Survivor: Winners At War

Episode 1 – Hot or Not

Who is Hot or Not after Week 1?

Photo: CBS

Gus and Ali, a real-life couple and fans of Survivor, will be individually ranking the Survivor Season 40 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.

SELE TRIBE

Adam

Ali: ADAM KLEIN – HOT

Things were looking really rough for Adam, and I thought for sure that he would be the first boot. Adam reminds me of my cat, who likes to walk on our apartment’s very tall, slender bookshelves. He’s always doing this high wire act, always steps away from failure. But when he falls, he lands on his feet. While Adam’s initial target would make him a Not nine times out of ten, through his own cunning, he managed to throw the target onto Jeremy and get into the majority. For getting himself into, and then immediately out of trouble, Adam gets a Hot.

Gus: ADAM KLEIN – HOT

Adam could have panicked and turned on Denise and sunk his game when he got the pointless ‘spent two minutes out of camp’ target laid on him, but instead, he kept his cool and rationally argued for why other players were greater threats than he. I’m not sure whether that was why Natalie ended up being the target or if it was because of Natalie’s refusal to name a target of her own, but regardless, Adam played this week well for someone who found himself INSTANTLY on the bottom.

Ben

Ali: BEN DRIEBERGEN – NOT

Oof. Ben folded like a cheap suit the minute Rob applied any pressure. If Ben can’t find a way to keep calm, cool, and collective, he’s going to be out the door before you can say “Ben Bomb.” Granted, at the moment, it looks like Ben has found himself in a majority position. However, the very next morning, Ben was experiencing buyer’s remorse. He goes straight to Michele and says that they need to vote out the bigger players before they can band together. Might that have been a good consideration last night, Benjamin? If he continues to be wishy-washy, the others will have no problem getting rid of him. Ben’s played the middle before, sure, but these are winners we’re talking about. These players are the best of the best, and they’re going to be able to sniff Ben out in a second.

Gus: BEN DRIEBERGEN – NOT

I have no idea what Ben was doing this episode, but he was clearly in way over his head. Or starstruck. Or something. Whatever it was, it was horrible gameplay. Ben consistently revealed the plan to the target and failed to keep his cool in the face of his idols. I wonder whether he was just trying way too hard to do his “spy” thing again, but that’s probably being too generous. As much of a Ben Defender as I am, I hate to say that I think Ben just lost his cool this week.

Danni

Ali: DANNI BOATWRIGHT – HOT

There was a fair amount of Danni content the other night, which was a nice surprise. She has no problem throwing names out, which at first made me worried. Then, everyone else had such an issue with this that her willingness to pitch ideas started to look like an asset. There was a bit of a bump when Rob found out that she said his name. But I had to admire Danni’s hutzpah because she looked him right in the eyes and admitted to it. In the end, Rob respected her for her honesty, and she found herself in an alliance because of it. At the end of the night, she was in the majority, and that’s enough for me right now.

Gus: DANNI BOATWRIGHT – HOT

Danni and Adam get Hots for the same reason this week: they were in a tricky position, and they turned it around. Strangely, Danni seemed to be in the majority power position at first… but then Ben went and Ben-Bombed himself into next week and destroyed all chance Danni had of actually doing what everybody probably wanted to do in getting rid of Rob, and she lost it… but then she managed to parlay that into an alliance… with Boston Rob? Sure, a soft one, but nonetheless, for the first returnee from Guatemala, Danni is doing a terrific job of repping the Old School.

Denise

Ali: DENISE STAPLEY – NOT

I really hate to do this to my winner pick. It’s never good for the oldest woman on the tribe to make herself a target early. Luckily, the heat mostly seemed to be on Adam, but Denise’s head was equally on the chopping block. Natalie even said that there were benefits to eliminating both players. We largely saw Adam as the leader in throwing the votes on Natalie, so he gets the credit for saving their butts. I assume that Denise was involved, but because we didn’t see it, I can’t really comment on how effectively she was able to save herself. 

