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Ranking The Past 25 Survivor Winners From Worst To First

December 18, 2012



Having just crowned our 25th (25th!) Champ mere hours ago, what better time to stroll down Survivor Memory Lane (N.B. Not a real place, although probably the working title for at least three of the seasons) and update our Epic countdown from last year.

Points will be awarded for various things, for example :-

  • How much control contestants had in getting themselves to the end and how much of that winning journey was actively planned.
  • How close they came at times to being voted out.
  • How much they had to rely on immunity wins.
  • Bitter Jury Syndrome.
  • Overall luck involved.


survivor natalie

The most maligned of all Survivor winners due to her shocking (SHOCKING) defeat of Russell Hantz last year.  Whilst her social game was approximately one million times more impressive than said bandy-legged troll, she loses major points for the fact that going into the Final Tribal Council, no one from the jury was even planning on voting for White – she won them over with thoughtful answers that were better than Dr Mick.

Plus, her most memorable move was that time that she killed a rat with a stick.  I mean – what’s not to love? :-

BEST MOVE : Orchestrating the pivotal merge boot of (the incredibly sexy) Erik, that set the whole Galu post-merge crumble in motion.
SHOULD HAVE WON : *sigh* Russell.  Whilst his social game was just AWFUL, he did play an incredible strategic game and changed the way Survivor was played forever.



survivor bob shirtless

Who?  Bob sauntered along most of Gabon half-asleep, crafting a few admittedly impressive fake immunity idols along the way.  Loses points for the fact that he was planning to take Matty to the end who would have kicked his ass ten ways to Sunday.  Also for the fact that Randy (who cast the pivotal vote) was planning to vote for Susie to win until she burned him on his jury question.

BEST MOVE : Playing the Grandfather role to human waterworks Sugar, who forced the tie that allowed him in front of the Jury in the first place.
SHOULD HAVE WON : The aforementioned Sugar.  Controlled the entire game post-merge without once becoming a target.  If she had’ve actually decided to play for the Win instead of just for Fan Favourite, it could have all turned out very different.



survivor sandra pearl islands

Better known as the only two-time winner in Survivor’s 25 season history.  Less known for winning through sheer virtue of not being Lil or Jonny Fairplay.  Gains points for pioneering the completely mercenary ‘anyone but me’ voting strategy.  Loses points for having no real control over her fate in the game.  Even her win came solely down to the fact that Final Immunity winner Lil knew she couldn’t beat either of her opponents and figured that at least if she took Sandra to the end and gave her the win, the million dollars wouldn’t be spent on strippers and coke.

Here’s an amazing clip of Sandra displaying those social skills that won her her first million bucks.  I CAN GET LOUD TOOOOO! :-

BEST MOVE : Openly having her vote for sale every Tribal Council.  Warring factions kept using her to vote each other out, ensuring she was never the target.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Umm, no one?  Is ‘no one’ an option?  Pearl Islands was a rollickingly entertaining season with Rupert! Outcasts! Dead Grandmas! but no real strong strategic players post-merge.  Or, for that matter, pre-merge.  Jonny Fairplay though probably, if you pushed us..



survivor fabio stare

Oh Fabio!  Basically spent the first 30 days of his Survivor experience loping around like an adorable overgrown lost Labrador puppy trying to avoid the inexplicable wrath of Na Onka.  By the time everyone realised that he was a threat to win, it was too late.  Now, he spends his time getting charmingly arrested and starring in amazing C-grade homoerotic thrillers.

Low placing or not though, there’s no way to deny that he might just be the most genuinely amusing person to ever play this game :-

BEST MOVE : Winning the final 3 immunity challenges in a row; Not being Chase or the very heterosexual Sash.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Whilst Holly could have feasibly smoked him if she survived one more vote, Jud can squarely claim a deserved win against the weak sausage fest of a Final 3.



ethan survivor head shot

One of the most likeable guys to ever play Survivor.  Plus, not going to make fun of him because of all the cancer and stuff (and, you know, the brilliant charity work he does).  Cruised on through to a win by being the most likeable member of a majority alliance.

BEST MOVE : Being the proud owner of one of the sexiest Jew-Fro’s in recent history;  Consolidating his winnings by marrying Amazon winner Morasca making them millionaire-squared.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Lex.  As awful as he was, he (and his famous ‘gut’) managed to steer the Boran tribe all the way to the Final Four without any casualties.



survivor vecepia

Another one for the ‘Who? Files’.  Towerey was best known for, at the time, being the first person of colour (as opposed to say Richard Hatch, who was just plain colourful) to win Survivor.  Was also the first to parlay an irrationally bitter jury (Hi Tammy!  Hi John!  Hi Rob!) into a million dollar cheque.  Gains points upon rewatching for playing a much more subtle but deliberate game than often remembered.

BEST MOVE : Winning the key Final 4 Immunity Challenge where she was meant to be voted out; Switching alliances with the wind without ever being considered a threat.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Anyone else in the Final 4?  Kathy, Neleh and Paschal all played stronger games, but through illness, a bitter jury and an ill-timed accidental boob flash (is there any other kind?), they all came up short.



survivor aras

One of the less memorable winners, but not undeserving.  Bonus points for managing to stay on top of Terry, Crazytown Shane, Courtney, Danielle DDiLorenzo and her ginormous mutant fake breasts for 39 days without killing himself.

BEST MOVE : Managing to keep the aforementioned ragtag group of misfits focused on eliminating immunity whore Terry instead of himself and Cirie.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Oh Cirie!  Poor, poor Cirie.  The best player to have never won came up short in a fire-making tie breaker done in by a needlessly super-powered Immunity Idol (see also Cook Islands).



survivor amber bikini

When Survivor : All Stars first aired in 2004 at the height of the show’s popularity it was filled with 17 of the games most famous and infamous players.  And then rounding out the pack was Australian Outback 6th place finisher Brkich.  The only thing harder than remembering who she was would have bee to successfully pronounce her surname, which couldn’t have less vowels in it even if it were Welsh.  A last minute replacement for former America’s Sweetheart and current Right Wing Nutjob Elizabeth Hassleback, Brkich parlayed her status as a non-threat into both one million dollars, a marriage proposal and not one but TWO season competing on CBS sister show The Amazing Race.  Along with Natalie White, Brkich is probably the most maligned of all Survivor winners but, having recently rewatched her season, there are a lot more subtle and deliberate layers evident in her gameplay than often gets remembered.  A strong social player, Lamber was often the brains to Mariano’s brawn and they were an equally footed strategic team, which clearly is one of the foundations it takes to build a (now) million dollar marriage on.

BEST MOVE : Aligning with (and eventually marrying) runner up Boston Rob, letting him take the heat for double-crossing everyone and her taking home the million dollar cheque.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Boston Rob.  Although there’s no point in playing such a superior physical and strategic game if you’re not going to give any thought to your jury management.



survivor sandra attitude

Oh Sandra!  How can one woman win twice and still only make it to the middle of the pack?  Major props for being the only two-time winner (most likely ever) but major luck and a bitter jury played as much part in her second million as did her actual game play and skill.  Sassy, charming and hilarious as all hell (her burning Russell’s hat is still pretty much the most satisfying and unintentionally ironic Survivor moment EVER), Sandra made actively not-playing the game an art form.

How to win $2,000,000.00 in 33 seconds or less :-

BEST MOVE : Managing to always be an essential vote to the Villains Tribe whilst constantly making the Heroes feel like she was trying to jump ship to them; Burning Russell’s hat; The fact that her name wasn’t Russell or Parvati.
SHOULD HAVE WON : PARVATI.  One million times Parvati. After playing one of the most impressively dominant strategic and physical games in Survivor history, she just couldn’t quite win over the bitter Heroes Tribe on the jury after pretty single handedly annihilating them.  Sadface.



survivor earl

The first person to get every single jury vote, winning in a 9-0-0 landslide.  Less impressive when you consider that his competition was Cassandra and Dreamz.

BEST MOVE : Allowing his beloved alliance partner Yau-Man to be voted out as the last member of the jury, thus ensuring a guarenteed win against the remaining two competitors; The fact that his name was neither Cassandra nor Dreamz.
SHOULD HAVE WON : Fan Favourite Yau Man.  Hands down.



survivor jenna

Fellow winner Ethan Zohn’s even prettier other half, this ‘Professional Swimsuit Model’ was the youngest winner ever.  Her social game was always severely underrated by the public at large, who only seem to remember her now infamous ‘will strip for Peanut Butter’ challenge standown and that she was awfully bitchy to poor deaf Christy and every other woman over the age of 25.  Loses points for the fact that she admittedly wasn’t really played ‘To Win’ until 2/3’s of the way through the game.

Here’s a little clip of what may be simultaneously the most memorable and least sexy committed in television history :-

BEST MOVE : Winning 4 individual immunities (especially at the final four when she needed it the most) and realising the need for strong social bonds with jury members (instead of being a borderline psychotic challange whore and camp workhorse like Matthew).
SHOULD HAVE WON : Rob Cesternino, who is the offical title holder of ‘Best Player To Have Never Won Survivor Who Is Not Named Cirie Fields’.  Plus, he’s geeky dreamy!



survivor richard hatch

The Grandaddy  of all Survivor winners.  Often regarded as the greatest of all time, his poor showing on Survivor : All Stars four years later showed that his actual gameplay doesn’t quite hold up against people playing the game now although, to be fair, the Nazi-like extermination of Winners that season made it impossible.  Tempered being the first person to realize forming a organized and solid voting bloc of individuals was the key to success with basically being obnoxious and naked ALL THE TIME.

BEST MOVE : In addition to realizing the value of a voting alliance, he was the first to be a major food provider for the tribe and caught an impressive amount of fish and other sea creatures through his Survivor tenure.
FINAL SCORE : 4-3 (defeated the wishy-washy but amazingly named Kelly Wigglesworth)



survivor denise crazy eyes

And here we have our newest little member to our Winner’s Circle.  Emphasis on ‘little’ since it basically took three episodes to confirm that it wasn’t just Leif in a hairpiece having a second shot at the million.  Erring on the side of caution with the ranking until we’ve had a bit more time to digest it and read the exit interviews of her fellow castaway’s now the game is done and dusted, but there is no denying that our little Denies played one hell of a solid game.  A workhorse at camp and in challenges, she showed that Survivor isn’t all about big moves and hidden immunity idols, sometimes it just comes down to bonding, listening to people, keeping your cool and being an all round decent human being.  Kadoos!

BEST MOVE : Remembering that, at it’s heart, Survivor is primarily a social game about people; Being indispensable and a total beast in challenges.
6-1-1 (against Blair Warner and whatever was left of Michael Skupkin).



survivor chris

Survivor:Battle of the Sexes Round 2 saw the women whittle the Men down to a tribe of one – Chris Daugherty.  At this point, Chris kicked off his game and masterfully turned the tribe of six women against each other and not just skated his way into the finals, but managed to earn their votes in the process thanks to key challenge wins and his wily way of playing them off against each other.  His Dom and Colin Winner’s Analysis Podcast (HERE) is thoroughly entertaining and enlightening as well and adds a new layer of respect to some of his key moves.

BEST MOVE : Uniting mortal enemies Twila and Eliza for the key Final 7 vote, securing his safety and irrevocably fracturing the core alliance without ever getting blood on his hands.
FINAL SCORE : 5-2 (Against lovable redneck Twila).



survivor yul shirtless

Yul led the racially-themed Cook Islands to an impressively diverse storybook finish, demolishing all the Evil Team Whitey thanks to great strategy, a solid minority (literally) alliance and a well-used Idol.  Loses major point for being in the early days where the Immunity Idol was basically a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free Til The Final 3′ Pass which twice directly prevented him being voted out.

Let’s not forget he will always be one of the smartest guys to ever play Survivor, even if his blatantly discriminatory attitude towards Elephants is still alarming all these years on :-

BEST MOVE : Convincing Jonathon to flip at the Merge thus ensuring the heroically ethnic Aitu 4 sailed to victory instead of likely winner Parvati.
FINAL SCORE : 5-4-0 (defeating part-time pornstar Ozzy and someone called Becky?)



survivor boston rob

Now this is a hard one.  On one hand, Boston Rob played one of the most enjoyable masterful and dominant games in Survivor history.  On the other, it took him four goes (don’t forget – this is the guy that two out of three times COULDN’T EVEN MAKE THE JURY) and he finally eked out his (admittedly well fought) win on one of the most uneven playing fields in Survivor history.   An excellent game played marred by a remedial playing field.

BEST MOVE : Running initial tribe Ometepe like a cult (the buddy system was a particular stroke of genius); Convincing basically 3/4’s of the merged tribe he was taking them to the Final 3 even when he was visibly stabbing every one of them in the back one by one by one.
8-1-0 (against Former Federal Agent (?) Phillip and the Natalie who was even blander than the other Natalie).



survivor danni

The original Kim Spradlin, Danni perfected the art of the alternating leadership, plucky under the radar social gameplay and key challenge wins.  After merging down in numbers, she managed to seemlessly ingratiate herself into the key alliance and convince them to basically self-destruct.  The fact that anyone ever let her get within a hundred mile radius of the finals was as impressive as it was insane.

BEST MOVE : Winning a key final six immunity and forcing the opposing alliance to start canibalizing themselves one round early.
FINAL SCORE : Sole Survivor 6-1 (defeating Stephenie LaGrossa’s evil twin – Stephenie LaGrossa).



survivor tina

One of the most famous winners ever of the most watched season.  Tina used her down to earth and unassuming ‘aww-shucks’ Soccer Mom persona to steer her alliance of Colby and Keith into the Final 2 and eke out a victory over the audience favoured Colby.  While the Texan cowboy’s immunity wins got all the attention, it was her ability to forge strong bonds with every single member of the post-merge tribe (besides, maybe, Maneater Manthey) that kept her core trio intact til the end.

BEST MOVE : Getting Colby to take her to the Final Traibal Council over the immeasurably more disliked Keith.
FINAL SCORE : 4-3 (defeating former cowboy and current McProbst with Cheese Colby Donaldson).



survivor brian

Possibly the most unlikeable Survivor winner of all time.  Heidik played the game with all the snake oil charm of a used car salesman (which, ironically, was what he did for a job in real life.  At least, when he wasn’t doing soft core porn that is), being in Final 2 alliances with all of the Final 5 and just cutting their throats one by one.

BEST MOVE : Taking the even more reviled (and slightly racist) Clay to the end; blinding conving four other people that he was really, totally, going to the end with them.
FINAL SCORE : 4-3 (beating lazy old Clay in a vote that was so perilously close that stops us from ranking him higher up).




While JT’s Survivor legacy will always be his failed (but not strategically unsound) passing of the Hidden Immunity Idol to Russell in Heroes Vs. Villains, which single handedly decimated the Heroes Tribe, it doesn’t give enough credit to his superb game in the Brazilian Highlands.  We’ve seen hot woman make people fall for them before on Survivor, but never anything like how this tubby redneck hick managed to make a merge down 3-6 and yet someone make every single member of the opposing tribe fall completely gaga in love with him –like he slipped the whole entire tribe one big roofie or something.

While it’s important to credit his superior gameplay, let’s take a moment to remember his superb penmanship.. Bless :-

BEST MOVE : Setting himself up as a key swing vote between the two warring Timbara factions without ever getting targetted himself; Winning the last few immunities.
FINAL SCORE : 7-0 (Against Poor Stephen, who really deserved much more credit).



pressexpress, Press express

And here we have the most feared player when twenty best of the best players entered the wilds of Samoa two years ago.  A lot of weight is put on challenge wins and Hidden Immunity Idols these days, partially because they make great television and partly because they’re easily quantifiable.  But Survivor is, at it’s essence, a purely social game.  If you need to fight for immunity to avoid getting voted out, you’re already doing something wrong, no matter how many competitions you win.  Parvati went into the merge closely aligned with 7 of the 9 remaining competitors and managed to always keep herself in the middle of every single vote without ever being a target.  And at the Final Tribal Council she gave honest and open answers that won respect and votes whilst Amanda just blubbered away uncontrollably on the bench next to her.  If we were ranking solely based on overall gamesmanship, she might rank as high as #1.  But for an individual winning game, she loses points for the fact that, had Micronesia’s intended Final 3 eventuated (it was changed less than a week before the finish when James’s medivac affected the production schedule), she most likely would have finished third.

Here’s some P-Shallow awesomeness just because she’s, well, AWESOME :-

BEST MOVE : Providing a Masterclass in how to be tightly aligned with pretty much every other contestant playing whilst still managing to get their votes at the end – she never made an alliance for a spot that she couldn’t deliver upon.  Amanda was promised Final 2, Cirie Final 3, Alexis & Natalie Final 5, etc.. ; Blindsiding Ozzy and his Hidden Immunity Idol at the Final 9 thus eliminating both her biggest competition and closest ally and thus making her the bridge uniting the Fans and the Favourites.
FINAL SCORE : 5-3 (Against, once again, Blandmanda – who just really isn’t cut out for sitting opposite a jury).



survivor sophie glasses

We talk a lot about valuing players that minimise ‘luck’ in this game and New York native Clarke is probably the best example of that.  While the editors threw her under Diane’s Bus for most of the season in favour of the lukewarm tale of Cochran vs The Dragon Slayer, the CBS Insider clips showed week after week a portrait of a player so clearly thinking about every move and, with not just total control of her alliance, but of her own emotions every step of the way.  We’ve already gone on at length about how she’s one of our favourites ever (CLICK HERE) but, as far as winners go, she’s one of the games most underrated.  If you need further proof, her (frankly excellent) Dom and Colin Winners Analysis Podcast (HERE) should clear any doubts up.

Plus, she’s still the only player to ever have completely owned Jiffy Probst and lived to tell the tale :-

BEST MOVE : Constantly keeping her alliance mates in check and sticking to the plan; Being a total asset in challenges and winning the key one that finally defeated Sir Ozzy of The Pleasure Dome; Cementing the fake Final 4 alliance that made Cochran so confident to flip in the first place; An EXCELLENT Final Tribal Council performance; “DROP YOUR DAMNED STACK”-gate; Generally just being amazingly dry and hilarious.
6-3-0 (SLAYING the aforementioned Dragon Slayer and hilariously emasculating hunky Dating Coach Albert).



survivor todd

Everyone’s favourite little Mormon Munchkin played an impressive game in China, leading a band of motley misfits including snarky waitess Courtney and Wahh-nah Montana the Nature Guide all the way to the end without ever appearing a threat.  Using his slight frame and impish nature to his advantage, he cruised through to the finals without ever once losing control of the game.

BEST MOVE : Taking unapologetic credit for every single one of his moves and betrayals at the Final Tribal Council – a total masterclass for future contestants; Constantly neutralizing his alliance mates from getting too much control  (making Courtney vote out Frosti, not letting Amanda vote out James when she wanted to so he could get the credit, etc..)
FINAL SCORE : 4-2-1 (Besting Courtney the Human Sasspot and Blandmanda)



survivor tom shirtless

Few contestants have ever played such a dominant physical and social game as Tom Westman.  So much so that he viewed as the second biggest threat going into Heroes Vs. Villains (more on who was number one above with Queen P).  Using a mix of likability, intimidation and challenge wins coupled with a knack for always staying one move ahead of his opponents, he played one of the most impressive and well rounded games to date.

BEST MOVE : Convincing Ian to step down from the Final 3 immunity challenge and allow himself to be voted out by nothing more than laying one amazing guilt trip on the poor boy.  Like what happened to poor Erik in Micronesia except using smarts instead of four sets of boobs.
FINAL SCORE : 6-1 (against Katie, who was one of the most useless Final 2 opponents ever)



survivor kim hot oil

And here we are with the best of the best – Kimpossible Spradlin herself.  Now, as we mentioned with recent winners Sophie and Denise, we like to take some time before heaping undue praise on a still fresh game.  But there’s pretty much no need with last season’s runaway champion – her gameplay was just THAT good.  A lot of people complained that her steamroller-like victory was due to having such easy competition to beat, but that’s doing her overall game a disservice.  While a lot of the competitors were written off by the internet at large as being a hoard of zombie muppets, it’s easy to forget that the post-merge was filled with canny players like Jonas, Sabrina, Jay, Alicia and Troyzan that ALL could have been satisfying winners under different circumstances.  The key to Kim’s game was keeping every single one of these players tight, all the time and never hesitating to cut them two moves ahead of time.  Survivor is often talked about akin to a game of human chess and never has in been more evident in Spradlin’s seemingly effortless victory.  We could go on all night (it’s already 11:42pm), but you can listen for yourself HERE.

BEST MOVE : Where do we start?  Forging some of the strongest individual bonds the game has ever seen; Being smart enough to know the right people to bring to the end (and cannily defying the conventional logic of just dragging two goats) in order to guarantee a win; Annihilating the challenges; Never once losing her cool.
FINAL SCORE : 7-2-0 (against Teacher Sabrina and Clean Underwear Crusader Chelsea).


So, THAT’S IT from us.  What did you think?  How does recent champ Denise stack up?  Anyone you think is undervalued (or, indeed, over)?  Let us know below!

And compare how the rankings have changed over the years HERE.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2012 2:17 am

    Sorry… you missed it completely…

    Jeff Probst said it best, that Boston Rob played as close to a perfect game as he has ever seen. He won the vote 8-1…. with only Ralph voting for Phile… or whomever he voted for….

    Also, Sandra winning twice has to be given better credit than you give her.

    Chris from Vanuatu overcame all odds to win, and deserves better than you give him

    And really….. Sophie?…..number 4?…really? Beating Coach and Albert wasn’t nearly as difficult as your portray it….

    and putting Tina so high, even after you admit that he best move was actually made by someone else….? She didn’t “get” Colby to take her instead of Keith… Colby was just dumb.

    Tom – good choice

    Danni – Not a bad choice

    Todd – Not a bad choice

    JT – Not a bad choice

    Kim – as number 1….? Terrible choice.(There’s a reason they reevaluated the game after that season…..)

    You put Denise higher than Richard Hatch…………. really? Denise’s best move was that Malcom played a better game than she did, and they had to get rid of him. Richard Hatch invented the “alliance” strategy. He won the game when noone could draw on past strategies to play…. He wasn’t a “student of the game” He was the teacher of the game. And to put Denise above him??? Well…… what can be said about that……. sheeeesh!

    • frank permalink
      November 28, 2013 2:31 pm

      ur an idiot…. it took Rob 4 tries to win…

      • December 9, 2013 1:11 pm

        As clearly stated though – rankings are based on the individual game played, not cumulatively. Regardless of his vast inconsistency as a player overall, his game in s22 was an incredibly strong one. If anything, I rank it lower than I’m inclined based on just how uneven the playing field was (particularly as it was the first season since s11 to mix two returnees with newbies) so it was basically a new concept again. But at the end of the day, that’s not his fault – logically, what more can we expect him to do to be worthy of that win, come HIGHER than first with a 8-1 vote? I do think he deserves some credit for the fact he was a last minute substitute for Richard Hatch, so he also had significantly less prep-time than everyone else playing that season..

  2. Josh permalink
    December 19, 2012 8:51 am

    I think Aras should be above Amber at least. Remember, he didn’t ride coattails, he got himself to the end, but Rob got Amber there. Aras was more in control of his position in the game than Amber was. I think Earl is far too low. If you rewatch Fiji, you can see that he and Yau-Man worked together in the same way J.T. and Stephen did. Remember, it was Earl who convinced Cassandra, Stacy, Dreamz and Boo to join his alliance after the merge, and this gave them the numbers. Plus he found an idol that saved Yau-Man.

  3. Alex permalink
    December 19, 2012 9:02 am

    You appear to have docked Richard quite a few points for his all-stars performance, but Tina was eliminated earlier than him, didn’t dominate Australia as thoroughly as he dominated Borneo, and she’s higher. Could you please explain this? And also Tom. He was eliminated in H.V.V. at the same point Hatch was in All-Stars (5th off) but he’s second. For Kim’s best move, I would have thought that it was blindsiding Micheal.

  4. December 19, 2012 11:50 am

    Good points – love the different perspectives!

    I actually didn’t factor in anyone’s repeat performances into the actual rankings, I just based them on the actual winning game from that season. Otherwise a player like Parvati, for example, who I believe could easily be the number 1 of all time overall, had a winning game in Micronesia with a few flaws that I deducted for.

    The other big part is I factored in the actual degree of difficulty into the win. Boston Rob is probably the only one I’m still unsure where I feel he deserves to be because, definitely, he played a Top 3 worthy game that season but, on the other hand, he played it against I think the single most unbalanced playing field in Survivor history. And not because of the actual cast themselves, who had potential (people like Mike, Kristina, Andrea, Ralph, Grant and Ashley could all do very well on other seasons), but because it was really the first (I don’t count Guatemala) season with the new awful returning players format, so the resistance and awareness of how to handle returnees wasn’t yet there. And a player that has already played three times, particularly one famed for his skills around camp, is basically a starstruck free pass. It’s like beating a bunch of preschoolers at Chess. Sure, you won easily, but how accomplished can you really feel?

    Richard I think is a good player in some ways. He has some great strategies and a good insight into basic human psychology. But he’s actually not a very good social player. I think, nine times out of ten, he’d be a pre-merge to merge boot in the game now (even if you didn’t factor in reputation). Definitely I give him credit for pioneering the first alliance, but it’s actually not the stroke of genius that everyone makes it out to be. Or, rather, it doesn’t automatically make him a lock for #1. I was maybe 12 years old when the first season aired and I remember watching the premiere at the time and the first thing that occurred to me was – why don’t a group of them just get together and agree on how to vote, you’d be unbeatable, because there’s no point voting if you don’t know how other people are also voting. And Richard came close to being voted out a lot of times post-merge and only won because he was next to Kelly. Had Rudy have gone to the F2 he would have smoked him.

    Kim I really don’t think gets enough credit, particularly if you read all the post game interviews on what was really going on behind the scenes (which is important if you really want to make an educated ranking). She ran that game with a level of absolute control rivalled only by Tom or Boston Rob and, even then, probably more so than either as NO ONE was considering going against her, she had them so fooled. And they weren’t as dumb a players as editing made them look to be either..

    • Alex permalink
      December 19, 2012 1:22 pm

      I understand now. What you’re saying makes sense. I think that you have the people grouped very well. The people you have near the bottom (Natalie, Vecepia, Fabio Sandra) played pretty awful games, and the people you have near the top (Chris, Danni, Kim, Tom) played great games. One thing I want to give you credit for is not saying Sandra’s automatically the best just for winning twice. Some other ranking sites do that, and the main reason it seems unfair is that not every winner has had the chance to play twice. I agree with most of the rankings, however, I believe you are selling Earl short. He and Yau-Man were working together the same way J.T. and Stephen were. I agree that Denise is a middling winner, not great, not awful. Her strategy was kind of the opposite of Natalie and Amber. While they aligned with an unlikeable person (Rob, Russell) so they could beat them in votes, Denise aligned with a more likeable person (Malcolm) so everyone focuses on getting rid of him instead of her. I liked how she formed such strong bonds with everyone that she was able to navigate her way through the game so easily. I think an older woman winner was needed, to remind everyone that an older woman can win.

      • December 19, 2012 4:11 pm

        Fiji is one of the few seasons I have yet to rewatch and, to be honest, you could very well be right. It crossed my mind when I was doing this – I’ll have to put it on the To Do list for the Christmas Holidays, if only the idea wasn’t so boring!

    • kfh permalink
      November 22, 2013 11:28 am

      The players on One World weren’t as dumb as they were as they were made out to be? This is the season with the tribe that was convinced to give up Immunity and go to Tribal Council. Also, it had Kat. Seriously, dumbest cast ever. Runner up goes to Boston Rob’s tribe on his winning season. That’s why I can’t rate either winner as highly as you do.

      • December 9, 2013 1:25 pm

        There were some potentially very strong players in One World – they were just neutered quickly and effectively by Kim (similar to s22 and Rob quickly taking out anyone with free will and actively functioning neurons). And the fact that she was VERY OBVIOUSLY the single biggest threat post-merge and yet not one single person ever wanted to oppose her until after she’d publicly cut them loose is just incredibly impressive. She is easily the #1 winner who I think could win again in any kind of season, which is incredibly hard to do (Todd, Danni and Sophie would be the others). One World sucked to watch as a season BECAUSE Kim was so good – and unlike other similarly dramatically lacking seasons, she wasn’t even the beneficiary of an overly generous edit – every single deleted scene and post-show interview backs it up (unlike say a Rob or a Cochran for example who got overly glorified edits).

    • June 22, 2015 2:01 am

      Boston Rob’s game on Redemption Island is way overrated. He only won 8-1-0 since he was up against 2 of the biggest goats ever in the final. He is lucky Grant Mattos, Matt Elrod, or even Ashley Underwood didnt reach the end with him. He would have had a much tougher time, and probably lost to the 2 guys atleast.

      Kim in One World was pretty amazing and unlike Rob would have beaten anyone at the end, but like Redemption Island it was a pretty poor cast with inexperienced players who didnt understand how to play the game properly. I would still rank her way higher than Rob on Redemption Island but not sure about 1st.

      Your super high ranking of Sophie baffles me to no end. I dont even know where to start. I still might rank her over Rob on Redemption Island though.

  5. Josh permalink
    December 19, 2012 1:48 pm

    I notice that Fabio, Aras, Sandra (H.V.V.) Richard, Chris, Yul, J.T. and Parvati have all dropped since your last ranking, while Tom, Todd, Brian, Tina, Danni, Jenna, Earl, Amber and Ethan have all moved to better spots. Is this because you recently rewatched their seasons? I’m just wondering.

  6. Keith permalink
    December 20, 2012 1:38 pm

    You say that Sugar should have won Gabon, but then you say: “If she had’ve actually decided to play for the Win instead of just for Fan Favourite, it could have all turned out very different.” How can someone who is making deliberate decisions that she knows will vaporize her chances of winning deserve to win? She wasn’t trying to win, so she can’t deserve to win. If she had tried to win, I would probably agree with you. I am surprised you didn’t say the deserving winner was Kenny.

  7. December 20, 2012 4:36 pm

    Kenny I would totally concede as deserving TBH, although he made some pretty bone-headed moves himself late game. If he had’ve made it farther than 5 I’d probably swap them, but I really think Sugar controlled that game more than anyone. Like – I’m not a fan by any means, but I don’t think the level of play she demonstrated gets credit, even if her end goal (fan favourite) was basically retarded. Gabon is one of those seasons where no one post-merge really deserved the win. Heck, I think I liked Corrine’s play the most and you know you’re clutching at straws when she’s the best you can think of!

  8. Keith permalink
    December 22, 2012 3:14 pm

    What does TBH stand for? I’m guessing The Big and then I don’t know what the H could be.
    One question. On your last ranking, you mentioned that if Rob won he’d be somewhere between spots 4 and 3. But he’s much lower. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s in the right spot now. But what made you change your mind? I agree that Kim is numero uno. I loved how you sped up the clip of J.T. giving Russell the idol. It made it really funny. I’d move Chris up (that’s just me) but since the top 12 all played really strong, dominating games, it’s always hard to place them.

  9. December 22, 2012 7:05 pm

    Oh, TBH is To Be Honest. I like to throw some post-Valley Girl slang in to keep things light. Don’t want people thinking I’m, like, smart and stuff.

    With BRob – I definitely thought he’s be a Top 3 contender and, honestly, his level of play is still worthy of it. You can’t argue that his game wasn’t on the same level as a Kim, a Tom, a JT or a Parvati. But because he was playing on such a handicapped field, I can’t rank his game higher than people who had to overcome a lot more. It’s a similar thing with Yul and his super-powered magic immunity idol.

  10. December 23, 2012 2:58 pm

    I think this list is pretty decent. I agree with a lot of the general tiers in which you ranked players, but would change around the order of a few.

    The one major misstep I see is having Earl so low. I think not having him in a top 5 or very close to that is overlooking just how masterfully he played the game. You say winning 9-0-0 is less impressive given his competition, but isn’t having that poor competition sitting alongside you one of the most challenging aspects to the end game of Survivior? Throughout Fiji Earl was brilliantly socially and mowed through the game alongside Yau, whom was a perfect buffer for him in the end game.

    I think Aras is much lower than he should be as well, considering the number of random variables he had to deal with. I feel like Cirie being such a great player makes people overlook how capable and quite good Aras was both socially and strategically in his own right.

    • December 23, 2012 11:36 pm

      Thanks! You have a fair point with Earl. When I re-read this, I already made a mental note to bump him up to at least 11 or 12th. It’s hard because Fiji is one of the few seasons of Survivor I’ve only watched once and, due to my apathy for the season, have probably read the least amount of post-game interviews/deleted scenes from (which is what I base a lot on as it gives a much clearer picture of the overall game). I’ll probably rewatch over the Christmas holidays since, if nothing else, it will probably beat interacting at length with at least half of my extended family.

      I think the one major thing that I do tend to get hung up on with Earl is the fact that he won against Cassandra and Dreamz, but that’s probably doing him a disservice as I do think his vote to boot Yau Man gets overlooked a lot and is actually an excellent strategic move.

      I honestly don’t remember Aras being that impressive but I’ll have another look into it and have a bit of a rewatch of Exile Island too. Partially he’s in the same boat as Yul where a super-powered Idol really changed the winner of that game. Even though Terry was in possession, it should never have expired at F4. If you took the Idol out of the equation, you have Terry booted then and, most likely, a Danielle/Cirie Final 2. I guess that’s not really Aras’s fault per se, but it’s probably where I’ve always gotten stuck with his game. It’ll be interesting to rewatch it and see what I missed slash have forgotten about…

    • ben permalink
      September 24, 2013 10:09 am

      I think Earl played a great game. But I guess something was wrong with his outward appearance that is why he was ranked low.

      • October 23, 2013 3:06 pm

        I’ll do an update once Blood vs Water finishes bleeding all over my TiVo in a few weeks. The two players I most need to update are Aras and Earl who, if I’m completely objective, I think I ranked lower than deserved because of (a) my complete apathy to their seasons and (b) being two of the only ones I’ve never rewatched since. To be fair, I base a lot of it also on post-show interviews and other things that give better insight to what really happened during the season as opposed to just the edit, but I’ll happily cop to the fact both of those two are too low.

        I’m also going to give you the benefit of the doubt and hope that your ‘outward appearance’ comment isn’t implying that there is any sort of racial reason for the rankings. Because I would truly offended if it were.

  11. Richard permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:22 pm

    One suggestion. I notice that you have video clips for some of the winners. Well, you could have a video clip for each winner, and the clip could be the montage of the winner that they show at the begining of the reunion show. Here is a link to a YouTube video that has the montages for Chris through Sandra (H.V.V.)

  12. JuanCarlos permalink
    April 4, 2013 4:53 pm

    Since I didn’t watch any of the seasons more than once I might be speaking from ignorance but the worst player I ever saw was Sandra and it’s not even close. Unless doing nothing and having no plan and never influencing any votes or establishing any alliances is a recognized strategy. Did she ever win an individual immunity? Her success was by default and her big move was to consume oxygen.

  13. Paige permalink
    July 17, 2013 2:56 am

    Players such as Natalie, Vecepia, and even Amber are often extremely underrated. They used big characters (like Rob or Russell) beautifully as smokescreens, while they formed social bonds with members of the jury. Unfortunately, due to editing and a lack of understanding of the game, as the season comes to a conclusion America is often outraged that the UTR player wins over the blatant strategist.

  14. Matty permalink
    July 27, 2013 12:05 am

    Tina is underrated because people forget that she had only one season to learn from. She couldn’t follow Richard Hatch’s plan because that strategy would only work once. So, she developed her own. Unlike Richard’s strategy, Tina’s remained hidden until the very end. When it became obvious at the final tribal council, she earned respect votes from the strategic players whom she had defeated.

  15. Jess permalink
    September 8, 2013 1:39 pm

    I loved reading this! I’ve been re-watching the seasons that are airing on TV Guide Network. I have so much more respect and love for Parvati as a player now. I didn’t like her on her first season so I was sort of blind, but in re-watching her Micronesia play (creating the all-female alliance but being the tie between the two sides within the alliance was masterful) and then especially her Heroes vs Villains play (she played perhaps the best game ever in making the finals despite being the #1 target of both sides from day 1, having to manage Russell for 39 days, winning 3 inmunities, and pulling off the JT boot that led to the Villains taking control) I firmly believe that her play in those two seasons is the best we’ve seen.

    Rob played great during his win, but I firmly believe he was aided by the people behind the scenes. For one, he was put on a tribe with people who clearly didn’t know how to play the game. For another, there were almost no reward challenges, which meant there weren’t many times where the players were split into smaller groups. Those are the times when players often talk and side alliances can develop. Rob’s “buddy system” was completely aided by the lack of reward challenges. And, yeah, it was his 4th time playing!

  16. Kyle permalink
    September 18, 2013 6:24 am

    I agree with most of this of your ranks! But Vecepia and Amber should’ve been ranked lower with Ethan following after. Also, Sandra’s game in Pearl Islands was much better to me than her game in Heroes vs. Villains. She followed her same game play and her biggest move would’ve been to get Russell out when she had the chance but couldn’t. Therefore, I think her game in H vs. V should’ve been ranked lower.

    And for all the “praise” Boston Rob gets, okay people let’s get real. People who have to be on reality tv competition shows more than twice really have no life and are in dire need of money. For example, Stephen Baldwin (the biggest annoyance in reality tv history) has been on almost any form of celebrity competition show you can imagine and hasn’t won jack squat! Kendra Wilkinson, Omarosa, LaToya Jackson (guest judging everything) are prime examples of producers bringing them back for spot fill ups. Boston Rob is the prime example of this in Survivor. Granted, I at one point was rooting for him in H vs. V because I think he was playing a good game until he was blindsided. But “Redemption Island”???? Come on!! That season was “Survivor: Rob Mariano Island” thanks to CBS producers who already had the check written in his name!! It was completely rigged for him to win, they put a mentally unstable former special agent in the mix, two bimbo headed lazy girls, the true player of that season Francesca..*tries hard not to laugh*..and the most boring opposing tribe on the face of the Earth…YEA I can assume he’s winning. Oh and also that this man was treated like a king the entire season, even when he had his little bitch meltdown after winning the immunity Challenge that sent Andrea home, and had his #1 fan Jeff Probst on his side quicker than Mike Skupin had medical to his side when he fell in the fire.

    With everything going down on Big Brother about producers CLEARLY rigging the game for people to get farther or win, it’s pretty safe to say and to reiterate that in Survivor, Boston Rob was carried by the unseen producers of the show. So my point being that Boston Rob shouldn’t even be on this list!

  17. Kube permalink
    October 31, 2013 12:42 pm

    Am I the only person in the world who thought Sandra played an amazing game? I’ve looked through the comments and noticed so many thinking she was horrible. I always thought she flew under the radar (appropriately) while making moves and controlling the whole game without anyone ever realizing. How she and the blond girl from the first season she was on snuck around to eavesdrop on people’s conversations was (I thought) fantastic! I always thought she had the perfect mix of smarts, keeping her mouth shut and deceit (sneaking and gathering info). I’m pretty sure that’s why she won twice. Just my opinion, but her’s is one of the few stand outs I can actually remember. Cheers

    • November 1, 2013 12:20 am

      I would disagree with the use of the word ‘amazing’ but I totally agree she played solid games both times, it’s just that when you judge each seasons game individually, I think others played better games overall.

      Sandra’s strengths in both seasons are her ability to (a) always have her vote for sale, (b) always seem like the least likely threat of whoever is remaining and (c) be quite likeable socially. In Pearl Islands, I agree that her mastering the eavesdropping strategy was excellent work. In Heroes, her handling of the idol (not telling anyone, making a very amusing show and tell for the jury’s benefit when playing it at the F6) was very impressive. Her best move that whole season was actually the fact that she had Russell SO CONVINCED that no one would vote for her at F3, even though it was blindingly obvious to EVERYONE else that she would win if she made it to the end. That was her real GOAT move that season and rarely gets mentioned specifically. Major props – in the F4, Parvati was the only one pushing for the Sandra boot and, had she have had the security of the Immunity Necklace, we would have a very different ending to that season.

      And that is where Sandra loses a lot of points for me. For all these (admittedly impressive) strengths, both times her wins were entirely reliant on the whims of other players. Whereas Russell was an intentional play at the end, a lot of the times where she wasn’t booted weren’t through strong gameplay of her own, but weak play by others. There is SO MUCH chance and luck involved in her surviving several boots (she almost went pre-merge a few times in Pearl Islands and barely scraped through the post-merge clusterfuck when all her allies left). Heroes and Villains is harder to explain because the editors really oversold her gameplay (when you compare and contrast to the deleted scenes each week and the post-show interviews) – the Coach boot is a good example where editing gave her all the credit when the reality was Parvati was the one that instigated that boot and had been planning for it for weeks. Her surviving the following week (when Courtney went) was nothing to do with her and everything to do with the controlling alliance basically deciding on a whim. And again at F4. I think a player deserves proper for being able to play their way out of a corner, but doesn’t when the reason they survive a vote is arbitrarily determined by other players for reasons having nothing to do with them. And that’s basically why I rank Sandra lower than other winners – it’s not just the lack of control, but the lack of deliberate intent and strategy on her part that contributed to her making it as far as she did. I still think she’s great though..

      • Kube permalink
        December 10, 2013 12:32 pm

        Well I don’t know who you are, but you deserve some kind of medal for your ability to retain all that survivor info. Kudos to you! I definitely agree with you on many of your points, but I’m still not so sure that she didn’t have control and deserves to be so low… particularly for Pearl Islands. Luck has a tremendous impact on the game. Someone can fall into a fire, another person opens their mouth and eyes shift towards them over someone else… One minute you can be on top and the next… well, we know how it goes.

        Not that I’ve ever been on the show, but I secretly wish I could actually do it. I always say that I’d likely either be the first one voted out or I’d make it to the end. One thing I know is that I would “want” to play a game very much like Sandra. I put “want” in quotes because 1- if I don’t eat properly, I can become aloof or down right mean, and 2- I have a difficult time not saying what I think. Two very big problems for any Survivor. lol.

        In my mind, the best way to win (after watching every season) is to 1- CONTROL YOUR MOUTH. 2- LET OTHERS RUFFLE FEATHERS AND ENCOURAGE THEM WHEN THEY DO (quietly). 3- KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED… 4- Pull your weight. 5- Stay seemingly under the radar until opportunity strikes. 6- Strike at F7 and F5 to set yourself up for the win. I believe that’s what Sandra did in Pearl Islands and I think it’s the best way to win. Now that you mention it, I do remember thinking that it was a huge mistake for them to keep Sandra at F4 of Heroes vs. Villains, though I don’t remember the specifics.

        Again, I’m clearly not a Survivor expert on your level, but I’m a loyal fan and always will be (though I have to say that Jeff has been meddling a bit too much as of late). But I do have to say that I feel Sandra’s Pearl Islands performance deserves to be up there. You have Vecepia ranked higher than her. Vecepia should be last. Everyone should remember that Kathy should have won that season. Talk about luck!

        It’s amazing to me just how many of the winners I hardly remember lol. Other standouts for me though are Parvarti for her tenacity and exquisite manipulation and Sophie, who played such a solid and honest game.

        Overall I love your list. Thanks for putting it together. Brings back a lot of memories of my favorite show. Keep it up!

  18. Riley permalink
    June 5, 2014 12:56 pm

    Decent list but Sophie should not be 4th. She did very little strategic maneuvering that game and didn’t have great social skills.

    Also, I am a HUGE Russell fan but Natalie does not deserve 25th. Go back and watch the season again. Though Russell dominated that game and should’ve won, Natalie formed relationships with Laura and the other Galu girls, and Brett that Russell never took time to make. She also was almost solely responsible for Erik’s elimination.

    Hatch deserves better for literally inventing the game; true he probably wouldn’t do as well today but he changed the game more than any other survivor player has period.

    I cried when Sandra won a second time. She did almost nothing that game other than being lucky enough to make it to the merge and voting with the villains. She was unable to convince Candice to vote with the Heroes when the Villains were targeting Amanda. Her only strategic play was convincing Russell that Coach was gunning for him. That’s literally it.

    Yul also should be higher than 11th. He won by playing arguably the best social game that survivor has ever seen and beat some very tough competitors namely Ozzy and Parvati.

    I love Todd but not enough to give him 3rd.

    • Jess Hahn permalink
      September 6, 2014 3:56 am

      How did Hatch “change” the game? There was no game at that point to change. And if you re-watch the season, Kelly had the idea to form an alliance before Rich brought it up.

      • September 6, 2014 7:51 am

        Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely in the ‘Richard Hatch’ is overrated school of thought. When I say he changed the game, I’m referring to the fact that the whole style of game play he helped pioneer was NOT the way the game was designed by Producers to be played. No one behind the scenes had ever thought that such a strategy would be implemented – Survivor was designed to be more a Big Brother-style social experiment with a ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (not ‘Fattest’) philosophy, not the hardcore strategy game we know and love today.

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  20. hjbau permalink
    November 28, 2015 8:38 am

    I agree completely that Kim is the best player to ever played survivor. No one is even close, in my opinion. She had everyone convinced like eleven players out that she was taking them to the end, no one else has come even close to doing that. Her winning the challenges was completely secondary to her playing the best social game i have ever seen.
    If there is one player i want to see back on the show, it’s Kim even though it would be so difficult for her to run the game like that again, i would absolutely love to see her try. Best player of all time.

  21. Phil Ivey permalink
    January 7, 2016 12:25 pm

    Sorry but rating Kim at one is just silly. You are obviously just a massive fan girl. Her season was full of terrible players. Not one male was a competent player, indeed the most competent was a guy who quit the game! Yes there were a few females who had a bit of acumen but none of them had the stones to flip the game.

    Now that’s not to say that Kim didn’t play well, because she clearly did. But rating her so highly and not rating Earl because “Yau was more likeable” and ignoring how well he played, also with Yul and his amazing move to get Jonathan over to his side, and then beat one of the greatest survivor competitors in challenge history in Ozzy, and you rate him that low? I’m sorry but your logic is a little off on that.

    Parvatis win in Micronesia should not be discredited because of the final 2. Everyone thought she’d lose to Amanda let alone Cirie and she beat Amanda and played very well. Everyone loves the vote off of Erik at 5 but it was a horrible move for everyone except her, and she got Cirie to do the dirty work for her which was brillant.

    Sophie is also ranked too highly, however I will say that that season was edited horribly and it is very difficult to tell which one of Coach, Albert and Sophie should have won based on the really bad editing. I’m inclined to think that Sophie probably got lucky that people were very bitter against Coach and Albert though.

    I will give you credit for rating Sandra where she should be, well down the field. I think Tom did well, but again at 2 in a season where his tribe did alot of the hard work for him due to their dominance?

    I think Tony and Jeremy’s win in recent seasons have to be right up there due to the competition they faced. I also think Denise’s win should be ranked higher, she beat some much tougher competiton than any of Sophie, Kim or Tom.


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