Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Big Brother 17 - Rewriting history

"History is written by the victors."

Walter Benjamin did not have reality TV shows on his mind when he uttered that now-famous quote, but it applies just as well to that medium as it does to wars and international politics.  And nowhere is the truth behind his statement more apparent this week than in the post-Big Brother 17 interviews with winner Steve Moses.  Imagine the narrative this week had Steve lost the final HOH to Vanessa Rousso.  In that alternate timeline, Steve finishes a disappointing third while Vanessa basks in her new designation as GOAT, taking her place next to Dr.Will, Dan, and Derrick as the most manipulative player ever to control a season of Big Brother.  For the record, in every imaginable timeline, Liz Nolan is $50,000 richer, though in some she's dating Jeff Weldon and Austin Matelson is crafting voodoo dolls in their likeness.

That is not how this season played out.  But, let's go back exactly one week before the finale.  All the talk was not about whether Vanessa was playing the best game this season but whether she was playing one of the best games of all time.  She had successfully talked herself off the block weeks earlier despite the then-HOH having successfully arranged the perfect backdoor opportunity and having enough allies to - conceivably but not really - control that week's outcome.  Vanessa had targeted nearly every houseguest who had been thus far eliminated.  She had final two deals with everyone remaining in the house.  She won competitions every time she needed to and when she was in peril, made sure to have bigger targets in front of her.

She used a combination of tears, fast-talking, word-twisting, and strategic game-playing to put herself in the driver's seat throughout the season.  Her game was so solid that many in the jury did not realize until it was too late that she was the real power behind all the moves in the house.  And superfan Steve was so in awe of her game that he called her the best female player the game had ever seen and was determined not to go up against her in the end as she would clearly sweep the votes.  The coronation of Vanessa was so locked up that she would not even giveaway her strategy in her HOH blog, instead saving it for when she could serialize and monetize if after she shook the confetti out of her hair.

A funny thing happened on the way to her victory.  She made two huge mistakes.  One, she misread Steve completely and did not see that he was more savvy than loyal, more superfan than supernerd, and was dying to Neda her ass on national TV.  Two, she never was able to read Johnny Mac and so (it was not surprising) she lost the final HOH on a pretty easy question about him.  And so it was Vanessa who became the final member of the jury and Steve Moses who was crowned the winner of BB17.  And this is when the complete rewrite of the season began.

In his first sit down interview after the show, a bubbly, cute, awkward Steve told Jeff Schroder, "Vanessa played such a good game."  He told Jeff that he thought she would take him to the end and expected that he'd finish in second place.  Had Steve gone to final two against Vanessa he was prepared for his final speech.  "I maintained my integrity, I maintained my character. I didn't get mean,  I was more social with people,  I formed better personal relationships and I never talked down to people like Vanessa loved to.   It would have been the cute adorable kid I'd been playing the whole game.  Of course you want him to win."  He thought he'd have a chance to give that speech and thought it might have a chance of winning.

As it turns out, Steve would never had had the chance to give that speech had Vanessa won the HOH.  He misread her as badly as she misread him - both erroneously thought they were the other's final two, both did not know that the other was planning on cutting them and taking Liz in the end.  But her miscalculation was her downfall, his does not even register.  He admitted to Jeff that the whole season came down to one coin flip - winning part three of the HOH competition.  But having won that, it retroactively makes every move he made in the game superhuman and profoundly brilliant.

 In Steve 2.0's review of the season, it was he and not Vanessa who controlled the house and the game.  He put all the chess pieces in place to get him to the end.  He got JohnnyMac to assume they were final two but never actually said F2 to anyone but Vanessa.  He says it was he - and not Johnny Mac as he claimed before his win - who had figured out that Vanessa was another Derrick.  He now claims that Freaks and Geeks, later known as Scamper Squad, was his creation.  No mention of how it was Austwins and Vanessa's decision who to bring in to the alliance and no mention of how those three had a similar alliance with Shelli and Clay at the same time that he never figured out.

Steve said that he knew that whoever crossed Vanessa was destined for a quick exit, so his game was to let her believe she completely controlled him.  That's why he grew the beard and let her style him, so she would believe he was a loyal minion.  And then he would cut her off in the end to show how he was his own man.  His game was to "play the person who was playing everyone else."  He ignores that the very first Steve/Stefan makeover was actually a project of the whole house - Jeff, Clay, Austin, Liz, Becky.  Vanessa wasn't even in the room when Stefan was created.  And in all his talks to the live feed viewers and in the Diary Room he never mentioned this strategy of letting Vanessa think she controls him by styling him.

Steve has voiced some disappointment with how Vanessa's game was portrayed versus his game on the show.  While he admits that Vanessa "did a lot," Steve now says that the show "gave her more than what she did."   Steve never addresses his own warning throughout the game that if you have to win a comp to get to the end, you're not playing it right.  He put himself in the position where he had to win the final HOH to guarantee going to the final, that is by Steve's own definition not a great game.  He ignores that had he build a better relationship with Liz and JohnnyMac, either of them would have taken him to the end over the other.  Instead, he credits himself for throwing the final veto, which caused his closest ally - AND THE PERSON HE MAINTAINS HE COULD HAVE BEATEN AT THE END - to leave the game and by doing that, putting himself in the position where his fate was left up to chance.

In Steve's version of history, his pre-game strategy worked all the way to the end without a blip.  He hooked up with the strongest player, Vanessa, then took her out at the end.  End of story.  That is a pretty facile explanation for a nearly 100-day-long up and down that could have gone south many times (especially the first two weeks) and was one question from going south on the last day.  It ignores that until John alerted him to Vanessa's misting/manipulative ways, Steve never voiced in the DR or to feedsters any concern about Vanessa.  It ignores that he was on the outside of every other alliance in the house and that his "close allies" the Austwins were ready to cut him for Meg and James because he wasn't as fun.  He ignores that Vanessa dragged him to the end because she did not have a choice as neither JohnnyMac nor Austin were better options.

Did Steve play a great game, absolutely.  But anyone who wins retroactively and by definition played a great game.  All the winners, whether they are Dr. Will or Jordan Lloyd, by virtue of the result played a great game.  Lisa Donahue played a great game Season 3.  Drew Daniels played a great game Season 5.  Adam Jasinski played a great game Season 9.  Andy Herren played a great game Season 15.  You get the idea.

Congrats to Steve, you can laugh all the way to the bank and whether I think you're overplaying your game a little bit means absolutely nothing.  You win, so you get to write the history.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Big Brother 17 - Post-Show Bullying Kerfuffle

Yesterday Big Brother 17 winner Steve Moses went on Your Reality Recaps to talk all things Big Brother.  He revealed that his sweet and innocent image was concocted to get him on the show, that he allowed Vanessa to make him over to let her believe he was under her spell, and that he never had any alliance to anyone in the house, which may have surprised fans of what some called the Nerdmance between Steve and "rockstar dentist" Johnny Mac.  He disclosed a more mature, calculating gameplayer than the nervous, nauseated innocent we saw talking to himself and us frenetically on the live feeds.

But a thirty second long discussion regarding former Big Brother 15 houseguest and frequent lightning rod Amanda Zuckerman ended up the biggest story to come out of the interview.  After first prefacing that Amanda would love Steve whatever he said about her and that there was no need to tread lightly or be politically correct, YRR interviewer Eric Curto asked Steve a chat room fan's question: Why did you have so much dislike for Amanda.  Steven responded, forcefully, "She was a bully - who was not bullying for strategy."

Eric seemed taken aback.  He asked Steve if he was a fan of past BB winner Dan Gheesling and whether he thought Dan had done the same thing to Danielle Murphree.  Steve admitted to being a Dan fan and went on to differentiate Dan's behavior with Amanda's, telling Eric, "Based on my impression, I think what Dan did was strategy."  Steve went on to explain that he was an Amanda fan and that she did a lot of things well in the game but, "She was a bully and I don't like bullying unless it's game."

This response drew attention from the BB Twitter followers, from podcasters and fans alike.  Many were outraged that Steve drew a bright line between Amanda's behavior her season and Dan's in his.  Whether it was from Amanda fans, Dan haters, or simply those who found Steve's opinion to be hypocritical, the reaction was immediate and explosive.   The discussion that ensued even grabbed the attention of at least one entertainment gossip site (Celeb Dirty Laundry) that blew the entire matter out of proportion, calling Steve's comment an attack on the former houseguest and a sexist rant.

You can see the exchange and decide for yourself.  It starts at 1:50:20.

On the one hand, calling anyone a bully in this day and age is a dangerous trend.  The word is over-used and should be used carefully, not for any time someone uses intimidation or a forceful personality to get their way.  But it is also interesting how Steve's comments may in fact shine a light on some of the very problems that face strong forceful women, not just on reality TV shows, but in politics, in work, at home.  In fact, a cursory Google search of "Dan Gheesling bullying Danielle Murphree" turned up no examples of Dan's behavior, but instead resulted in a number of sites showing Danielle "bullying" Ian.  No such luck for Amanda - the internet was full of links to her "bullying" Elissa.

While this Twitter fight will pass away into history along with all the other silly disputes that come up after every season of Big Brother, maybe the issue of how strong women are perceived versus strong men should not fade away.  And if we can discuss it, civilly, then we're all winners.  Not just Steve.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 1: A Little Kiss

You're walking in a circle.

Donald Draper is turning 40.  Well, Dick Whitman is turning 40, Don Draper is somewhere in Pennsylvania turning in his grave while someone else celebrates his big day.  Sally, Bobby, and Gene are settling in nicely to their father's new life in a snazzy apartment with his beautiful young bride (she's 25, young enough to be Sally's older sister if we're doing the math).  And Don looks positively cheerful.  Quite the contrast from last year's sad drunk who fumbled his way to his dingy, lonely apartment and poured himself into bed each night.

Megan Calvet Draper is now a copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce but as the boss' wife, her job comes with certain perks.  Not surprisingly, her co-workers resent her—her rise in the ranks, the special treatment, the fact that she's untouchable.  The happy couple is upsetting the status quo at the office and, worse, Don is oblivious to the fact that not everyone is as deliriously happy as he is.  Don doesn't care about work anymore, all he cares about is alone time with Megan.  And her working with him makes this distraction everyone's problem.

If Peggy was not already upset about having Don's wife as her underling, which puts her in a very awkward position, she's even less happy with how her pitch to Heinz Beans went.  The client hated her inventive idea of the dancing beans (wonder what he thought when he saw the dancing raisins commercial) and she felt that the old Don would have fought harder for the idea.  She notices that Don doesn't seem as invested in the quality of the work and getting a yes from the client; he just cares about spending time with his new bride, preferably away from the office.

The old Don would not have given up so easily.  He would have worked his magic and convinced the Heinz executives that this was a brilliant idea.  Heck, he might have convinced them at the end of an hour that it was their idea to begin with.  But Don can't be troubled to work that hard, or to care that deeply.  It's only one idea, he tells her.  Peggy can come up with more.  It won't cut into his day, after all.  Not to overstate it, but Peggy feels a little betrayed and a lot undermined.

Outside, on the streets of Madison Avenue, the burgeoning Civil Rights movement is exemplified by a march for equal opportunity and equal wages.  The lily white ad execs at Y&R drop impromptu water bombs on the protesters which backfires, resulting in damage to their lily-white reputation.  SCDP, the upstart agency always looking to poke their competitors, looks at this as an opportunity to embarrass them.  Don and Roger decide to write something up for Ad Week and Lane, who unlike them is not an impetuous child, says he wants to see it first.  Which means, of course, that they'll hastily put something together and submit it without clearing it with the only level-headed person at the company.

Ever since he lost the Lucky Strike account, Roger Sterling has been a name on the door at SCDP but not a major mover or shaker.  Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove are busy pounding the pavement and bringing in new clients, but Roger is just walking around the halls trying to look busy.  At least we can give Roger grudging credit for being at least upset about how irrelevant he is and trying to do something about it.  Even if it is a bit underhanded.  Roger snoops on Pete's calendar so he can run interference at an upcoming meeting (with previous client Mohawk Airlines) and worm him way back into power at the firm.  It's a sneaky move, yet it's hard not to see that Roger has a certain charm that Pete lacks that can be good for business.  It would be nice if these two could put aside their differences and work together.

Even with his new baby, partnership, and idyllic life, Pete is not happy.  Trudy has the nerve not to have immediately lost the baby weight and not to care about her appearance the way she used to.  He expresses his dissatisfaction with a colleague with whom he shares the evening train to the burbs and this also unhappily married exec welcomes Pete into the cheating spouses club by telling him that the next step after you find your wife wearing her dressing gown all day is coming home later and later and ultimately not making it home at all.

Pete is fed up.  Far as he can tell, he's the only one working at the office.  He worries about the firm's future and wants it to succeed.  But it seems to him that everyone else is just fine with how everything is, not hungry, not eager, not clawing for more.  The lack of drive, the lack of forward momentum is driving him crazy and the last thing he wants to do is worry about Roger trying to interfere with one of his potential clients.  By contrast, Ken is fine with the way things are and the firm's slow progression.  He's less reliant on big success for his happiness.  He's still happily married.

