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All right, America — you voted them in for Survivor: Second Chance. Now, it’s my turn to pick some winners.
After traveling to the Cambodian island of Koh Rong to interview our 20 returning players, I had a chance to see inside the minds of the contestants. The strategy talk was fiery, and many of the players already had big plans to vote off their perceived threats.
Now that I have had plenty of time to form my very biased opinions, I will fill you in on my top picks to take it all the way.
By the way, I know that what I’m doing here is going to make some people mad at me. Relax, everyone. It’s only a game after all. Just ask Ozzy Lusth.
1. Kelley Wentworth
Kelley was a non-player in Blood vs. Water II, her first season. She was the pretty farmer’s daughter who lost her life in the game because her dad Dale just didn’t get it. Now, she’s out here on her own, competing for herself. And, may I say, Kelley is one to watch. She blew me away in our interview, telling me about how she would play immunity idols and her fellow competitors.
My take: Kelley is a powerhouse. She’s gorgeous and insanely strong. No one will see this woman coming until it’s too late. Kelley will win her tribe mates over with her bubbly, quirky sense of humor, but she won’t become too attached. She’s ready to cut anyone she needs to without a second thought. Kelley wants this win so badly, she will give everything she has for this game. In the finals, she’ll give an intelligent, composed speech highlighting all of her undeniably great moves — and the jury will reward her for it.
2. Ciera Eastin
This is the girl whose claim to fame is “voting her mom off.” Though, if you watched her first season, Blood vs. Water, her mom would have been voted off that night with or without Ciera’s vote. So Ciera’s willingness to write her mom’s name down just shows that she’s a mad gamer. When I spoke with her pre-game, she sounded like she’d had some time to learn from her previous season’s mistakes and was ready to hit the ground running this time.
My take: This woman is razor sharp. She’s not afraid to play dirty, and despite her tiny frame, she’s surprisingly fit. I don’t see her being an early target, and when it comes to individual immunity challenges, I doubt people will perceive her as a threat. I think she’s going to be underestimated, and when she makes it to the final three, she’ll pull out the teen mom card and win it all.
3. Jeff Varner
Hilarious and smart as a whip, Varner is coming in to the game as an old-timer. His latest Survivor experience was The Australian Outback, which filmed 15 years ago. Since then, Varner’s been working as a news anchor and getting soft from eating tons of peanut butter. Just kidding about that last part — apparently, the smell of peanut butter is enough to make the man gag. Fans of Survivor: Australia know why.
My take: Varner is perceptive and self-aware — two keys to making top billing in this game. He knows when to put the pressure on and when to back off. His charming demeanor and cunning humor will endear him to other gamers, and he’s going to be underestimated because he’s not the fittest guy in the pack. Varner’s a sniper. He’ll pick off his threats one by one, until he’s sitting pretty in the final three.
Dietz is superhuman. He is the perfect person you would want to spend 39 days with while trapped on an island. For one, he’s really nice. He’s so nice that you just want to hang out with him and talk for hours about nothing. He’s the handsome father figure and the perfect counterpart to all the lying, deceptive, crafty new-school gamers that are populating this season. Dietz is just an all-around, great guy. If his fellow castmates are dumb enough to allow him to get to the end, Dietz has got this win locked up.
Collins is a fighter — a firefighter, that is. When I talked to Collins, he sounded like he was prepared to go to war. Like Wentworth, the last time Collins played, he had his family member to consider. Now, he’s his own man and can work all angles without having to think of protecting anyone else. Jeremy is undeniably strong and may be seen as a threat early on, but if his colleagues let him slip through, Jeremy will win this game. He’s incredibly likable. He’s a family man, and he’s a firefighter. Enough said.
Survivor: Second Chance premieres Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Let us know your pick for Sole Survivor in the comments.
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