Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Greatest Single Season Performances in Survivor History

Over the course of 24 seasons of Survivor there have been many attempts to try to isolate the best Survivor Player Ever and I've seen a good number of "Best Survivor Winners" lists.  Rankings are always difficult because the seasons are so different.  I do always find it interesting in sports when someone looks at the best single seasons.  Just a lot of fun hypotheticals - What was better Bonds in 2001, McGwire in 1996, Ruth in 1921?  Chamberlain in '62 or Jordan in '96 or Robertson in '62?  Marino in '84, Manning in '04, or Brady in 2007?  Graff in '88 or Federer '06?  ''68 UCLA or '82 UNC? Lots of fun ones.

I decided to to the same thing here for Survivor.  I am just look at individual, single season performances. Is it fair to compare Boston Rob who played 4 times with Yul who played once? I'm looking at all players, not just winners.  Who really deserves the credit in Australia - Colby or Tina?
This way, everyone is on as even a playing field as possible.
Lots of criteria will be used in evaluating these individual season performances.  Challenges performances and wins, strategy, overall control of gameplay, other players in the season, control of ones destiny, and alliances/partnerships.  Lots to consider, but let's give it a try.

Best Individual Single Season Performances in Survivor History:

Honorable Mention:

Kathy - Marquesas - also strong in All-Stars too
Lex - Africa
Vecepia - Marquesas - not too memorable, but a good win
Rob - Amazon
Rafe - Guatemala - Maybe the most under-rated player ever.  4 individual immunity wins, driving force of his teams strategic moves, but allowed Danni to back out of final 2 deal.  Big mistake that keeps him off the list.
Ozzy - Cook Islands - Crazy good in challenges, but no real strategy game
Amanda - Fans vs Favorites - partner in crime with Parvati
Aras - Not a bad player, but actually benefited from Terry's dominance
Sophie - not very memorable, but some big challenge wins against veterans Ozzy and Coach

23. Yau-Man -Fiji - The lone bright spot of the Fiji season.  Yau-Man was all over the action.  3 immunity wins, found the hidden idol, made a fake idol, lost his spot in the finals due to Dreamz going back on his public promise.

22. Chris - Vanuatu - Some call Chris an undeserving winner, but I think he deserves some credit.  He was the last man standing, and overcame a strong 6 woman alliance.  He was in control of most of the women, getting them to turn on each other, and even got all the people he back stabbed to vote for him at the final Tribal Council.

21. Terry - Panama - Maybe the best individual immunity Survivor ever.  He one 5 straight and each time he needed to win to keep himself in the game.  Poor social game and inability to win the challenge at the final 3 puts him in only at number 20.

20. Earl - Fiji - Not too much memorable about Earl, but he did his thing, sweeping the finale and not getting a single vote against him the entire season.

19. Colby - Australia - Amazing season.  Domination in challenges, but ruined by the sole decision of taking Tina to the final over Keith.

18. Russell - Samoa - Say what you will about the person, Russell dominated this season.  He took his numbers down tribe at the merge and transformed them to the game's driving force.  He found hidden immunity idols without clues, using them to turn the game around, and won the final immunity challenge, ensuring Brett would not make it to the finals.  His social game was too harsh and he got too cocky at the end, but that does not mean he didn't play a great season.

17. Sandra - Heroes vs. Villains - The winner of one of the best, most competitive, most unpredictable seasons of Survivor ever, comes in at only 17?  Yep, Sandra was lucky to get to the finals, with Parvati and Russell doing most of the work.  She was very fortuitous, but won in the end, for the second time.

16. Danni - Guatemala -  Nothing too exciting about Danni.  She did all the things she had to do to win - strategy, alliances, social, a challenge win in a pretty tough season.

15. - Rob - All-Stars - Rob deserved to win Survivor All-Stars.  There is no other way around it.  He bossed the season.  He was huge in challenges, and somehow even got Amber to the final with him.  He wheeled and dealed and backstabbed.  He lost in the end by one vote, but did score a hot wife.

14. Sandra - Pearl Islands - Yep, Sandra's Pearl Islands win was better than her Heroes vs. Villains win.  In the Pearl Islands, Sandra's game wasn't hugely different, but she played a much larger role in the game's strategy.  The season had so many twists and turns and backstabs, but Sandra stayed adaptable and pitted the right people against each other at the right time, all while staying on top herself.  Was the best to show that strong physical play is not necessary to be a strong Survivor.

13. Bob - Gabon - Gabon was an interesting season as was Bob's.  He shined in the outdoors aspect and was pretty good in challenges, winning 3 and made an awesome fake immunity idol.  But there were a few times Bob was on the outside.  It was Sugar that kept him in the game and took him to the final.  Very likable, though and totally deserving.  It's just many of the upcoming players on the list were in control of the game from start to finish.  That was not the case for Bob.

12. Parvati - Heroes vs. Villains - I'm not sure why Parvati didn't win Heroes vs. Villains.  She definitely played the best game.  If she would have won she'd surely be top 4 on list list.  But the jury was a bit too bitter and gave the win to Sandra.  Despite this, Parvati played an amazing game - winning 3 huge challenges, flirting like crazy, strategizing with Russell, and pulling off what I think was the greatest strategic move in Survivor History - giving immunity idols to Jerri and Sandra when it was tied 5-5.

11. Ethan - Africa - Ethan was the Jack-of-all-Trades, maybe the first player to be likable, strategic, and physical throughout the entire game.  Sorry Colby.  He, though wasn't totally the driving force all the time.  He had a quality alliance, and when looking at the facts, Lex actually did most of the leg work and was the power player of the season.

10. Jenna - Amazon - The biggest determiner on this list is controlling the game, but it is also the sign of a good player when you can take a game where you are not in control and flip to where you are in control.  I would say the Amazon was like that a few times for Jenna - not in control, in control, not in control, in control.  I don't totally like here as a player, kind of whiny at times and cocky at other times, but big challenge wins and playing the men nicely brought her an impressive win.

9. Todd - China - There are basically two ways to win survive, through winning challenges or through strategy.  The best performances are a combination of the two. Todd is an example of the strategy route.  I don't think he won a single challenge, but he controlled his alliance, made a few smart moves, and won easily.  Not the most memorable performance, but high quality.

8. Brian - Thailand - This is where we start to get to the very best seasons.  These top 8 can definitely call themselves All-Stars and are clearly the players of the best Survivor Seasons ever.
Coming in at 8 is Brian.  He had a bit of luck that there was not a merge at the normal time, but led his weird older person tribe back from a numbers disadvantage, then voted the other tribe out one at a time, then voted off alley Ted, the only real physical threat, at the right time, then took Clay to the final instead of Jan so he looked strong in the final Tribal.  All and all, a stellar season.

7. Richard - Borneo - Richard Hatch, the godfather or Survivor, the one who started it all.  The first season of Survivor was SO much different than the show today.  Richard was really the only one who knew how to play the game, you know, actually talk about who you are voting off and make deals with people.  A bit cocky, he put together a quality team and was in charge from day one.  After the merge, he voted off the other team one-by-one, used Sean as long as he needed him, dropped Sue after they were down to 4, had Rudy in his pocket the whole time, and audaciously dropped out of the final immunity challenge knowing both players would take him to the final.  A great start to the franchise.

6. Parvati - Fans vs. Favorites - She is just so damn charming.  She could sell a 1985 TV as a 80-inch plasma.  A truly dominate game in Micronesia, with some of the best blindsides in the history of the game, but she did have some help in getting there.  She had a strong 3-woman alliance with Amanda and Cirie, a bunch of "fans" pawns, and it did help that it was a final 2 and not a final 3.  Lots of great moves along the way, but blindsides of Ozzy and Erik will be up there with the best ever.

5. JT - Tocantins - Like Parvati in Micronesia, JT was dominate, and like Parv, he had some help on the way, a partner in crime in the form of Stephen.  This is what keeps him and Parv from the top 4 on the list.
He had someone to do the work with, to bounce ideas off, someone to take away some of the spotlight.  And Stephen was probably leading the strategy side of things. They followed a similar script to others, leading the numbers down tribe back over the numbers up tribe  But JT was obviously the man, winning a good number of challenges and sweeping the final vote.

4. Kim -One World -

 Kim's performance was the one that led me to the development of this list.  I think she won One World without really sweating.  She started with with the strategy, working the men with ease.  Then she stepped up her challenge game and didn't really give her competition a chance to vote her off.  It was pretty odd watching on TV.  It just seemed so obvious she was gonna win the whole thing.  She had the social game too, winning easily at the end.  Strategic, physical, social.  Yes, that will get you a high spot on the best seasons ever list.

Top 3: Much of this list is just judgement calls.  8-4 could really be in any order, same with like 23-18.  The top 3 is perfectly clear, though.  3 individual seasons stand out as easily the best in Survivor history.  Each of the top 3 played vastly different games, and I'll try to defend by top 3 placement below.

3. Rob - Redemption Island - Rob's performance in Redemption Island was certainly the most dominant.  Was it the best?  I don't think so.  He was ridiculously in control of the entire game.  The thing that brings him in only at #3 is the lack of competition.  His tribe mates were clueless and Russell, who was hyped as his competition, wasn't even voted out by Rob.  His uber-control was impressive, but kind of boring.  I guess he was subtle enough in his domination, an awesome liar, or his tribe mates were just dumb. The never even considered voting him off! Amazing season, and maybe I'm going against my own criteria here, but the guy played 4 times!  The rest of his season was so naive! That puts him just below the next two on our list.

2. Yul - Cook Islands - Yul was a first class mastermind.  His was not in outward control like Rob.  It was behind the scenes decision making.  His was a strategy game  He never won an individual challenge, and didn't need to.  He voted off the right people at the right time and led his tribe after infamous mutiny to an amazing challenge winning streak. He had the hidden immunity idol the entire time.  He used it amazingly, without actually having to use it. He  got Jonathan on his side by using the idol, one of the best moves in the history of the game, then voted Jonathan off to get the good will of the other tribe.  This little write up cannot do justice to his game play.  And what puts him above Rob is the fact the he came back from a disadvantaged position and he faced some great competition - Parvart (on this list twice), Candice, Jonathan, Ozzy, and some other strong males.  Got it done!

1. Tom - Palau - And #1 on our list of greatest Survivor individual season performances - Tom Westman and his Palau season.  Lots went into this choice.  It was his dominance of every facet of the game.  First off, he led his team to Complete Defeat of the other tribe.  They won EVERY immunity challenge.  There was no need for a merge or a new tribe name. The other tribe (one person!) was absorbed into his tribe. That is boss.
Then when when it came down to an individual game, he controlled that too.  He first voted off Coby, the one tribe member who wasn't really in his alliance, then voted off Gregg when he was started to put together possible opposition.  He stuck with his main alley Ian to deflect some of the attention and in the final challenge got Ian to give up on the condition that Tom take weak Katie to the Final Tribal and not Ian.  Crazy!  Yes, that is domination.  The best single season ever.  Team play, individual play, manipulation, stamping out threats, strategy, and getting votes from everyone that was once in his alliance.

 Congratulations Tom!