- Michael Yerger (Ghost Island)
Michael was the underdog of Ghost Island. He never had the numbers and was stuck on the ‘cursed’ Malolo tribe.
However, where everyone else was willing to make the boring ‘Naviti Strong’ votes, Michael was the only one willing to fight back. The best part of the season was when he tried to bluff having 2 idols, and even had a decent idol play later in the season.
However, I have to knock Michael down for his confessionals. Unlike other ‘golden boys’ like Malcolm or Spencer; Michael doesn’t have a lot of charisma or a defined character. He’s the young guy of the season, where he’s 18-years-old, pretending to be 23-years-old, but looks like he’s 30-years-old. Other than his age, he doesn’t have a personality.
- Michelle Yi (Fiji)
The Fiji cast is pretty unlikeable. This is in part because one tribe doesn’t have basic supplies like a tarp, food, or fire (The ‘Haves vs. Have-Nots is one of the worst themes the series has ever used.)
But, Michelle is the bright spot of positivity throughout the ugliness of the season. She is just so happy all the time. Even when she falls during a challenge, she manages to turn it into a cute moment.
She gets screwed over by a twist that only sends half of the merged tribe to Tribal Council. Which was such a bad twist, they never re-used it. Still, Michelle manages to be a huge bright spot in an otherwise unlikeable season. #MichelleYiWasRobbed
- Shannon “Shambo” Waters (Samoa)
I know a lot of people find Shambo annoying and cringe-worthy to watch. However, I find her really funny.
I can’t remember what message board I saw this posted on a few years ago, so I’m sorry I can’t give proper credit for this description; But a user described Shambo as ‘A real life Melissa McCarthy character’. And when you take a look at Shambo through that lens, she just becomes hilarious.
Also, I don’t think Shambo is putting on a persona, she just acts like that. I kind of appreciate her casting, because it’s incredible how Survivor manages to find these people, and tell their stories.
- Joe Mena (Heroes v Healers v Hustlers)
Joe is often labeled as a Tony knock off, because they have a similar appearance and occupation. I’ll defend Joe by saying that he’s a different character. The real difference between Joe & Tony is that Joe can never keep his emotions in check, and always says what’s on his mind.
Because of that, Joe often finds himself as the target for most of the game. However, it also leads to funny moments. I love how one minute Joe is trashing his only ally Dr. Mike for making a terrible idol play, but then a few minutes later he’s joking around with him as a part of the “Coco-Nutz” alliance.
I think Joe’s authenticity really shines through when he makes his successful Idol Play. Watching someone get idoled out is exciting, but watching Joe brag and say, “I read your face, baby girl” makes it so much more satisfying
Overall, Joe is a solid comedic villain, and one that I’d love to see return.
- Erik Reichenbach (Micronesia, Caramoan)
Erik comes into Micronesia as the ‘Superfan’ of the Fans tribe. He starts out as this awkward guy, but has a good sense of humor. Some of his early highlights are his job title being “Ice Cream Scooper”, and celebrating the merge tribe being called “Dabu”, a word he made up. However, Erik will always be remembered for making the dumbest move of all time.
When Erik wins the Immunity Challenge, the women become horrified at having to vote off one of their own. During Tribal Council, the four women guilt Erik into giving up his Immunity necklace to Natalie…only to blindside him moments later.
So, how does Erik, a lifelong Survivor fan that has always dreamed of winning the game react after he gets lied to, embarrassed, and laughed out of Tribal Council on national television? He just looks at the Black Widow Brigade, sighs and says, “You guys drive me crazy”! It’s a moment that could turn really hostile, but Erik just takes it in stride. Him saying “I should’ve known better” is so innocent that it turns betrayal into pure comedy. It’s easily one of the most memorable eliminations of the series.
He comes back to Caramoan, this time as a Favorite. He is pretty much invisible the entire season, before being medically evacuated right at the end. Which is a shame, because he has a good chance of winning the game.
I think Erik works best as that young superfan in Micronesia. Here he is the perfect combination of innocent, nice guy, and underdog. This makes it all funnier when he gets tricked.
- Judd Sergeant (Guatemala)
For the people that remember Guatemala, Judd is a polarizing character. Personally, I love him. He’s just this really angry guy from Jersey that’s all bluster. Moments like “She said I got AYY DEE DEE” or wishing everyone gets bit by a crocodile when he’s voted out are really funny to me. Judd is a really ‘Over-the-Top’ character, and I appreciate that about him.
- Ciera Eastin (Blood vs. Water, Cambodia, Game Changers)
Ciera “She voted out her mom” Eastin, or Ciera “Big Moves” Eastin gets a lot of flack and has become a bit of a meme, but I like her.
In Blood vs. Water, she has the best-developed relationship with her mom. Her mom tries hard to protect her, but Ciera is able to mature enough to play her own game. Eventually, Ciera reaches the point where she needs to vote out her mom in order to advance in the game. Thus, creating a meme.
After some prodding from Hayden Moss, Ciera realizes she is at the bottom of her alliance. In one of the best Tribal Councils ever, Ciera forces a tie and makes everyone draw rocks. It’s some of the most stressful/exciting gameplay the series had in years.
This earns her a spot on Cambodia, where she is a part of the Witches Coven with Kelley Wentworth and Abi Maria. She tries really hard to get people to flip and make a big move, because they are on the bottom of Jeremy’s alliance, but ultimately fails.
She comes back for Game Changers, but she is immediately voted out because she suggested voting for Tony. Really she should consider herself lucky that she was spared from being on this season for too long.
For better or worse, Ciera is a pioneer in the new strategy based, ‘Big Movez’ era of Survivor. I’m just glad that she was allowed to have some character growth in her first appearance.
- Deena Bennett (Amazon)
In the Amazon, no one better embodies the men vs. women theme more than Deena. She is the leader of the women on Jaburu, makes strong bonds with the younger women, and is able to control the women’s tribe. At the tribe swap, she is still the leader, and leads the new Jaburu alliance with Rob C.
Deena has some solid gameplay for the early seasons. For example, she leads the charge to get rid of Roger because he would never vote for a woman to win the game. Her men vs. women attitude costs her the game, when she tries to get the women to vote out Alex and they turn on her.
Deena’s a great leader that gives solid confessionals, making her one of the best characters in The Amazon
- Ethan Zohn (Africa, All Stars)
Ethan was the most popular winner at the series peak. His game was pretty simple; Ethan was good in challenges and nice to everyone. He has a great moment where he goes to an African village and bonds with the locals by playing soccer. He wins very easily just because the jury likes him so much.
His return for All Stars goes a little bit different. He is targeted early on for being a former winner, and finds that no one wants to work with him. Watching Ethan fight his way from the bottom is a lot of fun, because you get to see just how good he can be at Survivor. The way Ethan manages to weasel his way into temporary alliances is a lot of fun to watch. He doesn’t get very far, but Ethan is still one of the bright spots for the season.
Overall, Ethan proves that sometimes just being likeable is what it takes to be a good Survivor player, and character.
- Dave Ball (Samoa)
Dave is a background character on Samoa, but he is really funny. I think everything about Dave can be summed up in this clip.
Like most of Samoa’s cast, Dave doesn’t get enough airtime. Still, he’s a brilliant comedic relief character.
<blockquote class=”reddit-card” data-card-created=”1560656936″><a href=”https://www.reddit.com/r/survivor/comments/abxh38/never_forget_danger_dave/”>Never forget Danger Dave</a> from <a href=”http://www.reddit.com/r/survivor”>r/survivor</a></blockquote>
- Gretchen Cordy (Borneo)
If Richard was the leader of Tagi, then Gretchen was easily the leader of Pagong. Out of everyone, she had the best survival skills, and helps Pagong build a better shelter, and camp.
Gretchen could be the leader giving out chores to the tribe, but she also knew when to relax, and let people have fun. This allows her to connect with her younger tribe members and make Pagong the fan favorites of the first season. Unfortunately, this makes her a threat, and she becomes the first target of the Tagi alliance.
In a way, Gretchen’s elimination can be seen as the end of ‘old-school’ survivor, marking the start of alliances being necessary to win. Still, Gretchen was a great leader, and a likeable character all the way through. It would be awesome to see her return.
