With the season premiere of Survivor: Ghost Island right around the corner, five of Inside Survivor’s contributors got together to draft their teams and assess the 20 castaways about to battle it out for the $1 million prize and the title of Sole Survivor.
The five contributors taking part in the draft assessment are:
Andy Pfeiffer: the History Teacher of Inside Survivor, each week Andy provides Historical Perspectives relating to the latest episode.
Austin Smith: the reigning draft champion, landing Ben Driebergen as the very first pick last season. Austin recaps the episodes of Survivor US and Australian Survivor.
Rob Brodeur: Inside Survivor’s resident Stat man will once again be on hand this season to deliver all the latest statistics following each episode.
Tillie Reilly: she now runs the weekly Next Time On Survivor blog previously written by Ghost Island castaway himself, Jacob Derwin.
Martin Holmes: that’s me! Owner of Inside Survivor. As always I will be analyzing the edit this season in our weekly Edgic feature, and recapping the episodes (more news on where later!).
Taking turns in a snake draft, decided by random draw, Austin, Rob, Andy, Tillie, and Martin picked their winner candidates, big characters and personal favorites to assemble their teams. Read on to hear their first impressions, deeper thoughts, and predictions for each castaway…
AUSTIN’S FIRST PICK
MUSIC TEACHER | 22 | BROOKLYN, NY
First Impression: One of us! One of us!!
Dig Deep! Jacob may be a former writer for our site, but – to paraphrase the musician himself – that doesn’t matter much to me. In fact, that’s the least of what he’s got going for him as a Survivor castaway. His relaxed charm and wide-eyed excitement are infectious, and that effortless likability has not gone unnoticed on the island. In pre-game interviews, he has the entire cast singing praises on first impressions. Sure, many of them correctly peg him as a superfan – an often dangerous label – but it seems that he has been categorised as the awestruck geek rather than the strategy nerd, an important distinction which may lead to an under-estimation of his capabilities.
Funny, engaging and friendly, Jacob seems poised to make easy allies, and this should help him through the early stages of the game. Malolo seems like a mix of personalities that will favour unity at the outset, and his positive and inoffensive attitude may help mitigate any concerns about his physical contributions to the challenges. Yet Jacob isn’t just the goofy best friend in your Hollywood comedy – he’s got the chops for this game. Aside from his game knowledge, he’s been incredibly perceptive in his interviews, both about the game itself and his fellow competitors. Where others have often struggled to read their competition, Jacob has logged small details that few others have noticed – what books they’re reading, what logos are on their shirts, small interactions – teasing out his observations into surprisingly accurate and in-depth impressions. If this is an indication of the level of insight and attention to detail he’ll exploit on the beach, he’ll be rolling natural twenties on his perception checks all game long.
Why He’s Team Austin: Inside Survivor solidarity! That may have been my first thought, but I’ve been caught off-guard by how much Jacob has seriously impressed in the pre-game. In fact, he’s legitimately in the battle for my winner pick. His insightful perceptions and inherent, easy-going likability make for an effective combination, and if he’s able to get through the first few votes, who would come after him over the more overt physical and strategic threats? But no matter how the dice fall, I’m confident I’m going to love watching Jacob play.
ROB’S FIRST PICK
FURNITURE COMPANY OWNER | 33 | PHILADELPHIA, PA
First Impression: More like WIN-dell, amirite?
Dig Deep! Wendell was an A+ casting choice from the Survivor casting department. He’s friendly and well-experienced, but he’s also going to play hard to win. I think people will naturally gravitate towards him, and he won’t have any problems integrating with the rest of his tribe. He’s a furniture builder, and on the same tribe as construction worker Domenick, so could help create an amazing shelter and start off on the right foot with his tribe members. Added to that, he’s an athletic guy, but not super threatening looking compared to some of the “beefcakes” in the game. Overall, I think he’s got a great shot at making it very deep in the game and going on to win.
Why He’s Team Rob: He’s officially my winner pick, so having the second overall pick, I knew I needed to get him on my team first. I’ve got high hopes for the self-proclaimed “fro-bro”!
