Is the next season of Survivor already upon us? David vs. Goliath doesn’t seem like that long ago, but a lot has happened in my own life to make the last month and a half zoom by! In the spirit of the show, I made a Big Move™ myself in packing up and relocating a few states south to Tennessee which saved me from literally one of the worst winters ever in my home state of Illinois whose temperatures reached as low as “feels like -50,” surely an experience no one ever asked to feel. As I’m writing this, it’s 67-degrees and sunny out which then begs the question why I chose today of all days to do my deep dive into the new Survivor cast, but I suppose checking out the Survivor cast before checking out the forecast is about what I’d expect with my life choices. #Priorities
Waking up on the day of the Survivor cast release is like waking on Christmas if you’re a super-duper fan like me (which you are, if you’re reading this). Except, when it comes to Edge of Extinction, it’s kind of like asking your parents for a PlayStation but opening up a system you’ve never heard of called “PlayBox” or “GameStation” which wasn’t what you wanted, but maybe better than nothing … ? That’s kind of what this whole twist/theme is to me. Bad Survivor is better than no Survivor at all, but I’m finding it excruciatingly painful to find positives with this premise.
After reading the cast bios and watching their videos — full videos brought to us by the brilliant ET Canada — I can say that it’s no longer the cast I have concerns about, so just the twist(s) then. I’ve always been a bigger fan of watching the people over the “play” but in the best seasons, of course, both are excellent. Maybe if Edge of Extinction kills the game like its cousin Redemption Island, the cast can still manage to show some signs of life. This one at least doesn’t strike me the same as the Season 22 or 23 casts that were well-equipped for returning players to steamroll. No, here I think the four returnees will face some actual competition and a more difficult path to the end than Rob and Coach found.
Then again, how hard really is that path in this game where everyone will be given a “Get Out of Jail Free” card should they find themselves sent to Survivor prison? Alas, there will be plenty of game to gripe about later, so I’ll kick off my official cast assessment before things get too dark. It’s like the beginning of a post-apocalyptic movie where everything looks fine, sometimes even better than fine, but the audience knows what it’s in for … which is the world set ablaze and life as we know and love it over.
“We’ll just use the name ‘Mana’ again, but put ‘U’ at the end instead of an ‘A.” How’s that for creativity?”
Wendy was the first person we met in this season’s promo and she stood out as a character then but … woo, baby! Usually people with crazy-colored hair have personalities that match, and Wendy certainly fits that mold (about the only mold she probably fits), though I’d say her personality is even more vibrant than her hair. She says she wants to lay low, but that’s just not happening. At all. If Willard Smith was one of the returnees this season, he’d be looking for an oar to whack Wendy with faster than he’d be looking for any idols. I’m not sure if she actually ever breathes — it’s just a constant stream of words spilling out of her smiling teeth!
Now, I enjoy someone a little extra (or in Wendy’s case, a lot extra) but the majority of our population does not, probably even less if ever stuck on an island 24/7 with that kind of person. Wendy could be a very early boot in this, but on the bright blue side, maybe she can stick around our screens via the Edge of Extinction? That may be the one positive thing about the twist — keeping some fun personalities around that we’d otherwise would lose forever. Wendy wants to be the next Sandra, and while Sandra can GET LOUD TOO WHAT THE FUCK, she also knows when to keep those lips zipped. I don’t believe Wendy has such a zipper on her lips.
Prediction: Early Boot
Rick’s the other member of Manu we saw a sneak peek of, shouting “OH YEAH!” like he’s the Kool-Aid man. Rick’s a superfan who’s been watching since the first episode aired during his sophomore year of high school — a fact threw me because at first glance I thought Rick maybe was the token dad or “old guy” on his tribe (“Survivor old”, so roughly 40). Whoops! My bad, Rick … but in my defense, Rick does seem like he could be full of dad jokes. Aren’t all anchormen supposed to deliver cheesy one-liners?
