The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Eliza Orlins

Eliza Orlins

Vanuatu, Micronesia

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.

Eliza Orlins is the 12th entry in this series.

As one of the most vocal former Survivors on social media, I suppose you could make an argument that Eliza has influenced the fan community with her strong opinions. This is especially true if you want to sound like a “smart” fan and talk about things like “Wine and Cheese”, pretending that you understand the internecine politics of various outside-of-the-game cliques. But… we’re not really that kind of website (if you realize that we barely can even know what happened during the televised game, it’s extra foolish to pretend we know what happened in people’s actual lives).

And it’s not like Eliza didn’t do some things during her first season on Vanuatu — Islands of Fire. But her biggest contributions were influenced by that which came before her rather than influencing future players. She flipped on the flipper (a la Rob C). She joined a new alliance rather than staying on the bottom of her existing alliance (also a la Rob C).

But let’s be real. Eliza Orlins is on this list for one very particular, yet not insignificant, reason. And I’ve basically just been filibustering my way through the intro to get past the sidebar on the right explaining the purpose of these posts. Because I didn’t set this template up to be responsive (too much work, ugh) and thus it’s awkward to put an image to the left of it.

Alright, we good here? Maybe one more carriage return just in case? Because we all know what Eliza Orlins’ lasting contribution to the world of Survivor is:

And no, it’s not a fucking stick.

Eliza only received two votes in the initial round of voting. Then in the debate portion of the process I simply argued “Eliza Orlins: Patron Saint of Jury Reactions” and that was enough to get her two more votes. Because jury reactions are most definitely A Thing in modern Survivor, and it all starts with Eliza’s full-bodied, bug-eyed incredulity at the tribal council madness of Survivor: Micronesia.

Juries used to be a little more, well, jury-like. Trying to give the air of impartiality to their role, while hiding their intent from those still competing. That really isn’t the case anymore, as people who love being on camera have figured out, thanks to the legacy of Eliza, that no longer being in the game in no way hinders your ability to mug for the cameras. Now it’s unusual to find jury members who will sit still through the proceeding and are more likely to find jury members trying to one up each other for their own Eliza moment.

This isn’t to say that Micronesia Eliza was the first demonstrative jury member. Off the top of my head, her Micronesia jury mate James was pretty expressive in all his appearances and Eliza herself didn’t hold back in Vanuatu. But first doesn’t always mean most influential, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the heavily-shared Eliza reactions from her second appearance are the ones that people have been trying to emulate ever since (possibly more due to gifs becoming the dominant form of social discourse than the actual broadcast of those episodes themselves).

Whether or not this is a good influence on the show is up to you to decide. But as tribal council has become more of a spectacle as Survivor has evolved, so too has the reaction of its live audience. And we have Eliza Orlins to thank/blame for that.

P.S. As you may have heard, Eliza is currently running for the District Attorney of New York. It’s too soon to track if this will have any influence on the Survivor community (doubtful) and no, I won’t count her decision to run for public office as an influence of Rupert (there’s no way). But I thought it worth mentioning in a “you might be interested to know” type way. Go to for more information.

She certainly has a history of getting people to vote for her.

Who else made the list?

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