‘Survivor: Game Changers’ cast: Will 4th time be the charm for challenge beast Ozzy Lusth?

CBS’ “Survivor: Game Changers” is set to premiere on March 8 featuring a cast entirely composed of all-stars and, thematically speaking, players that in their past seasons changed the way the game of “Survivor” is played. One of those players is Ozzy Lusth, back for a record-tying fourth time following his appearances on “Cook Islands” (Season 13), “Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites” (Season 16) and “South Pacific” (Season 22). Will the fourth time be the charm for this challenge beast? Read my analysis of how his past performance may impact his game and then make your own “Survivor” predictions ahead of the first episode.

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In his three seasons, Ozzy’s best performance is still his first, when he was the runner-up on “Survivor: Cook Islands,” losing out to Yul Kwon in a tight 4-5 vote. Ozzy played most of that game from the perspective of the underdog — his initial tribe lost two of the first three immunity challenges and then when his second tribe was evenly matched at 6-6 with the other tribe, two of its members took Jeff Probst up on his offer to mutiny, voluntarily switching tribes, which left Ozzy as one of four outnumbered by an opposing majority alliance at the merge.

But the merge of that season and in each of his following two seasons is where Ozzy made a name for himself as one of the “Survivor” greats. Ozzy’s biggest strength has always been his performance in challenges — he’s won 13 as an individual, including immunity and redemption island contests. But his greatest strength is also his biggest hurdle because he’s been consistently targeted as a threat for his physical dominance, especially once the game shifts from a tribal to individual focus.

On “Survivor: Micronesia,” Ozzy played with veterans for the first time and sought to improve his game on a personal level, focusing on building a better social game. He was perhaps too social though and blindly put his trust in Parvati Shallow and Cirie Fields, who orchestrated one of the biggest blindsides in series history to vote him out with a hidden immunity idol unused in his pocket. Interestingly, Ozzy will begin “Game Changers” on the same tribe (Nuku) as Cirie — whether there’s any bad blood between the two and how it impacts their games is one of my biggest questions heading into the premiere.

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His performance on “Micronesia” heavily influenced Ozzy’s third attempt on “Survivor: South Pacific” where he sought to redeem his shortcomings on “Micronesia.” He played a game on his own terms, making risky strategic moves like when he asked his tribe to vote him out so that he could defeat a threat on redemption island. That elimination was actually his first of a record-setting three in one season. After returning to the game from redemption island, Ozzy was quickly voted out again, but managed to win five straight redemption island challenges to return a second time. Two tribal councils later he was voted out for a third and final time, finishing fourth.

To say that Ozzy’s “Survivor” performance so far has been unstable would be an understatement. His tribe mates have both lauded and felt threatened by his strength in challenges, players have referred to him as “bratty” and an “egomaniac,” and he’s excelled at the physical aspect while failing at the social. But in three seasons he’s never not made it as far as becoming a member of the jury, making him one of the most experienced players of the game ever.

To win “Game Changers” Ozzy will once again have to shift his style of play, downplaying any perceived dominance at individual immunity challenges while also being a more observant and less trustworthy social gamer. If there’s one former winner whose style of play he should emulate, it’s Jeremy Collins (“Survivor: Second Chance”), who diffused his own threat level by making sure that there was always a bigger threat than him still in the game.

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Get a closer look at the Season 34 contestants by clicking through our cast photo gallery. In our “Survivor” predictions center, you get to answer the following questions before each episode airs on CBS every Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET.:

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