The Rise (and sometimes Fall) of Female Alliances

A look back at some of the best and worst all-women alliances.

“It’s like the Black Widow Brigade. Like, all the girls are coming together, and we’re spinning the guys around as much as we can. Just spinning them and spinning them until they don’t know which way is up. And then we’re devouring them one at a time.” – Parvati Shallow, Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites.

The first successful alliance in the history of Survivor was founded by Richard Hatch all the way back in Borneo. The “Tagi Alliance” or the “Tagi 4” was made up of himself, Kelly Wiglesworth, Sue Hawk and Rudy Boesch, and it’s considered the first ever voting bloc in the series. Thanks to Hatch’s strategic gameplay of forming a group of trustworthy people to vote the same way, it ensured that its four members were the final four. Afterward, Hatch was voted as the first Survivor winner and without knowing, he paved the way for how the game would be played in all its following seasons.

During the early years, castaways formed strong alliances which helped them to advance in the game. Afterward, due to new twists like “tribe swaps” or factors like lack of trust, alliances tended to shift throughout the game or be broken completely. But it’s without a doubt, still the best way for the players to have a safety net and move forward in the game. It’s also how the majority of the Sole Survivors have gotten to the end of the game.

Throughout the show’s history, there have been some memorable alliances. One of the most remembered alliances is the “Aitu 4” which consisted of Yul Kwon, Ozzy Lusth, Becky Lee and Sundra Oakley in Survivor: Cook Islands. After the “mutiny twist” where Candice Woodcock and Jonathan Penner jumped ship and went to Rarotonga, the “Aitu 4” were forced to compete with a disadvantage of 8-4. Against all the odds, they were able to win every single immunity challenge until they were the last players in the game.

The Aitu 4 in Survivor: Cook Islands
Becky Lee, Ozzy Lusth, Sundra Oakley, and Yul Kwon, known collectively as “The Aitu 4.”

Another famous alliance is the “Foa Foa 4” in Survivor: Samoa, which consisted of Russell Hantz, Natalie White, Mick Trimming and Jaison Robinson. These four were also able to do the impossible and dismantle the highly dysfunctional Galu tribe entering the merge. With Shambo Waters’ help, they were able to convince and manipulate the Galu members to destroy their own alliance. Due to Brett Clouser’s late-game individual immunity streak, only Jaison was eliminated before Brett and thus taking the rest of the members of the alliance to the Final Tribal Council.

It wasn’t until Survivor: The Amazon where there was a spin on the alliances that had been up until that point, where gender divided the two tribes and thus, the first try ever of an all-female alliance in the show occurred. The Jaburu alliance was the majority alliance on their original tribe, and later in the Jacaré tribe, originally consisting of Jenna Morasca, Heidi Strobel, Deena Bennett and Shawna Mitchell. Even though Shawna wanted to quit the game, they successfully voted out Joanna Ward, who had been the strongest member of the Jaburu tribe.

After the Tribe switch where Alex Bell, Rob Cesternino, and Matthew von Ertfelda joined the Jaburu tribe, the alliance shifted and transformed into a majority alliance once they entered the merge. Though Jenna and Heidi then made a stronger alliance with Alex rather than with Deena, it was the first time where a group of only women had gotten together and voted someone out successfully.

Then the official first female alliance happened in Survivor: Vanuatu, where the format of splitting the tribes by gender was repeated, and the majority alliance in the game was the all female alliance of Yasur. In Yasur, two factions began to emerge, one composed of Julie, Mia, Lisa, and Eliza and the other of Ami, Twila, Scout, and Leann. Then Dolly Neely became the swing vote and due to her lack of commitment to either side, she was voted out.

Afterward, Ami’s alliance dominated the game taking over the men’s tribe, thus ensuring a successful all-female alliance. Even after the tribe swap where Travis Sampson tried to break the alliance, the women stuck together and voted him out in a unanimous vote. They were able to dispose of all the men except for eventual winner Chris Daugherty, who managed to capitalize on the women’s in-fighting and dysfunction.

This situation would repeat itself and with even greater success, in Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites, where one of the most infamous alliances in the history of the show was created. The “Black Widow Brigade” comprised entirely of women, including three of the most popular women to ever play the game (Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel, and Cirie Fields).

The Brigade manipulated the men and blindsided every single one of them entering the merge. Two of the most famous blindsides in Survivor history occurred in the season thanks to the BWB: 1) where Ozzy was voted out with a hidden immunity idol in his pocket and 2) where they persuaded Erik Reichenbach to give up immunity to Natalie Bolton, only to be eliminated immediately after that. This season, in my opinion, shows the true extent of what women can do when they stick together and truly unite for a common cause. This paved the way for how the game was played and how the majority of the times, brains outwit, outplay and outlast brawn.

The Black Widow Brigade in Survivor: Micronesia
Amanda Kimmel, Cirie Fields, Natalie Bolton and Parvati Shallow, members of the “Black Widow Brigade” alliance.

Another successful all-female alliance was on Survivor: One World where Kim Spradlin, Chelsea Meissner, Sabrina Thompson, Alicia Rosa, and Kat Edorsson were able to outlast the men entering the merge and place themselves into the final seven. Afterward, Kim, Sabrina, and Chelsea were able to reach the Final Tribal Council where Kim won the title of Sole Survivor due to her physical and strategical prowess.

On the other side of the coin, there have been seasons where these kinds of alliances were tried but were unsuccessful or weren’t even able to exist; such is the case in the most recent season, Survivor: Cambodia. Cambodia was a season where the pressure was on the minute the game started, due to all the players being voted into the game by the fans. Everyone felt they had to bring it 100% to vindicate themselves since it was their second chance and they were playing in part for the fans that voted them back on.

In Episode 5, Monica Padilla tried to recruit Kimmi Kappenberg to form a women’s alliance, where they would target Spencer Bledsoe. But Kimmi told Jeremy Collins and Stephen Fishbach about Monica’s plan and ultimately betrayed Monica by voting her out of the game.

Ironically, later in the season, Kimmi tried to form another women’s alliance with Abi-Maria Gomes, Kelley Wentworth, and Tasha Fox to eliminate Joe Anglim and then take over the game. As we all know, Tasha told Jeremy and Spencer about the girl’s alliance, and even though Joe was eliminated at the next tribal council, he was followed by Abi and Kimmi, leaving Kelley alone to fend for herself. In the case of multiple tribe swaps and lack of trust, a women’s alliance became the butt of the joke in Cambodia, leaving the alliance of Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha to make it to the FTC.

Monica Padilla on Survivor: Cambodia
Monica Padilla was unsuccessful in forming an all-female alliance in Survivor: Cambodia.

There is not a magic formula to predict whether an all girls alliance will be successful other than the right people have to be in it and actually stick together. There have been many times where the players have come up with a brilliant plan to be in the majority alliance, make the right moves at the right time and make it to the end of the game. The majority of the time, the women who execute their plans successfully are viewed as villains, such as in Micronesia, or like the “Witches Coven” in Cambodia. Somehow when women play in a cut throat way, they are viewed with contempt and anger, rather than with praise or admiration.

Either way, all-female alliances have proved that “girl power” can be just as successful than any other alliance of factors that determine which players get to the end. With the game changing more than ever in recent seasons, it will be interesting to see whether or not women can unite again and take the gold home.

Written by

Mariana Loizaga

Mariana is a lawyer and a writer from Mexico City, Mexico. She has a masters degree in International Relations from the University of Surrey. Her hobbies include reading, blogging, and of course watching Survivor. The first season of Survivor she ever saw was Survivor: Philippines and she became so fascinated with the game and its many layers that she went back through the archives and watched every single previous season.

2 responses to “The Rise (and sometimes Fall) of Female Alliances”

  1. When they lectured Jamal on the Island of the Idols season for saying he’s worried about an all-female alliance, telling him that is a sexist, that was the moment I walked away from watching the show. It’s absolutely reasonable to be worried about being voted off for no better reason than because you’re not a woman, just like it’s absolutely reasonable for a woman to worry about an all-male alliance. I don’t like or respect it as a strategy, but I felt it was going way too far to scold Jamal for simply saying it was a concern of his. It’s been done far too many times to say it’s wrong to be concerned about it.

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