Guest Post: The Most Useless Players from Every Season of Survivor (part one)

Every season of Survivor has at least one player you look at late in the game and think Who?, How?, and Wait they’re still on the show? A recent conversation here sparked me to go back and ask who the most useless player in every season to go deep was, both in terms of the story and in terms of the game. So I developed a completely unscientific process to answer this question.

Yep, I'm going there.
Yep, this post is going there.

I took four factors into account in analyzing usefulness:

  • Strategic significance: Players who run the strategy are obviously going to be useful, but Survivor is better when people take a run at the majority alliance, so I gave credit to people who made plans and failed.
  • Challenge performance: I’m not a challenge guy, but I can acknowledge that sometimes challenge performance affects the game (see e.g.: Holloway, Mike). That said, not all challenge wins are created equal. Wins that end up having no effect on how the game plays out are treated less importantly than wins that do.
  • Being a pocket vote: If someone is consistently being told how to vote by someone else, it’s a knock against them even if they’re on the right side of the numbers. Going with the flow because it’s the right time to do so is one thing, being a yes man is another.
  • Entertainment value: Did you have no game or clue what you were doing, but at least made good TV? Congratulations, this is your saving category! This is, though, the least important category.

As for what “go deep” means, I settled on surviving at least two votes after the merge. So good job, Julie, you were not the most useless player in San Juan del Sur. If I have two solid contenders for most useless, I’m also generally going to favor the one who made it deeper into the game, just because it’s more baffling.

Without further ado, let’s get to the list.

Survivor: Borneo – Jenna Lewis

Borneo votes- Jenna
Future All-Star

This was one of the hardest for me because Borneo is weird and different. All of the post-merge cast is more fleshed out, and you can’t really point to people who didn’t do all that much because well, that’s everyone who isn’t Rich, Rudy, Kelly, and Sue. It’s obviously not one of them, so my options are Jenna, Gervase, Sean, and Colleen, all of who have their moments.

I don’t want to call Sean a pocket vote, his alphabet strategy made him more of a useful idiot. It’s a story, even if it’s a stupid story. Gervase popped as a TV character and was the first person to articulate the idea of a social game. Colleen, as much as the “America’s sweetheart” stuff seems eye-roll inducing now, was very much a star. So Jenna backs into this by default.

Survivor: The Australia Outback – Amber Brkich

Australia- Amber
Future All-Star winner

The Australia Outback, on the other hand, was super easy. Amber’s role in the game is being Jerri’s sidekick basically from minute 1. Australia is super weird because it’s a mix of people who are there to play the game and people who are there to be on TV. Amber falls into the latter category, so of course hanging out with her new friend is more important than scheming. The problem is, what if your new friend’s plans don’t work out?

Once Colby’s defection to the Tina side marginalizes Jerri, there’s nothing left for her to do. Once Jerri gets voted out it becomes completely hopeless for her; the only reason she sticks around is because it’s Amber and who cares. Her only possible avenue of redemption is to be the new Colleen, and oh, fuck, Elisabeth outshone her in that arena without even trying.

Survivor: Africa – Kim Powers

Survivor Africa Kim Powers
Future forgotten Survivor player

(Guys, I swear this isn’t going to be all young women.)

This was hard for the opposite reason Borneo was. The post-merge of Africa turns into the Tom, Lex, and Ethan show, and everyone else kind of falls by the wayside.

But most of them still get big moments. Brandon tanks any chance of Samburu overturning things by siding with Boran. Plus he has his weird date with Frank. Kim Johnson wins final immunity and gets to decide who she loses to. Every single scene of T-Bird being T-Bird. And then there’s Kim Powers. The only thing I remember about her is that time she let Big Tom pour poop water down her top. She was a vote for Boran, and then it came time to start clipping Boran people and she was gone. That’s it.

Survivor: Marquesas – Paschal English

survivor-marquesas-paschal-english-sees-wife
“Useless? Words hurt, bro.”

(See, I told you. There will also be a lot of old dudes.)

This is the first one that really goes down to the pocket vote factor. I didn’t want to go with a member of the Rotu 4 because, even though they lost, they had a huge effect on the game. It was a different era of the game and just being part of the alliance that looked liked they were going to run the table counts for something.

Out of the “good people” alliance it has to be Paschal, because of the 5 of them he seems most passive. I can’t give it to Kathy, obviously. Vecepia is out because I’m saving picking the winner for one special case, and Sean at least provided a ton of entertainment value.

Neleh was the one who first keyed in that if they didn’t do something the Rotu 4 would ax them at 5 and 6. She cost Kathy final immunity by pointing out her top was open, and she made a deal with Vecepia that sealed what was going to happen. Paschal rode a horse.

Also, Paschal is a racist, so fuck him.

Survivor: Thailand – Jan Gentry

Survivor Thailand Jan
Not only old *men* make this list. Way to upend the patriarchy, Jan!

Jan marks the emergence of one of my least favorite Survivor archetypes – the “kooky old lady.” I thought we had put this to bed when Survivor started casting relatable, sane older women like Dawn, Lisa, Monica, Kass, and Trish, but unfortunately no, it’s come roaring back in the form of Debbie. Anyway, that’s irrelevant to Jan, who is… irrelevant to her season. She’s just kind of there yelling at stuff while Heidik does things.

The only other person I could possibly consider here is Jake, and Jake at least had a leadership position for a chunk of the game, whereas Jan seemed out of it for all of it.

Helen Glover is obviously great, and even if Ted and Clay are the worst they at least contribute to the story of the season by being so terrible. Jan’s entire storyline is that she drinks too much and likes to bury animals. She’s a number for Chuay Gahn until she’s not needed, and then she’s gone. End of story.

Survivor: The Amazon – Butch Lockley

Amazon fire at camp thanks Butch
Editor’s note: Sharcules submitted a different picture for Butch, but I liked this one better.

This is another hard one. Rob’s topsy-turvy strategy meant nearly everyone was on the right side of the vote at some point in The Amazon and on the wrong side at a different point. But out of all of them, Butch is the most clueless about what’s happening, and it gets worse as the season goes on.

You can also make a case for Christy, but I’m going with Butch for two reasons. First, as dumb as Christy’s waffling at final 6 is, it at least throws a rock in Rob’s plans, so that’s something. She made a difference in the game. Second, Butch burned down the fucking shelter. Nobody else on this list will manage to rise from the level of useless to actively harmful. (Brandon Hantz and J’Tia went home too soon to be eligible and I attribute the shelter fire in Nicaragua to group stupidity).

Congratulations, Butch Lockley. It really is true that if you Believe In Yourself, anything is possible.

Survivor: Pearl Islands – Christa Hastie

Survivor Pearl Islands Christa
Really, bro?

I narrowed Pearl Islands down to Christa and Tijuana and then realized my big problem was I know nothing about either of them. Tijuana got voted out on her birthday. Christa got blamed for Sandra dumping out Rupert’s fish. That’s it. That’s all I can tell you about them.

So I did the best I could and checked their vote records, and it turns out Tijuana was on the right side of the Rupert vote-off and Christa wasn’t. Win by default.

Don’t get me wrong. Pearl Islands is a great season. Sandra. Fairplay. Savage. Lil. Even Burton. (Editor’s note: I almost used this as an excuse to post a picture of Burton. Stupid sexy Burton). All fantastic characters. But that second string is less than impressive.

Survivor: All-Stars – Rupert Boneham

survivor pearl islands rupert fat kid confessional
Really, bro?

Man, I wanted this one to be Shii Ann. But it’s not. It’s Rupert. Shii Ann was at least a compelling antagonist for a minute. All-Stars Rupert is just a brick, a weight driving everyone around him down. From the moment he’s allowed to make his terrible subterranean shelter it’s clear something is wrong here, and the only question is why they don’t do anything about it.

And then post-merge, he’s just a pocket vote for Jenna until she decides to vote him out (and probably costs herself the game.)

In a sense I feel bad for him. Coming into something like All-Stars as the unknown quantity is probably difficult. But in another sense, meh. It’s really obvious he’s bought into all the bullshit, and the bullshit is really irritating.

Survivor: Vanuatu – Julie Berry

Survivor Vanuatu- Julie crying
“Useless? That cuts deep, bro.”

This is a weird one that I don’t have a ton to say about. The insurgent alliance managing to turn the game on its head complicates things. And also, I just don’t care about Vanuatu that much. There’s Chris and Eliza and then a bunch of people who aren’t Chris or Eliza.

I remember Leann not at all, and most of my memories of Julie Berry involve her relationship with Probst. But they felt they had to vote off Leann to weaken Ami. Julie they let stick around. That’s the kind of thing that pushes you into the most useless category.

Survivor: Palau – Jenn Lyon

Survivor Palau jenn lyon
REALLY? Bro. (Reminder: This is a guest post. Please direct all responses to Sharculese.)

I fought myself on this, and I don’t like writing this entry, but I don’t think there’s another answer, so I’m going to be honest. It’s going to be snark free, though.

Palau is weird because of the whole implosion of Ulong/absorption into Koror thing. Lots of players had nothing to do in the pre-merge, because there was nothing to do ever. I can’t call Stephenie the most useless because that would be insane. It’s obviously not Tom, Ian, or Katie, who all left their stamp on the game. So we’re down to Gregg, Caryn, and Jenn. Of the three, Gregg and Caryn made at least some kind of stab at taking power away from Tom and Ian, while Jenn never really did. So kind of by default she’s the pick, although this is the worst I will feel about a pick by default scenario.

I tried really hard to talk myself into it being Katie, but I think the effort she puts into trolling Ian into being a wreck during the endgame makes that impossible to say. It’s Jenn, no matter how much I don’t like writing that.

Survivor: Guatemala – Lydia Morales

lydia-guatemala-fishmonger
Realmente, bro?

There’s really two candidates here. Lydia and Cindy. Cindy at least has the memorable moment at the car challenge. Lydia was… kind of an irritating weirdo, but also an irritating weirdo who is bad in challenges.

I feel like this is the point where the goat management era of Survivor is really starting to take off. Stephenie, having just seen Tom do it with Katie (yes, phrasing), is grooming Lydia for the same role (yes, still phrasing). But she can’t quite pull it off (phrasing?), and Lydia ends up becoming endgame fodder who never really did anything.

Survivor: Panama – Exile Island – Sally Schumann

sally-schumann-panama-socks
Nobody tell Dalton Ross about this article.

I cannot in good conscience give this to any of the Casayas. I briefly considered giving it to Danielle and/or Bruce, but I can’t. Danielle got to pick who she lost to in the final 2 and I’ve already committed to that being a thing that matters, so I can’t back out now. Bruce I will get back to in a second.

It’s also not Terry. I’m not the biggest Terry fan in the world, but you can’t say the dude who almost blew up Casaya’s total control of the game is useless.

That leaves Sally and Bruce. Bruce had a bunch of memorable moments: getting exiled, his feud with Courtney Marit (go Gym Dawgs) over the rock garden, not being able to poop. Sally… wore socks. Advantage: Bruce.

Survivor: Cook Islands – Parvati Shallow

parvati-cook-islands-bath
Whatever, bro.

This is the last entry I wrote because I went back and forth. My reasoning was that I felt like I had a solid case for it being Sundra, and, really, it just felt weird to say it was Parvati. It’s Parvati, though.

