Sure, it’s March, but who needs basketball? What we really need is a tournament to decide the Ultimate Survivor. From now through April, we’ll be 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, March 22.
Welcome to the modern era of Survivor. These are the leaders of the new school, with “new school” being defined as everything that happened after Heroes vs. Villains. Everything, that is, except for Worlds Apart. Despite my lobbying, the committee was unwilling to accept my proposal that Max and Shirin be allowed into this bracket as a shared #1 seed, with Jenn slipping in as a #3 or #4 seed. The committee is a bunch of jerks. Still, there are some great players in this bracket and some great match-ups. Let’s get to our first one:
1. Kim Spradlin vs 16. Jud “Fabio” Birza
That’s right, Fabio is a 16 seed. And he’s only even in the bracket because his win forced us to include him. Fabio managed to win because he wasn’t hated as much as the other idiots he was up against. He won because two people who quit the game voted for him. He won the worst-ever season of Survivor only because someone had to win. Vote for Kim. Seriously. If you don’t, I’ll try to figure out how to permanently ban you from visiting this website. If Kim doesn’t win this poll with at least 100% of the vote (and yes, I’ll accept it if she receives a statistically-impossible 140%), I will be angry. I won’t tell you who to vote for on the other polls; for this one, I will.
Kim is a Survivor Hall of Famer, a woman who made people fall all over themselves to give her a million dollars. Remember when people were lining up to give J.T. the million in Tocantins? I think the One World cast would have given Kim their vital organs if she asked. That’s dominance. Kim and Fabio both played on shitty seasons of Survivor– the difference is that Kim is so good at Survivor that she made her season boring. Fabio was just a buoy floating in the cesspool that was Nicaragua.
8. Sophie Clarke vs 9. Jonathan Penner
Sophie won South Pacific by kneeling and praying with Coach, living with Brandon Hantz for a month, and going full Pagong on the opposing tribe after the merge. She also beat Ozzy in the final immunity challenge to keep him out of the final three and secure her victory.
Penner is the consummate storyteller, the pinnacle of Survivor narration. Is it fair to put Penner in the with new school players? Yes, because Penner is timeless. Penner was the only tolerable white person in Cook Islands, got injured in Micronesia and shined in Philippines before forgetting the cardinal rule of post-merge Survivor: always say yes when someone offers to align with you.
4. Tyson Apostol vs 13. Ciera Eastin
Voting himself out of Heroes vs Villains. Befriending everyone except Sierra in Tocantins. Stealing coconuts and hearts on the way to a win in Blood vs Water. Tyson has done it all. He also seemingly hasn’t cut his hair since Tocantins.
Ciera survived an alpha-male alliance, worked her way into a potentially dominant position post-merge, then made a mistake rookies make: she acted later rather than sooner. To her credit, she realized her mistake and tried to correct course before the luck of the (rock) draw doomed her attempt to seize power.
5. Denise Stapley vs 12. Vytas Baskauskas
Denise is a stud. You know how older women are the first ones to go when a tribe needs someone they can label as “weak”? That wasn’t Denise. Denise went to every single tribal council and was only in any sort of danger once. Denise’s calm, cool sex therapist demeanor and underdog story helped her destroy the goats that had happily brought her to the final three.
Vytas is the brother of Survivor’s “most boring winner ever” (according to Jeff Probst) and his mild rivalry with his brother gave Survivor‘s producers the sweet, sweet family drama they craved in Blood vs Water. He gave us some solid scheming and confessionals, but ultimately the returning players took him out. He then kept Tyson from a unanimous win by choosing to use his vote to decide second place.
2. Tony Vlachos vs 15. Kass McQuillen
Spy shacks. Tyler Perry idols. Llama sounds. Tony was not only a winner, but an entertainment machine. Tony’s strategy seemed incredibly risky at first, but when you hear him discuss it (shameless plug for the Tony Vlachos interview on the Purple Rock Survivor podcast) he was actually putting a lot of thought into each move that he made.
Chaos Kass, on the other hand, is the perfect match-up for Tony in round one. Does Tony even win Cagayan if Kass isn’t on that season? For all of her haters out there- and there are a lot of them, including Tony (who, by the way, is divisive as well)- Kass’ decision to flip on her tribemates at the merge set Cagayan on a course for greatness. And her decision to tell people she was a llama farmer rather than a lawyer set Tony up for an amazing llama imitation that we still use at the end of every podcast (as some of you have already noticed).
7. Natalie Anderson vs. 10. Spencer Bledsoe
Hey look, it’s Miss Survivor pitted against Mr. Survivor! Natalie was perhaps the only redeeming thing about San Juan del Sur, and her victory- and final few episodes- vaulted San Juan del Sur from the lowest tier of Survivor seasons into near-mediocrity. Natalie is entertaining, charming, funny, and a surprisingly competent Survivor player.
Spencer was a beloved underdog in Cagayan, especially amongst those that hated Tony and really wanted him to lose. The young lad overcame a horrendous start, played the game in a way he clearly never intended to, and managed to make his way deep into the game. And for what it’s worth, his Reddit AMA is both insightful and funny.
3. John Cochran vs 14. Andrea Boehlke
Sweet, lovable nerd Cochran. Expose him to sunlight and he goes full lobster within hours. Give him a confessional and he’ll make a reference to Harry Potter or make a self-deprecating joke. Even alpha male-loving Probst finally caved in and embraced his Cochran love. After being bullied and outcast in his first season, Cochran unanimously won his second attempt.
You may not have remembered that Andrea appeared on a season before Caramoan. That’s because screen time- along with everything else- was dominated by Boston Rob. But Andrea came back and showed that she had some game. For large portions of the game, she was in control of a dominant alliance. She’s also a former Miss Survivor, if that matters to you.
6. Malcolm Freberg vs 11. Dawn Meehan
Look at Malcolm in that picture. Long hair, pretty smile, probably getting ready to talk about Harry Potter to appeal to his key demographic of pre-teen girls. Or maybe he’s about to perform well in a challenge to appeal to his other key demographic: Jeff Probst. Somehow, Malcolm has something that seems to appeal to every corner of Survivor fandom: he has a fan’s love of the show, he drops nerdy references, and he’s able to convince the “bro” crowd that he’s one of them. And he’s so beautiful that he consciously makes poor decisions about facial hair in order to seem less appealing.
I know what you’re thinking: Dawn cries. Yes, yes. Very original. Dawn does cry. You know what else Dawn does? She gets people to trust her. You think Cochran wins Caramoan without Dawn? Please. Dawn was every bit his equal, building strong alliances and cutting throats when she needed to. But all anyone wants to remember is that she cried a lot and had the audacity to vote out Brenda, a woman that had been all but invisible for 30+ days in Caramoan. Dawn makes all the moves of a great Survivor player, she just gets emotional about making them. Plus, she’s jacked- just look at that bicep! She’s got crazy Mormon mom strength, probably because she doesn’t drink coffee.
Don’t forget to vote in the other divisions:
The Age of the Returnee
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia