Introducing our latest series of essays where one of our columnists writes an ode to one of their favourite Survivor players, while defending them against any potential naysayers (both real and imagined). This isn’t a place to be fair and balanced. This is a chance to let your fan freak flag fly. Starting things off is Kemper Boyd on her favourite player from a season she says is better than some (like us) give it credit for.
Why She’s Great
There are a lot of reasons to love Natalie Anderson. One of the big reasons for me is how unusual it is to see a big, brassy woman win Survivor. The only other woman with the level of outspokenness to win Survivor is the Queen herself Sandra Diaz-Twine. It’s truly something to see a loud, over the top, quite-aggressive woman play the game.
The main reason to love Natalie Anderson is her unwavering need for revenge. Her entire game is set up on the theory of revenge. When her twin sister is voted out first for no reason other than their Amazing Race appearances, the revenge game is born. Nadiya is Survivor’s woman in the refrigerator; her untimely demise motivates her sister to go on and win the whole damn thing. Then, the closest bond Natalie makes in the game (with Jeremy) is severed by her own alliance acting behind her back and that sets Natalie on a mission.
I personally enjoy seeing a complex female character on TV. I like seeing women of colour who do not fit the stereotypes of their ethnicity. Natalie Anderson is a loud personality, she’s athletic as hell and she isn’t your stereotypical South Asian book nerd. Natalie Anderson is her own person and she isn’t particularly bothered what anyone else thinks about it. That is the kind of woman I want to be.
Do you like interesting personalities? Do you like fun as fuck moves? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you should like Natalie Anderson.
Haters Gonna Hate
She only started playing late in the game
Some critics of Natalie say she didn’t start playing until after the merge and this is true if you think getting into a good alliance and sticking with it isn’t playing. Of course, getting into a power alliance and staying safe within it is a good strategy. We often talk about not playing a post merge game in the pre-merge, but you shouldn’t play the end game at Final 10 either. Natalie Anderson’s timing was impeccable. She stuck with people she hated in the context of the game and she did so because it was better for her. And when the time came, she slit their throats.
I don’t like big moves
You don’t like big moves? What is wrong with you!? Big moves are fun moves and Natalie Anderson is a purveyor of big fun moves. I myself have criticised players for wanting to make big-moves-for-big-moves-sake, but blindsiding Jon Misch was a huge move and it was perfectly timed. Blindsiding Baylor and Missy was a huge move that put her in every possible final 3 configuration (if you think Keith would have got rid of Natalie over Missy, you are crazy).
If you don’t like big moves maybe you like small moves. Natalie also made one of the best small moves in Survivor history — the anti-Tyson if you will. When faced with her alliance splitting the vote and keeping hold of Alec, who could be a pawn for her mortal enemy and alliance-mate Jon Misch, she flipped her vote from Keith. Keeping Keith allowed her to blindside Jon at the next tribal council and then have someone around at final 4 who was a much bigger threat than her to win. So yeah, she has small moves in her bag of tricks.
San Juan del Sur sucked and all the players were idiots
To me SJDS is an underrated season of Survivor. There are a lot of fun episodes, including the Drewchebag boot, which is one of the better pre-merge episodes of Survivor there is.
Now are the cast idiots? Yes, a good number of them are. Does that make her win less impressive? No. Jeremy Collins has said playing with returnees was much easier for him because they are more easy to predict. Idiots are wild and unpredictable and that can get in the way of a good plan. You just have to look at Reed’s boot episode to see what playing with idiots can do to derail an excellent plan. Keith — one of the most famous Survivor idiots — blew up Reed’s plan with a single famous line. So what did Natalie do when it came time to use Keith to get rid of Jon? She explained it in detail to him, she managed his expectations, and she told him how to act and what to say. Natalie Anderson played idiot-wrangler and it won her the game.
There are more decent players on SJDS than people remember: Missy played a very good strategic game, she just mismanaged her social relationships. Jeremy and Josh were players who people respected and trusted. Jaclyn was a better reader of the game than her boyfriend Jon — it was Jaclyn who worried about Natalie’s loyalty.
I am an avid watcher of The Amazing Race and I was never a fan of the Twinnies; they are a lot to take when they are together on screen. I was worried when they were cast on Survivor that I would be overwhelmed by their energy again, but I was happily surprised to find that each of them onscreen on their own were interesting and compelling in their own right. Natalie benefits massively from being alone without her support system in SJDS because her support system magnifies her quirks to the point of annoying. And for this Brit, hearing the word “bloody” used so liberally on an American TV show was delightful.
In summation, Natalie Anderson is a baller. She has impeccable timing, a top draw social game that meant everyone playing loved her and she had big moves coming out the wazoo. Natalie Anderson straight up balled out; she balled out yo. And when it comes down to it, how can you not love a strong, social, athletic, loud-mouthed woman destroying the competition on Survivor? I know I can’t.
Favourite seasons: HvV, Pearl Islands, Cook Islands, Micronesia, SJDS
Favourite players: Sandra, Kim, Courtney, Parvati, Yul