- Gary Hogeboom (Guatemala)
The first celebrity to play the game. Gary comes into the game trying to hide his identity, instead going by ‘Gary Hawkins’, a landscaper that conveniently went to Central Michigan and graduated the same year as Gary Hogeboom the famous NFL Quarterback, but is not Gary Hogeboom.
Given the above description, Gary is a really fun character. He has a great comment on Stephenie saying, “You can get her autograph after the show”.
Fun fact about Gary, he is the first player to find a Hidden Immunity Idol, and technically, the first one to find it without a clue. (Take that Russell Hantz!)
I get that Guatemala is a season that production would rather people forget. But Gary is still a personal favorite.
- Jon Misch (San Juan Del Sur)
Not going to lie, it took me a while to appreciate Jon as a character. Initially, I was annoyed by how he was getting this ‘Golden Boy’ edit, and how perfect he and his girlfriend were. But then, I realized that there was more to Jon than this.
Jon has a lot of funny moments, like when he loses the flint, or is in a fight with his girlfriend before tribal. But, even with all of these mistakes and problems going on, he is positive the whole game.
This is what makes me like Jon. He starts off as the ‘alpha male’ archetype, but he ends up subverting a lot of those typical Survivor tropes by making a lot of mistakes in the game.
Even after he gets blindsided, he laughs, congratulates everyone else, and forgets his torch.
- Coby Archa (Palau)
Coby is the closest thing to a villain in Palau. He is the only person not a fan of Tom, and spends most of the pre-merge plotting to get rid of him. Unfortunately for Coby, he never gets the chance to take him out. So a lot of the time, he mostly is in the corner wishing for Tom’s downfall.
There is more to Coby than just being anti-Tom. Coby has spent most of his life being an outsider, and still feels like an outcast on Koror. However, as he does well in challenges, his tribe accepts him more. One of my favorite scenes is Coby crying after a challenge because for the first time, he finally gets to be part of a team.
At the merge, his mouth does him in. During a challenge, he talks so much about the possibility of his alliance taking control of the game, that he ends up becoming the target. However, Coby does get the last laugh by voting for Katie; making sure Tom doesn’t win unanimously.
- JT Thomas (Tocantins, Heroes vs. Villains, Game Changers)
In his first appearance JT is the ‘good ‘ol boy’ that everyone loves. He’s great at challenges, and is so committed to his tribe that even after chipping a tooth, he ops to keep going without it.
He is so likeable that everyone wants him to win, and are willing to sabotage their own game for this to happen. In fact, after one reward, Brendan wanted JT to win the game more than anyone else. He goes through the game and backstabs everyone, but is so likeable, that ultimately everyone votes for him at FTC. He also never got a vote against him in the game, making him the show’s first Golden Winner. After this, JT goes down as the most dominant player of all time….
….But then he comes back, and completely tarnishes his legacy. In Heroes vs. Villains, he makes alliances with everyone, and goes back on his word. He’s playing a similar game, but this time he’s not framed as the ‘Good ‘Ol Southern Boy’, but as a sleazy guy going back on his word.
Ultimately, he gives his idol to Russell (Not cool JT!), and gets blindsided by Parvati.
Then in Game Changers, he tells Brad who the Nuku tribe is voting for, and gets his ally Malcolm voted out (NOT COOL JT!!!) Ultimately, he gets blindsided by not playing his idol while being a target on the Nuku tribe.
JT is no longer the Golden Boy of Survivor, but a guy that swings for the fences with ideas… That usually blow up in his face. Personally I haven’t been a fan of JT’s two trainwreck appearances, so he’s going this low on the list.
- Lisa Whelchel (Philippines)
It’s probably my love of The Facts of Life that puts Lisa this high, but hey it’s my list.
Lisa is the ‘Christian Mom’ that is out of her element, and uncomfortable to make moves. She wants to be considered a good person, but is forced into a game of deceit. After a pep talk from Penner, she gains self-confidence to start playing for herself, and write her own story. She flips on the Tandang members that treated her poorly, and partners with Denise and Malcolm. She is able to get to the end of the game with her new alliance.
