Hello, good people! Bet you didn't expect to hear from me so soon, did ya? Seems like I just got finished putting a bow on Season 32 of Survivor in Kaoh Rong, Cambodia. Well, I usually don't have a lot of off-season Survivor content, but something came out a few weeks ago that we here at BOP feel y'all might want to hear about and discuss as we begin the long summer doldrums waiting to make fun of the whole Gen X'ers v Millennials concept.
Survivor Casting Spoilers
Discussing Season 34's All Star Cast
By Jim Van Nest
July 6, 2016
As you may or may not know, I am not a fan of spoilers of my favorite show. I do everything I can to avoid them and when I write my previews and recaps, I am always as spoiler-free as I can be. I don't want to know how it ends. I don't want to know boot orders. I don't want to know who screws over whom. And I certainly don't want to know who wins. There is, however, one exception to my avoidance of spoilers - casting spoilers, especially for All-Star seasons. I love to know as soon as possible who is in the running for a returning spot on the show and I definitely want to know who made the cut. It is under this banner that I come to you today, good people.
In the world of reality TV spoilers, there are a handful (or less) of really reliable ones out there. We've done a roundtable with MissyAE, probably the most notable of Survivor spoilers, here at BOP. But the information that will be presented in this article come from this column over at Inside Survivor. This column, as well as several preceding columns that took us through most of the casting process for this All Star season, was posted up by Survivor Spoiler Extraordinaire - Martin "Redmond" Holmes. He's also in the process of giving thorough introductions to the Season 33 cast, if you want to check them out. Redmond is VERY good at what he does, so if he tells you this is the cast for Season 34's All-Star season, I believe him.
It's at this point that I need to be clear - here there be spoilers. Once I'm done typing this warning, I'll be posting pictures and information on 18 of the 20 Castaways for next spring's All-Star edition of Survivor. If you don't want to see or don't want to know, leave now. I won't be mad. But, if you want to see who we'll get to root for (or against) - please, come on in! Also, at the end of this, there were other players in the mix for this season that just missed the cut. I'll cover some of them at the end as well as let you know who I would take off this cast and who I'd replace them with (of the other names that were leaked).
Oh yeah, one last thing before we get started. This is going to be a 20-player season, but I'll only be talking about 18 people. That's because two of the returnees are from Season 33, which obviously hasn't aired yet. You can click through to the Inside Survivor article and then click through again to see those two people, if you want. I don't want to know who is returning from next season, because it's a good indicator of who does well. Or at the very least, who is memorable. So, I'll leave those two until after Season 33 is finished. All right, enough of my yammering, here they are - your Season 34 Survivor All-Stars!!!
Andrea Boehlke (Redemption Island, Caramoan) - After her stint on Redemption Island, I thought Andrea had an excellent shot to do very well if she ever got the chance to play again. Then she came back for Caramoan (Fans vs. Favorites 2) and actually did poorer than she did in RI (5th in RI, 7th in FvF2). She came into her second stint as a player people weren't too sure about. I think everyone, especially a cast of All-Stars, is going to know that she's a player. When I saw she was included in the cast for this season, I didn't really have much of an opinion. My talk with a couple fellow BOPers has led me to believe we're all pretty "meh" about Andrea's return. She's a sweet girl and an okay player, but she doesn't do a lot to move the needle for us here at BOP, when it comes to ingredients needed to have an awesome Survivor All Star season.
Aubry Bracco (Kaoh Rong) - Ah, Aubry. I knew Aubry would be back, I just didn't think it would be so soon. In my opinion, Aubry played the best game in Kaoh Rong and is the most deserving of a second shot of all the people on her season. She played a fantastic game that may or may not have been too subtle and I worry for her that there may not have been enough of a separation for her to really marinate and grow (as a player) from her first time out. That being said, I'm thrilled that she's going out there again and I can't wait to watch her play. Asking around the BOP lounge, I find that we're all pretty geeked up to see her out there again. She has the potential to do well and provide some stellar play along the way.
