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The Ultimate Survivor 41 Preview: Cast Breakdown, Show Changes, And My Pitch For Everyone To Please Watch This Season

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Ladies and gentlemen, we've made it. After 16 long, painful months, Survivor is finally BACK. Tomorrow night at 8 PM ET, we'll have a new two-hour episode or Survivor on our screens. The last new episode of Survivor we watched was May 13th, 2020. It was the finale of Survivor: Winners At War, and it was the perfect end to an unbelievable season. Survivor wanted to go big for its 40th season, and boy did they deliver. There were a ton of amazing moments, and it was one of the greatest individual performances ever from a winner (no spoilers). It felt like a high point for Survivor. After a couple of bad seasons, Survivor was seemingly back on track. 

But then the pandemic happened. The live portion of the Season 40 finale had to be done remotely as the winner was announced which definitely sucked. And even worse, Survivor couldn't film any new seasons. They were supposed film 41 and 42 in Fiji from last March-June, but the pandemic obviously made that impossible. Eventually, things got better COVID-wise, but filming was still a logistical nightmare. Fiji had completely contained the virus, and they understandably didn't want hundreds of people (cast and crew) from one of the worst COVID countries in the world to come over and film a show. Other ideas were thrown out about possibly filming in America, but nothing ever came to fruition. Instead, Survivor was stuck in limbo. They couldn't film a season for the fall nor spring cycles last season. For a show that is 40 seasons deep and gets a lot of "That show is still on?!?!?!" remarks, missing that much time could've really been enough to end the show forever. 

But something funny happened over quarantine. Survivor had a resurgence. Instead of all that missed time stalling momentum for the show and making people forget it exists, the opposite happened. People had nothing to do, so they binged a LOT of TV. And Survivor is one of the most bingeable shows there is. In a weird way, quarantine ended up being the best thing that could've happened to the show. If this was like a sports free agency article ranking the winners and losers of quarantine, Survivor might top the list of winners. 

Two of the show's best seasons, Cagayan and Heroes vs. Villains, got onto Netflix which was absolutely HUGE in reaching a new audience. People that assumed Survivor was just some dumb reality show about eating bugs got to see the show for what it really is, the greatest social experiment in the world and incredibly compelling television. Last March, I wrote a Survivor binge guide on the best seasons to watch. I was stunned at the number of people who reached out after that. I got a ton of DMs and tweets from people saying they tried the show for the first time, followed the guide, and loved it. People were flying through a season a day. While only two seasons are on Netflix, Hulu has the first 34 seasons and Paramount Plus has them all, so people had options. People who I never thought would watch Survivor reached out and said they loved it. Lil Sasquatch became a fan for God's sakes. 

It genuinely made me so happy when someone reached out to say they loved the show and thanked me for turning them on to it. It's abundantly obvious by now, but I LOVE SURVIVOR. It's my favorite show of all time. I've watched every episode with my dad since I was 4 years old. Eventually, it became an obsession. I'm not at Barstool today if not for the Survivor: Barstool fanfiction I wrote five years ago. Winning Surviving Barstool is one of the biggest personal accomplishments of my life (albeit that might sound pathetic). One day, I hope to get cast on the actual show. (If anyone from casting is reading this, my tape has already been submitted so please pick me. Thanks). 

If you still have not tried Survivor, I am pleading with you to give it a shot. I can't speak for exactly how great of a season 41 will be. Survivor has had some down seasons, and there are a LOT of changes for this season (more on that in a bit). But even the worst of Survivor is great television. If you have time to binge a season, I'll suggest what I always do - Cagayan (Season 28) on Netflix. That will hook you on Survivor. I have truly never heard of someone disliking it. The hardest part is convincing people to give the show a shot, but once they do, they always love it. Always. There's something for everyone. There's mental warfare. Awesome physical challenges. Funny moments. High drama. Some T and A. The occasional showmance. Unexpected twists. You'll have your favorites you cheer on. You'll have the people you hate and wish death upon. It has everything. 

And this year, we will be doing more Survivor content than ever. I really think and hope that Surviving Barstool got a lot of Stoolies who have never seen Survivor before into the show. Season 2 of that will probably come sometime in the winter, but in the meantime, we'll have plenty of real Survivor content to hold us over. Each week, I'll write a recap blog of every episode like I always do. But this year for the first time, we're doing a Survivor podcast. I present to you…..Snuffing Torches

SUBSCRIBE HERE

(Shoutout Youngstown Bob for the absolutely fire flames logo design)

We're going to record one episode a week right after the show airs and give our reactions and takes with some reoccurring segments. I'll be hosting alongside the other big Survivor fans in the office - Nate, Glenny Balls, Jake Marsh, and Jeff D Lowe. It'll likely be a rotating cast, and we'll get former players involved too for recaps or one-off interviews. We have to prove ourselves before being officially Barstool sanctioned (a fair ask considering Survivor isn't exactly Game Of Thrones). But I do genuinely believe that there's been a huge renaissance for Survivor and I hope that carries through this season. Give both Survivor and Snuffing Torches a shot, and I promise you won't be disappointed. 

You can subscribe on Apple and Spotify and leave a nice, 5-star review. The intro episode is already up. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell random people you don't know that well. If you know what a great show Survivor is, then convince them to give it a watch. And also give us a listen. If you love this show as much as I do, let's revive Survivor together. 

Alright now onto the Season 41 preview. 

First, let's talk about some of the changes. I blogged all the changes more in depth here if you want to read up. But I'll also give a brief summary in this blog too. 

26 Days: For the first time ever, Survivor is shortening its season. 39 days always seemed like the perfect number and it became part of the show's fabric. "39 days. __ people. ONE Survivor." It's not totally clear why they're shortening it, but we can assume it's a COVID thing where they might want to wrap filming up quicker? This is a pretty significant change. But to make up for the shortened season, we have another change.

Harsher Conditions aka "The Monster:" In every promo, we keep hearing Jeff talk about how "the monster is coming" and the players better be ready for it. And nobody really knows what the fuck that means exactly. But in an interview, he did say that conditions will be harsher. "The tribes are not given any daily food staple, and reward challenges are scarce." The challenges are also supposed to be way more physically intensive. All these changes will try to offset the season being 13 less days. 

No theme: For years, Survivor has always had a theme to every new season, either in how the tribes are divided or revolving around a specific twist. Eventually, they started to feel really forced. "Heroes Vs. Healers Vs. Hustlers" was the most egregious example of that. Now, they're just going with the basic "Survivor 41" and I like that a lot. The castaways will be divided into three tribes of six, but not based on anything specific. This is good. 

"Faster, more dangerous and much more intense game:" More cliches that we don't really understand. But I assume it relates to this "monster" we keep hearing about. It also makes sense that the game does literally have to move faster since there's the same amount of people but 13 less days.

Smaller tribes and votes being "often at risk:" This comes from another Jeff quote. "Tribes are very small throughout the season, which makes Tribal Council even scarier because there is nowhere to hide. And votes are often at risk, which means you can’t ever rely on how many votes your alliance will have at any Tribal Council." Tribes staying small is very interesting. I guess no tribe swap into like two tribes of 7 at 14. But how does this impact the merge? There's usually at least 11 at the merge in recent seasons. You need to merge or swap tribes before the jury so everyone can play with each other. So it'll be interesting to see exactly how they play that. And I don't know what votes being "at risk" means, but I don't like it. Hope this isn't some weird twist. Players should always have their votes at tribal council. It's the core of Survivor. 

Jeff is going to talk to us throughout the season: Apparently, Jeff is going to talk to the audience throughout the season. Let us know when a big twist or advantage is coming and talk us through it. This is fine. I'd bet it's because they're expecting a good chunk of new viewers and maybe want to make sure they don't get confused? 

"The Game Within The Game:" This is something geared towards younger audiences. There's a hidden puzzle in every episode to solve. "It culminates at the end of the season and connects directly back to the real game with the players." So I guess that's something to keep an eye on. 

So, yeah, a lot of changes. As someone who certainly hates change, I'm a little bit weary. I love Survivor as is and don't want too much being switched up. But at the end of the day, I trust Jeff Probst and the rest of the Survivor production team. They know how big of a season this is with the new audience they've captured, and they can't fuck it up. Let's hope for the best. 

Alright, now let's get into the cast preview. This is when I just give my first impression, knee-jerk reactions to the contestants based on their answers to the cast bio questions. I'll also include the little Instagram clips that they've put out and then give my pre-season winner rankings. Let's get into it. The player facts and answers come from Entertainment Weekly

Ricard

Age: 31 
Occupation: 
Flight Attendant
Hobbies: 
Violin, running, winterguard

I have no idea what winterguard means, but it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy. 

What is something we would never know from looking at you? 

I am deaf in one ear. I focus heavily on reading lips and am fluent in ASL.

Have to wonder if this is something he'll share with everyone or keep to himself. Or does he go with the old Rico Bosco strategy of lying to everyone and saying he's fully deaf just so he can hear if they talk shit about him. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

The ability to show kindness, but also not take certain attacks and situations seriously feels like most players' downfall. They succumb to the emotions and get voted out. I have awareness of my being while also being very observant of others and loyal, but not to a fault. 

This is a very good answer. Can't be out there showing too much kindness, but it's also important to not take things too seriously or personally. Be loyal but don't let it blind you. Always be watching and observing others. 

My Take On Ricard:

I'm optimistic for Ricard. He seems to have a good understanding of the game and how to play it. He seems likable and smart, and should be a contributor in challenges without being a challenge beast. That's usually a recipe to go for far in this game. Potential winner. 

Sydney

Age: 26
Current Residence: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Occupation: Law student

I might go to law school just to get on this god damn show. They are obsessed with lawyers and law students, so it's no surprise to see Sydney fill that slot. 

Pet Peeves: Bodily noises: sniffling, snoring, heavy breathing, coughing

She might be on the wrong show considering she'll have to sleep right next to a bunch of people in a shelter every night. 

What is something we would never know from looking at you?

I speak Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and some French.

Just completely useless for the purpose of this show. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Natalie White. She was able to assess her place on her tribe and in her alliance, while consciously nursing Russell's ego. Her social awareness is something I admired.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I have the essential social skills and social awareness. I am athletic, but not some 6'2" buff dude who will be threatening. I am not a creature of habit and can adapt to any situation. Having watched Survivor, I have the benefit of hindsight and think I have a high Survivor IQ. I play to win.

As a Russell superfan, I hate the Natalie White answer. But I get where she's coming from. But will she get a Russell this season? Probably not. It's good she's a fan of the show though.

My Take On Sydney:

I'm torn on Sydney. I like some of her answers, as she seems to have a good understanding of the show. But if you watch her intro video, she comes off as overconfident. Being the hot (already followed her on Instagram and got the followback. Huge. Sup?), cocky, law school girl will certainly rub people the long way. Lawyers never fare too well on this show for a reason. An unlikely winner.

Brad

Age: 50
Current Residence: Shawnee, WY
Occupation: 
Rancher

The first contestant from Wyoming in Survivor history. He has the weight of about 37 people on his shoulders. 

What is something we would never know from looking at you? 

I'm a private pilot and enjoy flying. I've nearly died from a rattlesnake bite, been blown up by a propane tank and I like to live life on the edge.

I get a lot of sinus infections. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Boston Rob. We don't have the same personality, but his thoughtful, strategic play is how I see myself playing.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I have all the skills of a typical rancher – hard-working, common sense-but I'm completely different because of my social skills. I believe I can build multi-dimensional alliances and win trust with most people, but with laser vision towards the end goal.

Ah, the classic Boston Rob answer. I will say that I like his second answer a lot though. You'd expect a rancher to say "Oh I just want to go out there and work hard and be good at the challenges" but he has a strong grasp of the social game. 

My Take on Brad:

Don't judge a rancher by his ranching. At first look, I'd expect to write off Brad as the rancher who is just out there for the adventure that has no basic understanding of strategy or the social game. Brad seems different though. He's very likable, will help around camp, and seems to actually know the game. He might be a wolf in sheep's clothing. They'll think "Oh Brad the cattle rancher is so harmless!" and then we'll see if he can snap necks. I like Brad's chances. 

Liana

Age: 20
Current Residence: Washington, DC
Occupation: College Student

Pet Peeves: I hate when people chew with their mouth open.

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I would hope to play the game most like Tony Vlachos, except not have other people know that. Tony was a player that minimized risks to the best of his ability. He would always read the social scene and crunch numbers, but if he felt like his game was on the line, he would find some way to ensure his safety, whether it was finding an idol or slickly attempting to overhear other players' conversations. Although I really hated when Tony did that as a viewer, I think his type of game play is one that I would try to emulate, but in a way that had more authentic relationships. In all honesty, I would hope to be a type of hybrid between Tony and Elaine. I would have Tony's game play skills and Elaine's people skills.

Wow. Honestly, most of her other answers were boring and didn't tell us a lot about her, so I was stunned to see this thorough breakdown of Tony's game. People who think Tony was just a guy who found idols and blindsided people don't understand why he was so brilliant. Liana does. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I believe I can be the final Survivor because too often, women of color are overlooked and undervalued. Whether that's in my business classes dominated by white men who feel entitled to the space they take up or in future workplaces, it is women of color who have nurtured and cared for others throughout history. If there was ever a person who was strong enough mentally, physically and emotionally to take on a game full of odds – a woman of color, a woman like me and the women I come from would be the one to do it.

For anyone that doesn't know, this will be Survivor's first season abiding by CBS' new reality show rules where half the contestants have to be minorities. I think between that and everything that's happened in the world since Survivor last aired, there's a good chance race relations and social justice stuff get brought up a lot this season. And to be very frank, I think there's a good chance that a minority does end up winning this season given all of that. So that's good news for Liana. 

My Take On Liana:

I like Liana's chances a lot. She's young and seems quiet which won't have people viewing her as a threat. But she's clearly a smart girl going by those answers. She goes to Georgetown (I got in there no big deal), but doesn't come off as an in your face know-it-all. I don't think she should be an early target and then can use her social and strategic skills come merge time. She's one of the frontrunners. 

Danny

Age: 33
Hometown: Houston, TX
Occupation: Ex-NFL Player

We have our token former athlete of the season. I can't say I really remember him. 

Pet Peeve: Lying, not being on time and lack of accountability. Lack of awareness and consideration for people's time and space or having to repeat myself after three times.

You're on the wrong show if your pet peeve is lying, Danny. Also anyone that gets mad over having to repeat themselves is probably a hothead. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Ben "Boom" Driebergen, 1 Big Move King. I figure that I would be seen as a strong physical player so I would eventually become a big target. The way Ben was able to outwork everyone on the tribe and do what he needed to do in order to survive was truly admirable. It's that "back against the wall mentality" I admire

Yuck. Hate this answer. Thought Ben was one of the worst winners in show history. Anyone that says they're coming out here to make "big moves" and all that mumbo jumbo is just probably is not winner material. 

My Take On Danny:

Maybe he'll surprise me, but I'm going to put his winning chances at close to zero. Former athletes rarely do well on Survivor. He's going to be way too competitive and probably rub some people the wrong way. I'd bet good money we see him yelling at a tribe mate over a poor challenge performance at some point. He's also such a physical threat that he'll be targeted early at the merge. I just don't see a winning path for him. 

Evvie

Age: 28
Hometown: Westchester, NY
Occupation: PHD student

Pet Peeves: Men. Not all men, but I cannot stand machismo and man-splainers - anything like that drives me insane. In grad school, I deal with A LOT of know-it-all male energy, and it's a lot. Back when I dated men, I once broke up with a guy because we were on a trip to Budapest and he kept pronouncing it "Budah-pesht" to prove how smart and worldly he was, and it was the biggest turnoff. I broke up with him literally 30 minutes after we got back from the trip.

Oh God. Look, if you're going to blindly say that you hate men, then I'm going to blindly say that I hate you. I think that's fair. She also accuses guys of being know-it-alls and then says she once broke up with a guy because she didn't like how he pronounced Budapest? Can definitely see her clashing with a strong, male personality like Danny. 

Who is your hero and why? 

My hero is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Puke.

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I think the strategy that would work well for me would be staying close to the center of power, but never directly perceived as the one making the calls. For example, Todd at the beginning of China put Aaron as the leader of his tribe, but knew he could control him. I also think Natalie in San Juan Del Sur crushed this. She was Jeremy's number two at first, so he was the one that got cut while she stuck around. Then she pretended to let Jon Misch et al. be in charge. Ultimately, she struck at the right time and was able to get him out and win.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I really think I have the right combination of skills to win the game. I'm extremely smart and strategic and know the game very well and will constantly be thinking about how to put myself in the best position to win. But I'm also so silly and goofy and physically small and clumsy that I think people will really underestimate me and not target me. I've got an infectious smile and personality that will help me make great bonds with people. I'm super open and vulnerable with people so I think people will feel close to me, tell me information and want to work with me. I think people will have warm feelings for me at the end of the game even if I vote them out. I'm good at reading people's vibes and am very sensitive to shifts in people's energy so I think I'll be able to figure out if people are lying to me or planning to betray me. 

These are both very good answers. She's clearly a student of the game and has a good understanding of what strategies work and what strategies don't. If she is actually able to execute all these things she's talking about, she'll be a serious threat. 

My Take On Evvie:

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Evvie doesn't have a "Viva La Stool" sticker on her laptop. She's a tough nut to crack though as far as her chances in this game go though. Like I said, I can definitely see her clashing with stronger male personalities. But she also has a good energy in her video and doesn't appear confrontational or in your face. And she knows some strategy. But she likely won't be a contributor in challenges which could put her in trouble early. I would predict she's either one of the first out, or she's in like the Final 6. 

David

Age: 35
Current Residence: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Neurosurgeon

Pet Peeve: My pet peeves revolve around people's incompetence, laziness and lack of self-awareness. When you work an insane number of hours in a week, you just can't tolerate pure ineptness.

Something tells me David isn't going to be this happy-go-lucky guy that everyone loves and gets along with. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I would play with a similar aggressive nature as Russell Hantz. He was aggressive, but his social assimilation needed work. Todd Herzog had a brilliant social game. He did in final tribal what Russell couldn't. I know how to pander to people and make them feel valuable even if I don't believe it. I would dominate in final tribal.

I think it's clear what type of players David will be. He'll try to be the villain who makes big moves and backstabs people. But nothing from his video or answers suggests he'll have the social skills to execute all that. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I will be the sole Survivor because I possess an ideal balance of charm, wit, athleticism and grit. Neurosurgery training has prepared me to push myself physically and emotionally beyond what is normal. As a neurosurgeon I have to be charming, relatable and able to connect with my patients, who place their identity and lives literally in my hands. I know how to be cool under stress. In neurosurgery the stakes are incredibly high and the only person I can trust to get the job done is myself. In "Survivor," you always have to assume that people are trying to screw you over. I am extremely athletic and work out twice a day. However, I am not a "jock" or "golden boy" like Joey Amazing, Malcolm or Ozzy, who will always be targets because of their persona. I can also be extremely eloquent and persuasive – my final tribal council will rival the likes of Todd Herzog's

Well, he certainly doesn't lack confidence.

My Take On David:

I actually like a lot of David's answers. If he can execute everything he's saying, he could win. But he does also come off as a cocky know-it-all who could end up annoying people. I also think there's a lot of people in this cast I could see him clashing with. Worst case scenario he's a David Samson. Best case he's Tony Vlachos. In reality, he's probably somewhere in the middle but way closer to Samson.

Genie

She comes off as extremely likable and authentic in that video.

Age: 46
Current Residence: Portland, OR
Occupation: Grocery clerk

Pet Peeves: People who wear masks incorrectly by not covering their nose and mouth, or who don't wear them at all.

Well, she'll have to hate the entire cast then because I assume they won't be wearing masks all season.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?  

I got the "hustle award" one year at basketball camp when I was 15 years old. 

I don't know why, but this answer made me laugh out loud. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I don't believe in playing like any other contestant before. I'm going to have many alliances so I can always have the best options to further my game.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I'm very likable and sincere so people trust me. I'm also very nice so no one will suspect me to be strategic.

My Take On Genie:

It's hard not to like Genie. She has an infectious, authentic personality in that video and she's probably right when she says everyone likes her. I'm getting major Elaine vibes from Season 39. But as she says in her video, it's extremely hard for the most likable, social player to win ever. Cirie is the ultimate proof of that. Maybe she can be the first, but it would be quite a challenge. I still think she goes far though. She feels like a 4th to 6th place finisher. 

Deshawn

Age: 26
Hometown: San Bernardino, CA
Occupation: Medical Student

3 Words to Describe You: Charming, devious, resilient

That's a dangerous trio for Survivor if he's telling the truth.

Pet Peeve: My biggest pet peeve is being told what to do. And it's not something that makes me mildly irritated, I deeply loathe being told what to do. Listen, I'm not saying I know it all, but I'd much rather try and fail at something than go along with what someone else tells me is "acceptable."

This answer worries me a little. You're probably going to get told what to do on Survivor. There's bossy personalities. But you can't argue with them or else you end up looking bad too. Just let them dig themselves a hole and keep your mouth shut. The best players avoid confrontation. 

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? 

Every time I set a new goal and accomplish it, I become most proud of that goal. Most recently, I'm most proud to be in medical school, with a master's and bachelor's degree under my belt. I sense that within this next year I'll be most proud of winning "Survivor."

I'm guessing he's a smart guy based on all those degrees. And I do love the confidence of that last sentence. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Well I mean let's be real here, my game will be unprecedented! But I see my game being most like Cirie Fields socially and mentally, with a sprinkle of Wendell for pulling out competition wins in the clutch and jury management. I'll be like Cirie and Wendell's love child!

I was actually getting some Wendell vibes from him already. He came off poorly in Season 40 so it overshadows how dominant he was in Season 36. He's a great person to model your game after. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I believe I could be the final Survivor because of a combination of social, mental and physical skills. I studied the game of "Survivor" like I would study for a medical school test and what I have found is that in order to outwit, outplay and outlast, you must have all three skills and these skills must work harmoniously together and shine at different points in the game. I feel like I am self-aware, which is something a lot of people lack. I am analytical enough to pick up on social cues and smart enough to critically think through obstacles that may present themselves, without becoming flustered. I know that I'm physically enough to help my team do well in challenges in the beginning and win challenges past the merge, but also, cunning enough to get any physical threats voted out before the game becomes individual. I am persuasive, but non-threatening. I have street smarts and book smarts and am empathetic enough to be read as trustworthy. I truly feel like I have the recipe to win!

This is an AWESOME answer. Probably the best, most thorough answer anyone has given so far from this cast. He seems to have a perfect combination of skills for this show. 

My Take On Deshawn:

Major winner vibes. Very likable and charismatic in his intro video. His answers are awesome and well though-out. He'll be likable without being a Genie type likability threat. He'll be strategic without being an over-the-top mastermind. And he'll help out in challenges without looking like a top physical threat. It's a perfect combination for a very deep run. 

Heather

"My dad's name is Bubba. I know how to do some stuff." What a quote. 

Age: 52
Current Residence: Charleston, SC
Occupation: Stay at Home Mom

Well, we have our mom archetype for the season. 

Hobbies: Exploring, painting, tennis and pickleball

I need to know everything about this pickleball game she speaks of. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like?

Rick Devens – he played so hard with everything he had. Even when it was getting bad, he made his time fun! I want to make my experience a truly fun adventure, even if only for myself. I want to belly laugh when it's so tough. Tina Wesson – she was calculated, direct, but kind. Age and stature and her nurturing persona played in her favor, she inspired me. I'd embody the kindness of Lisa Whelchel, but with the savviness of Chrissy Hofbeck.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I'm sharp and observant, like OCD observant. I'm surprisingly very strong and have a ridiculously high threshold for pain. I'm resilient. I'm daring but careful. I build strong relationships. I'm likable and entertaining. I listen and learn. I will be the person who remembers where everyone is from and what they love on their pizza. I'll know their stories – the kids, pets, etc. I may not like them all, but I have the ability to convince them all that I do! I'll make people smile when they need to. I hope to make all feel included and important.

