Survivor: Edge of Extinction

Episode 1 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not after Week 1?

Photo: CBS

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!




“The wrong first impression could make or break my entire game.”

Dan was able to get in the majority and voted correctly this week, so what gives? Well, Dan was very much on the offensive during Reem’s tribal. Why? What is the point of engaging with someone who is of no consequence? All Dan did there was bring attention to himself.

We didn’t see much of the Wardog beyond this tribal performance, but there is one other moment that earned him a Not from me. When he and David were talking to Wendy, Dan immediately turned around and said that he thought they should eliminate Wendy instead of Reem. Dave’s response was a slightly exasperated, “Oh my god.” This moment leads me to believe that perhaps Wardog had been throwing out crazy ideas prior to this, and even if he hadn’t been, David did not seem eagerly receptive to the military vet’s ideas. Furthermore, Wardog does not have enough sway to bring the votes around to his agenda.


Wardog came off well this week, and my fears about him playing the gung-ho VOTE OUT THE RETURNEES IMMEDIATELY game are more or less assuaged. His working with David and calmly approaching Wendy about the Reem vote showed him to be a relatively measured and thoughtful player. And apart from his comment at Tribal in response to Reem’s polling the audience about if she’d annoyed anyone, he managed to keep his head screwed on pretty tight – despite the dagger eyes he was throwing Reem’s way. I was also impressed with his foresight in dealing with Wendy – predicting that she’d be a potential danger in the long run, and positing to David that it might be wiser to vote for her than for Reem. All in all, Wardog looks to be shaping up for a game that’s more Ben than it is Tony.



“I’m coming into the game like the Kool-Aid Man. I wanna break through the wall, OH YEAH!”

People are giving Rick a lot of flack for throwing the three outsiders under the bus, but I saw that as pretty brilliant (albeit brutal) strategy. Look at Rick. He stands out from the rest of the tribe just based on his physique and his age. If a lion is chasing you, you don’t have to be the fastest runner; you just have to be faster than the slowest runner. Rick saw an opportunity to trip a couple of runners and put them between himself and the lion. Is it the nicest thing in the world to do? No. But he did it in a subtle enough way to throw the target off his back and not have it rebound back to him. The key element that clinches a Hot from me is how he managed to make this happen. Rick is smart enough to know that you don’t throw out names to eliminate. Instead, he mentioned that the three of them were hanging out a lot and let Kelley exclaim, “Great! We have the numbers!” Bam! Rick lives to run another week.


I think Rick is playing well, but I think he might also be a little bit overzealous right now. His immediate lumping of Reem, Keith and Wendy into “an alliance” was both hasty and unnecessary, and I worry that this sort of thing might come back to bite him in the long run.



“You don’t know when this is gonna flip, when this is gonna happen, when this is gonna happen, and that’s my life.”

First, I just wanted to say that as someone who also has a neurological difference, I wanted to commend Wendy for sharing her story with us. We talk a lot about representation on Survivor, and I was thrilled at how Wendy was given the space to explain more about Tourette’s so that the audience might have a better understanding. Thank you, Wendy.

That said, I’m an equal opportunity destroyer. As much as I appreciate Wendy, she didn’t play well last week. Pretty much right away, Wendy isolated herself with Reem and Keith, giving the tribe ample opportunity to talk about eliminating her. Then, when David and Wardog tried to extend a hand and help her in the game, she refused to vote against Reem. We are three days into a game that requires her to betray people, and she’s already failed to do so. Reem is the first vote, and Wendy just met her, she doesn’t deserve such staunch loyalty. Now, she’s needlessly annoyed someone else that’s still in the game when she had the easy out of a unanimous vote. Like Wendy said in the very beginning of the episode, you don’t know when something is going to flip. In Wendy’s efforts to convince people that Reem should stay, she nearly brought the target onto herself. That target is going to remain into next week. Wendy needs to learn to pick her battles, or she’s going to follow Reem out the door.


