It may be hard to believe but CBS reality show “Survivor” is now 20 years old.
To celebrate its 40th season — “Survivor” typically airs two seasons per year — the show is bringing together a cast of all winners, from old-school players (such as Season 3’s Ethan Zohn) to new-school ones (Season 37’s Nick Wilson), favorites we haven’t seen in a while (Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin-Wolfe), and big “Survivor” names including “Boston Rob” Mariano, Parvati Shallow and two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine.
The two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, on CBS. (A one-hour series retrospective airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.)
For thoughts and predictions on the milestone season, we turned to someone local with firsthand knowledge of the game: 3-time “Survivor” contestant Kelley Wentworth, a marketing manager in Seattle. Wentworth played with her dad in Season 29 — “San Juan Del Sur,” then came back for a second chance on Season 31 in Cambodia, where she finished fourth, her highest finish — and most recently played on last year’s “Edge of Extinction” season.
“I’m definitely excited for season 40. I get to see a lot of people I grew up watching,” Wentworth said. “I feel like it’s going to be great gameplay. I think the really cool thing is every winner is different. There are many ways to win.”
Excerpts from our conversation follow.
Who are you most excited to see this season?
Jeremy Collins — he won the second season I was on, “Second Chance.” I’m a big fan of his and a friend of his in real life. So I’m excited to see how he does.
So is Jeremy the one you’re rooting for most?
I’m rooting for Jeremy — there’s a connection there. But I’m a big Denise [Stapley] fan. And I’m rooting for those old-school people like Ethan — his story, overcoming cancer, coming back. Parvati, I grew up watching. It’s hard to pick one person. I don’t want to say one name.
Who are the biggest threats?
That’s tough. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe people that had flashier games are going to be in trouble early. Like a Tony [Vlachos] — he’s always going to be threatening. He’s just wild — like he built a spy shack and found idols. You don’t forget that stuff — that’s the problem. I think he is going to be a target. I think the most obvious is Sandra — she’s a two-time winner. Someone like a Parvati — she’s played amazing games every time she’s played. Boston Rob and Amber [Mariano] — they’re married. They have a bond and a trust no one else will have so they’ll be targeted as well.
Who do you think will be voted out first?
I’m only going to go with Sandra because she’s a two-time winner. But it’s really hard to say. Who knows. She’s also very good at the game.
Which players do you think will be underestimated?
Quieter winners. People who played a more social game rather than a loud, in-your-face game. Michele Fitzgerald. Danni Boatwright. Maybe someone like Adam [Klein].
What do you think of the twists this season? Edge of Extinction (in which players who were voted off from the game had a chance to live together on an island and possibly get back into the game) — which you have firsthand experience with — is back. Fire tokens (with which players can purchase things like food and advantages in the game) are new.
I have a love-hate — mostly hate — relationship with Edge of Extinction. Probably because I lived it. I selfishly want to see a lot of these players in the game for a long time. If someone I really like is voted out first but I know they have a second shot at getting back in the game, obviously that’s exciting for me as a viewer. As a player, as someone who believes in the purity of “Survivor,” I kind of don’t like the idea of people being able to come back. But you’ve got to try different things. I’m 50-50 on it — see how it plays out.
The fire tokens — interesting twist. I think it’s hard because I played on a season that had Edge of Extinction — there were advantages coming from EoE. As a player, I don’t love it. But as a viewer, it might be kind of fun to see the strategy behind that and this extra layer of: how can you work with people and figure out how to use these as a tool to help your game.
Was it hard living on Edge of Extinction?
Yes, it was very hard. Because you don’t know anything. When you’re in the game, you know there’s going to be a challenge in a day or two. There’s going to be tribal council — you have to strategize. Whereas in EoE — there’s nothing. Imagine being bored — from sunup to sundown, there’s nothing to do. You can only tell so many stories, can only talk so long. It was not exciting.
Who’s your prediction to win Season 40?
I think Denise has a really good shot. She’s insanely smart, well-spoken, strong in the social game. I think in her season, she went to every tribal council. I don’t believe she had any [immunity] idols. She just got there and won, just based on her. I think that’s so impressive.
Would you ever play “Survivor” again?
I feel like I’ve done everything I want to do on “Survivor.” It’s been a great experience for me. Every season was different for me — from playing with my dad, to playing with returning players, to being kind of a captain with returning and new players. At this point in time, I’m saying no.
“Survivor: Winners at War” debuts 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, on CBS.