‘Survivor’ Fave Spencer Bledsoe’s ‘San Juan del Sur’ Pre-Season Rankings

Spencer Bledsoe (CBS)

NOTE: XFINITY TV is the place to go for “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” coverage with “all the fixin’s.” We’ll have Power Rankings with “Cagayan” fave Spencer Bledsoe, every Wednesday evening we’ll bring you a recap of the most recent episode, and every Thursday you’ll be able to watch the previous night’s episode and read an interview with the eliminated contestant. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for immediate updates.

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Predicting “Survivor” is not a perfect art. You try to line up people who you think have the attributes necessary to make a run at the million, but there are just too many variables to account for everything.

Sometimes the honorable, potential challenge stud tries to sneak beef jerky into the game and is promptly shown the door.

Sometimes the school teacher who just wanted a CBS-funded vacation goes on a challenge streak.

And sometimes someone like Spencer Bledsoe, a person that “Survivor” host and executive producer Jeff Probst thought had a 0% chance of doing well in the game, dominates and almost wins the whole thing.

(Not that I’m making fun of Mr. Probst, I had the chess champ ranked 17th out of 18.)

So, it only seems fair that since Mr. Bledsoe proved us wrong during last season that we give him an opportunity to show us how it’s done…

  1. Jeremy – “This is a show about people from different walks of life.” Jeff Probst likes saying that more than “you’ve gotta dig deep.” He likes saying that more than he likes criticizing contestants’ challenge performances. He likes it more than screaming the last name of his newest chiseled man-crush (now taking bets on whether it’s “MISCH!” or “ROCKER!” this season). The point is that walk of life is key, and Jeremy is in an ideal walk of life to excel in “Survivor.” He is 36 years old. What’s the average age of his tribe? 34.2. He played arena football, so he will benefit from an athletic history, but now he’s a firefighter – someone stereotypically fit, community-oriented, and non-threatening. I would suspect he was engineered in a lab to be the perfect “Survivor” player if it weren’t for his completely organic likability. Maybe it’s just because I was in an alliance with someone named Jeremy, but this young lad is already aboard the bandwagon.
  2. Kelley – Nothing about Kelley jumps off the page. She’s a sociable, attractive marketing manager who’s transitioned from small farm town to big city and joins the ever-growing club of players who list Parvati as the “Survivor” they’re most like. Yet, Kelley is as well rounded as reality contestants come, and I am high on her based on a simple tenet – “Survivor” casts a lot of nut jobs. Any given season, there are enough extreme personalities that only a handful of feasible winners remain. Kelley, in my opinion, is guaranteed to be one of them: I’d bet the farm that she turns out as balanced, even-keeled and personable as her interviews suggest. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to watch episode one and realize Kelley is the second coming of Kim Spradlin, but we’re also not going to watch episode one and realize Kelley is crazy. In “Survivor,” not being crazy is more than half the battle.
 3. Val – You’ll notice a theme on my list: Pairs tend to land near the same ranking, particularly in strong “water” relationships like a decade-long marriage. Val probably informs a lot of Jeremy’s personality and approach to the game, and vice-versa. She comes off every bit as authentic and likable as her husband, and seems like someone anybody could feasibly relate to. In my eyes, Val is set up to be a ‘good-cop’ version of Tony Vlachos. One of Tony’s biggest strengths is that he sneaks up on you; he’s a loud, brash Jersey-talking personality, and it’s easy to write him off without realizing just how cunning he is underneath. (Absolutely necessary note: Gordon had Tony last in his Cagayan preseason Power Rankings). Val could be similarly underestimated. She isn’t an imposing physical force and her self-described squeaky voice won’t intimidate. But by season’s end, Val could prove herself a wolf in sheep clothing.
  4. Reed – I can see it now: John Rocker’s lips quivering as he turns to face his tribe, his eyes glistening as he fights to be strong, to quell the salty, teary streams cascading down his cheeks and to escape the image of Reed manhandling him in a physical challenge – an image now seared into his mind. What’s so tantalizing is that this could very well happen; Reed is a gay New Yorker and former Broadway “Spider-Man” physically fit enough to best anyone in a challenge, even John Rocker. He’ll be indispensable to his tribe’s challenge efforts early on, and should be able to coast to the merge without hassle. Beyond fitness, I love his energy, I love that he’s a “Survivor” diehard and I’d love to see him win.
 5. Natalie – There’s something to Nadiya and her sister. They’re more than just good television, they deserve to be taken seriously, and I think they could make a real run at “Survivor.” They might just enjoy the best of both worlds within the Blood vs. Water twist: They can call on superpowers of connectedness if and when they pair up, but also benefit from playing individually in the beginning. When Natalie says their blood runs thicker than others’, I believe her, and in an endgame situation the sisters are a lock to stay unified. Yet, they’ll get to play the early tribal phase of the game without the baggage of being attached at the hip. Split up, they promise to be both less threatening and less annoying than if they started together. Welcome to the season of the twinnies.   6. Nadiya – At first I was hard-pressed to choose one twinnie over the other, but then I realized Natalie has far more Twitter followers. Since Twitter follower count has nearly perfect correlation with “Survivor” skill, Nadiya takes the backseat to her sister.
 7. Jaclyn – What I love about this couple is their purpose. Jon and Jaclyn have a compelling reason for playing “Survivor”: The money could make a tangible, meaningful impact on their potential plans of surrogacy. Most contestants vaguely say they’re playing “for the adventure/experience/competition/to find themselves,” but Jaclyn is concrete. She’s playing for the money, and she knows what she wants to do with the money. This doesn’t necessarily mean she’s better equipped to play than others, but I believe it does mean I can trust her to play for first. When others might play conservatively and let windows of opportunity come and go, I trust Jaclyn to go for broke and take her shots. It may not ever be a good idea to imbibe the principles of Reese Bobby from “Talladega Nights,” but in “Survivor,” it’s true that “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”
  8. Jon – If you combined the three amigos from “Survivor: Caramoan,” I think the result would look a lot like Jon. He brims with positive, unassuming energy like Eddie Fox. His eyes shine with golden retriever puppy eagerness reminiscent of Reynold Toepfer. He even seems to bring the tact of former Power-Ranker Malcolm Freberg to the table, talking at length in his pregame interviews about the possibility of forming a couple’s alliance. Jon’s main hurdle could be that he seems too polished; people will fear him, both for his potential to team up with Jaclyn and for his physical and mental savvy. My unfortunate prediction is that despite having all the tools to win, Jon will quickly run out of allies willing to bro down with him post-merge.

 9. Missy – Missy strikes me as an extremely youthful 47. She’s an ‘older’ woman who spends every day with 150 to 200 little monsters in a competitive cheerleading gym, and who I’m guessing is adept at interacting with people of all ages. She seems to have accomplished a lot in opening the gym and “being ‘on’ 24/7” to run it, as she puts it. I could imagine that experience segueing perfectly into “Survivor,” another environment that calls for being ‘on’ 24/7, and for that reason Missy is a favorite of mine.
  10. JoshI’ll preface this by saying I have no good reason for ranking Josh this low. None. But I have some bad reasons: The only thing worse than saying the “Survivor” you’re most like is Russell, Boston Rob, or Parvati is saying “there hasn’t been any one like me.” 424 people have played “Survivor” before you! Pick one!!! Despite this bio pet peeve, Josh earns forgiveness for playing Settlers of Catan, and should have a good mind for the game as the first member of his family to earn a master’s degree. His biggest weakness, ironically, could be the strength of his partner. I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh were ultimately voted out in an attempt to cut the legs out from under a threatening Reed, Baskauskas brothers style.
 
 11. Alec – What strikes me in the Christy brothers’ pregame interviews is that Drew seems to dictate the conversation. The admittedly brief clips of video we have show Alec adopting a more eased, stereotypical younger brother role. He allows Drew to interject opinions and second-guess him while articulating himself calmly throughout. That isn’t to say Alec isn’t aggressive; he defends himself and owns his strengths. With so many type-A personalities on “Survivor,” however, Alec’s ability to restrain himself and listen more than he speaks could prove invaluable, and make him a dark horse with more social backbone than your typical 22-year-old.
 12. Dale – A dogmatic advocate of hard work, I expect Dale to bring strong opinions to “Survivor”. He’s not in it for Twitter and Instagram; he seems to be playing for his relationship with his daughter, for a paycheck, and because he genuinely likes the show. You have to love a guy who goes back over a decade and references Big Tom as the player he’s most like. Dale is far older than the rest of his tribe, though, and he seems to be very no-nonsense and task-oriented. My fear is that he’ll march to the beat of his own vintage drum, and his tribe will be playing EDM. Dale’s upside is being a more likable Rupert who can provide outdoorsman skill and build a shelter that actually functions. His downside is being too set in his ways to enjoy that shelter for long.
  13. Baylor – My people. This season has few near-college-aged players and few young, hot girls. While on another season Baylor might have more company in this respect, in San Juan Del Sur she’ll have to carry her demographical torches alone, and that’s my biggest knock against her. She may just have enough life experience from living through three divorces and following her musical passions to hit the ground running and keep up anyway. Baylor’s success, though, could depend on her being aggressive enough to rally those who are nearer her walk of life – Alec, Wes, Jaclyn, and Nadiya – and get an alliance started quickly.
 14. Julie – This is a game about decision-making, and Julie is a woman who decided to date John Rocker. Being tethered to captain “speak English” can’t help her, but even so, if her cast mates give her a fair shot to integrate, I think Julie goes from thoroughly tanned dark horse to underestimated threat to win. She gets my kudos for her willingness to vote out her boyfriend; the precedent of the first Blood vs. Water suggests this is a game format much easier played individually. Add that Julie has a talent for reading people and making them feel comfortable in running her small business, and I think there’s a chance, albeit slim, that we’re looking at a breakout player.
  15. Drew – “Really what’s at stake is there’s no surf boards here. And uh… I’m missing out on some surfing and some partying back in Florida, or New York, or wherever else I’d be. What’s at stake is really nothing.” Despite being the ultimate hypocrite and knocking the guy for his pregame interview, I do like Drew. I’ll be rooting for him to figure out that there are at least one million things at stake before he finds himself searching for waves at ponderosa.
 16. Keith – Louisiana outdoorsman. Elder of the Hunahpu tribe. Long shot. I hope I’m wrong, but I get the sense this is an adventure Wes dragged his dad along for, and not one Keith has thought much about. He seems primed for a healthy father-son competition, and could be an early asset to his tribe (he mentions hunting and fishing a combined six times in his bio). Ultimately, though, I don’t envision him spearheading any strong alliances. None of his tribe mates are similar to him in age, love of cigars, or region of the country.
  17. Wes – Like his dad, Wes is a hunter, fisher, and beer drinker with a colorful personality and a knack for humorous, southern accented sound bites. There’s a lot to like about Wes, and he’s a big “Survivor” fan to boot. But then there’s his bio answer to ‘”Survivor” Contestant You Are Most Like’: “Ozzy and Russell Hantz because I’ll dominate challenges and have girls under my wings making them think I will take them to the end.” Strike one, strike two, strike three and you’re out. This line shattered my faith that Wes will be skilled at the social game. On the other hand, it ignited my faith that he’ll be Zane Knight 2.0 – an entertaining early boot and fantastic “Survivor” character.
 18. John – When ranking someone last, one must ask the critical question: Will this player be worse at “Survivor” than Kassandra McQuillen? I believe this is the man who could pull it off. But even if he can’t, John Rocker will have to overcome Rocker-sized obstacles if he wants to pull off a win. He’ll have to convince a jury to award $1 million to a former professional athlete – one whose public image puts any “Survivor” villain to non-shame. To top it all off, Rocker doesn’t even seem excited to play, calling a hypothetical win a “feather in the cap.” Now it’s time to take Jeff Probst’s words and pay it forward like Mike Skupin would: John Rocker has zero chance of winning this game.

Don’t miss the 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur – Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter at @gordonholmes.

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