Welcome to “Top Five Baby!” where after each episode of Survivor, Brent Sullivan will try to break apart and find the top five moments that made a lasting impact on the season or moments that could at least affect the next few episodes. Sometimes the moments are obvious and other times ... not so much, but after years of watching and analyzing this show to myself, I like to share the ones that I think stand out the most.
But I want to hear from you as well, let me know if I missed any moments or if you think I’m way off base, the interaction is part of what makes this fun!
So, to help introduce myself (and this concept), I thought I would use my top five soap box to make some alliance assumptions. Who may work together, who may already be working together, and a few surprise thoughts along the way. So, without any more blabbering from me, welcome to the official first week of “Top Five Baby”.
1. The first pairing that I want to discuss is an obvious one…no, not Amber and Rob. I’m talking about Sandra and Rob. I was a little disappointed when I first heard that both Amber and Rob were going to be on this season. I mean, how dare they put a married couple both on the same season, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they are both probably way too smart to be working together ... at least at first. Sure, when it comes down to the endgame stuff, there is no doubt that they would try to save each other, but I think that they both realize that they are going to have the title of Power Couple like no couple ever has before and because of that, they will (and definitely should) stay clear of each other. I personally think that Rob would much rather work with Sandra. Again, they are both smart players and they know that they both will come into this game with huge targets on their backs. Since they just spent 36 days together on the Island of the Idols, I’m sure that they have had time to talk strategy a time or two. It doesn’t matter if they knew at that point if they were coming back for season 40 or not, they had plenty of time to discuss plans if and when this season ever happen. The one thing that hurts them to start the game is that they will be starting on separate tribes and could possibly never have the chance to work together.
2. The second pairing is another obvious one. Both Natalie Anderson and Jeremy Collins played together in S29: San Juan del Sur. Not only did they play together, but they were actually allies and worked together. Jeremy getting voted off was one of the driving factors that led Natalie to pick her game up and steam roll to the end. I imagine picking tribes on a season such as this has to be over-complicated, because you have to make sure that genders are equal, as well as strength and age is balanced, and of course the aforementioned husband/wife duo can’t possibly start on the same tribe. But, even with all of that, I am really surprised that Natalie and Jeremy are starting on the same tribe. They could easily be a deadly pair to start out. There are a couple of big targets on that tribe as well which could work in the favor of Jeremy’s meat shield strategy. Seeing the two of them together again should be a lot of fun no matter how far they make it.
3. This season has quite a few former castaways that have played together in previous seasons. But just because they played together, doesn’t mean that they will work together now. Just ask Amanda how that worked out for her in Heroes Vs. Villains. One of the times where I think this is the case is Yul and Parvati. I don’t know how connected Yul is to anyone else outside of the game, but what I do know is that he played a long time ago ... I can’t believe that Cook Islands is almost 30 seasons old! He played so long ago that he may not know many other people in the cast and Parvati is at least a face he knows right out of the gate. If he can survive a pre-swap tribe without her, then attach himself to her in the next part of the game, that would be good for him. Personally, I think that would be a good move for her too. In the past, she has been attached to big names and even though she won once and made it to another final, a different approach may be her best bet this time. I for one, would love to see them team-up, let’s see what happens.
4. This next group mostly is more of a grouping by necessity than it is anything else. A lot of these winners have been around awhile (I’m looking at you Ethan!), and some have played on several seasons and gotten to know several players. But, the winners who have just played within the last four or five seasons have had less of a chance to gain as many acquaintances on the outside. Because of this, I can see people like Nick, Ben, Adam, Michelle, and or Wendall working together. Yes, I agree that some of them may already be friends and some may be friends with others also on this cast, but either way, I think that they may be forced to work together for a short while until they can get their hooks in the game. At that point, depending on where they stand after a swap or a merge, they can maybe start working with some of the “old” or “middle” school players still left around. This will be fun to see if they mix it up a little or stick with their “new school” co-castaways.
5. I went back and forth on this last one because I really feel like someone like Jeremy will be working with multiple people. Not only does he have his relationship with Natalie, but I know he keeps up with the Survivor community and has played poker with several of this season’s cast. I also wanted to pick Kim and her chances of teaming up with Denise or Sophie. As fun as that would be, I just can’t seem to get away from my final group. Tony is such a volatile player; he will absolutely have to have some sort of partner in crime this time around or he doesn’t stand a chance. I also think that Sarah may fit that bill perfectly. Not only did they play together before, but I think that they will need each other. Everyone saw what Sarah did the last time, and I seriously doubt that she will be able to get by with it again, but if she can use Tony, then she stands a chance. Besides, anything that we can do to keep Tony on our TVs a little bit longer this season is better for everyone.
So, with all of this out of the way, I would like to officially make my winner pick for this season. Except for Jeremy winning season 31, it seems like all of the All-Star seasons go to an under the radar female. As much as I would love to see someone like Danni or Sophie win this season, I am going to go with my gut instinct and say that Sarah Lacina will be crowned the Sole Survivor of season 40: Winners at War.
Here is where I’m coming from: there really isn’t a small target this season. Everyone here is at least a one-time winner. Besides that, there are some massive targets to take out early like Sandra, Rob, and Parvati. That would be such a badge of honor for someone to take them out. Next, you have the easy boots, someone like Nick or Michelle may not be well known enough and if an easy target is needed they make easy pickings. Third, you have the under the radar people from the “middle school” age of Survivor. In the past, this was prime real estate to come back and win, but not against people who know how to place this game and win. I can see Kim, or Danni, or Yul being targets early post-merge because “We can sit at the end with them”. The final group are those that have a good story. As much as I love seeing Ethan back on Survivor, there is no way that they let him to the end again. His back story since the last time he played is too good not to give him the two million! That just leaves Sarah, Jeremy, and Natalie. Between the three of them, I think that Sarah has the best chance to come back and leave as the game’s 2nd two time winner!
So, there it is. My first official “Top Five, Baby!”. My first Survivor article of the decade. My official winner pick for this upcoming epic season of this epic show that we call Survivor. Please catch more of me here every week where I will try to bring you more fun top five thoughts as we start on the 20th year of Survivor!
Brent Sullivan is a long-time fanatic of Survivor and has been writing about it for years. When he is not writing, talking about, or applying to be on the show, he spends his time with family, doing nerdy IT stuff, and watching movies. Follow him on twitter: @BSully_13