Archive for August, 2013

A Sneak Peek at the First ‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’ Redemption Island Duel

August 30, 2013

'Survivor' Dream Teamers Stephanie, Gordon, and July (XFINITY)

Quick Note: I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of this season’s competitors in the days before “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” began. Starting Tuesday, September 3rd I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each pairing. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for those interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and more…

One of the highlights of my “Survivor” visits is always the Press vs. Dream Team immunity challenge.

Note: The “Dream Team” is Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer’s crack team of production assistants who run the immunity challenges to make sure they’re safe, fair, and entertaining.

[xfinity-record-button id=”6541379645042428112″ program_type=”series” cid=”45576771592″]

These test runs really give me a feel for what it’s like to be in a Survivor’s muddy shoes. As I’ve said in the past, I’m always looking for an angle for how my mindset as a challenge participant can compare to an actual in-game competitor’s. Over my four previous set visits, I’d gone from being a wide-eyed newbie, to someone hungry for his first victory, to a grizzled veteran. But, there was one thing I was still desperate to experience…

An individual challenge.

Now usually there aren’t any individual challenges to test while I’m out there. But luckily for me, the 37 twists being used for this season included a Redemption Island duel (or tr-uel) on Day Four.

So, when John Kirhoffer asked if I wanted to participate in the first Redemption Island dress rehearsal, I jumped at the chance.

And it was a full-on dress rehearsal. We were going to do a walkthrough of everything that would take place during a Redemption Island shoot.

When I arrived at the super impressive Redemption Island set, I was sent to stand with the other Dream Teamers in the jungle. It was there that I met my fellow competitors and soon to be worst enemies, Stephanie and July.

The other Dream Teamers filed into the stadium and up into the bleachers while Stephanie, July, and I waited for our cue. I did my best to bribe my two opponents, but was unsuccessful. Apparently the lure of official “Survivor” Hall of Fame water bottles wasn’t enough for either one of them to take a dive.

Finally, a producer gave us the nod and we crossed the field and took our marks in front of “Survivor” host Jeff Probst.

My first impressions of the new Redemption Island set is that it is hot. Like, ridiculously hot. It’s also huge. The camera may only show the bleachers where the loved ones are seated, but there’s a much larger set of bleachers on the other side. And for this day’s challenge they were packed with crew members. To call this environment stressful would be an understatement. Hundreds of eyes, all pointed at the three lightly toasted combatants.

Never one to miss taking a shot at me, Probst pointed out, “Nice to see John finally hiring an older Dream Team member. Who is this guy?”

Never one to miss an opportunity to annoy a 40-time Emmy winner, I responded, “Jeff…it’s me, Gordon Holmes from XFINITY. I interviewed you yesterday.”

Sufficiently annoyed, Probst laughed and shook his head. He then went about introducing the season’s new twist. If a Redemption Island combatant’s loved one is still in the game, they are allowed to swap places before the duel. For the purposes of the dress rehearsal, Stephanie swapped with her loved one Andrew. She joined his tribe and he took the floor to face me in the challenge. July talked with her loved one, but decided to stay. I didn’t get a chance to confer with anyone. I assume it’s because my loved one is long gone in this scenario, but a part deep down in my psyche worries that it was because nobody loves me.

Then it was on.

The challenge was a reworking of one that had been done in “Survivor: One World.” The players would use metal rods to lift and guide wooden spools through a metal maze. Once the spool was through the maze, they’d place the spool on top of the maze. They’d then get another spool and do it again. Sound easy? Here’s the tricky part. The maze is held up by a spring. That makes for some shaky times. Hit the maze too hard and you could knock over your stack of spools and have to start all over again. The first two people to stack all ten of their spools would get to stick around. The third would be out of the game.

I tried to remember if Kim Spradlin had done anything specifically brilliant to win this challenge, but came up blank. All I could think of was, “slow and steady…don’t be the one who loses their stack.” Also, I figured it was OK to work quickly during the early stages when there was less of a chance of knocking over the spools.

We took our places, Mr. Probst hit his trademark lines, and we were off.

The biggest problem early on? That metal rod bends like crazy. I had enough trouble placing my first spool on top of the maze, I was dreading what it’d be like to place number ten.

But, I soldiered on. In fact, Andrew and I swapped the lead a few times in the early going. I even took some pride in the fact that my stack seemed straighter than his. Not bad for someone nearly twice his age.

It was about halfway through the challenge that I heard the sweetest words that have ever left Jeff Probst’s lips.

“July’s stack is down!”

I don’t know what happened. I didn’t see it. And frankly, I didn’t care. I just knew that she had bought me all the time in the world and I was determined to use it. As there was no difference between a first and second-place finish, I wasn’t going to do anything to risk coming in third. If Andrew slips up, awesome. If not, I hope he enjoys first place.

I immediately put things in deep freeze. I took my sweet time with each spool. I even took some time to use my rod to knock some spools into better alignment in my stack.

Andrew continued on at a solid pace and eventually won the challenge. I was only a spool behind him, July was several spools behind me. I cautiously threaded the spool through the maze, then cursed under my breath as the stupid bendy pole made placing the final spool an exercise in frustration.

A Victory Fist Pump (XFINITY)

When I was finally able to figure it out, Probst counted down from three, I was safe, and July was defeated. We shook hands and returned to our places in front of the arena. Andrew was given an immunity clue to give away. He chose to give it to his loved one Stephanie. Andrew and I were also given “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” buffs to commemorate our victories. All poor July got was the honor of being the first person to leave the “Blood vs. Water” Redemption Island in shame.

