Fire In the Form of Print

The True Contenders of “Survivor 44”

March 2, 2023

Survivor 44 begins on March 1, and with it comes a brand-new cast of contenders for the title of sole survivor. With a cast of 18, it can be difficult to determine which players will be important in the long run.

TI will identify one player from each of the three starting tribes who I believe stands the best chance of taking home the $1 million prize. I’m not saying that the other 15 stand no chance; rather, I’m simply indicating the standout I noticed from each tribe.

With all that said, let us begin.

TIKA: Helen Li

Li is a 29-year-old product manager from San Francisco, CA. She describes herself as  “empathetic, optimistic, self-aware.” She hopes to play like Tina Wesson and Sophie Clarke, both under-the-radar social threats.

Li seems like a very bubbly personality who won’t rub too many people the wrong way. She has a good head on her shoulders, and I don’t think the other players are going to vote her out right away.

I’m interested to see how well she integrates with the rest of her tribe, but I can see her staying out of the spotlight and letting the bigger personalities take one another out. If she can forge genuine connections along the way, she’s got a real fighting chance.

RATU: Matthew Grinstead-Mayle

Grinstead-Maye is a 43-year-old barbershop owner from Pickerington, OH. He describes himself as “spontaneous, caring, adventurous.” He hopes to play like Shan Smith because she was well-integrated with others, and Ben Driebergen because he “was someone who had his baggage and learned how to overcome it and help others along the way.”

This contestant strikes me as someone who will make friends easily. He’s strong but approachable, friendly and smart. I have a feeling he’s going to form alliances early on based solely on his social skills.

My concern is his desire to make big moves, which could cause his tribemates to view him as a threat to nip in the bud. If he can keep his threat level under control, I think he will go far in this game.

SOKA: Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt

Lagares-Greenblatt is a 43-year-old engineering manager from Ponce, Puerto Rico. She  describes herself as “energetic, adventurous, loud.” She hopes to play like Sandra Diaz-Twine and Angelina Keeley; Sandra because “if I can be half as good as her, that means I will win once,” and Angelina because of her “female empowerment.”

Immediately, Lagares-Greenblatt struck me as someone who was  self-assured but also approachable. I think she’ll be a shoulder to cry on for her tribemates, which will allow her to gather information. 

She also doesn’t strike me as someone who will take things too personally, which will be beneficial near the endgame. There seems to be a stigma against “older” women in “Survivor,” but if she can push past that and garner the respect of her castmates, then she’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Only time will tell which of these players will find success. However, these three seem like they’ll be here for a while.

If I had to choose only one of these three as my winner, I would choose Matthew. He is the complete package — physical, strategic, social — and I’ll be keeping my eye on him on premiere night.

Survivor 44 premieres on Wednesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. EST.

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