top 5 tuesday: Characters Who Would Win Survivor

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

MARCH 27th – Top 5 characters that would win the show Survivor

Allow me to show my true colors as a complete nerd for a second here – I love Survivor.  I’ve watched every season multiple times (that’s over 35 seasons, over 500 episodes… all multiple times.  I have no life).  Being stranded in an airport for 5 hours with Stephen Fishbach was one of my personal highlights of 2016.  I love this prompt.

In case you are unfamiliar: Survivor is a reality television competition show, in which approx. 16-20 strangers are stranded on an island together, separated into ‘tribes,’ and compete in challenges.  The losing tribe has to vote someone out until the number of competitors dwindles down.  Eventually the two tribes merge and it becomes an individual game, and of the remaining 2-3 players at the very end, a jury of their peers votes for a winner, who receives a million dollars.  Basically, they’re voting for the person they believe “outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted” the rest of the competitors the best.  What makes Survivor so tricky is that as soon as you show how capable you are – whether it’s your intelligence or physical prowess – you’re seen as a threat to win the game, and your tribemates are going to want to vote you out.  And since you’re eventually judged by the very people you’re having a hand in voting out, it’s critical that you’re able to do so without making enemies of them.  Winning Survivor requires not only physical strength, but mental stamina, quick thinking, intelligence, and often, the ability to fly under the radar, and to manipulate without people realizing that you’re the one pulling the strings.  That’s the reason I love it so much – it’s a deceptively psychological game.

And it’s on Hulu – go watch it!

So, to add a completely unnecessary level of nerdiness to this prompt, I decided to choose my 5 favorite Survivor winners, and choose 5 fictional characters who I think are the most similar, who’d also be great at the game.  (Also NB that these are not necessarily my favorites in terms of personality, etc., just who I thought played the best Survivor games and were most deserving of the million dollars in direct relation to their gameplay.)

So, uh… spoilers for Survivor seasons: 27, 18, 13, 16, 24.

5. Tyson Apostol, Blood vs. Water (27) – Kaz Brekker, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Tyson is probably one of the most ruthless winners Survivor has ever seen.  He’s not a particularly nice person, but he’s upfront about who he is.  He won’t pretend to be your friend and then stab you in the back; he’ll be honest about the fact that he isn’t your friend to begin with.  But what makes him such a great winner is just how capable he is: he’s intelligent, physically strong, and he strategically runs the entire season.  Everyone knows it, too, but they’re a little afraid to vote him out because they don’t know what they’d do without their de facto leader.  Enter Kaz Brekker, ridiculously capable and unapologetically ruthless… but people flock to him anyway.  I think he could win Survivor with his eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back.  (There’s also the fact that Tyson won a season where loved ones are competing against each other on opposite tribes, and though he seems to not care about anyone, his weakness is his now-wife Rachel… I don’t need to comment on the obvious Kaz parallels there.)

4. James “JT” Thomas, Tocantins (18) – Charles Macaulay, The Secret History by Donna Tartt

In contrast, JT is one of the ‘nicest’ winners in Survivor history.  He is a good ol’ southern boy who everyone’s drawn to, and, like Tyson, no one really wanted to vote him out even though they knew he’d win if he got to the end.  He’s pretty much The Golden Boy… but he also knows that people see him as altruistic and he’s ready to use that to his advantage (e.g., when Stephen admitted that he hadn’t wanted to bring JT to the final 2, JT acted like it was a deep personal betrayal and then later admitted that he was putting that on for show to garner sympathy).  So, for The Golden Boy who can be a bit of an asshole, Charles Macaulay is the perfect fit.  He seems the type who’d be able to win over anyone’s trust just by batting his eyelashes, but he also has that underlying manipulative streak.

3. Yul Kwon, Cook Islands (13) – Noa Baek, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

When it came down to the final 3 players this season, the two that were in contention to win were Yul, the quiet, understated, intelligent player, and Ozzy, one of the best physical competitors in Survivor history who won most of the challenges.  Yul won by a single vote, which I was thrilled about, because if I were on a Survivor jury I’d prioritize intellect over physical strength any day, and I loved his strategic game play.  The first character who came to mind for Yul was Noa, whose quiet sort of intelligence could be a huge asset, and allow him to slide under the radar.

2. Parvati Shallow, Micronesia (16) – Vanda, Venus in Fur by David Ives

(aka my wife.)  Parvati Shallow is the quintessential femme fatale of Survivor – everyone gravitates to her, and she is the queen of manipulation.  In a good-natured way, though; she always has a smile on her face and she knows it’s just a game.  But still, she can be pretty ruthless, and Vanda is a perfect fictional counterpart to her.  At the beginning of the play, Vanda is a beautiful woman who appears to be willing to do anything to appease the male playwright/director she’s auditioning for, but throughout the course of the play the power dynamic gradually shifts, and Vanda ends up in total control.

1. Kim Spradlin, One World (24) – Sansa Stark, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

In my opinion, the best Survivor winner, who played one of the best and most understated social, physical, and strategic games.  Kim is in control of her entire season from start to finish – she decides who goes home on nearly every vote, but she doesn’t let anyone know that she’s pulling the strings; she’s more subtle about it.  It reminds me so much of Sansa Stark and the way she quietly manipulates everyone around her at King’s Landing – e.g., goading Joffrey into fighting where it’s the most dangerous in a way that’s so subtle you can hardly even tell she’s doing it.  I think Sansa would be dismissed early on by her tribemates on Survivor for not being particularly capable, but then she’d sneak up on them and absolutely kick ass.

Who else in the bookish community watches Survivor?  Let me know!!

12 thoughts on “top 5 tuesday: Characters Who Would Win Survivor

  1. I love the comparisons you made here. The only ones I remember off this list are JT and Parvati; it’s been years since I’ve really watched Survivor because I only have access to cable/satellite at my parents house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you have a Hulu account most seasons are on there! I can’t remember if it’s on Amazon prime right now, I knew it was at one point… but anyway, yay, another Survivor fan!


  2. lmao the minute I saw this challenge I was like “I can’t wait for Rachel’s post!!” I love that you made comparisons to actual winners!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Omg I love that the guy you chose for Kaz played a Survivor game against his loved ones and won, that is…..too perfect. And Charles is such an interesting choice, I don’t think I would have considered him, but you’re right about him being so underhanded. And I’d be more afraid of him making me feel bad than, say, Kaz, simply because doesn’t come off so hard and jerk-ish at first. And NOA!! Omg he’d definitely be great at Survivor…the only challenge would be overcoming HIMSELF D:

    Anyway I love how deep and analytical this post is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg it’s even more perfect because in that season the loved ones were separated and put on opposite tribes, and Rachel’s tribe voted her out I think either 2nd or 3rd because they recognized that Tyson was the strongest player on the other tribe and they wanted to weaken him by voting out his loved one, I MEAN???? Pretty much EXACTLY Kaz/Inej at the end of SoC when they realize that Inej is his only weakness.

      JT was THE HARDEST ONE for me to find a corresponding character, and it’s still not 100% perfect because JT’s a southern farm boy and Charles is a rich asshole BUT I decided to hone in on the ‘charismatic as hell but secretly can be a dick’ element and it is perfect.

      Anyway you need to watch Survivor there are like Shakespearean levels of Drama(TM) for you to discover.


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