We’ve reached another milestone—we are now 2/3 of the way through the traditionally 15 episode season. We are in the final seven and this is where everything gets a whole lot more interesting as challenge threats become more evident, alliances are tested and reformed, and the underdogs get their chance to truly shine or keep lurking in the shadows too long to build a case for themselves. I wanted to take this opportunity to rank the remaining players from worst to best, starting from “not a chance in hell at winning this thing” to “try and stop ‘em!” For these purposes, the rankings are strictly based on assuming this person got into the final tribal council and was given the chance to argue their case, what are their chances of winning the million dollars? After my current top 7 predictions, you’ll also see a summary of my predictions post episode 5, to see how things have changed during the post-merge portion of the game. Let’s get into it!
#7 Joe -- The Passive Loyalist.
In my eyes, he’s basically got a 0% chance of winning. Considering all possible combinations, I just don’t see anyone voting for him. Yes, he’s one of the oldest players we’ve seen which is indeed impressive; however, he hasn’t performed in the challenges in the way you might expect by looking at how jacked he is AND he’s shown he’s a loyal vote and little more. He’s often included in the big moves and votes with the right side of the numbers, but also isn’t always included. The girls left him out of the vote against Debbie knowing he’d try and mess up their plans. He’s not playing his own game and very well might make it to the end but only as a goat. It's really a shame because he showed real promise with his ability to intimidate Peter into recanting his intentions to flip, but he hasn't made a single move since.
#6 Michele -- The (Too) Quiet Sidekick.
It seems like a lot of people were very hyped on Michele preseason. My preseason prediction of Michele has rang pretty true, which is that she plays the game as a likable sidekick who's a part of big moves but isn't making them herself. I liked her a lot more when I saw the possibility of her working with Anna because I saw opportunity for them to really replicate the powerhouse that was Parvati (Anna) and Amanda (Michele) in Survivor Micronesia, but I don’t think she has much of a chance with her wagon hitched to Julia. She hasn’t made her own moves and she’s been left out of important votes. Her kiss of death was aligning with Julia because Cydney and Aubry (and by extension Joe) didn’t trust Michele recently because of Julia’s status as a double agent. Julia getting voted out of the game this next episode would honestly be the best case or Michele, because without Julia around I think people would be willing to see her as another vote and keep her around. She's waited too long to take control of the game and I see it unlikely that she makes enough a case for herself in the next few votes that she has a real shot at winning it.
#5 Julia -- The Julia: Flopper Lacking Finesse.
I actually think Julia might have a good shot at pleading her case depending on who she sat next to, but I put her this low because she could just as easily come off as wishy-washy and too much of a flip flopper. I also see it as incredible unlikely that she’s going to make it that far—I in fact feel there’s a strong possibility of her going home in this next episode. I am quite impressed with what a risky game she’s played given her age. Unlike some of her counterparts, no one can say that she’s not playing hard. What she struggles with is having the finesse required so that your two-sidedness isn’t quite so evident. Kim Spradlin was a master at this, which was a huge part of what got her into the end when she quite evidently posed a large threat the entire time; everyone thought she was on their side and she managed to not hurt them too much when she had to eventually cut them, then owned up to it in her final tribal. I see Julia as being a great person to have back on the show a few years down the line when she’s a bit older because I think with a few minor tweaks, she could play a great game.
#4 Tai -- The Emotional Apologizer.
It seems only appropriate to place the player caught between two sides right in the middle of the lineup. In the same way that I think the players still in the game are underestimating Jason’s chances, I think they’re overestimating Tai’s. Yes, he’s a likable guy. Yes, if he were at the end with some combination of Jason, Michele or Joe I could see him winning it. But we’ve seen he’s not the best at communicating and owning his moves. He also, at least so far, hasn’t really made many big moves and the two big moves he DID make (aligning with Scot on the Gondol camp/breaking away from the beautys and then his decision to not save Scot with the super idol) were both decisions made more with his heart in mind than strategy, decisions which weren't even truly HIS moves (as the strategy behind them came more from Scot and Aubry, respectively). The only moves Tai has made in the game which were his own were finding the immunity idol and winning the advantage, which mean nothing if Tai doesn't play them correctly. If Tai were to get to the end (which I feel is honestly pretty unlikely), I predict his performance at tribal to go down in a similar fashion to Dawn, where players who thought of him as a good person are particularly hurt by his blindsides since to get to the end he’s going to have to play a pretty cutthroat game in these next few weeks. Even if they don’t lay into him at tribal, it seems likely he’ll sway towards apologetic instead of confident.
#3 Cydney -- The Big Moves Backstabber.
Cydney was my frontrunner right before the merge, even before she had made her big move on ditching Jason and Scot. It’s impossible to know for sure whether she made the right decision with that move, but it seems likely that Scot and Jason would have eventually cut her for favor of bringing someone more timid like Michele or Julia (or someone arrogant like Nick) with them to the end over her. I feel pretty confident that she got out of the hot water she was in directly after betraying the guys, and her partnership with Aubry seems very strong. I’m most concerned about the fact that it sure seems like either Cydney will have to turn on Aubry or vice versa and it seems at this point like Aubry has a bit more awareness and ability to remain level-headed. The other issue for Cydney is whereas I think Aubry has earned the respect of Nick/Jason/Scot, I think the three of them wouldn’t want to vote Cydney as a winner at the end if they all ended up on the jury (and if Jason's still in the game, Scot/Nick would probably vote Jason over her). For this reason, I think it’s going to take Cydney turning on Aubry first since she has more of a vested interest in not sitting next to Aubry at the end than vice versa and I don’t know if Cydney will be able to rally the troops behind her to make that happen without them turning on her and voting her out. If she can get to the end, she has a great argument and I think she’d be able to argue it quite well. It would largely depend on how salty the jury is and who she sits next to.
#2 Jason: The Unlikely Underdog.
Everyone is underestimating Jason and I’m loving it. He and Anna were basically tied for my initial winner picks and after Anna got voted out and Jason got labeled as a bully, I didn't feel great about my chances. I predict that Scot getting voted out and Jason losing his idol in the process will take most (if not all) the heat off of Jason as a target (at least for the short term). Everyone says over and over how they think he doesn’t pose a jury threat and I think the majority alliance will want to use him as a number to target other bigger social threats such as Tai, Cydney and Aubry; however, this makes such little sense to me. Do they not remember that this is a game, and that Nick and Scot are sure to be huge Jason lobbyists over on Ponderosa? I honestly think that Debbie (and Joe, if he for some odd reason got voted out) is the only person on the jury who wouldn’t at least strongly consider voting for Jason IF he manages to present his case well at final tribal. I see Jason’s winning final tribal strategy as being a solid mix between Jeremy and Todd. Todd was seen in the eyes of the jury as very deceitful and manipulative, but he presented his case honestly to the jury without apologizing to win it all. If Jason can avoid apologizing while showing that he as a person isn’t the character he was playing to get him to the end, AND he can bring in a bit of the sympathy card about his daughters in the same way that Jeremy did about his wife’s pregnancy, I could see Jason pulling a surprise win at the end.
#1 Aubry -- The Bounce Back Master.
No one has defied my expectations better than Aubry. Let’s remember her early arc: she had an emotional meltdown on the second night of the game and had to have Debbie convince her to stick it out. Liz complained that Aubry never wanted to talk strategy. When we reached the swap, she rested too strongly on her alliance with Joe and loosely her alliance with Peter, not making much of an effort to build relationships with Anna, Tai, Scot, or Julia and got into some serious hot water when she crossed out her vote for Julia and voted Peter instead. When we reached the merge, Debbie quickly threw brains under the bus by being an overly aggressive schemer, before her closest ally left the game (keeping his immunity idol). Things looked dire for Aubry a few weeks ago; however, she’s really blossomed into one of the most intelligent, resilient, insightful and strategic players in this game. She’s got a hell of a story and a pretty good standing in her current alliance. As long as she can avoid the bounce back from Tai playing his idol and his advantage, I see her having a really good chance almost no matter who she sits next to at the finals. Hopefully she can keep her alliance close enough (and win enough crucial challenges near the end) to stick around to the finals, but I feel great about her chances assuming she can get her butt in that seat.
It’s interesting to compare my current predictions to my ranking of the players when we were 1/3 of the way through the game after episode 5 and were down to our top 12. I’ve included a brief summary of where (and why) I felt the players currently still in the game fell below. To read my full pre-merge cast assessment, click here.
12. Michele — I felt pretty confident that if her Chan Loh tribe had ever gone to tribal council that she was the one who was going to get voted out.
10. Aubry — Up until the merge, Aubry wasn’t making many moves. Liz made it a point to say that Aubry wasn’t interested in talking strategy (which in retrospect, was probably just Aubry not wanting to talk to Liz before they voted her out) and wasn’t thinking long term with her close partnership with Joe as she alienated Scot, Julia, and Tai on the swapped tribe.
8. Joe — I had pegged him as a quiet type who’s clearly jacked so I expected him to perform better in challenges than he has.
5. Tai — I had very low hopes for him getting this far as I saw him as a huge social threat. However, his alliance with Scot seemed to bode well and I thought the super idol pairing with Jason post-merge would help keep him around for at least a while.
4. Julia — When I completed this, she seemed like the obvious first boot. Anna had gone home the week before, sending her as replacement to Gondol. I took a chance on Julia because I saw something in her on brawn beach that made me think she’d use her head but not be seen as such a big threat that others would need to get her off the island.
3. Jason — I felt confident that his bullying strategy would get him far into the game but that he might struggle to actually win it once he got there.
1. Cydney — She’d showed an ability to align with many people and a willingness to keep her options open. She’s strong and clearly smart and interested in really playing the game.