The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Angelina Cardona Keeley

Angelina Cardona Keeley

David vs Goliath

To celebrate the 40th season of Survivor, we’re counting down the 40 Most Influential Survivors to ever play the game. Because Survivor is a game, a tv show, and a rabid fandom, we’re taking all forms of influence into consideration for this list. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. Note: this list is presented in chronological order and there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Angelina Keeley is the 40th entry in this series.

It is admittedly a hard sell to suggest that someone who played in the 37th season of Survivor has been one of its most influential players. Such a person could have only influenced three more seasons, whereas those from earlier seasons have had years for their influence to be on display. But Angelina is the queen of influence. In fact, influence is just one of many crowns she wears.

Angelina started David vs. Goliath by letting us know that there was a huge gender gap when it comes to finding immunity idols on Survivor, spouting the stats on the actual show. Astute readers may remember that a previous influential player had discussed Survivor sexism in other venues frequented by fans. But Angelina got to drop this data on the show itself- just as a man found an idol. In all, six idols were found on David vs. Goliath– five by men, and one by a woman. Sadly, this was a better-than-average season for women finding idols. As of David vs. Goliath, 95 idols had been found- 76 of them were found by men.

It’s possible that the show’s production team knew about this imbalance. It’s possible that they had been working behind the scenes to correct this even before Angelina graced the screen. But what’s undeniable is the data: the very next season, women found three out of the eight idols- the closest to gender balance since Cambodia. In Island of the Idols– an otherwise massive slap in the face for feminism- women found nine (yes, NINE) idols out of twelve (yes, TWELVE- it’s possible that advantages have indeed gotten a little out of hand). And for Winners at War, women held a seven to two advantage over men in terms of idols found. To put it in simpler terms: Before Angelina, men found 80% of all idols. Since Angelina’s season, women have found 66% of all idols. (If you’re interested in more stats- on idols or almost anything else about Survivor– check True Dork Times, the Survivor stat nerdtopia.) If you know anything about statistics, you’d know that there’s only a .081% chance that wild swing in idol-finding is random chance. (That’s actually not true. I made it up. I know nothing about statistics.) Women are finding idols because Angelina called the show out for its institutional sexism.

Angelina is obviously the queen of empowering women, but she’s also the queen of negotiation. When the merged tribe ran out of food (I said she’s the queen of negotiation, not the queen of rationing), Angelina stepped up for her people. The slack-jawed yokels of The Australian Outback and San Juan del Sur made the mistake of letting Probst set the asking price for more food. Angelina knew that the key to negotiation is making the first offer, because it has an anchoring effect- every negotiation after that is made with that initial offer in mind. Sure, she said that it was her lowest offer, which is begging the other party to ask for more than your shitty offer. But real talk: Probst wasn’t blindsided by the negotiation; production staff would’ve clued him on to what was coming and what they’d be willing to accept. Which is why, in the end, Probst ignores her opening offer and only asks that Angelina gave up her shot at immunity in exchange for more rice. She takes the deal, because she’s the queen of negotiation and the queen of noble sacrifice.

Admittedly, none of the negotiation stuff has probably had any influence on the direction of the show or its players, but it was fucking great. And asking for Natalie’s jacket was even less influential (I tried to tie it in to women not having enough clothing, but…they had jackets). And I never got to write a hype post about Angelina even though she was the best casting find they’ve had in years SO JUST LET ME HAVE THIS.

In her hunt for an immunity idol, Angelina had to scale a 100-foot cliff face (when challenged on this, she did concede that it may have only been 50 feet). She risked death by climbing a ladder to reach the immunity idol. Three seasons later, Tony stares death in the face while climbing a ladder to retrieve breadfruit. Coincidence? Influence? I’m just sharing facts here.

Same energy.

The queen of ladders wasn’t done there, though. It has long been the belief of the podcasters on this site- despite numerous actual scenarios and hypotheticals thrown at us to prove otherwise- that the only reasonable use of fake idols is when they are deployed for comedic value. There are multiple ways this can be achieved. One could, for example, carve a face into a fucking stick. The queen of fake idols prefers a different method: Be present when your target finds the fake idol, then sell the deception with Oscar-caliber acting from you and your supporting actor.

Mike! Mike! She found the very real immunity idol! Can you even believe it?

Of course, this is only step one of Angelina’s master plan. Step two is to have Alison play the fake idol and look like a fool as she gets voted out, while Angelina plays her own real idol and nullifies the votes that Kara and Alison are likely to put on her. It’s all part of Angelina’s plan to build a resume for herself for final tribal council. At tribal council, Alison half-heartedly plays the idol that she knows is fake, because at that point she may as well. A giddy Angelina smiles with delight, then proudly stands up to hand Probst her own authentic immunity idol to nullify the two votes coming her way.

Unfortunately, Kara had voted for Alison. In doing so, she told the camera, “This is only because I can’t sit with you in the final three. And because I don’t want to give Angelina the satisfaction of playing an idol correctly.” Oh, and Alison had put her vote on Mike. So Angelina’s fake idol only served to piss off Alison just as Alison headed to the jury, while Angelina’s authentic idol nullified exactly zero votes. See? Comedy!

According to Angelina, she had been passed over by Survivor‘s longtime casting director Lynne Spillman because she was married and would thus not fulfill the Hot Single Woman Who Might Get in a Showmance. After 18 years as the casting director, Lynne Spillman’s contract was not renewed. Was it because of this grievous mistake? Prove to me that it wasn’t.

Angelina is obviously a gift that we should all treasure, and her televised shaming of the gender gap in idol-finding was important. Still, Angelina’s greatest influence on Survivor is making its host and executive producer realize that women are, like, interesting? That they can also do things? They could even- stay with me on this one- be the main characters of a story?

(My favorite part of Probst’s claim is that it has been harder for them to find women who were as “memorable” as men. They cast the show and create its narratives through the way they edit the action, but go off, I guess? Fortunately, women started getting interesting in mid-2017. So things are looking up!)

In the past ten seasons of Survivor, the number of votes received by women at final tribal councils has plummeted. In two of those seasons, there were juries so large that they never spent time with the players that made the final three. In those cases, the only first-hand knowledge the jurors had of those players was through watching tribal council- providing an advantage to those who play a showy, aggressive game of tribal council antics rather than those that do their hustling over conversations in down time at the shelter. It’s a small sample size, but both of those seasons were won handily by men who were outwardly performative in front of the jury. And in Winners at War, we saw Sarah openly discussing at tribal council how men are too often given credit for leadership in a male-female alliance. Does that happen if Angelina’s previous discussion of gender disparity in Survivor didn’t happen? Possibly. Probably? But sometimes all it takes is that first person being willing to speak up against injustice for others to follow suit.

Who else made the list?

You can see each entry on the list by clicking this link.