Let me just start this by saying for like the third time this season, producers completely fooled me. They got me.
I would venture to argue that in prior seasons, I could boast maybe a 95% success ratio when it came to predicting who would go home while we were at Tribal Council. This season? Not so much. In my defense, in one of those weeks producers completely cheated (first episode). But this week? They had me.
With that said, Ryan and Chrissy definitely made the right decision. In modern day Survivor, castaways know that a huge physical threat with almost zero strategic game is not a threat compared to a well-rounded player with a huge strategic upside. And that’s why ditching Ali made the most sense. By the time we got to Tribal, though, JP had about four confessionals and it just seemed like Ali’s narrative would see her try to get revenge on Ryan once we got to the merge. But, of course, that didn’t happen.
The bad news? Ali seemed like a great player with a lot of potential and I’m sad to see her leave. The good news? My Winner Pick™ remains in the game.
Since it’s merge time, we’re going to continue with the tradition of ditching theory for the week and looking at the remaining castaways and their chances of winning. So here is a Power Ranking of the people still in the game. As usual, it’s important to remember that I’m not saying whoever is ranked last will be the next person eliminated. I’m just simply ranking castaways from 1st to 12th based on their chances of winning the whole game.
Make sense? OK, then, let’s do this, from first to worst:
- 1. Mike – I had a tough time figuring out who belonged in this spot. To me, it’s a relatively close call between the first four people on this list. I went with Mike because he seemingly found a few different strong allies from differing groups. He’s close with Jessica and Cole. But unlike those two, he’s also developed relationships with Ben and Lauren. Oh, and of course he has an idol is in his pocket. And he’s not going to stand out as a physical threat, but kicks butt at puzzles. Mike’s sitting pretty, in my mind.
- 2. Jessica – I really wanted to put Jessica first on this list. I feel like her strategic game has been on display all season. And she’s looked good at challenges. But she comes with a couple red flags that Mike doesn’t. First, she seems more overtly strategic. That’s not good. Second, I don’t know if she can separate herself from Cole. And Cole is a problem already. Third, we haven’t seen her ability to make alliances outside of her initial tribe. But, she’s strategic, not an obvious boot and her edit suggests she’ll be around for a while.
- 3. Chrissy – I think Chrissy, even more so than Ryan, has been the star of the season so far. Nobody is playing a better game, right now. But, and this is a big but, Chrissy played too much over the first handful of episodes. What I mean is that people are going to know she’s a good player. Too many folks have gone to Tribal with her. This could be a detriment in a season where strategic players are going home. However, of course, I’m putting her here because she can definitely win this whole thing.
- 4. Ben – While Ben didn’t display a strategic genius or anything early in the season, he’s been good in challenges and, as far we can tell, decent strategically. And, most importantly, he’s shown an ability to make alliances easily. In most seasons, someone like Ben would stick out as a physical threat come merge time, but not this year.
- 5. Ashley – I have to admit, this ranking surprised me the most. I don’t think Ashley’s played a particularly good game so far, but she’s done enough to put herself in a very good position at the merge. Her relationships with Devon and JP might make it easy for a large alliance also featuring Ryan, Chrissy and Ben to form. But most importantly, I don’t think anybody will be gunning for Ashley anytime soon. And she’s good in challenges. And smart.
- 6. Desi – Another surprising ranking, at least to me. When I look at the people remaining on this list, Desi seems like the person with the best chance to win. She’s been good strategically, made some alliances outside of her own tribe, isn’t a clear physical threat and is obviously very smart. She also continues doing well in challenges. My only fear for Desi is her edit; winners aren’t invisible for weeks at a time.
- 7. JP – My bias is probably showing here. JP is, of course, my Winner Pick™, so I’m rooting for him. Here’s the thing: JP completely smokes everyone else in this game come challenge time. He’s been absolutely incredible even when carrying subpar tribes. He could absolutely go on an immunity run. And he’s not strategic, so he shouldn’t be a target. Alliances are going to want his vote. People also like JP. And that moment at this week’s Tribal when he said everyone criticizing his strategic game was a wake-up call? Let’s just say that I’m praying that was foreshadowing.
- 8. Ryan – This will be the ranking most people will disagree with. But I don’t care. I think Ryan will last a while this season, but he’s not winning. This week proved it to me. The way he reacted to Ali was not only immature, but it was borderline dumb. He showed so much emotion and disdain when he was clearly wrong. That’s not a good thing. He’s obviously bad in challenges, now backstabbed arguably his biggest ally… I just can’t see him not being a target. Heck, I think Chrissy will get rid of him before she ditches folks like JP and Ben.
- 9. Devon – Here’s the beginning of a list of four that I don’t think have much of a chance. I’m putting Devon first because I think he’s made the most relationships and seems best in challenges. I don’t think Devon can win, obviously, but I do think there is a small chance he makes it to final Tribal and, at that point, I guess anything can happen.
- 10. Cole – I think Cole is horrible at this game, has shown some weakness already, irritated way too many people and will be an obvious physical threat… and people will perceive him as more of a strategic threat than they should. Add all that up and you’ve got a guy I expect to see at Ponderosa in the next couple weeks.
- 11. Lauren – This is nothing against Lauren: She’s decent at challenges and seems likeable and able to read players well. But she simply doesn’t have the social game to win. She will not amass the social capital necessary to rely on people. She’s the type of player who makes the final eight or seven but then becomes an easy vote for the remaining players to rally behind.
- 12. Joe – Yeah, Joe owns an idol. Yeah, Joe shows he’s decent strategically every so often. But this guy cannot win this game. First, he’s not amazing in challenges. Second, everything about him gives off a “don’t trust me” vibe. And everyone already picked up on this. More importantly, and I don’t know if this has been talked about enough: Joe doesn’t have any real allies. He’s low man on the totem pole in his own tribe and nobody from any other tribe likes him. He’s not lasting long.
OK, well, let’s hope next week’s episode is a good one. Good seasons are made at the merge. We’ve all seen good seasons begin to stink at the merge (Redemption Island) and crappy seasons get amazing at the merge (Caramoan). Here’s hoping we’ve got a good one this year.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @PatFerrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.