Monday is upon us once again and so is a brand new Survivor Oz Feature Article! This week, English Ozlet, James Pickering, takes a look at the Survivor Hall of Fame. James discusses his opinion on how the selection criteria should work, whether the current inductees are deserving and who should be inducted in the class of 2013! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts below, including who you think should make the cut!
PLEASE NOTE: Commenting on this article with your selections for the 2013 inductees in the Hall of Fame is not a way to enter your votes. You can find instructions on how to enter your votes at the bottom of the page.
With a show that has had twenty-seven seasons, four hundred and six contestants and twenty-five winners, it was only a matter of time before somebody decided that a Survivor Hall of Fame was introduced to honour the most memorable contestants in the show’s history.
In 2010, Gordon Holmes and Xfinity TV did exactly that and it has since become a lively debating point amongst Survivor fans worldwide. The idea of a Hall of Fame is great in theory, but problems arise as to what exactly the criteria is to qualify for entry. Holmes has stated in the past the idea came from the famous Bill Simmons question of who would make up the faces on ‘Survivor’s Mount Rushmore’ if one existed and this is once again great in theory. However, there are now eleven members, which will soon rise to fourteen. That’s a pretty big statue. So how should we judge it? Should the new entrants be people who have played fantastic games resulting in wins? Is being fantastic at one particular part of the game enough to warrant induction? Should it be the larger than life characters that have become cult icons through their participation in the show? Should it be contestants who fundamentally changed the game through their participation in their season? Should it be the record holders? Should a contestant’s life and achievements outside Survivor count? Should there be restrictions placed on what contestants are in fact eligible to be inducted in the first place? These are some questions that can be talked about until blue in the face. I will attempt to do so with reference to the current members of the Hall of Fame and then give my picks as to who should be inducted in the class of 2013.
Current members of the Hall of Fame
As it stands there are three classes of inductees in the Hall of Fame, one from 2010, 2011 and 2012. They are listed here:
Parvati Shallow (Cook Islands, Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains)
Rob Mariano (Marquesas, All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains, Redemption Island)
Russell Hantz (Samoa, Heroes vs. Villains, Redemption Island)
Richard Hatch (Borneo, All-Stars)
Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains)
Cirie Fields (Exile Island, Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains)
Tom Westman (Palau, Heroes vs. Villains)
Ozzy Lusth (Cook Islands, Micronesia, South Pacific)
Amanda Kimmel (China, Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains)
Ethan Zohn (Africa, All-Stars)
Rob Cesternino (Amazon, All-Stars)
All of these people are undisputedly very important Survivor contestants that are instantly recognisable to Survivor fans. But there are a lot of Survivor contestants not on this list that also can be considered important and instantly recognisable. So what makes these people Hall of Famers?
Should Hall of Famers have to be winners?
There are certainly a lot of winners in the Hall of Fame; six to be precise. We have the iconic first winner, Richard Hatch, who has become infamous not just in the Survivor world, but also in American culture for spending numerous years in jail for allegedly not paying his taxes. We have the only two-time winner, Sandra Diaz-Twine, who proved that lightning can indeed strike the same place twice and repeated a feat deemed impossible by many Survivor experts. We have two very popular winners in Ethan Zohn and Tom Westman, who both played strong games that are deemed to be fairly ‘ethical’ in Survivor terms. Plus, we have Parvati Shallow and Boston Rob Mariano, whose Survivor reputations warrant no introduction.
Although the presence of six winners in the Hall of Fame suggest that winning is a sure fire way to cement a legacy in Survivor, I personally believe that limiting the Hall of Fame to just winners would have been the wrong decision. It would be almost insulting possibly inductees to suggest that the only reason they’ve got membership to the Hall of Fame is simply because they won the game; they’re big Survivor characters without their wins. Plus, if we were going to limit it to just winners then we might as well chuck in membership alongside the million-dollar check.
Should Hall of Famers be the best in one particular aspect of the game?
The argument for this seems pretty straightforward; a Hall of Fame honours the best of the best and as such the people who are the best of the best in a certain aspect of the game should be recognised for that. Looking for an example in the members already inducted that fit this criterion, the most obvious is Ozzy Lusth and Tom Westman, who are often cited as the best physical players Survivor has ever seen. If we’re being pedantic, you could also say Sandra Diaz-Twine is the best at the aspect of ‘winning’ Survivor as well!
This criterion for me is okay in theory, but there are some sizeable issues with it. The most obvious one is that there are some very important aspects of the game that are very hard to measure. How can we judge somebody’s strategic prowess for example? What makes a strategic decision to be loyal to your alliance, (i.e. Ethan Zohn), less valid than flip-flopping from alliance to alliance, (i.e. Rob Cesternino)? What makes an under the radar game less valid than somebody who takes a leadership position? Different strategic approaches work for different personalities. Survivor is a game where your personality will directly affect the way you approach it strategically and your personality, will also affect the way you judge a player’s games on your television screen. It is also extremely difficult for us, as mere viewers, to judge somebody’s social game when we are seeing three days of interaction condensed into a bite sized, story telling forty-two minute episode. So I think that while being the best at a particular aspect of the game might be a bonus, I don’t think it should be an absolutely necessary criterion for entry into the Survivor Hall of Fame.
