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-eight fantastic seasons of the show.
Be sure to check out -> Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time (50-26)
TOP 25 SURVIVOR PLAYERS
25. Kelley Wentworth
Like Drew Christy, I saw the potential that Kelley Wentworth had to be a dangerous player in Survivor San Juan del Sur, and it was disappointing when she got screwed over by a tribe swap. When she returned for Survivor Second Chance, she was ready to show what she was made of. On the very first day, she found a clue to a hidden immunity idol and then retrieved it at the next challenge. She then kind of floated under the radar, going with the numbers, remaining open to all ideas and then at the tribe swap, she was willing to throw Terry under the bus so that she could keep herself in the game. After making it to the merge, despite being on the bottom as one of the members of “The Three Witches”, she managed to keep close relationships with Keith and Joe who both mistakenly told her that she was going home at final twelve, allowing her to use her idol to eliminate Andrew Savage. After that, she was still on the bottom, but she managed to continue to escape the next couple of votes as she continued to remain open to all ideas, found another idol, played it to save herself again, and was one challenge away from making it to the final three. In Second Chance, Wentworth was always on the bottom, yet she almost came out on top. If she had won the final challenge, there’s every chance that she could have even won the game. In her third season, Kelley outlasted every other returner in the game, and somehow remained under the radar despite always being on the forefront of everyone’s mind as a potential person to vote out. She lasted a whole lot longer than she should have given her reputation and it only took a mindless plan from her own ally – The Wardog – to take her out in 9th place.
24. Amanda Kimmel
Very few players have been able to play the game of Survivor three times and do as well in all three of their seasons as Amanda Kimmel has done. In Survivor China, Amanda was Todd’s right hand woman and succeeded in going all the way to the end of the game with him. It was her idea to blindside James with two idols in his pocket and she was an equal part of the decision making to Todd for the majority of the game. She just had a really poor performance at final tribal council that let Todd take the win. When she returned for Survivor Micronesia, she quickly formed another unbreakable bond, this time with Parvati. Amanda and Parvati were working strategically together the entire game, Parvati’s game was just slightly more impressive as the numbers she kept on her side stayed in the game compared to the people that Amanda was closest to who were eliminated like Ozzy and James. She also saved herself with a hidden immunity idol to eliminate Alexis and had a slightly better final tribal where she managed to pick up three out of the eight votes. When she returned for Survivor Heroes vs. Villains she was always in the best position out of everyone in the heroes tribe and everything was coming through her. Finally, she seemed to be more of the figurehead of her alliance and was on a really good path to the end of the game. But, she got outplayed by Parvati once again and was eliminated at the final nine for being the most threatening of the remaining Heroes. But, if the Heroes had been able to take control at the merge rather than the Villains, Amanda absolutely would have gone to the final three again and very well may have won.
23. Nick Wilson
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.
Nick is now one of the winners back for Winners at War and is proving once again to be such a likable, loyal, and logical figure out on the island. He is someone that his allies just simply want to trust, and it pays a massive amount of dividence for him in the game.
22. Wendell Holland
One of the greatest social players of recent times, Wendell Holland had everyone he encountered wrapped around his finger. Wendell played Ghost Island perfectly. He let Domenick stand out just a touch more so that he would be more likely to have people bitter against him, but also never hid behind Domenick so that he was very much at the forefront and would also get the jury’s respect. He just played with so much poise and composure, dominating every alliance he was a part of working Laurel and Donathan particularly into his plans to take over the game. Wendell’s social awareness and general likability were two very key factors to his win but what was perhaps most crucial was the obvious, his relationship with Laurel that crowned him the win. Although Domenick had other relationships that were very strong, Wendell’s relationship with Laurel was born out of a genuine connection and that is what won him the million dollars by a crazy vote of 6-5. Beyond that, Wendell deserves a lot of credit for playing to his strengths and also playing off of Domenick’s weaknesses. He mastered the strategic and social game and you cannot ask much more of a great Survivor winner than what Wendell Holland was able to provide.
