Let’s keep the Survivor content chugging along as we enter our potentially long offseason. So far, I’ve looked at a dream “Legends” season, what makes a winner’s edit, and ranked the top 10 winners. This week, I’m going to give an in-depth explanation of how I will win Survivor when I get cast for a future season. This is the most important thing I have ever written.
If you know anything about me, you know how obsessed I am with Survivor. I started watching with my dad when I was 4-years-old and haven’t stopped since. It went from more than just a show I watched and turned into an obsession. A lot of people stopped watching a decade ago, or just write it off as some reality junk TV, but those people could not be more wrong. While Survivor is a reality show, it is so far from things like The Bachelor, The Real World, or any shit like that. It’s a competition show more than anything. There’s no fake drama. It’s a social experiment of 16-20 real people lying, backstabbing, and betraying each other for $1 million.
My #1 dream in life is to one day win this show. Getting on would be great, but anything less than winning will be considered a failure. I need to prove to myself that this lifelong obsession has been worth it. Some people dream about being a baseball player. I dream about Day 39 breakfast on Survivor. Some people dream about being a rockstar. I dream about Jeff Probst announcing me as the winner of Survivor, the theme song dropping, and then running into the crowd to hug my family.
Nobody actually believes I can win the show. They think I’ll overplay early and be a pre-merge boot. They think I’m too weak to survive 39 days on a deserted island with limited food and resources. I will prove them wrong. Here is a step-by-step guide on how I will Survivor. Now you may be wondering, “Is this like Bill Belichick giving away his playbook before a big game?” No. Because statistically speaking, I think only a handful of players would recognize me as “Tommy Smokes” on a future season. The odds of any of them reading and/or remembering this blog is extremely low. So I’m not worried about that. For the purposes of this blog, we will assume I’m cast on a season with 18-20 new players.
The game will likely start in either two or three tribes. The most important thing you can do early on is lay low, connect with people without looking like you’re only in it for an alliance, and do everything you can to not stand out. Historically speaking, most first boots and other early boots do something that draws negative attention to themselves early on. They take charge around camp, say something stupid, or are just generally loud/obnoxious/unpleasant to be around. It’s also common for someone to have a terrible challenge performance (maybe in a solo portion like a puzzle) and then put themselves on the chopping block.
I will avoid all of those things. Now like I said, there’s a chance that some people on my tribe might recognize me. At the very least, I’m sure some people on the tribe will know of Barstool. So while that is something that can make me “stand out,” I don’t see it putting a target on my back. It’s not like I’m some rich A-list celebrity that people won’t give the million dollars to. Assuming there’s no hit piece writers on the tribe, I think the typical reaction would just be “Oh yeah Barstool is cool” and that would be that.
I also will not take charge at all around camp. Just blend into the background, make some small talk, follow orders, and work hard to collect firewood and whatnot. I do hate outdoorsy shit, but I’ll put up with it. You don’t want to be the lazy player that everyone wants to target.
I’ll be sure to not overplay early, a common downfall for superfans who get cast. They immediately come across as overeager to strategize and make alliances. I will focus on making allies instead of alliances. I’ll find small things to connect with people over that we have in common (I will lie if necessary). I’m just going to try being pleasant, witty, and likable. I will disarm people, and they won’t view me as any sort of threat.
As for challenges, I recognize I’m not the most athletic person in the world, but I do think I can be helpful. There will probably be some fatsos or olds on my tribe who can be targeted before me. I’m a young male in decent shape (unreal shape before quarantine hit) so people will just assume I’ll be somewhat useful in challenges/around camp. The biggest thing in challenges is that I will never volunteer for a portion of the challenge that puts the spotlight solely on me. Don’t be the one to do the puzzle. Don’t be the one to throw things and knock shit over. Don’t do anything where the challenge is on your shoulders. You don’t want to be the reason your tribe lost. I’d rather lose the challenge and not be the reason we lost than step up and try to win it. Again, do anything you can to keep attention off yourself early in the game.
