In our new feature, Gus and I will be individually ranking the Survivor players into two categories, Hot or Not, based on their performance during the episode each week. The Hot list symbolizes anyone we feel has put themselves in a good position or exhibited good gameplay that week. Those people are individuals we feel will not go home in the next episode. The Not list is people that we feel have had their Survivor stock take a significant hit that week. We will then share our rankings with one another and have a chance to trash talk each others’ analysis. Also, we encourage merciless teasing to anyone who has someone on their Hot list go home the following week.
I was on the fence with Alison. She failed to pull out a win in the first challenge, but her leadership in the second challenge was her saving grace. The tribe already knows that she’s smart because Jeff had her reveal that she’s a doctor, so she needs to downplay her game knowledge a bit this early on. In revealing to Angelina that she’s actively looking for idols, Alison might as well have threat painted on her forehead. I have to ask, what is with the Goliath tribe and their need to blatantly reveal that they are looking for idols? However, I ultimately decided to put her in the Hot section for several reasons. In the end, I felt that the fact that she and Angelina were shown looking for an idol might have been a hint at things to come. At the very least, she’s playing the game. Also, when she was in the giant group of hot people throwing outnames, she voiced the opinion that they don’t need to throw out names yet. That’s a glimpse of some smart gameplay, since she’s avoiding the Ciera Eastin trap of making moves too early. Alison is on thin ice, but this week she did enough for her positives to outweigh her negatives.
Alison stuck out in my mind first and foremost for her interjection during Natalia Azoqa’s pitch to get rid of Natalie Cole: “We don’t have to make decisions yet.” Think back to Game Changers – Ciera Eastin was first out in part because she was the first person to throw out names. Alison is aware of this tendency to jump on pretty much anybody who starts overtly strategizing, and instead chose to play the field and lie low, both diminishing any target on her back from being in the first (lost) marooning challenge and hopefully cooling any hotheads in the Goliath tribe.
The man could dig a tunnel better than the mongooses in Lion King 1 1/2, and that’s pretty much the only reason he didn’t end up on the Not list. He had a confessional in this episode, which kept him from being entirely doused in Purple Rain. However, the confessional’s content was far from extraordinary. I think he’s safe as long as his tribe needs him, so he can be in the Hot section for this week.
Scandals notwithstanding, Alec played really well this episode. He dominated in the Immunity Challenge and worked hard at building the Goliath tribe’s shelter. He was pretty invisible, so I can’t say for sure, but his physical performance alone makes me think that Alec will be around at least another few weeks.
I am all in for the ELYRSAbeth alliance. Unexpected pairings have a history of doing well in this game: Denise and Malcolm, JT and Stephen, and now (hopefully) Lyrsa and Elizabeth. I want these two to travel the world together as a badass punk/country band. I’m sure that medley would sound horrible, but the medley of this duo brings sweet music to my ears. Elizabeth has been doing exactly what she should be doing week one, building relationships and not drawing unflattering attention to herself. Also, Elizabeth’s confessional about empathy made me feel good about her ability to connect with others.
Elizabeth’s social game seems as though it is off to a solid start. She and Lyrsa have a solid bond, and I think they’ll be able to keep it going. There’s nothing to make me think that she’ll be a target any time soon, so I expect that she’ll be able to roll things forward for a while.
I’m honestly beaming over how well Lyrsa has done this week. She’s made a great potential alliance, she did well in the first challenge, and she’s been smashing low pregame expectations. She looks like she could get into a bit of hot water next week, but it’s promising that she’s hearing this first hand from her new ally Elizabeth. This alone makes me feel like she can wiggle her way out of trouble. If she can make it past the first few eliminations, Lyrsa is in a position to do well.
Honestly, I was surprised! I was pretty lukewarm about Lyrsa in the preseason, and her premiere performance was fantastic. She killed it in the challenge, but let Christian take most of the glory. She made a nice link with Elizabeth, which I hope will be able to last. She appears to be set up for success.
