There aren’t a whole lot of people in the “Survivor” universe who we honestly want to see play four times. It’s a lot for anyone to play the game, and typically by the third time you’ve seen most of what they can do.
Luckily, Cirie Fields is one of those exceptions mostly because she plays the game with such joy. She’s one of those people who knows that she’s not your typical “Survivor” player — she hasn’t been a challenge warrior in the past, she’s not the most outdoorsy, and she was definitely underestimated her first two times out. Yet, she’s incredibly dangerous because she’s incredibly smart and knows how to play the game extremely well. Her performance in “Fans vs. Favorites” is probably the best game ever from someone who didn’t make the final Tribal Council — and that’s not easy to say, given that you have people like Rob Cesternino and even David Wright from this past season out there.
While it’s incredibly hard to know what Cirie’s game will look like or how she’ll fare, let’s at least try to get a good read on it in this spotlight.
Past performance – 4th place (“Survivor Panama: Exile Island”), 3rd place (“Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites”), 17th place (“Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains”).
Historical perspective – She was famous for “getting off the couch” to play the game, and she played it hard. She was an exceptional manipulator the first two seasons in particular — she was able to get people to do things that weren’t smart for them just by playing to their instinct or to their emotions. She knew the perception of her and she was able to use that mightily to her advantage. That’s why she famously called herself a “gangster in an Oprah suit,” which remains a FANTASTIC “Survivor” quote.
Her third time around, it was probably just too soon after “Fans vs. Favorites” since very few people trusted her — even with that, it took a really loopy vote to get her out of the game, one that required a vote split and an immunity idol play.
Strengths – She’s very adaptable in the game both in terms of who she’ll work with and what she wants her gameplay to be. If something isn’t working it, she will pivot from it quickly. She’s very smart and understands people exceptionally well. Also, she’s smart to realize moving into this new season that she cannot just go out and do the same things that she previously did and expect to make it all the way to the end. She’s planning to play a lot harder this time, be much more aggressive, and alter the perception of her somewhat to “steel magnolia.” Is this risky? Absolutely, but if you look at Adam Klein, Natalie Anderson, Tony Vlachos, and Mike Holloway, all of these recent past winners played the game super-aggressively. It’s a valid way to go now.
Weaknesses – Her reputation precedes her. Nobody is going to look at Cirie and go “she’s so nice and such a great person around camp — we should keep her.” They’re going to go “what is she up to, because we absolutely know that she could be big trouble.” We get the sense that she wants to do better in challenges, but they’ve been a weak point for her in the past, as well.
Cirie’s biggest issue may also just be this cast. There are only a few select people from her past seasons on here, and they include people like JT (who was against her in “Heroes vs. Villains”) and Ozzy (who was blindsided by her in “Fans vs. Favorites”). Are these two guys going to be desperate to take her down a peg?
Prediction – It feels like we’ve been pretty clear about how great of a player Cirie is at this game — and we think that this time around, she’s going to be aided by the fact that it’s been a while since she was on the show. People like Tony, Sandra, or Ciera could be earlier targets for having big strategic games, and she may improve her challenge ability enough to stay out of harm’s way until the merge … where she really comes alive. The big problem in the end is that when you look at returning-player seasons, most of the time the winners are people who are either under-the-radar (Amber, Sandra), or people who are great at putting people at ease (Jeremy). We’re not sure Cirie 4.0 puts anyone at ease given her history, and she’s certainly not that under-the-radar anymore. She’ll make the merge, but it’s a challenge to seeing her in the final three.
How are you feeling about Cirie entering this season of “Survivor”? Share in the comments, and head over here to get some further news when it comes to the show, including further spotlights! (Photo: CBS.)