Along those lines, I also won’t go searching for the idol right away. That immediately makes people target you whether you find it or not. If you’re going searching, you best find it. I won’t search early on. If someone else finds it, that’s fine. I can work around that. Maybe after a couple tribal councils, you can sneak away early in the morning and do some searching. But anyone who does it before the first tribal council is just asking for trouble.
If anything can derail my game, it’ll be a tripe swap. If I don’t win, I’ll come in like 14th and get taken out at a tribe swap. Mark my words. Swaps are a lot of luck. You better hope you have the numbers from your old tribe. Boston Rob, one of the most notorious and best players of all time, had his game take a hit because of a tribe swap in his first season. There’s been plenty of other promising players through the years who have the numbers in their tribe and are playing well, but then a tribe swap happens and they’re stuck in the minority. They get voted out and there’s not much they can do about it.
In an ideal world, we’ll have a tribe swap and I’ll maintain my numbers from my original tribe. I’ll also be sure to have good relationships with everyone from my original tribe and make them all feel respected and important, so that nobody feels they’re “on the bottom” and wants to vote with the other tribe at the swap and betray me.
If I don’t have the numbers, I’ll have my work cut out for me. I sometimes think that being in the minority might not be the worst thing if there’s clearly a black sheep from the original tribe. Then you can plan on them swapping to you and you suddenly have the numbers. That’s why it’s so important to not neglect nor alienize anyone on your tribe. You never know when you’ll need them as a number.
If I had an idol, this is also a time I’d strongly consider playing it. If I felt even slightly uneasy, I’d play it because these votes are just so unpredictable. So while I do think this part of the game is a potential downfall for any player just based on sheer luck, I’m confident in my abilities to get through it and make the merge.
So to sum-up the early portion of the game, I would basically just employ Sandra’s “As long as it’s not me strategy.” Do I want control of the votes and to be strategic? Yes. But the most important part of the game early on is strictly making sure it’s not you. By the end of the game, nobody is going to remember an epic blindside you pulled off with 16 people left. Don’t peak too early and put a target on your back. Just be pleasant, likable, help around camp, contribute in challenges, don’t do anything to rock the boat or draw attention to yourself, and you have a good chance of reaching the merge.
The most important thing to do at the merge is talk with anyone you haven’t had the chance of playing with yet, and reconnect with your old tribe if you were mixed up in a swap. You need to feel comfortable with every single person in the game. You can’t ignore anyone. You really can’t afford to have anyone not like you. My number one philosophy in the game would be looking at every single player and thinking “This person shouldn’t want to vote me out.” That’s the ultimate name of the game. Don’t get voted out. And when people don’t want to vote you out, it gives you more control of deciding who can be voted out.
To me, the merge is when the real game starts. That’s when you have to start moving from the background to actually making moves. You can’t fall in love with BIG MOVES at every single tribal council, but you need to start to establish yourself a little bit more and pad that resume little by little. I actually think the first merge vote is one of the most important of the entire game, maybe the most important honestly. It sets the tone for the rest of the game, but also there’s just so much unpredictably. It’s always a mad scramble with a bunch of names getting mentioned. For this reason, it’s one of the immunity challenges I’d try the hardest on. I’d really like that security around my neck for the first vote. And I don’t think winning the first one will make me some kind of physical threat. Look at me. I think I’m capable of winning some challenges, more mental or endurance ones, but I’m never going to be viewed as a huge physical threat that needs to be taken out because I’m a challenge beast.
So ideally, I’d be safe at the first merge vote. But if not, I still don't think I'd be a top target. I'll have a lot of allies and my threat level will still be relatively low. Also this is another spot where I'd strongly consider playing an idol if I felt it was even slightly necessary. In general, I’d be someone more likely to play an idol when there were zero votes cast against me than go home with an idol in my pocket.
