Survivor: Heroes, Healers and Hustlers - Season Preview 1
Part 1 - The Heroes
By Jim Van Nest
September 25, 2017

Save the cheerleader, save the world.

Hello, good people! Can you believe it's that time already? We are only a few days away from the premiere of the 35th season of CBS's reality trailblazer, Survivor. We have a brand new theme for this season, but a familiar location. Survivor is back in Fiji for the third straight season and fourth overall. If you can believe the interwebs, Fiji may turn out to be a forever home for Survivor as the lush landscapes and beautiful waters set the perfect backdrop for a show like Survivor. The brand new theme? Well, it's Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. While I appreciate the alliteration, the theme isn't really bowling me over. But, with twists and swaps and re-swaps and mergers, my bet is we'll only have to worry about the theme for a couple episodes. And, I have to say that in my research for these previews, I've found several of the cast members that I really think I'll like a lot and only a couple who seem like they'll bug me. So, I can make due with a lame theme and an awesome cast.

Over the next couple days, I'm going to do three preview columns for this season - one for each tribe and I'm going to make predictions as I always do. I had been on a bit of a streak of picking winners for a minute, but I'm back to the norm of my winner pick being one of the first ones out here recently. So, as with any of my predictions - for your benefit, please - no wagering.

We're going to start the preview with the Heroes tribe, called Levo. They will be wearing the blue buffs to start the season. According to Jeff Probst, the theme here is not so much how these people view themselves, but how're they're viewed by others. So, the firefighter, the marine and the lifeguard - those are very obvious examples of what many people call a "hero." The fact that they'll all tell you that they're not heroes, just doing their jobs - well, that's why they're heroes. The other three are a different type of hero. We have an NFL player and an Olympian. And while they're not necessarily the According to Hoyle definition of a hero, you cannot deny that Olympic and professional athletes are put up on a Hero Pedestal by many. The final person here, Chrissy, is an Actuary. Not exactly a heroic profession, per se, but if we're to believe Probst, she "broke the glass ceiling in terms of business." (Thanks for the quote goes to Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter and RHAP.) Essentially, any time they have these themed seasons, they sometimes have to stretch on a couple people. So be it. Anyway, let's get to the preview, shall we. As always, we'll preview players in alphabetical order.

Alan Ball (32 - Retired NFL Player) - Alan is a seventh round draft pick who managed to parlay that into a nine-year NFL career as a cornerback and free safety. He played for the Cowboys, Texans, Jaguars and Bears in that stretch and despite his draft status, made a pretty decent career for himself playing football. Currently a free agent, Alan is having serious competition withdrawal, so he finally applied for Survivor. He's in fantastic shape and is obviously athletic. This is good for the beginning of the game, but can become a death knell post-merge. He seems like a very nice guy who people will genuinely like. The hopes for Alan are that will be enough to keep him around after the merge. Another thing in his favor is that there are at least three or four more other really strong looking guys. What Jeremy Collins would call "meat shields". If he's able to hind behind his smile and those other guys, Alan could be a legitimate contender to go very far this season. I see no reason why he won't at least make the merge and possibly take a deep run into the game.

Ashley Nolan (26 - Lifeguard) - Ah, Ashley. Ashley thinks very highly of herself. Not that others on this cast don't think highly of themselves. But one thing I learned through interviews and articles is that none of them really think to highly of her. To a person, they all say she has resting bitch face and none of them are excited about working with her. To her credit, though, Ashley can do everything. She can go from "saving lives, working out and cracking jokes" to "charming your socks off and kicking butt". These are her words from her CBS Bio. I think Ashley will find herself on the outside of an alliance looking in. Her only hope, I think, is for the Heroes to go on a winning streak and for her to last until the swap and then end up with a favorable swapped tribe. She's at home on the beach and in the ocean, so that'll be a plus, but I worry that she's not going to play well with others, assuming that she's very much smarter and more capable than them and causing ripples in her tribe. She's a lifelong Survivor fan and that's fantastic, but I'm afraid that her lifelong dream of playing isn't going to last very long. I just don't see much of a run in Ashley which should be a lesson to future Survivor players. The Pre-Game matters. First impressions are made at Ponderosa now, not on the island. You don't have to be Sally Sunshine 24/7 - but you have to have some sort of personality and at least appear friendly and approachable. If you're not approachable, guess what? No one will approach you.

Ben Driebergen (34 - Retired Marine) - Ben is a wild card for me. He comes off very personable in his pre-game interviews and strikes me as a Keith Nale type good ole boy. However, he's a former marine with an admitted "grizzly bear" side to counteract his pre-game "teddy bear" side. While no stranger to extreme and adverse conditions, my worry for Ben is that he might not be so ready to deal with the other players. He's done tours in Iraq and watched good men (and friends) die in battle. I have no doubts that he'll handle the conditions just fine. But, as a Marine, for the most part, he's dealing with the type of guys that willingly put themselves in this condition as part of team working toward the same goal. I wonder how long he'll keep the "grizzly bear" locked up when he meets up with laziness, whiny-ness and just general Survivor style pains in the ass. If he can maneuver through that, he has a shot to go far. He won't be a merge target as there are plenty of those out there and he could just slip under the radar (a la Keith Nale) and find himself at the end. I really don't have much of a feeling of which way it will go for Ben, but I feel like he could benefit from his tribe not going to Tribal Council right away.

Chrissy Hofbeck (46 - Actuary) - I really like Chrissy. From everything I've read and heard about and from her, she has a great head for this game and she's ridiculously smart. She is, however, the older woman in the game. The "mom" if you will. She wants to avoid that label at all costs. She'd rather be seen as Denise Stapley than Dawn Meehan. Moms don't like to you. It's that simple. To get branded with that label sets you up to really upset people when you have to cut them loose. Chrissy is an all or nothing player for me. She'll either be the first one out of her tribe or in the final 3. I can't decide which one. She has a very good mind for business and has degrees from the likes of Penn and MIT. Book smarts-wise, she's on par with Spencer Bledsoe. Of course, those book smarts are great to get to the end of the game and they do nothing to help win the game. In order to combat both of these things, from what I understand, she's been very touchy-feely with the guys in the cast, despite that being a serious no-no during the pre-game. Walking by Cole and putting her hand on his shoulder. Actually grabbing Patrick's butt in the elevator. Either way, she seems to be trying to set herself up more as a Mrs. Robinson than Mrs. Brady. For the sake of my predictions, I'll say that she makes a run in this game and is definitely around post-merge.

John "JP" Hilsabeck (28 - Firefighter) - To prepare for this preview and this season, I've spent a lot of time listening to podcasts and reading articles about the players. Most of this is coming from the aforementioned Josh Wigler at THR - as he was the only press on location prior to the start of this season. And everything I've heard or read on JP tells me absolutely nothing about how he'll do in this game. He is a firefighter. He has a real tight group of friends and he has a rescue dog named Thor. I've managed to get that much info about him. But ultimately, he gives virtually nothing in his interviews. I have no idea how he plans to play. When asked about him, even the other players can't get a handle on him. They say he shows no emotion, no personality whatsoever as they wait for the game to begin. He will truly enter this game with a blank slate. He's a very fit guy, looks very strong. I'm sure he'll be an asset in challenges and with Alan and Ben - these 3 could help power through any strength related challenges and keep them out of Tribal for the early part of the game. If he doesn't learn to show some personality, though, JP could be a pre-merge boot. Especially in a tribe swap situation. I could see another group cutting him loose to stop a Heroes sweep through the game. I think best case scenario for JP is the merge boot, but I'd bet he doesn't make it that far.

Katrina Radke (46 - Olympic Swimmer) - Our final Hero is Olympic swimmer (1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea), Katrina. At 46 years old, Katrina is the same age as Chrissy, but I don't see her having much of a mom vibe. She has a crazy Debbie vibe. Her interviews are all over the place. She's loud, she's excited and I think she's going to annoy the ever loving shit out of everyone she comes in contact with out there. I think the Heroes will be safe for a couple Tribals, but if they were to somehow lose the first challenge, Katrina is my pick for the first boot of the season. She's definitely my pick to be the first one off this tribe. I don't see a lot of upside to her through the articles, podcasts and interviews. You can handle annoying at first, if they're a major asset to the tribe. I'm not sure what, if anything, Katrina is going to bring to this table. I think she'll find herself on the outs right away with no means of getting back "in". So, Katrina, if you're reading this - I'm sorry to pick you to have this run on the show, but - looking on the bright side, many of my first one out predictions have made it to the Final Tribal you have that going for you.

My overall feel of this tribe is that the guys are going to Bro-down and the women are not really going to get along. I think Chrissy and Ashley will be trying to get in with the guys, while Katrina is pretty much an island out there. Ultimately, I see Chrissy proving herself more to the guys and the 3 guys along with Chrissy will be representing the Heroes in the merged tribe. Of those 4, I really think Alan has the most upside, with Chrissy and Ben as possible dark horses to make long, long runs into this game.

And there you have it kids, the Heroes tribe! Thanks so much for checking in with me for this Survivor Preview - be sure to check back tomorrow as it'll be time to talk about the Healers! ‘Til then, take care!

Like the column? Hate the column? Just want to shoot me your opinion? Hit me up on the Twitter: @vannestjc