It’s also possible she was trying to lay low and let Adam throw the target on himself, but again, I didn’t see enough of her strategy during this vote cycle to know. Yes, Denise now seems to be in the majority, and that’s great for her. Sadly, because she was a target this vote based on a rookie mistake, and Adam took a lot of the credit for strategically saving them both, there’s little to recommend her game this episode. Sorry, Denise!

Gus: DENISE STAPLEY – HOT

Denise gets a Hot for the same reason as Adam and Danni: she wiggled out of the spotlight, and deftly so. I’m excited to see what comes next for her and VERY proud of her for missing Tribal for the first time ever!!

Ethan

Ali: ETHAN ZOHN – HOT

Color me impressed. Ethan was a shining star in the premiere (not really surprised about that). There were some who feared Ethan might not be able to keep up with “new school” Survivor, but I thought he looked great out there. He was having strategic conversations and is nicely in the majority. For now, he’s looking great.

Gus: ETHAN ZOHN – HOT

Ethan had no trouble readjusting to the game or jumping into the new pace of play. He should be well set to perform in the coming weeks.

Jeremy

Ali: JEREMY COLLINS – NOT

It’s never good to lose your closest ally on the first vote. Though, I think that it was only a matter of time before Natalie and Jeremy became a massive target. It was unfortunate that they started out on the same tribe, as clear duos are always going to get attention. I don’t think either did themselves any favors by immediately buddying up and reminding everyone that they’re close. 

Parvati roasting Jeremy and Natalie for their inability to pick between Adam and Denise was also a bad look. Danni already threw Adam’s name out, so why did Natalie feel the need to push back against that? Jeremy wasn’t necessarily involved in the pushback, but he could have done more to mitigate Natalie or get on board with a name. Instead, he sat back when he shouldn’t have. I get that maybe there was a fear that throwing out names might result in the Ciera in Game Changers scenario (in which the target immediately goes on the person who said a name first). However, as I stated above, Danni already said Adam, so why not go with that? Why the hemming and hawing over what to do? By the time Jeremy got a bad feeling, he was at Tribal, and it was already too late.

Now, it’s not terrible for Jeremy to have Natalie out of the game early. First, it ameliorates his threat level a bit, in that he’s no longer part of a clear duo. And second, now Natalie is on the Edge and can send him advantages. But none of that will matter if Jeremy follows her out the door. He’s going to have to pull something off this week, or he’s in hot water.

Gus: JEREMY COLLINS – NOT

Poor Jeremy. I don’t really blame him for this—he shouldn’t ever have been on the same tribe as Natalie—but, then again, it wouldn’t have hurt for him to take Tyson’s advice from Heroes vs. Villains and separate himself from his closest pre-existing relationship out there. Jeremy should be able to scavenge his fall from power well enough in the next episode—I think the bubble that Boston Rob is riding is going to burst—but for the time being, he’s not in a good way.

Michele

Ali: MICHELE FITZGERALD – NOT

Poor Michele looked completely overwhelmed at that first Tribal. It’s understandable since that was her first-ever pre-merge Tribal. She managed to get through it, but she was on the wrong side of the vote. It looks like she’s making moves to align with Ben going forward, but only time will tell if she can recover from this early blow. I think she has the social ability and the low threat level to make it far, but based on this episode alone, I have to give her a Not.

Gus: MICHELE FITZGERALD – NOT

I’m not sure why Michele was left out of the Natalie vote, but regardless of why she was, the fact remains that she was. This, combined with her complete newbieness to Tribal Councils in the pre-merge, lead me to believe that she’ll be struggling for the next few weeks.

Parvati

Ali: PARVATI SHALLOW – HOT

How in the world are Parvati, Boston Rob, and Sandra still in the game? It’s a testament to their games that the three of them have managed to not only stay this week but vote in the majority. I’m just flabbergasted.

Parvati’s conversation with Rob about aligning shows her prowess. She never committed to anything, but she led the conversation in a way that made it appear that she was agreeing to an alliance. Parvati knows how to keep her options open without alienating potential allies. It’s just insane to watch. I’m really looking forward to watching her play going forward.

Gus: PARVATI SHALLOW – HOT

Oh, fine, Ali. Parvati is playing well. There. Are you happy? Parv and Rob’s Domination Alliance is a thing of legends (literally), but I worry whether it can last. If it does, oh my God, I will never hear the end of it.

Rob

Ali: ROB MARIANO – NOT

I had a really hard time deciding where to put Rob. I thought he did really well right off the bat. Wisely, he approached Parvati about an alliance, and seeing those two work together tickled me. Then, he was able to influence Ben into telling him that Danni said his name. After that, he went right to Danni and forged an alliance with her (masterful to watch). Not to mention that all these years later, he’s still a challenge beast.

All these things aside, Rob’s target is enormous. He managed to dodge a bullet this week because he’s an incredible player. But Ben immediately regretted the way the vote went down and started conspiring against the bigger players, and it doesn’t get much bigger than Rob. On the other tribe, Sandra was furious with Rob for not telling her that he was going to be on the season. She went right to work pouring poison about him in everyone’s ear and spearheaded the vote to eliminate Amber. Everyone knows that Amber is waiting for Rob on the Edge, so he doesn’t benefit from her elimination at all. I think Rob was sent a message with the Amber vote: we’re coming for you.

Gus: ROB MARIANO – HOT

See, I’m glad now that we have Rob in our draft. This was some of the best gameplay I’ve seen from Boston Rob, although I do believe that a LOT of it was as a result of his tribe just being terrified of him due to reputation. Honestly, I think a big reason why nobody ultimately targeted him is because when Danni did say his name, she was immediately confronted by Rob for having targeted him… so, clearly, Rob MUST have had a huge gameplay network.

I worry that Rob’s game will be discovered to have been mostly smoke and mirrors and confidence in the coming weeks, but for the time being, Rob is sitting pretty, especially with Amber having been voted out already.

DAKAL TRIBE

Kim

Ali: KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – NOT

I never thought I’d see the day where Kim is begging for her life in the game. 2020 has brought some wild Survivor scenarios. I don’t want to blame podcasts for raising Kim’s profile for the other winners. No, wait, I definitely want to do that. Everyone has been talking about Kim’s game for years, and now we’re seeing that come back to bite her. I think without all the think pieces and waxing poetic about her game prowess, Kim would enter this season as a nonentity. She’d be a fantastic winner of a maligned season, and that’s about it.

The poker alliance came back to bite Kim, and it nearly resulted in her elimination. Kim’s saving grace was her social ability, and she worked her way back into the fold. If Yul’s production forbidden tweet is to be believed, he worked to get Kim on his side once he knew she was safe. That could spell some good things for Kim going forward, but I think the specter of the poker alliance will be a heck of a thing to overcome. In the early days, people look for any reason to target one another. If the poker crew is inspiring this type of reaction in the other players, it may be an insurmountable hurdle. 

Gus: KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – NOT

I’ll confess… I haven’t watched One World yet. When I was blitzing seasons for Game Changers, it was unnecessary. Since then, I’ve had such an embarrassment of riches of seasons to watch (between the Australian version of the franchise and the highlights throughout American Survivor) that it’s just never been that high on my list. After hearing the shock and awe in response to Kim’s scrambling this past week, however, I’m convinced that I need to watch it and soon. Kim was completely out of the loop and in the dark—something that I’m not completely surprised by, considering how the rest of the tribe had arbitrarily decided that she was Priority Target #1. I doubt that Kim will be the next one out, but I could see it happening.

Nick

Ali: NICK WILSON – NOT

Nick was a decoy target in the first episode once again. This time, he actually got a vote against him. As we all know, it’s never a good sign when you’re the decoy target. It means that the alliance views that player as expendable in some way. Nick has a lot to overcome as the most recent winner, and I fear he hasn’t done quite enough to convince me that he’s out of the woods.

Gus: NICK WILSON – NOT

Nick is playing fine, but I feel like I can’t just give everyone a Hot who is “playing fine.” Nick’s in a good alliance, he’s got numbers, his gameplay is mostly unseen to the cameras… I really do love Nick, and I want him to go far, but I just can’t say enough about his game right now outside of his alliance to give him a real strong Hot in good faith.

Sarah

Ali: SARAH LACINA – HOT

I, like everyone, thought Sarah was a goner when I saw those pre-season votes. This tribe division worked out excellently for Sarah, as she has Sandra and Tony on her side. If I recall correctly, Sarah had a lot of negative pre-season reactions pre-Game Changers as well. I think perhaps this has more to do with a certain resting face than with Sarah’s actual personality. As someone who has a certain resting face myself, I can relate. Just as Sarah overcame initial impressions on Game Changers, she looked very solidly ingratiated in her tribe this season. I’m not sure if this “one-time player alliance” will spell bad things for her in the future. There are bigger fish to fry than Officer Sarah, so I think she will probably be alright.

Gus: SARAH LACINA – NOT

This ranking is somewhat colored by the pre-season press, I confess. Sarah is playing a good game, but she seems to have somewhat locked herself into her preexisting alliances—Tony and Sandra, specifically—and as far as I can tell, she hasn’t really done much to break herself out of that mold. She escaped her first Tribal with nary a vote against her, something that runs contrary to the FIVE votes that she had cast against her in the pre-season, but even so, I’m not seeing anything from her game to convince me that she’s set herself up for success in the long run… yet.

Sophie

Ali: SOPHIE CLARKE – HOT

I just love a Yul and Sophie alliance. It’s time to start buying Sophie stock. She had her doubters in the pre-season in that others were worried she would have trouble connecting with fellow players. I didn’t see her have any issue this episode. If anything, Yul and Sophie were hot commodities. Sophie has a lot of options going forward, and it makes me very optimistic about her chances.

Gus: SOPHIE CLARKE – HOT

Sophie and Yul are the dream alliance that I never even dared to dream of. I love it so much. Someone on Reddit said that Yul functions best when he has a Becky, and though Sophie is a vastly superior player to Becky, I can see her serving a similar function for Yul—providing a counterpoint and foil to his analytical ways and forming a tight team with him as they navigate the game going forward.

Tony

Ali: TONY VLACHOS – NOT

I had a really difficult time deciding what to do with Tony. I even reached out to the Inside Survivor team to see if I’m crazy for considering making him a Not. Before you come for me, let me break down what I saw that made me nervous for Tony.

I will concede that Tony played MUCH better on this episode than his showing in Game Changers. He restrained himself beautifully in the first half, aligning with Sandra and taking a step back from idol hunting. I started drafting my Hot for him right there.

The second half is where his game got a little rocky. First, Tyson said Tony’s name. Not great for Tony. Then, Tony immediately reacted to that by saying that everyone should get rid of Tyson. Tony’s reactionary gameplay is what worries me about him. Just look at how Rob handled it when he heard Danni was gunning for him. He immediately tried to extend an olive branch. In Tony’s case, he sees others as with him or against him. That kind of black and white thinking can be a death sentence in this game. I also think that Tony needs stronger players like Tyson around as a shield. In that way, he was directly working against his best interests.

Furthermore, Tony’s target wasn’t ultimately the person who went home. First, this shows that Tony isn’t the one leading the vote and that his needs aren’t consistent with what the majority wants. Second, Tyson is still on the beach and knows that Tony threw his name out. There’s a possibility that Tyson will seek revenge against Tony for throwing him under the bus. Tyson did it first, but that technicality won’t really matter if Tony and Tyson can’t find a way to make amends.

Gus: TONY VLACHOS – HOT

I gave Tony a Not at first and as I was in the process of writing the sentence, “I’m almost definitely going to change my mind about this,” I changed my mind about that, because, gosh darn it, I’m proud of Tony! Tony’s number one personal challenge to himself was to NOT go Llama-ing off into the jungle flailing after an idol, and HE SUCCEEDED. He made jokes at camp, stayed laid back, and had a good time. He was clearly about to jump out of his skin the entire time, but who cares! He did it! Could he be in trouble soon? Sure! Do I think he’ll be able to continue this style of gameplay indefinitely? Absolutely not! But for now, I’m proud of Tony.

Tyson

Ali: TYSON APOSTOL – NOT

I don’t think anyone predicted Tyson would be in so much trouble this early. Similarly, with Adam, Tyson was able to throw the target on someone else pretty brilliantly. On the other hand, Tyson didn’t mitigate his threat level in doing so, something that Adam did successfully.

I worry that Tony won’t let go of the fact that Tyson targeted him. In addition, Yul has every reason to keep throwing heat on the poker alliance, which could spell doom for Tyson. I was encouraged that Tyson was so willing to throw Kim and Amber under the bus. If anyone can sneak out of this tight spot, it’s Tyson.

Gus: TYSON APOSTOL – NOT

Tyson did a great job this week of keeping the target (and even the secondary target) away from him. Kim looks to be a bigger target for the time being, and it seems as though with the alleged ‘poker alliance’ scattering from the majority like cats running from a vacuum cleaner, Tyson might be out of the limelight for a while regardless. However, with the Yulliance seemingly wanting to work with Sandra, I have to worry for Tyson’s longevity should Dakal return to Tribal too many times—unless something changes this week.

Wendell

Ali: WENDELL HOLLAND – HOT

Domenick Abbate said in a recent interview that he advised Wendell to, “build less furniture.” And lo, Wendell mentioned wanting to build less furniture. Domenick also told Wendell to take a step back and make himself less visible this time around. It appears Wendell has also taken this advice to heart. Wendell was a recent winner who was never mentioned as a target, which wasn’t true for fellow recent winner, Nick. 

Wendell got into an alliance of four with Yul, Sophie, and Nick. This is the best-case scenario for Wendell’s game. And it’s clear that this alliance is taking Wendell’s desires to heart, as he specifically mentioned that he would prefer to see Amber and Rob on Extinction Island as soon as possible. At the moment, Wendell isn’t attracting unnecessary attention onto himself, while still remaining an attractive alliance member. 

Gus: WENDELL HOLLAND – HOT

Wendell seems to be doing well in the middle. He’s part of Yul’s center alliance, he’s avoided having any targets thrown his way by being a recent winner, and the explosion of the poker alliance has more or less guaranteed his staying under the radar for the next little while. Maybe.

I do see a world a couple votes from now where Yul and Sophie decide that they want to swap their allegiances a little bit, and maybe drop Wendell and Nick for a tighter bond with Tyson and Kim, or Sandra and Tony… but I doubt it’ll happen soon.

Yul

Ali: YUL KWON – HOT

Wow. He’s still got it. A bunch of people pre-season expressed worry about Yul’s “robotic” tendencies and whether he would be able to make genuine connections with others during this game. Yup proved everyone wrong this episode in an impressive display of strategy and social game. First, Yul and Sophie got together and cemented an alliance. Then, they were able to attract Nick and Wendell for a “one-time player” alliance. Lastly, Yul threw a spotlight on the poker alliance, successfully keeping his group in the shadows and managing to isolate some threats. This move gave Yul a strong majority with Tony, Sandra, and Sarah. Yul is in a comfortable spot and has the game ability to stay that way.

Gus: YUL KWON – HOT

Yul. YUL. YUL!!!!! This certainly lays to rest in my eyes the debate over whether or not Yul won Cook Islands purely because of his super-idol. Maybe he got a little lucky with tribe composition this season, but Yul’s having almost immediately formed a tight alliance with Sophie, Wendell, and Nick AND managing to connect with Sandra, Tony and Sarah as a secondary alliance seems to cement him as a true force in this game. Combine this with the fact that, as far as I can tell, nobody actually knows that he’s the one running the show, and I feel like he’s got one of the strongest early games on the island.

There’s an argument to be made against huge alliances—in Big Brother 21, the “Gr8ful” / “Unde9able” alliance shattered pre-jury—but in this era of Survivor with swaps rampant, I feel like Yul’s branching connections throughout his tribe will actually serve him well in the long run. Now, as long as Sophie doesn’t see him as the equivalent of a young girl…

Sandra

Ali: SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE – HOT

How? Just how is she still in the game? I’m just in awe of how adeptly Sandra was able to reunite with Sarah and Tony, throw a target onto Amber, and showcase self-awareness in regards to her game. Sandra recognized that targeting Amber was an emotional move, but was able to use her betrayal to minimize her own target. I don’t necessarily agree that Amber was the best move for most players in this case (I think Tyson and Kim are both bigger threats), but this was definitely the best-case scenario for Sandra.

First, we know that Amber and Rob were both targeting Sandra, so getting them out of the game will definitely benefit her. Sandra correctly divined the meaning to Rob’s secrecy and went for the jugular before either of them could come for her.

Second, Sandra needs to keep bigger threats around her. While Rob is a massive threat, Amber is a very under the radar player. Later on, no one will target Amber over Sandra. Tyson and Kim minimize Sandra’s target, while Amber wouldn’t benefit Sandra in any way. 

Third, the fact that the others were so willing to roll with Sandra’s target indicates that she’s in a group willing to take her feelings into account. Sandra has influence over the vote and can use her alliance to protect her, which is great for her going forward.

The one concern I have is that this move may bring Sandra into conflict with Rob, setting us up for a showdown. That being said, I’m encouraged by two things. Sandra works best when she has an adversary (see Jonny Fairplay and Russell Hantz). Additionally, one of the few people (possibly the only person) with a bigger target than Sandra is Boston Rob. Rob’s still a challenge beast and a more visible threat. Sandra is someone who pretty much anyone can beat in an immunity challenge come merge. And Rob has his wife on the Edge of Extinction ready to come back in the game and give him a boost. In a decision between Rob and Sandra, Rob is more likely to get the boot because he’s a more tempting target.

Gus: SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE – HOT

I’m beyond shocked to be giving Sandra a Hot, but I’m also not surprised at all because it’s Sandra. She’s got a small alliance which is tied to a larger alliance; she’s got other players on her tribe who she’s working against; she’s got a FREE IDOL, for goodness’ sake. Sandra’s looking to be sitting pretty for at least the next couple of weeks. Beyond that, I have my concerns for her game: she’s still playing the Queen’s game, riding roughshod over conversation, and guffawing at Kim when she dared to ask her a question (one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen). But, for the time being, I’m honored to give the Queen a Hot.

TrashTalkZOne

ALI: Your prejudice against Sarah is truly staggering.

GUS: It’s not prejudice against Sarah. It’s the fact that like half of the people out there were and maybe still are planning to get her out or not work with her because she’s so dangerous. The fact that she managed to buddy up to Sandra and Tony doesn’t change that fact.

ALI: I think that now that they’ve hit the beach, it appears that the other castaways found other fish to fry. Despite everyone going for Officer Sarah in the pre-game, her name wasn’t mentioned once. “Buddying up” with Sandra and Tony is called an alliance.

GUS: It’s been three days, and Yul was running the first vote. This does not indicate anything. If the center alliance decides that it’s time to get out someone on the other side, it’ll take all of five seconds for both Sandra and Tony to drop Sarah like a hot potato. It’s hardly an alliance.

ALI: Sarah looked like an obvious first boot in the pre-season, and she managed to swerve that and stay out of trouble. She voted with the majority. At this point, Tyson and Kim are in more trouble. That’s a great cushion for her.

GUS: Tyson and Kim are so firmly in the minority that it’s unlikely both of them will go first. Besides, Yul said in his apparently illegal tweet that he had planned on working with Kim, and that he patted her on the shoulder specifically to reinforce that. I don’t think Sarah is doomed or anything, I just haven’t seen the gameplay from her to support a full turnaround yet. 

ALI: You’re prejudice. Alright, let’s move on to Denise. While Sarah stayed out of trouble despite some initial targets, Denise got herself into trouble when no one was looking at her. Unlike Adam, I didn’t see any evidence that she did much to save herself. 

GUS: The “first person to go up the beach” target never lasts past the first vote. If they’d really wanted to boot Adam or Denise, they would have done so at the first Tribal. Look at Jason Linden last season—he didn’t go home until Elaine’s stolen vote knocked him out. Denise and Adam went away for all of 10 minutes, sure, but they’re no more in danger now than Jeremy, Michele, or Rob.

ALI: I think that if your name is thrown out, it indicates your place in the tribe. This was a bad week for Denise. She didn’t go home but for the grace of Rob and Parvati (and a huge assist by Natalie and Jeremy). I’m a little nervous for her going forward, but I think you’re right that there will be other targets ahead of her. Just like another mother I know… OFFICER SARAH!

GUS: THEY AREN’T ON THE SAME TRIBE!

ALI: I know, but they have identical places on their tribe at this moment, in the majority with other targets ahead of them. The only difference is that Sarah stayed out of trouble this week, and you still gave her a not. Prejudice.

GUS: My rankings are based on the second derivative of playstyle much as anything else. The change in the change in how well the players are playing.

ALI: That’s a lot of words to say prejudiced.

GUS: Whatever. I want to agree with you on Boston Rob, and if Amber hadn’t gone home, I 100% would have. But Amber went home, so I kind of don’t.

ALI: See, that’s interesting to me. Amber going to Extinction made me feel like Rob’s in trouble. If that duo had been ignored a bit, I would think that maybe Rob could slip under the radar a little bit, but Amber’s boot showed me it’s impossible. Amber couldn’t even slip under the radar, and she’s way less threatening than Boston Rob. The other players know that Amber is out on the Edge waiting to come back in and help Rob, and that’s a big factor in how they’ll play going forward. The Edge hurts both of them the most.

GUS: Amber is NOT coming back in the game. There’s like a 5% chance that Amber is going to win either of those challenges. Sure, she might be trickling advantages to Rob (ugh), and that might hurt him in the long run… but in the near term, I see this as a Rachel/Tyson or a Nadiya/Natalie thing. One of a group is eliminated, and the other one is freed of their restriction and allowed to go further. With Amber gone, nobody is worried about Rob and Amber teaming up and having an unstoppable two-vote alliance like they did in All-Stars. Maybe EOE will throw a wrench in things (UGH), but I think Rob is safe for a couple weeks, at least.

ALI: I think it’s a miracle Rob made it to this week. Sandra, too, for that matter. And Tony. Time will tell, though. Speaking of Tony… How am I the only one who thought he was same old Tony? He tried to dictate the vote and talked with other players about how he wanted to go look for idols. Since when does not torpedoing your game earn a Hot?

GUS: When it’s Tony, and his major shortcoming in his previous seasons was hamstringing his game outta nowhere. Tony obliterated himself in GC by going idol hunting immediately. He’s acting like he took a Xanax. I think that’ll set him up well for success. He’s exceeded my expectations. Compare this to Sarah, who’s barely even met them.

ALI: In the pre-merge, it’s enough to stay under the radar.

GUS: Which is what he’s doing!

ALI: Tony has never been and never will be under the radar. He literally tried to lead the vote this episode!

GUS: He wasn’t pushy about it. He mentioned a name, but that’s about as much as anyone else was doing.

ALI: His target didn’t go home. Not a good sign. And Tyson knows that he threw out his name. Not good for Tony.

GUS: That’s barely a mark against him. Rob knows that Danni threw his name out, and now they’re buddies. Tony will be fine.

ALI: The Rob thing was an anomaly, which is why it was so commented upon. Usually, players don’t come back to each other once one of them has thrown their name out.

GUS: Regardless. Tyson didn’t get votes, so clearly, Tony didn’t push that hard. They’ll be fine. All right, who’s going home next week?

ALI: 

Dakal: I hate to say it, but I think Tyson is in some trouble. Yul didn’t approach him about working together. Sophie is safe.

Sele: I think that Rob is in trouble once Ben unites all of the “goats.” Danni is safe.

GUS:

Dakal: I’m gonna double down and say Sarah’s in trouble. Just for the fun of it. And, Yul is safe.

Sele: Let’s get weird with it and say Parvati’s going home. And Rob is safe.

ALI: Thank you, everyone, for joining us for yet another edition of Hot or Not. It’s so exciting for us to be back. Join us next week for some more Hot (or Not) takes!


Written by

Ali & Gus

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 cracked.com. Alexandra’s play, Twelve, won first place in the Jackie White National Memorial Playwriting Contest in 2018. Gus Schlanbusch is a Chicago-based playwright, theatre director and Survivor fan. His plays have been produced in Chicago, Detroit and Boston. He is a relatively new survivor superfan, his first live season having been Season 33, but Ali has caught him up pretty thoroughly on what he missed before then.


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