On the 8th of May 2013 founding Ozlet Noah Groves published his first ever top 10 counting down the top 10 returning player game improvements. Since that time almost two years ago, 20 different players have returned to play again (article was written before Caramoan aired, published after) in the favourites of Caramoan and the returnees of Blood vs Water. It only seems appropriate to revisit the top 10 to look at some of the new returnees and their improvements. Some of the omitted people like Stephenie Lagrossa are still worthy of being in the top 10 but were taken out in order to talk about some newer players. There is a strong rumour that season 31 or 32 will be all returnees and by the time you read this it may have already been announced so expect perhaps a third article in a year’s time.
10. Monica Culpepper – Blood vs Water
Monica didn’t play a brilliant game in Blood vs Water but it was a huge step up from One World. In One World she was completely out of the loop from her original all women’s tribe being on the outs, something that didn’t change even after a tribal swap. She was quickly voted out without a fuss racking up just 6 confessionals as she left. It was because of these reasons that it was perhaps a surprise to see Monica return to the game but when she did she was almost the complete opposite. A huge turn around that saw her not only be one of the major characters in the season but also being a part of the alliances and strategy, later dominating in the individual immunity challenges and showing her worth. Monica still has a lot to do to make her a brilliant player but compared to other pre merge returnees like Francesca and Russell Swan, Monica had a huge improvement on her second time.
9. Phillip Shepherd – Caramoan
Like Monica, Phillip’s return didn’t turn him into a brilliant player but it was a massive improvement. Right from the get go Phillip went from plain kooky to kooky and playing the game. Implementing his new Boston Rob inspired strategy “The BR Rules.” Phillip gathered a majority alliance and had a serious say in who stayed and left the game. Phillip for a long time looked as if he would make the final three albeit probably with very few jury votes in his hand. But who knows, if he was up against Sherri who the jury for some reason despised then maybe Phillip had a shot. Phillip will probably never win the game of Survivor but there is certainly a mass level of improvement and player growth between his first try in Redemption Island. Maybe he will join Coach in a further game improvement on his inevitable third time playing the game…stay tuned for ‘Top Ten Returning Player Game Improvements Revisited…again’ in two years’ time!
8. Cirie Fields- Micronesia
Previous Entry – 5th
Cirie played a fantastic game in Panama and when she returned in Micronesia, she showed an improvement, displaying to us that she deserves the respect she gets as a great player. Cirie came in to the game with the target of being an extremely good social and strategic player but managed to avoid all of this as she became a part of the majority alliance. For many of the votes, Cirie had control over who went home and went on to join the infamous ‘Black Widow Brigade’ alliance and continued to have control of the game. Cirie was never really on the chopping block and made it to the Final Three with ease; however, she went onto lose the Final Immunity Challenge and was voted out. Many agree that if Micronesia had been a Final Three then Cirie would have been a winner. Cirie is a great example of how she managed to look back on an already great game and improve on it when she returned.
7. Jenna Lewis – All Stars
Previous Entry – 4th
When Jenna Lewis returned for All-Stars she had a new outlook on playing Survivor and proved to be a worthy all star. Originally in Borneo, Jenna was a part of the group who were against creating alliances, this saw her to be eventually ‘Pagonged’ out of the game. When she returned, she took charge of her Saboga tribe and made it her mission to eliminate the winners from the game. Jenna aligned closely with Rupert and eventually Boston Rob’s alliance in the absorbed Mogo Mogo tribe. From then on in, Jenna was never really on the chopping block throughout the game and voted out Rupert to insure her spot in the Final Three. She was unable to win the Final Immunity Challenge and became the last member of the Jury. It is generally considered that Jenna would have won the season had she made it to the Final Tribal Council. Jenna proved that she could adapt to a more modern style of playing at the time and made a huge improvement from her original game play.
6. Amber Bkrich – All Stars
Previous Entry – 7th
Many Survivor fans will say that Amber was an undeserving winner and that Boston Rob should have won All-Stars; but there is no denying the facts that Amber came in first place in All-Stars compared to sixth place in The Australian Outback. In All-Stars, Amber made all the right moves by aligning with her future husband, Boston Rob Mariano; with the pair managed to control the entire game together. She managed to survive the Tribe Switch that saw her at the bottom of the tribe and win an Individual Challenge after the Merge. Boston Rob would then go on to take her to the Final Two where she won the game in a four-three vote. Amber makes it to seventh place on this list due to the fact that it appeared much of her success in making it to the end comes down to the work of Rob; however, there is an absolute clear improvement from her first time nonetheless.
5. Tyson Apostle – Blood vs Water
Before Blood vs Water Tyson was seen as a bit of a joke. In Tocantins he was the kooky character who had some strategy but was mainly shown for the entertainment factor and in Heroes vs Villains, well…we all know how that turned out…it wasn’t long before he returned for a third time and followed in the footsteps of his former ally and friend Coach. Tyson played a much stronger and calculated game, playing hard from day one and making all the right moves to get to the end. While pre game alliances certainly did help, Tyson made constant improvements on pretty much every aspect of his game. He dominated and was rarely a threat to be voted out and it is no surprise that he earned all but one of the final jury votes making him the winner of the 27th season. This was a huge, but somewhat unsurprising turn around and goes to show that the third time can be lucky for some.
4. Rob Mariano – All Stars and Redemption Island
Previous Entry – 3rd
Boston Rob makes an entry for two of his seasons. When Rob returned for All-Stars he had made a huge improvement from Marquesas where even he admits his head wasn’t fully in the game. He controlled the game throughout All-Stars and made the final with ease; with of course angering the Jury along the way. While Boston Rob did lose out to Amber, his game play in All-Stars was magnificent compared to Marquesas. Rob returned for Heroes vs. Villains where he failed to make it deep into the game and was voted out before the Merge. He returned for a fourth time where he improved on all his past games in both game play and placing. He managed to take control of almost everyone on his Ometepe tribe, initiated the buddy system strategy, found the Hidden Immunity Idol and won several Individual Immunities. Despite being a returning player, Rob was never really under a threat to go home and although some may argue that he was playing with players who did not know what they were doing, there is no denying that he won the game fair and square; showing that even though it may have taken him four times, he was able to improve his game to finally win.
3. Coach Wade – South Pacific
Previous Entry – 2nd
The first time Coach Wade appeared on Tocantins he was all about taking the strongest players to the end and told absurd, (possibly untrue), stories. The second time he appeared on Heroes vs. Villains he was all about showmance’s, flip flopping and praying for the Merge. It wasn’t until his third time that Coach really put his head into gear and started to play the game. Coach started off on a rocky start but was able to solidify a five person alliance on the first night of the game; with Edna being his backup vote by his side. Coach controlled the game along the way and was a key figure in persuading Cochran to flip. He seemed to make it to the Final Three with ease, alongside his allies Albert and Sophie, where he received three votes from the Jury. It was here that Coach crumbled and was unable to own up to his actions and lost respect from the Jury. However, if there was one person who showed a huge development in game play and showed that he had learnt from his past mistakes, it would be Coach.
2. John Cochran – Caramoan
Cochran played a god awful game in South Pacific and had zero chance of ever winning the game. He was viewed as a novelty and rarely taken seriously in any aspect of Survivor gameplay. In Caramoan it couldn’t be any different; he was the complete opposite to his abysmal first game. Cochran went from the bottom of the totem pole and dominated his way to the top and winning a full blown jury sweep at the end of the game. He dictated most of the decisions in the game, won an array of challenges and played a cool, calm collected game. In ways it was hard to watch the constant love fest for Cochran and it got completely old completely quickly but we can’t use that to hide the fact that he had a complete 180 (hello Coach!) in the game and a massive improvement, even if he isn’t one of the greatest winners of the show.
1. Parvati Shallow – Micronesia
Previous Entry – 1st
When thinking way back to ‘Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favourites’, Parvati is certainly not one person everyone was expecting to see return. In Cook Islands, Parvati didn’t show her strong strategic side and despite coming in sixth place, she arguing rode coat tails and used her flirtatious personality to get her further in the game. When she first returned to the game, Parvati was almost voted out first but was able to become a part of a strong majority alliance. Even after a Tribe Switch, Parvati wasn’t in any danger and after the Merge became a key figure in the infamous ‘Black Widow Brigade’ alliance, where she and the four other women controlled the game. Parvati was both a strong physical player, an ultimate social player and dominated at the Final Tribal Council. Parvati showed a huge improvement in game play from her initial Cook Islands game and therefore has the best transformation of all returning players. She would later go on to play a similar game in Heroes vs. Villains where she came in second place.
Honourable Mentions: Stephenie Lagrossa – Guatemala, Michael Skupin -Philippines, Andrea Boehlke – Caramoan, Dawn Meehan – Caramoan, Gervase Peterson – Blood vs Water
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there non-winning finalists 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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