Survivor Winners at War: How Amber Mariano 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. /

All-Stars champion; Amber Mariano is planning to take us back to old school Survivor and dominate with her husband once again in Winners at War.

In a few promotional videos for Winners at War, Jeff emphasized that they tried to cast Sole Survivors from all eras. As expected, old school Survivor winners got slighted compared to the more recent champions, but there are still a handful in season 40 that represent that golden era. Amber Mariano is one of only two Winners at War castaways to never play in a season with Hidden Immunity Idols.

Not being involved in a season in over ten years might sound like a huge disadvantage, but it does have its perks. For example, winning an all-returnee season just three or five years ago (Sarah and Jeremy) is bound to give rise to more vivid concerns than someone who won over a decade and a half ago. Even if people do remember her dominant run with Rob in All-Stars, I find it hard to imagine that the cast would remember the specifics of her gameplay in her first season way back in the Australian Outback.

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Granted, a ton of time has passed since then and Amber’s life and playing style are completely different now, but that’s the point. It’s like trying to figure out how to gameplan against an NFL quarterback who only has high school game film to go off of. When you compare Amber’s old school mindset to winners like Ben, Wendell and Sarah, the performances from those recent castaways will be much fresher in everyone’s minds.

These factors allow Amber to slip under the radar in Winners at War. The one thing that’s putting a target on her back at this point is the fact her husband is out there with her. The fear of having them both in the game at the same time could be strong enough for Amber to get blindsided fairly early. I actually think that if Boston Rob is voted out early in the game, Amber has a far better shot at surviving 39 days.

In her CBS bio, Amber recognized that her husband being out there puts her in serious jeopardy, but she’s prepared to deal with that target. Based on their preseason interviews with ET Canada and EW, both Rob and Amber seem to lack specific gameplans and strategies that they want to implement. That might turn out for the best because coming into a returning players season like this one without overthinking it will make it easier for these two winners to adapt and stick with the pace of the game.

When taking a look back at Amber’s performance in All-Stars, she often gets overshadowed by her husband. It’s probably true that Amber wouldn’t have made it to the Final Two if it wasn’t for Rob, but you can say the same about Rob. She did have a strong social game, and her relationship with Jenna Lewis and Rupert proved to be key in allowing this power couple to make it to the end. Boston Rob still played the better game, but Amber’s under the radar likability earned her the title of Sole Survivor. Fifteen years and four kids later, Amber still has the opportunity to play that same type of game in Winners at War and do so successfully.

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The fact the nobody expected Amber to come back to this game makes her a player to watch, as the timing was perfect for her to return. In a season full of big names and strategic threats, the castaways that can remain unnoticed and play in the shadows often come out on top. How people perceive her threat level when Boston Rob is still in the game will play a big factor in her result, but if she can get past that, then Amber is a great sleeper pick to win it all.