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:
He's the first Canadian to be cast on the show, though he's spent much of his life living in America. A former NHL player, Tom won't shy away from confrontation if necessary. He's certainly a competitor, but how much Survivor does he actually know?
Why Tom will win
As a former athlete, Tom won't buckle under pressure. He's also in that age range that often gets overlooked for younger fitter guys when it comes to deciding who to vote out. If Tom can hang with some of the players half his age in the strategic department, he'll have a shot - though maybe not a slap shot.
Why Tom won't win
Like his hockey days, he was recruited to play this game. It's not evident how much of Survivor he is familiar with and Probst took note of this in his conversation with Bloom. Probst said, "Tom Laidlaw is most likely to get tricked by a fake idol. And I don’t think he’ll see it coming. It won’t occur to him that it could be fake."
Prediction 5th place - If Tom can somewhat excel in the social aspect, no one will be coming for him for a majority of the season. It won't be until near the end when other perk up and say, "Hey, I don't want Tom taking my spot in the final three," and then promptly send him to the penalty box.
The second-youngest contestant on the season, Missy might have the most life experience out of anyone. That's not hyperbole. She has already served in the military, cheated death, played college basketball and learned French in an alarmingly short amount of time. Simply put, Missy is the full package with a compelling personal story to boot. Can she hide how amazing she is long enough to get all the way to the final three?
Why Missy will win
Missy isn't just a decently dope woman who survived a brain tumor. She's also a huge Survivor fan. She told Wigler that she has seen every episode at least three times, which is something not even the most superest of superfans can attest to.
Why Missy won't win
If others become privy to how likable Missy is, they won't want to sit next to her in the final three. She doesn't plan to tell others what she's been through in her life, but her personality is engaging enough and her grasp on the game is strong enough that she could make for an easy target.
4th place - Missy is going to be the one everyone thinks will win from the edit, like Rick Devens from last season, and losing a fire challenge to the eventual winner of the season is going to be her downfall.
A 59-year-old lifeguard, Janet doesn't quite fit the mold of older, unathletic women from seasons past (or Janets past, if anyone remembers the second boot from Amazon). No, this season's Janet has seen the show - though she might not be as big a fan as others - and is ready to dive headfirst into the competition.
Why Janet will win
Janet will win if she has the same narrative arc as Janet from The Good Place. In layman's terms, if Survivor Janet can relate to the younger cast members despite being from a different era, she can advance far in the game. In the early episodes of The Good Place, Janet was simply a robot who served as a mix between a life-size Google search engine and an UberEats. As the seasons progressed, however, she became more relatable to the other characters as she slowly started to develop more human-like traits. Likewise, Survivor Janet will need to connect with the younger contestants on a human level to earn their vote in the end.
Why Janet won't win
It's hard to see Janet winning because it's not typically the demographic that is able to bring home the bacon. (Prove me wrong, Janet!) She's a grandmother, and she admitted to Parade she'll have to reel in those maternal instincts. She told Bloom, "I’m really going to make sure I do not get on somebody for being lazy. That’s something I’ll have to work on."
Prediction 3rd place - There's almost always one person in the final three who didn't make nearly as many strategic moves to get to the end. This will be Janet, the one everyone wants to accompany to the end, but not because they want a competition.
Jamal is a friendly 33-year-old in an offensive lineman's body. He's hoping it won't set him back, explaining to Bloom, "People are going to see my size and how imposing I am physically. But I have an even-keeled demeanor."
Why Jamal will win
Jamal is the right age to be able to relate to everyone on the island, and he won't blindly trust the field. He's got a handle of what he needs to do to win and is willing to cross every moral line he needs to in order to reach that peak.
Why Jamal won't win
If he is regarded as an imposing former athlete, it gives others a reason to target him. He said he values loyalty over strength in the pre-merge, but if those words get used against him, the admissions counselor could be schooled at his own game.
Prediction: 2nd place - Jamal will play a solid game, make the alliances to get him to the end, but won't get enough votes to win. He will have done everything right except for the fact that he didn't vote out...
Molly is a law student from who also has Boston roots, which might come into play if she comes into contact with the most Bostonian of all Survivor contestants. She's a Survivor follower but isn't keen on putting on a false front to win. She said to Parade, "I plan on being completely myself."
Why Molly will win
Molly was cast before any of the others. She knew in December - several months before the contestants left for filming - that she would be playing this game, so she has had plenty of time to prepare both mentally and strategically. She comes into the game as a measured superfan, capable of keeping her cards close to the vest while secretly wielding a deep comprehension of how to make it to the end. She's confident in her ability to articulate a final three speech to the jury and is determined to be an inspiration to women and girls watching her. She told THR, "I often feel like people undersell themselves, especially women."
Why Molly won't win
If Byman goes out early, it's because of her social game. She told Parade she doesn't easily trust others and admitted, "I don’t like that camp orientation stuff."
Prediction: Sole Survivor - Byman will be the first female winner of Survivor since Sarah Lacina in Game Changers. Like Lacina, she will be strategically in control the entire time, but others won't realize it until it's too late.
Survivor premieres Wednesday at 8 pm on CBS.