Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 39 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. In order to avoid what Gus likes to call “hedging bets,” Nots cannot be given to more than half plus one of the castaways. For example, with twelve people remaining in the game, the maximum number of Nots that can be given out is seven.
Go ahead, hit us with your best shot. We’re probably wrong anyway, but that’s why it’s fun!
WARNING: This segment uses content from the “Next Time On” preview. If you are someone who doesn’t like watching those segments prior to the show, do not read further. You’ve been warned.
GUS – NOT
You know, normally I don’t like it when new players are added midway through the season—it’s certainly frustrating when it happens in Big Brother—but I really enjoyed Dean’s debut this episode. From his first moment exploding on to the beach from out of literally nowhere—clearly a clever homage to the legendary Sandra faceplant moment from Heroes vs. Villains… just look at them side-by-side:
To his naïve misunderstanding of the fact that his new tribe had already been to Tribal once (meaning that, with Vince gone, all of his remaining tribemates were already on the beach to hear his Big Brain Play suggestion of “let’s split the votes”). To his awe-inspiring, frankly, transcendent puzzle performance where he very cleverly realized that he had to throw the puzzle lest he use 5% of his total power, undergo apotheosis, disgorge divine light and blind his tribemates with his glory. To his Seinfeld-level self-referential humor at Tribal when he reminded the audience of his one (and only, ever of all time) blunder wherein he coined the phrase “split the vote.” Fun fact: Dean actually created the strategy of vote-splitting to negate a hidden immunity idol in this episode. He was so excited by his stroke of genius that he accidentally warged back in time into Cao Boi Bui and inspired him to create [that is, rip-off] “plan voodoo” in Cook Islands. Second fun fact: Cao Boi Bui’s name is actually Larry—“Cao Boi” was a Hodor-style nickname that derived from his nightmarish mumbling of the word “Kowalski” as Dean invaded his mind in his sleep.
Unfortunately, much like Mike Borassi in Samoa, I fear it’s only a matter of time before Dean accidentally taps into too much of his power and begins to overwhelm the physical body that he’s appropriated for his stint on Survivor. Also, in a more real sense, I think he might have put a little bit of a target on his back with his split-vote blunder, and I worry that Karishma might be extra bitter towards him in particular. So, he gets a Not from me this week.
ALI – NOT
Sweet Dean. He’s gotten a bit of the dodo edit this week. We saw him fall over and talk about splitting the vote in front of everyone but Vince. All that being said, I can’t, in good conscience, give him a Hot this week.
Furthermore, I don’t make it a habit of penalizing people for what I see in the “Next Time On” segment. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the content of that preview. Showmances are never a good idea on Survivor. Now, Dean’s saving grace is that usually the woman is targeted first in a showmance (Taylor and Figgy, Cole and Jessica…), but Dean is on a tribe with an obvious woman’s alliance. The woman’s alliance is more inclined to keep Chelsea around, and I think Dean may be headed for a downfall.
I sincerely hope that Dean is able to weasel his way into Chelsea’s heart and some kind of solid alliance, but given Dean’s edit as a naive puppy, I worry for his chances.
GUS – NOT
I want to start off by saying I think Karishma was a bit of a victim of editing this week. Her paranoia and concern seemed like it was being blown a little bit out of proportion, and although I certainly believe that she thinks she’s on the outs (and she may well be), I don’t know whether her behavior was as erratic as the show pitched to us. With that said, I’m wondering whether Karishma might be primed to cause the downfall of the all-girls’ alliance. Whether she’s right or not, Karishma believes herself to be very much in danger, and seeing her ostensible alliance use her as a split-vote target (rather than, say, Tom) can’t have helped. With the guys realizing that they’re very quickly becoming a big minority, part of me wonders whether Karishma might lead a defection charge away from the girls.
Karishma is getting a Not from me because I worry about her short-term game. Should she survive, though, I think she might become the incarnation of chaos that we all deserve and need.
