Survivor: Winners at War – Cast Assessment (2/4)

Survivor‘s 40th season is bringing 20 former Sole Survivors back for another shot at the title in Survivor: Winners at War! This monumental season is sure to be the biggest event the show has ever seen.

There has never been, and I don’t think there will ever be a season of Survivor quite like this. There are so many great additions to the cast that marks 20 years of the show being on television, and I am so ready to see how the ultimate showdown plays out.

Survivor invites 20 former winners to return with nothing to lose as old-school players, new-school players, legends, strategists, idol hunters, and idol slayers join for the epic 2020 event. New and old twists are set to resurface, like the Edge of Extinction where players can re-enter the game after being voted out, a new currency system dubbed Fire Tokens that will impact all aspects of the game, and the biggest prize money in history, with two million dollars being offered the next Sole Survivor. This cast is so amazing, I’ve had to split my pre-season assessment in four! Today, we begin with the closest non-winner on the list!

This is the second instalment of my pre-season assessment, if you missed the first article where I assess Sandra, Ethan, Michele, Nick, and Denise, you can find it here! The third and fourth parts are here and here, respectively!

WENDELL HOLLAND

Survivor: Ghost Island

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Wendell Holland made Survivor history in the 36th season when he won the game thanks to a split 5-5-0 jury vote that forced third place finalist, Laurel Johnson, to cast the sole vote for the winner between him and his season-long ally Domenick Abbate. Thanks to his relationship with Laurel and evolving gameplay, Wendell earned Laurel’s vote and thus became the first Sole Survivor to emerge from a tied vote by the jury. Now two years later, Wendell is back to compete against the best and become a Sole Survivor outright and claiming yet another million, heck, two million in the process! Still on the high after winning Ghost Island, Wendell recognises the cherry on top of playing such a gruelling game is achieving the milestone of becoming a Sole Survivor. Wendell’s good guy strategy from his first time playing may not make a return this time however, as he’s worried that his style of play is so recent that it might be intimidating to some of the older winners that are entering this season. Wendell’s ready to play dirty and have fun at the same time, willing to do whatever it takes to get to the end, even if it means stroking the egos of the bigger names in the game. He hopes to identify the middle of the road so he isn’t seen as too strategic or too likeable. Going too hard too early will be a nightmare situation for Wendell, so he’s hoping to keep it in check. Wendell appears to appreciate charismatic gameplay (like that of Jeremy, Tyson, and Tony), but equally recognises that these people are the ones that he would like to personally take out throughout the season. Actually meeting Wendell myself last year, his kindness and vibrant energy are clearly tools he uses just in life, in Survivor, I can only imagine them being heightened to his advantage. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think Wendell won’t be a good player this season, even if he’s missing that core ally he had in Domenick last time, I can see Wendell being a little more gutsy when necessary and finding some footing at the merge. I also think Wendell can make one or two mistakes, be too trusting of someone or too reliant on someone because that’s the nature that seemed to build throughout the merge portion of Ghost Island. It appeared too easy for him and Domenick, it’s certainly not going to be the same this time. I love Wendell, good guy, a very good player. And while he was one of only a few correct winner picks for me back on season 36, I can’t back him this time. I just think he’s going to go out right around the middle of the game. Perhaps Edge of Extinction will play a role in getting him further, maybe not. Compared to some of the others, I don’t think this’ll be Wendell’s season. Although I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. It’ll be interesting to see how he evolves, for sure.

AMBER MARIANO

Survivor: All-Stars

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

I am so excited for Amber to return. In fact, I’m excited the most about Amber returning. And there’s one very simple explanation, no one ever thought she would. Amber appeared on Survivor as a young 22 year-old back in the 2nd season where she was voted out in 6th place. She then returned a few years later for Survivor: All-Stars, where she met and bonded with Rob Mariano, forming a formidable alliance together. This relationship powered through the game until both of them managed to reach the Final Tribal Council, and after much intensity and disdain for the final two, the jury crowned Amber as the Sole Survivor in a 4-3 vote. But, at the finale, Rob proposed to his girlfriend Amber in front of the audience, and now, 16 years later, she’s returning with her husband (who went on to win his own Survivor season) for another shot at the title. So why was Amber never considered as a returnee? Because any time anyone ever thought an all-winners season would happen, they naturally, just assumed Rob would be the person to return from the family because he has been a much more prevalent figure in Survivor. As soon as that cast was dropped, my jaw fell to the floor because Amber was just written off as ever returning, yet here she is! That’s why I’m excited, she’s proving everyone wrong by just coming back! And Amber recognises that there was no way she could turn down the offer to turn down season 40. She is so excited to be a part of it, but idols, blindsides, that’s all new for Amber. It’s a faster paced game, and it’s gonna take time to adjust, but she appears ready to adapt to the modern day Survivor, while trying to incorporate the old-school aspects of the game. Will it be overwhelming? Maybe. But her motivations are different this time as well, because she wants to win for her family, and not for herself like last time. Amber has such a calm demeanour, and I think her social game is vital to her making it past the first few days. She’s for sure going to be targeted, and probably even has a lingering target as long as Rob remains in the game. But Amber must work every social angle possible to last until the end, because people will becoming after her simply because it’s so easy to take her out early. If Amber somehow manages to survive a few votes and even reunite with Rob, it’s going to be a true test to see how long they will go. They’re not playing with dummies this time, people are targeting the power couple FOR SURE. What may help Amber is that Rob will no doubt be the bigger threat and he might be targeted, sparing Amber for a while because she won’t be seen as a threat without him. I do still think however that there’s no way she reaches the Final Tribal Council. There’s no path to that victory, at all. I’m truly scared for how Amber might be able to play a compelling game against the others that embrace Survivor‘s current system, so I don’t think being a big player is going to be Amber’s strength at all. I love Amber, I’m so excited to see her back. But I’ll be shocked if she manages to make it any further than 15th place. I hope that happens, but I just can’t see it.

TYSON APOSTOL

Survivor: Blood vs Water

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

This is Tyson Apostol’s fourth rodeo on Survivor, after falling in 8th and 15th place, respectively, on Survivor: Tocantins and Heroes vs Villains, Tyson won Survivor: Blood vs Water in an 7-1-0 vote, where he also played with his now wife Rachel, who was voted out early in the season. He finally got the win, and he’s back for it again. Tyson is a true character, breath if fresh air, and hilarious figure on this show, and this season will be no different. Tyson’s initial strategy relies on simply telling lies about the pre-game portion of the season, ensuring others are gone quicker than he could ever be. How masterful is this guy? He’s also been hardcore preparing, doing several physical and mental tests to come into this season the most prepared than ever. A hint of compassion is creeping through too, opening a new Tyson to viewers than possibly previously seen before. Tyson is one of the smartest people to ever play the game (even if there’s a dumb move on his resume). He’s always thinking. He’s always ticking. That’s the key to Tyson’s success, and I’m sure he can do it again. Tyson’s clear advantage is his social relationships with everyone, he’s easy to get along with. And I actually don’t think that many people realise just how big of a player Tyson is. Everyone’s looking at Rob, Sandra, Parvati etc as threats. No one’s got their eye on Tyson. Even Tyson acknowledges that the perception on him is the sarcastic and aggressive personality that ended up catapulting him to the end in the 27th season, but he’s gonna change that perception by appearing chiller and calmer than before. If that facade lasts, Tyson’s an easy endgame contender. In fact, Tyson is one of the more likely picks for me to make a run to the end and win the whole season. He’s got the artillery, he’s got the brains. Why not? My only other conclusion is that Tyson might be targeted once the merge hits. He might go halfway in the game and then go down in a blazing blindside, maybe around the final ten or nine. It’s hard to say. But I’ll be surprised if Tyson goes early. He’s got a good hold of how the game needs to be played, and considering he’s so likeable, he’ll probably have the alliance to manoeuvre through a few votes. If he’s ever seen as the kingpin, maybe he’s gone earlier than expected. But if he can protect himself and have a shield up in front, I lock Tyson in as a winner pick. I think he can do it.

SARAH LACINA

Survivor: Game Changers

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Last time she was a good cop turned criminal, so how will Sarah Lacina play for her third time on Survivor? After becoming the first juror through a blindside in Survivor: Cagayan, Sarah reviewed her game when returning for Survivor: Game Changers, and realised some sneaky moves and betrayal were going to be key to her winning the all-returnee season, which she did in a 7-3-0 vote. Now competing against 19 other winners, Sarah’s really in the big leagues now and she won’t let you forget that she’s quite capable of taking them all on and being the best of the best, because she already is, apparently. Sarah recognises that each day is a little step forward until Day 39, and that knowledge helped her make it to the end last time. Despite vowing not to return, Sarah commends Jeff Probst on dangling the carrot to get her back for a third time. Without pressure or anything to prove, Sarah is hoping to have fun this time too. Sarah’s former experience in playing the game has allowed her to appreciate life and see how strong she truly is, capable of doing anything possible. This third time playing, Sarah has decided that she’s playing as a criminal on probation. Someone who’s trying to be better in society and in the game, not be seen as conniving or cunning like the second time she played. This might be an interesting turn of events for her. Trying to learn from former mistakes, Sarah believes she’s pretty good at picking out the liars from the cast, yet recognises she’s not always right. Sarah thinks she’s firmly in the new-school era of Survivor, up to date on how the game changes so quickly and being able to adapt to those challenges. Afraid of being perceived as intimidating, Sarah draws a clear line in her head between genuine connections and blindsiding the same person later. Sarah always has a game plan, and she believes her best approach to the season is conducting psychological warfare on the others. I initially thought Sarah wasn’t a humble winner coming into this season, and while some elements remain, I definitely think Sarah is aware of how others can play, and that she may be seen as a threat. She’s a big player. I actually think this ain’t gonna be Sarah’s season. I don’t know. I just don’t see her lasting a long time and I think she might go pre-merge. I can’t even truly explain why, it’s a gut feeling. While Sarah’s a good social player, I think there are several more players who are just better at it than her. And for that reason, they’ll come after her. That’s my prediction, Sarah to go as a shocking pre-merge boot. If that’s not the direction Sarah’s heading, maybe she can last a few episodes into the merge. But not much after that, I don’t think.

YUL KWON

Survivor: Cook Islands

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

He’s back for a second time at taking out the title, and Yul Kwon is possibly one of the biggest strategic players we’ve ever seen come out of Survivor. After winning Cook Islands in a 5-4-0 vote by defeating fan-favourite Ozzy Lusth and Becky Lee back in 2006, Yul went on to have a very successful career and marriage thanks to the roots that Survivor began for him. Now several years later, Yul joins Winners at War in a different light to last time, previously wanting to overcome the racial stereotypes filled in a racially divided theme in Survivor: Cook Islands. Now Yul’s biggest fear is that his disconnection from the game and other Sole Survivors might lead him to be targeted early on. But he hopes that the egos will target each other while he’s hiding behind the drama using it as a shield. Yul also recognises that the game isn’t as emotionally involved as last time, as being liked isn’t as big of a necessity to win the game as it was back when he played the first time. Yul knows he’s dabbling with the modern era, and he’s so strategic that he’s probably going to own it. Loyalty and integrity, out the window. He is playing for himself and only himself, and knows that his reputation as an integral and loyal guy might help others trust him, while he’s planning to blindside them later on. Trust is Yul’s strength, but he otherwise believes he’s a complete player for the season. If he hasn’t got a big target coming in, Yul thinks he’s got a good chance at getting to the end and winning. Yul was a groundbreaking personality and player the first time around, so he’s definitely someone I’m looking forward to watching on his second go. One of the best and a personal favourite winner for me, Yul no doubt has a real shot at doing it all over again this time. If he isn’t recognised as any sort of a threat, then yeah, I’d say Yul really can be finale bound. That would be incredible, and a satisfying win if he took out the game. But everyone knows Yul’s a smart player. So because of that, maybe Yul has one person targeting him that can rally the votes to take him out early. Maybe even first! He’s probably a medium to strong threat, and there might be some newer winners that wanna either be best buddies with Yul, or take him out. It’s either or I think. So I’m worried for Yul, truly. If he can survive those initial few votes, Yul screams first merge boot vibes. Ugh. I hope not. I’d just love a Yul win, but I don’t think it’s possible.

That’s two of four for the Survivor: Winners at War pre-game cast assessment! The next batch of five will be out soon, be sure to check out all the latest content on Reality Review while you’re here. And like and follow Reality Review on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

Credit goes to ET Canada and CBS.com for information gathered by the players pre-season to make this assessment.

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Survivor: Winners at War begins on Thursday the 13th of February in Australia, and the 12th of February in the U.S.


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