ANDY’S FIRST PICK
MARINE ANIMAL TRAINER | 29 | ORLANDO, FL
First Impression: L-O-V-E.
Dig Deep! Morgan told Josh Wigler that she studies killer whale behavior for training them, something many people might not realize. I first thought her job was more feeding and teaching tricks to dolphins as opposed to coaching how they behave. If she can hide this about her profession, she can sneakily observe the traits of people and use them to her advantage – and she can bond with practically any of them. I foresee her being great at judging the character of potential allies. Both Probst and I think she’ll get plenty of offers. Strategically, I see her as a ninja assassin that nobody will see coming for them. She’s picking up that certain people are intimidated by her. She’ll get them first.
She will also be strong in challenges, especially the many in the waters of Fiji, and though she’s watched since May 31, 2000 (I love her for that!), I don’t see her getting the label of “super-fan mega-strategist.” Yes, some players have perceived her as a Spradlin-esque badass, but her bubbliness, something Kim never had, makes her endearing enough to change that first impression. She also describes herself as stubborn, but it’s great that she’s aware of her weakness – many players are not. I foresee her being one of the best social players this season; the kind people won’t want to vote out (see: Ariadna on Celebrity Big Brother US). Then they’ll vote for her in the end, because at least they lost to someone they adore. I see Morgan setting herself up well, making a massive move come late-game, and taking over when it’s too late for anyone to do anything about it.
Why She’s Team Andy: I love her braid. Okay, okay, attractiveness aside, she’s the player I am most drawn toward – someone able to make social connections while maneuvering through the strategic gameplay while not making herself a target. Thus, she is my winner pick and, alongside the obvious in Jacob, I am rooting for her. She also compared herself to Kelley Wentworth, which earns her even more points (and not because Wentworth is my most recent winner pick to have a chance). Watch her make a big blunder and go out after a swap just like Roark and Figgy or be screwed by a twist like Malcolm!
TILLIE’S FIRST PICK
LAW STUDENT | 26 | LOS ANGELES, CA
First Impression: Spencer 2.0.
Dig Deep! There’s something about Bradley that stands out to me that I can’t quite pinpoint just yet. When he said that “Spencer took his spot” for Cagayan, I figured that must be it because I was a fan of Spencer from Day 1. As a law student, Bradley definitely has the wits to outsmart anyone on the island. He is self-aware enough to know what he lacks socially – his tendency to sometimes cast people aside or fail to not connect on a personal level – so his goal is to find qualities about everyone so that he can connect with them and get to know them. If he can bring his A game socially, he has an excellent shot to win.
Why He’s Team Tillie: I gravitate towards people who I think are truly there to play. Bradley is there to play starting Day 1 by laying the groundwork and having covert control. I can easily see him going deep.
MARTIN’S FIRST PICK
CONSTRUCTION SUPERVISOR | 38 | NESCONSET, NY
First Impression: Is he REALLY a construction worker?
Dig Deep! Domenick represents an archetype that often fares well on Survivor. Late-30s alpha male with blue-collar roots. A man that probably hustles every day to get s**t done. Full of East Coast confidence and wise-guy attitude. Not to mention he’s a family man, so has an emotional drive to be playing the game. The worry is that everybody else on the island sees those things as well. In the pre-game interviews, several of his castmates labeled Domenick as the “Tony/Russell/Boston Rob” of the season, and they are not off base in their assessments. Domenick has spoken passionately about his desire to continue Tony’s legacy. If all people see when they look at Domenick is Mr. Vlachos – and it’s probably not going to help when he tells them he’s a construction supervisor – that could spell disaster for the Long Island native.
