Monday, February 15, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong Cast Preview

It's almost time. Season 32 of the best reality show in the history of TV will premiere this Wednesday with a whole new cast, a less than new tribe division, promises of the most brutal, punishing experience ever, and a hidden immunity idol twist that may shake things up.  Let's meet the new cast:

These eighteen new castaways will be broken up into three tribes based on shoehorning them into one of three categories:  beauty, brains and brawn.  The last time we had a BBB season, the diabolical, crazy-like-a-fox, cunning and completely original Tony Vlachos controlled the game wire to wire with a dominating performance.  The "Brawn" out-thought the brains and sent the beauties packing on his way to what he made look like an easy victory.  He lied about his profession, built a spy shack, spoke llama, backstabbed allies and foes alike and found idols like he had hid them.  Will another member of the brawn tribe be able to live up to this?

Brawn tribe - To Tang.  Members:  Kyle Jason, Darnell Hamilton, Jennifer Lanzetti, Alecia Holden, Scot Pollard, and Cydney Gillon.

Kyle Jason is a freakin' bounty hunter.  How cool is that?  The much tattooed 31-year-old from Detroit claims his biggest accomplishment was becoming a non-commissioned officer in the army in just three years.  Looking at that facial hair, the earlobe plugs, and those tattoos, my guess would have been rolling the fattest joint at a Phish concert or holding a mud wrestling title.  The guy is impressive.  Sergeant in the army, fighting in Iraq, then working in Afghanistan doing security at Blackwater.  Now he runs his own private investigation aka bounty hunting company.  So he's cagey and quick on his feet, but to look at him with his ratty beard and man boobs, you won't think of him as much of a threat.  That can help him sneak by, especially as he seems pretty easy going and chill. He's also a dad, and he can play that card if he gets deeper in the game.  He's playing to make money for his family, which Jeremy recent showed to be a good strategy.  Kyle is a longtime Survivor fan who may have that right combination of game knowledge and life experience.

Darnell Hamilton is a 27-rear-old postal worker  from Chicago.  Hopefully, Darnell can undo the damage to Survivor-playing post office employees caused by Survivor One World's Dan Foley.  Darnell's proudest accomplishment is finishing college (which he did while working full time) after having a pretty mediocre high school career.  I wish I had taken his approach of doing better in college than high school, maybe I wouldn't have ended up at Loyola Law School.  Ah, life regrets.  Anyway, Darnell thinks he'll be different from the other castaways in that he's bringing street smarts not just book smarts, the kind of street smarts which he used - to sneak out of the house at night.  Very Ferris Bueller of you.  He's a personable guy who'll probably provide good confessionals ("hateration is my motivation," he says in his video). He says he's overcome a lot of adversity so he's not intimidated by Survivor and thinks he can use positivity and hard work to go far in the game.

38-year-old Jennifer Lanzetti is a construction worker from Salt Lake City, Utah.  This is the first person who I can see belongs on the Brawn tribe.  She is a physical speci(wo)men.  Jennifer has been in construction - a noted man's world - for twenty years, so your initial impression is that it's unlikely she's going to be intimidated by anyone or anything on Survivor.  Then you read further into her bio and find out she's overcome endometriosis, cancer and drug addiction on top of getting her engineering degree and starting her own company.  Her only problem on the tribe may be that she's not used to fading into the background and not giving her opinion so she has to worry about butting heads.  But if she lives by her "semper Gumby" motto (always flexible!) she might be okay.  She did mention that she's somewhat concerned about the weather and as we saw on Survivor Second Chance (filmed at the same location), weather can be hellish on Kaoh Rong.  So the unknown is whether her drive to win will overcome her desire not to be wet all the time?

Alecia Holden is a 24-year-old real estate agent from Dallas.  She's a bit of a daredevil and thrill seeker and rattles off a list of things that I have not done and have no interest in doing because I don't have a death wish: bungee jumping in Indonesia, hang gliding in Rio, skydiving, jumped off the stratosphere in Las Vegas, face to face shark diving in Australia, and interacting with uncaged tigers in Thailand.  She is quite clearly on the wrong tribe unless Brawn means having no muscles whatsoever and doing risky things that involve no physicality.  She's just as clearly a "Beauty" and proof that the whole construct of the BBB is arbitrary and built on a flimsy base.  But she does share the "I'm not a girly girl" attitude of the other women on her tribe and they each have a background in non-traditional fields (she was a boxing promoter).  She says she knows people will underestimate her and think of her as another Barbie, but she plans to fool them.  Being a skinny blonde is a great disguise.  Pre-merge boot.

