THE UPDATED VERSION….
(currently in progress)
In thirty-nine seasons of Survivor, there have been some amazing players. It is so incredibly hard to rank them as they all had to overcome a different set of circumstances and navigate through completely different seasons, twists and themes. But nonetheless, The Mastermind has attempted to compile a list of the fifty greatest players of all time.
So how are players ranked? Well, just because someone wins doesn’t make them a better player than someone who finishes in second, third or fourth. Similarly, just because someone did more to win their season and is ranked higher on our Winner Rankings list than another winner, that doesn’t make them a better player either. This list mostly considers a players’ social and strategic capabilities and maneuvering, ability to overcome adversity, control over their season and ultimately where they ended up placing. Ideally, the best players of this game will have the ability to hypothetically do well in any given Survivor season. Based on those factors, my personal opinion on their capabilities, and the wide-range public opinion on what they have to offer as well, these are The Mastermind‘s top fifty Survivor players of all time after thirty-nine seasons of the show.
Just Missed The Cut: Michele Fitzgerald, Stephanie LaGrossa,
Lex van der Berghe, Terry Deitz
Honourable Mention: Trish Hegarty
While Tony was burning bridges all over Survivor Cagayan, Trish was working hard to repair them. Every single relationship that Tony destroyed, Trish was right there to attempt to fix it. Trish was the key in so many of Tony’s moves. She was crucial in the Cliff vote off, she convinced Jefra to stay on her team and she was absolutely integral in Kass’s decision to flip at the merge. It’s unlikely that Tony and his allies would have ever been able to take control of Cagayan had Trish not managed to convince Kass to flip. Despite, Lindsey quitting out of fear that she would punch Trish in the face, her social game was actually incredible in Cagayan and with the way Tony was voting people off so rashly, Trish likely would have won had she managed to go to the end with him. If she’s ever given the chance to play again, I expect her to make it just as far, if not even farther than she did the first time.
Honourable Mention: Ozzy Lusth
Although I always say that Ozzy Lusth is far too arrogant to ever win Survivor, he did come desperately close on two occasions. He was one vote away from winning Cook Islands and then was one challenge away from winning South Pacific. Both times his social game was a mess and he only would have won either game due to his physical capabilities but he did have a half decent strategic game all three times he’s played and it shows in the fact that he came so close to winning two times. The zenith of Ozzy’s survivor career arguably came when he made a very bold move in asking his tribe to vote himself out so that he could go to Redemption Island, eliminate Christine from the game and get the numbers back on to his tribe’s side. Although this was a crazy move it does elucidate how Ozzy is always thinking two steps ahead of his opponent and does have a pretty decent strategic aptitude for the game. However despite coming desperately close to winning two diffferent seasons, Ozzy might actually consider himself lucky to be on this list at all.
Honourable Mention: Ben Driebergen
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.
Honourable Mention: Cydney Gillon
Cydney might have been the best overall player in Survivor Kaoh Rong. Cydney did incredibly well pre-merge to keep everyone on her side and play to Alicia’s ego and Jason and Scot’s as well. At the merge, she made a huge move to flip against her allies after realizing that she had been replaced by Nick. This moved changed the course of the season and allowed her to remain in power with Aubry for the rest of the game until her elimination at final four. Then when Debbie started to make plans to eliminate her, Cydney quickly and decisively eliminated Debbie. The social and strategic parts of the game came naturally to her and she could have easily exploded at Jason and Scot before the merge when they were acting brash. Instead she bit her tongue and waited for the perfect time to flip. Cydney always knows how to stay in the majority and by proxy will always go far in any season.
TOP 50 SURVIVOR PLAYERS OF ALL TIME
50. Devon Pinto
I was so impressed with Devon’s game all the way through Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. He’s got a natural charisma and charm that was enough to win everyone over and absolutely every single person in the game was always eager to share information with him, hoping to gain his trust. But Devon was by no means a quiet, laid back player, he was extremely active in the game and made some very impressive moves. Most notably, was his move to flip on Chrissy and Ryan to take out JP, winning Joe and Mike temporarily on his side, before blindsiding Joe and winning Chrissy and Ryan back in a flash. In this move, he didn’t make an enemy out of anyone and executed a plan to perfection. Secondly, his move at the final five to plant a vote on Mike, saved him from being eliminated and that was enough to secure his spot in the final four arguably even the final three until a late fire-making twist sent him packing. Devon always knew how to position himself, was great at winning allies and influencing votes and even if he couldn’t seal the deal, I think he would have made for the perfect winner of Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Devon made a valiant effort to win the most recent season of Survivor and The Mastermind would love to see him back some day soon.
49. Vecepia Towery
Vecepia was the first player to use and perfect the under the radar strategy. In Survivor Marquesas, 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 Kathy out 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, and it can’t be forgotten how the odds were stacked against her yet she still came out on top to win her season. Vecepia’s not the greatest winner of this game, but a very good player nonetheless.
48. Ian Rosenberger
If the game of Survivor Palau is played in 2016, Ian Rosenberger likely stays on that pole for another couple of hours, wins the final immunity challenge and wins the game. But, Ian felt far too guilty for double dealing earlier on and after 13 hours perched on top of that pole, he stepped down to save his friendship with Tom and Katie. One could argue that Ian was even more in control of Koror in Survivor Palau then Tom Westman. Him and Tom made the strategic decisions together and Ian’s social and strategic game was pretty much equal to Tom’s, yet Tom to this day still gets all the credit. Ian always kept himself safe in a comfortable spot in the majority and tried not to isolate Colby who always felt at the bottom. Furthermore, when Ian realized that Gregg and Jenn might sway Katie after they took out Caryn at the final six, he gets Caryn on their side and then threatens Katie not to flip by telling her that they’ll go to rocks and Katie could end up going home. Tom actually had very little to do with this whole ordeal and the whole idea came from Ian. Tom gets all the credit for the decisions in the alliance but he didn’t do anything without confronting Ian first. It’s unfortunate that he stepped down at the final three immunity challenge to save his friendship with Tom, because he absolutely would have won had he gone against Katie and could have won had he gone against Tom as well. Instead we remember Tom as one of the greatest winners of this game and Ian as someone who made a dumb move stepping down at final three rather than as a good, maybe even great player of this game. His strategic and social game in Palau has gone down the rabbit whole and often goes completely unremembered but Ian Rosenberger is one of the greatest players to never win and would do well on any given season of Survivor.
47. Spencer Bledsoe
Strategically, Spencer was nearly spot on with every decision he made across the board in two different seasons. Socially, at least in Cagayan, he lacked emotional intelligence and struggled to keep his allies on his side. In Survivor Cagayan, Spencer was constantly in the underdog position yet managed to escape the vote every single time he was in danger. He did have a bad problem with alienating people he didn’t like, but it’s a miracle that Tony kept him around so long, despite knowing how much of a dangerous player he was and it’s a testament to Spencer’s abilities. Spencer understands Game Theory better than most Survivor contestants and it allows him to understand exactly what moves he needs to make to advance himself in the game. In Survivor Second Chance, he was in danger of being voted out so many different times but somehow managed to escape it every single time, as other players always wanted to keep him around, thinking that he could be a loyal ally. His biggest move in Second Chance, comes when he eliminates Stephen Fishbach so that he can make himself Jeremy’s number one ally. This move was incredibly successful and ensured that he would make it to the final three. He played an incredible game to get to the end and was actually incredibly good at backing up his game at final tribal council. Only problem was, that he was sitting next to one of the greatest Survivor players and most likable figures of all time, Jeremy Collins.
46. Jenna Morasca
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 knew that she needed to stay with the numbers to win the game and she knew that she needed to take the goat, Matt, to the end rather than Rob. She is very strategically aware of what is going on in the game and it would be fascinating to see how she would do if she ever returned to Survivor.
45. Amber Brkich
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, but she just has a better final tribal council performance and is able to get the respect of the jury. Like Rob, Amber is 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. Her strategic and social game-play almost saw no flaws and she’s a highly underrated winner.
