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.
Ali and Gus both ranked Tyson as a Hot. They got overly optimistic about the threats alliance and watched their dreams crash and burn.
ALI: BEN DRIEBERGEN – NOT
I’m having a really difficult time breaking down what exactly happened this week in terms of alliances. The edit really didn’t explain what the heck went down. Last week, I was certain (because this is what the edit indicated) that there was a threats versus not threats thing occurring. But this week, that all went out the window. And why? How did we get to this alliance of Ben, Tony, Sarah, Nick, and Sophie against Michele, Kim, Denise, and Jeremy? I’m very unclear about everything right now, so I’m just going to do my dang best to sort this out.
Early in the episode, Sarah referred to her son playing with Ben’s children as him “playing with the enemy.” Are we to infer that somehow in that play, her son aligned her with Ben somehow? I have no idea when Ben made the switch from enemy to ally, but kudos to him for getting in the majority.
It looks as though Ben was able to use his relationship with Sarah in their swap tribe to get into a nice alliance. Ben could be using Tony as a meat shield, which would be a great move given that Tony will always draw more attention than Ben. Couple that with the fact that the two have similar play styles (in terms of chaos and idol finding), I think Ben should be in a comfortable place going forward.
The big negative I see is Ben will have a difficult time getting the jury to vote for him at the end. Every time Ben does anything at tribal, Boston Rob is whispering about how “crazy” he is in someone’s ear. Rob takes plenty of opportunities to poison the well against Ben. Once one gets a reputation in this game, it tends to stick. My hope for Ben is that he’s able to come into his own now that he’s in the majority and really start to make things happen. We’ll see going forward whether he can live up to his potential to go balls to the wall in the endgame and win back some respect. For now, I don’t see the jury voting for Ben over the rest of his alliance, and that’s a big problem in his game.
GUS: BEN DRIEBERGEN – HOT
Nobody is looking at Ben as a target, and plenty of people are looking at Ben as a vote in their pocket. Is this setting him up for victory? Certainly not. Is it putting him in a position to go far? Sure. Could I see him swinging this into a good FTC speech and winning? I mean, theoretically, yeah, but it’s not likely. Regardless, for the time being, he’s got to get a Hot for having successfully bounced around between folks as long as he has.
ALI: SARAH LACINA – HOT
Ultimately, it looks like Sarah is in the majority and has control within that majority. Since Sarah’s in the driver’s seat (at least from what we can see), I feel confident that she will be around for a while.
Based on this week’s episode, I have a hunch that there will be further conflict between Tony and Sarah. They had a difficult time coming to a consensus this week and were shown butting heads. I flashback to Cagayan, where they had a similar conflict that put some trouble in the Cops R Us paradise. I think that this majority may not last. Sarah may have the flexibility to jump ship if that’s the case. Overall, I don’t fear for Sarah this week because she’s playing very well.
GUS: SARAH LACINA – HOT
Sarah played her vote steal to good effect this week, and she’s still close with Tony (even though they’ve been at odds now and again for the past two episodes). Tony is demonstrably looking out for her, and though she didn’t get her original way (voting out Kim), her alliance was still in tune when it came time for tribal. I’m not sure what’s going on with Sarah and Sophie, but it does seem as though she’s in a solid spot for the next while (at least).
ALI: SOPHIE CLARKE – HOT
Similarly to Sarah, Sophie is in a great position in the majority. She has great relationships with people like Sarah and Ben. The one knock against her is she doesn’t have many relationships outside of her alliance (whereas Tony has a lot of room to maneuver). I worry that in the future, this could harm her chances of moving forward. However, one only really needs one tight ally to make it to the end, and Sophie has that in Sarah (though that didn’t work out for the folks on Game Changers).
Unless something bizarre happens, I think Sophie’s game is strong enough to see her through this upcoming tribal.
GUS: SOPHIE CLARKE – HOT
Sophie was safe this week almost no matter what—even if Kim had successfully played her idol on Tyson, it seems likely that Sophie would have played hers in kind, and Denise would have gone home. That being said, Sophie was the one who outed the group of 5 that was originally voting for Jeremy and whipped them into getting a new vote plan together, which could be taken either as a good or a bad thing. Good in that it shows that she has clout and power, but also bad in that… it shows that she has clout and power.
I’m also confused as to why the group didn’t choose to play a 3/3/3 vote split—with Denise’s vote stolen by Sarah, the majority alliance had the numbers to force a tie vote even with a successful idol play. As they played it, if Kim had played her idol right (and Sophie hadn’t played hers), Sophie might have been in danger. This is a lot of ifs, I know, but it leads me to wonder if there might not have been imperfect trust among the five.
Anyway, Sophie is playing really well, and though I do worry that it’s only a matter of time before the rest of her tribe wises up to it, for the time being, she’s killing it.
ALI: KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – NOT
Man, it’s rough to see someone as dominant as Kim struggle to find purchase this time around. Honestly, in her shoes, I would have played the idol on myself. She had a one in four shot at getting eliminated, and next to Denise and Sophie, she was a very tempting target. I assume her thought process was that the other side would vote for the person they deemed least likely to have an idol. I can’t fault her for missing the mark, but she’s not in a great position. As the biggest threat in the minority alliance, Kim’s a sitting duck this week.
GUS: KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – NOT
Not sure what happened to the alliance Kim was in, but hey, there ya go.
Kim went into tribal swinging, and it didn’t turn out so hot for her. She lost an ally in Tyson, and she had her relationship with Jeremy damaged. Maybe she’ll be able to salvage this and rekindle things with Tony and the rest of the Lions (is that a thing still? I don’t think that’s a thing still), but for this week at least she’s in a poor spot.
ALI: DENISE STAPLEY – NOT
Again, Denise voted with the minority, leaving her in a terrible position. Other players are aware that Denise has made big moves this season. Kim played an idol on her for a reason. Based on Denise’s gameplay this season, she’s one of the bigger threats in her alliance. I worry for her this week.
GUS: DENISE STAPLEY – NOT
Denise got her vote stolen, then she was made safe, then she lost Tyson. I don’t know what her alliance is right now, but it does seem as though she’s been in a bad spot for some time, and she’s unlikely to leave it anytime soon.
ALI: JEREMY COLLINS – NOT
I can’t attack the move Jeremy made to get himself out of tribal. In all likelihood, they were coming after him. In a game like this, surviving a vote can make a huge difference. Just because someone is a target one week, doesn’t mean they won’t find themselves in the majority the next week. There have been winners who have simply managed to survive week to week, look at Mike Holloway or Ben Driebergen as examples.
While I can’t fault Jeremy for the move, he certainly put his alliance at a huge disadvantage. Yes, this is a game where it’s everyone for themselves, but Jeremy has made some enemies here. The minority alliance won’t forget his betrayal. The majority alliance doesn’t need Jeremy’s vote. That puts Jeremy in a troubling position.
Plus, Jeremy’s professed (in a secret scene) closest ally, Tyson, was just eliminated. In a game where alliances are everything, Jeremy just took a big hit. I fear he may follow Tyson to The Edge.
GUS: JEREMY COLLINS – NOT
I don’t know whether Jeremy made the right choice in leaving tribal. On the one hand, yes, he might have gone home had he not done so; on the other hand, he could have theoretically swung the vote around and gotten one of the majority out (I need to call it that because I have no idea what the alliances are in the game at this point). If Kim had played her idol on Jeremy, which seems likely, and Jeremy, Denise, Kim, Michele, and Tyson had stayed strong, they would likely have gotten their way.
I can’t fault the results of Jeremy’s move—Jeremy is still in the game. On the other hand, I can’t fault the results of his move—Jeremy is even farther down in the numbers than he was before (I think? I don’t know what the numbers are anymore.) So, Jeremy gets a not.
ALI: TONY VLACHOS – HOT
Two weeks in a row! I’m just floored at how well Tony has been able to maneuver this game. He’s completely changed from his past two showings, and it leads me to believe he has some longevity.
My one concern about Tony is he tends to force his agenda on others. We saw this quality this week in his interactions with Sarah. Make no mistake, the old Tony is still there, and as the game reaches a climax, it may come out. I also worry because Tony is the biggest threat in his alliance at this point. It could come back to bite him that someone like Tyson is gone from the game this soon.
However, because the majority alliance is only the majority by a small margin, I don’t think they’re going to come after Tony next episode. Tony has also made connections with folks in the majority (Kim, Jeremy, and Denise). He has some wiggle room if things start to go sour.
GUS: TONY VLACHOS – HOT
Yay for Tony! He won immunity! Tony’s slow and steady strategy seems to be paying off, but my nagging worry all season has been that the undercutting of his “chill the **** out” strategy would be no resume. With his alliance sticking together and his looking to be about to lose his mind entirely next week, I think we might be seeing Tony earn his resume yet; and I’m excited.
ALI: MICHELE FITZGERALD – HOT
Michele’s finally voted the right way. Hooray! She still has a long way to go before I see her as winner potential. I think she’s at a huge disadvantage in the end game because she’s not a parent. She said herself in a secret scene that other players are bonding over their families. Though I’d like to think the jury would solely take gameplay into account when they vote, history shows that the social game is of utmost importance in the end game. Historically, older juries tend to vote for fellow parents because they relate to their life circumstances. This is one of the oldest juries on record. Michele is one of three people left without a child.
Regardless, I can’t solely base Michele’s game on whether she has win potential (though it plays a factor). She’s in the majority alliance at the moment, taking herself off the bottom once more. I’m honestly very impressed with her ability to climb her way out of grim situations time and time again. I think she has potential to make it to the end, but I don’t see her winning unless she pulls off something big.
GUS: MICHELE FITZGERALD – NOT
Michele seems to have been drifting ever since the Wendell vote. Most of what she’s been up to has been being bitter over being left out of the vote, and that’s about it. This week she voted for the right person? And betrayed her alliance? I guess? But I have no idea why or how. She’s not playing well, no matter the reasoning, so she gets a Not.
ALI: NICK WILSON – HOT
I would really like to know how the heck Nick Wilson was able to get himself off the bottom. For the past two weeks, I was absolutely sure he’d be the next to go. Somehow, he managed to escape doom, and we never got to see what happened. That being said, he deserves a Hot for managing to claw his way back up.
GUS: NICK WILSON – NOT
Nick is still playing Survivor. Nick will probably not win Survivor.
ALI: I don’t know what the heck is going on this week. Maybe the loved one’s visit took up so much time there wasn’t any time left to show how the threats thing fell apart?
GUS: Yeah, nothing made sense this week. I mean, I think I can tell who is doing well, based on their votes, I think? But then stuff flips around every other day anyway so maybe not?
ALI: As a result of my confusion, I don’t have strong feelings about how anyone is doing. That’s rare for me, as you know. My feelings are usually “strong” or “no opinion.” So shall we discuss Nick and Michele?
GUS: I guess so. There’s not a whole ton to discuss, least of all with Nick. Let’s start with Michele. I have no idea what the hell is going on with Michele.
ALI: I went back and forth on what to give Nick and Michele. Ultimately, I had one Not left to give, and I couldn’t figure out who to give it to. Either way made me feel like a huge hypocrite for not giving it to both of them. Ultimately, I respected that they both were able to get themselves out of a huge hole. I thought they were totally done, but now it looks like they could be in for the long haul. Sometimes, it isn’t about being the biggest player, it’s about surviving. That’s what they’re both doing right now. You can’t make big moves if you’re out of the game. They still have an opportunity to do something impressive going forward. I guess my reasoning is, “they didn’t go home when they should have, and now they’re in a good position, so props to them.”
GUS: Well, Nick kind of is, but Michele seems to have been pulled into the majority vote at the last second. We didn’t see that happen, but she voted for Tyson, and her voting confessional was a confused shrug, so I have to imagine that’s how it went down. Michele’s been floating since the Wendell vote, which is really tragic from a storytelling perspective as far as I’m concerned; she was set up for such a great run after Wendell went home, and now she’s just… there.
ALI: True. I’m really scared she’s being set up as a goat. I earnestly hope that’s not the case because she’s already had such a rough go. At this point, I don’t think Nick, Michele, or Ben can win. But I suppose they’ve improved their position enough that I can see them sticking around for a while. It’s hard because I think they aren’t in active danger anymore, but I think their winning chances are abysmal. Usually, I’d give Nots to people who I think are drawing dead, but I couldn’t justify one over the other, so here we are. I suppose by your logic maybe Nick deserved my Hot more, but I don’t know. I just don’t know. There’s still a lot of game left, maybe they can revive their games before the end. I think Sophie, Nick, and Michele should make something happen because it’s going to be hard for them to win against any of the parents.
Alright, let’s talk Ben. I think Ben’s drawing dead and he’s a threat. Boston Rob disses him at every opportunity while on the jury. He’s annoying other players (especially and hilariously Adam). I think he leaves soon, and if he doesn’t, he’s not going to win unless he’s sitting next to Nick and Michele. Actually, out of all of them, I like his chances the least because while Nick and Michele are not playing flashy games, they haven’t actively alienated anyone on the jury. They also don’t have people openly campaigning against them on the jury in the middle of tribal.
GUS: All of them are a mess. Michele can’t win because she’s got no clout; Nick can’t win because he’s got no clout or resume or influence; Ben can’t win because he’s got TOO much clout. He’s a threat, but he’s a wildcard, and he’s consistently pissed people off week after week: Adam can’t stand him, Rob can’t stand him. For him to get to the end, he’ll have to continue either stabbing people or being a backseater, and I don’t see either of those getting him the win in the end.
ALI: Exactly! There’s no reason to keep him around once the majority gets a greater lead. Everyone wants to get rid of unpredictable people in this game. Being that wildcard worked for him once, but I don’t think he’s going to make it work for him a second time. Also, how in the world did he and Sarah bond this week? She literally said Ben was her enemy when their kids were playing, and then they’re voting together… Weird stuff.
Shall we make our predictions? I think there are three big candidates for elimination this week. I don’t want to be kind and let you go first because I know you’re going to take mine. However, since we just passed our one year engagement anniversary, I’ll be magnanimous and let you go first.
GUS: Aw. I think the easy answer would be Jeremy, but I’m going to be bold and say this is the week I’m wrong about Sophie and that she goes home.
ALI: Wow! I’m honestly shocked. I guess if someone has an idol, it could happen… But man, there are so many more sure things I would have gone with over Sophie! You do you though! I’m going with Jeremy. He’s a sitting duck who alienated his alliance and is a huge threat. I think he’s totally screwed.
And now for who is absolutely safe this week! This is a tough one as there is so much that’s unclear. My first impulse would be someone like Michele, but she flipped and that could make her a target. Then, I’m thinking Nick, but he could totally overplay this week and get booted. Tony and Sarah might go for each other. I’m weirdly going with Ben.
GUS: I mean, I see that, too. I think that, for safety, it’s gotta be Denise. She’s been the decoy or “safety” choice for so long, I think she’ll be able to ride that wave a little longer.
ALI: That’s super bold, but again, there’s no right choice this week. It’s all just weird. Denise could absolutely win an immunity. The woman is built like a petite brick house.
Okay, join us next week to see if the edit gets any clearer! Bye bye!