Well, here we go. We've had a little controversy and debate with the list so far, but it's time to reveal another 10 names on this list that I'm sure will get people talking. I'll do a small recap of #s 50-21. #s 50-41
saw players like Tyson and Aubry go out earlier than some expected. #s 40-31
saw legendary losers Amanda, Fairplay, and Spencer. The last set, #s 30-21
, arguably started the biggest debate. It saw some say Devon Pinto was too high, Tom Westman too low, and had community favorites Todd and Yul just miss the Top 20 cut. Now, the next 10 names are here.
20. Rob Cesternino-
the RHAP god himself found his way in my Top 20. Rob C is arguably one of the most important players in Survivor history. A straight-up strategist, he found out from Alex that he was likely getting 4th if he stayed in his current F7 alliance. Past players were more accepting of that, but Rob C changed the game by putting himself from the bottom to the top. He's not the first flipper (Neleh/Paschal) but probably the first one that had a real shot at winning. He's still up there for one of the best losing games ever. My weaknesses for Rob C are that I'm not sure if he would have realized that if Alex didn't tell him and that I think he could have managed Matthew better. Rob openly toyed with him at times and really leaned on him too much without the bond to get to the F2. 19. Danni Boatwright-
I'm prepared for some controversy here. Danni took the biggest beating from her game on Winners at War. Admittedly, it was not great, and even hurt my reputation of her despite her IG live explanation. She never quite recovered from alienating Boston Rob. BUT, I think people forget how great her Guatemala game was, or even use WaW to counter it. She arguably had a Top 5 winning game there. I had her in my Top 5 players ever on my Top 50 six years ago, so this is a big fall. Her comeback in Guatemala down 5-1 is one of the greatest ever though, convincing Steph and Rafe to keep her over 2-3 goats in their own alliance. I see a lot of people rank players on control, and while I usually agree, an exception needs to be made for Danni in her first half because she went into the merge down 6-4 just based on tribal lines. Not much could have been done there but survive. 18. Domenick Abbate-
I would vote this guy as the greatest rookie runner-up in Survivor history. He gets a lot of respect around here, and I want to continue that. What an absolute show Dom put on to carry a weak season. Something he did so well with his partner in crime was take out his biggest threats ASAP and make people scared to go against him. Chris Noble is the peak of the first part and the F6 tribal, which his bluff idol move would've been regarded as one of the best moves ever had he won, is the peak of the second part. I think it's amazing Dom got 5 jury votes with his aggressive style of game, because I do think it's a weak point to be seen as the more dirty player with a social partner. 17. Wendell Holland-
only fitting to keep the Ghost duo paired up. Wendell got a lot of heat for his Winners at War edit, but I think that has made him become an underrated winner. His win is in my top 1/3 of winning games. He absolutely dominated alongside Dom while being seen as cool and confident, but arguably being seen as the "good cop" of their duo, which put him over the edge. People have argued Wendell can't play that well without a strong partner, but I'm still not sure if that's true. Winners at War I didn't see any glaring weaknesses in his game. Yes, he probably made a mistake voting out Yul, but I give him a pass due to his extremely personal relationship with Michele. 16. Natalie Anderson-
this is mostly going to be about SJDS. She really played a brilliant game there. I can't even think of a time she was ever in danger of getting voted out. The only vote she was ever out on was when she lost her buddy Jeremy. But, she has a HOF game from then on. Saves Jon by telling him to play his idol, only to secretly hold resentment and blindside him at 6, and use his girl to separate the last pair at F5. The Alec vote is arguably underrated too. I'll keep WaW brief. I don't like Edge, I'm not a fan of it, so I look at Nat as more of a first boot here than runner-up. But, if you're going to use the twist, she admittedly did not play the best with it when she came back in. 15. Denise Stapley-
the ultimate Survivor herself cracks my Top 15. What I mean by that is she is the only person to win her season by going to every single tribal council of the season. She had to make late game decisions when there were 15 people left! Then, she emerged herself into the Kalabaw majority and survived two tribals there, then sold Skupin and Lisa on keeping her in F5 over Abi. Plus, she had the ultimate meat shield in Malcolm. I know people say she would have taken him to F3 but I don't buy that for a second. WaW I thought she had a great pre-merge. Her handling of the HII early in the bag opening tribal council was savagely sneaky. And then she knocked out Sandra. However, I think she made some mistakes like voting out Adam, picking Sandra over Tony, and relying too much on Ben/Sarah. Still, the woman knows how to fly UTR and go deep into the game consistently. 14. Tina Wesson-
the first woman to ever win Survivor finally lands on this list. Tina isn't the most known innovator, but she made a lot of smart moves that perhaps helped change the rules. She used the vote tiebreaker to her advantage with Mitchell and Varner. And she was smart about it both times, recognizing she was on the bottom of Ogakor the first time and worked persistently on flipping Colby, then threw the merge challenge to Keith who was known to have votes. Her F2 debate is tough to this day, did she convince Colby to take her or did she just get lucky? One can argue she leaned too heavily on Colby that game. All Stars she got targeted for being a winner so not much to say there. BvW she had a surprising run, but showed some flaws, particularly her handling of Monica. 13. Sophie Clarke-
this one I can see being controversial too. Truthfully, I've respected Sophie's game since I re-watched SP. People say she didn't do anything, but she never had to besides make sure Ozzy didn't win final immunity and Brandon wasn't in F3. She positioned herself perfectly on Upolu and was also the only woman in that core five alliance as a footnote. Sophie maintained control of the alliance, thwarting Albert's flip plans and getting Coach to dismiss the idea of voting her out. People say Coach could have won, but Sophie knew what I knew when we saw him come back that Coach was Coach. He's not someone to take seriously, rather someone you want at the end with you. I think her letting Coach come as close as he did is the only reason she's not higher. Her Winners at War game also really legitimized her in my eyes, even if you want to call out that she left with an idol in her pocket. 12. Chris Daugherty-
I'll openly admit there may be some bias here. Chris is perhaps my favorite winner ever. I love his story, overcoming a 6-1 women's alliance after telling his wife he was going home. The way he gets Twila and Eliza to work together for his benefit despite hating each other is brilliant and his FTC performance is the greatest of all time in my mind. So, while I'm a fan of his, I do truly believe he played a top tier winning game, maybe one of the 10 best. I think why he's not in the Top 10 is that he was a minor first boot threat, he lost Twila and Julie at the merge temporarily, he got a little lucky Leigh Ann fucked up at F7, and he's only played one time. 11. Richard Hatch-
the original King of Survivor lands just shy of my Top 10. Hatch is the ultimate innovator. That's undeniable. He ran the first successful alliance, figured out the game was about people, recognized the two big threats on Pagong were Gretchen and Greg, and executed one of the most brilliant finale moves in Survivor history by throwing the FIC. People argue Hatch won a different game. And it's different than modern Survivor sure. But I think his game holds up on a lot of pre-HII seasons. He provided for the tribe around camp, he made just enough social bonds, and took out the threats in the most sneaky way. But, I do think that same stigma of only seeing him truly in action on the original season makes me even doubt putting him in my Top 10 against more experienced players.
