The Quintessential Survivor Merge Boot

There’s been some chatter about “traditional merge boots” and whether or not an alpha going at the merge is still a thing. I’m not here to figure out if that’s the case. I’m here to figure out who embodies the stereotypical view of the merge boot. The platonic ideal of the merge boot.


First, it’s important to know who all the merge boots are:

Borneo – Gretchen Cordy
The Australian Outback – Jeff Varner
Africa – Clarence Black
Marquesas – Rob Mariano
Thailand – Ken Stafford
The Amazon – Roger Sexton
Pearl Islands – Andrew Savage
All-Stars – Lex van den Berghe
Vanuatu – Rory Freeman
Palau – Coby Archa
Guatemala – Brandon Bellinger
Panama – Exile Island – Nick Stanbury
Cook Islands – Nate Gonzalez
Fiji – Michelle Yi
China – Jaime Dugan
Micronesia – Fans vs Favorites – Eliza Orlins
Gabon – Charlie Herschel
Tocantins – Brendan Synott*
Samoa – Erik Cardona
Heroes vs. Villains – J.T. Thomas
Nicaragua – Alina Wilson
Redemption Island – Matt Elrod
South Pacific – Keith Tollefson
One World – Jonas Otsuji
Philippines – RC Saint-Amour
Caramoan – Corinne Kaplan
Blood vs. Water – Aras Baskauskas
Cagayan – Sarah Lacina
San Juan del Sur – Josh Canfield**
Worlds Apart – Kelly Remington
Cambodia – Second Chance – Kass McQuillen

*Joe Dowdle was medevac’d at the merge, so we chose to count Brendan as the merge boot, for being voted out.
**Julie McGee quit at the merge, so we chose to count Josh as the merge boot.

Next, we want to define the prototypical merge boot. Generally the idea is that this is someone who is primarily a physical threat, and also a leader of the opposing/down-in-numbers alliance. Usually this means we’re looking at an alpha male type, although there are some female exceptions that still fit the description. We’ll start off by eliminating those who most obviously do not fit the accepted definition:

Africa – Clarence Black
The Amazon – Roger Sexton
Palau – Coby Archa
Cook Islands – Nate Gonzalez
Fiji – Michelle Yi
Micronesia – Eliza Orlins
Nicaragua – Alina Wilson
Caramoan – Corinne Kaplan
Cagayan – Sarah Lacina
Worlds Apart – Kelly Remington
Cambodia – Kass McQuillen

With that narrowed down, it’s time to eliminate both those who were idoled out of the game, and those who were targeted because the real traditional merge boot had individual immunity:

Panama – Exile Island – Nick Stanbury
Heroes vs. Villains – J.T. Thomas (Editor’s note: I protest J.T.’s inclusion here. I’ll explain in the comments.)
South Pacific – Keith Tollefson
Philippines – RC Saint-Amour

Now I’m going to take a cop-out and eliminate everyone whose circumstances I don’t remember clearly. I’ve seen every season. You can’t be the platonic ideal of anything (except a purple edit) if I don’t remember much about you:

Thailand – Ken Stafford
Guatemala – Brandon Bellinger
Gabon – Charlie Herschel

To avoid controversy, we will now eliminate anyone whose vote-out was questionable. Anything with a major what if, like outdated tie-breakers or the butterfly effects of medevacs and quits:

The Australian Outback – Jeff Varner
Tocantins – Brendan Synott
San Juan del Sur – Josh Canfield

Look at how much progress we’ve made! Okay, it’s time for our final elimination. We all know a few of the names left on the original list are a bit of a stretch to represent the ideal merge boot. Sometimes it’s because they’re not the challenge beast, sometimes it’s because they weren’t the head of another alliance. Either way, much like they were close to winning the game if the merge had swung a different way, they just didn’t quite cut it.

China – Jaime Dugan
Samoa – Erik Cardona
Redemption Island – Matt Elrod
One World – Jonas Otsuji

And then there were five. So I now turn the decision to you, my beloved/tolerated readers. Am I turning this into a poll to avoid making a decision? Of course not, that’s definitely not in line with my personality at all, I can’t believe you would even suggest such a thing.

A case for the contenders:

Gretchen – The first merge boot set the stage for going after strength in the post-merge game. The last woman standing in this discussion, she had the strongest survivor skills and had been the leader of the Pagong tribe.

Rob – Maraamu was outnumbered 7-3 at the merge, and Rob was perceived as both the physical and strategic threat of the minority alliance.

Andrew – One of the most clear-cut leaders on a tribe that didn’t force you to pick one, Savage was a lightning rod at the merge. Performing admirably at a tribal challenge where he literally shouldered the weight was impressive, but likely put a target on his back. Dismissing Lil didn’t help matters, but that’s neither here nor there.

Lex – Rob’s immediate betrayal of Lex, against Amber’s wishes, was due to him being a strong threat in the game. It’s often forgotten in the sands of time that Lex was a formidable challenge beast in Survivor: Africa, but it’s probably safe to assume Rob was well aware of his former friend’s prowess.

Aras – The most merge-bootish merge boot in the modern era of Survivor, Aras is a fit former athlete and former winner whose not-so-subtle alliance was a threat to eventual winner Tyson.

Now it’s time for you to make the call. If we were casting a trope-filled cliche season of Survivor, who is the first person voted out at the merge?

Who is the ultimate merge boot?

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