With the season premiere of Survivor: Edge of Extinction almost upon us, six of Inside Survivor’s contributors got together to draft their teams and assess the 18 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 Shields: Ali writes the weekly Hot or Not feature with her boyfriend Gus, where they analyze the players and bicker about each other’s picks.
Austin Smith: last season’s draft champion, Austin recaps the episodes of Survivor US and Australian Survivor.
Gus Schlanbusch: Gus writes the weekly Hot or Not feature with his girlfriend Ali, where they analyze the players and bicker about each other’s picks.
Rob Brodeur: our resident Stat man, Rob will once again be on hand this season to deliver all the latest statistics following each episode.
Stephanie Lauw: Steph writes the weekly Next Time On Survivor feature, the same feature originally started by Survivor castaway Jacob Derwin.
Martin Holmes: that’s me! Owner of Inside Survivor.
Taking turns in a snake draft, decided by random draw, Ali, Austin, Gus, 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…
ROB’S FIRST PICK
MARKETING MANAGER | 31 | SEATTLE, WA
I knew from the minute this cast was released that I wanted Kelley Wentworth on my eventual fantasy league team. Luckily for me, I had the very first pick this season, and I did not let it go to waste. Kelley was an underrated gem when she was on San Juan del Sur and was a long shot to make it on to Cambodia. She campaigned her ass off and managed to not only make it on to the season but proceeded to dominate for most the season, despite constantly having to play from the bottom. One of her many shining moments was her record-breaking idol play which negated 9 votes against her. This is still a record to this day, and it just proves that she’s got what it takes to play hard no matter what situation she’s in.
I think she’s going to get along extremely well with most of her tribemates (even the ones she doesn’t like) and play yet another super strategic and calculated game. She’s great in challenges and will hopefully help her tribe dominate especially being faced with her former Orkun tribemate and Candy Crush partner, Joe “The Mustache” Anglim. If she does get voted out, she’s not the type of person to quit after going to the Extinction Island, and she will fight her way back into the game as best as she can. Kelley is a tough cookie, actually a badass, and I’m extremely proud and happy to have her as the unofficial captain of my team. #teamwentworth
ALI’S FIRST PICK
MARKETING DIRECTOR | 32 | LOS ANGELES, CA
The Edge of Extinction twist seems designed to give the returnees… an edge. So it would be remiss to pick anyone but a returnee as a first pick in the game. However, there is a lot more to Aubry Bracco than simply her returnee status. Aubry has one of the best placement averages of all time, (and she will hold the record for best placement average should she manage to win this season) and that’s due to her exemplary skill of working from the bottom. In Koah Rong, Aubry was able to claw her way back into the game on two separate occasions, once on the Brains tribe post-panic attack, and once after Neal was medically evacuated from the game.
On Game Changers, Aubry was once again in a bad spot when Sandra declared her public enemy number one for working with Tony (but really because Aubry was one of the Koah Rong four and Sandra had quite the vendetta against them). Aubry managed to “survive” and build a tight bond with Andrea and maintained a working relationship with Tai. While the two of them were unable to make it to the end, the mere fact that Aubry was able to make it as far as she did as a dead woman walking is impressive. I must confess, as much as I love Aubry, I fear it may be too soon for her to return. I think that everyone is aware of how good she is at the game, and may not be willing to take her far. In spite of that, I can’t help but feel confident in picking Aubry, because she’s never down for long. On a season called Edge of Extinction, resilience is going to play a key role when it comes to survival.
MARTIN’S FIRST PICK
MORNING NEWS ANCHOR | 33 | MACON, GA
Oh Yeah!!! I’m drinking the Rick Devens Kool-Aid. I feel like this morning news anchor will be making headlines this season as one of the biggest characters on the cast. His enthusiasm and excitement immediately draw you in. He’s obviously got a big personality but not in an obnoxious, “I need to be the center of attention” kind of way. I feel like Rick understands when to switch it on and off and adapt his personality to the situation. He says as much in his First One Out interview, where he talks about his career as a news anchor/reporter and how his experience of interviewing people has taught him how to adapt to different personalities. That is going to be a huge benefit in a game like Survivor.
