Survivor has been around for a whopping thirty-seven seasons. In that time there has been every kind of winner you could imagine. Every single winner has its flaws, critics, and faults. But every winner also has its strengths, merits and influence on changing the game forever. Although it is never easy to rank players who played vastly different games, The Mastermind will now attempt to update their winner rankings for 2018 and rate the winners from worst to best – starting with the worst in 37th to the 19th best on this list. The list takes into consideration primarily how a player navigated their way through the season that they won, including their social game, strategic game, the difficulty of their win, how in-tune they were with the game, their final tribal council performance, how many votes they received to win and most importantly, how much control they had during the season from start to finish. This list is not a ranking on how good of a player each person is. For that see Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time. This instead is a list based on how well each winner navigated their way through their specific season. For 18-1 click here. Enjoy!
37. Bob Crowley (Gabon, S17)
Sorry Bob Crowley, you’re the worst winner in Survivor history. Bob built a fake immunity idol, got dragged into various alliances due to having a likable and flexible personality and won 3 key immunity challenges to keep himself in the game. Other than that he wasn’t really in tune with the game, was always used as a piece to the puzzle for better players and eventually got dragged to the end of the game by Sugar. The fact that Susie Smith almost won this season really says a lot about how bad Bob was as a player of this game. Sorry Bob, you’re the bottom of the barrell and might be forever cemented in that place for all Survivor eternity.
36. Jud ‘Fabio’ Birza (Nicaragua, S21)
That’s right, Jud ‘Fabio’ Birza is a winner of this game. He can’t believe it and neither can I. Fabio made the wrong strategic move at every single turn, he was on the wrong side of a number of post-merge votes, he didn’t have a good social game and he had to rely on winning challenges to get himself to the end of the game. If he hadn’t won the final three immmunity challenges he would never have made it to finals. The one redeeming thing in favour of Fabio was his self-awareness, as he recognized that others were perceiving him as a dumb surfer dude and used that to appear less threatening. Or maybe he actually just was a dumb surfer dude all along and there was nothing strategic about it. Either way, he’s the second worst winner of all time.
35. Michele Fitzgerald (Kaoh Rong, S32)
Michele had a very good social game, but she was never actively building alliances or leading the eliminations. Instead Aubry and Cydney were the ones in control and had it not been for a medical evacuation to Joe del Campo, Michele would have been gone at the final five. But, still the bartender was often in control of her fate in the game, working tirelessly to make sure the majority trusted her so that she could keep the pressure off of herself. Michele remained likable, flexible and open-minded to working with all, she remained on the good side of all of the jury members and she had a good final tribal council performance. She did get incredibly lucky with Joe being medically evacuated as she would have been voted out in the spot had she not won immunity, but she really isn’t that bad of a player or winner. I will always argue that Aubry deserved to win more than she did and that had the Survivor Game Changers final tribal council setup been introduced back then, that Aubry probably would have won. However, she is one of the nicest players to play the game while also being simultaneously one of the best social players of all time. Michele certainly is a deserving winner of this game and as more time arrives in the future to analyze her game, she could climb even higher up the list.
34. Ben Driebergen (Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, S35)
Ben Driebergen is the closest thing Survivor has ever seen to a second coming of Mike Holloway. The main difference between him and Mike however is while Mike screwed up his own game at the Survivor auction or at least gave the other players a scapegoat to blame, Ben’s allies turned on him simply because they all realized they couldn’t possibly beat him. Ben’s social game wasn’t amazing, his strategic game wasn’t even amazing, but he just dug so deep every step of the way. Instead of going to sleep, he looked for idols, day after day, finding three of them and becoming the first player ever to play idols in three consecutive votes. Keeping these idols a secret proved to be his best move of the game as every single time, he ensured all the votes were going for him and then did his best to take out the one person he thought would be best, curving his path toward the final three. With his confidence and bravado that was by no means over-the-top, the jury couldn’t help but be convinced that Ben was always in charge of his fate in the game and he won the final vote by 4-2-1. Ben is an awesome winner of this game and although not one of the very, very best, he still made the game incredibly entertaining and deserved to take home the million.
33. Jenna Morasca (Amazon, S6)
Jenna was able to win four immunity challenges to keep herself in the game. She also had a slightly strategic mind as she made a push to get Roger voted out pre-jury knowing that he would never vote for a female to win, and also gave up her immunity necklace at final six so that her best ally had no chance of going home and they could blindside Christy instead. Both of these moves proved that she was always able to recognize who was a threat to her in the game and then she was able to eliminate them before they could eliminate her. She was also able to take a goat to the end in Matt which severely helped her case to win. Jenna is hurt a lot in the rankings from not really wanting much to do with pre-merge part of the game. She even wanted to quit at one point. She also made some really bonehead moves like telling Dave everything that was going on in the woman’s camp and who she was closest to at the pre-swap feast, which meant that Dave’s first pick in the draft was Jenna’s best ally, Heidi, separating them for the first time in the game. However, she is not a bad winner of this game by any stretch of the imagination and was actually very strategically in-tune with what was going on in the game. Recognizing who was a threat and who was a goat that she could beat in the end.
32. Vecepia Towery (Marquesas, S4)
Vecepia was the first player to use and perfect the under the radar strategy. She let all of the conflict occur around her while she remained non-threatening and open to working with whoever wanted to work with her. Then her end-game was pretty impressive as she flipped Kathy at final four to go against Neleh and Paschal and then voted out Kathy at final three to win her season. She was also very good at using people’s ego’s against them like she does with Hunter in episode 4. She also overcame a lot of odds to win her season as at one point she was down 7-2 in numbers until she was picked up by better players and used as a number to get out the Rotu 4. Other than that, there isn’t really much that is impressive about Vecepia’s game and just like Aras, she tried desperately to get the one person that she could beat out of the game in Neleh and got lucky that it was an unsuccessful attempt.
31. Amber Brkich (All Stars, S8)
Amber latched on to Boston Rob from the very first episode and never let go, but she was almost equally part of the decision making and strategizing of their alliance, while letting Rob do all of the dirty work and get the blood on his hands, knowing she could beat him in the end if they made it there together. She also has to be credited for keeping herself in the game at the swap. We can’t forget the role that she played in that and she used her very good social skills to help convince Kathy and Lex to keep her. It wasn’t just all ‘Boston’ Rob’s work. When you actually look at Survivor All Stars, Amber’s game is actually pretty similar to Boston Rob’s, she just has a better final tribal council performance. Like Rob, Amber was one of the few players from All Stars that was able to separate the personal bonds she had made with these people before the season started from the strategic moves she made in the game and winning an all-star season is certainly an impressive feat as well. A big reason why she is lower on this list than many others is because not only did several contestants bash her at the final tribal council just like they did to Rob, but she won the game by people voting against Rob more than voting for him. As I’ve mentioned before, latching on to the big and brash guy that the jury isn’t going to like is an effective winning strategy but not one of the best ways to play this game.
30. Natalie White (Samoa, S19)
I’ll try and be as brief as I can about Natalie White, but she is seriously a criminally underrated winner and I could say a lot about how good her game truly was. Natalie recognized early on that the aggressive females of her tribe were all being voted out and so she tended to Russell’s every need, made herself seem unassuming and dumb and played to his ego masterfully while telling Jaison and Mick to stick with him as well, saying that they could both beat him in the end while still making herself look unassuming and beatable as well. Natalie also needs to be praised for the work she did to get Erik Cardona voted off at the merge and I truly believe this is one of the top 10 moves in Survivor history as it changes the game and clears the path for her and her allies to take control of the game and make it to the final four. At the same time this move is one of many that highlights her incredible social game as the Galu members completely trust and respect everything she tells them and she manages to get most of their votes in the end. Natalie is one of the best social players of all time and she went with Russell to the end knowing that she could beat him. Don’t be fooled by the edit into thinking that Russell brought her there as a goat and that somehow the goat ended up winning, because Natalie White is no goat, and if anything Russell was the goat. At final tribal council, she connected with each jury member on a personal level, she highlighted Russell’s arrogance and Mick’s lack of leadership and she made sure to let everyone know why her game was the best for her and not for anyone else. She was also on the right side of the vote every single time, proving to be incredibly in-tune with the game and the personal connections she had built with the jury members allowed her to win the season. But with all the good being said about Natalie, her game although very impressive is not one of the best there ever was as latching on to a brash buffoon who is going to take you all the way to the end is certainly a good way to play but not the best way to play. Still though, Natalie is both an underrated strategist and social player and certainly a deserving winner of the game.
29. Aras Baskauskas (Panama, S12)
Although it is impressive that Aras was able to be the figurehead and peacemaker in what was probably the weirdest alliance in the history of the show between himself, Cirie, Shane, Danielle and Courtney, he really didn’t do anything at all in his season besides creating this alliance and riding it until the end. He was in tune with what was going on and was on the right side of almost every single vote which does give him the edge above some of the people listed below him, but other than maintaining control of what was going on in the game he really doesn’t do anything else to really win his season. His social game is good but not great as he completely alienates Terry and doesn’t work hard enough at his bond with Shane who eventually votes for Danielle to win. His strategic game wasn’t great either as he tried to take Cirie, someone who would have definitely beaten him, to the end of the game rather than his goat in Danielle and got severely lucky when Cirie lost the fire making challenge and was sent home. Aras won from having a better social game than Danielle DiLorenzo but his social game is still probably worse than the vast majority of the twenty-eight winners listed below.
28. Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands, S7)
The key to Sandra’s game is that she remains in the majority and open to voting whoever the power-players want out, while always keeping the target off of herself. Whenever she’s in danger she’ll make a nifty maneuver to get the target off of her back like she does with Burton in this season. Sandra is also the mastermind of the fly under the radar strategy and makes it all the way to the end in a season where she easily could have been perceived to be the weakest person on her tribe from very early on. Sandra also gets herself into a good position where she can take two unlikable players to the end in both of her seasons, but especially Pearl Islands as Lil and Jonny Fairplay are enormously despised by the jury. Sandra was rarely the decision maker or the one building or leading alliances, but she was always right there in the majority always keeping the pressure off of her. In terms of her win in Pearl Islands, she doesn’t do that much strategically to win other than a nifty move against Burton and a realization that Darah is a threat and has to go. The move against Burton is particularly impressive though as she convinces Burton and Jon that she’s voting for Lill and then rallies Darrah and Lil together to take out Burton. Moreover, her final tribal council performance is one of the best ever and she is really good at connecting with each jury member and giving them a reason to vote for her. Although she absolutely plays the best game for what she is capable of, it’s not even close to one of the best winning games in Survivor history.
27. Ethan Zohn (Africa, S3)
Ethan’s win in Survivor Africa was so long ago and with it being from a season that is hardly ever talked about today, people often forget how good of a social player and likable guy he was back in his season. He’s not great TV, he’s just a good social player who builds a tight alliance of people and then goes with them to the end of the game and then wins. Ethan wasn’t afraid to go against his two biggest allies, Tom and Lex and he still managed to get both of their votes in the end, highlighting his good social awareness and likability. Ethan does have a good social game and no one has been able to win quite so politely as he has. His politeness and likability can be highlighted by the fact that he never received a vote against himself the entire game and was always on the right side of the votes. He also made an underrated move to throw the challenge at the tribe swap to eliminate Silas and keep Lex and Big Tom safe. But, like Aras, apart from building a strong alliance he doesn’t do much of anything at all apart from being a polite and nice guy that people want to be around.
26. Mike Holloway (Worlds Apart, S30)
Mike is probably one of the hardest winners to rank because his strategic game is okay, his social game is okay but he wins in a manner that has never been done in Survivor before, by winning challenges. Mike won 5 immunity challenges, and came back from being one of the biggest underdogs in the show’s history to somehow win the game, playing the type of game that has never been able to win a season of Survivor ever before. But, the reason why Mike had to win those 5 immunity challenges was because he blew up his social game when he tried to get an advantage at the auction rather than letters from home which was what everyone else wanted. This put him at the bottom of the merged tribe for the rest of the game and the only way he was going to win the game was if he won his way to the end and win he did. A good part of Mike’s game that often goes forgotten is a solidly steady pre-merge game in which he’s the centre of an alliance and in which he purposefully throws an immunity challenge in an attempt to save his best ally and in the process sends home somebody that was pulling another one of his close allies away from him. Mike’s win is satisfying from a viewer standpoint because he is certainly the most likable player on the cast and he also wins in an entertaining way, but he isn’t really one of the best Survivor strategists or social masterminds you’ll ever see. I do admire the “Tonight I’m playing my idol for Shirin” move as it does almost save Shirin and almost sends Dan home, but although that move demonstrates his willingness to fight for his spot in the game and shows him as a decently savvy player, we can’t even credit that move too highly because it didn’t work. Mike is a good and unique winner of the game but not an amazing one.
