It’s Wednesday again! What does that mean? SURVIVOR OZ TOP TEN time of course! This week, Ozlet Nick Chester brings you his top ten game changing players. These are players who have changed the course of Survivor history because of the way they have gone about playing the game; whether it be physically, socially or strategically. There been close to four hundred players to play the game, but only ten will make the list. So whose game has taking the Survivor world by storm and changed the game forever? You’ll have to read on to find out!
Of the nearly four hundred people who have played Survivor over twenty-six seasons, there have been many different types. Some good, some bad, some completely forgettable. A small handful have taken the game and played it in such a different way that they have left a mark on how future players approached it. Thus, they became “game changers” and stand apart from the rest. They may not have all been ultimately successful, but they all changed things, almost always for the better. Here are the ten who I believe changed things the most.
10. Tom Westman – Palau
Traditional Survivor strategy dictates that it makes sense to keep your strong, athletic players around until the Merge to help your tribe win challenges, then boot them as soon as you can after the Merge, as they become a threat. Tom turned this strategy on its head. Tom made the strategic decision to show his full athletic ability in order to give his tribe a significant numerical advantage heading into the Merge. He then used this as a trump card, along with a large slice of likeability to convince his tribe mates that in doing so, he had stuck his neck out for them and should be rewarded by not being targeted because of his strength. Not everyone was convinced, but enough were to keep him safe and take him all the way to the win. It was a unique strategy, one that wouldn’t work for many, but it definitely showed a different way to play the game.
9. Vecepia Towery – Marquesas
Vecepia’s game has never gotten the credit it deserves over the years. Often, Survivor fans are more drawn to the players who take the game on aggressively and make big, bold moves for everyone to see. Vecepia’s game was much more subtle and really changed the perception of what was required to win. She, (in her own words), “fluffed up” the alpha males around her, letting them take leadership roles and then taking the fall when their ego’s got the better of them. Meanwhile, she made great social relationships, (commented on by other players), and had no problems making ruthless decisions when she had to. Vecepia is considered one of the pioneers of the “under the radar” strategy and is the reason social skills almost always beat out strategic skills in the end.
8. Ben “Coach” Wade – Tocantins
Survivor has always cast people who are viewed more as “characters” rather than players. They are there to provide entertainment and generally there is no hope they will win – just sit back and enjoy the crazy train in motion. These characters have often had a ‘bit-part role’, sideshows to the main attraction of strategic players. This was until Coach came along. In Survivor: Tocantins, his crazy antics were centre stage, drawing wide mouthed disbelief from both the audience and his tribe mates. Coach became the first of a line of “character” players, people who got screen time not so much for their good game play but their wacky antics. Was this a good or a bad thing for Survivor? That’s debatable, but Coach definitely signalled a change in casting direction for the show going forward.
7. Colby Donaldson – Australian Outback
If the first season of Survivor was defined by Richard, the second was all about Colby. Sadly, he is now thought of by many as the guy that gave away a million dollars by taking Tina to the end instead of Keith; or the lame has–been of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. However, Colby changed the game by choosing to play the game with nobility rather than cold logic. He clearly knew what he was doing when he voted off Keith but felt it was the right thing to do. This can be seen as a strategic mistake or the first of many moves in the game of Survivor where friendship and integrity is put before money. Regardless of your view on this way of thinking, it’s noticeable that Colby was a pioneer for this age old Survivor dilemma. It may have cost him the game, but he is still one of the most widely remembered and popular players of all time.
6. Kim Spradlin – One World
Kim joins Parvati as perhaps the only two females to play an aggressive and in control game and still win. The sad reality is it seems much more acceptable for men to lie, cheat and steal and still win the game, but women cannot win the game playing so aggressively. Whilst Parvati certainly played aggressively, Kim led so clearly from start to finish in her game, all in her first attempt at playing. She absolutely changed Survivor and opened the door for more women to play that way. This isn’t to say her game wasn’t subtle – she often spoke to people in their own language and style to gain their trust, (most noticeable with Alicia when convincing her to vote off Tarzan). She also had an amazing ability to hold most people’s trust right up until she stabbed them in the back and could be confrontational without being aggressive. Simply put, she is one of the best players in Survivor history and you don’t need to be a male to play an alpha style, in-control game.