In spite of that reason (or for that reason, who knows) Rick may be an early favorite of mine. He’s really freaking funny and I think will have great meme potential which is what I look for above all else on the show these days. He’s kind of a goofy goober but in the most charming way possible and I think he’ll be very popular within the game. He’s used to being in the spotlight with his job as a news anchor, but unlike someone with a big personality like Wendy, Rick seems sharp enough to know how keep a target off his back despite the attention he’ll be receiving. Rick will likely be able to ride those good vibes to the merge, but after that I see him in a similar predicament as we most recently saw Christian in, just a good guy who’s too good to let get to the end.
Dan’s first-listed pet peeve is “weakness.” Sounds like Dan “Wardog” DaSilva would fit right in with Benjamin “Dragonslayer” Wade. Or Coach, whatever you like calling him. “Former Amazonian prisoner” is also acceptable. Dan even admits that the Wardog persona has become so much a part of his life, that he’s not sure where “real Dan” ends and “fake Dan” begins, much like how Coach is both “real Coach” and “the Dragonslayer.” Further into his existential crisis, Dan references several Survivors whose games he’d like to emulate: Yul, Earl, Parvati, Tyson, Mike, and country bumpkin JT. Weird – that list just happens to include only winners. Will it one day include “Wardog” himself?
No. While Wardog (the name I’ll be referring to this one as for the rest of the season) does have a sense of humor, I think that’s something that could go away as Wardog grows hangry and more hyper-focused on the game. I don’t see Wardog as the type of someone that can lie down and relax on a beach all day — he’ll always want to be moving and may end up one of the guys off looking for idols early, thinking no one else notices what he’s doing (they will). As proven, though, those that look the most tend to find the most idols, so maybe Wardog will sniff one out. Still, I see other personalities potentially clashing with Wardog if he gets too feisty. I think he’ll fare fine on Manu but could end up a post-swap victim, or if not that, then he’ll surely be put down sometime shortly after the merge.
Prediction: Early Jury
I kind of like Reem, but for the reasons I like Reem, her tribemates may not care much for her. Maybe it’s the mom thing or the short blonde hair, but she gives me Lauren Rimmer vibes — the name too, Reem/Rimmer. Reem comes off a little rough around the edges to me, although she says she’s nice and everyone gets along with her. I believe she believes that, but she also shares her story about being dropped by her personal trainer while prepping for the game. If someone whose life is to coach and work with people determines “I can’t do this with you,” that’s not the best sign for Reem’s ability to play well with others.
Reem is tied for being the oldest woman in the game which is already a huge handicap, so pairing that with an aggressive personality doesn’t give me much confidence that Reem will last long before being voted out. Reem admits she’s not sensitive and that her mouth will get her in trouble. Given that, her demographic, and seeming a little too care-free with a “whatever” kind of attitude to stick to a steady strategic plan, Reem’s looking like Manu’s first boot to me. I went in eying Wendy, but I think she’ll luck out having Reem around.
Prediction: First Boot
Contrary to Reemer — er, Reem — Keith is this season’s youngest player. Unlike those in the past such as Julia and Michael, Keith says he’ll be honest about his age, which I personally think is a better decision. For one thing, I’m sure it’s difficult to keep up a lie and fake backstory going for 39 days, and for another, I actually think being slated as the youngest person on the island would make someone less of a threat. If I was playing the game, I’d look at that person as, like Keith says, a younger brother who I could more easily manipulate and drag along as a sidekick. Plus, more people would be inclined to see the older brother as the brains behind the operation, making Keith seem even better of an opponent to face at Final Tribal Council.
Keith grew up in the church which exposed him to a lot of people and as a result, he’s grown up to be a social butterfly. Being a young, happy-go-lucky kid in the eyes of others should do Keith tremendous favors in the game. He’s a superfan which means he also knows how to play the strategic game on top of his natural social game, but that strategic side isn’t one the others will see coming. I think Keith will go very far in this game, smiling in people’s faces, but knowing when to put the knife in their backs. Keith could be called a contender to win, but something tells me someone will suss out his secret savviness and maybe stab right before he stabs them right before the end.
Prediction: Late Jury
Looks like Joe may have some competition as the man that makes all the women swoon. Chris reminds me a lot of Joe but maybe more of the surfer with some smarts like Devon. Chris is aware of his charm and good looks, but he doesn’t want to be the golden boy, though is that something he can really avoid? Having Joe in the game to still hold that title will actually help Chris — I think without Joe, that target would have been on Chris’s back and Chris’s alone — but there will eventually come a time when Chris won’t be able to escape his fate.
Assuming Joe makes the merge by either doing what he does best and winning all the pre-merge challenges or re-entering the game by escaping the Edge of Extinction, I think Chris and Joe will instantly connect, but they’ll also become each other’s biggest competition. Whichever one winds up without immunity will be the first to go. Given Joe’s track record, I’ll give the edge to him, so I’m thinking Chris will end up close to if not the merge boot. Lucky for him, it sounds like he’ll still get a shot to compete and come back again, but … you know … Joe.
Prediction: Early Jury
Lauren calls herself a three-pronged (triple) threat, referencing Parvati and Kelley as some of her Survivor role models. At first glance, Lauren has a little bit of that girl-next-door appearance and that paired with being on the younger end of the spectrum probably won’t lead anyone to peg her as that threat she claims to be. Additionally, she’s a proven competitor as a Division I soccer player which means she also won’t be targeted for “weakness” that “Wardog” is looking to cut out of the tribe. No, I think Lauren’s going to go very far in this so long as she can get into the right alliance.
Mentioning Kelley makes it obvious that’s who she’ll initially cling to after maybe a little fangirling (I’m sure pairing the two was intentional on the part of casting). Speaking of a fangirl, Lauren’s another superfan (even though comparing herself to Parvati is very cliché of the typical Survivor recruit). Her Barbie and Ken dolls as a kid were named Tina and Colby which is a big indicator of how long Lauren’s been a fan — I wonder if she named her Polly Pocket Elisabeth, or Care Bear Jerri. I don’t think anyone of Lauren’s type has ever won the game — the closest one to her may be Michele. Jenna was another 21-year-old, but not quite as positively perceived. I could see Lauren as someone who is hurt by a swap after initially being set up well, or I could see her making it close to the end. I like Lauren, so I’ll hope for the latter.
Prediction: Late Jury
Kelley showed a little potential in San Juan Del Sur, but she made a bigger name for herself in Second Chance, now listing her claim to fame as “Wentworth — does not count (times 9).” With her Cambodia impression really being her more worthwhile one, Kelley will carry a big target on her back throughout the game, but there’s a lot to love about Kelley which should allow her to survive the first several rounds of the game. She’s as strong as she is sweet and she’ll be an asset on the Manu tribe. It’s when that tribe inevitably dissolves in a swap that I’d worry for Wentworth.
Seeing seasons featuring returnees often dominated by them, surely this cast will be quicker to target these set of four to avoid another Rob or Coach situation. With Edge of Extinction in play, Kelley will probably still make the finale, but most likely through toughing it out on the outer edge of the game. Kelley’s a great player and I don’t think an early boot would come from any fault of her own, other than just being who she is. I hate even suggesting it, but my gut says Kelley will be voted out before the merge and face a long uphill battle to still try and seal that Sole Survivor deal that she’s come back for once more.
David’s the only returnee to be playing for his second time rather than his third which is interesting because Aubry, Joe, and Kelley have all had the opportunities to play their initial game, come back again to only fall just short with a new strategy (well, new for at least Aubry and Kelley), and now play once more with “third time’s the charm” in their minds. David’s only played once, so he’s had less attempts to apply the trial and error method. I think David would have fared better in a season of all returnees which is why I hate that he’s here because with David not bringing much to the table besides being known as having one of the biggest “best to never win” stories, I’m not sure many will find benefit working with him long-term.
David was probably my favorite in Millennials vs. Gen X, so it’s going to be tough to watch him fight an outnumbered fight. I’d love to see him win Survivor, but sadly, I don’t think this will be the season where he does it. No one’s going to let him close to the end, and while he hasn’t never won an immunity challenge, he’s not going to be able to Mike Holloway his way to Day 39. Like Kelley, I’m sure David will be able to dig deep and live for as long as is needed on the Edge of Extinction, but when trying to guess when his torch will be snuffed, I’m thinking he’ll land along the same line as Kelley, surviving any initial Manu votes thanks to Reem and Wendy being early fodder, but then being hurt by getting split from his allies in a swap. Ugh. I hate that I’m listing both Kelley and David as potential pre-mergers. What are the odds of them both getting swap-fucked? I guess I’ve already set the bar low for this season, so why not try to predict the darkest timeline possible?
