Coming back after a summer away from Kaiser Island means that the Survivor offseason is finally over! Well, it may have never ended for those that follow the New Zealand, South African, Australian, and Maryland versions – it’s nice that there’s so much Survivor to follow in the world – but when it comes to the one that started it all, we’re back, baby! Thanks to the power of the interwebs, nowadays we “know” the cast soon after filming ends (especially thanks to some that violate non-disclosure agreements to spoil themselves) but in the few weeks leading up to the premiere is when we really find out what makes the twenty new hopefuls tick.
My favorite part of preseason is watching all of the “Meet ______” videos because while I can pick up some intel from the CBS bios, I typically form more opinions by watching body language and how the players speak in an interview. This season, Survivor did what it likes to do and threw in a twist by, for the first time ever, never releasing said videos and instead just the bios with the same old generic questions accompanied by daily releases of one 45ish-second clip of a newbie on Twitter and Instagram. As I’m writing this, we’re at 10 days away from the premiere and I still barely know what half the cast sounds like, so with less material out there than usual, my pre-game cast assessment gets to be even more shallow and judgmental than it already tends to be! Yay!
At this point, it’s not worth our time to complain about what cheesy theme Survivor will come up with next, but this one doesn’t actually sound so bad. Does anything after Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers? Probst has kind of blurred the lines of what makes a David a David and a Goliath a Goliath, but most of the casting decisions make sense with only a few selections that seem like they could have gone either way. At least there’s no obvious “Why is Candice a hero?” or “Why is Alecia a Brawn?” The only small issue this presents is…who’s rooting for the Goliaths? I want to know who saw this cast and went “I hope the Davids lose! Screw underdogs!” I’m a fan of several of the Goliaths, but I feel like we’re “supposed to” root for the Davids and that the writing is on the wall for an ultimate David victory in the end.
Overall, this cast shows off a lot of unique personalities and promise, but we know that something about them and the cast of season 38 did enough to get the head of casting canned, so I’m worried about how dark of a direction this may go…but for now, let’s meet the bright, shining new faces starting with the
freaks and geeks Davids!
The David tribe
Starting, of course, with the most obvious David:
While not the person Probst officially credited as the inspiration for the “David vs. Goliath” theme, from the second we saw the promo at the end of Ghost Island, we all knew Christian would be the poster child for the David tribe (I even called him David instead of Christian multiple times while writing this). Ironically, he lists clichés as one of his pet peeves, yet Christian is probably the most stereotypical “Cochran” archetype we’ve had since Cochran himself. He spends his days in the robotics lab and nights rocking out on his clarinet, playing with his graphing calculator between jam sessions. I guess this is what we’re calling a “David” now.
I’ll just put this warning out there. I’m 1000% confident (because Christian hates “abuse of percentages” too) that I’m going roll my eyes at every second of Christian’s airtime, and his “type” usually goes deep so it’s going to be a long ride on the Hubicki hate train. I just imagine every confessional of his being prompted with, “Christian, say something awkward or talk about how you have more robot friends than human ones!” I can see Christian looking helpless in the beginning before eventually finding his footing, perhaps following the footsteps of the OG David, David Wright, ending in a similar close-but-not-close-enough placement. Maybe he’ll surprise me. Spoiler: probably not.
Prediction: Late Jury
Now onto a David that I will 1000% love – Elizabeth. Unlike Christian, who I can see intentionally playing up the “David” role for the show, I think Elizabeth is about as real as it gets and equally as wild. This working-woman-since-age-11 wore her cowboy hat during the births of all three of her children. If that’s not the mark of a true David, then I don’t know what is (I actually honestly don’t since the definition has been so blurred and contradicted by Probst). I’m having a hard time imagining a Big Tom/Sandra hybrid that Elizabeth claims to be, but I’m in love with the idea. Bonus points for referencing an old school legend like Tom and not making the more obvious comparison of herself to Parvati or Andrea.
I hope Elizabeth goes far, and I think she will. She’s fun, she’s likable, and she’s probably one of the stronger females in the game. Strategically, I’m not sure she’ll be as on top as she thinks she’ll be, but I see that helping her game more than hurting it. As long as her bluntness doesn’t get her in trouble, I bet she makes the merge. Being a superfan, she’ll then be eager to make a Big Move™ which sadly could be why she’s later ousted when people pick up on the fact that this country girl she came to play.
Pat, not Christian, is who Probst claims to be the inspiration for this season’s theme, for being someone who has had to work his ass off for everything in life. That makes sense, I suppose, if then the Goliaths are those that have had to work for nothing yet still have everything (which I’m sure isn’t 100% accurate). What doesn’t make sense to me is Pat likening himself to both Cochran and Richard Hatch… huh? That said, between him and Elizabeth, I’m getting great source material for some “if they mated” photoshopped memes. Picking two winners to emulate at least indicates that Pat is here to win and will accept nothing less.
Pat will be aggressive but I think in a fun way rather than in an asshole way. He’s got a BIG personality from what I can see which will be good for TV but bad for his game. While he luckily didn’t get the Ghost Island treatment of being one of two men older than mid-30s, I don’t see Pat’s balls-out game having the same success as Domenick’s because Pat will struggle to reel things back in after a blow-up. I think Pat will be a standout on the David tribe making him someone the Goliaths will target fast after a tribe swap. Save for maybe a clutch idol play, since we know he’ll be ferociously hunting, Pat’s personality may make him a middle pre-merger.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a Bi. I’m sure that line’s been used to death already in Bi’s MMA fighting career but it’s too perfect not to say at least once, so there’s my one. Bi describes herself as “strong, smart, and funny” to which I wouldn’t even grade a Bi-minus due to her lack of creativity and originality with that answer. Bi has found accomplishment in her career, having literally had to fight to achieve it (David!) but while she packs a punch in the ring, she may apply too much of the butterfly approach on the island and float into the background.
Bi is a very recent new fan of Survivor which doesn’t necessarily mean she can’t do well. After all, Earl, one of the most dominant winners ever, barely knew its premise before being flown to Fiji. However, I don’t see that being the case for Bi. She says she’s assertive but also knows how to be quiet and observant. Cautious around people who are much bigger fans of the game, Bi could end up too quiet and as someone that doesn’t find herself in an early alliance but instead an early tropical vacation.
Carl, like Bi, is someone I’m not sure will be all that memorable. I believe I saw him wearing a bright pink shirt and a cowboy hat at the start of the game, so visually, he may be hard to miss, but Carl strikes me as someone that will want to lay low and stay out of any drama. He definitely won’t be giving a fiery, emotionally-fueled speech at Final Tribal Council like everyone’s favorite truck driver from Survivor’s first season. No, Carl will chill and go with the flow, likely utilizing the Sandra strategy of “as long as it ain’t me.”
Everyone should like Carl. He won’t make enemies, but I don’t know if he’ll find people who will love Carl enough to make him their #1 ride or die. Aside from last season with Chris “The Noble One,” the last several merge boots have been someone whose departure was relatively inoffensive to the majority of the tribe. Carl is someone I could see fitting this mold. I anticipate the Goliaths making up a slight majority at the merge and wanting to take out a David who is middle-of-the-road and unlikely to have spent the time looking for an idol which for some reason is just screaming Carl to me.
Prediction: Early Jury
Gabby is going to be a lot of fun to watch. She’s witty, she’s quirky, and she’s got a lot of Survivor knowledge packed in that proud brain of hers. The first read through her CBS bio had me forcibly blowing a lot of air out of my nose (because loud, audible laughter out of nowhere would have made the people I work with think I’m even weirder than they already know). Watching cooking shows while having no interest in actually cooking and reading obscure message board reviews are frequent activities of mine as well, and I too consider myself a flirt like Parvati… if Parvati was really bad at flirting.
Gabby’s humor should draw people in quickly—I’ve always thought that humor is the best icebreaker. She’s not just the funny, nerdy girl though and what stood out to me most about her is her talk of having high emotional intelligence which simply had me going “damn.” This I believe is the greatest weapon someone can wield in Survivor, knowing how to read and manipulate someone else’s emotions for your own gain. If Gabby can dam her tear ducts and avoid any emotional breakdowns like her referenced Dawn, I think Gabby has what it takes to be an unseen force in the game and make it to the end, achieving what Dawn could not. My gut is telling me this season will have a David winner story, and Gabby seems to have all the makings to be an underdog victory over the mighty Goliaths.
“Devilish Davie” – that’s a good start with me. Davie—NOT Dave or David, he insists (which will be hella confusing given his tribe name)—will be another star of his tribe, bringing a lot of unique personality. He’s an avid outdoorsman, Husky breeder, “social media guru,” cosplayer, a self-proclaimed “Blerd” (Black nerd), and he literally listed “memes” as one of his hobbies. Are memes mainstream enough now that they can be considered their own hobby? If so, then that may be my new #1. Davie was dead-on with describing himself as uncommon so it’s no surprise why he was cast. He also listed Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead as his hero, unlike 95% of this cast who plainly listed their parents. I hope at some point we get a scene of Davie yelling, “CAAAAAAARRRRL!” at Carl in his best Rick Grimes voice.
Davie obviously brings a lot of personality, and from what I can tell some brawn and brains with it. My fear is that all of it combined will make Davie a Goliath-sized threat early in the game, probably not enough to be an early boot off the David tribe, but I definitely see him in danger once the Goliaths can get their hands on him. I hope I’m wrong, but I see Davie being taken out just before the merge with people fearing the fireworks he’d otherwise bring if he made it there.
Libby again Jessica. Hers is never my type on the show, but I will say that she seems to have more to offer than predecessors before her, a legitimate Survivor fan from a young age as evidenced by her referencing of Guatemala in her bio (I’ll pretend she didn’t say she admired Stephenie LaGrossa’s “positivity” from that season). Her pet peeves include not saying “bless you” after someone sneezes so I guess Jessica and I wouldn’t be friends, but I’m sure everyone else will get along with her. I don’t see any reason for Jessica to not be adored by her cast which also may not inspire me to have much to say about her during the season. I watch for and comment on the drama and conflict. Not all of us are able to focus on just the positives and never complain about anything as does the glowing ray of sunshine Stephenie LaGrossa.
Survivor loves its token hot, young blonde, and I see Jessica ending up somewhere in the upper-middle of the pact as Libby did last season, but too with some equally surprising moments of game savviness. As players look toward a core group to take to the end, I see Jessica falling out of the running as a player no one would want to face there.
While someone who describes themselves as charming I usually find not, in Nick’s case he seems true in possessing that Southern charm. He’s aware he’s got it, but he doesn’t seem egotistical about it so maybe he’ll use it correctly. Three items Nick said he’d bring to an island are a cooler, beer, and a radio, and his hero in life is his mamaw. Yup—Nick is for sure going to be the all-American momma’s boy that everyone both on and off the island loves. Nick’s also a Survivor superfan but more like an excitable Adam and less of a corny Cochran so he might just stay off my shit list!
Lawyers never win Survivor (Cochran was close, but he was still just a law student at the time of his win, and also Caramoan sucked) but maybe a “Redneck lawyer” won’t have the same stigma? Nick has a lot of great things going for him socially, strategically, and physically but as per usual, being strong in all three of those areas isn’t always a good thing. Nick definitely has potential to use the “David” label to his advantage by softening these strengths and he’s another David I could see winning. However, the more likely ending for Nick is somewhere early in the merge if the Davids are getting a little crushed by the Goliaths, especially with Nick having the most “total package” of his original tribe—a big red target to match his red neck.
Prediction: Early Jury
Lyrsa seems like a fun, fiery, Puerto Rican like her girl Sandra, but that’s a big name to live up to. Sandra’s game was to lay low while Lyrsa doesn’t seem like the type who is used to doing that. Tattoos, piercings, and that vivid blue-violet hair makes Lyrsa a standout in any crowd. Being a kickboxer as well, Lyrsa’s surely got a lot of fight in her. Wouldn’t it be fun for Lyrsa and Bi to later land on different tribes and have to fight each other for immunity? I’d probably put my money on Bi....
There’s always someone who sticks out in the cast as a strong first boot candidate, and for David vs. Goliath, Lyrsa is that person for me. She knows the game, but like the reason she was probably cast as a David, I’m not convinced she’ll be able to fit in with the other nine. Early in the game, it’s best to blend, and I just can’t see Lyrsa blending no matter what she says. Her definition of “low key” could easily still be too much of a personality for others. I could see the two David fighters Bi and Lyrsa being the names that come up at the first vote, and like in the ring, Bi may have more traditional strength and stamina to stay alive.
Prediction: First Boot
The Goliath tribe
And our first Goliath is...
What are we supposed to call him? I feel like “John” is way too plain for “the Mayor of Slamtown” but I guess I’ll go with it for now until some other nickname inevitably is trending. In regards to humans, I have my doubts about anyone who watches or works in professional wrestling (at least the latter gets paid) but I’m relieved to know John’s self-aware about the fact that it’s just “a bunch of grown men wearing sparkling tights, pretending to fight.” He actually seems a lot more entertaining than I thought he’d be and hopefully he’ll veer more the direction of Alan Ball but actually sticks around for a bit. Contrary to Christian for the Davids, John is to my visual go-to for the Goliaths, so if nothing else, I hope those two have “a moment” together.
John will not win. 0%. The question, then, is how soon will he lose? John does have a huge personality, but he doesn’t seem like the egocentric ass I thought he was in the original promo. Assuming he doesn’t rub everyone the wrong way, I could see a lot of the Goliaths wanting to use John as a shield to get to the merge and then dump him when they can. For that reason, I think John will make the merge but be blindsided shortly after when some of the Goliaths make a power shift with some the survivors of the initial David onslaught.
Prediction: Early Jury
“Everything about me speaks…power.” BONE-CHILLING. It’s like Survivor casting went, “who would Ryan just fall completely out of his chair for at first glance” and then found me Natalie. I have a long list of “Mom Squad” favorites, and I have no doubt she’ll add to it. Natalie may actually be the most “Goliath” Goliath from the sheer fierceness and intensity she exudes. She’ll be a force of a nature like no other mother we’ve seen before and I really want to believe she’ll be in this for the long haul instead of being just a bossy early boot. Absolutely will she be a BOSS, and while I’m sure that will hurt her at least a little, I honestly could see most of the cast being too timid early in the game to think of challenging her. I would be.
On the long list of things I love about Natalie, near the top may be her long list of pet peeves, the longest of any others from the cast’s CBS bios. Basically, a lot pisses her off and I know she’s someone who will tell people when she’s pissed. The name “Natalie” is one that has never not made the final four in Survivor, and this would be the third to win if she did it. However, I just can’t see someone this intimidating reaching the end as much as I want it to happen. I think she could make the finale, though. Maybe she’ll quite literally drag her alliance to the end, and then in that first tribal council on finale night, she’ll be without immunity and voted out by the five other remaining players who know otherwise she’d go on to win as the greatest winner ever.
Prediction: Late Jury (…wishful thinking?)
I’m just three names into the Goliath tribe and I’m already thinking these three could take on the Davids 3v10 in any challenge and crush them. Also, where does Survivor keep finding these giant-sized attorneys? Jeremy could easily fit in with the likes of Chris Hammons and Brad Culpepper, yet the only attorneys I see in local ads are of the Willard Smith variety. Jeremy has the brains, brawn, and the beauty much like his Survivor role model Jeremy Collins, and he seems funny so he’ll likely be a charmer. All of these make for a good mix of player to go deep.
This cast seems to have a lot of big personalities, so I could also see Jeremy flying a little bit under-the-radar despite his appearance and make an easy run to the merge. He can definitely hide behind John and maybe Dan, but once those guys are out is when I could see Jeremy in trouble as one of the last bigger Goliaths to fall.
Fitting in with the rest of the Goliaths, Natalia looks like she’s tough as nails. She reminds me a bit of Stephenie LaGrossa, but not the one Jessica was remembering and instead venturing more toward the blunt and bossy one. Natalia’s ready to play and is prepared to get her hands dirty – well, not sandy. She and Bradley both share a loathing for sandy beaches. I appreciate this approach but it’s one that she can’t signal to others. Natalia likes being in charge, so that may be difficult for her if she’s seen as doing too much work to strongarm an alliance together.
Natalia’s another big fan but I can see her as one that, once on the island, forgets a little of what she knows and instead tries to play the game her way and her way only, maybe forgetting how to tone herself down and go more with the flow. What she has going for her is definitely strength, and maybe the best combination of strength and agility when it comes to the female Goliaths, and while it sounds like strategically Natalia’s got a plan, socially is where I’m not sure about her. Personality conflicts may be her undoing whether early on the Goliath tribe or later when trying to play nice with the Davids.
Shocker, the surfer bro says he relates most to Jay, Joe, and Malcolm. Unfortunately for Alec, I don’t see him having near the success as they had. Most of what he talks about in the brief footage we’ve seen of him is how he wants to flirt with all the cuties in the cast. Remember what I said about Nick that most people who pride themselves on being charming I find the opposite? Ding! Case in point: Alec. He probably does well earning tips as a bartender, but in the game I see Alec having zero self-awareness, instead sporting Taylor’s pair of love goggles and focusing on that game.
We already know Alec’s been blacklisted by the show thanks to him spoiling himself and obvious showmance partner Kara as participants just days after filming ended, captioning an Instagram photo of the two of them with “Fuck it” after, of course, signing NDAs to not associate with one another publicly. So that’s what we’re working with here. Not having a care about following nearly two-decade-old rules set by CBS makes me wonder if he and his co-showmancer were two early ousters that didn’t care much about the experience outside of finding each other. Maybe they’ll have better luck with MTV.
Prediction: Early Boot
Naturally, Kara’s bio reads, “I would have a positive attitude and make connections like Figgy except I'd avoid getting into a showmance at all cost.” Had the story not been out about her and Alec, I’m not sure I’d have doubted that. She looks fun and energetic, laughs a lot, all great personality traits. I can see why Alec fell for her. Playing the Parvati game would seem a natural fit for Kara, and I’m sure she stuck to that once the game began. She and Alec both set out to play the flirt card—maybe both just played it too well on each other?
Women have a tough enough time of escaping the first boot slot, so if Kara and Alec became an item immediately, that’s two major strikes against her. I could see Kara faring better on her own than Alec would flying solo, so maybe if the Goliaths go after Alec first, Kara could still stick around, but I’m thinking they’d make the more standard move and take out the girl first, leaving Alec to follow (quit over a broken heart?) shortly after that.
Prediction: Early Boot
Dan was also spoiled early as a player this season as the viral “hot cop” that was cast, but unlike Alec and Kara, Dan wasn’t his own leak. Dan’s a doting dad to his daughters and looks to be a fun, outgoing person and one that will likely make a lot of friends in the game. He’s a big physical threat coming from a S.W.A.T. team, and while that may shout “intense” he does seem to have enough of a goofy, down-to-earth side that may soften his image a bit. That said, I do wonder if being labeled a Goliath went to Dan’s head quickly. If this video he shared on Reddit recently as a “Hello!” to the fans is any indication, then we could be in for a totally different, overinflated-ego version of Dan… which would admittedly be more fun for me as I look for someone to make a fool of themselves on TV.
I don’t see Dan going that direction at least in the game, so I could fathom a Dan win given his personality, but he’ll have a lot of post-merge hurdles to overcome. He’s a prime candidate to be one of the first Goliaths targeted by not only the Davids but other Goliaths as well. He may pull off some immunity wins but my prediction is that those would only be delaying his inevitable early-to-middle merge boot.
Describing herself in three words as a “hero, healer, and hustler,” designating her claim to fame as winning her 5th grade spelling bee, and quoting Dwight Schrute in her bio makes Alison an instant favorite of mine for her A+ trolling to some of those dumb questions. She also has me dying to know what the bottom of bottomless breadsticks at Olive Garden looks like. If these items are any clue as to what Alison will be like on the show, then I hope she lasts the whole game. Her humor is one that may not be obvious, but that’s the kind of humor I love most – when I may be the only one laughing.
Alison’s sense of humor could make her a lot of friends and connections in the game. Assuming she’s as socially smart as she is book smart, paired with athletic ability, I think Alison will be a contender to go all the way. Maybe she won’t make the biggest, flashiest moves, but I see her as one who will be calculating all of the right ones. She may have to flash it up at final tribal council, but I can absolutely see her sitting there. I get some faint Kim Spradlin vibes from Alison in the sense that I can’t see her doing anything less than “very well.”
Prediction: Final Three
There’s definitely a better picture of Mike out there, but I couldn’t pass on how hysterical he looks in this one. Is he being blinded by the sun, or is he the next to suffer the Jessica Lewis red eye syndrome? Anyways, Mike works in the entertainment industry so I have no doubt he knows what will make good TV. If Mike tries too hard, though, then he may be a turn-off. Mike may not look like your stereotypical Goliath, but according to Probst, Mike asked, “When have I ever lost?” so a Goliath he must be (two losses on the Amazing Race notwithstanding…)
Mike’s buddy-buddy with Probst – totally not a conflict of interest at all – so he knows the game inside and out. With players like this, it’s only a matter of whether or not they can apply their vast knowledge. Mike could be an easy first one out on the Goliath tribe, but my gut says that won’t happen and that he’ll end up a larger character of this season. If he can avoid being an initial Goliath boot, then I think Mike makes a very close run to the end. Maybe if he’s the one to lose the final four fire-making challenge, Probst will finally decide to put an end to it. That’s my biggest hope with Mike.
Prediction: Late Jury
When I first saw Angelina, she reminded me a little of R.C. but then after reading and seeing more from her, she’s much bubblier and more likable so I don’t see her suffering the same “voted out at the first chance, hated by everyone” fate as R.C. My favorite answer of Angelina’s from her bio was the pet peeve of “when people don’t like dogs.” The only people who couldn’t love that answer are people who don’t like dogs, and they’re worthy of no love anyway. On top of having a bright personality, Angelina is intelligent and a proven leader, so her placement on the Goliath speaks to her many great accomplishments at a relatively young age.
I don’t think Angelina’s the biggest fan of Survivor in terms of years with the show, but her nature is one that would likely have made her a superfan quickly when she jumped on the bandwagon a few years ago when her Stanford friend Adam Klein had some certain success on the show. I think Angelina will play aggressively, but not overly ambitiously. I don’t see her being the type to get lost in her own head or get tunnel vision, and instead I think she’ll be able to analyze the game and make correct decision on where to take it. I see Angelina forming solid relationships and getting to the merge, at which point becoming a pivotal player in potentially making the Big Move™ that then drives the final days and propelling herself to the end. My gut still says a David takes this, but Angelina could be a close second.
Prediction: Final Three
My final David vs. Goliath boot list looks something like this:
Pre-Merge: Lyrsa, Kara, Bi, Alec, Pat, Natalia, Davie
Merge: Carl, Nick, John, Dan, Jessica, Elizabeth, Jeremy
Finale: Natalie, Mike, Christian, Alison, Angelina, Gabby
The biggest characters for as long as they last I think will be Davie, Pat, John, Mike, Christian, Elizabeth, and Natalie. Nick and Dan should get plenty of airtime too for that teenage girl demographic, and I anticipate Alec having an spectacularly epic fail. That’s a lot of strong male personalities, just the way Probst likes it.
As far as my personal favorites go, Natalie, Gabby, Elizabeth, Davie, and Nick are probably my top picks, so I guess I’m a David guy. Alison and Angelina are two other Goliaths that I’ll be rooting for, so I’m hoping for some kind of David/Goliath alliance between all of these players. Rarely do I get exactly what I want though, so congratulations to the two, three if I’m lucky, from this list that will squeak by to the merge. Who knows—maybe this season my favorites will finally REVERSE THE CURSE and make up most of the end-game. The story of David vs. Goliath is all about overcoming mighty odds, right?
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser