Survivor: Heroes v Healers v Hustlers

Historical Perspectives: How To Win Survivor And Influence Juries

Andy Pfeiffer travels back into Survivor history to look at how to win over a Survivor jury.

The one constant of Survivor is that, in the end, there is one winner, decided upon by those that were voted out before them. To win Survivor is to not only make it to Day 39 and allow the jury to render judgment upon you but to put people on that jury that will look upon your game favorably.

Today’s Historical Perspectives will examine the Final Tribal Council and how juries are influenced, both before and during the final speeches.


Juries vote for somebody they like. Period. End of story. If a jury member does not like you, you’re not getting their vote, so you shouldn’t try for it. Personality conflicts are normal in Survivor, and it’s very difficult to please everybody unless you’re sitting at the end with a goat and a sheep, the way winners such as Earl Cole, Boston Rob, John Cochran, and Adam Klein have done. Certain individuals have lost Survivor because they put people on the jury with a sour disposition toward them, and then did not get those votes despite expecting such. Others lost Survivor because, at no fault of their own, big babies made the jury phase of the game and that affected a fate they could not avoid.

The former category includes Russell Hantz, who in two seasons viciously attacked people, burned their belongings (though Queen Sandra would unknowingly give Jaison retribution), and boasted his godlike ego, yet still expected their votes. While Hantz is a shrewd strategist, he does not have social awareness nor does he recognize that the most significant thing juries factor into their vote is likability. He was strongly disliked because he was a bully.

Aubry Bracco is in the latter category, as she was unable to control a few certain individuals making the jury phase – individuals that would cut her off as a viable alliance option, then blame her for it. In these situations, there’s nothing you can do, especially when an unfair twist that significantly undermines the crux of Survivor – much like in HvHvH – taints the jury’s perspective. Michele was able to win since she had those social bonds with individual jurors, the same ones that had closed off Aubry, and because she was able to vote off Aubry’s biggest advocate from the jury in a twist that will hopefully never be repeated.


One individual that fits both categories is Boston Rob in All-Stars. While he burned Alicia and Big Tom in ways that would never earn their vote, he still should have won that season since Lex was bitter for no good reason. Boston Rob did to Lex the exact same thing that Lex had done to Ethan and Jerri in the two preceding votes, so why Lex did not respect his own strategy is mindboggling. Boston Rob was able to rectify that and win on his fourth try, in Redemption Island, by playing a dominant strategic game and making the end with one of the most abrasive, polarizing figures in Survivor history and an emotional nineteen-year-old in over her head. Because of his personality, Phillip Sheppard could never win Survivor, but it’s possible for Natalie Tenerelli to do what Boston Rob’s wife did in All-Stars and win by sneaking to the end. After all, every Natalie in Survivor history has made the final four.

Winners are simply more liked and respected than their losing counterpart(s). And no, Jeremy Collins and Adam Klein did not win because they delivered an emotional closing argument that brought light to their motivations. They won since their juries liked them and respected their games, and those revelations, along with the weaker cases of the others, helped the few waffling jurors (such as Chaos Kass and Jessica Lewis) make up their minds. Those moves led to unanimous wins. Killing your grandmother off in such a speech, however, will be frowned upon; you need the right reputation to be believed.


Much like Kaoh Rong, the precursor to the Final Tribal Council of HvHvH was an unfair twist that changed the end result. In Kaoh Rong, had Neal been at the FTC, he might’ve been able to convince somebody that Aubry had her pulse on the game better than Michele. Or, if that had been a straight-up immunity challenge, Aubry gets voted out on Day 38, and nobody complains that Michele beats Tai in a final two.


In HvHvH, Ben and Devon were given the opportunity to showcase their fire making skills. While it was the lack thereof that made nobody take Becky Lee seriously in Cook Islands and may have cost Carolyn Rivera in Worlds Apart, Ben acing fire in front of the jury was flashy and epic. Meanwhile, Chrissy taking Ryan blatantly due to his inability to make fire gave him the label of a goat. No matter how many lies he told at Final Tribal, he wasn’t getting votes from anyone but Devon. This twist was done to create a similarity to a Final Two in that the winner of the last immunity challenge would decide who they sat next to, allowing them to drag a goat along. This allowed Chrissy to select her goat, the bellhop who had been her wingman since Day 3 (thanks to the Super Idol MacGuffin).

