‘Survivor: Game Changers’ cast: Can Brad Culpepper succeed without the bonds of ‘Blood vs. Water’?

CBS’s “Survivor: Game Changers” is set to premiere this Wednesday, and one of the returning players is Brad Culpepper, back for his second chance following a short run on “Blood vs. Water” (Season 27). In his original season, Brad’s attention was divided between his own game and that of his wife, Monica Culpepper. Will playing alone for the first time be the key to Brad’s success? Read my analysis of how his past performance is likely to impact his game and then make your own “Survivor” predictions ahead of the first episode.

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The original “Blood vs. Water” season is one of the series’ best because it challenged the veterans in a way they hadn’t been challenged before, by pitting them against the needs of their own loved ones. The first player on that season to test the limits of this concept was Brad and though it ultimately led to his early elimination (he was the sixth to go, placing 15th) the season was permanently changed because of his actions.

Brad formed an early alliance with the male members of his tribe and when they lost the first three immunity challenges he took a leadership role in determining who would go home. Those first three eliminations were all motivated by how that person’s loved one on the other tribe would react — Brad targeted the members of his own tribe that had loved ones on the other tribe perceived to be the strongest. For Brad, these decisions were not only moves to improve his own chances in the game, but also to protect what he believed to be Monica’s chances.

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When his tribe lost the fourth straight immunity challenge, Brad’s allies had already begun to turn on him, sensing that he was using them to do his dirty work and that he may turn on them next. Additionally, Brad continued to publicly butt heads with Candice Cody and John Cody at Redemption Island, casting a dark cloud over any good will he had earned from either tribe. With all this baggage and uncertainty, Brad was the next to go.

Heading into “Game Changers,” Brad’s focus will no longer be split between how his own game is affecting his wife’s so immediately he will be freed of some of the baggage that weighed him down last time. He’ll also be battling a perception that he’s loud, egotistical and untrustworthy, but on a season of game-changing veterans, he’s not the only one. To win, he’ll need to help his tribe win some of the initial challenges, allowing him time to bond with tribe members free of the complications of tribal councils. I think that with a chance to build personal connections, Brad could actually become trustworthy enough to last deep into the game.

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Get a closer look at the Season 34 contestants by clicking through our cast photo gallery. In our “Survivor” predictions center, you get to answer the following questions before each episode airs on CBS every Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET.:

Who will win “Survivor”?

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Who will win Immunity?

Will a hidden idol be played?

Will anybody quit or be medevaced?

Who will win ‘Survivor: Game Changers’? See exclusive odds

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Survivor” in our reality TV forum.

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