Decoding Cagayan: Analysing The Cast Before & After


Monday is the first day of the week (for most) and that of course means it’s time for another Survivor Oz feature! Today we see Ozlet Ivan Ornelas bring out his magnifying glass and give us his analysis of the cast of the most recent season of Cagayan both before the season began as well as after it has finished! It certainly is an interesting look at the thoughts of some and how pre-game perceptions didn’t always necessarily meet the expectations of the fans! You’re keen to find out what is said right? Well enough reading, click below to find out more!

After a very interesting and fun to watch season, the curtain has fallen on Survivor Cagayan, Survivor’s 28th season. Next up is another round of Blood vs. Water this time taking place in San Juan Del Sur, finally leaving the Philippines but returning to the familiar nation of Nicaragua. But first let’s take a look at the amazing a cast both before and after the season:

David Samson


Before the season: Had an interesting perspective of the show and being only the 2nd contestants to participate with a baseball history (the other being Jeff Kent from Philippines), it would be interesting to see how he’d approach the game.

After the season: We’re used to the saying “go big or go home”, but after David Samson, I guess it should be “go big and go home”, at least that’s what happens in Survivor. David got punished for a big move he made early on and he stood by it in the reunion show, which was odd. If he ever gets brought back he’d be another Francesca.

Garrett Adelstein

Before the season: Most people including myself thought he’d either get very far or not far at all because of his triple threat status on paper. He seemed like he would be an easy fit for brains, beauty, or brawn.

After the season: Once he was voted off, I literally asked the TV “who doesn’t take their idol with them to Tribal Council?” Like Reynold Toepfer said two seasons prior, “isn’t that Survivor 101?”. However in his defense I’m not sure if I would’ve still used the idol even if I brought it if I were him because J’Tia deserved to go, but there wouldn’t have been any dilemma if he didn’t try to micromanage his entire tribe. Like David, he played too hard too fast and in this current era of Survivor it’s important to find the balance between over and under playing.

Brice Johnston


Before the season: Hot off the heels of Blood vs. Water, Brice had everyone worried that we had a Colton 2.0 on our hands, while I thought he’d be more of a Michael Snow: a silly, quirky player but who looked like he had some tricks up his sleeve. He definitely seemed like a colourful character, and it was interesting to find out about the song he recorded called “Freak” (warning: contains potentially offensive language)

After the season: Unfortunately the numbers stacked up against Brice and he finished in 16th place. He certainly went out with a bang though, with some funny lines like “dot dot dot mmmhmmm” and “she’s not the brightest crayon in the box” and he was very much missed.

J’Tia Taylor


Before the season: She left a good impression on the fans. Confident, smart, beautiful, many people thought she was likely to win the season.

After the season: That all went away after the premier episode. Everything went wrong for J’Tia except she somehow managed to avoid her torch being snuffed and survived two Tribal Councils. Her luck didn’t last much longer as she became too much of a burden for her tribe to carry. Despite her gameplay, she still maintained a decent fan base though so I give her credit for being that interesting to some people.

Cliff Robinson


Before the season: Being the first ever former NBA player to compete on Survivor and at least two heads taller than a lot of his fellow castmates meant it would be an interesting but possibly difficult journey for Cliff since he’s such an easy target early on. Very few people predicted he’d go deep into the merge.

After the season: He was an interesting character at times and had some good moments, most of them being in challenges where he displayed his strength, most notably in the basketball challenge and Kicking and Screaming (Jeremiah and Spencer had no hope prying Cliff off the pole), but his social game let him down a bit which resulted in Trish and Tony blindsiding him. I know I missed him a bit after he left.

Lindsey Ogle


Before the season: She reminded me of Jessica “Flicka” Smith from Survivor: Cook Islands but she seemed like she wouldn’t get far probably because of her personality that seemed destined to clash with someone else in the game.

After the season: That person she clashed with ended up being Trish. We got a few tense moments and clever insults out of it but it culminated with Lindsey quitting to prevent the conflict from escalating. Quitters usually never get much respect from the fan base but her reasons for quitting (mainly keeping in mind how she would appear to her young daughter) even had Jeff impressed.

Alexis Maxwell


Before the season: She seemed like a stuck up but cute airhead. She didn’t seem shy about her body at all but also appeared condescending with some things she said pre game, such as “The boys aren’t gonna vote me off, do they want to stare at ugly girls all day?”.

After the season: Alexis was one of the more under edited contestants this season but we usually saw her being a typical Beauty tribe member, especially with the chicken/egg conversations. Her most memorable challenge moment was pulling a Paloma in the Kicking and Screaming challenge where she didn’t last long at all, and overplaying cost her the game. It’s a bit of a mixed bag: several fans loved her, others didn’t really care for her and considered her a floater.

Sarah Lacina


Before the season: She appeared to be another strong favourite to win the game, even though prior to this season police officers didn’t have an impressive track record in Survivor (the most recent one, Nina Acosta from One World, being the 2nd eliminated that season), but Sarah seemed to be different. She seemed like she knew the game pretty well and would be the type of person people would want to work with, and she and Tony had everyone looking forward to how an alliance between those two would look like.

After the season: Sarah had a strong start to the game, creating good relationships with everyone on her tribe but things started going south when she started believing everything Tony said even though she knew Tony had lied to him about his occupation. She was willing to throw a challenge to get rid of Cliff even though throwing challenges is never a good idea, and she handled her swing vote position which resulted in Kass flipping and sending her to the jury. Despite her mistakes she was definitely one of the most liked players this season and was cool to watch.

Morgan McLeod


Before the season: Most of the Survivor fan base agreed she was one of, if not the most, attractive contestants of the season and it was no shock she was put on the Beauty tribe. However, she was subsequently the common prediction for 1st boot.

After the season: Well she didn’t even end up being the first one voted off of her tribe. She was never fully in control of the season but to last as far as she did given her expectations was good for her, and she had a few funny moments (“Who’s Jeremy?”, along with her entire dialogue in her exit Tribal Council). Probably not one of the more memorable contestants from Cagayan though.

LJ McKanas


Before the season: Probably the player who least belonged on the Beauty tribe, mainly because even he felt like he’d be better off as a brain or brawn. He seemed like if Solana were to have any success it would be because of him, and he was the easiest person to predict to be chosen leader during the first impressions twist.

After the season: LJ definitely looked like the most sure of himself from a game perspective from the original Solana members. He was an all around threat who found himself in tough jams but managed to survive (such as the Cliff vote) but unfortunately he got too comfortable and Tony managed to blindside him. Despite being a decent player he did draw a lot of criticism for being “boring”. However LJ did realize this on his Survivor Live interview with Parvati Shallow, saying Tony was the reason he was so boring to lessen the target on his back (unfortunately for him it didn’t work)

Jeremiah Wood

Before the season: He definitely had his similarities with Tocantins winner and Heroes vs. Villains contestants J.T. Thomas but I know I didn’t get much of a read on him aside from being a straight up hard working good guy going into the season.

After the season: He definitely remained to be one of the quieter contestants of the season which was full of interesting personalities, but when it really mattered for Jeremiah he showed to have something going on up in his head and he did try to play the game but didn’t have many opportunities to, especially after the merge. He’ll likely be most remembered for “revealing his secret” of being a model to Spencer and Tasha and for saying “you know” 20 times in every secret scene of his.

Jefra Bland


Before the season: Like Jeremiah, Jefra reminded me of a past winner in Natalie White. She had the interesting backstory of beating cancer and being Miss Kentucky and all that, and her charm had a lot of people thinking she was a dark horse to win this season.

After the season: I don’t think many people were shocked that Jefra was the last original Solana member standing. She played a Natalie-esque game, building social bonds whenever she went and seemingly put herself in a decent position to win until she was blindsided. Definitely a well liked contestant.

Tasha Fox


Before the season: Like J’Tia, Tasha appeared to be the one of the most promising contestants from the Luzon tribe. She shocked a lot of people with her age, being close to 40 despite look like she was in her early 20s. I was definitely intrigued to see how she would approach the game since she had a lot of potential.

After the season: She didn’t disappoint. She was a strong strategic, social, and physical player, winning 3 individual immunity challenges in a row. She looked like the biggest threat to win the game during her winning streak if she could get to the end, but she was too dangerous for the cast to keep around once her winning streak ended. She definitely gained a lot of fans and respect and is probably the most likely female Cagayan contestant to come back in the future along with Kass.

Trish Hegarty


Before the season: In the last few seasons we’ve seen a lot of middle aged women get far: Denise Stapley, Lisa Whelchel, Dawn Meehan, Sherri Biethman, Laura Morett, Monica Culpepper, and Tina Wesson, so it had me wondering how Trish Hegarty would compare to them because despite the screen time the above mentioned managed, many of them didn’t have too many interesting moments.

After the season: I certainly didn’t expect Trish to have as much of an impact as she did this season. And it is important to mention how important Trish was for Tony’s success, keeping his allies calm in the wake of Tony making some big moves. Trish was a central part of the game from beginning to end in both strategic and entertainment fronts and I’m glad she got as far as she did.

Spencer Bledsoe


Before the season: Well to say he appeared to be a jerk was a bit of an understatement. I don’t think Spencer had too many fans before the season started, having been portrayed as the big antagonist of the season.

After the season: With 34K Twitter followers, Spencer is clearly the most popular player of the season. His journey throughout the game which put him as an underdog ever since Garrett’s boot intrigued a huge portion of the fan base and he played a strong game overall. I definitely enjoyed him on this season and he turned out to be a cool guy, a complete opposite to his pre-season jerk persona (thought we did see some funny remnants of that throughout the season).

Kass McQuillen

Before the season: One of the contestants with very little expectations, even Jeff didn’t seem to convinced that she was a mainstay for this season. She did warn us that she was very prepared to play the game, a warning I don’t think many people including myself took seriously.

