‘Survivor: Cagayan’: Our initial take on the cast, the twist, and our expectations

Given that the “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” finale is still fresh in our minds, and we’re not ready yet to go into full hibernation, this seems like a good chance to assemble a few more thoughts about what we are going to see coming up this February in “Survivor: Cagayan.”

But first (to borrow from another CBS host in Julie Chen), the facts. This season was filmed not long after “Blood vs. Water” in the Philippines, but featuring an all-new cast for what will be the first time since the spring of 2012 with “Survivor: One World.” The tribes will be divided up based on one different characteristic: Beauty, Brains, or Brawn. We’re assuming tribes of three here, since you’re otherwise either having too many or too few castaways.

As someone who went through the Beauties vs. Geeks twist on “Beauty and the Geek,” we feel somewhat uniquely qualified to talk about this. Putting you into a group of like-minded peers is a great idea in theory, and it makes for a bonding experience. You make close relationships with some, but not all. What tends to happen just as much is that you have friction that is formed when these like-minded people tend to compete for who is the “best” beauty, or the “best” geek. Sometimes it’s not on a conscious level, but it happens, and if edited right that can add a different layer to the game. You have a number of people who should be thinking in a similar way trying to make strategic decisions, and it could make playing the game in the pre-merge or pre-tribal swap much more challenging.

When talking about what actually brings you to tribal council, though, we have more concerns. It’s very hard to balance out a challenge for Brains and Beauty, and when you throw in there Brawn, it may be next to impossible. For example, what will the Beauty Tribe bring to immunities? While we’re not really that upset about this (given that we’ll always root for the brainiacs), it’s not like there is going to be a “Survivor” runway challenge. The only real hope that they will have is that they have some characteristics of both of the other tribes. We’re also afraid of the Brains being creamed in the early going, given that we would be less surprised to see a Brawny guy or girl being able to solve a puzzle than a Brainy guy or girl suddenly be able to keep up in a swimming task.

Strategically, there’s no doubting in our mind that this will be great given that you’re probably going to have three different groups desperate to prove that they are more than their labels. But in terms of competitions, this could just end up being “Survivor: Nicaragua” all over again. Like with “Beauties vs. Geeks,” the best thing that “Survivor” can do here is to keep that first part of the twist pretty limited, and then change things up come around episode four or five so that you can really see how each group functions when surrounded by the other.

After a great “Blood vs. Water” season, what are you expecting from ‘Survivor: Cagayan”? Sound off in the comments below! We’ll have a lot more about this season to share as we draw closer, and we plan on doing the castaway spotlight pieces yet again.

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