Hello, good people! Can you believe it's that time already? We are one night and a workday away from the premiere of the 31st season of CBS's reality trailblazer, Survivor. As I'm sure everyone is aware, Survivor 31 is officially being titled Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. Twenty people that "America chose" are being given a second chance to finish what they started. I put that in air quotes because yes, America got to vote for the 20 person cast, but we got to choose from a small group of 32 choices, narrowed down by the show's producers. While I'm thrilled to see some players back (hello, Jeff Varner and Stephen Fishbach), this is not my ultimate list of 20 people I'd like to see get a second chance (why do you forsake us all, Greg Buis?)
Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance - Season Preview
By Jim Van Nest
September 21, 2015
The whole hullabaloo surrounding the voting and selection of this Second Chance cast has made the Survivor offseason, especially the pre-game hype, a very odd case. Obviously, there was no "Survivor Cast Reveal Day" for this season, because we all already know who made the cast. There's no getting to know the players as we've seen all of them play before. Granted, a lot of people will need to go to the Survivor Wiki to remind themselves who Monica Padilla and Kelley Wentworth are. What's been very much different this time around is the complete acceptance of the players talking prior to the season and the setting up of pre-game alliances. America was given a few weeks to vote for the cast and in that time, the potential players took to Twitter, Facebook, Rob Has a Podcast and every other available medium to plead their case for inclusion. We all saw that. What we didn't see was all of the back door phone calls being made between the candidates. Working the phones and setting up pre-game alliances was in overdrive, if you're to believe some of the players.
I'm going to do two preview columns for this season - one for each tribe. I'm going to make predictions as I always do and I'm going to do my best to leave all of the pre-game alliance talk out of my predictions. There's so much out there it's hard to know what's real and what's Memorex. So, I'll do my best to analyze the players by what we've seen in past seasons and how I think they'll alter their games for a new season. But before I get to the previews, I feel it's necessary to give my opinion of the cast and how I think America did choosing them.
Overall, I think America did pretty well. There was one HUGE screw-up, one medium size mess-up and a couple tweaks I would make to MY cast. The huge screw-up - and it's viewed this way by SO many people I don't understand how it worked out this way - is Shane Powers. Shane was TV gold in season 12. He was a complete nutball - and I mean that in the absolute best way and as a huge compliment. When I saw the 32 choices, Shane was my #1 for people that absolutely positively HAD to come back. America - you screwed the pooch on this one. Keith Nale - as lovable as he is - should have stayed home while Shane played.
Also on the men's side, a personal preference of mine was Jim Rice from South Pacific. A big strategic mind who had a lot more to offer the game was cut down when Coach pulled Cochran over after the merge on South Pacific. In my perfect cast, Jim Rice replaces Woo Hwang - again, another lovable guy, but not much of a player.
The women's side is where the medium-sized mess-up occurred. I think America missed the boat on Mama C, Carolyn Rivera from Worlds Apart. She played an amazing game on Worlds Apart and I think she would have been fantastic to have on Second Chance. She could take Peih Gee Law's place for me and I'd have been happy. The final change I would have made would have been to put T-Bird Cooper on over Monica Padilla. Maybe it's because I'm old school, maybe it's because I honestly had to look up Monica to even remember what season she was on. I think T-Bird would have been an awesome throwback player to have on and she's been dying for a second chance for 12 years now.
All righty, with that out of the way - let's say we get to the frickin' preview!
We're going to start the preview with the Bayon Tribe. Bayon will be wearing pink/magenta buffs and we'll go through the tribe in alphabetical order.
Andrew Savage - Season 7: Pearl Islands - It's been a long time coming for Andrew Savage. Famously hosed over the horrible Outcast Tribe Twist, Andrew has been waiting a really long time to try to finish what he started. A fierce competitor, but merely average strategist, it's hard to say where Andrew would have finished without the Outcasts, but he definitely would have lasted longer. Andrew was the leader of the outmatched Morgan Tribe. Until they were able to kidnap Rupert, Morgan looked to be one of the worst tribes in Survivor's short history. Rupert helped this tribe turn it around and just when they were getting traction, the Outcasts came back and Savage took a quick trip to be the first boot after the merge. It's hard to say what Savage will do this time out, but he's in a really good place to make a deep run into the game, if he can just fade into the background a bit. With huge physical threats in Jeremy and Joe and maybe the biggest strategic threat in the game, Stephen, someone like Andrew could fly under the radar, IF he'll allow himself to do so. Throw in Chaos Kass and mom-voter Ciera into the mix, and who's going to look at the older guy from 24 seasons ago? I'm just not sure Andrew can take a back seat on his tribe.
Ciera Easton - Season 27: Blood Vs Water - Everyone remembers Ciera as "the girl who voted out her mom." Most people forget that her vote wasn't needed to actually cut the cord on her mother. She did, however, stick with her alliance and cast the historic vote. What people also forget is her making the decision to keep a tie vote and go to rocks. It didn't work in her favor as her alliance-mate pulled the white rock, but the result wasn't what hangs over Ciera's head. It was the decision to pull rocks at all that makes her a massive threat in this game. Probably the smallest person in the game just might be the one with the biggest target on her back. I like Ciera and I think she has a chance here, but she has those two big moves in her past and you have to wonder how the rest of the cast will react to that. There is one other person from her season in the cast, Vytas, but she was on the opposite alliance so I'm not sure he'll be thrilled at the prospect of working with her. She is going to have to go out of her way to prove to people that she's trustworthy. I think she CAN do it, but I'm not so sure she will. I worry that she'll be cut off early.
Jeremy Collins - Season 29: San Juan Del Sur - A physical, strategic and social threat, Jeremy Collins was a victim of the Blood vs Water format. In the very first episode, he was thrown up against his wife and after beating her, sending her to Exile Island, I don't think he ever recovered. He was one of the small handful of people on his season who knew the game and had a plan on how to play it. And losing Val right off the bat made it pretty tough on him. Jeremy was right out in front on his season and he let everyone know he was a player, which was ultimately his downfall. Jeremy has everything it takes to not only go far, but to win this season. He'll have to calm down his personality a little bit and get a break or two, but he has the skill to win this game. If he can fade into the background and let someone like Savage take the reins of the tribe, he might be able to skate through to the merge and that's when he could take over and make his run. He is one of the people I'm the most excited to see play as I think he was hurt by his season's format and could have made some huge noise in just a regular season. We'll just have to see how everyone else sees his reputation.
Joe Anglim - Season 30: Worlds Apart - As soon as his name was listed as a candidate, everyone in America knew McGuyver Joe would be back. With his good looks, charm and the wicked awesome man-bun, Joe took Worlds Apart by storm. There was nothing he couldn't do. He started fires, he built shelters and he created fake immunity idols that the Survivor props department took notes on. He was a challenge beast, both the physical challenges and the puzzle challenges. From what we saw last season, Joe can do everything but actually play the game of Survivor. As much as he dominated the survival and challenge portion of this game, he could not figure out the social/people portion of the game. He had a nice bond with his No Collar tribe mates - but the trio of Hali, Jenn and Joe were no match for the other, more seasoned players on the Blue and White collar tribes. Joe is a goner. I love the guy and thought he was great TV. But if any of these people, after watching Mike Holloway win challenges all the way to the end, choose to keep Joe in the game - well, they deserve what they get. Ciera has a big target on her back, but Joe probably has the biggest. His hope is to hook up with the other strong challenge threats and see if they can't form some sort of alliance to try to save each other.
Kass McQuillen - Season 28: Cagayan - Chaos Kass is back! And while she's been photographed many times carrying her copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People", I'm not totally sure she's actually reading it. Kass was the wild card in her Cagayan season that forced winner Tony Vlachos to speak llama! Kass was a force to be reckoned with on her season, as she would turn on anyone at any time for any reason. She was definitely a villain on her season and I know there will be a lot of people who absolutely hate that she's back on the show. I was not a fan of her game the first time around, but I have to admit, I'm kind of excited to watch her wreak havoc on a new cast. I fear, however, that I'll have to get all my Kass quotes early as she will be targeted quickly. We learned last time that Kass does actually know the game quite well and she excels at creating...well...chaos and that worked for her all the way to the final three. What we'll have to see this time is whether or not she really DOES know how to play this game and if she can change her focus to winning the game instead of simply messing up other people's games. One thing's for sure - life on Bayon will definitely be must see TV as long as Kass is in the game.
Keith Nale - Season 29: San Juan Del Sur - "Stick to the plan." You can't talk about Keith and not bring it up. Hell, he can't even talk about Survivor without bringing it up. This declaration at Tribal Council clued (eventual winner) Natalie into what was happening and she talked golden boy Jon into playing an idol that put a dagger in Keith's alliance. Now, Keith himself managed to go on to finish in fourth place with a legitimate claim to winning the game if he could have just won one more challenge. That all being said, Keith had no idea how to play this game when he started. I'm honestly not sure he knows the game any better now. He's just a good ol' boy who everyone likes. And despite winning several challenges during his season, I don't think he'll be seen as a threat. Especially not with Jeremy, Joe, Savage and Tasha on this tribe. I think there's a good chance that Keith might be able to "aw shucks" his way deep into this game.
Kimmi Kappenberg - Season 2: The Australian Outback - Ah, Kimmi. She loved chickens, didn't bathe enough for Mike Skupin and Alicia will ALWAYS wave her finger in that face. Never in a million years did I think I'd be sitting here talking about Kimmi Kappenberg coming back on to Survivor. Kimmi was a trip her first time out in Australia, but she was not very good at this game. She created a bond with the tribe's food source while alienating herself from her tribe mates. I guarantee you, she would have won Survivor: Chicken Island. Has she lightened her stance on this issue? Because you know there will be some chickens involved at some point. Can she maneuver her way through a whole new style of Survivor player? Will she be able to get past Jeff Varner, who she helped eliminate all those years ago? She's highly motivated to do well. I'm just not sure that Kimmi has what it takes to make it the 39 days and outlast all of these super hungry players. I'm seeing an early boot for Kimmi.
Monica Padilla - Season 19: Samoa - For those out there who aren't quite sure who Monica is, she was one of the Galu alliance that fell victim to the Russell Hantz led Foa Foa 4 back in Samoa. Her biggest moment was telling Russell that if he voted her out, she would go to the jury and guarantee that he got no votes to win the game. I think we all know that Russell doesn't need any help not getting jury votes so I'm not exactly sure what Monica's contribution was to that season and why the Producers felt she was deserving of the vote to come back. That being said, I seem to recall feeling the same exact thing about Amber Brkich and All-Stars. And no matter what you think about All-Stars - Amber's name is on the trophy. So, I think Monica is someone to be very worried about. People will not be able to play her. They'll go after the threats that they know and at the end of the day, someone like Monica could very easily be the last woman standing.
Stephen Fishbach - Season 18: Tocantins - One of the more intriguing people on this season, Stephen Fishbach comes in as the only player to make the final tribal council in a final two and receive no votes to win. He was the brains behind his alliance with JT; the one Coach Wade dubbed "The Wizard." He engineered one of the most dominant two-person alliances in the history of the game and for his trouble? He got no votes. I'll suggest that this result was more because people just had a crazy love affair with JT. They were practically begging him to take their money. Stephen did the heavy lifting and JT reaped the benefits. In the time since they dominated, Stephen has written a weekly blog for People.com about Survivor and has been co-hosting a very popular Survivor podcast with fellow Survivor brain, Rob Cesternino. Though he played seven years ago, Stephen has never left the community. Everyone out there knows Stephen and they know what he's capable of. The question for him is whether or not someone will actually decide to play with him. Almost every person in their pre-game interviews mentions him and several of them are worried about him. If Stephen can find an alliance, he could be deadly. If not, he could follow his buddy Rob's path and be an early boot in this all-star season.
Tasha Fox - Season 28: Cagayan - Wrapping up the Bayon tribe is former Brain and my hometown girl, Tasha Fox. Tasha spent the first half of her season frustrated with the futility of her Brains tribe. They couldn't win a challenge, they threw their rice on the fire and half the tribe didn't want to talk strategy. When the tribes finally swapped, she was left with only Spencer and Chaos Kass - both of whom are on this season with her. Tasha's second half was spent dominating challenges. Not the domination she expected...she was expecting to dominate with her strategy. She could never get a foothold in the post-merge game and she could never fully trust her own alliance. In an interesting twist of fate, she was one challenge away from Kelly Wigglesworth's female challenge record - and now the two will face off in Cambodia. I can't wait to see what Tasha can do with some actual players. She had a plan that blew up by day three in Cagayan - I want to see her play her game and see how it works out. Her strength in challenges as well as her desire to play the game will keep her in the game for a while. I think she easily makes the merge, the jury and maybe more.
And there we are...the Bayon tribe for Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. Predicting this season is going to be really rough. I can make a case for almost every one of these people to win the game. Assuming a Final 3 and nine person jury, that means eight people will not make the jury. Could be more, could be less, but I'll go with that. So, on this tribe...I'd say that Joe, Chaos Kass, Kimmi and Ciera will the pre-merge boots and will not be datable. I think the other six make it with Jeremy, Monica and Tasha lasting the longest. How will they fare in my pre-season predictions? Well, you'll just have to wait until tomorrow when I break down the Ta Keo tribe. I'll give you the last 10 players and then go ahead and give you my finale predictions as well as my winner pick. Until tomorrow, take care!