With all the twists and turns Survivor 41 gave us, the biggest was perhaps the person crowned winner on finale night. 32-year-old Erika Casupanan, a communications consultant from Canada, bested the odds-on favorite Xander Hastings (who actually ended up with zero jury votes) to earn the title of Sole Survivor. If her winning strategy and persona is any indication, then the new Season 42 cast features at least three players that fans may want to keep an eye on.
Erika Casupanan’s game in Survivor 41 was particularly subtle. She was the underdog who was an inch away from elimination just prior to the merge, but thanks to her hourglass twist decision, combined with her being very intentional with her words and choices thereafter, the jury awarded her in kind with the win. Intros to the Season 42 cast are out now, thanks to CBS, and I’m focusing on a few of the players that are giving serious Casupanan/wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing vibes before they're even out the gate.
Will Channelle Howell Be Survivor 42's Master Negotiator?
The first on our Survivor 42 Watch List is Channelle Howell. She’s 29 years old and an executive recruiter who got her “certificate in negotiation mastery” from Harvard business school. If her professional profile isn’t enough of a parallel to Casupanan’s, then her intended Survivor 42 strategy most certainly is. She said in her intro:
Chanelle Howell’s tone sounds a bit more commanding than Erika Casupanan’s ever was, but it strikes me as indicative of a similar winning personality, because Casupanan successfully let others oversell themselves in Survivor 41, too. Namely, her fellow finalists Deshawn Radden (with his “truth bomb” about Casupanan) and Xander Hastings (in his final tribal answers) both thought they were going to slaughter an unassuming “lamb” like Casupanan, and then failed to do so – because she let them talk themselves into their own graves.
Jenny Kim Could Be The New Lamb For Survivor 42
Another Survivor 42 contestant who is standing out with their first impression is Jenny Kim. She’s a little older than Erika Casupanan at 42, but as a creative director, she’s also in a very demanding professional setting as the previous Survivor winner. And who can hate on being the same age as the season she's in?
What signals her potential to come away with the victory, though, is her humility about her limitations in the game. She frankly admitted that she wasn’t going to be “the best at everything.” However, she claims her strength will be in pulling back and waiting for the “right time to strike” at others. As we know, this worked out splendidly for Casupanan, who kept a low profile for the majority of the game. Deshawn Radden also famously blasted the future winner at a tribal where Casupanan could’ve easily flipped the vote on him to go home – but she didn’t. She chose to keep him around, only to allow him to further put his foot in his mouth on finale night. I'm betting Kim will keep that situation in mind.
Survivor 42 Veterinarian Omar Zaheer Already Has Bold Claims
Last but certainly not least is Omar Zaheer. The 31-year-old is an exotic animal veterinarian soon to be on everyone’s screens for Survivor 42. He hilariously said this in his intro when discussing his job:
Interestingly, Erika Casupanan’s entire winning strategy in Survivor 41 was based on the adage, “I’m a lion, dressed as a lamb.” And it sounds like Omar Zaheer followed a similar approach. He claimed that he’s going to play the part of a “simple” pigeon who is really a “predatory bird” in Season 42. I know that contestants just like to use these phrases to sell themselves as the ultimate winner, but in the case of Casupanan, she took it all the way to the bank. So, too, might Zaheer, especially if he perfectly brings various animals' traits to life through his strategies.
Now, obviously, Erika Casupanan’s methodology isn’t the only way to win Survivor. You can be a “black widow” seducer like Parvati Shallow, a deal maker like Tony Vlachos, an immunity idol sorcerer like Tyson Apostol, and so on. But more often than not, players succeed by simply outsmarting – so it was with Sarah Lacina and Kim Spradlin and Sandra Diaz-Twine, and so it was with Casupanan.
We’ll find out how things go when Survivor 42 premieres with a two-hour debut on CBS on Wednesday, March 9, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what else is popping up in the coming months.
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