Let’s dispense with the Sundra argument. It’s basically “what did Sundra do?” And I finally realized that the answer was “why should Sundra do anything?” Any move that didn’t involve sticking with the other Aitus would have been insane. I can’t fault her for that.

So we’re down to Penner, Parvati, and Adam. It’s not Penner. Flipping from Aitu to Raro and then back to Aitu is too momentous of a shift in the game for it to be him. Under normal circumstances, I would go with Adam here. Aitu has a choice of which player to boot and which to keep, and they decide Adam is less dangerous.

Unfortunately, Adam’s decision to honor his dumb promise to Yul about the Penner vote-off probably decides the season. This is the only time in this list a jury vote takes someone out of contention, but it’s enough here.

Parvati shows glimmers of the player she will become, but they’re just glimmers. In a lot of seasons, that would satisfy. Cook Islands has too many other factors.

Survivor: Fiji – Boo Bernis

boo-bernis-fiji
Boo, bro.

Strong post-merges make this hard. I struggled with Fiji.

I knew I couldn’t pick any of the Four Horsemen or any of the finalists and Yau-Man is out too, so I’m stuck choosing between Stacy and Boo. So this comes down to one thing – Stacy came up with the idea to put the votes on Edgardo.

The Purple Rock Bylaws state that any time the Four Horsemen are mentioned, this .gif must be posted.

That was a huge influence on the season. Boo’s biggest influence on Survivor was introducing production to his buddy Russell Hantz, which is… not something I care to reward.

Survivor: China – Denise Martin

denise-martin-china
No, I get it. I suck at life, bro.

File China squarely under ‘pocket vote.’

Denise’s story is kind of a bummer. She opens up about this early in the merge, how she was the kid who was shunned in high school and feels like this is the same thing.

But she lets herself get played so hard, and the worst part is you can tell she sees it happening.

Todd, Courtney, and Amanda are so certain that they have Denise as a vote that they openly brag about it to the opposition, and they’re not wrong. She’s so eager to be courted by the exciting young people that she lets everything else slip into the background. When she goes on an improbable reward win spree, she keeps taking them with her because she wants to hang with the ‘cool kids.’ All of this is against her interest. She doesn’t care.

And when it comes time to make a move against them she folds like a paper bag. She lets them lead her into the fourth place finish they always planned for her, while the three of them go on to Final Tribal. And she does it with a smile on her face.

And I don’t blame her. She may have sacrificed her game, but I think hanging out with three of the fakest assholes planet Earth has ever produced was in some sense empowering for her. She got to be a cool kid. So here’s to you, Denise Martin. You didn’t win, but I hope at least you got yours.

Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs Favorites – Erik Reichenbach

erik-reichenbach-micronesia-chocolate
Finger-lickin’ useless.

I went back and forth between Erik and Alexis, but then I remembered I’m supposed to be rewarding failed coups, and that tipped the balance.

This is the emblematic case of ‘not all challenge runs are created equal.’ Erik had a chance to blow through to the end with women the jury had a ton of hostility towards, and, instead, he let it end in ignominy. It’s to their credit, but it’s also to his fault.

This isn’t the perfect version of the ‘pocket vote’ rule, but it’s the thing it was designed to penalize – the late game player who turns out to have been a pawn in a scheme. And no greater pawn in a scheme has Survivor ever seen than Erik Reichenbach. He had a chance to run the table and negate the Black Widows’ influence. He didn’t.

(Note: I almost talked myself into James being the pick for this season, but then I remembered he broke a challenge. Breaking a challenge, in and of itself, prevents you from being the most useless person there.)

Continue on to the most useless Survivors- from Gabon through Kaoh Rong.


Sharculese (definitely his real name) spent way too much time writing this thing about Survivor. Don’t try to find him on Twitter. If you must interact with him, he can often be found in the comments section here. 

Sharculese

Sharculese

Sharculese first saw Survivor when his roommate wanted to watch Cagayan. He has now seen every season because he has a skewed sense of priorities.
Sharculese
  • gouis

    A++

    • sharculese

      Thanks.

      • gouis

        You’re welcome! You deserve it after all the shitty stuff the Braves are doing.

        • sharculese

          The fact that the lawsuit means they won’t have their terrible bridge built until 2022 at the earliest, even if they win (which I don’t think they will) is all the reward I need on that front right now.

    • Violina23

      Ditto!

  • Adam B.

    A+ work, except a fishmonger is NEVER useless.

    • It seems like she would have been useless in SJDS and Worlds Apart because it seems like they didn’t catch any fish.

      • sharculese

        That’s what drove me insane about Kimmi and Monica’s feud in Cambodia. I was like “did you see the two seasons before these? (I know the answer is that she didn’t.) It’s totally possible to over-fish these beaches, dumb-dumb.”

        • andythesaint

          Sure, but YOU might as well be the person to over-fish them, rather than leaving them for someone else. Eaten food is eaten food. Uneaten food in merely potential food.

          • sharculese

            I would prefer Survivors (especially those who were originally billed as heroes for animal rights) come in thinking about the impact they have on the ecosystem they temporarily inhabit. We can’t make Survivor ecologically good, but we can make it less bad.

            Kimmi didn’t just seem to be indifferent to over-fishing; she didn’t seem to get that over-fishing was a thing.

          • andythesaint

            Or, you make it less good for YOU, only for someone else who takes over that beach via swap/merge to eat what you tried to save.

          • sharculese

            Tradeoffs between values and gameplay. It’s like I said with the Shirin thing where I don’t know that I wouldn’t have come to her defense at the expense of my game.

            If I ever get on Survivor, I’ll know I’m playing a game that’s bad for the environment and contour my behavior around minimizing my footprint. I can’t not do that.

