Survivor: Winners at War – Cast Assessment (3/4)

Season 40 of television’s biggest Reality TV hit premieres in a matter of days and the next season brings back former champions for another shot at the title of Sole Survivor.

Survivor: Winners at War is going to be huge, there’s no doubt about it. Everyone’s been asking for an all-winners season for years, and now we finally have it to celebrate 20 years of Survivor. Big names are back, monumental winners want to win again, and this time it’s all for the biggest prize in Reality show history.

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 start with one of the most strategically dominant ones yet!

This is the third instalment of my pre-season assessment, if you missed the first where I assess Sandra, Ethan, Michele, Nick, and Denise, you can find it here, or you can view the second where I look at Wendell, Amber, Tyson, Sarah, and Yul here! The fourth and final article is here!

JEREMY COLLINS

Survivor: Cambodia

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Survivor: Cambodia, otherwise known as Second Chance, saw 20 former players voted by fans to return for a second chance to win, after failing to do so on their first try. And only one Sole Survivor emerged, it was Jeremy in a clean sweep, in a 10-0-0 jury vote. Before then, Jeremy played with his wife in the second Blood vs Water chapter, Survivor: San Juan del Sur, where he finished in 10th place. Now with a decent gap between now and his winning season, Jeremy’s back for a third shot, and vows that this season will be the biggest, best, and baddest ever. Jeremy initially said he was done back when he won Cambodia, simply because of the brutal elements and conditions that the show puts contestants through. But like having a baby, Jeremy says you can’t decline the opportunity even when you’re aware of how painful it is. He simply couldn’t sit at home and watch an all-winners season down happen without him, and I’m so happy he agreed because Jeremy’s one of the best winners we’ve had, and he managed to do that in an all-returnee season! Jeremy has respect for all the winners, because they share an achievement so difficult to reach. His key to winning again is bringing back the magic of his winning season, voting blocks and acting as a meat shield in front of others. The fast-paced and constant moving of Cambodia was hard for anyone to manage, so if Jeremy can maintain the same paranoia for each vote, then he might be able to take control again, shooting him forward as a two-time winner. Unlike other winners, Jeremy hopes that by keeping his game the same while everyone else is changing theirs, he might be able to squeeze through right until the end. The one thing he wants to take away this time is to enjoy the experience of playing one final time and being amongst one of the greatest casts in what will probably be the greatest season. I’ll admit, I was sleeping on Jeremy before I assessed this cast, I didn’t take much notice of him and was in too much awe of the greats like Parvati, Rob and Natalie. But damn, Jeremy is GOOD! He won Second Chance! One of the most competitive seasons ever. I certainly think Jeremy’s got what it takes to win because he’s so charismatic and charming that everyone gets along with him. I think in a season this big though, he’ll be targeted. People will know what he’s about and what he is trying to achieve, and I just think his threat level will get to a point where it’s too much. Some of these players will be able to hide in the shadows, Jeremy I don’t think can. The cast won’t let him. If Jeremy does manage to make the merge, and even be in a majority alliance, I think people are going to turn their heads at him and he’ll go early on. I’m expecting a similar placement this time as his first go on the show, if not him leaving even earlier, possibly before the merge.

SOPHIE CLARKE

Survivor: South Pacific

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

One of the more underrated winners on this season, Sophie won Survivor‘s 23rd season in a 6-3-0 vote over returning favourite Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade, and Albert Destrade. Now back for a second round at the fortune, Sophie’s hoping lightning will strike twice as she’s up against some of the best. Sophie’s not surprised Survivor has aged so well and through 20 years, and frankly, I don’t think any of us true fans are either. Sophie’s a big fan of the game and having lived through it all only nine years ago, the memories have come flooding back as she wraps her head around exactly what needs to be done for her to outlast for as long as possible. Being one of 20 in this monumental season, Sophie’s excited just to see how she can perform even if doesn’t mean she’ll win again. Not to be fooled though, Sophie has learnt a lot from the young woman that won the game way back when, and has recognised where she’d make changes to play even better if she were to ever go back out again, and here she is putting those lessons to the test. Now with a lot of life experience, Sophie hopes to work on her introverted side and form relationships with everyone in the season. This is a huge weakness for Sophie to overcome, but her self awareness of this may mean Sophie can do a 180 and really turn her social game around. The big gap between her original season and now is the fluidity of alliances, and given that this is a returnee season, Sophie recognises that the ability to trust anyone or even have a tight group is significantly unlikely. The one thing Sophie hopes for is that she has equally evolved personally as the game has, giving her a good shot at playing effectively amongst other former champions. I love how Sophie clearly defines that she lives two completely separate lives, the work-life, and the Survivor-life. Sophie’s coming into the game ready to take risks and embrace the game for what it is, it might even grant her the big win. Something about Sophie is that she’s hard to read. I can’t really gauge where she might perform amongst everyone else, she’s probably a wildcard pick. I think it would be fair to say she won’t be a big player this season. Even if she does win, I think we should expect yet another subtle strategy coming through where she pulls off an impressive Final Tribal Council performance revealing everything she did exactly. If she can hide behind some big shields, yeah, she could win. But building those bonds are going to be crucial, so if Sophie identifies that as a weakness, she might be a surprise boot early on. I can’t really see Sophie going in the middle portion of the game, so either she’s going really far, or not last long at all.

ROB MARIANO

Survivor: Redemption Island

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

One of the biggest faces to ever come out of the show, Rob Mariano is the very person to play Survivor five times, much less appear six with his mentoring stint on Island of the Idols. After falling just short of reaching the jury stage in both his first and third tries on Survivor (Marquesas and Heroes vs Villains), Rob played dominantly in both his second and fourth runs playing the game. Survivor: All-Stars brought much success, but he did ultimately lose the season in a 4-3 vote against his now wife Amber Mariano. Luckily, Rob returned in the 22nd season, Survivor: Redemption Island, where he played against first-time players that ultimately rewarded him the win when he made it to Day 39 again in an 8-1-0 vote. It’s been a long time since he’s officially played the game again, but he’s back, and hungry for a second victory. What’s interesting about Rob’s discussion on mentoring Island of the Idols is that he says he learnt from Sandra and paid attention to what she had to say (as noted in my Sandra assessment, Sandra details the significant lessons she took from Rob too). Rob doesn’t believe he needs to evolve his game for this season, because his whole strategy involves adapting to the changes of the game. The core elements are there, loyalty is still important and Rob hopes that those values continue this season. Rob understands that he’s probably the biggest threat on the cast, and that everything that can be used against him certainly will. Rob needs to get out of the gate early and form some relationships if he’s got any chance to make it through, but he’s confident he’ll be able to do so, he’s done it four times before. Rob’s also one of the first to see a clear divide between old-school and new-school, and how the old-school players need to stick together to defeat the newer winners. He’s also quick to identify that he’s not the only one out there that’ll have a looming target on their back. Once Rob is gone, others will turn their heads at some of the next threats, so Rob hopes they can band together while they really need to. Rob’s big trick is that he’s always thinking about different scenarios and possibilities, and that’s why he really is one of the best to ever play. Assessing social dynamics is Rob’s strength, so if is given even a small window of opportunity, yeah, Rob can make it past a few Tribal Councils. I think it’s hard for anyone to even realistically think Rob can make a good run right till the end of the season. I mean, it’s WINNERS, no one is gonna take him far, surely. And there’s no way Rob’s the final three goat, if he gets to the end, I think he wins. Even more than Amber, Rob’s the real threat, he’s in and amongst how the game is played now. I also do think Rob can be a great shield, but not for long. Rob’s gotta go pre-jury, it’s gotta happen. If somehow he manages to survive until the merge, he’s gone soon after. Absolutely, no doubt. It will get to a point where the cast agrees Rob simply can’t go any further, so it’ll be seeya to one of the greats in a monster of an episode. I’m excited to watch Rob, but there’s not a chance he’ll win!

DANNI BOATWRIGHT

Survivor: Guatemala

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

The winner of one of my most favourite (and often underrated) seasons is back, finally, Danni Boatwright returns for Winners at War after beating popular returnee Stephenie LaGrossa in a 6-1 vote in the show’s 11th season. Danni’s life has changed a lot since she won the show, she got married and started a family, returning never really was something Danni saw in the future. But back for the 40th edition of the show, Danni knew she was ready to come back to the game and it was just good timing for her and getting away from the struggles of the last few years for her. Knowing the show is such a mental test, Danni believes she’s the most competitive and strong-minded person she knows, so she’ll battle everything she has to to make sure she can win the game again. Her strategy is much like last time, ensuring the target is on somebody else and not her. 15 years ago, the game is not at all like what Danni played that eventually led to her win, but she’s ready to enter the new-school era. Being sneaky yet loyal is paramount to Danni’s success, knowing the work it will take to win will be excessive yet still capable for her to achieve. She’ll plant the seeds needed to make sure she’s in the best position for the next few days during the game. Guatemala was one of the most difficult locations to survive in, and Danni remembers exactly what it was like despite such a long time between playing then and now. Given the hard conditions, Danni’s sure the physical elements will be a cake walk for her. The sheer brutality and sickness that the whole season was filled with is something Danni doesn’t want a repeat of, and she hopes that she can just enjoy the experience this time a little more than last time. And if you’re going to enjoy any season, why not the one with all of the returning Sole Survivors? Danni’s biggest challenge is keeping up with the game now, yet I think her assertion that she can do it is enough for me to buy in. I think Danni’s a real dark horse, her strategy is killer and no one will see her coming. Survivor is also a personal memory for Danni, as it was something she shared with her father that died two years prior to this season. Winning the game was huge for her and her Dad, so if Danni can take out the win again it’ll be just as memorable and meaningful as the first. Given how underrated Danni probably is amongst fans and the cast alike, I think Danni can do really well this season. She’ll be a strong social player, with a very decent strategic game. This’ll push her far forward into the game, maybe even see her reach the finale. My one fear is simply that she might fall under the fear of the unknown. If people know Danni’s so secretive about how she plays, they might wanna go after her immediately, which would be the worst! I love underdogs and Danni’s a true underdog. While I think she could be targeted early for reasons out of her control, I’m picking Danni to be a real player this season and make it top the top five, if not the Final Tribal Council. If she does make that final step, she for sure has a real shot at winning.

ADAM KLEIN

Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Another winner I’ve had the gratitude of meeting personally, Adam is back for another shot at winning the game after his strong strategic and social game pushed ahead to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone on his season to become the Sole Survivor of the 33rd Survivor season in a 10-0-0 vote against Hannah Shapiro and Ken McNickle. Adam is just absolutely stoked to play up against the people he grew up watching, and winning, his favourite show ever. Being a part of this season is huge for Adam, something he dreamed well before he even played his first season. Because of this, Adam welcomes the belief that he’s a weaker winner and is underestimated compared to some of the bigger threats. Adam is using everyone’s perception of him for him, something for him to stay further into the game that’ll put him in a more favourable position over others. Adam accepts that many fans believe his win was solely because of the emotional story he told of his dying mother at Final Tribal Council, yet takes pride in the fact that true fans know his win was worthwhile for his impressive gameplay all season long. All of this negativity towards his win is now beneficial to Adam, and he’s going to use it ALL to help him win the game again. He’s also an open critic of the final four fire-making challenge, so THANK YOU Adam for being a good voice for that. I’m not a fan either, but that’s a separate issue. Now it means Adam has to go after those threats much earlier than otherwise intended, to ensure they never get a shot at playing an idol late or winning fire. Perhaps this means a lot of those unexpected choices will be sitting in and towards the end, at least if Adam has anything to say about it. Adam’s determination, lifelong fanatic status and strategic interviews back when he first won are all going to be the puzzle pieces that get put together to make Adam the second two-time Sole Survivor. He knew this season was coming, and he has taken every opportunity to make sure he can be in the best position to win the game. Creativity is necessary for Adam, because everyone will be a threat for some reason so Adam will need to find the best two to sit next to to win again. I get the vibe Adam wants to work with the quieter winners of the season, people without the big targets like Rob, Sandra and Parvati. This might be smart, but I hope he doesn’t cut ties with these threats entirely. It could turn against him completely because they are so powerful as players. Survivor has been such a staple in the Klein home, Adam’s probably, and realistically, the biggest fan there is playing this season. He’s achieved what he wanted to but he still wants more. He still wants to win the game again and his pure fire and fuel to win this season will be essential to seeing Adam become the champion of champions. As long as Adam is clouded by the sheer shock and awe of playing with these guys, he could go a long way. But I don’t quite wanna put my money on him winning. I think Adam is probably the most at risk to make a mistake, which may cost him at some point during the game. I’m going right in the middle, and calling Adam to come in from 11th to 9th place. Although I wouldn’t be shocked if I was wrong.

That’s chapter three for the Survivor: Winners at War pre-game cast assessment! The final group of five will be out soon, so be sure to check out all the latest content on Reality Review while you’re here. Don’t forget to like and follow Reality Review on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

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

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


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