Had they known about this twist pre-game, like they should have, and voted Ben out before he found idols like crazy, we have a strikingly different endgame. Had it not occurred or had Chrissy got to pick her goat without fire-making, Ben goes in a run-of-the-mill 3-1 vote to set up a Devon vs. Chrissy showdown. Instead of “earning a spot” via fire, they’d be earning jury votes at the FTC, which somebody articulate like Devon could have done. This twist should not recur after Ghost Island unless it’s a final two, which would allow one more chance to vote Ben out. It goes against the fundamentals of Survivor since it does not involve a vote. Surviving votes is the real way to “earn your spot.” Always has been.


Ben knew that flashy moves like Tony Vlachos throwing idols all over the place in Cagayan and Natalie Anderson completely owning the final five of San Juan Del Sur in front of the jury is a great way to get votes. He’d also witnessed Mike’s Statue of Liberty play firsthand and was able to learn from all the mistakes Mike made in his execution of that move. He took out Lauren by ensuring his one vote was the deciding factor, and he earned her respect (and her vote) by making it clear that he was doing so since she had played such a good game, which made her a threat.

The next Tribal Council, however, was more shades of Tony than the one before, when he set off his first Ben Bomb™. He pulled out his idol much like Malcolm and Tony had and made it clear he was going to play it as means to intimidate people to vote for somebody else. Having watched those two legends before him, he recognized that Malcolm’s bluff was called in Caramoan. Had Malcolm or Eddie played one idol preemptively, the confused Stealth R Us majority would have to decide who to split the vote between at Tribal Council. It would have been impossible to coordinate with everyone in earshot, as whoever the target would be (likely Andrea) would immediately defect, making it difficult to split the vote effectively. Ben’s move to play the idol preemptively was not only flashy, but it also set a new precedent that will no doubt recur in the future.


Devon’s Secret Spy plan was revolutionary, but how Ben pulled it off was every bit as influential. Had he not been such a good actor, the strategy would have gone down as “too risky.” Instead, with Ben fooling everyone, he made the plan viable for future players. Of course, it’s still a major risk, especially once castaways start trying to pick up tells that somebody might be a spy. This is bound to increase paranoia in the future. It can be compared to Richard Hatch creating the very concept of the alliance in Borneo, which laid the foundation for how Survivor was to be played (surviving the vote, not the elements), but that’s a disservice to Borneo. The Tagi Four will always be the most influential alliance ever because, without them, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Secret Spy Ben is not on that level. Nothing is.

Jonny Fairplay killing off his grandmother rewrote the book on how to lie on Survivor, influencing players like Chris Daugherty going forward. Ben’s lie will yet again rewrite how and when to put on an act on Survivor. His performance helped him win the game, though it would have been a far more epic showdown if he had to battle Devon in the finals.

Joe also threw Ben a softball to help Ben convince other jurors to vote his way. The “Half-Murphy” is essential modern Survivor and was before David Murphy directly addressed the Redemption Island jury with an epic argument as to why they’d be morons to not vote for Boston Rob to win. Erik Cardona had rallied for Natalie White in Samoa in a similar fashion. Before him, however, rallies were more subtle, and the jury questioning seemed more natural and genuine as opposed to theatrical. Because they improved the FTC format to quell theatrics, Joe egging Ben on felt more authentic, the way it should.


Third-place finisher Ryan committed several gaffes that ultimately contributed to his loss. He did not do much around camp to the point that it got Chrissy to take him to the end. Ryan lost because he was brought to the end by a better player. One good final two example is Tom Westman taking Katie Gallagher in Palau, though that was more due to Ian’s bizarre quit than anything. Katie, who did not do anything strategic and was not a welcome presence in camp, was subsequently dominated by Tom in a 6-1 jury vote. Danni Boatwright also got to choose her goat – Guatemala villain Stephenie LaGrossa, a bully who had burned over half the jury and made boneheaded decisions in voting out the most beatable people in Judd Sergeant and Cindy Hall. Brian Heidik, Jenna Morasca, and Chris Daugherty were the only other of the first twelve winners to win the Final Immunity Challenge and then the game.

In China, Todd Herzog won the game at the Final Tribal Council by delivering beautifully-crafted arguments that shut up loudmouth poker player Jean-Robert Bellande and convincing several Zhan Hu jurors that he was the strategic mastermind of the Fei Long alliance. By all means, he won the game at the FTC since over half the jury could not discern the difference between him, Amanda, and Courtney. The three of them were a dominant voting bloc that had functioned as a unit unwaveringly, despite Amanda’s yearn to blindside Todd – a recognition that he was her biggest competition.


Like Todd, Ryan Ulrich was a young, neurotic superfan overeager to achieve his longtime dream to play Survivor. However, nobody wanted to blindside Ryan because he was not the level of threat that Todd was ten years prior. How time flies. Ryan thought, like Todd, he could argue his way to a win at the FTC, but it didn’t work because his competitors had better arguments than an apologetic doe-eyed beauty queen and a sassy big-city waitress who was perceived to be dragged. Ryan instead faced the biggest threat in the game and a seasoned actuary who had merited a reputation as a badass.


Chrissy is a more unique case than Ryan, as based on her gameplay and the Final Tribal Council, she could have seriously taken the crown. She simply did not argue hard enough that she had more strategic control than Ben did and that, while he was finding idols, she was regaining the power she’d lost when the Rogue Knights took her pet out for a walk. She instead focused on her motherhood, which had little to do with the game.

A comparable case would be Tasha in Cambodia, who created an endgame deal with Jeremy and Spencer after the three of them had not been selected for the loved ones’ reward. Like Chrissy was at the mercy of the Rogue Knights until they self-destructed, Tasha was at the mercy of her own allies, a mercy that allowed her to eke to the end and get third place because she was unlikable. Several jurors have spoken unfavorable opinions toward Chrissy, which may have prompted Devon to align with her since he thought he could beat her like Jeremy did Tasha. Desi was the harshest toward Chrissy, but Cole called her overconfident, Joe likened her to Chaos Kass, and many claimed she did not discuss strategy with them. Several Healers did not like her nor know where her head was at.

Other castaways have compared Chrissy to Missy from SJDS with her constant mothering and condescension. While the edit only gave us a few glimpses of this, it was apparent to both Missy’s archenemy Dale and her ally Jeremy. It’s good to take their word for it since they played with her and would know better than anyone watching the 43-minute version.


But how did Chrissy manage to get second place with two votes, as opposed to third place and zero votes (or, in Missy’s case, only her daughter’s)? For starters, she won four immunities, which impressed Ashley, who valued the physical game above idol-finding. Tasha did not win a single individual immunity in Cambodia after winning three in Cagayan and Missy did not win any, though she did not have as many opportunities due to a significant ankle injury. This would not have changed any minds on those juries, as Natalie Anderson was running the table without winning immunities and Jeremy dropped the bombshell “It’s a boy” to sway a couple of votes from runner-up Spencer. Chrissy also was more likable to her jury as a whole, even though three Healers weren’t fond of her.

Chrissy won those challenges but being invulnerable only saved her butt the first time. While Chrissy casually won three more immunities, Ben had to dig for treasure three times, each keeping his torch lit. Ben was also more akin to Natalie Anderson with his Tribal Council theatrics, which impressed jurors like Joe and merited those votes. Chrissy had to argue that she had more strategic control – she failed.



Ben won because he made the most of all the benefits production – and Joe – gave him. An idol at final five (that, given the final twist, should not have been hidden) and an unfairly secretive format change granted him the ability to make the finals without winning immunity. Had these not happened, he would have been voted out earlier in the finale. Had Joe not prodded him on, some of those swing votes might’ve fallen elsewhere. However, this Final Tribal Council was not gripping television, and it was hard to discern who was undecided. In short, Ben was lucky, but he used that luck to great effect.

Had Devon not had the paranoia and awareness that got him to vote for Dr. Mike, Ben would have gotten out his biggest competitor at five. Ben kept secrets from everyone else while his competition was open about every piece of information they had, which allowed him to utilize his idols to maximum effect. Meanwhile, Chrissy did not recognize that jurors need strategic awareness, which, like with Hannah in Millennials vs. Gen X, they had none with her. While she would have been a deserving winner also, she ultimately lost by not bonding strategically with jurors. Despite his social game, Ryan was seen as a tag-along who never had the level of strategic influence of Ben or Chrissy and was brought outright as a goat because he did not know how to use a flint.