However, people are easily blinded once they put their buffs on and start talking. I believe Domenick has the personality to disarm the competition and alleviate their preconceived fears. In his Hollywood Reporter interview, Wendell said “[Domenick] has the stature and tough guy face of someone like Russell, but in our passings, he has seemed friendly.” Jacob recalled a moment from casting finals where Domenick made the entire group burst into laughter. “He can really own a room,” Jacob said. If Domenick can resist the temptation to come out of the gate swinging and instead use his personable nature to make people laugh and feel comfortable, then I think those Tony/Russell worries will soon dissipate. I’m also a fan of Domenick’s creativity. Between bamboo phones and stealing parchment, the guy seems to be entering the game from a different angle than most. The ability to think outside the box is one of the most overlooked traits on Survivor. Players who are too formulaic or rigid in their strategy can often paint themselves into a corner. Those who are continually thinking up ways to get out of trouble – like a Tony – are usually the ones most determined to get the win because they will stop at nothing.
Why He’s Team Martin: His potential upside outweighed the Tony-related concerns. I think, and hope, that Domenick will be able to use his charm to disguise his balls-to-the-wall gameplay long enough to avoid the early chop. And if these players allow Domenick to get to the merge, they will be in for a rude awakening. There’s always a chance he bustles in on Day 1, rubs everyone the wrong way, and finds himself the victim of a snuffing. But I think there’s an even higher chance he plays a fast-paced, inventive game all the way to the end.
MARTIN’S SECOND PICK
STUDENT | 21 | BROOKLYN, NY
First Impression: Your new fashion icon.
Dig Deep! In an exceptionally young cast, Desiree is one of the youngest at just 21-years-old, and yet she feels like an old soul. In listening to her pre-game interviews, I sense a maturity in her voice not as discernible in most of her fellow fresh-faced castmates. You can tell after only a couple of minutes hearing her speak that she has seen some s**t. She’s been homeless. She’s lived out of her car. She knows what it’s like to go without food. Those experiences should make the physical elements of Survivor a cake walk for the young student. “I’ve seen it all, from the slums to the fast-paced, hard-working student life in NYC,” she says in her CBS bio. “I want to show myself and others that regardless of what you’ve been through, you can succeed.” Desiree seems like one of the most strong-willed and tenacious people on this cast.
My worry for Desiree is that her past and time spent alone in self-reflection may have formed a hard outer shell that is tough to crack initially. While a few of her castmates called her “cool” and “laid-back,” many others perceived her as “quiet,” “introverted,” and “hard to read.” And so my concern is that Desiree is the type of person that takes a while to warm up to people and unfortunately Survivor doesn’t afford the luxury of time. If she’s quiet and standoffish those first few days, her fellow tribemates might mistake that introversion for ignorance or lack of team camaraderie. That would be an easy excuse to boot someone in those trepidatious early stages. That said, pre-game opinions don’t always stand up once the game begins for real. Desiree could quickly come out of her shell and win people over with her coolness and sweet demeanor. She did say she currently lives in a house of eight girls, so it’s not as if she isn’t used to being around lots of people and handling different personalities. Desiree also looks physically capable and should prove to be an asset in challenges.
Why She’s Team Martin: I like her backstory, I dig her Amber Rose-style haircut, and she names Beyonce as her inspiration in life. On top of that, she’s a fighter and somebody I think can make a significant impact on this game if she can get over that initial hurdle of opening up to her tribe. The worst thing she could do is retreat inwards in those first few days. If she lets people get to know the real her, then her potential to go far is massive.
TILLIE’S SECOND PICK
TEACHER | 41 | HERNDON, VA
First Impression: A Shapiro that might actually play!
Dig Deep! Brendan is definitely one of my favorites of the season because of how much he has to offer. He’s been applying for 16 years and no doubt is one of the biggest fans on this season. He’s a triple threat when it comes to his physical abilities, his looks, and his intelligence because of his background of being a teacher. He’s a father who teaches kids, and I think he is going to show a lot of empathy and compassion to everyone out there. I can see him going far solely on his likability. I’m excited to see how his game unfolds and out of everyone on the cast, Brendan would shock me the most to go out pre-merge.
Why He’s Team Tillie: I see him being a lock at making the merge. I predict he makes Final 3.
ANDY’S SECOND PICK
MODEL | 27 | BROOKLYN, NY
First Impression: Hmm… J.P.? Devon? Cole? Which of them does he most resemble?
Dig Deep! This guy is an enigma. Even Jeff Probst thinks so. At first, Chris looks like a mactor wanting some fame, but at the same time has some intellectual abilities. He hasn’t seen much Survivor (though he did say his favorite season was “20”), but he’s capable of figuring out the strategy. He’s trying, but to his detriment socially. Instead of smiling at people pre-game, he’s too busy smiling at his abs in the mirror. He’s giving others a nondescript look on his face. He’s not making many connections, which could help him avoid being perceived as a threat. If he were on the same starting tribe with Libby (since Gonzalez would shoot him down), I’d peg them as a showmance – thank goodness he’s not.
Chris is a well-rounded player since he has muscles but isn’t so blatantly a challenge threat in other departments, has brains but not so blatantly that he’s perceived as too smart, and plenty of social experience. He is out there to spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative condition of the nervous system which his mother suffers from, this story could endear himself the others. He also could use the Jeremy Collins/Adam Klein playbook and drop a bombshell at the end of Final Tribal to win over the last couple undecided jurors. But can he utilize any of that properly…?
Why He’s Team Andy: Remember that this draft was based on first impressions… because I don’t know why anymore. Chris was a rare player I couldn’t get a read on. That’s good for his Survivor abilities – he can fool people with his façade like Devon did. But after I learned how much he loves himself and how badly he wants a showmance, I… regretted this choice. Why is this cocky jocky type on my team over better people still on the board?
ROB’S SECOND PICK
REAL ESTATE AGENT | 18 | LOS ANGELES, CA
First Impression: He’s not 18. Wait he’s seriously only 18?
Dig Deep! What a far cry from the most recent 18-year-old on Survivor, Will Wahl. I have no doubt that he’s going to fit in very well on his tribe and not only be helpful around camp, but also in the challenges. Michael plans to tell everyone that he’s 23, and I doubt anyone will feel the need to question that. He’s a real estate agent, and his clients don’t know that he’s only 18 (well, I guess they will after this show airs, so the jig is up). While he comes off as very well spoken and mature for a teenager, you can’t fake life experience. I could see this hindering his game if he has a hard time relating to some of the people that aren’t close to his age/generation, but in the long run, I don’t see it mattering too much, considering everything else he has to offer.
Why He’s Team Rob: Michael has a lot of potential. Despite only being 18, I think compared to the usual young’ns, he does seem to have enough life experience to continue the charade that he’s not a teenager. He has a stable job and doesn’t come off as a typical “high school student.” Malolo looks to be the slightly weaker tribe in terms of physical prowess, so Michael should last quite a while, and his personality could carry him even farther.
AUSTIN’S SECOND PICK
CAREER COUNSELOR | 31 | DENVER, CO
First Impression: New from Marvel Studios – The Adventures of Empathy Woman!
Dig Deep! I love that Kellyn considers her flagship quality to be empathy. In a game that relies so essentially on social interactions, the ability to genuinely relate to one’s competitors is often overlooked as a desirable trait, but it can be a powerful tool. Furthermore, Kellyn has come across as effortlessly personable, unassuming and engaging, quick to laugh and banter. Although she loves Survivor and will take her opportunity to play seriously, it’s clear she will have fun with the experience and that kind of gentle positivity works wonders for the weary and starving. I have no doubt that she’ll be able to initiate strong bonds with her tribemates by lending ears to listen and shoulders to cry on, such that when it comes time for her to make her move against them, they’ll have already let her into their heads.
Kellyn is an intriguing castaway. She’s grounded and tough – particularly after a roller coaster year of getting married, divorced and finishing her studies – yet also has a light-hearted and fanciful side that promises to make for a joyful presence. In fact, her quiet quirkiness may help her skate under the radar in the Naviti tribe, which is otherwise stacked with combustible alpha and abrasive personalities. With keen and accurate perceptions of her fellow competitors even at first impressions, Kellyn has demonstrated an ability to read the field already, giving her the chance to put her intellect to good use, strategically navigating the social game to the top.
