Top 100 Survivor Players Power Rankings (#20-11)
Nov 18, 2020
- Last time, we ranked the top 21-30 contestants (Amanda, Tyson, Adam, Wendell, Natalie Anderson, Vecepia, SUPER MOM Janet, Ciera, Malcolm, and Lex) and you had to guess for the next batch. Today, we’re gonna look at the 11-20 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! We’re almost at the end!
*Number 20: John Cochran (South Pacific; Winner of Caramoan)- I really hated Cochran when I first watched South Pacific, but going back and revising the season, he really is so much fun to watch in the pre-merge. I do think, once he flips and iconically blindsides his whole tribe at the merge, his game is pretty much over, as he is just picked off when the rest of Savaii is decimated. I think I judged him so poorly on that game, but up until then, he is the most fun character of the season (which is saying a LOT given that both Coach and Brandon Hantz are on that season). Cochran’s second game is what really soars him up to legendary status. I have never seen a more dominant winning game, aside from maybe Rob in Redemption Island and Kim in One World, and Cochran does it while being such an unassuming winner. Nobody his size or stature seems like a guy who could win as many immunities as he did, yet he did so in an impressive fashion. He was never in danger of going home, in one of the cleanest singular season games ever, always having protection in either immunity or alliance. Cochran became an instant legend when he won, and is still in conversation as one of Probst’s favorites. He deserves to be top 20 here as he really learned from his first go round and played oh so dominantly.
*Number 19: Domenick Abbate (Ghost Island)- When we talk about single-season LOSING games, Domenick has one of the most impressive. He’s the best 1-time non-winner of all time because he was literally one vote away from becoming one of the show’s greatest winners. His only caveat was his social game, which wasn’t even weak, it was just not as strong as Wendell’s. I do think, with Winners at War, Wendell has proven to have more flaws in his game, whereas we haven’t really seen Domenick fail at Survivor, and thus I think that makes Domenick a higher ranked person for this list at this moment. He had a rivalry with Chris Noble that spanned the entire first half of the game, and it was great to see how that came to a big conclusion. Domenick lost allies here and there, but always came out victorious, thanks to his dominant duo with Wendell. He hustled and played hard, and totally earned his way to the end. Had Angela beat Wendell in fire, or Domenick is able to sway ONE vote, he is probably considered a top tier winner. His game is just so impressive, and I’d love to see him return at some point in the future, as I think he could do just as well a second time.
*Number 18: Chris Daugherty (Winner of Vanuatu)- Chris has been almost forgotten over the years, as Eliza and Ami are the only two from Vanuatu to ever return, but I do think Chris should be in the conversation for the greatest of all time. Especially one time players. Chris has, undoubtedly, one of the greatest arcs in the history of Survivor. In his first episode, Chris singlehandedly loses the immunity challenge for his tribe, and by a few votes, he is somehow spared. Over the course of the season, the men are decimated and facing a majority of women in the merge, to where Chris is the LAST remaining man on the season. Instead of laying down an accepting defeat, Chris is able to find the cracks in the alliance and blindside Leann, leading to Ami, Julie, Eliza, and Scout being sent home back to back to back to back. Against Twila, who had more allies on the season than Chris, he still wins the vote because he puts on one of the best final tribal performances ever. He has emotional heart to hearts, and takes ownership for his cutthroat gameplay, that actually earns respect from the jurors he needed votes from. Chris ends up winning 5-2, only losing votes from Scout and Ami, and pulling off the biggest underdog win of any player headed into a final 7. Sure, Underwood came back from the edge and Natalie White managed to knock off Russell…but Chris is the guy who was outnumbered 6-1, and managed to pick off every girl, AND didn’t receive a single vote in the process (his only votes coming from that very first tribal). It’s quite magnificent the way Chris pulls off his win, and had it not been for Julie Berry and Jeff Probst’s real life romance, we may have seen Chris and other Vanuatu returnees in the later seasons. Here’s hoping he’ll someday get a second shot at proving why he’s one of the best.
*Number 17: Richard Hatch (Winner of Borneo; All-Stars)- Hatch is an icon. He’s the first. You wouldn’t have Survivor without Hatch. He invented the strategy of the game as we know it, and didn’t hesitate to make alliances and cut people who were more deserving than others if it meant getting further along in the game. His All-Stars game tarnishes his legacy a bit, as he does some problematic stuff, but nobody can take away the Borneo game. If there is one player I need to see play Survivor again, it’s Hatch. Sadly, that won’t happen. He’s a legend, not much else to say.
*Number 16: Yul Kwon (Winner of Cook Islands; Winners at War)- Yul is a great player, who beat the ultimate Survivor player in Ozzy (seriously, the guy was built for this game), and managed to outsmart him and prove that strategy always beats physical in this well-rounded game we’ve come to love. Yul used his calming demeanor to really manipulate the contestants on his season, to where he really had everyone scared to cross him but never scared to befriend him. He was such a lovable guy that he really made a great impression on both seasons he was on. His most iconic moment is surely when he gets Penner to switch his vote and blindside Nate and then Candice. It’s really amazing to see the tight Aitu 4 stick together. Like I said, Ozzy is built for the game and should’ve won by the older school standard, but Yul proved that strategy and social game might be the key to victory, as he won by one vote in a historically close tribal council. On Winners at War, there’s not a ton to say about Yul’s game. He had such great social bonds early on that really evaporated once he hit the tribe swap and became the odd man out. Pre-gaming seemed to be Yul’s strategy, but it backfired when Michele, Nick, and Wendell had a tight pre-game alliance and took him out right before the merge. I wish he had been swapped onto a tribe with Sophie, as they could’ve really run things, and we may see a different season outcome. I love Yul and loved seeing him back, showing just how calm and collected he is on the island.
*Number 15: Russell Hantz (Samoa; Heroes vs. Villains; Redemption Island)- Hantz. An icon. We’re now getting to the point in the rankings where we almost don’t need to dwell on what these players did, as they are the icons. The most influential. Russell turned the game from Old School to New School, using idols as the main crux of his strategy, blindsiding allies left and right, and doing all he needed to do to get to the end of the game. The one caveat to Russell’s game is…well…he should have done a better social job to make sure he got votes. Which he didn’t. I think that’s where Russell’s only fault comes. He is one of the top 5 strategists anyone has ever seen. He just needs to social chops. His Redemption Island stint is what keeps him at 15, as he really failed miserably, but I entirely blame production for A) bringing him back that soon and B) not putting more returnees on that season to where he stands out as THE threat of the season. I love watching Russell play, and while I don’t think Russell could ever win the game of Survivor, I don’t think we’d have the game we have today (or players like Tony Vlachos) without Russell.
*Number 14: Rob Cesternino (The Amazon; All-Stars)- Along that note, we wouldn’t have players like Russell without Rob, who really kicked the show up to another gear in The Amazon. Sure, Rob never won the game, but he is one of the most influential people who ever played it. Should he win the last immunity, he is likely a unanimous winner. Rob flip-flopped all season, but played up the “young nerdy punk” character to where he had the tribe laughing with him as he cut their throats. It was quite impressive to see, and while I think Rob’s gameplay has only been built upon in the following years, I think he really set the standard for a primarily strategic way of playing. On All-Stars, similar to Russell on Redemption Island, he just had too big of a target on his back, and the tribe he was on made it nearly impossible to get anywhere. He was on a tribe with no winners, and was clearly the best player of the 6 (at the time), so naturally, they gunned for him first. I can’t fault anyone but production for that, as I do think Rob Cesternino is so game savvy. Similar to Hatch’s impact on the game itself, Cesternino’s podcast is also what sets him apart from lots of the others on this list. It got us talking about Survivor beyond the game in quite a massive extent. Without RHAP, we don’t have a Peridiam or a Survivor Specialists or even a Russell Hantz Show. Even if we do, they don’t gain the notoriety that RHAP gets without RHAP setting the foundation. I love Cesternino and hope he plays again, as he is certainly a game-changer and ONE OF the best to never win.
*Number 13: Earl Cole (Winner of Fiji)- Earl is awesome, and one of the greatest one-time players (next to only ONE other contestant who we’ll talk about next week). Earl plays a dominant game start to finish, but never once seemingly takes control. He allows his allies to feel appreciated and allows them to have their say, while he and Yau-Man are really overseeing all the strategy overhead. I do think Yau-Man beats him in the end, which is why I don’t think Earl is a guaranteed winner if he makes it to the end on his season, but since Yau goes home fourth, Earl had the check written for him before even showing up for final tribal. He plays a great physical game, one of the strongest on his tribe, while never being THE strongest in the game (he never has to win individual immunity). He plays an excellent social game, his smile lights up the jungle. And his strategic game, while a bit more quiet than some winners, is clearly present. He played the Old School game quite well, but adapted when he needed to adapt. What’s most impressive about Earl is that he hadn’t watched a single episode before going on the season. To me, that is mind-blowing, as he really made every single right decision over the entire course of the season. I love Earl and hope he’ll play again someday.