Did the jury make the right decision? Yes. All but two juries in Survivor history have in my opinion. While Ben might not have merited making the final three, he was an underdog largely in control of his destiny. Ben is a deserving winner, and though many people will say that is untrue due to conspiracy theories, he earned it by working tirelessly and keeping secrets. Despite the luck, he earned it.

Historical Perspectives will see you soon for Survivor: Ghost Island. Thanks for reading!

Written by

Andy Pfeiffer

Andy is a 30-year-old from Wisconsin, having an English major from UW-Whitewater. He has watched Survivor from the very first episode and can't go a day without running Survivor-related thoughts in his head. When he's not entranced by a computer at home or work, he's probably playing a video game or out and about somewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @IAmAndyPfeiffer.

22 responses to “Historical Perspectives: How To Win Survivor And Influence Juries”

    • I think if you do that and still get to F3, the jury looks at you as a coward who can’t make a decision. Is the option to give immunity away even still a thing? Nobody has done it in years, to my recollection.

      • Giving the necklace away at F4 means doing the fire challenge yourself. What would happen had Chrissy giving the necklace to Ryan and then beat Ben at fire making?

    • Probably All-Stars and Kaoh Rong. Even though I actually adore Amber, Rob should’ve won All-Stars (then maybe we wouldn’t have been subjected to Redemption Island). Lex crying about what Rob did to him was bull after he did the same thing to Jerri and Ethan at the last two tribals, and Shii Ann calling him on it during the finale was amazing.

      Kaoh Rong had the stupid “vote off a juror” twist, and two of the worst people to ever make a jury on it.

      • Steven is correct. I thought I explained myself in the article. All-Stars should’ve been Rob’s by a 4-3 vote, since Lex should have voted for him (Rob did not deserve Big Tom or Alicia’s vote, but could not have gotten rid of them before jury to prevent how he burned them affecting them so hard). Kaoh Rong should’ve been Aubry’s solely because there were three people only sour for having been voted out and couldn’t stop seeing red. Their judgment was affected in all the wrong ways because of how nasty they were.

        I happen to like Amber and Michele a lot as people. But neither deserved to win their season.

        • Yes, they did. Their names were on the winning jury votes, fair and square; therefore, they deserved to win their season. THAT IS ALL THAT COUNTS.

          You didn’t get the votes? The jury still seeing red? The jury is sour? Too damn bad. The jury exists. Get out there and win their votes.

    • Yes, I second this! You wrote an excellent piece, Andy. You can’t drop an interesting opinion like that and not explain.

  1. I definitely agree with what you said. While I do think that Ben got very lucky with the twists, and he almost definitely should not have made the final 3, he still made the final 3 and he played good enough to deserve the jury’s votes.

  2. I think what ryan should have do is fighting his way to the top three by suggesting a fire making challenge for all of them except Chrissy, so he would not be marked as a goat and show that he really want to win.

    (sorry for bad english – Fan of Survivor from Indonesia)

  3. No twist is unfair. You either conform or you’re dog toast (just ask Cirie).

    And “bitter for no good reason”? Hello, Lex was on the jury, he has the right to be as bitter as he can possibly muster.

    • Thanks for the laughs. I enjoy a dumb comment every now and then.

      One, Lex was therefore bitter at himself, because he had his own strategy done to him. It’s inexcusable to be bitter toward someone who used your move.

      Two, twists CAN be unfair. The Outcasts twist, for instance, was unannounced and screwed Andrew Savage because he could not possibly have had the foresight to not tell Lill he’d protect her. Because he told her that he would and then voted her out, he was unfairly screwed. As far as he was concerned, he was never going to play Survivor with her again once her torch was snuffed. How is that fair in any way? And how was that they didn’t know Ben would have this opportunity fair in any shape or form? It isn’t. Let me try to explain this in a way you’ll understand… if you don’t know the rules of the game you’re playing, how is it fair at all?

      Three, big babies can be voted out before jury, but Aubry didn’t have the opportunity to remove them. They were only bitter for having been voted out. What, she should have lost the game by keeping them in? That makes no sense.

      • While the Outcast twist was entirely unfair, I agree, would the game really have been better with Osten and Shawn at merge instead of Burton and Lill? People bash the Outcast twist all the time, but PI is considered one of, if not the best season there is. Burton was ASTRONOMICALLY better than Shawn, and Lill was more entertaining to me than Osten ever would’ve been. Yes, I liked Lill (unpopular opinion I’m sure.)

        • Burton and Lill were better characters than Osten and Shawn by far. There’s no argument of that. Neither Osten nor Shawn was entertaining or overly likable. While I didn’t particularly like Lill, she was a complex character even if she’s one of the worst runner-ups ever. Queen Sandra could’ve beaten her 7-0 if not for flubbing Tijuana’s question so badly.

          The Outcast twist, however, was one of the most unfair things the show has ever done. There was no way Savage could’ve gotten out of that because it was like… a poker game where everyone is told after the flop “Okay, pass your cards to the person on your left.” It was changing the rules in the middle of the game. The original tribe swap did NOT change the rules, it just changed the tribes and expedited what was inevitable. If Silas had been a good player, he’d have been able to get out of that.

          This F4 twist in HHH would not have been unfair if they’d known about it in advance. There was no way they could have prepared for it. They were not told a rule that was dropped upon them as a surprise, so there was ZERO room to adjust their games for it. Sounds like how John Mayer dates women…

          • While I agree that the Outcast twist was unfair, the arguments that you’re giving don’t make that much sense.
            How can you say that the original tribe swap was not unfair? Silas not handling it well doesn’t affect the fairness of it. The same thing can be said about Savage – if he was a good player, he would’ve been able to get himself out of that.

            Survivor is a TV show, and we all like the various elements of surprise, but if you’re going so far to call a certain twist unfair, you have to realise that most, if not all of them, are in the same boat. Each twist is changing the rules, unbeknownst to the players (excluding only RI and EI).

          • The original tribe swap was fair since it just reshuffled the deck and gave everybody a new hand and good players could get out of it. The thing that was not fair was the tiebreaker being previous votes, because Lindsey had no hope for that very reason. There’s a reason that was changed for Marquesas. It screwed Varner all the same, thanks to Kimmi’s motor mouth. I don’t think production expected people to be so blabbermouthed about who got votes, but doing so can be very strategic.

            Again, if there was no swap, Silas was 100% going to be the merge boot barring him winning immunity. He was a bad player. The swap was a fair way to screw him for his horrific social game. He could have gotten out of that if he’d cultivated any kind of relationship with Frank and T-Bird. The swap really only screwed over Silas and Lindsey, but the latter was more damned by the prior votes thing and was a necessary sacrifice to get rid of that.

            Savage had no hope to get out of the Outcast Twist. There’s no feeling that gets you seeking vengeance more than being voted out does. He could not work with Lill at all going forward in the game and, since she was immune, couldn’t team up with Drake to vote her out. This immunity allowed her to partner with Drake instead and, since she insisted the target be Savage, they were like “Yeah, okay.” because you have to give the swing vote that power if you want to flip them. I’m interested to hear your theory on how Savage could’ve gotten out of that. As far as I see it, no player, not even Kim Spradlin, could have gotten out of that.

            There were some twists that were completely fair. Exile and Redemption being two of them. The swap has always been fair, except in Fiji (but the unfair twist was the Haves vs. Have Nots, not the swap) and China (when it was steal two people you want to screw over). Surprise second switches like in All-Stars or Gabon are good curveballs. The Hidden Immunity Idol is their best twist ever to the point that it’s no longer a twist – it’s a core part of the game that will be in every single season from here on out except maybe for one where there’s a no idol twist. I like the extra vote twist, but only when it’s easy to follow.

            Other bad twists include the aforementioned Fiji twist, the poorly implemented MaGuffin of Power in Nicaragua (good idea, terrible execution – should have had a two-challenge limit), having a veteran lead each tribe of newbies, Redemption after the merge (leads to Pagongings because of no rewards), the vote-out-a-juror twist that undermines the core of the game (the people you vote out hold you accountable for your actions), and now the HHH forced fire-making.

            The problem with the forced fire-making is that, because of immunities, they never got a chance to vote Ben out (they could have if this twist were done with an F2). It would have been totally fair if Chrissy simply got to pick one person to join her in the finals as reward for winning the final immunity, then they voted between the other two. That’s a good twist. Forcing the other two to go to firemaking without informing the cast before the game is not because it changes the endgame structure. Chrissy got a raw deal because, once it happened, there was nothing she could have done to recover.

            I get that Survivor is a TV show and that our entertainment comes first, but the game needs to be fair for it to be fun. Like… I don’t watch the NFL anymore because it’s all staged to be unfair. HHH kind of felt that way.

      • I wasn’t being funny. I was being dead serious here.

        > if you don’t know the rules of the game you’re playing, how is it fair at all?

        After 35 seasons, you haven’t learned to expect the unexpected?

        There are two rules: last long enough to be one of the final two or three, as per the season’s end game, and win the minimum required quantity of jury votes so that it exceeds those of the other person. In short: this one jury, this one opposition, this one night.

        On Survivor, all is fair in love and war. Either you conform on a dime, or your torch goes out. Simple as that.

  4. > Others lost Survivor because, at no fault of their own, big babies made
    the jury phase of the game and that affected a fate they could not

    Uh, wut?

  5. Typical butthurt columnist.

    > This twist was unfair because there was no room for anyone to conform to it. It happened so late in the game that once Ben won that fire-off, it was over. There was nothing they could do about it. And yet, you think it’s fair. How in any way is that possible?

    Did they not watch past seasons? Did they not learn to anticipate rude surprises? Did they not stop to think about the fact that the host plays favorites and makes little secret about whom they are? Welcome to Survivor.

    > The vote-out-a-juror twist was unfair because it’s exactly as you said: You need to get to the end with jury votes. How taking away one of those votes is fair is inexplicable, unless you’d like to contradict yourself.

    Figure out the jury. If there’s someone who’s likely to stand up against one of your supporters, vote him out so that your supporter has an unobstructed path. Nothing unfair about that.

    > Many twists are unfair because certain people cannot feasibly adapt.

    No twist is unfair. You either conform on a dime or you go home. Can’t adapt on the spot, that’s on you.

    > Fair twists are ones where people can adjust their games accordingly. That includes swaps (though Queen Sandra WAS unfairly screwed, but by her prior reputation), idols, Redemption (even though that sucks), Exile, extra votes, and no revotes. It’s not impossible to have a fair twist.

    Everything is a fair twist. They let us know exactly what each contestant is made of. If you can’t adjust your game accordingly, it makes you a failure.

    So what about Sandra? I didn’t hear her complain about being screwed.

    > And jurors that see red and act like babies just because you didn’t fall on the sword in their plan should never be cast on Survivor.

    Ever thought about changing the channel? Because this is part of the deal. If you have a problem with how they do things, maybe you should start watching Barney.

    >How would you like it if somebody told you that you were worthless, then that same person refused to give you their jury vote because YOU didn’t bond with THEM?

    That means I did my job incorrectly. It means I treated “that same person” poorly on the way up. It means I didn’t deserve their vote. He was the juror speaking and voting. If the other person gets that vote, I have no one to blame but myself.

  6. We want to believe Survivor is chess but really it’s Mario Cart. An
    element of randomness is added so that powerful players can’t just wipe
    the floor with their opponents. The key to making the game feel
    legitimate is to strike a very careful balance in implementing the
    randomness. It has always been present but this time it felt so
    gratuitous as to be game breaking and led to a player winning who had
    been bested in every aspect of the game that relied on personal skill.(save fire making, of course)
    In a legitimate game luck cannot be allowed to triumph so completely
    over skill. That’s why Mario Cart is not an E-sport and why there’s not a
    huge industry dedicated to betting on Survivor.

    Another problem is that they allowed players to shape their games based
    on false assumptions. The fire making twist would have been fine if the
    players knew about it in advance but springing it on them at the last
    minute amounts to a lie. It’s hard to take seriously a game where any
    rule, even fundamental rules, can be changed at any time without notice.
    It might be fine for the lite entertainment of a television show but
    people are encouraged to take Survivor seriously as a game, as though it
    were as legitimate as chess or boxing, but it just isn’t so. In the
    past they’ve done a better job of concealing it but this time it was so
    glaring as to be unmistakable.

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