Tie Breaker: Why Past Votes May Be The Best Option


The rules regarding tiebreakers have changed dramatically throughout the years. While Survivor Borneo solely operated on a revote policy, Survivor The Australian Outback introduced the past votes tiebreaker which hung around for Survivor Africa before it was scrapped the next season in favour of the purple rock tiebreaker. In today's feature article, Ozlet Anthony Rossi steps up to defend the past votes rule and puts forward his argument as to why it might just be the best and fairest tiebreaker. Read on to find out why this is the case.

This article was inspired by the recent article written by Ozlet Alec Culver. Alec wrote an article weighing the pros and cons of the tie breaking methods and whether or not the manner was appropriate or fair. After reading his article I was motivated to write this, not as a response to the work he had done, but in conjecture to his writing. The main tie breaker that caught my attention was the “Previous Vote Counter” rule implemented in Australian Outback and Africa. Some found this method was not the most practical, but I believe that it was the fairest way to handle the ties.


In the early stages of Survivor, a large portion of the screen time was dedicated to survival. There was a great focus on how difficult it was for the contestants to function in the wild life with limited supplies. Gradually, the show has drifted from the camp life dramas to the game dramas, with a lot of airtime surrounding idols, challenges, and tribal council. The one notable game related factor that gave the early seasons a stronger sense of strategy was the way that ties were handled. After the first round of votes were cast, which resulted in the said tie, contestants were able to revote only for the contestants that received the equal majority. Following the revote, the players involved in the tie would look back at the previous tribal councils and if they received more votes in past councils than the others then they would be eliminated.


Many fans found that this method of handling votes could be an easy way to exploit the system, but in fact it really complicated the voting strategies. The first case example we have to look at was when Mitchell was voted out. At that tribal council, Mitchell was in a dead-lock tie with Keith, but Mitchell had received a vote at a previous tribal council and as a result was voted out. This may seem like a dry way to handle the votes, but it really complicated the game. The vote Mitchell received was a throw away vote, which in any other season wouldn’t really matter, except when past votes are a critical concept. Some could argue that Mitchell was unfairly eliminated, because it involved votes that ultimately didn’t matter, but in fact the amount of votes a player receives throughout the game is a major factor in how their game can be read. Certain contestants irritate, annoy, or simply deserve votes over the course of the season, but the votes they get over the time speak to how they are playing the game. If people are willing to write down your name, you are playing an overt game that does not result in a positive outlook. Think about the contestants that have received a large portion of votes over the course of their season; Baylor, Phillip, Jonathan Penner. These players were probably not going to win the game, because they way they played the game was not suited to winning. They were so brazen in their attitude; it was off-putting to the others players. I am going on a bit of a tangent, but in the grand scheme of things the votes received pertain to the strategic and social game of the player.


Now, I will speak about the main point that I wanted to addresses in this article, the reason why the “Previous Vote Counter” is the best strategy to handle ties. My long tangent was getting at the idea that the past votes a contestant receives mirrors their gameplay style. By implementing the device into the game, players must be more articulate about how they cast votes and devise certain strategies. Even throw-away votes play a role in the game; one recent vote that jumps out is the merge tribal council in World’s Apart, when Will was instructed to throw a vote to Hali. With the past vote strategy in mind, the majority alliance could have been more elaborate when voting the next time incase of idol play. The new tie breaker can allow players to split the vote more often and has more game maneuverability.

In using this technique, the importance of votes at tribal council is greatly increased. Literally, every vote counts. This opens up the possibilities in the game allowing for many strategies, players can throw votes out and create a sense of paranoia throughout the game. Every time someone receives a vote it generates an atmosphere that questions their stance in the game.


One fact that not have been directly mentioned about my stance on ties is that I still stand by the re-voting. Once the initial tie has occurred, the players should still get the chance to revote, because people can change their mind. As the re-vote commences, players could try and figure out if they know who has past votes and may decide to change their vote. In the past, the change on the revote has resulted in players not wanting to force the rock draw, but by changing the methods it opens the door to a new amount of possibilities. This shifts the game into becoming more strategic, giving each player more opportunities for their plans. In some seasons during the individual phase of the game, a certain alliance or tribe can be pagonged, which can result in a fairly uneventful outcome. With the addition of the “Previous Vote Counter” players can split the votes more frequently, thus allowing the minority to overtake the majority and change up the season. If contestants can cause doubt in a season plagued with paranoia, then they truly succeed. By reinstating this new rule, the paranoia level drastically increase.


At the end of the day, there is no real 100% method to solving the dilemma that makes ties ultimately fair. I argue that using past votes is a real marker of the game that the person plays and as a result, they should play a part in their game moving forward. If a player received a certain amount of votes, it means that are playing a game that is fairly confrontational and they deserve those votes, the more votes, the more outlandish the player. Shouldn’t that player be accountable of their actions throughout their time on the island; their votes received are markers of their time. In an effort to keep the game active in all stages, the “Past Vote Counter” is a reasonable method to handling ties.

 Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!


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

8 Comments on Tie Breaker: Why Past Votes May Be The Best Option

  1. Wait, I’m confused. How would used past votes as a tiebreaker allow majority alliances to split the votes more often? I don’t see how it affects vote splits at all. Can someone clear this up for me?

  2. Great article. I sure wouldn’t mind if past votes were used as a tiebreaker again. Definitely adds new possibilities for strategies.

  3. The past votes is the fairest way possible. Here is why

    Survivor is a game about votes. Your goal is avoid getting voted for. Thus who ever has more past votes is playing the game worse then the person who they are tied with. Your already not doing very good if your in a tie to begin with. So there is no unfair about that.

    For this rule to even get into play you have to
    1. Get a tied majority
    2. Fail to get people to flip and save you.
    3. Get more votes then the person next to you.

    So yes its the most fair. Rocks rewards bad game play. You could be in control of the whole game and at final 6 could get rocked out. How is that fair?

    • I don’t think getting more votes than someone else makes you a worse player. If people try to target you as a threat but don’t have enough numbers to vote you out that’s often a testament to your power in the game. Besides, who the minority targets is often irrelevant, particularly in seasons with a clear cut majority and minority such as RI, where the Zapateras basically knew their votes weren’t going to have any effect on the outcome of the tribal, since the Ometepes were so tight.

  4. There is one flaw with the past votes tiebreaker you didn’t address; naturally, the tribe that goes to Tribal more times will have its members receiving more votes. I don’t consider that to be fair; you shouldn’t be handicapped for going to Tribal if you can survive it. It puts too much emphasis on challenges.
    Besides, the whole “past votes” thing is too complicated overall. It’s easy for us back home to be able to keep track of the votes, but for a person who has to survive on an island, it’s difficult. People can lie about their votes at the merge, and there’s just too much calculations to be made. It’ll just be too hard to keep track of. I get that in a sense, that’s the point, but it’s just too complex for it to ever have the idealistic scenario occur.
    Plus, the votes will now probably be more personal. If someone thinks they’re going home, they can just throw a vote at someone they hate, rather than scrambling last minute and targeting a threat. In a game like Survivor that keeps evolving to a more strategical sense, it just discourages strategical voting and makes the voting more personal, which goes against the grain Survivor is currently treading on.
    Overall, I don’t think there’s a perfect tiebreaker, and maybe the purple rock isn’t the most optimal, but I don’t think past votes is the way to go.

    • I agree with your reasoning. In my opinion there is no inherent way to fairly break a tie so the best option is the purple rock, as it completely discourages players to go to a tie so that it rarely happens.

    • Couldnt disagree with you more – the tribe that goes to tribal more SHOULD have to deal with more votes because that’s the penalty for losing, the same way that tribe could be Pagonged at a merge. In addition, calling it too complicated to keep track of the votes is very silly. You get A MILLION DOLLARS to win the game, and for 39 days your only focus should be the game. It’s too complicated for you to keep track of the votes??? Then you don’t deserve to win!
      In addition, saying the votes would be more personal – yeah! If the person being voted out knows they are going and throws a vote at you because they hate you – well that says something about your game play. It makes it MORE strategic than less. I love the past votes because it makes you accountable for your whole game, not just your pre-merge game, and it gives a voice to early people eliminated, like Debb and Kimmi for instance, and connects them to the overall game.

  5. I’m for the purple rock as well. Yes it will allow for more tied votes, but it also takes the risk out of forcing a tie. Targeting someone who is known to have a high number of previous votes is an advantage similar to having an extra vote. The person being voted out would be a foregone conclusion…not good television. I’d rather see the drama of scrambling/strategy prior to tribal as players attempt to avoid the tiebreaker at all cost, the drama of someone flipping or the steely determination of players forcing the tie.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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: