It's Kind of a Funny Story - Dan Otsuki's Survivor: Game Changers recapss

Who will reach the top?


Howdy, friends, and welcome back to another season of IKoaFS! I hope our brief time apart has been as exciting for y’all as it has been for me (law schools starting to get back to me and my newly Survivor-indoctrinated girlfriend and I watched Cagayan). For now, I have some preseason predictions that, given this cast of (seemingly) savvy players (“Super Fans,” as Mister Probst says), I’m less confident than normal… especially in my winner pick! Anyway, the order below is merely the order of cast interviews on Survivor’s YouTube channel and not some elaborate code or random smattering. So, sit back, relax, and check out if you disagree with my predictions!



Donathan Hurley


First up, I like this guy. In other seasons less saturated with “Super Fans,” I think this man’s southern accent would be one of his greatest assets. Maybe this is a wrong assumption on my part, but I think there are a fair number of people who’d overlook someone with that strong of an accent as a non-strategic threat. Add on the fact that he seems so fun and outgoing (while being athletic enough to do cartwheels), and I like his odds. Still, being a “Super Fan” seems like something of a requirement this season—if we’re to believe our faithful host—and, so, Donathan might not be able to skate by like he might’ve done in other seasons.


Prediction: Mid-Jury



Angela Perkins


For being the oldest woman out there, I do like Angela’s chances. The pitfall many women her age fall into is obviously being perceived as a challenge liability, and Angela certainly does not seem to fit that model. That being said, she does seem intense, and while that shouldn’t matter any more than if a male contestant was intense, we do live in a world where gender norms and expectations are real things. If she doesn’t tone it back, she might not be the first gone, but she won’t last long enough to do any real damage.


Prediction: Late Pre-Merge



Michael Yerger


An eighteen-year-old who’s going to lie about his age and seems reserved enough to not go Will Wahl and implode? Okay. I’m intrigued. Now, that being said, the lack of life experience isn’t something that’s easily bullshit-able, and while I like him more than the last teenager to play this game—at least initially—I think he’ll be someone’s pawn in the end, just counting down the days until he doesn’t have to worry about getting constant food again.


Prediction: Mid/Late-Jury



Sebastian Noel


Good at being social, but worried he’s going to be too social? Ugh. I want to hate this dude, and initially, yeah, I do. But he is a “Super Fan,” and I did think this exact same thing about Jay and Devon preseason, and both of them turned out to be two of my favorite male players in recent memory. Is Survivor Seb the next Jay/Devon or the next Drew Christy? Either way, I’ll be pleasantly entertained.


Prediction: Tough… I’m going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Late Game



Jacob Derwin


This dude seems like a nerd. Please, dearest readers, don’t think I’m at all saying that disparagingly. I’m a massive nerd and Jacob talking about all the time he’s spent alone playing games and claiming he could play Survivor… well, let’s just say it resonated more with me than I might have liked. Still, he’s obviously not an overly physical dude even after losing 30 lbs in show prep, and like all non-physical people, that could really bite him in the ass. Fortunately, in tribes of ten, he can hide and bide a little more time for himself. I don’t know if he will, but he’s easily one of my preseason faves.


Prediction: Pre-Merge



Domenick Abbate


Dom (can I call you Dom?), your interview started off so well! A family man who dropped weight and seems like a genuine person, plus you have the age to give context and life experience? Thumbs up! Saying you want to bring creativity like Tony did while adding, at home, when you’re irritable, stay away? Dude. No. No, no, no, no. Just chill, sit back, and try not to snap at anyone.


Prediction: Pre-Merge



Kellyn Bechtold


Two masters degrees, married, divorced, and only thirty? Life experience: check. You’re self-aware enough to note you’re not the fittest person out there and therefore you need to find a nice, safe place in the middle to hide out until the Merge. Strategy: check. You say you’re super empathetic and connect with people well? Social game: check. On paper, I like it. Why, then, was I just kind of annoyed with her whenever she spoke, qualifying everything like she was already stepping on eggshells? Maybe I’m wrong, but…


Prediction: Pre-Merge



Libby Vincek


There’s one every season, but let’s all welcome the hot, boring (usually blonde) player! Julia was a massive surprise with this archetype, and maybe Libby will be, too. From her little interview though, I just couldn’t care any less. Still, athletic, hot, social. You’ll make the Merge barring a catastrophe in tribal challenges.


Prediction: Mid-Jury



Chris Noble


Ah. Mister Pretentious. I knew there’d be at least one of you in there. When he was dropping brand names of companies he’s modeled for, I got the impression that he normally gets a lot of stunned, open-jawed looks from ladies he’s trying to pick up. That’s super for him. But you seem to have zero humility, and being too type-A isn’t going to help you. Yes, you’re athletic, but that’s only helpful for the first half of the game. Let’s hope you’re a good socially as you claim. I doubt it.


Prediction: Early-Jury



Chelsea Townsend


Maybe it’s how calm her interview sounded; maybe it’s how she seemed self-aware about her loyalty and how that could play against her; maybe it was because she’s a young attractive girl who didn’t mention flirting; and maybe it’s some combination therein. One things for sure though, I like Chelsea a lot more than I figured I would like a former NFL/NBA dancer. In fact, I'm going to set the bar high.


Prediction: Late Game


Stephanie J.

