Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette: Zeke Smith

Welcome to Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette, where the authors of this site are randomly assigned contestants from the upcoming season of Survivor: Game Changers and must give an honest assessment of what to expect from them. Next up: Zeke Smith.

Editor’s note: Since six entries didn’t feel like enough for this series, we invited some more regular contributors to the site and put them through the randomizer. Barbara Anderson gets to reach deep into her memory banks to profile Zeke.

I am so happy that I get to talk a little about Zeke’s game rather than some other tabula rasas, problematic faves, and general douchebags who are on this cast. Yes, there is a big elephant in the room that will shadow my judgment of him, but we will get there together. While some were distracted with the scenery, Zeke was one of the big power players in Millennials vs. Gen X. His likable arrogance along with the fact that he didn’t necessary play with the seasonal theme led to a more divided reaction from the fan base, but what else is new? Some may even wonder if is Zeke is a Game Changer. Now, I know that Zeke himself has a response to that.

As for myself, I would say that Zeke is definitely a possible Game Changer in regards to his moves having direct consequences to how MvGX ends. In that regard, he is better suited for this theme than roughly half of this cast.

After gaining a reputation for being a provider by rebuilding the tribe’s shelter after the cyclone and starting a fire without flint, he was in a great spot within the Freaks and Geeks (totally not a trademarked name) alliance. Unfortunately, in an effort to weaken Figtayls, Zeke decided to go to Jay, despite the fact that Jay was in the Triforce with Figgy. (Editor’s note: This may be the weirdest sentence ever written on this website. And that’s a high bar.) That one conversation gives Jay and Michelle enough time to save Figgy by blindsiding Mari, thus leaving Zeke and Adam on the bottom of the tribe.

Following the swap, Zeke had a great chance of being screwed (Editor’s note: Phrasing!) since he ended up with the one Millennial he had zero trust in (Michelle) and three former Gen Xers. However, the Powers That Be smiled upon Zeke, because one of those former Gen Xers was Chris, who A) was a player on Zeke’s favorite childhood team, the 2000 NCAA Champion Oklahoma Sooners football team (Editor’s note: UGH) and B) was looking for revenge against David and CeCe.

At the merge, Zeke was in a great position as the bridge between two groups: the remaining Gen Xers (based on his connections with Chris and David) and the Millennial Nerd Alliance/Voting Bloc/Trust Cluster with Adam and Hannah. After booting Michelle and Taylor, the Gen Xers started to splinter. Zeke was caught in the middle of all of this, but decided to join a plan to take out Chris.

Trustless cluster

Zeke’s plan was to pick up Chris’ pawns Bret and Sunday, then use them to get rid of David in the next round. Fortunately for him, Bret (after sharing the best moment of MvGX with Zeke) and Sunday were willing to go with this plan.

When Hannah wasn’t down with Zeke’s plan, Zeke shifted the target to Hannah, correctly assuming that David would not play his idol for her. And the rest is history — Jessica draws the not-purple purple rock and Zeke’s side wins.

But Zeke did not realize that 18-year old Will was a big kid now, and wanted to have something to put on his resume. The thing he wanted on his resume? Booting Zeke. Oops.

Zeke had one of the most complex single-season games of all of the Game Changers. He has a good sense of what the right move is, and he is able to maintain strong relationships with almost everybody in the game. He is such a likable guy that he managed to convince his alliance that he would draw rocks with them despite the fact that he knew he would be getting the votes.

However, he has two big weaknesses to his game. The first one is that he has to be the one that is in power. Before I did my research on Zeke, I did not realize how many of his confessionals talk about how much he wants to be in control and in power. That is why he likes to play with pawns like Hannah or Bret or Sunday.

His second weakness is the fact that he tends to forget that his pawns and enemies are people too. That blind arrogance leads him to make three bad moves in MvGX: talking to Jay about the plan to get rid of Figgy, forgetting that Hannah is an active player with her own game, and forgetting that Will is an active player is with his own game.

Teenagers, amirite?

The Instant Returnee Question

The big elephant in the room is the fact that he is an instant returnee- he played Game Changers less than a month after being booted from Millennials vs Gen X. There are three categories of instant returnees:

1) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen ALL of their game. This would be Bobby Jon and Stephenie in Guatemala, and Shirin and Joe in Cambodia.

2) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen SOME of their game. This would be Rupert in All-Stars and James and Amanda in Micronesia.

3) People who come back immediately with a cast who has seen NONE of their game. This would be Russell in Heroes vs. Villains, Malcolm in Caramoan, and Zeke and Michaela in Game Changers.

Out of every player who has been an instant returnee, only one- Shirin- has not made the merge. (Sorry, John!) The past two seasons that have featured instant returnees (Caramoan and Cambodia) have been the first to not have an instant returnee make it to the final four, and I think we will see that trend continue in Game Changers.

