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Survivor: David vs. Goliath Draft and Cast Assessment


The Inside Survivor contributors draft their teams and assess the castaways.

Photo: CBS

With the season premiere of Survivor: David vs. Goliath right around the corner, six of Inside Survivor’s contributors got together to draft their teams and assess the 20 castaways about to battle it out for the $1 million prize and the title of Sole Survivor.

The contributors taking part in the draft assessment are:

Alexandra & Gus: new additions to Inside Survivor, Ali & Gus will be writing a new weekly feature called Couples Corner, analyzing the season from a couple’s perspective.
Austin Smith
: a former draft champion, Austin recaps the episodes of Survivor US and Australian Survivor.
Rob Brodeur: the reigning draft champion, Rob is our resident Stat man who will once again be on hand this season to deliver all the latest statistics following each episode.
Stephanie Lauw: another new addition to Inside Survivor, Stephanie will be taking over the Next Time On Survivor blog from Tillie, the same blog originally started by Survivor castaway Jacob Derwin.
Martin Holmes: that’s me! Owner of Inside Survivor. As always I will be analyzing the edit this season in our weekly Edgic feature, plus will be on hand with press photos, player of the week polls, etc.

Taking turns in a snake draft, decided by random draw, Ali/Gus, Austin, Rob, Stephanie and Martin picked their winner candidates, big characters and personal favorites to assemble their teams. Read on to hear their first impressions and predictions for each castaway…

MARTIN’S FIRST PICK
JOHN HENNIGAN
GOLIATH TRIBE
PRO WRESTLER | 38 | LOS ANGELES, CA

John

As a lifelong wrestling fan there was no way I wasn’t picking the Mayor of Slamtown as my first choice. I’ve watched John’s career develop from a young upstart on Tough Enough to a multiple time champion within WWE and now a well-respected veteran tearing it up on the indie scene and in promotions like Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling. I was at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando for WrestleMania 24 watching this amazing athlete putting his body on the line to entertain the crowd. So yes, I definitely have a sentimental attachment when it comes to the Prince of Parkour.

However, my wrestling fandom wasn’t the only reason why I wanted John on my team. I believe he has a solid skill set to do well on Survivor. With his top-level physical fitness and parkour skills, John should dominate challenges and therefore be an invaluable asset to his tribe pre-merge. Those physical attributes could draw a target once the game hits the individual portion, but JoMo’s social game shouldn’t be underestimated either. Despite playing a larger than life villain on TV, John comes across as a very down to earth and self-aware person in interviews. Based on the minimal pre-game content, the Shaman of Sexy seems to recognize the necessity of building relationships and playing with tact, even if he did compare himself to Mike Holloway – he at least acknowledged Mike’s flaws.

The one pressing concern I have when it comes to John is, I’m not sure how many seasons he’s seen. Jonny Fairplay “implied” on his podcast that he gave the Guru of Greatness a crash course in Survivor and we know from Josh Wigler’s First One Out interview that he has at least seen a Russell Hantz season. He was also well aware of how and why Russell failed. But is he prepared for all the nuances of the game and the twists and turns that will be thrown at him? Not that you have to be a walking encyclopedia of Survivor knowledge to do well at this game. Hopefully John will pick things up quick and turn every Wednesday night into a true delight. I mean, he’s at least gotta do better than Ashley Massaro, right? Also, I have my fingers crossed that John makes the Loved Ones visit so we can see Taya Valkyrie on Survivor!

STEPH’S FIRST PICK
ALISON RAYBOULD
PHYSICIAN | 28 | CHAPEL HILL, NC
GOLIATH TRIBE

Alison

Alison is really smart and seems keenly aware of what she can personally offer the game. She sounds adventurous, determined, and overall really excited to play Survivor. But at the same time, she takes a step back and considers her situation and abilities. From this, Alison gives me the impression that she’ll be a strategic player that analyses her possible moves but not to the point of over-thinking them and getting caught up in what-ifs. Reading her CBS biography, she definitely has a great sense of humour, which is more or less always a plus on a tribe of inevitably bored people.

On top of that, Alison knows the game – her three words she gave to describe herself was “hero, healer, and hustler,” which actually made me laugh out loud at my laptop. For such a sharp-witted reference, I expect Alison to be at least comfortable with the mechanisms of Survivor and hope that she’ll take the best bits of season 35 strategy for her own game. All in all, a likeable and capable player that looks to have the self-awareness to make strong moves but act in moderation to secure the win.  Also, she quoted Dwight from The Office – immediate first pick for Team Steph.

ROB’S FIRST PICK
ELIZABETH OLSON
KITCHEN STAFF | 31 | LONGVIEW, TX
DAVID TRIBE

ElizabethFinger

If Elizabeth is this bold in a pre-season cast photo, I can only imagine the entertainment value she’s gonna bring to this season. In the Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers pre-season, I wasn’t too high on Lauren Rimmer, and she exceeded my expectations. I’m viewing Elizabeth as Lauren’s spiritual successor. I have a feeling she will easily get along with everyone due to her outgoing personality and get in good with everyone in her tribe, and even with a lot of people on the Goliath tribe. She wore her cowboy hat when she gave birth (without pain meds), and if that doesn’t say something about how much of a badass she is, I don’t know what else could.

One thing working against her is that she could come off as a bit too much, personality wise. I think she’s smart enough to tune it down when she needs to, and I’m hoping she makes it very far into the game. She also listed Sandra for one of her “Survivor contestant you are most like” and that’s always going to be a plus for me.

AUSTIN’S FIRST PICK
ANGELINA KEELEY
MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT | 28 | SAN CLEMENTE, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Angelina

Our aspiring Prime Minister hopes to govern alongside the Queen of Survivor, and despite being the bubbly and excitable yin to Sandra’s blunt and sassy yang, I think Angelina has what it takes to win in the polls. She’s book smart, with degrees from Stanford and Yale, but she also highlights her social skills and emotional intelligence that will help her connect with her tribe and build strong relationships. Even though some of the cast seem to be pegging her as ‘high maintenance’ in their first impressions at Ponderosa, I think the resiliency and determination that comes from Angelina’s driven personal pursuits in her job and charity work, as well as her experiences dealing with isolation as a military spouse, could prove that assumption wrong.

One of the big stories with Angelina is her friendship with a past winner in Adam Klein, who she met in college. His season made her a Survivor convert, and he gave her his blessing as someone who has what it takes to succeed in this game. A super-competitive super-nerd (and aspiring super-fan), Angelina spends her working hours finding solutions to other people’s problems, and that scrappy adaptability will serve her well.

ALI AND GUS’S FIRST PICK
NATALIE COLE
PUBLISHING CEO | 57 | LOS ANGELES, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Natalie

They always say there’s no substitute for experience, and that certainly applies to Natalie Cole. She says herself that she has a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially being the oldest person in the game. But Natalie has one impressive real-life resume, and we don’t think she’s going to settle for a mediocre Survivor resume, and that’s why she’s team Ali and Gus. This cast has significantly more older people in the game than most seasons in recent memory, and we feel that this could easily play to Natalie’s advantage. As evidenced by our draft team, Gus and I feel good about the chances of an older player this season, as life experience can prevent reckless game moves.

Well spoken professional women have a history of doing well in this game: Denise, Chrissy, Cirie to name a few. We feel that Natalie has the chops to join their ranks and play the role of the caring mother who will slit your throat at a moment’s notice. However, unlike a Dawn, she has the poise to do so in a way that doesn’t make people feel betrayed. The only thing going against her is that she’s an obvious threat, but that seems to be the M.O. of a lot of the Goliath tribe. We feel confident that the number of large men and older people in this game will give her plenty of meat shields to hide behind and lots of wiggle room with potential allies.

ALI AND GUS’S SECOND PICK
DAN RENGERING
S.W.A.T. OFFICER | 27 | GAINESVILLE, FL
GOLIATH TRIBE

Daniel

Something that we can both agree on, this guy is a hot cop. But Dan has a lot more going on than just his appearance. Yes, he’s young and athletic, but he’s not the biggest guy out there, so there’s plenty of room for him to hide. He doesn’t have the loudest personality, so it doesn’t appear that he will rustle ruffle feathers. He says in his bio that he is skilled at calming people down, which would be quite useful out on the island. In addition, he has a softer side as a father to two young girls, which could help him relate to the older folks in the cast. Two police officers have won this game. Maybe it’s time for a third, provided he’s willing to “play like a criminal.”

One of us, we will not name whom, made a significant life change in the past few years that resulted in a not insignificant weight loss. Therefore, we know the kind of dedication, determination, and discipline that it takes to lose the amount of weight that Dan has lost. It’s the kind of drive and long-term commitment that one needs to win a game like Survivor, so we had Dan join team Ali and Gus.

AUSTIN’S SECOND PICK
NICK WILSON
PUBLIC DEFENDER | 27 | WILLIAMSBURG, KY
DAVID TRIBE

Nick

The Southern Charm is strong in this one. Behind the Kentucky accent and the relaxed and trustworthy demeanour, Nick is a real contender. The way he phrases it in his pre-game press, he is a well-balanced player – “the right amount of everything.” He knows the game very well (as a huge fan of the show – and the extra-curricular podcasts) but won’t be the obvious “superfan.”  He’s got the skills for challenges, but he’s not a blatant physical threat. He’s got charm and likability, but like his predecessor in JT Thomas, there’s every chance he could fool his competition with his seemingly simple attitude.

The tricky part is that Nick has been pegged as a professional – a banker or a lawyer – in the cast’s first impressions of him. However, once he opens up as the country boy, he might be able to shake that target. While I’m generally reticent about players lying about their professions, his decision to lie about being a lawyer has its merits – and saying he is a social worker in a legal-adjacent field is a solid solution that gives him wiggle room to still be himself. Nick has a compelling story, growing up on food stamps in a drug-addled community, going to the big city to become a lawyer and then returning home to do good work where it’s needed – I think we’re going to see a lot of this David, and I think he’s got a really good chance to do well this season.

ROB’S SECOND PICK
JEREMY CRAWFORD
ATTORNEY | 40 | NEW YORK, NY
GOLIATH TRIBE

Jeremy

The only other Jeremy to play Survivor won, so I’m just hedging my bets here. But in all honesty, I get a lot of good vibes from Jeremy. He reminds me a lot of my winner pick last season, Wendell, who did, in fact, win the game in the end. Jeremy is super smart and has a great personality, and I think he’s going to make friends and allies very quickly. He mentions in his bio that he always has a good read on people and that’s often a trait that is overlooked in this game. He doesn’t stand out as being particularly threatening, but he’s also not going to be perceived as a weak member of the tribe. I’m hoping he makes it far because he’s going to be fun to watch and I think he could win the game.

STEPH’S SECOND PICK
GABBY PASCUZZI
WRITER | 25 | DENVER, CO
DAVID TRIBE

Gabby

At the time of writing, Gabby’s the player I’m rooting for the most. The 25-year-old technical writer probably represents the nerdy girl archetype of the cast following the likes of Aubry, tempered with buckets of emotion and empathy ala Kellyn. On paper, this combination makes her a contender to make it decently far into the game. She’s quirky, a tad awkward, which may be an initial concern, but I don’t believe it to be that great a hindrance for Gabby to socially navigate around her tribemates, especially when there are more ostentatious and extravagant personalities on this season’s cast. She’s lived in a couple of different cultures (go Singapore!), which makes me feel that she can be adaptable and relate to various types of people. My worry is that others see Gabby as a disposable player in the early parts of the game as she doesn’t necessarily have the physical athleticism for demanding challenges. Apart from that, I’m super excited to watch her play!

MARTIN’S SECOND PICK
NATALIA AZOQA
INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER | 25 | IRVINE, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Natalia

I haven’t seen a lot of pre-season hype for Natalia which leads me to believe she is being underestimated. She might not pop off the screen like a flamboyant pro-wrestler or Mr. Schneebly or pre-game fan-fave Natalie, however, that is exactly why I think she will do well in the game. She doesn’t stand out as an immediate threat and other than a disastrous challenge performance I see no reason why Natalia would be an early target. She is set up well on the Goliath tribe which I expect to contain a lot of egos and clashing personalities. I don’t see Natalia getting involved in all that nonsense. She comes across as smart yet unassuming and knows enough about the game to realise the dos and don’ts of Survivor.

