The Ultimate Survivor Bracket: Final Eight

In case you’ve missed it, we’ve been pitting Survivors head-to-head in match-ups to determine the Ultimate Survivor. How will we decide the winner? The same way Survivor does it: with a vote. This is our Tribal Council, and you’ve all made the jury. It is… time to vote.

Polls close on Sunday, April 12.

Graphic by @sylvisual (click for larger version)

We’ve had a few upsets along the way, but the giants of this bracket have yet to fall. Because of that, they’re now squaring off against each other to get to the Tribal Four (see what I did there to cleverly avoid copyright infringement?). This round of polls is going to be tough; these are some of the most beloved Survivor players in history, and you only get to choose one.

Ok, enough stalling- let’s get to the match-ups:

1. Richard Hatch vs 2. Rob Cesternino

Richard-introRobC-intro

Voting for Richard Hatch in the Ultimate Survivor is a lot like trying to rank Borneo. You feel like you have to, out of respect for the history of the game, but it also feels like a cop-out. You’re not voting for him just because he was the first winner, are you? Probably not, but the thought’s enough to make you pause and consider the alternative.

Then again, Rob Cesternino ranking highly in an Internet fan vote… is that not also a cop-out? While there are no official criteria to base your vote on, it’s important to remember that this is the vote for the Ultimate Survivor, not the Ultimate Podcaster. Rob’s original claim to Survivor fame was being the greatest player to never win, but Cirie usurped his title and was already eliminated in the last round.

That said, I am still undecided. – Emma


1. “Boston” Rob Mariano vs 2. Sandra Diaz-Twine

BostonRob-introSandra-intro

What does the title of Ultimate Survivor mean to you? Is it the face of the franchise, or is it based on pure success? Boston Rob is likely the man of Survivor, but there’s no beating Sandra when it comes to batting average. (Look, if Andy can write an entire post based on the mid-1990s Chicago Bulls team, I can throw in a few baseball metaphors.)

For some, Sanda’s two wins are enough to automatically push her through to the next round. Others need a little more flash, a little more sizzle. Boston Rob is undoubtedly a more aggressive player and it can be argued that he has had more influence on the game than Sandra. But don’t use Sandra’s under-the-radar strategy to write her off as an under-the-radar character. The First Lady of Survivor sass, Sandra can get loud too, what the fuck? And if you don’t vote for her, she swears she’s going to screw you and Burton. – Emma


1. Parvati Shallow vs 3. Yul Kwon

Yul-intro

Who deserves your vote more: the consummate flirt who wields immunity idols like a boss and is also pretty good at challenges? Or would you prefer Parvati? I’m sorry, were you distracted by Yul flirtatiously batting his eyes at you? That’s how Yul gets you- he uses his killer body and smile to lure you in, then he stabs you in the back and discards you like you’re nothing to him.

As ridiculous as it sounds to make those arguments about Yul, they’re roughly as accurate when applied to him as they are to Parvati. You know how many men voted for Parvati in the season she won? Zero. Meanwhile, Yul got two women and one gay man to vote for him. Who’s the flirty sexpot now, Probst?

One jury vote Yul didn’t get in the final tribal council was Parvati’s. Parvati’s presence on that jury also means that Yul beat Parvati head-to-head, which is a pretty strong argument in favor of Yul. And Yul won on his first- and somehow only- time playing the game, even if the vote was a lot closer than all of us care to remember.

But Parvati was just 23 in Cook Islands, and everyone knows 23-year olds are just the worst. She finished a respectable sixth place in that season, but it’s her two later seasons that really pad her résumé. In Micronesia, an older and wiser Parvati realized that Survivor juries don’t often vote for women when they’re up against men, so she took a group of women to the end and left the jury no choice. In Heroes vs Villains, Parvati realized that juries wouldn’t vote for Russell, but she failed to realize they would vote for Sandra.

If you’re one of those “count the ringz” types, Parvati has a gold medal, a silver medal, and a sixth place (tin? aluminum? aluminum foil?) medal. Yul just has the gold. But hey, I’m not here to tell you how to vote. Oh wait, yes I am: Vote Parvati. – John


1. Kim Spradlin vs 2. Tony Vlachos

kim-introTonyCagayan

What an amazing contrast in styles. Kim dominated by being a master social manipulator, calmly and coolly controlling every aspect of her season with an uncanny understanding of what people need emotionally and socially to be properly motivated. She was an amazing mixture of Boston Rob-type manipulation, JT-like adoration, and Yul-like strategic rationalism. Unlike herself and those hypnotic blue eyes, it may not have been the most telegenic game, but it was as thorough a domination of the most important factor of Survivor – the social game – as we’ve ever seen (with a helpful mix of physical and strategic acumen to boot). I’m thoroughly convinced that if you took Kim’s One World game and ported into any other season, she’d have a shot to win every time. Kim was the culmination of 24 seasons of Survivor theory put into action.

Tony, on the other hand, took a sledgehammer to 28 seasons of Survivor theory and forced his way to victory through a sheer force of will and a constant attack on offence. It was perhaps the highest degree of difficulty for a win that there’s ever been, but the more I think about it, it may have also been the most impressive. While the other players on his season and the pundits at home thought they knew the proper pace to the game, Tony decided to push that pace to his advantage and before anyone had a chance to catch-up, they were sitting in Ponderosa wondering what happened. You shouldn’t be able to do what Tony did, with the constant looking for an edge in every portion of the game, the sprinting around the jungle looking for clues or information, all the while being the hardest worker around camp. It basically shouldn’t be possible while at the same time not sleeping and getting by on a cup of rice and some plantains a day. But he did. His game may have had a whole lot more flop sweat than Kim’s, but it was no less successful.

Basically, if you’ve been basing your vote on who played the best game, then you’re going to have to find a new criteria in this vote. Because if you can honestly compare Kim’s game to Tony’s game and declare one better than the other, my guess is that you’re applying your own bias to determine what a better game should be. Each played the game best tailored to their abilities. And each completely owned the game in doing so. –Andy


This Ultimate Survivor Bracket thing is pretty great, right? You know what else is great? Following all of us on Twitter! You should do that:

Andy: @andy_sayers

John: @purplerockpod

Emma: @emmapurplerock

Matt: Nope! Matt doesn’t like you.

Mark (who made all of our graphics for the bracket): @sylvisual

  • I can make a solid argument for Cesternino that doesn’t centre around “he’s my third favourite Survivor podcaster”: when you think about it, the only thing that separates his game from Richard’s is that the person who won the final immunity challenge decided to take one of them to the final two in Borneo, whereas the person in The Amazon didn’t. That’s it. Even in All-Stars, they were each the first person voted out of their tribes (with Richard outlasting Rob by a whole three days).

    That said, I voted Hatch. I also wanted to vote Yul because he’s a personal favourite, did beat Parvati, and it would be fun to get a 3 seed in the final four. But I wasn’t going to vote all dudes.

    • I’m just honored by the fact that I’m your second “favourite” podcaster. Unless you meant Stephen Fishbach. In which case, fuck you.

      • I went really Canadian with that. All inverted ER’s and extra U’s baby. And of course I didn’t mean Fishbach! You are totally my lieutenant. (Which we pronounce LEFTenant).

      • Andy if you truly pronounce it Leftenant then i have been wrong about canada for so damn long. also where do hookers and blackjack rank on your podcast ranking?

      • @purplerockmatt is asking important questions here, Andy.

      • Top ten, maybe? I’d have to look at my spreadsheets and see where D or D rank out.

    • Gouis

      Richard put himself in a position where he didn’t need to win the final challenge. Rob didn’t. That’s the big difference to me.

      • Yes, but if Rudy wins that challenge instead of Kelly, Rich loses in the final two. So there was still only one possible outcome of that challenge that sets Rich up for a win (because Rich winning that challenge also would’ve prevented him from winning, as he either brings Rudy and loses to him or brings Kelly and loses Rudy’s deciding jury vote).

        Rob had two potential paths heading into that challenge: him or Matt winning (I know Matt chose to step down and face Jenna in the finals, but I’m guessing if Matt had the immunity necklace, Rob would’ve been able to convince him to vote out Jenna given the afternoon to do so).

    • Since I can’t respond directly below-

      ” but I’m guessing if Matt had the immunity necklace, Rob would’ve been able to convince him to vote out Jenna given the afternoon to do so).”

      He wouldn’t have had the chance since Amazon went straight from final challenge to final elimination. Matt and Rob got a minute to make their cases.

      But as to your larger point in Evolution of Strategy Rob said the only thing he could have done differently was to make an effort before the challenge to drill into Matt’s head that he would lose to Jenna in front of a jury but that he didn’t think he needed to because he overestimated how loyal Matt was to him, which is a mistake I don’t see Hatch making. Even if he’s 99% certain, Hatch ties up that loose thread.

    • Rob

      I voted Yul. In what was the first season for both of them, he dominated and she wasn’t good. It took Parvati a season to figure out the game, and even at her best, I still don’t think she was much better than Yul in Cook Islands. If Yul and Parvati both came back in season 31, I don’t think either would be significantly more likely to win than the other.

  • I can make a solid argument for Cesternino that doesn’t centre around “he’s my third favourite Survivor podcaster”: when you think about it, the only thing that separates his game from Richard’s is that the person who won the final immunity challenge decided to take one of them to the final two in Borneo, whereas the person in The Amazon didn’t. That’s it. Even in All-Stars, they were each the first person voted out of their tribes (with Richard outlasting Rob by a whole three days).

    That said, I voted Hatch. I also wanted to vote Yul because he’s a personal favourite, did beat Parvati, and it would be fun to get a 3 seed in the final four. But I wasn’t going to vote all dudes.

    • I’m just honored by the fact that I’m your second “favourite” podcaster. Unless you meant Stephen Fishbach. In which case, fuck you.

      • I went really Canadian with that. All inverted ER’s and extra U’s baby. And of course I didn’t mean Fishbach! You are totally my lieutenant. (Which we pronounce LEFTenant).

      • Andy if you truly pronounce it Leftenant then i have been wrong about canada for so damn long. also where do hookers and blackjack rank on your podcast ranking?

      • @purplerockmatt is asking important questions here, Andy.

      • Top ten, maybe? I’d have to look at my spreadsheets and see where D or D rank out.

    • Gouis

      Richard put himself in a position where he didn’t need to win the final challenge. Rob didn’t. That’s the big difference to me.

      • Yes, but if Rudy wins that challenge instead of Kelly, Rich loses in the final two. So there was still only one possible outcome of that challenge that sets Rich up for a win (because Rich winning that challenge also would’ve prevented him from winning, as he either brings Rudy and loses to him or brings Kelly and loses Rudy’s deciding jury vote).

        Rob had two potential paths heading into that challenge: him or Matt winning (I know Matt chose to step down and face Jenna in the finals, but I’m guessing if Matt had the immunity necklace, Rob would’ve been able to convince him to vote out Jenna given the afternoon to do so).

    • Since I can’t respond directly below-

      ” but I’m guessing if Matt had the immunity necklace, Rob would’ve been able to convince him to vote out Jenna given the afternoon to do so).”

      He wouldn’t have had the chance since Amazon went straight from final challenge to final elimination. Matt and Rob got a minute to make their cases.

      But as to your larger point in Evolution of Strategy Rob said the only thing he could have done differently was to make an effort before the challenge to drill into Matt’s head that he would lose to Jenna in front of a jury but that he didn’t think he needed to because he overestimated how loyal Matt was to him, which is a mistake I don’t see Hatch making. Even if he’s 99% certain, Hatch ties up that loose thread.

    • Rob

      I voted Yul. In what was the first season for both of them, he dominated and she wasn’t good. It took Parvati a season to figure out the game, and even at her best, I still don’t think she was much better than Yul in Cook Islands. If Yul and Parvati both came back in season 31, I don’t think either would be significantly more likely to win than the other.

  • Oh, and to compete my thought about Kim vs Tony: if they both were equally good at the game (as I’m suggesting), then my tiebreaker is that Tony was far more entertaining. And I say that as someone in awe of Kim.

    • Other Scott

      That ended up being my logic as well. I have no idea who played the better game. They both gained control through a little bit of luck (Kim with the unbalanced tribe swap, Tony with the Kass flip), but on a playing from ahead level the only game that comes close to either of them that I’ve seen is Tom Westman (haven’t watched BRob’s seasons yet).

  • Oh, and to compete my thought about Kim vs Tony: if they both were equally good at the game (as I’m suggesting), then my tiebreaker is that Tony was far more entertaining. And I say that as someone in awe of Kim.

    • Other Scott

      That ended up being my logic as well. I have no idea who played the better game. They both gained control through a little bit of luck (Kim with the unbalanced tribe swap, Tony with the Kass flip), but on a playing from ahead level the only game that comes close to either of them that I’ve seen is Tom Westman (haven’t watched BRob’s seasons yet).

  • For what it’s worth, Parvati did know that the jury would vote for Sandra, even telling Russell that she would vote for Sandra herself. Of course, that also shows that Parvati wasn’t able to get rid of her. But we’ll save that issue for if/when Parvati and Sandra have a showdown.

    • yep Parvati spent basically an entire day trying to convince Russell to vote out Sandra instead of Jerri but eventually gave up because it could expose her to being voted out if she pushed too hard

      • Rob

        Russell is obviously incapable of reading a jury.

  • For what it’s worth, Parvati did know that the jury would vote for Sandra, even telling Russell that she would vote for Sandra herself. Of course, that also shows that Parvati wasn’t able to get rid of her. But we’ll save that issue for if/when Parvati and Sandra have a showdown.

    • yep Parvati spent basically an entire day trying to convince Russell to vote out Sandra instead of Jerri but eventually gave up because it could expose her to being voted out if she pushed too hard

      • Rob

        Russell is obviously incapable of reading a jury.

  • The argument against Parvati: if Micronesia were a final 3, as she herself was expecting it to be, she’d be 0 for 3. You know, unless she came back for South Pacific. Then all you clever internet people would be saying how it took her four tries to win Survivor.

    • But if she loses Micronesia, is she as targeted as a threat in Heroes Vs. Villains? Butterfly effect, people!

      • Did the targeting her have a negligible effect in HvV? And, yes, I imagine finishing second in Micronesia would still have made her appear dangerous to Randy and Tyson.

      • Although, now I’m thinking she probably would’ve finished third in Micronesia had Cirie been there.

    • Can’t reply in the right spot (it’s like AVC before nuDisqus!) but now I want to try to figure this out.

      Parvati probably keeps Natalie and Alexis, Amanda definitely keeps Ozzy and maybe Erik. I feel like Jason could go either way (btw, John, Jason is in fact a man who voted for Parvati). Eliza is probably a lock for Cirie. James… I’m not sure. I feel like it’s between Cirie and Amanda for him.

      Then of course there’s the fact that they wouldn’t have had a final three with only 6 jurors, so do we just assume Ami makes the jury? This is where it becomes way too butterfly effecty to properly predict. Maybe Ami and Cirie bond. Maybe she respects Parvati for being seen as the leader of a female alliance. Maybe new crying Ami feels empathy for crying Amanda. Maybe I’m spending too much time on this.

      In terms of Heroes vs. Villains, without being a target at the beginning, she slips under the radar for a bit and can make the proper social bonds she’s known for. Beyond that, it’s impossible to predict what might have been. But I don’t think it’s inconceivable that it makes a difference.

      • I meant straight males (at least according to the Survivor Wiki, the definitive guide to Survivor sexuality).

      • I’m not sure Parvati keeps Alexis. Cirie had clearly bonded with them and didn’t vote Alexis out. It’s also important to remember that Cirie would still have the chance to win votes in front of the jury. Parvati wasn’t actually all that great in front of the jury, she was just not a complete disaster like Amanda.

      • I don’t think Cirie gets James. He probably doesn’t end up blaming her quite as much for voting out Ozzy and blowing up their alliance as he does Parvati, but she also probably doesn’t skate on it and his vote still goes to Amanda.

      • What if throwing Cirie into the mix gives Amanda the 3-2-2 plurality? Holy crap, that’s a possibility.

        • I actually wondered that myself. It definitely is possible.

      • nah Erik goes to Cirie, he clearly had a bond with her and only voted for Amanda because he thought she played a better game than Parvati.

    • Maybe Parvati does better in front of the jury with Cirie there. Like in tennis! Anyway, at the end of the day I think there are too many variables to figure it out. Cirie probably wins, but it’s not 100% and I think it’s too difficult to say who Amanda and Parvati get in that scenario.

  • The argument against Parvati: if Micronesia were a final 3, as she herself was expecting it to be, she’d be 0 for 3. You know, unless she came back for South Pacific. Then all you clever internet people would be saying how it took her four tries to win Survivor.

    • But if she loses Micronesia, is she as targeted as a threat in Heroes Vs. Villains? Butterfly effect, people!

      • Did the targeting her have a negligible effect in HvV? And, yes, I imagine finishing second in Micronesia would still have made her appear dangerous to Randy and Tyson.

      • Although, now I’m thinking she probably would’ve finished third in Micronesia had Cirie been there.

    • Can’t reply in the right spot (it’s like AVC before nuDisqus!) but now I want to try to figure this out.

      Parvati probably keeps Natalie and Alexis, Amanda definitely keeps Ozzy and maybe Erik. I feel like Jason could go either way (btw, John, Jason is in fact a man who voted for Parvati). Eliza is probably a lock for Cirie. James… I’m not sure. I feel like it’s between Cirie and Amanda for him.

      Then of course there’s the fact that they wouldn’t have had a final three with only 6 jurors, so do we just assume Ami makes the jury? This is where it becomes way too butterfly effecty to properly predict. Maybe Ami and Cirie bond. Maybe she respects Parvati for being seen as the leader of a female alliance. Maybe new crying Ami feels empathy for crying Amanda. Maybe I’m spending too much time on this.

      In terms of Heroes vs. Villains, without being a target at the beginning, she slips under the radar for a bit and can make the proper social bonds she’s known for. Beyond that, it’s impossible to predict what might have been. But I don’t think it’s inconceivable that it makes a difference.

      • I meant straight males (at least according to the Survivor Wiki, the definitive guide to Survivor sexuality).

      • I’m not sure Parvati keeps Alexis. Cirie had clearly bonded with them and didn’t vote Alexis out. It’s also important to remember that Cirie would still have the chance to win votes in front of the jury. Parvati wasn’t actually all that great in front of the jury, she was just not a complete disaster like Amanda.

      • I don’t think Cirie gets James. He probably doesn’t end up blaming her quite as much for voting out Ozzy and blowing up their alliance as he does Parvati, but she also probably doesn’t skate on it and his vote still goes to Amanda.

      • What if throwing Cirie into the mix gives Amanda the 3-2-2 plurality? Holy crap, that’s a possibility.

        • I actually wondered that myself. It definitely is possible.

      • nah Erik goes to Cirie, he clearly had a bond with her and only voted for Amanda because he thought she played a better game than Parvati.

    • Maybe Parvati does better in front of the jury with Cirie there. Like in tennis! Anyway, at the end of the day I think there are too many variables to figure it out. Cirie probably wins, but it’s not 100% and I think it’s too difficult to say who Amanda and Parvati get in that scenario.

  • Tony vs Kim is definitely the hardest choice for me here. Because like Andy said, it’s two extremely competent winners who played the game in completely opposite ways. I ultimately went with Kim because Girl Power. Not a very logical reason, but a show like Survivor needs as much of it as it can get. (also a reason why I loved Parvati’s Micronesia game)

  • Tony vs Kim is definitely the hardest choice for me here. Because like Andy said, it’s two extremely competent winners who played the game in completely opposite ways. I ultimately went with Kim because Girl Power. Not a very logical reason, but a show like Survivor needs as much of it as it can get. (also a reason why I loved Parvati’s Micronesia game)

  • YUL BETTER BEAT PARVATI YOU VOTERS!!!

  • YUL BETTER BEAT PARVATI YOU VOTERS!!!

    • Jable

      He definitely has to. They played against each other and Yul won. How is she winning in the voting?

  • didnt vote in majority at all