Survivor 35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers recaps

S35: HHH cast projections


Here we are, back again with another hastily written, poorly thought-through, almost certainly inaccurate set of predictions for the outcome of a new Survivor season. You may recall similar efforts in Game Changers, Millennials vs. Gen X, Kaoh Rong, and Worlds Apart, to name a few. But you'd be luckier if you didn't recall them.


So... it's all downhill from here.

The Likely
Contestants most likely to win HvHvH - click contestant pics to view individual contestant pages

Here we go... the "Likely" tier. Despite Josh Wigler's tireless efforts at recording and disseminating this cast's pre-game gameplay intentions, there are still some questions we have about how these contestants will play. Mainly because we haven't really seen them interacting with each other. Even so, there's a fair amount to go on. So, based on Josh's interviews, Probst's cast assessments, and the cast's bios and CBS interviews, these are the people we think have the best chance of winning Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers. Also known as Heroes, Healers & Hustlers, apparently.


1. Ben Driebergen

Ben Driebergen


Positives: He's big, bearded, boisterous, bedecked with tattoos, and he has a great background story. So good in fact, if he gets to the end, he might not even need to depend on his charisma to pull it off. But if he does, he also has that going for him. Not only that, but he seems to be wearing hype armor: He was one of the six contestants featured in the post-Game Changers preview, and Probst cited him as a player to watch (potential spoiler alert: both to Josh Wigler on Night 1 of HHH, and to Dalton Ross, before the start of filming for the next season, S36: Ghost Island).


Negatives: Ben stands out partly because he's not all that much like anyone else on the season. He's the only veteran. He's one of only two dads in their 30s (and one of only three dads, period). He's the only person from the Pacific Northwest. Yet even though these traits set him apart, he's still a huge, exuberant personality, and one who ought to mesh well with his tribemates. They all seem to have a good impression of him in the pre-game, at least. If the late-game players are smart, though, he could well be the dreaded late-game-booted person nobody else can allow to reach the end because they would automatically win.


Comparable players: Ben's high-water comparables would be Mike Holloway and Keith Nale. Maybe a bit of Chris Daugherty. He has their hardworking, no-nonsense charm, but also Mike's (and Chris's) knowledge of the game. Should the numbers not work in Ben's favor, and his teddy "bear" personality turns into a grizzly, his low-water mark would probably be as a Kyle Jason-style malcontent. Either way, he looks to be a huge personality, and should create an indelible impression on the season. Let's at least hope he does better than the last Idaho contestant, who we also (highly embarrassingly, in retrospect, had ranked in the top spot).


2. Chrissy Hofbeck

Chrissy Hofbeck


Positives: Chrissy is brilliant (already getting "smartest player we've ever had" hype from Probst), engaging, and a longtime fan of the show who has been applying since the start. She also seems to be in good shape and looks younger than her 46 years. She has a thorough knowledge of the game, and is well aware of the pitfalls that may await her playing with people half her age. As an actuary (or "actual actuary," as Josh Wigler prefers), she can readily assess the panoply of risk outcomes, and as a seasoned Survivor viewer, she has the historical database necessary to base that risk assessment on reality (TV). On paper, she's the type of contestant who should be well-equipped to flourish. Not only that, but she has great initial tribe placement. She'll start on the oldest tribe, where her age will stand out much less. The Heroes are also one of the strongest tribes physically. So while Chrissy's one of the few people this season who does not look like a bodybuilder, almost everyone else on her tribe does, so strength should be less of a consideration in boot decisions. They'll be able to shed one of their giant pillars of muscle and still "keep the tribe strong." As such, she should have a fairly low-risk path to the merge (and much further), with only the swap (or an unlikely Heroes losing streak) introducing much variance.


Negatives: While she's concerned about her age (rightly, as we have noted, at least when it comes to winning the jury vote), perhaps Chrissy's biggest potential problem will be one she can't conceal with a white lie: escaping the "mom" typecasting expectations. In their pre-game interviews, nearly half the cast have already decided Chrissy is "The Mom" of the season. For someone intending to play a strategic game, that's less of glass ceiling, more of a glass box. While she has a good chance of getting to the end, whether the jurors can look past the "Mom" label and give her the win is a different question. Luckily, Chrissy enters the game intending to play a "good" game (as opposed to a villainous one), which should match well with both being seen as "The Mom" and starting off with the Heroes tribe.


Comparable players: For positive correlations, Denise Stapley and Dawn Meehan stand out. Longtime fans/applicants who finally got their shot and (the second time, in Dawn's case) made it to the end. Both were also moms, although they had widely divergent success with their respective juries. On the downside, there's also the worry that the only other MIT person to play Survivor was Kaoh Rong's Liz Markham, who was seen as too calculating and uncaring, and was removed quickly. From her interviews, it seems unlikely that Chrissy will suffer that fate, but you never know.


3. Cole Medders

Cole Medders


Positives: It seems a bit silly to rank Cole this high, since historically, big beefy guys almost never win. There are a couple of asterisky exceptions (Yul, Jeremy), but neither was really the largest, most muscular guy on his winning season (consciously so, in Jeremy's case). Cole is so enormous that Josh Wigler has dubbed him "Mt. Medders," and Ryan Ulrich described Cole as even having muscles on his toes. But Cole is young enough, charming enough, and seemingly game-aware enough that he *might* have a chance to break through the historical muscle-mass ceiling. Can he get to the end, though? Maybe! He has outdoor skills that will make him a valuable asset in camp, some of the women have said they're happy to keep him around as eye candy, and once he hits the merge, he'll be a legit threat for an immunity win streak, as long as he throws a few of the first ones. Not only that, but his "Two Truths and a Lie" performance with Josh Wigler was masterful. He's no dumb jock.


Negatives: Cole is a rock climber, which prepares him well for the balance, strength, and endurance post-merge challenges, but it's an extremely solitary sport. He also lives in his car, alone. As convincingly smooth as he seems in his pre-game interviews, does he really have the social chops to actually pull off a jury win? Listening to him, you want to believe, but there are a lot of red flags there. One final worry: he equivocated a bit with Josh Wigler, and seemed open to the idea of torpedoing his own game if it meant meeting/retaining the romance of his life. (Facepalm.)


Comparable players: Cole possesses a lot of the same skills as pre-Worlds Apart Joe Anglim. He sees himself as more of a Spencer Bledsoe, which seems a bit of a stretch, but not spectacularly so. Then again, it's also possible he's just there for the adventure, like Marquesas's Gabriel Cade, and could find his time cut short by a ruthless invader from another tribe. But even so, Cole has exactly enough charm, grit, and guile to pull off a Tocantins JT-type performance. He just needs a Stephen to volunteer to do the dirty work, whilst Cole smiles, aw-shucks, and wins.

The Possible
Contestants who might win HvHvH - click contestant pics to view individual contestant pages

Almost everyone here has considerable upside, and if things break in their favor, and they face the right opponents in the finals, they have the potential to win the game. But unlike the upper tier, they also have at least one knock against them, be it something intrinsic in their approach, or simply a poor initial draw with starting tribe. Still, if they're here, a win is possible.


1. Lauren Rimmer

Lauren Rimmer


Positives: When Lauren's name was first leaked, we imagined she might be the second coming of Twila Tanner. That's still not a terrible comparison, but it's also a bit misleading. Lauren seems independent and self-reliant like Twila, but she's also much more positive, friendly, and easily rootable than was the prickly Vanuatu second-place finisher. If she remains pleasant, keeps her head down, performs in challenges, works hard in camp, and catches some fish, she could get very deep into this game. In her interviews, Lauren conveys a sincere determination to win, and a sufficient depth of familiarity with the show that it's plausible that she could actually do so. And she's nice, and a hard worker.


Negatives: Lauren's biggest problem looks to be her initial tribe. Lauren's a single mom in her thirties, and the entire rest of the Hustlers tribe are people who range in age from 23 all the way up to... 25. Furthermore, even in the best-case scenario where Lauren reaches the finals, there's a non-zero chance that she could be facing a jury almost entirely composed of single kids in their 20s. Lauren, Ben, and Katrina are probably the three people least like the median castmember, which would be a single, coastal city-dwelling kid in their mid-20s. They'll have to work extra hard to win everyone else over. Can Lauren do that? She seems earnest, determined, and hardworking, but also happier to be sitting alone on a dock catching fish, like Keith Nale, than to be corralling and persuading the schemers, like Sarah Lacina. While Lauren could go far, does she have the killer instinct to make sure she has a spot in the final three as the numbers remaining dwindle. We ask because there's a worrisome chance that, again like Keith Nale, she'll be so nice and generally respected that she'll fall just short of that chance.


Comparable players: Again, Lauren seems like a kinder, gentler Twila, with or perhaps a Keith Nale who's actually seen the show before, and knows how it works. That's probably peak performance, and it could be enough for Lauren to win. Other's have suggested China's Denise Martin, but Lauren seems a lot better socially than Denise. But if it all goes south, and Lauren never finds her niche, she could end up as the second iteration of Zoe Zanadakis, or maybe a Rick Nelson. Let's hope it's the first option.


2. Mike Zahalsky

Mike Zahalsky


Positives: He's smart, he's funny, he has a deep historical knowledge of the show. He even named his first-born son Ethan, after the Africa winner! What's not to like? He couples Cochran's smarts with a much more extemsive set of life experiences. And as a surgeon, he has ready-made alliances (or perhaps conflicts, depending on the level of respect with which doctors have treated them in the workplace) with fellow healthcare-related workers Jessica and Desi, who just happen to be on his tribe. His "WAIT" mantra ("Why Am I Talking?") shows he has a well-considered awareness of and approach to the game. If he and Roark can combine their superfan superpowers, and maybe pull in someone like Cole or Desi? That could be a real Triforce.


Negatives: Mike should be the older, wiser version of Ryan, and he probably is. Except that Mike's tribe placement is far less favorable than Ryan's: Instead of being the smack in the middle of five fellow mid-20s people on a young tribe, Mike's the oldest person (by almost a decade) on the second-youngest tribe. If the Healers run up a string of early Tribal Council appearances, Mike could be a candidate for one of those early boots, as the oldest and smallest guy on the tribe. Unless his Tyrionesque charm and A Song of Ice and Fire fandom win over his younger tribemates. Luckily, like Ben, he has some hype armor that suggests he manages to last for a while, since he was in both the post-Game Changers finale preview and was singled out as one of Probst's (post-game) players to watch. Still, should he get to the end, he's also at potential risk of the dreaded juror age bias.


Comparable players: Obviously Cochran and David Wright, fellow loquacious, self-effacing, brilliant, witty superfans. One won, the other fell one Tribal short of doing so. But there are some less-memorable comparables, like fellow Floridians Carl Bilancione (Africa), or David Samson (Cagayan). If Mike can find his niche quickly, he could go far. Let's hope.


3. Ryan Ulrich

Roark Luskin


Positives: Ryan is the designated Cochran/Spencer nerdy young male superfan this season. He has a deep understanding of the show, what he needs to do in order to do well, and where his game needs the most good fortune. He's thrilled to be playing the game he loves, and he's as prepared as anyone could be to carry out his plans. The only variable will be: Will enough of his castmates allow him to play?


Negatives: If the blue-buffed tribe are Heroes, then the ones in the red buffs (and/or turtlenecks) must be the Villains, right? In Ryan's case... maybe? In his interviews, he seems calm, loquacious, and singularly focused on playing a socially agreeable, Todd Herzog-style of good-natured strategic skullduggery. Yet in his in-game pictures, there seem to be a lot of scowls. That's a concern. Furthermore, of the three tribes, the Hustlers are both the youngest (mean age 25.8, only one person over 25) and appear to be the physically smallest tribe. With three tribes, maybe they'll barely escape a Tribal Council or two, or luck into a challenge that uniquely fits their skill set. If so, Ryan should be fine until the merge, where he'll be free to really start playing Survivor. But if the Hustlers run into early numbers problems, Ryan's slight build makes him an obvious target on a tribe that just wants to win a challenge or two.


Comparable players: There's definitely a chance that Ryan is a dark, gritty reboot of Todd Herzog. He could also just be a more strategy-aware version of Pearl Islands' Skinny Ryan. But mostly, Ryan fits neatly into the pantheon of young super (-duper-) fans, like Erik Reichenbach, like Spencer Duhm, like Will Wahl, like Aubry Bracco. Possibly even a Rob Cesternino, but with 29 more watched seasons under his belt. In the end, Todd Herzog may be the closest, after all. They're both young (Todd was 22, Ryan is 23), they both have a deep knowledge of the show, they've both had a multitude of jobs, and neither went to an Ivy/ Stanford. And they're both on the red tribe, which in Chinese culture is a symbol of good luck.


4. Roark Luskin

Roark Luskin


Positives: Probst pegs her as a super-smart (she mentions her perfect SAT scores in her CBS interview) superfan in his assessment, and Josh Wigler's interviews bear that out—her precise observations and uncannily accurate conclusions based on tiny clues are impressive, like identifying Chrissy as a mom based on her 4-initialed necklace, and so on. Not only that, but she's funny. We thought Hannah Shapiro had written the perfect CBS bio two seasons ago, but Roark may have topped her: Please to read and enjoy (we're especially fond of her pet peeves and reason for being on the show). Most importantly, she's a therapist, so she should be good at connecting with people, and finding their truths. As long as she can blend and not freak people out, she should do pretty well.


Negatives: Roark is far too smart to be playing this game. Our worry is: What happens if/ when her tribemates figure that out? Also, many of the other players saw her as an awkward introvert in the pre-game. So she'll have some... social work to do with her tribemates once they hit the beach. Also, Roark was relatively under-hyped in the pre-season, with Mike and Desi snagging most of the Healer pre-season praise from Probst. Maybe that's because CBS thinks Roark only appeals to a niche audience? Or maybe it's something to be concerned about. Time will tell.


Comparable players: Wanna know who the last player was who made so many prescient observations of castmates during her pre-game interviews? Allie Pohevitz, the first person eliminated from the "Fans" tribe in Caramoan. That would be Roark's lower-end comparable outcome. (Although if the actual playing thing goes bust, there's probably a slot in casting for Roark.) But as several people have pointed out, including Roark herself in her bio (really, read it), there's a fair bit of overlap with Sophie Clarke. So that would be the upper limit. Also, as a therapist, she has a similar Survivor-ready skill set as did Denise Stapley. So... two parallel wins in three tries seems pretty good, on average.


5. Devon Pinto

Devon Pint


Positives: Probst describes him as "wicked smart." Josh Wigler has claimed Devon as his new Survivor man-crush. When Jay Starrett suffered his tragic, fake idol-enhanced elimination from MvGX, we live-tweeted "Dear Survivor: Please cast more Jays." Devon appears to be the most likely Jay of this cast. Devon's strengths: his laid-back, easygoing demeanor, his being comfortable in the outdoors, being a physical asset for the initial tribal challenges, and having at least a passing knowledge of the show, should all serve him well and get him through the pre-merge. He seems like he might have enough game to him to navigate the post-merge, but that remains to be seen, Wigler's worship notwithstanding.


Negatives: As with all big, strong guys, once the swap down to two tribes hits, and everyone starts thinking about the merge, Devon could become a target at any time. Especially if anyone suspects he's capable of an individual immunity challenge run, or that he might have more going on upstairs than dreams of waves and surfboards. Can he charm his way into alliances and out of the danger zone, instead of letting that happen? Mmm... maybe?


Comparable players: Beyond Jay (and the obvious Fabio similarities), the other surprising comparable that struck us was one Devon himself brought up during his RHAP pre-game interview: original, Cook Islands Ozzy. A little bit schemy, a lot physical, but most importantly, willing to step back, and allow others (Yul, Penner) to guide the strategy. Ozzy had a budding side-alliance with Nate, and early post-swap ties to Cao Boi and Flica, all of which he allowed to be severed, which is a great example of a physical player using Sandra's anyone-but-me strategy. Ozzy fell one jury vote short of the win that season. Could Devon repeat or top that? Mmm... maybe? It's pretty far from a sure thing. But it's not as impossible as people seem to think.


6. Jessica Johnston

Jessica Johnston


Positives: Jessica is a bit of a question mark, because she comes across quite differently on paper than she does in person. At first, based on her bio, she seems focused and driven: She's a Nurse Practitioner, as well as an extremely fit personal trainer. But then in her interviews, she comes across as bubbly, a bit goofy, and nowhere near as serious as you would expect. Still, her effervescent nature serves to disarm and mask what might otherwise seem threatening: Her fitness level, her familiarity with the show, her determination. That's quite handy, and as she sagely notes in her interview, while she's in great shape, there are others here who are much more physically intimidating, so she's actually square in the middle, which is right where you want to be in Survivor. And she's so likable, she could easily be underestimated by everyone, sneaky sneak her way to the end, and totally win this thing. Yes!


Negatives: You might then be wondering, "So why did you place Jessica here, in the middle of the middle tier, then? Did you forget how numbers work, Pitman?" Well... Jessica's here because it's just as likely that our apparent inability to pin down Jessica's intentions in her pre-game interviews will also be true for her castmates, and that this opacity could come back to haunt her, ending her game. So to sum up, we've narrowed it down to: Jessica could either do really well, or it could all turn out quite badly. Let's add that it might turn out somewhere in between, just to be safe. To be clear: This is the kind of high-quality, deeply insightful analysis you've come to expect from the True Dork Times after 35 seasons.


Comparable players: She's a fan with at least one parent who's a superfan. That's similar to a number of recent players, such as Malcolm, Andrea, and Adam (also Devon on this cast). These people tend to do pretty well. Redemption Island Andrea is probably a pretty good parallel, although Jessica is a bit older and more accomplished than fresh-out-of-college Andrea was.


7. Desi Williams

Desi Williams


Positives: There are a lot, to be sure: Desi is intelligent; she's a physical therapy professor who has muscles the other contestants marvel over; and she's sufficiently charming and confident (even without talking) that everyone seems super-excited to work with her in the pre-game. She has a sophisticated approach to the game, especially for someone new to the show (a non-viewer when cast, she binged on old seasons and podcasts to prepare). Early on, she should be a physical asset to her tribe, and she seems well equipped to play the social and strategic games later on. As long as she doesn't come across as too obvious of a triple threat, she should go pretty far.


Negatives: She's the requisite pageant queen. After a string of underwhelming showings (Katie Hanson, Hope Driskill, Jefra Bland), it seemed like casting had finally started dipping into that pool more sparingly in recent seasons, with the last Miss (Name of State) USA appearance being Jaclyn Schultz from San Juan del Sur. We bring this up because of a troubling Probst blurb that would otherwise have gone unnoticed: He said Desi should do great "if she can handle the elements." Why would Probst say that, just for Desi? Is it just some assumption one makes about a pageant queen? Otherwise, there's nothing about Desi that indicates she can't hack it, so it's weird that he brought it up. In addition, Desi is a woman of color, and the otherwise great Millennials vs. Gen X (the last all-newbie season) had a troubling first half in which all five of its women of color were booted pre-merge, reinforcing a disappointing recent trend. In addition to all that, several people did identify her as a triple threat, even before the game started. So there's all that.


Comparable players: Who's another binge-Survivor-watching recruit who had prior contest experience and was physically jacked? Not the previously mentioned second-placer from San Juan del Sur, but the winner: Natalie Anderson. Unfortunately, also her twin sister, Nadiya, who was the first boot. Bet you're glad we narrowed that one down.


8. Ali Elliott

Ali Elliott


Positives: She's been in every ad. Probst mentions her every time he talks about the show. Either she's an early boot, or she goes really far. Which is remarkable, since she's on what seems like the worst tribe.


Negatives: Even with all the praise, we're still not sure what's so compelling about Ali as a competitor. We have absolutely no read on how she'll play, what her experience with the show is, or why she's here. Sure, she lives near Hollywood, she's young, she's attractive, and she seems nice enough, but Probst's entire sales pitch for her is... as a personal assistant, she's good at following someone else's orders? We suppose there's a good case there that she should have a strong social game, which may not leap off the CBS bio's printed résumé. Even so, she went to college with Patrick, and remembers him from class. Why are both of them on this same cast, and on the same tribe, no less? Couldn't one of them have waited until next season? The Ali hype all seems very forced, although it is impressive that she found her way onto the show without even being a bartender.


(Update, 9/19/17: After reading Josh Wigler's pre-game interview, which came out the day after this was published, Ali seems like a much better potential contestant than was apparent purely from the CBS interview. So the hype is justified. Whoops. Although knowing Patrick, as Ali frets pre-game, may also hurt her game.)


Comparable players: Umm, let's see... Carolina Eastwood also was cast while living in Hollywood. So was Jerri Manthey, the aforementioned Gabe Cade, and hundreds of others through the years. Extending the search to non-Hollywoo residents, in recent vintage, probably the closest parallel might be Figgy? Young and energetic, working odd jobs to get a rung up on the career ladder in an entertainment-related field. Neither was a superfan of the show, but both had enough of an idea about what's involved that they could (theoretically) do okay.


9. Simone Nguyen

Simone Nguyen


Positive: She's smart (a Columbia grad) and observant, and at least in the pre-game is overflowing in blunt, cutting assessments. Parallel to Ryan's turn as Dark Todd Herzog, Simone seems like a shadier Courtney Yates. She's snarky, and not inaccurate in her views, and knows enough to keep that in confessional while forcing a smile in the game itself. We'll see how well that holds up after a few days of starvation and/or losing, though. Then again, her last name is pronounced "win"! How can she not do so? Nguyen-er's edit!


Negatives: She's one of the young, weaker players on the youngest, weakest-seeming tribe. A loss or two in physically demanding challenges will likely put her (and/or Ryan) in the sights of the tribe's more physically oriented players (Patrick, Devon, Lauren). She's also a recent convert to watching Survivor, and as such, some of her stated plans for scheming have a few obvious flaws that might otherwise cause a more seasoned strategic thinker to reject them immediately. Example: Faking an emotional breakdown as cover for idol hunting—this might be so off-putting to her tribe as to launch into boot contention, in which case she'll *have* to actually find the idol. Aubry's Day 1 emotional collapse in Kaoh Rong might have made her the first boot, had she not pulled out an immunity win for them on Day 3. Still, it's great that she's planning to scheme.


Comparable players: Courtney Yates, obviously. Maybe a bit of Sophie Clarke as well, if her bluntness leaks out into the actual game. She sees herself as a mix of Yul Kwon and Parvati Shallow. If she's even half as gifted socially as Yul, she'll do a lot better than we have her listed here. She seems like she'll at least be entertaining, so let's hope she lasts long enough to make that happen.


10. Joe Mena

Joe Mena


Positives: Joe seems like a sincere, family-oriented guy, and people with a singular focus to win the game for their family (Jeremy, Adam) have done really well in recent seasons. Joe makes it very clear that his sole purpose out here is to earn some money for his kids. Like other prior contestants from backgrounds loosely related to law enforcement, he's pretty sure he can tell when people are lying to him, which should be an asset.


Negatives: Almost everyone sees Joe as "like Tony" in the pre-game, and they all just watched Tony get voted out second in Game Changers (which, coincidentally, was for being "like Tony"). Not only that, but Joe was described as keeping to himself, and giving off a villain/ negative vibe. Joe himself admits to coming across as an "a-hole" before people know him, and seemed okay with that. These are not ideal first impressions. We worry that he'll be the victim of bias against looking and sounding too much like Tony. Our hopes for Joe's longevity are also muted by virtually no pre-season hype for him, which is odd for what should otherwise be a compelling, sellable character. Even so, there's always a chance that the three tribe format will allow Joe the time to gain his tribe's trust and overcome these bogus first impressions, so maybe we shouldn't give up all hope.


Comparable players: Tony, obviously. But also Sarah Lacina (Cagayan edition, unfortunately), or maybe Papa Bear Caruso (South Pacific). All players who came into the game confident that they could tell when others were lying, and could flip it around and dish out lies with impunity. Joe's outlook does not seem great.


11. Ashley Nolan

Ashley Nolan


Positives: Ashley's a tough lifeguard captain. She's also a former football player (Lingerie Football League), and she's comfortable in the outdoors, since she spends her days out on the beach. She's a physically strong woman on a physically strong tribe, which seems like it should be a good fit for her.


Negatives: The biggest red flag for Ashley is that she was featured in the post-Game Changers finale preview, but in the pre-S36 pre-game interview Dalton Ross had with Probst, the host named Ben, Chrissy, and Alan as Heroes to watch. Ashley was the only one of the six people from the first preview not mentioned, in fact. We're not sure it's necessarily wise to read too much into Probst's comments, though, so looking at Josh Wigler's pre-HHH interviews, the primary reaction to Ashley's pre-game demeanor seems to be concern that she never smiles... another bad sign. Additionally, Ashley herself chuckles that her castmates are a bunch of lightweights who can't handle the heat/environment. This seemingly mutual disdain seems like a potentially bad combination, but the Heroes also seem likely to be the kind of tribe that might be able to string together a few wins out of the gate, and avoid Tribal Council long enough for Ashley to find her footing. Maybe.


Comparable players: The only other Survivor who played in the Lingerie Football League is South Pacific's Mikayla Wingle. Thankfully, there's no Brandon Hantz around this time. Other potential comparables: Guatemala's similarly tough, no-nonsense Amy O'Hara. Both of whom ended up about where we'd expect Ashley to (late pre-merge).


12. Alan Ball

Alan Ball


Positives: Probst's post-game hype for Alan might be a sign that the landing spot for each season's requisite former pro athlete has now reached mid-jury or better (Scot Pollard, S34 Brad Culpepper) instead of mid-prejury (S27 Brad Culpepper, Cliff Robinson, John Rocker). It's easy to dismiss Alan as yet another jock who's there for purely stunt-casting/ looking-good-shirtless purposes, and who hasn't even really watched the show before (see: Grant Mattos). But Alan's pre-game interviews demonstrate his head is in the right place, and he's taking the gameplay seriously. He's a keen observer, and he sounds ready to deal with production twists and swaps as they come. While his game face looks pretty fierce in some of the challenge shots, he seems to smile a lot in the camp shots. In the pre-game, everyone else seems to view him as approachable and sociable. Maybe he'll rise above the usual late pre-merge/ early merge graveyard of physical players?


Negatives: Even if Alan gets to the end, what's the evidence that a jury will award an ex-pro athlete the million-dollar prize? Especially one from the NFL/NBA/MLB, where they've already had years of million-dollar (-plus) paydays? Brad's Game Changers run was the closest we've come to breaking that barrier, and he lost, handily.


Comparable players: There's little reason to think Alan will be an early boot. But come the swap, the boot clock starts ticking. If he's a nimble, agile social player, and/or finds himself in alliances with good numbers, he might be able to navigate the swaps and merge as capably as Brad did in Game Changers. If not, he'll be just another Jeff Kent, felled shortly after the merge. And realistically one or two boots from either side of the merge seems the most likely.

The Unlikely
Contestants who probably won't win HvHvH - click contestant pics to view individual contestant pages

More people. Who are not particularly likely to take home this season's victory. Unless we're just totally wrong, which is always possible.


1. Patrick Bolton

Patrick Bolton


Positives: He's a dude, so obviously Probst loves him, although he was touted mostly as a memorable character. Most of this praise comes in Probst's talk with Dalton Ross (after the fact), so maybe that's a harbinger of longevity. Or maybe it's a red (tribe? hair?) herring. Patrick's pre-game interviews left minimal impressions, though, apart from his impending battle with sunburn, and his slow-motion "bro with a Southern accent" drawl.


Negatives: As with the other Hustlers, he's on what looks like the least-capable tribe. He also doesn't come across as exceptionally strategic or game-aware, and he's there with at least a couple of sharks in Ryan and Simone. They'll need pawns to play their games, and Patrick seems like a useful guy with whom to win challenges and pad out alliances. But it seems a bit of a stretch to think he's winner material. Then again, that's what we thought of Jay Starrett, and he was the exact opposite.


Comparable players: Clearly, having just seen Game Changers, he seems himself as a good old boy from Alabama who can scheme a bit, like JT. (Although that turned out spectacularly bad for JT last season.) But it seems as though casting saw him more as a good old boy from Alabama who can Alabama a lot, like Bobby Jon Drinkard (Palau, Guatemala). Somewhere between the two the truth may lie. We would be pretty stoked if casting found another person who will use his own shoulder scabs as bait for some mouth-fishing, though.


2. Katrina Radke

Katrina Radke


Positives: Katrina accomplished more by her 21st birthday than most of the people on this cast have done yet. Since the Olympics, she's become a sports psychology professor. So she's much smarter than you might expect a high-energy, relentlessly positive, talkaholic former elite swimmer to be, especially if you've ever listened to Ryan Lochte. Her combination of positivity, intelligence, and commitment to hard work, not to mention usefulness in water challenges, ought to help ingratiate her with her tribemates. She just needs to stick around long enough to demonstrate these things.


Negatives: Sticking around is the part we question the most with Katrina. The rest of the cast seemed a bit mixed on Katrina pre-game, describing her with adjectives like "quirky," "erratic," and "crazy," (not ideal) or as constantly smiling (a lot better). With the (same-aged) Chrissy planning to lie about her own age (46), while Katrina (maybe) plans to share her Olympic story, Katrina could suddenly find herself viewed as the oldest person in the game. That's not generally a position of power. Furthermore, there's the juror age bias thing working against her as well, should the unlikely happen, and Katrina reaches the finals. That she's not featured in the pre-season hype is also a bit worrisome, since she's a former Olympian.


Comparable players: The worry is the she's another blue-buffed, older, overly talkative, northern Midwesterner like Wendy Jo DeSmidt-Kohlhoff (Nicaragua). But there's also a possibility she's more like the other blue-buffed, older northern Midwesterner from Nicaragua, Holly Hoffman (who was also a swim coach). As long as she has a better athletic showing than fellow Olympian Crystal Cox, we're good. (In Katrina's pre-game B-roll, it looks like she can still actually swim, so all signs point to yes on that front.)


3. JP Hilsabeck

JP Hilsabeck


Positives: He's a contestant on this season. In theory, because of that, he could win. Furthermore, as a firefighter and member of the Heroes tribe, if he reaches the finals, everyone's pretty much obligated to vote for him, right?


Negatives: Mmm... maybe? But don't worry, it probably won't be an issue. (We're being a little obtuse for comedic effect here, because somebody has to be last, and JP seems the least game-aware of a pretty savvy bunch, but despite our disbelief, he still has a non-zero chance to win.) Nobody seems to have any kind of read on who JP is in the pre-game, and the chief insight into his gameplan that we gleaned from his interviews was that he may be attempting to break the world record for the number of "y'knows" uttered in a single sentence. To which we say: Believe in yourself, JP. You can do it! In truth, JP's main problems are: He'll be seen as a physical threat come the merge, and he doesn't seem much interested in idols, strategy, or the social game, so it's hard to imagine him reaching the finals.


Comparable players: Josh Wigler has wasted no time in breaking out the comparisons to dog-bar-dreaming firefighter Eddie Fox. Given that JP was stumped by Josh's attempt to play "Two Truths and a Lie," let's hope that this dog-loving firefighter sticks around long enough to be the loyal voter who happily goes along with doomed plan after doomed plan, and finally breaks Eddie's seemingly insurmountable single-season Non-VFB record! And if not that, maybe he at least can become the longest-lasting Survivor JP (not counting the host). With the three-tribe format, the Heroes looking pretty stacked, and just JPs Palyok (Day 7, Vanuatu) and Calderon (Day 11, Cook Islands) as his competition, we think the chances for achieving this secondary goal seem pretty good!

The Impossible
Contestants who almost certainly won't win HvHvH - click contestant pics to view individual contestant pages

None. There is nobody on this cast who has absolutely zero chance of winning. Even the football player! Mostly, that's the uncertainty that comes with an all-newbie cast. Without knowing how a particular player will actually play, it's almost impossible to know how everyone else will vote at the end. But also, this is a pretty good cast. There is precious little dead weight, and if that gets cast aside early, and the remaining players embrace the gameplay as in MvGX, this could turn into a great cast.


Other HvHvH pre-season cast analysis

  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (8/30/17): "Jeff Probst Explains Everything to Know About Season 35"
  • Dalton Ross at (8/31/17): "Jeff Probst reveals the Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers players to watch"
  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (8/31/17): "Jeff Probst Previews the Heroes Tribe"
  • Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter (9/7/17): "Jeff Probst Previews the Healers Tribe"
  • Jeff Probst on YouTube (9/12/17): "Survivor: Heroes, Healers & Hustlers - Jeff Probst's Castaway Assessment"