“Survivor” superfans are currently hyped for the upcoming all-winners season, but it’s not always the case that the most popular contestant of the season is the one who wins. In fact, the audience tends to fall in love with those who just come up short of the $1 million prize, often more so than the champion. Players like Rupert Boneham, Cirie Fields and Joe Anglim will probably never win “Survivor,” no matter how many times they come back and try. Their likability is a double-edged sword — they’re genial enough to be safe through several Tribal Councils but once it gets toward the end, they’re too big of a jury threat to win. As we prepare for “Survivor: Winners at War,” here’s the ranking of our 16 favorite lovable losers we hoped would make it onto an all-winner season someday.
From the very first season of “Survivor,” there were two players who fans became invested in but just came up short of the win: Colleen Haskell and the late Rudy Boesch. Their eliminations proved that “Survivor” was not fixed, that it could be a brutal game where your favorite contestants could see their torches snuffed at any point along the way. Of course, that did not make us think any less of Colleen or Rudy, with their unique personalities providing some of the best entertainment value of the season.
As the seasons rolled along and the fanbase invested in the strategy of “Survivor,” we saw players like Cirie, Rob Cesternino, Yau-Man Chan, Andrea Boehlke, Kelley Wentworth and David Wright emerge as unlikely heroes. They all had a competitive spirit and a level of underdog appeal that made the audience identify with the way they chose to play the game. Some favorites were pure-hearted souls who added light to their ugly surroundings, like Teresa “T-Bird” Cooper and most recently, Janet Carbin.
Others had a level of athleticism and gregarious natures that made them favorites from very early on, such as Joe, Stephenie LaGrossa and Malcolm Freberg. Then there were people like Amanda Kimmel and Tai Trang, who made clear mistakes along the way but were oddly sympathetic in how much they struggled with the more personal elements of the game.
No matter the reason why fans have attached to them, the lovable losers have largely kept “Survivor” going for as long as it has. When you invest in a player, there is a level of engagement that then makes you more invested in their success. It also makes their failure all the more heartbreaking, as fans of Cirie can attest. Only one person can win each season, but winning is not everything.
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