In many ways, one of the biggest themes of Survivor is based around white collar types. How will people handle living on an island, playing a cut throat strategic game when they are taken away from all the comforts and luxuries of home? Survivor is sometimes a great leveller, with those used to positions of power and authority in their every day life afforded no such luxury when alliances are made and broken. Think of poor Edna Ma, a distinguished anaesthesiologist and entrepreneur, lower in the tribe's pecking order to one Brandon Hantz. That is the beauty of Survivor. Following on from last week's look at the 'No Collars' of the Survivor world, Ozlet Nick Chester puts forward his list of the top 10 White Collar Survivors. Read on for more!
When assessing the top ten white collar players, there are a few things to consider. It’s also hard as the way they played the game can colour where they would have ended up had they been cast on season 30. Jeff says the “Masaya” tribe is about people used to making the rules and letting others enforce and follow (and occasionally break) them. So – no cops, fire-fighters or teachers. Certainly no construction workers or labourers. No models, bartenders or aspiring actors.
We are talking executives, lawyers, business owners. People who make the decisions in their every day life. And not necessarily just people who have money. Take Ace as an example – he says he is used to growing up with money, but his profession (photographer) means he doesn’t really fit into the group as it is defined.
They have to be used to taking charge in their everyday life. This would exclude many office based jobs that you may think of as “white collar” but actually aren’t in positions of management (such as an accountant like Tasha). However, many of the big leaders in this game are probably “blue collar” and many of the quirky personalities are “no collar”, so I think of the three groups, I have the smallest pool to choose from.
Some contenders may not seem obvious, but still relevant. I think this idea of them being in control and used to making the rules also excludes the “nerdy” type super fans, like Cochran or Spencer. And one thing was clear from the start; this is a section of casting that is overwhelmingly male. Of the females in this group, most are lawyers. Immediately this highlights one of the many issues with how gender are cast on the show, so if this feels a bit male heavy, trust me, I have done my best, but it wasn’t easy with what I was given. So who makes the cut?
10. Marcus Lehman – Gabon
There have been a lot of doctors on the show over the year and most of them could easily be described as white collar. Interestingly though, many of them fall into the role of being subservient and outside the main alliance (Edna, Sean Keniff), or are part of an alliance without being considered integral to it (Mick). Marcus was one of the few who took a leadership role in his tribe and steered them to a number of victories.
On many other seasons, Marcus’ victory would be assured but in the messed up season that Gabon was, he ended up being on the wrong side of the numbers and being voted out to start the jury. But his game had all the hallmarks of a game in complete control, to the point of arrogance (throwing away an immunity idol in such a public way) or being oblivious to being in the minority. Marcus was everything you want to see in a “white collar” player, and played the role well.
9. Kim Spradlin – One World
I am perhaps pushing the boundaries here and Kim isn’t someone who jumps to mind immediately as a white collar control freak. But then she is hard to quantify in any of the categories, and this feels like the most natural fit for her. She is, after all a business owner and was billed as such when she was on the show, although this wasn’t a major part of her story. But like a couple of others on the list, she is not the typical type of controlling figure you associate with the category, but gets her way by being calm and talking people into following her.
Her game was built on solid social connections and inclusion of people, whilst making the right strategic moves when necessary. The idea of white collar as being a bad trait and being in control at all costs, including hurting others is a pretty narrow view of it. There are lots of ways to gain and maintain control and they don’t always have to carry negative connotations. Kim is one of the very rare players who can backstab someone and still earn their adulation. The level of respect Kim had from other players makes her powerful on all sorts of levels. Kim belongs on this list.
This may seem another surprising choice, but don’t forget that Kathy’s profession prior to Marquesas was as a real estate agent. That is pretty white collar. Kathy may not have fit the role particularly well, but if she were cast on Season 30, she would be joining the Masaya tribe. Her profession certainly seemed to have an impact on her early game. Kathy was probably someone who was used to being listened to in life, and having a group of people, nearly all younger than her completely ignoring all her ideas would have been a shock.
Rotu’s scenes in the first couple of episodes of Marquesas are almost entirely given over to Kathy’s struggle to fit in, which does disguise just how well she dealt with the elements, if not the people. Kathy was the original “older woman” (as always, Older by Survivor age standards only) that overcomes an early season meltdown to take charge of the game. Kathy’s transformation over the season, and then into All-Stars as a capable player of the game (along with her love of the outdoors) made her less of a traditional “white collar” type figure but she still serves this role well, and it has to be at least explained by having a strategic mind that was shaped by having to convince people that this house is the one for you” and drive a hard bargain. And it really makes me want to go to an open home, circa 2002 where Kathy is welcoming you in.
7. Bobby Mason – Panama
A lot of players who would fit “white collar” credentials were voted off pre-jury and left little impression, but I did want to honour them by having one in this list, and I can’t think of a better representative than BobDawg himself. This guy is simply awesome TV, and as an attorney, he would fit right in on the white collar tribe. Bobby seemed to flame out simply by not making any effort to get along with his tribe mates, and he was more or less not prepared to play unless he had complete control over what happened. But he provided some fantastic moments along the way, from going beast mode in several challenges, to his elaborate hand gestures, to drinking wine and crapping in the toilet that everyone had decided to use for wood.
This is a sign of a guy who has not a care in the world what others thought of him, but would do whatever he pleased. That may be a bit of a “no-collar” attitude, but with the right group of people, it could work. In a group of all people who want to take control of the game, Bobby could have been a valuable player. I also think he found many of his tribe to not be on his level, and instead of trying to take control, he just couldn’t be bothered trying to fit in. He is a really smart guy, and surrounded by other people in the same situation (I can’t imagine he deals with all that many fire dancers in his regular life), he could have lasted a lot longer.
6. Kass McQuillen – Cagayan
The latest in a long line of female lawyers/attorneys, Kass is undoubtedly the most interesting to watch. Don’t get me wrong; Deena and Eliza are fantastic TV, but Kass takes it to a whole other level and regardless of how you feel about her strategic acumen, you have to admire that she owns her game entirely. Kass was pretty up front that she was not going to set the game on fire with her physical skills, and admitted she can have a pretty spiky personality, but she was prepared to use her smarts and strategic abilities to get as far as she could.
Her skills as a “white collar” attorney were used to maximum effect – she didn’t care who she upset to get further in the game, and whilst this may have hurt her chances to win, it should have guaranteed her a spot on the final 2 had Woo not made a crazy move and given the win to Tony. Kass was aggressive and certainly not afraid to make massive moves in the game if she felt they were in her best interest – this seems to fit with the white collar philosophy pretty well.
She was also not someone to waste time when she felt she no longer was part of an alliance and was prepared to flip to continue on – see Garrett and Sarah’s eliminations. But she also was prepared to grit her teeth and deal with Tony when he voted a way she wasn’t expecting, understanding her best bet was to stick with him. Kass was certainly polarising, but is undoubtedly one of the best examples of a white collar player using these skills in the game
5. Yul Kwon – Cook Islands
Yul was about as straight laced, white collared as you could ever expect. He was a consultant and future political advisor, and he was definitely seen as the clean cut, behind the desk type of guy you could only imagine in a high powered job. This of course was magnified when he is compared to his ally, and runner up for the season, Ozzy, who is the most obvious type of “no collar” player the show has ever had.
Yul was certainly not portrayed as the driven competitive type in the obvious manner that you may associate the type-A, white collar person with.But he had a game plan and actually used his calm and assertive manner to full affect, reeling in and eventually voting Penner out at just the right time. Like Kim, Yul’s power comes not from being aggressive and scaring people into following him, fully expecting that his personality would make them do so, but from calmly and clearly explaining to someone why going with him is a good move.
Yul has often had to overcome the belief from many that this overpowered idol gives his win in the Cook Islands an asterisk, but far from that, it actually shows his ability to negotiate. Yul used it on the one person that this would be most effective – correctly identifying Penner as logical and self interested, and someone that would joining him. If Yul were in season 30, there is no doubt which tribe he would be on, and no doubt he would do a great job again.
4. Brendan Synnott – Tocantins
As a self-made entrepreneur and inventor, Brendan fits the white collar image really well. He was clearly a guy used to being in control and calling the shots, which made having to deal with Coach all the more difficult for him (and created some great drama for us watching at home). Brendan was sneaky and used every opportunity to his advantage – the creation of the Exile alliance is a great example of this.
However, the Exile Alliance also shows his greatest white collar weakness, which was his inability to not take the lead and be in control. Brendan wanted to tell Sierra, Stephen and Taj exactly what to do, and that they would have a chance to be a part of his plan when the time was most suitable for him. He didn’t understand that the ex-Jalapao members had other ideas, and his inability to see this was what led to his downfall.
A player with more ability to see things from others perspective may have been able to see this coming and adapt to it, but he couldn’t and it cost him the game. He was, however, great TV and is everything you would expect in a white collar player. Rather than some on the list who used their white collar skills to great effect and eventually win the game, Brendan let his white collar tendencies get on top of making the best decisions in the game and they eventually led to his exit.
3. Brian Heidik – Thailand
I don’t know exactly where used car salesman sit on the “collar” line, but there is no white collar list without the Iceman. I know that Survivor Oz is often accused of loving Brian a little too much, but hey, get over it. We do so for a reason, and that reason is that he is awesome. Brian loved being in control, a definite white collar trait.
It is also important to remember that this guy was not some washed up car salesman picked at random or who applied in the hopes of making something more for themselves, Brian was one of the best car salesmen in the country, and was recruited on this basis. His abilities at selling things to people (potentially things that were bad for them) make it almost unfair to let him play this game. But he was also incredibly good at seeming to be just one of the team. His bizarre ability to disconnect from the emotion of the game and play out the best scenario is actually chilling, and I love his line about seeming “almost one of them” after having too much to drink.
His voting confessional about Helen (“Cause and Effect. You caused this effect”) is something you can imagine a horrible boss saying as they fire a poor employee. His cold, calculating game plan makes him a sure fire for any list of top white collar players.
2. Earl Cole – Fiji
A great example of how being a Survivor fan isn’t a prerequisite to doing well at the game, Earl’s story is now well known – cast just days before the season started, Earl came into the game with the most limited knowledge of how it was played. You could say he was lucky to be playing with a number of recruits in Fiji, but at least they had time to prepare themselves and study the game before leaving, which he didn’t.
Earl used his great people skills to advance his game, but instead of telling people what to do like Brendan or Marcus did in their seasons, Earl worked hard to include people in on discussions and form tight bonds. However, the ruthless streak you may associate with white collar players was always there and he had no problems voting Yau Man off when he needed to, in order to ensure himself the win.
Earl’s career, both pre- and post- Survivor shows that he knows what he is doing when it comes to business, and he is a great example of a white collar player in this respect too. He used these skills to the greatest effect in Fiji, making smart and well thought out decisions throughout his time on the island, leveraging what power he did have to improve his position and utilising the strength, intelligence and indeed the mistakes of others around him to further his own cause. Where other players have tried and failed to do this through being too forceful or becoming arrogant, Earl played his hand perfectly and walked away with a million dollars.
No Top Ten of white collar players would be complete without Richard. The corporate trainer was the quintessential “make the rules” guy – there’s a good case that the whole show is now played because of the way he went about forming a structured alliance in the first season.
Richard was probably meant to be the fish out of water in the first season – not expected to be able to throw off the comforts of his urban life to play the game, but he instead used his understanding of people, partially through a white collar background to help him be successful in the game. And whilst many players have to form quick alliances with players who are similar to themselves, Richard took his time to find the right people to help him win.
Eventually he formed an alliance not with the more white collar players in his tribe like Stacy and Sean, but with two “blue collar” people in Rudy and Sue, and a “no collar” person in Kelly. Enough has been said and written about Richard over the years that I cant add much more, but whilst so many of the other players in Borneo had at least some experience with being outdoors, Richard’s casting was at least in part meant to show someone from a white collar background in such an unusual setting. The roots of Season 30’s twist can be seen all the way at the start.
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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