            But that’s also not, I think, the issue here. I don’t believe Kimmi is aware of what’s going on. In the “no, pumpkin, no” confessional she makes it clear she thinks Monica is talking about the whole ocean, which really obviously isn’t the case. I think what we’re seeing is ignorance of what a local ecosystem is. Maybe Monica is talking long game, and maybe she’s talking about the health of the planet. It’s impossible to know, but it’s also totally disconnected from Kimmi’s response.

    • sharculese

      Thank you very much.

      Lydia is kind of one where there were multiple people in the alliance who don’t really seem to contribute a lot, so I went with the one who went the deepest.

  • I need Sad Lil to complain about not being chosen as useless.

    • I’m sure she will be around shortly.

    • sharculese

      Basically anyone who won a final 3 immunity challenge was out of the running.

      • What about F4?

        • sharculese

          Nah. Directly deciding who you lost to is a thing I rewarded. (see the Africa entry). It’s not the same with a final 3.

      • Sad Lil

        Thanks!

    • Sad Lil

      Hi! And I am not useless!

      • Kemper Boyd

        Objectively not. You turned the game. Without you we don’t have Queen of all things Sandra.

        • Sad Lil

          What about Queen of the Boyscouts Lil?

        • Don’t you mean changed the game?

          • Kemper Boyd

            NO. I will not use that phrase ever ever again!

          • Isn’t it funny how Survivor causes us to hate certain phrases like “game changers” or “blue collar”?

          • Kemper Boyd

            Blue Collar/White Collar are Americanisms that we don’t use here because we care about class not job.

          • Oh duh…I should know that especially since I am reading a book about the people who work in Buckingham Palace right now.

  • I would almost be willing to say Scout was more useless than Julie Berry because at least Julie lied convincingly enough to Twila to prevent her from flipping over to the men at the merge. Of course Twila would eventually flip over in a few votes, but it is not the same.

    • sharculese

      I didn’t pick Scout because the move to oust Leann feels like a joint move between her and Twila, and that directly decides the endgame. I wasn’t sure who I could give more credit to.

      Also, John cut out the shot of Eliza nodding smugly at Ami that I put in, because of course I put that in.

      • I would personally give that move to Twila since that will be her defining move while Scout has nothing besides a ill-fitting knee.

      • Max_Jets

        Vanuatu is pretty hard because the entire final 7 is relevant and well developed. I think Julie is terrific and plays one of the best losing games of all time, but I don’t even necessarily disagree with the choice.

        • sharculese

          It’s got sort of the same problem as Amazon. When everyone is in the majority at some point, who is the one who did the least? So I went with the woman who showed Sarge her butt.

      • Oh, that wasn’t an intentional cut. The problem was the link; links to individual images on Lanza’s site don’t work, so I couldn’t tell which one you wanted. And since I was already publishing this a day later than I planned, I had to just cut that pic/caption. Sorry!

    • Other Scott

      Did Chad Crittenton go out too early to be most useless? Because I’m picking him for Vanuatu.

      Julie was actually really important in that season.

      • Chad was voted out at the third post-merge TC (making him the second juror), so he might not count for this list.

      • sharculese

        Chad is technically eligible, but being the first amputee on Survivor is a distinction I took into account. I basically knew once I started looking at the boot order it would either be Leann or Julie.

        Also, although making it through two merge votes was my technical threshold, I don’t think I actually picked anyone who went 3rd after the merge because I factored in how deep people actually went.

        • That makes sense. Don’t forget his famous shock face or when he got shitfaced on kava.

  • Other Scott

    JENN LYON?!?!?!?!

    No, the answer is Caryn. That is the only acceptable answer. Jenn managed to create the Tom Ian rift that caused Tom to vote for Ian in F4 and cause a tie-breaking challenge. She was the one whole told Tom that Ian was gunning for him which led to that fantastic ending.

    You are rendering this whole post useless with that Palau selection.

    I mean, there’s a few more I would argue, but Jenn Lyon………………………..

    • I guess we know that Sharculese is not Mike Bloom.

    • sharculese

      Is there something I’m forgetting about Jenn? I may have been drunk when I watched Palau.

      Caryn is memorably ridiculous and at least makes feints at upsetting Tom and Ian’s control of the game, whereas I mostly remember Jenn as a +1 for Gregg.

      • andythesaint

        Heh. “May have”.

        • sharculese

          Well it wasn’t Gabon or “first time I watched Panama” levels, at least.

      • Caryn is a big reason why a girls alliance didn’t happen in Palau since she was basically forced to vote Tom’s way which caused Katie’s immortal line “Because Caryn sucks”.*

        NOTE: I need to rewatch Palau so I am misremembering things, please let me know.

        • sharculese

          That was sort of my reasoning. I didn’t want to repeat myself, but Palau was a lot like Africa in that I thought “who matters besides Tom and Ian?” And then I had to narrow it down to which of the people I barely remember I remember the least and seemed to have the least impact.

        • Alycia Swift

          I actually think that Palau may have no useless players make it two votes after the merge. Caryn was not likeable but she was not useless (same for Katie). I point out that if Caryn did form the women’s alliance and it prevailed,Jenn was likeable and she was not useless for the reasons stated above. Greg did a lot as well. If anything, I would have said it was Janu but I don’t recall if she made it one or two votes. If the women’s alliance took hold and the women prevailed, Jenn likely would have been the winner because Katie and Caryn were disliked so much. And we overall might not like Palau as much as we do. It would be ranked lower on the favorite seasons list and Jenn might have been ranked in the bottom part of the winners.

          • sharculese

            Janu being the first person to be sent to exile island and subsequently quitting was too iconic of a moment for me to pick her. I thought about it because, again, I really didn’t want to pick Jenn, but I couldn’t make it fit in my head.

            Some seasons the choice was obvious. Some it was hard, and I had to make tough calls that I’m happy to argue.

          • Alycia Swift

            Yeah, I guess being the first person sort of being talked into quitting too by Probst was iconic. That’s why I said this might have no useless players. I can’t remember if Coby went before or after Janu but he was an antagonist for the entire game to Tom and Ian’s stranglehold so it was not him. So that leaves Willard and I can’t remember if he even made the merge let alone 2 past.

          • sharculese

            Willard goes home before the merge. It’s one of those “both tribes have to vote someone off but the winners get to eat and watch the losers” challenges. Coby went home too soon, and yeah, was too memorable for me.

    • gouis

      TOM! TOM! THEY’RE BEING MEAN! TOM! LISTEN TO ME! TOM!

  • Kemper Boyd

    Bloody good list so far Sharcy. I don’t disagree with you on any of it.

    • Would you say “Sharcy” to rhyme with “Darcy” or with “Marky”?

    • sharculese

      Thanks, but this is, honestly, the less good half of it. My strongest streak is Samoa through Nicarugau.

      • Ooh…I have a feeling an entire tribe is making it on the list.

        • sharculese

          That… almost happened.

      • Kemper Boyd

        Surely you swing a cat and hit 5 useless players in most of those seasons.

      • Max_Jets

        I’m a little worried to see if if a certain winner makes it around the end of the list.

        • sharculese

          If you’re referring to the Season Without a Winner, I will say that I can acknowledge that, while it’s weird that nobody won that season, if someone had won, she would have done so by making small moves to keep herself in good with the majority, even when she was on the outs, and that someone else on that season was much more useless. She might even have gotten an inordinate amount of airtime, even when it was clear production was feeding lines to her.

          I picked a muuuuuuuch more deserving winner for this list. And there’s a classic Simpsons joke in it, so bonus.

          • Max_Jets

            That is what I was referring to. Though I did forget that there is a different winner that deserves to be on here.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            Hmm… I suspect your fine-grained distinction about what makes somebody a pocket vote or not comes into play here…

          • sharculese

            Does it? I thought the Season Without a Winner was gonna be an obvious runaway regarding “most useless.”

          • sharculese

            And to be clear, the whole point of the pocket vote category was that it be fine-grained. The idea of the pocket vote was to punish people who basically just voted for whom they were told to without thinking about the implications.

            But it’s third on the list, and order does matter, here. This is a multi-factor test, but I put more weight into things at the top of the list than at the bottom. If anything, being a pocket vote is a narrative extension of factor 1, strategic significance. Players who where pocket votes went with the majority because it was easier than thinking for themselves. But some players also go along with the majority because, at times, not rocking the boat can be the smart thing to do. The player who theoretically won the Season Without a Winner did the latter. Someone else did the former.

            You can call it fine-grained, but, yeah, a lot of these are calls at the margin. It’s why I said I’d be happy to argue any of them.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            Before i start nitpicking–this is a fantastic post and I’m looking forward to part 2 (your not-Brenda pick for Nicaragua especially). I think the “pocket vote” criterion is confusing. Part of it is the construction of your argument. Being strategically important, a challenge beast, and/or entertaining make you _less_ useless, but being a pocket vote makes you _more_ useless. But beyond that, the person we’re talking about was a highly unreliable pocket vote, refusing to go with last-minute switches and digging in his (or her!) heels capriciously. To me, that makes this person _even more_ useless. But it’s kind of a paradox, no?

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            And while I’m at it, I agree that by the rules you set up, Jenn is clearly the most useless player on Palau relative to everybody else. But I would have bent the rules and picked Janu, justifying because a) c’mon you can’t pick Jenn, b) Janu was sooooo much more useless than Jenn, and c) Janu went out 13th, which (not going to check) has to be the deepest into the game any non-qualifying contestant go.

  • I am right there with you on Parvati being more useless than Adam or Sundra for one key reason: Adam is indirectly responsible for the mutiny. Yeah, Candice wanted to be with both Parv and Adam again, but it was clearly more her island fling than her island BFF who she really has very little in common with. He also got a make out session when she was voted out and he won the only Individual Immunity Necklace that season that wasn’t won by Ozzy on a math-related contest of all things.

    • Black Dynamite

      One thing that stuck with me about Cook Islands was how good of a position Candice would’ve been if she never decided to mutiny. She was solid with Yul and Becky, Penner’s #1 and had Parvati and Douchebag Adam on the other side. Eliminating Ozzy before the merge opens her up as more of a challenge competitor. Not sure if there is any non tribal move that was a costly to someone’s game as the one Candice made.

      • Ooh…BD, I think you got a new list to come up.

        • Black Dynamite

          That would be a good one to do in the future. The next list I got planned is my ranking of all the seasons I’ve watched.

          • What do you define as a non-tribal move? What about Ian’s move at F3?

          • Black Dynamite

            I should’ve worded it differently. Basically any decision that doesn’t happen at tribal council. Ian’s move would be a good one.

          • I got a few more just now!
            The Onion Alliance’s decision to throw the idol in the ocean.
            The Heroes in HvV full stop (there’s one in particular, but I am going to hold on that for now).

          • Black Dynamite

            Exactly. Marcus especially hurt himself with that move.

          • This is actually a lot of fun because there are so many dumb moves that don’t get recognized as being truly dumb because they don’t involve voting a certain way.

            There’s a few in The Philippines that I could think of:
            1) Penner not agreeing to a F4 deal thus sealing his fate at the next TC.
            2) Malcolm not lying well enough to Denise which causes her to seal a F3 deal with Lisa and Skupin and thus her win.

          • Black Dynamite

            Damn you’re bringing up some good ones. Now you got me really pumped to do this list even though I’m thinking you should take the lead on this one.

          • Dude (or lady, I don’t know your gender), I am not confident on that because I have only seen like 9 seasons of the show in its entirety. But, I do know my share of dumb moves.

            Got another one!
            Burton taking Fairplay on the reward, thus leaving the 3 women alone to strategize and vote Burton out at F5.

          • Black Dynamite

            It’s dude. I’ll definitely try to think of some more and down the road be able to put a list together. Major props to you though for the great ideas. The list will definitely have some of the ones you mentioned.

          • First of all, I figured it was dude, but I wanted to make sure. Secondly, that is fine by me because I am trying to think of stupid moves and now I’m out.

          • Black Dynamite

            Understood. I try not to assume gender/ethnicity online even if I think I know the answer.

  • Sad Lil

    Poor Christa, she’s a swell gal!

    Should have been that rat Jonathan.

  • Purple Rock Emma

    Micronesia Erik is part of one of the biggest moments in Survivor history. Does that not qualify for entertainment value? (Caramoan Erik, on the other hand…)

    • sharculese

      Yeah, but it’s a moment that’s orchestrated at his expense, by people who aren’t him, and before then he’s basically the bland kid who thinks Ozzy is neat and seeing boobs is awesome.

      I felt like I had to pick the dude who got played harder than anyone in Survivor has ever been played before.

      • Kemper Boyd

        I’m still not convinced he was looking at the boobs not Ozzy.

      • Black Dynamite

        I feel like the case could be made for James being the most useless in Micronesia. Though he is one of the best in history when it comes to entertainment value, he doesn’t leave the mark like the others in that season does.

        • sharculese

          I explained why I didn’t do that. Very few people have so thoroughly broken a challenge as James picking the Favorites platform up and carrying Eliza across did. I counted that.

          • Black Dynamite

            Even with that I would be tempted to pick him over Erik.

          • Purple Rock Emma

            Yeah, I don’t see that as being so much more useful than being involved in one of the most memorable moments in the entire series.

          • Alycia Swift

            Oooh I see another list coming — people or teams who have broken challenges.

          • Hornacek

            Wasn’t there one in (shudder) Nicaragua? The tribe had to use a series of pipes to get water from point A to point B, and one tribe figured out if they arranged the pipes differently than instructed it would speed things up considerably. Probst even mentioned how surprised he was with what they did after the challenge.

          • Alycia Swift

            Probably. You remember more than me. I’m not planning to do the list. Not my thing. It was a suggestion for someone else.

          • Hornacek

            Do it! All the cool kids are doing it.

    • Alycia Swift

      Agreed.

    • Purplerockmatt

      ok here is where i am going to say something that will cause everyone here to yell at me, but i can’t keep siilent because I’m right dammit. The most useless player in Micronesia is actually Natalie Bolton. Erik alters the game as you described above whereas Natalie was the quintessential pocket vote. Now you are gonna come at me and say “Natalie caused Erik to give up his idol!” BULLSHIT. That was Cirie’s plan, and she told Natalie exactly what to do just like you would do with a pocket vote in any other circumstance. And it can’t be Alexis because her desire to Single White Female Amanda led to the Amanda idol play that was a big moment in the late game. It’s Natalie.

      • Even if Cirie told Natalie what to say, I don’t think Erik would have necessarily believed anyone but Natalie. Natalie did a really good job of maintaining a bond with Erik even after she was clearly in the BWB. She promised to send him to exile so he could find an idol, and when she didn’t win reward, he could still assume that she would’ve sent him. As far as I remember, that whole thing was entirely Natalie. That could very well have been insignificant, but I think small things like that are what made Erik so trusting of the BWB.

        Is it possible that any generic fan could’ve done what Natalie did? Possibly. But she’s the one who did the manipulation, and I’m contractually obliged to defend her.

        • sharculese

          I give just as much credit to Amanda, who is the bad cop to Natalie’s good cop, but mostly this. (And I suspect this is most of why Erik votes for Amanda in the end.)

          Cirie and Parvati may have been the ones who came up with the scheme, but they couldn’t make it happen because they didn’t have the relationship with Erik that Natalie and Amanda did. It’s a four woman operation, and all of them deserve credit for their roles.

      • sharculese

        We’re working with different definitions of pocket vote. To me, a pocket vote is someone who lets another player tell them how to vote because it’s easier than playing the game. It’s not about being a loyal follower (loyal followers are fine! See the Cook Islands entry!), it’s specifically about voting how you’re told to. What Natalie does is the opposite of how a pocket vote plays.

        A true pocket vote responds to realizing it’s her turn to be clipped by shrugging her shoulders and saying “I guess it’s my time.” (This will be directly addressed in tomorrow’s entry.) Nat. B didn’t do that. Sure, she was working from a script Cirie crafted, but she put in the work, and putting in the work matters.

        TV moments are part of this analysis, but it’s a holistic analysis. I’m not sure whom I can name who worked harder to not come in fifth than Natalie Bolton; I’m not sure whom I can name who more senselessly came in fifth than Erik Reichenbach. That’s part of the equation.

        • Purplerockmatt

          actually Nat B was going to do exactly that (and did exactly that on the next vote) until Cirie gave her the script and the idea

          • sharculese

            No, I agree on final 4. She folded, although I don’t know what she possibly could have done.

            Final 5 is different. A script is a script. You can say the words, but making them mean something is a different thing. Natalie took the template Cirie gave her and worked the fuck out of it. The creating the template part is Cirie’s contribution; making it work is Natalie’s. Both matter to the outcome of that vote, and I’m hard pressed to privilege one above the other.

      • gouis

        Watch your back, /r/Survivor is now coming for you.

      • Somehow I knew you would bring up Single White Female Alexis.

        • Purple Rock Emma

          It’s his greatest moment!

  • sharculese

    I know that’s the standard portrait for a guest post. I still love that it’s there.

    ETA: That is totally my real name. My parents loved two things: sharks and Hercules.

    • Assistant Dragon Slayer

      Are you talking about the Fishbowl Mojito Jenn icon? I love it and might even have used it if I didn’t have a gimmick username.

  • Black Dynamite

    Really good article. I agree with most of the entries. I think Cook Islands is a case of there being no useless players going deep unless Nate qualifies. Everyone else that made the merge had a role. I find the entire Aitu Four to be pivotal to the season. Perhaps the tightest alliance in history. Candice mutiny puts the rest of the season in motion. Parvati was already showing off her supreme social skills. Penner was the flip and white I would like to pick Adam, he had the fling with Candice and won an immunity… Actually pick Adam, he sucks anyway.

    • sharculese

      Nate doesn’t qualify because you had to survive two votes after the merge.

      • Black Dynamite

        I remembered right after the post. Parvati is the right answer but I think the value of using the post to insult Adam is high.

        • andythesaint

          However, the value in pairing a picture of Parvati on a post about useless Survivors is also very high from a click-bait perspective.

          • Indeed. We didn’t influence the list at all, but I was glad it was Parvati just for the “#14 will shock you!” of it all.

          • sharculese

            I like to think even Parvati would agree that she didn’t know what was going on in Cook Islands.

            I mean, she knew slightly more than Adam, but again, that FTC promise.

          • It was the first season of Survivor: Cook Islands. By Survivor: Cook Islands 4 she had it figured out.

          • sharculese

            I missed the disappearance of the “Cook Islands X” jokes, but I guess they needed more room to riff on Malcolm and Eddie’s time travel shenanigans.

          • I think a big reason why it vanished is because Parvati has become a bit more knowledgeable about Survivor besides her seasons due to her presence in the Survivor press corps which happened after HvV.

        • sharculese

          I seriously tried to wrestle with myself to make it Adam, but that FTC vote is just too big of a thing.

      • Roswulf

        Cook Islands did a really good job of purging its useless players before they became eligible for this list. There is a four-boot-run of Brad/Rebecca/Jenny/Nate, all of whom I’m 100% sure would have gotten “Most Useless” had they lasted long enough.

        But I still think it is Sundra. Now I love Sundra, and think she played a fine game of Survivor. She was a likable presence with a reasonable (if tight) path to victory that was completely wrecked by the Final 3 twist (that is, Yul beats Ozzy at 4, Ozzy gets voted off, Yul loses immunity at three, and then she convinces the jury that Becky was entirely Yul’s pawn while she had to maneuver her way into safety on her own). But her post-merge arc was entirely superfluous, because Becky was also there, with a slightly more engaging version of the same story. And Sundra’s pre-merge was intensely bland. Parvati on the other hand was an independent strategic factor around the merge. She had a pawn in Nate, and in a universe where Penner doesn’t flip to the side of the righteous, Parvati was positioned by the show as a major factor in shaping the endgame (at some point, she backstabs Adam). Parvati’s strategically relevant game was cut short by Yul being the bestest, but she was threatening a central role in the season much later than Sundra. Unless you count “entertaining inability to start a fire” as an argument against Sundra, but I think that should be counted as a point in favor of uselessness.

        God I love Cook Islands so much.

    • Alycia Swift

      Adam was also the one who said – get Penner out before me and you have my vote. After me, you don’t. And he stuck by his promise which probably also changed the game.

      • Black Dynamite

        Damn that was actually pretty big. Ozzy winning that season would’ve caused a huge shift.

        • Alycia Swift

          Well we might have been spared Coach v. Ozzy, an entirely made up rivalry. And this upcoming season. Would we have had Yul back?

          • Black Dynamite

            A big question for me is if Ozzy comes back for Micronesia which had no former winners? As much as I want Yul back, I wouldn’t trade his win for that.

          • In this alternate universe where Ozzy wins Cook Islands, I have a weird feeling that they would go to Terry Deitz for his spot in Micronesia. While Ozzy and Terry aren’t the exact same demographic, they are both underdog challenge beasts

          • sharculese

            Yeah, I think it’s definitely Terry. Which would have been better because I wouldn’t have this weird feeling where now I want Terry to get another shot.

          • Yeah, I get ya. Although I don’t understand why some people want Terry to play BvW with his son, the recent heart transplant recipient. It’s like they don’t understand how dangerous that could be.

          • Black Dynamite

            Also in that alternate universe Ozzy doesn’t meet and date Amanda. Ozzy could’ve been cast in HvV.

          • I don’t know about that because Ozzy would still be fighting for a Hero spot with those 5 male locks.

          • Black Dynamite

            He would have a legitimate shot though with a Cook Islands win. He was extremely popular after Cook Islands. It would be tough to remove someone though.

          • andythesaint

            He and JT would’ve been battling for the spot.

          • sharculese

            I’ve brought this up in one of the HvV posts, but there are really six men who are locks for the Heroes, but Ozzy and James are two of them. If Ozzy wins Cook Islands and doesn’t have any Micronesia baggage, I suspect he’s the one who gets picked.

          • Ooh…that’s good. However, I wonder how that impacts the rest of the cast because then you would have three Cook Islands people.

          • Black Dynamite

            And one less China/Micronesia person. I’m beginning to get scared with this timeline and have learned to appreciate Yul’s win even more.

          • Let’s continue with this timeline some more: Does Terry being on Micronesia and doing well in challenges knock out James from HvV contention?

          • Black Dynamite

            I think Terry sides with Penner’s crew which could actually mean trouble for Parvati and James

          • I got two opinions here.
            1. I agree with you since he tends to do well with older school contestants which would knock out the two unknown quantities of Amanda and James from ally contention
            OR
            2. His main alliance in Panama was with younger people. Now, that was based on necessity since they were the only ones left, but they were also the more athletic/weak-minded people. With that in mind, I could see him bonding easily with Parvati/Amanda/James.

            Unfortunately there is a major wild card who could have a massive grudge against Terry on this cast: Cirie. Does she let bygones be bygones or does she gun hard after him? I don’t know.

          • Black Dynamite

            You make a good point with #2. Terry could gravitate to the younger folks. I’m convinced Parvati could get anyone to align with her if she wanted to and James has some common traits Terry could appreciate. Cirie probably plays it smart and sees what’s the best path for her even if it’s with Terry.

  • Black Dynamite

    I recently finished Africa, making it the 30th season of Survivor I’ve watched. I agree with Kim Powers as the pick. That Frank/Brandon date episode was hilarious to me. First the reward challenge where they get stuck as a team. Then there is Brandon yelling at Frank during the entire finals despite the big lead they had on Ethan & KJ. Finally the look of contempt they give each other during the movie was awesome. One of the best moments on a season that I don’t think is good. That’s a list for another day though (Thursday).

    • sharculese

      So when do we officially induct you into the cult of T-Bird?

      You’ll need to clear out your schedule, the ritual takes a while.

      • Black Dynamite

        Immediately. I love T-Bird. I want to ask for forgiveness during the ritual for not voting for her in Second Chance. I didn’t know who she was but that’s no excuse. I messed up.

        • sharculese

          Learn all the lyrics to “Tomorrow,” and then we can talk about next steps.

        • Who did you vote for instead?

          • Black Dynamite

            Mikayla is the first name I thought of but there are at least four players I voted for that I would put T-Bird above. Peih-Gee, Shirin, Kass and Ciera are the only ones on the women side I felt strongly about putting in the game.

          • sharculese

            I made a point of not voting for Mikayla just to cause Russell Hantz unhappiness.

          • Black Dynamite

            I didn’t know about that when the voting was going on. I actually voted for her to see how she does on a season without Brandon Hantz.

          • Assistant Dragon Slayer

            Same here. I took the second chances gimmick seriously (silly me) and felt that she was the most screwed by circumstances beyond her control her first time out.

          • Alycia Swift

            Me too. Normally I’d rather see more interesting people. But how she was sent out was just too creepy and gross … especially since that time when we heard that Brandon actually might have won the final if he got there and everyone thought he was just a nice kid.

          • I am trying to remember who I actually voted for consistently. I think I went Shirin, Wentworth, Kelly, Ciera, Kass, Tasha, Peih-Gee, Abi-Maria, and T-Bird all 14 days. I would occasionally throws votes on Carolyn, Kimmi, Monica, and Sabrina. I did not vote for Natalie, Stephanie, or Mikayla.

            On a fun and not at all available on the Internet fact, I was extremely resistant to throw an extra vote on Jeremy because I did not like in SJDS. Yeap, I was that person.

          • sharculese

            I think I voted for Wentworth, although it would have been unenthusiastically. As I have previously conceded, everyone else was right and I was wrong.

            I voted for Stephanie pretty regularly, because I really liked her interview with Rob and thought she could be fun to see again.

          • I was convinced on Wentworth after listening to her on The Tribe. She seemed likable and feisty.

          • sharculese

            I can’t listen to the Tribe because I find their format weird (yes, Emma, I listened to your episode), but even when she was doing Ms. Survivor she seemed really insular and defensive.

          • I love The Tribe because it was one of my first two Survivor (present company was the other one) and I am actually Internet friends with a few of them. However, I do understand the problems with the format, since it is a bit unusual in the podcast community. I appreciate the fact that it is one of the few podcasts where fans like myself (ie people who haven’t seen every season but are still diehards anyway) are represented.

  • sharculese

    I support John’s decision to change my Amazon photo. I had a shot of Butch’s weird dance. This is better.

    • I tried to edit as little as possible, but occasionally I overruled you on photos. (Also, we have a fairly massive photo library thanks to various recaps and Survivor history stuff we’ve done.)

  • Max_Jets

    In defense of CI Parvati, the worst version of her is still more entertaining than 75% of the Cook Islands cast.

  • Just out of curiosity, did Boo get points for being the only Caucasian to make the merge?

  • Mike Hirsch

    Excellent list! I have a hard time with personally choosing a Panama candidate because that to me is probably the most boring season of the show. Everything post-merge is so dull. So, basically, everyone is kind of useless (except for in-Shane).

  • The only one I argee with is Parvati being the most useless of Cook Islands.

    • If you had to make the same list, which players would you choose?

      • Borneo: Oh, wait, I would pick Jenna. But that’s by default. Australia: Nick Brown. Africa: Linda. Marquesas: General. Thailand: Ken. Amazon: Dave. Pearl Islands: Ryno (hurts to say it). All-Stars: Alicia. Vanantu: Scout. Palau: Caryn. Guatemala: (Sadly) Cindy. Panama: Austin or Nick. Cook Islands: Parvati, duh. Fiji: Ed. China: (Sadly) Frosti. FvF: Alexis

        • Sharcules limited himself to people that survived at least two votes after the merge. So people like Linda and Dave aren’t eligible.

          I agree with you on Alexis over Erik for Micronesia, though. And I think Caryn would be my pick from Palau as well.

  • Side Character

    While I still don’t dig your dislike for Shii Ann, I’m glad you did not pick her as most useless on All-Stars. As a thin argument, she did win an immunity that took out Alicia, which soured Alicia’s relationship with Rob. Also, Shii Ann was the swing vote in the jury (which would be another instance where a jury vote may affect their contention).