5. Denise Stapley
Death, taxes, Survivor not knowing how to entertainingly represent a strong social game; these are the universal truths that represent life. Denise is a social-conscious player that knows how to say the right things, keep the peace, and go to Tribal Council and emerge from the other side. Knowing how to assuage others’ concerns and massage egos is her bread and butter.
Though she doesn’t seem to have anywhere near an edit worthy of eventually becoming this season’s winner, she’s played the middle fairly well. We’ve also managed to get her insight on where she stands and her strategy, as she planned on representing the idea of going after Ben flawlessly to Jeremy, the player she was secretly voting for that round.
Even though he stayed safe and Denise was blindsided, she retains him as a shield and isn’t likely subject to scrutiny just yet. The tribal drama does not concentrate around her, and that’s exactly a position to which she’s proven to play comfortably. There is an opportunity for Denise to sneak in a spot at the Final Tribal Council with a late-game push (especially if Tony gets clipped after the Edge of Extinction).