The words “wits”, “outplay” and “last” (in that order) are references to the famous slogan “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast” of reality TV gameshow Survivor. The additional references in the introductory text (survive, idols) should confirm this.
Googling “Survivor” together with the first names of the various puzzle solutions, or taking a cue from the reference to “victors” in the flavourtext, we should identify that each of the Round 2 solutions have first names that are the same as past winners (or “sole survivors”) of Survivor. Converting the winning season of these sole survivors into their corresponding letters will give the meta answer ROMANCE. For Hunger Games fans, this is a reference to Katniss and Peeta’s budding love story in the 74th Hunger Games, which was the reason why they were both allowed to live.
|Puzzle||Solution||Corresponding Sole Survivor||Winning Season||Letter|
|2.01||James Windibank||James Thomas||18||R|
|2.02||Todd Carmichael||Todd Herzog||15||O|
|2.03||Yul Brynner||Yul Kwon||13||M|
|2.04||Richard Lederer||Richard Hatch||1||A|
|2.05||Earl Boen||Earl Cole||14||N|
|2.06||Ethan Hunt||Ethan Zohn||3||C|
|2.07||Brian Cox||Brian Heidik||5||E|
I thought that having a Survivor meta puzzle would be thematic to Hunger Games - for one, the idea of a “sole survivor” in each Survivor season is akin to that of the victor being the sole person that survives each Hunger Games. A concern with having such a meta was that once the meta was solved, each of the round puzzles could easily be backsolved if solvers could identify the theme of the puzzle (for instance, James Moriarty would be an obvious back-solvable solution to a Sherlock Holmes puzzle). As such, extra care had to be taken when crafting the round puzzles to ensure that they were not easily back-solvable.