To be honest, I’m not exactly sure if anyone is interested in reading about my Survivor: Second Chances ballot… but if you are, here it is! Sorry it’s so late – baby at home, end of the school year, yadda yadda yadda. By the by, I’ve tweeted a bit about the casting possibilities; apologies if I recycle some of those jokes in this column.
First, here’s what I was thinking about as I was deciding whom to back in this reality personality popularity contest:
** It feels good to be excited about Survivor again; Worlds Apart has been a brutal viewing experience, hasn’t it?
** Speaking of the Worlds Apart endgame:
Okay, back to S2C:
** I don’t believe for a second that CBS isn’t going to rig the voting results. Yes, they revised the contest rules when they were called out publicly on the fine print. But they have enough of the early results to sense where things are headed, and they’re okay with who’s gonna make it.
** Even with the revised rules, they’re going to make sure some old school players get into the game, recency bias be damned.
** The game itself is going to be brutal out of the gate; that’s just what they do with full returnee seasons (in All Stars, the players got canteens and that’s it… in Heroes vs. Villains, it was the first challenge that was extreme, leading to two major injuries). You know that Probst and production are going to make it hard. So I took that into consideration when making my picks.
** In the past, I’ve ranted against pre-game alliances. I eventually accept when an argument is pointless, however, and the undeniable reality is that when returnees are involved, pre-game alliances are going to define the season. And, given that this is an All Star season, with no newbies thrown in as cannon fodder, I’m going to fully embrace the inevitable existence of storylines that we’ll never fully know being the foundation of the drama that unfolds next fall.
** There’s a season or three that could be populated with the S2C snubs. To name just three: Greg Buis (who was rumored to be on the list), Coby Archa (who has made a funny “vote for me” video; if you love Coby, as I do, it is a must-see), and Hayden Moss (whose exclusion is ever so curious… there’s a story here… I’m not buying the whole “he was on Big Brother, so this would be a third chance” excuse). Three more: Silas Gaither, Burton Roberts, Ian Rosenberger. Three women: Twila Tanner, Natalie Bolton, Erinn Lobdell. I could do this all day. A shame we’ll never know all of the behind-closed-doors casting conversations at CBS.
** The two things I’m looking for in players: first and foremost that they’ll fight to stay in the game every step of the way (no passivity or floating allowed), and, in a distant second, a good story.
I’ll start with the women (in order of season appearance) – because these picks were much, much easier.
Kelly Wiglesworth, Survivor: Borneo: I didn’t watch Borneo when it first aired, so I’ve never fully understood the extreme Kelly hate. She was a viable philosophical alternative to Hatch (obviously, I’m glad Hatch – and his emphasis on strategy – ended up defining the game). In the absence of Buis, and my feeling that if you can bring back someone from Borneo you do it, Kelly has gotta make this cast. Given what she’s been saying on podcasts – that she doesn’t watch the show, so isn’t all that familiar with modern Survivor, and that she plans to play ethically – I fear for her fate in the game (but that’s no reason not to let her play it). It’s funny, when I think about modern Survivor, I come back to something a football player said about the jump from college to the pros: the biggest difference is the speed of the game. Survivor is a LOT faster than it was back in Season 1 – and I don’t know that Kelly can make the jump. But I’m fascinated to find out. IN.
Kimmi Kappenberg, Survivor: The Australian Outback: She wouldn’t eat a chicken. She ate a worm. She fought with Alicia. Oh! And her lack of game awareness screwed over Varner at the merge. While I want to support all of the Old Schoolers, I’ve just never responded to Kimmi as a player (and I LOVE Australia as a season). She may have an interesting story (although I think Kelly, T-Bird, and Peih-Gee have better ones), but I don’t trust her to be a successful modern Survivor player. OUT.
Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper, Survivor: Africa: Over the past year or so, I’ve been re-watching the early seasons with my family; my son has never seen them, and my wife and I haven’t watched many of them since they first aired (I know that an admission like that might get my SuperFan Membership Card revoked, but so it goes). It’s pretty cool to see the old seasons through my son’s eyes, and now that all we have left from Seasons 1-7 is the second half of Thailand, he’s incredibly excited to watch All Stars. (I can’t bring myself to tell him how awful it is… I’m gonna just have to watch his heart break in real time. Brutal. Damn you and your pre-game alliances, Boston Rob.) Anyway, watching Africa brought back two repressed memories: I had a MASSIVE crush on Kim Powers, and I adored T-Bird singing “Tomorrow” (badly) during the water-barrel endurance challenge. I have no idea what to expect out of T-Bird this time around, but I’m eager to see her positivity (and off-key singing voice) on my TV next fall. IN.
Peih-Gee Law, Survivor: China: I don’t know about you, but China is in my list of Top 5 Survivor seasons; I just re-watched it with the family, and it definitely holds up. Peih-Gee annoyed the hell out of me, then and now (particularly when she and Jaime were laughing about throwing an immunity challenge), but I was impressed with how hard she fought. More than anything, I want my S2C players to not go gently into that good night, and, poetically speaking, that’s Peih-Gee. IN.
Monica Padilla, Survivor: Samoa: Who? Okay, that’s mean, I remember her. But a vote for Monica is, by the transitive property of annoying trolls, a vote for Russell (who is undoubtedly stumping for Monica in private phone calls to the other contenders). Help me help Russell fade into reality show obscurity and refuse to vote for Monica. OUT.
Natalie Tenerelli, Survivor: Redemption Island: This season doesn’t exist, so anyone who claims to have played in it is lying. I mean, SEG would never create a season singularly shaped to help a 3-time failure finally capture a title. Easiest elimination of this entire exercise. OUT.
Stephanie Valencia, Survivor: Redemption Island: If one of the RI women is voted in – and does well – Probst will forever use it as a data point to argue that Redemption Island was a great season, and Boston Rob is even greater than he thought because he was able to dominate strong Survivor players like Stephanie. Don’t let this happen. I beg you. OUT.
Mikayla Wingle, Survivor: South Pacific: If she gets to play, we will see tons of “Brandon Hantz staring lustfully at Mikayla” footage. No thank you. I’m done having Hantzes in my living room. OUT.
Sabrina Thompson, Survivor: One World: Part of me says that Sabrina wasted her first opportunity by latching onto Kim and seemingly never entertaining the thought of flipping (and thus giving herself a chance to win). Frankly, the endgame inertia of One World STILL makes me mad. And yet, another part of me remembers her tearful finale confessional about waking up on the final day and realizing that a remarkable experience was coming to an end. That confessional makes me willing to give Sabrina a shot: something tells me she won’t take a second bite at the apple for granted, and I expect no coattail riding this time. IN.
Abi-Maria Gomes, Survivor: Philippines: It’s bad enough that the field of women is weak. Making matters worse: CBS insists that we vote for 10 of them. Ugh. I can’t stand Abi-Maria. But she’s a mortal lock to make the cast. IN.
Ciera Eastin, Survivor: Blood vs. Water: People make WAAAAAAY too much of the fact that she voted out her mother. It was a horrible move: had she teamed up with Hayden, Katie, and her mom at F7, she could have taken over the game. Her other signature moment was the bitter fruit of that poisonous tree: Drawing rocks at F6 wouldn’t have been necessary if she hadn’t come to her senses one Tribal too late. But that’s what happens when newbies are up against veterans: they wait too long and discover that the Tysons of the world are three steps ahead. This time, though, Ciera will be the returnee, and she’s a good bet to learn from her mistakes (doubtless they’ve been eating her up since she made them). IN.
Tasha Fox, Survivor: Cagayan: I sang her praises throughout Cagayan… she’s a true Survivor triple threat… and man oh man that smile. IN.
Kass McQuillen, Survivor: Cagayan: I gave her endless grief throughout Cagayan… I fear that she’ll be an early boot in S2C… but man oh man will she fight tooth and nail in every phase of the game (no one is playing harder in the pre-game than she is; her campaigning is as relentless as it is effective). IN.
Kelley Wentworth, Survivor: San Juan Del Sur: As long-time readers of my column know all too well, I cannot stand the D-word – “deserving” – within the context of Survivor… so many castaways talk about themselves and others as “deserving” – of winning, of staying in the game over other players, to be picked to go on a reward – but there is no “deserving” in Survivor, it’s simply choices and the ramifications of those choices (that’s the beauty of a game where you define the rules: moral relativism is the law of the land). That said, I find myself morphing into a hypocrite when I think about Kelley and the Confederacy of Dunces: thanks to a season overflowing with fools, she was targeted because she understood the game. That, to me, makes her “deserving” of a second chance – this time with a group of players who know what the hell they’re doing. IN.
