Ben Martell

Ben Martell - The Golden TicketBy day, Ben Martell is a public commercial lawyer from New Zealand. By night, he moonlights as a self-described Survivor 'expert'. By day or night, find him on twitter at: @golden8284

Ben's column, "The Golden Ticket" has run here at the True Dork Times since 2017, when he first wrote about season 34, Survivor: Game Changers.

  • S40 logo Survivor 40: Winners at War

    (Nothing to see here yet.)

  • S39 logo Survivor 39: Island of the Idols
    The Golden Ticket

    Episodes 8-9: Hearing no

    Published: November 18, 2019


    In the wake of Island of the Idols' difficult merge double-episode and Kellee's boot, Ben takes an in-depth look at consent, the lack thereof, the parties involved in the merge boot, and justifiable ethics in Survivor.

    Pre-season: Big heads: The TDT Island of the Idols contestant draft

    Published: September 23, 2019


    The True Dork Times writers congregate and try to pick the winner of Survivor: Island of the Idols based on almost zero evidence. But that's no reason to avoid making what are probably ludicrously inaccurate hot takes.

  • S38 logo Survivor 38: Edge of Extinction
    The Golden Ticket

    Episode 9: How online mafia explains Survivor

    Published: April 15, 2019


    Ben looks at the implicit majority-vs-minority dynamics and the behavior of 'caught' mafia players in online mafia games, and finds parallels to the implosion of the Kama majority in Episode 9's chaotic live Tribal Council.

    Episode 8: Evaluating a big move

    Published: April 8, 2019


    Ben sifts through the episode's plethora of gameplay, finds which contestants played well or poorly, then tackles the larger question of when it's ideal for a member of a large group to make a move against their allies, with historical precedents.

    Episodes 5-7: Why the Edge of Extinction is rigged against Joe

    Published: April 2, 2019


    Analyzing the happenings of Episodes 5-7, Ben questions the continued use of the two-to-three tribes expansion swap, argues that Joe's early dismissal to the Edge will actually work against his chances of returning, and picks his potential winner for the season.

    Episode 4: Wardog in trouble

    Published: March 18, 2019


    Ben argues against the perception that Edge of Extinction is failing, highlighting four key points in which he feels the season is a success. Among them: It will be new and interesting to see how Wardog's strategic machinations will fare following the looming return from Extinction.

    Episode 2: Cliffhanger edition

    Published: March 2, 2019


    Ben Martell asks if Edge of Extinction's Episode 2 cliffhanger was really a cliffhanger, if the women-and-idols narrative is perhaps a multi-season storytelling arc, and if the Wardog is actually playing the Warthog... and more.

    Episode 1: Editing for Extinction

    Published: February 24, 2019


    After the premiere, Ben runs through the surprises of the first episode: From David Wright's solid debut as a returnee, to the Wardog's fulfilling his as-advertised restraint, to the underdog edits on Manu (and the relationship to Extinction), and the challenge beastliness on Kama.

    Pre-season: The TDT EoE contestant draft

    Published: February 17, 2019


    As the new season nears the True Dork Times writers gather to draft fantasy teams of three players. Whose prediction skills will drive their team to extinction? Whose prognostication will give them an edge and a victory?

    Pre-season: Incentivising failure

    Published: February 4, 2019


    Ben weighs in on the Edge of Extinction central twist, and argues that, if played optimally, it creates an incentive for someone to deliberately be voted out early post-merge, return, then reap the jury rewards. Which really would reinvent how the game is played, since it's the opposite of the concept for the first 37 seasons.

  • S37 logo Survivor 37: David vs. Goliath
    The Golden Ticket

    Pre-Episode 14: Jury Jeopardy - David vs. Goliath

    Published: December 17, 2018


    With six players remaining, three True Dork Times writers (Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) unite to forecast the outcome of the Survivor: David vs. Goliath jury's vote on the final three. Who will win the million? And more importantly, will we out-predict Survivor scribes from other sites?

    Episode 1: Does four pairs beat a royal flush?

    Published: September 30, 2018


    Ben returns from his blogging hiatus to look at the David vs. Goliath theme, which of the two tribes might contain the winner, and take a deep dive into which of the contestants showed the most winner potential in their first-episode edits.

    Pre-season: The TDT DvG contestant draft

    Published: September 22, 2018


    The True Dork Times writers (Ben Martell, Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) come together to draft fantasy teams of David vs. Goliath contestants, in an attempt to win eternal* glory by having the team containing the winner. (*Offer expires roughly one month after the season ends.)

  • S36 logo Survivor 36: Ghost Island
    The Golden Ticket

    Pre-Episode 14: Jury Jeopardy - S36

    Published: May 21, 2018


    The True Dork Times writers assemble once more to project the jury votes, while doing battle with scribes from other Survivor sites: InsideSurvivor, A Tribe of One, Purple Rock Podcast, and the RHAP bloggers. Who can boast the most votes noted for Ghost Island?

    Episode 3: It was a good move, the show told me so

    Published: March 12, 2018


    On the Ticket this week: Ben unearths an overlooked Survivor curse, makes an extended Bold Winner Prediction, and argues firmly that James's move was a good one, finding supporting evidence for all this within the edit itself.

    Episodes 1-2: The Legacy Advantage redeemed

    Published: March 7, 2018


    Ben weighs in on the Ghost Island premiere, with a look at the fallen, a disparaging view of obvious initial tribe imbalances, praise for pairs, and more praise for both strategic quitting and the Legacy Advantage! And more.

    Pre-season: TDT Ghost Island contestant draft

    Published: February 22, 2018


    The True Dork Times writers (Andy Baker, Ben Martell, Dan Otsuki, Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) assemble to draft fantasy teams of Ghost Island contestants, in an attempt to seize eternal* glory by having the team containing the winner. Unless one of the two undrafted players (Team Ghost) win, in which case everyone loses. (*Or until Fall of 2018, whichever comes first.)

  • S35 logo Survivor 35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers
    The bad play paradox

    Pre-Episode 14: Pre-jury Jeopardy - HvHvH

    Published: December 18, 2017


    The True Dork Times writers combine their predictive powers to forecast the voting preferences of the Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers jurors, with an eye to predicting the winner. And, of course, beating Inside Survivor, A Tribe of One, Purple Rock Podcast, and the RHAP bloggers at the same game.

    Episode 12: The bad play paradox

    Published: December 12, 2017


    Ben shares some parting thoughts on Lauren and on that marble challenge, then explores whether having a suboptimal social game in fact provides the best path to winning. Along with some final predictions for Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.

    Episodes 10-11: The man in black

    Published: December 5, 2017


    Ben identifies Devon's and Ben's literary antecedents, dissects the double-episode's various strategic moves, evaluates the new power three, then power-ranks the remaining seven contents in Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.

    Episode 9: When editing goes bad

    Published: November 28, 2017


    Ben takes issue with Survivor's editing choices, such as completely omitting Mike's fake idol play at Tribal Council, apparently in favor of necessary exposition of new advantages. He then explores Devon's alleged winner's edit, asks if anyone played well, and tries to predict the upcoming double-episode's two boots.

    Episode 8: Threatening women

    Published: November 21, 2017


    Ben argues that, rather than seeing Desi's ouster as evidence of Chrissy feeling threatened, it's more accurate that Chrissy rightly identified Desi (and Ali, and Roark) as a long-term threat in the game. Also, a look at Lauren's advantage, and whether Joe was the correct target.

    Episode 7: Edit vs. reality

    Published: November 14, 2017


    Following the merge, Ben attempts to separate audience reactions based on editing from the likely reality of the game itself, with particular emphasis on Chrissy's gameplay, Ben's alleged swing-vote status, the decision to target Jessica, and more.

