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.