The Rumor Mill – What’s The Story With Survivor Season 34?

Photo: Bill Selak via Compfight cc

When fans were able to vote for the entire cast of last year’s Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, it was cause for excitement within the Survivor community. Whether people were happy with all twenty returning castaways or not, there was a sense of ownership over the “fan voted cast”. For the upcoming Survivor Season 34, there was no fan vote, no input from viewers. Instead, CBS hand-picked twenty former players and flew them out to Fiji to begin filming. All the fans can do is react. And boy did they react this week when Inside Survivor revealed the new cast.

For some, getting to witness Cirie Fields and Ozzy Lusth on Survivor for their fourth time is a cause for celebration. For many others, it’s a sign of Survivor jumping the shark. The inclusion of fan favorites like JT Thomas, Sandra Diaz-Twine, and Tony Vlachos is exciting on paper, but alongside divisive characters such as Brad Culpepper and Troyzan Robertson, that excitement begins to wane. For a lot of people, some of the choices were just downright baffling – Hali Ford and Sierra Dawn-Thomas causing the biggest reactions.

There was a lot of talk, and many questions, following the cast reveal. What is the theme? How did this person make the cast? What happened to Earl Cole and Natalie Anderson? Hopefully, this post will explain some of those questions, as we look back at all the news, rumors and speculation from the past five months.

UPDATE 02/16/17: Back in June 2016, shortly after we revealed the cast for Season 34 here on Inside Survivor, I made this following post where I gathered all the rumors and speculation regarding themes and casting. While a lot of the info below is still accurate (the stuff concerning finals and who attended), there is one thing that needs clearing up in light of new, reliable information. Season 34 was NEVER intended to be Champions vs. Challengers nor Winners vs. Jury vs. Pre-Jury (although we knew the latter was never the case). By the end of January, when SEG casting first started calling castaways, the theme was already confirmed internally to be Survivor: Game Changers. There was no deviating from that plan, no discussion of a tribe of winners etc. Game Changers was always Game Changers. 

I just wanted to clear that up, you can still read the original post below:

Disclaimer: A lot of this is rumor and speculation. Not all 100% verified (hence The Rumor Mill!) but interesting nonetheless.


  • Back in January, SEG casting started making the initial calls to former castaways. Survivor often has a couple of themes in mind for returnee seasons, and they call their “top priority” players whom they would need to make sure these themes work.
  • The rumor is that one of the original themes Survivor had in mind for Season 34 was some form of “Winners vs. Best to Never Win” concept (labeled Champions vs. Challengers by fans online).
  • At this time a selection of former winners and big named players were contacted. However, a fair number of these players turned down the offer. Players rumored to have turned the offer down are Colleen Haskell, Cydney Gillon, Greg Buis, Joe Anglim, Kelley Wentworth and possibly more.


  • In early February, it’s believed that production went back to the drawing board and tried to re-work the theme. It was perhaps when the rumor of the often speculated “Winners vs. Jury vs. Pre-Jury” idea started. Although Inside Survivor never verified that with any of our sources.
  • On February 16, Jeff Probst appeared on The Writer’s Panel podcast and stated that CBS had just approved the “general creative” for Season 34. What “general creative” means is open to interpretation. It sounds as if they had a couple of vague ideas involving returning players and CBS greenlit them to go ahead with putting it together.
  • More calls went out to former players, including early boots (Alexis Maxwell, So Kim, etc.) and jurors (Andrea Boehlke, Malcolm Freberg, etc.).
  • Later in the month emails were sent out to invite a selection of these players to finals casting in LA.


  • From April 1-5, three rounds of finals took place in Los Angeles, California. In terms of what “finals” mean for a returning player season, it means the potential players undergo medical and psych checks to ensure they are fit for returning. On average, between 30-40 former players are invited to finals.
  • Inside Survivor posted the list of rumored names that attended these finals back in April. Again, the names were a mixture of winners, jurors, and pre-jurors, and perhaps further spurred on the “Winners vs. Jury vs. Pre-Jury” rumor.
  • Not everyone that received a call in Jan/Feb ended up getting invited to this specific finals session (i.e., Abi-Maria Gomes, So Kim and others).
  • There was later some confusion over whether or not Danni Boatwright was at finals. But regardless, at some point in the process, Danni was called and under consideration for Season 34.
  • Two weeks later, casting held another smaller round of finals. It’s believed that Brad, Ciera Eastin, Sierra and So Kim attended this round. Interestingly, apparently Jon Misch was also at this session, rather than the early April one like we originally stated.


  • In early May, calls started to go out to those who had attended finals to confirm whether or not they had made the final cast.
  • It was at this time that Inside Survivor knew for sure that the speculated “Winners vs. Jury vs. Pre-jury” theme was untrue – due to the uneven number of winners/jurors/pre-jurors confirmed to be in the cast. For example, Andrea, Ciera, Hali, Sarah Lacina, Malcolm, and Troyzan were confirmed, creating a clear gender imbalance for what would have been a tribe of six.
  • The number of winners also got shortened. Earl was rumored to have turned the offer down due to work. Mike Holloway and Sophie Clarke got cut. There was no further word on Danni. JT, Natalie A, Sandra, and Tony were the only winners confirmed to be in the final cast.
  • Similarly, with the pre-jurors, only three were confirmed to have made the final cast. Brad, Caleb Reynolds, and Jeff Varner.
  • Sabrina Thompson was also rumored to have turned the offer down due to work.
  • Also in May, filming wrapped for Season 33 (Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X), and production was said to be extremely happy with the season. Perhaps this influenced their decision to put two returning castaways from that season onto Season 34.
  • By the week beginning May 23, Inside Survivor had learned that the final cast was to be: Andrea, Aubry Bracco, Brad, Caleb, Ciera, Cirie, Debbie Wanner, Hali, JT, Jeff, Malcolm, Natalie A, Ozzy, Sandra, Sarah, Tai Trang, Tony, Troyzan, and the male and female from Season 33.
  • However, sometime late last week, there was a last minute change. Sierra replaced Natalie A. It is unclear whether Natalie got cut or if she had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • On Monday, May 30, the cast was flown to Fiji. The game is expected to start early next week after the pre-game press finishes. It is unknown at this time whether or not alternates were flown to location.

Cover Photo Credit: Bill Selak via Compfight cc

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and 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. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

28 responses to “The Rumor Mill – What’s The Story With Survivor Season 34?”

  1. Before survivor season 30 (WA), didn’t CBS send a forum to all players, asking various personal questions, and whether they would play again or not? If so, then doesn’t this mean that Colleen Haskell (who to my knowledge the producers have been desperately trying to get on the show for years) answered the question on said forum about whether one would play again with yes, since they are contacting her to play again? I believe there was a “Yes, with restrictions” option when selecting whether you would play again, so Colleen must have selected that, and only turned down the offer to compete is Season 34 due to said “restrictions.” Maybe these said restrictions will lift soon, and the producers will finally get there Colleen return?

  2. No! I want Earl and (any of the rumored female cast) over Sierra or Hali. I hope one of them proves me wrong, but I won’t hold out for that.

    • no one quite understood why wentworth was voted on second chances, but she proved them wrong when she became the greatest two time player of all time

  3. It amazes me that of all the females to replace Natalie they went with Sierra, horrible choice. I’m surprised Danni didn’t make it, it would’ve been great to see her again. I’m also interested to know who replaced Earl after he turned it down, I assume it was JT.

    Overall it’s a decent cast, but it could’ve been better. I see some of these returnees being more producer favorites than fan favorites. Hopefully those who would’ve made it through had it been a fan vote are the ones who go far. Thanks for the great info!

    • I assume since it was producer pick, then they would pick their favorites, but also tag along players that have made the show interesting in unique ways. For example, Sandra winning two times, Tai with Mark the Chicken, Debbie’s personality, Tony’s smooth skills to victory, Caleb’s evacuation, Ciera Eastin voting out her mom to being a strong strategist in the game, Cirie getting off the couch and becoming a very strong, devious player (10th Best Devious Player to ever play Survivor on; these are some examples of facts from the show that make some of these choices interesting. I would love to see Cirie working with Sandra, but I think Cirie would want her gone instantly (my opinion). Cannot wait to see how this season turns out!

      I agree with the Sierra choice. She strategized a little, but just took the chance of being safe and dragging herself to a strong alliance in Worlds Apart. I guess she got picked for her looks? Who knows. Hailey is an odd choice. Did not think she would return, but hopefully we will get to see more of her!

  4. Sandra Diaz-Twine is my all time favorite player but her inclusion in the cast makes me rather nervous — why risk messing up a perfect record of not only one but two wins? And I can see that painting a big target on her back.

    The rest of the mix, this season could be awfully interesting or just plain awful. Should be entertaining.

  5. I just want to shout out to Martin Holmes for this amazing site. As a fan I appreciate all the Intel and work you put in throughout the seasons’ airings. Keep up the great work!

  6. It could be great see one season called Survivor: Old School vs. Middle School vs. New School, with the best players of each generation. About the story of this season maybe is an All-Stars 2, maybe Heroes vs. Villains 2 -but I don’t think so-, or I don’t know, some good ideas but nothing clear yet.

  7. This sounds like a story of something that started like an awesome idea and ended in a dissapointment with about 6 players who singed on the awesome idea and just stayed by default and will get screwed because of it.

  8. I highly doubt that Natalie Anderson was cut in favor of Sierra. There was probably a family emergency that caused her dropping out.

  9. I actually don’t mind Hali. But I remember nothing about Sierra. I had to look up how she did during her original season. Probably my biggest surprise, and I can’t believe they couldn’t have found someone better and more memorable. Hopefully this season turns out better than it’s looking on paper.

  10. I like Ciera, but we just saw her two seasons ago. I also love Cirie, but 4 times is too much… will she be the new Boston Rob? And Ozzy again?

    I understand the show needs hot chicks, so that explains Hali and Sierra. But Brad and Troyzan? What’s the reasoning behind these?

  11. Seems like the theme is related to the relationships of the cast in their previous seasons.

    Ciera vs Brad
    Cirie vs JT
    Aubry vs Debbie
    Tai vs Caleb
    Sorta vs Hali (?)
    Malcolm vs Andrea
    Sarah vs Tony
    S33 pair

    Sandra, Troyzan, Jeff and Ozzy are not connected though so it doesn’t really make sense.

  12. Gotta say, there’s not a whole lot in the talent pool when it comes to the males. They’re either Alpha bro-ish people who would most want to show theirs and see who has the biggest one in the island or just plain inept and clueless.

  13. Just a guess here, but I think this might be a Worlds Apart (white/blue/no collar) 2: All Stars season. They’ve not done an all-star version of one of these B/B/B, Worlds Apart or generation seasons AFTER trying it out with new players (they obviously did the opposite with Blood vs Water).

    I think casting probably got close-ish with the main people they wanted, figured out what the theme would be, then swaped in certian Hali Ford types to fit the theme.

    Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it. Some of the cast might be weird or tired (Ozzy is such a yawn), but just to see Tony V. potentially interacting with people like Sandra? I’m in.

  14. I heard Natalie Anderson was cut when there was a change on who’s coming back from Season 33.
    so Im guessing the lady from 33 won that season.

    • That’s not true. Natalie and the S33 woman were both on the cast. Natalie was cut (pulled out) for other reasons.

    • and my theme speculation will be “Survivor Location – Unfinished Business”, yes, Sandra, Tony, and JT already won.. but Sandra and Tony have yet to win individual immunities, and JT has a giant ass redeeming to do from HvV. if Michaela indeed won, her unfinished business is yet to be revealed. most of these people have not won, so that’s probably going to be their unfinished businesses, like on Cirie, Malcolm, Andrea, Ciera and Ozzy, and even Troyzan, who are heavily favored to win if they only reached their previous finals (Ozzy’s additional unfinished business is his failed attempt to win the jury of Cook Island), Caleb’s medivac, and other people who wanted to reach the jury phase, but were cut pre-merge. and maybe some of them have not moved on yet and their unfinished business are their co-returnees, and would like to get revenge, like Tony to Sarah, Cirie to Ozzy, JT to Cirie, Andrea to Malcolm, Ciera to Brad, Aubry to Debbie..

  15. I keep looking at the list of players and the one constant is that each is a strong individualist. None of the players listed “falls in line” with “group think”.

    Look for a theme such as, “One Against The World.”
    Expect Exile Island back in play.
    Perhaps there won’t be tribal immunity and instead, Individual Immunity from the start of the game.

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