Because a lot of the cast has been directly impacted by an instant returnee, they will be on the lookout for the fresh meat. After all, instant returnees (with the exception of Amanda) tend to be airtime hogs, whether it is through their witty confessionals, extraordinary circumstances, or challenge abilities. I have a weird feeling that this is going to be the cast that will worry about anyone stealing their shine.

Best Case Scenario

At best, Zeke does as well as he does in MvGX, approximately mid-jury. He is likable enough to be friendly with, a hard worker around camp, and open to strategy talks. He is also not a massive challenge threat, which could keep around him for a couple of votes in the post-merge games. I could see people like Aubry, Andrea, Varner, and Malcolm flocking to him because of his grounded approach to Survivor.

Worst Case Scenario

Zeke could easily be the first boot. Zeke has a lot of things going against him: He is an instant returnee, has to be the one in control, is not the best in challenges, doesn’t like bro-ing down, is arrogant, and just looks like a schemer. If his tribe is scared of going after one of the big guns with their first vote, they could go after him because he is a safe choice, a la Randy in Heroes vs Villains.

Most Likely Scenario

I don’t see Zeke going home first, but I don’t see him making it out of the pre-merge either. There are just too many things against him at this point to see him as a viable winner candidate with this cast. While he is not an immediate threat, he is still a threat who doesn’t bring much to the tribal aspects of the game, especially in a season with other famous tribal providers like JT, Ozzy, and Malcolm. With his sub-par challenge ability and schemer mentality, he is likely going to be out sooner than we all would like.

Barbara Anderson
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Barbara Anderson

After being an off and on viewer for 14 years, Barbara watched the season premiere of San Juan del Sur and the rest is history. And by history, she means winning two Survivor fantasy leagues, becoming the resident Cambodia contrarian and Survivor gossip queen and lurking in discussion forums. Oh, and she's totally not a witch.

Favorite seasons: HvV, Philippines, Australian Outback, China, Cagayan
Favorite players: Sandra Diaz-Twine, Jerri Manthey, Denise Stapley, Aubry Bracco, Courtney Yates
Barbara Anderson
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  • Hornacek

    Your totally buried the lead … Zeke’s moustache is the real game-changer!

  • TheForRealDeal

    That is some game-changing B-roll.

  • Mike Hirsch

    I feel like Zeke will wind up on the jury. I just see too many other targets this cast will worry about before fretting over the new meat. But hopefully those big targets manage to band together and take Varner with them instead!

    Also, shh, don’t say shine! Do you want to get sued? Call it “shinn.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e02d7d4ccff72373a55dc5de380c8a61141bd6a6653b55124c8c3117782ff4dd.jpg

  • Ms. Sweaterfan

    Great analysis of Zeke! I agree that his main problems in MvGenX swirled around his need to be in control of the game, and his lack of empathy for other players as individuals who were also trying to win the game. And I really can’t see things going any better for him in Game Changers unless he dramatically changes up his own game (see what I did there?)
    I can definitely see him getting caught up in trying to organize his very own alliance to make a huge move early on and getting taken out by a bigger strategic mastermind because he has set himself up as the leader of the opposition. This actually strikes me as similar to Cirie’s opening gambits in both of her previous returning seasons (met with about 50% success). I forget how the tribe divisions have shaken out, but I guess Zeke could be in luck if he winds up with Cirie and if their desired opening moves line up (AND if they’re willing to play nice and share the driver’s seat). That is a lot of ifs, though.

    • purplerockandy

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the current tribe divisions, unless you’re trying to figure out who will be the first boot.

      • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

        I know Probst confirmed it for 34, but three tribe shake up at 18 should be pretty much expected every season, right?

        • Not necessarily at that number, but yes.

        • purplerockandy

          Or something like it, yes.

        • gouis

          Which is what concerns me about Sandra. She’s never had to go through a swap.

          • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

            Though it’s not like she won’t see it coming this time. I think it works to her benefit now that she’s Two Time Winner Sandra Diaz Twine. Other players will need her to keep the numbers, and she’ll need a fog of war to keep the target off of her.

          • EmAndScoutInBK

            Interesting – but I feel like a swap is not a problem for someone like Sandra. Her whole philosophy is “anybody but me,” which is exactly what you need going into a swap.

          • gouis

            If she’s on a 6 person tribe that loses and is on the wrong side of the numbers, that’s bad news. She’s an easy target as both a challenge liability and as someone who clearly has post merge skills.

          • EmAndScoutInBK

            In a normal season, the challenge liability would be a huge issue, but I feel like that doesn’t happen as much in a returnee season. I feel like people do not care unless you are injured, like Varner. Post-merge skills, DEFINITELY. But, she’s good at making people view her as their number and as a person who can take out bigger threats. She extremely good at camouflaging herself has a number for you to take out bigger threats who’s so weak at challenges that you can take her out at any time later. They SHOULD take her out. Immediately. Because that’s how she wins. If they recognize that her threat is the post-merge skills, then they will do exactly that, but personally, I’m hoping they miss it.

          • PurpleTally

            Even Rupert having a broken toe (and being Rupert) didn’t make him enough of a challenge liabilty to eliminate in HvV.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            Yeah, but “anyone but me” is just another (less threatening) way of saying that Sandra is never on the wrong side of the numbers.

          • purplerockandy

            Yeah, not having been in a swap is less of an issue than not being in a six person tribe to start.

          • Neither has JT for the record.

          • gouis

            JT can skate by with “we need him for the challenges” whereas Sandra doesn’t have that excuse. But I wasn’t really comparing them.

          • I was just bringing it up for the record.

        • Ms. Sweaterfan

          The producers are certainly loving that twist. And I have to say I’m not mad at it either (but it could start to get stale if we do it EVERY season from now on).

          • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

            I would think that if it became predictable, the post-merge strategy threats become the first boots because challenge weakness won’t matter once you mix up the tribes. So not just stale but actively detrimental to the game. It’s working fine now though, I guess.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            Almost an Intentional Matsing in reverse.

          • purplerockandy

            At the very least, I think we can expect it for every returnee season. It’s a pre-game alliance busting tactic.

      • Ms. Sweaterfan

        Yeah in terms of my comment above, I was thinking purely about the first or second vote. If Zeke comes out swinging then I think he’s in trouble, but if he can lie low for a few votes (or if his tribe can win a few immunities) then his odds are a bit better. I looked up the tribe divisions just now, and I think he has some good options starting out, though I agree that things will be shaken up early and often.

    • Alycia Swift

      “his lack of empathy for other players as individuals who were also trying to win the game.”

      That’s one of the things that pervaded most of the M v. Gx jury overall (Bret, in particular, had that problem). It was one of those things – “if you are not playing the way I want you to and your moves or lack of them did not keep me in the game – you are playing a bad game. And even if you do the move I tell you to when you feel it is right, since it did not help me and take me and let me win over you, you are not getting credit for it.” That’s the one thing that bugged me about last season.

      • Ms. Sweaterfan

        I agree that this was an issue with MvGx players over all. I would also throw Ciera’s “play the game!” stuff from Cambodia into this category (though I think she earns a bit more leniency because her back was up against the wall and she had to try something big to shift the momentum).

    • Diego Armando

      He is with Cirie. That buys him a Tribal.

  • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

    I kept thinking that “arrogance” wasn’t the right word for Zeke, but maybe it’s his off-the-charts likability that keeps me from seeing that he’s actually truly arrogant. Or maybe the edit.

    • Roswulf

      I think Zeke has a bit of the Tony in him- someone who is SO EXCITED ABOUT PLAYING SURVIVOR and who has so much innate self-confidence that he’s going to do all the things and make mistakes, and also get locked in to his own story. It’s a likable form of self-absorption.

      This is not a profile that I see dealing well with being an instant returnee- with a few years off, I think Zeke would have the self-awareness to slow things down a bit, to his ultimate benefit.

    • Then you haven’t been on Reddit lately, huh?

      • gouis

        Reddit hates Zeke?

        GEEE I WONDER IF THERE IS AN ALTERNATE REASON FOR THAT

        • I actually don’t know if there is an alternate reason.

          • gouis

            It’s Reddit. They’ll have all the “logic” and “reasons” in the world but if you don’t align with the worldview of straight 22 year old white men they’ll find a reason to hate.

          • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

            I find that true on the default subs (which I just unsubscribed from), but there are some that swing in the opposite way, too far in fact. There was one post that was gushing on and on about how Zeke’s casting was so progressive for Survivor and great for representation when Zeke hadn’t actually come out as what the op was claiming him to be (and I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about, but even being this specific is making me uncomfortable). And then another person said the same thing, this time with stuff they found from his time at Harvard, but Zeke still hadn’t been public with any of it.

            Anyway, this comment is somewhat paradoxical to what I’m saying, but respect people’s privacy. Don’t use them as unwitting figureheads, and don’t talk about things that they aren’t bringing up themselves.

          • gouis

            Sure, but those views still leak in to even the most benign of subreddits.

          • Yeah, r/CrappyDesign turned into a rabid hate group so gradually I never noticed.

          • As you probably expected, official policy here is to not discuss that particular issue unless the person in question chooses to discuss it openly.

          • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

            That’s my stance on the whole thing; I only brought it up to show that Redditors aren’t all narrow-minded miserable a-holes. There are miserable a-holes of all stars and stripes.

          • Kemper Boyd

            woah, I’d not heard that because I know exist entirely on PRP and twitter for Survivor and I don’t think it would be brought up for the reasons John said.

          • sharculese

            I had no idea what you were talking about, but I guessed within five second and googling that thing suggests I was right about what it was, so… be careful even hinting at it.

            Unrelated, I didn’t respond to you last week because I was frustrated that they were just running another fucking round of Wonderland, but now that we have something new that I guess ties into the boys’ history of undeath I have thoughts burbling.

          • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

            Like I said, I was uncomfortable being even that vaguely specific. I might delete that comment.

            Yeah, I was disappointed with the extension of the Wonderland track, especially since Griffin said things were coming to a head the week before. But that was a fantastic ending, and if next episode essentially starts with a boss battle, then I think there should be a lot of answers to fill the following 40-ish minutes. Two things I’m wondering about going in: (1) will the RR do anything more now that he’s gotten THB out of the room? (2) is anyone going to remember their Fantasy Costco purchases? Will the flaming poisonous sword of somethigarble be used? Will the hole-thrower be used to break some allies out of their respective rooms?

      • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

        I try not to get into the weeds on r/Survivor. The most prominent thing I remember from S33 was that they were thrilled Adam won b/c he’s a regular of the sub.

        • You’re a better person than I am.

        • The adoration of Adam there was a bit much, although I get it. I assume you all will hail me as your new king when I win Survivor.

          • Alycia Swift

            We have to wait until you win?

          • Purplerockmatt

            if you won Andy wouldn’t know what to do with himself. I mean on the one hand he loves frontrunners, but on the other hand he hates you

          • purplerockandy

            I’d probably retire, tbh.

          • Purplerockmatt

            And John would retire because he would big time the podcast, so we could finally get Blackjack and Hookers

          • Purple Rock Emma

            That’d be worth slightly-more-insufferable-than-usual John.

          • That would really be the greatest part of winning.

          • HBO CEO of Tits

            He helped my fantasy team so I liked him quite a bit for that, and he was generally likable, but man I don’t think anyone has ever failed upward as spectacularly as he did in survivor history.

          • Purplerockmatt

            Bob Crowley would like a word with you good sir

      • Roswulf

        Aw, that makes me feel so sad.

        Hating Zeke is just a wrong emotion.

        • purplerockandy

          I love Zeke. He’s so great. Just the right brand of arrogance for me.

          • Purple Rock Emma

            So… arrogance?

          • purplerockandy

            But… funny.

          • Purple Rock Emma

            I know, I just wanted to give you shit.

  • gouis

    It’s crazy that you think his best case scenario is mid-jury. Zeke is likable and smart enough to find a way to make it to the end.

    • Roswulf

      Honestly, I think the “Best Case Scenario” section is kind of misconceived. Survivor is really random, and past performance doesn’t predict future performance all that well. Without the benefit of edit reading, the best case scenario for everyone but Troyzan is winning.

      • gouis

        I see about half the cast having a reasonable chance at winning. Troyzan leads the other half.

      • purplerockandy

        When the best case/worst case was initially conceived, I also worried that it would just be “win” and “first boot”. But I see that many people have been too cowardly to call their player a winner.

        (Including me, I suppose, who topped Varner out at “last member of the jury”, but that was based on challenge weakness).

        • gouis

          I don’t think Varner can last the 39 days

          • purplerockandy

            Fiji is a lot more pleasant than Cambodia.

          • gouis

            I don’t mean he’ll get medivac’d. Just I think he’s not in great shape, and at some point he’ll break down and make some really bad decisions.

          • purplerockandy

            What I’m saying is that him breaking down may have at least been in part due to the conditions of Cambodia. Even then, if he had wound up on Joey Amazing’s tribe, where people got to post up in hammocks while he fed them, Varner may have done better there too.

          • Mike Hirsch

            I would love to have seen arrogant, living high on the hog Varner in Cambodia.

          • purplerockandy

            I pictured it too. I’d like to think that the producers would clear out camp just to get his confessionals from the hammock.

          • Or they could have brought a hammock to the confessional spot just for him. That would be something.

          • Mike Hirsch

            Maybe they’ll put a hammock up where he does his confessionals this season. Just somewhere only he gets to give confessionals.

        • Roswulf

          Oh I agree- it’s all for the best that the writers aren’t taking “Best/Worst Case literally.” That would be boring. But the nerd in me wishes it was labeled something like “95th percentile Case” and “5th Percentile Case” instead.

          On a completely unrelated note Andy, having just finished my first watch of HvV, I’ve been listening to your podcasts with Emma.

          Your extended riff on how Russell is Donald Trump now feels like getting repeatedly punched in the face. So thanks for that.

          • purplerockandy

            Who could’ve known?

          • Roswulf

            The worst part is that RUSSELL knew (well, not the worst part). As he explained, the ‘problem’ with Survivor is that the winner isn’t decided by the American people.

            Clearly, the presidency should be chosen by a Survivor jury of failed candidates.

          • Purplerockmatt

            your percentile is exactly what i clarified it as.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            This past weekend I did a re-listen of the November 7 and November 9 editions of several political podcasts I subscribe to, because, I dunno, I guess I’m a masochist like that. It’s hard to overstate what a different world we lived in on November 7. Keeping It 1600 was the toughest one.