25. Sophie Clarke (South Pacific, S23)
Sophie Clarke is a fantastic winner of this game because she manipulated Coach into thinking that he was in control when in realitly it was the University student that was really making the vast majority of the decision. Sophie plays off of Coach’s ego perfectly and uses him to advance herself and her goat in Albert in the game. Her social game is nowhere near as good as people make it out to be as she was hammered at final tribal council for being condescending and negative and was constantly called a spoiled brat by Ozzy during the season. She was however very involved in voting people off as she convinced her allies to take out Brandon when she realized how much of a jury threat he was, before convincing Coach to take out Rick to save herself and Albert. Sophie is very perceptive and always aware of everything that is going on in the game and how others are perceiving her, which is one of the most important Survivor skills to learn. She also wins that crucial final four immunity challenge to help not let Ozzy win the season and deserves some brownie points for saving Survivor (See Survivor Season Rankings for more information). Although she is a very good survivor strategist, she isn’t one of the best social players by any means and I tend to rank the social players higher than the strategic one’s as this is a game about likability in the end. Although I dock her some points because I think her margin of victory could have been a lot narrower and could have easily ended up in a Coach win, as far as winners go she’s one of the one’s who is helped by luck the least as she is always in control of every single situation and makes smart strategic moves to ensure that she is never in danger of going home. Sophie Clarke is a very good winner of this game, a little undervalued and definitely deserved to beat Coach in the end.
24. Adam Klein (Millennials vs. Gen X, S33)
Having the distraction of a mother ill with cancer the entire time and still managing to stay so game-focused and so aware of everything that was going on must have been so hard for Adam Klein to do. But somehow he managed to do it and came out on top to win the game. Adam is one of a few players in the history of this game to sweep all the jury votes, winning in stunning fashion by a vote of 10-0-0 to join an elite club of JT, Jeremy, Earl and Cochran. Had he gone up against several other players he may have actually lost the game which can’t be said for the majority of the winners below. But he himself recognized that and waited for the exact right moment to take every single one of his threats out! Adam had a reasonably strong hold of the game, always knew where he stood, was able to separate in-game feelings from real relationships (such as his relationship with Jay), and was willing to do anything and blindside anyone to win the game while still playing a pretty low key style in the process. Adam did however make a few infamous mistakes including thinking he could trust Taylor when he couldn’t, coming across as though he was rubbing it in the face of Jay when he blindsided Taylor and arguably incorrectly playing both idols. Again however, if any trust was lost in the Taylor incident he did do an astute job at gaining trust back with his allies to the point where he was never in danger. Adam also knew that he had to eliminate anyone he couldn’t beat in the game like Jay and David and was successful in his attempts. The jury wanted someone to take David out and Adam was the person that did it, which is one of the main reasons why he swept all the votes. Overall the homeless shelter manager benefits a lot from his honest approach to the game which made everyone feel like they could trust him at all times. Adam Klein is not the best player of all time but he is a very, very good one and he certainly deserved to win Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X.
23. Tina Wesson (Australian Outback, S2)
Tina played one of the best social games of all time and it is the reason why she won over challenge beast Colby who was seemingly more active in the season. She was on the right side of almost every vote and made a key move to sway Colby on to her side away from Jerri and Amber in the pre-merge part of the game. Then at the merge, she gathered very crucial information from Kimmi about who had votes cast against them previously in the game, thus Tina and her allies targeted Jeff and were able to take control of the post-merge part of the game. She also played a very key role in keeping the members of the other tribe on her side at the merge as she was able to pick up Elizabeth and Roger, use them to her advantage and then take them out with ease and no love lost at final five and final four. Tina’s social game also arises out of just genuinely being part of her personality. She’s just a lovely lady and to me that makes her social game even more impressive that she was able to both use her amazing personality as a means of advancing in the game strategically and as a way of building friendships and trust with other people. Despite playing a very good social game and deservedly beating Colby, she doesn’t do as much as other winners have done to keep themselves in the game and win, which is why she is ranked lower than some.