What was my big takeaway from the experience? I think the thing that stood out the most was how incredibly stressful it was. Everyone’s looking at you. You have no teammates to rely on or share the blame with in case of a mistake. And, as always, Probst was having a blast poking fun at us. I couldn’t imagine the stress I would have felt if July catching me would have cost me a million dollars. If July had come from behind and gotten the best of me in this exhibition, it wouldn’t have effected my life at all, but I was still a jittery mess. The only thing her win would’ve hurt was my challenge record.

Which is now an Ozzy-esque four wins and one loss.

Don’t miss the special 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET.

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‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 15

August 28, 2013

EP15Some quick reminders/orders of business, etc.

First, if you don’t want to know who wins “Survivor: Cook Islands,” this isn’t the place for you. There WILL be spoilers. Go watch “Survivor: The Amazon” instead.

Second, speaking of “Survivor: The Amazon,” Mr. Rob Cesternino is very generously offering his “Survivor: The Amazon – Unauthorized DVD Commentary” at an exclusive DISCOUNTED RATE for Summer Book Club members.

Third, our friends at True Dork Times are once again getting in on the fun with stats, awards, and more.

And finally, this whole Book Club thing is kind of a work in progress. If you have ideas on how to improve the proceedings, please let me know.

My Big Question: Parvati Shallow, “Boston” Rob Mariano, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, Tom Westman, Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.

That’s the full roster of“Survivor” Hall of Famers. All eleven have appeared on the show more than once.

Whenever the topic of worthy one-timers comes up, Cook Islands champ (spoiler alert!) Yul Kwon is always a popular pick. However, many seem to think his (spoiler alert!) over-powered immunity idol should count against him. With this re-watch, I hope to get to the bottom of that mystery.

And with that, let’s get started…

(more…)

‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 14

August 21, 2013

EP14Some quick reminders/orders of business, etc.

First, if you don’t want to know who wins “Survivor: Cook Islands,” this isn’t the place for you. There WILL be spoilers. Go watch “Survivor: The Amazon” instead.

Second, speaking of “Survivor: The Amazon,” Mr. Rob Cesternino is very generously offering his “Survivor: The Amazon – Unauthorized DVD Commentary” at an exclusive DISCOUNTED RATE for Summer Book Club members.

Third, our friends at True Dork Times are once again getting in on the fun with stats, awards, and more.

And finally, this whole Book Club thing is kind of a work in progress. If you have ideas on how to improve the proceedings, please let me know.

My Big Question: Parvati Shallow, “Boston” Rob Mariano, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, Tom Westman, Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.

That’s the full roster of“Survivor” Hall of Famers. All eleven have appeared on the show more than once.

Whenever the topic of worthy one-timers comes up, Cook Islands champ (spoiler alert!) Yul Kwon is always a popular pick. However, many seem to think his (spoiler alert!) over-powered immunity idol should count against him. With this re-watch, I hope to get to the bottom of that mystery.

And with that, let’s get started…

(more…)

‘Survivor’ Host Jeff Probst Explains the Many ‘Blood vs. Water’ Twists

August 21, 2013

"Survivor" Host Jeff Probst (Photo: CBS)

Thirteen years ago, a group of sixteen Americans traveled to a distant land to play a simple game. Every three days they’d get together to vote someone away, then the last two people standing would face a jury of their peers. That jury would award a million dollars to the person who they felt was the most deserving.

This ain’t that game.

Oh sure, someone will still be awarded a million dollars by a jury of their peers, but the path to get there will be different than any other version in the show’s history.

To get some clarity on all of these crazy twists, I voyaged to the  jungles of the Philippines and hunted down host Jeff Probst. Once I had him trapped, I forced him to shed some light on what has the potential to be the most unpredictable season of “Survivor” ever…

Quick Note: I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of this season’s competitors in the days before the game began. Starting Tuesday, September 3rd I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each pairing. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for those interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and more…

What Is Day Zero?
For the first time since “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” the game will last longer than 39 days. The night before the game starts, players will be paired with their loved ones and left in various places around the jungle. Jeff Probst clarified that this was all Mark Burnett’s idea, “Start the game the night before. Let them get dirty. Let them feel what it’s like, now you’ve got a taste of it. Now you vote them out…”

Wait…Vote Them Out?
When the pairs arrive on the beach, they’ll immediately be split into tribes and forced to vote someone off. No talking, no strategizing, no alliance forming, just voting. However, the two people who are voted off aren’t sent directly to Redemption Island. Their loved one will have the opportunity to take their place. Why was this done? Jeff Probst explained, “The producers thought it was very important to brand Redemption Island right out of the gate.” This new twist will accomplish this as the second episode will kick off with a three-way duel between the first two eliminated players and the person who is voted out during the first Tribal Council. The first two people to complete the challenge get to stay. The third person has some buff burning to do.

The Return of Redemption Island
Why did “Survivor” bring back one of their most polarizing twists ever? “One of the reasons that those of us who like Redemption Island like it so much is it keeps great characters in the game a little longer,” Probst said. “That’s what you want, you want your best characters on screen. It’s like the loser’s bracket, but they’re still playing. I don’t have any issues with the second chance, I don’t come from that world. I get it, some people think when you’re out, you’re out. That’s a fair argument, I just don’t agree with it. I grew up playing sandlot baseball. I liked the loser’s bracket. You still get to play on Sunday. It made sense this time because we’ve got returning players, so we’re going to keep some of them longer.”

The Ol’ Redemption Island Wife Swap
Redemption Island isn’t immune from the mega-twist treatment either. Now players who are still in the game will have an opportunity to take their loved one’s place before the duel. Probst hypothesized, “At each duel you’ll get the chance to take (your loved one’s) spot. So, as we get closer to the merge, maybe I decide I can win two duels. My wife hasn’t been eating, she isn’t doing too well. I’m going to put her back in the game and take myself out. Everybody’s going to be there. Everyone is going to see your decision. You’ve got to do it in front of everyone. You’ll get a minute to come down and talk it out with your loved one. What’s the vibe, where are you at? And then suddenly that person who was just about to fight for their life? They get to put the buff back on and they’re safe and their partner is down there in a duel. Somebody’s going to make that move at Redemption Island and it’s going to be exciting.”

And Those Pesky Immunity Idols?
“This year, we have a twist with the hidden immunity where we’re going to hide them so they’ll require a clue,” Probst revealed. “But, the clue will be given out by the winner at Redemption Island. So, now you have another layer where at Redemption Island I’m fighting for my life, and if I win I’m in charge of who gets the clue. I can give it to anyone I want on either tribe. Will I try to win favor back? Will I give it to my spouse? A lot of strategy because the person who is giving the clue wants back into the game. And the clue is currency. I’ve got to get something for it.”

Don’t miss the special 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET.

First Look at the ‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’ Castaways

August 21, 2013

'Survivor: Blood vs. Water' (XFINITY)

During the “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites” finale, the good folks at CBS teased us with the visual of a drop of red dye splashing into a pool of clear water and a snazzy logo that said “Blood vs. Water.” Today I’m here to tell you exactly what they were hinting at…

The 27th season of the legendary reality competition “Survivor” will feature several game-bending twists (which Jeff Probst breaks down here), the return of the polarizing Redemption Island, and one of the most unique casts ever. This new cast will consist of ten returning players, each with their own loved one. This motley crew includes…

•    Three former million-dollar winners.
•    One of the most popular players of all time.
•    One of the most hated players in recent “Survivor” history.
•    A former “Big Brother” winner.
•    A player who is returning to a “Survivor” beach for the first time in thirteen years.

Quick Note: I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of this season’s competitors in the days before the game began. Starting Tuesday, September 3rd I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each pairing. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for those interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and more…

Name: Tyson Apostol
Age: 34
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Rachel’s boyfriend
Previous Seasons: “Survivor: Tocantins” – second jury member and “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” – sixth person voted out.
Current Residence: Provo, Utah
Occupation: Former Pro Cyclist/Shop Manager
Why Did He Want to Play “Survivor” with His Loved One?: I returned to “Survivor” to play with my loved one so we could make some sweet cash, have a rad experience, and an excuse to take all life’s responsibilities off for a couple months.
Name: Rachel Foulger
Age: 33
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Tyson’s girlfriend
Current Residence: Provo, Utah
Occupation: Cocktail Waitress/Graphic Designer
Personal Claim to Fame: Starting and owning my own business that landed sales with Target and QVC.
Pet Peeves: Chewing with your mouth open, driving slow in the fast lane, getting in my personal space.
Three Words to Describe You: Motivated, creative, and happy.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: I’m hardworking, people friendly, and sneaky.
Name: Rupert Boneham
Age: 49
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Laura’s Husband
Previous Seasons: “Survivor: Pearl Islands – second jury member, “Survivor: All Stars” – sixth jury member, won $1 million fan favorite vote,  and “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” – seventh jury member.
Current Residence: Indianapolis, Indiana
Occupation: Mentor for Troubled Teens
Why Did He Want to Play “Survivor” with His Loved One?: “Survivor” has been one of the most exciting experiences in my life. And to have the chance to share that with my wife is amazing. To have Laura out there on the island with me, we will have the chance to share one of the greatest adventures one can have. You can describe what “Survivor” is like, but until you’ve lived it, it is hard to understand. To be able to go out and play with my best friend will be a dream come true.

Name:  Laura Boneham
Age:
44
Relationship to Significant Castaway:
Rupert’s Wife
Current Residence:
Indianapolis, Indiana
Occupation:
Merchandiser
Personal Claim to Fame: 
Raising a bright, independent, beautiful daughter who is now thirteen years old.
Pet Peeves:
Mean people and people being treated unfairly.
Three Words to Describe You:
Strong, smart, and brave.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: 
I am a huge competitor and game player.  I am a leader that can positively bond our tribe.  I can fish, forage for food, and work exceptionally hard at camp.
Name: Aras Baskauskas
Age: 31
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Vytas’ Brother
Previous Season: The winner of “Survivor: Panama – Exile Island.”
Current Residence: Santa Monica, California
Occupation: Musician
Why Did He Want to Play “Survivor” with His Loved One?: I want to play “Survivor” with Vytas because I know we’ll have a great shot at winning. More importantly, I know an experience like “Survivor” will bring us closer together. Early in our lives, we had a very rocky relationship. Taking on adventures as adults gives us the chance to make up for lost time.

Name: Vytas Baskauskas
Age: 33
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Aras’ Brother
Current Residence: Santa Monica, California
Occupation: Yoga Instructor/Math Professor
Personal Claim to Fame: Beating heroin addiction, yoga discipline, and receiving a graduate degree in math.
Pet Peeves: Stupidity and show-offs.
Three Words to Describe You:  Smart, strong-willed, and unique.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor:  I am very assertive.  It is unlike me to not get what I want.  I am also smart and sociable so my people skills will do me well. I have a good social awareness. My personality is unique and although I may not be the most-liked, that’s not such a bad thing in getting to the end.
Name: Gervase Peterson
Age: 43
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Marissa’s Uncle
Previous Season: “Survivor: Borneo” – third jury member
Current Residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Cigar Lounge Owner
Why Did He Want to Play “Survivor” with His Loved One?:  I wanted to return to “Survivor” because I felt that I could win the game if given another chance, and what better way to play than to play with my niece, Marissa. She is just as driven, focused, and competitive as me. This is the ultimate experience and I get to share it with her.

Name: Marissa Peterson
Age:
21
Relationship to Significant Castaway:
Gervase’s Niece
Current Residence:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Occupation:
Student
Personal Claim to Fame:
Putting myself through college.
Pet Peeves:
When people say they’re going to do something and don’t do it.
Three Words to Describe You:
Outgoing, adventurous, and passionate.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: I have strong will power, I’m mentally and physically fit, and I don’t give up.

Name: Kat Edorsson
Age: 23
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Hayden’s Girlfriend
Previous Season: “Survivor: One World” – sixth jury member
Current Residence: Orlando, Florida
Occupation: Full-time Student/Sales
Why Did She Want to Play “Survivor” with Her Loved One?:  I couldn’t ask to play a better game with a better man. “Survivor” has change my life in more ways than one, so to return for a second season and to compete for a million dollars with someone I love is a dream. Living states away for a year now, winning “Survivor” would change our lives. Besides, who doesn’t want to see what their man is made of!

Name: Hayden Moss
Age: 26
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Kat’s Boyfriend
Current Residence: Springtown, Texas
Occupation: Real Estate
Personal Claim to Fame: Winning “Big Brother 12.”
Pet Peeves: Wrinkly clothes.
Three Words to Describe You: Athletic, popular, and respectful.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor:  I have already played and won a game very similar to “Survivor.”
Name: Candice Cody (formerly Candice Woodcock)
Age: 30
Relationship to Significant Castaway: John’s Wife
Previous Seasons: “Survivor: Cook Islands” – fifth jury member and “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians” – fifth jury member
Current Residence: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Physician, Anesthesiology Resident
Why Did She Want to Play “Survivor” with Her Loved One?: We are both successful in our individual lives, but we never get a chance to be competitive and play together on a team. I can’t think of anybody I would trust more to be on my side as a teammate. I’m very proud of my husband and I want to show him off!

Name: John Cody
Age:
30
Relationship to Significant Castaway:
Candice’s Husband
Current Residence:
Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Physician:
Army Orthopedic Surgery Resident
Personal Claim to Fame:
Being a West Point grad, graduating from Georgetown Medical School and training at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for my Orthopedic Surgery residency.
Pet Peeves:
Slow thinkers, talkers, and movers, people who eat paper, illogical, irrational and inflexible people, excuses, mouth breathers.
Three Words to Describe You:
Competitive, off-the-cuff, and loyal.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: 
I have a well-rounded mix of athleticism, grit, and social emotional intelligence.
Name: Laura Morett
Age: 43
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Ciera’s Mother
Previous Season: “Survivor: Samoa” – third jury member
Current Residence: Salem, Oregon
Occupation: Co-owner of Morett Construction
Why Did She Want to Play “Survivor” with Her Loved One?:  So that Ciera will understand what I went through. Now for the rest of our lives we’ll always have this experience to remember and share.

Name: Ciera Eastin
Age: 24
Relationship to Significant Castaway:  Laura’s Daughter
Current Residence: Salem, Oregon
Occupation: Cosmetology Student
Personal Claim to Fame: Despite the fact that I got pregnant at 17, I am most proud of the fact that I finished high school, worked three jobs to support my daughter, and now I am happily married with two beautiful children.
Pet Peeves: Incompetent people, slow moving people, and negative people who bring the mojo down.
Three Words to Describe You: Competitive, social/personable, and sarcastic.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor:  I bring a “get er’ done” attitude.  I don’t sulk or whine and I’m an intense fighter and competitor. I’ll be great to have around camp because I’m resourceful and creative.  I’m hard working, I’m goofy and fun which can be uplifting and encouraging.  I’m all around great for this game.
Name:  Monica Culpepper
Age: 42
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Brad’s Wife
Previous Season: “Survivor: One World” – fifth person eliminated
Current Residence: Tampa, Florida
Occupation: Former NFL Wife, Homemaker
Why Did She Want to Play “Survivor” with Her Loved One?: I wanted the chance to redeem myself from my early exit on One World and there is no better way to do that than with the love of my life and lifelong tribemate, Brad.  He’s my guy and having my “shield” out there is an adventure in itself.

Name: Brad Culpepper
Age:
44
Relationship to Significant Castaway: 
Monica’s Husband
Current Residence:
Tampa, Florida
Occupation:
Attorney and Retired NFL Player. Played for the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chicago Bears.
Personal Claim to Fame: 
My 21-year marriage.
Pet Peeves:
Hypocrisy and long goodbyes.
Three Words to Describe You:
Tenacious, independent, and forward-thinking.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: 
I grew up in a stilt house on Dog Island in the Gulf of Mexico, spent 18 years in various locker rooms dealing with all kinds, and have devoted my last 12 years as a trial attorney, persuading people to understand my clients’ positions.
Name: Colton Cumbie
Age: 22
Relationship to Significant Castaway:  Caleb’s Fiancé
Previous Season:  “Survivor: One World” – medically evacuated on day sixteen due to illness.
Current Residence: Collinsville, Alabama
Occupation: Student Teacher
Why Did He Want to Play “Survivor” with His Loved One?: I probably wouldn’t have said yes to returning if not for this specific twist.  Last time I played I was extremely homesick and missed Caleb like crazy. He is my best friend and probably is the one between the two of us who should’ve been on “Survivor” in the first place.  While I’m a highly emotional person, Caleb is very logical.  He also keeps me calm in stressful situations. Having him with me will give me the emotional stability I need to combine with my already strong concept of strategy.

Name:  Caleb Bankston
Age:
26
Relationship to Significant Castaway:
Colton’s Fiancé
Current Residence: Collinsville, Alabama
Occupation:
Post Office Manager/Farmer
Personal Claim to Fame: 
Shooting a 12-point buck on my first deer hunt.
Pet Peeves:
People who don’t put down their cell phones.
Three Words to Describe You:
Hard-working, hard-headed, and outdoorsman.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: 
I am very good at working with my hands, really good at figuring things out, and problem solving.
Name: Tina Wesson
Age: 52
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Katie’s Mother
Previous Season: Winner of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “Survivor: All Stars” – first player eliminated.
Current Residence: Robbinsville, North Carolina
Occupation: Motivational Speaker
Why Did She Want to Play “Survivor” with Her Loved One?: “Survivor” gets in your blood. It is a thrill and an honor and a quest to get to play! Then to be able to share the experience with my daughter who happens to also be my best friend, what a gift!
Name: Katie Collins
Age: 25
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Tina’s Daughter
Current Residence: New York, New York
Occupation: Hedge Fund Support
Personal Claim to Fame: Raising thousands of dollars for the American Lung Association by climbing 55 flights of stairs at Penn Plaza.
Pet Peeves: Grammar misuses and poor manners.
Three Words to Describe You: Creative, funny, and driven.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: I’m wildly creative and that translates to everything I do; cooking, games and strategies that would put my team and I ahead of others.

Don’t miss the special 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET.

WWE’s Paul Heyman Predicts Sports Entertainment’s Next Big Thing

August 15, 2013

Paul Heyman (WWE)

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been well over a decade since the original incarnation of ECW closed its doors. So, if your first memory of Paul Heyman is that of the color commentator for Wrestlemania X-Seven, or Brock Lesnar’s agent, or even CM Punk’s best friend, you’re excused.

But for the rest of this interview, it’s important to note that Paul Heyman is on a short list next to Vince McMahon of people who have truly revolutionized the pro wrestling industry.

I spoke to the former “Mad Scientist of Extreme” in the days leading up to “The Best vs. The Beast” match at SummerSlam and got his thoughts on sports entertainment’s next revolution, John Cena’s unique appeal, and the moment he hopes he’s remembered for…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s probably safe to argue that nobody in the wrestling industry has been more flattered than you over the past few decades.
Paul Heyman (@HeymanHustle): (Laughs)
Holmes: ECW has been imitated and rehashed so often that there’s no way it can be the next big thing for the business. I guess what I’m getting at is; what will be the thing that sparks the next boom period?
Heyman: The next big thing as far as presenting professional wrestling will be star-driven. It will be a personality that changes the game. Whose approach in the ring and in interviews is unlike anyone else that is out there today. And therefore his matches would have to be wrestled in a manner that no one else has been doing, at least for the past few years. And when that personality catches on, the industry will go along with him. That has always been the history of WWE and of professional wrestling. When the (Bruno) Sammartino era was over and they put Bob Backlund in as champion, Bob Backlund needed all of that support from the undercard to carry the load. But when the Hulk Hogan era took off, the entire company was built around Hulk Hogan. When the Steve Austin era took off, he had great support, but Steve Austin’s name and box-office attraction, and merchandise sales alone would have made this a multi-multi-multi million dollar company. And it’s the same today. If a personality catches fire to such a degree that it becomes a one-man cottage industry.
Holmes: I’m trying to think of a really unique personality and I keep coming back to Dean Ambrose. Could he be the guy?
Heyman: I think all three members of The Shield have the opportunity to grab the top spot in WWE and carve an image for the next several years for this company.

Paul Heyman Breaks Down Sunday’s SummerSlam Card

Holmes: John Cena has one of the most interesting dynamics I’ve ever seen in that half of the audience loves him while the other half hates him. Is there any way to course correct to bring everybody on board?
Heyman:
With all due respect, I think you’re missing it. The dynamic of children loving Cena and adult males hating Cena with such a passion is what makes him so fascinating. When there are 40,000 people in MetLife Stadium screaming “Let’s go, Cena” and 40,000 people in the very same stadium at the very same time challenging that half of the crowd saying, “Cena sucks.” That’s 80,000 engaged fans that paid for the privilege of being there. It’s very simple mathematics to me. John Cena drew 80,000 people who wanted to react to him. And to me, that makes him the top guy.
Holmes:
The fans eventually turned on Hulk Hogan.  The fans have turned on The Rock several times. The fans never turned on Steve Austin. So ideally would you rather have someone who is universally loved like a Steve Austin or someone who gets this intense mixed reaction like a John Cena?
Heyman:
Do you prefer a ridiculously hot blonde or a sexy, sultry brunette?
Holmes:
(Laughs)
Heyman:
I’ll take them both. Steve Austin can draw 80,000 people to cheer him on. Brock Lesnar can draw 80,000 people to boo him into the next country. And John Cena can draw 80,000 people who will debate whether he should be cheered or booed. I just care that they pay to see you.
Holmes:
An excellent point.

Holmes: Your friend Brock Lesnar is back in the WWE, you’re having wars of words every night with CM Punk. Is this the happiest time in your career?
Heyman: I’ve been remarkably blessed by the fact that I’ve had many different careers in this industry. I can’t truly compare the difference of being the lead color commentator with Jim Ross with being the owner of the upstart company that breaks every rule, breaks every taboo and spearheads a movement that actually gets it on worldwide Pay Per View with ECW. I can’t compare that with being Brock Lesnar’s advocate, going into SummerSlam in this focal-point match against my former protégé CM Punk. These are different careers to the point that it feels like I’ve lived many different lives. And to compare them would force me to look back on what I used to do and I never look back, I’m always looking into the future. All eyes are on SummerSlam, and my wheels are always spinning to what we’re going to do at Survivor Series, into the Royal Rumble, and ultimately Wrestlemania.

Holmes: You don’t like to look back, but I’m going to ask this anyway. You tweeted a picture of your children outside of the old ECW Arena. And if years from now, if they ask what Dad did for a living and you could only show them one match or one moment, what would it be?
Heyman: I will confess to you that your question has caught me off guard. In all candor, I would hope that just simply based on the decade in the making of “The Best vs. The Beast” that what Brock Lesnar and CM Punk will pull off this Sunday at SummerSlam will be so epic, so compelling, so riveting, and of such premium quality that if one day my children want to show their children, “Here’s what the old man did for a living,” my children will show their children that match.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: SummerSlam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 13

August 14, 2013

EP13Some quick reminders/orders of business, etc.

First, if you don’t want to know who wins “Survivor: Cook Islands,” this isn’t the place for you. There WILL be spoilers. Go watch “Survivor: The Amazon” instead.

Second, speaking of “Survivor: The Amazon,” Mr. Rob Cesternino is very generously offering his “Survivor: The Amazon – Unauthorized DVD Commentary” at an exclusive DISCOUNTED RATE for Summer Book Club members.

Third, our friends at True Dork Times are once again getting in on the fun with stats, awards, and more.

And finally, this whole Book Club thing is kind of a work in progress. If you have ideas on how to improve the proceedings, please let me know.

My Big Question: Parvati Shallow, “Boston” Rob Mariano, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, Tom Westman, Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.

That’s the full roster of“Survivor” Hall of Famers. All eleven have appeared on the show more than once.

Whenever the topic of worthy one-timers comes up, Cook Islands champ (spoiler alert!) Yul Kwon is always a popular pick. However, many seem to think his (spoiler alert!) over-powered immunity idol should count against him. With this re-watch, I hope to get to the bottom of that mystery.

And with that, let’s get started…

(more…)

WWE’s Paul Heyman: Punk vs. Lesnar Is ‘Worth the Price of Admission’

August 13, 2013

Paul Heyman (WWE)

I am the best wrester in the world. I’ve been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company. And I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy…you know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar.” CM Punk – June 27, 2011 – Monday Night Raw

This Sunday’s SummerSlam is being billed as “The Best vs. The Beast.” In one corner you have “The Best in the World” CM Punk and in the other you have “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. But it could have easily been called “The Battle of the Paul Heyman Guys.”

However, that isn’t nearly as catchy.

I spoke to the man in the middle of one of the most anticipated matches in SummerSlam history before Monday Night Raw and had a chance to ask him about his boys coming to blows, John Cena’s legacy,  Daniel Bryan’s future, and more…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): SummerSlam is a few short days away, we’ve got “The Best” vs. “The Beast.” What can we expect from this Sunday’s showdown?
Paul Heyman (@heymanhustle):  On Sunday, you can expect “The Beast” Brock Lesnar to prove that having Paul Heyman in his corner makes him “The Best in the World” over and above CM Punk’s claim to that accolade.
Holmes: But surely there was something you saw in CM Punk that made you want to partner with him.
Heyman: CM Punk and I together were the best in the world. We held the WWE Championship for 434 consecutive days, the longest WWE Title reign of the past 25 years. Think about that. Names like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, all first-ballot Hall of Famers, and yet none of them could hold the championship as long CM Punk and I together. Obviously I saw in CM Punk a sports entertainer that I could mold into being part of a combination with me as the absolute best act on the planet. But without me? He’s only half the equation and I have “The Beast” Brock Lesnar with me.
Holmes: From a physical standpoint, it doesn’t look so good for Mr. Punk. But, Punk’s been overcoming those kinds of odds his entire career. Does that concern you?
Heyman: It doesn’t concern me, but it’s certainly part of the equation. I didn’t pick CM Punk out of obscurity and turn him into the top box office attraction for WWE because his skills were without merit. He is, in my opinion, the most serious threat to Brock Lesnar’s reign of dominance in WWE today. The only problem for CM Punk is that Brock Lesnar has made a career out of obliterating those threats.

Holmes: Wrestlemania had to have been very special for you. You had Brock in a main event against HHH, you had Punk in a main event against The Undertaker, and it all took place in your backyard at MetLife Stadium. Now that we’ve got two of the “Paul Heyman Guys” going toe-to-toe at SummerSlam, where does this one rank for you?
Heyman: It’s huge. Nothing short of it. And probably even bigger than that adjective. It’s exhilarating for me because you have the most unique, the most gifted athlete in the history of the WWE, or UFC, or college athletics in Brock Lesnar, going against a wrestler who probably has more heart, more determination, and the ability to overcome the odds better than anybody else that I’ve ever come across in my entire career in CM Punk. It’s a fascinating match-up. It won’t be over in 30 seconds. This is going to be an all-night affair. There’s an old expression in the professional wrestling business; “This match will be worth the price of admission.” I humbly suggest that Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk is worth the price of admission alone.
Holmes: Last Monday, an angry Brock Lesnar turns to you and says, “Paul, say something stupid.” How do you keep a straight face?
Heyman: He wanted me to say something stupid! Brock Lesnar is a man who thinks in a far different way than your average beast walking down the street. This is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Brock made his point, he told the world, “I, Brock Lesnar, am better than CM Punk.” So, what else is there for us to say?

Holmes: The WWE Title match at SummerSlam will be John Cena squaring off against Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan seems to have “Paul Heyman Guy” written all over him.
Heyman: I’m not done recruiting Daniel Bryan. I think Daniel Bryan is a fascinating performer who has put on arguably the most consistent string of best matches of the past year. The striking thing about Daniel Bryan is the best is yet to come with him. Daniel Bryan still has more to offer. And having seen footage of him dating back to when he was wrestling in VFW halls and very small arenas and high school gymnasiums, he still has so much more that the WWE Universe hasn’t seen. I’m admittedly, and I will confess to this, a huge fan of Daniel Bryan.
Holmes: Now on the other side of the ring you have John Cena, who I feel is criminally underrated as an in-ring performer. Anyone can have a good match with Shawn Michaels, but Cena’s been delivering the goods with a wide variety of talent for a long time.
Heyman: I think there’s a streak going involving John Cena that both the WWE Universe and the media have failed to pick up on. The glory days of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin lasted two, maybe two-and-a-half years. That was the peak of his run. He came back as General Manager, but day-to-day, going to every city, main eventing every Pay Per View, the focal point of Monday Night Raw…Steve Austin’s peak was two-and-a-half years. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s peak was along the same lines. John Cena has been the focal point of WWE since 2005. For eight and now going on nine years, John Cena has not only main evented all the Pay Per Views, been the major attraction on Raw. John Cena has gone to every city, main events all the live events, and yet he still makes all these media appearances, he’s done more Make-A-Wish Foundation visits than anybody in history…and he’s a tireless workhorse. And he shows up last Monday with his elbow…looking grotesquely…is that a word? His elbow was so messed up and yet he says, “Wrap me up, I’m going out there to perform because the people are counting on me.” There is a work ethic to John Cena that is to behold.
Holmes: So it’s safe to say you’ll have a seat at the curtain for the WWE Title match at SummerSlam.
Heyman: Oh absolutely. How could I not? I have a vested interest in whoever emerges as champion.
Holmes: Alright, hold the phone…is Brock Lesnar painting a target on the victor’s back?
Heyman: I did not reveal to you that it is Brock Lesnar. I only suggested that it is a Paul Heyman Guy that has his eye on the prize.

Holmes: Sunday we’ll see Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a “Ring of Fire” match. Bray Wyatt seems like another guy you would have had a field day with in the ECW days.
Heyman: I’m very interested in seeing how Bray Wyatt is going to survive the wrath of Kane.
Holmes: What do you think of the way Bray and his buddies have been presented to the WWE Universe?
Heyman: It’s an emotional presentation, and it sets him apart from everyone else which means that Bray Wyatt will stand out. Whether it’s in WWE or UFC or Major League Baseball or the NBA or the NFL or television or movies…any genre that is star-driven has the need for unique personalities. And Bray Wyatt is as unique as they come.

Holmes: Another interesting match is Damien Sandow against Cody Rhodes. Here we’ve got two young guys that seem like they just need a little something extra to help them move up the card.
Heyman: I think Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow need each other to get to that next level. They have a most interesting dynamic with each other and against each other. And here they have the spotlight of a featured match at SummerSlam. Think of the names that have not been announced in a featured match at SummerSlam so far. I don’t know who The Shield is fighting. I don’t know who The Big Show is fighting. I don’t know who Mark Henry is fighting. I don’t know who Rob Van Dam is fighting. I don’t know who Randy Orton is fighting. These are huge, top-line attractions. And yet, I don’t know who these performers are going to be wrestling against. But, I know that it’ll be Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes. They have an extraordinary opportunity here. If they can put on a match that steals the show, they will both move up the ladder together.

Holmes: Speaking of Rob Van Dam, it’s good to see him back with the WWE. He seems very motivated.
Heyman: I think anyone that has watched Rob Van Dam’s matches since he’s been back with WWE can clearly tell that he is motivated and determined to put on the best matches of his career.
Holmes: Without getting into too much detail, it’s been like night and day.
Heyman: I don’t mind getting into detail. I think TNA squandered the opportunity of exploiting the talents of Rob Van Dam. And I don’t think that’s a mistake the WWE is going to repeat.

Check back Thursday for a look at Paul Heyman’s career, his thoughts on the sports entertainment industry, and more.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: SummerSlam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

WWE’s Dolph Ziggler on Concussion Costing Him the Title: ‘It Kills Me’

August 12, 2013

Dolph Ziggler (WWE)

Everyone’s always talking about “Wrestlemania Moments.” Dolph Ziggler did something a little bit different; he created one of the few “Night-After-Wrestlemania Moments.” In front of a raucous Monday Night Raw audience he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and took the World Heavyweight Championship from Alberto Del Rio. The crowd reaction was awesome. The moment was unforgettable.

The glory was sadly short-lived.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, Ziggler received a concussion in the days after his victory. His reign was put on hold and then promptly ended once he was able to return. From there he lost both his girlfriend AJ Lee and his muscle Big E. Langston. For someone who has been on the verge of super stardom for quite a while, it had to be deflating.

I spoke with the self-proclaimed “Show Off” at this year’s San Diego Comic Con and had a chance to ask him about his rough couple of months, the upcoming SummerSlam card, and his potential second career as a stand-up comedian…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): Alright, first thing’s first. What’s AJ’s deal?
Dolph Ziggler (@HEELZiggler): You’re telling me. I thought we were pretty tight, but it turns out that…I don’t know what her deal is. I thought I’d taken someone who was kinda cool, kinda into wrestling, kinda had my back and turns out you can’t take the crazy out of a chick no matter how long she can put it off for. And that’s happened to me many times in the past.
Holmes: That’s rough, because the crazy ones tend to be the most fun.
Ziggler: Exactly, you have to take the good with the bad.

Holmes: You cashed in your Money in the Bank briefcase the night after Wrestlemania and it looked like we were headed into this new era of Ziggler. Now here we are two months later, the title’s gone, AJ’s gone, Team Big-E and Zig-E is no more…
Ziggler: Again with that?
Holmes: Sorry. But to go from the heights of your title win, to so much change that seemed to be spurred by a freak occurrence like your concussion, it’s had to be like a rollercoaster.
Ziggler: It literally has. I’ve never heard a reaction in my entire life for anything like that cash in the Monday night after Wrestlemania. It blew my mind. And watching it back days and weeks later it put chills up my back. What a great crowd and what a perfect night to do it. And very soon after that I got kicked in the brain and taken out for a month and a half. It was actually a very scary time because after a couple of weeks I was starting to wonder if I’d ever come back. Luckily I passed all my tests, the headaches went away, and I came back into the title scene. But, thanks to my old teammates I am now out of the title scene.
Holmes: It seemed like you were being set up for a good long run. Have you come to terms with how quickly that was taken away?
Ziggler: No. I have not come to terms with that. I know the business and I love what I do. I go out there every night to not just steal the show but tell the best possible story I can, whether it’s in two minutes or twenty minutes. Sometimes I put it behind me that I once again had another title with absolutely zero defenses.  But, it kills me. And I know everybody works hard, all the Superstars want to be the best. And to be given these opportunities and to have some scenario play out…it’s part of the reason I don’t sleep at night, but it’s part of the reason that drives me to go out there.

Holmes: Now that you’re a fan favorite, for lack of a better term, will there be any tweaks to your act at all?
Ziggler: Honestly, you’ve got to be yourself, and you just tweak it a little. You change some psychological aspects of your character, but you’re still you. You still go out, you can still be cocky and have everybody cheer you because it’s a gray line these days. It’s reality based. I’m trying to be a version of myself out there. If I totally change and start smiling out there, and doing weird things that I normally wouldn’t do, the fans are going to see right through that.

Holmes: What are your thoughts on Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena at SummerSlam?
Ziggler: I hate Daniel Bryan and I hate John Cena.
Holmes: Equally?
Ziggler: Yes.
Holmes: Wow.
Ziggler: Well, I hate Cena more, but Daniel is just a genuinely nice guy and I hate that so much. But, in different ways as a student of a game and a fan, I see what John Cena brings and I see what Daniel Bryan brings. I’m curious to see if on the microphone if Daniel Bryan can hang with John Cena and if John Cena can roll around with Daniel Bryan. I’m actually really looking forward to the match even though I don’t like either of those guys.
Holmes: Who’s your winner?
Ziggler: Cena always wins, it seems. But in this case it might be such an emotional outcry from the fans that they could turn the tide. I’d like to see Daniel Bryan come out on top.

Holmes: What are your thoughts on CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar?
Ziggler: I’ve got to root for the smaller guy because that’s usually me. And we’ve seen Lesnar kill everybody, so I’ve got to say I want to see Punk beat him.

Holmes: You’re a funny guy. We talked about your old YouTube show, you said you were working on some stand-up material and were trying to do a few open mics. Any luck there?
Ziggler: Yeah, I got on two comedy shows in the last month and a half or so. Luckily enough, they went well. But they also made me focus on being VERY funny. It’s like wrestling, you have a match and whether everyone is applauding or not, you know what you have to do better next time. That’s what makes you better. I had very positive feedback. I love doing it. It was such a thrill going out there and I can’t wait to go back and rewrite and find the spots…it’s like telling a story in a promo or a match, you find the ups and downs, you find where to get them, and then you leave on a high note. You leave them wanting more.
Holmes: How many people were there?
Ziggler: The first one 60 or 70, the second one maybe 30-40.
Holmes: Now what’s scarier, wrestling in front of 80,000 or telling jokes in front of 80?
Ziggler: Depends on your timing. If you’re talking about this Wrestlemania it was the easiest thing, I had a blast. It was so fun feeding off of them. And my first stand-up in front of 70 people…I was shaking before going out there. (Laughs) Once I got out there and Andy Kindler was on the show there and I was midjoke and I saw him laughing and in my head I thought, “He’s laughing at something I just said, this is unreal!” I was very fortunate to have that start and I can’t wait to do more.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: Summerslam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ Episode 12

August 7, 2013

EP12Some quick reminders/orders of business, etc.

First, if you don’t want to know who wins “Survivor: Cook Islands,” this isn’t the place for you. There WILL be spoilers. Go watch “Survivor: The Amazon” instead.

Second, speaking of “Survivor: The Amazon,” Mr. Rob Cesternino is very generously offering his “Survivor: The Amazon – Unauthorized DVD Commentary” at an exclusive DISCOUNTED RATE for Summer Book Club members.

Third, our friends at True Dork Times are once again getting in on the fun with stats, awards, and more.

And finally, this whole Book Club thing is kind of a work in progress. If you have ideas on how to improve the proceedings, please let me know.

My Big Question: Parvati Shallow, “Boston” Rob Mariano, Russell Hantz, Richard Hatch, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, Tom Westman, Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.

That’s the full roster of“Survivor” Hall of Famers. All eleven have appeared on the show more than once.

Whenever the topic of worthy one-timers comes up, Cook Islands champ (spoiler alert!) Yul Kwon is always a popular pick. However, many seem to think his (spoiler alert!) over-powered immunity idol should count against him. With this re-watch, I hope to get to the bottom of that mystery.

And with that, let’s get started…

(more…)


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