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.