Here we go! Twenty returning castaways are set to dig their toes into the sand for another attempt at winning $1 million on Survivor. In its 34th edition, Survivor is twisting things up again with a "Game Changers" theme featuring a cast of former strong strategic players.
"Let's be clear what we call a game changer," host Jeff Probst said. "My definition is people who are willing to make a move to try to change the game. We picked 20 people who love to play."
For me, that means people like winners Tony Vlachos or Sandra Diaz-Twine. Those signify true "game changers," and thankfully both of them will be on this season. Could Diaz-Twine pull off her third victory? We shall see.
But when looking at the lineup, many of these contestants don't match Probst's definition at all. Some of them are questionable when it comes to being qualified as a game changer. With dozens upon dozens of previous strategic competitors worthy of retribution, we're stuck with a gaggle of forgettable, boring choices.
Let me explain.
First up, there's Hali Ford. I bet you can't remember who she is without a quick Google search. Heck, you may still not recall anything about her even if you did look her up. Let me refresh your brain a bit.
She competed on Survivor: Worlds Apart (Season 30) as part of the "No Collar" tribe. The most notable thing she did the entire season was create the merged tribe's name, which just so happened to be among the worst ever — 'Merica. Overall, she was the eighth person booted that season, becoming the first member of the jury. Game changer? Nope.
Then there's Brad Culpepper.
While I could see him reaching a pseudo "game changer" level for setting a precedent of burning hidden Idol clues, he also doesn't stand out much beyond that. He was the sixth person eliminated from Survivor: Blood vs. Water (Season 27), and didn't even land on the jury.
We also have Troy "Troyzan" Robertson, who is most remembered for shouting, "This is my island!" when his back was up against the wall on the lackluster Survivor: One World (Season 24).
Although I think his nickname alone makes him memorable, I don't necessarily think there's a strong argument to be made that he's a true "game changer."
The casting of Culpepper and Robertson has another odd layer to it, though. I think what makes the decision to cast these men so strange is connected to the fan vote, which determined the cast of Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance (Season 31). If the fans didn't tally enough ballots to bring these guys back for that season, then what makes the producers at CBS think we suddenly want to watch them play again? I know I don't.
Then we have Debbie Wanner.
Memorable? Absolutely. Game changer? Forget about it. Although she stuck around Survivor: Kaoh Rong (Season 32) for quite a while, her biggest moments came from the kooky Coach-esque conversations in which she gushed about her endless list of jobs.
Let's not forget the casting of Caleb Reynolds.
Originally a star of Big Brother, he was given his first shot at Survivor on Season 32. His strength is undeniable, but his status as a game changer simply doesn't fit. He was only in the game for nine days before a frightening medical emergency forced his evacuation from the competition. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I think Reynolds is a fun player to watch with a lot of potential. But a medevac elimination that early in the competition simply doesn’t cut it as a "game changer." Sorry. It doesn't.
Oh, yeah. Sierra Dawn-Thomas, anybody? Exactly my point.
Many fans have also been questioning some of these so-called "game changers" on social media.
Two seconds in, Jeff says "My definition of a game changer is someone WILLING to make a move". Well...I thought the opposite #Survivor— Elton Pacheco (@eltonpacheco) February 8, 2017
Sierra Thomas says she's willing and ready to do whatever it takes this time around. I'm not quite feeling it though #Survivor— Jeremiah Yap (@SoleSurvivorYap) February 8, 2017
Now that I've essentially brutally blasted the casting choices for this season, there are still a slew of strong previous players within this wild bunch who definitely deserve their designation as a "game changer." Tony Vlachos, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Aubry Bracco, Ciera Eastin, Cirie Fields, Malcolm Freberg, Jeff Varner, Ozzy Lusth, Michaela Bradshaw and James "J.T." Thomas are certainly standouts among this season's biggest threats. I’m glad to see each of them back for another round too. Don't get me wrong. I'm totally stoked to watch this season.
Who will outwit, outplay and outlast all the others to claim the $1 million prize? Survivor: Game Changers kicks off with a two-hour premiere on Wednesday, March 8. The premiere just so happens to be the series' 500th episode. Impressive.
See the full cast, and their tribal divisions below:
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