January 09, 2006 at 08:21 PM EST

This is it, people: the season I finally break my superlong losing streak in my sister’s office Survivor pool and claim that juicy cash prize. Then I’ll finally be able to afford that one-of-a-kind kitty lamp that’s beckoning me on eBay.

Sure, I know it’s not going to be easy. For starters, it appears Mark Burnett has gone and shaken up the game for its 12th incarnation, Survivor: Panama — Exile Island (premiering Feb. 2). The 16 players will be split into four tribes, divvied up by gender and age, and then merged into two tribes in the second episode. And, as CBS told us at the end of last season, each week one contestant will be sent packing to an isolated island where he or she can search for a hidden immunity idol to use at future Tribal Councils.

So here’s what I’m thinking. After checking out the latest set of castaways at CBS.com, I’m automatically eliminating struggling actor Austin Carty (bottom row, second from left), who once played ”Young Dan” on One Tree Hill and then was banished to Waitstaff Island, as well as Terry Deitz (top row, far right), because it seems those gruff, former military dudes always get regarded as too much of a threat once individual immunity kicks in. I’m also ruling out high school art teacher Bruce Kanegai (top row, fourth from right), who looks a little too crunchy for this cutthroat game, and Tennessee native Melinda Hyder (top row, second from left), who’s smiling way too broadly in her publicity shot.

On the flip side, I’m declaring Dan Barry (top row, third from right), Cirie Fields (top row, third from left), and Danielle DiLorenzo (bottom row, far right) as my early frontrunners. After all, Dan’s been to outer space three times. How hard can the Panamanian wilderness look by comparison? Cirie, meanwhile, lists fishing, cooking, and carpentry among her skills, and Danielle, well, she just reminds me a little bit of my all-time favorite Survivor player, Stephenie (yeah, the one I foolishly didn’t select in my top-three last season).

Nonetheless, as my dubious record indicates, I’m not the sharpest Survivor-pool strategist, and I can use all the help you’ll give me, PopWatchers. So tell me: Which of the new crop of castaways do you think is most likely to be named sole Survivor? And who’s an automatic throw-out for a gambling man such as myself? Weigh in now!

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