Purple Rock Podcast 2015 Survivor Hall of Fame Nominees

Xfinity.com is once again accepting nominees for their Survivor Hall of Fame. Since sharing our opinions on Survivor, particularly its past, is kind of our thing here, we had to weigh in. Below are the nominees from each of the five writers of the Purple Rock Podcast, as well as a poll to let you choose our official ballot for the site.

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The rules for the Hall of Fame are pretty simple: nominate up to three former Survivors, no nominating anyone from the current season of Survivor Cambodia, and no nominating someone already inducted. To see the list of those in the Hall and get information on how YOU can nominate , go here: http://my.xfinity.com/blogs/tv/?p=529867

Note: we choose our nominees separately, with no collaboration. Which explains why there is some overlap in both picks and write-ups.

Andy’s Survivor Hall of Fame Nominations

It’s incredibly difficult to limit my choices to just three, but I like that it’s difficult. It’s more fun this way. That said, to get to three, I had to create a bit of a rule for myself (that isn’t a rule at all for the official nominations), and that rule is I think there should be a long waiting period than just “not this season”. All sports leagues do this (although the NHL has an exception for the biggest names like Gretzky or Lemieux, which becomes problematic in that it sets up a different tier that partisans fight over all the time). They do this because we need the time to let the dust settle and properly evaluate a player. How do they resonate after they’ve faded from our screens? (By the way, I get why Xfinity doesn’t do this. For one, this isn’t really a hall of fame but rather a fun gimmick to draw attention to their site and two, with returnees, it’d be tough to keep resetting a player’s nomination period).

What is the waiting period? I haven’t formalized it, but a couple of years feels right. Which is my way of saying I’m not nominating Tony Vlachos, and only because of this little rule. But if he gets in? I’ll be thrilled. My list will be classic player heavy, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the idea that things done a long time ago matter more than things done more recently. More that I think the classic players have been overlooked and I’m hoping the recent wave of nostalgia induced by Second Chance might give some of those classic players the shot they deserve.

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Yul Kwon – Cook Islands

I nominated Yul the last time they inducted players into the Hall during Blood vs Water, I’m nominating him now, and I’ll probably keep nominating him forever. Because he’s not getting in. Somehow, the man who played one of the most dominant, strategic, and complete games in Survivor history had become a complete afterthought in the general Survivor community. I say “somehow”, but the answer is obvious: people ignore Yul because he’s made no effort to service his fame post-Cook Islands. He hasn’t come back. He doesn’t tweet. He doesn’t do podcasts. So I guess we all now have to pretend he didn’t exist and that his season was boring. Meanwhile, two people he beat are in the Hall. And I’m guessing a third one will get there before him. Not if I have anything to say about it. Note: I barely have any say about this.

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Tina Wesson – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Blood vs Water

The second winner in the history of the show, I hope her exclusion to this point is simply because she was ineligible the last time there was voting. Because while Richard Hatch created the template of the cunning social strategist beating the challenge-dominant survivalist, Tina Wesson solidified it with her win. Against much tougher competition. I think it took awhile for the proper re-appraisal of Tina’s game and how great it was, but we’re there now. Lets recognize it. (It also helped that she was pretty great in Blood vs Water).

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Colby Donaldson – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains

How is it that no one from the most popular season in the history of the show is in the Hall yet? I understand a bit that after “Superman in a fat suit” it took us a little while to come around on Colby, but the most popular player from the most popular season needs to be there. Survivor doesn’t become what it is without Colby Donaldson. Survivor might not ever be more than a flash in the pan without Colby (and if you think that a show as popular as Survivor post-Borneo couldn’t flame out, let me ask you: how’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire doing?). Before Joe Anglim or Malcolm Freberg there was Colby, the matinee idol challenge beast with legions of passionate fans. And despite making one of the most critical game mistakes in the history of the show, he was a lot better at the game than you remember. It would be fitting for he and Tina to go in together.

Emma’s Survivor Hall of Fame Nominations

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Sue Hawk – Borneo, All-Stars

Sue Hawk is the creator of the biggest moment in reality television, not just Survivor. That’s more than enough to get her on my ballot for the Survivor Hall of Fame. Add in the fact that she’s a founding member of the Tagi alliance and arguably the first person to ever be truly backstabbed on the show, and we have a pretty major candidate. The only real negative is that Sue is unlikely to participate in future HOF voting if she’s inducted.

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Jerri Manthey – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains

So the main thing people say about Jerri Manthey is that she’s the first villainess, and possibly even the first proper villain, as tame as she looks from our current standards. But Jerri is one half of the longest story arc Survivor has ever done: the saga of Colby and Jerri. She managed to outlast her love-interest-turned-enemy in both All-Stars and Heroes vs Villains, getting closure for bad girls everywhere.

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Colby Donaldson – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains

Which brings us to Colby Donaldson. I will admit that I assumed America’s favorite cowboy was already inducted when I first started writing these, even after having already looked at the list. That’s how egregious an oversight this is. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a Survivor legend. Sherri Biethman named her son after Colby, for god’s sake. I’m sure she’s not the only one! Sure, his return appearances are less impressive, but sometimes you gotta see the heroes fall. And to bring it back to my previous nominee, you can’t have Colby without Jerri, and you can’t have Jerri without Colby.

John’s Survivor Hall of Fame Nominations

Let me preface this by saying Hall of Fames in general are ridiculous. They are insanely subjective and probably exist only to inspire arguments about who is deserving and who isn’t. Of course, I enjoy arguments about Survivor, so let’s do this.

All Stars- Jerri press photo

Jerri Manthey – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains

Jerri is far from my favorite player. But I’m going to use my first nomination for someone that had a lasting impact on the game and the show, and Jerri definitely fits that bill. In Australia, the show was attempting to transition from a weird documentary style (Jeff Probst actually narrated the first season) to a show where players told the whole story and narrative arcs developed. And those narratives started with one of the most basic stories of all: good vs. evil. Jerri was the “evil villain” in ways that seem adorably quaint now, and the audience ate it up- they booed her off the stage at the All-Stars reunion three years later! She was one of the most memorable players of the early age of the show, and she adapted well to the more modern game in Heroes vs. Villains. Also, I’m kind of hoping she gets in and Colby doesn’t, because that would be funny.

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Denise Stapley – Philippines

As tempted as I am to keep the goddess Kim Spradlin as the lone one-time player in the Survivor Hall of Fame, she’ll have to be content with being the first one-time player inducted. Denise holds the distinction of being the only winner to ever attend every single tribal council- and she only had individual immunity once. Thirteen chances to take her out, and nobody ever did it. And she won the season in a landslide as a result.

Fiji- Earl Cole press photo

Earl Cole – Fiji

Earl will not make it into the Survivor Hall of Fame this season. And that’s understandable, because Earl was on a pretty terrible season of Survivor. But even though Earl beat some terrible human beings in his season, he also beat some decent players- he helped outsmart the mostly-loathsome Four Horsemen and he took out Yau-Man before final tribal council. And like Denise, Earl was a great underdog story, suffering through being a “Have Not” for that tribe’s entire run and taking multiple trips to Exile Island (which was actually probably a pleasant escape from some of the terrible people he played against). And to this day, nobody has ever gotten more votes at a final tribal council; Earl won unanimously with 9 votes for him.

Honorable mentions

Almost too many to list, but my most glaring omission is Tony Vlachos. Tony is deserving, and he will get in, but I think others deserve recognition first. I’m also leaving out Tyson and Courtney, two of my all-time favorites (though Tyson’s case is stronger). I also considered Yul, Rupert, Tina, and Big Tom for various reasons. I never, ever, ever- even for a second- considered Coach.

Mark’s Survivor Hall of Fame Nominations

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Denise Stapley – Philippines

Perhaps this is semi-recency bias talking, but it’s about time that people recognize the good game that Denise Stapley played in Survivor: Philippines. Overshadowed by Lisa’s crying and Malcolm’s Tumblr fangirls, she managed to survive EVERY. SINGLE. Tribal Council, maintain relations with the power players while sneaking under the radar alongside Malcolm (and then slit his throat at Final 4), and could shut down the Brazilian Dragon that is Abi Maria. That’s more than can be said for 90% of the current season’s cast.

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Tony Vlachos – Cagayan – Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty

I know, I know. This guy again? But we here at the Official Tony Survivor Podcast—what? they got rid of purple rocks on air—must give credit where it’s due. On the opposite side of the winner’s spectrum from Denise’s stealth mastery, Tony Vlachos dominated his season in a way few others have. By going balls-to-the-spy-shack, he managed to control the majority of votes, play both of the large alliances, maintain idol and advantage supremacy with the nose of a Hantzian bloodhound, while also being endlessly entertaining. We watch the show for good strategic gameplay and enjoyment, and Tony provided both in a game that confounded by the week. Besides, if Kim Spradlin can be inducted, so can Tony.

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Rupert Boneham – Pearl Islands, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains, Blood vs Water

Laugh if you want, but I think that Rupert Boneham deserves a spot here. Before he was a curmudgeonly parody of himself both domestically and internationally, Rupert stole the show (and the shoes) in his debut season in Pearl Islands. He was so popular—and so iconically Survivor—that the very next season, America gave him a million dollars for the hell of it. Though a member of the “old school”, he managed to put his honor aside a couple times in Heroes vs Villains to place deep yet again, despite buying WAY too much into the theme…a trend that would cause his fellow cast (and the non-Facebook slices of CBS viewers) to tire of him by his fourth appearance in Blood vs Water. Still, as a major figure in Survivor lore who placed well in 3/4 of his seasons, Rupert can have his trophy.

Matt’s Survivor Hall of Fame Nominations

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Colby Donaldson – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Heroes vs Villains

It just seems wrong that one of the biggest stars Survivor has ever produced is not in the Hall of Fame. It is a Hall of Fame after all, not a Hall of Best Survivor Players. And there might be all of one Survivor that is more famous than Colby. Even basing it off of fame though ignores the fact that Colby had himself a pretty damn good game in Australia, one we overlook because 1) we tend to devalue challenge dominance and 2) because he made a million dollar mistake at the end (well $900,000.00). And while his subsequent appearances made him seem like Superman in a fat suit, he was the biggest star of the most popular season of Survivor ever. He is a Hall of Famer.

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Tina Wesson – The Australian Outback, All-Stars, Blood vs Water

Just like it feels wrong that Colby isn’t in the Hall, it feels right that Tina should join Colby in the Hall. This spot could easily go to Jerri Manthey who was another of the big stars of the season, but Tina was a big part of why Australia worked too. Besides that Tina has a top 4 finish to add to her resume to go with her win. She just has one of the best social games any Survivor has ever had, is a great Survivor player and belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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Yul Kwon – Cook Islands

This one could have gone a lot of different ways. But here is the simple fact, I love Yul. Though I like to joke that I am the president of the Andrew Savage fan club, Yul is actually my favorite Survivor player ever. He played a great game in Cook Islands that people love to try and tear apart, but the simple fact is that he took advantage of what the game gave him and leveraged his strategic and social skills to godfather the entire merge, calling every shot and controlling the game. Plus as I mentioned, he is my favorite. Yul is awesome. He is a Hall of Famer.

Honorable Mentions – Limiting this to three means I cannot include a lot of worthies. The exclusions that pain me the most are Tony Vlachos (I mean really, Tony was amazing and his game was potentially revolutionary. Plus he was amazing TV, controlling the game in a high wire style that was making you wonder if he could keep it up for the entire game), Yau-Man (another of my favorites, a great character, a great player. He is one of the players I most want to see again), Jerri Manthey (as mentioned above a three time player and one of the most famous characters Survivor has ever produced. Not as accomplished game-wise as the rest here, but a huge star. Her time will come), Malcolm and Denise (they belong as a pair because it was their partnership that was so fun to watch), and Tyson Apostol (great character and a winner to boot).

Reader Picks

There’s no way for us to do a poll to let you all make your own picks (although we encourage you to submit them in comments below). However, we are going to let you pick the official nominees for the site. Each of us writers will submit our own picks through our own account, but you get to choose which three of the above will get the submission for The Purple Rock Podcast. So, who will it be?

