I admit, when CBS announced that they were bringing back one of my favorite TV competitions, Survivor, for a second season, I squealed like a little girl. After months of campaigning, the Emmy-winning reality series was finally coming back!
The opportunity to compete in a game show where you can win money and prizes to help you “survive” in an outdoor wilderness environment was too good to resist. And now that the show is over, here’s my breakdown of whom I think will come out on top.
Mike “The Mentor” Malarkey
Mike is one of the most eligible bachelors in the history of the show, having never been married and having no children. He’s been a widower for 23 years and has a lot of experience raising kids. He also taught physical education and coached baseball at Saint Mark’s School in New York City.
Mike’s celebrity and attractive personality should get him a lot of votes, but I have a feeling the other finalists might have something to say about that. Mike makes this competition interesting because he’s the most well-rounded contestant we’ve ever seen. He’s an amazing athlete, having rowed in the 8+ race at the 2015 World Championships in Poland and he’s an accomplished chef who can prepare any dish you want. Plus, as mentioned by Chris Harrison during the season premiere, he’s got “one of the great hearts of all time.”
Wendell “Val” Valetta
Val is a 56-year-old, retired marine, who has been married twice and has seven children. He is a very compassionate and kind individual and has dedicated his life to serving his country. He also taught Sunday school and coached youth basketball. Before competing on Survivor, Val was a champion tennis player and worked as a tennis pro.
According to his bio, Val was born in Brooklyn and raised in Massachusetts, where he went on to graduate from MIT. He then moved to California and started a successful business, where he met his wife, Patti. They’ve been married for 32 years and have a son and daughter. He has been out of the country a total of 10 times since graduating from college. To prepare for the show, Val took a leave of absence from his job as a business consultant and he and Patti focused on preparing for the competition. They spent three weeks in Fiji practicing social skills and played a lot of tennis to improve his game. As a result of his time off work, Val now has a new resume: “Survivor: Finalist.”
Chris “Chet” Haney
Chet is a 52-year-old, retired Navy Chief who has been married twice and has five kids. He is an extremely funny and kind individual who has an incredible amount of experience competing in various games and sports. He is also an Eagle Scout and served as an assistant scoutmaster. Chet coaches high school golf, where he mentors younger players, and he is the founder of the Chris Haney Foundation, which provides financial assistance and guidance to students and families.
When asked about his playing style, Chet responded: “I’m an old-school kind of guy. I like to think out loud and share my opinions. I want to encourage the younger generation to be more active and engaged in school. That’s really the mission of the foundation.”
Jeff “Honey Badger” McLeod
Honey Badger is a 51-year-old, retired airline pilot who has been married twice and has six children. He is a former college football star who played at the University of Florida and has an incredible work ethic. He also coaches little league football and spends his time off work hiking and hanging out with his family. Before playing the game, Honey Badger spent 10 days at a Survivor-specific boot camp in the Florida Keys.
According to his bio, Honey Badger was born in Pensacola, Florida and he spent his childhood in Houston. He later moved to Gainesville to attend college, where he became a standout offensive lineman. He was eventually drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 10th round of the 1976 NFL Draft. After completing his football career, Honey Badger went on to earn his captain’s license and he eventually became a commercial airline pilot.
Honey Badger has been heavily involved in the community during his time off work. He has taken a leading role in a drug and alcohol recovery program in Pensacola, Florida, and he volunteers at local schools and churches.
Brendan “BR” Barr
BR is a 58-year-old, retired chemical engineer whose hobbies include kayaking, biking, and surfing. He also enjoys reading historical biographies and loves to travel. Finally, BR is an all-around good guy who just wants to make the world a better place. He attended California State University, Long Beach, where he majored in chemical engineering. His family is one of the biggest supporters of his playing: they gave him $25,000 for his final bid.
Brendan has been married for 35 years and has one daughter. He and his wife are very happy to have voted him into the game and they can’t wait to see him perform. Brendan told me: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the game and this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Finally, we have Tom Westman, a 46-year-old, retired medical sales representative who has been married twice and has four kids. He is an incredibly funny and charismatic individual who is also an amazing chef and has a genuine love for the game. He spent five years working in California, where he became a real estate agent and started his own real estate company. Before his time on Survivor, Tom spent three weeks in Fiji practicing his social skills with the help of a speech coach.
According to his bio, Tom was born in Wisconsin and he moved with his family to Tennessee when he was 10 years old. He then spent two years in the U.S. Navy, where he served as a dive officer and a damage control technician aboard a destroyer. He went on to graduate from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and then he became a medical sales representative and worked in that capacity for 15 years.
As mentioned by several cast members during the season premiere, including host and executive producer, Jeff Probst, Tom’s size and strength is a major advantage in this competition. He has participated in bodybuilding competitions, where he often wins. On the other hand, his cooking is more of a hobby and he is not focused on winning the money and prizes, but rather he is trying to have as much fun as possible.
I think Westman’s size and strength will be the key to his victory. He has a good chance of beating out some of the smaller players from the start, but once the competition gets down to tribal council and the struggle for physical survival begins, I think his strength will be the factor that makes all the difference. He’s strong enough to carry all of his gear, including his kayak, and he’s big enough to protect himself from the stronger contestants. Plus, he’s an all-around good guy and I think the audience will rally behind this charming and likeable individual. Bottom line: I’m picking Westman to win.