Survivor: Edge of Extinction

Hot or Not – Manu Tribe

Ali & Gus breakdown the castaways on the Manu Tribe.

Photo: CBS

Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor players into two categories, Hot or Not. For the preseason, Ali and Gus will be ranking the contestants based on who they think has potential longevity in the game. These opinions are based solely on first impressions of each contestant based on their bios, interviews, and Josh Wigler’s First One Out.

Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway (especially this edition), but that’s why it’s fun!




(In keeping with this season’s Extinction theme, I’ll be matching each castaway to a dinosaur that I feel best represents their personality, based on the very little I’ve been able to learn about them.)

Hello Tony… I mean, Joe… I mean, Russell… Can you tell me who this bald guy is? The Wardog, while hilarious, is giving me some major Philip Shephard vibes in this pre-game, and it puts him firmly in the Not category for me. Maybe I have a thing about nicknaming yourself or referring to yourself in the third person, but whatever it is, I have alarm bells up about Dan DaSilva. When I think of The Wardog, I think of a dinosaur that has it’s own nickname. The Carnotaurus, a horned carnivore that is one of the most dangerous dinosaurs of all time, is often referred to as the “the meat-eating bull.” It has two horns on the top of its head that they use to crash into other Carnotauruses. Like the Carnotaurus, I’m concerned that Dan’s going to try to get his way in the game by blasting through obstacles. Unfortunately, in the game of Survivor, that just doesn’t work.


(So from what I’ve heard, Ali is matching the entire cast to dinosaurs. Naturally, in response to this I will be comparing the cast to IHOP menu items.)

I think people are sleeping on Dan. He seems to be puffing himself up on purpose – though his bio implies that he lacks self-awareness, in his FOO interview he comes across as a levelheaded player who wears the mantle of a Coach or Philip-like specialist. Furthermore, he’s a longtime fan – he brings up Yul and Mike’s games, both players who – while dominant winners – are not the first person that most players would go to for comparisons. If Dan can modulate his OTT side (e.g., “I bring a certain sex appeal that men my age haven’t had for over a decade…”), I think Dan will play a good game. If not, well, never mind.



My dad is a businessman, and one thing that he always told me to do was hedge my bets. Hence, Reem gets to be in my draft because I love her, but she also scares me, so she gets a Not here. I think Reem has a high ceiling and a really low floor. It might seem like cheating, but that’s the gamble. Reem is like the Ankylosaurus, the club-tailed dinosaur. She stands out from the crowd, and I tend to like people like that. But she’s fully capable of becoming too much and clubbing people over the head with her uniqueness, and that’s not going to endear her to them. I’m betting on Reem, but I have to also be safe and not put all of my eggs in the Reem basket.


When asked which Survivor she is most like, Reem answered, “Rudy Boesch because he just does NOT care.” Reem, you should probably care. Rudy lost twice! I don’t have the strongest read on Reem – she seems pretty eccentric and somewhat erratic, and I think she might rub her Manu tribemates the wrong way. I don’t think she will be the first one out, but I don’t think she’ll be in the game for too long either. When it comes to the Edge of Extinction, I think she’ll hang in there for a while – but I’m just not getting enough of a good read on her to give her a Hot yet.



Like the famous flying dinosaur, the Pteranodon, Rick stands out from the crowd. And, like the Pteranodon, Rick might be in trouble when the other competitors come to play. Remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the T-Rex showed up and ate a bunch of Pteranodons? Yeah, it could be like that. Rick could be in a lot of trouble in the pre-merge, and it’s looking to me like his tribe will be in danger early on. Not a good sign for poor Rick, as he is not the most… physical person on the tribe. This puts him in trouble early and earns him a Not from me. However, like with David in Millennials vs. Gen-X, if Rick gets to the merge, there are going to be bigger dinos to fry, and Rick can swoop in like the Pteranodon he is and sail to the end.


Rick seems like he’s going to be a fun guy. From his tremendously memorable Kool-Aid man entry onto the scene to his flag swim trunks, he seems set up for a decent amount of social success in Survivor. He and I have a decent amount in common, too – we’re both eagle scouts, we both like long-ass books (in his case Stephen King’s The Stand, in mine Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time), and we’re both neurotic about coasters. Why do I have him as a Not, then? Honestly, I’m worried that he’s a little bit scattered coming into the game, and I’m just not sure what to expect from his gameplay style. Hopefully I’ll switch things around for Rick in the near future.



Oh boy… I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but man, those interviews were a little rough. I feel like Wendy would be tough to get to know because she talks… a lot. Granted, that might be entertaining on an island where there isn’t a lot to do, but sometimes silence is golden. In the past, people who are overly talkative tend to leave early, see: Katrina Radke. I want to give Wendy the benefit of the doubt and say that this was nerves, but her social media presence reads similarly. I wish Wendy the best in her Survivor experience, but I worry that she’s not long for the game. And, if by some chance she does make it far, I fear her chatting will ultimately reveal alliance secrets. I’m giving Wendy the Parasaurolophus, famous for standing out with a backward curving crest on its head. This crest served to create a built-in amplifier, giving the Parasaurolophus a reputation as the loudest dinosaur. Enough said.


I’d like to have it on record that I love Wendy’s energy and optimism, and I think her enthusiasm for life (which we could all emulate) is something that doubtless serves her well in myriad capacities, including her entrepreneurial ventures and her day-to-day life. That said, I worry that Wendy might rub her castmates the wrong way which could result in her being sent to the Edge of Extinction before too long. I think she’ll do well in that facet of the game – she doesn’t strike me as a quitter – but nonetheless I have to mark Wendy as a Not.



I have an issue with people who say that they are going to play like Parvati. Ninety-nine percent of the time when women say they will play like Parvati, they seriously do not understand the Micronesia champion’s game. They think that she flirted her way to the end and that because they’re remotely hot that they will be able to do the same thing. The problem is that when people say that Parvati was just a flirt, they are underestimating how difficult the game she played is to pull off. I once got into a huge argument in a bar over whether Parvati’s game was feminist, so I can really go on about this. To reduce the three-timer Survivor player’s game down to mere flirting is disregarding all of her social maneuverings that she did to get to the end and ultimately win. Natalie, Amanda, Cirie, and Alexis didn’t work with Parvati because she was flirting with them… well… maybe Natalie… but I digress. Corinne Kaplan said on RHAP that Parvati’s weapon isn’t flirting, it’s charisma, and I agree. Anyone can flirt, but you either have charisma, or you don’t. Most people do not have the subtlety to convince people to do what they want merely by being attractive. In listening to Lauren’s First One Out, I didn’t get Parvati level charisma vibes. Now, this is of course based on a first impression, but that’s all I have to go on.

As for her dinosaur, I’m going to go with the Gallimimus. You know that scene in Jurassic Park where everyone is in a field and there’s suddenly rumbling feet and these strange looking dinosaurs come, eating everything in their path before being wrecked by a bigger predator? Yeah, I think that’s Lauren. I think everything Parvati-esque that she tries is going to be obvious from a mile away, and she’s going to get wrecked for it. Who knows, casting probably made her say that she would play like Parvati. They’ve been known to do that. Though, that symbolizes that she probably isn’t a big fan of the game, which also doesn’t speak well to her chances going forward. But the Gallimimuses are referred to as chicken mimics due to their resemblance to modern-day chickens, maybe Lauren will surprise us all and be the next Parvati that was promised.


Lauren strikes me as a serious gamer right off the bat. A background in collegiate sports and roots in both Texas and California are not traits to be shrugged off, and speaking as someone who has also gone through some orthopedic surgeries, bouncing back from those takes grit – something which Lauren cops to having in spades. I think she’ll have little to no trouble forming social connections, running challenges, and toughing through the survival aspect of Survivor – and even if she winds up on the Edge of Extinction, I think she’ll hunker down and tough through it all the same. My concern from Lauren based purely on my initial read of her is that she’ll be targeted early as a threat – but, then again, that’s not something that’s likely to happen until at least the merge.



Historically, young people do not do well on Survivor. So far, Julia has played the best game out of any of the teenagers featured on Survivor. Everyone else fell a little flat: Michael Yerger (even though he played a decent premiere game), Will Wahl, Jessica Peet, Spencer Duhm, etc. Typically, the very young either become a coattail rider of a larger alliance, or they get ousted early. And I have to look at this from the jury’s perspective as well. David Wright said on RHAP post-MvGX that, no matter how well Will played, he would never have voted to give a person that young a million dollars. It’s too much responsibility. As age discriminatory as this might feel, I believe most of the people on the jury will agree with this sentiment. In this game, Keith is like the Compsognathus, the little dinosaur pack that attacked the child at the beginning of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Even when they were able to convince people that they were a predator, they still weren’t able to do much damage to a child. I think Keith will have an uphill battle trying to convince anyone to take him seriously at the end.


Frankly, I could have gone either way with Keith – he seems like a genial fellow, he strikes me as older than his nineteen years, and his strong faith will likely give him common ground with several of his tribemates. Based on prior Survivor seasons, however, castaways under the age of 19 just don’t win – they don’t make it particularly far, and they tend to lose the thread of the season when they do. Barring a Michael Yerger-esque domination, I worry that Keith’s youth – mature though he may be – will work against him strongly enough that I feel that I have to give him a Not.



Chris is like the Allosaurus, which is like the T-Rex, but smaller and more vicious. When I first read Chris’s bio, I thought, “oh, so Joe-lite.” Imagine my surprise when, during First One Out, Chris immediately recognizes Josh Wigler, and sings the Wigler Room song! Quickly, I realized that there are dimensions to Chris that cannot be sussed out through initial impressions. I was thrilled and am now genuinely pumped to see Chris play. Plenty of the people playing on this season claim to be super fans, but to recognize Josh Wigler and be able to sing one of his signature songs takes Chris to a whole new level of fandom. So, not only does Chris have his athletic abilities to take him into the merge, he knows enough about the game to understand that for him to reach the end, he needs to surround himself with other meat shields. I’m so sold on this guy, and I’m furious that he’s not on my draft.


(It breaks my heart that Ihop doesn’t have skillets on their menu.)

Right off the bat, I’m getting some Ken-ish vibes from Chris. He spends most of his bio talking about how hard of a worker he is (good), how his motivation is winning (good), and how he stays committed to his goals (good). He talks about how he’ll be useful around camp (good) and how he’s very outdoorsy (good). He compares himself to Malcolm (good), Rob (good?) Spencer (why not) and Ozzy (ok). I feel compelled to point out that those are four very different players with four very different playstyles, and I’m not getting a strong identity from Chris’ bio that corresponds directly to any of them. I worry that Chris will either overplay in a big way very early in the game or else just “helper” his way through without forming either a strong story or resume for himself.



Like the awe-inspiring Triceratops, Kelley Wentworth knows how to fight. Kelley’s resilience in her Second Chance game shot her to legend status. And her feisty personality reigns supreme in her bio, where she manages to roast Drew Christy and Andrew Savage in the span of a page. I’m not going to lie to you; I’m a huge Kelley fan, so I have some inherent bias in my analysis. Regardless, believe me when I say that I think that Kelley is going deep in this game. She knows how to give the horns, and dig in to survive. No one is going to get rid of Kelley early on, because she is going to be useful in challenges. Should a tragedy happen that sends Kelley to Extinction, she will get one with the Triceratops and do what it takes to muscle herself back into the game. Kelley may have trouble in the late stages, due to her threat level, but I think that she will be fine until the merge, so she gets a Hot from me.


If this season isn’t Joe’s to lose, then it’s Wentworth’s to lose. She’s a dominant player with a lot of glamor and panache; she’s strong, she’s smart, and she’s social. I think she’ll integrate well with the more confident newbies on her season, and I doubt whether too many of them (except maybe for Dan) will try to take her out early. It remains to be seen whether she and David will gel or repel – there seems to be some pre-season distrust between the two of them, based on some things that David’s said. She’ll have her work cut out for her once she gets to the merge, but I predict (and desperately hope) that Kelley will provide us with another season of dominant gameplay – and even if she ends up on the Edge of Extinction, I doubt whether Kelley will be so much as discouraged.



This is my only vet who receives a Not, and it breaks my heart to do it. While the other veterans will be able to take a target off their back by at least being adequate in challenges, if not god-tier like Joe and Kelley, David does not have that weapon at his disposal. David does have his social game going for him, and should he land a tight alliance like in MvGX, he might have a shot at going far. But it will take a lot of scheming to get David close to the end, and that could put the spotlight on him in a bad way. Besides, who would let David get anywhere close to the end again? The time to take him out is the early game where he’s already not helping out enough in challenges. Out of all of the returnees, David has the highest chance of going home. And should David go to Extinction Island, I worry about a medevac based solely on his body type. I hope David proves me wrong because I love him. I’m giving David the Mosasaurus, the swimming dinosaur, partially because I think it’s hilarious to give someone who can’t really swim the water-dwelling dinosaur, but also because it’s a metaphor for what he can do in the game. If David can play below the surface, he’s a serious threat. The problem is that now all of the other players are aware of his presence, and the spotlight on him will only grow as the game progresses.


I love David Wright. He is one of my favorite RHAP guests. Hewas one of my favorite players on MvGX, and I’ve been waiting for him to come back ever since. But, in my eyes, David is not cut out for a “Captains” season. Looking back, the most successful captains are dominant survivalists who do well in challenges, are strategically dominant (or else find a tight 4-6 and stick with them), and are able to integrate with most of their tribe early on. David, while a massively better player now than he was Day 1 of MvGX, has always struck me as far more of a rogueish player, someone who works from behind and tries to stay out of the spotlight. Perhaps I’m wrong about David’s chances on this season, but when all the cards are on the table, I’m worried that he just won’t mesh with this season, this tribe or this theme.


GUS: When did you learn so much about dinosaurs?

ALI: Shout out to my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Van Vlear, and our dinosaur projects. Also, shout out to my mom for reading Jurassic Park when she was pregnant with me.

GUS: I always forget Jurassic Park was a book.

ALI: When did you learn so much about IHOP?

GUS: I went there when I helped a friend move like two years ago. It stuck with me. Anyway, let’s scrap.

ALI: I’ve missed this. Off season, we only get to fight about who does the dishes.

GUS: It’s usually me.

ALI: Fight over. So boring.


ALI: Full transparency, she is my Reddit winner pick.


ALI: I can’t possibly. BUT I will say that the reason I picked her is because it feels to me like this season has disappointed people, just based on how they’ve been focusing so hard on the returnees and the relative en-

GUS: They’re promoting this one at least as hard as they promoted David vs. Goliath. There was an ad for this season during the SUPER BOWL. And why does a lackluster preseason promotional period imply that Lauren will do poorly?

ALI: Wait. I’m using this as a justification for why I picked her as a winner. I think that production might be disappointed in the outcome just based on a gut feeling I had from some Jeff Probst interviews. Who would be disappointing for a season like this? Why, a small, demure lady. Lauren is a small lady. Case closed

GUS: 1) This is some My Immortal level fanfiction right here. 2) Lauren O’Connell was a Division I college athlete. She’s neither petite nor demure.

ALI: Katrina Radke was an Olympian and went first. Which brings me to why I gave Lauren a NOT. Lauren seems like a sweetheart, but I feel like people are going to target small women and older people first, per usual. I think Lauren may be easy pickings up front.

GUS: Again, she isn’t small, and she’s not old.

ALI: Let me see that cast pic.

GUS: Look, she’s not small. She’s taller than David. She’s almost taller than Wentworth.

ALI: I didn’t mean height wise. I meant in comparison to the beefcakes out there; she’s small. Thin. She’s a woman. People target women early.

GUS: You are spinning out of control.

ALI: She just seems basic to me. A yoga pants wearing, air pod listening, Starbucks drinking gal. That’s not a bad thing. I like all of those things, but there was nothing in her interviews that said she knew the game. She mentioned Parvati in her bio. Case closed.


ALI: Figgy says hi. Kelley Wentworth version one says hi.

GUS: Kelley Wentworth version one was hamstrung by her very well-meaning father, and you know it.

ALI: Alexis Maxwell says hi.

GUS: Besides which, we’ve strayed into the transitive property of Survivor ability based on who you know about, and that’s a pretty narrow interpretation. JC Monduix was a recruit on BB20 and he came in 3rd. I think Lauren has what it takes.

ALI: Anna Khait says hi.

GUS: Get off the Wiki. I can see you on the Wiki looking up “women who compared themselves to Parvati.”

ALI: Liz Markham says hi.

GUS: You’re sitting right next to me. Stop it.

ALI: I was just confirming what I already know. Granted, I will give you that Michele Fitzgerald said Parvati on her bio… Her gameplay is solid, and I bet I couldn’t repeat what she did, but I think out of all of the women who said Parvati she was the only one who played close to her level of social game… But most women don’t come close.

GUS: We good on Lauren? I mean, besides the fact that we’ll be fighting about her for the next two months until she INEVITABLY IS CROWNED WINNER?

ALI: Stephanie Johnson says hi. AND Stephanie Valencia.


ALI: Point taken?

GUS: You’ve got a winner and a Wentworth as part of that sample set. If we’re going to do the statistics debate, the fact of the matter is that Parvati was an inspirational player to MANY Survivor fans, yourself included, and a lot of people are going to bring her up as a comparison point. Yeah, sure, it’s a relatively easy answer… but it’s also a common one, which means that it’s not necessarily gonna indicate one way or the other.

ALI: Yup, Lauren will do great on her second time out. HOWEVER, for this game, one of the cute young girls had to go pre-merge. They can’t all make the merge. I got the least good vibes off Lauren in terms of secret savvy, so I went with her. You know what? Lauren fans can’t get too mad at me for anything I say. Like I said, I made her my winner pick.

GUS: She’s going deep.

ALI: I hope so. She’s my winner pick.

GUS: Anyway. Who next?

ALI: Speaking of people with knowledge of the game… Let’s talk Chris. You’re wrong. So wrong, it’s embarrassing.

GUS: Because as prior castaways demonstrated so clearly, knowledge of the game’s fanbase and culture translates seamlessly into impeccable gameplay. Especially people who sing the Wiggle Room theme when they meet Josh Wigler, and then are weirdly obsessed with one joke from one episode of The Evolution of Strategy.

ALI: I found it charming.

GUS: I doubt whether his fellow tribemates will feel that way.

ALI: He was fangirling over meeting Josh. Wouldn’t we all? That doesn’t mean he’s going to go to his tribemates and talk about “doing it for Monica.” Lauren O’Connell would ask “who?” and that would be the end of that.

GUS: You’re basing this on literally no data outside of the fact that she likes Parvati. Another castaway mentioned during his interview with Wigler that the cast had just watched HvV. Parvati was undoubtedly on the brain. Besides which, I got very little out of Chris outside of his extreme Survivor fandom – something which I would also probably overdo enormously.

ALI: All I have to go on is first impressions. It brought up a red flag for me. And Chris’s interview made me smile. He’s charming. And surfer bros do well in this game.

GUS: Yeah, but they never win.

ALI: Fabio says hi.

GUS: Fabio won Nicaragua. Nicaragua was weird.

ALI: Yeah, but they tend to go far because people don’t see them as threatening and they do well in challenges. Sebastian, Devon, Jay, Alec, etc.

GUS: Alright, sure. They do well. But they very rarely win! I’m not gonna give Keith Nale a Hot even though he’s my all-time favorite castaway (not really but actually kinda) because he too is just never gonna win.

ALI: If you can get far enough, there’s always a chance. Chris is strong enough to make the merge, has a disarming personality, and is game savvy enough to get out of tough situations. His game will get threatened once the merge hits, but if he keeps the other strong guys around (Joe and Eric), he has a shot. Plus, this twist favors strong dudes, so even if he goes to Extinction, he has a shot of coming back.

GUS: He might. I just don’t get enough from him to feel safe confidently giving him a Hot yet. That could change; we’re going off of, what, seven minutes total of interviews?

ALI: Give or take! Shall we move on to WARDOG?!

GUS: Look, I’m not saying that he’s John Hennigan, but he’s definitely not Philip Sheppard. He seems self-aware and highly knowledgeable. I mean, outside his bio he does.

ALI: I think he has Tony 1.0 ceiling and Tony 2.0 floor.

GUS: That’s a metric I can agree with. He could very well burn right out, but I also could see him making it VERY far. But, I am worried about how well he’ll play with Kelley and David. Dude seems like a type to not want to be seen as the follower.

ALI: I am also wondering when players are just going to start voting out bald men because of the stigma.

GUS: The struggle is very real. Why do you think Russell always wore that hat?

ALI: Sunburn, I assume. RIP: That hat. But Wardog didn’t bring a hat. He’s got a ridiculous name. I think he’s going to have a hard time shaking a Survivor’s innate fear of bald men, so I think it could be an uphill battle for The Dog. Don’t get me wrong; I want him on my screen as long as possible. I just don’t think that he’s going to resist making himself a target.

GUS: I dunno. I think he’ll be in it for a while. He seems like such a big personality that even if he gets voted out and finds his way to the Edge of Extinction, he isn’t quitting and he’s also well equipped to make his way back into the game.

Check back tomorrow when Ali & Gus will breakdown the Kama tribe as well as their relationship as they fight over their respective picks.

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.

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