*Number 12: Tina Wesson (Winner of The Australian Outback; All-Stars; Blood vs. Water)- Tina is such an underrated winner. She’s an icon for sure, but her winning game isn’t given NEARLY enough credit. She makes the first huge move of any winner ever in forcing a tie between Mitchell and Keith, in which Mitchell goes home with the most previous votes cast against him. If she doesn’t make that move, it’s likely Keith goes home, and Tina may never recover with numbers, and someone like Mitchell, Amber, or Jerri could end up sitting in final two. After that episode, she really has control the rest of the season. She had perfect timing in getting rid of Jerri and Amber, so she is then in the perfect scenario to cruise with Colby and Keith to the end. That is why Tina is such a great strategist, when so many just praise her for her social game solely. Her social game IS immaculate, as she is able to convince Colby to take her over Keith in the end, which would’ve been a guaranteed win for Colby had he decided otherwise. Her motherly nature is what allows her to build those bonds in the first place. On All-Stars, she didn’t have much of a chance since the winners were being targeted from the get-go, but in Blood vs. Water, she is once again able to use her motherly bonds to make great alliances in people like Aras. Once she got sent home, however, she proved that she wasn’t ONLY a great Social and Strategic player, but a great PHYSICAL one by winning her way back into the game. If she wins that final immunity, she likely wins the entire game and becomes the second 2-time winner. She really proved that she still had the prowess to make a pretty big impact on a season all these years later. She is an icon, yes, but I’d argue she’s an incredible Survivor player who played perfectly her first time, and had an impressive go her last time. Tina is one of the best.
*Number 11: Rob Mariano (Marquesas; All-Stars; Heroes vs. Villains; Winner of Redemption Island; Mentor on Island of the Idols; Winners at War)- Rob is this low??? That’s what so many are asking. But look at Rob’s resume. With all his highs come all his lows. His first game is pretty unmemorable, his Heroes vs. Villains game gets derailed after Tyson royally screws up his vote out, and his Winners at War game ends early because he can’t adapt his strategy. Now, his All-Stars and Redemption Island games are something ELSE. All-Stars is an amazing run, as he is one of the lesser known entities of that cast, but makes himself one of the greats in a mere 39 days, making a showmance for the ages, and running the season. He blindsided his friends, took no mercy, and made it all the way to the end with Amber. His social game is where he really struggled that time, but we see him return to Heroes vs. Villains with a much more heroic and leader mentality, to where he’s one of the more likable presences there. On Redemption Island, he is the hero once again, almost acting like a coach to all the newbies. His biggest move is the buddy strategy, which seems so simple on the surface, but leads to the most dominant win the game has ever seen. He quite literally sails through the game, with his ONE adversary being Matt, who he’s able to blindside twice. Once he gets out Matt and the whole Zapatera tribe, he then sees who his biggest threats are, and who aren’t threats. He takes Phillip and Natalie, the two clear weakest, to the end, and sweeps the jury (save for Ralph’s stupid Phillip vote) in a near-unanimous landslide. Rob really has no faults in his Redemption Island game. Zero. And that is why it’s so impressive. Sure, it was his fourth time, but Russell was taken out right away because he was a threat. Rob managed to minimize his threat level and actually get rid of the people who threatened him. Russell couldn’t do that, and that’s why we see Russell as the third vote-off and 17th place and Rob winning the whole thing. Rob is an icon, maybe THE icon, of Survivor. His iconic hat, his chain, his romance with Ambuh, his blindside of Lex, his leadership on HvV and Redemption Island, his statue in Island of the Idols. Rob is the face of Survivor. If it weren’t for a so-so debut in Marquesas, and a poor Winners at War showing, we may be talking top 10, but the ten people I put above him have had a greater success rate and just speak more to me as a fan. I still love Rob, and he deserves to be this high for sure.
That was my top 20-11. Now that we’re down to the top 10, it’s pretty clear who they are…I’ll give them to you alphabetically and I’d love for you to GUESS the order in which I rank them! The top ten in first-name ALPHABETICAL order are: Cirie Fields, Jeremy Collins, Kim Spradlin, Michele Fitzgerald, Parvati Shallow, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Sarah Lacina, Sophie Clarke, Todd Herzog, Tony Vlachos. What do YOU think?
If you have any guesses for the next installment of the list, please drop them below. What do you think of numbers 11-20 on the list? Looking forward to sharing 1-10 next time for our final ranking.
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