Despite being a very socially based game that is built on relationships and trust, one can also compile statistics on many aspects of Survivor. It is interesting to look at these numbers because they do not show you definitively what makes a good player, but can provide some insight into what helps a player win. They also can help you look at how the producers edit the season so just maybe you might be able to determine who the winner is before we get to the finale. Yet another way you can create statistics for this show is by looking at the demographics of the contestants. This leads me into the first section of this article and that is looking at what states produce the highest placing Survivor contestants.
What State produces the most successful Survivor contestants?
Before I dive into the list let’s get some explanations out of the way. You are probably wondering how did I determine this and how did I make it fair across multiple seasons where each has a different number of contestants. First I went to the Survivor Wiki to get all of the contestant’s home states that they listed on their bio for the show. Now in order to standardize success across the seasons I turned to one of my favorite podcasts Rob Has a Podcast. They talk everything reality TV and especially Survivor. Once in a while the host, former Survivor contestant Rob Cesternino, has a statistician/poker player named Jason Somerville on to talk Survivor stats. He came up with a success scale that assigns a number of points to a contestant’s finishing place depending on the number of contestants competing in that season. So a player gets 100 points for winning and 0 points for being the first boot with a scaled number of points for each place in between depending on if there is 16, 18, or 20 castaways. You can find a whole breakdown of the scoring system here on page 3. From there I can average out the success of the contestants from each to state so that I can rank the average success.
The final piece of business I need to explain before getting to the list is that some states have had very few people compete in the show. This means some states have had only person compete and they did well so there average success points is 93 which would make it the best, but that is unfair to the states that have had many people compete with a lower average. Therefore I have two lists. One is for states that have more than five individual scores in the show’s history. I say five scores because each season counts individually so if a player has played more than once then they have more than one score contributed to their state. The second list is for states that have five or less scores for the show’s history. With all of that out of the way let’s get to the lists!
States with five or less scores
First let’s start with the states whose averages do not mean much because there is not enough data. There are 18 states in this category and the top 10 is populated with states with 1 or 2 scores.
- South Dakota- 84
- Mississippi- 80
- Maine- 76.40
- Rhode Island- 73
- Vermont- 73
- Iowa- 70.50
- Idaho- 68.50
- Oklahoma- 67.50
- Montana- 60
- Connecticut- 56.50
So right off the bat at the top we have South Dakota which only has one player. Holly Hoffman (Nicaragua) is the only player here and she placed 4th in a 20 person season so that really helps this state. Right behind that is Mississippi whose only contestant is Darrah Johnson (Pearl Islands) who also placed 4th but in a 16 person season. Maine is next and it is right on the threshold for this list. They have 5 scores and will move onto the other list with one more instance of competition. They are pretty high up because they have a winner in Bob Crowley (Gabon). Rhode Island also gets a boost from having a winner in Richard Hatch (Borneo) as well as high placing contestants Helen Glover (Thailand) and Rafe Judkins (Guatemala). Vermont only has 2 scores from the same contestant who did fairly well both times so that is why it makes the top 5.
Iowa is an interesting case because it has one winner, one second place person and then two people who were basically merge boots so that brings it down from being really high on this list. With Sarah Lacina (Cagayan) competing again on Game Changers it joins Maine as states on the verge of not being on this list anymore. The next two states, Idaho and Oklahoma, only have two contestants each and ironically for both of them the second contestant just competed on Millennials vs. Gen X. They each have a top three finisher and a lower jury placement member so that brings down their scores. Montana is interesting because it has 4 scores associated with it, 3 of which belong to Amanda Kimmel. She did well on all three of her seasons so Montana would be up much higher if not for Wendy DeSmidt-Koloff’s (Nicaragua) frist boot status in her season. Rounding out the top 10 is Connecticut who’s only two scores belong to Terry Deitz. For anyone who is interested, last place on this list goes to Maryland with an average of 16.33 success points over three scores. They have never had a contestant place higher than 13th.
States with 5 or more scores
Now its time for the meat of this section. The states with 5 or more scores gives us the most insight into which state is the best. There are 27 states in this category. Let’s break down the top 10.
- Michigan- 68.78
- Nevada- 60.33
- Washington- 57.64
- Utah- 56.15
- Missouri- 55.54
- New Jersey- 55.07
- Oregon- 54.25
- Wisconsin- 54
- Massachusetts- 53.27
- North Carolina- 52.47
Michigan claims the top spot with no winners to its name. They are able to hold that position due to the incredible consistency with which castaways from Michigan place in the top 10. Nevada at number two is a little deceiving because they only have six scores in their average, but thanks to two 2nd place finishes by Kelly Wiglesworth (Borneo) and Jaclyn Schultz (San Juan del Sur) their average is high despite quite a few lower finishes. Washington cracks the top three due to Sandra Diaz-Twine’s two wins as well high finishes by Lydia Morales (Guatemala),Shambo Waters (Samoa) and Kelley Wentworth (Second Chances). Washington could be much higher but a string of recent low finishes have cost it in the rankings. Utah continues the west coast’s dominance in this list coming it a 4th mostly due to wins from Todd Herzog (China) and Tyson Apostol (Blood vs. Water) as well as second place finishes from Neleh Dennis (Marquesas) and Dawn Meehan (Caramoan). Missouri rounds out the top 5 due to consistent finishes in the top 10 by its castaways. 10 of its 15 scores have top 10 scores associated with them.
Our first east coast state in the top 10 is New Jersey who gets its spot at number 6 due to a lot of recent success. Three of the past five season’s winners (Tony Vlachos, Natalie Anderson, and Michele Fitzgerald) were all from New Jersey. This really brought New Jersey up in the rankings recently. Right behind New Jersey is another west coast state in Oregon. Oregon does not have very many stellar scores, but is helped by a win from Vecepia Towery (Marquesas). Oregon could drop from the top 10 barring a bad outing from Ciera Eastin this season. We head back to middle America for number 8 which is Wisconsin. Wisconsin is another one of those consistent sates with five of its eight scores representing top 10 finishes on the show. Wisconsin could rise up in this list if Andrea Boehlke does well this season. Massachusetts just makes it in the top 10 at number 9. There have been quite a few contestants from Massachusetts over the 33 seasons so far, which means that like California, Texas and New York its score is a little lower just due to the variety of scores put into the average. Finall, we round out our top 10 with North Carolina. A state who has contestants place routinely in the 11th to 8th place range which means it just barely squeaks into the top 10. To give you an idea of which state is at the bottom, South Carolina is last with an average of 36.07. Nearly all of their contestants place no higher than 10th and the only reason their score is not abysmal is Cirie Fields’ high finishes as well as Chelsea Meissner’s 3rd place finish.
That’s it for the state rankings and everything you need to know there. Now onto another interesting topic, number of confessionals given!
Confessionals and Airtime
I am going to approach this in a three pronged manner. First I am going to look at single season records. Then I will take those some categories at look at all time records based on returnees only. Finally, I will take a look at how this lists could be shaken up based off of the upcoming season. Let’s get started
Top 10 Most Confessionals: Individual Season
- Russell Hantz (Samoa)- 108
- Colby Donaldson (Australia)- 96
- Rob Cesternino (Amazon)- 94
- Richard Hatch (Borneo)- 91
- Tony Vlachos (Cagayan)- 90
- Rob Mariano (Redemption Island)- 89
- Lex van den Berghe (Africa)- 82
- Kelly Wiglesworth (Borneo)- 81
- Kathy Vavrick O’Brien (Marquesas)- 77
- Chris Daugherty (Vanuatu)- 75
The first thing you notice when you look at this list is that only four out of the ten are winners. Another stand out thing is the lack of women there are only 2 in the top 10. It seems like Survivor latches on to male characters more than female ones. Unsurprisingly Russell is at the top of this list as Samoa was his season, there was no doubt. Besides the four winners this list features three runner ups and three third place finishers. This list also contains a lot of legendary characters such as Rob Cesternino, Rob Mariano, Tony Vlachos and Colby Donaldson. There are also some underrated old time favorites like Chris Daugherty and Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien. Overall this is not a very surprising list and does not need much more explaining.
Top 10 Average Confessionals per Episode- Individual Season
- Russell Hantz (Samoa)- 7.71
- Rob Cesternino (Amazon)- 7.23
- Richard Hatch (Borneo)- 7
- Colby Donaldson (Australia)- 6.86
- Jerri Manthey (Australia)- 6.78
- Tony Vlachos (Cagayan)- 6.43
- Rob Mariano (Redemption Island)- 6.36
- Lex van den Berghe (Africa)- 6.31
- Kelly Wiglesworth (Borneo)- 6.23
- Gina Crews (Marquesas)- 6.17
This is an interesting stat because it shows the big characters because it is the average number of confessionals they got per episode. That means I took the total number of confessionals they received in a season and divided it by the number of episodes they were in. I should also point out that this list does not include first boots because there averages are mostly high due to being in one episode and so they would dominate this list, making it very uninteresting. Unsurprisingly this list is very similar to the top 10 most confessionals list, but with a few different inclusions. Jerri Manthey slips in at number 5. This is no surprise considering she was probably one of the biggest characters that season. The biggest surprise on this list has to be probably forgotten season 4 contestant Gina Crews. Gina was voted out pre-merge that season, but was a pretty big narrator apparently for the episodes she was on averaging 6.17 confessionals per episode. I really do not remember her being that big of a character, but apparently she dominated confessional time for her tribe in the early goings of Marquesas
Top 10 Percentage of Confessionals- Individual Season
- Russell Hantz (Samoa)- 27.84%
- Rob Mariano (Redemption Island)- 22.19%
- Rob Cesternino (Amazon)- 21.27%
- Tony Vlachos (Cagayan)- 20.32%
- Coach Wade (South Pacific)- 19.27%
- Colby Donaldson (Australia)- 17.61%
- Chris Daugherty (Vanuatu)- 17.61%
- J.T. Thomas (Tocantins)- 17.57%
- Russell Hantz (Heroes vs. Villains)- 17.17%
- Lex van den Berghe (Africa)- 16.94%
This is another statistic that I find fascinating. This is found by taking the number of confessionals given by a castaway and then dividing it by the total of confessionals given by all castaways that season. This gives you what percentage of the total number of confessionals were given by any one castaway. This can also reveal editing imbalances in seasons. A seasons that has a contestant or two in this range of percentages means they hogged screen time and the editing will be really uneven. If the editing is really spread around then usually no one person will have more than 12 or 13% of the confessionals. Overall this list has some of the usual suspects from the other two lists, but a glaring omission is that there are no female castaways in this list. This might mean male castaways are more likely to hog camera time. New entries when compared to the other list are Coach Wade from South Pacific which is really no surprise and J.T. Thomas from Tocantins. Having J.T. on this list is a little surprising considering he is thought as more of a quiet winner. Also of note is that Russell Hantz not only appears for his Samoa season, but Heroes vs. Villains as well. Apparently even in an All Stars season he can still hog airtime.
Top 10 Most Confessionals: All Time
- Rob Mariano- 209
- Russell Hantz- 191
- Coach Wade- 164
- Rupert Boneham- 158
- Colby Donaldson- 139
- Stephenie LaGrossa- 128
- John Cochran- 123
- Ozzy Lusth- 123
- Cirie Fields- 122
- Jerri Manthey- 113
Honestly out of everyone on this list only one is a surprise. This is a list of Survivor legends and luminaries. The only surprise for me is seeing Stephenie LaGrossa so high at number 6 above favorite narrators like Cochran and Cirie. Another interesting component about this top 10 list is that two of them will be on Game Changers. It will be interesting to see how many they add to their totals and how far they can move up the list. My prediction is that they will occupy the five and six slots by the time season 34 is done. We will do a deeper dive for the other Game Changers contestants further down this article.
Top 10 Average Confessionals per Episode- All Time
- Rob Cesternino- 6.24
- Richard Hatch- 6.17
- Russell Hantz- 5.97
- Francesca Hogi- 5
- Andrew Savage- 4.94
- Rob Mariano- 4.86
- Coach Wade- 4.82
- Stephenie LaGrossa- 4.74
- John Cochran- 4.73
- Colton Cumbie- 4.67
In many ways this is the most interesting list in this whole write up. There is a weird mixture of legends and flops in this list. First of all you have two time first boot Francesca Hogi at number four because of how few episodes she was in, but she still got a lot of airtime because she was a great talker. You also have famous Survivor blusterer Andrew Savage in the top five. Who would have guessed that? To round out this weirdness you have one of the most infamous Survivor villains eking in at number 10, Colton Cumbie. Again this is most likely due to his huge amounts of airtime despite limited amounts of episodes. Also interesting to note that none of the Game Changers cast is in here.
Game Changers Implications
Ok first of all you must be thinking where is the all time percentages list? Well the percentages are tricky and because the number of confessionals give by a contestant is minuscule compared to the number of confessionals from each of their seasons combined the percentages were so tiny that they have no meaning. So there is no list for that. Now for the fun stuff, could these lists change with Game Changers? As I mentioned above Ozzy and Cirie will most definitely improve upon their positions on the top ten, but there are some people who could make their way into the top ten if they have a deep run this season. J.T. has 99 confessionals all time and is currently sitting at 18th all time, but could crack the top 10 if he gets at least 15 confessionals this season. Also within reach of the top ten is Malcolm who is sitting at 19th place with 98 confessionals. A mere 16 confessionals sends him into the top 10. The only other person with an outside chance to crack the top ten is Tony who has 90 confessionals and needs a decent run and at least 23 confessionals to break the top 10.
As for the all time average confessionals list there a few people who would need to keep up record paces to put themselves in the top 10. After one season Tony’s average confessionals per episode is at an impressive 6.43. If he manages 4 to 5 confessionals per episode he is in, he should crack the top 10 easily. Two Koah Rong castaways could also crack the top ten with good runs in Game Changers. Tai averaged 5.29 per episode in season 32 so a 4 confessional per episode pace could help him crack the top 10. Aubry averaged 5 confessionals per episode in her run during Koah Rong so a similar pace in the episodes she is in on Season 34 could help her crack the top 10. Jeff Varner and Troyzan have an outside shot to get into the list, but they would need monumental efforts to get themselves a spot.
That’s it for part 1 of my Survivor statistics breakdown! Stay tuned for part 2 where I will look into the statistics of tribal council voting, votes received, and challenge wins for both tribes and individuals. Only 23 more days to go until the premiere!
Survivor’s 2 hour premiere begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday March 8th on CBS