The Simpsons is still going at 25.
Law & Order made it to 20.
M*A*S*H* and Cheers made it to 11.
And Seinfeld bowed out at 9.
The quality of a television show is not necessarily measured by how many seasons it lasts, but staying power is certainly an indicator of it’s success.
On Sunday, Survivor, one of the biggest reality shows in history, will wrap up it’s 27th season.
In the summer of 2000, the show captured the attention of America: part Real World, part Lord of The Flies. A show where people live on an island with little to no supplies are forced to not just survive the elements, but each other: competing in challenges, with the losers being forced to vote off a castaway until only two(later three) players remain. At that point, the jury (the 7-9 who most recent eliminations) cast their vote for the SOLE SURVIVOR, who is rewarded with a check for one million dollars.
You probably know how it works. Even if you aren’t a fan of the show, it was such a cultural phenomenon that it has become a part of pop culture. One doesn’t need to watch to know the phrase, “The tribe has spoken”. Names like Richard Hatch, Johnny Fairplay and Boston Rob became well-known from playing during the shows earlier (and more successful) seasons.
Over the years, the show has changed, adding twists and turns along the way to stay fresh and interesting. Sometimes the changes are huge flops (Medallion of Power anyone?), sometimes they are critically panned yet redone (Redemption Island), and some of them have become regular staples of the game (hidden immunity idols, Final 3 rather than 2)….the show itself has survived in some part thanks to the new twists on the game. But no season had a twist like this one.
Dubbed “Blood vs. Water”, for the first time (that they acknowledged), players came into the game with a partner. In some cases it was a loved one-Husbands & wives, boyfriends & girlfriends, and an engaged couple. Some were blood relatives: Two brothers, an uncle and his niece and two sets of moms and daughters. (There was also a father/daughter team that was a last-minute replacement due to some medical concerns).
As the season drew closer, more news crept out: Blood vs. Water wouldn’t just be people playing with loved ones, it would be RETURNING players with loved ones. Redemption Island would be back. A Day 0 announcement was hyped, but amounted to nothing. And the new twist of players being allowed to swap places with their loved ones if they found themselves in Redemption Island almost seemed like too much. Many fans were hesitant: RI has never been a very good part of the show and several of the returning players were certainly not welcome returnees…..so how did it play out?
Perhaps it was a perfect storm of cast and twists, perhaps the producers have struck gold by adding pre-existing relationships to the game or maybe it’s a combo of both-but Season 27 has ended up being one of the most entertaining, interesting and exciting seasons in the shows history.
As we head into the finale, 7 players remain, 5 returning players and 2 first timers (newbies). I can speculate about who I think will win (Tyson), who will be the goat (Gervase) and who will give the harshest jury speech (Vytas), but instead I thought I’d give a report card to ALL the players that made this season so compelling. So here are my grades for the cast members of Season 27 of Survivor, listed in order of elimination so far and then my predictions of how it will go:
20. Rupert Boneham
Rupert became only the second person to ever play four times, along with Rob Mariano. However, the results couldn’t be more different. For Rob, the 4th time was the charm as he ran roughshod over the entire season and finally won the game in the original Redemption Island season. For Rupert, it was a fitting end to the story arc of the ultimate good guy. He was never voted out, and heroically took the place of his wife Laura at Redemption Island. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even make it past the first duel.
Rupert is one of the most beloved characters in Survivor history, but not for his success or savvy gameplay. Despite having deep runs, he’s never been in a position to win and never seemed to adjust his game, unwilling to play the cutthroat, backstabbing style that so many have succeeded with. While it’s noble to play honest, it did him in right away. Perhaps he should have tried something different for a change. Still, hard to give him an F when he was never voted out.
19. Colton Cumbie
From one of the most beloved players in history to one of the most reviled. In Colton’s first season, he quickly became a villain to the viewing audience, but not because of underhanded tactics or deception, but a spoiled rich kid attitude and borderline racist comments. Nobody shed a tear when he was pulled from the game due to injury(originally thought to be appendicitis, later revealed to be a bacterial infection), and his return was something people only wanted so they could finally see his torch snuffed.
But we didn’t even get to see that. Why? Because after it became apparent to him that he was at the bottom of the pecking order of his tribe and he would be voted out at the first opportunity, Colton QUIT the game. There are two types of villains on Survivor: Ones that are villains because of how they play, and ones that are villains because of who they are. Colton is the latter, so he was not missed.
18. Rachel Foulger
The first of the new players eliminated, Rachel was really a victim of something beyond her control. The way here tribe was set up after the original vote off, there were 5 men and 4 women. The men formed an alliance and began to vote off the women systematically (for a while at least). After losing immunity, they targeted Rachel despite other girls on the team being much weaker physical players. So why vote her out? It was an attempt to get Tyson(her boyfriend) to take her place in Redemption Island and draw him out of the game. It didn’t work and Rachel was sent packing quickly. We really didn’t get to see her play.
17. Marissa Peterson
Another victim of circumstance, Marissa’s elimination showed very quickly the new dynamics of having loved ones in the game. After winning the first challenge, Gervase (Marissa’s uncle) celebrated a bit too excessively for the Tadhana tribes liking, and their response was to vote off his niece. Her elimination was entirely about her loved one and not her. I am tempted to give her an incomplete, but she definitely brought some fire and spunk to Redemption Island and probably gave us the quote of the season in showing her disdain for Brad.
Grade: F, for “F YOU, BRAD CULPEPPER!”
16. Candice Cody
A curious returnee: This was Candice’s third time playing the game, and she’s still really never developed a character. Joined by her husband, they were last-minute replacements in the game and because of this (as well as her past history of turning on alliances) she was voted out before the tribes even got to their camp. Her entire game was played at Redemption Island, where she showed that she was a very physical player, but eventually lost. Not much to say here, but she showed glimmers of personality and wasn’t terribly offense.
15. Brad Culpepper
The early “villain” of the season, Brad was portrayed as sexist, arrogant and kind of stupid. I don’t think he’s any of those things, but sometimes a person falls victim to the edit, and this was Brad. He immediately made a 5 person alliance with all the men on his tribe and they voted out Marissa and Rachel with relative ease. The other 2 girls seemed poised to go, but Brad just couldn’t stop talking. He played far too aggressively for the early stages of the game, and became a punching bag for the Redemption Island duelers. It was clearly early on that while Brad may be in control of his tribe, there was no way he would win the game. Great character, bad player.
14. Kat Edorsson
Kat is the first player on our list who was probably cast to come back a second time not because of who SHE was, but who her loved one was. Playing with her boyfriend Hayden, who is a former winner of CBS sister show “Big Brother”, Kat was mostly known for being clueless. If their goal was casting a dumb blonde, they hit a home run with Kat. She went deep into the game in her previous season (One World), but this time around was on the wrong side of the numbers from the get go. Because she’s not much of a social player, she was unable to move up the ladder and by the time it was her turn to go, there was not much she could do about it. Still, her Redemption Island breakdown was good TV and gave us another memorable quote this season, as she assumed her boyfriend would dump her for doing so poorly.
GRADE: D, for “Dumped for not making the merge.”
13. John Cody
John Cody is almost a living version of Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. He’s a doctor, he’s handsome, his hair is perfect, he’s athletic. You name it, Cody has it. Except for personality, which he appeared to be completely void of. I’m sure in real life John Cody is a nice guy. But generic characters do not usually bring much to the table, and John is no exception. He did lead to an interesting strategy indirectly though: Because his wife Candice kept winning at RI, he received multiple clues to the hidden immunity idol-which is exactly why he was voted out. Once other players saw the clues as a target, they began burning them in the fire rather than reading them.
12. Laura Boneham
Laura is a loved one who has actually been on the show before, surprising Rupert during a loved ones reward in both Season 8(All-Stars) and Season 20(Heroes vs. Villains), so while she is a new player, she is not a new face to longtime fans-she is known as Rupert’s wife. Unfortunately, her play this season didn’t do much to change that. Due to being voted out of her tribe first and Rupert taking her place, Laura was immediately placed on the tribe of returning players, which made her a fish out of water right from the get go. She mostly stayed out of strategy and worked hard around camp, copying her husband’s strategy, but she wasn’t the physical powerhouse or big personality that he was. Had she stayed quiet and kept her head down, she may have done a bit better, but her attempt at gameplay did her in, and she was the last eliminated player before the merge.
11. Aras Baskauskas
One of two returning players who had previously WON the game(Season 12), Aras seemed like he would be a target. Young, likable, athletic and a winner? In past seasons, that may get him voted out first. But Aras was able to turn that around and actually controlled the Galang tribe early on, with a tight alliance of 5 where the others 5 all felt like they were a part of it. Aras played the pre-merge game masterfully, but seemed to rest on his laurels and was blindsided as the first merge victim. Still, while he finished far worse this season than he did his first time playing, I felt like this season was good for Aras. He was generally not well received as a winner the first time around, and here he was entertaining, smart and paired with his brother, were probably the best-loved ones pair in the game.
GRADE: C-If I could break his game into two parts, he’d get an A for the pre-merge and an F for the merge, so we’ll settle in the middle.
10. Vytas Baskauskas
For my money, the breakout star of the season. The dynamics and stark contrast between Vytas and his younger brother Aras made some great television: Aras, the young success story was the golden child. Vytas was the older troublemaker. As a former heroin addict, Vytas knowns TRUE survival that goes well beyond the scope of this game. While they worked together and clearly love each other, you could also see the underlying tensions and possible jealousy from Vytas over little brothers life success. Vytas was incredible at this game, staying quiet when needed and being able to talk his way out of trouble. Unfortunately, he and Aras together was too much of a threat for other players and after Aras was toppled, Vytas’ elimination was in many ways a side effect of the target that was on Aras.
GRADE: B+. I fully expect Vytas to return for another season.
9. Caleb Bankston
The fiance of Colton Cumbie, everyone probably wondered what kind of person would want to spend their life with him? The answer was surprising. A down to earth, low-key, good ol’ fashioned country boy, that’s who. If Colton is brash, rude and unlikable, Caleb is the exact opposite of those things. Looking like a young Richard Hatch, Caleb was under the radar for most of his game, but make no mistake-he was playing it. He sparked one of the most exciting tribal councils by boldly announcing who he was voting for BEFORE the vote (Brad Culpepper), splitting from his alliance in the heat of the moment on a roll of the dice. It worked, and Caleb’s decision took Brad down. After that, he formed a tight bond with Hayden and they tried to take out the kingpin Tyson, but fell just short.
One of the best character moments of the season showed that Caleb is truly the yin to Colton’s yang (or is it the other way around?) Colton, when faced with an unwinnable situation, quit the game. On Redemption Island, in a tower stacking game, Caleb was clearly going to lose, but kept on trying until it was officially over. Two men in the same situation-they could NOT win. One quit, one played it out. Good job, Caleb!
8. Katie Collins
Katie was quiet, quirky and…..well, normal. That usually doesn’t make for a good Survivor player, at least not for those watching the game. But there was something about Katie that made her a lot of fun. She was goofy, she was random, she just seemed to be out there having fun her own way. Whether it was randomly wearing over-sized nerd frame glasses to tribal council randomly or having a ball hit her in the head repeatedly during a challenge, Katie didn’t get a ton of screen time, but when she did, it was fun.
Katie will probably go down in history as a trivia answer though. Prior to the season, host Jeff Probst teased a moment that had only happened one time in the history of the show before this. As it turned out, that moment was drawing of rocks, something that hadn’t been seen since Season 4 of the show! To get to that point, the vote must be a total deadlock, with neither side willing to budge. With 6 players remaining, Ciera made a bold move to switch sides and force the tie. It was daring, incredible and edge of your seat TV. And it’s how Katie got sent to Redemption Island, where she was then eliminated by her own mother.
