Strategic vs. Social vs. Physical – Part 2


In the game of Survivor any fan would agree that there are 3 basic types of play, the strategic, social and physical games. Each different kind of gameplay has produced a winner. Some winners dominated in all 3 categories, some were not the best at any of them. In the second of a three part series, Ozlet Alec Culver tries to figure out what type of game play is truly the most successful. Read on to find out whether strategic, social or physical gameplay comes up trumps most often in the game of Survivor.

This is part two of the series, you can read part 1 here.

Let’s recap

Strategic: 6 points

Social: 9 points

Physical: 4 points

Today we will go through season 11-20 and this is where is becomes interesting because now in some cases there is a final 3 which could really shake things up.

Survivor: Guatemala

Guatemalaf2Final 2: Danni Boatwright, Stephanie LaGrossa

Strategic: This one is pretty clear because although Danni had her strategic sides, Stephanie was pretty much strategically in charge of the whole game. She had a hand in voting everyone out and everyone knew that as well.

Social: This one is also pretty clear. Danni’s social game is what opened up her opportunities towards the end of the game and to be honest no one ever had a bad thing to say about her as a person so it just proved how good her social game was.

Physical: Danni wins 3 challenges, Stephanie won 2, one of which they both were on the same team.

Analysis: Everyone praised Danni and berated Stephanie, this is the classic example of why a social game is super important, or too much strategic game can be a problem. Stephanie did come with a chip on her shoulder so that could have had something to do with it.

Survivor: Panama

Panamaf2Final 2: Danielle DiLorenzo, Aras Baskauskas

Strategic: This one is a hard one because they both made very similar moves and I think everyone would agree that neither of them were the best strategic player in this season. However, I feel the nod has to go to Aras in this one, I feel his was just an edge better than Danielle.

Social: This one is a lot clearer and so I have to give it to Aras. He was probably the main reason why Casaya stayed together at the merge and well he had good genuine relationships with everyone.

Physical: Aras won 3 challenges, Danielle won 2 challenges, so Aras wins this one as well

Analysis: This is another that is a clean sweep. Danielle is in there in every category but Aras was clearly a little better in every category and clearly deserved to win this season.

Survivor: Cook Islands

CIf3Final 3: Yul Kwon, Becky Lee, Ozzy Lusth

Strategic: This one was a given, Yul was called the strategic mastermind of this season, with Becky’s hand in all the decisions but this one is clearly Yul’s to win.

Social: This one is a little bit harder but I still think Yul was the better one in this category because he actually tried to form relationships with people and they noticed that.

Physical: This one isn’t even a question. Ozzy won 6 challenges, Yul won 1, which he was on the same team as Ozzy, Becky won nothing.

Analysis: This is considered one of the closest finals of all time and they deemed it as a Strategic vs Physical battle at the end with Yul and Ozzy but I believe that it was Yul’s social game that gave him just a little bit of the edge which led to his victory.

Survivor: Fiji

Fijif3Final 3: Earl Cole, Cassandra Franklin, Dreamz Herd

Strategic: Earl controlled most of the game when it mattered but Dreamz wasn’t a slacker either when it came to strategy, he was just a lot more vocal about his move compared to Earl’s subtleness of moves so I would say Earl wins this one.

Social: The only person whose social game did not get attacked at the final tribal council was Earl’s game, so I’m certain he is the clear winner in this category.

Physical: Dreamz won 3 challenges, 2 of which were team challenges, Earl won 2 challenges, both of which were team challenges, Cassandra won 2 challenges, 1 team, 1 individual but it was the popularity challenge, so Dreamz gets this win.

Analysis: It is very clear why Earl won this season in unanimous fashion. He was a strategic player who had an amazing social game. He is one of the people who if you want to know how to win survivor, you have to watch his game and the much underrated season of Fiji.

Survivor: China

Chinaf3Final 3: Amanda Kimmel, Todd Herzog, Courtney Yates

Strategic: This one was well established throughout the whole season that Todd had the strategic game down. Amanda had great moments but Todd was ultimately better in this category.

Social: This one is a little bit harder. I feel none of them had an amazing social game. Courtney made fun of people behind their backs and to their faces. Todd had decent relationships with everyone but not the greatest and it was implemented by how he had to give a great final tribal council performance just to win, because I don’t believe he would have won if it wasn’t for that. So for that reason I have to go with Amanda who actually formed bonds with other people to show social prowess, such as the bond she had with Peih-gee, although that was based on strategic understanding, this is a close one but Amanda comes out on top.

Physical: Amanda won 5 challenges, a couple group ones. Courtney won 2 challenges, one group one individual, and Todd won 1 challenge, only a group challenge, although he was in it for a lot of immunity challenges.

