Kaiser Island 42 - Ryan Kaiser's Survivor 42 recaps
Survivor 42 cast assessment
By Ryan Kaiser | Published: February 28, 2022
Survivor 42 Pre-season cast analysis

Survivor 42 cast assessment

This cast is nice – too nice. After reading the CBS bios and watching the quick 60-second intro videos for everyone, there is only one that really made me say, “I don’t like them.” Even the one whose picture made me go, “Douche alert!” didn’t rub me the wrong way in their video. There aren’t a lot of standouts as easy, obvious early boots, and I could see almost anyone among the 18 go far in the game which makes my pre-season cast assessment extremely difficult.

Since 41 and 42 were filmed back-to-back, it’s a given that we’re going to see a lot of the same twists and gimmicks, so I need this cast to deliver in terms of personality. I like the potential of what I see so far, but as always, what we see before the game can wildly vary from what we get in the game. The following four thousand words may all be out the window by 7:30pm CST (or earlier) on March 9th, but making predictions is still fun for me and a way to get to know the cast ahead of the premiere. If I’m right on, I’ll get to brag and if I’m way off, I’ll just ask Jeff to delete this so no one ever knows I was wrong.

Spongebob burning

Alright, I’ll kick off this cast assessment with what I think is my favorite tribe, Vati!

Lydia Meredith

And my favorite person on my favorite tribe, Lydia! My pre-game favorite never wins, so I’m sorry to Lydia for blowing this for her, but I can’t help but love an actor/writer/server/bartender/chemist/part-time model.  Wait, I’m getting my quirky characters confused.  If “Lydia” was short for “Little Debbie” I’d believe it — Lydia even said her brain never shuts off, similar to Debbie and her impressive frontal lobes. I normally don’t root for the young’uns but there’s always an exception to the rule.

Will Lydia be the exception to my curse? Probably not, unfortunately. She has so much energy and I worry that while she says she’s going to try to listen more and talk less, Lydia “talking less” is still going to come across as “talking a lot” compared to everyone else. She says her hero is Kristen Wiig which means Lydia is exactly who I’m looking for to bring the humor that I missed in 41. However, a lot of Kristen Wiig characters probably wouldn’t do well on Survivor which has me a little concerned for Lydia’s longevity if these are her some of role models:

Technically not Lydia

Also not Lydia

Looking at Vati, I worry Lydia could be the first boot.  I think it’ll be between her and Mike for reasons of personality conflict, and if Vati loses early, they may want to keep Mike purely for his physical strength, so …

Prediction: First Boot *cries*

Hai Giang

My odds for Lydia may be low, but I am high on Hai! Hai has the makings of someone who should go very, very far.  He’s smart, he’s resilient, he seems charming, and I imagine everyone he meets falling in love with him.  Though he describes himself as “aggressive,” he doesn’t look it, and that will serve him well in the game. While he’s making friends with everyone, he’ll be reading the room which he claims to be skilled at, smiling at everyone as he plots their demise.

The only concern I have with Hai is that others might catch on to how big of a threat he’ll be at Final Tribal Council, similar to Ricard near the end of 41.  Ricard, though, was also a challenge beast, so if Hai isn’t as much of a top-tier performer there, that could separate him from Ricard and propel him to the end. As to not bury the lead in my assessment, I’ll go ahead and announce now that Hai is my *official* winner pick for Survivor 42. He’s not only someone who I think will do well but also someone I’d like to see win for an added boost in representation — it would also be cool for Hai to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Yul. I will not confirm whether or not Jennifer Coolidge’s winner pick had any influence on mine.

Prediction: Winner

Chanelle Howell

I like Chanelle’s chances a lot as well. She’s an executive recruiter so her entire career is evaluating and communicating with people. Thus, Chanelle’s social game should be one of the strongest of the season. She also describes herself as a fierce negotiator and good at “crunching numbers.” She seems very driven and tactful which is great but could also become a problem if she gets stuck in her own head with game theory.