Joan may not realize it but she is representing a new path for the working woman.  Back in 1960 when she was showing Peggy around, she spoke of the office as a place to work until you are lucky enough to get married and move to the suburbs to raise your children and tend your garden.  But now, having just had baby Kevin, she's thinking about getting back to work.  Her more traditional mother scoffs at this and lets Joan know that, like any good husband, Greg won't let her work now that they have a child.  "Let me work?" Joan snaps.  She bristles at the idea that this is anyone's decision but hers.  She is not going to give up her job any more than she was willing to give up that child.

For Don'ts 40th birthday his new bride arranges a fairly last-minute surprise party.  This despite the fact that Don is not the sort to go in for surprises or parties for that matter.  Of course, thanks to Roger and Jane's bickering, there was no real surprise.  There is a bit of office political intrigue assessing who made the cut (Harry) and who didn't (Joan who we later learn was invited but didn't attend).  Peggy dances with her boyfriend Abe, Harry came solo and is on the prowl, Stan is there with a friend on leave from the war who lucks into the middle of a conversation about Vietnam and how he's just an expendable casualty.  It was the stereotypical moment—the (safe) affluent in the highrise having idle party chatter about real life and death decisions that affect others but not them.

The party debate on the war, with Bert espousing the Domino Theory that said that if Vietnam were to fall to the Communists, the rest of Southeast Asia (and eventually the world) would, and Abe and Stan voicing the war is just big business' way to make more money would be a typical generational clash were they speaking in the abstract.  But having a young man in uniform, about to return to the conflict, made the conversation both awkward and painful.  And his plaintive interjection—that he thought there'd be women there—was sad and comical simultaneously.

But just as you thought this was going to be the most awkward thing to happen at the party,  it only gets more cringe-worthy.  Megan has a present for Don and it's not a bottle of rye or tickets to a Mets game nor even a pony.  Nope, she decides to serenade him with a seductive song and dance in French.  And so she launches into two of the most painful to watch minutes of the show, Megan doing Zou Bisou.

Don is all smiles, good-naturedly reacting to what was obviously a very embarrassing moment.  Beautiful, leggy wife or no, the Don Draper we know is a private person who prefers keeping his work and personal life separate.  Indeed, the Don we know is not really Don and keeps his true personal life separate from his faux personal life, so it gets complicated.  And when his wife wants to bring his coworkers into his home, into his personal space it's not enjoyable, it's the exact opposite.  If she knew him at all, she'd realize this was the last way he'd want to spend his birthday or any night.

But Megan won't let it drop.  She wants Don to admit he had a good time, which he didn't, and to admit that he's happy she threw him the party, which he isn't, and to thank her for putting it all together, which he won't.  He's tired, probably drunk, and worn out from pretending he was having a good time and all Don wants to do is go to sleep.  But Megan wants him to stay up and be happy and love the party and her present and talk for hours about how great it and she was.  These two competing goals will and do clash.

While they're bickering in bed, we learn that Don has embraced Faye Miller's advice, even if not with her.  He has told Megan everything, she knows about Dick Whitman.  It's jarring to realize that the big dark secret that has hung over Don's head like a scythe is now just a punchline to his new bride.  What kind of a husband will he be with nothing to hide, what will it mean for him going forward to no longer be hiding who he is?

Megan wants to keep the night going but Don is not interested, telling her specifically that she can do what she wants, but he's going to sleep.  And since Megan isn't much of an actress, we can see all over her face just how disappointed she is in Don's reaction.

Pete continues to be the one hard worker at SCDP who keeps the clients coming in, whether or not he gets the respect (or offices space) for it he deserves.  Lane continues to be a sad and elusive figure, barely paying attention to his conversation with his wife while he goes through a strangers wallet and pines over a mysterious woman.  Joan's mother continues to butt heads with her daughter and is the one who shows her (and us) the quarter page ad that Roger and Don ran to tweak Y&R.  Her mother thinks it means that Joan is being replaced but Joan knows that her position at the firm is on solid ground.  And Roger continues to fallback on his family name rather than making any real contributions to the firm.

Harry and Stan do what boys do, titter and giggle about sex, only they make the mistake of doing so (1) at the office where the butt of the joke works and (2) at the office where the butt of the joke is also the boss' wife.  It is very fortunate for both of them that they are good at their jobs, this is the 60s before anyone cared about sexual harassment, and Megan is not a tattletale.  But that doesn't mean she doesn't internalize it all—Don's rejection, Harry's crass comments, even Peggy's suggestion that Megan has an easy ride since she's the boss' wife.  Megan has had enough and leaves work in tears.

Coming back to work after a short absence is Joan, bringing baby Kevin with her.  She gets an amusingly individualized reaction to the baby, from Megan's motherly embrace to the ice cold fear that rushes through Peggy's veins at the mere thought of holding a baby.  Joan learns that much has changed in her brief absence and she is immediately immersed back into all the financial woes the company continues to deal with.  But her worst fear—that they could get along without her, that she wasn't needed back—was not realized.  Lane was overjoyed to have her back and let her know just how important she is to him and the company,

After an awkward exchange with the man whose wallet he found in the taxi, Lane's dreams of meeting the beautiful Delores and her falling in love with him go up in smoke.  And as uncomfortable as that moment was, it only gets worse.  Don heads home after hearing that Megan went home, upset, from work. He doesn't know about Harry's inappropriate remarks, he still thinks Megan is being petulant about him not enjoying her surprise party.  Megan is angry, rightly, but takes it out on Don by baiting him and, without understanding the context, appearing to be a little off her rocker.

She gets on hands and knees, in her underwear, and ferociously cleans the party detritus while Don looks on.  She knows he's aroused by the sight of her, but she punishes him, telling him he can look but he "doesn't get any of this."  Again, having felt her sexuality come under attack from Harry, she's understandably trying to wrench control back by taking the power away from Don.  But to him, this must be a crazy scene.  Regardless, they make up, have sex and seem no worse for wear.

Pete has won the battle against Roger  He has his larger office (Harry had no choice but to count his lucky stars that Megan didn't tell Don what he had said) and he takes his new-found power to set up Roger.  He tells his secretary to pencil in an appointment—6:00 am across town—with Coke.  That will get Roger up early on a wild good chase and get a little poetic justice for Pete.

In the last scene, the reception area of SCDP is filled with Black men and women, applying to work at the firm.  The "humorous" ad that they placed to mock their competitor, "backfired" and now they have to seriously consider hiring one of these applicants or look even worse than Y&R.


The show gives us a helpful time stamp, Memorial Day fell on May 30, 1966.

One might question how Mad Men was able to use the name of a read advertising agency, Young and Rubicam, in such a poor light.  Turns out that truth is stranger, and sorrier in this instance, than fiction.  According to this New York Times article, dated May 28, 1966, there was an anti-poverty march going on outside the offices of Y&R (which was were the Office of Economic Opportunity was located) and some Neanderthals from the ad agency decided it would be funny to pour water on the protesters.  A nine-year-old boy among others were pelted with water-filled paper bags.  The boys mother and others went up to the Y&R offices to complain and one did utter the line, "And they call us savages."

Bert Cooper had walked out of SCDP after Don wrote the letter regarding the tobacco industry.  He is back, sans shoes and sans office, and pretty much out of the loop.  His scene at the conference room waiting for the meeting, and asking Pete to make sure the meeting doesn't start without him, is priceless.

Ralph Nader was a consumer safety crusader whose target was the American automobile industry.  Read about his book "Unsafe at any Speed" and his Congressional testimony here.

Pete jokingly refers to Don and Megan as "Masters and Johnson" after that sexy performance at the birthday party.  They, as anyone who watches the Showtime series "Masters of Sex" know were the groundbreaking researchers behind studies on sexuality in the late 50s early 60s.

Don was not amused by Roger's impersonation of Megan, but Roger wasn't making fun of her.  He's jealous of Don, who now has the newer, better version of what Roger has.  He was deliriously happy himself not that long ago, but eventually the luster wears off and your new bride doesn't know who Mussolini is and you regret your decision just a little bit.

Lane does understand what it is to feel alone, more than Joan knows.  It's why he's engaging in this silly game with the girlfriend of the owner of the wallet he found in the cab.  He's built up some fantasy about the young lady and she's helping fill whatever vacancy there is in his heart.

Is this episode about wish fulfillment or happiness?  Is it about getting what you want and whether that's enough?  Don has it all now, the beautiful young talented wife with whom he shares everything.  Pete has it all as well, the bigger office and the head of accounts on the ropes.  Joan has it all, the husband and the beautiful new baby.  Or is it about emptiness and unfulfilled dreams.  Lane's search for love.  Roger's search for respect.  And how does the story that book-ended this part of the season premier factor into the narrative?

It started with protesters demanding fairness, equality and what is right.  How were they dealt with?  They were scoffed at, ridiculed, physically attacked, and made the butt of jokes.  They were standing up for themselves and received nothing but derision and hate.  But despite this, there was hopefulness. When they saw the ad, they weren't cynical or suspicious.  They believed that something good could still happen.  And they showed up, eager and prepared to get what they deserved—a fair chance.  Searching for equality.  And maybe taking a step in that direction.


Bobby:  How old are you gonna be?
Don: 40.  So when you're 40, how old will I be?
Bobby:  You'll be dead.

Don: Give Morticia and Lurch my love.

Pete:  There was a time when she wouldn't leave the house in a robe.
Howard:  Listen, there's a point when you go from going home on the 5:25 to the 7:05.
If you finally learn how to drive, you can push it to 9:30.... Or not come home at all.

Roger:  What's Don up to today? I see a lot of napping and pillow talk.
Caroline:  That's your schedule.

Pete:  How was everybody's weekend?
Ken:  Great.  We all went water-skiing together.
Stan:  Made a human pyramid.
Peggy:  I was here.

Pete: My office is 30 yards away.  So when I hit that buzzer, I'm trying to save myself a trip through the miracle of telephonics.

Lane:  As tempting as it sounds, I don't know if we need to be spending money to further their embarrassment.
Roger: Look, if there's no line item for humiliating the competition, Don will write it and I'll pay for it.

Peggy:  The clients are right all of a sudden? I don't recognize that man.  He's kind and patient.

Trudy:  Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition.  It's the coal that fuels the fire.

Roger:  Why don't you sing like that?
Jane: Why don't you look like him?

Roger:  As a wise man once said, the only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.

Megan:  Nobody loves Dick Whitman.

Lane:  It's just a matter of time before they find out I'm a sham.

Stan: Where's Harry?
Pete:  Who cares?

Megan: You don't like presents.  You don't like nice things.

Jane:  What time is it?
Roger: Shut up

Roger:  Is it just me, or is the lobby full of Negroes?

Spoilers (Don't read until you're caught up):

Roger starts his speech with "je m'appelle Roger." By the series finale, he's learning to speak French.

Lane says, to the girl on the phone, "I'll be here the rest of my life."  And that is, sadly, prophetic, as we learn in Ep. 5.11.

At the 26:40 mark, we meet for the first time what will be for some of us one of out favorite characters ever.   Meredith the receptionist.  She later becomes not just Don Draper's secretary, but his strength.  All hail Meredith.

Pete lures Roger to the docks for the early morning meeting by mentioning the biggest client of them all—the golden goose—Coke.  By series end, they are now working for that very client and Don creates its most memorable ad campaign.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Survivor Second Chances - Episode 1 - Downward-Facing Chances

That's what second chances is about.  Did you learn from your mistakes the first time?  Did you correct them?  - Peih-Gee Law

The only thing worse than getting your torch snuffed on Survivor is being the first one out of an all-returning players' season.  Especially one as hotly anticipated as this season, Survivor: Second Chances aka Survivor: Cambodia aka the one the fans got wrong by not voting in Shane Powers.  You could avoid the ignominy two ways, your tribe could win the first immunity challenge or you could not be "that guy" the one who sabotages his own game by doing something dumb.  And one of those dumb things is giving the producers a sound bite like this one: "My mistake last time was my lack of awareness and overconfidence."  Or this one: "Somebody might do something real stupid later in the game." 

But first (sorry, still channeling Big Brother) let's look at the start of the episode.  Jeff lays it on pretty thick and yet it's not undeserved.  Having once made a small mistake on a game show (I mispronounced the Ganges river), I know how you can be haunted by falling short of your goals and not winning the prize you had hoped for.  I can only imagine if the prize was $1M.  And so a season with all returning also-rans, especially for those who came tantalizingly close to winning, it is not an exaggeration to say that there is a lot on the line.  Someone will get a demon off their back and nineteen others will have a new regret to pile on top of their old one.

The first castaway with a voice-over/confessional, and the first shown in the actual credits, Kelly Wiglesworth, from the very first Survivor.  She's fifteen years older than when she first played Survivor.  Then she was a young, naive outdoorsy girl who thought she was playing a survival-based game and had no idea about the social aspect of the game.  She famously lost by one vote by her former ally Sue Hawk who voted for the snake, Richard Hatch, over the rat at the final tribal council.  Kelly is the only returning member from Borneo and was given the chance to replay the very first Survivor challenge, Quest for Fire.

Next spotlighted was Andrew Savage from Pearl Islands.  He was one of the former players considered most deserving of a second chance as his original boot came after an unexpected, unfortunate twist.  You could feel the pain a dozen years of regret have built up in him and you can sense that he's not back for a good time but to erase the past.  Spencer Bledsoe, the young superfan from Cagayan, is just a year away from his first unsuccessful outing and he's come better prepared and, he promises, more humble than the first time.

Next up is Kimmi "don't wave your finger in my face" Kappenberg from Australia.  Forever associated with Alicia's flying digit and her love of chickens, Kimmi is older and wiser but seems less haunted by her first outing and less desperate to win.  Kelley Wentworth from San Juan Del Sur is eager to get back in and fight for the title, this time without the weight of her father dragging her down.  Fellow Blood v. Water castaway Ciera Eastin tells us she wants to be known for more than voting her mother out.

Tasha Fox, another Cagayan castaway, went far but not far enough.  More a victim of ultimate Survivor Tony's great gameplay than any failing on her part, she's promised to bring a little villainy to her game this time out.  Possibly as tortured by his loss as Andrew Savage is Jeff Varner from the Australian Outback.  Unlike Kimmi, Jeff had a real chance to win this game, but an impetuous decision to jump off and out of a challenge due to the lure of a taste of smooth, creamy peanut butter sent him packing.

Golden boy, Adonis, Mr. Perfect, whatever you call him Joe Anglim is back from last season's World's Apart where he showed that there really is something about being too good to be true.  He is a walking billboard that screams challenge THREAT and no one will give him a pass to the final four.  He's setting his expectations low, hoping to last long enough for the family visits.  "Chaos" Kass McQuillen, the third and final "Brains" tribemate from Cagayan, claims she's learned her lesson and that she needs to tone down her evil image.  Not her actual villainy, just the image.

Speaking of someone returning with a bad reputation, we next hear from Abi-Maria Gomes, from the Phillipines, who claims to be more self-aware and promises not to threaten anyone with death this time out.  Good guy Jeremy Collins from San Juan Del Sur is back for redemption which in his case means not getting too comfortable and being blindsided by your alliance.  He's here without his wife and with an awareness that you can't let your guard down.

With the introductions out of the way, the game starts.  First up is gathering supplies for camp and then heading over to the beach to set up.  It immediately becomes clear that there are two ways to play the game and two categories of players.  There are those who worry about setting up the camp, gathering wood, getting fire, building a shelter and there are those who start scrambling and building alliances.  Some refer to this as old school versus new school, even though the very first scrambler was from the very first season of Survivor.

We split the castaways into two tribes, Bayon and Ta Keo, that only true Survivor nerds will remember by next season.  It's an interesting draw.  Ta Keo had Shirin Oskool, Spencer, Abi-Maria, Jeff, Peih-Gee Law, Vytas Baskauskas, Terry Dietz, Woo Hwang, and both Kelly and Kelley.   Bayon has Joe, Jeremy, Stephen Fishbach, Ciera, Tasha, Kimmi, Kass, Keith Nale, Monica Padilla and Andrew.    More early confessionals from Bayon, so of course they'll be the ones going to tribal.

Woo from Cagayan gets the next confessional, and he still doesn't mention that taking Tony to the finals was the worst decision of his life and the one that has hung over his head ever since.  He's just too chill.  Terry from Panama is more self-aware of his short-comings in his confessional, telling us that his wife mentioned working on his social game this time out.  Since he's ten years older, and competing against Joe and Woo, he better not rely on beasting all the comps to get to the end.

Whoever had 20 minutes in the pool for how long it would take before Abi-Maria started drama won the bet.  She can't find her bag and she's looked everywhere and it's nowhere and where the hell is her bag.  Just beause she knows that her downfall int he past was her temper, it's not going to keep her from tracking down the bag thief if it's the last thing she does.

We get a confessional from Keith "Stick to the plan" Nale who promises to be a better strategist but with just as much spitting as his last time out.  He and fellow San Juan Del Sur castaway Jeremy agree to put the past behind them and work together and Jeremy also pulls in Tasha, Andrew and Joe.  And then he goes and makes mistake #1, telling the camera "It will be so dumb to mess this up."

I feel sorry for Andrew's two daughters who were embarrassed on national TV when their dad outed their mad crushes on the dreamy Joe.  But Joe is thrilled that anyone may want to keep him in the game despite his physical talents.  On the other end of the scale is poor Steven "knowingest know-it-all" Fishbach who was runner-up in Tocatins.  He's the nerdy, physically inept, non-threat who cannot bend let alone break a tree branch and who has to find a balance between being too savvy a gameplayer and too weak a physical competitor.

Older brother of Survivor winner Aras Baskauskas, Vytas is back hoping to be less of a target than he was his first time out.  His plan is to get in good with the women and, being a yoga instructor, he thinks giving one-on-one lessons with the ladies is the way to go.  On the other beach, Joe is also leading a yoga session for his tribemates.  Our first lesson of the season, you can charm more women by looking like Joe and not touching them than looking like Vytas and manhandling them.

Shirin from World's Apart is of the play fast camp and is immediately pulling in people, strategizing with Spencer and Jeff to target Vytas.  It's a great first target.  He's physically fit, but his loss will not spell doom for your team.  He's a weasly game-player who can't be trusted, so you wouldn't want him going deep in the game.  His pelvic thrusts are the stuff of nightmares and he's scoring a ten on the the creepiness chart.  And it's always best to get out an easy target everyone can rally around rather than risk aiming at and missing someone who will come back against you.  Jeff tells us that he was a bit rattled by the speed of the Shirin train approaching him and he quickly realized that the game had started and he had to start playing just as fast.  And in the smartest thing I've heard yet, he says that he knows that in every conversation about strategy the answer is always yes.  You are a quick learner, little grasshopper.

"Old school, new school?  What do I do?"
We has some drama after Abi-Maria found her bag in fellow hyphenate Peih-Gee's bag, but rather than having an enormous blow up, Abi-Maria managed to do her version of being calm, cool and collected (or collective in honor of Rodney).  While Ta Keo alternately strategizes and bickers, Bayon is building fire thanks to "he who can do no wrong" Joe.  The castaways look around to do a roll call and see Stephen off by himself searching for the immunity idol.  He's worried that his reputation as the game savvy nerd may make him an early target and so he's looking for help and quickly.  But by taking himself out of the camp to go look for the idol, he only brought more negative attention onto himself.  Not something his fellow know-it-all would say was good strategy.  Stephen then tries to show what he can offer his team physically by trying to break a tree branch and after a few minutes it's tree 1, Fishbach 0. Perhaps he should have practiced weaving palm fronds. 