Stephanie Johnson


She wants to be remembered as brightly colored. She describes herself as a triple threat. She describes herself as loud. Friends, those of you who’ve read my posts the past few seasons can probably see some semblance of theme for players I do like and players I do not like. I’m pleased she’s wanted to do this for seventeen years, but, everyone, please politely guess where this woman fits into my like/dislike column. Here’s a hint.


Prediction: Early Boot



Laurel Johnson


Wow. This woman seems all over the place. On one hand, a “Super Fan” who’s a Yale graduate and played D-1 sports is an interesting horse to back. On the other hand, her social game seems like it may be… questionable. Never come onto Survivor and say you’re not there to make friends, because you come off as too much of a game-bot and not a human being. Bots don’t win Survivor, only humans do. Also, you practiced lying to your boyfriend and friends? I… I don’t know what to say to that.


Prediction: This is almost as hard as Hali in Game Changers… I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt as say Early/Mid-Jury.


Stephanie G.

Stephanie Gonzalez


If recent trends continue, being able to connect more with men than women might actually help Stephanie. Sure, there are some girly girls out there, but if she can find a man or two who she can manipulate while simultaneously hide behind once the Merge hits, I like her chances. Getting to the Merge might be sort of tough, however. I don’t like the fact that she says she’s stubborn and spontaneous, because that rarely bodes well, but coming to the States at thirteen and learning English is a cool story. She might be a nobody, she might be a power player, but at least off the bat, I’m rooting for her.


Prediction: Late Pre-Merge



Brendan Shapiro


Who’s ready for a little bold prediction? Brendan is going to win. I know I’m due for someone I pick preseason to crash, burn, and not even make the Merge after Sarah’s win and Chrissy’s FTC finish, and Brendan, if I’m cursing you, so be it. I just like the fact that this dude is old enough to have perspective, seems like a genuinely kind soul, and who’s wanted to play for sixteen years. He’s like a benevolent Andrew Savage with a better head on his shoulders and the common sense to not be a douche… I hope. Regardless…


Prediction: Preseason Winner Pick



James Lim


A Harvard sprinter? Okay, I’m into that. Furthermore, he seems genuinely into getting to know people out there, listening to their stories, and learning why they’re out there. Another huge check in the positive column. Also, despite never camping, I’m super into the fact that he did YouTube research so at least he’ll have some semblance of survival skills when he gets out there. I will say, however, he doesn’t seem like the most social guy, and I have a hard time seeing that sort of person winning the million. Still, I like what I see and I hope he does well.


Prediction: Mid-Jury



Jenna Bowman


Jenna, Jenna, no! You were doing just fine (more or less)! Then you had to bring up flirting… To be fair to her and a lot of the women out there, I’m sure this is just a question production asks in these interviews. I just don’t like that it’s added either. Also, no filter, who’s worse when she’s hungry? I don’t know about you Jenna. Maybe you’ll surprise. Or maybe…


Prediction: Pre-Merge



Wendell Holland


Another “Super Fan.” This one, however, seems like there’s some potential. He seems outgoing, nice, genuine, and in shape enough to get by in challenges without having to worry about seeming overly threatening once the Merge comes around. He says his weakness is being too vocal or being a leader, and while that does seem like it may clash with some of the other gentlemen this season, he does seem charming enough to be able to hold together a trustworthy alliance deep into this game.


Prediction: Late Game



Morgan Ricke


She’s got a dope job. Yes, the movie Blackfish is hard to watch, but still. Neat. Anyway, she seems like she’ll be safe in the pre-Merge due to her swimming ability, but talking loudly can grate people the wrong way. After all, it can just take one thing to annoy yourself out of the game. Although she did mention flirting (which is a trope reserved almost exclusively to women in Survivor interviews—something I’m not super stoked on), I think her swimming ability might be able to carry her just far enough that she can be relevant.


Prediction: Early Jury



Bradley Kleihege


A twenty-five-year-old law student? Wow. That’ll be me this time next year. Or, at least, the law school part. I think the fact that he’s calling people “simple,” however, does not bode well. Picking at people and taunting them, especially complete strangers, also seems like a black mark against this guy. Frankly, I think he’s a long shot to make the Merge given how particular he is with people he can talk to and the fact he’s not as strong as many other men this season, and I’d be stunned silent if he won. Not a fan.


Prediction: Early Boot



Desiree Afuye


Firstly, my friend, you’re far too young to be anything close to Cirie and the life experience she used to work her way into stardom. However, you do seem chill and pretty personable, and given how high strung some of your fellow cast members are, you being laid back might be a breath of fresh air that allows folks to overlook you until it’s too late. I think you might not win, but could you make it far? Could you even sit at the FTC? Yeah, honestly, I think you could—and, honestly, I really hope you do.


Prediction: Late Game




Stephanie J., Bradley, Jenna, Jacob, Domenick, Kellyn, Angela, Stephanie G.



Morgan, Chris, Laurel, James, Donathan, Libby, Michael


Late Game:

Desiree, Sebastian, Wendell, Chelsea, Brendan


There you have it, dearest readers. My thoughts and prediction might they all be horrifically wrong? Sure. I’m due for something like that, after all. Until then, however, let me know what y’all think of this cast!






Dan Otsuki - It's Kind of a Funny StoryDan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.

Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki