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 taken away at the very last moment. That person becomes ingrained in their respective season as the final recipient of “The Tribe Has Spoken” and earns a place in a very special group in Survivor history: The Day 38 Club.
Inside Survivor contributor Ian Walker continues the countdown of the updated and revised Day 38 Club rankings. The list takes into account the strength of a player’s game, character, and the power of their story.
Get exclusive content and features by supporting Inside Survivor on Patreon.
No. 3 – Jonny Fairplay (Pearl Islands)
When Jonny Fairplay set foot on the beach in Survivor: Pearl Islands, he had big plans. Sure, he wanted to win, but he 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, 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 the history of the show and changed the game because of it.
Building off of Rob Cesternino’s strategic 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 Survivor legends, 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.
Fairplay knew he couldn’t let Rupert anywhere near the end-game. Soon after the merge, Fairplay took his shot, 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 perhaps the most iconic moment in the show’s history. Never before had somebody thought to bring something that was outside of the game, like family, and turn it into something with strategic value. 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 Fairplay the ultimate Survivor scoundrel, something that couldn’t make him happier. This is the guy that reveled in showing up drunk to Tribal Council, cussed people out in voting confessionals, and engaged in all sorts of deviousness. And that glee in being the villain, more than anything else, is the most enduring part of Fairplay’s legacy.
Fairplay was 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 snatch the million, he ended his 38 days by earning a title just as sweet as Sole Survivor, the Greatest Reality TV Villain of all time.
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.