Top 100 Survivor Players Power Rankings (#30-21)
Nov 14, 2020
- Last time, we ranked the top 31-40 contestants (Ethan, JT, Jenna Morasca, Aubry, Denise, Wentworth, Ozzy, Fishbach, Spencer, and Mike Holloway) and you had to guess for the next batch. Today, we’re gonna look at the 21-30 ranked contestants on my list. I said it once, I’ll say it again, this is COMPLETELY subjective, but being on the list in any facet is an honor and I made sure to include the people I thought shaped the game’s history best. You will disagree, and that’s okay, just be polite, kind, and respectful in your comments and healthy discussion. I cannot wait to hear what you think. Here we go!
*Number 30: Lex van den Berghe (Africa; All-Stars)- While Hatch was the show’s first strategist, Lex really elevated Survivor to the strategic game it is today. I put him a step above Ethan because, had Kim not won that final challenge, I think Lex becomes the winner of that season, and very well could’ve won All-Stars had he not made that ONE deal with Rob. At the time, he assumed Rob would pay him back, and if that happened, we likely see Kathy, Rob, Amber, and Lex in the final four, with Lex just a few immunities away from the win. I think Lex is a great strategist and a great anti-hero in the first era of Survivor. He is not a villain, but he does take things very personally, which gives him a very interesting character arc on the show. I’m surprised we never saw Lex on the show again, as he is a legend, and ultimately became a game changer in the way he gave life to Rob and Amber’s iconic showmance, which may have changed Survivor forever if he votes out Amber instead of Jerri. I love Lex and think he is very deserving for a spot in the top 30, despite making one huge blunder that lives on in Survivor infamy.
*Number 29: Malcolm Freberg (Philippines; Caramoan; Game Changers)- Oh poor Malcolm. Malcolm has one of the greatest two season arcs of any contestant, only to have a terrible third go, completely at the hands of other people’s stupidity. I know I praised JT’s game on Tocantins and HvV, but his Game Changers game was truly bad, and sent home Malcolm, who had his back, because JT let info slip to the other side. Malcolm could’ve made it real far that season, but alas, he ended up going home way too early. Now to Malcolm’s better games…Malcolm and Denise on Philippines is such a joy to watch, as they really went from bottom to top, and went from being decimated on a tribe to sitting in the final four. Their heroic journeys are so much fun to watch, and seeing Malcolm play a more trickster game in Caramoan is so interesting. He knew that playing back to back, he’d be an unknown entity, and knew he wouldn’t have the same golden boy image as he did on Philippines. He used that to his advantage, pulling in some scrappy underdogs in Malcolm and Eddie to pull of a truly fun blindside of Phillip. I do think Malcolm would’ve benefited from a few years between his first and second time playing, but for someone to come back-to-back and do as well as Malcolm did his second time, it’s truly admirable. He’s a great social player, but backs it up with great strategy and physical gameplay. He just got unlucky in Game Changers, but I do think 9 out of 10 times, he makes the merge, and may eventually win the game should he return.
*Number 28: Ciera Eastin (Blood vs. Water; Cambodia; Game Changers)- Ciera voted out her mom! But her game is far more complex than that. Some political views aside, I LOVE Ciera (in the game of Survivor), and wish she had made it further in Game Changers. I do think she is one of the real Game Changers on Game Changers, as she set the standard for “BIG MOVES” on the modern era of Survivor. On her first two seasons, she starts immediately as an under-the-radar player, cruising to the merge, and then becoming a huge threat in the merge. It’s because you don’t see Ciera coming until she finally breaks out and by that time, she’s dangerous. That’s also part of her downfall, as she doesn’t really have the social or physical game to back up her strategic prowess. Regardless, I think she’s a great strategist, and really flipped Blood vs. Water on its head with that rock draw. If it goes her way, Tyson is gone, and MAY not even return to the game, and I think Ciera has a good shot of winning the whole thing. On Game Changers, the reason she goes home is because they’re now aware of how dangerous she is, and that’s a testament to her reputation. She’s one of my favorite modern era players, and I’d love to see her return (again, political views aside).
