The Golden Ticket - Ben Martell's recaps

A question of timing


Hi all!


My apologies for leaving you high and dry last week.  I had to unexpectedly travel and while I had Survivor with me the whole time,  I never had a chance to watch it.  As a result, I ended up doing a triple header this week!  I’m also still without internet since moving house (nearly three weeks and counting...) so please forgive me for being a little more light than I’d like to be overall!


I feel like this triple header gave us something that the season has been lacking as a whole – strategic depth.  When I first set out to write this blog, I wanted to write about the moves people were making, and whether their timing was right or wrong.  In the whole pre-merge, there were really only two instances where this was even an interesting discussion – with the Tony and Sandra vote outs.  For the most part, voting in the pre-merge was very simple... the majority took out the most threatening player on the minority.  While this isn’t particularly groundbreaking, it’s probably the right move for most people most of the time.  It’s just not great for analysing play.


But here, in the merge, we finally started to see moves.  Some were great, some weren’t so great.  And so now I get to do what I’ve really been waiting to do all season – go player by player, and look at the episode through the lens of how well they are playing.  I’m going to take into account everything we’ve seen over the last three episodes, rather than just looking at the last episode.


So, what’s on the ticket this week?

  • A look at the fallen
  • The sheriff
  • The mediator
  • The dude
  • The footsoldier
  • The phoenix
  • The model
  • The butterfly
  • The storyteller
  • The outcast
  • The criminal


A look at the fallen (three odd choices?)

The fallen


As soon as we hit the merge, I felt like the predicted “Ozzy’s people vs Brad’s people” is exactly what we saw, with a couple of twists.  First, the latter side were presented as Sierra’s people, despite the fact we saw Brad collect them.  Second, it seemed that Brad and Ozzy didn’t want to turn on each other too quickly.


It’s hard to understand the strategic benefit of the Hali vote in a vacuum.  It’s perhaps a product of the “Jaws” phenomenon that Jeff Probst talked about pre-season, where people circle around each other not wanting to make a move.  Ozzy and Brad, despite being on opposing sides (and despite, deep down, knowing they weren’t on the same side), still decided to work together for another vote.


That it ended up being Hali and not Michaela is equally baffling, especially if the decision solely came about based on Zeke’s logic of ‘if Hali has an idol, it’s out of the game’.  It’s clear that two tribals later there are people who still really want to get rid of Michaela.  We can only presume that enough people from Brad’s side ultimately saw Hali as the threat to win and Michaela as less threatening in that sense.


Pre-game, I said “If I knew that this season was to end with a female winner who came into the season under the radar, my money would be on Hali ahead of Sierra or Sarah.” Well, it turned out that while Sierra and Sarah started stepping up to the plate with active plans, Hali never really showed much in the way of long-term strategic planning, so I got that one completely wrong.  Across two seasons, she never panned out like I hoped.  I’m still glad to have had her as part of Survivor, though.


In the next vote we saw Brad and Ozzy’s people finally split and Ozzy go home.  Ozzy’s people had a clear shot at getting Hali at 13 and making it 7-6 against Brad’s people (7-5 after taking out, say, Brad or Sierra).  I think they believed they had Sarah, and perhaps they would have if they had the majority on that vote.  It might not have made any difference, however, with Zeke wanting to make a move and spice things up.  It’s possible that Brad’s side would have been willing to just say yes to voting out Andrea to bring Zeke in for a vote, so perhaps the Hali voted ended up being good for Andrea.


Whatever, Ozzy is an understandable vote given his physical prowess, but another vote that doesn’t seem all that sensible.  You have to know by this point in the evolution of the game that Ozzy’s own alliance is already going to be thinking of when they have to ditch him... you’re just solving a problem for them early.  Taking out Cirie or Andrea (or even Aubry) would have been much more likely to deal a fatal blow, while also taking out someone who probably has more win equity if they make it to the end.


Ozzy actually did some of the things I said he needed to do in order to succeed.  He did, ultimately, bury the hatchet with Cirie.  He teamed up with Brad.  He probably survived the swap in part due to the way numbers turned out (and not going to tribal for the first five boots).  I thought Ozzy would go pre-merge, but I still got things essentially right when I said that “Ozzy will have too much of a target on his back, because he is (rightly, based on history) someone who looks like he is a big threat to win, but he doesn’t (in practice) have the skills to keep himself safe.” Poor Ozzy is only going to suffer more from his reputation the older he gets, as he struggles to keep up with what people expect of him.


Then we saw the end of Debbie after people had talked about Sierra and Brad for the two merge episodes.  I’m sure that Debbie is one of those people where, if your strategic plan lines up with getting her off the beach, you take the shot.  It’s just too hard to live with her. 


While I do think the decision was odd given the previous talk and probably not the best choice, I think it makes the most sense of the last three boots.  Debbie is, despite being a gymnast, a most inflexible Survivor player.  There’s no way you are ever going to reshuffle her deck.  While Sierra or Brad might be able to be unmoored from their current alliance in self-interest, I imagine that Debbie would cling on to the notion that she is actually in control and expect others to swing to her.  In this sense, it gives team ex-Ozzy (damn, I have to change this… team Cirie, then) a good chance of picking up pieces that could be cut adrift.  In addition, Debbie was probably the best choice for Sarah, and when you need to court a swing vote, you take out the person who makes the most sense for them.


Voting out Brad, in particular, would have been a better outcome for most of them, though.  Sierra may believe she is the sheriff, but Brad is the man who is bringing in Troy, and Tai, and Sierra, and possibly even Debbie.  Cut Brad, and the entire alliance could have crumbled.


My prediction for Debbie was that she went early, but she never actually went to tribal without the numbers advantage.  My predictions for Debbie weren’t that great (although I did say she needed to correct her flexibility issue if she wanted to do better), but there was this neat piece of irony about her relationship with Ozzy... “She’ll drive him nuts within a day, and part of him will be having Cochran flashbacks.” Given Debbie was portrayed as responsible for the Ozzy boot, Debbie really did play the role of South Pacific Cochran here... an interesting way for Cochran’s appearance to come full circle.


All in all, I think that if everyone was playing to their best move, we would have seen three different boots here – Michaela first (booted by Brad, Sierra, Debbie, Tai, Troyzan, Hali and Sarah), followed by Zeke (booted by that same group, taking advantage of the rift that existed while it existed), followed by Brad (with Hali and Sarah flipping back).  I’ll be honest though – I think the outcome we got is probably better for the season going forward.  We eliminated three people who weren’t going to win and who were all probably going to be on the outskirts of strategy when things get real. So I’ll take it.

And now, it’s time to take an in depth look at the players still in the game.


The sheriff (a pawn in the dark)

The sheriff


First and foremost, I want to commend Sierra for making a concerted and genuine effort to control this game.  We have had the chance to hear her talk out her plans for final six, for final three, and for keeping control of the game.  In Worlds Apart, it felt like Sierra never took the initiative to do anything, and here she really has made an effort to do so.


Unfortunately, I think Sierra is entirely wrong that she’s the sheriff.  She’s in the dark, and I’m not sure how she expected to get to her final three.  Perhaps she was relying on surviving with the Legacy Advantage at 6 and then re-evaluating at 5 if things didn’t fall her way. But if that six had held, I think Brad, Tai and Troy would have been a very solid three, and I could see Brad selling Debbie on taking out Sierra and the fact that no one likes Brad or Troy, and that Tai can’t win votes at FTC (which she’s seen with her own eyes).  Debbie’s big threats at final 6 would likely have appeared to her to be Sierra and Sarah.  I think, even with her favoured 6, she goes out at five.


And a list of things she achieved here?  When she claimed to be the sheriff, it was to ignore Zeke’s suggestion of voting Hali out instead of Michaela, saying that instead Michaela would go.  Hali went, despite her most natural connection left in the game being Sierra. We then saw her angling to go with Andrea and Cirie on a Zeke vote, before Debbie suggested they go with Ozzy.  And she lost a tight ally and intended final three partner at final 11.