44. Rafe Judkins
Rafe was the strategic mastermind in Survivor Guatemala and would have won had Danni not won final immunity. Rafe was Stepahnie’s closest ally. They were burning all of the same people, except Rafe remained likable and in good faith with all the jury members and easily would have had the jury votes to beat Stephanie. On top of his four individual immunity wins, Rafe was the aforementioned strategic mastermind in Guatemala, making all of the strategic decisions but making it look like it was Steph who was the one in control. Moreover, Rafe wanted to eliminate all of the goats in his season like Jamie, Judd and Lydia, to ensure that Stephanie would take him to the end instead of anyone else, but when Danni won the final challenge, Rafe fell short of a million dollars. Rafe has somehow been forgotten in Survivor history and is possibly the greatest ever non-winner to never return. The reason why he often goes unremembered seems to be that the majority of people think he made a mistake by “freeing Danni of their final two deal at final three” BUT Danni was never going to take Rafe. She was always going to take the goat in Stephenie so there is absolutely nothing he could have done. Rafe’s strategic game often goes unremembered and he’s quite honestly one of the most underrated players of all time.
43. David Wright
Despite being on the bottom of his tribe from the very start of the game and coming across at times like a paranoid lunatic, David managed to survive several votes in the early stages of the game and then out of nowhere, take control of the game when the merge hit. Although he incorrectly played his idol on Jessica Lewis, it won her trust and earned him a loyal ally for the rest of the game. From then on, David was a transformed player and was calm and composed in winning several allies over to his side. He made sure that he had people like Ken and Hannah by his side that would never go against him and despite being the figurehead of the majority alliance was able to fly under the radar for several weeks. He also made several correct moves in eliminating players like Chris and Zeke at exactly the right moments and was so powerful in the game that others were just afraid to ever go against him. David nearly made it all the way to the end of the game and had he gotten there rather than ultimately ending up in 4th place, he would have certainly won, possibly by even the same 10-0-0 margin that the actual winner of his season, Adam Klein won by. In his second crack at the game, David proved to be a force to be reckoned with and played from the bottom all the way up to 10th place before he ran out of room to maneuver. His play throughout the season remained impressive, particularly at Lesu and Mana where he remained completely under the radar and shielded himself behind Wendy and Rick Devens. He only became a target at the merge and that was more down to his reputation rather than connections in the game.
42. Aras Baskauskas
Aras was the figurehead of one of the strangest alliances ever in the history of the show and used his alliance to carry himself to the end of the game. He was always in tune with what was going on and was on the right side of almost every single vote. His social game was decent, his strategic game was decent, but it was never perfect by any means. He constantly had spats with Terry and he even tried to take his biggest competition, Cirie, to the end of the game where he certainly would have lost. When he returned for Blood vs. Water he played a good pre-merge game but then got annihilated and overconfident at the merge when he was given the chance to play with his brother. That being said, his game in Panama was pretty impressive and he certainly knows how to put himself in the leadership position and then stay in control.
41. Stephen Fishbach
Stephen Fishbach was the man behind the curtains pulling all of the strings in Survivor Tocantins, but he let JT take all of the credit at final tribal council and due to being a more likable guy, JT walked away with all seven votes. That’s actually being really harsh on JT who played one of the best if not the best social game Survivor has ever seen but Stephen was an equal contributor to all of the decisions and on a few occasions was the one coming up with the idea rather than JT. It was Fishbach’s idea to get Tyson out and it was his idea to eliminate Taj instead of Erinn at final four but at final tribal he couldn’t find the right thing to say, he couldn’t own up to his game and he didn’t emphasize that the moves in the game that he made.Stephen did everything that JT did, except be that incredible guy that everybody loved. Everyone liked Stephen, Coach even called him “The Wizard”, but they liked JT way more. But, Stephen was still the dominant strategic force in Survivor Tocantins and in most other seasons he might have won. When he returned for Survivor Second Chance he was desperate to make big moves and build his resume so that if he got to the end, the jury would be able to understand his game better than they could in Tocantins. But he flamed out after picking up the advantage and thus becoming too much of a target in the game. But, his game in Tocantins still remains as one of the best games by a non-winner.
40. Yau-Man Chan
Yau-Man was Earl’s best bud, making all of the strategic and social moves with Earl and keeping a hidden immunity idol in his pocket on his way to the final four. Yau-Man was always looking for a way to advance himself in the game like when he made a deal with Dreamz that if he gave Dreamz the car he won at the reward that Dreamz wouldn’t take him out at final four. But, Yau-Man was eventually taken out at final four by Dreamz and if he had somehow managed to win that final challenge and make it to the final three, he would have been able to win and possibly would have even beaten Earl. His social game is amazing and although probably not intentional, because he’s just naturally such a great guy, it still will go a long way for him in any given season.
39. Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm is one of those players that is always willing to do whatever it takes and make whatever move he needs to make to advance himself in the game. But unlike Russell, Spencer or Tony, he’s able to remain likable and never alienate anyone. If he had made it to the end of the game either of his two seasons, he would have won. In Survivor Philippines, Malcolm managed to escape every single vote by remaining likable and trustworthy until he was voted out at final four. In Survivor Caramoan, he immediately found an idol, got his meat shields around him, convinced Reynold to give him his idol even though he nor Reynold needed it, and made an incredibly flashy move to blindside Phillip. If Corinne hadn’t foolishly told Dawn their plan at the merge, Malcolm and his allies could have taken control of the entire game. His strategical awareness is fantastic and his social game is really strong as well. He’s a bit of an overrated player but nonetheless, a very good one.
38. Jonny Fairplay
Playing in the season right after Survivor Amazon, Jonny Fairplay was looking to emulate Rob Cesternino, and did a very good job of it. Fairplay switched back and forth between alliances while always keeping himself out of danger and then just like Rob, he lost the final immunity challenge and was sent home at final three. Obviously there’s the dead grandmother incident which may or may not have bought him some extra time in the game, but there’s also his brilliant move where he pits Darrah and Lil against each other and Darrah ends up going home. Jonny Fairplay is someone who understands strategy and although one of the greatest villains of his time, he’s a very solid Survivor strategist. Fairplay’s social game isn’t great as he typically got into spats with his fellow cast-mates, in particular Rupert and Sandra, but he did have a couple of incredible moves that certainly deserve notice and certainly give him a name as being one of the greatest all time players.
37. Natalie White
One of the greatest social players and most underrated players ever. 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. She then made an incredible move to get Erik Cardona eliminated at the merge, approaching Galu sweetly and softly and emphasizing that if they eliminated Erik they would still have a seven to four advantage and nothing to lose. But it would turn out that Galu would have everything to lose as Natalie and Russell would take control of the rest of the game. Natalie’s game is similar to Trish’s in Cagayan, yet Natalie managed to win. While Russell was burning bridges and being incredibly rude to the members of Galu, Natalie was working hard at building social bonds with the members of Galu and getting them to trust and like her. In doing this, Natalie always made sure to keep in good name with the jury members and make sure they appreciated and respected her game. 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.
36. Aubry Bracco
You can play an incredible strategic and social game but at the end of the day if the jury can’t see it, you won’t win the game. That is exactly what happened to Aubry Bracco and she is unfortunately perhaps the only player who made it to the finals and truly deserved to win her season but somehow lost. Aubry almost certainly would be higher on this list had she been able to get the necessary jury votes to win the game and we have to credit Michele for making her game more visible for the jury to see. But, Aubry dominated Kaoh Rong and should have won. She was almost always in control of what was going on, made an incredible social move to flip Tai on to her side and then throughout the game kept him and her other allies always on her side, to the extent where Tai didn’t want to go against her at final four even though it made the most strategic sense for him. Aubry is a very good strategic player, an even better social player and she absolutely should have won Survivor Kaoh Rong. Coming into Game Changers, Aubry had a massive reputation from Kaoh Rong as being a master-strategist and someone that should have won her season. As a result she should have been an early target. Instead she made it all the way to the final five, managing to get along well with everyone she met along the way and make it way farther than the majority of her original Mana team members. Aubry truly is an amazing player of this game and to do that well in back to back seasons especially on the back of having such a big reputation from her first season was really fantastic to watch.
35. Mike Holloway
Mike is another highly underrated winner with a great story. On his way to the end of the Survivor Worlds Apart, Mike won 5 immunity challenges and found an immunity idol which he used to eliminate Tyler, coming back from one of the biggest blunders in Survivor history to create one of the best underdog stories in Survivor history. He did destroy his social game, but he worked desperately hard to repair it and eventually managed to get Carolyn and Sierra back on his side. Another really good part of Mike’s game that often goes forgotten is the pre-merge in which he was the leader of “Blue Collar” and purposefully threw an immunity challenge to keep his best ally, Kelly safe and eliminate Joaquin who was stealing Rodney away from him. The “Tonight I’m playing my idol for Shirin” move also shows his strategic savvy-ness and his willingness to always fight for his spot in the game. Mike is a good winner and a highly underrated one as well. I would suspect him to be able to do almost as well in a returnee season.
34. Ethan Zohn
Ethan knows how to get himself in the power position and then remain likable and closely connected to all of his allies. No one has really ever won the game by playing the way he played, which was with politeness, kindness and a sense of calmness and relaxation. He’s not great TV, just a good social player who can build a tight alliance and then go with them to the end of the game. 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. 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. When he returned for All Stars, he was quickly targeted for being a previous winner, but managed to make it farther than any other winner made it that season, proving again how good of a social player he can be.
33. Russell Hantz
In back to back seasons without really ever having time to evaluate his game, Russell played two of the best strategic games Survivor has ever seen. But, as good as his strategic game was, his social game was equally bad and he ended up losing horribly both times to players who used his ego to their benefit. But, we still can’t ignore how he’s one of the greatest strategists of all time. One of the best moves in Survivor history is when Russell tells Tyson that he’s voting for Parvati, gets Tyson to flip his vote to Parvati, and then uses his idol to save Parvati, sending Tyson home. But he’s also the strategic mastermind behind getting Shambo and Fincher to flip in Samoa. Actually he’s the strategic mastermind behind everything that happens in Samoa. He found three idols and used them all to great effect, flipping Shambo, saving himself and eliminating Kelly, and creating fear against voting for him. He also told that lie on the very first night to get people to trust him and endear themselves to him when he told everyone that his dog died in Hurricane Katrina. This is probably the most elaborate and amazing lie since Jonny Fairplay’s dead grandmother incident and it was totally unnecessary. Samoan Russell was just a freak of nature and he may not have ever been able to win the game but had he managed to do it some way, shape or form, he would have easily gone down as one of the best winners of all time. Every time someone “threatened” Russell, he immediately sent them packing before they could do anything about it. But the major knock against him in Samoa was that he didn’t recognize however how much of a threat Natalie was to his game, and lost to her catastrophically. Whatever people want to say about his social game, Russell does have this uncanny ability to get people on his side and make them think that he is a viable option to work with. Shambo didn’t just flip to Russell’s side for no reason in Samoa. Jerri and Coach didn’t just flip on to Russell’s side in Heroes vs. Villains for no reason. Russell made those moves happen by knowing how to play the hidden immunity idol and how to create paranoia in other people’s minds to the point where they wanted to work with him. This just shows how savvy he is in the game and how Russell is strategically one of the best in the business. His game in Heroes vs. Villains is slightly less flashy by Russell standards, but he still has a number of good moves, as mentioned he does brilliant to flip Jerri and Coach, allowing him to go on and dominate the rest of the game, but he also allows JT to think that there’s a women’s alliance going on and retrieves the idol from JT before giving it to Parvati, he eliminates Danielle when he realizes that Danielle and Parvati are closer than him and Parvati, and his play against Tyson is again, one of the best moves of all time. But the point of Survivor is not to make big moves, it’s to make subtle moves and then make the jury like you and win the money. Russell can’t do either of those things and that’s why he is not as good of a Survivor player as he would like to believe. His social game is incredibly bad at times and even though he played a near flawless strategic game in Heroes vs. Villains and Samoa, he was never going to get the necessary jury votes to win and that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad player, but it certainly makes him lower down on this list than others. With all this being said, you can’t deny that in HvV and Samoa, Russell always got his way. Anytime someone gunned for him, they were taken immediately disposed of because of Russell. Whether this is the right approach to the game or not, you can’t deny that Russell Hantz was a special Survivor player that always found a way to make it work for him and get to the end of the game.
32. Michele Fitzgerald
In Survivor Kaoh Rong, 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 could have been gone at the final five. But 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. Since her season, it has become more and more apparent just how likable, charismatic and strategically minded Michele is at this game. She is truly one of the nicest players to play the game, while also 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. Now that she’s back for Season 40, Michele seems to be in a good spot and was crucial in organizing the blindside of Ethan Zohn. Further, she’s just gone and pulled off an absolutely remarkable move to somehow be in a good enough position that neither Wendell, Yul or Nick wanted to take her out of the game and were willing to turn on each other just before the merge. She is now in a very good position going into the merge so it will be interesting to see where she goes from here.
31. Tommy Sheehan
Tommy’s game in Survivor Island of the Idols is incredibly impressive and it’s a bit unfortunate that we did not get to see more of it in his season in place of all the ridiculous twists, idols and controversies that the season had to offer. Tommy is one of the brightest strategists and best social players of the thirties. With an uncanny ability to get along with absolutely everyone, Tommy had about ten different allies who all considered him their #1 person in the game. His social skills and maneuvering were so strong that despite never winning immunity, having an idol, or having an advantage, Tommy only received two votes against him the entire season. He is the first player since Natalie White to win the game without any advantages or immunities, highlighting that the ‘old-school’ game still works in Survivor and you don’t need idols to be a great player. In addition to being such a likable guy, Tommy also made several impressive moves to get himself to the final three. Tommy’s move to get Noura to take him to the final two, eliminating Lauren in the process, is an all-time late-game move. It also must not be forgotten that he nearly went home at the final ten had he not put in such good work to get Karishma on his side and vote Missy out instead. He also had the killer instinct to know exactly when to vote out his close allies that he knew he’d have a tougher time beating like Janet, Elaine and Lauren. Due to being a more low-key winner in the post-Tony era of big move Survivor, Tommy will likely be an underrated winner for years to come. However, he deserves his place right up there with the best of the game and could have the potential to even win on a return.
30. Adam Klein
Adam is just such a smart guy and in any given season has the Survivor knowledge, game awareness and sociability to go extremely far. Although very recent, Adam Klein’s victory in Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X is one of the hardest to dissect. Sure the man won in stunning fashion by a 10-0-0 vote, following in the footsteps of players like JT, Jeremy, Earl and Cochran but 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 ranked below him. Adam had a reasonably strong hold of the game, always knew where he stood, was able to separate in-game feelings from real-life 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. He also eliminated these players at exactly the right moment to solidify his place in the finals. 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, a very, very good one and he certainly deserved to win Survivor Millennials vs. Gen X.
29. Tina Wesson
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. 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 to take out people like Jerri and Amber and then discard them at final five and four. Tina’s social game also arises out of the fact that she’s just genuinely an amazing person. 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.
28. Chris Daugherty
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.
27. Domenick Abbate
You wouldn’t have thought someone as boisterous and eccentric as Domenick would have been able to hide in a game of Survivor and Domenick absolutely was not able to hide the entire time. However, despite always being a top target on the mind of most, Domenick managed to make it all the way to the final three and could have easily won had a final four fire making challenge gone a different way. Domenick’s legacy will always be about his relationship with eventual winner Wendell Holland. However, Domenick’s game, although louder and more devious, was very much by in large his own doing. Domenick had just as many fantastic relationships as Wendell did and was essential in bringing Donathan into the majority alliance. He also somehow managed to avoid being the bigger target between him and Wendell, with Wendell receiving more votes against him during the season. He even made strides to vote off Wendell at the perfect moment, although it didn’t pay off. It’s a mystery as to why those that were on his original Naviti tribe felt so betrayed by him (minus Chris – his only jury vote from a Naviti member) while all those from Malolo felt no harm had been done. It’s a testament to him that he managed not to make any of those vote outs personal and they all respected him for being the person at the forefront making the moves. But it’s also a mystery as to why the six other castaways who would make up the final eight in the game, would all vote for Wendell. It points to perhaps Domenick losing the handle on the game when it mattered most when Wendell remained his cool, composed and likable self. However it happened, Domenick came closer to winning Survivor than anyone who hasn’t actually won the game. For that, he has to be one of the greatest Survivor players of all time.
26. Danni Boatwright
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. At final seven, Danni votes off her strongest ally in Gary, to allow her to be able to work with the rest of the group. She also wins a crucial advantage at the Survivor auction the next day, which she uses perfectly to help herself win the next immunity challenge and keep herself safe. Danni played a game similar to Jeremy, keeping all the bigger targets in an alliance with herself so that she would never become the target, while also letting 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.
So there it is the Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time (50-26) as of 2020. Make sure to check out 25-1 below.
Thanks for reading and see you soon!
For the old 2019 list check out -> Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time