Sole Survivor Biggest Obstacles – Part 3


Feature Monday is here again and today we bring you the third and final segment of Ozlet Ivan Ornelas’s Sole Survivor Biggest Obstacles. Today the obstacles faced by the winners from the most recent or ‘new school’ seasons are examined, with strong personalities, immunity threats and self-destructive gameplay making the road to the million that much more difficult. Click below to read what exactly each winner had to overcome!

Follow the links to read the previous Sole Survivor Biggest Obstacles segments: Part 1 and Part 2.

I’ve covered the first twenty winners, and now it’s time to take a look at the latest ten players who have obtained the coveted title of Sole Survivor.

Jud “Fabio” Birza – Nicaragua


I’m probably one of the biggest Fabio fans and I stick by the way of thinking that every winner deserves to win, and you bet I will defend his game. However when going through the obstacles he had to ace it can be unclear what caused these obstacles or how much fault he had in putting himself in a bad position, because yes he picked some bad alliance members such as Shannon but at the same time he was forced into certain alliances out of necessity. As much as I am glad Sash did not receive any jury votes, it seems like Fabio’s problems especially late in the game relate back to Sash. Who prevented Marty’s guys alliance idea from working? Sash. Who was the swing vote at the final 7 when Fabio’s alliance was once again the outsiders? Sash. And who was the last person standing between Fabio and the immunity necklace on Day 38? Sash. However, Sash and many other contestants overlooked Fabio thinking they would be able to take him out at any point they wanted to but to Fabio’s credit and their mistake, he took control of his own destiny in the immunity challenges and managed to win the game

Rob Mariano – Redemption Island


Aside from possibly Kim, I do not think any build up to a win was more obvious, predictable, and boring than Rob’s victory in Redemption Island. I’m happy for Rob that he managed to win after 4 tries and I think it did Survivor more good than harm that one of their most iconic players (after other fan favorites such as Colby, Cirie, and Rupert couldn’t do it) found his way on to the list of winners, but it was not pretty to watch. Strangely enough, even though Russell was severely tranquilized and easily dispatched this season, I would say Russell was a big obstacle this season because Rob was almost reliving Russell Hantz’s Samoa season, only he was not nearly as much of a jerk as Russell was and he did not need to overcome a numbers disadvantage after the merge. He was receiving 85% of the edit, and everything was seemingly going his way and it looked like he made it to the Final Tribal Council with the two people he wanted to be with (one of them named Natalie). But Rob managed to do what Russell couldn’t do and won the jury over. If that’s not good enough, I think the obvious choice and likely the right choice for biggest obstacle was Ashley Underwood. She did nearly foil Rob’s plans with her immunity run and probably would’ve given Rob a scare at Final Tribal, but it was too little too late and should’ve voted him out sooner since she had earlier chances.

Sophie Clarke – South Pacific

Sophie Final Immunity

The Redemption Island experiment did not necessarily go as bad as I thought it would last season although it did not help make it a good season. However South Pacific highlighted probably the biggest problem with this twist: giving a challenge beast an almost free ticket to the final 5 regardless of his or her social skills. That is what it did for Ozzy, who was definitely Sophie’s biggest obstacle. He competed in 9 individual challenges and won 7 of them this season, and he was a jury favorite. Sophie managed to win one challenge against Ozzy and it was the one that mattered most. One of Coach’s favorite Survivor rules: if you successfully slay the dragon, you deserve to win.

Kim Spradlin – One World


Jeff Probst’s opinions are not always ones that the fan base agrees with, but he did make a good point about Sabrina that in another season, her gameplay could have been enough to win, and that could also apply to Chelsea. Kim was dominant in this season but her tightest allies were actually her biggest obstacles in the sense that they had the biggest realistic chance of beating Kim. By biggest, however, that is proportional to everyone else’s, including Colton. At least Sabrina denied Kim a unanimous victory, one Kim probably could’ve had if she decided to bring Kat, Alicia, and/or Christina to the end instead of these two.

Denise Stapley – Philippines


Matsing and Malcolm were Denise’s biggest obstacles. Through little fault of her own (she was definitely good in challenges), Matsing were a trainwreck and that may be putting it lightly. In a numbers game, finding yourself 6 v 6 v 2 after 10 days is scary, especially when you’re then whisked away to a new tribe and you’re the only new one in that tribe. I shouldn’t even have to mention attending every Tribal Council and only having immunity once. Being able to overcome those odds is a credit to Denise, no doubt. Her ally Malcolm was by far her biggest jury threat but ultimately when it came down to her and him, she managed to succeed.

John Cochran – Caramoan


For one reason or another, Cochran almost always found himself in a good position this season despite being a physical liability premerge and a strategic but also untrustworthy player post merge based on his previous season. However, there were some tense Tribal Councils Cochran had to negotiate and if that one vote went wrong, it could have undermined his whole game. The biggest vote of them all was this one: Final 10. With Reynold immune and Eddie and Malcolm in possession of Hidden Immunity Idols, Cochran and his allies were helpless. All they could do was hope the Three Amigos were not writing his name down. In retrospect, it definitely seemed more wise to blindside a Cochran, Dawn, or Andrea this vote than Phillip, but regardless of the outcome of this vote there was little that could be done to prevent a Stealth R Us Operative from being crowned this season’s Sole Survivor, and it happened to be Cochran.

Tyson Apostol – Blood vs. Water


The gameplay following Laura’s second vote out was probably the closest newcomers came to overthrowing the veteran players in any of the three 10 newcomers vs 10 veterans seasons, and it started with Hayden and Caleb recognizing that Tyson was the biggest threat. Unfortunately it was only until the next vote Ciera realized that and that was only good enough for a rock drawing in which Tyson was vulnerable. Tyson managed to draw a safe rock and survive the scare, and remained on course to win this season.

Tony Vlachos – Cagayan


Tony did not win this season unchallenged, as many of his opponents considered voting him out and were worthy adversaries in this game, especially in immunity challenges where Tony was surprisingly unable to win a single one. However his biggest obstacle in this game was himself. Yes he had idols, including the special idol that could be used after the votes were read, but those idols probably got to his head a little bit and he was much more vocal than he had to be. He also drew a lot of attention to himself as his paranoia (somewhat warranted, however) led him to betray LJ and Jefra. However Tony played this game so fast he just about fixed everything he broke, including turning Woo from the sidekick of his early game enemy Cliff to his number one ally, which was infamously important in getting Tony to the end and allowing him to win.


Natalie Anderson – San Juan del Sur


Like Denise and Kim, Natalie’s biggest obstacles would be her allies, and don’t get me wrong, Missy and Jaclyn are no slouches, but dealing with Jeremy and Jon were probably the biggest turning points in allowing Natalie to go from an under-the-radar player to a favorite to win this game. I am not quite sure how good a chance Natalie would have had against Jeremy in a jury vote, and Jeremy’s blindside was likely a blessing in disguise for her. However, Natalie could have easily been the next one to go but she did what she had to do to stay in a good position. However, that meant letting Jon run things for a while, but Natalie was not going to let Jon set himself up for his victory. By switching her vote from Keith to Alec on Day 33, Natalie kept a potential ally in Keith in the game and discarded a potential ally for Jon. Also, being able to get away with that move by saying she made a mistake was good on her part, and then she managed to blindside him the next vote. Natalie did not play a textbook Survivor game but she never gave up and found a way to get things done, which ended up being good enough.

Mike Holloway – Worlds Apart


Mike’s alliance was a major obstacle but like Tony he himself was his biggest obstacle. Early on his work ethic and criticizing (kinda harsh for me to use that to describe it, but couldn’t think of a better word) other people’s work ethic rubbed some of his tribemates the wrong way and he did not have to call out Rodney, Will, Carolyn, and Tyler in front of the whole tribe right when they were about to read letters from home. Worst….timing….ever. However either way Mike was going to be targeted by his own alliance sooner or later because he was a threat. With his immunity wins and idol, Mike managed to overcome those steep odds and happy danced his way to victory.

Did I miss anything? Do you agree or disagree? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you for reading.

Do you agree with Ivan’s Assessment? What do you believe to be the greatest obstacle each winner faced? Let us know your thoughts below!




About Survivor Oz (2110 Articles)
Australia's Only 'Survivor' Radio Show! Tuesdays from 2PM AEST

6 Comments on Sole Survivor Biggest Obstacles – Part 3

  1. S21 Fabio was stupid he didn’t know what was going on at all and really got the luckiest win of all time. He was lucky that his season had the 2nd to last bitter jury in survivor history cause today he would have gotten 0 votes.

    S22 Rob dominated but was playing with a cast of players that all were fans of him this was a set up for cbs to out Russell and give Rob on his 6th RTV season a win. Sorry but if it takes you 6 times to win a show then you are not very good. Not to mention his career should have been over in season 4 when he got 10th place.

    S23 Sophie Played a good game and managed to beat the challenge king Ozzy at final 4. She deserves her win because this season was made for Ozzy to win.

    S24 Kim most dominate female player in survivor history deserved every bit of her win,

    S25 Denise survived every tribal council well that is impressive she didn’t really do anything else outstanding in the game

    S26 John played the game way better his 2nd time around played a very strategic game and deserved his win. I still don’t get why Dawn didn’t get a vote she played the same exact game as he did.

    S27 Tyson he dominated that season and had real guts to go to rocks only thing is he should not have returned after getting so badly outplayed by Russell.

    S28 Tony was and is the best survivor winner ever. He took Russell’s strategy and added spy shacks and got a majority. He is the most deserving winner in history. The way he was able to manipulate people after turning on them was amazing. #KINGTONYFORLIFE!

    S29 Natalie she road coattails for a third the game then floated for a third of the game then took control and got to final 3 winning. Not the worst but diffidently not the best. Of the 3 in the finals she deserved it the most.

    S30 Mike he controlled the game untill the action then won the rest of the immunities and got to the final 3. I think the fact that he was immunied for the last 6 tcs means he got of easy. Mama C should have won that season cause the controlled her tribe then after the action controlled the rest of the game.

    • Sackeshi, When I watch the Jury speak videos for Nicaragua Alina said he was the most popular. No one liked/respected/was impress with Sash except Purple Kelly. Chase likely wasn’t that popular either but he gave good answers at FTC.

      You’re pretty right about Boston Rob.

      Natalie didn’t just ride coattails. Natalie spearheaded the Drew boot, exile herself and and patiently waited for her opportunity. Also, She was basically Jeremy’s partner.

      Tyson’s third return had no precedent based off of gameplay, they just needed an partner to play with.

    • Denise deserves a little more credit, to be honest. Denise’s strategy got shoved into a box pre-merge, being on two tribes that couldn’t pull out a win pre-switch and post-switch, and it’s not like she had any pull when she got moved to the red tribe. Denise HAD to float until merge, because if she decided to make moves, or become an entity AT ALL in a tribe where she was the newcomer, she would have been voted out.

    • Your assessments on all are right.

      Fabio was a major fluke, but atleast he had that big immunity run vs some pretty athletic guys, when nobody wanted him in the final, and his likeabilty won him the game then.

      Rob you are dead on, except while he sort of dominated, even then not really since he would have lost a jury vote to everyone who made the merge except the 2 biggest goats of all time.

      Sophie’s season was fixed for Coach and Ozzy to win even harder than RI was fixed for Boston Rob to win, and she overcame it and won anyway. Very worthy winner, and great to see Probst so peeved about it.

  2. Ivan I love reading these articles thanks for the insight.

  3. Ashley underwood in no way was Rob’s biggest obstacle. She in fact saved his win. If she doesn’t win the two F5 immunities over Grant and Andrea respectively, Grant or Andrea make the finals and either of those CRUSH Rob in a jury vote which only an idiot like the Survivor Oz staff would not recognize. Ashley was less likely to win the final immunity than Grant or Andrea, and unlike Grant or Andrea, Rob would have atleast have had a fighting chance against her in a jury vote but it would be close. Incredibly foolish choice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: