The Struggle of Female Finalists (Part 2)

Inside Survivor contributor Derek Beets continues to look at the different perceptions of female Survivor finalists.

In this multi-part feature, we are looking at the instances in which women have lost against men at the Final Tribal Council and why it happened. In looking at the data, it becomes apparent that people lose Survivor if the jury finds them either UNDESERVING, UNLIKABLE, UNTRUSTWORTHY, or they are UNDERAPPRECIATED because the jury didn’t see all of the moves that they were making. I will be grouping the finalists into the “U” that I think they more accurately represent.

In Part 1 we looked at the Undeserving, this week we take a look at the…


The next most common category for an unsuccessful finalist, after Undeserving, is their personal connection, or lack thereof, with the jury members. Usually, a finalist that is deemed unlikable is brought to the finals because their competition is aware of how the jurors view them, and therefore, believes them easy to beat. Or a finalist has become unlikable through the duplicitous or unkind things they have done or said throughout the game.


Twila Tanner fits that first description. In Survivor: Vanuatu, eventual winner Chris Daugherty brought her to the Final Tribal Council solely because he knew that she had angered several jurors and knew he would have an easier time beating her than Scout Cloud-Lee or Eliza Orlins. It also didn’t help that Twila was a bit of a hot head. Any slight provocation and she would go off. She was able to garner two votes in the end, but this was after she endured the ramifications of swearing on her son’s life that she wouldn’t vote someone out and then proceeded to do so.

Both Chris and Twila broke promises and lied throughout the game but the jury held Twila more accountable, and a large part of that was because of her swearing on her son’s life. The mother role, which we talked about in Part 1, probably played a part here – the jury couldn’t accept Twila as a lying schemer as easily as they could her male counterpart.


It pains me to put Courtney Yates in this category because I think she’s awesome and I would be her ally any day, but she falls under this bracket mostly because of the second description (“become unlikeable through unkind things they have done or said throughout the game”). While she was not overtly villainous and didn’t go around making trouble just to make trouble, she was snarky and sarcastic, characteristics that are quite polarizing. Her alliance with Todd Herzog and Amanda Kimmel in Survivor: China was stable enough that they all shared the same amount of blame by the time they reached the final tribal council.

What’s different about Courtney is that not every juror enjoyed her personality as much as some others. She had prominent personality clashes with Jean-Robert Bellande and other members of the jury, but she finished the season as the runner-up, something that shocked most fans of the show. What Courtney had going for her was that she was blunt and honest in her answers at the final tribal council, just as she had been candid and honest throughout the game. Her honesty was something the jury appreciated, and these characteristics won her two votes. If you remove Todd from the situation, Courtney wins easily against the bumbling, incoherent mess that was Amanda, but Todd’s exemplary final tribal council performance secured him the win.


Watching Survivor: Gabon, you see the journey of Jessica “Sugar” Kiper. Like her fellow Gabon finalist, Susie Smith, Sugar is unique in that while we saw her playing a strong game, the rest of the players saw something different. I would even be willing to put Sugar in the underappreciated category, but I have to go with how the jury regarded her, and Gabon’s jurors were particularly brutal. Sugar was a triple threat when it came to why she lost her season. The jurors did not trust her because of how many times she had flip-flopped between alliances, they didn’t particularly think she deserved to be there because of her wishy-washy actions, and the majority of them (specifically the Kota jury members) didn’t like her. Given that the majority of the jurors were Kota members, and she had betrayed the others in some form, this puts Sugar in the unlikeable category.

Her performance at the final tribal council also left a lot to be desired and further sunk any chances that she had to win votes. So while it may have been surprising at first that Susie was the one to garner the rest of the votes and not Sugar, on a re-watch, you can see just where Sugar went wrong.


One of the biggest personality transformations of a contestant between seasons is Tasha Fox’s transformation between Survivor: Cagayan and Survivor: Cambodia. Remembered as the plucky underdog in Cagayan, Tasha was intelligent and strong, and though she missed out on the endgame that season, she returned for her second chance in Cambodia. Out of the gate, Tasha returned with a new focus: reach the end and win at any cost. Tasha had a solid alliance and controlled multiple votes throughout the game (particularly while on Angkor), but unfortunately for her, the perception her fellow players had was not positive. They saw her as arrogant and someone unable to put her past personal grievances in check along the way.

She refused to work with Jeff Varner in any way and made a spectacle of herself when she saw him exchanging information with another tribe. An ugly rivalry with Kass McQuillen culminated in a very open camp argument, and even after the elimination of Kass, the other castaway’s perception of Tasha was tarnished, and Kass was able to campaign against her at Ponderosa. Working closely with eventual winner Jeremy Collins and former Cagayan alliance member Spencer Bledsoe, she accomplished her goal of reaching the end. Along the way, Jeremy was able to get Tasha (and Spencer) to do many duplicitous things to keep his hands from getting dirty; something that would come back to haunt both of them at Final Tribal Council when Jeremy won unanimously and the jurors virtually ignored Tasha.

In Part 3 we will look at those in the Untrustworthy category.


Photo Credit: jeffgunn via Compfight cc

Derek Beets is a 29-year-old middle school reading teacher and writer. He's been following Survivor since the first season and has been officially obsessed since 2004. He is currently working on his first novel.