Survivor glossary: What is a perfect game, and who has pulled it off?

Winning the game of Survivor is hard enough, but a few lucky souls have managed to do so to a prestigious level; playing the perfect game.

To win Survivor, you need more than just ten percent luck, twenty percent skill and fifteen percent concentrated power of will. Everything needs to fall in place, no matter how you play the game. Russell Hantz played the game hard in all three of his seasons in all aspects (save jury management). Other times, simply acting nice to the inevitable jury and avoiding getting voted out is enough.

More improbable a Survivor task is playing the perfect game. In order to accomplish this feat, a winner has to make it through the entire game without receiving a single vote against them, regardless of the use of an idol to make sure votes don’t count. Then, once at the Final Tribal Council, every single member of the jury must vote to award the winner of their season the title of Sole Survivor.

While that task may seem impossible, it’s actually been done twice. J.T. Thomas from Survivor Tocantins was the very first to complete this task, working with best friend Stephen Fishbach to completely destroy a majority alliance from within while being so damn likable in the process. John Cochran is your other Survivor Perfect Game winner, being able to sit alongside non-entity Sherri and the perceived emotionally distressed/cutthroat-towards-allies Dawn as he somehow won a string of individual challenges.

There have been 33 winners over 34 seasons so far, but the task of a Survivor perfect game is so hard that even the very best have come just one vote short. Sandra Diaz-Twine almost did it herself in Pearl Islands, falling short by Tijuana’s jury vote for Lillian. Coby Archa voted for Katie over Tom Westman, preventing perhaps what might have been the most impressive perfect game possible. Finally, Earl Cole received a throwaway elimination vote from Rita due to a principled reason in the game’s first-ever successful split vote.

While Survivor does a great job at adapting its pace of play and values based on the participating castaways each season, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for a perfect game to make another appearance. Jeremy Collins technically received no counted votes and won a jury sweep in Survivor Cambodia, but still had three intended votes against him in one Tribal Council that were voided by a Hidden Immunity Idol.

It goes to show that even in the big moves era of Survivor, the rarest of occasions lurks just around the corner. Who knows if the winner of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers will go on to such glory with the rumored changes to the game’s structure.