Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette: Michaela Bradshaw

We’re in the home stretch of 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: Michaela Bradshaw.

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. Other Scott had to take a break from championing bland-ass Survivors to cover the exact opposite.

I think Michaela Bradshaw might be the best casting find that Survivor has had since Tony Vlachos. I know that’s a big statement, but I think she deserves it. First off, she fills that African-American female demographic that Survivor has struggled with a lot, since many of the African-American women they cast get voted out very early (Editor’s note: Michaela was a pre-merge boot, as was every other woman of color in Millennials vs Gen X). She has an infectious personality and smile and a blunt physicality to make the audience fall in love with her, and her flaws are adorable rather than grating.

Let’s talk about those flaws, because Michaela has all the raw tools to do well at Survivor. She’s athletic, she’s intelligent, she’s resourceful, she’s a hard worker, she’s valuable around camp, and people get along with her pretty well as long as they don’t annoy her. But there are two things that could potentially be her undoing. The first is exactly what we said makes her one of the best casting choices Survivor has ever had: everything she thinks is written right on her face.

Requiring Michaela to lie and pretend to be close to someone she absolutely despises is a really tall order. That said, I don’t think that will be her undoing because I think that can be an advantage. It makes Michaela, from an alliance standpoint, a known commodity. No matter what, players will have a pretty good idea of where she stands with everyone. And in today’s Survivor, where fear of the unknown flipper reigns, the least valuable person is the one you can’t trust. If you’re allied with Michaela, you can trust Michaela. She’s not playing anyone; you can tell very clearly by how she acts with the people she wants nothing to do with that her lying capability is not very strong.

You don’t need strong lying capability to do well in Survivor. Did you see two-time finalist and near-winner Amanda Kimmel try to lie to Parvati in Heroes vs Villains? It was only a slight step above “the idol is definitely on the ground”.

Just to prove that point, what was the main source of Michaela’s ire in Millennials vs Gen X? Ah, yes, our favourite spurned lover Figgy. And did Figgy immediately want Michaela out for not being with her and being enemy number 1? No, because counter-intuitively, that made Michaela less of a threat to her than the real alliance being formed that wanted her out: Zeke, Mari and Hannah. Figgy may not have liked Michaela or wanted to work with her, but she knew where she stood and wasn’t the immediate threat.

What doomed Michaela was that she made herself too much of an obvious threat. She was the Joe Anglim of the season, and suffered the same fate Joe nearly suffered in Worlds Apart, and likely would have suffered if he had to go to tribal council on the third Bayon tribe in Cambodia. If she comes out firing on all cylinders in this season, it’s hard not to imagine that happening again.

There’s some history about men coming back to Survivor immediately for a returnee season without anyone having seen them at all previously. Most famously of course, is Russell Hantz. Had the players of Heroes vs. Villains seen even an episode of Samoa, they would have known they could not trust that man in the slightest. The slightly less interesting example is Malcolm, who was certainly a fan favourite, but fellow returnees not knowing who he was going in to Caramoan didn’t impact the game significantly.

Michaela is the first woman this truly applies to. The players in Micronesia didn’t really know who Amanda was, but they had seen a few episodes of China, so they knew she wasn’t going to be Russell Hantz, or really all that interesting or noteworthy at all. Michaela is not going to have a Russell-like appearance, where it would make a huge impact that the players don’t know who she is, but it will have an impact. The big advantage Michaela can have is if she can contain her competitive spirit and is only “fairly athletic” Michaela, the players won’t know what’s coming. She isn’t Joe Anglim-style screwed from the get-go because they haven’t seen how great at challenges she was in MvGX.

Best Case Scenario

Michaela makes some good relationships, uses her intelligence and game savvy to make smart alliances to get herself into a Final 6. Then, after containing herself for most of the pre-merge and early merge in the challenges, she beasts through the last 3 challenges and wins her way into the Final 3. The jury then gives her the win out of respect for her competitiveness and overall likability.

Further, she gives some fantastic quotes along the way and at least two more epic Survivor moments to go along with her boot tribal council in MvGX, establishing herself along with Parvati, Rupert and Cirie as one of the most beloved Survivors of all time. Seeing Michaela for the third time becomes pretty much assured.

Worst Case Scenario

Michaela is not able to contain her competitiveness and really shows her athletic prowess in 2 or 3 pre-merge challenges. That, combined with making some of the wrong enemies, puts her in a bad swap situation where she once again gets picked off shortly before the merge, once again denying us the wonders that would be the Michaela-as-jury-member.

Most Likely Scenario

Michaela gets to the merge, wins a couple challenges, loses at Final 6 or thereabouts because everyone sees her as both a jury threat and a competition threat down the stretch.

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