Twenty years ago I was talking to people during a lunch break about this new show on CBS, Survivor, and we wondered if it was going to be a hit or not. Taking place on the beaches of Borneo, the show premiered on May 31, 2000. Unlike any other game show at the time, Survivor’s “outwit, outplay and outlast” component was truly unique. (After twenty years, I still haven’t completely bought into the idea that lying to get ahead is a good idea, even if it is only a game.) And the show had a mean streak. Unlike other competition shows where the person who came in last was the one sent home, Survivor allowed its contestants to vote off one member of the island every three days.
Since 2000, nearly 600 castaways have played the game but only 38 have been given the title of “sole survivor.” (Sandra-Diaz-Twine has won twice and is competing for yet another win).
Survivor has changed and adapted over time. During the earlier seasons, castaways were allowed to bring with them one item other than the clothes on their back. Immunity idols have added and various twists and turns have been tried out with various degrees of success. The game has evolved enough that some of the earliest winners will need to change their thinking a bit as well as their strategy if they hope to win. In addition, season 40 of the show will try out yet another new element.
Filmed in the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji and dubbed, “Winners at War”, season 40 of Survivor premieres on February 12, 2020. This time, the show is featuring 20 winners from the past 20 years all competing for $2 million, the largest cash prize in reality show history. The competitors range from one of the earliest winners from 2001 (Ethan Zohn) to two winners from 2018 (Nick Wilson and Wendell Holland). These returning masterminds will compete in epic challenges, face the return of Edge of Extinction (which gives voted-out players a second shot to win) and tackle a brand new layer of the game with the introduction of “fire tokens.” According to CBS, fire tokens serve as currency on the island and add more complexity to the already intense battle. The new twist allows players to use the tokens to buy advantages to help players stay in the game or get themselves back in the game. Should be interesting.
“To celebrate and honor this momentous 20-year milestone, we created the biggest battle in Survivor history!” said executive producer and host Jeff Probst. “For the first time ever, 20 winners, who have masterfully proven they can outwit, outplay and outlast in this game, will face off to determine who is the greatest player of all time!”
The following are the 20 returning winners competing in “Winners at War”:
Occupation: Product Managemen
Winner of: “Cook Islands” (2006)
Occupation: “Son, husband, father, friend”
Winner of: “Blood vs. Water” (2013)
Sophie Georgina Clarke
Occupation: Healthcare Consultant Winner of: “South Pacific” (2011)
Occupation: Case Manager at a Law Firm
Winner of: “Pearl Islands” (2003) & “Heroes vs. Villains” (2010)
Occupation: Yoga teacher, Life Coach and Speaker Winner of: “Fans vs. Favorites” (2008)
Occupation: CrossFit Trainer Winner of: “San Juan del Sur” (2014)
Occupation: Interior Designer
Winner of: “One World” (2012)
Occupation: Owner of Sideline Chic
Winner of: “Guatemala” (2005)
Occupation: Real Estate / Stay-at-Home Dad
Winner of: “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” (2017)
Occupation: Keynote Speaker and Host
Winner of: “Millennials vs. Gen-X” (2016)
Occupation: Furniture Designer
Winner of: “Ghost Island” (2018)
Anthony “Tony” Vlachos
Occupation: Police Officer
Winner of: “Cagayan” (2014)
Occupation: Police Officer Winner of: “Game Changers” (2017)
Winner of: “Redemption Island” (2011)
Winner of: “David vs. Goliath” (2018)
Occupation: Business Development Manager
Winner of: “Kaôh Rōng” (2016)
Winner of: “Second Chance” (2015)
Occupation: Social Entrepreneur and Keynote Speaker
Winner of: “Africa” (2001)
Occupation: LMHC, & AASECT Certified Sex Therapist
Winner of: “Philippines” (2012)
Occupation: Director of Marketing and Communications
Winner of: “All-Stars” (2004)
Survivor: Winners at War debuts on Wednesday, February 12 with a two-hour season premiere starting at 8 p.m. on CBS.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.