Everyone and their mother is doing it, so I guess I’m doing it too! Survivor: San Juan Del Sur- Blood vs. Water, which will be the 29th season, begins on the 24th, and I’m awaiting with baited breath.
For the uninformed, the structure of this season was clearly influenced by the upswing in quality during the previous two seasons, Blood vs. Water and Cagayan, bringing the show out of what most fans consider to be the Survivor dark age. The 27th season, titled only Blood vs. Water, brought back ten previous castaways competing on one tribe, while the other tribe consisted of their loved ones from home for each; be it a blood relative or significant other. The returning players brought some really excellent new characters into the show, and we got to see plotlines that Survivor would have never been able to have beforehand as a result of the castaways coming in as strangers. The stakes were different for the players when they would arrive at a challenge to see that their partner in the game had been voted out. We saw Candice Cody and Marissa Peterson publicly drag Brad Culpepper through the dirt; brothers Aras and Vytas Baskauskas attempt to work out their differences; and Ciera Eastin vote her own mother out of the game. The season was followed by Cagayan, the first season since One World to feature an entire cast of new players, and the season was met with near-universal praise. So as production headed back to Nicaragua for season 29, they decided to combine the two elements that seemed to be lifting the show from its death bed: a full cast of newbies and the utilization of the Blood vs. Water twist.
Much like the first Blood vs. Water, the pairs are going to be starting the game on opposite tribes, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Gone is Redemption Island (thankfully), and Exile Island is back (yay!) but with some new changes. In San Juan Del Sur, the intended Redemption Island Arena will instead be used as a space where loved ones from opposite tribes will duel against each other to win reward, with the loser being sent to Exile along with another castaway of their winning loved one’s choosing.
Another big difference is that while Blood vs Water had a 20-person cast, San Juan Del Sur only features 18. Sisters So and Doo Kim were pulled from the game at the last minute when a currently unspecified medical condition rendered Doo unable to participate, and therefore took her sister out as well. (Fortunately for So, there is a lot of speculation production has made up the misfortune by putting her on the currently-filming Season 30.) This means that there will be more men than women this season, putting 5 men and 4 women on each of the two tribes–Coyopa in orange and Hunahpu in blue.
And lastly… the cast is all newbies! Which I’ve already said, but whatevs, it’s my blog and I’ll repeat if I want to. The first Blood vs. Water was a chance for us to meet the people who were attached to characters we already knew, giving us a better sense of them both. We got to meet Tyson’s shockingly normal girlfriend; Aras’s brother whom with he shared a rocky relationship; and Laura Morrett’s daughter, a teen mom who Laura had talked about numerous times on Samoa. We also got to see some people who had glimpsed Survivor before, such as Rupert’s wife Laura who he infamously almost ingested during the All-Stars family visit; and Tina Wesson’s daughter Katie, who had appeared during Australia as a dweeby pre-teen with braces. The exciting thing about doing Blood vs. Water with all new players is that we don’t know them yet (at least not as Survivor players, but we’ll get to that), and we don’t know how their relationships will manifest; or how they’ll play with one another. This group of castaways have had the experience of watching Blood vs. Water and it’s clear they’ve all wrestled with how they’ll approach the game–is their goal to keep their pair together, or are they out for the title and willing to take out their own loved one like Ciera did to Laura? Regardless of how they choose to play, one of the eighteen is going to be the 29th Sole Survivor, so let’s meet them and start figuring out who it could be.
Jaclyn Schultz & Jon Misch
25, Las Vegas, NV- Media Buyer/ 26, Waterford, MI- Financial Advisor
With pairs on Survivor, it’s hard not to draw parallels to the most famous of two-person team Reality Shows, The Amazing Race. TAR is notorious for casting same-sex teams that share a lot of commonalities so that it is easy to refer to them in shorthand–Season 16’s Jet and Cord were “The Cowboys”; Season 14’s Jaime and Cara were “The Redheads”; Season 10’s Dustin and Kandice were “The Beauty Queens,” and so on. For male-female pairs, however, there is a little more ability to craft individuality for each teammate–it’s pretty self explanatory when “Vanessa and Ralph” pop up on the screen as to which one is Vanessa and which one is Ralph.
I bring all of this up because my first impression of Jaclyn and Jon is that they feel very generic and cut from a cloth that is used on every season of The Amazing Race. You might have a team of married circus clowns; a proud interracial couple; or a pair of dating pro-wrestlers; but no matter what, you will have at least one team that ticks the obligatory box for the “All-American” (read: white) young, pretty, “average” couple. Jaclyn and Jon seem like they’re that pair for San Juan Del Sur. Of course, they have a little backstory–everyone does, after all–and theirs is primarily about their Barbie n’ Ken relationship that blossomed during college at Michigan State University, where Jon played football and Jaclyn won the title of Miss Michigan. The last time college football in Michigan crossed paths with Survivor was in Guatemala and it created one of the funniest storylines we could ever have hoped for when Central Michigan football alum turned NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom crafted a lie about being Gary Hawkins, landscaper, to avoid the potential target of being a former-pro athlete. This was all rendered moot because fellow castaway Danni Boatwright was a sports radio host and football mega-fan who recognized him instantly. But enough about that, because that’s not really relevant to Jon and Jaclyn. Despite their status as the token pretty, successful, young white couple, not all is perfect in the land of Barbie n’ Ken. Jaclyn has a medical condition that renders her unable to concieve, and the duo would love to use the winnings to help with the pricey process of surrogacy or adoption.
The biggest difference between Survivor and The Amazing Race is that even though they’ve been cast as a pair,” Jaclyn and Jon are going to start this game apart, and I think they’ll stand out much more individually then they do as a team. They both seem to be very charismatic and easy for others to like, as well as having good heads on their shoulders in regards to the game. They seem very confident in their relationship with one another and appear to be long past the “Honeymoon Phase.” This means they’re less concerned with constantly demonstrating their relationship than couples who haven’t been together as long, which works to their advantage, as neither will be upset with the other if they have to vote them out to advance their game. They seem to have a great understanding of the reality that Survivor is an unpredictable game where pre-fabricated strategies are often doomed to failure, and therefore they can’t rely on each other as certain allies.
Given that Jon is funny and personable along with being an accomplished athlete, I think it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t make the merge at the very least. I imagine that he’ll be adept at integrating himself into an alliance and that his ability to help his tribe in challenges will keep his name off the chopping block early. Jaclyn is in a very similar spot. She seems to be a little more sarcastic than Jon, but that’s a quality that very often can be endearing, especially when it comes from a pretty blonde woman. Like her boyfriend, I think she has the skills to play socially, and she seems to be in great shape as well. Granted, sometimes women are targeted as physical weak links simply because of the perception that women aren’t physically as capable as the men, but I don’t see Jaclyn being the biggest fish to fry in that regard–like Jon, I think she’s pretty safe for the merge.
In the end, being the “boring” couple sets them in a good position for Survivor, a game where it’s often not the strongest, smartest, or most loveable who succeed–it’s the people who fall in the middle that everyone seems to forget about until it’s too late. They might not be the most invigorating casting choice CBS could make as far as being stand-out personalities, but I think both have the potential to be strong players.
Nadiya Anderson & Natalie Anderson
Both 28, Edgewater, NJ- Crossfit Trainers
Aaaaaaand speaking of The Amazing Race we have our first Race-to-Survivor crossover in the form of the love-them-or-hate-them “Twinnies” from Seasons 21 and 24. Sure, we’ve had castaways turn racers–Boston Rob and Amber did it twice post Survivor: All Stars; Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca were regrettably one of the first teams out on The Amazing Race 19; and Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan, the miserably annoying couple from South Pacific will make their race debut on the upcoming 25th season.
Being the first racers-turned-castaways isn’t the only claim to fame for the Anderson Twins, however–they are also the first South Asian contestants to ever appear on Survivor, and being a cheerleader for more diverse casting, it makes me thrilled that two of my favorite reality contestants get that honor. Though they were born in America, their family returned to Sri Lanka for most of their childhood, before hopping back stateside in their teens. Given their heritage, they both feel more than at home in the equatorial tropics, and their ability to handle the elements could be one of their biggest advantages going into this game.
However, as for how they’ll do in Survivor, it’s very hard to say. The Amazing Race saw Natalie and Nadiya functioning as a high energy team that combined were a force to be reckoned with, and that seems to be the case for them in their day-to-day lives as well. In most media depictions of identical twins, we’ll see one of two tropes: the twins who are polar opposites; or the twins who are so similar they’re effectively one person. Natalie and Nadiya are very much crafted in the latter mold–they went to the same college; continue to live in the same home; and have the same job. Their humor, energy, and strength as a duo made them a great team to watch on The Amazing Race, but we in the audience have never really gotten to meet Natalie and Nadiya as individuals–something I’m very much looking forward to seeing. It’s clear that they spend very little time apart from each other, so I would imagine that they also are looking forward to seeing how they’ll function when separated. Unsurprisingly, this is a pair who have no designs on voting each other out–they want to do everything in their power to stick it out together until Day 39.
As stated earlier, the Twins are fierce competitors, and I can see them both excelling in the challenges and out-muscling most of the other women in the game. This is something that could play to their advantage to start; along with fact that they are bubbly girls with big senses of humor and a knack for making friends, as well as a knack for thinking strategically. This was all revealed on The Amazing Race 21, where the girls executed one of the most unprecedented and brilliant strategic maneuvers to ever be pulled off on The Amazing Race. Having used their outgoing personalities to rally an alliance of BFFs with two other teams, they orchestrated a plot to burn through the Double U-Turn (a mechanic that allows two teams to each handicap a team behind them) in order to prevent their trailing rivals, dating couple Abbie and Ryan, from utilizing the U-Turn to save themselves. The twins got first place on that leg; their allies did the dirty work for them; and Abbie and Ryan were sent home. The Amazing Race is played very differently from Survivor, so it’s very impressive to see a team successfully use social strategy to advance themselves.
However, to do the same thing in Survivor means they’ll have hurdles to overcome, the first of which is their recognition. Any castaways who also watch The Amazing Race will likely recognize them, and others might want them out because they feel it’s unfair for them to get a third shot at a million dollars. Also, because the twins have been seen in action as a unit, their tribemates could see them as threats, and seek to get one of them out before they have the opportunity to link up at the merge or a swap.
The other potential hurdle in their way is that the twins are divisive–while many viewers (like myself) found them to be some of TAR’s best casting ever, others hated them with a passion. Some people found their high energy to be irritating rather than endearing; and their strategizing as dirty rather than clever. Beyond the U-Turn Gambit, the Twinnies also ruffled audience feathers when one of the other dropped their money and the twins found it and kept it for themselves. If they have tribemates who recognize them and didn’t like them, that could be enough to send them home.
All in all, I’m thrilled for more Natalie and Nadiya, but they feel impossible to predict right now. It’s tough to tell how they’ll perform as individual contestants and whether or not their tribemates will take to them.
John Rocker & Julie McGee
39, Atlanta, GA- Former MLB Player/34, Atlanta, GA- Tanning Salon Owner
But wait, there’s more! Natalie and Nadiya aren’t the only faces that the public may have seen before they stepped foot on the island. Also joining us this season is former MLB pitcher John Rocker, who played on multiple teams between 1993 and 2002. Unfortunately for John–and the rest of the world–he isn’t exactly a recognizable name due to athletic talents. Rather, he’s recognized for being seen pretty unequivocally as one of the hugest douches, well… ever. Period. The most prominent example of how awful of a person John is comes from a 1999 Sports Illustrated interview where he expressed his rather choice opinions about New York City and it’s inhabitants:
“It’s the most hectic, nerve wracking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing… The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anyone speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
Like, I don’t think I even need to comment further. Though the interview is perhaps the most offensive dribble a human could hope to spew forth, it’s not the only time John has proven what a ~virtuous~ guy he is. He also made headlines when shouted derogatory slurs at gay patrons in a Texas restaurant, and when he referred to black teammate Randall Simon as a “fat monkey.” His most recent endeavor is promoting the sale of T-Shirts that say “Speak English.”
