This was posted Wednesday, May 23, 2017 by Rodney Hofirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
CBS's "Survivor" has survived into its astonishing 34th season and tried a new thematic this spring bringing back 20 former players and dubbing it "Game Changers." Many of the contestants were considered strategic masterminds who made big moves. The hope was that they'd continue to do the same this time around.
With the finale tonight and six remaining contestants in Fiji, I called up Parvati Shallow, a three-time participant on the show who won season 16 "Survivor Micronesia" nine years ago and is considered one of the best players of the game of all time. She is by far the most successful player with strong Atlanta ties and someone I've been talking with about the sturdy reality show for a decade.
Shallow, who interviews ousted "Survivor" contestants for "ET Canada," agreed with me that this was neither a great season nor a bad season.
"The game play has been pretty entertaining to watch," she said. "We saw a whole evolution of the tribal council with people getting up out of their seats and whispering. Nobody had done that before. That was new. That was fun to watch."
Alliances were very fluid and some of the most aggressive, entertaining players were cut early (Sandra, Malcolm, Tony.) "The contestants that were left had to step it up and do something," Shallow noted. "Keep the game alive. They've done a pretty good job. Michaela (eliminated in a blindside last week) is fantastic."
But she felt the producers threw in too many hidden advantages. "Tai has two Idols. Troyzan has one. Everyone seems to have something!"
Handicapping the top six, she thinks Brad Culpepper has the best shot to win, with hopes that Sarah Lacina and Cirie Fields make the final three, though it's unlikely.
1- Brad Culpepper - "He's been getting a dream of an edit. He's played better than ever before. He was the Debbie whisperer. When she went crazy, he was very subdued. He's kept Tai on a tight leash. He's been lucky. He's won immunity at times when they were going to vote him out. He is in a strong position with people on the jury. His athleticism means he can win some immunity challenges and get him a seat in the finale."
2- Sarah Lacina - "She's made some great moves to survive but I think it's going to be tough for her to win. She's lied to people so many times. In a way, that's rubbed some people the wrong way among the castaways that were voted off. She's going to struggle at the end but she's played a fierce game."
3- Tai Trang - "What has he done? He did get two immunity idols. He has managed not to play them. He talks about making a big move but never does it. We've seen him do what Brad Culpepper wants him to do. But two idols means he has a good shot at making the finals. I don't see him getting the votes."
4- Cirie Fields - "If Cirie gets to the end, she'll win hands down. But she has no idols and she's not a threat during challenges. They are going to pick her off. I've played with Cirie twice before. She's brilliant, an incredible relationship builder. If she does make it to the finals, she'll be able to articulate every move she made and how she finessed people into making moves. Sarah looks like she's doing a lot of work but Cirie has Sarah in her pocket. She's not pissing people off." (Then again, she did not read the fine print on the steal-a-vote Sarah gave her in the last tribal council. She couldn't actually use it. So Sarah got rid of Cirie's ally Michaela instead.)
5- Aubry Bracco - "I've met up with Aubry since this season aired. She really hasn't gotten her bounce back. The way she's been playing the game, I don't see her winning." (She played much more aggressively season 32 from a year earlier when she came in second place.)
6- Troyzan Robertson - "We've seen nothing from him. He has left no impression whatsoever." The producers, in other words, have shown that he is not an active strategy player and they have edited him in a way to paint him as a follower, not a leader. That nowadays does not earn anyone contestants points. Game play matters.
What people may remember most about this season is Jeff Varner outing Zeke Smith during a tribal council earlier this season, shocking everyone. He used the disclosure as proof Zeke was being "deceptive" but the move backfired big time. Varner was ousted instead. "That was really intense," Shallow said. "I was very emotional about that. Jeff has been suffering pretty badly. People have been really unkind to him. He ended up losing his job! Some people will do really ruthless things when they feel cornered."
Fans of Shallow, take note: she became engaged to a fellow 'Survivor" contestant John Fincher in January. She said wedding planning has been no fun, calling it "misadventure after misadventure. We might just jump out of a hot-air balloon to get married!"
She and Fincher first met at "Survivor" alum Ethan Zohn's soccer festival in 2013. "We hit it off and began dating," she said.
As for "Survivor" couples over the years, she added, "I think we have a better track record than 'The Bachelor'!"
"Survivor Game Changers" season finale, Wednesday, 8 p.m.-10 p.m., reunion show at 10 p.m.-11 p.m. (The winner is often named after 10 p.m., though.)