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 5.
There wasn’t much in the way of drama in the last round, with the bracket going “chalk” as the basketball fans say (translation for the sports-despising nerds: the favorites all won). Apparently we did a fairly decent job of seeding this bracket, since the top four are the last four standing. But I think it’s safe to say this round won’t see some of the blowout victories we saw last round, because these four are the legitimate stars of this era of Survivor.
1. “Boston” Rob Mariano vs 4. Tom Westman
Wow, this battle might just give Jeff Probst priapism. Noted Probst backup spouse Boston Rob vs. challenge-dominating Silver Fox alpha male Tom is the sort of thing that keeps Jeff hosting the show, hoping against hope that some day this exact pairing will be in a final tribal council.
Even if you’re not Jeff Probst, this might be a difficult decision. Rob certainly has the longer résumé, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better one. Tom won his first time around, a feat Rob didn’t accomplish until his fourth attempt. Rob outlasted Tom in Heroes vs. Villains, but it was hardly a banner season for either of them.
When Rob was invited back for All-Stars, it seemed like a bit of a stretch. But pre-game alliances, massive egos of the bigger stars, and some surprising challenge dominance allowed him to make it to the final two. Clearly feeling that they’d been robbed (sorry!) of the winner they wanted, Probst and company brought Rob back for Heroes vs. Villains. Rob was actually fairly well-positioned in that season before Tyson’s hunger blew up Rob’s alliance.
Finally, fearing that one of his ultimate man crushes would never win his show, Probst brought Rob back one more time in Redemption Island. This time Rob was in a tribe of people mostly clueless to how the game of Survivor operated, and if that weren’t enough they added a game element to keep Rob in the game were he to get voted out. It was equivalent to putting bumpers in the gutters while bowling so that little kids can knock over some pins. Rob finally got a strike, cementing his legacy as one of the greats.
So who wins this matchup? Both are great players who have at least one subpar season on their résumés, but legitimately dominant victories as well. More importantly: What would Jeff Probst do?
2. Sandra Diaz-Twine vs 3. Cirie Fields
Ouch. This one is going to be tough.
Allow me to share a quick theory: Once upon a time, there was a massive backlash against the idea that Sandra was a great player. Despite winning twice, a sizable contingent of Survivor fans were convinced that she simply rode coattails to the end and won by being the least-objectionable option. These same fans also thought that Russell Hantz was a great Survivor player. But slowly, and I credit this to Russell Hantz (who still probably hasn’t grasped this lesson), people realized that being an obnoxious ass that nobody likes is not brilliant Survivor play. Scheming and strategy alone aren’t enough to make people be comfortable with the idea of giving you a million dollars. They have to like you, at least on some level. And these two understand that concept as well as anyone.
Cirie has somehow never won Survivor. Many people have labeled her the greatest player to never win, and I think that’s accurate. With some degree of confidence, I can say that she would have won Panama and/or Micronesia if she’d made the finals against absolutely anyone (though Micronesia would have been close against Parvati). She is smart, strategic, funny, and just plain lovable. If she were in a final tribal council and I were on the jury, the only question I would ask is, “Probst, can I just go ahead and vote for Cirie right now?”
But what Cirie theoretically could have done in two seasons, Sandra actually did. Winning Survivor is hard. No winner succeeds without some degree of luck, even if you’re a dominant player. Sandra never wore an immunity necklace on her path to two victories; she relied on others keeping her around. And other than Courtney in Heroes vs. Villains, it’s difficult to name someone Sandra had an extremely tight alliance with. This is because Sandra will work with anyone, even people she can’t stand (e.g. Dalton and Hantz) in order to further her game. And when it comes to final tribal councils, the people on the jury remember that about her and hand her the money.
So which of these two deserve your vote? I honestly don’t know. I can’t even tell you who will be getting mine.
Don’t forget to vote in the other divisions:
John really wishes he’d gotten more involved in the seeding for this bracket so that he could have saved Sandra vs. Cirie for the finals of this division. He’s also very excited that he got to use one of his favorite medical terms in a Survivor post. Follow him on Twitter: @purplerockpod
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia