The return of Survivor South Africa is less than a week away, and in anticipation of brand new Survivor, the Inside Survivor team got together to draft the 20 new castaways ahead of the premiere on Thursday, June 3.
Taking turns in a snake draft, Austin Smith, Christine Pallon, Gia Worthy, and Martin Holmes picked their winner candidates, big characters and personal favourites to assemble their teams. Read on to hear their thoughts on all 20 castaways…
CHRISTINE’S FIRST PICK
My first pick was a no-brainer. How could I not pick “funemployed” Qieän? Her name even keeps autocorrecting to “queen” on my phone, which I’m taking as a sign that I made the right choice. I value adaptability above all else when it comes to Survivor, and based on her intro video, Qieän feels the same. Intelligence, physical strength, and charisma are obviously important, but they’re worth nothing if you can’t quickly adapt to whatever the game throws at you. Qieän seems keenly aware of this, which gives me hope that she’ll have good game awareness and be able to thrive in any situation the Survivor gods throw at her.
After adaptability, my second reason for picking Qieän is simple: she seems cool as hell. I saw her picture, read her bio, and immediately thought, “Wow, I want to be her friend!” Being likable and interesting is half the battle when it comes to having a good social game. While I can’t predict what her fellow castaways will think of her, Qieän strikes me as someone who has the potential to become a major social player. I definitely worry about her being targeted later in the game as a clear threat, but I have high hopes that Qieän will be able to adapt and fight her way to the end.
AUSTIN’S FIRST PICK
Mike comes into Survivor eager to embrace the more manipulative and Machiavellian aspects of the game. On face value, that might give one pause—especially given the morality policing in the last season, Survivor SA: Island of Secrets. But while he is clearly eager to get his hands dirty, he also wants to keep his scheming light-hearted and fun. He wants to be the “charming rogue,” able to execute a cunning action while keeping a smile on his face, and if there’s a way to be a strategic villain on Survivor SA, this is probably the way you’d have to do it.
But Mike’s eagerness to play hard and sneaky is underscored by an enticing level of nuance. A fan in his childhood (and he’s rocking the bandana “buff” he wore as a kid to prove it), but as he shared in his RHAP interview with Shannon Guss & Mike Bloom, he came back to Survivor in full force with that episode of Survivor: Game Changers. As a gay man himself, Mike identified with Zeke and was drawn in by the complexities of the modern game, strategically and socially. He is thoughtful, analytical and recognises the aspects of his city slicker archetype that could pinpoint his weaknesses. Self-assured, confident, but willing to be vulnerable, Mike seems poised for success in this game with this gamer-heavy cast, but he’ll need to keep the mischief in check. Nonetheless, I’m fascinated with Mike’s perspective and cheeky personality and I hope to see it in full force.
GIA’S FIRST PICK
Anela is a steady choice for a first draft pick, and he was one of the players that immediately stuck out to me. As a maths educator and a rugby coach, I’m hoping we get a perfect mix of brain and brawn from him. He plans to take a deliberate and measured approach to the game while motivating those around him. In the best-case scenario, this guarantees him a spot in the merge. Worst case, it leads to a clash with the other aspiring leaders.
He has a winning attitude and a competitive spirit that is typical of the athletic contestants, for better or for worse. My biggest fear with him is either the more underhanded parts of the game getting the best of him or that he will eventually be seen as too much of a threat. However, he concludes his introductory video by acknowledging that charm and athleticism will only take you so far and that players need an “unbreakable will and unwavering resilience” to win, so I’m going to remain optimistic.
MARTIN’S FIRST PICK
Anesu gives off a really positive, likable vibe that makes me believe she will be easy to get along with in the game. I’m not sure she will be the most strategic player, but I think it’s the social game where her strengths will lie. If she can make strong bonds early on, that could be enough to take her deep into the game, simply because people like her and want to keep her around.
There is definite “journey edit” potential with Anesu. A big reason for being on Survivor is to truly find out who she is and what she’s made of. It’s almost a challenge to herself. And that journey is reflected in her real life, as she talks in her RHAP interview about how she gave up her career as a doctor to pursue a life/career that made her happy. She jumped from the medical field to the corporate world and now a pre-school teacher/yoga teacher. That tells me she will be very open to the new experience of Survivor and won’t be afraid to take risks.
MARTIN’S SECOND PICK
There are a lot of similarities between Tyson and my first pick Anesu. They both describe themselves as super competitive and see Survivor as the ultimate way to test themselves. They also seem to share a love for nature, as Tyson says that he loves animals more than humans. Although, in a game that requires human connection to get ahead, I’m not sure what that says for Tyson’s chances. But if he and Anesu find themselves on the same tribe, I could see them being a powerful duo.
What I like about Tyson’s chances is that he says he is more of a reactor than an attractor. As in, he won’t be the loudest one on the tribe, drawing all the attention to himself. Instead, he will lay back and adapt to the situation around him. That ability to mold yourself to different personalities can serve you well in Survivor. That said, he also describes himself as stubborn and that it’s hard to get him to change his mind. I’m hoping that side of Tyson won’t show itself when it comes to alliance plans and strategies.
GIA’S SECOND PICK
Dino is a preseason favorite for many, and I’m beyond excited to have grabbed him for my second pick. He describes himself as easy-going and believes that this ability to laugh at himself will prove to be his biggest strength in the game. As viewers, it’s easy to forget how mentally and physically exhausting Survivor can be, so a sense of humor could go a long way towards his long-term success.
To top it all off, he’s a superfan of the show, so I know he’s going to make the most of every moment he has on the island. While I have a soft spot for fellow superfans, keeping up with the show doesn’t guarantee that a player will do well. Sometimes these expectations can even be a detriment to how they view the game. Nevertheless, I have high hopes that he’s going to have an impressive run, if not win.
AUSTIN’S SECOND PICK
From the charming rogue to an undercover superfan, Carla strikes me as one of the biggest “students of the game” on the cast. Anticipating that she’ll be underestimated as just a ditzy blonde, she’s hoping that will allow her to catch others off-guard with her knowledge of the game. There’s the possibility that this could leave her with a chip on her shoulder—and having “something to prove” can sometimes hamper a player’s flexibility, especially given she also expresses some reticence to outright lie. However, Carla’s enthusiasm to play Survivor gives me hope that she’ll be able to effectively adapt as needed.
Carla also has a deep well of strength to draw on, being transparent about her recovery from substance abuse and suicidal thought to regain a passion for what prospects life holds for her. This openness bodes well for Carla’s ability to genuinely connect with her competitors, and I can see her easily finding her footing in her tribe’s social dynamics. Hopefully she can find that balance point between her personable qualities and the gameplay she’ll want to engage with. And if she can execute on that balance, I suspect she could be a very effective Survivor player.
CHRISTINE’S SECOND PICK
Paul is a pure “good vibes” pick. First of all, he described himself as “single / very single,” so he gets a lot of points right away for making me laugh. Secondly, he puts a lot of emphasis in his bio on his positive, loving personality. I love that this is what he emphasizes about himself because he clearly sees this for the major game strength it is.
There is a lot to be said about just being a naturally pleasant person to be around in the game of Survivor, especially if it results in your tribemates lowering their guard around you. Paul just seems extremely likable and totally non-threatening, even down to his occupation as an aftercare teacher. I’m not sure what kind of game Paul might end up playing, but I feel like he’s going to have a fun time doing it.
CHRISTINE’S THIRD PICK
In her video, journalist-turned-yoga-instructor Wardah says that she knows she’s going to be underestimated by her fellow castaways. Instead of letting that get her down, she’s going to use it to her benefit to help her slide under the radar. I’m a sucker for a good UTR game, and Wardah seems exactly like the type of player who can use others’ perceptions of her against them and play a strong enough game to win without anyone realizing until it’s too late. Her background as a journalist also jumped out at me, since odds are she’s got some solid people skills on top of everything else.
AUSTIN’S THIRD PICK
I’m just going to keep stacking my hand with superfans, and Kiran is one of the crop that I’m most excited to see play. A little like Carla, Kiran wants to lean into being underestimated by putting forward a “lovable idiot” exterior. But he strikes me as someone who will be immediately pegged as a smart player. He is unabashedly articulate and thoughtful, and I expect his tribe will pick up on his intelligence quickly. However, Kiran is also very upfront about the need for adaptability, as trained through his career as a strategy consultant. Used to assessing risk and manoeuvring through it, he seems staunchly prepared to change course if his intended approach to the game needs to shift.
This will only be further aided by Kiran’s insight. In his pre-game interviews, Kiran shows a keen awareness of others and how external perspectives on the game might impact his own. For instance, he plans to keep a close eye on how his fellow competitors value qualities like loyalty or honesty and intends to ensure that he balances his game to the meta-narrative constructed by the other players. Kiran’s energy is intellectual without being pretentious and buoyant without being goofy. And that feels like the perfect mix for Survivor SA generally, but also this particular cast.
GIA’S THIRD PICK
Let me be frank, I want so badly for Thoriso to do well this season. She knows that she’s an outlier on the show because she would never go camping otherwise. Actually, she takes it a step further by admitting that she’s a creature of comfort and would die if she tried this by herself. In other words, she’s the type of player I love to watch when they defy expectations. Everyone has an idea of the skills a player needs to go far on Survivor, so seeing someone succeed despite this is always satisfying to me.
The problem is that she will have more of an uphill battle than players who are more in tune with their survival skills. That being said, I refuse to count her out of anything because this is a strategic game, not a survival one. Most importantly, Thoriso describes herself as an optimist, fiercely loyal, and a colourful character, otherwise known as the perfect ally to have on your side.
MARTIN’S THIRD PICK
Noleen, aka Pinty, is another player that has bounced around careers. She describes herself as a “Janet of all trades.” Again, that kind of thing can suggest a player that is flexible and open to new experiences. That is what you need in a game that can change from one second to the next. Of course, it could also suggest a wishy-washy, non-commital personality, and I’m just hoping that isn’t what we’ll get from Pinty.
What worries me about Pinty (but also what kind of intrigues me) is that she says her favorite past players are Ben Driebergen and Tom Schwartz. Not only are they her faves, but they’re players she most wants to emulate. Now, on paper, those are two past winners, so of course, you’d want to mimic their success. On the other hand, Ben and Tom were very divisive personalities that rubbed many of their tribemates the wrong way and ended up alienating people. So I’m hoping at the very least that Pinty is going to be a big personality on the season.
MARTIN’S FOURTH PICK
Nicole’s biggest advantage is that she’s already played Survivor in high school. And I don’t mean a high school campus version of Survivor; I’m talking a 28-day trek through the wilderness. Firstly, that’s an INSANE thing to make school children do. Secondly, it probably bodes well for her in the game, at least in terms of being able to handle the elements and physicality. And, as she says herself, others might not expect that from her, so she could surprise a few people.
I’m not sure Nicole is a huge fan of the show; she mentions having only seen a couple of seasons. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And she seems to have a grasp on the basics. She talks about being willing to lie and deceive and mentions needing to make an alliance with someone she can trust but not someone too likable that they will beat her in the end. If Nicole can keep that in mind throughout the game, she may be willing to cut the big, obvious threats when the time is right. But we all know that saying that and doing that are two very different things.
GIA’S FOURTH PICK
Marisha is another player not to underestimate, and I know this because her biggest pet peeve is being told she cannot or may not do something. Based on that, she strikes me as someone that will want to participate in every challenge and really focus on the tribe’s unity. This makes for a fun player to watch, but it doesn’t always lead to the best results.
What prevented me from picking her earlier was her saying her greatest weakness was not being able to hide her true self, which is kind of an important skill to have in a game about deceit. While I can’t speak to her challenge abilities just yet, I can see her having a good social game, since her greatest strength is her ability to build relationships. I hope she’s there for the long haul because I have a feeling she will keep things interesting and fight for her place every step of the way.
AUSTIN’S FOURTH PICK
But wait, there are more superfans on Team Austin! And I’m not even snagging all of them—that’s how stacked this cast is with players who understand the game and are eager to play! Renier burgeons with fandom and is champing at the bit to fulfil his Survivor dream, and I don’t expect there is any way that he will be able to mask or underplay that. However, his stage in life—as a young Christian dad, newly adjusting to fatherhood in lockdown—gives him a grounded perspective to keep his excitement in check and keep him approachable to those that may not share his level of game knowledge.
An aspect of Renier’s approach that I really love is that even though he loves dissecting Survivor strategy at home with his wife, he’s not coming into the game with grand schemes to be the strategic puppet-master. He wants to play by the rules of the game with its deceptions and manipulations, but he doesn’t appear determined to be “The Strategist” with capitals. I feel like this attitude will serve him well and hopefully mean he won’t fall into the trap of overplaying like some eager strat-focused superfans of seasons past. Renier also suggests that he’s no slouch physically, and all this together leaves me feeling like he could be coming into the game in one of the most balanced starting positions.
CHRISTINE’S FOURTH PICK
Amy really didn’t jump out at me as a potential draft pick when I first looked at the cast. I saw “corporate lawyer” and thought she would potentially be too aggressively strategic from the get-go. But I was fully sold on her after I took a look at her video, where she details how much she loves beating men at poker. She goes on to outline her strategy to play a strong social game by laying low at the start, observing her fellow players, and slowly working her way into the group.
She comes across as a really level-headed, well-rounded player. I’ll be shocked if she isn’t eventually clocked as the major threat that she is, but I like her odds of making it deep, especially if she sticks with her “lie in wait” strategy for the first part of the game.
CHRISTINE’S FINAL PICK
Santoni is my final draft pick for the season. She, much like Paul, was another “good vibes” pick for me. I love that she’s such a big fan of the game, having applied three previous times before finally being cast on this season, and it’s clear from her video that she’s going to be a fun character and personality regardless of how well she does. She’s ecstatic to finally be playing the game she loves without coming across as gamebotty, so here’s hoping she can bring it home for all the other fans and casting hopefuls out there.
AUSTIN’S FINAL PICK
Yup, another superfan for my collection, read ‘em and weep! Shaun does stand out from the rest of my team, though, and not just because he’s the oldest castaway on the season at a mere 40 years old. Whereas many of the younger superfans have a yearning quality to their fandom, Shaun is a straight-shooter, and his brazen, off-the-cuff personality could absolutely be a help-or-hinder dichotomy. He’s a huge Survivor fan and plans to do whatever needs to be done to succeed. Unlike Mike, who wanted to fill a particular villain archetype, Shaun doesn’t carry a burden of how he wants to be perceived, he just wants to get the job done and have fun doing it.
That said, Shaun’s game aggression doesn’t stand out to me as glaringly problematic because I do get a charismatic vibe from his pre-game interviews. He cites David Genat from Australian Survivor as one of his favourite players, and I can definitely see Shaun ultimately filling a similar role as a player who relishes every moment and isn’t hesitant to make a gamble. The question will be whether he can keep that chaotic energy to the confessionals while projecting his wholesome dog-lover side to his tribe. Regardless of whether he can strike that balance, or he crashes and burns, I think Shaun is going to be a very fun character to watch—and Survivor SA loves its characters.
GIA’S FINAL PICK
Chappies certainly has confidence that he will win the game, that’s for sure. His introductory video starts with him declaring that he is the Sole Survivor of Season 8, immediately letting us know that he is going to be a bold and confident contestant. He has a strong personality and is naturally optimistic, a fun combination to have around camp. He says he knows that Survivor is about being well-rounded, but we’ll have to wait and see if his attitude will come off as charismatic or arrogant.
Admittedly, I could be completely off base for how I think he will be portrayed on the show (wouldn’t be the first time). So, while he wasn’t my first choice, he’s still a member of my draft, and I will be cheering him on with the rest of my picks until further notice.
MARTIN’S FINAL PICK
Jason was the leftover pick and so ended up on my team. And I certainly wouldn’t opt for the Joe / Ozzy challenge-orientated player if I had the choice. However, I think there is more to Jason than just challenge strength. Yes, he cites Joe Anglim and Ozzy Lusth as players he is most like, but he also names Tony Vlachos and Sarah Lacina as two of his favorites. So I’m hoping there is a cunning strategist within Jason to match his jungle boy side.
Somehow I seem to have ended up with a lot of players that a) want to prove themselves and b) are big into nature and animals. Jason describes himself as a huge animal person and names pigeon racer and beekeeper as two of his many jobs. Those attributes could help him bond with the likes of Anesu and Tyson if they end up on the same tribe. He also seems like a genuine Survivor fan and understands the different facets required to succeed in the game. So in terms of long-haired Survivor men, I’m hoping Jason is more of a Malcolm than a Joe.
That’s it for our draft assessment! Stay tuned to Inside Survivor over the coming months for all of our Survivor SA coverage. We will be providing weekly episode recaps, player of the week polls, and Power Rankings (starting after the first episode) featuring former Survivor SA castaways Jacques Burger and Meryl Szolkeiwicz.