Photo: CR: Parvati Shallow trying to get back in the game during the finale of "Survivor: Winners at War" CR: CBS
Photo: CR: Parvati Shallow trying to get back in the game during the finale of "Survivor: Winners at War" CR: CBS

Parvati Shallow interview: all-winners ‘Survivor’ season 40 was ‘amazing and so much fun’ even without winning

Former Atlantan Parvati Shallow is and will always be considered one of the best “Survivor” players of all time.

Her competitive, wily game play set her apart over three different seasons and enabled her to win $1 million from “Survivor Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites” in 2008. She was part of the first batch of players inducted into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame (which has been sadly dormant since 2016.)

In 2019, at age 38, just a few months after having her first child, Shallow returned to “Survivor” for its special 40th season featuring 20 past winners including several of the show’s most beloved players. She joined several “O.G.” players such as Sandra Diaz-Twine, Ethan Zohn, “Boston Rob” Mariano and Yul Kwan.

On her fourth trip to “Survivor,” she lasted 16 out of 39 days on the main island, voted out seventh. She spent the next  three weeks on Edge of Extinction but lost both times she had a shot at getting back in the game. 

Photo: Parvati Shallow gets her torch snuffed out by Jeff Probst. CR: CBS

Despite not winning, that disappointment did not supersede Parvati’s overall experience this time around. 

“The season was amazing and so much fun,” said Parvati in an interview Friday, two days after the finale aired on CBS.  “I always want to win. It’s part of my fabric. But this time, I was in such a different state of mind going back out. I also wanted to have a lot more fun. In the past, winning sort of overtook having fun. This time, I left a 10-month-old baby who I gave all my energy to. So I decided this was going to be an adventure for me. If I win, great. If I don’t, at least I’ll have a really great time. I did. I really accomplished that.” 

Photo: CR: CBS Parvati Shallow on the Edge of Extinction

Pavarti, like all the “O.G.” players, were major targets from day one and the newer players got rid of all of them relatively quickly. 

“Getting voted off was a sigh of relief,” she admitted. “The paranoia, the game play was intense. I tried too hard to get a foothold in the game and I just couldn’t get it. Going to Edge, I felt like I had a lot more control of my destiny. I was able to keep a positive attitude and hang out with those who were still engaged.” 

>>RELATED: My interview with Shallow before the season began

She extolled how finalist Natalie Anderson — the first person voted off — managed to get herself back into the competition near the end with grit and determination. She also noted how Natalie disrupted the game’s tightest alliance once she returned. A second finalist Michelle Fitzgerald persevered and made it to the finals from a position of weakness throughout the competition, almost always on the wrong side of the vote.  (She also ultimately got no votes from the jury for the prize.)

Parvati marveled over Tony Vlachos’ brilliant game play that earned him the $2 million prize.

“It’s a fitting culmination for this saga of the whole ‘Survivor’ arc from one to 40,” said Parvati, a Sprayberry High School and University of Georgia graduate. “You have this incredible guy who played in the most outrageous way on the island, who was able to avoid being a target and was able to keep people he voted out from feeling burned. He was in control most of the game.”

Indeed, not a single player put his name down during any tribal council.

While on Edge of Extinction, Parvati said players were able to win fire tokens as currency and would be able to buy peanut butter for added sustenance. 

“The game became all about peanut butter,” Parvati said, with a laugh. “Who got it? Where can I get some? How can I keep it away from everybody else?” Peanut butter, she noted, “has protein and fat, the calories you need for a boost of energy for these insane challenges.”

Photo: Parvati Shallow with Natalie Anderson. CR: CBS

She said Natalie was incredibly focused on the Edge of Extinction and they became good friends there. Natalie, who collected more fire tokens than anybody else, was able to buy three advantages that helped her win the Battle Back challenge over Parvati and the dozen others. 

Parvati doesn’t mind puzzles but this particular challenge featured placing two balls in an over-sized maze, which was not her strength. “I don’t have that type of dexterity,” she said. 

She was just glad Wendell Holland, who was good at the balancing game and almost caught up to Natalie, didn’t win. She didn’t particularly enjoy his sour attitude. “He was trying to protect himself and he came across as arrogant,” she said. “He didn’t want to open up and be vulnerable.”

Tony won 12 out of 16 jury votes. Natalie pocketed the other four, including Parvati’s. Despite Tony’s dominance, Parvati ultimately voted for Natalie because she knew her better and appreciated “so much positivity, so much buoyancy day in and day out. She worked her a** off.” 

Natalie’s biggest mistake? Parvati said Natalie should have challenged Tony to the fire challenge for third place. If she had won, that victory might have given her a better shot at impressive the jury and winning the $2 million. Instead she had Tony compete with his buddy Sarah Lacina and when he beat Sarah, it was like the cherry on top for Tony’s game.  

CBS went all out this particular season, flying all immediate family members for all 20 players to Fiji and giving everyone time with their loved ones. The Edge of Extinction players were so thankful, they all hugged host and producer Jeff Probst en masse after the tribal council.

“Jeff really honored this season bringing back all our families and our kids,” Parvati said. “It was something I never expected. I was so grateful to him, to CBS and to production. It really made the whole thing special.”

Photo: Parvati Shallow with her daughter Ama. CR: CBS

Parvati, who now lives in California and is married to fellow “Survivor” alum John Fincher, has been a life coach in recent years. In celebration of “Survivor,” she is providing a seven-day free challenge called “A Winner’s Mind” on her website. “Develop lasting victory in your life in 7 days,” she wrote in her promotion. “Develop courage and capacity to conquer fear. Every time.” 

Photo: Parvati Shallow, Ama and John Fincher. CR: CBS

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.