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

Finally, we reach the end of our Survivor 40 pre-season assessment, where 20 former winners will return for another chance to win the game and become the ultimate Sole Survivor.

We’ve got the final five players to analyse and assess ahead of the Survivor: Winners at War premiere in two weeks’ time. And there’s some big names amongst the group too. Let’s waste no time as the season’s too exciting not to write about instantly.

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 the final assessment with one that some consider the best!

This is the final article of my pre-season assessment, the first where I assess Sandra, Ethan, Michele, Nick, and Denise, is here, the second where I look at Wendell, Amber, Tyson, Sarah, and Yul here, or the third with Jeremy, Sophie, Rob, Danni, and Adam here!

KIM SPRADLIN-WOLFE

Survivor: One World

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

The 24th season of Survivor saw the tribes divided by gender, where women prevailed to form the entire final five. And who led the charge? Kim Spradlin-Wolfe who played well strategically, socially, and physically under the radar to eventually win the season in a 7-2-0 vote. Finally, one of the greatest winners returns to the show, hoping to do it all again and maintain a truly perfect record. Kim considers returning to play with her fellow winners epic, and it’s no surprise, Kim is just as much a fan as she is a former Sole Survivor. She’s even torn between playing with them simply because she is a fan and voting them out, as the inner player voice is trying to tell her. Kim also hasn’t forgotten what exactly the experience of Survivor really is, not looking forward to all of the conditions that she inevitably will have to face and overcome. It’s the end goal that keeps Kim motivated, the gold at the end of the very tiresome rainbow. Kim’s life has also drastically changed in the years since she won Survivor: One World, she’s had three children and has given up much of her independence, but also believes advantages have come through like having more patience and confidence in herself. Kim is concerned that her sheer dominant gameplay will make her a target this time, but also asserts that there are many more threats above her, believing she lies somewhere in the middle of the pack. If she can find her footing, Kim thinks she’ll have a good start to launch into the game with the same gameplay that saw her walk away with the top prize. What Kim does hope for is that this season will be a brand new experience for her to adapt and play to than the previous, letting what happens in the game dictate how she reacts to certain situations. This is incredibly smart for Kim, because I think there’s a bounty on her head that she may not realise. Kim truly is a fantastic player, and many have regarded her as one of, if not the, best. My only worry about Kim is that, when she played the first time, no one knew what she was capable of and quite frankly, the cast wasn’t savvy enough to identify Kim as an incredible player. Now that she’s with the elites of the elite, maybe Kim’s strategy isn’t so amazing, because people simply won’t fall for it. Does this mean Kim becomes a big player? Only if the cast lets her. If she does remain the big threat she is, then yeah, Kim’s gonna have some ground to cover to ensure she survives for a while and then really sit well in an alliance to last right until the end. If she however manages to float in the background and not get a look with the big players in the game, Kim can go back to that under the radar status and really do some more manoeuvring behind the scenes. I truly think it goes one of two ways, but I don’t believe Kim will go too early. I think she will probably be a late-gamer no matter how she plays or is perceived, what matters is if she is the dominant player once again that can get to the end and win or if she’s overshadowed by the players that REALLY excel at the game putting Kim’s strategy lower on the totem pole. It’ll be interesting for sure. I think she can be top seven.

TONY VLACHOS

Survivor: Cagayan

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

After winning his first season with a dominant, duplicitous and double-crossing strategy that saw him crowned the Sole Survivor in an 8-1 vote over Woo Hwang, Tony returned a few years later to play on Survivor: Game Changers, where his reputation sent him packing early, in 19th place. Was it a blessing in disguise though? If you ask Tony it was! By falling so hard after a truly impressive win in a highly competitive season, Tony might be overlooked as such a threat because it was taken care of during his second run on the show. Tony considers Season 40 to be the ‘Superbowl’ of Survivor, if there’s any season to win, it’s this one. Tony hasn’t changed since his win either, his life outside of the game (no matter what happens – children included) has no impact on the cutthroat gameplay he intends to initiate. It’s what Tony knows. It’s what he does best. That’s what’s expected from him and he’s one of the best winners because of it. Tony is also incredibly focused on the game heading into it, determined to come after that crown yet again. Even his old tricks, like spy shacks, might make a return. Although Tony does vow to wait to really start thinking until he’s out there and playing the game. When he returned for a second chance, he failed because he was envisioning how he was going to win again. Perhaps a change in pre-game focus will set Tony apart from sitting in the front row at the Reunion show to the back. Tony’s strategy isn’t going to evolve either, he’s going back to the roots of his win the first time, and imploring the same philosophy to ensure he’s the person that takes home the win. Tony took it day by day, player by player last time. That’s key to his success and I’m so excited to see it again in Winners at War. Tony’s also pretty humble as a winner too, accepting that he (and his fellow winners) won a game. They’re not celebrities, they just won the show. Will this set him apart from the big egos? Hell yeah! I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony was the most level-headed player this season. He’s really got the right thinking going into this season. Tony has felt the pain of losing early, and the glory of winning it all. It’s an experience that very few on this cast can relate to, so I have a lot of faith that we’ll be seeing Tony much, much longer than his last stint on Survivor. Given the target is shaken off his back from those first few days, Tony certainly needs to sit back and let some others make some moves for a little bit. Once he survives those first few Tribals, I expect Tony to really strike and make a big move, and then sit back again. If he can make his occasional appearance in an out, while still working behind the scenes, Tony can really be a huge threat to win. I’m thinking Tony’s gonna play really well and then come up short towards the end. Maybe even as far as final four. If there is a chance he’s sitting at the Final Tribal, I struggle to see a world where he doesn’t win. Hopefully idols and advantages are on Tony’s side to see him make a deep run this season.

PARVATI SHALLOW

Survivor: Micronesia

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

I mean, come on! It’s frickin’ Parvati Shallow! Parvati originally played on Survivor: Cook Islands, where she played a flirtatious strategy that saw her voted out in 6th place. She then returned in Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs Favorites, this time with the same flirtation but a touch more strategic thinking, which ultimately saw her reach the Final Tribal Council and defeat Amanda Kimmel to win the season in a 5-3 vote. Only a few seasons later, Parvati returned as a huge threat and notorious player on Survivor: Heroes vs Villains, where her alliance with Russell Hantz pushed both of them forward once again to the Final Tribal Council, before Parvati was defeated by fellow winner Sandra Diaz-Twine in a 6-3-0 vote, with Parvati securing the Runner-Up status. Now, 10 years later, a true legend has returned to win the show for a second time and show who the true queen of the game really is. This time, Parvati’s coming in as a self-described fierce Amazon warrior. Parvati also realises that there will be a new element to her game that’ll develop because she’s now playing for her husband (also former Survivor player, John Fincher), and newborn daughter. Parvati has slowly evolved every time she has played, and this time, with a massive target on her back, she’s going to have to find a new angle that keeps Parvati surviving until Day 39. She’s also had her battles too, coping with the backlash to her villainous style of gameplay that came from her second and third outings on the show. A new attitude on that fan reaction will be healthy to Parvati’s success, so she can really go into the season with her sights set on becoming Sole Survivor again. It’s pivotal to her winning. Parvati’s also entering a new era of the show, where the social connections that were relied on are out the window, because idols and advantages are now the norm to forwarding themselves further into the season. Parvati also wants to use her inevitable target to her advantage, because she’s so big, other quieter threats might be overlooked. Survivor has given Parvati much success in her life, it led her to her family, it opened her competitive side, and it paved the way for her various experiences in the years since playing. She owes a lot to the game, and that means she won’t back down from making this her best stint on the show yet. If Parvati can just survive one Tribal Council, she’s going far again! She better! I am in absolute awe of Parvati that I refuse to imagine a world where she goes early. But. If we have to think logically, and only IF we have to, I think Parvati’s certainly a late pre-merge boot or early merge boot. Maybe even the merge boot. There’s no denying she’s a big threat and while I do believe she can manage to survive a couple of Tribal Councils, Parvati will make one big move that just gets her targeted the very next possible opportunity. The fear of Parvati being a threat is big enough, once the others actually see what she’s capable of just this season, that’s when she’s done. HOPEFULLY Parvati can survive right up until the end and actually win this damn game. That’s what I’d want, I think I’d be most satisfied with a Parvati win just pre-season. Good luck to her. I’m so excited to watch her again!

BEN DRIEBERGEN

Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

The winner of Survivor‘s 35th season, Ben Driebergen, is most notable for being the first Sole Survivor to emerge from the final four fire-making twist. After needing idols to last up until Day 38, Ben was surprised to learn that a new twist gave him a second (or 50th) shot at making it to the Final Tribal Council. After successfully earning his spot into the final three, Ben defeated Chrissy Hofbeck and Ryan Ulrich to become the Sole Survivor in a 5-2-1 vote. Ben’s faced a lot of criticism for his win in Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers, but maybe another chance at winning it all will cement him as a firm player of the game. Ben wants to have fun for Season 40, and is ready to take on the challenge only a couple of years later. Ben may have relied on idols last time, but hopes this time he can work the social angle well enough to prove he deserves to play against them. Ben’s not shaken by the criticism of his win, hoping that his game can evolve where he’s got comfort and loyal allies to set him in good stead all season long. Ben also respects his fellow winners, knowing that in the end, all that matters is getting the jury votes to win. That’s a great attitude to have, being humbled for his victory and the experience that Survivor gave him in and out of the game. Meat shields are imperative to Ben, he wants everyone in front of him so he can fly under the radar until the end. Not a bad strategy for a guy who was at the forefront of every vote in the latter half of the 35th season. Ben is pretty savvy with what needs to be done to survive this time around, and I’m impressed with it too. He has got a fair bit to prove this time, and I think there is a target on his back, for sure. I can see a world where Ben goes early, where he just doesn’t find his footing and is out of the game because of a tribe swap or idol play against himself (ironically). If not however, Ben could go on another deep run at the merge. Something tells me however he won’t win, I just can’t quite see it. Unfortunately. But I like Ben, and I hope he gets the respect he deserves this time too.

NATALIE ANDERSON

Survivor: San Juan del Sur

IMAGE: ROBERT VOETS/CBS

Natalie Anderson. One of my most favourite winners of Survivor. And now she’s back. After watching her sister get voted out first in San Juan del Sur, Natalie enacted revenge plan A to see her last right up until the end, where she won in a 5-2-1 vote for her strategic and socially excellent gameplay. She also almost returned for Survivor: Game Changers, but pulled out last minute because of an injury. Finally getting her second shot to win the game again, Natalie is back for Winners at War and will hopefully take out the title. Natalie’s biggest challenge in Survivor is not eating, otherwise the other elements are alright for Natalie, hopefully making her built pretty well to win the show again. Without the motivation like avenging her sister the first time, Natalie realises she needs to find some fuel to really insert herself into the game and play a strategically dominant game like last time. One thing that concerns me about Natalie is her sheer belief that the tribes are separated by gender (because production separated them this way before the season began). If Natalie is reading too much into this decision, I’m worried her perception on some other in-game twists might see her make a mistake that could become costly. But. I’ll give Natalie the benefit of a doubt and hope it stops here, lol. Survivor was an experience that showed Natalie she really can dig deep and do whatever it takes to push herself to the limits. Now coming into the game knowing this is possible, Natalie will be a force to be reckoned with from the get go. I am really, really rooting for Natalie. I think she’s a little underrated as a winner, but she really killed her first season and it wouldn’t surprise me if she was able to do that again. Natalie works all the angles, she’s great with all kinds of people, all styles of gameplay, she’s one of the most adaptable winners in the cast. I think she’s a super strong contender to win again if she manages to find that right motivation that sees her fly under the radar long enough to make big moves behind the scenes, and pop up right at the end to claim the praise for a great season-long style of gameplay. There’s a little doubt in me, that says she sees an exit in the middle to late stages of the game, around the top eight, but otherwise I’m really liking Natalie’s past to fulfil her present. If Natalie represented Winners at War as one of the greatest winners ever and stay firm as a two-time champion, I think her legacy will be cemented and a new queen will well and truly be crowned. Good luck Natalie! You’ve got this.

All twenty returning winners have been assessed and analysed, and I’m even more excited to watch this season than before! If you missed anything be sure to check the top of the post for the other cast assessments and don’t forget to like and follow Reality Review on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

Credit and thanks 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 begins on Thursday the 13th of February in Australia, and the 12th of February in the U.S.


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