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.
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.
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.
#Survivor Career Mean % Finish, individual challenges (min. 10 played): Ozzy Lusth, 83.62%; Joe Anglim, 84.36%. Your likely top two.
— Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) December 5, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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?
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).
- 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
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