Who should make the official PRP Hall of Fame Ballot (pick three)?

  • Yul Kwon (19% Votes)
  • Jerri Manthey (16% Votes)
  • Tina Wesson (16% Votes)
  • Colby Donaldson (15% Votes)
  • Rupert Boneham (11% Votes)
  • Denise Stapley (10% Votes)
  • Tony Vlachos (7% Votes)
  • Earl Cole (4% Votes)
  • Sue Hawk (2% Votes)

Total Voters: 100

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Andy and John are the hosts of the Purple Rock Survivor podcast.
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  • Other Scott

    My argument for Rupert is that when it comes down to it, what makes you great on Survivor and what makes you successful in the eyes of the network is how much entertainment you bring, how much you put the show on the map for CBS. It’s not quite like a sports hall of fame where only the great can be in. And Rupert was the face of Survivor for a long time. This is the guy CBS promoted, heck, they gave him 1M just for being Rupert.

    Luck plays too much of a factor and sample sizes are too small to judge who’s great at Survivor and who’s not. Also, unlike sports it’s not like Survivor is made up of the people who are the best at playing the game, I don’t think that would be all that good to watch. People like Rupert are what makes Survivor the show it is.

    • andythesaint

      Rupert just narrowly missed my ballot. I went back and forth between he and Colby (Yul is a personal fav and cause for me, so he was a lock). Ultimately, I liked the Colby/Tina parallel.

      But I’d say Rupert is one of the five characters that most shaped the narrative of Survivor. You can’t tell the story of the show without mentioning him.

      • Brian Gold

        Rupert has to be in the Survivor Hall of Fame. One of these years he will get in. But I can totally buy why you’d put Colby/Tina above him (or Sue, Jerri, Rudy, or even Lex above him)

    • Roswulf

      Even if you look at the sports halls of fame, inductees from the first couple of decades tend to be “pioneers” who influenced the game’s development more than people who were just really, really good at the game.

    • Kemper Boyd

      Love him or hate him Rupert is too important to Survivor not to get a spot.

    • Sylvisual

      Exactly. They put Fairplay in for much the same reason. Rupert only naturally fits in, which is why I put him in there.

  • Purple Rock Emma

    I didn’t list honorable mentions because I’m not a cheater, but I also considered: Tina, Rupert, Yul, Denise, and Tony. Man, we all think alike.

    • Barbara Anderson

      I was about ready to say that if you didn’t mention Yul, something must be wrong.

  • Brian Gold

    Not one mention of Rudy anywhere? He was the most popular member of the Tagi Four. He was responsible for the best storyline of Borneo (Rudy and Richard’s relationship). He was so important they may have rigged the show for him. He was a one-liner machine. He gave the single most important strategic insight ever given on Survivor (“There’s more of them than there are of me, so I’ve gotta fit in.”). Rudy is the most glaring omission from the Survivor Hall of Fame.

    • gouis

      Urh, I dunno.

  • gouis

    Tony! Tony! Tony!

    • andythesaint

      I bet nominating him Feels Good. Yeah.

  • gouis

    I saw Sue, Colby, and Rupert.

  • Eliceo

    I love jerri! She’s hilarious! People tend to forget what a water cooler topic she was… I own the playboy she did. Good on her. Strike while the iron is hot

  • Ethan Kyle

    Really any HOF that doesn’t automatically put all the winners in is bullshit

    • Roswulf

      That strikes me as kind of silly. We already have a list of winners. For a Hall of Fame to offer any additional value, it has to represent something else- be it a level of demonstrated ability above and beyond that of a typical winner or an outsized effect on the game’s development.

    • Kemper Boyd

      I gotta agree with Rowulf, if you think that Bob Crowley is more deserving than Rupert, Colby or Jerri you are out of your mind. There are plenty of non-winners who are more HoF worthy than Fabio, Bob, Natalie White or Mike Holloway.

  • Kemper Boyd

    I don’t think Denise will make it this year but she deserves consideration. I feel strongly that everyone you listed is more deserving than Cochran.

