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My Top 20 Survivors

A few days ago, Rob Cesternino, posted a survey on his website, asking his readers to vote for their Top 20 Survivor Contestants.
Here is my vote:
But before we get started, a few words on what I based that vote on. If you’ve read Analyses & Speculations for a while, you know that what I care most about in Survivor is strategy, and for me a good strategist who sucks at challenges is a much better contestant than a challenge hog that has no sense of strategy whatsoever (Colby who?). Of course, the social dimension of the game plays an important part too, but I tend to include it in the “strategy” aspect of Survivor.
I’m not 100% satisfied with this list, more people deserved to be in it, but I had to stop at 20.
Also, please not that this is not my All-Star cast, an All-Star cast needs characters who have no chance whatsoever to fit in a Top 20 based on strategy but are fun to watch (Coach for example)
And so, here is my Top 20 of the best Survivor Contestants ever (well, until season 22):

– 20: Tyson Apostol (Tocantins & Heroes Vs Villains). And just like that my list has already become controversial. Tyson is not the best player ever, far from it; he got blindsided once, and royally screwed himself the second time. Yet, I think he’s one of the smartest players out there, he just needs to be more focused on his game at times ; unless that means focusing less on his jokes, as he’s by far the most hilarious player ever, which helped landing him a spot in this Top 20.
– 19:  Brenda Lowe (Nicaragua). Unfortunately there aren’t many women that are good with strategy in this game. Brenda is definitely one of the best at it. The only reason she’s so low in this ranking is because she didn’t scramble when she knew she was on the chopping block.
– 18:  Kathy Vavrick (Marquesas & All-Stars). Kathy was good, just not great. She also got screwed twice because she counted too much on other people who ended up betraying her. I hope to see her play once more though.
– 17: Marty Piombo (Nicaragua). Very good strategist, one of the best analysts of the game in recent years, got screwed by the shuffling of the teams, yet a bit too sure of himself. I definitely want to see him again.
– 16: Ken Hoang (Gabon).  Great strategist, maybe the only one who knew what he was doing in his season. Definitely deserves another shot.
– 15: Sash Lenahan (Nicaragua). One of the best strategists in recent years, but his social game sucked way too much to have the slightest chance to win.
– 14: Jonny Fairplay (Pearl Islands & Micronesia). Jonny Fairplay is the ultimate villain in my eyes, but he’s not just that, he’s also a brilliant analyst of the game, and despite the fact that he has little to no chance to ever win (especially because of his reputation), he remains one of the most brilliant players this game has seen. He’s low in the Top 20 because of his poor performance in Micronesia. I wish he plays again. I doubt this will happen though.
-13: Big Tom Buchanan (Africa & All-Stars).  We don’t hear much about Big Tom these days, but let’s not forget that before Amanda Kimmel sucked twice at final tribal council and before some people were able to participate three times (I’ve even heard of a jerk playing four times, but I can’t believe that has happened, that would be a stupid idea from the producers), Big Tom was the player that had lasted the longest in Survivor, and I’m sure he still has one of the best averages among people who played several times. He didn’t last that long because of sheer luck. No, behind the uneducated hillbilly facade, Big Tom is an incredibly smart man with a very good social game. This is how he ended up in the final four twice, and hadn’t he been screwed twice (once by Probst messing up, once by some asshole who pretended to be his friend), I’m sure he would have won at least one of his seasons).
-12: Stephen Fishbach (Tocantins). Stephen is one of the best strategists there is. He’s one of my favorite players ever (and one of the few contestants I’m somewhat similar too). Yet, a botched final tribal council (and previously some mismanaged blindsides) made him drop a few spots in the Top 20. I hope to see him play again soon (and hopefully win, he deserves it).
-11: Yau-Man Chan (Fiji & Micronesia). Yau-Man is also one of the best players this game has seen. Yet, he could have avoided getting screwed the way he was in Fiji. Unfortunately, he had no chance to go anywhere far in Micronesia. Another player who deserves another shot in my opinion.
-10: J.T. Thomas (Tocantins & Heroes Vs Villains). We’re entering the Top 10. There hasn’t been any winner in my list yet, here they come. What’s not too love about J.T.? Great strategist, likable person, good at challenges, and smart enough in HvV to not get caught in his Hero cast (like other people did), although this is what got him in the end when he got fooled by Russell.
