Stephen's 'Survivor' Strategy Blog: Who to Watch on 'Redemption Island'

Fishbach analyzes the players – Rob vs. Russell, anyone? – of Survivor's new season

Photo: Rob Kim/Landov

“War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.”
On War – Carl von Clausewitz

Heroes vs. Villains left us with one unanswered question: Who is truly the greatest Survivor player of all time? Is it Parvati, with most days logged? Or Sandra, the only two-time winner? On an unrelated note, this season features the return of perennial goat Russell Hantz and pre-jury boot Rob Mariano. If neither Rob nor Russell can pull out a victory this time, look forward to Survivor 23: Rob & Russell Against A Group of Bunnies.

With that snarked, I’m actually excited for a little R&R after the snooze-fest of Nicaragua. Both Rob and Russell know how to chew the scenery; their pissing contest was the highlight of HvV. I’m looking forward to the Puppetmaster once again proclaiming his greatness, and Grampa Mariano stumbling around, muttering about the kids these days.

Rob and Russell start the game with an enormous advantage, just from their experience. It takes at least a week to get used to the lying, the scheming and the subtle dynamics of trust and brinksmanship that go into building Survivor alliances. That’s not even to mention the knowledge of having played the game through, or faced the jury at the final tribal council.

Even with Russell’s bad reputation – and I’m sure there is a giant target on his hat – he still might be able to sweet talk his way into a good position. Rob benefits tremendously from his HvV reputation.

As for the rest of the cast, there’s an awful lot of ditzy blondes and square-jawed supermen. I’m curious who will emerge to challenge them.

The Good

I do have a few pre-season favorites – other than Fishy Hall of Famer Russell. I always have a soft spot for white-collar Machiavels. So I’m expecting big things from tech exec Phillip.

I also have a thing for scrappy waitresses, so I like Stephanie too. It’s not often you see a small girl say that she wants to be the one calling the shots.

There’s something very compelling about former footballer – and current hippie – Grant. Any giant dude who gives props to Sandra’s game deserves respect. My fear for Grant is that he’s excited to “get to know my true self better.” When you’re out there for the experience, that’s exactly what you’ll get – and nothing else.

And maybe it’s just because I like country guys, but I’m rooting for Ralph. I hope we get to read his subtitled confessionals for many months to come.

The Bad

A few pans: Andrea Bulky made the mistake of trash-talking the effervescent Courtney Yates in her EW intro video.

And sob-story Julie basically has “First Boot” tattooed on her face. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Julie to win Survivor. She’ll need to toe the line carefully if she wants to even make the merge.

But it’s hard to judge anybody based on a two-minute video, before they’ve even missed a meal. I’m excited to see what island life makes of them.

The Redeemed

The season’s big twist is “Redemption Island.” Players voted out will have to battle for a chance to come back into the game.

I worry that the twist gives too much power to jocks at the expense of the skinny schemers. In three of the past five seasons, the winner only made the finals by going on an immunity run. Do they really need to further favor strength over strategy?

If they had had Redemption Island on Tocantins, Tyson would basically have won the game before our plane even landed in Brazil. There just would have been no way to eliminate him.

Nevertheless, I always like a new twist, and I’m curious how Redemption Island will affect strategy. Could you send an ally to the Island to defeat a dominant enemy? Who knows what bold moves this season will demand.

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