“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” is one phrase, and I’d like to rejigger it a little to be “don’t bite the hand that’s offering you a less suicidal path in the game of Survivor on day 3.” In her defense, Wendy played pretty well in the first half of this episode. She formed some solid bonds, helped out with the shelter and did well enough in the challenges. But then she just threw it all away when Wardog came to her about Reem. A tight twosome is not something you want to have in the first week – especially not when your tribe comes to you and informs you that your alliance partner is the target. Brush it off, shake your head and let them go – don’t cling to them!



“My two favorite players are Kelley Wentworth, and my total Survivor crush is Joe.”

Lauren managed to get into the majority, but she also made it painfully obvious that she was close with Kelley. Having the label of being a part of a couple, regardless of whether it’s true, is going to impact her game going forward. Lauren might be taken out as a lieutenant if people are threatened by Kelley. It’s happened before.


I still love Lauren, and I still have VERY high hopes for her – let me get that out of the way right off the bat. THAT BEING SAID, she’s publicly known as Wentworth’s number one ally, and as Wentworth’s number one ally I worry that Lauren will be the first person to go if the tribe decides to start targeting Wentworth. If she turns on Wentworth, however, or if she’s able to form a counter-insurgency, I think Lauren will shine in her own right. But in the short term, I’m worried she might go out still blinded by the Wentworth/Anglim glow.



“Not having my mom out here is kind of affecting me.”

Okay, someone needs to give this kid a hug, but I digress. Ashley Nolan once said that in Survivor, “you either sink or swim.” Sinking seems to be Keith’s modus operandi this episode, literally and figuratively. Keith’s swimming ability and early bonds with Reem and Wendy put him on the outs. Nonetheless, Keith’s saving grace was that he recognized how the tide was turning and left to go make connections with the other side of the camp. Only time will tell if Keith’s flip was too little, too late. Once a player is viewed as weak, they’re easy pickings early on.


Keith very nearly got a Hot for the sole reason that he saw Reem wiggin’ out and he immediately jumped ship. Wendy, take lessons from this guy’s gameplay – when your allies go off the deep end, don’t let them drag you down with them. Apart from his immediate selling-out of Reem, Keith presented himself as somewhat of a liability in challenges – if you’re on Survivor, you should invest in some swimming lessons – and may still be lumped into the “Alliance” (in massive sarcasm quotes) that Rick identified. At this phase in the game, players are much more focused on getting out challenge hindrances than they are on getting out challenge beasts or endgame threats, so I worry that Keith’s days may be numbered.



“Sometimes it rubs different personalities the wrong way.”

We didn’t hear a lot from Chris this week, but I thought the way that he handled the Reem situation at tribal made him look far better than anyone else who tried to take Reem head on. I think that the way he explained his viewpoint wasn’t confrontational while remaining direct. In addition, Chris is in a great spot going forward. He is a part of the majority, and he is a strong man. Chris is going to be around for a while.


Chris was pretty silent this episode. I’m still getting a read on him; I don’t think he’s leaving early, but I don’t think he’s winning either. He gets what amounts to a coinflip Hot.



“I played from the bottom in Second Chances, which isn’t a good feeling. So I want to focus on building genuine relationships, which can be hard for me because I’m a closed off person.”

Kelley didn’t come across well this episode. Despite her professed desire to create great relationships, she engaged in a hot debate with Reem at tribal council. Now, it was understandable, because she was being attacked, but her connection with Lauren was so obvious that it made her the topic of conversation. Also, Kelley was really upset that her name came up, but it leads me to wonder why she was so surprised. She’s a veteran of the game; it’s logical that her name would come up. And yet, Kelley was so upset at tribal, and really lashed out at Reem. It feels like Kelley is so eager to play from a majority this time around that when her name was tossed around, she immediately got on the offensive. She knew that Reem was going home, so why take the bait when Reem was clearly fighting to stay? I think it would have been wise for Kelley to be a little less hostile at tribal council and try to get back under the radar. Of course, that is easier said than done. Once one’s name is floating around camp, it’s hard to put the cat back in the bag. Regardless, Kelley’s performance at tribal did nothing to help her position in the game, and her failure to hide her connection with Lauren throws them both under the bus.


I’m really not happy to be giving Wentworth a Not – and it’s hardly because of anything she did. She had a huge target on her back coming into this season, and her decision to play socially – while smart – may actually be biting her a little bit. A big part of why Reem was targeting her was because she and Lauren were so tight – their social bond may be hurting Wentworth more than it is helping her. With David potentially lining up to take a shot at Kelley next episode, I’m fearful that her days on Manu beach may be numbered – and that’s assuming her head wound doesn’t affect her chances.



“I want people to feel like I can help them navigate, especially the very early part of the game so that they know that I’m a friend, you can trust me, keep me around.”

I was nervous for David going into the game. His lack of challenge skill makes him an easy boot early on, and his threat level exacerbates the issue. David was the only returnee that I ranked as a Not last week, and this week he is the only veteran to earn a Hot. He managed to avoid having his name come up the first week at all, something the other veterans cannot claim. David is integrating well with the group, and his strategy of getting the newbies to rely on him in the early game is spot on. Apparently, I didn’t heed the warnings of last season, but now I know, never underestimate a David.


David is integrating with his tribemates more thoroughly than Kelley – and people are coming to him with information even more than the other way around. He’s taken to playing from more-or-less the top with ease, and if he can keep that up, he should be safe from heading to the Edge of Extinction for a while yet.




“I’m going to try my hardest to never shine brighter than everybody else.”

Well, that is very good of you Joe. We know how hard it is for you to hide your light under a bushel. Eye roll inducing as that phrase might have been, I think I understand what Joe is getting at. For Joe to stick around, he has to dim some of his “amazing.” That’s a great strategy. However, he did absolutely nothing to help that this episode. No matter how hard Joe tries, he can’t seem to tamp down that light – literally, he started the fire within two seconds. Then, he took the lead on building the shelter, hello, Survivor MacGyver. The guy can’t resist being worshipped by adoring newbies. This is going to come back to bite him eventually.

At the same time, in fairness to Joe, maybe there really isn’t a way for him to hide on this season. He’s a returnee with a reputation as this incredible comp beast. Perhaps the best thing for Joe is to lean into his reputation since there isn’t a way for him to escape it. I think, in general, Joe is in a tough spot because he’s always going to be a massive target. Maybe if Joe’s target is so massive, people will come to ignore him because he’s so obvious. Though, if we take Joe at his word, he is actively trying to draw attention away from himself. Frankly, everything he does puts that magnifying glass closer and closer. His mustache hairs are already singeing.

Luckily for Joe, we’ve seen a few players talk about how they want to work with him, specifically Aurora and Eric. However, Eric and Gavin explicitly stated that they were looking to use Joe as a meat shield. This doesn’t indicate that Joe is playing a good game, rather it means that other players are going to use him until they lose him.


Honestly, Joe should have been the first person targeted on either tribe, so the fact that he’s doing fine and dandy is baffling to me. Between creating fire out of thin air (well, some sticks) and killing the challenges, Joe has more or less put his team on his back – and they seem happy to ride him for the time being.



“If I pop my head up too much, it’s gonna get lobbed off.”

Ugh, my draft is a complete mess. First I lose Reem, and now I have Eric saying that he wants to target his fellow Ali draft member, Aubry. I’m not happy. But enough about me, let’s talk about Aubry.

I feared for Aubry and David early game, because they have a reputation for being strategic, but they aren’t the typical meat shield that one can use for challenges and camp life. They have threat written on their faces, and they aren’t inherently useful in the early game, top that off with their returnee label and the two of them are sitting ducks. Like I said above, Eric has already expressed interest in eliminating Aubry, and he has Gavin on his side. Now, we know that Aubry has been able to get out of tight spots before, so all is not lost. She said herself, “I know that the best thing to do sometimes is lay in the grass and then come out like a cobra when the time is right.” Not to contradict a Survivor legend, but Aubry has only ever played in seasons where she has played from the bottom. I fear that may be her fate in this game as well.

As I said, all is not lost. Aubry’s tribe has already won one challenge, and just optically they appear to be the stronger tribe. Should Aubry’s tribe continue to win, that could spell good things for her game going forward. Aubry’s other saving grace is Joe. Should Joe catch wind of this plan, he might realize that if the tribe is targeting returning players, that’s bad news bears for him. Since others on the tribe have expressed interest in working with Joe, he might be able to save Aubry. BUT, this requires Joe to strategize, and that has always been his biggest struggle in the game. For now, Aubry’s position relies on other people to save her, earning her a Not from me this week.


On the other hand from Joe, we’ve got Aubry, who was being kicked around as a possible first boot by Eric (I believe) before the immunity challenge even happened. Seriously? I mean, they’re right to want her out early, but… but I DON’T want her out early! I’m really not sure what happened there, honestly. It might just be that she’s got that much of a reputation for being a great player – I don’t know. What I do know is that she’s being targeted, and she’s gonna have to work to turn that target around to someone else – maybe someone she can pitch as more amazing…



“When I was eight years old, I asked Santa for a Survivor buff, so I am just dying to get started.”

Other than this adorable anecdote, there wasn’t a lot from Victoria this week. I need to know what’s going on in her head before I can give her a Hot.


Slow week for Victoria. Not a lot to say about her. Not a ton in her favor. Not a ton against her. If Chris got a coinflip Hot, she’s getting a coinflip Not.



“I won the coup de grace of Survivor advantages. I have the best thing you could possibly have.”

I love Ron. I’m a teaching artist and let me tell you, in the teaching world this man is a legend. This man oozes charisma, and his immediate excitement to play the game was infectious. Though, my analysis goes beyond just liking the guy on and off screen. Ron found an advantage this week that is going to keep him safe going forward. He’s already digging deep… literally.


The Advantage Menu is an interesting item, and I think the right player found it. Ron seems wise enough to hold onto it until he needs it (or until the 3rd challenge), and to use it well if and when he does need it. Beyond that, Ron’s been making some inroads with his tribe, and they didn’t seem suspicious of him when he went off to find his Menu – so he gets a Hot from me this week.



“Aubry, yeeeeeees!”

Sadly, there was just not a lot to say about Julia this week. Because I don’t know anything about her, I can’t give her a Hot.


I honestly don’t know if Julia even appeared in last week’s episode, so she gets a Not from me.



“Being a firefighter, at the very core, it’s about taking care of people. So we get good at developing lightning fast rapport.”

Eric’s sleep alarm went off, and he shot out of bed, ready to extinguish blazes right and left. I feel utterly vindicated because I said that he would be someone to watch. Not only was his challenge performance impressive (he was the second person across that beam), but he also demonstrated his strategic and social abilities. His bonding scene with Gavin showcased that he has the ability to bond with the others on his tribe, and his rationale for targeting Aubry while using Joe as a shield is sound. Eric is coming in Hot!


Eric is one of the only players who led a real anti-returnee charge this week – but rather than going big with it, he kept it small, gradually roping in other castaways who he thought would be willing to work with him and seeding the idea that they don’t need Joey to be Amazing, or Aubry to be… Bracco. They can do it themselves. This is, in my eyes, a better tactic than the run-of-the-mill “THEY’RE JUST GONNA WIN” – it suggests to his tribemates that the returnees are diminishing everyone else’s Survivor experience, deflating them rather than pumping them up. I wish he’d gone after Joe before Aubry, but, well, there ya go.



“I’m gay and I’m still on Team Joe.”

Similarly with Victoria, we only got a little snippet of Aurora this episode. In contrast to Victoria, though, Aurora’s sole confessional had strategic content that gave us a clue about where her head is in this game. She stated that she’s interested in working with Joe going forward. I imagine that, like with Eric, she’s looking at Joe as a potential meat shield. It reassures me that Aurora is already thinking about who she wants to align with in the game.

If Reem gets the award for most predictable boot ever, Aurora gets my award for most surprising player this episode. Here was this amazing, no-nonsense divorce lawyer, who I instantly wanted to have as a friend and mentor. And yet, I was incredibly low on her going into the season because she admitted herself that her mouth might get her in trouble on the island. But I saw Aurora already talking about bonding with Joe, and smiling in every shot. I was thrilled at how chill and fun Aurora seemed, and that spells a promising future for her game.


Like with many other players, I’m still getting a read on Aurora (yay one-hour premieres), but what I have seen of her I like. She seems easygoing and willing to work with the returnees in the short term (at least), but also aware enough of the fact that she needs to worry about her game more than anyone else’s to not be sucked under the returnee spell until the end.



“I live in New York City. I have no outdoor survival skills whatsoever… so this is definitely going to be a test for me.”

Cue the awkward clown music, reminiscent of Stephen Fishbach struggling to break a single stick. The difference here being Stephen’s clown music lead into a sad diatribe about his bowel problems. Whereas Julie’s clown music swelled into a triumphant crescendo, complete with machete chopped bamboo. Stephen was not able to defeat his stick, but Julie smashed hers to smithereens. Julie’s growth edit began and ended in the span of a music track. I thought this scene could be interpreted in one of two ways. Either Julie’s arc has just begun and she will continue to grow throughout the remainder of the season, becoming full on Julie of the Jungle by the season’s end (watch out for that tree), or Julie is going soon and she has managed to learn one thing from Survivor before her departure.

When I first came into my assessment of Julie, she gave me Denise Stapley vibes, but her content this episode has steered me in a different direction. Julie gives me a little bit of early David in MvGX or early Aubry in Kaoh Rong (probably helped by the fact that Jeff felt the need to highlight these growths when he introduced them). Survivor loves growth stories (did you know Cirie was afraid of leaves?), and they have chosen out of all of the city slickers on the season to make us invested in Julie’s. To me, this is a sign that Julie’s journey is far from over. If she’s lucky, maybe Jeff will introduce her in a captain’s season as the woman who had only peed in Central Park once.

I felt particularly encouraged by Julie’s chances when I saw her tribe’s reaction to her. When she victoriously chopped that bamboo, they all cheered for her like she performed open heart surgery. Unlike Reem, Julie has managed to endear herself to the group, and they have become invested in her growth as well. If Julie can capitalize on her adorable quest to learn, I think she’s got longevity going forward.


Julie learned how to do some survival things, which are all a far cry past her prior outdoors experience. She seems to be getting along pretty well with her tribemates as well, which always bodes well. With the wealth of positivity and growth surrounding her, I’d be surprised to see her eliminated at all soon.



“I am here for one reason and one reason only, and that is to win the title of Sole Survivor.”

All of the Good Ol’ Boys of recent seasons have been going far of late, and several have gone on to win. So I was reluctant to like Gavin because I just didn’t want another Good Ol’ Boy to win. I like to mix things up. Gosh darn it, the guy got to me and I like him, okay? I guess I need to hop on the Good Ol’ Boy train. All aboard! Gavin worked his way into a partnership with Eric, who will be a fantastic meat shield for Gavin going forward. In addition, his confessional about being the Sole Survivor gave me a really good feeling. I could just see the burning desire in his eyes. This guy is here to play, and, based on his first few days, I can’t see what he brings to the table.


Gavin had a good first week without too many notable actions. His tribe won immunity and he started making friends – not a ton to say, but all good things.


