updated 09/18/2013 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/18/2013 AT 3:30 PM ET
Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach. Erik Reichenbach is a Survivor fan-turned-favorite, a comic book author and artist. He placed fifth on both Survivor: Micronesia and Survivor: Caramoan. Follow him on Twitter @BloodyAmer1can
“My alliance was really my family at home. There was never a day I wasn’t loyal to my family.”
– Dawn Meehan, Survivor: Caramoan
“I’m not here to make friends!” is such a reality TV cliché, it’s spawned its own Youtube clip reel. But what happens if your friends are on the show with you?
Survivor: Blood vs. Water premieres Wednesday, matching returning players against family members and loved ones. If the jaded chatter on Twitter and Facebook is any indication, people aren’t too psyched about the twist. I’m holding out hope.
Bringing family members into the game could expose raw emotions and precipitate subtle calculations. What do you do when your loved one is voted off? Suck it up – or hulk out?
Other than the Big Twist, Survivor 27 is so replete with mini-twists that even Jeff Probst’s head must be spinning:
Contestants will be marooned with only their loved ones on a special day zero.
On day one, returnees will be placed on one tribe, loved ones on another. Each tribe will immediately vote out one person, who will then go to Redemption Island.
So the vile excrescence known as Redemption Island is back. That sucks.
RI will feature three-person “duels.” Only the loser goes home. The winner can gift a clue to an immunity idol to anybody on either tribe.
Castaways have the option of switching places on RI with their loved ones.
Catch all that? I like the idea that loved ones can swap places, but I’m not sure it’s strategic. If Gervase’s niece Marissa is voted out, should Gervase take her place? Marissa could just get voted out again anyway.
I also wish the returnees were on the same tribe as their loved ones. Over and over again, we’ve seen returning players chew through new recruits. Will that be any different just because they share DNA? I also like the idea of relatives bickering about strategy.
Let’s hope for a swap soon.
Big Blog Twist: The Return of a Fan Favorite!
If my blog post is too much to read, now you can just look at one awesome cartoon!
My pre-season picks are Tyson and his girlfriend Rachel. Part of that is just bias: they’re both close friends. They’re also sharp-witted characters and athletic competitors. Tyson has a history of self-destructing, but Rachel could be his “Amber,” the voice of reason who stops him from blundering.
I’m awarding Rachel my pre-season Fishy. She’s smart and likable and athletic, but won’t seem like a huge threat. She could win it all.
I’m also excited to see “evil queen and his country-boy fiancé Caleb. Colton was the major antagonist of One World; his “medevac” is largely responsible for that season’s post-merge snoozefest. If he doesn’t contract another case of crybabyitis, he could add both strategy and drama.
Some Other Thoughts
Gervase’s claim that “I want to bring the game back to that first season” probably doesn’t bode too well.
Aras is very smart and very charming, even more than people realize.
Kat and Hayden are an interesting couple. Hayden managed to bro-down to a Big Brother victory. How will he fare in Survivor terrain?
The few times I’ve met Rupert, he’s proven to be much savvier than the shambolic roar-monster he plays on television.
Will anybody actually trust Candice? She’s flipped on both her past alliances.
Who do you like?