Scot Polard is a 40-year-old former NBA player.  I had to look that up.  I haven't watched the NBA since Magic Johnson was battling Larry Bird, so it's been a while.  Scot, all 6'11" of him, is not going to try to hide his pro-basketball days the way his parents hid that second "t" from his name.  It never works and it only makes you look untrustworthy and a bigger threat.  Instead. he should admit that according to Wikipedia his biggest accomplishment as a player was his ever evolving hair style.  And the one time on air he turned to the camera and said, "hey kids, do drugs" not realizing the camera was on.  Scot gave the shorted bio of any Survivor contestant and so there's not much to go on. He wants to win for the money and thinks his being a great teammate is his ticket to success.  He doesn't play b-ball anymore because it hurts too much, so I'm not sure he's going to live up to the "Brawn" description.  But if the challenges involving reaching for things on a shelf, he'll be golden.

Cydney Gillon is a body builder, so no question whether she's on the right tribe.  But the 23-year-old from Douglasville, Georgia she's also gorgeous and would fit in well with the Beauties.  Oh and she's pre-med, so she could be on the Brains tribe.  Yes, Cydney is a triple threat.  She's says she has trouble getting along with most girly girls, but she likes the assertive girls, so maybe she and Jennifer can band together and kick some butt.  Just when you start pegging her as the winner, she brings up her alter egos and visions of Austin  aka "Judas" from Big Brother flood your memoriy and you want to run far away.  Please, just bring the one personality, not Rebecca the refined, polished girl or Storm the superconniving Kassian player.  Cydney studies enough psychology to understand that this is pretty strange, but not enough to realize she probably shouldn't have told us about them.  She knows she's a physical threat and is going to have to use some of her southern charm to keep her safe.

Brains tribe  - Chan Loh.  Members: Peter Baggenstos, Neal Gottlieb, Debbie Wanner, Aubry Braco, Joseph Del Campo, and Elisabeth Markham

Peter Baggenstos is a 33-year-old n ER doctor from Minneapolis, whose claim to fame is that he thinks he looks like Barack Obama.  I would have thought making it through med school and getting your license would be more noteworthy than sharing a close-cropped hairstyle and slightly larger than average ears with a lame duck president, but that's just me. Possibly because both his father and brother are brain surgeons, Peter feels like the failure in the family and so he spends his spare time working out at the gym and tattoo parlor to feel better about his career choice.  With rumors swirling about how this was the most physically punishing season ever, maybe we'll see Peter makes some extra points by saving a life or two.  He claims to be a fan and plans to be flexible and unpredictable, but I don't see him having any clear strategy going in other than dazzle his fellow castaways with his complete lack of a personality.  Stay in school kids and you'll end up with a great salary and the ability to put people to sleep with your Survivor video.

38-year-old Neal Gottlieb, from Sausalito, introduces himself as an organic ice cream entrepreneur which is another way of saying douchebag.  He wants you to know he has a PR team, had $70K in savings in his twenties, and that he worked in the Peace Corp, so he's that guy.  And he's not at all on the show just to advertise his Three Twins Ice Cream business, no, he's here to do that and win a million dollars on top of all that free publicity.  He's the nerdy Survivor superfan who always wanted to be on the show but figured he was too boring to ever get picked which resulted in the aforementioned trip to the Peace Corp.  There are worse reasons for do-goodership than trying to get on a reality TV show with a million dollar top prize.  I will give Neal credit for not dropping the name of his Ivy League college (Andy Bernard's alma mater, Cornell), though it might be because it is the lowest ranked of the ivies.  He does seem affable and non-threatening, so I can see him going far so long as he can hide that he's strategizing even in his sleep.

Debbie Warner is a 49-year-old chemist from Reading, Pennsylvania.  She's pretty bad ass, with a background in the military and an animal one-piece wearing body that looks like it takes a lot of work to keep up.  She has survivalist training - she can make fire! - and is looking forward to the challenge of being on Survivor.  She's in the "tough old broad" category that, sadly, does not usually win.  She will have to hide her repulsion towards Kardashian fans if she wants to make it post-merge.  Also, the fact that she says in her bio that, like Hannibal Lecter, she can be pleasant company, is not at all comforting.  And the Survivor she identifies most with - Coach - is also a huge red flag.  So she identifies with a cannibalistic serial killer and a oblivious, self-aggrandizing buffoon.  But wait, she juggles!  And we know how much the castaways love when their tribemates bring their talents from home, like playing the ukulele (Borneo's Sonja Christopher being the first of many booted rather than praised for their entertainment value).

Aubry Bracco did manage to work the name of her Ivy League school, Brown, into her CBS bio.  The 29-year-old social media marketer's claim to fame is that her name means leader of the elves.  Unless she's heading for the North Pole, I'm not sure what that will do for her on an island in Cambodia.  I've checked, none of her tribemates have pointy ears.  But if Will Ferrell is dropped onto the island, she'll be in good shape.  She tells us she's going to be quirky and funky and fun and do off beat things like make a coconut phone a la Greg Buis in 2000.  But using as your example of something quirky and different, something already done probably means she's all out of ideas.  She'll probably start swiping right on a rock pretending to look for a match on the other tribes. She also cares a lot about her astrological sign and what it means about her and how she relates to other people, which seems pretty un-brainy if you ask me.  Aubrey is a super fan, of the Shirin Oskooi kind, and if she doesn't hide that fact she could face an early boot.

72-year-old Joseph Del Campo does not look like any septuagenarian grandfather I'm used to seeing.  This former FBI agent is BUFF,  He lives in Vero Beach but does not give off the retired old guy vibe.  I don't see him sitting on a rocking chair, yelling at the neighbor kids to get off his lawn.  He seems pretty focused on staying young and in good shape and that should help bridge the age gap at his tribe.  After leaving the FBI, Joe worked in private investigation and security, which makes him the heir apparent to the ultimate people-reader Tony Vlachos.  He also can built a shelter with one suntanned, toned arm tied behind his broad back.  He seems to have the right attitude going in, understanding that he's probably much older than most of his fellow castaways and that he'll have to adapt to survive.  He seems pretty affable for someone with an FBI background; maybe his role was good cop?  I couldn't tell how much of a Survivor fan he is, but he mentioned Tom Westman, another fit, nice guy, older man, as the castaway he's most like.  Good call.

Elizabeth Markham, 27, could as easily as Joe have been placed in the Beauty tribe and no one would have questioned the placement.  But the New York based "quantitative strategist" is on the Brains tribe.  Anyone who has to explain their job  - I write computer programs that forecast stock prices and trade automatically - probably belongs on that tribe, so I won't quibble. Plus, Elizabeth is also part of a card-counting ring that preys on the poor defenseless casinos, taking advantage of them by using intelligence, strategy and data.  Those monsters!  She claims her main inspiration is her bad ass grandma, so maybe she'll ally with oldsters Debbie and Joe?  She's very into strategy and claims to be a Survivor fan, all of which bodes well.  But the player she says she's most like is Parvati, so points off for lack of creativity.  Finding out from her video that she graduated from MIT with a minor in game theory, however, immediately propels her back up to one of the players to watch out for.  Smart, pretty, personable and strategic?  Dangerous.

Beauty Tribe - Gondol.  Members:  Tai Trang, Nick Maiorano, Anna Khait, Michele Fitzgerald, Julia Sokolowski, and Caleb Reynolds.

Tai Trang is a 51-year-old gardener from San Francisco.  I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it's what's on the inside that matters, and  everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it and all those other old sayings, but, really?  Maybe if he ditches the glasses and get a hold of Andrew Savages' beanie and gets someone to tame those eyebrows, then maybe.  Ooohkay, moving on.  Tai is an outdoor kind of guy who loves climbing trees and fishing and all things nature, so that part of Survivor appeals to him.  If he is able to provide for his tribe, that will help make him invaluable early on. He grew up in Vietnam them moved to the US with his parents and 10 - count 'em 10 - siblings.  He is the middle child of 11 and Jan Brady thought she had it bad?? He has a lot of interests that he loves to talk about and claims he can talk for hours about bees.  You want to know how to guarantee you don't make it to the merge?  Talk for hours about bees.  He must have the most patient boyfriend of all time.

Befanged personal trainer/life coach Nick Maiorano is also a stretch for the Beauty tribe.  Maybe if he gets those Dracula-esque incisors filed down an inch or two that would help.  The 30-year-old from Redondo Beach either shows amazing honesty or stupidity immediately discrediting his career as a bunch of hokey.  Life coaching he tells us is just common sense and it involves pretending like you're interested in what your paying clients are telling you.  I imagine Nick's business will be booming after this!  He says he has no hero, he is his own hero, so I think we have our delusional out of touch player for the season, Coach 3.0.  He is a one-time Survivor blogger (for RHAP) and so he obviously has given a lot of thought to his strategy going in.  But then, so did Stephen Fishbach and we saw how well that worked on Survivor Second Chance.  He is here to bring the arrogance and the superior attitude and it will be interesting to see him clash with other bigger than life personalities who think they will be running the show.

Anna Khait is a 26-year-old poker player from Brooklyn, New York.  I've been a poker writer for ten years and I've never heard of her, and a quick check of the Hendon Mob database shows that her lifetime winnings are around $10K, so she's not exactly Vanessa Rousso.  Still, playing poker does give you many skills that can translate well to Survivor - reading people, patience, strategy, risk taking.  And a woman poker player has an added advantage of having experience being underestimated by men and outnumbered by them all of which can help her on Survivor.  She's aware that she's playing a social game and promises not to push too hard, to flirt if she has to, and to work hard and be an asset to her tribe.  She seems mature for her age and pretty level headed for someone who wants to go on national TV and have people watch your mind and body break down over 39 days for their amusement.  I think she can go far.  My only fear for her is getting "Ambered" by Caleb - i.e., having her game sabotaged because he falls in love with her.

Michelle Fitzgerald is 24-year-old bartender, cast because it is in the reality TV rules that each episode of Survivor contain at least one bartender.  This Freehold, New Jersey native has tan lines which completely confuses me as I thought you go to the spray tan place and take all your clothes off. Her inspiration in life is a fictional character - Harry Potter - but it could be worse, she could be a fan of Mr. Potter, the evil guy in "It's a Wonderful Life."  Her claim to fame is working with Rock the Earth, described on its website as "a not-for-profit, national public interest environmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending America's natural resources."  You lost me at "not-for-profit."  Michelle is another superfan, not a recruit, and has experience living in Southeast Asia which she hopes will come in handy.  She is positive and upbeat and will most likely drive people crazy with her unbridled enthusiasm as they are dealing with bug bites, hunger and heat stroke.

Julia Sokolowski 19-year-old college student.  Nineteen. Joe was in his fifties when she was born.  She goes to school in Boston but we can be pretty sure it's not Harvard because she didn't (1) drop it offhandedly into the discussion as they are trained to do or (2) get put on the Brains tribe which contractually Survivor has to do.  Yep, it's Boston University.  From her bio, it seems Julia was expecting to be on the Brains tribe as she talks about how quick she is and how good she is at doing puzzles.  But when she's walking down the street, my guess is people don't immediately think, man she looks smart.  You're pretty, Julia.  Deal with it.  But there is more to this beauty as we find out she did Habitat for Humanity (totally not to give her something to write her college essay about) and that she' has "killed cows in Africa, worked on a farm, and know how to make fire."  So pretty, smart and outdoorsy.  She's another die hard Survivor fan who applied the second she turned of age.  Her strategy is to take the skills she uses in her sorority to connect to people.

Caleb Reynolds is a\28 -year-old former Big Brother contestant from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  Caleb is also an Iraqi war veteran so huge kudos to him for that.  But those of us who watched him on Big Brother also remember the love-sick stalker who wouldn't take "She's not into you" for an answer and basically cost Amber her game.  Caleb was dubbed "Beast Mode Cowboy" in that game and has done his best to live up to the moniker, "judy chopping" his way into our hearts.  He is a made for reality TV character - over-the-top, quotable, accidentally funny, and full of himself.  But he has a secret weapon that could help him get far.  He was extremely loyal, to a fault, to his alliance on Big Brother and anyone who knows that could use Caleb's puppydog like fidelity to their advantage.  He looks like a physical threat but I doubt he could solve a three piece puzzle if the first two pieces were already in place.  He will definitely go big or go home and he is least likely to fade into the background and try and slip quietly to the end.

Who will be the first boot (cough - Alecia - cough), who will be the most hated (Nick?), and who will be one of the twenty or so evacuated for medical reasons?  How will the new super immunity idol work out (where two separate immunity idols can be joined together at tribal to be used after a vote)?  We're so close to getting those answers.  Survivors ready?  I am!

1 comment:

  1. Great article as ever. You were kinder about Caleb than I expected, although during BB16 I didn't think he was *all* bad.