Stay tuned for my Top 10! I'm not sure if I will do them all at once or separate that into two parts. I'm not going to give a lot of hints anymore, as I think the Top 10 should be obvious by now. The only thing I'll say is it has 9 winners and my best loser of all-time.
Here’s a ridiculously long write-up of Parvati’s winning game . . . First One Out
While the generally accepted narrative is that Parvati would’ve been voted out first if not for Johnny Fairplay quitting, there’s a lot of evidence that it would’ve been someone from Penner’s alliance – most likely Eliza. Cirie said that she was already aligned with Parvati’s alliance and no one from Penner’s alliance even approached her about the vote1
; this is backed up by Yau-Man’s exit press, where he said “I guess what we forgot was to include Cirie in this whole scheme”2
. And Cirie has been very consistent in her interviews post season that she never liked Jonathan, and in the game was never comfortable with Yau’s previous idol finding. Eliza also confirmed in a Periscope that Cirie was close with Parvati and Amanda from Day 23
So, Parvati’s alliance had a firm 5 votes, none of which had any incentive to flip over to Penner’s alliance. Whereas the other 5 – Penner, Yau, Eliza, Ami, and Fairplay – are not nearly as tight. In the case of a tie, it’s very hard to see anyone from the “couples” alliance flipping, but Penner and Fairplay are almost guaranteed to save themselves in that situation, especially considering Fairplay was/is a huge Ozzy fan1,4
And the only reason Parvati was considered as the first boot is because she was viewed as a huge threat. On RHAP (and every single other interview he’s ever done), Penner said he was extremely impressed by Parvati’s game in Micronesia, and only targeted her because she was such a strong social player in Cook Islands5
. This is backed up by Yul’s interview with RHAP, where he said she went out before Adam because she was so good at manipulating Ozzy6
. And Fairplay said that she was targeted because he thought she was dangerous1
. Locking in Cirie
I’ll be highlighting this element of Parvati’s game a lot through this write-up because it’s often overlooked, but Parvati’s subtle social manipulation is absolutely outstanding. I think there’s two different kinds of “social game” on Survivor; one kind is an inherent likability a person has - like a J.T. or Ethan who kind of fall backwards into running the game because they’re so well-liked, and the second kind is a person actively turning their social capital into gameplay – like a Tyson or Wendall. And I think Parvati might be the best social player at combining both types into her game (the only people arguably better at it, IMO, would be Cirie or Kim).
Her ability to form genuine bonds with people while also manipulating them in her favor is on display when she pulls Cirie into the “couples” alliance. When Cirie questions the bonds her and Amanda have with James/Ozzy, this is how the conversation goes:
Cirie: What about Ozzy?
Parvati: We’d lose against Ozzy in a second
Amanda: I like flirting with Ozzy, if it bothers you, I’ll stop
Parvati: No, cause that’s how you keep him close, and he doesn’t ask questions. James asks me no questions, ever.
She does a great job pandering to everything Cirie wants to hear, in no small part because it’s the right strategy and her actual plan. The more impressive thing Parvati does is her handling of Amanda; she has built enough of a bond that she can sell out James and Ozzy without spooking Amanda. She also verbalizes her “flirt” strategy (which is a relatively small part of her game that the show intentionally exploits . . .), which keeps Ozzy and James blindly loyal to her alliance. Overall, this one conversation is exceptionally good at highlighting just how good Parvati is at understanding the social dynamics of her tribe (which is the most important part of Survivor).
Following up on that conversation, Parvati does a great job pandering to Cirie to make sure she doesn’t flip to Penner’s alliance. While Ozzy, James, and Amanda all balk at the idea of voting Yau because Cirie wants to, Parvati works overtime to convince all of them it’s the right thing to do; which again highlights how good she is at controlling her alliance, as she is able to talk to both sides without upsetting anyone. The Tribe Swap
One of the biggest arguments against Parvati’s winning game is that she avoids going to Tribal for the entirety of the Tribe swap, where she could have potentially gone home. I think this is a bit unfair for two reasons – there is a HUGE number of winners or players considered great that got very lucky they avoided Tribal early, even if they weren’t explicitly in danger (like Jeremy, Sarah, Rob, etc), and this argument is pretty much always used to prop up Cirie’s game, even though she would
have gone home during the swap if not for some incredible luck in Chet quitting.
I also don’t think Parvati would have gone home if nuAirai went to Tribal. Even though the edit places Parvati’s alliance with Natalie/Alexis as right before the merge, Alexis has confirmed that they aligned immediately and Natalie was never going to turn on Parvati, and Alexis was never going to turn on Natalie7
. So, Parvati had 4 of 8 votes on her side (her, James, Natalie, Alexis). According to Jason’s Survivor Oz interview, he wasn’t super close with Eliza until they were on the outs together, and he spoke highly of both Parvati and James as well as having a previous alliance with Natalie and Alexis8
, so I think Parvati’s side was much more likely to pull someone over than Penner.
And, along similar lines as Chet quitting, I am 100% sure that if nuAirai lost, Kathy would have asked to be voted out. Playing Both Sides
Like I said earlier, Parvati’s “flirt game” is actually a very small part of her strategy, but people focus on that instead of what actually makes her such a dangerous social player – her ability to appeal to everyone. (Part of why I’m always so impressed watching her HvV game is that she had to play that whole game without her strongest skill because no one was ever going to be snowed over by her even if she was a literal angel, considering the target and reputation she had).
In Micronesia especially, Parvati was incredibly effective at parlaying her social capital into strategic alliances. First with the couples - which was so effective because James and Amanda came into the game as a pair, and Parvati and Ozzy were a pair (from Cook Islands), and by latching onto James in a flirtatious way once Amanda began flirting with Ozzy, there was no incentive for any of the three to turn on her until they made it to Final 4 (and I’ll get to it later, but the way she uses those bonds to blindside Ozzy is very impressive). And pulling Cirie into that alliance, Parvati was able to make a sub-alliance within her majority with two people absolutely willing to take her to Final 3.
And once the tribes swapped, she pulled in Alexis and Natalie to have a mixed alliance of Fans and Favorites, making herself the swing vote for the entire merge. In the reunion show, Parvati says that was her strategy (she didn’t just luck into leading all her alliances) because she could always play the sides against each other or use them to target someone else, and she really was the only player in that position for the entire merge. Alexis and Natalie were tighter with each other than with her, but by themselves can’t accomplish anything and never looked outside of Parvati as far as alliances; this is what Alexis says before the merge:
If Parvati feels more of an alliance to her original group, then Natalie and I will be out, and that’s the game. But I think right now we’re certainly banking on the fact that it’s not really Fans vs Favorites anymore
And while Cirie was in the 5-person alliance with Ozzy and James, the guys always viewed her as a 5th wheel and never would have used her to take out Parvati or Amanda. Parvati also maneuvered into being Cirie’s number one ally, even though she was apart from her for the entire swap, and used that bond to blindside Ozzy (and yes, Parvati used Cirie as a number to take out Ozzy, not even a debate, but I’ll get into that later). At the same time, she was also tighter with Amanda than Cirie was, and had a solid enough friendship with her that she was able to blindside her and make other alliances without losing her trust.
And outside of the people Parvati actually intended on playing with, almost everyone felt incredibly bonded to her (Eliza is the only one to actually dislike her, and Erik seems to have had no relationship with her. Even though Penner was always targeting her, he’s never said anything negative about her personally and he gave her his hat, and was rooting for her in HvV5
). Kathy Sleckman is probably the most notable person to really love Parvati, considering the pretty awful language she used to describe her game in the Cooks:
When I watched her on Cook, I couldn't stand her. I thought her strategy was being a w****, and I thought that she gives women a bad name. But, after being on her tribe, I realized she has a heart of gold, and all that flirting is just the way she is all the time. She giggled, and smiled constantly even though we were all miserable. She really lightened, and brightened the camp. So I went from a Parv hater to a Parv respecter. She is a tough cookie.9
Ami also loved Parvati on the island:
I always felt like she cared about me and wanted me to be successful 10
Ami also said Parvati made everyone “feel loved and cared for”, and that she is a better player than Chris Daugherty.10
And even though Parvati hated Jason, he never realized that and both in the game and in post-show interviews has spoken very highly of her game.
No matter how the numbers played out during and after the merge, there is almost zero chance that Parvati could have ever been in danger (I mean it really says something that the closest she comes to getting voted out is Erik’s galaxy brain take at Final 5). Especially since she makes sure that Eliza is the merge boot, because Eliza was the only player unwilling to work with her (even though Parvati didn’t have a relationship with Erik, he was a lock to vote with Ozzy at the merge).
As a side note, I kind of think the evidence speaks for itself as far as Eliza hating her being Eliza’s fault. Obviously, Parvati should have found some way to get along with her, but considering everyone else got along really well with Parvati, and Eliza became really close friends with Parvati outside the game, it seems like Eliza was determined to dislike Parvati on the island. (Which is the exact same thing that happened in Vanuatu). The Ozzy Blindside
Damn you, Survivor Historians! Their coverage of Parvati is incredibly biased all the time (at least from Mario), but they were especially wrong when it comes to the Ozzy blindside. (It’s particularly embarrassing that their whole argument is that Jeff makes stuff up during the Previously On, but Jeff literally says “Parvati and Cirie
” blindsided Ozzy). There’s a huge amount of evidence that it was entirely Parvati’s idea to blindside Ozzy, and Cirie was just in on the vote as Parvati’s ally.
The timeline the show presents is this: Cirie is mad she is sent to Exile >
Cirie realizes that Ozzy can win out once Jason goes, and also has an idol >
Cirie decides she wants him gone and tells Parvati >
Parvati doesn’t really want to blindside him, but ultimately goes with Cirie’s plan.
First, I’m going to discredit the show’s timeline, then I’ll provide quotes that prove it was Parvati’s idea to blindside Ozzy.
We all know that the editors often manipulate the footage to better form a coherent story, and just in this season alone they’ve done it twice (I’m sure they did it more than that, but there’s concrete proof in these two examples): 1) Cirie was already with Parvati/Amanda on Day 2, and was never going to side with Penner’s alliance. 2) Not until Penner is medivaced and Kathy quits do the editors show Parvati’s alliance with Natalie/Alexis, but it’s obvious she aligned with them way earlier, because in the shots where she’s talking to them, her busted lip (from the swap day challenge) magically re-appears.
So, with the understanding that the editors are always going to present the best story, here’s why (IMO) the show presents the Ozzy blindside through Cirie’s eyes: there is exactly 0 suspense if it is Parvati’s idea. The way the votes break (5/4), they are able to present Parvati as the swing, and play off her tight friendship with Ozzy to make it a “will she/won’t she” vote, which is very exciting to watch. But if the blindside is her idea, there is no doubt she’s going to go through with it, and the only question is “will Ozzy play his idol”, but they can’t make a story out of that because he very clearly wasn’t going to (in his confessional he doesn’t even plan on bringing it to Tribal).
Back to the show’s timeline though; this11
unaired confessional takes place after the Reward Challenge but before the Immunity Challenge – BEFORE Cirie has come back from Exile – and Parvati very clearly says she wants to take advantage of Jason being completely on the outs to blindside Ozzy. This order of events is supported by Parvati’s winning the immunity challenge and making sure Jason doesn’t (it’s Parvati’s idea to have everyone promise), since him being the target was a part of her plan to vote out Ozzy. Clearly, the show’s timeline is wrong.
Further, we only see one conversation between Parvati, Cirie, Alexis, and Natalie where they discuss blindsiding Ozzy; and if you’re only half paying attention, it could seem like it shows Cirie pitching everyone on the idea of voting off Ozzy. But if you listen closely, it’s pretty clear that this is not the first time they’ve discussed this – both Cirie and
Parvati are giving the pitch, telling Alexis and Natalie who not to tell.
Moving on from the edit, the opinion of the players on the island is unanimous that Parvati was the person who voted Ozzy out:
Amanda in confessional: Parvati is pretty much running the show at this point. She has Natalie and Alexis wrapped around her finger. And Cirie didn’t even tell me that she was voting for Ozzy, so she’s got little Cirie wrapped around her finger
James at Tribal: Parvati, she want to make herself in a better position, so she did what she had to do when she got rid of Ozzy
Jason (Survivor Oz): I won’t take credit for getting Ozzy voted out, because that was totally Parvati’s doing 8
Jason’s voting confessional (after Ozzy goes home and when he believes James is the boot): James, you played a good game, unfortunately Parvati got you in the end
Cirie: I’m just hoping that his anger is geared more at Parvati than it is toward me. *I was just a cog in the wheel!*12
Cirie (again): I didn’t start the blindside for Ozzy, I participated 13
Eliza (jury speech): I think taking out Ozzy was a brilliant strategic move. I respect that move that you made
Less reliably, Ozzy’s jury speech makes it clear that he also viewed his blindside as Parvati’s move.
As far as the players not quoted (Alexis, Natalie, Erik), I couldn’t find anything from them about Ozzy’s boot in particular, but they have not given the credit to Cirie or anyone else.
Honestly, I really don’t understand why so many people are so eager to take the Ozzy blindside away from Parvati, considering how many times she articulated it as her strategy – both before and after the vote. Either in confessional or conversation with other players, she says she wants to blindside Ozzy and James more than 7 times, and that’s just the ones that made the air.
Now that I’ve established that blindsiding Ozzy was definitely Parvati’s move, I want to articulate why it was such a brilliant one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Parvati is the first person to ever pull off the “meat shield” strategy of taking the alpha male/obvious threats to the merge specifically
to hide her own threat level. Most of the time I see people credit Jeremy with this strategy, and that was 15 seasons later. This was brilliant on her part, and way ahead of its time as far as Survivor gameplay back in 2008.
And beyond the concept, Parvati executes this move perfectly. She had been planning this since Day 1, and builds her alliance around the idea; picking two huge threats who will never try and vote her out (which she articulates to Cirie in episode 3). And by aligning with Cirie as her fifth alliance member, Parvati guarantees herself a partner-in-crime for when she finally blindsides Ozzy. After the swap, she pulls in Alexis and Natalie specifically to give her two more votes to get ride of Ozzy and James after the merge. Then, instead of getting trigger happy and blindsiding Ozzy as soon as they merge, Parvati goes one vote to make sure he trusts in their alliance, and firm up her own numbers.
And again, I just want to call attention to how well Parvati had maneuvered herself alliance wise; a lot of times in Survivor, when a player blindsides one of their closest allies and strongest competitors, they go home next because they don’t have anyone else as close (think Wentworth and Wardog). But when Ozzy goes, Parvati still has Cirie, Alexis, and Natalie as ride or dies, and is able to pull Amanda back in (and by extension James); and because of her idea to earn Jason’s trust (when she pitches that idea to him at the immunity challenge, she already knew Ozzy was going home, based on her confessional), he now believes he’s part of her alliance. There is almost no way this ever could have backfired.
Going back to my point that Parvati is really good at subtly controlling the social politics of her tribe, the conversations she has with Alexis, Natalie, and Cirie in the days leading up to Ozzy’s blindside are a great example of this. A lot of strategic blindsides go south for the mastermind because they require someone having to be blatantly selfish in their gameplay; so instead of relying on pure logic to vote Ozzy out, she starts to turn people against him on a personal level:
Parvati (to Alexis): He is such a little brat. He’s like – everyone else is downplaying how good the food was, and he’s like “it was sooooo delicious”
And the manner she goes about it is perfect, too – her and Alexis are laughing and joking about it, which makes it seem much more natural than if she was trying to make everyone really angry. These are the small moments where Parvati just really excels at the social aspect of Survivor.
Often overlooked in his blindside is how crucial the relationship between Parvati and Ozzy was. Whereas Ozzy never felt particularly connected to Cirie and viewed her as #5 in a five-person alliance, he really trusted Parvati. In the reunion show, he says he probably would have played his idol if it had been anyone but Parvati he was trusting. It’s very impressive on her part that she was able to separate her actual friendship with him (if you’ve ever listened to any of her interviews, it’s very clear she really likes him), and then play him so well even though she was always
planning on double-crossing him. Even if it had been Cirie’s idea to blindside him – which it wasn’t – she never could have done it without Parvati, who fully controlled Alexis and Natalie’s votes and
had Ozzy’s trust.
And after Ozzy is voted out, she does an exceptionally good job dealing with the aftermath. As she said in episode 3, she picked James as an ally because he asks no questions and will never strategize; so even though she’s broken their alliance irreparably in voting out Ozzy, James will never
do anything about it. If there’s one person in Survivor you want working against you, it’s him.
