Top 10s are back for another Wednesday and this week Ozlet Nick runs through some of the bigger 'what could have been' in the game of Survivor as castaways who had the power to make game changing moves but for whatever reason, ultimately didn't act. Some of these missed opportunities may not have played out directly onscreen but ultimately hindered their chances to make it further in the game. Get ready for a trip down memory lane once again with your Wednesday discussion point!
Discussions about the biggest “dumb moves” in Survivor normally focus in on a few popular candidates. Erik giving up immunity in Micronesia, JT giving Russell his idol, Tyson voting himself out in Heroes vs Villains. Often forgotten are more subtle moments where the game could have gone in a completely different direction, but players made a decision that ended up being costly. Here are ten of the biggest missed opportunities in Survivor history, some of which you may not even remember.
10. Malcolm fails to keep Denise happy – Philippines
Malcolm played a pretty good game in Philippines, but he certainly made his fair share of mistakes along the way too. In his first game, his last mistake was arguably the biggest and was certainly fatal to his game. At the final four, Denise approached Malcolm to check their alliance was still tight. Malcolm, who had been planning to vote Denise out, gave a very noncommittal answer that didn’t exactly put her mind at ease. Unsurprisingly, Denise used this opportunity to go to Lisa and Skupin and offer to vote with them to get rid of Malcolm at the next vote. This put Malcolm in the difficult position of having to win the final immunity challenge to stay in the game, somewhere you ideally never want to be. When Malcolm did lose, he found himself out of the game, with his ally sitting pretty to win it all. We don’t know for sure that Denise would have gone with Malcolm if he had been more convincing to her, but assuming she had, this would have resulted in a 2-2 tie with Lisa (as Skupin had immunity). This would mean Malcolm just had to beat Lisa in a fire making contest to remain in the game, and probably win it the following night. In hindsight, this seems a very costly mistake.
9. Savaii didn’t calm Cochran’s nerves – South Pacific
The Cochran flip was endlessly debated at the time but has now pretty much been consigned to history as a massive blunder on Cochran’s part. It’s hard to argue against this, but this still doesn’t detract from the fact that his Savaii tribe mates didn’t exactly make him feel secure. After playing nearly 3 weeks of Survivor with him, one thing they should have known was that he was a very insecure person, and the prospect of going into a tied vote and drawing rocks was not appealing to him. And to add further context; just two days before, after costing them the challenge, they had all openly told him he would be voted out, before Ozzy’s decision to send himself to Redemption Island.
A bit more careful management of Cochran may have made him feel more secure. Dawn even knew he was planning to flip. Did Jim fully explain his plans to take Cochran to the end? Did Ozzy offer up either his immunity necklace or hidden idol? Not to mention that Savaii’s big plan to infiltrate Upolu was to send their most nervous player and one most likely to flip in to be their “double agent”. So yes, Cochran is to blame for flipping and effectively throwing his game away. But his tribe made this decision relatively easy for him as well, and cost themselves the million dollars in the process.
8. Brandon votes Kelly out – Africa
An older but no less interesting move, Brandon effectively threw his game away by not being prepared to temporarily align with someone he didn’t like. At the final nine, the ex-Samburu members of T-Bird, Frank and Kim are ready to join with Kelly to vote as a block to get rid of Lex. Brandon only had to join with them and they could have got the biggest strategic and physical threat out of the game. Brandon would have been sitting pretty in a majority of five, and had options of what to do next. Presuming he stuck with this group, it seems likely he, Kim and Kelly would have stuck together to the final 3, with him and Kelly most likely to take each other to the end. Sitting next to Kelly with an angry jury full of ex-Boran players would have been a good prospect to win.
Even if he didn’t choose to stick with this alliance long term, going into the final 8 with a majority and options would have allowed Brandon to take the game any way he wanted. Instead, he couldn’t stomach working with Frank and helped Lex get rid of Kelly. His reward? Lex’s alliance decided to gang up on Brandon and vote him out next. Perhaps he should have stuck with the devil he knew.
7. Penner doesn’t accept Lisa’s offer – Philippines
The second Philippines entrant on the list is one of the most painful for any Penner fan. After fighting tooth and nail to stay in the game, Penner finally found himself in a good position at the final 8. Lisa approached him and asked if he wanted to make a final three deal with her and Skupin, which he strangely turned down. Determined to not come off as playing too aggressively (a label aimed at him in previous games),
Penner wanted to let the larger alliance finish picking off those left outside before thinking of any end-game combinations. Unfortunately, others were not thinking this way and Lisa’s offer went unanswered, causing her to turn to Denise and Malcolm instead. Penner later said that he couldn’t simply pretend to accept and then think on it as he was really trying to play an honest game and not be seen as duplicitous. Unfortunately this honest gameplay cost him and he was destined for another final 7 exit.
6. Kathy helps to vote out the General – Marquesas
Another move that may easily be forgotten, but at the final 6 in the Marquesas, Kathy pondered the option of joining with the General, Sean and Vecepia and getting rid of Paschal and Neleh. There were clear risks with this plan which ultimately meant she didn’t pursue it. Had the General gone on an immunity run and made the final 2, he would have won. Voting her closes allies out would also have probably meant Paschal and Neleh didn’t vote for her in the end. And given Kathy’s third place finish, it may seem silly to quibble over her decision.
But the moment she voted out the General, Kathy effectively had no way to win the game. She was locked into being the swing vote at final 5, then probably needing to win immunity to get to the final 2. This proved to be an impossible task, but probably would have been regardless of her choices from there on out. If she had gone to the final 5 with say Sean, Vecepia, the General and Paschal, she could have taken out either Sean or Vee and left a bunch of single, non-attached players at the end which would give her more options. Kathy is a great player and therefore anything that doesn’t lead to her winning should be considered a missed opportunity.
5. Ciera sides with the veterans – Blood vs Water
In a classic case of why new players shouldn’t be playing with veterans, Ciera, having just voted her mother out, found herself in a tribe with three veterans and three new players. The choice should have been obvious; team up with the newbies and ride that to a final four, where Ciera would have been a non-threat to win a challenge and almost certainly make it to the final three, with her mother on the jury to champion her cause.
Instead she chose to go with Tyson, Gervase and Monica in a move clearly against her best interest. Credit has to be given to Tyson for getting Ciera to make this move, but it’s still hard to watch her hand the game to him. To be fair, she realised her mistake at the next tribal council, taking the game to a rock draw, but it was all in vain and too late by that stage. The damage was done.
4. Caryn Declines a Woman’s Alliance – Palau
In a strikingly similar move, Caryn found herself in a final seven with Tom unprotected by individual immunity. Katie, Jenn and Steph put the offer out for an all-female alliance and get rid of Tom before it was too late. Caryn obviously believed her chances were better with the three men, as she turned down what seemed a great move for her. Not only were Tom, Ian and Gregg huge challenge threats, they were also likeable and more respected than her.
As Tom proved a few days later (after voting Karen out at the final five), going to the end with Katie should have been everyone’s move. She was an easy beat. Katie said the plan couldn’t work because “Caryn sucks” and although it’s a pretty blunt way of saying it; her point seems pretty valid in retrospect. Whatever Caryn’s rationale was, it’s hard to understand.
3. Lisa votes out Abi Maria – Philippines
Another forgotten move that isn’t really considered as a strategic mistake or missed opportunity, but one that quite possibly cost Lisa a million dollars. At the final 5, Lisa is in a 4 person alliance with Skupin and the very likeable Malcolm and Denise. It should be obvious that any chance she has to win the game has to be by eliminating both Denise and Malcolm before the final three. If either of them makes it to that point, they will win, against any combination of the three remaining ex-Tandang members. Lisa should have been convincing Skupin to vote with her and Abi Maria to take out Denise. Then the three of them could concentrate on getting rid of Malcolm at the final four. I can see reasons why she didn’t do this. The relationship between Abi Maria and Skupin was so fractured that the idea of them working together on a vote may have just been impossible. There is also a very good chance that Abi Maria may have picked up more votes than expected at the end (definitely Pete and Artis, and maybe others). However big a threat this actually was, it was still better than the alternative, which ended up as a final three with either Malcolm or Denise, who obviously ended up winning handily. A final three of Lisa, Skupin and Abi Maria would most likely see Lisa pick up 5-6 votes to win. Lisa is remembered as overly weepy and emotional, but she actually was prepared to make moves to advance her own game. It’s a shame she couldn’t make the one that would have ultimately enabled her to win it all.
2. Christy fails to keep Rob happy – Amazon
A Survivor classic, Christy’s indecision at the final 6 in the Amazon ultimately led her from being in “the driver seat” to being kicked to the curb in no time flat. Christy should have learned by day 33 that leaving Rob with an unclear response was not a good idea. When he came to her and asked if she was down with the plan to vote Heidi off, her nonchalant “I guess” was never going to be enough to appease someone of his level of Survivor skill, and paranoia. Rob quickly turned the game around on Christy and used her own enemies against her to send her home in an incredible blindside. As Rob said at the reunion, all Christie had to say was “Rob, I’m in” and he would have been with her. She didn’t even have to mean it. But the power seemingly went to her head and her lapse in judgment gave Rob all the ammunition he needed to send the game in another direction.
1. Woo takes Tony to the end and loses – Cagayan
The latest but most insane missed opportunity, Woo chose to throw away certain victory over Kass in the final 2 to take Tony to the end and lose in an 8-1 vote. Tony clearly did a great job convincing Woo not to flip, but it should have been obvious to Woo that there was no way he could lose sitting next to Kass. She was disrespected by most of the jury, but Woo let his loyalty and desire to go up against the best blind him. This wasn’t a coin flip – one way was a clear win, the other an uncertain one at best. It goes without saying that Survivor is not just a strategic game – it has personal and emotional elements too, and Woo let himself get sucked in to this element right when it was most important to resist them.
Having backstabbed a number of other people in the game, it made little sense to not finish the job, especially when the alternative was someone less likeable than him. All the jury cares about is voting for the person they feel most comfortable winning at the end. They don’t need to see the best two players up against each other, it makes no difference. Whilst Woo isn’t the first person to make a decidedly questionable move at the final 3, his is easily the most baffling in the context, and it directly cost him $900,000.
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!
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