The Ultimate Survivor Bracket Winner

It was an incredibly close vote after a last minute push (that mysteriously slowed down after we took added measures to prevent the same person/robot from casting repeat votes) for Parvati, but the winner of the Ultimate Survivor Bracket is the woman who never loses: Sandra Diaz-Twine. In many ways, the result of this entire contest could get boiled down to one, simple explanation: scoreboard. That’s an incredibly reductive way of thinking of it, but when it comes down to clicking a single button in a one on one match-up, it’s a hard argument to beat.

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Bow Down. Graphic provided by @sylvisual

If anyone was going to beat it, it’s the woman who came this close to winning twice (before losing to our champ). Parvati’s one of the all-time great personalities the show has ever featured, and either won or was runner-up in what many believe to be the best two seasons in the history of the show. She’s been involved in some of the most memorable moments in the history of the series and is author to perhaps the best. If you wanted to vote for her for her double idol play alone, I’d have no argument with you.

Where I do have an argument is with the idea that she should have won Heroes vs Villains.

I’ll admit, when I watched HvV, I came away from it thinking that I would’ve voted for Parvati were I on the jury. I never went so far as to suggest that Sandra didn’t deserve to win, because every winner deserves to win. Plus, there were things in her game you could point to if you needed to justify her win. But there was the idea that her main argument was about her failing to eliminate Russell. Whereas Parvati managed to last an entire game that began with people targeting her as a threat (for the second time) and had that jaw-dropping double idol play at the merge.

But here’s the thing about that move: it’s possible that it was the last significant move Parvati has made on Survivor.

After booting JT and giving the Villains the number advantage, she never really reaches out to any one of the former Heroes who would go on to form the majority of the jury. It’s often obscured by the fact that Russell was such a toxic jury slayer, but when you think of it, Parvati has never been that good at reaching across the aisle. Her strength lies in the deep social connections and soft manipulations she needs to stay in the game. Which is to say that she rides with those on her side, but has no time for those who aren’t. In a way, it’s classic popular kid behaviour: those who you give attention to feel extra special due to the exclusivity of the attention. And when she wants to win someone over, there are few better at it in the history of the game.

The problem is that while this has proven to be a very effective way to stay in the game of Survivor (even in Cook Islands, she was on the side of an overwhelming majority that required some major twists and a super powerful idol to stop its momentum), it makes WINNING Survivor more challenging than it needs to be. In Heroes vs Villains, she paid no attention to the future jury members and lost fairly handily as a result. In fact, we may even be overrating the control she had within her own alliance, given that she was completely powerless to prevent Russell from voting out Danielle as part of his mad schemes (and in fact, may have gone that very night were she not immune). At the Final Tribal council, Parvati had the great line about taking the dragon (Russell) and making him her pet. The Danielle vote proves that she had about as much control over her pet dragon as Daenerys Targaryen is currently exhibiting over hers (note to self: draft the Russell Hantz is Drogon comp for later).

Winning Survivor is about two basic things: 1) getting a group of your fellow competitors to decide you worthy of winning and 2) lasting long enough in the game to achieve #1. Parvati has proven excellent at #2 (Editor’s note: Tee hee!). But it’s #1 that counts. And it’s here where Sandra’s brilliance is evident, which seems an obvious thing to say about the only 2-0 player in the history of the show. But it’s important to remember that while our focus is generally on the second part of the equation, since it makes up 90% of the show, it’s all meaningless if you’re not doing the necessary steps to achieve number one.

The book on Sandra has always been “anyone but me”, a simplistic phrase that she’s used to describe her own game. It too often gets reduced simply to her in game voting decisions: Sandra sticks around because she’s not threatening and will vote out anyone. But the truth is a little more complicated: Sandra sticks around and succeeds because she will work with anyone. She doesn’t just sit back and wait to be told who to vote for. She’s actively available for everyone out there, and as a result, is always useful and forms bonds that she can call upon later when it’s time to cast a vote for the winner. This is evident by her best in game moment of HvV: when she got Russell to flip on Coach rather than vote her out. This is a man she’d set herself up in opposition to just the day before. But now it was time to work with him, so she did. Later, when there was a chance to work against him, she did, until that fell apart so she didn’t. When you’re Sandra, all doors are open to you because “anyone but me”.

It’s funny to listen to Sandra talk about Survivor on things like Rob Has a Podcast or CBS’ YouTube roundtable. People like Rob (or myself here) will go on at length about what it takes to be successful at Survivor and all the arrows you need to dodge and complex strategies to employ. But for Sandra, it’s easy: 1) get a group of your fellow competitors to decide you worthy of winning and 2) last long enough in the game to achieve #1. She never overthinks it. And by resisting the temptation to undo her win and go with the players she’s vanquished in the actual game, neither did our voters. Sandra Diaz-Twine is the Ultimate Survivor. Count tha ringzz.

