Survivor has brought us an array of 'blue collar' types, and in the lead up to the season 30 premiere, our stately Englishman, James Pickering brings our 3 week series to a close by presenting his top 10 picks of quintessential blue collar contestants who have kept it real during their time on the show. From truck drivers, military personnel, construction workers and more, these salt of the earth contestants were definitely memorable and made for some of the most interesting characters on the show. Will your favourite blue collar contestant make the top 10? Read on to find out!
10. Frank Garrison – Africa
Frank is a unique character in Survivor history – there hasn’t really been anybody like him since. The best way I can think to describe him is as a less endearing, more cantankerous Rudy; perhaps a mix between BB and Rudy. However, I love Frank – he had absolutely no chance of winning Survivor due to his bossy attitude and lack of social awareness, but his completely unique way of expressing himself (‘she’s so solid she’s buried at the bottom of the Hoover Damn’) made him an entertaining person to watch on TV. His attempt at playing the game ‘Never Have I Ever’ gets him a place on this list alone.
9. Shambo Waters – Samoa
Shambo achieved the impossible on her one season on Survivor – she managed to get a substantial amount of airtime on Survivor: Samoa without having the name Russell Hantz. Shambo’s gameplay was a bit of a train wreck throughout the season; she never really had a chance of winning the game and she socially alienated herself from her Galu tribe mates but she was a pretty entertaining Survivor contestant to watch for the viewers. Her love of chickens, her questionable haircut and use of the word ‘feckless’ make her a great addition to the Survivor family, and as a former marine corp, she fits the blue collar group perfectly.
8. Twila Tanner – Vanuatu
Twila was blunt and uncompromising with her views, but is probably an underrated Survivor contestant when it comes to gameplay. She was much maligned by the jury for her oversight of swearing on her son and then going back on it, but it is often forgotten that it is in fact Twila and not Chris who came up with the idea to get Eliza to flip at the final seven tribal council where Leann got blindsided. She was an interesting character to watch throughout the season – her struggles to integrate into a tribe of females followed by her blossoming into an important swing vote at the merge, only for those struggles to integrate and please people to cause her to lose in the final tribal was a fascinating story arc, and arguably the best character arc of any contestant on Vanuatu. As a highway repair worker, she fits the blue-collar definition, and deserves her place on the list.
7. Judd Sergeant – Guatemala
I’ve been to New York a couple of times, and I’ve always found the doormen of hotels to be big characters, but ultimately super polite, gracious and charming. I’m sure Judd is like that in real life, but his Survivor personality couldn’t be further than what I imagine the stereotypical doorman to be. He was rude, he was blunt, he was angry, he was loud, he was scary, but oh my god, he was entertaining to watch. He’s the man who got accused of having ADHD and who wished his tribe mates who had just blindsided him were bitten by ‘freakin’ crocodiles’. It is a travesty he’s never been bought back.
6. Helen Glover – Thailand
I loved Helen when I first watched Survivor: Thailand, and she holds up on a re-watch. She’s a great game player who got herself into a majority alliance that took her all the way to the end, and she was the swing vote in tribal council that Ghandia got voted out in. Whilst achieving this, she had a great social game an a work ethic that earned her the respect of her fellow tribe mates and also allowed her to avoid ever being the target for elimination right up until the tribal council she went home at. Above all that, she was a great character to watch – her final tribal council speech is one of the best attempts at replicating the infamous ‘snakes and rats’ speech, and I think she was a massive oversight by producers when they were looking for their sole Thailand representative in All-Stars. With a career as a Navy swimming instructor, I see her as the perfect fit for this Blue Collar list.
5. JT Thomas – Tocantins & Heroes vs Villains
He’s the quintessential loveable country boy, and the first person to ever achieve the perfect Survivor season; going throughout the whole game without receiving a vote and then clean sweeping the votes at the final tribal council. Not only did JT manage that, he did it on a season where he entered the merge in the tribe with less numbers and as an obvious physical threat in challenges. This underlines just how much of a social threat JT holds, and just how good JT is at the game of Survivor. His Heroes v Villains game taints his legacy, but make no mistake; he is one of the most impressive winners in Survivor history. He beat the guy most people consider these days to be one of the best runner-ups 7-0 in the final tribal vote! And as a cattle rancher from Alabama, he fits the blue-collar mould to a tee.
4. Tony Vlachos – Cagayan
The man who speaks llama has to be here right? Tony came into Cagayan as somebody with seemingly boundless energy and expressed pregame his intention to lie, cheat and steal in a bid to win the game. He was giving off Russell Hantz vibes, and as a result I expected him to either be gone pre-merge or make it to the final tribal council but not receive a vote. I gave him zero chance of winning the game. I genuinely believed that his style of gameplay could never win the game of Survivor. But Tony managed to pull it off, whilst indulging himself in huge blindsides, finding idols and making spy shacks. Most importantly though, his strong social game allowed the jury to overlook his betrayals and still give him their vote to win the game (take note, Russell Hantz), and he became one of the entertaining winners in Survivor. And the fact he chose to hide the fact he was a cop with the disguise of a construction worker (another blue-collar profession), makes Tony a must have on this list.
A member of the Tagi 4, Sue is a member of the Survivor community that needs no introduction. She’s loud, brash, opinionated and by her own words, ‘a redneck’. But most importantly, she makes great TV and is a fantastic Survivor character. Her snakes and rats speech is obviously a hugely iconic moment in the history of the franchise, but even without that amazing speech, Sue provided us with some great moments – she’s a far savvier game player then she is often given credit for, plus her confessionals are brilliant in their diversity and entertainment. A truck driver from Wisconsin, Sue fits the blue-collar label perfectly, and no list of this nature would be worth anything without her on it.
2. Tom Westman – Palau & Heroes vs Villains
He’s one of the most popular winners in Survivor history, and is somebody who probably should never have been allowed to win due to just how obvious a jury threat he would be. But he managed to pull it off with an incredible social and physical game, dominating the game from the very beginning like not many other winners have managed. Although his stock seems to be falling recently, perhaps due to his Heroes v Villains performance, his strategic game is vastly underrated; the way that he manipulated Ian into actually giving up in the final immunity challenge is one of those moves that does not get the credit it deserved. He’s a NYC fireman, he’s an iconic winner, and no blue collar Survivor list is worth its grain in salt without Tom Westman on it.
What more can be said that hasn’t been said about this man already? The man is a Survivor icon. An integral and inarguably the most popular member of the Tagi 4, Rudy was TV gold in the very first season of Survivor, providing the audiences with countless one-liners and blunt assessments of his tribe mates. His endearing relationship with Richard was fascinating to watch develop – seeing a 72 year old former navy seal form a friendship and a strong level of mutual respect with an openly gay nudist was not something that anybody would have expected before the show.
His appearance in All Stars was short but entertaining, filled full of little moments of pure Rudyisms; from him informing us that he doesn’t mind drinking the uncontaminated water due to drinking something similar in Vietnam that had dead bodies floating in it, to issuing a warning to his former tribe mates to watch their backs after they voted him out – Rudy showed us again why he is television gold. Hell, he’s such entertaining TV the producers bought him back for a reunion nineteen seasons after his last appearance as a player! With 45 years in the Navy Seals, before retiring in 1990 – Rudy is the ultimate blue collar Survivor. There hasn’t been a better one in 29 seasons.
Honourable mentions: Jane Bright, James Clement, Chris Daugherty, Keith Nale, Zoe Zanidakis
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!
ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE COPYRIGHT CBS. IF YOU WISH TO READ OUR DISCLAIMER IN REGARDS TO THE USE OF IMAGES PLEASE CLICK HERE