Brad Culpepper (Blood Vs Water) - I'll admit that my initial reaction on the inclusion of Brad Culpepper was "meh." And it was the reaction of the rest of my BOP brethren as well. Here's part of the reason why. Brad was part of the audience vote (as was Troyzan - more on him in a bit). The audience overwhelmingly said, "Thanks but no thanks." It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, however, that Jeff managed to get two of his "alpha males" into this cast. Brad wasn't any good at this game, he was a lightning rod who mostly turned off the viewers. But, he was a strong dude, solid in challenges and good in confessionals, which is Jeff's kryptonite - hence his inclusion here. I'll further admit that I've kinda come around on Culpepper, though. He talks a lot. Says what's on his mind. And with some of the other All-Stars here, he could prove to be quite entertaining.
Caleb Reynolds (Kaoh Rong) - There he is. The Beastmode Cowboy gonna give it another whirl. The minute he was med-evac'd from Kaoh Rong, you knew he'd be back. He's tough as nails, a hard worker and everyone loves him. He was on the best tribe in possibly the best position when the heat got the best of him. Caleb is a player, make no mistake about that. For his game, I fear that a cast of All-Stars will recognize his potential and determine that he has to go ASAP. For our television enjoyment, I think he's a fantastic addition to this cast and even though his inclusion is 100% expected, it's very welcome. On a show where people seem to get more and more despicable, he's a good guy and he plays like a good guy and I think American will be rooting for him big time.
Ciera Eastin (Blood Vs Water, Second Chance) - And here's the first person that makes me say, "Ugh - not again." I'm sure I'll get some hate mail for this 'cause people love them some Ciera, but honestly, I think I've seen what she has to offer. She played a solid game the first time around and gets a lot of credit for voting out her mom (even though her vote wasn't needed - her mom was going home regardless) and I was excited to see her get that Second Chance. But she became unbearable out there in Cambodia. Complaints about people "not playing the game" rang hollow as it was really that they weren't playing the game - WITH HER. I don't expect her to get much traction in a new season as people are leery of her and her constant quest for the *air quotes* Big Move. No one can trust that and I don't expect her to be much of a factor in a new all-star season.
Cirie Fields (Panama, Micronesia, Heroes Vs Villains) - Now I'm really gonna sound like a curmudgeon, as I have no desire to see Cirie play again. She was amazing in her first season and practically unstoppable in her second season in Micronesia. But she flamed out of Heroes vs. Villains and I fear the same results for her here. Bottom line, Cirie has a reputation. She's very strategic and can very easily lie right to your face. In my opinion, she peaked in Micronesia and I don't feel like she has much to offer the show in a fourth appearance. Not when there were a handful of awesome one-timers that were in the mix for this season.
Debbie Wanner (Kaoh Rong) - This is probably the least shocking of the casting news. As soon as CBS started having fun with Debbie and her jobs, you knew she was coming back. I wasn't a huge fan of Debbie, but she did show a bit of aptitude for the game in Kaoh Rong. What I wonder, though, is whether or not watching herself on TV gave her any self-awareness. If not, she'll have a hard time with this group. I don't expect this group to tolerate nonsense and it could be similar to Fans vs Favorites 2 when Philip's craziness was not welcomed and he was dumped early on. If Debbie can calm down a bit and take it a smidge slower, she might have some staying power. Again, I wouldn't necessarily have cast her again (more on that later) but she was one of the biggest slam dunks once they decided to go All-Stars for S34.
Hali Ford (Worlds Apart) - And winning the Kelley Wentworth "Who?" award this season will be Worlds Apart's Hali Ford. Even though I included a picture, I have a feeling some of you still won't remember her. She was the No Collar law student who loves the Constitution and named the merge tribe 'Merica. Hali brought very little to the table in her first season as she was overshadowed by Jenn in confessionals and Joey Amazing everywhere else. She has a fantastic opportunity to be the Amber Brkich or Kelley Wentworth of this season. No one will really know how she plays and she could easily slide under the radar and make a couple moves near the end to become a factor. I don't love her inclusion here, but I am intrigued by it. She could definitely be the "where did she come from" player of the season.
Jeff Varner (Australian Outback, Second Chance) - After his short but memorable run in Second Chance, people just ate up Jeff Varner. There was no doubt in my mind he would get a third shot and I'm excited to see what he does with it. He came into Second Chance with a bunch of pre-game alliances and he hit the beach playing WAY hard. Too hard, in fact and he found himself an early boot because of it. My thought here is that he'll have some of the excitement of being back washed away and he'll be able to get down to business. I think he's an extremely likable guy and could possibly make a serious impact on this season. He's one of the few people I can say I'd be excited to see play for the third time.