Sandra Is a Badass

 


Andy didn’t actually vote for Sandra in every round, but he did in the finals. But was glad he didn’t pre-write this post when her 30% vote advantage mysteriously disappeared. If you’d like to read his writing in a much, much shorter form, he’s on Twitter: @andy_sayers.

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Andy

Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
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  • bumpuzzled

    Great article Andy! Here’s where i disagree:

    1) “In Heroes vs Villains, she paid no attention to the future jury members and lost fairly handily as a result.” – i cry: “fan fictioooooooon!”. That is the perception one can easily have from the very short edited version of the events they chose to show us. Parvati could very well have done it more than even Sandra did. But we don’t know, we didn’t see too much socializing post merge and i don’t put too much stock in the revisionist interviews after the show aired (even when Candice admitted she voted for the wrong person… too late, doesn’t count).
    You could argue that the results prove that, but did they?
    The main advantage Sandra has is her equity in front of a jury. She is a mother, a wife of an army man, she has a likeable sassy personality and a non-threatening physique. That’s why she won those 2 particular “popularity contests” at the end of her seasons. “She just needs to show up at the end to cash in the check.” From the get-go, for her, the game of Survivor presents a lower degree of difficulty. Most people first have to actively maneuver strategically to get there, present a compelling story and still be likeable enough for the jurors to believe it. It’s easier to sit on your ass by the fire and blab your mouth all day long, than going beyond that and consume extra mental energy to come up with plans and ideas and successfully execute on them to further yourself in the game. We also didn’t get to see how a very young Sandra would play this game, but hopefully we’ll get to see her in her forties.
    Sandra’s no. 1 plan post merge in HvV was to get rid of Russell and give the power to the heroes, or, if she flipped back to the villains, risk having a hero slip in the final tribal council in front of a hero dominated jury. Also if she flipped back, because she was so weak in challenges, it was a very big possibility for the other villains to vote her out, similar with South Pacific where they kept the strong to stop Ozzy. But luckily for her she failed miserably!!!
    Her main argument at FTC was that she tried to help the heroes but they were too “idiots” to accept her help. And then asked them to reward her for her failure! Why did they vote for her in the end?! Certainly not for her gameplay. The heroes were poisoned with spite against Russell and with envy for Parvati. At least Sandra was one of them, another one who failed. In their mind, Russell was mean and unlikeable, Parvati beat them and already had too much going on for a her. It was easy to pack them together as the big bad villain wolf. Sandra was also lucky that Russell tried to mock her at previous tribal councils, gaining a bit a distance from the other villains and negating the stigma of a coattail raider. Based solely on her reputation and past relationships, Parvati had to dodge a lot more bullets and fight a lot harder to get to the end of HvV.

    2) “In fact, we may even be overrating the control she had within her own alliance, given that she was completely powerless to prevent Russell from voting out Danielle as part of his mad schemes” – she wasn’t powerless, she did indeed stopped that back at camp and the villains intended to to vote out Rupert at the tribal council. But after Jeff’s questioning and Danielle’s subsequent blow-up when she spilled the beans on how tight she was with Parvati, Russell and Jerri realised they really need to split them up and by then it was too late for Parvati to stop them.
    3) “(and in fact, may have gone that very night were she not immune)” – let’s be real, Russell was smitten, he never would have voted her out. He could easily have done that at final 4 after she already made fun of him and and pissed him off.

    4) “This is evident by her best in game moment of HvV: when she got Russell to flip on Coach rather than vote her out.” – a trick the editors used to make the winner of the season look better than she really was. Weird how that coincided with the villains plan to maintain and improve the heroes perception of a women alliance. Her best moment wasn’t even hers.

    We should always keep in mind that the main ingredient in this game is luck.
    Thanks for the great podcasts!

    • I’m not sure how it’s “fan fiction” if I’m describing what was on screen but you’re relying on interpretations of unseen events that require speculation to prove. The very definition of the Fishbach/RHAP fan fiction is “inventing things that might be happening that we’re not seeing”. Look, I’m not saying what you’re suggesting is impossible, but I’m not sure how I’m the one inventing scenarios here.

      And while I agree the Sandra path of less resistance isn’t available to all players (like Parvati), and think you’re pushing it to say that it’s a lower degree of difficulty. There really haven’t been that many under the radar winners. A lot of those players are either A) picked off early or B) receive very few votes at the end. Being less threatening is useful in the middle portion of the game. It’s dangerous at the beginning and can be impossible to overcome at the end. All players face different circumstances depending on their type. Sandra overcame hers twice.

      • bumpuzzled

        “I’m not sure how it’s “fan fiction” if I’m describing what was on screen” – where was shown on screen that Parvati paid no attention to the future jury members? where was on screen Sandra’s attention to the jury members? Both barely played with JT, i can’t imagine Sandra bonded with Amanda, Sandra knew Candice and Rupert (Parvati knew Amanda and Candice) from before the game and we don’t get to see many of their interactions with Colby. We can’t conclude anything about their jury management efforts.
        “but you’re relying on interpretations of unseen events that require speculation to prove.” – what unseen events are you reffering to?
        Maybe i’m pushing it to say that it’s a lower degree of difficulty (i was referring specifically to Sandra, not to the under the radar players type), but we don’t have many examples of her actively doing much and not coasting to the end.

    • Kemper Boyd

      It’s pretty well known that Parvati and Russell would sit in ear shot of the Heroes and read JT’s letter and laugh and laugh. That in itself is a huge misstep.

      • I was going to mention that, but since it didn’t make air, it’s not canon. But that’s the sort of thing I was getting at, yes.

      • bumpuzzled

        It’s a huge misstep if you’re blowing it out of proportions. It’s like a 20 minutes event in 12 days span. Probably it was read by Russell as a jab to JT (after he was voted out) and the villains laughed about it. Most likely Sandra was laughing too hearing that masterpiece :). If you want to pin Parvati’s loss on an non canon event (related to us by Sandra, knowing very well her ability to lie and embellish) be my guest.. it’s your choice. We didn’t get to see much of their social game on the show.

  • bumpuzzled

    Great article Andy! Here’s where i disagree:

    1) “In Heroes vs Villains, she paid no attention to the future jury members and lost fairly handily as a result.” – i cry: “fan fictioooooooon!”. That is the perception one can easily have from the very short edited version of the events they chose to show us. Parvati could very well have done it more than even Sandra did. But we don’t know, we didn’t see too much socializing post merge and i don’t put too much stock in the revisionist interviews after the show aired (even when Candice admitted she voted for the wrong person… too late, doesn’t count).
    You could argue that the results prove that, but did they?
    The main advantage Sandra has is her equity in front of a jury. She is a mother, a wife of an army man, she has a likeable sassy personality and a non-threatening physique. That’s why she won those 2 particular “popularity contests” at the end of her seasons. “She just needs to show up at the end to cash in the check.” From the get-go, for her, the game of Survivor presents a lower degree of difficulty. Most people first have to actively maneuver strategically to get there, present a compelling story and still be likeable enough for the jurors to believe it. It’s easier to sit on your ass by the fire and blab your mouth all day long, than going beyond that and consume extra mental energy to come up with plans and ideas and successfully execute on them to further yourself in the game. We also didn’t get to see how a very young Sandra would play this game, but hopefully we’ll get to see her in her forties.
    Sandra’s no. 1 plan post merge in HvV was to get rid of Russell and give the power to the heroes, or, if she flipped back to the villains, risk having a hero slip in the final tribal council in front of a hero dominated jury. Also if she flipped back, because she was so weak in challenges, it was a very big possibility for the other villains to vote her out, similar with South Pacific where they kept the strong to stop Ozzy. But luckily for her she failed miserably!!!
    Her main argument at FTC was that she tried to help the heroes but they were too “idiots” to accept her help. And then asked them to reward her for her failure! Why did they vote for her in the end?! Certainly not for her gameplay. The heroes were poisoned with spite against Russell and with envy for Parvati. At least Sandra was one of them, another one who failed. In their mind, Russell was mean and unlikeable, Parvati beat them and already had too much going on for a her. It was easy to pack them together as the big bad villain wolf. Sandra was also lucky that Russell tried to mock her at previous tribal councils, gaining a bit a distance from the other villains and negating the stigma of a coattail raider. Based solely on her reputation and past relationships, Parvati had to dodge a lot more bullets and fight a lot harder to get to the end of HvV.

    2) “In fact, we may even be overrating the control she had within her own alliance, given that she was completely powerless to prevent Russell from voting out Danielle as part of his mad schemes” – she wasn’t powerless, she did indeed stopped that back at camp and the villains intended to to vote out Rupert at the tribal council. But after Jeff’s questioning and Danielle’s subsequent blow-up when she spilled the beans on how tight she was with Parvati, Russell and Jerri realised they really need to split them up and by then it was too late for Parvati to stop them.
    3) “(and in fact, may have gone that very night were she not immune)” – let’s be real, Russell was smitten, he never would have voted her out. He could easily have done that at final 4 after she already made fun of him and and pissed him off.

    4) “This is evident by her best in game moment of HvV: when she got Russell to flip on Coach rather than vote her out.” – a trick the editors used to make the winner of the season look better than she really was. Weird how that coincided with the villains plan to maintain and improve the heroes perception of a women alliance. Her best moment wasn’t even hers.

    We should always keep in mind that the main ingredient in this game is luck.
    Thanks for the great podcasts!

    • I’m not sure how it’s “fan fiction” if I’m describing what was on screen but you’re relying on interpretations of unseen events that require speculation to prove. The very definition of the Fishbach/RHAP fan fiction is “inventing things that might be happening that we’re not seeing”. Look, I’m not saying what you’re suggesting is impossible, but I’m not sure how I’m the one inventing scenarios here.

      And while I agree the Sandra path of less resistance isn’t available to all players (like Parvati), and think you’re pushing it to say that it’s a lower degree of difficulty. There really haven’t been that many under the radar winners. A lot of those players are either A) picked off early or B) receive very few votes at the end. Being less threatening is useful in the middle portion of the game. It’s dangerous at the beginning and can be impossible to overcome at the end. All players face different circumstances depending on their type. Sandra overcame hers twice.

      • bumpuzzled

        “I’m not sure how it’s “fan fiction” if I’m describing what was on screen” – where was shown on screen that Parvati paid no attention to the future jury members? where was on screen Sandra’s attention to the jury members? Both barely played with JT, i can’t imagine Sandra bonded with Amanda, Sandra knew Candice and Rupert (Parvati knew Amanda and Candice) from before the game and we don’t get to see many of their interactions with Colby. We can’t conclude anything about their jury management efforts.
        “but you’re relying on interpretations of unseen events that require speculation to prove.” – what unseen events are you reffering to?
        Maybe i’m pushing it to say that it’s a lower degree of difficulty (i was referring specifically to Sandra, not to the under the radar players type), but we don’t have many examples of her actively doing much and not coasting to the end.

    • Kemper Boyd

      It’s pretty well known that Parvati and Russell would sit in ear shot of the Heroes and read JT’s letter and laugh and laugh. That in itself is a huge misstep.

      • I was going to mention that, but since it didn’t make air, it’s not canon. But that’s the sort of thing I was getting at, yes.

      • bumpuzzled

        It’s a huge misstep if you’re blowing it out of proportions. It’s like a 20 minutes event in 12 days span. Probably it was read by Russell as a jab to JT (after he was voted out) and the villains laughed about it. Most likely Sandra was laughing too hearing that masterpiece :). If you want to pin Parvati’s loss on an non canon event (related to us by Sandra, knowing very well her ability to lie and embellish) be my guest.. it’s your choice. We didn’t get to see much of their social game on the show.

  • NearlyNina

    I will admit to having voted Parvati and having thought her game was superior in HvV, this post definitely has made me question that though. I’ve been wanting to rewatch this season for awhile now, and I think the hiatus period might just be the time.

  • NearlyNina

    I will admit to having voted Parvati and having thought her game was superior in HvV, this post definitely has made me question that though. I’ve been wanting to rewatch this season for awhile now, and I think the hiatus period might just be the time.

  • Kemper Boyd

    I voted for Sandra because you don’t win two without knowing what you are doing and she caused the Fall of Russell Part 2.
    I just finished a rewatch og HvV and this is what I took from it (with this caveat I think both are great players, the top two who’ve returned):

    1) Sandra failing to gunning for Russell but failing to get rid of him due to Hero stupidity is what won her the game, had she been successful in snuffing him earlier she sits at the end with better more likeable players.

    2) Parvati’s social game was not good this time round.

    3) The double idol play is the best idol play ever in Survivor, there is no finer than that moment and the reactions it got from the Heroes. Parvati deserves all the credit for that amazing play.

  • Kemper Boyd

    I voted for Sandra because you don’t win two without knowing what you are doing and she caused the Fall of Russell Part 2.
    I just finished a rewatch og HvV and this is what I took from it (with this caveat I think both are great players, the top two who’ve returned):

    1) Sandra failing to gunning for Russell but failing to get rid of him due to Hero stupidity is what won her the game, had she been successful in snuffing him earlier she sits at the end with better more likeable players.

    2) Parvati’s social game was not good this time round.

    3) The double idol play is the best idol play ever in Survivor, there is no finer than that moment and the reactions it got from the Heroes. Parvati deserves all the credit for that amazing play.