- Joe Anglim (Worlds Apart, Cambodia, Edge of Extinction)
Joe often gets compared to a low-budget Ozzy because he has long hair, really good survival skills, and is good at challenges. But, I find Joe kind of endearing. For example, in his first episode, he just looks so surprised when he finds out he’s the only one on the No Collar tribe that bothered to learn wilderness survival.
In both of his seasons, Joe is the golden boy, great at the survival element, and a nice guy. I never really find myself rooting for him to win, but I’m also never rooting against him, so I’m placing him here.
[EDIT: Here is the update on Joe after her latest appearance.]
Is there anything to talk about here? Joe wins every challenge in the pre-merge, then becomes the merge boot because he doesn’t bother to strategize with his tribe. If I ever re-organize this list, this appearance would probably hurt Joe a little bit.
- Neleh Dennis (Marquesas)
At the start of Marquesas, Neleh is the sweet young girl on the Rotu tribe. Everyone calls her sweet pea, because they see her as this naïve girl.
Neleh’s story picks up at the tribe swap. She becomes very close with Paschal, and has a father-daughter relationship with him. At the merge, she plays a huge role in getting Paschal to flip on the Rotu 4. She remains loyal to him until he draws the Purple Rock. She wins the FIC, but can’t explain her gameplay during her FTC, and ends up losing to Vecepia.
Neleh is the best of the young girl archetypes of the early seasons. Even though she is portrayed as sweet, she is still willing to change alliances to put herself ahead in the game, which makes her more interesting. But she loses points for the way she acts after her reward with Paschal. Nobody wants your damn used mint, Neleh!!!
Also, Neleh is still pretty young, so she could probably return to play again. Just saying CBS.
- Carolyn Rivera (Worlds Apart)
Mama C! In the first episode, she’s a target for being the older woman, but then she goes on to find the Idol without a clue, and get her tribe to flip on the people targeting her.
She wins a ton of reward challenges, and even a few immunity wins. She idols out Dan, and celebrates with a dance, which is a fun moment, and underrated Idol play. She also has some really funny moments, like not being impressed that So (pre-merge) was good at untying knots.
In the end, she loses because she is going against the challenge beast that is Mike Holloway. But I don’t think the jury votes tell the whole story. Mama C was a badass older woman, that was a solid strategist, and surprisingly good at challenges.
- Laura Morett (Samoa, Blood vs. Water)
In Samoa, Laura is one of the more prominent Galu members. She becomes the leader after Russell Swan and Erik leave, and she has a ‘feud’ with Shambo. Mostly this consists of Shambo insulting Laura in her confessionals while Laura is just kind of there. But Laura does get a great confessional where she makes fun of Shambo for losing the spear, “Guess what guys, there’s fish in the ocean!” Ultimately, she is a woman with a strong opinion, so she’s naturally an early target for the Foa Foa 4.
But I think Laura’s real time to shine comes in Blood vs. Water. As the series goes on, Laura realizes that she can’t always have to protect her daughter, and needs to let her grow up and make her own decisions. Because of this, Laura gets sent to Redemption Island twice. Surprisingly, Laura is an absolute challenge beast! She manages to win 6 duels, and comes in first for all of them. Unfortunately, she can’t win the last duel and is eliminated. It’s a pretty heartbreaking scene, because Laura’s upset not for losing, but because she let her daughter down after working so hard. But, the mother-daughter story ends when Ciera tells her mother how proud she was that her mother was able to fight as hard as she did.
Laura is a great underdog story, and probably the best thing to ever come out of the Redemption Island theme.
- Christy Smith (Amazon)
Christy is one of the more interesting personalities in Amazon. She’s the first deaf contestant of the series, so she has the disadvantage of not being able to communicate with the women of her tribe at night. Christy is also placed in an awkward situation because she doesn’t necessarily fit in with the younger women, or the older women.
But, she makes it work! Eventually, Christy finds herself as part of the majority alliance. She even has a great moment where she beats Jenna in a challenge, and Butch tells her she doesn’t have a disability. Christy’s reaction is so genuine that it makes it a heartwarming moment.
However, Christy’s strongest attributes are her confessionals. She manages to be funny and endearing. At the same time you’re able to understand her emotions/thoughts so clearly. Like when she says, “Man, if you’re a ‘vessel of Christ’, don’t you think you need to be a little… nicer?”.