I also like how Rick said he isn’t going to lie about his profession. There are so many castaways that invent unnecessary lies, especially to do with their occupation, and so I appreciate that Rick is coming in as an open book. There is no reason to overcomplicate what is already a complicated game. I think Rick is at that Survivor sweet-spot age-wise too. He’s in his early 30s and rocking a self-described “dad-bod” and therefore doesn’t stick out as a clear physical threat. Yet he doesn’t appear weak either. As he told Josh Wigler, he just wants to be good enough in challenges not to drag the team down. If Rick can hold his own in the tribe challenges and use his personable nature and charm to disarm his tribemates, I think he will be in good standing.
GUS’S FIRST PICK
MULTIMEDIA ARTIST | 29 | OGDEN, UT
When Season 38’s theme was first revealed and Joe was teased as a player, I (and I’m sure many others) thought to myself, “Wow, I didn’t know Survivor wanted a Joe win THAT bad.” It seemed to me, at the time, that Edge of Extinction was tailor-made to Joe’s strengths, sort of a Redemption Island redux where Joe could just “Joey Amazing” his way through the game with a couple of starry-eyed newbies as tailor-made Final Tribal allies. Having now studied the rest of the cast, I’ve re-evaluated Joe’s chances of victory and, to be fair, they’ve gone down a little. I predict we’ll see some real players among the newbies, and Survivor has evolved a lot since the days of Boston Rob and Coach bulldozing their way through the season; the untouchable glamour that once came with being a returnee may have tarnished somewhat.
That said, the Edge of Extinction does practically guarantee Joe a great deal of longevity in this game: we’ve seen that he will go until his body gives up on him, and though he may not be a strategic genius, he seems to be tremendously likable in person, meaning he’ll likely get in good with the other castaways who find themselves abandoned on that desolate sandbar. It remains to be seen whether Joe will be wearing a shirt with Sierra Dawn-Thomas’ face emblazoned across the back of it.
AUSTIN’S FIRST PICK
TELEVISION WRITER | 44 | SHERMAN OAKS, CA
As the only two-timer sandwiched between the world-weary experience of his fellow three-peater returnees and the fresh meat of the newbies, David is a fascinating returnee for this season and it’s really hard to predict whether he’ll be an easy out in the early game or if he’ll be able to finagle his way towards the end, but I can’t see any middle ground. On the one hand, he’s a recent player renowned for his strategy and guile, which will be fresh in his competitors’ minds after his Fake Idol made an appearance in the Ghost Island finale that aired days before the cast flew to Fiji. On top of that, he’s a known challenge liability when it comes to anything in the water. But then he’s also savvy, scrappy and endearing in his awkward charisma and that may disarm his competitors enough in the early days to allow him to get his footing to the individual game where he can execute his bold plans and potentially blitz a fire challenge.
I really love David as a player, and his willingness to take big risks for big rewards. For example, in Millennials vs. Gen-X where he successfully played an Idol on Jessica at the fourth Tribal when she was barely an ally at that point, was willing to draw rocks at the Final Ten and was committed to a premeditated Fake Idol ploy that went down in the history books. Coming into his second season, David is bringing that fire again, calling his shot to be the first player to make a fake advantage (dubbed the “Sole Vote Advantage”) – and if he finds himself on Extinction Island, who knows what mad schemes will be concocted in that petri dish of isolation and boredom. Although his anxieties are still hovering over his shoulder, David also seems to be a lot more self-assured and confident at the outset – and I can only imagine that determination will help his game. While I think he’s a long shot to pull out a win, I’m confident that he’ll make his presence known in this season – one way or another.
STEPH’S FIRST PICK
PRE-MED STUDENT | 19 | DURHAM, NC
The youngest player of the cast always has an added layer of considerations to navigate. In the last two seasons alone, we had Michael from Ghost Island who successfully managed to hedge his age from suspicion and Jessica from David vs. Goliath who didn’t quite manage to do so. This season, it’s 19-year-old Keith’s turn. The pre-med student is my first pick primarily because it seems, from his ET Canada interview, that he isn’t going to hide his age. Instead, he plans on using it as a way to encourage others to take him under their wing so he can play a less overt social game in a position working behind-the-scenes. I’m really interested to watch how this plays out since we haven’t seen such a strategy adopted so deliberately from the get-go.
Other than that, Keith comes across as a nice, hardworking guy, which generally suggests he would get along well with the rest of his tribe. He also seems to be focusing a lot of his game strategy on social relations, being approachable, and willing to have conversations with everyone. If this rings true, it would definitely allow him to go far, especially in this era of the game where swaps, twists, and unpredictability are rampant.
STEPH’S SECOND PICK
YMCA PROGRAM DIRECTOR | 23 | ERWIN, TN
My next pick is Gavin, the 23-year-old YMCA program director from Tennessee. He’s a superfan of the show, and although we’ve seen varying degrees of success with superfans in the past, I feel like Gavin speaks with a good balance between super-fandom and a more level-headed sensibility. He’s able to rationalise his ideas and articulate them in quite an accessible way, which would be beneficial for his social interactions with other players in the game.
As Gavin himself recognises, others will probably view him as the young and charming country boy he appears to be. As with almost all cases of falling into archetypes, this is a double-edged sword, so it’s really up to Gavin to translate it to his advantage. I feel like he’ll be able to quirkily meander his way through at least the initial days of the game. Furthermore, Gavin’s CBS biography gives me the impression that he’s an extremely passionate guy, with great determination and the smarts to play Survivor. I’m hoping he’ll be able to harness all these positive traits and connect with his tribe.
AUSTIN’S SECOND PICK
DISTRICT SALES MANAGER | 25 | GREENVILLE, SC
Well-stocked with easy-going charm and good humour, Chris seems destined to get along well with his tribe without making waves. Planning to cover up his current occupation as a door-to-door sales manager, he’ll lean straight into the chill surfer archetype by claiming he’s merely a dive instructor, and I bet the lie will pay off and allow him to coast deep into the game on that laid-back trajectory that has aided so many before him. With his skills in the water and his “nature boy” enthusiasm for fire, fishing and survival, it’s almost like he’s the Joe of the newbies but without the target that will be hovering over three-timer Joey Amazing. At least, for now – the post-merge could be a minefield for someone so evidently well-rounded. But until then, Chris can be the quiet hero for his tribe – and if he ever ends up banished to Extinction, his outdoorsy interests may help to quell the survivalist nightmare promised.
But what really makes Chris stand out to me is that he’s unabashedly a superfan. There’s no squinting to read between the lines to wonder if it’s true fandom or just the enthusiasm of a new recruit – this guy entered his First One Out interview singing the Wiggle Room theme song and riffing on Evolution of Strategy in-jokes. This guy isn’t just a fan, but he’s so bonafide that he’s listening to Survivor audiobooks. That knowledge of the game and its strategy will help him immensely. And although his plans to play a “perfect game” are a little vague beyond his smart strategy to “be a seven” and play to the law of averages, his eagerness and awe to be a part of this game he loves may help him to take the game as it comes. Live the boyhood dream, man!
GUS’S SECOND PICK
TEACHER | 46 | ATLANTA, GA
When I first read about Ron Clark’s school, The Ron Clark Academy, I was concerned that Ron Clark might like Ron Clark a little too much – why else would Ron Clark decide to call The Ron Clark Academy “The Ron Clark Academy”? However, upon learning that Ron Clark did not name The Ron Clark Academy, but rather that The Ron Clark Academy’s nonprofit board had decided to name The Ron Clark Academy “The Ron Clark Academy” to capitalize on Ron Clark’s wide name recognition which came from his multiple appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, I found myself warming to Ron Clark. (I promise I’m done with this bit now).
