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Handicapping the final five ‘Survivor’ players

On Sunday, Dec. 13, this season of “Survivor” will come to a close.

Five contestants will face off in challenges for reward and immunity, and then head to Tribal Council repeatedly. Later, those who make it to the end will ask the “Survivor Cook Islands” jury to vote for them.

“Survivor” has no rules as to what should guide a jury member’s vote, so a number of factors come into play: How often the person has lied or told the truth, how competent and helpful they are around camp, and how physically strong they are.

This season, there will be one more, as the cast — and many viewers — will be surprised by yet another twist. (Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know the twist, which host Jeff Probst has already revealed publicly.) This season, for the first time in the show’s history, the jury will have to make a choice between three finalists, not two. Much of the strategizing that takes place in the final three days focuses on which two people will face the jury, and the presence of a third changes that. That third person, then, will significantly impact both the remaining contestant’s game play and the jury’s vote.

As the finale approaches, here’s a look at the final five players, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their chances of either becoming a member of the jury—or asking the jury for their vote.

Yul
Chance of winning: Excellent, assuming he doesn’t let his power go to his head

Monty Brinton / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
Yul Kwon a management consultant from San Mateo, Calif. (Originally From Flushing, New York) is one of the 20 new castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS when the Emmy-Award winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 14 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

From the moment Yul found the immunity idol on Exile Island, he’s been in a position of power, and since then, he has used the immunity idol’s power and his own intelligence to bring both himself and his allies far in the game. His strategizing has continued unabated in the presence of adversity and has excelled when he found himself with an advantage.

Yul hasn’t made a major mistake yet, which makes jury members very likely to vote for him. He’s likeable and competent, friendly and intelligent — and he’s played the game without stabbing anyone in the back (except Jonathan, but no one really cares about Jonathan).

However, Yul has been a little bit grumpy and even a bit arrogant recently, and that could hurt him, especially if it gets worse.

When others accused him of being in control of the game, he firmly denied it at first, but now seems to be reveling in his role as leader. In this sense, Yul is his own worst enemy, although he realizes that one of his allies, Ozzy, is truly his biggest threat. Now Yul has to figure out when to betray his friendship and alliance with the man he doesn’t want to face off against at the end of the game, and that could be his greatest challenge yet.

OzzyChance of winning: Excellent, assuming the final challenges remain physical ones

Monty Brinton / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
Oscar "Ozzy" Lusth a waiter from Venice, Calif. is one of the 20 new castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS when the Emmy-Award winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 14 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ozzy has been compared to many animals this season. He swims like a dolphin, runs like a cheetah, and scales trees like an animal that climbs trees quickly. His physical prowess is definitely his greatest attribute, as he’s won three of the four individual immunity challenges effortlessly, and helped his tribes win many other challenges. Whatever he does, he’s good at, whether that’s swimming, walking balance beams, clinging to the tops of poles, or assembling puzzles.

His nearly constant positive attitude and demeanor can’t be discounted, either, nor can the fact that he’s played the game relatively independently. As Yul said, “he’s playing a straight-up game and he’s doing a hell of a job with it.” Ozzy is a member of a strong four-person alliance, but his strategy never really irritates anyone because he always appears to be acting rationally. Ozzy told us that he’s been playing a one-person game since the beginning, and that may just take him to the end.

If Ozzy and Yul make it to the end of the game, they’ll be the most-deserving, well-liked players in the history of the game.

But they’ll also present the jury with a very difficult decision.

BeckyChances of winning: Okay, if she sticks with Yul and differentiates herself

Monty Brinton / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
Becky Lee an attorney from Washington, D.C.(originally from Pittsburgh, Penn.), is one of the 20 new castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS when the Emmy-Award winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 14 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As a member of the four-person alliance, Becky’s in a strong position, but she’s not exactly strong herself. She was almost voted out early in the game because she was perceived as being weak; her alliance with Yul helped save her.

While Becky and Yul have talked about strategy and made decisions together, it’ll be hard for her to shake the image in the jury members’ minds that she’s riding Yul’s coattails. Perhaps that’s a fair assessment, and it may be one she can use to her advantage if Yul makes a strategic error that alienates members of the jury. If she ends up with Yul at the end, though, she’ll have a difficult time proving that she deserves to win more than he does.

Sundra
Chance of winning: a role on a TV show? Great. “Survivor?” Not so
much.

Monty Brinton / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
Sundra Oakley an Actress from Los Angeles (originally From New York City) is one of the 20 new castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS when the Emmy-Award winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 14 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After losing the reward challenge, Sundra told her tribemate (and alliance-mate) Becky, “we’ve been rolling with the punches together.” That basically describes her strategy, which has been to stick with her group of four through bad times and good. That loyalty certainly could be rewarded, but the jury might not know why they should give her with $1 million for that.

Even the preview for Sunday’s finale had a difficult time describing Sundra’s role in the game, identifying her as “The Heart,” the person who’s sympathetic and kind. Those are great attributes, but not necessarily ones that help a person win a game designed to test one’s ability to “outwit, outplay, and outlast.”

Interestingly, Sundra is one of many actors on this season of “Survivor” (she’s appeared on “CSI: Miami,” among other shows), so perhaps she’s using her acting skills to conceal her strategy from us and some of her fellow players. But again, she’d better let the jury know what she’s been doing, or else her performance might be ignored.

Adam
Chance of winning: Getting worse by the minute

Monty Brinton / CBS ENTERTAINMENT
Adam Gentry a copier sales person, from San Diego, Calif. (originally from fredricksburg, Virginia) is one of the 20 new castaways set to compete in SURVIVOR: COOK ISLANDS when the Emmy-Award winning reality series premieres Thursday, Sept. 14 (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adam’s biggest problem right now is that he’s the last person on a five-person tribe that’s composed of an alliance of four and himself. He’s the next logical person to go. However, he’s been the next logical person to go for a few weeks now. The alliance has kept Adam around in large part because he seems incompetent and dumb.

His greatest strength, it seems, has been flirting with women on his original tribe. That’s worked for him and kept him in the game this long. “I think my best shot is to win challenges,” Adam said about his future strategy. But as host Jeff Probst said to Adam at Tribal Council, “You seem to be the biggest physical threat — on paper.” In other words, Adam can’t perform. But if he keeps performing so poorly and appearing to be such a minimal threat, he could be carried along until it’s too late for the others to get rid of him, and that could be the best strategy of all.

is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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