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 Yul as a Hot. They’re shocked that he was eliminated so early. This was a tough one for us, but feel free to be disrespectful during this trying time.
GUS – SOPHIE CLARKE – HOT
It’s hard to overstate the position that Sophie is in. She’s going into the merge with an idol which nobody knows about but her closest remaining ally, Sarah. She lost what seems to have originally been a tight twosome with Yul, but she and Yul also haven’t really interacted since the first episode, so… maybe that’s not such a bad thing for her after all. She was also, somehow, the only person to escape Adam’s Idol-Accusing Reign of Terror, which suggests to me that not even her immediate tribemates are viewing her as much of a gameplay threat at this point. All things considered, Sophie looks like she’s in a pretty solid place heading into the merge.
ALI – SOPHIE CLARKE – NOT
Sophie benefitted the least from having Yul eliminated from the game. This past episode, she lost her closest ally and a great meat shield. While I don’t think this will sink Sophie, I do believe her game is the worse for having lost Yul. Sophie is playing a great game, and people will want to work with her going forward, but I can’t ignore that she just lost her closest ally going into the merge where anything can happen.
GUS – JEREMY COLLINS – HOT
I went back and forth on Jeremy, but the long and the short of it is that I ran out of Nots, and so I’m giving him a Hot. Jeremy showed up as somewhat of a pivot between Tony and Denise on nuDakal this week, making me think that he’s going to have some decisions to make in the near future about where he wants his loyalties to lie going forward. I’m excited to see if he gets back with Michele, or if he opts to stick with Kim, Tony, and Denise.
ALI – JEREMY COLLINS – NOT
I went back and forth about what to do with Jeremy. The merge is where someone like Jeremy becomes a lot more noticeable. Should the alliance of first-time winners and lower profile winners band together, Jeremy will make a very tempting target. There’s no denying that Jeremy’s a strong guy with the potential to do really well in the challenges. Despite the fact that Jeremy is playing well, the merge may hurt his chances.
Jeremy’s saving grace is that he seems to have found a tight group in Denise, Tony, and Kim. There’s potential for Tony to pull in Sophie and Sarah (who may, in turn, pull in Ben) to create a nice group of six.
I’m also encouraged by Jeremy’s possession of safety without power. However, the merge vote is typically pretty chaotic, so it may be difficult to discern if this needs to be played. The advantage also potentially puts Jeremy in a position where he has to screw over his alliance in order to save himself.
Ultimately, Jeremy could be in some trouble now that the merge hits. I can try and predict how his alliance will act, but that starts to border on fan fiction. Looking at past seasons, it’s likely that a strong man or under the radar woman will go first. Jeremy fits the bill.
GUS – BEN DRIEBERGEN – NOT
Ben’s not playing badly by any means. He’s never been targeted, he’s consistently on the right side of the vote, and he seems to have decent ties with folks. On the other hand, he’s got almost nothing in the way of strong relationships. Sophie and Sarah are far closer to one another than they are with him, and he and Adam have no real relationship to speak of at all. Insofar as his original tribemates go, he might still have something going on with Denise… but we haven’t heard much at all in the way of conversations between them since they found an idol together.
ALI – BEN DRIEBERGEN – NOT
Another player who can’t seem to keep anything bottled up. Ben pokes bears when he’s on the island. David Bloomberg, noted Survivor scholar, harps on playing nice when one is on the island. Ben can’t seem to play nice for a second. When chatting with Adam on the raft, Ben clearly was making fun of him. I understand why Adam wasn’t too happy about the way Ben approached their conflict. Ben came across as though he was mocking Adam. I know Ben’s been playing the clown this season, but that was not the way to Adam’s heart. If Ben can’t play nice this season, the big egos in the game will quickly crush him.
GUS – MICHELE FITZGERALD – NOT
I’m confused and somewhat fatigued by the Michele and Wendell storyline. I don’t really care about their history—that’s their business—and I don’t really get what I‘m supposed to be taking from their interplay in the game. It seems like a lot of the “tension” between them has been manufactured to downplay the idea of any sort of preexisting relationship, and their continually working together only works to reinforce that belief for me. Ali mentioned that she’s writing a dissertation about her thoughts on the story we’re being told about Michele, though, so I’ll leave that to her.
