Every Survivor Winner Ranked (S1-36)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ranked through season 36, every Survivor winner.

1 Richard Hatch S1
2. Parvati S16
3. Sandra S7/20
4. Boston Rob S22
5. Tyson S27
6. Kim Spradlin S24
7. Yul S13
8. Brian Heidik S5
9. Tom Westman S10
10. Tony S28

11. Todd Herzog S15
12. Chris Daugherty S9
13. Jeremy S31
14. Cochran S26
15. Wendell S36
16. Sarah S34
17. Mike S30
18. Natalie S29
19. Earl S14
20. Ethan Zohn S3

21. JT S18
22. Adam S33
23. Denise S25
24. Tina Wesson S2
25 Sophie Clarke S23
26. Aras S12
27. Ben S35
28. Jenna Morasca S6
29. Amber S8
30. Danni S11

31. Michelle S29
32. Bob CrowleyS17
33. Fabio S21
34. Vecepia S4
35. Natalie White S19

Let's start at the bottom; is there a good argument that (in really any order) the bottom four aren't the bottom four?  They had some level of backed into the win, the height (depth?) of which, for my dollar, was Natalie White - which is why I have her last.  Even if you're in the "no such thing as a bitter jury" camp, she just happned to be the one sitting next to a Hantz at the end.  

I think of Bob and Fabio (and to a lesser extent, Aras) as similar, largely good natured, played a basically frictionless game - the other competitors liked them and likeability is their biggest (only?) strength.  Jenna and Amber (and Tina and Denise) rode coattails but all had a level of value to their games not found with those bottom five winners.  Michelle's somewhere in that group; her primary benefit was she wasn't seen as making the moves that took out the swing votes in the jury.  Ben was outflanked down the stretch, but used multiple idols and an unprecedented end game twist (a coup d'eBen?) to get the win.  It's only his being a good player throughout the game that keeps him from a lower slot.  

Twinnies Natalie's game was uneven, but she fought from underneath and made some big strategic decisions in the endgame. A good comp is Mike from the following year, he was clearly better, just physically dominating the endgame maybe in an unprecedented way, but also largely responsible for being positioned underneath in the first place, and the quality of his opposition, like Natalie's, was suspect. JT would be in the top 10 if not for his second appearance on the show - giving Russell the idol was such a terrible move that this is as high as he could reasonably be ranked.  Ethan and Earl were both nice guys in the vein of Fabio/Bob, but added a second level of leadership.  Adam made a lot of moves; not all of them were effective, but his unanimous jury vote is testament to the ability to create a jury perception of punches that landed when maybe he was just being busy.

Heidik/Todd/Daugherty all fill that sneaky/strategic role that bumps them up  I could see an argument that Earl/Ethan should be ranked ahead of Daugherty.  Cochran's game was less slippery, strategic in his second stint and more guy everyone really liked.  He was Ethan Zohn. Jeremy really falls into that phylum as well; he played a good all around game, never really lost control although wasn't as aware of everyone around him as others, but really relied on how much more people liked him, liked the moral force of him, than any particular strategic decision. Sarah played a rat floater game, made some good strategic moves, stayed in good with people when she needed to ge in good with them, was less in control of the game and more on the right side of where the game was being controlled.  And she was boring TV, that doesn't matter for these purposes, but it should be noted that she's a not particularly appealing television character. Wendell's tough to rate, he and Domenick together controlled the back half of the game like Tom Westman, but absent a twist introduced in Ben's season allowing for firemaking, he wouldn't have made the final 3. 

Tony was messy; bold, impetuous, great TV and a really constant, tenacious player who benefited from the all time worst decision in show history (Woo's final 3 vote) and a jury that was better than Russell Hantz's.

Yul/Kim/Tom all dominated every phase of their season; were either Yul/Kim to return and get into another jury vote there's room to move up.  No one ever dominated like Rob in his final attempt; I'd see an argument anywhere in the top 4 for Rob.  Sandra won twice and while there was never a point really in either game that she dominated, the results alone require a top 4 finish. Her third appearance was the most fun of the the three and doesn't hurt her overall ranking.  Parvati did dominate in her second appearance, despite losing to Sandra - in a pretty deep field in season 20 she was the best player.  She's also the hottest Survivor winner, which probably is worth some mention.  Tyson moves into that group with his dominant win; he and Rob profile very similarly.  If Yul/Kim are similar, so are Rob/Tyson.

And finally, Hatch.  I think it's underappreciated how "making an alliance" wasn't inherently an obvious strategy when Survivor began - the Hatch template is basically still the method which reality competition contestants across the world still use (both in order to win and to make good TV). Survivor's harder in 2013 than it was in 2000; current competitors not only have all of the past Survivors to draw from but all the other reality competition programs that utilize similar group dynamics.  I'm amenable to a counter-argument that Hatch's game doesn't match, say the level of strategy of Rob's winning season.  

But in the end I remain really, really impressed with Hatch's forward thinking; for the same reason I'd still rank Dr. Will ahead of Dan Gheesling as the best BBUS player - I'll say Hatch, 30 seasons later, is still the greatest Survivor ever.  


Mark said...

I always think Earl is a really underrated winner and, like Heidik, I think his legacy probably suffers from his season being pretty underwhelming. I'd certainly consider his performance in Fiji to be significantly more impressive than that of Chris (his sublime final tribal performance overshadows how fortunate he was to be there) and either of Sandra's wins (yes, winning twice is great but what does she bring to the game in terms of strategy?).

I'd probably bump Todd up a few places, too. His game in China was outstanding.

Out of interest, Jim, which non-winners would you place in the top 25 players of all-time?

Jim said...

Yau Man, Cirie, Amanda, Cesternino, Ozzie.

Earl's problem in being ranked higher is Yau Man, who was the dominant (right?) player of that season. Hard to get much more than a spot or two higher than he is given Yau's performance. I don't think there's a lot of room to bump Heidik/Herzog because then we get to that Yul group all all around players who fall short of being in that upper legends tier but whose games really didn't have flaws.

Sandra won twice; if she didn't come back for all stars and win I'd be with you - but to get those people in all stars to write her name down was pretty nifty. Thinking historically, the number of people to win two reality comps is super small (are there any other Americans? Brian Dowling won BBUK twice, I can't think of anyone else without looking it up).

Anonymous said...

Id put todd im top 4 and watch the secret clips and youll see why everyone from her season respected her as the smartest player(sophie)

crimsonjoe said...

A couple thoughts:

1) The fact that it took Boston Rob four tries to win should count against his ranking. I'd put Yul in the top 4 in his place.

2) Should Tina get a higher place given her performance in S27?

3) Richard Hatch is the Honus Wagner of Survivor- the greatest, but it was a different game (in part because he created the formula that others have tweaked). I won't disagree with the #1 spot.

4) Brian Heidik is actually underrated. Not only was he never in serious trouble, he pulled off a stunt (having three different 'final two' alliances, yet still getting the votes of the two people he turned on) that I don't think has been duplicated. I couldn't believe the jury didn't tear him apart and went after Clay instead.

Jim said...

1. I'd lean the other way on how to weigh Rob's body of work given his performance in All Stars.

2. I don't think so - other than winning that last Redemption Island I'm not sure Tina's 27 performance was a good one.

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