In celebration of Survivor’s 20th anniversary, over the next couple of months, Inside Survivor is publishing a series of articles looking back at the show’s history, best moments, and most memorable characters.
The voting confessional is responsible for some of the best TV moments in Survivor. Some episodes we don’t see them at all; other times, they pack a punch. A good voting confessional is sharp, clever, unique, and funny. A lot of voting confessionals are good for similar reasons, making them really hard to rank!
While some voting confessionals are strong on their own, others really stand out when juxtaposed with a different confessional. This list represents that, with some of the entries being a single vote while others are a series of related confessionals. I also got these confessionals from the show, not any behind the scenes confessionals.
20. Edna (South Pacific)
Brandon Hantz’s story on Survivor is certainly an interesting one. While his stint in Caramoan was uncomfortable at best, his time on South Pacific was quite compelling. Edna does a fantastic job of summing up his story, casting the sole vote for Brandon that night on her way out the door. Her quip is biting without going out of the way to be mean. Edna is great at delivering polite takedowns.
Edna: “Brandon, I know you came out here to cleanse your family name. You’re not doing a very good job of it; I’m sorry.”
19. Hannah (Millennials vs. Gen-X)
Hear me out, I know this isn’t technically a voting confessional because Hannah has not cast her vote when she says this. But Hannah is in the voting booth, she is talking through her voting thought process, and it’s hilarious, so I’m counting it! Hannah takes way too long to decide who to vote for at her first Tribal of the season, leading to Probst’s head sliding into the background as he checks on her.
Hannah: “Okay, if they’re getting me to throw my vote and I have to prove my trust. I don’t understand how the vote changed this quickly. Zeke, Mari, Michaela. Wait, Mari, Mari… *sighs* I don’t understand what’s going on. Oh my god… oh my god… okay.”
18. Spencer (Cagayan)
Short and sweet, this voting confessional does a perfect job of framing and introducing Spencer’s character in Cagayan. He’s snarky, intelligent, and a bit arrogant. J’Tia has a very memorable story that has her at odds with Spencer from the beginning.
Spencer: “The fact that you’re a nuclear engineer is genuinely, genuinely scary.”
17. Cochran (Caramoan)
While Cochran gets a lot of flack from some Survivor fans, I think he is a fantastic confessionalist. He knows how to express his thoughts while sprinkling in the right amount of wit. Malcolm evaded him at the “Three Amigos” Tribal, and Cochran’s desire to vote him out this time is palpable through the screen.
Cochran: “I really hope you don’t have that idol because voting you off would just be so delicious. It would be indescribably delicious. It would just be *chef’s kiss*.”
16. Aubry (Kaoh Rong)
A callback to a moment earlier in the season, when Aubry crossed out Julia’s name to eliminate Pete. Aubry is such a complex character, who has a range of emotions shown over the season. We see her at her lowest and at her best. This moment demonstrates just how cold Aubry can be.
Aubry: “I’m sorry, I’m not crossing it out this time.”
15. Natalie (David vs. Goliath)
Natalie Cole is the pre-merge of David vs. Goliath. She elevates every scene she’s in, and this voting confessional is a perfect example. Napalm will forever belong to Natalie Cole in the world of Survivor. One of the best parts about this voting confessional is that she ends it with a compliment, she doesn’t want her Napalm to sting too bad.
Natalie: “You talk that brother-sister love stuff, and you show me no love. So, that stinging sensation that you feel in your eyes right now, that’s the Natalie Napalm. Get off of my island. By the way, your skin is gorgeous, darling.”
14. Kelly and Lex (Africa)
After Lex went on a rampage trying to figure out who voted for him, there was an even bigger rift in his relationship with Kelly. These reflected confessionals are so interesting to hear, especially with the context of the season. Lex was sort of wrong about Kelly, but Kelly ultimately got her wish granted.
Lex: “Kelly, if I’m wrong about you, then I apologize, but I smell a rat, and my gut tells me that you’re playing both sides. If that’s the case, then good riddance.”
Kelly: “When it’s me, you’ll know it. I couldn’t be more excited to be casting this vote. I never wanted you to win, and now I hope you won’t. If this is the last vote I cast, then at least I got to vote for you, who I’ve always found not fun to be around.”
13. Sean (Marquesas)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Sean Rector should have been on All-Stars. He was the highlight of Marquesas, and this confessional from the John Carroll boot epitomizes why. Watching him relish in voting for John is just phenomenal. Sean serves John a nice plate of humble pie.
Sean: “Checkmate bruh, you thought you had me. I’ll tell ya, anytime you go to Vegas, bet on black. We definitely gonna have chicken and waffles when this whole thing is done.”
12. Ami and Eliza (Vanuatu)
This is the only group of confessionals that aren’t directly related to each other besides being from the same season. In my opinion, Vanuatu is underrated, especially the cast. Two queer women being on the same tribe is exceptionally unique for Survivor. Ami and Scout are edited to be more than just tokens for the show, and their relationship is extremely dynamic. Eliza and Twila also had a fascinating relationship for entirely different reasons, mostly because of how bombastic it was. They fought all season, with Twila finally getting the best of Eliza. But not without Eliza getting in one last jab.
Ami: “Well Scout, you’re pretty good at hiding your nasty side, but, when your true colors come out, they’re not part of any rainbow that I’ve ever seen.”
Eliza: “Twila, I am voting for you for the third time this game. You’re like the cockroach that won’t die under your refrigerator. Hopefully, you’re going home tonight.”
11. Penner (Philippines)
One of the last moments we have gotten from Penner on Survivor is one of the best. When he turns around and shouts Denise’s name, I crack up every time. Viewers are so used to the whispered or quiet voting confessional, that Penner shouting is a standout moment. Penner cements himself as a legendary Survivor character on his way out the door.
10. Greg (Borneo)
Greg’s sense of humor is certainly strange, but it’s also endearing. He made America fall in love with him back in Borneo with his quirky sense of humor. This vote is just a perfect example of what made Greg a stand out. He understood that he was on television and did everything he could to take advantage of it.
Greg: “First time for paranoia, second time for irritation, and third time because my ear infection is clearing up.”
9. Sandra (Heroes vs. Villains)
Here is some excellent foreshadowing and a hilarious character moment for our Queen. Sandra’s friendship with Rupert is fascinating and demonstrates why she is so successful in Survivor. Their strong relationship from Pearl Islands carries over to Heroes vs. Villains, and Sandra knows how to leverage that properly. She is masterful at controlling her target level and maintaining good relationships with the people she votes out, and obviously, her read here was correct.
Sandra: “I’ll write your name again, and if I’m up there in the Final 3, you’ll still give me the million-dollar vote.”
8. Courtney (China)
Courtney is mean, there’s no denying that, but she’s also insanely funny. I could listen to Courtney complain about Jean Robert in China for hours, and she would keep me laughing. She will rip you to shreds with her words, all while making everyone else laugh, and it’s fantastic. Courtney pops on TV because she talks with a lot of conviction and clues the audience into her real thoughts.
Courtney: “I am voting for you because when you snore at night time, it sounds like someone is choking a walrus.”
7. Fairplay (Pearl Islands)
In a sea of WWE wrestler quotes, this is Fairplay’s best work. The relationship between Fairplay and Shawn is heated, and it peaks at this moment. It is so funny because it is so unexpected and so crass that it seems to come out of nowhere. It’s like Fairplay can’t wait for Shawn to go home as he delivers his line and shoves the parchment in the urn.
Fairplay: “F*ck You!”
6. Dom and Wendell (Ghost Island)
While Dom’s Penneresque shout to Chris Noble is funny on its own, this moment really belongs to the other half of this memorable duo. Wendell’s confessional is great because it’s so long! In modern Survivor, we get fewer voting confessionals in general, so the length of Wendell’s confessional really makes it stand out. Wendell is hilarious here, and just when you think the confessional is going to end, he has something else to add on. I’m grateful that this wasn’t cut from the edit, it’s one of my favorite Wendell moments.
Dom: “Chris Noble! It’s been a pleasure serving you coffee for 22 days. See you on the other side, brother.”
Wendell: “We won a lot together—respect for that. But socially, you don’t know what you’re doing. I hope you stop saying “I” so much. I hope you start listening to people. Oh yeah, and finally, somebody had to say it. I’ll say it. Stop rapping; you’re trash… at rapping. You’re garbage at rapping. You can’t rap, you’ve got no bars. Put the mic down bro, put the pen down bro. Use an eraser.”
5. Coach (Tocantins)
The moment that solidified Coach as an all-time great Survivor character. Dragons and Dragonslayers have become ingrained in Survivor lore because of this moment; it kicks off the merge of Tocantins and the wackiness that is Coach. A historic event that earned it’s spot on this list.
Coach: “The ancient samurai used to say that if you wanted to win the war, you had to cut off the head of the dragon. You, my friend, are the dragon, and I am the dragonslayer.”
4. Alicia and Rob (All-Stars)
The dichotomy of Rob and Alicia’s confessionals here is very interesting. Both of them are holding a grudge and use it to justify hurting the other one. Rob’s confessional is very entertaining, while Alicia’s is a nice cap to their story arc. In general, these confessionals do a good job of summing up Rob’s story on All-Stars.
Rob: “Remember the little fight we had on day three, where I zipped my lip. I’ve been waiting to do this for 27 days. So, au revoir, adios, arrivederci, sayonara, or as we say in Boston, see ya later.”
Alicia: “Rob, do you remember back in the middle of the game, when you and I shook hands, looked each other in the eye, and I promised you that I would never write your name down? I’m a woman of my word.”
3. Crystal, Randy, and Sugar (Gabon)
The fact that all three of these occur in the same Tribal Council is one of the reasons why Gabon will always be one of the wildest seasons. There was so much tension amongst the cast, and a lot of it came bubbling to the surface when Randy was voted off. I’m not sure whose confessional is more memorable, Sugar’s list of hateful words for Randy, Randy’s personal vote towards Susie, or Crystal yelling at a “mystery” person.
Sugar: “You are a disgusting, old, hot-headed, chauvinistic, alcoholic, bigot, and you need to grow up before you die alone… Loser!”
Randy: “This vote is not strategic, it’s strictly personal.”
Crystal: “You have made my life hell from day one! Forget you, go home, goodbye!
2. Deena and Rob (The Amazon)
Rob Cesternino is one of the best confessionalists Survivor has ever seen. When he joins the group that votes out Roger, the post-merge of the Amazon is put into motion. Rob’s impression of Casey Kasem is so funny, and the song just tops it off. It’s a villainous moment for Rob, and he loves it. His comfortable demeanor hints to his comfortable position in the game, his tragic downfall not yet looming. Deena’s voting confessional here is also great. She’s deliberate, strong, and a little vengeful, all components that make an extremely compelling Survivor player. Deena is one the best Survivor characters, bring her back for Second Chance 2!
Deena: “Reality check, and mate. Never underestimate the power of a woman.”
Rob: Here comes tonight’s long-distance dedication. It goes out to Rob, from New York. He writes, “Dear Casey, there’s a mean old man in my life that’s about to leave. Could you please play something appropriate for me.” Well, Rob, here’s your request. “Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey, hey, hey… Goodbye.”
1. The Black Widow Brigade (Micronesia)
While Erik’s moment with the immunity necklace has been played on our screens many times, my favorite part is the confessionals that follow his blunder. The show doesn’t even try to hide who is going home, and getting the live reactions from the Black Widow Brigade after they pull off the move is key. We rarely see castaways talk about something to the camera when it is so fresh in their minds. Natalie is just shocked, Parvati is ready to make fun of Erik, and Cirie is excited to celebrate her hard work. Erik often takes front and center when this moment is talked about, but rather than rag on Erik, let’s celebrate Cirie, Parvati, Amanda, and Natalie for pulling this off.
Natalie: “I don’t even know what to say… but thank you.”
Cirie: “My mother always told me, you may not be able to beat them with these all the time *points to muscles*, but you can always beat them with this *points to head*.”
Parvati: “You’re crazy! You’ll officially go down as the dumbest Survivor, ever. In the history of Survivor, ever”
“There’s an old proverb, a wise man knows much but says little, a fool knows little but says far too much. Robb, I was just beginning to like you, but unfortunately, you have to go.” (Shii Ann to Robb, Survivor: Thailand)
“You are a 100%, grade-A dirt squirrel.” (Benry to Alina, Survivor: Nicaragua)
“Hey Margaret, if you leave this jungle now, it ain’t soon enough, man. Get out, nooow.” (Judd to Margaret, Survivor: Guatemala)
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more 20 Years of Survivor content over the coming weeks.