5. Russell Hantz – Samoa
Perhaps the most polarizing figure in Survivor history, Russell’s approach to the game was fresh and unique. He wasn’t the first player to decide that deliberately sabotaging his tribe mates was an effective way to get them to do what he wanted, but he was the most successful. Although it seems the wise thing to do now, going looking for Hidden Immunity Idols without clues was pretty much unheard of prior to Survivor: Samoa and really made people sit up and pay attention. The aggression with which he executed his strategy was unlike anything ever seen in the game. Was it the wisest way to play? Results would suggest it wasn’t but there is no denying it was fascinating to watch how Russell played. The mark Russell has left on the game is one of the most debated issues amongst Survivor fans, and after three appearances himself, along with two appearances from nephew Brandon, Russell’s mark on Survivor was certainly a game changer.
4. Richard Hatch – Borneo
So much of the game as it is currently played still dates back to how Richard engineered things in Survivor: Borneo. It could be argued that eventually someone would come up with the idea of alliances, but who knows how differently the game would have been played if Richard had not developed this plan early and won using it. Richard didn’t simply grab the first three people he saw and make an alliance. He carefully evaluated his tribe mates and found the three that would help him progress and eventually win. Who knows how the game would be played now if he hadn’t done things in this way. Richard changed the perception of Survivor from an interesting social experiment on a beach to a cut-throat strategic competition in just one season. That’s pretty good going!
3. Jon “Jonny Fairplay” Dalton – Pearl Islands
Naturally, alliances are generally built between people who generally get along with each other. Jon’s strategy in Survivor: Pearl Islands was that you don’t need to be friendly with someone to have an effective alliance, just share strategic goals. Jon understood this, knowing who to get rid of and when. He jumped comfortably from one alliance to another, and gave people what they needed to feel comfortable making big moves. He also made himself disliked by many, and understood this would help him progress in the game, as he wouldn’t be seen as an endgame threat. However, Jon’s most famous game changing move was to involve people outside the game, manipulating the emotions of other players with his devious yet brilliant ‘dead grandma lie’. Could he have won the game? Sitting next to Lil, it seems possible but we will never know for sure.
2. Cirie Fields – Micronesia
Cirie’s story as a self professed “couch potato” turned Survivor strategist is well known to fans by now. Cirie changed the game by smashing perceptions of what made a great player. She was seen as non-threatening but had an incredible ability to read people and then use this information to manipulate them without being overt about it. Whilst Parvati won Survivor: Micronesia, Cirie was the star player, planting the seed for many of the big moves including voting out Ozzy and convincing Erik to give up Immunity. Had it not been for the Final Two twist in that season, Cirie would have almost certainly won and had the result to prove just how good she is.
1. Rob Cesternino – Amazon
No player changed the game to the degree that Rob did. Up until Survivor: The Amazon, the game had generally followed a format of one tribe taking control after the Merge and systematically removing everyone else before settling the winner amongst themselves. Rob took this theory and threw it out the window, preferring to always analyse where he was sitting within the group strategically, and if it wasn’t favourable, aligning with others to create a new majority. Doing this once is quite a feat, but Rob did it several times in a row, leaving a trail of destruction in his path. However, he played a very strong social game as well and was one Immunity Challenge from not only getting to the end, but sitting next to a player he could beat. This really is extraordinary and something only a tiny number of people could manage. Rob was also one of the first to understand that Survivor is not just a game, but a TV show and he did his best to be entertaining in how he played and in his confessionals. Rob’s style of play really took Survivor strategy to the next level.
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!