Another thing about the merge early on, is you want to avoid being the swing vote. If you do have good relationships with everyone, there’s a chance you might get put in that position, but avoid it by any means necessary. You don’t want to have half the tribe hate you. See Cochran in South Pacific. You also don’t want to put yourself so squarely in the middle where they decide to just “kill the swing vote” (like Sarah in Cagayan).
Allies and Alliances
Alliances are obviously important in Survivor. If you have a strong core alliance that can control the votes then you have a good chance of making it deep. BUT the game is always changing. Alliances shift almost every vote it seems, see the “voting bloc” strategy in Cambodia, one of the most strategically advanced seasons ever. This is again why I say to prioritize “allies” over “alliances.” Sometimes people get stuck in a set alliance and get handcuffed. In an ideal world, yes you’d have a set alliance that stays together until the end. But that’s just not realistic to happen anymore. Focus more on having allies that you can use to vote with you and give yourself some flexibility.
Let’s talk some more about challenges. I think I would mostly try hard in every immunity challenge. I don’t think I’ll win many, but you don’t want to get cocky and not try at all. Like I said, even if I do win some, I won’t be painted as some challenge beast. Cochran won four individual challenges in Caramoan and nobody thought “Boy we better get that physical specimen Cochran out.”
However, I will not try in individual reward challenges, the ones where if you win, you pick others to join you and just upset everyone you didn’t take. That is social suicide. Ideally, people will want to take me anyway, and I can still enjoy the reward. But I will NEVER win one because again, I’ll do everything I can to make sure I don’t give anyone a reason to vote me out. The worst possible one to win is the family visit. You have half the people hate you for denying them a chance to see their family. Then the people you did take are just going to see you as a threat to win since you did something nice for them. It’s a no-win situation. I’ve already told my dad that we will have one firm handshake, no tears, and then half-ass the challenge.
Another strategy I’d employ is keeping bigger targets around. We’ve seen Jeremy do it with the “meat shield” strategy in Cambodia. Basically, I don’t want to vote out the biggest challenge beasts the second they lose a challenge. I’d be way more focused on eliminating social and strategic threats first. I have no problem keeping some challenge beast around for awhile. The odds are they’ll lose eventually. I’m fine waiting to take him/her out at Final 6 than rushing it at Final 10. There’s no reason to do it soon. Also, you should always have at least one person around who is an easier target than you. That way, if there’s ever a plot to vote against you, you can just say “Me?!?” and then point at the person who is the bigger threat. Keep them around as long as you can so you always have a safe backup plan, so to speak.
Blindsides/Managing Your Threat Level
Let’s talk about blindsides and betrayals. You should never blindside someone just for the heck of it. You should only do it if absolutely necessary. If you backstab too many people early on, nobody will trust you. It’s also poor jury management. A lot of Survivor is managing your threat level. If you’re making too many blindsides and big moves too soon, people will catch on to that and want you out. Your threat level needs to just gradually increase throughout the game. You stay in the background in the pre-merge, find your footing early in the merge, and then around Final 7 is where I’d really try to start taking control. That’s when I’m not going to be afraid to blindside anyone that comes in my way. I don’t care if they’re my closest ally in the game. If I think they stand a better chance of winning the game than me, they’re gone. At around Final 5 or 6, my closest allies are going to be goats. I don’t care if I’ve been aligned with them or not. (In my ideal world, my closest ally is an older man from Brooklyn named Tony who just does whatever I say but poses no strategic threat to my game). That’s when I really take control of the game and go balls to the wall.
The End Game
At around Final 6, basically the finale episode, that’s when you look around and say to yourself, “We’re in the endgame now.” All you should care about is “Does this person have a better chance of winning the game than me?” If the answer is yes, you take them out. I’d much rather get taken out at Final 4 or 5 for playing balls to the wall than get to the end and come in second or third because someone else played a better game than me. Ideally, you’ve gotten to this point with your threat level in check, and now you can strike before people even know what hit them. I wouldn’t play “reckless” here, but I’ll certainly play aggressive. Needless to say, if you have an idol still, play it before it expires. No need to keep a souvenir. Doesn’t matter if you need it or not. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s a move for the jury to see.
