Survivor: Cagayan Preview
Brains, Beauty and Brawn
By Jim Van Nest, Survivor Analyst
February 25, 2014

Pick the ex-NBA player and win a prize. Hint: he's the tall one.

Guess who's back? Back again. Shady's back. Tell a friend! Okay, I'm not Slim Shady, but I am Jim Van Nest and I'm thrilled to be back in the driver's seat for our (by my count) 27th season of Survivor Recaps here at Box Office Prophets! I don't know what's more insane: that Survivor is on its 28th season, or that BOP has recapped 27 of them! At any rate, I'm happy to be back and we're going to kick off this season with a Cagayan Preview and maybe some predictions!

Let's talk about the season first. This season, the old gimmick is that we'll start with three tribes of six people each. The new gimmick is that the tribes are broken up by the skill set they bring to Survivor. They're either strong, challenge beast types (Brawn), smart, mastermind, puzzle master types (Brains) or the flirty, beautiful people (Beauty). After studying the cast, I have to say that it almost seems like the BBB concept was thought of after most of the cast was chosen. Several of these people seem like they could be in multiple tribes, but due to formatting got pigeonholed into just one. But that's me; I could turn out to be dead wrong. Other changes for this season are that the abomination known as Redemption Island is NOT in play. So, once again, fire will represent your life in this game. Once your fire is gone, so are you! Maybe I'm just old and fear change, but I hate the RI addition and am thrilled that it's gone for this season. There are also some rumors floating out there about hidden idols: the number of them, where/when they'll be found and how you can use them. But, I'll let that play out over the course of the season!

I do, in a way, like the idea of labeling the people before the game even begins. I think it adds a layer to the thought process out there. Do I accept my label as a Beauty and revel in it? Or do I go out of my way to prove I can kick ass in the challenges? Do I just accept the role of "dumb jock" as the title Brawn would suggest, or do I try to show that I'm smart and can run the game strategically? Ultimately, the person that can shrug off the label and play their game is likely to be the one to win, but we're all human and it would seem to be our nature to not want to play into the stereotypes. Also, the three-tribe split is interesting from a numbers standpoint. In a two-tribe game, you try to get the numbers going into a merge to pick off the other team. In a three-team game, the numbers aren't there. At some point, you'll have to work with folks from the other tribes, if you're to form a solid alliance that can get you to the end.

So, let's go through each tribe and I'll introduce you to the players. I'm not showing any order of preference here, but I'm going to list them as they are in the show's title. Brains, Beauty and Brawn.


Garrett Adelstein (27, Santa Monica, CA) - A quick look at Garrett's picture and you'd peg him for the Brawn tribe right away. But, you'd be wrong. Garrett is a professional poker player. This means he makes his living by quickly calculating odds and by reading and deceiving people. You'd think a pro poker player would have a huge advantage on a show like Survivor. There has been one other poker player (how can we forget Jean-Robert, right?) and he didn't fare so well. But, he was pretty much a jerk and sealed his own fate. Garrett seems much more likable and he’s in fantastic shape, so challenges should come easy to him. He boasts having spent some 2,000 hours preparing for Survivor. With that kind of prep as well as a poker player's ability to alter strategy on the fly, I think if he can get past the "we have to get rid of the strong guys" portion of the game, Garrett can be a real player this season.

Spencer Bledsoe (21, Chicago, IL) - Wow, right off the bat. We have the "player most likely to get punched in the face." Spencer is a chess champion, a proud American and likes to be "the smartest person in the room." Two of those things are assets, one… not so much. It's one thing to think you're the smartest in the room, another to tell everyone you are. And Spencer is most definitely a "tell everyone you are" kinda guy. He doesn't like stupid people but by reading his profile and seeing his videos, everyone that isn't him is stupid. I give him exactly 127 minutes before his tribe starts to target him as the first vote. He boasts about how his chess training will have him 10 moves ahead of everyone, but I think that will be his downfall. He'll be thinking end game right about the time his tribe mates are writing his name down at Tribal. He was also a cross country runner, so he'll be physically ready for the game, but it will most definitely be the social side that will crush him. I also think, at 21-years-old and having lived a mostly nerdy kind of life, he might end up completely blinded by hot girls in bikinis. Whatever his downfall will be, I expect it to come very early.

"Tasha" Fox (37, St. Louis, MO) - I'll most definitely be rooting for my home town girl, Tasha. Another tribal cross over, Tasha is an accountant now, but did log some time as a St. Louis Rams cheerleader, so she has the beauty thing going on as well. She is a spiritual person, which has been somewhat of a liability in Survivor seasons past, but only if you're obnoxious about it. She doesn't strike me as that type, so I don't expect it to be a factor. Her bio doesn't give a whole lot of info on why she's on the Brains tribe, though she does describe herself as a "jack of all trades.” She describes herself as a "Sandra" type, someone who will do whatever it takes to win. She expects to backstab and lie if she has to. As much as I want the local girl to win, nothing I'm seeing in her bio or video stands out to me as "Survivor Winner" material. Despite what she thinks, she may turn out to be an under the radar type as there are definitely bigger personalities on her tribe. And as they duke it out, she may just fly along as a "vote for hire" so to speak. I'm not sure I see her making the merge, but if she does, she may be the type to make it to the end and be seen as a coat-tail rider.

"Kass" McQuillen (41, Tehachapi, CA) - A self-proclaimed "undefeated attorney", Kass doesn't seem like she'll be making any friends in the game (or with viewers, for that matter). Also, she doesn't seem to care. Describing herself as more cunning and ruthless than 95% of the population, Kass already seems to be on borrowed time. She does have the "mom" look going for her, and if she can play up her look more than her personality, maybe she'll fly under the radar. But hearing her describe herself, I don't think that's happening. One saving grace is that she is on a tribe with Spencer and four other people who think they're smarter than everyone else, so maybe someone else will rustle feathers (see what I did there?) first. Either way, I don't see her making the merge.

David Samson (45, Plantation, FL) - David Samson is currently the president of the Miami Marlins and he appears to be very proud of that fact. He also seems to be more proud of the fact that he negotiated some $350 million out of the city of Miami for a new stadium than he is bummed about the fact that the Marlins haven't been baseball relevant since the 2003 World Series.

Another "smartest guy in the room," David is used to being in charge. Now, as a Survivor fan, he should know that trying to be in charge is often seen as a bad thing, but I'm not so sure that will stop him from telling everyone what to do. While I see some of the other Brains as potentially falling through the cracks and going under the radar, I expect David to jump out front and center and either take control of the game or (more likely) be the first boot from this tribe.

J'Tia Taylor (31, Chicago, IL) - J'Tia is the biggest wild card on this tribe for me. She's a nuclear engineer, so she very well could be the smartest person on the tribe. She's attractive, which could have landed her on the Beauty tribe. However, looking at her bio and watching her video, where she admits to being a complainer, I get the sense that she is going to be confused on the social game. She'll think she's more likable than she actually is. Then again, she could be everyone's best friend. She's likable in her video, but seems like that might go out the window when that first meal sucks. So what I'm saying to you is J'Tia will finish somewhere between 18th and 1st.

Overall, I see a lot of arrogance and a lot of ego on the Brains tribe. This will all be fine as long as they're winning challenges. If they start losing, fingers will point and it could get ugly. I definitely see Garrett as the most likely to go far out of this tribe, with J'Tia and Tasha as dark horses. I really see David, Spencer and Kass as possible pre-merge boots if the Brains go on a losing streak.


Jefra Bland (22, Campbellsville, KY) - Meet this season's pageant queen, Jefra. She was Miss Kentucky Teen USA in 2009 and is now a college student. Jefra claims to be a tough southern girl and judging by some of the things in her family's past (a father's struggle with addiction, as an example) she seems like she is mentally tough enough for this game. I worry that Jefra's game could mirror the last beauty queen on Survivor, Angie Layton. She got close to Malcolm and all of a sudden, they were a pair and she had to go. Jefra needs to play her own game and avoid any perceived hook-ups. I think she can do it. A lot of her game may come down to how well she performs in challenges. This is going to be a very social and very good-looking tribe. Should they lose, they may vote along the "what makes our tribe stronger" lines. As a good southern girl, I expect Jefra to hold her own.

Brice Johnston (27, Philadelphia, PA) - I think I'm going to like Brice and I think the other players will, too. Brice strikes me as someone who can go far. He seems like he'll make life on the island fun and when all things are equal going into a may as well keep the person you like. Brice is going to be a big personality, of that I'm confident. For his sake, I hope his positive attitude can withstand the elements. If it can, he is not only a threat to go far, but to win this game.

Alexis Maxwell (21, Addison, IL) - College student Alexis may be one of the more likable players this season. She also seems the least equipped to play this game. She comes across like she's going to be blindsided by how hard the game is. In fairness, had I been doing this last season, this is exactly how I would have described Ciera based on bio and video. Obviously, I would have been dead wrong, so I could be here as well. I just worry about any girl who comes into the game thinking she's the next Parvati and that she'll flirt her way to the end. That game hasn't worked since Parvati won. Actually, it didn't work until Parvati won and now people are looking for it. I don't expect Alexis to be the first off her tribe, but I don't expect her to last long. I think she'll be a fish out of water and when she ends up on a tribe with Jefra and Morgan and realizes that her looks won't get her far at the beginning, I think she'll struggle for a foot hold in the game and she'll be a pre-merge casualty of "keep the tribe strong."

LJ McKanas (34, Boston, MA) - LJ has a plan to win Survivor. Use strength to win challenges in the early game, charm to make it through the middle game and his brain for the end game. LJ sees himself more as a Brawn, someone not afraid to get his hands dirty. I have a feeling this tribe will be lacking in leadership, which may cause LJ to jump out and take over the setting up of camp, and challenge assignments - the stuff that will make him a leader and an early target as such. He thinks he has the charm to get past this part of the game and I guess that remains to be seen. If LJ can manage to not be branded the "leader" he may have a chance to go far. If not, he'll be kept around until the rest of tribe tires of him and organizes his ouster.

Morgan McLeod (21, San Jose, CA) - Another wannabe Parvati, Morgan has the makeup of the first person off her tribe. She reminds me of Sarah Jones from all the way back in Marquesas, the one who came riding into camp like Cleopatra while everyone else did the work. Morgan figures to use her ample bosom and pretty face to get whatever she wants. Little does she know the other girls on her tribe are also hot, Brice will not be interested and the other guys are good looking as well and I'm sure they've had their share of girls just like Morgan. She claims to have knowledge of construction to help build a shelter and to be adaptive. For her sake, I hope she can adapt because I don't think she'll be able to use her boobs to win on this tribe, so she’d better be able to bring something else to the table or she'll be the dead weight cut loose the first time the tribe loses a challenge.

Jeremiah Wood (34, Dobson, NC) - I didn't have to look at Jeremiah's profile to figure that his best comparison is JT Thomas. You get that when you see him and hear him talk. He’s a good-looking southern boy who has all the outdoorsy skills needed for Survivor. My guess is he'll make himself very valuable to a tribe that may skew a tad lazy. I don't see him jumping up to lead; I just see him jumping up to work. If Jeremiah can find himself a smart player to work with, like JT did in Fishbach, he could go all the way to the end. I could very easily see Jeremiah as the last Beauty standing. Will he do enough to win? I don't know, but I think he'll go very deep into this game.

My concern for the Beauty tribe is that there will be a country club mentality. I worry that Alexis, Morgan and Brice will be more concerned with having an adventure and a good time then they are about building shelter, collecting wood and making fire. I have a feeling this tribe will stay out of Tribal for a while on the back of LJ and Jeremiah. I worry that this could make someone like Brice antsy to start playing the game and that can be a bad thing. I see Jeremiah, Brice and Jefra as the long term threats in this game. I think LJ is a wild card here and despite the beauty, I don't see Alexis and Morgan as making the merge.


Trish Hegarty (48, Needham, MA) - At 48-years-old, Pilates instructor Trish is the oldest person in the cast this season. That being said, I bet her age doesn't come in to play one bit. I like Trish. She's a longtime fan of the show and has submitted many tapes and I like to see someone like that finally get their shot. To hear her tell it, she's one tough chick. While she compares herself to Danni Boatwright, she reminded me a little of Denise Stapley. They're both winners, so either one is good. She just strikes me more like the spark plug that Denise was in challenges and the game. In a regular season, I would think Trish could make the end based on toughness and experience. She'd be the toughest woman on the team and that would make her a huge asset. But, this is the Brawn tribe. I worry for her that despite being stronger than any girl on one of the other tribes, she might be toward the bottom of her own. I definitely expect Brawn to want to keep their tribe as physically strong as possible. That could be bad if Trish can't hold her own in challenges. I think she has the social game for this and she seems pretty smart and she knows the game. If she can make it past the first couple Tribals, I think she can go very far in this game.

"Woo" Hwang (29, Newport Beach, CA) - I like martial arts instructor Woo. He seems very strong and his martial arts training will likely help in in many of the challenges - balance, obstacle course, etc. The one worry I have for him is that he might want to play the game with integrity and loyalty. Those are two of the best traits a person can have out in the world. The problem is, he's not out in the world. He's on Survivor, where the rules have all changed. I fear he'll put his trust in the wrong place and be one of the first blindsides. All that aside, if he's able to get some footing, he could also do quite well. To do what he does, he obviously studies, so he's not stupid. He's in wicked good shape, so he should be a beast in challenges. The only concern here is the social game. He claims he'll be great at it. I guess we'll see.

Sarah Lacina (29, Cedar Rapids, IA) - I like Sarah's chances at this game. She's pretty much a badass. First off, she's a cop. Second off, one of her hobbies is MMA. She is definitely a Brawn. She has a hard working attitude, so she should be useful around camp. She compares herself to Malcolm, of all people, saying that they're both nice but strategic and tasteful. If she's as much fun to be around as Malcolm, she'll most definitely go far. As long as the guys on the tribe don't "bro down,” I think Sarah will easily make the merge and have a good shot at going all the way to the end.

Lindsey Ogle (29, Kokomo, IN) - I don't know about Lindsay. She comes across as a pretty tough girl, but I feel like we've seen her before and that her type (the chick with the crazy dreads and tattoos) hasn't fared well. She says all the right things in her bio, but she seems much more impulsive and potentially self-destructive out there. I worry that she won't be able to hold her tongue and when someone says or does something stupid, she just might call them on it. The Brawn strikes me as the tribe most likely to have huge blowouts and Lindsey might just end up in the middle of that. Because of this potential, I have to rate her as a pre-merge boot.

Cliff Robinson (46, Newark, NJ) - Next up is former NBA star Cliff Robinson. After 18 years in the NBA, he is taking on a new game. As with any professional athlete that makes it on this show, if he's perceived to be very rich, he could end up a casualty because he doesn't "need the money." If he can get past that and he still has some "game" left in him, he could be a huge asset for this Tribe. At 6'10", he could prove to be a challenge beast. Personally, I'm rooting for Uncle Cliff because I appreciated him as an NBA player, but I'm not sure he will be able to make the end. What I'm not so sure about is what kind of strategic game Cliff will bring to Survivor. If he doesn't have any, he's toast.

Tony Vlachos - (39, Jersey City, NJ) - Our final player is another cop, Tony. Tony is quite big. He also likes himself quite a bit. He says he's most like Russell Hantz and Boston Rob. Honestly, I don't think I'll need to see him play to know that he is not the next Boston Rob. I'd wager he's not even Russell. His biggest asset is his strength, but he's on an entire tribe of strong people. Also, he's been a street cop for 12 years. Not sure how he's going to handle it when people don't do what he wants them to do. Tony strikes me as someone that will be deemed expendable. Or even someone that they consider losing a challenge to get rid of. I could be wrong, but I don't see Tony making the merge.

Looking at the Brawn tribe as a whole, I think Trish, Sarah and maybe Woo could have a strong showing and maybe even go very deep into this game. They'll just need to make sure to find their place in the tribe and see if they can get a good foothold. I love that Cliff Robinson is on the show, but I'm not sure that his NBA game will translate to Survivor. I see him making the merge, but being one of the first boots after the merge. I think Lindsay and Tony are dead in the water and won't make it to the merge.

And there you have it, all 18 players in the new season of Survivor: Cagayan, Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn. After going through all the bios and stuff, I actually have less of an idea who will fare well than when I started this Preview. Everyone seems pretty evenly matched and the smallest of things could sway the votes one way or another. One thing's for sure, this season has some big personalities and that always has potential. I look forward to sharing the season with you and I'll be back on Thursday with my recap of the Special Two-Hour Season Premiere of Survivor: Cagayan!! Until then, take care!