There is a little worry about some of the pre-game perspectives from her fellow cast members heard on FOO. A few of them pinpointed her as “very serious” and potentially “bossy.” I’m hoping this is just a case of, what I like to call, RPF (Resting Ponderosa Face). People said similar things about Jenna last season and even Sarah Lacina before that. Once the game begins and Natalia is able to interact and have conversations with her fellow tribemates those negative perceptions will hopefully subside. She certainly doesn’t come across as aloof or pushy in her interview with Wigler. Also, Natalies have a great track record on Survivor, so I’m hoping some of that good luck transfers to Natalias too.

MARTIN’S THIRD PICK
PAT CUSACK
MAINTENANCE MANAGER | 40 | WATERVLIET, NY
DAVID TRIBE

Pat

Pat is the only David tribe member on my team, but I think he’s one of the most likely from that group to succeed. I picked him for similar reasons I picked Domenick last year. He fits an archetype that does well on Survivor – the white, middle-aged, working class, family man. He doesn’t come across quite so aggressive game-wise as say a Dom or a Ben, but he still seems like the kind of guy that knows how to get s**t done. I don’t see him backing down from anything this game throws at him, whether it be a difficult challenge, a numbers deficit or even a tropical storm. I feel like Pat has the determination to find a way out of a sticky situation.

There is a genuine fear that because this archetype has done so well recently that people might look at Pat and just see “blue collar badass” and try and remove that threat as soon as possible. In fact, a number of his fellow castaways clocked him as a Ben-type in FOO and that is somewhat concerning. But Pat is personable, and if he can spend the first part of the season building relationships and working his social game it could be enough to disarm the competition. Then should he make the merge he can switch up the aggression and make the moves necessary to win.

STEPH’S THIRD PICK
DAVIE RICKENBACKER
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER | 29 | ATLANTA, GA
DAVID TRIBE

Davie

Davie’s CBS biography is packed with so many things. He’s a social media manager/guru, a Siberian Husky breeder, Rick Grimes is his inspiration in life, he loves outdoor activities, and he compares himself to three solid past Survivor winners. Davie is absolutely brimming with ideas and he doesn’t stop himself from sharing them all. He most certainly knows what he’s going to do once he’s on the island, but what I’m interested in is how he’ll react when things inevitably don’t go according to his plans.

Seeing his ability to harness a successful online persona, I’m hoping some of those astute instincts can translate to his strategy in the game. With all this said, he does seem well-experienced about Survivor and knows that adapting is necessary. I, unfortunately, don’t think Davie has that great a shot at winning, but he’s definitely going to be a captivating character that’ll bring some sort of entertainment to this season.

ROB’S THIRD PICK
BI NGUYEN
MMA FIGHTER | 28 | HOUSTON, TX
DAVID TRIBE

Bi

It’s always a good idea to side with the killer bee! She’s small, but she is mighty. She could have easily been cast on the Goliath tribe due to the fact that she’s an MMA fighter, but she had a humble upbringing. This is going to be a good combination of things working in her favor. My main concern with her is that she doesn’t have much experience of watching Survivor and it’s always good to have an understanding of the show if you’re gonna be on it. She’ll easily make it far by being a challenge beast, but the strategic portion of the game might be what trips her up. If she’s able to make it to the merge, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the seemingly endless endurance challenges.

AUSTIN’S THIRD PICK
LYRSA TORRES
AIRLINE AGENT | 36 | BOSTON, MA
DAVID TRIBE

Lyrsa

From the purple hair to her small physique to her strong Puerto Rican accent, Lyrsa stands out from the crowd – and I love it. It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen someone like her on the show before, and I’m hoping she’ll be around for a while. With studies in anthropology and a Ph.D. in archaeological gastronomy in progress, she’s certainly got the intellectual side down pat as well as a few killer tips and tricks to spice up the camp’s rice, and as a fan since Season 1, she’s willing to play the game the way she needs to in order to win.

Interestingly, she notes that the early seasons’ focus on the ‘social experiment’ are more intriguing to her than the ‘big moves’ of the modern era, and that intentional focus on the people she’s playing with will be a big boon for her. The social game certainly portends to be her strength. There’s a natural humour in her personality that will make her an appealing presence on the beach, and I think she’ll be able to build relationships easily even though the obvious ‘differences’ in her background, ethnicity, sexuality and big personality could make her an easy outsider from the get-go. I think Lyrsa will have an uphill battle to get to the end and win, but I think that she has the skillset to succeed in the individual game if she can get through the minefield of the early votes.

ALI AND GUS’S THIRD PICK
CARL BOUDREAUX
TRUCK DRIVER | 41 | HOUSTON, TX
DAVID TRIBE

Carl

We picked Carl a little blind. Cast videos hadn’t come out yet, and we couldn’t really get a good feel for him when we read his bio. Man, we feel like we scored big with him. The minute we saw his interview video, we felt like we had a potential winner. He compares himself to Cirie in his bio, which we found interesting enough to give him a second glance. Now that we’ve heard him talk, it’s started to make sense. They both have an unspoken quality that seems to draw you in and keep you engaged. A lot of winners have a great mixture of natural charisma and a calming presence; we feel Carl has that in spades.

Statistically, the archetype that won the last season the contestants watched don’t do very well in the current season. It makes sense. Contestants are primed to be wary of a particular type of person because they have seen very recently that they are capable of winning the game. The last person this cast was able to watch was Ben Driebergen, so we were pretty set against having any good ol’ boys in our draft. However, we feel that Carl is different enough from Ben in looks and personality, that it should forgive the suspicion his accent and cowboy hat might arise.

ALI AND GUS’S FINAL PICK
MIKE WHITE
FILMMAKER | 47 | LOS ANGELES, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Mike

Ned Schneebly himself! Nostalgia aside, Gus and I feel pretty great about our final pick in the draft. Mike has some things working against him, he doesn’t have the most athletic physique and he’s certainly not the youngest guy out there. However, as we’ve learned from David Wright and Jonathan Penner, don’t ever discount the writers. Writers spend much of their time observing human behavior and constructing narratives, so like his predecessors, look for Mike White to be a big-time narrator if he makes it far. And he very much might make it far. Look at Lauren Rimmer and Mike Zahalsky for recent examples of people who were written off in the preseason. Mike White is set up on a starting tribe who can win their way to the merge, and once the merge hits, there will be so many bigger targets in front of him that he could easily “rock” his way to the end and “school” the competition.

AUSTIN’S FINAL PICK
CHRISTIAN HUBICKI
ROBOTICS SCIENTIST | 32 | TALLAHASSEE, FL
DAVID TRIBE

Christian

There’s no doubt that Christian is The Nerd – in capitals – when it comes to Survivor archetypes. He even admits that the resemblance to Cochran is uncanny! But Christian owns it, and I think that attitude will help him out on the island. While undeniably intellectual in the way he speaks and carries himself, there’s a transparency to him, as well as a relaxed self-deprecating humour, that could be disarming. He also identifies as someone with a streak of emotional insight and team collaboration that will be an ace up his sleeve, and I’m not too concerned about him finding a niche in his tribe – particularly one stacked with other self-confessed nerdy types.

But when it comes to the game, Christian knows it inside out. He’s spent time dissecting the strategy of the show in his own way – his beautiful “States of Matter” monologue in FOO is proof of it. He discusses wanting to see the gameplay continue to evolve and I hope he’ll have the opportunity to see it out. However, the spectre of superfan flameouts looms large, and it’s entirely possible that Christian could overthink his way out of the game. Whichever way it goes, I’m confident that he’ll pull out the Lego and build himself some kind of legacy this season.

ROB’S FINAL PICK
ALEC MERLINO
BARTENDER | 24 | SAN CLEMENTE, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Alec

Alec is on my team purely due to the fact that his archetype always seems to do well on Survivor (and because I didn’t have much left to work with). He’s super friendly and charismatic but comes off kind of arrogant and aloof. If he’s able to keep the negatives to a minimum, he could hopefully end up more of a Devon and less of a Drew. He’s physically fit and will perform well in challenges, and will probably make allies easily. One of his strategies going into the season is to “flirt with everyone,” and it might initially work to his advantage. But the women this season seem very strong minded and I don’t think they’ll be the type to swoon over the 24-year-old bartender/surfer/YouTuber. Just judging by his pre-season TMZ exposure, I think he’ll be entertaining to watch and will either go deep in the game or flame out early with a spectacular downfall.

STEPH’S FINAL PICK
JESSICA PEET
WAITRESS | 19 | LAKELAND, FL
DAVID TRIBE

Jessica

In a more typically-aged cast, Jessica’s got that unfortunate handicap of being much younger and in a different stage of life than most of her fellow competitors. Playing a game that banks greatly on one’s ability to form social bonds with others, the age gap seems like a pronounced disadvantage for Jessica. As reductive as it is, her perceived lack of experience by her tribemates might make her a dispensable player. Furthermore, compared to Michael last season, I don’t think she’ll quite as easily convince the rest of the cast that she’s older than she is. Despite all this, I’m hoping that Jessica will surprise me and translate her age to her advantage. She mentioned that she thrives when underestimated and looked over, so a quiet game might be her ticket to get to the end.

MARTIN’S FINAL PICK
KARA KAY
REALTOR | 30 | SAN DIEGO, CA
GOLIATH TRIBE

Kara

I ended up with Kara by default, and you know what, I’m okay with that. There are certainly worse people that could have surfed their way into my team. Do I think Kara is likely to win? It’s probably a longshot, but I think she’ll do better than most people expect. One thing that immediately stood out to me from both Kara’s FOO interview and the episode one press photos is how damn happy she is all the time. She is smiling or laughing in practically every single picture. Someone who exudes that kind of positive energy can become a real asset in a game that is both physically and mentally taxing. If someone can cheer you up and make you forget how miserable everything is, even just for a moment, that is extremely valuable and it could become Kara’s secret weapon. It just depends on whether she can maintain a positive attitude while dealing with the rain and minimal food.

The big hurdle for Kara is the strategic portion of Survivor. She doesn’t seem that familiar with the show and may be unprepared for just how cutthroat things will become. The challenge side of things I’m not worried about. With her cheerleading background, I think she has the athleticism to hold her own in the competitions. It’s the desire to get her hands dirty and play ruthlessly which I think might be lacking. That said, I see the Goliath tribe winning the first couple of challenges at least and that could give Kara enough time to work her social skills and position herself within a majority that could carry her far.

Here are the teams in handy graphic form (courtesy of Austin)…

DraftTeams

Let us know who you’d choose for your team in the comments below.

Survivor: David vs. Goliath premieres September 26 at 8 pm on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for weekly features including Episode Reviews, Edgic, Stats, Next Time On Survivor, Couple’s Corner… and much more.


Martin is a 30-year-old writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing, and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and ET Canada, previously Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull.



  • Alice

    Wow Kara as the last chosen is genuinely surprising.

  • Red

    Wow Alec would have been my first pick, Dan second then Kara then John then Jessica then Nick

    • Given that Alec is allegedly banned from the reunion after the TMZ leak it’s probably unlikely he won.

      • Alice

        which is why it surprises me someone chose him over Kara, who suspiciously didn’t get in trouble…

  • Felipe Bonomi

    We stole your idea in our brazilian podcast of Survivor, with just a little change: we add a wildcard choice. A choice that could be made by copying/stealing a participant chosen by someone else. Sadly (for you guys) the podcast and the post on our site is in Portuguese, but our pics were: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a6f0a2eec75daeb1b3b408d4eeb7b4f2ae24694fce6dc978b9eb3d0ead17bdf1.png

  • Ishay

    Steph, I choose Alison from the exact same reason as you – that Dwight quote