Even though the jury doesn’t respect her, Lisa does have a good sense of self-awareness. She knows how people view her, and how she needs to frame her story to show how far she has come.
Lisa has a great story arc, and goes through a lot of personal growth. I’m glad that she was a part of the series, because I don’t think Philippines would be nearly as interesting if she wasn’t there.
- Tasha Fox(Cagayan, Cambodia)
In Cagayan, Tasha was one of my favorite castaways. She starts off as the voice of reason on the Brains tribe. She tries to keep J’Tia in the game, and makes her tribe practice before an Immunity Challenge, which is hilarious.
She’s one of the underdogs of the season. What makes Tasha likeable is that she stays loyal to her allies, and goes on an impressive Immunity Run early into the merge. By the time she’s voted out, it’s really sad to see her go.
When Tasha returns for Cambodia, I was excited to see her again. Unfortunately, she really takes a downgrade. Tasha has a solid pre-merge where she takes control of the Angkor tribe. But she becomes mostly invisible throughout the post merge. Tasha was very vocal about not letting any goats get to Day 39 and disrespects Wentworth and Keith. Okay Tasha, neither of them nearly drowned in the middle of a challenge, so maybe you shouldn’t be the one to call them weak.
The edit also tries to put her in a positive light, but the jury really does not like her. So it just feels off.
Tasha is hard for me to rank because I love her in one season, but can’t stand her in another. I feel like this is a fair spot to put her.
- Courtney Marit (Panama)
Courtney was the hippie of Panama. She was this free spirit that would fire dance for fun.
However, Courtney’s calling card was annoying her tribe. Whether it was being lazy around camp or dancing on Bruce’s rock garden, she just managed to aggravate people.
Courtney would also give strange answers. When Shane says he is going to “murder her in her shitty apartment”, Courtney just says, “My apartment’s not shitty.” It’s just so bizarre, yet funny.
I know a lot of people love the Casaya tribe for being so zany, but I don’t. Still, I think Courtney is the most tolerable of the crazy tribe, so she goes this high up.
- Andrea Boehlke (Redemption Island, Caramoan, Game Changers)
Andrea is fascinating because she is always one of the brighter spots on an absolutely terrible season. Which is convenient because I can use the same description for all of her appearances!
Andrea has become a bit of an icon in modern Survivor. She tops a lot of popularity polls, and each season a hot girl in a bikini says they want to play exactly like her. And I’m just going to say it, I don’t really get the appeal. In every season, Andrea is above average when it comes to strategy, challenges, and giving confessionals. As mean as it sounds, being above average is really all Andrea needed to be considered a good character, because her cast was so weak. I like Andrea fine and she’s always one of the highlights of her season, but the truth is there are a ton of other characters that I just connect with more. This is the highest I can justify putting Andrea on my list
- Reed Kelly (San Juan Del Sur)
Reed starts off as a background character on the Hunahpu tribe. Mostly his boyfriend is the one that takes credit for all of the strategic decisions.
Once the merge happens, Reed’s story starts to pick up. He’s a thorn in everyone’s side, and keeps fighting to stay in the game. He manages to help blindside Jeremy, and would have gained control of the game, if Keith hadn’t said “Stick to the plan”. But, Reed may be remembered more for some of his comments. His big moment comes at FTC, where he calls Missy the “wicked step-mother” of the tribe. It’s kind of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I prefer Reed to Missy so it’s cool, on the other hand, I feel like he’s trying a little too hard.
I found Reed to be one of the more entertaining players from San Juan Del Sur, and would love to see his return.
- Kimmi Kappenberg (Australian Outback, Cambodia)
One of the biggest personalities in the Australian Outback. Kimmi was the annoying member of the Kucha tribe. She would talk during the middle of the night and keep the tribe awake. Also, she was a vegetarian, so she would get upset when the tribe would want to eat chickens.
Kimmi’s vegetarianism almost costs her tribe an immunity challenge. During an eating challenge, she refuses to eat a pig’s brain. She gets booted for being too annoying.
When she returns for Second Chances, she comes back as more of a ‘mother’ archetype. She has some funny moments, like her reaction to Monica. “She thinks we’re going to hunt all of the clams in the ocean. And… No pumpkin, no!” She is a solid ally in the Bayon alliance, but gets taken out in the no votes Tribal for trying to make a move against Jeremy a little late. She’s a good character, but not used a lot.
Kimmi is one of the biggest personalities from the series early run, and should definitely be recognized as an entertaining character.
- Kim Spraldin (One World)
Possibly the most dominant player ever!
What made Kim good at Survivor wasn’t her strategy or her physical strength, but how she interacted with other players. She was everyone’s sister/cousin/cool camp counselor on One World. People kept aligning with her because they wanted to. And even though they didn’t think they could beat her, they still left her in the game. While Kim had all the power, she never got mean or cocky, and left the season as an obvious, but likeable winner.
If I was ranking players based off of how well they played the game, Kim would be at least in the Top 3! However, I’m going based off of the overall character. Unfortunately, Kim’s story is pretty boring. She’s immediately put into a power position, then just has to maintain it for the rest of the season. That’s not really compelling to me. I prefer players that go through peaks and valleys on Survivor. The ones that are compelling whether they’re in the majority or have no power in the game. I’m putting Kim this low just because I feel like the rest of the players on this list did that better.
- Brad Culpepper (Blood vs. Water, Game Changers)
Brad comes into Blood vs. Water and immediately takes control of the Loved Ones tribe. He forms an all male alliance, and controls the first few votes by deciding to vote off people that have a strong loved one. Which… is honestly not a bad strategy…. Good job Brad!
Unfortunately, this strategy gets him enemies on both tribes and makes him a huge target. He ends up being the center of the drama in the pre-merge before going out. There’s a reason that, “Fuck you, Brad Culpepper”, has become a pretty iconic line.
He comes back for Game Changers and starts out different. He’s willing to sit back, and let Sierra make a lot of the strategic decisions for him.
But what’s more impressive is that he bonds with his tribe by opening up and being genuine about how much of a toll the game took on himself and his wife. He wins 5 Immunity Challenges to get to the end, and becomes a huge bully, especially to Tai. I guess they edit decided we should hate him? The downside of this is Brad got a pretty invisible edit, so while his wins are supposed to feel like epic accomplishments, they don’t feel that way. Also, him being a huge Scot Pollard-esque villain feels so out of place from the guy that we saw in the beginning of the game. Also, the editing already telegraphs that Sarah is going to win the season, so it’s hard to believe that he’s any sort of threat. At the very least, he apologizes for his actions at the reunion.
Overall, I find Brad a compelling guy to watch. He gets labeled as a villain, but I don’t think that is a fair description of him. I get the feeling Brad’s a genuinely nice guy and I’d probably want to ally with him. All of these are reasons why Brad is a memorable castaway.
- Jaclyn Schultz (San Juan Del Sur)
Jaclyn has one of the strongest stories in this blood vs. water season. Everyone keeps going up to her boyfriend Jon instead of her for gameplay. She gets tired of being underestimated and disrespected, and takes it out on Jon. Eventually, she manages to get the two into the position of swing vote, and helps them get far in the game. After Jon gets voted out, she teams up with Natalie, and wins the Final Immunity Challenge, proving to herself that she can survive on her own and is a threat to win.
Personally, I enjoyed Jaclyn the most when she looked like a girlfriend that was annoyed that she had to spend time with her boyfriend and his friends. Still, Jaclyn had a solid arc going from the girlfriend, to being able to stand on her own.
- Sabrina Thompson (One World)
One World usually gets criticized for Kim dominating the entire game. I mean, I kind of did it a few spots up on this list. But, I feel as if that does a serious discredit to Sabrina. As far as gameplay goes, Sabrina played a solid game. She gave the idol to Colton, because she knew it could throw off the Manono tribe, and worked with Kim for a lot of the key blindsides.
Like Kim, a lot of Sabrina’s confessionals revolve around gameplay. However, I find Sabrina to be more engaging and fun than Kim. In particular her last confessional is honestly one of the best of the series. It’s sad, yet inspiring at the same time. It’s a moment like this that makes Sabrina stand out from this season. Sabrina once said, “No one ever remembers second place.” However, I have to disagree with her, because in my book Sabrina was the most entertaining player of this season.
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