If you don’t know the theme and cast for season forty of Survivor in the USA you are living underneath Fabio’s tree or keep your social media use to a minimum. Since filming is nearing completion, and these are the last days before spoilers will inevitably leak. . .it’s time to make predictions!
Alright. Here’s the cast for Survivor 40: ALL WINNERS EDITION.
Amber Mariano, Survivor Australian Outback. 6th place. Survivor All Stars. Winner.
Ethan Zohn, Survivor Africa. Winner. Survivor All Stars. 11th place.
Rob Mariano, Survivor Marquesas. 10th place. Survivor All Stars. 2nd place. Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. 13th place. Survivor Redemption Island. Winner. Survivor Island of the Idols. Coach.
Sandra Diaz-Twine, Survivor Pearl Islands. Winner. Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. Winner. Survivor Island of the Idols. Dragon Slayer.
Danni Boatwright, Survivor Guatemala. Winner.
Yul Kwon, Survivor Cook Islands. Winner.
Parvati Shallow, Survivor Cook Islands. 6th place. Survivor Micronesia. Winner. Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. 2nd place.
Tyson Apostol, Survivor Tocantins. 8th place. Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. 14th place (yes, they won the reward challenge and therefore bumped up to 14th–sorry James). Survivor Blood vs. Water. Winner.
Sophie Clarke, Survivor South Pacific. Winner.
Kim Spradlin, Survivor One World. Winner.
Denise Stapley, Survivor Philippines. Winner.
Tony Vlachos, Survivor Cagayan. Winner. Survivor Game Changers. 19th place.
Sarah Lacina, Survivor Cagayan. 11th place. Survivor Game Changers. Winner.
Natalie Anderson, Survivor San Juan Del Sur. Winner.
Jeremy Collins, Survivor San Jan Del Sur. 11th place. Survivor Cambodia. Winner.
Michele Fitzgerald, Survivor Kaoh Rong. Winner.
Adam Klein, Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X. Winner.
Ben Driedenbergen, Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Winner?
Wendell Holland, Survivor Ghost Island. Winner.
Nick Wilson, Survivor Davids vs. Goliaths. Winner.
So there we go. This is the ONLY returnee theme that has ever interested me over the past few years. Given how dreadful casting returnee seasons has been since The Amazing Race 11 and arguably Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. . .yeah, CBS doesn’t exactly have the best track record for knowing who to bring back across its three major franchises.
Game Changers, Cambodia, and Edge of Extinction are all in my bottom three seasons that have aired since Survivor: One World. Given that is a span of fifteen seasons, that is saying a lot.
Big Brother Canada 5 was bad enough that I haven’t been able to get into watching it again since then.
The Amazing Race 24 and The Amazing Race 31 are easily two of my least favourite seasons to air since the end of TAR’s Dark Ages at the end of TAR 16.
So why do returnee seasons always suck way harder than any cast of newbies? I’ll very briefly run through the reasons:
a) It becomes more about who you know in casting and who you have sucked up to over the years in production.
b) Production tends to get really lazy with what they do during the season as they assume the personalities will be enough.
c) Engaging with fans online becomes unbearable as there are very established and intense fan bases for each individual contestant.
d) A meta game full of pre-game alliances and outside relationships are suddenly relevant.
e) Everyone is too aware of the camera or the post-production nature of these shows.
f) The first time was for the adventure and the experience. . .this time it’s to be the biggest gamebot possible and be absolutely no fun at all.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN:
One of two players to not have appeared in sixteen years between his previous appearance and current appearance, and just under two decades since his initial appearance, seeing Ethan return is a very welcoming surprise. Especially when his bogged down immune system was rumoured to keep him out of this game.
Ethan was the first to throw an immunity challenge pre-merge to eliminate a big threat.
Ethan was the first to be in a position where no matter who won final immunity he would be taken to the end and win the game.
Ethan was the only winner on the original All Stars who dodged a ton of Tribal Councils and snuck into merge just for being so damn likable. The other three winners and Cesternino went home very early on All Stars.
Ethan is the most likable player in this cast and is not considered a strategic threat. No one will have the heart to eliminate him early, he is strong enough in challenges, and is strategic enough that he can get himself out of tough situations.
Ethan is one of the few who could win a jury vote at the end without having a “resume” or whatever strategic justification needed to crown a winner.
Perhaps Probst’s least favourite winner in recent memory is back for another go. She wasn’t respected then and that is great news in a season like this. Michele will have an easy time flying under the radar.
Denise went to every single Tribal Council in her season. The minority alliance was aware late in the game that Denise was the biggest threat–but Skupin, Lisa, and Malcolm never did anything about it until it was too late.
Despite being the only person to win by attending every TC, a lot of people don’t see Denise as a top tier winner.
That reputation, much like Michele’s, will be great for her early on in the game. She is the Master Appeaser and will probably be the most manipulative of this whole cast.
Natalie is the closest anyone has come to winning Survivor as a lone soldier. She never had a solid alliance, and just found a way to temporarily win people over and have them really close to her. She never bounced ideas off of another player–she was always her own counsel.
Natalie’s instincts are ridiculously good in Survivor. Scary good. She should be perceived as the scariest winner in this whole cast, but I don’t think she is.
She is good in challenges, she can find idols, and can have her closest allies blindsided but then find her way into new alliances where people trust her.
If I had to put money on somebody winning every time they played, it would be Natalie.
LATE POST-MERGE BOOT:
Much like Rob Mariano, it’s tough to know if everyone else will view her win as easy given her competition.
Kim was the brightest star on her season. . .against the likes of Kat, Leif, Chelsea, and Tarzan post-merge.
Her biggest rival was. . .Troyzan????
I am curious to see how cautious Kim plays this go around. I think the further she makes it into the game the more aware players are that she is truly a strong player and not just the strongest of the weakest.
It doesn’t help that she is the strongest female challenge beast on paper along with Natalie in this season.
Wendell rides the middle ground so well. He is such a great talker and is able to get people on his side with his charm. He is respected and people listen to his voice. However, Wendell was in a lot of trouble from final six or seven onwards of Ghost Island. Multiple idols between him and Dom as well as a Final Four twist and two late immunity wins were needed to secure himself a spot in the winner’s circle.
He’ll have some bars as he battles against the other players, but I don’t think he’ll have all of the bars.
EARLY POST-MERGE BOOT:
Out of every winner ever other than Ben, Adam was in the hot seat so many times. He had one of the worst early pre-merge and early post-merge performances in Survivor history.
His comeback in Millennials vs. Gen X was truly impressive.
Out of any one-time player in this cast, Adam has probably made the largest number of mistakes. Go back and watch. Adam was frequently playing damage control throughout the whole game. It is always a roller coaster for him. Even in the finale he went from finding an idol in the finale to playing it on the wrong person because he was outwitted by Hannah.
I can’t see Adam going home pre-merge as players will have their eyes on others around them, but early post-merge is where Adam will have the most trouble once again. Too many eyes will be on him when he makes a mistake.
Danni was known as the winner who was so sneaky that she even hid her game from producers for the entire season. That’s the reputation she holds in the community.
Once merge hits, everyone will be aware she is the sneakiest player left in the game and will be keen to take her out. Rafe won’t be able to save her this time.
A tribe will always rally around Yul as their captain before the merge–all through the six or seven tribe switches we will see.
However, Yul will face the same problem he did in Cook Islands–a majority alliance will have him at the top of their hit list.
There won’t be any super idols to deflect the target this time around (or at least we hope not). Yul will be by far the toughest to beat in a Final Tribal Council. No one will let him anywhere near it.
Parvati was saved by Fairplay essentially quitting in the first round of Micronesia, a Final Two twist, Kathy’s evacuation, a lucky tribe switch, and Erik botching every bit of the final five round in Micronesia.
Nick is a player who needed a similar run of good luck from start to finish in his victory. If Pat wasn’t evacuated, Nick was going home that night. Nick needed a lot of post-merge idols in his alliance and a finale immunity run to secure his victory too.
The tactics Nick used in Davids vs. Goliaths won’t work here. I see him being out of his element and not taken too seriously by the other players. Early pre-merge exit seems fitting.
I can’t see her being too great at scrambling given what has transpired when she has been in the hot seat in both of her seasons. Lex isn’t around to be Lex again.
LATE PRE-MERGE BOOT:
Do you want to face off against Tyson in individual challenges? Didn’t think so. Tyson is the biggest challenge beast in this cast, and it won’t go unnoticed. He’ll need to have his arm in a sling again to avoid the target.
As much as it pains me to say it. . .winning Survivor twice is still winning Survivor twice.
Sandra is just as obvious of a target now as she was in Game Changers. I expect Changa’s record to go from 2-0 to 2-2 by the end of Survivor 40.
Sandra was by far the biggest threat in Game Changers which made her doomed the second she got onto the beach and made a 15th place finish seem like a miracle. . .but again, she has won Survivor twice. If anyone knows how hard it is to win twice, it is nineteen other winners who haven’t won twice.
Jeremy is such a wildcard for me to place. Much like Rob, Yul, and Tyson, Jeremy is a natural leader within this batch of winners. His physique always stands out.
In San Juan Del Sur, he was a massive target the second we hit merge and was brutally blindsided fast.
In Cambodia, multiple idols and being in an alliance with more inept players like Tasha and Spencer helped him get to the end.
I think Jeremy is absolutely screwed the second he is in a minority alliance, and I doubt anyone would want to take him into a merge.
I think Sophie will have a tough time finding someone willing to take her to the end. Sophie had a very strong Final Tribal Council performance, and is an extremely observant player while somehow having a strong independent personality at the same time.
She is a well-educated thinker, and others are going to be aware of Sophie’s calculations.
I see Sophie making a late game slip-up or major error in judgment and be on the receiving end of a brutal exit shortly before the end of the game–much like how she nearly blew it right before the end of South Pacific. Dammit, Albert!
EARLY PRE-MERGE BOOT:
Rob becomes the first player to be on Survivor on five separate seasons. Half of Mariano’s appearances saw him go home pre-merge, and another time he was against what I predicted pre-season would be the worst cast of newbies ever.
While a natural leader, Mariano is the only player who needed four attempts to win and did so against the worst cast of newbies ever assembled and Russell Hantz. I think even Probst’s niece could dominate a season in that format.
Given how much better the players will be this time around, and the only person to have a public pre-game alliance entering the game, Rob won’t be able to survive the early target on his back.
Tony will either make it to the end or go home very early. There aren’t too many winners who will have that distinction every time they play. I can’t see any middle ground for Tony.
Sarah went from being one of the least threatening players on a returnee season to now being one of the most gamebotty dominant female winners Survivor has ever seen.
Officer Sarah won’t be able to fade in the background this time around as she is too recent and has played too many times.
Given the absence of extremely successful winners such as Tom Westman, Hatch, Tina Wesson, Chris Daugherty, Earl Cole, Brian Heidik, and Todd Herzog, Parvati is going to really stick out like a sore thumb.
Parvati has one of the longest layoffs amongst everyone in this cast at a full decade (yes, Heroes vs. Villains was that long ago), but she was runner-up in a very memorable season.
Given she was supposed to be an extremely early boot in both Micronesia and HvV, I just can’t see anyone risking giving her a bye. I will be surprised if she doesn’t go home at her first trip to TC.
I think Ben is going to be really out of his element in contrast to the other players. Many people will think winners won’t be threatened by Ben, but Ben’s erratic gameplay and constantly seeking idols will likely be enough to send him home early. As proven in HHH, Ben isn’t exactly the best player when it comes to scrambling as he has received the majority of the votes on four consecutive occasions.