Should it be the Survivor Record Holders?
Seems like a pretty simple argument in theory, if you hold a record in Survivor you should be in the Hall of Fame. We’ve got a few record holders in the Hall of Fame already. We’ve got the most days played, joint most seasons played and accumulatively most Individual Immunity wins record holder in Rob Mariano. We’ve got most wins record holder in Sandra Diaz-Twine. As mentioned previously, we have most Individual Immunity wins in a single season, joint record holders in Ozzy Lusth and Tom Westman. We also have the only four people to reach the Final Tribal Council more than once, in Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel, Russell Hantz and Rob Mariano. Then we have the first person to reach one hundred days played on Survivor in Amanda Kimmel. Clearly, holding a record doesn’t hurt.
Does Terry, A Survivor record holder automatically deserve a place in the Hall of Fame?
But should it be a criterion for entry? We have record holders who aren’t in the Hall of Fame; we have the youngest and oldest winners not included, (Fabio and Bob). We don’t have the first person to receive a unanimous vote to win at the Final Tribal Council, (Earl), or the first person to not receive a vote all season and win unanimously, (J.T.). These are people who you could argue deserve a spot if you were so inclined. But then you have some record holders you would really struggle to argue a case for; records such as youngest contestant, (Spencer Duhm, Survivor: Tocantins), longest Redemption Island winning streak, (Matt Elrod, Survivor: Redemption Island), and most challenges won, (Terry Deitz, Survivor: Panama). If I’m being facetious, how about the first ever two-time first boot in Francesca Hogi? (Survivor: Redemption Island, Caramoan). How about the person who found the Hidden Immunity Idol the quickest in Kristina Kell? (Survivor: Redemption Island). From the above examples, like above, I think that being the best in a particular field, having a Survivor record might help in getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, but isn’t a must have criterion.
Should it be the larger than life characters in the show?
One thing Survivor has always done is produce big, entertaining characters for us to watch. Looking at the current Hall of Fame, you have the original villain Richard Hatch, who walked around naked and had the audacity to suggest people should vote in voting blocs. You have Parvati Shallow, the master of the flirt card and somebody who oozes sex appeal. You have Sandra Diaz-Twine, the mouthiest mother around, Rob Mariano, the man you always think of when you see a Boston Red Sox cap, Russell Hantz, whose delusional beliefs should have won him Heroes vs. Villains and will always make me laugh, Cirie Fields, the woman who got off her couch and showed that she could do it as well as anybody, Ozzy Lusth, the person who can swim quicker than a fish and climb trees like a monkey, Rob Cesternino, the funny super fan who reinvented the way the game is played, Tom Westman, the honourable fireman who dominated his season, Ethan Zohn, who is in my eyes still the most likeable winner to date and Amanda Kimmel. Being a big character is absolutely paramount to any contestant if they want to be remembered. They just won’t be without an interesting personality.
This is in my opinion, the most important criterion when deciding who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. At the end of the day, Survivor is an entertainment television program and the viewers want to be entertained. Whether that is through loving to hate somebody in the vain of Richard Hatch or Russell Hantz, laughing at the funny confessionals of Cirie Fields, or being thoroughly impressed by the groundbreaking game play of Rob Cesternino, keeping the audience entertained is absolutely crucial. Without being entertaining, you don’t deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.
Should Hall of Famers have fundamentally changed the game?
I don’t think that every single Survivor Hall of Famer should have changed the game because there are only a very select few who have. But because of the fact there are only a very select few who have fundamentally changed the game, then they by definition should be in the very select few who have been honoured with membership. The two people in the current Hall of Fame who have inarguably changed the way Survivor is played are Richard Hatch, who was the first person to suggest the idea of alliances and Rob Cesternino, who showed the world the art of flip-flopping from alliance to alliance based on one’s self interests. You would also be hard pressed to argue Russell Hantz did not revolutionize the use and prominence of the Hidden Immunity Idol, whatever opinion you might hold on his game play. There are some other people who are not in the Hall of Fame who I believe have revolutionised the game but they are also my picks for the new inductees.
Should life outside Survivor count?
This one is tricky. There are plenty of people who have competed on Survivor who have gone on to do admirable things both in and out of the reality television world. From the current inductees, Rob Cesternino has set up his famous Rob Has a Podcast, where he has created an opportunity for fans to hear both his and other famous Survivor’s opinions on the season currently airing. The podcast aired its five hundredth episode earlier this year and has become a well-known and respected podcast in the Survivor community. On a completely different type of achievement, Ethan Zohn has been an inspiration to many with his openness about his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and playing the ultimate game of survivor, whilst in the process doing an enormous amount of charity work through his charity, Grassroot Soccer.
I am impressed with what Rob has managed to achieve through RHAP and even more impressed with Ethan’s inspirational battle with cancer, but in my opinion both of these contestants would warrant a place in the Hall of Fame based solely on their Survivor play anyway. Ethan was and still is one of the most popular winners ever, somebody who came across as incredibly likeable on television and managing to win without really hurting anybody’s feelings. Saying his place in the Hall of Fame is down to him having cancer is offensive. Rob Cesternino is probably the most important player in Survivor history after Richard Hatch; he was the first to show that playing for yourself rather than your alliance was a completely acceptable strategy and he did it whilst providing extremely entertaining sound bites in confessionals. So many people have tried to emulate the flip-flopping strategy that Rob Cesternino employed in Amazon with no success and saying he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame purely because of his podcast is absolutely outrageous. I think it would defeat the point of it being a Survivor Hall of Fame if entry was based on work done outside Survivor. So as much as I admire Gillian Larson’s work to create Reality Rally, I would be against her inclusion based solely on that. Sorry Gillian!
Despite his fantastic charity work, this wasn’t what got Ethan his place in the Hall of Fame.
Should there be any other restrictions placed on eligibility?
At the moment, the rule is that anybody is eligible so long as they are not currently competing on the season that airs whilst during the voting period. Personally, I believe that to be too open to recent season bias. The reason the rule about the current season contestants being ineligible was bought in was because Ozzy was elected right after South Pacific aired, although Gordon Holmes assures us that he was right up the top of voting the previous year as well. In my belief, the limiting hasn’t gone far enough. In order to be considered a true Hall OF Famer, your character story and game needs to stand the test of time; you still need to be someone people remember years after you played and the majority of people look back on with fond memories of a begrudging respect. Inducting somebody like Malcolm Freberg or John Cochran, irrespective of how good they are as players, at this point in time would be a mistake. Therefore, I would propose a minimum of a ten-season wait from the first time a person appeared on Survivor before they are eligible for the Hall of Fame. Therefore, anybody who competed in their first season from Tocantins onwards would be ineligible for membership. If Malcolm and Cochran are still as popular as they are now in ten season’s time, then they truly deserve to be Hall of Famers. But we wont know that until the time passes.
So, Who should the three new members be?
Following all of my rules and above criteria, this is what I have come up with. Obviously this is just an opinion, but in order of preference I believe the 2013 Survivor Hall of Fame inductees should be:
1. Jon ‘Johnny Fairplay’ Dalton
Regardless of what you might think of him as a person, this man took what Rob Cesternino did in Amazon and mastered it to perfection. He flip-flopped, he lied, he was entertaining in confessionals and he also came far closer than Rob ever did to actually winning his season. He was one Immunity Necklace away from going to the end with the biggest Survivor goat of all time in Lillian Morris. He is also, in my mind, the first person to approach the game of Survivor with the intention of playing a character; in Fairplay’s case, he wanted to be the biggest Survivor villain of all time. I don’t see how you can argue he did not achieve that. His legacy is tarnished by his game in Micronesia in some people’s eyes, but Fairplay deserves a place in the Hall of Fame based solely on his game in Pearl Islands. His grandma lie is still controversial to this day! If he isn’t inducted and somebody like Cochran is then it will be an absolute travesty of justice.
2. Colby Donaldson
Like Fairplay, his legacy has been somewhat tarnished by his appearances on subsequent seasons. But let’s not forget just how big and popular Colby Donaldson was in the Australian Outback. People were naming their kids after him for Christ sake! He holds the joint record for most Individual Immunity wins, he was and is extremely underrated when it comes to providing entertaining confessionals and he was the quintessential hero. Colby is an enormous character in the context of Survivor history and as such deserves to be inducted into the Home of Fame.
3. Brian Heidik
Although in some people’s eyes, (including Jeff Probst), the man is a reprehensible person, Brian was and is still one of the most dominant winners of all time. Nicknamed, ‘the Iceman’, he was almost sociopathic in Thailand and managed to win despite backstabbing his friends and not making the effort to get to know some players along the way. How did he do this? Well, it’s the reason he’s my choice for the Hall of Fame. Heidik was the first to drag a goat to the end with him. What is now such common practice and standard game play, Heidik picked out Clay, the allegedly racist and sexist hick from Louisiana from the beginning and dragged him all the way to the end. At that point, despite both Ted and Helen being extremely annoyed with Brian, they voted for him because they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clay. That my friends, is a game changer from Brian Heidik. Hall of Fame worthy stuff.
Honourable mentions would go to Jerri Manthey, who was the original black widow of Survivor, Rupert Boneham, who is ineligible due to his participation is Blood vs. Water but is still one, of if not the most popular and iconic contestants of all time and my personal favourite Coach Wade, who provides an enormous amount of laughs whenever he is on television.
What do you think of the Survivor Hall of Fame? Do you agree or disagree with James? Plus, who do you think should be the 2013 Survivor Hall of Fame inductees?