On Thursday, February 13, Philippines Time, Survivor will unleash its biggest and brightest season to start the new decade right. Winners At War marks the return of 20 sole survivors from selected 39 past seasons.
Regardless of the outcome, no matter who will win the second time or third if Sandra makes it, Winners At War sets the bar higher than the seasons with all returning players combined – All-Stars (2003), Heroes vs. Villains (2010), Second Chance (2015) and Game Changers (2017).
Upon the release of the cast, the absence of Aras makes Winners At War imperfect. He is my favorite sole survivor to date. Dean almost won Island of the Idols (2019). He stands strong to replace Aras in my list but the final votes revealed he never matched what Aras did in Panama Exile Island (2006).
The exclusion of Richard Hatch stays debatable whether or not I want to believe he is no longer hailed as the Icon of all household names. Based on the numbers alone, Boston Rob receives six invitations to join the show. He began in Marquesas (2002), finished runner-up in All-stars, won in Redemption Island (2011), exited early in Heroes vs. Villains and played as a mentor in Island of the Idols.
Numbers do not lie (see more interesting facts and numbers below). Boston Rob’s five invitations speak a ton about his reputation and his contributions for the show. The five invitations mean it no longer mattered if he won in four attempts. The five invitations mean he is the MVP of the show. He now belongs in the uppermost elite group of survivors regardless of what happens in Winners At War.
Question stays the same though. Does an iconic season of the show remain iconic without the first sole survivor?
There can be no right and wrong answers. This calls for a debate that never ends.
As part of my routine before the pilot episode, here are my early favorites for the 40th season. Can you imagine? The show is on its 40th season and 20th year on air.
As of the writing, I saw every episode for 19 consecutive years. I was only a clueless 17-year-old high school student with an acne on my face while watching Australian Outback in 2001.
Yes, I saw the first-ever pilot in May 2000 and I felt scared. I discontinued watching but for a reason I could not remember, I happened to see the first-ever finale. I was not addicted then. Back to my early favorites shall we, let me start with…
Sole Survivor in Micronesia (2008)
Parvati is best remembered as the Survivor Seductress. No man and no woman has escaped her venom. In three seasons she was in, Parvati used her charm to attract unbreakable alliances to produce an outstanding resume. She made the jury in Cook Islands (2006), won in Micronesia and came a little short to win Heroes vs. Villains.
Returning to the show as a 37-year-old mom, it makes me wonder how will Parvati evolve her game to outwit, outplay and outlast 19 other sole survivors. Everyone has a target on their backs and Parvati is no exemption.
Can Parvati make a way? What happens if her charismatic venom doesn’t work anymore? I know. I know. Edge of Extinction is back. If in any case Parvati is blindsided early, she will return and I can still watch her every episode. Yet, the Survivor Seductress is just too good to spend her airtime on the Edge. This living Aphrodite must be on the war zone – spreading love with her friends and frenemies until they will decide to keep her as long as she wants to.
Sole Survivor in Cook Islands (2006)
Yul and Parvati were introduced in the same season in different tribes – Puka Puka and Rarotonga, respectively. I can never forget the moment when when they won a spa reward challenge with Ozzy. They were tipsy while chilling without their clothes on inside the circular tub.
Yul must be an underdog knight coming into this season. His winner-status might not be enough to put him in the popular or notorious list. He is never invited to participate in an all-star season, and I never see him guest in Survivor After Shows.
For these reasons, it makes me curious to pick him as one of my early favorite stirring the game on his favor and creating a buzz around the Survivorsphere.
History says the show has no male sole survivor to win twice. In the past seasons, there are popular male players who can never win. Russel H., Ozzy, Phillip to name a few. This means Survivor goes beyond popularity.
It looks for quality gameplay. An addicted fan is conditioned to believe the show is limited to backstabbing and blaming. It never is. It is a social strategic game; therefore, it is about adaptability.
For this 44-year-old dad to prosper, Yul needs to bring the invisible weapons to every battle and win a war, if and only if he continues to manage the quality people to stay on his side.
Sole Survivor in Philippines (2012)
Eight years ago, Denise made history when she became the first female sole survivor to attend every Tribal Council in every episode but never eliminated. No one has accomplished this feat. It stands alone in history.
It seems impossible to expect a repeat. Too much expectation results to frustration. Denise is now competing against the bests. These are the names who have won immunity challenges more than once, who have deceived to win and who have won by one clear vote to break the final tiebreaker.
Experience is the best teacher as they say. Does Denise have it? Yes. Knowledge is power, does Denise have it? Yes. Winning is a process. Questions are laid on the board and there are no guaranteed answers to fill the empty spaces.
Sometimes, you and I need to restart our lives to find the answers – and when this season means restarting for Denise, it is still possible for her to dig in once again, dig deep once again and make it happen to win once again.
Sole Survivor in Ghost Island (2018)
“Fear keeps you sharp,” Survivor Ghost Island, Episode 8
It intrigues me how Wendell uses fear to keep his game alive to redeem himself from a disappointing season. Ghost Island never made an impact on me. Yes, all new players were attractive and competitive. The overall theme itself, however, hasn’t made anything memorable to shake the game.
Thanks to the finale. Wendell made history as the first male survivor to win a final tiebreaker by one vote. That was one vote to link him to the one million dollars and that was one vote to link him to the title.
Of the 20, Wendell is one of the seven new-school winners since 2015. The other six are Jeremy in Second Chance, Michele in Kaoh Rong, Adam in Millennials vs. Gen X, Sarah in Game Changers, Ben in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers and Nick in David vs. Goliath.
Wendell, along with these names mentioned above, understands how the game has evolved – especially since he first saw the show in Tocantins (2009). Ghost Island belongs to an era of new-school Survivor that is layered with hidden immunity idols, advantages and voting blocks. Does this mean Wendell have the clear edge than the others?
Photos Courtesy of: CBS