GRADE: B-. This may seem high since she didn’t do a whole lot, but I feel like if she had gotten to the end, she could have won.
NOTE: The remaining list is just how I predict the order will go in the final episode. It is not a spoiler, and I could be dead wrong.
7. Tina Wesson
The other returning winner, Tina faired better her 3rd time around than her 2nd, where she was the first one eliminated from Survivor All-Stars. Much like Aras, Tina played well in the first half of the game. She was part of a strong alliance and she kept it quiet. But once the merge came, her partnership with Aras became a liability and she was booted as soon as the Brothers Baskauskas went bye-bye.
Facing off against Aras and Vytas at Redemption Island, most assumed Tina would take the first jury seat, but she surprised everyone by beating Aras. After that, she formed a partnership with fellow mom Laura Morett to team up against Vytas and take him out of the game. For most, Redemption Island takes the strategy out of the game as it’s simply a “win or go home” type atmosphere. Leave it to Tina to form alliances and employ strategy in her stay there. With just one challenge to go, she could return to the game if she wins, but I don’t like her chances against Laura and Hayden. Tina’s legacy was cemented by winning Season 2(Australia), but she played a pretty good game here.
6. Laura Morett
The greatest benefactor of the Redemption Island twist, by far. Laura was voted off TWICE this season and still has a chance to win, but it’s a longshot. After fighting her way back from Redemption Island once, she was voted out again-this time her own daughter cast a vote against her. The show played this up as a big deal, but it was a majority decision. Laura once again dominated RI and needs only to win 1 more challenge to get back to the game. The question is-what can she do besides win challenges to get to the end? If they voted her out twice, a third time seems likely. She’s great at challenges, but her social game has sent her to RI twice already. And in Survivor, social game trumps all.
GRADE: C-. Was tempted to give her a D+, but if she can win her way back in and win her way to the finals, she could pull off one of the most shocking wins in show history.
5. Ciera Easton
On first appearance, Ciera looks like the character type I rarely enjoy. Generic, young pretty girls are cast every season and they rarely bring anything to the show besides eye candy. Ciera took that stereotype and shattered it this season, joining Vytas as the breakout stars of the new tribe and being a great entertainer. She is given a lot of the “narrative” confessionals-describing how the game is going and is very good at it, but she has shown true flashes of brilliance as well. From schooling Katie with an easy yet believable lie to find out if she had the idol, to voting out her own mother, to getting the vote to a rock draw-Ciera has left her mark on this season. She’s on the wrong side of the numbers now, but if she gets a seat in the finals, I think she wins. I have to downgrade her though because she missed a HUGE opportunity to HAVE that seat in the finals-had she targeted Tyson when it was first presented to her, she’d be in the driver’s seat right now. As it is, she’s trying to get him out when it’s too late.
GRADE: In terms of entertainment, A+. In terms of gameplay, I can’t go higher than a B.
4. Hayden Moss
As a former Big Brother winner, I thought Hayden would get picked off quick: He’s won a reality show, he’s athletic, he’s smart, there were so many factors that made him a threat. Yet we didn’t see much of him at all, he just kind of stayed in the background. Even in the background though, he made the right decisions, finding himself in the right alliances. It wasn’t late in the game that Hayden made his big move to take out Tyson. Had it worked, he’d probably be in the finals with Caleb and Ciera. Unfortunately, Ciera got cold feet and Caleb went home and suddenly, Hayden was the next target.
From there, he convinced Ciera of her place in her alliance(4th rather than 3rd), got the vote to be a rock draw and guaranteed himself safety. It was one of the most brilliant moves in the shows history because he suddenly cut the majority alliance from 4 to 3, and had a 2 in 3 chance of eliminating one of those 4 players. If Tyson went out, he’d be in the drivers seat. If Ciera went out, he’d still be down, but he’d have taken out one of their numbers when he was the target. The only bad result for Hayden would be if Katie drew the white rock……of course, that’s what happened. Survivor is a lot of luck, and it wasn’t on Hayden’s side here. I think he’ll win at Redemption Island and get back into the game, but unless he wins immunity both times, he’s not getting to the end.