    Episode 6: Compelling characters

    Published: November 7, 2017


    Ben re-examines Ryan's move against Ali (and Roark), then delves at length into what makes a compelling Survivor character, and why their relative prevalence this season is helping Ben enjoy Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.

    Episode 5: The long game

    Published: October 31, 2017


    Ben examines whether Roark was swap-screwed, whether Ryan's move was a good one for his long game, whether Ali has allies, whether Chrissy's social game is consistent, and more.

    Episode 4: How to recognize advantages

    Published: October 24, 2017


    Ben praises a successful swap, and boldly predicts which tribe might be the big loser from it (hint: anti-Matsing), the fate of an idol mind, and the future success of a dork alliance, a disadvantaged voter, and someone fishing for allies.

    Episode 3: Good moves, variable timing

    Published: October 18, 2017


    Ben examines how timing affects the success of Survivor moves, with some good (Ali), and some bad (Cole), and some more good (the upcoming swap) on display in Episode 3 of Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.

    Episode 2: Have we found the final two?

    Published: October 10, 2017


    Ben takes a quick look at the departed Simone's game, ponders the significance of the Ben-Chrissy pairing, examines Joe's gameplay, and praises Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers' apparent return to editing form.

    Episode 1: Heroes v. Healers v. Losers

    Published: October 1, 2017


    Ben takes stock of the state of the strategic metagame entering the season premiere of Survivor: HHH, then looks in-depth at the Heroes, Healers, and Hustlers tribes, and the Super Idol, plus a few odds and ends.

    Pre-season: TDT Survivor: HHH contestant draft

    Published: September 22, 2017


    Ben Martell, Dan Otsuki, Pat Ferrucci, and Jeff Pitman come together to rank and draft fantasy teams of the contestants from Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers. Who will reign supreme?

  • SNZ1 logo SurvivorNZ 1: Nicaragua
    Quick hits

    Eps. 17-18: Quick hits

    Published: July 3, 2017


    In the brief break between the week 9 episodes and the final two airings, Ben re-examines Avi's Survivor integrity, Barb's continuing mystery, the twist at the end of Episode 18, and explores some final three jury jeopardy scenarios.

    Eps. 13-16: The integrity edition

    Published: June 30, 2017


    With just one week of shows left, Ben explores the role 'Survivor integrity' plays in Survivor NZ contestants' games, whether its possible to win with such, and who that winner might be. Also loincloths.

    Eps. 11-12: The hero's journey

    Published: June 15, 2017


    As Survivor NZ sees a massive power shift, Ben re-evaluates where that leaves the respective games of Barb, Shannon, Jak, and Avi, and the now less brightly lit path the season appears to be following.

    Eps. 9-10: Relax, everything will be fine

    Published: June 10, 2017


    Ben ponders the suggestion that it's a New Zealand tendency to be relaxed and understated in the face of adversity (and success), weathers the surprising highs and too-obvious lows of the edit, and finds the best and worst players out there.

    Eps. 7-8: Sallah edition

    Published: May 30, 2017


    Ben dives into the intrinsically New Zealand-isms of Survivor NZ, revokes his Hero Challenge endorsement when it applies to reward challenges, talks about the Redemption Island quasi-cliffhanger, and with the merge approaching, maps out how he sees the remainder of the game playing out.

    Eps. 5-6: The good, the interesting, and the ugly

    Published: May 24, 2017


    Survivor NZ loses two players in week three, via Redemption (the good) and medevac (the ugly), but several contestants gain new life via the tribe swap, while one notably does not. Ben looks ahead at how this sets up the looming merge.

    Eps. 3-4: Hero immunity

    Published: May 16, 2017


    Ben ponders the significance of Nate's emergence from an otherwise one-dimensional Hermosa, and Shay as a strategic player, then praises the hero immunity challenge concept and the surprizing vote outcome.

    Eps. 1-2: Wanda vs. Megatron

    Published: May 8, 2017


    Covering the first two episodes of SurvivorNZ: Nicaragua, Ben explains his connection to Avi, asks if Dee's exit was one of the cruelest in Survivor history, then explores the Mogotón, er, 'Megatron' tribe in-depth.

    Pre-Ep.1: We are the wilderpeople

    Published: May 3, 2017


    By way of introduction, Ben lists some common themes and social differences that might be expected to arise in a season of Survivor played by New Zealanders. And roots for Avi, of course.

  • S34 logo Survivor 34: Game Changers
    Jury jeopardy S34

    Pre-Ep.14: Jury jeopardy S34

    Published: May 23, 2017


    The True Dork Times writers (Ben, Dan, Pat, Jeff) combine their prognosticatory powers to predict the outcome of the Game Changers jury vote. And beat RHAP, Inside Survivor, and Reality Blurred, of course.

    Ep.13: Three stories broken

    Published: May 19, 2017


    Heading into the finale, Ben reflects on the two bootees, evaluates Cirie's attempted move (and the heavy hand of the rules), and revisits the three key stories, at least two of which now seem broken.

    Ep.12: Three stories

    Published: May 14, 2017


    Marking his path to the end, Ben looks back briefly at Sierra, the Legacy advantage, and the five stories he sees as secondary, then dives deep into the three stories of potential winners.

    Ep.11: A strategic caterpillar

    Published: May 7, 2017


    Ben reflects on the two-season evolution of Zeke's game, whether his boot was made by 'idiots,' the passive minority alliance voting, and the Game Changers season as a whole (thus far).

    Eps. 8-10: A question of timing

    Published: May 2, 2017


    Ben catches up on the past three episodes, acknowledges the departed, then evaluates the remaining ten contestants' positions in depth, heading into the final four episodes of Game Changers.

    Ep.7: Putting compassion first

    Published: April 13, 2017


    Ben responds with a message of compassion for the participants of the Tribal Council in Episode 7 of Survivor: Game Changers, "What Happens On Exile, Stays on Exile."

    Ep.6: Effective grooming

    Published: April 11, 2017


    Ben explores Sandra's alliance-grooming (and fall), Tai's underratedness, Brad's rising edit, Cochran's cameo, and the emerging post-merge battle lines, as seen in Episode 6, "Vote Early, Vote Often," of Game Changers.

    Ep.5: Famous firsts

    Published: April 3, 2017


    Ben explores JT's regression, Sandra's mastery, Debbie's meltdown, and Sarah's edit, as seen in Episode 5, "Dirty Deed," of Survivor: Game Changers. Plus a look at the state of the game, heading into another swap.

    Ep.4: Firing blanks

    Published: March 25, 2017


    Ben takes a deep dive into the intents, events, and discontents of the chaotic combined Mana-Nuku Tribal Council in Episode 4, "The Tables Have Turned," of Survivor: Game Changers.

    Ep.3: Goat hunting

    Published: March 18, 2017


    Ben examines the changed games evident in mellow Troyzan, social Brad, and various people searching for goats, in Episode 3 of Survivor: Game Changers.

    Eps.1-2: Survivor Game No-Changers

    Published: March 11, 2017


    Ben sorts through the changes in the contestants' games (and lack thereof) in the two-hour premiere of Survivor: Game Changers. Plus a brief re-evaluation of everyone's current game position.

    Cast: Baseless speculation

    Published: February 8, 2017


    Ben takes a deep dive into the respective prospective chances of the new Game Changers cast members' changing the game enough to win in Season 34. With bonus commentary from his mother!

    Pre-S34: The secret formula

    Published: January 23, 2017


    Introducing The Golden Ticket, Ben Martell's new column at the True Dork Times. This week: An introduction of sorts, all leading to a secret formula for success in the current Survivor metagame.