ALI – NOT
Karishma got injured and took things personally. I have to admit, the tribe’s reaction to Karishma’s injury was strange and certainly would have hurt my feelings. But, in fairness to the rest of the group, Karishma’s injury didn’t look too serious to me, so it’s possible they didn’t realize that she was really hurt. I also empathized with Karishma on feeling out of her element because of cultural differences. But there are other folks on the tribe who stick out due to age or cultural differences who do manage to assimilate into the larger group, so a part of me wonders if Karishma’s anxiety about fitting in is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Not to start talking like Mr. Edgic, Martin, but I do wonder if there’s a possibility that Karishma might be in for some kind of growth edit. She’s feeling on the outs, and part of it is because of her own insecurities. Maybe there’s a way for Karishma to get that growth that she said she was looking for in preseason interviews.
GUS – HOT
I go back and forth on whether I think losing Vince was a good thing or a bad thing for Elizabeth. Had he stuck around, he might have had it in for her, fearing that she had also parleyed an idol from Rob and Sandra (never mind the fact that her idol would have expired). Alternatively, he might have sought her out as an ally. I have to imagine they spoke after Vince’s visit to the IOI, and it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see that interaction. Elizabeth was really lucky that she didn’t get the Vince treatment after her first trip to the IOI, and she’s even more fortunate that she’s managed to by and large avoid any residual flak from it. I don’t know whether the girls’ alliance is long for this world, but I do think that Elizabeth has her fingers in enough pies to keep her safe for a while going forward.
It also doesn’t hurt that she’s an Olympic medalist swimmer, and most of the tribal Immunity challenges involve water. That ABSOLUTELY doesn’t hurt.
ALI – NOT
I went back and forth on Elizabeth this week. She seems like a lot of fun and is fitting in with the other women. I liked her response at the Tribal Council when Karishma expressed feelings of isolation. She smoked a challenge that was built for her skill set.
But there’s a huge part of me that feels Elizabeth doesn’t understand the game. This is a woman who walked on the island not prepared to make fire with flint. This is a woman that proved to her tribe this week that she’s going to be a challenge threat come the merge. This is a woman whose confessional about Tom’s potential boot gave zero strategic content. All Elizabeth could say was that she didn’t want Tom to go because he was like a father to the tribe. Maybe I’m being too tough on her, but so far there hasn’t been anything in her game that indicates to me that she’s going to be a strategic force.
GUS – HOT
I think that Chelsea is one of the more capable players on the season right now. She’s firmly in an alliance, and she’s still got an idol. I worry about the longevity of the girls’ alliance, but I don’t see its dissolution as an imminently bad thing for Chelsea. In fact, I feel like if it dissolves, Chelsea is the least likely target (preview notwithstanding). She gets a Hot this week.
ALI – HOT
I wanted to give Chelsea a Not really bad, but I sadly ran out of Nots to give. Before Gus gets on me about letting the preview for next week color my rankings, I have a reasonable justification for why I would put Chelsea as a Not. Chelsea and Missy both failed to keep the girl’s alliance on the down-low. That’s not a great look, and come a swap the guys might look to shake things up. By making it clear to the men in the tribe where they stand, Chelsea has put herself at risk moving forward.
Chelsea may have an idol, which makes her much safer than Missy. But we have seen people already go home with idols in their pockets this season. However, given the choice between Missy and Chelsea, Chelsea has an idol, so I have no choice but to give her a Hot.
GUS – HOT
Elaine’s balanced really well between the all-girls’ alliance and the group of guys. It was implied in the episode that her fondness for Tom was a major part of keeping him in the game—even though it was never directly shown. Elaine has certainly faded into the background since her explosive first episode, but she seems to be secure in her quieter role at this time.
ALI – HOT
Elaine has the advantage over the other women in that she has a really solid relationship with Tom. I know that in Vince’s exit press he mentioned that Tom and Elaine had a falling out, but he also said that they made up while he was on Island of the Idols. Because we didn’t see that falling out and relationship repair, I think that their relationship may become an important facet down the road. Should things fall apart with the women’s alliance, Tom may be reluctant to target an ally, leaving Missy and Chelsea with bigger targets.
GUS – NOT
I feel like this is going to be a controversial opinion, but I’m a little worried for Missy. Almost all of her content so far has been her crowing over her all-girls’ alliance, talking about how the guys have no idea that she’s made an all-girls’ alliance, and how her all-girls’ alliance is going to steamroll the guys and drive to the end. And she’s right to think she’s in a powerful position on her tribe—her alliance does have the numbers (in a big way), and it seems unlikely that, even if her alliance did implode, they would immediately target her (Karishma appears to be the more likely target in that scenario).
BUT… I think Missy is putting all of her eggs in one basket. We’ve seen what happens to players who are considered to be in powerful positions on their tribes—Molly’s swift execution and Vince’s dispatching over the fear that he MIGHT have an idol illustrates that well enough. With as hard as Missy is pushing her alliance, and with as hard as she was working on getting Tom out (a plan which did NOT pan out), I think Missy might get targeted sooner rather than later as a power player and a threat. I was worried that Tom was going to be the one to strongarm an alliance into existence; though Missy has been successful in her alliance-building so far, I could see them deciding they don’t like her reign.
ALI – NOT
Missy has a similar pitfall as Chelsea. The minute that everyone knows what you’re up to, the sooner they can turn things against you. People seem to think that Missy and Aaron are somehow aligned, but I think that with Karishma feeling on the outs, the women might have given the men a way to turn things around. I’m worried that Missy might be a victim of this.
GUS – NOT
Halfway through the episode, when it looked like it might be Karishma or Dean going home, I turned to Ali and said, ‘well, at least Tom’s safe,’ and then the target immediately switched to Tom. Our fantasy team being Tom, Dean, Karishma, and Stanet, I was a bit concerned.
I think Tom put himself in a decent place for most of this week, but I’m worried about his being targeted by Missy. If her power position remains in place this coming week and Lairo goes back to Tribal, Tom might be next up for elimination. And the fact that he didn’t seem to sense that at all bodes ill. Contrarily, if Tom and Aaron and Dean can convince Karishma and maybe Elaine that the all-girls alliance isn’t going to hold together and that Missy is the clear leader, Tom might set up well for success.
ALI – NOT
Tom was a decoy target this week. Granted, many confessionals about Tom were about how he is the father of the tribe and how people didn’t want to get rid of him. The fact that Tom was able to stay in the game was partially due to his social capital in the tribe. Vince was the path of least resistance, whereas a Tom boot would have alienated Dean and Aaron.
Did Tom save himself or not? On the one hand, his social connections with people like Elizabeth and Aaron were his saving grace. On the other, he didn’t actively contribute to his stay beyond that, he’s still a viable target for next week should they lose, and he allowed himself to be rattled at Tribal. I worry for his future in the game if his tribe loses again. The easy votes are gone, and now there’s nowhere to hide.
GUS – HOT
I’m surprised, too.
Aaron seems to have totally shaken himself free of his associations with Ronnie. In fact, it looks like he barely ever *had* any associations with Ronnie. Add to that the fact that his tribe seems to value his raw strength, and you’ve got a player who’s looking pretty solid through the merge (or just shy of it).
I will say that I think Aaron needs to start making tight bonds—the thing he’s got going with Tom and Dean is nice, but not enough—but beyond that, he’s set himself up well enough for the near future. It doesn’t hurt matters that his plan was the plan that ended up going through—even though it benefitted the all-girls’ alliance, and Missy wanted Tom out instead.
ALI – NOT
Aaron’s on the outs, but at least he knows it. That information can be invaluable in Survivor. I don’t think that Aaron is the type to take being on the outs lying down. There’s a chance he can turn things around now, but his position in the game as of this moment earns him a Not.
GUS – HOT
Jack may have been down last week, but he certainly wasn’t about to be out. I think one of the best things about his gameplay in the post-Molly blindside haze was his attitude. Rather than take the Aaron approach and storm off, or take the Vince approach and turn into a ball of bitterness, Jack was called out by his tribemates for smiling in the wake of a devastating alliance-crushing blindside. What better way to get your teammates to want to work with you?