I think what would also work to my advantage is I like my chances in challenges more as we get later in the game. First of all, just statistically speaking, your odds are increased. But also, the more physical threats should be out of the game already. And lastly, the types of challenges change to more just will power/mental stuff, which I think plays to my advantage. I’ve always said that I’d definitely win the ball challenge seen at the Final Immunity Challenge in Season 40.
So at this point, you’re basically convincing people that someone else has a better chance of winning the game than you. You can make reasons up out of thin air. “This person is poor and needs the money so they’ll vote for him/her.” “This person has a lot of friends on the jury.” “This person did not piss anyone off.” “This person clearly played the best game.” Whatever it may be. Just convince people that others need to be targeted before yourself.
Once you get to the Final 4, you control your own destiny. Now, the winner of the Final Immunity Challenge chooses one person to sit next to them in the end, while the other two have a fire-making challenge to see who joins them for that third and final spot. Personally, I will win the Final Immunity Challenge. I’ll take the biggest “goat” with me and have the other two battle it out in the end. I will also have promises with everyone to take each other, but I’ll have no problem breaking them.
If I don’t win the final challenge though, I can either convince the winner to take me to the end with them, ideally they’ll honor our promise. However, this could be unlikely since I will be seen as a clear threat by now. So I’d have to win the fire-making challenge. Currently, I have no fucking clue how to make fire, but it’s something I’ll practice a lot before I go. Survivor is a lot of stuff you can’t control, but this is something you can control in a sense. There’s no guarantee, but if you practice making fire a lot then you can at least feel pretty good about your chances.
Final Tribal Council
Day 39 has arrived. I enjoy my breakfast and champagne. Now your attention completely shifts to the jury. The most important thing at Final Tribal Council is owning your game. I’m not going to apologize for anything. “I came out here to make a million dollars, not to make friends.” I won’t be too brash or cocky, but people generally respect when the finalists are more upfront about their game, as opposed to being like “I’m sorry I did this to you blah blah blah.” You made the moves. Own the moves. I also feel that I’m well-spoken and quick on my feet, so I can probably talk circles around my competition using confidence, wit, and humor.
You do also need to recognize that some jury members may need to hear different things. This is when knowing everyone’s personalities comes into play. I won’t go in with a game plan of “Here’s how I will win the jury’s votes.” I will go in with nine (or however many jury members there are) different plans of “Here’s how I will win this specific person’s vote.”
It also benefits you to be human and show some emotion. Don’t pitch some sob story with tears. One goal of mine is to not shed a single tear during the entire game. Too many tears in Survivor nowadays. But you can pitch the human and emotional side of yourself at Final Tribal Council. I will talk about how I’ve been a superfan of the show for my entire life. I’ll say how this has always been my life goal. I’ll talk about how everyone has always doubted my ability to win (friends, family, mean people online). I think my closing line will be something like.
“But I didn’t come here to prove those people wrong. I came out here to prove to myself that this lifelong obsession has been worth it. Winning Survivor has always been my dream, and I hope that, tonight, you guys can make that dream a reality. Thank you.”
I mean I have goosebumps just writing that. Between that speech and my game, I love my chances to win. I’ll probably get every single vote if we’re being honest. Maye a 7-2 win at the absolute worst.
Fast forward months later to the reunion show. I get announced as the winner, I drop my head down to feign disbelief. I hug the losers to my left and right. I mouth “thank you the jury and Jeff” and then I run into the crowd to hug my family as the theme music plays.
Just picture it. What a moment.
Now before I wrap up, I want to hit on a few other things I may have missed along the way. These are just general tips.
Bite Your Tongue
Sometimes in life, things happen where you just can't bite your tongue, and you have to say something. Can't do that on Survivor. No matter how loud, annoying, or offensive someone is being, just keep your mouth shut. Don't make any enemies. Avoid conflict at all costs.
Conflict Is Good, If You're Not Involved
That being said, conflict is great for your game if you're not involved. If two people hate each other and want to vote each other out, that means they don't want to vote you out. If you can slyly stir the pot without making it obvious, that's great for your game. Be the friendly ear to both sides. If they hate each other but like you, that's the best possible spot.
I liken it to a scenario when I was about 12. I was at my friend's house with another friend, and the two of them were fighting. I don't remember about what. But I stayed in the middle. Eventually, they were standing on opposite sides of the yard. One had Lemonheads. One had Mentos. One would give me a Mento. The other would give me a Lemonhead. Back and forth I went. I was literally in the middle. Both hated each other, liked me, and I got candy. To this day, I'm proud of myself for how I handled that situation. Survivor will just be more of the same.
This goes without saying. Nothing puts a bigger target on your back than the whispers of a showmance. Rob and Amber ran All-Stars with it, and anyone who's tried it after them has been ousted out of pure fear. Don't think with your dick. Don't even think with your heart. Think with your brain.
Never Tell Someone You Have An Idol
Unless you find an idol with someone and can't hide it despite your darnedest efforts, there's no reason to run and tell your alliance that you found one. It just puts a target on your back. Ideally, nobody ever knows about your idol until you play it. However, there could be strategic advantages to telling someone about it later in the game. It's rare though. Can only think of Tony lying about the super idol in Cagayan to scare everyone away from voting him out. For the most part, tell nobody, not even your alliances, unless its 100% necessary for a strategic maneuver.
Never Tell Someone They're Getting Voted Out
People do this sometimes and it boggles my mind. There's just no benefit to this. Jury management? No. It makes you look worse. It gives the person the opportunity to cause chaos and blow up your game. Just send them packing and worry about it later. Or actually, don't worry about it because they're gone.
Stay With The Crowd
Don't give people a chance to talk about you. I won't be wandering off on my own much and giving people the chance to talk about voting me out. If you're always with people and following the crowd, they won't have an opportunity to plan against you. This is why I'd almost rather not go on a reward challenge if the majority of people are staying back at camp. Even in real life, I hate going to the bathroom at a restaurant or something when I'm with friends. Every time someone leaves, you talk about them. That's human nature. Avoid it as much as possible on Survivor.
What Could (But Won't) Stop Me
Bugs: I'm really not a huge bugs person. I hate them. BUT, I hate them when they're in places they're supposed to be (home, restaurants, offices, etc). If I'm going to a remote island, I'll expect some bugs, and I'll deal with it. I'm not letting it stop from me winning.
Sand: I'm also not a huge fan of sand in general. Not the biggest beach fan. Don't like getting sand between my thighs and other uncomfortable areas. Comfort will be an issue, but I'll manage.
Lack Of Sleep: I like eight hours at a minimum. I'd prefer ten to really get my brain cooking. I can't imagine sleep will be at an abundance, but again, I will manage. Also, as Boston Rob once said, pay attention to who people are sleeping next to at night.
Frequent Bathroom Trips: This goes hand in hand with "Stay With The Crowd." I do pee a lot. All those trips give people a chance to talk about me. I may have to work on holding it in more.
My Allergies/Acid Reflux/Contacts: On the topic of medical issues, these are a few other things that could slow me down. Apparently, there's an area on the island where you have access to vital medications and contacts/contact solution. So hopefully I can have my Zyrtec, acid reflux pill, and contacts. Heartburn can be a real bitch for me.
The Tribe Swap: I mentioned this already, but if we're talking in-game factors, the tribe swap worries me most. I could just get unlucky and be screwed.
Before we wrap up, I should add that there are obviously other ways to win Survivor. Depending on who you are, everyone can have a different blueprint. But this is my personal step-by-step guide of how I will win Survivor.
Everyone doubts me. Maybe you still doubt me despite this very detailed, foolproof plan. But I'll get the last laugh one day. Now I just have to get on the damn show. Jeff, call me.