In the latest 39th season of Survivor, there’s a new twist: throughout the game, players are sent, one by one, to Island of the Idols where they are surprised by two actual human “idols” of the game, “Boston” Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine. The two serve as mentors, providing advice, and teaching lessons through games, activities, and competitions that test players, and potentially provide them with rewards.
While only one episode has aired thus far, with a player failing to back down when she should have, trying to win a fire-making challenge against Mariano (he’s made hundreds of fires while she just learned!) we already get an idea of how things will play out.
And while Mariano and Diaz-Twine were the obvious choices as mentors, Mariano a fan favorite, four-time player, and winer, and Diaz-Twine a ruthless player who remains the only person to have ever won the game twice, there are a few others we would love to have seen shine as mentors instead.
10 Parvati Shallow
Playing three times, Shallow showed her cards the first time around as a flirtatious and manipulative player who was able to get people on her side. But when she returned for the second time, she surprised everyone by creating her own all-girls alliance called the Black Widow Brigade, which then proceeded to pick the guys off, one by one.
While she would be an ideal mentor for female players, she could teach the guys a thing or two about how to align with women, and what they might be doing that could be putting a target on their backs.
9 Aubrey Bracco
Another fan favorite, Bracco had an impeccable social game while also playing strategically in the background. Initially a member of the Brains tribe in Survivor: Kaoh Rong (she played again on Survivor: Game Changers and Survivor: Edge of Extinction), she showed that she had more than just smarts.
Placing second her first time around, she lost by three votes. And as a die-hard and passionate fan of the game, not to mention an eloquent speaker, she would have made an amazing mentor.
8 Russell Hantz
Sure, he would be totally controversial, and his arrogance and anger caused him to lose not once, but twice, first as a runner-up on Survivor: Samoa then in third place on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (he played twice more as well). But there’s no denying that Hantz knows his way around some of the more strategic aspects of the game.
He wouldn’t be there to mentor anyone on their social game (he could have seriously used some help in that department), but as someone to provide ideas on how players might be able to gain an upper hand, he would have been interesting to watch.
7 David Wright
The ultimate Survivor comeback story, Wright entered Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, with very little confidence in himself. But as he pushed harder, he began to realize what he was capable of. If there’s any former player who can provide inspiration, it’s him.
Especially for the underdogs who need coaching, Wright could have been a great source of confidence boosting and support. Even though he has never won (he played a second time in Edge of Extinction), he learned so much about himself from his time on Survivor, and came out with an entirely new level of confidence. And that's something all of the players should learn to do, even if they don’t win.
6 Rick Devens
Popular with most of his tribe mates, Devens was also a fan favorite. As a morning news anchor, he has the gift of gab, which would have made him a great mentor. He also has a witty sense of humor, which would have made him entertaining to watch.
Placing fourth on Edge of Extinction, he was voted out once and managed to win his way back into the game. Even after being essentially exiled by his tribe, he cleverly found ways around being voted out, including finding and using idols. Chances are that if he hadn’t lost a fire-making challenge, he would have won the game. And he probably has a lot to teach others about how he played and lasted, against all odds.
5 John Cochran
There’s arguably no bigger Survivor fan then Cochran, who even used a Survivor quote in his high school yearbook. Well-spoken, crafty, strategic, and liked, Cochran took what he learned the first time around and used it to his advantage to adjust his game play and win the second time he played in Survivor: Caramoan.
Having essentially mentored himself right to a win, Cochran would be a great person to provide advice to a new cast of players, especially the underdogs, given that he himself was once in their shoes as an underestimated competitor.
4 Sarah Lacina
Like Cochran, Lacina played once, learned from her mistakes, then came back a second time and changed her game play completely, leading to a win on Survivor: Game Changers. A police officer, she knew how to read people, and act like a chameleon of sorts to do and say what each person wanted to hear or see to help her get further in the game.
She could have taught players who try to fly under the radar to play more aggressively while still maintaining a good social game, and how to adapt to change, whether it’s an alliance swap, vote out, blindside, or someone wanting to flip.
3 Tony Vlachos
The new players could do with a lesson on how to build spy shacks, which was Vlachos’ speciality when he played, and won, season 28. While he was constantly paranoid and annoyed some players, he had a knack for finding idols, and was always listening, even when people didn’t know he was there.
He would have been a great mentor to provide tips on how to find idols (and when and where to look for them), and the importance of listening as much as talking, so you always know where everyone stands in the game and stay one step ahead of them.
2 Richard Hatch
It would be kind of interesting to have seen the “OG” Survivor come back, years later, to provide some advice to players. Of course the game has changed significantly since Hatch won it back on the first season, Survivor: Borneo. But he is also the player who helped define a lot of the Survivor strategy that’s still in play today, including the alliance and voting blocks that control the game.
Assuming Hatch has continued to watch, he would be an interesting choice to guide new players on how they might win.
1 Spencer Bledsoe
Despite the fact that he never won the game, Bledsoe showed tons of smarts both times he played on Survivor: Cagayan, where he placed fourth and Survivor: Cambodia, where he came in second. For someone to make it that far twice, they had some pretty good game play. What’s more, he also participated in a record-tying number of tribal councils, yet still stayed alive in the game.
A highly strategic player, he went from underdog to the guy pulling the strings. And as a fan favorite as well, he knows how to play and gain popularity among both competitors and viewers. Sure, many believed him to be arrogant, which arguably cost him the million. But if anyone else learned from their mistakes and can coach others, it’s him.