Why She’s Team Austin: Even with Probst putting stock in her chances (which historical precedence suggests is not a good sign!), I actually agree with our host on this one. Kellyn has a wealth of attributes to aid her socially and strategically, and her empathetic and endearing personality gives her plenty of options in the game – she can be the loyal best friend or the smiling assassin and you won’t know which one until the torch is snuffed. Plus, anyone who lists Keith Nale as their favourite past contestant gets an A+ in my books.
AUSTIN’S THIRD PICK
BUSINESS ANALYST | 24 | NEW YORK, NY
First Impression: Smart, athletic, successful and likable – someone maxed-out their stats in character creation.
Dig Deep! On paper, James is the kind of guy who you’d want to take home to meet your mother. Track athlete, chart-topping intelligence, respectful and friendly personality. It’s almost as if James is the perfect specimen for success in Survivor. But that’s half the worry – he’s… too perfect. Already his castmates have their eyes trained on him, and James is going to have a tough time dipping back under the radar or convincing them he’s not a threat. While I’d be disappointed to lose someone with his potential early in the game, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
Nonetheless, if there’s someone who could buck that trend, I have faith in James. He’s upfront about being a recent Survivor convert, and while we superfans often bristle at “recruits,” James hasn’t taken his preparation for this game lightly. He’s done his research like a diligent student in the lead-up to the big exam, and it shows. The game analysis and awareness he’s demonstrated in interviews are insightful. He also doesn’t have the sentimental nostalgia for Survivor that the Ghost Island theme will exploit, so he may be able to handle the twists of this season with a more logical perspective. It’s also advantageous that he’s on the seemingly harmonious Malolo tribe, and his triple-threat qualities should make it easy for him to find alliances with anyone, be it the jocks, the nerds, the gamers or the loyal soldiers.
Why He’s Team Austin: James is my riskiest pick thus far and I’d put his endgame chances at a solid 50/50. Although he’s got the attributes to succeed in this game, he’s also overtly threatening on every front and that will undoubtedly make him an easy target at any stage of the game. Nevertheless, I found myself continually drawn to James. There’s a gentle charisma and an earnestness about him that will help him make allies, a nuanced and determined mind for the head games of strategy and survival, and a physical strength that will make him an early asset but will not stand out in a cast as jacked as this one. I want to see James succeed and simply, that’s why he’s my third pick.
ROB’S THIRD PICK
GRAPHIC SALES | 26 | OCALA, FL
First Impression: She’s going to be a firecracker!
Dig Deep! I really like Gonzalez, I see a lot of potential in her to be a fun character, and I see her being quite a schemer. The Malolo tribe has a lot of the bigger personalities and I think she’ll fit in very well with most of the people on her tribe. My one concern for her is that a lot of people in the preseason had a somewhat negative read on her, which could affect her chances in the game. However, I think once they meet her, she will win them over with her charm and fiery personality. As I’ve said before, this entire cast is extremely athletic, and Gonzalez seems to be physically fit as well, so unless she really screws up and plays hard too early, I can easily see her making it at least to the merge.
Why She’s Team Rob: I really wanted to add a little fun to my group, and who better than Gonzo herself! I’ve got high hopes for her, and I really want her to stick around for a while.
ANDY’S THIRD PICK
EMT/CHEERLEADER | 24 | LOS ANGELES, CA
First Impression: Oh man, is this one my winner pick?
Dig Deep! Okay, maybe not. I had a strong first impression of Chelsea that waned fast the deeper I dug. Like Morgan, she is the type of player I gravitate toward – socially capable, non-threatening, and not one of the in-your-face Laurel types with a high level of narcissism despite a poor résumé. However, despite the self-awareness, she’s less of a social navigator than Morgan since she’s more withdrawn and less endearing. Her main source of bonding could be talking Game of Thrones with anyone who has HBO – she was lugging around one of the books. She is pretty, with a nerdy side, and should be able to glue together any group of people. Given her mixed reception from her castmates, it’s hard to know whether she’ll go out quick or go deep. It’s one or the other. I’m still betting the latter.
She knows the game, she understands the necessity of social navigation, she knows the Parvati playbook and doesn’t compare herself blindly. She is willing to do what it takes, and despite being only 25, she has a wealth of life experience from being an EMT and a professional cheerleader simultaneously. Both of those professions are very helpful to her; the former is, as Probst states, good at preparing her for high-stakes pressure and the latter is useful for not only her physical abilities but her mental preparedness with rehearsing, which she can apply to spinning a story. Since she has to manage two jobs, it won’t be any harder to manage relationships with nine other people as their sanity starts to erode. While a bit more withdrawn, she’s socially capable and savvy enough to do well. Just don’t expect her to try to be the HBIC. She’d rather be second banana, much like the last Chelsea to play Survivor was.
Why She’s Team Andy: Because of course she is. I have a fondness for certain professional sports cheerleaders/dancers of Survivor past. It’s natural that I’d be drawn toward Chelsea since the one I have the greatest fondness for is who I’d parallel Chelsea to (circa today, not Redemption). She’s the kind of girl that looks like she’d be a blast to hang out with. I’m amazed that this gem fell to me in the third round. I don’t think she’ll let me down.
TILLIE’S THIRD PICK
FISHING GUIDE | 22 | SATELLITE BEACH, FL
First Impression: This season’s Ozzy/Joe/Jay.
Dig Deep! I picked Sebastian before watching his ET Canada interview, so overall he was a wildcard for me. I’ve followed him on social media since the cast reveal, and from what I’ve picked up, he is a really likable guy who likes to have fun. Survivor should be exactly in his element. I don’t think I have to point out at how ripped he is, so when it comes down to challenges, he will kill them. He is a professional fisherman so no doubt he can provide for the tribe as well. But going back to the ET Canada interview… he mentioned liking Ozzy’s game and how he wouldn’t mind emulating it because he liked the idea of just winning challenges and having a quiet, laid-back game. I hope Sebastian knows that Ozzy lost because he was quiet and didn’t have the best social game. Solely winning challenges won’t win him $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor.
Why He’s Team Tillie: I see Sebastian sticking around until the merge because of his athletic ability and fishing background, which should help to provide food. But he is going to have to bring his A game socially if he wants to win.
MARTIN’S THIRD PICK
YOGA INSTRUCTOR | 34 | CHICAGO, IL
First Impression: Probably poops rainbows and unicorns.
Dig Deep! Is it weird to call Stephanie a “sleeper pick” even though she stands out more than anyone else on this cast? She is wearing the brightest outfit in the history of Survivor, rocking a frizzy 80s sitcom hairdo, and is permanently smiling. She’s like the human embodiment of a Jane Fonda workout video. She also likes to talk… a lot… and fast. All of those things could come across as annoying or obnoxious. But that’s not the vibe I get from Stephanie after listening to her interviews, and it doesn’t seem to be impression others on the cast are picking up from her either. “Bubbly,” “friendly,” “nice,” “smiley, “sweet.” Those are the words on the lips of the majority of her castmates. And other than Desiree, and Domenick to a certain degree (neither of whom are on her starting tribe), everyone sees her positivity as authentic.
The biggest selling point for Stephanie is also the one that could prove to be her downfall. People are going to let their guard down around her because they view her bubbly personality as non-threatening. The fact that she’s a single-mom will also play into their perceptions of her as trustworthy and reliable. The thing is, Stephanie is a secret superfan. She’s been applying for Survivor for almost 16-years and knows the game very well. While her friendly nature might be genuine, so is her ability to be cutthroat. But her pearly-whites and bright stripes are going to distract from the knife she’s holding behind her back. That could take her deep into this game. However, the betrayals she will undoubtedly have to make along the way could be held against her in a way that they wouldn’t be if she looked and acted like, say, Domenick.
Why She’s Team Martin: Many have predicted an early exit for Stephanie because her personality seems destined to grate. I have faith that Stephanie will know when to tone it down. People also forget that she’s an accomplished triathlete and gym-junkie. Her skill set could be invaluable to a lot of these team challenges. Furthermore, she mentioned in her CBS bio how important it is to be adaptable. Survivor is a game that changes from one moment to the next. The best players are those that can keep on their toes and I think Stephanie is capable of that and not just because she practices yoga. Despite being dressed like a traffic light, I think a lot of people aren’t going to see Stephanie coming.
MARTIN’S FOURTH PICK
FINANCIAL CONSULTANT | 29 | MINNEAPOLIS, MN
First Impression: Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!
Dig Deep! With just five names left on the board, my final pick was a toss-up between Laurel and Donathan, and I decided to take my chances on the Financial Consultant. But I’m worried for Laurel. She is a self-described “triple threat,” and I can see where she’s coming from with her athletic background (volleyball champ), Ivy League education, and superfan knowledge of the game. That said, I’m concerned that she’s in gamebot mode and underestimating the power of relationships. That’s not to say she can’t make social connections – many of her castmates have clocked her as friendly and fun. However, I’m not sure Laurel cares, she straight up said she is “not here to make friends,” the old reality-tv cliche. “I don’t like anything about Survivor except playing the game,” she said in her THR interview. I’m scared that Laurel thinks the game is just lying, backstabbing and blindsiding, and is missing the nuances of the social game. Also, she said she recently introduced her boyfriend to Survivor by showing him Worlds Apart, which is like introducing someone to Sidney Poitier movies and starting with Ghost Dad (also the title of a future Survivor season). Doesn’t exactly scream good judgment.
The upside for Laurel is her athleticism and her maturity. Laurel is one of the older people on this season – not that 29 is old (at least I hope not, that’s my age) – and therefore will hopefully avoid the sort of rash decision making that may plague some of the younger more showmance-orientated castaways. Her physical capabilities should also provide a much-needed boost for her tribe in challenges – especially on Malolo, the weaker tribe strength wise, at least on paper. If she can stave off elimination for the first couple of rounds and use that time to build bonds rather than running into the jungle and over-strategizing, then there is a chance she could set herself up for a deep run.
Why She’s Team Martin: Of the people left on the board, I believe Laurel has the best shot to win. Libby and Jenna perhaps have a higher probability of making it far, but I’m not so sure they can translate that into a victory. Angela is the “older woman,” and I don’t think even THIS season is going to be able to reverse that curse. I considered Donathan, but he’s such a fish-out-of-water among this cast that I worry for him. That left Laurel, who while flawed in certain aspects, has the best chance of actually winning if she can maximize her strengths and minimize her weaknesses.
TILLIE’S FOURTH PICK
SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST | 24 | HOUSTON, TX
First impression: Will probably get dragged to the end.
Dig Deep! Based on everyone’s first impressions, everyone likes Libby, and most of the men find her gorgeous, but I’m not sure if she has that killer instinct. I think she will connect exceptionally well with the men on her tribe and she should be able to hold her own weight when it comes to the challenges. She has worked in Disney World and to work there you have to have great social skills to connect with all types of different people. To me, Libby reminds me a lot of Natalie White from Samoa, but unlike Natalie, I think Libby has a high chance to get into a showmance if she doesn’t watch herself.
Why She’s Team Tillie: Do I think she is going to win? Very slim chance. Like, only if she’s in a situation similar to Russell versus Natalie, and she can emerge as another “Natalie Winner.” Otherwise, I don’t see her getting down and dirty to play. But I do think she will be able to drift her way into the merge based on her relationships built.
ANDY’S FOURTH PICK
ADVERTISING ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE | 23 | VENICE BEACH, CA
First Impression: It’s not a reach to say that the person who burns bridges oft gets burned themselves.
Dig Deep! Jenna has made it plenty clear she doesn’t care if the jury is comprised of a lengthy list of your enemies – if you didn’t break any hearts, you didn’t do it right. This makes her a potential losing finalist, but a losing finalist still gets a chance to present herself to the jury, right? Of the three left on the board, she’s the only one I see with a chance to make the end, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. And every person who makes the finals did something right, though it could simply be one thing like “align with Tony” like it was for Woo. Jenna strikes me as the kind of person that will make the right alliance.
Probst mentioned in his cast assessment that Jenna is one of his favorites (wow) because she’s recently reevaluated her social life and learned how to confide her emotions in people – emotions her self-described “resting bitch face” doesn’t accurately display. She understands that to get trust, you have to give trust, and I see her being a stellar social player. This makes her well-armed for Survivor and being able to build not only alliances but friendships. She seems to have good vibes towards another on my team in Morgan. I do hope they both can make the merge (or a swap), seeing as they’re not on the same starting tribe. The big problem Jenna faces is how willing she is to burn jurors, which will likely make her face a bitter jury.
Why She’s Team Andy: She is far less of a stretch than either Angela or Donathan. It’s curious why these are the last three on the board, since none of them resemble the obvious first boots of Katrina and Simone last season. But even though Jenna is hard to read according to her castmates, she’s probably more capable of bonding with them on the island than Angela and more probably more motivated than Donathan. Thus, I pick her.
ROB’S FOURTH PICK
ARMY VETERAN | 42 | CINCINNATI, OH
First Impression: AN-gela Perkins! *said in the Chris Traeger voice from Parks and Recreation*
Dig Deep! If Angela is able to shake the “older mom” stigma that plagues almost every older woman on the show, I think she will do really well. She’s going to be an asset in challenges – although, with this being such an athletic cast overall, I don’t see there being too many weak links when it comes to challenges. However, from pre-season press, it seems like most of her fellow cast members think she’s coming off cold and unfriendly. Hopefully, once they actually meet her in the game, they’ll see that she’s got a great personality and will be a good person to work with.
Why She’s Team Rob: She was my last pick, but honestly, she could have been one of my earlier picks as well. I really don’t think this cast has very many “leftovers.” Despite being the oldest female (and oldest player) on the cast, Angela doesn’t fit into the typical “older lady” stereotype that usually has problems early on in the season. She’s smart, fit, and a military veteran. I see her doing extremely well this season, and I’m glad to have her on my team!
AUSTIN’S FOURTH PICK
CARETAKER | 26 | KIMPER, KY
First Impression: Small town boy, big heart, bigger personality.
Dig Deep! Donathan is joy incarnate. Enthusiastic, colourful and energetic, he sees great opportunity in every moment – particularly when that opportunity is his dream of competing on Survivor. As yet another superfan, Donathan clearly knows the game and is willing to play hard, and I don’t think that this cast will see it coming, overlooking him as naïve and inexperienced. While Donathan may be from a small southern town – coming to Fiji is his first time leaving the US – he has plenty of experience under his belt. With his fair share of hardships including economic struggles and the challenge of coming out at 13 in a conservative community, Donathan has earned a confidence and self-assurance that could rival the best of them. His attitude, too, is refreshingly genuine, as he sees Survivor not only as the adventure of a lifetime but also as an opportunity to provide for his family and his community, by representing a positive example of a young gay southerner.
Even though he is decisively “different” than the rest of the cast in both background and appearance, he’s got a playful charm that will appeal to others, and particularly the more amiable Malolo tribe. His contagiously delightful attitude and his athletic agility (thanks to his passion for dance) will make him a desirable asset, and I would be surprised to see him cut out of the game early through any active fault of his own. The biggest concern with Donathan is whether he can translate these qualities into a win. While I don’t doubt his capabilities to play strategically – and the innocent country boy demeanor may give him an advantage to catch his opponents off guard – I fear he may end up being viewed as too likable to get taken to the end. Coupled with his legitimate need for the monetary prize, he could quickly become a casualty of the end-game if he begins to be viewed as an unbeatable opponent.
Why He’s Team Austin: After picking James, Donathan wasn’t at the top of my list of the remaining seven options, but he was far from the bottom. How on earth did the rest of you leave this guy on the board until he became the remainder pick!? I see how he’s a long shot to win, but Donathan’s joyous personality and knowledge of the game suggest he’s got a good chance of going deep. You can all keep your picks for I’ll gladly welcome this happy-go-lucky chap to my team. After all, who’s to say the dark horse can’t win this Kentucky Derby?
Here are the teams in handy graphic form (courtesy of Austin)…
Let us know who you’d choose for your team in the comments below.
Survivor: Ghost Island premieres February 28 at 8 pm on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for weekly features including Episode Reviews, Edgic, Stats, Next Time On Survivor… and much more.