One of my favorite things about Survivor editing is that they have the ability to do some foreshadowing. Knowing the ultimate outcome, editors can certainly choose to use footage that might give hints to how the end-game might play out, sometimes as early as the first episode. One such example is the ever vaunted “winner quote”.
The winner quote is something that the eventual winner says on camera, often in a confessional, that points them out to be the winner. Most winners have a defining quote that can be circled back to and help people realize why they won. Those words are not inserted into the episodes by mistake, the quotes are definitely chosen meticulously and usually help to tell the story of the season.
Over the course of 17 years and 34 seasons, we have gotten some pretty good winner quotes. Looking back through some of them, I noticed how many still resonated with me every time I read or heard them. It’s why I decided to compile a list of my favorite winner quotes, a top 10 in fact, with a few honorable mentions.
It’s like… the Black Widow brigade. Like all the girls are coming together and we’re spinning the guys around as much as we can. Just spinning them and spinning them until they don’t know which way is up. And then we’re devouring them. One at a time.
-Parvati Shallow, Survivor: Micronesia
The Black Widow Brigade is one of the most beloved alliances of all-time. They were behind the infamous Erik Reichenbach idol give-away. They blindsided most of the men (well, Cire Fields and Parvati did). They completed dominated Micronesia’s end-game and Parvati was at the head of all of that. She’s the common thread between Amanda Kimmel, Cirie, and the two fans, Alexis Jones and Natalie Bolton, who would ultimately form the Black Widow Brigade.
This is a great quote because it perfectly illustrates the cutthroat gameplay Parvati was committed to playing her second time around. She had learned how to navigate the waters of Survivor in Cook Islands and this time around, she was out for blood. And she got it.
One of the main reasons that I even wanted to be on Survivor is because minorities were underrepresented in the media. When I grew up, I didn’t see people who looked like me on TV. Whenever you see a lot of minorities on TV it’s just kind of caricatures. I wanted America to see Asian-American men as they truly are.
-Yul Kwon, Survivor: Cook Islands
Speaking of Cook Islands, here is its winner. Yul is never going to be accused of popping off on TV. He is one of the calmest Survivor players of all-time and that’s definitely a huge reason he managed to get all the way to the end (the other reason being his super idol). Yul understood that a season divided by race was going to attract some stereotyping from certain people on the outside and he was committed to not letting that happen.
While winning was definitely a motivation for Yul, putting forth a positive role model for the Asian community was even more so. Everything Yul does in Cook Islands has a through line of “I have to make sure this reflects well on my community when it shows on television”. It helped ground him and guide him to a win.
The [men are] so freaking cocky. They’re like, ‘Oh, we’re NEVER gonna go to Tribal Council.’ It’s so annoying. I want to beat them just to shut them up.
-Jenna Morasca, Survivor: the Amazon
In a season with the first gender divide, Jenna ended up rising above everyone else. A lot of people unfairly thought the men would dominate the women because of their physicality but it never happened. Jenna did indeed shut them up.
The Top 10
10. The way Nick speaks to me is not in a way that I would ever tolerate a man speaking to me in my regular life, and I just want to be like, “bro, I know,” but that’s his ego. Right now what I’m going to do is just let Nick baby me and make him believe that I need all the help that he can offer, like the innocent little girl, like I’m stupid, but actually I’m a strong independent woman, and when it comes time to make a move, then I will. I don’t need to be carried, bro.
-Michele Fitzgerald, Kaoh Rong
Michele is a very controversial winner. She wasn’t shown as the strategic force of her season and because of that, a lot of people want to criticize her game. This quote highlights that she was thinking of the game the whole time and knew how to approach people. Maybe Michele wasn’t a strategic mastermind but socially, she was amazing at understanding her competitors.
With Nick, she knows that she needs to pretend like she needs his help because it will feed in to his ego and make him feel good. That’s what works for him. It’s an example of how Michele adapted her way of being depending who she was around. It’s how she got people on her good side and how she avoided getting any attention as a potential target. By the time people caught on to what she was doing, she was already in the final three.
9. It was the only move for them that made sense really. So, now I have to get all the way to the end or I would regret not stepping in for Rachel.
-Tyson Apostol, Survivor: Blood vs Water
I’ve said it many times, Tyson is one of my favorite players of all-time. Potentially my favorite. Through his first two seasons, he was a comedic force who nailed every confessional he gave. It made him a grade A character who happened to also be a decent player. The problem with Tyson was that he could never focus long enough to put together a complete game and eventually he would make a mistake and get voted out because of it. Sometimes he even voted himself off.
On Blood vs Water, Tyson came in with his girlfriend, Rachel Foulger, so that she could experience the game too. Unfortunately, she went out early in an attempt by the loved ones to get Tyson to sacrifice himself for her. Their attempt failed. All it did was give Tyson motivation to completely focus on the game and it was costly for everyone else. Doing it for Rachel made Tyson a strategic powerhouse and he ran through the season like a steam train.
8. I definitely think people underestimate me. And I want them to think, hey, it’s really smart to take me to the end because they could beat me, use that to my advantage. And if comes down to me or him, I know I could beat Russell in the very end, because I could say a lot of other people in the tribe have really been rubbed the wrong way by him.
-Natalie White, Survivor: Samoa
If Michele’s win in Kaoh Rong was the Kobe Bryant of controversial winners, Natalie’s is Michael Jordan. A chorus of negativity, led mostly by sore loser runner up Russell Hantz, rained down upon her almost as soon as she was announced as the winner. It has caused Natalie to basically disappear from the Survivor community and I can’t blame her for doing so.
Her winner quote highlights exactly what she was doing. Natalie had the self-awareness to see how the jury saw her game. It’s something a winner absolutely needs to have to argue their gameplay in front of a jury and it’s exactly why Russell is never going to be a Survivor winner. Not only did Natalie see how she was perceived, she also completely understood what the jury thought of Russell. She knew that she didn’t need to make a “big move” and knock him out because he was so poisoned on the jury that she had a fighting chance going up against him.
7. Last time I was mean, and this time I’m meaner, you know I’ll lie I don’t care, but I’ll make up a good lie.
-Sandra Diaz-Twine, Heroes vs Villains
There are so many quotes I could pull from Sandra in Heroes vs Villains. She has always been a goldmine of quips and one-liners and on her second season, she was motivated by hate for Russell. Just look at some other quotes I could have picked out for her.
I’ll vote you out and if I’m up there you’ll still give me the million dollar vote.
This is for revenge. For Rob, Tyson, Courtney… and even Coach, who I don’t care about, but… I’ll throw him in there too.
You know how they say forgive and forget? Well I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.
So, Russell? He don’t know how to play this game. Yeah, he’s done good so far, but with me? He don’t know what he got himself into.
Russell wants the title of Sole Survivor, and if that’s what Russell wants, that’s what I have to make sure Russell doesn’t have.
This is all absolute dynamite. The only reason I chose the one I did was because it was Sandra calling her shot from the very beginning. Sandra may be a two-time winner but she’s an even better character.
6. I don’t pray for anything. Anything that’s gonna get me to the end of the game it’s gonna be me.
Going up against two highly religious people in the final two, Denise made everything happen due to her own sheer will. If anybody in the Philippines would have had reason to pray, it should have been Denise. She was placed on the worst tribe statistically in Survivor history. She went to every single tribal council. Everything she earned in the game, she had to fight for. Despite all of that, she never gave up and never let the game get to her. That kind of mental fortitude is why Denise ended up being the winner.
5. Dude, I don’t care what they call me. I’m going to win the million dollars. So I guess my nickname’s Fabio.
-Jud “Fabio” Birza
Full confession: I am a huge Fabio fan. He’s funny. He’s jovial. On a season full of dark and entitled contestants, Fabio is the light that shines through in the end. Was he a very strategic winner? Not by a long shot, but he didn’t need to be. Fabio understood his strengths and weaknesses. He was never going to be a player who takes a strangle hold on the game, it just wasn’t in his repertoire.
