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Back in December I was like, "Um, impossible. Yeah, you'd better bring back four returnees, because there is no way I will ever love any of these new stranger betches the way I love my current David vs. Goliath friends / cast perfection. I know I said this after Tocantins and San Juan del Sur and (to some degree) even Millenials vs. Gen X, but THIS TIME I MEAN IT."

Then I spent all of January overcorrecting so far in the opposite direction that I think I actually managed to wash out some of my attachment to D v. G by spending so much time in older seasons?? The Legends are just so legendary. All the good people who've played 2+ times are so vibrant and epic in my memory now...that they make the ordinary 1-timer citizens of Season 37 seem even more like just some random friends and neighbors of mine who got to play Survivor. So maybe that finally puts me in a good position to evaluate the new cast?

The Twist
[my thoughts on the premise of this season, more detailed than has been revealed on the reunion show]So from what I understand of Extinction Island so far...I don't love it. I kind of like the fact that I won't necessarily lose the doomed early-boot ladies if I get attached to any of them, but this also robs me of my hope that a blowhard jackass will get voted off early and never reappear.
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I really don't like Jeff's smarmy talk about how anyone who accepts being voted out instead of taking a chance on the possibility of staying in the game will be considered a quitter, "because you came here to play the game." No. If you are miserable in the elements, you're supposed to immediately get a consolation prize for losing your shot at the mil, not have to suffer more in order to get a chance at earning your chance back. I know it's only a problem if you don't try at all -- you're not a quitter if you get to the island, decide it sucks and ask to be 'rescued' -- but I still think expecting someone to turn down the food / a shower / bed they walk out expecting for an unknown element is a lot. At least with Redemption Island they knew what was in store.
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I am also worried for a selfish perspective -- what does that mean for Ponderosa this season??? I LOOK FORWARD TO PONDEROSA WHEN I CARE ABOUT THE ELIMINEES.
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tl;dr: this twist is totally designed to help Joe win the game in a way his threatening challenge prowess + hero mytharc will never allow him to do otherwise, isn't it. Just like Ozzy. I know what you're about.

EDIT: Just learned there will be no exit interviews this season (at least until after the finale). What the fuck, CBS. Do you not think media attention/engagement plays a role in your success, or...? I HATE THIS TWIST, PLZ NEVER DO IT AGAIN.

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The Returnees
1. Queen Aubry
OBVIOUSLY MY CHAMPION. OBVIOUSLY. I am prepared for a third round of heartbreak (but also not) on that front, but at least I am reasonably sure that she will not give up, she will do everything in her power to get back in the game. Also no matter what happens, it can't possibly hurt more than Malcolm's third time out. I finally started following her on Twitter, and now more than ever I am fully convinced that she is one of the Survivor Greats, of which it turns out women make up a disproportionately small number in my book. I'm so glad she's on again.

2. King Joe (I still don't know where "Joey Amazing" came from and I refuse to use it)

A VERY close second, even though I had to first get rid of some lingering animosity toward him I developed in the past month while rewatching Cambodia (someday I gotta talk about how much more I enjoy Stephen's second outing in retrospect). Yeah, the Old Timey Villain Mustache and I are going to Have Words, but stumbling ass-backwards into his Instagram a couple weeks ago and finding it full of a) his girlfriend who is apparently one SIERRA DAWN THOMAS and b) THEIR GORGEOUS HORSES has shot my estimation of him upwards on a rocket.

(I would have made a post about that discovery, but it's like looking at the sun. I can't think directly about it for too long or I just melt into squee. The horses alone -- the fact that they live together and raise horses on a farm in Utah, that he's actually involved with them and isn't just like "yeah it's cool my girlfriend is really into them," I am DEAD. And best of all, because apparently they're Influencers on the side, the fact that there are just a stupid number of photos specifically staged to show them kissing or otherwise being romantic? WHO IS WRITING THIS SURVIVOR FANFICTION INTO REALITY AND WHERE CAN I BUY THEM FRUIT BASKETS. Bye, guys, I have to abandon this post now and finish it later because I overindulged in shippiness and am drunk on vicarious love.)

(they're so pretty together! And by virtue of being together, it has also worked in Sierra's favor and upgraded her from "pretty awesome" to "I almost am no longer sorry Malcolm was voted out because you were spared by an immunity idol in the Tribal From Hell")

[literally 2 full days later]
3. Kelley Wentworth (GUESS WHO'S BACK)
It took me an embarrassingly long time to remember she and Joe played together in Cambodia. Like, not until I saw a gifset of the water challenge that encouraged everybody to strangle / drown each other. That said, suddenly I am SUPER excited to see them square off again. I'm not quite the stan some people are, mostly because of how many of my more beloved faves she helped take out in Cambodia, but she is genuinely super great and sweet as a person and I encourage her to do well. I just also think that if I can open my heart to new cast
members, some of them could slip past her on my Totem Pole of Favorites.
(x)
"BITE ME" WAS NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN AS A LITERAL STATEMENT.

4. David Wright
Out of the entire largely delightful Millenials vs. Gen X cast, he is a ways down on the list of people I would have picked to return. But, as much as I am not enthused by him as a player, I am aware that he is nice, and pretty inoffensive as returnees go. It could be worse. I mean, it could be Bret and/or Chris bumbling their way in the way they keep crashing the public-forum Survivor Know It All sessions and wrecking my good time.

(I watch those now and we need to talk about that too.)

Newbies
I started out not wanting to be spoiled at ALL, and just wanted to watch the episode fresh and form opinions based on that. But after having read about a thousand pre-season Hollywood Reporter / Parade Magazine interviews and ET segments from past seasons, especially the ones that ask for their impressions of their fellow players based on silent observations at Ponderosa, I decided to do something similar and made snap judgments of everyone based on a slideshow vid someone made showing only their official photo, divided by tribe.

Over the next couple of weeks, I relented a bit and watched a few video clips, couldn't help seeing stuff on Twitter due to Aubry, and otherwise let press trickle in as it would, those will be amended in brackets below each impression where I confirm the contestants' names and any other pertinent info.

YELLOW TRIBE
(with Joe + Aubry)
1. Tattoo-Shoulder: AUGH WHAT A GROSS SHOULDER. Also, he looks like he could be sneaky. I'm already annoyed.
[Gavin, 23, YMCA Program director: whatever. who the hell gets a damn peacock-colored tattoo on their entire shoulder, to paraphrase Rodney]

2. Older Guy Who Looks Like He Frequents YMCA Gyms: seems like a dad I guess?
[Ron Cla -- OH NO WAIT SHIT Y'ALL THIS IS LITERALLY RON CLARK!! Of "The Ron Clark Story" fame! THAT IS SO COOL. WE HAVE A MODERN TEACHING LEGEND. EPIC. This is like Jimmy Johnson but relevant to my interests.]

[Edit no.2: *hears him talk* ...OK that's gonna get annoying fast. Petition to have his role as a Survivor contestant also played by Matthew Perry.]

3. Scruff dude: boring
[Eric, firefighter: for real, is this another JP? I am getting so many Samoa Eric vibes, too.]
[edit 2: I literally can't even remember what he looks like for more than 2 minutes after closing a photo.]

4. Older Brunette: fine, I guess? Kinda reminds me of the detached feeling I had about Angela on Ghost Island.
[Julie, 46, "toymaker" with an Etsy shop! whose business is probably 'bout to spike: oh that actually sounds sorta neat. Let's see how she is in action, but I'm really liking her face a lot now that I know this. You have to be a good / nice person to make handmade toys, right?]

5. Blonde lady: IDK, no impression
[Auora, 32, divorce lawyer: okay now that I know that, I don't think we will get along, and looking at her pic again, that is definitely a smirk.]
[edit:  Aurora listed Tyson Apostol and Ciera Eastin as 2 of the contestants she's most like good LORDY save me now]

6. OH WOW LOOK AT MISS ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, I LOVE HER IMMEDIATELY
[Victoria, 23, waitress/4.0 college valedictorian who thinks she contestant she relates most to is Malcolm Freberg: listen, absolutely none of the increasingly delightful things I am learning about her have lessened my certainty that she's my favorite newbie. Nose ring and all.]

[edit: I just want you to know that Gabby has already taken a shine to her on Twitter, replying in a delightful manner to the tweet embedded below, and currently it is taking all of my willpower to wait until after the first episode airs to follow her myself, just in CASE I don't take to her once I hear her talk...but I can't imagine it's that different from her CONSISTENTLY DELIGHTFUL social media voice.]
(edit 2: this eloquent post actually got me to buy a jar of cookie butter I saw at the dollar store a week later...it was a different brand but she's still right)

(ONE MORE EDIT, IDK WHY I DON'T JUST MAKE A NEW STAN POST: I just ALSO realized that in addition to reminding me of Anne of Green Gables, she reminds me of Rachelle LeFevre, who in turn was my mental model for Very LeFreak, except this gal is much more in line with that character's age. All of these associations make me happy.)

