Ultimate Survivor Tribal Council Bracket – Historic Division Round One

One of the things that makes for a great Tribal Council is when history is made. When the possibilities of Survivor are expanded by something happening that never had before. Here’s the grouping we decided were the most historic in the bracket. You decide who stays.

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Voting criteria:

  • You decide what makes a Tribal worthy of your vote. Was it your favourite? The best? Most memorable? Most dramatic? It’s up to you. We’ve organized them by theme, but you’re under no obligation to pick the most historic tribal to represent the Historical bracket.
  • Tribal Council is defined as everything that happened in episode from when the tribe gets to Tribal Council through to the Final Words of the eliminated contestant. Things that didn’t make the air were out of bounds for consideration when putting the list together.
  • For Final Tribal Councils, the reveal of the winner is out of bounds (except for the first Final Tribal). This takes place at a different time and place and is aired on a different episode.

Voting ends on Tuesday, March 15th.

1. Snakes and Rats vs 16. All-Stars Final Tribal


Snakes and Rats – Borneo, episode 13 “The Final Four”

In terms of history, it doesn’t get more significant than the first time a winner was declared and a jury spoke. For that alone, it would have made the list. That’s before you get to Greg’s ridiculous pick a number shtick, Colleen calling out Hatch, Gervase sticking up for Kelly, Richard’s jury performance, or the decision to reward the game player over the challenge beast. But then you throw in Sue Hawk’s speech, perhaps the most memorable moment in the history of the show and you not only get a one seed, you get the prohibitive favourite to win this entire thing.

Read more about this moment in our 30 from 30 series.


All-Stars Final Tribal – All-Stars, episode 16 “The Sole Surviving All-Star”

I think savvy fans have rightfully tired of the concept of “undeserving winners” or the idea that juries can get it wrong. Just like how it’s up to you to decide what gets your vote here and why, so too do Survivors who make the jury. But we may have gone too far fighting against this concept when people claim there’s no such thing as a bitter jury. Because this jury? WAS FUCKING BITTER. SOOOOOOOO salty. This was the biggest collection of egos Survivor had ever assembled, each one thinking everyone else was the star of their story and struggling with the reality that it simply wasn’t true. They were on Survivor back when it meant something, fame-wise. And that’s how you get “don’t be stupid, stupid” [sick burn, Tom] and “stack of greenbacks”. But here’s the thing: them being bitter didn’t make their verdict unjust. It meant that the loser of that Tribal didn’t do a good enough job managing that situation.

1. Snakes and Rats vs 16. All-Stars Final Tribal

  • 1. Snakes and Rats - Borneo (90% Votes)
  • 16. All-Stars Final Tribal - All-Stars (10% Votes)

Total Voters: 351

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8. Jeff Varner Tiebreaker vs 9. The Outcasts Have Spoken

Jeff Varner Tiebreaker – The Australian Outback, episode 7 “The Merge”

Forget how we feel about this retroactively now that we’ve been reminded how awesome Jeff Varner is. This was some bullshit back then. His fate, and that of the entire second half of the season, rested on a stray vote cast in first few days of the season and another one that the show didn’t even reveal to the contestants themselves. But gotdamn if it wasn’t dramatic. Two completely united tribes going balls out to determine how the next phase of the season will go. Colby’s plan to put all the heat on him worked, while Varner’s plan to eat peanut butter rather than try to win immunity did not.

The Outcasts Have Spoken – Pearl Islands, episode 8 “What the…?, Part 2”

It certainly was historic when they voted people IN rather than out in Pearl Islands. Historically weird. And stupid. It’s also really fun when you rewatch it imagining everyone but Skinny Ryan (who seemed to genuinely like her) thinking to themselves “whatever happens, just don’t make me spend any more time with Lil”.

8. Jeff Varner tiebreaker vs. 9. The Outcasts have spoken

  • 9. The Outcasts have spoken (55% Votes)
  • 8. Jeff Varner tiebreaker (45% Votes)

Total Voters: 340

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4. The Purple Rock vs 13. J is for Jenna

The Purple Rock – Marquesas, episode 13 “The Soul Survivor”

Right tiebreaker; wrong execution. The previous vote tiebreaker was stupid because it failed to discourage ties and required audiences to retain ephemeral knowledge of previous tribals to keep score. That was all fixed when it was time for the final four in Marquesas to fail to come to a decision and thus leave their fates to a random draw. Of course, we now know that rocks never should’ve come up in a final four situation, but if Paschal had to be sacrificed so that future Survivors would never take the easy way out of a tie again (and an awesome podcast and website would have a great name that leads to easy colour-branding), so be it.

Read more about this moment in our 30 from 30 series.

J is for Jenna – Borneo, episode 13 “Old and New Bonds”

Look at that stupid motherfucker up there. Look, obviously most people in that first season had no idea about strategy and had no idea what to expect. But Dr. Sean was a gotdamn moron, and it wasn’t just the alphabet strategy. But the way he kept steadfastly insisting throughout this tribal that his inane alphabet strategy wouldn’t come into play that episode was wilfully ignorant (and no, I accept no after the fact justifications from him that it was all part of a plan). Instead, he becomes the deciding vote in the only time Richard Hatch was in danger and we learn that you don’t get to sit out the voting portion of the game.

4. The Purple Rock vs. 13. J is for Jenna

  • 4. The Purple Rock (77% Votes)
  • 13. J is for Jenna (23% Votes)

Total Voters: 339

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5. Osten Quits vs 12. The Voluntary Tribal Council

Osten Quits – Pearl Islands, episode 7 “What the…?, Part 1”

One half of a double-tribal council proceeding the Outcast return, we get the first time someone opts out of the brutal conditions of this weird competition we all love. It’s weird how when you watched it back then, you get a charge over Jeff laying into a quitter who took a spot from one of the millions at home who would love to be there. Now, it’s a little oft-putting at how paternalistic Jeff gets. I mean, come on dude, someone HAD to go home that night. Why not Osten?

Read more about this moment in our 30 from 30 series.

The Voluntary Tribal Council – One World, episode 4 “Bum-Puzzled”

Volunteering to be the one to go home is one thing. Volunteering to go to the place where one of you gets voted out is a whole other thing. I will believe to my death bed that Jeff Probst had no idea that the men’s tribe was heading to Tribal Council that night until they walked in. His reaction is just too good.

5. Osten quits vs. 12. The voluntary tribal council

  • 12. The voluntary tribal council (52% Votes)
  • 5. Osten quits (48% Votes)

Total Voters: 341

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2. No Votes Count vs 15. Tom Votes Out Ian

No Votes Count – Cambodia, episode 14 “Lie, Cheat and Steal”

Here it is, the Tribal that inspired this entire bracket (along with a telestrator explanation by Jeff Probst). When you watch a show for as long as Survivor has been on, you yearn for new possibilities. And wouldn’t you know it, they still manage to find some. Six votes cast, two idols played, none of them count. It was as good an adrenaline rush as you can expect watching from the safety of your couch, and that was BEFORE we got to the epic second tiebreaker, Keith’s attempt at valour, Spencer and Jeremy’s implosion in front of the jury, and Kimmi’s eventual exit. If this didn’t do it for you, you should probably just stop watching the show.

Tom Votes Out Ian – Palau, episode 14 “The Ultimate Shock”

After a challenge that lasted over half a day and caught production so unaware that they didn’t have the right equipment out to film at night, it seemed unfair to rewake the jury (they already had to do it to poor Katie) just to make Tom fulfill the bargain he made with Ian. Instead, we got the first impromptu Tribal Council in Survivor history.

Read more about this moment in our 30 from 30 series.

2. No votes count vs. 15. Tom votes out Ian

  • 2. No votes count (81% Votes)
  • 15. Tom votes out Ian (19% Votes)

Total Voters: 354

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7. Stephen Screws Up the Advantage vs 10. Dan’s Advantage Proved Meaningless

Stephen Screws Up the Advantage – Cambodia, episode 11 “My Wheels are Spinning”

You know what? God bless Stephen Fishbach for this. A guy who frequently speaks of editing with a large audience of fans was certainly not afraid of giving the editors everything they needed to show him up. He had his big moment, playing a potentially very powerful advantage, and he made sure that it would either be an incredibly satisfying victory lap or make him look like the biggest dummy ever. But it would not be dull. Now, you could question whether or not it was wise for a guy who by all rights should have been voted out the previous trip to Tribal to be that cocky, but instead, let’s laugh with him (and at him. More so at him).

Dan’s Advantage Proved Meaningless – Worlds Apart, episode 13 “My Word is My Bond”

Oh the weeks we spent worrying that this potentially game-harming advantage was too powerful. All the weeks we spent formulating ways Dan could use it to change the outcome of the game. And then he goes to be the first person to ever have two votes in the history of the game, and it means nothing. He does nothing to change anything other than his own continued presence in the game. Which he hastened by tipping of Carolyn that now was the time to play her idol, which she did, sending his ass home.

7. Stephen screws up the advantage vs. 10. Dan's advantage proved meaningless

  • 7. Stephen screws up the advantage (60% Votes)
  • 10. Dan's advantage proved meaningless (40% Votes)

Total Voters: 347

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3. Kelley Wentworth Negates 9 Votes vs 14. The First Idol is Played

Kelley Wentworth Negates 9 Votes – Cambodia, episode 8 “You Call, We Haul”

Kelley… does not count. Wentworth… does not count. Kelley We… does not count. You get the idea. With one masterstroke of an idol play, Kelley Wentworth negated the most votes in a single Tribal Council in the history of the show. Fist bumps were delivered. Confident head nods abounded. And then we waited. No vote split. It was already a classic moment, only to be made better with the reveal that the super-confident alpha dog Andrew Savage was the one sent home. Waving his middle finger on the way out. The internets rejoice.

The First Idol Was Played – Guatemala, episode 9 “Secrets and Lies and an Idol Surprise”

The majority alliance in Guatemala was so smug. Why wouldn’t the be? They came into the merge ahead in numbers and had begun their Pagonging. And up to this point in Survivor, if a majority of you decided that they were going to vote for someone, then that person went home. Sure, there was this new idol thing that Probst had talked about, but in your alliance was the only guy with a clue to where it was. So they were feeling good up until it was almost time to vote. Then Gary Hawkins Hogeboom stood up and played the first idol in the show’s history, making him ineligible for the vote. And Survivor wouldn’t be the same again.

3. Kelley Wentworth negates 9 votes vs. 14. The first idol is played

  • 3. Kelley Wentworth negates 9 votes (81% Votes)
  • 14. The first idol is played (19% Votes)

Total Voters: 355

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6. “We’re Going to Matches” vs 11. Steph and Bobby Jon Fire-Making Challenge

“We’re Going to Matches” – Cook Islands, episode 15 “This Tribe Will Self-Destruct in 5, 4, 3…”

The Aitu 4 were so close that it didn’t seem fair to pick one of them to go home right before the finals. Ozzy was immune and Yul had the idol, so it had to be one of Becky or Sundra. So why not force a tie and let the fates decide? No one should be mad, no backstabbing takes place. What’s the harm? Wait, you mean we’ll have to watch them try to start a fire for over 1.5 hours? Hmmmm…. maybe we should’ve made a choice after all.

Steph and Bobby Jon Firemaking Challenge – Palau, episode 8 “Neanderthal Man”

You know, it seems easy to criticize Becky and Sundra since it didn’t take very long for Stephenie to best mountain man Bobby Jon in the first fire making challenge tiebreaker. I always have. Until I rewatched and realized that Steph and Bobby Jon STARTED with matches. Still, when the smoke settled, how bizarre and amazing was it to end a Tribal Council with a shot of the remaining tribe… member. Singular. THAT was a moment.

6. "We're going to matches" vs. 11. Steph and Bobby Jon fire-making

  • 11. Steph and Bobby Jon fire-making (51% Votes)
  • 6. "We're going to matches" (49% Votes)

Total Voters: 341

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The Rest of the Bracket

Click to see the full-size graphic.

Blindside Bracket

Strategic Bracket

Theatrical Bracket