The Ultimate Survivor Bracket: Final Eight

In case you’ve missed it, we’ve been 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, April 12.

Graphic by @sylvisual (click for larger version)

We’ve had a few upsets along the way, but the giants of this bracket have yet to fall. Because of that, they’re now squaring off against each other to get to the Tribal Four (see what I did there to cleverly avoid copyright infringement?). This round of polls is going to be tough; these are some of the most beloved Survivor players in history, and you only get to choose one.

Ok, enough stalling- let’s get to the match-ups:

1. Richard Hatch vs 2. Rob Cesternino


Voting for Richard Hatch in the Ultimate Survivor is a lot like trying to rank Borneo. You feel like you have to, out of respect for the history of the game, but it also feels like a cop-out. You’re not voting for him just because he was the first winner, are you? Probably not, but the thought’s enough to make you pause and consider the alternative.

Then again, Rob Cesternino ranking highly in an Internet fan vote… is that not also a cop-out? While there are no official criteria to base your vote on, it’s important to remember that this is the vote for the Ultimate Survivor, not the Ultimate Podcaster. Rob’s original claim to Survivor fame was being the greatest player to never win, but Cirie usurped his title and was already eliminated in the last round.

That said, I am still undecided. – Emma

1. “Boston” Rob Mariano vs 2. Sandra Diaz-Twine


What does the title of Ultimate Survivor mean to you? Is it the face of the franchise, or is it based on pure success? Boston Rob is likely the man of Survivor, but there’s no beating Sandra when it comes to batting average. (Look, if Andy can write an entire post based on the mid-1990s Chicago Bulls team, I can throw in a few baseball metaphors.)

For some, Sanda’s two wins are enough to automatically push her through to the next round. Others need a little more flash, a little more sizzle. Boston Rob is undoubtedly a more aggressive player and it can be argued that he has had more influence on the game than Sandra. But don’t use Sandra’s under-the-radar strategy to write her off as an under-the-radar character. The First Lady of Survivor sass, Sandra can get loud too, what the fuck? And if you don’t vote for her, she swears she’s going to screw you and Burton. – Emma

1. Parvati Shallow vs 3. Yul Kwon


Who deserves your vote more: the consummate flirt who wields immunity idols like a boss and is also pretty good at challenges? Or would you prefer Parvati? I’m sorry, were you distracted by Yul flirtatiously batting his eyes at you? That’s how Yul gets you- he uses his killer body and smile to lure you in, then he stabs you in the back and discards you like you’re nothing to him.

As ridiculous as it sounds to make those arguments about Yul, they’re roughly as accurate when applied to him as they are to Parvati. You know how many men voted for Parvati in the season she won? Zero. Meanwhile, Yul got two women and one gay man to vote for him. Who’s the flirty sexpot now, Probst?

One jury vote Yul didn’t get in the final tribal council was Parvati’s. Parvati’s presence on that jury also means that Yul beat Parvati head-to-head, which is a pretty strong argument in favor of Yul. And Yul won on his first- and somehow only- time playing the game, even if the vote was a lot closer than all of us care to remember.

But Parvati was just 23 in Cook Islands, and everyone knows 23-year olds are just the worst. She finished a respectable sixth place in that season, but it’s her two later seasons that really pad her résumé. In Micronesia, an older and wiser Parvati realized that Survivor juries don’t often vote for women when they’re up against men, so she took a group of women to the end and left the jury no choice. In Heroes vs Villains, Parvati realized that juries wouldn’t vote for Russell, but she failed to realize they would vote for Sandra.

If you’re one of those “count the ringz” types, Parvati has a gold medal, a silver medal, and a sixth place (tin? aluminum? aluminum foil?) medal. Yul just has the gold. But hey, I’m not here to tell you how to vote. Oh wait, yes I am: Vote Parvati. – John

1. Kim Spradlin vs 2. Tony Vlachos


What an amazing contrast in styles. Kim dominated by being a master social manipulator, calmly and coolly controlling every aspect of her season with an uncanny understanding of what people need emotionally and socially to be properly motivated. She was an amazing mixture of Boston Rob-type manipulation, JT-like adoration, and Yul-like strategic rationalism. Unlike herself and those hypnotic blue eyes, it may not have been the most telegenic game, but it was as thorough a domination of the most important factor of Survivor – the social game – as we’ve ever seen (with a helpful mix of physical and strategic acumen to boot). I’m thoroughly convinced that if you took Kim’s One World game and ported into any other season, she’d have a shot to win every time. Kim was the culmination of 24 seasons of Survivor theory put into action.

Tony, on the other hand, took a sledgehammer to 28 seasons of Survivor theory and forced his way to victory through a sheer force of will and a constant attack on offence. It was perhaps the highest degree of difficulty for a win that there’s ever been, but the more I think about it, it may have also been the most impressive. While the other players on his season and the pundits at home thought they knew the proper pace to the game, Tony decided to push that pace to his advantage and before anyone had a chance to catch-up, they were sitting in Ponderosa wondering what happened. You shouldn’t be able to do what Tony did, with the constant looking for an edge in every portion of the game, the sprinting around the jungle looking for clues or information, all the while being the hardest worker around camp. It basically shouldn’t be possible while at the same time not sleeping and getting by on a cup of rice and some plantains a day. But he did. His game may have had a whole lot more flop sweat than Kim’s, but it was no less successful.

Basically, if you’ve been basing your vote on who played the best game, then you’re going to have to find a new criteria in this vote. Because if you can honestly compare Kim’s game to Tony’s game and declare one better than the other, my guess is that you’re applying your own bias to determine what a better game should be. Each played the game best tailored to their abilities. And each completely owned the game in doing so. –Andy

This Ultimate Survivor Bracket thing is pretty great, right? You know what else is great? Following all of us on Twitter! You should do that:

Andy: @andy_sayers

John: @purplerockpod

Emma: @emmapurplerock

Matt: Nope! Matt doesn’t like you.

Mark (who made all of our graphics for the bracket): @sylvisual