Analysis: This season was a lot closer in the final 3 then a lot of people give it credit for. Yes Todd is a very deserving winner, I would have voted for him in the finals as well but I think that if Amanda hadn’t given such a horrible final tribal council performance she could have won this season and that is why sometimes it comes down to the last impression you make.

Survivor: Micronesia

Micronesiaf2Final 2: Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel

Strategic: Another good one but I feel that as far as strategy goes these two were pretty much the exact same on everything. They both were the leaders of the Black Widow Brigade and that is why they made it to the end together. I would have to say Amanda gets the edge, I know let the hate begin, for 2 reasons, number 1, because of the idol play. She could have went into that tribal all happy and innocent but I feel the way that she handled that idol play was really what made it all the better strategic play. Number 2, for the vote out of Cirie because she was strategically aware that she couldn’t beat Cirie, even taking her profession out of the equation, but I thought it was a great realization for her. Yes there is the Ozzy vote out for Parvati but I feel that came out because of great social play more than anything.

Social: This one is a lot clearer because Parvati had the great dynamics with people such as Natalie and Alexis whereas Amanda hated Alexis and didn’t even try to really be her friend. Like I said before Parvati’s move to take out Ozzy came about because of her relationship with Alexis and Natalie more than it did because of the great strategic move it was because anyone could realize that and so that is why Parvati gets the nod here.

Physical: Amanda won 3 challenges, only 1 group one. Parvati won 1 challenge so Amanda is the warrior this time around.

Analysis: Neither of the final 2 is a slacker. This is the closest I think we will ever get to a tie in the final 2/3 like some of the producers want. However, the relationships that Parvati formed, especially with Alexis, Natalie and even Jason, are the true reason why she won and not just because she was this strategic mastermind, although very well deserved title.

Survivor: Gabon

Gabonf3Final 3: Susie Smith, Bob Crowley, Sugar Kiper

Strategic: This one is interesting because well the only one of the 3 who was super strategic was Sugar and she didn’t do it in the greatest of ways but I think with this final 3 I would have to say she was the best of the strategic games because she didn’t need help to get to the finals while the others did need help.

Social: This one is a little harder because none of the finalists really were given an edit as to how their social game shined and we got emphasized on how bad Sugar’s social game was. However, I believe that because everyone loved Bob and didn’t really have anything bad to say about him that he deserves to win this one.

Physical: Bob won 5 challenges, Susie actually won 2 challenges and Sugar won nothing, so Bob easily gets the edge here.

Analysis: I truly believe that the best player of the finals won this season. Sugar might have been the best strategist but she did it in a way that ended up hurting her social game and that is why she ended up becoming the huge goat she was. Susie wasn’t a huge slacker in the strategic game as was shown when she voted Marcus out but she wasn’t the greatest either.

Survivor: Tocantins

Tocantinsf2Final 2: Stephen Fishbach, J.T. Thomas, Jr.

Strategic: Although both of them had their moments Stephen is the clear winner here. He was on the right side of the vote almost every time and he was seen as the better strategic player.

Social: Everyone loved JT, that’s why he was voted the person you can trust with your life, even if he didn’t think he deserved it. Sometimes people just have that charm and I guess he must have had that because everyone loved him for it.

Physical: J.T. won 6 challenges, Stephen won 2 so JT continues his dominance in challenges.

Analysis: This one was a lot closer in the finals than the final vote made it seem but in the end JT’s great social ability and actually genuinely solid strategy as well as winning when he needed to get him the win. However Stephen was not a slouch at all in this season and deserved at least one vote.

Survivor: Samoa

Samoaf3Final 3: Mick Trimming, Natalie White, Russell Hantz

Strategic: This one I think is very close… nah I’m just shooting BS, this one is clear that Russell was by far the best strategist of the final 3.

Social: This one I didn’t think was going to be as lopsided as it was when I first watched Samoa, I mean Mick and Natalie were both very likable people but just like Erik pointed out in the finals, Natalie by far had the best social game of the final 3. Mick was actually more just there playing the game then he was trying to form bonds with the others but Natalie, as evident in the merge episode, was getting along with everyone and used her social nature to make the big move against Erik that started the downfall of Galu. It wasn’t a strategic move per say, it was a very big social play that Natalie did to pull of such a move if she didn’t have a good relationship with the women of Galu, it wouldn’t have worked.

Physical: This one was interesting, Russell won 3 challenges, 2 of them group challenges with his immunity win coming in the final 4, Mick only won 1 challenge, to beat Laura for immunity when she was voted out and Natalie won 1 challenge, a group challenge so Russell was the better one I guess.

Analysis: This is the real season that brought up the idea for this list. A lot of people say that Russell was robbed but it is the classical example of why too much of one element and not enough of another can be a problem. Russell was too much strategy and not enough social which opened the door for Natalie who was probably too much social and not enough strategy but that is debatable and probably a good thing for a feature list.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

HvsVf3Final 3: Parvati Shallow, Russell Hantz, Sandra Diaz-Twine

Strategic: This one can go to all 3 of them but if you really look at it there are multiple reasons behind why I made the choice I did. Parvati and Sandra hand their moments of good strategy. Parvati playing two idols is no joke but after that move there really isn’t much of her strategy. So Russell has to get the nod here. This was not as dominant as his first time but in every single vote, except the Coach vote which he knew about but voted the other way anyways, he was on the right side of numbers. Was some of his strategy unnecessary, yes, but he did have the best strategic game in this season as well.

Social: This one is another close one but only between Sandra and Parvati but the reason why I give the nod to Sandra is because she tried to form bonds with the Heroes where as you didn’t see that as much from Parvati outside of forming a bond with Amanda and Candice, two people she had already played with, so Sandra wins this category.

Physical: Parvati won 3 challenges, Russell won 2 and Sandra won nothing so Coach was right by saying that Parvati was a warrior.

Analysis: This is another showing of why too much of one style of playing can be a problem. Parvati was focusing a lot more on the strategy part and was missing out on the opportunity to build the relationships that could have given her the win, whereas Sandra was forming those bonds while still being strategic, she always knew what was going on, so it goes to show why queen Sandra rules the game.

 It was during these seasons where this idea was really brought to life and it was a lot harder to analyze these seasons and then the newer game becomes more strategic so the final part could make all the difference in this tally because in the mid seasons it looks like social game wins almost every time.

Tally so far

Strategic: 10 points

Social: 18 points

Physical: 8 points

For the final part I will finish off with season 21-30.

Is one form of gameplay more valuable than another? Do you agree with Alec’s assessment of each of the final 2 or final 3? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


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15 Comments on Strategic vs. Social vs. Physical – Part 2

  1. The problem with the survivor juries was that unlike a real jury that is imparshal and only votes based on info. The survivor juries voted based on who was their friend or who was most liked. I will give the juries in the early seasons 1-8 slack as besides Richard and Brian the finalists were mostly strategicless or had played the same exact game (Rob/Amber).

    In season 9 however the 1st or 3 great robbings of a finalist happened. Twila should have won because she dominated and did anything in her power to get to the final 2. She was like the female fairplay. She only lost because the jury was filled with a bunch of girls that were envious of her success.

    The 2nd was in season 14 Dreamz should have won that. He was the best strategist because he was able to play both sides with out being caught and was willing to do anything to get to the end. He controlled the game. Earl was not the best he just went with the flow. Just because he was on the right side of the numbers the whole game does not mean anything. The jury was just bitter over being outplayed.

    The 3rd and final one is survivor 19/20. Russell played the 2 most strategic and dominant games ever seen on the show and he was able to do it down in the numbers both times. In samoa everyone on his tribe trusted him and he was able to dismantle the other tribe despite only merging with 4 people. Dave from samoa on a video said that russell got them to vote out erik not natalie. She litterally won because they were embarassed that they got taken out by russell when he had half the numbers they had. In HvV he started off with 3 people and rob had 6 he was able to come back from that with his 4th career idol and took control of the tribe. He convinced JT to give up his idol and then was able to control the merge. The allstars did not like that an unknown beat them to a pulp.

    Russells stats in Samoa and HvV
    Idols in possession 6
    Days played 78 with only 10 days inbetween seasons
    number of times out numbered 2-1 2
    tc’s controlled 25

    After Russells loss america let the juries of survivor know that they had, had enough of their stupid antics and due to the hate the survivor samoa/HvV jury got future juries decided they would rather vote fairly then deal with the hate.

    • Oh my lawdy “dreamz should have won fiji”


    • Sackeshi, Juries get Emotional because their stuck in the wilderness(w/o necessities like food, running water, etc) with strangers for 19-38 days and the fact their chance at a Million Dollars is destroyed. Expecting human being to be impartial is kinda dumb.

    • Giovanni Orellana // October 20, 2015 at 5:27 am // Reply

      I think Russell should’ve won Samoa. You hear people say that they should reward the best overall player, except Russell. Natalie is nice, but she deserved 2nd place in my opinion

    • You have fair points except for the Dreamz one. He was never a strategic player. He’s just a paranoid floater. Plus not getting caught? He was caught so many times. Lol.

    • Calling it a jury is a misnomer. It’s really more like an electorate and they are electing a winner of the season.

  2. Saying that Russell and Amanda had a better strategic game than Parvati is almost laughable. And saying Natalie was devoid of strategy when she had the key role to Eric’s boot is also underrating her. Otherwise, righteous article. Making an analysis if Gabon is really hard, because you can make a case for Susie having a better strategic game given the fact despite her power all her decisions were highly emotional and she was almost playing for Bob. I think I would have voted for: Danni, Aras, Earl, Yul, Todd, Parvati, Susie, Stephen, Natalie ( I would be really divided at HvV though), but I really think voting for the person you like and respect the most instead of the one perceived as the “best player” is super valid,since there are no rulebook to play and vote in Survivor.

    • Actually Dave from samoa said in a podcast interview that Russell planted the seed to get them to vote out a guy before them and natalie did nothing. That means she was litterally pointless.

  3. How do you say Russel´s game was more strategic than Parvati´s? Did you forgot that it was his decision to eliminate Courtney, besides Parvati arguing that Sandra was the right vote. It was also his decision to take Sandra to the final 3, who had a relation with the heroes, just because he tought he would have Jerri´s vote.

    Sorry for any gramatic erros, I´m not an english native speaker.

    • It was more just because he controlled every vote, whereas Parvati was left out in the dark about a couple of them that is the small edge he got, I think Parvati was the better player but just in terms of strategy for that season he was in the right side of the vote pretty much every time

  4. I think the point criticizing Parvati’s social game in hero’s vs. villains is off. The reason she wasn’t able to make the bonds she needed with the heroes were because the heroes made up their mind about her long before they merged. They ASSUMED that she was playing the exact same game as Micronesia leading a girls alliance. JT gave Russell the idol with the intention of taking Parvati out. When the two tribes did merge, Amanda was the only hero really willing to even engage her (and poorly lied in the process). Rupert, Colby, and JT had no intention of doing anything with her. Also, I think the Sandra’s social game is a bit Overrated. The hero’s voted for her more to stick it to Russell than anything else. Her anti-Russell position in which she was willing to flip and work with 4 people who wouldn’t have taken her to the end was what endeared her to the heroes. I think it’s telling that 3 out of 4 villains ended up voting for her and two of which (Jerri & Coach) wanted nothing to do with her going into the game shows her ability to work people if given a fair opportunity.

    • Yeah you have a great point, I wasn’t necessarily criticizing her game just the fact that the editors never really gave us much, she could have had a great game, it was just the fact that she was only really shown talking to Candace and Amanda, two people she has worked with before, that was the reason for it, I just was saying Sandra’s was shown more maybe it was very similar but that is what they showed us

  5. As far as Russell is concerned, he blew up his own game. Yes, Russell overcame the numbers in both of his seasons, and with that in mind I’d say he’s a great strategist. He also has social game, seeing as how he was able to get Shambo to flip in her season, and he was also able to trick the heroes into trusting him over Sandra in HvV. But in my mind, the great flaw of Russell’s game is that he played as a villain…

    I remember when Samoa started, he made up that story about the flood in New Orleans and losing his dog. He played on the heartstrings, he was trying to form bonds and relationships that would serve him in the game. Despite the lies, I give him props for that. However, there was a level of smugness from Russell, especially in the second part of the season as his alliance flipped the game, a smugness that didn’t need to be there, a smugness that shouldn’t have been there if Russell was playing for jury votes at the end.

    Jury management is key in Survivor, and Russell didn’t incorporate that in his playing. Add insult to injury, despite being torn to shreds by his jury in Samoa, he went right out and played a very similar game in Heroes vs. Villains.

    Fast forward several seasons, and I see a Russell version 2.0 in Tony Vlatchos. Tony played a crazy game, he pulled the moves, the blindsides, the all-powerful idol. And yet Tony didn’t make the enemies Russell made because he did make quality relationships and his actions made it very clear (to me anyway) that there wasn’t anything personal in his game. And he didn’t act all entitled during the final tribal. That’s the social side of the game, that’s jury management.

    So, Russell robbed? I say no. He was a good strategist, but his strategy omitted a crucial part of the gameplay in jury management.

  6. One issue I have with this; I do not believe Aras was a better strategic player than Danielle. I agree with your assertion that neither was the greatest but Aras was kept around in the hopes of beating Terry. He was used. Danielle flipped the vote on Bob Dawg to save her close ally, Bruce. Another edge I give Danielle is influencing Terry to vote for her at Final 4. That must have taken some serious effort to convince him as it would have been much simpler for him to vote her out Cirie was no threat in immunity challenges and his odds would have been better. Aras was protected by a lot of people in Exile Island and Danielle did not have that luxury.

    The other issue I have with this list is the assertion that Amanda was a better strategic player than Parvati. Parvati was in the know on every single vote she participated in. She, unlike other strong social players like Natalie, utilized relationships as strategies. Also, Amanda was ready to go along with James and Ozzy. Parvati, not Amanda, realized they had no chance of winning against them. Parvati forced Amanda’s hand. Without Parvati, Amanda doesn’t join forces in the Black Widow Brigade.

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