There might be more to Heather than initially meets the eye. These are very good answers. If she can stick around past the first few votes, I like her chances. 

My Take On Heather:

Look, the old lady, mom character story arc typically goes one of two ways. She's either an early boot we all forget about. Or she gets to the end as a goat and doesn't get any votes. Might be harsh, but that's just the facts. Tina was the only exception and that is now 39 seasons ago. However, I do think Heather is more than just that friendly mom character. There seems to be a devious, savvy side to her, while still maintaining that southern, motherly charm. That's dangerous. My biggest concern is that with challenges expected to be tougher than ever this season, she could be in trouble. But if she can get to the merge, she'll make a deep run and maybe even pull this whole thing out. 

Eric

Age: 51
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Cyber Security Analyst

Pet Peeves: People who have characteristics of being slothful, condescending, and sycophantic  

An older guy with a military background who doesn't like laziness? Can definitely see him trying to take a leadership role early on and not getting along with the young whippersnappers on his tribe. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like?  

I would construct a hybrid playing style of Richard Hatch and Wendell Holland with a touch of Boston Rob.

That would be an absurdly interesting combination. 

My Take On Eric:

We learn a lot more about Eric from his video than his rather brief answers. But I know enough to know I don't like his chances. There's a lot of youth this season, and I can't see Eric fitting in too well with them. He'll either be a very early boot after getting too bossy or make the merge and be booted shortly after. 

Sara

Age: 24
Current Residence: Boston, MA
Occupation: Healthcare Consultant

Hobbies: Poker, aerial silks and trapeze, cooking and baking

After how quiet and innocent she came off in that video, I did NOT see her being a poker player. Was that all a bluff???

Pet Peeves: Loud chewing and chewing with an open mouth. Uncleanliness. Really crude humor; manners go a long way.

"Really crude humor" is such an insufferable pet peeve. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Kim Spradlin. She actually took the time to get to know the other people, which made her more personable. She also used this to her advantage because she knew exactly how to get into their heads. She made people feel like they were the ones making the moves, successfully diverting the target from her back. Kim was also so strong and kicked butt in immunity challenges, which I definitely think that I can also do on the show.

I did not get Kim vibes from her at all in that intro video, considering she said she just came up with a "couple strategies" and one of them was laying low. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I don't think there has ever been someone on the show with the same physicality, intelligence and social awareness that I have. I love talking to and bonding with people and in order to win Survivor, you have to know how to connect with people on a human level. I am very good at reading a room and know when someone is lying to me. I also have the physical strength and fighting spirit that I know will push me to never give up and always give everything I have. I am incredibly tough, both mentally and physically, and I believe I will thrive in the environment of the game. I'm not going to tell anyone I went to MIT and I think I will be underestimated, which I will use to my advantage. With my ability to genuinely connect with people, brains and physical strength, I could definitely be the final Survivor.

Surprisingly good answer. Wasn't expecting much out of her after her video, but these answers are decent. Humble brag on MIT too. 

My Take On Sara:

She's going to fall somewhere in the middle of my rankings.  Her answers were decent, but she came off way too sheepish and mild-mannered in that video. Doesn't seem like she'll be an aggressive enough player to adapt on the fly to all these crazy changes Jeff keeps talking about. I think she's more likely to be a potential goat at the end than an UTR winner, but we'll see. 

Jairus

Age: 20
Current Residence: Oklahoma City, OK
Occupation: College Student

Hobbies: Obviously Survivor, working with kids/pediatric nursing, athletics (jiu jitsu, running, dance)
3 Words to Describe You: High energy, charming, charismatic
Pet Peeves: I really hate bullies, and I don't like loud eating.

I think he has now the FOURTH person to list loud chewing/eating as their pet peeve. Get a little more creative please, people. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I would love to play the game like the culmination of some great Survivor winners, specifically Parvati, Fabio and Jeremy Collins. No one in the history of Survivor can charm like Parv. I'm going to change that. I would love to have Fabio's ability to be underestimated, which I believe is the best thing you can be in Survivor. Lastly, I want to work Jeremy's shield management into my gameplay while still having my own king spin on it.

I was already getting some Fabio vibes from him so I'm glad he said it too. The shield management is also smart because he's going to be a target himself and needs to keep other big threats around. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I believe that there are numerous aspects of Survivor. You'll drive yourself mad trying to do one of them perfectly. If I can do everything well enough, I know I can win. I have great social awareness and in high school I was very popular. I had my hand in every clique with the jocks, the band kids, musical theatre kids, popular kids, rappers, academic kids, ROTC kids, quiet kids and even the teachers loved me. Even now, I have a great relationship with the president of our college. I have that "it" factor that some people just have. I think JT had it and Kim Spradlin, now I have it too.

Awesome answer. You can tell from his video that he's super likable and easy to be around which is always a good thing when you're stranded on a deserted island. 

My Take On Jairus: 

I like Jairus a lot. He has all the necessary tools to win Survivor. He's like a younger Jeremy. But that also might be his downfall. He might end up being almost TOO good at Survivor. Everyone is going to like him. He understands strategy. He'll be a challenge threat. And looking around at this cast, I don't see too many other "meat shields" he can use to protect him. Nobody is going to want to sit next to Jairus at the end. He has potential 4th place finisher vibes to him. How's this for a bold prediction? He's a post-merge boot, but then one day comes back to a returnee season and wins. 

Shantel

Age: 34
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: 
Pastor

Hobbies: Running, improv, acting, comedy, dancing
3 Words to Describe You: Passionate, authentic, resilient

What is something we would never know from looking at you? 

I was in a gang.

Well, I did not see that one coming. The pastor who likes to dance and do improv had a past life as a gang member??? This is why I can't get cast if I'm competing against people with fucking stories like this. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I think I am probably going to play the game most like Kim; strategically and relationally like Tai when it comes to idols, but I got some Parv in me too.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I believe I have what it takes to win. I think living on the streets, developing a strong work ethic, practicing excellence in all that I do and put out into the world, having a high threshold for pain and suffering, endurance, perseverance, knowing that nothing comes easily but everything must be earned and worked for, rigorous self-examination, zero entitlement, trusting that self discipline is self love, believing in others and making them feel capable of accomplishing anything, my interpersonal skills, my wit and my grit, my reverence for God in others, my heart to serve, and an attitude of gratefulness and celebration for the small wins all make me believe that I will be the final Survivor.

A gang member and pastor put together does sound like a scary combination for Survivor. I just hope she doesn't go too crazy with all the God stuff and focuses more on her street smarts than her (Holy) book smarts. 

My Take On Shantel:

She's the toughest nut to crack so far. Really struggling to get a read on her. She's a draft pick with boom or bust potential. I can see her putting it all together and being a winner. I can also see her being the first person out. It's tough to stump ole Tommy boy, but Shantel has done it. Just going to plop her in the middle of my rankings for now. 

Naseer

Age: 37
Hometown: Sri Lanka
Occupation: Sales Manager

Hobbies: Cricket, traveling, cooking
3 Words to Describe You: Authentic, outgoing, hardworking

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? 

I have achieved the American Dream. I grew up in poverty, living in a mud hut with no electricity or running water for half my life. I never held a cell phone or touched a computer until I was 18. I worked my way up from selling vegetables on the street to making multi-million-dollar sales for my company. I taught myself English. I am able to give my kids the life I didn't have growing up and still fully support my family back in Sri Lanka. I was able to help send my sister to college and support the education of my nieces and nephew. I recently saved enough money to buy land in Sri Lanka, where I hope to build my mom a more modern, safer home.

I'm tearing up over here. First of all, what an incredible story. If he wins this season, this is a script made for Hollywood. Second of all, I'm once again getting sad realizing I'll never get on this fucking show. Why did I have to grow up middle class in suburban Long Island? 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I think I'm pretty original and not too similar to anyone who has played before. I have some aspects of former players, like my jungle skills and an engaging personality, but I think I'm unique and will bring something new and refreshing to the game.

Whenever someone answers like this, it gives me a little scare that they've maybe never seen the show before. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor?

I am a strong competitor. I have a unique and engaging personality and believe my tribe would want to keep me because I can provide, win challenges and keep them entertained. I will do whatever it takes to win. This game is so important to me and winning it would be my greatest achievement. I have unique life experiences that will help me to make it to the end.

I'm not getting the vibes that Naseer is much of a strategist. He keeps talking about helping around camp and being good in challenges and being nice to people. And while that's good to stay around for awhile, you do need that cutthroat strategy and mental game to be a winner. 

My Take On Naseer:

You have to like Naseer. Watch one clip and read his interviews and you'll be rooting for him. I think he's a lock to make the merge. He's likable and will help around camp which is a great recipe for success. But I'm worried he won't have enough strategy late in the game to win it all and keep up with all the twists and turns. Hope I'm wrong though. I still give him a better chance than most. 

Tiffany

Age: 47
Hometown: Forest Hills, Queens, NY
Occupation: Teacher

I feel like this lady could be my aunt or something. 

Hobbies: Running, talking to people, building things in the house (someone has to!)
3 Words to Describe You: 
Funny, loving, LOUD

Pet Peeves: I hate being wrong! I also hate loud chewing with mouth open, half-empty water bottles in a room, people in power that abuse it.

Okay what the FUCK is with the loud chewing thing???? Was that the only requirement to get cast this season, hate loud chewers?

What is something we would never know from looking at you? 

I hate brushing my teeth before bed. I never wash my face.

Well that's just fucking gross. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

I would play competitively like Ozzy, loyal like Colby (but not to the detriment of my own game), and endearing like Parvati. 

Certainly not the vibe I expected. 

Why do you believe you can win Survivor?

I am patient and experienced in seeing the bigger picture. I know when to strike when the iron is hot, so to speak. I can read people in a minute and read their energy!

My Take On Tiffany:

I think I know Tiffany in real life. Not actually. But I basically have met/am related to many Tiffanys. A loud middle-aged lady from Long Island who likes to talk and probably has a short fuse. I don't think that's a great combination for Survivor, but you never know. Her video was promising. Maybe she can be like Carolyn from Survivor: Worlds Apart. She feels like an unlikely winner though. Wouldn't be shocked if she gets into some arguments early on and is a pre-merge boot. 

Xander

Pretty crazy they got Timothee Chalamet on this season. 

Age: 21
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Occupation: App Developer

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of? 

Nike Cross Nationals is the Super Bowl of cross country, and I love that people were baffled that my high school team even qualified. The conditions on race day were grim: the field was hilly, drenched, and oozing mud, the temp was a bone-chilling 40°, it was pouring rain and clearly no place for a Florida boy. Everyone was miserable but seeing the best of the best riddled with fear and intimidation, I felt a surge of confidence. Despite predictions that we would flop, we placed top 10.

People who run cross country LOVE telling you that they run cross country. It is their entire personality. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Any of the pretty-boy-challenge-beast-charmers, just take your pick: Jay, Joe, Devon. I think I'd play most like Jay, a fellow Florida boy, using physical powers to get me to the merge, but more importantly making strong bonds, charming all and secretly thinking hyper-strategically. 

Yeah I think we could have expected those answers. Jay and Devon are good guys to model his game after though. Pretty boy challenge beasts who also had strategic brains in their heads. 

My Take On Xander: 

Xander is everything you'd think a 20 year old guy named Xander with long hair from Florida would be. Maybe he'll surprise us and actually be a pretty boy challenge beast who actually wins, but I'd be stunned. Him and Jairus seem similar, but I like Jairus' chances WAY more. Slim to no chance  for Xander to win this thing but I suspect he'll stick around til at least the merge and then get booted. 

Erika

Age: 32
Current Residence: Toronto, Ontario
Occupation: Communications Manager

Hobbies: Traveling, boxing and fitness, following pop culture
3 Words to Describe You: Fun, fearless, empathetic
Pet Peeves: Ignorance and men in ill-fitting jeans

I don't think I've ever worn a properly fitting pair of pants, so can't see us getting along. 

What is something we would never know from looking at you? 

People are always surprised by how smart and articulate I am. I'm quite smart and figure things out quickly. I'm also quick-witted and those who get it are pleasantly surprised. Those who don't, have no clue what they're missing. People also don't believe I'm 5-feet tall because my vibes make me seem 5'3".

That might take the case for weirdest answer from all these questions. 

Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? 

Brenda on the outside, Todd underneath. Brenda is physically strong, socially aware and not afraid to show her teeth. Todd is my all-time favorite player. I can channel his ability to influence others and always be strategically in control of the game and prepare to pitch myself in an amazing jury performance.

Why do you believe you can win Survivor? 

I've been manipulative since before I knew what manipulation was. I relentlessly pursue my dreams. The great thing is no one would expect it because of my youthful face and small stature. I can make it to the end and am confident in my ability to advocate for myself at final tribal.

Alright Erika, you officially have my attention after that pair of back-to-back answers. She's clearly a student of the game, and I love that quote about manipulation. 

My Take On Erika:

There's serious winner potential here. Struggled to get a read on her at first, but I like what I see. If she can survive the pre-merge stage (she said her best outdoor skill is a positive attitude), then she can make a deep run. But I worry about people who seem like they'll struggle in challenges/with conditions this season. Normally, I don't care much about that stuff, but if this "monster" is as scary as Jeff makes it out to be, then Erika could be in trouble. I still like her chances though. 

Winner Rankings

Alright now that we've judged these books by their covers, let's get into some potential winner picks. This is a running list I’ll keep all season long. This is NOT who will last the longest. Don’t look at the person ranked last as the person most likely to go home next. Look at them as the person with the least chance to win. That person could very easily get dragged to FTC as a goat, but won’t win. This is ranking people based on their chance to actually win the game.

Tier 1 (I would feel confident saying the winner is one of these six people)

1 .Deshawn

2. Liana

3. Ricard 

4. Jairus

5. Naseer

6. Erika

Tier 2

7. Heather

8. Brad

9. Shantel

10. Sara

11. Genie

Tier 3

12. Tiffany

13. Sydney

14. David

Tier 4

15. Evvie

16. Eric

17. Xander

18. Danny

And there we have it. I'll wrap this up just shy of 9,000 words. You won't find a more comprehensive Survivor preview guide anywhere on the Internet, I promise you that. I'm really excited to keep pumping out the Survivor content all season long. And once again, please subscribe to Snuffing Torches on Apple and Spotify and leave us a nice, 5-star review. Our first episode will come out late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning after the episode. 

I can't wait to get the goosebumps when the intro hits tomorrow night. 

26 days. 18 people. ONE Survivor!