Arts & Culture

Iowans Stapley, Lacina survive and prosper in 'Survivor' premiere

Fast-paced action hits Fiji islands for Season 40

(left) Denise Stapley of Marion, winner of
(left) Denise Stapley of Marion, winner of “Survivor: Philippines” Season 25 in 2012 has returned to competition in “Survivor: Winners at War.” (right) Sarah Lacina of Cedar Rapids, who won “Survivor: Game Changers,” has also returned there to compete against other winners from the past two decades for the $2 million prize. (Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment 2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

Sarah Lacina, a police detective from Cedar Rapids, won the big-ticket first challenge for her Dakal tribe on Wednesday’s premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War,” set in Fiji.

It’s the 40th season of the CBS-TV challenge of skill, strength and strategy, with a $2 million prize at stake for the Sole Survivor.

Teams of two swam out in the aqua wave swells to grab a big ring off a pole and hustle back toward shore to touch the finishing pole.

With the win, no one from Lacina’s tribe was voted off the island at the Day 2 Tribal Council. Her group also received a piece of flint with which to build a fire — crucial for cooking and warmth.

And Lacina, winner of Season 34, picked up the Immunity Idol, and with a map tossed to her team, they headed inland to find the site of their new “home,” where they would build their shelters.

Denise Stapley, a mental health counselor from Marion, and her Sele tribe, also armed with a map, trudged into the jungle to find their home site.

And the strategizing began for both tribes of 10 each, as they began to form alliances and toss out names of people they’d like to vote off the island.


Stapley paired up with Adam Klein of California, winner of Season 33, to look for their tribe’s water well. Along the way, they got lost, and she admitted that losing the game’s first challenge made her flash back to her first go-round on “Survivor” Season 25 in the Philippines. Her tribe lost all four challenges in that 2012 season, sending them to Tribal Council each time to vote someone off their island. She ultimately prevailed, winning the $1 million prize.

But everyone in this season has won the $1 million, and suspicions are running high and fast. The other Sele tribe members noticed Stapley’s and Klein’s absence, calling it a “rookie move” and a mistake Stapley owned during Tribal Council, where everyone got a chance to speak before casting their ballots. The mistake was enough to get her two ouster votes, but Natalie Anderson of New Jersey, the Season 29 winner, got five votes, so she was the first one voted off the island.

In a twist this season, those voted off aren’t going home — they’re going to another island dubbed the Edge of Extinction, where they will stay until given another chance to earn fire tokens and potentially “buy” their way back into the game.

On Day 3, Stapley’s tribe came from behind to win the obstacle course in an arduous Immunity Challenge.

That sent Lacina’s group to Tribal Council to vote a second person off the island in this Season 40 premiere episode. Amber Mariano of Florida, a two-time player and Season 8 winner, headed to the Edge of Extinction.

The action continues Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on CBS-TV and CBS All Access.

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