Before going to the immunity challenge, we see Jeff Varner (the king of confessionals) and Peih-Gee hanging out together and strategizing.  They both saw that it came down to Vytas (who Shirin was targeting, hard) versus Abi-Maria (who was butting heads with Peih-Gee).  The choice could also be broken down to old school (the hardworking. fit people who build shelters like Terry) versus new school (the wily overactive strategists like Spencer).  Often when you see someone caught in the middle it's foreshadowing that their indecisiveness ends up costing them the game and so I was worried for my fave Jeff after this scene.

Heading to the immunity challenge, Kelley had out-Fishbached Stephen by managing to disguise her search for the hidden immunity idol while successfully gathering supplies for camp.  Along the way, she discovered the clue as to the location of the idol.  This year's twist, announced before the start of the season, was that the idols would be hidden at the challenges, making the decision whether to go for it and how to be subtle about it adding intrigue.  At the challenge, this added a new level of intrigue and excitement as we were not only watching who would get to the end first but whether Keley would be able to grab and hide the idol without anyone noticing. In fact, once we saw that the challenge was between Kelly and Joe, the question was not who would win but whether there would be a window of opportunity for Kelley to make her move. The first time Kelley was close to the idol, she failed to grab it, but as the race to win became a nailbiter, and her fellow tribemates were glued to the stick reaching for the elusive key, she quickly grabbed and hid the idol.  Nice move!

Though Keith and his poor torch handling skills put Ta Keo behind going to the last phase of the competition, Joe ended up with a better pole than Kelly - longer and stronger (the stuff just writes itself sometimes) - and he pulled out the win for Bayon.  And so we never had to discover whether Fishbach's trip away from camp was going to cost him not just his future on the show but his dignity and reputation.

Jeff Probst had a shocker for the losing tribe. They would immediately go to tribal, no going back to the beach to scramble and plot.  Immediately was more an approximation as it was pitch black by the time the tribe got to tribal council, but it was still pretty clear they had not had time to put a firm plan together.  This made for an interesting tribal where looks, head nods, veiled and not-so-veiled comments served as all the strategizing they were allowed.  

It took no time for it to become apparent that it was going to be either Abi-Maria or Vytas.  Personally, I was hoping for Abi-Maria because I get tired of typing the hyphen every single time.  Also, she was a huge, hard to swallow pill her first time out.  But I respect great gameplay and she is not the ultimate threat that Vytas is.  His likable brother has bonds with some of the castaways, he's a manipulator, and he's a potential challenge threat.  There will be plenty of opportunities for Abi-Maria to go off the deep end and get into another fight about absolutely nothing (although I do wonder why Peih hyphen Gee had her bag and didn't say anything when she knew it was missing).  But blindsiding Vytas and getting that smug guy to do the ultimate walk of shame is a pretty attractive offer.  So with a vote of 6-4, Vytas was sent packing.

Shirin has surprised me most so far.  I thought she was the least socially-aware castaway her season and with her reputation, her millions, and her personality, I did not think she'd build bonds so quickly.  But she seems to have a great ally in fellow nerd superfan Spencer, much better than her last alliance with Max "who doesn't love to hear me talk" Dawson.  I was also keen on seeing Jeff Varner adapt so quickly to the new age of Survivor.  On Ta Keo, I'm worried about Stephen and think he needs to quickly get together with the women and target some of the alpha males.  The bromance between Andrew and Joe in particular needs to be broken up sooner rather than later.

With all the excitement built up and all the hype, I'd say this was a great first episode.  Even if there was none of this:

Big Brother 17 Finale - How Vanessa Lost

Last night 22-year-old college student Steve* Moses won the top prize on the seventeenth season of Big Brother.  He beat out 23-year-old marketing specialist, part-time bikini model, full-time twin Liz Nolan by a vote of 6-to-3.  But the biggest story of the night was not how the socially awkward nerd won the game after his houseguests on Day 1 had him in their sights as a dangerous Ian-clone, the biggest story was how the multi-millionaire poker superstar, supreme game theorist, and hormonally challenged Vanessa Rousso lost the game she had controlled from the start.

One of the first times we saw Vanessa on the live feeds, she was having an emotional meltdown.   She missed her girlfriend but most of all, she said, she could not handle the way people in the house treated each other.  The bullying was weighing on her, particularly how they all treated the shy, socially inept Steve.  Those of us who knew Vanessa as a steely poker player where shocked by the flood of tears as well as her rapid-fire speech pattern.  It humanized her and made her less of a target, despite her Duke degree and 2.5 years in law school.  Being emotional worked for her, it made her seem less of a threat and more vulnerable.

But as the weeks and then months went on, the vulnerability turned into paranoia and whatever bonds she felt she had created with her allies disappeared.  She was constantly hyper-vigilant for anyone who threatened her position in the game, she dissected everyone's incentives to determine their true intentions, she questioned and berated them to prove their loyalty rather than convey a sense of mutual trust.  In a game that is built in large part on building interpersonal relationships, she failed to form real attachments or even to fake sincere connections.  She made it too apparent that everyone was a chess piece that she was moving around the board and that she had no personal connection with anyone.  She missed the basic concept of a final two deal - that each party must believe the other party intends to keep the deal.  Without that, you have no option but to win every competition at the end. 

Vanessa has created with Steve a solid alliance, the Students of Sound (SOS).  They had a common bond, both super smart, well-educated people who were drawn away from academic pursuits to do what they love, pursue music.  Steve relied on her and confided in her.  But he did not trust her and that was Vanessa's fatal flaw.  She didn't read Steve right and thought that he needed her and trusted her more than he did. She thought the socially awkward Mommy's boy would cling to her and feel beholden to her as his only true ally. She thought their Final Two SOS meant something to him and that she was his only friend in the game. She didn't realize he had a Final Two with Johnny Mac, also built on super smart, well-educated people with a strong love of music.  And she didn't realize that Steve's had waited his entire life to play this game and he was not going to make any of the mistakes he had seen over sixteen years of watching every iteration of Big Brother in an English-speaking country.

Vanessa misread that Steve was a superfan first and would do and say anything to win the game. For all his retching and crying he never lost his superfan mind. He didn't want to be Cody and he wanted to Neda her so bad her could taste it which meant he had to win part 3, win the final HOH, and put his future in his own hands.  He was naive but not stupid; he knew Vanessa would never take him to the end.  Vanessa, for all her talk about needing to understand people's incentives, some how thought that Steve would act contrary to his best interest and take her to the end.  But he was incentivized to be the one to vote Vanessa out of the game, and land the big kill everyone in the house had been gunning for.  

Had Vanessa kept Austin, with whom she also had a Final Two deal from very early in the game, he would have thrown it to her thinking she'd take him over Liz.  His incentive was to get the money and the girl and he thought the best way to do that was to let his two closest allies, Liz and Vanessa, battle it out in the end and then take him.  But Steve could not risk that and so, to use language Vanessa would understand, she put her tournament life on the line in a race.  That's not great poker strategy and it's not great Big Brother strategy.  

*Steve said he never went by Steve in his life but the producers had him change it. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Brother 17 - Who Deserves to Win

Big Brother fans, it's almost that time.  On Wednesday, Derrick will (thank god almighty, Les Moonves, Julie Chen and whoever else is responsible for there being another season) be dethroned as reigning champion and a new BB winner will be crowned. It's a question we ask every year - not who do you want to win, but who deserves it.  If your answer isn't Vanessa, Steve or Liz, you're out of luck.  It's going to be either the undercover poker player, the nerdy superfan, or the recruited Miami-beach twin taking home the half million dollars and the title.  Who deserves the win and whose win will ruin Big Brother for all time?  The answer is not as clear as you think.

The common wisdom is that if you're a true Big Brother fan, you are rooting for Vanessa Rousso.  Vanessa brought her ten years experience as an elite poker pro, her faux-Ivy league degree (sorry Duke) in Game Theory, and her 2/5 years in Law School to the BB house this summer and promised to school the houseguests in how this game is played.  Along the way (nearly 100 days, the longest in BB history) Vanessa has gone from sobbing about missing her girlfriend, to yelling at her fellow houseguests for various and sundry slights, to moving the players around like a Machiavellian Garry Kasparov.   She has won enough competitions that for seven of the fifteen votes she had complete protection.  The few times she wasn't Head of Household, she controlled the target and made sure the person who left benefitted her.

Vanessa had two rock solid Final Two deals, one with Austin Matelson and one with Steve Moses.  Neither knew of the other's deal with Vanessa.  She also at various times hinted to a final deal with half of the house.  She was in multiple alliances - Freaks and Geeks (later Scamper Squad), Sixth Sense, Students of Sound, and Sleeper Cell,  Yet throughout the season, she repeated the refrain that she was "solo dolo" in the house, had no one, was all by her little lonesome, and was totally unencumbered.  She not only convinced people with whom she was not in an alliance that she was a lone wolf, she convinced Austin, Liz, Steve, Julia, Shelli and Clay - all of who had an alliance with her - that she was alone.  That is some David Copperfield sized magic.

She's been thinking and planning every minute of every day she's been in the house and is taking her stint there as a job, she's not there to make friends or for a vacay.  She approaches the game of BB like she does poker.  You are dealt a hand and you play it to the best of your ability.  Sometime you'll get lucky, sometime you'll end up in a cooler.  If you play your cards right, you'll have another chance to make up for whatever mistakes you made.  She managed to make it to the end of the game with multiple pairs (and one triple), so that at all times she would appear to be the least threatening of the remaining players.

She's played such a good game that Liz, one of only three people still in the running for the money, says she wants her to win.  She's played so well that Steve, her other contender for the money, is fearful of taking her to the end because she is a lock to win.  So is she the most deserving?

Is it possible that Liz is the most deserving of the title?  Don't scoff.  The blonde (at least for the first three weeks) bikini-wearing party girl type is not usually anyone's pick for a BB winner.  And having hooked up with the Jack Links Beef Jerky spokes-beast after having told us for weeks that the smelly Sasquatch was just a means to an end, it was unlikely that anyone would embrace her as the winner of the season.  But that would be to ignore all that Liz did do to get to the end.

She spent the first five weeks of the game switching in and out of the house with her twin sister Julia.  That takes attention to detail, smarts, good instincts, fast reflexes and someone not to look too closely at your #9.  But she managed to fool the guys who were flirting with her, if not some of the more observant non-romantically interested members of the house.  While Austin and Jeff were so keen on hooking up with the cute blonde that they didn't care that half the time she looked and acted different, she still did a good enough job carrying on the ruse that no one was sure until she finally admitted it.

And this is where her game soared.  Rather than being a liability, Liz was so fun, so likable, so non-threatening (despite doing well in challenges) that the house allowed her sister to join her.  Most everyone thought they could use this twist for their benefit, missing the point that the person who benefited the most from having her twin in the house was LIZ.  After weeks of rejecting Judas' advances, she decides that she may never be rescued from the BB house so it was imperative that she find a potential mate there in order to keep mankind going.  Jace was gone, Clay was taken, Austin got Jeff booted, Steve and Jason were not interested, James was obsessing about whether he and Audrey could hook up before turning his attention to Meg, and John was intrigued by the basic girl from Colorado.  So after weeks of pushing the Mountain aside, she finally decided to become a couple with Austin.  A couple of what, we're not sure, but it became official.  What do you think of that Johnny Mac?

 Yeah, us too.  But while being in the two most blatant final twos in the history of BB, one with your twin and one with your soulmate, Liz was never anyone's target.   She washed dishes, cleaned the house, cooked dinner, played games. and hung out week after week and it never occurred to anyone that maybe they should stop her before she gets to the end and wins the whole thing. Even when she started winning comps, she was not on anyone's radar.  If you watched the live feeds, you noticed that Liz wasn't some dumb blonde (or whatever color God intended). She's actually pretty smart: she turned out to be a quick learner who caught on to the strategy of the game pretty well.  She never betrayed an ally, she tried to work with a variety of people, and she won some comps. Where she has not done a great job is in jury management. Some of her goodbye messages would make Regina George from Mean Girls, say, whoa there.  But since she's related or connected by various bodily fluids to 2/9 of the jury, she may not feel she has to work as hard for the vote.  And, if we're being real. neither Vanessa nor Steve has had better jury management. 

Let's look at Steve's game.  Steve came into the house with an Ian Terry-sized target on him.  The quirky nerdy superfan raised red flags for all the houseguests and they immediately worried that if not stopped, this kid - and at 22 he is the youngest in the house - could take the title.   He got off on the wrong foot and his awkwardness caused a number of the houseguests to target him for ridicule or disdain.  It was Vanessa's masterstroke to support and, yes, mother the young lad while he was being picked on by Jace and marginalized by the cool crowd. But Steve upped his own game, working on his people skills, being open to change, and trying to connect.

Steve formed two solid F2 alliances just like Vanessa.  One was their SOS, the other was his Rockstars alliance with fellow music geek Johnny Mac.  And he managed to work his way into the Scamper Squad alliance by feeding info and supporting Austin/Liz/Julia and Vanessa while not betraying (until they were on the block together) John.  Steve won five competitions including two HOHs and yet was never on anyone's radar after the first week.

He used his knowledge of BB history to be the go-to person for info rather than having it be a liability.  And he continued to navigate the rough waters of Vanessa's mania and Austin's ego to stay solid in their alliance leading to the final five.  And the smartest thing Steve did was let Johnny Mac believe they were ride or die to the bitter end so that John decided to keep him over Austin.  That gave Steve two chances to save himself and get to the final three, which he did by winning the next HOH.  And then, according to Steve, he betrayed his fellow Rockstar by throwing the last POV so that John would be out before the final three.  Steve positioned himself well to guarantee that he'd be in the final HOH competition.

In truth, any of the three would be deserving of the win in their own right. And, as much as you want to root for your favorite or against who you feel is the villain, whoever manages to last to the end and gets the jury votes pretty much by definition "deserves" that win.  You can bitch and moan (as I have done since Derrick won last year) but winning the game is by definition showing us who deserves the title.  That being said, for this year, the most deserving, in my not at all humble opinion is....


Who actually will get to the final two depends on who wins the very last competition of the year.  This final HOH pits Vanessa against Steve.  The winner picks who will sit next to them.  Steve has told the live feed viewers that he will not be another Cody.  Unlike the handsome lunkhead underwear model from Season 16, he will not take the person who's played the best, most manipulative game to the finals.   He plans on taking Liz.   Vanessa has told Liz that despite what Steve believes she will not be taking him to the finals, giving a guy another chance to beat a woman for the title.  She plans on taking Liz.

If it is true, as Steve has oft-quoted, that if you have to win a competition you are doing something wrong, then it's pretty clear who actually has played the best game and who deserves the win.  Liz didn't win part one or part two of the HOH and won't be winning the last competition. But she is guaranteed to get to the end.

That sounds like the most deserving player this year to me.  What do you think?

Survivor 31 - Second Chances. Preview.

It's taken me this long to get over Shane Powers not being voted back onto Survivor: Second Chances.  How anyone call can themselves a fan of Survivor and not want that lunatic to get another shot at the million dollars is beyond me?  I could watch Shane sitting on his special rock for 48 minutes every week.  This guy was pure gold - irrational, irascible, and irritating.  But having moved through the five stages to acceptance, let's preview the twenty former castaways who will be vying to finally get it right.

Here's my predicted boot order. Not who I want to win (cough - Jeff Varner - cough) but who I think will win.

20.  Kass McQuillen - You can't go into an All Star season with the nickname "Chaos Kass" and expect anyone wants to play with you.  Her target is larger than Max Dawson's ego and she makes Abi-Maria and Shirin seem likable by comparison.
19. Shirin Oskool - Millionaire, annoying superfan.  Grated on everyone and only lasted as long as she did first time out because absolutely no one thought she had a chance to get to the end.  The former Survivors, especially from the older seasons, might enjoy her fangirling for a little while. I'm guessing about six days.
18.  Stephen Fishbach - Like Kass, going into the game as the knowingest know-it-all puts a huge target on your back.  He has spent years dissecting everyone's game and is known for handing out weekly awards for the best player.  3-to-1 whoever casts a vote against Stephen asks if this entitles them to a Fishy.
17.  Andrew Savage - Even though over a decade has past, he's still seen as a physical threat.  Not known as a great strategist, no reason to think he's prepared for this group.  While he is the most deserving of a second chance, no one said Survivor is a fair game.
16. Abi-Maria Gomes - By this time in the game, everyone will remember why Abi-Maria was hated and will just want to get her out of camp.  She can only pretend to like people for so long.
15.Vytas Baskauskas - Huge target, everyone knows he's wheeling and dealing, has great rapport, and is a physical threat.  His smarmy chumminess and cut-throat attitude will get one of his allies to turn on him before Vytas can do the same.
14.  Peih-Gee Law - She can try and be sweet and nonconfrontational, but your real personality comes out and her bossiness will grate.
13. Joe Anglim - Golden boy, god's gift to everything, charming, friendly, and with Woo easily the most physically fit.  He's helped the team all he can, time to cut him before the merge.
12. Kimmi Kappenberg - She's not a threat, she didn't go far in her season, she won't be on anyone's radar early.  But, she just won't stop talking.
11. Terry Dietz - He's been helpful around camp and is a great guy, but ten years older or not, do you want to risk another immunity run?  He's such an obvious target, though, that I think he'll last longer than expected.
10. Spencer Bledsoe - How did he make it this far?  He's a threat, he knows too much about the game, he's sneaky.  Everyone agreed on just two things going in, Jeff Probst's dimples are hypnotic and Spencer cannot win this game.
9.  Monica Padilla - You know those non-targets that everyone ignores, they can win the game. Let's not let that happen.
8. Woo Hwang - He's the nicest guy on the planet, will not make any enemies, and you know that he'll probably vote for you in the F3.  But it's best to put him out of his own misery at this point, just in the small chance he's figured out the game.
7. Jeremy Collins - He's played hard, probably too hard, and is shocked to have made it this far.  He can taste the win.  Everything is going his way.  But, but, damn.  So close.
6. Jeff Varner - He's had an alliance since the moment Season 31 was announced, he's impossible not to like, and he's not a physical threat.  He's on the track to make it to the finale.
5. Ciera Eastin - After everyone else attacks all the visible threats they look around and see that Ciera is still there.  No one even realized she was in the cast.
4. Kelley Wentworth - Without her Dad as an anchor, she should do well.  She can win immunities near the end and will not rub anyone the wrong way.  Being a fan of the show will not get her booted  early like the last time.
3. Kelly Wiglesworth - The godmother of the show, no one wants to be the one to end her game.  She needs to make it to the end.  Maybe they can fly Sue Hawk out for the final tribal.
2. Keith Nale - Late end immunity run after having been way under the radar for weeks.  Once all the strong players are gone, the idea of "stick to the plan" Keith winning is pretty funny.
1. Tasha Fox - Smart but not an annoying superfan, fit but not an Adonis like Joe, loyal and likable, this is my winner. And she's my third favorite (after Jeff and Jeremy).

Who do you want to win?  Who do you think will win?  And who's your first boot?  Let me know below!