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
As much as I love Janet, she was pretty invisible this week. With no gameplay to speak of, I can’t in good faith say that she’s setting herself up well for post-merge success. I would be very surprised were she to go home next week, as she hasn’t done anything to put herself in danger, but I also don’t know that she’s worked to reach across the tribal aisle to Karishma and Dean any more than to let Karishma vent to her.
ALI – HOT
There isn’t a ton to say about Janet right now, but that tells me that she isn’t going home. It looks to me like she’s sitting pretty. Her name hasn’t been brought up once, which means she’s doing something right. Plus, the closer she gets to the merge, the better off she is.
GUS – HOT
Kellee still has a viable idol, and she had fun dancing with Jamal this week. I don’t think she’s in danger of going home pre-merge.
ALI – HOT
There isn’t a ton to say about Kellee this week, other than that she was so cute in her interactions with Jamal. Alexa on Survivor Specialists pointed out that Kellee has this innate ability to adjust her personality to whomever she’s interacting with, and that scene was a great example. Should Kellee be able to continue her social flexibility, I think she’s definitely a winner contender.
GUS – HOT
Dean was looking like toast until Noura came to him with her plan to get rid of any guy whose name starts with “J.” Suddenly, Dean’s got options. He can go along with Noura’s plan (although I doubt whether Karishma would choose to), or he can blow up Noura’s spot. Sorry, let me correct that: Dean had options, and he chose what I think was the right one—blowing up Noura’s spot. Suddenly neither Dean nor Karishma are the targets; instead, Vokai is starting to seriously consider Noura as their next vote-out (and still go into the merge up in the numbers). All told, a good week for Dean.
ALI – HOT
Dean is like a cat falling out of a tree, just when everything seems doomed, he manages to land on his feet. This past week, Noura revealed to Dean that she wanted to target Jamal or Jack on the next vote. Instantly, Dean had a way out of his seemingly impending boot. He then took that information straight to Jamal, thus ensuring a rift between Jamal/Jack and Noura. I don’t love Dean labeling Noura as “crazy,” but I think that he’s probably right that he doesn’t want to work with her. Noura makes decisions based on emotions and is unpredictable. While she might make a great goat, Dean can see that she doesn’t make a great ally.
Jamal and Jack are also on the outs with their old tribe, so they will be happy to pick up Dean as an ally. I think that was a strong move from Dean, who once again managed to land on his feet.
GUS – HOT
I really appreciated the episode between Jack and Jamal. I thought it was handled well by both of them, and I was glad to see it be resolved in such a mature way. I’m also thrilled to see that Jack and Jamal’s friendship appears to have survived the altercation and that nobody besides Noura wants to get rid of Jack. With a merge coming, Jack might find himself in danger before too long, but I think that his social foundations and general likeability will take him safely forward for some time yet.
ALI – HOT
I’m going to get real about Jack for a second. There have been moments in my life where I have said or done things that were based in ignorance. I had heard words or stereotypes and, as a young person, parroted them without understanding the broader implications. Conversely, I’ve been on the other side where I have had ignorant comments thrown my way. I have rarely had someone apologize for their ignorance in those moments.
Part of life is making mistakes, and the measure of a person is not the first thought, but the second thought. Jack’s willingness to own his mistakes, listen, and apologize speaks volumes about his character.
What makes Survivor such an incredible show is that it’s a social experiment at its core. Some of the worst and best aspects of humanity are revealed in the 42-minute episodes. In my view, what I saw last Wednesday between Jack & Jamal was a powerful healing moment, and I hope it was a learning experience for all who watched. It showcased the power of listening and the power of an apology. Kudos to Jack.
GUS – NOT
Karishma didn’t have to go to Tribal this week, which is good, but she also didn’t really do anything, which actually probably is also good, and she wasn’t looked at as a potential target, which is actually a third good thing. So why is she a Not? Because I don’t see any realistic way for her to recover her game at this point. Pretty much everybody currently in the game has looked at Karishma at one time or another as a perfectly easy boot. She’s got no resume and no strong points to her name, and though it’s possible she’ll make it to FTC, I cannot imagine her winning.
ALI – NOT
We didn’t see much from Karishma this week, but I assume she’s doing about the same as before…
GUS – NOT
Noura let the power (or illusion thereof) that she had go to her head and decided she should shake things up. As the loose cannon of the season, that was a bad idea. Her sudden willingness to take out her allies, though probably a decent strategic move, should have waited until after the merge, or until necessity brought it to the forefront. Bringing Jack and Jamal’s names up so early served only to make her a viable target yet again. If Vokai goes back to Tribal, I could certainly see Noura being eliminated.
ALI – NOT
It actually saddens me to give Noura a Not this week, because I feel her reads were pretty spot on. She has an opportunity to take out people who targeted her before, and I respect that she’s not afraid to take the shot. Unfortunately, she’s too unpredictable, and people don’t want to play with someone who is so emotional. Noura’s personality has gotten her into a hole, and don’t think she has the ability to climb out.
GUS – HOT
Jamal had a good week. He bonded with Kellee, had a powerful conversation with Jack, and still has his idol. Beyond that, Dean came to him with information regarding Noura’s sudden plan to eliminate him. Jamal appears to be in a very good spot.
ALI – HOT
While Jack deserves kudos, Jamal deserves commendation for how he handled that moment. The strength it takes to educate others calmly and eloquently when confronted with ignorance is hard to find (as well-intentioned as Jack is, the comment still stemmed from a place of ignorance). Another measure of a person is how they respond in moments of stress or conflict. Jamal’s compassion toward Jack, while still firmly placing boundaries around accepted behavior, was exemplary. I wish I had half of Jamal’s grace in the midst of such pressure.
Survivor is a social game, and Jamal took an enormous risk in educating Jack rather than brushing it off. How many times have we seen people stand up for their beliefs on Survivor only to be voted out for it? Lindsey and Rodney in Survivor: World’s Apart comes to mind. Rodney made sexist comments about women, and Lindsey stood up to him, only to be voted out.
Jamal’s willingness to stand up for himself was bravery, plain and simple. I’m thrilled that bravery was rewarded, and I’m thankful to Jamal and Jack for giving everyone the opportunity to learn from both of them.
On another note, when Noura plotted against Jamal and Jack, Dean went straight to Jamal with that information. To me, that indicates that Jamal’s social stock is on the rise, pointing to exciting developments in his game. And one last note, Jamal’s excitement showing off his dancing and music ability was infectious and adorable.
GUS – NOT
I must say that seeing Lauren do a 180 from “I will happily draw a rock” to exploding into tears gave me a bit of schadenfreude. I realize this was entirely due to a trick of editing and that Lauren was actually pretty reluctant to go to rocks. Still, the episode as it was shown was enormously satisfying, though I did feel bad for her.
Lauren failed to connect with anyone on the Lairo tribe, but she also wasn’t viewed as a threat. She’s probably not the next most likely target on her tribe—I think that would be Tommy—but she’s very much in danger as she’s down in the numbers.
ALI – NOT
Having a meltdown after getting blindsided is a terrible look. Crying immediately when the minority gets the upper hand is a terrible look. Calling another member of the cast “not smart” is a terrible look. The usually bubbly Lauren had a rough week. She could have easily gone home this Tribal, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better next week.
GUS – HOT
Elizabeth got herself an IoI friend! Hooray! The play this week, though not Elizabeth’s, was certainly beneficial to Elizabeth. She’s in a good spot going forward, and short of Aaron or Missy deciding to flip after all (which would be tremendously stupid at this point), she’s sitting pretty for the upcoming merge.
ALI – HOT
The more I see Elizabeth, the more I like her odds. She’s fun, bubbly, and seems to be doing well in the social/strategic departments. I think that Elaine, Aaron, and Missy are all better candidates for elimination, and she’s a part of the majority on her tribe now. Also, Elizabeth’s social graces showed in the way that she handled approaching Elaine about Island of the Idols and in how she made sure Elaine was the one to tell everyone about her advantage.
As the merge approaches, Elizabeth’s threat level will rise. Everyone knows she’s an athlete, and that will put a target on her back. However, Elizabeth has a few meat shields in front of her, so if she can keep her head down, she may be alright. As of now, Elizabeth is looking like she’ll make the merge.