John is not the first former pro-athlete to be on Survivor–obviously, given that I mentioned Gary when talking about Jon–nor is he the first former pro-athlete to be on a Blood vs Water style season, as the original saw One World’s Monica Culpepper compete with her ex-NFL player husband, Brad Culpepper. Brad came to play hard and play obnoxiously and created quite a stir as an early-game villain who learned the hard way that when you put your neck out and try to seize control, someone will be more than happy to lop your head off. To his credit, John doesn’t seem to have many illusions that he’ll do well in the game. Maybe he’s defeated himself before he’s even started. Maybe he’s worried his past in pro sports will put a target on him, as Gary Not-Hogeboom did. Or maybe he’s aware that he’s such a dick nobody will keep him around–least of all his non-white and queer competitors.
When asked in a pre-show interview who in their pair will do better, John pointed to his girlfriend, Julie, and Julie pointed to herself. Julie seems quite high-maintenance, given her career choice and style of self-presentation. Other castaways were already taking note of her in their pre-show interviews, pointing out how ill-equipped she seemed for the island. Julie seems to be cut from a cloth Survivor never tires of–a prissy, self-proclaimed girly-girly who has never been camping in her life and lists dirt and bugs amongst her worst fears, along with premature aging and body fat.
However, I’ve got my eye on Julie. If she can cope with being out of her element physically, then I firmly believe she has the potential to do some real damage in the game. She comes off as very smart, cutthroat, and willing to be manipulative. She also is in a really great position to fly under the radar, as she might be written off as little more than a +1 for the season’s Token Celebrity Contestant ™, as well as for her ultra-femme demeanor. Of course, these same factors could also be reasons for the tribe to kick her off if they feel she doesn’t bring anything to the table. And of course, given that she’s dating a such a douche, one can only wonder what it says about her own beliefs and personality. Still, from what we’ve seen so far, Julie is coming into the game with a pretty decent hand–it’s now all up to how she plays her cards.
Josh Canfield & Reed Kelly
32, New York, NY- Performer/31, New York, NY- Aeralist
Might as well round out the “you may recognize them from…” contestants with boyfriends Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly, who are both theater performers in New York City. Of the two, Reed has been the one to nab the more “high profile” role, having portrayed the costumed Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.
The original Blood vs. Water also featured a same-sex couple–One World’s Colton Cumbie and his fiance, the late Caleb Bankston. For most gay people, this was probably not the gay relationship they wanted to see featured, due to the appalling bigotry and bullying Colton displayed during One World. Josh and Reed fall on the other end of the spectrum–as opposed to being Colton-esque Mean Girls, the pair compare themselves to Survivor: Philippines runner-up Lisa Whelchel, as like Lisa, they are both devout Christians. This is almost certain to be an interesting dynamic, as contestants with strong religious beliefs have very often struggled to reconcile them with the cutthroat nature of Survivor, and have overcome those struggles with varying degrees of success. For Josh and Reed’s part, they don’t seem to be worried about reconciling Jesus Christ with Jeff Probst. Despite their Broadway careers putting the stink of stunt casting on them, the boys are avid Survivor fans and are seem firm in their understanding that deception and double-crossing in Survivor is just a part of the game, not a reflection of their everyday lives. Of course, the main intrigue seems to lie in the fact that they’re gay Christians (I know, shockingly enough, the two aren’t mutually exclusive), and it’s something that could be bound to cause tension for both of them if confronted by fellow Christian castaways with more conservative social standings.
If we look past these stigmas, however, we can see two men who have skillsets that could bode really well for them. Being a professional Broadway dancer is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and pretty much ensures that these guys are in ridiculous shape (seriously, check out Reed’s instagram for proof). Reed in particular is an aerialist, which gives him specific experience with some really demanding physical rigors and acrobatics. If either is voted out early, it won’t be because they weren’t able to contribute in challenges.
The biggest obstacle both Josh and Reed face is the stigma surrounding homosexuality in Survivor, and I don’t mean that in a “they could get voted out by homophobes” way. I don’t think that there are many castaways (with the obvious exception of John) who would vote someone out just because they don’t like gay people. Rather, I think that being a gay man can be perceived by other castaways as a dangerous advantage. In the post-Russell Hantz world, players are more aware than ever of the importance that social skill has in the game, and gay men have become the poster children for being a social butterflies. Just look at what happened to Brice last season! Josh and Reed will likely be seen as bigger threats than other social players because of a societal undercurrent that paints gay men as existing in a space between genders. Other castaways could see them as the most likely to make strong inroads with both the men and the women, and the fear of being outfoxed by the Gay Best Friend could lead either Josh or Reed right off the island.
As of right now, I think both Josh and Reed have strong potential to go far, but they definitely feel a little more like an Amazing Race team due to the huge number of similarities they share. This makes it hard to determine which of the two could stick it out longer.
Dale Wentworth & Kelley Wentworth
Father & Daughter
55, Ephrata, WA- Farmer/28, Seattle, WA- Marketing Manager
The original Blood vs. Water featured two parent/child pairs, both of which were returning female players and their daughters, so I’m very excited that San Juan Del Sur will have some different parent/child combinations. Much as with twins being portrayed as either opposite or identical, parent/child teams are often portrayed in the same way. While not a “rebel” in the traditional sense, Kelley is very much a rebel in how her adult life has formed when contrasted with her upbringing. While pairs like Reed and Josh or Natalie and Nadiya are still tough to get a read on as individuals, Dale and Kelley are night and day–something that has the potential to help them as a pair.
Dale is the old dog that can’t be taught new tricks, but at least he seems aware of the fact. He’s lived in the small town of Ephrata his entire life and has never moved farther than across the way to another farm. He is the prototypical example of a person who is constantly told “you should try out for Survivor” because of his aptitude as an outdoorsman and his tireless work ethic. The work ethic in particular is something he has been very diligent about imparting on Kelley, who truly seems to love and respect her father, though she is by no means blinded by admiration for him. She believes that while he brings the survival skills, she’s going to be responsible for the social strategy.
Dale agrees with his daughter that the social aspect of the game will be his weakness–and I agree with both of them. “I’m not here to make friends, I came here to make money” Dale says in an interview. “The way you get ahead in life, more than anything, hard work will get you farther than anything else… if you rely on looks, eventually, you don’t have looks. If you rely on friends, eventually you run out of friends. Hard work gets you through almost anything in life.” First of all, running out of friends or losing your looks is by no means a guarantee. Secondly, if you think you are on Survivor to win and not make friends, you probably don’t understand the game very well. It’s nigh impossible to win Survivor without making friends. In fact, I’d say Survivor is generally won by making friends. All the hard work around camp in the world won’t keep a torch lit if the members of the tribe who are making friendships and alliances band together and leave you on the outs. I have no doubts he’ll be the first one to get confrontational with a tribemate who he doesn’t feel is working hard enough. I don’t think Dale is mean or malicious, but he has his view of the world and he’s sticking to it. On the farm it’s a worldview that’s perfectly fine; but on Survivor all it does is compromise the flexibility that is so vital to success.