Christy is also the victim of one of the cruelest (But well done) blindsides ever. She’s so confident she won’t go home as the swing vote, that she becomes the perfect target for Rob Cesternino.
Still, Christy manages to be one of the most charismatic contestants of and a solid underdog of the early seasons.
- Monica Culpepper (One World, Blood vs. Water)
There’s not much to Monica on her first season. She’s a neat lady that ends up being blindsided by Colton Cumbie because… reasons I guess.
Monica’s real time to shine comes in Blood vs. Water. At first she’s in a tight spot because her husband is angering everyone on her tribe, so she has to spend most of the pre-merge putting out some of his fires and protecting herself. But once Brad gets eliminated, Monica is finally able to play the game for herself. Monica is kind of a badass, and wins a few Immunity Challenges over bigger physical threats. She’s also one of Tyson’s most loyal allies. The only mistake Monica makes is that she always needs to be reassured, because she has already been blindsided once and doesn’t want it to happen again. She plays a great game, and it doesn’t seem like she burned any bridges. But, the jury treats her like she’s Russell Hantz, and question every time she had ever been nice to them and her authenticity. These questions cause her to break down, and I couldn’t help but think, ‘Guys, give the lady a break!’. It never felt like she deserved any of the grief she got throughout the season.
In the end, Monica is a character with a solid arc. She was the woman that wanted to not live in her husband’s shadow, and eventually found her own confidence playing the game on her own terms.
- Chase Rice (Nicaragua)
Chase was a really nice guy on a season that had some ugliness to it. He was able to make a deep connection with everyone in the game by opening up about his personal life. Whether it was using his South Carolina roots to bond with Jane, or talking about his father’s funeral to convince NaOnka to stay in the game, Chase was the guy everyone wanted to ally with in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, this eventually backfired on him, because when Chase had to start making decisions he always wound up hurting someone he cared about. This is best highlighted during the loved ones visit, where he somehow manages to piss off everyone because he promised to take everyone on the reward. Chase’s inability to make decisions he even managed to annoy his closest allies, as they grew tired of his wishy-washy personality. Especially Brenda and Holly.
When he got to FTC, Chase gave a great performance, but in the end lost to Fabio by one vote. Nice guy, great social player, but he’s definitely moved on to bigger things, so I doubt he’d return.
- Elisabeth Filarski (Australian Outback)
Elisabeth’s role on the season was to be sweet. She had a Father-Daughter type friendship with Rodger, and was the person that Skupin wanted to see before being evacuated.
She has some good lines like, “Alicia’s job is to talk smack about everyone.” Ultimately, she lasts as long as she does just by being nice. Elisabeth is one of the better personalities of this season, so she goes up this high.
- Jean-Robert Bellande (China)
Jean-Robert is the most unlikeable and incompetent player of this season, which makes him a terrific villain. His initial strategy is to do little work around camp so people will be impressed when he does a little bit of work. That’s not how this game works Jean-Robert!
He spends most of the game as a pawn for Todd and Amanda to use, and has a feud with Courtney, which is hilarious. He views himself as the ‘Bad Boy’ of the tribe, but can’t pick up on the fact that no one likes him. He’s such an ‘Over-the-top’ negative character that I can appreciate him as a villain.
- Lex van den Berghe (Africa, All Stars)
On Africa, Lex is one of the best players on the season. He’s a great strategist, great at challenges, and leader of the Boran tribe. Lex wants to stick to a moral code which leads to him sticking with the Boran members. However, this also leads him to fly off the deep end at points. After Teresa votes for him at the merge, Lex’s paranoia takes control. He starts searching for the person that voted for him, and becomes hostile to Kelly Goldsmith. His madness causes strain in some of his relationships, which leads to him being voted out at the Final 3. However, Lex has two very strong friendships with Ethan and Big Tom, and the three form some of the best friendships in the series. It’s actually one of the most complex characters the series has ever put together. You manage to see every facet of Lex’s personality, from his kindness towards others, to his frustration. The whole time, you see Lex’s paranoia be his ultimate downfall. In spite of the negatives of Lex, you still root for him to succeed because of how human he is
Lex returns for All Stars, only this time he’s a villain. He keeps backstabbing people on the Mogo Mogo tribe, but then is furious when Boston Rob does the same to him. He goes from one of the most likeable players, to a player that has a bunch of ugly moments.
I love Lex in Africa, but can’t stand him in All Stars, so I can only justify putting him this high up on the list.
- Lea ‘Sarge’ Masters (Vanuatu)
One of the most underrated comedic characters ever. He’s the leader of the Fat Five and tries to keep the Lopevi tribe together.
Sarge’s best content comes at the tribe swap. He has a strong bond with Twila, and wants to take her to the Final 4. Also, he spends a lot of his time trying to impress Julie. This leads to a hilarious scene where he starts to sunbathe with the women, and Chris yells at him.
At the merge, he falls victim to the women, but not until he has a great scene of looking pissed off while Scout was singing. Also, his jury speech was pretty solid. Overall, Sarge was a really fun character
- Todd Herzog (China)
In the first episode Jean-Robert tells Todd that he thinks he’s sharp. Turns out, he was right.
Todd starts out as this superfan that wants to play hard. So he teams up with Amanda to take control of the Fei Long tribe. He’s snarky in a lot of his confessionals, and a brilliant strategist for the Fei Long tribe. He has a fun friendship with Courtney, where they are the two villains that are snarky and a little bit spoiled, not enjoying their reward while everyone else is starving. At FTC, Todd puts on the best performance in the series by owning all of the moves he made, and treating the jury with respect. He even manages to shut up Jean-Robert at one point. Todd is a great strategist, and player, and it was fun to watch this fan do well in the game.
- Holly Hoffman (Nicaragua)
At the start of the game Holly looks like a player that could never last. She has a hard time adjusting to the game, and even throws out Dan Lembo’s shoes. But then she gets a pep talk from legendary football coach Jimmy Johnson, and Holly gets a switch flipped inside of her. At the tribe swap, she manages to get herself in the majority alliance with the young players. She goes on to be a good strategist, by pulling off the Brenda and Jane votes.
But her best moment probably comes during the infamous episode when NaOnka and Purple Kelly quit. This time it’s Holly trying to give the pep talk, highlighting how far she’s come as a player.
Holly has one of the classic stories on the series as the older woman that starts out having trouble, but goes on to play a great game. This makes her one of the more likeable contestant in Nicaragua, and still a well remembered character.
- Colleen Haskell (Borneo)
Colleen was “America’s Sweetheart’ during Borneo. She was the ‘girl-next-door’, on the season, and was totally unique at the time. Most of her content is her being sweet, like with her relationship with Greg. But, Colleen also had a snarky side to her, like when she would make fun of Rich by saying “Just be quiet over there in the corner! You’re not making any sense, you think you’re smart, just go home and go get your liposuction and go catch more fish.”
Colleen gets this high for being the first ‘Sweet girl’ archetype for the series.
- Rodger Bingham (Australian Outback)
Rodger may have claim to being the nicest contestant ever. On Australian Outback he was the ‘nice older man’ archetype that was used in all of the early seasons, and Rodger may have been the best of those characters.
On the Kucha tribe he has a lot of sweet moments. He’s willing to burn some of the pages in his Bible in order to make fire. Rodger also has a heartwarming moment where he overcomes his fear of water after his tribe cheers him on during a challenge. But what I think people will mostly remember Rodger for his relationship with Elisabeth. Rodger served as a father figure for Elisabeth. The two grew so close, that Rodger was willing to be voted out to give Elisabeth a chance in the game. Nice guy, and memorable character, it is really hard to hate Rodger
- Rudy Boesch (Borneo, All Stars)
Arguably the breakout character from the first season. Rudy is a former Navy Seal in his 70s, which already makes him the most badass contestant ever.
But, what makes Rudy stand out is his personality. In his first confessional he explains that he doesn’t know what MTV is. (Aw, Rudy!!). And that he has to change because there are more of them (Tagi) than there are of him. And change he does. Rudy has one of the best friendships of all time with Richard. Even though Rudy doesn’t approve of Rich’s lifestyle, he still views him as one of the smartest and strongest people he has ever met. (He’s fat, but he’s good.) Rudy’s willingness to change makes him one of the most interesting characters to watch in Borneo. By the end, Rudy is still seen as a hero, that you hope to see take down Richard. But, he loses the FIC and gets eliminated for being a threat.
He gets a brief stay in All Stars, but gets voted out pretty quickly because he’s in his 70s, and has a busted leg.
Still, Rudy highlights what the original point of Survivor was all about, people from all walks of life, forced to interact with each other and change.
- Brenda Lowe (Nicaragua, Caramoan)
Nicaragua gets a lot of grief for not having any strategy players. I can’t help but feel that people forgot about Brenda. In the pre-merge, Brenda absolutely dominates the game. She has a majority alliance, and is able to control the votes of most of the younger tribe. She also has interesting relationships with a lot of the tribe. For example, Chase has a huge crush on her, but she mostly just uses him as a second vote. Leading to a great confessional, “Chase is a crying little baby. WAH! WAH! WAAAH!”
Brenda also has some badass moments in the game, like when she reveals at Tribal that Marty and Jill are going to vote for Jane, which is an underrated Tribal blow up.
In the end, she gets blindsided for being too big of a threat in the game and being too proud to scramble for votes. Leaving Nicaragua as a complex and interesting villainess.
This would make her a great choice to return for Caramoan, where she is one of the few actual favorites returning. Unfortunately she gets an invisible edit. So here’s the gist of her story . She tells her dad she will be more humble, which is nice. Then she has a choice of either taking her loved one’s visit with Dawn, or giving it up to everyone else. (Side Note: This is one of the more needlessly mean twists of the show). So she gets blindsided for being a jury threat.
The real thing people remember about Brenda is her Caramoan FTC speech, where she makes Dawn take out her teeth on TV to embarrass her. Jesus Christ Brenda, it’s just a game!
I think that this moment sums up Brenda pretty well, she had the ability to be a ruthless player, and the way that she treated other castaways was never in black and white. Still, compelling contestant, so she goes here.
- Spencer Bledsoe (Cagayan, Cambodia)
Spencer is the underdog of Cagayan. On any other season, he would’ve been the strong player in control of the game, but on a season as crazy as Cagayan, he stands no chance. So in a season when Spencer should be a power player, he spends a majority of the game on the bottom trying to fight his way in. I really appreciate the way that Spencer spends most of the game as this straight-faced young guy, but once he gets in the voting booth he becomes super sassy.
He comes back for Cambodia, where he gets a lot of screen time. His story arc was that last time, he only used people as a part of strategy, and this time he wants to really connect with people. I mean, was that really Spencer’s problem? He was the primary person the jury was rooting for, and he beats anyone in the Final 4. Was personal bonding really why Spencer lost?
Anyway, the real problem is that a lot of his confessionals are him talking about how these bonds will help him in the game. But the jury ends up hating him, so did he even grow?
I end up laughing at Spencer for how entitled he can come off. “Kass, zero chance of winning the game!” is such an amazing moment. And the fact that he gave us this video. Spencer is great, and is one of modern Survivor’s best characters.
- John Cochran (South Pacific, Caramoan)
If I were to use a word to describe Cochran on South Pacific, it would be cringe-worthy. He starts off asking to be called by his last name in order to be one of Jeff Probst’s favorites. His edit also doesn’t add up to me. He complains that Jim and Ozzy bully him, but the two of them always stick up for Cochran and try to include him in their plans. Also he’s upset that after he loses a Immunity Challenge for the tribe, that they want to vote him out. He also makes one of the dumbest moves, by instead of sticking with Savaii to come in 6th place, he flips to Upolu to come in 7th place and allows his tribe to get Pagong-ed.
He comes back for Caramoan where he dominates a lot of screen time in the post-merge. The edit wants to convey him as a scrappy underdog trying to win challenges, but also a brilliant strategist that is in complete control of the game. And…
Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, he actually won me over. He gives some of my favorite confessionals like “I don’t want to engage in any tomfoolery with these numbskulls!” And while some contestants dominate screen time and do nothing but insult their tribemates (*coughs* Boston Rob *coughs*). Cochran still manages to be a likeable dude throughout the game. Caramoan, is a slog to sit through, so I really appreciate Cochran’s sense of humor on this season.
So I’d like to put Cochran higher, but I am ranking these contestants on all of their seasons, so he gets knocked down to here.
- Wendell Holland (Ghost Island)
Wendell gets this high for charisma. He’s great at challenges, can joke around with Jeff, and has one of the more useful skills of being able to build furniture for his tribe.
Wendell’s best attribute was his ability to bond with people. There’s a fun scene where Wendell gives Sea Bass a seashell for his collection; and he was the only one that managed to be friends with both Domenick & Chris. In the end, his friendships with people are what allow him to win over Domenick
Plus, Wendell has a contender for one of the greatest voting confessionals of all time.
- Greg Buis (Borneo)
Greg is the original goofball of Survivor. He just doesn’t care about the show, and makes everything into a joke. As a result, he is responsible for some of the funniest confessionals. (“Look, a flying fish!”).
Quite frankly, Greg is a character that could only exist in the first season. He is against any form of strategy and is annoyed at the possibility of the Tagi tribe voting together. Even his Jury Speech where he asks Rich & Kelly what number he is thinking of, is just a way to lighten up the series. Greg remains one of the funniest castaways that the series has ever had.
- Tina Wesson (Australian Outback, All Stars, Blood vs. Water)
Tina was the first female winner of Survivor. While previous winner Richard Hatch was portrayed as a villain, Tina managed to get a positive edit. She spends the season talking about how she wants the ‘good guys’ to win. With this mantra, she manages to take her alliance of Colby and Keith to the final 3. What strikes me most about Tina’s appearance is how much energy she has. If you watch the challenges, she is always the most excited to be in the game. Her energy is contagious, and it makes a slower season like Australian Outback feel more exciting.
Tina’s All Stars appearance doesn’t really count, because she was eliminated immediately, and doesn’t do anything.
We don’t really get to see Tina until she competes on Blood vs. Water with her daughter. This season her story was “Tina is still a badass”. A lot of her content was about winning challenges at Redemption Island. She also has some cute moments, like trying to set up her daughter with Vytas. Even in her 50’s, Tina still has the same energy and love of for the game, that you can’t help but root for her.
Tina proved that it’s possible for anyone to win the game. The fact that she’s fun to watch is just an added bonus.
- Burton Roberts (Pearl Islands)
Burton starts off the season as a jerk. He doesn’t do anything of note other than making fun of Rupert’s skirt, which is a great way to be labeled as a villain.
But then, Burton gets a chance at redemption. He leads the Outcasts to victory and gets voted back into the game. Initially, he reconnects with the Drake tribe, and becomes a nicer guy. He makes amends with Rupert, and is the nicest person to Lil. He’s a likeable Immunity threat that takes control of the game with Jonny FairPlay, but gets taken out by the women towards the end of the game.
Burton is the original ‘second chance’ castaway that is able to try and find redemption on Survivor. Would seriously love to see Burton return for another season.
- Marty Piombo (Nicaragua)
Marty is one of the few strategists in Nicaragua. He’s also one of the most easily annoyed, which sets up his role as the villain of the older Espada tribe. Marty is responsible for making the power move to get rid of Coach Jimmy Johnson, and take control of the tribe.
Unfortunately, his arrogance gets in the way. At the tribe swap, he reveals that he has the idol, which only paints a big target on his back that never goes away. At Tribal Council, Brenda reveals that he is planning to get rid of Jane, which pretty much sinks his game and any power he has. He ends up going out early in the merge
So why do I like Marty? He’s just a really solid villain. Everyone in the game annoys him, and he gives great confessionals. He’s also just kind of fun. As a part of his strategy, he decides to just flat out lie to Fabio and say that he’s a Chess Grandmaster. It’s just a strange lie that makes Marty more interesting than your average gamebot.
- Andrew Savage (Pearl Islands, Cambodia)
Pearl Islands has 3 of the biggest personalities of all time (More on them later) But Savage still manages to be one of the more memorable characters from Pearl Islands. He is the leader of the Morgan tribe, an has to deal with trying to keep the tribe strong after they lose nearly every challenge. Even though he is the leader, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he likes working with every member of his tribe. He can’t stand Skinny Ryan, and lies to Lil about getting voted out. Savage finds himself in a good position at the merge… but then the Outcasts twist happens, and none other than Lil returns to the Morgan tribe, and gets revenge on him
He manages to return for Cambodia, as one of the more memorable castaways. This time around, Savage is once again the leader of both the Bayon and Angkor tribes. He is obsessed with loyalty from his tribe members, and calls Stephen a ‘Wimpy little non-leader’. He’s an over the top villain throughout the early part of Cambodia. Watching Savage get blindsided is one of the most satisfying blindsides ever.
A lot of people are put off by Savage’s arrogance, but I still really like him. He manages to make the early part of the season compelling, and satisfying when he gets eliminated halfway through. While most villains need to be larger than life characters that last the whole season, Savage pulls off the villain role with such an average amount of screen time, that he works great on both seasons.
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