‘Survivor’ Fans See a Potential Winner in This Season 42 Castaway

Zach Wurtenberger

CBS "Survivor 42" contestant Zach Wurtenberger.

With season 42 of “Survivor” on the horizon, fans are anxiously anticipating the release of the March 9 premiere. Ever since the release of the season’s cast photos and videos, fans have been examining what each of the 18 castaways have to say about their strategy and chance in the game.

Zach Wurtenberger, a 22-year-old Washington University student from Florida, is one of those contestants, and has recently become a pre-game fan favorite among the “Survivor” community, mostly because he is a diehard fan himself. Fans have also been quick to note the similarities between Wurtenberger and a previous winner of the show.

Here’s what you need to know:


How Zach Thinks He Will Win ‘Survivor’

Zach Wurtenberger

CBSZach Wurtenberger.

In his introductory video, Wurtenberger said that “Survivor” is “genuinely one of the most important things in my life,” and that he has prepared for the game since speech and debate in high school. “It’s not necessarily about the fact of the argument itself,” he said about debating, “as it is forming your argument for your judge or for your audience.”

He also said that the hardest part for him would likely be the physical portion of the game, given his small size, but that he will “prove myself where I can, which is balance [and] puzzles.” He went on to say of his hopeful strategy:

Every single second I’m going to be waiting to see, ‘where is my move’? I don’t think anyone’s going to be looking at me as like, ‘oh, now that’s the guy we gotta worry about,’ and I think they might be wrong, so I’m hoping I’m going to be able to sneak right through.

In his CBS bio, Wurtenberger said he had “all of the core skills that you need to win the game,” mentioning how he was “extremely personable and make friends easily,” and that he was “super intelligent and strategic, with a vast knowledge of the game.” He also highlighted his determination, especially when it comes to competition. “I am willing to work harder than anyone to win,” he said. “In speech and debate, I competed against hundreds of students from around the country every weekend. These people were just as smart as me, just as well-spoken and just as talented. But I beat them because I worked harder and because I wanted it more. And the same will be true for ‘Survivor’.”


Fans See a Previous Superfan Winner in Zach

Todd Herzog

Getty“Survivor: China” winner Todd Herzog at the season’s reunion show in 2007.

Wurtenberger also said in his bio that he wanted to play the game most like “Survivor: China” winner Todd Herzog, perhaps the first self-professed “Survivor” superfan to win. “[Todd] played a brilliant game,” Wurtenberger said, “where he controlled every single vote from the shadows. We’re in a period of Survivor now where the tallest tree is the first one cut…Todd managed to keep his threat-level low while subtly manipulating every facet of the game and revealed everything at Final Tribal Council.”

If Wurtenberger does indeed win, he won’t be the first self-professed superfan winner to compare himself most to Todd; season 41 winner Erika Casupanan also said in her pre-game interviews that she would play the game most like “Brenda [Lowe] on the outside, Todd on the inside.” Of course, in her Final Tribal Council performance, Erika reflected precisely what Wurtenberger hopes to do by saying, “I’ve spent almost 10 years going into board rooms. People treat me like the intern, but I’m really the one who’s running the meeting.” Like Todd, Erika’s Final Tribal Council performance was widely praised by both fans and members of her jury.

Adam Klein

Getty“Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X” winner Adam Klein at a Stand Up To Cancer telecast in 2018.

Other fans regard Wurtenberger more so like another, more recent, superfan winner. In a post discussing Wurtenberger in the show’s subreddit, the top comment simply read “Adam Klein.” Another popular comment noted that Wurtenberger would be the product “If Adam and Ryan had a baby,” referring to Ryan Ulrich, a 23-year-old superfan who placed third on season 35, “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.” Another summed up fans’ enthusiastic sentiment for such a superfan playing on the season by simply saying, “Zach is one of us ❤.”

Of course, it is entirely possible that season 42 will be composed entirely of superfans, as season 41 was. As season 41 contestant Ricard Foyé revealed in a recent interview, production told the cast on the first day that that this would be a “special season” where there were no recruits; everyone was a “superfan.” Season 42 was shot shortly after season 41 finished shooting, so it is entirely possible that production decided to do a similar “all fans, no recruits” casting for season 42.

“Survivor” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. Season 42 premieres March 9.

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