Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 7

I’m still trying to digest what happened last week with Zeke and Varner (I wrote more about that here), and it will definitely be hard to just move on with the game like nothing happened.

That said, Zeke was already No. 1 in my power rankings heading into last week, and I’m going to keep him there for now. While I think his story could eventually make him more of a target (“We can’t let him get to the end or he’ll win”), I think his fellow castaways will rally around him for awhile and he won’t be voted off anytime soon.

From the previews, we also know THE MERGE IS HERE — so that will shake things up dramatically.

Here’s how I see the castaways ranked (by best chance of winning) heading into tonight’s episode:

1. Zeke (Last week: 1). The biggest challenge for Zeke will be to shake off what was a traumatic personal moment and refocus on the game. Given his love for Survivor, I think he can do it.

2. Troyzan (Last week: 2). I like the spot Troyzan is in. He has an idol, but he’s also not a target at all right now (why would they vote Troyzan off when they could go after bigger threats like Ozzy or Brad?).

3. Sarah (Last week: 9). She’s good with her old tribe — Zeke, Andrea and Ozzy, at least — AND had that short-lived alliance with Troyzan before the swap (remember that scene?). Having connections on both sides could be a very good thing. Time for the cop to play like a criminal.

4. Hali (Last week: 4). This first merge vote is going to say a lot about where Hali is and reveal much about her chances going forward. I don’t have a great read on it. But for now, I’m leaving her up high because she’s not an obvious threat.

5. Andrea (Last week: 10). Before Varner outed Zeke, he also outed a supposed alliance between Andrea, Zeke and Ozzy. If that’s really the case, those three could do some damage if they can pull in a few others.

6. Cirie (Last week: 3). I’m a little shaky on Cirie now that the merge is here and Sandra is gone. No one looks at Cirie and goes, “Oh, she’s not a threat.” They all know it, and she’s too dangerous to keep around for much longer.

7. Sierra (Last week: 5). It feels like her chances are still too closely tied to Brad’s. She either needs to make her own big moves or she’ll end up without a good enough resume — even if she survives until the end.

8. Aubry (Last week: 6). Who does she have to work with? Brad, yes. Tai, maybe. But she’s seemed to be on the outs of various tribes through the whole game, and people also view her as a threat socially.

9. Brad (last week: 7). I don’t like his chances with the merge because he’ll become too big of a target — although his alliance with Aubry could prove helpful. The only huge physical threats remaining are Brad, Ozzy and maybe Michaela — which means any of them could be a classic “merge boot.”

10. Michaela (Last week: 8). She’s strong in immunity challenges, but she’s not really the type that’s going to keep her head and stay calm for the rest of the game. That’s going to get her in trouble at some point.

11. Tai (Last week: 14). His two idols will keep him safe for awhile, along with people going after bigger targets. But like Debbie, he’s more of a “Let’s bring him to the end” type for the eventual winning player.

12. Ozzy (Last week: 11). Ozzy is in trouble now that the merge is here. His name is going to be brought up frequently as a target, and unless he goes on an individual immunity run, he might be out soon.

13. Debbie (Last week: 13). She’s too volatile and the other players aren’t going to respect her game enough in the end (although I can see someone taking her to the final three). I can’t even see her using her extra vote in a situation where it would help her.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 6

The Queen doesn’t stay Queen, as it turns out. Sandra, who was ranked at the bottom of the power rankings for most of the season, finally got the boot last week as players wised up to her threat level.

But man, how impressive was Sandra? She played an incredible game right up until the end and seemed to nearly pull off another escape. No wonder she won twice.

Now that she’s gone, though, we have a new name at the bottom. Here’s how I rank the remaining castaways based on best chance to win it all:

1. Zeke (Last week: 2). He essentially made the biggest move of the season, spearheading Sandra’s ouster. That gives him an honorary No. 1 spot this week, but I’m slightly concerned about his future based on the weakness of his new tribe.

