Survivor 28 – Merge Report, Winner Picks and Why Jeff’s Twists Need To Quit
HOLY HELL. Have you been watching Survivor this season? We’re already and the merge mark and, no joke, this season is shaping up to be a Top 5 Season of ALL TIME candidate. Seriously. It feels like a belated April Fools Day joke (coincidentally – the day I actually sat down and wrote a good chunk of this article before my general life distraction got in the way), but this 28th season of Survivor has managed to be non-stop phenomenal. Which is all the more impressive when you consider all the bad signs going in. I mean – look at all the twists. And the stunt casting. And the fact that it was filmed in some bizarro world where Survivor steals ideas from Allison Grodner’s Evil Workshop of Evilness. But, yet, here we are.
So, what is it about this season that is making it so amazing? Firstly, the casting has been top notch. Out of the eighteen players, all of them have delivered and deserved their spot to some degree. Even the more anonymous Mactor-types have brought us either sleazily scattershot gameplay (Jeremiah) or been delightfully disdainful (Morgan). The editors has helped this by really bringing their A-Game this year and giving us equal time to get to know each contestant and nicely setting up both their game and reasons they left. Pretty much every boot so far has left us with a lasting impression of who they were as a character and been memorable to some degree (J’Tia, Garrett and Brice in particular were all TOP NOTCH casting).
Also, not having returning players has really let these newbies shine. The thing that Probst and the suits at CBS never seem to get is that yes, while we love watching big characters being brought back, what we love even more is watching a fair fight. Keep the All Stars to All Star seasons. AWESOME. Heroes vs Villians is and probably always will be the single greatest season of a competitive reality tv show EVER. But arbitrarily mixing in a couple of returning players into a pool of newbies is never fun to watch, because it’s an unfair fight – it’s like watching the Boston Red Sox take on your local Little League. Sure, it’s exciting for a few minutes seeing big hitters in your hometown, but there’s no thrill in watching the game, no actual drama. Because the logistical advantage of being a returning player is too great.
The fact that the few seasons where the new player has totally owned the game (Guatemala and South Pacific come to mind), they’ve totally hidden the winner’s story and focussed on the returnees. If this kind of format is ever going to truly work, you’ve got to do it right – people LOVE the story of David vs Goliath. But you know what they DON’T care about? The story of how Goliath is really just a self-entitled asshole who was never that great to being with, and ends up gettng arbitrarily slain by some nameless townsperson who is a basically glorified extra. Which is especially upsetting considering Danni and Sophie both played Top Tier games that were deliberate and calculated (see our Ultimate Survivor Winner Ranking article HERE) – all the things that we should respect in a Survivor winner. I mean – what’s the point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars casting a TV show if you’re not even going to pay attention to two thirds of the people in the first place? It has all the dramatic momentum of watching a bad slasher flick.
Anyway, enough of THAT rant – let us go back to the land of Cagayan, where comedy accents are plentiful and everybody is getting thinner but their chests are magically staying the exact same size. With tribes evenly divided and no one faction in power (thanks to the three tribe twist which, as with in Philippines, is proving to be the safest bet yet to ensure the kind of continued alliance instability and fluid gameplay that is the mark of all the greatest seasons), all signs point to a complete clusterfuck of a post merge – and what more could we really want as viewers?
So, based purely on the editing (i.e. what we’re being shown on air versus what’s getting left behind in the excellent weekly CBS Insider deleted scenes, and also what we glean from the press exit interviews), lets break down our official winner picks for season :-
WHO? Seriously. Nice guy. Great Footwear. No chance of winning the game. Even if Operation : Ninja Stealth Mode comes off as well as the previews indicate, his edit isn’t reflecting this. He could be the next boot or he could end up WOO-MMUNITY’ing his way into the F4 or 5, but there’s no million dollar cheque in Woo’s future. Woo is a great guy with some clearly solid Survivor skills, but we’re not being shown it. Like his challenge winning strategy to wear shoes in the last immunity challenge, his game is there, but it’s not deemed important in the long run.
