Winning Survivor is no walk in the park. Not only must one endure 39 days of living in the wilderness, winners have to keep their food-and-sleep-deprived wits about them at all times and be five steps ahead of everyone else. Some dominate from day one, skating strategic circles around their fellow castaways. Others are underdogs and fight their way to the top with a scrappy, can-do attitude. others are awarded the million-dollar prize by sheer, dumb luck.
Having a strong winner doesn't always guarantee a riveting season. For winners who have the game on lock, Survivor can become predictable. However, a clueless, undeserving winner is no better and can make for an unsatisfying finale. 37 people have won the game. Who deserves to make a triumphant return, and who do we want voted off our TVs forever?
10 Would Love To See Again: Chris Daugherty
Many of the old school Survivor winners have made returning appearances. But not Chris Daugherty, despite being one of the best. In Vanautu, the odds were firmly stacked against Chris. This was the show's second time dividing the tribes along gender lines. When the merge hit, the women were in control and picked off the men one by one.
However, Chris was able to keep his torch lit by exploiting the cracks in the all-female alliance. He knew when to keep quiet and was always well-regarded around camp, even though he manipulated every player he came into contact with. In a season with big personalities like Eliza Orlins and Ami Cusack, Chris tends to be forgotten about.
9 Don't Want To See Again: Natalie White
The coattail-riding strategy is rarely a winning one. In Samoa, Natalie White was one of the rare exceptions. She strapped herself onto the Russell Hantz Express, riding as a passenger straight to the finals. Luckily for her, the jury couldn't stomach the thought of him winning the million.
It could be argued that Natalie was smart to attach herself to someone so obnoxious. But she put all her eggs in Russell's basket and would have gone down right along with him. Natalie might be the kind of person we'd trust to water our plants when we're on vacation, but do we really need to see her back on Survivor?
8 Would Love To See Again: Michele Fitzgerald
Like Natalie, Michele Fitzgerald was a player who never made waves and who got along with everybody. In Kaôh Rōng, she was hardly the one calling the shots, but Michele got herself to the end in her own right. She wasn't dead weight being dragged along. Her pleasant demeanor served her well.
Did Aubry deserve the win more than Michele? Yes. But that doesn't mean Michele deserves to have her parade rained on. Keep in mind, Michele's first tribal council wasn't until the merge, meaning the viewer didn't fully get to see her capabilities until halfway through the season. Should Michele return, it would finally settle the debate over whether her win was luck or earned.
7 Don't Want To See Again: "Boston" Rob Mariano
Hold the coconut phone. Isn't Boston Rob thought of as the Godfather of Survivor? He sure is, and it's a well-earned reputation. But Boston Rob has played this game a whopping four times. Of course he's been able to perfect his strategy.
The point is, Boston Rob has turned his Survivor game into an art form. But we've seen it. More than once. Watching him hack his competition to pieces would just be an exercise in redundancy. But for those who can't get enough Boston Rob, he'll be making his fifth appearance in the upcoming 39th season, though not as a player.
6 Would Love To See Again: Sophie Clarke
Survivor has been going for almost twenty years. To keep it fresh, new twists are constantly being thrown at players. The best can roll with the punches. Sophie Clarke is definitely in that camp. South Pacific saw the return of fan favorites(?) Ozzy Lusth and Coach Wade.
New players get a raw deal when on a season with returnees. The latter tend to dominate both the game and screen time. Sophie never became the standout she deserved to be. How about bringing her back for a season where she doesn't have to babysit an overrated player?
5 Don't Want To See Again: Jud "Fabio" Birza
Judging by his game play, it appeared that Fabio thought he was on a 39-day camping trip. He frequently found himself in the minority alliance, escaping the elimination because he was seen as such a strategic dud.
Granted, Fabio deserves a little credit for his end-of-game Immunity Challenge run, which helped secure him a place in the finals. From there, Fabio won by virtue of having ticked nobody off. It's hard to ruffle feathers when making no moves whatsoever. With his good looks and easygoing personality, nobody would be disappointed to see Fabio turn up on The Bachelorette. Just keep him off Survivor. Please.
4 Would Love To See Again: Adam Klein
Adam Klein's puppy-dog enthusiasm for the game was absolutely infectious. Superfans don't always make for the greatest players. They're so eager to check everything off their Survivor bucket list that they often work against their best interests.
The theme of Adam's season, Millennials vs. Gen X, was shoved down our throats like fafaru at a gross food challenge. But in a season with age as it's theme, Adam truly played like a young adult making his way in the world. Now that he has both more life and Survivor experience, we're itching to know what Adam's return would look like.
3 Don't Want To See Again: J.T. Thomas
J.T. Thomas has made some bad decisions on Survivor, but aligning himself with Stephen Fishbach is not one of them. Watching them dominate Tocantins was like tuning into a fun buddy comedy. Stephen was the neurotic New Yorker and J.T. was the good ol' southern boy. J.T. was the beneficiary of Stephen's cutthroat moves that landed them both in the finals. There, J.T. would plead innocent, throw Stephen under the bus and coast to the win with a unanimous vote from the jury.
Without a savvier player guiding him, however, J.T. went down in flames in his subsequent returns. Notably, he randomly handed over his Hidden Immunity Idol to Russell Hantz, the most untrustworthy player ever, who then turned around and voted J.T. out.
2 Would Love To See Again: Kim Spradlin
Kim Spradlin played one of the cleanest games ever seen. If there's one thing she can be criticized for, it's that her control over One World made for predictable television. Every one of Kim's targets went home in the exact order she planned.
Still, Kim's gameplay wasn't nearly as flashy as a Boston Rob, a Tony, or a Parvati Shallow. Even with her established prowess, there's every chance Kim could dispense with the perception that she's a threat. We'd love to see if she could pull off Survivor perfection again, even if we already think we know the answer.
1 Don't Want To See Again: Tony Vlachos
To be crystal clear, Tony is the most entertaining winner in the entirety of Survivor. In Cagayan, just when you thought Tony was going to zig, he zagged. Would this frenetic Survivor wizard be able to cast the same spell twice? As it turns out, no.
In Game Changers, Tony played like Tony, resulting in him being the second boot of the season. If he were to return, one of two things would happen. One, he would be the Tony we all know and love, get booted early, and we would spend the rest of the season mourning his departure. Two, if he could muster up the ability, Tony would reign it in, making the viewer yearn for the days of llama-speak and the Spy Shack.