Who Will Be the Sprint Fan Favorite This Season?


If there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s ranking things. Top 50 Worst Bill Cosby Sweaters? The 100 Stupidest Things The Situation Has Ever Said? The Top 25 Social Disorders of Abi-Maria Gomes? It’s gold. People gobble that stuff up!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. If I were in any way qualified to present an expert opinion on any subject, I wouldn’t have to resort to silly things like arbitrarily ranking each Survivor’s chances of winning this season’s Fan Favorite. Boy, you’re absolutely right. But, I’m not. This is just about the best that I can do. So! In descending order:

#11 Carter Williams:

Carter is this season’s Cowboy Rick. Every season there are sleepers. These are players with subtle gameplay and even tempers. These players don’t stir up any trouble around camp, and aren’t wheeling and dealing strategically in hushed whispers deep in the jungle. They get along with everybody; they perform to the best of their abilities at challenges; and they vote however they’re told to vote. In a word, they’re boring.

It’s worth noting that the cast of Survivor seemed to find Carter very likeable. Michael Skupin even compared him favorably with his own son. Reading his tweets this season has confirmed to me what little I was able to glean from his brief moments on camera. Carter is a genuinely nice, very likeable, and really dumb guy.

When I was a kid I used to have a dog like this. He didn’t know any tricks, and sometimes he would eat his food so fast that he would choke on it. He was really dumb. And man, that made him loveable. How can you not be charmed by that?

Unfortunately, the fans of Survivor are cynical and cold-blooded people. We’re the same group of people who have twice awarded Fan Favorite to Russell Hantz. We don’t reward bumbling ineptitude or charming naiveté. When you add in the fact that Carter has received less air time than an extra in Les Miserables, you can only come to one conclusion. Carter stands zero chance of being this year’s Fan Favorite. Damn it, Carter. Screwed again.

#10 Artis Sylvester:

In all fairness, Artis should be at the bottom of this list. He was just as invisible as Carter, and went out far earlier. And, where Carter earns some points for being likeable and pleasant, Artis came across as surly and unlikeable. In fact, if you asked me to justify why I put Carter lower than Artis, I really couldn’t. They both have zero chance. I just wanted to throw Artis a bone.

Artis’ edit was really lousy. We’ve seen from Ponderosa videos, and heard from his RHAP exit interview, that he’s a really outgoing and pleasant guy. Part of me wonders if he was deliberately edited to fill the role that Tyson Apostol refers to as “the attitudinal black guy”.

Granted, he did throw a little bit of a hissy fit after Sandwich-gate, but he wasn’t the only one on Tandang beach complaining about that decision. Seems like what he really objected to was his team having the mindset that giving up was okay. Artis is a fighter. And maybe, just maybe, that resonated with a few fans.

#9 RC Saint-Amour:

I love RC. I would marry her TODAY. But I also happen to like annoying girls. I don’t think America does.

RC is obsessed with herself. She has found a way to make herself the center of attention even as a juror. Not just any juror. She’s the last place juror. She literally occupies the weakest position of anyone even remotely connected to this game. And yet, week after week, she struts into Tribal Council dressed like it’s a Red Carpet event, and spends three hours making exaggerated facial expressions and gasping audibly. You can tell she sits at home and watches for shots of herself in the background. She’s really, really, annoying.

And watching her sprawl out all over Ponderosa has been hysterical as well. In a recent Ponderosa video, Artis was complaining that RC’s air mattress took up the entire movie room. She has decided that she is the queen of Ponderosa, and that she will occupy every square inch of the common area. I sent her a tweet recently to tell her that if I’d been there; I would have popped her air mattress.

But despite her enormous ego and her passive-aggressive antics, and despite how hilarious she seems to find herself, I don’t think America likes RC very much. It’s okay, boo. I still do.

#8: Denise Stapley:

K, this one is going to get me in trouble. I can already hear you angry commenters banging away ferociously in all caps. DENISE IS WAY BETTER THAN #8! PEOPLE LOVE DENISE! EVEN JEFF PROBST SAID BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Ok, calm down. I know. I love Denise, too. She’s been my favorite to win the game from the beginning, and she still is. I think she’s playing the best game, aside from all that Abi-Maria bashing that I already told her off for. It’s okay, Denise. I’m over that, now. Forgive and forget.