VERDICT – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Woo. Probably makes it through one more week due to a Challenge Win or a well played idol, but he’ll be gone soon.
It kills me to put the sole member of Cops’R’Us so low in the rankings, because dude is both playing a stellar game and is great TV, but the tale we’re being told is not one of How Fat Tony Succeeded In Survivor Business By Really, Really Trying. It’s more one of how the mooted star of JSPD (like NYPD, but on the Jersey Shore) played his ass off, but couldn’t keep his mouth shut. While the exit interviews are revealing that his gameplay wasn’t perceived as obnoxiously one note and OTT as we see, the edit isn’t reflecting that. For sure, he’s one of the stars of the season and a well deserved shoe-in for the next batch of returnees, but he’s portrayed as a human Looney Tune cartoon. And this particular WB drawing has spent all season with a giant flashing neon sign scrawled above his head letting us know he’s going to overplay his way out of the game.
VERDICT – This cop is on Jury Duty, no question. Tony is playing a game with more enthusiasm and more out of the box intelligence than anyone has in a long time, but his inability to keep it to himself is going to get him a one way ticket on the Ponderosa Express.
Now, the first of our two former cheerleaders is in a different boat all together. Sometimes, with winners, the surest editing giveaway is disproportionate attention and credit given to inconsequential things. Two-time winner and apparent GREATEST SURVIVOR OF ALL TIME Sandra Diaz Hyphen Twine being a prime example. And the flip side to this is when the people playing the best game (especially when they’ve got as TV friendly personalitys as Boris & LaTasha here) are given no on-screen acknowledgement. Up until this past vote, Tasha has RULED this game and every tribe she played on. She’s been at the centre of every single voting majority that has been assembled for any given week. But, while this has been acknowledged in passing, we’re not getting any real attention to it. And we’re talking about a woman with Cirie Fields level skillz here, so that’s the reddest editing flag you’ll ever see. Tasha has been absolutely central to every single move in this game but we’re just not being told her story. While her confessional this week about the Kass and Sarah fight was 100% game logic and something we were meant to agree with, the confessional from Kass that follows showed she missed out on the key part of reading her comrades correctly and keeping her alliance happy.
Two scenes in particular also stand out that Tasha is not our winner. The first is back in the premiere during Garrett’s cult leader speech – while her reaction was completely warranted, the “I JUST WANT TO STRATAGIZE” rant was shown as being so desperately hysterical that the editors went as far as to subtitle it, in case we missed it. While part of this was to set up Garrett’s boot later on, it was also used to highlight a player that was emotional and lost her cool. The other editing sore thumb is last weeks Idol Hands challenge – there’s a voiceover in her round to the effect of “Tasha goes to make a big move BUT FALLS SHORT” that is so specific and prominent and out of place that it could only have been inserted as foreshadowing. Top Tip to those trying to read edits in future seasons – the lines selected for these challenge voiceoevers more often than not tie in with that players fate in the game overall. If you go back and watch older seasons you’ll realize how obvious they are in hindsight. Also, the amount of uncalled for Kass-hate she’s been endorsing on Twitter this week is NOT the kind of thing a woman who survives a setback like this would indulge. Like the force, the Bitterness is strong in this one. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s the next boot based on how insubstantial her editing content is in proportion to her actual game – Kass is most likely to flip flop a few more times before the game is out, but she’ll probably stick with Tony & Co for one more boot first, and Tasha is the real threat in the new minority.
VERDICT – Tasha is the kind of player with the skills to win a lot of seasons of Survivor. Unfortunately, this season isn’t one of them. Probably the next boot or two, particularly as idol blowback if Nu-Solana gets the Ty-dol or the first (and possibly only) casualty of the Nu-Solana + Kassalliance, but F5 at BEST.
Oh Spencer! How I root for this scrappy little Survivor Nerd. If anyone is meant to be seen as an audience hero this season, it’s our favourite Bobby Fisher in Training. So why don’t we have him higher up on our Winner Picks? Mostly it’s because Spencer, while easily being one of the most likeable characters of not just the season but of a post-Samoa Survivor world in general, is the focus of pretty much our favorite Survivor Drinking Game EVER. Have you played it? It’s really easy (like – Parvati levels of easy). Basically, pick an episode and wait for Spencer to have a confessional where unequivocally states a fact about how the game is being played. Sounds easy, right? Then, take a swig every time the editors follow this statement of fact with a scene completely contradicting Spencer’s straight-faced assessment of the situation. You’ll be plastered faster than Fairplay at a Reward Challenge. Let me be clear – I LIKE Spencer. I would actually very much like a Spencer Win. But no winner in Survivor History has ever been so repeatedly mocked by the editors, even when getting what is essentially an Audience Surrogate edit. And if it turns out that he really meant what he said about Kass never getting his vote now if she makes it to the end, then he’s kind of an asshole who has some growing up to do. Would still do him though. In a HEARTBEAT.
VERDICT – Recipient of the annual Malcolm Freberg Memorial Most Likely To Return award, as well as the Player You’re Meant To Want To Win But Won’t (previous winners – Malcolm Freberg and Malcolm Freberg). F4 – 6. Should make the finale, but has the classic edit of someone who falls JUST short of FTC.
06. (CHAOS) KASS
Now, if I’m wrong on any single persons edit this season, I hope to God it’s everyone’s favorite Kasserole. Don’t take her only coming in here at #6 as being indicative of our predicted placement for her in the game. Since the premiere we’ve had her pegged for Final Tribal. But we have her sitting there as the losing F2/3 contestant. Not sure if she’s going to go full blown Destrade and get no votes, no how – but we’ve got a classic Culpepper edit on our hands. We’re being shown her game. We’re being shown her thinking. And we’re being shown repeatedly why she’s going to lose the game. And this has been something that’s been prominent since the premiere when she clearly told us no one from the Brains Tribe was going to win. Last weeks “..and now we’ve found our Zombie’s” clip wasn’t just another Killer Kass Kwote – it’s most likely a literal description of how the endgame will play out. The Brains Tribe has found their bodies, and now we just have to sit back and see which one they’ll guide to the oversized novelty cardboard cheque. Which is a shame, because Kass is kind of THE BEST. There’s a lot of depth to her edit here – while her big move is contentious, we’re being given clear reasons from her and the editors to back it up.
The reason we don’t have her as a winner candidate is because, for all these moments of character development, they’re being tempered with repeated scenes of her making bone-headed decisions and seemingly random moves (take the fact telling J’Tia she was being booted in E01 for example). And while she’s not being completely demonized for her (correct) decision to boot Fargo this week, Sarah’s Exit Interviews have confirmed that Kass was more correct than we’re being let in on. While the editors are taking great pains to make the Brain Survivor look like a lock for the F3, the truth is that none of them are particularly connected and, had Nu-Apparri made it to the F6, it would have been Spencer, Sarah & Jeremiah as the likely last three standing. So Spencer and Tasha can be upset as they want, but the reality is Kass made a self-interested move before they could. The key to winning a game like Survivor isn’t just about keeping your alliance mates happy, but keeping all the necessary stepping stones you need secure and in place. Unfortunately for Kass, the other key is being able to communicate to people why you make the choices you do, and that doesn’t seem to be something she excels at in the game. Which is a shame, because we kind of really want her to WIN.
VERDICT – Losing FTC attendee. She may have dethroned Queen Sarah but, ultimately, Chaos Kass will be the King-maker and nothing more.
Honestly, there’s not much to say about everyone’s second favorite Horse Whisperer. if the last five people listed were those who we can clearly say have 0% of winning the game based on the edit, he marks the official point where he’s at least not completely ruled out. That being said, I’d be shocked if he wins. He’s made some great moves, but they’re all almost completely being ignored. He’s getting enough attention so that we remember him, but all his best moments are being left in the deleted scenes – and there is NO WAY a hot, young, athletic dude wins this season and gets something akin to a UTR edit. NOT ON JEFF PROBST’S WATCH. Plus, his idol play at this weeks TC was portrayed as dumb and a wasted opportunity. No winner is going to get that without getting to explain it. Plus, he’s had a lot of great strategic deleted scenes that an attractive male winner would never have discarded..
WINNER ODDS – 50:1. Not completely discounted, but a dark horse at best.
03/04. JEREMIAH & JEFRA
Now, out of everyone on the list this week, Jeremiah is the hardest for me rank. If spots 10 – 6 are based on people who have been completely discounted and 2-1 are really the only two sure things, it’s these three beauties in the middle that you could rank at random depending on what criteria you use. Personally, we’re basing it on ‘who has been shown the least amount of reasons as to why they’ll lose’ and Jeremiah is the hardest to assess. Mostly, this is because the only part of the edit I’m still struggling to read is that in the first three episodes. In the two hour premiere, a few things stuck out like a sore thumb but they could still be taken a couple of different ways. The first is the scene where the Beauties make fire. If you go back and rewatch it you’ll notice how OTT Positive it was – like, isn’t it amazing how these PEOPLE THAT ARE PRETTY CAN LIKE TOTALLY DO NORMAL THINGS AND STUFF. It doesn’t serve any real point to the story, except to set a tone for the tribe that is basically how people stereotype beautiful people as being useless but really they’re just as capable as the rest of us. It’s ridiculous, but it’s sets them up as the underdogs we’re meant to root for. Now, nine times out of ten, Beauty is the tribe that should be getting the most negative edit, based on societal connotations. So the fact that there is such a concerted effort to make us root for them (over say The Brains who traditionally should be the underdogs on this type of show and season), is the kind of uncalled for manipulation that would only happen if the winner is coming from this tribe.
The second thing that is HIGHLY interesting is all the set up in the premiere of the Morgan/Brice/Jeremia-lliance. Even in the premiere, I noted that the amount of unnecessary care and attention given to it’s formation made me VERY confident it was THE alliance of the season and the most likely to contain our winner (doubly so because they didn’t even go to tribal in the first two TC’s). Now, since we all know Brice isn’t our future winner (unless Probst is planning on throwing the Outcast Twist at us again to go with the Super Idol and the Kitchen Sink), that leaves us with a lot of unnecessary time spent one Morgan and The Bullfrog. The problem with the latter’s chances is that, after getting an E03 edit as a total mastermind , he’s been totally thrown into the background ever since – even in episodes like last week when he was the boot option against Alexis Twerkswell. It’s highly unusual for a winner to be in even the slightest peril and not have it rammed down our throats, since that kind of doubt is basically story arc catnip. Coupled with the fact that Morgan has repeatedly been shown outsmarting him post the Brice Boot (BB) and editing has completely ignored the fact that the nu-Appari power alliance REALLY consisted of him, Spencer and Sarah of the Sandwich, it’s not a good sign. ALSO, the poorly edited, badly shot and extremely odd Morgan confessional from E04 about how Jeremiah “isn’t really a beauty anyway” really sticks out, especially if the edit has been pointing to a Beauty win all season long.
Jefra, on the other hand, is an actual dark horse. Like a bizarro world Katy Perry single, she’s getting shown in a lot of key moments that seem really unnecessary. For example, when the Tony/Trish/LJ/Jefra alliance was being formed, it was Jefra that was shown negotiating it and doing all the actual talking, not LJ. Same again in the lead up to Brice’s Boot – we were shown it was her connections with Jeremiah and Morgan that lead to the decision. Not a strong case for a winning edit in itself, but that’s the problem with traditional edgic in a nutshell – it doesn’t take into account the reality of a situation. The fact of the matter is the editors need to work with the cards they’re dealt – and some winners are more Natalie Whites than Kimpossible Spradlins.. The scene in week two of her breaking down over the conditions isn’t a good sign, but if Natalie can have a winning edit based on the fact she managed to finally kill a rat, then there is a total precedent, especially all the care given to making sure the audience LOVES her.
WINNING ODDS – 25:1. Jeremiah is down but not quite out just yet, but Jefra is still one to watch, and not just because of how she looks in a bikini.
Which brings us to our Top Two contenders who, as the whole entire twitter-sphere can verify, have been my #1 and 2 OFFICIAL WINNER PICKS all season long, right from the first episode. Really wish I had’ve posted this last week so I could totally IN YOUR FACE everyone who has been telling me how ridiculous my choices are. Last weeks merge has muddied the waters a little in how confident I am between the two, but without further ado, here is my breakdown of why one of these two women is going to win Survivor BBB.
The Case For Trish :-
* In the premiere, we spent an inordinate amount of time on Trish’s decision whether to take the clue or the rice. Not just a cursory scene to acknowledge it, but two quite lengthy confessionals explaining not just why she chose the way she chose, but how it made her feel AND how she recovered from it. It’s easy to overlook Trish early on because she has that kind of oversized cartoon character personality and that can skew immediately unlikeable/annoying on television that it’s easy not to notice how Positive certain scenes are being shown. The amount of attention and depth she received in that first episode (especially given that her tribe never went to tribal and there were MUCH bigger characters and stories to set up) is a huge plus for her longevity/winning chances.
* In episode 3, when Sarah is concocting her plan to throw the challenge and eliminate Cliff, we’re shown almost 100% Sarah and only enough of Trish to show she knew about it but nothing of her participating or actively screwing up. While Sarah is shown as coming up with a plan based on incorrect information and generally committing one of the cardinal sins of Survivor, Trish is portrayed as just doing what she needs to do to survive. All the negativity from that plan was thrown on to Sarah and Trish was basically shielded. Coupled with the fact that Probst has publicly done a complete 180 on the strategy to throw a challenge, it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s because one of the participants in said plan manages to turn it into a game-winning strategy.
* In the following episode we’re shown that, when Trish decides to make a power move, it happens right and it happens the first attempt. While both Sarah and Tony were shown as failing to eliminate Cliff and also as either dumb or overplaying, Trish is acknowledged to have made the right move and indeed praised for how smoothly it came off. Considering that Tony was the one who wanted to eliminate Mr NBA all season, it was Trish that got all the credit and confessionals for making it happen. That’s the difference between a winners edit and a losing one.
* Also worth noting is the whole conflict with Lindsay. While it was acknowledged that Trish can be annoying, most of the actual unacceptable behaviour came from Dread Central. If the conflict between them was genuinely so bad, why aren’t we being shown the fights in more depth? It’s extremely telling that in the immediate aftermath of the quit, Tony got all the on screen gloating, while Trish got calmer, more subdued and detailed confessionals explaining that while it is good for her own game, it’s sad to see someone ever go under that circumstance. Catfights are catnip for editors, especially these days, so the pains taken to make Trish look as thoughtful and rational as possible is only reserved for someone the audience is really meant to root for.
* HER MERGE EPISODE. Holy Jesus on a stick, it can’t be understated how strong an episode this was for Trish. After the premiere, the merge episode is traditionally the most foolproof place to look for a winning edit and this one was basically Trish >>>>>>> EVERYONE ELSE. We saw the Brains fall apart, we saw Tony and LJ waste their Idols, we saw Morgan’s Boobs do Pilates and not much else. But Trish? Trish was EVERYWHERE – keeping calm, astutely observing the new tribal dynamics, being the sole reason why Kass was convinced to flip and save her alliance. Trish is getting a random tonal edit pre-merge, but the reality is that her social relationships are strong, are we’re being constantly shown that she knows how to read a room and make things happen. Tony may have the idols, but Trish is the one repeatedly being shown doing all the talking. If that’s not a winners edit, I don’t know what is..
Which brings us to Boobs McGee herself. Ever since the premiere, we’ve been championing Morgan as our #1 pick and been getting QUITE a lot of guff about it. And, to be completely honest, it’s completely understandable. I mean, besides the awesome boob-squashing upside down Pilates, she’s just NOT REALLY DOING ANYTHING. Which is exactly her edit has been extremely suspicious right from the get go. – she’s getting a lot of credit and attention given for things that she really has nothing to do with. It’s easy to write her off as not being present, but even the craftiest editor alive isn’t a magician – there’s got to be something happening for them to show and, according to the deleted scenes, Morgan has spent the first two weeks napping so much that she’s pretty much known around camp as Zombie Morgan. So, like Natalie White, Bob Crowley and the apparent almighty goddess of Survivor Sandra Diaz-Twine before her, if she were to someone how make it to the end and win in an epic battle of Who Do We Hate Less (which all editing signs this season are pointing to), the editors have to make do with what they actually have. Which, the gigantic watermelons trapped to her chest aside, isn’t really that much..
The Case For Morgan :-
* In the premiere, a lot was made of her being outcast by the tribes leader. LJ went as far as to point out that, of the whole tribe, it was ‘the hot girl’ who was the most dangerous and not to be trusted. Her decision to go look for the clue was presented as risky but understandable. Even more telling was the fact that her quickly thought up lie about the bag of rice was presented as a clever, savvy stroke of genius that we were meant to be impressed by. This is doubly fascinating since Brice’s exit interviews all but confirmed that everyone on the tribe pretty much assumed that Morgan was lying anyway – so while the edit showed it to be successful, the reality differed substantially.
* The fact that the ‘Hot Girl With A Grudge’ quote from LJ about Morgan was the first episode title of the season
* As discussed with Jeremiah, the fact that his failed alliance with Morgan was highlighted as the main alliance on the tribe and is an ongoing storyline, one of them is likely to benefit from it going forward and, repeatedly, it has been Morgan portrayed as outsmarting him and not the other way around. Particularly her scene the following day after Brice was booted and she directly called him out in front of the whole tribe and effectively neutered him socially and strategically.
* In the previews for the tribal shuffle episode, a BIG deal was made about whether Morgan’s lie would be revealed to the other castaways. This kind of prominence is always a very good sign, especially when in reality she was shown quickly responding to the issue and nipping it in the bud. Once again, we are shown that Morgan is direct, aware and exceptionally quick thinking.
* In the Alexis boot, if you rewatch the votes being read, after EVERY SINGLE VOTE there is a cutaway to an increasingly smug and elated Morgan, giving her ALL the edit credit for a boot she didn’t even really orchestrate. All we were meant to take away from that TC was that (a) it was the correct choice and (b) it was all Morgan’s doing and for her benefit. If I had to pick a single scene that makes me confident of her win, this would be it. A lot of people don’t notice it because it’s, ya know, Morgan, but it’s super obvious.
* The fact that, when the Nu Apparri’s fall about this episode, she is nowhere to be seen, is not necessary for instant death. Over all, that was a less than stellar episode for that tribe, that fact that she was essentially spared from that negativity could bode well
* Lastly, in the previews for tonights episode, she’s seen flighting with Kass the was Sandra did with Russell in Heroes VS Villains. Now that Kass is essentially being portrayed in a negative light, anyone sh0wn standing up to her is a positive thing for their edits.
WINNING ODDS – EVEN. Between Trish & Morgan? EVEN.We’ll still give the edge to Morgan, mostly because there is more blatant information showing manipulation. Both has excellent premieres and steady builds, but all the scenes pointing to a Beauty win lean for me to chalk up a win for our Beauties (if I’m wrong though and Trish ends up being the winner, I still reserve premiere winner pick gloating rights).
ANYWAY – Let me know what you think. Love hearing other peoples points of view. Unless you’re DOM of course.. Enjoy tonight and, here’s a GIF of the most hypnotic thing to ever happen on Survivor.. Like, I think I’m straight now?