Over 600 people have played Survivor. But only 38 have ever won the game. It would seem to be the ultimate accomplishment, and many one-name wonders like Sandra, Parvati, Rob, and Kim have indeed solidified their place in Survivor lore with dominant performances along the way.
However, there are plenty of other former champions entering Survivor: Winners at War (premiering Feb. 12 on CBS) with a chip on their shoulder. That’s what I noticed after speaking with them before the season began. Maybe, like Michele, they feel hurt by online reaction to their win. Or maybe, like Nick, they think they didn’t get enough respect for a particular aspect of their game. Or maybe, like Sophie, they feel not enough credit is given to those who can “dodge the radar.” Or maybe, like Tyson, good is not good enough and they feel they should be recognized as one of the best ever. The reasons vary, but the common denominator in these stories from many of the returning players is that they are looking at season 40 as an opportunity to prove their doubters — either real or perceived — wrong.
I asked Prost on day 1 of filming what it is that makes some members of this very exclusive group of winners feel like they are still fighting for respect. “I think when you do something like Survivor where you are vulnerable, you get to put yourself out there and people get to see everything about you,” says Probst “And then you manage to do it. You win! You vote people out and get them to vote for you as the best player. When that happens and you ae not heralded as one of the greats, you’re like ‘Why am I not on the list? You always talk about these other people? Why not me? Why didn’t I make your top 3 or your top 5?’”
For these players, beating the competition is not good enough. And, says Probst, “I can relate to that. Because you’re asking for credit. And some players don’t get it. And some get it, and you’re not even sure why they still get it. I’m sure people get annoyed when [people say to me] ‘You talk about Parvati all the time. She’s a great winner.’ Well, it’s just an opinion. Is she a better player than Adam? I think so, yeah. But Adam won! I don’t know. I’m just a fool out there watching.”
Probst can sympathize with players who may think they don’t get enough credit for their craft, because he says he often finds himself feeling the same way. “I can relate to somebody who has a chip on their shoulder because I can find it in my own place,” says the host. “Why aren’t you guys talking about Survivor more and how we reinvent the show? How we’re still on when all the others died? Why is nobody writing that story? I find myself doing the same thing. Oh, I read lots of stories about how Survivor sucks. ‘They once again have a lousy creative idea.’”
The drive to succeed — and be recognized for it — is simple human nature, says Probst. “So it’s just anybody who fights for something with their all and then doesn’t feel that their all was seen. But I like that. I like that we have players out here who feel that they’re underestimated and underappreciated, because that says you still got something to prove. And that’s why you’re back. And that’s why you could win again. ‘Cause you got something burning in there, brother. Stoke that coal, let’s get it going!”
And they will get it going starting on Feb. 12.
To watch Probst talk about some of the players fighting for respect, 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.