But the way she is able to reel Amanda back in after blindsiding her basically-boyfriend is really impressive. First, she makes sure that Amanda’s other closest ally, Cirie, also voted Ozzy out, leaving Amanda with no appealing alternative. Then she falls back on their prior close bond, guaranteeing Amanda that the Final 3 is still the two of them and Cirie; and because Parvati did such a good job bonding with her for the first half of the game, Amanda goes along with it. The ideal move for Amanda at this vote would have been to tell Jason they were actually going to vote for him, throw three votes on Parvati or Cirie – herself, James, Jason – and take advantage of the majority splitting votes by having Jason play his idol. But instead, she goes right back to Parvati and lets Parvati call the shots for the rest of the game. And when James tells her they should both vote Parvati, Amanda refuses, because Parvati did a great job making a deep enough bond to withstand a blindside. The Black Widow Brigade
The alliance of women Parvati forms is a great example of how strong a social player she is. I’ve already laid out why the interpersonal dynamics gave her complete strategic control over the season, but I want to call attention to the concept
of the Black Widow Brigade. Parvati is the one who brought all of the women together, and is also the first one to name their alliance. Both of those moves are impressive for two different reasons; Parvati accurately understood the social dynamics of men and women in Survivor, and then used the gender divide to establish loyalty amongst her allies.
To elaborate on my first point, it was an extremely heads up move on Parvati’s part to intentionally create an alliance of exclusively women because they are constantly less respected than their male counterparts (which she makes clear in her conversation with James after the Ozzy blindside). Statistically, juries overwhelming prefer men to women; roughly 161 votes for men in gender split FTCs compared to 76 for women - that’s a disparity of 68% to 32% (and only men have won unanimously). I think Parvati’s own experience with this in Cook Islands, watching Becky be passed over in favor of Yul and Ozzy, really drove that point home for her. So, by aligning solely with women, Parvati already gave herself a much better chance at winning.
To elaborate on my second point, Parvati used the inherent social instinct of “men vs women” to her advantage to prevent her alliance from teaming up with the people on the bottom. Going back to how strong a subtle social player she is, doing things like naming their alliance “The Black Widow Brigade” and creating inside jokes such as “Stir the pot!” fostered a sense of camaraderie between her group while also creating outsiders – and by hammering home “men vs women”, she gave all the girls a sense of moral superiority in their alliance that dissuades them from working with anyone else. Alexis’ Blindside
I think the way the Final 6 vote goes down really highlights how dominant Parvati’s social game was throughout the entire merge.
Once Erik wins immunity, it means the Black Widows will have to turn on each other; but no one ever considers voting out Parvati. (Amanda was partially the target because she was viewed as a jury threat, but it speaks to both Parvati and Cirie’s games that no one ever considers them jury threats even though they are). Amanda pretty quickly becomes the target because, of the five, she is viewed as the biggest jury threat, but Parvati is able to tell Alexis, Natalie, and Cirie that she will never write Amanda’s name down, and no one is mad at that; because all three are so tight with her, they either don’t realize or are unbothered by the fact that Parvati is guaranteeing herself Amanda’s jury vote.
Often overlooked in the Black Widow Brigade is how much Amanda and Natalie/Alexis did not get along. Amanda always disliked Alexis because of her relationship with Ozzy, and at some point after his blindside her and Natalie had a small falling out, which led to both mutually disliking each other14,15
. In Natalie’s Survivor Oz interview, she specifically notes how impressed she was that Parvati was able to manage the alliance in a way that everyone was loyal to her but not the other side15
. I highlight this because it really comes through in Alexis’ attitude after being blindsided by Amanda’s idol, which Parvati knew about and participated in; even though Alexis was really mad at Amanda, it’s clear both from her jury vote and exit interviews that she never held it against Parvati7
– which seems irrational except for the fact that both her and Natalie just completely adored Parvati and did pretty much anything she wanted for the entire game.
(Side note for those few people who think Amanda was the leading strategic force of Parvmanda – Amanda wanted to blindside Natalie with the idol because Alexis’ injury prevented her from being a challenge threat, but even though Amanda holds all the power because she has the idol, she followed Parvati’s plan of blindsiding Alexis.) Exile Island
In every interview Parvati has done since Micronesia, she’s told the story of finding the idol on Exile Island and deciding to leave it there16,17,18
; but for some reason, the show cut it out completely. This is a big deal for two reasons. . .
The first is that it cuts out a really strategically savvy play by Parvati. We see the conversation between Parvati and Amanda before the Final 5 reward challenge, and it is Parvati’s idea to get sent to Exile; not because she needs the idol, but because she wants to make sure Natalie doesn’t get it. The reason she leaves the idol instead of taking it is extremely well thought out; she knows the idol cannot be played passed Final 5, so she is risking nothing by leaving it there (because no one else could get it). She also knows that she absolutely won’t need the idol, because if Erik loses, he would be the consensus boot, and if Erik wins, the majority of Parvati/Amanda/Cirie will vote out Natalie. But she also knows that she is way closer to Natalie than anyone else left in the game, and that if she came back with the idol, Natalie would want Parvati to do her the favor of giving her the idol16
. So, by leaving the idol on Exile, Parvati gets to vote Natalie out with no hard feelings, thereby securing her jury vote.
The second reason this is a big deal is because it shows how willing the editors are to paint Parvati in a negative light as long as it works to build her femme fatale persona. Instead of showing Parvati finding the idol and then presenting a very logical argument for why she won’t take it, they give us extended footage of her body as she sunbathes on the beach. This is a pattern in the way they present her (most on display here and in ep3 of HvV), and makes her look less strategic than she actually is. And if you watch all of her bonus content vs what makes the air, it’s clear they cut a lot of her logic and reasoning out of the show in favor of sound bites that make her seem like more of a “flirt”. A side effect of this is that she doesn’t get nearly as much content coherently verbalizing her game – even though she does so in unaired confessionals – and people are less willing to give her credit. Final Three
Just to quickly break down how the votes would have gone if there had been a Final 3 with Cirie:
Amanda gets Ozzy and James19
Parvati gets Jason8
Cirie gets Eliza20
, and Alexis7
So, Parvati would have lost a close vote; BUT it is worth calling attention to Alexis’ Survivor Oz interview, where she says that she both liked Parvati more and thought Parvati played a better game, but that Cirie had kids who needed to go to college7
. By any typical jury metric – who played a better game or who does the juror personally like more – Parvati earned Alexis’ vote, but outside-the-game factors made Alexis want to give Cirie what amounts to a sympathy vote.
I also think there is a chance Alexis would have actually voted for Parvati (a small one, but still . . .). According to Erik, she was extremely pro Parvati to the point of annoying Erik so much he didn’t want to vote for Parvati22
. Also, in her Survivor Oz interview she says she would have voted for Cirie over anyone7
, but that is contradicted by her final words where she says she is rooting for Natalie to win. I also think it’s important to remember that all of Alexis’ pro-Cirie statements came after
Cirie was voted out in an extremely emotional Tribal Council where she came to Ponderosa broken hearted. If anything was going to swing your sympathy to someone, it would be that. And by all accounts, especially Alexis’7
, Parvati gave an absolutely amazing FTC performance; in the moment, after the person you like more has just crushed all her questions, I can see Alexis going against her sympathy in favor of Parvati (I mean she literally wrote "I *heart* Parv" on her jury vote).
I want to give credit to Parvati for losing the Final Immunity Challenge, because she has a great chance of winning either way it goes. We see her beat Amanda, and if Cirie won, Parvati at least gets Jason8
, Amanda, Natalie15
, and James19
, with outside shots at Alexis and Ozzy (since Cirie also voted him out, and Erik said Ozzy wasn’t nearly as mad as he seemed and thinks his FTC speech was an attempt at acting 23
). So worst case scenario she would have tied with Cirie.
Also, in another good example of Parvati’s subtle social manipulation, she does a great job of completely trash-talking Cirie to Amanda in order to make their bond tighter, which pays off hugely for the Final 2. Final Tribal Council
Largely overlooked by most fans is the fact that Parvati had an absolutely amazing Final Tribal Council performance:
Eliza: Parvati was amazing. I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to speak with her or meet her, but she is one of the most charming, charismatic people you could possibly meet. She just has like this magnetic energy that makes you wanna be her friend, and around her, and like her . . . She nailed every question, she said “You know, this is what I did and this is why I did it. And Ozzy, no I’m not sorry I voted you out because I had to do that to be sitting here, and otherwise it would have been you . . . She was just, she was fantastic. And she earned my vote truly, I voted for her. 20
Alexis: Parvati murdered; I mean it wasn’t even a fair game she was so good at the final. All of her answers were so good for everyone. It wasn’t even a competition, honestly. . . She owned it. She was like “Look, I get it. But you vs me, I chose me. Why? Because I came here to win. Period. End of story. Do I feel bad that I hurt your feelings? Sure. But if I could do it again, would I? Yes.” It’s like, you don’t have to like it, but you have to respect it.7
(It’s worth noting that Eliza is a lawyer and Alexis is a motivational speaker, so both of them are literally paid to present their case well. If anyone would know a good FTC performance, it’s them.)
And despite the way the show edits James to seem mad at Parvati, he said it was a really hard decision for him choosing between her and Amanda19
, and Parvati’s pitch of “I played the best game, not the nicest” is exactly what he wanted from her based on his jury question. Jason as well has said he was voting for whoever played the most cutthroat game, and Parvati’s FTC performance made it clear that was her8
. Cirie is the type of juror who will always vote for the strategist over the nice guy (as evidenced by her vote for Sarah and the fact that she is *gags* a Russell in HvV defender24
), so Parvati’s speech appealed to her as well (and while Cirie is very pro Parvati in interviews, she has no respect for Amanda's strategic game24
), and again, good on Parvati for losing the FIC because Cirie was mad at Amanda for years. Natalie was also impressed with Parvati’s FTC15
, but that doesn’t really matter since she was always voting for her anyway.
Focusing on Eliza in particular, though, really highlights how good Parvati’s performance was. Eliza has said that she bonded with Ozzy at Ponderosa and he really pressured her to vote for Amanda, so even though she hated them both equally, she was leaning towards Amanda going into FTC20
. But Eliza is (or at least tries to be) a strategic player who respects “the game”, and since she had no personal allegiance to either of them, Parvati’s approach is the exact right one to sway her vote.
Of course, Amanda absolutely sucking at FTC probably helped Parvati look even better; but if you look at the consensus best FTC performances, it is made up of Todd, J.T., and Chris. Todd also went up against Amanda, J.T. went up against Stephen who was atrocious at FTC (actively losing himself 2 votes), and Chris went up against Twila, who might be the only person worse at FTC than Amanda.
Anyway, I should stop typing before I max out the word count, so I hope this was an enjoyable read.
Big Brother is a very intriguing game to me, and Micronesia is the season of Survivor I’ve been most acquainted with for the longest time.
For the most part, I think seasons of Survivor would be even better if they had a (twistless) Big Brother format instead, because of the intrigue that essentially inevitably will result from a BB game.
So I decided to try to think up what would have happened if we conceive every round of the Micronesia merge as a Big Brother round instead. We’ll think of these rounds independently, instead of projecting what would happen if different combinations of players were in at given points instead, since that would be pretty complicated.
The way I’ll figure out competitions is pretty simple: the winner of immunity that round won HOH, while whoever went in second won the veto (they didn’t know who won the veto beforehand, though). Let’s see what we get.
Final 10- HOH: Jason
We’re already in a pretty hectic situation, as an outsider wins HOH and throws everybody else’s game for a loop.
I have no doubt in my mind that Jason puts up Ozzy; who goes up next to him is a bit tougher. Subject to revision, I actually suspect he might put up James next to him, because he was so gung-ho about being supreme among the strong guys, and he went for James at the F8 in real life. It’s very very speculative, though; Jason never really mentioned a target other than Ozzy here, so it’s hard to figure out a block partner for him.
If these noms stayed the same, it’s conceivable that Ozzy could be in trouble; as it happened, Cirie appeared to come up with the idea of blindsiding Ozzy when she reflected on the possibility of him going home the previous tribal (if Eliza’s idol was real), and realized it might not have been so bad. So it’s possible Jason could have gotten the three votes other than Eliza’s he’d need to send Ozzy home in this scenario, if Cirie rounded them up.
Unfortunately for him, however, Ozzy wins the veto; here it’s even more speculative what happens next, after Ozzy uses the veto on himself. If I had to guess, I’d say Jason nominates Parvati as the replacement. He appeared to not be that close with Parvati (granted, the same is true of virtually everyone else), and Eliza would be gunning for her.
In all likelihood, though, they aren’t able to hit the shot here. Parvati has Natalie, Alexis, Amanda and Cirie all in her corner (probably Ozzy, maybe Erik, although that’s more speculative, and superfluous), and those are enough numbers to send James home instead of her.
Final 9- HOH: Parvati
Obviously, Parvati and Cirie are cooking up a plan to blindside Ozzy in reality. In a BB format, this would be a terrible HOH for Parvati to win, as it gets blood all over her hands; in the endurance challenge, she should be throwing it to Jason so he can take the shot instead.
In this scenario, I’d speculate that Parv puts up two pawns, Jason and Erik (the two people she doesn’t have a solid relationship with), with the plan to backdoor Ozzy.
The plan works perfectly, as Jason wins the veto. In what would have still been a great veto meeting, Jason uses it on himself, and Parvati puts Ozzy up. Ozzy gets voted out with Cirie, Natalie, Alexis and Jason all voting for him.
Final 8- HOH: Erik
Erik had a confessional pre-immunity where he recognized that the women were together, and he and James were on the chopping block if they didn’t win.
The next questions to ask would be whether the Widows would be able to change his mind, and get him to go after Jason and James instead; and then, if they couldn’t, whom Erik would then put up.
Ultimately, the women (Amanda, Natalie, and Cirie more specifically) would be much better than their competition (James and Jason) at getting into Erik’s ear, so I’d say it’s more likely he’d do their bidding, and put James and Jason up.
James wins the veto and takes himself off; the replacement is again tricky, but I’m guessing Alexis; again, I sort of trust Cirie and Amanda to be in his ear in this scenario.
The ensuing vote is actually pretty interesting. Parvati and Natalie are definitely keeping Alexis, and she needs just one more vote to stay. Given that this is the round after the Ozzy vote, though, I see the potential for things to be in flux.
If James recognizes the girls’ threat and wants to keep Jason, I see somewhat of a possibility he could bring in Amanda as well- both because of their close relationship, and because there was tension between Amanda and Alexis (at least on Amanda’s end). Parvati would be in Amanda’s ear telling her to kick Jason out, but this was just after Parvati betrayed Amanda by sending her showmance home. If both James and Amanda got on board, the swing vote would be Cirie. I wouldn’t put it past her to get on board with this flip, but it’s worth noting that we have no evidence that she tried to make a move in the real-life F8.
If we take James, Amanda and Cirie as all 50/50 links in a potential chain, that still gives Jason a ⅞ chance of going home, but with Alexis having an outside risk.
Final 6- HOH: Erik
This was a nice round in reality, but there are a gazillion scenarios for this round in the BB version.
Amanda was the consensus target once Erik won immunity in real life.
In a straightforward scenario, this is still the case, and Erik nominates Amanda and Parvati.
However, that trio of Amanda, Parvati and Cirie has a history of putting their claws in pretty deep, especially in Erik. I wouldn’t put it past them to get him to put up Natalie and Alexis instead, as absurd a move as that would be.
The veto is won by Natalie.
In the first scenario, Natalie has a tough decision on what to do with the veto. If she wants Amanda to go, she should leave noms the same so she and Alexis can vote her out. But she was very close with Parvati, so it’s a little bit up in the air whether she’d use it. If not, then Amanda is voted out.
If she did, I’m also unsure whom Erik puts up between Alexis and Cirie.
If it’s Cirie, then she stays and Amanda goes; Natalie and Alexis at least vote Amanda out, even if Parvati doesn’t join her.
If it’s Alexis, then Parv is voting Alexis out and Natalie is voting Amanda out. Cirie is the swing vote.
It’s always been up in the air for me what Cirie really wanted this round. She seemed to be playing the middle, where she was prepared to vote with Erik/Alexis/Natalie while telling Amanda/Parvati that she just doesn’t want to go to rocks. But here, she’d have to pick a side. I’m not entirely sure which side she’d pick, although I’m leaning towards that she’d vote Alexis out.
In the second scenario, Natalie uses the veto on herself. If Erik puts Cirie up, then I can pretty confidently say that Parv and Amanda would vote Alexis out, since that’s what they did in reality, and because they also took Cirie to what they thought was the end in reality. If it’s Parvati, then it’s Natalie along with Cirie who’s between a rock and a hard place (just as she was with the veto in the first scenario). If it’s Amanda, then we’re in the same situation as described above, where it’s Cirie picking between Amanda and Alexis.
Final 5- HOH: Erik
Unfortunately, you can’t give up your HOH, try as Nick and Phil may.
In the episode, Erik was all over the place as far as whom he wanted to work with. Since he ended up thinking it was he, Cirie and Natalie against Parvati and Amanda, we’ll say he nominates them.
In the challenge, it appeared to be a three-way tie for second between Cirie, Natalie, and Amanda, so we’ll give all three an equal chance of winning.
If Cirie wins, then it appears she’d use it and get Natalie out- since Natalie was going home in real life if Erik kept his necklace.
If Natalie wins, she probably doesn’t use it. Natalie votes Amanda out, and I think Cirie follows her.
If Amanda wins, she uses it on herself, and the question them becomes who goes up in her place. If it’s Cirie, then I think Natalie and Amanda both vote her out. If it’s Natalie, then Amanda and Cirie both vote her out.
Overall, that’s a ½ chance that Natalie goes, a ⅓ chance that Amanda goes, and a ⅙ chance that Cirie goes.
Final 4- HOH: Amanda
Amanda’s nominations don’t matter; only the veto does.
Natalie wins the veto, and gets to decide between Cirie and Parvati. She votes out Cirie here.
Final 3- HOH: Amanda
Since the final 3 works the same in a BB and Survivor format (granted, the way BB does the competition is different), the results are also the same. Amanda has to pick between Parvati and Cirie as to who to vote out and who to take to the final 2. She votes out Cirie, and takes Parvati to the final 2.
It’s worth noting that Parvati doesn’t go home in any of these scenarios- except maybe in that F8 scenario if she’s the replacement nom instead of Alexis. She had her fingers in almost every pie, and this sort of analysis really bears that out.
Tl;dr: rambling thoughts of my mind that pinpoints the Final Three twist in Cook Islands as a moment that profoundly impacted the Survivor legacies/careers of Yul and Ozzy, as well as elements of the game of Survivor as we know it...including the controversial theme/element for the upcoming S38.
With all the talk on here about S38, I couldn't help but unspool the thread of how the idea of the "Island of Extinction" ultimately came to be. And honestly, it makes me realize how much Survivor history can be/was impacted by a single moment. I'm pretty sure other superfans on here have already reached a similar thought process to this, but still I feel the need to type out my thoughts on this: aside from the new strategies that needed to be developed by future players to reach the end, the surprise Final Three twist in Cook Islands (S13) totally impacted the Survivor legacies/careers of Yul Kwon (for the better) and Ozzy Lusth (for the...well, depends on your perspective), and profoundly affected our Survivor viewing experiences.
At that point in Survivor history, there were a couple of points that winners of Survivor had proven for future players. First, people were already aware that favorite players and/or FTC-worthy players could fall just short of their ultimate goal, but still be thought of in the "should have won/if only they made it to FTC" category. Examples of this from seasons just before Cook Islands include Terry Deitz, Rafe Judkins, and Ian Rosenberger (just to name a few). Second, people were also already aware that a player could cut members of their own alliance (even a ride-or-die ally) and still win it all. Examples of this from before Cook Islands include Tom Westman, Chris Daugherty, Brian Heidik, Amber Brkich (really, most winners if you think about this). Hell, in the season right after Cook Islands (Survivor: Fiji), both of these points happened, with Yau-Man Chan getting eliminated from an almost certain million-dollar payday, and his right-hand man Earl Cole winning the season by sweeping the jury (even after he had helped in voting out his tightest partner). But again, players in Fiji knew to prepare for a Final Three. The bombshell twist of a Final Three in Cook Islands, therefore, could be perceived as having simultaneously saved Yul's game and robbed Ozzy of a win.
Let's discuss it. Ozzy had completely dominated the game physically: joining the elite and exclusive "5 Individual Immunity wins" club (and losing only one post-merge Immunity Challenge), arguably the best performer in swimming challenges at that point and maybe in all of Survivor history, helping to keep the Aitu Four competitive and safe in order to rebound from the mutiny that occurred that season, also one of the biggest assets of a Survivor camp-life. Yul had played a subtle and masterful social/strategic game: a key part of the Aitu Four alliance, finding the Hidden Immunity Idol on just his first trip to Exile Island, successfully using the Idol to flip Jonathan Penner into playing the kingmaker role in one of the most pivotal moments of the game, holding back in challenges when he knew Ozzy was putting in the maximum effort to appear the biggest physical threat. Two very different styles of play, but at the same time, working hand-in-hand together to get the Aitu Four to the Final Four, close and respected allies.
The reveal of the twist took away Ozzy's chance to take out his toughest competition, as Yul's Idol would guarantee him a spot at FTC no matter how the vote went down at the Final Four. Had this been a season with a Final Two, as every prior season had been, Ozzy is most certainly the favorite to win a FIC at the Final Three. And if he succeeds in winning there, he becomes the first player to win 6 Individual Immunity Challenges, he votes out Yul, and likely wins every (or almost every) jury vote, making him the 13th Sole Survivor, and securing a spot as a true legend of the game. What if this happens? What if Ozzy won Cook Islands instead of Yul?
If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, Yul's masterful efforts just render him another robbed player, instead of one of the most intelligent and strategic players to win the game, and one of the best one-time players, as many fans perceive him to be. If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, he's viewed as a deserved winner, biggest challenge threat of possibly all-time, and his legacy isn't adversely affected by his "keeps trying, but just won't win" status of each season he was brought back for. If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, he doesn't return for Micronesia. More likely, that spot goes to Yul, and who knows how that season might have been impacted by swapping those two players? We could see a Yul/Yau-Man partnership (holy crap, I'd kill to see that); the "couples" alliance doesn't exist (unless THE Amanda Kimmel is into Yul); the dynamics of Yul playing along with Penner and Parvati Shallow would be amazing to see...wow, I really wish Yul had been on Micronesia now! Maybe he even wins there! If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, the one season he might realistically return for is Heroes vs Villains, which I'd also love to have seen him on (maybe replace James Clement with him?). If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, he likely doesn't return for Game Changers, but most importantly, he definitely doesn't return for South Pacific.
South Pacific, with Redemption Island in play, was designed for a player like Ozzy (and Boston Rob Mariano in the season before him) to excel at. If Ozzy wins Cook Islands, no way he has to bother playing on this season. Does this mean Benjamin "Coach" Wade, the Dragon Slayer himself, even plays on South Pacific? Does South Pacific just become a season of newbies with Redemption Island in play? A season of newbies without Redemption Island in play? More crucially, without Ozzy dominating Redemption Island as it existed and then falling one FIC win short of winning South Pacific, does the Island of Extinction for S38 even become a thing? Does Joe Anglim just then get a regular Redemption Island season? Does he even get brought back for a S38 if Ozzy wins Cook Islands?
What thoughts do you that make up this sub have on this thread I've been unspooling in my head recently? Am I just crazy? Or so crazy that I might just be right on this?