During the pre-season, each contestant is asked several questions in their CBS bio to gather more information for the public to get to know them. The castaways are all primarily asked about their hobbies, pet peeves, accomplishments, why they think they will win Survivor, and which past Survivor players they’re most like. It’s that last question that is the focus of this new weekly feature.
After each player is voted out, I will compare their gameplay to the past Survivor player they mentioned they were most likely to play like. Then, based on that, see if they played like that particular past player, or if they didn’t, could that have helped them improve their overall placement in the game.
This week’s boot, Nneka Ejere, said the Survivor(s) she would play the game most like is Cirie Fields.
Which past Survivor will you play the game most like? Cirie, because I love to connect and do so easily. I will play hard without seeming to on the surface.
For a third consecutive week, a woman was voted out of Survivor, which was disappointing, to say the least. Having said this, it was unsurprising that Nneka was the third boot, as she was barely on screen throughout the first three episodes. Not everything can be shown due to time constraints, though with six people on each tribe, there is a fair chance to get to know the players better, as opposed to when there are only two tribes with eight or ten members. I have to be honest. I struggled to remember Nneka and her game highlights, though her short journey on Survivor is still worth going back to.
She started the game at the Vesi tribe, which won the season’s first reward challenge. Nneka positioned herself well within her tribe, as she had a tight bond with Cody and Jesse. Unlike the Coco and Baka tribes, where there were possibilities of all-women alliances, the Vesi tribe was divided, with Dwight aligning himself with the tight duo of Justine and Noelle. A common factor that united Nneka, Cody, and Jesse was their mutual distrust of Justine and her potential to become a threat.
Nneka’s perspective was never truly fleshed out, as Jesse and Cody have been, so far, Vesi’s main narrators. However, her agency was seen when she discussed her ability to form bonds with “easy-going guys” as it was part of her daily life back home. Vesi then won the first immunity challenge providing safety for Nneka and her tribemates. However, this was where Vesi’s winning streak quickly dwindled.
In the second episode, we saw how Jesse had placed himself in the middle for the control of Vesi, as he kept trying to convince Dwight to work with him and decide which pair they wanted to side with: Cody & Nneka or Justine & Noelle. Vesi lost the next immunity challenge, where Nneka physically struggled to contribute and then fumbled on the puzzle, which placed her in danger. Her ally Cody found the beware advantage where he was at risk of losing his vote, though, with Nneka’s help, he gathered his tribemates’ bag beads and formed an idol bracelet. Nneka, Cody, and Jesse promptly voted out Justine.
Nneka continued to establish connections with her tribe, particularly Dwight and Noelle. Nneka shared her motivations to be in the game with them and explained that even though she’s been having difficulty adjusting to her surroundings, her mindset changed once she realized she’s on Survivor. Nneka once again grappled with the puzzle at the third immunity challenge alongside Jesse, costing the tribe another win. Continuing with the “keeping the tribe strong” strategy that has hijacked this season so far, Cody and Jesse considered voting out Nneka for underperforming at challenges, with Noelle and Dwight also setting their sights on her for this reason.
With Noelle’s trip to the Summit and potentially having an advantage, Nneka’s chances of staying kept decreasing by the second. However, Nneka still thought her odds of prevailing were in her favour, as she even told Jeff Probst she was “nine and a half” sure she knew where the vote was going, which turned out to be dead wrong as she was then unanimously voted out.
Nneka chose her past Survivor player to play the game most like as the one and only Cirie Fields. Though technically not a winner, Cirie demonstrated throughout her four seasons that a player doesn’t need to win to become a Survivor legend. Her charm, wit, unmatched social game, and determination cemented her legacy within the franchise. Even though she first played back in Panama in 2006, Cirie’s game is still considered one of the best of all-time.
Shaping one’s game after a legend is tricky, as Cirie’s strategic and social game functioned primarily based on her being Cirie. It can be said, however, that Nneka did establish an alliance fairly quickly, proved herself to be a loyal person, and continuously worked her social game with the other people outside her alliance, similarly to how Cirie operated throughout her seasons. Neither was a standout physical player, though Cirie excelled in her social and strategic games and paved a new way to play Survivor.
Though Nneka’s gameplay won’t be remembered as well as Cirie’s, she did work with what she had. Cirie had the rare ability to form alliances with people and connect with them personally, which furthered her game as many wanted to play alongside her, knowing fully well how lethal of a player she could be as the game progressed. It is a unique balance that not many players can manage, and had Nneka been working with Noelle on the side, or even Dwight, to gather the votes in her favour, perhaps Nneka would’ve been able to survive at least another round in the game.
- Survivor 43
- Original tribe(s): Vesi tribe
- Placement: 16/18
- Survivor: Panama, Survivor: Micronesia, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Survivor: Game Changers
- Original tribe(s): Panama (Casaya, Gitanos); Micronesia (Malakal, Dabu); HvV (Heroes); Game Changers (Nuku, Tavua, Mana, Maku Maku)
- Placement(s): 4/16, 3/20, 17/20, 6/20
Similarities: Both had alliances with half or most of the players within their tribes; neither was a physical threat; both pulled off blindsides alongside their allies (Nneka was part of Justine’s blindside; Cirie was part of several blindsides, including Courtney Marit, in Panama). Both were blindsided at their eliminations and were voted out pre-merge (Nneka in Survivor 43, Cirie in Heroes vs. Villains).
Differences: Cirie reached the jury phase (Panama, Micronesia, Game Changers), whereas Nneka was voted out pre-merge. Cirie was part of the Black Widow Brigade, an all-women alliance (Micronesia) while Nneka worked with the men of her tribe. Cirie was highly regarded for mostly having her finger on the pulse of the game, whereas Nneka miscalculated how safe she was and therefore missed her chance to play her “Shot in the Dark.”