Fire in the Form of Print: Survivor 43 Cast Assessment

Mason Hoyt

More stories from Mason Hoyt

REVIEW: Stop Kiss
April 24, 2023

Robert Voets/CBS

The eighteen new castaways of Survivor 43 together in Fiji.


Howdy, friends! It’s been a while.


You may have noticed that my coverage abruptly stopped in the middle of Survivor 41. Unfortunately, during that time, life got ahead of me, and I had to put this series on hold. Shame, too, since Survivor 42 was one of my favorite seasons in ages.

BUT! I have returned, and I intend to see this through for the entire season.

Survivor 43 is fast approaching, and with it comes a brand new cast! As such, I figured: what better way to dive back into this than by laying out my thoughts on all the new castaways?

Survivor 43 will be the third consecutive season to split the castaways into three tribes of six at the start. While some appear to be quite tired of this format—and I admit, I wouldn’t mind a shakeup—I’ve definitely enjoyed the smaller tribes, if only because it has made it easier to become more familiar with each individual. It’s also unclear if the tribe-swap will return after its absence in 41 and 42; personally, I hope it’s gone for a good long while.

With all that being said, let’s meet our new tribes!


The Vesi Tribe of Survivor 43. L-R: Dwight Moore, Nneka Ejere, Cody Assenmacher, Noelle Lambert, Jesse Lopez, and Justine Brennan. (CBS)

Wearing red, the VESI TRIBE consists of:

  • DWIGHT MOORE, 22, from Collierville, Tennessee
  • NNEKA EJERE, 43, from Weatherford, Texas
  • CODY ASSENMACHER, 35, from Honolulu, Hawaii
  • NOELLE LAMBERT, 25, from Manchester, New Hampshire
  • JESSE LOPEZ, 30, from Durham, North Carolina
  • JUSTINE BRENNAN, 29, from Marina Del Rey, California

Nneka and Jesse definitely stood out the most to me in their initial interviews. Nneka seemed very positive and genuine, and I think that could serve her very well if she’s able to find people who appreciate her for that. Jesse, on the other hand, seems to have a VERY good head on his shoulders, and if he can forge genuine connections with his tribemates, I can see him going far.

I also liked both Noelle and Dwight. Noelle has a real sense of drive and passion; her inspirational story can be either a major boon or hindrance, depending on her tribemates, but I have faith she can establish positive bonds with others. Dwight is also very driven, but also seems a bit neurotic; if he can manage to channel that into his social and strategic game, I think he can make it work for himself.

Lastly, there’s Justine and Cody. Justine seemed slightly intense in my eyes, and I worry that that intensity won’t be received particularly positively, especially considering who else is on the Vesi Tribe. Cody, however, just came across as very sleazy to me, and I don’t really think that’s going to change much once he’s out there; unless he can make himself a MAJOR asset to the tribe, I can see him being an early boot the first time Vesi heads to Tribal Council.

The Bake Tribe of Survivor 43. L-R: Elie Scott, Mike Gabler, Morriah Young, Owen Knight, Jeanine Zheng, and Sami Layadi. (CBS)

Wearing yellow, the BAKA TRIBE consists of:

  • ELIE SCOT, 31, from Salt Lake City, Utah
  • MIKE GABLER, 52, from Meridian, Idaho
  • MORRIAH YOUNG, 28, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • OWEN KNIGHT, 30, from New Orleans, Louisiana
  • JEANINE ZHENG, 24, from San Francisco, California
  • SAMI LAYADI, 19, from Las Vegas, Nevada

Baka definitely seems to be the most ragtag of these three tribes, but I think they each have potential for sure.

Jeanine and Mike stood out to me. Jeanine has a very infectious enthusiasm for the game, but she still appears to be quite level-headed; I have a feeling people may end up leaning on her for strategic decisions. Mike seemed very emotionally intelligent and self-aware, and I think if he can control people’s perception of him, he will be able to set himself up well for the long haul.

Owen and Elie were next. Owen definitely has his wits about him, but I worry he may get in his own head during the game; I hope I’m wrong, but I can definitely see him overplaying strategically to try to think several steps ahead, only to end up shooting himself in the foot. Elie mostly just seemed slightly inauthentic, and like she was trying a little bit too hard; however, I think she absolutely has potential, and she seems to me to be someone who won’t make a lot of waves, which is potentially beneficial particularly early in the game.

Then, there’s Sami and Morriah. Sami is definitely a bit of an enigma, being both the youngest castaway and the one seemingly most interested in playing a very manipulative game; I hope he manages to make it deep, but I worry he’ll be viewed as a threat very early on and taken out long before his potential is fully realized. Morriah is a STRONG personality and, unfortunately, too strong; I think it’s very likely she’ll end up annoying the rest of her tribe with her constant positivity, and I worry for her chances were her tribe to lose the first challenge.

The Coco Tribe of Survivor 43. L-R: James Jones, Lindsey Carmine, Ryan Medrano, Geo Bustamante, Karla Cruz Godoy, and Cassidy Clark. (CBS)

Wearing blue, the COCO TRIBE consists of:

  • GEO BUSTAMANTE, 36, from Honolulu, Hawaii
  • CASSIDY CLARK, 26, from Austin, Texas
  • JAMES JONES, 37, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • KARLA CRUZ GODOY, 28, from Newark, Delaware
  • RYAN MEDRANO, 25, from El Paso, Texas
  • LINDSAY CARMINE, 42, from Downingtown, Pennsylvania


Karla was the OBVIOUS standout from this tribe; she definitely strikes me as somebody who will be able to feed the flames of conflict without being involved in it directly. James definitely gave me a good gut feeling as well; he has a great view of the game from a strategic point of view, and I think if he puts in the same amount of effort into his relationship building, he’ll be in a good spot.

Cassidy and Lindsay aren’t particularly impressive to me, but neither of them have any obvious weak spots. Cassidy has a lot of potential as a social threat, but I think her kind of new-agey vibe may end up being grating to some on her tribe. Lindsey seems fairly personable, but also seemed to wildly overestimate her odds of winning; I appreciate her optimism, but I worry it will end up leaving her feeling burned if, or when, she is on the receiving end of the votes.

Ryan and Geo both seem very enthusiastic, but I also worry they’re going to burn out very quickly. Ryan seems like a very positive, very joyous person, and I think if he’s able to kind of pace himself, he’ll be alright. Geo also definitely has a passion for the game, but I don’t think he’ll be able to remain inconspicuous as a threat, and I have a feeling he’ll be gone sooner rather than later.


So, if you were to ask me, right now, who I think the winner of Survivor 43 will be…

I think it’s Karla.

I’ve been very wrong before, but Karla checked all the boxes for me. She’s very social AND strategic, seems like she’ll be able to pull her weight in challenges, has a strong personality without being an obvious threat, and seems to have the ability to manipulate people’s perceptions without being outed as the culprit. If I were FORCED to pick the winner from this lineup, Karla would be my choice.

But! Only time will tell. We’ve got a whole season of new twists and surprises ahead of us, and perhaps my entire analysis will be proven completely incorrect. Guess we’ll just have to find out.

The next piece in this series will be published next Tuesday, September 27, and will cover the premiere of Survivor 43. Hope to see you all then!