THE FINAL THREE
3. Gervase Peterson
Gervase is playing for the 2nd time, but he may as well be a first time player. His last time on the show was Season 1. Nobody knew the game, “alliances” were a dirty word and the elements were as bigger part of the show than the gameplay in many cases. I didn’t think Gervase would do well – it’s been so long since he played, he may not adjust well to all the new changes. And in the first immunity challenge, he nearly drown. And yet, here he is in a prime position to get to the end. Losing his loved one right away may have been the best thing for him, as he formed a tight bond with Tyson who also lost his loved one, and they went on to run the game as the Coconut Bandits. Entertaining, funny and competitive, Gervase has played well, but probably not well enough to win. Why? HE CAN’T KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT. For all his talk of sore losers, he is unaware that there are sore winners as well, and that is how he is presenting himself.
GRADE: For everything BUT tribal councils, a solid A. For tribal councils, a D-. Let’s call it a B overall.
2. Monica Culpepper
On her first season, Monica was on the outs from the start. Not a part of Kim’s women’s alliance, her days were numbered. Then a tribe swap happened….and she was not a part of Colton’s alliance either. Monica never really stood a chance. Because of that, one of her defining traits this season has been insecurity and paranoia. Some find it grating, but I think it’s juts her first game resonating – she’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop and get sent home. But thanks to a true alliance and her physical skills(she won some key individual immunities when she was at her most paranoid), Monica is sitting pretty to get to the end.
She has said she wants to show her children that it’s not just their dad that is strong(her husband Brad is a former NFL player), and she’s done that. But has she won over the jury? My guess is no, but stranger things have happened. Monica certainly wasn’t the mastermind, but sometimes people don’t want to reward the one who did the dirty work and will instead give the win to the one sitting next to them. That is Monica’s best bet….I just don’t see it happening. Still, she’s probably a lock for the finals and probably has 1-2 votes locked up….but can she get the 5 that are needed to win?
GRADE: A-. Strong performance from Monica this season.
1. Tyson Apostol
They say the third time’s the charm, and it may just be for Tyson. In his first go at Survivor (Season 17), he was definitely a villain, and his blindside was a pleasant moment. He came back for Heroes vs. Villains in Season 20 and was duped by Russell Hantz, getting eliminated after a bone headed move. I thought that would be the last we’d see of Tyson, and when I saw his name on the cast list, I didn’t expect much. He’s funny in a snarky, almost condescending way, but he’s never been thought of as a good game player.
But Tyson learned from his past mistakes, didn’t let his failures consume him and has played masterfully. He formed a tight bond with Gervase, something you need in the game. At the right time, he took out the biggest threat to win in Aras and decimated that alliance, all while finding a hidden immunity idol and not letting anyone know about it. When he was targeted, he had gained Ciera’s trust enough that she alerted him to the plan and he survived that scare. He even drew a rock and let fate decide his spot in the game….and now he’s CLEARLY the one running the show, with a guaranteed spot in the final 4. The only way he doesn’t get to the end is a surprising turn by either Monica or Gervase or possibly the 4th player winning immunity. Since everything is coming up Tyson this season, I look for him to win his first immunity at the final 4 and walk into the finals, sitting next to a guy who can’t keep his mouth shut and a woman who many will see as just being along for the ride. This is Tyson’s game to lose, and this time, I don’t think he will.
GRADE: A+. Not the best game ever, but the best this season.
Will Tyson win it all? Can Monica pull out the surprise? Who will return from Redemption Island? Check out Survivor, this Sunday on CBS at 8PM Eastern time. Want to watch some old seasons? Get them through Amazon, right here at placetobenation.com! Thumbs up, cheap pop!