The cast of Survivor: Island of the Idols is an electric, eclectic bunch. They are diverse yet oddly representative of Rhode Island; hardcore fans yet among them are the requisite few recruits; and, most importantly, a group of 20 people with engaging personalities and harrowing, inspiring backstories...though surely there will be several who receive such little screen time that it becomes their legacy. Such is Survivor.
After parsing through Mike Bloom and Josh Wigler's extensive preseason interviews with the cast on location for Parade and The Hollywood Reporter, respectively, as well as Jeff Probst's assessments and the CBS bio, here's an attempt to predict where each contestant will finish:
Kellee used to work in biotech and now is switching to real estate, which she states as if it's as simple as filling out an application. She's a former collegiate soccer player and has the smarts to last long in this game. But she doesn't want everyone to know how intelligent she really is.
Why Kellee will win
Kellee has all the qualities necessary to win without seeming like a major threat. On the women's side, she's surrounded by a former Olympian and a bunch of outright superfans. She's not intimidated by that fact, however, telling Parade, "I’m sure a lot of people have studied the game more than I have, just because I’m so new at it."
Why Kellee won't win
She's sick. Not sick like "sicky sicky gnar gnar" type of sick. She went in to the game with a cold, containing a cough during her on-site interview with Wigler. As she said to THR, “It’s gonna be there for a while." In the early part of the game, people are looking for any reason to vote their peers off the island. She could be a good scapegoat if that is the case.
Prediction: 15th place - Kellee's cold will leave her out in the cold before the game truly heats up.
Playing Survivor is a gamble for Ronnie, who is well aware of the lack of success professional poker players have experienced on the show. He grew up in a neighborhood that hardened him, stating in his CBS bio that, " I have already survived." He's a Massachusetts native so he might be able to bond with Boston Rob should he make it to the Island of the Idols. And, he said, he's friends with fellow pro poker player and Survivor: China contestant Jean-Robert Bellande, though if he emulates any part of Bellande's game then he'll have no shot at the title of Sole Survivor.
Why Ronnie will win
Ronnie understands this game, perhaps more than most out on the island. He is a big enough fan to realize that the strategy portion of the game is only part of it. He told Parade, "People want a good winner, a person they feel good giving the million dollars to. People can go to bed saying, 'I like Ronnie.'"
Why Ronnie won't win
In his THR interview, he refers to fellow contestant Vince as a "corn puff." While he's not speaking to him directly, it's a small sign that maybe Ronnie will rub others the wrong way.
Prediction: 14th place - Ronnie certainly has potential to win, but it's more likely he follows the path of recent pro poker players and gets taken out pre-merge.
Swimming is a big deal on Survivor and it's a big deal to Elizabeth, the former Olympian whose entire life has centered around the water. Now, she is entering a new stage in her life, retired from the sport that brought her glory and fame and looking to embark on an adventure that helps her not only secure the million dollars but helps her learn a little bit more about herself in the process. Does she have that cutthroat gear necessary to claim the prize?
Why Elizabeth will win
Judging by résumé alone, Elizabeth is the fittest person on the beach. If her pre-merge tribe(s) value physical strength, she has a golden ticket to the merge. From there, she likely won't be as noticeable a target as some of the more muscular guys and some of the more scheming players. If she can make enough moves to make enough of a case at the final three tribal council, she can pull it off.
Why Elizabeth won't win
She's too nice. It's a great quality in life, awful quality in Survivor. Elizabeth said to Parade that completely blindsiding her tightest ally would be crossing a moral line. In her THR interview, Elizabeth said, "It’s inevitable that I will have to scheme at some point but I wish to push it away as far as I can.” In the big moves era of the game, that approach just might not cut it.
Prediction: 13th place - Though she has a strong chance to become the challenge beast she desires to be, it's hard to see Elizabeth making enough strategic moves to advance herself to the endgame.
Kowalski once played high school basketball with Kyrie Irving, so he knows what it's like to be great...sort of. He was the short white kid on a team of giants. In this season, roles will be reversed somewhat. Even in a cast of extremely fit, good-looking contestants, Kowalski still stands out.
Why Dean will win
On the most basic of levels, Kowalski is most well-equipped to win Survivor. He has the looks, the charm, the know-how of what the game is all about. He's athletic, well-rounded...
Why Dean won't win
If he makes the merge, he's the first guy everyone is going after. Should he choose to flaunt his multi-faceted skills, he becomes a giant threat. If he doesn't, then he's still guilty by association of looking the way he does. It's nothing against Kowalski. It's just hard for a former college basketball playing-teaching-New York City dwelling-Ivy League graduating-guy to skirt by to the end without garnering attention.
Prediction: 12th place - If Kowalski was a bigger fan of this game, maybe he'd have a better plan to progress further. But this seems like the general spot that someone of Kowalski's mold has tended to go in past seasons.
"I'm so excited to sleep in the rain. I'm so excited to be hungry." Jack is ready to bring the fun to #Survivor, but will this 23-year-old graduate student be able to keep everyone happy? pic.twitter.com/9HYChddNIg— SURVIVOR (@survivorcbs) September 19, 2019
Don't call him Joey Amazing Jr. Don't do it. Jack is here for the adventure, eager to climb all the coconut trees with the ease of an Ozzy Lusth. But he's also a huge fan of this game. And he's not just going to skate by on his long hair.
Why Jack will win
Even if he's climbing trees and spearing fish like the Survivor legends, Jack has stumbled upon a season with a mass of other contestants who are probably physical threats in other ways. Jack gives off the vibe of Survivor: Micronesia's Jason Siska with 100 times more Survivor smarts, and if he can maintain an unassuming persona, he has as good a shot as any to wave that million dollar check in the air come December.
Why Jack won't win
When Bloom asked Jack was asked about camp life, he said, "That’s one thing I’m probably most excited about." Granted, Jack is looking forward to the backstabbing too, but it's hard to remember the last Survivor winner who was more concerned with finding fish than finding idols.
Prediction: 11th place - Jack will be outplayed by many of the women and some of the men who have their head further in game-mode than he does.
Survivor premieres Wednesday at 8 pm on CBS.