*Number 27: Janet Carbin (Island of the Idols)- SUPER MOM is on this list. If you followed my power rankings on Island of the Idols, you know how much I love Janet. And I think she is the best first-time player of the past few seasons. Sometimes, a player does EVERYTHING right, and gets screwed because production steps in. Cirie wins Micronesia if it’s a final three, Shii Ann goes further in Thailand if it’s an actual merge, JANET WINS ISLAND OF THE IDOLS IF DEAN DOESN’T FLIP A COIN. Here’s the thing…if Dean doesn’t flip a coin, he doesn’t get a nullifier. If Janet gets votes at final five, she negates them with her idol. At final four, Janet wins immunity OR she goes to fire-making, where she clearly wins (c’mon, she made fire day one). If she’s sitting in the final three against ANYONE, she wins. There is no doubt in my mind. She was an exceptional social player, having some heat on her at the merge with the Kellee blindside, only to bounce back and become a true contender for the win. She played a flawless game, except for the one nullifier. It was fun when Carl used it, not when Dean used it. That’s the season, I get it, but had that coin flip not happened, Janet becomes one of the greatest winners of all time and likely jumps into my top 20. Sigh. I love Janet and HOPE she returns, because I do think people would immediately cling to her, and may let her get far. As a Survivalist, she is the epitome of “anyone can accomplish anything,” starting fires on day one and becoming the strong moral compass for the group. As I type this, I almost want to put her higher, if it weren’t for more iconic overall personalities and players. Just an exceptional player.
*Number 26: Vecepia Towery (Winner of Marquesas)- Kathy captured our hearts, Rob went on to become a legend. But what about Vecepia? Vecepia was an incredible player, and really played the first under-the-radar winning game. Ethan was in a big alliance, Tina was the center of hers, and Richard invented the strategic game. But Vecepia had a much more unconventional path, which makes her all the more interesting of a winner. She wasn’t loyal, and flip-flopped, but still maintained enough social bonds with others to garner people’s votes. She was able to remember certain facts about her tribemates that paid off both in winning a crucial immunity challenge, AND garnering jury votes in the end. She really knew exactly when to zig and zag, and while she was probably a goner without winning some immunities, she won the right immunities at the right time. At the final three, she throws the immunity challenge—a la Hatch—knowing that Neleh would do the dirty work of cutting Kathy. She is a true mastermind, that is only happened by her edit. I feel like the editors focused on bigger characters (Rob, John Carroll, Kathy, Sean, even Paschal and Neleh), so Vecepia gets hidden, but I do think she is a great player, and her riding under-the-radar only makes her win that much more influential and game-changing. She is also the first African-American—and only African-American woman—winner. That is a huge deal, especially given how reality tv was still figuring itself out in 2002. A great, underrated winner.
*Number 25: Natalie Anderson (Winner of San Juan del Sur; Winners at War)- Natalie’s arc is so much fun just from a statistical outlook. She wins her season, while her sister goes home first. Then on her next season, SHE goes home first, only to return and ALMOST win again! Natalie is interesting because she is a more villainous player who has a heroic path. I just love Natalie as a character, and think she is a very impressive player. On San Juan del Sur, she almost benefits from her sister going first, as she flies under the radar for most of the game—aside from her battles with John Rocker, which are much more character based than strategic. At the merge, she is shielded by how prominent Josh and Jeremy are, and once they take each other out, she has the numbers to hide behind her alliance and use Jon as her puppet, only to blindside HIM as well. At the final five, when she is able to utilize Jaclyn to blindside Baylor, she practically locks the game up there. She really does mastermind the entire latter half of the game, and has one of the greatest wins of all time. When she comes back, she is sent out first because of her relationship with Jeremy. Of any first boot, this feels the most excusable, as they threw her on a season (and tribe?) with Jeremy. That would be like Amber and Rob playing on the same tribe together, as Jeremy and Nat are practically family too. It was a completely unfair advantage, and despite going home first, she uses the season to her advantage and absolutely DOMINATES the edge. Do I think the Edge should’ve been there? No. But I do think SINCE it was there, it may as well factor into the overall gameplay, and it certainly helps Natalie’s gameplay. She’s a fun personality, and a true fighter, whether it be in a dominant strategic sense in San Juan del Sur, or a purely physical sense in Winners at War. To get second place on an all winner season is something, even if she had to get voted out first to do it.
*Number 24: Wendell Holland (Winner of Ghost Island; Winners at War)- Let me start by saying: THE EDITORS SCREWED OVER WENDELL. Wendell may not have been a hero in Winners at War, but he really wasn’t a villain. He wasn’t a bad guy, and just because he had a relationship with Michele didn’t mean he had to be portrayed as such. They needed an antagonist, and they decided Wendell would carry that burden since Sandra and Rob were already out, and Parvati and Tyson were less villainous because of the stories of their kids. Wendell is a great social player, and while he can be cocky, I do think he’s much more of a hero than a villain, so I’ll just ignore his Winners at War edit. He had a pretty great run on Winners at War, never really being in trouble until the tribe-swap, where he ended up getting the numbers to send home big players like Part and Yul. He is again sent home because he’s a strong threat physically, and has a tight relationship with Jeremy. What’s most impressive is Wendell’s first game. While Dom was the much more extroverted strategist (and spoiler alert: probably the better overall player because Wendell DID get sent home at the merge in Winners at War), Wendell rocked the social game and just made everyone feel safe and nurtured. He was a furniture builder and built actual furniture for the shelter, which is a huge way to win over the tribe. I love his team up with Dom, and it is one of the most iconic runs of any duo (THE most iconic, rivaling Amber and Rob) in the history of Survivor. To cause a tie in tribal definitely is a testament to both their games, but for Wendell to clinch the W, it only shows how well rounded of a player he is.
*Number 23: Adam Klein (Winner of Millennials vs. Gen X; Winners at War)- I love Adam and think he’s such a unique player because he IS the embodiment of the audience playing Survivor. He is exactly what all of us superfans would do if we hit the beach, as a first time player and then again amongst legendary players like Parv, Ethan, and Rob. He was a wide-eyed kid in a candy store, which made his path so endearing. Even if he hit some lows, he still bounced back through his relationships and his ability to be scrappy and scramble. His story about his mom is really what made us all fall in love with Adam and root for him, even over the likes of Jay and David. It’s great that he would’ve won with or without his powerful story, and it’s not fair to knock his game because of it. So many people say “oh, well Adam just won because his mom was sick” which is a BS excuse, because I think Adam had it locked up, especially against Hannah and Ken, before the tribal even started. It’s because he managed his threat level so well, and knew exactly when and where to maneuver. Sure, David outplayed him in the season from a strategic perspective, but Adam had the final say, swaying Ken to blindside David and secure his spot in the final three with the people who he could truly beat easier. I even reckon that Adam could’ve potentially won over David, as Adam may have had better social bonds amongst the jury. In his return, Adam dominated the screen time of the first half of the season, making huge moves like bringing up Natalie’s name on day one, and ultimately partaking in blindsiding Rob in the swap. Sure, he had to scrap again, but he was also influential, and managed his threat level until he was the only option to be eliminated. Even when he was at his most vulnerable, in his boot episode, he never stopped trying, attempting to use the podium as its own idol. It seems ridiculous, but if it WORKED, it’s a genius move. And I think Probst was secretly wishing they had thought of it first. I appreciate players like Adam (and JT) who make bold moves, even if they really backfire. Adam always sets out to keep a game interesting, and I think he had an amazing first game. He deserves to be high on this list, and those who disagree need to take another look at his overall game.
*Number 22: Tyson Apostol (Tocantins; Heroes vs. Villains; Winner of Blood vs. Water; Winners at War)- Tyson has only one truly good game in Survivor, which is why he doesn’t crack the top 20 (or 21), but his winning game is so dominant and his character arc is one of my favorites in the history of Survivor. He is a top 10 character for the show, for sure, and even if he’s fairly invisible on Heroes vs. Villains, he still adds to one of THE greatest blindsides in the history of the show: Tyson VOTING HIMSELF OFF. Tyson could’ve voted for Russell, forcing a tie between him and Russell, where they’d vote out Russell. Instead, he votes Parv, and sends himself home with a majority vote. Sigh. Tyson is so interesting. His first game, he is actually in control for a lot of the season, and if he wasn’t so cocky, he may have survived that tribal where Fishbach blindsides him. He is an extremely admirable challenge beast, winning those first two immunities in Tocantins, and winning his way back in Winners at War. Tyson has a lot of good underrated moments throughout his Survivor career. One is in Blood vs. Water, milking his injury so people wouldn’t see him as the physical beast he was on his first two seasons. It allowed him to sit around and be underestimated by the rest of his tribe, which ultimately led to the other side wanting to take out bigger physical threats, when Tyson could’ve easily beat many of them in challenges, especially at Redemption Island. On Winners at War, he smartly cashed in his tokens for peanut butter, giving him a big protein boost going into a challenge against a beast like Boston Rob. He won that challenge because he had that boost, and many who criticized him for wasting those tokens can now see that as a smart move overall. It’s the little moves that make Tyson such an endearing, and entertaining, player as much as he is a good character.
*Number 21: Amanda Kimmel (China; Micronesia; Heroes vs. Villains)- Amanda was a top 10 player for me until she came back for Heroes vs. Villains where I have some SUPER big issues with her game. But let’s stay in the positive: her China and Micronesia games are ultimately flawless until she gets to final tribal. It’s not that her final tribal appearances aren’t TERRIBLE, they just aren’t anywhere close to her opponents (granted she’s going against Todd and Parvati of all people). I do love Amanda’s gameplay, as she isn’t a cutthroat player, but also doesn’t just sit around. She helps pave her own path, and always aligns herself with trusty allies that have her back and can keep her safe, and who she can repay the favor to. In her first season, she aligns with Todd and James, one who is very strategically savvy and one who is very physical, only to help blindside James when the time is right, in an iconic blindside. While Todd is the one who gets all the credit for it, Amanda is a big key in that operation. In Micronesia, she does see herself on the receiving end on Ozzy’s blindside, but after that, she and Parv (along with Cirie and Natalie) control the game, pulling off that amazing Jason, Alexis, and Erik blindside. Her idol play against Alexis is the first really exciting idol play, and really establishes Amanda as a lethal—albeit quieter—mastermind. She plays two flawless games that only fall apart in final tribal when she can’t sell her games. In Heroes vs. Villains is when she loses me, as she is probably the reason the heroes fall apart. I don’t even think it’s JT’s fault, as Amanda is the one who tells Parvati “you better play that thing” in the most unconvincing way possible. She really blundered that reunion with Parvati, that could’ve given her the momentum to blindside Jerri or Sandra at the merge and given herself and JT the best positions to win. It’s a shame that she was so bad at lying, as it really sinks the heroes in general. I do think her pre-merge is solid though, as she is targeted every time, but manages to have the numbers to keep her safe. I love Amanda, and while not loving her HvV game, it’s not enough to push her any further down than 21. She’s a great player who I hope to see one last time in the future as she may have matured enough to sell herself should she make it to final tribal.
That was my top 30-21. So here are some clues for the next batch of contestants on the list. Let’s see if you can guess.
20. This player went from being a monumental swing vote between this list’s 37 and 59 ranked players to a UNANIMOUS winner.
19. While the legacy advantage made its way to the final 6 many times, this player played the legacy advantage BEFORE the final 6, the first to do so.
18. This is the only player to receive votes at the season’s FIRST tribal council AND win the game.
17. This player expanded past Survivor in terms of Reality TV. They appeared on both The Celebrity Apprentice AND The Biggest Loser.
16. Despite being in the Aitu 4, this player is in the 16 spot.
15. Despite only playing on three American seasons, this player has four Survivor seasons under their belt.
14. This player knows it all. But do they know they’re only 14 on this list?
13. This player would’ve had a perfect game if it weren’t for a certain Ms. Verreos!
12. This player has won the game, been the last juror, AND been the first boot.
11. 152 days. 11 tribes. A winner. A runner-up. A juror. A merge boot. A pre-merger. This contestant has done it ALL.
If you have any guesses for the next installment of the list, please drop them below. What do you think of numbers 21-30 on the list? Looking forward to sharing 11-20 next time.
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