Shirin Oskooi, Survivor: Worlds Apart: Where Kelley was surrounded by idiots, Shirin was surrounded by a$$#####. She “deserves” to play with people who not only respect the game, but also those who play it. S2C won’t just be cathartic for her; it’ll be therapeutic. Shir-IN.
Carolyn Rivera, Survivor: Worlds Apart: As much as I want Mike to win Worlds Apart, Carolyn pulling out a victory would have one silver lining: she wouldn’t be eligible to play in S2C. OUT.
Jeff Varner, Survivor: The Australian Outback: Varner, who has the best campaign going right now, is one of the greatest “What If?” players in Survivor history: What if Mike Skupin hadn’t fallen in the fire? Answer: Kucha would have had an opportunity to go into the merge up 6-4, and Colby might have been the first Barramundi casualty. Varner STILL might have been in a position for a deep run if Kimmi hadn’t revealed that Jeff had a vote against him; the guy simply couldn’t catch a break. If he isn’t the living embodiment of Second Chances, I don’t know who is (he’ll also be an excellent, snarky narrator). IN.
Andrew Savage, Survivor: Pearl Islands: Of all the players on the ballot, I am the most internally divided about Savage. He was the leader of one of the most inept tribes in Survivor history (Osten and Lil on the same starting tribe? Uggggghhhh), and he ran into the three-bladed buzzsaw that was Rupert, Fairplay, and Sandra. We also got an excessive amount of “beleaguered and mopey” Savage footage, and that has no doubt colored my perception of him. Still, he’s an Old Schooler, he’ll fight hard and go down swinging, so he’s got my vote. IN.
Shane Powers, Survivor Panama: I don’t find watching someone detox entertaining, and if S2C is as physically harsh as I expect it will be, part of me will worry that Shane will die out there. (I’m only half-kidding.) And with so many strategists to choose from, it’s easy to leave Shane off my ballot. I totally understand voting for him, however; he was damn entertaining the first time around (his carved-wood Blackberry still makes me chuckle). OUT.
Terry Deitz, Survivor: Panama: Writing for True Dork Times as I do (thank you, Jeff!), one of my vocational obligations is a required fondness for advanced metrics. One stat that has stood for almost a decade: Terry’s eight individual immunity wins. Does he still have it at age 55? Having met him just last summer – thanks to the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge (which runs from August 27th-30th this year – come join us!), I wouldn’t bet against him. The dude is jacked. IN.
Stephen Fishbach, Survivor: Tocantins: He’s a Survivor Know-it-All… a natural narrator… and an ordained minister (which might come in handy; with the game conditions being as harsh as they’re likely to be, he might have to officiate a funeral or two). He also needs a second chance, if only so that our final impression of him isn’t his disastrous “my journey was more meaningful than your journey” Final Tribal Council argument (to be fair, there was nothing he could have said that would have given him the win over J.T.). And really, who better to win a Fishy than Fishbach himself? IN.
Jim Rice, Survivor: South Pacific: Anyone who wakes up in a cold sweat questioning his strategic decisions almost four years after the fact definitely gets my vote. I have my worries and doubts – he’ll likely be in the worst shape out of all of the men (and most of the women); his aggressive campaigning might make him a target (he could be labeled a try-hard, and try-hards are camera hogs, and camera hogs might be selected for Survivor: Legends, so they have to go); and I can’t fully shake the feeling that his treatment of Cochran in the aftermath of “The Flip” hints at who Jim really is – but I trust Jim to know all of these things and do his best to address his flaws (if only so that he sleeps better). IN.
Troyzan Robertson, Survivor: One World: This is my ballot! OUT.
Vytas Baskauskas, Survivor: Blood vs. Water: At the BvW finale after-party, I tracked down Vytas to ask him a few questions about his game (and thank him for a kick-ass power yoga class earlier that day). When I mentioned that I was absolutely certain that he would get another chance to play the game, he smiled, but downplayed the possibility, saying that he was fortunate to have played it once, and that he certainly wouldn’t presume to be on the returning players short list. His eyes told a different story, however; there was a glitter and a gleam, of hope and possibility, of desire and determination. He clearly, undeniably, and palpably wanted to go back out there and give it another shot (this time without his brother). And that, to me, is Vytas in nutshell: the dichotomy of ego and humility, the supremacy and sublimation of self. Whatever the truth of who he is, if he gets a second chance, Vytas will leave it all on the island, and shape the season with his intensity, urgency, and empathy. IN.
Brad Culpepper, Survivor: Blood vs. Water: F*** You Brad Culpepper. OUT.
Woo Hwang, Survivor: Cagayan: A second chances season would seem to be tailor made for a guy like Woo, right? WRONG. Anyone who makes the dumbest move in Survivor history – yes, worse than Erik’s immunity philanthropy – shouldn’t get another shot. He was a complete non-factor in Cagayan – his mindless loyalty is the sole reason he made it to the endgame – and we only remember him more than, say, Carter (Philippines) because he wrote down “Kass” instead of “Tony.” OUT.
Spencer Bledsoe, Survivor: Cagayan: To illustrate a point, here’s what I wrote about Spencer before Cagayan began:
… after watching Spencer's interview video, I had one burning question: what's the best word I could pair with "douche" to describe this guy? Nozzle? Canoe? Lord? Okay, I'm not being nice, but if you've watched the video, you know what I mean; as he prattles on about chess and, well, chess, he comes across as insufferable and immature. Precisely how a smart, egotistical, smug college student who just got plucked from anonymity to play Survivor is likely to behave, really. Now, I don't think he's as villainous as he would have us believe – there are stretches in the interview, particularly when he's blathering at length, when he sounds like a normal kid – but regardless, players whose strategy is to cultivate chaos rarely write the end of anyone's Survivorstory other than their own.
And now, here’s what I wrote a few days before the Cagayan finale:
I think almost all of us would like to see Spencer win the F4 immunity challenge and use his position of safety to get Kass and Woo to call Tony’s “my special idol is good until F3” bluff, but that isn’t going to happen… Once again, [Spencer] will have all the right ideas, but be able to execute none of them, because of the T.P. Idol, Woo’s illusions and Kass’s delusions. That’s been Spencer’s position all along, really; the right guy in the right game forever and always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My point: The amount that Spencer grew over the course of 37 days is staggering (my final description of Spencer: “The poster boy for the power of humility”). Given another shot, Spencer might well follow the trajectory of another triple threat who fell short his first time out: Tyson. (Here’s hoping that he doesn’t inadvertently vote himself out as the Coconut Bandit did in Heroes vs. Villains.) IN.
Jeremy Collins, Survivor: San Juan del Sur: Yeah, he’s cranky. Yeah, he doesn’t seem like he’s having any fun out there. And yeah, I’m probably overrating him. But he’s a triple threat (although his social game could use a little more positivity), he’ll battle until his torch is snuffed, and he’s the Superior Twinnie’s “Boo.” IN.
Keith Nale, Survivor: San Juan del Sur: Goats spit. Goats scream. Goats don’t know what sub-alliances are. Yeah, Keith is a goat. OUT.
Joe Anglim, Survivor: Worlds Apart: His fate will likely be the same as it was the first time around: useful to his tribe in the first part of the game and an easy target after the merge. He’s smart, though, and has the potential to adapt; like Ozzy, who nearly challenge beast-ed his way to a win in South Pacific (remember, he would have been the Sole Survivor had he not choked on the F4 immunity challenge), Joe could find the right alliance and give himself a shot to win it all. (Still, I’d pencil him in for another 10th place finish.) IN.
Max Dawson, Survivor: Worlds Apart: There’s room for only one Know-it-All this season, and Fishbach did it first and did it better. Plus, anyone who doesn’t make the merge is not only un-dateable, he’s also un-vote-able. Sorry, Max. OUT.
Mike Holloway, Survivor: Worlds Apart: He’s probably going to win Worlds Apart, but just in case he doesn’t, he’s got my vote to give it another go. (On a related note, the next time Probst tries to argue that he doesn’t know the identity of the Sole Survivor before the votes are read, remember that he talked about the winner of Worlds Apart before the season started airing.) IN.
That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!
Andy Baker is a long-time, but definitely not long-winded, Survivor blogger.
Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius