Anything can be possible in an unpredictable game like Survivor where contestants are pitted against one another, and many players who look set to be voted out end up making it deep into the game, and sometimes are sitting at the Final Tribal Council much to the surprise of their fellow castaways. This week our Ozlet Paul takes a look at some 10 of the players who have managed the biggest turnarounds in the history of the show. Take a trip down memory lane, and consider what a different season these would have been if these players had not been able to reverse their fortunes.
Survivor is an unpredictable game. Sometimes the person you’re certain will win is booted off the very next week (I’m talking about you Vytas). Similarly, players you think are well out of their depth and won’t make it past the first week go right to the end and in some cases, win. Here’s a list of ten of those players; People that looked as though they’d be sent home very early, but managed to hang on for a hell of a lot longer.
10. Shane Powers – Panama
Shane was ready to quit on day 4 thanks to some intense nicotine withdrawal (he was a three-pack-a-day smoker before the show). It took a pep talk from Aras to stop him from leaving and thankfully he didn’t, as he would go on to be one of the most entertaining castaways the show has seen. Who could forget Shane’s thinking chair? His blackberry? His death threats? His manic outbursts? His diaper rash? The list goes on. Despite not being the greatest social player, Shane managed to survive until the final five (day 33) and demonstrated some strategic gameplay, by identifying the only person less likeable than himself (Courtney) and attempting to get to the end with that person. Though Shane’s plan did not pan out, he managed to hang on for 29 days longer than it seemed he would.
9. Coach – South Pacific
Day 1 started poorly for Coach in South Pacific. He was off to a shaky start to say the least, losing the first challenge to Ozzy and being singled out as a ‘temporary player’ by Christine. It looked as though Coach, like Russell in the previous season, would be the first member of his tribe sent to Redemption Island. But before the day was through Coach had turned it around, consolidating a five-person alliance that held up to the end. Coach went on to play a very strong game, making it to the final three and finishing in second, which came as a shock to those that had seen his previous efforts. Many still think that Coach should’ve won the season, as he seemed to be in the driver’s seat and implemented key moves at critical points in the game. However, it was a poor FTC performance that would see all of his hard work throughout the game undone.
8. Phillip Sheppard – Redemption Island
Phillip was and (as far I know) continues to be an enigma. His many eccentricities, abrasive personality and saggy pink underwear ensured that he would be an outcast amongst his tribe. It looked an early exit was likely for Phillip until Boston Rob took him under his wing. Phillip then embraced the role of ‘Goat’ like no player had before. He confessed to ‘playing it up’ and he promised viewers that he’d turn the tide on Boston Rob at the final tribal council. Those threats turned out to be a little hollow, as Phillip’s tribal council performance did nothing but strengthen Rob’s chances. However, Phillip was able to win a vote (something that a number of other players with more favoured strategies have been unable to do e.g. Stephen, Dawn) and in doing so, he took second place, proving that his strategy wasn’t a complete failure.
7. Spencer Bledsoe – Cagayan
Stuck on a terribly dysfunctional tribe, Spencer went from the top to the bottom in the space of one vote. Garret was sent home against all logic and Spencer was left to fend for himself against the ‘Rice-tipper’, ‘Chaos Kass’ and ‘I’m so good at strategy, please let me strategise’ (Tasha). Spencer managed to hang on by the skin of his teeth after another terrible performance by J’tia in the immunity challenge. He then went on to enjoy a strong period in the game. After the switch his tribe won the majority of the challenges and he placed himself in the power alliance. He was sitting pretty come the merge, but the rug was soon pulled out from under him. Kass flipped and Spencer was never able to get himself back into a power position. However, he managed to claw his way to fourth place, finding idols, winning challenges and strategising the whole way.
6. Lillian Morris – Pearl Islands
The outcast twist is regarded by many as the worst twist in Survivor history. After being voted out third on day 9, Lil’ returned to the game, along with Burton, thanks to a challenge demolition of Drake and Morgan and a back-handed vote (the rumour being that the other outcasts voted for Lil’ as they didn’t want to travel with her). Lil’ didn’t show much strategic prowess before being voted out and her game continued on that same path. However, it was her emotional fragility and ambivalence towards the game that allowed her fellow tribe mates to underestimate her. These aspects of her game would come back to bite her at the final tribal council, but she was able to use them to her advantage throughout the latter stages in order to get herself to the final three, where she would win the final immunity challenge. Say what you want about the unfair outcast twist, but to be completely out of the game and then come back and make it to the final two is one hell of a player turnaround.
5. Ciera Eastin – Blood vs Water
A men’s alliance was formed early at Tadhana, placing Ciera on the wrong side of the numbers. Her position was weakened further when she failed to outperform her mother (Laura) in a number of challenges. It looked as though it was only a matter of time before she would be the unlucky woman to go (following Marissa and Rachel) from Tadhana, until a complete implosion of the dominant alliance shook up the tribe. Suddenly Ciera found herself off the chopping block and in a comfortable position. She kept herself in the majority all the way through the tribe swap and the early merge. She was one of the most strategically active players throughout the second half of the game with many of her moves strengthening her standing in the game. However, her decision not to step away from the Tyson, Gervase, Monica alliance and go with Hayden, Caleb and Katie at 7, would ultimately cost her a spot at the final tribal council and quite possibly a million dollars.
4. Parvati Shallow & Russell Hantz – Heroes Vs Villains
Heroes vs. Villains was a season full of huge moves, blindsides and power shifts. There was a lot of jostling amongst both tribes to form early alliances and once again Parvati found herself positioned as an early target. The Villains were threatened by her previous game in Micronesia and wanted her gone before her social game could gather momentum. The only people that would work with her were Danielle and Russell. After fumbling the opportunity to keep a clue to a hidden immunity idol for himself, Russell was marked by the tribe as he continued to look for the idol. Luckily for Russell and Parvati the Villains enjoyed early success at the challenges, but on day 15 it looked as though their luck had run out and the game would be over for one of them. The opposing six-person alliance (lead by Boston Rob) planned to split the vote, taking out either Parvati or Russell and flushing out the idol in the process. This plan was fool proof if everyone stuck to it. But, right before tribal council, Russell planted the seed in Tyson’s mind that he would be voting for Parvati. Therefore, Tyson assumed that there would be no risk in not following the plan to split the vote. He believed that Parvati would most-likely vote for Russell and it would be his vote that would break the deadlock, sending Parvati (the person he thought was his biggest threat) home. We all know the result; Parvati and Russell went on to play huge games, making some of the biggest and best strategic moves in Survivor history, but neither of them would manage to win over the jury at the final tribal council.
3. Cirie Fields – Panama
In Panama the tribes were divided into separate age and gender demographics. Cirie found herself on the older women’s tribe, which went on to lose the first immunity challenge. She managed to keep herself off the chopping block for the first vote, but it didn’t get easier for her after that. On day 4 the tribes were rearranged and the new shuffle didn’t favour Cirie. After almost quitting the game, Shane returned to camp reinvigorated and a little arrogant to say the least. He spelled out his alliance’s plans to Cirie and Melinda, stating that it was one of them going home and whoever didn’t go home this time, would be going home the next. Fortunately for Cirie, Melinda was chosen to be sent home, which gave her 3 more days to work herself in with the dominant alliance; and that she did. As the numbers dwindled down, Cirie’s subtle game-play became more obvious to the audience and she emerged as a strategic powerhouse, always shielding herself from focus and using other players to implement her plans. It worked right up until the final four where she was unable to beat Danielle in a fire making challenge. Nonetheless, it was a great game by the woman that ‘got up off the couch’ and she would go onto bigger and better things in the game of Survivor.
2. Holly Hoffman – Nicaragua
For the first few episodes of Survivor Nicaragua, Holly Hoffman seemed to be writing the book on ‘things not to do in Survivor.’ On day 1 she made an alliance with the weakest member of her tribe. On day 4, she dumped out snails that the tribe had collected to eat and then stole a fellow tribe members shoes and threw them in the river. She then confessed to doing it. All of her antics culminated on day 5 when she was inches away from quitting the game, but decided to stick it out thanks to some consolation from Jimmy Johnson. Holly’s game took a drastic turn when the tribes switched and she was better able to adapt socially to the presence of younger players than her original older tribe mates. She orchestrated a number of blindsides, dethroning the powerhouses as they emerged. She made it all the way to the final four and had Fabio not won the final immunity challenge, Holly may well have won the season; a turnaround that not many would’ve predicted.
1. Chris Daugherty – Vanuatu
I place Chris at the top, as unlike any of the other players on the list, in this instance, he went on to win the game. Chris had a nightmarish start to Survivor Vanuatu. Placed on a tribe full of testosterone filled men, he gave up a sizeable advantage on the balance beam, allowing the women to cruise in for victory in the first immunity challenge. Luckily he had formed an early alliance with the older men on his tribe and he managed to escape the vote. But sure enough, things got difficult again for Chris as the men found themselves down in numbers post-merge. It looked as though a Pagonging was imminent, as Chris became the last man standing. However, he was able to silver tongue his way off the voting slip right to the very end. He took advantage of the fragile relationships that had developed on the opposing tribe, creating conflict where he could and exploiting the resentment many of the women had for one another. He managed to win the final immunity challenge, but his game wasn’t over there. He continued to manipulate his opposition, convincing Twila to be hostile towards the jury, a move that would ultimately win him the million dollars.
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!