        • Purplerockmatt

          as the initial conceiver of that portion i did clarify that we are talking like 80th percentile chance and 20th percentile chance because the extremes on either side are pretty much always win or first boot

          • HBO CEO of Tits

            If we are complaining about math on Purple Rock it always angers me to no end that in the season ranking Panama is described as “replacement level survivor.” That’s not what replacement level means. Replacement level is not better than half the players in the league, as a 15 out of 32 implies. He means league-average survivor, which is about 2 wins better than replacement. Or worth $12 million in salary as opposed to $400,000, if we’re going by baseball. Replacement level should be “not actively angry at the show I’m watching, but no better” so somewhere between Vanuatu and San Juan del Sur, I’d say. Probably Vanuatu.

          • purplerockandy

            You’re probably exactly right about this.

            The challenge now becomes “do we change it to be right, or keep it because making people angry about silly thing is our steez?”

          • HBO CEO of Tits

            Shouldn’t be too tough as you should be ranking MvGx sometime in the future.

          • Kemper Boyd

            SAN JUAN DEL SUR IS NOT REPLACEMENT LEVEL SURVIVOR SIR.

          • purplerockandy

            Couldn’t agree more.

          • Kemper Boyd

            Yes but in the wrong way. Boo, sir, boo.

          • You lost me at discussion of baseball.

            But we’ll update the post with discussion of Panama’s VORS.

        • Kemper Boyd

          Sandra is the definition of a win or first boot player. It made my best/worst cases easier to write.

          • purplerockandy

            Yep. Yours was definitely accurate.

        • Diego Armando

          That may change in a future post.

      • To defend myself slightly, Zeke feels like he could consistently finish with the basement of mid jury. However with him being an instant returnee on an all star season where a lot of the cast wants to show how great they are at the game and make good tv, Zeke’s basement drops drastically.

    • I just don’t see it in the cards for Zeke this season. Any other season he could go far, but not this one.

  • Black Dynamite

    I’m very high on Zeke. I think being an unknown quantity will make him a suspect at first but I think he is savvy and likable enough to make connections and advance as other more prominent names are targeted. I think his strength of being able to work with everyone will continue to this season. What may hurt him in the end is that eventually he’ll come off as such a schemer but in a way that may draw backlash while others may earn more sympathy.

    For my prediction, I really don’t wanna disagree with Barbara because she is wise when it comes to Survivor forecasting (and totally not a witch but needs to watch Palau). I will disagree though because I think Zeke goes all the way.

    My Prediction: Finalist

    Previous Predictions
    Varner: Post Merge Boot
    Andrea: Winner
    Tai: Pre Merge Boot
    Caleb: Pre Merge Boot
    Sandra: Pre Merge Boot
    Cirie: Post Merge Boot
    Troy: Post Merge Boot

    • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

      Though would it benefit the Fantasy Queen to let everyone know that Zeke will make FTC if that’s what she believes? Maybe that prediction is exactly what Barbara thinks. A decent post-merge finish is fake news.

      • No, I straight up think that this cast is not made for Zeke to succeed fully. He says multiple times in MvGX that he doesn’t want to bro down and he wants to be in control, which will throw him in conflict with roughly 50 percent of the males out there.

        • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

          I actually agree with you on Zeke’s ceiling here.

          I think if BWBs form, then Zeke can latch onto those and avoid having to bro-down. Whether or not he can maneuver to the end from there is a different story.

          As far as Instant Returnees go, I look at Russell and Joe as Zeke’s closest comparisons. Everyone else played against newbies, which helped them get to and past the merge. Russell made it to the end in spite of everyone hating him and targeting him. Joe went out mid-jury because of his likability and challenge strength. Zeke has the likability of Joe and the scheming impulse of Russell, so if that becomes apparent, he’ll be stopped short of FTC

        • Alycia Swift

          I agree with you here.

          I was listening to RHAP’s podcast with Shirin, Akiva and Sarah Channon this morning on my long drive in. They were doing the draft. Zeke got picked early even though the draft was last June before they saw the season when we knew him as Season 34 male just because whomever (I think it was Shirin) thought he had to be the strategist who made it to the end and won or lost at FTC. Season 34 female had not been picked yet when I got to work and we are down the last five. They assumed she was the character who did not go as far and was not a particularly good player. They were partially right on her but not right on him.

          Being in total control is not always the best way to win. It might make you regarded as a higher caliber of winner by the hardcore survivors and it might get you a second shot but more and more, it gets you voted out. See Paul, Zeke, David, Chris (of his swapped tribe), Michaela (of her swapped tribe), There are many winners (Denise Stapely comes to mind) that were really not in “control” but worked very hard to be where they were.

      • Oh, I like this theory! Fantasy Survivor Witch Barbara throwing everyone off the scent just before the Champions League draft!

        • People, I have revealed my Champions League draft strategy before. Zeke doesn’t fall into that.

          • Black Dynamite

            Can you reveal it again? I’ll get my notebook.

          • I can reveal it…later.

          • Black Dynamite

            If I get back in, I will need your expertise for the Outcast League. I’m also very excited for Pick 4 tomorrow. I’ve been sitting on my choices for months now.

          • I feel like I may need to run a clinic on fantasy league after the next season.

