‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ Preliminary Rankings

It took months of begging and pleading, but the Fancast higher-ups eventually agreed to send me to Nicaragua to cover the 21st season of “Survivor.” Apparently they had two reasons for relenting. First, I’d be able to bring you exclusive interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes photos and videos, and other first-hand tidbits. And second, they enjoy it when Jeff Probst berates me (which he did…often).

To kick off our look inside “Survivor,” I’ve ranked this season’s players based on what I saw of them in the days before the start of the game.

NOTE: This preliminary ranking, while informative, will not count toward this season’s Power Ranking score. (Speaking of which, be on the lookout for one of my personal favorite villains as this season’s Power Rankings opponent.)

So without further ado, let’s see who’s in it for the long haul, who’ll be called for jury duty, and who’ll be forgotten by the time the reunion special airs.

Marty KellyB
#1 Marty – When I first sat down with Marty I thought, “This guy is right in my ‘Survivor’ wheel house. He’s physical enough to be useful early on, he’s not too strong where he’d be an obvious boot after the merge, and he seems cunning enough to come up with some sound strategies.” So, Marty is my pick to take home the million. The bad news for Marty? When I went out to “Survivor: Gabon” I picked Michelle Chase…and she went home first. #2 Kelly B. – Kelly’s prosthetic leg won’t be a factor physically during her time on “Survivor.” She’s already proven that she can successfully compete in athletic competitions while wearing it. That, and I barely even noticed it during our time together. It’s not a big deal to her, so it quickly won’t be a big deal to her tribe mates.  However, it could affect her game if people are afraid to go to the finals with someone who has such an inspirational story.
Yve Judson
#3 Yve – I think being successful in “Survivor” requires having several different weapons and knowing when to use them. Nobody has more weapons this season than Yve. She’s on the older tribe, but she’s only 41 and can still relate to the younger tribe. As a mother of two, she could easily slip into a mother role with some of the younger players (ala Tina Wesson). If that doesn’t work, she’s also quite beautiful and could use her feminine wiles to keep her around. I think she’s definitely one to watch. #4 Judson – It’d be really easy to write “Jud-weiser” off because he’s a good-looking, goofy guy. But while I was talking to him, I couldn’t help but think, “Here’s an easy-going fellow on a tribe full of alpha males.” While Benry, Shannon, and Sash are jockeying for position at the top of the tribe, Judson can just coast for a while.
Alina Tyrone
#5 Alina – I worry that Alina might be trying to play a character and isn’t being herself. I think she can survive in the game and may even make a run for it, but she’s going to have to curb the faux tough girl exterior. The pleasant, easy-to-talk-to young woman I met didn’t click with the “Don’t call me the girl next door” rhetoric that was in her biography. #6  Tyrone – I was told about the young vs. old twist the night before I met the players. My first instinct was, “The young tribe is going to decimate the older tribe in challenges.” That was before I met Tyrone. He’s built like a WWE action figure and is arguably the most physically fit competitor in the game.  Add to that the fact that he’s smart, he’s a motivator, and he has more life experience than his younger counterparts and you have an extremely dangerous player.
Jane Shannon
#7 Jane – Quick Jane Story: I did a bit with the players where I asked them how they’d get me to share the cast bios with them if we were in the game together. Jane simply said, “I’d tickle you, then take them.” I laughed, then continued on with my questions. At the end of the interview, she charged me, tickled me, and snatched the bios away. The whole thing took all of three seconds. Fortunately, I snatched the bios back before she could read them. But, that little incident proved to me that Jane is clearly evil and willing to do anything to get what she wants. It’d be foolish to underestimate her. #8 Shannon – The La Flor tribe has a powerhouse line-up of young studs. However, they also have a powder keg of alpha males. When the inevitable clash of egos takes place between Shannon, Benry, and Sash, I’m putting my money on Shannon to be the last man standing. Why? Because I think he can relate to Chase and Judson.