JT Thomas (Tocantins, Heroes vs Villains) - JT is an odd choice for me. He was the all American golden boy his first season out in Tocantins, when he won the game unanimously and dominated in all facets of the game. He was so good, they brought him back for Heroes vs Villains where he made one of the stupidest moves in the game. If you don't remember, it was JT who had the bright idea to take the Heroes Immunity idol and give it to Russell Hantz during a challenge. The attached note only added insult to injury when Russell made it public after the show. I'm sure JT will be out there for a little redemption after that one. In an odd way, he may have the most motivation to do well, especially for someone who already has a title under his belt. I don't, however, think his southern charm will work on this group, so he'll have to play hard and play smart to stay alive.
Malcolm Freberg (Philippines, Caramoan) - Maybe it's the hair, maybe it's the smile or maybe it's the witty confessionals, but I'm really glad to see Malcolm get another shot. Malcolm had an amazing run in the Philippines, placing fourth, and then he had the play of the season in Caramoan when he used the immunity necklace and two hidden idols to oust Philip. It was a great move for TV, but ridiculously stupid for Malcolm, who came into the next Tribal Council unprotected and went home. That being said, I've felt that there was some unfinished business for Malcolm as far as Survivor goes. He was very solid in the challenges, but unlike Joey Amazing and Ozzy, Malcolm had game. He could read people and he's incredibly likable. He has what it takes to win a season, I just worry that THIS season may see the deck stacked against him as the non-challenge threats (Cirie, Sandra, Ciera) may come for him early.
Ozzy Lusth (Cook Islands, Fans Vs Favorites, South Pacific) - And here we have my least favorite of the 18 inclusions to this All Star cast. Ozzy was amazing in Cook Islands. The way he lived on the island and the way he performed in challenges made him a Survivor legend. He came back a few seasons later and was the same challenge beast but was overtaken by the girls' alliance (including Cirie). His third appearance was South Pacific and was the Coach vs Ozzy season - which still makes no sense. That was a Redemption Island season and Ozzy famously volunteered to be voted out so he could dominate at RI and win his way back into the game, which he did. The problem with Ozzy is that he has a bad social game and no strategic game. He actually started to become straight up unlikable as he tried to get people to do what he wanted them to do. I'm done with watching Ozzy and nothing will make me happier than to see Malcolm dominate him in challenges and Ozzy have an early exit. What do you think about THAT?
Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands, Heroes Vs Villains) - There was some contention among the BOPers on this one. I LOVE that they have the Queen back to defend her throne. As the only two-time winner, she had to come back at some point, right? I'm really stoked to see if she can do it again. I actually think that she can. The dissension came from others thinking that she'd be the obvious first boot as no one in their right mind would let get a foothold in this game, right? But for some reason, I think she'll be able to. Her strategy of "as long as it isn't Sandra" fits perfectly with the attitudes of so many players which is "we can get rid of her later. Let's get the bigger threats out first, then get Sandra." What someone will have to realize is that Sandra is the biggest threat and she should be dealt with immediately.
Sarah Lacina (Cagayan) - This is another one that has me scratching my head. She was part of Tony's Cops R Us alliance in the original Brains/Brawn/Beauty and she was okay, I guess. But she wasn't great or despicable or really even that interesting. I have no idea why they're bringing her back, unless they think they can rekindle Cops R Us. She is, however, another candidate in the Amber/Kelley sweepstakes. She could go unnoticed for a while and if she has any game at all, could emerge as a big threat down the stretch.
Sierra Dawn Thomas (Worlds Apart) - Sierra seems like a really sweet girl and she did last awhile in Worlds Apart. But for someone to last to the final five and not have more of a story, it doesn't make sense why she's coming back. She performed okay in challenges, but had little to no strategic game and an odd social game. She was the outsider quite a lot, but never did anything about it, just kept coasting along in an alliance that she wasn't a major member of. I guess Sierra could have a run in her, but I kind of expect more "meh" from her, just like her last season. She definitely would be on my replacement list.
Tai Trang (Kaoh Rong) - If Debbie was the #1 most obvious inclusion in this cast, Tai is #1a. There's no surprise at all here. It also won't be a surprise when Tai meets an early end to this game. If he proved anything when he played it's that he goes the way the wind blows, which makes him almost impossible to trust. Someone might get the bright idea that they can play to his emotions and that will earn his loyalty, but as we saw last season, his loyalty can switch pretty easy if someone else makes a connection with him. He'll definitely make good TV, but I don't think he'll ever make a good Survivor player. And if he didn't learn anything from watching his season play back, he'll be doomed to repeat it, but with a far less sexy finish.
Tony Vlachos (Cagayan) - And there he is. #TeamTV himself. This is, by far, my favorite casting choice of the season and I can't wait to see Tony get out there and do his thing. I think he's in for a surprise when he gets out there with the quality of play in an All-Star season. He's going to have to reach into his bag of tricks and pull out something other than a spy shack if he wants to succeed here. I do love the idea of Tony and Sandra out there together, possibly on the same tribe. She hated Russell with a passion and I wonder what she'll think of Tony. I can already see these two targeting each other. Whatever happens, this season is bound to be more entertaining with Tony involved, so kudos to CBS for getting him.
Troy(zan) Robertson (One World) - Our final known player is another one that's not on my favorites list. Troyzan was one of the more colorful characters on the female dominated One World season. He felt he got a bad shake on that season and he's been trying to get back ever since. He's one of Jeff's favorites as witnessed by the fact that America did NOT vote him into Second Chance but then he was brought back at the very next possible time. That tells me Jeff really wanted him (and Culpepper) back on the show. My only hope is that he'll prove to be an early casualty to Tony or Sandra as they thin the herd to help us get to an interesting and awesome end game. I don't have a lot to say about Troyzan other than I didn't care for his character the first time and I can't imagine he'll take a less is more approach. I don't see anyone putting up with him for long.
And there you have it, kids, a breakdown of the 18 returning players that we've already seen. Don't forget that two people from this fall's Gen X vs Millennials season will also be included in the cast.
Overall, I like this cast and think it has some amazing potential. However, Redmond had put up a spoiler list of the final round of players being considered and in it, I found a nice handful of changes I would have made to make this a more awesome season.
First off, I'd dump Cirie, Ciera and Sierra. I've seen enough of the first two, and the third gave us very little. I'd replace them with Natalie Anderson (Twinnie!) the winner of San Juan Del Sur, Sophie Clarke (the winner of South Pacific) and Carolyn (Mama C) Rivera from Worlds Apart. Natalie and Sophie are underrated winners who could really inject some life and some strategy in this game. Plus, I'd kinda like to see if Sophie and Aubry (Sophie 2.0) could work together. And Carolyn was not only fun, but she was good at the game. Ultimately, I'm sure they booted Mama C when they made the decision to bring Debbie on board. I'd argue that I'd rather see Mama C there as well. But Debbie could be entertaining, so for me, I'd replace Blue Collar Sierra with White Collar Carolyn.
For the guys, I'd definitely dump Ozzy and Troyzan. This guy made the final cut list and I can't believe they don't have Mike Holloway (winner of Worlds Apart). I would rather see him 150,000% than watch Ozzy again. And I'm just not a fan of Troyzan, so I'd rather see the winner of Survivor Fiji return to the place of his triumph. Earl Cole was in the mix and he was the first unanimous winner on the show and I think he could have been a lot of fun to watch play again.
So, we have an awesome all-star season ahead of us, but I think it could have been MORE awesome if they'd have consulted me before making the final casting decisions. As I was finishing up this article, a new tweet from Redmond (@RedmondSurvivor) posted up a new article spoiling the theme and the title of the new season. You can find this article right here. I won't spoil it within the column here, but you can check it out at this link and you'll be as up to date as you can possibly be!*
That's all I have for you today. You can expect to see me back in a few weeks with the introductions to the S33 cast along with my predictions for the season. Kyle Jason broke my streak on winner picks and I hope to get back in the win column with Season 33.
Love the column? Hate the column? Just want to tell me how much I suck for dissing Ozzy? You can reach out to me on Twitter @vannestjc or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org 'Til next time, kids, take care!