Strategic vs. Social vs. Physical – Part 3


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 third and final 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 three of the series, you can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Today we will analyze season 21-30 and this can really change the momentum of everything. We are into full on new school style of play which tends to be more strategic than social and so we could see a lot of things change here and maybe a comeback. First off the recap:

Strategic: 10 points

Social: 18 points

Physical: 8 points

Survivor: Nicaragua

NicaraguaF3Final 3: Chase Rice, Jud “Fabio” Birza, Matthew “Sash” Lenahan

Strategic: This is a hard one. You can rule out Fabio from this category but it is easily between Sash and Chase. We have Chase who was very strategic but was getting more of a paranoid strategist edit and then we have Sash who had a clear cut strategy to take NaOnka and Purple Kelly to the end but when they quit that ruined his plans. So he had to fully strategize well to get himself to the end and it ended up working, he just did it in a weasel like way and that is why people hated him for it. Chase was strategic in a paranoid, scared puppy way. Fabio was strategic in a non-existent way. However, just for the fight of Sash to adapt his plans and still make it to the end I have to give him the edge. Not saying it was the best strategy but it was a very effective strategy and it got him to the end despite his plans being messed up when there were still 9 people left in the game. (Commence the hater comments)

Social: This is also a hard one and one that I feel wasn’t edited well enough (which is normal for the new school seasons). Fabio was universally loved but they didn’t really show that. The only person they showed a negative relationship with was NaOnka and I think that was more for NaOnka’s edit then Fabio’s edit. However I think this social category has to go to Chase. He seemed to have a close relationship with everyone. He was close to Jane and Holly who were very integral parts to him making the finals. He also had a very good relationship with NaOnka, so much so that she gave him her idol. He also had good relationships with Brenda and Benry. All in all I feel at least from what we saw, Chase had the best social game, despite Marty and Dan hating his guts.

Physical: Fabio won 6 challenges, Chase won 4, Sash won 2. In total of all these 12 wins, only 4 were for immunity, 3 for Fabio and 1 for Sash.

Analysis: This was a very hard season to judge because the edit was so odd for all of the finalist. Fabio was edited as somebody who didn’t understand the game and more of a follower than a leader. Chase was edited more as a paranoid ‘puppet master’ and Sash was edited well in the beginning but after that double quit episode was edited as a weasel. That is what made this season hard but I wanted Fabio to win while I was watching and thought Chase had a great chance of winning and the fact that those 2 had one of the best final tribal debates of all time really proves how sometimes this game comes down to the final hours of the game. I feel Fabio was underrated when it came to his social game, or at least it wasn’t edited well enough, and then his final tribal council performance is what won him the game. This is a great season to watch if you really want to understand how unpredictable the game can be and how the winner can be someone you don’t expect.

Survivor: Redemption Island

RIF3Final 3: Natalie Tenerelli, ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano, Phillip Sheppard

Strategic: This one is easy, Boston Rob dominated the strategic game. You know you rule the game when about 3 or 4 episodes before the finals he decides who he wants in the finals and that ends up happening, you know you were in complete control of the game.

Social: Once again a dominant performance by Boston Rob. Compared to the other 2 people he was in the finals with he easily had the best social game. Phillip annoyed the hell out of everyone and Natalie was never really seen doing anything other than talking to Ashley and complaining about Phillip.

Physical: Rob had 4 challenge wins, Natalie had 1 and Phillip had none.

Analysis: From the hardest season to judge to the easiest season. This was a predictable season and a much hated season. Boston Rob’s game is exactly what everyone wants to play like and he easily deserved to win this season.

Survivor: South Pacific

SouthPacificF3Final 3: Albert Destrade, Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade, Sophie Clarke

Strategic: This one is an easy one at least how it was shown to us. Coach had a clear cut strategy and rolled with it and that is what happened. However, every one of these final 3 had some points of great strategy. I feel that Albert is one of the most underrated strategists in Survivor but he overplayed the strategy and it ended up coming of weasel like. However, Coach is the clear winner in this category.

Social: Another one that I feel was completely edited one way. Coach had a much improved social game and the editors wanted to emphasize that. He was the main person that got Cochran to flip and he was the one that everyone was close to. Also come the finals he was the only one that wasn’t attacked for their sub-par social game. Once again Coach wins this category.

Physical: Sophie won 3 challenges, Albert won 1, Coach won 1.

Analysis: I believe that Coach was the better player this season but the best player doesn’t always deserve to win. Coach had such a terrible final tribal that it allowed Sophie, the second best player, to have a great final tribal and get the votes that she needed. I don’t think Sophie is a bad winner at all, they just edited it that way but that just goes to show that a lot of times the final tribal council can make a huge difference when it comes to a winner.

Survivor: One World

OneWorldF3Final 3: Sabrina Thompson, Kim Spradlin, Chelsea Meissner

Strategic: This one is pretty clear. If you were to go just by pre merge game, Sabrina would be the easy choice, it seemed like Kim was just setting up for the post-merge game where she shined so much. It was so clear she was going to control the game in the strategic matter and she did.

Social: Once again also an easy choice. Everyone said that Sabrina was the most popular person of the tribe but there is more than just being popular when it comes to a social game and that is what Kim excelled at. Part of the social game is to get people to trust you and always believe you are with them. A perfect example of Kim’s great social play is Alicia’s blindside and Mike’s blindside. Two times when Kim had convinced these people they were one hundred percent safe and then she voted them out. That is part of a great social game so Kim gets the nod.

Physical: Kim won 6 challenges, Chelsea won 3 challenges, Sabrina won 2 challenges, and both of them were team challenges.

Analysis: So interesting fact about this season is that this was the season I had to leave halfway through for my mission. I left right after Jonah was voted out so I made my predictions on who would win. At that time I predicted all three of these final 3 to make the final 3, I just predicted Chelsea to win and Kim to get second which could have happened if Chelsea had done more. However this season turned out to be a clear cut winner. There were never any points post merge where it looked like Kim would not win and she easily was the best player of this season.

Survivor: Philippines

PhilippinesF3Final 3: Lisa Whelchel, Michael Skupin, Denise Stapley

Strategic: Although they all had their shining moments in this game when it came to strategy, it takes a special type of strategy to be able to survive every single tribal council in the game. People will argue that Lisa had a great strategy over the game and while she did, most of her plans fell through whereas Denise was only in trouble of going home twice despite going to every tribal council and so that is what makes her strategy so good.

Social: This one is a little bit harder. They all played very decent social games. However, the reason why it is so hard to decide which one is better is because we all saw weaknesses in their social games. Skupin’s weaknesses were kind of shown throughout the game. Lisa’s weaknesses were shown a lot during the first half of the season and they got better in the second half but she still had her bad moments. Denise’s bad moment of social game was shown with Abi-Maria. The way that Denise treated Abi, despite her being mean, wasn’t what a good social player should do. They should have treated Abi more like how Terry treated her early in the Cambodia season. However, despite that I have to go with Denise on this one because that was her only real flaw in the social game.

Physical: So this one Skupin won 3 challenges, all of which were individual challenges, Denise won 3 as well, 2 of which were team challenges and one which a guy and a girl won immunity, Lisa won 1 team challenge, so because he won all individual challenges then I have to give Skupin the edge.

Analysis: This was actually a really hard season to judge. Denise was by far the more deserving player of the final 3 but just deciding who was the best in every category was hard and it proves that despite Denise’s big margin of victory, she was well challenged.

Survivor: Caramoan

CaramoanF3Final 3: Dawn Meehan, John Cochran, Sherri Biethman

Strategic: This one is pretty easy. Cochran ran this game and the big moves, such as voting Brenda out, were introduced by him and Dawn accepted them. Dawn wasn’t a slouch either but Cochran was better and Sherri had one of the best pre-merge strategic games we had seen in a long time.

Social: Another easy one. Dawn and Cochran made the exact same moves but Dawn was attacked for making them whereas Cochran was universally loved and it showed at the final tribal council.

Physical: Cochran won 6 challenges, which is so surprising to me, Dawn won 2 challenges and Sherri won 0.

Analysis: Another season where the best player won easily and decisively as shown by the unanimous vote. An all-around near perfect game played by Cochran. If you were to model your game after someone, Cochran and Earl are the ones to look at.

Survivor: Blood vs. Water

BvsWF3Final 3: Tyson Apostol, Monica Culpepper, Gervase Peterson

Strategic: We were really shown the strategic side of really only 2 people, Monica and Tyson. We were kind of shown two different games. Tyson was portrayed as being in control the whole game. In contrast Monica was portrayed as the swing vote that never wanted to make a move. I think Tyson is the easy winner in this category.

Social: I would have given this to Monica if it wasn’t for the truth coming out at the final tribal council. I would have also given this to Gervase if he knew how to shut his mouth at tribal council. However, this one has to go to Tyson because everyone seemed to like Tyson and that is one of the reasons he won.

Physical: Monica won 3 challenges, Tyson won 2 challenges and Gervase won 1.

Analysis: Tyson played a great game all around and that was emphasized from day one of the game. He played a great strategic and social game and that is what won him the game.

Survivor: Cagayan

CagayanF2Final 2: Tony Vlachos, Woo Hwang

Strategic: This one is super easy. Tony controlled the whole game and the only strategic decision that Woo made was to vote Trish out. Tony was controlling every vote and so he easily wins this category.

Social: This one you can make an argument for Woo because everyone seemed to like Woo. However, Tony was a good social player as well. With the help of Trish, he kept allies on his side despite betraying them. It was a piece of art and he deserves this category as well.

Physical: Woo won 3 challenges, Tony won 2 challenges

Analysis: This is one of the best examples of absolute dominance of one player. If Woo had made the smart and right choice and taken Kass to the end of the game, it would probably be talking about Woo being the best player instead but he didn’t and we are stuck talking about how amazing Tony’s game was. Something about these even number seasons that have a very dominant person win the season.

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur

SJDSF3Final 3: Missy Payne, Jaclyn Schultz, Natalie Anderson

Strategic: This one is a hard one as it is really between Natalie and Jaclyn. Jaclyn and Jon ran the game for a good chunk of the game but Natalie dominated the game in the last third of the game. I would say that Natalie gets the edge because she was never in trouble to go home and she used her idol to save Jaclyn at one point.

Social: Another hard one. Missy does not count as her social game was presented as weak, for lack of a better way to phrase it, at the final tribal council. Everyone seemed to like and trust Natalie and the same goes for Jaclyn and that is what makes it hard. I feel that I have to give the edge to Jaclyn on this one for the fact that she had no alliance members after Val was voted out on her tribe and her tribe still liked her enough to never target her. The only time she ever got targeted was after her boyfriend was eliminated and that was because she was going to be a jury threat. This was a hard choice but I give the slight edge to Jaclyn.

Physical: Natalie won 4 challenges, Jaclyn won 2 challenges, Missy won 2 challenges, well one of them was handed to her and the other won she hurt her leg on.

Analysis: This was a fun and hard season to talk about. Natalie was the best player of the final 3, there was no doubt about that. Jaclyn was not too bad either, it was sad we didn’t get more of her pre-merge but she was the only one besides Natalie to get a vote that wasn’t her loved one. This was a very underrated season and the unpredictable final 3 is an example of that.

Survivor: Worlds Apart

WorldsApartF3Final 3: Mike Holloway, Carolyn Rivera, Will Sims II

Strategic: This one is pretty clear. Mike might have had great strategic skills early on but it was truly Carolyn that was the star of the show when it came to the strategic aspect of the game. She was compared to a stingray by Shirin and that is because of her great strategic play.

Social: Well Mike said that his social game sucked so we move on from him… Will well outside of Rodney it sucked so obviously this one once again is Carolyn. She built great relationships with everyone and they all trusted her at one point.

Physical: Mike won 9 challenges, Carolyn won 5 challenges, and Will won 2 challenges

Analysis: I’m not downplaying Mike’s win at all. I feel in the game he had a full story arc and that helped make him a popular winner and very deserving. I feel that Carolyn should have gotten a lot more respect and arguably deserved to win more than Mike did. Yes she was only in the finals thanks to Mike tying the final 4 vote but she earned her way into that finals and deserved more than the one vote that she got. SHE TIED WITH WILL!!!!! However, Mike won with his physical game and his somewhat good, not as good as Carolyn, strategic game.

Final Results

Final Tally

Strategic: 17 points

Social: 24 points

Physical: 15 points

So based on the results Social game won. However, in the past 10 seasons, Strategic and Physical games have won more often than Social games have. This might be the transition over into the new school style of player compared to the old school style. People are now realizing that the game is just a game and that the relationships are formed to get ahead in the game and so I would say if you were to go on Survivor today, be a strategic player but you have to have the social game along with it.

Watching Cambodia we are constantly seeing the fight between the social and strategic game. We have people like Stephen and Spencer who are trying to play the strategic game but aren’t focusing as much on the social game. Then we have people like Savage and Jeremy who that is their best game is the social game. Overall, this is going to be a debate going forward on which style of play is the best. The best way to play is to find that balance and to just play for fun really and you will just find that balance.

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? Are you surprised at the final results? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


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12 Comments on Strategic vs. Social vs. Physical – Part 3

  1. Survivor was a different game back in the older seasons
    Survivor used to be about people testing them selves and trying to form real bonds and stay tribe strong. It was not about let me be the best strategist. It was how can I win the game and keep my morals in tact. That’s why people got upset when people lied to get to the end. The jury felt that the game showed who you were as a person.

    The definition of survivor villain has also evolved greatly.
    It went from being someone who makes alliances, to someone who will lie, to someone who will turn on their tribe, to swear on something, to finally having no morals in the game.

    In today’s survivor you will not win if you are bad at the strategic game. You can’t hide behind the nice guy/girl persona the whole game and expect to win. Woo was the example of that.

    If you get on survivor you better be ready to play and play hard using anything you can for leverage and run with it to the end.

    • Completely agree, the game has evolved, I think ever since Redemption Island it has become what it is today. I’m not saying one way is better then the other whatever works is what works. I’m not someone to complain if someone wins if we are portrayed that someone else was better and this was just a look at the game.

  2. You gave CAROLYN! the best social game in Worlds Apart? Jeez the best thing anyone said about her was that she was “cold” I repeat that was the BEST thing anyone said about her. The one universal take from the players on that season was that NO ONE liked Carolyn, she didn’t have the best social game of the final 3 she had the WORST! & considering who she was up against that’s saying something.

    If I had a gun to my head I would probably give Will the best of a bad lot gong out of the 3 for best social game. Granted what he did to Shirin was abominable but he was well liked by almost everyone else in the game & that’s more than you can say about the other 2.

    • I reckon Mike had a better social game, cuz he was able to fix his mistakes (y’ll know Dan voted for him in the end, and him saying his social game sucked was to appeal to Dan and also to suggest that he improved it)
      But c’mon, Will? No one respected him! Like he made a connection with Rodney, sure. After he pissed Shirin off and made everyone think he was a self-righteous dead fish who had no impact on the game. His social game was worse than Cochran’s in South Pacific.

    • Gotta agree everyone hated Carolyn. Mike had an awful social game as well but if u look at it he was able to make amends with Shirin and Jenn and the three of them formed a bond. Also, he seemed to have a decent relationship with Hali and Joe and Jenn was able to flip ppl over to Mike in jury.
      Also I’d say Mike played a better strategic game. Tyler went home for a reason. Everyone saw him as the threat to win not Carolyn. He made the moves while all Carolyn did was find an idol almost get voted out first because ppl hated her and then saved herself because Dan got paranoid he was going home. If Dan doesn’t play his advantage then Carolyn doesn’t play her idol and goes home. This leaves Mike, Will, and either Dan/Rodney whoever doesn’t win the fire challenge because Dan will be forced to vote Rodney to save himself.

      • papabarnes // November 17, 2015 at 8:25 am //

        I disagree with both Ryan and Andrew and agree with the writer. Carolyn’s game was underrated and her social game was strong – it just seemed that no one liked her because the jury and remaining players became bitter towards her at the end. Rodney, Dan, Siera, Tyler loved Carolyn for most of the season, just not at the end.

      • Ryan Bralt // November 17, 2015 at 1:15 pm //

        Papabarnes she was not the most hated by a single person but she was top 3 most hated for everyone on the jury. Many of the castaways said she was cold towards them and part of playing a good social game is to hav ppl like u when u r sitting on the jury. That’s why Russell didn’t win because he screwed ppl over as he pleased with a cocky attitude. Carolyn was a more toned down version without the good game play.

      • Ryan Bralt // November 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm //

        I mean sitting across from the jury

  3. You gave Coach STRATEGY over Sophie?!

    But yes, the game has evolved. Its more cutthroat and strategy is now held at the same if not slightly higher regard than a social game.

    And as far as Woo goes. His social game wasn’t great, he was known as “Woo the weasel”, was quiet and didnt do anything according to the Cagayan Jury. It also did not help that Tony did what players such as Boston Rob 2.0 and Russell Hantz were unable to do when they dominated, have a good enough (ALL thanks to Trish, who probably could have whooped Tony almost as much as Spencer in final tribal if she made it to the end) social game where despite any bitterness, they respected his game enough.

  4. I don’t think you can really separate a player’s social, strategic and physical game. They are all interwoven. Make no mistake the best social game always wins.
    Respect falls under the umbrella of the social game and People respect people’s strategic and Physical games. The most likable person may not always win or even the most respected, but the best social game always will.

  5. I have tried to accept it but, I hate Cochran as a winner. He is absolutely the worst one in my book. He freeloaded off of Dawn’s hard work and was rewarded by virtue of being adorable. Dawn’s strong social game made her privy to every plan at every point in the game. She knew of Corinne’s defection and Brenda and Andrea’s rivalry. Her strategic decisions engineered the outcome of the season and the little brat, Cochran got a huge pay off. Dawn deserves the social and strategic crown for Caramoan.

    As for San Juan del Sur, I love Jaclyn and think she is a very underrated player that did an amazing job in Season 29. With that being said, Natalie completely owns all three categories. Jaclyn does not deserve the social crown for SJDS. Natalie was absolutely beloved by everyone around her the whole game. The men even approached her to stifle a woman’s alliance… failing to realize she herself was one. Jon and Jaclyn loved her so much they overlooked her VOTING FOR THE “WRONG” PERSON. Baylor loved her so much that she kept her secret. Natalie was also more effective at using Keith strategically than his own son. Natalie owned SJDS and cleanly wins all three categories. Jaclyn’s great but Natalie’s the Queen.

  6. Just one point that HAS to be made here. Rob’s social game was in fact shit. It was atleast equally as bad as Natalie’s. The 9 jury members all had a far superior social game to his, so much so he would have lost to any of them in a jury vote.

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