Jillian Benry
#9 Jillian – I’m not sure exactly what to make of Jillian. She’s obviously very fit physically and will be able to handle the Nicaraguan wilderness. But, she also told me she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She’ll need to keep that instinct in check if she wants to stick around. If not, she could be an early boot. I’m putting her in the middle of the pack for the time being. #10 Benry – My buddy Benry seems to pride himself on being a player. Which is fine…in real life. On “Survivor” when somebody is looking for a reason to get rid of you it could be just what they need to sway some female votes to go their way. If he can avoid getting stamped with that label, he could go far.
NaOnka Chase
#11 NaOnka – I think NaOnka is going to surprise a lot of people. Physically she’s got the goods to hold her own in any immunity challenge and she has the outdoor experience to handle 39 days on a beach. If she can get in with a solid alliance she could go a long way. #12 Chase – Chase is big, Chase is strong, Chase is very likable. What Chase isn’t is a big fan of “Survivor.” He might not be prepared for the non-stop mental toll all of the paranoia takes on your psyche.
JimmyJ Holly
#13 Jimmy J. – If Jimmy Johnson was just a celebrity who wanted to extend his 15 minutes, I’d say he was dead in the water.  But, Jimmy has wanted to be on “Survivor” since the day it premiered. And, Jimmy confided in me that he’s going to tell people to take him to the end because he can’t possibly win. Seems like a good strategy. His main problem? Sandra used that exact same strategy last season and won. Sorry, Jimmy. #14 Holly – Holly has a lot of public speaking experience, being a pageant consultant and the wife of a politician. Now, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it seems like society has trained us to find both of those pursuits to be somewhat disingenuous. If she starts dancing around with her words, she could find herself out of the game quickly.
JimmyT BrendaL
#15 Jimmy T. – I’m not sure if there’s a way to put this nicely so I’m just going to say it – Jimmy T. doesn’t quite know when to be shut up. He can get on a person’s nerves quickly. He’s a nice guy and obviously knows a great deal about “Survivor,” but I could see him being sent home if he starts to annoy the rest of his tribe. #16 Brenda – I love Brenda. Adore her. Anyone who claims to be “As deceptive as a Decepticon” in her interview earns serious points with me.  However, the same thing that makes me adore her is what’s going to have the older tribe gunning for her. Her youthful enthusiasm is going to put a major target on her back.
KellyS Dan
#17 Kelly S. – Kelly is a very sweet girl, but she’s lived a charmed life. If I’m on her tribe and I’m listening about how she was the captain of the cheerleading squad and is currently going to school in Hawaii, I’d probably be thinking that this young lady doesn’t need a million dollars. Besides, with the way her life is going, she’ll probably win the lottery several times. #18 Dan – Oh, Mr Connected! I love me some Dan Lembo. Couldn’t ask for a nicer, more welcoming guy. I wish he was my next-door neighbor and we grilled together every Sunday. That’s why it’s a shame his time in Nicaragua is going to be so brief. If the older tribe falls behind and they have to make choices based on physical prowess rather than people they like, he’ll be one of the first to go.
Wendy Sash
#19 Wendy – Not many people know this, but the Survivors get to see each other before the game starts. On the flight over, while waiting for their press interviews, while they’re having their pictures taken. Now, they’re not allowed to talk to each other, but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading the other players’ body language. What was the most common thing I heard from the players about Wendy? “The cowgirl has to go home first.” #20 Sash – The worst thing about living in a post-Russell world is that there are sure to be some imitators. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my pick for Russell 2.0. Sash told me he was going to manipulate thoughts, smash dreams and about a dozen other things straight out of the Hantz Playbook. Fortunately, I don’t think tribes are going to fall for it any more. If they see someone acting too Russell-like they’re going to send him packing.

More “Survivor” Fun: Check out our exclusive cast interviews and learn about this season’s new twist, the Medallion of Power.

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