Survivor Pre-Game Alliances: How Much Do They Really Matter?

With any all star season, pre-game alliances are bound to occur. But how much do pre-game alliances actually matter in the context of the game? Although I understand the appeal of having someone, or a group of people that you know you can count on at the start of the game to keep yourself out of danger, pre-game alliances rarely actually have an effect on the game and rarely actually come into fruition once the game begins. However, these are five different cases where pre-game alliances did occur and although the game was not impacted in most of these cases, pre-game alliances certainly did have an impact in one or two seasons of Survivor. Below I take a look at the most important pre-game alliances in the history of the show and the impact they had on the season.

Case #1: All Stars 

The first case of pre-game alliances occurred in the original Survivor All Stars, Season 8. This was the first time in reality-TV history that previous contestants were coming back to play again, and over eight seasons of Survivor the community of past-contestants had developed into a tightly-knit unit. Everyone was friends with everyone and many contestants from all across different seasons knew each other, hung out regularly and even dated! This made for a tricky predicament when Survivor All Stars was announced as it was going to be the first time that people were going to be competing against other people that they knew in their real life, maybe even their friends, providing a whole-new element to the game. It’s been fairly well documented that the biggest pre-game alliance of Survivor All Stars was between Rob, Lex, Kathy and Big Tom. Rob was also friends before hand with Amber and Jenna Lewis. This made it really easy for Rob to get the numbers around him as in the Chapera tribe of six, Rob, who was already aligned with Tom and Amber,  only needed to add Sue Hawk to the mix to be able to take out his biggest competition, Rob Cesternino. But the pre-game alliance that Boston Rob had with Lex and Kathy made things very ugly in the whole Amber-Jerri situation (see here for more information).

Lex trusted that if he kept Amber safe that him and Rob would work together in the game, but the moment that Lex saved Amber, Rob decided he didn’t need Lex and Kathy and voted them out as the first two members of the jury. Rob’s pre-game friendship with Lex arguably won Amber Brkich the season as it not only saved her in the game, but contributed to Lex and Tom despising Rob on the jury as they gave their votes to Amber. So all things considered, the pre-game alliances made before season 8 did have a big impact on the game, probably the biggest impact that these alliances have ever had on the show, but not the only one.

Case #2: Heroes vs Villains

Pre-Game Alliances were also pretty big in Survivor Heroes vs. Villains, but none of them really had any impact on the game. Randy Bailey has the unfortunate distinction of probably forming the worst pre-game alliance ever when he formed a pre-game partnership with Corinne, Shane Powers and Coach prior to Heroes vs. Villains. Corinne and Shane never made it on to the show and Coach begrudgingly voted with the majority to kick Randy off of the Villains tribe the first time they went to tribal council. More interestingly though, was a pre-game alliance between Rob, Russell, Sandra, Parvati, Danielle and Courtney. Although the edit portrays the story as Russell and Parvati being at the bottom of the Villains camp, it seems as though they were actually in the majority with a tightly-knit unit early on in the game and that Coach, Jerri and Randy were actually on the bottom of the Villains tribe. So this alliance was key in eliminating Randy, but things quickly got turned upside down when Russell went looking for the idol and when him and Boston Rob started to clash. The end of that pre-game alliance created two very distinct warring factions and this theory also supports why Jerri and Coach were so easily persuaded to join Russell and his villains when the show made it seem like they had been so tight with Rob beforehand.

One could argue that Danielle, Parvati and Russell’s pre-game connection helped them in the game but the more likely scenario is that being alienated as the three that had to go after the Randy vote, was what bonded them closer together, rather than any pre-game connection they may or may not have had. It is also said that J.T. had several alliances with several different people in Heroes vs. Villains, none of which really mattered because he was never going to be in danger, being the likable, hard-working challenge beast that he is. Other than that, James and Amanda undoubtedly had a pre-game alliance just like they did in Micronesia, and Candice is said to have had a pre-game alliance with Micronesia contestants Parvati and Cirie, which would explain why she was willing to go against the other Heroes at the merge. So overall, no pre-game alliances really mattered all that much in Heroes vs. Villains and thank god, because the Russell vs. Rob rivalry, gave us one of the best seasons of all-time in Redemption Island (sarcasm).

Case #3: Caramoan

One comment that is often made about Survivor Caramoan was that it was rigged for Jon Cochran to win. This opinion is first and foremost obviously horribly wrong, but is based on the fact that Cochran was in a pre-game alliance with Dawn, Andrea, Corrine and Francesca. Although this pre-game alliance is most likely true, it did not win Cochran the game.

To analyze this further let’s start off with Francesca. Again, the well-documented pre-game alliance of Caramoan that has been talked about for years now involved Cochran, Dawn, Andrea, Corrine and Francesca. But the moment they got on to the island, Phillip was added to the group for obvious reasons. Phillip wanted to be the leader of the tribe and it’s so easy to stroke his ego, make him think he’s in charge and use him as a vote, so it was really easy and logical to add him to the group. But due to the negative history that Phillip and Francesca had in their original season, Redemption Island, Francesca was immediately made to feel uncomfortable by being in an alliance with Phillip. This led to Francesca entertaining the idea of flipping and working with Erik, Brenda and Brandon. So to ensure that Francesca wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything with her new-found allies, the core group added Malcolm to their side and quickly eliminated Francesca. Francesca, like Cochran has been accused of making pre-game alliances with pretty much everyone on that Favourites tribe before the season began. Yet, she was still voted out first. This proves that you can make all the pre-game alliances in the world, but that you still have to play well to win and that is exactly what Cochran did. In continuation, Corrine quickly abandoned this alliance to get closer with Malcolm and even Michael Snow, while Dawn and Brenda formed a close partnership that saw Andrea eliminated at final seven. So again, what happens in the pre-game often changes very quickly once contestants actually get on to the island. Cochran won the game by his own hard-work and not by his pre-game alliance. As a whole pre-game alliances had very little to do with the impact of Survivor Caramoan.

Case #4: Blood vs. Water

This is probably the most interesting set of circumstances to occur recently in terms of pre-game alliances. Going into Blood vs. Water, Gervase and Aras were close friends. Rumours have it that they even played poker together in Aras’ basement for years. Now even if that’s not true, it’s certainly true that Aras/Vytas had a pre-game alliance with Tina/Katie and Gervase + Monica. So, the winner of Blood vs. Water, Tyson Apostol was not even part of the original alliance that dominated the tribe of returnees on Blood vs. Water. But Tyson quickly made close bonds with Gervase and Monica and the three of them started to pull away from Aras and Tina. Then when the swap occurred and Vytas ended up being the only male in a tribe of six other females and somehow managed to escape, we are made to believe that Vytas escaped with some masterful game-play to get the women to trust him. But in reality, the more likely scenario was that Tina, who was controlling the swapped tribe’s votes, already had an alliance with Vytas, and so it was easy for her to pull in her daughter, Katie, plus Monica, Luara M. and Kat to eliminate Laura Boneham.

Moreover, at the merge, Gervase made plans to eliminate his good friend Aras, which leadto Aras being a bitter juror and voting for Tyson to win and Vytas being a bitter juror and voting for Monica to win. Again though, this pre-game alliance had very little effect on the game itself. Like Caramoan, it allowed those who made pre-game partnerships to have the advantage over people who didn’t at the start of the game, but also like Caramoan these allegiances changed several times in game and ended quickly when one person in the alliance made a plans to eliminate another person in the alliance.

Case #5: Cambodia 

Jeff Varner was the king of the Survivor Second Chance pre-season. Why? Because he had alliances with virtually every single person on the cast before the season even began. The most well-known pre-game alliance going into this season was between Jeff, Kelly Wigglesworth, Terry, Vytas and Shane Powers. Shane unfortunately did not make the cut, but the moment that the other four all landed on the beach on the exact same tribe, their alliance was looking likely to hold, until Jeff flipped and took out Vytas out of nowhere. Thus, this stellar pre-game alliance that had been formed two weeks in advance of filming, was dead within the first three days. Pre-game alliances were a hot topic in the pre-season of Survivor Cambodia and there were all kinds of rumours floating around with who was aligning themselves with who, making this probably the biggest ever season for pre-game alliances. However, it seems as though none of these said alliances actually impacted the show. Jeff Varner’s second pre-game alliance was with Spencer, Shirin, Peih-Gee and Kelley Wentworth. Although this did contribute to Vytas’ elimination, it quickly evaporated early on when Varner flipped back to the Terry, Kelly Wigglesworth side to eliminate Shirin. Spencer and Tasha are perhaps the only pairing that actually stuck together during the season and even their partnership was one that was always going to occur in a similar way to how Amanda and James would always work together any season they were going to be a part of together. So in short, pre-game alliances were massive in Survivor Cambodia but had a very minimal effect on the actual game itself.


Although there are a few very unique cases where pre-game alliances did impact the game, there have been far more instances where these kind of alliances had no impact on the game whatsoever. So going into Season 34, with a fresh batch of All Star players who probably tried to form some form of pre-game alliances with other people, don’t expect any of these pre-game alliances to actually hold true on the island. For future All Stars, you’re better off not making alliances before the game begins, as when you need to betray that person, you often end up looking like the bad guy and losing their jury vote, just like what happened with Rob with Lex and Tom in All Stars, Dawn with Andrea and Brenda in Caramoan and Gervase with Aras in Blood vs. Water. Pre-game alliances are bound to be part of any All Star season of Survivor, but when the game actually begins, they often fail to come into play and very rarely actually have an impact on the season.



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