8. Sarah Lacina (Cagayan, Game Changers, Winners at War)
If this top 100 list had been put together after Survivor: Cagayan, Sarah Lacina would have had no shot at appearing on it. She was very cocky in Cagayan and it resulted in her getting blindsided at the merge and being the seventh voted out and first member of the jury.
Sarah returning for Game Changers was not popular at the time, as people did not think the cast matched the theme of the season, but Sarah changed her legacy with her appearance on season 34. Not only did she win the season, but she did so in dominant fashion.
Sarah learned from her mistakes in Game Changers, going from playing like a cop to then playing like a criminal. Her best move was getting Sierra voted out, but then also forming a good enough bond with Sierra and in turn, getting the Legacy Advantage from her.
It’s hard to win an all-returnee season since everyone has played at least once before, but Sarah ran Game Changers from nearly the jump. We saw her play for a third time on Winners at War, where she was one fire-making challenge away from potentially being the show’s second two-time winner.
Her social game was really a highlight of her game in Game Changers and Winners at War and it’s crazy how much her legacy changed from her first appearance to her second appearance. She deserves all the credit in the world though because her win on Game Changers is most definitely one of the best in the show’s history.
7. Russell Hantz (Samoa, Heroes vs Villains, Redemption Island)
Wow, this must have been devastating for Russell Hantz. I honestly thought he’d end up at number one or two since these rankings are on his YouTube channel, but I’m glad things were ranked fairly.
While I personally wouldn’t have Russell in the top ten, I understand why he’s ranked here. Despite being an old school player, Russell invented the way new school Survivor is played with his ability to find idols without clues and completely flip the game with how he played those idols.
Russell went into the merge down 8-4, but was able to play idols and swing things in his favor. Russell’s downfall on both Samoa and Heroes vs Villains was that he had no jury management skills whatsoever. With most of the Samoa jury being made up of former Galu members, they didn’t like how cocky Russell was and therefore gave their votes to Natalie White instead.
In Heroes vs Villains, Russell deserves a lot of credit for how he played pre-merge, but post-merge was when he cost himself the game with how he treated the remaining Heroes. Russell convincing Tyson to vote Parvati and then playing his idol on Parvati was a brilliant move and it helped him take out Boston Rob not long after.
While people are very split on how they feel about Russell and I’ve always been very anti-Russell, I do understand why his legacy is important for Survivor. I don’t like that he practically took over the show for several years despite not being on those seasons, which also plays a factor in why I don’t like him.
I know Russell’s first two games were impressive, but we saw him sputter in Redemption Island and in Australian Survivor and that’s because people had no desire to play with that kind of person.
Just think – If Russell could have just had a smidge better of a social game in Samoa, he wins that season. That’s something he should have learned, but playing back-to-back prevented him from learning that critical lesson.