The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Ben Driebergen

Ben Driebergen

Heroes v. Healers v. HustlersWinners at War

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.

Ben Driebergen is the 38th entry in this series.

I bet you think you know what this article is about. Ben Driebergen is the most influential ex-military member on Survivor. Nope…

Oh! Obviously it’s because he won the first mandatory fire-making challenge to get to the Final 3, a twist that was put in place so an ex-Marine with PTSD would win!

Nice try, tin foil hat man.

Let’s talk about how Ben got himself into that dire predicament at final 4 in Heroes vs. Hustlers vs Healers vs HowaboutmoreHwords. 

ben idol tribal

After playing a double agent and betraying his main alliance mid-merge, Ben and Chrissy had a falling out from their earlier chummy days. Thanks to a successful idol play, Ben negated all the votes for him at the next Tribal, using his one vote to take out a member of his “new” alliance. Now with both sides unable to trust him, Ben immediately searched for a new idol.

He found it and negated more votes at the next Tribal. Having added a rung to the target on his back, Ben searched once again for an idol. He found his third idol, and played it, and kept fighting on to the final five.

It’s an impressive bit of hustling for a hero. Ben played up the theatrics of his moves. He played up the emotion of the idol finds. Production loved it, and it featured heavily in Ben’s winning edit. And remember: the most exciting seasons of Survivor for Jeff Probst, the guy who runs this show, are the ones where HE is privy to the excitement. Nowhere is that greater than a hidden immunity idol play at Tribal Council.

It’s also great for the cameras.

You might say that featuring a winner who basically hustled his way to the end with several well-timed immunity idol plays even influenced others to play this way. Recent seasons before HHH showed a few different ways to win: social game, crazy game moves (with or without idols), or heartwarming sob stories. But Ben’s win was almost exclusively tied to his successful use of immunity idols to get through trouble in the eyes of the editors. Those same editors went to great lengths the highlight Ben’s early morning efforts to find idols after he played them. They also made sure to underline how fucking lazy everyone else was for not following him during those times in no uncertain terms. It’s not enough to play the idols. You better be looking for them, too. Constantly.

While there haven’t been a ton of seasons since the ex-Marine’s win, there’s enough evidence to show that idols drive a lot of the narrative and gameplay these days. Rick Devens also used multiple idol finds to scheme his way to the final four. The clear threat to win from the middle of the merge until the end, he found idols, made fake ones, and duped his tribemates all because they knew if he found an idol, he’d go far. Rick is naturally hammy, and I’m sure he would have soaked up camera time with or without idols, but they absolutely helped. (The man was a couple burning sticks away from a million dollars!) If you fall for a fake idol, they’ll dunk on you, because if you don’t find real idols you’re a lesser player—even if the show already told you to find ANY idols you can. Hell, in David vs Goliath the show spent an entire segment literally highlighting the island that Christian was on to show his process. They might as well have put game show lights on the edge of the screen!

Before we go, consider the masterful work of one Tony Vlachos in the latest season, Winners at War. Ben’s actions in season 35 were clearly influenced by Tony’s Tribal Council theatrics in his first season. So it’s only fitting that the trend continued. Sure, Tony didn’t need to play his idol in Winners at War. But he certainly knew he needed to find one. Because more often than not, you can’t win Modern Survivor without finding an idol. And the show is gonna try to keep it that way.

Even if they have to give you one.

Who else made the list?

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