Perhaps Sierra’s only true failing is that she bonded well with Sarah and didn’t expect to be betrayed.  But I think she also doesn’t realise how much closer most of her alliance is to Brad than they are to her.


This has unfortunately left her in a most unenviable position – it feels like she’s a bigger target than Brad right now, but truth will also come out and so I feel she is also unlikely to get credit against Brad in the end.  Unless she changes something up soon, she’s in a lose/lose situation.


It’s hard to say Sierra is doing much wrong other than having a flawed perception of her own standing with others.  If she makes a big move she’s just as likely to become a target. But she’s now in the minority and seen as a big threat, and she could well be the first name thrown out there this week.  Her best approach is not to fade into the background and hope Brad goes first.  She needs to come out swinging and look for a new home and a new deal.   The time for her to do something big is now.


The mediator (a lawyer at work)

The mediator


I think Brad is playing about the best game he could be playing right now.


As an alpha male with a reputation of being arrogant, Brad couldn’t afford to make the target on his back any bigger than it already was.  He did a good job of that premerge, but he continued to do it here.


First Brad decided to give up the merge feast – a sacrificial move that could only buy goodwill (at least in the short term) and also afforded him the opportunity to bond with one person alone.  It wouldn’t take a genius to guess that it would be Tai, someone who Brad needed to reconnect with after a break and make sure he still had on side.  He also was able to take Debbie’s apology with grace and reconnect with her. Where others may have treated it for what it really was (superficial and strategic), Brad took the self-deprecating path.  Every lawyer has mediation skills, and in this season Brad has been using them to guide people back to him over and over again.


It’s a path he’s now been good at taking with several people, and it’s why I still see that alliance as being a web where every strand leads back to Brad.


He correctly identified that he might be able to bring Hali in, while having no chance of bringing Michaela in (again, you have to wonder how he and Sierra allowed the vote to change).  He’s been happy to let others do the driving where he can.  And he’s been more or less invisible in immunity challenges post-merge.  Even when his alliance was blindsided with the Debbie vote, Brad wasn’t painted as being overly arrogant in the way that Debbie, Sierra and even Troy were.


One big misstep for Brad this week, and it played right into the narrative Debbie set with her meltdown.  The edit made it feel like Brad was making the decision to vote for Andrea for everyone, and certainly Sarah stated she felt she wasn’t consulted but told what to do.  It made her realise she was on the bottom.  Could this be the move, or at least the failed relationship, that costs Brad the game?


Overall, Brad’s built himself a great spot within his alliance, but now he’s in the minority.    I’m looking forward to seeing if he can handle it with as much diplomacy as he has handled the rest of the game.


The dude (a man of ill-fortune)

The dude


Well, last time I did a full analysis of players, I had Troy as a high winner candidate.  But other than a nice immunity win, Troy has been entirely absent from any strategic discussion whatsoever.  That’s not a good sign for him.


I feel as though Troyzan has definitely changed his game up this season.  He seems like he’s putting forth a concerted effort to come across as chilled out and kind, a dude who just wants to have fun and get along with everyone.  It is perhaps a direct reaction to the way he came across in One World where he was the outcast and people didn’t like him (thanks, mostly, to Kim’s strong skills of social suggestion).  Without a doubt, it feels as though Troy is liked by everyone out there.  People seemed genuinely happy when he won immunity.


Troy seems to be in the worst position post Sarah-flip, however.  I don’t think he’s an immediate target, but that means he’s also in a lose/lose situation... people don’t see him as having game, but if he did stand up and try to lead a revolution at this point, he’d probably get tarred with the One World brush all over again, or at the very least the approach would be against the heavy lean into the dude persona.


The Troyzan/Sarah scene on Tavua still stands out for me as the most ‘Michele Fitzgerald’ moment of the season – a scene which made no sense to include on the show at all unless it matters long term.  Given Troy and Sarah’s respective edits the last few weeks, if this scene does mean a team up between the two is coming, I think Sarah gets more respect than Troy for whatever damage they could do together.  At this point, I think my early edit favourite has faltered significantly.