Kama, Kama, Kama, Kama, Kama chameeeleoooooon!
So this is almost literally Nick Wilson minus the career in public defense with an added wildly colorful shoulder tattoo. I feel as though I have little new to add to the point of almost just saying “see my pre-game thoughts on Nick.” This cast would not have seen David vs. Goliath, so what Gavin has going for him is that no one will make the same comparison as I am, so there’s a chance history repeats itself here with Gavin being an endgame competitor or potential winner. For the sake of a good surprise, I desperately hope that’s not what we’re in for.
That’s not to say I don’t like Gavin, I just think that having watched Nick all season last, if Gavin plays a similar game and shares in similar success, it won’t be all that fresh or fun to watch. Gavin’s apparent athleticism will make him an asset in challenges and that Southern gentlemen personality will make him popular at camp. He doesn’t come across quite as sneaky or scheming as Nick, so I don’t anticipate Gavin ending up in the same early hot water. Long story short: Gavin’s got longevity in this. Do I make him my winner pick? That’s so boring … but the odds are ever in Gavin’s favor.
Early nickname Victoria Baemonde? I love reading bios and finding facts that make me go, “neat, me too!” and Victoria’s has the most of those. She lists slow walkers as her first pet peeve (seriously, fucking move!), describes herself in three words as controlling, ambitious, and witty, mentions that she likes to casually let people know she graduated at the top of her class (I try not to), and she also took advice from Chaos Kass by reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book I’ve also checked out per that recommendation. Basically, Victoria and I are kindred spirits, so I am in full support of this cool chick whose inspiration in life is her pet guinea pig.
I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking that Victoria will do well in this game. She knows the importance of making other people feel important and being able to manipulate them in that way should serve Victoria well in this. Though young, she’s obviously intelligent and is another one who has studied the game significantly. I think she’ll know what to do and when to do it. My only fear for Victoria is that she could get outspoken should she make Final Tribal Council given some of the Survivor gender biases this site and others have addressed recently. If Gavin’s the one I think has the best shot of winning on paper, then Victoria’s the one who, for me, gets the pre-game award for “Mostly Likely to be a R.obbed G.oddess.”
Prediction: Final Three
Ah, yes. Here we’ve finally gotten to the dad of the cast. What will most stand out for Ron in his tribe is his age. He says he’s worried about being too aggressive and with being the naturally placed patriarch of the tribe, he’s pretty much set up in a position to fail. On top of just being the easily perceived leader, he’s also spent his career teaching. I’ve never had an issue with teachers, but that was in a classroom. In Survivor, no one’s looking to be told how they should do things.
Ron also answers that if he could have three things on the island, one of them would be a returning player for the tribe to target instead of him. He got his wish, but if he goes into the game immediately targeting Joe and Aubry on the Kama tribe, they’ll be forced to retaliate, and given their popularity as players, I think the tribe will end up siding with the vets, at least from the start. As big of a threat Joe is, it’s all too tempting to keep arguably the best challenge competitor in the show’s history for his strength, and Aubry’s proven capable before of integrating herself within a tribe despite a massive target on her back. If this is how the Episode 1 or 2 storyline plays out … ya done, Ron.
Prediction: Early Boot
Julie’s the first person in the cast that’s only managed to make me feel lukewarm. She says she’s been on-and-off applying since 2001, but she doesn’t come across overly enthusiastic during her interview. She says herself that she’s the least likely person to win … which is why she’ll win? I understand what she’s saying, but right now I’m not able to imagine a strong FTC performance from her to secure the million bucks.
