There are a lot of big names that returned to play Survivor: Winners at War. Twenty of them, in fact. That’s what happens when you stage a season of all former champions. But getting them back was not so easy. All had already conquered the Survivor mountain, so why would they want to scale it again? Sure, there was the appeal of appearing on a big anniversary season. Yes, they were offered a nice appearance fee. For some, perhaps the guarantee they would not be done after just three days helped. But for every reason for a former winner to come back, there were plenty of reasons to not subject themselves to the experience all over again. Which is what makes the list of names who agreed to appear so impressive.
But who is the biggest get of them all? Who is the one person the show thought they could never lure back on to the island? I asked Jeff Probst whom he considered the biggest get when we spoke out in Fiji on day 1 of filming. “That’s a really good question,” he said. “Who’s the get? Here’s what I think the answer is. And it again goes back to Kelly Kahl over at CBS. I said, ‘Let me call everybody.’ And as I’m leaving, he goes, ‘And I just have one request: Do you think Amber would do it?’ I started to say, ‘No, she has four kids,’ and I went, ‘Noooooooo idea. Let me call her.’”
Probst said the key to enticing Amber was getting her husband involved: “We had already asked Rob to do Island of the Idols. We had no idea what we were doing in 40. So I called Rob and said, ‘Hey, I know the answer is no, but I’ve gotta ask: Is there any chance you want to do 40? It’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be fun.’ And he said, ‘I’m thinking about it.’ And I go, ‘Well, since you’re on the phone, what do you think about Amber?’ ‘No way. The four girls, she’s never left them.’ ‘Okay, I get it.’ ‘But let me talk to her. Let me see what I can do.’”
The host did not have to wait long to find out. “About three hours later, he texted,” Probst recalled, “and said, ‘She hasn’t said yes, but she will. We’re going to do it.’ So I think in that sense Amber’s the get because you have a husband and wife who met on the show, who got engaged on the show, who got married on CBS, who both won and have said, ‘We’re gonna get the grandparents to watch the kids, we’re gonna put the biggest target on our back we can and we’re both coming out.’ That’s pretty epic.”
And who is the next biggest get, according to Probst? “Right under that is Parvati. Because Parvati was a hard no, because she has a brand-new baby. Totally understandable. It was just timing. But when we called, she said, ‘You know, I’m watching my baby grow and I’m starting to realize, I could maybe do this right now. It’s just six weeks. My husband will be there with the baby.’ And she said yes.”
Once the Marianos and Parvati were on board, the rest all fell into place. “And then it just started rolling,” Probst said. “Then Yul said yes. All these people. And then Danni said yes. We didn’t know if Danni wanted to play again or not. The only person we were certain would say yes is Sandra, because she has never not said yes — despite knowing she has a huge target. Despite knowing there are 19 people that don’t want her to be the only two-time winner. I did not get the words out over the phone, and this is no exaggeration — you call Sandra and you say, ‘Hey…’ and ‘YES!’ ‘I didn’t even…’ ‘It doesn’t matter.’ She did that on Island of the Idols. She didn’t even know what the deal was. I said, ‘You can’t win a million dollars.’ ‘I don’t care. What is it?’ ‘You’re going to be a teacher.’ ‘Oh, l’ll teach them. I know how to play.’ That’s the kind of enthusiasm that you want.”
To watch Probst talk about the biggest get for Winners of War, watch the video at the top of the post. For more Survivor articles, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss, and for exclusive season 40 photos, follow him on Instagram @thedaltonross.
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