Survivor Island of the Idols cast: Jamal Shipman has a softer side

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

He knows he may come off as an intimidating force because of his size, but getting to know Survivor: Island of the Idols’ Jamal Shipman speaks otherwise.

A great trend of modern Survivor musclemen cast for the show is that they’re not traditional one-track-minded individuals who follow classic toxic masculinity tropes. With strong men in touch with their softer side such as John Hennigan, Cole Medders, Brad Culpepper and others, the show has started to move away from its classic villain tropes to show villains in all shapes and sizes.

Jamal Shipman doesn’t appear to be on the villain track whatsoever, as he brings the physicality as one of the biggest guys on Island of the Idols while enjoying activities tapping into his intellectual and emotional intelligence.

Thankfully, Jamal has one of the more complete CBS bios out there, painting a picture about his life. An Ivy League graduate from Brown who continues to work in education admissions, he has a history of athletics (tri-varsity in high school, coaching basketball) while also learning to play instruments and acting in a spring play performance.

Jamal is a man of multitudes who is self-aware about the perceptions built around him. As indicated in his Twitter video, he wants to tackle them head-on by approaching others as if they were parents of students at his work, presenting other castaways with information that appears mutually beneficial for both.

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The comparison to his approach to the game of Survivor to that of Sandra Diaz-Twine is a bold one not because it’s one to a winner, but because typically big, strong men don’t model their game after that kind of winner. That kind of thinking, knowing they purport to be a physical threat yet leans into their social prowess that can win friends and influence people, makes Jamal a compelling casting choice.

Going with the teddy bear approach while tapping into players’ emotional needs will help him follow his other Survivor player comparisons such as Jeremy Collins. Being able to cry over other people sharing stories such as Savage’s brutal, heartwarming tale of his hot model girlfriend leaving then coming back, we’ll have to see how Jamal reacts to such an “emotional” story.

Having knowledge of the game and being able to tap into others’ basic needs, while bringing physically dominant challenge gameplay, should help Jamal thrive well through the merge and beyond. While I doubt he will want to play the mastermind role considering his threat level as a potential challenge beast, he seems like he can maintain strength in his numbers by keeping everyone emotionally involved.

Because of that emotional intelligence exhibited, I don’t doubt that he’ll find himself in the majority alliance at Vokai from the start. Having the background in conversation to bro down with the guys or work well with the women, I have no doubts in his abilities early on.

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Barring a complete meltdown remarkably out of left field or a swap screw, look for Jamal to make the merge and be targeted only when others wake up to his potential to win the game.