Cue the drums, start the chanting, sharpen the knives — “Survivor” is back.
Season 43 of the original torch-snuffing competition, where the lone survivor gets $1 million and bragging rights, kicks off in a two-hour opener at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 on CBS.
A cast of 18 hopefuls will once again be battling the elements and each other on Fiji, which has become the defacto “Survivor” island. Here are short profiles of the players and our prediction on how they’ll do.
Vesi tribe (red)
Cody Assenmacher, 35
Hometown: Preston, Iowa; now lives in Honolulu, HawaiiOccupation: Elevator sales
Assenmacher, who plans to take a mullet-like approach to game play — relationship building in the front, wild strategy in the back — likes going out with friends, traveling and being outdoors. His pet peeves are lazy people, social media addicts and people who clip their nails in public.
Survivability: We predict he’ll have ups and downs, but will eventually find himself in the Loser Lodge lobby, waiting for the elevator to the basement.
Jesse Lopez, 30
Hometown: Venice, California; now lives in Durham, North Carolina
Occupation: Political science Ph.D.
Lopez has turned his life around, going from a gang member to a well-educated father of two. He, like all the rest, is a big fan of “Survivor,” but he’s likely the only one who has studied voting behavior as part of a Ph.D. His favorite hobbies are playing chess with his son, dancing with his daughter and binge-watching TV with his wife. His pet peeves are quitters, people who complain about things but aren’t willing to change, and personalized license plates.
Survivability: Lopez should go far, maybe even to the final three.
Dwight Moore, 22
Hometown: Palo Alto, now lives in Collierville, Tennessee
Occupation: Graduate Student
Moore presents a weighty resume that includes boasts about a journalism career that includes many star-studded interviews and years of experience, despite his young age. When not being a veteran journalist and magnificent scholar, Moore enjoys skiing, videogames and tutoring. His dislikes are “someone making a reference to ‘The Office’ within two seconds of learning his first name, arrogance and people who refuse to use turn signals while driving.”
Survivability: Moore is no doubt smart, but does he know what bear is the most fierce, or how to grow beets? We predict he is going to get a quick lesson in humility, having his torch snuffed within seconds of having it lighted. That’s what she said.
Nneka Ejere, 43
Hometown: Weatherford, Texas
As the oldest woman of the season, Ejere plans to do some community building and killing with kindness. Ejere knows a thing about taking risks having immigrated from Nigeria with two children while pregnant with a third. Her hobbies include traveling, biking and cooking, and her pet peeves are mediocrity and laziness.
Survivability: Ejere faces a daunting task of proving her relevance while avoiding the “let’s get rid of the ‘old’ woman” strategy that has permeated “Survivor” since the first season. We hope she goes far, but we’re reserving her a room at Loser Lodge just in case.
Justine Brennan, 29
Hometown: Sunnyvale; now lives in Marina Del Rey
Occupation: Cyber security sales
Brennan is proud of her bargaining skills and problem-solving, pointing out that when she banged up the passenger door on her parents’ 20-year-old Lexus, she was able to get a decent price on a new door and get it installed so that it’s hardly noticeable. Her hobbies are cooking, oil painting and golfing, and she dislikes people walking slowly in front of her, people who don’t say thank you when you open the door for them, and passive-aggressive people.
Survivability: Brennan’s sales pitch might get her to the merge, but then she’ll be selling cyber security packages at Loser Lodge. We’re sure she’ll remember to say thank you when her torch is snuffed.
Noelle Lambert, 25
Hometown: Londonderry, New Hampshire; now lives in Manchester, New Hampshire
Occupation: U.S. Paralympian
Lambert had her leg amputated after an accident in 2016, but she quickly returned to playing lacrosse and in 2018, competed in track and field at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Her strategy going into “Survivor” will be to surround herself with physical threats until she can position herself at the top. Her hobbies are snowboarding, traveling and hanging with friends; pet peeves include lazy and phony people and slow drivers.
Survivability: Lambert is a wild card. She’s likely to be popular, but her tribemates will see her as too dangerous to let her make it into the finals.
Baka tribe (Yellow)
Mike Gabler, 52
Hometown: Houston, Texas; now lives in Meridian, Idaho
Occupation: Heart valve specialist
Gabler has been a fan of “Survivor” since the first season, but if he has a game strategy in mind, he’s keeping it to himself. When asked why he believes he can win, his answer was a confused “Yes.” His favorite hobbies are camping, hunting, fishing and skiing; pet peeves are unfairness and men in skinny jeans.
Survivability: We think Gabler will be shopping for dad jeans at the Loser Lodge Boutique before long.
Owen Knight, 30
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland; now lives in New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation: College admissions director
Knight considers himself a triple-threat in “Survivor,” able to play a good social game, be physical without being a major threat, and have a winning strategy. His hobbies are backpacking, hiking, video games and taking and coaching fitness classes, while his pet peeves include entitled people and those who don’t know what to do at a four-way stop.
Survivability: Knight views himself as a cross between a bro and nerd, but we think he’ll still manage to get on the wrong side of things. Good news, though. There are no four-way stops at Loser Lodge.
Sami Layadi, 19
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Occupation: Pet cremator
Layadi is the youngest player this season, and he plans to take advantage of that by endearing himself to his fellow players, all the while making sure he knows exactly what is going on with everyone every second of the day. His hobbies include sports, fitness, and journaling, and he dislikes excuses, laziness and being awakened before noon on weekends.
Survivability: While Layadi intends to become everyone’s little brother, we all know how annoying those can be. Layadi will be sent to his room pretty quickly.
Elie Scott, 31
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia; now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah
Occupation: Clinical psychologist
Scott believes her training as a psychologist, specializing in PTSD, will help her understand her tribemates and turn them to her point of view. And if that doesn’t work, then she plans to become an “advantage queen.” Her hobbies are rock climbing, skiing and karaoke at dive bars, while her pet peeves include people who are inconsiderate or intentionally hurtful to others. “Social injustice and discrimination make my blood boil. I will always speak up when I observe it, even if it gets me into trouble.”
Survivability: We always think understanding motivations is a big assist in forming strategy, but we also know that people who get too emotionally worked up on “Survivor” do so at their own peril.
Morriah Young, 28
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Young describes herself as colorful, energetic and joyful — three things that tend to get tossed on the side of the trail when things get bad on “Survivor.” Young, however, believes in herself and that she has what it takes to make it to the winner’s circle. Her hobbies are shopping, traveling and creating content, and she very much doesn’t like Negative Nancys, Debbie Downers and bullies.
Survivability: Oh, honey, “Survivor” is full of Negative Nancys, Debbie Downers and bullies. We’ve got a nice room for you at Loser Lodge, where you can create all the content you want.
Jeanine Zheng, 24
Hometown: South Hamilton, Massachusetts; now living in San Francisco
Occupation: UX Designer
Zheng believes she has the ability to sit between multiple trust clusters, juggling the many nuances of her alliances while being athletic, smart and strategic. Her hobbies are backpacking, especially if it means sleeping under the stars, photography and running. Pet peeves are being mansplained to and people on their phones while she’s hanging out.
Survivability: We like to support the home team, but Zheng got on our wrong side when we had to Google what a UX designer is. We still don’t get it, but we suspect Zheng will have plenty of time to explain it to us while cooling her heels at Loser Lodge.
Coco tribe (blue)
James Jones, 37
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.Occupation: Event Planner
Jones says he thrives on chaos, and as an event planner, he has plenty of experience. He plans to parlay that into getting people to like and trust him — and while they’re all having a good time, he’ll be walking away with the million. Hobbies for Jones include curating events, finding the best cocktails in the city, and reading and writing. Pet peeves include really bad customer service and pushy sales people.
Survivability: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a front runner. But remember, the fates can be cruel.
Ryan Medrano, 25
Hometown: Savannah, Georgia; now lives in El Paso, Texas
Occupation: Warehouse associate
Medrano was born 3 months premature with mild cerebral palsy. Doctors said he’d never walk, but he did, and he did much more. Those early experiences, he says, have given him insights that will help him anticipate the moves of his tribe. He likes to fish, hike and do carpentry, and he dislikes bullies, laziness and self-entitlement.
Survivability: Medrano sounds like a nice guy, so do we really need to tell you where nice guys typically finish on “Survivor?”
Geo Bustamante, 36
Hometown: Miami, Florida; now living in Honolulu, Hawaii
Occupation: Project manager
Bustamante wanted to be on “Survivor” so badly that he quit his job in order to play, which gives him extra motivation. It’s not the first time he’s experienced risk, however, growing up in a tough neighborhood and experiencing homelessness. His hobbies are hiking, traveling and diving, and he has a strong dislike for laziness and people who lack common courtesy.
Survivability: There’s no doubt that Bustamante has the motivation and drive to go far, but his tribe will be equally motivated to vote him off.
Lindsay Carmine, 42
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina; now living in Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Pediatric nurse
Carmine says she deliberately comes across as non-threatening, but she has a deep and growing competitive spirit that will surprise a lot of people, including her tribe. Her hobbies are volunteering, traveling, reading, exercising, gardening and working on projects on her family’s homestead, and her pet peeves are people who cut in line, smack their gum or don’t mute their phones when they play games on them.
Survivability: Carmine is an amazing, caring and hard-working nurse, and we think she’ll do well, but just miss the mark.
Karla Cruz Godoy, 28
Hometown: San Diego; now lives in Newark, Delaware
Occupation: Educational project manager
Godoy’s parents were Mexican immigrants who had her when they were just 16, a background that she says gives her resilience. Additionally, she says her ability to adapt, and be gregarious will get her the win. Her hobbies are traveling, brunching and karaoke, and she has a dislike for tardiness, pessimism and slow drivers.
Survivability: We hear Loser Lodge has an excellent karaoke night, every night.
Cassidy Clark, 26
Hometown: Plano, Texas; now lives in Austin, Texas
Clark was chosen to play in season 41 and was just days from departure, when COVID shut down the world in 2020. Those two idle years, she says, have given her more opportunity to prepare. Her hobbies are fashion design and most forms of art, thrifting her grandparent’s old clothes and knickknacks, skating, boxing and underwater exploring. Her pet peeves are narrow-minded, judgmental people, and those who have no reverence for Mother Nature.
Survivability: We’re going to try really hard to like Clark, but we think her reverence for Mother Nature is for a different Mother Nature, not the one that hangs out on “Survivor” and slaps you around.
Joan Morris has watched every season of “Survivor,” after initially espousing the notion that it represented the end of civilization as we knew it. Despite all those hours of viewing, every season comes as a surprise to her.