I “dig” Carl. The man literally dug until he was physically tapped out. Considering Carl went up against a man who was quite a bit younger, he gave a pretty impressive performance. This also begs the question of why Nick didn’t get out there and dig instead, but we’ll get to him later. I’m pleased with Carl this week. He is making a conscious effort to lay low, while also remaining aware of the moves other people are making. He’s creating a good bond with Davie, which could only serve to benefit him moving forward. Carl is also shown bonding with Jessica (another unexpected pairing) and Pat. Clearly, Carl is here to not only play, but play smart.
A relatively light episode for Carl, but what we saw of him was promising. In confessional, we learned that Carl had intended to lay low and not play too hard at first (a strategy that paid off in spades last week for a contestant on another CBS reality show). But then when the David tribe first started to pair off, Carl picked up on it and immediately set to mingling, forming a couple of bonds with both Jessica and Davie. My hope is that Carl will be able to remain somewhat in the shadows for the first chunk of the game, forming strong social bonds and working at camp, and sticking to his ‘keep my head down’ strategy that he seems to be angling for. His bonds with both Jessica and Davie suggest that he won’t find it difficult to engage socially across the board.
Davie surprised me this week. I thought there would be no way that he’d be able to lay low enough to survive the first few boots. For now, I was proven wrong. His sliding into Carl’s DMs and his ability to provide food for his tribe put him in the Hot section for this week. I was also impressed that even though he caught that octopus, when people offered it to him, he resisted being the first one to take the food. It’s the little things out there that go a long way, and if he’s not being the first to grab food, then he’s socially aware. Plus, the “blerd” seems to be bonding with Christian over video games. Maybe he’s not drawing (Walking) dead after all.
Fisher King Davie caught an octopus. Let’s hope he can keep that up. As of yet, we don’t really know much about Davie except that he has a bond with Carl and that he can wield a spear, but those are two suggestions that he has started a strong game.
Gabby took a header from Slam Town and kept on running, but that’s not the only aspect of her gameplay that impressed me. Her first impressions pregame were far from stellar. Many voiced the opinion that Gabby would be an easy first boot. However, Gabby managed to turn that around once she hit the island. She bonded easily with Christian and showed profound empathy for her fellow tribemates. She has the social chops to make it through next week. Gabby tearfully revealed that she misjudged Pat going into the game. I feel that statement is true when it comes to her tribemates and their impressions of her. Her rocky start in Ponderosa could become a boon going forward as people continue to underestimate her, while she works her way into their hearts.
Gabby is somewhat of an enigma. I tend to root for the Hannah/Aubry of the season, and I am rooting for Gabby, but I’m just not getting anything from her that tells me she’s anything special – yet. The potential nerdliance with Christian is promising, and thus far it seems like all of her tribemates like her – but I’m not impressed yet. Christian very well also may pull her down. My prediction is that if Christian decides to take command of the tribe (which it seems like he may do), Gabby will be heavily targeted as being his ‘lieutenant’.
Typically, I’d say crying on day two would be a huge hit against you, but that vulnerability can also lead to deep bonds between people. We saw that between the Davids. Much like fellow youngling Michael Yerger, Jessica immediately impressed me once she hit the island. I was low on both of them pregame. Both of them showed a maturity and grace far beyond their age. Her vulnerability allowed the tribe to bond, which will be good for their cohesion going forward.
I’m hopeful that Jessica is going to be able to pull off the age lie. Will Wahl’s being eighteen tanked his game, and Michael Yerger’s hiding it negated that disadvantage for him. Jessica coming up with the same strategy without really having seen much of Yerger’s game makes me hopeful that she’ll be able to go deep. After our premiere, I’m still waiting to see where her game takes her.
This MMA fighter didn’t necessarily come in swinging this week, but I feel like that’s really promising. She showed her softer (yet crazy tough) side this week by revealing some heartbreaking truths about her past. I have so much respect for how much bravery it takes to be that vulnerable with a group of strangers, and it seems to have fostered some goodwill with her tribemates. I’m interested to see how she works with that going forward.
Not much to say for Bi. She worked around camp and made a connection with Jessica, counseling her through her story about her mother’s abusive relationship. Let’s hope she continues to play a good, low-key social game and builds those bonds. If she does, she might be able to turn into a force.
Ali: Pat – HONORARY HOT
Even though we will not be ranking people who are eliminated going forward, since the future of their gameplay will not be in question, Gus and I both felt that Pat deserved an honorary hot for this week. His evacuation was a heartbreaking blow, and it was clear how much he wanted to play. For that, Pat gets a Hot for this week.
In Survivor world, you’re either in or you’re out. Jeremy was just meh to me this episode. He wasn’t doing poorly, but he didn’t do anything exceptional to earn a spot on the Hot list. Also, having him turn around and find his whole tribe has gone looking for idols wasn’t a great look for him, especially because they all seem to feel the need to involve all their best friends in the idol hunt. If Jeremy was left out of the search, that’s not a great sign.
How much of Jeremy did we see this episode? Very little besides him wigging out while the puzzle was being completed during the immunity challenge. I don’t yet have a good read here.
Angelina was there for Alison’s idol search, so she’s clearly making bonds with somebody. She was also shown in that big group that was throwing out names. Her confessional about women needing to find idols showed that she’s there to play, so why isn’t she in the Hot section with Alison? Because this girl needs to chill. She is not playing her fan status or her intelligence close to the vest. Hopefully, her intensity is limited to her confessionals, because otherwise, she is going to be seen as a massive threat going forward.
Angelina looked for but did not locate the idol. She also knows plenty of Survivor trivia. She also provided some of the first confessionals of Season 37. Not much else to say about Angelina.
Not a good look this week for Mike. I understand the desire to have an idol in hand, but good lord man, wait a second! It’s like decorum at a 50s garden party; you don’t want to be the first one seen eating. You all just have to start eating all at once. It’s the same with idol hunting. However, Mike’s not the only writer to have such a rocky start. Maybe he’ll be able to pull a David (even though he’s a Goliath) and stick around, but for now, I wouldn’t be buying any Mike stock.
So I had a ton of hope for Mike, but it seems like he really just isn’t taking camp life seriously. His glaringly obvious idol search almost instantly alienated him from all of his tribemates (but for Natalie), and my fear is that he’s got way too big of a social target in these early days. He does get lots of points in the theater nerd arena for having said: “hoisted by my own petard.” With luck, Schneebly will be able to recover.
The storm is not the only thing making waves this season. I had such high hopes for Natalie going into the season, and after I rejected Wendell as a winner pick because of Reddit hype, I decided not to make the same mistake with her. Oh boy, she put herself in a pickle by going up against Natalia. I’m just hoping her tribemates get confused and write Natalia instead of Natalie on their parchment.
Full disclosure: I am not surprised by Natalie’s immediate distance from the rest of her tribe. She’s a 57-year-old CEO – she’s clearly used to giving the orders and having them followed, as suggested by her confessional about there being people who would ‘literally take a bullet’ for her. That being said, her seeming inability to tone that s**t down a notch is very concerning. We’ve seen this in so many seasons – so-and-so isn’t helping around camp. Such-and-such is bossing everyone around. Get rid of ‘em. It’s akin to what happened to Chicken Morris in China. Or to Shamar in South Pacific. Or to like half of the Gen X tribe in Millennials vs. Gen X. My hope was that Natalie was self-aware enough of her ‘on-the-outs’ potential (as she seemed to be in all of her preseason interviews) to lie low or simply try to help. But it seems that instead, she chose the route of ‘I don’t want them to know that I’m somewhat on the older side, so rather than overexert and get tired, I’ll sort of pipe in with direction from time to time’. Could have worked. Sort of worked for Pat. Doesn’t seem to work for Natalie.
Sometimes, I think certain people dislike others because of how they are similar. I think this is the case for Natalia with Natalie. See? It’s right there in the name! Both women have a badass streak, which can veer into a lot of intensity when left unchecked. They’re both smart, capable, and rightly believe people should listen to them. Both are probably not long for the game. Natalia’s only content is complaining about Natalie, which leads me to believe it will be one of those beautiful rivalries in which one goes and the other follows shortly after. And Natalia, don’t forget that any complaining you do at camp will likely make its way back to Natalie. There’s not a lot to talk about on the island and you throwing out her name every opportunity you get is not a good look. Plus, we see all the time that a tribe who keeps winning gets bored with a mutually agreed upon boot after a while. It’s possible that when there’s a torch to get snuffed, it’s going to be yours.
