Thursday, May 21, 2015

My "Survivor: Second Chance" Alterna-Ballot

Fifteen of my 20 choices for the “Survivor: Second Chance” vote ended up making the cut for next season, so really, I shouldn’t be too upset at the results.  Considering that two of my picks (Mikayla and Max) were only made due to apathy at the rest of the choices, I’m not even too upset that they were left out.

Yet still, I’m pretty surprised that neither Sabrina nor T-Bird earned enough votes for a return appearance and I’m especially bummed out that we’ll again be robbed of more Shane Powers.  That one was the real heartbreaker.  Of all 32 people on that ballot, if you’d given me free reign to pick just one person for a return….well, okay, I probably take Stephen and Kelly ahead of Shane, but Shane was #3 with a bullet!  (Or, a dart, in his preferred parlance.)

Since Mike Holloway finished in the top 10 of voting but couldn’t play since he won this most recent season, that means Shane didn’t even wind up in the TOP ELEVEN of voting?!  Come on, people!  He was ousted by Keith and Spencer, both of whom undoubtedly benefited by playing within the last calendar year, whereas Shane played way back in 2006.  I’m gutted.  Since Shane has reportedly been considered for past all-star seasons and was on the ballot here, hopefully CBS eventually just brings him back for a future season and cuts out the middleman.  This is why democracy doesn’t work!

That said, I can’t say I’m surprised Spencer and Keith made the new cast, same with high-profile recent names like Kass and Abi-Maria.  Monica Padilla making it over Sabrina and T-Bird is a real kicker, however, since she was even pretty obscure in her own season.  (And I’m also surprised Carolyn didn’t get in simply by dint of the fact that she was such a major part of the actual current season.  Between losing the final vote to Mike and then losing out on S31, rough night for her.)  Then again, there is a long and proud history of lightly-regarded Survivors roaring into prominence or even victory (Amber, Parvati, Cochran) winning on a second visit to the game once they gain a bit of experience.  Parvati and Cochran went from jokes to being considered two of the all-timers, so who knows, maybe this will be Monica’s time to shine.

I should note that in general, I’m pretty excited about this coming season.  While returning players are more often the rule than the exception in Survivor, this is only the third time the show has fielded an ENTIRE cast of returning players.  The first was S8, which was basically a fiasco that became uncomfortable to watch due to the real-life issues and drama between the players.  S20, in contrast, was arguably the best season in Survivor history due to some great gameplay, memorable personalities and 14 weeks of Russell Hantz being humiliated.  So really, it’s hard to say where S31 will fall between these two extremes; I doubt this group of returnees is quite as chummy given how they span 15 years of the show, yet there are also very few who stand out as great players.  There is a lot of room for Monica-esque players to step up and prove their value the second time around, which is I guess the entire theme.

Still, since I expressed some dissatisfaction with CBS’ ballot, I went ahead and compiled a list of my own favourite players who I would’ve liked to see return for another shot.  The rules: no former winners, nobody who has played the game more than once, and nobody who was on CBS’ ballot.  I also tended to stay away from players eliminated early due to medical reasons, and frankly, there have been enough of them over the years that you could almost fill a full cast of them alone.  My list does have the benefit of being a pure “dream pick” scenario — I’m not worried about whether any of these people are actually interested in playing again, and for all I know, CBS contacted a few of these names about a return visit and were rejected. 

I swear I didn’t plan this, but I actually ended up having exactly 16 men and 16 women, the same total as the CBS options.  Great minds think alike!  Let’s start with the ‘pairs’ who I’m including for similar reasons…

* Brian Corridan, Amy O’Hara (S11): Two early boots in Guatemala who went on to become online favourites and both are generally considered strong players who simply got stuck in bad situations. 

* Bobby Mason, Courtney Marit (S12): Two of the many comedy superstars of the first Exile Island season.  The Bob Dawg went before the merge, while Courtney finished sixth, annoying her castmates the entire time.  Since they both hated each other, bring them both back, put them on the same tribe, and let the sparks fly!

* Alex Angarita, Dreamz Herd, Mookie Lee, Edgardo Rivera (S14): That’s right, the Four Horsemen ride again!  Surely at least poor Edgardo deserves another shot after being the sacrificial lamb of arguably the best tribal council in Survivor history.

* Nadiya Anderson (S29): The San Juan del Sur cast was suspicious of the Twinnies since their proved their sneakiness on ‘The Amazing Race,’ and thus Nadiya was the first one voted out.  Her sister, however, went on to win the show.  Surely Nadiya would jump at the chance to prove she’s not the Tiki Barber of the family.

* Dave Ball (S19): Noted oddball from the Samoa season, who you may not have noticed since Russell received 95% of the airtime.

* Jenn Brown (S30): Come on, life!  Jenn brought the snarkiness and even though she mentally checked out of the game, her becoming a chaotic wild card actually made her even more interesting.

* Greg Buis (S1): The original Survivor oddball.  I couldn’t tell if he was a nutter who didn’t care about the game, or a genius who didn’t care about the game but easily could’ve won if he’d given it a moment’s notice.  Forget about Survivor, I’m intrigued just to know what Buis is doing with his life, 15 years later.

* Josh Canfield (S29): If Jeremy Collins made the ballot as a S29 go-hard who was arguably eliminated too soon, it’s hard to believe Josh also didn’t get nominated under that same logic.  Literally the first half of that season was built towards a Josh vs. Jeremy showdown, and then they were both knocked out in consecutive weeks after the merge.

* Gregg Carey (S10): Kind of a forggotten man in Palau given how everything swungg about the pathetic Ulongg tribe and then the Tom vs. Ian duel, yet Gregg was a pretty smart player who had the loggical idea to turn on Tom/Ian before they overtook the ggame.  It’s the mark of a ggood player that it took a truly unique bit of ggameplay from Tom/Ian to thwart Gregg’s plan, as they used the “threaten to force a purple rock tie” ploy to swingg thinggs against Gregg at tribal council.

* John Carroll (S4): If the Four Horsemen’s downfall wasn’t the funniest Tribal Council ever, that (dis)honour might fall on John Carroll.  This was the first time you saw tribe members flip in a vote, and John went from so-called alliance leader who was bragging about how everyone was cheering for him to eventually win to a guy who was a crying mess in his post-vote confessional.  Time and experience would hopefully make John better in a return visit.

* Gretchen Cordy (S1): Another of the Survivor originals, and seemingly the unanimous choice as the one who would’ve easily won the game had it actually been about survival skills.  Her surprising elimination and the birth of the Hatch alliance was the moment that elevated Survivor from a good show to a fascinating one.

* Helen Glover (S5): It boggles my mind that the endlessly funny Helen has never been brought back.  Maybe she doesn’t want to, maybe she’s too old, maybe her Survivor experience was soured by the cesspool that was the Brian Heidik season….whatever the case, it would be great to see Helen play again.

* Trish Hegarty (S28): Tony owes a huge chunk of his victory to Trish, who kept their alliance in line and kept him from going overboard with stupid moves.  Even other Cagayan players admitted they didn’t even know how much Trish did to bail Tony out until they actually saw the season on TV.  A good player, if one who was quick to GO CRAZY at players she didn’t like. 

* Holly Hoffman (S21): One of the few bright spots of the lousy Nicaragua season, Holly went from being on the verge of quitting early in the game to pulling it together and being basically the only likeable person out there and a threat to win had she made the final three.  Based on her Survivor upward mobility, another appearance should have her at Spradlin levels by the merge.

* Gary Hogeboom (S11): How would he fare with his super-secret “Gary Hawkins” identity??

* Tracy Hughes-Wolf (S16): I’ve written before about how seasons that feature half experienced players vs. half newbies gives the returning players a big advantage, and Fans vs. Favourites was no exception.  Into this void stepped Tracy, who absolutely played as hard as she possibly could’ve given that the cards were stacked against her from the very first moment.  If her reluctant alliance partner Chet had been just a smidge less worthless, she might’ve actually made the merge and done some damage as part of the Black Widow Brigade.

* Angie Jakusz (S10): Better known as ‘the hipster chick on the Ulong tribe.’  I liked Angie, she had some good spirit, and frankly, you could argue all of the Ulongs deserve another shot just to prove that they’re not completely worthless as a team.

* Taj Johnson-George (S18): This is a case where I have to believe Taj simply doesn’t want to play again, since she is a dream casting coup — funny, personable, played the game well, minor celeb in her own right and also married to an NFL star.  Hard to believe CBS hasn’t been beating down her door asking her back.

* Rafe Judkins (S11): Here’s a guy who I know for a fact has declined to play Survivor again, and he’s generally tried to distance himself from the show to focus on his actual career as a writer.  Can’t fault the result, as he’s written for Chuck and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and seemingly put Survivor well in his rearview mirror.  Too bad, since he was a terrific player who was both a challenge and social threat, and came perilously close to winning his first season.

* Becky Lee (S13): If you believe the scuttlebutt, Becky and Yul were an equal partnership in their season, yet Yul got all the FTC votes since he was perceived as the mastermind in part due to his outgoing personality, whereas Becky was a dialtone.  I’ll also note that the jury couldn’t have been impressed by someone who took roughly two weeks to light a fire during the final four tiebreaker.  Hopefully Becky has learned to operate matches since 2006.

* Jonathan Libby (S10): The Survivor: Palau contestants had to form tribes via a schoolyard pick on just their second day, with the two players not selected being immediately eliminated.  Wanda Shirk and Jonathan were the first two out under this rather unfair twist, in my view, though it was clear that Wanda’s age and kooky attitude would’ve probably made her an early boot anyways.  It would only be fair to bring Libby back for some ‘real’ Survivor, though obviously I have no idea what kind of player he would be.  At this point, I should note that I was kind of scrambling for a 16th male player.

* Alexis Maxwell (S28), Chelsea Meissner (S24): Alexis was a superfan who was heartbroken to be knocked out pre-merge, while Chelsea finished third in her season while serving as Robin to Kim Spradlin’s Batman.  Both are solid players who have decent resumes for a return, and still, I’m being a shallow jerk and grouping them together since I’d primarily like to see them return since they’re arguably the two best-looking women Survivor has ever cast.

* Ian Rosenberger (S10): Another player who CBS would’ve loved to bring back, yet he’s said he’s done with the game. Can’t blame him, given the weird psychological father/son mindgames he had with Tom that resulted in Ian actually quitting the game in the wake of a crazy 12-hour final immunity challenge that was essentially a remake of The Great Santini.  Ian was a terrific player who came undone at the end, and it’s too bad he’s had no interest in another Survivor series.

* Twila Tanner (S9): A hard-as-nails player who made a great move in her original season to ensure a path to the final two, even if she was dead meat against a jury that largely disliked her.  Twila would be fun to see play again if only to see how quickly she’d dismiss roughly half her tribe as worthless.

* Matthew von Ertfelda (S6): My friend Mario’s description of Matthew as the Survivor-naive monster brought to life to wreak havoc by Rob Cesternino’s Dr. Frankenstein never fails to amuse me.  Bring the monster back to see how much more he’s learned!  The guy was also  a challenge beast and, seemingly, one of the most genuinely unsettling people in the show’s history.  His tribemates were only half-joking when they thought he might be a serial killer.  (To my knowledge, he’s not.  And if you’re doubting my knowledge, just so you know, I’m Batman.)

* Michelle Yi (S14): Victim of one of the more unfair twists in Survivor history, as her post-merge randomly-selected tribe for a challenge was forced to go directly to tribal council following their loss, so she had no time to strategize.  Even worse, she was grouped with all of her enemies, leaving her doubly screwed.  Michelle definitely deserves another chance, we all know she’s good at bouncing back from big falls.

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