‘Survivor: Game Changers’ cast: Can Sierra Thomas prove she deserves to be next female veteran to win?

Out of CBS’s 33 previous “Survivor” seasons, six were won by veteran players and of those six only the first two were female vets. Like Amber Brkich (“All-Stars,” Season 8) and Parvati Shallow (“Micronesia,” Season 16) before her, Sierra Thomas is back to prove that her underwhelming first try on “Worlds Apart” (Season 30) won’t prevent her from becoming the next female veteran to win “Survivor: Game Changers,” which debuts Wednesday. Read my analysis of how her past performance is likely to impact her game and then make your own “Survivor” predictions ahead of the first episode.

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When we think about players that have changed the way the game of “Survivor” is played, Sierra’s name isn’t among the first to pop into our heads. Though she did manage to place fifth among a very competitive and contentious “Worlds Apart” cast, her role in the game was mostly reduced to being a number in the votes of someone else’s plans. Yet here she is, among a new cast of some of the greatest survivors in series history, likely faced with the biggest challenge any of them have — to prove that she belongs.

Though many won’t think Sierra deserves the recognition of “game changer,” once we step away from that title we begin to see just how threatening her presence on the cast should be to the other players. Sierra comes into the season in much the same way that both Amber and Parvati did before they won the first two seasons to feature at least half a cast of veteran players. Both Amber and Parvati placed sixth in their original seasons and were mostly viewed by their peers as goats to be led as far in the game as they were needed for their votes. Perhaps with the desire to defy that perception, both came back with fighting attitudes ready to make their own decisions worthy of a win.

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Perhaps there hasn’t been a veteran from recent seasons better positioned to become the next Amber or Parvati than Sierra. Among the likes of two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine, legendary mastermind Cirie Fields, challenge beast Ozzy Lusth and fan favorite Jeff Varner, Sierra enters “Game Changers” as one of the least threatening competitors from either tribe and that’s a huge advantage. Initially her biggest challenge we be ensuring that she doesn’t succumb to the perception that she’s the least helpful in challenges if her tribe loses immunity early.

If Sierra can make it past the first few tribal councils, she will have time to not only build relationships with her tribe mates, but also enter the second phase of the competition (the merge) where the more physical and typically male players are targeted as challenge threats. Getting to the merge will likely mean that Sierra can coast again to at least eighth place, but this time she’ll need to focus on making sure that she’s instrumental in the decisions her alliance makes.

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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.:

Who will win “Survivor”?

Who will be eliminated?

Who will win Reward?

Who will win Immunity?

Will a hidden idol be played?

Will anybody quit or be medevaced?

Who will win ‘Survivor: Game Changers’? See exclusive odds

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Survivor” in our reality TV forum.

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