By Dalton Ross
April 15, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Survivor

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Survivor is known for its epic twists. Sometimes it comes in the form of a new advantage or wrinkle in the game. Sometimes it is in the way the players are divided up (by age, ethnicity, gender, their type of collar, whether they are more prone to heal or hustle…). Because of that, fans are constantly using social media to pitch their own ideas for new twists or themes. But what about the people who actually have played the game? What sort of pitch would they make for something they would like to see on the show (or, conversely, something they do not want to see)?

Right before filming began on season 40, we asked the 20 returning champions competing on Survivor: Winners at War to pitch a new twist or theme for the show. Here’s what they came up with.

Robert Voets/CBS

YUL KWON

How about three ideas? One, this isn't a new one, but the mutiny that happened in my season was super interesting. I'm surprised they haven't tried that again. It completely changed the dynamics of the game. And there are a lot of things you could do, like everyone could jump off the mat and force the merge to happen early. There is a lot of interesting stuff that could happen if you give people that choice. I actually would love to see that.

Another twist that I think would be interesting: Season 38 was very controversial. You had the winner, Chris Underwood, spend most of his time on Extinction Island, come back at the tail end and win the game. I don't begrudge him that. I think he did the best he possibly could have given the cards he was dealt with. But you miss the whole social element of what happened on Extinction Island. I think if they're going to keep that theme, one thing that would be really interesting is to have the people on Extinction Island vote for who goes back into the game. Then you could see the social dynamics happening within that side of it, which I think would provide for a more complete game, a more complete picture.

The third twist I think would be interesting would be if you have returning players and divide them along the three dimensions that seem to be so paramount now in final Tribal Councils: outwit, outplay, outlast. So, again, it's kind of a variation of the brains, beauty, and brawn thing. But get a tribe of all the strong strategists, all the really social players, and all the people who are challenge-dominators or idol hunters, and have them go against each other.

Robert Voets/CBS

WENDELL HOLLAND

Survivor: All Winners. Meaning, all winners of Survivor. Not just 20 of them. Every single winner will be out here. Let’s see who wins.

Robert Voets/CBS

TYSON APOSTOL

I want to do season of rivals, where they're tethered by some motivation or they have an idol or something where they have to share a secret so big that it connects them to each other even though they hate each other’s guts.

Robert Voets/CBS

TONY VLACHOS

I wouldn't want it to happen my season, but it would be nice as a fan to see them get rid of idols, to be honest with you. Just a raw game, just like Richard Hatch. In today's day and age, I want to see the social politics of winning the game, not the advantages, not the idols, none of that stuff. I just want to see how that would pan out, man. How raw is that to see that again? Don't get me wrong, but that would be a crazy twist as a fan to see that they just wiped all that out again. Wipe the food out, wipe it all out.

Robert Voets/CBS

SOPHIE CLARKE

Okay, this is one I've been preaching for a long time, but I recently rewatched San Juan del Sur, which was Keith's first season, and Keith was incredible. And even Jeff at some point said, "What is it like playing with Keith? Somebody who really doesn't understand the game, he adds a lot of like spontaneity and you can't really predict what he's going to do." My point is, I still think that more and more they've casted a lot of fans who make a lot of big moves. But some of the fun of Survivor is watching people like Keith, who have no idea what the hell they're doing but bring like their own moral compass and their own life to the game. So I would love to see a game of Survivor that is cast at the very last minute from people on the street who have not seen the show before, and throw them out here and see what they do.

I just think that more and more as I watch the show, I feel like everybody's become a little bit homogenous, because sure, everybody has their own personality, but they're all playing Survivor almost in a very similar way. And it used to be the way you played Survivor was much closer to your personality. And now you have a lot of personalities, but they're all trying to play like the one strategic game. And I like seeing the social players, I like seeing the cowboys. I’d like to see that again.

Robert Voets/CBS

SARAH LACINA

Nobody gets voted out, but you get voted against. So you sit at the Tribal Council, and names get written down, and then at the end, whoever had their name written down the least amount of times in the 39 days is the winner. No one knows the votes. Everybody goes down and they write, and Jeff doesn't read the votes. So you go to Tribal Council — everybody goes, it's just one tribe of 20 people and everybody always goes to Tribal — and that's where you just air out the dirty laundry. And then when you go vote, Jeff keeps tallying at the scoreboard, and the viewers get to see who's got how many votes, but the players in the game have no idea. So you could be lying and saying,”‘Oh, I voted for this person, or that person” Everybody is jockeying for a spot and it would just be nasty.

It would be [evil], and you would have no idea where you're at. You could be sitting there going, "I have zero votes," and you have, like, 50! It would be so heartbreaking at the end to see how many votes you had every time or something. That would be fun, because it would be 39 days of just paranoia and just awfulness, and constantly wondering, and then your soul would be crushed at the end when you saw how many votes you had.

So if you did it for season 40, and nobody is getting voted out, and now we all live on one island and we just want to kill each other because it's too many people to one shelter, it's just chaos. Everybody knows that nobody's going home. But you go to Tribal Council and you still have… like, let's say, if you win an immunity challenge, it knocks off a vote. And if you find an idol or something, then that eliminates one of your votes. Things like that. And then you just constantly go in and you write down people's names, and then there's a tally board and only the viewers get to see the tally board and the contestants have no idea the whole time. And then everybody is going to into day 39 thinking they might win, and in reality, they have no chance at all, and it would just crush your soul.

Robert Voets/CBS

SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE

I've always said that I would like to see the first boots come out here — people that didn't get the chance to play for one reason or another. I'm sure there are some good players in that crowd. I would like to see, maybe not every single first boot, but a handful of first boots that made one little dumb mistake, you know? And watch them come out here and give it their all. I bet you we'd have fireworks. Francesca’s really smart, and I bet you, three times the charm. I bet you she'd change up her game to where she wouldn't be the first one voted out a third time. But I think that would definitely work. I think the fans would welcome something like that, and we'd definitely get a winner out of that crew then, right?

Robert Voets/CBS

ROB MARIANO

I had a lot of fun on Island of the Idols and I think there's some other people that have stuff to offer. I think the tribe benefited a lot from what we taught them too, but I don't think Sandra and I are the only idols. I think there are some other people that could come back and do that. I'd like to see that, kind of like an iteration that goes on. Maybe a couple more, because I think the Survivor Mount Rushmore is not complete yet. I think we could see a few more statutes out there.

Robert Voets/CBS

PARVATI SHALLOW

What about Survivor: Rap Battle Island, where every challenge you have to freestyle rap? And then when Jeff snuffs someone’s torch he has to say “Well, that’s a wrap!”

Robert Voets/CBS

NICK WILSON

Actually, I heard Tyson talk about it on a podcast, and it was Angels vs. Demons. I think that would be a great theme for a new cast, where you could find a sweetheart, and then, like, an ex-convict or something. I don't know. I would probably have been cast as an angel, but I think I've got more of a demon side of my game than people think.

Robert Voets/CBS

NATALIE ANDERSON

I'd like to see final three versus first three. So, a tribe of first three out and final three non-winners or winners; it could be a winner in there, too. First of the first and final three sitting. And then my dad has always told me that he wants to see Air vs. Land vs. Sea. Air would be pilots and astronauts, anything to do with space and atmosphere. Land would be people who work in construction — engineers, farmers, or whatever. And then Sea would be the Navy SEALs, sailors, swimmers, something to do with water. My dad is obsessed with this. He always tells me this needs to be a season.

Robert Voets/CBS

MICHELE FITZGERALD

I would love a champions versus challengers kind of season. Put me up against Aubry or Tai — whoever they think that could have beaten me in the end, and let's duel it out. Let's see what's going on. Let's do a returning season with your biggest runners up.

Robert Voets/CBS

KIM SPRADLIN

I'm not a big fan of the twists. I'm just not. I like the way the game used to be. As a player and as a fan, I'm not a fan of the Edge of Extinction from any standpoint. I think it totally ruins the game. So I just like good old-fashioned Survivor. I loved it the way it was. I know they love the twists and all that, and I get that. If people love that, great. But for me, it'll never get better than it was in the early days where you just watched the way it played out. As someone that likes to play and wants to play a really beautiful game, there's a lot of those things that are just out of your control at this point, and somebody might end up on the Edge of Extinction and come back and beat you at the end after you've worked your ass off, and they're not even in the game.

Robert Voets/CBS

JEREMY COLLINS

I would definitely not do Extinction Island again, I'll tell you that. I just didn't like how… At the beginning I liked it, I thought, “Oh, that's cool. Put them on an island, see how it goes.” But then when everybody's there and it just turned out to be like, just camp, you know? And you're not really playing the game, you know what I mean? There's a lot of stress when you're sitting on the island with a bunch of people that are going to vote you out, and you take them out and put them on an island where there is no stress, you just have to get through it to try to just get back in the game. That's a lot of time off, and your mind is a lot clearer. I know there are other aspects of it being hard on you, but there's nothing like that stress when people are leaving camp and you're stuck by yourself.

This is season 40. This is going to be an epic season. For season 40, we want a great winner. If you have someone there on Edge of Extinction and they're just winning over the jury and then they come back and win the game, did they really play Survivor and win the game? Do you know what I mean? And I don't want to take anything away from Underwood, but season 40, this is going to be the champ, you know? They have bragging rights over everything. I just don't like [Edge of Extinction.] I want the winner of this season to be me, first of all. But then to be someone who can, when we look back on the season, you say “That's the best. That's an awesome winner. I'm so glad that they won this season. Season 40’s so epic and it couldn't have happened to a better firefighter."

Robert Voets/CBS

ETHAN ZOHN

How about Jeff at the very beginning saying, “All right, $1 million for you and $1 million for the charity of the winner.” That will be a nice little clever twist and that's right up my alley. I would try really hard to win this game if that was the twist.

Robert Voets/CBS

DENISE STAPLEY

I want to see all women. Just thinking this through, the era or the culture of what has been happening lately, I think just needs that. As a 48-year-old, I still see that women, we are horrible to each other. We tear down, tear down, tear down, and I see this group of women out here, and there's a part of me that would love — and I highly doubt that this would be a twist — but I would love to be in a tribe with all of these women. Like, an all-female tribe again. Because there's something about wondering how that might gel together differently versus seven years ago. So I’m going to say all women.

Robert Voets/CBS

DANNI BOATWRIGHT

I would love to see America versus Australia. I would love that season, and since I said it, if it happens — win or lose this one — I better be on there. Just saying. They can air it both places. And those Aussies, I'm telling you, man, they can swim, they can play rugby, I mean, they're everything.

Robert Voets/CBS

BEN DRIEBERGEN

One of the fun themes, I think, would be Nemeses. People who have feuded on the show before. So, for instance, me and Chrissy, or Dom and Chris Noble, or Tony and… everyone! So those feuds that were caught on camera, and during the game. I love Chrissy to death, but if you put us both back in the game, that's going to make great TV. And so, I think a Nemeses season would be incredible, really, I do.

Another twist that I think would be fun? I really enjoyed Extinction Island. I really do. Being involved in the game from the start, and being able to witness it, and still starving and going through what everybody else is going through. I think, that's fair to everybody. Because, we all come out for an experience. I don't want to go Ponderosa, and party, and do all that. I'm here for the experience. I'm here for the islands, and the fish, the coral reefs, the sunsets, and the sunrises. And so having everybody that is in this game on the jury, watch it, and participate in it, even if you're voted out, I think that's a great thing.

Robert Voets/CBS

AMBER MARIANO

I know my girls really want to come on this show, so I'll pitch a family edition of Survivor. My girls always talk about, "When I'm on Survivor.” It's funny because I would've thought like back in the day like, "Oh yeah, when you're on Survivor." But now I realize, there are people who have played this game who weren't born the first time I played this game. It's very possible that they might get a chance to play Survivor.

Robert Voets/CBS

ADAM KLEIN

I would say getting rid of the fire-making twist. Because it's not Survivor to me. Survivor is don't get voted out of the game. And I know why they did it, because people like Dave Wright who were the audience favorites and seen as the leader and the best player were getting voted out at four, but if you play yourself into a position where you have to win immunity at the final four in order to get to the final three, then maybe you're not the best player.

I think part of the game is managing your threat level. And if you can't do that, and if you find yourself in the final six as the biggest threat in the game and everybody knows it, we shouldn't just start inserting more and more ways for you to get to the end. You've made a mistake by playing yourself into that position and now you've got to earn immunity or work your way out of that position. I don't think we need to be adding in new twists and have a whole ton of last-minute idols and that sort of thing to allow those players to get to the end if they played themselves into that position. You got to manage your threat level. That is the game. That's Survivor and it's a beautiful thing.

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