When “Survivor: Cagayan” premieres this Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CBS it will mark the start of the popular reality series’ 28th season. Contestants have been trying to outwit, outplay and outlast each other since 2000 and since then the show has seen several twists to its gameplay. This season players are divided into three tribes based on athleticism, attractiveness and intellect. Who will series host Jeff Probst announce as the winner? To get an inside look at this season the Gazette chatted Rob Cesternino, a two-time “Survivor” contestant and the host of the reality TV podcast, “Rob Has A Podcast.”
Gazette: Survivor has gone with a Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty theme this season. What’s your take on this twist?
Rob Cesternino: I really love this idea for the new Survivor season. Admittedly, it’s a somewhat silly way to divide the teams but I think it’s a great hook. Especially for a season without returning players, you need something to market the show with and I think this idea really was a novel way to go.
Gazette: Who has the edge – brains, beauty or brawn and which tribe will the winner come from?
RC: I am a big fan of all the players on the Brains tribe but I’m concerned that there will be too many egos for them to be a cohesive unit. I actually think that the Brawn tribe has the best chance for sustained success in the game because I think they’ll be able to avoid tribal and keep their numbers. I also believe the Brawn tribe won’t be prone to over-thinking and turning on each other.
Gazette: Based on what you’ve learned about the cast so far, who are your favorites going into this season?
RC: After studying everybody for our big season preview special on “Rob Has a Podcast”, I felt really strongly about Sarah Lacina, a female police officer. She was keenly observant about the other players and is a big fan of the show. Plus, she is strong without being overly muscular. She is smart without looking like a know-it-all. She’s the total package but doesn’t look the part of a major Survivor threat. I like her chances.
Gazette: There is no Redemption Island this season and the cast is also made up entirely of new contestants. What kind of impact will that have on the show?
RC: I think Redemption Island is a good way to keep the fan favorites who got voted out around for another week or two. But I like the purity of the game without Redemption Island. Plus, the extra time that was used for the Redemption Island challenge can be spent on learning who these new players are.
Gazette: What advice would you give someone going on Survivor? What’s your recipe for a winning strategy?
RC: I don’t believe there is one correct way to win Survivor. There are a few things that are necessary to winning the game. A winner has to have the ability to be flexible and roll with the punches. No matter what happens, there needs to be the ability to change the plan based on new information. Also, a winner needs to have luck on their side. Every person that won the game can find at least one thing that happened, that was totally independent of them, that went in their favor through sheer luck that helped them win the game. Finally, the winner needs to have a story to tell the jury. The winners know the right buttons to push when marketing their case to the jury.
Gazette: Bringing back former Survivor contestants may not be occurring this season but chances are high we’ll see that again. If you were going back on the show, how would you avoid being targeted?
RC: I wish I knew! There’s no great way to avoid being targeted, so I would just try to have complete transparency with everybody in my group and try to find where our mutual interests lie with my group.
Gazette: What other former players would you like to see return? Who would you expect to see?
RC: I think there are a few players that we can safely predict will return. I think Malcolm will be back soon. Jeff Probst seemed very keen on Ciera coming back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hayden come back too considering his popularity with Survivor and Big Brother fans. I know a lot of people will cringe but I’d like to see Russell Hantz again. Whether or not he has learned anything would be very fun to watch and podcast about.
Gazette: Who is the person you’ve most enjoyed competing in Survivor with?
RC: While I didn’t enjoy it at the time, I’ve come to truly respect what a great player Boston Rob became. Yes, he’s played 4 times, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t continue learning every time he went out there. I think he’s the best player there’s ever been.
Gazette: Who do you think is the most overrated Survivor ever? Underrated?
RC: I’ll say the most overrated Survivor is Ozzy. He’s completely dominant in one aspect of the game but he struggles with both the social and strategic phases of the game. The most underrated is Sandra Diaz-Twine; she won twice and still has doubters who say she’s not that good.
Gazette: Who is on your Survivor Mount Rushmore (four greatest players)?
RC: Boston Rob, Parvati, Sandra, Richard Hatch
Gazette: If you were the producer of Survivor, what changes would you make to the show?
RC: The producers of Survivor know what they’re doing but if they brought me in for a day we’d go back to a final 2, bring people back from Redemption Island at the final 5 to force tougher decisions, rather than at final 4, and would set up one island where every future Survivor season would be played because everyplace looks the same anyway.