I guess Michele got her way this week, so that’s a point in her favor, but I’m not sure where she goes from here. I don’t know what her close ties are, and I don’t really know what her gameplan is going into the merge. She’s also got nothing in the way of gameplay advantages and very little in the way of tight bonds. Playing the bottom well is an important thing to be able to do, but you need to have a way forward out of it; otherwise, you’re just keeping your head above water.
ALI – MICHELE FITZGERALD – HOT
Michele got the strangest edit this episode. I’m not really sure why Survivor keeps insisting on shoving this “girl power” narrative down our throats when it doesn’t line up with anything that’s actually happening. Don’t mistake me, I’m a huge feminist, and I love Michele. But they do this strange thing lately where they slap in a girl anthem and a dubious narration about a woman seizing control of the game and call it a day. To me, that’s just pandering to the audience, thinking that a forced moment of feminism is what it will take to slap a bandaid on some genuine concerns about the show’s not so feminist moments. We saw the same thing last season with several women on the show, and look how that season turned out! It was a feminist’s worst nightmare.
The result is half baked, slightly insulting, and honestly funny. When Michele’s little anthem came on, I honestly cackled. I love that Survivor is trying to uplift the female narratives, but it isn’t enough to force women into these brief heroine roles. Here was a strong woman on the brink of making a major choice for her game, and instead, it looked like she was going to get some revenge on a guy she used to date. And then, when the moment came to exact this weird revenge narrative (when the two seem to be perfectly amicable in real life and have confirmed this is all editing), she didn’t take the shot. Now, her big feminist moment (as it was force-fed to us) goes down like a wet fart.
Women are multifaceted, flawed, living beings. Can we just see that, please?
All of that being said, I’m not punishing Michele for her bizarre edit. From what I could see in her interactions with Nick, she played the bottom perfectly. She appealed to Nick from a game perspective and put the ultimate decision in his hands. Bravo to her for making it to the merge. Hopefully, the show starts treating her like a person rather than someone’s ex.
GUS – WENDELL HOLLAND – NOT
Wendell’s falling under pretty much all the same flags as Michele, but added on top of it is the fact that he seems to be playing full heel. I believe that a lot of his aggressive gamesmanship was deliberate and/or sanctioned by ex-Dakal tribemates (the fire token stuff, that is to say), but even so, I’m not sure what he’s got in the way of upcoming gameplay avenues.
ALI – WENDELL HOLLAND – NOT
Wendell’s behavior this season has sharply contrasted from his past performance. Where once he was a social god, he’s now a churlish, trash-talking egotist. We all contain multitudes, and the truth about Wendell probably lies somewhere in the middle. This is true of all people. We have our positives and negatives. Editors take the sum of those and decide whether to make their contestants heroes or villains. The truth is much more complex. The challenge in writing these articles is to decide what this heavily curated show indicates about a player’s game.
There have been aspects of Wendell’s game this time around that have been less than stellar. He’s made some moves and acted in ways that have turned people off of working with him. Coming into this game, I thought that Wendell was a strong contender to win. In game, Wendell draws a lot of unnecessary attention and warranted criticism to himself. He’s going to have to figure out how to make nice with Michele and move forward. For his sake, I hope he does.
GUS – ADAM KLIEN – NOT
Adam looks to have achieved new heights in paranoia and zaniness this past week. I can’t fault him for coming into the game with the intention of playing hard, but I can blame him for doggedly pursuing that strategy even after it exploded in his face several times. The constant grilling of his tribemates about the idol just makes no sense; what does he have to gain from getting in everyone’s face time and time again about who’s got an idol? This compounded with the fact that Sophie is the one who’s had the idol all along, and that she’s the only person he’s not suspicious of just puts Adam’s game this week right in the toilet. He might stick around for a while purely by dint of having not a snowball’s chance in hell to win, but that’s not really a good thing.
ALI – ADAM KLIEN – NOT
Though Adam’s built a little like Tom Holland, his Spidey senses are pretty subpar. He had a one out of three chance of guessing who had an idol on his tribe, cheated and picked two people, and still couldn’t get it right. Then, he proceeded to get obviously frustrated with everyone on the tribe over it. He complained to Sophie, who immediately scurried back to her real allies on the tribe and told them everything.
The guy can’t seem to catch a break this season, but it’s been really fun to listen to his increasingly frustrated confessionals. Maybe, come the merge, we’ll see the first player to have their head literally explode.
GUS – SARAH LACINA – HOT
Both Sarah and Sophie have tons of great stuff going for them, as has been the case since pretty much the past month. Her vote steal, though less powerful now than it was last week, still gives her the chance to make some pretty huge moves in the near future. Combine that with the fact that Tony is still in the game, and I could certainly see Tony, Sarah, and Sophie sticking together for a good while, at least until such point as Sarah has to choose between her friends. Really one of the only things I could see working against Sarah in this position is that she’s the middleman between the two of her alliances—and she might end up “President Sarah”’d.
ALI – SARAH LACINA – HOT
I admire Sarah’s insouciance towards Adam’s accusations this episode. Adam’s fervent insistence that Sarah had the idol could have rattled her. Idol suspicions are a huge reason players get eliminated. Sarah knows how to stay calm under pressure, which is essential in playing a good game. It was delightful watching her casually tell Adam to check her bag while a stick was hanging out of her mouth. She was able to assess that Adam was trying to throw a target onto her, and she refused to take the bait. Now that Sarah is reuniting with Tony at the merge, I’m eager to see what she’s able to accomplish going forward. She’s one to watch.
GUS – KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – NOT
I feel neither here nor there about Kim’s game at the moment. She’s been playing from the bottom pretty much constantly since the top of the game. Even though Denise opted to take out Sandra over her and looks to want to work with her regardless, I don’t have enough of a window into Kim’s actual intention behind her gameplay to confidently say whether or not she’ll be around for the weeks to come. She’s sort of a non-entity from a gameplay perspective at the moment, apart from her making friends with people who will keep her safe, and for that, I have to give her a Not.
ALI – KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE – HOT
Kim has turned her game around in a big way. I wish we could have witnessed how she got close to Tony, but those interactions are on the cutting room floor. Somehow, Kim was able to make connections despite her initial target as a member of the “poker alliance.” On this tribe, she found inroads with Jeremy and Denise. She’s thinking critically about how to survive once the merge hits. Kim correctly assessed that people like Tony and herself would be major targets at the merge. She also understands the importance of keeping her options open. Despite a rocky start, Kim is finding some traction in the game.
GUS – DENISE STAPLEY – NOT
I’ve gotta stick to my guns. I love Denise—she’s in Ali’s and my draft team—but I’m worried for her coming up. The incredibly flashy double idol play and the self-touted singlehanded toppling of the Queen makes me concerned that Denise is going to be targeted. Tony said as much, and Jeremy’s insistence that Tony might be a bigger threat than Denise doesn’t seem to me like it’s going to hold enough water with the rest of the players to save Denise forever, especially not with her being an original Sele.
I could certainly see Denise going out of the game soon. I hope she doesn’t—Denise winning would be thrilling—but I would not be surprised if she got targeted down for her aggressive gameplay.
ALI – DENISE STAPLEY – HOT
I said from the start that Denise need only make the merge, and then she’s golden. Look at her now! She’s made the merge with people willing to work with her. I’m a little nervous that there’s the potential for the big targets to start taking out the more under the radar players. Though, because I believe Denise has had more opportunities to build relationships with the bigger threats, she may have more options going forward than folks like Michele or Wendell.
While Tony expressed interest in targeting Denise, now that the merge is in session, he may want to find a way to work with her. While Denise made a big splash in the pre-merge, the merge often resets the game a bit. I’m cautiously optimistic about Denise’s chances going forward. The merge is going to be her time to shine.
GUS – TONY VLACHOS – HOT
I’m of course worried for Tony right now, as people are starting to get wise to his threat level, but I’m not so worried as to give him a Not right off the bat. Tony was in danger this past week, but now that he’s back with the rest of his tribe, I think he’ll be in an OK spot, especially now that he’s back with Sarah. I hope that Cops R Us will reunite in a big way this coming week, and Tony, Sarah, and Sophie will be able to play hard together for the foreseeable future.
ALI – TONY VLACHOS – NOT
I never thought I’d see the day where Tony makes the merge again. It’s like how Dr. Strange said that there’s only one scenario out of millions that The Avengers could beat Thanos. There was only one scenario in millions that Tony could have made it this far.
However, this doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. In fact, Tony is a prime example of early merge boot material. He’s a big, alpha male threat with a dominating personality. That spells major doom at the merge. The only way I see him making it any farther is if he manages to convince others to keep him around as a meat shield. But Tony is nothing if not surprising. Perhaps he will manage to pull it out and make it to the end.
As an aside, I wanted to say how much I’m enjoying all of this Tony content.
GUS – NICK WILSON – NOT
Nick voted out Yul, which was the right choice, but that’s really all he’s done lately apart from not flip earlier. I don’t see him going soon, but I also don’t see him winning.
ALI – NICK WILSON – HOT
How shaken do you think Nick and the other Jabenis were that this challenge took no time at all this season?
Honestly, as sad as I am that Yul is gone, I have to give Nick credit for that move. Nick ran that vote. I go back and forth as to whether this was a good idea for Nick’s game. On the one hand, he took out someone who would have been a loyal ally and exposed himself to others on his original tribe who might not trust him after his betrayal. But Nick has the perfect patsies in Michele and Wendell. All Nick has to really say is that Wendell and Michele were willing to go to rocks, and given the couple’s history, that’s a believable lie. Nick will be able to diminish his responsibility in Yul’s boot if he plays it correctly.
Furthermore, Nick is right that Yul would be running things come the merge. I have marveled for weeks about how clearly Yul was in control and that no one appeared to be gunning for him. Apparently, I didn’t give Nick enough credit. He saw what the audience could see; Yul was amassing a strong team that would stand by him at the merge. Nick had to strike while Yul was vulnerable. Going forward, we will see a rise of the one time winners who will strike against the big threats/multi-season players.
It does appear, however, that people like Kim and Jeremy are aware of the trouble they’re in come the merge. Perhaps they will be able to sidestep this fate, but only time will tell. For now, I think Nick deserves a Hot for recognizing the opportunity he had.
ALI: So, is there anyone we actually agree on? What are these takes of yours?!
GUS: They’re reasonable and based on the current game state, as opposed to yours, which, on occasion, are nonsensical and dependent on alliances that we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of since episode one. I’m referring, of course, to your outrageous choice of making Sophie a Not because of Yul’s going home.
ALI: That alliance had a multi-episode arc, so my opinion is based on who the show has demonstrated as being Sophie’s closest ally. This is not, as you so kindly put it, “nonsensical and dependent on alliances that we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of since episode one.” This was Sophie’s day one ally. She said so herself. His leaving will hurt her long term game plans. It appears that she has developed a nice relationship with the folks on her tribe, but Yul’s departure hurts her game.
Do I think it’s going to be a game-ender? Absolutely not. I actually think it sends a message to her that she can’t trust former allies Nick and Wendell moving forward. But I think that to dismiss Sophie and Yul when we saw them working together (and Sophie positively giddy at the prospect) for multiple episodes is ridiculous. When a close ally goes home, the other ally’s game takes a hit, and that in all other instances before this has always been reflected in the rankings. If anything, your refusal to acknowledge the impact this has on Sophie’s future plans is the anomaly in this situation.
GUS: Sure, he was Sophie’s day one ally. I’m not begrudging you that, and it’s certainly not GOOD for her that he went home. But if anything, this wakes her up to the concern that Wendell and Nick might not be good long term folks to stick around with—and I don’t know that she NEEDS more long term folks than she has right now, anyway. She’s got Sarah as her current closest ally; Sarah has Tony; Tony has Kim, Jeremy, and Denise. That group only needs one more person for a majority or at least a tie.
ALI: Typically, when you’re in an alliance with your closest ally, you want to also be their closest ally. Tony is clearly Sarah’s number one. Sophie is the third wheel in that scenario. With Yul, Sophie was definitely shown to be his closest working relationship. Yes, Yul allegedly had a pre-game with Nick, but clearly those pre-game alliances shift during the actual game. From what we could see, Yul and Sophie were the tight pair. Tony and Sarah are also the tight pair. Is Sophie making inroads with Sarah? Absolutely. But Sarah will cut her friends without remorse. She did it to Andrea. She did it to Sierra.
Yul is more steadfast. Look at his relationship with Becky. He went with her to the end. I think Sophie is less safe without Yul in the game. Tony and Sarah won’t hesitate to get rid of her if it suits them. And with the big threats getting nervous about the first time winners, it might suit them to cut Sophie.
GUS: Let me pull back a little bit from this. I am not saying that Yul going home is GOOD for Sophie’s game at all. I AM saying that if they’d stuck together, with Yul as massive a threat as he was, Sophie might well have fallen early as the lieutenant in that situation. Is Sophie’s position ideal right now? No, not at all. BUT, let’s look at what she does have going on for her. Dakal is currently up in the numbers over Sele. She and Sarah have been a VERY tight alliance, and it looks like they’re going to continue that way. She’s got an idol. She’s doing very well in challenges. Sophie’s got a TON of really good stuff going for her, and while her situation absolutely could be BETTER, I don’t think I can in good conscience say that it’s not at the least HOT.
ALI: And, as I’ve said, I don’t believe Yul’s elimination is a game-ender for Sophie. I think that the ultimate impact of his elimination is a blow, but one she can recover from. When I look at the trajectory of her game, I think that she’s going to have to do some recalculations and that this may make her more vulnerable than she would be otherwise. She’s playing wonderfully, but this is a set back that I felt was notable enough to warrant a Not. The Not is not directed at Sophie but at the situation as a whole.
GUS: Let’s address Nick. You say that Nick had total control of the vote, and though that’s certainly true, I don’t know whether that’s enough to grant him a Hot long-term. He decapitated his own alliance right before the merge. Will that work out well for him? Maybe. But it might also leave him rudderless at a point where he needs a direction. If nothing else, Yul was a stabilizer and a guide point for his alliance.
ALI: Nick was a struggle for me this week, I won’t lie. Merge rankings are always tricky, especially in returnee seasons. There are so many elements to factor in (pre-game alliances/friendships, original tribe, swap tribe, challenge threats, social threats, advantages, someone completely losing their mind…). It’s difficult to know how people will react to Nick’s betrayal. You seem to believe that Sophie won’t be affected by Yul’s elimination and yet you feel the need to give Nick a Not because of what this will do to his day one alliance versus the people he’s been working with for a few days post swap. How do you justify that?
GUS: It’s less that I’m giving Nick a hard time because of something relating to his day one alliance and more that I’m giving Nick a hard time for not having much of any OTHER alliance. I might be proven wrong in this, and if Nick/Michele/Wendell manages to stick together and be Jabeni 2.0, I’ll be eating crow. But I don’t think at this point that that’s going to happen. Michele and Parvati were poaching Nick as a potential flipper, and with nothing to run on right now but being the third wheel in another seemingly extant two-person grouping in Michele and Wendell (I guess?) I just can’t get on Nick’s team for that.
ALI: Voting together often creates bonds between people. We see it all the time. Nick was in a bit of a lose-lose situation on this one. It seemed as though Yul was interested in targeting Wendell because of Wendell’s recent antics (I’m basing this off Wendell’s voting confessional and the fact that Yul was steering the vote in that direction). Nick’s allies were turning on each other, and, in my view, Nick picked up Michele as a way to ensure that he had control over the way the vote went.
You say that Yul was a stabilizer for the tribe, but I wonder if, by eliminating the threat of Yul, Nick improved his position in the game and reshuffled the cards a bit so that he could pick up people like Michele. Michele’s a good person to bond with right now because her closest ally (Parvati) is gone. Michele can also connect Nick with people like Jeremy. AND when push comes to shove, Nick can blame Wendell and Yul for feuding, and shelter his big move. It’s possible that Nick’s lack of tight connections could hurt him, but it also makes him a free agent in the game. It could be good or bad from where I’m standing. I think Nick’s a smart enough player to know how to move forward.
GUS: You’re right, it could be good. I’m erring on the side of bad, though. Ben threw out his name right off the bat in the “next time on,” so I think he’s gonna get blasted for having few connections. Speaking of Michele…
ALI: She played the bottom perfectly. She appealed to the people in a power position and waited for them to turn on each other so she could find a crack. When they turned against each other, she played possum and played the “anyone but me” strategy. That’s exactly what everyone says to do in that event. It was a master class.
GUS: No, she certainly did. I went back and forth on where to put her. I thought REALLY hard about making her a Hot because by rights, she easily could have gone home this week, but instead, she was pretty much never a target. Your argument is really convincing, and it went through my head as well.
But I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS RIGHT (ignore all of the contradictory data and proof that I’m usually wrong): MICHELE IS A NOT. Because… uh, because… she’s gonna be targeted. Yeah, that’s it.
ALI: You claimed she doesn’t have tight bonds, but it looked to me like she and Jeremy were close. I think, despite what we’re being shown, she and Wendell will continue to work together. AND she and Nick have a pre-game alliance. I think that there are going to be bigger fish to fry than Michele at this point. If you’re feeling meh about Michele’s chances, then stick to your guns. There’s definitely a chance she could go if no one has strong objections. We see that happen to under the radar women all the time. Hali Ford in Game Changers is a recent example of someone who was a pretty easy vote because no one felt close to her. But I don’t think that’s going to be true for Michele. She’s so charming, I just feel like she’s going to find a place to fit in. I see her getting along well with people like Kim and Sophie.
Have I convinced you about Michele?
GUS: Yeah, like I said, I was on the fence about her. Regardless, I’m never wrong, so, PHHHHTB!
ALI: Noted. Shall we move on to your utter slander against Denise? Again, who is coming for her?! Why would she go?! You literally discussed how Tony and Jeremy et all are going to form this alliance, but Denise gets left out in the cold? Kim was pulling her in this episode! Denise saved Jeremy’s behind with an idol! He’s not going to let her go anywhere after that.
GUS: Kellee saved Dean’s bacon with an idol, and he immediately voted her out. Sandra gave Denise an idol, and she voted her out AT THAT TRIBAL COUNCIL. Gratitude doesn’t exist in Survivor, and Tony made a great point that Denise is being a flashy player and making waves. That’s not necessarily conducive to her making it deep, especially not when your own closest ally (Jeremy at the moment) AGREES with that talk. I’m interested in seeing if she’ll link back up with Ben at the merge or if she and Adam might patch things up. But for the time being, she’s made herself a huge target at a point where being a huge target is risky.
ALI: That’s a really good point I hadn’t considered. “Gratitude doesn’t exist on Survivor”… You’re absolutely right that we can’t necessarily say that good deeds will be rewarded in this game. In fact, they may be a reason to get rid of someone. I guess my only point that I’d offer for consideration on this front is that there’s a certain point where jury management has to come into play. If Jeremy totally burns Denise, especially so soon after she played an idol for him, that’s going to be a factor at the end of the game. I would also argue that Jeremy is a better player than Detective Dea, and would strongly consider keeping someone willing to go to bat for him rather than allow her to go. Ultimately, I think we all agree that Dean’s move on Kellee was not the brightest or most sensical.
I’ll also counter with the fact that David played an idol for Jessica and had a close ally for the rest of the game. We see examples of both. I am more nervous for Denise now than when we sat down to squabble. You made a compelling point.
GUS: It would certainly be a factor to consider at the end of the game, and you’re right that David and Jessica were tight from that point on. But (somehow) MvGX was a looong time ago, AND it was a season of all new players. Jessica might have been predisposed to latch on to David for his (at the time insane) move early in the pre-merge, but Jessica was in danger at that Tribal anyway. Conversely, Jeremy wasn’t in danger at all, Denise’s idol play on him was as much of a token gesture as anything, AND he’s on his third time at bat.
ALI: True. Very true. I also think a big factor that we have to consider and can’t really calculate is the impact the returnee from Edge of Extinction will have. I think that the other players will remember the last season it was on and may immediately try to vote that person out to prevent a Devens and Chris Underwood situation. That’s my hot take about that. It could also mean that whoever returns may have scores to settle that we can’t factor in.
GUS: Absolutely. I had to deliberately ignore the effect that the EOE returnee might have on the game, or else my writeup would have spiraled completely out of control.
ALI: I bring this up because I’m encouraged for Denise in that she hasn’t made any enemies thus far (except Sandra, but she’s not coming back). So maybe the returnee will be a net positive in that regard?
GUS: That seems likely. But someone with no relationship to you coming back into the game isn’t the best thing either, especially if they already have a relationship with someone else. Denise’s best hope for a returnee would probably be Tyson—no connection, no relationship, and the hope that he might have a score to settle on the original Dakal.
ALI: Alright, I kind of have the same points for Jeremy and Tony. Can we discuss them in tandem?
GUS: Yeah, they’ve got comparable threat levels, and this is getting pretty long (if you’re still reading drop a bread emoji in the comments).
ALI: They’re big guys with big personalities. Come the merge, they’re in trouble. That tends to be how that goes. I think Jeremy may be in even bigger trouble than Tony because he’s got so much social finesse.
Jeremy was literally telling us this past episode that he hasn’t forgotten Tony’s a threat. I think that could be some nasty foreshadowing.
Regardless, big guys go down at the merge. I’m going with the statistics on this one.
GUS: I agree that Jeremy could just as easily have been a Not. I thought very hard about switching his and Michele’s ratings as we were opening our discussion, but I’m locked in cuz I’m never wrong. Here’s what I’ll say: Jeremy has Safety Without Power, and we’re at the merge. If he feels worried, I think he’s the first person up and out of the door, so for him to go home, he’d need to be hit hard by a blindside. Tony’s got nothing but a tremendous social game, and literally nobody having come after him in any way shape or form yet except Sandra. That didn’t end well for Sandra.
ALI: The merge boot is typically so chaotic that Jeremy might miss he’s in trouble with all the names bouncing around. I also think Safety Without Power puts Jeremy at a disadvantage at the merge vote because he potentially has to screw over his alliance to protect himself. Tribal Council is all about numbers, and losing him might be a big blow. They might not be happy with him if he plays it. It could be an advantage that comes back to bite him, especially if he uses it incorrectly. Actually, the move might be to remove someone else depending on how numbers shake out. That could be fun!
GUS: Did Jeremy’s name get tossed out in the Next Time On chaos?
ALI: Not that I saw, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Meanwhile, we have Tony. I mean, eventually, people have to realize he’s still in the dang game!
GUS: Yeah, I’m gobsmacked that Tony’s been managing to just breeze through without anyone noticing him. I agree with your Doctor Strange analogy—this feels like it shouldn’t be happening. We’ve always said that Tony is a unicorn, and his win in Cagayan should have been impossible. Can he repeat it by changing up his game? HAS he actually changed up his game? The one time he got targeted was when he made a spy bunker (which was admittedly beyond hilarious); do you think he’ll be able to hold off on going full monkey boy in the merge? My money is on yes, especially if Sarah is there for him as Trish 2.0.
ALI: Miracles happen every day. But I typically don’t bet on them happening. If I’m a betting woman, I think Tony’s days are numbered. On the other hand, there’s a big part of me that would love to see that bald head sitting in the final three that it’s tempting to become a believer. Ugh.
GUS: Who’s coming back from EOE? I could see a few people, but considering how fueled he’s been by peanut butter, I have to say Tyson.
ALI: I knew you were going to pick Tyson. I think you’re probably right, but I’m going to dare to be different. Now, I’m basing this on one little social media clue that isn’t a spoiler. I’m just reading into something that Adam posted. He had a picture of the merge up and said that the merge celebration was dampened by hearing about life on EoE. So I thought about who had a rough time on EoE… Ethan is the obvious choice for that.
GUS: I LOVE IT!
ALI: BUT I feel like, physically, he’s probably not going to win the challenge.
GUS: I hate it.
ALI: I also think that Tyson wouldn’t be making everyone somber about how hard EOE was for him. That’s not really his thing.
GUS: Tyson might well play up how hungry he was and how tired he is and how feeble he’s become and how there’s no possible way he’ll be able to do so much as run across a balance beam in individual immunity challenges. He did in Blood vs. Water, after all.
ALI: That’s true! So there’s hope for him. But again, I’m daring to be different. So I’m thinking about who might have had a tough time on EOE and has the challenge ability to pull it off, and it brought me to Natalie. She was eliminated first, which has to hurt. She suffered there the longest. She has the tokens to buy some advantages for the challenge, which gives her a huge edge (no pun intended). My final pick is Natalie.
GUS: That’s a lot of leadup for someone who was also my second choice. I’m here for it.
ALI: I’ve always been a chatty Cathy with a flair for the dramatic. Alright, I get to pick who I think is doomed this week first since you got your first EOE pick. I’m going with… Wendell!
He’s an athletic guy with a big personality who just screwed over Yul. His OG tribe isn’t going to forget it, and they’ll blindside him. He doesn’t have an advantage to protect himself. He’s my pick.
GUS: Good choice. I’m gonna say that Kim might be doomed. She’s in the middle but not in the middle enough to play the middle, and people might be worried about Dakal sticking together and expect Tony to have an idol.
Who’s safe? I’m going to say, Sophie. Cuz PHHHHTB.
ALI: I’m going to say Officer Sarah. She’s crushing it out there.
So this article is now a million words long. Congratulations to all who made it through. Tune in next week where hopefully Gus and I have any idea what the heck is going on.
GUS: Spoiler alert: we won’t.