All 23 Survivor winners have been ranked based on objective data about their performance on their seasons, including jury votes, and Survivor Palau‘s Tom Westman comes in at number one, while original winner and former inmate Richard Hatch is dead last. Survivor South Pacific winner Sophie Clarke is in 14th place.
That’s according to True Dork Times’ “Survival Average,” which uses 10 different criteria to come up with a numerical value reflecting their success at the game. Those include things such as the number of challenge wins, votes cast against the player, and votes for the person who was actually voted out–all quantifiable criteria, but arguable as to whether or not those things are important. But the rationale is explained in a glossary on each page.
The same data is available for indiviual seasons, with each contestant ranked, and there are surprising and not-so-surprising results. Frequently, the season’s winner was the person with the highest score, but sometimes that’s not true; Ozzy is #1 for Cook Islands while Coach is #1 for South Pacific, followed by Albert (!), Sophie, Ozzy, and Brandon. It’s fascinating stuff to wade through and consider.
Of course, Survivor is an extremely subjective game. One of the reasons why it works so well is that we can evaluate behavior differently and disagree with choices made by players or the jury, and there’s no way to really verify if we’re right. Also, as to winners and their effectiveness, while it’s interesting that the most objectively successful person frequently won the game, especially in recent seasons, really, whoever gets the jury’s votes is the person who deserves to win, because there is no objective criteria the jury is required to use. We can be mad at the jury for its decisions, but they could play eeny, meeny, miny, moe to pick the person they vote for and that’d be fine.
I think that’s clearly reflected in the data: China winner Todd Herzog and Borneo winner Richard Hatch are numbers 22 and 23 out of all the winners, respectively, and they’re pretty universally credited with playing outstanding strategic games (hell, Richard Hatch defined how Survivor would be played forever), while Richard comes in at #2 for his season behind Kelly, while Todd comes in third for his season.
Altogether, then, it’s ultimately inconsequential but thoroughly fascinating.