What’s Next, Survivor: Cabo Wabo?

Survivor: Panama – Exile Island starts tomorrow, and I have a feeling I’m going to be disappointed from the opening notes of the theme song. I begged and begged, but word is CBS has refused to open the show with Van Halen’s “Panama.”

Rather than saving all the twists until halfway through the season, Survivor: Panama starts out differently from any other season. Instead of dividing contestants into the usual two tribes, or even three, as happened on Survivor: All-Stars, the castaways will be split into four tribes. The tribes won’t be divided randomly, either. The four tribes will be broken up as follows: Older Men, Younger Men, Older Women, and Younger Women.

In addition to the standard one participant being sent home each week via Tribal Council, another contestant will be sent to Exile Island, a remote outcropping several miles away from any tribemates. While being stranded alone is no picnic, there’s a special immunity idol hidden somewhere on the island that could prolong its owner’s time on the show.

Strategy will play an interesting part in determining who to send to the island. Do you send the person you’d like to get rid of, knowing there’s a chance he or she could find the idol and be exempt from a subsequent vote? A better strategy might be to form an initial alliance of three and send one of your own members to the island, ensuring that your fourth tribe member remains eligible for elimination.

Thanks to the bios at the CBS Survivor homepage, I’ve compiled a list of teams and their members. I’ve given a rough idea on how each player might fare within each tribe (the order in which they’ll get the boot), and in the game as a whole. Since I correctly picked Danni to win Guatemala, here’s hoping I can pick back-to-back winners.

Younger Women:
1) Courtney, age 31 – Dreadlocks aren’t the only feature that make Courtney an easy target. She’s a performance artist, whose bio is filled with buzz words like “self-expression,” “free spirited,” and “circus arts.” Obviously, she’s some kind of hippie. She also loves to travel and has held at least eight different jobs — making her a transient hippie, to boot. On top of all that, she sounds like a stoner in her short video clip. I predict that her tribemates will kick her out after they catch her trying to smoke some coconut leaf.

2) Danielle, age 24 – While she doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with her on first glance, she is from Boston, a city which has produced countless heavily-accented, combative reality stars (e.g., Boston Rob and one Real World cast member per season). Her cultural need to fight and swear will take over, and Danielle will be out.

3) Sally, age 27 – Sally has applied for a spot on Survivor five times, so she may go in with a better game plan than her competition. But if she had to apply five times before getting picked, there may be a reason for that.

4) Misty, 24 – Much like last season’s winner, Danni, Misty’s a former beauty queen who’s a tomboy at heart. She paid her own way through college and works as a mechanical engineer. And, like all overachieving women in their early twenties, she’s training to run a marathon. Misty could be around for a long time.

Older Women:
1) Melinda, 32 – Melinda sings. This will annoy the others. I think I hear the fat lady.

2) Cirie, 35 – In a video clip, Cirie describes herself as boring. For some reason, this makes me want to like her. But boring won’t impress the rest of her Type A tribemates.

3) Ruth Marie, 48 – Ruth Marie’s a bonafide running champion, so she should be an asset in physical challenges. Her favorite musical artist is Elvis, and she looks eerily like she’s had work done to turn her into Priscilla Presley’s doppelganger. Plus, she’s a few decades too old for pigtails. Her unnatural qualities could freak out the others and get her chased out of Tribal Council.

4) Tina, 45 – Tina is the sentimental pick of the season. She was supposed to be on Guatemala, but her only child died in a car accident a few weeks before filming began. It’s cool that she’s back to compete in honor of her son, but her real selling point is that she plays logging sports. Yep, she’s a lumberjill. Besides being totally cool, she’s probably the only one with a clue about how to run a camp.

Younger Men:
1) Bobby, 32 – The oldest of the younger men has several things working against him. First, he’s a lawyer, which means he won’t back down from a confrontation. Second, he describes his personality as a combination of Samuel Jackson and Archie Bunker. If that’s true, it’s one of the worst combos imaginable. Finally, he prefers to go by his nickname, “Bob Dog.” That’s reason enough to get rid of him.

2) Austin, 24 – He’s an author who supplements his income by modelling, so professional jealousy could work against him (I already hate him because of it). He might be the least athletic of the three youngest guys, which puts him next in the pecking order.

3) Aras, 24 – A former pro basketball player in Lithuania, Aras should have no problem handling the physical rigors of the game. But he works as a yoga instructor, which isn’t the most macho profession. He’ll be branded a wimp and get the axe.

4) Nick, 25 – He looks like another super-competent leader type, like Tom from Palau and Hunter from Marquesas. It may be enough to convince the others that he’s worth keeping around.

Older Men:
1) Shane, 35 – In this season’s promo video, Shane compared himself to Colin Farrell. If that’s true, then he’s a stinky drunk who likes to fight. Also, Shane talks about his manipulation skills in his bio. In the past few seasons, the better the contestants thought they were at plotting and scheming, the more obvious their motivations were to their tribemates. As if his team needs any more motivation, the other old dudes could boot him just to show the whipper-snappers that they’re tough, too.

2) Dan, 52 – He’s a retired astronaut, which is about as cool a retired anything you can be. But Dan looks like he might be the least fit, so he won’t last long.

3) Terry, 46 – Terry’s ex-military, which means he can tolerate crappy living conditions. There’s no reason he can’t succeed; he just might not be as cool as the next member of his tribe…

4) Bruce, 58 – Bruce kicks ass. Seriously, he’s a karate instructor. He’s a fifth degree black belt who’s taught submission holds to police officers. Where do you think the guys on Cops learned those sweet takedowns? In addition to that, he’s a high school art teacher. On paper, Bruce is the coolest guy ever to appear on Survivor. After a merge, the twentysomethings will get nostalgic for Karate Kid and won’t get rid of Mr. Miyagi. That’d be like giving in to the Cobra Kai.

Misty, Tina, Nick, and Bruce all seem like good bets to make it a long way in the game — provided that nothing goes wrong, of course. You can never tell from the bios who will align with the wrong people, and who will be seen as a threat and disposed of early.

My pick to win is Bruce. It’s not the smart pick, but I want to live in a world where a 58-year-old art teacher who knows karate can win $1 million for eating bugs and figuring out rope puzzles.