GUS – HOT
Missy was one of the former Vokai’s potential targets this week (per Jason’s exit press), so it sounds like Elaine’s advantage really benefitted her in particular. She didn’t have to betray Lairo, and she didn’t sell herself too hard to Vokai either. I still worry about her longevity, particularly as a player who has not been shy about her propensity to flip, but if she can make it to the merge, I think her stock will increase dramatically.
ALI – HOT
It looks like Lauren is about to feel really betrayed by Missy. And Missy did some strange acting when Elaine went to her about the advantage. However, Missy is in the majority on her tribe, Island of the Idols won’t be something to be concerned about, and should something screwy happen, Aaron and Elaine are bigger targets than she. Missy could get taken out because she’s seen as Aaron’s lieutenant, but Gus won’t let me have any more Nots this week because of bet-hedging, so she’s getting a Hot from me, dog!
GUS – NOT
Aaron didn’t handle his play very well this week. Jason said during his exit press that the plan at Tribal (before Elaine got her advantage) was to blindside Aaron while Aaron voted for Elaine, as the former Vokai players were more than a little put off by his and Missy’s immediate willingness to flip. He was, hilariously, saved by Elaine’s advantag. But rather than simply commit to flipping, he decided to lie directly to Tommy’s (or maybe Jason’s?) face right after the votes had been cast, even though there was nothing either side could do about the cast votes at that time. Vokai now certainly doesn’t trust him, and they’d be well within their rights to tell Lairo about his original willingness to flip. I think it’s got a better chance of biting him retroactively than it does of biting Missy retroactively.
ALI – NOT
According to Jason’s exit press, the target for the vote was actually Aaron. Aaron’s shadiness made him the boot candidate, but then Elaine’s advantage play at Tribal caused the tribe to switch their vote in the hopes that Aaron or Missy would flip their vote.
Aaron’s eagerness to flip on his allies was over the top and made the rest of the tribe eager to be rid of him. He’s overplaying, and the way that he treated the tribe leading up to the vote was unnecessary. Aaron made a lot of enemies last week, and this may come back to bite him.
GUS – NOT
Tommy’s death glare was satisfying, I gotta say. Tommy was identified by Elaine as one of the biggest threats around, and he’s pretty obviously on Lairo’s radar. Combined with a flip by his apparent former ally Aaron, this was a bad week for Tommy all around.
ALI – NOT
Tommy has been on top for the majority of the game, and suddenly he has the jolting feeling of being on the outs. I’m not going to lie, that totally sucks, but as Elaine said, “suck it up, buttercup.”
It’s always maddening to see people like Tommy and Lauren utterly lose it when things don’t go their way, talking about how their dreams are crushed when they didn’t seem very empathetic to the plights of the other side. Granted, there’s an argument that they were peacocking in order to put on a united front and potentially avoid going to rocks. It doesn’t take away from the fact that it produces serious eye rolls once the breakdowns start. Plus, they were so angry with Aaron for flipping when it was revealed that he was the target the entire time! It’s more than a little hypocritical.
Tommy is experiencing what it is to be on the bottom for the first time. He came to play Survivor, and he should be careful what he wishes for!
GUS – NOT
Dan really didn’t do anything except be pompous about how well his tribe would do in the upcoming immunity challenge (which they proceeded to lose), and grope people’s bags. Not a great week of gameplay. It’s a Not from me.
ALI – NOT
Dan is now in the minority on the tribe. Every piece of second person content we have on him is negative. It’s not a fabulous look to get caught actively going through peoples’ bags. I’m sure this isn’t true, but it looks like no one likes Dan out there. At best, Dan is shaping up to be a great goat at the end.
GUS – HOT
Elaine, everyone’s favorite busted can of biscuits, did a pretty solid job this week. It’s funny to me that her playing of her advantage actually put her in *more* danger, but things turned out all right and made her look pretty good. She’s clearly still on people’s radar, but unless Aaron and Missy try to flip again, she should be safe for some time yet. To be honest, even if Aaron and Missy do flip, I think Vokai would just put their original plan from this week into motion and vote out Aaron anyway.
ALI – NOT
Okay, I reeeeeally want to give Elaine a Hot this week because she was just such a dynamite character, and I’m truly thrilled she saved herself. However, the rest of her allies were willing to throw her under the bus, and it took a miracle (Elaine being sent to the IOI and then picking the advantage up after she dropped it in front of everyone without anyone noticing) for Elaine to be safe. I worry that when push comes to shove, Elaine’s allies don’t have her back, and next time she may not be so lucky.
GUS: Our track record this season is truly staggering.
ALI: Staggeringly bad. RIP Jason.
GUS: The only person who’s gone home with a negative score at all was Vince, and that’s only because I gave him a Not the week he went home. Every other boot has been a zero or higher.
ALI: I think this speaks to a shifting mentality in Survivor. Where once, Dan and Noura would be obvious early fodder, they’re living to make the merge. Whereas people who have more longevity, Chelsea or Molly, are eliminated early for being threatening. David Bloomberg espouses the theory that the best way to play is to vote out the weak, then the strong, then the weak, then the strong. This season has players that are bypassing the weak in favor of eliminating threats but come merge that’s not going to give the threats much wiggle room.
GUS: Yeah, it’s gonna be Tommy, Elaine, and Jamal, and that’s about it. Should be a wild post-merge. Speaking of Elaine, you’ve never been more wrong in your life.
ALI: Get out of my house if you’re coming for Janet like this.
Elaine saved herself by finding an advantage, that does not inherently make for a Hot, and I can cite seven precedents off the top of my head. Everyone clocks her as a threat. Her entire alliance was willing to offer her up as a sacrificial lamb. They view her as expendable. She saved herself with a hail mary advantage, but she was still vulnerable even then.
Was she the true target this week? Apparently not. But it doesn’t say good things about her future in the game that everyone talks about what a threat she is. She’s dead in the water going forward, and it breaks my heart.
GUS: No, I completely disagree. Here’s why:
- You’re right: she wasn’t the true target this week. Aaron was. Elaine’s advantage saved Aaron’s life. All of Vokai clocked Missy and Aaron as being shady and reflected not at all on Elaine’s threat level or gameplay ability. The entire conversation on Vokai (which we weren’t shown) was about how strange it was that Missy and Aaron were so gung-ho to flip.
- Nobody clocks her as a threat except for Aaron, and I think Dan? Which is as a hangover from the Ronnie boot. People can talk about how likable she is until the cows come home, but has anyone made a real move against her yet? Not one that had any chance of succeeding. For comparison’s sake, I think Christian had been saved with more than one Idol at this point in DvG.
- Her entire alliance was not willing to offer her up as a sacrifice. Aaron and Missy were willing to offer her up as a sacrifice. And they are, as has been pointed out before, registering highly on everybody’s Shade-dar.
- The fact that Elaine came back from the IOI with a vote steal effectively rules out the possibility that she has an IOI idol. No way she’d be given two advantages.
- The only way Elaine goes home this week is if Aaron and/or Missy decide to flip AGAIN, and then Vokai decides NOT to take the opportunity to backstab the people who backstabbed them this past week. I don’t see them just bowing to Aaron’s whims after that Tommy death glare.
- Missy and Aaron being on everyone’s “shay-dar” is due to their misplay, not Elaine’s strategy. Elaine doesn’t even realize they were willing to throw her under the bus. If she doesn’t realize that, she’s not going to be prepared to stab them in the back when she needs to.
- More people than Aaron and Dan have labeled her a threat. Sandra spoke to it as well. It’s true that Lauren underestimated Elaine, thinking she wasn’t smart enough to have an advantage or idol. Well, Elaine proved her wrong, and I don’t think Lauren will make that mistake again. Guess who just showed everyone that she’s smart in addition to being likable with a good story? Elaine!
- Elizabeth went right along and even said that they were offering Elaine up as a sacrifice, so it isn’t just Missy and Aaron. Plus, Missy and Aaron make up half of Elaine’s existing alliance!
- Elaine definitely not having an idol right now might make her the perfect target because she’ll be the safe one. And now everyone knows that the rest of her alliance might be amenable to seeing her go. They can use that to make some real cracks coming up.
- I don’t see them bowing to Aaron’s whims, but I think that it’s not a great sign for Elaine that she was presented as a sacrificial lamb. If her own alliance isn’t willing to protect her, she’s in trouble. You spoke about Christian needing more to save him. If I recall correctly, we weren’t high on his winning chances either.
GUS: You’re saying that because Elaine was playing well, she was actually playing badly?
ALI: Hot or Not is not merely based on gameplay. It’s also based on position in the game. Elaine played well last week, but her position is tenuous, and she didn’t improve that by getting Jason out.
GUS: The options for how this week shook out are 1) Aaron goes home and Elaine is in the minority, or 2) Jason goes home and Elaine is no longer in the majority AND Vokai is pissed off at Aaron for betraying and lying to them and probably would jump at the chance to get him out. This is the best-case scenario for Elaine.
ALI: Short term, Elaine is in a great position, but once the merge hits and everyone agrees that she’s a threat? And she has no one in her corner? She’s toast. Can’t wait to see her Ponderosa video. I’m sure it will be hysterical.
GUS: They’ll be too busy voting out people who perform moderately well in challenges to vote her out, but OK.
ALI: Tommy and Aaron are already talking about keeping each other around because of that.
GUS: Since the end of last Tribal when Tommy looked like he wanted to remove Aaron’s skin?
ALI: I think, even though Tommy is pissed at Aaron, he’s still going to see that it might behoove him to keep Aaron around once the merge hits.
GUS: You’re not gonna budge on this, and neither am I. So instead, let’s discuss why Janet is dead in the water.
ALI: What you’re mistaking for a dead body is her floating like a queen to the merge. And we’ve seen that once Janet gets going in the water, she’s a damn fish.
GUS: When is the last time that Janet actually did something on this season?
ALI: People who lead the pre-merge usually die in the pre-merge. You’re just down on Janet because of her edit. She’s got relationships with everyone on her tribe, and even though she’s the old lady, she hasn’t been a target a single time. She’s doing something right.
GUS: Leading the pre-merge is not the same as doing anything at all in the pre-merge. She’s got relationships with people on ex-Vokai, and that’s it. She’s got Karishma, who’s a wild card and the physical embodiment of panic out there. I’m not saying she’s about to go home by any means, I just see other people improving their stock more than she is.
ALI: She correctly assessed that Tom was the right vote two weeks ago. She thought that Tom would be too loyal come the merge, and I believe that this assessment was correct.
Next week, Jamal/Jack will be against Noura… or this is an editing trick, and someone in the minority will go? Either way, Janet’s golden. She’s been shown bonding with Karishma. Bonding with Tommy. Bonding with Lauren… What more do you want from her?
Karishma is the right person for her to pick up because Karishma is ready to flip. That’s great for Miss Janet. And no one is looking at her, unlike Elaine! So you’re punishing Janet because she didn’t get in good with Dean? Dean never talked to her! That’s on Dean, not Janet.
GUS: Janet is in none of these equations. Look, she might turn things around soon. I’m not denying that. I just don’t see her playing much of a game right now. I’m probably being too hard on her, but in a week of some really good gameplay from others, Janet was just sort of there. That’s a viable strategy, sure. Janet’s still one of my faves this season, but I don’t think she deserves a Hot in a week of such strong play elsewhere.
Right, so who’s going home this week? I’m saying:
ALI: Damn you for going first so that you can take Noura and Lauren.
GUS: Suck it up, buttercup.
ALI: Why do you build me up, buttercup baby, Just to let me down? Mess me around…
Alright, I’m going with…
LAIRO: I’m going Dean. They’re going to play up this Jamal/Jack vs. Noura thing, but with the other tribe getting majority former Lairo, it behooves them to oust a former Lairo, and Dean’s a bigger threat than Karishma.
VOKAI: I’m going with Missy (even though I gave her a Hot). They’re angry with Aaron and Missy. They’ll go to Elaine and tell her that Aaron and Missy wanted her gone, Elizabeth can corroborate the story. Tommy wants to keep Aaron around for the merge because he’ll be a meat shield, bye-bye Missy.
GUS: Why did you do an entire write-up just for your boot picks?
ALI: Because if I’m right, I’ll look like a genius.
GUS: Who’s safe?
LAIRO: E L A I N E S T O T T