          • purplerockandy

            Yes. Let the arrogance flow through you. FEED ON IT.

          • That wasn’t being arrogant…or at least this wasn’t my intention.

          • Step 1: Eye of newt
            Step 2: Polyjuice potion
            Step 3: ???
            Step 4: Win

          • Shh! That’s totally my strategy…or is it?

    • Maritimer

      I’m the total opposite. I agree being an unknown quality will hurt him, and I think he will play hard out of the gate, possibly playing into the theme. It will set off alarm bells for people in the “what did he do to get here” mold, people will think of Russell, and target him pretty quickly

      • Black Dynamite

        I think there is definitely a shot that as well. The Zeke that demands attention as strategic leader is not the version that would not do well early.

  • purplerockandy

    I’ll admit, when setting up Barbara’s author box, I was soooooooo tempted to throw Cambodia in under “Favorite seasons”.

    • I am actually shocked that you didn’t.

    • Alkanarra

      The avatar game is on point, though.

      • purplerockandy

        Just wait…

        • Purple Rock Emma

          I’m so excited.

      • Oh thanks! It’s not an exact replica of me, but it is close enough.

        • Alkanarra

          You mean your head *doesn’t* span from shoulder to shoulder?

          • No, should it though?

          • Alkanarra

            It will when they open the Purple Rock Dating Site. You wouldn’t want your photos to be misleading, after all.

            The best part of the PRDS? All the clueless guys hitting on sharculese because they don’t know any better.

          • Oh, I just guffawed so hard about sharculese. Love you, Sharcy!

          • sharculese

            This is so far from the apex of people on the internet not knowing Im a dude. Google ‘sharculese gender fraud.’

          • Wow, dude, even me with my Cambodia “hatred” couldn’t top this.

        • Assistant Dragon Slayer

          The Hogwarts uniform isn’t exactly going to dispel the witchcraft rumors.

          • Honestly, as soon as I saw it, I had to have it, witch rumors be damned.

          • Diego Armando

            I just went with reddish since I think burgundy looks good on me.

          • I cannot wait to see your avatar. Also, I was very tempted to have Fantasy League Khaleesi in my bio, but I didn’t want a novella to accompany my already existing novella.

    • sharculese

      Now I’m extra thankful I got mine from John “Work Is for Other People” … Lastname.

  • Maritimer

    As I read somewhere (possibly elsewhere here), my concern about how far Zeke will go comes from the fact he was not mentioned as returning for GC at the MvGX finale while Michaela was. Since they already had him on stage, you’d think they would at least mention him if he does decently, which makes me think he is likely an early boot. I expect he falls victim to either the mystery returnee thing or overplaying early

    • Yeah, that was weird, but that is not really impacting my view of the season for Zeke.

  • jersey_luck

    A couple of things about Zeke: I agree with analysis that Zeke is the person who most likely not to get along with this cast. He lacks the pregaming and is on the tribe that will most likely not get along with them. I basing everything that when th mergw hits two original Nukus will have been voted off and predict that Zeke will be one of thm.

    Also it should stated it seems weird that Zke is the male from Millennials vs Gen X when realistically he should be fourth or fifth person to be brought back. (The others being Jay, David, Ken, and Adam or Bret)

    • Well, Adam was a no-go due to the recent passing of his mom. They also probably needed a younger-ish guy, so David and Bret were out. I don’t know why they brought out Zeke over Jay or Ken.

      • Alycia Swift

        Well, production must have thought Zeke was funnier. If you think about it … Varner and Zeke are on opposite tribes and they are similar character types though I personally think Varner is a heck of a lot more entertaining.

        Can you think of any other character type like Bret that would offset him on the tribe? He was funny but also a follower from what we were shown (although very adaptable).

        Ken – he may not have wanted to go at this point as he would be away from his daughter, and his nonprofit. While he was unique personality-wise, there may have been others in the mix that would serve his purpose even if they ended up not being cast (LJ? Ozzy also has as good outdoor skills). Plus, he would be great with his brother on a Blood v. Water season instead of this type of season. I personally would have liked to see him back.

        • Assistant Dragon Slayer

          It’s not a perfect match, but if Jeremy hadn’t already returned he would be kind of a good comp for Bret (firefighter/cop, Boston, tries to lay low, “these people are SO DUMB” takes).

          • Alycia Swift

            For Bret? Or Ken?

            The closest matchup I can think of is Rodney (in some ways) and Amy O’Hara in others.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            For Bret. Wow, Amy O’hara is an absolutely excellent comparison. I was assuming a same-gender counterpart to preserve tribe balance, but now I see there’s no reason to assume that.

          • That’s a good comp right there.

        • I think Bret is the better version of Dan Foley, but they are never going to bring back Dan.

    • Roswulf

      I’ll give you Jay and David, but bringing back Ken and Brett before Zeke is madness.

      Zeke gives funny confessionals and makes the game more dynamic and active. He’s a reliable source of good television. Ken and Brett are not (and I say this as someone who really would like to see Brett return).