Troy’s doing nothing at all, and there’s never a good time to be doing nothing.  At the very least, in terms of what we get to see at home, you need the opportunity to explain why the ‘nothing’ is best for your strategic game long term.  Instead, I think what we are seeing from Troy is a story of a nice guy and a Survivor fan just getting to have a good time.  That’s ok, but it’s not going to make him any richer.


Troy still has that idol and that weird Tavua scene with Sarah though.  Let’s see what he makes of them before entering final judgment.


The footsoldier (a loaded gun)

The footsoldier


Tai’s story keeps returning to being about his loyalty to Brad.  It’s hard to see Tai’s story playing out in any other direction unless and until Brad is voted out first.  I think it more likely, though, that Tai sees it coming at this point and protects Brad with an idol.  A time like the last episode, where the 6 believed that nothing would or could go wrong, would have been the perfect time to remove Brad without Tai realising, but I think he’s going to be ready for next time.


Tai isn’t doing much at the moment, but I think that’s right for Tai.  Sometimes he needs to sit still for a while.  In many ways, Brad is the perfect shield for Tai.  The only problem with that is that, if Tai wants to win, I don’t think he could do it without turning on Brad.  He’s finding himself back in the same position he was in in Kaoh Rong, where if he flips he looks like a traitor and if he doesn’t he looks like he was dragged to the end.  Tai probably never had a chance to win the game, but I think that comes down to perceptions of him, more than how he is really playing.


Because Tai didn’t make many moves, there’s not much to analyse.  However, it’s impressive that his name never really comes up even though he’s a challenge threat (he’s continuing to look good in nearly every challenge), when others can get labelled as a challenge threat after even one win.


While there isn’t much to analyse here, Tai is still likely to have impact on the game due to his two idols.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again... I don’t think Tai is going to get booted with two idols in his pocket.  When the time comes that he needs to play it, he’s going to know it.


The phoenix (a late edit-bloomer)

The late bloomer


Boy, Cirie has had a good three episode stretch.  Given how much care was given to players like Tony, JT, Malcolm and Sandra in the early going, I always expected Cirie would get her dues by the edit eventually, no matter what happened.  Well, here we are.


We saw Cirie want to keep Michaela, and succeed.  We saw her in a hammock with Sarah, explaining why she would lose at FTC if she went with Sierra and Debbie.  In the two votes that went her way, she was portrayed as being most responsible. We saw her help Michaela pull her neck in (a little), in giving her great Survivor advice.  She’s back in the edit full time and reminding us why she is truly one of the great players of this game.


Cirie came into the merge in a position that felt like it ought to be on the bottom.  She was clearly on the outs on the original Nuku.  But here she was, manipulating two votes to go her way, without apparently putting a target on herself (thanks in part to sly moves like getting Zeke to approach Sierra with the idea to shift it to Hali).


Cirie has reminded that she retains a very strong internal sense of where her numbers lie.  Not her alliance, but her, specifically.  This, along with her ability to execute on her vision through subtle moves, are why she is so good at the game.


I can’t emphasise Cirie’s scene with Sarah in the hammock enough.  Cirie carefully explained to Sarah why she would lose if she simply stuck with Sierra’s plan, and then made a counterplan with Sarah in which she put Sarah’s closest ally on her side (Zeke) directly in the alliance instead of her own closer ally (Andrea).  It’s next level play, and I don’t think I am giving Cirie too much credit to say that she appeared critical in convincing Sarah to flip.


Cirie has done everything right since the merge – more than anyone else has.  But, comparing her to Sandra, I think she lacks something Sandra has, which is the ability to make others believe she can’t win.  Watching her cross the balance beam was just another reminder of how inspirational Cirie’s story was and how liked she is.  While Cirie feels like the unarguable best player of the merge so far, it’s still a very long road for her to win amongst this group of savvy players.


The model (a legend without a story)

The model


Andrea’s story now feels entirely tied to Zeke, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.


We saw very little of Andrea before the merge, and now that she’s returned it’s been mostly about Zeke betraying her, and her subsequently not trusting Zeke.


Last episode we saw Cirie and Sarah talking about who their six was.  They started with the pair of them, and Michaela and Aubry.  Then Cirie suggested Zeke, to get them to five.  Andrea was the sixth, and while Cirie said she felt it was repairable with Andrea (and it was, for now), it’s a bad sign that she is on the outs.


The only thing we really saw Andrea do in the last three episodes was try to pull the rug out from under Zeke’s feet.  I do think it was a good move from her perspective – you have to cut someone before they succeed in cutting you.  Coming in to this vote, you could slot Ozzy in for Zeke and I’m pretty sure this vote goes the same way (and probably even more smoothly), so I don’t think taking out Zeke would have been a killer for Andrea’s game in that spot.  But it failed.


Andrea is now being targeted as one of the big threats out there (even before Cirie and Aubry??), and she really doesn’t have any other story in the edit.


In the event that Andrea’s alliance gives us the winner, I’m pretty sure Andrea is the least likely outcome at this point.  Every other member of her alliance has more story going on, and they are being targeted less than her.  It’s not looking good.


The butterfly (chaos theory at work)

The butterfly


Zeke, Zeke, Zeke.  What is there to say about this man who understands the game well enough that he makes a move too early all while having the presence of mind to say in confessionals that he made a move too early last time and is probably doing it again.


I’ve always felt that Zeke appears to be a better Survivor player than he is.  That’s a deadly combo, because it means your threat level is high but you don’t have the tools to deal with it.  I feel like once again Zeke is putting himself in a position with too few allies who would be willing to protect him when he really needs it, and everyone knows that he is willing to turn on his own allies at the drop of a hat.


Most people probably know at this point that Andrea and Zeke knew each other before the game, and I believe Andrea came into the game with a ‘big sister’ approach to Zeke.  This is the same Andrea who took being blindsided in Caramoan very well, and she’s never really shown any inclination of feeling like a betrayal went beyond the game before Zeke turned on her here.  It’s a big miscalculation to turn on someone who has your back that thoroughly, and even more so when the reason for doing so is a perceived lack of control.


The reality seems to be that, for whatever reason, Zeke didn’t make a lot of strong relationships in the merge phase of this game.  Part of this could well be that Zeke ended up with Cirie, Sarah and Andrea at every stop (and in the majority for most of that time)…. this potentially minimised his need to plot, reduced the number of connections he was able to make, and the amount of effort he needed to spend plotting for strategy.  Not only that, but he had none of these connections before the game began.  While he was on a tribe with everyone else in the final 12 except Aubry at some point (with Michaela, that point was in Millennials vs Gen X), it feels like with most of them it was for too short a time, and in the wrong circumstances, to make deep and lasting connections.  It felt in part like he blamed Cirie and Andrea for having connections that he didn’t have.


In any event, Zeke’s need for control has put his game in dire jeopardy.  Where he might have done better just to set out to establish other relationships and consider his best point for a flip, instead he marred a key relationship far too early.  It’s going to be hard for him to regain a really strong trust with anyone, given how willing he was to cut Andrea.  Sure, he had to ditch Andrea and Cirie at some point.  But this point was far too soon.


The storyteller (she’s just warming up)

The storyteller


I feel as though Aubry is just beginning to come into her own. While she still isn’t overly prominent in the edit, she had some good opportunities to show us the Aubry of old in the episodes since the merge, most prominently in her conversation with Debbie and its aftermath.  In Kaoh Rong, the season was overall quite enjoyable and a large part of that was because we saw much of the story through Aubry’s eyes.  She’s a good storyteller.


This might be wishful thinking, but is it possible that my winner pick was being protected in the edit through the pre-merge?  She often found herself in the minority due to her clashing with Sandra, but they never really made any big deal out of it.  She has now easily slot in to what is currently the majority alliance, without looking like one of the big targets (in fact, at this point, she seems like the one who is likely to be targeted last out of the six, even though she shouldn’t be).


Other than Sarah, Aubry is also probably the person for who voting out Debbie was the biggest positive.  She is another player who is likely to have options, given that she could still potentially work with Tai and Brad.


I also think it’s very notable that, while time and effort has been spent on how hard it might be to get Zeke and Andrea to work together, Aubry and Michaela seem to be working on the same team just fine, despite Aubry calling her out a couple of times in the earlier game.  I think this is a good look on both Aubry and Michaela.


It’s hard to see anywhere that Aubry is putting her foot wrong since the merge.  She’s probably in one of the best positions right now.


The outcast (checkmate)

The outcast


Things just haven’t really gone Michaela’s way this season.  Plenty of this appears to be her own fault (although we still aren’t really seeing much of the reason why some people aren’t liking her so much with our own eyes).  But there’s also no doubt that she was sidelined in team challenges, that she’s found her allies dwindling, and that she’s been left in a situation where she’s relying on others.


The only move Michaela can make right now is to survive.  She’s done it, although there’s no real evidence she’s been able to pull her head in and start changing hearts and minds and influencing people for the better.  Instead, it feels like Cirie saved her once and since then she just hasn’t been a priority.  I can’t criticise the timing of her survival, but it’s all too late at this point.


Michaela hasn’t really had the opportunity to make a move this game, and I don’t think she’ll ever have the opportunity to do so.  People from the other side of the aisle don’t want to work with her, and she owes Cirie in a way she isn’t going to want to betray.  Put simply, it’s checkmate for Michaela.  She’s already lost the game, and she’s just biding time until she goes home or gets zero votes at the end.


I think this is a real shame, because I really believe Michaela has the goods to be a mover and shaker in the game of Survivor.  But she has to know how to target her abrasive style in a way that works – Sandra channels it against people she can paint as villains, for example, while Aubry masks and internalises her true feelings and lets them out in a sarcastic confessional or to a player she trusts.  Cirie gave Michaela great advice – that she needs to be ‘unhungry’ and ‘unmad’ – but Michaela just can’t do it... yet.  I think she has suffered more than Zeke has in playing back to back, and I think she came into the merge feeling already defeated.  Michaela is not a person who can rally back from feeling defeated, at least not at this point in her life.


Michaela is still savvy, though, and she could still do some damage.


The criminal (will the President be impeached?)

The criminal


I’m not the first person to notice that, six seasons after Sarah was the swing vote at final 11 and got booted for playing President and being the swing vote between two groups of five, Sarah was at it again here.  The parallels are hard to ignore.


But Sarah undoubtedly handled the situation far better here, and not only because she didn’t get booted.  She didn’t demand to get her own way, but instead looked at the options available to her (could she work best with Andrea or Debbie? Which alliance was she most at the bottom of) and picked the move that was the best move for her.  In addition, she is arguably the player who benefits the most from the elimination of Debbie, who clearly was throwing shade at Sarah and didn’t really have long term plans for her.


The timing of this move though?  It’s really hard to say how good it is.  Sarah could go home next week if people begin to see her as a threat, or if people want to come together to vote out the flipper.  They could see her as playing the same game as in Cagayan and get wise fast.  On the other hand, people could feel like they need Sarah and they could work to continue to have her on side – she can sell her choice to vote out Debbie after Debbie lied about her, and she has an advantage in her pocket that she could use to get her own way strategically.


Ultimately I think she times the move right – the other five in her alliance were solid and I do believe she was on the bottom.  It’s quite early to have made such a big move, but you don’t want to be stuck trying to make one too late.  The only way to stop a Brad, Sierra or Tai from winning the game was probably to put a dent in that alliance now and hope it broke down.  On the other hand, she doesn’t need to fear being on the bottom of the other side nearly so much, when Zeke and Andrea are already working together nominally only, and Michaela is such a loose cannon.


But this is a bit of confirmation bias... if other players were smart, I think Sarah would be gone soon after they’ve seen what she’s capable of, but once again there’s that Troy/Sarah scene to pay off... and a secret advantage that she’s told us she’s going to play correctly.  The edit seems to be telling us Sarah has more to give.


This is also positive for her long term chances.  I’m really coming around to Dan Otsuki’s view of Sarah now.  In the premerge, I saw her ‘criminal’ story as pointing to a single big betrayal... but she’s already got two on her resume (having worked with both Ozzy and Debbie previously), and counting... if Sarah gets to the end, there could end up being very few people who would beat her (perhaps only Cirie).


I’m really hoping that Sarah sticks with Cirie, Andrea and Aubry for a while... this could also end up making this whole season worthwhile.


I also think booting Hali was good timing and made sense for Sarah.  She clearly is trying to foster a good working relationship with Sierra and Hali was a rational threat to that (even if it did turn out Sierra and Hali weren’t working together).  Voting out Ozzy over Zeke also made sense for Sarah – she’s trying to maintain a very good working relationship with Zeke, and apparently succeeding.


All in all, Sarah is the person for whom all three votes make the most sense.  When I’m busy saying they don’t seem like great decisions for the group as a whole, that means that somehow Sarah is managing to turn this game out in ways that are benefitting her, and she seems to be doing it while her name isn’t passing anyone’s lips.  She’s very well positioned here, so it’s going to be interesting to see what’s coming up the bend for her.




A quick power ranking for you – who is most likely to win, based on game position and edit:

  • Aubry – wow, my winner pick is back at the top.  I didn’t see this coming. But she’s the least targeted person in the current majority, and could probably work with anybody.  She just needs to convince people she deserves to win if she makes the end.
  • Cirie – somehow she’s getting her own way without being targeted.  But she’s Cirie…. She just needs to dodge a bullet in the late game somewhere, somehow.
  • Sarah – she’s making good moves and getting a good edit, but she’ll get her head chopped off if she sticks her neck out too far.  She just needs to get that balance right.
  • Brad – his mediation skills have him in good with a lot of people, but he’s also already seen as a big threat.  He just needs to keep his head down and stay on Tai’s good side, and hope that he gets protection when he needs it.
  • Zeke – he may have recovered from one big bad decision and he still seems to have options.  He just needs to stay still for a while and make people forget he’s a threat.
  • Troyzan – he seems more like an additional number for some other people right now, and his profile has dropped off at the merge.  To win, he would need to find a way to make moves of his own without alienating others.
  • Andrea – she’s never had a story of her own and she’s already a target, so it’s hard to see her way through game wise or edit wise.  She needs a change in fortunes, now.
  • Tai – Tai has all the tools to make the end, including good relationships and idols.  No matter what he does, though, it’s hard to see him getting the respect to get the votes over two other people, and it’s hard to see him being cutthroat enough to cut allies that are actually nice people.
  • Sierra – she’s getting called a big threat without us really seeing what she’s doing to back that up.  Sierra’s been left out of most of the emotional moments of the season, and her ownership of the legacy advantage has been all but ignored.  It’s hard to see how she has the game or the edit to get to the end from this position.
  • Michaela – there’s nothing Michaela can do to win at this point.


Somehow, this season is teetering back on the edge of a genuine All Star winning… all the time while making Sarah and Brad appear to be the game changers no one gave them credit for being.  In the end, it looks like this end game could be more satisfying than I had expected it to be three weeks ago.


Alright, that will do it for this week.  Please comment, please tweet at me.  I always enjoy engaging with you all.


I’ll be back twice next week.  That’s because NZ Survivor is coming!  Hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to watch NZ Survivor and follow along with me.  The cast was recently revealed, and it turns out that I used to go to school with one of the contestants, Avi, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.  I get the sense he’ll probably do quite well.


NZ Survivor airs two nights a week, Sundays and Mondays, in New Zealand.  I’ll just write one blog covering off both episodes per week, and as part of the journey I’ll do what I can to give you as much of an insight as I can into the New Zealand psyche and what I think players might need to do to succeed in a New Zealand version of the show.  I hope some of you are able to watch and join us on the journey!


See you then.


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