By Richard Miller
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Iconic and lasting two decades, the reality show “Survivor” kicked off its 40th season on Feb. 12, celebrating 20 years on air.
“Survivor,” considered by most to be the pioneer of modern day reality television, brings the audience outdoors as the contestants, known as castaways, live in extreme and exotic locations, all while competing in physical challenges and trying to avoid being voted off by fellow competitors. Thousands of fans across America are highly anticipating an eventful 40th season.
“Fans of football wait a year to watch the Super Bowl, but fans of Survivor have been waiting 20 years for Winners at War!” said Tony Vlachos, winner of the 28th season of “Survivor” and a current contestant in the 40th season, at the start of the premiere episode.
The high anticipation for this season is the result of Vlachos and the 19 other castaways all having one thing in common — they are all winners of the game.
Titled “Survivor: Winners at War,” the landmark 40th season features 20 fan favorite players, who have all previously been crowned the sole survivor and were awarded the million dollar prize.
Some of the most memorable, beloved and strategic players are returning for the season to show fans they still have what it takes to outlast the rest.
Contestants include Rob and Amber Mariano, the show’s only pair of winners to meet on the show, fall in love and start a family together. Amber last played in 2004, when she bested her then fiancée Rob in a close game. Rob, an icon of the show, returns for a record fifth season after nabbing his victory in 2010 on his fourth attempt.
Other contestants include Ethan Zohn, who had the longest lay-off since winning the game after having won in 2001. Zohn returned after battling stage four blood cancer.
Sandra Diaz-Twine, the sassy Puerto Rican mom who was hailed as the queen of the show after being the only player to win twice, is back to ensure no one else can claim the same title.
“They all want what I already have, my crown as the queen,” said Diaz-Twine during the first episode of this season.
The stakes have been raised for this season. We see in the first few minutes of the show, when veteran host Jeff Probst surprises the players during the reveal, that they are not playing for a million dollars this time around, but rather two million.
The two-hour premiere featured two intense and engaging rounds of play, which sent two winners out of the game. But unlike prior seasons, being voted out of the game doesn’t mean the player’s time on the show is done. Rather, players who are voted and knocked off are sent to the Edge of Extinction.
First introduced in the shows 38th season, the Edge of Extinction equates to “Survivor’s” version of purgatory, where eliminated players wait on an extremely barren and desolate island for the chance to come back in the game. The “how” and “when” of returning to the game is not revealed to players, adding another level to the show’s mental complexity.
The Edge of Extinction and the introduction of in-game currency, known as Fire Tokens, are the two major twists intended to keep the winners on their toes this season. Since the show introduced these twists in the premiere episode, information was left to be revealed as the season progresses.
With both dynamic, entertaining players and the elevated gameplay, the 40th season of “Survivor” is bound to be their best yet