ALI – HOT
Jack is the first person this season to show everyone how to handle being blindsided. Jamal and Aaron need to take a master class from this guy. Part of Jack’s success can be chopped up to Jack’s general amiability, and amiability is key in the game of Survivor. But based on Jamal and Aaron’s preseason interviews, I would have been ready to label both of them as amiable as well. Jack is able to keep up his cheeriness even when things don’t go his way. I not only admire that in a Survivor player, but I’m also kind of jealous of that as a person. In the end, Jack’s social grace indicates that he has the potential to go deep.
GUS – HOT
I don’t know that Lauren really did anything this episode, but I have to think she’s still riding high from her successful blindside last week. She’s not playing badly, so… I guess she gets a Hot.
ALI – HOT
This was a cool down episode for Lauren after she came in hot last week. I appreciate Lauren’s ability to take a step back and sink into the shadows once again. In the early game, it’s essential that one not be viewed as the leader, and I expressed concern last week that Lauren may have put a target on herself this week. My fears were assuaged when I saw how easily she’s been able to slip back under the radar.
GUS – HOT
Poor germaphobe Kellee, having to crawl through everybody else. Her idol has one week of usability left, so I don’t see a world where she goes home—most likely she just plays it and gets it out of the way (although that might raise the question of why she lied about it in the first place… but, you know, whatever), and that’s assuming she has the opportunity to do so at all.
ALI – HOT
Kellee’s Hot from last week carries over into this week. Vince’s downfall was partially the fact that everyone suspected he could have an idol. Thus far, Kellee has been able to avoid that particular target. That’s a testament to how well she has ingratiated herself with the rest of the group and how well she was able to cover for her idol. Now, Molly did say in an exit interview that she had a feeling Kellee was lying about her experience on Island of the Idols. On the other hand, Molly said she had no idea Kellee had an idol. Regardless, Kellee is doing well enough at the moment to earn a Hot.
GUS – HOT
I’m very excited about Janet’s position in the game. Not only was she able to nearly keep pace in the water with AN OLYMPIC MEDALIST, but she was brought into most of the strategy discussions within her tribe. Jamal came to her with his plan to get rid of Dan; she went to Tommy about it; Tommy was reluctant; she pitched Jamal back to him. Janet is a part of a lot of discussions, but she’s doing it without setting herself up to hurt feelings later. I really do think she’s a central figure in her tribe, and it seems like she has a LOT of options going forward.
ALI – HOT
Every time I see Janet, I feel better and better about her. There’s a part of me that wonders if she and Tommy are on the cusp of becoming the new Denise and Malcolm. It seems that the two of them gravitate toward each other when the strategy talk starts flying, which indicates to me that they’re a pretty solid two at the moment. I also feel that the longer older women are able to stay in the game, the better their chances of moving forward. The closer Janet gets to the merge, the better I feel. Yeah, she didn’t beat the Olympic swimmer at a swimming contest, and she couldn’t untie a knot in saltwater without a mask, but Janet’s lookin’ fine at fifty-nine.
GUS – NOT
Unfortunately, Noura continues to Noura. I think she might be able to OTTN her way through the season by virtue of being the obvious boot, but that’s not exactly a good way to play Survivor, and it hasn’t ever resulted in a player winning. In past seasons I might have theorized that it would make her a really good FTC goat, but with the recent tendencies of players to eliminate the goats to open up spots at FTC, I think Noura isn’t long for this game.
ALI – NOT
Noura has a very small chance of winning at this point, let alone getting to the end. In an interview, Molly stated that she wanted to get rid of Noura because Noura was too unpredictable. People are going to keep feeling that way, and her name is going to come up often. If people aren’t looking to target Noura, it’s because they see her as a goat. I enjoy watching Noura, but I think she’s either not long for this game or we’re in for a bumpy ride to the end.
GUS – NOT
Dan really seems to be leaning into the leadership role around his camp. Unfortunately for him, it appears that nobody else wants that. Dan is paying good lip service to the idea of making people believe that what’s best for Dan is actually what’s best for him, but in reality it appears he’s just piggybacking on others’ ideas and safe plays and that’s pretty much it. His plan to get rid of Noura is a good one… but it’s also an obvious one. More than that, Jamal threw Dan’s name out as a possibility, and even though Jamal was shut down, it’s not promising that Dan’s name is still in peoples’ mouths.
ALI – NOT
Dan inadvertently made himself a target this week when he decided to push a Noura vote. Had Dan rested on his laurels a bit, Noura probably would have found a way to make herself a target. Instead, Dan’s over proactivity made Jamal feel resentful and put a target on Dan’s back. Dan’s so good at putting himself in Sticky Situations that he has Baylor Wilson shook, so this song goes out to Dan.
GUS – HOT
I’m feeling pretty torn about Jason. On the one hand, he might still have a residual target on him from week 1 idol hunting and from being associated with Noura. On the other hand, he appears to have followed my advice from last week about cutting his ties with Noura. We did see him encouraging and being super down with cutting Noura this week, which is a big plus for him, and I don’t think anybody is actively targeting him. For managing to apparently have shaken the target which he slapped on his own back in week 1, he gets a Hot from me.
ALI – HOT
Wow! Jason sure pulled himself out of a hole! He wasn’t even a topic of target conversation this week, which is a huge step forward. Jason learned a tough lesson early on, but he lives to tell the tale. Jason’s game comes from the school of hard knocks, and hopefully, a couple of those knocks will whip him into shape.
GUS – NOT
I really don’t like Jamal’s approach to post-blindside gameplay. As he just lost one of his closest allies AND looked like a bozo in the process, I’m confident that jumping fully back into aggressive gameplay is a horrible idea. Yeah, in theory, it has the possibility of keeping the target off his back, but in practice, it just made him look aggressive and desperate. Particularly when the run-up to that aggressive gameplay is the rest of your tribe saying, “hey we should vote out somebody who’s not Jamal.” A smarter play might have been to do what Jack did and hang back a little bit and be sociable until you find an opening. I worry about Jamal’s longevity.
ALI – NOT
I really want to ship Shipman and the rest of his tribe, but Jamal’s scorched earth mentality is just going to end up burning bridges. I really want Jamal to do well, but does Jamal want to do well? First, he’s telling Tommy that he’s a free agent, essentially guaranteeing that Tommy should target him next. Then, he’s mocking Dan for telling him that Noura is the next target, saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” On Survivor, people need to keep their hurt feelings to themselves. All of this was fine for Jamal to think in his head, but he’s got to keep a lid on it in person. For failing to keep cool, Jamal earned a Not.
GUS – HOT
I’m glad to see that Tommy managed to salvage his friendship with Jack. We didn’t see a whole lot of him outside of his nightmare (which I can totally sympathize with, by the way, as somebody who often gets sleep paralysis), but it seems as though things are turning back his way. I don’t think he’s really had any agency in the game so far, though, although his reluctance to vote for Dan may have turned a future vote back towards Jamal.
ALI – HOT
I made no secret of the fact that I thought Tommy’s move last week was bad. This week, we saw the results of that move, and my feelings were confirmed. Jamal was, understandably, burned by the blindside. Moving forward, Jamal will not be a reliable ally for Tommy. That’s not going to be great for Tommy in the event of a swap.
However, Tommy is solidly in the majority alliance at the moment. He seemingly has a great relationship with folks like Janet and Lauren. Jack didn’t appear to be too upset at the blindside. I think it would have ultimately been worse for Tommy to vote with the minority with the sole goal of appeasing Jamal. Tommy’s instinct to approach Jamal and Jack about the blindside was spot on, and even though it wasn’t received well, I think that the blame lies more with Jamal than with Tommy. Overall, as Jamal buries himself, it behooves Tommy to separate himself from Jamal. Tommy will land on his feet, and I can’t say the same for the two former allies he left behind.
GUS: I see you almost let the preview for next week color your rankings.
ALI: I literally told you not to do this.
GUS: I do what I want.
ALI: I had myriad reasons for making Chelsea a potential Not. You hear me? Myriad. She and the rest of the women made the women’s alliance way too obvious. The men now have an opening to act against them.
