Sarah: Over the years, I’ve discovered that my feelings toward Survivor tend to parallel those I have towards gin (Tanqueray martini, please). I love both very, very much, but fear that this love could veer off into a dangerous addiction. And due to my current commitments with local knitting and synchronized swimming clubs, I really don’t have time to attend any more meetings. Therefore, I do my best to enjoy both gin and Survivor in moderation, although the fact that I’ve written extensively about the show (often while enjoying a G and T) and have a VHS and DVD library of every single episode that has ever aired probably means that I’ve already taken the whole thing too far.
But I digress. It’s doubtful that most readers are interested in my reality TV abuse problem, which, as far as I know, cannot be remedied by any existing 12-step programs, anyway. And anyone who’s reading this is probably more absorbed in Survivor than the average viewer, so let’s get strung out on the show together, shall we? I couldn’t be more excited for the new season to start so that I can begin to get acquainted with the latest group of crazy people to get sucked up into the emotional and physical tornado that is Survivor. I’m also quite curious as to which past two survivors will be brought back to play the game (although I don’t want to know before watching the show, thank you).
Murtz: It amuses me that you do not know which two players will be brought back. Even my mom knew that one!
Sarah: Give me a break, man! I didn’t even know the truth about the Tooth Fairy until I was ten.
Murtz: In any event, I know I say this every year but I think that this will be the best edition of the show yet. I liked Palau because it showed that even nice firefighters can get ruthless and I really believe that we have now reached a point in the game where everyone is in it to win. Except if you are one of those singing idiots.
Sarah, I guess my question is not whether you are addicted more to gin or Survivor, but whether you combine your two passions on premiere night? Nothing says fun like the first Thursday of a new Survivor season and a Tanqueray martini. I must admit, I have no idea what that is like. I can’t even imagine how I would look if I ordered that. I guess it’s okay for you…
Sarah: Of course I’ll be sipping my favorite cocktail when I watch the first episode. It’s a tradition. Anyway, my first impression of this gang, other than that there are a peculiarly large number of contestants with identical twin siblings, is that CBS conducted a focus group and discovered that heterosexual males and lesbians had lost interest in the show after Ami Cusack, Vanuatu’s busty girl lover, was voted off the show. Although, given the steady stream of attractive females Mark Burnett has continued to deliver to the prime time scene, this boredom is hardly justified. Nevertheless, the producers loaded the Survivor: Guatemala cast with some seriously hot females and scrimped on the boy candy. Now, I wouldn’t kick Kate Winslet out of my bed, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Where are the bimboys? True, there’s Blake, a male model, but he looks suspiciously like Ryan from the Amazon, which hardly bodes well for his longevity in the game. Impressive pecs don’t guarantee a win, but they’re appreciated by many, especially on a show in which shirts are always optional.
Murtz: Ah, you and your Kate Winslet obsession actually. Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more! Anyway, if I am ever referred to as a ‘bimboy,’ you have license to shoot me. Interesting, objectively I think the last two seasons haven’t been as hot as I am used to. In terms of physical appearance, I think that everyone agrees that Australia was the best looking cast, probably followed by Marquesas. I think that the chicks on Palau and Guatemala (based strictly on their profile pictures at CBS.com) have not measured up. While you pointed out Blake for the guys, I think Danni and Morgan are the best of the lot for the females. I don’t know if you watched I Want To Be A Hilton, but man, Morgan totally looks like Yvette from that show.
Sarah: To be fair, it’s possible that CBS.com didn’t put up the best photos of the Guatemala guys. After all, if one looks back at Robb from Thailand, his picture reveals nothing about how hot (or annoying) as he was onscreen. Maybe it’s only the website’s mug shot of Jamie that makes him look suspiciously like my high school’s drug dealer. Perhaps Rafe wasn’t stoned during the photo shoot. And who knows? It might be a good thing that Jim looks so much like Jimmy Carter.
Murtz: Haha, funny enough that you mention Rafe. Did you know that you once worked on the same website? There’s a little bit of trivia for you. Heck, I did, too. I also think that CBS picks the worst photos of these contestants for use on the website. My theory is that they want us to not think they are that hot, so that we can recognize them when they are starving on the island. I guess it is also so that we appreciate their beauty when we actually do see them every Thursday night. I do think that there is a place for these pictures in the world of Survivor analysis (in which I majored). I think that by directly looking at the eyes of these players, you can tell who is and isn’t a contender.
Sarah: In any event, the latest bunch of castaways has certainly got me intrigued. Here are our initial thoughts based on their pictures and bios from CBS.com:
Amy O’Hara, 39
Police Sergeant, Revere, MA
Sarah: At first, I thought that I was looking at the younger sister of Deena Bennett from the Amazon, who was one of my favorite players from that season. Of course, Deena was a straight-shooting district attorney, while Amy is an officer of the law, raising her several notches on the toughness ladder. She’s probably a better shot, too. Although Amy claims that she has both leadership and team player qualities, I could see her emerging as a leader whether she wants to be one or not, much in the same way that Deena did. Given her athletic background, Amy will surely dominate in physical challenges. And based on the names of her cats, Fatima and Scrappy, I would expect a stellar sense of humor. All of these attributes make her preference for vodka martinis almost forgivable.
Murtz: Gotta concur. The problem that I foresee for Amy is her occupation. There aren’t many police officers who have played this game before her and certainly no other police sergeants. The fact that Amy rose to such a position as a female is very impressive and I am sure that she is not afraid to voice her opinion. As a result, I agree. She will probably be a vocal one. Don’t let those sweet eyes fool you. I think that she is there to play, but my feeling is that she may come off as a little too strong.
Blake Towsley, 24
Commercial Real Estate Broker/Model, Dallas, TX
Sarah: I’ve already predicted that Blake won’t go far in this game, but that doesn’t stop him from being an interesting person. Face it, anyone with hobbies such as kissing and cooking, perhaps roasting a quail that he killed himself, is advertising the fact that he’s a great date (although the attributes of a good kisser are somewhat subjective). While I wouldn’t have guessed that Blake was a part-time model based on his photo, he’s certainly not bad-looking, which will probably give him first dibs on any lady-lovin’ he might want to do during his time in Guatemala. And if he’s got as much competitive spirit as he claims (and even a fraction of the drive that Palau’s Bobby Jon had in his baby toe), he should be amusing to watch at the challenges.
Murtz: Our first minor disagreement. While I do not think that Blake will win this game, I certainly don’t think he is a ‘bimboy.’ I think that he looks crafty in his picture and that is always an asset. Although, I can see how people already think that he is an asset (minus the “et”). This guy studied in England and majored in political science and us wannabe politicians (I share the same major) certainly know how to work a room. I think that if he can get past the initial hurdle and not let his flirting get out of hand, he could last for a few episodes. I think his physical strength will hurt him more than anything else.
Brandon Bellinger, 22
Farmer/Rancher, Manhattan, KS
Sarah: This guy’s resume screams adrenaline junkie. From the 4×4 mudding adventures to the firefighting stint in Montana to the radio tower climbing, it’s clear that young Brandon relishes a challenge. The only trouble is, there’s precious little other information given about this guy. The fact that he reads J.R.R. Tolkien and Playboy keeps me from plunking him into the category of total country boy, but given his vital stats, most signs seem to point in that direction. And based on the success of past country folks such as Big Tom and Twila, that’s not a bad pigeonhole to fall into.
Murtz: Yeah, this guy will be very interesting to watch but already reminds me a lot of James (from last season). I also think that there is an obvious comparison to Big Tom and Twila, but unfortunately because of his young age I don’t believe that he will have the maturity to keep keep his opinions to himself. A fun character that people will keep around for amusement, but also not a major threat in the game sense.
Brian Corridan, 22
Ivy League Student, New York, NY
Sarah: I can’t fault this boy for being as confident as he is. After all, he’s obviously bright, having recently graduated from Columbia with a degree in psychology. He started watching Survivor before he was elected Prom Prince in high school. But prior popularity and a good academic pedigree may not be enough to keep young Brian in the game. He probably idolizes Rob Cesternino and even looks a bit like him, but I have serious doubts that this dude will be able to twist the game as masterfully as the Smartest Player Never To Win. There can only be one, and his train has sailed.
Murtz: Brian is undoubtedly the toughest player to predict. I agree with you that he certainly has a reason to be confident. He has clearly been successful with everything that he has done so far. He also was born to play this game. He is a bright psychology student who is a student of the game. The comparison to Rob Cesternino is certainly an appropriate one. While I normally would pick a player like Brian to win this game, this time I certainly cannot and it’s for one reason. He is too good-looking. Here’s the thing about good-looking people. We are all pompous. Just kidding. I just think that Brian’s possible ego might hurt him and he will over analyze. As you and I both know, that can be dangerous so I while I see him lasting awhile, at the end of the day I think a mistake that he makes with his own hands will seal his fate.
Brianna Varela, 21
Retail Sales/Make-Up Artist, Edmonds, WA
Sarah: My immediate assumption was that I will like this girl because she lists David Sedaris as one of her favorite writers. And not to sound like a broken record or anything, but I couldn’t help but notice Brianna’s resemblance, both physically and biographically, to Amazon’s sole survivor, Jenna Morasca. There are also several glaring differences: Brianna appears to be fairly religious, doesn’t drink, and never went to college, while Jenna has obviously done her share of partying and has an undergraduate degree in zoology. I wonder if Bri, who is the same age as Jenna was when she played the game, will use her cuteness to get ahead. My guess is that she’ll go more the way of Ashlee Ashby in Palau, who was a total babe but kept her bodaciousness covered because she was a hardcore Mormon.
Murtz: Do you really think she is a babe?
Murtz:: I ask because I think that she is too cute to use her hot-osity. I think that she will definitely be more of a Colleen Haskell than a Jenna Morasca. I think she will be too nice for the game. Brianna looks to be like the girl that everyone would want to align with because she isn’t the type to break her word. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will translate into a winning strategy. Honestly Sarah? I think she is there just for eye-candy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Brooke Struck, 26
Law Student, Hood River, OR
Sarah: I have to admit to a bit of envy toward anyone whose first and last name form a complete sentence. But far more enviable are her accomplishments, which span from a law degree from Pepperdine University to a stint as an AmeriCorps teaching volunteer. She’s also really cute. With the full arsenal of brains, looks, and talent, Brooke could employ several different strategies in the game. My guess is that she’ll play up her sexuality while stealthily plotting with an ally a la Jenn and Gregg in Palau. It could take her far, as long as she isn’t caught.
Murtz: We agree once again, Ms. Quigley. I completely agree with your assessment. I think that she definitely has the “triple threat.” Yikes, did I just make a reference to that HORRIBLE Fame show? You remember. With that guy from ‘N Sync? And the bald guy one? It was horrendous and all I really remember from it is how they kept saying triple threat.
Anyway, to get back on topic, Brooke definitely combines brains, looks and talent. I see her as a cross between Palau’s Jennifer (as you suggested) and Stephenie LaGrossa. I think she is just as tough as Stephenie and is the perfect type of person to go far in this game. Her team will need her strength for the early challenges and then she can propel herself further after the merge. Definitely one of the contenders.
Cindy Hall, 31
Zookeeper, Naples, FL
Sarah: Huh. She lists yard work as one of her hobbies, has a pet skunk, and once “worked as a primate expedition cruise captain.” She also has a twin named Mindy (‘scuse me while I dry heave at the rhyming twin names) and enjoys a variety of crispy snack foods. I’m not sure what to make of this woman, but I’ll certainly sit up and pay attention to whatever she has to say.
Murtz: While I do not question Cindy’s knowledge of the game (since she has watched every season of the show since Australia), I do question her ability to play it. I read her as being kind of dopey, which is why I find it interesting that she likes to voice her opinion. She reminds me A LOT of Christy Smith (Amazon) already. As a result, I see her being wishy-washy which will hurt her since I think her background and preferred magazine choice (National Geographic) would only help her chances.
Danni Boatwright, 30
Sports Radio Talk Show Host, Tonganoxie, KS
Sarah: Are those lip implants, sweetheart? Sorry, but no one’s going to take you seriously.
Murtz: Ah, one that we disagree on. I take Danni Boatwright very serious and she is one of my early season picks. I just think she has the look of a winner. Being an on-air personality also affords her with the confidence that is necessary to play this game well. I also like the fact that she has something going on upstairs. Although she has participated (and won) some beauty pageants, her resume still boasts many more accomplishments. She was a high school athlete and has travelled all over the world. I also think that the fact that she hasn’t watched Survivor might be an asset considering that her gameplay will not be influenced. By the same token, she might be a fish out of water.
Sarah: OK, you made some good points. Perhaps I was overly harsh.
Gary Hogeboom, 47
Ex-NFL Quarterback, Grand Haven, MI
Murtz: Ah, here he is. Undoubtedly the contestant who has received the most attention before the show started. Yes, he is an older gentleman. Yes, he played in the National Football League. And yes, he is probably going to do very well at this game. We all know the stereotype and the cliches. He led his team once (primarily from the bench) and he will lead his team again. Actually, I think it is probably better for him that he was a benchwarmer. Starting quarterbacks can get cocky and that would definitely be detrimental. Mr. Hogeboom is definitely somebody that I would keep an eye on this season.
Sarah: I have no reason to believe that Guatemala will bear any resemblance to Palau in the way that the survivors choose to play, but if it does, then old Gary is in good shape. His photo emits the aura of Tom Westman. However, the fact that I suck at the sports questions in Trivial Pursuit and my total lack of interest in Gary’s NFL experience are not coincidental. Survivor has already had a has-been pro athlete and his name was Big Ted (Thailand).
Jamie Newton, 24
Waterski Instructor, North Hollywood, CA
Murtz: This guy doesn’t have a prayer. He’s young, strong and fairly good-looking. In what is now becoming Survivor tradition, he will be nixed early because he is a physical threat. I mean really. How can you expect a good game from a guy who only watches Monk. I know Sarah will probably go on and on about his looks (when I think we would all rather her talk about Brooke or Danni), but I think we will only really get a chance to see him, not know him because of his expected limited run.
Sarah: What do you mean I’ll go on and on about his looks? I already said he reminded me of my high school drug dealer, whom I only knew by reputation. Jamie has a very predatory look about him that isn’t appealing to me in the least. Moreover, I can’t seem to get past the fact that he has a twin brother named Ramie, which, even though it’s not his fault, leads me to believe that he sprang from the loins of true morons. Not that that necessarily means he’s doomed to a lifetime of stupidity himself, but it just doesn’t bode well.
Jim Lynch, 63
Retired Fire Captain, Northglenn, CO
Murtz: See you later Pops. This guy is toast. Yes, I know he will automatically receive comparisons to Paschal English from Marquesas, but I just think that this season will be dominated by the young puppies instead of the papas. He definitely has some good taste as he likes Survivor, Boston Legal and yes, Sarah, Kate Winslet. I know this has probably earned him your infinite worship. I have to admit that even a cold-hearted Survivor fan like me will have a hard time rooting against this guy. He seems very nice. Alas, the best advice is for everyone not to get too attached to Lynch. While he is used to putting out fires, I just think this time he is on a sinking ship.
Sarah: Hmm, I wouldn’t write his obituary just yet. He’s an ex-Marine and probably still very tough, which could garner a lot of respect. However, if he’s too military, he may be in trouble. Historically, overly regimented folks, such as Frank in Africa and Kel in the Outback, have had trouble fitting in. On the other hand, he could turn out to be more a grandpa figure and be loved by all. I didn’t immediately think of Paschal when I saw him, Murtz, but given how well Pappy did in the Marquesas, it’s an auspicious comparison.
Judd Sergeant IV, 34
Hotel Doorman, Ridgefield, NJ
Murtz: Judd is my pre-season pick to win. He is a hotel doorman from ‘Joisey and I know how rude people can be there. As a result, I am sure he has mastered the art of the fake smile. He had a rough childhood when his father passed away and I think that he will definitely be able to handle the emotional toll of the game. He likes the Yankees, who always go deep into the playoffs (even though they choke at the end) and I just think Sergeant is a perfect choice for this show. He is a proud parent and enjoys baseball, rollerblading and bike riding. I think he will be in good shape and the fact that he says that he can “see through” most people will be valuable assets for him. Keep an eye on those doormen. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld.
Sarah: While I agree with you that Judd is a good family guy who probably has a finely honed B.S. radar, I wouldn’t be so certain about his longevity in the game. He makes his living being polite to buffoons who run in and out of a hotel, but I don’t think that necessarily translates into success in the game. I want to see how friendly Judd is when hungry, tired, and dealing with a bunch of yappy kids in their early twenties. He may just get all ‘Joisey on their asses.
Lydia Morales, 42
Fishmonger, Lakewood, WA
Murtz: I believe that Lydia will be able to blend in enough to last until the merge. The only disadvantage that she has to get past is the age barrier. With so many kids on this season, I am wondering if Lydia will have the social ability to adapt. I get the feeling that she won’t be able to. I like the fact that she is also a big Survivor fan and has “never missed an episode.” I hope that she has picked up a few things and knows that she will be immediately outcast unless she knows how to network. Color me iffy on her chances.
Sarah: I have the same concern, which makes me sad. I see a lot that’s likeable about Lydia. She has an interesting multicultural, international background, having been born in Japan to a Puerto Rican father and later living in Germany. She’s a fishmonger with a degree in early childhood education (how’d that happen?) and is mom to a son and a pet rabbit named Ihop. This woman has to have some entertaining stories to tell. She seems great, but she may not be able to fit in with this particular group. Too bad she wasn’t with the older folks in Africa. That seems more like her kind of crowd.
Margaret Bobonich, 43
Family Nurse Practitioner, Chardon, OH
Murtz: I actually see Margaret being able to fly under-the-radar for awhile. Yes, I did just say that. The most overused cliche in reality television. “Under-the-radar.” There is always one that manages to get a stay of execution every year and uses that to their advantage. I think that Margaret will be underestimated because of her age. She is pretty athletic and I think that if she manages to skate past the merge, she has a pretty solid chance. She has “endurance immunity winner” written all over her.
Sarah: I don’t expect that Margaret will be as unassuming as you predict, Murtz. I look at her and immediately think of Gretchen in Borneo, who was one tough mother. Margaret’s resume boasts a long nursing career in both emergency settings and at a free clinic. She also has two sons and two dogs. I don’t see how all of that adds up to an under-the-radar player. I predict that Margaret will speak her mind, which will probably hurt chances of hanging with the younger players.
Morgan McDevitt, 21
Magician’s Assistant, Decatur, IL
Murtz: This girl will be fun to watch. Check out her profile picture on CBS. Tell me that face doesn’t say mischief. The problem is that she might be too much of a troublemaker to last. I think that she will definitely be someone that I will like. I mean, she is paid to trick people! I see shades of Jerri Manthey and Penny Otwell (two of my favorite players of all-time) and so I am hoping that she is able to latch herself into a strong alliance and then turn on them as the game nears its end. The only question is whether or not she gets caught.
Sarah: I couldn’t agree with you more. Morgan definitely looks like she has something up her sleeve, so to speak. The comparison to Penny is an apt one, as Morgan was also a cheerleader and claims to have that sweet persona that fools everyone. I could also see her hooking up with one of the guys and artfully manipulating him. All I have to say is, watch out Blake, Brandon, Brian, and Jamie! Morgan’s going to try to do what Jerri couldn’t: tame herself a wild man stallion. She just might have what it takes to succeed.
Rafe Judkins, 22
Ivy League Student, Providence, RI
Murtz: It is fitting that we discuss Rafe last. You see, I know this contestant. Before I arrived at Inside Pulse, I had run Survivor-Central. Actually, that is where I met Sarah Quigley. When the site started, someone e-mailed me to run an online version of the show. His name was Rafe Judkins and apparently (to the best of my knowledge), it is the same Rafe Judkins that is currently on Guatemala. Clearly Rafe knows the game and had an internet presence before he left. I think that intellectually, he might be one of the most prepared players to ever step onto the island. Voted “the most likely person to be cast on Survivor” by his class, Rafe has a lot of cooking experience and will likely serve as his team’s chef. I expect an extended run for him.
Sarah: The Survivor-Central connection is an interesting one and also means that young Rafe has been spending a lot of time thinking about the game for the past five years. He’s definitely got the outdoorsy thing going on and the fact that he can play “Ode to Joy” with his toes is icing on the cake, really. His cooking abilities don’t necessarily prophesy a win, however. The cook never wins, remember? But there’s a first for everything.
Murtz So there we have it. I don’t think I have ever analyzed a Survivor cast as intensely as what we just did, Sarah, and I really think that we are ready to watch. Actually, I have been ready to get into another season ever since Palau ended (which I thought was one of the show’s best seasons). Survivor is a synonym for life as I have often said. When you start a new job, people are nice to you on your first day. As soon as a promotion within the company is advertised, all your “friends” immediately turn on you. That is what this game is. That is why I love this game. We have enough strategists and eye-candy this time around and most of us know which survivors are coming back (although I won’t say it for Sarah’s benefit). I just can’t see any possibility of this season being a clunker. Sarah?
Sarah: I’m totally psyched for the new season to begin. The cast looks compelling. The location should be interesting, as the players won’t actually be living in the Mayan ruins but near them. And given Probst’s promise that this should be the toughest Survivor ever, I’m anticipating something beyond brutal. Can this new group take it? There’s only one way to find out. Let the game begin.