Survivor Winners at War: How Wendell Holland 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. /

Wendell Holland, the second most recent winner of season 40’s cast is sharpening his knives, preparing for a much more deceitful game than his first Survivor appearance.

Survivor: Ghost Island had its fair share of ups and downs, but one of the highlights was watching the dominant pairing of Dom and Wendell take apart the competition. In this modern era of Survivor, where nearly everybody comes to play, we rarely see one castaway or one strong alliance dominate the season. Dom and Wendell proved to be the exception.

Wendell Holland is entering this landmark season at age 35 after capturing the title of Sole Survivor just under two years ago. His Ghost Island run is underrated, but he’ll have to play differently to reach the same results. As dominant as his performance was, the level of competition he was up against in Ghost Island is laughable compared to Winners at War.

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During his 39 days, Wendell survived each Tribal Council thanks to a strong strategic partnership he developed with Dom, and his chill but effective social game. The odds of having those same two gameplans working in an all-winners season are rarer than production allowing Boston Rob to walk out there without his hat. It would be hard for Wendell to get very far if he sticks to his Ghost Island gameplay.

Thankfully, Wendell realizes the need to switch it up. He made that point clear in both his interview with ET Canada and in his CBS bio. His goal is to build off of his successful social game in his first season, but he also wants to be much more deceptive. He feels the need to intensify his game in order to defeat his competition.

Wendell repeatedly mentioned that he will be looking for opportunities to pull off huge blindsides to shake up this season. It sounds like an exciting performance to watch, but Wendell is entering dangerous territories with these comments. Returning back to Survivor with a big moves mentality rarely bodes well. Just ask Tony and Ciera Eastin!

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Over the past few years, it’s obvious that pulling off major blindsides soon after the merge or earlier in the season usually only leads to a spot on the jury. That’s a lesson you want to learn at home, not in Fiji. With that in mind, Wendell is a smart player and it would be dumb to judge his entire game based on pre-game coverage.

His casual, laidback behavior proved to be a factor in jury votes when contrasted with Dom’s more vocal personality. Wendell can use that as cover for pulling off a move without taking the heat later. Beyond his social and strategic game, Wendell has shown his ability to clutch it out in challenges without being seen as too big of a physical threat.

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It will be interesting to watch Wendell play a more individual game as opposed to season 37, as well as his ability to adapt to voting blocs. I am a little scared that Wendell will come off too strong in the early going and become an easy target for the big-name threats to turn on. However, if he can change his game in a way that doesn’t overtly paint him as a puppet master, then Wendell could make a deep run in season 40.