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My Favorite Survivors

As lists are always somewhat controversial, let’s preface this with a little introduction.
These are my favorite Survivor players. In some ways, I’ve listed who I think the best Survivor players are. But Survivor is a TV show, a game, and it’s totally subjective. So try not to be outraged when you notice that Russell Hantz is not on my list. That’s because I don’t like him. I didn’t like his gameplay (this argument has gotten old, but he doesn’t know how to win the game) and I’m not putting him on my list. I do, however, encourage you to make your own list. Go nuts! Put him at the top! Put him in every slot if you want, it’s your list after all! And of course, share with the class in the comments section.

So without farther ado, here are my top twenty Survivor players:

20. James “JT” Thomas Jr. (Tocantins, Heroes vs. Villains)I hate the way the guy played in Heroes vs. Villains, and I’m not sure I even like his personality that much. But he charmed the pants off people in Tocantins and unanimously won the million bucks against another pretty likable guy, Stephan Fishbach, and that’s pretty impressive.
19. Stephan Fishbach (Tocantins)
I actually like Stephan better off Survivor than I did on. He’s my favorite guest on Rob Cesternino’s Survivor podcast, and he writes a great blog about the show for People.com. Plus if J.T.’s behavior on Heroes vs. Villains was any indication, he was the brains in that duo.
18. Tina Wesson (Australia, All Stars)
Remember when she jumped in the river and rescued the rice? It was a pretty amazing moment, as was beating America’s golden boy Colby Donaldson in the finals in Australia. I almost put Colby on this list (because of his crazy challenge winning streak in Australia, and despite of his pathetic performances in All-Stars and Heroes vs. Villains) but opted for Tina instead. After all, she did beat him.
17. Amanda Kimmel (China, Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains)
I know a lot of people don’t like Amanda, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for her. She’s played a hell of a lot of Survivor, and is pretty good at strategy, the social game and physical challenges. The problem was, she’s never the best and she can’t argue for herself in the finals. Still, she’s one of my favorites – all she needs is one really good public speaking course, and she could maybe finally win this thing.
16. Johnny Fairplay (Pearl Islands, Fans vs. Favorites)
Two words: Dead. Grandmother.
15. Ethan Zohn (Africa, All-Stars)
Ethan was the ultimate nice guy in Africa. How could you not root for a guy with that gorgeous mop of hair? I hated his season, but he was an awesome player – and has done fantastic things since leaving the show.
14. Courtney Yates (China, Heroes vs. Villains)
Ok, so she’s never won. And she’s not exactly a powerhouse in challenges. But she did makes the finals in China, and had it not been for Tyson’s idiotic vote in Heroes vs. Villains, that season might have gone differently for her. But the reason she makes the list? Her fantastic wisecracks and eye rolls.
13. Ozzy Lusth (Cook Islands, Fans vs. Favorites)
Ozzy pretty much makes this list because he is such a good swimmer. (Kidding, there’s more to it than that.) In Cook Islands he played a strong social game and killed in challenges. Unfortunately he seemed to have left his social skills in the Cook Islands though, because he didn’t come off nearly as well on Fans vs. Favorites.
12. Earl Cole (Fiji)
Earl possesses the Survivor trifecta – social game, strategic game, physical game. He may not be the most compelling player Survivor has ever seen, but I’d say he played a near perfect game that season.
11. Bob Crowley (Gabon)
Gabon doesn’t have the best reputation as Survivor seasons go, but I remember enjoying it. I also remember thinking that Bob Crowley was made for a show like Survivor. His strategy may not have been the absolute best, but how could you dislike a guy who turned his buff into a bow tie? You can’t. He was one of the few lovable people from a generally unlikable cast, and although he’s the oldest winner ever (though Jane could soon take that title…) he was pretty darn good in challenges, too.
10. James Clement (China, Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains)
I know some people don’t care much for James, but I’ve always really liked him. Yeah, his strategy is rather lacking. And his appearance on Heroes vs. Villains put his social skills into question again. But the guy was a machine in challenges, and was pretty damn likable his first two times out. (And I’m still blaming the third go on a bad edit.) Poor James is a true fan of the show and puts everything he has into it – and as a result was taken out of the game not one but two times due to injury. (I know he was voted out in Heroes vs. Villains, but come on – that was all because of the knee.) Has anyone ever had worse luck than this guy? 
9.. Yul Kwon (Cook Islands)
Had Yul Kwon played Survivor a second time, I think he would have come into the game with a huge target on his back. After all, he was incredibly strategic, very likable and extremely strong. Like Earl, he possessed the Survivor trifecta.
8. Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands, Heroes vs. Villains)
She’s played twice, and she’s won twice. You can’t really argue that she isn’t the most successful Survivor player ever. Sandra is a fascinating player. She plays under the radar but has more spunk and sass than most other players. Her “anybody but me” strategy has obviously been successful, but everything else she tried to pull of in Heroes vs. Villains failed. My reason for loving her? She did us all a favor and threw Russell’s hat into the fire.
7. Todd Herzog (China)
Not everyone liked Survivor: China, but I think it produced some of my favorite players to ever be on the show. Todd was a great, great winner. He’s a fan of the show and knew exactly what he had to do to win. He was funny, interesting and played very well-executed social and strategic games. I’d love to see the kid play again. (He would have been a way better villain than Tyson or Randy, in my book.)
6. Yau-Man Chan (Fiji, Fans vs. Favorites)
The creator of the fake hidden immunity idol, I think it must be impossible not to like this man. He was screwed over by Dreamz in Fiji (never trust a guy named Dreamz) and didn’t even really get a chance to play in Fans vs. Favorites. But he’ll always be one of my favorite players of all time.
5. Richard Hatch (Borneo, All Stars)
I don’t think you can make this list and not put Hatch somewhere near the top. He was the only one who knew what he was doing in Borneo! I don’t think he’s particularly likable, and I question the frequency with which he is nude, but the guy’s got good game.
4. Rob Cesternino (Amazon, All Stars)
The greatest player to never win? With over 300 Survivor players now, it becomes hard to make statements like that. But Rob Cesternino is definitely one of them. Not only was he a great strategist, but the guy was frickin’ hilarious on the show. He also makes a fantastic (though rather lengthy) Survivor podcast, which you should definitely check out. He does it with his very funny wife Nicole and often talks to past Survivors (as I said earlier, my favorite guest is Stephan Fishbach, but Cirie was a great guest too). Had he managed to win, he’d have been even higher on my list.
3. Cirie Fields (Panama, Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains)
Another great player to never win. Cirie is the Survivor fan’s hero. She’s the couch potato fan who ended up being a freakin’ awesome player. She plays an impeccable social game, but is still incredibly strategic. The woman knows how to plant thoughts in people’s minds without them even realizing what has happened! Plus I checked, and she actually did win a reward challenge once. So there.
2. Boston Rob (Marquesas, All Stars, Heroes vs. Villains)
OK, so he’s never won. But he married the girl that did, and that’s almost like winning. Boston Rob is just a likable dude. He’s funny. He’s smart. He kills at challenges and solves puzzles like nobody’s business. When I think Survivor I think Boston Rob, and if I were in charge of a schoolyard pick for a tribe, I’d choose him first.
1. Parvati Shallow (Cook Islands, Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains)
You had to have seen this coming, right? Anyone who has ever spoken to me about Survivor knows that I consider Parvati Shallow to be the best player Survivor has ever seen. Here are my reasons:
  1. She possesses the Survivor trifecta. She might have the best social game of anyone ever on the show. She’s very strategic. And don’t try to tell me she’s not a physical threat, because she has won her fair share of challenges. 
  2. She’s played 114 days of Survivor, more than anyone else.
  3. She won Fans vs. Favorites, and in my mind should have won Heroes vs. Villains.
  4. She’s the only player to ever start a season (Heroes vs. Villains) with a HUGE target on her back and still make it to the finals.
  5. She never gets emotional or takes her mind out of the game. 
She’s also funny, can read other players very well, knows when to take a risk and knows how to use her assets. People who think she was just a flirt must not have been paying attention very well – she’s an engaging person who charmed both male and female players. Plus she orchestrated an all-female final four, something I always wanted to see.
So that’s my list! Feel free to share your top twenty, top ten, top five, whatever. But don’t expect that I won’t make fun of you if you include someone from Nicaragua!


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