  • sharculese

    My three, in chronological order:

    Tina Wesson – Honestly, I tried to go full contrarian and not pick anyone you guys picked, but there is just no argument that Tina doesn’t belong there, everything that’s been said about her already is correct, so let’s talk more about Blood vs. Water, because she is an absolute delight on that season. Yes, she has some bad moments when it’s clear the game is moving away from her, but she rallies and gives an electric performance in her boot episode.

    Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien – One of the things I’m really interested in with Survivor is what I call “I didn’t know you could do that” moments – those points where someone does something that seems so obvious only after someone has figured them out, and thereafter become de rigueure elements of gameplay. (See e.g. Russell finding his first idol in Samoa.) One of the first of those has to be Kathy organizing the vote out of John Carroll and the fundamental upending of Marquesas that ensued. Showing that the status quo at the merge doesn’t have to dictate the result of the game changed Survivor for the better. Additionally, Kathy was the first person to be shown really struggling in her tribe and then moving into a position of power, all-around just a great harbinger of how dynamic Survivor would get.

    Jonathan Penner – Look, I get that there are a lot of arguments against Penner, but I’m not not gonna indulge in my fanboy-ism for the man. If we’re talking about Rupert, clearly being good at Survivor is not a necessary condition, so let’s talk about the man who’s as self-aware as Rupert is self-ignorant. Penner ends the process that Rob C and Fairplay started in helping Survivor embrace the meta aspects of the fact that it’s a TV show. Stephen’s confessional last week where he said that he knows you should never say you’re safe? It didn’t happen specifically because of Penner, but he did a lot to make the show comfortable with that kind of material. He was witty, he was fun, and above all, he was at home with the fact that he knew he was being filmed. Jonathan Penner is the only person on the planet who can ever claim that he brought a sense of seasoned professionalism to a show about sleeping on bamboo and shitting in the ocean, and that deserves recognition.

  • Barbara Anderson

    I have a hunch that Jerri may be a lock to get in at this point. She has been on two of the three published ballots so far and she has been mentioned by a lot of fans. Also, she’s 1 of my 3 along with Denise and Tony. I’m actually shocked that Tony isn’t stomping everybody in the fan vote section.

  • Mike Hirsch

    I love Earl, and not just because for a whole season of Survivor, I could ape Stevie Wonder and say “EARL’S PLAYING BY HIMSELF, MAN” every time he was onscreen. (Reference: “Do I Do,” well after Stevie announces the presence of Dizzy Gillespie, and shortly after Stevie “raps.”) So, I had to vote for him. Because it’s actually not an easy task to be a good player amongst a cast comprised mostly of idiots and manage to win.

    I also voted Yul, because, come on! It’s Yul! And finally, Colby. He might not know how to win the game, but he knows how to play it pretty well up to that point.

  • Ms_Woozah

    I haven’t seen Fiji, and everyone seems to think it’s terrible, but I kind of love the idea of a hero slowly taking down a bunch of horrible people. Also that epic gif comes from there, right? I’ll probably watch it one of these days.

    • Purplerockmatt

      Fiji is a fascinating failure. it isn’t like other bad seasons where they are bad because they are bad and boring. Fiji might be the most experimental season the show ever did, it’s just every experiment was stupid and went horribly wrong. There is also a large large quotient in Fiji of hateful people. However, none of those people win, the winner and the 4th place finisher are both great characters, and one of the two that made final tribal has the most complex edit ever given to someone who got 0 votes in final tribal.

    • Sylvisual

      I need to rewatch Fiji because I haven’t seen it in 10 years, but I remember liking it. (Not as much as Cook before it, for sure.) That may be my Earl and Yau Man rose-colored glasses speaking, and the Have Nots was indeed an incredibly shitty twist, but the end justifies the means.

  • indescribable hat

    I don’t really understand this “Jerri’s villainy is quaint” thing. I watched Australia and All Stars for the first time within the last two years, and Jerri will always be a villain to me because oh my god, I could not live with her on Survivor. I don’t think she’s evil, and I bet she isn’t even an unpleasant person in normal life, but there’s just something about her kvetching when she’s cold and hungry and sleep deprived… Anyone that elicits such a visceral negative reaction is a legit villain to me.