But here’s the thing, angry reader. I don’t think Denise is Fan Favorite material. She’s not funny. She’s not snarky. She’s not edgy in any way. The very things that make her a great Survivor player also handicap her against taking Fan Favorite. Fans love action!

Let’s think about recent Fan Favorite winners. Kim Spradlin, gorgeous and super dominant player. Boston Rob, funny and edgy. Russell Hantz, a man with a mean streak a mile long. I just don’t think Denise’s personality is big enough.

#7 Michael Skupin

Man, I really hope Skupin doesn’t win Fan Favorite. Look, the guy is obviously very kind and well-intentioned, but he’s also kind of a bumbling jackass. I don’t find myself enamored with him at all. I don’t find it endearing that he poses such a chronic bodily threat to himself. I don’t enjoy his incessant religious chatter. I cringe when he shovels handfuls of raw rice into his mouth. He’s not my kind of bro at all.

That being said, he does appeal to a fairly wide berth of Survivor fans. I think a lot of old school Survivor fans are nostalgic about watching such an iconic player come back after all this time. And I think Skupin currently stands the best chance of making it to the end of this game, which would be a pretty compelling performance after being pulled so dramatically from Australia. Skupin’s story is a comeback story, and I think that will resonate with some fans.

I also think that he will capture the vote of the 7th-grade slapstick-loving Survivor fans. Some Survivor fans probably think it is the height of hilarity to see him get hurt over and over again. I’ll admit, I chuckled the first time. It’s just been the other 37 times that haven’t been that funny for me.

If you throw in the Christian vote, you’ve probably got a pretty solid third party candidate in Michael Skupin. He’s not quite a Ross Perot, but he might be a Ron Paul. If you like Skupin, you REALLY like Skupin.

#6 Pete Yurkowski:

Well, it wouldn’t be fair to chastise Skupin fans for having immature taste without extending the same criticism to fans of Pete. Pete’s personality is going to appeal to the same audience who love Animal House. He’s fratty, he’s douchey, and he probably thinks keg stands are hilarious. So naturally, I love Pete.

But, Pete may have some pull with other types of Survivor fans as well. I’m sure many fans of the show admired his aggressive style of play. If history is any guide, We the People love to reward the aggressive strategic player archetype—and this season, that player was Pete.

It’s a shame that his most memorable bit of skullduggery—using the idol clue to spark chaos between RC and Abi—came so early in the season. A move like that after the merge would definitely have given him a boost in the minds of Survivor fans. Unfortunately for Pete, I think that was too long ago, and it didn’t benefit his game enough to get him close to the end. I think Pete has earned himself some fans, but not enough of them to claim the prize.

#5 Lisa Whelchel

Boy, count me among the Stephen Fishbachs of the world. I find Lisa to be truly obnoxious. Jeff Probst has stated that he thinks America will find it compelling to watch her struggle to reconcile her morality with the cutthroat nature of Survivor. I don’t.

Let’s make an analogy to explore why I don’t enjoy watching Lisa struggle on the horns of her dilemma. Let’s imagine that, instead of playing Survivor, Lisa instead spent 39 days as a defensive lineman in the NFL.

In this alternate universe, we would be watching Lisa complain about how she doesn’t want to rush the quarterback and blitz him. She would be worried that tackling him might hurt him. Lisa doesn’t like to hurt people. So she would stand there and do nothing, and her team would lose.

We all know you don’t run around tackling people in real life, Lisa. You don’t run around lying and manipulating and scheming, either. But this is not real life. This is a game, and all of your actions are taking place solely within that context. They have no reflection on any other facet of your life. Grow up. Play the game.

That being said, I actually do think that people are going to foolishly identify with Lisa. She has a certain “aw, shucks” appeal. Lisa reminds all of us of our moms. Everything she says is such a mom thing to say. And we love our moms. So, she might win Fan Favorite. But if she does, dear loyal readers, be warned! I’m going to be really, really annoyed.

#4 Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent is a trooper! God, what a champ. I know that a lot of you have been criticizing him for being bitter, and perhaps that’s a fair critique. But I loved his fire. I love that he cared about this game. He played it hard, and he played it for real.

If I were kicked off of Survivor, I’d be pissed too! I’d stomp around Ponderosa scowling like someone took my lollipop away. I want to see my Survivor castaways upset to leave the game. I want to see people play who care and who want to win, BAD.

And the fact that Jeff Kent didn’t need to care just makes it even cooler that he did. What the hell does Jeff Kent care about winning $600,000? He probably wipes his ass with that kind of money. If you combined the winnings of every Survivor who has ever won this game, they still would be worth less than half of what he had in his bank account when he hit that beach on day one. He’s rich as hell.

I think that America liked Jeff Kent’s passionate competitive spirit. I think the fans have historically rewarded players who played hard, even if that’s exactly what got them voted out. Unfortunately for Jeff, I think he may have gone out just a little bit too early. As big as his personality was, I think people are starting to forget about him. I think he’ll have to resign himself to losing yet again.

#3 Abi-Maria Gomes

I think Abi is our dark horse. Three weeks ago, she was universally despised. Everybody wanted her gone. We couldn’t stand to watch her stomp impishly around on the beach any longer. Somebody, please, get this girl out of here!

But, through the magic of Survivor editing, we are now supposed to sympathize with Abi. She’s now the underdog. She’s winning clutch Immunity challenges. She’s carrying out an elaborate strategic ruse to try to bluff her way out of elimination with an imaginary hidden immunity idol. She’s suddenly Yau-Man, Fabio, and Stephanie LaGrossa all wrapped up in one!

Except she’s not. She’s still a terrible Survivor player, and probably a pretty nasty human being. I don’t care what you want me to believe, Survivor editors. I will never root for Abi. And she’ll never have my vote for Fan Favorite.

Unfortunately, I think many people have been taken in by this elaborately constructed illusion. I think Abi will take a large portion of the votes this season. She may even win it. Good job, America. Let’s encourage her bad behavior with positive reinforcement. That’ll be really good for her psychological health.

#2 Jonathon Penner

I think Penner should be the Fan Favorite every season, whether he played that season or not. He’s so good. You know what? I think that he and Richard Hatch are the only two players that could come back every single season and I would never complain about it. Why is that?

Because they’re not typical reality TV personalities. They’re not self-promoters. They’re not gimmicky one-trick ponies. They both have a deep understanding of the game, and of human nature. They understand people, and they adapt to the people that they see. They’re smart as hell, and both have a very charming flair for surprising acts of showmanship.

Jonathon Penner played a deeply cerebral game, as he always does. But, this time, he played perhaps an even stronger social game. I firmly believe that if he accepted Lisa’s final 3 deal right off the bat, he wins this game AND Fan Favorite. No doubt in my mind.

But, loose lips sink ships, Penner. I never thought I’d say this to a three-time returning player, but God I hope you come back again.

#1 Malcolm Freberg

K, this one is so obvious it’s almost boring. Malcolm is getting portrayed more heroically than most Homeric champions. I’m amazed that the editors haven’t spliced in harp music and drawn a halo over his head during his confessionals. We are clearly supposed to believe that Malcolm is playing the most perfect game that anyone has ever played in the history of the human race.

For crying out loud, last week the editors even included a cutaway of Skupin and Lisa commenting that if Jesus Christ played Survivor, he would play it like Malcolm. Come on. Don’t you think that’s a little heavy-handed?

And I like Malcolm. I really do. I think he’s a very good Survivor player. But I don’t buy it. I don’t think he’s the Messiah of Survivor. I think he’s very good at feeding the editors nice soundbites in confessionals, and he’s done a reasonably good job of building a strong alliance. His physical game has been less impressive than I had expected, and he’s been leaning pretty heavily on his hidden immunity idol. It’s worked out for him, but he’s opened himself up to be blindsided on several occasions. I think if he’d been seriously targeted at any point, he would have gone home with it in his pocket.

But, I’m not here to pick apart Malcolm’s game. I’m here to congratulate him on being the probable Fan Favorite-elect of Survivor Philippines. I think $100,000 will probably be the best tip he’s ever gotten.

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