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. In keeping with the spirit of the Edge of Extinction, commentary on the Extinguished will be kept to a minimum. Only when a player is fully out of the game will they receive a retrospective.



Reem is tough as nails, and she has a score to settle. You know what they say, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She’s not going anywhere.


Reem is still alive, and she’s angry. She should be around a while yet.


GUS: You’re out of order.

ALI: I’m out of order? This whole courtroom’s out of order!

GUS: No, it’s literally just you. Where are you getting the idea that the Wardog is some sort of shoot-from-the-hip lunatic? I mean, besides his nickname. He was terrifically restrained in Tribal – he only piped up the one time, and it was in direct response to a poll from Reem.

ALI: I thought of one specific moment when I was trying to figure out where to place him. First, he volunteered to go speak with Wendy about the vote and failed to convince her to vote with them. Granted, this wasn’t necessarily his fault, because Wendy was a bit of a wildcard and she misplayed the moment. However, it’s a moment that doesn’t exactly speak to his social ability when dealing with people on the bottom. Then, after she leaves, he immediately turns to David and switches the agenda to Wendy. Dave’s reaction was automatically an “oh god” reaction, which I interpreted as David potentially being off-put in this moment. Wardog isn’t exactly laying low when it comes to strategizing during this moment. Even though it should have been an easy first vote, he was already trying to challenge the status quo and brought up a name in a very abrupt way.

GUS: That isn’t how I read that moment at all. Wardog was calm, cool and collected (#collective) during this exchange. If he was as rambunctious a player as you seem to think he is, he very easily might have popped off on Wendy – but instead, he let her say her piece and let her walk off with an “alright, you do you” mentality. David’s “oh God” seemed more like an “ugh, I thought we had this problem solved; and now we’ve got Wendy like a wrench in the works.” I think David is a little more savvy than to badmouth his allies right in front of them.

Photo: CBS

ALI: Let me address both things you said here. Wardog is the person I have the most opinions about, so bear with me. First, I don’t know if we should look at Wardog as a Hot just because he didn’t “pop off” on Wendy. That’s pretty basic Survivor 101 (though it appears Reem didn’t get that memo.) But what he did do was turn around and immediately start strategizing at a time where it might be best for his type to lay low. He’s already someone people are going to look at and it feels like he’s drawing further attention to himself. Even though he didn’t get a crazy amount of content, he was a very noticeable force already in just this episode. He’s not hiding that he’s smart and thinking ahead, which is exactly what he said he was going to try and do in his opening confessional. As for David, I definitely think he’s smart enough not to badmouth Wardog to his face. That’s not what I’m saying he did. I think that his slightly joking “oh god” was in response to Wardog trying to flip the script though, and it didn’t feel like in that moment David was very excited to be hearing a new idea. I don’t think that this was in reaction to Wardog as a person, but I think it’s a read on how he feels about Wardog trying to change a foregone conclusion. Regardless, what I saw was Wardog failing to hide his intelligence (which he specifically said he would do) and I saw him present an idea to his alliance that they ultimately didn’t take. It’s not a good sign for your game when your alliance member’s reaction to your idea is “oh god” and then they go with the conclusion they had already reached. It felt like Wardog was trying to rock the boat too early.

Then, we get to tribal. To me, it felt like Wardog was more visibly agitated by Reem (much like Kelley) than some of the other tribe members. What I thought David did so brilliantly during this tribal was how he separated himself from the drama that was unfolding and kept many of his opinions to himself (I actually thought Lauren did this well also). Since Reem was already going, what was the point in Wardog confronting her at all? The people that got really rattled by her at tribal, I thought had a bit of a weak showing (Kelley and Wardog specifically). I watched this scene three times and he looked very angry while she was talking, and did fight back against a few things she said. It felt like the better move for him would have been to sit back and let Reem bury herself. His willingness to bring unnecessary attention to himself may be his downfall going forward, so he earns a Not from me.

GUS: The murder-eyes at Tribal were fantastic, weren’t they? All of that makes sense. I don’t think that his exhibiting gameplay is a severe enough penalty for a Not, though – he’s not overplaying to the degree that, say, Paul from MvGX or Angelina from DvG were at this point in the game. I think he’s having some trouble hiding his braininess, sure, and he’s a tad aggressive. But I don’t think he is displaying enough of either of those tendencies to get him in trouble in the short-term, particularly since his preferred methodology for enacting change in the tribe is to posit ideas to his tribemates and let them blow by when they don’t work. He mentioned Wendy as a possible boot option, and he didn’t throw a fit when the tribe opted to stick with Reem – he had already approached Wendy about working against Reem, and when she declined his offer he rolled with it. Going with the first plan doesn’t mean that your plan is bad – it means your plan is not yet ripe. Wardog is playing a little bit ahead. That can be good as well as it can be bad, and I think it’s a good thing for him.

To go back a little bit, your first point – “that’s pretty basic Survivor 101” – this is the point in the game at which we weed the people who do know Survivor 101 out from those who just don’t. We’ve had, what, eight minutes of Wardog – max? If he’d gone much above Survivor 101, alarm bells would be blaring and we’d be screaming, “HE’S TOO GOOD, OVERPLAYING, GET HIM OUT!” If he’d been too far under Survivor 101, we’d likewise be screaming, “HE CAN’T PLAY, HE’S TOAST!” Riding that line, for the time being, is a hard thing to do – and I really do think Wardog is thus far doing it.

ALI: Only time will tell. I could see it going either way for him. I just fear that on a season with returnees, they are going to be sensitive to seeing someone who is clearly a smart player like Wardog. I worry he won’t be able to get away with as much strategizing as he might have on a season with all newbies.

GUS: Entirely possible. I think he was VERY smart to strap himself to David this early. Normally I’d say it’s better to cut all the returnees early, but for Wardog I think using David as a shield is a smart thing. It’s a highly mutually beneficial relationship for the two of them – David needs Wardog to get through the early game, and Wardog needs David for the late-game.

ALI: I just don’t want to see you hurt again like you were with Hennigan.

GUS: Yeah, that was tough. To be fair, though, I did see his downfall coming and I did give him a Not at just the right moment. It wasn’t like I lashed myself to a sinking ship by, say, giving Lyrsa a Hot the week she went home.

ALI: Oooo, them’s fighting words. Don’t worry; I’m sure there will be plenty of times you will make mistakes this season. I’ll be sure to be as gracious about them as you have been with the Lyrsa boot. Shall we move on to Rick?

GUS: 🙂 Yeah, let’s. I’m on the fence about him, honestly.

ALI: If we want to talk about Survivor 101, let’s talk about how seamlessly the guy got the target off of himself. Here’s everyone talking about keeping the tribe strong for the vote and Rick’s name didn’t come up one time. And this is because he saw another target that he could throw out there, but he did it without saying, “let’s vote out these people.” (Unlike Reem) Instead, he just made a comment about how they were in an alliance and let other people jump on the “let’s vote them out” train. I thought that was masterfully done.


GUS: I think you can only receive credit for being able to take the target off of yourself if it was ever on you in the first place. Nobody was ever targeting Rick. He was just kind of there, and then he was ripping on Reem and Keith and Wendy to keep the target off of him. If you want overplaying, that’s your overplaying. I mean, it worked, and he’s in a good spot for this week, but I don’t think it bodes well for him down the line… if anything, it sets him up for some extremely reactionary gameplay.

ALI: I disagree. If you are an older man on the tribe and you do not resemble Brendaddy, then you should assume that you are a target unless a better one comes along. Rick found those better targets and then let them sink themselves. He got in good with the majority, and unless he really screws up next week, he probably won’t go home over at least three other people. And I think that Rick is the type where if they let him get to the merge, he can go far because they’re going to want to knock off all the challenge beasts before they even look at him. He’s set up well going forward.

GUS: Rick’s 33. He’s not an older man. There are arguments for every single other person on the tribe being a bigger target than him at this point. Again, I don’t think he’s about to be sent to the Edge of Extinction, but it’s not like he came in playing from the bottom and barely eked out his survival. He came in playing from the middle and is now punching down.

ALI: Maybe he’s not necessarily “older,” but he’s not exactly the most physically adept person there. Alright, let’s move this along to Joe. Joe walked into this game saying that he was going to try not to shine brighter than anyone else, but he can’t help himself. He’s not going to get voted out this week, but I wouldn’t say he’s playing well. This has as much to do with who is playing well as who is going to be voted out next week. He’s not going to win this game based on his performance this week. He has learned nothing from his previous times and therefore did not play well. Not for Joe.

GUS: Agreed, but the newbies seem to want him to do that. The only person who so much as hinted at Joe’s Amazingness not being best for the whole of the tribe was Eric, and even he decided he wanted to attack Aubry first. Joe’s doing what he thinks is best, and at this point – shockingly – it might actually be what’s best for his game. He’ll have to modulate his style of play later on, but if you look at his gameplay style as a leadership style, he’s literally following the rulebook.

Photo: CBS

ALI: Because Eric wants to use Joe as a meat shield. He’s just a part of Eric’s long term strategy.

GUS: Sure – and that’s a very real risk that Joe is taking – but that’s a long-term thing from Eric. If in two weeks it’s still on Eric’s mind, yeah, Joe’s going WAY down in stock; but there’s so much that might happen before then that it isn’t a high enough risk for me to give Joe a not based on the conversations happening on the beach.

ALI: I disagree. Joe couldn’t even stick to his own strategy for three days. He may already be drawing dead. He’ll be a part of someone else’s strategy, rather than leading his own. He needs to play smarter next week for me to give him a Hot.

GUS: Fair enough. I think he could easily fall from grace next week, but I’m happy enough with his performance to give him a Hot this week. Who’s the next person out, and who’s definitely safe? One per tribe.

ALI: Okay, for Manu, I think it’s Keith out next. And for Kama, I think it’s… Aubry. And it makes me sad.

GUS: I think Manu will be Wendy. I was going to say Kama will be Aubry, but I’m gonna switch to Eric because #hedging.

ALI: I definitely think it could be either of them. I don’t think Kama is going to lose the challenge, but I think we are gearing up for a potential showdown between Aubry and Eric.

GUS: Yeah, me neither. I went in on Kama in the preseason for a reason. I worry for our returnees there. In terms of the folks who are absolutely safe, I think: For Manu… David. For Kama… Julie.

ALI: For me… For Manu… this is a hard one because I think everyone is potentially in trouble… let’s go with my man, Rick. I think he’s perfectly in the middle of the pack right now. For Kama, Ron. He’s got his coup de grace.

GUS: Alrighty. So, that’s it for this week. Tune in next week to see Ali probably roast me because chances are I’m wrong about things.

ALI: Bye!

Written by

Alexandra Shields

Alexandra “Ali” Shields is a sketch writer and playwright from Chicago and a graduate from Northwestern University. Alexandra has published humor articles with The Second City Network and Alexandra’s play, Twelve, won first place in the Jackie White National Memorial Playwriting Contest in 2018. Ali writes Inside Survivor’s weekly Hot or Not feature with her fiancé Gus.

Gus Schlanbusch

Gus is a Chicago-based theater artist and Survivor fan. He and his fiancée Ali also co-run a small theater company and produce a podcast about The Wheel of Time called “Wheel Takes.” When he’s not busy with all of that, he’s probably playing board games. Gus writes Inside Survivor’s weekly Hot or Not feature with Ali.

9 responses to “Episode 1 – Hot or Not”

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