Survivor winners: Ranking all 45 Sole Survivors by season

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /
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Survivor, Earl Cole
Survivor star Earl Cole – 9Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) /

Best Survivor Winners No. 16: Earl Cole (Survivor Fiji)

The surprise success story of Earl Cole is quite remarkable. Despite being recruited in an era twice as popular as it is today, Earl was picked as an alternate who never watched the show and barely knew of the game’s premise.

Despite that, he would craft relationships, provide for his team, and play an ethical game among players he knew he could beat.

Earl relied heavily on his partnership with Yau-Man but did not have the luxuries J.T. Thomas and Stephen Fishbach had. For one, he never won an individual immunity challenge.

Furthermore, once the merge occurred, there was an unfair twist where half the players were immune. Despite the consequential decisions that resulted in an oft-forgotten season, Earl Cole led his alliance with a charismatic charm in order to work his way from a minority to a majority alliance.

Earl Cole was the first person ever to win Survivor with a unanimous jury vote and was a strategic non-vote vote away from owning the first perfect game.

All from someone who got asked to play days before hitting the island. If there’s one knock to have, it’s that two goats were with him in the finals (albeit one blowing up their own game in a way nobody saw coming.