Handicapping the Field of Survivor Season 40
The season Survivor fans have wanted for years has finally come into fruition.
The show’s 40th edition will feature only winners from seasons past. While there are some sad omissions such as Richard Hatch, Tina Wesson, Todd Herzog and John Cochran, there can be no complaints when we finally get a chance to see 20 winners duke it out for title of champion among champions.
With the cast being released by Inside Survivor’s Redmond, let’s break down which of these former winners can actually win this thing again.
20. Tony Vlachos (Cagayan)
Odds of Winning: 125–1
They call him a unicorn for a good reason. The most frenetic winner of all time, Tony’s game style just isn’t a repeatable way to win Survivor, or even do well in it. His return in Game Changers was a disaster, as he schemed his way into being the second boot. He was one of the biggest threats going into that season, but even amongst winners Tony is going to have a giant target on his back.
Tony once said he played Cagayan at level 6 speed, he would play Game Changers at an 8 and his third time he would go full speed. I cannot wait to see what level 10 Tony looks like, but if he makes the merge it’ll be a miracle, both for him and for the fans.
19. Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villians)
Odds of Winning: 75–1
The only two-time winner made it to the end in her first two seasons by being underestimated. That will never be the case for her again.
If it were even possible, Sandra might have raised her threat level even more by her appearance on Game Changers, miraculously surviving four tribal councils before going out due to a bad swap. Everybody else on this cast is looking for their second win, and nobody wants to see the queen make it to three before anyone else gets to two.
18. Rob Mariano (Redemption Island)
Odds of Winning: 65–1
If Boston Rob was ever going to have a chance on a return after winning in one of the most dominant fashions of all time on Redemption Island, that went out the window when he and his wife both decided to come out for season 40.
Everyone knows how that duo dominated in All-Stars, so unless the entire cast comes down with amnesia they will likely be broken up early. Rob would have already been a huge target for being one of the biggest legends and best players in Survivor history, now the target got that much bigger.
17. Amber Mariano (All-Stars)
Odds of Winning: 45–1
I never thought she would play again, but I’m really interested to see her gameplay, especially if Rob gets taken out early. I think her husband going out pre-merge would be the best thing for her, because if they end up on a tribe together at a swap or merge (no way they start on the same tribe) one of them will be taken out immediately.
Along with Ethan, Amber has the longest layoff from playing on this cast with 32 seasons. I’m interested to see how she adjusts to the radically different landscape of Survivor, but it’s just really hard for me to see a scenario where she wins.
16. Parvati Shallow (Micronesia)
Odds of Winning: 30–1
Out of anyone on this cast, I’m most excited to see how this new mommy plays. She hasn’t played in 10 years, but she’s still known as arguably the most manipulative player in Survivor history.
I can’t wait to see who she aligns with. Does she see Tony as her Russell? Can she flirt her way into duping a young guy like Adam? I have Parvati this low because she has one of the biggest targets on her back going into the season, but I wouldn’t put anything past her.
15. Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen X)
Odds of Winning: 28–1
Adam had one of the best stories of all time in his season, winning with his mom deathly ill with lung cancer and returning home from filming just before she passed.
What is his story on his second go-around? I think he will give the perspective of the super-duper fan playing among his heroes. My question is how starstruck will he be playing with the people he grew up watching? Adam is one of the youngest people on this cast, and I see this going one of two ways for him: either trying to hard to make a name for himself and going out early, or being manipulated by one of his idols. Either way, I think the lights are too bright for Adam, and I don’t see him succeeding in this game.
14. Ethan Zohn (Africa)
Odds of Winning: 25–1
Nobody on this cast has a better story than Ethan. The biggest OG on this cast is one of the most likable players of all time, and nobody thought he would ever be able to play again after his fight with cancer.
The game is completely different now than when Ethan last played in All-Stars (where he quietly played a great game despite going out in the pre-merge), so I question whether Ethan will have the strategic chops to secure the win. But if he makes it to the end he will be able to deliver one hell of a speech.
13. Denise Stapley (Philippines)
Odds of Winning: 20–1
Denise is beloved by Survivor fans, and for good reason — the woman is an absolute badass. The only winner in Survivor history to attend every single tribal council, Denise’s phenomenal social game got her the victory in Philippines.
I don’t see many scenarios where Denise doesn’t go deep in season 40 — she will be seen as one of the most loyal people in the game, she’s a strong competitor and she won’t be seen as that big of a threat compared to a lot of people on this cast.
The only reason I don’t have Denise higher is she’s (admittedly) not a cutthroat player. I don’t think you can win season 40 without making some big moves, and I think her strategic game lacks a bit compared with her social and physical game.
12. Danni Boatright (Guatemala)
Odds of Winning: 18–1
One of the most exciting elements of season 40: we have our first returning (newbie) player from Guatemala!
I absolutely love the game Danni played in season 11. Despite being the last member of Yaxhá, Danni finagled her way into the good graces of kingpins Steph and Rafe, somehow making it to the end.
We didn’t get to see much of Danni’s strategic game in Guatemala because she was never in power, and I worry about some of the old school players adapting to the much more fast-paced game of today. She has long been considered one of the favorites in an all-winners season because she plays so under the radar, I just wonder if she will play it too under the radar.
11. Sophie Clarke (South Pacific)
Odds of Winning: 17–1
One of the most strategic players on the cast, Sophie has what it takes mentally to win the game.
She’s also an underrated challenge threat, having won three immunities in South Pacific, which makes her an extremely well-rounded threat.
I struggled the most to rank Sophie because I think she has the highest variance. She could absolutely win this thing (and of course I think pretty much anyone can win other than Tony, Sandra and Rob), but I could also see her going home early.
She just has the outward appearance of a strategist, and her social game wasn’t her strength in South Pacific, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see her taken out before the merge.
10. Kim Spradlin (One World)
Odds of Winning: 16–1
Kim Spradlin is Superwoman. She arguably played the greatest winning game of all time, dominating her way to the end of One World. She’s a true triple threat, possessing all the strategic, social and physical abilities to win a second time.
Facing a cast of winners compared to the morons she played against in One World is like LeBron James facing NBA players after schooling a bunch of middle schoolers, but Kim still has a chance to fare well on this season. But she has the reputation of being one of the best winners ever, and things won’t be as easy for her as it was the first time.
9. Tyson Apostol (Blood vs. Water)
Odds of Winning: 15–1
The funniest person on this cast (and possibly on Earth), Tyson is looking for his second win in his fourth season. Arguably the most unlikely winner on this cast given his mistakes in his first two seasons, Tyson will likely be seen as a big threat due to his dominant Blood vs. Water game and his physically prowess. But with his court jester sense of humor, he does a great job of taking the target off his back.
The way he won Blood vs. Water is obviously unrepeatable—there’s no way he’s just going to kingpin his way to the end from the merge on, dragging two goats to the end with him.
He’s already played on a tribe with Sandra, Parvati and Rob before and he knows a lot of people on this cast, so we’ll see if he can leverage his previous relationships into a deep run.
8. Michele Fitzgerald (Kaôh Rōng)
Odds of Winning: 14–1
Another one of the “under the radar” girls, Michele is set up for a deep run in season 40. She’s very likable, a strong physical player, and she has one of the smallest targets on her back coming into the season.
Strategically I think she has proven more than fellow UTR girls like Denise and Danni, and I think she’s better than them physically as well. She might be underestimated because she was overshadowed by Aubry and Tai in season 32, but Michele has a legitimate chance here.
7. Yul Kwon (Cook Islands)
Odds of Winning: 12–1
Who isn’t excited to see Yul on this cast? One of the most cerebral players of all time, Yul got his Aitu alliance to the final four of Cook Islands thanks to his perfect leveraging of his super idol.
Yul was able to pretty much cakewalk his way into the final three of that season thanks to his super idol, but there’s no questioning what a smart player he is. He comes in with one of the lesser threats having not played in a long time, and I have no doubt he’ll be able to adapt despite not having played in 27 seasons.
6. Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers)
Odds of Winning: 10–1
A lot of people hate the fact that he needed a surprise firemaking twist to win, but I think Ben is set up nicely in this season.
He’s an incredibly likable guy, a strong social player and of course has a knack for finding idols, having discovered three in HHH. He’s not a physical threat on the level of a lot of guys on the cast, but he isn’t a liability either.
He was targeted in the mid-merge of season 35 because everyone knew going to the end with him would be suicide due to his story of being a former marine, but with so many other threats around him I don’t see that happening this time. I really like Ben’s chances here.
5. Sarah Lacina (Game Changers)
Odds of Winning: 10–1
If I were on this season, I’d be absolutely petrified of Sarah. She played one of the most brilliant social games of all time in Game Changers, having most of the cast in her back pocket without anyone being wise to her game.
She’s the queen of extracting information from other players, as she was constantly being spoon-fed secrets on Game Changers. But despite how incredible her win was and how recent it happened, I have the feeling that she will be underestimated again. She has such an unassuming personality that she could fly under the radar again, but you just can never forget about Officer Sarah.
4. Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath)
Odds of Winning: 9–1
One of the most fun things about season 40 will be to see what nicknames Kentucky Nick comes up with for his alliances. Nick is another guy who is just so likable that it’s hard to see him going out early.
He played a solid game in season 37 and is the most recent winner on the cast, but he still shouldn’t have a big target on his back. He’s a true fan and will know these player’s games inside and out, and he’s a deceptively good physical player, as he won the final three immunities on his season.
3. Jeremy Collins (Cambodia)
Odds of Winning: 6–1
I didn’t think I’d put Jeremy nearly this high going into this, but looking at the cast I think he’s positioned to go deep.
First of all, the dude is just so goddamn likable and he’s such an asset in challenges that it’s hard to see him going out early. He also knows a lot of people on this cast, including his San Juan del Sur ally Natalie and fellow Bostonians Michele and Rob.
Jeremy has the knack for finding the idol (having found two in Cambodia) he can win challenges, and he’s excellent socially and strategically. He comes in with one of the bigger targets of the cast, but it’s not nearly to the level of people like Rob, Tony, Sandra or Parvati.
2. Natalie Anderson (San Juan Del Sur)
Odds of Winning: 9–2
I don’t think anyone’s gameplay is more suited for a returning season than Natalie. Her incredible game style in San Juan del Sur can easily be repeated in season 40.
In season 29, Natalie sat back until the final seven, where she executed arguably the greatest endgame in Survivor history. I love her chances to secure the bag if she can just hang around for the first part of the game, then turn on the jets when it matters most.
Although she won fairly recently, Natalie’s game is not top of mind compared to a lot of the cast. Not being able to play on Game Changers due to a concussion might be the best thing for her, as people might not remember her game as well.
- Wendell Holland (Ghost Island)
Odds of Winning: 7–2
Some might be surprised that I made Wendell the favorite for season 40, but I just think the guy has no holes in his game.
Why on Earth would you ever vote out Wendell before the merge? He is arguably the best shelter-builder in Survivor history and he’s great in challenges. He’s cool as a cucumber and won’t get himself into trouble in the early going.
Wendell is crafty as hell, with the ability to manufacture fake idols and subtly manipulate other players, like he did with Kellyn and Laurel at the split tribal at final 10 of Ghost Island.
Although he’s a recent winner, he was overshadowed a bit by his pal Domenick, and he’s not the flashiest player in the world.
This season will be wide open and there’s really no wrong answer for who should be considered the favorite going in, but Wendell is my winner pick.