talking it out with friends, and of course writing these, there are more than I thought. I mean… half the cast, yeah, maybe, but more than the three or four that I envisioned. Even outside of bona fide game changers, there are still some stars I look forward to seeing again, and a few little known players I would not mind blossoming. Those I actively dislike are few and far between.
That’s not to guarantee this will be a good season. I mean, it could be, but Cambodia had a good cast too full of people I was excited to see again and we got a Final 5 of two of the last three seasons. Probst claimed Worlds Apart had a great cast but it worked out to be the shittiest season possible next to a Rodney win. Still, when I first saw this cast I puked in my mouth a little, but now I’m accustomed to it. I think this combination of people would work well.
I would rank the cast, but the word counter is already getting close to 7k. Besides, it’s time we stop looking to the past, and focus on the future. I’ll be giving regular check-ins during treatment and even if I don’t write every week, I’ll be involved.
See you then!