We made it, everyone. We made it to the tribe swap and we're down to our top 12. Finally, the game gets changed up and we get a chance to learn more about the elusive beauty tribe, suss out new alliances, and see if we'll get a chance to see one of those notorious super idols get played! I though this would be the perfect time to do a little full cast assessment. Based on the players left in the game and the little bit of knowledge we have seen about how well each player can adapt and survive in their new tribe, I've split the remaining 12 into three groups: top tier, mid tier and bottom tier. Let's get into it and work our way backwards up to the top of the pack!
Players in my bottom tier aren't necessarily those likely to be voted out of the game; they are people who might even make it to the end. I don't see these players having a shot at winning the money.
#12: Michele. I've put Michele in the unfortunate last spot on my board because I feel quite confident she's in danger of being sent home the first time her new tribe goes to tribal council. Based on Jason's allegiance to Nick and Cydney's allegiance to Debbie, I see them trying to get the beauty numbers down and break up the possibility of Michele teaming back up with Julia down the line. If her tribe manages to follow in Beauty Tribe's footsteps and avoid tribal council until the merge, that would be a different story that we can revisit. She seems to have a knack for getting along with people but also isn't leveraging that particularly well (compared to similar social players, like Tai).
#11: Peter. We saw in the previews that Joe doesn't trust him. We've also heard Tai, Debbie and Aubrey all state that they don't trust him. I see him suffering one of two fates--his own brains cutting him pre-merge for fear of him flipping or he sticks in the game until the merge and ends up playing [Sash's game], getting deep in the game because no one trusts him and knows he won't pull votes at final tribal. He also didn't learn from his mistakes with Liz and it seems likely he'll underestimate his tribemates again and get blindsided.
#10: Aubry. She's gotten in tight with a few of her Brains members (bonding early with Debbie, forming a tight twosome with Neil, and working with Joe and Peter in the post-swap tribe); however, we haven't seen her form bonds with anyone outside of her original tribe which is very dangerous, both for forming the kinds of bonds needed to stay in the game and also the kinds of bonds needed to eventually win it at the end.
#9: Nick. I think it's very likely that he'll hitch his wagon to Jason, which is a smart plan for him. He seems pretty clueless (didn't realize he was on the bottom of the pack at beauty, thought Tai showing emotions was a dumb move when he should've been building a relationship with the women, wasn't picking up on Jason's hints about not wanting Michele, etc.) which makes me think he'll think he has much better chances of winning than he does. This makes him a perfect type of person to keep close, because his ego will blind him to the fact that he shouldn't be bringing someone like Jason or Cydney to the end if he's so sure he will win.
Players in my middle tier are those who I believe could make a case for themselves, but for one reason or another won't make it into the final tribal council. Each of these players is smart and is setting up a solid resume for themselves, but has a major weak point.
#8: Joe. He's a part of the core brains team. He's pretty built, and can probably perform pretty well when they get down to individual immunity. His biggest weakness: his short temper. We've already seen him blow up at Liz when she was getting on his case about boiling the water. We saw him blow up at Peter in the preview. While I see Joe as pretty intelligent, I also see him running the risk of letting his emotions best him, and either acting out of spite, severing ties with his tribe through his mistrust of them, or not bonding strongly enough with people to pull votes.
#7: Scot. With an impressive early game, a solid position as swing vote on his new tribe, and two tight partnerships in Jason and Tai, Scot's positioned himself surprisingly well in the game considering the fact that his massive size puts a literally large target on his back; however, he has one major flaw: Scot is loyal to a fault and it will be his downfall. Either Jason or Tai will screw him. I think in trying to save Tai, Scot might get himself voted out. If he can survive that, Jason's going to cut him before Scot can cut Jason, because they've both played too similar of games to want to go to the end together. I see Jason as willing to pull the trigger faster.
#6: Neil. Having an idol is definitely helpful, but he unfortunately got stuck paired with Debbie, who I don't see him being all that close to. I think he might make it to the merge, but he has a generally shifty look and is enough of a schemer that I think he'll get voted out as a strategic threat sometime shortly after the merge.
#5: Tai. I am beyond thrilled that Tai made it through those first few weeks. I knew he'd flourish once he had a chance to let his social game fly and he's been doing a great job of leaning into his strengths. His ability to bounce back so quickly from Caleb, his closest ally, leaving the game was impressive. I see him being kept around for a while, but he's just too likable to make it to the end. As much as I'd love to see him win, he'll eventually get voted out because his social game is just too strong.
I think the Brawn tribe will be calling the shots this game. This puts both Jason and Cydney in strong positions, as well as those who they align themselves with. I predict Scot carrying Julia and Tai deeper into the game than he'll make it. I feel pretty good about all four of these picks having a shot at making it into the tribal council, and think each one of them could make a strong case for winning it all.
#4: Julia. Exile could've been the best thing that happened to her. She easily could've switched spots with Anna and been sent home. This way, the trio of beauties is crushed, making them a non-threat. It's a risky move for me to throw her in here, since the straightforward strategic move would be for her tribe to just pick her off just as they did Anna; however, I think it's more likely that Scot will want to keep Tai close and maybe pull in Peter to take out one of the brains next, or that brains clip out Peter to keep their alliance members strong and not stick out as a majority in numbers come merge (since that could easily lead to beauty/brawn teaming up against them). Julia already has a great underdog story, especially if Michele ends up going home soon and Julia can call on her fall from power alliance to bottom of the back and leverage her underdog story as the youngest player in the game. We'll see how she plays with her new tribe, but I've got a good feeling.
#3: Jason. One of my preseason winner picks, I still feel pretty good about Jason's chances; however, there are two things that could lose him the game--sitting next to Cydney and/or not making enough friends along the way. He's gotten as far as he has through strategic bullying and power plays, which is a great way to get him deep into the game and a horrible strategy to pull jury votes at the end. With this tribal swap, he has a chance to start over and seemed to be doing a pretty good job of that so far at his new camp. But Cydney is more likable and I see as able to create stronger ties with potential jury members so it would be the kiss of death for Jason to sit next to someone at the end who played a similar game but made more friends along the way.
#2: Debbie. I was so nervous for Debbie that first episode. As soon as she made it through that, I figured she'd go far. What I didn't count on was the fact that she was intentionally playing the character of kooky older woman as a strategy to fly under the radar. I've fallen in love with Debbie and her game. If she can keep balancing this line of outwardly kooky but internally strategic and cutthroat, I feel great about her chances. Her only potential downside is if her external eccentricities make it hard for people to take her strategic moves seriously, or keep her from forming deep bonds with the other players.
#1: Cydney. This girl has been blowing me away. She's adaptable. She's great at playing all sides. People seem to flock to her. She's got muscles and smarts, can make social ties and scheme. She's hitched her wagon to Scot and Jason, who both pose larger threats than her and have less socially-strong games. Debbie loves her and wants to align strongly with her. I see a strong possibility of Cydney crushing this game. My biggest fear for her is playing too aggressively upfront in individual immunity challenges. I don't think she will be in need of individual immunity and it could easily get her stuck in the same spot as [Joe Anglim] last season.