CBS has unveiled the cast for Survivor: Samoa, the 19th (!!) season of the reality stalwart. Coming up with new twists to keep viewers hooked isn't easy at this point, but the producers have managed: the two tribes must each instantly choose a "chief" to run tribal affairs, and do so without even speaking to one another. Why do I think this is going to work to the benefit of the biggest men on this increasingly male-dominated series?
Here's a quick rundown of the unusually large cast of twenty:
Ashley, a 22-year-old from Minnesota, where they apparently have a huge need for spa sales. She's the very definition of apple-cheeked, but has a background in competitive cheerleading and seems to be pretty athletic. I worry a bit about someone who goes on Survivor and says she will miss her pillow, but I hope she does well.
Ben, a 28 year-old "mixologist" (groan) originally from rural Missouri. He calls himself a hard-working country boy, and one has to think that will alarm the other players, who remember how easily JT from Alabama won in Tocantins. Ben comes across as an uncomplicated sort who will either be too naive to last more than a couple of weeks, or be winning competitions all the way to the end.
Betsy, a 48-year-old cop from New Hampshire. You have to like someone who says she wants to win the prize money in order to get creature comforts for her kids. Betsy comes across as awfully laid back for a police officer. She's awfully effusive and I would like to think she can last a while, but her age is a big negative.
Brett, a 23-year-old t-shirt designer and entrepreneur from Los Angeles. He looks like Andy Gibb. Is that good? He admits he might be naive and too trusting, but hopes to be a person others can rely on. At first glance, he seems earnest and likable, but he also seems very similar to last season's Brendan, who was much better on paper than in reality.
David, a 38-year-old fitness instructor from Los Angeles. He's described by Jeff Probst as brilliant, but he's bounced around a lot in life. With his long hair and general eccentric demeanor, he seems more like the guy who accosts you outside the library wanting to take about international banking conspiracies than a winner of Survivor. Admit up front that you don't care about money, and they aren't going to give it to you.
Elizabeth, a 33-year-old attorney and urban planner from the Big Apple. She appears to have a well thought out strategy, in that she knows she can be aggressive but also knows that can work against you early on. She says her goal is "riding the wave of mediocrity," which is an awesome description of what it takes to get ahead in the game. I like her, but I question if the other players will.
Erik, a 28-year-old bartender from Ontario, Cal. He's just a bartender whereas Ben is a mixologist? Clearly, he is vastly inferior. Although not to hear him tell the tale; he comes across as awfully cocky, denouncing foolish men who are led astray by the temptations of women. So you just know Erik is going to be the one romancing it up. He might do well, but I bet I won't be happy about it.
Jaison, a 28-year-old law student from Chicago. An Eagle Scout who was nominated to attend two separate service academies, he's too good to be true in real life, but that doesn't mean he will succeed in a game that is decidedly not survival of the nicest. The other players would be crazy to allow him to stick around long.
John, a 25-year-old rocket scientist from Los Angeles. John, who looks like he strolled in from Melrose Place, says he's "too pretty for radio" and claims that when he enters a room, everyone notices. So no under-the-radar for this guy. My hopes are not high.
Kelly, a 25-year-old hairstylist originally from Wilmington, Del. The self-described free spirit seems like the type of player who is always more popular with viewers than with her fellow castaways. Kelly is one of those "there for the experience" types who never goes far. Plus, she says she's a trusting person who hates liars. Um...look what show you're on, dear.
Laura, a 39-year-old office manager from Salem, Ore. She says that her potential downfall is that she wants to be the leader, but at least she knows she needs to work on that. As long as she's not obnoxious, she could very well go a long way, in the great Survivor tradition of nondescript 40ish women who finish sixth.
Marisa, a 26-year-old student from Cincinnati. She comes from a big blended family and is used to living without much in the way of creature comforts, both of which are positives in Survivor. On the downside, her voice is going to grate as the game drags on. My guess is that she's not going to be cutthroat enough to make it.
Mick, a 33-year-old doctor originally from Boise. He gives off every impression of being a man who isn't used to not getting his way, which could drive him towards $1 million, or drive everyone else nuts. I suspect he will be one of people voted in as chief, and that's going to be hard to overcome. But he seems pretty decent underneath the good looks and hard-charging attitude.
Mike, a 62-year-old chef from southern California who was bumped from the Tocantins cast at the last minute due to sleep apnea. You can't automatically discount the chances of the older players anymore, not since Bob won in Gabon. I always felt having someone who can cook would be useful in Survivor, at least up to a point. But the downside to Mike is his ridiculous chin beard. It's totally untrustworthy.
Monica, a 25-year-old law student from San Diego. She appears to want to downplay having any brains, saying that she is going to miss partying while she is Samoa and claiming she won't be afraid to flirt to get ahead. Monica also says she isn't going to tell everyone about being a future lawyer because of the "liar" stigma. I think her chances are better than any of the other young women.
Natalie, a 26 year-old from Arkansas who is involved in that reality show staple, "pharmaceutical sales." She claims that opinions of her as high-maintenance are misguided, but she also says she's worried about having to eat uncomfortable food items. Uh-oh. Generic pretty girls simply do not fare well on this series.
Russell H., a 36-year-old oil company owner from Texas. Like Gabon's Randy, he comes across as an unpleasant personality at first sight, and Probst describes him as pure evil, which signals he's going to get pretty far. His describes his philosophy as using people and throwing them in the trash. Charming. His departure from the game will make the celebrations when Coach was voted out on Tocantins look like a wake by comparison.
Russell S., a 42-year-old lawyer from Pennsylvania. There seems to be an unusual number of law-oriented folks in this edition of the game. He says that he will study the tribe he is in and adapt his strategy accordingly. Russell wants to come across as a nice guy who won't cause problems, which sounds pretty boring.
Shannon, a 45-year-old sales rep from the Seattle area. With a nickname of "Shanbo" and the biggest mullet outside of the Cyrus family reunion, this is a one of a kind type player. Gregarious and the total opposite of a princess, she looks like she's going to be all kinds of fun, although at 45, she's going to be in danger early unless she hooks up with a big alliance.
Yasmin, a 33 year-old hairstylist from Los Angeles. It takes a special kind of Survivor player to admit up front that she has no strategy. In fairness, Yasmin is just saying she wants to hold back and stay out of the line of fire, but she seems to have too big a personality (she says she's known as Sassy Yassy) to be able to make that work for her.