It’s that time of the week again, so turn on your computers, put on your reading glasses, and prepare for another Survivor Oz Top Ten! This week’s article comes from one of our newest Ozlets, Paul Luttrell, who brings you ten of the most underrated moves in Survivor history. Over the years, there have been a number of strategic moves made by contestants that are well recognised and credited by fans as examples of great Survivor game play. However, there have also been moves in the game that are just as worthy of this recognition, but are often overlooked by the Survivor community. Ten of these most underrated moves are listed below. Do you agree with Paul’s choices? What other moves are deserving of a place on this Top Ten? Read on and leave your thoughts in the space provided.
There are occasions in Survivor when certain moves that are critical to the outcome of the game aren’t given as much credit as they deserve. I can recall instances where fantastic moves haven’t been given an ounce of recognition at either the Final Tribal Council or the Reunion Show. Similarly, I can recall moves that were incredibly bold and clever (but didn’t quite pan out) being regarded as candidates for ‘the worst move of all time.’ Maybe some were too subtle, maybe they were overshadowed by more glamorous plays, or maybe they were underestimated and written off as ‘dumb luck’. However they were and continue to be seen, here’s a list of ten moves that I think deserve more credit.
10. Todd Winning Jean-Robert’s Vote – China
A masterful display of how to use someone’s ego against them, Todd was able to salvage Jean-Robert’s vote even after JR promised he would vote for Amanda if the power alliance (Todd and Amanda) screwed him over. Todd went right ahead and screwed JR over regardless; but with one of the best Final Tribal Council answers the show has ever seen, Todd managed to flip JR’s decision and pick up his vote by telling him exactly what he wanted to hear: ‘You were the best player in the game; I had to vote you off.’ It just goes to show how important getting to know the people that you’re playing with is in Survivor.
9. JT Gives Russell a Hidden Immunity Idol – Heroes Vs. Villains
I realise that many Survivor fans will shake their heads at this one, as it’s regarded as the ‘dumbest move in Survivor history.’ Personally, I don’t think it is, not even close. Yes, it didn’t pay off and yes, it was very risky, but hell, what great Survivor move hasn’t been risky?
Firstly, it was a tribe-unifying move during a period in which the other Heroes were suspicious of JT and even planned to vote him off in order to flush out the Idol.
Secondly, from the outside it did in fact appear to be an all-female alliance amongst the Villains, based on the fact that the first three members of that tribe to go home were male and two of those three were very strong challenge performers (if not the strongest on the tribe). Parvati had also been the ringleader of ‘The Black Widow Brigade’ in Micronesia, and it seemed she was in control once again. JT was not the only member of his tribe to believe that this was the case; in fact, every other Hero encouraged him to give Russell the idol.
Thirdly, neither JT nor any other member of the Heroes tribe had seen Russell’s game in Samoa, as it aired while Heroes Vs. Villains was still filming. Therefore, they had no idea that this guy had taken the persona of ‘Survivor Villain’ to a whole new level.
Finally, if this move had paid off, it would’ve almost guaranteed JT a Final Five spot and, as he was possibly the best challenge performer in his tribe, he would’ve been very well positioned to make the Final Three.
This wasn’t a dumb move; it was just beaten by a better one.
8. Caleb Convincing His Tribe to Vote Out Brad Culpepper at Tribal Council – Blood Vs. Water
Lots of people will say that this move, though very entertaining, wasn’t clever, as it weakened an already diminished Tadhana tribe. From the edit, it did eventually look like Brad was going to vote for Ciera, but Caleb didn’t have the luxury of the edit to base his game upon. The lack of reassurance his alliance gave him left him feeling vulnerable and powerless; this move allowed him to snatch some of that power back.
The real crux of the move and the reason why it was always going to work for Caleb was that it provided the other two members of his tribe, Ciera and Katie, who were on the outs and felt equally uneasy about the forthcoming vote, with a definite way out: ‘Vote this way and you’ll be here tomorrow.’ That’s a lot more convincing than the opposing strategy of ‘Leave it to us and we’ll decide who we think should stay.’
After Brad’s elimination, Caleb went from ‘possibly the next to go home’ to having the most secure position in the tribe. Any move that causes a power shift of that magnitude – and one that is in your favour – has to be a great one.
7. Rob Cesternino Voting Christy Out for Being Indecisive – Amazon
I’ll start this entry by saying that I love when people are voted off at the height of their self-delusion; it’s a kind of poetic justice. In this instance, the game looked to be slipping from Rob’s hands, as Christy was caught between two alliances and for a brief moment seemed to be holding all the cards as the swing vote – or so she thought. She was so confident, in fact, that she didn’t even bother telling anyone before Tribal Council just whom she was voting for.
Instead of allowing his fate in the game to be decided by Christy, Rob went to members of the opposing alliance (who were also frustrated with Christy for not giving them an answer) and convinced them to vote her out.
It was a risky move as the other alliance could’ve relayed the information to Christy (surely gaining her vote), but one worth taking as it placed him back in control of the game. Rob knew that the only way he was going to win a Jury vote was if he convinced the Jury that he’d been in control of the game for its duration, thereby outwitting every other player. If not for this move, that argument would’ve easily been quashed. Sadly, Rob never got a chance to present his case at the Final Tribal Council.
6. Natalie Gets Eric Voted Off and Unravels the Galu Tribe – Samoa
The eventual success of the Foa Foa tribe was and continues to be largely attributed to the aggressive gameplay of Russell Hantz. However, this was the move that got the Foa Foa ball rolling and created a division in Galu. Natalie (along with other Foa Foa members) was told by Erik to vote for Monica. Rather than go along with someone else’s strategy and get herself a few more days in the game, Natalie took the risk of being targeted next and went to the Galu women who were aligned with Monica. She then gently broke the news: ‘Erik is planning to vote you guys out.’ It was so subtle, yet so convincing that the Galu women immediately scrambled to put the vote on Erik. Russell even admitted to being out of the loop (a very rare thing for him to admit).
Say whatever you like about who should’ve won Samoa – Russell’s game was far more balanced than his Heroes Vs. Villains performance – but Natalie did what she needed to do at the right times, and that’s how Survivor is generally won.
5. Chris Convincing Twila to be Hostile Towards the Jury – Vanuatu
I love players that are always looking for an advantage in the game. Chris Daugherty was one of these players. He was a master of talking himself out of any situation and talking others into them. Rather than easing off on the final day, Chris manipulated Twila into fighting back against the Jury, to ‘not take their crap.’ Chris, on the other hand, was incredibly polite and apologetic. Every answer he gave oozed with sentiment and regret, which turned out to be total BS, but was exactly what the Jury wanted to hear. Before Twila could figure out what had gone wrong, it was already too late.
4. Tom Westman Emotionally Manipulates Ian Into Throwing the Game – Palau
Tom Westman was and is seen as the hero of Palau. He was Koror’s anchor in challenges, was respected by his tribe, and was thought of as a straight shooter when it came to strategy. However, this move in particular revealed the darker side of Tom.
I couldn’t believe how brushed over this was when watching the season for a second time. Ian, who had fallen into disrepute with his tribe, for what seemed to be nothing more than having his own brain and possessing his own feelings, was emotionally tormented, first by Katie and then a lot more by Tom. He was treated like a villain by the two people he respected the most in the game, to the point where he accepted the persona.
Desperate to change the perception he thought others had of him, Ian stepped down in the Final Immunity Challenge after a deal he’d made with Tom, which involved taking Katie to the end (rather than Ian).
From Tom’s perspective, all of the bullying turned out to be a brilliant move, as he was also able to blame any deceitful gameplay that he either orchestrated or took part in on Ian without Ian protesting any of his claims (which I also found baffling). He also lost no favour with the Jury by taking Katie (who was clearly a ‘goat’ when it came down to the Final Tribal Council) to the end over Ian, as it was Ian’s wish.
Tom was a brilliant strategist, but by no means is he the squeaky clean hero he’s made out to be.
3. Jonny Fairplay Creates Conflict Between Darrah and Lill to Keep Himself in the Game – Pearl Islands
It was down to the Final Four and Jonny was certainly the next to go. He’d lied and backstabbed everyone left in the game and they’d had enough. But with a simple question in earshot of Lill – ‘Who do you want to take to the end, Darrah?’ – Jonny stirred up an argument that shifted the dynamics of the game. Within moments, all the attention was off of him and onto the two people arguing.
Darrah didn’t want to take Lill to the end, as she feared Lill would receive too many sympathy votes. Lill knew that Darrah had the best chance of winning Final Immunity and would therefore get to pick the other finalist. So when Darrah confessed that she wouldn’t take Lill, Lill couldn’t possibly allow Darrah to get to the Final Three.
This move showed just how much game awareness Jonny had. I think it’s the best example the show has seen of someone pitting two people against each other, without implicating themselves.
2. Coach Convinces Cochran to Flip – South Pacific
The tribes had merged with even numbers (six on six). Both tribes had different strategies on how to break the deadlock. Savaii put in place an elaborate scheme, which involved the boldest strategic use of Redemption Island to date (Ozzy), an amazing acting performance to misdirect the Upolu tribe (again Ozzy, and by amazing, I mean horrendous) and Cochran being cast in the role of double agent.
What they didn’t count on, however, was the wooing prowess of a certain Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade. Coach cut right through the Savaii façade with a phenomenal speech, in which he connected so profoundly to Cochran and his insecurities, that Cochran was all but bound to Coach and the Upolu tribe from then on.
Up until this point, I think everyone (players and fans included) had written Coach off as an eccentric caricature who was not really playing the game to win. But after this, Coach was seen in a different light (at least from my perspective). This was one of a series of great moves put into play by Coach, in possibly the most improved ‘returning player’ game in Survivor history.
In my opinion, Coach played the best game in South Pacific, but tripped at the last hurdle by not owning up to his strategic gameplay at the Final Tribal Council and allowing Sophie to take credit for all of it (kudos to Sophie).
1. Sandra Convinces Russell That Coach is Gunning for Him – Heroes Vs. Villains
I think if there was one move to sum up the way that Sandra plays Survivor, it’s this one. Heroes Vs. Villains was full of huge moves that overshadowed subtle plays like this, just as Sandra was overshadowed by ‘bigger name’ returning players.
Sandra found herself in the minority alliance after Jerri and Coach flipped to vote out Boston Rob. Knowing that she wasn’t necessarily the next to go, but would be the one after that, she hatched a plan that would see her get to the Merge.
Sandra was quick to pick up on the fact that Russell was threatened by anyone that challenged him. She concocted a lie, telling Russell that Coach was plotting to vote him out, and just as she had planned, Russell switched his attention and his alliance’s vote to Coach.
I was so frustrated while watching the Final Tribal Council as Russell, Parvati and even the Jury, completely underestimated Sandra’s game. This move wasn’t mentioned at all, most likely because Sandra was still competing for Coach’s vote.
But that’s just it, the reason why Sandra is such a great player. She doesn’t play to impress anyone; no hunting for immediate gratification, no grand theatrics or glamorous plays, just what needs to be done. She understands the game better than anyone else to play (ooh, controversy) and proceeds to do the necessary things in order to win it. If you’ve played the game twice and won it twice (something that no one else has ever done), then you are the best player to play it, and any other conclusion is just opinion.
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!