2. Troyzan (Last week: 1). Troyzan ended up in a good spot with the tribe swap and still has an idol to play with. He’s in great shape for the merge.

3. Cirie (Last week: 5). Damn! Did you see how fast she, Aubry and Sierra did that puzzle? Cirie is one smart cookie, and she could slip into the Sandra slot as the top social player now, too.

4. Hali (Last week: 6). She’s played a clever game to this point, but seemed to have clashed with Brad at tribal a couple episodes ago. Can they work together? If so, and she makes the merge, I think she’s got a chance.

5. Sierra (Last week: 9). She’s got a great tribe and a solid alliance with Brad and Troyzan. Once she makes the merge, she could have a real shot because she won’t be an obvious threat.

6. Aubry (Last week: 11). The merge can’t get here soon enough for Aubry, because that’s when she can work her magic. In the meantime, she could be viewed as a threat.

7. Brad (last week: 10). He remains a huge target and could go home any week. But for now, his strong new tribe might win enough challenges to keep him safe.

8. Michaela (Last week: 12). If her new tribe loses, she might be a target. To avoid this, she MUST stay below the radar for a couple weeks and not get into any confrontations.

9. Sarah (Last week: 4). Her new tribe’s makeup isn’t very promising. At least if she makes the merge, she seems to have a potential alliance with Troyzan that could help her.

10. Andrea (Last week: 7). As is the case with Zeke and Sarah, she’s now on a weak tribe that could lose immunity for a couple straight weeks. That’s not good for merge chances.

11. Ozzy (Last week: 8). Ozzy’s name got mentioned at tribal council, and though he didn’t get any votes, he’s clearly known as a threat. That doesn’t bode well for the long-term, especially because he’ll be a quick target when they become one tribe.

12. Varner (Last week: 3). He plummets down the rankings this week because he’s clearly in the minority now after the tribe swap — and lost Sandra as a shield. If his group goes to tribal council again, the votes are likely coming for either Varner or Tai.

13. Debbie (Last week: 14). As much as a strategy session with Cochran might have helped other players, I doubt it will do much for Debbie. She might float to the merge because she’s not a target (unless they can’t stand her), but there’s zero chance she wins it all.

14. Tai (Last week: 13). He’s found three idols and still has two of them, but he keeps shooting himself in the foot. It was a sloppy tribal council performance, and it nearly cost him (or appeared that way). No matter how many idols he has, he won’t win if he keeps this up.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 5

I was laughing my butt off and clapping with glee during last week’s tribal council. Between J.T.’s cockiness, Michaela sipping from the coffee mug and the hilarity of a guy talking trash and then going home with an idol in his pocket (actually still at camp!) was pretty awesome.

J.T. was No. 14 in last week’s power rankings, so that was no surprise. Here’s how I see things stacking up this week (in order of best chance to win):

1. Troyzan (Last week: 1). Keeping Troyzan here for now, particularly since it looks like he struck up an alliance with Sarah that could help keep him safe (even without the idol). Feeling better and better about his chances.

2. Zeke (Last week: 2). Still high on Zeke. What’s the reason someone would vote him out right now? I don’t see it.

3. Varner (Last week: 5). I didn’t realize how tight he is with Sandra until last week. That could help him, because if someone is going to take a shot at his group, they’re aiming at Sandra first (or at least they should).

4. Sarah (Last week: 10). That little scene she had with Troyzan seemed like something that could be important for the future. It’s a smart move on her part, and I like her “Play like a criminal” mentality.

5. Cirie (Last week: 3). Cirie is doing exactly what she needs to do so far, and Sandra’s presence in the game continues to provide her some cover. She just needs to keep her head down.

6. Hali (Last week: 6). I’m definitely liking Hali’s game play more than her first season, but I’m still not sure how far that will take her.

7. Andrea (Last week: 4). It’s still hard to get a feel for Andrea’s strategy this season, which is maybe a good sign. She’s doing what she needs to do overall to stay under the radar — yet still be ready to strike when necessary.

8. Ozzy (Last week: 11). Ozzy is the man, right? But once the tribes merge, he’s going to be too big of a threat to keep around — no matter how much food he provides.

9. Sierra (Last week: 12). As long as she’s Brad’s lieutenant, she could struggle to put her own stamp on big moves. That could be a problem at final tribal.

10. Brad (last week: 13). He moves up this week because others are playing themselves out of contention. As I said before, Brad has a fantastic approach to this season, but he’s going to be a big target at some point and that’s bad for his long-term game.

11. Aubrey (Last week: 7). I’m concerned about Aubrey’s chances after last week. She was completely out of the loop on the decision to vote J.T. out and seemed clueless. As smart as she is, it doesn’t seem like she has many people to work with at the moment.

12. Michaela (Last week: 8). Her J.T. trolling was hilarious, but it also showed her fire and temper once again. Survivor winners tend to have level heads; they don’t let their emotions get the best of them.

13. Tai (Last week: 15). I can’t get past lingering doubts about Tai’s strategic play. He’s always going to be easily manipulated and thus end up in a bad spot at times that don’t serve his own best interests.

14. Debbie (Last week: 9). Debbie, Debbie, Debbie. Screaming at people for no reason and going off about how pissed you are is — spoiler alert — NOT how you win Survivor. I don’t care how far she makes it in the game. She’s not going to win it.

15. Sandra (Last week: 16). OK, look — she’s playing an AWESOME game. Kudos to her. But I’m still leaving her at the bottom, because I just can’t see how these very smart players would let her stick around for a shot at the win.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 4

The absolute shocker of a tribal council twist resulted in the ouster of the castaway I had ranked 13th for the second straight week.

Here’s what I wrote about Malcolm before he went: “With the loss of two meat shields right away, it’s time to start worrying about Malcolm. He simply won’t have cover for much longer, and they’ll be coming for him soon as a major threat.”

Of course, if Tai hadn’t played the idol for the correct person, then Sierra would have gotten the boot. But the bottom line is if these veteran players have a shot to take out a threat, they’re going to do it.

I’m trying to reflect that in the power rankings. This is how I see the players ranked by their best chances to win headed into Week 4:

1. Troyzan (Last week: 3). Troyzan blew a big lead in the challenge, but that might help him in some weird way because they won’t view him as a threat. If he can use his idol, survive the next couple weeks and find some safety while the tribe takes out bigger threats, he might have a real shot once the merge happens.

2. Zeke (Last week: 2). This is the one player who I’ve been consistent on, so I’m leaving him toward the top for no real reason other than I need to stop flip-flopping on everyone.

3. Cirie (Last week: 6). The more visible Sandra is, the more it helps Cirie in the game. As long as Sandra is around, Cirie has cover and could make the merge that way. After that, who knows?

4. Andrea (Last week: 7). She’s playing the game she needs to play so far. I’m still not sure what her strategy is overall, but she’s putting herself in decent shape for later.

5. Varner (Last week: 4).  He seemed a little shaky last episode. I hope he rebounds, but he can’t be too visible or appear sneaky or they’ll turn on him quickly.

6. Hali (Last week: 5). At tribal council, it was tough to tell whose side she was really on. It worked out for her that time, but people need to trust her eventually or she’ll be gone.

7. Aubrey (Last week: 9). She’s done a good job of staying under the radar, but for how much longer?

8. Michaela (Last week: 11). Just waiting until everyone figures out what a threat she is. Or will it be too late by then?

9. Debbie (Last week: 10). Let’s be honest: She’s tried to change this season, but her true colors will come through eventually. That might make people think they can’t work with her.

10. Sarah (Last week: 12). I can’t get a good read on her one way or the other. It doesn’t seem like she’s a very big part of the show for now, though.

11. Ozzy (Last week: 14). He’s trying his best to play a good game. I hope for his sake he can keep it up, but it always seems like the players end up realizing Ozzy is too scary of a player to keep around.

12. Sierra (Last week: 8). She’s lucky Tai played the idol on her. But clearly, she’s viewed as a strong No. 2 on her tribe and thus considered a threat. She’s on too many radars.

13. Brad (last week: 1). I know I’m bipolar on Brad, but his huge moves have me concerned about his long-term chances. He’s had a FANTASTIC two weeks — but he’s also seen Tony, Caleb and Malcolm all leave. When it’s time to go after physical threats, who are they going to look at? Brad.

14. J.T. (Last week: 15). OOPS! He screwed his tribe by leaking the info that got the idol played against them AND failed in his effort to get Sandra out. Hardly a winning formula.

15. Tai (Last week: 17). Great move with the idol play, and he had a good episode. But I still don’t see him as being strategic enough to win Survivor. And I love Tai!

16. Sandra (Last week: 16). She’s in a great spot now that the attempted J.T. coup failed. But how dumb are these players if they don’t flip on Sandra? I can’t fathom these “game changers” letting Sandra get much farther.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 3

My No. 13 pick was eliminated last week, so that wasn’t a surprise. But it was a surprise how it happened — at least to me — proving you never know when someone is going to get the boot.

Here’s how I see the players with the best chances to win Survivor: Game Changers headed into Week 3.

1. Brad (last week: 16). Bravo, Culpepper. From worst to first in two weeks. He seems like a completely different player and made a great move to manipulate Tai into voting off his closest ally.

2. Zeke (Last week: 2). He hasn’t really done anything yet to earn this spot, but I’m trying to maintain some consistency with my rankings (despite my Culpepper pick).

3. Troyzan (Last week: 4). Loving Troyzan this season and his idol snatch at the immunity challenge was an awesome moment. I know he doesn’t have the numbers right now, but this might buy him time until another swap.

4. Varner (Last week: 3). Still liking his position, and he needs to continue to let the bigger targets take each other out.

5. Hali (Last week: 10). Giving her some props here because I had her ranked 18th to start the season. She made a great argument at tribal and showed she really understands the game, though I recognize she currently is in a very bad spot on her tribe.

6. Cirie (Last week: 6). As much of a threat as she is, it seems like other people aren’t talking about her at the moment. That could buy her some time.

7. Andrea (Last week: 3). She got labeled as a liar by Troyzan (which was accurate), and that might hurt her. But she’s still in a decent position for now.

8. Sierra (Last week: 7). People aren’t going to come after her as long as there are more visible threats, so I’m starting to think she can make the merge.

9. Aubrey (Last week: 11). For as much talk about big players as there’s been — and she is one — people seem to be sort of looking at others before her.

10. Debbie (Last week: 15). She’s slowly moving up after starting the season 19th here. Yet another person who has changed their style early in this season.

11. Michaela (Last week: 14). She rebounded from a sloppy first episode, so maybe there’s still some hope.

12. Sarah (Last week: 9). It doesn’t seem like she’s on the radar for any reason, so I’m not sure that’s a good sign for a winner.

13. Malcolm (Last week: 5). With the loss of two meat shields right away, it’s time to start worrying about Malcolm. He simply won’t have cover for much longer, and they’ll be coming for him soon as a major threat.

14. Ozzy (Last week: 10). As soon as I heard him say he was going to have to take a leadership role on his new tribe, I knew he was in trouble.

15. J.T. (Last week: 12). Yeah, so great job with the whole stranding your tribe on the raft — that was a good little play — but now everyone knows he’s a schemer and is sneaky. Not exactly a long-term trust play.

16. Sandra (Last week: 18). She only moves up a spot because Tai played so bad. She’s a huge threat and won’t make the merge.

17. Tai (Last week: 17). Tai, Tai, Tai. Oh man. Brad totally talked him out of sticking with Caleb, showing once again how easily he can be manipulated. For as great of a human as he is, he’s not a great strategist on Survivor.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 2

Well, my preseason No. 5 and No. 7 picks were eliminated in the premiere of Survivor: Game Changers last week — and I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.

On the one hand, they were clearly threats to win — and were taken out. But it looks kind of dumb for me, since I had them ranked so high.

Here’s how I see the game heading into Week 2, with players ranked in order of best chance to win it all:

1. Zeke (Last week: 1). I’m sticking with Zeke at the top for now, but it’s probably wishful thinking. But his social game is great, he can make friends quickly and there’s no reason for people to view him as a threat early in the game.

2. Varner (Last week: 8). He didn’t do anything special in Week 1 except keep the target on others, and that’s exactly what could help him make it far this season. Why would someone get rid of him at this point? As long as he doesn’t play too hard — which is always a possibility with him — he could have a decent chance.

3. Andrea (Last week: 13). She was almost invisible in Week 1, which makes me like her chances of getting far this year. If she can duck while the bullets are flying early, maybe she can work some magic late in the game.

4. Troyzan (Last week: 12). I started looking at Troyzan differently almost right away. He seems much wiser now and also won’t be taken seriously enough for people to want to vote him out. That could be an interesting combination.

5. Malcolm (Last week: 3). It’s so dangerous to put Malcolm this high, because he’s surely a massive threat. The others need to get him out quickly, and if they don’t, he’s going to be around for a long time.

6. Cirie (Last week: 9). People recognize her as manipulative, but as long as Sandra is around, she won’t be the scariest player in that category. Maybe that will buy her some time.

7. Sierra (Last week: 14). You start to get the sense this could be a season where the biggest targets and threats get removed quickly, and Sierra is an under-the-radar player for the most part. That could pay off.

8. Ozzy (Last week: 10). He’s already so visible, which has to be worrisome. A guy like Ozzy needs to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible so he’s not targeted right away.

9. Sarah (Last week: 15). Tony’s departure could help her, since she won’t have any connection to someone who was clearly untrustworthy. If she makes the merge, you never know.

10. Hali (Last week: 18). OK, so I was REALLY down on Hali coming into the season, but her comments last week were impressive. She seems to be taking a smart approach so far, and I can see her making more of a run than before.

11. Aubrey (Last week: 2). It seems like she’s quickly been labeled as a dangerous player and the others speak openly about that, which will hurt her chances in the long run. She could become a quick target and get taken out.

12. J.T. (Last week: 11). I almost feel like this is too high for him, since a good point was raised already: Why would they give a former winner another $1 million? I don’t have a great sense of how he’ll play yet.

13. Caleb (Last week: 17). I like how he played Week 1, but still don’t feel great about his overall chances — especially since he already lost a meat shield in Tony and now could become a target earlier.

14. Michaela (Last week: 6). I’m disappointed with how Michaela presented herself in the first episode. I thought she’d perhaps play more of an under-the-radar game this time after learning from her first experience, but she can’t hide her emotions and frustrations. That’s not a winning formula.

15. Debbie (Last week: 19). She can’t change who she is. Again, it’s good TV — but not good gameplay.

16. Brad (Last week: 20). I liked how he approached the first few days, and I may have been too harsh in saying he had no chance. But I still think he’s an abrasive guy at times, and how many people are really going to want to work with him?

17. Tai (Last week: 16). It seems like the other players like Tai (of course), but he’s just not someone they’re going to strategize with. As such, he’ll stay around for weeks — maybe make it to the end — but they won’t give him the money.

18. Sandra (Last week: 4). These players are WAY too smart to sit there and not recognize what Sandra is doing. She’s absolutely an incredible player and last week proved once again why she’s won the game twice. But surely, all these “game changer” players recognize a threat when they see one, and there’s little chance she’ll be able to make it to the end based on that.

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 1

Ohhhhh yeah! It’s time for another season of Survivor (premieres tonight on CBS), so let’s rank which castaways have the best shot at winning it all.

This season is Survivor: Game Changersand 20 returning players (some of them game changers, some of them not really) will try to outwit, outplay and outlast a really fearsome and experienced group. It will be difficult to pull too many tricks or sneaky maneuvers this time around, but that just makes it all the more interesting.

If you haven’t watched Survivor in a few years — or ever — it’s not too late to jump in. Here’s my pitch from last season as to why people should give it another chance.

Here are my picks, in order of best chance to win Sole Survivor:

  1. Zeke. He won’t be viewed as a threat to the same degree as last season, when he stood out (along with David) as major strategists — in part because none of the players who are on this season got to watch him play before they filmed this. He can make friends with anyone, is very clever and won’t be targeted early. I like his chances of making it to the end.
  2. Aubrey. She should have won two seasons ago, and I think her game will be respected (but not feared). She’ll sharpen things up this time and play a calculated, measured game overall.
  3. Malcolm. He’s probably the favorite — but I think that only makes him a bigger target. If he’s around in the final eight, people are going to be whispering his name.
  4. Sandra. Is it possible a two-time winner could be underestimated? It feels like that’s the case for Sandra, which is probably how she’s already won twice. Clearly, she’s doing something right.
  5. Ciera. She’s always upset when people don’t want to play hard, so you know she’s going to be making huge moves. Maybe she’ll end up on the right side of things this time.
  6. Michaela. I could see this going either way for Michaela. If she doesn’t lose her temper, she could definitely make the final three. But I could also see her getting booted early.
  7. Tony. Oh, Tony. Could he pull off another season of Vlachos charm and ride it to a win? I think he’ll be too visible and too big of a target, and he won’t be able to sweet-talk veteran players like he did during Cagayan (C’mon, Woo).
  8. Varner. I hope he resists the urge to play too hard, too early this time. Patience, Varner, patience! Then go for the kill later in the game, after the merge.
  9. Cirie. She’s going to be a threat and the other players will recognize it right away. So that might not work very well long term, unless she’s able to fly under the radar somehow.
  10. Ozzy. You really think this group is going to let one of the all-time great players just skate his way to the merge? No way, if they’re smart (and they are). He’s going to be targeted as soon as he lands on the beach.
  11. J.T. I don’t really remember much about J.T.’s game, except for how he worked with Fishbach during his winning season. Is he able to adapt to the new-school game?
  12. Troyzan. He had the misfortune of going up against one of the smartest players ever, Kim Spradlin, who got the better of him. Let’s see how he does this go-round.
  13. Andrea. She has the experience, can fly under the radar and has been an avid follower of the game long enough to know what mistakes to avoid. That might work out for her if she can get with the right alliance.
  14. Sierra. I don’t love her chances, but she’s also no slouch. Maybe she can make the right moves and end up at final tribal, where anything can happen.
  15. Sarah. Why is she a game changer? I’m not sure. I don’t remember much of her game, except for both she and Tony being cops on their season. Maybe that will allow her avoid being targeted (why would they vote her out if she’s not a threat?) and make it far.
  16. Tai. Everyone loves Tai! Everyone wants to work with Tai! But here’s the thing: Does he play a strategic game? I don’t think so. And so when he’s sitting at final tribal, this group of vets won’t reward him — just like when he lost to Michele.
  17. Caleb. I’m thrilled he’s getting another chance. Really! We watched Beastmode Cowboy on Big Brother and felt bad for him when he got evacuated from Survivor. But is he a strategic player? I’ve never really seen that out of him, so I don’t think he can win.
  18. Hali. I don’t remember much about her, which is why she’s ranked so low. I know it’s only been a few years since she played, but her game just didn’t stand out to me. How is she going to defeat all these ace players?
  19. Debbie. Under no scenario can I see Debbie, who is great TV but not a good player, being rewarded by the jury with a $1 million prize. I just can’t picture that.
  20. Brad. He’s going to piss someone off and get himself voted out before the merge. I just don’t think he can make it very far with the style of game he plays.