21. Sophie Clarke
One of the most underrated and understated winners, Sophie’s legacy comes up a bit short considering we saw so little of her game in Survivor South Pacific, in favour of other players like Coach and Ozzy. Sophie is one of the most knowledgeable players the game has ever seen and one of the keys to her success is her ability to adapt her personality and her game to fit in with those around her. In a highly religious tribe, Sophie had to go along with a lot of things that weren’t necessarily her cup of tea. But she did so in order to fit in and fit in she did. Her control and social awareness was better than anyone on South Pacific and she played off of Coach’s ego perfectly to let him take all of the heat at final tribal. Sophie used Coach to advance herself in the game and although Coach thought he was the leader of the alliance, Sophie was actually the one in control. Her social game wasn’t always as stellar as it could have been but it was good enough to win 6 out of 9 votes, including the vote of Ozzy who seemed to dislike her during the season. It was also her idea to take out Brandon and Rick, saving herself on both occasions and demonstrating her awareness of who needed to go home in what order. She also won that crucial final four immunity challenge to help ensure Ozzy would go home a sore loser yet again. Now that Sophie is back on Survivor again it will be very interesting to see how her game has evolved in the years since South Pacific.
20. Brian Heidik
As Survivor Thailand is one of the seasons that was the hardest for me to watch, I don’t have as good of a read on Brian Heidik as many others, but I still know how good of a player and winner of this game he was. Brian played the game in a similar fashion to Kim, Rob and Jeremy except he was the first to do their strategy effectively. Brian made everyone around him feel comfortable and made everyone feel like they were going to the finals with him, even though he knew that he was always going to take the biggest goat to the end in Clay. He had close bonds with everyone in his alliance, but they didn’t have particularly close bonds with each other, allowing everything to always come through him. He also intentionally kept the weak players around knowing that it would help him win immunity challenges which proved to be absolutely crucial as he won the final three immunity challenges to take himself into the final two. His social game wasn’t actually as good as people make it out to be though. He somehow also manages to convince everyone in the game that he was an amazing person that they all wanted to be around even though he was actually kind of a jerk behind their backs in confessionals. His social game and final tribal council performance aren’t amazing, but he’s still a very good strategic winner of this game.
19. Denise Stapley
Denise probably overcame more odds to win than any other Survivor player in history as she attended and escaped every single tribal council of her season. She was good in challenges, and gave everyone a reason to keep her around even though they didn’t have any obligation to. Denise used her social skills as a therapist to be able to connect with every single person on that island, somehow even managing to win the jury vote of Brazilian dragon Abi-Maria. She was always aware of the social dynamics around her and knew it was necessary to eliminate her partner in crime, Malcolm, at the final four. Many of her demographic have found it incredibly hard to win the game…just ask Kass and Dawn! But Denise shattered the “older woman” stereotype (she wasn’t that old when she played) and proved to be an unmovable force in her season; playing a subtle, silent killer game that deserves immense credit. Cool, calm and collected, Denise somehow managed to escape every single tribal council her season and win. A notch against her could be that she was rarely the one calling the shots, but advocates for Denise would point out that you don’t really need to be the one calling the shots to be a great player. It’s one of the many reasons why I stan Natalie White. Overall, Denise is such an underrated Survivor player and truly one of the all-time greats of this game.
Now back for Winners at War, Denise has played an impeccable strategic and social game up until the current point in the season and just before the merge made one of the biggest, boldest and most stunning moves of all time when she voted all-time legend Sandra Diaz-Twine, with Sandra’s own idol. Craziness.
18. John Cochran
His game in South Pacific wasn’t great, but he returned in Caramoan a changed man. Cochran was the mastermind of Survivor Caramoan and led a string of impressive blindsides before taking two goats to the end and winning 8-0-0.He also never had a vote cast against him, won 3 crucial immunity challenges and was always on the right side of the votes. Cochran used his non-threatening nature and the other players in the game to his advantage. He let Dawn take all of the heat for the moves their alliance made even though they were equally responsible. One of the keys to Cochran’s win was always talking to his fellow cast-mates on a strategic level. Meanwhile, Dawn constantly spoke to her fellow contestants on a personal level which led them to feel more betrayed by her than Cochran when they were voted out. Even though Cochran was rarely the one calling the shots, he managed to get each and every jury member to respect his game and give him the votes to win. The fact that he won by getting all eight votes, tells you how good of a game he played.