The Angie Caunce character archetype podcast predicted that Natalia would be the first one out, and it seems to be only by the grace of Natalie Cole that she doesn’t have a Goliath target on her back. All we saw of her this episode was negativity directed towards her other tribemates (mostly justifiably, in fairness) and some aggressive throwing out of names, to the extent that Alison Reybould was actively encouraging her to tone it down a notch. A good vent session is beneficial when there’s a third party that everyone can agree to vent about, but I worry that if Natalie is voted out (or if she turns things around and becomes warmer), Natalia’s days may be numbered.
The only thing not hot about Dan is his gameplay. Dan cannot seem to go a second in confessionals without discussing the physical attributes of his fellow tribemates. His flattering comments are not a flattering look. When I was in middle school, I had an underbite and an eyepatch, so I’m familiar with the feeling of being an ugly duckling. Dan is dealing with a similar experience that I had when I got contacts and my braces came off. Suddenly, when the ugly duckling veers more toward swan territory (definitely in Dan’s case) people start to pay attention in ways previously unexperienced. Dan’s brain is on overload because his newfound hotness is like a dream come true, and it’s making him play stupidly. If I have to hear him talk one more time about how hot a woman on this season is, my eyes may roll so far back into my head that they get stuck that way. I understand where he’s coming from, but my god man, pull yourself together. Keep your idol to yourself and trust your instincts that a showmance is bad news bears.
See my Kara Kay section for what I think about day-one showmances… long story short, if you embrace a pre-merge showmance, you’re probably not winning. And Dan is the person who decided to actively throw himself together with Kara. Upon finding Goliath’s idol, Dan also wasted no time in showing Kara plus Natalia he had found it! NOT a good idea. I feel like Dan has made a whooooole lot of early mistakes which are going to be extremely hard to make recover from. Screaming throughout the immunity puzzle only added to a really bad look.
Her only content was about a showmance. She seems like a fun girl, but good god this week could be bad for her.
I honestly thought we were past the point of day-one showmances. My hope was that the trainwreck that was Figtaylz would have drummed this behavior right out of any and every potential Survivor player. And yet… Kara Kay, everybody. Look, I get it. Dan’s hot. Kara’s pretty. They have common interests. And, I’m all for relationships and the like. But if you’re going to do something like this, make it a secret and give it time. Don’t dive headfirst into it RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR ENTIRE TRIBE. With the trend of showmances generally punishing the women, I doubt whether Kara will be around for much longer unless she turns down the heat a little.
He lost the first challenge in front of his tribe. Probably a humbling moment for the Johnny Nitro. However, he got an opportunity to express that there’s a brain under that bulk. Now, when Gus and I heard him speak about this, we had some mixed reactions. Gus seemed to think that this meant he was smart, but I was a little more skeptical. When Gus and I went to college, there was a course called Rocks for Jocks which the athletes (and many theater majors) took for an easy grade. A friend of ours who we will not name never went to this class and passed with such flying colors that the professor emailed him to ask if he would consider a career in geology. This is the association that I have when I think of a degree in geology. Now, before I have a swarm of geologists descending upon me to tell me how wrong I am, I have plenty of respect for geologists. I used to have a rock polisher in my garage in my rock nerd phase. Also, I have no idea what a geology degree at UC Davis entails. Perhaps it is an impressive academic achievement in itself, and I certainly think there’s more to Johnny Mundo than meets the eye. However, I don’t think what I saw this week was enough to propel him to the Hot section. We just didn’t see enough of his social and strategic game (other than him assuring us that he was intelligent) for me to pass judgment on his future in the game.
The complete flipside from Natalie Cole, we have Mr. Mayor. John’s opening words during the Marooning made me concerned – he chose to open the season by coming out and rattling off his many wrestling titles – but his first confessional gave me hope. John is handling his game with the self-awareness that I had hoped he (and Natalie) would, going so far as to say of his wrestling stage names that “none of those characters that I play in the wrestling ring is gonna win the game of Survivor.” And that his Survivor journey really is ‘about finding out who John is.’ From most folks, the standard ‘I am out here to learn who I am’ would earn an eye-roll and a sigh from me, but for John, the ultramacho pro-wrestler ostensibly-super-cocky specialist, the prospect of a season of self-discovery sounds fascinating. Gameplay wise, we didn’t see a lot from John outside of a good performance during the Immunity Challenge and a lot of joking around – but it appears that he’s making connections within his tribe, which is all you really can do at this phase.
“If I can in this game, I want to name every alliance”… Honey, if you are naming every alliance, then you are in every alliance, and that means you are doing way too much. According to Pat, Lyrsa, and Carl, you would have been a goner this week if it weren’t for Pat’s accident. However, this doesn’t take away from the immense respect I have for you for opening up about your family life. Your gameplay this week was lacking, but I sense some potential growth in you. If you don’t grow, then I’m afraid you will go the way of Bradley. A super fan early boot.
Really not sure what I’m supposed to be thinking about Nick. At first he’s bragging about being able to avoid doing work around camp, and irritating Carl. Shortly thereafter he’s in confessional talking about being unable to open up to others, only to immediately open up to his tribemates by sharing a highly personal story in the middle of the night. My first thought was it was a dead grandma type of thing, except… it ultimately wasn’t (I felt like a jackass). Regardless, the David tribe (per Lyrsa) was going to vote him out had Pat not suffered his medevac. I predict that Nick will be a pre-merge villain akin to Bradley Kleighe if he doesn’t wind up as the Cagayan-Spencer Bledsoe of Season 37.
Christian had a good week, I know, but let’s think about this week in the long term. Christian bragged to anyone who would listen (even though it was hilarious) that he is a puzzle whiz, and in recent history, puzzles play a big role in merge challenges. The minute his tribe gets anywhere near the merge they’re going to realize that Christian has it in him to go far. Once Christian stops being a challenge asset, everyone is going to be looking for a way to get rid of him.
I went back and forth on Christian, but I settled on Not (I’ll give you a moment to get your pitchforks out of storage). Sure, he killed it in the opening challenge, but that’s not always a good thing. Remember in Ghost Island how Chris Noble beasted all of the challenges in the pre-merge, only to barely make the merge. It may seem nonsensical to compare Chris Noble and Christian from a challenge perspective, but in contemporary Survivor, the puzzle is often the deciding factor in challenges. I can’t help but think that Christian revealing right off the bat that he is a slide puzzle god may not have been in his best interest. The post-marooning confessional also shows that Christian is… verbose, which might eventually grate on his tribemates. Unless his budding alliance with Gabby takes off (and DvG becomes the Nerds vs. Jocks season it easily could),I do worry for Christian in the long-term. Before the merge, though, I feel like he’ll be sitting pretty.
TRASH TALK ZONE
Ali on Gus’s ranking of Gabby & Jessica: You’re low on these two?! What are you smoking?! How could you put Bi as Hot and not acknowledge the social game that Jessica played that allowed her to be a Hot in the first place? And you are just still bitter that Aubry and Hannah lost and that’s why you can’t root for the nerd girl. Let it go. It was years ago. Gabby is special already. She’s already proven it this week. Be prepared to eat crow, Schlanbusch. I’d put money on her long game.
Gus on Gabby: I still don’t have a ton of stock in Gabby. Things said during a medevac are pretty independent of anyone’s actual opinions. What are you gonna say? “I hate Pat, he was always a jackass and I am laughing at all of the pain he’s in”? I just think she thinks she’s playing the game far better than she is.
Gus on Ali’s ranking of John: WHAT? Getting a damn geology degree is SO DIFFERENT from taking Earth Science 101. If he has an undergraduate degree in a hard (pun intended) science, that means that he’s done some aggressive studying. Had he said “political science” or “communications” or something then I’d be inclined to think that he was mostly hot air, but to do an entire major in geology implies that he is actually a pretty smart guy. The Mayor’s self-awareness is the thing that put him on my radar. It would be one thing to see a guy ramble about “LOOK AT MY DIPLOMA” but he mentioned off-hand that he earned a bachelors in a science and then went on to discuss “my job does not define anything about me as a person; my job is something that I really enjoy, and I want to find out more about myself”. That’s as far from being a “specialist” as you can get.
Ali on John: Hey, it’s just a geology degree, no need to stone me over it. Also, John Hennigan is easily a first merge boot and you know it. I’ll be there to hold you when you’re crying over him. He can add King of Ponderosa to his list of nicknames.