For more than 30 seasons, Survivor has thrilled and entertained viewers around the world with its definitive brand of tribal melodrama and politics that no other show can replicate. The show consistently has a cast of eccentric castaways and pits them against one another in super tense battles of wits and skills on tropical islands isolated from the modern world.
In their quest to become the Sole Survivor, some castaways forged alliances with their fellow tribesmen and even their former rivals, which led to unforgettable team-ups and confrontations... especially in a reality TV show where there can be only one winner. Here are the 10 most iconic duos and pairings to have graced the islands of Survivor, ranked according to their abilities, teamwork, and impact on the show.
10 Richard & Rudy (Survivor Borneo)
Richard (an ex-Navy SEAL and the oldest Survivor castaway) and Rudy (a businessman) were an unlikely pair that proved to be one of the most influential of the show’s entire run.
The two deserve special mention for being the series’ first alliance and voting bloc, a playstyle that would define Survivor. Their cooperation got them to the final three of Borneo, leading to Richard’s victory as the series’ first Sole Survivor. They later returned in All-Stars, but failed to repeat their success from Survivor’s inaugural season.
9 Courtney & Sandra (Survivor Heroes vs. Villains)
The heated competitions of Survivor turns the castaways into heroes and villains, with one of the most memorable villainous pairings being Courtney and Sandra. The two shared an early strong alliance, although it wouldn’t last long due to outside circumstances.
When the Villains began falling apart due to infighting, Courtney was unanimously voted out by the tribe including Sandra, who did so to protect herself. Courtney didn’t hold any bad will, as she was the only villain in the jury to vote for Sandra to ultimately be the Sole Survivor of Heroes vs. Villains.
8 Cochran & Dawn (Survivor Caramoan)
The team of long-time Survivor fan Cochran and the motherly Dawn was an unexpected one, especially since Cochran betrayed Dawn in the previous season "South Pacific." Their partnership would shine best in "Caramoan", where their secret alliance landed them seats in the final three.
Despite their previous set-back and Dawn’s emotional outbursts, the two were an inseparable duo who formulated some of the best maneuvers and blindsides in "Caramoan." While some give Cochran more credit, he wouldn’t have been able to win the season without Dawn’s overt and covert help.
7 Crystal & Kenny (Survivor Gabon)
When it comes to being underdogs, no other team does it better than Crystal and Kenny. Constantly underestimated, the two were able to eliminate and blindside some of the most powerful castaways in "Gabon."
The two formed a strong bond to the point where one couldn’t function without the other, which was sadly proven true after Crystal was voted out. Following the loss of his teammate, Kenny kept to himself and was considered an outcast among the final six, which led to his eventual elimination.
6 Hali & Jenn (Survivor Worlds Apart)
Survivor is known for having some of the most cutthroat contestants in all of reality TV show history, but team-ups like the one between Hali and Jenn during "Worlds Apart" puts this maxim to the test. The two were liked for being generally easygoing and wholesome: a rarity in a show defined by backstabbing.
Over the course of Worlds Apart, they grew to appreciate one another and watched the other’s back. Their bond was so tight that when Hali was voted out, Jenn basically shut down and didn’t play as effectively as she did when her partner was around.
5 Becky & Yul (Survivor Cook Islands)
Not all of the Survivor teams resulted in victory, but this is what Becky and Yul got in "Cook Islands" where they made it to the top three before Yul ultimately went home as the Sole Survivor.
The two quickly struck an alliance when the season started and remained inseparable ever since. Though some fans give all the credit to Yul due to raw skill, Becky deserves a fair share of praise for helping him concoct winning strategies that included the use of a Hidden Immunity Idol during a crucial vote.
4 Elisabeth & Rodger (Survivor Australian Outback)
Normally, castaways of the same age-group form an alliance while pairs made up of a younger and significantly older player are rarer. Elisabeth and Rogder (aka Elisabeth’s “Outback Daddy”) were one of the rare pairings, and they made an unforgettable impression on the show.
The pseudo-father-daughter tandem grew close when the tribes merged, with Rodger doing everything he could to keep Elisabeth safe from elimination. He even offered himself for elimination in place of Elisabeth, believing that she needed the prize money more than he did. His sacrifice worked, although Elisabeth was voted off later on.
3 Cirie & Michaela (Survivor Game Changers)
One of the most unique tandems in all of Survivor is that of Cirie and Michaela, who played the game as a mentor-and-student team. Veteran castaway Cirie thought Michaela the ropes and strategies of the game, which successfully got them to join "Game Changers" top six.
Aside from sharing one of the show’s few but very notable feel-good alliances where they genuinely looked out for one another, Cirie and Michaela are also known for being Survivor’s first female African-American team. They may not have become "Game Changers" Sole Survivors, but they won audiences’ hearts.
2 J.T. & Stephen (Survivor Tocantins)
Some Survivor alliances are forged out of necessity or practicality but this was not the case for J.T. and Stephen. Not even two days in into "Tocantins", the two became fast friends and strong allies, promising to carry each other to the end.
The two honored the pact, with J.T. choosing Stephen to join him in the final tribal council despite the latter lagging behind in previous individual challenges. Due to his charisma, J.T. became the season’s Sole Survivor and the first castaway to play a Perfect Game, and none of the jury members voted against him.
1 Amber & Rob (Survivor All-Stars)
No other duo has become as synonymous to Survivor as Amber and Rob. Originally hailing from their own respective Survivor seasons, the two cunning and ruthless survivors immediately clicked and formed an unstoppable alliance that saw Amber winning All-Stars.
Since then, the two have gotten married and welcomed four children into their lives. Their combined popularity transcended Survivor, with them competing in two runs of The Amazing Race and starring in their own reality TV show Rob and Amber: Against the Odds. CBS even televised their marriage in a two-hour special simply titled Rob and Amber Get Married.