Our favorite reality competition show, Survivor, just came back with its 39th season. Of course, over this plethora of seasons, we're bound to have our favorite and least favorite players, right? There's also the age-old fan debate over what it takes for a castaway to get to the end and win: brains or brawn?
You probably have your own answer, but the truth is, these contestants have proved that one or the other (or both, in a perfect world) are both capable of winning that title of Sole Survivor. This list is made to prove just that. Here are 5 winners that used brawn to win it all, and 5 that used their brains.
10 Brains: Sandra Dias-Twine
Sandra is the only castaway to win the game twice, for both Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7) and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (Season 20). It's no secret that Sandra relied 100% on her brains since the physical challenges weren't exactly her strong suit.
Both times, Sandra manipulated, built relationships, and used her strategic mastery to get to the end. And both times, the jury thought she was the most deserving player of the title of Sole Survivor. If that isn't an argument for the brains category, we're not sure what is.
9 Brawn: Tom Westman
In the 10th Season of the show, Survivor: Palau, Tom Westman was crowned the Sole Survivor. Tom actually won five individual immunity challenges (out of 7) and even won the last three in a row.
Clearly, Tom secured himself a spot in the game because, quite frankly, the tribe couldn't really vote him out. Tom's leadership and likability definitely played a role in his winning, but he definitely got there on account of his incredible ability to win every challenge thrown his way. The jury handed him the title in a 6-1 vote, as it was hard to argue against this man's grit.
8 Brains: Yul Kwon
On Survivor: Cook Islands (Season 13), fans witnessed the ultimate test of brains versus brawn. The final three of this season were Yul Kwon, Ozzy Lusth, and Becky Lee. Really, the vote was between the two boys.
Ozzy definitely brought social skills and brawn to the table, but Yul was much more strategic. In the end, the vote was close, resulting in a 5-4 split. However, Yul's brains clearly outplayed Ozzy's brawn, and he was crowned Sole Survivor because of it. This close vote definitely only fires the debate, though.
7 Brawn: James "J.T." Thomas Jr.
On Season 18, Survivor: Tocantins, J.T. was crowned with the title of Sole Survivor. While it goes without saying that this man was truly likable and played an excellent social game, he definitely owes it to winning challenges for making it as far as he did.
In fact, he won the last three individual immunity challenges leading up to the final tribal. So, he secured himself a spot, and it was no question that he deserved the title for his amazing challenge skills and that lovable personality.
6 Brains: Parvati Shallow
Parvati is the epitome of brains, manipulation, and outwitting the other castaways. On Season 16, Survivor: Micronesia, Parvati made it to the final three alongside Amanda Kimmel and Cirie Fields. Yet this season had a twist: the finale would only be two players.
Amanda actually won immunity, and there is no debate over the fact that she should've taken Cirie. However, Parvati somehow managed to talk Amanda into bringing her to the end, where she took the title of Sole Survivor. That's impressive, and a pure demonstration of what brains can do in this game.
5 Brawn: Mike Holloway
On Survivor: Worlds Apart (Season 30), the tribes were separated into white-collar, blue-collar, and n0-collar. Sole Survivor of this season, Mike Holloway, was blue-collar through and through. Honestly, the tribe tried incredibly hard to vote out Mike, who was clearly a threat. However, this beast of a man won 5 out of the final 6 individual immunity challenges (and used an idol for the one he lost, no biggie).
Clearly, he proved himself as a challenge king, and the jury couldn't resist voting him to victory.
4 Brains: John Cochran
On Season 26, Survivor: Caramoan - Fans vs. Favorites, the final three were Sherri Biethman, Dawn Meehan, and John Cochran. As a returning player, Cochran definitely knew not to mess around this time.
At the final tribal, Cochran was praised for being able to remain emotionally sound, strategic, and still likable. Honestly, Cochran's game was one of the most strategic games we've ever seen (because let's be honest, he wasn't super brawny), and he definitely deserved the title of Sole Survivor and a spot on this list.
3 Brawn: Nick Wilson
In Survivor: David vs. Goliath (Season 37), Nick clawed tooth and nail to the final three. Yes, this castaway definitely had some pretty impressive strategy up his sleeve, but he ultimately assured himself a spot at the final tribal because he won the three immunity challenges leading up to it.
All things considered, this definitely gave him power in the game and allowed him to choose who to bring to the end. At that point, the jury praised his ability to stay in the game as an underdog and still offer some pretty great strategic skills. Nick blew us all away, but we definitely file him under brawn, even though he was actually placed on the David tribe. Boy, he sure crushed that stereotype, right?
2 Brains: Adam Klein
On Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X (Season 33), the final three included Ken McNickle, Hannah Shapiro, and Adam Klein. What's even more impressive, though, is how these final three got there. Mainly, our man Adam.
At the final tribal, the jury praised Adam's loyalty, but also his cut-throat attitude towards eliminating big threats. This castaway won the vote unanimously, and it was all due to that big strategic brain he had in his head. He played a perfectly balanced game of social likability and manipulation, and he definitely deserved the title for the Season.
1 Brawn: Chris Underwood
In the 38th Season of the show, Survivor: Edge of Extinction, all sorts of twists were thrown at the castaways. In fact, Chris was actually voted out and sent to the Edge of Extinction on day 8. Miraculously, he re-entered the game on day 35.
This man literally 'sat out' most of the game, so it was up to him to play fast and hard in the final four days. There were little brains to be used on Extinction, so we'll chalk his survival up to brawn since he did some impressive providing.
Chris obviously proved his worth by winning the challenge to get back in the game, but then he even went on to win the final immunity challenge, securing him a spot at the final tribal. Ultimately, the jury praised his grit, and he won the title of Sole Survivor.