Survivor: Guatemala – Preliminary Cast Analysis

In the dense jungles of the ruins of the Maya empire, sixteen Americans are getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

SURVIVOR: GUATEMALA—THE MAYA EMPIRE is all set to go! The eleventh installment of the popular reality series premieres on CBS on September 15, one week from tonight.

And, of course, you know what that means. It is time, once again, for me to take a look at the new batch of Survivor hopefuls and tell you what I think about them. Now, for those of you who do not read my column on a regular basis, there are a few things you need to know about my preliminary analysis columns before we begin:

~ This is a NON-SPOILER COLUMN. I do not read or follow spoilers, because I am actually insane enough to want to watch the show, be surprised and in suspense, and then write based on that. So while this may not be true of some other Survivor columns, the speculation in this column in completely spoiler free, so read with ease.

~ Partly as a result of the above note, my predictions are generally very bad. My famous example of this is during my preliminary analysis of the Pearl Islands cast, I was dumb enough to make a list of who I thought would be voted off in what order. Seemed like a fun idea at the time, to just be able to look back at the end of the season and see how close I came. On my list, Sandra and Lill were labeled as the first two who would be voted off. So that did it for lists. However, one redeeming factor is that last season, I predicted Katie would walk away the winner. She didn’t win, but she did come in second place. The point I’m trying to make here is don’t expect me to be right here. Don’t be at all surprised when my pre-season favorites are the first ones to go. Now, you may be a little surprised by this announcement if you have been following my summer columns. You might be thinking “Wait a minute, this guy has been writing columns all summer about Survivor strategy and giving advice on how to do well in this game, and now he’s saying that his preliminary cast analyses are usually wrong? FRAUD.” Before you start pointing fingers, just remember that there is a huge difference between observing someone playing the game and making predictions as to how those actions may help them or hurt them and judging them based on a biography and a photo on the CBS website. If the results of this game were based on the person’s biography, then Wanda, Jonathan, and Jolanda would have been the Final Three of Palau.

~ Knowing that, here is the third thing you need to know, and that is regarding the tools you will see me using in making these predictions. I will be using the biographies that are found on the CBS official website. I will also be using an article posted on Survivor Fever in which Jeff Probst offers his own insights into this group. And, of course, I will be using my own opinions and inferences that are drawn from these sources.

Now, before we begin with the analysis, let’s talk generally a bit about the new season itself. TV Guide is running a story in this week’s issue (dated September 4-10, 2005) in which they give us a preview of the season. If you haven’t already, I suggest finding a copy and reading the article, because it is a very good read. And there is some valuable information to be had: the two tribe names are Nakum and Yaxha, and if you look at the photo of the cast at CBS, which is also in the magazine, you can tell who is on which tribe. The colors are blue and yellow, but I do not know which color goes with which name. I will be breaking down the people into the two tribes, but since I do not know which color goes with which name yet, I will analyze the “blue” tribe, and then the “yellow” tribe.

Another interesting piece of information in the article: the castaways will be put to the test right away. The two tribes will be divided, and then they will have to take an 11-hour overnight hike against each other through the jungle. The winning tribe will receive the better camp and flint for fire. Wow. Talk about setting the tone early. The vibe I have gotten from the article is that this season is going to push the castaways to the physical limit. Guatemala is hot and humid, with mosquitoes and crocs everywhere. One cool thing to note is that they will be living in actual Maya ruins, which, according to the article, is all part of an increased effort to integrate the local culture this time, which is something I always enjoy.

So, needless to say, I am eagerly anticipating the premiere of this season. Now, it is finally time to take a look at the sixteen new faces we will be following on our television sets every week until Christmas! As I said before, I will split and analyze the group based on the tribe they were put on, but since I don’t know which name goes with which color yet, I will split them based on the color buff they’re wearing in the cast photo. We will begin with the blue tribe, and I will list each new castaway individually and offer my two cents based on their biographies and what Jeff Probst has to say about them.

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BLUE TRIBE

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MORGAN MCDEVITT— Right away, I sense something from Morgan. Look at her picture at the CBS website and you might see what I mean. She has a fire in her eyes. She looks serious, determined. This is straight from her bio on the site: “Morgan feels she will make it to the end because she is resourceful and can be conniving while still making everyone think she is a sweet team player.” Now, granted, there is not always a lot of credibility in self-evaluations given because, obviously, no one is going to write “I am going to be a lousy player.” However, here is one thing Jeff Probst has to say about Morgan: “…this girl has got a lot more than I saw at first glance.” I think that, as we watch Morgan throughout this show, the following old-time motto might be put into good use: “Expect the unexpected.” I have a feeling she’s going to be one to watch.

RAFE JUDKINS— If ever another Rob Cesternino will emerge on the playing field, that person is Rafe. He is an Ivy League student and yet another self-proclaimed student of the game. He is a true Survivor nerd: he was chosen by his graduating high school class as the Most Likely to be on Survivor, and for those of who are familiar with online game history, he is the one who ran Survivor: Tonga online, so when I saw his name on the list, it actually jumped out at me because I know who he is from the online Survivor community. To me, he just sounds like Rob Cesternino. If the physical aspect of this new, brutal type of game spares him, he will go far, almost guaranteed. I doubt he will win, because the strongest strategic players (look at Cesternino, Kathy, etc.) never do. Here is what Jeff Probst had to say about Rafe: “Rafe is one of my favorites. Love this guy. Loved him when he walked in the room. Great guy, funny, got a lot of levels to him. From talking to him you can tell that he’s a pretty good judge of character. He can sense out who somebody is like, who might be somebody wise to hook up with.” He’s got the humor, he’s got the Survivor knowledge about him….as long as he holds up physically, and the others don’t catch on to him, he’s golden for a Final Four spot. An early favorite of mine.
AMY O’HARA— My first inclination is to hesitate when I look at Amy. Why? She seems very amiable, and her smile is bright. However, nothing can take away from your roots, and she is a police sergeant. The plus side to that is she is used to stressful situations, and Survivor is certainly an example of one. However, Survivor is a game that exposes your true self, and if in her everyday life at home is a police sergeant, it means she is also used to being in a leadership position. In her bio, it says in the middle “even though she knows she has leadership abilities, she is sure she can work well as a member of a team.” Again, the self-assessment thing. If she is aware of her leadership abilities, then my first inclination is to think that they will start to come out, and that is hardly ever good. The only person in ten seasons so far to be the leader and win is Palau’s Tom Westman. If Amy emerges as the leader of the blue tribe and comes down too strong, she will probably be voted off fairly quickly. This may happen sooner than we think because of the higher amount of stress Burnett is obviously putting this group under. Here is what Probst has to say: “Ami seems to be a hard worker. Certainly has the job that has put her in social situations where she’s had to deal with alot of different people. That could be a skill that really serves her well. Her rough edges are the things that could really get her in trouble out here.” I hope I am wrong, because she seems like a nice lady, but we shall have to wait and see.
GARY HOGEBOOM— The fact that he is an ex-NFL quarterback can serve him well. I think Probst puts it perfectly, as always: “Gary is a favorite in this sense…he’s played at the highest level. Played in the NFL and played in the quarterback spot, the lead spot, where you lead a team. And that is what Survivor is like. You’re leading a tribe of people in big time moments. But the thing with Gary is, does anybody know who he is.” In answer to that last statement, my guess would have to be no, no one will know who he is unless he tells them. It would be pretty stupid strategy to tell them, in my opinion, and if he does not, then chances are good people are going to be too distracted to notice or care. I’m not sure how many sports fanatics are in the cast, but I know I am not one and had no clue who he is, like I did know with Rafe. Anyway, I think Gary will be able to use his athletic abilities to his advantage in this game, and if the challenges are as tough as I read in the TV Guide article, then those assets will serve the tribe, and him, very well.
BRIAN CORRIDAN— Unfortunately, there are no Probst comments to back me up with this guy, which is odd, but I don’t need them. Brian looks to be another one to watch out for. Like Rafe, he is also a self-proclaimed student of the game, and is an Ivy League student. He also has a background in psychology, which is also a major plus. I am thrilled that Brian and Rafe were put on the same tribe, because both of them appear to be strategic, viable players, and if everything pans out as I think it will, it will be interesting to see how they interact. That is one thing I was definitely be watching for…how Brian and Rafe are interacting as players. Because ultimately, one will win out over the other in an intellectual strategic battle, or they will team up and be allies. Keep an eye on Brian, I know I will be! He shows promise!
BRIANNA VALERA— Well, at first, having a Brianna and a Brian on the same tribe may get confusing, but at least they are each of the opposite sex! Anyway, the vibe that I get from reading Brianna’s biography is that she is not there for the money. It says “her motivation for being on the show is purely for the challenge and to test her own self-willingness.” Probst backs that up in his comments: “I think Brianna has a reason to be out here. It’s not about adventure and it’s not about money. It’s about proving something to herself. I always love those stories.” So we are looking at one determined girl here, who I doubt will succumb to the pressures of the jungle if she really is that strong. You never can tell, however, so keep an eye on her, because as the saying goes, “When there’s a will, there’s a way!”
LYDIA MORALES— Lydia seems like a genuinely nice woman. She lists her favorite previous contestant as Rupert because he was so giving to the tribe, and for the same reasons, she lists Oprah as her favorite person. However, when I look at her, and I look at the people she is on a tribe with, I can’t help but get the feeling she will be an earlier boot. She is the oldest one on her tribe, and while we have learned that age is hardly always a factor in the outcome of this game, it seems to me the poor woman may just be outmatched, and a lot of it may not even be her fault, but my prediction is that under the pressures of the stressful jungle environment, she will crumble.
JAMIE NEWTON— Well, reading his bio makes it plainly obvious that Jamie is a guy that loves the water. In a game where physical water challenges seem to be coming on full force in recent seasons, this can no doubt be a good thing. I’m not sure how he’ll do strategically in the long run, but people like Lydia and Amy are likely to become the tribe’s first targets, so he could be safe for a little while, and that will give me some time to actually watch him play the strategic side of the game and give a further evaluation from there.
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YELLOW TRIBE
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BRANDON BELLINGER— This guy seems to be very physical and very determined. It says in his bio that he climbed a 1000 foot radio tower just to conquer his fear of heights. Wow. Not even I could do something like that. That kind of feat can be very telling because it can reveal exactly how far a person is willing to go to accomplish something they want, and I definitely see a lot of determination in him. Probst says: “He comes off as ‘Hey, I just want to have fun.’ I’m not sure I buy that.” Me neither, Probst….I think there is a lot more to Brandon than meets the eye.
BROOKE STRUCK— I am getting a hard read off Brooke for the very reason that nothing remarkable jumps out at me from her bio. She is a law student, but it doesn’t say anything about her doing anything like climbing a 1000 foot radio tower. So, really, I have nothing to say about Brooke right now, good or bad. She is just one of those contestants where only time will tell if she can break out and become a strategic superstar or vanish into the background. If I HAD to make a guess, I’d say she will be an under the radar style of player. We’ll see how it turns out.
BLAKE TOWSLEY— Uh-oh. For some reason, when I look at him and read his bio, I’m having flashbacks to Thailand’s Robb. He describes himself as “romantic, driven, and gutsy.” As of now, for me, Blake is starting to fall into a stereotype. I am referring to the one with the big, strong, models who come out and don’t do as well as they had hoped. My biggest fear for Blake right now is that he will turn out to be naïve. For all I know, he is the most brilliant player on the field, but for right now, I do not get a strong feeling towards the possibility of his future success.
DANNI BOATWRIGHT— Well, ordinarily, I would immediately write Danni off as being completely incapable of winning. Almost the entire first paragraph of her bio talks about beauty pageants. However, as we learned with Jenna Morasca in the Amazon, don’t judge a book by its cover. She is also very into sports. She is beautiful and athletic. For some odd reason, I see her putting the moves over on Blake fairly easily. The only question in my mind right now is whether or not the other guys, besides Blake, will fall for her act if she does decide to use her beauty in the game. Should be interesting to find out. Probst says: “Danni is someone that I think people are probably going to get behind. She’s in great shape. She’s tall and she’s got a competition background.”
JIM LYNCH— Sadly, I do not see a bright future in store for Jim. He is the oldest person out there at 63, and is a retired fire captain. Again, like I said with Lydia, age has not always been a hindrance in this game, and that fact has been proven many times before. However, as a whole, I see this yellow tribe as being one of those where the younger people take over. I have a feeling young people like Blake and Danni will overtake the tribe, and as the old guy, who as a captain may very well be the one to start barking orders, will be left out in the dust. It has happened before, and I have a bad feeling it just may happen again.
MARGARET BOBONICH— If anyone stands behind Jim and the “older” folks in this tribe, if my hunch of a generation gap is correct, I see Margaret filling that role. I see Margaret being the mom of the tribe. She came from a large family, she is a nurse, and she is raising two sons and one husband. Now, in Vanuatu, Linda proved that image wrong by siding with the younger females at first, and Margaret may prove me wrong in the same regard. However, for some strange reason, I do see her becoming the mother, and that may not be a bad thing until the younger people take over. She seems like such a nice lady, so I hope I’m wrong, but if a generation gap does occur within this tribe like I think it definitely has the potential to, she may be leaving fairly quickly. For her, I think it will all be a matter of which alliance she chooses to join. I hope she does well.
CINDY HALL— How cool! A zookeeper! You can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ve had a zookeeper on this show before. According to her bio, she has been a fan since Australia and has applied for the show four times. Halfway down the line, I see a problem leap out: “As someone who has no trouble voicing her opinion about anything, Hall admits her fuse is easily ignited.” Uh-oh. That is NEVER a good sign in this game. If she can make the Jury, that may very well make for an interesting speech. If she can control that apparent temper of hers, she seems like a dynamic person who has the potential to do well. However, if she DOES blow up about things and lose her cool, she may find her stay in the jungle to be rather brief.
JUDD SERGEANT IV— And finally, we come to Judd. He also describes himself as a strong leader, and he professes that he also has an ability to read people. I know I’ve been harping on it a lot, but if a generation gap does break this tribe apart, I see him siding with the older folks. Even though he is 34, his attitude and maturity level is different, and he and Jim I see getting along just great.
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In a general overview of the tribes, I see the blue tribe dominating overall over the yellow tribe. As I have repeated many times throughout this column, I just see a generational thing happening within the yellow tribe. The blue tribe seems like they may be more united. In the blue tribe, watch first and foremost for the interactions between Brian and Rafe, because they seem to be the strategic powerhouses of the cast, and they are both on the same tribe.
I see Jim or Judd as potential first boots from the yellow tribe just because I see the two of them getting along so well, and thus being labeled by people like Danni and Blake as being “together.” If they feel they don’t want to do a disservice to one of their elders at an inaugural Tribal Council, they may send Judd packing first, but my money is on Jim.
In the blue tribe, while I see them winning the first Immunity, I also see Lydia as a potential first boot in the event they lose.
And, for the sake of predictions, here we go:
FIRST BOOT: Jim
SOLE SURVIVOR: Morgan
Looks like we have a great season shaping up before us, I can’t wait!
“See” you next week!