Dale’s shortcomings, however, put Kelley in a great spot. She grew up on the farm under Dale’s tutelage, learning firsthand the importance of hard work and tough labor; yet lives her adult life as a metropolitan woman in a big city, working with a diverse team of people on a daily basis. She has a much better grasp on what is really greasing the wheels during the game, and will undoubtedly do a much better job than her father when it comes to building good relationships and securing herself a safe spot round after round. She and her father are another of the pairs that is very willing to see Survivor as a game and vote against each other if need be–something I think bodes well for Kelley, because she doesn’t need her father in the game as much as he needs her. I’ve got my eye on the farmer’s daughter–she seems like someone who could succeed in many different Survivor seasons, with or without daddy dearest.
Wes Nale & Keith Nale
Son & Father
23, Shreveport, LA- Firefighter/53, Shreveport, LA- Fire Captain
San Juan Del Sur will also debut the first father and son pair for Blood vs Water, also ticking off the “loveable redneck” box for this season. Whereas Dale and Kelley are very different from one another, Wes is very much a chip off the old block. These two are just your “regular” ol’ huntin’, fishin’, outdoorsin’ types of bayou boys, complete with Louisiana accents so heavy you could use them to thicken your gumbo. As has been true for many a country boy in seasons past, their extensive outdoors experience will likely help them make it through the first few rounds of gameplay, simply because they’ll help keep their tribes from dying.
However, as also seen in seasons past, having a lot of survival related experience can easily work against a castaway who doesn’t know how to parlay that knowledge well. Both father and son own up to being extremely competitive, especially with each other, and it is often the most competitive personality types who struggle with acquiescing control and laying low when needed. Wes in particular seems to be a little young n’ dumb–his father is quick to state that Wes thinks he’s got the whole world figured out, but still has a lot to learn. The kid’s a cute guy with a charming accent and a lot of bravado, so it could be very likely that he’ll charm himself into the good graces of some of his tribemates. At the same time, there is also a definite possibility of him being a loose cannon–someone who doesn’t take well to being told what to do or not getting to call the shots. While he’s pretty obviously been cast as an ersatz J.T. Thomas, I think he’s a little too frat-boy to pull off a game like J.T.’s. It’s an inverse of the other father/child pair–whereas I think Kelley stands a better shot than her father; I think Keith is a much more realistic threat than his son.
Keith and his Wes are a lot alike. Keith seems to be high in youthful enthusiasm and low on inhibitions. As exhibited when I discussed Dale, I think many “older” castaways are disadvantaged in this game, and not solely because their age leads to the perception they can’t contribute physically in the same way as the younger tribemates. Older castaways have much more life experience and much more time spent as an adult, living independently, which often makes them less receptive to criticism or being given “orders,” especially from someone who they consider to be lesser than them. Keith certainly could fall due to this, but he seems very self-assured and confident with who he is–something that Wes hasn’t quite figured out yet. Of the castaways who have a significant background in outdoors survival, Keith is the one who seems like he’ll be the best with the social-strategic game as well. If anything, I’d guess his Achilles heel would be his competitiveness, as sometimes that can blind players to what is really happening. It’s a trait he shares with Wes, and that makes the dynamic of their relationship interesting, as I think they might actively want to try and vote each other off–but it’s all in good fun. Just another friendly family competition for the Nale Family.
Val Collins & Jeremy Collins
35, Foxboro, MA- Police Officer/36, Foxboro, MA- Firefighter
The whole “married cop and firefighter” thing feels very Amazing Race (Team 911, anyone?), and for all we know Jeremy could join Wes and Keith in the creation of Firefighters R Us…but it also means we can probably expect them to be pretty fit and compete well in challenges. From what they’ve revealed in interviews, it sounds like they prepared in a way that very few castaways-to-be do. Rather than focusing solely on learning how to make a fire or build a shelter, they’ve been rationing their food so that the sudden lack of nourishment doesn’t hit them as hard. They’ve been practicing for endurance challenges of all kinds, honing their ability to keep their balance or remain in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. It’s an approach to the game that I immediately appreciated, because it shows that they’re examining the finer details of the game’s reality that viewers often don’t grasp sitting at home.
Because they both work in high-stress public defense jobs, I think it’s fair to assume both of the Collins’ can function well under pressure. Last season, Tony proved that just because someone is frenetic and erratic doesn’t mean they’re doomed to derail, and I think his experience as a police officer and having to trust his instincts helped with that a lot. I could see those same instincts helping Val or Jeremy as well. Val believes that being a police officer has made her good at reading people and showing them empathy when they need it to “talk them off of ledges.” In Cagayan, Trish had to do a lot of this, and her ability to do it so well made her one of the most dangerous players in the game. Val is also aware that she doesn’t exactly look like what most people think of a cop as looking like, and knows this can be a tool to help her remain undetected. Of course, a number of people have already brought up who she does look like–Cirie–and the superficial similarities could lead people to fear Val more than she gives reason for them to.
Jeremy, with all those muscles, stands out more obviously as a potential threat–for him, I think his biggest advantage is running on “Island Time,” in his own words. (Between that statement and his accent, I would guess Jeremy is originally from somewhere in the Caribbean, but it hasn’t been stated officially where. Hopefully John Rocker can deal with him being an immigrant.) Being a little more laid back means that Jeremy will have more opportunity to keep himself out of drama and to observe the game going on around him–again, a recurring theme with this couple seems to be that they’re good with observation.
Val and Jeremy also feel very Amazing Race because of their dynamic as a couple–a textbook example of opposites attract. They can’t even make it through their pre-game interview without a little bickering, but it’s easy to see that it’s all in good spirits, and they seem aware the bickering works for them because it’s how they balance out each others personalities and work to achieve goals as a couple. The tough part about this is that it might mean neither one is functioning to their fullest potential when they’re starting on separate tribes. Furthermore, they both want to win at all costs, even if it means voting out each other. Jeremy himself says that Val winning would still be a “failure” to him because he didn’t win. If that competitiveness blinds him from relying on his wife when he most needs to, it could be fatal.
I’m rooting for this team–they’ve got great personalities and could do really well in this game, but I would also be entirely unsurprised to see them become early targets.
Baylor Wilson & Missy Payne
Daughter & Mother
20, Nashville, TN- Student/47, Dallas, TX- Cheerleading Gym Owner
The third parent/child pair this season are single mom Missy and daughter Baylor, or as I like to call them, “The Gilmore Girls.” Together they’ve weathered the trials of tribulations of Missy pouring her blood, sweat and tears into making her business a success, as well as three failed marriages on Missy’s part. They absolutely seem like the type of mother/daughter who describe themselves as each other’s best friends, and in many ways, they behave more like friends around each other than a parent and child, swapping jibes at each other and giggling all the while. The fact that Baylor has been her mother’s support system for her entire life is just one of the facets of their relationship that has me very intrigued to see how San Juan Del Sur plays out for them.
Another of the aspects of their relationship that immediately caught me was how they’re viewing the game. Most of the other pairs seem to have either firmly decided they’ll never turn on each other or alternatively that they’re totally at peace with voting their partner out to better their chances. Missy and Baylor don’t seem to be on the same page when it comes to this–Missy won’t ever even consider voting her daughter out, and while Baylor’s ideal plan would involve sticking with her mom the whole way, she is willing to knock Missy out if need be. They’re the only duo on this season that, as of right now, seem to have that dynamic going, and I think that it could easily be one of many factors that would lead to Missy struggling in the game.
Over the last few seasons, a new staple character archetype has emerged in Survivor. No longer are older women simply early boot fodder; rather, there now always appears to be at least one older female contestant who wants to play a logical, cutthroat, strategic game, but finds her emotions complicating things; be it that being cutthroat is so much harder than she anticipated and the emotional toll of hurting people is just too much; or that she is too reactionary and egotistical to really see the game rationally at all. While Kass was a unique twist on this archetype, I can’t help but feel that Missy is going to take us right back to the Lisa/Dawn/Monica character. If history shows us anything, this means Missy could make it to finals–but by the same token, it also means she’s not going to win. Missy strikes me as someone who is not nearly as confident and self-assured as she thinks she is, and the toll the game will take on her emotionally will, at some point, probably ruin her chances.