GUS: No, I absolutely agree with that. But I don’t think Chelsea will catch the heat for it—particularly if what we saw in the preview has any weight. Here’s my thinking: if the women’s alliance breaks down, Karishma will be the fracture point. If Karishma flips to the men, they’ve got a 4-4. Either Chelsea or Elaine would then have to be the other flipper. Elaine’s got her pre-existing relationship with Tom, which has been remarked upon time and time again, and Chelsea apparently has her burgeoning showmance with Dean. Which we’ve never heard about before, but, you know, whatever. Both of them have a decent chance of flipping—if a flip should be required. And I think they’d target Missy over Elizabeth.
ALI: That’s what I’m saying. So don’t come at me with this, “allowing the preview to color my rankings” nonsense. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the previews! To me, it’s quite possible that Dean may take the hit in the showmance, which would be a fun change of pace. Though Dan got the boot before Kara in their showmance as well. It would be fun to see a repeat.
GUS: That’s dependent on them even going after the showmance partners. We might not even see that become a whole thing. But, we’re in agreement about Chelsea and about Dean. Let’s chat about Elizabeth and why she’s amazing.
ALI: She is being led by the rest of that alliance. Her only content was making herself a challenge threat and saying she likes Tom because she’s like a dad. You’re wrong. Next.
GUS: Swimming isn’t being a challenge threat. None of the post-merge challenges come down to “swim quickly,” at least not Immunity challenges. She’s only gonna be an asset to folks in challenges.
ALI: But we are in Modern Survivor. Being a challenge asset doesn’t always save you. And, more importantly, from a game perspective, I feel she will be led by the nose strategically because she doesn’t have the chops to handle herself.
GUS: I mean, you’re right. She isn’t really displaying a ton of strategic prowess at this point. Her current place is actually really solid, though. I don’t really see anything going wrong for her in the short term.
ALI: I don’t understand how you can throw Missy under the bus and not Elizabeth.
GUS: Missy is consistently failing to make any real connection with anybody outside of the women’s alliance. Her entire strategy has been to keep the women’s alliance together and make really bad overtures to people that she blindsided. I have a feeling she’ll do a really bad job of making Karishma feel secure next week.
ALI: As did Elizabeth. That settles it. Elizabeth and Missy are the same person. Have you ever seen them together?
GUS: Haha. Elizabeth hasn’t really done any bad alliance-building, though. I think her strategic game isn’t very good, you’re completely right. I just think others have done a better job of slamming a target on their backs, whereas she has just been sort of cool and helpful and neat.
ALI: I think that I may be thinking long term that Elizabeth is in trouble. And I agree that Missy may find herself in some trouble, but I think that the two of them are in similar boats. Justice for Missy. Elizabeth should have gotten a Not too. Shall we move on to Aaron?
GUS: Yeah, I don’t know how much I can stand by Aaron. He’s alright, but he’s not great. I feel like he’s got no more risk of going than Tom or Dean, and actually, I think he’s got *less* chance of going than Tom and Dean, especially if Dean and Chelsea are starting to work together.
ALI: I think that the problem with Aaron is he takes the game personally. Like Vince and Jamal, I fear he’s gotten himself in a bit of trouble not handling bumps in the road with grace. Granted, it’s really tough to do that, but that’s part of the game.
GUS: I don’t know if he has, though. I mean, he got really pissed about Ronnie, but he handled this week pretty well. He certainly managed to avoid any sort of target being laid on his back. And he wasn’t in any danger this week; he was never even the decoy target.
ALI: That’s true. Maybe he’s managed to elevate himself, but he’s still in the minority in a numbers game. It’s not a great position to be in.
GUS: Certainly true. I probably should have given Aaron a Not, to be honest. I was just excited to see that he wasn’t being the literal worst this week.
ALI: I’m excited for him too. It’s nice to not be the worst. Alright, who is safe this week? I think…
Lairo: E L I Z A B E T H
Lairo: A A R O N
And is it too early to do winner picks? Because mine is Janet.
GUS: Mine is also Janet, but if I can’t have Janet, it’s Tommy.
ALI: Amazing. Well, I think it may be one of those two, so let’s root for them! Alright, friends, tune in next week to find out how our hot mess draft happens and if I can mock Gus for being wrong about Aaron or Elizabeth! Bye bye!
GUS: See ya!