After the season: But we were wrong. From the premier we witnessed how Kass was going to approach the game: strong but maybe a bit rashly, deciding to vote out Garrett despite the tribe desperately needing strength, and not J’Tia. Dubbing herself “ChaosKass” she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty but made a lot of enemies on and off the island in the process. She did address the elephant in the room by bringing up a valid argument: would as many people be critical of her gameplay if she was Tony, because when you think of it despite their conflicts they did play similarly.

Woo Hwang


Before the season: Another winner comparison with Nicaragua’s Fabio Birza seemed apparent. Woo seemed like a popular player going into the season with his laidback personality and being a type of player we haven’t seen of in a while, at least from the Asian contestants (heck, he was the first new Asian male contestant since Jonas Otsuji from One World). He and Spencer (who I was hoping wasn’t as mean as he initially appeared to be) were my pre-season favourites.

After the season: It’ll be difficult to forget Woo’s mistake in voting out Kass instead of Tony, similar to Colby voting out Keith instead of Tina back in Australia, but despite that dumb move he did a good job overall. Many people saw him as a floater but just because most of your screen time isn’t game related (like Tony) doesn’t mean your head is not in the game. Besides, with Woo being a young physical strong player, it would’ve been bad for his game to be an open strategic player (like Garrett). Like Tony said “Woo couldn’t separate the game from real life, so he’s a winner in real life” which perfectly describes Woo. Wasn’t he fun to watch at the reward with those kids? Woo was just a fun guy overall.

Tony Vlachos


Before the season: Anyone who compares himself to Russell and Rob is subject to high expectations from viewers, since a lot of other recent contestants claimed to be as strong of players as they were strategically but didn’t even up playing like them at all. (I remember in Jeff’s South Pacific cast assessment he predicted Mikayla Wingle would be a female Boston Rob: clearly that wasn’t the case). Tony appeared to be on the antagonist track along with Spencer with all his talk about being willing to lie and cheat and all that, and of course being a cop like Sarah (and Sarah being able to tell he’s a cop just from looking at him), it seemed like Tony would be in the middle of the plot in Cagayan.

After the season: Throughout the season Tony was constantly compared to Russell Hantz but in the culmination of his Cagayan experience it proves he was a better player and very different from Russell, and ultimately a very unique contestant and winner. He did break a lot of promises and play the game hard but he recovered from his mistakes, continued trying his hardest no matter how big of a target he could’ve become, and ultimately his efforts paid off and he did what he said he would and won the game. Overall he played a game worthy of becoming the Sole Survivor and I don’t think too many people will categorize him as a winner who didn’t deserve to win (personally I think every winner in Survivor deserved their win, it’s just how the game goes).

Overall I hope I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed this cast on Survivor: Cagayan. It’s been a really good season and whoever’s competing on San Juan Del Sur have a tough act to follow.


Do you agree or disagree with Ivan? Which players completely shocked you in the game from your pre-game thoughts? Comment below to let us know!

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8 Comments on Decoding Cagayan: Analysing The Cast Before & After

  1. In my opinion, one of the best casts ever

  2. Personally, J’Tia surprised me the most. Before the game, I just know something’s wrong with her. During the game, I kinda liked her but then she turned out to be the most pathetic castaway this season. After the game, I did not expect a fan base to build up. So she must be doing something right? I guess.

    Kass is another pleasant surprise. Initially, she came off as an unassuming old lady. But in the game, she’s like a merciless, villainous banshee. Who would have guessed that?!

  3. This season was the best new cast ever and 2nd cast of all time behind heroes vs villains. I don’t think that there has been a cast with so many there to win ever in the shows history. There were 5 people who played a good strategic game 1st Tony 2nd Kass 3rd Spencer 4th Trish and 5th Tasha. Spencer and Tasha dominated the Physical game each winning 3 Individual immunizes. Woo was the worst strategic player since season 2 like for real he cringed at the thought of strategy lol. Tony I fully believe is the best player to ever play this game. Russell is 2nd Parvati is 3rd.

    Cagayan brought the life back to survivor it was the 1st truly exiting season since HvV BvW was ok but not that great. From season 21-27 survivor was a bit of a drag I just hope BvW2 is able to live up to the standards.

    The beauties were there for the looks not on person from that tribe won an individual immunity challenge and were all miraculously blind sided be the legend Tony.

    Over all i rank this season no.2 🙂

  4. Garrett didn’t bring his idol to tribal because of the fight between J’Tia & Kass.

  5. Nice list, but it really annoys me when people say Spencer and tasha dominated puzzles. Kass was by far the best puzzle solver out there as proved many times. Also, Trish was useless and rid Tony’s coattails.

    • 1.I am aware that Kass did great in puzzles, however Tasha and Spencer did win more immunity challenges than Kass.
      2.Trish kept Tony’s alliance from falling apart and Tony wouldn’t have won the game without Trish. It was Trish’s idea to get rid of Cliff.

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