Yes, another season of Survivor is just around the corner which means it’s time once again for the dreaded winner predictions. We’ve read all the pre-season press, watched all the interviews, seen all the previous seasons, and now it’s time to put our money where our mouth is (side-note: no money is actually on the line). Below, six members of the Inside Survivor team make their winner picks for Survivor: Game Changers.
My winner pick has to be Malcolm Freberg. There are a lot of huge targets going into Game Changers: Tony, Sandra, Cirie and JT to name a few. Personally, I would include Malcolm on that list. But despite making it to day 38 his first go around, day 30 his second, and being a strong, intelligent, charming SOB, no one appears to be worried about Malcolm (at least according to the pre-season press).
If Mana, Malcolm’s starting tribe, loses any challenges, I foresee Malcolm gliding through the first tribal councils he attends. With personalities like Tony, Sandra, Ciera, Michaela, and Caleb surrounding him at the start, all Malcolm has to do is lay low, be helpful, build relationships and maybe go sniff out an idol, and he’ll be off to a great start. When the tribes inevitably swap around, his people skills and generally strong challenge abilities will keep him in the clear at least until the merge.
Post-merge, Malcolm’s game will come down to having the proper types of players as allies. At the core of whatever alliance he maneuvers into, he will always need someone stronger and louder to keep the heat off of him, as well as someone loyal and non-threatening to help keep him on the right side of the vote if something goes sour. In terms of a final three, think he’ll find a boneheaded, but loyal meat shield in Caleb, and a sociable, naive second vote in Sierra.
I think Malcolm’s most trying time will be around the same time he was voted off in Caramoan. After some of those early merge targets are ousted, Malcolm may begin to look quite a bit more threatening. If he can time his moves well and keep his allies from turning on him, I think Malcolm has a great shot of making it to final tribal council and sweeping the jury.
All returnee seasons are tough to pick a winner. The big threats hardly ever make it to the end, so former winners are always an easy early target (except Sandra of course.). There always seems to be an unknown female that will show up with some major gameplay and storm through the season and make it far. People like Amber and Wentworth will shine in a situation like that. Jeremy kind of broke the mold last time, so that makes Malcolm a really enticing pick. So, trying to use all of my Survivor knowledge, logic, and some guess work, my winner pick for Survivor: Game Changers is Sarah Lacina.
I think that Sarah has enough strategic gameplay and a desire to win, plus she has been away just long enough to have corrected any mistakes that she made out there. One more thing going for her is that maybe she learned something from Tony back in Season 28 that she can use to help her this time. Her only downside is that Tony is out here again with her, so we will have to see how that affects her.
I’m going to take a gamble. The discourse on this player has been pretty pessimistic, but that’s not my style. I see brighter possibilities in this player’s future – and hopefully, that doesn’t come back to bite me. Jeff Varner is my winner pick.
In Cambodia, Jeff came in aggressive and played like a firework: big, bright, gaudy, loud, attention-grabbing and then gone in a blink. This time around, Varner is cool, relaxed and mellow. Playing too hard and fast has seen him fail to make the Jury twice, and he knows he needs to slam on the brakes if he wants to live out his Survivor dream.
In all of his pre-game press, he talks about how he intends to “be a calming influence” on the Island, rather than the pot-stirrer we’ve seen in the past. He says he wants to go with the flow and is willing to work with anyone from big targets like Sandra or Malcolm to the unknown quantities of Hali or Michaela. He’s happy to be anybody’s number and be dragged to the end, where he feels confident he could talk his way into a win (and I believe he has the charm to pull it off). In a season full of big targets, anyone willing and able to sit back will have the advantage. That said, he’s also shown the flexibility to play proactively if he does find himself backed into a corner.
Of course, Jeff could hit the beach and transmogrify back into a hyperactive over player. But I think he’s learned his lesson, and if he sticks to the Zen, elder statesman approach to Game Changers, it could take him off his fellow castaways’ radars long enough for him to get a solid foothold in the game.
If he makes the merge, he should have had enough time to overcome his erratic reputation. He’ll also become a lesser threat. No-one has seen Jeff play a truly individual game, and the attention is going to drift to the remaining big capital “T” Threats: challenge beasts and strategic powerhouses with stellar resumes. What does Jeff have to his name? Two innocuous pre-Jury boots.
Jeff will either be cannon fodder in the first few episodes or be still standing come Finale Night. I’m throwing my lot in with the dark horse – I think it’s going to be the latter.
Everything in me wants to pick Aubry as the winner. I love Aubry because she is one of the first castaways I’ve seen that represents me. There have been the goofy, nerdy guys, but this is the first truly goofy, nerdy woman castaway I’ve seen. If Cirie got off the couch to play, Aubry logged off Facebook or something. That being said I’m not forecasting an Aubry win. When Sandra has you in her crosshairs (Aubry was Sandra’s first vote as per Dalton Ross) you’re carrying the type of target you need acetone to shake.
So after much consideration (drum roll), Malcolm Freberg is my winner pick. I remember watching Philippines and thinking he was only okay until he was voted out, then I was devastated he didn’t win. I genuinely didn’t believe he would lose that Final 4 immunity. He’s a triple threat (challenge/social/strategy). I was impressed how he went to Tandang and ingratiated himself there. He had a decent outing in Caramoan and proved he’s a good ally (except for that hold up bro moment).
He does have potential to be the merge boot because people might turn around and go “Oh, Malcolm is still here? Got to get him out.” But I think he can overcome that. Even though he and Andrea didn’t have the best relationship on Caramoan, I think they could work well this season. I think he could work well with anyone and everyone. Otherwise, I think he’d be a number wherever he’s needed. Michaela was my close second pick to take out Game Changers.
While it pains me to bet against Sandra, I just can’t see any of the big, legendary players making it to the end this season. But I also can’t bring myself to pick from those at the bottom of the barrel, the Sierras and Troyzans of this cast. Therefore I’m going to pick someone who is more middle of the road. A good player that could be great but hasn’t quite achieved it yet. A player that has continued to grow in each appearance. Okay, enough with the preamble. My winner pick for Game Changers is Andrea Boehlke.
Maybe I’m just biased because I’ve always had a huge crush on Andrea, but hey, I like her and think she has a good chance. She was the last bastion of hope in the three-month torture exercise that was Redemption Island. And she was one of the few bright spots in that eye-gouging cast of Caramoan. Yes, she has her flaws. She was too passive in her first season. Then in her second outing, she was overcome by paranoia which often made her overplay her hand. But the positive here is that she recognizes her flaws and is hoping to find that middle ground between her first two games. I think that’s exactly what Andrea needs.
I can see somewhat of a Tyson trajectory for Andrea. In Tyson’s first season he made it pretty far but was blinded to JT’s god-like walk to the end – not recognizing just how much of a threat JT posed until it was too late (like Andrea with Boston Rob). Then in his second season, he overcompensated and overplayed, making a monumental blunder where he effectively voted himself out of the game. When he came back for his third try, he had learned from his mistakes. He kept quiet at the beginning, voting with his alliance, then turned it on post-merge, recognizing and removing the biggest threats while making sure his closest allies remained tight. I really can see Andrea following a similar path, if she plays the pre-merge by just being a loyal number while charming people and working her social game, it should put her in a strong position to kick up her game post-merge and make moves.
Andrea is also on a strong starting tribe who I don’t see losing a challenge before the swap (like Bayon in Cambodia). This should give her time to get into a solid alliance. She already knows Zeke from playing the fanmade Survivor: Brooklyn together, so that’s an automatic connection. Plus, both Andrea and Zeke want to play with Cirie and given Cirie’s threat level, I think she’ll be open to anyone that is happy to work with her. Even if the Nuku tribe breaks down into an alpha alliance, I don’t see Andrea being targeted, she is a country girl that performs well in challenges. Andrea has the tools to win.
I think that Malcolm Freberg has a really good shot at winning this season. He’s an extremely well-rounded player in the physical, mental, and social aspects. At the same time, he’s not the best at any one thing. He’s a great middle of the road player in that sense. There’s always going to be someone more threatening or more of a non-entity than he is. In both of Malcolm’s seasons, he’s been able to make strong bonds with people, and he is well liked by just about everyone.
He’s strong in challenges and should last easily through the pre-merge, but he’s also not going to be someone that takes charge or gets on peoples’ nerves. While the big dogs will be at each other’s throats, and the “less worthy” game changers are trying to prove themselves, he’ll be able to slide right through the middle and work with who he needs to to further himself in the game.
Unlike a few people in this cast that have previously played with other cast members before, him and Andrea, although on opposite sides in Caramoan, don’t seem to have a lot of bad blood between them. Will he trust her? Probably not, but I don’t see them openly gunning for each other while there’s bigger fish to fry. I can see Malcolm easily getting along with most of the people on this cast, all the while performing well in challenges, and possibly finding idols to keep himself safe.
So to recap, here are the Inside Survivor team’s winner picks:
Alice, Jacob, Rob – Malcolm Freberg
Austin – Jeff Varner
Martin – Andrea Boehlke
Brent – Sarah Lacina
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Game Changers news and features. And don’t forget to check out our Playing With Game Changers interviews. Survivor: Game Changers premieres March 8, 2017, on CBS.