Baylor, on the other hand, will probably have a little more fight than her mom. The Rory Gilmore in this relationship, it’s apparent that she’s used to sometimes reversing roles and being the parent for her mother. She’s the youngest player in the cast, but I think she’s tougher than she immediately appears to be. She might come off a little strong, but that same high energy and bubbliness could be a critical tool in helping her flirt her way into the protection of a male tribemate who is oblivious enough to fall for it–Wes comes to mind. Life may not have always been easy for The Gilmore Girls, but being forced to start growing up a little early could be a blessing in disguise, as I believe it will help Baylor succeed in the game, especially if others make the mistake of underestimating her due to her age.
Of course, she could also just annoy everybody and be swiftly kicked to the curb.
Drew Christy & Alec Christy
25, Winter Park, FL- Model/22, Winter Park, FL- Student
Another more recent Survivor go-to character is The Fabio–after the goofy, loveable surfer seemingly stumbled ass-backwards into a million dollars on Survivor: Nicaragua, it seems like casting has been on a mission to make sure that every season has a floppy-haired beach bum who may or may not be smarter than he appears. With the Christy brothers, we get two for the price of one! Too bad one would be more than enough and that Drew seems like a total douche.
The boys sound like they grew up fairly privileged, having a lot of leisure time to spend doing beach stuff, partying, and generally not taking anything very seriously. Beyond their love of anything beach related, they’re also both athletes–Drew in football, Alec in lacrosse–and are both very competitive, especially with each other, as brothers are often want to be. In fact, at first glance, they appear all but interchangeable, more like an Amazing Race team than a pair of individuals competing on Survivor.
However, San Juan Del Sur could potentially illustrate how their paths have been slowly and steadily diverting from one another. Drew’s football talents landed him a scholarship Georgia Southern University–which he promptly quit when he was scouted by a modeling agent, and took the offer because it’s way easier to party all the time when you’re a hunky model than a college student. Alec seems to have always been trailing in his brother’s shadow, and I can’t help but suspect that some of the carbon-copied appearance between them results from Alec’s attempts to one-up his older brother. Unlike Drew, Alec is right at the precipice of his college graduation, and he takes a great pride in that, given his historical tendencies of being a slacker. When Alec brings this up, Drew seems visibly peeved.
Drew and Alec’s competitive nature when it comes to one another seems to be driving their strategies going into the game–they’ll work together if it’s mutually beneficial, but they want to compete as individuals, not as a team, and though neither one has said it aloud, I think they actively want to try and vote each other out. As I said, upon first glance, they appear interchangeable, but the more you see them, the more they are differentiated by their big brother/little brother dynamic. Drew comes across as extremely cocky and accustomed to not having to work hard in order to get his way–in his mind, the world is his to grab by the horns, and everyone else is just along for the ride. Alec seems to be emulating his brother in part because he feels like he has to, because he doesn’t know any other way of being, and is only recently trying to figure out what his own strengths and goals really are. I think deep down, Alec is really hoping to prove something about himself and take Drew’s ego down a few notches by beating him out in this game. When the show begins and we get to see them separated from each other, I have a strong suspicion that we’ll see a more sensitive, nuanced part of Alec emerge, and I think that could work in his favor. Drew is not going to win this game, but I’m not at all ready to cross Alec off the list.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand… Scene! There we have it–our 18 Castaways for Survivor: San Juan Del Sur. Overall, I was hoping for a bunch with a little more diversity and some teams with relationships that were a little more unique, but with the show not even having started yet, it’s far too early to really tell what story this cast is going to tell. Whatever it is, they’re telling it at an extremely unique place in Survivor history, coming off the heels of one of the best received seasons the show has seen in a long time, armed with a twist with the potential to weave storylines like we’ve never seen before on this show.