17. Rob Cesternino
Rob is responsible for revolutionizing strategy in the game of Survivor more than any other player has ever done before. He invented things like aligning with the people on the bottom to take out the people on the top, taking out the swing vote, and switching back and forth between alliances to always keep the pressure off of himself. Christy thought she was in the best position at the final six of Survivor Amazon, but Rob quickly demolished her hopes. Rob’s move to take out the swing vote in Christy was masterful but what often goes forgotten is that at every single stage in the game, Rob was positioned in the best possible position to win, and nearly did, falling just one challenge short. He had goats around him in every direction. Matt the biggest goat of all was his strongest ally, but Butch, Jenna and Christy would have also been suitable options to take to the end. He was so incredibly unlucky not to win that final challenge and if he had done, he would have gone down as one of the greatest winners of all time.
16. Richard Hatch
Without Richard, there is no game of Survivor today. Richard changed the way the game was played by inventing the way the game was played. He created a strong four person alliance when everyone else refused to make alliances at all and then used his four person alliance to make it all the way to the final four and then final two, where he was able to win over the jury to give him the million dollars. Rich is seriously a strategic mastermind who probably would still be able to play a very good game if he were to play again today. At the final three immunity challenge pictured above, Richard stepped down, knowing that both Rudy and Kelly would take him to the final two but knowing that if he won he would have to betray Rudy which wouldn’t have looked good in the jury’s eyes and would have possibly lost Rudy’s vote as well. Richard’s also very clever at the Jenna vote as he used Sean’s alphabet strategy against him, knowing that Jenna was the next name in the alphabet and that Kelly was starting to drift away from his group, Rich, Sue and Rudy put their votes on Jenna knowing that Sean was going to as well which secured Richard’s stay in the game. The most impressive thing about Richard’s win is of course the fact that he invented the game itself, but he also made some deft moves to secure himself a place in the final two and secure the win as well which can’t be forgotten.
15. James “JT” Thomas
As I’ve mentioned before, JT has the best social game performance in the history of Survivor and his win in Tocantins is one of the most incredible ever as well. Everyone loved JT, Brendan even said in the merge episode that JT winning would be the most satisfying outcome if he wasn’t going to win. JT lied several times to Coach and even though Coach constantly raved about how he valued honesty and integrity in the game above all else, he still voted for JT to win, that is just one example of many of how good of a social game he had. With his charm and likable personality, everyone wanted to form an alliance with JT and he was able to navigate his way through the game without ever having a single vote cast against him. He also overcame some incredible odds simply due to his likability factor as he was down 6-3 in numbers after Joe’s medical evacuation but was then used as a way for the Timbira members to get out each other until only Erinn was left. Like many other winners as well, he won the last three immunity challenges to keep himself safe in the game and take whoever he wanted with him along the way. Although Stephen played a better strategic game, JT walked away with all seven votes, proving how important social game is in Survivor and proving how much of a dominant player he was. I don’t think that an alpha male with the size, stature and challenge ability of ‘JT’ would ever be able to win in quite the same manner, making his win all the more impressive. Unfortunately for JT as well, in his two seasons played since Tocantins, he’s made a real mess of it and left both games in rather unflattering ways. He showed in both Heroes vs. Villains and Game Changers that despite being a likable guy that everyone can get along with that there are actually major holes in his game. If he had only played in Tocantins, he would be considered one of the five to ten best players of all time. But with his two more recent appearances we now know that JT might not be the perfect player that we all assumed he was coming out of Survivor‘s eighteenth season.
14. Sarah Lacina
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 her season.
13. Natalie Anderson
Natalie’s win in Survivor San Juan del Sur is incredible and I really wish I could rank her in the top ten because of how highly I think of her as a player. Early on in the game, she quickly got herself in the majority by aligning herself with bigger targets like Jeremy and Missy and was the only female member of Huhnapu to truly be in the good graces of both the females and the males of the tribe. Drew Christy even said in his boot episode “I’m counting you as one of the guys”. Natalie really came to life though after her biggest ally, Jeremy Collins was voted out of the game at final ten. This acted as a wake-up call for her and she went on to blindside Alec, Jon, and Baylor in a really flashy fashion while remaining calm, cool and level-headed throughout the game. Everything Natalie did in the game was calculated and well-thought out out to a tee. She would do things like give up rewards for other people to solidify them in her alliance, volunteer herself to go to exile so that she could find the idol and eliminate Alec but then lie and say it was a mistake and that she thought that was the plan. She also somehow managed to blindside Jon with an idol in his pocket by making him feel so comfortable with her in the game as she would constantly take him on rewards. The she blindsided Baylor in fantastic fashion right in front of the jury’s eyes by playing her idol for Jaclyn. With all of these big moves playing out right in front of the jury’s eyes, they had no choice but to vote for her. Natalie was brilliant, savvy and an incredible winner of the game. Her win is enough to make even Jeff Probst proud as she arguably made more “big moves” than anyone other than Tony and played the most Parvati like game since Parvati herself.
12. Tom Westman
Tom is one of the most dominant winners ever in this game. He controlled every fibre of his alliance and won by a score of 6-1, only losing Coby’s vote. He was a strong leader of a strong tribe and is probably the main reason why Koror was so dominant and didn’t lose a single immunity challenge. Tom also won 5 individual immunity challenges post-merge to propel himself in to the finals, including the final three challenge where he manipulates Ian into stepping down. He was also always one step ahead of his competition, eliminating Greg, Coby and Stephanie before they became too dangerous in the game. The way he was voting people off was actually quite ruthless, yet the jury still respected him incredibly because of how good of a social player he was. The only qualm I have with Tom is that he doesn’t make Coby feel like he’s a part of the group enough, which is why he ultimately votes against Tom and votes for Katie to win instead. But the fact that he only has one flaw in his game speaks for itself. When he returned for Heroes vs. Villains, Tom actually did very well. He was just on the wrong side of the numbers and targeted early because everyone knew how big of a threat he was. Tom was constantly trying to find cracks in the majority alliance, found the hidden immunity and played it perfectly by flipping JT over and voting out Cirie. Tom is a very incredible winner and it’s unlikely that anyone could ever play the game quite like he did and win ever again.
11. Tyson Apostol
Although he struggled in Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains, Tyson returned to Blood vs. Water a changed player. Tyson instantly made himself part of a strong alliance at the very start of the game and he rode it all the way to the end, never losing power. He had a very good read on players and tried his best to make Ciera feel as comfortable as he could as he knew he needed a fourth person in his alliance. But, Gervase and Monica constantly referring to her as “number four” screwed that up for him a little bit. It wasn’t just with Ciera though, Tyson worked very hard to make everyone in his alliance feel valued and a part of the group and he always asked for their opinion before stating his own. He was also incredibly aware of everything that was going on in the game and voted the right way almost every single time. The nice thing about Tyson’s win is how much he learned from his previous seasons and from the previous winners of his season. He used everything he learned to benefit him in Blood vs. Water and came out on top. He also cleverly went to the end with the two people that he had done all of the backstabbing with, forcing the jury to vote for one of them and Tyson was the obvious choice. Tyson is a great winner of Survivor, just not one of the best as others have overcome greater odds or accomplished far more in their seasons but because he’s such a strategically sound-player and he always knew what was going on in BvW, so he certainly deserves to be ranked high up on this list.
10. Yul Kwon
Yul Kwon is probably one of the best Survivor strategists of all time. He also has one of the best moves in Survivor history when he flips Jonathan Penner on his side to decrease his 5-4 numbers disadvantage. He says to Jonathan if you don’t come over with us, I’m going to use this idol and we’re going to vote for you, which forces Jonathan to have to join his side and allows Yul to take control of the game. He also keeps his promise to Adam by eliminating Jonathan Penner before him and securing his vote at the the end of the game, which just might have been the deciding vote as Yul beat Ozzy by 5-4. Yul is a master of negotiation, strategy and mathematics and it is absolutely what won him the game. He was always looking at what everyone else in the game’s best options were and finding a way to work around that to benefit him, like he did with Candace, Adam and Jonathan Penner. His social game is also really excellent as he remains cool and level-headed the entire game and is the figurehead of his alliance without ever being directly targeted. Other than that incredible idol play, being the figure-head of his alliance and a solid social game, there’s not too much more we can say about his game. He and all of his allies certainly would have been voted off had he not flipped exactly the right person in order to take control of the game at exactly the right time. Being such an incredibly intelligent guy, he could certainly win this game again.
9. Earl Cole
Earl’s win was incredibly commanding. He was able to align himself with a strong group of people, most notably his best bud in the game, Yau-Man, and then take his alliance to the end of the game with two immunity idols on his side. He also convinced Dreamz and Cassandra to flip on to his side allowing him to easily take control of the post-merge part of the game and then he knows exactly when to cut his best ally loose and take two goats to the end in order to win the money in an amazing 9-0-0 vote. His social game is amazing as he is able to connect with every single player in the game on a personal level, and make people like Anthony who was completely disregarded by many others in the game, feel a part of something in the game and feel appreciated. One of the things that I found most amazing about Earl’s win, although I don’t honour it as merit to include him higher in the rankings, is that he was recruited just two days before filming began after someone else dropped out. He went into the season with little to no knowledge on Survivor at all, yet somehow managed to win by playing one of the best games the show has ever seen. Earl doesn’t have one particularly standout strategic move besides eliminating Yau-Man which was always the obvious thing to do, but he is seriously one of the best social players in the history of the show and an incredibly deserving winner, as one of just four players to ever win in a blowout victory.
8. Jeremy Collins
In Survivor San Juan del Sur, Jeremy dominated the pre-merge part of the game, leading a solid alliance into the merge with numbers around him on all sides. He was tactically and socially brilliant and was in the best position to win the game right up until the point where Jon and Jaclyn flipped because they knew they could never beat him. So when Jeremy returned to Second Chance, he had learned from his mistakes of not keeping bigger threats around and hit the ground running by creating an incredible alliance of people that throughout the course of the season would all make themselves bigger targets than him, exactly what he wanted. As everyone else was running around trying to build their resume’s, Jeremy remained calm, relax and cool and let the chaos erupt around him while he remained under the radar. Knowing that Stephen, with the advantage in his pocket would always be a bigger threat than him, Jeremy played his idol to save Stephen at the exact right moment. He also played an immunity idol again at final five to save himself, showing how perceptive he was in the game. The most impressive thing about Jeremy’s game in Cambodia is that everything came through him. All of his allies talked to him and then he would go talk to everyone else. Spencer was closest to Jeremy, Tasha was closest to Jeremy, Stephen was closest to Jeremy, Andrew was closest to Jeremy, everyone in his alliance was closest to him, allowing him to always be in control without the others really even knowing. In addition, Jeremy kept the fact that his wife was pregnant a secret the entire season, knowing that it would only make him a bigger target as someone who could win more and more jury votes. He waited for exactly the right moment to tell everyone, in his final words at final tribal council to secure all ten votes, winning in the biggest margin the show has ever seen. Everyone who has played since has tried to emulate Jeremy, emphasizing how much he revolutionized and popularized the modern strategies of the game and how much of an impact he has made on the evolution of strategy on Survivor.
7. Todd Herzog
Todd is one of the most self-aware, in-tune and strategically sound players in Survivor history and his win is just absolutely incredible. Early on John-Robert sees him as a threat and so Todd makes himself appear like he’s not a threat and tries to get John-Robert on his side so that JR doesn’t go against him. He then builds strong bonds with Amanda and Aaron, hoping that they would both take more of the blame for the strategic moves that the three of them could make in the game. Then when Aaron gets eliminated at the swap, Todd absorbs Courtney and lunch lady Denise into his alliance, which were brilliant choices as both were never going to go against him in the game. At final nine, seven of the nine thought that they were best friends with Todd, even though he was only really loyal to Amanda and Courtney. Everyone trusted Todd even though no one should have trusted him. He’s one of the slimiest players to ever play this game after all! The fact that everyone was so trusting of him allowed Todd to be on the right side of every single vote, also being the driver for many of the votes. He also had what many consider to be the best final tribal council performance ever. As James Clement says, Todd “Shut John-Robert up and John Robert never shuts up” with an incredibly good answer to JR’s question as he stroked John Robert’s ego amazing well which won his vote, the crucial vote in a 4-2-1 win. He also owned up to his game, made no apologies and outlined why he needed to do everything that he did to win the game which easily earned the respect back of the jurors. One more incredibly impressive thing about Todd’s game was that he was only 22 when he did it all, proving age is just a number. The fact that he hasn’t returned to Survivor is really unfortunate and I really hope that one day he does return and shows everyone why he is one of the greatest players this game has ever seen.
6. Cirie Fields
Cirie is one of the greatest social players and one of the greatest strategic players of all time Survivor. Also, not only is she the greatest player to never win, she’s my choice for the fourth greatest player of all time. In Survivor Panama, Cirie was incredible. From the very first vote, she was in danger of going home but managed to get herself out of it. At the tribe swap, she was again at the bottom and in danger of going home but managed to get out of it by working hard around camp and building strong social bonds with the people who held the most power. When she finally became in power herself, she remained non-threatening and likable, acting as the mother around camp. Then she made an incredible move to eliminate Courtney, the season’s goat, so that she had a better chance of going to the finals, knowing that everyone wanted to take Courtney to the end rather than her. She was never the leader of her alliance, but she didn’t need to be. She let others take control of the main stage while she pulled subtle and incredible social and strategic moves behind closed doors. Her social game was so good that Aras was willing to jeopardize his own game to take her to the final two. Then when she returned for Survivor Micronesia, she made the right move in siding with Parvati and Amanda, remained in power the entire game, worked with Parvati to blindside Ozzy, worked with Natalie to blindside Jason and then she was the most crucial person in the Erik vote off. In the Erik blinside, Cirie was the one who came up with the idea for Natalie to try and convince him to give her the necklace, she was the one who made the best effort and best arguments for Erik to give up his necklace and then she was the one that made the plan for Amanda and Parvati to be bitter against Erik at tribal council that night while she and Natalie would seem like they were still open to working with Erik. If Micronesia had been a final three like the four seasons before it, Cirie probably would have won. When she returned for Heroes vs. Villains she somehow managed to keep herself out of danger for a while again. She had the numbers around her once again and was in a good spot to take control of the game. Unfortunately, JT flipped and she was sent home when Tom played his idol. Cirie still though is one of the best players to ever play this game and her games in Survivor Micronesia and Survivor Panama are just absolutely incredible.
5. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Sandra knows how to keep the pressure off of herself and remain under the radar. 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 Pearl Islands, and Coach in Heroes vs. Villains. Sandra is the mastermind of the fly under the radar strategy and makes it all the way to the end in both of her seasons despite being perceived as the weakest person on her tribe from very early on both times. Sandra also gets herself into a good position where she can take two unlikable players to the end in both of her seasons, Parvati and Russell in HvV and Lil and Fairplay in Pearl Islands. Sandra was never 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 herself and always voting with the majority as well. In terms of her win in Pearl Islands, she doesn’t do that much strategically to win other than a nifty move against Burton. But, 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. But the magical thing was that she was able to do it again in exactly the same way in Heroes vs. Villains. Sandra once again got herself into the majority alliance early on and was planning on riding that to the end. But, once the power of the Villains camp turned over to Russell and Parvati, Sandra made that incredible move to save herself and get Coach voted off. She then remained in the majority and continued to make Russell think that she would never win by saying that she was fine with third place and that nobody would vote for her, so Russell took her all the way to the end of the game. Then at final tribal council she was once again able to argue her case for why she deserved to win better than Parvati and Russell. At the end of the day, this is a game about likability and Sandra managed to get the jury to like her in both of her seasons, giving her the win both times. Finally, after all of this, she managed to come back for Survivor Game Changers, playing a completely different style and showing how much of a strategic and social mastermind she really can be even when she’s actually the person running the eliminations. Sandra Diaz-Twine is just a one-of-a-kind type of Survivor player and it really is hard to ignore her as one of the very, very best to ever play.
4. Kim Spradlin
Apart from ‘JT’, Kim played the best social game that Survivor has ever seen. Kim played the ‘make everyone think they’re going to the end with you’ strategy better than anyone has ever before and was one of the most dominant winners ever. Although I have her at number two, it must be noted that most have her at number one, including one of the greatest ever players to ever play the game who now studies the game for a living, Rob Cesternino. Despite being the figure-head of her alliance, she always remained democratic and impartial and at the same time was able to persuade everyone else to vote for whoever she wanted to vote for, an incredibly magical way of playing the game. Kim always kept her options open, allowing her to swiftly navigate her way through the game and whenever someone emerged as potential threat, like Michael, Tarzan, Troyzan, and Jay, she quickly eliminated them before they could eliminate her. All four of the men mentioned above that she blindsided were all incredibly clever maneuvers that she managed to pull off. Firstly with Michael, she told Troyzan that Michael was trying to get him out, even though he wasn’t, so Troyzan flipped and voted him off. This move put the women in control and they were able to dominate the rest of the game. But, Kim always kept her options open with Jay and Troyzan and made them feel comfortable right up until the point where she cut their throats. In Survivor One World, everyone trusted Kim and wanted to be her best friend. She also won four individual immunity challenges to help take her all the way to the end of the game where she was able to win by a vote of 7-2-0. Leif was the only person on the island that she didn’t have a strong enough connection with and didn’t work hard enough to get the vote of. But hey nobody’s perfect. Her social game was incredible, her strategic game was incredible and she most likely would have been able to do the exact same thing to better players as well but it’s certainly the one knock against her that everyone else was so nonstrategic. Irregardless, she is still one of the greatest winners of all time and the manner in which she won was so incredibly hard to pull off that it’s just fascinating that she was able to do it.
3. Tony Vlachos
Tony did what Russell couldn’t, vote people off in a flashy way and use hidden immunity idols to brilliant effect, but then still get the respect of the jury and win the game. I rank Tony’s win so highly because it is so incredibly hard to follow and so incredibly hard for him to achieve. Whether he made it more difficult for himself by constantly flip-flopping back and forth every vote, he still managed to pull of the win by playing in one of the most crazy and ridiculous manners ever seen on the show. Tony was all over the place in Cagayan and constantly chopped and changed who his strongest allies were voting both his best friends and enemies out of the game in an incredibly flamboyant manner. He also used the immunity idol in Yul Kwon fashion, protecting himself from the vote and scaring others into voting against him as he would metaphorically shove his idol in the faces of the other contestants by constantly wearing it around his neck and telling everyone that it had special powers that he could use to get whatever he wanted in the game. Tony is one of the most truly unique Survivor players and winners and no one, not even Tony himself could play the game the same way he played and ever win again. It was just that crazy of a game. As soon as Tony saw someone as a threat he eliminated them straight away, using his precise reads on people and the skills he acquired over his lifetime as a police officer to sense danger at every turn. He also built this incredible spy shack which he used to spy on the other contestants of his tribe and gather useful information like the fact that Lindsey and Cliff didn’t trust him, which he used to vote Cliff off right away. This type of game-play has never been used before and the fact that he was never caught spying on his fellow contestants is simply one more thing that makes him amazing. Moreover, how he managed to convince Woo to take him to the end of the game is absolutely amazing as well. This is usually seen as by a dumb mistake by Woo, and people often forget how much of crucial role Tony had in making it happen. Tony manipulated Woo by playing to what he knew Woo valued most which was honesty, integrity and all that other stuff that Coach also likes, and then using that against him by saying to Woo that it would go against his whole personality, values and beliefs if he were to vote him out at final three. Tony convincing Woo to take him is the crucial move that Tony makes as it allows him to win the season and although he didn’t do himself any favours at final tribal when he put in a relatively poor performance, he was never going to lose this season as he played one of the most ridiculously incredible games ever on Survivor and the jury couldn’t help but reward him for it. I would love to see Tony again but I just get the feeling that he’d be the first person voted off because everyone would be so scared to go up against him knowing how much he is capable of. He remained loyal to nobody, even those that were never going to go against him like Woo and Trish and his 8-1 win was incredibly deserved. His reputation will not be tarnished for his lackluster performance in Survivor Game Changers when he got caught trying to play to the audience rather than trying to play the game and went out in 19th place. Tony is still one of the greatest winners and characters in Survivor history.
2. Parvati Shallow
In Survivor Cook Islands, Parvati is known for playing the flirt card or whatever other sexist things Jeff Probst said about her and her game in the past. BUT, her game can’t be described as just that. Her social game was outstanding and she was absolutely in the best position to win out of the Rarotonga members. If Yul hadn’t been such a strategic mastermind or if Penner hadn’t flipped, Parvati absolutely could have won her season. When Parvati returned for Fans vs. Favourites, she evolved into one of the best players Survivor has ever seen. She immediately made a pact with Amanda, Ozzy and James and then convinced Cirie to join her side, allowing her to remain safe in the early stages of the game where she was the biggest target that the other side wanted to eliminate. When the tribe swap happened, Parvati pulled in Natalie and Alexis, adding more numbers to her side, so that when the merge happened, she was again in the best position to win the game. She then blindsided Ozzy with an idol in his pocket, something absolutely was her move, and then she led her alliance of strong-willed women all the way to the final four where she won the game. Every single one of those women in the Black Widow Brigade probably would have taken Parvati to the end of the game because of how good her social game was and how non-threatening she made herself seem. Every single person that Parvati voted for was eliminated from the game, proving she was always on top of things, aware of what was going on and always in control. She was also responsible for many of these eliminations, most notably the Ozzy blindside which was certainly her biggest move in the game and still one of the best moves in Survivor history. Without her, the Black Widow Brigade never happens and does not take control of that game. She then returned for Heroes vs. Villains and played what I sometimes call “the best game Survivor has ever seen”. She was immediately a target yet again, coming in to the season with a huge reputation for being one of the most lethal Survivor players ever but managed to escape by tending to Russell’s every need and with the help of Russell’s idol play, she managed to get the numbers eventually back on her side despite so many players not wanting anything to do with her in the early stages. She then made that incredible move at the merge to boldly play her idols for two other people, which sent JT home. Throughout all this time, she continued to play to Russell’s ego masterfully and succeeded at winning immunity challenges. In the end, the jury just saw her as being too attached to Russell and because they hated him so much, they ended up disrespecting her as well and decided to give the win to Sandra. She absolutely should have won Heroes vs. Villains and it’s still remarkable to me that she didn’t. Parvati is the second greatest Survivor player of all time.
1. Rob Mariano
In his first season, Marquesas, Rob created a whole new host of strategies that had never been seen before on Survivor. He was only voted off at the merge due to not winning enough tribal immunity challenges and being too much of a threat to the rest of the players in the game. In Survivor All Stars, Rob dominated the game and controlled every single vote he was involved in, before losing just by one vote to Amber. Then in Heroes vs. Villains, Rob was on a similar trajectory to playing the way he did in Redemption Island when he won, until Tyson messed it up and Rob was voted out again for being too much of a threat. In his fourth and final season, Redemption Island, Rob showed everyone why he is the best player to ever play the game. You can say it was his fourth time and that it was against a weak cast but I don’t care, what he managed to achieve was more amazing than what any winner has ever achieved before. Everyone that Rob aligned himself with trusted him to the maximum. From early on Rob made a strong alliance of people who were starstruck and in love with him and using psychological mind tricks only he knows how to use, he convinced each and every single one of them that they were at the top of the pyramid with him. Early on Rob sensed that Kristina was dangerous and was the only player that was fighting to get him out so he quickly eliminated her. Then when he sensed that Andrea was becoming closer with Matt Elrod than with him, Rob quickly and decisively eliminated him as well. When Matt returned from Redemption Island and showed signs of wavering towards Zapatera, he quickly eliminated him again, scaring anyone from ever entertaining the thought of going against him for the rest of the game. The other piece of brilliance from Rob’s win in Redemption Island was his “Buddy System” in which he made everyone in his six person alliance have to have a buddy with them at all times so that there was never any chance that Zapetera could talk to an Ometepe member alone and infiltrate their alliance in an attempt to get Rob out. Rob let his allies be arrogant towards the other tribe, while always making sure he wasn’t being arrogant, so that he could get the votes in the end. He also made his tribe of Ometepe hate the Zapatera tribe, making them eat at separate times and sleep at separate times so that no one ever entertained the idea of trying to go with them to vote him out. At the end of the game, the only vote he didn’t get was Ralph’s who believed that a returning player didn’t deserve to win. Other than that, Rob swept all the other votes winning in one of the most commanding fashions ever by a vote of 8-1-0. Rob’s win comes against one of the least impressive casts, but it’s still the most impressive win in Survivor history. The psychological brilliance he has to know how to keep all of his allies loyal to him and scare them into ever going against him is incredible. Rob Mariano played the greatest winning game in Survivor history and you’d be foolish to disagree as Rob would spin you around in circles and manipulate you into riding along his side until the right time came to blindside you, just like he did to so many players from Redemption Island.
So there it is! The Top 50 Survivor Players of All Time! Thanks for reading and see you soon!