Survivor: Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands, kicks off its 18th season of the hit reality competition show Thursday (CBS, 8 pm/ET) when 16 castaways, already divided into two tribes, are stranded in the harsh interior of Brazil. TVGuide.com caught up with Murtz Jaffer, editor of InsidePulse.com and host of Reality Obsessed, to get his scoop on the players to watch, why preparation doesn't guarantee success, and what gets you far in this game.
TVGuide.com: Who are your people to watch?
Murtz Jaffer: Tyson stands out right off the bat. He's a professional cyclist. He's been compared to Jonny Fairplay [Survivor: Pearl Islands] by a lot of people, even before the season started. The other thing I like about him is that he's long and lean. When you have that type of body, you don't come off as a physical threat, even though you are.
I also adore Benjamin [a soccer coach]. Generally, the people who do well on this show are cocky. That goes against everything you'd think about a social game, but at the same time, Boston Rob [runner-up, season 8] was cocky, Jonny Fairplay [3rd place, season 7] was cocky, Brian Heidik [winner, season 5] was cocky, Richard Hatch [winner, season 1] was cocky, so I think that it can help you get to the end. The show hasn't even started and I've already heard this guy has three different nicknames. There's "Coach" and "Maestro" and "Samurai Steve," so a guy that has that many nicknames, means he probably lasts awhile.
Female picks, Erinn [a hairstylist] is the one to watch. She has that personality where she can drop under the radar. Also Sierra [a model]. The thing that people may not know is that she prepped hardcore for this game. While she might have attitude that she's going to have to combat and keep on the DL, I think she's going to be severely underestimated. So with her, keeping the attitude in check is going to be important.
TVGuide.com: Anyone who may not make it to the end, but viewers will want to watch?
Jaffer: Spencer [a student]. This is the youngest contestant ever but age is going to be a huge factor for him. Spencer can practically do a castaway roll-call all the way from Survivor: Borneo. You can watch every episode 100 times, that doesn't translate into being able to play it well. I think he's going to be a victim of overplaying; he's just so excited to play.
TVGuide.com: Who seems weak?
Jaffer: The older people are going to be targeted right away. Sandy [a bus driver] is a sitting duck. Most people are going to think it's Deborah, she's 46, the principal, but her social game is going to be amazing, so I think she can avoid being the initial one. She's bubbly and keeps saying she's not a negative person. The other play at risk is Candace [an attorney]. I think she'll have a hard time adjusting but also, she's on the strong tribe. Even if you're not the weakest, you become a target because the other people are just so strong. She's going to be in trouble early. I'm hoping Sydney [a model] and Carolina [a bartender] make it to the merge. The younger girls, generally, do not do well on this show.
TVGuide.com: Then what's the trick to making it far?
Jaffer: Generally, the people who do well are the ones who can adapt. I try and look for the people who can survive as an individual but when they return to real life can get along with people. People that can master those two sides do well. There's so many blindsides this season. The B [in Brazil-the location] basically stands for blindside. Every single person does not know that they're leaving and this is symptomatic of them all being super prepared.
TVGuide.com: Any possible romances?
Jaffer: JT will be the ladies man, he's the cattle rancher. He'll have the whole "he works so hard, southern gentleman" thing.
TVGuide.com: How does this cast stand out over previous ones?
Jaffer: They really decided to go with looks, but it's a very personable cast, their personalities speak off the page more-so than in most seasons. There also seems to be a concentration on people whose jobs are based in social situations.
TVGuide.com: After all these seasons, why do people keep tuning in?
Jaffer: Most reality shows are just an enhanced version of real life. A lot of people have a problem admitting that, and Survivor makes no apologies about the way the world works. Reality TV is what it is today, because it's escapism. You get to see people have problems that make yours seem minuscule. That's why there's such an influx of it. It's not going to go anywhere because people never get tired of seeing other people's problems.