The Ultimate Survivor Bracket: Age of the Returnee Division – Round Two

From now through April, we’ll be pitting Survivors head-to-head in match-ups to determine the Ultimate Survivor. How will we decide the winner? The same way Survivor does it: with a vote. This is our Tribal Council, and you’ve all made the jury. It is… time to vote.

Polls close on Sunday, March 29.

We had to assign Emma to write about a different division for round two, because her initial draft for this division was just a never-ending string of profanities toward all of you for not voting Courtney through to the second round. Then again, it looks like we set the seeds fairly well, since all of the favorites won in the first round. Even Amanda managed to win in a situation that required voting! Sure, she was up against Ozzy, who has the same Achilles heel, but a win is a win. Now let’s get to the round two match-ups:

1. Parvati Shallow vs 8. Amanda Kimmel


It’s the Micronesia final tribal rematch we didn’t know we wanted! Well, either that or the Into the Blue 2 reunion we didn’t know we wanted.

Few contestants have played more Survivor than Parvati or Amanda. In fact, they currently hold second and third place in terms of days played- and first place played 4 times to their 3 times (stupid Boston Rob). Both of these Survivors have made two final tribal councils. One is the first contestant to make back-to-back final tribal councils- and spectacularly flame out in both. The other is Parvati, who is so good at Survivor that producers insist new contestants compare themselves to her in their bios.

So what is the biggest difference between the two? Well, when it comes to final tribal, Amanda is renowned for giving awful performances (including one in China that likely swung multiple votes to Todd) while Parvati has managed to keep her head and make her case both times. In fact, while Parvati is regarded as the contestant who most successfully used flirting, flirting is perhaps a much bigger part of Amanda’s game- and may be why she has never received a vote at final tribal from a woman.

4. James “J.T.” Thomas vs 5. Todd Herzog


In this match-up we have two winners. J.T. dominated his first season, turning in what is considered by many to be a perfect game. Todd had to struggle a bit more, but won one of the few final threes where each contestant received a vote. Todd was in control for almost his entire game working with Amanda, Courtney, Denise, and James to dominate and control the game. Conversely, J.T. had to overcome a severe disadvantage when his tribe merged, but he was so damn charming that the door opened for his win.

Both played strong social games, forming easy bonds with a number of people and tight core alliances that allowed them to steer their way to the end. J.T.’s biggest disadvantage in this match-up is that even though his win is more impressive than Todd’s, his return appearance ended with one of the most embarrassing blunders in Survivor history.  No matter how highly I think of J.T. in Tocantins, it is hard to forget his Dear Russell letter (in case you forgot: Is J.T.’s high enough to overcome his low? Or should his lackluster return appearance be held against him when weighed against Todd’s one win? That’s why we have a poll- so you can decide!

2. Russell Hantz vs 7. Earl Cole


Russell managed to sneak by Natalie White this time, avenging his loss in Samoa. However, Earl should prove to be a more formidable opponent. Russell is a player who changed the game. He found idols without clues, and he used them to flip majorities. He was extremely skilled at finding cracks in alliances and exploiting them. The one thing he couldn’t do was win, because he is just too unlikable to ever be respected by the other players in the game.

Earl, on the other hand, is one of the most easily liked players we have seen on the show. He was able to fit in easily with everyone he played with and became a natural leader, even when surrounded by horrible people like Mookie and Rocky. Russell is the more aggressive, devious player, but Earl won and did so rather easily. And when strategy was needed, Earl easily rose to that challenge, as he did in the great “It’s a Turtle” episode, changing the vote to Edgardo without telling Dreamz. Earl’s game isn’t as showy as Russell’s, but we all know which one is more effective.

3. Yul Kwon vs 6. Yau-Man Chan


I am just going to admit this: Yul Kwon and Yau-Man Chan are two of my favorite Survivors ever. Yul’s calm, rational, business-like approach to the game is how I would like to imagine I would play the game if I ever got the chance (even though I know that I never could be as cool as Yul). Yau-Man’s enthusiastic and exuberant gameplay was a joy to watch and how everyone should play the game.

I love that these guys weren’t afraid to work with other strong players. Yul vs. Ozzy was the most fascinating final tribal decision since Tina v. Colby. And if we had seen it, Yau-Man vs. Earl would have been every bit as interesting. John called Yau-Man adorable, and he isn’t wrong. If you asked me who I liked to watch more, it would probably be Yau-Man. If you asked me who I thought played the better game it would be Yul. If you asked me to pick two people I would most want to see back on the show it would be Yul and Yau-Man. (You ask me a lot of questions, by the way.) I love both of these guys. I hate us for setting them up as a second-round match-up. No matter who wins we win, and no matter who loses we lose.

Don’t forget to vote in the other divisions:

Old School
Second Generation
New School

As president of the Andrew Savage fan club, Matt was crushed by the fact that you didn’t vote Savage through to round two. Almost as crushed as Savage was in that poll, where he got only 8% of the vote against Sandra. You can’t follow Matt on Twitter, but you can read his Zero Percent Club posts every week during the season.