Well, Survivor buffs and TwoDaysSpecial fans alike (hopefully you’re both), Survivor: Vietnam – Quest for Redemption is about to kick off, but first let’s have a look at our contestants and remember the events that have led up to their offer of a second chance at reality glory (the best kind!). Today we’ll be running the rule over the Tre Lo’n tribe, and be sure to tune in tomorrow when you’ll be given your first chance to look at the other tribe of redemption-seekers who will be fighting it out for the million. (See here for the season intro.)
The Tre Lo’n tribe will always wear yellow and consists of nine returning players who are seeking redemption after exiting the game in controversial or unlucky circumstances. This has left them and Survivor fans pondering one question: What if?
Residence: Key West, Florida
Previous Season: Palau (2005)
Previous Best: 3rd Place, Final Jury Member
The Background Story: Ian was a cornerstone of what was arguably the most dominant tribe in Survivor history. Along with tribemates Tom Westman and the also-underrated Greg Carey, Ian helped decimate the hopelessly overmatched Ulong tribe (which contained fellow returnees Angie and Jeff Wilson), reducing them to a single member (Stephanie LaGrossa). Ian also distinguished himself by being the only person to defeat the at times unbeatable Tom, winning two individual immunities. But it was the final individual immunity challenge that led to Ian’s demise. After 12 hours holding on to a floating buoy, Ian voluntarily stepped down on the promise that Tom would take Katie to the final two at an impromptu tribal council on the water Ian was sent home. This decision can be traced back to a conversation between Ian and Katie where Ian speculated that if Tom didn’t win the final four immunity that he would vote him out to ensure his place in the final two. When Tom did win immunity an innocuous comment from Ian back at camp that it would have been a tough decision if Tom hadn’t won led Tom to question Katie, who immediately told Tom about Ian’s plans. It must be noted that Katie gave up Ian so easily as she was still angry after he took Tom on a reward after promising Katie he would in fact take her. This split between Tom and Ian led to a tied vote at tribal council with Ian winning the fire making challenge against Jenn Lyon. The resentment amongst the three lasted throughout the final challenge when Ian succumbed to Katie’s emotional blackmail and Tom’s bullying and stepped down to “redeem himself.” It was Ian’s poor social game during the final days and his immaturity that led to his ultimate demise. But what if he hadn’t stepped down?
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Previous Season: Cook Islands (2006)
Previous Best: 4th Place, Final Jury Member
The Background Story: Sundra is best known as a member of the “Aitu Four Alliance” and will live in survivor infamy for her abysmal fire making skills. On Day 20 Sundra’s Aitutaki tribe was decimated as tribe members Jonathon Penner and Candice Woodcock mutinied and returned to the Rarotonga tribe leaving Aitutaki down 8 to 4. However in a display of defiance they would win every challenge up until the merge and eventually last as a unit to the final four. At the final four tribal council Becky and Yul honoured their Day 1 alliance and voted for Sundra while Ozzy and Sundra voted for Becky with votes deadlocked at 2-2 Sundra and Becky competed in a fire making challenge. What transpired was equal parts painful and humorous as after one hour of unsuccessfully using flint and a machete Jeff mercifully gave them matches, temporarily waking up some members of the jury. After a further thirty fruitless minutes Sundra ran out of matches leaving Becky to burn through her rope unopposed. What makes her exit even more painful was that Cook Islands was the first season to have a final three. Would Sundra have won the game? Almost certainly not as Ozzy and Yul were the dominant players that season, however that doesn’t make her exit on the doorstep of finals any less painful or unlucky.
Residence: Los Angeles, California
Previous Season: China (2007)
Previous Best: 5th Voted Out
The Background Story: Aaron fell victim to a controversial twist early in the game when he, along with James Clement, were chosen to join Zhan Hu in a mini tribe swap where each team was permitted to pick two opposing players to join their tribe. If that wasn’t unlucky enough, at the first immunity challenge after the swap, new tribemates Peih-Gee and Jaime threw the challenge (literally) by throwing one piece of the puzzle away. It was decided that out of their two new members that Aaron was going to be more dangerous down the line and as such was voted out 3-1-1 at tribal council. In three days Aaron went from having an alliance with eventual final two Amanda and Todd to being voted off after his new tribe threw an immunity challenge. Aaron is the epitome of the “what-if” Survivor contestant.
Name: Tracy Hughes-Wolf
Residence: Richmond, Virginia
Previous Season: Micronesia: Fans vs Favourites (2008)
Previous Best: 7th Voted Out
The Background Story: Some players are just victims of unfortunate circumstances such as being on a weak tribe, or being on the wrong side of the numbers rather than being unlucky or a victim of a controversial twist. Tracy from Micronesia falls into this category as one of the fans she was immediately on the outside due to her age. However, with clever strategy and subtle manipulation, she was able to last until the tribe swap and could have made it further if not for her alliance member Chet quitting. Early on Tracy was able to save herself by manipulating the ego of alpha male Joel to convince him to vote out Mikey B (a strategic threat) and his closest ally Mary as Mikey B in particular had been pushing for Tracy or Chet to be voted off first. Having avoided an early exit, Tracy and Chet ended up together on the new Malakal tribe after the tribe swap – but after losing immunity, Tracy and Chet were again the targets as fellow fan Joel was intent on eliminating the weaker members. However, Tracy was able to find an ally in Cirie (herself feeling in danger) and they decided to vote out Joel, with Cirie able to convince her fellow favourites Joel was voted out 5-2. However, over the next six days Tracy’s game fell apart. After another immunity loss, Chet, her closest ally, asked to be voted out of the game – even though Tracy, with the help of Ami and Erik, had a plan to vote out Ozzy and only needed Chet’s vote to seal the deal. After failing to convince Chet to stay, he was granted his request and voted out. When Malakal lost another immunity challenge Tracy tried unsuccessfully to scramble, developing a convoluted strategy with Ami to vote out Ozzy that never came to fruition and Tracy was voted out. Due to exceptional circumstances, Tracy was forced to align with weaker players and it came back to bite her as her main ally quit on the eve of a potentially game-changing move. Also due to these circumstances, Tracy was constantly scrambling to save her skin and at times over-strategized instead of letting the game come to her. This time around, Tracy will be looking to align with the stronger players and take a back seat strategically.
Name: Jeff Varner
Residence: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Previous Season: The Australian Outback (2001)
Previous Best: 6th Voted Out
The Background Story: One of the most famous/infamous moments in Survivor history is Mike Skupin falling in the fire and being evacuated from the game. What isn’t discussed as often is the reverberations it had on the game itself, changing the dynamic completely with Jeff Varner being the first casualty of the new landscape created after Skupin’s exit. Before Skupin’s untimely exit Jeff had a solid three person alliance with Skupin and Alicia and was a member of a Kucha tribe which would have had the numbers advantage 6-5 heading into the upcoming merge. After Skupin fell in the fire the tribes merged with the numbers now equal at five, Jeff was quickly identified by the former Ogakor members as a threat, and they devised a plan to take advantage of the controversial deadlock rule in place in earlier seasons. In this season, in the event of a deadlocked vote after a re-vote, the person with the most previous votes was eliminated. During the first immunity challenge, Colby stepped down to draw the votes of the Kucha members knowing he had no previous votes, Jeff at this time having two votes against his name. What Jeff didn’t know is that his tribe mate Kimmi had revealed to the Ogakor tribe that Debb had voted for Jeff at the first tribal council. With this information, Ogakor directed all their votes to Jeff and he was voted out after a 4-4 deadlock. Skupin has now returned to answer his own “what if?” – now it is time for Jeff to answer his.
Name: Roberta “RC” Saint Amour
Residence: New York, New York
Previous Season: Philippines (2012)
Previous Best: 7th Voted Out, 1st Jury Member
The Background Story: RC falls into the category of playing too hard too early and making some ill-advised alliances. RC was a member of the physically dominant Tandang tribe which remained undefeated until the merge however she was on the outside from early on. Initially RC made an alliance with the volatile Abi-Maria and Pete while also making a side alliance with Mike Skupin. RC found the hidden immunity idol clue and made the mistake of sharing this with Abi-Maria, her closest perceived ally, and after unsuccessfully trying to find the idol buried the clue. Abi-Maria, suspicious of RC’s possible alliance with Skupin, shared the clue with Pete and they were able to successfully find the idol – and then chose not to share their find with RC. The simmering tensions between Abi and RC were brought to a head when Pete dug up the clue and planted it in RC’s bag. When the clue innocuously fell out of RC’s bag, Abi exploded and accused RC of betraying her and refused to listen to RC’s explanations, thus ending their already uneasy alliance. At the merge, RC and Penner were the first targets. With her alliance with Abi-Maria in tatters, RC’s lone ally was Skupin. The majority decided to split their votes between Penner and RC as they wanted to flush Penner’s idol, when Penner played his idol a blindsided RC was sent home 4-2. While RC definitely showcased a knowledge for the game and was a solid physical player her downfall was trying to make alliances with everyone and trusting the wrong person.
Name: Stephen Fishbach
Residence: New York, New York
Previous Season: Tocantins (2009)
Previous Best: Runner-Up
The Background Story: Stephen’s game was more underappreciated than unlucky and was the undeserving recipient of a 7-0 jury shut out. Stephen formed a Day 2 alliance with eventual winner J.T that lasted to the end and although J.T did play a good strategic game, Stephen was the driving force behind their strategic moves. Together they were able to navigate through their Jalapao tribe’s numbers disadvantage (6-3) at the merge by taking advantage of divisions in the former Timbira tribe and manipulating certain people to go along with their plans, particularly Coach. Stephen had the misfortune of being aligned with one of the most popular players in and out of the game, therefore his chances of winning the final vote were minimal. However, he was wrongly cast by the jury as a weak player compared to J.T’s physical dominance and received no credit for his strategic game. Stephen didn’t help his cause by giving a poor performance at final tribal with J.T winning most of the exchanges, however this shouldn’t take away from one of the most underrated strategic games in recent seasons and is certainly deserving of a second chance.
Name: Laura Morett
Residence: Salem, Oregon
Previous Season: Samoa (2009)
Previous Best: 9th Voted Out, 3rd Jury Member
The Background Story: Laura could easily return as villain if they ever used the Heroes vs Villains concept again, with her interactions with Shambo alone cementing her villain status. Although Russell Swan was the elected leader of the Galu tribe, Laura was really the one calling the shots and was a powerhouse in challenges, leading her tribe to an 8-4 numbers advantage at the merge. If it wasn’t for one Russell Hantz and the threat of the infamous purple rock, Laura may have gone deep into the game. Laura, like fellow returnee Betsy, saw immediately through Russell and didn’t trust him at all, making her Russell’s number one target post merge. However, Laura again displayed her physical dominance by winning the first two individual immunity challenges. After not winning a third consecutive challenge, Laura again became Russell’s target. Though the old Galu still had the advantage 6-4, Russell was able to bring over the ostracised Shambo, forcing a 5-5 tie at the initial vote. On the re-vote John, a former Galu member fearing the purple rock tie-breaker, switched his vote to Laura, sealing her fate. Laura’s biggest mistakes were alienating Shambo and voting off Erik at the merge instead of a member of Russell’s alliance, however she demonstrated enough of an understanding of the game strategically and physically to warrant a second chance.
Name: Greg Buis
Residence: Gold Hill, Colorado
Previous Season: Borneo (2000)
Previous Best: 8th Voted Out, 1st Jury Member
The Background Story: One of the original sixteen castaways from Survivor’s very first season 13 years ago, Greg is one of the all-time favourite players amongst the hardcore members of the Survivor fan base. Best known for his weird sense of humour and off-the-wall comments and antics, Greg gave producers headaches throughout the filming of the series, even voting for Jeff Probst at one tribal council. Although he played the odd-ball, Greg was a highly intelligent person that was identified as a threat by none other than the legendary Richard Hatch – who even stated that he was the only person he feared. Greg’s misfortune was that he was on a tribe that had no idea how to play the game (admittedly, Greg didn’t play the game either), with all off their members falling victim to the Tagi Four, the only alliance in the game. After winning the first individual immunity challenge, Greg was one of the only people to identify that Richard was the power player. After Greg lost the second individual immunity challenge, Richard saw Greg as his biggest threat and directed his fellow Tagi Four members to vote off Greg, assisted by Sean Kenniff’s infamous “alphabetical-order” voting strategy and a jealous Jenna (Greg won the reward of a video from home while Jenna’s video never arrived). As a result, Greg was voted out 6-3. Greg, like most of the inaugural survivors, didn’t take the game too seriously at the time and was just there for a good time. But during that initial season, he demonstrated an understanding of how the game would play out and didn’t want to be part of alliances and back-stabbing. How will Greg cope with modern Survivor where making alliances and back stabbing are crucial to success… and more importantly, will he bring back the coconut phone?