The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Yau-Man Chan

Yau-Man Chan

Fiji, 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.

Yau-Man Chan is the 21st entry in this series.

HOW ABOUT THAT YAU-MAN? Remember how much we loved him? How he was a fresh, kind, exuberant presence on a season not exactly stocked with them? Remember the way he scienced his way through a bunch of challenges like a Survivor Walter White? Remember when he teamed with Earl to form one of the best and most likeable duos ever? Remember when he used his comfortable middle class status to try and buy off a homeless guy to give up a chance at a million dollars with a free car? Of course you remember all of this, because Yau-Man was great.

HOW ABOUT THAT time he found an idol? It was a turtle. And since Yau-Man’s threat level was starting to be recognized, it was an incredibly useful thing to find. But wait… there’s more! (Or at least there was 14 years ago… I don’t know why I’m writing this like you don’t know what’s coming). Rather than just dig up the idol, Yau-Man thought it might be extra sneaky to create another idol-like substance, wrap it in the cloth his turtle came in and leave this Fake Idol in its place to potentially fool someone else. It wasn’t made exactly clear what value this would provide Yau-Man (maybe it covers his tracks that someone else found the idol?). But since he couldn’t have spent more than ten minutes painting a few lines on a coconut, I suppose it was worth the trouble. (It’s kinda hilarious that the early fake idol attempts came in seasons when idols were elaborate pieces of craftsmanship by the art department).

In Yau-Man’s defence, he was playing against exceptionally dumb people.

And thus, the fake idol was born. Even though Yau-Man’s idol was never found, we know that he was indeed the inspiration behind this new innovation in the game, as the next one created and played was directly attributed to him. And HOW ABOUT ALL THE FUN we’ve had since? From Ozzy’s legendary fucking stick, to the epic punking of Randy Bailey, to Jay’s confident strut turned into amused downfall, to Chrissy trying to fool the real idol holder with her worthless one, to Rick Devens fooling not one, but two people in one tribal, the fake immunity idol has injected a LOT of fun into the show. If you’re bored while playing the game (and oh god are they bored), there are few more tried and true methods of passing the time than drawing inspiration from Yau-Man and leaving a fake idol around (or in Randy’s case, giving him one), hoping that someone will find your prank and spring it at tribal council.

So, yeah, fake immunity idols can be a hell of a lot of fun. But… HOW ABOUT THEIR STRATEGIC VALUE?!?

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Hmmm… well, that’s beside the point isn’t it? Because fake idols are here to stay, and the producers view them as essential enough an ingredient to their mix that they’ve altered how idols are made in order to goose the fake idol action. They started making less elaborate idols so a fake one wouldn’t look out of place. They’ve offered them as advantage options more than once, even though no one yet has been stupid enough to take them up on it. They even pulled Ozzy’s fucking stick out of the fire and allowed it to evolve into a stick with real power.

And as a result of Yau-Man’s playful little ploy and all that great moments it influenced, fake idols are a subject of discussion and attempted strategy by competitors and fans alike. Who knows? Maybe one day someone might even find a value for them besides “being fucking hilarious when used to toy with the hopes and dreams of another competitor”. But even if that never happens, there can be no doubt on the influence they, and their originator have on Survivor. So, how about we all say it together, one last time:



Who else made the list?

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