Reality competition series Survivor is still going strong with its 39th season set to premiere in September 2019, a reveal that season 40 will pit some of the best past winners against one another in an epic showdown, and seasons 41 and 42 already casting.
As noted, the 40th season will see 20 former winners return to compete and prove who truly is the best of the best of the winners. Set to air sometime in 2020, there are 38 winners thus far who could be among the chosen 20. But who are they? While there are lots of rumored lists out there, nothing has been officially confirmed just yet.
With that said, regardless of who is rumored to be appearing on the season, who do we hope to see? Here are 10 former winners we’d love to see on season 40.
10 “Boston” Rob Mariano
After playing not once, not twice, not even three, but four (!) times, Mariano finally won in season 22. Before that, though, he did place second to the woman who would become his wife.
Mariano has been a pretty active member of the Survivor family, set to return for season 39, Island of the Idols, to serve as a mentor. As a long-time fan favorite and self-professed master of the game, we not only fully expect to see Rob on the official cast list once it’s revealed, but we hope he’s there, too.
9 Amber Mariano
Known originally by her maiden name Brkich, Mariano ended up marrying a man she met on the island, and they remain together, with children. But while “Boston” Rob has remained in the spotlight, including returning as a mentor for the upcoming season 39, Amber, who also won the game, has stayed in the background.
Presumably focused on being a mom versus a reality TV celebrity, it would be amazing to see both Amber and Rob compete together again as a powerful duo, even if it puts targets on their backs from the get-go. But even without Rob, it would be great to see Amber come back to the Survivor family and show that she’s still got it, and isn’t living in her husband’s Survivor shadow.
8 Sandra Diaz-Twine
It would be hilarious to see Diaz-Twine, the only two-time winner, come back for yet another time to try and make it a three-peat.
It would be easy to assume she would be targeted immediately given her status as the only person to have ever won twice, in season 7 and 20. But with a season full of former winners, everyone is a prime target. Which means Diaz-Twine could totally do what she does best and fly under the radar as a presumed non-threat while manipulating everyone in the background, and stirring up trouble that deflects attention away from her.
Plus, a win would allow her to keep her title; otherwise, she’ll be sharing the dual win title with someone else once the season is over and the second-ever double winner is crowned.
7 Parvati Shallow
A seriously strategic player, and considered to be among the best, it would be interesting to see if Shallow would be able to gain the trust of other former winners who now know her M.O., which was first to flirt with the men, then to form an airtight all-female alliance aptly named the Black Widow Brigade.
As one of the strongest female winners of the show, having made it to the finals twice, we hope the rumors are true and she will be among the returning cast members. It would mark her fourth time playing the game.
6 Richard Hatch
It’s only fitting that the person who won the very first season of the game should return among a cast of all-star past winners.
Playing the game when everything was still completely new and there were no hidden immunity idols, blindsides, backdoor plans, and swing votes (or at least no official names for some of them just yet), Hatch came out victorious and helped determine just what the game was going to be all about.
Plus, he was always thoroughly entertaining and villainous, and every season needs a good villain.
5 John Cochran
A mastermind of the game and a mega-fan of the show (his high school senior year quote was “the tribe has spoken”), it would be awesome to see Cochran, who still works in the entertainment business, come back to compete for a third time after winning season 26.
A likable player, he won his second time (by unanimous vote) after realizing that he needed to change up his strategy and be a more dominant player. It worked, and we hope to see him come back again to devise an entirely new strategy that could bring him his second win.
4 Brian Heidik
One of the most disliked winners ever, it’s unlikely that Heidik will return, appearing to be a family man who lives outside of the spotlight these days. But it would sure make for good TV if he came back to try and weasel his way into the minds of former players who are just as manipulative, if not more so, than he.
Having won season 5, Heidik, a used car salesman, approached the show as if it were a business trip. He made final two deals with just about everyone and won in part because the person he was sitting next to was universally despised by the jury. So it would be great to see if he could conduct yet another successful 30-something-day business trip and close the deal once again for a million (rather, two this season) bucks.
3 Vecepia Towery
Widely considered to be a non-deserving winner, it would be nice to see Towery come back to prove her worth, and that she didn't hide behind her religion as so many accused her of doing during her final Tribal Council questioning with the jury.
Winning season 4, she was the quieter player who switched alliances when it suited her, which might have been a strategy in and of itself. As the first African-American winner of the series, we hope she comes back to show everyone that her gameplay is strong and she did deserve to win after all, and could do it again.
2 Fabio Birza
Totally surprising viewers after he won season 21, many thought Birza did not deserve to win. So it would be great to see him come back to defend his title and show that he can indeed play against the best of the best and he didn’t just float his way accidentally to the win.
The chiseled young man was often left out of the votes, sitting in the background appearing to be a non-threat while the bigger competitors took one another out. Can he really play against the best of the best? It would be interesting to see.
1 Tony Vlachos
Considered by many to be one of the best players of the game, Vlachos’ constant paranoia was frustrating to watch sometimes, but it made for good TV. So we’d love to see how he plays against some of the icons of the game now that all of his cards are on the table.
A big (and smart) part of his gameplay in season 28 was setting up secret spy shacks where he would hide and listen in on conversations. Plus, he was unmatched when it came to finding hidden immunity idols.
It would be hilarious to see the former winners follow him around if he returned, making sure he could never venture out on his own to build a spy shack or find an idol. It would mark his third return to the game as he also appeared on Survivor: Game Changers.