Help from an unlikely source

A lot of you might not have heard of Patreon until I started talking about it a couple weeks ago, so I wanted to share how I learned of the site in the first place.

I’m a huge fan of the Survivor podcasts hosted by Rob Cesternino (his podcast is called “Rob Has A Podcast;” his website is Rob has this fun-loving tone to his work (which also extends to many other reality shows) and it’s clear he has a true passion and enthusiasm for what he does. His friendly nature also makes you feel like you could be buddies, which I love.

Anyway, Rob sometimes mentions a link where listeners can go to “learn about the benefits of becoming a patron.” That piqued my curiosity last year, so I went to the site he mentioned: His Patreon page.

I signed up for $5 a month — I get enjoyment from his podcasts and wanted to support them — and initially didn’t think much more about it. But when I found myself in a situation where I may need to change jobs, I started thinking about whether Patreon would work for supporting other kinds of journalism.

But Rob wasn’t just the inspiration for my move. He actually took time to help me with it.

I wrote Rob an email in early January and told him about my plan, thanking him for unknowingly introducing me to a potential new career path.

To my surprise, he not only wrote back, but suggested we hop on the phone.

A few days later, Rob took more than 30 minutes out of his day to help a complete stranger learn more about Patreon and talk through some of the pluses and minuses of the site. And before hanging up, Rob highly encouraged me to start a podcast in addition to just writing on this site.

As a fan of Rob’s, it was a total thrill for me to get advice from someone who is doing it right in the digital world — and feel like I was on my own personal episode of RHAP at the same time. So I wanted to publicly thank him for all his help in getting me started.

Thank you, Rob!

By the way, if you’re a Survivor fan and you don’t subscribe to Rob’s podcasts…what in the world are you doing? His weekly “Survivor Know It Alls” with Stephen Fishbach during the season are absolute must-listens for every Survivor fan (they immediately break down the strategy after the show) and his exit interviews with booted castaways following each vote always shed light on what really happened on the island.

Seriously, I talk my friends’ ears off about what I learned each week on the podcast (ask poor Alan Cavanna). So listen to them; I promise you’ll be a more informed Survivor fan.

Screenshot from one of RHAP’s Survivor Know It Alls episodes. Rob and Stephen live-stream the episodes on YouTube and then post them for podcast listening later.

Why you should start watching Survivor again

When I mention my love of Survivor to people, I often get told, “Oh, that show is still on?”

I don’t know if they mean it dismissively or they honestly don’t realize Survivor has two new seasons per year, but yes — it’s still on and going strong. Season 33 premieres Sept. 21 — that’s tonight! — and if you haven’t watched since the early days, it’s time to give the show another chance.

Back when Survivor first aired, it was a cultural phenomenon. “Voted off the island” and “the tribe has spoken” became catchphrases used in all sorts of different ways. But that was at the dawn of reality TV, and Survivor in some ways became a victim of the backlash against all things “reality.”

That’s a shame, because Survivor these days is the furthest thing from the Kardashians or Real Housewives. It has evolved into a game of incredible strategy, social skills and smarts; it is essentially Human Chess.

A lot of people already know that. You might not realize it, but Survivor has maintained a strong and loyal audience through the seasons. It has averaged 11.5 million viewers per episode in recent years, so that’s pretty impressive considering how other franchise shows (American Idol, for example) have fallen off.

Honestly, though, it seems like Survivor only keeps getting better. Just when you think there’s a season that can’t be topped, the producers somehow come up with a great group of castaways and enough twists to keep it interesting, fresh and exciting without feeling too gimmicky. Because of all that, there’s no question Survivor is absolutely my favorite show on TV.

But like NASCAR, it’s more fun to be a fan when there’s a community to discuss it with. That’s why I’m urging you to give it a chance if you haven’t seen it in awhile — I want to discuss the season with you all! I don’t know what this season holds, but my bet is you won’t be disappointed if you give it a shot.

Here are three reasons you should watch this season (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS):

  1. This season’s theme is “Millenials vs. Gen X.” At the start of the game, the tribes are going to be split by generations. We all have our opinions on which generation is superior (though I’m right on the border so I identify with both), but now bragging rights are up for grabs. It’s going to be enjoyable to see the characteristics for each generation and how they apply to the island. Ultimately, though, the tribes always get switched up after a few weeks — the themed seasons are just an icebreaker to get things started — but it will be interesting to see which generation can claim the winner.
  2. The people chosen for the game are typically longtime fans. This means they’ve studied the recent strategy and how it’s played out — they may even listen to the excellent “Survivor Know It Alls” podcast like I do — and understand that no alliance is likely to hold until the end. That creates a ton of unpredictability and flipping, and it’s fascinating to see the potential moves unfold and debate whether they were the right call.
  3. Lessons from Survivor apply to real life. Think about it: There are groups of very different, very unique individuals who all want to succeed. But they have to work together — even with people they don’t like or find to be strange — to achieve their goal. The key is even when it’s necessary to step on some toes, they do so gently enough so those they hurt will still respect them. That’s a tough balance, and it’s fascinating to watch people try to figure it out on Survivor.



Survivor analysis: The final seven and what Tasha should do

The Dec. 9 episode of Survivor figures to be crucial in determining who makes it to the end — and perhaps who wins it all in Cambodia.

And after last week, we can see what’s coming: Tasha’s decision will make or break several games.

If you recall, Kimmi proposed an all-women alliance in the previous episode before Joe was booted. With four women remaining and three men, this could potentially make for the final four if Tasha chooses to go that direction.

Tasha told her current alliance (voting bloc?) — Spencer and Jeremy — about the possibility, which was surprisingly straightforward and perhaps a miscalculation when it comes to strategy. She took away her own element of surprise should she choose to go that direction.

And let’s be honest: She should go with the women if she wants to win. Tasha isn’t going to beat Jeremy at final tribal council (no one is if he makes it) and probably wouldn’t beat Spencer, either.

But she would beat Kimmi, Wentworth and Abi — as well as Keith, if he somehow wasn’t picked off with the other guys.

So no matter who wins immunity in Wednesday’s episode — whatever Tasha decides will change the game. The smartest play would be to cut ties with Jeremy and Spencer before it’s too late.

Which direction will she go? The fact she came straight to that pair to tell them about Kimmi’s plan indicates she has a high degree of loyalty to them, and maybe she won’t betray them. If that’s the case, she’d just need Keith to get on board with voting out someone like Wentworth or Abi and it’d be done. Then that gives a high likelihood of either Spencer, Jeremy or both in the finals (assuming it’s a final three).

Of course, no one knows Wentworth has another hidden immunity idol — which could shake things up — and the same goes for Jeremy. But if Jeremy survives this week, the time is approaching where he’ll have to play his idol anyway (you can only play it up until the final five tribal council because you can’t use an idol to make the final three).

Tasha could still have the numbers, though, if she does it the right way with the all-women alliance. I’m not saying that would be my preferred choice, by the way — I want to see Jeremy or Spencer win at this point — but it’s the smartest thing she could do.


Thanks to Rob Has A Podcast for the inspiration on this post. I’ve discovered RHAP this season, and his Survivor Know It Alls (referenced by usual co-host Stephen Fishbach several times on the show) and exit interviews of players who were voted out are must-listens every week. I can’t believe it took me so long to start listening to it — highly recommend it if you love strategy talk and inside-the-game info.