What Fabio did have was lots of personality. It made people like him. He made them laugh and that makes people want to keep you around. Especially over people who are constantly complaining or starting arguments back at camp. Fabio just went with the flow, like accepting his nickname, and it earned him a million dollars 39 days later. That’s like, pretty chill man.
4. We’re all kinda just enjoying each other’s company and trying to figure everybody out. I’m going to have a good time doing it, but at the same time, this a business trip as I like to say.
-Brian Heidik, Survivor: Thailand
The iceman himself. From the very beginning, he was establishing the difference in Brian, the Survivor player and Brian, the confessional-giver. With his fellow players, he was a nice guy and participated in pretty much everything the tribe wanted to do. In confessionals? Brian was a goddamn robot programmed with the sole purpose of winning Survivor.
For Brian, Thailand was kind of a cakewalk. He put his gripes into his tribe from early on and never let go. The closest he got to any kind of opposition before final tribal council was his own wife nearly sinking his game with the loved ones video. Other than that, Brian went through each contestant like butter in a very business-like way. He never showed a single human emotion, he never got into an argument. He just won.
3. You question a woman’s character? You question a woman’s ability? She’ll snap your neck. You open up your heart, show a woman you’re vulnerable? Then they’ll start thinking with their heart. That’s when they open up that backdoor. That’s what’s happened here.
-Chris Daugherty, Survivor: Vanuatu
Some of this quote hasn’t aged well in terms of gender relations. That’s for certain. Still, the quote was impossible to avoid because it explains exactly how Chris managed to pull himself from the very bottom of the totem pole into a powerful alliance and right towards the million dollars. He made the women feel bad for what they were doing to the men. Especially when Chris’ wife came and participated in an immunity challenge. Chris pilled on so much bullshit and woe is me attitude that for just a second, the women hesitated.
That second was all Chris needed to swing the game. He pulled in Twila Tanner, Scout Cloud Lee, and Eliza Orlins, despite the latter hating the other two and vice versa, voted out Leann Slaby and Ami Cusack and suddenly, Chris was in the game. It’s that kind of willingness to do whatever needed to be done to win that got Chris to the end.
2. We have bigger fish to fry first. But she’s not one of the final four. And I got a million that says she won’t be the final one!
-Jonny Fairplay, about Sandra Diaz-Twine, Survivor: Pearl Islands
There are actual quotes from Sandra that could have gone here. The most obvious one is when she first explains her “as long as it’s not me” strategy. Still, nothing is better than this quote, which is technically a second-person view of Sandra, to foreshadow her eventual win.
Jonny Fairplay is the best villain in Survivor history. The thing about villains is that for them to be satisfying TV characters, they can’t win in the end. They have to be proven wrong. By airing this confessional, the producers were setting up Jon to be completely made a fool in the end. Between this and his loss to Lillian Morris in the final immunity challenge, Jon has the best downfall anybody has ever had on Survivor. I wonder if he ever paid off that bet?
1. I’m good to go survival-wise. People-wise, it’ll be a little more challenging, but I’ve got the million-dollar check written already. I mean, I’m the winner. It’s that kind of cocky attitude that makes people really hate your guts. So, that’s the kind of thing I have to keep under wraps.
-Richard Hatch, Survivor: Borneo
It’s the OG. There was nothing else that could have been number one. It’s cocky, it’s entitled, and it made viewers hate him. Above all else, it’s correct. It shows the advanced thinking Rich was going into the game with. Nobody else was considering the end-game so early, they just wanted to survive and were excited to be on television. Nobody wanted to rock the boat out of fear of being disliked.
Richard? Richard didn’t care about being liked. He cared about winning. This is like the father of all winner quotes. Brian’s business trip quote is basically a more developed version of what Rich is saying here. Like so many things in Survivor, Richard did it first and maybe he didn’t do it best, but the clout that comes with being first matters.