(related edit: so I just looked up how to pronounce her last name and may I just say that I am so sad I can't make an accurate pun by spelling it "BAE-monde.") (also whoops in my head I was reading "monde" like the French word for "world," which I thought was an even BETTER pun for mixing languages, but then I realized the way you pronounce that is "moaned" and that takes me into what I think is dirty joke territory I do not want to be in, so maybe this is for the best.)

7. Black girl: she's got a very fresh and earnest face. I'll go ahead and call her my second fave newbie on this tribe.
[Julia, 24, medical assistant]
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BLUE TRIBE
(with Kelley + David)

1. Bald dude: No. Bad archetype.
[Dan "The Wardog" DaSilva, ex-soldier / law student: ...well, maybe. We'll see.]

[Edit 2: oh. this is the dude who goes around writing about himself in third person. I guess I'll have to see what he actually does on the show, but my hopes, they are not...how do you say...high. Hope I'm wrong, but Ben really burned me on liking military guys. Not even so much when he won, as retroactively, as I remember HvHvH with a grimace of "what a bad season" and frequently just straight up can't remember what season aired in the fall of 2017, because it was so junky and boring compared to a string of seasons before and the standout set from 2018. Also, back to this gy: when he isn't reminding me of Ben, he's reminding me of Tony; I do not have the strength for another one of him.]

2. Beefy neck dude: I think I described my general feelings pretty well with that. I think I need to see him talk and/or slim down in order to reassess. That is REALLY distracting.
[Chris Underwood, 25, Sales: yeah that's not a good look]
[edit: just confirmed he ALSO has a giant shoulder tattoo, even bigger than Gavin's, which extends onto his chest and creeps down his arm. Now unredeemable; thank u, next.]

3. Black guy: hm. seems smiley?
[Keith...NINETEEN WTF?! Also, after reassessing his picture and potentially bulgy eyes, I think he is gonna be nowhere near as awesome as Davie and feel like he is gonna be in more of the role of Kaoh Rong's Darnell.]

4. News Anchor whose name I don't remember but whom I looked up the second the preview finished airing during the reunion show and I heard his job title: Oh man, let me tell you a thing about local news anchors -- they are THE BEST. Everything I've seen about him so far says he is just like the best guys on my local stations, super friendly and casual, open, down to earth, able to laugh at themselves, etc. Long story short he is my favorite new guy and second fave overall. I actually almost hope he doesn't do that well because if I get attached, I am just gonna be jealous of everyone who is gonna get to continue seeing him on the news post-game.

[Rick Devens: the only surprise here is learning that he's 34. WTF. I assumed he was at least 10 years older. Also I love this:
Q: What is your personal claim to fame?
A: My kids, BUT one time there was a cat stuck high (very high) up in a tree for days and may have died but I did a news story and contacted folks and got him rescued, so I have that going for me
.]

5. Blue-Haired (Gamer?) Gal: the second coming of Robbed Millenial Queen Mari?? Imma put a cautionary pin of hope in her. I feel like there was a reason she got to be featured in the preview.

[Wendy Diaz: not a gamer, a surfer. With her own business, which is neat. She's not quite my fave at the moment but she has room to grow! I love the thing in her bio about wanting to bring the stuffed animal she's never spent a night without.]

6. Middle-Aged Curly-Haired Lady: She's got a kind face.
[Reem, 46, sales: This profession seems more legit when you're a woman over 35 -- more like "a job you can get" instead of "I will use my flirt (young women) or Aggressive Profiteering Sales Shark Moves (men)" -- so I don't hold that against her. Still think she has a nice face. Look at her saying she's watched this show since 2000 and has been applying almost as long! OK, now I want her to do well on principle.]

7. Young girl: Ooh! I tend to like the chipper young things, as long as they aren't vapid. Sometimes this backfires on me though, so we'll have to see what she's actually like in action.
[Lauren, 21, student: oh wow, she IS young. Still a waiting game. Also she reminds me so much of...Marisa, was it, the first boot in Samoa?]

OVERALL: Ooh, I just realized that we're starting with 2 tribes of nine, so the tribes aren't evenly divided by gender. That's unusual. Yellow Tribe definitely holds my opening favor, but Blue doesn't look like a disaster yet, so I'm ready.

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