Top 10 All-Time Survivor Challenge Beasts

One of the major archetypes of Survivor is that of the challenge beast. Given that one of the biggest (spoiler alert!) was just voted out, I thought I’d put together a list of the top physical competitors in the game. I even made an exception to let Joe be on the list. It’s kind of all he has.

joe-anglim-immunity
Happier times?

Luckily for me, Jeff Pitman at True Dork Times has handy box scores with all kinds of performance stats. Now, I can’t just pluck the top 10 off the individual challenge wins because that would be boring. I happen to be a baseball nerd, however, so I’ve made my picks by evaluating the various challenge stats Pitman made while also using “the eye test.” Is the competition tough? Does what you see match the results? I also fudged some things in order to promote my evil feminist agenda, of course.

But wait, there’s more! This time I’m going to do something different. For reasons that definitely aren’t related to anxiety I felt when trying to put these people in order, I’ve decided to state a case for what I’ve deemed the top 10 and let you all vote for the best of the best.

Ozzy Lusth

ozzy doing challenge shit

No surprises here. Ozzy dominated Cook Islands, not to mention his assistance in keeping the Aitu Four alive until the merge. Though he’s only third place in single season and career leaders, Ozzy is also both first and second place in single season win percentage. He was also in the lead for career win percentage until a certain amazing man returned to the game.

Joe Anglim

Joe finishes puzzle

Which brings us to the newest golden boy. The man good enough to make me break my rule about putting current players on my list because it just didn’t feel right to exclude him (also, I don’t have to worry about any more data from this season to mess this up). (Editor’s note: she actually has three players from this season on this list. How soon we forget.) Joe very well may be the best all-around competitor, as he’s fantastic at balance, upper body-strength, and puzzles. Even the few challenges he lost were challenges he came close to winning. While bringing victory to the No Collars was not an easy task, Joe did practically single-handedly win challenges for his various tribes in Cambodia.

Terry Deitz

Terry flips

The man who almost won out, Terry is the single-season leader for individual challenges and second for career challenge wins, even with only one qualifying season (plus the one hero challenge this season, where he finished second). As Terry likes to point out, Survivor: Panama was a very athletic season. As humble-braggy of a statement as that may be, he’s not wrong. Aras, Danielle, and Courtney were all NCAA division one athletes, while Bob Dawg, Nick, Austin, Sally, and even Shane were no slouches in the challenge department. But it didn’t matter, because Terry beat them all until it mattered most. Then Danielle won.

Mike Holloway

mike immunity necklace

The other man who almost won out. (I’m defining “won out” as winning all individual immunity challenges). Once the evil Worlds Apart players got rid of the saint that is Joe, Mike wiped the floor with the remaining contestants and made himself impossible to eliminate. While Mike is not the only winner on this list, he does have the most single-season individual challenge wins out of any winner.

Tom Westman

Tom westman final challenge
Not the only pole he’s got between his legs.

One of the most dominant Survivor winners is also one of the most dominant challenge competitors. Unlike some of the other examples, Tom had some major competition on Palau, especially Ian. Tom and Ian participated in the longest immunity challenge of all time, with Tom’s victory showing that manipulation can also be a challenge skill. And not only did Tom win five individual challenges, but he was instrumental in Koror’s unprecedented dominance over the infamous Ulong tribe.

“Boston” Rob Mariano

Survivor: Redemption Island

This is where the decision on ranking gets tricky. Rob won an impressive five out of 10 challenges in All-Stars, but that still only puts him tied for seventh amount single-season leaders. But when you take his career as a whole, he’s the clear number one in terms of total challenge wins and second place for career win percentage. However, we can’t forget that Rob is one of those “well-rounded” douchebags that make the rest of us look bad. I mean, the man literally carried his family on his back according to Jeff Probst. He’s a physical threat, but he’s also one of the best puzzle people Survivor has ever had. Plus, now that he’s old he even has leadership skills for the tribal challenges!

Kim Spradlin

kim challenge
The things I do for you, John

Strategy goddess. Social goddess. Challenge goddess. Kim Spradlin kicks all kinds of ass, but does she kick enough ass at individual challenges? While she tied Kelly Wiglesworth (spoiler alert!) in female individual challenge wins, she needed one fewer challenge to do it.

Kelly WiglesworthKelly_wins_idv_1

The original. Kelly’s four immunity challenge wins (five challenges total, including reward) is still tied for the record for most immunity wins by a woman on Survivor. However, looking back at Borneo, one can’t help but notice the challenges is question weren’t quite as demanding as current day. They didn’t have to balance a single ball! But her wins did cover a range of skill sets, from endurance to personal trivia to Blair Witch Project tie-ins.

Colby Donaldson

Colby flips

Call him Superman in a fat suit all you want, but Colby 1.0 was a force to be reckoned with. Five consecutive immunity wins is nothing to sneeze at, and it took eight seasons for his win record to be tied. It has yet to be surpassed. Even with Heroes vs. Villains weighing him down, Colby is still third on the list of career leaders, and just one reward challenge behind Terry on single-season leaders. However, it’s worth noting that he didn’t have a ton of competition in The Australian Outback, particularly once the strongest former Kucha tribe members were picked off. Who was going to beat him, Keith Famie?

Laura Morett

Laura balance beam

While her daughter Ciera has never been considered much of a challenge threat, Laura could always hold her own. Despite not placing on either the single-season or career individual challenge win lists, Laura is eighth (and the only woman in the top 10) on single season win percentage and fourth on career win percentage. She’s a strong athlete and skilled at puzzles. If she had a bit more time outside of Redemption Island, I expect she would have worn the immunity necklace quite a few more times. While on Redemption Island, she did win a whole lot of duels (many of which were with more than two people, because math).

Who is the biggest Survivor Challenge Beast?

  • Joe Anglim (41% Votes)
  • Ozzy Lusth (28% Votes)
  • Tom Westman (8% Votes)
  • Terry Deitz (8% Votes)
  • Colby Donaldson (5% Votes)
  • Laura Morett (4% Votes)
  • Mike Holloway (3% Votes)
  • Kim Spradlin (3% Votes)
  • Rob Mariano (1% Votes)
  • Kelly Wiglesworth (1% Votes)
  • Other (0% Votes)

Total Voters: 79

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Emma
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Emma

Emma is the token chick of the Purple Rock Podcast. She has watched the show continuously since the second episode and is pretty sure she's never seen the pilot.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, China, Philippines

Favorite players: Courtney Yates, Parvati Shallow, John Cochran, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin
Emma
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  • andythesaint

    It might be too soon, but my vote is for Joe, due to his puzzle ability. It seems like Ozzy’s greatest skill when it comes to puzzles is “being in seasons without puzzles”. Ozzy also isn’t as good in the team phase in the game. Ozzy is probably the better swimmer though.

    • gouis

      Just to play devil’s advocate: Ozzy purposefully went to redemption island, and it was a completely valid strategy.

      • andythesaint

        Yes, it was very smart of Ozzy to put himself in danger of elimination to get rid of the woman who had spent the whole season staring daggers at her former tribe (and Coach in particular) in the duel arena. That’s someone you need to get rid of heading into a merge.

        • gouis

          Counterpoint: he did it!

          • andythesaint

            Touche. Although, one could argue that Christine may have been more solidly on their side than Cochran was.

            Still, Ozzy is an amazing challenge competitor. Before now, I’d have put him at number one.

        • Kemper Boyd

          Had he not done that it’s 6-6 after the merge as Christine would have beaten Cochran and she’d have defected and the season would have hung on a rock draw.

          • andythesaint

            The season still hung on a rock draw. One that Cochran didn’t feel like partaking in.

          • Kemper Boyd

            Yeah but I feel like Christine would have been more willing, changing the dynamic of the season.

          • andythesaint

            Ah, I see we’re agreeing here. Yes, I think Christine would have gone with them. Impossible to say, but there’s enough there for us to at least not give Ozzy credit for the strategy.

            Which works, because I’m not inclined to do so.

          • Kemper Boyd

            The big problem is how they went abut the move too. They went after Cochran for the show of it and it was a little too real causing him to think about flipping. All they needed to do was give Cochran one of the two immunities necklaces they had and he’d have voted with them.

    • Purplerockmatt

      I never thought we’d see someone who was better than Tom in the team phase, but Joe might be it. And the fact that Joe is probably better than Tom in the individual phase due to his puzzle prowess makes Joe pretty much the perfect challenge threat. Ozzy might be better than Joe at the individual stuff (but if so by the tiniest of margins) but Ozzy can’t carry a team like Tom and Joe could. But that is understandable because the skills necessary to be good in team challenges are typically different than those in individual challenges and the fact that Tom and Joe can dominate both aspects is nuts.

      • andythesaint

        As Emma points out, team challenges are also where Rob’s challenge abilities shine. That he was able to take the motley Villains tribe and dominate the Heroes in every non-one on one challenge was legit impressive. I also like in All-Stars the challenge where his whole team figured out that it was better to just bail on their turns to let Rob run the obstacle course.

        • Purplerockmatt

          There are two challenges in Palau where Tom just summons up his leadership abilities and wins the challenge. The first challenge, where he is the one that makes the call how much to take and how much to leave behind and then the run around in the water challenge when he is calling out to greg and ian when to run harder and when to throttle it down. Then there was also the challenge where he basically hauled the underwater chest all by himself.

          • andythesaint

            Tom was so great. You know a player is great when he can make us care about challenge beasting.

            This is an underrated part of challenge dominance that Tom and Rob share: leadership. Their tribes were able to win because they took the lead and everyone fell in line.

    • Kemper Boyd

      It has to be Joe, for the reasons you’ve mentioned. He has everything Ozzy has (minus the swimming maybe because we haven’t seen enough) but he is also a puzzle beast.

      • andythesaint

        And to be clear, all indications are that Joe is ALSO an excellent swimmer (the best demonstration of this was in the cold open to the season). Just (probably) not as great as Ozzy.

        • Kemper Boyd

          I just mean we don’t have the weight of water challenges to show he’s basically half fish like Ozzy. I assume he probably is very very good at swimming.

      • Purplerockmatt

        I think Ozzy was actually pretty good at challenges. It’s just that Joe is legitimately great at puzzles

        • Other Scott

          Do we have evidence that Joe is great at puzzles other than that first WA puzzle that he killed? There was the dragon puzzle this season, but we haven’t even been puzzle heavy in this era of Survivor, it’s like constant various balancing games.

          • andythesaint

            There was also the “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” puzzle in WA that Dan famously screwed up. He won that challenge.

    • sharculese

      The one thing I will say for Ozzy over Joe that we’ve seen Ozzy succeed in both the obstacle course era of Survivor and the carnival games era of Survivor, and we haven’t seen that with Joe. I don’t doubt he’d excel at it as well, we just don’t have the data.

      The one individual obstacle course we’ve seen him in he got smoked by Kelley Wentworth and Abi-Maria of all people, although to be fair, it sounds like he was feverish during that one.

    • Other Scott

      Have we actually seen Joe in a swimming challenge? I understand thinking it’s Ozzy because it’s hard to imagine a better swimmer than Ozzy though.

      • andythesaint

        Just in the marooning one we saw to the start the season, where he was closing the gap Wigles created until Woo came in at the end. At least that’s all I can think of.

  • andythesaint

    I want to clarify a comment I made on the podcast in relation to Joe vs Tom: I wasn’t suggesting that Joe was in a different class than Tom when it comes to challenge prowess, it’s that he isn’t as INTIMIDATING as Joe. At the start of Palau, Tom was an average-sized older guy. Not the kind of guy you’d look at and think “we need to get rid of this guy because he might never lose”. So he was able to freely form alliances and make strategic bonds

    Joe, by comparison, came into this season immediately following a season where whenever he was brought up, it was in relation to how amazing he is and how people need to get rid of him immediately (even if they need to throw a challenge to do so). And judging from what people who have been in his presence say, he’s an incredibly intimidating physical presence. Which goes to what I was saying: there’s no value in critiquing his strategy, because there’s no strategy that exists to counter the target placed on him before the game even starts.

  • Max_Jets

    “Not the only pole he’s got between his legs.”
    As if a picture of Tom Westman doesn’t excite me enough, you just had to throw that in there too.

    • sharculese

      Read this is Rodger’s voice.

  • andythesaint

    Also: Darrah was robbed.

    • Purple Rock Emma

      Okay the numbers do not support that in the slightest.

  • andythesaint

    So who’s the biggest snub from this list? Tyson? Heidik? Keith? Lex? JT? Yau Man?

    It’s Darrah, isn’t it?

    • sharculese

      Nah, it’s Reynold.

      • Kemper Boyd

        That man could throw.

        • sharculese

          But can he balance balls on stuff? Clearly we need to bring Reynold back to find out.

          • Kemper Boyd

            Survivor 33 Battle of the Balls: Balance v Throw. Returning players Keith and Reynolds.

      • andythesaint

        Reynold sure did take a lot of Ls, though.

      • gouis

        I am 100% OK with Reynolds coming back at some point for the ‘male eye candy that is good at throwing stuff at other stuff’ spot.

    • purplerockpodcast

      Chris from Vanuatu.

      • gouis

        You’re thinking of the top ‘triple threats’.

      • andythesaint

        Waiting for the first earnest reply in agreement.

        • purplerockpodcast

          Want me to put a link to this post on Reddit? That would do it.

          • gouis

            “Guys I just recently rewatched Vanuatu, and the winner…..”

    • Purple Rock Emma

      Stop trying to make Darrah happen.

    • As a massive Keith defender, Keith is not an all-time challenge beast for one simple reason: He cannot solve puzzles when his Survivor life is on the line. Twice, he has choked on puzzles.

      On a similar way, Parvati cannot be on this list because she kinda sucks at puzzles. The challenges she does well in are typically ones where she can be steady (When It Rains, It Pours and even the Broken China challenge in HvV). However, there is one IC in HvV that she gets outpaced in a slide puzzle by Russell Hantz.

  • indescribable hat

    I don’t understand why Wigles’s challenge record gets pooh-poohed because of the nature of the challenges. You can say she didn’t have much competition, like Colby, but I don’t know that it’s easier (likelier, not less tiring) to win out in less grueling challenges against the same field.

  • Disgruntled Goat

    I feel Kim Spradlin gets overrated because few other players on One World had fully functioning brain stems.

    I would like to see how she does on a Second Chances-style season against players who aren’t drooling morons.