Ian Walker concludes The Day 38 Club, ranking the last eliminated players from each season of Survivor.
Over the past two weeks, we have been counting down the worst to best members of the Day 38 Club. The last person to leave the game, the person so close to the end they can taste the money, but has their opportunity to plead their case to the jury taken away at the very last moment. As the list has shown so far, some of the all-time great Survivor players and characters are members of the Day 38 Club. But there can only be one at the very top.
When compiling the list, I took into account the strength of their game, character and the power of their story. Without further ado, the final and Top 3 members of the Survivor Day 38 Club.
3. Rob Cesternino (Survivor: The Amazon)
Part savvy strategist, part master confessional giver, Rob Cesternino impacted the game unlike few ever have. One of the first true “students of the game,” Rob took what he learned from watching the previous seasons of Survivor and applied that to his own game, becoming the driving force of the craziest season up to that point. Flipping from one alliance to another on multiple occasions, Rob showed the value of being flexible in Survivor, seizing the moment to make the move he best saw fit at the time.
Not only did Rob up the strategic game, but he upped the confessional game too, as he fired off one-liner after one-liner, becoming one of the first contestants to play up being funny for the viewers at home. Rob was the right player at the right time, shooting a jolt of energy into the show by showing the game had so much more potential than previously known as he played Survivor to the fullest all the way to Day 38.
Rob’s knowledge of the game proved beneficial in the early going, knowing that just not standing out and keeping one’s head down, especially in the testosterone-fueled all-male tribe he was on, was the way to go. Using that mindset, he was able to make several key allies and soon found himself comfortably sitting in the majority after the merge.
Come Final 7, he was in a strong majority with himself, Alex Bell, Heidi Strobel and Jenna Morasca, and looked positioned to go all the way to Final 4. But after a fateful conversation with Alex that planted seeds of doubt that he was low man on the totem pole in this foursome, Rob determined it was time to shake up the game.
In what would become his signature move, Rob turned to his protégé, Matthew von Ertfelda, to help recruit the other bottom feeders, Christy Smith and Butch Lockley, to help turn the tables on his former allies. At that episode’s tribal council, Alex was voted out, and Rob firmly placed himself in control of the game.
It was the first time anybody had single-handedly flipped the game in such a huge way. After watching the first major flip go down in Survivor: Marquesas, Rob knew a move like this was possible. He was able to execute it because, as he states in the reunion show, he was aware that one of the basic tenets of Survivor is the importance of being friendly and keeping an open relationship with everybody in the game. That idea proved valid the very next round when Rob turned to Jenna and Heidi, who were pissed off at him for voting out Alex, and recruited them to vote out Christy, who had been waffling back and forth. Engineering two big flips back to back seemed unimaginable during the first couple seasons of Survivor, but Rob made it happen because he had the knowledge and the tools to do it.
Over the course of the season, Rob played a groundbreaking game with a smile on his face, relishing the fact that he was playing Survivor, and that he was on TV doing it. Every funny quip he would give to the camera came from a place of wanting to be the most entertaining version of himself he could be, simply because he wanted to make the best show possible for the viewers at home. Through his gameplay and his TV presence, Rob became an integral figure in Survivor history during his 38 days in Survivor: The Amazon, becoming one of the smartest players never to win the game.
2. Jonny Fairplay (Survivor: Pearl Islands)
When Jonny Fairplay set foot on the beach in Survivor: Pearl Islands, he had big plans. Sure, he wanted to win the game, but was also looking to be remembered, aiming for the title of the greatest villain, not just in Survivor, but in the history of reality television at large, and he had the chops to do it too. With his cocky smirk, unabashed devilish charm and an adept ability for lying, Fairplay became THE Survivor villain, and even committed the greatest lie in history and changed the game because of it.
Building off of Rob Cesternino’s game the previous season, Fairplay flipped and flopped whenever it benefitted his game, knowing that he could lie his way out of any precarious situation because he was so darn good at it. Love him or hate him, Fairplay is one of the legends of the game, and his story ranks as one of the best in the Day 38 Club.
One of the reasons why Fairplay worked so well as a villain was because he had the ultimate Survivor hero to go up against in Rupert Boneham. Rupert, with his big, scraggly beard and bright tie-dye shirt, was instantly loved by viewers all over. In the game, he was a huge challenge and camp life asset with his brute strength and ability to catch fish; in other words, the complete opposite of Jonny Fairplay, which is why he knew he couldn’t let Rupert anywhere near the end of the game. Soon enough after the merge, Fairplay got his chance at the Final 8, grabbing all of the bottom feeders, alongside his right-hand man Burton Roberts, and blindsided Rupert. Taking out America’s favorite firmly cemented Fairplay as the bad guy of the season, but how he followed up earned him the title of one of the all-time great villains.
Simply put, Fairplay’s dead grandmother lie is one of the most iconic moments in the history of the show. Never before had somebody thought to bring something that was outside of the game, like family, and turn it into something valuable in the game. It was brilliant on both a game level, giving Fairplay added sympathy and a “dead” relative he could swear on, and from a television perspective, playing this dark, practical joke on the audience that could only generate more hate towards him, ultimately giving him what he wanted. The one-two punch of the Rupert boot and the dead grandma lie made Jonny Fairplay the ultimate Survivor scoundrel, something that couldn’t make him any happier.
That glee in being the villain, more than anything else, is the most enduring part of Jonny Fairplay’s legacy. This is the guy that reveled in showing up drunk to tribal council, cussed people out in voting confessionals and engaged in all sort of deviousness, all which make him a top tier Survivor character. His dead grandmother lie is only a handful of moments in the show’s history that transcends Survivor into the popular culture at large. This is a guy who knew what he wanted and used every tool in his arsenal to get it. Along the way, he played a heck of a game and came very close to winning. While he didn’t win, he ends his 38 days by earning a title just as sweet as Sole Survivor, the Greatest Reality TV Villain of all time.
1. Cirie Fields (Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites)
For all of the praise and prestigious titles I gave Rob Cesternino and Jonny Fairplay and the couple people before them, from the moment I set out to create this list the number 1 spot in the Day 38 Club was never in doubt. Cirie Fields is, simply put, the best player to never win Survivor, and she showed why in Survivor: Micronesia, pulling off some of the biggest blindsides the show has ever seen. Plus, this being her second time playing, she was able to build off of her character from the first time around in such a satisfying and exciting way.
In Survivor: Exile Island, she was the woman who got off the couch, conquering all of her anxieties about living on an island and winning the audience over in the process. That was her narrative coming into Micronesia, not the fact that she played a splendid game and was a dangerous player to watch out for. Cirie used that cover to play a more aggressive, more fearless game than the first time, cutting down any big threats that stood in her way while laughing that signature Cirie giggle all the while. If it weren’t for some last-minute schedule changes during the season switching from a Final 3 to a Final 2, Cirie is sitting at the Final Tribal Council and winning this season.
Sure, Cirie’s fellow Final 3 competitors, Parvati Shallow and Amanda Kimmel, both played strong games as well, but Cirie in this season was in a league of her own. Almost every single power move that went down, Cirie had a hand in, two examples being particularly impressive. In the vote out of Ozzy Lusth, the first in Micronesia’s legendary string of blindsides, Cirie was the one who got the ball rolling. Nervous about how much power Ozzy was amassing, and the fact that he had a hidden immunity idol, Cirie knew she had to act fast. She didn’t go to Amanda, who was in a quasi-showmance with Ozzy, but to Parvati only, who had two of the fans wrapped around her finger. Together, Cirie and Parvati rallied enough numbers to get Ozzy out, giving birth to the Black Widow Brigade.
Over the next couple rounds, the BWB made big blindside after big blindside, culminating in one of the most iconic Survivor moments of all time, convincing poor Erik Reichenbach to give up the immunity necklace. While all of the Brigade members played a part in running the con on Erik, let it be known that during that initial gabfest amongst the women, it was Cirie who made the initial “What If?” suggestion. Once the women ran with the idea, Cirie played her role perfectly, laying the guilt on thick to Erik, stressing how much a move like this would make himself look like a good guy in the eyes of the jury. All the while she was feeding Erik this BS, Cirie, like she had all season, was giving her thoughts with unabashed amusement and giggles in her confessionals. When Erik made his fateful decision and was voted out, Cirie was right there with the other ladies, smiling and waving him goodbye, knowing that they just made Survivor history.
After that string of big moves, Cirie looked like the presumptive favorite to win. Her emergence into a legitimately great player, plus her light and funny personality, seemed to be enough to put her over Parvati and Amanda. Alas, that was not meant to be. The Final 3 turned into the Final 2, and when Amanda won the final immunity challenge, Cirie was the odd person out and was voted out on Day 38. Her final words are still, to this day, one of the most heart-breaking moments in Survivor history, as she lamented to her family how she was so close to the end, but ultimately couldn’t make it the one more night she needed to. While it’s still a bummer that Cirie didn’t win this season, she more than earned her place as one of the all-time greats of the game and the number one player in the Day 38 Club.
Thank you for reading The Day 38 Club, we look forward to seeing who will join this elite group in the upcoming Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.