I think people are going to underestimate Ron. They’re going to look at him and see a schoolteacher – which is what he is – and they’re going to expect something in the vein of a Brendan Shapiro game, or maybe even more of a Dawn Meehan attitude – a kind, nurturing personality who doesn’t really stand a chance of winning. And I think Ron is going to catch them off guard. From his interviews, Ron comes across as someone who certainly does know how to have fun and be laid back, but who has an underlying intensity and unwillingness to settle – he describes himself as a terrible loser and a “mean girl” (in quotation marks in his bio), and even compares himself in terms of predicted gameplay style to Spencer Bledsoe. What Spencer lacked in social capital, however, Ron seems poised to more than make up with a game that blends control with chill. Then again, I went all in on Natalie Cole for the same reason last season, so we’ll see how this goes.
MARTIN’S SECOND PICK
WAITRESS | 23 | BRONX, NY
Victoria really surprised me after listening to her pre-game interviews. A quick glance first impression led me to believe she was your stereotypical Survivor recruit coming onto the show to boost her social media profile. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only does this 23-year-old waitress seem prepared for the experience, but she is a legitimate Survivor fan, despite choosing Game Changers as her favorite season. She referenced Pearl Islands in her FOO interview, wrote about Survivor in her college applications and told a funny story about matching with Cochran on Tinder. I think that knowledge of the game should serve her well, especially with others on this cast falling into the “fish out of water” category.
There is a self-awareness to Victoria that I believe will be a big advantage. Like Rick, she knows it’s all about being adaptive and getting to know your tribemates. “You game is in the hands of other people,” she told Wigler. She also mentioned wanting to make “big moves” and “leave everything on the table” but also recognized that timing is key. She doesn’t want to come in guns blazing. She wants to start off as “middle of the road” as possible; helping at camp, contributing her best in challengers, not ruffling feathers. Then turn it up a gear as she hits the merge. That’s exactly how someone of her archetype should approach the game. Young women are often early casualties and doing anything to make yourself stand out in those first few days is risky. Luckily, she is on what I think is the stronger-looking tribe, so if she can avoid those first couple of Tribals and use that time to build relationships it should stand her in good stead.
ALI’S FIRST PICK
FIREFIGHTER | 34 | LIVERMORE, CA
Survivor firefighters have strong upside, Tom Westman, Jeremy Collins… but I’ve seen a lot of people comparing Eric to JP Hilsabeck. I’ve got to stand up for my man Eric. He may not be the most dynamic interviewee of all time, but I’m going to chalk that up to pre-season jitters. I wouldn’t be such a great interviewee either. There would be so much going on in my head that I would probably respond “what?” to every question. Eric has two small children at home, one of whom has special needs. Any father, under those circumstances, would be anxious going into a game in which there will be no contact with their family. As a firefighter, Eric is taught to become calm and action-oriented during stressful situations. This demeanor is not ideal for an interview on Entertainment Weekly, but it is crucial in the game of Survivor.
I think people are sleeping on Eric (probably because, as they claim, his interviews put them to sleep). To me, Eric’s reactions to the social media vitriol against him display an inherent sense of humor and a lack of taking himself too seriously, again, crucial in Survivor. Lastly, Eric’s athletic archetype usually indicates that he will at least make the merge. We know he’s tough enough to withstand the elements because he faces formidable obstacles every day. Compound his physique with the fact that of Extinction Island will heavily favor those with the ability to endure harsh environments and I think we could be looking at another firefighter winner.
ROB’S SECOND PICK
STUDENT | 21 | WACO, TX
Another Lauren, another member of Team Rob. Last time there was a Lauren, it was Ms. Rimmer in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, and she did not disappoint. Sure, I didn’t pick her right away and didn’t have high hopes for her, but she definitely proved me wrong. Also, I know a similar name doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be another Rimmer, but it can’t hurt, right? (Jeremy Crawford and Natalie Cole from David vs. Goliath stare at me from the pre-merge bench shaking their heads).
But alas, that is not why I picked this Lauren. I was immediately drawn to her when listening to her interview with Josh Wigler on First One Out. She just had such a great energy about her and seemed to be super likable and personable. To add on top of that, she’s an athlete, playing for the Baylor Women’s soccer team (insert Missy’s “Love you Bay” sound drop) and she seems like she’ll be the whole package. It also just so happens that her Survivor player she says she’s most like is also my first team member, Kelley Wentworth. This definitely bodes well for Lauren, as I see them instantly creating a bond and becoming a great pair. Even though she’s the youngest female player this season, she doesn’t come off as immature or not ready for the game. I’m excited to see what she brings to this season, and I’m glad to have her on my team.
ROB’S FINAL PICK
DAN “WARDOG” DASILVA
LAW STUDENT/FORMER MILITARY | 38| LOS ANGELES, CA
Dan (I don’t have to call him Wardog, right?) might be my last addition to the team, but I think he’ll be quite a strong asset to have. What he lacks in humility, he makes up for in confidence. I really hope he doesn’t continue to refer to himself in the third person like he did in his CBS bio, but if he does, at least he’ll make for some good TV while he’s there. His character type (Tony Vlachos, Domenick Abbate, Joe Mena, etc.) has done very well in the game lately, and that could either go really well for him or make him an immediate target. I think what he has that the others didn’t is that he knows how these players have been perceived before, and he wants to try and stay as far away from that as he can. Dan has an awareness that I don’t think the others really did.
If he’s able to keep his ego in check, I think he could do extremely well. He’s got the mental toughness, the physicality, and an engaging personality which will make him a valuable part of the Manu tribe. Extinction Island will not be a problem for him at all, considering he was in the military and has probably been through worse. Whatever the challenge is to get back into the game, whether it be physical, mental, or a combination, Dan has the ability to get it done. With Dan as my final team member, I’ve got high hopes for #teamrob this season, especially coming off my abysmal showing in David vs. Goliath.
ALI’S FINAL PICK
SALES | 46 | ASHBURN, VA
So, my team has Aubry Bracco (brains), and Eric Hafemann (brawn). What else do I need? If I were the Survivor producers, I would say beauty. But in my mind, I need beautiful confessionals. This is where Reem comes into play. Now, when I first listened to Reem on First One Out, I thought she would be one of my first picks. She was fun, understood the game, and had a great story. Plus, moms have a tendency to do well in the game should they make the post-merge. I thought Reem was the total package player. Then, I watched her ET Canada interview and felt instantly deflated. Some people questioned whether she was drunk in that interview. But I am going to reiterate that just because someone does a bad interview, it does not necessarily mean that she will be a bad Survivor player.
Regardless of how she does, based on that one interview, I feel pretty confident that she will at least deliver some entertaining gameplay, which means that there will be a plethora of great confessionals that will give me some points I might lose with Eric. I have a history of being right about players that are dismissed in the preseason. Ask Gus; I defended Lauren Rimmer, Mike Zahalsky, and Mike White prior to their seasons. If you’re looking for evidence of this, Mike White was in my draft last season, and I picked him over the likes of Kara or Alec. People over a certain age can disappear once the merge hits. So, when it came down to it, I decided to go with my gut and pick Reem. Worst case scenario, it will be a great ride to Extinction.
MARTIN’S FINAL PICK
MEDICAL ASSISTANT | 24 | BETHESDA, MD
Julia is a tough one to call. I could see her game going one of two ways. Either her determination to play a strong game and not ride coattails will cause her to become an early target. Or she will get herself into a controlling position and ride it deep into the game. I don’t really see a middle of the road kind of game for the 24-year-old Medical Assistant. She clearly has a passion to play hard and not waste the opportunity. Her attitude of not wanting to “sit on the beach getting a tan” is admirable and probably means she’s going to be working her butt off from day one. I just worry that she’s going to focus so hard on trying to make an impact that she will turn herself into this huge threat people want to get rid of as soon as possible.