I don’t dislike Julie. She seems nice, but I’m not expecting wild and crazy things from her. She has potential to be an early boot from the Kama tribe whether because she’s unable to fit in with the elements or the people, but she’s one who could also sneak by forever by doing little at all, sort of like an Angela from Ghost Island. I debated whether to even try to guess at anyone choosing to leave the Edge of Extinction voluntarily, but if I had to pick one person, then it might have to be Julie. She’s not an avid outdoorswoman, and if longer in the game, I don’t know if she will have the strength or willpower to survive outside of it. Maybe she’ll be an early boot, stay up until the first EOE re-entry point at the merge, and then after sticking it out for a week or so, she’ll decide she’s had enough. I wouldn’t blame her — the alternative is sticking around until Day 36ish and still not winning whatever challenge to get back in the game. The twist is dumb, so I’m okay with someone not wanting to participate in it. If you’re already voted out once, it’d be unprecedented to come back and win anyway (and I hope it stays that way).
Prediction: Early Boot
Oh fun, our own “Julie & Julia” conveniently placed on the same tribe to confuse us! Fortunately, they don’t seem to be much alike at all. Julia is a young, high achiever in life who knows the game and knows people, so I anticipate her playing a strong social and strategic game. I could see her in a girls alliance along with Aubry and Victoria, having similar traits among them, all able to qualify for a Survivor “Brains” tribe. Julia also has shown in her life that it’s in her blood to be motivated and driven toward achievement.
Where I think Julia will land is somewhere in the middle of the pack. As far as that position goes, I think to more recent players like Gabby or Andrea who may have been poised to go further, but jumped a little soon in making a move, playing to win at the end too much more than playing to, first, get to the end. It’s a fine line of when to make those kinds of plays. Something tells me the players will eventually realize Julia’s a little too smart for her own good and cut her before she gets too dangerous.
The last firefighter on the show was such a big presence, and things like that, so I’m very excited for Eric. Joking aside, Eric comes across as very laid back and looks like he’ll be taking a laissez faire approach to the game, but I don’t think he’s as dead behind the eyes as JP. In a sea of superfans, this style of play may actually work in Eric’s favor. He’ll need something to balance out his threat level in the physical part of the game. Being someone who is just going with the flow and out there to have fun, not taking things too seriously, could make Eric a very appealing ally.
Eric will likely bond immediately with Joe and by extension, Aubry, so he could find himself in an early alliance with some of the younger guys and girls on Kama. Eric’s type seems to always make about the middle of the merge, so I’m going with statistics here and saying that’s where he’ll land. His personality won’t make him an immediate target, but once some of the other heavy hitting challenge beasts are ousted, the tribe will be looking to extinguish Eric’s fire next.
What’s funny about Aurora is that she lists know-it-alls among her pet peeves, but she recognizes that she can often be one herself. She’s tough with a take-no-prisoner attitude, and I appreciate that she knows herself and anticipates being one who’s going to Russell feathers and not apologize for her actions, but own them. Some of her qualities remind me of Angelina and while I don’t know if she’ll be the pure gold that Angelina was on television, I think Aurora has potential to follow in the footsteps of being a confident, assertive, female force in the game.
Aurora looks athletic too, and with a sharp mind she’ll be a strategic threat, but it’s her social game that may be a little weak to back up those two items. Like she says, she recognizes some of her social weaknesses, but given the nature of the game, one mistake is all it takes to get voted out. She may know when to apologize for any brash behavior, but she won’t always have enough time to do so, or it could be too little too little. Players look for any reason to vote someone out, especially once options grow slim after the merge.
Prediction: Early Jury
I don’t care for Joe — never have and likely never will. He’s not a bad guy, I just don’t find anything he brings to Survivor entertaining and how the fanbase goes flipping nuts for him drives me flipping nuts. Joe’s, of course, preaching “third time’s the charm,” but I don’t really expect his gameplay to be drastically different. It’s not as though he intentionally relies on winning challenges to stay in the game, but that’s what it’s come to both times he’s played. Joe will make it as far as he usually does by winning challenges and once his neck is vulnerable and no longer sporting the immunity necklace, the tribe will go for his jugular.
That’s why I hate this Edge of Extinction twist so much. That is where Joe’s game should end because he hasn’t proven capable of making it over that hurdle of being too much of a force to take to the finale. This season, however, Joe can even be voted out twice, win challenges to return to the game both times, make fire faster than someone else on Day 38, and he’ll end up sitting at Final Tribal Council. Basically, in spite of everyone’s best efforts to not let Joe Anglim be the Sole Survivor, we should all be going to Vegas to bet that he’ll at least get pretty damn close. If he’s able to win over a jury having not actually played much of the game at all and instead spending it all on another island away from all the strategy and social politics, then he’ll go down as the worst winner ever and I’ll have to find a way to bleach out this season from my memory. More power to Joe if he pulls off making it to the end this way, but that’s not Survivor for me, and I hope a jury realizes that, while it’s still an accomplishment, it’s not one greater than that of someone who never was voted out (… twice).
Prediction: Final Three (like a cockroach)
I LOVE Aubry, and while I don’t love returning players in a newbie season, I’m rooting for her because of what an equally impressive and depressing run she’s had on her two seasons of Survivor. Losing Kaoh Rong by just a few votes in one of the show’s most controversial upsets, to go on to Game Changers which is enough said, Aubry’s had some serious lows while maintaining a high level of positivity and humility through it all. She probably has more to complain about than most, but she’s also expressed those feelings the least and has been grateful for every second of her Survivor experience, especially those involving eggs and coleslaw.
Aubry’s under-the-radar showing in Game Changers I think will give her an edge over Joe, Kelley, and David who all had impressively memorable performances in their most recent seasons. Of the four, I feel Aubry has the best chance of blending in and not being an immediate target. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Aubry and there’s just something about her that draws you in and makes you want to be her best friend or have her be your best friend. I don’t doubt the players this season will feel the same, even if they recognize her as one to beat. The worst-case scenario would be my favorite returnee, Aubry, and my least favorite, Joe, both making it to the final four, Aubry by playing the game and Joe by winning his way back into it a few times, to then see Joe beat Aubry in the stupid fire-making challenge, sending her to the jury ahead of what may have finally been her win. I’m still rooting for several of the newbies, but if Aubry gets so close to the end again and doesn’t win, my heart’s going to hurt. A lot. Given what I already feel about this season … that’s probably what’s going to happen.
Prediction: Late Jury
With Edge of Extinction in play, I’m not even sure how a boot list works, especially post-merge. In theory, all 18 players could still be eligible to win headed into the finale night. What a hot mess that would be, but trying to focus more on when they’ll (first) be voted out, with the exception of the Joe factor, I’m going with a list something like this:
Pre-Merge: Reem, Ron, Wendy, Julie, David, Kelley
Merge: Chris, Wardog, Aurora, Julia, Eric, Rick
Finale: Lauren, Keith, Aubry, Joe, Victoria, Gavin
There are some that shine more than others, but overall … this cast is surprisingly good, so I can’t exactly piece together why Lynne Spillman was fired for putting this group of eighteen on the island. I’m starting to think there was much more to that executive decision. Maybe these people just don’t play together well and the season plays out like a bad version of a Brant Steele simulation, with the biggest personalities and players all sent to Edge of Extinction early. I remember having similar thoughts on the Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers cast where everyone looked fantastic on paper but something about them all coming together didn’t make the magic happen like I thought it would.
I admittedly feel better at least about the season from a casting standpoint, but I still hate the twist. Even if some of the stars are preserved by getting to continue their stories on EOE, that’s still not “Survivor” and the time spent there will only eat up time that could be spent showcasing the Survivors who haven’t had their torches snuffed. The Ghost Island and Redemption Island twists always made their seasons suffer by having to spend pointless time there, and now with, again, the potential for 18 people to still be in the game in the final days of it … how the hell are editors going to craft a cohesive narrative? David vs. Goliath featured phenomenal storytelling, but with so much going on surrounding this twist, I can’t fathom how they’re going to cram all the content into just one hour every Wednesday night. I’m just going to have to keep telling myself that last season did happen and that Survivor is still capable of greatness, no matter how much of a dull, dry wasteland Edge of Extinction becomes.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser