After 30 days, the game of Survivor can get tough. You have a one-in-four shot of winning and only the best remain, and everyone is starving. Luckily for you, you’re well-fed and get to vote someone off from your couch. That’s right, the Ultimate Survivor Bracket is down to the Final Four. (Please don’t sue us, NCAA.) We have four of the most recognizable, dominant players in Survivor history battling it out for the title, and like Jeff Probst’s nightmares, the final four doesn’t have an alpha male for miles. Three women and a gay guy (aka CBS’ next sitcom idea) are here to be the antidote to chauvinism the show desperately needs this year. But you’re not here for prattle, you’re here to battle. So without further ado, your match ups…
Richard Hatch vs. Sandra Diaz-Twine
Previous round: Hatch (56%) over Rob Cesternino (44%); Sandra (68%) over Boston Rob (32%)
The original mastermind, Richard Hatch, inaugurated the buff while playing in the buff. Without him, Survivor would have died by 2004 a boring shell of what it could have been. He pioneered the alliance strategy, manipulating 15 other people’s summer camp adventure into the genesis of the game we love today. At this point, a vote for Richard is like a vote for Paul McCartney: sure, the Beatles were awesome, but he’s been surpassed by so many others in the years since.
Unlike Hatch’s one-and-done victory, Sandra Diaz-Twine has won twice, with seven years between the two. She played a brilliant “anyone but me” strategy and fooled two entire groups of players into bringing her to the end. While her Pearl Islands game was more impressive, she sat next to a loser, whereas in Heroes vs. Villains it was the opposite: a perfectly fine game followed by tougher competition. Still, two wins are two wins, and she’s still one of the best, most unlikely victors the show has ever seen. Plus if you don’t vote for her, she’ll come tear down your shelter. Fingers crossed. (Or were they, Fairplay?)
Parvati Shallow vs. Kim Spradlin
Previous round: Parvati (60%) over Yul Kwon (40%); Kim (57%) over Tony Vlachos (43%)
It’s a duel of girl power! At first glance, both of these players are impressive: Both are winners, both successfully led a group of women to the finals where they outschemed and outshown all the rest, both are strong competitors—Parvati has the days-played record while Kim has (one of) the records for most individual immunity wins by a woman. But both are not equal.
Readers of my preview columns know I’m no fan of the Spradlin Hypemobile™ (RIP Tony Vlachos’ torch), and it all has to do with what kind of competition each was up against. Parvarti evolved from temptress to manipulative idol queen, winning challenges and outplaying two seasons of seasoned veterans who were out to get her from early on. Kim played a dominant game, with multiple challenge wins and a solid strategy, but won against a bunch of cardboard cutouts from the CBS back lot.
Voting this round really comes down to what flavor you like your winners in: spicy with flavor you keep coming back to, or a cool, overpowering sauce that was good that one time you tried it on pig brains. Whoever comes out on top, the winner of this round will get to smack Dan Foley around before proceeding to their final challenge.
Mark has been watching Survivor since day one…except for that time he voted himself off the fan island after the first episode of Micronesia during college. (Sorry, Parv.) Once he realized his error during season 25, he became obsessed all over again and got back up to speed with a nerd fervor that only Shirin and Max would love. He hopes you will forgive him for putting the “NO” in Manono tribe and follow him on Twitter at @sylvisual.
Top 5, Baby: Cambodia, Cagayan, Heroes vs. Villains, Pearl Islands, and Palau.