Chanelle is great on paper but her video didn’t “pop” to me as much as others. This may not be a bad thing as blending in and flying under the radar, especially for the first phase of the game, is a better call than coming out of the gates too strong. Honestly, I could see her going to the end with Hai and maybe narrowly losing to someone like him who would have more of that “pop” in front of a jury. Chanelle’s a close second pick to win for me and if I see more energy from her on the show than in initial press, she’ll remain near the top of the contender list.

Prediction: Final Three

Jenny Kim

Coming from the stereotypical strict Asian-American household, Jenny is way bubblier than I’d have guessed her to be, and I love that she stepped out on her own to pursue a career in creativity and design rather than perhaps what her mother wanted her to be. At 43, she could fall into the “older woman” category, but her personality seems to me like she’ll be able to mesh well with the younger crowd and that won’t be an issue.

Jenny says she has high emotional intelligence which is something I always put at the top of the list of skills to have in Survivor. Simply being liked by the other players in the game is an underrated key to success. Who wants to spend 26 days with someone they don’t like? If Jenny’s smile can be sweet and soothing, people may try to find a way to include her in their long-term plans. I think Jenny will go far, but I wonder if she’s too nice to be the sort of killer she’ll need to be at the end, maybe ending up on the wrong side of numbers if her compassionate side doesn’t let her jump ship when the one she’s on is sinking.

Prediction: Mid-Jury

Daniel Strunk

Looking at the Vati tribe, I have half of them going to the end and the other half going out early. Daniel falls in the latter group. David may be a student of the game and a big Survivor nerd, but what raised a big red flag for me was him admitting in his video that he’s not actually sure he has what it takes to be the Sole Survivor. If you have to ask, then to me, the answer is “you don’t.”  

I like Daniel and I think that self-depreciating humor is one that I’ll enjoy. Maybe if he can quickly find the confidence he needs, he’ll go further, but if you’ve watched Survivor for 20 years and still don’t know if you could win, I’m not placing any bets on you. I think Daniel will be a nerdier version of Voce — super smart, studious type but just bested by some really aggressive players who come into the game with the confidence needed to take charge and take names.

Prediction: Early Boot

Mike Turner

Mike initially sticks out like a sore thumb on this tribe and while Lydia will also be a loud type, I don’t think she’ll be as intimidating as Mike will be — it would hard not to be a little scared of this guy even if he says not the judge a book by its cover. Try as he may, he could still be the bossy type and go the way of Abraham for just not being the best “fit” for the tribe.

That would suck because I think Mike could be a big character – New Jersey always delivers and his “Hoboken whisper”? I love it! If he can convince the tribe that he’s actually a big, goofy, softy then maybe they’ll keep him around, and what he also has going for him is that he’s definitely the physically strongest member of Vati. “Keeping the tribe strong” isn’t as important in New School Survivor as it was in Old School, but if your tribe loses the first immunity challenge, it’s certainly going to be considered. I think Mike may beat out Lydia, but if Vati votes twice before a swap or the merge, then I think Mike’s definitely one of those first two to go.

Prediction: Early Boot

Maryanne Oketch

Kicking off for Taku we have Maryanne, the self-labeled “weird kid” who also describes herself as “chaotic” and a lover of tabletop/video games. SHOCKER, Maryanne is another favorite of mine. Maryanne may be the “growth” story of the season, and I’m so here for it. However, she’s extremely energetic so I think she’ll have to learn quickly how to dial it back a little be and just be cool. I mean, she already is to me, because weird is synonymous with cool in my dictionary, but it’s the rest of the cast to which Maryanne will need to adapt.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think Maryanne can make it deep. On this initial Taku tribe, Maryanne isn’t going to have guaranteed protection, and she could find herself facing a similar fate that I fear Lydia will with being the loud little sister type. My hope for Maryanne would be to ally herself with the likes of Omar and Jackson and push the votes onto Lindsay and/or Marya. If Maryanne makes the merge, I think she’ll make the finale and either end up the sad fire-making loser or voted out shortly before for having too much of an emotionally compelling story to win the game. No matter how far she goes, I’m excited to watch her journey … and her facial reaction shots:

Maryanne gasping

Prediction: Late Jury

Lindsay Dolashewich

Lindsay says she draws inspiration from Stephenie Lagrossa which would be a swipe left for me if I was treating this cast assessment like Tinder again. Don’t get me wrong — Stephenie’s a fierce competitor and her two first runs on Survivor were impressive, unsurprisingly still referenced over a decade since the last time she played.  However, the reason Stephenie didn’t win and why people who play like her won’t win either is that she’s just simply too aggressive.

Stephenie was a little nasty in Guatemala and while I don’t see that same energy coming out of Lindsay, I could see her labeled as “aggressive.” She played tackle football growing up, so she’s going to be a physical beast, but she may also be a little headstrong. She says she grew up known as “the loud friend,” and a lot of times the loud personalities go early in this game. If Lindsay and Maryanne are closest to that on Taku, I think Maryanne will look “softer” than Lindsay and someone who the tribe will prefer to keep longer, leaving Lindsay to be a potential first boot.

Prediction: Early Boot

Jonathan Young

Immediately no. This guy wants to be the most winningest challenge beast ever? He could be, but he definitely won’t win the game with that attitude. Jonathan is the guy who set off my douchebag alert, but his video didn’t come across as cocky as I expected. He wants to “serve” his tribe, a.k.a. win every challenge for them, I guess. I really think Jonathan believes he can win this game by winning all the challenges. No one’s done it yet, and I don’t think that’s going to change this late in the franchise.

Jonathan screams to me the guy who could be immune all the way to the merge and end up the one to go as soon as he’s not immune. He’s far and away the strongest-looking in the cast, so I don’t doubt he’ll win a few, but I’d be surprised if he lasts longer than “early jury” at best. Having just watched Survivor: South Africa – Island of Secrets, Jonathan reminds me of Rocco. He may not do anything “wrong” other than just look the way he does. There’s something to be said about going into Survivor small and non-threatening.

Prediction: Early Jury

Omar Zaheer

Omar is more of the type who I don’t think people will see as an immediate threat. He’ll probably fall into the “nerd” category and maybe team up with Maryanne in an adorkable “weird kid” alliance — or a Canadian coalition. He reminds me a bit of Daniel too but with a more confidence and grasp on exactly what he needs to do to win the game. He sounds aware of the importance of perception in the game, saying how he wants people to see him as a pigeon when he’s actually a very predatory bird. I’m not sure if I’d want to vote for someone to win who reminded me of one of the dumbest birds on the planet, but it could get Omar far at least.

Omar also prides himself on being calm under pressure — a skill needed as a veterinary surgeon as well as a successful Survivor player. My gut says he’ll go pretty far. Like I said, I don’t think he’ll be viewed as a threat, so as long as he’s physically capable enough to avoid being a liability, I think Omar is merge-bound and maybe even at the end-game, possibly falling short when he plays too calm and doesn’t make the aggressive attack he needs to otherwise reach Day 26.

Prediction: Late Jury

Jackson Fox

Jackson says he can get along with a tree stump; that’s to say that he’ll get along with anyone in this game, and I think his soft, Southern charm will do exactly that. I can see Jackson matching and meshing with Omar’s calm attitude while naturally being the person everyone on his tribe is drawn to — he also compares himself to Elaine Stott who we know was very popular among her cast as well as fans, a bright spot in a very dark season.

Like Elaine, though, I think Jackson will face the same threat label later in the game. He’ll be the one people can’t let get to the end, so while it’ll be a hard vote emotionally, it will be a sensible one strategically to take out the guy who could easily have everyone wrapped around his fingers. I think there are a lot of people that are “too” likable in this cast which may not make Jackson stand out as much as he would in another cast, but no matter what, I think he’ll go out for being too big of a social threat before the last several days.

Prediction: Mid-Jury

Marya Sherron

If Maryanne is the long-term “growth” story, then Marya may be the shorter-term one (funny that her name is literally a shortened one of “Maryanne”).  I’m sure Marya has her sights on winning Survivor, but more than that, I think she is looking to find herself which could cause her to miss some critical opportunities or moves in the game.

Marya’s a mom, so it’s no surprise she strikes a chord with me since I always root for the #MomSquad. I think she’s the only one in the cast which, ugh, never bodes well. Her story is so compelling, though. It sounds like she’s a mom who has given so much of her life to her family, putting them first without giving enough care and attention to herself. I hope she finds the piece of her she’s hoping to find again in Fiji, and I hope even more she surprises me with a longer stay, but as much as I hate it, it’s easy to worry about a mom making it all the way to the end in Survivor. Even the ones that do just get roasted by the jury.

Prediction: Early Boot

Rocksroy Bailey

The family man of the cast is the first Ika (Bula?) on this list, Rocksroy. I laughed when he said he’s playing this game to win the million-dollar check so that he can immediately proceed to hand it to his wife. One-liners like that and a heart of gold should make Rocksroy a big character this season. The name too — a guy who goes by “Rocksroy” isn’t going to be forgettable. I think he’ll be really fun.

As far as a game player, Rocksroy I think will fare well pre-merge but become a quick threat post-merge. Ika is interesting because it has 3 people in their late 30s/early 40s and 3 at the completely young side of the spectrum, so I could see Rocksroy becoming the “dad” here.  Those don’t tend to do as poorly as moms on Survivor, though we did see Abraham and Brad bomb early last season. Rocksroy seems a little more fun-loving than either of them, though, so he’ll be kept around especially on Ika for his personality and his physical strength, but those will both be the reason he’ll probably be a target sooner than later at the merge.

Prediction: Early Jury

Swati Goel

There’s a 25-year age gap between Swati and Rocksroy, but Swati seems much more mature than your average 19-year-old. She’s survived the Army National Guard and currently is an Ivy League student, arguably one of the hardest physical and most impressive academic achievements to have under her belt. People are going to underestimate Swati because of her age, but she could prove to be a real powerhouse in this game.

Swati sees herself as a mix between Victoria Baamonde and Chaos Kass, appreciating Victoria’s strategic prowess as a young woman while admiring Kass’s ability to take control of her own game. For the sake of winning the game, Swati should play more like Victoria, but I like where her brain is at. This cast is definitely younger than 41’s, so I don’t think age is as big of a deal here, and in fact, I think most of the end-game will look young too. While maybe underestimated early, I do think people will catch on to how smart and accomplished Swati is later in the game, maybe getting rid of her sometime around the middle of the merge when she attempts to make that power-play for control like Chaos Kass did. I love who you’re aspire to be, Swati, but there can only be one “Chaos” legend in Survivor.

Prediction: Mid-Jury

Zach Wurtenberger

I really hate people who love debating just for the sake of debate, and that’s Zach. I thought Jonathan would be last on my list of favorites, but Zach’s the kid that I just do not like. He gives me some slight Adam Klein vibes but with the (yet) undeserved overconfidence like Spencer Bledsoe. You’re 23 — cool it, kid. Maybe Swati vs. Zach will be a thing like Kass vs. Spencer was, and I hope Swati would win that battle.

Zach wasn’t cast as one of the jocks and I don’t think he’s the biggest personality, so if I was a player, I’d immediately assume Zach was cast because of his brains, and that would be a threat to me (because I would need to be “the smart one”). Zach talks a big game, but I only see him talking himself out of it.  Between Adam and Spencer, Zach seems to lean colder on the Spencer side. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong and be more endearing than he seems pre-game, talking himself up in interviews, but until he does, I’m going to wish for a swift departure.

Prediction: Early Boot

Tori Meehan

“Jesus is first, Survivor and Jeff are a close second.” She needs to sort out her priorities. Tori doesn’t strike me as someone who will use her religion to guide her decisions in the game at least, but we’ll see. She’s obviously a big fan of the show and I know she’s competed in the Sequester series, so she should be a gamer. That’s not always typical of her physical “type” on the show, so if Tori can weaponize that, playing up the dumb blonde or Mean Girls shtick, it could get her far in the game.

I don’t think Tori will be viewed as an early liability, and I don’t know at what point she’d be considered too big of a threat to keep in the game, so maybe she’ll never be voted out? I don’t see her winning, though. If I’ve got Hai and Chanelle in the final three, those are going to be two tough talkers for Tori to take down, but just knowing she’s played in a game like this before, I think Tori will know how to navigate making friends with strangers and be able to execute moves that get her to the end. For her sake, I worry that she’ll still throw words like “faith” and “integrity” into her game though that contradict her actual actions which is not what the jury will want to see or hear.

Prediction: Final Three

Romeo Escobar

As a pageant coach, Romeo says his job is to shape and build up women to take on the “Olympics of beauty pageants.” Given that, I think Romeo’s nature is to be nurturing and supportive of people, so not the killer the game of Survivor requires.  In that same breath, Romeo wasn’t a big standout for me in my initial look at this cast. I think he could fall into that same “support” role while others rise above him in the ranks. On Ika specifically, I could see him getting lost in the shuffle.

If there’s a shuffle before the merge, I could see Romeo not making a big enough impression on a new tribe if he was able to at least get his footing initially on Ika.  He’s softer-spoken and myself being someone who also isn’t great at shoving my way into the spotlight, I want to root for Romeo, but I think he’ll just land somewhere in the middle, maybe on the earlier side of it all.

Prediction: Early Boot

Drea Wheeler

Last but not least, Drea. She and Lindsay are probably the strongest women in the cast physically, but Drea doesn’t sound as intense as Lindsay to me. Drea is a fitness coach, so I’m sure at some point she’ll be looked at as a physical threat, but as a coach, she also should have the ability to learn to connect with people and adapt to them, understanding how to motivate them.  That’s huge a in game, knowing what approach is going to persuade someone to do what you want them to do.

Drea’s strong but not in your face about it — there’s almost a calm, quiet fierceness to her which I love. I think she’ll be able to navigate her way socially through the game and be considered a valuable ally to almost anyone, but it’ll be that late game hurdle that this track star could stumble over — there aren’t a lot of major athletes in this cast, so when the game is down to just a few people, that may make Drea a standout to boot if she’s not wearing the immunity necklace. I obviously love a strong woman though, so I expect to root for Drea.

Prediction: Late Jury

Boatloads of picks

Based on all that, my boot list looks something like:

Early Boots: Lydia, Mike, Lindsay, Marya, Romeo, Daniel, Zach

Jury: Rocksroy, Jonathan, Jackson, Swati, Jenny

Close but Not Enough: Drea, Omar, Maryanne

Final Three: Hai, Chanelle, Tori

Okay so a final ~eight made up of six women is definitely wishful thinking on my part, but this cast didn’t watch 41 so maybe they’ll still be mindful of the fact that they hadn’t seen a woman win since Sarah Lacina.  Let me dream.

Overall, I like this cast. I think my impression of 41’s was a little stronger, but not all of that personality ended up making it onto the show. Maybe it’ll be the opposite case here where this seemingly nice and normal group of people will just explode on-screen. I expect the game to be similar between the last season and this one — return of Shot in the Dark, something equally as bad or worse as Do or Die, etc. — so I can only hope the cast is bigger and better to help me forget about the stupid stuff. If they can at least make me laugh more, I’ll be happy.

Essentially what I’m asking for — and I realize this is a big ask — is a cast of Heathers:

Heathers Heathers

Ryan KaiserRyan 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