-9: Brian Heidik (Thailand). I was hesitant to include Heidik in this list, but not for reasons linked to Survivor, just for the fact that from all I’ve heard he seems to be a despicable person, and it must be true seeing that he’s the only (or one of the very few) past contestant that is basically blacklisted from any Survivor event, or even any official Survivor mention. Yet, in terms of the game and only the game, he totally dominated his season and he was one of the best strategists around. Back in the days, he was even considered to be Richard Hatch’s equal -if not superior- as the best player in Survivor.
-8: Rob Cesternino (Amazon & All-Stars). He was called “the best player to never win the game” for a long time, and I think he still is, alongside number 7 in this ranking. He should have won The Amazon, and anybody not a friend or family of Jenna Morasca thinking otherwise is a fool.
-7: Cirie Fields (Panama, Micronesia & Heroes Vs Villains). Cirie is the other “best player to never win the game”. And she did something very few returning players have done. No, this is not going from “likely early boot before her first season starts” to one of the most memorable player. This is managing to do great twice in a row with a big target on her back since day one the second time. Unfortunately it didn’t work the third time. I want to see Cirie play again, I never get tired of her (I think she’s one of the few people that have already played three times that I’m not tired of). The other one being:
-6: Parvati Shallow (Cook Islands, Micronesia & Heroes Vs Villains). Maybe I should have ranked her higher, I don’t know. What is there to say about Parvati that hasn’t been said? Not sure.
-5: Earl Cole (Fiji). Earl is rarely mentioned among the best players and I think this is unfair. Sure, he played in a season that is widely disliked among the fans (I like Fiji, sure the Have Vs Have Nots twist sucked, but I liked pretty much everything else), but he played very well. He’s one of the few all-around player that this game has had, and he’s the first one to win with the whole jury voting for him. He is in my eyes one of the very best players to have played this game.
-4: Yul Kwon (Cook Islands). I guess I could say pretty much the same things about Yul. Actually, I think he was an even better player than Earl, and that he had to go against worse odds (remember when his team was down 8 to 4? Playing against people like Jonathan Penner on this other side – I had to mention Penner, he deserved a spot in this Top 20, this is why I hate doing those actually, I always have to cut people I don’t want to cut). Yul is in my eyes the best overall player in Survivor. Maybe I should have put him in the number one spot actually.
-3: Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands & Heroes Vs Villains). She sucks at challenges. She’s not the best strategist (in the traditional sense). Her social game needs some work. And she won twice in two attempts. I don’t know what it is about her, but she is definitely one of the best players in that she manages to turn her weaknesses into unstoppable strengths. I guess her strategy is just so unique that both other players and viewers tend to overlook it.
-2: Richard Hatch (Borneo & All-Stars). Hatch made Survivor, this is as simple as that. If Survivor is not that good in other countries (and believe me I tried the like the French one, I really tried), it’s because they didn’t have a Richard Hatch in their first season. Yet, if he were to play today (and I still hope to see him again one day) I’m not sure he would do so well. Not because he’d be seen as a threat and be voted out right away, but because the game has evolved since that first season, and I’m not sure his game has evolved with it. We saw some of that in All-Stars (well, there’s also the fact that everyone was after previous winners), it may just be worse now. Or maybe not.
And now, my Number One, the one who is the best Survivor player ever in my opinion:
-1: Todd Herzog (China)! Yes. You read me right. He is way too often overlooked when best players are mentioned, but in my eyes, he played the perfect game from beginning to finish, Final Tribal council included (which is so rare). So, yes, to this day, I don’t think there’s a better player at Survivor than Todd Herzog.
I can’t wait to see him play again, I really hope we will see him in the next All-Stars, and I’m sure he will kick ass then too, because other contestants may overlook the threat he is.
Only time will tell.

People who deserved to be in the list, but I had to cut them for one reason or the other: Jonathan Penner, Lex Van den Berghe, Ethan Zohn, Chris Daugherty, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.


And you? Who are you top 20 players? Hit the comments.

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