Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites premieres tonight and I honestly cannot contain my excitement! Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites from 2008 is in my top five Survivor seasons, pitting all-star returning castaways against hardcore fans, and served up episode after episode of delicious drama. For this season, however, the returning Favorites seemed to be picked more for their big personalities than their strategic gameplay (and for some of these castaways, their strategy was next to none), which could lead to some explosive television.
New players tend to look to the returning players for guidance, but it appears we’ll have a much more even-playing field: the “Favorites” are just a bunch of misfits, but the Fans don’t appear to be much to write home about (I doubt some of the “Fans” have even watched the show at all, outside of the screeners they’re given by CBS). Heck, you see bigger fans in Cochran, Dawn, and Malcolm than anyone on the actual Fan tribe. Oh well. Regardless, Jeff Probst promises a wild season. Let’s break down the Survivor: Caramoan Favorites in no particular order, shall we?
Brandon Hantz – We really, really did not need to see Brandon again. Oh boy. What a wildcard. No one will want to form an alliance with Brandon. Not after the stunts he pulled on Survivor: South Pacific – his creepy obsession with Mikayla, giving away his Immunity necklace at Tribal Council, his emotional implosions and tattletales. Brandon just doesn’t have it all up there. In order to make it far, you want people to see you as a stable asset, not an unpredictable ticking time bomb. He has no chance of winning this game.
Phillip Sheppard – Here is yet another wildcard. The thing is, though, unlike the crazy and unstable Brandon, Phillip appears to be an intelligent man, with just a larger-than-life calculated personality. This Special Agent (?) made it all 39 days on Survivor: Redemption Island under Rob Mariano’s wing. Boston Rob took one look at this kooky character and took him right to the final Tribal Council, knowing that no one in their right mind would ever vote for the annoying Phillip. Sure, Phillip will make for entertaining television (see: mispronouncing Francesca Hogi’s name at Tribal Council), but he’ll never win Survivor. He simply rubs his tribemates the wrong way. Yes, he could make it past the merge, and maybe even to the Finals, but with his lack of strategic gameplay, he’ll never win.
John Cochran – Now here’s a true fan: Good ‘ol self-deprecating Cochran. Here’s hoping that out of the shadow of players like Ozzy Lusth, Cochran will be able to take care of his unfinished business. Cochran is the biggest Survivor geek out here, and fierce student of the game. On Survivor: South Pacific, it was his own rationality and intellect, coupled with fear, that slowly did him in. For his second outing, we’ll see if Cochran has learned to loosen up and not get stuck inside his own head.
Erik Reichenbach – History has bestowed Erik with the distinction of making one of the dumbest moves on Survivor, thanks to giving away his Immunity necklace on the original Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites only to be vote out in that same Tribal Council. But Immunity blunder aside, Erik had a very likable personality and was a physically strong player, having won three Individual Immunities. He has a lot to prove in with his return, and I think Erik’s chances of survival redemption in this Fans vs. Favorites are very good.
Malcolm Freberg – Survivor’s golden boy returns merely two weeks after his stint on Survivor: Philippines. In playing back-to-back seasons, the tribemates on his second go-round know absolutely nothing about him. It’s the classic “Devil you know versus the devil you don’t” situation. Unfortunately for Malcolm, he’s the devil they don’t know and thanks to his back-to-back predecessor, Russell Hantz, he will have to work overtime to get his tribemates to trust him. Malcolm’s the most well-rounded member of this tribe, so perhaps his strength, ability to adapt, and his extremely winning personality will help him overcome any unknown factors his tribemates may see in him. Could Malcolm wrangle in Dawn Meehan as his Denise Stapley 2.0? Will he succumb to Andrea Boehlke’s charms and fall for another showmance? There’s just so much in doubt here…
Corinne Kaplan – On Survivor: Gabon, Corinne was a bitch in her confessionals, but loyal to her alliance. And having her on this tribe, with this many personalities? There are bound to be some fireworks. However, her aggressively honest attitude may serve her well in the eyes of the right alliance. On the downside, Gabon was Survivor‘s seventeenth season (Caramoan will be the twenty-sixth). In Survivor years, that season is downright prehistoric when compared to her fellow tribemates’ seasons. Will Corinne be able to find a place in her new tribe?
Dawn Meehan – Mark my words: If Dawn makes it to the final Tribal Council, she WILL win. She’s just that likable. If you remember, during the reunion of Survivor: South Pacific, winner Sophie Clarke stated that she wants to grow up to be Dawn! Not only is she just so gosh darn likable, but she is a physical beast. This powerful combination will attract many alliance options and there’s just no way she doesn’t make it to the merge. Dawn has grown so much since she experienced an emotional breakdown during her first days on South Pacific, and she will only come back stronger.
Andrea Boehlke – I’m hoping Andrea will prove to be more than just the casting department looking for another blonde in a bikini. Honestly, I don’t remember much of her from Survivor: Redemption Island. She was pleasant enough, strong enough, and capable enough socially. But while she didn’t make a great first impression, she may make it far by gliding under the radar (think winners Natalie White or Amber Brkich). Andrea is likable and inoffensive, which is worth a lot in Survivor currency and without the overshadowing Boston Rob around, she could get her very far in the game. I’m not underestimating Andrea.
Francesca Hogi – Even though Francesqua was the first person voted out of Survivor: Redemption Island, she made a lasting impression. She was one of the few bright spots for me (see: her Tribal Council with Phillip) from her rather lackluster season. Francesqua made the unfortunate move of calling out Boston Rob at the outset of Redemption Island and her big mouth got her in trouble. Will she be the anti-Sandra Diaz-Twine and be the first person voted out first twice? I don’t think so. We don’t really know how Francesqua would have fared in the game had she lasted longer, but we do know that she is seeking redemption and she is here to play.
Brenda Lowe – I’ve always wanted Brenda to return to Survivor. She’s smart, athletic, and strategic. In short, she is a PLAYER. Brenda was the only player on Survivor: Nicaragua in a season full of non-players. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Her downfall? A too-confident attitude which kept her from scrambling once her top-dog position was in turmoil. Here is her chance to learn from her (easily correctable) past mistakes. Brenda’s dynamic charisma and hard-hitting strategic mind may prove to be a detriment this time around, as other players may put a target on her back early on, but I have faith that Brenda will be able to navigate these testy waters.
I’ve never been able to pick a Survivor winner pre-debut, although after the first Survivor: Philippines episode, I dubbed Malcolm and Denise my Survivor heroes. For Survivor: Caramoan, I think it’s fairly certain that a Favorite will win the game, besting the Fans at every aspect of the game. My top three picks to win are Brenda, Andrea, and Erik.
But who will take it all? My virtual money is on the unassuming Andrea “I’m No Longer A Follower” Boelhke.