Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 38 castaways into two categories, Hot or Not, based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. Hots are indicative of castaways who we think played well this week or who are setting themselves up for success; Nots are indicative of castaways who we think didn’t and aren’t.
Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway, but that’s why it’s fun!
Ali: JOE ANGLIM – NOT
“Just feel it! Just feel it!”
This was a quiet episode for Joe, but he still couldn’t resist standing out in challenges. Couple that with everyone talking about him as a threat, and it looks like Joe may be in for a rude awakening on Extinction Island.
Gus: JOE ANGLIM – NOT
Joe is certainly doing better than Aubry at integrating with his tribe, but I think that’s mostly because he seems to not be doing anything strategic whatsoever. If Aubry is targeted in the coming episodes – as I would imagine she will be – I worry that Joe will face a similar firing squad. Joe doesn’t have the low-key behind-the-scenes gameplay style that David does – he’s far more out front, and a much more obvious threat in challenges. Without a strong band of allies, Joe faces isolation and eventual elimination once Aubry is out of the way and Kama turns on him – supposing that Kama ever finds itself at Tribal in the first place, that is.
Ali: AUBRY BRACCO – NOT
“I hate kumbaya Survivor.”
Aubry Bracco, you need to chill, girl! That montage of Aubry running around and saying the same thing to everyone was a bad look. Everyone is onto her, and it looks like she may not be long for this game. Her gameplay from this week has earned her a Not, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. However, as I’ve said, Aubry is good at playing from the bottom, and Kama is on a winning streak. If Aubry can chill out a bit and become Aubry BracBRO, then maybe she can turn this thing around.
Gus: AUBRY BRACCO – NOT
Aubry lamented the limbo of “Kumbayah Survivor” this week, informing us that she prefers knowing how people lean when all the cards are on the table and seeing peoples’ teeth come out to the happy-go-lucky survival-camping-trip that Kama has been living in these first few weeks. Unfortunately, her itching to start playing and strategizing is rubbing her tribe the wrong way, and to an extent galvanizing their opposition to her. Using the same line in approaching multiple other castaways – not even a similar statement but literally the exact same wording – was badly done, and has already started to bite Aubry in the butt. She was right to want to get ahead of the game, but it looks like all she’s doing at this point is overplaying.
Ali: VICTORIA BAAMONDE – HOT
“Where do you begin?”
Victoria has a huge visibility uptick from last week. Thanks to her, everyone is onto Aubry’s game. Good on her for not buying what Aubry was selling. Victoria is shrewd, and she was able to expose the Survivor veteran. Now Aubry’s game is on the rocks and Victoria is sitting pretty with the newbies. This waitress is serving Aubry up on a silver platter. Order up!
Gus: VICTORIA BAAMONDE – HOT
Victoria got some coverage this week, although it was mostly just her throwing Aubry under the bus. Nonetheless, in doing so, Victoria demonstrated a level of strategic acumen, or at the very least situational awareness, that bodes well for her down the road. Picking up on Aubry’s mild duplicity and gamesmanship and being cognizant of the landscape of the tribe even before having a single tribal council shows that Victoria is here to play, and I hope we see more of this from her in the future.
Ali: JULIA CARTER – NOT
To the tune of “Where Are You Christmas?”…
WHERE ARE YOU CARTER?
WHY CAN’T I FIND YOU?
WHY HAVE YOU GONE AWAAAAAY
WHERE’S THE MED STUDENT
FROM THE PRESEASON
YOU SAID YOU CAME TO PLAAAAAAY
Gus: JULIA CARTER – NOT
Ali: RON CLARK – HOT
“They’ve had their moment to shine. Now, it’s our chance.”
Ron’s dancing alone could earn him a Hot from me, and not only because it made me smile. His antics could easily be annoying, but it looks like the tribe absolutely adores him. This educator is schooling us in how to play the social game, and on top of that, he’s got an advantage in his back pocket. Ron’s gameplay is as Hot as his dance moves.
Gus: RON CLARK – HOT
Ron is socially integrating with his tribe, and he’s having a good time in the process. Another player might have tried showing off their dance moves and been trashed for it, but Ron (and Kama as a whole) seems to be friendly enough that his goofiness has been translating into a degree of social standing. He’s also still got his menu, so he’s at the very least safe this upcoming week.
Ali: ERIC HAFEMANN – HOT
“Time away from the tribe is suspicious.”
Step aside Joe; there’s two who can play the challenge beast game. Eric proved his worth to his tribe, and he has Joe as a shield! Plus, we saw Eric idol hunting, so we know he’s thinking about all aspects of the game. Eric’s game is so Hot we might have to call the fire department.
Gus: ERIC HAFEMANN – HOT
These newbies are doing so much better than I thought they would. Coming for Aubry so soon might seem like a bad idea, but it’s panning out pretty well – at least thus far. Broadly approaching his tribemates about the plan has resulted in there being a pretty widely accepted angle against Joe and Aubry (or at the least Aubry), and not in the reversal of fortune that so often falls on those who try to get out returnees (such as Reem) – good for Kama! Of course, we still haven’t gone to a tribal, so for all I know this might all be flipped on its head as soon as the rubber actually hits the road. We’ll see.
Ali: AURORA MCCREARY – NOT
“Dancing’s become our thing.”
I want to go on record saying that I love Aurora already. Just the little I have seen of her has made me realize that my gut instinct about her being amazing is absolutely correct. Regretfully, I am not able to give her a Hot this week. She didn’t get enough content for me to understand what’s going on in her head at this moment. Last week, she told us that she was interested in working with Joe. Then, this week, we saw the other newbies on her tribe discuss Joe as a threat. Aurora was not shown as a part of any of these strategy discussions. For all I know, she might still be planning on working with the returnees when the other newbies seem to want them gone. I hope that next week will have this girl shining like the Aurora Borealis, but for now, it’s a Not from me.
Gus: AURORA MCCREARY – HOT
Aurora seems to be the newbie who’s closest to playing both sides. She’s still fond of Joe, but it looks like she’s not opposed to eliminating the newbies either. As of yet, I don’t have a whole lot else to say for or against Aurora, except that I’m so far liking her.
Ali: JULIE ROSENBERG – HOT
“The women and men do fall into these preconceived roles.”
God, I so hope that this idol scene means that Julie is going to find an idol during this game. I would love to see a season where the women are finding idols right and left, thereby pulling up our average. I loved Julie in both of these past episodes. She reminds me of Denise mixed with Chrissy, and to me, that’s a winning combination. I’m looking forward to seeing her gameplay going forward. This toymaker is here to play.
Gus: JULIE ROSENBERG – HOT
Julie is on the road to being a high point of this season. From her fun stories during the premiere to her insightful idol-related commentary this week in her and Victoria’s conversation, Julie is coming across as someone with great gameplay awareness and also pretty fantastic social abilities. Let’s hope she finds an idol and doesn’t fall under the dreaded Oldest-Woman-On-Her-Tribe curse.
Ali: GAVIN WHITSON – HOT
“Just shootin’ in the dark.”
Other than the idol hunt, there wasn’t a ton of Gavin this episode. Though, unlike Aurora who took a bit of a hit because we didn’t get to see much of her, what we saw of Gavin was enough for me to give him a Hot. Last week, we saw that he was forming a solid bond with Eric. Now, we have seen him hunting for idols and allying with the other newbies (they mentioned that Gavin told them about Aubry’s conversation with him). It looks like Gavin is firmly in with the majority and on a tribe that hasn’t lost yet, so I feel good about his chances going forward.
Gus: GAVIN WHITSON – HOT
Gavin’s a newbie who’s not opposed to voting out the returnees. He’s playing the game and making allies. Not much else to say. Go Gavin.
Ali: KELLEY WENTWORTH – NOT
“One of us is going to win the war.”
Kelley did a lot better at tribal council this week, but it’s never a good thing to declare war on another player. More often than not, players get snuffed the week after their rivals are ousted. A fellow returning player put a target on her this week, and Wardog was pretty much the reason she wasn’t headed for Extinction. Clearly, Kelley hasn’t worked enough magic with David, because he seems very convinced that she will eventually gun for him. In addition, Kelley failed to get out her true target this week, and Wendy lives to fight her another day.
Gus: KELLEY WENTWORTH – NOT
I don’t blame Manu for trying to get Kelley out – they are VERY much correct to make that swing. She’s handling the pressure as best as she can, but I worry that her luck will run out before too long – either for fear of a tribe swap where Kelley could switch her allegiance, or just because they’re scared of her swaying others to her cause.
Ali: DAVID WRIGHT – HOT
“This tribe is not big enough for two returning players.”
David has found his new Ken in the game, and that worked out pretty well for him last time (well, until the final four). His social game has been strong enough that he had Wendy talking about eliminating a returning player right in front of him. Granted, things didn’t go David’s way this week, which typically would lead me to give him a Not. On the other hand, David handled the tide of the vote with admirable flexibility, which impressed me. Despite David’s position as a returnee (which has seriously impacted the other players), everyone seems to be coming to David and wanting to work with him. It’s a Hot from me!
Gus: DAVID WRIGHT – HOT
Gosh, have the tables turned. David managed to almost inadvertently finagle his way into a strong alliance with newbies who like to work with him, having some excellent plans almost come together right before him without his even having to work for them. I’m not sure whether this will allow him to have any ownership over game moves as the season progresses, but as it is, he’s in a fantastic spot. I doubt if Kelley can bring other folks on the tribe to bear against David, and I also doubt if he’ll be eliminated before the merge. If David makes the merge, I expect him to be around for a long time.
Ali: CHRIS UNDERWOOD – NOT
“Keith has specifically told me, ‘I’m with you to the end’… And that’s not the type of player that you vote out.”
Chris was right. One never wants to eliminate someone who promises loyalty, and yet, Chris failed to protect Keith this week. I actually thought Chris played decently, but the ultimate result of this week will negatively impact Chris’s game, so it’s a Not from me!
Gus: CHRIS UNDERWOOD – HOT
His target didn’t go home this week, but Chris managed to roll with the punches and place himself in a highly desirable position for the future. I think Chris is in good shape for the coming few weeks.
Ali: RICK DEVENS – HOT
“Let’s shake on that. I’ll cut your throat at four.”
Rick makes me happy. In the midst of a game in which everyone is talking about keeping the tribe strong, no one is looking at Rick once again. Similarly with Chris, the vote did not go Rick’s way this week, but Keith didn’t promise Rick eternal loyalty like he did with Chris. Thus, Rick didn’t need to protect Keith as much as Chris did. When the cookie crumbled, Rick was still sitting pretty.
Gus: RICK DEVENS – HOT
Hi, I was super wrong. Rick is playing well. I think that he and Wardog will eventually find themselves at odds, as he is far more willing to get rid of returnees than Wardog is – but he’s putting his strategy to good use at this point, and keeping himself squarely in the mix.
Ali: LAUREN O’CONNELL – HOT
“They weren’t just girls, you know, riding coattails. They were badasses.”
Alright! Alright! Lauren impressed me this week. In the past, I have been disappointed by the girls who claimed they were the second coming of Parvati. Time and time again these girls would fail to play and get a one-way ticket to Ponderosa. So when Lauren came out and said that she was going to play like Parvati… I wasn’t ready to be hurt again.
My only concern for Lauren is that she is seen as Kelley Wentworth’s second, and people tend to go after the lieutenants in case the leader has an idol. Kelley is a great shield for Lauren, but the target could switch because Kelley is known for her idol plays, and Lauren could be collateral damage. Lauren’s idol makes me feel better about her longevity in the game because she now has protection. I also admit I cheered when she said in a confessional that she had no intention of telling Kelley about the idol. I’m not ready yet to say that Lauren is going to join the ranks of Parvati and Wentworth, but she’s definitely a lot more game savvy than I initially thought. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.
Gus: LAUREN O’CONNELL – HOT
Good idol find for Lauren, and a much BETTER choice to NOT tell Wentworth she found it. Lauren is setting herself up to be Kelley’s protégé, which makes me concerned she’ll be on the bottom and get voted out in 4th – but for the time being, except for her far-too-obvious connection to her idol Kelley, I think Lauren is playing really well.
Ali: DAN “WARDOG” DASILVA – NOT
“I want everyone to think it’s their idea.”
Everyone knew it was your idea. Everyone. I love Wardog, but he’s about as subtle as a train hitting me in the face. We’ve seen countless moments where people who utter phrases like “it’s f**king Keith” are eliminated from the game based on their inflexibility. Wardog got his way this time around, but at what cost? I think Wardog is sticking his neck out far too early, and he’s going to go the way of fellow bald man, Joe Mena.
Gus: DAN “WARDOG” DASILVA – HOT
Wardog went in on his plan to get rid of Keith, saw that plan backfire on him, found himself sitting at the hinge point between taking out Kelley and taking out Keith, and was able to execute his original plan to get rid of Keith. Did he overplay at first? Yeah, I think he was a little bit too pushy with his desire to vote out Keith. Do I blame him? NO. Voting out Keith was far and away the best option for the tribe at that point. We’re still in the tribe game – you want as few poor challenge performers around as possible. The logic of “oh, but maybe there’s a swap” doesn’t hold up for me, because if you find yourself swapped to a tribe with Keith, even if he does intend to remain loyal to you, Keith being in your tribe drastically raises the likelihood of your tribe losing immunity challenges. Better to keep Wentworth or Wendy at this point. Even more than that, as Wardog put it, as long as Kelley and David are around, nobody is pointing their fingers at him. Using a returnee as a shield is a risky strategy – and it hamstrings the chances of anyone else on the tribe who wants to get rid of them. Luckily, it seems that Wardog is being very careful with riding that fine line.
Ali: WENDY DIAZ – NOT
“Don’t try to mess up first time player’s games.”
Kelley Wentworth didn’t mess up Wendy’s game. Wendy messed up Wendy’s game. It was only by the grace of Keith that it wasn’t Wendy going to Extinction this week. Wendy’s inflexibility and adamant desire to make an enemy of Kelley has put her game in mortal peril. On top of that, Wendy is on a tribe that has already lost two challenges, so another tribal is a real possibility. Also, why, why, why would Wendy wax poetic about eliminating a returnee right in front of David and in the middle of the camp? Unless David can get something going next week, Wendy’s going to swap Manu for Extinction.
Gus: WENDY DIAZ – NOT
Wendy was a backup boot this week. I’ve got to think that if she isn’t voted out next, she’ll be around for a while. Still, I don’t think she’s playing particularly well, nor that she’ll be a particularly significant force in the game later on.
For this season, any player who chooses to live on the Edge of Extinction will appear here as one of “The Extinguished.” Each week they remain in the game, they will be given a label of either “Kindled,” meaning we think they’re in it for the long haul, or “Ashen,” meaning we think they’re not.
Ali: REEM DALY – KINDLED
“I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter.”
Despite that one confessional that said she might want to quit, I don’t believe that Reem is a quitter. I think that when Keith inevitably shows up on the island, she’s going to find her second wind.
Gus: REEM DALY – KINDLED
If Keith heads to the Edge I think Reem will be fine. However, I’m not sure if she can handle a full week alone.
Ali: KEITH SOWELL – ASHEN
I think that Keith was just overwhelmed that his game wasn’t over, and that was the impetus for his reaction. Because he’s a fan, I believe that he will make his way to Extinction Island. Hopefully, there will be a training montage of Reem teaching him to swim, Mr. Miyagi style. Despite his fan status, I just don’t know if Keith has it in him to be stranded on Extinction Island for a possible thirty-six days. I’m also slightly worried Reem might eat him. Therefore, I have to declare his game Ashen.
Gus: KEITH SOWELL – ASHEN
It remains to be seen if Keith will be making his way to the Edge of Extinction. If he does, though, I don’t think he’ll be around for too long.
ALI: Before we start, I wanted to point to your comment about Rick, especially considering our debate about him last week. “Hi, I was super wrong. Rick is playing well.” Welcome to team Rick. Oh yeah! And before you call me out for switching my position on Lauren, I’ll just go ahead and call myself out. Turns out, we both underestimated someone last week.
Second, your comment for Julia is perfection. I’m dead.
Okay, it looks like we disagree on three folks: Aurora, Wardog, and Chris. I gave them all Nots and you gave them all Hots. I’m going to start with Aurora. You said that she’s been playing both sides, but my problem is that we haven’t seen that. The only strategic thing we’ve heard from her is that she wants to work with Joe, and it looks like Joe & Aubry might be on the outs. I’m worried that Aurora isn’t on the same page as the rest of the newbies, and therefore, she could be in trouble when the returnee reckoning happens.
GUS: Sure. She could be. I think she’ll get wise to things before they turn around on her, though. She’s a lot less public about her fondness for the returnees than, say, Lauren is being – and even though her tribe is targeting the returnees, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be taking them out when push comes to shove. Besides which, even if they do want to take out the returnees, they’re far more likely to take out Aubry then they are Joe, which would similarly give her a chance to flip her script. With a swap likely happening in the next couple of episodes, I’m leaning slightly more towards a Hot than a Not.
ALI: You make a fair point. I don’t think Kama is going to tribal any time soon, so Aurora is probably safe for the time being. My concern is more long term. If she’s not on the same page as the majority of her tribe, maybe she’s not making the connections that she needs for longevity in the game. We haven’t seen a ton of Aurora, so this is largely conjecture, but something about her not being involved when the newbies were all talking about the returnees this week gave me a bad feeling. We didn’t even see her in the background of any of these conversations, and if we’re not seeing her, maybe it’s because she isn’t included. I agree that a swap is imminent, and those tend to shake up the game quite a bit. It’s encouraging that, in all likelihood, she will go into the swap with numbers. On the other hand, if she is having trouble connecting to her tribe already, she may also struggle in the swap. Again, this is all based on very little, but I had to make a judgment call, and something about her lack of involvement in any of these discussions had me uneasy. Shall we move on to what I assume will be a more contentious debate? I’ll let you pick your poison between the two guys.
GUS: Let’s go with Chris.
ALI: The vote did not go the way Chris wanted it to this week. When it comes to his influence over the tribe, that’s not a great sign.
GUS: I would be far more worried if he’d been pushing harder. Chris had an idea, he pitched it, it didn’t fly, and then he dropped it. You can’t win em all, you’ve gotta pick your battles. Chris surrendered so that he wouldn’t lose the war.
ALI: I commend Chris for not overplaying when the tide shifted against what he wanted, because there was no need to fall on his sword for Keith. But I’m thinking more about the long term indicators that this week symbolizes about his game. First, it appears that Wardog’s voice holds more weight than Chris’s, which doesn’t look great for Chris. Second, if we are looking at this as simply what was good for Chris’s game and what wasn’t, losing Keith certainly wasn’t great for Chris when he had somebody promising him eternal loyalty. That’s a hot commodity in the game that just went to Extinction Island. I don’t see anyone else promising Chris loyalty in the game. Is going with the flow necessarily a sign that you are playing a winning game? At this point, I’m not sure. In order to win the war, you have to win a battle from time to time, and Chris isn’t off to a great start in this regard.
GUS: Consider that we dinged Angelina in DvG for going all in to eliminate Jeremy – that’s the kind of thing I’m leaning away from this time around. I have to think that early in the game you want to take things a little easier.
ALI: Now, let’s pull out the big guns. Halfway through the episode, you declared you were giving Wardog a Not for this episode. What changed?
GUS: He took a damn breath and cooled off. Like Chris, he showed that he was willing to chill a little bit and maybe not die to get out his target. He rallied what he could, and then he sat back and let it be. When ultimately he saw that the time was again right, he jumped into getting rid of Keith with both feet.
ALI: I disagree. I think he went all in on his target and shut down pretty much everyone else’s ideas. If we are considering the fact that we dinged Angelina for going all in on Jeremy, then shouldn’t we give Wardog the same treatment for digging his heels about Keith? He went back to camp and declared that Keith should be the target and then shut down any alternate plan that came his way. Multiple people commented on his behavior, including Kelley and David. I think Rick and Chris might have also said something to that effect as well, but I don’t have the episode on in front of me to double check. Regardless, he stuck out to me this episode and not in a positive way.
GUS: But his target went home, and it was AFTER a whole alternative plan nearly came to fruition, AND it only happened because he ended up in the middle. His pitching of the plan came across to me a little easier-going than Angelina’s did back in DvG, and his willingness to let his plan take a back seat and to not kvetch about it suggested to me that he was a little more willing to fade away than otherwise. And, so far as I see it, at this point in the game Keith is a much better target than Kelley. Keith is basically an anvil in the challenges – he doesn’t help at all; he only hinders. If I were Wardog, I’d be having trouble keeping my head on straight too when faced with the choice of voting out a shield or dumping a liability.
ALI: This is the second time in a row that Wardog has pitched a target against what the majority wants. He got his way this time, but if he keeps pitching ideas and throwing names out needlessly, he’s going to bring unnecessary attention to himself. He already sticks out like a sore thumb because he looks like a Tony archetype, why would he go out of his way to confirm he’s a schemer this early in the game? Every time we saw him this episode, he was pushing his agenda. I worry for him down the road because once the merge hits his target is going to be massive. Sure, maybe keeping Kelley as a shield is better for his game, but I’m really worried about the way he went about it. And he was pushing for Keith even before Kelley’s name went up. Why? So that he could protect Wendy? Keith is a liability in challenges, but if they lose, then he’ll just go next time. They aren’t going to send Wardog home if they need challenge strength. It seemed like an unnecessary fight to have.
Basically, I love you, but Wardog is going to be a great King of Ponderosa.
GUS: I’ll try not to rub it in your face too much when you’re wrong.
ALI: Bring it on. Tune in next week, friends, to see our Wardog fight inevitably continue. But right now, I have to head off to a job interview!
GUS: And I have to head off to an audition! Bye everybody!
ALI: Happy Survivor Day! Bye!