Survivor: South Pacific: Stephen Fishbach Sizes Up Season 23

Survivor South Pacific Premiere - Stephen Fishbach's Take
Stephen Fishbach
Rob Kim/Landov

updated 09/09/2011 at 03:00 PM EDT

originally published 09/14/2011 02:00PM

"Strategy is the craft of the warrior."
– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of the Five Rings

Another day, another dragon! Survivor is back for a new slayer-ific season. Ozzy and my old tribe-mate Coach headline what could be one of the best casts ever.

I actually can't think of anybody I don't like – at least, based on their three-minute intro videos. From Mark to Dawn to Christine to Rick, this season is composed of strong characters, many of whom are genuine fans. But if I had to choose a few ...

Does Cochran have The Juice?
I have to root for the young nerdlinger, John Cochran, who's been described described as "like Fishbach on nerdroids." Who doesn't love a super-fan? John seems savvy enough to let his geekiness hide his gamesmanship.



Will Sophie Lose Her Head?I'm also rooting for med student Sophie, and not just because she has excellent taste. Sophie's a new type for Survivor – the female nerd. Sure, we've had lady lawyers like Eliza and Liz Kim. Anesthesiologist Edna is clearly no slouch in the smarts department, either. But you can almost imagine Sophie curling up with Game of Thrones.

Sophie's challenge will be that she lacks life experience. College calculus class just doesn't teach you how to lead a team. Or, for that matter, how to stab a back.

Brains Before Brawn
This may be the smartest Survivor cast ever. Normally there's one or two token brainiacs. They do the scheming while the beach beauties tan and the lunatics hunt for dragons. But this season – in addition to Cochran, Sophie and Edna – Jim has an MBA, Dawn is an English professor and Christine is a teacher. My hope is that all those credentials lead to epic blindsides. However, as the abomination that was David Murphy's game proved last season, an advanced degree won't necessarily get you to the finals.

Dragonslayer and Dolphin Boy
I just don't get the Coach vs. Ozzy thing. Jeff Probst's explanation for the pair to Entertainment Weekly has to be one of the most tortured uses of language in the history of words: "Ozzy's the real deal, Coach is the pretender ... So in a sense, they are each other's other half." Huh? Ozzy's good at challenges and Coach isn't, so we should pair them up?

That said, I can't wait to watch them play. Coach always delivers the TV goods. I'm pretty sure he studies his classical quotes before he ships off.

I also think Coach will have one big advantage when he goes into the game. His tribe will be expecting a madman, and will be shocked when they see how kind he is in real life. The big question for Coach will be – does he want to play Survivor or play to the cameras? Unfortunately, I think we know the answer.

As for Ozzy – I actually think he has what it takes to win the game. He's charismatic, an amazing athlete, a contemplative thinker, and a generous guy. I'd love to see Oz win a million bucks. Let one of the newbies win it on their third time out.

A Hairy Situation for Coach and OzLots of people are saying that the returning players are screwed. Boston Rob dominated last season, so the newbies will vote out the vets first, right?

I'm not so sure. The flip side to the cast being smart is – it's also weak. Other than Albert, there are no clear powerhouses. Compare this lineup to Redemption Island, where you had musclemen like Grant, Mike, Steve and Julie. You can hardly vote out Coach when your next strongest tribemate is a lingerie linebacker. And who wants to get rid of Oz when he's putting fish on the table?

Furthermore, experience counts for a lot in this game. Nobody thought Rob could win Redemption Island – but he combined four seasons of game time with his adorable smile to play possibly the most perfect game of Survivor ever.

It's easy to say, "We'll vote out the returning players," from the comfort of your hotel room. Once you hit the beach, and your neck is on the line, you might not mind a little coaching.

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