      • jersey_luck

        I will say that is why I would Bret last because someone might argue that Bret is better then Zeke. However, the hill I will stand on is that Ken should have been asked back before Zeke. During when the season was airing Ken was a fan favorite and he was person people had major crushes on. He was unique character on the season he was on and people said he might have won on a different season.

    • Maritimer

      Of those, I think only David and Zeke were right for this season. I think Jay is great, but I’m not sure he fits the mold for this season (though I know the definition of “game changer” was clearly loose). Jay is a FvF returnee I would think. Ken and Bret I am totally indifferent on their returning, and I agree with Barbara Anderson that the timing clearly wasn’t right for Adam given his personal life.

      • HBO CEO of Tits

        Jay is a bit redundant with malcolm and ozzy, so there’s that too.

        • purplerockandy

          When Jay comes back to Survivor, I don’t want him to be an also-ran rushed out with stars. I want him to be one of the stars of the season. I’m happy to wait.

          (Especially since we never have to wait long for returnees anymore).

    • SpicyMayoJaySimpson

      I doubt Jay would’ve wanted to be away from his family for so long. One season is already a lot, and we saw how important he is to them and they are to him. I have no doubt that Jay will return someday, but it wasn’t going to be back to back seasons.

    • I don’t remember if this was a proven fact but didn’t David get sick after MvGX?

      • jersey_luck

        And that might explain while they did not go David (who honestly probably would fit in this cast better than Zeke) did not cast on this season.

        • Also, David is too similar to Varner, so they are not going to bring him back right away. However, the Favorites tribe is always looking for older people.

          • Black Dynamite

            Speaking of Favorites, if they do another FvF season soon then I believe they have to switch up from the pattern they’ve established in the previous editions. Before they had one time non winners from no more than the previous 10 seasons but with Cambodia/Game Changers I think we can see players on the Favorites playing for their third time.

          • Controversially, I think there is a still a lot of untapped one time non winners that they can go to in the BvW-MvGX era. Unfortunately,the majority of them are men.

          • Black Dynamite

            That’s interesting. I have trouble with the men side but was able to fill out the women side a lot easier. But I think I may be hung up a little on the “Favorites” label when Survivor has shown that they don’t give a fuck about the meaning of that word.

          • Here’s who I see as potential male favorites:
            BvW: Hayden
            Cagayan: LJ, Cliff
            SJDS: Jon, Josh
            Worlds Apart: Rodney
            KR: Peter, Scot
            MvGX: David, Jay, Ken, Bret

          • Hard pass on 50+% of those.

          • gouis

            Yeah I got Hayden, Jay, David.

          • I’m open to Peter returning to get clowned again.

          • gouis

            He would fulfill the role of a less misogynistic Troy.

          • I know, but we got to think about who Production has been open to in the past.

          • Mike Hirsch

            Production Favorites vs Fan Favorites would make for an interesting season.

          • Isn’t that this season?

          • Black Dynamite

            I think there some overlap with players being both Production and Fan Favorites but I guess this season is closest to that idea.

          • Black Dynamite

            I like that idea. Survivor brings back 10 players and then lets the fans pick the other ten.

          • Black Dynamite

            I want Brice to come back badly. Definitely more than the other Beauty men of Cagayan.

          • LJ and Jeremiah were kind of duds.

          • Alycia Swift

            I’d change WA to Mike. I’d take off Scot and leave him off and put Neal back on since he was medivaced then removed. (I would not put Kyle Jason back on). And I’d add Adam to the MvGX list (and from what I’ve seen after the show, Chris.

          • This is for Fans vs. Favorites, so Adam and Mike would be out. I have a weird hunch that they are getting saved for another returnee season (HvV2, perhaps?).

          • Alycia Swift

            I think Mike and Adam are favorites depending on what web sites you are on. Mike was in the mix this time but was cut (my guess,they cast Tony over him.)

          • Max_Jets

            Don’t forget Reynold!

          • Or dog bar.

          • Who do you have for females?

          • Black Dynamite

            The five I have penciled in right now are Trish (Cagayan), Julia (Koah Rong), Cydney (Koah Rong), Hannah (MvGX) and Figgy (MvGX).

          • I think Alexis from Cagayan could be in contention as well, but that is a good mix. It is a maybe a bit young (besides Trish), but I don’t know if they are going after Katie or Rachel from BvW.

          • Black Dynamite

            I have Alexis as I contender to return as well. She showed a bit of potential in her boot episode. If Survivor wanted, I definitely see Cagayan as the next Australian Outback with half the players returning.

          • Oh yeah, they could.

          • They clearly- and justifiably- love Cagayan. And I would not be opposed to an Alexis return either. For…reasons.

          • Alycia Swift

            I doubt. Rachel was only there for Tyson and is a relatively new mom. Both were pretty boring.

          • Staying loyal on the Hannah bandwagon. I respect it. Cydney and Trish seem like locks to come back at some point; the others seem slightly less likely.

          • Black Dynamite

            I agree with you about those two being near locks. I think Figgy and Hannah check off a category Survivor tends to want to fill. Julia intrigues me because of her age. I think her ongoing maturity is a good story for Survivor to tell.

          • Julia is probably in the Cook Island Parvati mold, but we saw much more from Julia than we did in Parvati.

          • Alkanarra

            If Probst ever gets off his high horse and lets Jenn Brown have a chance again, I think she’d be a good returnee. Though she’s likewise pretty young.

          • Black Dynamite

            I thought about Jenn and while I would like for it to happen, I don’t see it being all that likely.

          • Alycia Swift

            But then he’s have to bring others back that were like her or did quit.

          • Alkanarra

            She didn’t actually quit, though; so it’s not fair to count her as one. Jenn’s argument — which is probably total bullshit but I’m willing to overlook it because I fucking love Jenn Brown — is that it was all an act to get people thinking “she’s given up therefore not a threat anymore therefore focus on someone else”. But even if she did want to quit, she was playing on World’s Apart; wanting to quit that season is the only correct conclusion of a logical human mind.

          • Alycia Swift

            Well her wanting to quit was a hell of a lot more convincing than Rodney’s. I realize she did not though.

          • Max_Jets

            I might replace Figgy with Michelle Schubert but this is about the best they can do, other than S35 woman of course. I’d be happy with Carolyn too but she doesn’t seem to be very popular around here.

          • Mike Hirsch

            Hot Rod!

          • Alycia Swift

            No. But he’s probably in the mix. Apparently, he’s been following fans (Carolyn and Lindsay from that season as well.)

          • Fun story: Carolyn followed me for about two weeks and then unfollowed me.

          • Alycia Swift

            Maybe she got cut again.

          • Black Dynamite

            Probably when she figured out that you weren’t actually Amy Poehler or heard about the witchcraft rumors.

          • Fun reason behind that story: They were acting on rumors that 36 was a potential returnee season. It is not. So Carolyn, Rodney, et al., unfollowed all the fans they’d followed when they somehow thought it would help them.

          • Alycia Swift

            And if I was inclined to have an account that they could follow, and they pulled that, that would make me less inclined to vote for them when there is a vote-in season. (I’d never vote Rodney though either way.)

            Was it determined what Season 36 is actually?

          • There are suspicions about a theme, but supposedly it’s all new players.

          • I keep hearing that 36 could be Fans vs Favorites but they haven’t contacted the Favorites yet.

          • If they contacted Rodney and Carolyn, they definitely haven’t contacted the Favorites yet.

          • sharculese

            Do you really not want Rodney back? I’m worried 36 might still be too early, but I want to see him play again for sure.

          • I understand the reasoning behind having him back, but I’m not really all that interested in it. I’d much rather have someone like Peter or even Jason back.

          • Alycia Swift

            I don’t. I can skip Rodney, Dan and Will.

          • Kemper Boyd

            Yep, I got followed.

        • purplerockandy

          It’s also possible that they wanted to lock in returnees before the end of the game.

  • PurpleTally

    There are a handful of people who could have played again from MvGx that could go far in Game Changers–Zeke is not one of them. He doesn’t have the social game skills to convince the others he’s not a threat. He might skate by for a bit as bigger threats are eliminated, but I’ll be stunned if he makes it to the merge.

  • TheForRealDeal

    Is there a good analogue for Zeke in terms of big fans playing with returnees? Erik and Cochran parlayed it fairly well but I don’t know that they are very good comparisons, and I could imagine Zeke’s fan tendencies rubbing some of these people the wrong way.

    • Malcolm maybe.

      • I think the problem is that Malcolm and Cochran weren’t exactly bowled over by the star power of their fellow “Favorites”.

        • I guess I was referring more to Philippines Malcolm, but even then you are right. SoPa Cochran just had stars in his eyes the whole time.

          • Ah, silly me. Yeah, the first seasons for both might’ve come closer. Although I don’t think Malcolm was going ga-ga over Russell Swan.

          • Mike Hirsch

            Malcolm’s loss there, really.

          • Yeah, but he did know how to play him. Not as well as Denise, but still.

    • Assistant Dragon Slayer

      I honestly don’t remember–did Shirin geek out excessively on Cambodia?

      • Not really. If Shane had made it, she might have.

      • purplerockandy

        Her issue was less geeking out and more “desperate to play and call her shot”.

    • purplerockandy

      Rob Cesternino in All-Stars.

  • Diego Armando

    Nice job, Barbara.

    I think Zeke could be a dark horse this season. I think he can integrate well into multiple groups. I kind of think his new playerness could help him for bit. I personally think the other players will ignore him in favor of going after big players and he could integrate well after tribe swaps.

  • forever1267

    He’s super adorable, and one of the few I can recall who seemed super excited in getting voted off, just because he was getting voted off the TV Show “Survivor”. I’m rooting for him, but believe you are correct in your assessment. Mid- Jury kind of guy, but will be entertaining all the way there.