The Changing Connotations of Third Place


The first day of the working week might mean glum smiles and lots of coffee for some, but for us, it means it’s Feature Article Day! This week, Ozlet Alex Morella, takes a look at the changed times of finishing third in Survivor. From the good old days of going home on Day Thirty-Eight, to making the Final Tribal Council and receiving no votes and even getting the boot on Day Thirty-Eight and finishing in the “new fourth place”, Alex examines it all and then touches on how the players who are finishing third and fourth in Survivor’s current era no longer have the same presence on a season as third place finishers used to. Don’t forget that you can get involved by leaving a comment with your thoughts below!

Finishing third sucks, no matter how you really look at it. You either get to the very end and receive little to no favour from the Jury, or you miss the end by one day if we look back to classic Survivor. However, what is interesting is the changing way that third place is looked upon by those outside the game, as well as how the characteristics shared by those that finished third in seasons featuring a Final Two are less seen in those that finish fourth in seasons featuring a Final Three. It all comes down to how the game has evolved.

In classic Final Two Survivor, third place was painful for those who finished there, enduring thirty-eight days of suffering and finishing without an actual chance at the money, at the expense of one vote, (how it should be…none of this fire making rubbish!) What emerged though were countless loved players, who we all desired to play again and we got our wish. Four of the first seven third place getters returned for All-Stars and Johnny Fairplay returned for Micronesia, giving us five of the first seven returning. Why? Well duh… they were iconic players! Rudy, Lex, Kathy, Rob C and Fairplay had all gone far and had each had a lasting impact on their season. They received good edits, (not that edits were as big of a deal), were influential in moments of the season and epitomised masterminds, or charisma, most being voted out due to fear of not being able to beat them. Fast forward to the newer generation of Survivor, the Final Three that has predominantly been used since that fire making challenge in Cook Islands. We saw one third place in a Final Two return, (Fairplay), one third place in a Final Three (Amanda), and one fourth place in a Final Three, (Yau-Man), return. Okay, there was a small sample space at this time, but for the next few seasons, it was an interesting look. Who did we like more? Scout, Ian, Rafe and Terry or Becky, Amanda and Dreamz/Cassandra? Personally I think that first four are a winning combination. Even if you expand this to the final boots of Sundra, Denise and Yau-Man. Only Yau-Man is really in the same league, the only real traditional ‘final boot’ of these next few seasons.

So now that we’ve had thirteen seasons of Final Threes and are coming into our fourteenth season with a Final Three, (which will leave us at fourteen-fourteen in terms of Final Two against Final Threes). Therefore, it’s a great chance to compare those who finish third and also those who are final boots and what legacy they leave to the game.

The Original Third Place – (Final Boot)

Rudy, Keith, Lex, Kathy, Rob C, Jan, Johnny Fairplay, Jenna L, Scout, Ian, Rafe, Terry, Cirie, Erinn.


First of all… how bloody awesome is this list! These players have all left lasting impressions, were generally voted out due to likelihood of winning, (with a few votes based on morality), are well received as strong players on a season, ones we WANT to see return and who we talk about and who are favourites of people in the Survivor world. They’ve made alliances, they’ve burned alliances, they’ve been entertaining and ultimately, whenever the inevitable fantasy tribes are made, a lot of these names are thrown in. In other words, we want to see players like these back, ones we could’ve very much ACCEPTED as the winners of their respective seasons; it wouldn’t anger us too much… well maybe if Keith had won Australian Outback or if Jenna won All-Stars, but I think we’d generally be fine with the result of calling a lot of these players Sole Survivors.

The “New Third Place”

Becky, Amanda, Dreamz, Cassandra, Sugar, Mick, Russell H., Sash, Albert, Natalie T, Chelsea, Skupin, Lisa, Dawn, Sherri, Gervase


It’s an alright group. I acknowledge the challenge of getting to the Final Three, it’s bloody tough, I’d never get near it, (Let’s be realistic, I’m just too much of a physical beast), but more importantly, a lot of these players aren’t remembered as being as good as the first group because they’re goats, with a grand total of three Final Tribal Council Jury votes between them. (At these Final Tribal Councils, I’m not counting Amanda and Russell’s other appearances where they didn’t finish in third place). The reality is that most of them would’ve been goats in a Final Two. The characteristics they share? Generally annoying the Jury and the public, a lack of real brave game play, a reliance on an alliance. Would we accept many, (if any), of these people as winners? I’d have trouble accepting most of them as Runner-Ups, (except those that got “clean sweeped”). But there can be reason to feel bad for these castaways because the connotations about them are negative. They ‘sucked’, they got invisible edits, they played the bad guy against a bitter Jury, they were pawns, they had no game play, no idea and will ultimately never play again because no one will miss them. Generally, they won’t even get mentioned in the Fan Favourite award! They’ll just go through life knowing they didn’t get voted out and they made little impression. That’s rough because I’m sure they did more than that, but they’re not the players we want to see back. Only two of this set have returned. Sugar, who promptly reminded us why she came third and Russell, because there’s never too much Russell.

If there is a big season thirty, how many of these players would be considered, let alone make the final cut, in my opinion, very few. They don’t appear in fan’s ideal casts, they aren’t considered brains or brawns, maybe a beauty or two, but it’s not where fans or casting directors go for returning players. They are more quiz question answers to the casual fan, “that guy” or “that girl” who didn’t get the votes, but didn’t get voted out, disappearing into obscurity like early boots and the entire casts of South Pacific, Fiji and Thailand.

So if that’s unfair… I thought I better examine the fourth place finishers in these seasons too, just to ensure that the final boots are fairly represented.

The “New Fourth Place”

Sundra, Denise, Yau-Man, Matty, Brett, Jerri, Holly, Ozzy, Ashley U., Christina, Malcolm, Eddie, Tina


It’s a significantly better group, but not as strong as the original third place getters in my opinion. There are several reasonable strategists like Yau-Man and Malcolm, but a lot of loyal players, rather than those willing to really ‘take the game on’ – if using an AFL expression, (sorry Yanks and co.). I know Jeff says, “This game respects big moves” and I know that’s not really correct, as it is the smaller moves that get you in the right position. But this group haven’t pulled out even many smaller moves between them, it’s players who didn’t take enough of a chance to remove the big personalities, (Christina, Matty, Jerri, Ashley), or who’s likelihood of winning was based on a Jury of players with favourable opinions, (Tina, Eddie, Ozzy, Brett, Matty). They’re not goats and if they’d made the Final Three, many would not be considered goats, but there aren’t as many potential winners if compared with the first set.

I deem twelve of the original fourteen third place finishers to be potential winners had they gone to the Final Two, with the exception of Keith and Erinn. Compared to the fact that I only see somewhere between six to eight for this group. There’s always the “well they have to be there with the right people”, but I just don’t feel some of them were ever a fair chance, such as Sundra, Denise, Holly, Ashley, Christina and Eddie. These players were spared from losing and whilst I wouldn’t have liked seeing Tina or Ozzy win, leaving Yau-Man, Matty, Brett, Jerri and Malcolm as the five I would’ve been more than okay with winning. That’s a significantly smaller group and I could still cut that down smaller with the anonymity of Brett; but you get the point… they’re just not the same.

So why is this? Is loyalty not rewarded? Are potential winners taken out earlier? I put it down to the single vote not being cast. There is no huge reward for the winner of the Final Immunity Challenge; you still have to convince at least two others that it’s the right move to make. We’ve only seen two fire-making challenges for people being brave enough to be different and Sundra vs. Becky was amicably agreed upon by a top alliance, leaving just Matty vs. Bob as the sole tied vote for the final boot in which a player willingly went against a safe group vote – thanks Sugar! Know I actually mean it! Having that pick over your final opponent was so crucial in Final Two seasons and a real highlight as the WHOLE GAME is in your hands and without it, there’s been predictability and that heart-wrenching moment where one vote is enough to decide the Final Two, it’s just not the same knowing your vote will just cause a fire-making challenge.

The game has changed too, dominant players try to take weaker players and know it’s possible with their votes that an extra game-changer is out of the question, which eliminates a bit of interest in the first hour of the finale. There can be a bit of a procession if the Immunity Challenge isn’t exciting enough, (they’re not as good anymore either), and it feels like for all the suspense, the last few finales have gone exactly to plan. (Philippines, South Pacific and Nicaragua have been three suspenseful seasons in recent years). I know that we’re not going to potentially see any Final Twos any closer, but it would be great to see the most difficult decision being pondered, who to take and who to desert on Day Thirty-eight. This will then lead to the Reunion Show questions about this decision, such as what would happen if the other person was taken, if they had a chance to win and whether the person who made the decision, regrets it. That was entertaining… those were some true epics.

But that’s the past, the Final Three will be around for a long time, but those legendary third place getters who truly could’ve won the game are gone and not just gone at fourth, but gone well before this, they are no longer even a factor in the finale, because they are not Jury members and are removed earlier.

It’s a shame everyone’s more cunning now, but it should just be incentive to play harder and not be the goat that sucks and finishes third. People need to start taking control of the game late and to make a move to be remembered for something other than being the one whose answers were shortened or removed in the Final Tribal Council edits.


Do you agree or disagree with Alex? Has finishing third in Survivor changed since the Final Three was introduced? Comment below to let us know!

About Survivor Oz (2110 Articles)
Australia's Only 'Survivor' Radio Show! Tuesdays from 2PM AEST

14 Comments on The Changing Connotations of Third Place

  1. OMG, I found a great mistake in that article!
    You mention that two “new third place finishers” (Sugar and Russell) got to play again, but you completely forgot Amanda!!!

    • “I’m not counting Amanda and Russell’s other appearances where they didn’t finish in third place” no mistake, you just didn’t see this


  3. wingardium leviosa // March 24, 2014 at 1:28 pm // Reply

    This article makes me remember bad survivor memories: Russell Hantz not winning All-Starz due to a bitter jury (sigh), Dawn betraying Brenda and sucking up to Cochran as if this move will make her win the game (GRRRR), Malcolm ruining his chance to win Philippines! 😦 Dawn, Sherri, Gervase, Philip and Natalie T. are probably the WORST OF THEM ALL! I hope these 5 wont ever return to play again. Now im done venting. I need to calm down. Bye.

    • A Master of the Obvious // March 25, 2014 at 1:58 am // Reply

      Philip was a mastermind. He owned Boston Rob on a season that was engineered for Rob to win. Had he dropped the special agent and feathers routine and went with, “Hi, I am Philip Sheppard, we haven’t met yet because I had to become the guy that every single one of you wanted to sit next to in the final three, including Rob here…..I outwitted everyone.” Then he may well have won or at least gotten a tight 5/4 vote.

  4. Nice article. I feel the final three partly came about as so many great players were missing out and they felt this might let them get into the finale. Unfortunately the final three, as you say has allowed the dominant player to bring less dominant players with them to the end. A final two in the modern game where weaker players are brought along for the ride would ensure the dominant player still has to persuade their partner to take them to the end or win the final immunity, which I believe should always be an endurance challenge, to allow that element of “how badly do you want it”. A final three in the original fans/faves might have let one of my faves in Cirie take home the prize. In a final two does Russell still take Natalie to the end and if not would a bitter jury have handed the win to Mick who they were not a big fan of either. Does he take Parvati if he gets past a last challenge in HvV and Sandra is not a two time winner? In Caramoan in a final endurance challenge, if Dawn or Sherri win does Cochran not even sit at the end as he can’t be beaten, Monica wins the last in BvW. The ‘if’ scenarios are far and wide but if they had of have happened I reckon you would have some pretty good 3rd place finishers in the last dozen series as well. I think the final three has been a negative for the game. Would love for it to be a constant final two with a final endurance challenge. I can dream!

  5. Love the article!
    I always prefer final 2 cause I think it’s more entertaining and exciting. Also that one last vote (at the original final three tribal council) always makes The million dollars reward worth. : )

  6. I think we can add Jenna to the list of third placers that wouldn’t have won anyway. Had Rob picked her to go to the end, she’d only get the Lex/Tom/Alicia votes, since Shii Ann couldn’t stand her, Amber would’ve been an obvious lock for Rob, Rupert doesn’t vote her because he’d probably be upset that Jenna broke her promise to him about letting the vote go to a tie, and Kathy still votes Rob because of their friendship

  7. I think players have adjusted to the final three, which makes it duller when you have not one, but two goats who often make the end. I’d love to see the producers throw a wrench for a few seasons and do a Final Two again. At least this wouldn’t allow them to coast by the end.

  8. I think that the underlying reason why the third/fourth place finishers are boring now is because of the changing nature of the alliance.

    In the past, alliances were formed naturally due to mutual respect as well as the personal connection. Hence Fairplay allied with Burton Roberts, Rob M allied with Rupert etc. Consequently, strong people could partner, and they frequently stayed with their alliance until late game.

    In the new game, everyone scrambles to form alliances from the get-go just to get the numbers. These alliances are just a temporary safety net, and everyone wants to be acknowledged as the leader of an alliance or make big moves. Hence, it is much more difficult for strong players to partner together.

    I quote Gervase in his BvW interview, where he mentioned that in the past, they would get to know each other, and only be forced into an alliance by the first tribal council (or form naturally). Now, immediately upon reaching the island, he would be approached to form alliances by people like Colton. It’s then not too surprising that either the alliances don’t stick, or mostly contain just 1 strong player!

  9. I agree with everything you said, apart from the Sugar hate. She dominated Gabon strategically and was the key vote in several tribal councils. If she had delivered a decent final tribal council performance, she could have easily have won.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. An Ode to the Third-Place Player | Team Ugli

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: