Hayden Moss Deserves Your Respect
How playing Survivor legitimized Hayden as a strategic mind
Hayden Moss should be talked about more. That Survivor has brought back players like Sierra Dawn Thomas and Caleb Reynolds before him is insulting and the fans deserve better.
To really understand Hayden, it helps to have seen Big Brother 12. He was a flagship member of the Brigade alliance, the most successful bro alliance in the show’s history.
On the Brigade, Hayden played a pivotal role. He was the glue that made it possible for a weirdo like Matt Hoffman to work with guys like Enzo Palumbo and Lane Elenburg by being the connective thread between them. Hayden was also a competition beast, winning five over the course of the season. He ultimately won by being likeable and holding together his alliance to the end.
For Survivor production, Hayden became a very desirable contestant when they were casting for Survivor: Blood vs Water. As a former reality show winner, he had an interesting perspective than other new players might have. Plus, production had previous experience with Hayden because he had been recruited for Survivor: Nicaragua but had been replaced by Fabio.
In fact, Hayden was so highly thought of by the producers that they bit the bullet and brought back Kat Edorsson as an excuse to have him on the season. To many fans, Hayden was seen as an odd choice simply because while he had won Big Brother, he hadn’t done so through flashy or masterful gameplay, just by playing a very straight forward game and being an agreeable person.
During the early game of Blood vs Water, Hayden once again found himself in a bro alliance. This time though, he was basically inserted into it whether or not he wanted it by Brad Culpepper. Brad hit the beach and immediately started playing the game as hard as he could.
For Hayden, that was a good thing. It allowed him to build bonds and feel safe within his tribe by having the numbers favor him. During Brad’s reign, Hayden got especially close to Caleb Bankston. The pre-merge bonds he would make with players like Caleb and Ciera Eastin would later become important for his game later on.
Because of the tribe swap, Hayden finishes the merge with numbers on the new Tadhana. There he joined up with Tyson Apostol and Gervase Peterson. At the merge, Tyson and Gervase went to Hayden, Caleb and Ciera for help to blindside Aras Baskausas who was quickly building up an army for his path to victory.
Where Hayden really starts to show his worth is after they are blindsided by Tyson while planning to blindside him. Having lost his closest ally, Caleb, Hayden was suddenly backed up into a corner. He had one ally in Katie Collins against the foursome of Tyson, Gervase, Ciera and Monica Culpepper. Things seemed dire for his situation but Hayden wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
In one of the most impressive tribal council performances I have ever witnessed, Hayden manages to flip Ciera in the moment. What would have been a 4–2 vote out for Hayden suddenly became a 3–3 vote. Not only did Hayden manage to win over Ciera in the heat of tribal council, he was able to keep her on his side during the re-vote to force a rock draw.
For the first time since season four, a tribe was going to a rock draw. Not only that, it was only happening because of one person’s ability to talk themselves out of a hole and it happened when nobody was expecting it to. That was all Hayden using his manipulative skills to survive as long as he could.
The logic that he used was simple. Ciera was clearly #4 in her alliance. If she shifted over and the rock draw went in their favor, she was suddenly in the final 3. If it didn’t work, maybe she goes home at 6 instead of 4 but nothing ultimately changes because she has no shot to win unless she flips. Hayden knew he was appealing to somebody willing to listen because as much as it may have become a meme, Ciera had been okay with voting out her own mother during the season.
If the rock draw is successful in knocking out Tyson, or even one of his numbers in Monica, there is a strong chance Hayden makes it to the final 3. With an impressive performance at that tribal council and some experience in handling juries, he would have had an incredible shot at winning the game. Imagine someone winning both Survivor and Big Brother. That would quickly put him on the short list as the GOAT for adapting to two different styles of completions and excelling at both. Unfortunately for him, Katie Collins drew the white rock and was sent to Redemption Island and Hayden remained in the minority with Ciera.
Even when things looked dire, he fought until the very end. Ciera won the final 5 immunity challenge making Tyson’s alliance’s decision an easy one. Hayden looked for idols and once again fought like hell to survive at tribal but Tyson knew better than to give him a chance at survival. It’s a sign of great gameplay that Tyson felt Hayden was a huge threat to his eventual win. As they say, game recognize game and between those two, that was certainly true.
Despite losing at a crucial moment, Hayden was a very sport about it. Some of his fellow jurors *cough*Vytas*cough* were gone much earlier than him but were far more bitter about everything. Hayden’s reply to Tyson’s answer to his question of “touche as Kat would say” is still one of my favourite juror reactions.
Plus, while she may have been terrible at the game, Hayden gave us Kat 2.0. She gave us the legendary “nobody wants to date someone who doesn’t make the merge” scene and her entire breakdown about it at Redemption Island. It was clear from day one that only one pair had the newbie better suited for the game than the veteran and that was Hayden and Kat. Because of Hayden was also got the memorably cringey “top heavy” moment at the reunion show that pretty much epitomizes Kat’s entire personality in less than a minute.
In Big Brother, Hayden was dominant but kind of boring. That’s the curse of a lot of game show winners. They are usually the most normal people surrounded by a bunch of crazy people so they stand out a lot less. I think of Hayden on Big Brother like I do of Aras’ win in Survivor: Panama; attractive young men who kept their team together and win in the end by being nice guys. That whole Big Brother persona is why people weren’t very high on him going on Survivor.
As it turns out, Survivor Hayden was an entirely different animal. Sure he started off working with the bros but that didn’t last. His closest bond all game was with Caleb, a very un-bro, down to earth gay man. Later he made his biggest moves of the season by working with Katie and Ciera, two women. Hayden’s confessionals were insightful, funny and much more strategic than one might have expected watching him on Big Brother. Some people were just born to play these games and in Blood vs Water, Hayden proved that he was one of those people.
So why hasn’t he been back yet? He’s more than earned a second shot. Maybe he doesn’t want to go back a second time. Maybe he’s happy with a win on one show and a strong showing on the other. I selfishly hope that isn’t the case and that Hayden will be back on a season soon because to me, it feels like he has unfurnished business. I could very easily see him as a winner of two different reality shows and one of the best game players of all-time. Hayden’s earned your respect so let’s all acknowledge it.