Survivor is celebrating 20 years of blindsides with its looming 40th (!) season — and this time, it means War.
Twenty of the show’s most devious and diabolical winners are coming back to battle it out for a — wait for it — $2 million prize in the series’ upcoming Winners at War. The winner of this round will not only be the mighty Sole Survivor, but the champion of champions!
Among the returning players is Survivor: Micronesia winner Parvati Shallow. Once known for her flirtatious social strategy, powerhouse endurance challenge wins and jaw-dropping strategic plays (like playing two idols on other people!), Shallow returns to join a best-of-the-best lineup that includes Boston Rob Mariano, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ethan Zohn, Tony Vlachos and many more.
Ahead of the show’s Feb. 12 premiere (CBS, 8/7c), Shallow spoke with TVLine about what pulled her out of Survivor retirement, her perception as a villain and how big changes in her life made her a new person.
TVLINE | It’s been 10 years since we last saw you on Heroes vs. Villains. What did you do to prepare for another round?
It could not have been more different this time because I had a 10-month old child to leave behind. In the past, I would do a lot of exercise, yoga and boxing, and read books like The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Persuasion. This time, it was more preparation for detaching from this little being I had just grown in my body and thinking about leaving her for a month and a half. We moved to Atlanta for the summer because my parents are close by and could be helpful. We uprooted our lives to make it happen. It was an emotional, mental, strategic, logistical operation!
TVLINE | Was it a hard decision to go back for Winners At War, especially given your new life?
It was a push and pull inside of me, a huge tug of war. On one hand, I didn’t want to leave my child, and on the other hand, I was like, “I am going to have the worst FOMO when this show starts airing and everyone’s on it but me.” I knew I really wanted to be a part of the moment. It’s the 40th season, 20 years of Survivor! Survivor has made a huge impact on my life. Who I am today has a lot to do with my Survivor experience. It carved a way for me to create my career and have my family. Also, this is going to be a fierce competition, what a battle. I wanted to pit myself against these people going back. I didn’t know it was winners, but I knew it was going to be pretty extreme.
TVLINE | Did you have a feeling it might be all-winners, though?
I had a sense. I had spoken about this before, but the only way I’d come back was if it was all winners or Blood vs. Water, and my husband [Survivor: Samoa‘s John Fincher] got a chance to play again. I knew this had to be a really big deal if they were calling me about it because [host] Jeff [Probst] and everybody knew that I said no many times before. But this time, I knew they were going to be doing something outrageous and I wanted in on that.
TVLINE | Did having a child change the way you wanted to be perceived or are you still cool with being a Black Widow-style “villain”?
I am so different now than I was 10 years ago. I was single back then and really competitive. Now, especially just having had a baby, my heart was wide open, fully exposed and vulnerable, as far as caring about other people and developing compassion and becoming more collaborative. That’s really been my life work for the past five or six years, life-coaching, and yoga and working with clients, so I have fundamentally changed who I am. I’m not saying that I wasn’t vicious or strategic or thinking about that, but my baseline of who I am and how I make decisions is different. I didn’t go in thinking, “I’m going to be a good guy this time and want everyone to like me!” It was like, “I’m going to be me, and people will see that I”m different.”
TVLINE | What size of a target did you anticipate having on your back?
I knew I was going to have a mega-bullseye! It’s happened before, even in Micronesia people wanted me out right away, and again on Heroes vs. Villains, people wanted me out first, so I knew that I could navigate that. But it was still in the back of my mind. What if people get wise to me and really take me out first this time? Can I live with that? That was really terrifying, probably my biggest fear.
TVLINE | Which cast members were high on your hit list going into the season?
I went back and watched a few seasons before I went out because I hadn’t watched certain ones. I knew that Sarah [Lacina] was really strategic and I wanted to take a look at her gameplay and see what her tells are… could I tell when she’s lying? I couldn’t. That is so gnarly to have that ability out there in such a fierce competitive arena. I didn’t think I could ever develop any kind of real trust with her. She took out her best friend in a really diabolical way, so she kind of freaks me out. She was my number one and probably the scariest. And then, of course, my rivalry with Sandra. I would love to be able to take her out.
TVLINE | Walk us through the moment when Probst revealed the $2 million prize. What was going through your mind?
It was like, “Wait, WHAT!?” Some people had been considering it as a possibility and weren’t that surprised, but I was. It solidified the moment as historic. This season is not the same as any before it or any that will come after. This is a very unique, very special, very rare experience. It gave me a sense of being acknowledged as part of that past and part of this moment in time. This is a $2 million jackpot! This is a big deal that these 20 winners are back for this ultimate battle. Rad.
TVLINE | Give us a tease! How would you describe the season in just a few words?
Hold on to your hat… get ready to have your socks blown off. [Laughs] You don’t even know what’s coming. You might watch the show and be like, “I don’t even know what just happened.”