Survivor’s first unanimous champ Earl Cole talks Winners at War

NEW YORK - MAY 13: "Survivor: Fiji" winner Earl Cole attends the "Survivor: Fiji" Finale and reunion show on May 13, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 13: "Survivor: Fiji" winner Earl Cole attends the "Survivor: Fiji" Finale and reunion show on May 13, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) /

Earl Cole, the first castaway to win in Fiji is watching from the sidelines for Survivor: Winners at War, but recently shared his thoughts on the season with Rob Cesternino on RHAP.

Season 40 has brought viewers arguably the smartest cast in Survivor history. However, a group of twenty winners still leaves several compelling Sole Survivors on the bench. One of those names is definitely Earl Cole, a walk-on recruit who played a strong game and was the first person to ever win unanimously. Rob Cesternino caught up with Earl a few days ago, where he shared his thoughts on Winners at War and if he would ever consider returning to the island. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation.

Enjoys new twists but not live Tribal Councils

Unlike most of the old school Survivor castaways that sometimes come on RHAP, Earl enjoys the prospect of new advantages and twists. In fact, he mentioned that he would often talk to the producers in his season, spitballing ideas including advantages that weaken idols and bringing back legendary contestants as part of a reward, which both later came to fruition.

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He is also insistent that the mentor idea in Island of the Idols was his, and that you could ask any producer who has been there since Fiji and they would say Earl brought up that concept. It’s clear that Earl is a forward thinker who embraces twists to the game. That said, one element of this season in particular that he is not fond of is the constant whispering at tribal. Earl views live tribals as unprofessional because he believes it’s never wise to come to Tribal Council without a locked-in gameplan, and it feels like unnecessary theatrics to him.

Big fan of Fire Tokens

It seems that every new twist Probst and production come up with these days meets a divisive response, but Earl didn’t shy away from explaining why he loves the idea of Fire Tokens. He views new twists and advantages as a necessary part of Survivor to add complexity to a simple social game. What Earl enjoys about this island currency is the fact that it adds an additional element to voting someone out.

Instead of simply leaving the game, every castaway that gets their torch snuffed is responsible for the pivotal decision of deciding who gets their tokens. It forces people to think if there’s something they can say or do that could convince the eliminated castaway to leave their Fire Tokens to them. So what attracts Earl to this twist is how there’s one more factor to keep in mind when deciding who to vote out and how to go about doing it while still trying to get something from them.

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Why was there no family visit in Survivor: Fiji?

I’m sure that every winner who didn’t make the cast was kicking themselves about not being able to be a part of the historic loved ones visit. That is especially true for Earl who was in a rare season that had no family visit. Earl revealed that the hidden reason behind the loved ones snub was due to a military coup that was going on in Fiji that made it difficult to travel.

Wants to return if the time is right

Getting ripped off with the family visit wasn’t the only time Earl suffered from bad timing. We learned earlier that because of the premature birth of his second child shortly before season 40’s filming, Earl wasn’t able to make it for Winners at War. He was asked to play and he wanted to go, but he couldn’t leave his family at that time.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Earl makes an appearance in a returning player season down the road. He isn’t a Survivor superfan, but he understands the game well enough to adapt to the fast pace we see today. Due to his work schedule, it would be tough for him to fly out to Fiji in the spring or summer, but he still has the desire to somehow make it work.

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When Cesternino asked which winners he would have aligned with, or which ones contacted him before filming, Earl gave out no names because he doesn’t want to divulge any of his strategies in case he returns! It’s funny that Tina had a similar response when she was on RHAP earlier this year. Regardless if he plays again or not, Earl Cole is in the Survivor record books and is a highly underrated winner who played a masterful game.