22. Nick Wilson (David vs. Goliath, S37)
Nick Wilson may have just won Survivor, but it’s hard not to put him right up there with the very best to ever play. Nick remained in the good graces of everyone throughout the game and had several key alliances that allowed him to always stay safe, slip under the radar and make it all the way to the final three. Despite being a massive threat to win from the merge on, Nick always managed to hide behind bigger targets and slip below the radar. From the final six on, he won three straight immunity challenges when he needed it most to secure his spot in the finale alongside Mike White and Angelina Keeley. Mike and Angelina underestimated him throughout, as did the other Goliaths and even the Davids, which is a testament to the fantastic game that he played. On top of his fantastic alliances and under-the-radar play, Nick also made one of the best moves of recent seasons when he and the other Davids combined to steal Allison’s vote, nullify Dan’s idol and eliminate Dan at the final eleven. This proved to be a critical turning point in the game that allowed the Davids to get out other mass immunity threats like Alec. Before that, he had also played a critical role in the famous minority vote split that worked to eliminate John Hennigan from the game. Nick’s relationships were so strong that the Goliaths frequently told him of their plans, which Nick was always able to use against them. Finally, he articulated himself and the moves that he made in the game brilliantly at the final tribal council, allowing him to take the game 7-3 to someone who also played a phenomenal game in Mike White.
21. Sarah Lacina (Game Changers, S34)
Sarah was absolutely stellar in Survivor Game Changers. She came into the season as someone no one would have even thought to be a good player of this game and completely surpassed expectations with her fantastic social and strategic play. The way she maneuvered through the game, swinging back and forth yet still maintaining positive relationships with everyone in the game was incredible to watch. Sarah by no means played a flawless game as stated by Michaela Bradshaw, one of the seven out of ten to vote for her in the end, but she did play excellently well and somehow she was able to be a driving force behind practically every single vote without ever making herself into the next big target, something very few others have been able to do in this game. By constantly playing the middle, she was able to always be able to vote for the person that went home and simultaneously stay in good faith with every single person in the game regardless of where her vote actually went. Moreover, she always remained in the know of what was happening, which is why she was such a crucial deciding vote every single time and the way she cut certain players like Andrea, Michaela and Zeke in pretty ruthless fashion while still getting their votes in the end was pretty amazing to see. It might take some time to fully analyze Sarah’s game and where she should truly rank but my initial instinct is to put her as one of the best players to play this game. She truly did an amazing job to win this season.
20. Danni Boatwright (Guatemala, S11)
Danni overcame one of the greatest odds to ever win the game, overcoming a 6-4 numbers disadvantage, that was later reduced to a 5-1 disadvantage, with her being the one. She was horrendously disadvantaged in the game but she managed to perfectly ingratiate herself well into the Nakum tribe and get them all to trust her and respect her, making a final three deal with Rafe and Stephanie that saw her make it all the way to the final two and win the season. She honestly does really well on reward trips to get Stephanie to like her and trust her and she never gave up or stopped fighting until she won the season. After Gary was sent home, Danni was going to be the next one to go but she outbid everyone at the Survivor auction to win an advantage at the upcoming immunity challenge, which she used to win the challenge and keep herself safe that night. If she hadn’t won that challenge, it’s almost guaranteed that she would have been voted out. She then won the most important challenge of all at final three to take out her biggest competition and take someone to the end of the game in Stephanie who was fairly disliked by the jury. I also want to propose that she played a similar game to Jeremy Collins, keeping all of the big targets in an alliance with herself so that she would never become the target and she also let the big players from both sides go after each other while she was able to fly under the radar. What makes Danni’s win even more impressive is that she is probably one of the only winners who could play the exact same way a second time and win the game again. Her game is very much an under the radar one but it’s very subtle, low-key and social as well.
19. Chris Daugherty (Vanuatu, S9)
Chris Daugherty overcame more odds to win than almost any other player in the history of Survivor. Also, his final tribal council is one of the best, if not the best, of all time. He plays an incredibly key role in the destruction of the women’s alliance and him siding with the three most unlikable out of the group was certainly intentional. He’s able to get Julie to trust him and she constantly gives him useful information that he is able to use against her. Then he somehow manages to convince Eliza to join in an alliance with her two mortal enemies Twila and Scout. Once he flipped the game around and came into power, his strategic game flourished as he eliminated the immunity challenge threats to give himself a shot at winning immunity challenges, including vital final six and final four wins and the most important one of all at final three. The amount of lies he had told in the game and the amount of personal bonds he had broken with the women should have meant that he wasn’t going to win, but his final tribal council performance was incredible and he secured fives votes out of seven to give him that win. At final tribal, he was apologetic, he owned up to his game, and he gave every single jury member exactly what they wanted to hear, even if it wasn’t true. Chris Daugherty is a truly underrated and amazing winner of this game.
So there it is. The Mastermind‘s Survivor Winner Rankings for 2018 starting with the worst in Bob Crowley to the 19th best in Chris Daugherty. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and for the next part of this list click the link below!
PS make sure to check out our updated Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time.