Survivor Oz Top – Top 10 Win Costing Mistakes


It’s Wednesday which means it’s time for our fourth SURVIVOR OZ TOP TEN, this week from Ozlet Charles Kurz! As has been the case over 25 seasons, we’ve all watched as our favourite Survivor contestant made a fatal mistake that cost them the game, and often wondered what could’ve been had they chosen a different path. Well today we present to you ten contestants whose mistake potentially cost them one million dollars and the title of Soul Survivor! As always this top ten will cause debate, it will cause tension and it might even cause controversy. But it will have you thinking about all the big mistakes over the years that could’ve changed the landscape of an entire season and potentially even the entire show. But what mistakes make our top ten?

Note: All of the players who finished in the final 3 or 4 and lost solely because they didn’t win final individual immunity are not included on this list.

10. Ian Rosenberger – Palau


Ian did a great job of positioning himself in the final 3 in Palau. He played an outstanding social game, forming true and lasting bonds with both Katie and Tom. Ian also played a great strategic game getting his entire alliance in the endgame. Then when the final 3 came everything exploded in Ian’s face. The night before the final immunity challenge Tom found out that Ian and Katie had been planning on cutting his throat if he didn’t win the final immunity challenge. This caused a massive fight between the group where Tom challenged Ian’s friendship. The following day, Tom and Ian battled it out for individual immunity and almost a sure victory over Katie in final Tribal Council. After 8 hours of excruciating pain and exhaustion, Ian decided to give in to Tom with one condition: Tom take Katie to the final two over himself. While we don’t for sure know if Ian would have beaten Tom in FTC, we do know for sure that this is one of the dumbest moves in Survivor history.

9. Rafe Judkins – Guatemala 


Rafe Judkins, a 5-8 gay Mormon surprised everyone by playing a very good strategic and physical game in Guatemala. Rafe even won 4 of the final 5 individual immunities on his way to the final three. Before the final three, Rafe did a great job in securing final two deals with both Stephanie and Danni. Rafe was in a great position to win the game, as whoever won the final immunity challenge was going to take him to the final 2. Then Rafe made a mistake that cost him the game and possibly a million dollars:  after Danni won final individual immunity, Rafe decided to let her out of any obligations she had to take him to the final 2, thus allowing her to make the decision that was best for her. Being a smart player, Danni decided to take the much hated Steph to the final three and ended up crushing her in a 6-1 vote.  Why Rafe played the game so hard and so well just to give it up at the very end I will never know.

8. Paschal English – Marquesas


This may be the first surprising name on the list. Paschal English is known for one thing and one thing only in Survivor history- the purple rock incident.  Here’s some background on what happened. We got down to the final 4 in Marquesas with Kathy, Paschal, Neleh and Vecepia. Neleh and Paschal had been a tight nit alliance from the very beginning and Vecepia and Kathy banded together at the final four. What resulted was a tie 2-2 vote at Tribal Council. Now, here comes the interesting part. Jeff offered the contestants a chance at a revote with a warning that if they didn’t, everyone but Vecepia (the Immunity Necklace holder) was at risk of going home by chance. This was Paschal’s easy opportunity to change his vote to Neleh, which would have not only have advanced him another day in the game but also secured him a vote at Final Tribal Council if he had made it there. Instead what happened is that Paschal kept his vote of Kathy, and despite the fact that he was the only one who wasn’t voted for at Tribal Council, ended up going home when he selected the purple rock. This created the legend of the purple rock.

7.  Ben “Coach” Wade – South Pacific


A three time player of Survivor, Coach played pretty horrible strategic games in both Tocantins and Heroes vs Villains. However, Coach was a changed man, focused and ready to play for real in his third attempt in the South Pacific. On Day 1 of the game Coach created a powerful five person alliance with Sophie, Brandon, Rick and Albert. Coach dominated the game and the alliance made up 5 of the final 6 with only Ozzy, returning from Redemption Island in the way of a perfect five for five. Coach was in total control of the game making every decision as to the boot order. I believe he made a crucial mistake that cost him a million dollars when he decided to take Sophie and Albert at the end. Coach was not aware of how good of a social game Sophie was playing, especially with Savaii members Dawn and Cochran. If Coach had taken two of Rick, Albert, Edna and Albert to the end with him he would be a millionaire and considered one of the better Survivor players of all time.

6. Jonathan Penner – Philippines


Jonathan Penner; a three time Survivor player, has been one of the most intelligent and entertaining players in Survivor history. He has moulded his game a lot from when he was only focused on strategy and himself in Cook Islands, to the full social side of the game in the Philippines. Penner played a fantastic back to the wall game, playing idols when he needed to and winning Individual Immunity when he had no idols left. Penner finally put himself in a position to win the game when Lisa and Skupin came to him to make a final three deal. However, knowing that he wanted to go the end with Carter and not wanting to lie to Lisa and Skupin, Penner was non-committal towards the final three. Knowing this, Skupin and Lisa ended up making a final 4 with Malcolm and Denise which left Penner on the outside looking in. He was promptly eliminated at the next Tribal Council. If Penner had accepted the deal he would be a millionaire.

5. Malcolm Freiberg – Philippines


Malcolm was the star breakout performer of Philippines and appeared out of nowhere as a true Survivor triple threat. Malcolm has the smarts, plays a great social game and is extremely good looking. Using all of these aspects and the hidden Immunity Idol he found early in the game, Malcolm cruised to the final four despite the fact that his original tribe was nearly decimated. At final five, Malcolm made a tentative deal with Skupin and Lisa to take him to final 3, which he thought covered all bases. Before the final Immunity Challenge, Denise approached Malcolm to shore up their alliance and confirm that they would be voting out Lisa, causing a 2-2 tie. Malcolm, thinking he was covered on both sides did not give Denise the confidence that she needed. This cost Malcolm the million dollars as instead of having to make a fire before the lowly Lisa, and Denise ended up banding together with Skupin and Lisa to vote out Malcolm at the final 4.

4. Russell Hantz – Samoa


Russell Hantz is perhaps the most polarizing player in Survivor history. You either really love the man or really, really hate him. I believe Russell played an amazing game in Samoa and definitely deserved to win over Natalie and Mick. That being said, Russell did make one crucial mistake. Russell did an amazing job through manipulation and Immunity Idols to get the Foa Foa 4 to the final 5. When Brett won immunity at the final five however, Russell had to decide who he wanted to take with him to the final four.  He decided that he would easily beat Natalie and eliminated Jaison. What Russell didn’t realize was that Natalie had been playing a very strong social game and made friends with a lot of the Galu members. If Russell had eliminated Natalie White at the final five and went to the end with Jaison and Mick, he would have had a very good chance to win the million dollars in Samoa.

3. Kenny Hoang – Gabon 


Kenny, a professional video game player came out of nowhere in Gabon. Kenny dominated the post merge game in Gabon, shifting alliances and being the main man responsible for the eliminations of Charlie, Randy and Corinne. Kenny was in a great position in the game at final 6, having played a great strategic and social game. He had strong bonds with Susie, Crystal, Bob and Sugar, but Kenny made a horrible mistake. After making a deal with Bob that would give Kenny individual immunity should Bob win at final 6, Kenny was too loud about reneging on the deal. Kenny had planned all along to cut Bob at this point which would have been a great game move. However, due to Kenny becoming overly cocky, Bob found out about this plan and instead voted out Kenny’s closest ally and Kenny in back to back Tribal Councils. If Kenny had been a little less cocky and not made this unnecessary game move, he would have had a very good chance to win the million in Gabon.

2. Erik Reichenbach – Micronesia 


Erik was a doe-eyed super fan who was on the fans tribe during Survivor: Fans vs Favorites. Erik did a good job getting to the final 6 and being the last male battling against an all-female alliance. Knowing that he had to go on an Immunity run to the win the game, Erik promptly won the next two individual immunities eliminating Alexis. At the next Tribal Council, Erik made the mistake that not only cost him a million dollars but also has become known as the dumbest move in Survivor history. The girls convinced Erik that in order to redeem him from the social mistakes that he had made earlier in the game, his best move was to give individual immunity away to Natalie. Erik at the time was just naïve enough to believe that the girls had good intentions and wouldn’t vote him out. Of course their plan all along was to vote him out and they promptly did so only minutes after he put the necklace on Natalie’s neck.

1. Colby Donaldson – Australian Outback


I’ll keep this short and sweet, as Colby made one simple mistake in Australia that cost him a million dollars. After dominating the entire game both socially and physically, Colby won the final immunity challenge. He had to make a decision over the million dollars and taking Keith or taking his close friend and ally Tina, who perhaps was the only person in the game that could beat him at Final Tribal Council. In the end, Colby went with his heart over his head, picked Tina and ended up losing to her in a 4-3 vote. Had he chosen Keith he probably would have won 7-0. As honourable as this move was, Colby needed to realise that Survivor is just a game and Colby basically handed Tina the game.


What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!

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29 Comments on Survivor Oz Top – Top 10 Win Costing Mistakes

  1. Fantastic article, though I have to defend Coach and say that while he would have won against maybe Edna and Rick you have to keep in mind that they still would have needed to defeat Ozzy in an immunity challenge at some point to prevent him from getting to the final 3 and winning by a landslide. Albert and Sophie were the two best physical competitors in his alliance so he had to bring them with the hopes that they could beat Ozzy which Sophie ended up doing. I think Coach made the best decision he could have given the overall situation, but got a bitter jury.

    • thanks for the kind words, I understand that point but when your at the head of a dominant alliance those shouldnt be your thoughts. Its all about who you can beat in the endgame and its hard to imagine any of those other people beating coach in the final 3.

      • Why shouldn’t that be in your thoughts? You’re right it should be about who you can beat in the end game and one of the people he couldn’t beat was Ozzy physically or on a jury so he needed to get rid of him. All the viewers thought he would beat Sophie as did he and it’s only in hindsight that we regard it as a dumb move, but no one said going in “Man, Coach shouldn’t have taken Sophie” she had no social game and didn’t do anything strategic except fall into the right alliance no one really anticipated her winning, but the jury just didn’t wanna pick Coach and Alberts jury management was too obvious. I understand your point, but I just don’t think it has much forethought I would rather risk going against someone I thought I could maybe beat than going against someone I know would win hands down.

      • I tend to agree with Joseph on this one, he should have thought (and it looks like he somewhat did) of who could beat Ozzy in a final challenge, coz let’s be honest, Coach is pretty hopeless at them! No offence Benjamin! In hindsight i think Coach chose the ‘correct’ 2 people to align with to go to the end, but only to serve that purpose (ensuring Ozzy didnt make the F3). Unfortunately, he did underestimate Sophie, though i’m not sure why because she came across as very intelligent and not a bad social player (or maybe that was too behind the scenes to see). I still blame Redemption Island for this whole debacle. If it weren’t for that twist Ozzy would not be around…
        And in all of this, i’m not a Coach fan.. ha!

  2. Rafe releasing Danni didn’t really change anything much. In her interview, she said the promise meant nothing to her and would have voted him out anyways. Rafe only won three out of the five Immunity Challenges that you highlighted. Stephenie won the Final 5, and Danni won the final six. Rafe won F8, F7, and F4, the fourth one he’s talking about is when they did the double boot episode.

    Also- Danni would have won against any of the final three members. Doesn’t matter who she picked. 😉

    Great article though!

  3. What about JT giving away an idol to the villains?! That changed the entire course of the game…

    • Yep. While I don’t think that it was a stupid move per-se (how can J.T. know that Russell is the leader and not the outsider?), it was a very big win costing move. However, we don’t know if J.T. would survive after they eliminate the Villains though considering that he is a threat.

  4. Great article, Cesterinino 2.0! Love that you put Kenny so high up.. and funny how all these stuff ups are by men 😉

  5. The Palau challenge lasted almost 12 hours, not 8 hours.

    Russell also had zero chance of winning Samoa no matter what he did.

  6. Good choices there.
    One of the biggest mistakes I always think about is Kelly simply not picking a higher number when Greg asked her to say a number between 1 and 10, as that’s what ultimately cost her the win.

  7. Is Penner really a bigger threat than say Malcolm-Denise and would surely win against Lisa and Skupin? I think Penner’s vote for Denise was contributed also due to his elimination – while it is mainly his fault – could’ve had a more personal effect on him than what was shown. He connected with both Lisa and Skupin, being actors and returnees respectively, and we wanted them on his side. He probably thought that Lisa and Skupin’s commitment to Denise and Malcolm could be overshadowed with their tightness, and was probably hurt due to the pair not wanting to break the pact.

    If Lisa (Skupin I think wanted Malcolm in the end, but then again I don’t know why he chose Penner over Denise to eliminate) only eliminated Denise, Abi then Malcolm (Penner+Carter+Lisa+Skupin could’ve split their votes between Abi and Malcolm) and hopefully eliminate Carter at F4 (Lisa and Carter could tie for the fire-making) then maybe Malcolm could vote for Lisa for eliminating him early, Jeff might choose Lisa for being the only newbie, etc. Although Tandang could still vote Penner though so it might be a longshot (then again it is Tandang’s own fault that Skupin flipped), but I think Lisa could have a better chance if this happened.

  8. I strongly disagree with the inclusion of Ian and Colby. It was not a “move” to ask to be voted out or pick the stronger opponent. It was simply a decision made in full knowledge that their game would be or could be ended. Ian didn’t say “take Katie” thinking it would benefit him, therefore it was not a move, it was a decision to keep his friendships. It only related to things outside the game. Same goes for Colby. He didn’t choose Tina thinking “now I’m definitely going to win”, he voted out Keith knowing he would likely lose but did so anyway because he valued taking the stronger opponent more than winning. It wasn’t a mistake because his intention was not surrounding the game.

    That said I’m glad you included Kenny because I do not understand people who think he should have won Gabon. He made multiple huge mistakes such as his deception of Sugar, voting for Matty, and his badgering of Bob. He was an all around terrible player and I disagree that he had any chance of winning.

    • But even if Colby and Ian intentionally asked to be voted out, isn’t it still regarded as a ‘mistake’ in the overall game? The aim is to win the million dollars (for most people anyway), so them choosing to be voted out or voting to keep the stronger component is still considered a “move”. It was just the wrong move in the end, if their aim was to win.. which didn’t seem the case… so really, this debate could go round in circles. lol!

      • It is a mistake if they purposely chose that move but with an aim to still win, and I think Ian really wanted to Katie to go in the FTC so he virtually quit, so I think he’s purpose is to have Katie in the FTC and it worked.

  9. 1. Russell’s mistake in Samoa was not choosing Natalie over Jaison. Russell’s mistake was his entire game. You can not treat people like crap and expect to win. It’s one of the most fundamental components of human behaviour.
    2. Actually Rafe stated he knew that Danni was not going to take him and so released her from the deal in an attempt to make her feel guilty. Rafe would have played one of the best games of survivor if he had eliminated Danni at the final 5. I understand why he kept her at the final 4 because he thought she was so sick she wouldn’t even stand a chance at the final challenge. Danni was Alledgedly too sick to stand. Rafe controlled Stephanie like a puppet, turning the jury against her and using her as a goat. He truly played the best game. Danni really did very little. And was lucky enough that Rafe opted to vote off Cindy due to personal annoyance at her keeping the car.
    3. No. Sophie played the best game in South Pacific. Coach didn’t control that tribe. Sophie had a final three deal with Rick and Albert, with Coach and Albert, with Edna. She really called the shots. Whoever Sophie wanted gone, was gone. The only reason she voted for Edna pre merge was because the tribe agreed to split the votes in case Mikayla returned from Redemption so that Sophie and Albert could say- look we wanted you to stay. Stick with us and we’ll take you to the final 3. She then took Brandon and Rick out who were jury threats. If you watch the Ponderosa video you see how much the Savaii respected the two of them. Additionally Sophie was really a bigger factor in getting Cochran to flip. Offering him a final 4 deal with Albert and Coach. Coach’s mistake was not being honest at the final tribal council.

    • I don’t understand how someone can realize Sophie was actually in charge but still think Danni didn’t do anything. She was running original Nakum, she ran second Yaxha, and only started playing under the radar at the merge when she had no power to continue playing a dominant game. She still influenced the game post merge, she just didn’t control it. She subtly placed ideas in people’s heads such as Judd wanting to take out Stephenie, and she got in close to Rafe. He wouldn’t have won against anyone but Stephenie because the jury saw them as the same person. He betrayed the same people she did. Anyway my point is Danni was a great player who did a lot, she just didn’t brag about it in confessionals.

      • I didn’t say Danni was a bad player. She was a great player. However Rafe controlled the post merge game- and her getting to the final 3 was more his mistakes than her doing,
        Stephwould not have won. The Guatemala cast did not want a veteran to win. Steph would have lost.
        Danni and Cindy would have voted for Rafe as both disliked Steph, especially after the game. I can see Gary respecting Rafe’s physical game and wanting a non returning player to win. Lydia felt betrayed by Steph more than Rafe as I re-call. As they were closer. Bobby Jon and Jaime were visibly happy to see Steph in trouble at tribal. It’d be close but Rafe would win. And to quote Cindy/ people saw Rafe as the real controller of the Rafe/Steph alliance.

  10. Why is James not on the list?? He had two idols in his pocket, and instead of playing them at back to back tribals, which would’ve guaranteed him final six at least, he chose to trust that Todd and Amanda would keep him around, and promptly got blindsided while holding both idols. I’d say that’s a game ending move

  11. Disagree with Rafe, Paschal and Erik.
    I don’t believe Danni would have honoured her word with Rafe hadn’t he let her out of any obligations, and I believe she would have voted him out anyway.
    Had Paschal voted out Neleh, he would have desperatly needed to win the final challenge to reach the final tribal council, cause neither Vecepia nor Kathy would have taken him to the final tribal council, and as he was weak at challenges, he had a bad shot at winning the game. Had Kathy picked the purple rock, he would have been taken to the final tribal council by Neleh had she won the final immunity challenge, aand Neleh was good at challenges. Had he faced Neleh at final tribal council, he would probably have won 7-0.
    Erik giving out the inmmunity necklace was the dumbest move ever, but not a win costing mistake, as no one would have voted for him on the jury, whoever he was sitting against at final tribal council.

    • And I forgot Coach who I also disagree with: He had not that much of control over his tribe, and anyway had he voted out Sophie, Ozzy would have won the final immunity challenge and the final vote, so it didn’t cost Coach the game.

  12. I find it very interesting that there are no women on this list. Also I have to say that in Philippines I think Denise would have won against Malcolm even if he had been in the final three with her. I also think that Danni would not have taken rafe to the finals with her even if he hadn’t of freed her of all obligations beforehand.

    • Actually Jeff asked, had Malcolm been with Denise in the final tribal council who would have voted for him, Jeff Kent and Lisa said they’d vote for Malcolm, but in an interview later, Malcolm said Pete, Penner and Carter told him beforehand they would have voted for him but they’re not gonna say it in the reunion, as a joke

  13. How about Brenda giving up the immunity challenge to her closest ally (dawn) ? that was one of the most emotional tribal councils ever

    • Aww poor Brenda. She WOULD have won if she didn’t let Dawn win. Voted off Eddie, and made it to F5. Next vote off Cochran/Sherri then vote of whoever is left between the two and take Dawn and Erik to the finals. Brenda becomes a millionaire and one of the most low key winners. 🙂

  14. Wow, I don’t know if you really watched the finale in Palau but what you wrote was all wrong:
    1. The challenge was 11 hours 55 minutes, not 8 hours.
    2. “excruciating pain and exhaustion”? Really?? They almost looked like they were enjoying themselves out there. Of course they would have been tired,but “excruciating pain and exhaustion”??!!
    3. It was not a “mistake”, Ian willingly gave up his chances of winning to restore his friendship with Katie and earn Tom’s respect. Therefore it shouldn’t even be in this article.
    4. “dumbest moves”… no, plain simple.

  15. James Clement in China?

  16. This is the best article I have read on Survivor Mistakes – you know your stuff – very impressive and can’t wait to see you in St. Barts!

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