3) Janet Carbin
Historically, older castaways aren’t as attuned to new school Survivor and don’t have a ton of success. Janet proved that stereotype wrong, as the oldest female contestant in over 10 years played one of the best overall games of the season.
One key reason why Janet was so successful was due to her self-awareness. In a post-game interview with Rob Cesternino, Janet told him that no matter how old you are or how much experience you have, respect should be earned, not demanded. From Day 1 Janet lived by that principle by sticking her nose out in the tribal challenges and making quick work of starting a fire without flint.
Janet recognized that she had to immediately prove her worth to the tribe to avoid being painted as the old, weak lady who could be an easy first vote. For most of the pre-merge game, Janet put herself in a powerful position. She was building strong relationships within her Vokai tribe, and she even proved she could take control over a vote.
Janet’s new tribe lost the first challenge after the swap, but her Vokai crew had the majority, they just needed to decide who they needed to take out. Instead of looking at the vote emotionally or short-term, Janet helped her alliance to think strategically. She had a talk with Tom Laidlaw and discerned from their conversation that once the merge hit, he would be going straight back to his Lairo people. With that knowledge in mind, Tom was voted out, while Dean and Karishma ended up working with Vokai for several votes down the line.
Unfortunately for Janet, her bold stance against Dan hurt her place in the game even though she was courageously doing the right thing. But once again, what made Janet so effective was her humility and willingness to adapt. She was able to get back into her alliance, thanks to her relationship with Tommy.
After the merge, Janet didn’t have much control over the votes, which is why she’s not higher than third on this list. However, she still carried a ton of respect from the jury and if she made it to the end, who knows what would have happened! If it wasn’t for production offering Dean an Idol Nullifier very late in the season, Janet’s narrative could have been different.