Originally posted Thursday, November 29, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Two “Survivor” players with Atlanta ties have made it into the final eight in a season with no shortage of great characters and some fun twists.
Yes, a show in its 37th season can still surprise and entertain. That’s a feat.
During this past Wednesday’s two-hour double episode, both Christian Hubicki - a former Georgia Tech post-doc student who is now a robotics professor at Florida State University - and Davie Rickenbacker - a former CDC employee who had to quit his job because “Survivor” needed him to fill in for a player that dropped out at the last second - won immunity challenges and showed their mettle in multiple ways.
Christian is the star player of the season by a wide margin. He is an admitted dork who excels puzzle challenges and strategy but possesses exceptional social skills as well. He seems to listen well and empathizes with others. He may speak like Spock at times but also has a Kirk-like competitive drive. It’s a rare combination.
As a result, he has bonded with people on both his original David team and those on the Goliath side.
But some discerning Goliath players such as Angelina Keeley and Alison Raybould quickly figured out what a threat he was. After the merge, they tried to take him out but failed.
In the eighth episode’s tribal council, Davie saved Christian by using an immunity idol the Goliaths knew nothing about.
During the ninth episode, the Goliaths again tried to go after Christian but one of their own (ironically, Angelina) became a target instead. And in a complicated use of two different advantages, the Davids took out Goliath Dan Rengering.
In episode 10, Goliath Alec Merlino - an individual immunity threat - knew he was on the chopping block and decided to go all out to win the immunity idol to save his own hide. In a challenge where he had to stand on a thin board and keep his arms over his shoulders on a bar, he seemed destined to win no how painful and uncomfortable it was. His determination was written on his face as other players fell off one by one.
But in an incredible twist, Christian hung in there. For more than six hours, they stuck it out as the other players watched in awe. Alec was mostly silent, save for the occasional mutterings. Christian, on the other hand, distracted himself from the pain by talking about anything and everything. Finally, Alec’s body gave out. He felt faint and fell off. Christian miraculously won.
If anybody is building a resume to win this game, it’s Christian. Unfortunately, it would be insane for any of his fellow players to bring him into the final three if they want to win the $1 million. (The show lately has been doing three finalists.) I’m fairly certain Christian is aware of this. He is going to need to win some more immunity challenges to make it to the end.
The trailers for next week show a shocking possible move: his closest ally Gabby wants him out!
Davie is a more nuanced case. He smartly laid low for much of the first half of the season beyond picking up an immunity idol he ultimately used to save his fellow David Christian. He has hustled to find immunity idols, which shows a level of hutzpah.
And there’s no doubt he has played a solid social game because his name rarely has come up as a target. He comes across as a nice guy. Even being part of the underdog group for much of the game, the “Survivor” producers have not shown a single person complaining about him. So far, he has had only one vote placed against him during tribal council.
Davie got more airtime this past Wednesday night. After helping win a reward challenge that involved dunking balls into a net, he joked about keeping his “black card” this time because given his nerdy tendencies, it’s usually the opposite case. But doing something physically well thrilled him to no end.
Unfortunately for Davie, his closest ally (and the only other black dude left on the island) Carl Boudreaux became over-confident after taking out Dan and started acting like a mafia Don, as may folks described him. During the reward, he drank too much beer and became visibly drunk. The others began noting that he “literally” was drunk with power.
His arrogance was rewarded with a classic “Survivor” blindside and a spot on the jury. Christian and his best buddy Gabby Pascuzzi turned on Carl and sided with three Goliaths to take him out.
Davie knew nothing about the blindside. He is not part of the current key alliance. But alliances do shift. The game’s fundamental unpredictability is what keeps “Survivor” fans coming back for more.
Of the final eight, I would love to see Christian win but the chances appear slim.
Of the other seven, I’d love to see Gabby take the prize because she seems much stronger than she looks on the surface. As a David, she is often under-estimated and I’m not sure she has done a particularly good job building a resume to impress the jurors. And for better or worse, her crying comes across as weakness, whether that’s fair or not.
Allison - who was a bit cocky in the early going but has scaled that back as her Goliath brethren disappeared - has shown plenty of grit and could win over the Goliath jury members in a final three.
Angelina has almost no shot at winning simply because she burned bridges after the merge by blatantly trying to “jury manage” Elizabeth and is no longer trusted by anybody. That’s a death knell on the show. Sacrificing herself for extra rice probably didn’t move the needle although she clearly thought it would.
Nick Wilson has been entertaining and has made some interesting maneuvers that led to several blindsides. He has scrambled and has a shot at winning it all. He’s not much of a challenge beast but his social and strategic game has been good.
Kara Kay has left almost no impression on me at all beyond her initial attraction, then ultimate rejection, of Dan.
Davie, despite saving Christian and winning the last immunity challenge, hasn’t been a primary strategic player to date. But he is clearly likable and hasn’t burned many bridges. He is certainly in the game.
This leaves Mike White, the “School of Rock” writer and actor, who has played a superb game thus far. Despite his obvious fame, he hasn’t allowed that to turn people off. He is fundamentally warm and kind. But he is always thinking strategically. And he was the reason why Carl was ousted Wednesday night.
I’m not sure if the jury will penalize Mike for being semi-famous and not give him the $1 million if he makes it to the end. But at this point, he is the most deserving winner in my mind after Christian.
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