Survivor Champ Tyson Apostol Breaks Down Ronnie Bardah’s Early Exit

Poker pro Ronnie Bardah had his torch extinguished on the first episode of Survivor 39 (Robert Voets / CBS photo)

When PocketFives first reached out to me to do a weekly write up on this Survivor season’s poker pro contestant, Ronnie Bardah, I thought this would be a fun new challenge. Them claiming me to be their “favorite* Survivor contestant of all time” only sweetened the deal and even though I never found out what the asterisk was for, I said yes.

Throughout this season on Survivor, it’s 39th, I’ll have the distinct honor of following our friend Bardah throughout his entire Survivor journey. Now let’s get into it!

Instead of a big grand entrance and a day one meeting with host Jeff Probst, tribes were dropped immediately on their corresponding beach, leaving a few of the contestants puzzled. Of course, we the viewers see this season of Survivor is different in that there will be two grizzled veterans, ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine, playing as mentors from a remote location, “The Island of the Idols“, Mariano and Diaz-Twine, of course, being the idols. Teaching the rookies all they need to know about the game. Enough about them, let’s focus on our hero.

Early on we see Ronnie “sitting and watching”. It’s a smart move. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your surroundings before jumping in. You need to feel it out, see who’s interacting with who, see potential allies and enemies. Acting too quick and getting accused of playing too hard could be the worst thing you can be guilty of early on.

One of the main fears when you hit the beach is being the first one voted out, but it’s a fine line between playing too hard and not playing at all. Ronnie should have taken his own advice and sat and watched a bit longer, but when you get the itch to play, it’s hard to pull back.

Our champion, together with Aaron, instigated a seven versus three majority alliance when supposed outcasts Tom, Vince, and Elaine are out working hard for the tribe. Naming names is never a smart move in the game if it can be avoided and while a minor misstep, can compound. Nothing to worry too much about, this can be fixed.

The next we see of our Ronnie, he is trying to bond with the exact person he wants gone, Elaine. Not a bad move. Actually a very good move. You want to keep as many people close to you as possible. Problem is, when you are trying to vibe with someone you don’t connect with at all, you have to be a pretty damn good actor. Unfortunately for Ronnie, Elaine sees right through his ruse.

To make things worse, Ronnie’s tribe, ‘Lairo’, loses the first immunity challenge. Losing the first challenge can be the nail in the coffin, especially if you are at all on the outs. You don’t get those extra days to fortify a foundation. It becomes a mad scramble for your Survivor life. Scrambling makes it worse, but not scrambling at all makes you a sitting duck. We watch as Ronnie continued to throw out Elaine’s name. Things went even worse for Ronnie at tribal council as he dug himself a little deeper and subsequently got voted out. Major bummer!

I’ve spent some time with Ronnie and he’s a good dude. I was rooting for the guy. I know how much he loves this game and wanted to be a part of it.

Was it his fault he got voted out?

Probably. Survivor in many ways is like poker, but in many more ways, it isn’t like poker at all. There is no clear GTO formula to winning the game. You don’t get to practice. You don’t usually get multiple attempts to perfect your game. There are no Survivor themed gyms in strip malls across the country. It’s a one and done deal. A hard lesson that many think about for the rest of their lives whether they want to or not.

I genuinely feel for most people that get voted out of the game, especially the first boots. Especially the first boots you know personally! With our man Ronnie gone, I guess I’m rooting for Boston Rob to take home the milly. Go get’em bro!

Tyson Apostol has competed on Survivor three times, winning it once (Season 27) and considers himself everyone’s favorite Survivor contestant of all-time. He’s the co-host of the critically acclaimed podcast News AF and is a proud Run It Up warrior.