But if there is one thing Julia has going for her, it’s her motivation. The passing of her father is what motivated her to go into the medical field and it’s also a massive reason for her being on Survivor. The show started airing soon after her dad died, and, in her own words, helped her “survive.” I think having that kind of personal connection and motivation can really push a person to that next level to succeed. I also think she’s on a strong starting tribe and should find it easy to fit in with that group. It will all come down to managing her threat level, luckily for her, there is a group of returning players she could potentially hide behind as meat-shields.
GUS’S FINAL PICK
TOYMAKER | 46 | NEW YORK CITY
On the flipside of the Survivor playstyle spectrum from my previous pick, Ron Clark, we have Julie Rosenberg, a 46-year-old toymaker mother from New York City who told Rob Cesternino that she “didn’t really have a strategy for the game (paraphrased).” My initial reaction to hearing this was to write Julie off. I was concerned that she would play a flippant game, floating around and not committing to anything, perhaps even emulating Dawn Meehan (who she compares herself to in her CBS bio). As her interview went on, however, I started to come around to her way of thinking. There’s an axiom that goes something to the effect of “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, and it seems that Julie’s plan is actually more subtle than she gave herself credit for: she wants to be an improviser. She intends to free herself from any preconceived notions of how the game should or ought to go, and instead allow herself to adapt to circumstances as they come her way.
My spirits were lifted further upon learning that Julie was a day-one fan of the game, so she’s actually got a good bank of Survivor history and previous winning games to draw from as she changes her game plan on the fly. My hope (or maybe it’s a pipe dream) is that Julie and Ron work together. They’re two of the oldest people on the Kama tribe, they both have a wealth of experience with younger folks, and they appear to have complementary playstyles. It’s not lost on me that my entire draft is from Kama, but come on – how could I resist these three?
AUSTIN’S FINAL PICK
DIVORCE LAWYER | 32 | ORLANDO, FL
It seems written in the stars that Aurora will be a villainess of Edge of Extinction, and she owns the fact that she’ll probably be viewed as a little mean as she gets embroiled in fights and arguments. Direct and aggressive, she will butt heads with her competitors, and once the physical and mental drain of the game sets in, she’ll likely struggle to keep that in check, particularly given that she asserts that making friends and playing the social game is a potential weakness. She plans to be an open book about her career as a divorce attorney, a profession many have sought to hide in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that kind of honesty help her. The key with Aurora – and the reason I wouldn’t entirely write off her chances at doing well in the game – is that she knows where her faults lie and she sees Survivor as an opportunity to challenge herself to overcome them, and I think that self-awareness could help her to smooth over some of her rougher edges.
Strategically, she speaks to the need to be accepting of how her competitors are approaching the game, and avoid writing off their emotions or desires if they don’t align with her own. She’s used to massaging these varying perspectives, discerning truth from emotion and manoeuvring towards a mutually beneficial outcome in court as a lawyer and those calculated skills will come in handy in the game. Her comfort in being one of “the out crowd” could also help her, as she doesn’t seem fazed by the prospect of adversity as she alludes to have experienced much in her lifetime, and that resolve will surely drive her – whether it’s on the tribe beaches or in the purgatorial unknown of Extinction.
STEPH’S FINAL PICK
SMALL BUSINESS OWNER | 25 | BELL, CA
After everyone else drafted their final pick, I was left with Wendy by default. With such an excitable personality, it’s no question that she’s going to be an interesting character to watch this season. There’s a lot to take in about Wendy, especially from her answers and the way she responded during her ET Canada interview. However, I sort of felt a similar way about Davie’s jampacked bio as well last season, and he turned out to be one of the standout savvy players for me. I’m not drawing too close a link between the presented pre-season images of these two players, but I’m hoping that we’ll be pleasantly surprised by Wendy as well. She’ll have to tone down her enthusiasm and form some solid relationships with her tribemates in order avoid getting voted out.
Here are the teams in handy graphic form (courtesy of Austin)…
Let us know who you’d choose for your team in the comments below.
Survivor: Edge of Extinction premieres February 20 at 8 pm on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for weekly features including Episode Reviews, Stats, Next Time On Survivor, Hot or Not, Give Me Five… and much more.