Two tribes, one beach. That's the setup for the new season of "Survivor," titled "One World," premiering Wednesday (February 15). For the third time in "Survivor" history, the line will be drawn in the sand between one tribe of men and one tribe of women ... except this time, in a new twist, both teams will be forced to coexist on the very same beach right from the start.
So what happens when 18 men and women are forced to live together in the same tropical paradise while competing for a million-dollar prize? According to longtime "Survivor" commentator and two-time contestant Rob Cesternino — often described as "the smartest player who never won the game" — the end result could well be "one of the more scandalous seasons in 'Survivor' history."
"You have all these guys and girls living together on one beach, and somebody is bound to hook up ... and that's going to create problems, because that's the other team," Cesternino predicted to MTV News about the two same-sex tribes. "Not only are guys and girls going to hook up, but let's say that the guys catch a bunch of fish and the girls don't. They have to sit there and watch you eat. What if one of the guys has a girlfriend? Is he going to be sneaking off to give some of the guys' food to the girls? There's a lot of possibility for drama and conflict on this season."
Cesternino knows a thing or two about surviving a battle of the sexes. His debut season of "Survivor" was also the one that introduced the men-vs.-women twist, and he emerged in the end with an impressive third-place prize. But "One World" presents a very different challenge from Cesternino's "Amazon" days, as the men and women are forced to cohabitate in the same exact space this time around. But looking past the gender lines, Cesternino believes the new season of "Survivor" presents a very powerful opportunity for some lucky players.
"It seems like the players fit into one of two categories: people who look like popular kids in your high school, and the people who don't fit that description," he observed. "I wouldn't be surprised if some of these young, good-looking guys band together and start hanging out with the young, good-looking girls on the other tribe, and have some sort of super-alliance. 'You keep those guys together, you keep those girls together.' Normally you have alliances of four or so people promising to go all the way. Now there's a chance to merge with [an alliance of] eight people. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a high school alliance here."
Of course, nothing in "Survivor" is ever stable. Despite the initial men-vs.-women setup, Cesternino predicts an eventual tribal switch will shake up each team's roster. "The switch has become a little passé in modern 'Survivor,' " he said, "[but] the men-vs.-women seasons that they've done before, both times they switched up the tribes."
Even before the season's premiere, Cesternino has sized up some of the game's newest competitors. First and foremost is Leif Manson, a 27-year-old phlebotomist and the first little person in "Survivor" history. Already, Cesternino is worried about Leif's chances — but not for the reasons you might think.
"A couple of seasons ago, there was a contestant with one leg — and she was voted off because, 'Well, she's going to win if she gets to the end!' " Cesternino said, referring to Kelly Bruno of "Survivor Nicaragua" fame. "Leif's biggest challenge isn't a height disadvantage. It's that no one will want him to get close to the end of the game, because people will say he'll win if he gets there. It's almost like he needs to be such a bastard, such an unlikable character, in order to win ... if he's a nice guy at all, they have to get rid of him."
Two other players who have piqued Cesternino's curiosity are Greg "Tarzan" Smith, a 64-year-old plastic surgeon, and Troy "Troyzan" Robertson, a 50-year-old swimsuit photographer. "They both seem pretty nutty," he said. "Troyzan and Tarzan [are] going to go one of two ways: Those guys are going to be best friends, or they're going to hate each other. Judging by some of the commercials I've seen, I think they're going to hate each other," he laughed. "I think only one of them can survive this clash of the Tarzans."
It's not all doom and gloom in Cesternino's predictions, however. He has high hopes for 28-year-old Bill Posley, who comes to "Survivor" equipped with an often undervalued skill: a sense of humor.
"That's a very underrated trait in being a successful Survivor: being charismatic, making friends with people and rolling with the punches. Having a good sense of humor definitely helps with that," Cesternino said of Bill, who is a professional stand-up comedian. "Going back to the high school alliance, I think Bill being a comedian, he can get along with the young, hip crowd and also get along with some of the eccentrics [like the Tarzans]."
Still, even a longtime "Survivor" expert such as Cesternino is having some difficulty seeing how "One World" might play out. "It's been tough to pick a winner this season. I think I've pegged 15 out of 18 people as going out before the merge," he laughed. "I'm going to be wrong about some of them, but it should make for a very wild season."
"Survivor: One World" premieres Wednesday (February 15) at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT. Find out more about Rob's "Survivor" predictions at his website.