Survivor: Caramoan Power Rankings
Week 13
By Ben Willoughby
May 7, 2013

I still say this is Phillip's game to lose!

It’s the last week of Survivor already! Not that this season hasn’t dragged on for longer than the hockey season already, but I thought we had an extra week to go given that we still have six castaways left and presumably only three of them will be around at the bitter end. So only five short days to go until I can forget all of the “fans” and almost all of the “favorites”. Just like they were before the season started!

Here is how I rate the remaining castaways’ chances of winning the million dollar check and the title of Ultimate Survivor:

6. Sherri

I’ve put Sherri as least likely to win – behind even Eddie! – because while I think it’s likely she’ll be taken to the end, I don’t think she’ll win a single vote.

On paper, Sherri doesn’t have a bad story to tell. She put together the dominant “fan” alliance, which ran the show over Reynold and Eddie’s objections. She was probably the one “fan” who knew anything about Survivor. After the merge, she was outnumbered and had to switch up strategies. She joined the dominant alliance, and worked her way up with people like Phillip until she became part of the decision-making group. And she’s there at the very end. That’s what being a Survivor is all about.

But it’s not a story that’s going to sell well to a jury. Reynold and Eddie see themselves as underdog heroes, and aren’t going to vote for their version of the wicked witch figure. However dysfunctional the Stealth R Us alliance was inside, the favorites all committed to a group strategy where a “favorite” would get the win.

The only person on the jury who could conceivably vote for Sherri is Michael, and he seems like the kind of guy who’d vote for the best player. Would Michael think that is Sherri, the person who led her alliance to several consecutive immunity losses and then didn’t vote with him when his alliance made a move? Highly doubtful.

5. Eddie

Eddie is an easy target for the next vote. He is the last of the Three Amigos, and even if he is the Martin Short of the bunch, the former Stealthers would be worried that he would win votes from Malcolm, Reynold, Michael and maybe even Andrea. Even three votes for Eddie could be enough to win. I personally think this is unlikely, because everyone knows Eddie is a complete boofhead and no-one really respects his game. I mean, a vote from Reynold’s a given, but we haven’t seen Eddie give an original thought all season. Do we really see players like Malcolm and Andrea voting for Eddie when all his answers will be based on what Probst said at the last Tribal Council?

But before we get there, Eddie’s an easy target who everyone else can agree to vote off well before we get to the pointy end of the game. Eddie needs a challenge romp to make it to the end. Unfortunately for Eddie, the last immunity challenge is always about mind-over-matter.

4. Erik

Erik’s “last minute, go with my gut, ignore that my gut has crap for brains” decision making process has gotten him this far in the game. In his mind, Erik has played a swing vote, under-the-radar strategy. The problem for Erik is that no one aside from him is thinking he’s playing that way. They all dismiss him as the “ice cream scoop guy who gave away his idol” who doesn’t talk strategy with anyone. The most repeated phrase this season wasn’t “Phillip’s tiresome and delusonal” or “Brandon is a nutbar, there’s just no way around it.” It was “this is a clutch vote and I can’t believe I’m trusting Erik, of all people.”

Even if Erik comes out at Tribal Council and proceeds to explain the simple methodical strategy he used to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone, they’ll all think he’s full of it. If they didn’t believe it in-game, they’re not going to be swayed by a 30-second jury speech.

Erik has some chance to make it to the end through being an available vote, but that role has been usurped by Sherri in recent weeks. I think that ultimately he will be seen as too unreliable to keep around. Everyone’s getting close to the end now, and believing the million dollars is almost within their grasp. That means conservative play, and going with people that (a) you think you can beat at the end and (b) you can predict, rather than people who might surprisingly vote for you. Sherri is both of these. Erik is only the first one.

3. Brenda

Brenda was non-existent in the season for the first nine weeks of the show, and only came to prominence when she rescued Dawn’s mouthguard from the bottom of a lagoon. Not since Brett (who?) from the Samoa season (and I know this hasn’t triggered your memory) has anyone made it this far in the game with such little screen time. The editing alone makes me think that Brenda doesn’t have a chance of winning.

However, Brenda is also the name brought up again and again these days as a threat to win. Andrea wanted Brenda out. Obviously the players haven’t seen the absence of Brenda footage, but from their perspective she is a strong competitor in challenges who went the wrong way out of the gate, but successfully worked her way back into the main alliance after being on the wrong side without betraying or upsetting anyone.

Brenda is also an easy target to go after because it will be easy to get everyone to agree she should go. While she hasn’t got up in anyone’s grill, we haven’t seen her form any close relationships. Most of what we saw of Brenda outside of challenges was sucking up to Phillip, but Phillip isn’t around anymore. After the mouth guard incident, Brenda seemed closer to Dawn than Dawn did to Brenda. And until last episode, we had never seen her as part of the core vote-planning group. If Brenda’s name comes up again, who is going to defend her, or deflect the heat to someone else? I don’t see Brenda as being in a strong position to make it to the end. Her best chance is a challenge tear.

2. Dawn

Now we're finally at the people who have a chance of winning. Dawn is probably the most complicated Survivor player this season. Everyone likes Dawn. No one really wants to go to the end with her because everyone likes her. But because half the people out there in Caramoan think they have this super-close relationship with their BFF Dawn, they dish their super-secret plans, ask if she wants in and then get hurt when she votes against them. So if they’re hurt, is anyone going to vote for her?

Everyone respects Dawn as a player. And we’ve seen Dawn make some excellent plays. She’s the reason Corinne’s plan to form a new alliance was snuffed. She had Malcolm fooled enough for him to approach her to try it over again. But the mental pressures on Dawn have been tougher than on anyone else. That’s why she’s crying all the time. That’s why she’s talking about quitting the game over a lost mouth guard. So we get players saying that Dawn doesn’t have “true grit,” is mentally weak and that she’s desperate enough to turn on anyone. And making approaches because they think she’s on the bottom of her alliance. Do the people on the jury truly respect her game?

And looking forward to this week’s Survivor episode? Brenda telling Dawn that Cochran should be next. If past behavior is any guide, this means that Dawn will tell Cochran and Brenda will be going next.

Ultimately, I think Dawn will have had too many hands on too many knives to do well in front of a jury. Jurors like to vote for aloof strategists who order the votes from on high rather than the poor foot-soldiering sod who actually did the information-gathering grunt-work to make it possible. I would actually love to see Dawn own this in front of a jury – that she is the better player, who fooled Corinne, who fooled Malcolm, who enabled her alliance into a dominant position, and who (if she makes it to the end) controlled the end-game. But I don’t think we’ll see that. I think we’ll see apologizing and few votes.

1. Cochran

I think Cochran’s going to win it. In fact, I’m 90% sure that if he gets to the end, Cochran’s going to win it. It may seem cruel and self-flagellating, but I think we all have to mentally prepare ourselves for the phrase Cochran: Ultimate Survivor.

Cochran’s been getting the best edit by far. Not only is he the go-to guy for any “what Survivor means to me” interview, but he’s also the only person we see talking objectively about strategy and playing the game. It’s a big change from his first season when he was depicted as being constantly put down by everyone on his tribe for being a useless weakling. It’s setting him up as being a winner who we should all be happy with.

Not that I think Cochran has been playing especially badly or would be a particularly undeserving winner. He was a core member of Stealth R Us from the near-beginning, and he has worked hard on his social game – building relationships within his alliance like Phillip and Andrea, and being the facilitator for discussions between his sub-alliances and outsiders.

And he was involved in every key booting that kept the alliance in control of the game without anyone getting angry at him. Sure, once Dawn leaked the relevant information to her alliance, they were obvious plays – “vote out Corinne”, “vote out Malcolm” – but it was him and Andrea who we saw deciding on the plans and then executing them. And they were executed as well as any bootings we’ve seen in the game, with no defections from an alliance that was really too big in the first place.

Cochran even won two immunity challenges. Sure, one was food and the other was through an advantage but it’s two more than anyone would have thought coming into the season. Probst turning up at Tribal Council pantsless is more likely.

Cochran’s main challenge will be getting to the end. He can’t win immunity a third time, can he? A lot depends on Dawn and whether she decides to turn on him. We’ve seen then have a close alliance through the game, and I think in the clutch Dawn will stick with him. Does she want to go to the final Tribal Council having betrayed her closest ally? Plus everyone likes Dawn, and she probably thinks she can beat him.

After tonight’s episode, come back for the recap, and then again next week for the recap of the finale, followed by a recap of the reunion, where all your burning questions of Survivor: Caramoan will be answered, including “They’re not really going to give Brandon Hantz more camera time, are they?” As well as the How Well Do You Know Survivor: Caramoan quiz on Survivor week!