Survivor Winners at War: How Natalie Anderson can win a second time

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Natalie Anderson displayed a perfectly balanced level of gameplay in her first season. If she can replicate that formula in Survivor: Winners at War the prize could be hers.

Through 40 seasons of Survivor, we have seen many contestants return for a second, third or even fourth time to cement their legacy. With the increase in returning players, sometimes the winners who only took part in one season tend to get overlooked. Thankfully, several of those castaways are coming back for Winners at War to prove their game was more than a fluke.

One of those underrated winners is Natalie Anderson. In San Juan del Sur, Natalie didn’t have an easy road to the end in this Blood vs. Water sequel. From losing her sister very early on, to getting outnumbered by pairs of loved ones and having to watch her closest ally in Jeremy Collins get blindsided early in the merge, Natalie faced many challenges. But that didn’t slow her down.

Through her determination and timely gameplay, Natalie was able to take control over the season when it really mattered. She made a few big moves and pulled off crazy blindsides without damaging the trust she built with her allies. At the end of the day, Natalie maneuvered her way into Final Tribal Council alongside two players who had inferior resumes.

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Five years later, at the age of 33, Natalie is back. If it wasn’t for a concussion we would have seen her in Game Changers, so her head has still been in the game over the past few years. She is currently a Cross Fit trainer, which has allowed her to retain that strong physical ability that made her a true triple threat in San Juan del Sur.

In her Winners at War CBS bio, Natalie made it clear that she doesn’t want to overthink herself out of this season. Instead of excessively anticipating gameplay, Natalie wants to trust her own intuition. It’s worth noting that she is only one of nine Survivor contestants to receive no votes against her throughout the entire 39 days.

She might not have to alter her overall approach to the game too drastically, but what she will need is a stronger passion to win a second time. In her interview with ET Canada, Natalie emphasized how seeing her sister out of the game so early gave her the motivation to do everything she could to become the Sole Survivor.

She did seem a little concerned about where she could find that extra enthusiasm for season 40. There’s no doubting Natalie’s competitive spirit and appreciation for the game, but sometimes castaways need that extra boost of motivation to have a winning performance. Other winners are coming into the game with a bit more to prove than Natalie.

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It’s true that Natalie hasn’t played in a season with advantages like extra votes, Vote Steals or Idol Nullifiers, but her experience with Hidden Immunity Idols makes up for that. In San Juan del Sur, Natalie was perfectly aware of when she should play an idol, who she should use it for and who else had one in their pocket. Her idol management is one of the key reasons for her win, and that awareness will come in handy for season 40.

The one other roadblock Natalie could encounter is getting a target on her back because of her bold personality. She wasn’t afraid to courageously call people out in her season, but she got away with it. That might not be the case in this season. Natalie will have to rely on her social game without trying to stand out too much. It was amazing how she was able to turn on someone in her season by voting off their loved one, but still return to camp and win that player’s trust back. If she can bring that same skill level then watch out.

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The level of competition Natalie will face in Winners at War is significantly stronger, but if she plays it well, she has the ability to make a deep run. She doesn’t come off as threatening as some other winners, so as long as she doesn’t come out of the gate swinging, she should be off everyone’s immediate radar. Then it’s up to her social game to put herself in a good position, and her strong physical ability to clutch it out in crucial challenges. If Natalie can find that inner motivation and channel her game from San Juan del Sur, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pleading her case at Final Tribal Council.